Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Summer Reading via Padlet

Finding My Way-Books that Inspire My Teaching

I am about to begin my 6th year as a reading teacher. I was placed in this position because of my strong background in literacy for K-2 which is where I had taught for 20 years. Now I work with students in grades 3rd-5th, not my background! For the past three years I've been trying to figure out the best approach to meet my student's needs. These are the books that have inspired me and are helping me to become a better teacher. I'm beginning my 35th year of teaching and still striving to improve.

I started out by reading Daily Five and CAFE and even had the honor of attending Gail and Joan's workshop in Rochester. The following year I took their online course to get a better understanding and loved the course and the research I did to complete it. It gave me a much better understanding of what works in reading. Since I only see my students for 40 minutes every other day doing the Daily Five was not going to work but I modified it and we did read to self and read with a partner and worked on the CAFE strategies. I had a CAFE board for each group and the children chose their goals and worked toward them each day. I hate to admit I got away from the goals last year but I plan on getting back on board this year.

The following summer I read The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild by Donalynn Miller. I loved both these books. Last year my students filled in book logs to track the number of books read and they read books of their choice most of the time. Now instead of having time to roam my whole library I gave students 10 books to choose one or two they'd like to read. The pile of books was selected by using a reading inventory the students filled out the first day of class and what I learned about them as the year progressed. We also discussed TBR piles what we wanted to read over every break from school.

The next book I read was Notice and Note by Kylene Beers. Improving my student's comprehension is a big goal and this seemed like it would fill that need while still giving students choice in their reading materials. I focused on this mainly with my fourth graders this past year because a few of the classroom teachers were reading the book as well and wanted to try it out. We all found it worked well to get the students talking about their books and developing a better understanding. This coming year the fifth grade teachers are going to give it a try and the fourth grade team will begin introducing the signposts at the beginning of the year.

This summer I read Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Soalarz. Again, seeing my students for a limited time limits how many of his strategies I can use but I plan on trying to implement some things. I try not to talk for a longer amount of time than my student's age but I don't give them much time to talk. And last year I got away from partner reading. So, to begin with I plan on introducing Give Me 5 for the students to share: signposts they find, when they finish a book, when they read a book of a new genre, ask for a definition of a word, two minute warning for end of class... other suggestions? I think it will be disruptive at first but I hope they'll grow used to it and be able to go right back to work. I'm also going to let students do partner reading this year as well as let them listen to books on tape. Another goal is to do some reader's theatres and book talks. I also plan on some partner writing and in the back of my mind I'm toying with the idea of a passion project, just not sure how that will work with our schedule.

So, there you have my role models for trying to put together a relevant and engaging reading classroom for my students. When my students leave me my biggest wish is that they see themselves as readers.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

New Room! How to Organize??

My New Room
Last year our district switched from two PreK-5 schools to a PreK-2 and a 3-5 school. This was a big switch for everyone. In the process I lost my classroom and had to share with another reading teacher. I've been teaching for over 30 years and I'm always looking for ways to improve my instruction so I'm not a teacher that's stuck in her ways but I will admit the idea of room sharing did not go over well with me.

This summer I read Learn Like a Pirate and I really want to try some of the ideas with my reading students. However, that is going to be very difficult in a shared room because it's going to be noisier than ever at times. I discussed this with my principal and he promised to give the idea of a room change some consideration. Yesterday I got the wonderful news that another teacher was willing to switch places with me! I don't think I stopped smiling all day yesterday. :)

I headed up to school and the custodians had already moved all of our stuff. I just had to pack up my desk and closet stuff. Easy! My first year as a reading teacher I was in a refurbished closet, really! Then I moved to a slightly bigger room. Last year I had half a classroom which was my biggest space so far and now I have a full size classroom! That means all my holiday and extra books I've stored in the computer lab can come back to my room and I'll be able to take other stuff stored in the hall closets and get it back in my room or toss it since I haven't used it in years. It's a great feeling.

So, here is my room:

Lots of bulletin board space!

Yucky white boards and they aren't magnetic, next to the Smartboard.

The one drawback to this room is afternoon sun on the hot days.

The kidney table will be leaving and be replaced with a rectangular one

My only open plug is back by the sink!

My teaching style is a mix of CAFE/Donalyn Miller's Books/Notice and Note/Learn Like a Pirate-I'll try to explain this in an upcoming post.

