Oct 15, 2017

Working on Positive Actions

We all like to hear positive things.  And children are no different.

After reading and having discussions about working towards a more trauma-sensitive classroom, I continued to think about what I can do in my small groups to highlight the positive actions that occur.

After a running record, I have always talked to my students about what they are doing really well and what they can work on.  Always emphasizing that they are not alone and I tell them what I am going to do to help them with that skill.

But I wanted to do a bit more.

I am still having this conversation with them.  But I am also writing down one positive thing they are doing in a card to their families.  I write it quickly as I am taking notes on their reading. The note may say..."Ruby was looking at beginning sounds when reading today!" So this is not taking a lot of time.  But my students are really excited to have a little note to take home!

We use LLI as an intervention in our school.  Every other day, students write about the text during our small group lesson.  It is so easy to point out everything they are doing incorrectly when writing.  But, of course, this would be so deflating and pointless.  So this year I started pointing out some of their positive actions with little stickers in their books.

It is really simple.  And probably a bit silly.  But I want them to feel good about what they ARE doing so that hopefully they will keep paying attention to those details.

I also want to share something I observed in Maria's room.

These are golden frames that hang on one of her bulletin boards.  She hangs up work and writes down what the student did well.  I love how specific it is and it models the behavior for other students.  It is a simple, quick, and easy way to point out the positive for a student.

I completely recognize that none of these ideas are ground breaking.  But I know I needed a little push to add more of these actions into my daily routine.

Now I just need to just keep it up!


Sep 27, 2017

Literacy at Home

We know literacy at home is important.  To be successful at anything in our lives, we need practice.  And reading is no different.  For our students to become stronger readers, critical thinkers, and problem solvers, they must be able to practice those skills during school hours and outside of those hours.

There are so many fantastic ideas out there to help engage families in literacy, such as: events at the school, game nights, conferences, open houses, curriculum nights, and newsletters.  Many teachers send home books bags or homework.  All of these decisions are a way to engage families in educational conversations with their children.

Then I had my own children.

Many things I do with my girls has an educational spin.  Literacy is ever-present in our daily home.  Since they were very little, my girls have carried around the grocery list and checked off the items we put into our cart. Even before they were able to talk, I was pointing out words and colors on the trucks that passed by our car.  As they got older, we were reading the trucks and bulletin boards or discussing the meaning behind the lyrics that we were singing.  None of these ideas are ground breaking.

But it made me wonder...what are my students doing at home that are literacy based activities?  Do all families think to discuss the grocery list?  Do families collect as many acorns as they possibly can during a walk and then count them by ones, twos, or tens?  Is this just what you do with your own children naturally or does it come from my educational background?

So I asked around.

And what I found is that it is probably both.  Each family is unique and provides different learning experiences for their children based on their comfort level.  But there may be some things I do with my kids, that do come from my background of constant reading of educational blogs and teacher books.

This got me thinking...

I want literacy to be enjoyable for my students and their families.  I know for some homework and nightly reading can bring back some unpleasant experiences for parents that struggled to read.  So to help promote some positive experiences, I decided to create a quarterly newsletter.  It is not meant to replace reading, homework, literacy nights, or anything else.  I simply wanted to provide user friendly fun for families.

 Fun literacy activities for families

There is one newsletter for each season.  Three activities are introduced.  There are some "important dates."  Most of these are authors' birthdays or national literacy days.

I would love to get your thoughts.  Do you think families would appreciate some fun ideas to incorporate literacy into their everyday lives?  If you want to check out all of the sheets, just click on the image above.  It is FREE!


Sep 16, 2017

You Pick: Giving Power to Our Students

First things first: I am not an expert on this topic!  But my teammate is trying it out this year and so I thought I would share what we are doing and WHY.

This summer a small group of us attended Nerd Camp in Michigan.  My teammate, Karen, attended a session on reading rituals and learned about a routine that we are calling "you pick."  Each day two books are displayed.  In the morning, students "vote" on which book they would like to hear read.  That book is then enjoyed by the class and the other one is placed in the classroom library or goes back into the basket of books to be voted on again.  Finally, a picture of the book is put on display so that we can keep a log of all the "you pick" books read aloud during the year.

That's it.

But why?  As a first grade classroom our students are hearing read alouds each and every day; however, the book typically serves some type of teaching purpose.  Maybe we are analyzing the character or we may be looking at the nonfiction text features.  "You pick" (for our class) is about just enjoying a read aloud each and every day just to...enjoy it.  No other reason.  We also want students to understand that they have the power of choice.  And we want to honor their choices.

Here's a little more detail.
Two books are displayed in the hallway.  We will typically put up two books that are shorter because this needs to be a pretty quick read aloud each day.  Here are some of the ones we have done so far this year:

In the Tall, Tall Grass by Denise Fleming versus In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming
How Kind by Mary Murphy versus The Neighbor Kid by Daniel Miyares
Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry versus Carrot and Pea by Morag Hood 
The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds versus Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

When students arrive at school in the morning they vote for the book that they would like to hear.  I think there are probably a million ways that this could occur.  The display is in the hallway.  Students place clothespins on a ribbon (fine motor skills!).  This is super easy for a student to take down all the clothespins after the book has been chosen.  Our hope is that putting them on display in the hall will entice other students to check out those books too!

 Finally, we post a picture of each book chosen.  This will help the students to remember all the books that were chosen by them throughout the year.  We decided to make it look like a calendar.  This display of books was not in our original plan; however, with the HP instant ink and a new printer, I am able to print these pictures off much easier than I thought.

There are many teachers out there that are doing a "classroom book a day."  This is just our version of it.  We had to make it work for our first grade students.  But I am really looking forward to the impact that it is going to have on them!


