Monthly Archives: July 2015

SOL- July 28, 2015 -Just Like That, Currently


SOL- July 28, 2015

Just Like That, Currently

Reading colleagues’ Facebook posts about traveling today and tomorrow,

Breathing a sigh of relief that I have already made the long trek,

Reflecting on my summer, full of fun, love, and learning,

Gathering notes for my first days back in the classroom,

Noticing that I usually would have spent more time in my room before the first official day this Thursday,

Preparing to create my summer reading door,

Making a list of literacy based opportunities for connections to remind myself and my colleagues,

Trying to remember what I do on those first days,

Deciding what matters most,

Anticipating the fun and challenge of starting with a new group,

Starting to stress myself out,

Knowing that I love my job,

Recalling my one little word- change!

SOL- July 21, 2015 How Did This Happen?


July 21, 2015- How Did This Happen?

I have never been to Arkansas, but that is where I found myself this weekend. I have only 21 days in the US (my first visit back in a year and a half), but off I went to Northwest Arkansas for 4 days ( I learned that it takes nearly a day to get there from Boston- on the way there I transferred in NY, on the way back in Texas). I went to Arkansas because my favorite younger son has just moved there. His path there has been noteworthy. Two summers ago he stayed at my sister’s Cape house for the summer and looked for a summer job. All that he could find was a job at Dunkin Donuts, os that is where he worked. He had to ride a bike to get there (nearly 5 miles each way) and had to be there at 4:30 AM, which meant EARLY morning alarms (hard for a college students for sure). During the summer a friend of my sister’s visited and was impressed with my son’s work ethic as he observed C’s routine. It turns out that this friend is a top executive at Walmart. He encouraged my son to apply for an internship the following summer. After a long application process and several interviews C. landed an internship last summer. The pay was great, housing and some food was provided, and the experience was great. At the end of the summer, he had the offer to apply and interview for a job after graduation, which he did. He was offered a job in the department he had worked in all summer and returned to university for his senior year knowing that he had a job after graduation.

Fast forward 9 months… He graduated, visited his dad in Germany for a week, had just over a week vacation back in the Boston area and then he was off to Arkansas. This boy is a planner. He looked for apartments online and signed a lease before graduation. Once there he bought a used car, bought a minimum of furniture, and a week later started his first career. The program is great. All of the new people in his program had a week of training together, then they have 7 weeks working at a store (with Fridays being seminar days). The store experience is good, as they see many aspects of the company firsthand before they begin their desk jobs (he will be a planning analyst).

I have an East coast snobbery about anywhere in the US that is not between New England and DC, so I did not really know what to expect in this part of the world. What I found impressed me. He lives in a beautiful apartment surrounded by farms. He has access to delicious restaurants featuring different cuisines, some great art, recreational facilities, and more. We visited Fayetteville, home of the University of Arkansas and enjoyed the vibe of the college town. He was a charming host- planning trips he knew I would enjoy (yay for bookstores, a Little Free Library and more), shopped for foods he knows I like, and cooked a delicious dinner.

I was so thankful to have this time with him in his new home, but when I stopped to reflect I was flabbergasted. How could my younger son be an adult!?! I remember that people always talked about their children’s growing up years as flying by, but wow! C. has had an amazing childhood- living in Hong Kong, the US, Poland, Germany, and India. During university he did not really have an interest in studying overseas, as he had already done that for most of his life. So for now, he is settled in “middle America” and beginning his career and I can not be more proud of the young man he has become. But, wow- how did this happen that I have two adult sons!?

#cyberpd week 3- July 20, 2015 Chapters 6 and 7


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I do love summer PD! This third week of #cyberpd I am in my third location. As I write this I am sitting in an airport in Northwest Arkansas after a weekend visit to my younger son, a recent college graduate who had just started his first career. Before I begin about the book a few observations about our weekend: I brought him two books I had just finished reading (Ungifted and The Honest Truth). I told him that if he was not going to read them we could leave them in the Little Free Library we were going to visit. He said he did not like to read “kids’ books” like me, but that I should leave them with him (so I bought two new books to leave at the Little Free Library). During the weekend he did not pick up a book, but he read a lot, switching back and forth between his phone and tablet.

Reflections on Chapters 6 and 7:

Once again I liked the reflective questions the authors posed. I will definitely add questions about digital reading to my start of year reading interest survey. I know that from last year’s class not many used devices to read linear text, but I also know that I did not really ask them much about their digital reading lives and I definitely was not as explicit as I plan to be this year in broadening their definition of digital reading. The tools mentioned for assessment were not new to me, but I know that I have to be more intentional and authentic as we move through the year. We started the year by brainstorming a list of ways to share our learning, but this year I think we should also add on purposes for each, so students can be more intentional in their choices. I know I have to get better at documenting the assessment. I have dabbled in Evernote in the past, but as I am not a good typist I often forget to jot notes. Using it to record conferences will make it more likely to happen.

