Monday, December 8, 2008

Looking at Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways

Although we celebrate poetry year round in our room (especially as a more authentic venue for word study)- we have currently been focusing on it as a writing unit. We cap off our unit with a Poetry Pocket where we invite friends and family to come listen to and celebrate our original poems in our room which we transform into a coffee shop. Every year I am amazed at the amazing poets that live/work/play in our room. Before we even begin to write poems, we talk about how poets notice the most ordinary objects in extra-ordinary ways (Thanks Lucy Calkins). With that being said- I wanted to share one of my student's poems that I especially love:

The Basketball

A Basketball....
is not
just a ball
that is
in a hoop
a circle
that is
through space

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Power of Share and a Purpose to Write

The students in my classroom share/celebrate their own writing (or books/poems written by others that they enjoy) on a regular basis. As a matter of fact- they can count on a piece of every one of our days being dedicated to just that. This week, we began to dig a little deeper into the craft of writing poetry. Each year, my students create a collection of poems that is left in our classroom library for future classes to enjoy. It is so wonderful to see the student's reaction to a poem of a sibling or friend that had been in my class previously being shared during "share time". The conversation naturally leads to questions on whether or not I will be sharing their poems in years to come with my future students. "Of course" is my response. The poetry workshop that followed was diligent and purposeful as the children now realize their poems are meant for an audience- whether it be their parents at our annual Poetry Pocket Celebration or for the future students that will live in the classroom. When students know that their writing will be shared with others, it is, perhaps, the most inspirational purpose we can give them to write.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Politics

I must say as an elementary teacher I never thought I would have to deal with such contentious political discussions in my classroom. While I was out one afternoon, my kids apparently had a poorly informed and most unkind political discussion leading to excluding others based on the politics of those children’s parents. Once I recovered from the shock that my kids were having this mean-spirited political discussion, I had to step back and think about what lead my children to engage in any political conversation. I had to ask myself the question why are my children who are only six having this level of political conversations? Is it bad, is it good? Do I allow it, or do I forbid it? As a child, I remember going to a presidential rally, but I never remember talking with my friends about the candidates and certainly never thought of their politics as affecting my friendship or respect for them. I spent wakeful hours that night thinking about where the line should be drawn between how much we expose our children to. Well, anyway back to my kids. I really had to decide what I was going to say to them. While I think that you want to make your children aware of some of the events that are happening in our world, I think that sometimes as adults we forget that they are still very young children. We must remember that they still need to be sheltered, and they are always listening and taking in what we are saying. So, the next day at school as a class we had a long conversation about respecting others and also about the upcoming election. What I ended up telling my children is that if they have questions, concerns, or worries about the upcoming election to come and talk with me or their parents. While I think it is great from a government or civics perspective that some of my kids are enthralled with the election, so much of their information is the sensationalism found on TV and in the not so watchful or mindful remarks of parents and relatives. I believe that as an adult when discussing politics or other subject areas with children, there is a fine line between what is developmentally appropriate and what isn’t. I think that we always must consider what is appropriate and what isn’t. I just hope in the process we do not lose sight that both teachers and families need to honor the innocence and ingenuousness of our little people and provide respite for them from issues and concerns that are too confusing, often scary, and certainly worrisome to our little ones. These are short lived and precious years, and we are not serving our children if we rob them of the protective, carefree possibilities of this time.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Children's Writing Discoveries

Over the last week or two, I have been meeting with my kids to conference about their writing and coming up with a writing goal. I have always met with children about their writing, but this year is the first year I have met with them and come up with a goal for the month. This idea came from Katie at Creative Literacy. Well, the reason I am talking about this is because I met with one of my boys, Joe, the other week, and I was very impressed with his writing. He wrote a story called The Biggest Creature in the World. He based his story on the book I’m The Biggest Thing in The Ocean by Kevin Sherry that I had read as a read aloud. I asked him what made him think to make his own book based on this story. He explained to me that he just loved the story and wanted to make his own just like Kevin Sherry. He is also making a sequel to the book he wrote. His next book will be called The Biggest Creature in the Universe. I was so pleased with his thinking throughout this meeting. After we met, he was able to share with the rest of the class his thinking and his story. I believe some of the children will now begin to really start thinking about how authors are a great source to help them think of what they might want to write about during writing workshop. I will also use this idea as a jumping board to start having conversations about what books might help us during writing workshop. I really am looking forward to seeing what Joe will write and to see what some of my other children will be writing after they heard Joe’s story.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

We Heart Your Blog

Here are the rules:
1) Add the logo of the award to your blog.
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you.
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4) Add links to those blogs on your blog.
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs!

