Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Data Set - March of the Mini Beasts

While on vacation, I found a brand new series for transitional readers but I was a hesitant to pick it up because I found the front cover a bit dark and spooky.  The blurb did peak my interest and I remembered I need more books with guy characters, plus it fit my discover a new book while on vacation goal so I picked up, The Data Set - March of the Mini Beasts by Ada Hopper.  I have to be honest, I couldn't put it down when I read it this weekend.  

Gabriel, Laura, and Cesar are friends who love to gather random facts/information/data and share their knowledge with others.  The story begins with these friends trying to raise money for a school science field trip by selling chocolate bars door to door.  They have two boxes to go and an old run down mansion, the only house left to sell to.  Their interactions with the owner of this house, Mad Dr. Bunsen are entertaining.  The friends are so excited to discover all of his science experiment gear and then he shares his growth ray machine.  He wants to try it on the children but they convince him to try it on Gabe's lucky plastic Stego toy.  As you might predict the growth ray didn't work and the children go home.

A few days later Dr. Bunsen finds the children in  Gabe's backyard in the treehouse Laura designed.  Dr. Bunsen is super excited to share he got the growth ray machine to work and they try it on more plastic animals.  It appears once again it isn't working.  However, with some time they discover the animals may not be growing but they have come to life.  This is a problem and the solution that follows is entertaining.  I have to warn you, it's not a happy ending and takes the reader immediately to wanting to read the second book in the series which I ordered last night.  

I think this book is the right mix of every day life with a twist of fantasy for transitional readers to enjoy and want to read more of.  The print is a bit larger on each page with black and white illustrations to help support comprehension.  There is more white space which I always enjoy as a reader and think it supports the readers in my classroom.  However, the characters are a fun loving group.  They create, they collect things and knowing facts is super important.  A teacher's dream.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Poetry Friday - WHAT TO DO WITH A BOX

I'm so excited to add a poetry book to my collection of books about boxes.  WHAT TO DO WITH A BOX by Jane Yolen and Chris Sheban was just released this year.  Brown, box like tones and warm subtle colors make this book warm and inviting.  As we often discover as readers, authors love to share the different things a box can be.  Jane Yolen is no exception here but her choices reflect using it as is and imagining something else, using some props, drawing objects, and painting a setting on the box for different scenarios.  Her imagination offers readers practical, wild, and fun uses for a box.  As you can imagine, her word choice is rhythmic, descriptive, concise, and enjoyable.

Here's a sample -


For the past couple of years I have done a The Box Project to help build community.  My students love this learning how to work together via this project based learning project.  This book will be the perfect addition to my text set.  I promise signing up for this free unit is worth it!

Thank you Carol at Carol's Corner for hosting Poetry Friday this week.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Slice of Life - Figuring Out the New

I wasn't sure what I would do.  There was a new experience ahead of me.  I didn't want it all planned out.  I wanted to explore and have some flexibility.  I was a bit uncertain but told myself I could be confident and figure this out.  I dropped the girls off to their classes at the local art college downtown and thought, I can do this.  I can be alone and try new things in a new part of town.

I walked through the campus to a local coffee shop a friend shared on Instagram with a bag of things I could do.  I walked in confidently.  I asked the server for drink recommendations and ordered something new.  I then saw a delicious snack and added that to my order.  I found a spot to sit by the window to enjoy the sunshine and watch the sidewalk.  I did some planning for next year and wrote a blogpost.  I enjoyed my treats.  I watched what appeared to be frequent customers order and linger, enjoying this coffee house.  They weren't new to this kind of free time.  Many of them entered or met a friend, greeting them with hugs and hellos.  I've admired friends who can share such leisure moments out and about and I can now say these moments are as enjoyable as they look.  

Today I thought a little bit about that first day of school.  My students will come in probably a little uncertain.  They will be without their family.  I'm sure they will know someone in the class.  Maybe we need time to linger that first day.  Maybe we need to create moments to observe and figure out our new space.  Maybe our schedule doesn't need to be mapped out minute by minute.  We'll need time to talk and time to be quiet.  With time, I want my new students to walk in and greet each other with hellos and smiles.  I think I'll start with hugs and hello on day one.  


Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting this writing community and for encouraging us to live a writerly life.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Guided Math A Framework for Mathematics Instruction

Guided Math A Framework for Mathematics Instruction by Laney Sammons is a book for everyone to read.  I think educators who are a bit uncomfortable with teaching mathematics will find comfort.  Educators who love teaching mathematics will find new insight and confirmations.  Educators who feel stronger teaching literacy will read and say ah-ha to all the references for sound literacy instruction and how that carries over to math workshop.  While I read this book, I kept thinking I was coming home.  With the recent switch in grade levels and figuring out new standards to teach I’ve used the two “popular” programs to anchor my instruction the past two years.  I’ve felt terribly uncomfortable in doing this but have experienced new ideas for teaching, some sound understanding for the standards and confirmed guided math is what my classroom needs!

This book covers all areas of a math workshop.  The book begins with a chapter discussing the framework needed for math instruction - which provides insight for the chapters to follow: environment, math warm-ups, whole class instruction, small groups, guided math, conferring, and assessment.  Each chapter begins with advantages for using this component followed with challenges.  This insight is very helpful as you reflect on your own teaching practice. 

