Sunday, September 29, 2013

Apple Picking Time

This afternoon, Matt, Michael, and I drove to Burnham's Orchards for our annual apple picking. Since we moved to Vermilion nine years ago, picking apples at the orchard has become a family tradition.

I remember when Michael was no bigger than the goofy looking red apple. He always ran up to the apple sign to see how much he had grown since the previous year. Boy times have changed. This year I practically begged him to stand next to the apple. Being 13 he thinks this is so uncool.

Our next stop on our visit was to purchase the makings of a scarecrow. Michael picked out jeans, a blue and red flannel shirt, and a burlap bag with a happy face painted on the front. We took our materials to the stuffing station where we tied off the legs and arms before filling them with straw. We even received a birth certificate for our scarecrow. The scarecrow enjoyed riding around in the wagon Michael pulled behind him.

From the scarecrow station we visited the bees. I think it would be lovely to have a bee hive in my backyard. There are so few honey bees around these days. We have tons of flowers in our flower beds. I think bees would love to live in our yard. I wonder how difficult it would be to keep them. I purchased a half gallon of honey. Did you know that you can freeze honey? The woman told me that I could keep the large container in the freezer and take it out to refill my small container as I needed it. Learned something new today.

Michael pulled the wagon with the honey and the scarecrow towards the apple trees. We picked Golden Delicious, Johnathons, and Golden Johnathons. Michael was the first to eat an apple right from the tree. Matt and I followed suit. I picked my apple and shined it up with my shirt. The apple was crisp and sweet - delicious.

Our next stop was the pumpkins. Well we side tracked to take a picture with the John Deer tractor for Boppa. Matt and Michael selected some small pumpkins for decorations while I purchased the Indian corn and apple cider. The boys also decided that we needed corn stalks and a bale of straw. We seriously need a TRUCK. We had to put the back seats down to fit the straw bale and corn stalks.

When we returned home Michael and I set up our scarecrow, straw bale, pumpkins, mums, and corn stalks in the front yard. Matt went in the house to fix dinner, chicken and noodles - yum.

After dinner I baked my first apple pie. I'm not too crazy about the crust. It was one of those already made pie crusts. I think it was a little dry. We just finished having a piece of pie with vanilla ice cream. Delicious.

What a nice fall day.


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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Another Summer Comes to a Close

I can't believe I'm actually saying this. I'm happy to be back at school. This is the first time I can remember being ready for summer to be over and school to begin. Maybe it's because I had such an awesome time with my freshmen last year. What a fun and energetic group of kids. I will miss them. All though many have already come to visit me in my room. Several have asked if they can still check books out of my classroom library. YEAH!

Reading is so important to me. As you know last year I had my students keep a reading notebook. In the notebook they tracked all of the books that they read as well as wrote about their books. They read 10 minutes each day at the beginning of class. I tested the kids each nine weeks to see if they were growing as readers. I'm excited to say that the majority of reading scores went up, up, up. In fact the largest jump was four grade levels. YES!

Well this year I'm sticking with reading, but also adding more writing. Instead of just a reading notebook, students will be keeping a Reading and Writing Notebook. Here's how I changed things up a bit.

Students are still reading 10 minutes each day of a reading week. They also choose any book at their reading level that they want to read. They record their book on their reading log when they begin a new book and when they finish they write the date completed as well as E for easy, JR for just right, or C for challenging. They may still abandon a book if they don't like it. This is still a difficult concept for kids.

Some new things that I'm trying are tracking how many pages students read rather than counting the numbers of books. This week I had students count how many pages they could read in 10 minutes. We then multiplied that number by 6 to see how many pages they could read in an hour. Then we doubled that number to see how many pages students could read in two hours. From there students created a simple book mark with the days of the week listed down the front. Each day they read they write their beginning page number for that day. At the end of the week, actually Monday in class, we'll calculate the pages they read for the week. If they read for two hours then they should easily reach their page goal for the week. I'm taking this as a homework grade. The only way a kid will receive a zero is if he/she didn't read at all. If they at least read one page, then they will receive half of the points.

I'm placing an enormous amount of trust on students' shoulders. I explained that I can't possibly sit with all 144 of them and watch them read every day. I also didn't want to have parents sign off each week saying that their child read. My students are freshmen now, young adults. I explained that I'm trusting them. It's common courtesy which is my number one rule in my classroom.

Students have a page tracker glued into their Reading Writing Notebook for the first nine weeks. On Mondays they simply transfer their page numbers from their bookmarks to their page tracker for each week. I send my classroom page tracker around the room each Monday and students transfer their page numbers read each day with their total for the week. This is what I will place in my grade book.

We're also placing all notes on reading like our short story unit in our Reading and Writing Notebooks. This week students will be working in their notebooks on character, setting, plot, tone, etc. It should be review. On the left hand side of the page they taped or glued the notes I gave them. On the right hand side of the page is where they will reflect on what they have learned. For example, on the right hand side of the page next to plot notes students will write major events from the story on post it notes and arrange them in a plot diagram. I got this idea from researching interactive notebooks. Learning on the left and reflection on the right. We'll see how this goes.

The idea is to alternate between reading and writing every week. So far we've spent a ton of time setting up our notebooks and reading. We'll finish our first short story this week and then we'll move into some writing. I'll keep you posted on how things go. Hopefully we settle into a routine soon.


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