Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer and OLW

Last year's vacation view from our deck watching the ocean.

Summer officially starts for me as we take our family vacation.  Taking a vacation with your adult children is not always easy because of their work schedule.  My husband and I believe strongly it is important for our family to continue to vacation together.  We may take friends along with us but every summer we head off for our week of vacation.

This year we are going to SC for as our son says, "a working vacation." Our daughter who got her first teaching job last year is moving closer to Charleston. Her best friend from college who just graduated is moving down along with another friend from BG. I feel such gratitude when you know your child is going to be settled in her job in a beautiful location along with her true best friend.  We're so thankful that we have the chance to spend some time on the beach next week.  Conversations that will happen over family euchre games along with long walks on the beach.  Time spent enjoying family meals all together along with lessons learned that will always be a part of our family chats.  I am looking forward to the long drive as the two of them are in the backseat and any parent knows you can learn a lot just listening from the front seat. Finally my promise to the our family is that I "unplug" with no blogging, twitter or "school talk" for a week. However, I have packed my school book: (mr. terupt falls again) professional: (Who Owns the Learning? for #cyberPD) and personal: (same kind of different as me). I am ready for the beach, and my chair awaits me but only after both of our kids are done talking because I will be listening.

See you later next week-

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

All Write Day 2: Thinking as a Writer

As I read all the blogs about All Write it is amazing to me all the "take aways" that everyone has posted.  As I reflect on Day 2,  I realized there was a  common theme for me that carried over from Day 1.  To be a writer you have to write. 

This thought along with it takes 10,000 hours to be great at something has lingered.  Along with the call by Kate Messner announcing Teacher's Write 2013 I realized I am not really a focused writer.  I write blogs, articles and occasionally (rarely) write in my NB which is entitled: Keep Calm and Eat a Cupcake.  Thanks to Mary Lee for encouraging me to write.  I had a few days to ponder, and I decided to start small with a suggestion from Jeff Anderson:  as you are reading think as a writer.  That stuck with me like glue because I am defiantly reading this summer, but  I haven't been writing in my notebook.  I loved his idea of collecting phrases, words that spark, unknown words  and finally your thinking about the book.  This was a simple place for me to start. I was reading The Real Boy.  I was struggling with organizing the characters along with the setting. After I started writing,  I was more connected to the story along with gathering ideas for writing.  It was a powerful lesson for me to feel like my students do when they get confused with their own reading.

It is a beginning and just the start of my 10,000 hours thinking as a writer.  One of the best steps for me will be sharing this journey and my WNB with my students in September while I encourage them to start their 10,000 hours at age 10 instead of 49. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

All Write Reflection Day 1

I attended the All Write Summer Institute in Warsaw, Indiana and once again I was enriched with so many ideas that already have changed my thinking.  My thinking as an educator was challenged and I am thankful that my teammate, Sarah, attended so the fun started with our 3 hour car ride to Indiana.

 Carl Anderson, author of Assessing Writers presented the opening keynote with a call to action for writing workshop.  He discussed several key competencies that will help students be successful in our technological society along with the importance of structuring the environment of classrooms to foster creativity. One important goal of WW is to have students be innovative and allow for them to choose their own topic along with genre.  In order to build a passion it can take 10,000 hours - he connected this to the student who wants to continue to write about the same topic over and over.  If the writing is changing each time, then the student is thinking and continuing to work on the craft of writing. First light bulb, I have to admit i have been the teacher that nags students to change their topic after the 8th story about fishing. It is important to show students through our own writing that it is a lens of experiences - bring all of them to your writer's notebook. Finally he closed with a quote from Ken Robinson, "Imagination is the source of creativity." He connected that to Rosa Parks when she chose not to get off the bus.  Her imagination enabled her to choose a seat on that bus and the rest is history. 

Next I heard Jeff Anderson, author of 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know opened his presentation with the first page from Out of My Mind. He read it to us aloud and then showed it us. Then he shared Clementine and modeled for us his thinking about the introduction. He asked about the power of language along with key question:  What do you notice about the text?  He showed us how to use a 4 Block strategy to record what students notice about text with various categories: strong verbs, compound sentences, and imagery.  Second light bulb moment for me because the text he chooses is the same book that he would book talk to the class to hook a reader-once he taught the lesson he passed the book on to a student-brilliant!!

