From My Notebook: Planning #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.

Notebook Saturdays

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.

From My Notebook:  Planning #sol19

IMG_3832I’m torn this week from my notebook to the work we’ve noticed in the classroom.  In the second bend of baby literary essay, we noticed that the students are adopting the language and structure of the essay.  Their evidence is grounded in text and they are growing a small theory.  The place we see them struggle a little is matching their evidence to their theory.  Letting them sail off on Thursday, choosing their own picture book, their own theory, making their own plans,  let us notice what’s up with their independent writing.

We meet to hash it out.  She has the writing notebooks piled on her table, but when she speaks first it’s about the state test.

I went through the last five years of questions for the test, she says.  We haven’t done character comparisons,  journal entries, and… there’s poetry.  They also have perspective, cross text synthesis, and predictions.  

I pause letting her words settle around us.  I’m working on that… the pause.  It is a lot and time is short.

Their work is better than we thought, she says.  As we sift through, we notice bright spots.  This one has strong evidence.  This one is getting the idea of connection story.  This one had a plan.  This one has the language down.  On we go.  I reflect that as a team, we’ve gotten so much better at the quick glance, read, determine teaching points.  Only a few were struggling that day.

She brings out a scrap of paper from her teacher notebook.  We have a box for students to put concerns she says.  This one was in it yesterday.  I don’t like how the teachers never call on me when I have a good idea,  it begins.  We pause and discuss.  Using the turn and talk gives students all a chance to say their ideas in the air, but clearly this friends still is craving the teacher’s attention or the spotlight.  We reflect on our own balance.  Who are we asking to share?  We think we are equitable.  We vow to keep an eye on it next week.

Back to the work we met to do.  We work through the next week, weaving in books and techniques.  His name remains on the top of the page.

 

Trees #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.

Trees #sol19

March 29, 2019

I have loved many trees in my life.

One tree stood, a towering pine next to my growing-up house.  My father strung lights around and around each Christmas.

One tree stood in my husband’s aunt’s yard, a century oak.  Tall and majestic,  it dropped so many acorns, the squirrels came from miles and stayed for days.  We raked so many acorns.

IMG_1316One tiny dogwood  was nurtured under the towering canopy of our yard, blooming delicately in the spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those amazing redwoods stand like sentinels in Muir Woods.  They are my favorite things on earth in my favorite place on earth.  If there is a heaven to me it looks just like there. IMG_3815

 

 

 

 

Two beautiful crabapple trees my husband bought me bloomed their hearts out by my patio at our first house.  We called them the waiting rooms for they held all the little birds waiting to get onto my bird feeder.

One flaming red maple tree grew from a small tree over those thirteen years to a view outside my bedroom window.

One adopted old crabapple, gnarly and full of holes became a home to many outside our front window.  We lost it three years ago.  IMG_3814 (1)

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The crazy little tree  is covered with dog photos and dog tags, memories of dogs passed in our favorite local park.

 

 

Beautiful blooming late spring trees outside Teacher’s College in New York spill fragrant petals like rice at a wedding. IMG_5908

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maple trees were filled with a riot of orange greeting me on my way into school on fall mornings.IMG_5067

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tree in the courtyard outside the literacy center spread its branches like arms protecting all underneath.IMG_0227

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smooth sleek palms  create a beautiful pattern on the sidewalks under the tropical Florida sun always bring a smile to my face. IMG_1042 (1)

Yes,  I have loved many trees.

 

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Alice Nine’s post,  The Old Pear Tree,  reminded me of all the trees I’ve loved and some I’ve lost. 

Just Wondering #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.

Just Wondering #sol19

March 28. 2019

Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 9.33.30 PMWondering as you are checking your phone deliberately while I am talking

if my words

sting as they bounce off your armor or do they

buzz circling your head like tiny gnats

as you

mentally swat them away,

I wonder if the stray word slips in and rattles around irritating all it touches until

you can expel it

I wonder if you notice how those ricocheting words are flying everywhere and

your friends, your colleagues are watching to see if any of them enter a crack in

that parched land

hoping that the enthusiasm you shower on so many other things will distill

into a tiny drop

on this parched land

I wonder if you have known the success of words taken in when they don’t fit but

nurtured and tended until they bloom unexpectedly into

the success of a miraculous new idea

I wonder about the others who won’t be presented with

the budding growth of those unheard words

who won’t witness the struggle and the miracle of new understandings,

the seeds tended with love into something so unexpected

forever unexposed to those ideas you wouldn’t hear

 

 

 

Reflection: The Fuel #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.

