Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Going Public

Wikimedia Commons photo by Justin Brockie
Raise your hand if you've ever been terrified to go public -- to introduce him to your parents, to speak in public, to start a blog?

And yet how often do we expect our students to share their ideas, try new things, or take a risk, all without fear or hesitation?

I have given myself a taste of my own medicine, and it's been good to remember how hard it is to do the things we ask our students to do all the time.

One of the gardeners I work with in our community garden is deaf. She had her hearing long enough to learn to speak, but she's never learned lip reading. So we've been getting by with her talking to us, and us writing to her. It's a functional solution, but not equitable, and definitely not inclusive.

I decided to learn to finger spell. Of course, "there's an app for that." I've been trying to spend a few minutes every day practicing with the app, and sometimes on my morning walk, I run through the alphabet or spell things I see.

But I was terrified to try it with my deaf friend. To be the rank beginner at the feet of the expert.

Finally, this past weekend, I jumped the hurdle. I told her I was learning. Her smile glowed and crinkles showed in the corners of her eyes. I asked for her patience as I got better. She nodded enthusiastically.

And that's all it took. I just had to get past my fear of failing and give it a try. She is thrilled that I am making an attempt to communicate with her on her terms, and she is patient, encouraging and helpful.

Just like we are with our students.

Monday, July 29, 2013

That First Read Aloud of the School Year....

Every year, I put a lot of thought into that first read aloud of the school year.  It is always my summer obsession.

On Twitter, the other day, I posed a question to a friend about a possible first read aloud.  Several others jumped into the conversation with suggestions for that first read aloud.  So many possibilities, but none feel quite right.  Last year, I wrote an article for Choice Literacy about my thinking behind that important first read aloud. For those of you that subscribe to the weekly Big Fresh from Choice Literacy, you may have seen it this week.  Spending my summers thinking about my first read aloud is not something new for me.  And in moving to a new grade level, I am finding myself doing even more thinking about it than usual.  I'm never sure quite what I am looking for, so the search often continues until that day right before the students arrive.

The Read Aloud routine is an important one in our classroom. It is an anchor for reading and conversations and community. It is a time when I work hard to make sure 100% of students are in the classroom and I protect that time from pullouts and interruptions.  It is important as students not only share a common story but we learn together how to think about and talk about stories in ways that change us--as readers and as people.

I know we'll read many picture books every day in the classroom, but in 3rd grade a chapter book read aloud is key as this transitional stage is a stage where children are learning to read longer books, stick with a plot, think across a longer text.  I know that a chapter book is not a chapter book is not a chapter book and I want that first one to be one with a plot simple enough for all students to follow but complex enough with some things worth talking about. I want to start those conversations about what readers do when reading longer books, but more importantly, I want to start those conversations about books and the way they often change our lives.

The choice of the first read aloud is even harder because I don't know my students. I don't know their reading histories and I don't know much about them as people.  I don't know if a child is going to walk in the door who who is suffering in some way.  Our community will not yet be strong enough during that first read aloud for a student to come to me to say, "I don't think I can listen to this story right now in my life." as they might do later in the year when they understand that this is one of the decisions readers make.

There are so many books I can read to kids and they would love, but kids loving a book is not enough for me.  I have found that kids love being read aloud to so much that most of them are going to love almost any book I read aloud and the year isn't long enough to read aloud that many books. So I have to choose a book for more reasons than just "kids will love it".  It has to give me lots as a teacher --each book has to grow them, as readers, as people and as a community of learners.

Even though read aloud time is an anchor in our classroom and I do lots of teaching, read aloud feels to the kids like that time of pure joy.  The book has to be so good that it naturally INVITES the conversations I  want to happen and that there are so many invitations for talk and thinking that the talk happens naturally.  I am looking for books that makes my "teacher work" during read aloud is almost invisible because the book pretty much does the work on its own.

Ideally, I'd love a book that none of the kids have read before. I value rereading but the first read aloud involves lots of kidwatching as I get to know each student and experiencing a new book can tell me so much.

