Monday, July 16, 2018

Spotlight: You Never Know Unless You Try

Twitter is my summer PD! I learn so much from reading tweets and going down the rabbit holes of all the links. I want to spotlight Lindsay Barna (@litcoachmusings) for reminding me of my journey after reading her blog. I am the district lead for 3-5 Literacy team which means each building has one member that represents their school, and we meet several times a year. We focused on DIY Literacy, and I encouraged everyone to try one of the four new teaching tools.

  • teaching charts
  • demonstration notebooks
  • micro-progressions
  • bookmarks
As the lead, it is my role to model, in order to model you have to do the work. For some reason, I was hesitant to implement one of these tools. I was 110% committed to the book. Tweeted about it, heard Kate Roberts speak, talked to colleagues in my own building and even mentioned to my class in a meeting that we were going to try a new teaching tool. Time passed. Mentioned it again. Time passed. By now you see the pattern. Our third district meeting of the year was three weeks away, pressure was on for me to share my learning.

I mentioned it again in a Friday class meeting, HP said, "Mrs. Caplin when are we going to learn this new tool?" HP will be a future teacher. I replied, "Monday." I had 48 hours to choose the tool and decide how to implement it. As in all good teaching, when we allow our learners to be in charge, 90% of the time they hit a grand slam. Together we learned about the tool: demonstration notebooks.
  1. I asked my learners what do you want to learn about in reading? We brainstormed and we had a list of 21 ideas which became a list of 5.  Each learner chose their group from the 5.
  2. I set up a rotating schedule. Met with every group once a week.  4-6 learners per group. 
  3. I prepared the first week's lessons supporting their choice topic using my demonstration notebook model. Three columns labeled by them....I only set up the first column....they chose the criteria for the middle and last column. 
I learned several lessons from this hesitation in my teaching. First, it was a difficult experience to have to do something I wasn't comfortable with which is similar to what we ask our learners to do in our classrooms practically everyday.. Next, it was easier to be the cheerleader than the player on the field. Finally, there are always moments in life when you're unsure and you enter a task with the best intentions. It doesn't always work out well, but sometimes it does. You never know unless you try.

Monday, July 2, 2018

It's Monday Here's What I'm Reading: Newbery Edition

One of the three areas that I am committing to for my blog is sharing more of my reading life. This is so much easier in the summer when I read almost everyday and prepare for Newbery Club 2019 when school starts in August. It's quite the challenge to read as many possible winners and record my thinking in my reader's notebook.

The pile on the left is my completed and on the right is my TBR pile. I take days off to read picture books which I will share in another Monday post. You know that feeling when you're finished with a book and you rate it 5/5 stars on Goodreads and then you read the next one and it's 5/5 stars. That's the feeling I'm having this summer. I would have difficult time choosing my favorite of the summer. It's like ice cream they all have individual tastes but put them all together and you have a perfect summer reading list. Now I would suggest going to get a favorite scoop of ice cream and enjoy a great book. Let me know your favorite book of the summer or ice cream flavor.

Complements of Google Images

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wednesday Word Work: What's in a Name?

Their story that we need to unfold!
I want to embrace my new students'name and honor their history. I am constantly shocked when I inquire: what do you know about your first and last name? There is silence in the classroom....

I notice unique names and take photos throughout the summer to share at the beginning of the school year. What a fun way for my students to learn about me and instantly they know that I embrace vocabulary. I found the image above on Twitter, and it grabbed me. I loved the idea of summer ABC photos and started thinking about a new visual "Get to Know You" activity. What if each student made an acrostic poem with their name but instead of writing they chose pictures that show about their life? Photos could include: a vacation, favorite activity, their family or even a pet. Or it could be as simple as the letter S for a soccer ball. Learners could choose their presentation tool which would open conversations and probably questions especially with technology. Let's face it by the time they get to fifth grade, do they really want to create another "All About ME" poster?