I found myself reminded about several important things.  Math journals aren’t just for a problem of the day.  We could record math vocabulary, list questions we have about math, justify answers, math connections – really a tool to provide more insight to a student’s thinking.  Problem of the day works great but sometimes problems might take more time to figure out.  What about a problem of the week?  Math vocabulary is so important and math word walls have a place in my classroom.  Use more math literature.  I’m losing instructional time with district reorganization of our school day.  Bring content area learning into math workshop.  This is just a snippet of my annotating from the margins.

I think most of my mentors are listed in this book.  It was quite incredible to read quotes from Vgostsky, Van der Walle, Burns, O’Connell, Caulkins, Fountas and Pinnell, Routman, Owocki, Miller, Fletcher, Hoyt, and Marzano to name a few.  Here are just a few quotes to show this book is invaluable.

“Mathematical learning is both a social and constructive process.” (Vgotsky 1978, Steele 1999,  Van de Walle and Lovin 2006)

“…these anchor charts “make our thinking permanent and visible, and so allow us to make connections from one strategy to another, clarify a point, build on earlier learning and simply remember a specific lesson.” (Miller, 2002)

“Additonally, once the students enter the classroom, they will progress at varying rates .”  (Fountas and Pinnell 1996)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Slice of Life - Rocked My World

During the past month, on and off there is has been a little slice reoccurring.  

N:  My phone won't work.
Me:  That's too bad.
N:  My phone is working.
Me:  Great news, maybe something isn't quite right.

Silence for a while, on this topic.
Repeat previous conversation.

N:  I went to the "carrier" for my phone today.
N:  They said it has water damage and it would cost four hundred dollars.
Me:  What did you do?
N:  I walked out, the phone is working again.
Me:  Silent, Phew!  Audible - Maybe you should go to the Apple store.  

Silence for a while, on this topic.  It all came crashing down today and today is an important day.  N turned 20 and had people sending her wishes and making plans for a fun night out.  Technology rocked her world.  We went to the Apple store and delayed her plans.  The outcome was superior customer service and a brand new phone for free!  There was a glitch in how it was operating not caused by the user.  Yahoo.

I got back in the car at her apartment and had a moment to reflect.  Technology rocked her world today and that's important right now for her.  It's the world we live in and can be frustrating.  However, twenty years ago she rocked my world.  She rocked my daily schedule, my thinking, my emotions, and my heart.  I still laugh at myself because I thought pre - N, my life wouldn't really change.  

I didn't expect her to rock my professional world but she did.  I arrived on time and I left on time.  I started working through lunches to take less home.  Professional development outside of the day wasn't a choice I made for a bit.  While these things cross the personal and professional line, she really rocked my teaching.  I became fascinated with what young students are able to do when they arrive at school.  I had this incredible urge to get to find out about the whole child. Observations became essential in moving students forward and learning about students.  Conferring with students was so enlightening.  Their words and conversations were daily delights because I took the time to listen about their topics.  Exploring different media for sharing learning became essential because kids are naturally curious and what we call now, makers.  These reflections are some nuggets I want to hold on to, as I start working with a new set of students in August.  Thanks N for making a difference in my life.

PS - This is just my slice and in no way intended to state I think teachers need to be parents.  

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting this writing community and for encouraging us to live a writerly life.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Slice of Life - Notice and Move On

In an attempt of holding on to the past week and long walks along the lake road or hiking a mountain, I headed out for a long walk with just one of my two dogs.  She likes to walk faster and our other dog was outside all day "doing" yard work with my husband.  I wanted to hold on to my walks and climbs of the past week in New Hampshire and our longer journey might just do that.  

We were almost through this small wooden part of our trek when something shiny caught my attention.  It was low to the ground and looked a bit glassy but was very dark.  I looked again and then saw stripes.  I looked again but it was hard to distinguish what I was seeing because the woods were settling in for the night.  After several quick short glances, while my dog kept going forward I decided the stripes were brown and black.  I then realized there were not only two shiny eyes looking my way from the edge of the path.  I counted four sets of eyes and decided there were four raccoon pups looking at me.  Now, when I call them pups they were probably teenagers.  They were bigger than my hand, maybe the size of a bunny, small cat, or a very small dog.  

I wanted to stop and observe.  I wanted to know about them and wondered if their Mama was near.  I wondered why my dog didn't notice them and kept on walking for a brief moment because then I realized if she did chase them we might be in trouble.  What would four raccoon pups do if they were spooked?  What would their mother or father do if they thought the pups were in trouble?  

As I walked away reluctantly, I thought about my classroom and while we want to capture everything that happens, it might just be unrealistic.  It is unrealistic.  Maybe there are small moments where one needs to only savor and/or ponder that observation.  Maybe students, like these raccoon pups need to explore the world without the notion of someone always watching and jotting things down.  Maybe the notebook, electronic device, or photo equipment should/can be laid to rest, a bit more.  

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting this writing community and for encouraging us to live a writerly life.