Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hopes and dreams in 2015

I hope 2015 is a good year for you!  I was looking at a friend's facebook post yesterday and she proclaimed 2014 her best year yet.  And it was for her, with her husband and a healthy six-month old baby girl.  For me, losing my mom, brother, sister, and a dear friend within 9 months?  Not so much.

It's all in your perspective, isn't it?

And that's why I was so delighted with the writing my students did in response to Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" contest, sponsored by Scholastic.  Here are parts of their thoughtful writing:

Here's another one:

And finally,
And then he concludes:

When I get tired of all the sad news in the world, when I'm frustrated by people who think they know what's best for teachers even though they've never set foot in a classroom, when I walk alongside someone who's recently been widowed.....

....that's when I turn to my students' writing.  Because they are so full of hope, still so full of possibilities.  They are the next generation and their dreams are still big.  And my plan for 2015 is to keep their dreams alive the best I can.

Here's to a happy and healthy 2015!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Good writing follows good reading?

Did you have a good Thanksgiving?  Are you still enjoying the bliss of a much-needed longer break this Fall?  I know I am!  

I've been using the CAFE model in my classroom for almost a year now, and while I really like it in theory, it's proven harder this school year, since we're using a new Reading anthology.  Which one?  Are any of you using Wonders, by McGraw-Hill?  Wow, oh wow!

I really believe that if my students can master this, any Common Core testing will seem like a piece of cake.  But there is a learning curve to this.  By the end of the year, they should be pretty good.  Right now?  Well, they're getting better.

We've had quite a few conversations about stretching our brains and making them work harder, just like exercising any other muscle.  Bless their hearts, they are hanging in there with this.  But let me say, it is NOT easy.

Is anyone else out their using this series?  How do you teach your students to analyze the way they're expected to?

Because this series is so intense, I allow students more time for creative writing during CAFE's Write To Self, something they seem to really appreciate.  I just had a half-dozen students enter the 'Wild Jungle Writing contest" through Amazing Kids magazine.  Sorry, the deadline for that one is right now :( .  I wasn't so quick about getting that information out.

But there's a pretty cool one being sponsored through Scholastic that's worth taking a look at!  I have quite a few students girls working on poetry and essays for this one.
 And finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the TpT sale that starts in two days.  Here's the link to my store if you want to take a look.

Enjoy the rest of your Thanksgiving break!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

It's November. Time for Currently

I happened up Kim's post at Finding Joy in Sixth Grade which makes me want to say, "Yeah.  What she said."

As little as I've been blogging lately, there's something about Farley's Currently that warms my heart and makes me feel welcomed back into this wonderful blogging community.  Lots has happened to take me away from blogging - three deaths in my family (I know, right?  Can we stop this trend already?), lots of new stuff at school, some fun weekends away from home.

But Farley comes through consistently month after month, and I return, just to share in the love!  So here goes....
Glenn's down in the basement working on some long overdo projects and I'm up here working on the computer.  No idea who's playing but it's a quiet background sound that tells me he's happy and busy!

We've had a lot of stuff the last month or so, and most of it's been good.  But after being away from home for a couple of weekends, I was SOOOO ready to come home and just putter around here.  Other than a fun get-together on Friday evening (with flashlights and glow sticks!) and church this morning, the pace for the rest of the weekend was ours.  YAY! 

I had to spend a couple of hours yesterday tracking all of my students' data.  There's good stuff there, don't get me wrong.  But I'd rather be planning what I'm going to teach, or coming up with an engaging lesson.  Just sayin'.....

After my older brother and sister passed away this year, I decided to take a close look at how I was eating and what that might be doing to my health.I met with a health coach over the summer and pretty much have said goodbye to refined sugar (actually not as hard as I thought) and wheat (a little more challenging, but there are lots of creative solutions out there).  It made a big difference in how I felt and when I got my blood test results last week, all my numbers had moved significantly!  Yay for healthy eating!

Have to admit I've been following more blogs about that than about teaching lately, but now that I've found a rhythm with that, I should be back to blogging again.

Have a great Monday, everyone!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Calling all Christian and private school teachers!

Sometime this summer, an editor approached me about reading some books by Clark Burbidge.  The books sounded interesting, and made me wonder about ways to incorporate them as read-alouds with our school-wide system, which is based on The 7 Habits by Stephen and Sean Covey.

This is the story of a land where giants once roamed, taking care of the people who lived there.  One day they leave, surprising the villagers, and it is up to a young man, Thomas, to leave his wife and daughter behind in his search to find them and bring them back. On his quest, Thomas encounters wolves, a wise old man, and giants named Horsetender, Mountainbiter, Forestmaster, Threadweaver, Worldmaker, and Sonspeaker. 

