Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Joining SLICE 2013 and Tips

Yes,  I've decided to participate and create some writing via the Slice of Life challenge organized by Ruth and Stacey from Two Writing Teachers.  I was on the fence last year about joining, missed the first two days and discovered I wanted to be join in on the fun.  I loved reading what others were doing, pondering and reflecting on.  I captured tidbits of my life and noticed more within my days and what was around me.  Who wouldn't want to find a reason to slow down and capture life?  I just signed up to participate this year.  I just organized and created drafts for all 31 days within this blog.  I thought others might be pondering how to organize and keep going.  This was the process I found last year as I traveled for spring break and I just did it for each post this year.  Create 31 drafts by using this beginning title - SLICE 1 of 31 (I will add personal title).  Insert the Slice of Life button on each page.  I resize it to small and like mine on the left of each post.  I then inserted the label for each post - Slice of Life Story Challenge.  This way I can add to each draft from my laptop, PC, phone app with great ease and much quicker than making all these adjustments along the way.  I hope you will consider joining us.  I am to have a writing routine and capture life.  I hope I find a story like Leg Hair from last year at some point.

SLICE 2013 - 23 of 31 grateful

There have been many times as my two older girls get older I am grateful for my third daughter.  Today was one of those times.  We drove to the beach.  She was the only brave soul who went in.  She danced.  She sang.  She twirled.  She collected shells.  She smiled and laughed.  It was so much fun to sit in the sun and watch her be joyful.  She was embracing life, carefree and happy.  I  hope she can bottle that as she gets older.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Presentation from #dublit13

Today I had the honor to present with my friend Cathy Mere at the Dublin Literacy Conference just around the corner.  We talked about Emerging Nonfiction Readers and Writers.  There is a lot of talk about nonfiction with the Common Core.  Our hope was to help shed light on the Common Core standards and share examples from our room where students are engaged with nonfiction learning. If you joined us, thank you for coming we were glad you spent time with us.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

It's Here - Nonfiction 10 for 10!

I'm so excited today is the day for sharing nonfiction titles with my friends via the web.  This morning I saw some posts in my google reader thread and I didn't look at them and I haven't looked at any links or post as of yet.  It's 6:41pm on this special day and I am just writing my post.  To say life is busy might be an understatement but I knew that when I agreed to co-host a great idea.  I thought I would start my post last night but knew I needed to check my bookshelves at school before I made my final decisions and boy am I glad I did.   In no particular order -

The Art Box by Gail Gibbons
You can't go wrong with anything by Gail Gibbons so I tried to pick a title you might not know about.  This book shares a collection of tools an artist would need.  Each item is labeled.  Each tool or group of tools has a definition.  For examples, "Erasers can remove what you don't want."  She really covers a variety of tools and mediums.  I also love the message that art is a form of expression and shows imagination.

Flowers by Vijaya Khisty Bodach
Again, you can't go wrong with any published by Pebble Plus which is part of Capstone Press.  It's a perfect traditional nonfiction format for emerging and early readers.  A full size photograph on the right is accompanied by two lines of text on the left.  The font is crisp and clean for early readers.  There's a glossary and an index for those looking for nonfiction features.

Pumpkin Circle by George Levenson
This book has been an all time favorite since I started teaching.  Again, I'm attracted to large photographs with simple text.  I love the language the reader discovers in this text, "Twisty tendrils grasp hands stretching out to cling."  To quote the text - "It's a circle without end.  It's pumpkin seeds to pumpkins to pumpkin seeds again!"

As the Crow Flies A First Book of Maps by Gail Hartman
Another long time favorite is a mentor text for scale.  Different animals take the reader on a journey discovering a route they might travel. Three pages follow an animal on their journey and you see their path as the animal would, each ends with a map for that animal.  I love this book starts with an eagle because map reading is all about a bird's eye view.

Building a House by Byron Barton
Before illustrative nonfiction was coming the rage Byron Barton wrote and illustrated this book.  Building a house is quite the process.  My grandfather and grandmother owned a lumber yard.  He built his own house and then I watched my dad build a majority of our house with help from friends and neighbors as much as they could.  I think it's hard to understand all the little steps to such a big process.  Byron Barton uses short and explicit text with success.

