Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Week 2 #cyberPD: Creating Space for "Their News"

It's the second week for #cyberPD.  Our community is reflecting on chapters 3 and 4 of Sara K. Ahmed's, Being the Change.  You can stop by our #cyberPD Google Community to read reflections from other members.  Believe me, it's worth a click.  You can also follow the conversation on Twitter:  #cyberPD.

First of all, I have to say that I'm still working my way through posts from all of you.  Each stop, each new perspective, gives me more to think about.  This is a timely topic.  I suppose, in a sense, we are practicing what Sara talks about in her book as we read through each chapter using our identities as educators to synthesize information.  Where we are, the students we learn beside, the news that comes into our classroom, impacts our thinking as we read.  Here is our schedule:


Being the Change
For me, chapter 3 and 4 brought to mind the difference between my time alongside sixth graders and my time alongside first graders.  I appreciated the way chapter three addressed identifying our own biases and how the biases of others may impact us, and then chapter four moved into thinking through "news."  When I taught sixth grade, the news walked into our room every day.  Students were paying attention to what was happening in the world and beginning to shape their opinions.  The combination of my content, language arts and social studies, certainly kept the conversation flowing.  As a first grade teacher, the news that came into the room was often about the students.  "I lost my tooth last night."  "My grandma is coming."  "My friend is coming over today after school."  That's why I appreciated Sara's distinction of "their news" and "the news."  Even when my sixth graders walked into the classroom with "the news" it was always their version.

Three Take-Aways

  • Growing an awareness of personal bias can help us to think more about our words and actions.  "It is often the hidden, unintentional forms of bias that are really damaging to marginalized individuals (p. 74)," Sara Ahmed.  This statement is one that will stay with me.  Across my career, I've worked to understand the perspectives of others and be aware of my own bias, but I also know we don't always know what we don't know.  I think about the impact of reading blogs, news, nonfiction and fiction in helping me to understand different perspectives.  The same is true for our students (chapter 4 really speaks to these possibilities).  
  • This work is important in "making the implicit explicit (p.79)."  As a primary teacher, I learned a lot about making thinking more concrete for students.  These opportunities Sara shares across chapters allow students to make their thinking more concrete.  I've been thinking about the ways these opportunities might look different across grade levels.
  • There's power in conversations about "their news."  When I think about primary students especially, I think about how some students will hear more news than others.  By allowing students to work through "their news," it keeps the conversation about how it impacts them and allows them to determine the action they plan to take.  In classrooms with older students, this can help ease difficult conversations as students consider news from different perspectives.  Sara illustrates how, through listening, we can open doors for students to work through their news and come to their own conclusions (keeping our "personal crusader capes at the door [p. 109]").  At any level, I appreciate the reminder of the power of a pause.  

Two Questions

  • What literature might illustrate the way a character is impacted by "news" and takes some kind of action?  
  • How might this work look across grade levels?


One Important Next Step




Tuesday, July 10, 2018

It's Coming August 10th #pb10for10

This year, I'm suffering from FOMO as I watch the tweets for #nErDcampMI.  I've attended most years, but this year I needed to stay home because of a calendar conflict.  Of course, I've been following the tweets from those attending.  Following all of the book conversations is keeping my Goodreads account hopping.  It also has me looking forward to building a list of favorite picture books for our August 10th, Picture Book 10 or 10 event.

This will be the 9th year for #pb10for10.  Picture Book 10 for 10 began from a conversation about must-have picture books for our classroom libraries.  Mandy Robek, Enjoy and Embrace Learning, and I were going back and forth about our favorite books for our classroom communities when we decided it would be interesting to be able to meander through the libraries of other educators to see what books were on their shelves.  It's not easy to fly around the world to see different libraries (though that would be fun!  Mandy, why haven't we done that?), but it was possible to ask others to share their favorites virtually.

Since then, educators, media specialists, parents, and book lovers in our PLN have been taking the time to create a list of their 10 favorite picture books to share with one another each year on August 10th.  Though it's my favorite event to kick off the new year, it's not for the faint at heart.  Trust me, each year I spend a little more money than I wish on books after reading everyone's posts.  I've gotten a little smarter about keeping my library card out as I read, but that doesn't completely solve the problem.

