Sunday, June 17, 2018

Transforming Teaching and Learning with Digital Tools

"Helping teachers seek out connections with others fuels their creativity and generates a feeling of support, of a connected community (digital page 42)." -Dr. Stephanie Affinito

I've been learning from Dr. Stephanie Affinito for some time now.  Originally connecting with her work in literacy on Twitter (@AffinitoLit), it wasn't long until I was following her literacy thinking on her blog and joining her in virtual learning opportunities.  As a literacy coach, I was quite excited when I heard she had a book coming out about literacy coaching and the ways digital tools might help us to connect our learning community.

When we think about technology, we often think about the ways we can now connect with others far from our classrooms.  Through technology, I have been able to connect with teachers in other states and around the world.  These connections, outside of my daily community, have shaped my practices as an educator and given me much to think about.  I'm quite sure I would be a very different educator today without the connections I have made over the past ten years through social media, blogs, and expanded digital learning opportunities.

While we tend to think of the ways technology has allowed us to talk with educators timezones away as if they taught across the hall from us, I'd be remiss if I didn't also acknowledge what these tools have done to grow my connections within my community as well.  In the busy life of teaching and learning, it can be difficult to find time for extended conversations with colleagues.  As we work within our classroom communities, it can be challenging to find time to sustain the rich conversations necessary to continue to grow.  Technology can allow us to continue conversations beyond our day, see what is happening in the classroom down the hall, and collaboratively grow resources with one another, among other things.

I just finished reading Stephanie Affinito's book, Literacy Coaching:  Transforming Teaching and Learning with Digital Tools and Technology.  Stephanie reminds us of the ways technology can bring our local communities together in extended learning.  Here are three key ideas I'm pondering after reading her book:

  1. Digital tools for collaboration:  Digital tools can help to "cultivate a shared sense of inquiry into literacy instruction (digital p. 15)" and create a culture of collaboration within our learning community. 
  2. Digital tools for innovative practice:  As literacy coaches, we can leverage digital tools to, not only deepen our community conversations about teaching and learning, but also to help teachers envision new possibilities for "using them in more academic ways for reading, writing, teaching, and learning (digital p. 28)." 
  3. Digital tools for connection:  Digital tools can begin to "open the doors" of our classrooms if we utilize it to "take [our] experiences and make them visible and accessible for all (digital p. 66)."  
In her book, Stephanie shares concrete examples of the ways we can use technology to work smarter, deepen professional conversations, and grow our connections with one another.  While the book is written for literacy coaches, I couldn't help but think it would be a smart read for any teacher who wants to discover ways to connect conversations within their team or building.  I thought of many teachers who lead from their classrooms who would benefit from reading this book.  Full of charts to show how digital tools can extend possibilities for the work we do, Stephanie shares ideas for launching this work in your learning community.  

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Design Your Summer

Here we sit ready to open the door into summer.  I'm not sure how we got here so fast.  Wasn't it just August?  Weren't we just falling into the rhythms of a school year?  It seems hard to believe, but it is summer.

On the way to school this week I was listening to Gretchen Rubin's podcast: Happier (Podcast 169).  In this episode, she and her sister, Elizabeth, were talking about designing your summer.  The idea is that summer should have a little adventure and if you aren't careful to design your time it can slip by without the opportunity to do all you had hoped.  (The idea intrigued me so much that I dug in a bit more and found more explanation in podcast 67 and podcast 118).)

As an educator, I always struggle to be kind when I hear, "Oh, you teach.  You have your entire summer off."  This is a bit of a myth, but I resist the urge to lecture others about the contract days of a teacher or the reality of summer work.  I understand that summer does bring me a bit of flexibility in my schedule.  For me, and for many educators, summer is the training months for the marathon ahead.  June is peppered with meetings, and August is a race from the moment we turn the calendar.  How we spend our time matters.  During the summer I have found I need to determine an amount of time I will truly rest, catch up on all of the house tasks that fell behind in the prior months, spend time with professional reading, and plan for the year ahead.

I'm taking Gretchen's advice to design my summer before it begins:

Adventure:  Patio Pursuit

It's patio season!  Most of the summer you will find me sitting on my patio enjoying a good book and a cup of coffee.  I just love being able to sit outside early in the morning and well into the evening.  Of course, summer also brings the opportunity to find new patios.  It's the perfect time of year to find restaurants with outdoor patios and coffee shops with outdoor seating to linger.  This summer, I will find a new patio each week to enjoy.  I'll be posting these on my Instagram page with the hashtags #patiopursuit #designyoursummer.

Friends & Family:  Wedding Bells

This friends and family one is easy.  My oldest daughter is getting married in August so this summer will be spent in final preparation for this event.  There will be lots of opportunities for friends and family along the way.

Professional Learning:  Eight Would be Great!

Oh, my professional reading stack is large and looming.  I love this time of year as it allows the opportunity to focus in on some professional reading.  It's obvious I need a plan to accomplish the task of reading these titles so I've decided as I design my summer that "Eight Would Be Great!".  My plan is to have eight professional books read by the end of summer (and that is a very doable number.).  It's roughly one book each week with a week here and there for books that require a bit more reflection.

