Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Wednesday Word Work: Celebrating Peter Reynolds

                              Word study this week was unplanned.  Shh our secret!

Rush out purchase this book!  I would have given a million dollars to have yesterday's mini lesson videotaped professionally.  First I shared the beautiful cover.  I passed it around the room.  Everyone touched it and felt the raised letters and could see the sparkle. Every learner was engaged in this book.  Every learner connected and shared their stories.  I now know where everyone hides their clothes when they don't want to clean their room.  But the power of the last two pages - folded it out. Just ask Where are you?  #priceless

I have loved every book by Peter Reynolds.  There is always a page that every learner can connect with and share their story.  But this one grabbed me and wouldn't let go!!  Let me share another special Peter Reynolds moment. 

Celebrating authors and their craft is the best word study lesson EVER!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Wednesday Word Work Reflection

My first week of lessons plans for word study were blown out of the water the first day of school.  When I begin each workshop with inquiry,  I should know better. After 31 years of teaching, you would think I would no not to plan a week out. 

I found a new book (to me) this summer Word Builder  Once I read it, I knew it would be included in my Day 1 plans: sharing a great book and an open sort of vocabulary.  The power in an open word sort is that I learn along with my learners.  The conversations were huge!!  Actually so big I changed Thursday's plans.  We were already to discuss word observations once I lifted their thinking from the chart above.

I was so excited I sent an email to our staff sharing photos and the new book title.  So many times in education, we forget to thank the teachers below us.  I like to call it the Food Chain - growth of knowledge leading to the top level - fifth grade.  I was ecstatic when five other teachers borrowed the book and my lesson.  YES!  The power of collaboration.  We're off to an amazing start in Room 234.  Shifting their thinking already about words!!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Celebrating Choice in the New Year

I'm celebrating NOT spending days setting up my classroom.  I'm looking forward to school starting next Wednesday and meeting my new group of learners.
I am excited to share my reading life with my new readers. It's fun to xerox some of the covers of the books I read this summer. The minute my new students arrive they will know their teacher is a reader. I also include a few personal photos of my reading life and favorite places I like to read. 

For years, I spent hours getting my library ready. Not anymore last year's class organized this library. Mixing all of the books up leaving serval hints about how this new class could organize it.  One of my favorite conversations:

  •  "Do you have this book?"  
  • I reply, "I sure do in the library"
  • "Where in the library?"
  • I reply, "I don't know."
Conversations above lead us into a class discussion about how do you want to organize the library?  Thanks to Ruth for encouraging us to celebrate

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Wednesday Word Work: August Lesson Thinking

It is a personal challenge to help my new wordsmiths flip their thinking about word work. I always ask how many of you enjoy ----- fill in the blank with different subjects. I record the data on the board, and we share observations about our new group of learners. I snapshot the data and keep it for future reference. Typically 5 out of 27 enjoy word study. I ask the hard question: Why? What does word study mean to you? How can I shift your perspective this year? I have several lessons already planned for the first few weeks of words study.

To encourage wordsmiths to think about vocabulary differently throughout our day I weave conversations about word learning into every subject.
  • Discussing expectations: What do you notice about the word expectations?
  • Sharing our #ClassroombBookaDay What words did you hear that you liked or were new to you?
  • Math: I notice the word operations have multiple meanings?
  • Science: What happens when you compare science to scientist?
  • Writing: Look at my summer writing, what do you notice about my word choice?
My goal is to create new expectations and shift their thinking about word study. I promise I will have more than five learners enjoying word work after the first month of school, and I will have the data to support it.

compliments of Google Images

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.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

When I Don't Know the Answers

I purchased this print about six months ago to hang on my wall in my library in our home. It took me three months to find a frame that I loved as much as the print.  It sat framed on the floor probably since Christmas. Today was the day it was placed with honor.  This photo says it all if you truly know me. "I love my library." The young girl choosing a perfect book on her library ladder. Truth be told I really wanted a ladder when we built our home, but we just couldn't figure it out.  

