Monday, July 30, 2007


I've been tagged by Literacy Teacher and A Year of Reading!!

Here goes for this teaching meme...

I am a good teacher because...I love to learn! I love thinking about my students learning and what will challenge them as a class and then individually.

If I weren't a teacher I would be a ...a writer of some sort or a librarian. I love to write my thoughts and I love books.

My teaching style is unique...I know every one's style is their own but I guess I like to think I approach the classroom with ideas from professionals I've read and learned from: I use ideas from Debbie Miller(she has helped me think about putting kids first), Kathy Collins(she has helped me add humor and let little issues go), Lisa Cleveland (Katie W Ray)(they have helped me notice the importance of inquiry stance), Georgia Heard(she helps me remember the importance of authenticity of kid work), Patricia Cunningham(she has helped me figure out how to notice words throughout the day), Lucy Calkins (helped me understand the workings of literacy) and Peter Johnson(he has helped me realize how powerful words are in the simplest of conversations during the day).

My classroom is...inviting, comfortable and crafted by the kids and me.

My lesson plans are... I have to say first that I just really don't like writing organized step by step plans. I do a bunch of thinking, jotting notes and visualizing myself teaching. I write down my thoughts on daily post-its that stick to the kid's lit I am teaching from for the day and these books become "my stack" or my plans for the day. I admit, probably need to be more organized

One of my teaching goals is... to talk to my kids about what they know about themselves as writers more this year. Last year I felt like my students were able to look back and talk about their growth over the course of a year. This year I am determined to use partner work and assessment before and after studying crafts/genres etc. to help my students become of aware of themselves as learners/ writers throughout the year.

The toughest part of teaching is...realizing that there isn't time for everything. I am learning to approach my teaching with fewer goals (yet addressing them deeply). These words I remember hearing from Sharon Taberski.

The thing I most love about teaching is...everything. I love the work, the people (kids and adults), the creating and you can't beat the schedule (I love knowing the summer is time my own 3 boys and I can go, relax or explore).

A common misconception about teaching is that the school year ends in June and picks up in August. Don't you feel like some of your best thoughts and work are done in the summer months?!

The most important thing I've learned since I started teaching is... let go and let the kids.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Connecting with Kids

Last night was the second of two nights I set up to casually "catch up" with my students from last year. I have always written a letter to my students over the summer but this year I decided to invite them to "run into me" at the library on one of two Monday nights in July. My purpose was to keep connected with my students. I wanted to hear about their adventures and their lives (first grade teachers do hear it all). I wanted, of course, to hear about their summer reading and writing plans and be a resource for those who might be stuck with what to read. After thinking it through and sending the letters, I started to second guess myself. Was this too much? I didn't want families to feel pressured or to come across over doing things. I would just have to wait and see...

Fortunately, both Mondays were a success. I feel like the 5 families who dropped by appreciated the meeting time. Here is a general sense of what I felt the meeting times provided:

1. Time to reconnect and share summer stories. Not only did I get a chance to hang with the kids but I think the moms enjoyed it too (me too moms)!

2. Time to get some summer homework accomplished (this summer we(Chapman Elementary) are inviting the kids to bring in a picture of themselves reading for the first weeks of school...what a great way to begin talking about reader identity...great idea Franki).

3. Time to talk to my students about what they are reading, listen to what have been their favorite reads and finally...REMIND KIDS THAT THERE IS NO NEED TO RUSH INTO JUST CHAPTER BOOK READING.

This is all I have time for today but I am thinking about how important it is to be able for our primary kids to PICTURE READ even if they can already read words in the text. More about my observations of a student able to read Henry and Mudge but not yet really picture reading! Any thoughts? What is picture reading to you?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Taking a Break

I am off to Lake Cumberland for an annual boat trip with my husband's side of the family. This is our 30th year anniversary but I have only truly been boating for 10 years with the women in his family. It is a memorable, spiritual and anticipated event each summer. I will only be enjoying 3 days on the boat while the rest of the crew will spend a week(yes, can you believe no kids). Needless to say I won't be blogging but will be catching up on Harry Potter. I have read them all but need to come back to book 5 (for the movie) and 6 (it has soooo much and I don't remember;I feel I need to reread to everything I can about the horcruxes to feel ready for 7). I am a fan and have been listening to The Order of the Phoenix all summer in and out of the car to review. I just downloaded The Half Blood Prince and will try to get in as much as I can in the car. What is it about Harry Potter that I love? Is it the characters? Or, is it that I have always loved fantasy? One of my favorites as a kid was A Wrinkle in Time.

