Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cleaning and couture

Ever wonder what teachers do when the kids all leave for the summer? This is the fifth in a series of posts (I don't know how many) about what teachers do during the summer. I started writing this on the first day of "summer" because SOME people (who are not teachers) think we party all summer. But now you will know the truth. 
After the hard work of book sorting, they begin the tedious work of cleaning out the clutter.  Meanwhile, teachers are reflecting about the year. They think about what went well and what did not go  Then,some days,  they head back to school to review curriculum maps based on new ideas and mandates such as the CCSS. They draft and revise Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions.  Thye talk about best practice and standards and how it can / might / should / will fit together with real teachers and real kids in real schools.  It's hard work and it makes your mind rather than your body tired.
Then, usually on a Saturday morning, teachers take a moment to look around their own homes and are amazed at the messes and cobwebs that have accumulated while they were busy teaching, cleaning classrooms and writing curriculum maps.  So then, teachers start cleaning closets and stairwells, preferrable while they are still in "working" high energy mode. 
One ShoulderNow in MY CASE, the real reason I got going on the cobwebs so fast was because I was planning some sewing - and that is MORE fun than cleaning - so I want to get to it sooner. In order to enter the world of high couture I need to find a clean space to work. 

This cleaning (and sewing for some of us) is hard work too, but the teachers who do they are grateful they are teachers and they reflect on their friends who chose corporate lives while they embark on these summer missions of cleanliness and couture :)  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

You know that feeling: Happy, sad, & reflective rolled into one?

I suspect that IF you are 1) a teacher or have been 2) a student, THEN you know exactly the feeling I am about to try to describe. 

It's the last day of summer school (Summer I) for my graduate students.  Most of them have been working during the day and taking my class in Beginning Reading and Writing in the late afternoon / evening for the past 6 weeks.  It is an intense course during an equally intense time of the year when we are all trying to juggle readings, case studies, powerpoints, projects, report cards, end of the year school events, cleaning out classrooms, and packing up.  This class during this busy time of year is always a huge undertaking (which is probably why my husband has grilled so many dinners and made so many pots of tea lately)! 

In spite of the frenetic nature of this season of life, I must admit that I will really miss this class - a lot!  Things have not been perfect from my end (missing readings from Eres) and sometimes I have flown into class looking like a sweaty mess (I was packing up my room in 100* heat) but they consistently been smiling and ready to read, write, listen and talk about the power of literacy in our lives.  They have a lot to say becuase they found time to read, think outside of class times in their own busy lives. 

As I sat reflecting on their personal choice projects and on their case studies, I am sure that students in many classrooms for many years will be blessed by the teachers who have come into my lives during this busy but wonderful season.  It's like the last day of school - happy (sigh of relief) but sad at the same time (I really will miss them.)  As one of my 1st graders said last week, "I gonna miss 'dis reading club a lot of lots!"

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Future of Education is in good hands

I challenge my graduate students to share their writing with others because we ALL write to share our thoughts with others.  As I read this and other final reflections on the semester, I am confident the future of education is in good hands with teachers who are critical thinkers, active researchers, and reflective practioners.!/2012/06/curtain-call-semester-at-glance.html

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Grad Students ROCK and RAP and REFLECT TOO

I feel compelled to share another of my grad student's phenomenal reflections.  The future of literacy is definitely in good hands! Check this out!

curriuclum reviewing, reflecting and revising

Ever wonder what teachers do when the kids all leave for the summer? This is the fourth in a series of posts (I don't know how many) about what teachers do during the summer.  I started writing this on the first day of summer because SOME people (who are not teachers) think we party all summer.  But now you will know the truth.

After the hard work of book sorting, they begin the tedious work of cleaning out the clutter. There is something very special that happens in a quiet and empty but usually hot and sticky classroom. Teachers are reflecting about the year. They think about what went well and what did not go quite so well. They think about the kids who grew exponentially and those that floundered at times.  Teachers think about read alouds and mentor texts and earmark ideas for the next year.

