Monday, August 31, 2015

getting cozy with Calkins

Good morning! Is anyone out there getting acquainted with the new Reading Units of Study from Lucy Calkins and her colleagues at The Teachers College? We are so lucky to use this curriculum in our school district, and so our teachers are beginning to orient themselves to the new units of study. In an effort to smooth things out, I've created a little cheat-cheat to figure it all out!

First, let's start with the books.

A Guide to the Reading Workshop: The Overview Book
This book does a really nice job acquainting the reader with the curriculum. In this book, you will learn more general information about Reading Workshop and the research and theory behind it. This book is also the source of this blog, as it directed me to what was most important to read as we begin instruction.

Reading Units of Study: The Lesson Plan Books
Each grade level's curriculum includes four spiral-bound units of study. Since I head fifth grade in my district, I'm going to share theirs:
  1. Interpretation Book Clubs: Analyzing Themes
  2. Tackling Complexity: Moving Up Levels of Nonfiction
  3. Argument and Advocacy: Researching Debatable Issues
  4. Fantasy Book Clubs: The Magic of Themes and Symbols

These four books are the meat and potatoes of the curriculum. Teachers will be reading these books day in and day out and using them for instruction.

Reading Pathways: The Assessment Book
This book is really a toolkit for reading assessment. In it teachers will find information about running records, bands of text complexity in both fiction and nonfiction, learning progressions of different standards across grade levels (think vertical alignment), performance assessments, and assessment tools.

If... Then... Curriculum: The Differentiation Book
This book has letters to teachers at each of the three intermediate grade levels. It offers a very broad overview of the year. Then, it gives alternate units of study that teachers and use if they need to modify the grade level given units of study.

Getting Started
Now that you know about the books, here are Calkins' recommendations for getting started in the Intermediate Grades. (Primary grade teachers, slightly different.) If you're like our teachers, you don't have time to read the whole first book of lesson plans, and in fact, Lucy doesn't even recommend that. Here's how you should begin:
  1. Grab the first book of lesson plans that you are going to teach. At the beginning of each of these is An Orientation to the Unit. You can find this right after the acknowledgements. Read that first, and then read the first session of lesson plans.
  2. Next grab Reading Pathways. Look up the Learning Progressions in the table of contents. Go to that section, pick one strand, and read the progression of work children do across the grade levels. This will help you see what students were expected to do before coming to your class, and also see the depth that you will take your teaching on each standard (for example, on Time, Plot, and Setting).
  3. Now you're ready for the If... Then... Curriculum. In the very front of this book are letters: A Letter to Teachers of Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5. You'll want to read your letter to get a sense of the units you will be teaching this year.
  4. If you're new to Reading Workshop, it would definitely help to skim through A Guide to the Reading Workshop.
  5. Also, check out the online resources at Heinemann's website! You can find your access code in A Guide to the Reading Workshop book.
It seems like a lot to do, but it's just a little bit of reading here and a little bit of reading there. Hopefully this post clarifies the purpose of the books and where to begin!

Who else uses Reading Workshop? Any other tips to offer? Please leave a note in the comments if so!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

gratitude lately

Hi friends. I have to come clean. I know I've been off the grid. I haven't been myself lately. My boyfriend and I broke up awhile ago and I've just been trying to deal. I've been thinking about writing and wanting to write, but then I just don't. But I am here now and you all needed to know and so there it is.

All that being said, I'm here for a Gratitude Lately post. Because, even though things in my love life aren't going like I want them to, so many other things are. And when we practice gratitude, we can turn what we have into enough.

And just an aside, this post was not my original thinking, like many other things I say and do and share that I find online. I found this post over at this blog: Today's Letters. It's a great blog to follow if you're looking for a new one!

So let's get to it.

Today I'm thankful for my amazing friends who check in on me daily. Friends, you keep me strong, so if you're reading, thank you for texting me every day!

