Friday, July 31, 2015

july in review

I had such a great July! This challenge, of course, was part of the reason why. What I love about blogging are the connections we can make with one another. It's so nice to have friends in the blogosphere and also when people I know in real life write, too!

Writing this month has been fun, and challenging at times. Sometimes I was just not in the mood, at all, so I had to publish something I was not super fond of. Other times, I couldn't get motivated to get the post out early, so sorry for those late days, guys! But then there were some great posts, too. I wrote poetry and liked how it turned out, and I'm most proud of my post There's No App for That. I also really enjoyed writing the letter to first year teachers.

I learned lots, too! I added screencasting and a vlog to my repertoire. I've also been creeping around Periscope a little bit and will be excited to give that a try sometime in the near future! One other thing - some friends on my Good to Great Twitter Chat taught me about Canva, a super cool website you can use to design images, like the one above! Some of the stuff is free, other stuff you have to purchase ($1 here, $1 there) but it's a great way to make your own images rather than lifting them from google. Be sure to check that out!

Of course, July was also amazing because of my work with Illinois Writing Project. At our last lunch together, we were talking about how we would describe it to our colleagues, and someone said, with a laugh, "life changing." We all shook our heads to agree, but then we thought, "No one will understand us." Be on the lookout for some reflections from our group members coming up later on in August!

Thank you to all of my friends who linked up with me - it's been such a pleasure reading your posts over the course of the month! I'm so thankful for the new friends I have now, too!

So the month ends, and as it does, I'm heading out for a vacation. I've been thinking about totally unplugging because I've been too immersed in social media, but I do love writing. So, I'll be around but on a much more limited basis than I was during July. If you don't see me around as much, that's why. Plan to see me back full time mid-August!

What did you learn about yourself as a writer this month?

Get the details for this challenge here!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

the last Daring Greatly book study!

Get the details for this challenge here!

Hey friends! The challenge is almost done, and I'm thankful, because it is hard to write every day! With all the other things I was doing, some days were super hard to keep up!

Anyways, I'm bringing you one more post on Daring Greatly, and I'm going to focus on Chapter 6: Disruptive Engagement: Daring to Rehumanize Education and Work.

On Creating a Space for Creativity and Innovation
Brené asked the 2009 Entrepreneur or the Year: What is the most significant barrier to creativity and innovation? He said,
"I don't know if it has a name, but honestly, it's the fear of introducing an idea and being ridiculed, laughed at, and belittled. If you're willing to subject yourself to that experience, and if you survive it, then it becomes the fear of failure and the fear of being wrong. People believe they're only as good as their ideas and that their ideas can't seem too 'out there' and they can't 'no know' everything. The problem is that innovative ideas often sound crazy and failure and learning are part of revolution. Evolutio and incremental change is important and we need it, but we're desperate for real revolution and that requires a different type of courage and creativity."
When Brené talked to middle school kids about classroom experiences, one girl said,
"There are times when you can ask questions or challenge ideas, but if you've got a teacher that doesn't like that or the kids in the class make fun of people who do that, it's bad. I think most of us learn that it's best to just keep your head down, your mouth shut, and your grades high.
Okay, can we just stop there for a minute. Middle school kids and what they are saying is on par with a CEO of a huge corporation. If we want to make our classrooms safe, we have to dare greatly and be vulnerable with our students and our colleagues, so kids feel enough courage to share their ideas in a productive way and feel safe doing so!

Brené thought about this long and hard about what's above and came up with "disruptive engagement" (p.187). She says,

"To reignite creativity, innovation, and learning, leaders must rehumanize education and work. This means understanding how scarcity is affecting the way we lead and work, learning how to engage with vulnerability, and recognizing and combating shame."

What does shame look like?

She gave some examples of shame in a culture: blaming, gossiping, favoritism, name calling, and harassment, and she said that doing nothing about these things is equally dangerous to the target and the whole organization.

I can remember on of the schools I worked at previously. Our principal, who I have so much respect for, did not tolerate any gossip. He would talk to people one and one, tell them it's okay to vent, but not to do it in the lounge in front of everyone. I admired him for doing this, and our school was always so so positive!


