Tuesday, July 19, 2016

DIY Literacy: Chapter 5 & 6

We are building a screen porch in our backyard this summer.  When I say we, there are three integral people.
  • our friend (the builder) who knows everything and is helping my husband learn about construction
  • my husband (the runner) helps with everything and is learning several new building skills
  • me (the supporter) cooking meals, filling drinks and helping when asked.  I am very good with the million trips to the lumber yards because I can follow a list extremely well. 

As I sit on our front porch writing this post, and I hear the saw cutting the cedar wood, measurements being told several times and the occasional, "I love it when a plan comes together."  That is how I am feeling as I finish the book.  I love it when my learning comes together.

Chapter 5 Just for You
  • ...during  the preparation, investing time in the right tools and collecting them p. 72
  • look across the lesson and make predictions - where might students need support? p. 80
  • with the correct tools students can differentiate themselves p. 72
  • Which strategy are you going to try today? p. 74  (opening of workshop)
  • How did yo push yourself as a writer today?  p. 74 (closing of workshop)
Chapter 6 Nuts and Bolts
  • As I am considering my classroom design, I am now considering where the most foot traffic will be in our class?  p. 88
  • How can I support my students when they need fuel to keep them going when plugging away on the hard stuff?  p. 88
  • Kid friendly language - less is more p. 91
  • If students are shrugging... it's time for them to roll up their sleeves and take more ownership of their work. p. 93
  • Think of our demonstration notebook as a library book - it should travel around the room. p. 95
Every statement above has stumped me in the past.  I've said them aloud to myself in a questioning voice or have asked colleagues. I always feel a little better when I read my "problems" in a book because it's not so lonely.  One of my biggest take away from both chapters is that I need to spend more time thinking about these issues and how I can begin to make minuscule shifts in my practice.  One thing I know about myself as a learner in the summer is that I want to do EVERYTHING and I know I can't.  Already as I have read other blog posts and twitter chats, I realize that we're a community of learners.  It's not an isolated experience and learning with 50+ is so much better than learning alone.  I am thankful for comment feeds and a huge thanks to everyone who made a video or shared their own work by taking photos.  It's been another amazing summer PD.  Here's to the last few weeks of summer.  Thank you for the journey of #cyberPD.









Tuesday, July 12, 2016

DIY Literacy: Chapters 3 & 4

The conversations from week one have been amazing. I am so thankful for the opportunity to connect with so many smart educators.  The idea of all of us reading one book and learning together is such a smart lesson that I am already thinking about as a teacher. Some times the best learners are not always in front of you.  Expanding students' voice is so important and as I think about Chapters 3 and 4, I am focused on how I can accomplish that goal when I return back to school. 

Chapter 3: I had an AMEN! moment as I read p. 37  about sitting on your couch with a pile of notebooks and a feeling of dejection. I wish I could say that feeling goes away but it doesn't even after teaching 28 years. When I reflect on the layers of learning my students do each day and how I weave in "brain breaks" and tried to diversify activities so they are constantly moving/talking/sharing. I am going to add the idea from p. 42 "During the end of class, ask students to talk...which strategy they used during class ..."  I am excited to change the closing few moments of each class. 

Chapter 4:  Rigor has almost became a new buzz word lately.  The definition seems to ebb and flow in my opinion.  As I read p. 55 "We create a learning climate where students see the steps needed to tackle the tasks in front of them...."  I am thinking about micro-progressions and how I want to work with my fifth graders to create them.  Thinking about the different levels of learning and allowing every student an entry point.  I am excited for my AMEN moments and having my students more actively involved in their learning.  

A huge thanks for all the comments and conversations.  I am always thankful for my PLN and the opportunity to learn side by side.  Thanks to 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

DIY Literacy

Summer PD is my favorite time for personal learning. It's like Christmas when the book is announced. I have to admit that I pride myself on having it already in my TBR pile and this summer I did. Our district Grades 3-5 chose it as our summer read, so I am thrilled that I will be learning with both groups.  

