Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Great Grandma's Carmel Corn

I grew up without a microwave.  My grandma loved her microwave!  She use to make this recipe every holiday season using her microwave and that fascinated me.  It is so easy to make.  My girls have loved making it each year.  When they were little it was fun to watch them jump and shake the brown paper bag.  Now it's fun to have them spend time with me and do various steps.  Tonight we made several batches and have it ready to share with teachers tomorrow.  I thought I would share it with you in hopes it helps you prepare for any winter/holiday gatherings and I wanted to get some writing in for my #nerdlution daily writing goal.

Great Grandma’s Carmel Corn

1 stick margarine
½ tsp. Salt
¼ cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
¼ tsp. Baking soda
10-12 cups popped corn

Pop popcorn

Place in brown grocery bag

Mix first four ingredients and place in microwave bowl.  Microwave on high for 2 minutes.  Stir.  Microwave on high for 3 more minutes – then add the baking soda.  Stir well.  Pour over popcorn in brown bag.  Mix well.  Microwave on high 1 minute.  Shake bag.  Repeat 2 more times.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Slice of Life - Meaningful, authentic, assessment.

3:15pm today -
This is meaningful, authentic, and an assessment.  

Prelude - My kindergarten students have been studying and learning about traditions.  Our learning targets can be summarized with these two statements;  I can share my family customs, traditions, and celebrations.  I can talk about family celebrations and why they are important.  I began our work with ideas from my friend Katie and her post titled traditions.  I collaborated with my art teacher and together we helped the children create a tradition symbol using embossing on heavy gauge foil, an idea Katie shared in her post.  

This afternoon as my students and I were retracing our symbol designs on to heavy gauge foil, coloring the raised image using colored sharpies there was a spirit in the air.  A spirit filled with happiness.  Happiness for creating and making something for our families.  I've never guided students with embossing on heavy gauge foil and I don't always make projects for families.  I let time, cute vs necessary debate in my mind, and relevance lead the way to making nothing for our families.   However, when my own daughters have brought things home over the years for me, my husband, or us together I always vow to help my students make something for their families for various reasons during the year.  There is a sense of pride all children need to feel when they can make something and give to others.  Katie's post had my interest peaked because it was relevant to our lives and related to our learning.  After the students had a parent volunteer use a glue gun to mount their tradition embossing to chipboard, they came to me for labeling and packing up.  As I listened to student after student share a family tradition orally and through visual representation, I realized this is an assessment.  They are sharing and talking about family traditions.  I loved it was authentic, child created art. It wasn't a worksheet, there was no fill in the blank or multiple choice questions, and there were no i can statements at the top of the page.  

Epilogue - I am happiest when we are creating and students are sharing their own ideas.  I began to wonder how could I document it.  It's not something to assign a number or a rubric to.  It's not something to it put on a ten point scale in a grade book.  I could check it off on a checklist but that doesn't make learning visible or show my student's thinking.  I get to do this again on Thursday.  I think the answer to document our product as an assessment is to take a picture of each final project and store them in an Evernote social studies note for each student.  If you have any ideas, let me know.  I will try to share photos later in the week here.

Thanks Tara at Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life this week.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Snow Day {Poetry Friday}

A gift of time

An internal

sense of quiet calm

A stillness
guiding my soul

and letting go

Truly a gift 
that only
time can give

@Mandy Robek

A week ago today we were surprised with a snow day that shut down every school in the area.  I can't remember the last time we had a snow day in December.  It was such a wonderful surprise.  I find snow days are truly a day to enjoy and be present with what comes our way.  

Poetry Friday is being hosted by Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference, thank you.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Spike Ugliest Dog in the Universe

Spike Ugliest Dog in the Universe by Debra Frasier is the fourth book I am sharing and considering for the Teacher's Choice project with IRA.  This book could be used to discuss animal shelters and rescue dogs. The illustrations for this text are interesting to look at and created using collage and fabric, two of my favorite techniques.  The background for almost all the pages is a denim pair of jeans.  Debra Frasier gathered 129 pairs of worn jeans to find the shading of blue she wanted to use for each page. 

Spike just won an award for being the Ugliest Dog in the Universe and isn't so happy to have this title.  What dog would be happy?  His owner abandons him for love and adventure.  Spike gets lucky when the neighbor boy, Joe notices he has been abandon and takes him into his home.   Joe would love to keep Spike but his mother says they can't afford him right now and he needs to go to the animal shelter.  Spike worries greatly about the animal shelter, he thinks those words mean Dog Pound and he needs help to avoid the Dog Pound. The beautiful cat next door teaches him what to do to win Joe's heart and more importantly the heart of Joe's mother. You have to see the fabric chosen for this beautiful cat.  In the meantime, Joe becomes a neighborhood hero all on his own and this random act of kindness saves him. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Octopus Alone

Octopus Alone by Divya Srinivasan  The characters in the this book are creatures from the reef and they are living in a busy community.  I think there are children who will appreciate and understand Octopus.  By reading about Octopus' journey, I think the reader will be able to learn more about themselves.  Do they like the busy community Octopus likes, leaves, and misses?  Do they like the open and quiet space  he discovers and enjoys for a bit of time.  I think the reader will ask questions about why Octopus inks the water which could foster discussion about protecting and being bashful.  

Our lives tend to get really busy, if we let them.  Being in a classroom of twenty plus students can be very overwhelming.  I often find some children need to take a break from each other.  Octopus is a great mentor for realizing this and then realizing it's okay to go back and be with your community when you miss them.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Slice of Life - My stomach doesn't hurt

I'm about a third of the way through Jennifer Serravallo's book, Teaching Reading in Small Groups and pondering reading a lot.  Winter break is approaching quickly and I want to revamp some things in my room. Over the weekend I decided I need to redo all of their reading assessments. I made a plan; four days with each class, 6 reading assessments a day, equals information to celebrate and reflect on.  I started yesterday with class one and got 4 done, just a little set back.  Today I spread them out a bit more and met my goal of 6 with class two.

