Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Close reading, looking, and thinking

I have been (and still am, at times

Guilty of scanning quickly without reading, 
Glazing over details without recognizing what's important, 
Responding without reflecting,
Flying through life without stopping 
To appreciate the details.     

My reading of Chris Lehman and Kate Robert's book, Close Reading has contributed to an increased awareness of how I read, see, and think differently when I stop and look closely at the details of what I read, see, and live.
While the strategies of close reading are becoming part of teachers' reading strategies - their "bags of tricks," I am finding that another, unexpected lens is how I am looking at visual media, my yard and my life a bit more closely.  I am taking the time (at least at times) to stop and smell the roses - even when they have not yet bloomed!  

I am noticing the snow on the roof in the first chapter, Spring, in Frog and Toad are Friends.  I've read the story a zillion times but never noticed the snow as a sign of how Frog probably tried to wake up his hibernating friend on the first day of spring, in March! 
I am looking closely at the honey bees swarming the cherry blossoms.  What noise they make!  How busy they are during those first warm days when they have so much to do.  
I am hearing the complaints of my elderly mom as calls for attention.  I am not taking the complaints personally these days.  
I am seeing things (like our APPR binders) in a new and less stressful light.  They are things that need to be done, like laundry and cleaning!.  They do not need to be perfect - just good enough to show that we have tried and are working professionally. 
I am noticing and finding JOY ( my OLW) in what I have rather than what I want ( most of the time); complaining about the CCS less and embracing the good parts more.

   Perhaps this is an objective of the CCS?
   Perhaps we all need to stop and smell the roses a bit more?  

Sunday, April 27, 2014

NYTimes link: Blackout Poetry

The amazing think about this link is that it lets you try the "blackout" strategy for poetry writing.
I suspect that I might just be doing this tomorrow; however, my text might be a bit different (Henry and Mudge or Milo's Great Invention!

Try this out:

I'll try to share mine later this week :)

Something to think about

This appeared on "Twitter" this morning.  At first, I saw this as a great reminder as we psych ourselves and our students to just "do their best" on the High Stakes Math Assessment this week. 
Yet, before I even finished typing this note, I realize that this is pretty good advice for just about everything in life! 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

#Celebratelu Writers, Readers, Learners, Lovers

Like many Saturday mornings, I lay in bed wondering IF I had anything to Celebrate, this week!   I've got worries and concerns about family and friends. The pouring rain had put a damper on my planned walk and meditation at the Pond.  I've spent many, many hours this week helping my elderly relatives with financial, health and logistical issues.  I did not exercise and was compelled to consume those holiday goodies left behind by the "guests."

Yet, as I  lay there, listening to the rain, wondering and pondering, I was reminded that even during the rainy and gloomy moments, if you look closely, there are many things to celebrate, including:

1) That early morning group of students who not too long ago found reading and writing very frustrating, now want to be WRITERS!  It started when I did NOT find an appropriate, beginning reader tractor book for a student after some looking at all the appropriate places (such as the Tractor Supply store). The student suggested that I should write a book about tractors; however, I said I was not an expert on tractors.  So, that student decided HE should write the book about tractors.  His classmates decided they wanted to write about topics that they are personally passionate about, such as trains and princesses.  I could almost see Donald Graves smiling down on us.
2) As I prepared documents for Annual Reviews and for my own APPR evidence binders, the reading growth of my students made me smile again, and again, and yet again.  I should know that focused, differentiated, assessment driven instruction combined with guided practice, motivation, encouragement, mentoring, and targeted reinforcement makes a difference every time.  I am certain Brain Cambourne was smiling down on me at that moment!       

3) I missed several groups this week due those meetings I mentioned above, and some field trips caused students to be otherwise engaged.  After a week-long spring break, the kids wanted to come to Reading Club and learn.  They really did.  As M said to me in the hallway, "I really miss Reading Club when you get stuck in meetings!"  I smiled and replied, "So do I, buddy!"   I am pretty certain we were both smiling at that moment! 

