Monday Bookshelf: Smaller Bite Books #sol19

For the month of March , I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers.

Monday Bookshelf:  Smaller Bite Books  #sol19

March 25, 2019

If you are reading this, you might have the same problem I do.  Bookshelves bursting at the seams and an organization system that works one day, but not the next.  Welcome to my Monday bookshelf, where I will organize a stack of books within a category.  Hopefully this stack will resonate.

Living in Character Studies across the grades and working on book clubs.  Some novels take a lot to get through, a lot of reading, a lot of thinking, a lot of time.  We are also deep within pretest season where short and dense are definitely the stars.  How to teach deep into character, climax, solution, lesson, and story arc while keeping the reading and talk more management.  Denser picture books may be the answer.  I find myself returning to picture books more and more as a strong contender when I am looking for mentors both for teacher use to keep lessons short or student use to keep engagement and learning high.

When I sat down with one of the third grade teachers a few weeks ago,  we brainstormed books high in character work, perfect for considering in mini literary essays.  Now encouraging teachers to use familiar books seems right.

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Some of these book are well known for character work in third and in the lower grades.  Considering them for literary essay work when students are familiar, lightens the comprehension work and increases their ability to consider the story.

As an extra push, consider having the students make connections across books are to thinking about situations in their own experience that are similar in change or life lesson.  That makes for some really strong essays.   I also like narrative nonfiction biographies for this thinking, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Jabari Jumps, front and center, has become a go-to book for many grades.  I often carry it in my conferring bin.  If you are unfamiliar,  Jabari faces the dreaded high dive.  He thinks he is ready to jump, but is he?  The stretch out of the story heart with illustration elaboration will fit nicely to teach into how an author shows us what is important through craft, illustrations as a craft move, and the social emotional aspect is a wonderful bonus.  Screen Shot 2019-03-24 at 5.05.51 PM.png

The Rough Patch, a Caldecott honoree,  is an emotional wringer for adults, though I find students are pragmatic about the crushing blow our fox friend takes near the beginning of the story.  His reactions are great food for discussion and the turning point helps illustrate how authors teach us.  Be ready for a grand conversation with this book.

If the Shoe FitsThose ShoesA Bike Like Sergio’s , Stand Tall, Molly Lou MelonThe Invisible Boy are standard fare for whole class talk in character change and lesson learning.  Turning these familiar books back on the students for their consideration in small group shows them what they already know about this genre work.  They stand the test of time.Screen Shot 2019-03-24 at 5.32.34 PM

For students who deserve a challenge consider, Beekle, The Last Stop on Market Street, and Come On, Rain.  While story arc might be clear here,  lessons and character change require deeper thinking. For students that need a simpler text, consider No David.

Think about your class, students, or school focus,  books like Ruby the Copycat,  The Recess Queen, and The Bad Seed, The Good Egg, and There Might Be Lobsters have the lesson and the characters front and center to show clearly the work of the author we are considering.

Some of these books are shifting at this time of year from other earlier year bins.  Keeping a story across grades and across the year shows the students how the work weaves together and how we can look at craft with new eyes.

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Friday Follow (up) #sol19

For the month of March , I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers.

Friday Follow(up)  #sol19

March 22, 2019

IMG_3793He comes more willingly down.  Eyes bright when they meet mine.  A little more eager to find his book and his writing.  A little less shy to ask if he can finish his chips or his cookies on the way down the hall.  A little less defensive.

It’s been months since our get-togethers started.  At first he would start each little time with I’m a really good reader.  

Yes, I would say,  I know you are.  Doesn’t it help a little bit to have some quiet time to work on your reading and writing?  I know it helps me. 

He wasn’t buying it.

Then he rewrote his opinion piece… and he loved it.  We typed it up.  Can I take a copy of this home? he asked shyly. And one for my teacher? 

We found a funny book we both loved, reading and talking about a chapter most days.  That Sugar, she’s the kind of chicken that likes to be tricky.  

But then just when everything was going smoothly,  yesterday on his way out the door, we had this conversation.

This is the kind of work you can do when you’re reading.  You’re the kind of reader who knows how have an idea about a character and then find evidence. 

My teacher and I always work together. 

This is the kind of work you’re ready to do on your own. 

He stops in his tracks and turns to look me full in the face.  I lean over so that our eyes meet.

My mom and dad think I’m really, really smart. 