So, it is nearly August 1 and I am still thinking.  I will probably still be thinking for a few more weeks. I started a Pinterest board to keep track of my own thinking--keeping track of the books on the top of my list for the moment and books that I want to keep in mind for the first few months of the school year.  I don't know if I'll stick with this list but it is a list of books I don't want to forget about yet. I know that after the first few days of school, when I know my kids and see how they respond to that first read aloud (whatever it may be) and I see the books they are reading and I start learning about who they are,  I will know the perfect book to choose for our second read aloud. But that first read is never an easy decision!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Poetry Friday -- The Speed of Time

Photo by Mary Lee Hahn

A Teacher Turns the Calendar Page From July to August

It's the same feeling you get
just after you've nudged the sled 
over the shoulder 
of the hill.

Movement becomes momentum
and quickly shifts 
to catapulting and careening.

You relinquish control
and hold on 
for the ride.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2013

Sherry has the Poetry Friday Roundup today at Semicolon.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nerdy Book Club Post

I wrote a post for the Nerdy Book Club yesterday about my concussion and my weeks with no reading.  You can visit the Nerdy Book Club to read the post here

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Online Edition

 This week, I found some online gems in my reading that I wanted to share.  Enjoy!

Pernille Ripp has a great post that is an important one to read as we start a new school year. We Must Be the First to Stop the Labels.

After having such a great day at Nerdcamp Battle Creek, I have spent lots of time reading everyone's blog reflections. Katherine Sokolowski has spent time doing a Nerdcamp Roundup on her blog and I've loved reading everyone's recap.

I loved Jen Scwanke's Big Fresh Lead, A Reader and Her Books.  As a fellow book hoarder, I could relate:-)

And this Mo Willems Interview was a fun read.

And, as always, Ruth Ayres puts things in perspective in this post It's Time to Get Ready for School.

Happy Monday and Happy Reading! 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Poetry Friday -- Minimalist

photo by Mary Lee Hahn

Just a note before we head out for a day of fly fishing.

Read the poem for today. Remember those who are gone and love harder those who are still here with you.

Then read the 20 quotes about writing in the sidebar (not sure why they sometimes are there briefly and then disappear behind the to make them stay visible???) and pick the one that is your favorite for today. Mine is:

“All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald
That's the way it felt to write my Summer Poem Swap poem this week with my brain a (somewhat murky) lake of back to school planning. When the poem finally came, it was like that delicious first gulp of air after you've been under for almost too long.
Happy Poetry Friday! Jone has the roundup today at Check it Out.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

#CyberPD--Who Owns the Learning?, Ch 5-end

Who Owns the Learning?: Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age
by Alan November
Solution Tree (May 21, 2012)
I read the Kindle Edition

"Reflecting on my own education while growing up, 
I don't remember any of my tests. 
I don't remember any of my multiple-choice tests 
or my written answers. 
But I remember the experiences I had...
...what can we give kids that's an experience 
that they typically don't get...?" p. 86

Chapter 5 -- Job of global communicator and collaborator
Big idea for me: Students need to learn empathy. Global empathy as well as just plain understanding and appreciating other points of view.

Discussion Question #1 -- What kinds of opportunities can you imagine for enabling students to engage with authentic audiences around the world? 

  • Skyping with other schools and with authors...and perhaps with the international families of my students? Just learned last night on #5thChat about Mystery # Skypes and TodaysMeet. Both of these seem RICH with possibilities!
  • Working the Twitter feed for all it's worth. 
  • Participating in the Global Read Aloud.

Discussion Question #2 -- What barriers do you anticipate educators will face in guiding students in the role of global communicator and collaborator? 

The biggest barrier will be Me.

  • I have to guard against running out of time, energy, commitment, focus, and a willingness to brainstorm creative ways to access technology resources. 
  • I have to remember to start small, using authentic audiences in our own school district...maybe even our own building!
  • I have to choose projects wisely, then work backwards from the end result to make sure I've taught all the skills my students will need in order to be successful.

Chapter 6 -- Purposeful work, legacy of student contribution
The story of the student-written history text/wiki is fascinating. Leaving a legacy is as crucial as empathy. I had an amazing interim principal once upon a time (you know who I'm talking about, some of you). His tagline on all written and most verbal communications was "Leave a legacy." The hallways in the new wing of our building (built during his term with us) are named Legacy Lane. Through his constant use of that word, he made me think about the value and importance of all I do in my classroom and our school. I think the idea of taking student work to the Legacy Level can be a ongoing conversation from day one. "What can come of this work we are doing that will be of lasting importance? Of use to someone else?" Thinking about the legacy piece will naturally tie into teaching empathy. (Hmm...this is pretty fascinating. You are witnessing ideas being born as I type...I'm getting really excited about this!!) I recently had an afternoon of conversation with some of my #LivePD pals. We kept wrapping back around to the idea of "Who will be the audience?" Seems like if students are involved in conversations about leaving a legacy, they are also determining the audience for the work they'll be doing. So they won't just be shouting into Cyberspace and hoping someone will respond. ('s all coming together nicely...) And if we're considering legacy, we've got purpose covered, too! (Hmm...)