Projects:  The Office

Since leaving my classroom, we have a room that I have used as an office/creation space/guest room. It needs some work to make it comfortable and utilize the space in the best way possible.  I'm honestly not sure what that actually is, but I think I'll spend the summer figuring it out.

What are your plans to make your summer the best it can be?


Saturday, June 2, 2018

Drumroll Please: The July #cyberPD Professional Read Is....

Today's the big reveal.

Honestly, I'm surprised Michelle and I were able to select a book from everyone's stack as quickly as we did.  Afterall, there are so many amazing professional books out right now.  My summer stack is tall and, by the look of everyone else's stacks, many #cyberPD community members have some tall stacks too.  Interestingly, there was one book that showed up often.  One book that seemed to stand out as a good match for the current times.  When Michelle said to me, "I think it's the book that will really stretch us."  I knew she was right.

As we talked, we felt this book was also a good match for educators across grade levels and content areas.  As we talked, we reflected on the books that have seemed to have had the greatest impact on our community; it seems it has always been the books that take us a bit out of our comfort zone.  With the world being the tricky place that it is right now, we hope our community members will agree that this is the right time for this book.'re asking...what's the book?

You're thinking....get on with it already!

You're right.  I'm taking much too long to share the good news with you.  For this year's #cyberPD community booktalk, we'll be reading Being the Change:  Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed.

If you've joined us before, you know you have a bit of time to purchase your book.  The book, as always, is divided into three parts for our reading, reflection, and conversation.  If you haven't joined us before, we hope you will.  Stop by our Google Community to be a part of this summer learning experience.

If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to Michelle Nero (@litlearningzone) or me (@cathymere).  We're happy to answer any questions you may have.

Looking forward to our July conversation.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Share Your Summer Professional Reading Stack #cyberPD

The time between the end of one school year and the beginning of another always gives me an opportunity to catch up with professional reading.  There are many titles out that I want to read over the summer and always a few I hope to revisit.  As usual, my list is more ambitious than the time I am likely to have.  In addition to professional books I'd like to read, there are middle-grade books, picture books and self-improvement books.  Of course, it is summer so I'll have to sprinkle in a little fiction as well.  ;o)

Making a plan and getting the books read is always the challenge.  Thankfully, #cyberPD will bring some focus to my world mid-summer.  As you may have read last week, it's time to share our stacks for #cyberPD.  #cyberPD is a virtual book talk that takes place each summer.  The #cyberPD community shares their book stacks in May, a book is selected at the beginning of June, and in July we all come together to read and discuss the books across Twitter, blogs, and our Google Community (you can find out more there).

Here is my book stack of new professional reading for summer.  There are some big questions I'm pondering over the summer that will take me back to some books I've loved, but these are the books I plan to read cover-to-cover.  Of course, that's going to take a good plan and some strong self-discipline....and maybe a nice comfy spot on my patio.  I'm looking forward to seeing the books in the stacks of other community members.  Remember, our title for July's #cyberPD chat will be announced on June 2nd.  We want everyone to have plenty of time to purchase and plan.

Can't wait until our July conversation!!!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

It's Time: Share Your Summer Reading Stack #cyberPD

Time sure does fly!  Here we are already in May.  You know what that's time to think about our #cyberPD book selection.   This event is always at the top of my summer learning list.  This year will be our eighth year of learning together as a community.

Each summer the #cyberPD community chooses a professional book to read and discuss in the month of July.  The event has certainly grown since its first year which began with less than fifteen people, but the community has remained collaborative.  You can join the conversation and see past years' discussions in our #cyberPD Google Community.

Here are the books selected since 2011: 
Share Your Stack
To get started, we first need to select our book for the 2018 July virtual book talk.  To help to do this, we are asking the #cyberPD community to share their book stacks.  By May 30th, please share the professional books you hope to read this summer.  Participants can share their stacks using the Twitter hashtag #cyberPD and post in our #cyberPD community under the "share your book stack" tab.  We'll select the title from these stacks.  It seems there are always about three that show up across stacks.   

The #cyberPD selection announcement will be made June 2nd!  We want everyone to have time to get their books and mark their calendars.  We're looking forward to this amplified learning opportunity with all of you.  Join us.  

Share your stack....and join the fun.  

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Poetry Pleasures: Five Poetry Picture Books

It's National Poetry Month.  I'm busy celebrating at Merely Day by Day by attempting to write a poem each day.  Of course, it's also the perfect time to share a few new favorite picture poetry books I've purchased this year.  These are selections perfect for any classroom library.

New Poems Inspired by Art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins.

There's so much to love about this collection of poetry edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins:  the beautiful artwork, the wondrous words, the surprise of favorite poets selected.

A selected snippet from This is the Hour by Irene Latham, a poem within this collection:

"This is the hour
when sun dreams,
when river
its' silky song...."

I Am Loved:  A Poetry Collection by Nikki Giovanni with illustrations by Ashley Bryan.

This collection of poems by Nikki Giovanni is a delight from start to finish.  A celebration of life, each poem selected is complemented with art sure to delight.

