Monthly Archives: June 2015

SOL June 30, 2015 IRL


June 30, 2015

Today I made a snap decision that was not really a snap decision. On Thursday, I begin my travel back to the US. I will only be there for 3 weeks, so I am planning my time carefully.

It has been my dream to attend nErDcampMI since its inception two years ago. This summer marks the first summer in a while that I will be in the US, so I planned that into my busy three weeks. For months every time a tweet or blog post added more information I smiled to myself- I will be there! I looked up other literacy-based events that will take place during my time in the US and had some decisions to make. I looked at the Scholastic Reading Summit and ogled the workshops, speakers, and books! There was even one nearby- on a day I could make. I tried to register but found that I had to be a staff member at a local school, so I emailed for help. I was assured that they could update my information once I registered, but still I hesitated. I was already committed to nErDcamp, and although the event is free I was staying in a hotel and flying in (and definitely will be buying raffle tickets for the great art that is there). This morning Mr. Schu (an amazing librarian I follow on Twitter) said he was now signed on for all of the reading summits- this was a change, as previously he was not scheduled to attend Boston. This was the sign I was looking for and I immediately signed up (although if I had waited just a few minutes I could have saved some money by signing up as part of a group with someone I “know” via Twitter).

So, three of my precious 21 days will be spent with “strangers”. I will not go to either event knowing anyone (although at camp I will meet some people who will also be at the summit). I know I will learn a lot (and likely laugh a lot too if what I know of some of these people by their online presences is any gauge). I will be spending time with “my tribe”. It is true that I have not met any of these people yet (in real life), but I am so excited I feel like I am going to a reunion with former colleagues. With only three weeks of real vacation, this will be a rejuvenating part of my break. I like my new colleagues very much, but  I miss the ongoing, informal PD I had with a few close friends at my last school. Even then, we were all passionate readers, but I was the one who focused on kid lit. This time with like-minded ( read book crazy) colleagues I have not yet met will be a chance for me to put a face to the “voices” I know via Twitter and blogs. There are so many of my heroes of reading and writing that I will meet- published authors and illustrators, teachers, and librarians. I need this time to be the real me. There are so many people I will meet that I am already indebted to (from the Nerdy Book Club crew who inspire me daily, to Lesley Burnap, a teacher from MA who generously sent her ARC of El Deafo around the world to share it with as many people as possible. I was one of the lucky ones who got to read that copy and later when Lesley met the amazing Cece Bell at a conference she bought a new copy of the book, had Cece autograph it for me, and sent it to me in Malaysia. I will meet the authors of a great many of the professional books that guide me in my everyday practices as well as friendly people who are all over the world being advocates for kids. Little do these people know how the time with them will feed me.

I am so looking forward to my 21 days in the US and think that it will be the perfect mix for me. I will have the “professional” time those three days and I will get to see family and friends as well. I will stay with my mom, who has recently had surgery and is recovering well. I will get to spend lots of time with my 24-year-old son who is at a crossroads in his career planning (and I have not seen him for 19 months!). I will get met at the airport by my ever so supportive dad. My sister and her fabulous family live nearby as well, so I look forward to that time too. In addition, I am making plans to catch up with some old friends. I will also fly to Arkansas for a weekend to visit my younger son. He has recently graduated from university and hs last few weeks have been filled with firsts (job, apartment, car). I can not wait to see how he is settling. Somehow I also need to fit in book shopping and bargain hunting for summer clothes (living in the land of endless summer I still need more clothing, as I did not go with much). I have great plans for reading lots (kid lit and professional books- both stimulating and relaxing to me). I have made it through my first year in a new school in a new country and I know what I need to feed my soul this summer- three weeks is what I will have, and I am so ready!

I have made it through my first year in a new school in a new country and I know what I need to feed my soul this summer- three weeks is what I will have to do it, and I am so ready!

SOL- June 23, 2015


SOL- June 23, 2015

Summer School Week 3

This week the numbers are lower, so it is all a bit quieter at camp. One of the sweet children in my first group told me that every night she can’t wait to go to bed so that she can come to summer school the next day. Yesterday she wondered why she has to choose a second activity (even though she really likes her second activity) and today she asked why there isn’t a fourth week of summer school. I can not figure out why she loves it so much. The premise is simple. Every day we start together and I read aloud a picture book or two based on my chosen theme for the day (today I shared a few Kevin Henkes books). Then they are free to read, write, plan- really anything they want. In the first group today most of the students were busy acting out a story one had written (as I videoed for them). It amazed me how they adlibbed along the way and negotiated their way through a long and complicated storyline written by a student who started the year in third grade hating writing. Of course there was reading going on too and planning about part 2 of the story (several of them ride the same bus and agreed to plan more then). At the end we watched a quick stop motion trailer one of the students had made and another asked her to teach her how to create one tomorrow.

In the second session today we looked at wordless picture books by Molly Idle (Flora and the Flamingo and Flora and the Penguin). We talked about how you could tell stories with only pictures and we shared what the story we were seeing was. Then we read Good News Bad News and talked about how a few words repeated could tell such a great story. These are important messages for these beginning readers and writers. As they went off they were making cards for friends, writing lists, making maps, and creating. One child read by himself the whole time, while another kept bringing me books to read aloud as he worked. Near the end one of the students got restless and I pulled out some Lego. He and two others sat there and talked through what they were creating and what they were imagining.

It is lovely to have this gift of time with the students. It is a time for them to try out many different things with a small group of people (or alone in a quiet corner with materials readily at hand). Each group is multiage, so new friendships are being forged and they are learning much from each other. On Friday we will have a farewell get together as a whole summer school and the students will have the chance to share. I will ask them over the next three days to record some reflections. I think that they will say what they liked the best was time.

