Children's Books

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Burkins and Yaris, LIVE!!!

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris speak about next generation reading instruction. They are powerful duo. It was evident that they work well as a team, and they truly believe in pushing our thinking and teaching in order to do our best work.

My mind if so full of great ideas I want to share, but let's just start with three.
  1. A balanced reading process is as important as level.  Students should have balance between using print and meaning in their reading processes. Students who rely on either print or meaning at the expense of the other will not be able to sustain comprehension and growth. My goal as a teacher should be to realize when students do not have print and meaning balance and intervene at that point.
  2. Am I maximizing the gradual release of responsibility? Read Aloud, Shared Reading, Guided Reading, and Independent Reading allow a gradual release of responsibility from teacher instruction to students independently using the skills they have been taught. Guided reading should be the opportunity to see if students can use the skills that have been taught in read aloud and shared reading. "Guided reading should look as much like independent reading as possible."
  3. "The brain that does the work is the brain that does the learning" by David Sousa. When I can release responsibility and problem solving over to the students, they will be the ones learning.
What's my plan?
  • Video tape myself during small group today. (Yikes!) Am I leading students to the problem solving situations, or am I allowing them to problem solve through the difficulties that arise?
  • Continue to read Who's Doing the Work.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Who's Doing the Work? Thoughts from the Introduction

Who's Doing the Work? How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris takes a look at reading instruction and small changes educators can make in order to allow students to become readers who can initiate and implement strategies on their own. I have chosen to study this book this year as part of my Professional Growth Plan (PGP). My intention is to read and chew on the text by Burkins and Yaris this year.

As a Remedial Reading teacher, I am constantly working with children who are struggling with reading strategies to some degree. I work with kids each day that come across challenging parts of text, and I naturally want to fill in all the holes for the students in order for them to feel successful with the text. But am I truly helping them become independent problem solvers? What small moves can I make to help my students become proficient readers?

Here are just a few of the statements that had me thinking his week:

  • "When people spend time in situations where they have little or no power, they become unable to recognize when they actually do have power." (p. 2) I want my students to know they do have the power to access texts.
  • "..we have unwittingly assumed too much of the important work- telling students what to think, when they are having difficulties, how to resolve a problem, and even when to turn the page. Not only that, but in telling them when to do something, we tell them not to act until we prompt them." (p. 3) My readers have learned to look to me or other teachers when they are having difficulties. They have learned that we will tell them how to solve the problem and what they should do. How do I go about retraining myself to allow students to do the work? This might be as uncomfortable for me as it will be for my readers.
  • "Next generation reading instruction requires us to scrutinize our lessons through a lens of student independence/dependence and involves identifying places where we are assuming student work that student could do if we let them." (p. 5)  This week I have been asking students different questions when they need my assistance. I've been asking, "What do you think you can do?" I want my students to assume the work that they are capable of doing. 
On page 6, Burkins and Yaris present four questions to guide us towards next generation reading instruction.
  1. Can students identify the areas of the work that need their attention?
  2. Can students decide the type of strategy they need to use or work they need to do to understand a text?
  3. Can students self-monitor their understanding and identify the areas of text that they do not understand?
  4. Can students share their thinking about the strategies that work for them?



Sunday, August 6, 2017

SHINE- Goals for 2017-2018

Tomorrow is the beginning of my twenty-sixth year of teaching. (How is this possible?!?)  As I look  ahead to another school year, I want to make this one the best year yet. "Shine" has been my word this year, but I wanted to put some actions behind it to have a way to spur me on. So in true Pirate fashion, thank you Dave Burgess, I am writing my goals as an acrostic.

S- Smile- I need to smile more. Sometimes I am smiling on the inside, but the news hasn't always made it to my face. Life is too short to be unhappy, and I'm going to smile.

H- Help- We all need each other. Helping students, staff, teachers, parents, and others in our school community is the way to show that I am here to give support.

I-Intentions- This year I am going to assume that people have the best intentions. At times I can be very critical about the intentions and motives people have. This puts me in a negative head space, and it isn't helpful.

N-Nurture- I am excited to find out which students will be in my classes this year.  I know I'm not their parent, but I have the honor to nurture and support them while they are in my room. We all need to know that we have someone in our corner. It's going to be me this year.

E-Encourage- Everyone thrives when they feel supported and encouraged. I want to have my eyes and heart open and looking for ways to encourage others.

It's really about having an "others" focus. When I have decisions to make this year, I want to run them through the "Shine" test.  Here's to a shine-y 2017-2018 school year.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

"Solo" Launch Team- Post 1

A few days ago I found out I was chosen to be on the launch team for Kwame Alexander & Mary Rand Hess's new book, Solo. The email gave us access to the first 18 pages, and I couldn't wait to get started.

I have enjoyed Kwame Alexander's previous books, The Crossover and Booked, so much. Kwame's word choices paint such clear pictures for me.

The first eighteen pages of Solo did not disappoint. I met Blade, the teenage son of a famous musician with a wild past and an uncertain future. I can't wait to meet more characters along the journey. 

My ARC book was delivered by the UPS man today! I'm going to try and blog about my reactions to the book without giving away any spoilers.

Happy Reading!

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.”
  • “...it 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 https://goo.gl/LEZhHh .

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. 