A selected snippet from No Heaven, a poem within this collection:

"How can there be
No heaven...

When shadows
And owls
And little finches
eat upside

Sakura's Cherry Blossoms by Robert Paul Weston and Misa Saburi.

This book is a bit different from the others shared as it is a story written in Tanka.  In this story, Sakura lives in Japan and loves spending her time with her grandma under the cherry blossoms.  She has to move to America with her family but misses her grandma and the cherry blossoms.  Nothing is the same in this new place.  This is a delightful story of love, change, and the little gifts life gives us as a reminder of all we hold dear.

A snippet from the story:
"Sakura's new school
was a big, boisterous place
where each word was new.

They nipped and snapped on her tongue
like the tang of pickled plums."  

Out of Wonder:  Poetry Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjory Wentworth with illustrations by Ekua Holmes.

Every time I pick up this book, I notice something new.  In this book, the authors celebrate famous poets by writing poems in similar styles to the poet.  Each section shares a way poets work and offers advice for the budding poets in our classrooms.  As in the other examples, this books is a celebration of poetry, but also of art; each page illustrated with art to inspire.

This snippet from How to Write a Poem was written by Kwame Alexander in celebration of Naomi Shihab Nye:

"Let them dance together
twist and turn
like best friends
in a maze
till you find 
your way
to that one word." 

Shaking Things Up:  14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood with multiple illustrators featured in this collection.  

This collection features poetry to celebrate the lives of 14 women who helped to pave the path for the rest of us.  Each poem features an illustration by a different artist celebrating the lives of these women.  I was fascinated by the variety of styles of poetry used by this poet in this many possibilities.

This snippet is about Molly Williams and is titled, "Taking the Heat."

"The fire laddies gave her praise
respect where it was due
dubbed her Volunteer 11 - 
a member of the crew.

She glowed with pride.  A pioneer!
She blazed a path, it's true,
yet women weren't hired here
'til 1982." 

I love poetry tucked within my day, and it certainly is perfect for the little cracks in our day with students.  Whether you plan to use poetry for shared reading, as a mentor text for young writers, an opportunity to study wondrous words, or just to delight in a little read aloud, these titles will be celebrated additions to your collection.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Poetry Month Pleasures: Five Poetry Month Challenges Your Students Will Love

It's April and poetry is in the air.  While every day is a good day for poetry, I love the way poetry just seems to find me in April.  I've downloaded a few poetry audiobooks from the library (yep, I might have scored a few books where the poets actually are reading their own poetry), filled my living room shelf with poetry, pulled out all of my books about writing poetry, and am attempting to write a poem each day at Merely Day by Day (just a poetry playground this month, nothing like the poems you'll see linked below).

Of course, this is also the month that poets everywhere dress up their blogs and celebrate poetry with a monthly challenge.  As a teacher, if you're looking for a little inspiration, a mentor poem, or poetry your students will love, here are a few sites that might be perfect for your exploration:

The Poem Farm
Want to think about technique?

The Poem Farm:  Each day, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is sharing a poem about Orion written using a different technique.  Her poetry month challenge is to write about one subject thirty different ways.  Each day she highlights a new technique, shares her poem, and reflects on the process.

A Year of Reading
How about a golden shovel poem?  

A Year of Reading:  Mary Lee Hahn has decided to take on the challenge of writing a golden shovel poem each day this month using a student selected quote.  I've been absolutely fascinated by the process and challenge of writing a shovel poem.  A daily stop by A Year of Reading will certainly give you and your students much to ponder, and a daily dose of wondrous words.

Live Your Poem
Does art inspire you?

Live Your Poem:  For the last several years I have been following Irene Latham's April ARTSPEAK challenge.  Each day, you can stop by Irene's blog for a poem inspired by a piece of art.  This year, Irene's poetry is focused on art from the Harlem Renaissance.  I'm learning a lot as I follow her journey.

Carol's Corner
Hoping to write about a topic from a variety of angles? 

Carol's Corner:  This year, Carol has decided to write a poem each day about the life of a reader.  As teachers working to help our students build a reading life, I am enjoying looking at reading from so many angles.  What a great way to have our communities consider their reading lives.  A stop by her blog is also a smart reminder that we can take one topic and write about it in so many ways.

Check It Out
Need a mentor poem for your students?

Check It Out:  There's nothing better than student poetry.  If you find yourself in need of a mentor poem this month, you might want to stop by Jone MacCulloch's blog.  She's sharing a student poem each day during the month of April.  Oh, my heart.  I love student poetry.

Other Poetry Links:

  • Jama's Alphabet Soup:  2018 National Poetry Month Kidlitosphere Event Roundup (more poetry month possibility)
  • The Poem Farm:  Drawing into Poems (Amy's 2013 poetry challenge was one of my favorites to help students write poetry.)
  • Writing the World:  A Little Haiku (if you just want a little Haiku, Laura Purdie Salas, has one each day for you.) 
  • Tyler Knott Gregson:  This one is just for you.  Tyler Knott Gregson shares his poetry on Instagram and Twitter.  He has two books out, and shares is poetry almost daily on his site.  It's one of my favorite stops.