SOL- June 16, 2015


June 16, 2015

Ah, summer break! Even though I am not yet halfway through my three-week stint working at summer school I am starting to get my summer break mojo. What I love most about summer break is TIME. Here is a little poem (thanks to Margaret Wise Brown) about summer break:

Summer Break

The important thing about summer break is time,

While it is true that I have “only” 54 days of break this summer,

I will only have 15 of them working at summer school, which means almost 40 NOT working,

The important thing about summer break is time.

The important thing about summer break is time,

Once my “tax jail” in Malaysia is over I will fly “home”,

I will get to visit with family and friends  and do lots of reading,

The important thing about summer break is time.

The important thing about summer break is time,

I will get caught up on medical appointments,

and do all (okay, many) of the jobs I put off for so long,

The important thing about summer break is time.

The important thing about summer break is time,

I am trying to read #abookaday,

I have so many professional books I am trying to squeeze in, because, it is my choice how I spend my summer break,

The important thing about summer break is time.

The important thing about summer break is time,

I revel in not knowing what the day will bring,

I love being free to take a nap, or stay up too late,

The important thing about summer break is time.

SOL- June 9, 2015 First Week of Break


June 9, 2015

This first week of summer break finds me working at summer school (a 3-week program my school offers). It is so weird to leave two hours later than usual to arrive in plenty of time for a 9AM start. I have many plans for a break that is both busy and relaxing and these three weeks of half days are easing me in. This morning I even had time to file 11 months worth of bills and dig up most of the documents I need to file my taxes (this year I have to file in 3 countries…).

My summer school choice was Books! Books! Books! I start with 75 minutes with 13 incoming third to fifth graders. We are exploring a genre, form, or author each day. So far, we have looked at diaries and fantasy. After about 15 minutes together we spend time working. The students can read, write, or make book trailers. So far, there has been a little of everything going on. Several groups are cocreating and having fun reading and writing together, while others are solo artists. In the end, we come back together to share.

After snack and break, I then have a younger group- those entering first and second grade. I am keeping the same general framework, but reading aloud to them for longer. They so far are mostly writing (with plenty of artwork too). We have not really had a sharing time, but that will start tomorrow. With both groups, I am there to read aloud if they want me to,  help them revise and edit,  find ways to help them share writing, recommend books, and whatever else they want.

It has been a good transition to break. I still have to plan for them a bit, but it is definitely a labor of love- I am getting to help them fall more in love with words- what could be more fun!? As we get to know each other as readers and writers I expect that they will take on more of the planning as well. As a bonus, I have two boys who just left my class which is proving really nice!

Summer school is over at 12 and this week I am hurrying home to relax (okay, I may be reading professional books sometimes, but it is my kind of relaxing). I will spend a few afternoons next week sorting through some piles of papers in my classroom that need to be filed or thrown away, but this week I just needed to not. I have 54 days of break, so all will be well, even with 15 of them being “working” days.

In my head, I am also planning for the 3 weeks I will travel to the US. My younger son just moved 1500 miles from his university into his first after university apartment yesterday and starts his job in 6 days. I look forward to seeing how this transition goes for him. My older son is feeling like he is in a bit of a state of flux right now- not really sure where he is headed in the short term. My mom is recovering from hip and heart surgery. I look forward to seeing all of them and more in my whirlwind trip back- and hope that I do not lose too much time because of jet lag. It is amazing how quickly just under 8 weeks can go, but today I am just enjoying the break.

SOL- June 2, 2015 Endings As Beginnings


June 2, 2015

Endings As Beginnings

I try to think of myself as an optimistic person and this time of year sometimes calls this optimism into question- I never feel like I have done as much as I should have as a teacher. Having finished reports two weeks ago I was really focused on the progress the students have made and I came away in awe about how much they are now starting to do.

We have just 2 1/2 days of school left and we have been spending lots of time looking back and planning forward. Yesterday we set up reading plans for summer- including the (with) who, what, where, when, and why of summer reading. It was fun to talk about where they would get reading material, what they had planned, and where reading might take them.

Today as we took our “Hopes and Dreams” pictures off the wall where they have been all year we reflected on the goals we had set in those early days and how we had done. We also looked at a SQWORL of summer learning opportunities I have put together. It was great to see the excitement as students found sites that had ideas for outdoor fun, projects they could embark on, or ideas for alone time. We talked about the fact that we would still like to blog and comment over the summer. Other students wanted to make sure that they could still report on weekly “It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?” Padlets. We talked about the math they would like to practice over the summer, and we will continue to make plans for next steps.

Meanwhile, this afternoon, the guidance counselor worked with a few students who are moving this summer- their end of year is even more concretely a new beginning. We took advantage of these moments to make cards for them and sign a school tote bag. We want them to know that they can always keep in touch with friends here.

Tomorrow we will have a writing celebration and share a “proud” piece. We will also host second grade as they visit to learn more about what is ahead for them after the break.

I have spent some time writing an end of year poem for the class. Copies are now printed but I am still adding a few lines written by hand to each student. We have half a chapter of our last read aloud to finish and a few “end of year” picture books I still want to get to. The students are working on iMovie projects to chronicle their year. We still have a few other loose ends we want to tie up, but most of all we are celebrating this community that we have built through all of these days together. The end of the school year is our chance to take our new selves on the road and try things out. The students have new skills, ideas, attitudes, and knowledge and this end is just another opportunity for a new beginning. It has been a special year and I will miss these 20 kids so much, but I know as our time together ends they are ready for their next steps.