Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The week I tried to get kids to listen

I don't know about YOUR students, but MINE have had a hard time listening of late!  I wonder I some of the "antsy" listening is due to the lack of outdoor recess and play time in the cold, cold season of the year.  Yet, every winter it is cold.  So, I did some searching (researching) to stretch my thinking on the topic of listening.  I had bookmarked this Edutopia blog post by Rebecca Alber way back in the August days when kids were still on the horizon; it got me thinking about listening and how I could get students to listen.  I tried two of her recommended strategies and what a difference it made! 


 What? 5 Ways to Get Students to Listen
| Rebecca Alber

 I tried:

Say it Once:  The kids expected me to repeat myself.  Why listen?
Hand Signals: Yes, I added these.  What a difference

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

#sol2014 Calling me softly with his song

On Saturday, this was the Amazon "deal of the day." I LifeSpan Fitness TR800-DT7 Desktop Treadmill

List Price:$2,299.99
You Save:$511.01 (22%)

Now, I didn't buy it, but I did stop to look closely at it because my life (as well as lots of you reading this blog) is a little too tied to this computer and I really do need to find a way to incorporate the other aspects of my life at home into the precious few hours I am here!  I cook (a little), sleep (a little), clean (very little) and write (more than I cook, sleep or clean)!

Truth be told, I have a wonderful treadmill inches from my computer calling me right now; however, when the novelty of this amazing multitasking device dissipates a bit, and the price becomes a bit more affordable, I'm trading "up" for one of these!  I'm figuring, based on the price slide of big screen TVs, computers, and hand held calculators, I will be able to buy this in 2048. It's something to look forward to and dream about while I am slicing next to my trusty old treadmill, the one two steps from my computer, the one that "lets" me sit, think and write while "calling me softly with his song"!

Monday, January 27, 2014

It's a Super Week!

Motivation, engagement, excitement are critical pieces of teaching and learning that we sometimes overlook.  Oh yes, back when we were student teaching and when we are being observed, we all make sure we have an "anticipatory set" and a "hook" at the start of our lessons!  Oh yes, when we stop to think about it, we always want our students to be excited about learning.  Yet, as we stay true to our standards and benchmarks of learning, sometimes we forget that we also need to be "in the moment" and take advantage of "teachable moments."

So, if your students, even some of them, are obsessed with Super Bowl Festivities and excitement, check out these links! 

While I'd like to do some close viewing, looking critically at a Super Bowl commercial with my students, I may save that for Monday.  This week, in honor of the Super Bowl, we're going to be Super Readers! 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

#Celebratelu Spring is Coming!

Discover. Play. Build.
It's been a bitter cold week and I could bemoan my cold, stiff fingers or the inflated heating bills
that will be billowing in, there is a lot to celebrate! 

One: Monday, was Martin Luther King's birthday, a day "off" from school making a delicious long weekend.  (even if it was snow covered, filled with shoveling, and bitter cold)!
Two: Tuesday was, an "early dismissal" amid a blanket of snow descending on the area(While it still took me 2 hours to get home, I know I was among the lucky ones as those who left their businesses later that evening had far longer, much colder, and more harrowing trips home.)   
Three: Wednesday, we had a delayed opening to school and we knew about it the night before so I did not set the alarm!  Yes, there was shoveling and yes the commute including some drifting snow, but still!
Four: With all that "extra" time, I was able to make a local HS basketball game and watch my niece "whoop up" on a team that beat them earlier this season. It made for a late night, but it was still a bit of "extra" fun that all the snow, cold, and "extra time" gave me! 
Five: Spring is coming! There is evidence that moments of daylight are increasing!  At first I thought it was just the time "off" from school; however, even after a full day, even after leaving school late, there was "some brightness" to the sky!  The last lines of Oliver Herford's poem, remind me that "We are nearer to Spring, than we were in September.”  (yes, I realize the poem is about December!)

I Heard a Bird Sing
by Oliver Herford
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.
"We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,”
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.

From Welcome Christmas! A Garland of Poems (Viking Press, 1955).


Monday, January 20, 2014

#sliceoflife2014 Home Delivery: It's Back!

My mother often bemoans how life is moving too fast.  She complains loud and long about computers and considers the recent "credit-card-breach" to be "expected" for those who use plastic rather than "tried and true" cash.  Yet, she is starting to see that shopping online (for groceries) and home delivery of food may be "helpful" to some people!

