Tuesday, June 30, 2015

summer blog party: books for 8th grade holocaust study

Hey all! Summer Blog Party is back! Today we're sharing best books for a grade level of our choice, and I bring you my favorites to use for a Holocaust Unit. I know, depressing topic, but I always taught it in October, November, and December, and then we worked on researching causes of interest and doing a community service project as a way to Change the World in the spring. Eighth graders loved it!

A little bit about my old middle school classroom - I had a huge rug, an armchair, and space for 7th and 8th graders to gather and read together. I read them lots - novels, of course, but also picture books. They thought it was odd at first, but then were used to it, and then loved it. Don't think kids are too old to be read to - I am in a Writing Workshop and love when the instructor reads to us, and I'm in my 30's!

Picture Books
Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust (Bunting, Eve)

In this book, the Terrible Things keep coming for groups of animals, and no one ever stands up to save any of the animals. So, one by one, the groups of bunnies, frogs, and birds all get taken away. Great introduction to the unit and also, great way to teach allegory. Also, when looking for the image, I just found this video of the book!

The Butterfly (Polacco, Patricia)

From Amazon: Ever since the Nazis marched into Monique?s small French village, terrorizing it, nothing surprises her, until the night Monique encounters ?the little ghost? sitting at the end of her bed. She turns out to be a girl named Sevrine, who has been hiding from the Nazis in Monique?s basement. Playing after dark, the two become friends, until, in a terrifying moment, they are discovered, sending both of their families into a nighttime flight.

Another great story to orient the kids to the history in a fictional way with characters they can connect to. If you love Polacco, you'll love this book, too!

I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children's Drawings and Poems from the Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944 (Volavkova, Hana & Havel, Vaclav)

This is a book of poems and drawings composed by children who were relocated to Terezin Concentration Camp. What's cool about the book is that the appendix lists the each poet's fate - whether or not they survived the Holocaust.

Here's how I used it: All kids made a butterfly that was strung from the ceiling. Those represented the child of the poem they were then assigned to study. Pairs of kids would then get a poem and/or drawing to close read. Together, they practiced reading the poem because they would later read it to their classmates, and share their interpretation. After they shared about their poem, I would let them know about the fate of their child. If the child lived, their butterfly remained hanging from the ceiling. If the child perished, we cut the butterfly down (leaving the string) and put the butterfly on a bulletin board. At the end of all the poem presentations, they kids had a good visual of the impact of those who died in the Holocaust. I wish I had pictures of this from the last time I did this....I would love to show you!

Book Clubs
For our book clubs, kids got to choose between these novels:

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

It's a classic, and I think all eighth graders should read it, but your students definitely have to have the stamina and background knowledge for it. Last time I taught this, the kids really liked it, and a good part of that was because they had the structures of book clubs to support them through the novel!

Night (Wiesel, Elie)

From Amazon: Night is Elie Wiesel's masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. This new translation by Marion Wiesel, Elie's wife and frequent translator, presents this seminal memoir in the language and spirit truest to the author's original intent. And in a substantive new preface, Elie reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man's capacity for inhumanity to man.

This is not my favorite - I didn't like reading it at home at night when I read it, but there will definitely be some groups of kids who might like to try it. Again, the thing with these books are the structures set in place so kids can talk authentically about the books they are reading. That will be a post for another day, but this is one you should have for your above-level and mature readers.

Number the Stars (Lowry, Lois)

From Amazon: As the German troops begin their campaign to "relocate" all the Jews of Denmark, Annemarie Johansen’s family takes in Annemarie’s best friend, Ellen Rosen, and conceals her as part of the family.
Through the eyes of ten-year-old Annemarie, we watch as the Danish Resistance smuggles almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark, nearly seven thousand people, across the sea to Sweden. The heroism of an entire nation reminds us that there was pride and human decency in the world even during a time of terror and war.
This title is one we had available for our below average readers. I'm kind of embarrassed to tell you that I haven't read it, and I'm sitting here thinking about one of the other literacy coaches in my district who finished it recently and raved about it. Must add to my list for the summer! My kids who read it really liked it!
Maus (Spiegelman, Art)

From Amazon: A story of a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father's story and history itself.
Another I haven't read, and didn't even have available for kids, but if I ever go back, I'd grab a set of these! Graphic novel and has another book in the series, very appealing to kids!

