My K-5th small resource room 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.



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

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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!

July 1, 2014

It's All About Allison

Beginning in May and continuing into June, we teased our younger daughter, Allison, that it was Lindsey Month.  Lindsey is our oldest daughter who recently graduated high school and tore her ACL.

Allison has happily taken on the role of "lovely assistant."  She took pictures at prom, she fetches items for her sister, and she has done her best to be part of the support team.
Lindsey and Allison
But this week is all about Allison!

Last weekend Allison danced in her studio's recital.  Her ballet number was lovely.  Three days of performing with her friends was fun and exciting for her.  I was a little emotional during the finale as my daughter was in the back row among the other high schoolers.  Wasn't it just yesterday that she was a tiny tot in the front?

Recital
Proud Momma














Today Allison finishes her summer school course.  It will be awesome tomorrow morning when we don't need to set the 6:15 a.m. alarm!  Hooray for sleeping in!

On Thursday, Allison will turn 16 years old.  Oh boy.  I can't believe it!  We've helped her learn to drive over the past year.  Next week she will take her driving test.  This fall she will be a junior in high school.

I. Will. Not. Get. Emotional.

Ah, yes I will.  My baby girl is growing up.  She's crazy fun, silly and full of joy.  Sure, the dark clouds float in every now and then.  She's highly distractible.  The girl takes 50 minute showers!  Arrrgggghh!

But that's what makes her Allison.


 



June 17, 2014

Circle of Friends

My oldest daughter, Lindsey, had a very interesting end to her senior year of high school.  This spring she played her third season of varsity lacrosse.  The team was meshing beautifully and working well together, but many injuries, illnesses and concussions plagued the team throughout the season.  Excitedly, the girls entered the playoffs.  In the first 17 seconds of the first game, Lindsey got possession of the ball.  She turned and fell.  Pop! The athletic trainer's years of experience led him to believe (correctly) that her ACL and meniscus were torn.

You can only imagine the rush of emotions that followed.  While her leg didn't really hurt (but her knee was very swollen), Lindsey's heart was broken.  In her mind, she had let her team down.

The girls took their grief over Lindsey's injury and turned it into a force.  They played their hearts out.  We spent the evening in the trainer's office, and then we heard the news.  The team had won the game!!!

Lindsey commented later that week that she was awestruck by all the positive texts, tweets and hugs she received from her teammates and friends.  #DoItForLRay was their hashtag.  Lindsey and I talked about how she found out, through a terrible event, how much her friends cared about her.  We decided that people need to hear caring thoughts, especially when things are going right.

The next few weeks went by in a blur: senior picnic, senior breakfast, prom, a trip to the beach, and graduation.  All with a wrapped knee, and a smile on her face, once she decided to make the most of the situation.

Three days ago she had surgery to fix her knee.  The texts, snapachats, and visitors are helping keep her spirits high.  It's not the summer before college that Lindsey imagined, but I think she will look back and treasure the time spent with her friends.

June 3, 2014

A note to my students

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Two Writing Teachers


Dear reading students, 

This has been an EXCELLENT year, don’t you agree??

I am so proud of ALL of you.  Every one of you made progress with your reading, writing and thinking. 
You have all grown smarter -- your brains are sponges that continue to grow with all your learning.
I hope I have helped you to be excited about books, reading and learning.

I know I have learned many things from all of you. 
I learned that I need to give really good directions.
I learned that I need to show you examples of work.
I learned ways to help you remember to read every day.

Thank you for being respectful, funny and kind students. I have smiled and laughed many times this year. 
It’s so much fun to be a teacher. 
It’s truly the best job in the world.

May 6, 2014

An attempt at backwards planning

Read more Slice of Life stories at
Two Writing Teachers
A concept that I'm trying to even attempt is backwards planning.  As I face the month of May with a graduating high school senior, an involved sophomore, a traveling husband, and a case load of 18 developing readers, I have no choice but to try this.

My husband recommended using a calendar.  I explained to him that there is no way that I am ready for a calendar in my planning process.  I have yet to even discover what needs to be done for each event, let alone figure out what day I needed to do it!  (After 23 years of marriage, he should know I can't find my way out of a paper bag!)

I sat down Sunday night with my daughters, a Sharpie, and a stack of colorful notebook paper.  I started a page for every upcoming event.  I dumped our thinking on the paper.  I listed things we needed to do.  I listed what was already done just so I could check some things off!  (See "date" on Prom paper... tee hee)

Here's my brainstorming.  It's far from a backwards plan, but it's something.


I am hoping to add some dates to the to do lists.  I know I have deadlines.  Now I have to abide by them!

Wish us luck - we hope to thrive, not merely survive this crazy, exciting month and all the fun and joy May brings!