S. T. Fleming

Language. Education. Literacy. Creation.

Author Archive

Listen, Watch then Teach

When working with my students in language and literacy I am always looking for data.  I don’t, however, rely much on standardized scores and summative assessments.  While helpful in a very small way, those types of assessments give me information more about me, the teacher, than about the student.  I look for data that I can use.

Every time I have a conversation with students I make notes about their learning, sometimes mental notes and sometimes written notes.  I try to keep track of their use of language and their thinking.  Every time I read student writing I make notes about their use of language, their ability to express themselves and their accuracy.  This is the data that I use.

This is the real-time data that shows me what students know and can do right now.  That data is then turned into large group, small group and individual instruction as needed to move all students forward.  I encourage students to make mistakes, use big words, enter into debates and not be afraid.  It is through making mistakes, I tell them, that I can know what the next steps are in their learning.  All done in a supportive environment.

Give it a try; it’s not rocket science.  When we pay attention to the students they will show us what they need.  When we listen and watch, we will know what to teach.

Literacy in Minnesota

Literacy @ RiverviewIf you are interested in how Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop works in one school in Minnesota, check out the site Literacy @ Riverview.  The site gives an outline of expectations for reading and writing education.  It is a great site for new teachers who want a window into elementary literacy or experienced teachers who want a refresher.  There is also a section of resources in Spanish.

Check it out and see what you think:
https://sites.google.com/a/stpaul.k12.mn.us/riverview-literacy/ 

Empanada Recipe

IngredientsDouble recipe!
2 pounds ground beef
2 or 3 chopped onions
3 or 4 chopped garlic cloves
2 T oil
½ c raisins
¼ t paprika
½ t cumin
½ t oregano
1 t salt
½ t pepper
1 can of black olives
4 hard-boiled eggs
1 beaten egg
(All of the spice quantities can change according to your taste.)

For the filling…
Soak the raisins in hot water for about an hour.  In a large frying pan fry the ground beef in the oil until browned.  Add the chopped onions and minced garlic and cook until the onions are mostly transparent.  Add cumin, oregano, salt, pepper and paprika (optional) and cook for three minutes.  Let the filling cool (overnight in fridge or just a few hours until cool).  Slice the eggs.

Dough for the crust
3 c flour
1 t salt
1 t baking powder
¼ c melted shortening
¼ c melted butter
¾ c warm milk + ¼ c warm water (or 1 c warm milk)

Mix the flour with the salt and baking powder.  Add the shortening, butter, milk and water.  Mix well, kneading until soft and flexible but not sticky.  Let rest for ½ hour and divide into 16 portions, ready for rolling out. (This number is flexible depending on the size of your empanadas)

To fill the crust…
Pre-heat the oven to 400º F.

With a rolling pin stretch each piece of dough and cut into a circle.  Begin filling the empanadas by putting the meat mixture in the middle of the dough; then add one slice of egg, a few raisins and 2 olive halves.  Wet the edges of the dough and close the dough, flipping over one half onto the other half and pinch the now moistened edges.  Lightly brush each empanada with raw egg (beaten).  Poke each empanada with a fork a few times, this reduces the inside pressure when cooking and helps prevent bursting at the seams.

Place on cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes (until golden brown).   Let cool a bit before eating.

Yum!

To Be Determined

A dry ink well leaves
Unfinished tales end-less
Interpretation

Strategies for Learning and Engagement

Here is a list of the strategies we are learning with the NUA cohort this year.  The work has been wonderful and I always love learning!  I am pretty sure that any one of them can be “googled” if you are looking for more information.