Egg to Chicken by Camilla de la Bedoyere
Again, I love any QED publishing books from the UK for our emerging and early readers.  This is a busier nonfiction book with lots of nonfiction features.  The photographs of brillant.  Each two page spread is a "chapter" with a different focus.  I might be partial, hatching chicks each spring is one of my favorite things to do.

Wonderful Worms by Linda Glaser
Is another book in an illustrative format.  The drawings in this book have an interesting point of view.  Since we are reading about worms, the reader can see a few inches above the ground and the majority of the page is underground.  Can you imagine this page?  "Worms feel sounds with their whole bodies.  They feel thunder when I walk."  Have you ever thought about this?  It's really a shift in perspective.

I Pledge of Allegiance by Bill Martin Jr and Michael Sampson
I'm always amazed when someone doesn't know of this title.  Chris Raschka illustrated it using ink and torn paper.  Torn paper is a favorite medium I like to see and use.  It's very forgiving.  This book breaks the Pledge of Allegiance down into small phrases to help define it's meaning.  A commentary in narrative form provides definitions that are easier for children to understand.

Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
Was a book I heard lots about,is fairly new and didn't get around to reading it until last month.  I was so happy to have finally read it.  I grew up watching Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade each year and now my girls and I watch it as we prepare for Thanksgiving.  I never thought to wonder about how it all started.  I never thought about there being a time when there wasn't enormous balloons that were walked by lots of people.  I am still in awe of the beginning of something I have taken for granted for so many years.

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda  by Alicia Potter
Was also illustrated by Melissa Sweet.  This the newest book on my list and my only biography.  While illustrated Melissa Sweet included many nonfiction features to help tell the journey of Mrs. Harkness.  Mrs. Harkness decides to carry out her husbands dream by traveling to China and bringing back a panda.  This happens in a time when women don't travel on their own and explore the jungle.

Remember we are sharing our post in one spot this year over at Reflect and Refine Learning: Building a Learning Community.  Thank you for joining us and sharing your favorite nonfiction books in an effort to help us all with our teaching journey.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Teacher Evaluation and Student Learning Objectives.

Friday was a professional development day in my district and a good chunk of the day was spent learning about changes in the district's teacher evaluation tool in response to new state laws and learning about student learning objectives.  Student learning objectives are also in response to new state laws here in Ohio.  The combination of our teacher performance rubric and the outcome of student performances with learning objectives will provide an overall rating of my teaching yearly.  Here in Ohio it is currently a fifty/fifty split.  There are not bonuses connected to to this new configuration.  Note, I write currently - one thing I've learned over the years is education plus politics equals constant change.  

Our evaluation tool was recently revamped in our district and had a lot of components that could remain and some needed tweaking and some were added.  I found it interesting it's no longer called an evaluation but a teacher performance rubric.  All rubrics I have seen as a parent or created as a teacher have values to the columns so you can add points up to help guide an overall rating.  Our teacher performance rubric does not. So, in the end it's very subjective.  It was previously but if you change the name to rubric it seems to me it should mirror what actual rubrics do.  We have four ratings on our rubric; ineffective, developing, proficient, and accomplished.  The word proficient is way over used here in the state of Ohio.  We use it for students, teachers and I don't know about administrators.  What I do know is the word proficient sends a message of okay - you can do the work.  What about using any of these synonyms; accomplished, clever, effective, expert, qualified, skillful, and trained?  These synonyms might not go over too well with the general public but I do like the feeling that I am a whiz or slick at what I do!  The saddest information I heard on Friday was our building administrators were told you probably won't have accomplished teachers.  To paraphrase what was second hand once or twice around is, accomplished teachers are teachers you have visitors flying in to see or are flying out places to present.  What about the teacher who presents at conferences locally and at a state level?  What about the teacher who teaches classes within a district, outside a district, or online?  What about the teacher who has local visitors?  What about the teacher who might skype visits with other teachers for professional learning or share videos of their teaching via other avenues.  I dabble a bit in a few of these things because I chose to and I've been fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.  Not all teachers have these opportunities.  I walked away feeling a discouraging message was sent to our staff that this level on the rubric is for the next Debbie Miller and many of them see that our of their reach.  I think the intention was to let people know this is hard to achieve and don't get discouraged.  Please don't crush people for reaching for the stars.  What district wouldn't want classrooms full of Debbie Millers?   I wish our district had a plan to help teachers strive to be accomplished and encourage excitement to continue growing as a professional.  Build your staff up and get their names our there.