Discussion Question #1 What opportunities can you identify for incorporating multiple student jobs into your classroom activities? 

The answer is Yes.  (need time to think and plan)

Discussion Question #2 How could you help your students create an educational legacy that would outlast their own student experiences?

The answer is Yes. While I'm hoping that it's not just one thing and that it comes as much from them as from me, I do have one idea I'd like to float to my students and to the staff of my school: We need to take our Multiculturalism on the road to other schools whose classes aren't as international as ours. We need to take our authentic Multicultural Day out to other schools that have a fake one put on by their PTO.

Discussion Question #4  How would you structure yearlong collaboration with colleagues beyond your classroom to add value to your students' learning experiences?

See answer to #1.  (also got a good start on this during #LivePD with Karen, Maria and Cathy)

Laura Komos (Ruminate and Invigorate) is hosting today's conversation about WHO OWNS THE LEARNING? Thank you to her, to Jill Fisch (My Primary Passion), and to Cathy (Reflect and Refine) and for bringing us together to have these important conversations. Looking forward to the Twitter Chat!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Meanest Birthday Girl by Josh Schneider

I've spent lots of time this summer catching up on series books that I think my new third graders will be reading when school starts next month.  Catching up on these transitional books is key to supporting their reading development. I'm also looking for stand-alone books that help readers understand the power of story and that help them build conversation to understand character, see the world differently, and laugh and learn together.  3rd grade is a challenging one when it comes to book choice because it is tempting to choose books that are just beyond what kids are ready for so they don't quite understand them.  They are 8 year-olds so their life experiences are not quite ready for the depth of some middle grade novels. And I am a firm believer that if we give kids great books too early, we take away the joy of experiencing an amazing book later, when they are able to fully enjoy and love it.  But, I also know that third graders are brilliant people who have lots to say and need books to help them think through life. It's just that finding books that match the stage of life is not as easy as it appears.

But, I found one this weekend that I think is perfect!  The Meanest Birthday Girlby Josh Schneider seems to be the perfect book for early third grade. I am thinking it will make a great read aloud and one that we can revisit and discuss. I am not thinking it is one with huge depth but there is depth and humor that will provide for conversation and kids will need to infer lots to fully understand the message here.

Dana is the birthday girl in this story. And because it is her birthday, she can do whatever she wants. So she pinches, steals desserts from others' lunches, and calls people names.  At the end of the day, she has a birthday party and gets presents and this is where the fun begins.

The book is a short chapter book (48 pages total). The illustrations add to the fun of the book and the characters are some of my favorites.

I think this book was written for young children in that they will have to really think to understand the message but they will love the fact that they "get it".  Them message is a good one and there will be lots to talk about when it comes to choices, kindness, and how we treat each others.  Lots to love about this book.

And, Anthony? Well, he might be one of my favorite new characters ever. Even though he only says a few words in the whole book.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Notice and Note (With CHICKENHARE)

Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading
by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst
Heinemann, 2013

In my post last Thursday, I shared my plan to search for the signposts in everything I read/viewed for the rest of the summer. What's that quote about roads that are paved with good intentions? What a ridiculous goal that was!! And what a good reminder: EVERY text does not need a close reading! Note to self and others: don't overdo the signposts, or they will kill a love of reading as surely as any packet of worksheets.

I had success last week using the Notice and Note signposts with DON'T FEED THE BOY, a middle grade realistic fiction novel by Irene Latham. I've been on a graphic novel-reading binge for a couple of days, so I got to wondering if I could find the signposts in a graphic novel. After all, many (if not most) of my students will choose a graphic novel over any other genre or format any day.

