Friday, February 27, 2015

i heart writing

I never thought I would call myself writer in my first years of teaching...and that's because, I wasn't. I taught writing, but I didn't write side-by-side with my students. It wasn't until I started blogging that I got really interested in writing. Blogging gave me a sense of audience like that I've never had before. Comments left on my blog continue to create this desire within myself to write more often and to write in more engaging ways.

I know that I write a lot on this blog about my boyfriend and food sometimes and maybe music and a variety of random things I'm doing - but my choice to do that, has a purpose that is twofold.

First,  I want my readers to know me, to know parts of my life that are not related to teaching, because all of that makes me into the kind of teacher I am! The blogs I read that I love most are ones where the writer shares openly about his or her personal life, as well as professional ideas, tips, and resources. 

Also, when I'm drafting a blog, I'm always thinking about how to make my writing better, how to use the same strategies I teach my students to make my personal writing better:

  • Zoom in to show, not tell
  • Slow down time to cause more tension in my pieces
  • Research new vocabulary to enhance meaning of my text
  • Write in other genres (poetry coming in March!) that I usually don't write
  • Constantly check and double check my conventions, so my message is clear to my reader
  • Consider the length of my posts, as I know longer ones will turn readers off because each of us is living a busy, full-to-the-max life
The Slice of Life is starting on March first. I will be participating with Two Writing Teachers - writing short "slices" of my day-to-day life that I will share with you. While they may not be a lesson plan or a tip to improve instruction or assessment, they are purposeful in that with each post, I learn more about best writing practice, and those lessons will naturally spill over to the kids I write with and the teachers with whom I plan writing.

If you are a writing teacher, if you are someone who coaches teachers or students on writing, one of the *very* best things you can do yourself is to write on an ongoing basis. You naturally feel the struggle in writing: What should I write about? How do I get ideas? Will my readers like it? Will they understand it? All of these insights will lead to enhanced writing teaching for your students!

I got an amazing compliment yesterday, "Wow, you're really good at writing teaching points for memoir!" and that would have never been the case had I not put myself out there in this exact way. (Seriously, that comment was the highlight of my day yesterday, thank you!)

So....what can you share about your day today that could have the amazing possibility of informing your writing instruction?

Funny - Cause it's True!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

classroom slice of life - one more practice!

WRITE your slice.
SHARE your link.
GIVE the love via comments.

On Sunday, March 1st, the Slice of Life Challenge will begin, and I have a group of bloggers who are planning to write all month with me! Each day, you'll find two new posts here on BigTime Literacy: The Classroom SOL post and my personal slice of life. On this post, my students will link up their blogs each day - so please return and leave them all some comments!

As a last chance to practice, here are some slices, but even before we get to March 1st! I hope you enjoy my bloggers' posts!

Friday, February 20, 2015

classroom slice of life...we're ready!

WRITE your story.
SHARE your link.
GIVE at least three comments.

Slice of Life is quickly approaching and we are getting ready for our writing challenge! My Tiger Blogging Club Bloggers and I will be writing Slice of Life stories every day during the month of March and sharing them with the other writers over at Two Writing Teachers.

As a way to put the finishing touches on the process of this challenge, my Tiger Bloggers are practicing linking up their favorite slice from the past few weeks with me here on this post. Then, in March, you'll find a Classroom SOL post with my students stories and a separate post with my personal Slice. I hope that you'll read along and leave some love to all our bloggers...comments are what keep us motivated and succeeding in the challenge. (Or, join in the fun and write side-by-side with us!

So, without further ado, here are my kids' favorite SOL practice posts from the past few weeks!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

what I'm loving wednesday

WRITE a list of things you're currently loving.
LINK your post with mine.
SHARE the love via comments!

❤ my work soulmate

Yes you heard that right. Today, there we were in our office, talking together and like usual, we say, "I'm so glad I have you." but today it was, "I'm so glad you're my work soulmate," and then laughs and laughs and laughs. We really crack each other up, and also, we're always there for each other. Love.

