Tuesday, December 31, 2013

#SOL2013: Starting the new year in purple

With all due respect to The Purple Lady, that marvelous movie with Oprah Winfrey, my daughter, my cousin, my nieces, and all the rest of you who embrace the color purple with open abandon, I have, for most of my life, avoided the color at all costs!

I remember, long ago, when my friend's mother offered me an otherwise wonderful prom dress that her older daughter had worn.  It was exquisite and fit me to a tee; however, it was purple, and I did not want to wear a purple dress even if it was a fabulous designer dress and free!  

I remember the day my then toddling daughter determined purple to be her favorite color. I cringed, but hoped it would be a passing phase. (It wasn't) Yet, she followed in a long path of people who love purple that has surrounded me for most of my life!

So, now, older, wiser, and not sure why I hated purple so much, I am going to be wearing a purple winter coat. She's waterproof, windproof and I must admit much warmer than the old coat she is replacing. I might have gotten red, blue or black if they had my size, but in the 50% off after the holidays clearance section, when you h ave a $15 off coupon that must be used that day, you have to take what they have in your size.

I wore her yesterday and my only complaint was that I was a little too warm!  I am openly admitting that I really like her!  While I usually wear basic black or gray to work and usually blend into the background, I like the idea of a happy coat!  So, I  have decided to embrace the color purple this coming year. I'm not even sure why I didn't like it for all those years!  I may even buy a purple dress!  I know Karen, Karen and Suz, I have wasted all these good years not wearing purple; however, I have seen the light as the new year dawns!  Who knows what great things I might accomplish in the new year wearing a bright new coat and (maybe) even a purple dress!  

And, since the new year is fast approaching, I reflect and wonder how many of us hold onto "old" biases and "ideas" that really are not grounded in reality?  Perhaps, in this new year, we could "resolve" to be open to new ideas and possibilities?  I am going to try!

Monday, December 30, 2013

What Is Old Is New Again: How To Read a Book!

You know how it goes.   You are checking your email when you should be writing a syllabus and you get message about a link that somehow is connected to something you might have said or done

How To Read A Book: 3 Strategies For Critical Reading | MSU's 21st Century Education Enterprise |

Then you follow the link because the image is compelling and it takes you to a site, such as this one,

And then you do a little reading of the thinking behind the image (Terry Heick).  They mention an oldie by Adler and Van Doren, How to Read a Book (you think yyou remember hearing about that one long ago).  So you follow the link to a book that was originally published in 1940 and your mind is wondering if this is part of some back to basic movement that will soon be dredging up Dick and Jane?  And, with another click, you find that not only are Dick and Jane back, they are alive and well and selling at Walmart

Then, you remember that nothing is totally new.  What is old is new again.  That's why we kept all those books MLO.  They're back. They have new names.  They are what readers do!
(I am confident we can give our kids better bookd than Dick and Jane, but that's another post!)

So now we just have new names for:
Inspectional Reading: Quick Reading, Skimming (what I do with all those emails)
Analytical Reading: Close Reading of a single text
Syntopical Reading: Cross Reading. Text to Text Connecting

Image attribution from
How To Read A Book: 3 Strategies For Critical Reading

Friday, December 27, 2013

Celebrating: Around the Table Edition

 Discover. Play. Build.

I'm going slowly," commented one of the eaters who was offered another lightly-corn-flour-battered-bit of squid..  "On the way up, I was reminded that this is a marathon," she smiled, "and not a sprint to the finish line."

"That's a good plan," replied a relatively new member of the eating squad, "last year I was full before we sat down to the main course!  You have to pace yourself."

