Monthly Archives: March 2016

Book Crazy #sol16 Day 24 of 31

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Book Crazy

“There’s a parcel for you in  the office,” my email read today. This is not the first time, not by a long shot. I know they know what is inside. The ladies in the office all laugh whenever I go in to pick up a package. “More books?” they ask.

The ladies in the office all laugh whenever I go in to pick up a package. “More books?” they ask.

“Always,” I answer. For awhile it turns out they really did not understand.

One day I explained that the books arriving are always for my classroom.  “Oh,” one said, “we thought you read a lot.”

“I do,” I explained, “I read almost every book I buy.”

When I walked away I am sure they laughed. Some people just do not understand my love for books. My students get it! Look what Mrs. E., a parent of one of last year’s students just gave me:

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the perfect t-shirt for book crazy me!

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Flow- It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year #sol16 Day 23 of 31

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Flow- It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

As I sliced yesterday, it is almost Spring Break and we have LOTS to do at school. We had a normal Math and recess/snack and then we met up to strategize. We talked about the deadline of Friday and what must get done by then. We worked through “must do” and “can do” for the social studies and writing projects. We talked about what to do when you need a break. I told them that we would not be having mini lessons today, instead they would be in charge of their own learning. We would have 3 brain and body breaks (we love Go Noodle– check it out!) as a class and short read alouds too. Then I set them off for a two-hour work session. It was an amazingly productive time: students were working on Minecraft Civilizations or creating posters or books. When they were working on their writing there were conferences (with me or with classmates), students were consulting mentor texts, reading into their laptops (to access voice typing) or typing away. Every now and then I reminded a few to change to the other project if they needed to finish up loose ends. At the end, a few students shared their top tips for success. Tomorrow we will have a similar work session. I love that at this time of year the students have more stamina and can work on projects that they design to achieve their goals. No two students had the same projects and all were totally engaged. As we began each of the three sessions I had the students set goals. All of them were amazed at home much they got done, but also at how quickly the time went by. It is this time of year that always makes me wish I had requested to loop with my class- they are in the “sweet spot” for learning as we have well-established routines and know how to maximize our conferences to get the most accomplished. Having this long block of concentrated work time would have been unthinkable earlier in the year, but now… WOW!

Getting Ready Day By Day #sol16 Day 22 of 31

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Getting Ready Day by Day

It is almost Spring Break and I feel conflicted. On the one hand, there is so much to get done at school that I want time to slow down so that it can all get done. On the other, it’s almost Spring Break and I need it (and the kids seem to also!), so I want time to speed up. In reality, I know that everything that needs to get done will (or it won’t and I will figure it out somehow anyway). Somehow my students need to finish final drafts of their writing and finish an end of unit project in social studies. They also need to have about an hour and a half to write their end of unit assessment. They have finished what they must for reading and the math unit has just started, so I have some wiggle room there. I tell myself to breathe so that my stress will not affect the students.

Then, there is SPRING BREAK! I am leaving on Saturday morning for a week in Thailand. I will spend 5 days in Chiang Mai with no set agenda. I am traveling alone, but a friend and her family will be there. I was there for a few days in October, so I already know that I love the city. I will walk and walk and hopefully get some school work done. After that, I am off to Bangkok (I was also there in October). I will have one free day and then a two-day workshop (Cultures of Thinking, led by Ron Ritchhart). I am hoping to get to the big market that I missed last time (I will have to go very early before my Saturday session). I have started to get ready for the trip bit by bit. Yesterday I exchanged some money, today I checked in for my three flights and printed out boarding passes. What I did not bank on was getting a cold, but that is what I woke up to this morning, so I have to get to the pharmacy to get saline nasal spray (I better go tonight). I still have to pack and get a few other things organized.

As excited as I am for my break I know that I have lots of work to do in the next three days, so I better approach those days with the same level of organization as I am attempting with my trip- day by day, getting things done, so the end result is good!

