Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I'm Thinking...

This week I'm in another class...this time, a great one!  In fact, my brain has been spinning a bit from all the new ideas.  Tiffany from the Teacher's College of Columbia University has been leading me and my colleagues in a week of reading workshop instruction.
Since it's already been a full two days, I'll give you my quick top 5 take-aways:

1. Especially in a district like mine, kiddos have access to lots of other things to fill their time- video games, sports, TV, technology, etc.  They need to see WHY reading deserves to be a part of their already full life.  It's our job to convince them AND their parents.

2. To grow as readers students need 3 main things: time to immerse themselves in reading, access to a variety of texts at a variety of levels, and to a knowledgeable teacher who is inextricably tied to the learning process.

3. Get kids on problem solving.  If coming to the carpet is taking too long or partners are disengaged or post-its are disappearing too quickly, have the class help solve these issues.  This creates ownership and responsibility.

4. Celebrate small victories and the close approximations.  It's a part of the learning process.

Pinned Image

5. From my brilliant colleague Jen came a metaphor I'm eager to share with students this year in regards to the first unit of reading workshop.  Sweet Jen said that launching reading workshop is like the Olympics opening ceremonies.  It is a preview of where we're going and a celebration of the learning ahead.

(I had to share that one as I watch the US women dominate gymnastics!  USA!  USA!  I'll share another Olympic connection I came up with soon!)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Back to School

Yesterday I made my first trip up to school to set-up my classroom.  This are my "before" shots....lots of boxes and items stacked anywhere I could find.

But after about five hours and some great Olympics in the background, this is what it's looking like.  It's starting to look like a place where learning is going to happen.  There are still a few more projects I have in mind, but kiddos could walk in tomorrow and it would be okay. 

"Cafe" board/ command center

A new welcome sign I made over the summer

"iRead" board with old headphones

I'm thankful that I still have a few weeks left, but it's good to have a great start on preparation for next year.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Class Energizer

This week I'm taking a class on the history of American wars. It's been a lot of interesting content, but a little lacking in the classroom applications.

Today our presenter shared an idea totally unrelated to history, but brilliant as a management idea. He shared that when he assigns the typical class jobs we're used to (attendance, lunch bins, etc.), he also gives the job "Class Energizer." This person is in charge of coming up with a quick activity when energy is low (like it happened to be today in our afternoon lecture session). It could be jumping jacks, a song, cheer, or whatever else this energetic kiddo can come up with. Our presenter said he had a student in the past he referred to as Jillian Michaels that loved giving out physical challenges.

I know some of my former students who would have ROCKED this job. I'm looking forward to adding it for this coming year.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

I spent last week in northwestern Massachusetts.  I love the area for many reasons, mostly because there are so many great events and museums.  We enjoyed a trip to the Williams Theatre Festival, the Clark Museum, Tanglewood (summer home of the Boston Pops Orchestra), street fairs, and more.

One of the highlights every year is the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.  It's a lovely little museum dedicated to the beauty of books. 

This year there was a great exhibit titled, "The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats."  I remember reading The Snowy Day when I was very young.  But I never realized how influential and pioneering this book was. 

The exhibit did a fascinating job telling about how ground-breaking this Caldecott-winner was.  The Snowy Day was the first full-color picture book put out by a major publisher featuring an African-American child as the protagonist.  And not only that, but as Keats pointed out, "My book would have him there simply because he should have been there all along,”   (more info here).  Keats was not putting his main character, Peter, there to prove anything, he was just a boy exploring a snow-covered city.

 Not only are the galleries of this museum wonderful, but there is a charming studio where kids can work on Carle-esque collages and drawings.  And to top it all off, the gift shop is a wonderfully dangerous place.  Imagine all the best books for kids in one room... I have yet to make it out of there with less than four new books.

This year I picked up Jennie's Hat by Mr. Keats, This is the Dream by Diane Shore & Jessica Alexander, Women of Hope: African Americans Who Made A Difference by Joyce Hansen, and a surprise gift for a friend.  I also bought some Very Hungry Caterpillar-inspired borders and name plates.  I can't wait to incorporate them into some fresh classroom decor (okay...maybe I can wait a few weeks still!).