My next session was Penny Kittle, author of Book Love she spoke about developing passion, depth and stamina in readers.  She expects her students to be reading and importance of knowing our students as readers because she conferences with them often. Her goal is for every 10 minutes of SSR she can complete 3 conferences. She allows her students to control their reading lives. She discussed how it is mandatory to give students time to sink into their book. My third light bulb was the importance of students needing grit and perseverance for reading along with a strong reading community including asking students which books she should purchase for the classroom.  

Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, author of Forest Has a Song: Poems shared her passion for poetry.  Just listening to her read the poems was inspiration to continue celebrating  Poetry Friday in my classroom. My favortie quote that she shared from David McCord "A pearl is a poem that is wrapped." She suggested several ways to build poetry rituals including putting a poem next to the door and as your class leaves for lunch/special a student reads the poem. The importance of different voices and students will memorize the poem that they can then carry with them.  Hide poems around the room and the reminder that poetry allows us to link all other forms of writing. My fourth light bulb was a reminder that poetry is powerful for ALL readers and short text can allow ALL students success both in reading and writing. 

Finally Kate Messner, author of Capture the Flag was the closing speaker if you attended the evening dinner.  Her opening was about her Dream Mentor team and the importance to not only have mentors that you know but also to have those mentors who may not even know you admire them.  The importance of adopting mentors as I am a reader to notice how the book is being written and why do I like it so much.  My final light bulb who is on my mentor team? She also shared her research experiences for her new book and how being brave (including a very large ugly poisonous snake) along with being afraid is important in our lives.  She shared her TED talk experience and how afraid she was but the lessons she learned have allowed her to have other amazing experiences because she said "yes" 

"Failure is a way to learn" and "You can only be a mentor if you know about challenges" These two quotes are going to be very important as I reflect on last school year and begin to think about next school year. 


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Juggling Literacy in the Summer

Thanks Google images.
I consider myself a very organized person.  My family would say sometimes to the default of my unwillingness to "get out of my box."  At this point in the summer, I feel like the Cat in the Hat juggling everything and really not feeling so good about how I am doing.

 My juggling act started this week with 4 TBR piles: book club, books from the library, books for my students, and professional.  I finished reading: The Center of Everything by Linda Urban and I had my first dilemma.  As I was reading, I wanted to annotate in the book.  I loved her analogy with using water throughout the language of the story, and I wanted to highlight my favorite lines.  I also got confused with characters, so I needed help with organizing character traits.  My dilemma was to write in the book or not write in the book?  I want to book talk it in Sept. so I don't want to write in it. I tried post it notes-not so good for me.  I tried my reader's notebook-not so good for me.  I tried my iPad and taking notes/photos of pages better but time consuming.  What do you do when you have this problem with juggling your thinking and connecting it to your book. I know one suggestion: purchase two books ;)

Next I want to read all the time but I want to blog, work on articles and start thinking about next year. I was doing well until I started reading my book club book from March. I didn't quite make that dead line.  Gone Girl is suspenseful and long, and it was hard to enjoy the adult book with the nag that I should be reading other books. I also knew I had several other books that I needed to start for twitter chats that I wanted to participate in. I missed my first twitter chat for Teach Like a Pirate but I hope to catch up this week.  Does anyone else struggle with which book pressure and trying to let go and just enjoy the current book that you are reading?

Finally I have 4 journals:  probably too many.  I have my reader's notebook where I keep the list of my books I am reading, want to read etc.  Next I have my writer's notebook that holds all my writing ideas.  Third, I have my technology notebook which I jot down all the apps, ideas etc.  Finally I have my iPad, which I am beginning to learn more about, and enjoying the digital east of bookmarking etc.  Once again, is anyone else juggling too many places to hold their thinking?

Maybe if I look at one big pile, it might help?
I am super excited to be leaving tomorrow for #Allwrite13 (follow on twitter) there is an amazing list of presenters: 
Carl Anderson
Jeff Anderson
Ruth Ayres
Penny Kittle
Lester Laminack
Chris Lehman
Tanny McGregor
Kate Messner
Tim Rasinski
Jennifer Serravallo
Terry Thompson
Amy Ludwig Vanderwater

Just imagine the rich conversations and professional learning for the next two days. 


Monday, June 17, 2013

In Memory...

