Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Under the Influence...of a Nerd

Read more slices at

This fall a new 5th grade teacher was hired at our building.  Although I am old enough to be Kristen's mother, in teaching years we are only five years apart.

As I got to know her better, I found that we had similar teaching methods, styles, and philosophies...we were like-minded.  There was a problem however.  I found out that Kristen was not a reader.  So of course being the nerd that I am, that has become my personal mission.

One day she came and observed me and mentioned how she would like to have a classroom library like mine.  I thought, "That's a step in the right direction."  So that week I ordered a stack of books from Scholastic to add to her library.

December came around and Scholastic was having their warehouse sale in a city about an hour away.  I asked her if she wanted to go with me, and she said yes.  I thought, "I am making progress!"

We spent the evening browsing through case after case of books.  It is very easy for me to spend someone else's money, so I was oohing and ahhing and handing her book after book.

"You have to get this one!"

"This one is so good!"

Since she has my students from last year, it was very easy to make recommendations for specific students.

"Jayda would love this book!"

"AJ needs to read this!"

We both left with full bags and excitement about sharing our purchases with our students.  I thought, "This is getting easier!  I think she is on her way to becoming a nerd!"

Right before Christmas she was telling me about a home-life problem of a student I had last year.  As she was telling me the story she said, "You would be so proud of me.  I told him the great thing about reading is that you can get lost in a book.  You can just open it up and get lost inside.  You can escape from everything that is going on in your life and just read.”

I thought, "Wow, she's getting it!"

Now, here is the clincher.  Over Christmas break she sent me this picture along with this text:  "I haven't done this in years."

I thought, "Yep, she is on her way!"

Working and collaborating with Kristen has breathed new life into my teaching.  Having a like-minded person to share ideas, plans, and resources, I feel less isolated as a teacher.  We co-faciliated a PD last week and plan to attend the All Write! Conference this summer.  I have shared many of my professional development books and convinced her how important Twitter is to my own professional development.  I am so thankful I can call her a colleague and a friend.

Yes, she still has a ways to go before I would technically call her a nerd, but I certainly think she is "under the influence!"  Now I just need to get her blogging...maybe that will be a summer project!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! - 1/25

Each Saturday  Ruth Ayres invites us to share and celebrate events from our week. Looking for small celebrations has certainly improved my outlook on my week. For that, I am certainly grateful to Ruth and to all of you who choose to celebrate with us.

What a week!  Full of surprises, proud moments, collaboration and celebrations.

Monday night eight students from my class presented "Blogging in the Classroom" to our school board.  This year we started a classroom blog and they shared many of their stories and how blogging has added a new dimension to their writing.  They also shared our school blog called The Franklin Bookmark where we share with our students and their families all things about books and reading.  They did a fantastic job, and I was so proud of them.  It is not easy to stand in front of people and speak when you are a ten year old!  

Tuesday was my birthday and the superintendent decided to give me the day off!  (It was actually a snow day...or should I say cold day.)  The kids are constantly trying to find out how old I am.  I don't really hide it from them, but it is fun to play around with them.  My age is a secret no longer...thanks to my principal.  They certainly have no concept of age because they think 50 is really old!  

This day was full of surprises.  A friend of mine sent me these beautiful flowers!  These roses are huge and the picture does not do them justice!

A student, Emma, and her mother came in the night before and decorated our classroom.  She cried when she found out we had a snow day.  But I left the decorations up, so we celebrated all week.  (I was thankful they weren't black!)

Tuesday I was scheduled to present a PD about blogging, but it was canceled for the second time because of snow days.  Hoping for February now.  Wednesday a colleague and I co-facilitated a PD for teachers on our 90 minute reading block.  Kristen was hired this year as a 5th grade teacher, and I have finally found someone who thinks like I do and has similar teaching styles and methods.  It has been so nice to have someone in which to share and collaborate, and I plan to write a slice about our teaching partnership on Tuesday.

Thursday and Friday we had two hour delays.  With all of the snow days we have had, I am really behind, but I truly enjoyed this extra time at school without students.  Most of the time was spent chatting with teachers which is something we have little time for in a regular school day.  It was nice catching up on our families and our lives outside of school!

A busy week filled with many celebrations!

Have a great week and I hope you find many reasons to celebrate!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Modeling Respect

Read more slices at Two Writing Teachers
I am very lucky to have several mothers who come into my classroom and help with small group instruction during my reading block.  One of the mothers is going to school to become a teacher so she looks at things a little differently than the others. Today while she was in my room, she made an observation about the way I handled a situation.