One of these years I hope to stop by when Eric is in the building.  What a nugget.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wordsmith Workout

I am officially addicted to "Words with Friends." It's a great way to keep up with family and friends and I just managed another win over uber-talented sister. Mostly, it gets me excited about words. 

I am thrilled to share this excitement with my students thanks to a grant I wrote with two other teachers. As part of our "Wordsmith Workout" grant, we were lucky to get THREE carts full of word games to use in our classrooms--Balderdash, Bananagrams, Boggle, Upwords, Scrabble Flash, and Scrabble. Of course, we threw in the official Scrabble dictionaries, too.

ATP ("Awesome Teaching Partner") and I are excited for all the ways these games can be used next year to provoke friendly competition and an excitement for language.

Did you know there is an official foundation called The School Scrabble Association? They have awesome lesson plans, bulletin board ideas, and other classroom resources. There's a great article here that explains all the benefits of word games on learning. We can't wait to use some of these next year and I promise to share the results and fun that ensues.

Wouldn't ATP look great in this?!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Those Fun Teachers

As I mentioned last week, I had some really great teachers growing up.   There were those who really challenged me, those who encouraged, and those who made me see how creative teaching and learning could be.  Then there were those who, in addition to the qualities above, were also hilarious. 

One of those teachers was Mrs. Pam Hayes.  I remember watching her daughter's home videos from Christmas morning.  I remember her having us act out Julius Caesar by running on yard sticks for our sword.  One day we even watched "Family Feud."  Just because.  Basically, she was meant to teach HS juniors.

She was similarly humorous when I entered the teaching profession.  Below are selections from an email exchange I came up recently and just had to share.  It reminds me how thankful I am to those educators who not only do a great job teaching their students, but also have a great deal of fun along the way.  I strive to be one of them!

Hey, Mrs. Hayes!
I have been in the field all day this week (and next, too). Long hours you teachers have. I went to my very first waste-of-time teacher inservice on weds too! ha ha. Tomorrow I teach my very first self-planned lesson! Yay! Let's hope it goes well!

Take care!

You may have already taught your lesson, but I've been sending very positive vibes your way all morning. Hope they reached you in time. On my first day, I allowed a 7th grade girl go to the bathroom and she set the garbage can on fire. The entire school had to evacuate. True story. Jones Jr. High on the east side of Toledo.  1996. Yes, the newspaper even wrote about it. Luckily, my name wasn't mentioned or else I'd sweeping floors in schools, not teaching in them.

If you didn't have fire trucks, your first day was better than mine.
Stay in touch.

P Hayes

Your letter cracked me up! That is a great first day story! Things have been busy as usual. I am back in the field again, this time with 8th graders. Man, they are a tough crowd! I taught a Ray Bradbury story today (good guy, but man, he is out there enough anyway...) and it went okay... the kids got it at least and were participating. It is just amazing the difference between 10-year-olds and 13-year-olds... wow. I got almost no reactions out of this group. I would just look at them and think, "Do they get it?" "Are they bored?" "Confused?" They just stare at you... oh man. Anyway, I guess it's good to know that I favor the younger ones.

Overall, the semester is still going well. Though I have a busy course load, I love my classes. I feel like they are starting to get practical. Which is also scary to realize that I actually am going to be a teacher someday and not just always taking classes on it. Eek! When did this all happen? I feel funny having authority over 13-year-olds as I don't feel all that separated from them myself.
Take care!

"Can I go to the bathroom?"
"I don't know. CAN you?" (If you are guilty of saying this, you are officially an English teacher.)

Amy, it's always great to hear from you. I appreciate all of your updates. Let me give you a bit of advice. When students collectively give you the blank stare with mouths half open...When their eyes glaze over and don't blink...well, they can only be thinking one thing: "Wow, she is SOOOO hot! I want to be just like her when I grow up. How do I get a detention? I think I need private tutoring. I haven't heard a word that she's said. Is it time to go already?" etc. etc. You get the idea. Trust me, I get this all the time.

