Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Literacy Smarts

Literacy Smarts by Jennifer Harper and Brenda Stein Dzaldov as the perfect byline - Simple classroom strategies for using interactive whiteboards to engage students.  As I was reading this book, I kept thinking these authors are talking to me!  I've been hesitant.  I've thought my plate is full, I don't need another thing to do.  I've thought why do I need that when my chart paper and pen work just fine.  After reading this book, I can't believe I was so hesitant and the last teacher in my building to receive one and this was by choice.  I am very fortunate and work in a district where our PTO group has graciously donated the majority of our interactive whiteboards (aka - IWB)  I feel part of a "techie" club using IWB.  If you are at all in the same place as I am and/or was then you must read this from the authors..."If we begin with what we know traditionally works, we can use that knowledge base to enter the digital world, creating many interactive and engaging possibilities for our students.  This book is organized by these chapter topics; Rethinking Literacy, Using the Interactive Whiteboard, Collaborating, Communicating, Creating, The IWB as a Tool for Assessment, and Reaching All Students.  Each chapter is guiding and thorough using two subsections to help those of us new to using IWB; traditional - which talks about traditionally how the chapter title appears in the classroom and then we read about the IWB advantage.  This comparison really let me visualize how I can use this new tool in my classroom.  

I held off getting an IWB because I didn't understand how to use it or what it could really do.  I didn't want it to be just a big screen for viewing videoclips.  I know now I really didn't understand the purpose of this tool.  These quotes from the text have clarified my thinking.

-"It leads us into the future of learning - interpreting, managing, exploring, and expanding our students' thinking while enabling authentic learning."

-"With the interactive whiteboard, we can build a solid foundation in literacy skills and incorporate the texts, content, and pedagogy that engage and educate our students."

-"We conceptualize our students as creators, collaborators, and communicators who mediate their learning through interaction and multimodal text."

-"The principle goal of education is to create men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done. - Jean Piaget"

This book is filled with tips for getting starting and using the IWB successfully.  It also has so many ideas for enhancing our literacy instruction I think this book will be quite the guide for me this year. A big message I appreciated through their suggestions was collaboration.  Having students create was constantly suggested.  I also appreciated the suggestions for whole groups small group, and individuals.  If you have something you love using the IWB for, please leave a comment to help everyone.

I would like to thank Katie for recommending this book and writing a post about how she uses an IWB.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Rah, Rah, Radishes!

Rah, Rah, Radishes! by April Pulley Sayre was a book I first heard about from Mary Lee at A Year Of Reading.   Mary Lee talks/writes about the history of this book and meeting the author.  I was intriguied by the idea of a chant and was lucky enough to stumble upon it last week at my local Half Price bookstore.  I didn't expect the beautiful, bright and bold photos.  This book is a photo essay of a farmer's market.  The details on the radish roots with fine strands of roots sprouting off the main shoot are fascinating.  The various colors are rich in tones.  I love the amount of different vegetables that are in this text.  On the last page, April lets the reader know some vegetables didn't make "the cut" but can be found on her website, AprilSayre.com.  I also loved the information at the end of the text to this wondering, "What is a vegetable?" The history about this topic is also interesting.  April also promotes having natural colors on your plate to eat at one time.  I think this book will be fun to read as a chant.  It will help my students think about vegetables and fruits recognizing ones they eat and maybe being introduced to new one.  It's a great book as a mentor text for photography - photo essays.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Chew, Chew, GULP!

Chew, Chew, GULP! by Lauren Thompson is going to make a great mentor text for young poets.  The Library of Congress lists this book as a simple rhyming text and it is just that.  When it comes to encouraging young writers we need to find reasonable mentor text to inspire them.  Poetry can use rhyming.  Poetry can use repetition.  Poetry can use onomatopoeia.  Poetry can use short phrases.   Poetry can use description.  This book has all of these poetry features.  The topic of this book is very familiar, it's all about eating.  Everyone eats and I think it's important for students to learn poetry can be about what is real and relevant and concrete in their lives.  I wonder if Lauren Thompson has observed children while eating because her choice of words is very descriptive and accurate for the actions they take.  Some examples are; scoop, loop,  swirl, curl and chew, chew, GULP!

Thank you to Tara at A Teaching Life for hosting Poetry Friday today.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Me Want Pet!

