Sunday, September 21, 2014

Belonging Theme Lessons in Action~Morning Meeting Made Easy

My goal at the beginning of the year is to introduce the classroom community themes that I plan to focus on throughout the year. Then, I plan to spend at least a week exploring each theme in more depth with my students. This week, we focused on belonging. {My students use a marble notebook for Community Meeting. I used the coverpage image to create stickers on labels for them to place on the front of their notebook). 

I have a quick 15 minutes each morning before my students go to special area classes. As I think about morning meeting for the week, I know that I will have some quick days and on other days, we will have a longer block of morning meeting that continues after students return from special area classes. Morning meeting can take as little or as much time as you have, but I think it is nice to have the flexibility in my schedule to have some days that are quick and some that are longer where I can push for deeper thinking  and discussion. You will see this alternating change of pace in my week's outline below.

I had already read aloud Big Al by Andrew Clements during the first week of school. We watched how Big Al, the ugliest fish in the sea, tried many things in order to fit in. When a fisherman's net captures many of the fish, Big Al saves the day and gains a sense of belonging. Finally, he has the most friends of all the fish in the sea.
On Monday, I quickly shared our focus theme for the week, shared the related quote, and went over key words. I post the theme, quotations, and vocabulary on our "community themes" bulletin board and give students a copy in a journal page format. Then, students complete the self-assessment and goal setting pages. (I print these as 1/2 pgs for students to glue into their marble notebooks).
Tuesday/Wednesday: After introducing the theme to students, I spend time building the theme with as many examples as possible through read alouds. I read aloud Babushka Baba Yaga by Patricia Polacco on Tuesday and Wednesday. If I had pushed it a little, I could have finished the book in one day and read Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli. However, the beauty of my morning meeting is that I can spiral back to these themes again and again, adding new texts to push students to add to and enhance our understanding of the theme with another author's take on it. (For example, when we do return to Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, I think that we could learn that sometimes a person's isolation keeps them from having a sense of belonging, but if they could or would step outside of their shell and take a risk, others are more than happy to welcome them with open arms.) You can see what we learned from the other stories in the chart we made on Friday.

Thursday: We watched The Lost Thing and discussed how what we saw in the video related to our belonging theme. (There is SOOOOO much to talk about in this video. I could do an entire week of lessons just on it, but I mostly stayed focused on the idea of belonging in this lesson, knowing that I would be able to go back to it and use it later in other lessons. For example, why is "the lost thing" a lost thing--who says he is 'lost'? Is it really lost? Do we have to find others like us (or assimilate) to gain a sense of belonging? What does "the lost thing" symbolize? etc. This is a rich video for "close reading" lessons! It is also sending a message about individuality in a society of sameness, so I plan to use the video again during our Individualism theme.)
Friday: We have met many characters this year that have tried to gain a sense of belonging (especially this week with it being our theme focus), so it was time to start comparing our story lines and identifying generalizations. Students worked to fill out this simple chart and then we created a class chart on the smartboard. This was one of our longer morning meeting lessons this week. We could call this stage "synthesizing" :).
Drawing Conclusions and Going Deeper: Since completing our chart took a little while, we are going finish up our belonging theme on Monday by reviewing the information we put into the chart and drawing conclusions about belonging as a theme and a desire. I have lots of questions for my students, but here is what I hope they notice:
-In stories, sometimes characters "save the day" and gain a sense of belonging from that act. Is this realistic for a student who does not fit in or seem to belong?
-Does changing yourself to fit in with others seem to work? (Is this "fix" long-lasting? Is this fix of not being ones "true self" sustainable?)
-Is it possible to accept others for who they are, give them a sense of belonging and love, without expecting them to change to fit our idea of "normal" or what's popular/cool?

I love having "The Lost Thing" as an example in the mix of our analysis because how he gained a sense of belonging is much different from how the Baba Yaga and Big Al gained a sense of belonging. (Basically, the narrator finds a place where other things look like the "lost thing" and drops him off there. Instead of the "lost thing" actually being accepted into mainstream society, he goes to live with others of his kind.)

If you want to pick up my "Belonging Freebie," it's in my teacherspayteachers store. Morning Meeting Set 1 and Set 2 are now available.