Some days when the sun peeks over the horizon, those same teachers head back to school to review curriculum maps based on new ideas and mandates such as the CCSS.  Like any learning, the CCSS make us reflect on our practice and question how we can do it better.  We draft and revise.  We think and plan and then we edit drafts.  Then we go back and do some more research to clarify points and revise and draft some more.  It's hard work, similar to the writing work our students do all year during our writing workshops.  It's the kind of working that makes your mind rather than your body tired. 

Yesterday, near the end of the day, when the neurons all over the room were firing fast and furiously, one of my colleagues thought she smelled something burning!  I suspect she did!  We were pretty hot at that point and there was an energy sizzling in every corner of that room!  At the end of the day, we were as tired as if we had worked all day cleaning our hot, sweaty classrooms.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Book Clubs: Verse

A Fabulous Idea
By: Jessica B.
There is this fabulous idea
You see
That motivates students to read, read, read
And become the learners they want to be. 
It gives students a chance to choose
From different genres and poetry too!
Mystery, adventure, horror, and humor
They even want to start sooner! 
The students meet once a week
To talk about the books they read.
Talking leads to lots of thoughts
And students leave with more than they brought.  
What is that? Standards you say?
They are included every day!
Reading, listening, thinking, and speaking
Growing and learning is what we’re seeking.  
Now what could this idea be?
It’s Book Clubs
You see
And all that they can be.


Ever wonder what teachers do when the kids all leave for the summer? Now you will know. After the hard work of book sorting, they begin the tedious work of cleaning out the clutter. Amazingly, for effective teachers everywhere, there is something very special that happens while all the cleaning and sorting is taking place in a quiet and empty but usually hot and sticky classroom.  Teachers are reflecting about the year.  They think about what went well and what did not go quite so well.  They think about the kids who grew exponentially and those that floundered at times.  Teachers think about the lessons and units that excited them all and about the times where teaching and learning were less stimulating.  Teachers think about read alouds and mentor texts and earmark ideas for the next year.  In true confession, effective teachers do not stop reflecting when they get to the bottom of the piles of books and papers.  They continue to reflect as they attend workshops, read professional books, and even when they sit on the beach.  Teachers everywhere do this to prepare for the next school year because great endings make fantastic beginnings :)

clutter clearing

Ever wonder what teachers do when the kids all leave for the summer?  Now you will know. After the hard work of book sorting, they clean out the clutter. It too is hard work if you are the kind of teacher who focuses on conferencing with their readers and writers to the bitter end of the school year.  Sometimes there are very important papers than get put in piles and you have to go through all the piles to figure out what is important and what is not.  Sometimes, you have to take a few things home and get them sorted so that you can use them effectively in September!  Teachers everywhere do this to prepare for the next school year because great endings make fantastic beginnings :)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

book sorting

Ever wonder what teachers do when the kids all leave for the summer?  Now you will know.  First, they sort the books like this.  It is hard work.  The books need to be matched to partners that are all over the room.  Teachers everywhere do this to prepare for the next school year because great endings make fantastic beginnings :)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Gifts for teachers?


I adore a pair of earrings that I got from a student the other day.  I recently pierced my ears, an act that went unnoticed by my husband but not the 7 year old girls in my reading club.  While I have given lots of teacher gifts myself (to my kids' teachers) the season of gifting spurred the bi-annual question I ponder when some kids come laden with gifts.  Should professional teachers, who are paid to do their jobs, be gifted by families appreciative for the service to their child?

Did you give your obstetrician a "mug" after the safe delivery of your child? 
Do you give your lawyer earrings after she settled your divorce?
Did you give your plumber who came out on a Saturday night a new carry bag after he unclogged your drain?

I question the "gifting teachers" tradition that lingers in in the 21st Century. (Admittedly, this is primarily and elementary school issue.) It appears that the gifting of teachers is an age old practice that goes back to the proverbial apple for the teacher in order to put her in a good mood for the day!  Food items were the most common gifts back in the ol' days when teachers made little money, lived in rented rooms in the homes of students, and were under the constant surveillance of local boards. Times have changed.  We are now professionals with advanced degrees who teach not just for a few years, until we find a husband, but men and women dedicated to careers providing students with the foundations they need to be lifelong learners.  We study the art as well as the science of teaching and know our content well.  We know child psychology and development as well as the periodic table (most elementary school teachers have not looked at this lately, but we still understand what it means.) 