Student learning objectives are going to be used for primary grade teachers to measure growth.  We have over 20 buildings of teachers and have hired a half time student learning objective consultant to help with this process next school year.  I am glad they are going to offer support with this new project but can already see a half time person is not enough for the size of our district.  There is no easy answer for showing growth.  I've lived the world of standardized testing and using that to rate my effectiveness as a teacher.  I didn't like not having control over the assessment.  Student learning objectives can give me some control since I write the objectives.  We've been asked to write two for the year.  We've been asked to write them as a team.  We've been asked to differentiate them for the various levels in our classroom.  I was a bit surprised these were by team and by a whole class.  Our students are individuals and classes have different needs.  Are we really doing what is best for each child if we write global goals?  One of our jobs is to grow students.  I don't think it's a bad thing to have to record it and show evidence.  It doesn't worry me this is part of our evaluations, it's part of the job.  I also think it's really early in the whole project whether it's within our district or from the state to see how this will all play out.  I saw a couple of examples but wasn't impressed with either of them and of course they weren't kindergarten samples.   It was discouraging to realize we will have half the time to get to know our students before we write student learning objects and for anyone teaching kindergarten you know how hard and the needs are starting the school year.

I hope if you are on journey with student learning objectives and/or teacher evaluation tools you will join the conversation by leaving a comment.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


SEE A HEART SHARE A HEART by Eric Telchin is my new favorite book for looking and seeing the unexpected.  If we take time to just be and breathe and look we will see so much more in life.  Eric Telchin is the creator of and discovered his first heart when he spilt chocolate ice cream that melted on his counter.  Eric has captured more than 3,000 hearts using his camera phone and this is his first collection of hearts in book format.  Hearts come in all kinds of colors.  Hearts are seen in all kinds of things.  For example, in this book the obvious ones to figure out are found in leaves, flowers, moss on a tree, shadows, sunlight, and much much more.  While the text of this book is done in simple phrases that provoke bigger thinking about love.  For example, find a heart, fill a heart, mend a heart and many more.  The mend a heart text is illustrated with a piece of white fabric cut and fraying in the shape of a heart on green grass.

I think this book would be a great mentor text for seeing geometry shapes in our world.  Hearts are not geometry which is great because students could see an example of a shape in their environment and transfer what they see to find geometrical shapes.  I was also drawn to this book because I found a heart rock made of shale which is pretty thin this summer on Keuka Lake while vacationing where I grew up.  I thought I was  lucky to find a heart rock at a place I love.  "Eric's message is simple, Hearts bring love."  May your hearts be full on Valentine's day and each day of the year.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Book Whisperer - Reflection #5

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 5 – titled "Walking the Walk,"  I reflected on my own thinking about reading and being a reader.  If we are role models than we better know our own reading lives and be willing to share these with our students.  I found this very easy to do with third graders.  I  probably don't share my own reading life with my kindergarten students very much but to tell them I am sharing a favorite book of mine with them.  They are smart and have caught on that most of the books I share with them are my favorites and I have too many.  But are these really my favorites or my favorites when working with this age group?  It would seem appropriate and natural to have favorites for the various grades of ages we work with.

Efferent and aesthetic stances on reading are two terms I've never heard of before.  The efferent stance is seeing reading as a means to gather new information.  The aesthetic stance deals with the emotions felt while reading and the journey one's mind takes while reading.  I loved this from Donalyn, "...teachers who have an aesthetic view of reading have the greatest influence on their students' motivation and interest in reading (Ruddell, 1995) and have more impact on the long-term reading habits of their students...."  It's so important to make sure our reading instruction includes the aesthetic view of reading.  

