Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Writing Workshop Wednesday - Week 3

Young writers learn to plan their writing because we teach them to plan.  Storytelling is part of the planning for narrative writing.  You can read my post from last week about storytelling here.

These are the steps I use to help writers learn how to plan a story.  Whether your writers are early elementary or later elementary students, they probably need reminders and extra practice planning their stories.  This is another one of the mini anchor charts that will be in a pack that I'm working on s-l-o-w-l-y. 

I start by showing students an example of how I planned in the same way to write a story of my own 
(my real adult writing in my real writer's notebook).  Then I ask students to practice thinking of a true story from their own life.  I struggle with the silence sit patiently, while I give them plenty of time to think. Next, I ask the students to turn to a partner to either tell the story across their fingers or we use a blank pre-made book and ask them to tell across the empty pages.  

I also created a graphic organizer to help my students sketch across the pages.  You know, so their story doesn't end up all on one page.  My Sketch Across the Pages is a freebie in my Tpt store if you'd like a copy.

This tired girl has to be at school at 6:45 in the morning to finish setting up for professional development.  So, that's all for now...

Happy writing!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Writing Workshop Wednesday - Week 2

My brain is overflowing with ideas that I want to share with my teachers after attending the Summer Writing Institute at Teacher's College two weeks ago.  I will be posting about the things I learned a few times each month on Wednesdays for a while.  If you missed the first post, you can find it here.

One of the things I learned is that writers need more opportunities to practice storytelling. If they can think can it, then they should say it, before they write it. We need to teach our writers that it is part of the planning process.   

Young writers benefit from the strategy of telling their story across their fingers.  This helps them define the beginning, the middle and the end of the story before their words hit the paper.  

I have been working on creating small versions of the anchor charts I use with students, since my job requires me to be in several buildings each week.  The chart below is one example that will help me prompt students for storytelling.  All of them will be included in one product that I'm hoping to finish to add to my Tpt store soon.  

Another strategy in the planning process is to sketch the story.  The sketches of the story can be used as a tool to help a child verbally tell their story to a partner before they begin to write the words.

Storytelling is a strategy that helps our writers form narrative stories in their mind and clarify the details for their audience.  During my week at the Summer Writing Institute, many teachers asked if it was necessary to start with narrative units for writing. The experts at Teacher's College agreed that you should start with narrative writing.

Here are a few of the reasons to start with narrative writing...
1.  It values student experiences.
2.  It helps build a community of writers because stories are personal.
3. The ability to retell a story in a sequence is a foundational literacy skill.
4.  Narrative writing is a building block for other types of writing.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Writing Workshop Wednesday - Week 1

Last week, I attended the Teacher's College Summer Writing Institute at Columbia University. It was an amazing experience full of learning on so many different levels!  Each day was jam packed with things that I want to share with the teachers in my district.  That is part of the plan, but I decided to also blog about some of it here.  It may be just the next few Wednesdays or it may an effort to seek balance in my life I won't make any promises to myself or others about that.

On the first day of our time at Teacher's College, we talked about the importance of teachers being writers.  The presenter said if you want your students to be writers, then you have to be a writer yourself.  A real one...who writes adult things.  Apparently a grocery list and a thank you note don't count.

Earlier this summer, I began journaling.  I think it started because I splurged on a new set of my favorite pens.  They are Frixion erasable gel pens...DREAMY.  It was also an effort to help me reflect and sort through my reflections.

As a classroom teacher, I did a good job of modeling being a reader.  Daily, I shared my love of books and enthusiasm for reading with students.  My shelves were overflowing with stories that were inviting the little people in my room to love books as much as I do.

Modeling being an adult writer was different for me.  I frequently wrote newsletters, blog posts and samples of things I wanted to model for my students.  Bravely, I will admit that my students didn't really see my adult writing.  Well, there wasn't much to see at the time.  On the hamster wheel of life, I didn't make time to practice writing as an adult.  I wrote things for other people more than I ever wrote for myself.

Now, I am on a mission to change that.  Inspired by the writing workshop experts at Teacher's College, I now realize that I can jot my thoughts, release a story that I've been wanting to tell on paper, write a bit about something I learned, brainstorm my own ideas and share some of those with students.  I want my students to get to know me as an adult writer.  I want them to know that I'm developing my craft and bravely sharing it with the world...just like I want them to do.

