Sunday, August 10, 2014

Picture Books 10 for 10: Community

I am very excited to participate in #pb10for10 and to be thinking about how to build a community of learners in my third grade classroom.  I have been out of the the classroom for two years, and I am ecstatic to be thinking about my "must-haves" to start conversations about how our classroom community will look, feel, and sound.  My list is definitely more than 10 books but here are the ones I absolutely LOVE (right now)! Thanks to Mandy Robek and Cathy Mere for hosting this event.

This book is by the author of the Lunch Lady.  The students just love his books and I think they will enjoy the story of how Peanut Butter and Jellyfish teach Crabby their neighbor the importance of being kind and helping others.

Ruth Ayres shared this book at The Literacy Connection last spring.  I knew I needed to have this book for the beginning of the year.  Brian is very quiet so he often gets left out or overlooked at school.  A new boy, named Justin, comes to his class and Brian is the first classmate to make the new student feel welcomed.  Things start to change for Brian as he works on a project with Justin.  

I just love this book!  Goat is jealous of all the things Unicorn can do and thinks that they could never be friends until they share a piece of pizza. 

 This book is such inspiring story about how an old rundown bus called Heaven and a little girl named Stella inspires their community to work together to transform the bus into a new community center.

This heartwarming story really hits home the importance of working together, failing and trying again and again until you get it right.  It is such a great book to illustrate the importance of creativity and perseverance. 

Enemy Pie will allow children to discuss how important is to get to know each other and to be open and willing to make new friends.
Jacqueline Woodson writes such wonderful books that send a powerful message.  Each kindness really teaches children the importance of how small acts of kindness really can make a difference.

I will have a very diverse class this year and so this book is a "must-have."  This book will help spark the conversation of accepting each other's differences.  

I love all of Peter Reynolds books and really can't imagine building our classroom community without them.  I really want kids to understand that learning is a process that allows you to see things differently, and it isn't always about getting it right but looking at things in an "ish" kind of way.

I want kids to feel safe enough and free enough to think outside the box in our classroom community and this book will help me illustrate that point perfectly!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Reading in the Wild Reflections: Part 2

       I just finished reading the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth about a week ago (this was a binge read for me).   On pg. 96 Donalyn Miller has a great quote from the book Divergent about communities.  Here is the quote: "To live fractionless is not just to live in poverty and discomfort; it is to live divorced from society, separated from the most important thing in life: community."  We all strive to be part of a community, so that we can continue to grow as a person by collaborating, reflecting, and cherishing each moment that helps us maintain and create our identity.  I mentioned in my first post that I want my students to be active members within a reading and writing community.  Donalyn says on pg. 89, "What my students learn is important, but the conditions that allow learning to happen concern me more.  Successful communities require cultivation, and I spend a lot of time forging relationships with my students and helping them connect to each other. I am the one who- with the help of my students- constructs the classroom environment." 

Keeping the Faith: A must when considering learning conditions:
     As an effective literacy teacher I need to continue to have faith in books and kids.  Penny Kittle, author of, Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina and Passion in Adolescent Readers reminds me of this.  On pg. 1 in her book she says, "Teenagers want to read - if we let them."  Well, I believe all kids want to read - if we let them.   Penny continues to say on pg. 1, "Students who I believe are committed nonreaders become committed, passionate readers given the right books, time to read, and regular responses to their thinking."  I know that I can help students find books that they will love and share with others.  I hope that as we get to know each other and who we are as readers, we can realize how the books help us define who we are and what we are seeking for. 

How will I start to build a reading community right from the beginning?
      I love the idea of creating a reading door posting all the books I read over the summer.  I am going to also post some reading quotes for the children to enjoy.  I think this will be a great way to connect instantly with students as I start to build some relationships with my students on Meet the Teacher Night.  
     I want to start the first few weeks of school by setting the tone that we will read - lots and lots of books!  I will spark readers interest in books by talking about five or six books a day during the first few weeks of school.  Penny Kittle says, "I want to put a lot of titles out there.  I need to help the many students out there who will struggle to find a book at first."  I have always done book talks in my classroom but I think it is so smart to hit it strong in the beginning.  I am also going to spice up my book talks by reading a preselected short passage and by recording the book talk books near the library in our classroom.  I loved these ideas from Penny Kittle.  After book talks are up and running I will seek out other teachers, students, and colleagues to do book talks in the room to keep our reading community thriving with talk around books, and students will decide which books to add their "to-be-read" list and piles.  Book talks will also open the pathway to talking with the students on how readers make reading plans.

