Sunday, September 20, 2015

#celebratelu15 Celebrate: Patience

For 100 weeks, Ruth Ayers has been encouraging us to "Be gentle with ourselves," and to "Focus on the small celebrations of our lives."  

This week, I celebrate PATIENCE.  

I'm not by nature a "patient" person.  I like to get things done and done "right." I'm not one to procrastinate; in fact, I can become a bit "anxious" when it takes "too long" to get to a "goal" whether it is "getting our program up and running" at work, "getting the house cleaned," or "waiting for a special event." I've always loved getting up early with the excitement and promise of a full day ahead. Perhaps that is why I've always been intrigued by the last stanza of Longfellow's Psalm of Life which my Grandmother recited frequently:
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
   Learn to labor and to wait.
This week, I have been "reminded" in all aspects of my life that patience is hard and requires letting go of expectations and timelines. Patience requires us to "trust" that it will all work out in the end.  Patience requires us to accept that "we" are not in control of everything that happens.  

This week, I celebrate the great things in life that are absolutely worth waiting for!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Celebrate: Reading Workshop

Today I "celebrate" the concept of a Reading Workshop!

For many years, professionals have battled over the "best" way to teach reading; however, the idea of a Reading Workshop, where learners are engaged in authentic learning activities has endured for 20 years!  

It works because it stresses students interacting with texts.  It has whole group, small group and independent reading experiences.  There is modeling, thinking aloud, strategy instruction,targeted instruction, and ongoing assessments.  It works because there is a predictable structure and guaranteed time for daily reading, sharing, and questioning.

Reading Workshops begin with a Mini-Lesson that lasts 7-10 minutes.  Each mini lesson has a specific focus on "teaching point." Usually the teacher will model or demonstrate the skill or strategy and then give students a chance to practice it by themselves or with a "talking partner" during a "turn and talk."  Often the teacher uses chart paper as a visual record and reminder of the lesson. During this period of "active engagement" there is an expectation that students will attempt to use this strategy during their own reading time. Classroom read aloud texts often become mentor texts through rereading or referring to previously read sections.  

Independent daily reading time where students are engaged in self-selected texts is a critical piece of a Reading Workshop.  Depending on the classroom structure, students may not always be sitting at a desk when they are reading.  It's important to be comfortable and focused; thus, reading carrels, pillows and reading corners are all important in setting the stage for reading.  Shopping for books in the classroom or the library usually takes place at set times in order to assure maximum reading time.

Students share their reading progress through sticky notes, Conferences with teachers and or book logs.  A reader's notebook is also an important tool in helping to understand students' thinking about books.  

Differentiation takes place through Guided Reading and Strategy Groups.  While most are reading self selected texts, the teacher is of guiding small groups of students reading at the same level to practice strategies that will allow them to progress as readers.  The teacher also brings together small groups of students at different levels to work on common strateiges.  
Effective workshops end with a closing or sharing session where students and teachers can share with partners, talk about what they are reading, or revisit the mini lesson strategy.  .  
Some great links:

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

#sol15 Time for Reading and Writing

Long ago, when I was first teaching, in the days when Language Experience ruled, we made butter from creme, wrote about our experience and then read about it, all in the same day.   I suspect we spent about 2 hours a day in our "ELA" block.  During the "Whole Language days" we focused on ELA all day, every day.  In the era of Reading and Writing Workshop, we reserved an our for reading and 45 minutes for writing - every day.  We even did word study in a separate block.  
As we start this new school year, with science, math, technology, physical activities, art, music, and social studies crammed into ever day, I have become increasingly concerned about the amount of time "left" in the school day for reading and writing.  I get that math is important and teachers need their breaks (specials).  I "get" that learning how to "code" is the future for many of our students and as the momma to an engineer, I "get" the importance of STEM for all students

Yet, there is one thing for sure: we learn to be readers and writers by reading and writing.  It's the foundation of all learning. We need to have dedicated focused time where we immersed young readers and writers in print and model the strategies of readers and writers.  We need to have time for readers and writers to experiment and practice. to take risks with print.  We need to give them feedback and support each and every day.  It's all important; however, reading and writing is the foundation of all learning.  Either we add minutes to the school day, or we stop and revisit our priorities!  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