I have some comfy reading seats

  • rocking chair
  • beanbag
  • wagon with two pillows
  • a crate with a pillow
  • an extra teacher chair

I also have:

  • thousands of books in bins sorted by author/series/topic/genre
  • 3 computers 
  • 7 iPads with headphones
  • a rolling chart stand
  • 2 rectangular tables
  • 12 desks-not sure if I have to keep those or not
  • a teacher desk which holds the 4th computer and document camera hooked to the Smartboard

Things I plan on adding/doing this year:

  • a listening station-another teacher wanted to get rid of books on tape and I found a working tape player in the lockers so I took them. 
  • reader's theatre-
  • partner reading
  • giving students more voice and choice
  • more collaboration

I'll be making a trip to JoAnn's this weekend to buy fabric for all my bulletin boards, I'm definitely out of touch with having to fill in all that space. I think I'm going to do a pirate theme and I'll be using the Notice and Note signposts so I'm thinking about using that as a springboard for the big bulletin board but I'm open to other ideas.

I'll be spending next week getting the room arranged. I'd love to hear some suggestions from you on what to do for bulletin boards and arranging areas for my reading room for 3rd-5th graders before I get up there and begin working!


I enjoy going to conferences. It's great to connect with Facebook and Twitter friends and learn something new or be reminded of something you've forgotten about. In the past I've attended NYSCATE, ISTE and Podstock. I enjoyed them all! But now that I'm not teaching in the classroom or the computer lab I find it harder to justify the expense of attending a conference. Last year I heard about EdcampNEPA but it was the same weekend as The Ride for Missing Children so no conference. This year Edcamp was held a month earlier so I signed up and tried to get a few coworkers to attend with me. None of them were able to go so I went alone. EdcampNEPA was perfect, just a three hour drive from home, it ran from 8:30-1:00, it's free and they even had food for breakfast and lunch. With the help of Hotwire it only cost me gas, dinner, and a cheap hotel rate. I can afford that.

Edcamps are not the typical conference. It's about conversations and taking ownership for your own learning. The day starts with breakfast goodies, reconnecting with old friends and making new friendships while the conference schedule board begins to fill up. We were constantly reminded that there were still openings on the board, you don't have to be an expert, and you need to make sure you get what you came for. I wandered over to see what the sessions were going to be about and totally surprised myself when I went ahead and signed up to lead a discussion on "Using Tech to Support Reading and Writing for 3rd-5th Grades."

Oops, it's four months later and I never finished this post! Sorry...let me just add a few more notes...

My session was during the first of three time slots. There were just a handful of participants and that made for a good easy going group discussion. In the end I was glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone.

The next session was on Making writing authentic we waited a bit for the person that signed up for the topic but s/he never showed so participants just began sharing.
A few notes from that discussion:

  • Use Kidblog-everything is approved by the teacher first
  • The Book Writing in Science was mentioned as a good read
  • Voki and Blabberize were mentioned as online tools for writing
  • Powerwriting: Give a word-students write for 1 minute. Repeat 2 more times. Each time count and circle number of words. As the year progress they see the growth. No punctuation, spelling etc. just get ideas down. Good for any area.
  • After watching a video write one word for each: adjective, emotion, interesting, oh?, Um
The third session was on global learning and led by Lisa Parisi and Michael Soskil, both experts on the subject.
  • A few notes from this presentation:
  • Use Twitter and Skype in the Classroom
  • Mystery Skype is the gateway drug to Skype
    • Need a map
    • Post questions and kids jot answers, have maps and computers available
    • Someone takes pictures, videos, researches, crosses impossibles off the map
    • Once finished have a Q&A session
    • Takes 20-25 minutes
    • Look up location on Google Earth when it's finished
    • It helps dispel stereotypes
  • Need to think about why you want to connect, what are you doing, how can you connect
  • Share the good stories
The day ended with a Smackdown, I'll share what I wrote down but not much detail:

Remind-communicate without giving out personal info can have office hours so parents can respond
YouTube Aurasma-demo people make book trailers with it
Edpuzzle-take YouTUbe video, you can shorten it, and add questions. Students can rewind and relisten to parts.
Plickers.com formative assessment with one device

It was a great day and I was very glad that I made the trip. I hope to return next year with some teacher friends. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Picture Book 10 for 10

This is my first year doing the Picture Book 10 for 10. I really wish I could have gotten into my classroom before doing this post. I feel like I really needed to browse through my baskets of books in my classroom and the shelves of books I don't have room for, so I keep them in my old room, the computer lab. But since we're getting a new roof we're not allowed in the school so I'll do my best...