Here is one of the journals that I have been filling up this summer.  At times, I fill a page with things I love.  Other times, I use the space to reflect on my goals.  Most of the pages have lots of writing, but below you'll see a few of my brainstorming pages. Now that I'm back from Teacher's College, I'm going to attempt a story that I've been wanting to put in words.

Grab a journal or a notebook that inspires you and your favorite writing tools!  
Write for yourself.
You'll be better prepared to share your love of writing with your students if you do!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Currently - AUGUST!

Seriously, how did this happen?

It's August and I'm trying to cope, while I link up with Farley for Currently.

Oh, summer - I love you.  Hearing my kid laugh, staying up late to watch someone build Tiny Houses, having an empty schedule...oh, I love summer!

I'm leaving tomorrow for Teacher's College in New York to attend the Summer Writing Institute.  I'm excited to learn as much as I can to share with the teachers in our district.  I'm also freaked out that my suitcase might burst open on the scale at the airport.  

I took 2 grad classes this summer.  I'm working on a educational leadership certification. Both of the classes were jam packed with interesting learning and encouraged me to reflect on some improvements I could make personally as a leader and that the district could make in general. However, cramming what is usually a semester long 600 level class into 6 weeks is no joke. My brain is not feeling refreshed.  It's feeling kind of full.  Let me just tell you the major victory related to this summer of intense learning is that I did not drink Diet Mt. Dew once. In fact, I have not had a drop since January 1.  Go me!

I don't really want to learn to mediate, but I keep reading about how good it is for busy people to meditate.  If someone could just hit the off switch on my hamster wheel brain, then I could get started.  Focus on my breathing...I read that in a brain research journal this morning.  I haven't tried it yet.

This will be the first time in 17 years that I have not "set up a classroom" in August.  I thought I would feel kind of "free" from the mountain of laminating and open house packets.  But, my random act of back to school kindness this year is going to be to offer my "Slide on the Side Laminating" services to a few of my teacher friends.  Truth be told...I love cutting out laminating.  I also love to write on name tags.  My SOTSL business will be opening at the end of August and I can't wait to surprise a few of my best teacher pals!

Check out what everyone else is CURRENTLY doing on Farley's blog!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Time for Tieks!

Oh happy day!  
I'm talking about the day the mailman delivered a package 
from Tieks and Stitch Fix on the same day!  

I confess that sometimes I let other people try trendy things out first (Pinterest, Instagram, Erin Condren, Stitch Fix).  I'm not even ready to talk about Periscope yet - unless it would help me spend more time with my kids somehow. I'm a review reader.  Eventually, I get on board if the reviews are good enough.

That's how I ended up ordering my first pair of Tieks!  I'll admit, I struggled with the both the price and the color choices at first.  Since I have never met an unhappy Tieks owner, I decided to go for it!
Then came the color drama.  There are so many beautiful colors to choose from at the Tieks Boutiek! My husband laughed when I whined to him about being torn between pop pink and cobalt blue.  He actually suggested that I just buy both if I really like them, which means he was unaware of the price.

Sensible me appeared right after I put pop pink in my shopping cart and I ended up buying matte black instead.  There are only so many days I can wear pop pink, right?  That's what I keep telling myself.

The folks at Tieks know how to do things right!  From the fancy box to the handwritten note inside, it is clear that customer service is a priority.  My daughter tried to snatch the "headband" off the box before I could take this picture.

So here they are, my new matte black Tieks!
 Almost too pretty to wear...incredibly soft leather, a carrying case for when I pack them in my suitcase and a cute little card!
Let me just tell you - yes, they are really as comfortable as everyone says they are!
I tried them on with jeans, a skirt and a dress - LOVE them!

I'm picky about my shoes and comfort is a priority.  I rarely wear heels, but dress up daily for work.  I've been searching for a pair of flats that had enough support and was comfortable enough for me to walk in all day.  Cha-ching!

I'm going to really put these Tieks to the test when I travel to New York for a conference later this summer.  I'll let you know how that goes in a few months.

For now, who knows where these Tieks will take me?
(Please excuse my rolled up yoga pants summer uniform.)

 I do know that I think pop pink might be callin' my name...

The answer is YES - Tieks are worth it!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Get Your Fix!

If you have not tried Stitch Fix...maybe it's time!