Lo and behold, they were there. I had to think differently about them at times, finding them in characters' facial expressions or in the illustrations. But they were there. And I didn't try finding them in a straight-forward, traditional-narrative sort of graphic novel. The next one up on my pile was fantasy with oddball random characters and a storyline that makes you feel like you've been dropped into the middle of the story. (Just checked online. Although this book is not identified as a part of a series, it might be the third book. That would explain a lot about the dropped-in feeling.)

by Chris Grine
Scholastic/GRAPHIX (February 1, 2013)

In this story, a chicken-legged rabbit and a bearded box turtle team up with the ghost of a goat to defeat the evil guy who keeps killing his pets and stuffing them so that they can't run away from him. (Think "willing suspension of disbelief...")

p. 9 What the butler says and how the evil guy answers don't match. CONTRAST AND CONTRADICTION (with a bit of irony and sarcasm thrown in)
p. 11 The other evil guy who kidnapped Chickenhare and Abe (the turtle) unwittingly gives the duo information that will help them to escape. AHA MOMENT (for characters and the reader, who should be predicting like mad when this happens!)
p. 66 The ghost of the goat shows up again. AGAIN AND AGAIN
p. 79 " 'Forty years ago...' " MEMORY MOMENT
p. 97 Interchange of questions between Chickenhare and the ghost of the goat. TOUGH QUESTIONS
p. 98 The ghost of the goat comes as close as it gets to giving WORDS OF THE WISER
p. 139 The visual clue in the picture gives the reader an AHA MOMENT when they realize how Chickenhare and the goat are going to trick the evil guy.
p. 157 The faces of Chickenhare and Abe are happy that they are continuing their journey. The faces of their two companions are not happy. CONTRAST AND CONTRADICTION

Saturday, July 13, 2013

#nerdcampbc-An Amazing Day!!

There are a few professional days each year that I live for.  Conferences that I look forward to as anchors to my year--where I go to learn, reconnect with friends, and re-energize. I can't imagine being a teacher without these few events each year. NCTE, the Dublin Literacy Conference, the Literacy Connection, All Write. They have become part of who I am.  This week, I added a new anchor to my list--#nerdcampbc.  For those of you that missed out on #nerdcampbc, this is the brainchild of Colby Sharp and you can learn more about it on the nerdcamp site.

Thank goodness Sherry told me about #nerdcamp!
Most of you know that I have pretty much been tethered to my house for the last few months due to a concussion and that #nerdcampbc was my first big professional outing.  I had a few hesitations this week as I realized how much I have to do to get ready for school in the fall and I feel pretty behind having had to take so much time off.  And then there were the bigger issues of wearing something other than yoga pants and putting on make-up and earrings :-).  But I could not pass up the chance to be part of this event.  Seeing all of my tweeps and learning together was something I had been looking forward to since Sherry had mentioned it to me. And I am so glad I attended! What a great day!

Colby and Donalyn at dinner Wednesday night.
From the moment I got in the car with my Car PD girls--Cathy Mere, Karen Terlecky, Stephanie Shouldis, and Katie Strawser, I knew it was going to be a fabulous two days. Although we were not so talented at directions, I learned so much just talking and learning from them on the trip. So much great informal talk.  Even through a few possible tornado warnings, we arrived in Battle Creek in time for dinner with a great group of people. It was great to connect with old friends and to meet new ones. Laughing together and talking books started right away.

Alaina explains the board!
Colby, Alaina and the #nerdcamp team started the camp bright and early Thursday morning. Most of us had never been to an Edcamp which I thought was a huge tribute to the planning team.  We attended because we trusted them.  We had no idea what we were attending but we loved the team and jumped on board because we knew they would plan something amazing.

We built the sessions that morning and it was such a hard decision as to which sessions to attend. Travis at 100 Scope Notes has a great post on how the day worked if you've never attended an Edcamp. I must say, the energy in the room was amazing. It was just a huge party of excitement about how it would turn out. It felt like a big game show, with Colby as our host. I loved watching the process as new sessions were added to the board and the program came together. And I love that Colby had this Literacy Edcamp idea at all--the idea of Edcamp with a Literacy focus made it all the more fun to watch unfold.

