Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Book Whisperer - Reflection #3

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller is the focus for this year and the Literacy Connection group here in Central Ohio.  As I read Chapter 3 – titled There’s a Time and a Place, Donalyn shares one of her most important roles as a classroom teacher is to provide and make sure her students have reading time each day in class.  She realizes as I do our students have busy family lives outside of school with activities.  Having a daughter in middle school and a daughter in high school, I know this is an uncommon practice once children leave elementary school in our area.  This is quite sad. I do provide daily independent reading time in my classroom.  After a mini-lesson for reading workshop we all spend time reading on our own and confer with my emerging readers to get a better view of them as readers.  This is also a time for them to try things we talk about as readers.  Donalyn gives us this scenario to support independent reading, “Like brushing their teeth, reading is a responsibility that my students understand I expect them to assume.  Yet time spent reading feeds more reading.  The more my students read, and grow into a community of readers, the more they want to read.”  

Donalyn suggests ways we can “steal” more time for reading in our rooms.  Think about the interruptions we might receive in the day with people stopping by for a quick questions or conversation.  In my room, it might be the little social scenarios or shoe tying moments I need to help my students with.  Donalyn teaches her students early on to get out their books when there is an interruption.  It’s a classroom routine with the benefit of more real reading time.  Donalyn has done away with extension activities for students who finish work early and uses those minutes for independent reading.  I’ve done in that in my room too and often find there is great excitement as my young readers share and talk about books that are often on display in our room we have made together.  Donalyn even has students bring books to read while they stand in line for pictures on picture day.  Why didn’t I think of that?!  It’s on my list for next year.  In my room books are always a choice during our independent workshop times; morning explore, math workshop and reading workshop.  I’m thinking as we look more to mentors as writer’s I need to encourage my students to get books to look at during writing workshop.  Another way I “steal” more time for reading is to have books in different areas of the room.  We have math books with our math manipulatives.  We have building books with our blocks.  We have books by each classroom pet – a guinea pig, fish, frogs, and a turtle.  We have books on our art/writing shelves, and we have books in our Lego tubs.

I have to agree with Donalyn’s writing about reading spaces.  She urges comfortable spaces but also says children will find ways to be comfortable in any environment.  The whole class can’t fit in a cozy reading space.  I’ve tried to create a room with books and reading all around and various options for reading at tables, carpet spaces, and floor space.  Students will figure out what is best for them.  I would by showing students they can read anywhere at school, they can transfer that to their home life and read anywhere there too.  I think I need to share with my kindergarten students ways I “snatch some reading time” in hopes they will do that too when they are home.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Book Whisperer - Reflection #2

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller is the focus for this year and the Literacy Connection group here in Central Ohio.  Before I write another reflection, I have a confession.  This is the first time I am reading Donalyn’s book.  It’s been in my TBR pile - kindle edition - for a few years.  When this book came out I had just moved to kindergarten from third grade and while I knew I would enjoy reading it, I wasn’t sure it needed to be an emergency read since I was trying to figure out emergent readers again.  I hope to share with you how I find Donalyn’s thoughts connecting to my kindergarten classroom.

As I read Chapter 2 – titled Everybody is a Reader I loved reading about Donalyn’s landmark day.  The first day of school when she decided on the spot they would start checking out books after a student asked when that would happen.  She embraced a child’s thinking and put her own plan aside.  She summarizes why, “By making book selections and sharing past favorites the first activity in which we engage as a class, I emphasize the prominence that reading will hold all year.”  I’ve taught awhile now and I’ve never considered sending books home on the first day  of school, I’m rethinking this.  I love how Donalyn says, “I emphasize the prominence that reading will hold all year.”  I’m thinking kindergarteners might be really excited to bring home a book on the first day.  Then I think there is so much to show them about using the classroom library.  Then I ask myself, do they really need to know much to pick a book and take it home?  Would this set the tone quickly to show we believe we are readers?

I love the section where Donalyn talks about choice for readers.  Choice fosters empowerment, self-confidence, a positive attitude and a level of control for readers.  I just launched book boxes with choice books first earlier this month.  The excitement in the room was incredible.  There was so much positive energy.  A student who struggles with literacy was so excited to find a nonfiction book on bears, I knew then I had hooked him into reading by providing a mini-lesson on how we pick books and time to explore.  I was a bit puzzled by all the excitement because my students had been taking books out each day to read at home.  Was the excitement caused by having a book box?  Was the excitement caused by discussing and applying ways we pick books?  Was the excitement caused by talking more about where books are in the classrooms?

If you are looking for a more positive way to look at readers and the different stages they are at then you will want to check out this chapter.  Donalyn thinks of readers as developing, dormant, and underground readers.  I felt sad when I read about underground readers because I live with one right now.  High school homework and AP classes are dominating my gifted reader and everything she reads is connected to a test or quiz or a syllabus.  I can’t wait for break because I hope she tackles my pile of ARCs from NCTE for her. I know she will love that opportunity.

If you are looking for information about Brian Cambourne’s conditions for learning or student surveys you can find that in this chapter too.  I used to do reading surveys all the time.  In kindergarten with two classes – I’ve let them go and I can’t.  Maybe I can create a three question format to use along with my Developmental Reading Assessment.  That could be done quickly at the same time.  I better draft that to use next week.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Research and Development - Personalization

Today I would like to share with you observations I made about personalization while visiting Mosaic Elementary School in San Jose, CA.  I had to look up the definition of personalization and found in verb form it means to make personal, as by applying a general statement to oneself.  The school creed and core values are general statements applied to every student in the school.  The songs they sang were picked purposefully for their message about positive differences, I think these too are examples of personalization for their community.  

Another definition I found is to design or tailor to meet an individual's specifications, needs, or preferences.  Guided reading and guided math groups would meet individual needs.  Sight word list were broken up into chunks of ten words and I believe the children could progress through these list in learning to read and write them.  The fourth grader I was talking to about tangrams had his own choice/center folder and he told  me they each might have different things to work on in their folders.  I'm not sure how the computer program work in the learning lab is personalized but I think there is potential there.  When I asked someone who helped over see the learning lab she said she would hold up a picture for the program the children were to be using.  I shared with you before the state percentage scores are posted in the room and while I don't think that would be considered personalization some of my friends saw the charts like the one in the photograph at each child's seat with individual goals for each child.  I'm not sure we asked enough questions about personalization while we were there. 