"It's my favorite meal of the year," said one of the veterans as he eagerly rubbed his hands together.  He added confidently, "I'm ready.  Let the eating begin."  I noticed an expression on this man-child's face traditionally reserved for little kids on Christmas morning!
As I manned the dishwasher and the pots of fresh zuppa di pesce sauce, I listened to the happy family banter around the mini-fish fryer.  I smiled at the new-to-the "family" tradition, manned by a  family-member who claims corn-flour expertise after just a couple of attempts.  At one point, my mind drifted to my own childhood where the "meat-less" meal was simpler, canned clams in homemade chowder, yet made with just as much love. At another point, my mind drifted to my sister-in-law's kitchen, where my shorts-clad nephew shoveled bags of clams and mussels into a vat of sauce. Empowered by memories, I embraced the magic of a special evening that intermingled  remnants of tradition with new voices and foods.

None of us speaks Italian, most of us have roots in Northern Europe, some of us eat gluten-free, and others must avoid shellfish.  We choose to not cook salt cod (bacala) and I did not make crab stuffed flounder (although it is on next year's request list).  We included a new favorite tapenade and some wonderful smoked salmon in our appetizers.  This year, our fish variety was bit excessive (shrimp cocktails, smoked salmon, fried calamari, fried shrimp, fried oysters, baked salmon, sautéed scallops, mussels, clams, cod, calamari and scungilli over pasta); however, we had only small portions of each so there was not much left over!

It's important to celebrate traditions, even though the people who started them have passed on.  It's important to celebrate even though each of us has worries, concerns, and stressers.  It's important to celebrate even though the memories may bring tears. It is important to celebrate even though the tastes and smells at the table change. In spite of eggplant tapenade (which my mother-in-law would have loved) and a light and fluffy chocolate mousse (replacing cheese cake) , we celebrated the way Italian-American families have celebrated for a hundred years, around the table.  

My philosophy for a happy life: Sam Berns at TEDxMidAtlantic 2013

So this afternoon, I am looking for video clips for a course I am teaching next semester (2 weeks).  I really did find a lot of incredible links and professional resources on the internet.  I also found this....sigh....on Facebook.  I know there are lots of people who think Facebook is "hokey", but it is a site for my PERSONAL development even if not for my PROFESSIONAL development!

Sam Berns talks about his philosophy for a happy life:

1. Be OK with what you ultimately can’t do because there is so much you CAN do
2. Surround yourself with people you want to be around
3. Keep moving forward.
4. Never miss a party if you can help it

Not bad advice!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Do We Have a Teacher Prep Problem?

Sharing Peter DeWitt's editorial on Edweek.  It is interesting and scary on many levels.  It does make me stop and think.  Was I unprepared when I started teaching?  How do we make sure the learning curve is well established before teachers move into their classrooms?  How can we assure teachers get the ongoing mentoring and support they need to become all they can be? 
Do We Have a Teacher Prep Problem?

Monday, December 23, 2013

SOL 2013 A Slice of Christmas Eve

We encourage our writers (kids) to reread and reflect on their writing from the previous year as they start a new unit of study.  For the most part, my students look at me like I have two heads when I ask them what they might do to improve last year's piece!  Yet, revision IS writing, so, while I did not plan to just revise to "save time" during this busy time of the year, I am doing some revision making last year's December 24th entry, which was a revision to the year before's entry, to make this week's SOL more succinct!

I could beat myself up, 
I should have baked more, earlier,
Created personal, hand-crafted gifts,
Shopped at local merchants, craft fairs.

I suspect that on that first Christmas,
Mary, too was not quite ready,
Yet, she was prepared in her heart.

In reality, 
None of us really needs perfectly decorated, home-made cookies,
(don't worry, I made a few, but they are not perfect)
None of us needs perfectly wrapped, show-stopping gifts,
(don't worry, there are a few things under the tree,, even if they are not personally crafted) 
It's peace, understanding, love, patience, kindness, hope, and joy,
We want and need,
In our world, our families, our hearts.