I attended four great sessions. I learned more about Evernote for record keeping and lesson planning from Cathy Mere, Karen Terlecky Alaina Sharp in Session A2.  I learned about Motivating Reading and Writing Through Technology from Donalyn Miller and Suzanne Gibbs in Session B2. In Session 3 I learned about Sister Classrooms from Brian Wyzlic and Jillian Heise. (We also continued the #hatback conversation here..). And in Session 4, I learned about Battle of the Books and One Book, One School from Sherry Gick  and Kathy Burnette.

A great thing about #nerdcamp is that all the sessions had a notetaker so you can access the notes of sessions you attended or sessions you could not attend right from the Google Doc/Idea Board. I'm pretty sure I'll be exploring the thinking for weeks.  It was a truly great set up for continuing the conversation and it is a great resource for those who could not attend #nerdcamp.

The Twitter hashtag is another great way to join in on the conversation that is still going on (#nerdcampbc).

And then there were prizes!! Such a great way to end a great day!
The Real Boy!!

Finally,  it was time to say goodbye to Old Friends and New Friends! No one seemed tired as everyone was so happy and energized and already looking forward to next year's #nerdcamp!

#Nerdcampbc is definitely an event I will try to plan my future summers around because I never want to miss it.  It was a day that made me happy.  So many great new friends. So much great learning. A perfect summer day in my opinion.

THANK YOU, #nerdcampbc Team!

Thank You, #nerdcampbc Team!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Poetry Friday -- Gardening

Creative Commons Photo by Mary Lee Hahn


The air is cool;
sun sits low behind the trees.

My tea is hot;
one last sip before I start.

The garden is large;
weeds are plentiful and vigorous.

*   *   *

I turn my head slowly;
two hummingbirds argue over coneflowers.

I sit back on my heels;
chickadees and bees ignore me.

I stand and stretch;
the air is hot, the tea is cold, the garden is weeded.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2013

Michelle has the Poetry Friday roundup today at Today's Little Ditty.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Notice and Note (with DON'T FEED THE BOY)

Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading
by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst
Heinemann, 2013

After I finished reading NOTICE AND NOTE, I challenged myself to look for the signposts in everything I read/viewed for the rest of the summer--children's books, adult books, movies, TV shows.

I discovered that it's first. The way I was trying to capture my thinking was the first barrier I had to hurdle. I took a picture of the N+N reading log in Penultimate on my iPad and I tried to jot my thinking with the stylus my brother gave me. The image of the log kept moving around when I was trying to write. Annoying. There has to be a way to lock an image in Penultimate, but I wasn't patient enough to find it.

Low tech was the way to go. I jotted the signposts on a scrap of paper that I used as a bookmark and grabbed some small sticky notes. Each time before I read, I glanced at the list of signposts.

But it was still hard. I read more slowly and looked back at the signposts often, asking myself, Was that one? Was that one?

Then, on page 19, I read, "Whit had heard the story a thousand times." and it was literally like a lightbulb: Memory Moment! Clear as day! At that point, I was able to relax into the reading and trust the author to lead me from signpost to signpost. Over the course of the book, I found all 6 signposts. At each one, I paused in my reading to think about what that signpost told me about the characters (alone or together) or the themes. I think I enjoyed the book more than I would have if I had just read it straight through, and I know for sure that if I sat down and had a conversation with someone about this book, I would, using my notes, have lots to say that I would never or noted if I hadn't used the signposts.

This is only my first experience using the signposts, but it makes me super excited to teach the signposts to my fifth graders and watch what happens to their ability to write about and talk about their reading.

There is one additional signpost that I will teach my students. One I have learned to notice and note on my own -- the signpost of The Storm. So often, a storm in the story mirrors or foreshadows the action in the plot (change or trouble).

Don't Feed the Boy
by Irene Latham
Roaring Brook Press, 2012

First of all, how did I not read this book last year when it first came out?!?! All I can figure is that it got lost in the shifting sands/priorities of my TBR pile. If you missed it, too, get a copy and read it! These are characters you will love!

Whit has lived his whole life within the confines of the zoo where his mother is the director and his father is in charge of the elephants. He has been "home schooled" and nannied there. He craves change.

Whit meets Stella, a daily visitor to the zoo, and begins to learn about friendship in his first interaction with a member of his own species who is also his own age. Stella needs change in a way that is far more desperate and necessary than the change Whit seeks.

Both characters have parents who don't understand them, but just as their need for change is very different, the level of "bad" or BAD parenting that each character experiences is quite different.