Got essays staring at me!! Have to run. Keep me posted.
P. Hayes

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What are You Reading?

This week I'm wrapping up my grammar class.  It's been fun, but I'm also excited to have a *tad* more free time on my hands (Did I mention I'm still taking three more classes this summer?!  Ha!).

This means I' ve been reading!  So far this week I've finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, Moneyball by Michael Lewis, and The Willoughbys, by Lois Lowry. 

I loved all of them, for completely different reasons.  Henrietta is a great nonfiction narrative about the first living cells taken from a woman without her knowledge in the 1950s.  Skloot does a brilliant job of weaving together history, medicine, science, and human interest.  Moneyball kept this girl who knows little about baseball totally engaged.  I still haven't seen the movie, but I'm hoping to soon. 
And The Willoughbys.  Do yourself a favor and get this from the library soon.  I actually listened to the book on tape (still counts, right?), which I also highly recommend.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but I love anything by Lois Lowry.  It's sort of a pseudo-Series of Unfortunate Events tale (with more likable characters).  It's charming and lovely and very quotable.  I need more people to quote it to in my life...so get on it, won't you!?

Now I'm onto Insurgent, by Veronica Roth.  Have you heard of her series Divergent?  It's supposedly the "new Hunger Games."  So far I'm not totally convinced, but it's a great distopian concept with some pretty decent writing.  I'll keep you posted.  Work friend told me this one is better than the first.

What have you been reading this summer?  Anything that's surprised you?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Grammar Ninja

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have spent six weeks of this summer co-teaching a graduate course on grammar instruction and writing.  To say the least, it's been amusing watching people's facial expressions when I tell them the subject of the course.  Most look at me like I'm crazy, some visibly shudder, a few look as if they're replaying anything they may have just said incorrectly during the first part of our conversation.  But a special few get really excited.  They tell me how much they love grammar.  And then we swoon over it together.

In fact, I have a refrigerator magnet declaring my nerd-love of grammar.  It was a gift from my aunt and uncle and says, "Grammar Ninja: Ruthless, Deadly, Articulate."  I think grammar appeals to the part of my brain that likes order, organization, and math.  It’s logic meets language—what a wonderful combination.

If you're looking for the best professional text on the subject, check out Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson.  It's sure to shake you of any traditional views of grammar instruction and put your beliefs solidly in the power of grammar in the context of writing.  This text has been the focus of my grad class and has been the touchstone of my own grammar instruction for the last several years.  I promise to share more tidbits from it this coming school year and I roll out my own adaptation of J. Anderson on fifth graders.

For now, here are two lovely grammar sources for your Tuesday reading pleasure.  One comes from NY Times writer John McWhorter.  This witty article "A Matter of Fashion" explains how culture and time influence what is considered "correct."   San Marco Says is the blog of my talented co-teacher, Mike San Marco, who teaches 8th grade English in the Kings District.  It has been my pleasure working with him and learning alongside him this summer.

Monday, July 16, 2012

What is Your Motivation? (finale)

I have one last installment of "What is Your Motivation" for you, including one by one of my most favorite teachers of all time.

From Mrs. J., my 5th grade Language Arts/ Social Studies teacher:
How do I get my energy?   In my case, the boundless energy of the kids gives me the energy I need. It's the extra things I do with them that also keeps me going—Movie Team, Tech Team, the fun stuff at the end of the day!  That way I get to know them on a non-school level, and that makes me understand each situation a little better. 

Believe me....there ARE days that I want to say, "Forget this, I'll be a greeter at Meijer’s," but not too many. Plus, if you can find one person you can use as a confidante with your questions, problems, etc., it really helps.  My teaching partner is mine. I know that what I say won't go beyond her, and I think she knows the same of me.

From Mrs. M., my 11th grade English/Spanish teacher:
As to what keeps me going each day... (Sometimes I wonder!  This morning I am trying to discuss 3 chapters of "Huck" with a class that clearly hasn't read ANY of it!)  But most days I spend a good portion of my time laughing and just enjoying the students.  I also love the subject matter - great books and speaking Spanish.  I also think that it helps me to think of it all as a calling.  Teaching has never been a job to me; I've always thought it was what I was supposed to do.  (I AM a product of my Presbyterian upbringing!)