Even if you have more shopping and baking, to do,
You're worried about logistics, traveling, seeing everyone,
Your loved ones are scattered here and there,
Your plans have had to change, 
Your heart is heavy, 
Your future is blurry,
I wish you a patiently-waiting, Christmas Eve, 
A joyously celebrated Christmas Day
(if you celebrate)

A season of peace, understanding, love, 
patience, kindness, hope, and joy,
(No matter what you celebrate!)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cookies Bring Hope

On this table, 
Thousands of cookies,
Baked with love,
Filled with memories,
Awash in holiday splendor,
On this table,
Bittersweet memories,
Intermingled with
Sweet butter, sugar, chocolate,
Family favorites,
Newly discovered
And success-for-all-guaranteed
On these plates,
Delicate anise bites,
Gorgeous sugar cookies,
Rich, chocolate crinkles,
Will bring hope,
Help others cope,
Awash in memories of a
Wonderful, memorable,
Mother, Grandmother, Sister, Aunt, Friend  

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Celebrate Lights in the Darkness Saturday December 22

Discover. Play. Build.
There are things I should be doing.
Packages to be wrapped,
Gifts to buy,
Cookies, to be baked, decorated,
Laundry, cobwebs, dust balls awaiting me.
Yet, on this darkest day of the year,
I am taking a moment to celebrate
The lights that brighten,
The intense darkness of this season.  
After a treacherous drive one night this week.
Snowflakes shining in the spotlight. 
A reminder of the meaning of the season,
Three candles lit (one awaiting) atop my table.
 Whenever the to-do list makes my heart race,
A tree that dwarfs the cobwebs
Thanks, Ruth, for giving me "permission,"
To stop, reflect, remember what is important,
Now, back to work!

Happy Winter!

I must admit that there is one aspect of teaching that I have not always embraced!  Sure, as a newbie, I did get excited about those first bulletin boards.  Then, as the demands of REAL teaching and the needs of kids takes precedence, those boards became, for me, a chore that had to be "done" several times a year.  
For classroom teachers, in the past, they were often filled with artwork!  Yet, there is not a whole lot of artwork done in many elementary classrooms these days!  So, many classroom teachers (most?) fill those boards with children's writing, sort of a publishing bulleting board.  In my heart of hearts I really do NOT like the idea of publishing on bulletin boards as it is really hard to fully embrace what matters, CONTENT, on a bulletin board.  Form, length and handwriting are the quickly embraced qualities of bulletin board writing!  While some (many?) parents like these public displays of writing, I do worry that they embrace the aspect of writing we value the least! 
This year, one of my colleagues and I have discovered what may the one of the fastest, child oriented and reading focused ways to get a bulletin board done We take a poem that is sort of seasonally appropriate and adapt it (if needed) for our K-3 students.  The other day, we took William Baer's magnificent poem, Snowflakes, and used just a few lines for our "winter" board.   The kids made folded paper snowflakes (six sided) using the paper folding directions we found on the internet.  They all came out different, like real snowflakes! Just for fun, color, and three-dimensional interest as the lines of kids parade by on their way to and from lunch each day, we dressed a paper bulletin board girl in Pooh Bear's felt jacket!    
As they say, Ta-Da!  Happy Winter! 
PS Great snowflake link


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

#Sliceoflife 2013 Signs That Everything Will Be OK

My faith in signs dates back to the rhyme, Red  sky at night, sailors delight.  Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning!  An eerily magnificent red sky on the morning of 9-11 confirmed my faith in signs!
I don't think I consciously look for signs during stressful times, but I do seem to find them!

For example, one night, "Jeremiah was a bullfrog,,,," came over the radio as I left a stressful visit with my mother.  Many years ago, that was my father's  theme song and it served, that night, as a clear reminder that everything would be OK. 

On Sunday, as I vacuumed the house where I spent my adult Christmas Eves, the one where my sister-in-law offered me insight into the world of Italian food, cheerful children, boundless love, and sage advice, I was feeling sad that life has to go on without those we love.  Yet, I vacuumed intently because I wanted to leave the place the way she would have wanted.  The memories, the voices, the songs, the laughter were so strong, that I felt transported to another moment in time.  I smiled knowing she would have said, "That's good enough."  And there, tucked way into the corner, was a sign.  Her mass card had almost become one with the floor molding and was worn so that you could barely see it.  Yet, I suspect I was meant to find it and it spoke clearly a message I needed to hear. 