Lauren and I heart the following blogs:
A Year of Reading
Creative Literacy
Two Writing Teachers
Bud the Teacher
My Breakfast Platter
My World-Mi Mundo
Literate Lives

Better Late Than Never

Remember those Summer Goals I had.....well....I was pretty successful in accomplishing most of the personal ones during the summer. The professional goals, as always, are a work in progress. Well- I am happy to announce that thanks to a wonderful colleague and friend, Katie (see Creative Literacy), the revamping of my word study goal is coming along nicely (though it will always be changing and evolving- see how much I learned). And today- we (the kids and I) have officially reorganized the chapter book section of our classroom library. It was so rewarding to see the kids eyes light up at the sight of new-old books (you know- the ones that had always been in the library but got lost in the chaos), as well as, seriously new books that I purchased this weekend. We had a room full of book worms today....I think we could have spend the whole day reading. Oh what a day! Tomorrow we shall begin to tackle the picture books. I have to say this has generated some wonderful thinking on both the student and my behalf.

I will write more about my word study revelations in another post.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ellie McDoodle

I found this little treasure in the library yesterday. I am sure it has been around for a while but I figured I would blog about it anyway. This series is "part journal, part graphic novel and all fun". Ellie McDoodle is a strong character with great voice. She is confident, funny and relatable. I have so many students that are torn between picture books and chapter books- this is a perfect combination of both. The pictures help tell the funny and engaging story. I can hardly wait to introduce it my students.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pretty Inspiring

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lauren's First Post

It is hard to believe that Abby and I have only known each other for just a little over a year. We met last year because I had the privilege of joining her second grade team about a week before school started. Having just graduated from college a few months prior, I was relatively naive regarding the adventure I was about to embark on last year. I can now say with not a doubt in my mind that I was blessed and fortunate to have the best first year I could have ever imagined. I learned so very much as an educator and as a person. I thoroughly enjoyed my children (truth be told, I fell in love with them), and while I may be biased, I believe I worked on one of the best grade level teams ever. Well, forwarding ahead to this year, Abby and I continue to talk, dine, and enjoy each other quite regularly even though regrettably, we are not working together any longer. Abby is persistent to say the least, and after many requests, here I am joining her on her blog. As you all know , Abby is great-she inspires me to be a better teacher and challenges me to think a little differently, a little deeper, and always with children as the focus of perfecting our art and science as teachers. While I must admit blogging sounds a little nerve racking to me, (I really am not the biggest fan of writing), I know it will be a great learning experience for me. Truly, I am looking forward to reflecting on my experience as a first grade teacher through this new medium with all of you.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Co-Blogger and Inspiration

My colleague and friend, Lauren Scott, is going to start blogging on Authentic Learner as a co-blogger. I look forward to writing with her as I know she will inspire those that read and will hopefully motivate me to write more myself. Welcome Lauren!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My Caldecott Nomination (so far)

Friday My Radio Flyer Flew by Zachary Pullen is full of AMAZING illustrations, fun alliterations and interesting words. A boy and is father find an old radio flyer wagon in the attic and thats when all the adventures start. This little boy has some big dreams, including wanting to fly, and maybe.. just maybe that old radio flyer will be just the thing he needs to get his feet off the ground! I had to read it several times within minutes of having it. The first time I read it I could not get pass the beautiful oil painted illustrations that are not only eye catching, full page spreads but, also, are an instrumental part in telling the story. The second time I noticed the inspirational and dream like story (gotta love the dad). A child's imagination really is an amazing thing. The third time- I realized the story takes the reader through the days of the week while playing with alliteration and some really neat words (hmmm....authentic word study??). Thank you to Cathy (our amazing librarian) for putting this beautiful book that reminds us to dream big into my hands!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Summer Goals Revisited

Franki and Mary Lee at A Year of Reading tagged me for my summer goals of 2008 back in June. After a whirlwind of a summer, it is nice to take a look back and see if I happened to actually accomplish anything.....

Summer Goals 2008:
1. Stay sane on the road to getting married on July 5th
- Mission Accomplished (it was perfect!!)
2. Find a rug for my living room
- Mission Accomplished (believe it or not- thanks to walmart)
3. Revamp my Word Study Program
- In the process and I am feeling really good about it (thanks for the thoughts Katie)
4. Rearrange/organize my classroom library
- Working on it
5. READ more professionally and simply for the love of reading
- I definately read more than ever this summer (mostly for pleasure but I am anxiously awaiting Debbie Milller's new book)
6. Do not add anymore items to my goals for now as it will defeat my purpose to focus.
- ( seems as though I have an endless list- so I should have changed this to- Do not beat myself up for not getting EVERYTHING done)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

My return from the Wild....

