Friday, May 31, 2013

Tug of War

Today was Field Day at my school and for the first time in a long, long time, I was assigned to "run" the tug-of-war.  I had totally forgotten how much kids love this game of tugging on a rope!  I used my prior experience to run the game this morning; but, tonight a quick Google research probe suggests:

Wiki says
1) Put the strong people at the front and back of your side.
2) Tell everyone  to pull with both hands and to lean backwards.

I say,
1) Line up people on alternate sides of the rope

2) So, when they fall, and they will fall. they don't hurt one another.
3) Remember that kids love to pull and tug on things
4) Enjoy your time outside - there are reports waiting you indoors!
3) Consider changing the name to something more politically correct :)

Now YOU know what I KNOW about "May the strongest team win"!

What does it take to learn?

This wonderful infographic popped up in my feed this morning from the IRA via the NCTE!  What a journey overnight it must have been as I traced it to this person but the truth of where it comes from eludes me right now.  So I am posting it anyway with that disclaimer!  It's too great not to share.  Teachers, students and all of us learning in the 21st century need diverse skills as depicted below!


Thursday, May 30, 2013

How am I supposed to read these if I have no idea what they are?

During this age of APPR, we are all having LOTS more observations and visitations!  Not only do the administrators come by, but so do my grad students.  I hate to admit this, but my grad students (while admittedly focusing on the positive sides of things) are great for my own self reflection!  I sure wish we could get back to the days when we did more PEER visits and critiques!  They really are important ways to see ourselves as others see us! 
I did NOT write this, but I really do LIVE this life.  A.S. came had to observe a literacy specialist and wrote this summary about me! 

I got the pleasure of observing the day in the life of my professor while she was at work as a literacy specialist. However, that title isn't necessarily fitting. She was WAY more than a literacy specialist... she was a sense of comfort, a comedienne, a teacher, and of course a yoga instructor amongst other things. Stepping outside of my bubble and into a new setting was exciting, and below I will describe what I learned!

First session: Multitasking at its finest!
The two girls were there for a quick session since they had other obligation but Dr. Ferreri wasted no time! She engaged them by looking at the maple syrup they were making which related to a book they recently read. Then it was time to hear them read... different words/lists...while making sure they were on task... and listening attentively to the one reading... WHAT? The scene I just described sounds chaotic but it wasn't at all. Dr. Ferreri used non-verbal cues to keep the students on track. The fact that she differentiated even though there were only 2 children made me wonder why I am not differentiating for my 10 kids?

Session Two: My favorite line of the day/week/month/year/life 
 Out went the girls and in entered two boys! There was no time for slowing down! This is where the boys were reading nonsense words. ( Words that are "real" but that the students wouldn't know the meaning.) One of the boys, halfway through the list said, "How am I supposed to read these if I have no idea what they are?" I sat there, reflecting on the work my students do, and wondered if I should cry or laugh! I chose to do the latter of the two, however, why should I expect my kids to read words in isolation that have no meaning for them?

In this session, Dr. Ferreri also taped the boys reading and asked them to reflect on their reading. What a great idea! They could easily identify where they were struggling and what they did well... an important tool in improving! This session was even more eye-opening than the first... and I couldn't help but think about my own teaching the entire time.

Session Three: "Good old Mrs. Ferreri, when will you ever learn?" (patting her on the head)
Why did this young man say this to my professor? I honestly forget! But, it was just so funny! The comfort level between the student and teacher was evident. Students enjoy their time with Dr. Ferreri! This lesson involved the use of pictures to drive instruction. They were discussing the setting, characters, characters' feelings, etc. all by interpreting the pictures. Picture walking is truly essential to comprehension!

Session 3.5: Brief Meeting w/ a student
Teaching isn't perfect. Enter the cutest curly-haired girl! After beginning a running record earlier in the day, and being interrupted and forced to stop, the girl picked up right where she left off. She proved that she was ready to read at this text level independently even though the record was taken at different times. Teaching isn't perfect. We do what we can, when we can!

Session Four: FULL on fun ;)
I must admit, I had the most fun at the end of day, in the session with the two boys who were in the room for "Resource Room." I thought, I didn't know Resource Room was in the job description for a literacy specialist!? This was such a treat! The boys, who were eager and ready to learn worked together on a (horrible) map worksheet. One of them even said, "Let's work together so we don't get anything wrong!"