We have lots to celebrate!  I'm seeing the work we have done as a class during mini lessons of reading workshop in each child.  My insides are bubbling with joy as I sit next to each child and watch them be independent readers.  It is satisfying and rewarding to watch the "I do" of gradual release.  

My tenth reading assessment today was with a little boy declared over and over when school started he couldn't read.  He takes ownership for his actions, he often thinks about himself, he speaks what is on his mind often without any filters, he gets tired, he tries hard, his loves facts, he loves bugs and today he was a reader.  When I was assessing his reading engagement to start our work together I asked him who reads with him at home.  He said no one, he doesn't read but he does do sight words.  His favorite book is No, David.  A perfect book for him in so many ways.  After reading four reading levels, I named several reading strategies I observed.  He just beamed.  I asked him if I could give him a hug to celebrate and I wasn't sure which way that would go.  He was about to walk away and turned around and gave me the biggest bear hug with gentleness.  A sign, we are learning and my students are growing.

My district gives kindergarten teachers til the end of the second quarter to do our initial reading assessment. This makes sense with our attendance schedule.  As of today, my students have been to school for 38 days. For the past two years I've held off a bit to truly get accurate information about my student's as readers.  This year I did it earlier, at the end of the first month of school.  I knew the data I would get but I was feeling pressure.  I was feeling pressure to show more student growth.  I was feeling pressure because my teammates are both pregnant and on maternity leave half of the year and wanted to start guided reading earlier.  I got the data I expected at the end of the first month.  Four students could read a beginning leveled book, 43 students were below a level A.  My stomach hurt back then.  The data I got showed me the same information for all students.  They needed reading instruction and guidance.  They needed to learn what being a reader looked like and felt like.  They needed to learn good reading strategies all readers use.  

My stomach doesn't hurt anymore.  My heart is full and hopeful, as I work on completing my assessment plan.  Maybe the celebration is better because I have documentation from September to show they weren't using reading strategies and now with the same tool I can show growth.  I know it feels frustrating to take the time to do an assessment when you can predict the results.  I still feel like doing the reading assessment in September didn't really change anything for our learning.  I'm not sure what I will do next year.  It appears I will be wrestling with the timing of reading assessments for a while.

Monday, December 9, 2013

RUBY in Her Own Time

RUBY in Her Own Time by Jonathan Emmett and Rebecca Harry is a mentor text for classrooms and families.  I learned about this book from our school psychologist while we were meeting with parents a few weeks ago.  As she shared the about the book with my family, she talked about her own children and how they learned and developed at different rates.  This can present tension in a home.  It can be difficult for students in a classroom to watch their peers learning and grasping concepts at different rates.  This book a must have for both home and school.

Mother and Father duck have five eggs.  Four ducklings hatch right on time.  The fifth egg takes a bit but hatches healthy.  I love all five ducklings have names that start with R; Rufus, Rory, Rosie, Rebecca, and Ruby.  Ruby watches her siblings grow and have new adventures.  They learn to eat, swim, and fly while Ruby does it in her own time and when she learns to fly she surpasses her siblings.  The observations and dialogue between mother and father duck is just enduring.

My school psychologist and the mother of student in my classroom both shared how their children connected to Ruby.  Both families found the phrase, in your own time very helpful in their families conversations at home.  I could see this as a very helpful phrase when building community and maintaining community throughout the year.

Friday, December 6, 2013

#Nerdlution Solution {Poetry Friday}

#Nerdlution Solution

oh no,
my toe,
won't let me go!

ingrown nail
reduced my pace
to that of a snail
I won't win a race

tweet #nerdlution
for a solution
you might like
riding a bike

that might not go
in the snow

no biking in the snow, silly
the wheels will go all, willy

I think you swim at a pool
if they have bikes
that would be cool.

My friend Mary Lee sent a tweet asking permission to skip a few days of walking last night from her #nerdlution because she had an infected toe.  Part of #nerdlution is the community we are developing to support each other while taking care of ourselves.  When I was thinking of a reply, I knew my audience. Mary Lee is a poet.  When we are passionate about something or interested in something we will closely read.  I chose to write a bit of poetry to Mary Lee in hopes she would consider my suggestion a bit more and find a solution to keep going with her #nerdlution.  I should of known Mary Lee would reply suggesting I had a poem for Poetry Friday.  I did and it freed me to go beyond a 140 character tweet.

I do hope your toe is feeling better Mary Lee.

Thank you Robyn of Life on the Deckle Edge for hosting Poetry Friday this week.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Twitter - Alleluia - Grant Wiggins

My mind has been wrestling with planning for quite some time now, since my return to kindergarten.  The Common Core is creating opportunities to study standards and rethink our teaching.  Part of my wrestle has been with how to become smarter when planning - combine, reduce, and integrate have just become my new favorite guiding words.  My district has provided professional development over the years starting with Understanding by Design, followed by formative and summative assessment, incorporating I can statements to empower students and show them where their learning is headed.  I've taught first, third grade and kindergarten during this time.  I've enjoyed my learning, work, and the process over the years.  I believe in all of this, if done right.  

However, when I returned to kindergarten and sat through PD time after time with examples from upper elementary, middle, or high school I was frustrated.  I was working in my kitchen last night thinking I want to revisit my planning, find excitement again, and see examples from a kindergarten classroom.  Kindergarten has many dimensions making this grade level special and unique.  Where could I go?  Twitter and Grant Wiggins, I thought  Yes, Grant Wiggins is actually on twitter and I could send him a message.  I did and today as I was leaving school I saw a reply.  A kind, helpful reply with just what I am looking for.  I love the connections twitter can provide.  I love the willingness of others to help and support people.  This is just one example why I choose to spend time with twitter and felt happy coming home tonight.

However, the Alleluia portion of this post came from my twitter feed when I saw an answer I've been looking for from @grantwiggins.  Today he wrote a post, Mandating the daily posting objectives and other dumb ideas.  It's brilliant and answers so many questions and thoughts I've been having lately.  I hope everyone will take the time to read this and process what it says.  We have to work smarter, advocating for ourselves and our students.  

