Monday, July 19, 2010

It's Summer SO I Am Reading

Sometimes it seems like summer really hasn't begun yet. It seems I have been very busy helping care for others; however, I must have had some down time because I have found time to "dive" into some good books. I just finished Greg Mortensen's story, Three Cups of Tea. I know it has been out for 3 years and I know lots of others had already read it.....but I found it initially "not too engaging." Well, my initial impressions were WRONG! THIS IS A MUST READ for everyone. It is an absolute reminder that the small things that each of us do, can have HUGE impact on the lives of others. It seems unbelievable at times......but I guess NONE of us knows the power of the human spirit or the potential of personal passion.

Monday, May 31, 2010


It might be because of my job as a "reading teacher" but whatever the reason, I am often asked, "What are you reading?" I usually have a few books that I have started (but not found compelling) laying next to my side of the bed or next to my spot on the sofa; however, the BEST reads, the ones I want to tell the world about, are usually consumed in a matter of days (or sometimes hours). For many years, I really did the bulk of my personal reading during school vacations or during those special days each summer at the beach. In fact, while planning for vacation, I spent much MORE time choosing the books I would read than the clothes I would wear or the food I would be eating. Sadly, perhaps, I do not think my children remember me as playing in the sand or swimming in the waves; they remember me as a blob in a chair huddled under an umbrella engrossed in a book.
Anyway, now that my life has morphed from its working mom status, I should have a lot more time to read year-round; however, this does not seem to be the case. My life is still busy with new and different "issues" such as parenting my parents, planning for my teaching, and commuting ( you can't read when you are driving!)>
Even now, I must admit that I still hold off starting a "new" book until I think I will have a few hours to read.
However, during this long Memorial Day weekend, I bit the bullet and consumed not one but 2 books. They were long awaited and so worth the wait.
I first spent 2 days with Christine Kline's The Way Life Should Be. I found it on a rack of books recommended by Barnes and Noble staffers. The suggestion was that Kline was a marvelous author who wove a well crafted tale of the complexity of life. They noted her style to be similar to Anna Quinlen ( a personal fave) and mentioned she was an author in residence at Fordham (my part time employer and alma matre) and so I bought the book. And yes it was fabulous and memorable and well written too! It certainly allowed me to reflect on the twists and turns of life and love. The main character's life is certainly NOT as she had expected or wanted; however, near the end of the book she notes (and I paraphrase for space, Fairy tales can have happy endings because children need to know how things turn out. Yet my life has shown me that I am comfortable living with me questions than answers. I think it was (is) a pretty wonderful place to be if you can accept the questions and know that we (here on earth) do not have all the answers. The book also encouraged me to daydream about love. I know - at my age and after many, many years of marriage I am still thinking about love. Real love, the kind that we as humans all seek, is patient and kind. It does not need to call attention to itself. It is evident in the acts of patience and kindness that we do for those we love.
Now I ALSO read Richard Allington's new text on FLUENCY (that is reading fluently and with expression). It was purchased because I am VERY concerned with the increased focus on fluency rather than on comprehension or reading passionately. I also read that book (150 pages) in about 2 days. But, this is getting long, and so I will save that post for another day. Suffice it to say, this weekend, I read fluently this weekend because I was passionate about the well written texts I wanted to read!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's OK to read when you are not at the table


I wonder what my grad students are thinking as they leave my classroom? Do they wish I talked less? Do they understand what I am talking about? Do they know what I do on the way home?
As I drove home on the crowded interstate tonight, I did what I always do after teaching, I reflected on what I did well and what I could do better. As you would expect, my thoughts focused on the 2.5 hours I had spent with my new graduate students. They were quiet and respectful, taking notes on the ideas that I noted to be significant. They are certainly good students who will not challenge me to entertain or engage them; however, I suspect I will have to work hard to earn their trust. I also reflcted on a reading lesson with a group of 6 year olds earlier in the day. Some of them were like my grad students, listening quietly and focused on my every word. However, one little guy was not interested in reading and challenged me to find a way to engage him. He really did not want to tap relentlessly on that table to annoy me. He was begging me to find a text and scaffold his learning so that he too could be a part of that reading club that is fast growing and empowering his friends. He too wants to be part of the group of readers tomorrow. My job is to use a book that will grab his attention and to scaffold the reading so that HE is successful, tomorrow.
So, my new grad students, I will work hard to earn your trust; however, I will go to sleep tonight thinking about that little guy who really wants to learn to read- tomorrow!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

