Omyword this has been a cool week. I love love love this time of year. I have been celebrating all things Christmas since November first and now that we are past Thanksgiving the rest of the sane world has joined me. Yay!
Can I tell you how much I love Pandora and Youtube? Listening to music that matches my mood or the mood I want to be in is increíble! (I sit in on my students' Spanish class on Fridays so sometimes, on the weekends, I think in Spanglish.) Normally, I listen to Michael Buble (who I would marry in a heartbeat if he wasn't already married) but lately I have been playing my Straight No Chaser station, which is a male a cappella group. They have a great Christmas Album and everything else they do is amazing as well. The music makes the mood of my classroom so light and happy. On Friday, we were in such a celebratory mood that after our normal assessments we had a Rebecca Black dance party. I played her "Friday" video on Youtube and we danced and let out our cheers for the weekend. My kids have the moves letmetellya!
Another reason why this is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (insert music) for me is because this is when I finally pull out my Gingerbread book collection. (They have been on display all year but I have not allowed the students to read them yet.) We do a story study and lots of gingerbread crafts and activities. My goal for the unit is for the students to recognize the pattern of the story. There are elements that are always the same and present and then there are variables to the stories. I have several versions of the story, some of the stories are more difficult and others are very simple to read. I love that I can differentiate like that. Last week and this week we have read through my collection and have discussed the changing and consistent elements in the stories. This week (just happened to be during a formal observation) the students were grouped in 3s to read and discuss an assigned version of the book. I made sure that one strong reader was in each group so that they could work without needing my help. Each group had to draw a story board to retell their version of the story. Then they had to present their project to the class. Great gravy they did a fantastic job! I couldn't believe the maturity my kids showed.
To be fair and give credit where credit is due, because it was an official observation, I made sure to have a detailed rubric for their group work and I previewed the everloving stew out of the group activity portion of the lesson. Also, I included an anticipation guide to be sure that text complexity was addressed in a very obvious way. My motives for doing all of these "extra" steps were self serving to be sure but I have to admit it made my students work harder and inquire deeper into what they were doing.
I almost cried when I came to one group who had just finished reading their version (step one on the rubric) and were going down the check list (rubric) discussing the specific questions on the list. This is what I saw and heard: student 1 - "Okay, so which character actually baked the Gingerbread Man?" Student 2 - "uh...THE LITTLE OLD LADY!" Student 3 - "correct!"
Then student 1 handed the book to student 2 and she asked the group another question about the book. They were using the comprehension checking skills that I use on them to determine if they are ready for an AR test. I am telling you there were actual tears in my eyes. That they are paying such close attention to what we do in class and can use the skills on their own without prompting from me makes me feel like a super star teacher.
The same process was pretty much taking place in each group and the end products were very high quality. Each group completed their rubric (which was a checklist and a self evaluation) and didn't even want to stop because they wanted to continue adding details to their story boards.
I started the year off by telling my students that I always get assigned the best students in the school and they are proving that statement to be true. I love my job! Can you tell?
Next week we will begin writing our own versions of the Gingerbread Man story and I will send them off to be published over the Christmas break. I am so excited to see what they write and to see the finished (professionally published) book! Also, we will be doing lots of fun activities like making cinnamon smelling gingerbread ornaments and designing and building gingerbread houses. I will post pictures next week. I wish everyone could experience the joy and magic that happens in a classroom.
Here are pictures of the Gingerbread Story Boards and the kids presenting. Also, I am including pictures of these cute snowman donuts we made during snack time one day. I got the idea from one of my teammates who got it from pinterest which my whole grade level team is obsessed with.