My 1st grade classroom is not a quiet, orderly place.
Students are constantly moving, thinking, talking, reading and writing.
I do my best to help my students find success.



September 30, 2014

Thanking My Village

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at Two Writing Teachers


It takes a village to run a classroom.

It's important to thank the members of your village.
Today I take a minute to do just that.

From the custodians who sweep up the scraps and talk football and home improvement,
to the resource friends who make sure
you have the best read alouds,
the best classroom setup,
and are the best support system
a girl could ask for
(including emergency pie on Saturday nights).

From the family and friends
who are patient and willing to help,
to the parents
who write notes like
"no worries" and "thank you."

From the teammates who say
today is the day
you step outside 
the building to get some lunch
to the secretaries and nurse that tell me
"No question is too silly.  Thanks for asking.  I'll help you."

From the support team
who brainstorms and brings fidgets
and puppets and posters

to the students,
the energetic
enthusiastic
smiling
students
who forgive my mistakes
("You said meet me on the table instead of carpet!")
and draw me beautiful pictures
and remind me
why I come to school
each day.

P.S. Thanks to Lynn for the writing nudge

September 2, 2014

Snail's Pace

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Two Writing Teachers


It's the start of week 3 in the new classroom.  The big, disorganized, can't remember where anything is, classroom.

I've decided to take a snail's pace when it comes to the cabinets and shelves.  I inherited many materials from last year's teacher (thank you to J!) but there are also YEARS of books and other materials from previous teachers who left many "treasures" behind.

I'm not discouraged by a classroom full of supplies.  Really.  I just wish I had the time to sort, purge and organize.  (Don't laugh at that last word!)

Instead, I'm spending time really thinking about instruction.  I'm being mindful when it comes to reader's workshop, writing time and math. I'm taking my time in launching the Daily 5.  We are going slow to grow, as my friends Michelle and Karen always say.

I'm trying to find one-on-one time with each student each week. I'm complimenting good behavior more than I'm correcting mistakes.  I'm letting students explain directions to each other.  I'm asking students for feedback.  I'm apologizing for misplacing the timer (for the 5th time!!!!) and forgetting to bring the cushions (I fixed that today.)

I'm trying to keep a snail's pace.  I'm building relationships and trust with my students.  I'm taking each day as they come.

I'm asking my colleagues for help.  I'm trying not to whine (it's hard!).  I'm trying to smile and get lots of sleep.

Taking a snail's pace is new for me.  I think I like it.

August 17, 2014

A Few Thoughts for the College Girls

Dear College Girls,
(Anne, Chloe, Katie L., Katie S., Kelsey, Lindsey & Mikayla... this is for you!)

Congratulations on meeting your big goal!  You're in COLLEGE now!

WOO HOO!
HOORAY!

OH CRAP!


I remember sitting in my dorm room on the first night.  I had moved in early to attend a retreat with the honors college (Surprised?  Me, too!).  It was dark.  It was verrrrrryyyy quiet.  I had already talked with my back-home boyfriend on the phone.  My parents and brother were gone.

It was very lonely.  It was 1987.  No cell phones.  No social media.  No Netflix.  Wahhhhh!

Fast forward two days later.  I had fun on the retreat and made a new friend.  I met three girls on my floor that were juniors (they had lots of survival tips).  My roommate wasn't bad.  The girls next door were nice.  College was much less lonely!

The most terrifying thing to do in your life is something new.  Something unknown.  I think you are all really brave for heading to new towns on your own to follow your dreams!

I couldn't write a blog post for you COLLEGE ladies without giving some advice.  I know you like it LOVE IT when I give advice!  Here goes:
  1. Don't spend the whole year in your dorm room.  Leave your door open when you're up for some socializing.  Talk with people at the sinks and in the food lines.  Be yourself - you will make lots of friends!
  2. GO TO CLASS, even when you're too tired, too crabby, too uninterested.  I got a B in Introduction to Anthropology by going to class, taking minimal notes and doing the Northern Star crossword puzzle each lecture.
  3. Join a club, organization, sport or group.  If you don't love it, pick something else, but try to be involved on campus or in the community. It will make the college experience more worthwhile!
  4. Get a pretty planner and write down your assignments, tests, and projects.
    (My lack of organization still bites me in the a** on a regular basis. You will excel at this!)
  5. Enjoy yourselves.  Really.  Most adults would go back to the college years in a New York minute.  Many of us moms are SUPER jealous and want to live vicariously through you. But we promise not to.  This is your turn.  
Be careful, have fun, and love every minute of these years, even when it gets tough.  We (moms, dads, friends, siblings, former teachers) are ALL here for you.  Just text/call/write when you need something (read:  I will send you chocolate).  We understand you have lots of mixed feelings on an hourly basis.  

