Saturday, July 25, 2015

Celebrate Turn #22

Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share and celebrate events, big or small, from our week.

Today I celebrate new teachers.

I consider myself lucky because I get to relive the excitement felt by new teachers, although vicariously through my daughter.  I have not seen her much this week because she has been working almost everyday, all day, in her new third grade classroom.

But I do get to see that new teacher excitement of... 

  • new supplies of crayons, markers, and notebooks
  • bulletin board ideas coming to life
  • libraires reorganized
  • pencil caddies full of pencils, sharpened and ready to go
  • desks arranged and rearranged and rearranged again trying to find the perfect spot
  • empty lesson plan books ready to be filled with wonderful ideas
And I am loving every minute of it!

Yes, Megan is a member of camp give-them-a-pencil!

Today I celebrate new teachers who give me hope that teaching is still a desired and fulfilling profession. 

Have a great week and may you find many celebrations along the way!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Little Book Box

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating a place to share our Slice of Life.  Read more slices or add you own here.

I have realized the older I get, the more I forget.  This has been especially true when it comes to remembering books I have read.  I am sure some of it is age, but I think the number of books I read also contributes to this problem.  

I knew I wanted to add more book talks this year in my classroom.  After reading about one minute book talks in Kelly Hallagher's new book, In the Best Interest of Students, I knew this was something I wanted to include.  Not remembering what books are about makes this idea difficult.  

Thinking about a possible solution, I knew I needed to start recording what I read, and I wanted something I could access easily.  I knew I did not want a binder; it would be too clunky.  I knew I did not want something digital; it could have technological problems when I need to access it.

I decided on a box.  A simple file card box.  

For each book I read, I will write a short book "commercial" or a quick note that I want to read to students and file it my box.  When it is time for a one minute book talk, I simply find the card and~voila~ I can "remember" what the book is about!  This will also be beneficial when students come and ask me about a book.  Instead of saying I have read it, but I don't remember it, I can simply grab the card and read it to them or let them read the card themselves.

Each card will have the title, the author, a very short summary about the book, a reference to a part I want to read in the book, and other books by the same author.  I also wrote the genre in the top right hand corner so I know where the book is located in my classroom library.

Hopefully this is a simple thing that will help me remember, because unfortunately, I am not getting any younger and I do not plan to stop reading any time soon.

Monday, July 13, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What Are You Reading?  Be sure and stop by to participate or see what others are reading and recommending this week.

What I Have Read Lately

The Last Best Days of Summer by Valerie Hobbs

This is a book about growing up, growing old, and growing different. I have to admit I was a little skeptical about how the author could bring together a middle school girl who wants to be popular, a grandmother with the beginning stages of Alzheimer's, and a boy with Downs Syndrome. But Hobbs creates a beautiful story connecting the lives of these three characters through a lesson about centering - that place to go to when you want to do the right thing.

Masterminds by Gordon Korman

This book was amazing.  It will probably end up being my favorite read of the summer and maybe even the year - it was that good.  It is classic Korman in that it is a page-turning adventure.  But his twist in the plot is what makes it "masterful!"  I cannot tell you about it because it would ruin the surprise - so you will just have to read it for yourself!

How to Outswim a Shark without a Snorkel by Jess Keating

This is the second book in the series, My Life is a Zoo.  I love the main character, Ana, for her spunk and her curiosity about growing up.  I see so many of my students in her.  I read this book after I heard Kate Roberts speak at All Write.  This was the first book in which I used some of Kate's ideas about writing about reading.  I found it very interesting that I was able to write long about something deep from a fun book.  This will be an excellent lesson for me when we return to school.

Fort by Cynthia DeFelice

Fort is a coming-of-age story about two friends a fort...for the summer.  But at the same time, they get revenge on bullies who make fun of a boy with Autism and find an unexpected friend.  This is a perfect read for those students who think they do not like to read, especially boys.

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

I was one of the lucky people who received an ARC from nErDcamp in Michigan last week.  This book was everything people said it would be.  It is a story of a boy who has an imaginary friend, Crenshaw, who seems to appear when Jackson needs him most.  This book is due out in September and is one you and your students will want to read.

Currently Reading

The writing in this book is beautiful.  So many lines I wanted to highlight and return to read again.

On Deck

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Celebrate Turn #21

Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share and celebrate events, big or small, from our week. 

Today I celebrate pencils.

