Saturday, July 26, 2014

Celebrations from Friends to Pie

Knowing that I want to post on Saturday, celebrating my week really helps me slow down and reflect. Thanks to Ruth Ayres for her weekly link-up. You can link up HERE

Every day I spent time visiting with different friends. My circle widened this week because two of them I knew through other friends, but we had not spent time visiting one on one.  Celebrating time to talk and share fears, passions and hopes is powerful. It always helps me when I know that someone else feels exactly like I do.  I’m not an island, as I get overwhelmed with three weeks until school start.  I have a thousand ideas floating around, and I need to get to a hundred soon and finally down to ten and as one friend suggested, “Choose one and do it well.” 

Sharing books….How can you go wrong?  I love visiting my favorite bookstore, Fundamentals, in Delaware, OH. It’s like my little piece of heaven. Every time I walk in the door and Tami says, “What are you reading?” or better yet “Have you seen this ARC?” I actually get a happy feeling. I met a few friends there this week and shared my piece of heaven. We had such fun previewing, reading, laughing and of course finding the perfect gem for our classroom. As you can see from the photo when you find a great book, you just sit down on the floor and start reading.

Finally I am embarrassed to say but I think I made my first homemade pie from scratch.  The reason I think it is my first because if I had made one in the past I don’t remember so I am considering this the first.  It was more about the process than the eating it, which describes who I am pretty well.  I love the organization starting with finding the recipe, purchasing the ingredients. Who knew there was special cake flour? Making the crust and then cutting strawberries and rhubarb seemed perfect. I did learn to cut the rhubarb smaller next time. Lessons learned from baking a pie really made me stop and realize the importance of taking time to celebrate.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Post It Notes are Lonely

I've had the chance to read Connecting Comprehension and Technology which has been a great energizer for me as I continue to think about authentically integrating  technology especially during reading workshop.  Thank you to four super smart women: Stephanie Harvey, Anne Goudvis, Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke. I loved how the book was organized. Having QR codes that allow a peak into the classroom was powerful as I am a visual learner. In addition, separating the book into primary and intermediate was extremely helpful. I read all the intermediate sections first but went back and read several of the primary sections. It felt like differentiated lessons with the same focus. Such a smart way to organize a book.

There were several big learning moments that pushed me to continue my thinking around collaboration in reading workshop.  The biggest take away was a duh moment, but I am glad I had it.  Sticky note thinking is limited to one individual student and when doing a whole class sharing only one person shares and 23 hopefully listen. My take away is how will I create a collaborative platform in my class?  I liked the organization that Katie  suggested: three groups of eight for a class of 24. Opening the conversation but not too big to overwhelm them.  Right now I am considering Google but more blogs to come on that idea....still percolating.

The idea of back channeling is where I want to begin with our first read aloud. I am still thinking about how I want my students to have time to share questions, new thinking but also time to reflect on their own ideas.  I am thrilled with the instructional shift knowing that  I will not always be calling on one student to share  but small groups will be connected. I am considering a reflection piece at the end of workshop where the students will write about their big learning, new vocabulary, or questions that they have about the story in their own reader's notebook. Bringing post it notes to life is going to totally change the sharing in our workshop -- I'm super excited.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

OLW: Choice and a Little Reflection

It's been a great summer as I continue to implement my One Little Word: choice. A friend posted on my face book page that she was sure there would be a “reflection” post coming soon from a similar photo. I took this picture last night while reading on our dock.  I never saw the clouds in the pond until I took this photo. It is a perfect visual for my last three weeks.  I never knew how I would feel if I chose to slow down and shift my time. I feel more balanced with altering my choices including not focusing primarily on all education. I learned that you never know what you might find if you choose to take the time to take the photo. My reflection involves a happier more relaxed feeling with one of the best parts more time to read.

Here’s the summary of Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graf.

Albie has never been the smartest kid in his class. He has never been the tallest. Or the best at gym. Or the greatest artist. Or the most musical. In fact, Albie has a long list of the things he's not very good at. But then Albie gets a new babysitter, Calista, who helps him figure out all of the things he is good at and how he can take pride in himself.