❤ my mentees
Mentoring is awesome. Every year I love the new friends I make, and this year is no exception. I love that we can joke together and I love that they will come to me if and when they have a question or need something. I love how mentoring them makes me a better teacher and colleague. I love sharing new ideas with them and texting for 25 or 30 minutes in the evening just to share our days. I love the bonds we have made, and I know that these girls will continue to be very special people to me for years and years to come!

❤ this post from one of my Tiger Bloggers
You have to read this post one of my kids wrote. In it, Alex explains why he loves blogging - to share what is going on in his neighborhood and to share his feelings - pretty similar reasons why I love it so! If you are even considering blogging with kids, DO IT! It's totally worth the energy because once they get it, they're so into it! It's engagement at it's finest.

❤ Papyrus cards
These cards are like $6-8 but I don't care because I *love* them! (As a blogger isn't it obvious that words and puns are the way to my heart?) Check out one of my recent faves I got the boyfriend here. I was just at Target picking up a few birthday cards and think the ones I got are perfect for the birthday girls!

❤ my new iPhone 6
I mean, does this need any explanation? More storage, too, which makes me so happy!

Okay that is all for me! What are you loving at the moment? Link your favorite things with me!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

sunday letters

WRITE your letters.
LINK them with mine.
SHARE the love via comments!

Dear readers,
I hope you'll write your letters and link with me! Write to friends, family, enemies, inanimate objects - whatever you feel like! Also, working on the image for the blog post above...I like it better than the last one, but not 100% just yet. What do you think?
Eagerly anticipating your feedback,
:-) Michelle

Dear Two Writing Teachers,
Thank you for hosting the Slice of Life! Last year I invited Jennie B, who accepted, and this year I'm bringing along Miss Lifesaver,  Just Jantz, and my Tiger Blogging Club! Any other blogging friends want to join us? A month of writing - what could be better?
Sincerely, a pumped writer

Dear HomeGoods,
You had such great prizes for our Slice of Life writing challenge in March! I know the kids will love the notebooks, colored pencils, and Bright Ideas notepads! Can't wait until we're all in writing mode, for 31 days in March!
Best, a Grateful Shopper

Dear JB,
You really inspire me - I loved hanging out with the new teachers this week, even going over the Danielson Rubric (of all things we could do!) It was so cool to talk through each of those items and talk about teaching with the newbies. I love how just straight to the point you are, and I learn a lot about coaching and mentoring from you, so than you for planning the gathering!
Hugs, The 'weird' one

Dear Teachers,
Always, always, always be a part of your union. Pay the dues. Attend your monthly meeting. Stand in solidarity with your colleagues and work together for the best working conditions. Some states don't even have this luxury, so here in IL as Rauner begins his work unraveling the unions, know that sticking together is in our best interest!
Standing beside you,
Union Rep

Dear Boyfriend,
I had such a great Valentine's day! Thank you for the flowers and the little Dudley pup - which will do until we can get our own Golden Doodle! I loved watching True Detective with you and our dinner trying a new place. Spending days like this - and all days with you - are my fave!
Love, Michelle

Mini-Dudley will do until we get our real pup!
Hope you had a great Valentine's Day! See you Wednesday for the What I'm Loving blog!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I am a Teacher of Conscience

"There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the past few weeks these are some of the things that have happened:

  1. One of my student bloggers wrote a blog (totally unprompted) about being nervous about the PARCC test.
  2. I read a story about a boy who asked for prayers at church one Sunday - prayers that he do a good job on his PARCC test. (Wish I bookmarked that link...)
  3. Jia Lee, a teacher from New York City addressed the Senate regarding the reauthorizing of NCLB. See her video here. (btw: Just watched that video again and the hair is standing up on my arms. Again.)
  4. A freshmen in high school set up this petition to open a conversation with legislation about High-Stakes Testing.
  5. More than 40 Superintendents in Illinois urged their legislators for a Common Core testing delay.

It's because of all these things and 100 more that I cannot remain silent any more. I share all of this with you, respectfully, and because morally-speaking, High-Stakes Testing really troubles me.