Indeed, there are some "old ideas" that are "back again!"  Thanks to online shopping, Peapod, and the many other grocery stores offering home delivery across America, older, handicapped, and just plain busy households have the opportunity to experience what grocery shopping was like in the old days.

Long ago, in the era before people drove cars to their neighborhood grocery stores, those essentials that families needed to buy were often delivered in wagons such as the one above. In cities, home delivery of groceries never completely stopped; although delivery bikes replaced horses! Yet, for those of us in the suburbs and in rural areas, grocery shopping, even for my mother, meant driving to the store, picking out the food needed, and then driving it all back home!

Peapod delivery
I for one, am very grateful that this practice has returned to the "burbs."  It offers me peace of mind and shortens the amount of time it takes me to do their shopping!  Peapod is helping those I love to live in their own homes. 

Now, if only I could get them to do their own orders....on their own computers......hmmm!   Virtual walking down the aisles at Stop and Shop is what I am calling this phase of our lives!

Lessons in Determination (from football)

I spent most of my life avoiding football like the plague.  People jumping on one another just did not seem like a fun way to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon - to me!  When my childcare-provider suggested my then sweet-cheeked-five year old would probably love football, I responded quickly, "Not my son."

Yet, she was right, and he did "grow up" to love the power of football while I buried concerns about his safety with the clear evidence that his participation was important to him.  While there were some injuries, there were also clear lessons in determination that I could never have taught.   

This morning, when I saw this Derrick Coleman commercial, the memories of football's power came flooding back.  Coleman, the only hearing-impaired professional football player (I am pretty sure) certainly exemplifies to power of determination and serves as a role model for not only the hearing impaired community.  

There are risks in everything we do (driving a car, crossing the street, eating ice cream!.....) and while we do need to make sure our kids and players are safe when they play football (or any other sport), there are life-lessons in determination that might just carry into classrooms, boardrooms, and households.

While I admit that I usually watch the Superbowl for its commercials, this year, I will be following Coleman!


Hello Literacy Reading Levels Correlation Chart {Aligned to Common Core Lexile Levels} FREE
Thanks, Jen at for sharing this resource.  I wrote to her before publishing this to check on her own resources and she said she used this link

Saturday, January 18, 2014

#celebratelu 2014 Portraits of MLK Jr.

Discover. Play. Build.

This week(end) there is much to celebrate! 
A three-day weekend after two full weeks of school,
This view outside my classroom,
Portraits of Martin Luther King Jr.,
Reminders that while his years were short,
His timeless messages are still
Reverberating in our classrooms and hallways. 

Do not judge by skin color,
(or race, religion, looks, disabilities....).

Education should teach 
To think intensively and critically.  

Thank you AB and ND for the use of your class's artwork.

Study: Novel Reading Generates Sustained Boost in Neural Connectivity

Study: Novel Reading Generates Sustained Boost in Neural Connectivity

Thank heavens there is research to back up what I already KNEW: Novel Reading Generates Sustained Boost in Neural Connectivity

"The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist," said the lead author of the study, Emory neuroscience professor Gregory Berns. "We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else's shoes in a figurative sense. Now we're seeing that something may also be happening biologically."

Monday, January 13, 2014

#SOL2014 We've been slicing together for a long time

We might be considered to be among the "lucky ones" as we've been "slicing" together for a long time; however, tolerance, tenacity trust, and love are more worthy of celebration than luck as we reach another anniversary!  

There will be
No dinner out,
No gifts, no dancing.
There will be quiet
Recognition, remembering
Of the many days since
That cold January morning.
I had no idea
How hard, how wonderful,
How challenging, how rewarding,
How mad, how happy,
How difficult, how beautiful,
How selfless, how fulfilling,
How giving, how forgiving,
How angry, how good
Living, sharing, balancing each other
Would be.
Love Quote
I'll stick around,
For companionship,
For feuds, fun,
For times to go separate ways,
For times together,
For hikes, hopes, harvests,
For planned-left-overs,
To give, to forgive,
To cancel each other's votes,
To augment each other's lives,
In a relationship
Where neither is perfect,
Where both are tenacious.

Perfect relationship
As the rewards,
Of tolerance, tenacity, trust, 
And love
Are very special. 
Falling in love is easy, but staying in love is very special. –

PS.  Thank Pinterest for most of the images!  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Reading in the Wild

On my Kindle this week is

I read Donalyn Miller's Book Whisperer from cover the cover, follow her on Twitter and know her passion is contagious.
I am sure there is nothing "brand new" in this "NEW" book; however, certainly in an education world dominated by CCSS and Racing to the Top, it is important to stop and think about what parents, teachers and readers have known in their hearts forever.