Dear College Girls, you WILL be AWESOME!

Kid President knows it!  We know it, too!

  



August 12, 2014

Transitions

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Two Writing Teachers
Yesterday I put one foot in front of the other and walked toward room 107.  It's my new classroom at the elementary school I've worked at for 11 years.  Our custodians warned me that there would be dust (new floors) and lots of desks (nowhere else to put them).I stopped and chatted with a couple of colleagues.  Then I finally went in.

Blank slate classroom
I started moving desks into groups, and I wiped out my desk.  I started emptying boxes and wiping down counters.  My oldest daughter, Lindsey, arrived with lunch.  She helped me angle the desks and move some tables.  She made a carpet area and picked the bulletin board colors.

Then she noticed the room number on my door.

"Next week, I'll be in room 107 as well."

As I start a new adventure this fall, my oldest daughter will be starting a new chapter in her life.  We move her to college next week.  Her dorm room number matches my classroom number in a interesting coincidence.  

We are doing our best to stay calm, but the shopping and organizing and gathering and planning put us at odds at times.  To deal with the stress, my husband happily travels for work each week and my youngest daughter slips on headphones and retreats to her room.

I can't predict how the next week will go as I prepare for 18 (as of today) smiling six-year-olds to enter my new room.  I know there will be groans, laughter and lots of chocolate.  I think the roller coaster of emotions will be similar for my daughter as she prepares to leave home for the first time.

Transitions are part of life.  We all need to find ways to make them successful.  Luckily I have an excellent support system, including my family, friends, coworkers, online PLN and writing community.

Wish us luck!


July 16, 2014

Reading in the Wild Part 2 #cyberpd

Today is the second part of our #cyberpd conversation about Donalyn Miller and Susan Kelley's awesome book, Reading in the Wild.  Check out the conversation over at Laura Komo's Ruminate and Invigorate today.  Last week's feedback can be found at Cathy Mere's Reflect and Refine and we're headed to Michelle Nero's Literacy Zone next week.  Whew!

Let's talk about chapter 3, Wild Readers Share Books and Reading with Other Readers, and chapter 4, Wild Readers Have Reading Plans.

Bring on the Book Love
On page 89 this quote rang true for me, "Successful learning communities require cultivation, and I spend a lot of time forging relationships with my students and helping them connect to each other."

I've tried my best to connect my past resource students to books and fellow resource classmates, but it's tricky when you only see them for 40 minutes a day and then return them to a classroom that may or may not have the same book love.  I've felt for many years that I'm the tuckpointer in my students' brick building.  I'm the person fixing the chipped bricks, filling in the cracks and trying to keep up with the weathering.  I've done what I can to help students fit into their classrooms full of students who can read circles around them.  I've given my all to helping them find books that they might enjoy.  I've read aloud books to them that they aren't ready to try alone, but their friends are all talking about it.

This year I'm a little giddy about the idea of having one set of students all day long.  (I'm also feeling exhausted already because they are six years old.)  I've always been one to figure out what makes each of them tick.  I'm ready to start handing books to kids and building a classroom full of reading and book love.

Track Your Book Love
On page 118 I had a brilliant idea (that I'm sure I heard from someone else!) to use one of the digital picture frames gathering dust in my closet to display all our read aloud titles.  This year I'm all about the visuals.  I know I have a couple students that are not yet reading.  Visuals work for everyone (especially me) and I will be snapping pictures of our read alouds (perhaps this is a student job!) and uploading them to the digital picture frame.

