Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Welcome students...welcome digital learners...

This was shared at our opening convocation to kick off the school year.  Welcome students!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Plus Two More...

My credit card balance survived Cathy and Mandy's Picture Books 10 for 10 on August 10th.  Now I am grateful that Mary Lee at A Year of Reading suggested Plus Two More on August 12th.  I realized after I posted that I had left two off of my list.  Here are my PLUS TWO...and they come in sets of two!  I have started buying text sets to be able to act on wonder when reading a historical fiction picture book.

Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot meets Candy Bomber:  The Story of the Berlin Airlift's Chocolate Pilot:  Mercedes is one of the many true stories you will read about in the Candy Bomber...a biography about Lt. Halverson who loaded candy parachutes with chocolate and gum to feed the children of West Berlin during WW2.

Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing meets You Wouldn't Want to Work on the Brooklyn Bridge!:  A beautiful account of how one man seized the opportunity to show the people of Brooklyn that the bridge was safe and strong and a creative text to help readers understand this enormous project that seemed impossible!

Friday, August 10, 2012

10 for 10...just my favorites

This is my first year participating in the picture book event: August 10 for 10 hosted by Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek.  As I was getting my room ready yesterday, I spent the day reorganizing all of the books that I have bought over 16 years of teaching.  I was remembering so many wonderful moments from teaching in first grade, second grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade classrooms.  Here are my Top 10 Picture Books today.  Disclaimer:  It could change by tomorrow :) and they appear in no specific order!

1.  Chicken Cheeks:  This book has come up with more synonyms for a "behind" then I could ever think of!  Students love the fact that they have learned so many new words for a body part that they are often you mean "but" with one "t" or the not-appropriate word with two "t"'s.  I love the fact that the students always remember what a synonym is and the mood that is appropriate with each one.  You will love "the end" :)

2. Duck! Rabbit!:  This is my go-to book at the beginning of the year!  I show just the illustration below the title and ask the class what they see.  Great conversation about listening to each other's point of view and using evidence "from the pictures" to convince us.

3.  Queen of the Falls:  This historical fiction account of the first lady to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel has students on the edge of their seats.  Perfect for understanding a character's motivation and struggles to achieve a dream.

4.  Pulling the Lion's Tail:  Patience and time are the clear message while a child learns to use her grandfather's advice with adjusting to her new stepmother in an Ethiopia community.

5.  Questions, Questions:  Of course my list would include a book that inspires wonders around us to promote inquiry.

6.  Read Anything Good Lately?:  This is an ABC book that lists all of the ways we read around us... both with genres and our world.  Great mini-lesson at the beginning of the year to try to create an ABC list of what we read...M for menus, B for blogs, etc...This book does not contain any digital reading...that would be fun to add in!

 7.  Little Dog Poems:  These simple poems about a dog make the best mentor text for writing poetry!

8.  The Empty Pot:  Honesty is the lesson while trying to succeed in the emperor's contest.

9.  Courage:  This book shows us that we can find courage in what seem to be simple tasks around us.

10.  Pete the Cat:  This book puts anyone in a good mood...especially if you play the song with it! If you have read it, you know that it is "all good"!!!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Inquiry Workshop...opening minds with text sets

"In a dynamic world, when you run into difficulty it just means things are becoming more interesting.  Challenging activities present no threat, only the promise of learning something new." (page 12)
-Peter Johnston (Opening Minds)

The promise of learning something new.  This message is one that I have continued to think about after participating in this year's CyberPD.  Yes, I want students to learn new knowledge, but I also want students to know how to adjust when a challenging text or task presents itself.  I had shared about using Design Squad to reach all students in an inquiry workshop and to build teamwork with inquiry-based tasks.  These tasks promote not only brainstorming, designing, building, and testing...but most importantly redesigning and conversations.  Now what about a text that would ground this thinking to our world?

I discovered the book, Mistakes that Worked: 40 Familiar Inventions and How They Came to Be.  On page 1 you read, "Intelligence is not to make no mistakes.  But quickly to see the good in them."  This is the message I want students to hear right from the start of the school year as we use begin to use conversations to learn from each other.  This book includes the invention of coca-cola, doughnut holes, dog guides for people who are blind, silly putty, and even places in our world that were named on accident.  By using different text sections from this book, students can read about times in our world when challenging activities presented something new.  I know I am grateful for the accident that led to the invention of the chocolate chip cookie!  Students will have the opportunity to choose the text section that they would like to explore.  This choice will drive the student's engagement into the text. Then, when groups come together to discuss their text.  Students will share the text that impacted their strategies and engagement, hold on to their thinking by jotting, and synthesize in a group about how their big ideas connect to our world.  By using various text sections from this book, students can use familiar inventions to drive their motivation to continue to make learning more interesting in the year to come.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The latest buzz...

As always, as we turn the calendar page to August, our minds start "buzzing".   It is the pace at the beginning of August that I always enjoy...going into the classroom when you are ready, taking a break to reflect (even if at 2 AM), meeting up with colleagues, giving ourselves permission to take "one more day" to soak up summer, and time to wonder about our future learners and their reading lives.  And, as always, there are changes that come up.  My change includes a journey back into the literacy coach role.  I am leaving the fourth grade classroom and heading back to focus on one of my passions...job- embedded professional development.

I have been fortunate to have many conversations with teachers in our building, with teachers in other districts, and other literacy coaches.  The latest conversations have been focused on reflecting on who we are as teachers, what we believe, and what we vision as we embrace the shift to the Common Core. Here are two resources that have developed from discussions during the "latest buzz"...

1.  Reader's Notebooks-  It is the time of year where we look for the "perfect" organization methods and tools for a Reader's Notebook.  Of course, we have not found it yet.  We probably never will.  Each year brings new readers, new experiences as a teacher, conversations that build new ideas and then... our vision changes.  Here are two anchor charts developed by fourth grade students that reveal ways that they use their Reader's Notebook.  Maybe these "ideas from the learner" will inspire this year's version of a Reader's Notebook.  Helpful hint:  Keep it simple.  This allows the readers room to bring their learning and needs into the notebook.  Leave freedom for your journey and your reader's journey to change.

2.  Common Core-  That definitely is the latest buzz word as districts begin to transition or complete the transition to the Common Core.  One resource I found helpful last year was A Curricular Plan for Reading Workshop.  I had blogged about it earlier, but it reveals a happy marriage between the a workshop model and the Common Core.  Definitely worth a look!