Throughout the book, facts about zoos and zoo animals are woven. I wish I had read this book when it first came out. I could have handed it to my student who was almost exclusively a nonfiction reader in fourth grade and for whom TIGER RISING was his first independent grade level appropriate fiction novel. He would love the blend of fact and fiction in this book. He would likely also benefit from Whit's musings on what Stella's facial expressions meant, and the times when Whit came to  realize that Stella was joking with him. Ah, well. Better late than never! I'm sure there are students who will be in next year's class who will enjoy imagining a life spent within the walls of a zoo.


p. 19 "Whit had heard the story a thousand times." MEMORY MOMENT
p. 86 "Each time Whit broke a rule, it got easier." AGAIN AND AGAIN
p. 106 " 'Rodney, the truth is, I hate the zoo.' " AHA MOMENT
p. 144 " 'Dad, is there anything I can do?' " AHA MOMENT, CONTRAST/CONTRADICTION
p. 145 "Whit's mind played back all sorts of scenes of Millie's daily life..." MEMORY MOMENT
p. 161 " 'Guns are terrible things...' " WORDS OF THE WISER
p. 165 "As they turned to go, a drop of rain hit the top of Whit's ear." STORM = CHANGE
p. 168 "Whit wondered if that was what it was like for Stella's parents." TOUGH QUESTIONS
p. 171 "Whit thought he remembered the day Millie painted that one..." MEMORY MOMENT
p. 183 " 'But some things don't make sense no matter how many times you turn them over in your mind.' " WORDS OF THE WISER
p. 211 "Whit understood for the first time why more people come to the zoo than to all other sporting events combined." AHA MOMENT
p. 235 "How was it possible that they wanted the same thing but it wasn't the same at all? AHA MOMENT, TOUGH QUESTIONS
p. 263 (I'm not going to quote this one, it would give too much away!) AHA MOMENT
p. 266 "Rodney didn't say "awesome" or "cool" or any other words like them. CONTRAST/CONTRADICTION
p. 271 "A week later, on the second Monday of the month, it began to rain." STORM=CHANGE
p. 273 (Another one I can't quote.) CONTRAST/CONTRADICTION

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

#CyberPD--Who Owns the Learning?, Ch 3-4

Who Owns the Learning?: Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age
by Alan November
Solution Tree (May 21, 2012)
I'm reading the Kindle Edition

"As long as you're asking what's next, you'll get there. 

But never be content with where you're at."

In Chapter 3, Alan November describes the job of Student Scribe. He says that this job is "low-hanging fruit," but I'm having some trouble imagining it in my 5th grade classroom. At least the way he describes it. My students aren't typically taking notes throughout the day. But maybe they should some way, shape, or (developmentally appropriate) form...

I can see the Scribe being responsible for a daily blog post for our class blog. And I like the idea that this is a place where "Every voice speaks with the same volume." The idea that the habits/skills that are a part of this job will contribute to lifelong learning and instill a sense of LEGACY in students is powerful. But was November reading my mind when he commented that part of the challenge with this job is getting past the fear of letting go of control?!? :-)

Discussion Question #3: "Do you think students will work harder on material that they prepare for that audience than they will when doing work for their teachers?"

I'm having a hard time answering this with an enthusiastic "Yes!" Blogging kind of flopped for me last year. My invitation to my students to join me in my Poetry Month project kind of flopped. My Columbus Dispatch Reader group is in the process of flopping. Where is this mystical, magical motivation? Does it have to do with audience and control? If I don't take charge, these things won't get done/get done correctly/well/on time...right? And where, exactly is this audience? As bloggers, we all know that it takes nearly as much energy to be a good audience as it does to be the ones creating the content to be consumed. I guess that's the part where I arrange for my class to partner with another class in the district (uh oh...there's that control issue again...) and/or my students link up with other classes through our Twitter feed.

Discussion Question #4: "How can teachers model sharing knowledge with a global audience?"

Easy peasy, this one. Blogging and Twitter and my Wikimedia Commons project for Poetry Month come immediately to mind. I've had photos from my Flickr photostream used (with my permission and with attribution) in a magazine and an online city guide. Just recently this Poetry Friday poem got picked up though a key word search "high plains" by High Plains Public Radio for their website. Got this one covered.