From Mrs. D., 12th grade Math:
What keeps me going?  I thrive on the few students who let me know how much they've grown.  I hear from a 6-12 students a year that I had the previous year and they are a big boost.  Success on the AP exam, the light bulbs I see go on...I love these things.  Laughing with the students...all very cool.  When I get tired of someone asking for help on something I think they should get, I turn toward the board, roll my eyes, answer the question, and turn back around with a smile.  Honestly, summer is also a huge motivation for me.  At times I think, can I do this for 15 more years?  Then I try to imagine working in June, July, August or working until 6 PM...yuck! 

From Mr. D., English/ HS Yearbook Advisor:
Eight weeks, eh?  Heck, the next 35 years will just fly right by, as my 14 years have.

As you know, we at the HS don't begin anew every year, but every 12 weeks.  So what I find essential is to sap any enthusiasm and reason to live with a well-targeted sarcastic zinger. Students will then realize their minuscule significance in the vast educational machine, and cower in fear of another remark; the remainder of the trimester is smooth as silk.  Works for me anyhow...

If that doesn't interest you, I've always found that a fun yet enlightening lesson is not only necessary for student attention, learning, etc., but also is energizing for me.  Students can detect if you like your job, are having fun, and want to be there; they'll return the enthusiasm in kind. (Coffee in the morning, alcohol at night helps too.)

And, of course, make sure your sweater is properly tied around your shoulders; the kids can be brutal reminders of any fashion faux pas.

From Beth S., Bowling Green University Art Education Professor & my mom
It is exactly the moments like this- when a student tells you what impact you made that keeps you going.  Today I looked at one of my student teachers after our seminar on interviewing and asked how she was feeling.  She said each of these seminars gets her a step closer to understanding what she needs to do.  It was a genuine, heartfelt affirmation of the course and schedule I have designed.

*I think my main take-away from sharing these is realizing how blessed I was with MANY fantastic teachers.  I guess partly I do it as a "thank you" to them!

And thank YOU for being a part of my first official week of blogging.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What is Your Motivation? (pt 2)

I hope you enjoyed those little nuggets of wisdom in part one.  Here are a few more:

From Mr. S., 8th grade Social Studies:

Here are some tips on my approach to teaching.  First, students do not care what you know until they know that you care.  This one huge!  Students can have fun and learn at the same time, provide as many opportunities for fun as you can.  Laughter always works.  Make yourself the target and show them you have good self esteem.  Take time to find out what they do outside of school.  Ask them to share weekend highlights. 

Always keep in mind that people learn in different ways (visual, auditory, by doing, puzzles/mysteries, reading, music, working in groups/pairs, etc.).  Keep mixing these up each lesson.  History provides you opportunities to work in stories, video, music, food, role-playing art, primary sources, etc.  Use it all.  For instance, when we discuss Triangular Trade and the shipping of molasses, I bring in Archway molasses cookies for everyone to sample.  For many, it's the first time they've tried them.  You can never have a bad day when there is food involved.

Call on kids who do not raise their hand so that all are paying attention and participating.  Go to their activities and promote those activities in class (plays, sports, band stuff, science fairs, etc.).

Try to make each kid a winner or a hero.  I had a student who asked me if he could show me a magic trick last week.  It was a great one!  We stopped the last 5 minutes of class, everyone gathered around and he did it for all to see.  I'm going to take part of day before X-mas and he's going to do a small magic show for the class as a "Christmas gift" for me.  Anytime you can find reasons to give out positive reinforcement (treats, pencils, positive notes, etc.) . . . do it!  Look for ways to reinforce the especially needy kids. 

Let them see how much you love and enjoy what you do.  I tell them I'm so lucky I get paid to do my hobby (history)!  Each day you get a new chance to make a difference in kid's lives.