See you sometime later this week...

Monday, July 9, 2007


My husband and I were relaxing in the living room last night (he was surfing and I was reading Water for Elephants...can't put it down). Curly, our four year old, came in and sat down to a puzzle of the alphabet we haven't pulled out in awhile. I thought nothing of it and dove back into my book until I noticed him singing the alphabet song to help him figure out where to put the letter K. After hearing him sing, I had to stop and watch him. He was using song as a strategy to help him solve a problem(that makes me so happy). Then, I watched him play with the M and the W (we have talked about how each flips to make the other). He pulled the M from its place, flipped it and tried to fit it in the W's place (it didn't work) and then tried to do the same with W. He then finished the puzzle. It felt like he was playing with the puzzle.

I can tell you that we sat down to that puzzle many a morning this year spending time together for 5 mins or so before we both left for school. We piled the letters up after dumping them, talked about family member's names that begin with certain letters and even matched them to an abc poster. It was our time. Not so much of a teaching time but more of an exploring time. I tried to let Curly take the lead and have him decide how to "play " with the letters (there were of course those days when I was hurrying him through the play so I could get to all the things I had to do at work that day).

Nonetheless, this made me think about play in my classroom. What exactly is play? What does it look like in the classroom? I started thinking about my own room. The only kind of (structured) play going on is "play with books." The kids settle in and then find books to read, explore or talk about with friends (this happens for the first 25 mins of the day). It ends up looking like "play." I mean if someone walked into the room he or she might think the kids were goofing around or "off task," but I actually set this time aside purposely so they can "play" with books. This year, I noticed one student would go right to her favorite bean bag and find books to read alone. Another student would wait until his buddies arrived and then they (a group of 4 or so boys) would sit around the non-fiction baskets and talk and read then talk, laugh and read. Another student would go back to the same book (National Geographic's World Atlas) and sit browsing continents and countries. There was always a group of girls singing song books like The Lady with the Alligator Purse. And then there was the student who was trying to get everyone off task. I would often sit with this student and read with him.
Now that I am looking back, it seems like he just needed to be taught how to play. Just like Curly used strategies to play with the puzzle, I think some kids need strategies for playing with books. I am anxious to talk to my students about different ways they "play" with books. I know they will have many ideas for one another and maybe it will open doors for those not sure about how to play.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Blue Manatee Escape

This past Monday finally felt like summer vacation for me. I wasn't chauffeuring kids to swim lessons, hosting the 4th like I did yesterday (hello stress)and I wasn't even on a breezy beach enjoying the sun. No, the feeling of true "summer vacation," to me, is when I can spend as much time as I desire finding books that I want to experiment with in my room next year (I feel a little weird admitting it to you). So, on Monday I enjoyed 2 1/2 hours at a children's bookstore in Cincinnati, Ohio. In fact, Blue Manatee Children's Book Store is a place I could escape to for days. The warmth of the store, the people and the space captured my attention as soon I walked inside. The store connects to a "decafe"( doesn't decafe sound like a place where you can unwind) similar to a Starbucks or Caribou where you can sit down to your favorite drink and treat after finding your favorite books (and of course it is catered toward kids)!

Blue Manatee has a wonderful website ( with featured authors, newsletters and events. They even sell book gift baskets!

I found many books that I wanted to add to my classroom library and home library but limited myself to four. Here's one that I dug out of the poetry section. It is called Ook the Book and Other Silly Rhymes. Maybe you are familiar with this one but it was new to me and caught my attention for several reasons. Here goes:

1. I teach from a stack of children's books daily and loved how this one will support spelling and word study. It rhymes, incorporates word families(rimes), word endings (ing, y) and does so in the context of mini poetry-like stories!

2. Each page comes alive with a character named for a word family or is a pet and ing is a thing. I think by personifying the parts of words it will help kids come back to them. I can envision teaching them how to come back to this book as a resource for spelling. I can hear myself saying... " you remember ake from the silly rhymes book."

3. It leaves the readers with so many possibilities for noticing things...detailed pictures, memorable characters (In the twin and his pig Lin who is not so thin), word beginnings (onsets, digraphs, blends), and word endings (ing and in fly and goodbye...we can notice y sounds like i but our crazy language has us spelling the sound many ways)!

4. Finally, it is interactive. The author often asks the reader to find characters and answer
questions. This part of the book I found appealed to my 4 year old. I am anxious to see what my first graders think of it next year!