I am wondering does personalization lead to differentiation?  I love working with small groups but is that enough personalization? How can children take more ownership for personalization?  I'm wondering if there is a correlation between personalization and student growth and is class size a factor in making personalization successful?  Mosaic Elementary had 30 students, so may be not.  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Research and Development - Engagement

Today I would like to share with you observations I made about engagement while visiting Mosaic Elementary School in San Jose, CA.  I was intrigued when the parameters for these observations said to look at the entire community for engagement.  I feel I took the most away from our visit by looking at engagement.  I saw school wide engagement.  I saw students engaged with learning.  I saw teacher engagement.  I saw students engaged with technology.  I saw parent engagement.

School wide engagement starts the day with the Launch meeting.  It was very moving to watch an entire school gather to start their day of learning.  Communities provide feelings of caring and belonging.  I think both of these can help facilitate learning.  I also think groups of people connect when they are united by rituals, routines, and song.  Launch is a daily routine and a ritual.  Guiding the Mosaic community is a school creed and school core values.  I couldn't catch all of the creed during the morning Launch.  The school core values are persistence, responsibility, empathy, respect, and multiculturalism.

Student engagement is happening during their 8-4 school day.  Students spend 3 hours and 40 minutes in a language arts block.  They spend 1 hour and 50 minutes in a math block.  They spend 1 hour and 40 minutes in a learning lab block and their day includes about a 40 minute lunch.  I saw reading and math organized in workshop formats with units of study.  I saw a bookroom, the Developmental Reading Assessment2 on a shelf, and good anchor charts up in classrooms.  I spent time with a fourth grader thinking about tangrams from his center/choice folder.  You can't go wrong when looking at engagement and tangrams.  I hope you all have them in your classrooms.

I saw teachers engaged with guided reading groups and guided math groups. We heard about teacher engagement with their own learning through working with their Academic Dean.  One the primary roles of the Academic Dean is to guide and teachers and provide professional development monthly if not bi-weekly to the teaching staff.  The staff is young and a lot of recognition needs to be given to the organizers of Rocketship Schools.  They knew time would need to be invested in their young teaching staff.  During the Launch teachers were equally engaged with song and saying their creed and core values.  It was so nice to see teachers engaged  with the whole community and in their classrooms.  Teacher are also organized to focus on one learning area math or literacy block and teach that to two groups.  Even in kindergarten.  I don't know how I feel about switching students but there are some days focusing on one area of learning might be a blessing. We all have so much to do and so many talents to have.

Students engaged with technology was not what I was hoping to see.  There was a very large room with cubicles each creating a work station for a student to work on computer programs.  The students spend 30 min a day on reading programs and 30 min a day on a math program during their learning lab time.  The other minutes of this block are spent outside doing a PE activity or playing.  This learning lab room was large enough to fit three classes - 90 students.  

The parent engagement component of Mosaic School was impressive.  Parents are visible during the morning drop off and a few stayed to be part of the Launch ceremony.  Parents are asked and required to do 30 hours of volunteer time.  The hours may be with the children or around the children.  With the children would be working in a classroom or attending school events with your children.  Around the children could be working at school preparing materials, taking materials home to prepare, attending community meetings, coffee breaks with the principal, supporting new parents, office help, attending PTO events and helping.  The school keeps track of these hours using an online site, I believe and the parent's hours are tracked and reported on the students report card.  We met with a parent panel and it was obvious the joy and need these parents felt to volunteer and help out their school community.  It takes a village and Mosaic has that going on.

My own thinking and reflection is still going on as I think about engagement.  The technology I saw is not what I hope to create or do within my classroom.  Which leads to further thinking, what do I want to create for and with my students?  What tools do I want to use to make innovative learning happen?  I was so happy to see workshop models happening at Mosaic.  The parent engagement piece is pretty amazing.  I think this engagement level for each parent increases pride and ownership in their schools.  It might a piece of the puzzle to increase parent ownership in their student's learning and growth.  One parent commented they attend community meetings because they want their students to see they care about the learning and their school.  Community meetings address concerns for the school - a couple of weeks before their was a shooting on the corner after school hours.  Community meetings are also informative for parents.  They are not gatherings to report on PTO business or planning events.  I have had open houses after each unit of content study.  I have had literacy learning nights or math nights for parents.  Maybe I need to think about those again.  School funding is being cut all over our country.  We need help preparing materials and working with children, who better to recruit than the parents in our room.  Each year it seems parent volunteers have declined and the need increases.  It takes a village to raise a community.  Thank you Mosaic for reminding me of this.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Research and Development - Student Growth

Today I would like to share with you observations I made about student growth while visiting Mosaic Elementary School in San Jose, CA.  Student growth is discussed.  Student growth is celebrated.  Student growth is visible.  Student growth is expected.  Student growth is communicated with parents.  

Student growth is discussed.  The school day at Mosaic Elementary begins with a school wide gathering they call Launch.  During Launch, student growth is discussed and referred to as the school addresses the NWEA assessments some grades are taking that day and relate it to a school core value of persistence.  A teacher at the Launch said, "I'm so excited to see your scores."  Parents are aware of the schools overall rating on a state scoring system and can share with visitors the goal for this years rating number.  Student growth is discussed with monthly learning goals and tiny daily goals in each classroom. 

Student growth is celebrated daily through song and praise at a morning Launch.  Through the school creed where everything mentioned leads to student growth if followed.  The school has a list of Core Values; persistence, responsibility, empathy, respect, and multiculturalism which all celebrate growth as students are recognized for exhibiting these qualities in and outside of school.  Parents we talked to radiated with pride in their school and ownership for the success their school has had in the first 16 months of it's existence.  Student growth is celebrated with completed charts of learning goals met with stickers.