So what about you? Have some great books to share for your grade level or content area? Please, write up a post and link up with us!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

dare to dream

This week, we're talking about future dreams on the TpT seller challenge. You know, I've never even had the thought that I could actually make a living from TpT, but if what you're all saying is true, than maybe that is the case! I haven't put too much time into it so far, but as I think of dreams for the future, it gives me so much inspiration to do so! So, what would I dream for?

1. Supplement my income
I mean, I've already done this just a little bit, but to make more each month on TpT, that would be awesome. Lots of people talk about wanting to stay home, but what is curriculum design without having kiddos to use it? I actually tried to work from home over one summer, and I went out of my mind - no kids to entertain me, no friends to talk to. Of course, I don't have my own kids yet, so my desires might change, but I love being in a school and being around people. So, to make some extra money doing what I'm already doing, awesome!

2. House in the City
I love Chicago. I mean, it has it's problems, but I would love to live here, given I could afford the kind of house I want. There's a beautiful one down the street from my boyfriend's place: 

Isn't it darling? (I actually took this one day last week just because I love it so!) The front porch is awesome, love the red door and the blue of the house. Plus, it's super close to a really nice restaurants, a Starbucks, the train. Awesome location. Only thing - it probably costs between half a million and a million. So, perhaps TpT can get me to this dream?

3. Pay off Debt
What I should do with any money that I make from TpT would be to pay off debt, mainly the student loan debt. I can't even imagine what that would be like, to not have that hanging over my head. When I consolidated my loans, I figured I'd be paying on them until I was like 65! To pay them off sooner would be great!

4. Travel
Last summer I went to Europe for the first time and I loved it! I would love to go back to Venice and Paris, and see all the other cities everywhere, plus, see the world with my love! Also, I would love to take my whole family somewhere... all of us together, maybe on a beach, sounds like a great way to celebrate hard work!

What about you? Join the #TpTSellerChallenge and share your dreams for your hard work on TpT. Make sure you link up with Amber, Ashley, Emily, and Jen and share with everyone there!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

bigtime blogging challenge!

Hey all! Have you heard about the BigTime Blogging Challenge? It's coming up in July - just one short week from now! I couldn't be more excited to celebrate the two year anniversary of BigTime Literacy and to do so with my blogging friends!

To celebrate, I'll be writing every day and hosting a linky for anyone and everyone who'd like to write with me.  I'm planning to write every day for the whole month, but you can write as frequently as you'd like.

To help out with the writer's block, I've created a calendar of prompts for you to use if you'd like. You can download a copy of that here, but please know: you don't have to write about my prompts. Writers write about whatever they'd like, so the content is totally up to you. But, I do have some fun ideas this year, including poetry, maintaining teacher balance, a vlog, a letter to first year teachers, and a book study. Check out all the details on the free download!

Our first post on Daring Greatly is next Thursday, so head on over to Amazon to see if it's a book you'd like to read. I think it's awesome, as it applies to all aspects of our lives. I hope to see you back beginning next week for what is sure to be a great summer month of writing and sharing stories!

summer blog party: word study tips

Good morning! I have kinda fallen off the map because my niece is visiting me in Chicago for the week, but she's still sleeping so I am taking a few moments to write up a post about Words Their Way for our focus today: Phonics and Phonemic Awareness. Seemed appropriate since my most popular post is about the five day plan for word study - check that one out here!

Today I'm going to share some tips and tricks for a flawless Word Study implementation. So off we go!

Assessment and Grouping: First things first, you'll need to figure out how to group your kiddos. You'll need to give the spelling test in the back of the Words Their Way book, and use the feature guide to determine the level each child will start at. Word study is great because it's not a right or wrong situation. The feature guide will help you see which phonics principles the children have mastered and not. My friend Carla has a great You Tube video on her blog that will touch on this assessment. See what it looks like by clicking here

As far as grouping - I recommend no more than three different groups within your classroom. As their teacher, you'll need to provide each group with instruction and materials to enhance their knowledge of phonetic principles, so if you create more than three groups, it's going to make your life really complicated. Keep it simple: Three groups or less!
Forget days of the week: Because you're going to be guiding three groups of kids through the word sorts, you're going to have to stagger the days that you meet with them so you're able to introduce the words to the kids when they begin their new sorts. (This, and many weeks have holidays which will throw everything off!) Perhaps the following chart might be what your plans would look like:

Remember, kids sort their words first thing every day (to build automaticity) and then go on to their other task. So if you notice June 22nd - the teacher is responsible for giving group 1 and introduction to their new words and possibly giving an assessment to group 2. Teacher would begin with group one and then meet with group 2.