Confession:  I watched all the videos before I even opened the book.  Love everyone of them and when I started reading I heard Kate and Maggie reading the book to me personally.  As I read chapters 1,2 and the Bonus several key phrases grabbed me, and I stopped to write them in my notebook.


  • We must first identify what the obstacle to getting the job done is exactly. p. 2
  • We are able to SHIFT CURRENTS in our teaching when we step back, reflect upon the root issue. p. 3
  • We hope they need us less, not more.  p. 3
  • The tools inspire the kids to work as hard as we are. p. 8
  • Every journey includes the need to solve problems. p. 11
I have been reflecting on how to shift ownership in my classroom. Wondering how my students can take more ownership in their learning. The first three sections felt like a counseling session that I didn't have to pay too much for.  I could hear both of them telling me, "We've been there."  there is power in knowing that you're not the only one questioning your practice.  

My lightbulb moment was with the first bullet.  I always jump right into the solution. I could list all the reasons why I do that but as a teacher we all know those reasons.  I am learning to slow down and becoming more of a diagnostician. Listening, observing, listening, observing more. Asking questions in conferences have helped me to try and assess the learning concern.  Last summer,  I learned the importance of the word "yet" I try to remember that as I can't find the best tool for the job. Now I have four new tools in my toolbox and I am ready to shift the currents in my classroom in August.  

Thanks to Cathy, Laura and Michelle for hosting this summer #cyberPD, I am excited to learn along with everyone.   


  • Week of July 3rd—Chapters 1- 2 & Bonus
  • Week of July 10th—Chapters 3-4
  • Week of July 17—Chapters 5-6
  • Week of July 24—Final Twitter Chat


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Celebrate: Joy in Friendships


Celebrating this week is so easy.  I'm celebrating joy!  I've spent the last two days in Warsaw Indiana at the All Write Conference.  There was 48 hours of complete joy.  Actually 54 hours including the #carPD which solved all my life and school problems.  All Write always inspires me and each year I walk away with several different concepts to ponder for the rest of the summer.  One of my favorite parts are the vocabulary I think about differently.  
  • Tell you own story.  Look around your story is everywhere.
  • If something hasn't happened for you add the word YET to the end of the sentence
  • Find JOY in everything. As Kristine Mraz told us, "I found joy that when I checked on my kindergarten class that no one had used scissors inappropriately." 
I know there will be several posts coming this summer from my learning at the conference, but I want to celebrate the joy of friendships.  I have found the most supportive group of colleagues through twitter. My virtual PLN is a blessing to me. 
  • When we walked in the Wyndam Hotel, the first thing I hear is "Hi Maria so glad you're able to come." thanks Ruth for always encouraging celebrations and joy
  • Conversations with my teammate from 6:15 AM - 11:30 PM changed who I am and will make me a better person.  
  • JoEllen McCarthy, our cheerleader, always inspires me not only to think differently but also more positively.  Her passion for picture books and knowledge always costs me money and warms my heart.  
  • Listening to Terry Thompson speak for the first time was complete JOY.  He shared uplifting stories from his classroom especially about his second grade boys who help him start everyday perfectly after breakfast duty.
  • Jeff Anderson made my Friday!  We shook hands and he told me thank you for all the tweets of support.  And I of course thanked him for totally turning around my writing workshop with the power of sentence observation and this year learning about breaking down an author's sentence to smaller ones and putting it back together. 
Sitting on our porch, drinking my tea, reflecting on my days and knowing that today is going to be marvelous, I am celebrating how blessed and thankful 
I am. Here is the link up this week for Celebrating.

Couldn't agree more!!!
  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Slice of Life: I Wanted then I Realized

It's still early on Tuesday morning for summer.  I feel a sense of pride when I accomplish all my goals for the day by 9:02 and the only one left is to write my slice.  But I have been gathering my thoughts for awhile. Starting last week on vacation, as we journeyed around the East coast. I was sharing one of my favorite cities, Boston, with my husband, and I realized once again that I'm always a teacher.  Being his travel guide with tons of sentence starters like

  • Did you know?
  • At this location...
  • Back in 1700's 
  • This is one of my favorite locations
  • Let's use the map
  • Let's ask someone
I wonder if it's hard to live with a teacher.  I think I already know that answer.  I've been to Boston 10 times prior to this visit, and he'd never been there.  I wanted him to love the city just like I do.  