I discovered Me Want Pet! by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Bob Shea this past spring at our local library and knew it was a perfect fit for any kindergarten classroom.  I found it this past week at a local Half Price Book store and was thrilled.  Cave Boy had lots of things, Cave Boy things.  He has rocks, sticks, and a club.    These may not be common toys my students have but I do have students who can share cave boy's next wish.  "Me sad," said Cave Boy.  "Want pet."  So Cave Boy goes on a journey to find himself a pet.  Mama said the first one is too big.  So cave boy keeps searching and brings home a new pet.  Papa says this pet makes me sneeze.  Cave Boy takes one more journey far and wide only to return and be disappointed when Gran says it can't stay because it isn't potty trained.  Cave Boy is then very sad.  Cave Boy does find happiness after an almost tragedy of a stampede.  A perfect tragedy for a cave man setting.  I love the warm muted colors Bob Shea chose to use to illustrate this book.  This is a great book for modeling inflection for different characters and excitement as the story builds.  The range of emotions are vivid through the text and illustrations.  This book is a good companion text for Me Hungry!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Side by Side Short Takes on Best Practice for Teachers and Literacy Leaders

Side by Side Short Takes on Best Practice for Teachers and Literacy Leaders by Heather Rader is a new gem in professional resources.  I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Heather last fall at the NCTM conference in Chicago.  You may know her name as the Senior Editor of Choice Literacy an online resource for a literacy topics to help us grow and stretch our thinking.  I've been reading her Big Fresh newsletter openings for quite some time and have loved her open and honest reflections on life and her connections to teaching and literacy thinking.

Side by Side Short Takes on Best Practice for Teachers and Litearcy Leaders is a collection of short essays.     You will find challenges in education presented from the view of a classroom teacher followed by the view of a literacy coach.  You will find tips for relationship building and caring at the forefront of each perspective to help guide and embrace change in search of collaboration.  Encouragement was a constant message I felt as a teacher reading this book.  I never felt overwhelmed or defeated because I hadn't thought about something Heather shares.

The book is organized into four sections; Starting Out Effective, Best Practice All Day Long, Explicity Teaching Writing, and Assessing What Matters.  Many of the essays offer the reader great thoughts about introductory lessons for literacy concepts.  Have you ever thought about starting math writing by discussing  the purpose of writing in math and making a peanut butter and honey sandwich?  Have you thought about using a sponge to help students think about summarizing?  As much as I enjoyed gaining ideas for classroom use I enjoyed reflecting on the guidance and thinking from having a literacy coach right there with me.  Reading Heather's writing feels like a conversation in person with her.  It's insightful, guiding, and honest.

One message I loved throughout this book is, "Every teacher deserves a coach."  She repeats this thought a few times during the book.  I have been in a conversation asking for someone to bounce ideas off with and in a time of budget cuts and reduced staff was told, " You don't need me."  No, I don't need an intervention coach nor am I at risk but I do need help stretching my thinking, bouncing ideas off and as Heather shares over and over again in this book someone to observe and document what is actually happening in a classroom.  I love the idea of having a literacy coach in my room taking dictation and scribing then giving me time to process what happened.  I can see lots of growth coming from that.

Heather's writing is filled with nuggets of insight.  I thought I would share a few in hopes you will want to add this book to your To Be Read pile.

- ..."strict, but I realized it was their way of saying that behavior expectations were clear, predictable, and consistent in our room."

-..."the day to day work of maintaining a system requires heads-down dedication and fortitude.  In other words, consistency is the key to any working system."

-..."when what we really need are small steps to go deep."

-..."coaching is about information, not evaluation,..."

-"Noodling is my husband's word to describe what is happening when he is thinking deeply and quietly about something."

-"Misconceptions are to understanding what crawling is to walking."

-"We need to switch our focus from what the teacher is saying and doing to what the students are saying and doing."

-..."when a teacher says, "I feel like I'm working too hard," it probably means the kids haven't learned yet how to work hard themselves."

-..."but in the beginning it was a patient investment of intentional teaching."

I was surprised to find essays that covered math and content coaching making connections to literacy.  We have to work smarter and cross content to be more effective.  This last nugget is really what guides Heather's book, "But my title is "instructional specialist," not "curriculum specialist," so I focus on effective instruction for student learning no matter what the curriculum is."

Monday, July 16, 2012

K - 5 Math Teaching Resources

A friend of mine recently shared with me the website, K - 5 Math Teaching Resources and I think everyone must know about this.  It has a wealth of information, ideas, and good thinking about the Common Core.  It's a collection of games and hands on activities aligned to the Common Core.  It's organized by grade level and the best part is it's all FREE!  You can easily find number activities for a specific grade level.  Geometry and Measurement are organized by grade bands.

Recording mathematical thinking is essential and problem solving is at the heart of the mathematical practices in the Common Core.  I loved how this website describes and recommends using math journals.  She has an e-book to support rich problem solving my friend also recommended.  I've done math journals over the years and yet I'm wondering why I never thought to print the problem to be added on a label that would just stick on the current page of work.  Thanks to K-5 Math Teaching Resources I can put away my gluestick and papercutter.  I just purchased my own copy after viewing a sample and thinking about having problem solving at the forefront of my math workshop.  Another great page to find for your own grade level is Math Journal Gallery.  I found it interesting to see how organized K students can be and how their work grew over time.  To enrich our writing we must understand the vocabulary and using a word wall mathematically is a great idea.  However, we need ideas to keep any word wall fresh and creating ways to interact with it.  This site has some wonderful suggestions for keeping a math word wall purposeful within any classroom.