  • Bubble Map- Describing
  • Circle Map- Defining in Context
  • Double Bubble Map- Compare
  • Flow Map- Sequence  
  • Tree Map
  • Vocabulary Development- Pronoun Boxes Comprehension
  • Vocabulary Development- Synonym Triplets
  • Vocabulary Development- Taxonomy
  • Vocabulary Development- Vocabulary Tri-Fold
  • Vocabulary Development – Dancing Definitions
  • Community Builders- I Am, I Love, I Always
  • Equity Sticks/Voice Avatar
  • NUA Notebook
  • NUA Explicit Strategy Instruction Protocol
  • Touching the Spirit
  • Punctuate Your Thoughts
  • Speech Bubbles with Imaginary Teachers’ Comments on Race/Ethnicity Related Issues
  • Comprehension – Key Word Notes
  • Composing with Keywords- Writing
  • Good and Better- Vocabulary
  • Decoding–Phonic Pattern Word Lists
  • Comprehension – Essential Summaries
  • Choral Reading Repetition (The girl on the train)
  • Panel Books

Just to name a few! :)

Unexpected Amazed

As I knelt to plant my vegetable garden
the sown seeds, unexpectedly, had been mixed
At some point
by no one in particular
A loose box, open envelopes, perhaps

The vegetables were few and far between
But the flowers
The flowers
They were beautiful mixed with greens
Unexpected
Beautiful

When I stood to paint this mural
To reflect the sea and the sunset
The waves and the gulls
A sudden elbow slip, a few misstrokes
new-strokes
And the sea became a flowing river
All re-framed
With tall buildings reflecting the sky
Beautiful
Unexpected yet
Beautiful 

Sitting at the piano bench to write
The song of minor tones and sadness
Oops, a major third, hmmm, a new progression
With a walking bass line
And a piano solo
Jazzy
Classy
Unexpected and beautiful 

Lettings loose the best of creation
Rolling with the punches
Not knowing the end result
Why did the character sneeze?
Why did the colors blend?
Why did the music roll?

Ahh, the way of creation
Beautiful and unexpected
And beautiful
Accepted and beautiful
For if the end were pre conceived
Would it be art?
Would it be creation?
Would it be life?

Unexpected beauty happens
Be amazed!

Sites for Spanish Literacy Games

I have been gathering websites for early literacy learning in Spanish; here they are… so far.  clearly I need to annotate the list and add more.

If you have any other suggestions please let me know; I am sure there are many, many more.

Writer’s Workshop Ideas- Fun, Engaging

A colleague in my K- 5 school asked for a few ideas about making writer’s workshop fun and engaging.  I love those questions because it allows me to be creative and gather ideas.  Here are a few ideas to get started… (If you have more please add them!)

  • Be passionate- write in front of the students and let them see you write and talk out loud about your process, about spelling, …
  • Draw pictures to go with the writing
  • Write stories to go with the pictures
  • Make comic books
  • Re-write comic books (the one you just made or one that was professionally made) into story format with dialogue and description
  • Let students write what they want- lists, stories, opinions, how-to, all I know about…, non-fiction or fiction, poems, … play with words
  • Find a real audience- another classroom, the hallway, a classroom in another school or another city, country, a blog, …
  • Design/ diagram something invented and explain how it works
  • Read/ tell the beginning of a story and have the students continue/ finish it
  • Act out a story and then have the students write the script
  • Write a script and then have the students act it out, or with puppets, or as a podcast or …
  • Writing prompts
  • Connect writing closely with reading or science or social studies
  • Shared writing
  • Do you have a class mascot (stuffed animal, live animal, …)?  Write the stories of the mascot- where from, past adventures, include pictures,
  • Class blog on kidblog.org
  • Add podcasts of students reading their writing on your page of the school’s website
  • Check out blog posts such as: http://tunstalltimes.blogspot.com/2014/08/engaging-writing-activities.html
  • Stick with the standards but let your mind wander and your creativity soar

Irish Soda Bread

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day I offer my mom’s Irish Soda Bread recipe… again.  Enjoy!
MomsIrishSodaBreadMmmmmm!

Saturday’s Sun

Playing tag with me
Between the West Side houses
Springtime rising up

Playing hide and seek
As I drive through shutter slats
Found, hidden, found, hid…

Olly oxen free
Winter’s snow gives way to life
No-sleeve freedom play

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