Children's Books

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Reflecting on 2016

As 2016 draws to a close, I want to share some of my professional highlights from the year. (Make sure you check out the links that will take you to previous posts and additional information.)

  • Google for Education Certification- In the winter, I used my weekly free time during my son's basketball practices to study for the Google for Education Level 1 Certification. While I was studying I learned a lot about YouTube, Calendar, Mail, and Blogger. This free training empowered me in my use of technology. I encourage everyone who uses Google products to check out this training. 
  • Donalyn Miller and Reading in the Wild- In March, I had the opportunity read Donalyn's book and hear her talk about guiding and supporting students and their independent reading. To say that this book changed my thinking and teaching would be an understatement. I would say it has transformed my thinking and teaching. It charged me to empower students and teachers. 
  • EdCamp- In February, I attended my first EdCampSTL. I was amazed by the energy and learning that was shared by dedicated educators. I saw the learning that was taking place, and I wanted to share it with other educators in St. Charles. The next week I had the privilege to hear one of the EdCamp co-founders, Kristen Swanson. She showed us how to use the EdCamp model for professional development. I went back and talked with my principal, and she agreed to let me use the EdCamp model at our next building professional development time.  
    The teachers loved it, and it spread across the district. I also found myself helping with the planning of our district's first EdCamp in June. I'll be attending EdCampSTL on Feb. 11, 2017. I hope you can join me.
  • Twitter- During the summer, I continued to use Twitter to connect with educators from across the globe. I entered a contest over Twitter and won a school visit from Donalyn Miller. In October I moderated my first Twitter chat for #OrEdChat.
    This chat keeps me up late each Sunday night as I chat with educators from Oregon and the northwest. 
  • Staff Book Study- To prepare for our November school visit by Donalyn Miller, we held a voluntary book study. It stretched our thinking and led us to join together as a community of readers. We offered another staff book study in December, and several teachers read The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. We'll be starting our 3rd book club in January.
  • School Visit with Donalyn Miller- Do you see the common thread through many of my 2016 highlights? The school visit with Donalyn Miller was an event that will have a positive impact on myself, our teachers, and our students for years to come. 
Each of these events have changed me. I've learned things that have impacted the learning in my classroom. Most importantly, it's made me aware of my own learning. It's inspired me to share with my students that I am a learner just like they are. We are all learning together. 

As I look ahead to 2017, I can't wait to see what's in store.  I will:
  • Blog- Blogging has helped me reflect on my learning and my students' learning. I'm going to be leading a blogging professional development session in just a couple weeks. I can't wait to see what other educators want to blog about.
  • Read- Our staff book clubs are on a roll. I am excited to hear what other teachers read during Winter Break, and our next book club title will be announced soon.
  • EdCamp- EdCampSTL is not far away, and we're planning the second #EdCampSCSD.
  • Grow- This is my twenty-fifth year of teaching. I still have a lot to learn. My students deserve it.
All of this would not have been possible without the support of my administrator and colleagues. My administrator supports my risk-taking, and she trusts me as an educator. I am blessed to be in a school that is willing to do what's best for kids. My colleagues are supportive and willing to try new ideas that will positively impact our students. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Crossover Book Club Part 2

The Crossover book club met for the last time this week. It was fun to hear teachers talk about how much they enjoyed reading the book, and how they might not have picked this on their own. Book Clubs are a great opportunity to branch out and try genres outside of their usual picks.

We also used a shared Google Doc to record our thoughts and wonders regarding the book.  I love how  The Crossover gave the teachers an avenue to think about the lives of our students.  Here are just a couple comments from our book club.