From Mrs. C., 12th grade English:
So...how do we do it? Sometimes, I honestly don't know.  I was talking to another teacher the morning before the first day of school and we were discussing how we were nervous.  I know that seems silly--17 years at this and I still get nervous.  Nonetheless, it's true.  When I'm having a hard time, I pray--a lot!

I also try to remember that I am interacting with someone who is precious to their family and unique.  I always try to look for the good in kids, no matter how hard that may seem.  I always ask myself--how would I want someone else treating my own kids.

In terms of planning lessons for class, if I'm bored with my teaching, students are surely bored.  I look for lessons everywhere, and I try to keep things fresh.  Sometimes easier said than done.

My hardest times teaching are when I am facing personal trials.  In some way, teaching can really be an escape for me.  I can lose myself in Macbeth, but sometimes, if a class isn't cooperative, it makes things even worse.  So there's the long answer.  I think you need to see teaching as a calling and not a career.

From Mrs. T., Middle School Guidance Counselor:
I do remember being so exhausted while I was student teaching that it was sometimes hard to make sense of everything or anything.   Often the rewards are waaaaaay down the road so to speak when you see what a difference you’ve made for the children.    Sometimes finding that special perk - for me it was coaching and being an advisor to clubs etc.  that helped make a difference.    Everyday was something new - sometimes good, sometimes not so good, but rarely boring.  Okay, reading the same story 5 times a day or grading 125 horrendous book reports was a bit of a bummer but you do make a difference.    I ran into a former student from my first year not too long ago.  She is grown, married, has kids, etc and she told me I had made a difference just by telling her she really should go to college if it was at all possible yada yada yada and she did and has done really well in her business and professional life.   Truthfully, I don’t remember telling her anything specific way back then but she seems to think I made a difference and I am very thankful for that.  It seems these last couple years I have had more and more children of former students and it is always amazing to hear their recollections.

I remember always being a little bit "out there" trying new things,  (I actually wore a gorilla mask for Halloween and read a scary story to 6th graders.)  I found if I really liked what we were doing it seemed to carry over with the kids - I've always loved Romeo and Juliet / West Side Story and I think I made Shakespeare okay for a lot of the kids just because of my own enthusiasm for it.     Find what you like best, be dramatic about it, the kids will catch it.  Go outside the box.  And share.  While older teachers may have the experience to deal with a variety of situations they still are looking for new and meaningful ways to get to the students.   We are all looking at this new generation of kids and wishing we had more answers for how to reach them.  

It is always amazing to see how even the tough kids react to their former teachers.  You will have a special bond with this class you have now that will carry on for years and years.    

Happy Sunday!

Friday, July 13, 2012

What is Your Motivation?

When I was student teaching I had one of those moments where I thought, "HOW does anyone do this for a living?"  Some days are just so long and it's hard to see the fruit of our labors.  To be clear, I had a wonderful student teaching experience and learned from one of the best in the biz.  My mentor, henceforth known as "Mamasita," has been teaching for 34 years, all in my district.  I'm blessed to have worked with and learned alongside her for a few of those years. 

Loveliness aside...when we have these moments as teachers, when we fantasize about having any job but our own, what do we do?  I asked this question of some of my favorite former teachers and got some powerful advice that I've still held onto and now will share with you in a few installments.  I hope you enjoy part one:

So here's the question to you...I've been teaching 8 weeks so far.  You all have much more experience and wisdom.  So how do you keep yourself going EVERYDAY?  What is your motivation? How do you look out at those faces, smile back and begin your lesson?  How do you start each new year with a new group and just jump right in? 

From Mr. S, 7th grade Social Studies & one of my early field mentors:
Somedays it is coffee
Somedays the fact that it is a Friday. Or better yet the day before Christmas Break. Or even better the last day of school!!!
Somedays I am just happy and nothing can change that.
Sometimes I might be having a bad day so you give make-up work and watch a movie or just give them a worksheet that you copied and muddle through.
Somedays you bribe them with candy (seems to work for all of the US to some extent) or some other treat.
Sometimes it all works out on its own.
Often you are thankful for a decent job that puts money in your pocket and allows for advancement.
More often you feel like you are really helping the world (especially since all your friends make twice as much as you selling widgets or something else worthless to the good of the world.)
Somedays you pray for strength (OK, MOST days).
That is how I do it Amy, one day at a time.