Student growth is visible.  SMART goals are written and posted in the hallway by a teacher's lounge/workroom area.  Boards in each classroom were filled with ranges for their NEWA assessment they take three times a year and students each had something with their name that was posted within a range to show where they currently are.  In one room, student goals for math were posted at each seat and progress was noted as the child obtained it. 

Student growth is expected.  Loud and clear we heard the message students will achieve 1.5 years of progress in one year.  The SMART goals were written with high percentages.  The school is fostering a college prep environment.  Each classroom is named after their teacher's college mascot.  College flags inside and outside the school.  Fifth graders defend a thesis.  Administration said, "They all know they are going to college."

Student growth is communicated to parents on a regular reporting basis via report cards.  I gathered the parents are constantly involved at the school, with the school and easily hear about their child's growth.  

I was also asked to reflect during my trip.  When it comes to student growth I've never been comfortable with posting student progress on a board in the room for everyone to see the range, specifically those not meeting expectations.  Is this necessary?  What does this type of practice foster?   Does this make a difference for each child?  I think the results Mosaic Elementary have been able to obtain are great.  They are a young, very young school and I wonder will this maintain over time and/or does it maintain for the student's once they leave Mosaic?  I also wonder if the student growth has been obtainable because the teaching practice here is workshop based with a combination of computer program work.  Are these two things new to these students?  I don't know much about the CA school system but from what I gathered their public school system is not doing well which sent these families to a charter school program.  If you have any thoughts about my reflections please share with me.  I think it will help me process what I saw and how I can internalize that for my own project. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Research and Development Project

My journey with the Research and Development Project I mentioned earlier this year began last week.  This document hear explains the process a bit better than what I've been told or known until now.  I went with a team of three other educators from my school district and two from one within the area to visit Mosaic Elementary School which is part of The Rocketship Education in San Jose, CA.  We were luckily to have a representative from TRECA to guide our group as we traveled and thought together for two and a half days.  

For this journey and I would think for this whole process we have been give four essential questions to guide our thinking.  
1.  Is the current learning environment getting us what we want in regards to student growth, engagement, and personalization for all students?
2.  What are the metrics for which we will measure student growth, engagement, and personalization?
3.  What will productive learning environments look like 20 years from now?
4.  How can technology impact student growth, engagement, and personalization?

Stop by each day this week to see how I answer What makes this school work?  I was sent to observe, reflect,and collect evidence.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Book Whisperer - Reflection #1

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller is the focus for this year and the Literacy Connection group here in Central Ohio.  As part of our reading, thinking, and college credit I've been asked to do eight reflections with blogging being an option.  I thought I could share my journey and thinking here. I also needed a plan for those eight reflections and I got very lucky when I opened the book, there are seven chapters so I will have to be clever for post number 8!

As I read Chapter 1 – There and Back Again I found my own memories ping ponging back and forth as I read Donalyn tell her story.  She writes about her mother and how reading began with signs and books she would gather for her.  I recently wrote a Nerdy Book Club post just last week where I share my reading artifacts from my childhood and also speak of my mother and her influence on my reading life.

Donalyn's mother worried about her socially because Donalyn would chose to stay in her room reading so often.  I have a daughter who does this right now.  While I know it’s a beautiful gift to be a reader like this I do worry she is withdrawing socially but Donalyn gives me hope and I hope she finds a soul mate like Don Miller.  My oldest is an avid reader too but has managed the social piece quite well. 

Donalyn shares her first year teaching experience and creating a wonderful unit of teaching around assignments as students would read the book, that didn't go so well.  As I read Donalyn’s story, I felt blessed.  I entered teaching at a time and in a place, Wickliffe Progressive School in Upper Arlington, OH where independent reading was a norm.  It happened in every room.  The school has a common philosophy and a history to guide their work with children and families.   Students discussed books, responded through the arts, kept reading logs, and discussed genres.  My mentors there were so smart and I’m so glad the work I did there still grounds me today.

Donalyn shares the next step in journey which led her to a reading workshop format.  She realized she couldn't teach the way she had been taught and neither can I. 

I love these sentences Donalyn has learned by being a reader.
“Reading changes your life.”
“Reading unlocks worlds unknown or forgotten, taking travelers around the world and through time.”
“Reading helps you escape the confines of school and pursue your own education.”

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Quick Guide to Boosting English Acquisition in Choice Time

A Quick Guide to Boosting English Acquisition in Choice Time, by Alison Porcelli and Cheryl Tyler is part of the Reading and Writing Project Workshop Help Desk for K-2.  This is a small but mightly professional development read.  Smaller than a 5 x 7 photo and skinnier than than a half pound chocolate bar I might have been a bit skeptical, just for a moment.  The old saying is true, don't judge a book by it's cover.

I enjoyed reading every page on the flight back from NCTE.  I felt accomplished as a reader because I could finish it in one setting.  It reinforced current thinking I am having about the importance of choice and the value we must place on oral language.  The book begins discussing the organization of choice time in a workshop format.  Yes, that means with a  mini lesson, independent time and a share time.  Some mini lesson ideas shared are the value of planning, talking to each other about their plans, and always using books as a resource. I worry about the limited amount of choice children are having at any grade level in education.  I loved the these phrases from the text supporting the use of choice and the importance for incorporating it within our days.

-"allows children to work for long stretches."
-"provides opportunities to plan, to construct, to revise, and to share work."
-"carry on with independence"
-"provides explicit instruction from the teacher who intervenes to demonstrate and scaffold skills that children need."
-"The instructor, meanwhile, moves among the workers, observing, assessing, coaching, and sometimes convening small groups that need similar instruction."

Think about these ideas and imagine them in a reading, writing, and/or math workshop.  This book outlines and shares ideas for two units for a choice time workshop.  The first one being an organizational one with tips for organizing and guiding student work.  This unit also outlines various conference types teachers can have.  A small chapter packed with lots of ideas to help you get going and feeling confident you could justify choice time to anyone who might ask.  