Brené also talked a lot about feedback and said without it, there can be no transformational change. She also discussed how you need to normalize the discomfort that goes along with feedback (p. 198). She would say, "If you're comfortable, I'm not teaching and you're not learning." But you have to cultivate the courage to be uncomfortable.

As a coach, this is something that I have struggled with. No one likes being uncomfortable. But perhaps we just need to change our thinking, and lean into the discomfort a little bit. When we get feedback and have great conversations, we grow. If our bottom lines are student success, how can we not do this?

She goes on to talk about sitting on the same side of the table when giving feedback, and shares this list to ready herself to do so:

 As a literacy coach, this is so applicable to the work that I hope to do this year. I've made so many mistakes in the past two years, and I really hope to move forward, cultivate relationships by modeling my vulnerability, so we can all work side-by-side to do what's best for students.

And, I leave you with this quote, that is most certainly sticking with me:

In what ways are you leading?
In what ways have you been uncomfortable?
Please share!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

back to school essentials vlog

Get the details for this challenge here!

I'm a little nervous to share with you guys - but I made a vlog! Not going to bore you to death with text today, just take a look!

What are your back to school essentials?
Create a video and link it up with me!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I'm a runner

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life each Tuesday!

For some people, saying, "I am a writer." is no easy feat. For me, that's a piece of cake. I am a writer not because I'm particularly creative or do some amazing crafting with words, but because I come to my blog day in and day out and write. I publish things that I love and other things that I think are just okay, and some that are crap, but I still hit the publish button and put it out there. Because this:

But running, that's another story. If I'm being totally honest, it's exercising in general. I'm not one of those people who loves it and wants to do it all the time. I'm like that with writing. But running, I would rather:

  • Do a marathon - on Netflix
  • Clean my kitchen
  • Grade some papers
  • Make a rubric
  • Floss my teeth
  • Go grocery shopping
  • Anything else
The thing is, once I tell myself what my best friend advised (you don't have to want to run, you just have to actually do it) and get my feet to the pavement, I kinda don't mind. And as I'm running, I listen to some good tunes and watch people around the neighborhood and then when I get home, I love to sit on my stoop and cool down, post some stuff on Runkeeper (including the update I drafted as I ran). And then, my friends like my running status, and that is really motivating.

I also find that when I'm running every other day consistently, I like it more. I bet if I just kept going and going and going, maybe I could be like those people who love running?

(Not holding my breath!)

But, I'm a runner. A slow runner, an inconsistent runner, a nonpassionate runner, but I do it enough to call myself a runner.

Do you write as often as I run? Just say it with me: I'm a writer.

Get the details for this challenge here!

Monday, July 27, 2015

blogging with kids part 3

Hey there! I'm back for the third part of blogging with kids! We've already talked about the various platforms for blogging with students and taken a look at the dashboard of Edublogs. Today, I wanted to talk briefly about what the kids will be doing when they sit down to actually get started with blogging.

Logging in
After all accounts are set up, give kids their user names and passwords. Let them log in and then first thing, have them write a post. You don't want them to begin changing around their themes and layouts until there is a post up - this way, they'll be able to tell what headings and titles they are changing around. Hopefully they will have no trouble writing their first post, talking about how they came to the blog and what their expectations are. If they need a little prompting, perhaps you could provide a brief survey to prompt them for writing, knowing that your goal is to get them to generate their own ideas as soon as possible.

Layout and Theme
After they have done a blog post, they are ready to do some design work. Take a look at this short video to see how to change the avatar, change the theme, customize it, and also, teachers can see how to use the report tool to gather information about how often kids are posting and commenting.

Please note: I definitely say "Umm..." a lot in this video, working on it, but I'm too tired to rerecord it, so #dontjudgeme! :-)

Also: Too tired to keep research on how to embed these. Click the picture and you'll go to my google docs! (Also, if you have a tutorial on embedding a video from google drive, I'd really appreciate it!)

Well, it's 10:08 and I feel awful that this is just now posting, so without further ado...

Good news: Tomorrow's post is already scheduled to be up 2 hours from now!