From Mrs. R., my 10th grade English teacher:
When I was going through grades K-12 myself, I looked forward to school every day.  My home life was depressing.  My parents caused turmoil daily and school is where I found love, support, and encouragement.  Teachers and coaches became the role models that I wanted to emulate in my own future.  I was quiet and lacked confidence in my own abilities.  Secretly, I admired every teacher's patience, knowledge, and dedication.  Today, I'm on the other side of the desk. I know that some of my students are sad, some are hungry, some are in pain.  I try especially hard to make every one of them feel important, especially the wounded ones.  Trust me on this.  Even on the days that you really want to call in sick, you will say something or do something that will leave a positive impression on some kid.  And that should be all the motivation that you need.  I can't begin to explain how extremely rewarding my career choice has been for me.  I am so rich for having had thousands of students walk through my door over the last 18 years.  I have to fake a smile here and there, but my kids are counting on me as much as I'm counting on them.  That's what keeps me going.

From Claire S., early ed. Art teacher & one of my mom’s teaching mentors:
When things get crazy and you don't think you've reached a soul, find one person that DID pay attention (or got the lesson, or whatever) and remember that.  So, when you go home at the end of the day, keep that person in mind, instead of being dragged down by the others.  It really helps keep things positive.

From Mr. S., Superintendent of Maumee City Schools (and our great neighbor growing up):
Take it one day at a time, enjoy the students each day, spend the proper time in preparation, identify the teachers in the building who demonstrate the characteristics you aspire to as an educator, and spend time talking to them and learning from them.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Digging Up Buried Stories

Often students struggle to get past the brainstorming stage of writing, especially early in the year.  They get bogged down in thinking of interesting ideas and feel that nothing exciting has ever happened to them.  One of my favorite activities to help all writers, young and old, unleash potential stories is drawing a special place. 

Ralph Fletcher calls this activity "Digging Up Buried Stories."  As students go through the activity, they first draw the place (a tried and true vacation spot, their neighborhood, house, bedroom, or anywhere they know well).  This allows the chance to deeply think of the details of that place.  Next, we label our drawings.  Not just the actual place or object, but any memories of that specific place or object.  The best step is allowing students the chance to talk to a buddy about their drawing.  This is huge!  Letting students talk and ask questions encourages them to share stories they may not have even known they have to tell.  It validates their thinking and gets them excited to write. 

Last, of course, we write.  It could be a quick 5-10 minutes, or turn into a longer piece for those students who find something really great to continue working with.

In the spirit of modelling, here is my drawing that I share every year.  It's one of my favorite places in the world (and I'm gearing up to visit soon!)  It's tucked into the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts.  This place holds so much adventure, and culture, and nostalgia for me.  I'm eager to have another week here with my family to create new memories.

I'll share some writing this little drawing inspired soon! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New Directions

{Sister will love that I already worked a Glee reference into a post...even if it was slightly forced!}

I'm still working out a few things of what I think this blog should be.  Part inspiration, part rambling, perhaps?  I have lots of potential posts floating around but yet to take form.  So I'll start with what may be most helpful to you--a new resource for great ideas.  (You can thank me later.)

Today, while responding to students in my online grad class, I was introduced to lots of fantastic online resources.  (Isn't it nice when the students do the work for you!?)  One that I feel very fortunate to have been introduced to is a great collection of student anchor texts.  It's always a challenge to find samples of student work that feel like the right level for what I expect my students to produce, especially if it is my first time teaching a new genre.  I'm excited to have a new place to search for just the right mentors for my young writers.

Check out this little gem from Smekens Education Solutions, Inc.  Kristina Smekens has a great collection of videos, lesson plans, and resources that are all fresh, creative, and FREE!  Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer Goals

It's no secret that most teachers would say their favorite time of the year is summer.  It's a well-earned and well-deserved break from grading, parent emails, professional wardrobes, and 30-minute lunch breaks.  It's a time to relax and reenergize for the year ahead.