Aug 13, 2017

Relevant Reading: Connecting Students to What Matters

As summer winds down, I reflect on what I've learned this summer through the workshops I've attended, the books I've read, and all the great conversations I've had with professionals.

This quote has had me thinking quite a bit.  It comes from Disruptive Thinking: Why How We Read Matters by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst.  What they state is absolutely true.  Students need to find relevance in what they are doing right now.

So let's backtrack a little...
I have always been about purpose.  I look at what I'm teaching and ensure that what we are doing serves a purpose.  And I share that with students.  Understanding why we are doing something is very important to me.
Interest is also imperative.  I have always tried to make sure that I am matching the books I choose to the interest of my students.  Interest surveys, conversations, and book selection time have always been informative to me.

But relevance.  This is something much deeper.  It is something you are connected to.  It is something that MATTERS. 

Well...and when I think about it...do I really read anything that isn't relevant to me?  Nope. Not really.

So what do I do now?  I've been thinking a lot about it and my first step is to just ask my first graders.  What issues or problems matter to you? So I added it to my interest survey (click to grab for free):


From there...I will need to get creative.  They are new readers.  And some of them may share some big issues and some students may not. But I need to be prepared to help them make connections to what matters to them and the books we are reading.  And I am up for the challenge because Beers and Probst state that:
"If they are to undertake anything significant in the future, it will be because they have learned the importance of significant work early on in their schooling."
This statement says a lot.  We need our students out there doing significant work.  We need them to have a voice.  So we need to help them find that voice...even at a young age.


Jul 31, 2017

Preparing for the Year (Plus a Giveaway)

As teachers, our summers are filled with preparation.  My brain has to reset, recharge, and refocus on what changes I can make to help my students and ME grow throughout the year.  And that is just what I have done this summer.

So as we prepare....let's celebrate, as well!  With a sale.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

I will choose a winner early tomorrow morning so that you can use up your giftcard to help prepare you for the upcoming year!

Jul 28, 2017

The Path We Take With Others

Last year was my first Nerd Camp.

          **Note-This is a free conference in Michigan where educators, librarians, authors, and illustrators congregate to discuss all things reading and writing for two days.  Day 1 is like a traditional conference with lots of great speakers and sessions.  Day 2 is set up as an "unconference," where we all help to create the sessions and schedule.**

Last year my sister and I went together.  We left feeling so empowered, excited, and eager to share what we learned.

This year we went as a team of 5.

And this year we left with so much more than even last year.

Were we empowered?  Yes!  We had the opportunity to listen to this powerful speech by Donalyn Miller.  We heard research that stated reading enjoyment is more important to success than socio-economic status.  We were reminded that it is about the reading experience, not reading lessons.  And to always be asking ourselves, "How can I be better?"

Were we excited?  Yes!  I left with a list of books that I am eager to read.  I met Jess Keating and was able to explain how much I love Pink is for Blobfish.  Shelley Johannes shared her new book with me (and my daughter nabbed it as soon as I got home)!

Were we eager to share what we learned?  Always!!  I can't wait to try out Demonstration Notebooks with my students so that I can share with my building how to utilize them.  All 5 of us would like to work together to share the One Book One School program with our district.  And we have already started to share our learnings from the diverse book panel through a monthly book club that we will be hosting.

But this year...we left with even stronger relationships and bonds.  Going through an experience like this...an experience that is powerful, that brings you to tears, that places you in a room with so many other people that love reading as much as you do, that surrounds you with people that want to help young minds grow, an experience that is meant to light a fire under you...is powerful.  As a team, we laughed so much and shared so much personally and professionally, that our relationships grew. 

And that is something.

As teachers, we need to surround ourselves with other teachers that feel passionately about the same things.  Those people, those companions, are going to push you and help you to grow into that teacher that is always asking, "How can I be better?"  I need that.  I crave that.  And I am grateful that I do have those people within my school, my district, and in my blogging community.

So next year...I hope that my team of 5 grows even more because I know that we will leave Nerd Camp with more than what we came with.


Jul 6, 2017

Writer's Workshop: Conferencing

I know it's summer, but my gears never shut off.  They may slow down a little but, but there is not a shut down mode on my teacher brain.  I partially think this is because I'm doing what I love and I LOVE what I do.  Teaching only writing to our firsties has opened up an amazing world for me.  Throughout the summer I'm just reading and researching to better my craft and I find so much joy in learning.  Towards the end of my school year I had noticed that taking notes during my conferences had really gone by the wayside.  We were still having great conversations, but I just wasn't writing things down for me or my students.  This was not good.  Especially when we came to the next conference and I thought we had talked about things to try but neither of us could remember.  It was ok, but I knew I had to get better so I jumped online.  I came across Julie Shope's Writing Workshop Checklist. You can check it out here.  She did a fantastic job, but it just didn't fit what I needed to help my littlest authors.  That's when I decided to make my own.  They are common core aligned and really just hone in on what I need my firsties to do.


Here's how I intend to use these guys.  When conferencing with my firsties I will highlight what he/she can do and focus on one thing they can try.  Both will be highlighted.  At the bottom, I will write a little note that will include encouragement as well as a suggestion.  Then, the firstie will put this notes page back in his/her folder and off they will merrily go to try out what we discussed. (I do snicker a little at this comment because I know we will probably have the same conversation the next time we talk. hahaha) I do love how each firstie will keep this notes page in their writing folder for safe storage. I love how we will be able to take it out over the course of a unit and see our conferences together, what we've talked about, and the growth that has been made as an author.  I also think I'll send these little babies home at the end of each unit or save them for parent teacher conferences. That's yet to be decided.  Click the above images or HERE to get this packet for yourself!

I hope you'll be able to use these in your classroom and I'd LOVE, LOVE, LOVE any feedback you have. :)

Happy writing!!!