Blogging challenge almost complete! :-)

Get the details for this challenge here!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

dear first year teachers

Good morning, friends! It feels so good to wake up and get to the blog on my own time without having to rush out somewhere. Today we're doing a version of Sunday Letters: Dear First Year Teacher. But, as always, write whatever you want! Maybe you want to write Sunday Letter or something else. The choice is yours, writers!

Dear First Year Teacher,
I'm so excited to welcome you to the profession that I love so so much. It has led me to some of my best friends and happiest moments. I know you will find the same as you embark on this journey known as teaching.

Love teaching. First, know that there will be the loveliest days, the days where your kids are cute and they make you laugh and they all do almost everything you ask of them. They will ask you questions that will make you marvel at their curiosity, they will draw you pictures that show their love, and if they're in middle school, they will probably tell you to F off, but that's okay. Those middle school kids will come around on their own time, finding unique and creative ways to let you know they really appreciate all you do for them.

Prioritize. Your days are going to fly by. You'll get to work, and even if there is something in your personal life, something amazing or something awful, it will be as if didn't even happen, because you won't have a second to think about it. You might find yourself running around like a chicken with your head cut off just trying to get things done in time enough to make your day run smoothly. Instead of feeling out of control, make a running to-do list and prioritize it all. Know that you will never get that entire list done, so don't stay at work every night until 7:30 to finish it. Just get done what is most important and then go home and relax. Tell yourself: It's okay not to finish the list.

Seek collaboration for academics. I know you're thinking: I have so much to teach them and not even nearly enough time. Yes, welcome to teaching. Fortunately, you will have a wide Personal Learning Network (PLN) that is both in person with your colleagues and online via Social Media. Use your people. Go to your mentor. Go to your grade-level team. Ask for help. Believe me, we were all there and we love to share, so please, take us up on it!

Don't forget SEL. In addition to the academics, know that there's another whole side to school, one that I believe is even more important: teaching children to be healthy in their social and emotional worlds. Your kids are going to come to school and be all their own individual selves. Some will have sat down to a dinner and breakfast with their parents before they come back to school. Some children will have not have eaten since they left school yesterday. Some children will have read a book with a family member last night and some will have listened to arguing or even violence in their homes. We have no idea what's going on at home (although we learn to figure it out) but please, don't pass judgment. Help them while they are with you, love them and care for them, and teach them to be kind to everyone in their little classroom family. It's these skills of collaboration, empathy, and responsibility that we must instill in our kids to prepare them for this crazy world we live in!

Build healthy relationships. In addition to your interactions with your students, you will also be immersed in a world of colleagues. You will come to be friends with the other new teachers who start the same year as you. Become friends. Close friends. Share phone numbers and lean on one another, because trust me, you will need them. Find at least one friend who you can really trust so they're there to share in all your happy moments when you can sing your own praises and also when you need to close the door and cry or let off a string of explicit language, knowing your secrets are safe with them. You will need this, but please, choose carefully. While it's okay to vent in private to our trusted friends, we also want to be professional when we are at work. Know that many teachers will be happy and upbeat almost all of the time. Others will be stressed and overwhelmed, and a few will be downright negative. It's normal and comes with the territory, but know the best way to keep yourself happy and balanced is to surround yourself with people who work hard to stay positive.

Maintain balance. Take time for yourself, newbies. It's going to be hard to stop working, believe me. Not that it's bad - if you're like me, you're super passionate about the work we do! You might be at home and still working around 10:00, and while we can say it's because we love our work (truth), know that it's also not a healthy habit. Go back to your to-do list. Do what must be done for tomorrow morning. Then put it aside, have dinner with your loved ones, and do something you like to do. Keep up with exercise and eat right. Yes, you will have to lesson plan and grade papers on the weekend, but also find time to do the things you like to do. You have to maintain this balance or you can't sustain working in this career. It will burn you out, and fast.