  • " I thought about how much of his identity was in basketball and wondered about myself and our students who might not “know” themselves outside of one skill, talent, hobby, etc they possess. I want to help my students really see and know themselves each day as many things - learners, friends, siblings, students, great at whatever their talents are, explorers, and so much more!"
  • "Towards the end of Part 1 we see a change in Josh due to his brother being occupied. This makes me wonder how many of our students are thinking this way when compared to siblings."
  • "As the story unfolds and reaches the end, there is such a sense of loneliness in Josh, feeling as though all that filled him is gone. I wonder if we all feel that way sometimes about losses in our lives, not only of people, but of dreams, abilities, goals, and more. I wonder how our students carry this day to day as well."
The book club will start reading our next book in January. I can't wait for more opportunities to grow as readers.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Crossover Book Club

Round 2 of the Lincoln Elementary Staff Book Club starts tomorrow. We will be discussing the first half of The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. I read the book already, and I am sure my colleagues will love it as much as I do.  We've had the books for about a week, and two people told me, "I just couldn't stop reading. I kept going and finished the book." I knew this would happen. The Crossover is that kind of book.

There are so many things I absolutely LOVE about our book clubs:

  • There is a sense of community around the shared experience of reading the same book. We get to experience the same characters together. We are able to experience the victories and heartbreaks our characters encounter.
  • Kids are watching. They are noticing. When kids see the books sitting on our desks they are curious. They want to know what the book is about. They think it's cool that I am reading the same book as their teacher.
  • Sharing in a book club helps keep me accountable for my reading. I want to be able to talk with my friends about the book, so I make sure my reading is completed.
  • Book clubs give us a chance to take a risk and experience books that might be different from our normal choices.
I want to say, "Thank You",  to our local public library and library foundation. They fund book club kits that are available to check out. This kit made our book club happen in a snap. 

Lastly, I appreciate the support and participation from our building principal.  Everyone loves a jeans day!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Donalyn Miller Visits Lincoln School

Today was the day. The day I have been dreaming about since July. Today was the day that Donalyn came to share with the teachers at Lincoln School.  We've been studying her books, reflecting on our practice, and making changes as a community of readers. Today was the day we were going to be able to hear directly from Donalyn and have the chance to ask follow-up questions.  
Donalyn answering questions from 4th graders
I got so much out of today's experiences, and here are some of the thoughts I want to continue reflecting on.
  • Reader's Purposes- Donalyn brought up the fact that we talk with students a lot about author's purpose, but we don't talk and teach enough about reader's purpose. My kids who are struggling during independent reading probably don't have a purpose for their reading.  I need to work with my kids through mini-lessons and discussions to determine the purposes readers have for reading. 
  • Classroom Libraries- I have a very extensive classroom library, but there is always room for improvement. Last spring I started getting rid of books that the kids haven't read in a long time. My next step is to start working on how the books are organized. I need to get kid input for this part. How can we organize our classroom library in order to make it easier for kids to access the books they need and want? I also need to look with a critical eye to see how diverse the books in my library are.
  • Read Alouds- "Let the students experience the books the way the authors intended."  Donalyn suggested that we read books the first time with kids all the way through, just the way the authors intended that they be read.  Then we can take the kids back through the book a second time in order to read for a different purpose. That's what we call close reading.
Donalyn leading the afternoon professional development.
                    There were so many other topics we talked about. (I'll save those for another blog.) 

On a personal note, I'd like to thank the amazing people I work with.  My principal, Julie, was supportive of this whole thing beginning with the moment I told her I had won the visit from Donalyn. She supports our desire to work together. I'd like to thank Colbi and Scott for their support and excitement. A big thank you goes out to the entire Lincoln faculty who willingly studied Donalyn Miller's books through our book studies when they have many other things going on in their professional and personal lives. 

I'd like to give a final thank you to Donalyn Miller. She was friendly, flexible, encouraging, and real with us today.  Donalyn, you an open invitation to stop by and visit with us any time you want. You're now part of the Lincoln Family. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Teachers Reading

     Yesterday was the last meeting of our Reading in the Wild book club. It's been so inspiring to be part of the conversations our teachers are having regarding students and reading. The work we've been doing has impacted more than just the teachers sitting around the table during lunch.