Truth be told, some of my colleagues feel differently and are actually critical of families who they think should have gifted them. I disagree with those colleagues on this point. I think do what we do because we care about every child and because it is the right thing to do. We have worked hard to be considered professionals and thus we need to be treated as such.  A note of gratitude is a treasured thanks to me.  A couple of homemade (or store bought) cookies is pretty neat too!  Donating a book to the library or the classroom in thanksgiving for a great year would also be pretty special. 

PS Some of you reading this may totally disagree with my views on this (or any other) point.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Teaching Lesson On March Madness

On my first evening of "vacation" I am reading Education Week and I come across this article about motivating students to learn history.  At first I thought, "OMG" but the more I thought the more conflicted I became.  It really is a way to help students think deeply about people in history.  It really is a way to get them to do research and present it to others. It really does mesh with the Danielson model of effective teaching practices.  It makes students active learners and advocates for their ideas.   
But, can we really pick out the most courageous figure in US history? There are heroes among us every day whose courageous decisions and actions impact the lives of many people.  Doctors, nurses. lawyers, judges, police officers, firemen, stock brokers, researchers, mothers, fathers, coaches, name a few.....each has the potential to change the course of history.
I really would love this idea with an assurance that students leave with the ENDURING UNDERSTANDING that THERE ARE MANY COURAGEOUS PEOPLE WHO HAVE HELPED TO SHAPE OUR LIVES AND THE COURSE OF OUR COUNTRY. 

Modeling Lessons on March Madness

A commentary piece on hones in on Josh Hoekstra, a U.S. history teacher in Minneapolis who has found a way to captivate his students' attention: His teaching curriculum, called Teach With Tournaments, is modeled after college basketball's March Madness tournament. The curriculum aims to immerse and engage students in the lives of historical figures through a similar competitive tournament that goes on throughout the school year.
This past year in Teach With Tournaments, students picked a historical figure, researched his or her accomplishments, and then prepared to argue why that person was the "most courageous figure in U.S. history." The students' choices were paired off in the bracket system, and winners had to use new arguments to move through each round.
Hoekstra told CNN that his students became emotionally invested in the game as they researched their figures and competed with one another. "Kids who 'hate history' are the ones who never were exposed to the human side of the people they are studying," said Hoekstra, who teaches at Rosemount High School.
A student who researched Tom Burnett, one of the heroes of Flight 93 on September 11, cried when she lost in the first round because she had "become deeply connected" to this figure, said Hoekstra. "To see this type of passion from a 16-year-old girl in a public high school classroom is rewarding beyond words," he added.
According to Hoekstra, another student, whose father was ill with cancer, was able to identify with the figure he was researching because the war hero had lost his father at a young age. Similarly, a student in the class with special needs felt a strong connection to U.S. Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Michael Murphy who had once defended a special needs student who was being bullied in school.
Hoekstra also told CNN that Teach With Tournaments is "replicable for any subject or any classroom," and that many teachers across the country are already using it.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What Will Matter

This is PART of a much longer poem that I came across again this week.
What Will Matter 
by Michael Jacobson
So what will matter?
How will the value of your days be measured?
What will matter is not what you bought
but what you built, not what you got but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success
but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned
but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity,
compassion, courage, or sacrifice
that enriched, empowered or encouraged others
to emulate your example.
What will matter is not your competence
but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew,
but how many will feel a lasting loss when your gone.
What will matter is not your memories
but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered,
by whom and for what.
Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident.
It's not a matter of circumstance but of choice.
Choose to live a life that matters.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

If you have reluctant writers or children who have been robbed of comprehension

If you have reluctant writers or children who have been robbed of comprehension, you need to check out what my grad students have been writing. 