Last summer, I tried Stitch Fix for the first time.  For busy, working moms like me it is dreamy.  I do like to shop, but finding time to do it is a problem.

It's simple and easy.
You sign up and fill out a profile to help your stylist get to know your preferences.
You pay a $20 styling fee, which is applied to anything you buy.
You choose a delivery date and wait for your surprise package to arrive.

Here are some snapshots of the things in my most recent Stitch Fix delivery.

I must confess, that when I opened the box I was not going to try on the jeans with the 1980's zipper ankles at first.  However, I've learned to try on everything Marisol (my stylist) sends me.  She rocks! So, I tried on the skinny (even though I'm not) jeans with the funky zippers.  They were sooooooo comfortable and they actually looked nice on my under 5 ft body.  The looked super cute with the shirt above (which happens to be Detroit Tiger colored). The neckline on the shirt was a little low on me, which would mean that I would have to find a navy high necked tank to wear underneath - another short person problem I suppose.  

When I ordered up this fix, I asked them to help me find a cargo jacket.  Yep, you can do that and they will try!  Marisol sent this cargo jacket, which fit really well.  However, I avoid ironing at all costs and since the box turned it into this wrinkly mess...I decided this one wasn't for me.

The last two items in my box were this super cute dress and the necklace.  I am definitely keeping both of these!  The dress is perfect for work meetings and or presentations and the necklace is exactly what I've been looking for (although I never shared that with Marisol).  

Very rarely do I ever go into a store and try on 5 things that fit, so having a box delivered with 5 things that fit for me to choose from is completely refreshing.  I am still trying to decide if I am going to keep the super comfy funky zipper ankle jeans.  They are expensive...but soooo comfortable.  Do I even care if my pajamas jeans have zippers on the ankles when they snap, zip and I can breathe when I sit down in them?

Another successful delivery for me!  You can click on any of the images above if you'd like to try Stitch Fix yourself.  If you order a fix after clicking on my link, I earn a referral credit.  However, you don't have to order if you just want to visit and find out more about the Stitch Fix craze.

Dear Marisol,
You rock!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

2 Types of Readers

When I reflect on my years as a classroom teacher, I think about my students as individual learners. I spent a lot of time reflecting about teaching and learning this summer. It became clear to me that 2 types of readers have passed through my life.

The 2 types include those who get lost in books and those who read until the timer goes off.  In fact, the two different types of readers are represented in my own house as well.

My daughter read over 100 books in 6th grade last year.  Big books.  She has her nose in a book while she walks around the house.  I frequently find her reading under the covers with a flashlight long after her bedtime.  She has stacks and stacks of books waiting to be read in her room and frequently runs out of things to read.

My 9 year old son is a good reader, but he reads approximately 25 - 30 pages a day with a timer in his hand. When the timer goes off, he happily drops the book.  He won't pick up another book until I remind him about what research says about summer lag the next day.

This summer, I'm collaborating with some of our 5th and 6th grade teachers and our Instructional Support Team to re-read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.  I have read this book six times and each time it leaves me reflecting on different ways to reach our young readers.

The first step for me (although I'll admit that it is painful) is accepting the fact that not all readers are born with a natural love for books.  The second step as a teacher (and a mom) is to let what we know about the reader and the books they choose "whisper" (as Donalyn Miller says) to us so we can support them as readers.  The third step is to never give up hope.

I'm hopeful that my son will soon fall in love with a series or genre so much so that he no longer feels the need to read for only 20 or 30 minutes. Until then, I'll keep modeling a love for reading.  I'll keep exposing him to different authors, genres and series.  Most importantly, I'll let the choices he makes whisper to me so I can support him even if it is for only 25 - 30 pages a day (for now).

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July - Currently!

It's July 1st - How did that happen?  I'm pretty sure I have not posted since June 1st, but I'm scared too look.  Either way, today is a new day (and a new month).

The last day for students in my district was June 5.  My summer officially started this week, because of extra training and projects I was working on for my position.  We enjoyed a visit with my college roomie and her family at the lake and had dinner with friends last night.  This morning, I worked on my grad work inside while I listened to a conversation that a family was having on a fishing boat about 350 feet out in the lake.  I'm sure they have no idea that I can hear every single word they are saying.  Note to self:  sound travels differently on the lake. Yikes.