Also: It would be a good idea to post some kind of chart with each day and the description of activities. Then, groups numbers can be on a clothespin (or something similar) and kids have a visual of what they will do for the day. I've been looking online for a picture and just can't seem to find one!

Teach routines: Kids have to be taught the routines and procedures for each of the days. So, give your whole class the same sort for a few cycles and focus on teaching kids what the routines look like. Teach them what each day in the cycle is all about - how you meet with the teacher on day 1, how to do the vocabulary activities on day 2 and the word hunting in their Just Right books on day 3. Once you do the routines two or three times, then you'll be ready to complicate things further (for the teacher!) with three different word sorts going on!

Don't assume: As the sorts and the rules become more difficult, your students will most certainly need instruction to understand the phonetic principles, highest group included. You want to make sure all kids in the group can say each word correctly for sorting purposes. It's imperative that the teacher meets with each group on Day 1 - in addition to word pronunciation, you also need to talk about word meanings. This doesn't have to be any big deal - the kids can attempt to sort first if you need to see another group first, and then when you meet with them, they can tell you what they have trouble with. But please, see each group when they are on Day 1 of the cycle!

Connect to your guided reading: It's pretty likely that your word study groups will be different than your guided reading groups, but that doesn't mean that you can't do a little word study investigation within your guided reading. If you know anything about Jan Richardson's plans, part of it includes about 4 minutes of word study. This is a great time to dictate words or sentences (using words from their word sort lists) to do a little assessment of what kids are mastering (or not!). This will give you information about how you can better support the kiddos during your word study time when you meet with groups, too!

I hope this was helpful! If you have ideas how I can enhance something here, I'd love to hear them! Also, feel free to leave a question if something is confusing. Just because it makes sense in my head doesn't mean it does in everyone else's!

I'm also discounting my Word Study Implementation Guide by 50%! Check that out here!

Do you have some great tips and tricks for phonemic awareness or phonics? Be sure to link up with us and share them!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

summer blog party!

Hello friends, teachers, and parents! Welcome to BigTime Literacy! The Reading Crew is bringing you a great blog hop today with tons of ideas for supporting our kiddos literacy development during the summer...and freebies! Then, we'll be back on Wednesdays for weekly linky parties to share reading and writing strategies. We hope you'll join us each week for that, but for now, let's get to one way that you can help your child beat the Summer Slide: reading lots of great books!

As a former middle school teacher, you have to know how much I enjoy young adult literature. Getting great books in the hands of my students is obviously one of my biggest drives as a teacher, and as such, I have to stay ahead of them. This summer, I'm starting off with this stack:

I've already finished brown girl dreaming and Out of My Mind. That being said, I have a freebie for you - a recommended reading list for middle school kiddos!

We'll get to the download in a few, but let me share a few of my absolute faves for middle school kids. These are tried and tested with kids and always get a big thumbs-up!

For Rising Sixth Graders: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

from Amazon:
Stargirl. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first. 

Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal. In this celebration of nonconformity, Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the perils of popularity and the thrill and inspiration of first love.

I always loved reading this book to my middle school kids - the scene on the Hot Seat is awesome and the voice I used for Hillary Kimble makes her sound like the brat of a cheerleader she is. Your kiddo will love this story and hopefully, will walk away from it knowing it's okay to be you, no matter what that means.

Rising Seventh Graders: The Boy Who Couldn't Die by William Sleator

from Amazon:
Sleator, a recognized master of sci-fi and horror and a favorite of reluctant readers, is a paperback powerhouse, with more than 600,000 copies of his novels sold in softcover. Here he gives fans a spin on the classic zombie story, following sixteen-year-old Ken as he bargains with a psychic to gain immortality, only to awaken one night with blood-spattered clothes and the realization that he's sold more than his soul.

I actually haven't read this, but I would always give it to the guys in my class who had a hard time finding something they clicked with, and this book would get them every time. My copy is warn and the cover is ratty, but it will hook anyone - pretty much just on the cover art and title alone. Have your kiddo give it a try!

