Saturday, June 30, 2012

OLW: Reflections of June: Life is Good!

Six months ago I committed to my OLW for 2012 and I chose reflection.  Each month I had to create time to reflect.  Had is the power helping verb because I don't often take that time because in my busy world.  I am just trying to keep up because luckily I am usually caught up.  Fast forward to June-a month out of school, and I have to admit I was pretty sure at the beginning of the month I thought my reflection was going to about all my summer professional learning, but now that the month is complete my reflection has shifted to kittens, laundry and gratitude. 

I LOVE kittens and for those of you who don't love these adorable, soft, perfect to hold when life is getting you down please continue reading.  I also love dogs, cows, pigs, fish and any other barn yard animal that we might have on our mini farm. Everyday after our morning walk,  I find a kitten and just give it a big hug! As I reflect, I believe it is the setting in which I live:  22 acres, beautiful pond with a dock perfect for reading a book in my hammock and a stream that runs through our property.  Life is good!

 I have been doing laundry for for 40 years, and  I have to admit during those ages from 2-18 there were piles.  I even think I washed clean clothes because they did not get put away from the prior week.  Fast forward to June.  Our son is home from college working construction (dirtier than age 2) and our daughter has been home quite a bit because of job interviews.  I LOVE doing laundry what makes the difference? I know they can do their own laundry but I enjoy it because it is a gift that I can give to them and now they truly appreciate the gift.  Life is good!

I didn't tell my daughter I was writing this post because I know she would have told me not too but the month of June has been about gratitude.  For Christmas, Anna gave me 365 memories. She convinced my husband and son to help her write 365 individual pieces of paper with memories that we have as a family. I was suppose to pull one every day of 2012 and most days I do but on occasional difficult days I have been known to pull out three or four.  In the background is her senior picture and her college diploma, where have 22 years gone?  I feel such gratitude for the opportunity to be her mom and most of all her friend.  Life is good!

I would encourage you to take time to reflect. It has made a tremendous difference both personally and professionally. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

"Everyone Has a Story"

Last summer, I followed the All Write Consortium virtually on twitter, and I remember thinking about how much I wish I could have been there. This year I attended with many colleagues and enjoyed the opportunity to listen, discuss and now begin to process all of the information.

Ruth Ayres gave the opening keynote entitled “Mandates, Standards and Evaluations.  Can Teachers Still Change the World?”  I loved how she shared her own teaching experiences, her own life story which led her to ask the audience, “What is your story?”  Everyone has a story.

As a teacher, I need to know my students’ stories. We want to change a life and give hope which allows each child to have BIG dreams.

All of life pieces make up our stories.  Stories allow us to change the world. 

Words matter and the story is worth being written.  

She suggested having students start the year with sharing a story that changed their life. I am already thinking about which picture book I am going to be sharing with my class the first few weeks of school.

She ended with connecting these stories to the importance of helping students believe that they are readers and writers.  It is our job to support and encourage students as well as build their trust so that they can form their own story because stories can change the world.

 Ruth wrote her own reflection about the keynote on her blog:  Two Writing Teachers.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Poetry Friday - - Mentor Texts

 I am at the All Write Conference in Warsaw, IN totally overwhelmed with amazing and inspirational ideas about literacy. I started my morning listening to Ralph Fletcher. His topic was about mentor texts. He asked us to write a poem lifting the first and last line from his poem that he shared. Thanks Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for our conversations the past few days and your encouragement with poetry.


Sometimes I remember the good old days 
sitting on the bleachers watching the game.

Listening to the blue say strike two 
watching with anticipation that strike three would be next. 

Bases loaded sixth inning two outs 
the pitch comes in crack of the bat. 

I stare at right field as the ball is caught
he comes off the mound with a smile on his face. 

I still can't imagine anything better than that.

Amy at The Poetry Farm has the Poetry Friday roundup this week.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Wonder in Pictures

After reading Barbara's blog post "Chalk A Bration" I shared the post with a second grade class at our school.  They celebrated wonderopolis on their last day of school by drawing pictures of their favorite wonders of the year.

After finding this wonder wordle on a blog, I am sorry I can't remember where I saw it. I shared it during our last week of school.  As a class, we read through the words and connected to past wonders.
*fascinate:  Wonder #478   What is Fool's Gold
*laugh:  Wonder #100 What is a Milestone?  (watch the video)
*inspire:  Wonder #22 How Can Spare Change Make a Difference?
*discover:  Wonder #152 How Does a Species Become Endangered

This was a great way to end our year of wonder and most of all it was fun for me to see the wonders that really touched my class. I also had fun spreading the wonder around my school and seeing all K-5 including the library spread the wonder to all BES students.  Thanks NCFL and Wonderopolis for bring such a huge part of our school.