But with that freedom from normal work hours, there is also freedom to explore ways to improve my teaching for next year.  I like to think about my goals for the summer at the end of each school year.  This summer I wanted to start a blog.  I finally jumped on that one five weeks in.  (My Awesome Teaching Partner, henceforth known as "ATP," told me her summer goal was potty training her almost three-year-old.  It makes my goals sound a lot more fun.)  It's been a productive summer and yet still a great change of pace.  So what have I been up to this summer?  How am I doing on other goals? 

Here is the list:

1. Teach Grad class on Grammar Instruction. More on that later.

2. Read more.  I haven't been making as progress as I had hoped.  I've finished The Bell Bandit, by Jaqueline Davies (author of The Lemonade War), Divergent by Veronica Roth, and am currently reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  It's probably my favorite of the three and a great nonfiction read.

3. Read more professional texts.  Because of above grad class, I've been digging into Jeff Anderson's 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know and Janet Angelillo's A Fresh Approach to Teaching Punctuation.  Janet's work makes so much sense.  She works with the younger grades to teach very basic discovery lessons on punctuation, tone, and the rules of writing.  I'm going to be stealing a few things from her next year.

4. Attend Sycamore Literacy Conference.  ATP and I, among others, attended this professional development the first few days of our summer.  While I'm not sure any of us were that pumped going into the experience, I got so many good ideas out of it that you will be hearing about this coming year.  Most of all, I learned I have a crush on Chris Tovani.  She's amazing.  Her book So What They Really Know? is totally on my wish list.

5. Attend some other upcoming PDs you'll be hearing about: Columbia Writing Project Institute, Teach American History Summer Seminar, and a War of 1812 Institute.  Whew... who said this summer thing was a piece of cake?
6. Think about how to improve my vocabulary instruction for next year to make it more engaging.  I found this gem through one of the awesome teachers in my grammar class.  We'll be using this "Kick me Strategy" from Jody McCauley next year for sure.

7. Beat my sister in Words with Friends.  Does that count as a professional goal?  Because I did it last week!  She's tough competition.

Just to round it out... I've also:

8. Completed a month of boot camp.

9.  Babysat for 1.5 & 2.5 year girls while their parents were out of town for three days.  (I don't know how you mommas do it!)

10. Caught up with lots of lovely friends.

How has your summer been going?

Monday, July 9, 2012

La Luna

Have you seen Disney/Pixar's new movie "Brave?"  I was the solo girl in my group of friends who wasn't wild about the movie.  Cute, bouncy Disney princess with one or two good songs, but without much of a message.

BUT...I did LOVE the Pixar short that came right before the movie.  "La Luna" is an adorable wordless short film featuring a young boy who is working with his father and grandfather for the first time. 

Here is a 30 second preview.

The whole time I was watching, I was thinking what a great inferencing lesson this would make for my students.  It's such a magical little story full of lots of classroom potential.  Apparently, Pixar releases these gems from time to time in a volume of shorts.  Volume 1 came out in 2004 and is available at Amazon.  For now, I am tiding myself over with a picture book version.  I can't wait to use it.  I'll be sure to share the lesson when my room is full of students.


I had the happy blessing of growing up at the Toledo Art Museum.  Both my mom and grandfather taught there during my early years.  As a result, I spent countless hours with my sister wandering the galleries of Rembrandt, Cassatt, and the Egyptian mummies, trying not to get into too much trouble.   While I swerved a bit on the path to being an art teacher, I still try to honor this early education and add a little art and whimsy and joy to my teaching.

This blog will be my musings, my trials and errors, and hopefully some triumphs in my teaching life. "The Art of Teaching" reminds me that we never really have all the answers...that teaching is a journey and an art.

I've been pondering starting a blog for a few years now.  I've sometimes thought of it as narcissistic to assume that I have any thoughts that others want to read.  But any time I read someone else's blog, I never have that thought.  I love dropping in occasionally to catch up with a friend or hear what they've been cooking or where their travels have taken them.  So it seemed like time to share my thoughts. 

Welcome to my journey.  I'm glad you're here.