I love having time with my own kids (and husband) in the summer.  Focusing on them and us is so important.  Staying up late to talk, taking long walks together, teaching them new things, practicing things that get pushed aside during the school year and laughing together fill our summer days and I am so grateful for this time.

Thinking - no Vegas for me.  Last year, I felt a little left out (and slightly annoyed after a while) when social media seemed to be completely taken over by Vegas posts.  Let there be no misunderstanding that I am happy that so many educators, bloggers, Tpt'ers have the opportunity to enjoy this time together.  It is a powerful networking opportunity!  I'm super grateful for the blogging friends I've connected with over the years.  I'm also ok with being one of the few people who are not going to Vegas again this year.  I have two full weeks of training this summer, plus several other days to work.  I'm also taking 2 grad classes this summer.  So, the rest of the summer is family time and that's ok with me.  I do hope ya'll have a great time!  

I've been wanting to find more time to read and write.  I do a lot of professional reading for my job and for my grad classes.  I need to make more time to read and write.  I recently started a journal. However, I quickly discovered that when you are super, super busy the journal that you intended to be a place to let ideas flow freely turns into another giant to do list.  

Needing to refocus is a little tricky.  I really need to do that since I have so many things going on.  I'm sure this time at the lake will help.  

All Star  - I'm really good at taking on challenges.  I talk about the challenges I face to help me gather feedback, vent about things that are not going well, reflect about things constantly and try and try again.  Staying the same is frightening to me.  Change is an opportunity to improve.  

It feels so good to be "off the hamster wheel" for a bit.  Make time to relax and enjoy your family and friends today!

Please visit Farley to read about what others are currently doing!  Thank you, Farley, for hosting!  You will have a great time in Vegas!  I'll pray for you to be able to relax on the flight. :)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Currently...It's June!

It's June and it is time for Currently!
Hosted by Oh Boy 4th Grade as always.

I've been  doing a ton of reflecting lately.  This June is different from any other June I've experienced in the past 17 years.  Since I am working as an instructional coach this year, there are no children to say goodbye to, no memory books, no CD's of pictures to burn, no report cards, no field day, no ice cream sundae parties, no reading celebrations, no grandparent tea, no Camp Read A Lot, no students who will "miss me so much they don't want to get on the bus to go home" and no waving at the bus as they drive out of the parking lot.  Honestly, that part is kind of depressing.

Instead, I am up to my eyeballs in school improvement planning, summer work coordination, professional development planning and scheduling madness.  Do I like my new job?  Yes, because it brings new challenges each day and I actually like challenges.  I love my new team!  I enjoy having the opportunity to work with team members who are focused on change to make a great place even better. All that doesn't change the fact that I miss the little ones like crazy.

And currently...

Head over the visit Farley to read the word on the street for June!  If it's not your summer yet, it will be soon.  Time to recover, relax and recharge.  You deserve it!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Good Teacher, Bad Mom

Sometimes being a teacher makes you feel like a really bad mom.  At 4:15 this morning, I put my daughter on a bus to Toronto.  She is going on an overnight field trip with her 6th grade class.  Many of the moms I know from dance, soccer, church and baseball were there with clipboards ready to chaperone the trip.

My daughter was super excited about the trip and I'm excited for her to have this experience.  When we arrived at her school, I signed my daughter in, found her chaperone, snapped a picture of her and her friends and kissed her goodbye.  On my way out the door one of the moms who knows me said, "Kimberly, aren't you glad you don't have to do another field trip? Teachers probably dread field trips."  I said nothing.  Isn't that what you are supposed to do when you don't have anything nice to say?  I cried on the way home and sat in the dark on my front porch thinking about the truth.

The truth is that I have never been on a field trip for either of my own children.  Since I'm a teacher, I've taken hundreds of other children on field trips over the past 17 years.  I have only been able to go to 2 class parties for my own children.  As teacher, I've hosted several class parties each year for the students and families in my class.  My own kids don't ask me anymore if I can come on a field trip or to a special event that is hosted during the day, because I'm a teacher and they know I can't.

Since I am working as an instructional coach this year, I could have gone on this trip.  I have more leave days than I'll ever need to use.  My boss would certainly let me go since I am not directly responsible for students.  So, I volunteered when the chaperone forms came home.   I didn't get chosen.  The moms who held the clipboards this morning are the same moms who have been the volunteers on my daughter's field trips since Kindergarten.

