Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Things I Love About Workshop - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

You know I have been reading about Reader's Workshop, I have read about Writer's Workshop, now I am implementing both at the same time! I am loving it.
This week I noticed that my kids were becoming frustrated with sharing their books bins. I hadn't planned on giving them their own personal book bins for about a month. You know after I thought procedures were established. However, I had several pouty faces when I said it was time to put our books back. I asked if they wanted to put their books at their desks. In my mind I thought, "they need books bins." So this morning we shopped for books. We have developed a class rating system for 1=Easy, 2=Medium, and 3=Challenging. I know that it probably isn't Kathy Collins or Debbie Miller worthy but it works for us. I helped some indecisive students choose and then we sat down and read. I noticed that reading partners were kind of sticking together and made a reflective question: "Do I want this? Do they need to always read independently?"
Here is what I noticed, those kiddos that need extra reading support, they enjoy reading with a partner. They are partnered with someone who reads on the same level. They compliment one another! Other students chose to read at their desk or in a cozy nook. I noticed that today they did the BEST job of reading, I mean really reading. I didn't have to tell anyone to "get to work!" It was very, very, very cool to watch.
I think right now, I am going to allow them to read with their partner. However, when they acquire more reading strategies, I will ask them to read independently.
Why am I telling you all this? Do you see how the workshop works? Do you see how I can modify what we do because this is what the kids need? That is workshop. I am not teaching any more information about how to treat books, or how to find your materials. They don't need that anymore, we are ready to move on to other things. I know this because of the workshop, conferencing, and sharing. This is what I love about the workshop. It is individualized instruction at its finest!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Transformation Station

Well, I am a changed woman! I don't know what I was thinking for the past couple of years? I have discovered GOLD, I tell you! Two of the most important things in my life have made themselves known:
1. The Power of Conferencing: I have had conferences. I have sat myself down next to a first grader and I have had a conversation. I get up, I walk to the next first grader and I think, "what the heck is the point in this?" I didn't like conferencing, I didn't want to do it and so a lot of times I just let them write. I don't know if it is all the reading I have done this summer, if it is listening to Carl Anderson, reading his book, or I finally have a hold on this workshop thing? I don't know what it is? I love it! I love sitting with a student, holding a conversation and making notes about what this person needs. I feel like even one week and a half into it I know these kiddos as writers. I love saying, "How's it going? What are you doing as a writer today?" Conferencing is an amazing tool.

2. Sharing: I hated sharing! Even over the summer I hated sharing. I thought it always had to be some orchestrated event that took a lifetime. It was painful. It was all about making sure people were listening, people were sitting still, people were blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Yuck!
I decided to make sharing not so formal. We gather in the living room, that is what my children are calling the community area currently, and someone shares something. It is not this big thought out ordeal. We praise, do a round of applause, and move on! During Reader's Workshop I simply ask, "Does anyone have anything they want to add about their reading today?" I am amazed that someone even has anything to say! I take notes about the books they are reading, the things they are learning. I hope it will help me pick leveled books for them. We'll see how that goes! It has been wonderful to hear what they have to say. I love sharing. Thank goodness I have discovered this tool.

So, my classroom has been transformation station. I have learned so much so quick. Thank goodness I have prior knowledge to help know that these are best practices. It makes it easier for implementation. Perhaps that is why some teachers who are knew or old struggle to implement writer's or reader's workshop. They don't have the prior knowledge base to make it happen. Huh?

Monday, August 27, 2007

She's Back!

My grandmother has 7 children. Her youngest daughter, my aunt, is my favorite. Growing up I spent countless Friday nights having sleepovers at her house. If I had an event, she was there. She took me on vacation as a kid. She was my fan club. You know how you have an adult in your life that you look up to? She is that girl for me. When anything goes on in my life, I go to her. I can hear her still small voice in my head cheering me on. We tease one another about being working moms and all the craziness that comes with that load. I have vowed to care for her in her old age. (I can't wait!) She loves coffee and dogs. In my mind when I think of having a sister, I think of her.
Today, at the age of 50, she quit everything and decided to go back to school. Today was her first day at the University of Saint Francis. The last time I spoke with her I teased her about her husband taking her picture with her bookbag on the front porch. We laughed about her heavy books. Mostly I could see the elation in her eyes. She has decided to do something for her. After raising two beautiful children and maintaining a home she has decided to be who she has dreamed of being. I find my role in life changing with her. I used to be cheered by her and now I find myself being her cheerleader. I am so proud of who she is becoming, who she is, and where she has come from. Her stars are aligning.
I know that she is scared and anxious. I know that she is excited and driven. I hope she will feel that still quiet voice that I have always heard, cheering her on!
Congratulations and best wishes, here she comes world... - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rereading the old but true