In just one month, our community will share their favorite titles.  I hope you'll join the conversation.  Stop by our #pb10for10 Google Community to learn more.

Counting down the days....

Here's how you can participate:
  1. Grab a Badge (just copy the URL address of the one above or take a screenshot)
  2. Join the #pb10for10 Google Community
  3. Choose Your Favorites:  All you need to do is choose ten picture books you cannot live without for whatever reason.  In the first days of this event, everyone shared their ten very favorite titles.  This still works.  You will notice, however, that many past participants choose some type of theme to determine their selections.  We'll leave this up to you.
  4. Narrow Your List to Ten:  It isn't easy, is it?  We've seen some crafty ways to get around that number.  
  5. Write Your August 10th Post:  Write a post about the ten books you cannot live without.  Share your post on August 10th and link it to the Picture Book 10 for 10 Community.  
  6. No Blog?  No Problem:  If you don't have a blog, this might be the perfect time to start one --- or there are a million digital ways to join (see post below).  Of course, now with the Google Community it is quite easy to just post your favorites directly into the community without a blog.  We will also be tweeting from the #pb10for10 hashtag.    
  7. Comment:  On August 10th (and maybe for a week --- there are a lot of posts) take some time to read posts from other participants.  Please comment on at least three. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Week One #cyberPD: Creating Spaces for Safe Conversations

"We will give ourselves permission to create learning conditions where kids can ask questions they want to ask, muddle through how to say the things they are thinking, and have tough conversations (p. 23)."    - Sara K. Ahmed 
This is always the time of the year that I'm shifting my thinking to the new school year.  Each new year brings an opportunity for a fresh start with a new community.  This week's #cyberPD reading of Being the Change by Sara Ahmed, is perfect for thinking through those first six weeks as we shape our learning community together.

Her first two chapters, Exploring Our Identities and Listening with Love, help set the tone for the way a community will listen and take care of one another across the year.  In the first chapter, Exploring Our Identities, Sara shares ways students can get to know themselves better.  Of course, as students share about their identities it creates an opportunity for community members to learn about one another as well.  It is in understanding the stories of their friends that they will build the foundation for learning to listen with love.  The first weeks of school are the perfect time to, not only get to know one another but also, learn the strategies for discourse in the classroom.  These first careful steps can help to make our learning communities safe places for difficult conversation.

Three Take-Aways

  • Developing social comprehension helps us to move past the idea of a single story.  
  • It's important to be intentional about maintaining a stance of curiosity and open-mindedness. 
  • "We can develop skills and habits to help us comprehend social issues and participate in relevant, transparent conversations (p. 25)."  

Two Questions

  • In learning communities where students are of similar culture and background, what are some ways we can grow the understanding of those beyond our classroom? 
  • How does the thinking around social comprehension (Ahmed) align with our previous #cyberPD conversation of social imagery shared in Opening Minds by Peter Johnston?  (I want to go back and look at my old notes to think more about this.)

One Important Next Step

  • Grow my library of pictures books for building identity. 

More About #cyberPD
Want to know more about #cyberPD?  Stop by my previous post:  Are You Ready for #cyberPD?  


Saturday, June 30, 2018

Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers

"All children deserve to know that they can write a different version of their stories (p. 154)."    -- Ruth Ayres

Now that summer is here, I finally have a bit of time to catch up on my reading.  I've started many professional books that now need to be finished.  This week I was able to finish reading, Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers by Ruth Ayres.  I'm adding this book to my "books that inspire me to be a better teacher of writers" shelf, for sure.  It will rest beside The Art of Teaching WritingWriting Through ChildhoodWhat You Know by Heart, About the Authors, and What a Writer Needs.

I could go on for days about Ruth's writing craft and the ease her words flow off of the page.  There's often this sense that she is sitting across the table from me and we're discussing the challenges we face as teachers, writers, and moms.  However, if I spent all my time there I'd miss the many important points she makes about nurturing our young writers in our workshops.

