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.