Create Reading Goals
I keep feeling that some of the record keeping, list making and book review ideas will be tricky for first graders.  This comes from my underestimating what these digital natives can do.  I definitely want to help the students set reading goals for various genres and series.  I'm just trying to figure out the best way.  I DEFINITELY want them to have a list of some sort when we head to the library.   I know most of the best-loved books (read: Elephant and Piggie, Babymouse) will be missing from the shelves and I want the kiddos to have more than just one book on their mind.  I'm sure if I ask the students, they will be the ones who have a solution.  They will figure out what works for them:  list, pictures... something!

Reading All the Time
I definitely want, like Donalynn and Susan, for my students to realize that reading is something you can always do.  I hope to make book bags with my students so they can find time to "read in the edges" during long waits and car rides.  I hope to encourage my students to get their family to bring them to the library and rediscover the joy of books.  I have lots of hopes and dreams, and I think I can spark some book love by being a voracious reader myself.  Reading, like music, dark chocolate and time with friends and family, feeds my soul.  I'm able to lose myself in a book.  I hope some of my reading habits will rub off on my students.

July 15, 2014

Listening

Read more Slice of Life stories at
Two Writing Teachers
Today my brother and I had a long talk.  The good thing is that he did most of the talking.  I did most of the listening.

He has lots of different struggles, some big, some small.  Struggles that most of us have.  The problem is that he feels like there's no one in the family that can listen without judging him for his choices.  I understand that.  I usually keep my big problems to myself and vent all my little problems to anyone who will listen.

I don't know if my brother will make any huge life changes or decisions based on our two-hour conversation.  I do hope he feels like he was heard and not judged.  I hope I was a good listener.  He needs understanding and ideas to move forward.  I hope he will find some positive moments in his life this week.

July 9, 2014

Reading in the Wild #cyberpd Part 1

I'm excited to be in a virtual book club with Cathy Mere (Reflect and Refine), Laura Komos (Ruminate and Invigorate) and Michelle Nero (Literacy Learning Zone) and many others.  We've chosen to read Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller and Susan Kelley.

Please share your thoughts on Cathy's Post!  Here are my thoughts on Chapters 1 & 2:

Growing Readers
This fall, I'm moving from reading support to 1st grade.  This will be my first classroom experience since student teaching many years ago.  I'm excited to have a whole class to learn alongside.  I will have a mix of strong and developing readers.  A few quotes from Donalyn resonated with me as I try to design our literacy block and create goals for our classroom community.

"Our students must see themselves as readers, or they will never embrace reading beyond school." (p.9)
I am so excited to have first graders.  They have a great love for school, books and characters (Elephant! Piggie!).  My job is to empower all of them to read like crazy, both in and out of school.  I am thinking of asking my mom to sew colorful book bags so that everyone has a bag to keep their books.  I plan to teach each student to keep a book with them at all times so they don't miss out on any reading opportunities.

I'm also planning to pick the brains of every primary teacher I know to figure out how first graders can best keep track of their reading (to be proud!) and respond to reading.  I've been an avid user of Kidblog with my intermediate students, and I hope to help my first graders navigate blogging as a way to have conversations with peers and parents about their reading.

Read Alouds

I was not surprised to read that Donalynn reads aloud to her middle school students every day.  I see read aloud time as a non-negotiable part of my literacy block.  I remember hearing author Jim Aylesworth speak about his first day teaching first grade.  He discovered that the secret to keeping his students engaged was through read alouds.

"They (read alouds) provide prime opportunities to introduce students to genres they often avoid, like poetry, biographies, and nonfiction." (p. 49)

I will use read alouds to make sure my reading diet, and my students' reading diets, are balanced.  Poetry is especially fun to read and short non-fiction is great for curious first grade minds.  Biographies can help our littlest learners understand why we don't have school on Columbus Day.

I plan to have a whole bucket of my favorite read alouds, and I will encourage my students to share their favorite books from home.  I'm trying to figure out how to best track our read alouds... perhaps an infographic of the book covers?  Maybe a list?  I am hoping to enlist the help of our library staff in labeling some shelves in the library with character pictures (The Pigeon, Babymouse, Katie Woo) to better help our youngest readers (and English learners) find favorite books.

Yes, my head is swimming with all the ideas and questions and hopes and dreams for my first grade classroom.  I hope you are excited about returning to school with lots of ideas from Donalynn and Susan, as well as all the other bloggers!

Thanks for stopping by... I welcome all your ideas, comments and gems!