Then, it was yoga time! What an exciting way to end the day. The students and teacher switched roles after reviewing the poses, given the students the reins. They had to recall the moves and instruct us respectfully. I loved taking off my shoes, stretching on the carpet and relaxing to end a hectic Friday.

Stepping outside of my literacy world was an amazing experience! I was exposed to different facets of instruction and the crazy busy schedule that literacy specialist face! (How does she eat lunch!?!) it is important for future literacy specialists to observe as many settings as possible since we don't know what setting will be our final destination. Overall, I had a great day and learned a great deal about balancing, practicing, instructing, and reflecting!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Red, white, blue, and orange, too

On Memorial Day,
I did not go to a parade but I did think of those who have lost their lives in defense of our country and I prayed for them all and for their families. 

I did not spend the day doing yard work, picnicking, and watching baseball games like I usually do.

I did go to a lacrosse game, like I do every 35 years or so!  I caught the SU lacrosse NCAA final!  I'm glad I went....even though they lost! 

I did have a great day...with a lacrosse coach, a Philadelphia tour guide, topped off with a (first) Philadelphia cheese steak (hold the cheese) and not much traffic on the way home. 

Perhaps we should have suspected the outcome of the game against a team wearing blue (Duke) on this Memorial Day? 

Clouds: Real and Virtual

Nimbostratus Clouds
Thursday, Friday and again on Saturday it poured.  The sky was covered with endless clouds saturated with rain. I tried to go for a walk, on Saturday morning, but between 40 degree temperatures and the driving rain, it was not pleasant.  I did look up at the thick, ominous, Nimbostratus clouds and thought, "It's going to rain all day!"

So, I put my wet sweats into the washer and headed into my nice warm office to discover clouds!  Not the ones outside (I've spent a lot of time studying them over the years!), but the virtual ones!  To some extent, I've been in the clouds for a while on my "smart phone" and tablet; however this rainy day was an excursion to more effectively learn about and work in the clouds! Yet, while I know the lyrics to Joni Mitchell's song well, I am not sure I have really looked at clouds from "both sides" until now!  The results of my day?

Clouds are amazing,
My new address
Some day, we'll look back,
Remember the old days
Back up systems and flash drives,
Computers with towers, wires, memories
The storms and sunny moments of life
Will be in the clouds.

Expanded Learning Time

Over at Edutopia, there is an interesting article about Special Ed Best Practices Inspire Successful Expanded Learning Time for All Students (Craig Haas).  Conversations about how we support kids and "best" practices are common this time of year as we look at ways to do things "even better" next year.

Their stated goal, "to provide relevant academic support to each individual student" got me thinking about how we do interventions.  The author said, "we had to focus tightly on the specific area of concern or need for each student.

Sounds like common sense to me!  When you "service" a child with either special education services OR with Academic Support Services you are not necessarily meeting their specific needs unless you have really determined the area(s) that are difficult and are addressing those specific areas of needs.  Thus, if a student's fluency is impacted by his/her decoding of words, address that point.  If a student's fluency is impacted by language or syntax, address that! 

In addition, while I am sure it will be hotly debated in teacher union circles, the Expanded Learning Time also sounds like common sense to me! We should / could all do a period of "coaching" each day! 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

ADHD: Questioning the interaction of nature and nurture

The article begins with describing a difference in kids diagnosed / treated with ADHD `(9% of school-aged children in US and less than .5% in France).  It is important to note that they don't use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM in France; instead, they focus use a CFTMEA which focuses on underlying psychosocial causes of children's symptoms.
It then goes on to describe different philosophies of child-rearing in the United States and France. This too could be a factor in the differences.  The author of the article states, "From the time their children are born, French parents provide them with a firm cadre—the word means "frame" or "structure." Children are not allowed, for example, to snack whenever they want... French parents let their babies "cry it out" if they are not sleeping through the night at the age of four months."

I must admit that while I find the article interesting, it's hard to think that ADHD is totally environmentally determined.  In addition, there have been children and adults I have known whose lives have been dramatically improved by short term and long term treatments for ADHD (medication and / or behavioral therapies) so I would hope we don't go back to thinking, "It must be the parents or the environment."  Sometimes, it is the difference in being able to access learning and thus I would hope that teachers and parents keep their eyes on the goal!