So yesterday I got my Debbie Miller Reading with Meaning book back from someone who borrowed it and I thought, "I should read this again." I read it in June but I love this book! I really want to read it while in the moment of teaching and feel its magnitude in the moment. Anyhoo, here is a piece of text that really struck me last night while reading:

"There are many effective ways to teach children and live our lives. No one has a patent on the truth. Find yours. Read. Reflect. Think about what you already know about good teaching and how it fits with the new learning. Read some more. Think about the implications for your classroom. Collaborate with colleagues. Try new things and spend time defining your beliefs and aligning your practices. Once you've found what's true for you, stand up for what you know is right. Live it every day and be confident and clear about why you believe as you do. People will listen!"
I see what I have done this summer in this quote.
Reading: I have read so much about things that I want to be better at, reader's and writer's workshop.
Thinking: I have done a lot of thinking about my classroom and the upcoming school year.
Collaborate: I have several friends that I have collaborated this summer with, Kirsten, Kathy, Jen, Ruth, Cathy from becoming..., Karen, and Sondra. We have discussed and pondered our learning. It has been collaboration at its finest!
Living it: I am doing this right now. My colleagues and I are putting our talk into action. I see my fellow colleagues and their confidence. I feel my own confidence. I see the positive results in my 25 treasures.
This is what I believe in, and I can prove why I believe!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

It's Only Wednesday.

You thought I would be complaining about how the first week is always the worst and how I think that the week just drags. Wrong! I am not going to write about that! I was just thinking, it is only Wednesday and I am amazed at how the children are doing!
First, let's start with lunch. We have moved to 10 minute intervals for lunch. Every 10 minutes a new group of students moves into the lunchroom and an old group moves out. Sounds crazy doesn't it, guess what, it is! We have Kindergarteners that are very unhappy about lunch (we have full day Kindergarten, four sections). However, it is only Wednesday. We have to keep doing what we do positively and they will eventually fall into that procedure. It is only Wednesday, we can't expect the children to just "know" what to do. They are children, they have yet to experience the 10 minute lunch interval. I am 33 and experiencing it for the first time! It is only Wednesday folks.
Second, I have had three days of school and two days of writer's and reader's Workshop. I have learned so much already. I am so amazed what the conferencing is revealing to me with the reading. I am also saddened about not being able to share today. Yes, that's right, the person who hates the sharing part of writer's workshop just said she's sad because it didn't happen today. We just couldn't fit it into our schedule. I am sad about that! (Shocked I tell ya, just shocked!) I also am following a scope and sequence, however, today at the end of reader's workshop I noticed that kids were not sticking to one book from the basket. I quickly jotted a note for tomorrow's mini lesson. That is what we will talk about tomorrow. And... it's only Wednesday!
I walk around looking at people who look completely frazzled by the fact that today is only Wednesday. But, my other workshop havin' teacher friends, we have smiles on our faces. We look at ease! Could it be we're letting the kids do all the work and we are refreshed by that? And... it's only Wednesday!

Monday, August 20, 2007

The First Day

Well, today was today, the first day. I awoke several times last night, lightly sleeping through the night, my body full of nerves. I kissed my husband goodbye and headed for the school. Today it rained, not just a low drizzle, but buckets and buckets of water. Yeah, first day of school, no recess, 25 first graders, looonnnggg day!
It went really well, actually, we discussed procedures, we read our promise, we read Oliver Button Is a Sissy. I introduced myself with the Berenstain Bears Go On Vacation. I showed them my shark tooth. We introduced one another and played number line squeeze. We are building a community. This is where I belong.
The first day is always the hardest, I always end up tired and pulled in a million different directions. Today feels different, I didn't get pulled in different directions, I took the time today and built my community. It was a different experience, and I think the kids and I felt comfortable.
I am ready to go back tomorrow, I am excited to go! It is all coming together and I am just watching it build.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Trip Down Memory Lane...