The book reads like a fable in some ways, and it is filled with Thomas' thoughts about God, his prayers, and some important life lessons he learns about stepping in with courage to help others.  It is a little one-dimensional for me, with Thomas and everyone he meets being pretty wonderful and helpful.  But I think that's overridden by the message of becoming a "giant" in the world you live in.  For that reason, I think it would do well as a read-aloud because the messages are good and should be reinforced with kids!

I am a public school teacher, and so this is a book I can't read to my students.  However I have the first and second book, and if you teach in a school that would allow this, I'd be delighted to send you the books.

Leave me a message with your email address and I'll be in touch about how to get the books to you.

Have a great Friday!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Hoo boy! It's been a while! Linking up with Monday Made It

How is it possible that this is the 9th Monday Made It of the summer?  Why is this the first time I'm linking up?  And why haven't I felt like working on school stuff at all?  Yup, yup, yup.  This has been a much needed rest time for me.  But I did make one thing today!
This idea has been germinating in my head ever since someone posted some bulletin board ideas on facebook a while back.  I took one idea and changed it up to better fit what I wanted for my sixth graders, so here it is.

Each page has the picture of the cover of the book, the first paragraph or two to "grab" the reader and a QR code.  The codes have a brief summary of the book.

I picked an assortment of about ten books, some of them new books I read over the summer (Oh, so THAT's what I did!) and some of them good books that just need to be read (like Out of My Mind and Wonder.)

Why only ten?  Because I want students to make the rest as they start reading their way through my books.

My challenge last year was to read 25 books.  The average was 32!  Well, 32.5 to be exact.:)

Should I push for 40 this year?  What do you think?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer Reading - a little late

My students asked me to create a fun reading activity at the end of the year.  I thought I could get it finished in time, but alas, the school year ended and it was only half finished!  Now it's finished, and if you think your own children would enjoy it, or if you are still in a classroom, stop by my TpT store and take a look!  The cool thing is it can work for any age.

There are 40 different things that students can do to read.  You decide how long they read to earn a beach ball based on what's age appropriate, and when they finish reading according to the direction on the ball, have them cut it out and glue it onto the beach towel.  When they've collected whatever number you've set for them, treat them for reading over the summer.  I'm thinking a favorite ice cream cone or sundae sounds perfect!

Keep them from that reading slump over the summer.  Heck, I might even do this myself if there's ice cream on the other side!  :)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Reading in the Wild: Dedicate Time to Read

A bunch of amazing bloggers and thoughtful teachers are linking up to study this book this summer, and I've decided to get on the bandwagon.  I'm so excited that Catherine at The Brown Bag Teacher decided to launch this!  Donalyn Miller is my hero, and it's because of The Book Whisperer that I set reading and genre goals with my students this past year.  And boy oh boy, did they knock my socks off!  At the end of the year, kids had read an average of 32.5 books!  My goal for them was 25.

Now, to be fair, some of the credit needs to go to the new Literacy person in our district.  She was insistent that kids read for half an hour a day in our sixth grade classrooms.  That took some shifting around.  We switched to the CAFE and a modified Daily 5 (more like Daily3) model mid-year, which was more stressful for teachers than kids.  The kids LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the freedom to choose when they worked on things.
And I loved watching a kid stand in front of my bookcases looking for a book.  Often, another kid would walk up and say something like, "Do you need help finding a good book?"  And then they'd go off talking about what they'd read and what they thought was good.  It was such good stuff!

In her intro, Donalyn (do you like how I call her by her first name like she's my new best friend?!) worries that having kids fall in love with reading in her class didn't necessarily turn them into lifelong readers.  Especially if they read less in middle school.  Maybe I'm an eternal optimist.  I think the happy memories they had of reading in her room (and yours and mine) will come back to them at some point, and they'll turn back to books again.

Now, here's the rub.  In order to get kids to fall in love with books, they really, really need to read every day.  For a while.  And I know that's really hard in some classrooms, and even harder to convince some administrators.  But how do you make a kid want to take his/her book home?  By getting them so immersed in what they're reading that they don't want to put it down!

Charts don't do it.  Reading logs don't do it.  Pure and simple:  reading a good book makes you want to read more!  One thing I need to do better is encourage kids to take books with them when they're waiting for something, waiting in line, waiting for a speaker at an assembly, whatever.  And that why I'm going to post this quote by Sherri Chasin Calvo somewhere in my room!

                      If you have never said, "Excuse me" to a parking meter or
              bashed your shins on a fireplug, you are probably wasting
              too much valuable reading time.

Keep reading!  And link up to this wonderful book study!