Offer grace. New teachers, offer yourself grace. You will not get it all done on time, you will know how to do it all, you will even be so overwhelmed at times, it will be all you can do to not break down and cry in front of the kids. Hey, if you're like me, you might even cry in front of that first group. Even if you do, cut yourself some slack. Although the media portrays teachers as lazy, greedy members of society, just because someone went to public school doesn't mean they know what it is like to walk in a teacher's shoes day in, day out. So when things happen that you're not fond of, do your best to let it go and know that this teaching career is a journey, and not one year after the first will ever be as hard.

Marvel. There will be moments when your kinders will want to do Michael Jackson routines. Or, when your firstie will use his saliva to make one of those come-to-life-with-water capsules expand, in his mouth. Your second grader will sit next to her dad, bathing in pride, as he reads a story about her at Family Writing Project. Maybe your third grader needs some tough love and hard conversations. Your fourth graders might write blogs, on their own time, just because they love it, and your fifth graders will probably cheer for their friends at basketball games. Middle school kids will buy the hugest stuffed animals for their significant others  on Valentine's day and the hallways will smell like Axe Body Spray.

Take it all in. Live these moments. Close your eyes and take a mind picture to remember always. These little moments will set your heart on fire, and call you back to room 124. Every. Single. Day.


Get the details for this challenge here!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

all hail selfie stick!

Hi Friends! Today's prompt is about Teacher Activists, but I'm not in the mood. Feel free to write about that though, or anything else! I bring you fun and celebrations and love, via the Selfie Stick!

Went to a wedding last night - my mentee, Kerry married Gordon and it was super fun. Great music, lovely dinner, family and friends, and late night pizza! Kerry and Gordon: Amazing!

I thought a wedding would be a great place to bring my Selfie Stick. I bought it originally to take on vacation, but it doesn't go over as well in smaller groups. My friends thought I was kinda nerdy and even made fun of me. I don't care...try, try again, right?

Well last night, perfect opportunity! Big groups, that's the key! I also have these heart sunglasses I've been wearing around this summer. Not everywhere, but with my favorite people. I'm in the process of making a Shutterfly book of my summer and so it's themed Summer Love or something like that. My point is, Selfie Stick + heart sunglasses for all your friends = amazing fun. Take a peek:

Table 16 in da house!
Seriously, how cool is it that you can get your WHOLE table in a group shot?

love you Mentee!
Congrats Kerry and Gordon!

Kerry & Gordon - We wish you a lifetime of happiness and love! Thank you for letting us celebrate with you!

Do you have a selfie stick? Any tips and tricks?

Get the details for this challenge here!

Friday, July 24, 2015

follow friday #ff

Hi Friends! Today is Follow Friday! Did you know this is really a thing? On Twitter, if you ever see the #FF hashtag, it's because we're sharing great users for you to follow! So here are some of my best recommendations!


  • Two Writing Teachers - One of my favorite blogs done by a handful of classroom teachers, coaches, reading and writing specialists, etc. They host the Slice of Life Story Challenge all of March and every Tuesday is SOL writing, too! In addition, they constantly share great information about the Writing Workshop. Check them out!
  • A Rocky Top Teacher - Sarah Cooper feels like my old friend (who I've never met). She's so upbeat and positive that it's hard to not love what she shares! You can find her on a Rocky Top Teacher facebook page where she does a Monday Moment - kind of like a way to positively center ourselves for the week ahead. She's also on Instagram!
  • Adventures in Literacy Land - This is another collaborative blog by a group I collaborate with on Facebook - The Reading Crew! They share all kinds of literacy related ideas, book studies, and classroom information that is reading and writing oriented.
  • Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension - Pernille Rip has outstanding ideas about all things teaching. It's practical and comes from her work with middle school students. Love. Love. Love! She's on Twitter, too!
  • Curmudgucation - Grumpy Old Teacher, aka Peter Greene,  talks about education politics going on around the country. Super snarky, super funny, love all the stories he makes me aware of.
Twitter Friends
  • Dr. Mary Howard - She presented to our whole staff and was awesome. We're now connected through Twitter and I've done the Good 2 Great chat a few times (Thursday nights, #g2great). She reaches out and is always willing to help - including offering to teach me all about Canva last night (which I used to make the image at the top of this post!)
  • Diane Ravitch - Educational Historian de jure, she is active on twitter and also blogs here. Like me, she believes in public education and shares lots of information about the reformy movements to try and privatize it all. Be aware of politics, teacher friends!
  • Love, Teach - Funniest teacher blogger out there. If you're a teacher, you live her blogs, so read along and laugh your @ss off! One of my faves, #DEVOLSON :-)
  • Badass Teachers Association - A growing group of teachers (we're around 54K now I think) who is all about keeping public education just that - public. Their mission: Badass Teachers Association was created to give voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality through education. BAT members refuse to accept assessments, tests, and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning.
  • The Gottman Institute - John Gottman, PhD, studies educational research in counseling and mental health. Author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, he has research that can predict, with around 94% accuracy, the couples who will stay together or divorce. His research group shares tons of articles applicable to all relationship statuses, including working with children. Fabulous!

