Celebrate: Poetry, Questioning and History!

I’m celebrating the week with Ruth Ayres and friends. I love this weekly ritual that looks to find those moments every week to hold up, savor and celebrate. Thank you Ruth for orchestrating this. Read more celebration link ups here.

celebrate link up

First: We did spine poetry! My kiddos tore my library apart looking for ways to put different combinations together. I celebrate my students enthusiasm and my wonderful library. It is a well used place. An  unexpected outcome of this work was when students found books to take and read!

Can I read this book?

Music to my ears.

2014-04-30 08.58.05 2014-04-30 08.58.20-1 2014-04-30 09.03.00 2014-04-30 09.10.41

Two: We continued questioning. I blogged about our first steps toward learning to question here. Students took it further this week by talking about open- and closed-ended questions. We talked about the advantages and disadvantages. Students categorized the questions they had, and changed open-ended questions to closed and closed to open.

Some quotes —

Closed-ended questions are quick, easy but they don’t make you think.

Yeah, they aren’t good for common core.

Interesting take aways. The fact that they not only got what they were, but they could see the advantages and disadvantages and manipulated them, blew me away.

Three: Students prioritized questions. They had to choose three and have a “rationale” as to why AND they had to report it to the class. All of this is big stuff. Just the ability to prioritize is big learning. Then to stand up and explain why they choose these three was a big challenge for those who would rather not stand up and talk. Every bit of what they did was fascinating. From the questions they choose, to how they chose to report it to the group. Their rationale for choosing the questions included things like:


We think this could change this.

We want to know more

Four and a lot more: We took a field trip to Riley’s Farm, a working farm and at times a colonial village. It was a two and a half hour drive, by bus in 95 degree heat, BUT that didn’t matter. Students were so engaged in life during colonial times. The actors took them back in time to the 18th century.

They wove,

2014-05-02 10.51.20

 paid the Stamp Tax,

2014-05-02 11.10.09

witnessed battles.

2014-05-02 10.11.27


2014-05-02 11.56.47

and learned manners.

2014-05-02 10.10.22

It was worth every minute of the drive!

Happy weekend!



Slice of Life Day 10: Messy Charts Surround Me and Questions Surface

For the month of March, I am writing in the Slice of Life Challenge. Hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Find more slices here. Today’s slice is a slice of classroom life.
11454297503_e27946e4ff_hCharts surround me. They threaten to take over my classroom. Kind of like clothes.  Some get used more than others. They wear out, don’t fit,  or no longer serve a purpose, so they are put away or recycled. Most are made with students.  It’s pretty messy. The ones you see in these shots are for opinion writing.

2014-03-07 17.58.552014-03-07 17.52.58

On Thursday, teams of students worked on pulling evidence for the reason they were trying to prove. The charts hold their thinking and are now displayed for review and use. This is sort of note taking blown up. The interesting thing is not so much the charts themselves, but how students use them.

Students crowd around the one they are interested in, reading and jotting in their notebooks.

“Mrs. Harmatz come look at this. This evidence doesn’t prove that reason. It goes with another reason,” one student tells me.

“Interesting. Well then don’t use it,” I told him.

“Should I cross it off?”

“Note your thinking on the chart, ” I tell him.

After this conversation, I made his observation a mid workshop stop and notice moment, “Check out this thinking,” I announce. “M. questioned the data. He didn’t just take it at face value. He asked himself, if it made sense.  Did it fit. Bravo! Standing ovation for thinking and questioning.”

He took a bow.  And he became a bit of an expert on questioning the evidence.  A super cool job, one he enjoyed for the day.

Even if the writing falls short, the steps toward questioning and thinking that have gone into these charts represents big moves towards understanding argument. And for a moment I’m pretty pleased with it.

Later I look at the smattering of charts, the messiness that surrounds me, and I wonder if students will hold on to what we did here. Will they be able to recreate it?. Do they see what we are trying to do here? Tomorrow these charts come down. They’ve served their purpose for now. I’ll set them aside for later. Hopefully when we reach this moment in the next argument piece, a quick review will trigger the thinking they did today.

It’s complicated. When it gets too confusing, we slow down and work it through. In this messy process, if all goes well, questioning happens and along with that,  I hope mini steps toward learning happen too.