However, like so many conditions of human existence, nature and nurture may indeed interact to determine the extent to which a preexisting tendency will develop.  In some ways, perhaps, it might be like Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and even some forms of cancer.  While we can slow or deter these tendencies in our bodies, the tendencies are biologically determined.  If you are prone to skin cancer, sunscreens, hats and checks will help keep the disease at bay - at least for a while.  If you have the ADHD tendency, your environment can make it a little bit better or a little bit worse, but your tendency is still there.  Sure makes you wonder though....and I sure hope that researchers are looking into to help parents and teachers provide the best framework to help all of us be the best we can be. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Not Just for Summer: Learning Apps, Sites and Opps Part 4

Linking up to this site is how I often find new sites.  The IRA sends me links and reminders through Facebook and Twitter to check out the Free Friday App trials and I often follow their suggestion taking me to this site

This week Best Apps featured  The Adventures of Puppup: Lost at the Zoo  which takes you on the adventures of a stuffed dog while its owners are not looking!   It's an Ipad App that is worth the $3.99 and will certainly support both shared and independent reading and rereading. 


Friday, May 24, 2013

CCSS and Decoration Day

            I found this information over at  National Geographic News.  This whole CCSS mentality has me thinking about close reading and determining ideas from the text itself rather than from teacher transmission aloud.  So I took the piece and made it mine.  Truth be told, I never knew why it was my parents called it Decoration Day! 

           Every year Memorial Day brings people together in the United States to honor service members who have died.  It is always on the last Monday in May.  Since it began after the Civil War,  the holiday has changed considerably and now may be best known as the start of summer vacation season.

Memorial Day was started as way to heal a divided nation after the Civil War.   At the time, that holiday was known as Decoration Day because people decorated  graves of soldiers who died in defense of their country.  Since World War I, the holiday has gathered the nation together to honor all men and women who've lost their lives in conflict, from the American Revolution to the present day battles in Iraq and Afghanistan.
             Over the decades the name of the holiday has shifted as well, with Memorial Day gradually becoming the common moniker.  Now in cemeteries across the United States veterans and citizens alike hold ceremonies, and the graves of the fallen are adorned with flowers and U.S. flags.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

CCSS: Ed week looks at DC's schools

This week they describe how schools in Washington D.C. are trying to ramp up instruction to meet the "new" standards.  There are new units with "anchor texts, along with dozens of articles, novels, plays, poems, essays, and other works as suggested readings."

Yet, there is so much more than curriculum in learning.  Kids want to know you care about them and their learning.  No matter what happens in our edu-political capital, there are teachers there (and everywhere) who greet their students each morning warmly and who do their very best to make each day and each class important and valuable.   That's encouraging. 

CCSS:Reading and Speaking Resources

Who would have ever thought that the company to which I pay a SMALL fortune for phone service would some day be the source of my professional development focused on reading and writing! 
But here it is - thanks to Verizon@
An little of sample of what you will find there:   
The IRA Literacy Implementation Guidance to Support the ELA Standards is being used extensively to clarify misconceptions and provide further information about the literacy focus in the Standards. The IRA Guidance document addresses seven key areas:
  • Use of challenging texts
  • Beginning readers and foundational skills
  • Comprehension
  • Vocabulary
  • Writing
  • Disciplinary literacy
  • Teaching diverse learners.
The document ties research-based literacy practices with the expectations of the English Language Arts and Literacy Standards. For example, one common misconception about the ELA Standards is that the only reading instruction permitted is that of "close reading" of challenging texts. The IRA Guidance document clarifies information about the "close, attentive reading" referred to in the ELA Standards, describes the use of challenging texts in the classroom as only one part of instruction, and verifies that strategic comprehension instruction is still an important part of reading development for most students.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

#Slice of life 2013 Material Girl Through a New Lens

One of my morning songs is Madonna's Material Girl. 

We are living
In a material world
And I am a material girl

It's on my MP3 player because it has "beat" and heavens knows I need some "beat" to get me moving on the morning treadmill (plus it helps to think that if I exercise "with" her, I will look a little like Madonna)!  I don't usually think of the song or its words during the day; however, it "popped into" mind as my mother said pensively, "I think I've been a little too focused on material things and images in my life."  