Finally I received this letter, and it says it all :)  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Lessons Learned from Technology Class

Yesterday I attended part 2 of a workshop on Blended Learning in my district.  Allow me to preface this blog post that I know and appreciate all of the opportunities that teachers have in my district during the summer to grow professionally. Remember I am not really a tech. wizard but a teacher that wants to continue to build her knowledge about digital learning on how to extend my classroom learning to the 21st Century.  

It is important for this blog post that you know that I missed the first session because I was in South Carolina, so I was a little nervous going to session 2.  (Now that I am home I understand how my students feel when they miss a day of school and come back and missed the introductory lesson) There was an overview of session 1, and I listened carefully but I already had questions before my session even started (I wonder how many students have questions when they come back and are afraid to ask? Now I am thinking about how I could spend 5-10 min. in morning catching up those students with a quick overview of the previous day's learning?)  

Session 2 was focused on digital learning object (DLO) and how to deliver a lesson to students through online delivery of content in which students control the time, place, pace and path.  My job was to learn how to create the path.  There are five parts to creating a DLO. 

Part 1:  Create a folder with the text (in PDF form), pictures, video links etc. so I can begin the first path which could be a diagram, picture or text in a different format than I presented in class.  (No problem - check I got it)

Part 2:  Open Preview and learn about 3 tools (color, size, and select) During this time I was taking notes, working on a document practicing and trying to listen. (I am pretty lost at this point and just hoping I am taking good notes. But what about my students who are confused and needed time to practice and are not keeping up with their note taking? Do they need me to stop teaching for 10 minutes?  Do I allow that time in my classroom?)

Part 3:  Open Google docs and locate the presentation tool.  At this point, take the folder information (part 1) and create a review presentation for the students.  (Totally lost at this point, I have not used Google docs and never seen presentation.  What about my students when I am introducing a new focus skill to 5th grade?  What do they do when they are unsure? Do I allow time to ask questions? Do I allow them time to turn and talk to process the new information?) Thanks Mike and Trish for helping me process my questions. I am excited for our next session to learn more.

Part 4 & 5  By this time, I am rapidly taking notes, have given up trying to practice in Google and just trying to focus on the last two parts adding videos.  I did learn about a new website and the importance of quicktime.  The last step involves creating an online quiz in Google for the students to check their understanding, and I am excited about learning about that aspect, but I will have to review my notes.

This was the quickest 2 hours, and I am so happy that I went to begin my own foundation for blended learning.  But the most important lesson I learned was how it felt being on the other side of the desk---being the student and not the teacher.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Quick Thoughts

Beautiful view in Charleston
I just got home from a weekend trip to South Carolina with our daughter.  I committed to three days away from twitter, blogging and Facebook.  A little detox program for me as well as my family.  But now that I am home, I can't believe all of the posts and tweets that I missed.  Two hours of blog/twitter learning-loving it!

First of all #cyberPD has been announced, and they chose Opening Minds by Peter Johnston.  I have not read this book but I have read Choice Words and really liked how he focused on words. "As teachers, we have to decide what to be explicit about for which students and when to be explicit."  I am thrilled to be actually joining #cyberPD this year instead of silently watching like I did last year.  Do you want to join me and the other members? 

Next, my friend Tracy at Teaching Stems is in the process of writing the Top Five Things she learned this year.  She has posted her Top 4 and all of them were insightful and made me stop and think.  But #3 Eyes on Print really hit a homerun with me.  I have never required my students to record the number of minutes they read or have to make connections/apply a strategy to their at home reading.  I am one of only or very few in my building that have this philosophy.  I feel strongly about this for many reasons, but it really is based on my own two children who aren't readers. I believe because they weren't encouraged to read for the joy of the story or allowed to choose their own books.  They both had structured reading:  set genre months, set pages or minutes to be recorded and finally must read number of books each month.  It saddened me and still today I am heartbroken that my influence did not change them as readers. I still encourage them and they still see me reading all the time. We'll see maybe over time they will enjoy reading-I certainly hope so.