Okay, I'm tired, so that's enough for today. Who do you follow and read religiously? Write up a list and drop it off below!

Get the details for this challenge here!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

in search of balance

Hi guys! I know, I'm late again. If I'm being honest, I'm exhausted. Writing for a whole month is hard work! I'm going to finish, promise to offer the linky every day, but if it's not up first thing, it's probably not going to pop up until around this time.

Today is supposed to be a book review of chapters 5 and 6 of Daring Greatly. I haven't even read them (well, I read them a few months ago, but not this week). So, that is postponed. I'm in the fantastic IWP again today, and we're getting so much out of it, but it's really leaving me little energy to do new stuff, too.

Today, I wanted to begin to share about my inquiry work that I'm doing through IWP. I'm interested in achieving balance.

In all areas of my life, I want balance:

  • Watching my caloric intake and also enjoying life and celebrations through the meals I share with others.
  • Being a couch potato and getting the exercise that is so important for my mental and physical health.
  • Balancing negative thoughts going on in my mind and turning it around to see positives.
  • Stopping writing on my blog so I can go do some reading. (I'd choose this blog over virtually everything!)
  • Doing the just right amount at work as to not burn myself out, and balancing that with the just right social calendar.
  • Spending quiet time being an introvert and also getting out there to be with my family and friends, too.
  • Using technology just enough so that I can document and share the important moments of my life but also being mindful of just living those small moments.
In this last category, I find myself off balance all the time. I'm always wired in. I'm always looking at a host of SM outlets: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Bloglovin' and more, including Periscope, which I don't even know how that one works. I'm asking google stuff all the time (which has been done so much, it's now an acronym among my family and boyfriend - GTS - Google that *hit). I'm looking up music and videos and watching netflix and reading my friends' blogs and emailing's never ending.

I'm a digital immigrant, a 30-something, Master's level educated adult and I have problems with balance in this area, which gets me thinking about how we teach our kids and students about balance in this tech-savvy world.

When I began thinking about this, I ended up on this page, the American Academy of Pediatrics, who recommends kids under 2 have no screen time, and that children and teens have no more than 1 to 2 hours of screen time. They say bedrooms should be screen-free and that the TV should be turned off when families sit down to eat.

I know all this, and I find myself breaking these rules all the time.

So what I want to know - what are the consequences of too much screen time? How can we help ourselves achieve balance and how can we teach that to our children and students? What's the just right amount of technology in classrooms?

I've been collecting some research, but need more time with it. It's a work in progress, but one that is important to me as I think about my health and well-being, and that of the people I work for, my students.

Care to weigh in? Leave me a comment below!

Get the details for this challenge here!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

what I'm loving wednesday

Today's a great day friends, it's What I'm Loving Wednesday! Would you like to write with me? Just compose a list of all the things you love and then link up below!

❤ a Political Revolution
Who is Bernie Sanders?

  • Never ran a negative political commercial.
  • Raised 1 1/2 million dollars in the first 24 hours after announced he was running and has 175,000 people working for him on grassroots.
  • Wants to make it a democracy again, rather than having all the billioinaires buy the elections (Supreme Court's ruling on Citizen's United)
  • Too big to fail means too big to exist - Break up the banks.
  • Wants to guarantee single-payer healthcare.
  • Believes in quality education in America - affordable for all, no matter what your SES.
  • He wants to beat the Koch brothers and billionaires.
  • Stand together - all of us - all races, religions, genders - to make a political revolution happen.