I also think you’re really, really smart kiddo(name withheld) 

He smiled a little smile and was on his way.

But I wasn’t on my way.  My heart ached and I felt sharp tears forming.  Did he think he was coming to work with me because we (I) thought he wasn’t smart?  This was terrible.

So today.  I took a deep breath and went back to pick him up.  I opened his classroom door and said, Why don’t you bring your writer’s notebook and your novel today?  

He came willingly. He smiled up at me.  We walked down to the literacy center talking about our day so far.  When we sat down I asked him.  Hey, kiddo (name withheld),  I have been thinking about you telling me that your mom and dad think you’re smart yesterday.  Why did you say that?  

He turns.  Those gorgeous brown eyes look at me with complete trust and honesty.

I just wanted you to know they think the same thing you do.  

We smile at each other and get to work.

We are going to be just fine.

Reflection Thursday #sol19

For the month of March , I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers.

I chose a word in January to guide some choices that I made throughout this year.  It’s the eight year that I have chosen a word.  This year’s word is reflection. Reflection

unnamedReflection:  Greeting #sol19

March 21, 2019

I come around the corner.  There’s my cart, full for the meeting.  My head is full but now thoughts are fully forming.  Snippets sailing through in the early morning routine. As the next room comes into view, she is there at the counter.  She signs in and turns to the doorway. I comment that she hasn’t brought much with her today. She laughs.

We come into the room together, jostling in the open doorway.  Arms full, we  haven’t fully made eye contact yet.  We begin to set up our things for the meetings to come, technology, pens, notebooks.  She looks in her bag for something.  I peer in behind her to see if she has any books I want to take a peek at.  I notice there is a book in her bag that I’ve just read.

We turn towards each other at the same moment close in proximity.  She begins speaking as our eyes come up from our work to each other.  When our eyes meet, she pauses.  I am not sure who reached first,  but at that moment we embrace.

The words will come.  For that moment there is just connection.

Sometimes a meeting, a talk, a lessons will start with a rush of words.  That pause,  that moment of eye-to-eye,  connection is the heart of the work.  Being a coach, an educator, a colleague is about so many different kinds of work.  The heart of the work is connection.  Stopping in the moment, in the day, in the work to look someone in the eye.  To say,  I’m listening.  I hear you.  You matter to me.  What you’re thinking and feeling and struggling with, matters to me.  

6/31 Paczki Day #sol19

For the month of March, I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers.  

6/31  Paczki Day #sol19

March 5, 2019

IMG_3568Paczki Day came into my life in about 1990.  While an administrator, a teacher brought in these amazing jelly doughnuts on Shrove Tuesday.  I apologize now to all Paczki aficionados particularly in my own family.  I now know that Paczki and jelly doughnuts ARE NOT THE SAME THING.

What is a Paczki?

So… some back story.  I am a Midwesterner.  I grew up in Southern Illinois, moved to central Illinois, northernish Indiana, and then to a Chicago suburb in the mid-eighties.  Legend has it that Chicago has more Polish citizens than Warsaw.  This may or may not be apocryphal.  However, Shrove Tuesday, or the day before Ash Wednesday when Lent begins is a deeply seated tradition in many communities.  The idea is to rid your household of fats and sugars before lenten obligations begin.

Back to the story… after that introduction in 1990-something,  Paczkis on Paczki Day became a thing in our family.  We searched out excellent Paczki we had heard of and stuck to generic grocery store Paczki when we didn’t have a lead.  Regardless,  there were Paczki EVERY SINGLE Paczki Day at the Kennedy’s.  (not a Polish family)  It helps that all of us were doughnut fans and jelly doughnut fans.  I will say as reference that up the sugar and fat content of a jelly doughnut and you have a Paczki.   So Paczki are a Kennedy family tradition.

Then most of us moved to the east coast…  There really weren’t any Paczki or least they weren’t at every grocery store and corner market on Shrove Tuesday.  So as many of our midwestern family traditions, we let one more tradition fall by the wayside.  Enter 2014 or so,  our oldest son, a hold out in the midwest, dropped to stay with us for a few months in January and stayed through… Paczki Day.