The second unit, Story Play is a gem and must read for any primary teacher, especially a kindergarten teacher.  It's all about the importance of retelling to achieve higher comprehension and revision.  There is lots of thinking shared to help educators understand retelling with detail, retelling with a story element focus, retelling to better understand characters, setting, and plot.  Storytelling and retelling is quite natural for children.  We just need to provide the framework, time and supports using different tools.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Artifacts Make Nerdy Book Club Members

This post is also posted today at the Nerdy Book Club site.

A year ago the Nerdy Book Club was created after NCTE in Chicago.  I wasn't quite sure what it was going be about.  I didn't think I needed to join one more thing, read one more blog, or join one more piece of social media.  I also wasn't sure if I "qualified" as a Nerdy Book Club member.  I have watched this spot on the web throughout the year and as time went on I knew I was a Nerdy Book Club member.  My friends and new friends to be were posting wonderful thinking and various thoughts all around the topic of books.  It seemed pretty fair game when it came to "qualifying".  I began pondering what could be my own personal spin to the Nerdy Book Club.  As a member, I want to contribute fairly to the organization.  This is why I belong in the Nerdy Book Club.

Artifacts.  Reading Artifacts.  

In my basement there is an old toy chest my mother packed for me.  It's filled a few things from my childhood - drawings, my Dressy Betsy Doll, my stuffed cow that actually makes a sliding moo sound, my kindergarten artwork, and the rest is all literacy related.  I hang on to this chest because she packed it for me, now with a musty smell.  However, today I realized I hang on to it because it captures a part of my reading life.

I read 58 books in first grade.  I have evidence, 58 mounted handmade completed certificates from my first grade teacher, Mrs. Ingram.  I read Great Day Far Up, Duck in the Park Duck in the Dark, Puppy Love, Play with Us and many more.  There are various versions but this message she chose to hand write might have guided me further on my reading journey - Reading increases knowledge.  

Yes, it's true I have my Tigers, Lions, and Dinosaur basal reader workbook.  Completed.  I know at one point I had them all for each grade but realized that wasn't the teaching path I was taking and decided to just keep one as an artifact.  

I even have my Galaxies Reading Test from when I was 11 in sixth grade.  The Odyssey portion of this test shows I needed to continue working on Literary Skills, Decoding, and Reference skills.  Thank goodness my Comprehension skills were all in the clear.  

Later in life, my elementary school librarian became my step grandmother.  I think she retired from being our elementary school librarian after I was out of college.  When she did she sent me a couple of books she found in the school collection that I was the last person to check out.  I guess these titles weren't too popular;  Real Adventure with the Pilgrim Settlers and America is Born.  I loved reading about history.  I remember studying the Native Americans, Explorers, US States, and then European countries.  

While yes I grew up in a time of educating students with basal readers, spelling list, and workbooks I was also surrounded by people who supported reading actual books.  My toy chest is filled with books my Mom and Dad purchased for me.  I remember many, many trips to our local library and the children's section being down in the basement.  My favorite section over to the right.  I remember shopping through book club orders and being able to get a book or two.  Money was a bit tight growing up and I'm thankful my parents fostered reading in our home.

As I look at this collection today I think my Mom was one smart lady.  I have an alphabet book and a collection of magnetic letters.  There are collections of fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and mother goose.  I have picture books; Katy No Pocket, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and The Camel Who Took a Walk to name a few.  I have a few holiday books about Christmas.  I have chapter books.  I loved reading mysteries.  I have Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Alfred Hitchcock.  I can't tell you how many times I read The Three Investigators in the Mystery of the Green Ghost!  I have a book by Judy Blume and another by Beverly Cleary.  I had favorite authors to read.  I have a few books about horses.  I had a topic of interest to read.  I have the entire collection of The Little House on the Prairie books.  Yes, you could find me each week watching this show on TV.  I loved the character Snoopy and have a collection of Snoopy books, yes cartoon format but now I think they would be considered graphic novels.  I still have my childhood cookbook in the kitchen.

All these books, authors, and genres have continued to influence my reading life as an adult.  I like to read realistic fiction, mysteries, and nonfiction.  I have favorite authors, series, and topics I like reading about.  I survived testing and basal readers because my family provided balance.  A lesson for all of us to learn from.  We can do our best to help our students and our own children to find balance and become readers who cherish books and reading for enjoyment.  Thank you Nerdy Book Club for providing support and balance for all of it's members.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hello, Hello

Hello, Hello by Matthew Cordell was a recent purchase for me at NCTE and is a fairly new book on the market.  Can picture books have a prologue? As I began reading this book, I noticed the story begins before the title page with a little girl trying to use various technology tools only to discover there is no signal, the game is over, loading is taking forever and then the TV has a rerun.  I instantly wondered what is she going to do next?  As a reader, I wanted to know more and find out what her next step would be.  She tries to talk to her family members only to see they are all busy with technology and don't really want to converse with her.  I love the next part.  I love she steps outdoors and discovers nature!  As she walks along she says hello to various things she sees and discovers - a bug, a leaf and more.  Then she discovers a horse and their journey together is one I had to ponder.  Is it real?  Is it her imagination?  Real or imagination gets interrupted by a phone call and she returns home to find her family still connected to technology.  She takes a bold step, turns off their technology tools, shares with them a bit of what she discovered outside and together they go to explore.  I love the message this books sends to readers about spending time together and getting outside to discover what is right in front of us.  I also love the simple text used to convey the story.  My emergent readers can easily pick up on the hello ______ pattern and feel successful.

PS - As I reread and reread this book, I think picture books can have a prologue   Do know of any other picture books that have a prologue?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

ARC - Everyone Can Learn to ride a bicycle by Chris Raschka

I fell in love with this book the moment I picked it up at the Random House booth at NCTE and eagerly anticipated snatching it on Sunday.  Imagine my excitement as I waited til noon for the display books to go on sale and asked if the picture book ARC's were available too.  It's published by Schwartz and Wade Books, a division of Random House and a big shout out to them for giving teachers a sneak peak to the best new books coming out on the market!