Hmmm, what 10 picture books couldn't I live without???

1. Brown Bear Brown Bear-I taught kindergarten and first grade for many many years. This book helped many students become "readers" over the years. Someday when I have grandchildren it will be a book I'll share with them.

2. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom-another fun book for the young readers. Eric Carle is one of my very favorite authors too.

3. Quiltmaker's Gift/Journey-I fell in love with these two books last year although I've always enjoyed the gift. Our 4th graders read the journey in class and then I had my students read the gift with me. It was one of the few books that I had my class read together. They loved the story, the illustrations, making predictions, the language, everything. This year I will be introducing the Notice and Note signposts to my 4th graders early in the year. I'm looking forward to seeing how that changes their interactions with the story.

4. What Do You Do With an Idea? This was a new book for me last year. My 5th graders did not seem to enjoy it. I'm thinking it had to be my presentation. I'll do better this year.

5. Hmmmm, which Patricia Polacco book to pick? Thunder Cake, Thank You Mr. Falker, Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair..... it's too hard to choose, she has so many great ones! Our third grades do Mr. Falker in class and I follow up with the Triple Creek book, it's perfect for a reading teacher!

6. Janell Cannon is another favorite author. I used her books to introduce the Notice and Note sign posts to my third graders at the end of the year-Pinduli, Crickwing, Verdi but I've always loved Stellaluna and it still holds my top stop.

7. The Gardener by Sarah Stewart-I love how this book is told through letters and how the little girl makes the best of a difficult situation. I also happen to love gardening.

8. The Raft. I just realized I didn't use this with any of my classes last year! I will have to remedy that this year. It's such a great book about change with beautiful illustrations.

9. The Best Part of Me. Being a photographer and a teacher this book really speaks to me. My fourth graders loved making their own version last year.

10. If You Plant a Seed-I just read this book this month and immediately ordered a copy. I'm thinking about using it as my first day of class book to help set the tone for the year.

Well, there's today's top 10. Who knows, a week from now I might pick 10 different titles!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Best Part of Me

I finally did a project I've been thinking about for a couple of years. I had my 4th graders do their own version of The Best Part of Me by Wendy Ewald. It all started when the fourth grade team was discussing their latest Lucy Calkins writing frame back in November. I decided it was a frame I could use to give the students some extra practice and complete the desired project.

First, I shared the wonderful book with the kids. Then, after they shared possible favorite parts and reasons why, they got started making an organizer with their ideas. They could use paper and pencil, the note app on their iPad or the Popplet App. The next step was to begin our writing using the writing frame. We did one paragraph a day. Once they were finished they shared their writing with a partner and made any corrections they thought necessary. The final copy was typed in the Book Creator App. When it was complete they decided on how they wanted their picture taken and we did that together. They learned how to convert the picture to black and white and then added it to their book. I did a little editing with the students and was their final editor as well. The final step for the students was save their pages as a PDF and then Flick their pages to my iPad. I put all the pages into one book, saved it as a PDF and uploaded it to Bookemon. I posted the book on my school webpage and asked parents if they'd like to buy a copy. Eight parents took me up on the offer as well as a couple of the teachers. I was able to make it affordable by asking our wonderful PTA for my yearly $100 grant to help offset the cost for the parents.

Here's our final project:

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fourteenth Goldfish

During a Twitter Chat called #Titletalk in Dec I learned about so many great books published in 2014. Some of the books can be seen in my post about my Book a Day for Christmas break. My favorite book from that chat was The Fourteenth Goldfish. I love the strong female character, the connection to science and all its opportunities to introduce and teach The Notice and Note signposts. One of our fourth grade teachers is finding ways to introduce these signposts to her students and she's trying to get the other teachers on board so it seemed fitting to use this book with my fourth graders.

I have to admit I'm not a big fan of doing a read aloud with my students. I only see them 30-40 minutes every other day so it takes a long time to finish a book. However, I felt strongly about this book and teaching the strategies so I decided to give it a try.