Reflection:  The Fuel #sol19

March 27, 2019

Screen Shot 2019-03-26 at 8.59.58 PMFeeling a little tired after facilitating a curriculum meeting yesterday after school yesterday, reflecting on my retired colleagues’ happiness displayed over dinner last night, and three  problem solving meetings before ten,  I am definitely out of sorts.  Not an acceptable way to be in an elementary school.

Heading down the hall after missing a few groups this morning,  I stop by the door to pick up my 10:20 appointment.  His whole face lights up with a smile.

Here I am, he says.

After sending him back to fetch the book we are discussing together, we head off down the hall.  I haven’t noticed yet but my mood is already starting to lift.  We sit down head to head to catch up with Sugar and her chicken squad.

Chapter 6?  I say.

Chapter 7! my companion says assuredly.

I flip through the book pages, reading our thoughts from the preceding days. Sugar is the kind of chicken who likes to make plans that help herself.  Sugar is the kind of children who takes charge.  Sugar is the kind of chicken who has lots of ideas.  I remind him that we are the kind of readers who want to solve the mystery, but know our work for this book is to think about the character and how she changes.  We read another chapter together, whispering when the character whispers, being loud when she is loud.  Soon it is time for our final thoughts and back to class.

See you tomorrow, he says.

Can’t wait, I say.

Off then to another third grade where they are comparing two books,  Nerdy Birdy and A Bike Like Sergio’s.  One of our writers exclaims that he can’t possible write or remember all of our thinking…  Give it a try, says his teacher.  Practice with Mrs. Kennedy.  Soon my time with them is up,  then on to the next class, where we are tackling a story mountain considering Peter’s motivation for running away from home and returning.

By the time I return to the literacy center,  there is a spring in my step, happy thoughts fill my head and a smile graces my face.  The intervention teacher working in the center turns to me and smiles back.  Oh, I sign,  I need to remind myself that the cure for everything is a little while with the students.

Yes, she says, you do need to remember that.

Change: Will it Do Us Good? #sol19

Change:  Will it Do Us Good?  #sol18

March 26, 2019

IMG_5340Our Massachusetts’ house sits at the edge of a wood.  There weren’t many woods in the midwest so we were thrilled to have these trees for neighbors.  For eight years,  Lily has pulled me through the paths in these woods stopping to sniff while I stop to notice.  Sometimes we notice bright green moss.  There are so many different types growing in the woods.  Sometimes Lily stops to sniff inside a hole near the base of the tree.  I hold my breath for a moment hoping that nothing sniffs back.  Sometimes we notice buds or leaves, saplings or the occasional flowers.  There are three big granite monuments in the woods.  I always pause and wonder about them.  A row of boulders marks something that is no longer there as well.  Remnants of a past time.

The woods are changing.  Tall hardwood trees are breaking.  Their noble remains litter the forest floor.  How old were they?  Once my aunt had a century tree in her yard… One hundred years old.  Were these trees fifty?  I wonder.  Soft pines are springing up knee high among the broken remains, just like that book How the Forest Grew.   Changing.

In the seven years we’ve lived here, change has happened.  In the forest and other places too.

The woods remind me of the cycle of change.

I grieve some for I have known loss.

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.

Routines We Share: Friday Night #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.

Routines We Share:  Friday Night Pizza Night #sol19

March 24, 2019

IMG_3804We’ve had Friday night pizza night for as long as I can remember.  My husband and I probably had it before we were married and perhaps his family had it before we knew each other.  Over the years these pizza nights have had only pizza as their constant.  The diners have changed, the venue has changed, the pizza has most definitely changed.  Pizza night remains.

In the chair Friday night reading,  I look up to see him bounding up the stairs.

Where’s the pizza? 

Dad’s not home yet.  I haven’t ordered it.  You can if you’re ready.  

I suppose I can. What’s the name of that pizza place? His friend laughs.  She knows the name.  I consider that he is just stalling so that I will order the pizza.  We discuss the pizzas for tonight and he finally does order.  They are running and errand and decide they will pick it up on the way home.  One of us mentions that the dog will not like this arrangement because she always gets to ride in the car to the pizza place.

Then he says something on his way out. If he was sitting in that car and you weren’t home yet, he’d be freaking out.  

I let those words fall between us.  At first I laugh.

He’s already out the door still in the driveway.  I call him.  Do you think I should be worried? 

Someone would have called you if something happened.  I only worry more.

I call my husband’s phone twice.  No answer.  I call our older son in Chicago, 1500 miles away.  Did you talk to your dad tonight?  Of course, he says.  Then he launches into a summary of their conversation.

As we’re talking, Lily goes to the window and I know he’s here.  I hear him opening the door ending a call with someone.  Greeting the dog.  Hearing me talking with our son, he begins to join into the conversation. I exhale held breath I didn’t realize I had.

We go get the pizza together just like most Friday nights.

Our routine feeling more precious than just pizza.