In thinking about my own inner reader, I find it hard to balance the efferent and aesthetic views in my own life.  I say that and then think maybe they are balanced because I find joy in reading new information, professional books.  Then I think they are not balanced because I tend to focus on professional reading and save aesthetic reading for vacations or breaks from school.  Either way, I enjoy reading very much and want to portray that to all my students at any age.  I found the "Reading Improvement Plan" suggestions to be good advice for someone who is busy, busy, busy and lets my own reading slide a bit.  Let's see where I stand with Donalyn's suggestions and hopefully you can ponder where you are.

-Commit to a certain amount of reading per day.  
I read each day my google reader, twitter, txt, and email but I don't read every day from a book if I'm working.

-Choose books to read that are personally interesting to you.  
Yikes, my hand was slapped here, don't read books for school on pedagogy, read for fun.  I did set a goal of one professional and one personal each month.  I better get moving on that for February.

-Read more books for children.
I loved reading children's chapter books when I taught third grade.  It was essential for matching books to readers.  Now that I'm in kindergarten, I find myself reading picture books for kindergarten which aren't quite the same thing.  However, I had my seventh grader today tell me two books I should read and she is often recommending books.  Maybe I should start there because I'd have someone to talk to about the book and this would validate her reading life.

-Take recommendations from your students.
My students are creating and beginning their reading lives.  If someone brings in a book to share, I read it to the class.  I think I should ask them about recommending some books and see what happens.

-Investigate recommendations from industry sources.
I don't usually look at book list but follow many blogs where friends share books that interest me.  Maybe I should look at Donalyn's suggestions for book list and websites.

-Create your own reader's notebook.
I did this when I taught third grade!  

Okay, this chapter makes me wish I was teaching transitional readers again.  I  need to ponder more about these thoughts related to kindergarten.  I am excited to think about my own reading life too, as a model this is an important piece and I need to make it more public to my emerging readers.  I wonder if any of my emerging reader teacher friends have thoughts or suggestions about this area  in our world of early literacy.  I'd love to know your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Poetry in Motion

There is a 
deferred silence
which only follows 
a deferred sound.

As when an oak falls 
when no one is around.

Kay Ryan, US Poet Laureate
October 2009         

I found this poem written in Runner's World magazine, March 2013.  I do not subscribe to this publication but my husband does.  I never thought about using running as a time to think about writing poetry or gathering ideas for a writer's notebook.  To quote the magazine and Kay Ryan, "A tree had fallen across the trail that wasn't there on my run the day before.  That inspired this poem."  I think I'm going to ponder the idea of gathering writing thoughts as I run.

If you have followed my blog for a bit you have read I dabble a bit in running.  My husband on the other hand has 3 half marathons done and has a current goal to run outside all winter long.  It's quite impressive to watch him get up and run on a Saturday am when it's in the teens.  

I am working on running again.  It's part of my One Little Word plan for the year - create.  I started off great over winter break.  The first week back to work, I didn't make it to the Y.  I repeated a week of training and am managing to fit in three days of running.  All inside on a treadmill.  I've learned I have my three favorite locations for machines; second row and far left.  I can look to the left and see the outdoors but not directly in front of a cold window.  I like the distance from the TV screens in the second row.  There is a ceiling fan overhead and some days you need it when it's steamy inside.  I have been known to be quite disappointed if my three machines are being used when I arrive.  I still prefer to run in the evening or late afternoon.  I've jazzed up my playlist and love my new mix.  Right now I'm finishing week week 6 for the second time from Train Like a Mother 5K Finish It.  I decided I wanted to feel stronger running this week and had time to repeat it.  It feels good to see 3.18 come across the treadmill screen in 33 min of walking 1 min and running 10 min.  Looking forward to week 7.    

Poetry Friday is being held this week by Tara at A Teaching Life.