Ideas to implement to help foster the reading community:

  • Graffiti Wall - a wall dedicated to selecting and sharing lines and words from books that stand out is absolutely priceless.  I already know that I am going to pick lines from the books titled A Snicker of Magic and Absolutely Almost.  
  • Global Read Aloud - this is my first time participating in GRA and I am so excited to do it.  I plan on connecting with other classrooms using Edomodo.  I am going to read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.  Kate DiCamillo is an author I really want my students to know.
  • Book Commercials - Donalyn Miller says these are impromptu testimonials about books that students and the teacher present.  I think that students could use technology as a way to share their commercials with the class. I really love how Donalyn Miller invites other students to share their impressions on the book if they have read it.
  • Skyping with authors - every grade level Skyped with an author last year and I found that once the Skype was over students were reading and discussing books by that author.  The authors we Skyped with were Aaron Reynolds, Bob Shea, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Nicola Davies, and Kate Messner.  This was a powerful way to spark interest in books which lead to some great discussions. I was so impressed with all the authors willing to connect with students and teachers in Skype in the Classroom Community.  

    Reflecting on book clubs:
      Last year I had book clubs with third graders and fourth graders during lunch.  My fourth graders were developing readers who needed to not only more read books but they really needed the time to discuss the books.  They were the readers who constantly had trouble selecting books to read next.  I would do book talks about possible books to read next for our book club and they would discuss the books with each other and then we would decide as a group.  I always let them decide how much reading to read each week.  They always picked smaller chunks to read than my third graders.  After reading the quote on pg. 144, Donalyn says, "For students who struggle to finish books or commit to reading, setting small goals helps them achieve success quickly and rack up positive reading experiences, which feed more reading."  These students needed to feel success and once they did it really feed into reading more.  If we would read the first book in a series, I would notice some of the students checking out the next book in the library and their excitement when they would be the first to finish so someone else could read it next. Sometimes the group would split if we had two books they really wanted to read.  At the end of the year I asked them what they enjoyed most about book club and one of my students who really just struggled to read said he enjoyed hearing every one's different perspectives.  After he made that comment I felt like all the struggles and encouraging it took all year had paid off for Rui.  My faith in books and students once again came through.  He found more time to read at home and he read more than last year.  Most of the students would talk about how they enjoyed picking the books together and knowing that any confusing parts would be discussed at book club.  While I know I was just a small part of their reading community I am so glad that I was a part of helping them reach goals by reading and discussing more books than they ever had.
     My third graders would read twice the amount of books as my fourth graders and they enjoyed blogging about the books so that their thoughts could be shared outside of book club.  They constantly would push me and each other.  These students are the epicenter readers in their classes and book club for them offered the opportunity to challenge each other.  Some of them needed to experience new genres and some of them needed the opportunity to talk more about books because they were very quiet and shy.  I realize how important epicenter readers are to the reading community and how their passion and love for books can be contagious to others.  As a reader I have epicenter readers through twitter and I have epicenter readers who are my colleagues.  I need to help identify who will be epicenter readers in my classroom so they can thrive in our classroom reading community but I also want them to find epicenter readers via social media.

Fostering School and Home Reading Communities (pgs. 91-93):
     Donalyn had so many great ideas to help bridge our reading community at school to the students' homes so that parents can help contribute.  I loved some of these ideas found on pgs. 92 and 93...

  • Include reading recommendations and tips into weekly newsletters and websites.
  • Add a weekly book recommendation to your e-mail signature.
  • Have students, the teacher and school librarian create quarterly book lists to share with parents who are looking for gift ideas, vacation reading, and library guides.
  • Teach parents simple ways to incorporate more reading into family routines.             

