The Brown Crew: Learning Together

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3 more days…

Until my students start a fabulous year with me!  It’s going to be interesting to say the least! I am at a brand new school this year. The principal is so organized and enthusiastic, the teachers seem hard working already and brimming with excitement, the rooms (well, most of them) are brand new…I love my new room.

There are also the challenges…after semi-planning activities for the first week already, I found out the chromebooks won’t be arriving until the end of the first week of school. Today I learned the wireless projector wasn’t set up properly, so not sure when that will work. I did want to cry at one point today, but I remembered it’s about the KIDS. It’s about building COMMUNITY. It’s about them knowing they MATTER. Everything else is optional.  So, I scrapped the plans, the first day “Get to Know Mrs. Brown” Kahoot, the first day Padlet about what we think about our brain, the first day centers and surveys online to easily collect that “getting to know you” info…and started over. What stayed: the books, the STEM challenges to build teamwork and begin thinking it’s OK to fail, the discussion of how it’s OUR room (not mine) and that grades don’t really matter, that choosing your own seat is powerful, and the discussion about what kind of classroom do we want to have this year.  Our school is focusing on the 4 C’s (creativity/collaboration/communication/critical thinking), so I plan to use those to help guide my lessons all year. I also read this amazing article HERE and need to get my “Be Nice*Work Hard*Think Big*” words up on the wall somewhere…

So, I will take a deep breath and remember it’s all for the students.

  Picture Source

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10 for 10: Books to encourage writing across the curriculum

August 10 for 10

I am so excited to be linking up to the Picture Book 10 for 10 community. Each year, educators, authors, readers,and anyone else can link up with a post about their 10 must have books for the classroom!  This is my first go, and it was quite a challenge to narrow them down. I decided to go with a theme of books for writing.

I love using books for teaching writing. Over the years, through classes at the South Coast Writing Project, my own research, and becoming a fellow with the UC Merced Writing Project, I have found several that are a “must use” in my classroom.

1. Sequoia by Tony Johnston: Great for figurative language models and from the viewpoint of a tree. Would be great to use to have students write a text from the viewpoint of an animal or plant.

2. Bat Loves the Night by Nicola Davies:   Another great non-fiction book that is told from a different point of view–from a bat’s view. It is essentially a narrative, but you learn facts about a bat. Great as a model for a nonfiction piece!

3. Feathers:Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart:   Yet another non fiction text that I used as a writing model this year. Lots of facts about feathers. The class loved this book. Melissa Stewart is active on twitter, and has a website with videos for young writers. A must have for all classrooms!

4. The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown:    Love this, though I admit, upper elementary kids roll their eyes a bit when you first read it. But it is a great book to use for a culminating writing activity. I’ve had kids copy change it to “What’s Important about Electricity”, “What’s Important about Lexington and Concord”, even “What’s Important about Mrs. _____” (my child’s teacher). Last year, students wrote this style after interviewing a classmate. The easy structure invites students to focus on content and vocabulary.

5. Fortunately by Remy Charlip : Another favorite of mine with a very predictable pattern. I’ve used as a structure for writing about the plot of a story, as well as discussing the history of the Revolutionary War. I will use this year to have kids write about the history of the mission era.

6.Fireflies by Julie Brinkloe:    I love this for my personal narrative lessons. It is a simple story about a boy catching fireflies. Students can see how we can take an ordinary event and turn into a story. We don’t have to write all of our stories about trips to Disneyland or big birthday parties.

7. All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan:  This is a beautiful book, both words and illustrations! I use for discussing setting, using exact vocabulary in descriptions, and I have students choose their own place to love for a writing piece.

8. I Am the Dog, I Am the Cat by Donald Hall:  A student favorite, told from the viewpoints of a cat and dog. This book has so many uses–I’ve used to teach compare and contrast and point of view, as well as introducing opinion writing. Both animals think they make the best pet, and it’s a hoot to read aloud!

9. America, I Know You by Bill Martin, Jr:  Now, no offense to the fabulous author, BUT I think the writing my students do by using this predictable structure is incredible!  (I actually end up liking it better than the actual text!)  I have used this to have my writers copy change this with their own images of what makes America so wonderful. Since I teach fourth grade, my writers make a version called, “California, I Know You”. Again, since the structure is set for my students (except I don’t make them rhyme), they can focus on vivid vocabulary and word choice. Parents love this writing!   (I could only find used copies on amazon available, but they were less than $5)

10. Animals Nobody Loves by Seymour Simon:    This is a great book! I actually have not used for writing…yet. My students read selections from the text last year, and I wrote text dependent questions to go along with it, so they could practice using text evidence when answering reading questions. However, I planned to have students write short pieces about other animals we don’t find particularly lovely. I’ve even seen ideas online to have students write poetry about the animals from this text. Kids eat this book up! The pictures are close ups and fantastic!  A must have in your library!

And there you go: 10 books I recommend for your writing library! Now, off to read others’ picks and load up my Amazon cart….





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I finally joined twitter last spring, and I have to say it has opened my eyes in the world of education! I have learned so many new trends–I hate to call them trends because I don’t see these new ideas going away.  I have seen the move to student led classrooms, building engagement in our learners, changing the school environment to fit the world we are sending our students out into! I have seen changes teachers are making to help students find a love of learning–new classroom setups and suggestions, genius projects, ditching textbooks, to name a few. It has been so exciting for me to read these ideas! My head has been swimming with ideas since I joined.

Honestly, I think ALL teachers need to be on twitter. Sometimes there are ebbs and flows in a teacher’s life. Sometimes the enthusiasm bubbles out, and sometimes you just want the week to be over and start fresh. I guess I should say I’m lucky because I have changed grade levels, schools, and classrooms so often, I don’t get a chance to stay put and teach the same thing over and over. I wouldn’t want to anyway! Twitter can and will get you enthused if you need it. I love being able to connect to teachers and authors all over. I’ve joked around with Colleen Cruz while reading her book (I get giddy thinking about it), connected with Melissa Stewart and she gave my class new suggestions for using her lovely non fiction texts, and have seen other authors or well respected educators”favorite” my posts.  How awesome to be able to connect immediately!

It takes a little bit of playing, but it’s not hard. In fact, I made a google slideshow for teachers who want to learn about twitter. I was thinking I could share with some of my staff this year.

I could go on and on, but now, if you are not on twitter, go and find me: @amybrownca. Let’s connect!I will be there, downloading sample lessons, adding books to my amazon cart, and retweeting words of wisdom I come across.

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