Living a full life means loving things that are constantly changing.  Those little kids who used to gather around the tree in their pajamas become big kids and eventually, the parents.  The adults who used to eat too much become the elders and pass the dishes and their torches to the younger ones. That's just the way it is.  Sometimes, the changes are wonderful additions to the circle of life and other times we  don't like the course of events.  But, things have to change, that's just the way it is for living things. It's hard, sometimes, and it takes a whole lot of faith, but everything will be OK. 

PS And as I suspected before I even looked. There was a red sky at sunset that night, too! 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Good Time: 4 Ways to Reawaken Student Engagement | Edutopia

Good Time: 4 Ways to Reawaken Student Engagement | Edutopia

#Celebrate December 14th Edition

It's a bit hard to celebrate this morning, as the memories of last year, the Sandy Hook tragedy, come flooding back. Children, teachers, administrators were lost in a blink of an eye.  Families, schools, communities were changed forever in a moment of madness. All of us who work with or care about children and teachers were changed in some way by the events of last year.  Yet, there are some changes in our children, schools and families that have occurred that are worthy of celebration.

1. Our schools are safer than ever before.  More, better, different, thought out security systems are in place in schools everywhere.  We do not assume that things will be OK because we are in elementary schools anymore.  It's not perfect, nor will it ever be perfectly safe, but it is better.    
2. Our children are kinder than ever before.  We're ever more watchful of bullying, name calling, and the tribulations of childhood.  We do not accept or allow any form of harassment.  It's not perfect, nor will it ever be, but it is better.  
3. Our prayers are louder than ever before.  We pray that parents, teachers will work closely with those in the mental health field to help and support depression, obsessions, and metal health issues.  We pray that someday, soon, we can provide, offer, and accept mental health interventions whenever they are needed. It's not perfect yet, nor will it ever be, but it's a little better.  

Today, on this day of remembrance, celebrate by holding those you treasure a little closer.  Celebrate with words and acts of kindness.  Celebrate by doing something to make this world a little better for someone.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

: Rememberance, Kindness, You & Me

Oh Christmas Tree 2013: The Scent of Memories

Until a few years ago, I always had a "real" tree.  The smell permeated the house and the needles were everywhere - until at least Easter.  During the early years of our marriage, we found trees lying on the side of the road (really!) or my husband was out shopping for a "bargain tree" on the 22nd!  For many years, we had a "freebie" tree from my brother's Christmas tree farm.  During the years when my children were "employed" as elves on the farm, we had some pretty magnificent trees but most other years we had  Charlie Brown-ish trees (the kind left over late in December).

About 5 years ago, we bought a huge fake tree for our living room.  I was terribly sad when we bought the tree; however, I was not really sad about the tree!  At the time, my brother was fighting a losing battle with cancer and I knew that the holidays, life in general, would never be quite the same. When my husband showed me these "left over trees" from the tree warehouse, I figured I'd be giving a home to a left over tree!

Today, on a magnificent, unplanned snow day, I decorated my tree.  I must admit that while I miss the smell of my real trees, I no longer despise the perfectly shaped mammoth in my living room.  I got just as teary hanging my mother-in-law's "I hope all your news is good news" mail box. I felt a tear as I hung an ornament that my mother-in-law bought from Macy's long ago.  I was just as wistful hanging my plastic king, one off my parent's tree.  I smiled just as much as I hung my daughter's grad-school-salary-challenged-yet-magnificent-save-for-ever-ceramic dove.  The memories came flooding back as I hung that old paper home made candy cane from our first, filled with only homemade (free) ornaments tree (the one found by the side of the road).  I said a thank you to my brother and the other angels who watch over us every day, all year through.  I said a thank you to God for the privilege of decorating another tree.