So after reading several reviews on Out of the Wild (see Year of Reading blog), I decided I had better read it! Clearly, I had to read the prequel, Into the Wild, first. I did so on the many hours in the airport on my honeymoon travels to Costa Rica. I LOVED it and can hardly wait to read the sequel. However, instead of doing a review or summary (which I am sure you can also find on Year of Reading), I decided to blog about some of my thoughts while reading. Lately, I have been drawing many analogies between life and education (idea inspired by several of my favorite blogs). In this case, I cannot help but draw the parallel between the WILD and high stakes testing/standard/prescribed curriculum. As the Wild says, everyone has their role. You know what to expect and you are expected to follow ideas set by others. Sometimes, it even feels easier to follow rules/lessons created by the Wild (high stakes testing). But it would certainly get boring and stifling- reliving the same story, reteaching the same lessons despite the desires and world changes around us. Isn't it worth being a hero and writing our own stories? It is so much more rewarding to allow children to have input in their learning, to be inspired, to take charge, to write their own happily ever afters. It can sometimes be scary to be the hero (teacher) in this scenario. There is so much left to the unknown, so many obstacles standing in the way (testing/differing points of view), especially the inevitable mis-take but I think it is worth making the wish, taking the chance and seeing what wonderful things can happen when we write our own stories. This is when authentic, meaningful, life long learning can occur for our students. We show them that taking risks (and sometimes making mis-takes) are what makes life exciting and pushes us forward.....

Monday, June 9, 2008

Summer Meme 2008

Franki and Mary Lee at A Year of Reading (trying to figure out how to add links to my blog- HELP!!) tagged me for my summer goals of 2008. I always find setting goals (and making lists in general) refreshing, particularly right as summer gets started as I find myself losing focus due to the feeling that I have too many things to focus on. I am thinking this list will help me prioritize, my professional and personal (which is super busy this summer) lives. So thanks ladies for providing some focus....

Summer Goals 2008:
1. Stay sane on the road to getting married on July 5th
2. Find a rug for my living room
3. Revamp my Word Study Program
4. Rearrange/organize my classroom library
5. READ more professionally and simply for the love of reading....
6. Do not add anymore items to my goals for now as it will defeat my purpose to focus.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

48 Hour Read Kick Off

So I had every intention in the world of giving the 48 Hour Read my best shot this past weekend but the truth is life got in the way. I feel so torn right now. I am trying to take the time to slow down right now and let everything sink in- the end of the school year, my upcoming wedding, the new house....I am so blessed. But, of course, life has a way of getting so busy, I forget to stop and smell the roses. In this case, the 48 Hour Read, would have been the roses. Perhaps next year, I will follow the rules and actually read on the correct weekend for the 48 hours as close to non-stop as possible. This year, I make the more realistic vow to read for 48 hours in the entire month of June. The following are on my list so far (most are recommendations from friends):

1. Before I Die, By Jenny Downham (sounds kind of sad but my friend swears it has a powerful message)

2. Five Quarters of the Orange, By Joanne Harris (this is WAY out of my box but it'll be good for me)

3. Anything Sisters Grimm (I read the first one with my class and we LOVED it so I figure I will continue the story)

4. Greetings from Nowhere, By Barbara O'Connor (recommedation from my fellow Columbus bloggers)

I best get to bed so I can read.....

Monday, May 19, 2008

Books about Letters

I have to say that through the authentic experience of writing letters to pen pals this year, my students have really grasped the mechanics and ettiqutte of friendly letter writing. However, we still LOVE the occasional book that helps reiterate the ideas of friendly letter writing in fun and engaging ways. Here is a list of titles we have found that use friendly letters:

Author: ADA

Author: ADA

Author: BURTON


Author: JAMES






Author: TEAGUE


I was tagged by Katie DiCesare from Creative Literacy for a MEME and here goes...

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

What were you doing ten years ago?
getting my driver's license
going to prom

What are five things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order):
work on my wedding vows
paint the bathroom at the new house
grocery store
buy the paper for my wedding programs

What are some snacks you enjoy?
cool ranch doritos
chips and salsa
mini snickers
granola bar
string cheese

What would you do if you were a billionaire?
buy a mini cooper
put a half bath in my house
hire a personal chef and trainer
open an after school activity center for inner city students

What are your bad habits?
cracking my knuckles
collecting junk
letting mail pile up
not finishing projects I start
lack of portion control

What are five places where you have lived?
Youngstown, Ohio
OSU campus
Grandview, Ohio
Clintonville, Ohio

What are five jobs you have had?
Stable hand (cleaning up after and riding horses)
Ski Limited
Hostess (Cap City)
Admissions Assistant at OSU

What people do you want to tag?
hmmm.....all my blogger friends have already been tagged....

