Friday, June 28, 2013

Bloglovin Shows Blogs Some Love

When I heard Google Reader was going away, I had a little freak-out moment since that's how I follow and read all my favorite blogs. After the panic subsided, I launched a search for a new way to keep up. Cue the discovery of Bloglovin. Now, I only just signed up so I don't really have any grounds to compare it to Google Reader, but other blog-lovers seem to (that's right; you guessed it) love it. To make sure you don't miss any of your favorite blogs, go check out Bloglovin for yourself. You get an option to import all your blogs from Google Reader. Definitely do that, but also make sure to click this link to follow Learning To Teach in the Rain. That way you won't miss any of our rain dances together. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Creating a Classroom Newspaper: Part 3 of 3

Yay! We're almost there. We've got the classroom newspaper planned and the stories written, edited, and typed. Now, we just need to finish things up.

Day 16: Creating a Dummy. For those who don't know, a dummy is just a representation of what stories will go on what pages. My students sure got a kick out of the fact that it is called a dummy. :-) I created ours on the board with the anchor chart of stories at hand. As a class, we decided what order the sections would go in, and what stories would go on each page.

**Now here is the part where I did take a short cut. I did the layout in the computer myself. Our computer lab at school had already closed for the year, and we were just running out of days in the school year. I used Adobe InDesign and created my own newspaper template, but I have experience doing that. It would work just as well to use one of the premade newsletter templates in Publisher or whatever program you and your students are comfortable in.

Day 17: Proofing. I printed all the pages out and made enough copies so every student had at least one page. I let them loose with highlighters and red pens and told them to mark everything they saw that was wrong or that they wanted to change. Then they traded papers and did the same thing. We did this a few more times, so that each student saw at least 4-5 pages of the paper. I took those marked up copies, made the corrections, and printed out a clean copy.

Day 18: Distribution Discussion. This was a class discussion deciding who we were going to give copies of our classroom newspaper to. I reminded the students about the kinds of people who would want to read the paper. The final list included: the students in my class, the other three fourth grade teachers, the principal, the vice principal, anyone who had a story about them in the paper (this included the specialists, student council sponsor, etc.), the special ed teachers (since we had two special ed students in our class), our language support specialist (I had 12 ESL students who saw her on a regular basis), the reading specialist, and the counselor... all total it was about 50ish copies.

**For printing, I just used the handy dandy copier, printed front to back and stapled to create our finished classroom newspaper.

Day 19: Delivery. This was a very quick day. I sent my students in pairs to deliver to a couple of recipients at a time. As email after email came in praising the kiddos for their newspaper, I made sure to share all the positive responses with them. All the students were so excited to see their work in print and to have so many people give them compliments. In fact, the biggest complaint came from people who were not on the distribution list. Next time, I guess we'll make more copies.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Creating a Classroom Newspaper: Part 2 of 3

In Part 1 of this series of posts, I recounted how I led students through the planning process of creating a classroom newspaper. Now, it's on to the writing of the stories. When last we met, students had named the newspaper, decided on all the stories that would be in the paper, and chosen a story idea to write themselves. Additionally, I had also conducted lessons in the parts of a newspaper and how to write a newspaper story in an inverted pyramid style. Now, on to the writing... let's start with prewriting.

Days 6-7: What Do You Know and Need to Know. Since newspaper writing is a kind of informational text writing, it all starts with the 5 W's (and H). It's all about the facts. This was also another nice opportunity to reinforce the difference between facts and opinions. I spoke about journalistic ethics, and how writers should not write something if it is not a fact. I know. I know. Many journalists have thrown that part out the window these days, but we can certainly teach the ideal, right? I had my students just draw this graphic organizer in their Writer's Workshop notebooks, but I have also created a Newspaper Article Prewriting Graphic Organizer freebie that you are welcome to use to do just this.

Then students were to begin filling in the graphic organizer with all the facts they knew. Any holes in the graphic organizer became questions to go at the bottom of the organizer. Finally, students were to write down who could answer those questions for them. That gave them the names of who they would need to interview. It took most students about two class times to complete this form and generate a good list of questions.

Days 8-9: Conducting Interviews. Before I set the students loose to conduct their interviews, I went over some etiquette rules. I wanted to make sure they weren't just going to barge into someone's classroom and start attacking them with questions. I also gave the teachers the heads up that one of my students would be coming. I went over how to politely ask the questions and how to write down their answers. Many of my students just needed to ask other students questions or interview me, so we really didn't disturb too many teachers for too long.