Isn't that what happens in my classroom sometime? I spend all my energy preparing lessons. I read several professional books, take notes, participate in twitter talks, Voxer a friend, and finally write the plan.  I want the lesson to be strong. By this time in my teaching career I know not perfect is almost not possible. I am beginning to realize I have more invested in the lesson than my students.  That is what I'm thinking about this summer.  What I want....then I realize.  I've been saying to my colleagues for a few years now that my students aren't as invested.  This year I made shifts with my classroom set up, organization, and lessons. I saw several moments when I knew they were invested. Those moments came when they were the decision makers, and I was not the leader of group. 

Every moment of summer is a lesson for me both personally and professionally. Our day in Boston taught me several lessons that I will take back to the classroom in August. I always enjoy joining Two Writing Teachers for Slicing on Tuesday. 

Checking off our Eastern Coast bucket list trip.

You have to visit Make Way for Ducklings in the Boston Commons


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Slice of Life: When the Lights Go Out

Another year comes to a close, yesterday was our final day of school. This year presented several different challenges. My group of learners challenged my thinking (how to handle different types of behavior) I am still thinking about that blog post. There were moments when I thought I had the most thoughtful planned out lessons and as I opened the lesson I knew quickly it was a dud! There use to be moments in my teaching  career when I would fight though a bad lesson forcing it to work. One part of teaching that I am thankful for are the years of experience, I now have the courage to stop at that specific "dud" moment. Hit the breaks - take a huge right turn and change directions. I was honest with my class and if you could have been a fly on the wall, you would have heard this conversation.

  • Me "I notice that not everyone is engaged during the opening of the mini lesson."  "Can someone tell me why you appear to be bored?"
  • Student "It feels like the same thing as yesterday - we've done character traits with evidence sooooo many times."
  • Me  "How could we change this lesson so it doesn't feel sooooo similar?
  • Student: "We could choose a character from our read aloud."
  • Student:  "We could break into small groups and use our read aloud."
  • Student:  "Could we write a script and choose two favorite characters?"
After these conversations, my response was Yes, Yes, and Yes.  There was a different type of buzz and especially their the attitudes and looks on their faces. The lights are out in my classroom but the reflection time of summer is one of most valuable times that I find as an educator.  

Thanks to The Two Writing Teachers for encouraging me to reflect and share my Slices on Tuesday even though I'm a little late to the party.   

I'm extremely thankful to the learners in Room 234 for helping
me continue to grow as a teacher.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Slice of Life: Summer Learning on a Quest

It's Tuesday and time to reflect on my Slice of Life.  It's the last day of May and it's time to reflect on my OLW: quest.  There are only five days of school left.  I will have completed my 28 year of teaching. With all of these wrapped into a little package, it's time to launch into my summer quest. 
This summer is going to be different for me.  It's not all going to be all about professional learning. I am anxious to be on a quest for reflection time.  I enjoy taking the time for thinking about what went well during the school year although I don't spend a lot of time on that to be honest. Last summer everything centered around math workshop. What did the standards mean? How can workshop become a standard and not an isolation? I focused on these concepts throughout the year and I am pleased at the shifts I made in math. I am typically thinking about the glitches during the school year or looking back in my notebook to read some comments that I have left for myself so I don't forget what I need to focus on.  This summer I want to focus on 
  • talk in my classroom - What does it look like? Sound like? Most importantly how can I not be in charge of talk?  How do I shift ownership of talk?
  • inquiry:  How can I build more inquiry into every subject?  I've always had a sense of wonder in my classroom; however, I am thinking more deeply about how can questioning be an integral part of all subject areas? 
I'm excited to slice, reflect and celebrate the last day of the month.  I appreciate all the Slicers and their comments.  The blogging community is an integral part of my learning, and I'm excited to continue this summer.