On the other hand, Chapter 4, Student as Researcher, was the chapter that showed me where my gaps are. I need to learn to do better Internet searches so that I can teach my students to be smarter researchers. I dipped into this a bit with my Poetry Month project. I no longer allow students to drag to their desktop any ol' image they find on any ol' Google Image search. This year, I taught my students to do an advanced image search for images that are licensed to be used/modified, and to give attribution for the image when it is used in a project. I have informally taught bits and pieces of analyzing a website and/or its address, but with the information and resources November has given me, I will be much more methodical (and informed) about this in the future!

ALL of the Discussion Questions for Chapter 4 are ones that I want to return to and reflect upon.  #1--I need to teach my students to design basic and advanced searches. #2--Yes, students should be taught search strategies in every discipline. #3--How to implement the role of student researcher in my classroom needs lots of thinking and planning. #4--Designing assessment items that required students to access the web...hmm...sounds very Common Core to me. And very exciting!

So much in Chapter 4 to think about and learn about! This chapter really got me excited!

Jill Fisch (My Primary Passion) is hosting today's conversation about WHO OWNS THE LEARNING? Thank you to her, and to Cathy (Reflect and Refine) and Laura Komos (Ruminate and Invigorate) for bringing us together to have these important conversations.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

My Dad Thinks He's Funny by Katrina Germein

I happened to see My Dad Thinks He's Funny  by Katrina Germein while visiting Cover to Cover around Father's Day. It isn't a new book but it looked fun.  I'm so glad I picked it up because it will be perfect for minilesson work in Writing Workshop. I love the format of this book to show young writers how authors let us get to know a character by telling details--not with adjectives necessarily but by telling stories. In this very predictable book, a child is talking about how his dad THINKS he is funny (with the implication that he really isn't:-). On each two page spread, there is a little example of this.  One such example is..."Whenever I say, 'I'm hungry,' Dad says, 'Hello, Hungry. Pleased to meet you.'" Kids will love the humor and the illustrations add to the fun. This is a perfect example to kids about including examples that let their reader really know their characters when writing. I can see using it early in the year for some notebook play.  This is a fun book that kids will remember.

Monday, July 08, 2013

20 Ways to Draw a Tree by Eloise Renouf

It is that time of summer when I am thinking hard about those first messages I want to give my new students about the classroom they'll be entering.  Peter Johnston's words have lived with me for years and as I think about routines and classroom organization, I am always thinking about the subtle messages these things in schools give to our young children. So, I was thrilled to discover a new book called 20 Ways to Draw a Tree and 44 Other Nifty Things from Nature: A Sketchbook for Artists, Designers, and Doodlers. I was immediately drawn to the title and checked it out.  I love so much about this book and am thrilled that there are others in the series.

I am not an artist and I don't actually pay much attention to visuals. I've only started to a little bit recently as the world is made up of more visuals.  So this book is all the more fascinating to me. I guess I never realized how many different ways there are to draw a tree or a leaf or a bird or a flower.

So, back to why I bought this book. I want my students to get the message right away that there are lots of ways to do things. That there are not "right' and "wrong" answers and that there are so many ways to problem solve and to think about things. So many ways to approach things. So many amazing ways to see something and so many ways to think about something. And I think this book gives that message.   Although this book is designed to help you experiment with drawing (and I imagine it will invite lots of kids to do just that), it will also give the messages I want them to get when they walk into our classroom.

I'm not quite sure how I'll use the book--whether I'll figure out a way to make it some sort of invitational wall display or whether we'll do some playing with it the first few days of school or what. But I know it will serve some purpose during those first few important weeks of school. And I can see kids going back to it throughout the year and just looking at it. There is so much to see. Such an amazing book!

Friday, July 05, 2013

Poetry Friday -- The Joy of Language

A visual poem today, celebrating the joy of language.

"...but do they bubble and froth and slobber and cream with joy at language?"

Keri has the Poetry Friday roundup today at Keri Recommends. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

#CyberPD--Who Owns the Learning?, Ch 1-2

Who Owns the Learning?: Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age
by Alan November
Solution Tree (May 21, 2012)
I'm reading the Kindle Edition

My brain is going in two different directions as I read this book. 

1. (the young side of my brain) Well, duh. You long ago gave away sole responsibility for hallway and classroom displays. Why not take the next logical step and do the same thing with learning and teaching?