Days 10-12: Writing the Rough Draft. Once students had all their information, I reviewed the inverted pyramid structure (from the Jack and Jill lesson). In this structure, facts are written in a story in the order of importance, not sequential order like most students are used to writing. The reason this is the case is that most newspaper readers don't ever finish a story. I emphasized to the students that their job when writing was to make the headline interesting enough that a reader would want to read the lead (or introduction). And then they had to make the lead interesting enough that a reader would want to keep reading. And finally, they need to put all the really important facts at the top of the story so the reader got the big ideas before they stopped reading.

Days 13-14: Self and Peer Editing and Editor Approval. Once their rough draft was complete, the students were to self-edit their writing. Then they were to exchange stories with a peer and edit each other's writing as well. Finally, they needed to get the approval of the editor-in-chief (me).

Day 15: Typing the Stories. I scheduled a day in the computer lab when most everyone was done with their stories. I had the students all type their stories with a headline and their byline into Microsoft Word.

Of course, there were some students who worked through this process faster than others. That's where the extra submissions opportunities came into play. I told students, once their story was complete, they could work on additional items for the paper. I gave them choices of writing an opinion story, creating ads (on paper or in the computer), illustrating their story, drawing and writing a comic, or creating a game such as a word search or crossword. It all ended up working out pretty well, and the students were generally busy the whole time we were working on the classroom newspaper.

The last blog post discussing creating classroom newspapers will hit on laying out the newspaper, proofing, printing, and distributing.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Creating a Classroom Newspaper: Part 1 of 3

After our onslaught of state-mandated testing was over, I wanted to start a classroom project the students could really take ownership of. As a former newspaper journalist, my thoughts naturally went to writing and a classroom newspaper. Additionally, I thought it could be a perfect way to publish student writing and also reflect on the school year. It was decided... a classroom newspaper it was. I will detail my process in a series of three blog posts: the planning, the writing, and printing/delivery.

To get things started, I started looking around doing some research and remembered a resource I had found when I was student teaching. I also did a classroom newspaper in my second grade student teaching classroom as a part of our nonfiction writing unit. I came across this fabulous resource from Read Write Think, the website of the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English. By the way, if you have not discovered Read Write Think, you need to spend some time exploring this invaluable resource. I have found so many amazing lesson plans, units, online activities, and others, complete with printables and everything! Seriously, it's the bom diggity!

I combined the Read Write Think unit with my own knowledge of journalism and started the project in the classroom. I began with getting my students familiar with newspapers. For homework, I had each student bring in a newspaper article of their choice. To make things easier, I told them it could be from any newspaper source, including online papers. I showed a few examples of what I was looking for to make sure they understood the assignment. I also brought in my own stack of whole newspaper examples. I happened to still have many of my own papers with my bylines that the students got a big kick out of, but you could bring in any example.

Day 1: Parts and Vocabulary of a Newspaper. Using the articles brought in be the students and my examples papers, I had the students look through the papers. I recorded their observations on a bubble map on the board. This gave me the opportunity to introduce vocabulary like headlines, bylines, captions, etc. as well as point out the different parts like news, sports, opinion, comics, ads, etc. We then discussed what parts we thought our newspaper should have. I made a list of those things on an anchor chart and hung that up when we were done.

Day 2: Naming the Newspaper. Every paper has to have a name, so I let the students decide the name of ours. I brought out the example papers again and pointed out the different words commonly used in newspaper names, like times, news, journal, today, dispatch, etc. I gave the students some time to brainstorm their suggestions, and then made a list of all of them on the board. We ended up with about 10 suggestions. I let the students vote on their favorite to narrow the list to the top three. Then we voted again and settled on Friedrich's Fabulous Times.

Day 3: How to Write a Newspaper Story. This is where I used the Read Write Think unit the most. Basically I used Session 2 nearly word for word. I explained how newspapers stories are written in an inverted pyramid style with the most important information first and include all 5 W's. Then we looked at Jack and Jill. We identified the 5 W's in the nursery rhyme, and then did a shared writing activity to create a newspaper-style story telling the saga of Jack and Jill.

Day 4: Story Ideas. This day I ran much like an actual meeting is held at a real newspaper. I began a list of suggested stories that the students wanted to see in the paper. The important part here was to include every idea the students suggest. We ended this day with my telling the students to be thinking of the top three stories they would like to write. We also began discussing which section of the newspaper the different stories would go in.