1992
2017
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.
Rewards
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.
Rewards
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.
Technology
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.
Technology
Tablet, laptops, Chromebooks, classroom Twitter account, interactive whiteboard, and desktop computers.
Collaboration
None. I was not on the same floor as my other teammates. I felt very alone.
Collaboration
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.
Curriculum
Get through the book.
Curriculum
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 http://www.kidsdeserveit.com/canva
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 http://www.kidsdeserveit.com/canva 
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

#WhyIEdCamp


"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 http://www.edcamp.org/ 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.
#EdCampSTL
#WhyIEdCamp

Monday, January 23, 2017

Strengthen Staff Relationships with Book Clubs

Working in education can be a difficult job. Wouldn’t it be great to have opportunities to share with other staff members in ways that are positive and build community? Hosting a staff book club is one way to build community and strengthen relationships.

This year our teachers started participating in voluntary book clubs. We were fortunate to have a visit from Donalyn Miller scheduled, and we wanted to be ready for her visit. We started with Reading in the Wild. Teachers read chapters during the week, and they eagerly discussed their thoughts in the teacher’s lounge during lunch. This experience of sharing thoughts, analyzing our instructional practices, and working together to improve instruction allowed us to grow as a team.

Book club members enjoyed the club discussions. They wanted to keep the book clubs going.  We couldn’t find enough copies of other professional books, so we moved our book clubs to children’s books. By choosing titles from different genres we are able to expose teachers to new literature.  Students have noticed that different teachers are reading the same book. They see our example of developing and sharing our reading lives with others.
Starting a staff book club is not difficult. Below you will find 10 basic steps for establishing a book club.

1.       Support staff choice- In order for book clubs to have a positive impact on staff relationships and school climate, staff choice must be supported. Allowing staff members to choose their levels of participation in book clubs is vital. Be supportive of the staff members who choose to participate in book clubs, and support staff who choose not to participate. Book clubs aren’t for everyone. It’s OK.
2.       Gain support from administration- Talk with your administrator or supervisor about starting the book club. Having the support of the administrator gives the book club legitimacy. We made it very clear to staff members that participation in book clubs is voluntary.  It didn’t hurt that my administrator agreed to allow book club participants a free jeans day on book club meeting days.
3.       Choose a book- The book doesn’t have to appeal to everyone, but pick one that will appeal to many of the club members.  Choose a title and go for it.
4.       Find copies- Gain access to as many copies of the book as possible. Make it as easy as possible for book club members to locate and borrow the title. My local library has book discussion kits available to check out.  I check out the discussion kit, and staff members borrow the books from me. This allows all staff members who are interested to participate in the book club. Contact your local public library to see if they have book club kits available.
5.       Make a schedule- Choose the time and dates for your book club.  Think outside the box, and schedule times that will be available for book club members.  Here are a few questions to consider.
·         Will book clubs meet before school, after school, during lunch, during plan times, or will your club meet online? 
·         Will the club talk about the book during one session or over several meetings?
·         What is a reasonable reading schedule for busy educators?
6.       Advertise the book club- This can be done through flyers, email, or video.
7.       Read- Enjoy reading the book along with the other club members.
8.       Discuss- Participate in the book club discussions. Facilitate the book club meeting without dominating the discussion.  Here are a few websites for facilitating book club discussions.


9.       Share- Provide the book club members a place they can record thoughts or comments about the book. This can be as easy as a place to put sticky notes or more technical like a shared digital document  such as Google Docs or Padlet.
10.   Celebrate- Celebrate the experience of book clubs. Celebrate the community that is being created. Celebrate the growth.


You can read more about our journey by visiting http://lincolnreaders.blogspot.com/2017/01/staff-book-club-3-rain-reign.html .

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Staff Book Club #3 "Rain Reign"

The Lincoln Staff Book Club is currently reading Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin.
We have over 15 staff members reading this book about Rose Howard,a 12 year-old girl with Asperberger's Syndrome, and how she navigates her world.  I hadn't read this book until now, so I am experiencing Rose's take on her world for the first time. My heart aches for Rose when she doesn't understand the difficulties she is having at home and school. I am looking forward to the discussions we'll have as a staff on Tuesday when we talk about the first half of the book. I am loving our Staff Book Club.

  • Yesterday I was sent this text, "I finished the book club book 😭😭😭".
  • We were iced in yesterday and a teacher posted, "luckily I remembered my book club book!"
  • One of our first grade teachers recommended the book and wrote about it on her blog http://loveoffirstgrade.blogspot.com/2017/01/new-year-new-goals-nonfiction-book.html?spref=fb
  • This was posted on my Facebook page,"I've been reading Rain Reign, but just realized I'll be out on Tuesday at Stem training when you meet 😫!


Book clubs are a great way to build community. How could you promote a book club at your school? How could you introduce staff members to books? How do you share your reading life in your school community?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

#OneWord2017

#OneWord2017

Shine verb
  • give out a bright light:
  • be very talented or perform very well:

I don’t do resolutions. I made plenty of them each January, and I never kept them. This year I decided to join many others and pick one word to help guide my intentionality and decision making this year. I’ve chosen the word shine.

Several years ago I was going through a really difficult time in my life with lots of  challenging decisions to make. I was feeling very insecure and unsure about myself. My sister gave me a ring with an inscription that says, “Shine. The world needs more of your beautiful light.” Just wearing the ring and remembering to shine gave me the inspiration I needed to face those decisions.

So this year I’m coming back to shine. My intent is to shine and encourage others to shine. I want to give out a bright light. I have the Light in my life, and I want it to have an impact on others. I work with some amazing colleagues, and I want to encourage them to shine. The students in my life have strengths and voices that need to shine. My desire is to encourage others in a way that will help them feel safe enough to shine and share with others.

Here are the questions I am pondering:
  • What makes people feel safe enough to take risks? How can I facilitate this risk taking?
  • How do I highlight and encourage the work of others?

I would love to hear your comments about these questions. Also, what is your #OneWord2017?