One last you MUST look at is the description and examples for using a rekenrek to develop number sense and allow students a tool to show mathematical thinking.  I've been looking at rekenreks for quite some time but can't seem to find the money to purchase some.  Now I have a way to make individual student versions! Super YEA!  I'm not on pinterest but have thought this would be a diy math manipulative idea everyone should be able to see and find and pin.  Budgets are being cut and diy projects are more important than ever.  It reminds me when I spray painted lima beans so I had two sided colored counters.  

There are many more ideas and I hope you will add these to your list of resources.  We have to look for things like these that are being developed and added to over time.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Lynda.com - So Helpful!

I just finished an online class my school district sponsored using the website, Lynda.com.  Lynda.com is an online library of technology videos.  Professional development at your finger tips.  They have hundreds of high quality videos.  I am a visual learner and I like to learn by doing, especially with technology.  So, if someone can show me how to do something and I can take notes, then I am more successful.  The videos are broken into precise small snippets so if you are looking for a specific answer to something it can be easily found.  These small snippets are also nice for re-watching when clarification is needed.  When it comes to learning about things my K students could do, I didn't find what I was quite looking for.  There is nothing on VoiceThread, Pixie, or Animato.  However, I grew more in my own technology knowledge and in turn created projects to help our community.

I loved learning about Evernote and created a notebook for each class and then a page for each new student. I'm excited to start clipping and saving things about our learning and then building notebooks for planning.

I use twitter and love my PD community I have there along with a little personal interest things.  So, I decided to create twitter class accounts.  I picture shared writing or interactive writing fitting within 140 characters to tweet out to our parents and hopefully some tweet K pals we will connect with.  I also found authors and illustrators to follow and created a list of local interest to help families know about resources in our own backyard to help us grow and learn with resources on the web.  Watching Twitter Essential Training helped me fine tune my twitter ease and provided me with some little hints and tricks.  For my classroom accounts, I learned I can turn off retweets from those we follow for example.  You can find us @MrsRobekKMW or @MrsRobekKTTh.

I love my google calendar at home and couldn't live without!  I've been frustrated with a calendar system the district has for us to use when communicating with parents.  Again, I created a classroom account and hopefully parents will find this resource helpful.

I spent some time learning about Google Docs and hope to have parents contribute to a slide show we can make about a tradition they have at home.  Really focusing in on traditions as something we repeat and maybe not holiday oriented.  Thanks to my Katie at Creative Literacy for that idea.

I also have not been a youtube user and just learned our district has unblocked it from our filtering system for classroom use.  I learned a lot about youtube and am discovering there are things out there for classrooms.  I created a channel and hope my families will visit it too.  If you have suggestions for my channel I would love any ideas.

These are just some highlights for things I've discovered.  The quality of the videos and the presentation is very high.  Knowing this and experiencing learning from lynda.com for just a month I began wondering if I could use it on my own.  My district is only offering it to five people for a month at a time.  I began thinking it might be a bit expensive but worth every penny.  Come to find out, I can or you can purchase a month membership for $25.00.  Hands down, worth the investment if you are looking for professional development that you can do on your own time.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Join Us - August 10 for 10 Picture Book Event

Last night while I was watching my youngest play softball I got a tweet from Cathy, at Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community reminding me that tomorrow, now today is July 10th.  It's not my birthday, it's not my anniversary but it is an exciting date in my blogging world.  It is the day Cathy and I would like to invite you to join us for August 10 for 10 Picture Book event.  This event all began when Cathy and I connected as friends and she began wondering what my must have books were to use in my classroom.  You can find my original post and thinking explaining how it all got started here.

If you have joined us before please consider joining us again.  If you are new to this event, please consider joining us.  It's really easy!  Pick 10 books, just 10 picture books you can't live without.  Books you think each and everyone of us need to be able to get our hands on.  We support each other by sharing our thinking and reasons for selecting these books.  Over time, it has been very interesting to see the spin participants put on their list of 10 picture books.  I personally keep tweaking my list each year and this is how I do it.  I look over last years list of books and decide which ones I truly still can't live without.  Then I think about books I have used this past year that might make my list.  I like keeping something old and adding something new.  I must worn you, it is often reported library wishlist and bookstore shopping carts get more titles added as we learn from each other.  We all need a little help from our friends.

Contact us on our blogs, or Twitter (@mandyrobek or @cathymere), or by e-mail to let us know you are joining this event.  On the day of the event - August 10th - we will be linking all the "must have" posts.  In the  past, we or I should say Cathy creates a Jog the Web.  I can't wait to have you join us!