Children's Books

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Lincoln Staff Book Club "The War That Saved My Life"

Lincoln Staff members are reading for book club once again. I was so happy to introduce my colleagues to one of my favorite books this year, The War That Saved My Life by Kim Brubaker Bradley. We met yesterday during lunch to discuss our thoughts and reactions to the first half of the story. Here are a couple comments:

  • "The first part of the book made it hard to put down. I had a range of emotions from sad, to joyful, to anxious for what is to come."
  • This is my favorite book we've read so far this year. 
  • "I can't wait.  I want to keep reading but I have to stop at 160. Not fair, not fair!!!!!"
  • "Looking forward to reading more and discussing...I almost cried in just the first few chapters! "
  • I'm making connections between Ada and several of our students who have experienced trauma in their lives. They are learning how to have trusting relationships with people.
  • I've never thought about World War II from the viewpoint of people living in England. 
  • I can't wait for the sequel to come out. Why do we have to wait until the fall?
Thank you, Kim Brubaker Bradley, for sharing this wonderful story with the world. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Read Across America School-Wide Book Bracket

Last week we celebrated Read Across America Week at Lincoln School. This week is always the favorite week of teachers and students. The planning starts months earlier by staff members in order to have a week full of reading memories .

This year's theme was "Reading Madness". Each day we had a dress up theme tied into sports. Since the NCAA playoffs always have a bracket, we wanted to have a book bracket. We wanted all students in the entire school to experience the same books each day, and we chose to do this through a competition of picture book read alouds.

Several weeks ago I went to the public library and spent a couple hours reading sports themed picture books. We also wanted the books to show diverse characters, so I needed to call on some help. I contacted my Twitter friend @ajhueySTL and she gave me some great suggestions. I chose the books we were going to use, and then I started  reserving as many books as I could through our public library system. They were great to work with, and they made my job so much easier. We were able to check out one copy of each book for the grade level partners to share.

Each morning the books of the day were announced during our school-wide morning assembly. I gave a very short book buzz to give the kids and teachers a quick background. It also helped that our committee leader came dressed up as something crazy that went along with the books.  The teachers read the books during the day, and they had the kids vote on their favorite. We used Google Forms to collect student votes and add up totals.

The next day I'd rev up the crowd during morning assembly and announce yesterday's winner. It was so exciting for the kids and teachers. Winning books went head-to-head in order to choose the final two. We had a hectic round of voting on the last day to choose the winner. The video below shows the excitement from our kids when the winning book was finally announced at our Pep Assembly. The cheering and excitement continued even after I stopped filming.

Our Book Bracket was so much fun. The kids enjoyed it, and it was fun to see everyone so excited.

Time + Experiences = Relationships

Time and common experiences are two factors that are important when building relationships. As a remedial reading teacher, I have the opportunity to grow with teachers and students of all grade levels in my school. Literature can serve as “windows or mirrors” for readers, and it provides a springboard for discussion and reflection. This year I have used the power of books to forge relationships between readers.

In the fall I approached the principal with the idea of offering voluntary book clubs for the teachers. Each month a new title is chosen, and teachers can jump in and out of the book club whenever they choose. These experiences have given teachers opportunities to share their thoughts.  

I love seeing posts on social media from book club members such as:
  • “”The War That Saved My Life” is so good! I want everyone to read it so we can talk about it!”
  • “This is the fourth book I’ve read in four weeks! I’m so thankful for other co-workers turning me into a wild reader again!”
  • “I’m a reader! Who am I? Seriously?! Thanks for turning me into a reader this year.”
  • “ has brought us closer as a faculty and opened up the opportunity for people to get to know each other better.”
Read more about our journey of book clubs at .

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

#IMMOOC Chapter 1

I would not have thought of myself as an innovator. Before reading from The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros, I thought innovation always included large scale change and technology. Couros defines innovation as, "a way of thinking that creates something new and better."

Couros also states that innovation begins with a question. After reading chapter 1, I am asking the following questions in my classroom.
  • What is best for this learner? This is a question we need to ask over and over as we make the endless decisions each day. Each learner is different. My decisions should meet the needs of each learner. What does this learner need? How can I best support this learner?
  • How does what my student is learning impact his/her future? It's so easy to get caught up in the here and now. I need to stop asking, "Is  my student progressing up to the next reading level?" How are the readers in my classroom going to use reading in their futures.
How do other educators use questions like these while developing the innovator's mindset?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Reflecting on 25 Years

I have been in a reflective mood lately. Soon I will complete my twenty-fifth year as a school teacher. I think back to the young twenty-two year old I was my first year of teaching. My classroom management was terrible. I tried to do everything on my own. I always felt like I was drowning under a pile of papers to grade, and I felt like I was failing my students. I'm still thankful when I find out that students from my first year are gainfully employed, positive members of society even though their 8th grade math experiences were sub par. 

I have been blessed to work with administrators, colleagues, and students who have encouraged me and supported me through the years. It's a blessing to be in a position to learn and grow right along with my students and colleagues. Many things have changed, but many have stayed the same. Kids still want to be loved. Kids want to feel successful. 