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles

This book was recommended by a friend of mine. I cannot thank her enough. This read aloud quickly became one of our favorites after we made it through the first couple chapters (which for some reason seemed a little dry- perhaps due to the fact we started it after finishing Tale of Despereaux which we also really loved). The Really Great Whangdoodle is a story about three children and a corky genentics professor's journey to Whangdoodleland in search of the last Whangdoodle. With a little preparation and lots of determination and imagination, the children succeeded in their quest. The story is full of wonderful descriptions, strong characters and interesting words. The professor offers advice throughout the story that provided wonderful conversations. For example- "Know that beyond every ordinary explanation, there is a deeper and more exciting discovery to be made" and "The best remedy for a bad scare is to turn right around and face whatever frightened you." I can't wait to pass this little gem to the next unsuspecting reader.....warning-once you start-it will be hard to stop.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Student-Led Conferences

As I sit here reflecting on the first night of student-led conferences, I cannot help but smile. We spend several days (if not all year) preparing for the conferences. Students fill out reflection sheets and pick special pieces to share with their families. We talk about why student-led conferenes are important. It helps students have a sense of ownership, purpose and responsibility with their learning. Selfishly, these types of conferences provide some of MY favorite times of the year. The kids are so excited to share their learning with their families. The rich conversations I over hear between student and family remind me of why I love this profession. I hear about learning that the student feels really strong in and other areas where they feel they can grow. I hear problem solving and affirmation. I see pride from both student and parent. It seems as if families see the learning process in different ways and feel more comfortable in the classroom (asking questions and looking around) then they do in parent/teacher led conferences. If you have not given student led conferences a try, I highly recommend them. It is a real treat for everyone involved.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Reflective Practioner

As a novice teacher, my pedagogy and practices are constantly evolving and probably will be for the rest of my career. I do not yet have much to share on what might work in the classroom or advice on how to teach as I borrow many ideas from colleages I admire. I am still getting my footing in the classroom and really thinking about what I truly believe about how to learn. With this being said, there is very little I value you more professionally then the time to reflect on my practices. In the craziness of teaching, I often find it difficult to allow myself the time to really reflect on the days work. I am hoping this blog will allow me the outlet to generate some quality reflections on my teaching and learning with my students so that I can grow as an educator and, in turn, continue to inspire my students to love learning....cause that's what's it's all about....right?

Grammar and Mechancis

It's such a challenge to motivate children see the value in and then actually thoughtfully adempt the editing process of literacy. In a day when there are so many D.O.L (daily oral language) and Daily Edit worksheets (which I am guilty of using), it is hard to think of authentic ways to implement editing in my classroom. The kids look at it as a chore and I can't blame them because I was never very good at or liked grammar and mechanics myself. That is until last night. I attended a workshop on Grammar and Mechanics in the Context of the Literacy Workshop. It changed the way I saw teaching/learning editing. Jeff Anderson sums up the class with this quote from his book Mechanically Inclined, "Teach grammar and mechanics as a creational facility rather than a correctional one." Rather than have children correct sentences that already have mistakes, help them see the wonderful grammar and mechanics in pieces of writing that are already published. To go along with this, we learned a teaching strategy called-Sentence Observation. The teacher basically writes a sentence from a prior real aloud on chart paper and then ask the students what they notice about the sentence. It provided an outlet for a really authenic conversation about parts of a sentence and the value of proper grammar and mechanics. The teacher can really concentrate on sentences that contain an idea that the kids are currently thinking about, while also thinking about other aspects. This is a wonderful way to differentiate instruction and really zero in on concepts that are just right for certain students while exposing those students to other ideas that might not be just right, purely by being part of the conversation. This workshop helped me to see that teaching grammar and mechanics should be a piece of lteracy workshop, just like any other mini lesson. Grammar/Mechanics lessons can be given in a whole group setting, small group or individual setting depending on the needs of the class. These lessons should have students concentrating on text from books in their classroom so they can see proper grammar/mechanics in action. This seems like it will help with the transfer to their writing much easier than if they are making corrections on a sentence that has no real meaning to them (D.O.L./Daily Edits). I am so inspired to change not only my student's thinking, but my own, about the editing process.