All this testing we are doing with children - it's not okay. I know I'm not the only one who believes this, and I know it's not easy to say something. If we want our profession back from Pearson and all the other people profitting on our children, we must speak up! Before Literacy Coach, I am a Michelle. I am a woman who is educated, who cares deeply for children, and who cannot silence the thoughts in my heart and mind any longer.

The testing has got to stop. Or in the very least, the conversation about testing has to get much, much louder.

I'll tell you why we're testing: Money. You know how much money Pearson is making on the PARCC test? Well, I don't know exact numbers, but it's a lot. A. LOT. How come in our profession, the professionals aren't trusted? I went to school for education. I have an advanced degree in literacy. I have worked with children for 12 years and have refined my practice day in and day out. Students don't need to take this test - now twice (once in March and then again in May) every year for my administration to know if I am an effective teacher.

Today I collaborated with three different grade levels in three planning meetings. At each one, we looked at student work - work specific to one standard with multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate learning - and we made conclusions about what misconceptions students had about each standard. We planned for reteaching and made rubrics that can communicate to parents if the child mastered the standard independently, with prompting, or not yet. This will be reflected in teacher instruction... tomorrow. We are the practitioners closest to our students. We are professionals. We know best.

Teachers, please join me in sharing your voice about High-Stakes Testing. In the very least, can you leave me a comment so I know I'm not alone?

Check out a great website: Teachers of Conscience. Be aware of what is going on in your local, state, and national political arena in regard to education. What I know now is teaching is far more political than I had ever thought as I grew up playing school in my basement dreaming of the day I would get to stand in front of a group of kids and teach them how to read and write.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

gearing up: sol story challenge

Beginning March 1st, my Tiger Bloggers and I are going to be writing Slice of Life stories each day and posting them here on Big Time Literacy. Each day I will post my Slice of Life and then, separately, collect all my student blogs. We hope that you will check this blog each day to read our stories!

A Slice of Life Story is a little look into our day-to-day lives. It is a story about a small segment of our lives, a poem that tells about a small moment in time, or a collection of words and pictures that describes a scenario. I am challenging my Tiger Bloggers to write for at least 25 of the 31 days of March!

Last year, I invited JennieB to participate with this challenge and she did, for all 31 days. This year, she's bringing her third graders on board with her! This year, I'd like to invite a few more of my teacher-writer friends - Colleen from Literacy Loving Gals, Erin from Miss Lifesaver, Leah at Responsive Literacy, and Christine over at Just Jantz. I hope you'll consider growing your writing stamina with me. It's such a fun way to share with our writing community and learn more about being a writer!

I know writing for 31 days is a tall order, but set your own goal if you'd like! Write three times a week or on at least 20 days. You can make this challenge your own!

Teachers of writing: I can't think of a more perfect challenge for you - it really does take you through the motions of writing and give you strong insight into what our students are asked to do!

For more information on this challenge, check out this post at Two Writing Teachers. I hope you will join us...and feel free to invite more friends!

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

two little words

Over the last week, I had been organizing a lot of books that were ordered - poetry collections and text sets for each grade level K - 5. This week, I added all the titles to a google doc, boxed up the books, and got them into our book room. I kind of like this kind of thing - gathering materials and organizing them, especially when they are put to use with teachers and kids. Our fourth grade team is already planning a biography unit with their kids and fifth grade is getting ready for book clubs - and we ordered a variety of titles around the Great Depression so they can take a crack at Historical Fiction.

That was a decent part of my week, but other than that, I was kind of in a funk. It started with the blizzard on Superbowl Sunday - I ended up burning all the transmission fluid from my car which caused it to not reverse. (Scary, right?) I thought I was going to have to replace the whole transmission, but I just had to flush the fluid, so that was a relief. So the car drama, and then I had some things due at work and I just put a lot of pressure on myself - I create so much stress for myself than needed!

There's a point to all this, I promise!