This book tugged at my heart the moment I skimmed it.  It tugged at my teaching heart because over many years as a primary teacher I have read many personal narratives about learning to ride a bicycle.  It tugged at my parenting heart as I remembered own girls  work with determination, effort, and willingness to try this milestone in life.  It tugged at my own bike riding heart and remembering my own spill because my dad forgot to tell me my new bike required backwards pedaling to stop.

This book is a great, perfect how to mentor text!  It all begins by choosing the perfect bike for you.  I loved the next step which involves watching others.  We all need models when we are learning something new.  The next step is to raise the training wheels to feel off balanced and then to take them off.  This little girl falls off a couple of times.  The best part of the story is the advice Chris Raschka gives to bike riders; "Don't give up., You'll get it., ...try again., and you'll never forget how."  Chris shares with the reader bike riding takes determination.  What a perfect example for understanding determination.

The watercolor illustrations are precious.  I think it's a combination of the warm tones Chris used, the white background which makes the colors pop more, and the fact the little girl is always wearing her two tone blue striped bike helmet.  Look for this book in April 2013.

Monday, November 19, 2012

NCTE 2012 - Post, Ignite Style

via flicker Chicago Photo Shop

Just returned from my second NCTE and looked back at  my post from my first.  I ended that post with this,

10.  At one point, I was overwhelmed.  I can't fib about that!  At this point, I might have a been a smidge homesick for my girls.  I mentioned to Cathy my pb10for10 partner I was going to stop blogging, writing, and take a break from it all.  Sometimes it's best to end on a high note and walk away.  Well Cathy, I'm not going anywhere.  I'm back.  I need this feeling of belonging in my heart. 

This year, I'm not feeling happy I returned from my second NCTE and wish all my friends would splurge a bit to feel the energy and connections you can create within this profession.  After the rush of conferences, progress reports, 43 K students rotating in and out my door this was just what I needed to feel refreshed, revived, and willing to make my work better.  In the spirit of an IGNITE session, I will highlight some of my thinking and feelings.   You have 15 seconds to read each, all 20, and hopefully finish in 5 minutes!

1.  Publishing is a mid-point now, not an endpoint.  Write for collaboration. - Will Richardson

2.  Being a creative teacher means we learn from each other.  Creativity is not the same thing as imagination.        Creativity means doing something, applying your imagination. -Sir Ken Robinson

3.  Conversations are important with like minded people.  I loved my impromptu breakfast duo that already has a date and time for NCTE13.

4.  We can't be teachers we were 10 years ago. - Will Richardson

5.  We are learning for proximity, we need choices to imagine, to create, to learn.  -Bill Bass

6.  Connecting with twitter friends in person and sharing more than 140 characters at a time was delightful.

7.  Twitter is like an ignite session.  - Sandra Hayes

8.  The people who can laugh together, can work together.
     -Carla Beard

9.  Taking time away from my daily home life and catching Love Beatles show was amazing.

10. Triangulation - don't judge a child by one number or data point, look at points over time.  
       -Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan

11.  Most important part of the day is interactive read aloud. - Teachers College Group

12.  Time for dinner and food without prep and cleanup was relaxing.  Including friends at every meal was        nourishment to my soul.  

13.  Go on listening tours. - Georgia Heard

14.  Sprinkle some magic. - Jen McDonough

15.  Making new friends that hug you when you have to stay goodbye, fills up my heart.

16.  Choice provides energy and choice.  -Matt Glover

17.  Illustrations are compositions.  - Katie Wood Ray

18.  Scheduled a Nerdy Book Club post and so loved meeting more of these folks, in person.

19.  Play is the oral language, it's the composing in our minds.  - Katie Keier

20.  When I was leaving NCTE this year, I wasn't done.  I typed my notes into Evernote on the plane.  I read a small professional book on the way home.  I enjoyed traveling with good friends knowing I will be back for more growth, connections, and heart fulfilling learning in Boston.

Enjoy your own journey after NCTE12.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Cooperation {Poetry Friday}

I dreamed I stood in a studio
And watched two sculptors there.
The clay they used was a  young child's mind
And they fashioned it with care.

One was a teacher; the tools he used
were books, music, and art.
One, a parent, who worked with a guiding 
hand and a gentle heart.

Day after day the teacher toiled,
With touch that was deft and sure,
While the parent labored by his side,
And  polished and smoothed it O'er.
And when, at last, their task was done,
They were  proud of what they had wrought.
For the things they had molded into a child,
Could neither be sold or bought.

And each agreed that he would have failed
If he had worked alone.
For behind the teacher stood the school,
And behind the parent, the home.

Author Unknown

I found this poem as I just cleaned out my progress report folder.  I usually save it to share with my parents in June to thank them for being my partner.  Today I thought maybe my teacher friends needed to read it.  It's a busy time of year with progress reports, parent teacher conferences, and trying to stay afloat with the day to day demands and planning.  Have a restful weekend, my friends.

Poetry Friday is hosted this week by Ed at Think, Kid Think.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

IWB & Morning Messages

I thought I would follow up and share my first adventure with my new IWB (Interactive Whiteboard) since I had shared my reflections on the book Literacy Smarts.  This is not my own idea and I owe a big thank you to Katie at Catching Readers for sharing this idea when I wanted to know how she was using an IWB in kindergarten.

Each morning my students arrive and begin their morning routine and move to explore choices.  To help them know about our day ahead I post a morning message on the IWB.  At first, I was handwriting the message and soon we discovered if we needed to erase something it got tricky because we sometimes erased the initial message.  Soon, I discovered we could type it using a text box and then our pen markings could be erased and the text would stay in it's original form.  I love typing the text because I can easily insert additional spaces needed to exaggerate spacing between words.

The students and I have come up with some markings we use daily.  We circle lowercase letters we might be searching for.  We underline uppercase letters we might be searching for to identify the different forms we know for letters.  We decided vertical lines to show spaces was easier to see than a horizontal line between words that looked like we were stringing them together.

As you would do with any morning message I tweak words as I compose the text to increase more things we are searching for.  The opportunities to compare confusing letters have been great discussions in our room; for example comparing t and f.  I keep our searching to a focus for two things.