just thinking

As the sun streams through my window this Sunday morning, I am reminded of the promise of spring and the new beginning that it offer us all each year. Like each of you who might ever come across the post, I am busy with my jobs as well as a plethora of family responsibilities and household chores! Like each of you I have my worries and concerns, some of which could fill a person with angst at times! Like most of you, I awoke this morning with a "to-do" list that was already long and a sense of "angst" about getting it all done today.....And then...only a few hours the still early eight o'clock hour, the sun breaks through and offers me a sense of hope.... Yes I have already crossed a few things off my list...and the rest will either "get done" or make tomorrow's "to-be-done" list...
I am reminded as I feel the warm sun (through the window this week) that some how it will all get done....and that we ALL (even you grad students who might come across this blog while stalling) need to take time to "enjoy the promise of new beginnings" that spring always evokes. There are no promises of consistently wonderful weather or consistently sunny skies to this season; yet, somehow this sunshine reassures us all that there are bright days ahead for us all.

Monday, March 29, 2010

school vacations

This has been a LONG COLD weekend for all of us on "spring vacations".....and so I am guessing that MANY of you are thinking of your overview section. Remember that the overview section is where you need to look BEYOND your vocabulary and comprehension lesson plans. Please think about ALL the ideas you have read and heard about this semester as you pull your unit together.....include at least some of them in your unit overview......this is really an opportunity to demonstrate what you are learning.....
I DID SAY THAT THE OVERVIEW DID NOT HAVE TO BE TURNED IN ON APRIL 30th......feel free to take the time you need to do it right!!!!!!!
See you on Tuesday....

Sunday, March 21, 2010


I was originally going to call this post TECHNOLOGY IS ALWAYS CHANGING and CAN BE CONFUSING.....but then I was reminded......once again...that it is not JUST technology that is changing and can be is really the act of living that requires ALL of us to personally and professionally adapt to innumerable unforseen events and "things" that come along. So let me explain.....
Sometime late last winter, my day job school district changed the night of evening conferences from a Thursday in late March to a Tuesday in late March. I questioned the change in the printed school calendar but was told that it had to be this new way based on "fairness to other schools in the district." I sighed as I was putting the finishing touches on your syllabus and decided to go with an online class....I just can not get out of those conferences as the students I work with are at risk or struggling learners.
THEN.....JUST THIS WEEK....I start getting confernce schedules together from teachers and find that the conferences are NOW on THURSDAY after thinking to myself....What??()#$&%)#(%&#%*)&....and saying to a few people WHAT(#*%)(#%&)#%*&#)%*&? I found out that my earlier protests had been heard and that changing a school calendar was harder than making life fair,,......and so NOW I AM OK TO HAVE CLASS ON TUESDAY....
THE IMPORTANT PART OF ALL THIS BABBLE is that CHANGE is part of TEACHING and a BIG PART of life. How we adapt and accept those changes is the part that WE can control. So I guess.....this class...and these changes is just a metaphor for life...
as the African proverb notes:
Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.


I admit that I am NOT as comfortable with technology as many of you ....but I am trying....and I know that TECHNOLOGY will be more important in your careeres than in mine.....even if the GROWTH of technology will have to embrace it or.....become obsolete....and who wants to become obsolete before their time? Not me....