Some of you may think this is an odd celebration.  I would too, if I hadn't heard Ruth's presentation at nErDcamp in Michigan this week.

I know I can never adequately summarize her presentation.  Because I was hanging on her every word, I did not take great notes.  So just let me tell you about my take-away from her session.

My teaching team has two different views on what to do when students come to class without a pencil.  Some think we are not teaching students to be responsible if we constantly give a pencil to students who come to class without one. Some teachers do not want to continuously replenish their stock of pencils because they have given students all of their supply.

Then others think, how are they supposed to do the work if they do not have a pencil.

I have always belonged to camp "give them a pencil."  Now after hearing Ruth's presentation, I still have the belief but with a different perspective.

Ruth explained that students' basic needs to be met before creativity, or specifically writing, can happen.  She showed a jar of colored pencils which represented  their many different stories, unique stories full of color which need to be written.

She then had us list behaviors we see when students do not want to write.  For example, staring out the window, fake writing, erasing everything they wrote because it was not perfect, and not having a pencil.  She wrote each one of these behaviors on a piece of tape and slowly began placing them on the jar so that we could no longer see their "stories."

Ruth then explained that these behaviors can represent an unmet need, a need we may never know about or a need we choose to ignore.

These behaviors cover up the stories which reside inside of them - the stories they may never write and we may never read.

If we can recognize this behavior, we can change our reaction.  

When we change our reaction, we give them hope.

Think about your reactions when a student does not have a pencil.  Maybe now you understand why...

Today I celebrate pencils.

Just for clarification...these are words from Ruth's presentation.  I in no way want to be given credit for them.  This post is validation and celebration that I am doing the right thing by giving students pencils.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What Kind of Teacher Am I?

This is a series of blog posts I hope to write over the summer to reflect on my first year as a 6th grade middle school language arts teacher.  Donalyn Miller said this week at nErDcampMI, teachers need to be reflective.  This is my attempt. 

I went to this UNconference with my teacher-friend, Kristen.  It was a six hour drive, so we had a lot of time for our own "car PD."  We talked about new ideas we wanted to add, changes we wanted to make, and basically tried to solve the world's educational problems.

During one of our conversations, we talked about the teachers who kids do not want to have.  I looked at her and said, "I don't ever want to be the teacher who kids don't want."

I have been thinking about this since our discussion.  I do not need to be the cool teacher.  I mean, I am 50+ years old for crying out loud.  Nobody's cool at 50 in the eyes of a middle schooler.

I do not have to be liked.  The world is full of people we do not like, but we all must learn to get along.

I began to think about what I want students to remember about me and the time they spent in my classroom.


helped me when I was confused and 
celebrated when I finally understood

pushed me when I needed challenged and

smiled when I pushed myself 

respected me when my behavior didn't meet her expectation and

praised me when I did it right

avoided overusing the red pen and

gave me positive feedback when I wrote something well

understood when I didn't have time to read and

handed me a book that was "just for me" when I needed one

but most of all...

she cared about me when I felt no one else did

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Celebrate Turn #20

Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share and celebrate events, big or small, from our week. 

Today I celebrate turns...

which also happens to be my one little word this year.

I celebrate the the two year anniversary of this space, my blog.  My first official post was in April of 2013, but I did not start writing regularly until July.  When I think about how this space has turned my teaching life around, I am amazed.  The connections I have made, the lessons I have learned, and the confidence I now have as a person who writes, are all wrapped up in this little space.  

Unfortunately, this space can steal much of my time and control many of my thoughts.  Because of that, I decided I needed to unplug for awhile.  I spent a few weeks away from social media so that I could take my turn.  I finally got into a routine of walking and eating better which was the reason for choosing my OLW.  Read that story here.  I feel better, and the best part is - I do not feel guilty.  

This was also the year for life turns.  I have written before that both of my kids graduated this year.  Last week my daughter officially received her teaching license and will be teaching third grade this fall, and my son registered for classes at our local university.  It has been a proud parent week!

When fall arrives, it will be another time for turns as they each discover their new paths and try to find their way.  It is not easy as a parent to stand back and watch or to let them go, but I guess that is why we give them roots and wings - to make it on their own, but to remember from where they came.

Where am I headed
along this path 
called life
finding my way
one day at a time

Today I celebrate turns.

Have a great July 4th weekend and may you find many celebrations along the way.