My Uncle Bill passed away last week, and he taught me several important life lessons. Our family describes Bill's life before 50 and after 50.  At 50, my uncle had a massive stroke. He lost his ability to walk, to recognize most letters and the ability to write.  He set 3 goals: to walk and read again along with publishing a book. Thanks to an amazing reading teacher who is also a published author of several books, she lead Bill's journey in literacy.  Bill was not only able to read again but also published several books over his next 20 years.  He also accomplished his goal of walking independently.

His first book:  My Past Nine Years is about Bill's journey and one chapter is entitled: Reading and Writing. He stated, "The reason I wanted to write a book is to concentrate on positive things rather than sad things.  I like to keep my attitude positive." This was his motto always even when he started on "baby books" which was fine with him because he was going to learn to read again. His first book that he read was  I See Sam

Throughout Bill's book, he writes about his difficulties with learning to write again and the letter "s" and how difficult it was to form.   He used alphabet cards to help him learn his letter names and finally after months of practice he wrote his letters.  He started reading at Level A with the help of his mentor/friend he reached Level L at the end of three years.  His journey was amazing along with his perseverance and his positive attitude.  Finally Bill's last sentence in his book is "Reading keeps your mind active and your thinking processes alive." I couldn't agree more Bill.

Finally, I didn't have the courage to speak at his funeral.  My mother and our other family members found their voice and did an exquisite job.  I found my voice in my blog post that I dedicate to an amazing man and true hero in my life.  I will miss you Uncle Bill.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


I never know when to share those moments that make me so happy I could scream from the tallest mountain but since OH is void of any mountains I have decided to share one of my exciting moments on my blog. Today is number 300 post...who knew until I checked my design tab? 
Compliments of Google images (thanks Mary Lee for teaching me to give credit to photos)

I never imagined starting my blog on August 7, 2010 would lead to 300 posts.  I remember wondering if I could do this all by myself because so many friends had a blogging partner.  I remember several Central OH bloggers holding my hand virtually telling me it was going to be ok and it is.  A HUGE thanks to all my cheerleaders in OH. 
Last year's OLW was reflection and this year's OLW is gratitude.  Both powerful words for me as I think about all of the amazing opportunities that have happened because of the connections that I have made through my blog along with twitter.  The new family that I have found and enjoy working with at National Center for Family Literacy along with having the opportunity to write for Choice Literacy. All my virtual friends that I have never met but still feel like I know is amazing.  Who knew that I would become friends with so many authors when 3 years ago I was just reading their books and wishing that I could meet them.  The connections I have made are priceless.   

As my summer begins and one of my favorite parts is becoming a full time student again-learning from others by reading blogs, articles and twitter chats (#5thchat and #titletalk). By attending professional conferences and having conversations that will enrich my learning and taking the time to read and write which will lead to several more blog posts and my ever growing community of learners.  Thanks to my family and friends, I couldn't have done it without all of you!!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Learning Together is the BEST!

One of the biggest thrills for me is when someone leaves me a comment about how my post influenced their teaching.  Once again the virtual world of blogging is the strongest PD community for me.  So here you go Deb-- here are some of this year's favorite wonder posters that you requested.

Connected with our Life Science unit-this was a wonder they did for HW on Wonder Wednesday.

He chose this one from his holiday wonder HW that I made optional.

She enjoys riding horses for her hobby.

Math is their favorite subject-notice the wonder # is in Roman Numerals

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Lessons Learned are not Always about Academics

Today is our last day of school and like most teachers I have mixed emotions. This year's class was very bright academically.  They needed to learn as well as practice several social skills including choosing to be kind with their actions and words, choosing to push forward when academics became challenging and finally although we're all different we all have strengths. I modeled every day how to use kind words and most importantly how facial expressions could be read even if words were never spoken. I read several books aloud that helped my students open their eyes including Capture the Flag, How to Steal a Dog, and Wonder. We ended the year reading Haymeadow by Gary Paulson. It is an excellent survival book because young John had to choose to persevere as he summered in the haymeadow with 6,000 sheep and no other adults.

 This year, I asked my class to reflect on the year by creating large anchor charts for all six subjects that I teach.  When the students were finished, I asked them to choose their favorite activity for the year in each area. As I read through their 6 Boxes,  I was amazed at how many students loved word notebooks, DEAR Mrs. Caplin letters, celebrating poems every Friday, cooking in math, learning how to wonder at Wonderopolis and finally Earth and Space science was at the top of their list.  Lessons learned this year in Room 228 far extended beyond academics, and I am positive my fifth graders are ready for their next adventure-middle school.