Monday, February 28, 2011

Trout Are Made of Trees

I was thrilled to find Trout Are Made of Trees by April Pulley Sayre on sale at the conference over the weekend.  This is a perfect text for helping all students understand the food web.  I think the illustrations make it accessible for our youngest learners.  Collage illustrations beautifully guide this text and bring the content to life.  I find the first page to provoke a lot questions and wonderings... "Trout are made of trees."  A simple text filled with content rich vocabulary provides lots of opportunities for discussion and learning.  Here are a few words I think are worthy of discussing; bacteria, shredders, algae, predators, caddisflies, and hatchlings.   The end of the book the reader finds more nonfiction information about The Trout Life Cycle, Be a Stream Hero! and Resources for Further Information.  One of my teaching mentors loved to take his students to the river and go kick seining.  I've done it with children and what a great way to show students how to care for their local environment and life you don't easily see.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Enjoyed - Dublin Literacy Conference

I love walking away from something I've done with the feeling of enjoyment.  Saturday ended that way.  It was a great day of learning, visiting, connecting, and reflecting.  There's something about spending a weekend day with individuals who are willing to give up their personal time to grow professionally.  The building was just filled with positive energy.  I didn't attend any sessions specific to kindergarten but I walked away reflecting on my room and my own personal growth or that of my daughters.  I know my smart blogging friends will be sharing their reflections so I'm going to touch on the biggest idea I reflecting on from each session and how it can relate to my room.

If I could send my daughter to Kelly Gallagher's freshmen class I would do it.  His energy, passion, and understanding of education just radiated from his keynote.  He urged the audience to build prior knowledge and experience to help guide reading.  I think this is natural for working with emerging readers as we do a book introduction during guided reading but I'm not sure we do a great job of it in content reading or in whole class reading settings.  Kelly said, "what you bring to the page is more important than what  is on the page."  His examples clearly made me feel this way in trying to read during his session.  He also said, "all of our students should have 50% of their reading be recreational".  I found myself reflecting on my own daughters and am thankful they all do this naturally.  He also repeatly urged us to have our children write more, I can do that with my students.

Patrick Allen is a wealth of knowledge and insight for conferring.  He believes conferring holds our workshop together and helps us think more about the pieces.  He urged teachers to record themselves conferring and listen to what actually happens.  I've never done this and think I should give it a try to understand more about my conferencing.  Some of his key points for conferring are; talking to kids makes an impact, during conferring we are listening with all our heart, and we are doing small group work when we are conferring.  The children sitting near are listening in and thinking.  Patrick shared a wonderful clip of his students sharing various thoughts related to their own reading and ideas of independence.  You could tell they understood the expectations, took ownership for their own learning, and were able to create meaning while reading.  I wasn't able to attend his second session but his book, just moved to the top of Kindle list.

Scott Sibberson did a great job explaining and introducing Web 2.0 tools to teachers.  I wouldn't consider myself a very tech person but when thinking about twitter, an igoogle page, blogging, and that I had just dabbled in sharing a google doc the night before I am using these tools.  I had not even attempted to use any sort of bookmarking tool but Scott motivated me and so willingly answered questions that night to help me get started with diigo.

I love listening and spending time with authors and illustrators.  Brian Pinkney said something that I think is really important for anyone working with young learners and learners of all ages to consider, "my thinking is with my hands."  He also encouraged us to use "traveling time", the time it takes to get from point A to point Z and to trust that time.  I think I will quote him for a long time during writing workshop, "if I start with sketching, I see where things are going - I don't with words." 

Amy Krouse Rosenthal is one creative gal!  She was inspiring as a person to think about life, making things, doing things simply, and being observant.  I loved the sharing she did of her work with books and video and people.  This sticks with me from Amy, "train your mind to think differently."

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dublin Literacy Conference 2011

I can't wait for tomorrow.  It's my annual journey for professional growth at the Dublin Literacy Conference.  I feel so blessed to live close enough to take advantange of this great learning opportunity.  Each year I see friends who live nearby, I get to make and meet new friends and I always walk away refreshed in the February crunch where winter won't go away and parent teacher conferences are in full swing.

This year I submitted a proposal to present and it was accepted.  When I got the brochure for the conference I saw the amazing group of people presenting that day and couldn't narrow my own choices down to who I would see.  The gracious planning committee let me know the sign up for my session was small and gave me the option to cancel and still attend.  What nice people.  In return I would still like to share my collection of picture books with anyone who was planning on coming or those who are interested.

