Friday, July 29, 2016

Building Transference: From Short Films to Independent Reading

After providing Professional Learning (Building Transference: From Short Films to Independent Reading) for teachers across our district recently, some participants have asked for links to the short film used in the presentation as well as other short films that might be powerful for students.  Check out some options below!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Falling in Love with Reading All Over Again

I am excited to announce Bonnie Vest as a guest blogger!  Bonnie and I have had numerous conversations about our own reading lives and now I would like to share part of her journey.


I graduated from Berry College in 1990.  I began my career teaching kindergarten and taught until my children were born.  Once they were older, I went back to school and returned to teaching kindergarten.  Moving due to my husband’s job, my next venture was with second grade and then eventually with special education.  The last three years, I have taught 5th grade.  No matter the grade, the goal and the needs are the same.  Our students, more than anything, need to know that someone is in their corner.

What is your background/history as a reader?

As a child, I did not read much. We always read out of the reading book at school. I loved when we would come to a play but other than that, I had better things to do. What I considered reading, my mother did not. I loved to read how to books and comic books but my mother did not consider that reading.  She would choose the book for me to read and sit next to me watching and tell me when to actually turn the page. No, I am not kidding. The summer between 5th and 6th grade, I discovered Judy Blume’s, Are you there God? It’s Me Margaret. I remember reading all day and not putting it down. I felt like she was reading my mind as I read. Never did I know you could relate to the written word.  As the years went by and continued through school I hated reading anything assigned but loved choosing my own books. Of course, I learned to read to make the grades J.  In college, I had to take Literature for Teachers. Our main assignment was reading as many children’s books as we could and write about them. I loved reading all the picture books and children’s literature I could get my hands on. It was so amazing to read these books and relive my childhood. I never knew most of them existed!

Where are you now as a reader?

I am making up for lost time! In addition to every picture books for every occasion, I have been reading all the upper elementary literature I can get my hands on! These kids are so lucky to have such great books out there to read! TV use to be my end of the day relaxation but that has been replaced with the latest great book I have picked up. My family laughs at me as I tell them about the characters and which student would like the book.

How has your reading life impacted your instruction this year?

My students and I talk about books every day. We discuss characters, plot and setting through casual conversation, not the random worksheet. As I read, I think about my students and what they are living through. As I choose books, I have them in mind. I have also stopped myself from doing what I hated as a kid. They are able to read whatever they choose. I have kids who love how to books, dinosaur books, graphic novels and the list continues. The joy on their faces and the growth that has taken place in their ability makes every day worth it.

Monday, February 29, 2016

March Book Madness 2016

Inspired by Tony Keefer's Nerdy Book Club Post on March Book Madness, we are starting our own!

First Round Results


Second Round Results

The Championship

Thank You Video!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Can a Children's Book Change the World?

Without a doubt, I have become a stronger, better-equipped educator as a result of the Professional Learning Network (PLN) I have been able to develop over the last six years.  Recently, as a result of my PLN, I came across Linda Sue Park's TEDx Talk addressing the question, "Can a Children's Book Change the World?"

I consider myself so blessed to be in a position where we can truly impact a community through the decisions we make at our school; a school that some outsiders consider "a tough place to teach" and the incredible insiders who pour their hearts into their professions consider "a place that is exactly where we are meant to be."

Linda Sue Park wraps up her Tedx Talk with "Can a children's book save the world?  No, but the young people who read them can."

I only have to go back to this past week to provide multiple examples to support her final statement; like when a young man in 5th grade was talking to a 4th grade counterpart about Tim Green's Unstoppable and said something along the lines of "Be careful when you get to the end of Chapter 4.  You might cry."  

Linda Sue Park continues with, "Two crucial pathways are being laid down.  The first in their brains.  Reading for practice at life.  The second, in their lives.  Empathy igniting engagement."

It's a little difficult to read, but on Friday, I received a letter from a student who is really enjoying Sharon Draper's Out of my Mind.  If you are not familiar with this story (it is one of my all-time favorites), Melody is young lady with cerebral palsy who isn't given much credit for being the intelligent young lady that she is.  Below, is a piece of the letter I received from Emani.

"It's just horrid (speaking of how Melody was being treated) and after I read the first chapter I felt like I had to do something about all the people that have disorders.  Like I could find a cure or do anything to make their life any better than it already is."

My response to Emani is below.

After Emani had a chance to read my response, we spoke about the action she could take to lift up others.  We pulled Rubi into the conversation as well (as she had read Out of my Mind earlier in the year).  I shared with them that I had spoken with one of our teachers who works with students with mild intellectual disabilities in a self-contained classroom and that she was eager to have some volunteers to work with her students.

Emani and Rubi, 5th graders, are now volunteering their time (during lunch) once a week to serve others.  I've spoken with a 4th grade teacher who is currently using Out of my Mind as her Extended Text and she's already planning on planting the seed with Masiah and another young man to see if they would like to do the same.

So, back to Linda Sue Park's question, "Can a children's book save the world?  No, but the young people who read them can."  I couldn't agree more, Ms. Park.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Title Talk Speed Dating

Our school hosted our first Title Talk Speed Dating event today during each of our grade level planning periods because we very much believe that we, as teachers, must be excited about books and reading in order for our students to be excited.  We are our students' reading mentors and must model a literate life which includes being familiar with children's literature so that we are well-equipped to match readers to books that they will not be able to put down!

We started with some decorations and an organizer so our teachers could track titles and jot down notes about specific titles (we may have also had Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" playing as teachers entered the Media Center).

We are very fortunate to have a principal who understands the importance of independent reading (with support) and trusts that this is the best and only way to grow readers.

Our incredible Media Specialist pulled a wide variety of titles from our Media Center shelves so that teachers could immediately check out titles and take them back to their rooms.

As we continue to make building our classroom libraries a priority, we were able to give 2nd and 3rd grade teachers the books we had purchased for them (this had been done previously with other grade levels and will continue in the future as funds allow)!

It's exciting to think about the impact that something like this will have on our students!  We heard great conversations among teachers, wonderful ideas about bringing students into the Media Center so they could "Speed Date" with books, and even "caught" a 3rd grade classroom implementing Speed Dating into their Reading Workshop this afternoon!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sharing My Reading Life

I have been reminded of the importance of living a literate life and sharing that life with our students multiple times in the past month.  While this has been something I feel as though I have modeled the majority of my career in education, different roles in my career have changed how I go about this and how I work to grow others to also be the lead literacy learners that our students deserve to have in their lives.

(The two largest reminders in the past month have come from Lucy Calkins and one of her eight essentials to reading instruction ("Learners need teachers who demonstrate what it means to live richly literate lives, wearing a love of reading on our sleeves.") while the other came from Donalyn Miller's blog post, Getting on the Bus.)

On this final day of the first month of 2016, I'd like to share the commitment I have made to reading this year and the progress I am making towards that goal.  My goal this year is to read 100 books and with 25 under my belt in the first month I am 1/4 of my way to my goal while only being 1/12 through the calendar year (see, I dabble in math a little bit as well!).

Check out the graphic below to see the books I have completed in January 2016.

Feel free to check out my Goodreads page to learn more about how I rated the books I have read thus far.  Now, back to my current book!