4) This weekend, I am headed into the big city, the one with the big stores, big restaurants, big ideas and big crowds of people to celebrate love.  A member of our contingent will be looking at some special occasion dresses, those kinds that you wear just once on a special day.  I will be thinking about exercising more and eating less so that some day, in the not too distant future, I can look for special occasion dress for that same day!  I am sure there will be smiles and happy tears this weekend.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Poem in Pocket Day

When I see Tweets like this
I smile.
I think of my own poems
Shared quietly yesterday,
Poem in Your Pocket Day

Poems of Purple Cows
"I'm sure that's my favorite poem."
Smiling, lovingly tucked into pockets
First graders at the beginning 
Of long literacy journeys
Poems of Dreams
"What day is this?"
Grad students not sure,
Yet, smiling,
Placed in a pocket, notebook, backpack
For the long journey ahead.

 NEVER saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one.



Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sharing TCRWP: Getting Started With Twitter

I've had a love-concerned-connected-overwhelmed-empowered-relationship with Twitter during the past 2 years, since I made the leap into that connected virtual world of people who more-often-than-I-can-imagine have things to share that I really want to know!

Admittedly, there are times when I can feel totally over-the-top-overwhelmed with the zillions of Twitter feed items that fill up my home page.  If I skip a day or two from checking Twitter, there are so many Tweets waiting that I can only just scan and move on hoping that if I missed something really great, someone will surely Retweet it!

Yet, the level of professional connected-ness and the number of great ideas, worthy concerns, pithy topics, profound thoughts, happy bits of news, wonderful suggestions, empowering relationships, and professional learning shared through this media is beyond what I might have envisioned in my wildest dreams!  

I follow professionals who stimulate and encourage me to be all I can be every day.  I am always somewhat surprised and totally humbled that others choose to follow me!  BUT THIS POST, I want to share with those who have not yet "joined our connected group of Twitters."

Here is a link to a TCRWP Google Books Doc that will help you to join the "club" and push your own thinking, learning, and at times....your ability to handle stressors!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

When You Love Someone

It was late in the day on Easter Sunday and my belly was still filled with more-than-I-should-have-eaten-Jelly-Bellies, fudge and truffles. My heart was filled with love-thoughts-concerns-gratitude for my grown-up and loved-more-I-could-have-ever-imagined children.  My mind was filled with words from a sermon, earlier in the day, that likened family love-living-trials-forgiveness to that of our Creator.

I probably should have gone out for a late night walk to clear my belly-heart-mind; however it was dark and so the late night stroll with deer-skunks-raccoons was replaced with a late night stroll through social media.

It was there when I caught a social-media-provided-heart-stopping-glimpse of parents holding their precious newborn. It was my first glimpse of this already-loved-more-than-imagined child who had stolen her parents hearts and more-than-likely-altered their outlook-values-hopes for this life.  I imagined the tears-smiles-anguish-hopes-dreams-prayers offered up during the long-NICU-filled-struggle-fight-for-life and wondered, for just a moment, how each of them had found the strength to endure. And then, I smiled because of course, I know where-how-why they found that strength!

I thought of many things as the sugar-high was reduced to happy-concerned-joy-sorrowfilled tears; however, I went to bed assured and reminded that there are no limits to what you might do when you love someone.      

Friday, April 18, 2014

Education Soup with Evidence

I dedicated a few hours of Spring Break to Spring Cleaning, also known in my house as Spring Clearing (and that is not just a typo).  I found some great science experiments hiding in the fridge; something that would have inspired Louis Pasteur in the pantry; and some old, never published pieces hiding in my computer. 


Lesson Plans
Evidence Binders
State Tests
Local 20s
Teacher Effectiveness
Student Learning

Reading on Spring Break

Carol Ann Tomlinson discusses strategies on getting young people to write in her article, "One to Grow On: Commending Writing,” in the April 2014 edition of Educational Leadership.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Day Mother Nature Played April Fools

We really did eat outside just days before.
We really did put away the salt and pull out the sandals.
We even, foolishly, planted pansies in the warm spring sunshine.
Then in a moment of reminding us we are not in charge, 
Mother Nature sent us scrambling for scrapers and winter coats.
It was an unexpected spring snow,  
a powerful reminder that sunshiny warm days are gifts.
If you looked closely through the icy branches,
covered with real honest-to-goodness-snow that morning,
you could almost see Mother Nature smiling at us! 