I have a student who I will call Hannah, who is emotionally disabled.  She is a sweet girl, but has trouble dealing with anger.  It is a rare occasion for her to have a smile on her face, but when she does, her whole face lights up.

Today Hannah was upset about something and refused to come to our meeting area.  Hannah usually talks out and is disrespectful, but isn't usually aggressive.

Her desk was behind a book shelf and out of the meeting area, so I really couldn't see her.  I told her she needed to come over, but I purposefully did not pay much attention to her otherwise.  I started my whole group instruction while she sat at her desk.  A little bit of time went by, and I called her over again.  This time she came over and sat down although she grumbled the whole way.  Eventually I included her in the discussion and we completed the lesson.

Tonight I had a conversation with the mother who helps in my room.  She told me about a situation with a similar student in another school.  She said there was a big difference in our interactions with the student.  She said the other teacher "got in her face and gave it right back to her."  I, on the other hand, gave the student time to cool down, ignored the behavior,  and continued to "invite" Hannah over with the rest of the class.

We all know how important relationships with our students are, but I think it is even more important with students who have emotional problems.  Having this conversation with this mother reminded me of the importance of teaching respect to these students.  I know that Hannah does not have respectful role models at home because I have seen how her parents talk to her and to each other.

I went on to explain how I believe that part of my responsibility as a teacher is to model respect for my students.  Showing Hannah and other students respect through talking out situations, giving her time to cool down, showing her positive alternatives to disrespect is not a standard, but still a vital lesson to teach.

If I don't teach this to her, where will she learn it?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! - 1/18

Each Saturday  Ruth Ayres invites us to share and celebrate events from our week. Looking for small celebrations has certainly improved my outlook on my week. For that, I am certainly grateful to Ruth and to all of you who choose to celebrate with us.

This week my celebrations revolve around One Little Word.

Celebration #1
This morning as I was getting ready to post my short celebration, I received a tweet from a writer I nominated for the Sunshine Award.  After reading her message, I decided to add another celebration to my week.

Over Christmas break, I was nominated for the Sunshine Award.  I was very much surprised and honored by those who thought about me.  It came time to write my post and nominate the 11 blogs.  Because many of the writers who inspired me had already been nominated, (many cases more than once) I decided to take a different approach.

My one little word for 2014 is REACH.  When I first started blogging, I was amazed at the people who reached out to me and helped me get started and encouraged me to continue.  While I was trying to decide who I was going to nominate, I remembered reading a few slices at Two Writing Teachers about new bloggers or bloggers who had been away for while and desired to write again.  I decided to reach out to those writers.

It must have worked because some of the people I nominated have thanked me and told me the nomination was just what they needed to inspire or encourage them so share their words.   If you get a chance, stop by their blogs and read what they have to say.

Today, I celebrate reaching out and having the courage to share words.

Chris Leish
Jen Ferguson
Loralee Landers
Bernadette Laganella
Beth Scanlon
Deb Bussewitz

Celebration #2
My class chose their own one little word this week.  I was very impressed by their thinking and expressing their thoughts in words in their blog posts.  They decorated cards with their word and we will put these up on our door as a reminder of our goals for the rest of the year.  Some of their words were:  believe, patience, challenge, play, listen, respect, focus, and reach.  But the one that is the most dear to my heart is the student who chose the word "hope."

A few weeks after school started last fall, this student's father took his own life.  My student was the one who found him.  Losing a parent is hard enough as it is, but to lose one under these circumstances and as a ten year old little boy was heart wrenching.  

It has been a long, tough road for him.  He has missed a lot of school while trying to work this out for himself and as a family.  Since we have come back after Christmas, he has been smiling and laughing, and he has been at school every single day!

When he showed me his word, hope, I was close to tears.  It gave me hope that he is on his way to healing.  On his blog post he said, "You need hope to do things that you have not been able to do in the past."

That is a celebration for my heart!

Have a great week and may you be blessed with many reasons to celebrate!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! - 1/11

Each Saturday  Ruth Ayres invites us to share and celebrate events from our week. Looking for small celebrations has certainly improved my outlook on my week. For that, I am certainly grateful to Ruth and to all of you who choose to celebrate with us.

With all of the snow days and schedules a mess, it feels like it has been a month since last Saturday.  

Yesterday, as I sat down to write this post, celebration ideas were not coming.  Usually, I can think of many celebrations but yesterday...nothing!  

Oh, I had the usual - snow days, baking, reading, writing, tweeting, and spending time with family.  While these are great celebrations, they had turned into the mundane, the new normal.  It seemed I had been celebrating those things all month!