    I know that I also included quotes from Penny Kittle's book but it really is great to read her book along with Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild.  Penny even quotes Donalyn in her book.  I learned so many ways from these ladies on how to build a strong reading community that fosters relationships with every reader in my classroom.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Reading in the Wild Reflections

"Books are my friends, my companions.  They make me laugh and cry and find meaning in life." -Christopher Paolini

     This is my first time participating in #cyberPD and it has been so refreshing to go back and reread Donalyn Miller's book titled Reading in the Wild.  As a literacy coach, who is going to be spending half my day in the classroom next year it gave me lots of fuel to think about as I plan how I will meet the diverse needs of my third graders.  I really need to keep in mind the words I have underlined and read so many times on pg. 8, "No matter what our curriculum requires us to to teach or how little class time we have, children must read a lot in order to attain even minimum levels of reading achievement."  It will be a challenge to meet all the diverse needs of my students and to help more than half of them attain minimum reading achievement. A challenge I look forward to facing and reflecting about daily as the year progresses.  As I prioritize my "must-haves" I know that blocking out a significant amount of independent reading time is desperately needed to help my students gain the confidence and stamina needed to grow into lifelong readers.  I really want my students to see books as companions that help them find meaning just the like the quote by Christopher Paolini says at the beginning of my post.  Donalyn talks about how daily reading time allows students to practice their skills, as well as, practice living like readers.   She also says that students connect with other readers establishing a reading culture.  That is what I am striving to achieve in my classroom a reading community that talks a lot about books which will grow and thrive into a strong reading culture.  This is my dream!

    As I work hard to achieve my reading community there will be road bumps and challenges.  My biggest challenge will be pull outs for my ELL students and my students who receive Title services.  Donalyn Miller says, "Administrators, literacy coaches, specialists and teachers must consider the importance of this reading culture when determining how and when to serve special education and at-risk students. Too often reading intervention specialists pull out students who require additional reading support out of class during independent reading time (pg.10)."  Last year we tried to be more mindful of when we pulled students out of class and we tried to be more purposeful aligning instruction that mirrors what was happening in the classroom.  I tried to build upon the talk around books that was happening in the classroom and bring it into the small group.  This required lots and lots of communication with the teachers and with the students.  We would discuss not only reading strategies and skills, but books the students were reading.  We would celebrate the student who finished his/her first chapter book and the student who was learning about himself/herself as a reader.  As teachers we knew we needed to think about the reading test and the skills needed to pass the test but we also knew we wanted much more from our students... we wanted them to become wild readers! 

   I know that as I strive to reach my dream of a thriving community of readers there are some habits and behaviors I need to help students understand that avid readers do.  Donalyn's books have inspired me to be a more avid reader as an adult and to use breaks/vacations as a time to read lots and lots of books.  Here are some quotes from Reading in the Wild that I need to revisit closer to the beginning of the year as I strive to build a reading community:

  • It is difficult for many children to become wild readers if they don't read during the edge times.  But if they don't have frequent reading time, reading habits never take hold.  Teaching specific students to find reading time outside school requires explicit conversations about their individual schedules and how reading fits into it (pg.13). 
  • Captivated and interested readers make time to read (pg.17). 
  • Having students document for a short period of time when and where they read help students reflect on their reading habits and determine patterns they might not recognize day to day (pg.18). 
  • Fake reading and reading avoidance commonly occur when students lack independent reading habits, confidence, or adequate reading skills (pg.25).
  • We need to do more than catch students who are fake reading and call them on it.  We need to intervene and provide individual support (pg.26).  
  • Regular reflection reinforces the importance of keeping notebooks, but increased technology, larger class sizes, and my commitment to fostering wild reading behaviors have changed our notebook use.  The tools we use must support our work as readers and writers, not define or limit our work (pg. 33). 
  • What matters is that our daily work in the classroom values best practices and doesn't become bogged down with a lot of must-dos and tired activities that crowd authentic learning opportunities for our students (pg. 40). 
  • In order to develop strong literacy skills, our students need reading, writing, and discussion --and lots of it (pg.40).
    I look forward to meeting and learning along side my third graders next year as we embark on a journey to create a strong reading community developing into wild readers!  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer = Personalized Learning

     It is summer and that means sunscreen, ball fields, sand volleyball, camps and lots of summer reading.  Summer break allows me to figure out what I want to focus on and how I want to go about learning it.  I love that I can personalize my own learning!  There is so much to learn and time is already ticking away.  Here are a few books from my stack that I am planning on reading and discussing with my colleagues.  