I've rediscovered my love for picture books in teaching mathematics. 

Here is my power point sharing why children's literature is perfect for mathematics.

Here is my collection - Something Old, Something New I've Got a Book for You

This is my first time using Google Docs, I hope it's all there for you to view.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Teaching with Intention - Reflection 8

Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller is the focus for this year and the Literacy Connection group here in Central Ohio.  My eighth reflection comes in response to reading the final chapter.  Debbie concludes her book with this chapter title, The Thoughtful Use of of Time.  I think this quote is true all year long in education but hits home right now in February.  Many schools have had an inconsistent schedule due to weather and testing dates are looming in teacher's minds.  "...when getting done takes precedence over doing, when finishing becomes more important than figuring out, we've lost sight of why we became teachers in the first place; we've lost sight of what we know to be true.  In our rush to try to fit everything in, we've forgotten that children learn by doing.  And learning by doing takes time."  I think this quote really hits home with my internal struggles in my return to kindergarten.  Ten years ago we did the doing, the creating, and the figuring out at a different pace.  I believe strongly we should be doing, creating, and figuring out.  I think going backwards from third to kindergarten might be a hinder to the expectations and pace as I relearn how to be a primary teacher, again.  Our attendance schedule as changed in the last ten years and it presents challenges.  I think and hope I can regain a focus of doing more, creating, more and figuring out more as I get more understanding of the standards in each subject and can integrate them into units of study.  There's is so much to do in about 90 days of school but I know in my heart there are smarter ways of going about doing this important work.

One of the things I've worked on this year, especially for reading and writing workshop is the routines and structures.  I just loved it when Debbie writes, "Keep it simple.  Those three words say it all when it comes to establishing creative classroom environments that support the complexities of teaching and learning.  Putting into place a simple structure and a few well-though-out routines encourages, nurtures, and allows teachers and learners significant time to commit to thoughtful teaching and learning, engage fully, and thrive."  I would agree the success I feel this year is from having a simple structure, clear expectations, working together to reach our goals, and involving the students in the why we are doing things has been very helpful.  Debbie goes on to talk a bit about the structure of reading workshop, and the importance of conferring.  She warns teachers, "touching base isn't teaching.  Touching base is all about responding at the surface level to student behaviors." 

Conferring is something very different.
-it's sitting right next to students
-individualized instruction
-it's about teaching deeply
-supporting children

Debbie also shares with her readers how she keeps tracks of her conferences.  Each student has a small spiral notebook.  She shares with the reader how she reflects and groups, "I bring children together for small-group work out of efficiency.  Reading levels are a consideration, but I don't group children based on level alone."  I love this!  There is so much more to reading than a level.  There is so much more to reading than being in an organized book group each day of school.  I enjoyed Debbie's section on connecting conferences to the share piece of reading workshop. 

I've found this book motivating, inspiring, reassuring, and calming.  It's easy to list the outside factors that you can't control which make your teaching difficult.  However, it doesn't really matter in the big picture of our daily lives with children.  It's those hours and minutes that you are together learning, growing, discovering, and creating that are at the heart of what we do.  We need to embrace that and enjoy.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Teaching with Intention Reflection #7

Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller is the focus for this year and the Literacy Connection group here in Central Ohio.  My seventh reflection comes in response to reading Chapter 7, Assessment, Reflections, and Next Steps.  My school district has been on a professional development journey with formative and summative assessment.  As a primary teacher it has been a frustrating journey much of the time due to the lack of primary examples.  A lot of what we've discussed, read, and watched is for transitional readers and above.  Students who are capable of reading directions and complete written work with some ease independently.  I completely get the work we are doing after spending five years in third grade, I don't want to send a message our work hasn't been important.  It has.

This chapter by Debbie Miller was a breath of fresh air.  I felt relieved to see her define and give examples of formative assessment that are best practices.  " make their thinking visible during the process of learning something new, these authentic responses are the kinds of formative assessments that guide our instruction."  As I read this chapter, I was a detective to create a list of formative assessment ideas. 