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunshine and Technology

It is a beautiful sunny Sunday morning here in Stormville as I post this week's powepoint and try to update student grades on Blackboard. Last weekend was spent devoid of electricity, heat, and water...trying to do a powerpoint on a borrowed computer in Paneros! I guess that is why I am SO aware of the sunshine and the feeling of spring and hope it always evokes. Somehow, the sunshine is a reminder that there are good things planned by a higher power for all of us in the days to come. It's pretty amazing that I feel this way as last week was very stressful for so many of the people I love and care about....and the days ahead will likely have more stress than I can even imagine.....
I guess the sunshine is a me....that reader responses, grades, powerpoints, and even finding jobs....the day to day stressors of this world...are just to day stressors of this world. There are brighter days planned for all of the days ahead.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday Morning.....and I Must Be Missing My Grad Students it is a sunny Saturday morning and while I a little concerned about another pending storm, I am moving ahead thinking about our class and what points will help you to all see the potential of teachers to shape comprehension. As I read this reader response about thinking aloud, I really found myself thinking about INTERACTIVE READING AND THINKING ALOUD!

The reflection observed:
"I thought the modeling of interactive read alouds to be most helpful in terms of working with younger children in helping them monitor their own comprehension."

I too find my mind wandering at times when I read. Recently, I have been reading aloud editorial columns from the NY Times to my Dad who is very ill but still thinking. As I read YOUR response I was thinking about MY READING of a recent column by Maureen Dowd. While I was reading, my mind was not on the column but rather on the irony of my Dad's condition where his mind is intact and his body is not. FORTUNATELY, in the middle of the column I stopped to have a bit of an interactive think aloud "turned around"....that is I asked my Dad what he was thinking to help refocus me to the article without rereading it.

NOW THE REAL REASON FOR THIS POSTING is not to get you to read Maureen Dowd but instead to think about your own reading and how discussion supports all of our comprehension.
While it would be ideal to think that we are always thinking and focused on our reading......we are not! right now when the piles of laundry are awaiting and the dust bunnines are rolling across the office floor......our minds are elsewhere....but it is good to know there is a way to restart our comprehension!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

an idea

So the FIRST person who finds and comments on this blog will get a FREE 2-point reader it that for an "attention grabber"!

Snow Days

I'm not sure anyone is even reading my attempt to model and scaffold a "modern" form of literacy, blogging; however, I guess I might as well begin to share my thoughts in writing and make them "shared text."
Yesterday, I really had a glimpse into the complex feelings of Superintendents of Schools and others who struggle to make the decision to delay, cancel or keep open schools during times of "unsure" weather. While the weather people were not screaming, "A blizzard is coming," the snow was blowing and drifting from my vantage point and the driving was VERY scary with roads covered with snow and cars off to the side like "unsuitable" candies tossed from that box of Valentine goodies. I found myself worried about "my" students who would soon be trying to get to class and I began to wonder if it was worth the risk. But, then I began to feel like a WHIMP for even thinking of cancelling class and feeling GUILTY for all the money you pay to hear my "weekly pearls of wisdom."
ANYWAY, those feeling all swirled around as sipped hot tea and watched the channel 12 news again and again hoping for a sign of what I should do....
AND THEN......I got that sign I was looking for.....Westchester Community College cancelled their evening classes....that was good enough for me......they had LOTS of LOTS of kids and they wanted them to be safe.....
You never know in those situations and so I got a glimpse of how Superintendents MUST struggle again and again.....and yet I certainly have mumbled unkind things about WASTING or NOT GIVING time when the weather was iffy.....
So on this first day of the "season of reflection"......I will try to be KINDER and MORE UNDERSTANDING to those who have to make decisions every day about the welfare of others......I will not second guess their decisions with unkind words and really is a HUGE responsibility.....just like being a teacher....because everything we do has impacts our students.....even this blog MIGHT someday impact you and your teaching!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Literature Circles

As you prepare for your Literature Circle Role, you might want to think a little more deeply about the diverse roles of literature circles in today's classrooms. Chekc out:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Some good sites to explore books

Carol Hurst's Site with book reviews

Univeristy of Connecticut Resource Site

Some great picture books - not just for high school students!

A good place to explore themes and units of study

Random House site

Books for teaching Point of View

Childre's books with social studies themes

K-3 Books for social studies themes

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

January 2010

It's a new year, a new semester, and a new blog dedicated to sharing reading and writing practices that support classrooms where everybody is empowered to be readers and writers.