     I also plan on reading the Units of Study by Lucy Calkins and rereading the book titled Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller.  I am so excited to participate for the first time in the #cyberPD which is going wild.  The #cyberPD is hosted by Laura Komos, Cathy Mere and Michelle Nero.  This seems like a wonderful way to connect and share my thoughts about the book titled Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller.  If you would like to find out more about the #cyberPD here is a link to Cathy Mere's website: Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community which has the assigned readings and the dates.   I am super thrilled because I read the book over winter break so I can't wait to rediscover new things and gain new perspectivies from this cyber experience. 

    I really want to focus on how to integrate more technology into my reading and writing workshop, so on top of reading professional books and blogs I plan on doing some exploring with new apps.  I want to take some time to get to know Educreations and Padlet.  I took Deb Frazier's and Cathy Mere's class titled "Sharing, Collaborating and Connecting."  They suggested to play around with a few apps so you feel confident to implement these apps with students. I love how Deb and Cathy said, "When implementing new ways to use technology it is just like teaching a new reading strategy or writing craft.  You will use the gradual release model."  

     My students will continue to use individual kidsblog as a way to connect, celebrate, and collaborate with others inside and outside our classroom walls.  I am going to think about and explore ways for each student to have a digital portfolio.  My teaching partner, Sara Firestone, and I are pondering over whether to use Kidsblog, Google Docs, or Weebly.  So, that will require some exploring and collaborating over the summer to help us visualize how this will work with the students. 

     In August I will be participating in EdCampILECbus, and my school will have a retreat where we can choose to participate in workshops that show different ways to use technology as a tool for assessments, collaborating, and connecting with others.  Both of these well be a great experience that will continue to help me grow as a connected educator and think about different ways to use technology in my workshops with students.

     As a literacy coach, I need to be an avid reader and know tons of books so that I can help our students develop stamina and passions as readers.  I also have another stack of books I am reading to help me connect with the intermediate students in my building.  I already finished a book called A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd.  I loved this book so much and I highly recommend it.  Here are some of the other books I plan on reading so I can help our students become "wild readers." 

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I look forward to lots of learning, relaxing, and reading this summer.  Happy reading and rejuvenating!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Nonfiction 10 for 10

This is my first time doing the nonfiction 10 for 10.  Honestly, I thought it would be easy to pick 10 nonfiction books I can't live without but it wasn't.  In January I really wanted to think about how to use more nonfiction books with students and to add some great mentor texts to my rather small collection.  So I have been putting books on hold at the library and looking on twitter for any new nonfiction books I could get my hands on. I have really enjoyed reading so many nonfiction books over the past month and I just love author notes because the page includes additional information about the topic and we learn the author's purpose for writing the book. I decided to keep some of my absolute faves and sprinkle in some new titles.  Even as I am crafting this blog I keep thinking about the choices I have made and if I will change my mind on a few?!  So here is my stack of nonfiction must haves:

I stumbled across this book while browsing for some nonfiction texts and I absolutely love it.  The photos are wonderful and they take up most of the page to peak your interest.  On each page Seymour Simon shares facts that you may not have heard about 20 animals with bad reputations, so that readers gain a new appreciation of what these animals do in order to survive. In the intro Seymour Simon's last line is this: "You may never love a rattlesnake, a cockroach, or an octopus-but his book may help you begin to understand and respect them for what they are."  I love how he starts his intro with a question grabbing the readers attention and sparking curiosity. It is a nonfiction text that kids will take time to ponder both the words and pictures while learning new facts along the way.

I have shared this book with a small group of third graders.  We used this book to figure out what a page was mostly about and the important details that support the main idea.  Each day the students would walk in and try to guess which animal we would read about and discuss.  I wanted them to understand that readers read nonfiction and think about what the page is mostly about so that they can then share their new learning with others. I have to say I really enjoyed reading and discussing the animals in the book right along the side of my students.

I love to read biographies about people who have made great contributions that open doors for others to follow.  Elizabeth Blackwell is a courageous and curious girl who lives in the 1830s.  She never really thought about being a doctor until she went to visit her friend Mary Donaldson.  Mary was very ill and she told Mary that she would have preferred to have a woman doctor.  Mary urged Elizabeth to become a doctor.  Elizabeth wondered if a woman could actually become a doctor, why would she want to be one?  This idea gnawed at Elizabeth and she thought about it all the time.  She decided to ask some doctors and friends.  Most of them didn't think that a woman could become a doctor and some said it wasn't right.  Some people even laughed at Elizabeth when she shared the idea.  However, Elizabeth thought it was a fine idea and pursued her dream.  Readers will enjoy the many obstacles Elizabeth overcomes and her strong pursuit of becoming the first female doctor.  

