Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I Spy Pets, just published.

I'm so excited to share  I Spy Pets by Edward Gibbs was waiting for me today when I got home from school.  I love when I pre-order a book and then forget I pre-ordered it and it comes in the mail.  It feels like a surprise birthday gift.  This past April I discovered Edward Gibbs and immediately ordered all his books in the I Spy series.

I Spy Pets has the same format as other books in this series.  On the left side of each two page spread there is a circle with the eyeball of a pet animal and the phrase, "I spy with my little eye..."  On the right side of the two page spread is a cut away circle shaded the color of the animal.  The text includes a body covering clue and something the animal likes to do.  The reader would make their guess, turn the page and find a delightful illustration.  The animal covers the two pages, so it is large.  The illustrations were done digitally but I would of thought with pen and black sharpie to outline the details.  We do this a lot in my room so it would be a great mentor text for this medium.  I'd have no clue how to create these digitally.  Each animal states, "I'm a ..."  

I think the clues about body coverings makes this book a bit tricky to figure out than the earlier books.  I know this will become another huge hit in our classroom.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Slice of Life - Guest Post on Running and Writing

My daughter is a senior in high school and is taking AP Composition.  She was sharing with me her lack of an idea for this current writing assignment and then later in the day shared her idea with excitement.  I knew she had found a way to approach her assignment which was to describe her writing process with a creative twist.  I'm not sure she has a true writing process.  I think this is her first piece of writing in a year or more that isn't in response to something she read.  I also think much of her writing in high school has been essay responses on test.  She has a voice! I'm so glad she had this opportunity to be creative and reflective.

She doesn't know I am sharing this piece a bit more publicly than my laptop.  I figured since it's saved on my laptop I co-own the piece and could have her be a guest blogger.  I know there are many of us figuring out our own writing process and many of us dabble with running.  This piece is interesting because she doesn't like to run.  She ran cross country last year but gave it up.  We have been trying to encourage her to be physical and exercise not only her mind but her muscles and body.  Maybe she has heard us lately.  I hope you find something to connect to in this piece, I did.

I Write the Way I Run
            I begin eager and excited. I radiate optimism, filled with high hopes and goals. Before I write I scribble on a piece of notebook paper, trying to keep up with the urgent thoughts and ideas seeping out of my brain. These ideas make me enthusiastic to write because they give me a general idea of what I want to say, which makes me feel confident in myself. Running requires a similar beginning process. I listen to energetic music while stretching to get pumped up and excited to run. I struggle to begin both writing and running if I’m not motivated to do it.
            Typically when I first start typing or running, the words or strides are fast, strong, and confident. But the ease doesn't last for long. I almost always meet the dreaded writers block, or “the wall” as it’s called in running. It weighs me down and I feel discouraged. While glaring at the computer screen or gasping for air, I question why I even bother and desperately want to give up. Writing and running are so similar because they both rely on your mentality. Negative thoughts are all it takes to destroy you. To avoid sinking into a vast darkness filled with insults and jeers, I ease up on myself. I leave the computer area in search of fresh air to clear my head. When running, I slow down my pace and sometimes even walk when the physical and mental cramps become too much to handle. By going easy on myself for a few minutes, I allow the positivity that was with me at the beginning of my adventure to make its way to the surface and consume my thoughts once again. With my regained control over the situation I am able to sit down at the computer or pick up my running pace and complete my goal.

            To me, writing and running are intertwined. Some of my best ideas come to me while I’m running. In fact, I was inspired to write about this during a run. I often find running to be the solution to my writer’s block, or any other stress in my life. The rhythmic sound of my feet hitting the ground is as comforting as my fingers clicking across the keyboard without hesitation. Practicing writing and running keeps my mind and body in shape, and as a result I become better at overcoming self-doubt. Writing is a hard process, but a positive attitude and a longing for success always help me achieve my goals.

Thanks to Ruth and Stacey for hosting Slice of Life weekly.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Slice of Life - Gradually Sewing

This is a piece I wrote last month and seemed fitting to share tonight because tomorrow is my first day of school with students.

We started a project.  Her arms were flapping.  Her body wiggled.  Her arms would flap a bit more and her body would wiggle a bit more.  Her rate of speech was quick, “I don’t know what that means.”  She would become hesitant and be slow to do or try the next step.  She is an avid reader and reading was part of the project but even this step seemed to bring frustration.  In my head, I was feeling frustrated because she had sewn for 4H the two previous years and had successful experiences.  Yes, this project was harder but we weren't even at that point yet.

I put on my researcher hat and began uncovering a few reasons why we were at this point.  Even though she had sewn before, she hadn't sewn in a year.  I know how important practice and routines are; I would need to think about this.  Reading the layout for a pattern is like reading a map.  Once, I shared this correlation she seemed to understand the visual layout a bit better.  Vocabulary was a big hurdle.  I realized sewing has its own language, its nonfiction and she doesn't read nonfiction by choice.  When I started making these connections I reflected and realized I needed to do what I would do in the classroom. 

I needed to demonstrate, I needed to give her a guided demonstration, and then release her to try on her own.  I needed to use the gradual release model and make sure I reinforced her success.  Patience is needed when sewing and I needed to make sure I modeled this throughout the project.  We had a successful sewing outcome and are headed for the Ohio State Fair.  As we all start a new school year, we need to remember to take the time to gradually release the learning.  The time and patience we invest up front will last throughout the year, fostering success.

Thank you to Stacey and Ruth for hosting this weekly platform for sharing our writing.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

August 10 for 10: Picture Book Event is Here 2013

Good Morning Everyone, it's going to be a great day!  It's August 10th, 2013 and that means Cathy at Reflect and Refine Learning Building a Learning Community and I are here to host our fourth annual 10 for 10 Picture Books blog sharing event.  If you could see my laptop right now, I have four screens opened for my blog.  One tab has my list from the inaugural August 10 for 10.  The second tab has the second collection of picture books I put together in 2011.  The third tab is 2012.  I really thought I would put a new spin on my list - Cathy even requested this spring a list of math books.  It sounded like a really fun idea.  However, I am a creature of habit.  I've decided to look at my previous lists and think critically to see what I must keep, what might I let slide off the list because something new has just touched my heart.

My list is not in a ranking order, I've just numbered them to make sure I stop at 10!

1.  Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Eric Carle changed my life in college and has to STAY for a fourth year!  I was sitting in my reading methods course at SUNY College at Buffalo when Dr. Phelps read this book in class.  I was introduced to a predictable pattern, shared reading, Eric Carle, collage hand made papers, turning the page slightly ahead of the text to encourage student participation and I'm sure much more.  I remember thinking this was much more fun and engaging than the basal readers and reading groups I grew up with.  I've never had a group of students who didn't fall in love with this book.  It has to stay because reading this book is one of my fondest memories to each of my three daughters who are now bigger and I'm sure took turns reading it to each other at some point in our journey together.

2.  Suddenly, is a book I found a year ago and think it needs to stay on my list for another year.  Suddenly! by Colin McNaughton is perfect for helping kindergarten students think about predicting.  The text is larger in size.  The illustrations are very supportive to the text and using our picture clues to understand the story is essential.  The text also has a pattern and would allow us as writers to think about the word suddenly and what happens following that word each time.  The rest of this post was written November 10, 2011.

3.  The Three Bears by Byron Barton has to STAY for a fourth year!  I just enjoy reading this book to students.  The text is simple and repetitive and for whatever reason my inflection is at it's best reading this book. I think the simple collage technique is an easy one for students to see and replicate.  I love to help children figure out there's one color for each character that gets repeated in clothing and objects.  My two classes shared creating retelling murals this year using Byron Barton has a mentor and then we interactively wrote our text.   These were beautiful pieces of collaboration and fostered so much literacy learning.

4.  Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox is about older people, it's about spending time with them, it's about memories.  I want it to STAY for year four!  Memories give us ideas for writing.  As in this story, memories help us remember.   I think we need to work harder and bridge the gap between our young and old.   I think we need to work harder as a profession to help students make writing easier by writing about memories and what is known to them.

5.  Rosie's Walk by Pat Hutchins. In the past I've used it for mathematics, when we were working on directional words.   The students enjoyed it so much we retold it through painting the different places Rosie goes.  We were building a map and created labels through interactive writing.  When we mounted our mural for a retelling, we used Velcro for Rosie and she could move along the mural as she does in the story.

6.  Me Hungry! by Jeremy Tankard is a complete delight to read and use with students and has to return.  I reviewed Me Hungry earlier a couple of years ago and it was a hit in our room right away.  I instantly thought this book would be great for my boys and found out boys and girls would both enjoy it.  I find it's easy for me to pick books in general for the entire audience and easy for me to pick books for girls in mind.  My three daughters make that easy.  However, this is probably the first picture book that wasn't nonfiction I thought my boys would like.

7.  I can't believe I removed this book for a year and am so glad it is staying.  Ish by Peter Reynolds is a must have for any classroom to embrace the arts and the differences between artist capabilities.  It encourages the reader to look at things in a different way, with a different lens.  Looking at things with a different lens is essential for 21st century learning.  Glad you, stayed, Ish!

8.  Cornelius P Mud, Are You Ready for School?  by Barney Saltzberg is a book to return from an older 10 for 10 list. As we reread this book we really noticed humor within the illustrations and had to infer.  Cornelius is a great character for young students, they can connect with him.  He has three books, a little series for young readers. Which opens doors for more books for my readers.  I think I'm in a back to school mode with this title returning.

9.  Mouse Views, What the Class Pet Saw by Bruce McMillan is a great photo essay about perspective.  It's also a question/answer format.  It's a great mentor text to create your own from a tour in your classroom or the library.  I shared this book with my librarian years ago and he made his own version of our library to introduce the students to different things in our library.  I bet students would love taking a photo just like Bruce McMillan and compiling a class book for the classroom.

10. I'm bringing back, Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin for one of my ten.  I have let other Pete the Cat books take a spot on my top ten list and I still adore these but sometimes the first one holds a special spot.   The predicting and participation from students is invigorating.  The tune is uplifting and the message is a good one for all of us to embrace daily.  Life has ups and downs.  Schools have ups and downs.  In the end, we all try our best and it's all good.

I'm so glad you stopped by.  If you have a post, please leave your link and a quick sentence in the comment section.  You can let us know via twitter @cathymere or @mandyrobek but the only way to make sure you go on a Jog with us is by leaving the link for your post in the comment section.  We will then connect all of our comments via a Jog.  Make sure you settle in with a large class of water to stay dehydrated, I think the Jog will be a long one with lots of interesting things to view.  Thank you for participating.

PS - Next year will be our 5th anniversary and I think I will start thinking now to break the habit of sharing those that are near and dear to my heart.  It's never too early to start planning.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Momentum for #pb10for10 is Building!

Momentum for #pb10for10 is building and WE LOVE IT!  Cathy and I often laugh at ourselves and wonder which is more dangerous of our duo.  She won the most dangerous move for this project when she wrote a Nerdy Book Club post without telling me about it until she pushed send.  The post was great.  We think it's increased our audience along with the news spreading via twitter.  We have loved reading tweets from so many saying they are going to participate.  Today, Cathy shared a list she was keeping as she has heard about participation, again an organized dangerous move I didn't know about and in the same tweet she said she would buy me ice cream.  So, now all her dangerous moves are better because I get ice cream!  

When we started this project we wanted to encourage as much participation as possible. We didn't know if anyone would join us.  We asked anyone to let us know via a comment on our blog and/or via twitter with the hashtag #pb10for10.  While these are both great ways to find out and gather participants it can be a bit crazy trying to keep track of them all.  Last year, I had the idea to alphabetize blogposts by the blog's name in the jog and it helped a bit.  I think I'm the less dangerous partner with this move.

In anticipation of increased participation and keeping us a bit sane for gathering all of your wonderful list, we need your help. We are going to ask anyone participating and wanting their post linked to our jog to leave a comment here or at Cathy's site Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community.  Yes, to be included in the jog please leave a comment on one of our blogs.  We will be sharing the links to post and remind people a lot on Friday and Saturday.  We got this idea from participating in Poetry Friday.

Continue to tweet and use #pb10for10 on Saturday as a way to share your post and increase your audience. We hope to make some "tweeting" noise on Saturday, see you soon.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Volunteer Spot Logo

Volunteer Spot - Doing Good Just got Easier, is making my teaching life easier!  I am so excited about the ease of using this website I just had to share in hopes it might help you start your school year.  I love the three steps highlighted on the main page; you schedule, they sign up online or on the go, and we remind.  It's just that easy.  

Here's the sign ups I have created so far.

August Classroom Needs
Fall Parent Teacher Conferences
Spring Parent Teacher Conferences
M/Th Celebrations
T/F Celebrations
M/Th Classroom Volunteering
T/F Classroom Volunteering

I tried out the website last spring with a classroom needs wishlist and sent out my invite early one Saturday morning.  Within the hour, each item was snatched up by my parents and I didn't need to go shopping or spend my own personal money.  It was so nice and easy.  I plan on doing one monthly.  This way I don't need to collect and store two classes of tissue boxes too.  