This week (and probably next), our theme will be Achievement because it's mid-way through the quarter and time to set some goals. I'll post about those lessons soon!

PS: I am working on Pinterest boards for each of my morning meeting themes. If you decide to start implementing theme-based morning meeting lessons, you can follow my boards to have all of the video resources in one place. I will also be adding other goodies I find that may not be linked in my Morning Meeting Made Easy product.
Follow Tammy's board Belonging (Classroom Community) on Pinterest.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

~Morning Meeting Made Easy! Set 1 Ready~

It's finally finished! My Morning Meeting Made Easy set is ready to go for your classroom community meetings!

First, let me say, I call my morning meeting by a few different names: morning meeting, classroom meeting, and community meeting. Having our classroom meeting in the mornings doesn't always fit into our schedules, right?

Last year, I decided to try a theme-based morning meeting and loved it! I created a list of themes for personal development, came up with related vocabulary words, and found quotes to match the themes. I created posters for each theme so that I could display our community themes all year for us to refer back to. I also used key read alouds to initiate my discussions with students about the theme. From this idea grew "Morning Meeting Made Easy." Not only does the set include the posters for each theme, but I created student journal pages and teacher overviews that suggest read alouds, possible activities, and videos or songs that connect to the theme. This product is seriously READY to GO, except for grabbing the picturebooks! I'm so excited to have this set completed because Morning Meeting will be so much easier for me to plan for this year!

My morning meeting may be a little different than what you are used to seeing (google morning meeting and you may find calendar lessons, name games, get-to-know you activities, and morning messages). I have found morning meeting to be more typical of a lower-grades classroom, but I wanted my morning meetings to focus less on getting to know each other and more on getting to know ourselves and more about humanity. How do humans treat each other, why do we act the way we do, and what can we do to act more like how we believe we should? I also use classroom meetings to problem solve any classroom issues that have popped up.

My first morning meeting set focuses on belonging, kindness, compassion, conflict, and perseverance. I think all of these themes are important to discuss at the beginning of the year!
The shift in how I use and plan for my mornings meetings actually aligns perfectly with what I have done in past years with personal goal setting. For each theme, students have a journal page where they self-reflect and set a personal goal for improving in that theme. At the end of the week, students return to their goal to reflect on how they have improved or how their thinking has changed. (Students should have lots of ideas and opportunities to make improvements on the goal because you have continued the conversation all week!) Through our classroom meetings, I encourage personal improvement, character development, and community building.
Each theme's journal pages include a cover page with the theme, quotations, and key vocabulary, a self-assessment/reflection page, a 3 questions and illustration page that helps students analyze the theme and think of real life examples, and a quotation and video reflection sheet. Other goodies include sheets for making connections between read alouds and quotations, word brainstorms, and beginning middle, and end sheets. You will surely see many ways to extend the lessons and journal pages for your students. These journal pages are meant to support your instruction and classroom discussions.
To have a quick reference for teaching through each theme, I put together teacher overviews. Instead of having to search for read alouds, videos, and related songs to use, you have a quick list to get you started and can add to this with books you are already familiar with.
In my next post, I share a day-by-day possible teaching sequence. Two sets of Morning Meeting themes are now available. If you want to check out the theme sets up close, you can download my belonging set freebie!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Classroom Makeover 2014-15

If you read my last post, you know that I am at a new school this year teaching 4th grade. When I walked into my new classroom, I had a few reactions--it's a little on the small side, so get rid of everything that is not necessary for students and PAINT!!! So, I spent quite a few days over the summer weeding out the former teacher's stuff, deciding what furniture I could get rid of, and then painting and decorating my walls. Here are a few before pictures:
The most hideous desk ever. It ended up the same color as my walls.
And here are the exciting results!
I'm trying a focus wall this year. These are themes, concepts, and skills that could
be found throughout many subject areas and concepts this quarter.
Reader's Workshop: Ready!
This area still needs a rug, but I have a really cute one on the way from amazon!
These awesome inspirational notes came from a Dollar Store Calendar! ($1 bulletin board, yes please!!)


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