I think that a part of my job as a teacher is parent education and I would like to do a better job helping families to see how their home and school/work reading lives are connected. I would also love to find way to get parents and other family members more actively involved in the learning we do at school. Some parents commented on the student blogs, but many more did not. I would like to survey parents to find out way they will engage. I liked all of the tips for family outreach.

Thanks to all the participants in #cyberpd- it is always a highlight of my summer to learn with so many other educators. Special thanks to Cathy, Michelle, and Laura for hosting this and leading the thinking. You chose a great book (again!) and I look forward to trying out many new ideas and sharing the learning with colleagues as we head back to school in a week and a half.

SOL- Ah, Summer PD!


July 14, 2015

Ah, Summer PD!

Every summer I set myself “homework” and read and read and read (both professional books and loads of books that I want to use in my classroom), For the last few years I have participated in #cyberpd, which I love, as the organizers always seem to pick amazing books and I learn so much from the discussion. This summer I planned my time around a few PD opportunities (nErDCampMI I wrote about last week). Today was… Scholastic’s Book Summit in Boston (actually Norwood, but advertised as being in Boston).

I need time to process my amazing day, but it is Tuesday, so here is a word cloud:

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A special thank you to John Schumacher (@MrSchuReads) and Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks) who were fabulous presenters and fun to be with (in addition to being so inspirational!). Also I loved meeting up with amazing educators I follow on Twitter. If there is a Scholastic Book Summit coming anywhere near you I highly recommend you attend.

#cyberpd Week 2- Chapters 3-5 Digital Reading

Here’s what I love about online professional development- I can access it anywhere at any time and I have chosen it, so I am motivated. I have been busy in the last week meeting online friends in person and catching up with family and friends in Boston before go back to Malaysia in a week and a half. I almost always feel that I get way more than I give in terms of learning. I love the opportunity to think with all of you. Thanks to all who shared their blog posts and/or comments in week 1!

Chapter 3: What Really Matters? Authenticity

I have to admit a certain irony- I am writing this post based on my handwritten notes in a spiral notebook after reading the book from my Kindle. I read in many different places, but still do not take notes digitally always- weird. A good reminder to me to continue to teach different options and let the learners have choice, which ties in perfectly with this week’s reading. I need the reminders that the reflective questions provide- intentionality, authenticity (with built-in choice) and connectedness continue to be the drum beat here. I liked the reminder that authenticity means that not everyone will be working in the same way in terms of reading and responding. Authenticity being about choice and ownership ensures this. Another reminder to give students access to our inner dialogue- I always worry that this slows the process down too much or over assume that they know the how and why- I need to go slower to really teach this. I loved the resource lists in this chapter- some were new to me and others were reminders I need at this time of year when I gather resources.

I wonder how to include all of these digital forms of reading on the adapted 40 Book Challenge that I have done the last few years (based on Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer) and would love ideas.

Chapter 4: What Really Matters? Becoming Intentional Decision Makers

Starting with a review of what intentional means gave me a wider lens. The reminder that students have to know what is possible as readers, writers, and learners is useful. I always start the year by brainstorming with students the reasons we read, the forms it can take, the reasons we write, the forms it can take, the reasons we share our learning, the forms that it can take. These charts stay up through the year and we add on to them as we grow. The reflective questions again seemed to really speak to me and the steps I need to take. Again the resource lists were useful, with a few that were new to me. My biggest take away in this chapter was to keep asking the students about their purposes to help them build their intentionality. As a nerd, I sometimes worry about age restrictions on various apps, so I have to look at this as well.

Chapter 5: What Really Matters? Connectedness

I liked the definition work at the beginning and the emphasis on being connected within the classroom as well as beyond the classroom. Periodically we create expert lists in the class when it is clear that some need more help (or need a place to shine) and this reinforces to me that I need to do this earlier and often. My push for me is that I need to collect more digital text sets. I started to do that (I use SQWORLs a lot for my students and for myself) but  need to do it on an even day to day level. This chapter was one where I felt like I have made good efforts in recent years, but it always needs refining.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts about the text. Thanks to Cathy, Laura, and Michelle for hosting.

SOL- WOW- I Got to Go to nErDCampMI!


July 7, 2015 (truth alert- really written and posted on the 8th)

My Twitter profile tells me that I joined Twitter in February 2010, but I know I did not really start using Twitter right away. I do not remember what really pushed me to give Twitter a try, but it may have been the Nerdy Book Club blog. If you are not familiar with this community I strongly encourage you to take some time to explore the blog- it has definitely changed me as a person and a professional and helped me to see that my community can be wider that the people I actually meet. This knowledge helped me to seek out more wisdom from these new friends and I soon learned that many were active on Twitter. I heard all about the plans for the first camp two years ago, but I spent the  summer at “home” in Germany, so I settled for following along online. The following summer the camp got bigger and better and I again followed along while packing to move to Malaysia. This summer I thought I would be staying in Asia, so I ruled out attending. A change in plans this spring meant that I would be visiting the US for a few weeks in the summer and my brain almost immediately went to nErDCamp!