In the past two weeks, I have become quiet. Choosing not to be involved in conversations about what's happening in the world specifically in Ostrander, Worthington and Florida. I don't have any answers.  My time is spent on prayers and reflection.  I am a wife, mom, teacher and a citizen.  For me there aren't any clear answers.  I choose to focus on how I can help my family and my students.  The best way I know to help my students is continue to increase their knowledge, compassion, and empathy for people who are different than us.  I believe one of the best ways is to share stories.  Stories that allow students to see another point of view. Stories that open up their eyes to how fortunate they are.  Stories that have them asking questions and yes hard conversations.  When I don't know the answers, I turn to books that I can share with my impressionable readers.

I always participate in #NF10for10 either with a post or following all the blogs.I opened several tabs and started requesting picture books from my favorite little library in Ostrander. This is my pile that I picked up yesterday at the library.  Today I had time to read all of them.  Several touched my heart and will be shared in our classroom. I found one that I ordered for a friend because I believe paying it forward is one positive way to move forward. When I don't know the answers,I know my answers can be found in books and that is why I love my library and more importantly that is why I believe we need to continuing sharing books with our students allowing stories to be told and conversations to be opened.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Celebrating: Her Heart Burst

I typically write my Saturday Celebrations during the week and have them finished to post early.  Come back later in the day to read everyones posts, and I always find a few posts that linger with me. Our community and how we comment and share our thoughts is so important to me as a teacher and a writer. 

This week was busy, and I did not get my post written.  It's Saturday morning. I'm looking at the snow on the ground, birds eating in our feeder, drinking my hot tea, and I'm ready to share my journey of becoming a teacher. 

The picture above is one of my greatest treasures. If the house were burning, I would want this. I need this.  It begins my story of becoming a teacher. Both my grandparents were well educated. My grandfather was a world renown pediatric surgeon. His career started in Boston and ended at Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. There is a library in the hospital dedicated to him.  My grandmother LOVED reading and words!  She shared with me some of my favorite books and taught me the love of writing thank you notes.  She continued into her 60's translating Russian documents for The Ohio State University. My grandmother gave my mother the statue above while she was still living. When she passed, my mother passed it on to me. 

Mothers are always our first teachers. My mom wanted to be a teacher and never had an opportunity. She became my teacher.  Weekly trips to the library, helping me choose books and puzzles, reading to me every night and sharing her favorite authors especially of poetry.  Opening my eyes to the gift of books and "how they allow you to travel anywhere."  

For me I played school in our basement as soon as I could walk down the stairs. I've written a little about this in past blogs, but I honestly believed I was a teacher everyday as I walked downstairs. Being an only child, I never felt alone because i had my students. My mom's friend, Kathy, who was a teacher gave me a few "teachery" things. My heart burst with my first real grade book at age 8. Remember they were red or green, spiral bound and smelled wonderful.

Fast forward to our daughter, Anna, who is teaching in South Carolina. She played in our basement, and I brought home "teachery" things for her to use. Her heart burst when I allowed her to grade real math papers. She believed she was a teacher playing in our basement. 

Yesterday I was pulling down anchor charts (they were becoming wallpaper) and I was going to throw them away. I remember having conversations with H. about playing school in her basement.  I asked her if she would like them to take home.  Her heart burst.  I believe it is our job to encourage younger teachers, open our classrooms and share with them.  H. will be getting every little "teachery" thing I can find for the for the rest of this year. 

I'm thankful for our Celebration Community.  I will be reflecting on Ruth's post today for a long time.  Thank you Ruth for writing about what your afraid of and sharing when you're ready. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Favorite New Titles and Their Journey to Room 234

compliments of Google Images

We haven't had any snow days or delays the past two years...today is our second snow day, and I am taking every advantage to knock down my TBR pile.  Several years ago I promised myself not to "press order" every time a new title hit a blog post or twitter. During this time of year with all the mock Newbery and Caldecott lists coming out,
 it could get really expensive quickly. It's still expensive; however, I have read every book ahead of time that I purchased for our classroom.  