10 Things About Me #sol16 Day 21 of 31

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10 Things About Me (in no particular order)*

  1. I am a book lover- I love the smell of books, the feel of books, books via Kindle, talking about books, buying books, sharing books, middle grade books, YA books, picture books, book club books, BOOKS! I have a huge class library, but except for professional books I do not hold on to my “grown up” books.
  2. I am a mom- my sons are 22 and 24 and I miss them every day, as they are in Boston and Bentonville (AR) and I am in Kuala Lumpur. I am so proud of the young men that they are!
  3. I am a hermit (or so I say so often)- I am quite happy to spend lots of time at home alone (except when I am not happy to). I am pretty boring.
  4. I love to travel! I have lived in 8 countries and traveled to many more. I look forward to new places, but love to come “home” too. Back to Thailand next week- a few days in Chiang Mai and then Bangkok.
  5. I am a cat person- Pele is next to me right now. She is 13 years old and had a brother, Berlin who died last summer.
  6. I LOVE teaching- it is the only thing I ever really wanted to do and I do not know what else I would love as much.I have the best class!
  7. I love learning- I am always trying to learn more and I am a tech lover too. My best PD lately is via Twitter. I have break next week and two days will be spent on PD.
  8. I love purple- all shades, but especially “royal purple”. Purple cheers me up. Chocolate does too.
  9. I am lazy and know I should exercise more. I miss all the walking I did in Berlin!
  10. I never watch TV, but have lots of other things I do that are “time wasters”.
  • inspired by many of my third graders who have recently sliced similar lists

Musical Mania #sol16 Day 20 of 31

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Musical Mania

I have this feeling I never 100 % fit in. In high school I was an edge person- friends in many different groups, but I never felt totally part of any one group. In college it was similar. After college the trend seemed to continue- I think in part because I am an introvert and do not go out of my way to plan and execute social events.

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At my last school, many of my friends were quite musical. I have NO musical talent, but like to hum along (off tune) and enjoy concerts of almost any variety. It came to pass that two teachers at school started something they called “Musical Mania”. They picked about 20 songs from musicals, people auditioned and were given parts, were responsible for learning their words, went away for three days to learn all the choreography and then performed twice. It was a major project with generally over 100 students from grades 6-12 and about 20 staff members. There was a full orchestra/band, student choreographers, big numbers involving everyone, solos were often shared as they tried to get everyone in about 5 songs. It was a fun and frenzied rush to get ready. The first few years I was an audience member and enjoyed singing along from my seat.  I would help out if they asked (passing out programs, etc.), but that was the end of my effort.

One year my older son was in the band (he could get creativity hours required for his diploma). Then the next year I decided to join. There were problems to overcome:

  1. The audition- I can not really carry a tune (so I sort of sang a bit in private with one of the teachers- luckily that was enough).
  2. The dancing- I do NOT move gracefully- I had so much troble learning my moves- I learned that it was best to hover near the edges of the stage- there were always others who were happy to be center stage.
  3. The reality- I still do not carry a tune well and singing while moving did not improve this.

In spite of this, I was allowed to participate. The directors are more forgiving with the adults- some of those kids were amazing (truth be told, some of the adults were too)! It was stressful, but fun. It really helped us all to see different sides of each other and revealed many strengths. It was a great way to be part of a fun tradition at the school and build relationships with colleagues and students. One year my younger son was in the orchestra as well- I think it was slightly embarrassing for him to have me on stage, but he bore it well.

Now, nearly two years after leaving that school “Musical Mania” is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary. The directors decided to invite some former members to participate long distance via video. All this expalins why this morning I donned an old t-shirt with “Don’t Stop Believing” on the front as I practiced my few lines as the voice from offstage in “Two by Two” to let the young Mormons know where their mission would be from “The Book of Mormon”. My cat made filming a challenge, but I got it done and sent it on. I couldn’t help but be grateful for the times I had being almost “part of” the musical theater group. The school is something special because of the people who make it that way. To Brent and Kirsten I say, “thank you for the music.”