I have been struggling with this for quite some time for many reasons.

1.  Kindergarten students have strong verbal skills, they excel in using and understanding oral language.

2.  Kindergarten students can understand our learning goals.

3.  Kindergarten students can discuss and show the work they are doing as learners.

4.  Kindergarten students can't read I can statements even in kid friendly language.

5.  Standards are typically not taught in isolation so any activity could possibly have several I can statements or learning targets.

6.  Day one of being exposed to a topic or concept doesn't mean I can do it that day.  Learning takes time.  Education is not a race.

7.  Five and six year olds think fast and their minds bounce around.  They should.  All students should be working on inquiry and application.

8.  I heard a group of students repeat an I can statement the other day and thought I was in church.  Maybe the act of prayer will get them through this educational craziness.

9.  Administrators can't possible walk in right at the moment you are reading or discussing a learning target to collect evidence for the walk through portion of my evaluation. 

10.  If we want students to discover and uncover learning we can't always tell them the I can ahead of the time.  I believe it prohibits inquiry.  What if we celebrated after the learning by naming the learning target?

Just this week, I was talking with Clare from Teachers for Teachers about all of this for a bit and my heart beat quickened.  "Clare, Clare this didn't start like this."  Before my district began working on these ideas my friend from the Ohio Department of Education, Ann Carlson came to our building and did some professional development with us.  We learned about I can statements.  We learned about creating a communication sheet and titling it, When Done Studying _______, I can ______________.  This makes sense.  This gives time.  This informs students and parents.  It gives guidance for learning and helps with planning.  It empowers if done right.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Slice of Life - Caterpillars

Journeys create stories.  Journeys can have surprises.  Parenting is a journey with twists and bends I never expected.  These twists and bends are creating stories I never expected.  I love when a story makes me laugh right out loud.  There is therapy in laughter and we all need a little bit more laughter in life.  I would imagine this is a story only a daughter would let me capture.

"Mom, can I get bangs at my Christmas haircut?"

"You know the ones that go straight across and I can then get rid of the layers and straighten my hair every day with the straightener I am getting for Christmas."

"I am getting a straightener for Christmas, right?"

"Well, you know the bangs will cover up my eyebrows."

Me - "Why do you want to cover up your eyebrows?"

"They are caterpillars! This one is fuzzy and this one is furry!"

In reflection, I am glad we aren't discussing uni-brows and I imagine there is a conversation coming about plucking eyebrows.  At least she is giving me clues this conversation is on the horizon.

Thank you  Tara at Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life this week.

Monday, December 2, 2013



I tried to ignore the tweets and the conversation completely!  I saw @frankisibberson at JoAnn's shopping for crafty goodness and we chatted about the explosion that happened on twitter and this was early in the game.  As I continued to watch and stay away more and more of my friends - new and old were joining.  I felt the air was a changing and the ground was beginning to rumble.  There have been so many posts and declarations that are awe inspiring.  Friends new and old considering things they want to do for themselves.

We have to take care of ourselves to better for others.  Whether that is in the classroom, in your home, within your family, and within your circle of friends.  We've all been touched by changes in education. @iChrisLehman gave a touching observation about his wife at NCTE.  @tonykeefer just wrote today about recent hardships in life and finding hope while readjusting to some normalcy.   After much watching last night, and tweeting I was trying to stay away my phone exploded with tweets back.  @frankisibberson who always offers sound advice said, to do what you WANT to do.  My floor began to rumble more but I went to bed to sleep - thinking more about what I might do and making plans to do them today in case I joined.   You might as well said right then I was in!  I got up and got busy had a good day of PD in my district and ended it with an hour long phone conversation with Clare of @teachersforteachers where #nerdlution came up and she asked if I was joining.  I replied, not sure but have to midnight to join.  


I've been staying up too late working after everyone goes to bed and have been skipping my morning walks with my two dogs, very early.  My first dog, didn't like to walk anymore with old age and I began my days with 18 min of pilates instead of walking, I miss that.  I ran my first 5k last March and really enjoyed it.  My running has been on and off again but I'm close to doing it again, if I can stay focused.

Writing has been on my mind a lot this past fall.  I have dabbled with notebooks for short stints over the years personally and when I stumble upon one I love reading them.  I enjoy writing professionally whether blogging or writing articles.  I have a list of ideas growing and not coming to the page.  It can't be healthy to keep this bottled up.  However, the biggest part of writing that I have missed out on for a long time, is capturing our lives at home.  My oldest is going to college.  Time is slipping away and these first 18 years of parenting have gone really fast.  This past fall @maryleehahn was very thoughtful and offered encouragement and guidance about time which leads to writing.  In looking back over life, some stories are okay to be forgotten but there are stories I wish I had held on to because I want them now.  This year I am spending time with @ruth_ayers and need I say more about writing and Ruth?!

Then I had a moment while at #NCTE13 where I was having dinner and was seated next to @colbysharp who asked, what are you reading?  Are you kidding me?  I was at the wrong table, my recent reading was books in my classroom - I replied with Mo Willems and ducked out of that conversation and became engrossed with everyone's reading lives.  I needed to fix that!  I read Celebrations by Ruth Ayers on the plane ride home.  I just read Catching Fire before I could go see the movie.  @colbysharp asked when do kids stop reading with you at home.  I said, it depends on the child.  I returned to my youngest who I thought was done reading with me and had moved on to reading next to me to find out we are reading together again.  It's interesting, she is picking my favorites from teaching third grade in our playroom.  We read Ellie McDoodle, Have Pen Will Travel and tonight we started Love, Ruby Lavendar.  Thanks to @colbysharp, Shari Frost, Megan Ginther and Tammy of @TeachersforTeachers for jump starting my reading life again.

I love the timing of #nerdlution because it's a good amount of time with time off and time working.  Goals aren't just for January.  I'm hoping to do three things in this wonderful badge picture but with a busy life I'm not putting any time amounts to each.

