Celebrating Conversations

It’s been a long week.

There was a full moon in there somewhere (5:22 pm Thursday) and I’m sure that my classroom wasn’t the only one that felt its effects.

Students were more fidgety and slower than normal about calming down and getting to work.

It was the perfect week to start having some one-on-one conversations about what we’re doing as readers and writers. Each day I have been inviting one student up to my desk to talk about what they are reading, what they have read, what they like and what they don’t. Each one leaves my desk with a little assignment that they will have a week to do. Go get your public library card updated and bring it in so I can show you how to check out ebooks. You have been honest about not reading the 20 minutes a night I expect – so read for five each night; set the timer and read for the full five minutes and report back to me how many times you read more than five minutes. Add some news outlets to your social media feed and let me know what stories you choose to read over the next week.

I promise them that I will make a list of reading recommendations (beyond the ones I give them face-to-face in the five minute conference we have) when we meet again in a week.

That seems like a fair trade.

By the end of the week, I had volunteers who wanted to come talk to me at my desk (it may have something to do with sitting on the cushy stool) – and I was already getting feedback on their “assignments.”

It was also the week I decided to add in one-minute-book-talks. I did them all this week – a different book for each class every day this week so I could hand them out on the spot to those kids who wanted them immediately – but they are picking up where I left off next week. One of my students likened it to speed dating – you don’t get a whole lot of information, but you get an idea of whether you’d want to find out more. Most of the books went out – and those that didn’t were added to TBR lists.

My flex group has been having some of the most fascinating conversations as well. My students have been bringing in articles that they have found dealing with science, medicine, technology – and we have been talking about them. Everything from invasive species to vaccinations to the guy who is recreating the 1918 influenza virus to time travel. We have been reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and discussing it on Fridays. Since I knew that the principal had read it (he borrowed it when I told him what we were reading for my group), I invited him to be part of the discussion yesterday. It took a little while to get going, but I was really proud of my students’ contributions to the discussion. As we walked down the hall yesterday afternoon, one of them told me that she liked how so much of what we have talked about as a group prior to today seemed relevant to our discussion. It did add more to just talking about a few assigned chapters. We discussed the ebola epidemic. We talked about immunizations and informed consent. We talked about the 1918 flu — and the poppy display around the Tower of London.

I’m celebrating the conversations that have already happened this week, but I’m looking forward to the ones that are coming. I have a week of nothing but writing conferences with my seniors coming up as they work to finish their third college paper for me. So many of these conversations are about helping them work through the frustrations to find solutions. It is honestly such a joy to see them working and stretching themselves as writers and thinkers. The best part is that they are choosing the topics — so the conversations are often much deeper than the writing itself. They are working to truly understand their own thoughts and opinions as they wrestle with these topics.

My awesome tribe of NaNoWriMo writers were back on Tuesday. They did more white board art than they did writing, but they spent most of the time attempting to solve one another’s writing problems. Some sharing happened, but mostly we talked. One who has been stuck on how to start Chapter 3 for months got unstuck (I told her she only had to write one sentence that night. It worked. She has a good chunk of Chapter 3 written as of yesterday.). Another one was going to chuck what she started — and then ended up sending me what she’d written so far and WOW! I haven’t seen anything official from the other two yet but I got updates. There are a few who are attempting who can’t stay after school, but I’m hoping that we can involve them somehow.  I’d like to say that I have been as on top of this writing thing as they have — but this week seems to have been so hyper-scheduled that I have quite literally fallen asleep before 8:30 almost every day this week. I’m hoping to catch up on my massive to-do list (including working on figuring out what’s going to happen with this foul-mouthed wonder of a protagonist I have following me around).

With a week as busy as this one, I have been so grateful for the conversations I have had outside of school. Most of them have happened thanks to technology – a phone call here, a text message thread there, a Skype, a Twitter chat… But one of the coolest ways I have had conversations this week/month/year is through hearing the voices of my favorite people on Voxer. Hearing those short messages  a few times a day has been a lifeline for me. I don’t remember who introduced me to this (Colby? Kristin? Brian?), but I may put this on the super-short list of awesome most-used apps ever. There is nothing quite like the pick-me-up of hearing a friendly voice.

I hope that your weeks have been filled with all sorts of celebrations. Consider sharing what you have to celebrate this week with us.

This post is part of a group of posts from teachers around the country who are celebrating our weeks by sharing them in these posts. Click on the image above to see what others are celebrating this week.

This post is part of a group of posts from teachers around the country who are celebrating our weeks by sharing them in these posts. Click on the image above to see what others are celebrating this week.

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11 thoughts on “Celebrating Conversations

  1. My Thursday was crazy, too. I always feel better when other teachers recognize the full moon seems to have an effect :). I’m think about The Immortal Life of Herietta Lacks as assigned read for a new AP Language class next year, so I’m also glad to hear your student are enjoying it.

    • I’ll get two more groups of kids to go through this with me – and I can’t wait to see how it goes with the rest. Several of my kids have read ahead and even finished the book. That’s great!

  2. Loved the full moon this week (but I’m no longer in the classroom)! Those one-on-one conversations are the best, but it’s so hard to fit them in. Congrats for doing them!

    • It is so worthwhile to fit them in even though they are tough. The challenge is to make sure the rest of the class is engaged so you can actually focus on the one-on-one conversation. It’s perfect to do during reading time, but I will say that I’m sad that i’m not doing so much reading during the day with them. *sigh*

  3. Ahh. The full moon. I’m celebrating for all teachers everywhere that it is going to be transitioning to the next phase. I love great conversations with students. Even in the early grades, I work to schedule in this important time. Great celebrations.

  4. Love hearing about all the good conversations, Cindy, challenging to fit in, but so productive I think. It’s a gift to students too, to have you one on one. Glad you had some nice moments, even short texts, with friends. It is a boost.

  5. THANK YOU!! Thursday was a terribly stressful day for me. I had no idea it was a full moon. I feel so much better. I LOVE how you explain conferencing with your students. (I am going to share this with other teachers as a mentor text for conferencing.) Just starting the conversation with a student a day makes it feel manageable! You are the 2nd person to recommend Voxer. I have to get on board with that. Thanks Cindy! Have a terrific weekend!

    • Michelle, Wednesday and Thursday were off – you could hear it in the hallways and in the transitions from one thing to the next. Everyone was more or less back to normal on Friday. I’m glad that my explanation seems useful – and that it might be an attainable goal for conferring with students. The talking with my students is something I have always done, but this year I’m trying to be more deliberate about it and be better at taking records (which helps with being deliberate) and following up on what both of us are supposed to do. I’m using a variation of Donalyn Miller’s chart (http://www.slideshare.net/Donalynm/independent-reading-observations-25075674?related=2) this year to record what’s being discussed and what we’re doing. As far as Voxer – it totally rocks. :) My favorite feature is being able to talk to groups. Those minutes catching up are probably some of my favorites in my day.

  6. Oh how I prayed for a high school teacher that would have done this with our two children ” I have a week of nothing but writing conferences with my seniors coming up as they work to finish their third college paper for me” it is a week of importance coming up. Thank you for continuing these conversations.

    • It’s worth every minute. I’m going through drafts and prioritizing who I’m talking to and what those students need — and focusing on where they are telling me they’re having problems. I hope that students find these conversations useful. I just wish I could stop time so I could talk to them all at once. But those conversations are a thousand times better than just writing them notes. There needs to be give and take.

  7. So funny – my writing group students have been using the whiteboards a lot this week as they talk to each other about their writing. :) It is great to hear about so many positive conversations happening in your classroom.

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