Teaching Assignment
8th Grade Math- I had one class of below level math students, one pre-Algebra class, and three 8th grade math classes.
Teaching Assignment
Kdg-4th Grade Remedial Reading- 7 sections of small group reading intervention, push-in reading conferences in 4th grade, and 1 individual reading intervention.
Classroom Management
Assertive Discipline-
I developed the classroom behavior rules. Classroom rules and consequences progressions were posted. (This next part makes me cringe.) When a student misbehaved I would write their name on the chalkboard and add a check mark after each additional rule infraction.
Classroom Management
Positive Behavior Intervention Supports- We develop and practice the expectations. Students practice expectations. If students continue to have difficulty meeting behavior expectations we work privately to come up with behavioral goals.
Bonus Bucks & Candy Jar- I handed out Bonus Bucks for all sorts of reasons like homework completion, good classroom behavior, quiz grades, bringing extra tissue boxes, and having all classroom supplies.(Or you could just steal a bunch out of my bottom drawer when I wasn’t looking. Yes, that happened.) Kids could save their Bonus Bucks and spend them to buy Jolly Ranchers or other candy in my candy jar. This motivated some kids to do their job, and it motivated others to steal.
Prize Bucket, Notes Home, Phone Calls Home- I will admit, I use a prize bucket as a bribe to get the most important papers back to school. I also use it as a reward choice for students on individual behavior goals.
Overhead projector, television and VCR from the AV department, a classroom set of calculators, and I used an Apple IIe at home. I remember taking my overhead projector sheets home and washing off the marker in order to reuse the sheets again.
Tablet, laptops, Chromebooks, classroom Twitter account, interactive whiteboard, and desktop computers.
None. I was not on the same floor as my other teammates. I felt very alone.
I have a PLC with other reading interventionists in my building. I also have an extensive PLN through Twitter. My PLN allows me to collaborate with educators around the globe.
Get through the book.
Follow the curriculum to meet state and district standards.
Kids They wanted to be loved. They wanted to have friends. They wanted to feel successful.  
Kids They want to be loved. They want to have friends. They want to feel successful.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

It's Nice to be Remembered

Photo from
I'm reading Kids Deserve It!: Pushing Boundaries and Challenging Conventional Thinking,  by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome, along with other educators at #OrEdChat. We read a few chapters each week and discuss them on Twitter each Sunday night 8:30 p.m.PST/10:30 p.m. CST. I really appreciate how the book brings me back to the real things that are important as a teacher. The most important things are those that bring my focus back to the kids. Kids deserve to be seen, and they want to be remembered.

  • Make positive phone calls home. Parents are entrusting me with their most precious commodity every day. Parents want to be part of the successes and celebrations that happen at school. I have made a goal to make positive parent phone calls home with my students. The parents I have spoken with are more than willing to take calls from school while they are at work.
  • Remember the little things.  When we have conversations with students, it's essential to be engaged and remember the little things. Ava has lots of baby dolls at home. Alexandria likes to cook with her grandma. Jonah's little brother is always getting into mischief at his house. Austin spent the weekend at his family's farm. The important things in their lives need to be important to me.
    Photo from 
I've been teaching at the same school for twenty-one years. Many kids and families have come and gone through Lincoln Elementary School during those twenty-one years. Last week I was walking through the hallway during Parent/Teacher Conferences and recognized a face from many years ago. I stopped and talked with the former parent and asked about her children. It was a short conversation, but what she said in closing really left an impact. She said, "It's nice to be remembered." Being remembered makes us feel valued. Remember families. Remember kids, because kids deserve it.

Sunday, January 29, 2017


"Edcamps are organic, participant-driven professional learning experiences for educators across the country and worldwide!"

I'm really a newbie in the world of Edcamp. I attended my first Edcamp last February at EdcampSTL, and I was hooked! I've attended several more Edcamps, and I helped plan the first Edcamp sponsored by our district.

Here are a few reasons #WhyIEdcamp:
  1. Learning-  The heart of Edcamp is professional learning. Education is constantly changing and improving. Edcamps are opportunities to learn from other educators. I've learned about flexible seating, moderating Twitter chats, Makerspace, and BreakoutEDU just to name a few from Edcamp sessions.
  2. Choice-
    • Self-directed-Edcamp participants create the topic sessions that are discussed. Participants also choose the sessions they want to attend. These decisions are not made by district administrators, professional development committees, state, or others. Edcamp sessions are created to meet the needs of the campers in attendance.
    • Opportunities for curiosity- When I attend Edcamp I choose sessions for several reasons. Sometimes I choose topics for areas that I need more help with. Sometimes I choose sessions for new topics that I am curious about. Other times I just want to explore. 
  3. People- The people who attend Edcamps want to learn and share. They have energy that is contagious and invigorating. They are in attendance to learn. Edcampers are the forward thinkers who are willing to give up time on their weekends or summer in order to share and learn. These are the kind of people you want to connect with. 
You want to sign up for Edcamp..don't you?

  1. Find a date and location of an Edcamp nearby. Check out to find an Edcamp near you.
  2. Sign up to attend. Put it on your calendar and make it happen.
  3. Invite a friend to go with you.
  4. Attend and make connections while you are there. 
I'll be attending #EdCampSTL on Feb. 11th. I'd love to see you there.