If you want kids to read:
1. Model reading: Talk about what you are reading and why.
2. Make time for reading. If we value it, we plan for it and make time in school.
3. Carry a book with you. Or your Kindle!
4. Have a variety of reading material - allow choice.  We are all different.
5. Read aloud. We've heard that before!

I can't help but make a text-to-text connection to a post earlier this week over at the Nerdy Book Club

If we want kids to read, let them read. Don't insist on perfection or just right books.    Let them see themselves as, "Readers."

Saturday, January 11, 2014

#celebratelu: Thank Goodness

It's been a bitter cold, snow and ice filled week on the mountain; yet thanks to Ruth, I've noticed there is much to celebrate!
Discover. Play. Build.

My refrigerator was safe from snowy afternoon invaders!   Thank goodness, as some of us have a few "cookie-related" pounds to lose!

Several of my reluctant writers took off with a quick, but engaging, publishing project after reading a short informational text about grasshoppers.  They "read a text closely" and were able to make the "connection" to between the name and what grasshoppers do-where they live- what they eat!  Then, we responded to the text using a graphic organizer.  That was the end of my plans for that story.

Thank goodness I was able to morph my plans and capture the "teachable moment" when they asked to make books about grasshoppers!  The joy on their faces was a reminder that "listening" to our students is really part of "formative assessment" and an essential component of  "engaging" our learners!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Close Reading: In Defense of Dense Texts

Close reading is following me of late.  Perhaps it is because Chris Lehman is all over Twitter all of the time!  It might also be due to my book club reading (Close Reading).   Whatever the reason, I spent some time this afternoon talking about the President of the United States.  The text we were reading closely talked about one of his jobs as the person who is in charge of defense.  With a lot of encouragement, the kids did connect with the use of that word in sports!  We really did, however, have to go back and to look closely at the text.  
Then, later this afternoon, I read the Langston Hughes poem below through the lens of "close reading.".It made me stop and think .  I wondered about the crystal staircase and "tacks" metaphors.  I reread some of the powerful descriptions and wondered about what the author wanted me to know.  I looked over the thoughts of strong and struggling students. I was sure of only one thing:
                                While there are parts of the CCSS that make us cringe, 
                      we owe students opportunities to experience rigorous / dense texts
                                            (texts that make us want to reread).   
Mother to Son
Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.

Don't you fall now—
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

Monday, January 6, 2014

#Sliceoflife2014: My OLW for the year

I have thought about this OLW (one little word) focus for a few years now, but never committed to a word.  Last year, I tried....but I did not commit to just OLW, at least not publicly in January.  Partly, it was hard to commit to just one word when there were so many aspects of my life that seemed out of focus and seemed to need "words."  In retrospect, I did hang on to the concept of focus quietly and in my heart for the first part of the year.  I did need to focus on living in the moment rather than for the future or in the past.  I also tried to have patience with myself and others.  It was hard, but while not public, they were my own quiet, TLWs (two little words).
This year, like so many of you have said it might, my word came to me!  It's a bit grandiose and unreachable, perhaps, but in reality this word embraces my own goal for dealing with life, as it will happen.  In reality, the word found me when, (in a moment of deeper than usual reflection after more than a week without using an alarm clock), I wrote in a blog post, "I've.....begun this New Year with JOY in my heart."

Perhaps it was due to my well rested, overly fed, filled with happy memories condition, but the phrase kept popping into my head  I began to wonder (as I endured the treadmill) if JOY could be something I embraced a little more fully all year through?

So, I did some 21st Century style research (Google style).  I determined I was not the first person to choose joy.  I found Lisa, over at Little Blue Boo, who certainly has a lot to say about the subject and who has chosen to embrace this same word in her own life. She also made this pretty wonderful graphic that helped secure my own word choice as she concludes, happiness is not the same as joy!  
I found some amazing quotes worthy of Pinterest.

Indeed, I will not be happy at all times this year, but I will still try to embrace an attitude that defies the circumstances of life.

I will try to find joy in my care giving for my elderly aunt and frail mother, even on those nights when they are grumpy, frustrated or exasperated with the trials of aging.  I will try to find joy even when I am tired, frustrated, or exasperated with the trials of aging.