My ground is rumbling - I'm going to read, write, and move each day!  I'M IN!

If you are new to the concept of #nerdlution you need to check out these three post to get caught up.  
You have until midnight to join.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Five

Friday Five is a spin off from various post I have seen on Fridays where blog authors are sharing things that inspire them or are interesting to them.  I enjoy seeing what others are wanting or are inspired by and thought we could do this as educators.   What have you read this week, done, seen, or had happen that might benefit fellow educators.  I've tried to find things I enjoyed that made me feel positive and happy.  I hope you find something here to enjoy.

1.  Ohio teachers and administrators can be hopeful if these necessary changes are made to the new evaluation process.

2.  Just lovely and wonderful and happy, is all I could think after reading this peace by Donalyn Miller on reading, anniversary, and love.  It made me think, wonder, and hope.

3.  Being overwhelmed may not be failing, read about Ruth Ayers uplifting words.  Every day takes strength.

4.  I'm so happy giraffes are returning to our Columbus Zoo which is just a mile away.  Technology opens so many doors for us to learn and observe things up close.

5.  Saturday I get to pick up my copy of Celebrating Writers: From Possibilities and Publication by Ruth Ayers.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Thankful Book

I am so happy I discovered The Thankful Book by Todd Parr the other night!  As I was reading this book, I kept thinking how did I miss this book?  It's perfect for school.  It's perfect for home.  It's perfect for children.  It's perfect for adults.  I quickly turned to find the copyright date and am happy to share it was just published last year.  

While the book title might make you think about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, the opening page really reminds the reader we should be thankful every day.  I love the collection of thankful things.  They are included varied interests people might have. The arts and fitness.  They included common every day things that guide and help us be better individuals.  They celebrate the uniqueness of individuals.  Here are a few examples to help you appreciate the thinking this book might inspire.

"I am thankful for my ears because they let me hear words like "I love you."
"I am thankful for my shadow because it makes me look taller."
"I am thank for the library because it is filled with endless adventures."

Taking Todd's advice, "Every day I try to think about the things I am thankful for."  

Today I am thankful for parent/high school volunteers because they help bigger projects and different things to happen in my room at one time.

Today I am thankful for another dental specialist appointment for my daughter because the process is getting closer to being done.

Today I am thankful for corduroy pants because they are comfortable, cozy, and just feel good.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Slice of Life - I couldn't sleep!

So exhausted, I easily fall asleep.  So exhausted, I fall asleep on the couch.  So exhausted, I crawl into bed hoping.  A few hours later, I faintly wake only to realize it's way too early to get up.  I snuggle in again and doze off for a bit, only to wake and realize it's way too early to get up.  This time I lean up and see I have one more hour to sleep.  I wonder why can't I sleep and I turn over to snuggle right in again.  My alarm goes off and I get up reluctantly, feeling a need for more sleep.  

As I get dressed to walk my dogs, I wonder why couldn't I sleep?  A few things rumble threw my  mind.  My day was pretty well planned out for my students.  There isn't really pressing decisions to make right now.  My girls aren't busy with activities right now, so our weeknights are a bit relaxing.  I have 10/46 conferences left but not til Wednesday night and this is the home stretch with NCTE in my future!  

My day went well and tonight I was still thinking about why I couldn't sleep.  I couldn't sleep because the weatherman had promised SNOW.  Snow is uncommon in November.  I love snow.  It's pretty and bright.  It's peaceful and life seems to slow down.  While I walked the dogs this morning, my steps were truly a crunch crunch crunching and I thought about poetry.  It was cold and it quickened my pace but not without noticing the stars and the stillness of life before many rise.  I have a wonderful wall of windows at school and all day I enjoyed seeing the tufts of white on my bushes and bird feeders.  Snow brings lots of anticipation for people - safe driving, delays, snow days, and what to wear.  I hope the next time you see snow you are able to stop, wonder, and enjoy.


Thank you Dana for hosting Slice of Life at Two Writing Teachers.

Monday, November 11, 2013


I wish I had known about ONES AND TWOS by Marthe Jocelyn and Nell Jocelyn earlier this school year. At first this book appears to be a counting book focused on showing examples for the quantity of one and two.  Each scenario for one and two shows a relationship between objects or words.

A few examples from the text -

one bird, two eggs
one bun, two bites
one girl, two legs

I really think my students would have fun thinking of their own objects or words to represent one and two in a relationship with each other.  The details created using collage are purely enjoyable to view and full of ideas as a collage mentor text.  I hope we will see more books from this mother/daughter, author/illustrator team.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Five

My Friday Five is a spin off from various post I have seen on Fridays where blog authors are sharing things that inspire them or are interesting to them.  I enjoy seeing what others are wanting or are inspired by and thought we could do this as educators.   What have you read this week, done, seen, or had happen that might benefit fellow educators.  I've tried to find things I enjoyed that made me feel positive and happy.  I hope you find something here to "scoop up" and enjoy.

1.  Read about how knitting opened doors for author Debbie Macomber when she was struggled dyslexia in the Costco Connection magazine.   Also, how knitting continues to help with her writing process.

2.  Love this quote and image on Brene Brown's homepage - "Maybe stories are just data with a soul."

3.  A natural extension from number two would be my new love for the Quotebook App I have started using faithly for collecting quotes.  The organization is easy and simple to use.  You can record the quote, author, source (I don't), rating out of 5 stars and tags.  Right now I have two tags I am collecting; life and education.  I love this little feature I stumbled upon - if I copy the quote from something I have read on my phone it will automatically ask to place the quote when I open the app.

4.  I've been anxiously waiting for some pumpkin ice cream at my local grocery store and FINALLY this week, I discovered Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream a seasonal flavor by our own home state company, Velvet Ice Cream.  There's a bit more nutmeg than others and little crumbs of pie crust.  Delicious.

5.  Again, makes my Friday Five list.  I can't say enough to encourage everyone in trying this organization to get things you need for your classroom and/or students.  My shelf arrived this week and I am completely in love with the possibilities that are in our future.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Slice of Life - Surprises!