Our afternoon conversation had begun, like it often does, with some comment about too much technology and people being "tied" to their phones as they walk around not watching where they are going, walking into parked cars! There was then some bemusing about the merits of buying new cars vs. potentially buying someone else's "problem" used car. Our conversation then turned to "finding" her "designer" umbrella, the one she got at a conference at the now defunct Concord resort in the Catskills 30 years ago, the one she thought I had borrowed and lost.  She had "found" it hanging under a spring jacket; thus, I did not "lose" it after all!  Our afternoon conversation also included the bemoaning of "money wasted" on flowers that don't last "like they should" and pedicures that don't "hold up."

Yet, yesterday, as we sat safely in her cozy condo watching the horrible devastation in Oklahoma unfold, we were both clearly reminded, once again, that in the end, it's "people" not "material things" that matter. What we accumulate in life comforts and supports our journey; however, in the end, we would trade "it" all for a few moments more with those we love. While Madonna's song may have "beat," it does not have merit! 

*My thoughts and prayers are with the people impacted by the disaster in Oklahoma this morning. 


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Graduates: You'll lead the way!

With a little help from Dr. Seuss, here's my message to teachers graduating today :)

 Today's special,
A happy day,
You’re ready
You’ll lead the way!

With brains in your head
Feet in your shoes,
You’ll lead students
Through classics, news.

You'll use magical books,
and cyberspace,
You’ll meet people,
From all over the place!

You’ll find a way,
To do: Interactive, Guided, 
Independent Reading,
Interactive, Guided, and
Independent Writing
Each and every day!

Sometime in your career
You’ll find a program or book
That doesn’t make much sense.
Some weeks before payday
You may have just 50 cents!

You’ll activate, collaborate, consult, review,
You’ll have consultants and mentors
Who say they know better than you. 
Remember we all have lessons that flop,
Yes we all do!

Students and parents will ‘challenge’ you.
Some administrators will have ideas
That make you ‘stew’.
My advice is:
Focus on students.
That’s what I would do!

With wisdom gleaned from studies,
Strategies from journals, Pinterest, books,
You’ll figure out how to make it work,
When faced with eager looks!

When you find yourself overwhelmed
By the ‘rat race’
Take a walk or read a book
Find some reflecting space
Keep reading, learning:
Children’s, teacher books,
Journals, newspapers, Twitter, too.
Be a ‘critical consumer’ of fads,
But always be open to new ideas
That is what I would do!

So, be off on your journey,
Remembering at least this message
From the end of my spiel! 
Our students forget much of what we say,
But they never forget how we make them feel. 
I’m proud to call you my Colleagues,
I’m honored to have helped with your preparation,
I know that kids will be fine
Under YOUR administration!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Testing Feedback for those who lived through 2013 testing and others!

At this site, you can give feedback based on your parent / teacher / student impressions of this year's ELA.  I must admit it is hard to give much feedback since the test is secure and we really didn't see it.....but we can STILL give feedback about the process, concerns,

There are 2 ways to give feedback:
For New York State educators and parents who lived through 2013 testing:

Submit a Comment

Since the release of this site, distinct topics of contribution have emerged. Select from one of these below to view all related comments:
For others who want to join in the conversation about this site and its implications:

 The site says, " We invite you to share observations and ideas, and to respond to those that others make here on this site...."


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

CCSS: Engagement, Learning, Sharing (a link)

Over at Chartums, Kristi, Christine and Marjorie posted this wonderful use of creative thinking to engage learners.  It's about a Star Wars theme that must have taken over their classroom; however, it could be about just about any "theme" you want!  Go here for the whole post:  here's a little "taste" of what you will find over at
What’s Play Got To Do, Got To Do With It? (Answer: Everything)

"We realized that for children to gain an independent mastery of the standards, they needed to be able to teach them to others. And they needed to do so in a imaginative, playful way.
And then it hit us…. like Yoda. We wondered, would it be possible to merge the two things? The love and constant role play of Star Wars and the work these young readers needed to meet the kindergarten standards?"

This post reminded me of the benefits of thematic teaching back in the old days of "whole language" - yes I was there!  We carried it too far, indeed, there was no need for using bear counters for the bear unit and fish counters for the fish unit.  Yet, the benefits were there in terms of engagement and the ease of scaffolding complex content for greater accessibility and that is what the CCSS asks us to do!


Monday, May 13, 2013

#Slice of life 2013 Giving, Growing, Grooming and Grateful

Perhaps, somewhere, a mother
Adored, perfect in every way,
Never set foot in the kitchen,
Had breakfast, in bed,
Opened gifts, jewels, 
Headed off for a day, alone,  
Happily, not me.