Here are my big takeaways:  

Writing requires safe spaces and caring communities.  Ruth begins by reshaping our thinking about writers who may have difficulty putting pencil to paper.  She not only reminds us of brain research and what children need in learning but also that sometimes the behaviors we note "[stem] from fear rather than defiance."  This lens might truly change the way we respond to writers as they work to overcome obstacles.  "Fight, flight, and freeze are common responses to fear.  It's important to realize that when we think children are being willful, they may actually be afraid (p.20)," Ruth reminds.  One of the first steps to enticing hard-to-reach writers is to build a relationship with them and learn their story.  Writing is hard generally, but what if the stories you carry inside you are hard also?  As teachers, we have the ability to provide the space for working through hard stories.

To support writers, we not only have to provide safe spaces but, also, know the challenges of writing.  "We must write and discover the process for ourselves (p. 48)," according to Ruth.  As a teacher who writes, I know the challenges of putting words on paper.  It helps me to understand the hard days of writing, that not every story written will be better than the last one, and to know the difficulties in writing in a way that an audience will hear your intended message.  Our experiences writing help us to guide students through these challenges.  Our experiences writing through all the hard parts and celebrations can help us to shape communities of "faithful and fearless writers (p. 70)."

As teachers who write, we know writing can be hard, but we also know the joy of working through tough challenges.  It is easy to get caught up in the things our writers aren't doing, but perhaps the power is in beginning to see what writers are doing.  In her book Ruth talks about the power of being strengths-based:  "Instead of focusing on the things students don't do well, consider the things they are almost doing as writers (p. 82)."  It's the celebrations that fuel our next hard steps.

Writing isn't a lock-step process; instead, it is messy work.  In Ruth's final chapters, she shares the moves we can make as teachers to support hard-to-reach writers (any writer) in our workshops.  In these moves, she shares her thinking behind each and some practical ways to give it a try.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Show kids a path through a writing project (p. 90).
  • Build curiosity (p.91).
  • Write a draft in a way that works for you (p. 96).
  • Convince students there is an audience that cares about reading their writing (p. 114).
  • Support students in finding and claiming a writing mentor (p. 125).
  • Name the strengths students have as writers (p. 131). 
  • Diversify the end of workshop share sessions to provide more opportunities for students to share and hear about their feedback (p. 140).  
This was just the book I needed to read this summer.  More and more it seems our writing blocks get filled with lock-step processes and product focused work.  This book reminds me of the importance of helping students, not only find themselves as writers but, dig deep to find the stories that matter in their lives, the stories we can all learn from.  This book reminds me to celebrate the experiences of my writers and those little steps we make along the way.  

Thank you, Ruth, for sharing your thinking with us.  





Friday, June 29, 2018

Are You Ready for #cyberPD?

I've got my book, and I'm ready to begin.  It's time, once again, to dive into #cyberPD.  #cyberPD takes place each year as the calendar turns to July.  For the month, our community reads and discusses the same professional book.  The book is divided into three sections.  The community reads one section each week.  After reading, participants share their reflections and then read and comment on the thinking of other participants.  Each year I'm amazed at how much I learn through the reflections of other educators in the community.  (You can find out more about #cyberPD here.)

Here are the books selected since 2011: 

In our eight years, our global community has grown from 15 to just over 500.   You'll find educators from a variety of positions who join the conversation.  The variety of experiences these educators bring to the conversation always opens my eyes to new ways of thinking.  I'm amazed each year by the way the community supports one another through this experience.  Participants not only read the book and share their thinking, but they take the time to reflect and comment on the thinking of others in the community.  

Here's the schedule for this year's conversation:  




How to Participate
  • Purchase the book (need it fast?  go digital)  
  • Join the #cyberPD Google Community to connect and receive updates 
  • Read the selected chapters each week beginning the week of July 1st
  • Respond digitally to each section at some point during the assigned week
  • Share or link your response in the Google Community:  2018 Being the Change  (you can also grow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberPD)
  • Take time to reply to at least 3 participant responses

Ways to Share Your Reflections
  • Respond on your blog and link your post to the Google Community
  • Post your thinking directly in the #cyberPD Community as you post
  • Be creative.  There are many ways to link in the Google Community so feel free to try something new:  slides, infographics, ThingLink, video, etc.  (Oh, the possibilities...)
  • You can also share thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberPD 
  • I'll be trying to post a bit on Instagram using the #cyberPD hashtag (we'll see how that goes...)

2018 Links You Might Find Helpful
We know it is July.  Like us, you might have a vacation in the middle of the event, might be teaching some kind of summer school, or maybe you have family coming to visit; just make #cyberPD work for you.  The great thing about this event is that everyone shapes it to be what they need.  We hope you'll join us and help to grow our conversation.  

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.

So...you'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 means...it'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
sings
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
cool
And owls
call
And little finches
eat upside
down"

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 collection....so 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.  

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Lessons from Writing: It Takes a Community #sol18 week 4

For the month of March, I participated in the Slice of Life Challenge on my other blog:  Merely Day by Day.  Writing every day isn't easy, and I've learned some lessons I want to remember when I sit beside young writers.  Thanks to the team at Two Writing Teachers for pushing me to be a teacher who writes, and helping to grow my reflections.

Today is the last day of Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life Challenge.  For 31 days, a community of at least 300 participants have come together to share their story, support and learn from one another, and grow as writers.  Writing every day isn't easy so, at the beginning of the challenge, I made a list of tips and tricks I had learned in past years that might help me when things got tricky.  This year I found the rhythm of the process to be essential.  My process went something like this:  find a possible slice, spin it in my head (sometimes this was a voice recording and sometimes a quick jot), write it early in the morning, let it sit and gel.  The next morning I would edit, revise, and hit the publish button.  I was really writing two posts a day:  one "final" copy and one draft.

While the routine was certainly essential, it was the community that made all of the difference.  Here's why:

The community commitment kept me writing each day.  I knew this was a community that would write each day so I felt I also had to write each day not doing so would have let the community down.  I suppose it's like having an exercise buddy or an accountability partner, it just always seemed like the right thing to do.

The community opened my eyes to new possibility.  In reading the work of other writers, I discovered new crafting techniques and could envision new possibilities.  Sometimes the writing of others served as a mentor text.  Other times, I discovered new ways with words.  At times, I really was made aware of the power of the clarity of message.  Each stop to read the work of another writer taught me something.

The community helped me to find my voice.  Putting writing out into the world each day is a bit of a stretch.  As community members stopped by to comment, I learned what worked for my audience.  Their comments helped me to see the parts of my writing where I had captured their attention.  Starting to learn what works for an audience, in combination with daily writing, helped me to find my comfort zone in writing.

The community cheered me on.  The effort made by the community really helped me to continue to write.  A few years ago, I wrote about the types of comments people leave on a blog.  Just hearing that people often shared in my experience in some way, affirmed my point, or noted a part of the writing that spoke to them, kept me going.

The community connected me beyond my daily world.  Having a writing community that connected beyond my daily world broadened my experience.  It amplified the possibility in writing and discovering the power of the message.

Being a part of a writing community helped me to grow as a writer but, most importantly, it kept me in the chair each day.  It showed me the power of possibility and connected me with other writers who understand the struggle and the small victories.  Each year we grow and nurture our writing community so that across the year we can learn from another.  Each day of our workshop, we carefully stitch together new conversations that connect and lift our writers.  We find ways to help our writers reach out into the world to learn from other writers.

If you want to think more about how writers support one another, check out this video lesson from Ruth Ayres.



Lessons from Writing (other lessons from #sol18)


SaveSave

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Lessons from Writing: That Piece Isn't There Yet #sol18 week 3

For the month of March, I'm participating in the Slice of Life Challenge on my other blog:  Merely Day by Day.  Writing every day isn't easy, and I'm learning some lessons I want to remember when I sit beside young writers.  Thanks to the team at Two Writing Teachers for pushing me to be a teacher who writes, and helping to grow my reflections.

I've been writing with the community of Two Writing Teachers for the month of March.

Every.

Single.

Day.

Writing every day certainly makes me think a lot about what I ask of writers in my classroom, and maybe what I should do differently.  After 25 days of writing, I've been surprised to not find myself in crisis over what I will write about this year.  I seem to have found a rhythm that works, and I've just been plugging away.  It's probably the gift of our writing workshops; knowing you're going to write every single day (and the challenge).

Though I've been able to write every day, most days I publish my pieces knowing they aren't quite there yet.  After twenty-five days of posting, there's hardly a piece that I wouldn't go back to and try to rework.  You see, I know why each piece isn't there yet.  I'm not always sure how to get it there, but I can detect the parts of each post that work --- and those that don't quite make it.

That makes me wonder, do we ask our students, "Is your piece of writing where you want it?  Is it there yet?"  I'm going to guess that if asked, most of our writers could tell us the part of their writing that works, the new things they've tried, AND the parts that aren't quite there yet.  Instead, we often show them parts we think aren't there yet.  We require particular types of revision and lament that students don't make enough changes to their pieces.

As I get ready to write for the final week of March, I wonder what would happen if we just asked writers, "What works in this piece of writing?  What isn't quite there yet?".  Then, after a bit of conversation, perhaps the next question is, "Are you moving on or going back to try to strengthen the piece?".  Either way, the writer has learned something to carry forward.

As Georgia Heard reminds, "Revision is seeing and reseeing our words and practicing strategies that make a difference in our writing."

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Lessons from Writing: 5 Questions to Help Young Writers Find Their Own Process #sol18 week 2

For the month of March, I'm participating in the Slice of Life Challenge on my other blog:  Merely Day by Day.  Writing every day isn't easy, and I'm learning some lessons I want to remember when I sit beside young writers.  Thanks to the team at Two Writing Teachers for pushing me to be a teacher who writes, and helping to grow my reflections.

These lines caught my attention as I visited Mandy Robek's post, Fumbling, on day 2 of the Slice of Life Challenge:
"I think I've learned the benefits of using my notebook during the day, along the way.  It's a spot to hold my thoughts until I can embrace them with intention."                                  - Mandy Robek, Enjoy and Embrace Writing
As I read posts from other writers during the Slice of Life Challenge, it isn't uncommon to see a participant write about the challenges they are facing.  There are the days the idea bucket is empty.  There are days our writing goes out into the world without the polish we would like it to have.  There are days when the voice of the writing doesn't feel quite right or the craft doesn't seem to take the message to the place we'd like it to go.

It isn't uncommon to hear someone write about their process.  Participants in the event talk about where they get their ideas, crafting techniques they've discovered, new types of writing they're trying, or the way they're playing with words.  It's not uncommon to read posts about participants' favorite writing spaces, times, or tools.

This is my seventh year participating in the challenge to write 31 days, but this might be the first year I have felt I've found a rhythm to this writing.  This year, I've decided to write my posts the day before I post them.  I get up at about 5:30 in the morning, reread the post I started the previous day, complete some quick revisions, and then post it for the day.  I then spend some time drafting the post for the following day.  This habitual rhythm has certainly helped me to feel less overwhelmed by the requirements of writing every day.

Mandy talks about using her notebook to collect ideas during the day.  She finds this helpful in her writing.  I, too, love a notebook, but I find that I never have it with me.  This year, when an idea strikes, I either go into Blogger and start the post with a quick five-minute write or I open voice recorder to record my idea at the moment it hits.  Most often, ideas come in the day when I don't have time to write so voice recorder has really come in handy.

As I interact within the writing communities I belong, I've learned that everyone has their process.  I love to listen to people share their process as it often helps me to reflect and to be more intentional in my own way of writing.

Helping Young Writers Find Their Process
As I listen to adult writers talk about their work, I can't help but think about the young writers we are shaping.  Do we allow students the opportunities to find their own their process or do we assign the process?  Do we allow students to find their writing territories or do we tell them what they will write about?  Do we acknowledge that the writing can be hard or do we expect perfection in every piece?  Do we allow students to find the structure and craft of each piece of writing or do we give them formulas for completion?

Here are some questions for helping young writers find their process and rhythm as writers:

  1. Where do writers find their ideas?  This is a little different than what do writers write about.  This talks about memories, books, conversations, daily events, and maybe some good eavesdropping.  
  2. How do you collect your ideas?  Often we're in the middle of a piece of writing when we get an idea for another piece of writing.  How do we capture those ideas before they are gone?  Writers do this in a variety of ways, especially now that we have digital possibilities.  Of course, the notebook is still a favorite for writers.  Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has a site called Sharing Our Notebooks that is full of possibility to share with students.  
  3. How do you grow your ideas?  This is a topic often shaped by opportunities and challenges.  Some people sketch, some web, some research, some list.  These possibilities are often driven by purpose.  Additionally, when do you revise?  Some writers revise as they work; others work to get the idea onto paper and then return for revision.  How do you strengthen your lines and words?  
  4. Where do you like to write?  During a school day, young writers have very little say in where they write, but that doesn't mean they can't make some decisions about their spaces.  Providing alternate seating, allowing writers to write on the floor, creating quiet spaces, and maybe even just pulling out a picture and a favorite pen can help to create an atmosphere for writing.  Additionally, digital spaces may allow writers to carry their reading beyond the school day and write in their favorite spaces at home.  
  5. How will you use your time as a writer?  In classrooms, having a regular daily time to write is essential.  If young writers know they will have time to write each day, they can begin to collect ideas.  Writing every day is essential, but isn't always easy.  Allowing writers to be in different stages of the process, knowing the process is not linear, and understanding that writers may take a short break from a piece to grow a burning idea all provide flexibility for the writer. 
Young writers need the opportunity to find their own process.  If we truly want our writers to write with purpose, to develop their voice, to utilize craft, to move their audience, we have to let them write.  


Lessons From Writing Series








Saturday, March 10, 2018

Learning from Writing: You Should Write About That #sol18 Week 1

For the month of March I'm participating in the Slice of Life Challenge on my other blog:  Merely Day by Day.  Writing every day isn't easy, and I'm learning some lessons I want to remember when I sit beside young writers.  Thanks to the team at Two Writing Teachers for pushing me to be a teacher who writes, and helping to grow my reflections.

"Your next post should be about the loss of bookstores," Clare commented on my Slice of Life post, A Familiar Pattern, about the pattern of malls closing.

A few days later she returned to another post, Start a Contribution List, asking, "What's a Passion Planner™?  Can you slice about that?" 

I've appreciated her comments.  I've kept these little nuggets tucked in the back of my mind knowing when I need an idea to continue my goal to write every single day this month, I'll have a few ideas to use for my post.  

In my first grade classroom, one of my favorite things to do was greet students at the door.  Students always entered first thing in the morning full of stories, and I was the story catcher.  My students would share tales of losing teeth, learning to ride a bike, or going someplace special.  They'd share stories of friends, new experiences, and funny things that had happened to them.  Of course, I'd listen intently and then say, "You should write about that.  That would be a great story for writer's workshop."  The more reluctant the writer, the more deeply I listened - and the more animated my reaction.    

Even among my friends who have blogs, it isn't uncommon to hear one of us say to another, "You should write about that."  It's like a gift when that happens.  It's not always easy to see our stories we might share.

There's power in having someone say, "You should write that."  

Writing every single day isn't easy, but having someone to help shine light on your stories makes it a little more possible.


SaveSave

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Are You All In?

As educators and leaders, we often find ourselves running from one thing to another.  For classroom teachers, there's a myriad of responsibilities.  In addition to day-to-day teaching and preparation, there are team meetings, parent emails, and collection of resources for students.  Educators working as instructional coaches, administrators, and other roles supporting classrooms, can find themselves bouncing from place to place, teacher to teacher, team to team and student to student.  It can be easy, and perhaps somewhat understandable, to find our minds on the next thing, especially in collaborative conversations.

It's not uncommon for me to sit in a meeting, team conversation, or learning opportunity to see people with their phones out, answering emails on their computers, or being distracted by thinking beyond the moment.  In today's world, people can multitask between devices in a meeting, but we all know engaged multitasking looks different than disengaged multitasking.

In my role as our district's literacy instructional leader, I am in a myriad of meetings across the day.  One of the things I work hard to do is to be all in.  Whether I am in a data team meeting with a team of teachers, professional learning community conversations with a group, a planning meeting with district leadership, or a book talk with a student book club, I am trying to train myself to be all in.  That means I am listening, making sense of their ideas, and trying to work toward new understandings beside the people I am with at the time.

Too often we become distracted by the buzzes, bleeps, and notifications of our devices.  We easily disengage from conversations to think about the next thing on our calendars.  This can leave the people we are sitting beside feeling like they are not valued.

The next time you grab your phone, open up your email, or find yourself a million miles from the conversation.  Ask yourself, "Am I all in?".