There is a lot to accomplish on the home front to get out the door.  Mornings require juggling and balance, kindness and respect, guidance and letting go.  Often a little faith is needed and hopes for the day are rattling through my mind.  The girls are striving for independence.  Sometimes watching their internal struggle for that and liking things being done for them is tricky to live.  Daily, I remind myself all these things are shifting and changing.  Next year, I will have two not three girls to fill my mornings.  My drive to work will be all alone for the first time in 18 years.  I am intrigued by what this will all look and feel like and with that I have my own internal struggle with not wanting these mornings to change even when I am running a bit late.

Running a bit late, I dash into school.  I try to make quick sense of my classroom.  I needed to get to a staff breakfast this morning to greet and welcome our visitor for the day.  I was really excited because Wonderopolis was here to visit our school.  I scan the room, find a few people to chat with, grab half a bagel and as I am scanning for a seat - surprise!  I get to meet Laura from Wonderopolis and she hands me a box with my name on it.  Wonderopolis sent me an official Wonder Jar!  It's filled with such goodness.  Objects to foster questioning.  Objects to send us to the Wonderopolis website.  A model for creating our own wonder jars.  I can't wait to see where our learning goes from here.  Thank you Wonderopolis for supporting our learning and for surprises!

Dana at Two Writing Teachers, thanks for hosting.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Five

My Friday Five is a spin off from various post I have seen on Fridays where blog authors are sharing things that inspire them or are interesting to them.  I enjoy seeing what others are wanting or are inspired by and thought we could do this as educators.   What have you read this week, done, seen, or had happen that might benefit fellow educators.  I've tried to find things I enjoyed that made me feel positive and happy.  I hope you find something here to savor - no pun intended with a recipe included!

1.  Irene Fountas wrote a much needed piece addressing the history behind creating text levels for reading instruction and advice for all of us to consider now in Text Levels - Tool or Trouble?

2.  Judy Wallis wrote an inspiring piece filled with encouragement and the guidance we might all need right now, Teachers, Don't Forget Joy.

3. is offering a matching promo code for all projects to use within their first week of going live.  I had a project Spark Inquiry fully funded in less than 24 hours this week.  If you have needs for your classroom and/or your students the generosity of people within your community and within the Donors Choose community can be a perfect match!

4.  Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting is down right the most delicious cupcake my daughter has ever made!

5.  Matt B Gomez has some helpful tips for managing Symbaloo.  He was also very helpful via twitter as I tried to get things set up.  Thanks Matt!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pumpkin Trouble

I expected Pumpkin Trouble to be a happy story and was puzzled when my public librarian recommended it for books that aren't too scary.  The book is happy don't get me wrong, Jan Thomas is always a fun and a happy read.  It gets on the books that aren't too scary list because it's about a monster!  Duck is excited to get his jack-o-lantern and can't wait to show his friends pig and mouse.  This is the happy seasonal part but when Duck falls into his pumpkin head first and stands up he is now a pumpkin monster.  His friends are scared of him, they don't know it's duck inside.  As Duck hears their words, he follows them blindly running from a pumpkin monster.  Everyone is surprised to learn there really isn't a pumpkin monster and eager to cheer duck as the winner of the battle with the pumpkin monster.  I know my students will be eager to discuss how there wasn't a really a pumpkin monster battle and it was duck all the time.  Maybe monsters aren't what they really seem to be.

I hope everyone has a safe and fun Trick or Treat - Halloween.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Can YOU make a SCARY FACE?

Another book on my new list of books that aren't too scary and may not necessarily be listed as a holiday book but lend themselves to enhance the holiday spirit book list is, Can YOU make a SCARY FACE? by Jan Thomas.  That is a long title and/or explanation maybe I should shorten that book list to books that aren't too scary.  This book is one I'm missing in my collection in the classroom and one I must add.  Children get scared of things and with children dressing up this week in costumes they might see things that scare them.   This book can open a discussion about scary.  What are we scared of?  Can you be scary?  

Bug is direct and talks to the reader.  Bug tells the reader things to do which will foster instant engagement. When Bug says stand up, my students will stand up.  When Bug says to wiggle your nose and laugh my room will be filled with giggles.  Watching kindergartners truly interact without hesitation is a joy in my day.  We will have fun with this book.  Bug does all kind of movements with the reader and request the reader scare a character away only to let the reader know they were too scary.  I wonder if my students have ever considered that they could be scary.  I will soon find out.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Want My Light On

I Want My Light On by Tony Ross is a book I learned about last night from our wonderful public librarian. He shared it with me last night when I realized I will be having a little fall harvest celebration with one of my two classes, today.  Things tend to creep up quickly juggling two classes.  He said he likes to read books that aren't too scary and may not necessarily be listed as a holiday book but lend themselves to enhance the holiday spirit.

I Want My Light On is a great book to be used for thinking about perspectives - point of view.  Little Princess is not afraid of the dark but panics when her lights are turned out at bedtime.  The reader learns quickly she is scared of ghosts.  Several people in the kingdom try to assure the princess there are no ghost and look throughout her room to reassure her.  Once Little Princess settles in, she hears a sound, leaps under her bed to find a ghost.  The ghost flees as fast as he can and returns to his mother to tell her she has seen a little girl.  The mother's reassurance I had to reread twice, "There are NO such things as little girls!"  I think my students will love the perspective of the ghost.  I imagine a great discussion about being scared and what could be scared of us will be rich and a bit loud.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Where Have You Been? - Phonics Lessons Teaching Resources CD-ROM

Phonics Lessons grade K by Gay Su Pinnell and Irene C Fountas has been a resource I've dabbled in for a decade.  Their lesson ideas and kid friendly language for the purpose of each lesson has guided many lessons over the years.  I absolutely love their picture cards for each activity.  A huge assortment for word study concepts.  The size of each is perfect for little hands.  The pictures are black and white, clearly drawn. However, copying then cutting and pasting to make all the activities has been a labor of word study love. Honestly, sometimes this has slowed down my ever growing list of to do and didn't happen.