Day 5: Story Assignments and Final Planning. I told the students that each of them was responsible for at least one story. Then they could choose one other thing to submit, such as an ad, picture, comic, or game. Here is where I let students choose what stories they were most interested in writing. If there were two or more students wanting the same story, we discussed who we thought would be better. For example, someone who was in choir was probably better equipped to write the story on choir. Eventually, I had to call on some students who hadn't volunteered and have them choose from the remaining stories. Then we made our final section list of all the stories to be included and who the writer was for each. In this part of the process, some of the stories did not get chosen. I opened that up to the students if we were OK that those stories were not in, or if someone wanted to write a second story. All of this was recorded on another anchor chart, and also hung so everyone would know their responsibilities and where their story belonged.

Basically, at the end of the first week of this class project, we had the name of our newspaper and a plan for who was going to write what story in what section. Stay tuned for Creating a Classroom Newspaper: Part 2 of 3 where I explain how I walked the students through the actual writing of the stories.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Let Me Introduce... new blog, 

Many of you may know me as the author of Sub Hub. And while Sub Hub was my first baby, and I will always have a special place in my heart for it, things in my life have changed this past year, making Sub Hub not the best place to share many of my ideas. But, don't worry, die hard Sub Hub fans (and I have so many of them for which I am eternally grateful), Sub Hub is not going away. I still intend to share and create for the hardworking subs in the world... and the teachers who are preparing for those subs.

It's just that, well, I finally found a school to adopt me permanently... I have an amazing, loving, welcoming, supportive (and every other positive adjective I can think of) forever home! Yes, a week after school had begun (and I had given up on another year of job searching for a permanent teaching position), I got a call for an interview. Of course, I went in right away. I interviewed for a fourth grade ESL position in front of a panel of the other three fourth grade teachers, the principal, and the vice principal. It all seemed to go well, but they warned me that HR was very backed up, and it might be a week before anyone heard anything. Imagine my surprise when I got that call the next day (ironically as I was on my way out the door to a sub job). I am pretty sure that poor HR man does not have any hearing anymore as I screamed with excitement into the phone. And I started in my own classroom the next day.

I'm sure all of you permanent teachers will agree that a first year of teaching can be a nightmare at worst and crazy busy and stressful at best. Well, luckily I got the best-case scenario. It was certainly not without bumps, but my first year of teaching has been the best I could possibly ask for. I stepped into a wonderfully organized classroom set up my the exiting teacher I was replacing (she took a position as a math specialist and so didn't need most of her classroom materials). I started teaching with a pretty darn amazing group of teachers, and my administration was so welcoming, supportive, and friendly. Best of all, my students were the sweetest, most well-behaved group of kiddos I have ever seen.

Anyway, all that being said, I now have a wealth of blogging ideas that are both subbing and permanent classroom related. I didn't really want to change up Sub Hub, as it's been out-of-this-world successful for me. So, I thought a new blog was in order to capture my teaching experiences.

Why Learning to Teach in the Rain? I live in San Antonio, which most times is a near-desert as far as rainfall. So, I don't mean the title literally as if I lived in Seattle or something. Where the title comes from is my all-time favorite quote:

"Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain." 
~Vivian Greene

In my four years of subbing and all the disappointments of not finding a permanent job, I began to battle depression. It got so bad at one point, that I began speaking with a counselor who was a tremendous help to me. One solution she offered (and the one that worked the best for me) was to come up with a mantra... a little saying to repeat to yourself when things are rough. I thought a long time about an appropriate mantra for me. Then I remembered that quote that I had seen (where else) on Pinterest. I printed it out, created a photo of my son with the quote on it, and took the end part of "dance in the rain" as my mantra. Believe it or not, it is quite comforting when some terrible thing happens to repeat those words over and over. When it is really bad, I sound a little bit like Rainman... "dance in the rain, dance in the rain, definitely, dance in the rain." Ha! But it really does work... at least for me.

Well, I also know that the world of teaching and education is pretty stormy these days... over-testing, funding cuts, teacher layoffs, increasing demands on teachers in the classroom, decreasing public opinion of teachers. It is pretty much a deluge of negativity out there. And it is so easy to get caught up in that negativity. But, what I always remember is that it is NOT the students who are creating most of that negativity... and they all deserve a teacher who cares and who is willing to try whatever is necessary to make them successful. That's when I realized that my "dance in the rain" quote completely applies to teaching as well. Hence, the birth of Learning to Teach in the Rain.

So, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. I hope you can come with me on my journey, as we all learn to: