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.