Albie is an enduring character that you will to succeed, and he has several obstacles to overcome. Life never gets easy for Albie, and Calista gives him the best advice, “Find something you like…keep doing it forever…even if you stink. And then if you’re lucky with lots of practice one day you won’t stink so much.” This quote hooked me and will encourage strong conversations in our classroom.

My other favorite is by Holly Schindler, The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky. Here is a summary

August “Auggie” Jones lives with her Grandpa Gus, a trash hauler, in a poor part of town. So when her wealthy classmate’s father starts the House Beautification Committee, it’s homes like Auggie’s that are deemed “in violation.” Auggie is determined to prove that she is not as run-down as the outside of her house might suggest. Using the kind of items Gus usually hauls to the scrap heap, a broken toaster becomes a flower; church windows turn into a rainbow walkway; and an old car gets new life as spinning whirligigs. What starts out as a home renovation project becomes much more as Auggie and her grandpa discover a talent they never knew they had—and redefine a whole town’s perception of beauty, one recycled sculpture at a time.”

Auggie's perseverance is her strongest character trait. She is amazingly strong with not only loving where she lives, but she also shifts the surrounding community viewpoint. Auggie learns about friendship issues and best of all she fights through them with total class. The secrets she finds in the closet, literally, will steal your heart.

Albie and Auggie have traits that I want to discuss with my new class too as well as use the text for amazing mentors in writing workshop. The choice of words and beautiful description drew me into each book. Reflections and choices are a perfect combo as July turns the corner toward August. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Slice of Life

I am excited to join Two Writing Teacher for Tuesday Slice of Life writing community.  

I continue to celebrate my One Little Word: choice.  I've been slowing down the past two weeks which is pretty ironic since it is summer. I put the breaks on my summer PD and made a difficult choice and chose not to attend Nerdcamp. I chose to stay home and reflect on my learning from Allwrite. There were so many great ideas that I want to implement this year.  Thinking about this slice allowed me the time to lift the highlights.

  • Kelly Gallagher reminded us to frame the problem. The importance of reading and writing intertwined is the key to students' success. My favorite quote, "Make sure you are the best writer in your own classroom." 
  • Ruth Ayres: "Everyone has a story."  "Just because things get hard. Doesn't mean hard has to win." and finally "Quit trying to get it right, celebrate imperfection."
  • Kristin Ziemke: I loved how she discussed active literacy and how it is multi-layered not only with different types of technology, notebooks, and books, but also the instructional practices. Finally she shared how she captures her students smart thinking through photographs by having students airdrop them to her. 
  • Chris Tovani shared how she implements thinking sheets.  I love this idea because it felt different than a "worksheet."  She reinforced how workshop allows time for students to read and write. Time for both is crucial for students' learning.
  • Stephanie Harvey spoke about thinking intensively all day. I listened carefully when she spoke on how the tougher the text requires readers to use a wider variety of strategies in addition allows for the teacher to observe the breakdown for further mini lessons. 
As I read back through my notes, I am excited about the new opportunities that I have this school year.  I will be self-contained for the first time in 15 years.  I moved classrooms to have a bigger space. Sarah and I will be welcoming two new team members which will be exciting as we implement Common Core Math and Language Arts.  We want to create time for conversations, and I am sure I will be sharing the key points from above.  

Summer has been about slowing down and realizing that making choices that extend beyond school help me to find joy and celebration.  We are leaving for vacation at the end of the week and excited to spend more quality time together in a peaceful cabin in TN with some amazing friends.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Celebrating with Joy

It is 3:47 on Saturday afternoon. I have been thinking about this post for several days almost a week.  When I know that I'm going to be writing about celebrations, I think differently about my days.  When I know that my One Little Word is choice I think differently about my days.  Both of these pieces fit nicely together for me. I was going to post about my learning at All Write, but I realized I already posted with several-- possibly over a hundred tweets.  When I came home, I had to disconnect from social media and thinking about teaching. I was on Allwrite overload which was a fantastic thing, but I needed a few days to come down from the learning.