This does not have to be the case any more thanks to my friend at the end of the hall.  Jennifer shared with me one day over a casual lunch we try to fit in once in a while, "You know there is a CD for that."  I think I almost fell off my chair as she explained how easy making materials was using the phonics lessons teaching resources CD-ROM.  She went and got her first grade version and let me play around with it during my planning period.  I wanted to sing from the top of my lungs.  I was so giddy and bouncy with excitement.  

Phonics lessons Teaching Resources CD ROM, is teacher's dream.  You can search lesson materials and find ideas for a concept you want to teach.  There is also a feature providing letters for home with suggestions for support.  The templates, materials, and games are easily accessible from the CD and can be printed right to a printer instead of going to the copier.  Hands down the best feature is the custom card maker.  You can design, create, and print your own materials to meet the needs of your classroom and different students.  I love to do picture sorts for word study.  With Phonics Lessons Teaching Resources CD ROM, I can create a two way or three way sort for beginning letter sounds.  Then I can select and make four different sets of 6 cards so my students sitting at the same table do not have the same pictures to sort. These will print out on two sheets of paper, which might be hard to visualize but I feel like I'm saving paper too.  

I don't know how I missed this professional resource all these years.  It truly is a must for any primary classroom and I need to eat lunch casually with Jennifer more often.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Slice of Life - 10 Things Right Now

I saw this idea today in my feedly feed and in a moment of trying to use Pinterest more I created a board for writing ideas.  I'm sure I've mentioned before, I'm using Pinterest right now personally and for my class with both going slowly.  I love this idea from Ali Edwards and hope to find more ideas to help this board grow. 

Using Ali as a mentor, here is my list of 10 Things Right Now.

1.  I'm getting materials ready to individualize sight word rings and learning for my students.  This involves copying cards, laminating, cutting the cards out, hole punch top right corner and yes parent volunteers have been helping from home and in the the room.  Why so much work to make the cards?  So, they can be reused next year.  I need to assess my students on reading sight words and further plan the how we will do this.

2.  I love watching my K students think about letter sounds and write them down to help tell their stories.

3.  I love my new boot socks that scrunch at the top and could be pulled over my knee but I prefer the Ruth Ayers fashion style and scrunch them down a bit.  Finished off with a pair of boots, skirt, sweater, and I'm all set to go.

4.  Our public librarian Mr. George came to visit both classes to invite us to his library for a family storytime and an opportunity to sign up for library cards.  Mr. George has studied audience engagement and is a master at storytelling.  After spending time with him, I always want to read books with more inflection and feel happy because I've had so much fun.

5.  First quarter ended last week and we have started the second quarter.

6.  Articulating learning goals and targets is important but not sure how useful they are posted in my K classroom for student use.  Even in kid friendly language I'm positive just one student could read them right now.  I know this is beneficial for students who are older and attend school full time.  

7.  Working on creating pictures to go with learning targets/I can statements mentored after Smarter Charts ideas.

8.  Had a student ask for a box of books about pizza.  I've never had this request and I love how he understands our books our organized by collections with a common theme.  If you have any titles, let me know in the comment section.

9.  Wonderopolis is coming and I want to make their visit meaningful with pre-visit work.

10.  I can't wait to publish our self portraits tomorrow using Pixie during our computer lab time.  The students have learned so many features of Pixie since school started and have gained lots of confidence.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Cake Walk {Poetry Friday}

sweet treat
to eat

find a number
music begins
I hope to win

fall festival

two tries
four tickets
I win!

 Copyright, Mandy Robek, 2013

I saw the Poetic app a while back and shared it with Mary Lee but never picked it up.  When I saw how she used it in her Flicker post from last week, I decided I need to pick the app up for myself.  When I got the app, I had no intentions of writing a poem.  I started playing around with the words and soon I was using the app Noteability to expand upon my Poetic photo phrase.   I wasn't sure I would like composing within an app.  I wasn't sure I would finish the poem.  I'm not sure why I was uncertain about drafting within an app.  I draft and compose on my laptop all the time.  It was so easy to work within Noteability.  I found myself revisiting my poem throughout the day this past Saturday.  Revising and editing along the way.  I really enjoyed the ease of typing and changing my word selection.  I don't know if it matters but I didn't save the drafts that led up to this one.  

Poetry Friday is hosted this week by, Laura at Writing the Word for Kids.  Thanks, Laura

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ike's Incredible Ink

Ike's Incredible Ink by Brianne Farley is the second book I am sharing and considering for the Teacher's Choice project with IRA.  I'm going to share my thinking carefully following the review guidelines from IRA.  As a writer and watching children become and be writers for twenty years this book tugged at my heart.  It's hard to get a piece of writing started.  It's sometimes way more fun to collect things to use for writing and have lots of tools than sitting down to act as a writer.  I think writers often want their writing to be perfect from the start.  I also think Ike's problem of writing to write big is common for writers too.

When thinking about the realism of the characters, I find Ike a bit unrealistic.  He is a black dot of ink that has been "humanized" with arms, head, and legs.  However, I think students will enjoy Ike.  I wonder if students will realize Ike is a splotch of ink.  I didn't find any slang or poor grammar and found the dialogue format to be realistic.  I don't think this story expands the curriculum but I think it will guide some children to have connections and feel as Ike does.  The artwork is pleasing and the illustrations fit the text.  The mediums used are ink and digital collage.  I was surprised to read collage was used because it didn't feel like collage to me.  Maybe I don't know enough about digital collage.  Collage is one of my favorite mediums and I often pick books up because I can see, feel, and enjoy the collage format.  I do think this book will help students think about their own writing life and how sometimes things have to be just right to write.  It can be a springboard for students to get to know themselves better.  I found myself wanting to know more when the story finished.  Ike makes a great ink to write with.  He starts to write and I want to know what Ike writes about.  