Rising Eighth Graders: A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

from Amazon:
This is the remarkable story of one endearing dog's search for his purpose over the course of several lives. More than just another charming dog story, A Dog's Purpose touches on the universal quest for an answer to life's most basic question: Why are we here?
Surprised to find himself reborn as a rambunctious golden-haired puppy after a tragically short life as a stray mutt, Bailey's search for his new life's meaning leads him into the loving arms of 8-year-old Ethan. During their countless adventures Bailey joyously discovers how to be a good dog.
But this life as a beloved family pet is not the end of Bailey's journey. Reborn as a puppy yet again, Bailey wonders--will he ever find his purpose?
Heartwarming, insightful, and often laugh-out-loud funny, A Dog's Purpose is not only the emotional and hilarious story of a dog's many lives, but also a dog's-eye commentary on human relationships and the unbreakable bonds between man and man's best friend. This moving and beautifully crafted story teaches us that love never dies, that our true friends are always with us, and that every creature on earth is born with a purpose.

I came across this one the last time I had been teaching eighth grade and loved it - and so did my students who were animal lovers! This book follows the soul of a dog who is born, lives a life, and then is reborn to a new body. With each life he lives, he learns new things and impacts the families that love him in different ways. This book is beautiful and I highly recommend it!

and something new for high school readers....

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

from Amazon:
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he's pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he's never met.
Incredibly funny and poignant, this twenty-first-century coming-of-age, coming out story—wrapped in a geek romance—is a knockout of a debut novel by Becky Albertalli.

This book came to my attention via Twitter, and I think from someone who writes over at Two Writing Teachers. I just started it yesterday and am already halfway through! Simon is the narrator, and in such a hard position because someone read one of his emails and now is asking for a favor in return for keeping his private information confidential. The chapters alternate between Simon narrating and emails between Simon and a secret friend, Blue, who is also gay and hasn't come out yet. The book is peppered with mature language and engaging high school conversation and so cute. Highly recommended for those older readers!

So those are a few I have loved recommending and reading, hopefully one of them will speak to you! If not, please jump over to my Teachers Pay Teachers store for my freebie: a list of recommended reading in the following categories:

  • Rising Sixth Graders
  • Rising Seventh Graders
  • Rising Eighth Graders
  • For the Girls
  • For the Guys
  • Mature Reads
What are your favorite middle-school level books to read? Please leave me a comment below and let me know!

If you like what you've read here, be sure to follow my blog!

You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Let's get connected!

After you grab your freebie, head on over to Growing Little Learners and grab some writing ideas from Pixie Anne!

Happy Summer!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

makeover madness!

As school ended this year, I was thinking about all the things I wanted to do this summer, including really working on my Teachers Pay Teachers stuff. Truth be told: I love to write and love to blog. I usually only do TpT stuff when I'm getting ready for a blog hop (side note: there's one this Friday!) and so I don't have lots going on with TpT. But, the #tptsellerchallenge is super motivating and I'm so happy to participate!

I created a Running Record freebie awhile ago and I just uploaded it as is - no cover, no TOU (I didn't even know about any of that stuff until just recently!) So, I've updated the freebie because I'm working on a complete set of running records to put up, too!

My freebie used to be just what you see to the left - just the resources. The thing is, I'm super good with creating quality stuff for TpT, but they don't look cute. So huge shout to Sparkling in Second, Third in Hollywood, Teach, Create, Motivate, and Peppy Zesty Teacherista for hosting!

If you like this freebie, you're going to love the complete collection of Running Records I'm currently working on. I've got the kinder and first grade ones done, and am diligently working on the rest! Stay tuned! And, check out my Running Records Tutorial if you want more information on them!

Have you checked out the #tptsellerchallenge? What are you redesigning this week for Makeover Madness? 

And just a reminder -- The Reading Crew is sponsoring Summer Blog Party beginning this Friday! Seventeen reading specialists share tons of resources for parents and teachers for beating the Summer Slide!

Hope to see you back this weekend!

Friday, June 12, 2015

a five for friday book review!

Hello everyone! Linking up with Kasey at Doodle Bugs for a #SummerShelfies edition of Five for Friday! I just finished a great book and wanted to share with you!

brown girl dreaming is the coming-of-age story of author, Jacqueline Woodson. She grows up between the South and the North during the civil rights movement. Her memories, written in free verse, tell the stories of her family, of the culture of the time, of her friends, but what I loved most is how she realized she was going to be a writer at a very young age, and chronicles that journey through this book. Here are some excerpts of my favorite parts.

on paper, page 156

The first time I write my full name

Jacqueline Amanda Woodson

without anybody's help
on a clean white page in my composition notebook,
     I know

if I wanted to

I could write anything.