Watch more below. Follow him, tweet him, publish him to facebook. Get registered to vote for him in the primary. Do your part to elect the man who speaks for all of us, not just the Billionaires!


❤ Hand-Crafted Writers Notebooks
Make your own, friends. Make one for your self, make your students make their own. I love mine and want to fill it up! Love Jennie's, too!

Side note on my hypothetical dog: I asked my landlord if I can get a dog even though his policy is no dogs. He's solid on that no. So.... idk when Dudley is going to be a reality :-( Don't you love how Duds has his own category here on BigTime Literacy but he's not real? That pic is from Google!

❤ My funny new friend
I don't have a picture of her yet (Erika, I want one. I hope that's not creepy?!) But she's funny. Here's just a bit:

Principal of the elementary school we're working at stops by and was talking about his teachers observing each other. He tells us, "Yeah, so then I encourage them to go visit the reading specialists, too... watch them in action and the pacing and the program, it's amazing!"

Erika, in this voice she does, "Yeah, they are pretty great." (I can't do this justice without her tone, voice and body language, but it was hilarious!)

Erika on the cookies she baked: "Not only am I a fantastic Reading Specialist, but a great baker. These chocolate chip cookies, made with vanilla pudding power.........and love."

You need to go follow her blog. She's exploring writing with her funny voice in one of her upcoming posts, because, as she wondered aloud to us earlier, "I'm funny in person, and you all take me seriously...? Riiiiiight?" Yes, we do!


❤ Writing Blast (Rehearsal Strategy)
2 minutes at the beginning of workshop. Give your class a word. They write words and phrases about this word for two minutes. If and when they cannot think of another association, they rewrite the word until they get something new. Here's the one I just did:

change - hard - takes time - change - change - change diapers - messy - smelly - then fresh - rebirth - alive - smiles - change - change happens - back and fourth - pendulum swings - change - change - change - change - cambiar - dual language - best for kids - enlightening - duality - good to great - Dr. Mary Howard - Twitter Chats - PD on Demand

Some tips:

  1. Use a multiple meaning word (I didn't go to they money change, but others did!)
  2. Make sure it's just free association words and phrases and don't stop!
I have lots of ideas of more stuff I can writing about, and some figurative language is percolating in there!

❤ Sleeping with the windows open
It's just blissful. Cool breeze blows through, sun seeps in when morning comes, leaves dance and cast calming shawdows in as I wake up, love, love, love it!

❤ this Swatch sprinkles watch
There's another girl in our class, Michelle (awesome name, right?), who has great style with this watch below. I want it. It's perfect for casual days and it's sprinkles! It's like calorie and toxin free cupcakes all day!!!

Get the details for this challenge here!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

secret readers

If you've been following along, you know that I'm at the Illinois Writing Project Summer Leadership Institute (We're live on twitter -> #IWPsli15 - but we're just getting started so not a lot of tweets yet!) Anyways, each morning we share stories from books we are inspired by, and today, Salina shared from the book above. This book was a Scholastic freebie! I posted the image above on Instagram and lots of people had a copy, so maybe there's a freebie out there for me somewhere? D100 - I'm talking to you! :-)

As Salina introduced the book, she was telling us a story about how she and her husband just had dinner with their new neighbors. Her neighbor is very into crafting jewelry as one of her hobbies. After the neighbor shared their story, she asked, "Salina, what do you do for fun?"

Her response was, "I don't know, I have to think about it." Luckily, the neighbor is super nice and let Salina off the hook, but this morning, as Salina is telling the story to all of us, and real talk: she really loves to read and that she was worried that her neighbor might not think it was a cool enough hobby, every one of us in class was erupting to giggles and comments like, "Secret readers!" and "Time for you to come out of the closet!"