I was in a neighborhood recently that I persuaded my mom to travel to, a neighborhood from our past. We traveled by my great-grandmother's house. My great-grandmother detested children, I was not high on her list. We traveled there frequently to cut her lawn, pick-up rhubarb, pick grapes, and fix things that had broken. I was always taken because there was no one else to watch me. I didn't really enjoy going her home. She had a little Pomeranian named, "Charo." This dog also detested children, she bit me frequently, even when I didn't pay attention to her. My great-grandmother would busy my mother, when I knew they were busy, I took my exit and went to the backyard. My great-grandmother was a green thumb. She grew a small vegetable garden, rhubarb, but the best of all, the grapes.
There was a trellis that you walked through, it was central to the backyard. On it she grew the most delicious grapes. As you passed through the trellis you could see the sunlight squeeze through the vines in long streams. There was a constant buzz of bees working quickly to gather and pollinate these juicy plantings. Hidden in the back corner of the yard was a swing. Hidden under a weeping willow, the breeze would part the curtain-like branches and beckon you to sit and watch this small corner of the world.

So I would sit and glide in the breeze and hear the buzz of the birds, the shrill of a blue jay, and the small bubble sounds of the koi pond. It was a magical place filled with sounds, smells, and sights.

Going back to this place we drove to the back alley and peered up at a yard that was not completely changed. We saw things that were different. The central theme however, was still that vine of grapes. How long have they grown there? Even after all these years they are still blooming, you can still year the work of the bees.

As we were leaving, our eyes drawing away from our memories, I saw a red cardinal take flight off of that trellis. I imagined my great-grandmother's spirit flitting to the sky.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Why so sad?

It's over, it's official, at our house summer is officially over. Today I put an anxious first grader on the bus across the street. She smiled and lit to the steps of the awaiting bus. As they drove off I saw two little fingers above the heads of a full bus waving back at me. I ducked into the house as silent tears slid down my cheeks. I can't believe I have a first grader. Why does this year touch me so? Last year I had no problems, in fact, I was excited, and joyful. Why this year?

Summer is over. That is mournful in and of itself. I am excited to start a new year and see all that she has to learn. But summer is over. No more summertime mommy, now it is time for teacher mommy. Perhaps I will write a poem for my change of hats, or I'll just go spend the day with my youngest daughter while she awaits preschool.

We will wait, on guard for the return of the big yellow bus. Our hearts and minds full of questions. How was your day? Did you like your teacher? Were there any friends from last year? How was the bus ride? What did you think of having lunch at school? She will smile and indulge regarding her day so filled with the excitement of all things new. - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ready, Set, Go! - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more
So, I am ready. As ready as I will be. I have visited and revisited my classroom throughout the summer and gotten my room "ready." I have chosen my touchstone text, I have copied August's homework packet, and I have organized my books.

Room 127 is your typical rectangular space. It is extra warm because this is where the pipes are housed. (daily average, 75-78 degrees) It has no carpeting, it is an institutional eggshell, and the cabinets are peeling laminate. I have tried to make this space a community. I have purchased 5 lamps, a couple vases of fake flowers, and some decorative place mats. I have had bookshelves built so that they border my community area so that when we meet together it feels cozy. I am ready for student to arrive.

This year feels different. I feel like I have owned my space, like I have made it my own, and I am excited to share it with little people. I had to just be in my space for a while. I had to sit and think about its potential. Mulling it over in my mind before bed, while waiting at the park, and driving in the car I have strategically placed each item. I am ready for the go.

I just hope that my students feel as comfortable as I do in this space.

Why do you think the environment is so important? That is a good question. I think it has to do with building the community, but it goes beyond that. They say (I'm not sure who or the validity of the statement) learning coincides with emotion. I hope that my room 127 creates an emotional tie that induces learning.

What steps have you made to create your learning space? How is environment helping your community?

Sunday, August 12, 2007


I remember sitting on an examining table while the lab technician waved a magical wand over my ever expanding belly. My husband and I transfixed on the tiny screen as our peanut with arms moved as if being bounced on a trampoline. We watched as she discovered different angles, measured, and confirmed the sex of our next arrival. "It looks as if it's a... a... a... girl!" We swelled, we puffed, we became teary eyed. Another girl! A sister!