Letters becoming words, words gathering meaning,
thoughts outside my head

becoming sentences

written by

Jacquline Amanda Woodson

writing #1, page 217

It's easier to make up stories
than it is to write them down. When I speak,
the words come pouring out of me. The story
wakes up and walks all over the room. Sits in a chair,
crosses one leg over the other, says
Let me introduce myself. Then just starts going on and on.
But as I bend over my composition notebook,
only my name
comes quickly. Each letter, neatly printed
between the pale blue lines. Then white
space and air and me wondering, How do I
spell introduce? Trying again and again
until there is nothing but pink
bits of eraser and a hole now
where a story should be.

when i tell my family, page 229

When I tell my family
I want to be a writer, they smile and say,
We see you in the backyard with your writing.
They say,
We hear you making up all those stories.
We used to write poems.
It's a good hobby, we see how quiet it keeps you.
They say,
But maybe you should be a teacher,
a lawyer,
do hair...

I'll think about it, I say

And maybe all of us know

this is just another one of my

from the selfish giant, page 247

But I just shrug, not knowing what to say.
How can I explain to anyone that stories

are like air to me,
I breathe them in and let them out
over and over again.

how to listen #10, page 310

Write down what I think
I know. The knowing will come.

Just keep listening...

and even though that's already five, I have to leave you with one more, a poem from the end of the book.

every wish, one dream, page 313-314

Every dandelion blown
each Star light, star bring
The first star I see tonight.

My wish is always the same.

Every fallen eyelash

and first firefly of summer...

The dream remains.

What did you wish for?
To be a writer.

Every heads-up penny found

and daydream and night dream
and even when people say it's a pope dream....!

I want to be a writer.

Every sunrise and sunset and song

against a cold windowpane.

Passing the mountains.

Passing the sea.

Every story read
every poem remembered:

I loved my friend
When I see birches bend to left and right
"Nay," answered the child: "but these are the wounds of Love."

Every memory....

Froggie went a-courting, and he did ride
Uh hmm.

brings me closer
and closer to the dream.

Beautiful or what? I love how over the course of the book, you can see how she wants to be a writer, but she's unsure. She can't get the stories in her head on paper. She tells her family, but they think maybe she should do something else. But all along, Jacqueline knows that stories are part of her - she breathes them, remembers them like it's nothing. She listens hard to what's going on around her. She wishes to be a writer, always has the same dream.

Authors are so creative. I read a little of Mem Fox's Radical Reflections where she says she has like 4 original ideas a year and that's how I feel. I love to write, but I'm not super creative.... This book just gives me hope that if I stick with it - with the wide reading and the writing - someday, something will come.

Have you read brown girl dreaming? What do you think?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

what I'm loving wednesday

Hello out there to the blogosphere! Hope you're doing well, and if you're a teacher, you're like me and still in pajamas at 10:40, watching The View and on your second cup of coffee! I was just listening to Whoopi talk about this commercial below, and I LOVE it, which inspired a What I'm Loving Wednesday post!

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

❤ this commercial by Wells Fargo

Isn't it lovely? I just thing anyone who might protest this or Wells Fargo is out of their mind. Don't you think children who don't have a loving home - that all they want is to find that? I don't think kids care - traditional parents or two mommies or two daddies - little kids without a home want love. Great stuff, WF!

❤ the 606
The 606 is about 3 miles of elevated trails to run, walk, and bike, all built on an old train track. I've been running up there and last night, Hektor and I biked it. Although it's packed, it's super nice to get out and not have to worry about traffic. Check out the details of it here.

❤ lazy beach days
I've spent 2-3 hours of the last two days camped out at the beach, with books and snacks and sunscreen. I'm making my way through Brown Girl Dreaming and Daring Greatly. Did you hear that I'm hosting a book study about Daring Greatly on Thursdays in July? Check out the BigTime Blogging Challenge info here for more details and join me for a month of writing in July!

❤ spending summer with this guy

We had such a great time at the Piqniq concert last Saturday and every evening we find stuff to do. Thankful for this guy today, and all days :-)

❤ having time to create some TpT products!
A bundle of great products is coming soon. I've been trying to stick to a schedule to get this new doc created and ready for the fall! Stay tuned!

That's all for me today. What are you loving? Write your own post and link it up with me this evening!

Monday, June 8, 2015

year 12 reflections

Crazy, I've been teaching for 12 years. TWELVE! This year, I finished my second as a Literacy Coach. Sometimes I feel like I'm really doing a great job, other times I feel like the school would be just fine without me. Either way, I'm going back for a third year next year. But before I get to that, here are some year 12 reflections so I can remember this journey I've been on!