As was typical in our old lives, days before Paczki Day, he began to talk about getting the Paczki.  Bob and I were gentle, but looked him in the eye and said,  don’t think there are any Paczki here.  That’s a Chicago thing, bud.  He, being him, would not be deterred.  Using his twenty-something google skills, he found a bakery on the Southside of Boston that was Polish and made Paczkis.  He got up early on that Tuesday, drove into the city, found the very small bakery, had a rousing chat with the baker, and returned home with most of the Paczki he purchased.  This was no small feat.  Finding places in unfamiliar or familiar Boston can be amazingly surprisingly difficult.  That’s our P. though,  he would not be stopped.

So that year we had Paczki.

Every year, P. admonishes us for not driving to the city and getting the Paczki.  It seems like such an effort for a… jelly doughnut.  He is disgusted by our lack of spirit.

Last year, we accidentally came upon a Polish bakery in Salem, Massachusetts in fall when we were visiting the Peabody-Essex Museum.  We were thrilled about Paczki and bought a half a dozen.  The young women behind the counter I am certain thought we were crazy.  It was a wonderful treat, but not quite the same six month before the holiday.

I looked up a recipe this year and was poised to attempt my own Paczki, but then… last week I heard a commercial on the radio that a local(ish) grocery store had Paczki!  The search started anew.  I looked up where the groceries were, 10-15 miles away from our house.  Maybe not… Then Bob called a local store, part of a New York grocery chain.  Sure enough they were making Paczki that very morning for the first time.

We drove to the store, waited in line, ordered custom Paczki (raspberry filling), waited for them, and this morning, Paczki are waiting for their holiday on my kitchen counter. Tradition lives!

When I told my oldest son about our adventures, he commented drolly,  you should have gone to that nice baker in Southie, she makes 700 Paczki a day…

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3/31 From My Notebook: Third Grade Assessments #sol19

img_1716-1For the month of March, I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers.  

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 9.02.40 AMFrom My Notebook:  Third Grade Assessments in Literacy #sol19

Through my work as a literacy coach,  I have teachers that I meet and collaborate with throughout the week.  Usually these meetings are at 7:30 a.m. on a scheduled day of the week. I  meet with each teacher or team for 1/2 hour keeping notes of what we are working on.  Our school is an UOS of Study school following the work of Lucy Calkins and colleagues in this our first year of full implementation.  Most of our meetings are in their classrooms. Some teachers will come with questions, sometimes we plan out what we will work on the next week, sometimes I have a teaching technique or skill  I’ve noticed or a suggestion.  I keep a journal entry of each meeting to keep me thinking.  I am thankful to Tammy Mulligan, Teachers for Teachers, for assisting me in working on offering a menu of ideas during this coaching time.  This is still after years a work in progress.  

The Third Grade is ending their information reading and writing units and moving into character studies.  The Massachusetts’ state testing is looming large on the horizon.  Though I would like to not give it much importance, it’s there.  The ending of a unit and assessing  then beginning a unit and assessing is a process while beneficial in many ways  can seem to derail the learning process and give the teacher information that seems disconnected from their day to day work.  This week in my third grade collaborations I suggested combining the idea of flash drafts or quick writes, the narrative task (MCAS), and assessments.

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 9.02.00 AMThe four questions on the assessment are meant to be written in a 45 minute reading workshop using two text, an informational text and a related narrative nonfiction text.  I suggested that the teachers use a known narrative nonfiction perhaps one of their mentor texts for the narrative nonfiction sessions in bend 3 and then find another text that relates to that text that is an informational text.  In one classroom this might be the narrative nonfiction book,  Carter Reads a Newspaper, typed as a narrative and a newsela article, Interest in Black History Is Growing .  Day 1, the teacher pairs the narrative task to similar work the class has been doing, summarize the text Carter Reads a Newspaper and briefly write about one idea that you have grown from the text.

We had previously completed both whole class and small group work in part to whole using these two TCWRP resources.

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this is modified from a larger part to whole model

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The second text, the informational text can be read on another day with a summary of the informational text and then cross-text synthesis of both text.  This allows for two days practice in reading text online and flash drafting writing about reading.

For the post assessment in nonfiction writing,  two possibilities might be helpful.  Using a topic in science or social studies, or having students use their genius hour topic have students complete a nonfiction article about one of these topics.  This writing is completed during a standard writing workshop time. Using nonfiction writing checklist,  the information writing task from the Writing Pathways, and the nonfiction writing tips from the information writing task will be helpful for students along with a quick teach to their writing partner before they begin writing.

These gentle adjustment to the assessment tasks allow for the writing to feel more natural to students along with carrying a deeper connection to the work of the room.