I couldn't wait to get home to tell an almost two year old that she was going to be a big sister. She would have a friend for life. I commented on the great responsibility of being the big sister. She said, "Okay mommy, read this!"

I purchased a book about being a big sister, I bought a t-shirt saying, "I'm the big sister!" She was not old enough to understand. She could not know the thrill I was feeling. Being an only child I had felt for years a void, I had missed out on the treasure of a sibling. How could I make her understand?
I remember sitting in a hospital room with a now two year old little girl. We are sitting on a hospital bed holding a sleepy newborn. We are holding the sister. I look at my daughter, she is admiring the small hands, small feet, "wittle" mouth. And then she says, "Mama, 'dis our baby?" The weight of her comprehension sends my already crazy hormones over the edge, tears streaming I nod, confirming her question.
Later, at the library during story time a colicky sister wails through the production, my daughter brings me a book, with a baby on the cover. We are consumed with babies, at our home, out and about, and in books. Forgetting the title I will summarize the book for you. The oldest sister has a baby, it cries a lot, she asks, "What shall we do with the boo-hoo baby?" This becomes our phrase, our mantra. We still call her, "Boo."
Now, they are inseparable, they fight, argue, and become territorial. They ask to hug at the end of a long summer day, they offer to share what the other doesn't have, and they are kindred.

When they argue or speak kindly of one another I always say the same, "Your friends will come and go. But you will always have your sister."

Home is where the heart is...

This post is two-fold:

1. I was inspired by Ruth to find art in my everyday living. I looked around my house and found various collections. Mostly, I looked in just one room. I have lots of collections, things that I love. I am posting pictures here so that I can share them with you. This is one of the places that I find art, at home.

2. I was also inspired by the Two Writing Teachers to write about my home. I have posted pictures of my favorite part of my home. The living room. This is not where everyone hangs out. Usually it is where one person hangs out and has quiet time. I play the piano here, I read volumes of material here, and this is the place where no one dictates what's in this room. I decided what furniture, decor, and "treasures" will be in this room. It is "my space." This is where I can place my most favorite things. I only have one more task to finish this room, color.
More than anything, this is the place that I feel comfortable and at home. My home is a wonderful place, a nest, a solace, this is where I hide.

Here is where my home is:

A picture of my Merlot coffee table, my comfortable reading couch, and a splash of quilt color, and a very cheap metal accent.
My husband hates this chair. The polka dot chair is my fave! It is so out of the ordinary from the rest of the furniture in my house. It is what I would smother the house in if it was just me and my artsy self. Again, this is my room!
This quilt adds a splash of color to the back of a grey couch. I need color. It goes with my optimistic personality I guess. Color!

These are two of my favorite things. They are pieces of the beach, in Indiana. The first is a glass plate full of shells, sand dollars, and broken bits of coral. The second is an urn that holds one sprig of beach grass that my youngest daughter picked(she wasn't supposed to I know but she was just 3 at the time. She didn't know, and we cherish it)while at the beach. These are a few of my favorite things.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Studying authors, an art form?

There is a lot of talk lately about how art affects our daily lives. Ruth posted about how she wants to find that in her everyday life. After my previous post about not writing, but reading, I got to thinking about my "binging" (oh, I love this word Ruth, thank you!) on stuff that I am reading. My daughters and I have taken a trip to the library every week this summer. Each time we pick an author: Patricia Polacco, Cynthia Rylant, Mercer Mayer, Berenstain Bears, this week was Lauren Child. Each time we check out these stacks of books we rush home to read them. Like drug addicts we are book addicts. My daughters have loved this, I have loved this. We have made studying an author, an art form. We have discussed at length the styles of these wonderful authors. I have watched them read for enjoyment, while they have listened to me talk about the craft that these authors have created. Next week, we are going to be checking out books by Mem Fox. I am so excited, Mem Fox is one of my favorites, I know they will love her too. This led me to this quote that is posted on my blog:

If we fail to nourish our souls, they wither, and without soul life ceases to have meaning...The creative process shrivels in the absence of continual dialogue with the soul. And creativity is what makes life worth living.
-Marion Woodman

