Monthly Archives: November 2016



#sol- November 29, 2016

Report writing crunch time means:

Noticing growth and goals,

Brain almost empty,

Eyes blurry,

Looking for new ways to say the same kinds of things,

Never having enough space to write all I want,

Wishing I could capture the students and their learning in a better way,

Should be a better typist by now,

Setting goals for myself (and building in breaks and rewards),

Striving for balance (unsuccessfully),

Feeling guilty for all I am not doing well,


Books Are Almost Always the Answer


#sol- November 22, 2016

Books are pretty important to me- as I said to a former student recently who wanted my feedback on a story he had written, “Books are almost always the answer.” This totally made sense in the context of his story.

It is that time of year, report writing… I’ll be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with reports (I love thinking deeply about the students and their progress, I hate crafting the sentences that say all I want to within the given parameters- I type slowly and draft even slower). I get less reading than usual during report writing days, but books still keep creeping into my life. I realize I have gotten to know so much about the students in the books we have shared in addition to the stories they have read and written.

Recently a friend announced her pregnancy- my response give a book (A Child of Books– the mom-to-be is a book lover too). Books are great gifts for any occasion!

Today during my afterschool activity (Book Love, frequent readers will remember) I asked T to choose a picture book for us to read. T is in this activity for the third semester and says that he will be in it until he moves on to middle school. He also happens to be in my class this year, so he knows our class library fairly well. He grabbed a book off the shelf that he had never read: I Hate Picture Books, mostly because he knows how much I LOVE picture books. I read the book aloud to these 20 students and they shouted book titles aloud when they recognized familiar lines or characters. I then sent them off to read or write, after a gentle reminder to be a bit quiet so that others could do their thing.

Two students were planning to write a book together, I joked that it could be I Hate Quiet, as these two boys enjoy a good chat (often in Korean) with their friends while they sketch and read. Every time I went near them today they hid their work, “Not yet, not yet!” they protested. Near the end, they came to me and proudly shared their work- a 4 page illustrated book- starring me as the teacher demanding quiet (maybe my reminder had not seemed so gentle to them?) and two innocent looking boys. At the end, they shared their book with the group, which inspired another young writer to share his story too. One of the writers was in the activity last year- it was clear he did not really enjoy it, but as time went by he seemed more content. This year when he was on the list again I asked him why- was his mom forcing him to come?

“Last year she made me come. This year I wanted to come,” O answered. His co-author was new to English last April. He clearly identifies as a reader and buries himself in reading and writing each week. I asked him today the secret to his success for learning so much English so quickly and he responded, “I read a lot.”

As these busy days are upon us all (or will be very soon) today was a good reminder for me to make sure that I make time for myself to read, but also that I make the time to read to my class. Books are almost always the answer!

Tracking Packages


#sol- November 15, 2016

Within 24 hours of living in Kuala Lumpur I already had a membership card to the biggest book store in town. I visit the store almost every weekend and order online from them at least three times a month. Suffice it to say I spend a lot of money there! I have a not so secret addiction- books- kid lit in particular. I get all the books I order delivered to school because my apartment building guards are not allowed to accept parcels and the post office I would collect a package from is far away. I wait not so patiently for my books to arrive. Nearly every day I check my orders to see if any more books have moved from “order received”

to “checking store stocks”

to “pending”

to “ready to dispatch”

and finally to “dispatched”.

Once I read those magic words I get sent a tracking number and I keep tabs on the package over the next few days. Little do the front office staff at school know that I am aware when they do not send me an email on the same day that the package arrives. It happens.

Today was a big day- about 20 books arrived (yesterday, but the email to collect the package from the office arrived today). When I picked up the package the office staff laughed at me (again), “More books?”

“You sure do like to read!”

“That is a big box!”

As I opened the box right there, I assured them that it was not as many books as it might seem. There was a lot of bubble wrap.

“Oh, can I have the bubble wrap? My younger daughter is making unicorn headresses,” E. asked.

“Of course,” I answered happily, already inhaling the heady scent of new books. As the office ladies shook their heads at the book crazy lady walking out with another pile of books I started making deals with myself about how many books I could read before I share them with my class. One hour later when the students retun from specials and lunch and the jig is up- they see the new pile! The eager readers are ready!


Trying to Squeeze in More Choice in Our Days


#sol- November 8, 2016

“Today we will talk about Free Choice Friday during workshop time, ” part of my Mornong Message read last Friday.  I struggle with the endless rush of the pace at school- there is always more to do and I know there is so much room for me to do things “better”. Last week I started something in class that feels like a step in the right direction as I struggle to balance the teacher I want to be with the teacher I am. At the end of our meeting we moved into writing workshop. We talked about the goals of writing workshop-with the major one being helping us to be better writers. We talked about all the different kinds of writing the students know and want to do. We talked about what the teacher’s job is during workshop. And then for 30 minutes they wrote. Some continued their information book, others wrote poems, letters, comics, picture books, fantasies, and more. Some worked on their own and some worked collaboratively. All were totally engaged.

Once it was reading workshop time we had a similar discussion, and off they went to read. Just before recess we reflected on the morning. I told the students that while I could not promise that every Friday would be a Free Choice Friday like this I was promising them that at least part of workshop each Friday would be free choice. Monday to Thursday we work hard on the units of study that all grade 3 is working on (and do not get me wrong, I LOVE these units), but on Fridays we are opening up the choices. I see it evolving a bit as we might add in seminar groups where students who want to learn more as a group can do that. This Friday we will start by checking in and seeing what new ideas the students have for workshop. I can’t wait to see where it takes us!

When in Doubt, Read!


#sol- November 1, 2016

In this week bookended by exciting celebrations (Halloween Monday, Diwali celebration at school Friday) we also had an author visit scheduled for today. The author was scheduled to end our day, but yesterday we learned she was going to be at school for the morning, so she became our “opening act” right at 8:05. This meant that our “daily routine” was thrown off. Once we got back from the author visit we continued our Morning Meeting. Because the day was going to be mixed up anyway I decided to let the students determine the order of our day, so we voted to make a few changes. Reader Workshop had to remain at the same time as usual because our EAL teacher works with some of the beginning English learners at that time. Since the author ended early we had just over 20 “extra” minutes before Reader Workshop, so we did what we love to do whenever we have some spare time- we paused for a read aloud. Today we snuck in two! We started with A Child of Books (by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston) and it was great to have students notice familiar stories and “get” the messages in the book. We had some great discussion about what the key was! Next we changed genres and read Giant Squid  (by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann). As we are reading and writing nonfiction this book was one I really wanted to share. The students were absolutely captivated and shared eagerly what they knew and wondered about giant squids. Partway through the reading the EAL teacher came to get two of the students. Imagine my surprise when I later walked over to where they were working and I looked at their jointly constructed notes. The have been working on being teachers as we read and learn from nonfiction and H. had been sharing about what he had learned about giant squids. He even remembered details like how many of me would be about the same length as one tentacle (almost 6 of me). It has been so rewarding to see this class really evolve as readers. It often surprises me what these students new to English can really take in. Once we finished the book back in the classroom I reminded the group that today we would start narrative nonfiction reading in the form of biographies and a cheer went up! They could hardly wait to get their hands on more books! Is it any wonder that I was dressed as Super Reader yesterday- we really are being formed by stories.