  • Parents- At the recent PTO meeting, parents talked about how they appreciate some of the instructional changes that have happened. They like the new logs teachers are using, and they see the community of readers that is growing.
  • Students- I keep hearing, "My teacher is reading that book, too." The kids notice what we are reading. They make connections between readers. I had a 4th grader ask if he could read my copy after I was finished.
     Donalyn Miller will be visiting my school tomorrow.  I'm so excited and a little bit nervous.  It's kind of like when you bring a new boyfriend home to meet your parents. Will she like our school? Will my fellow teachers be inspired by her work as much as I am?  Tomorrow is going to be a great day.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Growing as a Community of Learners

  Lincoln teachers are halfway through our book club discussions on Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild.  It's fun to see our teachers post on social media as they read their chapter each week in order to be ready for the Wednesday discussions.  So far we've had some thoughtful conversations  regarding:

  • Book Logs- Are the book logs we're currently using helping our students grown into kids who love to read?  Several grade levels changed their logs to make them more meaningful for kids This was not a discussion we were ready to have at the beginning of the year.
  • Reading Levels- There is a time and place for using book levels, and we're still trying to decide how to balance the use of levels.  We all agree that kids are NOT LEVELS. They are readers who are learning and growing as they experience different books. You can find a link to another post from about book levels here.
  • Sharing Book Recommendations- This past week we talked a lot about how we can share book titles with our students. We discussed having the teacher on morning assembly duty give a quick book commercial.  We also talked about different ways we can display our book titles with each other and with the kids. I'll post some pictures after we start implementing our ideas.
  • Classroom Libraries- We've also had some of our current practices validated. Reading in the Wild reminded us that we are fortunate to have an administrator that provides funds for classrooms to have well stocked classroom libraries. Every classroom in our school has bookshelf after bookshelf filled with books. 
  All in all, it's encouraging to see educators having honest and courageous conversations around the practices we are currently using.  Are they working for us and the kids?  What kind of changes are we needing to make?  We have two more weeks of book club left, and I can't wait.  We are definitely growing as a community of learners.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Preparing for Donalyn Miller (or It's Amazing What People Will Do for Jeans Day!)

     Donalyn Miller, educational leader and author, will be visiting my school in exactly one month.  A couple weeks ago the instructional coach and I were brainstorming ways we could encourage the teachers to read one of Donalyn's books before her visit.  We came up with a plan to ask the teachers to voluntarily have a book club discussion in the lounge during their lunch times each Wednesday for the next month.  What incentive could we offer the teachers that would entice them to put one more thing on their plates?  JEANS DAY!!!
     We went to our principal with the idea, and of course she was supportive.  I sent out an email letting people know about the plan and how they could sign-up.  It is encouraging to know that all 11 classroom teachers are participating along with the librarian, ELL teacher, speech and language teacher, art teacher, and instructional coach.  I get it that not everybody has the extra time to take on one more thing.  I also get it that some people might be participating just to get jeans days. However, our kids will really be the winners.  They're the winners because our teachers will be discussing, learning, and reflecting on classroom practices.  It's great to see teachers posting on social media about reading for our book club.  It's cool to hear teachers already discussing what they have been reading.
     I can't wait until lunch time tomorrow!  We'll be wearing our comfy jeans, and we'll be learning from Donalyn Miller and each other.

Friday, October 7, 2016


Last weekend I had the AMAZING opportunity to attend EdcampSummitKC.  It was a totally free event in Kansas City where I was able to meet and learn from Edcamp organizers from various states. On Saturday we participated in sessions about edcamp best practices and challenges.  I sat in the sessions with the organizers of some of the largest edcamps around.  There were times that I felt really inadequate.  My inner critic was whispering, "Why are you sitting at the table with these people who have been to 20 or more edcamps?  You went to one, and then you helped with the planning with the Edcamp in St. Charles.  You don't have any expertise to share"  I might not have a ton of expertise to share, but I have the experience of seeing educators share and learn from each other in edcamps.