As I read this wonderful post (Jessica R )summarizing strategies to get reluctant writers going, I felt confident about the future of learning.
Hi Everyone,
Then I read this word  Word Wall Chant (Jessica D) and was filled with pride!
Find the word,
It is near.
Where's the word?
It's right here!
Say the word.
Clap the parts.
Tap the sounds.
What a start!
Time to spell,
Close each eye.
Do it now--
Don't be shy!
One more time!
Say the word,
Loud and clear!
Now let's cheer!
Hip hip hooray!
Hip hip hooray!
Hip hip hooray

Then, I read this summary of the THIEVES (Amanda S) comprehension strategy.
T   à Book title: Diagnostic Literacy Assessments and Instructional Strategies
               Section Title: Reading and Listening Comprehension Strategies
What I think I will be reading about: Ways in which I can check for comprehension before, during and after reading.
H  à Heading: Predicting Strategies; which tells me the strategies listed after this
heading focus on predicting and providing background knowledge
I     à  Introduction: The introduction tells me that I will be learning about
comprehension strategies that are engaging. This paragraph outlines the way
in which the strategies are organized and grouped. The introduction also explains the goals of these comprehension strategies. The main goal of teaching these strategies is for students to use them independently to monitor comprehension.
E  à Every first sentence in a paragraph: After the name/title of the strategy is
listed, the first sentences describe the purpose of the strategy. This makes it
easy to navigate throughout the chapter when looking for a specific type of strategy.
V  à Visuals and vocabulary: Throughout this section of the book, vocabulary
words are defined. For example, under the strategy entitled “Nonfiction Layout and Text Features” the words preface, appendix, glossary, index, etc. are defined. Also, any time a strategy uses a chart/visual there is an example in the book of what the visual should look like. This is helpful because I know exactly how this strategy is supposed to look so that I can model it for my students.
E   à End of chapter questions: While this doesn’t necessarily apply to our reading
since we did not read the whole chapter, I thought of questions I had while reading. I liked the layout of the book, but I wondered why the steps in the procedure were not numbered. This would have been easier to follow in my opinion. I also wondered why some of the strategies had sources listed while others didn’t. I would like to know where to look to get more information about specific strategies.
S   à Summary: I really enjoyed using THIEVES! It helped me locate important
information and focus on important features in expository texts. The acronyms describe the areas where my attention should be when reading! I learned new information as well! This is truly a great strategy… I guess my teachers made me use it for a reason! J

I hope you remember how I made you feel

I "let myself" read 3 blogs this morning as I mentally "prepared" for the "longest" day of the year and the next to the last day of school - for kids in my district  This blog was my first stop.....and it's ringing in my ears as I drink my coffee and prepare for the longest (calendar) day of the year!

To be honest, I've been teaching a long time and I do not remember all of their names. 
To be honest, I have trouble remember which of my Jessicas is which without my "cheat sheet."
To be honest, THEY do not all remember my name. 
To be honest, lots kids merge a fellow reading teacher and me into one common name, "Fulrerri." 

Yet, I know that I am a small part of who each of them is and what they become. 
They do not think of my name when they "tap out a ccvc word."
They do not think of my name when they order a book from Amazon.
They do not think of me when they pick a college/

Yet, I hope they remember how I made them feel about books, learning and themselves.
I hope I have inspired them and empowered them - ALL - to be ALL they WANT to be. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Riding, Rewards and Reflecting

When I was young, I rode my bike around our cul-de-sac.  There were usually some "rewards" such as the chance to "beat" one of the neighbors, a handful of Charlie Chips from the delivery man, or an ice pop from a mom grateful we did not come in all afternoon. (not a real photo of my neighborhood!)

