Tuesday, July 30, 2013

sols: what to write

Slice of Life hosted at the 

During the summer months, it would seem life would slow down and I would be tapping the keyboard for some inspiration.

Not true.

Life in the summer with active three year olds, and as a teacher that never wants to stop learning and reading, is FULL of stories.

So, for this slice, I could write . . .

*about the frustrating "nap time" that ended in no nap (and a bit of destruction in the bedroom when I left them for quiet time) yesterday with my three year old daughters.

*a letter to my girls about how much I love and adore them even when I'm angry or frustrated. (And then I read THIS and I am enough.)

*about learning how to balance being a mom and trying to still take care of ME

*about how I spend my time throughout the day and wonder how I can re-prioritize time first for God and myself.  (Thanks Pastor Tyler for the suggestion to just break the snooze button and just get up!)

*about learning from my three year olds on how to pick books at the library (perhaps a #NerdyBookClub post?!?)

*about not feeling ready to return to school yet, but I'll be ready when I need to be.

*about how I'm so far behind on my summer to-do list: still need to organize my school bins, photographs, delete emails.  Oh, and start that diet and exercising.

*about all the learning I'm trying to do with professional book reading and the somewhat addicting Twitter.  I took a break from Twitter during the March Slice of Life Challenge (can't do it all), but I am back to the learning and sharing this summer.

*about how I still need to finish reading the final #cyberPD reflections about the book Who Owns the Learning: Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age by Alan November, write a post about the #TeachersConnect idea, and carefully select picture books for the annual #pb10for10.

*about my new room set up.  (Oh, this reminds me I need to print the Staples rewards and shop!)

*about how much easier it is now that the girls are potty trained! (#celebrate!)

*about looking forward to serving as a school staff at Feed My Starving Children next week

So much to think about -- so much to write.
My life is full of SToRY . . . Just too little time.
Today I've sliced and captured some moments.
For right now, it's time to be a mom.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

sols: celebrate

Slice of Life hosted at the 

It's been almost two weeks.

Looking back, I can say it was pretty easy.  They were ready.

But I can't take all the credit.  "They" say not to rush or force the issue.

It started on the one day the girls went to school two weeks ago.  They were ready.

"Three other girls were starting, so I included your two girls.  Have you started at home?"

"Um, well, no. We've been busy traveling and lots of things going on and . . . "

My excuses poured out.  Are they ready now?

The next day we started.  It was the push I needed - fearing only the worst.

And we haven't looked back!

We talked about listening to our bodies.  Now they tell me when they are ready.

I can't believe I can say this:  My three year olds are potty trained!  (Almost) no more diapers.

They still need help and our schedule has changed.

Everything takes longer:  Before we leave:  Let's go to the bathroom and wash hands.

Arrive at destination:  Let's go to the bathroom and wash hands.

It's a treat to check out new bathrooms, but we fear those automatic flushers and LOUD dryers!

So, celebrate with us!  This is a HUGE milestone and accomplishment.

(A relief too.  No pun intended.)

It wasn't so bad -- when they are ready.

We are SO proud of our girls!

(And Momma and Dadda too!)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

#cyberPD Part 3: Who Owns the Learning?

This summer I am participating in the #cyberPD conversations about the book by Alan November titled Who Owns The Learning? Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read and share YOUR voice!

You can visit the conversations this week:

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"I think the process of education is collaboration. The idea of school should be collaboration and communication with people that are different from you and see the world with different eyesAlan November quoting Garth Holman (p.87)

My Thoughts and Reflections

Can I be honest with you?  I'm am SO relieved that the last two chapters were a "lighter" read.  Still full of great ideas and examples of incorporating digital learning into our classrooms, but my head is still spinning from last week's thoughts and posts and comments and tweets and very cool tech tools used to synthesize the ideas and learning.

You see, even though it's summer break, and I'm relieved of my daily school duties, I am officially a full-time mom of two three year olds.  And they are busy.  Always.  I am seriously more tired putting in a full day at home!  And I have less and less time to read, write, reflect, comment, and play around with very cool tech tools.  (Yes, I'm a little jealous, but I'll get over it and learn from you all for the time being!)

So, all that being said, I'm thrilled about the opportunities for our students to learn in learner-centered approach with a forward-thinking teacher.  The student as a global communicator and collaborator learns about empathy and understanding and appreciating other points of view:  "...we're in great danger if we're only listening to our own" November states (p.68).  I think this is where my learning is growing the most.  I tend to be a bit naive and trust what I hear or read.  I need to extend my thinking in all directions and see the BIG picture.  I need to question more.  As I grow in this area, I know that my students will begin to grow in this area as well.

Implications in My Classroom
November provides concrete examples in real classrooms and school of forward-thinking teachers.  Again, I'm not sure how much I can implement in my literacy resource classroom, but the seeds have been planted.  I may be able to incorporate a student job or share an idea with a colleague.  But the ultimate goal, as November stated:  "...experiencing an essential change in the culture of teaching and learning" (p. 89).
#Poster>>  You aspire to great things?  Begin with little ones.  Augustine of Hippo  #quote #taolife
I will start small and it will lead to great things.  Reading this book has encouraged me to think about engaging students in a meaningful way through the use of technology that knocks down the four walls of our classroom.  