As Katie suggested she prints her morning message in it's original message and then a copy of the marked up message.  I have been doing this too and then sending it home daily to be placed in a two pocket folder I sent home.  One family sent an email letting me know their kindergarten student was playing school with their younger daughter and the morning message folder.  I love how printing and sending these home makes our learning and work visible.  I want to mention to parents this week during conferences their child should be sharing why we marked the things we did and hopefully school conversations are being fostered.

Printing types I discovered.
1.  Click Print
2.  Click Full Page
3.  I deleted the automatic generated header and just let the date print.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Math Talk - A Resources for discussing Math

Math Talk - Teaching Concepts and Skills Through Illustrations and Stories by Char Forsten and Torri Richards is one of those resources I've had for a bit of time and have been wanting to explore more.  My district recently adopted a new resource to help teach math and one of the components frequently used throughout this text is a visual picture for discussing math concepts in a language-based setting.  I have a huge problem with the quality of pictures this resource has selected to use and remembered I had a book at home with a similar idea.  

Without saying much I feel like you need to try and help you, my reader visualize the first picture K teachers are asked to discuss.  There are pairs of rainbow colored - humanized vegetables.  It's hard to see the math or numbers when green beans look like stripped knee high socks.  Also, the teaching guide discussion points are weak mathematically with no differentiation.

Thank goodness Math Talk was home waiting for me.  Math Talk uses pictures that are based on nursery rhymes and various themes.  The pictures are realistic settings and use real people or animals in a setting that is appropriate and natural.  There are 20 pages and opportunities to get you started with suggestions to take it farther with pictures from High Five magazine from Highlights, photographs, picture books and student illustrative work.  

The process of talking about mathematics based on an illustration begins with looking at the illustration and discussing what you see.  It might activate background knowledge and comprehension.  The next step begins with exploring the mathematics.  Math Talk provides a journey of questions to guide students thinking for deeper learning and thinking.  Beginning questions helps students count and model one to one correspondence.  The Intermediate questions helps children think about number groups.  Advanced questions help students subitize and begin seeing number stories as addition or subtraction.  Challenging questions use counting on and counting down strategies while require students to understand cardinality.  New characters or objects might be discussed within the illustration.  Differentiation and various thinking can be modeled within our classrooms for our various learners. 

This type of activity would make a great opening for math workshop.  It could lead into looking at photographs of math in our lives.  Char Forsten has spent time in Singapore learning about their approach for teaching mathematics and brought this idea back with her and implemented it in American schools to help develop number sense and concepts beyond.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

NCTE @ OCTM, Fabulous!

When I saw the keynote speaker for Friday at OCTM was the vice-president of NCTE, I began wondering why?  I wonder no more.  Ernest Morrell is a dynamic speaker.  Ernest Morrell thinks about education and crosses boundaries between disciplines that should be crossed.  Ernest Morrell thinks about students as people and looks for changes to be made.  Ernest Morrell is the director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Teachers College.  My notes can not compare to his actual presentation and I urge you to see him speak if the chance comes your way.  

Three questions, Ernest Morrell shared to jump start our thinking;
1.  How do I get kids excited about learning?  How can they apply math?
2.  How do I get kids to feel good about themselves?
3.  How is can do different than will do?

Our time with Ernest Morrell was spent thinking about learning communities.  He shared this equation, 

value + expectancy = motivation

Students need to have goals they value and a belief they can make it.  Confidence is created by expecting success for motivation.  The first step in reaching these goals and community spirit is by engaging students with a context they can be successful in.  Students need relevance for learning.  

When creating a social awareness, which fosters learning, the attachment theory needs to be in place.  The attachment theory involves being attached to the academic world, to the world of numbers, to others in the classroom, and to see the larger social world outside the world of their own.  Secure attachments in the school world are essential for fostering success and learning.

We have to think about how we think and teach but more importantly how do kids learn and they don't learn through a lecture!  Ernest Morrell shared his work and the different scenarios he has been in leading to the Powerful Teaching Principals.  Our students and our classroom climate need these factors.  
-Voice - we need to help our students say their thoughts
-Affirmation - confidence and humor
-Achievement - push beyond expectations
-Purpose - create work products.
-Love - make a difference

We also need to look at how our students are using popular culture.   He shared several examples of mathematics through things we do in life normally and referenced the show Sport Science on ESPN.  We need to look at how pop culture has influenced our students consumption.  What do they  read, watch, and listen.  We need to show them possibilities about mathematics.  Student's can't become excited about mathematics or reading until they see the possibilities.  Create projects where they are reaseachers, find out what they would change, connect it to their learning.  Children are natural born scientist.  Use the power of numbers to persuade.  Create learning communities that work together, question, connect, share with others and strive for excellence.  

He closed with a few reflective thoughts that were uplifting and motivating.  "Teaching makes you internal and it's an absolute honor to  create HOPE.

Monday, October 22, 2012

OCTM Day Two

This past Friday was my second day at the OCTM annual math conference and I chose to spend more time with the ladies from the Developmental Math Group.  The focus for their session this time was place value.  If you are teaching kindergarten and if you have switched to the Common Core then you know place value is something new in kindergarten for numbers through 20.  Not only did they discuss place value but they shared  nuggets of math goodness.

-acting out the math helps students see the process.
-asking the question, what do you know is crucial
-start with understanding
-symbols are abstract
-talking is powerful for students
-kids will listen to kids
-Kindergarten is good at showing, expressing is hard
-by modeling everyday situations math is put into context

Here are some highlights about place value relevant to our emerging mathematicians.  Numbers have a place and a value.  When kindergarten children come, they think of 23 as 23 ones not 2 tens and 3 ones.  It's our job to move them to the base ten language system.  Popsicle sticks bundled as tens are a great tool for working with place value in the beginning.  The popsicle stick is the same shape and size.  By using grouping types of all the same shape and size place and value become more concrete than if you were using different units.  My new second favorite math word is unitizing - thinking of a numbers as a group.  In kindergarten, we need to be thinking of place value as a group of ten ones and some more.  They spent a great deal of time talking about the structure of the hundreds board and how important it is for the students to interact with the board to learn the structure.  They also suggested it's easier for emerging mathematicians to work with a board 1-99 at first.  They spent some time sharing great ideas for a place value mat and their own decimal mats they developed as visual models to increase understanding.  If I taught older students they would be a must to have in my classroom.  They shared a personal bug a boo - don't call place value blocks units, longs and flats.  Here's their justification, "We don't develop meaningful mathematics if we don't use mathematical language."  We ended our session with this quote that really brings home how important beginning mathematics is.