Here are a couple of the ideas that were really exciting:

  • The Edcamp Foundation awarded 30 impact grants, and 2 of these $1,000 grants were awarded to teachers who attended EdcampSCSD. I felt like a proud mama.  One of the $1,000 grants was awarded to Shelly Trauterman, fellow teacher in my building.  I can't wait to see the kids when they start using their flexible seating options when we go back to school on Tuesday.  You can check out Shelly's blog at .
  • The Edcamp Foundation is going to fund opportunities that will allow Edcampers to get together after Edcamps in order to follow up and implement ideas they gained from Edcamp.  I'm excited to see how the Edcamp Labs will take the learning to the next level.
  • I had the priviledge of learning about hosting a Twitter chat.  I learned from Tim Vesco (@mrvesco), Barb Gilman (@BarbInNebraska), Monika King (@ksedleader), Debbie Fucoloro (@debbiefuco), and Patrick Donovan (@donovanscience).  They shared resources with me, gave me encouragement, and gave me some great tips for hosting a Twitter chat.  Once I got home I took a leap and asked a friend at #OrEdChat if she still needed a guest moderator for Sunday.  I worked all day getting ready for the chat on Sunday.
I am very thankful for this opportunity to grow as a learner and leader.  The weekend helped me refocus my thoughts on leadership. I can't wait to get started planning #EdcampSCSD.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Using Video to Communicate with Parents

     This week I tried something new.  I made a video of myself talking to parents about a way they can help their kindergarten students learn the letter sounds.  I used the webcam on my tablet, sat at my desk, and talked away.  I posted the video to YouTube, and then I emailed the link to parents.  Several parents have watched the video, and a couple have sent me positive feedback.  I liked making a video (even though it's painful to watch and listen to myself) because parents can see and hear directly from me. Is this the best video ever made? Absolutely not, but it's the first time I tried.  You can try it yourself.
Tips for making a video to share:
  • Be aware of your background. I had a paper hanging in the background with a bunch of phone numbers and birthdays that I covered up before making the video.
  • Move yourself or the camera make the most of your lighting.  If your audience can't see you it won't work as well.
  • Keep it brief.  
  • Don't be afraid of YouTube.  Check out Google for Education Training Center for tips on using YouTube.
  • Don't aim for perfection.  Your goal isn't to earn an Oscar.  Your goal is creating a video that will enhance your communication with parents, teachers, or students.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Stronger Student Discussions

     Last week I read a post by Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp called How to Have Better Student Discussions. Pernille talked about how she started off the school year teaching her seventh graders how to have stronger discussions. I know that my students need to become stronger readers, thinkers, speakers, listeners, and communicators. So I took almost all of Pernille Ripp's ideas and went to work. You can find Pernille's blog at
     Yesterday I led the students through a quick mini-lesson about the characteristics of a discussion found on the "Bounce Card". My kids understood what it means for everyone to participate, maintain eye contact, and talk enough, but not too much. They were stumped when it came to being aware of your body language. The kids thought body language is the vocabulary we use when referring to our body parts. (Note to self: NEVER assume the kids know the vocabulary I'm using.)  We practiced different types of body language and finished up our mini-lesson.
4th grade reading their texts and jotting down ideas.
     Today we quickly reviewed yesterday's mini-lesson, and then the kids each read the same story at their independent level.  The kids also had a couple index cards to record ideas they wanted to remember for discussion time.  Everyone was excited to start reading because they knew they would have the opportunity to share their thinking with peers.
    Then we got ready to share.  Everyone brought their discussion jots, "Bounce" card, and 2 talking tokens to the table.  I told the students that I would be making a video of the discussion for us to analyze later.  I asked, "Who will be brave and get the discussion started?" Brave souls threw out their talking chips and the discussion began.
     I was so proud of the discussions that followed.  The kids were so excited to talk with each other about the book. Everyone participated. Several friends "bounced" ideas off another classmate's comments.  The discussion wasn't perfect, but it was great for the first try.
Discussing the book.
     Tomorrow we're going to watch the videos of the discussions and have the kids evaluate the discussion based on the characteristics we talked about during the mini-lesson.  I think we'll watch the video once without the volume and have the kids evaluate their eye contact, body language, and engagement.  Then we'll turn the volume on and evaluate based on the depth of comprehension they are showing during the discussion. (I'll need to use a more kid friendly description of what we're looking for.)
     My GooglePhotos app made a really cool video clip of my 3rd graders having their discussion.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

You NEED to Read These Books

School is back in session. I've been meeting with readers, and it's exciting to see the books they are choosing to read.  I want to share the titles of some of the books I've read recently.