I find as much enjoyment in opening a new tab for Delaware Library and start requesting books.  It's even exciting when Delaware doesn't have a book, and I use Search Ohio which is an amazing resource if you live in Ohio.  Any book can be borrowed from any public library and shipped to your home library for free.  My class has learned when I share a new titles the book has a large white sticker on the cover that it's a special book which has traveled to our classroom. They are always curious where it is from. Sometimes that leads us to a mini geography lesson :)

Every twitter feed & blog post mentioned this book. I had to order it in from
Search OH.  There are moments when I read a picture book and realize a whole new world
is open to me.  A world that I have a huge desire to learn more about. I've had conversations
about this book. I shared it with my class. We had conversations about this book.
Conversations that opened up new learning for everyone. #powerful

LOVE every part of this book.  The illustrations are fun and captivating.
I learned several new facts about bees and was entertained as I read the book.
The cartoon style of the speaker is a blast too. 

I'm searching and purchasing more books about #diversity.
Helping my young learners see themselves in books & learn
about others has been a focus all year. The illustrations are perfect with
the shiny gold woven into an extremely important story.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Three Celebrations All Rolled into One Day

I'm celebrating with our Saturday communityThis week's celebration happened on Tuesday. The first celebration was a snow day on Monday. It was our first one in two years.  I LOVE snow days because they are unplanned and a huge gift to teachers & students. Our class was a buzz Tuesday morning as everyone entered.  Listening to their conversations and agreeing with everyone was so fun!  Several students replied, "Mrs. Caplin you are as excited and we are."  I replied, "Yes I am!"

Our next celebration was in word study-in case you don't already know I love word study! I am passionate about vocabulary and weaving in new words throughout the day.  Our focus this week is a Latin room "struct" which means to build.  After our mini lesson, I always encourage learners to search for other words with a similar pattern.  While they wrote them on the chart paper, I was as quiet as a mouse listening to the rich conversations. My final celebration is our student generated word list which is always better than the teacher made list - just saying :)

Super list of vocabulary words and rich conversations
about roots + suffixes leading us toward another conversation
about parts of speech.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

Celebrating JOY

I recently heard Sheryl Sandburg speak with Oprah on her Super Soul Conversations.  I appreciated how candid Sheryl was about her husband’s death and how she no longer had an Option A, but she does have Option B.  I get entranced with speakers who are sharing their heart stories. I want to listen deeply; however,  I also want to write down key points in my notebook.  I chose to listen deeply, and I then proceeded to check her book out at the library.  I didn’t read it cover to cover, but certain chapters I read several times.  Poignant take away moments for me included, searching for JOY!  And when you’re searching for JOY, you find JOY because it’s there often times in the smallest moments.  

I automatically connected the idea of celebrating JOY with my #OLW gratitude. That little word changed my life in ways that I never saw coming. That is what #OLW are suppose to do; however, some years my word captures all of me and other years it flounders along beside me.  I had decided not to choose #OLW this year.  Nothing was sticking or knocking me over.  I still consider gratitude my lifetime #OLW.  JOY is lightly tapping on my shoulder asking me to consider it. 

Yesterday was one of my celebration of JOY!  I got an email before Thanksgiving from Jordan. I had her in fifth grade, and she is currently a Junior at The Ohio State University. She was very kind in her email and told me that her favorite grade was  fifth grade, and she decided that she wants to be a teacher.  She visited yesterday and spent the day with our class. I expressed to her that as an educator we are never sure when we will have a lasting impression on a students' life. It's such an honor to know that I've created a lifelong difference for her.  

Celebrations and our Saturday community help me find JOY, and I feel a huge sense of gratitude for our conversations.  When I'm leaning toward closing up and not blogging, I always reflect on those discussions which always lift me up. Happy New Year friends.