Later in the day,
as I scurried around the big city doing business,
I noticed what at first appeared to be more snow!
Then, I realized that Mother Nature was 
filling the streets and our hearts with her real spring gifts.
While it was Spring Break,
I could not help but think about the Central Message
(Common Core connection intended)
gleaned from surprise snow and spring trees
I smiled and assured Mother Nature,
"I get the message, don't you worry!" 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

#sol14 Reflecting on the Journey

On the last, quiet leg of the trip,
I reflected
On the journey,
On the signs.
I thought of the daffodils
(I've watched many)
Dancing in the breeze,
Treasured signs of warmth, hope, 
I thought about Peeps
(I've bought a few)
Even if rarely eaten, they are
Treasured signs of sunshine, sweetness,
I thought about Easton bats,
(I've bought quite a few)
For baseball and softball fanatics,
Coveted and treasured tools of   
Spring and Summer, too.
Liberty Stadium Seats, Lincoln County High School,  West Virginia by Preferred Bleachers and Theater Seating
I thought about stadium seating,
(I've sat in a few)
It's where memories are made,
Photos taken, 
Treasured spots for hugs, cheers and tears,
On bright Spring mornings,
On hot Summer nights,
On delightful Fall days,
 On crispy cold, Winter afternoons, too. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Adapting, Adjusting, Fitting In

"Prior experiences" was ringing in my head as I looked "closely" at an image a friend posted.  For some, this might be an image of a child who needs to learn the alphabet or perhaps an indication of a visual perceptual issues.  For others, this might be an indication of 100% code coverage.

I saw diverse individuals,
Pushed, pulled, morphed, by outside forces,
Trying to "fit in"
While some are doing OK,

Others are clearly
Like poor X.

Embedded image permalink

Sunday, April 13, 2014

So...You Didn't Get Into Your First Choice

Spring Reading: The Digital Gap Reading Today Online

So, in between some Spring Cleaning, I did a bit of Spring Reading on the first day of Spring Break.  In this week's Reading Today Online

Paul Morsink writes about the challenge of digital gaps in our classrooms. 

At first, all I could really think about was my own personal technology challenge: will it work?
Then, I almost "poo pooed" the article thinking that kids are INTUITIVE with this technology stuff.  It's just us old adults who find it hard, right? Yet, if you stop to think about it, our students do NOT have a level technology playing field.  The real challenge, even now, is how we can avoid a technology equivalent to the Matthew effects.  How can we help students who fall behind in this area because of their exposure or because, for them, it is hard?
This is an article that makes you stop and think about how we all avoid what does not come easy to us!  
This article makes me stop and think about how some day, in the not so distant future, there may be Technology Intervention Services for students who struggle in that domain.   

Saturday, April 12, 2014

#celebratelu Quotes of the Week

Discover. Play. Build.

This week I have "written" less than usual, perhaps because I was trying to cram two work-weeks into one to prepare for "Spring Break"!  Yet, this week was filled with words that etched my heart. So, I call this, "Quotes of the Week."

1) "Would you like to take some books to read over the vacation?" I asked.
"No thank you," she said politely, happily and confidently, as she skipped out of the room without looking back, "I'm not going to read a single word over the vacation. Not one single word!"
"I've still got a lot of work to do on that one," I thought to myself as I silently made a plan to hook her in with Pinky and Rex after vacation.  

2) "I'm gonna miss you on vacation," he said as he reached in for a bit of a hug, clutching a well worn copy of Danny and the Dinosaur in his other hand.  I looked at the book knowing that I would likely never see it again; yet, hoping, beyond reasonable instincts, that this child might just take a treasured book that he could now read on his trip.  I really was hoping that just maybe we wouldn't lose the progress made recently.  "Don't worry, I will try to read for 1 minute every day, even if I might be kind of busy surfing, sailing, swimming and playing video games," he assured me!
"A minute is a start," I thought to myself as he skipped out of the Reading Room!

3) "The kids were purposefully busy and happily engaged in meaningful activities," he commented.  "It was like they went for a 25-minute reading-writing work-out!  It was kind of like going to the gym, with some build-up, some really hard work, but with a feeling of great accomplishment at the end."
"That's exactly what I want them to do," I responded happily.
"It's too bad you don't burn calories doing this kind of a workout 9 times a day," I thought to myself as I skipped out of the office!

