Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I know the movie is already out and I COULD have just "read" the book that way.....but the other day as I strolled through the emptying aisles despairing the demise of the remaining Borders bookstore, Water For Elephants "called" and I put it into my arms.  I am glad I did - even if the book left me sad.  I think it is pretty significant that I feel the same about closing a bookstore and Water For Elephants.  This life we are all sharing is certainly not always fair and often "bad things" happen to good people (and stores) that change the course of their lives (and livlihoods). 
As I finished the book (it was calling me again early this morning), I really was overwhelmed with thoughts of how sharing our lives with others is such an important and compelling human behavior.  "Families" and "friends" are needed to share the good times as well as to protect us from ourselves in the lowest of times.  A kind word, a touch, and a gentle reminder that someone cares about us must be part of human nature.  Yet within families and friends, we often push others away..........figuring we need to cope on our own........fearing that others will determine the path of our future.....wanting to be in control of our own destiny......
I'd have to do some discussion with others who have read the book in order to clarify if others were left with the same impressions as me - of if it is the current events in my own circle that have "shaded" my thinking.  Probably a bit of both......

Monday, July 25, 2011


Last night, I made a grilled peach salad with arugula, prosciutto, and goat's milk cheese for dinner and it was DELICIOUS!  I have to admit that this was NOT a normal dinner for us and was unlike any dinner I have made in the many years we have been married; however, if was DELICIOUS and MUCH better than tonight's very predictable ratatouille!  In fairness of disclosure, my husband found the recipe scrolling through a House Beautiful magazine (a gift from my cousin who is trying to woo me away from Country Living magazine), cut it out and left in on the counter - hint, hint!!!!!. 
In comparing the two dinners, I got to thinking about the changes that we all make in our living, family and work environments every day.  Change is not always easy and SOMETIME change is NOT based on CHANGE for the better but rather change just to keep up with others! 
All this got me thinking about how we manage the day to day routines of our classrooms and our reading and writing workshop structure.  Change is not always bad and SOMETIMES, like in my grilled peach salad, there will be unexpected but great rewards for your effort.  We are all reluctant, perhaps by human nature, to change; however, it is in changing that we are growing and reflecting on our past and future performances. 
So tomorrow, during class, I will challenge my grad students to do a little guided writing in their classrooms.  I've learned another lesson for sure this week I for one will put that grilled peach salad at the top of my cooking for the year and will try to do better than predictable tomorrow night!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Reading and MORE Reading

I've found myself doing quite a bit of reading and writing (across a WIDE range of texts) this summer! 
In addition to the cookbooks I have been scouring (looking for kale recipes this weekend!), this week I read a number of articles on miscue analysis, running records, and reading records in preparation for our class discussion.  It started out as a quick review, but as I sat on the porch with a huge iced tea one afternoon, I found myself thinking a lot about this area of literacy assessment.  Now I am sure this does not sound like exciting summer reading to everyone, but it really got me thinking about the level of analysis we expect teachers to use in the reading /running records used to monitor students' reading progress.  In rereading Goodman's and Wilde's work on Miscue Analysis along with Clay and Foutas's work on running records, I was reminded that running records were meant to be an informal ongoing tool and never meant to substitute for a "good old fashioned" miscue analysis when trying to decipher the needs of an older or a struggling reader.  I do think this is where the DRA and now the F & P have tried to go with their "reading records" but I think that we need to differentiate our assessments of struggling learners even more!
Then, during a quick trip to Walmart, I picked up a copy of Heaven Is For Real.  Perhaps I got suckered in by the title or the morning talk show hype about the book, (yes I do catch Regis and Kelly sometimes on summer mornings) but I did grab the book (that was still in my car) as I went to check on my son after his early morning appendectomy!  While he rested from surgery, I read the book (not all that well written byt the way but a compelling story) and really would have loved to talk to someone else who had read it!  I encouraged my son to read it; but he quickly dismissed it as "fake" and written by the father.  I've thought a lot about this subject this week too and hope that the book is not a "fake"!  There has certainly been MANY situations when those who preach on Sundays have not maintained their credibility all week long; however, I really want to believe that NO parent would sacrifice their child for 5 minutes of fame and a bit of $$.
So to round out my reading and thinking about "running" and "5 minutes of fame" this week, I finished Running On Empty (started a while ago but never finished) because it ws sitting on my nightstand!  It really did help to put all my other reading this week into perspective as we all face challenges in our personal and professional lives. We ALL experience many diverse people and perspectives as we travel the "miles" of our lives.  While this book was a bit "boring" in the beginning, it did get me thinking....and reflecting....
Miscue Analysis Made Easy : Building on Student StrengthsTeaching for Comprehending and Fluency: Thinking, Talking, and Writing About Reading, K-8Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
Reading Miscue Inventory: From Evaluation To InstructionProduct Details