You should read Crossover by Kwame Alexander. You should read it because it was awarded the 2015 Newbery Medal. Mostly you should read it because of the amazing way Kwame Alexander is able to use words to share a story with feeling and power. I didn't think I'd ever cry while reading a book about a kid who plays basketball. Alexander's follow up book, Booked, is another you don't want to miss.

Kate Messner's The Seventh Wish is another book you should read.  The charming setting and characters draw in the reader while addressing the difficult problem of drug addiction. This book isn't preachy or scary, but it shows a world of addiction that touches the lives of many kids.

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart is a heartbreaking story about a boy who runs away from home and his remarkable journey. I gasped out loud three time while reading this book.  It’s one of those books that I wanted to keep reading, but I also didn’t want to read it because I was afraid of what would happen to the main character. (See the dog on the cover? That's a hint for some of the peril that lies ahead.)


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Donalyn Miller's Visit (Part 1)

July 12th was a very normal summer day.  I was at my parent's house when I saw that I had a Twitter notification. I opened the notification and was amazed to see that I had won a giveaway sponsored by Scholastic.
This was not just any normal giveaway. I had won a school visit by Donalyn Miller!!! Yes, you read that correctly. Author and speaker, Donalyn Miller, is going to visit my little world of Lincoln Elementary School.  I quickly contacted Scholastic with my information, and then I tried to explain to my parents why I was so excited. They really didn't understand that Donalyn Miller is the author of The Book Whisper and Reading in the Wild. They didn't understand that I heard her speak at two sessions last year at the National ILA Conference. They didn't understand that after reading Donalyn's book, Reading in the Wild, I changed how I work with reluctant readers. (I guess they don't remember my blog posts Thank you, Donalyn Miller , Trusting the ReaderBook Buzz LotteryTeachers Who ReadThat Darn Captain UnderpantsLet the Data Speak for Itself,)

Do you see that Donalyn Miller replied to my Tweet?!!!!

Fast forward to this past week. I received an email from Donalyn asking for some possible dates for her visit. She wanted to know how she can best support our school. We still don't have a date scheduled yet, but this thing is gong to happen!  Stay tuned...

Monday, May 16, 2016

Touching the Future

     I've written before about my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Marie Henrich, in "Thank You, Mrs. Henrich". I was lucky enough to run into Mrs. Henrich last week at a tutor appreciation breakfast, and I had a chance to talk with her for a few minutes. I told her that she's become an "internet sensation" since she's the topic my most read blog post.  While we were visiting, I told her my memories that I had written about in the blog. She didn't quite remember the events the same way that I did, but that's pretty understandable.  (Don't you just love my picture of Mrs. Henrich and my yearbook picture from 4th grade!)
     She said, "I don't think I could be a teacher today.  I wouldn't be able to keep my job. Kids were always going home with my lipstick kisses on them. Lots of times I walked kids home so they wouldn't get beaten when they got home." At first I felt really sad when she told me that.  Mrs. Henrich is such an important part of my past, and I couldn't imagine her not being there for me and all the other students she taught throughout the years.
    She might not be a teacher today, but she's still touching kids lives today.  There are at least three teachers and one administrator that came out of our group of twenty-six fourth graders. She continues to have an impact on the lives of students in St. Charles and across the state.
    She's "touching the future" every time I work with my readers.  She's reaching kids every day Tracie does something fun with her math students in Kansas. Mrs. Henrich is still teaching every time Dave inspires high school kids to learn more about history. Her kindness continues each time Renee helps kids at her daughter's elementary school. Her leadership is shared each day Tim works with teachers and students. (That's just the beginning of what I could find through my Facebook sleuthing)
     As I get ready to finish out this year of school I don't know if I am inspiring any of my readers to become teachers one day, but I have the privilege to reach into the future.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Happy Book Birthday, Barnacle

     Birthdays are so special. Today is the publishing birthday of one of our new favorite books, Barnacle is Bored by Jonathan Fenske.
     A few weeks ago I was gifted a copy of Barnacle is Bored. I had the opportunity to read it with my first graders yesterday. They thought it was very cool that Jonathan Fenske had signed the book and drawn a picture.  They were equally excited by the personalized postcard Jonathan sent us.
     Many of them had seen Barnacle is Bored in their classroom, but they were thrilled to read it again. Repeated readings are important to beginning readers, and my kids loved seeing Barnacle again.  They noticed words and illustrations that they had missed the first time.
     Happy Birthday, Barnacle.  We hope it is a fabulous day.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Book Buzz Lottery UPDATE