Thankful for an amazing career that I can pour my heart into during the week.

and for former students who let me celebrate their accomplishments with them.

Thankful for running and continuing to stay dedicated.

Thankful for my neighborhood street fest.... it's the 30th anniversary!

 Thankful for Buddha and what he has to say.

 Thankful for my favorite show.

And I'm thankful for so many other things, but that's enough for today.

What are you thankful for?

Monday, August 24, 2015

bulletin boards & our staff lounge

Hi all! I'm back, coming at you from the end of our first day of school. It was a great day!

I wanted to share about our staff lounge that I've been working on - wanting to turn it into a relaxing place to hang out and have fun with teaching friends at lunch. The first thing I started with was a new bulletin board.

At our school, we use Responsive Classroom. One thing that all students are prompted to do each year is to think about and write down their Hopes and Dreams. So, as a staff, we did the same. Inspired by some art I saw in a yoga studio, I created the bulletin board below with our Hopes and Dreams:

The board is just some twine pinned up and the each staff member wrote their hopes and dreams on a white tag:

Here are some of the hopes and dreams our staff shared:

"That my team continues to grow and we become a strong, cohesive team. Also that my room becomes a strong community."

"My hopes and dreams for this year include making considerable gains with my students this year while maintaing a balance within my personal life for relationships, spiritual growth, leisure, and physical/mental health."

"My hope is to create a positive, collaborative environment where all enjoy coming to work each day."

and here's mine:

"I hope to empower teachers and staff as we collaborate towards authentic reading and writing lessons."

What's cool about this display is that in the winter, we will add on: Let Go and Look Ahead:

Blue Tag: Let go - Teachers will give themselves permission to let go of something from the fall

Green Tag: Look ahead - Teachers can set a goal for what's coming up

And then in the spring, we'll add on another tag, perhaps in reflection of the year.

A great display that grows throughout the year!

Another awesome part of our lounge is our Pinterest Board that Jennie put up last year. Stuff on it is funny stuff - our laminator is really broken, and then just some jokes that arise out of lunchtime conversation. I hope to continue to add to it throughout the year, and I hope our staff does as well!

And finally...

I've been obsessed with Buddha, and picked up this cheap little statue at TJ Maxx yesteday. Then, the quote that I always keep front and center in my mind so I can keep things positive.

Teaching is a lot of work, so taking time around noon to hang out with friends and gossip about The Bachelor and share about new recipes or catch up on personal lives really does improve the school culture.

Do you eat in your lounge? Did you help decorate it? Please share!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

sunday letters

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

Hey out there! I'm back with the Sunday Letters today and every other Sunday until further notice. Make sure you link your letters up below!

Dear Emerson Staff,
I'm so excited to start another new year with you! I'm looking forward to seeing the kids and the work we will do together this year. I'm also hopeful that we will plan lots of fun stuff to do together so when it gets super overwhelming, we can stay positive.
High fives to you all :-)

Dear former students,
Thank you for continuing to keep in touch with me. It really is one of the most rewarding parts about our job, that we create spaces for amazing relationships with you. I'm so proud of all your accomplishments, and if you ever need anything, I'm just an email away!
Love, Teach

Dear Universe,
Okay, I get it. Things can always be worse. Case in point: the cracked screen on my iPhone after a pretty rough week. I will remember to practice gratitude for the good things in my life though, even when there's bad stuff, too.
Try and watch out for me anyways?

Dear best friends,
Thank you for being in my life. I swear, I couldn't go through it without you.
Love, Shel

Dear Summer Vacation,
It's been real. It always goes too fast, doesn't it?
Until we meet again,

Dear self,
Good job on your running...You've logged 18 runs since the beginning of June! You are really improving, even if just a little at a time. Keep up the great work!
Love, Self

Dear Cousin,
Thanks for texting me yesterday to check on me and I'm so glad I got to hear all about college! I love that we keep in touch pretty regularly!