Some other books I would also share with the students to discuss people who have made great contributions would be the following: On A Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Eistein, The Boy Who Loved Math, The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever,  To Dare Mighty Things by Doreen Rappaprt, and Nelson Mandela by Kadir Neson.

This book by Nicola Davies has been a longtime favorite of mine for nonfiction.  There are so many things I truly love about this book.  I love the bold words, how she uses repetition to get her point across to the reader, how she addresses the reader, the diagrams and the circular beginning and ending.  I love this part at the beginning of the book, "What's the one word that turns your dream into a nightmare? What's the one word that makes you think of a giant man-eating KILLER? SHAAAAAAAARK!  At the end of the book she says, "If you were a shark swimming in the lovely blue sea the last word you'd want to hear would be... HUMAN!

I always use this book to show how writers can use voice in their nonfiction pieces.  I love how her factual information is stated in a persuasive way so that readers understand that sharks really aren't monsters. They are important part of the ocean food chain and not all sharks are dangerous to humans.  After you are done reading this book you will have gained a new appreciation for sharks that just might surprise you!

This is one of those rare treasures I found at the Scholastic Book Fair.  David FistzSimmons does an awesome job of using personification to help you learn how some factual tidbits on each curious critter.  He addresses the reader and each page is truly unique. I think this would be a great book to use for a read aloud and for shared reading with intermediate students.  You could focus on how he uses punctuation in interesting ways and the way the author plays with words. Here is a snippet from a page about the Virginia Opossum...

I wrote a little poem, but I'm afraid to read it to you.
What if you don't like it? 

You really want to hear it? All right, here goes...
Ode to Opossum
by O. Possom

Opossum! Opossum! How I love you!
You carry your kids like marsupials do. 
Whenever your bothered, you run on ahead.
If further provoked, you pretend you are dead.
But what I was wondering in writing these lines
is why say "Opossum, " Possum? No "O" is fine!

This book by Renee Watson is about the singer named Florence Mills. She was a member of the  Harlem Renaissance elite.  Florence was blessed with a sweet, birdlike singing voice during a time of racism.  She used her talent not to promote her own celebrity status world wide but to help promote other African American performers.  She used her voice to cry out for equal rights and to entertain her audience.  I love this book because Florence has a big and powerful voice along with a kind heart.  I read this book to students so Florence's beautiful voice can resonate through the author's words and so her kindness can continue to be carried on!
Frog Song focuses on the importance of frogs within different ecosystems and the wonderful songs each frog sings from Costa Rica to the Australian desert.  I love the onomatopoeia bold words and the beautiful illustrations by Gennady Spirin.  Students will love hearing the book read aloud and learning factual information about several frog species.  Make sure you check out the additional information about the different kinds of frogs mentioned in the back of the book and the author's note about why frogs are in trouble.  This book truly helps you gain a deeper appreciation for frogs, which will help you embrace the wonder of frog songs.
I love how the author invites you to eat, search, hunt, climb, bath, forage, and prepare like a bear.  Read and enjoy some of the language from this book...
Can you hunt like a bear?
It's June. Find Food.
But where?   
An elk calf has strayed from its herd.
Press paws. Give chase! Body bounding, race!
I love the use of alliteration and the short sentences that help to create a nice rhythm when reading aloud!  There is additional information in the back of the book so readers can continue to find answers to their fierce wonderings about bears.

I have been a big fan of Jim Arnosky and I use his books as mentor texts when crafting nonfiction pieces in writing workshop.  My colleagues bought this book for me and I love how it is a collection of Jim Arnosky's sea stories along with a collection of his paintings of the ocean dwellers that inspired him.  The giant fold out pages have intricate detail and many of them are life-size paintings.  Jim also includes sketches on different pages throughout the book. The introduction is a special note to the readers that includes his signature at the bottom of the page.   Children will enjoy learning about the different sea animals from the text, beautiful illustrations and the wonderful fold out pages.  

