Tuesday Again #sol19

Forty-Four Days

April 9, 2019

There are forty four days left in the school year.  14 or so half days will be benchmark assessments.  Six more days of state testing.  Five field days.  A fourth grade concert.  Another half day of conferences.  Three days of data meetings.  After all of that is said and done, down to about fourteen more days.

Fourteen more days of morning meetings and big ideas.  Fourteen more days of one more school year.

Do I say every year that it isn’t enough?  Do I say that I’ve just gotten started?  the students are just comfortable?  Now is the best time?

How many times have I started sprinting now?  Pushing towards the finish line as if it isn’t a finish at all, merely a stop along the way.  Perhaps it is.

It is for them.  For the students who in a year, maybe two or less won’t remember that reading teacher who had so many books.  Wait, didn’t she suggest that really awesome book.  Have you read it? 

It is for those retiring to greener pastures.  Those whose names will be brought up with soft smiles and reverent tones for many years to come.  You won’t miss us when we are gone. But we will.

It is a stop along the way for me as well.  I have belonged to many school along the road.  I hope this will be my final stop.  Not because I’m finished, I’ve just hit my stride.  This is my sweet spot, the penultimate, my dream job.

Why did I decide to wax poetic when there are in reality (how many did I say?) forty four more days of school and years to come after that?  What is that saying?  The days are long, but the years are short.

Before this year slips away,  I want to try a few more things I haven’t done and celebrate those I have. I want to have deep discussions with learners grown and growing.   Read a few more books and recommend twice that many.  I want to laugh and smile, encourage and spur on.  Write and write and write some more. Notice more and reflect on most of what I notice.

Right up to the very last day.

And in September,  I want to do it all again.

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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.

Friday 1:15 PM #sol19

Friday 1:15 PM #sol19

March 13, 2019

 

IMG_3689Every Friday  I have a date with my very exclusive book club.

Sometimes I am a better member than other.

Like last Friday…  Last Friday, I showed up fifteen minutes late empty-handed.

My book club doesn’t mind.  He gives me the same greeting whether I am on-time, missed a week, have books with me or not… Big broad smile.

We formed this book club in the fall.  We had had a more formal daily standing date in his room with his friends for an hour every day last year.  But this year,  we made a decision together to try this idea out.   Once a week,  we get together.  We discuss books we’ve read.  We recommend books to each other.  He takes 3-4 home with him for the week.

Week in and week out.

What he doesn’t know is that I spend the week in between scouring Amazon,  the library, my collection,  the literacy collection, and friends for just the right books to have casually available in that blue bin waiting on my shelf.

The bin has a sticky note on the front loosely hanging with purple flair words written with his name and 1:15 Friday.

1:15 pm  Friday.   I say  you’re a tough guy to find a book for.

He laughs and tells me about this week’s books.  This book about George Washington Carver was fascinating.  Did you know that he invented peanut butter.  Peanut Butter.  And all of these other uses for peanut butter.  See?  And this book,  this book was fascinating too.  Look at this picture!  He shuffles to the next book in his stack.  Can I keep this book another week?  I just started it and its really good.  

I bring out the blue bin and offer up some new biographies freshly snatched from the shelves of Barnes and Noble.  We are all done with biography now.  We are moving on to books with Characters.  

How about this?  

You know I don’t like super heroes.  Too busy.  

I am having a harder time finding books for you where there are boys for the main character. 

I will read books about girls or boys or whatever.  It doesn’t matter.  They are all characters.  

Lesson taught in the book club today.

Not by me.

 

7/31 Why Not Consider Debbie Miller & Marie Kondo . #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. This is day 7 of 31.  

 

IMG_15107/31  Why Not Consider Debbie Miller & Marie Kondo #sol19

March 6, 2018

I am a product of a Debbie Miller Reading with Meaning age.  I don’t mean the 2nd edition.  I mean my 2002 coffee-stained, dog-eared, autographed copy of the original  Reading with Meaning.  I was a devotee way before I really knew who Lucy Calkins was.  It takes a while for those east coast ideas to get out to the prairie.  What Debbie Miller taught me, among many other things, was that our working/teaching/learning environment was important.  Much like Lucy Calkins calls it a laboratory or a workshop, Debbie Miller created a culture for thinking and learning that included tablecloths, child height tables, pictures in frames, curtains, lamps, and rugs.  Those things are fairly standard in classrooms today, but in my early teaching, having tables instead of desks was pretty unusual outside of kindergarten.photo from Reading With Meaning by Debbie Miller

In those early days of my reading (and writing) intervention,  I planned with teachers about not just the mentor texts, the book bags, and partners, but about music during writing, soft natural lighting, and pillows.  School became a much more comfortable place.