I was reflecting on the rewards of bike riding the other day as I upped the gears and made my way down a former rail trail.  These days, there are some pretty wonderful rewards on the trail. There was music in the park and Harney's Tea Store.   We sampled some amazing teas while we were there (Assam and Supreme Breakfast are among my new favorites) and listened to the "tea-brewing-master" (tea barista?)discuss the fine points of some teas that cost more per pound than my first car (we didn't invest in them).  We left after more than an hour of tea sampling with a bag full of teas strapped to my bike!

not a real photo of the geezer!
It has been a long time since we rode and we have overcome obstacles to return to the trails.  The fact that we were riding really was a reward all by itself. But, alas I could also look forward to a cup of very special tea after dinner. And then, near then end of the trail, some old geezer sitting on his porch hollered out, "Hi honey" and there was nobody but me around at that moment (my husband was far ahead of me)!  Admittedly, he sounded as if he had no teeth and who knows if he could even see me; however, I'll take it as a one more reward for the effort! 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Falling Off "The Wagon"

Kate Messner and my virtual "writing buddies" at my virtual "Summer Writing Camp" have been writing like crazy lately; however, I've had a harder time writing of late.  Perhaps it is the SUPER busy end of the year stuff (I still have another week of school) or perhaps it is because I am teaching an amazing group of grad students during this intense (for all of us) Summer I schedule.  Perhaps it is just that I have been too busy to stop and see the beauty in the small moments of life. Perhaps it is the lingering sadness that has kept me from functioning at full throttle.  I'm not sure, but I am reflecting about my "struggle" because I am pretty sure our kids feel the same way some days (weeks, months, years?).  AND, I do hope to get back on "the wagon" this week!

Anyway, During her Friday Writing Happy Hour (yes I know it is Saturday), Kate suggested we "choose something we love" and let it inspire a poem."  I collapsed into bed early last night thinking about bedtime snuggles with someone I love.......

Damp curls against my shoulder
The pace slows
Another tale of Queen Bee
The plot flows
Now it's my turn, she implores
I remember the time, she begins
I remember everything, she boasts
The stories flow
The snuggle continues


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Looking at the Big Picture

Last night, a mother turtle made the trek from our pond to lay her eggs in what she must have determined to be a "safe spot" on a rocky cliff in our yard.  At first I was thinking that this mama was not one of the "brightest" because that was a long journey for a creature with short legs  - specially one who was about to lay eggs!  However, as I pondered her situation and watched her fill her nest, I realized that perhaps, she was looking not at the moments of discomfort and unrest along her journey, but rather about the big picture, her hopes and dreams for her children's survival in a world with many challenges and obstacles. 
Perhaps she knows what has taken me many years to understand: It's best to not focus on the minor trials and tribulations and discomforts along the way; instead, try to focus on the "big picture."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Quick Write Tuesday - My View From My Porch

I knew from my first one that sunrise on the beach could stir up emotions and allow someone lucky enough to be up at that early hour, an opportunity to reflect on the majesty of our existence on earth. Getting to the beach is still high on my list of "want to dos" and those morning sunrises are surely sites to see. However, at our house, we have found that there is another site that offers someone lucky enough to experience it an equally majestic perspective of our earthly existence.  Let me explain.

From May until October, unless the rain is pouring down, we usually sit at the table on the porch that I always wanted.  Nestled in a cozy chair and wrapped in a sweatshirt when needed, the scent of bug candles typically reminds us that the view is coming soon.  We listen to the crickets reflect the degrees of the day and we share pieces of our own day - the wonderful and the not so great moments.  Usually, we fill our plates and our glasses and take in the earth's bounty while we watch the magical site unfold.  Then, at some pre-established moment, that changes every day, it emerges slowly from over the east facing hills. 

Sometimes, the glow is bright orange and it appears as if the sky is on fire.  On other evenings, the sky lights up in layers and it appears as if blankets are hiding the sun's good-night.  On other days, it appears as if the sky is blanked in sadness where nary a drop of sunlight can peak through the clouds. Each day it is different; each day it is special. At times, we run for the camera to remember the magic that appears; however, the pictures never seem to measure up to the images we take in as the evening becomes night. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Time to write?

I'm participating in Teachers Write! this summer and today is Mini-Lesson Monday: Making Time.  How can I find time to write?

1. What you found that you might be able to cut out of your schedule or cut back on to make time to write. I know that I cannot cut out exercise, but I thought about it!  I know that I need to exercise my body and my mind in equal proportions AND I would REALLY like to finish some of the many started drafts in my computer!  So, after school gets out, I will try to spend as much time WRITING as I do exercising (walking).  It will be a good blend and encourage me to exercise more too!  Until school gets out?  IDK! 