If you enjoy the Macy's Day Parade than you will want to read Balloons Over Broadway.  This book is about Tony Sarg, puppeteer and the genius behind the giant balloons that float in the skies on Thanksgiving Day.  Tony was a creative and curious boy who loved to figure out how to make things move.  When he was older he moved to London and started making marionettes for kids. His genius mind figured out a way to make the marionettes movement so lifelike that word spread quick about Tony's fabulous marionettes.  Macy's hired him to make a "puppet parade" for Macy's "Wondertown" windows.  Then Macy's had a bigger job in mind for Tony because they agreed to put on a street parade for their workers.  You will need to read and find out how one simple idea and one extraordinary man created one the biggest events that continues to take place every year on Thanksgiving Day.  

Sandra Markle's beginning includes onomontopoeia words that begin the life cycle of a young godwit.  Here are a few words from the book: Crackle! Crackle! Crunch! What's hatching from that egg? It's a young bar-tailed godwit. 
This bird is born during the summer in Alaska.  The yound godwit will learn to hunt, fly and escape predators in the Alaskan terrain.  The long, long journey will begin when it leaves Alaska in October to migrate all the way to New Zealand.  Oh yes, the godwit travels 7, 000 miles nonstop!  This long journey is actually the longest nonstop bird migration ever recorded, how fascinating is that!  I also love the amazing facts in the back of the book about the godwit, so make sure you check it out!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Writing Essentials

"Writing is worthwhile in and of itself.  It's important for teachers and students to internalize this." 
Ruth Ayres

I just started blogging so that I can discover my own writing process.  As I am growing and learning I am recognizing that there are some writing essentials that I currently need as a writer.  These essentials push me and motivate me.  These essentials are: choice, time, feedback, a reading life, reflection and celebration.  I am trying to implement these essentials into my lessons with students.  

Ralph Fletcher says, "Student choice is the crucial fuel that drives a healthy workshop.  The choice isn't limited to deciding on what to write about.  We invite students to have choice in length, audience, and the pace with which they write."  Children need to have the time to do choice writing so that they can discover their writing voice. 

It is crucial that students write everyday.  When I miss a day of writing, my writing habit is on a hiatus that sometimes lingers on for three or four days. It is so much harder to get back into that habit.  I find excuses as to why I don't have time to write or that I don't know what to write about.  My writing fluency and stamina are slowed down during my writing hiatus which affects my motivation to write.  When this happens I need to think about what Dave Burgess says, "Taking the first step is always the hardest part of the journey."  I just need to push the "new post button" and just start writing so I can get my ideas down.  I can always go back and rewrite parts of the blog.  Seymour Simon says, "Most writers don't write they rewrite and rewrite and rewrite."  

If students don't have time to write daily how can they develop writing habits to help them better understand their writing process. I know it is very challenging to balance all we have to do in a day.  Ruth Ayres says, "The mission of writing workshop is to help people learn to be writers for life."   Writing can be a powerful tool.  People who write..
  • learn about who they are as a person and writer
  • the power their words have on others
  • how writing can help them deal with a difficult time or celebrate something big
  • how their reading life impacts their writing life
  • the ability to slow down and see the world through writer's eyes  

One of our fifth graders posted this on her blog as she is embarking on her writing journey:
"The way I see writing is that you can write down anything that has happened to you.  You can change the names in your writing so you can express your feelings and no one knows it. I love doing that because you don’t hear the voice in your head telling you that you are sad or telling you there is nothing you can do about it, because there is always something you can do about it."

This student is devoting time to write daily both at home and at school.  The more she writes the more she discovers her writing voice and process.  This will help her craft pieces more effeciently.

Feedback and Celebration
I read Ruth Ayres book titled Celebrating Writers. Her book really helped me understand how big of an impact feedback and celebration have on a writer. She says, " Feedback is the key to creating a community of writers who celebrate together." 

Recently, I had a writing luncheon with a couple of fifth graders.  We celebrated the idea for their chapter book and some strong lines in their writing.  We also celebrated the feedback they gave each other as they crafted their first two chapters.  Gabrielle's writing advice, "When you end your chapter, leave your readers hanging so they will want to read on to the next chapter."  Alyssa is taking Gabrielle's advice and using it as she ends her chapters.  They read their chapter endings to each other to see how well they crafted the ending and how their readers might react.  I was so thrilled to be a part of the celebrating, and I witnessed how their feedback fueled each other to keep writing, even through the hard parts.