Monday, July 11, 2011

What's Organic Anyway? | One Organic Mama

Just Eating Healthy Foods

I actually started the last post a few days ago but some beautiful weather, some marvelous sunsets and a children's story I am writing (about the White Pond Monster - to be posted here soon) have kept me from this blog!!
I am, however, blogging today about my "new reading" and passion for the Summer of 2011 which is eating foods that are "more" organic and healthy than ever before.  We have eaten in a pretty healthy manner for many years and as my kids used to note, we shopped mostly around the perimeter of the grocery store when they were growing up.  In recent years, we have done lots of shopping at stores that focus on fruits and veggies - even if they are not necessarily organic. 
This summer, partially related to my goal to promote health in any way I can and partially related to my summer CSA at the Fishkill Farms, we are eating in a newer and even more healthy manner.  We are getting a lot of "new" veggies to try (garlic shoots ? chard ? ) and we are eating them all!  Last night I tried cooking organic Swiss chard (yummy).  Tonight, we are doing a beet and arugula salad!  I know that I am not alone in this trying to eat healthy (more organic) food as noted in the blog post of someone I watched grow from a pigtailed girl to a wise woman!
I am however in need of some good recipes which means shopping for cookbooks! 
I guess I am exploring a new genre this summer! 

Better Homes and Gardens Garden Fresh Meals

Just Reflecting

At the end of the school year, I always feel a bit overwhelmed with all the assessment and wrap up tasks that must be done.  It's not just the physical packing up of the room that will be "unpacked" in just a few weeks; it;s also the definition of learning as a phenomonae that "comes to an end" rather than as something that changes for a few weeks.  Let me explain what I am thinking.  Right now, there are teachers sitting on beach chairs who have bags filled with juicy novels and the latest from Heinemann.  There are children off at camps with bags filled with Wimpy Kids and comics.  The ads for back to school supplies have already hit the Sunday papers and most of us have not yet unpacked the bottoms of our school bags!  In addition, there are students and teachers in classrooms and outside of classrooms who are learning new ideas and reflecting on their past thinking.  There is a whole lot of "learning" that happens outside of classrooms!
As I looked around my not so perfectly clear house, I was reflecting that teaching is a lot like the household chores we all face.  Both are projects that are ever changing and demand we are always thinking about our next stepts!  There is always something to learn - and always something we could do - but most of the time it is best to reflect on where we have come - and what our next steps might be! 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Just reading.

In preparation for a new schoolyear or a new semester, I am always reflecting on what I have done in the past and what I might be able to do better!  To this end, I revisit the texts I have used and consider what new texts I might use.  For my grad school teaching, I can sometimes get texts to "review" and consider for adoption but often I end up buying a text in order to get it more quickly or because I have already used up my "freebie" allotment from publishers!  I always find sometime new or interesting in my professional reading even if the text I am reviewing / reading is not goign to work for the course I am teaching!  This was the case with a VERY interesting book I just finished: Differentiating Reading Instruction (Laura Robb).
Differentiating has become a bit of a "buzz concept" in schools during the past few years and strategies to move teaching away from teacher centered instruction and more towards student centered learning are clearly described in this texts.  What I liked most about the book is the way Robb describes assessment driven individualized and small group reading coupled with reader responses as essential parts of classrooms where all students learn to be readers.
I will definitely use her assessments and some of her strategies next year with my own students!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Just Thinking

I have been quiet on the blog for a while; however, that does not mean that I have been reading and thinking!  I've been busy wrapping up the school year (that is the topic for another post - note to self) and preparing for a new semester (Summer II).  In theory, it should be easy.  I have taught the course that starts anew on Tuesday for about 7 years!  I know the course requirements and should (theoretically) just be able to show up and teach; however, that is NOT the way it is for effective teachers OF ANY GRADE.  The well kept secret of teachers everywhere is that we are ALREADY thinking about what we will do next year / next semester.  We are the one profession that "restarts" every year and thus we are always trying to get "it" better!  I am confident that there are both kindergarten teachers AND high school teachers AND college professors EVERYWHERE who are thinking about how the next year / semester might be better.  In fact, the irony of all this is that the MOST effective teachers are the ones who are MOST reflective of their practice.  Perhaps that really is not all that ironic as I bet the best surgeons, plumbers, and cleaners are the ones who are reflecting and planning for the next time...all the time....
My reading for today: Interactive Storybook's not enough to just "read" to kids...