2. (the greying side of my brain) I don't know enough about all of these digital tools! When will I have time to learn them all before I teach them to my students??! I don't have access to enough iPads or laptops to make this work! (answer from young side: Quit hyperventilating. You know very well that all you need to do is turn students loose with technology and they will figure it out. And weren't you paying attention? You can do all of this...or at least get started...with just one laptop and one iPad. That's do-able.)

Questions for Discussion, Chapter 1

"2. What first steps might you take in building a learning community where your students take on more responsibility for contributing to the learning of the class?"
  • Reinvent my classroom jobs to include Scribe and Researcher. I wonder if I could have my Researcher monitor/add to the class Twitter feed throughout the day?
  • Resurrect my class wiki and turn it over to the students to manage. Learn just enough about podcasting and screencasting to teach my students (if they even need to be taught) and give it over. Frankly, the biggest barrier I felt/imagined was the amount of time it would take ME to manage the wiki.
  • Start a class blog that goes out to the world.
  • Don't grade -- don't even offer extra credit points for -- any creative project that contributes to the learning of the whole class. Remember, "Students teaching students is a powerful method for building learning and driving creativity and innovation."
Questions for Discussion, Chapter 2

"1. As an educator, can you name some specific types of lessons or topics that would be particularly well suited for student tutorials?" 

Short answer: Yes. Lots of them. 

New thinking: Perhaps the next step after a guided lesson with students who are struggling with a topic is to ask them to create a tutorial. 

Here are a few possible Language Arts tutorials (guided lessons I taught with small groups) I can think of off the top of my head:
  • making plurals with nouns that end in vowel-y and consonant-y (word study)
  • cause and effect (reading nonfiction)
  • summarizing (reading fiction and nonfiction)
  • revising a poem for line breaks (writing)

Cathy (Reflect and Refine) is hosting today's conversation about WHO OWNS THE LEARNING? Thank you to her, and to Jill Fisch (My Primary Passion) and Laura Komos (Ruminate and Invigorate) for bringing us together to have these important conversations.

(A note about my post -- I deliberately did not read anyone else's posts before writing mine. I'm anxious to see how my thinking is the same as and different from everyone else's!)

Tuesday, July 02, 2013


Bruce Goldstone is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  I was thrilled during a recent visit to Cover to Cover when Beth shared his most recent book with me, That's a Possibility!: A Book About What Might Happen.   I love books that support concept development and understanding of difficult vocabulary. This book is a great picture book that does both things well!

Bruce Goldstone takes the idea of probability and explains it over and over in ways that kids can understand-flipping a coin, rolling dice, getting a certain prize out of a gumball machine. Using white background and amazing photographs, each page is an engaging visual with so much to think about.  And he embeds the confusing words that go along with probability and possibility throughout the book: possibility, probability, certain, impossible, possible, likely, odds, etc.

I'm thinking about using this somehow at the beginning of the year as part of some kind of interactive all display but I'm not sure--it certainly invites conversation and thinking.  I am sure this book will be read again and again by my students this year.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Early Chapter Book: Joe and Sparky Get New Wheels

As I've mentioned before, I've been reading lots of books to prepare for my move to 3rd grade in the fall. I've been focusing on series books but I also know that many of my readers will need more support that the popular series chapter books provide.  This week, I found an easier beginning early chapter book series Joe and Sparky published by Candlewick and read Joe and Sparky Get New Wheels by Jamie Michalak.  I'm so glad to have discovered this series--I think it will be perfect for some of my incoming students!

Joe and Sparky are pretty fun characters who are fun to read about. In this story, this turtle (who likes to hide in his shell) and giraffe (who loves an adventure) go out of their cageless zoo on a car ride adventure.  It is full of fun surprises.

The sentences are simple so transitional readers should have lots of success with text. This book supports young readers in lots of ways. The humor is sophisticated enough to keep readers engaged. The characters stay true to character and there is lots of inferring to do. There is lots of picture support but also lots that has to be comprehended from text only.  Readers have to hold onto the plot of the story in a very minimal way so this book is perfect for readers new to chapter books.

I am excited about this series and hope to pick up a few more. My test for books like this is my own engagement--if I enjoy the characters and story well enough to stay engaged, I am set and I truly enjoyed these characters and their adventure. So I am confident, this is a great series for my students.