For the sake of family tradition, I will continue to complain about the fake tree.  I'll moan about its weight and its loss of 'needles",.  I will complain about the smell (none).  Yet today, on this unplanned snow day, I was really glad that I had a tree - ready to go - that will make me smile for the next 2 weeks as I wait for Christmas!  Today, I realized that Christmas is not about keeping things the same.  It's not about the tree, either.  It's about love - the kind that sees you through good times and not so good ones.  The kind that connects and protects families.  It's about the love that permeates the air when there is a tree filled with memories.  The smell might even be better than pine scent!

Monday, December 9, 2013

#SOL2103 Ice, snow, and debit cards.

When the next day is a school day and the forecast is for ice, sleet, or snow, I park at the bottom of my driveway.  I accept my husband's teasing that I am a "Worry Wart" and the name calling, "Wimp," as part of the price I pay to NOT drive down my long and windy driveway on dark, icy mornings.   Yesterday, was one of those days as the driveway had a thin cover of sleet over a thick coat of ice over a delicate layer of snow!  There was no way ANYONE was driving or even walking down that incline and I was grateful for my parking spot at the bottom of the cliffs.  Yet, my coat, boots, gloves and even my undies were drenched after sliding (on my bum as the kids would say) down most of the hill.   

I felt as if I had already done a day's labor when I finally made it to my ice-ensconced car!  I gingerly opened the doors, started the engine and began the ice removal process.  As I got out to work on the windshield, I realized I had forgotten an ice scraper!  I wondered if the job was too big for my credit card. Yet, I'd used it before.  It works remarkably well in this situation - most of the time!  This time, however, the card did not fare so well.  With one swipe on the icy window, it turned into many fractured pieces of plastic.

Fortunately, the main roads were generously salted and lots of people were late; thus, my trip was really not that bad. When I finally I got to work and eventually dried off (it took all day), I was left with questions about whether or not I would be driving up the driveway any time soon (fortunately, thanks to my husband and rock salt, I did). 

Fortunately, there was only one casualty yesterday morning: my debit card.  I ordered a new one and I also put a big, heavy duty ice scraper into my trunk!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Apps for Readers and Writers Who Struggle

Perhaps what I like best about this riding this internet is that you really can learn something new every day!
Over at a site called Moms of Dyslexics, they reviewed Apps a few months ago that popped up on my Pinterest through my ASCD...a long and windy worth sharing as you might not have "bumped" into them on the internet!


Spell Trekking-Free:  Your child will learn to spell while trekking through space on the S.S. Spell Trek.  The multi-sensory approach makes it a solid choice for children with dyslexia and who struggle with reading.  It taps into the visual strength of dyslexic children to produce confidence in the area of spelling.  The app is simple, visually appealing, and geared toward children ages 5 to 12. The child can chose a visual background color to make reading the text on the app comfortable.  The keys on the touch keyboard are colored and the letters are in a comic sans font which helps dyslexics differentiate letters.

Letter Quiz-Free and Full Version-$1.99: Consists of four games to help your child learn letter recognition and writing practice.  Many dyslexics have difficulty with rote memory and that includes recognizing letters or remembering the sequence of the alphabet.  This app will encourage letter recognition through a series of flashcards as well as matching upper and lowercase letters.  Writing practice is easy for any age since the letter takes up the full screen and dotted lines guide little fingers.   The process will not only improve handwriting but solidify letter recognition. 

See Read Say-$1.99:  The visual nature of a dyslexic can make learning sight words difficult.  This was certainly the case with my child.  See Read Say contains all 220 Dolch Sight Words.  The words are separated into grade level.  The app is simple in design and concept yet effective for sight word memorization.  If your child sees a word she does not recognize she can push a button to hear it.  The app keeps track of performance and rewards with a star system.