-recorded their new learning on sticky notes
-listening in
-examining student work samples
-charting student thinking
-reflecting, sharing, and teaching

This list is relevant to my daily teaching.  I'm hoping Debbie Miller will elaborate more on making students thinking visible during the learning when she visits for two days.  I would like to probe deeper and hear more from Debbie about, "authentic responses are the kinds of formative assessments that guide our instruction."  Once you have responses and information Debbie says the next step is to study it.  We can collect, observe, and confer all we want but I agree with Debbie the next step is to study it.  Debbie models looking at student work and studying it, taking notes (as she always does) to help guide future planning.  Debbie studies the work and then writes reflections and next steps to guide future planning, using part of her Lesson Design Form.  I wonder if the Reflection Step is best completed while the lesson is fresh in your mind, to capture details and fresh thinking.  Then the Next Steps could come later in the day or at night.  I think writing things down in a notebook, suggested earlier in the book is essential to help facilitate learning and fostering growth. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Run Like a Mother - A Year of Reading

Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving--and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or SanityI am going to completely "cheat" at writing a post today and give a shout out to my friend Franki at A Year of Reading.  She wrote a great, great, great post of a book we both just finished.  Run Like a Mother was guiding both of us since winter break in exercise and life as busy working mothers.  As I read Franki's post I realized she's said it all, I couldn't add anything more.  So, jump on over to read her thoughts knowing I support them one hundred percent!  If you are trying to move more in 2011 this book could guide you, it doesn't have to be about running.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Teaching with Intention - Reflection #6

Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller is the focus for this year and the Literacy Connection group here in Central Ohio.  My sixth reflection comes in response to reading Chapter 6, Lesson Design: Creating Lessons Based on Principles and Practices You Believe In.  Debbie's work in this chapter is sharing, reflecting, encouraging, and guiding teachers to see her process in using her lesson design tool.  As Debbie does best, she encourages the reader to develop their own lesson design tool that reflects what we believe in.  As a reader, I feel like Debbie Miller is my own personal cheerleader.  I can't wait to meet her in person when she comes to Ohio. 

Debbie's lesson design plan is in depth, thoughtful, and guides her thinking.  It is modeled after the gradual release model with these components;  teacher modeling, guided practice within the lesson, guided practice beyond the lesson, independent practice and application.  Phew!  With this being my second year back at kindergarten after a long time away I agreed and loved this quote Debbie shared when thinking about planning prior to developing her lesson design.  "Children and I flitted from one topic to another  - it was like we studied everything and nothing."  I know to really grasp the content in all academic areas it takes time, reflection, and more time.  I had a mentor once tell me early on in my career, "it takes 5 years to make a good teacher."  I was a little sad to hear this at first but I now understand the journey it takes to understand children at a certain age group and the curriculum.  So, when I get in a little frenzy about having the moon, the stars and the sun all in alignment I think back to my wise friend, take a deep breath and say, "I've got time.

Assessment is a big focus for my district right now.  The formative vs. summative, along with unit designs, knowing content standards and I Can statements.  I love this thought on assessment from Debbie, "I assess where students are (this take place throughout the workshop and all phases of gradual release.)  It's important to look at what we do daily to guide the next day. 

These are some thoughts that Debbie wrote that jumped out to me as I read through her lesson design example and thinking.

-"the best way to begin teaching children something new is to show them how."
-"children's voices keep my teaching real."
-"synthesizing information...enhances everyone's understanding but also inspire other children to think for themselves."
-"we want evidence of how kids were applying what we'd taught them."
-"I will show you how I go about doing this, but in the end, I want you to figure out how this works for you."

Debbie does let the reader know her lesson design plan works for all content areas.  I would like to think I'm as intentional as Debbie models but I'm wondering if by writing it out so explicitly it would be more intentional. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Friends by Helme Heine is the story of three charming characters; Johnny Mouse, Charlie Rooster, and fat Percy (a pig).  This delightful story of friendship has several key points in helping young children think about friendship. 
-"Good friends always stick together."
-"Good friends always decide things together."
-"Good friends always stick together."

After spending a wonderful day together of biking, games of hide-and-seek, sailing, and attempts of finding food, they decide to spend the night together.  However, finding a spot for all three friends that would work becomes a problem.  The ending message is, "Sometimes good friends can't be together."  I've had a couple of things come up in one of  my classes about friendships in the last week and I've found myself thinking about spending time on the topic of friendship more.  This was another great find from the not circulated in five years in the library, free books to your classrooms offer.