While this activity with my daughters hasn't been our creativity it has been immersing ourselves in the creativity of others. I have been learning that picture book authors have very similar characteristics. While not always consistent they reoccur and are very successful.
1. Repetition. Children love repetition. My daughters will for days say a line that has been repeated in a text. Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum.
2. People getting in trouble. They love when the character has done something that gets them in trouble. I think they are glad that it is not them.
3. Animals. My girls love when the characters have a problem with an animal. The Little Old Woman Who Named Things, The Great Gracie Chase, and the puppy that chews the newspaper in Mercer Mayer.
4. Weird text. Lauren Child is just the expert on this. Even my little 4 year old announced during the book, Snow is my Favorite and My Best, "This page is upside down!" They love it! Very savvy as a writer!
5. Grandparents. This one is also for my friend, Jen. We have very proactive grandparents in our home. We have an 82 year old great grandmother that we see weekly. We know the value of grandparents. Authors capture this relationship, my girls love this.

Do you see the art that we see? I am learning techniques, I am learning how to teach this to my students. I am learning this for myself as a writer. I have made studying picture books an art form. I have nourished my soul. And yes, I have started writing again. After my Wednesday post I had coffee with friends. They gave me more dialogue to enter into my notebook.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Writing or No Writing

Yesterday I wrote a grocery list. I wrote a check. I wrote comments at others' blogs. I have not been writing. I have a list in my head of things to do, things to organize, things to "get ready." I have not been writing. This is disappointing to me that I have not taken the time to write. The Literacy Teacher mentioned that one of her focal students had not been writing either, but she has been reading. I have been reading but not writing this week.
Do you think that sometimes we need to be reading to inspire our writing?
Sometimes as I am reading I think, boy, I'd like to write something like this. Perhaps I am just reading so that I can gain more skills as a writer. I need to take some time by myself, not in the house, to do some writing.
This leads me to think of my upcoming focal group of students that I will be meeting with twice a month.
Will I be able to support them?
Do I have enough prior writings to mentor them with?
Maybe this stagnant writing time that I am in is a good example that sometimes writers need to read in order to be a better writer. I have read a few books recently that I didn't really enjoy, I actually thought about the writer's ability to tell the story. I decided that I didn't really think this was my writing style. I collected that information as a writer for future writing. I filed it under: what type of writing I don't want write. I also read, "The Poisonwood Bible," (if you have not read this book I would recommend it) this author tells this incredible story through each character. It was a great lesson on how writers build their characters. Each chapter was told by the characters and they started as children and then ended as adults. You could see language changes as they grew older. It was like reading the lives of real people. The characters really came alive.
Perhaps reading others' writing is what I needed to do as a writer, because now I am ready to write. - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Observation Station

So part of my classroom is going to be devoted to the "Observation Station." I have been collecting things all summer. Pine cones, sticks, shells, Locust shells, and different natualistic treasures. I didn't have many shells to put at my observation station because I always want to keep the best for a dish I have at home. This dish sits on my coffee table in the "pretty" room as my youngest calls it. It is the room that we use the least often. It is quiet and has a squishy couch perfect for reading and being quiet. The tray has wonderful shells but I am not ready to sacrifice them to 25 little paws that are making observations.

Yesterday my luck struck and my wonderful "Newt Ny" (Auny Ny) gave us 3 buckets, yes, I said three buckets... of sea shells. My husband has a salt water aquarium that will be housing quit a few of these shells but, the rest are mine. All mine. Can you just see my observation station? Here are a few shots I took of the precious homes of sea creatures.


Sunday, August 5, 2007

Amick's Blog Thoughts

I found this post at Unabridged Opinions. The writer writes a meme each Thursday that contains Thirteen of something. This Thursday (way back in December) Thirteen has a list of reasons why it is good for teachers to blog. My favorites are:

"2. Teaching can be a lonely profession; it's nice to have another place to find a group of adults that understand what your workday is like!

6. Somewhere, someone knows the answer to all of your questions--or at least a good place to start looking.

9. Reminders that students will be students--no matter where in the world they are located."

#2- blogging teachers don't seem to be the kinds of teachers that are not dedicated. They seem to be blogging to gain information, be reflective about their teaching, and even practice their writing skills. They are not here purely for griping, this teacher community is too positive for that to happen.

#6. I have said to a first grader, "I don't know, let's look that up and find the answer." We cannot know everything, it isn't possible. We can however, coexist in a community that spans many age groups, ethnic identities, and various life experiences. We tap into those different people when we blog. That is so cool!!!!