Phonics Genius-Free:  Phonetic awareness is essential to reading and this app takes it to a new level.  The app contains thousands of words grouped into 225 phonic categories.  You have the ability to change the font size and color.  If you have Dropbox, you can import your own content.  I have not found a flashcard app with more versatility.  The cards are self-checking with a simple touch of the sound symbol. The app has aided my daughter in distinguishing sounds that were difficult for her.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

#Celebrate December 7th

Discover. Play. Build.
It was a five-day school-week filled with observations and parent-teacher conferences. There were new kids to schedule for literacy support and more than the average number of assessments to complete.  The kids were distracted by the myriad of social and family events that roared in over the Thanksgiving break.  Merging (this year) Thanksgiving and Hanukkah contributed to the hype for some.  Turning the calendar to December caused other to be giddy with anticipated trees, parties, and presents.  Yet,there were VERY bright spots in my week that are worthy of a HUGE celebration!

Thanks to the miracle of the internet, the power of Amazon Prime, the lure of "free shipping" and the power of one-click shopping at virtual stores such as Lands End, LL Bean, and Macy's, the boxes started arriving this week without a Black-Friday midnight run to Walmart and without me ever setting foot in a mall!  The UPS drivers have done most of my holiday shopping work!  As a busy-commuting-care-giving-teacher-professor, I can't even imagine how how the shopping happened back in the "old days" before the internet!

A little part of me feels like I might be missing out on that image from holiday movies.  You know, the one with the fur clad shopper laden with shopping bags with snow glistening in her hair? 
Another part of me worries about local merchants who depend on holiday shoppers to make their quotas.  I will say a little prayer that someone out there visits them and shops for a whole lot of stuff!  

For me, for this year,boxes like this are a reason to celebrate!  

#CCSS #edutopia NYC's Aligned Resources

           Lesson planning this weekend? Check out these 95+ resources aligned to the : on Pinterest

Trust me, none of us can do it all in this age of CCSS; however, there are some pretty neat resources that lots of people are developing and sharing on TWITTER and PINTEREST!  While I always worry that I will "miss" some great news, information, or resource in the plethora of Twitter feeds, it has become my #1 professional resource of late!  While Pinterest can fill my heart with "I should haves,"  the resources it provides are also invaluable!

Edutopia tweeted about these NY City provided resources.  They are similar in some ways to the resources provided on Engage NY; however, they appear to be a little clearer and no matter what, the graphic organizers and assessment rubrics provided are a fabulous resource for anyone aligning their own work to the CCSS.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Remembering the Words of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Graphic Novels in a Common Core World

During parent teacher conferences, I was questioned about reading graphic novels during independent reading.  Interestingly, the parent referred indirectly to the CCSS as he asked for "harder" book with more "meat" in them.  We had a good conversation about the "rigor" demanded by the Common Core, about the staircase of text complexity, the need to balance rigor, the power of interest, and the value of accessible (just right) books.  The parent agreed Baby Mouse was an OK read for now.

I was left thinking about the conversation and with a quick search came up this post from Reading with Picture Books, a non-profit group that supports  graphic novels.  They actually created a list of graphic texts matched with Common Core Standards! 
It's important to note that comics and graphic novels are specifically addressed in the Standards for grades 5-12.  They are by design complex texts with multiple levels of meaning.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Family Writing Night

#SOL 2013 Now that I am doing better, they want me to do more!

"There is something wrong here," she said seriously the other night. "I really do think I am getting stronger.  I can walk better and I can even push myself back and forth in my recliner!  Robert even said I was standing up straighter and not dragging my foot. Rita had me rolling all over the bed so I know I am doing better.  But now that I am doing better, they want to see me more!"

I had to smile as she shared her tale of woe; yet, I was thrilled when I learned that her progress had qualified her for yet another day on the Medicare supported therapy train.

"Think about it," she said to me.  "When I wasn't making enough progress, they stopped my physical therapy.  When I do better, they add more days!  There is something wrong with a system that gives you MORE service when you do BETTER and LESS SERVICE when you don't do so well!  It's like you get punished for working hard and making progress!"

"I guess it does seem that way," I acknowledged, "but that is the way the  system works!   The more you do well, the more work they give you to do."  