"A child who has number sense has common sense for mathematics."

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Words for the Week

"Success means having the courage, 
the determination, and the will
to become
the person you believe you were meant to be."

George Sheehan on running

I ran tonight and came home thinking how good it felt.  I found this quote to think about this week as I try to run with more consistency.  May you have courage, determination, and will this week in all you do.

Friday, October 19, 2012

OCTM Presentation

Thank you for joining me today at OCTM, if you were able to.  I enjoyed talking about problem solving and using a Math Workshop format to have math exchanges with small groups of students.  Remember, math exchanges are the giving and taking the talking and listening while looking at rich math problems.  You can find my presentation via Google Docs.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

OCTM Day One

Today and tomorrow I'm spending time at  the annual Ohio Council  Teachers of Mathematics state wide conference.  This year it is right here in Columbus, Ohio.  If you are looking for local professional development for grades K-12 this is a great find and something you might want to attend next year

Today I spent time thinking about geometry with Linda Hallenbeck discussing the spatial reasoning and the important role it plays in mathematical thinking.  When we look at shapes we could have children sort rounded shapes from each other.  We could have children sort polygons from each other.  If we look at polygon attributes for sorting we are only looking at sides and angle-arity.  When we talk about shapes in kindergarten we are reasoning at the beginning stages.  Another important aspect of spatial reasoning is the orientation of shapes which creates flexible thinking.  Linda also shared we shouldn't reference pattern blocks by color when working with students.  It implies color is an attribute associated with the a specific shape.  Also, working with different shapes all the same color helps children focus more on the geometric attributes.

We talked about the difficulty children can have understanding a square is a special rectangle.  Linda shared this analogy she uses.  There are five people in my family.  We are all Hallenbecks.  I am a special Hallenbeck, I'm Linda Hallenbeck.  I transferred this idea to the confusion with an oval and an ellipse.  One resource Linda shared worth investigating as we all move to the Common Core is a flip book from Kansas.

Another great session I attended today was with Debra Rucker and Karen Boreman the developers from the Developmental Math Group.  I know these ladies from my previous school district and it was nice to hear their wise wisdom about mathematics.  Their focus in mathematics is with visual models.  They shared several tools they have developed to make mathematics visual for children.  Here are some tidbits I picked up during their session.

-Visual models are needed to connect words, symbols, and quantity
-Visual models change how you look at numbers
-Number sense is being flexible
-By definition teens are a ten and some more
-To fluently add and subtract students must show the commutative property
-A child won't count on until they see a number as a unit
-Putting things in a row makes counting easier, provide tools

Looking forward to a good day of learning tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Questions, Questions {Poetry Friday}

I picked up Marcus Pfister's Questions, Questions as a mentor text for wondering and inquiry.  I loved how his questions are about every day things my students might be able to observe.  I sometimes think so much is taken for granted and we don't take the time to stop and think about what we see.  Topics Marcus Pfister questions include; seeds, colors of flowers, the sun, birds, shells, leaves, and much more.  As I read the blurb and spent time with this book it's so much more.  It's poetry.  Each question is written as a couplet.  A couplet is a pair lines in poetry that usually rhyme.  Now, it's phonemic awareness.  I'm reminded if we look carefully and work smarter not harder we can find mentor text for multiple purposes and entry points.  Here's a small sample perfect for this time of the year in the Midwest.

"What turns the leaves from green to brown 
and sends them floating gently down?"

I discovered another entry point for this book with the illustrations.  They are simply set against a white background with vibrant colors and texture.  The texture is something all readers should spend time pondering and wondering about.  I love books that describe how the illustrations were done.  Marcus Pfister shares he used thick cardboard to cut out his pieces.  Then painted each cardboard piece with acrylic paint to stamp on aquarelle paper.  The results how movement and texture that is very appealing to the reader. Marcus Pfister even encourages the reader to give this technique a try.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I love my IPEVO camera!

I knew I needed a document camera after playing around with one last spring in my room.  I wrote a grant but it didn't get funded.  I tried to snag the building one this year without anyone noticing.  It got noticed.  I believe in sharing but in this situation I knew I wanted a document camera at my finger tips all day long.  A district technology friend suggested the IPEVO when I wrote the grant but I couldn't imagine this much less costing document camera ($69.99) doing the same as other big name document cameras.  I was wrong and learned I should listen to my friends.  

In the photo, you will notice my IPEVO Point 2 View to the right of my classroom computer.  Look at how slender and sleek this document camera is.  The IPEVO is a USB document camera.   It is easy to travel with.  It is compact and folds up into a nice little box.  I am able to set it for continuous focus or single shot focus.  I am able to capture photos of student work and share them on my website and then eventually add those to an Evernote binder (when I figure this out more)or in a cloud format for creating student portfolios.  I can turn the angle of the lens and use it as a webcam or detach it and set it on top of my computer.  I can adjust the exposure, zoom, and the direction the image is presented.  

My students love seeing my modeling enlarged on the SMARTboard.   It is so nice when everyone can see.  They also like having their own work enlarged for reflection and sharing during our day.  I have one class that is content to stand by the IPEVO and share their thinking.  My other class likes to walk over to the SMARTboard and talk about their work as it is projected.  I am fortunate enough to have a ceiling mounted projector in my room for the SMARTboard which then projects any computer image.  You will notice in the photo mine is attached to an extension stand.  I found the height made projecting books and student work easier.  I will be exploring these videos to learn more about fantastic tool and read these user stories. The cost of this little gem is worth every penny and more.  Thank you for joining my technology journey this year.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Launching Math Journals

I launched math journals last week with my kindergarten classes thanks to k-5 math teaching resources and their kindergarten math journal e-book.  Math journals have been an on and off thing since returning to kindergarten and just watching my students last week reminded me why math journals are so important.