On Fridays, I send out an email each week called the Literacy Scoop - it's just announcements and appreciations to our staff. As a coach, I get to see amazing literacy-related things our students and teachers do on a weekly basis, so I love to send shout-outs to teachers and kids and share the great practices that go on in our building.

This week, I shared about the Poetry Collections and Text Sets and shared a few other announcements. Then, this morning, I woke up two two emails that were a simple Thank You for organizing the book sets. It's two little words - but the power they have are amazing. Just from those emails, my bad mood was lifted and I feel so much better going into next week.

I've written about positivity before, and I'm at it again because it's so important at work. Well, it's so important in all parts of our lives... in all our relationships, a little thanks really does go a long way.

So this week - notice the little things people around you are doing. Tell them thanks, write them an email or send them a note. In addition to them feeling appreciated, giving to others lifts our spirits as well!

Monday, February 2, 2015

teach like a champion: warm/strict

My best friend sent me a great book - Teach Like a Champion. How I would have loved to have this resource my first few years of teaching! This book has tip after tip of strategies teachers can use to get a strong hold on their classroom management. I highly recommend this book to first year teachers!

One morning, my mentee and I were carpooling to work and she mentioned a strategy from the book: Warm/Strict. This really is a huge learning curve in your first few years - you want your students to like you, so you may be a little more lenient than you should be, but this technique talks about how you have to not only be warm (funny, caring, concerned, and nurturing) but also strict.

In my first few years, I always thought I was being so mean when I put expectations (boundaries) in place for my students. That, and I was also inconsistent, so they wouldn't always know my expectations because sometimes they were there and sometimes they weren't. (Looking back, this was kinda mean...even though it wasn't my intent!) It wasn't until a few years later that I realized consistency was key and that I had to be very consistent with my expectations. And that didn't make me mean, it made me strict.

Kids need boundaries. Kids need routines and high expectations. Kids also need to know that you love them and because of that, your expectations are mandatory.

Take for example my kiddo who I see each day. I get 15 minutes a day with him and so I really don't have much time to be waiting on him until he is ready to do what I'd like. We've been working on the silent e rule, and hard and soft c and g. One day last week he was just in his own little world, doing things on his time, and so we had to have a heart-to-heart.

I told him we had a lot of work to do, and that he had to get with it. He started in with an excuse - something about his sister - when I stopped him and told him, "Either way, we need to keep working on what we're doing here. (strict) I'm here because I want you to be the best reader you can be as soon as possible, (warm) and knowing about Silent e and hard and soft c and g will help you do that." He then countered with something about how it was a free country and that's when I lost it.

I can't exactly remember what I told him, but what I do remember is that even though I was upset with his choices that morning, it was all because I cared about him. I was being super strict with him because of the fact that I wanted what was best for him. During my spiel, a few tears fell, and then I asked him to go back to class.

I had every intention of leaving him a note on his desk that afternoon, but he went home early. The next morning, before we began, I asked him, "Do you understand why I was so upset with your choices yesterday? We have to work hard because we don't have much time together each day and what we're doing is important work. Are we good?" He said yes and on we went.

Warm/Strict is an important technique to remember. Kids thrive when expectations are consistent and clear, and even if they don't understand why we do what we do in the moment, I can guarantee that they will look back fondly on their time in a classroom where there are clear expectations and they know how much their teacher cares for them.

What do you think about Warm/Strict? What other techniques from Teach Like a Champion really speak to you? Leave a comment and let me know!

Have a great week!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

currently february

Good morning from a very snowy Chicago! Love the first of the month and Farley's Currently Party!

Listening to.....the quiet of the snowfall
It's a winter wonderland here! I think winter has finally found us, and I'm glad it's on a day that I don't have to be out cleaning off my car at 6:30 to get to work on time. The snow really is beautiful and peaceful - when you get to admire it from inside your cozy home! (And take a pic through the window!)

Are you using this to stay connected with the families of your students? If not, read the post I wrote about it yesterday and get connected! So easy and convenient!