     On March 20, 2016, I wrote about my experience with holding a Book Buzz Lottery in the 2nd grade classrooms during Read Across America Week.  Yesterday one of the 2nd graders brought back Roscoe Riley Rules: Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs and said, "Everybody who wanted to read it did. We're finished."
     I thought, "Wow, they remembered to bring back the book. That's great."  Then the really important thoughts came. How many kids actually read the book?  How are they doing with the other two books I left in the classroom? So up to 2nd grade I marched.  I took pictures of what I discovered.
Roscoe Riley Readers
Secrets of Droon Readers
  NINE kids read Roscoe Riley Rules:  Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs. This is so exciting to me. We've been in school for 6 weeks since we held the book lottery, and this one book has been read by nine different kids. I call this a success.
The Kids of Einstein Elementary Readers
     Next, I asked the kids who had read The Secrets of Droon to come up and have their picture taken.  TEN kids have read the book, and one more is in the middle of reading it. She showed me that she has the second book in the series checked out from the library.  My plan is working.  I picked this book on purpose in order to draw readers into another series they might love.
     Check out the picture of The Kids of Einstein Elementary readers. TWELVE readers in all have enjoyed this book. This book is also part of a series.
     Here's what I notice:
  • I only see one face that is in all three pictures. That makes me think the three books appealed to many different kids. 
  • Seventeen different kids read at least one of the books. The lottery appealed to almost all of the kids. 
  • Everybody is smiling! The Book Buzz Lottery was not something they had to do. The Book Buzz Lottery was fun, and kids were able to read fun books.
  • The Book Buzz Lottery was easy and FREE! 
  • Buzzing about books in a series opens up a world of new books to experience.
Will I use the Book Buzz Lottery again? Of course I will!!!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Thank You, Mrs. Henrich

     This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and I'd like to tell you about one of the wonderful teachers who inspired me.
     I'd like you to meet Marie Henrich. Mrs. Henrich was my 4th grade teacher at Null Elementary School.  She is just as beautiful today as she was when I was in her class in the late 70's. After spending a year in Mrs. Henrich's class I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a 4th grade teacher just like Mrs. Henrich.
     I'm sure we learned a lot about math, reading, social studies, etc. that year, but mostly I remember learning how to work with others. Our class was located right across the hall from the library.  One afternoon Mrs. Henrich brought me, my best friend, and two boys out into the hall. She informed us that we were going to have the great opportunity to create a new bulletin board for the library each month. That sounded great to me. We'd be getting out of class to work in the hallway. Then she told us why we were chosen. We all had a tendency to be "bossy", and we needed to learn how to work together. She wasn't joking...we were really bossy. Our job was to plan together, compromise, use our time wisely, and get the work done without relying on her as our referee. So we worked each month and learned skills that are still important.
     Another thing I remember about Mrs. Henrich is the way she shared her life with us.  Mrs. Heinrich shared about her family heritage in Italy. We learned about Italy and made a 5 foot tall leaning tower of Pisa out of aluminum foil, paper towel rolls, and pizza rounds.  I also remember being crushed when I wasn't able to go to Mrs. Henrich's house for her homemade fried ice cream. (I think we were going out of town to visit my grandparents.)
     Mrs. Henrich also instilled the belief in ILAC (I'm Lovable and Capable). She believed that we all were lovable and capable. She spoke this truth into my life. She spoke it and showed it so often that I started believing it. It was more than a catchy phrase or motto. It was a belief that guided her teaching, our 4th grade experiences, and hopefully the rest of our lives.
     Thank you, Mrs. Henrich. Thank you for impacting my past, my present, and my future.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Barnacle Is Bored