Sometimes the chaperones send me pictures of my own kids on their field trips.  They almost always say something like, "Wish you were here"  or "Thought you might like this since you can never come".  While I'm grateful for the pictures that I can't take myself, it is still a reminder that being a good teacher sometimes makes me feel like a really bad mom.

My daughter won't know that I was upset on the way home today.  When my son wakes up I won't share it with him either.  I'll pretend I wasn't crying for an hour on the front porch and I will wait for my pictures.  I'll silently be the teacher mom who does not dread field trips with her students (for the record), but that wishes somehow I could enjoy all of these things with my own children too.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Chocolate Milk, Por Favor! Blog Tour and Giveaway!

Extra!  Extra! Read All About It!

My favorite author released her newest book, Chocolate Milk, Por Favor!

Maria Dismondy is an award winning author, a former teacher and a mom who writes books that empower others and encourage us to celebrate diversity.  I've known Maria for a few years and have had the pleasure of hearing her presentations several times in my school.  My own children have also been empowered by her message when she visited their schools.  She is a fabulous presenter and I can tell you from experience that her positive message sticks with children and adults.

I've read and enjoyed all of Maria's books in my classroom and at home with my own children. Her new book is the story of a two boys, Gabe and Johnny.  Gabe speaks a different language than the other students in his new school and Johnny struggles to accept Gabe at first.  Throughout the story, Johnny learns to celebrate diversity with empathy.  Chocolate milk plays role in the story as well!

Chocolate Milk, Por Favor! sparked conversations at our house about important topics like ways we can make people feel welcome, getting to know more about people to honor the differences among us, celebrating diversity instead of pretending we are all the same and having empathy for others.  In our family, we want our children to do more than accept others.  We want them to learn from each others differences, accept each other without the expectation that we should all be the same and encourage others to be the best they can be.  I tried to teach the same to the children in my classroom. Chocolate Milk, Por Favor! is a book that I will definitely be recommending to teachers and parents for years to come.

I have a great deal of respect for Maria Dismondy's work and the positive messages she shares.  I am honored that she asked me to create a reader's guide for Chocolate Milk, Por Favor!.   The reader's guide includes activities that are aligned with the common core standards (but will work with any standards) for teachers and parents to use as they enjoy the story together.  You can read more about this book (and her other books) and download the reader's guide for free on Maria's website by clicking on the image below.

As part of the blog tour, Maria is allowing me to giveaway a signed copy of Chocolate Milk, Por Favor! to one lucky winner!  The giveaway ends on April 11th at midnight.

Congratulations, Maria!

Another fabulous book!
Another powerful message!
Looking forward to filling our shelves and our hearts with more of your stories in the future!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Currently April

No joke - it's time for Currently!

I received a call toward the end of the day today saying my son got sick at school.  Poor thing!  I would much rather be sick myself. This time we are both sick with different things.

Our spring break begins on Friday.  We really, really need a week to slow down and disconnect  a bit for some family time.  I opened the windows the get rid of the germs today.  That's what we do when it hits 45 degrees in Michigan. Ha!

I need to pray more.  I'm not sure if it's because I went to a Catholic school or because I sometimes struggle to focus my attention, but I need total silence to pray.  A nun told me when I was little that you need to "be quiet, so the big guy can hear your prayers".  Total silence doesn't happen often enough, so I need to work on that.

Fingers crossed that my son feels better soon and that my daughter stays healthy.  In the meantime, I'm bringin' out my Windex!  (Hello - Windex Marketing Department, I am your biggest supporter!  It's time to contact me.)

I lost my voice last night.  It was nothing more than a whisper all day today.  I am pretty sure the folks I work with enjoyed the peaceful day.  However, this chatty gal is hoping to be able to talk again very soon.

Ha!  I decided on a name before I was sure I was going to start a blog. That was years ago...and now I work as an instructional coach.  I miss 1st grade and especially my students, but love the collaboration in my new position.  Changing the name of my blog seemed like too much work... so I didn't.

Head over to visit Farley to find out what the rest of the world is Currently doing!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Good Comprehension, But Not So Great Accuracy

There is one question that people ask me about teaching reading that is more frequent than any other question.  It actually usually starts out as a statement.

