Friday, December 31, 2010

Creative Literacy's Noteworthy Posts for 2010

This morning I was flipping the channels between a couple morning news programs and enjoying their highlights from the year. It occurred to me that I could learn a bit about myself by looking back at the many blog posts I have shared this year.

So I started to reread my own year. I found when I looked at each month's post titles, there was a theme in my thinking during that time. June and July included posts about new books and new ideas as I was thinking for the upcoming school year. April and May were much about wondering as I immersed my students in writing, exploring and researching their wonders. And, Augustand September seemed to be about reflecting on my students and their needs as the school year began.

So, I was inspired to share my own Noteworthy Posts for the Year. Now, for me, the criteria for "noteworthy" depended on the amount of conversation about the post (comments) and my own feelings about the ideas in the posts. So hopefully you will find something that will be noteworthy or new for you. Here goes:

Winter 2010: Reading and Blogging
Looking back at the winter months, many posts included (surprise) books. But, the most loved video I shared during Right to Read Week was Gotta Keep Reading. The kids in the classroom danced and sung it for days. There was also a post I wrote in response to a student who wanted some advice on blogging. Click here for my 5 tips to Better Blogging.

Spring 2010: Wondering
Last Spring, I was busy preparing for a visit from Samantha Bennett, author of That Workshop Book. To prepare for her
coaching and observation, I plunged into a unit of wondering with my students. The kids painted and wrote about their own Heart Wonders and they filmed some wonders they had during our science study of living things. All of this work helped me to uncover some big ideas that I took away after a day with Sam Bennett including:

-Teaching is an incredibly complex endeavor. No one has nailed it. There are always ways to get better for students.
-Everyone does the best they can until they know better; then they do better.
-We are smarter together.

Summer 2010: Books and The Book Whisperer

This summer
I read Donalyn Miller's, The Book Whisperer. Posting about this fabulous book inspired teachers at my school to read it and begin book talks about what messages are most important to send to kids. There were many comments from bloggers too about grabbing this great read before the end of summer. I love this book and visit this post for the big ideas I took away from Donalyn's book.

Another big post this summer, Ten Picture Books Boys Can't Live Without, was a blogging event created by some blogging friends to invite a ton of sharing about our favorite picture books.

Fall 2010: Thinking and Reflecting on Tech

This fall I embarked on a year long learning journey with a community of learners in Powerful Learning Practice. This opportunity for embedded professional development had helped me extend my learning of web 2.0 tools but more importantly the importance of sharing my learning, developing my own PLN and creating authentic ways to incorporate tech integration in my own classroom. Here are some noteworthy reflections from the fall:

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Remembering Moments Instead of Stuff

Each morning I spend time reflecting to an inspirational quote written in response to a gospel reading for the day. It is a routine I have come to rely on that reminds me to keep life simple. Sometimes I am reminded to be thankful, to think of others instead of focusing so much on my needs, to take action when I feel passionate about something, to question, to not take my self so seriously, and very often to trust. Today, I read the words of Terri Mifek, a spiritual director for Franciscan Retreat and Spirituality Center that embraces all faiths in Prior Lake, Minnesota. She writes...
"Contrary to what the advertising world would have us believe, we don't need big houses, expensive cars and positions of power to enjoy life. We don't even need to be liked by everyone or receive accolades for our work. Watch any child occupied with making an imaginary meal or catching a butterfly and they will show you what it means to be fully alive."

Her words initiated my thoughts about all the happy moments that I had over the holidays like watching my son, Jack, win Risk when playing for the first time, feeling the excitement of hugging, talking and reconnecting with family from Georgia, and watching my husband entertain the boys by trying to balance a ketchup bottle on his head. I also thought about how working with 6-7 year olds is a blessing. Their natural curiosity and enjoyment of life in the purest of situations helps keep me grounded everyday. But, like 6-7 year olds I can forget. I forget about what really matters in the midst of stress. For today, I am glad that I was reminded to appreciate moments rather than stuff.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Out of Sight

I spent about an hour and half last night at the bookstore. My trip to Cover to Cover had been on my mind ever since holiday break started last Thursday. I love to have time to read and think about the books that I plan to buy. After reading through more than 38 books, I left the store with 9. I am very happy with my purchases. Today I want to share a book that reminded me immediately of Cathy's post titled: Oh No! Scissors in Writer's Workshop. This book is called Out of Sight.

Out of Sight is a large hardback (11x16) book that is filled with pop-ups. I know, you are probably thinking that pop-up books are a disaster because kids are prone to ruining them. That thought entered my mind when I first opened this book, but I quickly let it go once I started turning the pages. The book is filled with flaps creatively designed to make you think about the animal and non-fiction information revealed underneath. Just flipping through it had me anticipating the many opportunities for discussion and conversation about how the book is organized and why illustrators made the decisions they did for each flap.

I think this book will be a great mentor text for kids creating their own non-fiction books. Kids who love to use scissors will begin to turn their wheels with how to create flaps. And, couldn't the flaps work well as a bulletin board during a non-fiction study. There are endless possibilities for this book.

After sharing it with some friends, I couldn't help observe one reader jump on her phone to look for an answer that was posed under one flap: Can you name all 8 species of bear? She and another friend started a 5 minute conversation about all they knew and could find out about species of bear. It was fascinating and powerful. I am anxious to see what happens when my students get their hands on it. Don't worry, I am already thinking about reminding them about how to handle pop-up books.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays!!