#celebratelu 15: Celebrating This Week

I thank Ruth Ayers for hosting this weekly celebration as no matter how challenging, crazy or sad some events in our week might be, there is always something to celebrate if you stop to notice.  
  • This week began hot and humid suggesting that summer's wrath was still upon us; yet, this week ended with a clear, certain assurance of fall's impending arrival.This morning, there are crisp leaves on the ground and I am reminded that this time of back to school-sweaters-and apple cider is my favorite season.
  • This week, I screened what seemed to be about "a zillion" new arrivals to my school. One little girl smiled when I pulled out the Fountas and Pinnell Assessment book and said gleefully, "They have that same book at my old school!"  I smiled at her excitement and thought about the teachers in Brooklyn who were likely doing Fountas and Pinnell assessments right along "beside" me on a Friday afternoon!  
  • This week I celebrate football in spite of my angst each time helmets clang and shoulder pads clash. I know players and coaches have worked very hard, for months, preparing for each play.  Each and every tackle, by each and every player represents a small personal victory. There is something magical about Friday night crowds dancing and cheering under the lights. 
  • Last week was four (school days) long, thanks to Labor Day and this next week is three (school days) long thanks to Rosh Hashanah. I could get used to this!
  • I haven't read A.A.Milne's classic in a while; however, his words danced through my head as I endured heat, assessed students, and watched football this week.

Friday, September 11, 2015

9-1-1: Reflection

I can remember every moment of that morning......the incredibly beautiful September morning.  The sky was aglow. There was a sense of hope and love that September morning.  My life was full and busy . My son was in college and my daughter in graduate school.  I had a job I loved and was in a graduate program that would take me into Manhattan.

Then, as I assessed a reluctant reader, the Vice Principal delivered ta quiet message that a plane had gone into the World Trade Center, Don't tell the kids. Come to the office as quickly as you can, There are parents to contact.  We need your to bring your cell phones.  

I could not begin to understand the impact of her words.  We were less than 20 miles away in our suburban school.

There were families in our community whose lives were shattered that day....and in some way...we all were a more cynical...more critical...yet kinder and gentler version of what we were before....We made call to parents....we planned for dismissal...we rode buses home to be sure no child was left alone....and then we hoped and prayed that there were survivors...and we remembered to tell our loved ones we "loved them" and to live each day to its fullest including random acts of kindness.   

Monday, September 7, 2015

#sol15 A new chapter

As the sun set,
I knew it was time.
To begin writing, again.
The long summer,
Filled with prayers, reflection, endings,
Was over. 

We've been back in school,
It seems like for weeks already. 
But the "summer" ,
Really seems to end
When we cross Labor Day off the calendar.

There were many wonderful slices
Of life this summer in spite of the sadness.
I missed writing about
Watching "summer theater" at its best,
Young thespians performing
The Wizard of Oz on a summer night.
Weddings, glittery and grand, small and intimate, 
Tears of joy, miracles, hope, love.
Parties, showers, gatherings,
Days, evenings with friends and family. 
The blankets, 
Quilted and knitted with love, 
The play dates and shopping trips,
Snacking on ice cream at the library
Buying strollers at Buy Buy Baby.

I'm not yet able to write
Of this summer of sadness,
But fall signals new beginnings,
Fresh starts, hope, potential.
For those of us in education,
Every year,
For my family,
This year
Fall is the beginning 
Of a new, adventure filled,
Exciting and unforgettable chapter.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sometimes, things happen that make you sad...

I haven't written much lately.
I've been a bit overwhelmed with life.
I've been trying to figure out
Why sad things happen,
Things that hurt, or don't make sense.

Today, I realized that my "dark cloud"
Sad things that happen,
Things that hurt, or don't make sense,
Went to school!  

Today, they threw away
My big, red, floor cushions,
The ones that came
From a side of the road,
Discarded Pottery Barn couch.

The cushions that have provided
A reading spot for many, many, many
Emerging readers (and their teacher).

You can see me sitting on them 
A few years ago
As a student found her rhythm.
You can see them resting,
Behind Beary,
Waiting for kids to enter and grab books
To settle down and read.
"They are a fire hazard," they said.
"They encourage reading," I thought.

They are gone, but not forgotten.
I am not sure what I am going to do,
But sometimes things happen
That make you sad.

"I guess it's a good thing they blamed
Fire Safety," I thought,
"I do want kids to be safe,
But I want them to be comfortable,
Relaxed and to read."

Sometimes things happen
That make you sad,
So make the best of what you find,
Along the road of life.
Memories on discarded cushions,
Lemonade from lemons.