Fast forward to July- I left Malaysia on July 2nd at 11:15 PM. After a 14 hour flight to London I had a 4-hour layover before my 7-hour flight to Boston, arriving just after noon on July 3rd. On the 4th and 5th I spent some time catching up with my mom, visiting two book stores, and doing some shopping. On the morning of the 6th I was up at 3:45, to catch a flight to Michigan. I was lucky enough that a Twitter connection (@BethShaum) picked me up and took me to and fro for the two days). These two days were a bit surreal. I was actually meeting (or at least seeing from a distance because in most cases I was too shy to initiate conversations) so many people I have learned from over the last few years. There were many (900+) classroom teachers, librarians, authors, illustrators and more. It was a great opportunity to hear people in person that I have admired from their tweets, blogs, and books. I will not go into the details of the two day, because you can read them here, but I do want to share the notes from day two. If you were not a part of this incredible event put it on your calendar for next summer if you are nearby (or even if you are not- trust me- it was worth the trip!). Last night on the airplane heading back to Boston I started reading the advance reader copy of Crenshaw, a forthcoming book by Katherine Applegate I received at camp and I reflected on how lucky I was to find my tribe. These people at camp are the people who push me to be the best I can as a teacher and it was so invigorating to spend two days with them. I took away some knowledge, but more importantly I took away a stronger sense of community. There are great things being done in education and it was powerful to spend time hearing from so many people in person. I love that I can be a part of this learning any time any where via technology, but I am also thankful that for these two days I got to be there “in real life”. Thank you to Cindy Minnich, Donalyn Miller, Colby Sharp, and Katherine Sokolowski for creating and maintaining The Nerdy Book Club blog community and thanks to Colby and Alaina Sharp, Suzanne Gibbs, Niki Ohs Barnes, Jen Vincent, and everyone else involved in making nErDCampMI a reality. It is a privilege to read and learn with you. If you do not yet participate in Twitter the names above are ones you should start following today. Everyone is welcome to be a part of the Nerdy Book Club!

#cyberPD- Part 1- Week of Juy 6, 2015

Digital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3-8 
by William L. Bass II and Franki Sibberson

Thanks to Michelle Nero, Cathy Mere, and Laura Komos for hosting this virtual PD again this summer. I think this is the fourth summer that I have participated and I always feel like I “get” far more than I give.
Week 1:
I appreciated that the book started with the NCTE position paper review. I have not taught in the US for years and although I try to keep abreast of the thinking, I have not spent time with this document at all.
Chapter 1: I enjoyed reading their definition of “digital” and thinking more deeply about the differences between linear and nonlinear texts. I need to be more specific in my instruction about reading these types of texts differently. I am definitely guilty of assuming that my third graders already know how and when to click on hyperlinks and track their thinking. I liked that the authors emphasized what digital reading is and is not. I worry that the students are getting used to a more surface understanding and this was brought out in this chapter. The “what matters most” being that classrooms focus on authenticity, intentionality, and connectedness really made me think about the ways I have to model digital reading in the class more and integrate it more purposefully.
Chapter 2: Recognizing that time, ownership, and response are needed for growth as a reader made me happy that I have kept true to my own beliefs about choice. I feel pressured at times to do more guided reading with group sets of texts that the students have not chosen, simply because they are the books that we have multiple copies of and this chapter gives me more confidence to limit this. This chapter challenged me to be more inclusive in my read alouds and shared reading experiences. I do not often choose blogs or websites as my sources. I also have to be more explicit in teaching strategies for accessing information from digital sources via mini lessons. I have never taught my students how to track their thinking when using ereaders. If authenticity is key (and I really believe it is) I have to do a better job of meeting my readers where they are, and I know some of them DO read on ereaders (and in fact I have two in the classroom for them). This chapter also pushes me to work more wth my students in identifying and developing their intentionality, first by having them become more aware of their choices, then by helping them to refine their skills and repertoire.
Chapter 3 is going to focus on authenticity and I hope to get more ideas for how to push myself here.
I was lucky enough to have heard Franki Sibberson speak more about her digital workshop in the last few days at nErDCampMI and she shared some resources and ideas that I will definitely incorporate in the upcoming school year. I LOVE that she also teaches third grade, as it makes me really look at what I need to do with a “no excuses” attitude, because even though we are teaching far apart from each other, kids are kids. I also appreciate hearing the voice of “real” classroom teachers.
I look forward to continuing to think all this through with the other teachers participating in #cyberPD!