If I was reading this book with my everyday teaching and reading lens I would say it's a book to have in your books about writing collection.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Doing math in Morning Meeting

I've added another book to my collection to expand and enhance our morning meetings.  I enjoy teaching math and the opportunity to engage in mathematics while building community during a morning meeting sounds perfect.  It will engage students with numbers without having to focus on learning new content.  It will reinforce and use numbers in a fun and engaging way.  Doing math activities during morning meeting will reinforce concepts, provide practice, and extend students thinking.  Math activities during morning meeting will involve mental math, which we can never do enough in our classrooms.  

Doing math in Morning Meeting by Amy Dousis and Margaret Berry Wilson is filled with 150 activities. Each grade level has about 45 activities.  Each activity has a sidebar that outlines the NCTM Content Standard, NCTM Process Standard, Specific math content or skill, Materials Needed, Student Preparation tips, and Vocabulary.  A great consolidation to help you understand how and why you would want to use an activity. Activities are grouped together by grade level K-5.  At the end of the book you will find a list of math concepts and the activities that support the concept by grade level.  There is also a correlation to the Common Core following that by grade level.  Both of these resources will be helpful as we think about meeting the needs of our whole group but maybe we need to revisit something below our grade level of extend beyond.

I can't wait to use Dance with Me to work on counting, directions, and measurement.  I can already feel a little of the "Cha Cha Slide", now to find some music to use.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Slice of Life - Half Time

Half time isn't filled with a marching band and sports fans cheering on the sidelines.  Half time doesn't just happen on a Friday night or a Saturday.  Dressing for half time doesn't mean I'm wearing my scarlet and gray with my three favorite half time letters of the alphabet, OSU.  Half time is every day in my world.  Half time is the amount of time my students get to come to kindergarten.  It would be wonderful if my half time meant my students came half days every day of the week, but they don't.  As my editor for Choice Literacy coined my attendance schedule, my students come fifty percent.

Fifty percent can be seen as a positive when trying to reach a fundraiser goal and you are half way there. Fifty percent can be seen as a positive when I have been running for 15 minutes and I have another 15 minutes until I am done.  However, fifty percent also makes me think of half done.  That maybe I am not trying my best.  Maybe I am not working hard enough.  Maybe I need to teach more and faster and harder. I get to spend two or three days a week with my students.  They come two days and alternate a Wednesday in the middle of the week, it's not even fifty percent attendance within a week. 

Driving home the other day, I was talking to myself a bit. I was feeling a little bit worn down about fifty percent.  After making my list of what I can't fit in and why integrating the curriculum is hard and how technology with laptops twice a month isn't best practice, I stopped self talking.  I told myself if given fifty percent then it might be okay to teach fifty percent.  My curriculum is one hundred percent but if the legislators and decision makers don't recognize that then maybe I need to accept teaching fifty percent. There will be days everything doesn't get done.  There will be days we need to go slower.  There will be days where quality and relationships matter the most.  With fifty percent, they need to leave kindergarten liking and even loving school to want to come back for one hundred percent first grade.  I think I can do that, if I stay focused on my students.

Thank you Stacey and Team TWT for hosting Slice of Life weekly challenge.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

99 Activities and Greetings

99 Activities and Greetings by Melissa Correa-Connolly is a collection of ideas to support and extend a morning meeting routine.  It compliments The Morning Meeting book by Roxann Kriete, which is a great book to read giving you a basic understanding and ideas to get started with morning meetings.  A morning meeting has four components; Greeting, Sharing, Activity and Morning Message.  A morning meeting is begins the day thinking and working on social and academic skills.  Even more importantly, a morning meeting builds community.  While building community students are taking risks, making choices, problem solving, using self control, participating actively, and cooperation.  Both of these books are written for primary, intermediate, and middle school students.  

The greeting component does just as the name says, it greets each child and sets a positive tone for the day.  Starting each day with a greeting helps community members learn names.  Calling a new friend by name provides a sense of belonging and builds relationships.  A greeting routine also helps provide an opportunity to practice manners.  A group activity component is short and a bit lively.  It often gets student's moving and active.  The activities often suggested for this part of the morning meeting allow for each student to participate at their own level.  It's a fun way to be engaged and work on social skills.  Melissa Correa-Connolly has been collecting different greetings and activities for several years and compiled them in to a resource for anyone looking to extend or start a morning routine in their class.  There are a lot of ideas to try and keep the structure of a morning routine fresh and alive with 99 Activities and Greetings.  I can't wait to try Chicka Boom for a greeting and Just Like Me as our activity for the week.

Responsive Classroom at has a wealth resources.  I love their by-line, "A practical approach to creating safe, challenging, and joyful elementary classrooms and schools."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Rain! by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Christian Robinson is the first book I am sharing and considering for the Teacher's Choice project with IRA.  I'm going to share my thinking carefully following the review guidelines from IRA.  The characters are very realistic; an old man and a young boy.  As I think about stereotypes, one might find the old man being grumpy a stereotype. However, I find that essential to the story line and necessary for the relationship that builds between the characters.  It's actually necessary for the different points of view about rain.  I think this text would expand the curriculum for writers considering point of view and how to layout those point of views for the reader.  I love how the story is laid out.  Each character has one page of a two page spread.  Then their story is told in three horizontal illustrations with text.  The artwork combines two of my favorite mediums; paint and collage with digital editing.  I'd love to more about digital editing. 

Not many peoples like rainy days.  The grumpy old man I can see myself in and I don't consider myself grumpy or old.  The young boy who jumps in puddles and acts like a frog can probably make every student remember and/or relate to.  Older readers will love the play with words with the Rain or Shine Cafe which is where the two characters happen to be.  The old man leaves something behind and the young boy return this it to him.  Their simple conversation with each other causes a change of view about the rain.  I love the message that good cheer can spread.  I love the message that the young can make changes.