Finally, I got caught up with my Wonder Year team, and they posted some great connections with wondering and wonderopolis.  Thanks team for some amazing posts. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Reflecting OLW on My LIteracy Instruction

I love summer for so many reasons but professionally I enjoy the time to process my school year.  I am a ponderer always thinking if I could have taught that differently? Could I have improved that lesson with a better hook for the students?  Did I choose the correct picture book to introduce the class to a reading mini lesson?  I honestly think a part of my brain stores all these questions for summer and then I have time to process. For that gift of summer, I am thankful.  I have the above picture on my desk at school. It is my reminder, can I see the forest through the trees or in my case, can I see the ducks among the reeds? As I begin to reflect about my school year, there were so many changes.  After teaching 23 years, I would think that parts of my profession I love would stay the same, but education is ever evolving and at a rapid pace the last few years. I wonder if I am changing quickly enough, and am I changing because I had to? This past year, I had to restructure my reading block which changed my writing block. This was not a comfortable change for me. I do believe my instruction for lowers readers was stronger; however, I lost my higher readers and that is one area that I am not pleased with from this year.  I held on to my word study block by my fingertips, but I still cut some parts out that I know in the past my students loved or found valuable in their instruction. Just as a slip of doubt came to me, I opened my email and read this letter from Sara. She will never know how much I needed to read this. Thanks Sara, your teacher is smiling from ear to ear and Yes I wrote write back to her quickly :)

Dear Mrs. Caplin,
    Hi! Are you enjoying your summer? I am SO excited because my brother, my friend Mazie, and I are having a lemonade and dessert stand in our neighborhood. All the money we earn will be donated to Relay For Life. It reminds me about Alex and the Lemonade Stand that we read in class. Speaking about reading, I have already read 2 books meaning that I only have to read 48 more to complete my summer reading goal of reading 50 books. I am having a great summer and I can't wait until Thursday. I miss you so much and I wish school wasn't over because I had such a fun time in your class. Please write back soon!
Your Former Student,

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Looking Back on Digital Reading in our Clsssroom

If you had a hidden camera on our classroom, one of the biggest differences from years past are the wider variety of technology tools my students have been using for their reading. All year there were been four different tools used in my classroom: computers, nooks and or kindles, iPad and iPods. Students have brought in their nooks and kindles more this year, and I have encourage them to do so.

This has been an interesting shift in my classroom as I observed the digital tools. Some students shifted between their choices of technology tools. Our class iPad has been a huge hit however with only one I have used it more for sharing digital stories with the whole class which has been an integral part of our reading community. Many students asked to borrow the iPad afterwards to read or listen to the story again.

In addition, students listened to stories on their iPods. The students created persuasive commercials using Sonic Pic on their iPods.  Through our class web page, I linked the commercials so students can listen to their friend’s story.  In addition, many students read and listened to book trailers which was a been a brand new avenue for me this year.  I also am pleased the students continued to use their iPods for the variety of apps that have been loaded to support the curriculum.

Finally I personally still love the feel of a book as I turn the pages. I want to teach my students to honor books. On twitter I found this quote from Same Sun Here pg. 87 "I like that library books have secret lives. All those hands that held them. All those eyes that have read them."  I love books; I love the smell of them when they are new and love them even more 60 years later when my grandmother gave me her original copy of Poor Mrs. Quack by Thurston W. Burgess.I am not sure if digital books will carry the same meaning in 60 years when they are passed down to their great granddaughters?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Summer Professional Reading - Vritual PD

An overview of our morning conversation:

Tom:  What are you doing?
Maria:  Writing first blog of the summer
Tom:  Don't you need a break from school?
Maria:  This isn't school - this is summer learning
Tom:  Don't you need a break?
Maria:  No I'm excited to start my summer virtual PD
Tom:  Really?

My husband believes that I am a little possessed with my blogging, twittering and reading.  I am OK with that because in all honesty I am.  I look forward every summer starting my new learning journey.  I begin ordering my professional books about February and gathering my other books that I want to read again.  Last week on different blogs, I read other summer PD reading lists.

Cathy @ Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning community
Laura @ Our Camp Read-A-Lot 
Jill @ My Primary Passion
Franki @ A Year of Reading

Laura, Jill, and Cathy will soon be sharing more information about this year's #cyberPD learning opportunity. I am anxiously waiting to find out what book they choose for this summer.  Last summer,  they focused on Patrick Allen's Conferring book and I followed twitter silently, but this year I am joining in the conversation.  I was so excited as I saw their summer piles of books because I already have many of them in my own pile - just waiting for me.

Pathways to the Common Core, Calkins, Ehrenworth & Lehman
Write Like This, Kelly Gallagher
Mechanically Inclined, Jeff Anderson
35 Strategies for Guiding Readers through Informational Text, Barbara Moss
Notebook Know How, Aimee Buckner
Revision Toolbox, Georgia Heard
10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know , Jeff Anderson
Choice Words, Peter Johnston

As you can see, many of my books are already tabbed and well loved from this school year.  But I need to revisit these and think about how I can begin to connect to Common Core as well as change some things in my reading & writing workshop.  I am excited for the virtual #cyberPD.  Leave me a comment if you're traveling the same path with me this summer.