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Last post, I mentioned I was headed to Brazil to celebrate with my bother and his soon to be in-laws in beautiful South America.

My sisters and I opened the window curtains in our hotel bedroom to stare out at this amazing view. Isn't it breathtaking? It has been so interesting to look out the window each morning to something new... Sunday: a sea of umbrellas and people loving the beach, Monday a couple of cruise ships were making a stop inland, and each night the strip is lit and alive with the traffic of taxis.

On Monday, we ventured up Sugar Loaf Mountain and then took a train up to see Christ the Redeemer. The weather has been gorgeous (in the 80's) and the people have been wonderful. I feel like our time here is flying by and I am trying to enjoy moments and actually experience the trip (if that makes sense). I think I could have spent all day on Sugar Loaf.

Today we boarded a plane for Curitiba, Brazil where the wedding will take place this Friday. We landed in the rain but are hoping for some sun by the end of the week. Missing all my friends, students and of course family at home!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Are you playing today?

I am drawn to learning. I have almost this addiction to reading, connecting and finding out as much as I can about what I need to grow as a teacher. Because of this, I experiment with ideas that I hope will help my students grow in the classroom. Right now, there is buzz about the importance in collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking and creativity ( Framework for Learning in the 21st Century). I know, haven't these areas of learning been important all along? Yes, but often in the age of standardized testing, we can lose sight of these crucial pieces of authentic learning. Balance is important in so many areas of life and education.
This week, enjoy the pictures of kids observing, problem solving, thinking and creating while playing.

Aiden brought in some balls of sap that his sister found on a tree outside. The kids pulled out the magnifying glasses and had great talk about what the balls were made of, what color they were and what they felt like as they squeezed them between their fingers .

Lucy created a pattern book with the stencils we pull out to trace for play.

You'll also notice the beetle creation thoughtfully crafted by Ben using the straws and connectors.

These moments remind me of the importance of choice when kids have opportunities to create, talk, think and play. I am also amazed how the play has evolved for some students. Many kids are grabbing their writing tools to draw and write, some want to get on the blog and others are choosing to set up games ( like Candyland or Guess Who).

I hope you are enjoying some time today playing with something of your choosing. I am headed to Brazil this week to celebrate with my family as my brother and new sister-in-law are married in Curitiba. Looking forward to playing and experiencing to come!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kids Using Kidblog to Share Creations

I am just figuring out that I can share quicktime movies made by the kids here. Check out some of the stories kids have created about their past as we venture into understanding past and present in SS. I am not taking nearly enough time to reflect on how the kids have learned to create using software on our computer, export their creation as a movie and then upload it to the blog (yes, they were uploaded onto kidblog and shared with their classmates who commented on their creations). Two out of three of these kiddos have completely worked independently on this. I have been investing lots of time in using Pixie software with First Grade because it so easily allows them to create their own picture and text. They enjoy the time using the paint tools and they have felt empowered to try out lots of ideas using Pixie...not just these prompted stories about their past. They constantly surprise me with what they can accomplish when introduced to new tools for technology.


when I was little

when i was little

Writers And Their Tools

One of the most exciting aspects of a primary writing workshop is learning to use and play with the tools that writers need to help them compose, change and fix up their ideas. Different kids have different tools of choice. Some kids love the colored pencils, others always go for the crayons and still others grab the markers. We always have on hand an abundance of post- it tape, scissors, staples for the staplers and scotch tape.

Today, a writer learned to use the scotch tape with some help from me as I was conferencing. He was working on a story about his friend who had a bloody ear and was anxious to share it with the other kids. As he was planning his pictures for the next page in his story, he was stuck. Though his words about the story were new to the subsequent page they were an extension (detail) of a similar idea he had already drawn. He was baffled. "What should I draw?" I used the opportunity to help him realize his words really fit with what he had already drawn on the page before. I showed him how to use the scissors to cut his words off the picture-less page and tape them down to the page before. I was tempted to just do it for him as I knew I needed to conference with more kids but I stopped myself. He skipped to the cupboard to get the scissors and tape. I realized how tricky it was for him to even get the tape off of the small grooved blade. I gave him a few pointers and he practiced until he got it on his own. He was smiling and excited at his success. Then, I helped him line up the two pieces of paper.

This conference helped me remember that first I need to re-teach how to use the tape dispensers. I think I can assume too much sometimes at then beginning of the year when I only spend only a morning or two on supplies mini-lessons ( I assume partners will help each other out too). I need to come back to these so that kids who aren't as adept or bold with the tools have some reinforcement. Second, I think the value of taking this time to teach using the tool will payoff because much of the work the student and I were doing was revision work. While, I have introduced the notion of rereading and "fixing" up writing in the go and while publishing a book, the work of revision feels bigger and harder for younger writers to grasp. I know that I will be tackling this later in the year and this conference work will turn into a mini-lesson idea I can use for revision strategies.

Tools can be so motivating. I am anxious to play with a tool called Wallwisher. I am learning how to play with it here and would love for you to PLAY TOO! A fellow blogger and twitterer, Aviva used it to help her 1 and 2nd graders reflect on their performance after their musical.