4) I've been reading Ruth Ayers 40 Stories, a series of posts that come from her heart, filled with stories of real family life with its ups and downs, pulls and pushes. This week, she wrote a post that was certainly earmarked for me as I have tried, not always perfectly, to balance my own hopes, dreams, wants, needs and those of the people in my life.
At the end, Ruth reflects,

                "I'm learning life, when lived to the fullest, is almost always 
                a moment away from unraveling. 
               We live at the tipping point between pure chaos and pure blessing." 

As I look ahead to my own week "off," filled to the brim with cleaning, cooking, raking, doctors, dentists, audiologists, lawyers, play-dates, shopping, errands, walks, and a day-trip to meet new family and friends, I thought to myself, "I really am blessed."  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

#sol14 The Day Mother Nature Called

 The sun came out,
We swarmed, like lemmings,
Climbing up the mountain
As if our lives depended on it.
Surely, there was schoolwork to do,
Spring cleaning pending,
Gardens to be tended.
Surely, we were out of shape.
Yet, Mother Nature's call
Was loud and clear,
"Come all ye burdened by winter's wrath.
Climb through babbling brooks,
Past the snowy remains,
I promise
You will leave burdens behind,
Find breathtaking views,
Be reminded of hope,
Find spring." 
We did. 

Shut The Front Door - Hillsborough, NC, United States, ASCD EDge Blog post - A Professional Networking Community for Educators

Shut The Front Door - Hillsborough, NC, United States, ASCD EDge Blog post - A Professional Networking Community for Educators
Just sharing what I read....cause it made me stop and think...and who might too.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Years Are Short

This popped into my Twitter feed this morning,
thanks to Stacy@raisealithuman
I thought of the challenge
to balance,
to stay afloat
to overlook the dust bunnies
to make do.
I thought of those tired
from a busy weekend
frustrated, overwhelmed
with life's burdens, choices, 
I thought of the joy
this week might bring.\\

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Text Dependent Questions Close Read Complex Text, and Annotate with Tech--Part 1

Creating Assessment Capable Learners

Creating Assessment Capable Learners

"Formative assessment is--or should be--the bridge or causeway between today's lesson and tomorrow's." Carol Ann Tomlinson

Close Reading Resource

While I did not create these Infographics, I sure wish I had!
Check out this website.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Close Reading and ASCD Graphics

So, now that the SOL and ELA challenges are over for 2014, it's time to get back to working on how we can be the best we can be! 
The concept of Close Reading is one of the good parts of the CCSS. I loved this graphic.  It came from Pinterest - who would have ever guessed!
Questions good readers ask

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Joke in Your Pocket Day

April 17 Is Poem in Your Pocket Day
In honor of students (at least in NYS) taking tests today, perhaps we should have a JOKE in your POCKET day, like Poem in Your Pocket Day which on April 26th!   We could pass out riddles in the hallway!  We could give away jokes on sticky notes! Perhaps today would be a good day?  It's the last day of our ELA (English Language Arts Assessment!)
Just in case you want to join me on this new initiative, here are some riddles and jokes thanks to the folks over at Enchanted Learning. In reality, they have, however, been passed around for ages!

What's black and white and red all over?
(A newspaper!)

What happens when you throw a white hat into the Black Sea?
(It gets wet!)

What bird is always sad?
(The blue jay!)

What do you do when you find a blue elephant?
(Cheer her up!)

What's green and smells like blue paint?
(Green paint!)

What do you do with a green monster?
(Wait until she's ripe!)

What is a cat's favorite color?

What would you call the USA if everyone had a pink car?
(A pink carnation!)

What color socks do bears wear?
(They don't wear socks, they have bear feet!) 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

#sol14 Day 32, A Test In Your Pocket?

April 1st
It's Poetry Month
Put a poem in your pocket,
Put some poetry books on the shelf,
Put some punch in your writing,
Band together to celebrate,
A glorious month of reading,
Writing and thinking
In verse, prose, 
Filled with similes, metaphors, 
Powerful phrases,
Don't worry about sentences
We used to say.

April 1st
It's time for the ELA 
Put a pencil in your pocket,
Focus on close reading,
Turn those questions around.
Think about the genre,
Author's purpose, sequence of events
How those characters' change.
Remember to reread.
Just do your best, 
On that test
We'll say.

April 1st
We'll fill the rest of the day
With poems, riddles, jokes,
April Fools laughs cascading
Down the halls
It's fun,
Those silly jokes,
Slices of life,
We'll say.