Dear Alex and Ani,

I love your bracelets! My new fave is the one with the Buddha charm, which is a constant reminder to keep my thoughts in check. Must make a wish list!
Online shopping fanatic

Monday, August 17, 2015

new presentation available!

Hey friends, hope all is well! I'm officially back from all travels so should be more consistent here on the blog. Last Friday I did a presentation for our middle school teachers about how to organize a block schedule, and as promised, here it is! You can click the picture to see the full presentation.

The focus of this presentation was Nancie Atwell's third edition of In the Middle. We spent a lot of time talking about scheduling, with some time saved for long term unit planning, but really, just an outline of that.

So that's really all for that presentation. I'm slowly getting back to work. Mentors met their new mentees today at a luncheon, so it was great to meet mine, she's awesome! I know I am going to learn so much collaborating with her this year!

The rest of this week I'll be back at school. I need to get some before shots of the space I'm sharing with my new team. That will be coming soon, and then the set up pics, too, later on. Stay tuned for all of that.

And, I still haven't forgot that I need to do my first periscope, so make sure you follow my Instagram to see when that's happening. I'm hoping sometime this week! Exciting!

What are you up to? Leave me a note!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

compelled tribe & building relationships

Friends, I'm back! I've been thinking about my blog for so many days, but was busy with vacation and visiting my parents and didn't really have much time to be antisocial and sit down and write. But, I'm home now, all by myself (love quiet time!) and am ready to share a back to school post with you!

In other (related) news, I just got involved with a new group of amazing educators, the #compelledtribe! I have Allie at The Positive Teacher to thank for connecting me here. What I've gathered is that we write twice a month and then share each other's work and support one another's ideas. I'm. So. In. Thank you for inviting me!

This month we are talking about building relationships (my favorite thing about teaching!) with students and teachers. But seriously though, I love being in education because of the relationships I get to have with kids and their families and teachers. Four of my closest friends are all connected to teaching and I have quite strong relationships with some very special former students. (Side note: One summer I worked for a family member from home. I was alone all day, every day and it was awful. I hope this can shed a little light about how I love to be with people!)

Building Relationships with Kids

We're Family

Especially to my homeroom, I always spoke of our kiddos and our homeroom as family, because it was true: we got along most of the time, we had fun, we annoyed each other, we got in disagreements, but we were there for each other. We were family and worked on building that each day we came to class. I always spoke of the kids on our team, and especially my little homeroom, as family.

Circle of Life

Named by my last homeroom, the Circle of Life was born. It was just a community meeting at the end of every week on Friday afternoons, except I made the kiddos sit in a circle on the floor. Even in my middle school classroom, I always had a large space in the front and center to meet as a group - to talk, to read, to discuss, to support. So, on Friday afternoons, we would sit in a circle and do appreciations and high/low. Appreciations are easy, and my best friend taught me high/low, where kids just share the high of their week and the low. Here's a video of my last homeroom (it's kinda hard to hear, but you get the idea!)

Watching that makes me totally miss kids and having my own class, so so much!

Some recommendations:
  • Use something (like that stuffed animal) to pass around so they take turns listening.
  • In the beginning, have them write something on a notecard so they are prepared and you can get this done in 5-10 minutes.
  • You can pass the animal around one-by-one so every has an opportunity, too, but allow the right to pass.
  • Be patient. This video was filmed in April of our second year together....they knew each other so well and were fine to say things they might not have shared early on.
  • Now that I'm rethinking, this would probably have been better at the beginning of the week to get them in a good place for a week, but either way, this homeroom loved each other!
Community Building Games
Anytime is a great time for games and activities to build community, especially at the start of the school year! There's the classics: Human Knot, Two Truths and a Lie, and Find Someone Who. There's also this really great game called Graduation that I have in one of my books at school - I need to get a copy for you all because I can't find one online!

The point is, you have to go slow to go fast. You have to take time to build trust among your students or they will not take risks in their learning. These activities, when done with the debriefing sessions afterwards, really help build that community that is vital to learning, so please, don't think it's all just silly games!