#9. I have traveled to three different countries in my lifetime. (Mexico, Canada, and England) I find it so amazing that blogging makes the world seem smaller. Even bloggers from different parts of the U.S. seem to have the same troubles regarding public education. We all want to see our students achieve, that's why we are teachers. We experience heartbreak when they don't. That is worldwide. Isn't nice to know that you can tap into that community to ask, "what can I do to be a better teacher for my students' sakes?"

That's right folks we could all meet in the same room face to face and discuss this stuff! There is a link that signs you up and everything. It may be a great way for Jen and I to take a road trip. We have had several during our friendship and they are always so eventful. Imagine a mini-van loaded down with Twizzlers, Coffee (don't feed Jen caffeine and then go on a long car ride), Vera Bradley bags stuffed with books, and two "natural" redheads shouting, "Go loser Cruiser go!" It sounds like a ton of fun. Perhaps we can invite our other two cohorts, Kathy and Kirsten?

Rain on Sunday...

by Sarah Amick
Three heads sit gazing,
at rain so amazing,
out the window at the rain,
quenching grass the hue of grain.
The ground opens up,
thunder invades so abrupt
Each blade gathers enough;
clouds like an enormous purple puff.
We rejoice, at the window the thunder has led,
Excited, and hopeful our world of green won't turn dead;
We sit reflecting, silent and still
The rain, the moisture like an uplifting pill;
Flashing, clapping, hear the loud pop,
wondering, waiting, please don't stop.

This poem has been published before but again, summer rain is so uplifting. It cools eveything off and weighs all the plant life down. Tomorrow the flowers will look spectacular. Today they look heavy and full, like my relatives after a Thanksgiving meal!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Marriage Meme

Unfortunately I didn't mark where I found this meme but thought it would be a great distraction from all things school, picture books, Reader's workshop, and school "stuff." As you remember, in my personal policies, "I am crazy about my husband." The rules are simple, just list 8-10 factoids about your marriage. Here they are:
1. I have been married almost for 10 years. August 16, 1997.
2. I married my high school sweetheart. Yes folks, we met in photography class. He was a sophomore, I a senior. I went away to college and he swooned over me. I was just so comfortable with him I swooned back.
3. We both enjoy similar things. We both have a great love for the great outdoors. We love to go for walks, fish, beach-it, etc. My husband hunts, I don't, but I have gone and just sat "still" for a couple hours in the hunting blind. It was a great experience of just sitting and listening.
4. We rarely argue. We used to argue a lot in the first couple of years however, we have gotten to a very comfortable place. I have learned that he doesn't read minds so don't assume he does! He has learned that I am highly independent, driven, and very sweet when treated kindly.
5. We have made an agreement. Don't make fun of one another to others. This is hard to do because we know one another so intimately but nonetheless we give it a whirl. I don't like going to parties or social engagements and hearing others complain about their spouses. We have vowed not to do that to one another. Sarcasm can be too close to the truth. It's not worth the laugh from others.
6. We work at our marriage. We have discussed this at length, marriage is work. And when you know this it can be very rewarding work. We work at spending time together, talking to one another, and loving one another. Marriage is work, but anything that you want to grow and be worth something takes work. Did I mention it can be hard work?
7. We have made a commitment to be a family. Sometimes people don't make a commitment to their children, their spouses, or their family. We have decided that our home is the safe place for everyone. We are going to make sure that others don't harm that. We protect it from harm. For instance, the in-laws, friends who don't have families ("please watch your language!"), our disagreements, and the rest of the world. This is a safe haven!
8. We are crazy about one another. He leaves me notes, says nice things about what I wear, helps me out around the house, dances in the kitchen with me, stands and listens to me when I talk, and asks me out for dates occasionally. I, in turn, tell him I am proud of him, call him when I am running late, make his favorite dinner, watch "guy flicks," give him time to be with friends, and hug him when he is in a "funk." We have decided to be "in-love" for a lifetime. I don't just want to be married. I want to be crazy about my spouse.

So here are 8 things about my marriage. I am tagging:
Drawing a Blank

If you want to play along you are more than welcome! - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Thursday, August 2, 2007

A Back to School Book

Each year I do Teacher in A Bag. This is an activity where I gather 10 things about myself to share with my students on the first day. I do this so that they can get to know me better and it makes me seem like just a normal person. I pull things out of my bag, like pictures of my children, my walking shoes, my favorite music, markers ('cause I'm artsy!), some pictures of the outdoors, goggles for swimming, and usually a shell of some kind to talk about the beach.