Best Memories
Well, first, my principal encouraged Christine and I to present with her at the Illinois Reading Council Conference this year and we did! Although I was really nervous, I did enjoy sharing and I'm already signed up to present again this October! Anyone going to the IRC? I'm presenting with Colleen about using Social Media to personalize your PD. It'll be great fun, please join us!

The next one was getting to mentor two great teachers:

As a coach, it seems pretty natural that mentoring is one of my favorite things to do! While there were definitely many hard days, sharing the sense of accomplishment they felt when the finished their year was awesome. They are such great girls, and I'm so happy to call them my friends now!

I'm also super excited that I started a Blogging Club.

The kids who joined me and completed the year really do such a fantastic job! I know next year will be even better - there's already a few kids who I know will join us, and with some kids returning, they will make great mentors to the new kids. Additionally, I'd love to give the kids some detailed mini-lessons to make their blogs even better!

I got a slow start to this and didn't begin until after Spring Break, but once we got going, this was an awesome experience! Parents joined their kiddos after school for a Writing Workshop. We ended the six-week project with an Author's Chair. Parents and students read their writing and we shared great food to celebrate. I'm really looking forward to expanding this opportunity next year and have a few more teachers join me in giving the experience!

Missed Opportunities
Our fourth grade team has done a PHENOMENAL job on this year's summer reading project. Dennis set up a new gmail just for this project to communicate with families - last I heard they had over 200 parent email addresses there. Parents are already emailing in pictures of their kids reading - reading right when they wake up, on a plane to a family trip, and at the public library - and this is only our first Monday of break!

I put this in my missed opportunities because as Literacy Coach, I'm not sure why I wasn't driving this initiative, but honestly, I don't think I would have done it as well as Dennis, Michelle, and Alexa had. So thank you all, for doing such an amazing job on this. Our students are so, so lucky to have such dedication on our Emerson staff!

Game Changers
Twitter - definite game changer. This year I really got into sharing on Twitter and in doing so, I've connected with some great people. I've done a few Twitter Chats, too. It's so awesome to collaborate with teachers, literacy coaches, and reading specialists near and far!

Union Rep - I was the union rep for the first time this last year. Sometimes it was really, really hard. I always want to do my best to negotiate with our admins about the teacher's thoughts and feedback, but sometimes I take things too personally and...well, I'll just tell you. Cry. So I'm so excited to have a partner in crime next year, someone who will help balance me out! But, being union rep gave me a whole new lens to look at things through. Definite game changer.

I had a huge focus on Guided Reading this year. I wanted to learn more about it, and then, Christine and I presented what we were learning with the staff. This also helped me create a checklist for observing classrooms, and I was able to see this work being executed across the building. I know our work will continue to grow next year, too.... I'm really looking forward to our kinder teachers using Jan Richardson's Pre-A lesson plan to give our youngest kiddos just what they need to become successful readers!

This year we also focused a lot on creating rubrics to guide and evaluate student learning. We are moving towards Standards Based Grading, so reading On Your Mark (Guskey) really helped me understand why I spent many common plans with teachers talking about student work should look like. In some cases, classroom teachers used the rubrics and then revised them to make them even better for next year. I'm looking forward to expanding this work next year!

Maybe not forgot, but didn't do enough.... Our school has a Sunshine club, it's for teachers - not sure if it's a club or what to call it? Either way, it's made of teachers and we plan socials for the staff. It got off to a late start, we didn't ask for a big enough donation from each of the staff, and we didn't do much with it. Next year, I hope to get a good group of teachers together to plan monthly outings so we can have some time away from all the work of teaching and just enjoy one another's company!

Speaking of socials, one thing I've learned about myself is that a positive school culture is so, so important to me. Yes, salary is an important piece of why teachers work where they do, but I believe people will keep working where they do - no matter what the pay - if they are happy to be where they are. So, I'm hoping to be part of a great Sunshine group that keeps the positivity going all year long!

Something else I've realized: I'm not super qualified to mentor kinder teachers. I don't know enough about that grade level to be helpful. Of course, there are definitely many ways I can support, but I found myself outsourcing for many questions Gissel had. So, in the future, I'll stick to the intermediate grades!

How was your year? Please share your reflections by writing a post about your year and then linking it up with me here!

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