Side note - as I went to add the image for this book, I found it already existed in my files which led me to search my own blog and before I was reading this with a Teacher's Choice lens this is what I thought.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Slice of Life - Story

I am missing lots of stories.  I am living the story or stories daily but not holding on to them in a tangible way to go back and reflect, cry, laugh, smile, and remember.    I have tried on and off, I love when I find something written down because I don't remember.  I want to feel that little tug at my heart when I reread a story, more often.  I wish I did remember things from long ago to reflect upon now, that I am older and in a different place.  Habits, routines, tools, and methods are great to think about but the ACT is what I need.  I need to capture now and capture the recent past before it comes a distant past that is so much harder to retrieve.

While spending time with Ruth Ayers at The Literacy Connection this past Saturday, she had each of us do a five minute write.  We spent the day celebrating writing, reflecting, and looking ahead as we begin a year long study of her new book, Celebrating Writers - From Possibilities to Publication.  Thank you Ruth, for a few moments to capture my thoughts.  Thank you Stacey for hosting and giving us an opportunity to make our writing public-ation.  You can find everyone who is slicing today at Two Writing Teachers.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Me First!, Is it best?

I found a new mentor text to help students monitor their actions this past weekend.  When I saw the book, ME FIRST! by Michael Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo I instantly thought I have another book with the same title - Me First by Helen Lester that I have used every year as we start the year.  I usually don't know when I will use it.  I wait and watch, listening for the words - ditch, ditching, cut, cutting, and got in front of me or took my spot.  Helen Lester's Me First, has always worked to help discuss how we are all going to the same place and it doesn't matter where we are in line as long as we stay together.  

ME FIRST! by Michael Escoffier and Kris Di Giamcomo is perfect and an easier read to help students think about being first and maybe not wanting to be first.  The duck family has five members and one younger duck always wants to be first.  Mother duck guides her ducklings outside, fishing, to bath time and then to dinner.  Each time one duckling moves fast and shouts, "Me First, Me First."  This plan works for a bit with success until it is dinner time.  Then fast moving duckling is a bit taken back when the dinner menu is announced, quickly turning and slinking away.  You must pick up this book and find out how clever the "Me First." duckling is.  I burst out laughing when I read it the first time and I can't wait to hear the laughter in our kindergarten classroom.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Teachers' Choice and book selection criteria

I am excited to share with you I am participating in the Teachers' Choice Project, sponsored by the International Reading Association.  I am even more excited because three other teachers at my school joined me for this project and together we have been given the opportunity to read new books, think, share, and review books with each other and our students.  We are representing grades K-3.  The Teachers' Choice Project began in 1989 and you can read annotated lists from previous years on their website.

The criteria for selecting a Teachers' Choice Project is going to make me think differently about books.  We are looking for books that present characters realistically without stereotyping.  We are looking for books with a valuable message that might provide a unique point of view.  I will be asking myself are there elements that reflect our times.  I am really fussy about the language within a book and I'm glad to find out the Teachers' Choice Project is looking for books with poor grammar or slang where warranted.  The dialect for a story is to be realistic for the setting or situation.  Does the story expand the curriculum?  Is the story informative? I am so glad we get to consider the artwork.  Is the artwork pleasing?  Do the illustrations fit the text?  Does the book use a variety of art forms?  Does the story help children understand themselves?  And then the Teachers' Choice criteria includes example questions that might be raised by reading this book.  I love that we want a book to further our thinking after it has been read.  

I wanted to share the criteria and thinking I am being asked to consider because I know so many of us are thinking about books and selecting books to use with our students.  I found myself thinking about books a bit differently then I would on a daily basis.  I will be sharing a couple of books each month That I receive courtesy of the IRA and the Teachers' Choice Project.   

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Connect with Nature Pinterest Board

We went to the Columbus Zoo over the weekend and I happened to pick up a flier about apps to help families connect with nature.  I had my youngest daughter with me and thought what a fun list to explore and use together.  

Leaf Snap sounds fascinating.  With this app, users have the ability to snap a photo of a leaf and get it identified.  I later found a fun Leaf Snap fact, the idea came from an 8 year old.  How empowering is that for our students?  His father helped create the app, along with others. 

Later Sunday night, I began exploring the app list and thought I need to share this with my families at school.  I need to share this with my friends.  These apps are to be used while you are in nature.  They are based on what you are seeing.  They really aren't nonfiction books or resources redone in an app format.  I love how the are interactive in the sense of observing, doing, and acting. I began thinking this is a Pinterest project.

Here's a little secret, I am a novice, beginner, fussy, Pinterest user.  My mentor and friend Cathy is always sharing ideas and setting my bar for growth higher.  First, I created a personal account.  It's truly based on my personal interest and so far, I usually create or use the pin right away.  I don't pin things for teaching or school here in an attempt to balance or take time off from school.  I recently created a class Pinterest account to share ideas with families.  It's a tool many people are using. I want to reach my families in a way they use technology and again my friend Cathy does this too.  Mentors are inspiring.

After using the list of apps from the zoo I began searching some further apps I thought fit the collection - Connect with Nature.  Enjoy and I hope you stop  to notice nature on your own or with your students.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Chart Happy!

I had a principal one time ask me what I do with all the information I read.  I thought it was a bit odd but it did cause me to stop and think about my response.  I read professionally to learn new things.  I read professionally to improve my practice.  I read professionally to affirm my thinking and practice.  I read professionally for enjoyment.  I love reading about other's thinking and stories in the field of education. Tonight I spent some time taking my learning from reading Smarter Charts and putting that learning into action.  I should of taken a picture of my messy classroom floor with drafts and piles of post its laying around.  I also had the book Smarter Charts out to refer to and guide my thinking.  I read a suggestion in the book to start keep a sketch book for charting.  I didn't think I was that skilled to have a chart sketch book but I could see the purpose for drafting in a sketch book.  I went through a few sheets of paper as I thought about horizontal or vertical or rows or columns.  I've got to stop by twitter at @chartchums to see their chart posting for the day.  I've also started taking pictures of my charts and I'm going to keep them in an Evernote notebook titled - My Charts because I just started a notebook titled Chartchums Charts where I can save all their wonderful inspiring ideas in one spot and tag them.