    Look what came in the mail for me today!!! Jonathan Fenske sent me a copy of his new book, Barnacle Is Bored, and some other Barnacle goodies. Barnacle Is Bored launches in hardcover on May 10th. It's a super book, and it's lots of fun.
     I can't wait to share it with my kindergarten students. They will giggle at the funny story line and enjoy the illustrations. We'll also talk about speech bubbles. Barnacle uses speech bubbles, and so do my kindergarten students (every chance they get).
     I'll also share it with students in other grades where we can talk about using font changes to show word stress.  We can also find examples of alliteration. We will also notice how authors can use word choice wisely.
     Most of all we can talk about what it really means when you say you're bored.  This is a great book for parents, maybe 3 weeks into summer vacation, when kids start saying they're bored. Take a look at Jonathan Fenske's Barnacle Is Bored.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Let the Data Speak for Itself

Independent Reading Engagement Feb/March
     Almost 2 months ago I started this blogging journey, and many of my posts have told the story of 4th graders growing as readers.  I have written several posts talking about a boy I loving refer to as Captain Underpants Superfan. It's been interesting to really watch what he has been doing, support him where he is, and celebrate with him along the journey. At the end of February I found an independent reading observation tool in Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild.  I took observational data over a three day period.  To be honest, I was really bummed out by the data I collected.  I had a feeling that some kids weren't engaged, but the observation data gave me an honest snapshot of what was happening.
April 20th Engagement
     Today I had the joy to share my latest engagement observations with Captain Underpants Superfan. We looked at the results together, and I asked him why he has been able to remain engaged during independent reading time now. We were both so excited to see that he had 9 yes minutes circled.  I told him that I saw him at minute 7 when he wasn't reading, and he stopped reading because he was so engaged in his book he started slipping out of his chair.
     Here are a few of his thoughts about his own reading;
*I don't get distracted anymore.
*I pick out books from the library I actually want to read. I used to pick out books that I knew I wouldn't read.
*I pick out fake (fiction) books to read because I can think about the characters.
*I pretend that I am the character in the book. When I was reading Galaxy Zack I pretended to be Zack.
     I've learned that sometimes I need to take a step back and observe what my students are really doing. I don't need to be afraid or feel judged by the data. I let the data speak for itself. The data isn't judging me. It's showing me the present reality. Then it's my job to share the data with kids and work together on a plan.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

My Latest Book Finds

This week I made a trip to the local book store with my son in order to pick up the latest book by Kate DiCamillo. I kept seeing posts about Raymie Nightingale on Twitter and how fantastic it was. I just needed to get my hands on that book as soon as it came out. When I wasn't able to get it at the local library, I decided that we needed to get to the book store, pronto!

Raymie Nightingale was great, and I especially loved the quote from Louisiana Elefante. I share the same thoughts about the teachers and students at my school.  We're all here, and we're in it together.  Even though our time together is quickly drawing to a close, we can make the most of the 24 days we have left.

Of course I got the book, but I also got a taste of some new books to recommend to some of my 4th grade boys. My son kept finding follow up books to other books he's read before.  So in the end, I came home with one new book, and he had three.
The first book he chose was The Terrible Two Get Worse by Jory John and Mac Barnett. I haven't read the first book (yet), but my son told me that he thinks the 4th grade boys will love it.  So I'll do a quick read and then pick out the perfect person to share it with.

He also picked out Spaced Out by Stuart Gibbs. He really loves everything by Stuart Gibbs, and it reminded me of other books by Gibbs that I've read.  I need to find Belly Up in my library and buzz that to a couple reading friends.

All these new books have me excited about all the summer reading in store for me.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

"Ms. Mertz, you HAVE to read this!"

Readers workshop was drawing to a close, and I heard something that was just music to my ears. Jacob said, "Ms. Mertz, you HAVE to read this book!"  With a giant smile on his face, Jacob showed me a graphic novel by Raina Telegemeier called Kristy's Great Idea: The Baby-Sitters Club. Jacob went on to say, "Everybody's been reading these books.  They are so great. You need to read this. I'll give it to you when I'm finished."

You might be thinking, "So what's the big deal?  A kid recommended a book to you."  Well, here's the big deal. It's music to my ears to hear the buzz in a classroom when they are truly a community of readers. Communities of readers have a feeling of electric frenzy with kids sharing or buzzing about the books they are reading.  It's about kids seeing themselves as readers who have choice and a voice to share with others.  Nobody said, "Read this book because it's your level." Jacob told me to read the book because he and his classmates have found value in the process of sharing the experience of reading.