I bought a copy of the book for myself. I read it again and again and marked it up with the signposts. Next, I bought a digital copy on Amazon and put the book on six of my iPads. Although I'm doing the reading I'm having the students follow along. I want them to hear fluent reading and keep focused by following along. They are also learning how to use the Kindle app to highlight words as well as find out definitions and pronunciations. I made a Smartboard file with the signposts. I used this bookmark as my guide. As soon as I pause and the kids realize I'm going to talk about a signpost they are looking at the board and trying to figure it out. I explain what signpost I think it is, I read the explanation to them and we all read the question we need to be asking ourselves. Next, I show a sticky note, that coordinates to the color of the signpost, and read my answer to the question. Once I have discussed a signpost three times I will be adding it to our CAFE board as a comprehension strategy and to a signpost bulletin board as well. This week I'll be passing out the above bookmarks for my students to keep in their book bags. I'll be encouraging them to begin to notice these signposts as they read their fiction books.

Here is a link to the signposts I am using, it's nothing fancy. Is it a complete list? I'm sure I've missed some. Is it accurate? Probably not, this is my first attempt at using the signposts.

I'm only on chapter ten but so far so good.

Midwinter Break Book a Day

A few days before break I had all my students think about and write down their midwinter break reading goals on a sticky note. The notes were stuck to a bulletin board in the hall. (I'll update with a picture tomorrow.) Upon returning to school tomorrow the students will grab their note, read it to the group and let us know how their plans went. I did not read a book a day as I had planned and did not read as much as I had hoped. I guess this time I will be a role model for showing that reading plans don't always go as well as we hope. I'll also start to talk about my reading plans for spring break, a mere five weeks away.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Book a Day for the Winter Break

Here's my TBR (to be read) pile of books at the beginning of vacation. I was sure I would make a good dent in this pile. Somehow, that didn't go as well as I planned. However, I did accomplish a book a day. I am looking forward to sharing my photo with my students and sharing what did and didn't get read. Even more than that I'm looking forward to hearing what they read over the break and if they got new books for Christmas.

Here's the bulletin board outside my classroom. It was open for anyone to share what books were on their holiday book wish. I put up two stars. One for Sky Crystals by Don Komarechka and one for Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography. I received the first, because I ordered it for my husband to give to me, and not the second. I decided one expensive book was enough for now, especially looking at the TBR pile. I'll be sharing my new book next Monday and I hope to hear some excitement from my students on their new books.

What I read over my winter break:

  1. Otto the Book Bear by Katie Cleminson-with a son named Otto how could I resist this one? When he and my daughter in law start a family they will be receiving this cute story.
  2. Eye to Eye How Animals see the World By Steve Jenkins-our 4th graders are learning about animals in science right now. I'll be sharing this book with them.
  3. Blizzard by John Rocco-I kept thinking how this would have been an excellent book for the primary teachers out in the Buffalo NY area after their Thanksgiving blizzard this year.
  4. My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown-a cute book on misperceptions.
  5. Little Red Writing by Joan Holub-this is a book I've been meaning to read for a couple of years. I thought it started out well but by the end it was too long and complicated of a story. I'm glad I never got around to purchasing it.
  6. The Boy who Loved Math The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman- this one I loved. I know just the student that I'll be sharing this book with next week. A student that doesn't care for reading but loves and excels in math.
  7. Malal Yousafzai Warrior with Words-I read I am Malala earlier this year and really enjoyed it. I wanted a book about Malala that I could share with my younger students. This one will work.
  8. A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz a wonderful autobiography about a boy that stutters and dedicates his life to protecting wild cats.
  9. The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins-a lovely biography of Kate Sessions the mother of Balboa Park in San Diego.
  10. The Watcher by Jeanette Winter-another great biography, this one is about Jane Goodall. 
  11. Macro Photography an ebook by Michael Erlewine Macro is my favorite type of photography. There were some helpful tips here.
  12. Bokeh an ebook by Christopher O'Donnell- I looking forward to trying some new techniques to improve my photography.
  13. The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm-loved it! I'm looking forward to sharing this with teachers at school.
  14. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett
Reading but didn't finish:
Ice Crystals by Don Komarechka
Notice and Note by Kyleen Beers and Robert Probst