Ruth Ayres also states, "It is also by giving feedback that we learn how to talk to writers in meaningful ways."  This is so true.  As the two fifth graders and myself immersed ourselves into their writing we really had a powerful writing discussion about how writers work.  

As we conference with students during writing workshop we are modeling how to give constructive feedback.  Ruth Ayres says this is only the first step in the process.  Our explicit language used in our mini-lessons and the writing partnerships help students develop the skills to give and receive meaningful feedback to each other.  

This essential is something I need to spend more time doing as a writer. Since this is an area I need to work on I am going to rely on Ruth Ayres great advice from her book titled Celebrating Writers.   Ruth Ayres says, "Reflection is thinking about what you do and how you feel about it." If I want to continue to grow as a writer then I really need to take the time to reflect on my craft and my process.  

Some powerful quotes from Celebrating Writers on reflective practice:
  • Without reflection, students are missing out on an opportunity to grow. 
  • The heart of reflective practice is using self-evaluation to strengthen your craft.
  • As we reflect on our writing process, we learn how to work efficiently as writers.
I will start with personal reflections.  Ruth Ayres says, "Personal reflections are for the writer's eyes only and are designed to stretch the writer, encouraging risks in process and product."  My first step towards personal reflection will be writing down my strengths and weaknesses as a writer in my writer's notebook. 

I think it is easy to forget that each writer's process is unique and personal.  It is our job to help students find their own writing process by embracing some of these writing essentials.  This involves reading, talking, writing, sharing, reflecting and celebrating with the writers in our classroom.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

One Word
I finished reading the book titled One Little Word That Will Change Your Life by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton and Jimmy Page.  I took some time to think about what word will help me to continue to grow as a person and will help me reach some desired outcomes in 2014.  After taking some quiet time to reflect on the word, I have decided the word "BELIEVE" was the perfect word for me.  I really struggle to believe in my abilities and I struggle with confidence.  This lack of confidence can be a barrier for me achieving my goals.  Believing in yourself gives you the confidence to take risks and the confidence to accept constructive criticism.  Believing in yourself helps you focus more on your strengths and not your weaknesses.   I am hoping that the more I believe the more I will celebrate the small steps I have taken to reaching a goal.  I am hoping that the more I believe the more I will embrace the process and not get disappointed when results don't happen quickly.

I love this take away truth and the more I believe the more I will be able to find encouragement from the inside.  Here are some things that I believe can happen:

I believe that I can develop into a writer.
I believe that I will exercise more.
I believe that I am a teacher who can inspire others!
I believe that I am capable of anything if I put in the effort and time!

So my next step is to post the word "BELIEVE" on my desk, in my kitchen, on my iPhone, ipad, and in my planner so that I can start to bring about positive changes in 2014! 

What is the one little word that will change your life?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sunshine Award

I was just nominated by a wonderful colleague, Cathy Mere, for the Sunshine Award.  I was super excited since I am fairly new to the blogging world and my inspiration for blogging came from Cathy Mere and Julie Johnson.  Cathy is an amazing poet, writer and educator.  I was so lucky do my Literacy Collaborative training with her.  During our training she always had great ideas and her discussions made me think and reflect on what is best for kids.  Many years later, Cathy is still inspiring me to think and reflect on best practices, great books to read, and new apps to use in the classroom.  Thanks so much for the nomination.

Here is a description for the Sunshine Award shared by Matt Renwick:
The Sunshine award gives others an opportunity to learn more about me as a blogger and then, in turn, I will send sunshine the way of 11 other amazing bloggers for you to get to know!
and the rules:
  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  • List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  • Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)
Okay, here are 11 random facts about me:

1. It is an inspiring dream of mine to one day publish a book.  I am working on writing some poems about firefighting because my whole life has been influenced by firefighters or being at the firehouse.  My husband, Dan, is a firefighter at Norwich Fire Department.  I can totally visualize what the cover looks like and the title I have in mind is called Brotherhood.

2. My new obsessions right now would be Twitter and Lululemon Athletica clothes.  My husband and daughter got me hooked on wearing Lululemon clothes because they are so unbelievably  comfortable.  I kinda feel like I should start doing yoga because their clothes are really designed for yoga workouts.  