As I drove home, the conversation reverberated in my head.  Perhaps that is the way it is in many parts of our lives.  The more you do, the more work you get to do!  The one who does the dishes well, gets to do them more than the kid who doesn't!  The poor soul who is lucky enough to figure how to carve a turkey, will earn that job for many years!  Who would have ever thought that our Medicare system would be an analogy for life!        

#nerdlution begins today

The idea of doing something for ME every day seems to be pretty selfish; yet, it seems that all my cyber-reading-writing friends are trying it!  The objective is to do something for YOU every day for 50 DAYS and then write or tweet about it using the hashtag #nerdlution.  The goal, I guess, is to stretch you personal habits and do those things you want to do but never find time to do.  Frankly, I spend too much time reading and answering emails and blog posts!  I spend too much of my precious free minutes in front of the computer!  So today, on this first day of a very busy time of year, on the eve of parent teacher conferences, final grad student projects and holiday shopping, I am committing publicly to reading a non-teacher book AND / OR exercising for at least 15 minutes every day!  I know that does not seem like a lot to those of you who are gym-fitness rats.  In fact, I used to exercise for 20-40 minutes every day.  To be honest, I have slacked off seriously and have been blogging, reading blogs, reading Twitter a whole lot more. In fact, even my reading life has suffered! But, like so many others I keep busy with work and family obligations.  So there it is .....  I'm off to the treadmill! I'll let you know how this is going!   

Monitoring Progress in a RtI World

Monitoring, evaluating, and reporting student progress is certainly not a new idea, yet in the Response to Intervention (RtI) model, it gets lots of attention.  For sure, we all must use data to inform and support "grades" and "descriptions" of students.   For certain, we must use data to inform and support our decisions about supporting learners. 

For RtI Tier 2, I use ongoing formative assessments  (every session) and curriculum based measures at least twice a month. (Some researchers recommend weekly assessments for monitoring student progress, Fuchs, 1989.)  I use structure assessments, such as the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System subtests, at least every six weeks to determine if I am really supporting needs, or if I need to decrease (Tier 1) or increase support (Tier 3).I look to ongoing data collection in my own school as well as the work of Fountas and Pinnell to determine if the "cut points" are valid and strong determinations of students' learning.

My own personal goal, right now, it so look beyond my own data and interface with other RtI providers to talk about their data collection and management of students. While the RtI model certainly challenges us to look at progress short term support (and not just "keep" kids in support September-June based on a "test" score), it also encourages and emposers us to look at data in brave new ways - the RtI way.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The gift of today and the promise of great joy

I don't often talk of religion on this blog, but today it is close to my heart.  This morning, a terrible train crash made me stop in my "tracks" and reminded me that we should never take today, this moment, or the people we care about for granted.  There were people I know who were supposed to be on that train. There were people who were loved and cared about by people just like me on that train.  I was reminded that we are not promised tomorrow.  Today, with all its imperfections, is in itself the greatest of gifts.

As I listened to the horrific reports about the accident, I thought I should call all the people I know and tell them I loved them.  I wondered if I should get those Christmas cards addressed, today, just in case.  I pondered if I should shop, wrap, cook, clean and party enjoying every moment of the day.
Only a few hours later, I ushered in the beginning of Advent, a season of preparation for Christmas. While Advent coincides with shopping and parties, it is more accurately a season of intense reflection and preparation of our homes and hearts.  During this season, we prepare through reflection on how our day-to day sacrifices and challenges will eventually be rewarded with intense joy.  Good things come to those who wait might be a slogan for Advent.      

As I prayed for those who are suffering and reflected on my own preparation during Advent, I wondered how "enjoying every moment" and "deferring fulfillment" might live side by side.  Were the messages counter intuitive?  I suspect they are not.  We need preparation, reflection, and acknowledgement of the moment in all that we do as caring and compassionate people.  The gift of today and the promise of great joy for those who believe in tomorrow can happily coexist.