Flash forward nearly twenty year and I still have lamps and comfortable seats, colorful book bins, and pillows.  I still consult sometimes with teachers about table arrangements and places for students to do their work.  I think with them about how many anchor charts we have on the walls and how accessible the books are for the students.

I’ll write longer about books in classrooms in another post, but today, Marie Kondo… So unless you’ve been away from social media, you’ve probably heard of Marie Kondo, the new guru of tidying up.  To oversimplify her process,  she teaches to respect your space, keep what you love and use, and let the rest gently go with a thank you.

So how does this gentle tidying up connect with Debbie Miller’s warmth and  Lucy Calkins and colleagues’ workshop?  Making the literacy center purposeful, lovely(ish) and easy to access.  Asking myself and others are these materials useful for our students and for our instruction.   I touched each book in this literacy center.  The rough figure for what books came out on the other side is around 12,000 books rough estimate. I think I recycled or repurposed another 1,000 or more books.  I read each book, thought about its merit and grouped it with liked books so that teachers could take them away and use them easily.   The process took approximately five months.

Now the book are organized by type, by use, by genre, by reading level.   I considered their groupings and where those would be located. Their titles are easy to see and they are ready to go out in the world.  The literacy center has been tidied up.  It might take a little more for it to be warm, cozy, and inviting.  I haven’t forgotten what I’ve learned from Debbie Miller.

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Next step, an open house, a welcome from the books to their users.

Thank you to Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan for inspiring this transformation both in me and in the literacy collection through your personal work and through your transformative book,  It’s All About the Books.  sk

 

 

 

 

 

Writers’ Workshop Live #sol18

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Here am I trying to nudge students into their ideas rather than summaries in literary essays by sharing some peer craft moves.  Alongside,  my assistance conduct their own writing conferences.

Writers’ Workshop Live

March 28, 2018

As part of my role as literacy specialist in an elementary building,  I co-teach in several classrooms in either reading or writing workshop. My primary role is to support fragile learners, but as all teachers,  I support whomever comes along.  This bunch of third grade learners have known me since their kindergarten days and their teacher and I have worked together often, though not in this consistent role until this year.  The teacher and I meet weekly to discuss assessments, student progress, planning, resources, and all things related to third grade literacy.  I join the student during their writing block in the afternoons for 40-45 minutes a day.  As all classes,  it is a mixed bag.  

Chapter 1

One day a few weeks ago,  I was away at a meeting in the afternoon and wasn’t able to go to third grade writers’ workshop.  This conversation ensued in my absence.

Protester #1:  This is the worst 15 minutes of my life. 

Patient Teacher:  The worst?  Really? 

Protester #1:  Ok, Top Three.   Stitches,  Waiting for Stitches and This. 15. Minutes. Right. Now.  (dramatic sigh, head on desk)

Protester #2:  Who invented writing anyway?

Protester #3:  I don’t know.  Mrs. Kennedy?

Chapter 2

Last week in writers’ workshop, the third graders were working on persuasive pieces as the lead up to their baby literary essay unit.  They brainstormed some ideas together, but around six students decided to write their persuasive essay about how we shouldn’t have writing at 2 p.m.  Their basic arguments were that they were smarter in the morning, their brains were less full, and an “easy subject” like reading could be moved to the afternoon.  They became quite vocal about it and I think began to believe that we could change writing time.  Because of the specialist schedules in her room (not mine),  the teacher has to have writing at this time which she has explained.  Finally on Monday, she told the kiddos,  “I’m just not going to listen to this anymore.  Get to work.”

We read the book, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon and began the work of growing an idea  about a character and supporting in with three details from the text.

Chapter 3

Today in writers workshop, the teacher did the introduction and most of the kiddos stayed on the carpet to finish their second paragraph or move into their third.  I moved a stool onto the rug and began rehearsing sentences with protester #1.  Writers came up to have me read their work and approve it. Why do they do that?  Because I keep letting them.  I say,  what’s up?  Can you read this?  Sure.  I read it and hand it back. What do you think you might do now?  Is it good?  What do you think?  Have your writing partner confer with you.  or I’m done.  Sure, did you use some of our expert sentences?  Did you use some evidence?  Do you have a full paragraph?  Student slowly backs up. Hey kiddos,  remember, we are writing our fresh ideas, not the ideas of our character or summarizing.   But then,  I started reading some fresh thinking.  I send those kiddos off with the line that’s forming and they become the assistance.  misspell and pun intended.  

Toward the end of workshop I say to the teacher, I’m not sure I want to say this out loud, but it’s going pretty good.  Did you check out some work?   She says, yes,  good.   The assistants are into it.  But I have to tell you something.  I told them you were sad and you wouldn’t come back to workshop unless they worked hard.  

I guffawed.  How did that work? 