Thinking....I need to read more!
I know I mentioned this in my New Years Resolutions, but I really do want to turn the TV off more and spend more time with books. I'm proud of myself though - I read a whole book last week and it was great! It was The Duff - appropriate for high school girls (but I'd probably give it to my former 8th graders!) Soon to be a movie and now I'm ready to watch it on February 20th! I'm now just starting Orphan Train and it's good, too. I just get sidetracked on Instagram and Pinterest and with Parenthood and Scandal. Oh, and the Bachelor of course...but, gotta commit to the books!

Wanting....a new iPhone
I've been waiting for tax season to come around because I really want a new phone. For the first time, I'm going to get one with a bigger storage - I'm always snapping pictures and videos and need more space! Can't wait for my tax return to come back later this month and the new technology to make me a happy blogger!

Needing....a beach vacation
Yes, in the same post as me loving the snowfall, I am also needing some sunshine and Vitamin D. Mom, are you reading? I'd love to visit on spring break...wink, wink! :-)

Pageant Title...Ms. Everything Just So
Yeah, I just like things how I like them. Example: I have a binder where I keep old to do lists, notes for my evaluation, and the Teacher's Contract and Union Meeting notes. I brought it home and made each section it's own printed title page with graphics and cute fonts. Example: I like only these certain pens in blue ink. Example: I only like taking notes at meetings and PDs with a notebook and pen, and not just any notebook, the notebook I bought for that school year. I just like things how I like them....anyone else with me?

That's all for me this month! Have a great February and please follow me if you want to keep in touch!

sunday letters

WRITE your letters on Sunday.
SHARE them with me here on BigTime Literacy.
GIVE some comments to other bloggers!

Glad you could stop by for Sunday Letters! Let's get this party started!

Dear Tiger Blogging Parents,
Thank you for engaging with your children and leaving them comments on their blogs! As any good blogger knows, the feedback we receive via comments really encourages us to to keep going, keep writing, and keep sharing. We're getting ready for the Slice of Life Story Challenge in March where students will write every day for the entire month! We will definitely need your support during that lengthy month!
Sincerely, a proud blogging coach

Dear Mariano's,
Thank you for stocking two of my new favorite snacks:

These Kind bars are a new flavor: Pomegranate Pistachio and they are delicious! The Pomegranate and blueberry makes it sweet and all the nuts make it a filling snack! Also, they are non-GMO and gluten free which is great by me!

Then, the Honeycomb Chuao Dark Chocolate - I originally had this as a gift from a student for Christmas (thank you, it was so thoughtful of you and it's delicious!) Now I keep just a little chocolate in the house each week and this is my fave! I just have to keep some self control because that first one I got as a gift - I ate the whole thing in one evening!

Much Love, girl with a sweet tooth

Dear Kinder Teachers,
I am constantly learning so much from you! This week I loved how you showed me your anecdotal notes you took on student writing. Kids were writing Informational Pieces about animals. They began with a web, drawing what they knew about a particular animal. Then, teachers had them write what they drew. Rather than the teachers writing the correct spelling on the webs, they took these notes on a roster so when students went to write their first drafts, they would have to work through the spelling of their words again (rather than copying what the teacher had written). I know it's this little thing and perhaps basic knowledge, but I thought it was a great way for kinder students to continue to grow as writers!
Sincerely, a Literacy Coach who is always learning

Dear Pinterest,
Thank you for the fun, entertainment, and usefulness of your site! Today's top picks are as follows:

Usefulness...made this dressing for a week of Greek Salads but haven't tried it yet! (Click the pic for the recipe!)

Fun, well, funny...yes this is my corny humor:

and more funny - providing afternoon entertainment:

I appreciate all you bring to my life, Pinterest!
xo, happy Pinner

Dear Self,
You always do this - get a manicure and then have other errands planned right after. And you always screw up your new paint job right away. Today it was 5/10 nails that took a hit. Next time - get a mani and then go home and do nothing!
Sincerely, Too busy to take a break

That's all for me today! Who are you writing letters to? Be sure to share them here!

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