1.  Math journals are a spot for students to record their answers and show their thinking.
2.  Math journals are a tool that help students articulate their learning.
3.  Math journals are a tool to front load oral language and math explanations.
4.  Math journals help students organize their thoughts.
5.  Math journals help students show growth over time.

Already after two days of problem solving I can observe and see individual differences in my mathematicians.    Math journals are a window into a child's thinking and reasoning.  During our reflection time I am seeing confidence emerge as students share their thinking.  Our reflections are also causing a few students to realize they are missing a piece in their own work and rushing to get a pencil.  We are just beginning and seeing how you can revise your own work to make it  more complete is an advanced skill, that I am happy to see.

By the way - I think any teacher will want to review e-book resources from this website.  My initial thinking about this website was shared on July 16th.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


courage does not always roar.
sometimes courage is the quiet voice
at the end of the day saying,
"i will try again tomorrow."

(mary anne radmacher)

A friend gave me this quote on a magnet this summer.  I found it tonight organizing my personal space in our playroom and knew the words were calling to me right now.  Maybe these words are something you need to hear also as we embrace a new week of living, teaching, and caring.

Monday, October 8, 2012


Last week I was thinking about my classes and feeling good about how they were adjusting to school life and navigating our day.   However, I'm a bit worried about how they are navigating friendships and treating each other.  I tweeted a few friends for titles of books they might use to build community, really looking for books that would help children think about others.  This can be and often is challenging for everyone but I know the success we will have this year together depends on how we treat each other.  It also depends on thinking before we act or speak.  It also depends on helping others while learning and playing.

One book my friend Cathy suggested was TOGETHER by George Ella Lyon.  This book is new to me and that brings me back to why I set up this blog.  I started blogging to share titles that are new to everyone but titles that are old but new to me.  I couldn't find this book easily online for a reasonable price to purchase.  My first library system didn't have it but my second choice did.  I picked it up yesterday and while reading it I thought my kindergarten students will enjoy this book.  However, if I were teaching older students third on up we would have a lot of fun using this book as a mentor text for writing and guiding community building.

Two friends, both girls share all the things they can do together.  The text per page is just one sentence.  The language and organization of the sentence clearly lets the reader know these two friends work together;  teamwork is important for happiness.  Happiness isn't evident in text but through the illustrations by Vera Rosenberry.  

Here are a few examples from the text to help you envision how this book could help you in your classroom.
-"You cut the timber and I'll build the house."
-"You salt the ice and I'll crank the cream."
-"I'll drive the truck if you'll fight the fire."

Every few pages this phrase is repeated; "Let's put our heads together and dream the same dream."  This book could also lead a great discussion about dreams and goals as a class and individually.  I hope your year is off to a great start.  I'm thinking, You get the bread, I'll spread the peanut butter.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Research and Development Grant - I'm Participating.

I am so excited to share I am able to participate in a research and development project just being started in our school district.  This was sent out in a district email earlier this school year.

"TRECA, Apple, Houghton Mifflin, and Battelle for Kids are offering a research and development opportunity for one teacher in every building in our district to create an innovative learning environment.

The purpose of the TRECA Research and Development Program is to fund action research projects focused on effective integration of technology to support instructional behaviors designed to personalize student learning. You may use the attached application to identify your plan to implement an innovative learning environment and to identify your approach to action research in your classroom."

My interest was peaked and I tried to talk myself out of taking on one more thing.  I then did some asking around and from what I could tell, no one else applied.  Then I was talking myself into applying because this has great potential for my students, my own learning and I didn't want our building to miss out.  I was notified this week, I am participating.  Hip, Hip, Hooray!

I am a planner and right now there are a lot of unknowns, I'm not even sure what this will involve.  I think this project is being developed step by step from what I can tell or from what is being released.  I do know there is some travel involved and I had to supply my travel information so a flight could be booked.  We are going to innovative schools to observe and begin our research, nothing close to the Midwest.  My choices for elementary schools are CA, AZ, or GA.  I find out this week where I am going and when.

My own next step is to explore this collection of videos which is going to lead to some innovative thinking, I can already tell with just a brief skim.  You might find something of interest too.  The grant I wrote may not be my final project.  I've heard our visits and working with an Apple Representative will help create a framework for my grant and action research.  I hope I find great things to share with you.  Stay Tuned.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Back to Books, Local PD

I just got in from a busy day ending on an enjoyable note.  I am fortunate to belong to The Literacy Connection, a hometown grass roots effort for growing professionally.  This group started with five teachers in 1982 and continues providing a supportive learning environment for local educators.   This year our work, conversations and guest speaker are centered around the theme, Back to Books!  Keeping Children's Literature at the Heart of the Curriculum.  With the shift in curriculum, I find this title enjoyable and much needed.  A breath of fresh air as people become reactive creating, publishing, and purchasing new teaching resources.  I think this will help us slow down, look at what we already have to use and not lose sight of using children's literature.  

Tonight we were fortunate to spend a couple of hours at Cover to Cover an independent local bookstore with the brilliant book owner, Sally Oddi.  Sally knows books.  Sally knows readers.  Sally knows how to talk about books, leaving you with the feeling you need each one.  Even if they aren't just right for your grade level or students you can find someone who needs that book she just talked about.

Tonight Sally had some wise nuggets of information for us all.

-quoting Donalyn Miller, "Get your kids reading real books."
-"Nonfiction is getting its time."
-"Questioning exercises should take them back to the book.  Use the book."
-"Our constant goal is to stretch the ability to read with information."

Notice the key word with information not for information.  I think the word with indicates the process of reading and not just reading for answers.  Thank you Sally for always welcoming and sharing new books with us.

I look forward to sharing more of this journey with you this year.  We will be thinking about ELL students in the reading workshop, documenting children's work, choosing books for minilessons, poetry, children's literature and the Common Core, and then we end our workshop series by spending a day with Donalyn Miller learning and reflecting after reading her text, The Book Whisperer.