Saturday, June 21, 2014

Morning meetings are often used to create communities. Here are some ideas that assist with building community. Enjoy!

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
June 21, 2014 - Issue #388

Spider Web
The spider's touch, how exquisitely fine!
Feels at each thread, and lives along the line.
                                                     Alexander Pope
There is a giant spider web along my front walk. It is framed by two bushes, and the pink clematis serves as a backdrop. In the morning it catches drops of dew and sunbeams, sending sparkles to greet any passerby.
Everyone pauses when they see it. Not only because of its size (however big you are thinking, think bigger), but also because of its intricate design. It is a masterpiece.
I've seen a number of webs in my lifetime, yet few have stuck with me like this particular web. I'm reminded of our classrooms. Each August, we weave together a group of lives into one massive web. We become intricately connected.
How can we set our "webs" apart, making them masterpieces? I think we can learn from the spider. She weaves each strand together, linking them at different points. We can do this with our students, connecting them to one another based on shared interests as well as common experiences. Each strand is linked at more than one point, adding strength to the web. When we spend time connecting students to one another, we link the community in an intricate way. In addition, the spider takes time to weave her web. It isn't a process that can be rushed. It takes time to build a masterpiece. By learning lessons from the spider, we can create classroom communities that sparkle even more beautifully than the web along my walk.
This week we look at how to build community early in the school year. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Ruth Ayres
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Ruth Ayres is a full-time writing coach for Wawasee School District in northern Indiana. She blogs at Ruth Ayres Writes.


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Here are two resources from the archives to help you think through building community when students return to classrooms later this summer.
Katie Doherty explains how she uses a favorite book to bring students together early in the year in Seedfolks: Connecting Community and Literature:
Sharing one text across an entire school is a powerful way to launch the year. Katherine Sokolowski describes the process in One Book, One School: Building Community with Shared Text:
Responsive Classroom has suggestions for Keeping Morning Meeting Greetings Fresh and Fun:
Will you join us in July for a workshop? We have two online offerings, Text Complexity in Grades 3-5 (July 5-19) with Franki Sibberson, and Literacy Coach Jumpstart (July 18-30) with Jennifer Allen. Our live event is Coaching the Common Core in Wrentham, Massachusetts July 16-17. For more details on costs and to download a registration form, click on this link:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Here is a great post on vocabulary and writing. Vocabulary is always a challenge for teachers - how do we teach it in a meaningful way so students truly learn the words. Enjoy. Courtesy of Writing Lesson of the Month Network, Corbett & Dena Harrison

                                                              My fellow teachers/writers,
What a nutty end of the school year here!  I learned that I will be switching school sites this upcoming Fall, and saying good-bye is always hard--both to my current students and my current team of teachers.  Physically packing up and moving is always hard too, and I realize that I am a quite behind in posting my monthly lessons here at the ning, but that will all be rectified as soon as I have safely and completely moved my materials from the old site to my new one. Over the summer, I will be posting numerous lessons that I hope will inspire you to consider trying something new during your next school year.  My best school years in the past have always been those years when I returned in the Fall determined to try new things and to do them well.  I have been collecting/developing/revising some great new lesson ideas this past spring, and I am excited to share them with you slowly throughout the summer.  Look out for my occasional e-mails that will catch me up so we can get the promised "first of the month" lessons back on track.  Thanks again for your patience during this transition for me.
THE BEST WORK I DID THIS PAST SCHOOL YEAR?  Without a doubt, without any hesitation, I will say my continued work in developing writing skills while teaching my students to simply stop and appreciate vocabulary words they don't recognize in their reading has been the new teaching skill I continue to do my best work with.  Last year, Dena and I published the first eight of ten lessons that promoted Common Core-friendly writing skills through vocabulary-based exercises.  Early this year, we finalized all ten writing lessons, and my students' Vocabulary Final Projects just proved to me how significant this work has been to developing them further as skilled writers.  I am sharing with you some images from their final exam projects which, I believe, showcase what powerful writing/thinking skills they have developed over this past year with me.  If you're interested in seeing some powerful student writing, please visit the next paragraph!
Today, I posted a pretty detailed explanation of my "Vocabulary Final Exam Project" here at the ning at this blog post:  Please note there are photos below the post that showcase some of my students' best "overall vocabulary collections."  Right in the middle of the lengthy post (sorry if it's wordy!), there is a download link to a 15-slide PowerPoint (or a PDF file, if you don't have PowerPoint) that showcases my "top writers" (as nominated by their classroom peers) who used the ten unique vocabulary-inspired writing activities I have been requiring of my students the whole year.  I am really proud of the differentiated nature these ten writing activities attempt to appeal to, and I can confidently say that I will never teach vocabulary words in the future without first integrating several (if not all) of these ten writing activities we have been designing.  
If for no other reason than to celebrate some smart kids' thinking that uses hard vocabulary words, I hope you will visit the blog post in the last paragraph and celebrate my students' writing along with me.  It's pretty impressive; it truly is.
Teachers, look forward to some fresh and interesting, Common Core-friendly ideas involving writing assignments over the summer from me through this blog to you.  If you have the summer off though, make sure you take plenty of extra time to simply be away from school and its rigid expectations.  We all need to deflate a bit over the deflate!  Deflate!
Have a great June!
--Corbett & Dena Harrison (
Visit Writing Lesson of the Month Network at: