Tuesday, December 29, 2015

does this bring me joy?

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For Christmas this year, I got a great book i didn't even know I wanted: 

Life-changing is, in fact, a great way to describe this process.

This book is really telling us that we have too much stuff, which makes our homes cluttered and untidy. Do you have clothes that don't fit in your drawers or closet? Do you have scarves and mittens that don't fit where they go? Are your bookcases overflowing with books? Is your desk or kitchen table or counter full of mail and catalogs and bills and papers you're not sure where to put? If any rings true, this book is for you.

We have too much stuff. Way too much. My closet was full to the max, where when I'd take out one shirt, the two on either side of it would pop out with it. I knew it was time to declutter, and so I followed the steps in the book and got rid of 10 bags of stuff: mostly clothes, but shoes, purses and bags, and cups and mugs:

The hangers below, they were all in my closet with clothes before this tidying-up:

And now, instead, I have space and all of the clothes that bring me joy. That's how you decide what to keep. You start with clothes, and even more specifically, tops. Go get all your tops that are hanging, your T-shirts, tank tops. Take them all to the same place and then one-by-one, pick each up and ask yourself, "Does this bring me joy?" If not, its as simple as this: discard.

Now, my tank tops and T-Shirts, which used to take up two drawers, fit in one, with space to spare:

And I feel so happy. I have space in my apartment. It feels big enough, and I have room to grow.

I still haven't gotten to my office supplies, books, and mementos like pictures and cards. I love my books and notebooks, and I love office supplies, too, so it's going to prove a little more challenging, but I'm excited to do it.

Best of all with this book, it's going to change the way I buy things, too, because with every purchase, I'm going to be asking, "Does this bring me joy?" If not, it's staying on the racks.

Have you read this book?
Have you decluttered and tidied?
Please share your experiences!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

everything, everything

Just finished the best book I've read in a really long time. So, so, so good. Started it on my plane ride last night, finished it up this afternoon.

Everything, Everything (Yoon) is the story of Madeline, who has been cooped up in her house for all of her 18 years of life because of a very rare disease. She has her routine - school via skype, reading lots of books (The Little Prince is her favorite...and now I must read it!), and hanging out with her mother. Her family is one of two: Madeline and her mother because of a terrible accident where her dad and brother were killed when she was just and infant.

All is going well until Olly moves in next door. They become friends first through their windows, and then via instant messaging. Olly's family has some issues as well, which one day call Maddy from her house. After being outside, it is hard for her to continue with the life she's lived for 18 years, and well....things happen.

This book not only has a great story and a twist at the end, but also many formats that make it very enjoyable for me, and I imagine, for young adults. "Chapters" are short and sometimes only a few lines of text or even a drawing. There are pages and pages of Instant Messaging to unfold the story, emails back and fourth, schedules of various characters, and drawings depicting feelings and events to come.

One of my fave lines:

So, I highly recommend this, you should grab a copy for sure!

Up next for me:

What are you reading these days?
Hope you're enjoying a lazy Sunday like I am and I'll be back soon with New Year stuff!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

looking back

This month, the #compelledtribe is talking about year-end reflections. It's crazy how fast each year goes by, but here we are again, ending another. So, professionally and personally speaking, here are some reflections of my year...

Illinois Writing Project
One thing I am most thankful for is my work last summer with the Illinois Writing Project. I took part in their Summer Leadership Institute and participating reaffirmed everything I believe about writing and writing instruction. One would think giving up 12 days of summer break would be a drag, but it was by far the best PD I've had outside of my graduate program. Through it, an important friendship grew closer and I made some new friends too. And now I'm helping out with the Social Media for IWP. This was a wonderful investment of time and energy, and I highly recommend the Writing Projects - in Illinois and all the states!

Literacy Coaching
What a difference a few years can make... I'm really enjoying the work I get to do as a coach. Seeing the wonderful teachers in my building on a consistent basis and collaborating with them to best meet the needs of our students is so rewarding. I've come up with some better organizational systems and learned more about guided reading at various levels. I can see the growth of our students as they continue to receive instruction from a Reading and Writing Workshop approach and it's because of the hard work of our teachers each day that our students are flourishing as readers and writers. As a fourth or fifth grader, I never knew anything about Author's Craft, but our students sure do. Thank you Emerson teachers for your trust and collaboration...I love to work with you! (Check out what's going on in our building by searching #tigerslearn on Twitter!)

Blogging Club
I'm in my second year running a blogging club with fourth and fifth graders and I just love it. In March, we completed the Slice of Life challenge with Two Writing Teachers and I had four students write every day for the entire month. Have you ever done a month-long challenge? It's not easy, especially during the school year (and it was testing season, too!) Now that we've started this year, I love how the fifth graders who are on year two are coaching the new kiddos - I totally understand why Nancie Atwell's ELA class was a 7-8th grade combo class that looped. This year, kiddos have already refined their practices with commenting, and we're using a goal setting chart to focus our work!

Personally Speaking
Lots of great things happened this year! I got to visit friends and family in Florida, California, and Arizona. My niece came for a week in the summer and we had so much fun together doing things all around the city. My sister came in November and brought my new nephew Jack so I could meet him. I went to two weddings of great friends and celebrated first steps in their new marriages. We watched some ASU games together, I had an awesome 35th birthday party and a really fun Friendsgiving, and Bernie Sanders is picking up some traction during this primary season.

It's kind of upsetting that unless I'm actively going through all these memorable occasions all I can really seem to keep in mind is the breakup, but luckily that is getting further and further away from me each day, and so it gets easier every day. And I guess that even though there was an ending in 2015, I'm always going to abide by this:

There's my year in review. Hope you had a great one, too. Coming next are goals for the new year; stay tuned!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

two things i heart

I'm in my second year with my Tiger Blogging Club, and some great additions to our work has helped the students reach further in their blogging in so much less time than last year. I think these things can be applied to the classroom, too, so I wanted to share.

First, my club consists of 4th and 5th graders. I have five fifth graders and eight fourth graders. Having a group of returning kiddos is SO SO helpful for instruction. They are models who have a background with edublogs and naturally, they help me coach the fourth graders on their work.

Nancie Atwell, one of my Literacy Idols creates her Reading - Writing Workshop rosters in this way. She teaches to a seventh and eight grade combo class that loops, so when the seventh graders become eighth graders, there's already one half of the class who are additional coaches to the new kiddos. In my dream job, I'd teach one second of a Reading - Writing Workshop this way, with seventh and eighth graders. (And coach the other parts of my day!)

Another thing I wanted to happen was to track student work on a chart. At first I was thinking it could be a sticker for every post written, or maybe comment, but I didn't want to impose my goals on the kiddos, so I made a goal setting chart:

I wanted to make it more pretty and laminate it, but I don't have tons of time, so it's just hand-drawn squares, one space for each of my kiddos. Then, each week when we meet, I ask kids to set goals for themselves with blogging. Some of the goals this week include:

  • 3 Slice of Life posts, plus four more posts and 5 comments
  • 3 Slice of Life posts, plus 7 more posts, categorize my posts, and leave three coments
  • Write 6 posts total: 5 Slices of Life and one about Christmas
(Remember, they're on break for the next two weeks, so they made their goals bigger!)

The first week, I asked them to set a goal. They didn't know a sticker chart - one where we'd track how often we met our goals - was coming, but in my mind, I knew I'd put that up next week. When they returned that following week, I stood by the sticker chart I had put up, asked who made their goals, and not one person had (myself included). At the end of that session, we took our old goals down from the board and set new ones. When the kids came back on the third week, they were so excited. As they trickled into our meeting, many checked their goals, told me they made them, and sat down happily to begin working on their blogs.

These two strategies - having a combo grade level club and a goal setting chart has led amazing work by my bloggers! Check out their blogs listed on my right sidebar under "Student Bloggers in the Loop." One of my kiddos hit a major milestone this week - she published her 100th post!

Hope your last week before break is wrapping up well!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

have lunch with more than your selfie!

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I got to work this morning and was a few minutes early so I logged into my email to see if I could start returning some messages before we began and I happened upon this in an email from a work friend:

A few weeks ago, I had been sharing about my Christmas card predicament, that is, do I send one anyways now that I'm single and it's just me on the card? I had a few ideas about what I'd put on it, and I was running them by colleagues as we at lunch together in the teacher's lounge.

The first group of teachers loved my idea, the second, not so much. But the second group did have a lot of new ideas for me. We shared those, and laughed a bunch togehter.

Teachers who are reading this, do you eat in your lounge? It's a non-negotiable for me. While there are usually 10-15 things running on my To Do list at any given time, for me, it makes my life easier if I can take some time away from my work to unwind, relax, and laugh a little with friends.

Because we spend time together, and share stories, we develop better understandings of one another. The people I work with are there to listen when I feel like crying and they're there to laugh along with me when I am happy. We get to know one another and care for one another, which leads to even better, collaborative working relationships.

So, to all you newbies out there, yes, teaching is crazy busy. But taking time for your well being and eating with your team, it's so so important. So set those papers down, forget the lesson plans, and pass the cookies!

Oh, and I am sending the cards...and they look like this:

It's perfect, #AmIRight? :-)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

tmi via an i am poem + a freebie

During Summer Leadership Institute at Illinois Writing Project, one of our group leaders shared an I Am poem as a structure we could use for writing. Now, I've heard of poems like this before, but never how Jan has used them, because she rewrites her poem every year, and has been doing so for two decades or longer. Seriously, so amazing! I decided in July I wanted to start this tradition, and I'm finally getting around to it now, so here's my first one.'s super personal and really reflects how I've been feeling lately so there's that. I wrote it and screened it through my writing friends at work and they said to publish even though it's intense. So I'm sharing, but hesitantly because it's kinda:

But here goes anyways...

I am so many different things: friend, daughter, sister, Literacy Coach, Social Media enthusiast...and
I wonder when I'm going to add happily married to that list.
I hear that everything happens for a reason.
I see that people don't love the way they say they do.
I want a great guy who will cherish me and
I am not settling.

I pretend like this holiday season is merry and bright, but
I feel kinda grey inside.
I worry that people will feel sorry for me, and
I cry... but not as often as you would think because
I am still pretty angry.

I understand that this will pass.
I say that everything is okay, because mostly it is. 
I dream about a blissfully happy future and
I try to keep my negative thoughts at bay.
I hope this is the last single holiday season, but it might not be because
I am not settling :-)

Okay so seriously don't freak out, I'm totally fine but stuff like this is usually swimming around in my head when I have time to think. Obviously it's pretty hard to hit the Publish button today, but the writer in me longs to be transparent and share what I'm really thinking. And guess what? When I had my writing besties read this, they looked at me and their eyes told me to hit the Publish button. So I'm trusting them today.

Enough of my ramblings. I have a treat for you! A copy of the I Am poem template, in English and Spanish. Head on over to my TpT to grab a copy!

Have a great night, and start a tradition with the I Am poem - write one every year!

Friday, November 27, 2015

winter wonderland blog hop

Hello friends! Welcome to BigTime Literacy and the Reading in a Winter Wonderland Hop! I'm so excited to share with you on this annual tradition, and I hope you like what you find here from me!

Before we get to the good stuff, just a little bit of housekeeping for this link up... The Reading Crew and I decided not to present this as a hop, but as a closed link-up. At the bottom of this post, you can find the maps for both the K-2nd and 3rd-5th bloggers who are participating. That way, you can jump around from blog to blog however you'd like to.

We are giving away two collections of books! Each book that is featured on each blog is part of the collection. So, be sure to collect the mystery words that are listed on each bloggers' page in blue, so then you'll have the opportunity to enter to win the collections of books we're giving away!

In addition to featuring a great book for this time of year, we are also sharing freebies to use with it. Please note: my freebies will only be available for a limited time, so make sure to get a copy before they are changed to a paid product!

So without any further ado, let's get to it!
Enjoy the blog hop and have a wonderful holiday season!
The Legend of the Poinsettia

I have to come clean up front - I picked a great book - The Legend of the Poinsettia - a long time ago. I just love Tomie dePaola's books - the stories are great and I love the illustrations. When I was in the classroom, I used her Legend of the Bluebonnet as part of my Traditional Literature unit, which is what led me to her Legend of the Poinsettia. Well, working last minute like I usually do, I wasn't loving the text I chose - but only because the most obvious reason to use it is for teaching about the genre of Traditional Literature. Unfortunately, I waited too long to switch my text, so I'm delivering some great resources, but they are going to be bigger than the theme of this blog hop. I guess that's okay since you might not even teach a unit on Traditional Literature at this time of year, anyways!

About the book
This book tells the story of how the Poinsettia came to be. This Mexican legend explains how we all came to know this beautiful flower that adorns our homes at Christmastime. The main character, Lucida, and her mother are set to make the blanket for the Christ child, but then when Lucida's mother becomes ill, things don't go as planned. Lucida is left without a gift to give to baby Jesus. In a last minute attempt to bring something, anything, she grabs and arm full of weeds growing outside the church. In a Christmas miracle, they are transformed into the brilliant flowers we today call the Poinsettia.

Teaching with this text
This book would best be used as part of a larger unit on Traditional Literature. My idea would be to have groups of students study the various types of traditional literature: Fables, Fairy Tales, Legends, Myths, and Tall Tales. I would start by talking about the characteristics of all Traditional Literature: 

Then, together in groups, students would be given 3-5 books within that subset to read so they can construct their knowledge of TL. I've created this matrix for students to use as they are reading and studying their books:

I think a Matrix is a better version of a Venn Diagram. What's great about it is that kids compare and contrast within different characteristics, in this case, by characters, the setting, problem and solution, and another category that they can develop themselves. Then, after they complete all the similarities and differences (which Marzano cites as a high-yield strategy for learning) they can then think about generalizations they can make about that subset of TL.

I'm guessing that the research wouldn't end there - students could then go on to research online more books that could fit the genre and also check if their predictions about qualities of the genre are correct. Finally, I'm envisioning it ending with the groups teaching the rest of the class about their subset of TL.

My Freebie
You're going to love my freebie! It includes Traditional Literature Posters, a matrix that matches the posters, and also blackline masters of the matrix that are editable so you can modify them to meet your needs. Additionally, I've complied a brief bibliography of books that could be used to support this unit on Traditional Literature. Please note: this freebie will only be available for the weekend of November 27, 2015!

Well, that's all I have for you today! I hope you've found something helpful here at BigTime Literacy, and if you did, be sure to follow my blog! Don't forget about our giveaway! In case you missed it, my mystery word is poinsettia. You can enter it onto your sheet or into the Rafflecopter below. Good luck and happy holidays!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

gratitude lately

What a great day to celebrate our blessings! Write your own post and link up with me if you'd like to join!

Today I'm thankful for days of rest. No work for the rest of the week!

Thankful for Justin Theroux. He's so nice to look at...but his show, The Leftovers, it's crazy strange! I was watching the whole episode this morning thinking, "Whaaaattt?" and then at the end it makes a little sense, so I'll watch another. Every single time. Anyone else watching it?

Thankful for sweet notes from students, and their teachers who teach them about showing gratitude.

Thankful for our district's first Twitter Chat! Check out the Storify of it here, and below, a few of my favorite tweets!

Thankful for super funny Bernie memes!


Thankful for this nephew, Jack:

And my sister, who brought him to meet me for the first time a few weeks ago!

Thankful for my blog as a space to write, the people who read and talk to me about it, and the friends I've made because of it.

Making it up as I go!

That's all for me. I hope you have an awesome Thanksgiving and take some time to think about all the amazing things this life blesses us with!

Monday, November 23, 2015

a quick twitter chat how-to

Super exciting news - our district is holding our first Twitter Chat tonight at 7:30pm! This came about because of two amazing, inspired teachers, Theresa Carrillo and Leah O'Donnell. We're planning to spend 30 minutes talking about what we're thankful for:

And, interestingly enough, I just ran across this from edutopia yesterday:

No better time for this #D100chat than right now!

I wanted to share TweetDeck with you - it's the way I participate in Twitter chats and what I plan on using tonight. It makes it so much easier to follow along and keep up with everyone!

TweetDeck is a website that is connected to twitter where you can see multiple things at once. Don't be overwhelmed when I show you...I"m going to explain everything, but once you log in with your Twitter account, you'll see something like this:

There's the toolbar off the left, and then all these columns. When you log in the first time, you won't see any columns - these are the ones I have set! Let me walk you through the toolbar first thing.

This is my toolbar - yours will look different though. The top button in blue - that will be there. That's how you write a new tweet - so you can participate in a Twitter chat right here on TweetDeck. When you click that blue button, a dialog box opens and you can compose right there.

Under that is a search button. Use that if you just want to quickly look up a hashtag, a Twitter user or something else.

Under the search, you see seven buttons - those are all links to the columns I have set:

  • A little person for my personal user, @bigtimeliteracy
  • A bell that signifies notifications for @bigtimeliteracy
  • Another person for the @IllinoisWP user - I tweet for them!
  • Another bell for the notifications @IllinoisWP
  • Home is the home feed of @bigtimeliteracy
  • Magnifying glass is a search for our school's hashtag, #tigerslearn
  • The second magnifying glass is another hashtag, #ILWries

The line under that saves space for the tools below. You can add as many columns as you'd like, so the icons - the person, bell, home, magnifying glass - well I have more than what is shown because I have more than 7 of them. The toolbar allows for scrolling so you can easy navigate down or up to the column you'd like to see.

Under that, some more tools - Adding a column, expanding the toolbar, Users (in my case @bigtimeliteracy and @IllinoisWP) and settings.

So, to get ready for a Twitter Chat, you have to add a column, in our case, with a search of the #D100chat hashtag. Add that column, and I usually move the one I am working in (during the Twitter chat) right next to the toolbar. (You can change the order of the columns as often as you'd like!)

Once you have the column set, you're ready to begin your chat. The tweets will pop up, in real time with newest at top in the column for the hashtag you have set. Then, just click the compose Tweet button to add to the conversation.

Next time, maybe you'll do a twitter chat for the Good 2 Great chat, in which case you'd add a column for #G2Great. Or any other twitter chat for that matter. The point is that it's the hashtag that allows you real-time access to the tweets.

Are you going to join our #D100chat tonight? We hope so... it's a great time for showing gratitude, and always a great time for collaboration via a Twitter Chat! If it's your first one, let me know how it goes!

Happy Tweeting!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

family writing project - year 2

School gets out at 3:00 and most parents come to pick their child up. But, at Emerson, there's a small group of 15 who come to meet their children for Family Writing Project.

It's our second year with this after school club and we have a bunch of families return, but also some new families joining!

The afternoon begins with snacks and decorating writing folders. There is also a prompt on the board asking family pairs to make a list of family traditions.

When everyone has had some time to get a list going, families Mix and Mingle to get to know one another and share their family traditions.

The afternoon carried on with a read aloud - an example of a personal narrative. The story was called Kitchen Dance, and the teachers used it to demonstrate how authors write stories bit by bit. It was a beautiful story told in both English and Spanish languages that described a family dancing in the kitchen as they made a meal, and all the joy and love that went along with it.

When the story wrapped up, Ms. Bless and Miss Kriegl talked about the bit by bit writing - how the author didn't just say, "We danced in the kitchen," but instead, "We heard noises in the kitchen. We crept downstairs. We peeked through the door. Mom's skirt was twirling and dad was banging on a pan." Families were then encouraged to write their own stories bit by bit.

What followed next was the bulk of the workshop - time to write! Everyone wrote their own piece, but conferred together if and when they needed help. Teachers did some writing too, as their voices will not be left out of the end-of-project book!

As the session wrapped up, there was time to share, first in small groups, and then a few brave students and parents shared with the whole group.

What a great way to spend the afternoon! Finally a moment for the teachers to have time to write, too! Our six week Family Writing Project will continue next week.

Be sure to follow the awesome writing teachers who head this Family Writing Project - Jennie Bless writes here and tweets here. I'm still working on getting Amanda Kriegl on Twitter!

How do you engage families at your school?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

school traditions

This month, and I'm already a little late, but the Compelled Tribe is writing about traditions. I was racking my brain trying to figure out what to tell you about that was a tradition at my school, and then next thing I know I was sitting in our annual Veteran's Day Assembly and my heart was happy. Our whole district celebrates Veteran's Day in a big way - at each school, each with art, and songs, and writing, all to honor the Veterans in our community!

There are so many people involved with planning the event. Our art teacher has the kids make all kinds of art to use to decorate the gym.

Our local Boy Scouts post the colors and lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance. This is followed by the choir who sings the National Anthem.

One of our fifth grade teachers created a slide show that ran throughout the assembly. This slide show listed the names of Veterans in our community - by relation of teachers, staff, and students. It's such a nice touch to add to our assembly, and we're so appreciative of all the time and effort it takes to create it! Thank you, KS!

Our Assistant Principal, up there in blue, was our Master of Ceremonies, leading us through all the various songs and traditions throughout the show.

My favorite part is the singing! Our choir, led by our music teacher, did this mash-up of two great songs. Kids singing patriotic songs always gets me!

Then, each of the grade levels sings a song. Here, fourth graders sing Fifty Nifty while the younger kids look on, wondering how they can remember all those states, and in alphabetic order, too!

And of course, we honor the Veterans who join us for the assembly. Some years, the students who invited them give them a special pin. Every year, they stand to be recognized. Towards the end of the assembly, we play Taps, too.

I love that our traditions teach students about our country - not just that we have a day off for something called Veteran's Day, but also why we have that day off, and who it is for. It's so awesome to see the arts and literacy practices collide for an authentic celebrations of our American heroes.

What traditions does your school keep?
Please leave a comment and share!
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