 I made muffins,
Giving to a mom, who eats little.
I planted flowers,
Growing, tending, a reason to go outside.
I provided a pedicure,
Grooming, pumiced pale pink polish!
I washed dishes, laundry,
Gratefully sharing tea,
Assured of crisp sheets, clean clothes,
That's me.
I prayed for
Those longing for a mom, motherhood,
Happiness, perfect lives,
The one I made a Mom,
Those I made an Aunt,
Those who make me a Mom,
Those who make me an Auntie.
Thankful for them all.
I talked, texted,
Facebooked, Tweeted,
Grateful for conversation,
Bamboo battles, cars, careers,
Grateful for time shared,
Dreams, gardens and fish tales,
Grateful for time,
Patience, parenting, caring, giving
All year long.
Grateful for the kind of love
Not found in a box,
Grateful for my life.   

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Not Just For Summer: Apps Too Good to Sit in a Drop Box (Part 3)

Jessica did a fabulous presentation sharing iPad Apps.  This is TOO good to sit in a drop box in cyberspace.  SO, I am sharing it here.  Great resources for the summer but not just for the summer!  Great resources for parents and for teachers too! 
7 Reasons You Need an iPad in Your Classroom and 10 Ways to Use Them

50 Popular iPad Apps for Struggling Readers & Writers

First Grade iPad Classroom

iLit: Redefining Literacy

Let’s Get Our Apps Together

Literacy Apps for Struggling Learners (Pressman & Pietrzyk)

NVLA iPad Literacy Program

Reading on the iPad: 6 Elements of Instruction APP’d

The iPad as RTI Intervention Toolkit

There’s an App for That: Using iPads to Support Literacy Instruction in the Classroom

Unlocking Literacy with iPad (Harmon)

Not Just for Summer: Teacher "Opps" (Part 2)

What will you be doing this summer?  I've got several virtual learning opportunities planned including

Making Learning Connected                     Host:  National Writing Project     Where: Online

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Not Just for Summer: Learning Apps, Sites, and "Opps" (Part I)

Learning "opps" is what we're talking about here because "it" is starting (emails and requests for summer learning materials, help, sites, books). I "coined" the new word just a few moments ago in an attempt to describe summer learning opportunities in the 21st Century!

In times long ago, teachers put together lists of books, recommended levels, or shared worksheets stapled into packets that children eagerly took home and could not wait to complete! Parents said thank you so sincerely that we thought, sometimes, that they might actually use them during the summer.  Sometimes, some teacher SOMEWHERE might even have gotten a few of them returned in September (never me)! Some years, I even challenged students to read with offers like somersaults in the hallway (someone somewhere might still have a picture of that not to be repeated by me performance)! 
Times have changed and we are no longer in a paper world of literacy.  The Common Core standards demand learners learn to use technology as both consumers of information and sources of sharing learning and the demands are so great that we must all think of ourselves as life-long learners all year through!  We need lots of real life online resources, apps and "opps" - all of us. SO this year, inspired by my virtual internet friends and PD buddies, I am going to start posting APPS and SITES that are REAL 21st Century type summer learning OPPS!  Here is Part I of Not Just for Summer Learning "Opps"!  I hyperlinked all the names for you to make your learning opportunity just a click away!

GOOGLE LIT TRIPS is a fun site!  I know lots of kids who will love this!  It's not a substitute for reading but it makes real world connections with texts such as Abuela.

KHAN ON MAKING: Karl Wendt has a neat site her for kids and parents who are interested in creating virtual robots! There is LOTS of reading needed to do this! 

PROFESSOR GARFIELD COMICS LAB provides a site for making your own comic books! 

TEACH YOUR MONSTER TO READ is for beginners but is fun for everyone! 

WONDEROPOPLIS is a site I have already told you I use almost every day.  It is not only great reading but you can also write to the authors and they write back!  WOWSERS!

STORYBIRD is a complex site and I think it was easier before they added so much art work to choose from; however it is still a great way to encourage writing and creativity!

STORIA is the best of a Kindle like reader for kids by the powerhouse of kids' literature - Scholastic.  Every family should have it on their e-reader!

PBS PARENTS PLAY and LEARN is for little kids but the really neat part is that it is bilingual and explores common places like the zoo, the playground or the grocery store in a game format.

LITTLE CRITTER has been around for a long time; however the new format offers all the interactive features of modern technology with classic messages about living, learning and growing in families.

                 more soon!