"He has great comprehension, but he makes lots of errors with word accuracy on the assessments."

Here are the steps I recommend for addressing this problem.

1.  Name It
Talk to the student about what you are noticing about his/her reading accuracy.  Name the problem by telling the student that you notice they are having difficulty with word accuracy.  As teachers, I think it is important for us to give purposeful feedback to students to help them improve.  I am definitely from the camp that believes that it is hard for students to improve something if they do not have specific feedback.

2. Explain It
Explain why word accuracy is important to the student.  Even though some students may have good comprehension with decreased word accuracy at first, their comprehension will likely decrease when they encounter more complex texts in the future.

Some struggling readers are used to being challenged by word accuracy.  They constantly need to use strategies to decode words.  Around 3rd and 4th grade, the children who tend to struggle with word accuracy are often those who had no trouble learning to read in previous grades.  These are the children who did not necessarily have to use strategies at first. Words just came easy to them and when they begin to encounter multisyllabic words in 3rd and 4th grade, they have difficulty decoding the words.  They often tend to only focus on the beginning portion of the word.

3. Check for Discrimination
It is important to determine whether or not the student can discriminate when someone else makes errors as they read.  If they can't tell when someone else makes an error, then it will be hard for them to self correct their own errors.

To work on this, I give the student a copy of a book at their level and I read a few paragraphs  (or pages if the text is short) from another copy of the same book.  I ask the student to track the print and either knock on the table or ding a bell (just because that is more engaging) every time they "catch Mrs. Gillow" reading a word incorrectly.  Taking the focus off the reader, but asking them to focus on my reading accuracy helps me determine if they are able to discriminate the correct vs. incorrect words that I read.

I practice this for the first few minutes each day during small group instruction with students who have good comprehension, but reduced word accuracy.  Then I simply remind them about the importance of word accuracy and continue on with their small group instruction for the day.

4.  Reverse Roles
Once I know the student can discriminate word accuracy in someone else's reading, I reverse the roles and practice the same routine with the student doing the reading and me knocking quietly on the table.  Competitive students often beg me to ding the bell, but I only use the bell if the student requests it.

5.  Try Tracking 
Over the years, the single most effective strategy that my readers have used to improve their word accuracy is tracking the print.  I encourage my students to use their finger (since it's always with them).  From time to time, I give students a color overlay bookmark to help them track the print.

I disagree with the folks who have recently recommended that students should stop tracking print at level D.  As an adult, I sometimes track my print to help focus my attention.  If it works, you are never too old to track the print.

Now off to walk my doodles!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March Currently

March - what?!?  How did that happen?

March is an exciting month at our house!  Here is what is happening...

It seems like every month when I finally have time to sit down to work on my currently post someone is snoring by my side.  This time it is Kalli, my youngest goldendoodle.  She is 4 years old and sleeps on my feet every single night.

March is birthday month at our house and it is full of family fun!  Within the next two weeks, we will celebrate my son's birthday, my daughter's birthday and my husband's birthday (and his twin's birthday). His twin does not live with us (anymore). Ha!

In January, my husband and I did Whole30.  At first, Whole30 was something that I figured I might as well try because nothing else seemed to work.  Now, I am a firm believer in the benefits.  It really worked and we are still eating about 90% clean as a result.

Between my new job, lost of presentations, grad school, baseball, soccer, dance and a few big projects that I'm working on...I'm looking forward to crossing a few things off my list this month.

It's been extremely cold in Michigan.  I actually like winter, but I am looking forward to the days when I can take a nice long run with sunshine and warmer temps.

We're staying local this spring break for the most part.  I am planning a visit to the Vera Bradley outlet sale with my mom and my daughter.  Other than that, we're staying here to take care of something top secret.  I'm one of those people who thinks it is a bad idea to announce big things...just in case something doesn't work out in the end.  I am hoping to be able to share more in April.

Now, I really need to go to bed.  Looking forward to reading through the Currently posts as always.

Head over to Farley's blog to check out the party!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Finding the Good in Assessment

With the temperature at -26 degrees (and a windchill even lower) my district had "cold" weather days for the past two days.  Our instructional support team (which I am now part of as an instructional coach) braved the cold to attend the annual Michigan Assessment Conference.  The conference covered the changing face of state assessments, common assessments, formative assessments and growth models.