Then, Salina went on to share this poem, from the book up above --
I mean, beautiful isn't even the right word (I don't have a lot of time to think about a better word right now!) but, it's a perfect poem, isn't it? Salina, who openly shares with all of us, who understands what a reading life is all about, wants a cooler hobby to share with her new friends.

I've often felt the same when my boyfriend and I are asked what we do for fun. He's a sports guy who loves fantasy baseball and loves movies, too. I, on the other hand, can't remember a movie (or a quote, for that matter) to save my life and what do I do for fun? Write a blog and seek beautiful works of art like the one above. We're so different, but I love that I have this amazing life as a reader and a writer! I think people on the outside of this literacy life maybe just don't get it. I know Hektor doesn't. It's not bad, but he would never revel in the poem I shared above, and he definitely wouldn't find the events of this morning's share time so funny, like the rest of us did.

So, friends, could there be any secret readers in your life?
How can we show all the others (our students included) what they are missing out on with this literacy life?

Perhaps I need a really great baseball story for the boyfriend!

Make sure to share your story with Two Writing Teachers!

Get the details for this challenge here!

Monday, July 20, 2015

gratitude lately

Friends, I have so much awesomeness to share with you today, on our suggested post of Gratitude, Lately. I believe it's always best to stop now and then to smell the flowers, and there is so much to be rejoice in today.

Last night, I went to see Taylor Swift with my cousin, Emma. It was ahhhh-MAZE-ing. The best, totes amazeballs, so so great. Taylor Swift is such an inspiration to me, and I don't even care about all my friends who declined this concert because of all the teeny-boppers would would be there. In addition to being a performer by nature, tending to every detail of the show, Taylor is so reflective, demonstrates gratitude for all she's accomplished, and really makes her fans know just how much she cares for them!

Without further ado...

Gratitude for an amazing artist who inspires me....

Gratitude for a cousin who knows me.

When in doubt, just add glitter.

Gratitude for glitter and pretty fonts,

and red lipstick:

Gratitude for an artist who put an LED light on every one of our 55,000 wrists so she could see each of us, and then is self-aware enough to thank us for spending the evening with her.

Gratitude for an artist who crafts her shows with as much purpose and intentionality as I'm learning to do with my work...go here to see what I'm talking about.

The way I see it, it's gratitude that never goes out of style.

What are you thankful for today?

Get the details for this challenge here!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

review: Illinois writing project

Hey friends. I'm late today.... Was out all day yesterday and I knew I should have done both Saturday and Sunday's post earlier, but anyways, sorry!

So today's suggested prompt is a review, and I'd like to tell you about the Illinois Writing Project I'm participating in last week and the coming week and a half. Yes, it's a super long PD, but I can tell you this: best PD I've done. I knew it was going to be. I am pretty sure my friend Heather did a Writing Project in Calfornia (she gave me amazing resources from it!) and then my other friend, Tracey in Arizona suggested I find my state's project when I asked her something about hers. So: Google your state and Writing Project, I'm sure you're going to find something! You can also start with National Writing Project!

As I mentioned above, it's two and a half weeks in the summer, plus one day in the spring and another in the fall. The first week of summer is writing workshop - the teacher participants go through the motions of what we would want to do with kids. Some of the things we've done this past week are:

  • Interviewed a colleague and written their class introduction, which will be published to our class book of writing
  • Began sharing short writing pieces that inspire us
  • Created visual representations of the writing process
  • Strategies for Rehearsal: 4 Square brainstorming and guided imagery
  • Written Conversations
  • Went on a Writing Marathon at Cantingy Park
  • Had writing workshop time every day to write whatever we wanted to - can you imagine? It's blissful!
We also have a Heinemann consultant who has brought every awesome book published by Heinemann for us to use like a lending library, and we also can order the books for 30% off and free shipping. I. Want. All. The. Books. But, so far, I'm just getting the third edition of In the Middle (Atwell) and Write Beside Them (Kittle). Interesting how the books I want are middle school aligned - I'm pretty sure I'm going to end up back in the classroom... I really miss kids! Oh, but I think I'm also getting a coaching book, too. So, there you go :-)

Moving on - next week begins our Summer Leadership Institute Sessions. So, our focus will shift from writing more to being leaders with writing in our buildings. We have to do an inquiry project, too, and I'll be sure to share what I'm doing. Ideas are still swimming around, so nothing on that right now. I'm excited to see what's to come, and will report back soon!