What really worked most likely is lean prompts, loose scaffolds, and mentors, both the book itself, and essays shaping up about book along with other students sharing ideas.  There were four adults in the room.  A para-educator working with student who have writing support plans.  A therapist working on ‘writing in the wild’,  the classroom teacher, and me.  We are currently teaching an If/Then Unit in Calkins’ Writing,  Baby Literary Essay.  We are on week 2, having taught a week of persuasion.  This unit is timely, as state testing is coming up. We keep it real knowing this is the type of writing these students will be doing the rest of their academic careers.  We find picture books great prompts.  The classroom teacher was using No David as an alternative text for a fragile learner.  She has a basket of great mentors for character change at the ready.  If you use the Calkins’ Units,  this unit has been reworked just this past fall and is available in the general information section of the third grade writing units online resources on Heinemann.com.  

My response to the classroom teacher’s tweet.

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Though now that I think about it,  I’d rather be Patricia Heaton.  She plays a convincing midwesterner in The Middle.

img_1405  Just your average writing teacher,  slicing every day for 31 days.  This is day 28 of a 31 day writing streak as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Read some fascinating blogs here at Two Writing Teachers.

Books for the Kids in Front of You #sol18

Books for the Kids in Front of You  #sol18 #IMWAYR

Immigration Edition

March 5, 2018

I am thankful for our school librarian for being my tireless exploration partner in book acquisition.

Our school in multicultural.  Perhaps yours is too.   We were exploring topics for our historical book clubs in grade 4,  I questioned what topics could students relate to without a significant amount of historical knowledge.  Can we learn about social justice in our modern times in elementary school? Many books I have purchased this year and wrote about before carry a growth mindset and empathetic message, but what about the experience many of our students have of immigrating from another country.  Here are some of our current favorite picture books.  51kqn6wGIcL._AC_US218_.jpgThis may be my current favorite book.  While it doesn’t specifically discuss immigration, these young bear brothers seek shelter from the storm.  Asking each animal neighbor one by one,  they are turned away by all.  Remaining positive, the bear brothers create their own shelter using the one gift received from a young fox, a lantern.  When the fox’s home is threatened, they come asking for aid from the brothers and are warmly welcomed into their small shelter.  So many wonderful messages in this beautifully illustrated book.

Where-will-i-live.jpg

We debated this book purchase as the book doesn’t turn away from tough information.  This book has photographs of children many in situations that we often want to shelter each other from,  sleeping on the streets,  asking where will we live.  In a school where we do meet and nurture students in transition, this is a delicate topic.  This book examines this in a gentle, unflinching way

816jNphsaIL._AC_UL320_SR270,320_.jpgThis book takes a different approach to the immigration experience in a intimate family way.  In a moment that many children may have, fishing with their families,  a father tells the child how he fished in his home country.  Beautiful illustrated and simply told. A Caldecott nominee.

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I hope reading and enjoying this book will give children I know an idea about welcoming those new to our community.  One girl, adrift and awash in experiences that she can’t understand meets another girl in the park. She smiles in greeting and the new girl is distrusting at first.  Over days, she looks for the smiler and then finally see her again.  The welcomer teaches the new friend to swing.  As the book continues,  the welcomer begins through objects to assist our new settler in learning the words she speaks.  I love this story full of everything we hope from community.

81pXXl2ZebL._AC_UL320_SR288,320_.jpgThe simplest of this set,  I’m New Here is a straightforward book about arriving fresh in a new spot.

Not reviewed here, but worth a mention are some lovely novels including.

Same Sun Here

Inside Out and Back Again

Esperanza Rising

Day  of 31 days of writing. Thank you to my fellow bloggers for inspiration and encouragement and toTWO WRITING TEACHERS for creating this opportunity.  Read more amazing blogs and join the writinghere.

in sync

FullSizeRender (1)In Sync #why not Wednesday 

September 27, 2017

At the start of a school year,  it takes some time to get in sync… in sync with the routine,  with your new students, and with your teaching team.  These lovely ladies are getting in the groove on day 4!  While dressing alike is probably not that unusual,  showing up in nearly the same dress by accident might indicate that they are on the same wavelength about more than just their fashion sense.

So how do we get in sync in our building, our team, or in our classroom  at the beginning of the year?

Possible idea 1. Spend some time getting to know each other.  Laugh,  talk about TV,  have lunch together,  take a walk, drop by for a chat.  You get the idea.  Don’t make everything all the time about work with your co-workers and with the students.

Possible idea 2.  Give yourself a break.  We don’t need to launch in at break neck speed every single time.  Wait, is that just me?  Take time to get your bearings,  read the environment.  Even if it’s the same old environment, it always seems to change as the new year start.

Possible idea #3  Review. Give a thought and some good conversation to what went really well last year and … what you might do differently.  Reflecting is good for the soul and the craft. 

I might wear my black dress tomorrow.