2. When you’ll be writing each day & for how long. Remember to be realistic. 15 minutes is fine to start. I'm going to start by devoting at least 20 minutes a day - my minimum exercise time.  It will at least be a start.  AND, the key will be writing - not doing grad school or day school work!

3. Where you’ll usually write. This can be different places on different days, depending on your schedule.
I have a lovely office now - a desk / table and my computer - but I really want to start to use my tablet more.

4.Who you told about your plans. Remember, sharing your writing plans with the people in your life helps to make them real and reminds your family & friends to give you that space for writing.
Here it is....set out on the digital divide.  My myself :)

Another Great Debate

Early in my career, the Great Debate was over the role of phonics instruction in the teaching of reading. This controversy that divided parents and challenged teachers was spurred by Jeanne Chall's work around the the best way to teach.  While many favored child centered approaches, Chall and the "other side" proposed that teacher centered approaches would best meet the needs of all students. 

It seems almost silly that we spent as much time and energy debating what seems almost like a "no brainer" in the 21st Century.  Kids need (teacher presented) the tools of how to "attack" an unfamiliar word and an understanding (child centered) that reading is a meaning making process!  Effective teachers provide setings where there is teacher guidance and carefully scaffolded support along with opportunities to apply learning in meaningful settings.

The other day, this study popped up on my "Twitter" page (as I read my Kindle before bedtime).  It spurred my thinking about a possible new "Great Debate" that may already be brewing in parent and educational circles. Perhaps it's my own writing of grants (rejected) and that has me amazed others aren't as eager about this technology as I am! After a few days of wondering and reflecting,  I am thinking there may be some fear of digital reading devices already brewing.

Certainly, there is a need for carefully controlled studies about the roles of digital books at home and at school  There is also the need for parents and teachers to work together to assure our children experience the wealth of print and digital technology options to readers today.  Without a doubt, digital readers cannot replace the modeling and teaching of strategies that teachers provide.  Yet, we cannot close our doors to the future that our children will know as their own. 

Let's hope we are not beginning a new "great debate" that will divert some of us from finding the balance essential to a society where effective teaching and opportunities for independent practice are both expected and necessary. 


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Real Audiences: Making Every Moment Count

Whenever I turn the calendar page and it says "June" I am swept with two equally overwhelming sensations.  First, I usually feel significant "dread" because there is STILL so much to do and so much I want to share with my kids. Plus, it is in the spring that you see the "fruits" of your labor all year through!   But at the same time, I feel excited because it also means "summer" and the end to the daily traffic-defying commute (for a few weeks)! 
The days in June are often filled with picnics and moving up planning as well as ice pop eating and celebrating our learning.  There is a part of me, however, that feels students get July and August "off" from school and therefore I need to make June count extra as a month of "learning" and "growing" as more-self-empowered readers and writers. 
I love the idea of introducing kids to series books they might want to explore over the summer and I love the idea of staring writing projects they might continue on their own.  I am HOPING to start a summer writing blog for kids...even to just share what they are reading with me....and hope to have the logistics (privacy) figured out soon. 
Meanwhile, on Friday morning, I read Elizabeth Peterson's post about paper blogs and it got me thinking about "end of the year" type projects.
I'm going to try to do something like this with my third graders who will be leaving for a new building in a few weeks.  I want to do it as a way to publicly share what we have learned and to encourage their reading of each other's writing.  For a long time, I have been asking small groups of students to give each other feedback and am always amazed at the impact of having real audiences!  When I found these "talking bubble stickynotes" at a local discount store a few weeks ago, I was not sure when I would use them; however, I was sure I would use them. Now I know where they are going! 

Friday, June 1, 2012

The view from my doorway.

There are some wonderful, creative teachers in the classroom opposite mine.  The students engage in multi sensory activities that stimulate learning.  I know they hang these in the hallway so their students recognize the classroom; however, I'm blessed that together they create images that put a smile on my face every day