3. My favorite Christmas present of all time is my Shih Tzu named Daisy.  I always wanted to get a puppy for Christmas and 8 years ago my husband surprised me on Christmas morning with the most adorable black and white Shih Tzu.  She is a little diva dog!

4. I love to cook meals with my husband.  My favorite celeb chefs who I turn to for recipe ideas are Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman), Rachel Ray, Giada De Laurentiis, Paula Deen and Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa). I guess you could say I am a Food Network and Cooking Channel Junkie. 

5.  If I won the lottery I would do the following: travel with my family to Europe, buy a Louis Vutton purse and a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes.   

6.  My daughter plays softball so I love to watch college softball on ESPN or ESPNU.  

7.  I am a city girl so I love NYC, Chicago, and Vancouver.  I actually would love to live in Vancouver, British Columbia.  

8. I love writing workshop because it is so challenging and it can be overwhelming.  I like to work through the hard parts everyday.  It is frustrating to me when teachers think it is okay to NOT have their students write everyday.  Reading and writing are a reciprocal process so how can you justify that decision.  Donald Graves said, "All of us need writing as a survival tool in a very complex world."

9. My favorite books as a child were The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.

10. I could spend hours in a bookstore.  I really enjoy going to Barnes and Noble. It is a special treat when I get to go to Cover to Cover in Clintonville, OH.  My kids do not like to go to Barnes and Noble with me because they know it is never a quick trip.  I always wanted to open a bookstore in Hilliard, Ohio because we don't have one and I love to be surrounded by books.  

11.  The first people who truly inspired me to implement a reading and writing workshop would be the following: Shelley Harwayne, Joanne Hindley, Donald Graves, Lucy Calkins, Gay Su Pinnell and Irene Fountas.  I loved the books titled In The Company of Children by Joanne Hindley and The Art of Teaching Reading by Lucy McCormick Calkins.

Now to answer the questions Cathy thought of...
  1. When you look out the window or door of your house, what do you see?  (What's your favorite view?) When I look out the patio door I see a creek and a few wild creatures, even though my house is in the suburbs.  Some of the critters I have observed are deer, great horned owls, hawks, bats and coyotes. I love that I can live in a subdivision but still enjoy a slice of nature as if I lived out in the country. 
  2. Ocean or mountains?  Most definitely ocean.
  3. What is the best vacation you've ever taken? A cruise to Alaska.  The scenery was breath taking and the glaciers were stunning.  Before we boarded the cruise ship we spent a day in Vancouver and it was so much fun!
  4. What is the best book you read in 2013? This is a really tough question.  I really enjoyed Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Mindset by Carol Dweck. It was too hard to pick just one, sorry.
  5. Who is your favorite book character?  Willow Chance from Counting by 7s. Why? She was a very unique and different character who was trying to fit in and get through a very difficult time in her life.  Her unique qualities touched and changed the lives of Dell, Mai, Quang-ha, Pattie and Jairo in such a heartwarming way.     
  6. What is the one thing you wish you could have someone else to do for you? Decorate my house.  
  7. What inspires you? My husband, other educators, my colleagues,  #nerdlution and getting writing advice from authors on twitter.
  8. What do you make time for? My family, reading, writing, and trying to make more time for walking my 2 dogs.  
  9. If you could spend a month on any continent with your expenses paid, where would you go?  Why? Europe because I would love to visit Paris and Barcelona.  
  10. What are your favorite games to play? I really don't play games but I would play Guess Who and Battleship with my son when he was younger.   
  11. If you could make one change in the world, what would you want to change?  For every child to have their basic needs met and to live in a safe environment.
11 questions (borrowing some questions from Jacki Prati and Cathy Mere)

1. Who would be the most motivating speaker you have listened to at a conference? Why?
2. Who are some authors you would like to meet some day?
3. If someone asked you to give them a random piece of advice, what would you say?
4. Would you recommend teaching to other people? Why/ Why not?
5. What is the best conference you have attended? 
6. What are some of your favorite professional books?
7. If you could try any job for a day, what job would you try?
8. If you won the lottery what charity would you donate money to?
9. What is you favorite dessert?
10.  What is the best vacation you have ever taken?
11. What book are you currently reading?

Invitation to Participate

Unfortunately, I don't have 11 bloggers to nominate because my blogging circle is so small.  So I have just 1 ...