Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Slice of Life - My Reading Heart is Smiling

It was not a typical first week of school.

I started out the week with 36 students and by this time next week we will have hired a part-time teacher.  Thirteen of my students will be going to the new teacher in the morning for reading and writing instruction and will return to my classroom for math and science in the afternoon.

I always start my year creating our community of readers and writers, but this was very difficult because we were not sure what was going to happen.  I decided to teach just a few of my beginning lessons, but leave most of them for next week when I have my "true" class.  

One of the lessons I taught was "How or Why We Choose Books."  I asked them if they were to go into a library or book store, what would make them pick a book from the shelf.  I made a chart and listed the students' replies.  This list included things like looking at the cover, read the first page, favorite author or series, and recommended by a friend.  

I then had them look at the list and tell me what they noticed.  What was NOT there.  Eventually, they saw that "because it is in my AR level" was not on the list.  I told them about a time when one of my students went to Barnes and Noble and she was so excited because her grandmother was going to buy her some books.  That Monday I asked her what she bought, and she said she didn't get any because she couldn't find her level.   (Totally made up story, but they don't need to know this!)  

This is when I love to see their reaction.  I tell them that I don't want them to choose a book because it is in their AR level.  Instead I want them to choose a book because of the reasons we listed.  I also tell them they do not have to take a test on every book they read.  I want them to read for fun.  This is foreign to them, because AR is really pushed in our corporation...but not by me.

Fast forward to our Meet Your Teacher Night.  I had a parent tell me that her son came home and was so excited about reading this year because "we get to read for fun!"  I know a part of that is really sad, but my reading heart was smiling because he got it!  He is looking forward to reading this year.

The second day of school I was giving a spelling inventory.  I looked over and a student was hiding a book inside her desk and reading in between words.  I tiptoed over to her, leaned down and whispered, "Is it good?"  She thought she was in trouble until I smiled at her and asked to see what she was reading.  She was reading Runaway Twin by Peg Kehret, and I whispered that is was a great book.  I told her I had several more by the same author that I think she would also like.  My reading heart was smiling!  

When I got home last night, I had a text from my sister.  I always get my niece and nephew books for Christmas and their birthdays.  Last Christmas I chose a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle book (something he is interested in!) and a couple of Biscuit books.  He is now in the first grade and her text said that during their reading time before bed, he read the whole book himself!  She said he was so proud of himself and again, my reading heart was smiling!

So no, it was not a typical first week of school, but it still made my heart smile!  I can't wait until next week when I can intertwine my community building lessons with my standards lessons, build those relationships, and get us on the road to reading!

I hope your reading heart is smiling this week too!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Slice of Life - Becoming a Sentence Stalker

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Who would have thought I could get so much teaching material from a simple sentence?  This summer, I reread parts of Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson and was zoning in on using mentor sentences as a way to teach grammar and writing mechanics.  As a result, I have become a sentence stalker, searching for sentences to use not only for mechanics but also for craft lessons and response to literature.

Reading the work of Katie Wood Ray also fueled my "sentence stalking."  She talked about creating names for what we see in mentor texts.  As I read The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester, I found that Barbara O'Connor used words and phrases in triplicate throughout the book.  I named this "writing in three's."  I can't wait to share this example with my students.

I also came across Holly Mueller's blog, Reading, Teaching, and Learning where I found a post on collecting sentences.  In her post, she talked about using sentences for responding to literature and gives some great examples of student work.  After reading this, I began collecting sentences as a reader, looking for sentences that meant something to me or inspired me to write.  

As I read the book Jinx by Sage Blackwood.  One sentence that stood out for me was:

"Many things in life are difficult, but to those who persevere, all things are possible."

This made me think about my students, as well as my writing journey.  There are days when writing is difficult for me, whether it be choosing a topic to write about or simply finding the time to write, especially now that school has started.  

I have found that if I keep after it, writing does get easier.  I have been trying to keep a notebook with ideas, snippets, entries and now sentences.  I have learned to use my notebook to write blog posts and to use as examples for my writing lessons. By actually going through the difficult parts, I know it is going to be easier for me to share the writing process, both the ups and the downs, with my students...a lesson in perseverance.    

Becoming a sentence stalker has changed the way I read books, because now I am reading not only as a reader, but also as a writer.  I see things differently as I read.  Something as simple as a sentence can be packed with potential teaching material - once you have become a sentence stalker.  

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Slice of Life - What a Week

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This is the first week this summer that I have not been writing, reading books, or spending much time on my computer.

Two reasons for this.

One:  I spent some time with my sister, sister-in-law, daughter and niece in Tennessee visiting my youngest sister.  We had a great time and it was great to get away.  They have a no tax weekend and we shopped til we dropped!

Two:  The size of my class this year is unbelievable.  I received student number 37 yesterday.  No, that is not a typo.

Thirty-seven.....30 + 7...3 tens and 7 ones...can you tell I also teacher math!

We start school on Friday, and that is when they will decide whether or not to hire a third teacher.  So, needless to say this week has been very hectic trying to decide what to do and what to wait on.  I have to believe that they will do what is best for students and hire another teacher.

I wrote a poem last week about Back-to-School Insomnia that I am sharing this week as my slice.

Hopefully next week I can get back to writing and reading...I miss it!