SaveSave

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Our Classroom Libraries: Connecting, Stretching, Evolving

Yesterday I was able to chat classroom libraries at the Dublin Literacy Conference with Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning. Our session probably began to spin last year as she started to reflect on the students in her classroom and the books that would be best to support her community.  It was a delightful conversation that continued across time and soon we decided we would love to talk with other educators about classroom libraries.  

The Heart of Our Learning Community
The classroom library is the heart of the community.  It's the authors who mentor our students' writing.  It's the books that inspire thoughtful conversation.  It's the common texts that bring us together in shared understanding.  It's the stories that help us to find ourselves and to see out into the world.  Our classroom libraries shape our learning.  

While there are many joys to our classroom library, there are also many challenges.  My work allows me the privilege of being in and out of classrooms across fourteen elementary schools.  There are just some classrooms where the library pops as soon as I walk in the door.  There are classrooms where books surround the children every day.  In these classrooms, books spill out of the library and into spaces around the room.  A reader can hardly take three steps without running into a book.  Imagine the power in just that.  In these classrooms, I can feel the books as soon as I walk in the door and it always seems that in these communities I know when I talk with young learners they will be able to talk about books.  There are classrooms in which I can tell as soon as I walk in which authors the community has grown to love.  In others, it doesn't take long to tell what the focus of study is in the classroom by the way books are arranged around the room.  Our libraries say a lot about our learning community - and our beliefs about supporting literacy learning.  

Growing Readers with Strong Libraries
Knowing there isn't one right way to manage a classroom library, Mandy and I wrestled with what was most important in sharing our message.  For me, it was the library that supported the conversations in our community.  Across the year my library would change.  At times across the year,  I would notice readers were a bit restless in the workshop and would realize it was our library that needed a little freshening; after all, across a school year, learners grow in their ability to read and their interests shift across the year as a result of new conversations.  

Here are the three considerations Mandy and I discussed in thinking about our classroom libraries.  Our classroom libraries work to help our readers by:
  • Connecting:  Classroom libraries connect readers to their next book, to new authors, to one another.  As educators, we curate libraries that have books of appropriate challenge and make sure our collections are inclusive to all of our readers.  Books in our collections provide mirrors for seeing ourselves, windows for looking out, and sliding glass doors to step into new possibilities.  The books that surround our learning community help to grow common conversations that will shape and connect learners across the year.  In today's world, through the use of digital tools, our classroom libraries will also help us to connect to authors (websites, Twitter), other readers, and to outside experts.  
  • Stretching:  Classroom libraries can provide stepping stones into new texts.  Across the year our conversations help readers learn to balance their reading.  We find ways to help readers stretch to try new genres, authors, and types of reading.  As a community, we reach to discover more through multiple media that grow our understanding, help us to compare a variety of information, and ask us to consider other perspectives.  In our mini lessons we include a variety of texts and consider the balance between print and digital possibilities.  
  • Evolving:  Classroom libraries continue to grow during the year to meet the new needs of our readers.  Our libraries change as we study new authors, dig into a particular genre, or delve into a new topic of study.  They evolve as we move from a literal understanding of text to try to understand author's perspective and work to uncover the themes within a text.  Our libraries evolve as readers request new books, young writers need to learn about different crafting techniques, or our scientists seek more information.  Our libraries evolve as new books are published and new possibilities begin to find their way into our classroom.  Our libraries are no longer confined to the physical space in our classroom, we consider the digital possibilities for our readers.  Using Padlet (example of digital reading Padlet here), our classroom hubs, or other digital spaces we can curate digital spaces for our readers.  

More About Libraries
As Mandy and I were working on our session, I wondered what other educators would say about the classroom library.  I found myself wanting to go into classrooms to really take a look at their libraries so I created a hashtag and asked some educators to share their tips and pics.  As always, everyone was so gracious to share both.  You can learn more about the classroom library on Twitter at the hashtag #CRlibrarylove.  Please join the conversation by sharing pictures of your library, beliefs that shape your work with your classroom library, and resources.  Of course, we'd also love to see some library makeover pictures!!!  ;o)  



More Links for Libraries:
I'd love your links, resources, and thoughts in the comments below.  Please share!  
SaveSaveSaveSave