I think our three snow days after Christmas had me stuck on the spin cycle.  Stuck in the house with no routine, just spinning through the days.  Some days, I didn't even know what day it was.

Thursday and Friday we had two hour delays both days.  The delays made returning to school a little bit easier.  But, nothing really was accomplished other than trying to reign in the kids and get them focused on school while slowly easing our way into our routine.

Then I thought - that's it!  That is my celebration!  ROUTINE!  I need to get back to school, get back to the point where my daily life has some structure and routine.  A day where I go to bed before midnight and get dressed before noon.  A day where I eat just three meals a day and not all day long.  A day where the lesson plans I spent so much time doing actually are implemented.  A day where I thrive in its routine.

Yes, the extended vacation was wonderful, but today I celebrate getting back into a routine!  When the alarm goes off at its regular time on Monday, I will probably grumble, but I will be ready for that routine. I know my own kids and my students are ready.  How about you?

Have a great week and may you blessed with many things to celebrate!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Seems Like I'm Always Behind the Times

Why does it seem like I am always behind the times?  Let me explain.

The end of year posts and tweets were all about the best books of 2013.  That was all fine and dandy, but the by the time I entered this "reading connection" I was reading the books many others read 6-8 months ago...behind the times!

This summer I started a Goodreads account, logging books read and starting a TBR shelf.  I even started their Reading Challenge, clearly marking it summer reading because I was...behind the times!

2014 started and I was now ready to set reading goals and participate in challenges.  I knew there were many books from 2013 that I still wanted to read, so I decided to join Carrie Gelson for the #MustReadin2014 at There's a Book for That.

I knew that nonfiction was a reading gap for me although I have over 500 nonfiction titles in my classroom.  So, I decided to join Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy for her Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

I set my Goodreads challenge and posted that on my blog.  I was ready to go.  Let the reading begin!

THEN this week I came across this post here on Twitter about not setting reading goals.  And started reading tweets from Katherine Sokolowski and Colby Sharp about how setting goals were getting in their way of reading...

What!  Am I behind the times again!

Would love to hear your thoughts on this - do reading goals get in the way of reading? I will be blogging more thoughts on this later.

Nonfiction Wednesday

Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy is continuing her Nonfiction Challenge for the third year in a row.  Nonfiction is a reading gap for me which is why I decided to join the fun.  With over 500 nonfiction titles in my classroom library, I really have no excuse to not reach my goal of 50, 25 older titles, and 25 titles from 2103 and 2014.  Don't forget to go on over and see what others are reading too.

How Do You Burp in Space?: And Other Tips Every Space Tourist Needs to Know
Written by Susan E. Goodman
Illustrated by Michael Slack
Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA
Date:  July 2013
Age range:  8 -12 years
5 out of 5 stars

This narrative nonfiction gives the reader "travel guide" information on what it would be like to travel in space starting with the take-off and ending with the reentry into the Earth's atmosphere.  It answers questions about eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom while in space.  It also gives travel alerts, tourists tips, and space stories from astronauts throughout the book.

This book was both entertaining and informative.  I think reluctant readers, especially boys, would love this book because of its information about bodily functions! 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Dreams, the Heavy Ones

Read more slices at

Dreams.  Have you ever thought about how heavy that one little word is?

I am not talking about the dreams illustrated in the dream bubbles in children's books.  Or the daydreams on lazy summer days.

I am talking about the dreams where I want to do something, be someone, or make a difference.

I am talking about the dreams that live deep in my heart and slowly surface until they force me to think about about them or act upon them.

I am talking about the dreams that sometimes make me feel silly

          the dreams that someone laughed at,

                    the dreams that someone told me I could never do.

You know which dreams...the heavy ones.

Dreams push me, but also scare me.  Maybe it was because I didn't believe I could do it, or someone told me I couldn't.  Maybe I didn't know how.  Maybe I thought it was silly.  Maybe the timing wasn't right.

All are reasons why I push my dreams aside.

Dreams are made for somedays.  Not yesterday, today, tomorrow, or never, but some...day.

Last year my one little word was search.  I was searching for something.  I found a seed that is now growing into something more, something better...a dream.

When I chose my one little word for 2014 - REACH,  I didn't choose it with reaching a dream as the focal point.

I chose it because I want to reach out to make my life bigger.  To reach out of my comfort zone.  To reach out to others.

Reaching my dream would just be a perk along the way.