I will try to find joy on my treadmill, even when my MP3 is not charged, my knees are achy, or my cholesterol level is going in the wrong direction.  

I will try to find joy in what others do, even if the it's not the oatmeal I wanted, it's not the decision I would have made, or my friends act differently than I would have hoped!  

I will try to find joy in my students, even when they don't progress as I hoped or forget, once again, to read.  

I will try to do as Ralph Waldo Emerson implored, "scatter joy,"  by looking for the good in people, places and things.  I will try to be a beacon of hope and light in the darkness this year.  I'm not gonna promise that this will be easy and I will promise that I will certainly fall off the wagon, perhaps many, many times; however, this year, I choose to embrace and live with JOY, an attitude that defies the circumstances of my life. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014


On New Year's Eve, as I was making vats full of meatballs, sausage, and sauce for our family New Year's Day celebration, I noticed that Michelle, One Grateful Teacher,  had nominated me for my very first "blogging award" ever! I must admit I was honored to even think that I put Sunshine into someone's day by writing!  Michelle is quite the blogger and I Slice with her on Tuesdays, Celebrate with her on Saturdays, and follow her on Twitter!  Michelle certainly inspires me, but due the the holiday week filled with cooking, eating, Scrabble playing, and movie watching, I put off responding because oh my, there were a lot of questions and this would take some time!  

Then, two days ago, I was nominated for another Sunshine award by Janna.  "Holy Cow" I thought to myself, "Janna is also a blog I LOOK TO for SUNSHINE."  I Celebrate with Janna on Saturdays, Slice with her on Tuesdays, and am inspired by her regularly.  She finds the good in everyday life!  "Yikes," I concluded, "I better start thinking about this."
Here are the rules:
1.  Acknowledge the nominating blogger - done
2.  Share 11 random facts about yourself - below
3.  Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger creates for you - below
4.  List bloggers - hmmmm I really like you guys :)  and I like lots of other bloggers who have already done this "chain letter" sunshine award.....for anyone else...please know that SOL and Celebrate Saturday comments ALWAYS bring me SUNSHINE!

5.  Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they've been nominated.  Don't nominate a blogger who has nominated you. - done! 

Eleven Random Facts about Me: 

1. I love to wake up in the morning at the beach.  There is something magical about the orange sun on the horizon, a good book, and some hot tea.   

2.. I collect old basal readers.  I started with a few that were my grandmothers but my collection is much larger now thanks to friends and the Stormville Flea Market!

3. I met my husband in the library.  My kids think this is so weird!  One of my kids avoided libraries because of this potential! 

4.  I blindly followed my faith until I became a CCD teacher when my own children were growing up.  My students challenged me to rethink my beliefs and to back up what I said with the Bible.  Now, my faith is a conscious decision and a guiding force in my life.

5. I love on top of a mountain in a place called Stormville.  It is named for the Storm family who settled here long ago; however, it has earned its name thanks to the weather that rolls through!  They close the interstate near here all the time!  They often say "snow" above Rt 84 (the interstate) and rain below!  I don't know how the storms can "see" the interstate but they do!

6. I often slide down my long, steep, cliff-filled driveway on snowy or icy mornings.  I wrap a long coat around me and try not to go too fast! No matter what, it is safer to have my car at the bottom!  It makes for good stories at "cocktail parties" but then the truth is always stranger than fiction.

7. I have been writing phonetically based children's books for my students for many, many years.  Some of them are pretty good!  Someday, I hope to publish them!

8.. These days, I teach beginning readers during the day and graduate students at night.  I am really blessed as I really do love both jobs; however, there was a time when at least one school district did not consider me worthy of a teaching job. I know now that it was a lesson in holding tight to your dreams.  

9. I love to eat sea food: salmon, shrimp, scallops, crab and even octopus.  I learned to eat all this as an adult after I "became" Italian through marriage and our diet morphed to more closely to what they eat in the old country!  Until then, I thought of canned tuna and fish sticks as seafood!

10.  I never kept a journal until I started blogging to be an example to my grad students.  I TOLD my own kids to do so, and they did.  I told zillions of kids to do so, and many of them did.  I never followed my own advice.

11. I love my Kindle reader.  I can have a book in a second.  It would take me at least 90 minutes round trip to get a book at the nearest bookstore!  I have enough books downloaded to survive 1 month of snow days!

Here are the questions from Michelle...