Data #sol16 Day 19 of 31

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Data

As teachers we sometimes feel we are drowning in data- assessing, gathering data, reporting data, etc. This year for the first time I am using a different kind of data. This year a group of us at my school are piloting the Teachers College Units of Study in Reading and Writing. Initially, we were just going to use two units each of reading and writing, but a few of us have loved the change so much that we have gone all in. While any change means additional work what I saw made so much sense to me that I knew it was going to make a difference for my students. As it is a pilot year I was encouraged, but not required, to use the various components- again I went all in. The one thing that intrigued me was the pre and post assessments for reading. I (of course) had used reading assessments in the past, but never unit specific assessments. I don’t know why it had never occurred to me to do this- after all, it is common practice in other areas. As the year progressed I have given both the pre and post assessments for each unit and assessed it myself in addition to having the students self-assess and use the information for goal setting. We are finishing up our third unit (character studies) and I gave the post assessment on Friday. This afternoon I spent some time looking the work over and comparing it to the pre-assessments and I am amazed at the differences from the pre-assessment work. Seeing these third graders rise to the challenge is so inspiring. When the EAL

We are finishing up our third unit (character studies) and I gave the post assessment on Friday. This afternoon I spent some time looking the work over and comparing it to the pre-assessments and I am amazed at the differences from the pre-assessment work. Seeing these third graders rise to the challenge is so inspiring. When the EAL coteacher and I looked over the initial data for the unit we agreed that, at least in most cases, we were going to be starting from ground zero with these standards. This is the first year that these students are being exposed to Common Core standards and the first year that they are working with the Units of Study. Looking at the end results makes me even a bigger fan of the Units of Study and what they can do for students. To make this point even stronger 2/3 of my class speak a language other than English at home. To be fair, I have to give lots of the credit to the students- it is an incredibly hard working group and they  work hard to achieve their goals. It has been so powerful to have them share common language about their goals and what they were doing to achieve them. I truly believe that the Units of Study have hastened their learning trajectory. I look forward to continuing to work with these units and refine my work with them, but wow, I am definitely feeling like even in year one I have improved my literacy teaching. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?!

Friday Night Plans

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Friday Night Plans

I left school tonight later than I planned, because just as I was ready to make my move the sky opened up and with many loud crashes and booms a full fledged thundery storm was wreaking havoc with my plans. Friday afternoon traffic is always terrible here, but combine it with torrential rain and you have a formula for delay.

Luckily I had no real plans- I was ready to just sit and read before a weekend too busy for me. My to-do list for the weekend includes:

  • a bit more lesson planning (I broke my own rule by not having all the copies I need for the week made- I have yet to even look at math, so there is bound to be some photocopying in my future Monday morning). Grr!)
  • mark the end of unit reading assessment (fortunately I think that is all I have left to mark).
  • revise and edit our class story to be ready as a demonstration text for a lesson this week.
  • read (and make stickies) for one more book club book for my group that just chose a new book today.
  • write a reflective critical paper for a conference I attended a few weeks ago in order to earn two credits.
  • record myself playing “God” as part of “Two by Two” from “The Book of Mormon” (long story, but my former school is celebrating the 10th anniversary of a musical theater show that they put on each year and those of us who have left have been invited to participate this year long distance). This means I have to get the timing right so that it goes with the live singers who will be playing the other parts.
  • prepare for and attend a baby shower (must bake mini cupcakes, buy a present, etc)
  • book a hotel for one night of Spring Break that I have not yet sorted (in 8 days I will be back in Chiang Mai!!!). Which means I better get planning Spring Break-hmm- not going to happen yet.

Looks like a busy weekend, but with Spring Break in one week I think I can push through it, but for tonight, it’s just me and a book.