Could I have recommended the same book and been able to get Jacob to read it?  Maybe. Probably. Will I read the book due to Jacob's recommendation?  Of course I will.

Check out Raina Telgemeier's website to find out about Raina and her books.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Teachers are Readers (Spring Break Reading Challenge Results)

Before Spring Break I issued a challenge to our teachers and staff.  I encouraged them to choose a book that was new to them, read the book, and then think about kids they could share the book with.  I made a Google Doc and we all added our book titles and thoughts right in the shared document where everyone could see.

During break I kept checking on the doc to see if anybody had completed the challenge and what they had to share about the books.  Eventually, teachers started finishing their books and adding their comments.  Here are just a few of the comments:

  •  "Stella by Starlight- for our 3rd and 4th graders with background knowledge about the Civil Rights movement and segregation (AMAZINGLY SWEET book!)"
  • "The Hero Two Doors Down- Great book! Thanks for recommending the book to me Lauren.  I have already passed it on to XXXX.  This is a great book to recommend to students who like sports and it has a great message about accepting people who are different and how to respond when things don’t go your way."
  • "We the Children- This would be great for students interested in mysteries. (Third Grade has been lately, but this might be more upper level, especially as a V level) It is part of a series and left me hanging at the end of the first book!! Can’t wait to find book two now!"
  • "The Missing Pieces of Me & The Dark Ferret Society- I think XXXXX would love the first  book.I already did a book buzz with my granddaughter who is in 6th grade about both of these books.  She wants me to bring the first one to her on Saturday and then the other one when I am finished with it."
  • "Dexter the Tough- I think this book is good for kids who maybe have a tougher home life and don’t know how to deal with it.  Therefore, they lash out at school with problematic behavior.  Definitely for a more mature reader. :)
  • "Dark Ferret Society (This book was written by the wife of our 4th grade teacher. Lots of people were excited to read it.) Started buzzing to 3rd grade about it and we were making connections about the mystery books they have read. " " I just can’t wait for book two!!! Kudos Emily!" "Still reading but I LOVE IT!  Had to finish my book first, because book hopping is not my thing. :)" " am almost done with The Dark Ferret Society.  I love this book!!  Emily is a fantastic author.  I think this book should become a movie!"
  • "STAT Home Court- Basketball fans will really enjoy this book about standing up to bullies and working hard. XXXXXX and XXXX like this book because it is written by Amar's Stoudemire."
I am proud of our principal and teachers who took on the reading challenge.  I feel strongly that we are better able to recommend and buzz books to our students when we have read lots and lots of books in our classroom libraries.  We can't whisper books to kids until we've had a taste of books and authors ourselves.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

OASIS Tutoring- Helping KidsBloom

I am blessed with a job where I can watch kids bloom as readers and learners all year.  It is evident that I am not alone in this wonderful experience. Many of our kids have extra people who help them bloom.  One group of "gardeners" that have a special place in my heart are our OASIS tutoring volunteers.

Walking along the Retelling Mats
This week I was lucky enough to be asked to give a presentation to our district's OASIS tutors.  OASIS tutors are older adults who volunteer their time each week to meet with a student (or students) to build relationships and improve skills in reading, writing, and speaking. OASIS tutors are kind of like an extra grandmas or grandpas.

Passing around the Retelling Discussion Balls
I talked with the tutors about activities they could use during their tutoring sessions to provide movement breaks while still working on reading and speaking. We played with retelling beach balls, walked along retelling mats, and played character charades.  We all had a great time getting to know each other better and trying out new activities

I also shared some picture books that I recently discovered at the library.  The favorite book I shared was Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry. Stick and Stone are characters who need a friend, and luckily they find each other. It's a lovely book that shows up the true meaning of friendship. The tutors loved the book, and I can't wait to hear how they are using it with their students.  If you have not read this book, you MUST READ IT SOON!

 If you are interested in working with kids and being an OASIS tutor you can find more info at OASIS St. Charles.