Then I got thinking about parent teacher conferences.  Last year, my district created their own online system to sign up for parent teacher conferences and piloted it in a few buildings.  As a parent I got to try it out.  The layout was bland and I had to spend 20 minutes trying to schedule an appointment.  Only one person could be in the system at a time, seriously!  We are a district with 15 elementary schools, 5 middle schools, and 3 high schools.  I'm not sure if they are still using this option or not, but I'm going to be proactive.  I'm also going to save time for my building secretary because as of now she takes lots of phone calls and schedules conferences for us.  I like the idea of using Volunteer Spot for conferences because parents can adjust and change their appointment to one that is open if they have a conflict.

As I was working last night, I thought about classroom celebrations.  Each year we ask for a room parent who can help organize and plan our activities.  They often send emails requesting help after initial sign ups. I thought about how our gatherings work and thought I can map out what we need and create a sign up.  I don't think we will need a coordinator.  I listed snack items and paper products.  Then instead of one parent planning three or four things to do, I listed one activity for one parent in hopes of having three or four parents each planning one thing.  Sharing the work among a few could make life easier.

I teach two classes of K so the option of copying an activity or a whole sign up is beautiful.  I copied my celebrations sign up, renamed it and adjusted the dates in just a few minutes.  Are you wondering about reminders?  Two days before something is do, a reminder is sent from Volunteer Spot via email and I don't have to do it.  I'm really excited about scheduling classroom volunteers with this tool and saving time making a google calendar.  

When making a sign up, you have two options; create a to bring item or a to do.  You can let people know how many people need to sign up.  You can add a note, which I did about our celebration activity ideas.  You can make a link and send it out to parents so they can sign up and help you.  If you need help organizing your classroom life and involve parents this is a great tool.  There are a few more features I have not tried out yet and so far the free version is working fine for me.  I also purchased the ios app and love that I will have this information on my phone when I need to check something quickly.  I do not work for Volunteer Spot in any way.  I just wanted to share something that could simplify your life and maybe give you a bit more time to eat ice cream, run, or read a book.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Pathways to the Common Core

Pathways to the Common Core by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, and Christopher Lehman brings clarity for "decoding" the Common Core State Standards.   I love how positive they are and encouraging about the CCSS.  They admit this document is overwhelming.  They may not agree with everything in the document and they let you know that a few times but they keep encouraging the reader to find the positive.  We can't walk away from the CCSS.  I found this book encouraging for embracing the CCSS and helpful.  This book explains the language of the CCSS and the thinking behind the language.  We hope our students understand what they our learning, we need to understand what we are expected to teach.  Several times we are encouraged to continue best practice and keep doing workshop models to help students grow further. Several times we are given examples for increasing the thinking and work we have our students do.  The message is clearly stated the CCSS is the what and teachers can decide the how.  I love this.  There is a lot of information in this book and I frequently found my thinking being stretched and clarity coming forward.  Reading this book once, isn't going to be enough.  I will be revisiting this book.  The book is filled with so much thinking, I wasn't sure what or how much to share with you without writing quite the lengthy post.  So instead, I hope this post will nudge you to look at this book to help you with your own journey of understanding the CCSS.  I know it has helped me and will continue to be a resource I turn to.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Poetry Friday - Hello

Hello July
Hello summer

Hello reading
Hello library trips

Hello pool
Hello swim team

Hello running
Hello softball

Hello fabric
Hello dress

Hello sewing
Hello 4H judging

Hello vacation
Hello family

Hello funnel cake
Hello State Fair

Hello writing
Hello time with Dad

Hello room updating
Hello camp

Hello dog walking
Hello dog obedience

Hello downtown exploring
Hello art camp

Hello August
Hello savoring summer

@Mandy E Robek

When I bought my new mug I thought of a poem possibility modeled after Good Books Good Times by Lee Bennett Hopkins.  If you don't know this poem, please check it out.  Anyone who is a reader needs to know this poem.  I had no intentions of taking the month of July off from blogging but it happened and I think it might be something I do again next year.  Summer brings a different pace.  Summer reminds me to explore other interest than teaching.  Our summer has felt busier than usual but the girls have had some great experiences and those will create memories.  As I woke up this morning, I remembered my poem idea and thought of a writing pattern to use.  The first line is something about me and the next is something one of the girls or more did.  We all had some great hellos this summer.

Thank you Margaret for hosting the roundup today at Reflections on the Teche.