The last amazing part of this is that I've been able to spend time with my friend Jennie and made a lot of new friends, including Erika who is super fun, smart and hilarious. So, although it's 2 and a half weeks of waking up early during the end of my summer, it's totally worth it!

Have you attended a Writing Project PD? Please share your experiences!
Get the details for this challenge here!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

blogging with kiddos, part 2

Check out Lizzy's latest post!
Welcome back to BigTime Literacy! Today's BigTime Blogging Challenge prompt is to write "This I Believe" posts, so if you'd like to go ahead with that, please do! I need to continue with my Blogging with Kids series. (Check out my first post in this series here.) Today I'm going to give you a tour through Edublogs and also share the Google + method you'll need to use if your students don't have their own email address.

I'm going to venture to uncharted water, friends! I bring you my very first screencast! I thought it would be much easier to talk and show the dashboard of Edublogs rather than writing about it. So, click the image below to go see the video (still working on embedding it; so many steps!)

How did I do? Super exciting stuff!

Creating User Accounts and the Google + Method
With edublogs, the students you create blogs for will need an email address. Perhaps they won't have one, but no fear! You can use the Google + method!

If you took a look at the video, you've already heard about how each child will need the following information for blog completion:

It might be possible that your students do not have email addresses, but you'll use a version of your gmail to get around this. Google email address work like this: you can use a + within the email address to use one email address for many accounts. In my case, my email address is used to create all my student bloggers accounts.

You're going to add each child's user name to the email. For mine, I use a formula to keep things consistent. I like to use first name - last initial - and their "S" number (that our school uses for their ID.) So, one student might be, "mikem8721." I like having the child's first name in the user name so it's easy to know who is writing what when I'm reading blogs.

For the student's email, this is where you need google plus. Let's carry on with my sample student, Mike M. His "email" is going to be mine: but I'm going to add the + and his user name:

What happens is that google is going to ignore everything after the plus, and his notifications will all go to my gmail. I get notified when comments are published on their pages. The comments still go to my students, too - I don't have it set up to moderate publishing of posts or comments. I know some teachers would like to see everything first, but in my world: ain't nobody got time for that! In the instance that something inappropriate goes though, I use it as a teaching moment with kids, and provide consequences as necessary.

Google + method is cool, right?

Make sure you take a look at the video for more details about the URL and blog name, too!

Alright! Well that's enough for today. I'll be back on Monday the 27th for a little bit more on getting the kids started on their first posts!
Get the details for this challenge here!

Friday, July 17, 2015

quiet your mind

BigTime Blogging Challenge, day 17! We've come so far! Today we're trying our hands at poetry. Write a poem, share one of your favorites, share a poetry lesson... the choice is yours, writers!

How often do you stop
in the moments
to listen
to the world around you,
to make that buzzing
in your mind

How often do you investigate noises
in nature, take in a full breath
of fresh air
away from the noise
of the city?

Here.... there are
no sirens
no fire trucks
no trains rushing overhead.
No one argues
outside your yoga class
where you go
to quiet your mind.

huge sticks take up new residence
on the forest floor, and
birds dive
into bushes, and
a baby dogwood reaches
for the sky.
Rocks crunch
under your feet, and
a daddy long legs runs
for cover.
Raindrops unite
in a spider's web, and there
they glisten.

It's so much easier
to quiet your mind,
to be absorbed by your surroundings,
to hear the squirrel chatter,
to catch that pesky mosquito,
to dodge raindrops that
fall from leaves overhead,
without all the distractions
of the big, beautiful, bustling city
so much.

Yesterday I spent the day at Cantigny Park and Gardens. Part of the Illinois Writing Project Summer Leadership Institute involves one day of Marathon Writing, where writers leave their classrooms for places of great inspiration. We write all through the day, building stamina as we progress. This poem was written there.

Get the details for this challenge here!

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