But I do have a dream.  It may take a different path than what I had imagined, but it is mine and I am ready to reach out...to live it...to be it.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! - 1/1

Each Saturday  Ruth Ayres invites us to share and celebrate events from our week. Looking for small celebrations has certainly improved my outlook on my week. For that, I am certainly grateful to Ruth and to all of you who choose to celebrate with us.

First celebration of the new year!  My celebrations are usually connected in some way or have a theme.  This week is a mish-mash of small things.  Maybe if I number them, they will be a celebration of numbers!

1.  Celebrating an end to a great two week break.  It has been filled with food, family, books, writing, and a new addiction.  I seriously think I have become addicted to Twitter.  I am still scared of it, but wow it is so filled with learning opportunities.  Although it has been nice having two weeks off, I am ready to get back to a normal routine...just in time for snow days.  (Snow hits tonight followed by sub-zero temps)

2.  Celebrating a new small group table.  Before Christmas I received a new table for my classroom.  I have not used it yet because the last two weeks of school were filled with assessment and holiday activities.  I am super excited about this because it is so much bigger than what I had before.  Can't wait!

3.  Celebrating a new mounted projector.  This year I have gone from my cart in the middle of my room (where no students can sit behind me) to the projector on a small desk and the cart off to the side, to the projector mounted on the celling.  I can't believe how much more room I have now!

4.  Celebrating heroes.  My daughter has been a HUGE University of Tennessee fan since she a little girl.  She hopes to coach basketball, and Pat Summitt is her hero and role model.  She has attended many games and even met Pat in person.  This week she returned to UT and snapped a picture next to the new statue of Pat which was dedicated this past fall. Everyone has to have a hero!

5.  Celebrating professional development.  This is actually a pre-celebration.  I have been asked to give a PD for teachers in our corporation this Tuesday. My presentation is Blogging in the Classroom.  A little nervous but also excited because I think many teachers and students would enjoy using this in their classrooms.

Have a great week and may you be blessed with many things to celebrate!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Receiving Lots of Sunshine

The Sunshine Award has been making its way through blogs like the stomach flu, and I am lucky and honored to have caught it three times.

So, thank you Amy Rudd, Michelle Haseltine, and Julieanne Harmatz, and for thinking of me.

It has been fun reading everyone's random facts and answers.  Here are the rules:
  1. Acknowledge the nominating bloggers
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger creates for you
  4. List 11 bloggers
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they've been nominated.  (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)
11 Random Facts about Me
  1. I eloped with my husband 23 years ago.  He was the only child out of 7 who his mother did not see get married.  Good thing she liked me!
  2. I have two children, Megan 21 and Ethan 17.
  3. I was blessed to be a stay-at-home mom.
  4. I had a midlife crisis at the age of 40 and returned to school and became a teacher.  (Best decision I ever made with the exception of #1, #2, and #3.)
  5. I have a degree in fashion merchandising, but you couldn't tell by what is hanging in my closet now.
  6. I have an enormous fear of drowning and tornadoes.
  7. I have only read two Harry Potter books and really didn't like them.
  8. I am a "piler."  When I clean, I just move piles, but I can always tell you which pile something is in.
  9. I have two dimples.
  10. I am a retired quilter.
  11. I turn 50 in 17 days and if I told you it doesn't bother me...it is only a number...I would be lying.

I really don't want to answer 33 questions so I will choose 5 from each person.

5 Questions from Amy

1.  How do you prefer to read books, paper or electronic?  Definitely paper!  There is nothing like the feel and smell of cracking open a new book?  However...I did just download my first electronic book last night.  I am writing a review for the Nerdy Book Club and our public library no longer has it.  So, I had no other choice.

2.  What do you think is an important trend in education right now?  I don't know if this would be called a trend, but certainly important - the Common Core State Standards.  The state in which I live has put CCSS on hold which I am fine with, but I know teachers in other states view this as a major concern.

3.  What's your favorite family pastime?  Friday night pizza and donuts.  My husband and I have eaten pizza every Friday night since we started dating.  It is my favorite day of the week because I don't have to cook!

4.  Tell about three highlights of 2013.  These would be professional highlights.  In February I was recognized as a  Peabody Leader in Education.  In June I started my blog.  In December I was asked to do a professional development presentation which will be this Tuesday.  YIKES!

5.  Favorite snack food?  Anything salty!

5 Questions from Michelle

1.  What is your favorite quote and why?  Never underestimate the power of a great book in the hands of a teacher who knows how to use it. -- Steven L. Layne  This is from his book Igniting a Passion for Reading.  It has become my motto, my mantra, what I teach by.

2.  All time favorite book from childhood.  This is a tough one, but I would have to say the Trixie Belden Mystery Series.  She was a "cooler, hipper" version of Nancy Drew.