A new teacher in one of the sessions I attended told me that she was shocked to learn that assessment can be useful to teachers.  I was shocked by that statement, at first.  Then came the realization that in general the majority of our new teachers are coming out of teacher prep programs with a negative feeling about assessment.

Since I doubt our state governments or the federal government are going to ease up on testing anytime soon, I choose to accept whatever useful information the results give me to improve instruction and ignore the negativity.

It would be sad to me if the negative press around testing prevented our teachers from opening their minds to using formative assessments in their classrooms.  The information we gather about student learning from formative assessments can and should be used to guide our instruction.  As teachers we need to do everything we can to work smarter. Working smarter maximizes student progress and that progress is faster when we've developed clear learning targets based on assessment.

 As a teacher, I often thought about why the nuns always gave me a pre-test and a post-test in elementary school.  Turns out that even "back in the day" they were working toward specific learning targets.   I sure wish they would have told me what the learning targets were...but that is another post.

By comparing formative assessment results and summative assessment results, we can identify student learning trends and adjust our instruction in ways that address the real student learning problems.

There are two purposes of assessment: enhancing student learning (ex. formative assessments) and verifying achievement (summative assessments).  In my mind, this kind of eases some of the negativity.  The tests that are being required by so many states are simply a snapshot in time that help us identify student learning trends.  Based on those trends, we can do additional assessments to help us identify the student learning problems and adjust our instruction accordingly.

from Improve Assessment Literacy Outside of Schools Too  by Rick Stiggins

If you look hard enough, you can find the good in anything.  Assessment can be powerful and so can the way we use it to improve our instruction and student learning.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Why Do You Love Teaching?

Our state department of education is encouraging teachers to share what we love about teaching this week.  Please consider sharing what you love about teaching too!  If you have a blog you can post about it there, share it on Instagram, tweet it or post about it on Facebook.

The number one reason I love teaching is!
When your day is filled with this kind of enthusiasm, it is hard not to love your job.
It is easy to feel lucky.
It is easy to feel loved.
It is easy to feel like you have a chance to make a difference.

Education is a gift.
We give and receive the gift of learning each day as teachers.

Since I started a new job as an instructional coach this year, 
I am able to collaborate with  teachers about instruction and student learning every single day.

working together = more brain power = increased learning for adults and kids

Not gonna lie. I also love organizing things, which is a constant process for this teacher.

As a teacher, my world is full of words.  Some people love numbers. I love words.

As a teacher, I can share my love of schedules with students (and now teachers).

 "Is that lady reading a book in her kayak in the middle of the lake?"
It's easy for my family to explain - "She's a teacher. She has a book with her everywhere she goes."

Another reason to love being a teacher...
you get to purchase a back to school outfit and an open house outfit.
(My personal stylist from Stitch Fix chose these for me.)

When you are a teacher, your days and your life (and your goal spreadsheet) are filled with...

This year, I am part of the Instructional Support Team in my Dexter.  
I love my new team!
I am learning so much from each of the talented members of our team.  
One is a data expert, one is a technology expert and one is the dynamic leader of our team.
I love teaching because now I have this opportunity to learn from my team.
Together we are excited, challenged in a positive way
 and on a mission to be as supportive as possible.

There is so much for teachers to celebrate at the end of each year!

And...still we feel like this when someone says that summer is almost over.

Then...the backpacks fill up. 
Buses arrive.
The bell rings.
We welcome back the little ones 
who count on us to LOVE teaching 
and LOVE each of them 
as we learn together.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

March is Reading Month Themes

February is the time to do 2 important things.

Eat chocolate and prepare for March is Reading Month, right?

Two of my favorite themes to do with my students for March is Reading month were the Information Highway, which my whole school did last year. I made this Information Highway unit to guide my students through a month of focusing on informational text.

Here are a few pictures from our month long journey on the Information Highway.

My all time favorite March is reading month theme is Camp Read a Lot!
It was a student (and parent) favorite as well.  I liked it so much that last year I did the Information Highway theme for the whole month and we still visited Camp Read a Lot for a week.  Over the last couple years, many teachers have sent me pictures of my Camp Read a Lot unit being used as an end of the year unit as well.

Back to the grad school assignment that I've been avoiding while I watch Downton Abbey.

Have a great week!