1. What's your favorite quote? Why? 
In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years. (Lincoln)  I always knew that life was fragile, but when I lost my brother to cancer a few years ago, this quote took on new meaning.  We need to make every day of our lives count. We need to tell those we love that we love them/  
In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.

2. What's your theme song? Why?
I don't really have one, but when my kids were younger and didn't want to help clean the house on Saturday mornings, I used to play Beach Boy music while I cleaned.  Now, it makes me happy and remember those Saturday mornings when I would blast Barbara Anne until they did some cleaning!  
3. Who inspires you?
There are many people who have inspired me in different aspects of my life.  My sister in law was an inspiration as a mother and wife.  Professionally I have been inspired by Donald Graves who proposed that we all had a story to tell.   
4. If you had a weekend (and money was no object), what would you do? Who would be with you?
I might fly to California and spend it with my cousin, Karen.  We'd probably hit TJ Maxx and a farmer's market before catching a movie and eating too much popcorn and then staying up too late talking! OR I might just pack up and hit a beach somewhere warm and invite Karen, or my kids to join me!
5. What's the best part of your day?
Coming home and eating dinner with my husband,  Even after all these years, there is something special about sharing our days.  We don't eat together every night, even now, but for many years it was a rare and special treat.  
6. Three high points of 2013?
A family retirement celebration at West Point
A 25 mile bike ride this summer
My family-filled holidays this year
7. Secret guilty pleasure?
popcorn - love it - too much
8. If you could spend time with anyone living or dead, who would it be? 
The list is long but it would include my brother and my sister in law who left us much too soon. 
9. What are you reading right now?
Close Reading - Lehman and Roberts - it's pretty great and for my school book club
Assessing Learners with Special Needs - Overton - it's for my grad school class
10. All time favorite book from childhood.
11. What's your one little word for 2014?

Here are the questions from Janna
  1. What was the best surprise you had last year?  I had a couple of students who grew (as far as reading goes) exponentially last year!
  2. How did you start blogging? I was trying to model writing for my grad students in a writing class. 
  3. When and where do you like to do your writing?  In my office on my desktop computer in the morning.  
  4. What drives your life? my faith and my family 
  5. If money was no issue, where would you like to travel and why? if I had longer than a weekend, I would go to Italy (northern) and learn to cook like Lidia!  
  6. What is your favorite love story (film or print)? Notting Hill
  7. You have four days; no need to do school work or house work. What would you do? read for fun - I have lots of books on my Kindle 
  8. What is the best thing about twitter and other social media?  My PLN - although after all the time I have spent on this I am not so sure!  
  9. What is your next challenge? I am trying to find time to exercise!  
  10. What creative thing are you planning to do next? write a book that is rolling around my head 
  11. What is the favorite place that you have lived and why? Right here - in snowy, cold Stormville.  I am close enough to the city and immersed in the country.  

NOW, KNOWING FULL WELL THAT SOME OF YOU MAY NOT HAVE TIME TO COMPLETE THIS FOR A LONG TIME, I propose these questions to some bloggers who inspire me! 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

#Celebrate this week: Filled with family

Ruth Ayres started this Celebrate each week to encourage thinking about the celebrations in every day life. This sure has been a week full!
Discover. Play. Build.
It's been the longest winter break I can ever remember (16 days) and that alone should be (and is) sixteen (16)  reasons to celebrate.

The days have been filled with cooking, eating and celebrating with family, including the cousins and friends (4) who will soon return to college.  There were also cousins (2) who will soon be back to basketball, winter track (1), coaching (1) or to work (12).  They all made time to gather and celebrate New Year's Day with the family.

In total, there were twenty eight (28) people who gathered around the counter at some point on New year's Day to watch cousins (2) prepare a fresh octopus salad.  Like paparazzi, they took photos of the preparation before they devoured every tentacle (8)!     

The days and evenings of this long winter break have been filled with visitors who were willing to step out of their day to day lives to spend some time on our mountain.  There have been some wonderful dinners, great conversations, and some game-playing  including John Deere Monopoly and Scrabble.  I've lost a few rounds of Scrabble (2), but I've won a few (2), too!  Amazingly, Twister, that old classic from the '60's was the "hit" of the season with participants of all ages (5 to 50)! 
I've eaten too much, slept plenty, enjoyed the banter, and begun this New Year with joy in my heart.  When you stop to think about your life, there sure is a lot to celebrate!