I've mentioned before that I love the beach. It is an obsession of mine. This year I found the perfect book to start the year off with, The Berenstain Bears Go On Vacation.
We got this book from the library on Tuesday and I have read it every day since. They love it! Who doesn't love the Berenstain Bears? (My aunt says that all her children's moral lessons came from the Berenstain Bears). I will use this book to introduce myself. It follows our vacation to the beach so closely. My girls and I found so many parallels. I also want my students from the beginning to know how much I love books. Why not read a book about something that you love? This will be my first read aloud to my students. I hope they love it too!
How about a book to introduce yourself?

Unexpected Phone Calls... - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more
A colleague called unexpectedly last night. I was surprised to hear her on the other line. I remember going to the All Write conference with her and sitting through all the sessions. I remember recommending books to her as we sat through those three days. (Books like, Mosaic of Thought, Debbie Miller's Reading For Meaning, and Growing Readers) Now, she has questions, now she wants answers, now she is aching for community!
This quest is infectious. When my friend on the Korner was reading Mosaic of Thought I could tell she was changing. It has that effect. When my friend with A Life read this book she became obsessed with her book buying on other titles regarding the Reader's Workshop. It's infectious I tell you.
My phone call was so surprising! We had a very good conversation about what our classroom will look like, we discussed how she felt community was missing from her room last year, we discussed picture books, mentor and touchstone texts, and finally we encouraged one another about the upcoming year. She feels letting the students take control of the classroom will be freeing for her to focus on conferencing. She has decided to give the workshop setting a try.
I am so excited for her, it is contagious. Why? Here are my thoughts:
1. Who doesn't want to be a part of a community? If we have community behaviors will be different. I, as a teacher, can be learning from my students, and vice versa.
2. It allows students to take more control over their learning. Brain research has said that when there is an emotional tie to learning that the information is learned.
3. All things are flexible in the workshop. This creates work for the teacher because things are constantly changing, however, it is good for the students. They are not learning material that is unnecessary for them. They are also relearning material that is necessary, because I know them. I know what they need, because of conferencing.
4. It is cross curricular. Books I read that cross into Social Studies, Science, and Health can be a resource for better writing and reading. Science becomes observational, and poetry can be created too! There are natural transitions throughout my students' learning.
5. Have you ever heard a teacher say, "I wish that teaching were more like when I first started, when it was fun." I have heard this statement and wondered, "when did teaching not become fun?" Now I understand, workshop teaching is fun! It allows you to do creative things. Assessing students statewide has become something that we must do, but we don't have to teach like a test. Many teachers teach to the test, not fun for the teacher and not fun for the students. Beyond that no one is learning anything!

I am so excited for this teacher, she has caught the "bug!"

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

It's Beginning...

As I check out the blog world I find that people are gearing up for the upcoming school year. Parents are getting their children ready. We already have school supplies sitting in the book bag, new shoes, and a brand new lunch box. I can't believe that my daughter will be in first grade!
Teachers are getting ready for the new year of students that will be filing through their doors. I see questions on blogs asking, "Where do you think I should begin? What books should I start out with?" Check out Becomings post here about how to start reader's workshop. I also note Literacy Teacher has her carnival up and running. I wondered where it all went when I pushed the submit button. She is starting a new carnival about books to start the school year off with, you can submit here.
I am having mixed feelings about the upcoming school year. I have lots of expectations and tons of things on my agenda. I get the feeling that I won't be able to get it all in and do it well.
Here are a few things weighing heavy on my agenda:
1. Reader's Workshop, expectations, procedures, and then what?......
2. A student teacher that arrives in October, so excited, I want to share all that I have learned as an educator. Hope that experience turns out fantastic!
3. Writer's Workshop, 25 first graders and my touchstone text.
4. Getting my young daughters off to school. One starting first grade the other the second year of preschool.
5. Building a community!

Those are big things. They cloud my thoughts constantly. I can't get away from them, and it seems after visiting all your sites that you feel the same way. My word for this year is: Optimism. This is my mantra as the clouded thoughts visit me during insomnia, moments beside the pool, and while reading my professional literature. Anyone else having a hard time trying to file it all into the file cabinet inside your brain?