Sunday, June 29, 2014

DigiLit Sunday: Tools for Reader Response

As part of a continuous collaboration among educators interested in digital learningMargaret Simon has started a weekly Digital Learning round-up on her blog:  DigiLit Sunday.  I'm joining the event for the first time today.  Stop by Reflections on the Teche to read, discover, and link.

Tonight at 8:00 EST, Colby Sharp and Katherine Sokolowski will be hosting #titletalk.  Tonight's topic is writing about reading.  I have a busy day ahead, but I'm hoping I can stop in for a bit.  In our classroom, reader response is most often a choice not a requirement.  I've found technology tools have increased student interest in digging into text and sharing their discoveries.  Since over the last week I have started the tedious job of cleaning out my Evernote records as well as some of the sites we used for response, it seemed the perfect time to share a few favorite applications.  I had to smile at the variety of ways students discovered across the year to respond to text.

When choosing apps for our classroom I try to be intentional.  It seems less can really be more if you pick the right apps.  Here are a few things I consider:

  • Do apps allow students to create?  
  • Is it easy to navigate?
  • Can students create in a timely fashion in this application?  
  • Do apps connect to our curriculum and the focus of our learning?
  • Do the apps allow students to work where they are as learners?  
  • Will the apps allow students to create in authentic ways?
  • How can work be saved?
  • How can work be shared with others after it is complete?
  • Will app allow students to discover and build understanding?  
  • Does the app allow collaboration and/or commenting?  

Here are a few of my favorite apps for reader response:

Pixie:  In our district we have Pixie on our laptops so students become very familiar with this application.  It is a little expensive to add to the laptops, but I find it works well as it allows students to add images, create pictures, include audio, and create flexibly.  (Wixie is a FREE alternative app.)

Here's a response to That Is Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems

Educreations:  Here is a quick recording made by a student to share her favorite books from the year.  She made this as we were reflecting on our reading and planning new reading for the summer.  This year, my students preferred Pixie in reading, but I think Educreations has a lot of possibility.
 Kidblog:  Many students prefer to go to Kidblog to create and share their thinking about books.  Often students choose Kidblog to write about their reading so friends can comment.
This was created in Pixie and inserted into the post.
Students can also post directly into the blog. 

Potential for Writing About Reading:
I played around with Haiku Deck earlier this year.  It's ease in adding images and then inserting text made it a quick application to utilize.  Additionally, the finished product is transformed into a presentation format in seconds.  I'm thinking students could use this to find images that might describe a character or to connect themes from books to their lives.  I'm thinking it also might be a way to build vocabulary through images with second language learners or those who need more experience with a topic.
Haiku Deck
I loved Franki Sibberson's post about Corkulous:  Corkulous for Read Aloud.  Oh, the possibilities.
Corkulous Free (Pro allows more boards)
I'd really like to find a collaborative tool that would allow us to grow our thinking together as we respond to reading.  Our district has been teaching us about Nearpod.  It allows teachers to build presentations, students can join collaboratively.  I'm wondering if there isn't a way to make this more of a collaborative response tool.

Please take a moment to share some of your favorite tools for reader response.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Snicker of Magic

"I knew how that felt, to love a story so much you didn't just want to read it, you wanted to feel it."  - Felicity Pickle from A Snicker of Magic

That's exactly how I felt about this story.  I'm pretty sure I did feel some parts of it.  How can you not feel the friendship between Jonah and Felicity?  How can you not feel Felicity's love for her mother?  How can you not feel the desire Felicity has to belong, to be home?

I purchased A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd many weeks ago as friend after friend raved about the book.  I knew I was going to love it so I did something I rarely do, I actually bought it for my Kindle.  Of course, I bought it, and then books I had been waiting in line for at our library digital site kept becoming available.  With the narrow window to complete, A Snicker of Magic kept having to wait.  Finally, I could wait no longer.  I opened it and couldn't put it down.

In A Snicker of Magic, the Pickles arrive in Midnight Gulch where Felicity, Frannie, and their mama stay with their Aunt Cleo.  Felicity's mom likes to wander and doesn't stay anywhere for long.  It doesn't take long for Felicity to fall in love with Midnight Gulch where she finds herself blanketed in the love of friends and family.  Felicity wants to stay there, to make Midnight Gulch her home, but she can see in Mama's eyes that she has plans to leave.

Midnight Gulch isn't your normal town.  Midnight Gulch is a place with a story, a little magic, and a terrible curse.  Natalie Lloyd weaves her story delicately adding small details about the curse that ended the magic of Midnight Gulch many generations ago.  Can Felicity and Jonah unravel the curse, bring a little magic back to the town, and possibly convince Mama to stay?  Is there, perhaps, a little snicker of magic left to make everything better?

If you haven't read this one, don't wait.  Move it to the top of your pile!  I'm glad it will be waiting on my Kindle when I want to visit Midnight Gulch again.

A Few Quotes
Natalie Lloyd has a way with words.  Here are a few quotes I loved in this book:

  • "Mama's story voice is like nothing I've ever heard, like something between a summer breeze and a lullaby."  Felicity Pickle 
  • "Every person you will ever meet, and every place you will ever go, and every building you set your foot in - has a story to tell."  Miss Lawson, Felicity's teacher
  • "Some miracles are big and flashy, and others are sweet and simple.  Some miracles make you want to shout, and others make you want to sing."  Felicity
  • "She told stories in such a way that I swear my heart heard them before my ears did." Felicity
  • "I wanted to wrap up in her stories, curl them around my shoulders like a quilt." Felicity
  • "How strange, I thought, when you can see what's way out ahead of you but not what's right up close." Felicity
  • "Even if the bad memory comes first, I choose to replace it with a good one instead."  Holly Pickle
  • "Home is what happens when you are brave enough to love people." Felicity

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Let's Commit to Comment #commit2comment

This week I've finally have had a little more time to visit blogs.  As I have moved from post to post, I've realized how many blogs, especially new bloggers, are not receiving comments; even though the message is moving, the voice is interesting, the opening for conversation is there.  While I typically try to leave 3 comments for every round-up I join, I'll admit I haven't been commenting as much either.  During the school year, I was quite guilty of reading and then clicking away.  It seemed an issue of time, yet I know readers who leave comments across blogs all the time.

Let's #commit2comment
For the summer, to remedy this problem, I'm committing to 5 comments each day and at least one of those comments will be on a blog that is new to me.  I will comment 5 of the 7 days a week…so 5 x 5 will be 25 comments per week.  I'm hoping others will join me in committing to comment (#commit2comment) by setting their own appropriate summer commenting goals.  I'm hoping you will tweet or blog your summer commitment and set a goal that works for you.   Let's start a movement to share some blog love and keep the conversations going.

Posts about Commenting
Your 2¢ Worth:  Merely Day by Day
Comments Are Like Christmas Morning:  Hay's Home

Friday, June 13, 2014

Got Lists? Why You Need Twitter Lists

Managing Twitter
Everyone who knows me, knows I have a Twitter addiction.  Let's face it three accounts (@cathymere, @SnowLeopards1M, @publiced4kids) and several tweets each day only touch on the severity of the problem.  Often I am asked how I manage Twitter, the accounts, and the amazing people I follow; there are three key factors in managing Twitter for me:

  • use of down time
  • letting things go
  • and LISTS  

I became involved with Twitter when I had a lot of down time; you know those moments when you are just waiting to pick your kids up at practice or waiting in that long checkout line at the grocery.  That's when I found my love for Twitter.  Then I panicked.  There were so many tweets, so much loosely related information, so many important things being shared.  I soon knew I'd have to learn to let things go.  I wasn't going to see everything, but thankfully I soon realized the important stuff comes back.

Twitter Lists
Then I discovered Twitter lists.  Twitter lists have helped me manage Twitter, but have also helped me to find it more enjoyable.  One of the hard things about Twitter for me was the constant stream, of often unrelated, tweets.  I would be reading a news tweet, followed by tweet about technology, followed by a tweet about a new book, and then a tweet to a must-read blogpost.  I wanted my feed to make a little more sense so I began putting together groups of people who share common information.  I created lists for technology, literacy, children's literature, and other topics of interest to me (yes, even a little fantasy sports help).

Lists not only help me to keep tweets in similar categories, but they also make it easier for me to keep up when life gets busy. I know I don't want to miss the tweets of my close friends and colleagues.  Sometimes I want to check in to see what the educators in my district are talking about.  Other days I want to build my to-be-read pile.  When I have lots of time, I enjoy meandering through the live feed to see what is happening, but when I am busy my lists allow me to keep track of the tweets most important to me.

Getting Started with Lists
To view someone's list, go to their profile page, click more, and then click lists.  You'll be able to view their lists and see the tweets within each.

Donalyn Miller, @donalynbooks, has
some lists worth checking out
Like someone else's list?  You can follow someone's list by clicking on the list you'd like to view and then clicking "subscribe."  The new list will then be visible under your lists for later viewing.

@richardblanco, poet
If you want to add someone to a list, just click on the toggle wheel near their information and go to "add or remove from lists."  When using your computer and the Twitter site, your lists will then appear or you are able to create a list from this menu.  Most Twitter applications also allow you to add to or create lists, but you may have to play around a bit to locate these features.

Got Lists?  If not, you may want to consider giving them a try.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Change & Possibility

"If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed, the vision pulls you."  -- Steve Jobs

After days of sorting, packing, pitching, putting things away, I looked around the now empty classroom.  It was in this moment that I realized for the first time in 26 years I was saying goodbye to spending part of my day in a classroom.  Each year, for 26 years, I've become entwined in a community of learners for a year.  Each year we've learned to share space, we've helped each other discover new learning, we've shared books, and we've laughed together.  Even during my years as a Reading Recovery teacher and a Literacy Coach I was still in a classroom for half of my day.

Suddenly I stood in the doorway and realized the significance of my decision to move to a reading intervention position in my building.  It was time for a change.  I like change.  I thrive on change.  I'd been teaching first grade in the same space (well, nearly the same space --- long story) for at least 8 years.  That's kind of a record for me and speaks to the community I am a part of which always pushes my thinking and keeps me laughing at the same time.  When I heard of a primary reading intervention spot opening up in our building, I'll admit I was intrigued.  There was so much possibility there.  The idea of thinking about something new was exciting.

As the possibility became a reality I was excited, but I was also a little worried.  How would I feel not having a classroom community?  What about reading aloud to a classroom of students?  What about not sitting beside writers every day?  What about technology?  What about my amazing team?

As I looked around the room, I took a deep breath and tried to gain perspective.  Walking to the new room I would use as a hub in my work with readers I started to consider the new possibilities and determine ways around potential roadblocks.  Having just come from a classroom, I have learned a lot I hope will help me in this position to support readers and teachers.  From my point of view as a classroom teacher I have learned many of the benefits of reading support and some of the challenges readers receiving support face in the classroom.  In my work as a Reading Recovery teacher, my friend, Jen Morgan and I, worked to consider classroom transitions.  This will be important to think about in the months to come.

This summer, I will be contemplating possibilities.  My bookshelf is stacked with books to read and reread about reading instruction, intervention, and shaping readers.  I'm keeping a running list on my phone of ideas I may want to consider as I begin a new year.  I'm rethinking "community" and making mine bigger.  I'm considering how I will collaborate and share information with teachers to make it easy for them to access without taking much of their time, yet allow us to stay consistent in our messages for readers.  I'm wrestling with Google vs. Evernote.  I'm thinking about technology tools and applications that will purposefully support the readers I will see each day.  I'm planning ways to transition into a new year and get in touch with readers as they do the important work of learning routines and finding their place in their classroom communities in the first weeks of school.

This summer, I'm planning possibilities.  I'm looking forward to the new opportunities and challenges that are ahead.

Let's Connect
If you work in this capacity and you have thoughts/suggestions/tips you'd like to share, please leave them in the comments.  I'd love to build connections and learn from you.  If you work with readers who receive support and you have have thoughts/suggestions/tips you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them.  I'm interested in knowing about books that have shaped your practice, challenges you've faced, organizational tips, planning suggestions, your instructional framework, structuring days that work for students and teachers, and much much more.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sharing, Connecting, Collaborating

Today I am joining Deb Frazier, Primary Perspective, to talk about connecting students.  We're excited to be having a conversation with colleagues in our district about "Sharing, Connecting, Collaborating" with a more global audience.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

#cyberPD Is Going Wild!

Laura Komos at Ruminate and Invigorate, Michelle Nero at Literacy Learning Zone and I are excited to announce this year's #cyberPD title.  First of all, I want to thank everyone who took time from their busy schedules to post a picture, booklist, and/or tweet professional summer reading possibilities for us to consider.  The stacks were interesting to view and made my TBR pile a little taller.  You can view the stacks here.

So, I know you're interested in hearing which book we have chosen for discussion.  It's never easy.  We try to consider titles on everyone's reading lists, books that lend themselves to thoughtful discussion, as well as books that would be of interest to a wide range of educators.

#cyberPD Titles

2014 #cyberPD Title
This year #cyberPD is going wild!  We're excited to announce that we'll be discussing Donalyn Miller's new title:  Reading in the Wild.  We're hoping you'll join us for the event which will take place across the month of July.  

#cyberPD Dates & Host Sites
You'll want to get a copy of the book (available in book or digital format!), find your favorite reading spot, grab the note-taking tools you love, and get ready to share your thinking with our community.  

To Participate
You can participate in July's #cyberPD event by:
  • Blog Reflection:  If you have a blog you may join us each week by posting your reflection of the chapters read.  Then link your blog to the host blog by leaving a comment and your link.  If you don't have a blog, but have been considering getting started, this is the perfect time to create your own space.
  • Blog Commenting:  If you do not have a blog, you are welcome to comment on the host blog to join the conversation.
  • Twitter:  You can also participate by commenting anytime on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberPD.
  • Other:  Last year we had people participate using other sites as well.  If you can link, they will come.  We love a little creativity.    
We hope you'll join us in July!  Let's get wild!  

Saturday, June 7, 2014

48 Hour Book Challenge: Starting Line with Middle Eastern Literature

Today is the kick-off of Mother Reader's 48 Hour Reading Challenge (more here).   This is my third year to kick off summer reading with this event.  This year the event is supporting the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement.  For this reason, I decided to focus my reading on Middle Eastern Literature.  I knew I already had three titles in by TBR stack that would work in this focus, and decided to go in search of a few more.  I was pleased with the results.

I'll be choosing books from this stack:

I was a little disappointed to discover how hard it is to find these titles available digitally from the library --- yes, I'm one of those readers who prefers a digital copy (my apologies to book lovers).  I'm going to add to the movement #WeNeedMoreDiverseBooks---Digitally!

Last year I read 14 of 48 hours.  My goal is to try to surpass that time which may be tricky, but I am going to give it a try.  Here we go.  My start time is 9:30.

This year I will be trying a new app to keep track of my reading time.  I will be using Read Up to record my titles and times.  On your mark, get set, go!   

Monday, June 2, 2014

Summer #cyberPD: Call for Professional Stacks

It's almost time for the 4th Annual #cyberPD event.  In 2011, Laura Komos, Jill Fisch, and I decided to start an online collaborative book talk with colleagues about a common professional read.  We were inspired by the power of the conversations across the event and the depth of learning so we have hosted #cyberPD each July to continue to grow as educators.  Each year the event has grown and the learning has helped us to improve our work as educators by considering the thinking of those participating.  The books ground our conversation, but the reflections exponentially grow our understandings.

Past #cyberPD Events

Share Your Stack
It's time to select the title for the July's #cyberPD event.  To do this, we'd like to peek into your professional book stacks to see what titles return across stacks.  This will help us to select our 2014 title.  We're hoping you will find the time (and we know how crazy busy it is) to share your stack.  You can:

  • tweet a picture of your stack with the hashtag #cyberPD
  • tweet favorite titles with the hashtag #cyberPD
  • write a blog post about your stack
  • find a convenient and/or creative way to share your summer professional reading list

Here are some of the 2013 professional reading stacks.

Anything goes!  

Stacks need to be tweeted at #cyberPD or linked to one of our blogs by Saturday, June 7th.  (You do not need to share a stack to join us in July.)

We'll be sharing the selected title, and the July event dates, on Sunday, June 8th.  We hope you'll join us.

My current professional summer reading stack:  "in progress"

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Planning Summer Reading

As part of a continuous collaboration among educators interested in digital learningMargaret Simon has started a weekly Digital Learning round-up on her blog:  DigiLit Sunday.  I'm joining the event again today.  Stop by Reflections on the Teche to read, discover, and link.

As the school doors close behind me and I look forward to my first steps into summer, Mother Reader's 48 Hour Reading Challenge is always my kickoff event.  This year, "in solidarity of the cause of #WeNeedDiverseBooks, this year's 48 Hour Book Challenge is dedicated to reading, sharing and reviewing books that show diversity in all ways."  As I peruse Google, Shelfari, Goodreads, Pinterest, book reviews, and blogposts, I can't help but marvel at how the way I find books has changed because of the internet.

Digital tools have changed the way I find, plan, purchase, and record books I have read or plan to read. I used to wander the shelves of the bookstore or library to find titles of interest.  Now my list of books I plan to read is filled by readers I connect with via Twitter, suggested titles as I request books from the library, the virtual shelves of friends, publishers' blogs and book trailers, book review posts, and book websites.

This change has seeped into the classroom as well, and this evolution was apparent during the last few weeks of school.  As a class, we started to look at the books we had read across the year on our Shelfari shelf.  We discussed books we loved, books we'd read again and again, as well as books we'd recommend.  Then we began to shift our focus to the books we hoped to read in the summer.  We loved Mo Willems.  Did he have books we hadn't read?  We enjoyed Otis.  Had the author written other titles about this favorite character?  We began to run through the lists of authors, characters, and topics we enjoyed reading as well as those we hoped to begin to discover.  We added books we all agreed might be worth reading to our class "plan to read" Shelfari shelf.

Students then began to make summer reading lists in their "summer spirals."  Students went to Shelfari shelves to find new titles.  They went to author's websites to find new titles.  They read posts by friends on Kidblog to find new reads.  They pulled up our library website and searched for books of interest.  While this isn't the same as holding a book to decide if you plan to read it, it is a first step in making a plan.  Student lists grew across the week as did their excitement for summer.

As students departed on the last day of school with their new summer reading bags, their small summer reading spirals were tucked safely inside.  Digital tools had helped us make a plan for our summer reading.