And when classroom management breaks down (and it will at some point), know it's okay to set the content aside and continue working to build trust with your kiddos. Even in my 10th year in the classroom, I still found myself in moments in the winter when I couldn't get management down, there was too much interrupting, or students weren't being respectful. Know that in those instances, you have to call a time-out, and get the trust and respect put back into your classroom community, or it will be a struggle each day to get the learning done. Even better: Schedule time every other week for some kind of community builder, just to not let it get to that breaking point!

Building Relationships with Staff

I'm about to embark on my third year as a literacy coach! Like everything else, it's been a work in progress, but one thing I wish I had known back then was the 1:1 meeting. The purpose of these meetings (two colleagues together for 1:1 talking time, no agendas) is to build their realationship and build trust. This idea came from Steve Zeleman, author of 13 Steps to Teacher Empowerment, and I just love it. Here's a definition as sited in the book, page 57:
An intentional, face to face, one to one meeting with another person to understand their interests, passions, and story, and to share your own, to explore trust with the other person and the possibility of a public relationship with them.... so you can act together on issues of common concern
He continues, with what a one-on-one meeting is not:

  • an opportunity to sell your ideas or to ask for help with a task or project
  • an occasion for chitchat
  • a search fro someone who agrees with your point of view
  • a search for friendships (Instead, it helps you build a public relationship, which is not the same as a private, personal friendship.)
Here are some possible questions to begin your conversations:
  • I'd like to learn more about how you came to teaching in the first place.
  • What are some goals that are important to you in your work?
  • I wonder whether any particular experiences led you to these goals?
Why use this strategy? It's a great way to build bridges with the people that you work with. Through these talks, you'll find so much information about each other and, more than likely, find lots of common ground to build on! I'm hoping to give this strategy a try this fall!

Definitely check out the book, too, which has lots of ideas leadership and coaching work!

What about you?
How do you build strong relationships with students and staff?
Leave a comment so we can keep the conversation going!

Feels so good to be back, friends! Happy Monday Tuesday! (Still don't know what day it is!) :-)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

currently august

HI friends!
I'm on vacation and was trying to unplug, but no such luck. I've been better though, just taking some morning time with my online world and then living in books and notebooks most of the rest of the day! So, without waiting anymore, let's get on with Currently!

Listening to the waves
We're in Ormond Beach, Florida, on the Atlantic coast. Our condo doesn't directly face the ocean, we're off to the side, but from my chair right now I can see the waves and hear them crashing. Light breeze blowing in, me, the beach, and my blog. I'm in love!

Loving bff bracelets
Alex and Ani just started making ASU charm bracelets and so I facebooked it to my friends here in Chicago, and then a few weeks later, Laurie ordered them for all three of us. I can't wait to get them and I'm so excited to have a new tradition - I'm sure we'll wear them to all the game watching parties at Cubby Bear!

Thinking about Block Scheduling
I've been reading Atwell's third edition of In the Middle to get prepared to teach a session in my district, "Organizing for ELA on a Block Schedule." My mind is racing with all kinds of ideas to share with our middle school teachers, but I need to keep reading this week while I'm lounging by the water. I'll be sure to share this PD (like all the others I do) on a future blog post and archive it in the PD tab above. Stay tuned!

Wanting sunny days
Yesterday here was nice-ish - It was sunnyish during the day but then rained and rained and rained. I'm hoping for really sunny all day today and staying in my swim suit for each moment!

Can't think of anything at the moment, and I'll take it!


Okay so I'm not going to tell you about it till I can show you, but I'm planning on making a bulletin board in our staff lounge. I saw it in a yoga studio I was trying out and loved it! So, probalby by next month you'll get to see! I know you're going to love it, trust me! :-)

That's all for me right now, off to take in the waves a little bit closer. Make sure you check out all the Currently posts over on Farley's page!

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