Routine #sol18

IMG_3194Routine #sol18

December 18, 2018

I haven’t been in my regular routine for weeks now.  In the last weeks, everything about my everyday was disrupted and I found myself suspended, timeless and placeless for a number of days.  I moved forward, but the movement was unfamiliar.  I breathed in and out, but the air itself seemed somehow different.  I was amid very familiar people but every action we took was far from familiar.

I returned after this week feeling unsettled.  My day to day routines seemed unfamiliar and returning to them seemed like that turbulent bump when the plane wheels hit the tarmac, the jostling bounce, the rush of air, being thrown backward.

I entered the soft glow of the school early morning light.  You know it.  Silent halls, familiar hums, shiny floors.  Still tenuous in my entry,  i walked down the hall to the literacy center just as I left it,  The pregame ritual rushed back and enveloped me like a warm sweater.  Preparing for 2nd grade student work.  Meeting with a first grade teacher. Emails.  Mail sort.  the hum of the heater in the light of my desk lamp.  

Then the real comfort began.  Wrapped in the favorite comfy sweater of my colleagues support and routine, I began my day.  Strategizing about the game plan for this week before vacation, transitioning from a unit to an upcoming one in third grade. Goal wording for an upcoming literacy plan.  Discussing vowel work in first grade in the happy confines of a teacher’s classroom before school.  Drawing little maps of ideas and pouring over student writing.  Asking questions for ideas.   Moving on to reading over writing projects with seven and eight year olds, hearing what they’ve learned about dogs and spiders.  Enjoying partner reading about cat and dog negotiations.  Having a listen to third grade reading as we think about what next in instruction.

And in between, gentle smiles, an arm rub, a kind word.  Cards and flowers and genuine caring.  This is what it means to belong to a teaching and learning community.  Connections lingered. Cookies on the counter.  Routines cherished.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 7.22.13 AM.png    I write in the company of my fellow travelers within the Slice of Life Community.  Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for forming this group.

Crossed Signals #sol18

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Crossed Signals #sol18

December 4, 2018

There have been a lot of crossed signals lately.  Misinterpreted words.  Missed appointments.  Strings of an adult game of telephone which never end well.  Sometimes when we put our heads together, we just can’t get it together at all.  It’s not to be avoided really… or is it?  What would it take for us to really communicate,  actually hear and respond in a way that is meaningful for all.

I heard your answer.  You said, a miracle.  Well, my friends,  I think we can make one.

I’ll tell you a small fable.  Spoiler alert, you must be over 5 feet tall and 21 years of age to read the next paragraph.  Yesterday, this morning, or ten years ago,  a child told a parent that a teacher let the cat out of the bag about you know who and you know what to a whole class.  I mean that just takes the cake.  Who did she think she was ruining our most precious national lie to a roomful of half believing nine year olds?  This may or probably not actually happened.  The child may or may not have had an alternative agenda.  What I know for certain is… NO TEACHER WOULD EVER DO THAT EVEN ON HER WORST DAY…  #justsaying

But this little story made me think of meetings where we can’t speak the same language (figuratively),  moments where we all seemingly heard something to find we “heard” in several different ways.  Those awful moments when you look into the face of your word recipient and know which a shadow of a doubt that you best intentions have gone awry.

Since we might be on the confession couch,  I’ll admit that all of these things may have happened to me in a single day.  Even cookies can’t cure that. But what pray tell, can?

So I go back to my s-a-n-t-a story.  NO TEACHER (insert the word human here) WOULD EVER DO THAT EVEN ON HER WORST DAY.  The unfortunate truth is much like my weight loss plan, wishing won’t make it so,  we have to put in the really hard work of listening carefully,  seeking to understand, then be understood.  We can’t give up when communication doesn’t work or feelings are very, very sensitive.

I read this quote once:  be kind.  everyone is carrying a heavy burden.  Today my burden feels heavy, but I personally know a LOT of people whose burden is crushing them flat right now.  I just need to take a few things  out of that burden.  The first thing I’m going to take out is my prickly, hurt feelings.  What a stinking waste of time!   Then I’m going to take out all of the supposing and inferring I do about people’ motives and agendas and judgement.  I feel lighter all ready.

I’m going to slip a few very light things into my burden.  I’m going to slip a shiny sliver of patience along with a round ball of empathy.  I might swallow a few word and up my smile sparkle… and I’m definitely going to bring cookies to the meeting.  download