I just returned from my Choice Literacy writing retreat and the life lessons along with the gift of time to write was almost surreal for me.  A gift wrapped up in belly laughing conversations, rich talk about our biggest best question and then tie it with a bow for hours of writing time. A priceless celebration, thank you Brenda.

Finally I learned something about myself, and I have to give credit to Ruth for encouraging us at her keynote to make sure we tell our story.  In addition to my husband who has been gently nudging me this summer to realize that my fun time is mostly school related.  When I finished with my nightly responsibilities of being a teacher during the school year, I would spend the rest of the evening reading teacher blogs or checking in on twitter.  I would read another professional book or choose to blog about my day.  I have to admit most of my summer has had the similar schedule.

I am celebrating today that I found joy in my morning routine not checking twitter, Facebook or blogs.  Starting my day with eating some amazing granola that I brought home from the INN at Cedar Falls, weeding the gardens, visiting the farmer's market, going to the library to pick up five new books, fixing lunch and eating with my husband on the back deck.  Took a 20 minute nap (which my CL friends will enjoy knowing because our editor told us too) and read my new book:  brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

I made the choice to choose joy, and it was the best decision of the day.  Off to start dinner on the grill and keep reading. Thanks to Ruth Ayres for her weekly link-up, Celebrate this Week. You can link up  HERE

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Slice of Life: OWL - Choice

I am excited to join Two Writing Teachers for Tuesday Slice of Life writing community. I love the summer when I have time to slow down and read the different slices.  The power of comments mean so much to me, and I try and to pay it forward during summer.

Today’s Slice of Life is about my OLW – choice!  I have been explaining my choices to my family a lot lately.  Several times not complaining just inquiring “Mom why are you reading that book?”  “Which twitter chat are you doing now?”  “When does you summer vacation start?”  "Tell me again when are you leaving?"

My choices are centered on what I enjoy in the summer.  Long early morning walks, gardening, slow paced breakfast, and almost always time to check on newly posted blog posts. I explain numerous times that I enjoy reading professional books and taking notes.  It is fun to read blog posts and learn along with colleagues from around the country. This is the time when my Goodreads becomes my best friend, and I totally love reading  books to be ready to book talk in the fall.   

My summer professional life kicks into high gear starting this week and will continue for the next several. I am super excited about my choices for my upcoming professional development.
  • Google training and sharing about my 5th grade classroom with Dublin Colleagues  this week check out #dubchat
  •  #Allwrite14 starts tomorrow evening and goes through Friday (watch twitter for my learning along with several super smart colleagues)
  •  Choice Literacy Writing Retreat is the following week: a highlight with rich conversations about how to grow as a writer and the best part –time to write.
  • nERDcamp MI:  second week of July which is my first nERDcamp, and I am going with MS friends thanks to Gretchen for including me.
As you can see, I am going to be super busy by choice and continue my professional learning.  After that we have a short family vacation planned, so my blogging will be pretty sporadic for the next three to four weeks. I am extremely grateful for an amazing family that supports me and my OLW.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Comprehension Experience: Chapter 2

Chapter 2:  The Power of Story Supporting Students’ Reading of Narrative Texts

“Students increase their capacity for comprehension more readily when they are focused on the story, not on learning or practicing a so-called reading skill or comprehension strategy.” 

·      FOCUS question for students: When you are finished reading, consider whether or not the new information changes your thinking? and What interesting words or phrases helped you with understanding the story?
·      PLANNING: includes careful orchestrated experiences
·      PREDICTIONS: generate curiosity, curiosity generates motivation. It is important to notice how students change their initial prediction as they obtain new information from the text.
·      More IMPORTANT than skill building are regular experiences with complex text, each with its own challenges and opportunities.

Again this chapter helped me to think about my presentation of narrative text. Like the first chapter, I am borrowing several ideas about asking deeper questions and allowing my students time to learn deeper.  I appreciate the reinforcement of curiosity because I believe that choice along with curiosity encourages students to be active learners. Finally, the opening quote is one that I agree with but occasionally get caught up with because of "needing" grades.  I need to remember this as the year begins.