3.  What's your one little word for 2014?  My one little word for 2014 is REACH.  I want to reach out and have my life grow larger.  I wrote about my OLW here.

4.  What's the best part of your day?  I end every day with a hot bath and a book.  I can sit, soak and read for hours...or until someone starts knocking on the door wanting in.

5.  What are you reading right now?  I am reading The Center of Everything by Linda Urban.  It is one of my 2013 books still on my TBR list

5 Questions from Julieanne

1.  What motivated you to start blogging?  My one little word for 2013 was search.  I was searching  for several things in my life, and one of those was the confidence to write.  My blog became my avenue to express myself.  My biggest inspiration was Katherine Sokolowski at Read, Write, Reflect.  Now the interaction with this community is what keeps me going.

2.  What are you most proud of?  I am most proud of raising my two children.  They are great kids who are becoming wonderful young adults.

3.  What do you find exciting and challenging about growing up today?  The most exciting thing is also the most challenging thing - social media.  The information kids have at their finger tips is amazing, but I also see the issues kids have with being responsible.  I don't think they realize how putting pictures or words "out there" may come back some day to haunt them.  

4.  What did you like about school?  I liked everything about school except 2nd grade.  My teacher made me eat dried apricots and I never liked her or school the rest of the year.  

5.  Why teaching?  As I said before, I was a stay-at-home mom.  I volunteered at my children's school a lot.  When my son entered first grade, I did not like being home by myself.  I started substitute teaching and eventually became an aide in a first grade classroom.  I loved that job and decided I wanted to teach.  So, when I was 40, I returned to school and became a teacher.

My List of Bloggers
(Please do not feel obligated to participate!)

Trying to find people who have not already been chosen has become quite a challenge.  My list is a mixture of people consisting of new bloggers, new Slicers, bloggers new to me or who have been away for while.  Please take time to visit them and help spread a little sunshine!

My 11 Questions

1.  What is the best gift you have ever given?
2.  What is the one thing you would change about yourself?
3.  Which teacher had the biggest influence on you and why?
4.  What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?
5.  What is your most favorite teaching moment?  If not a teacher, family moment?
6.  Hot drink or cold drink?  
7.  What are you passionate about?
8.  What are you reading currently?
9.  Which season do you like the best and why?
10.  Did you have a favorite outfit as a kid and what did it look like?
11.  How/why did you start blogging?

Thank you so much for sharing yourself with us and please do not feel pressure to participate.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Check Off Your Reading List Challenge 2014

As I was reading everyone's posts reviewing their year of reading, I realized that I am about 6-8 months behind everyone.  I jumped on board with blogging and Goodreads this past summer.  After reading all of the recommendations, my TBR pile grew exponentially.  Books many of you were reading in January - June, I was reading in July - December.

Needless to say, I have a large stack of books from 2013 still on my shelf, and there are so many more I want to add.

So I am joining Gathering Books for the Check Off Your Reading List Challenge 2014


Carrie Gelson of There's A Book For That 

Maria Selke of Maria's Melenage

Linda Baie of Teacher Dance

who put together the hashtag #MustReadin2014

to celebrate crossing books off my TBR list.

My list consists of books that I own or have pre-ordered thanks to Christmas gift cards, but did not get read in 2013.  This doesn't even count the books I know I will purchase in 2014!

Happy Reading!

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord (2014)  Read 3/21
Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur (2009)
The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher (2013)
The Truth of Me by Patricia MacLachlan

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool (2013)
Maggie and Oliver by Valerie Hobbs (2013)  Read 6/25
The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore (2013)
Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco (2013)  Read 7/5

Rump:  The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff (2013) Read 5/29
A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff (2013)  Read 6/28
Paperboy by Vance Vawter (2013)   Read 1/1
Hold Fast by Blue Balliett (2013)


This Journal Belongs To Ratchet by Nancy Cavanaugh (2013)  Read 7/6
Doll Bones by Holly Black (2013)
The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt
The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes (2013)  Read 2/24

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu ((2013)
Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo (2013)
The Center of Everything by Linda Urban (2013)  Read 1/12
Bigger Than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder (2011)  Read 3/14

Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder  Read 3/2
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee  Read 3/20

The Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis (2013)
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd (2014)  Read 2/6
Jinx's Magic by Sage Blackwood ( 2014)
Duke by Kirby Larson (2013)  Read 6/6

Falling in Love with Close Reading by Christopher Lehman
Notice and Note by Kylene Beers (2013)
Book Love by Penny Kittle