If you haven't ever read this book, rush out to your library. It's the perfect introduction for this activity.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Spotlight: Readers Sharing Favorite Books

Me: "I enjoy reading blogs and learning from others."
Friend: "Tell me more"
Me: "I still want to learn, but I am not sure I have any new ideas to share."
Friend: "Why don't you write about what you learn?"
Me: Tell me more"
Friend: "How about lifting up others and placing the spotlight on their tweets/blogs?"
Me: "Brilliant"

compliments of Google images

This tweet spoke to me and said, "What a wonderful connection between readers and books!" I instantly was wishing I could have last year's readers back and have them write their index card. Ahh well, moving on to next year's class. I am going to borrow this idea and make it my own. Isn't that the best part of twitter? A seed is planted and then you help it grow? The first few weeks of a new school year, I ask every reader to bring in their favorite book. They can write their thinking on a large sticky note and place it on the inside cover which will provide instant book conversations:
  • similar genres
  • similar authors
  • different points of view
  • sharing their story of why why chose the book
And of course, I will have my favorite books ready as a model. Thanks Kristin Crouch for sharing your idea on Twitter.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

My North Star Celebration

My blog has been quiet for a few months. The first several weeks I felt huge guilt.  As hours became days, days became weeks, weeks became months, I was able to release the guilt. I was always wondering did I have something to share on my blog?  The answers were consistently no. Thoughts would form, I would write them in my notebook, a few conversations would nag at me to be shared, or I would read something and be thankful that I was encouraged. It was more important that I left a comment to thank the author than write my own post. 

I celebrate the gift of friendship. Those who know me, love me, and best of all truly understand me.  We were able to talk on my back porch for three hours. I shared secrets that I hadn't told anyone, and my friend listened, discussed, helped me through my dilemmas about blogging.  She listened to new desires but wouldn't allow my passions to slip away.  After eight years of blogging, I realized it was important to reflect on the direction I want to head.  Asking what is my North Star?  Through our conversation and reflecting on my notebooks, I have found my North Star.     

  • Passion for vocabulary - collecting words, thinking about word study
  • Passion for reading so I am able to book talk throughout the school year
  • Passion for being a quiet mentor
  • Passion for shining the spotlight on others
I have always found celebration blogs posts  to lift me up and help connect with other friends. I am thankful for this community of readers. I hope everyone has a great week and if you are searching for your North Star I hope you find it. 

Compliment of Google Images
As I type this post, I realize quiet nights on our dock
have lead me to where I am today. 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Celebrating NOT Testing

Ahh state testing, anyone reading this blog understands what happens to the classroom environment during four weeks of testing.  2 math, 2 reading, 2 science and 2 MAP.  I am not celebrating that!  We had a state wide shut down on Wednesday with our state testing. All tests cancelled in the state of Ohio for the day. I had planned on two hours to complete the math test,  so what did we do when that happens?  Of course, more time to read, share books, play word games especially hangman and celebrate no testing.  10 years ago, probably 5 years ago, I would have jumped right back into instruction.  Not any more.  I'm celebrating hangman with my students and of course a little word study thinking integrated with my word choices.

Coming together with their snacks and sharing our class read aloud, Flying Solo.  This is a perfect time of the year as my fifth graders transition next year to a sixth grade building. I LOVE this story and most of all I LOVE the life lessons.  Conversations around the characters and their decisions and choices are powerful.  As we were reading Wednesday, EV noticed that that storyteller's name: Klof Selat meant folk tales?  These are the moments that learners will remember forever.  I am so thankful for the opportunity for my readers to connect with authors through twitter.  Thank you for celebrating this week with me.  

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Celebrating: A NEW Path

Have you ever been lost as a writer, and then realized you weren't lost?  I haven't been lost. I am on a different course.  A new direction that I am choosing.  Choice is such a huge part of writing.  Audience is another huge piece of writing for me.  Who is my audience?  Am I writing for an audience?  Am I writing just for me?  All of these thoughts that have been ping ponging around in my brain this winter.

When I do feel the need to write for an audience larger than myself, I always choose my Saturday celebration family.  I've written before about "taking" and not "returning."  I have been taking a lot this winter by reading all of the Saturday celebrations and not returning by writing my own post.  Here is the link up for this week.  I am thrilled to be joining in with such supportive friends. 


My celebrations this week are from colleagues, friends and principals.  Those who don't know that I have been on an alternative route lately.  I am extremely thankful when someone takes the time to leave a kind note, inspirational email, tweet some kind words, leave a comment on my blog from a post written months ago or leaves a voicemail for my principal about a professional development that I lead this week.   

It doesn't take a lot of energy to be kind.  After all, we all know to Choose Kind  But the best part of kind is when you're not expecting it.  Those kind moments woven together reinforce that I am on the right track.  I am thankful for opportunities to quietly lead fellow teachers and volunteer in helping students who are struggling. It's strange when the current path leads me in a new directions, but I know the journey is perfect for me.