I appreciate even more the opportunity to participate in #cyberPD.  We brought this book to LIFE.  We lived it.  We learned it.  We collaborated.  We communicated. 

I was trying to think of a fun way to summarize #cyberPD for me.  It's summer and who doesn't love ice cream?  Wish I could include some graphic (or use a cool tech tool), but this will have to do:

  • Reading a book is like ice cream.

  • Reading and discussing a book is like ice cream with sprinkles.
  • Reading, writing, reflecting, sharing a book is like ice cream with sprinkles and chocolate syrup.

  • Reading, writing, reflecting, sharing and learning from comments is like ice cream with sprinkles, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and a cherry on top. (Ding!)

Thank you, #cyberPD colleagues, for sharing the most delicious dessert of the summer!

"The kids are realizing that learning is a natural process of life.  It happens and it should be happening all the time, and as long as you are aware of it, you're going to get so much more out of it" Michael Pennington (p.85)

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Thanks for stopping by and please share your thoughts and ideas!

#cyberPD Schedule:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

sols: new book love

Slice of Life hosted at the 

** Sorry if you visited earlier and received an error message.  Apparently it is NOT a good idea to leave out any devices with open windows when curious three year olds like to press buttons on EVERYTHING! Yes, this post was deleted . . . with no one to blame but myself!  (Grr...) But with some patience and research, I was able to retrieve and repost -- working on editing! Whew!  That's another post! **

Ah, new book love.  To fall in love with a new book is a feeling like no other.

This has already made my "top ten picture book list" (#pb10for10). And that is a tough list to get on.  Imagine narrowing your most favorite, prized picture books to a list of ten.  Then that you can't live or teach without.  Yes, ten!  (A little plug for my friends Cathy and Mandy who lead this adventure in August! Check it out HERE and start getting your list ready to share!)

I first heard about this book on Twitter.  Or maybe Goodreads.  I can never keep track where I learn about new books, but I quickly logged into my library account and the book was so new, it was listed "IN PROCESSING."  That means that I would be the first to check it out!

I picked this book up at the library a couple days later.  We lugged our book bag home and started to empty it when P. pulled it out, intrigued, and asked me to read it to her.  I, of course, could not say no.

"Oh, that's a new book! I want to read it too!" I responded as we snuggled onto the couch together.  M. slowly made her way over by us to see what all the noise was about.

We slowly cracked open the new spine like a good morning stretch to get it primed for the thousands of more times that it would be read.

We giggled.

We laughed.

I think I may have even snorted.

This is a book to add to your library at home and at school!  And an awesome mentor text for personification, point of view, and persuasive writing. (Only downside: the script font used can be hard for our younger readers!)

Oh, you want to know what book I'm talking about? Yes?  This little gem - now a #1 NY Times Bestseller!
The Day the Crayons Quit
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Published June 27, 2013 by Philomel.
Yes, the crayons quit. And they let Duncan, their coloring owner, know exactly what their issues were - well, all except green crayon.  He's happy with his situation.  Each crayon wrote a letter to Duncan expressing their concerns.  Quite amusing from their point of view!

Now, my turn to try it out - a crayon writing to my three year olds:

Dear artist-in-training,

I know you are new at this coloring thing.  I also know purple is your favorite color and that's why I get used a lot.  I'm happy that I'm the first crayon selected from the box, but can I be honest with you?  You are squeezing me too hard when you color. I just worry that I will break in half.  I've seen it happen to many of my color friends.  I know your mom says it's okay when a crayon breaks because it still colors, but do you understand how it could change my life?  Forever?  A crayon is just not treated the same once it is broken.  I've seen it all -- broken crayons get lost in the couch, thrown in the random big box of broken crayons, or the worst -- thrown in the garbage never to be seen from again!

Thanks for letting me get that out in the open. I feel better and I hope you will loosen your grip.

Your too-squeezed friend,
Purple Crayon

We have read this book about ten times.  And they want to read it ... now!  I'm off to read this new book love again!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

#cyberPD Part 2: Who Owns The Learning?

This summer I am participating in the #cyberPD conversations about the book by Alan November titled Who Owns The Learning? Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age.

Whew!  After reading these two chapters, I didn't think I would have much to say.  Was I ever wrong!  Thanks for taking the time to read and share YOUR voice!

You can visit the conversations this week about Chapters 3 & 4 at Jill's blog:  My Primary Passion or a compilation of all the #cyberPD posts at Jog the Web: Who Owns the Learning? #cyberPD 2013

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"As long as you're asking what's next, you'll get there.  
But never be content with where you're at
Alan November quoting Darren Kuropatwa (p.47).

My Thoughts and Reflections
As I read chapter 3: The Student as Scribe, I shook my head in agreement and furiously scribbled notes in my book of the possibilities.   

I can do something with this.  I know I can.  

Now, as a reading specialist meeting with small groups of students, we don't study specific topics or take notes.  Yet my brain was thinking, "What could I do instead?" We talk a lot about reading strategies, decoding strategies, comprehension strategies, word study, themes, books, authors and illustrators, etc.   I can (and will!) create a new blog or wiki to share our learning that can be shared with families and the world.  As Dareen Kuropatwa suggested: "I wanted the blog to be in their voices" (p.41).  My students can reteach what we learned or strategies that we are learning to use when reading.

As I reflect on the power of learning, I think about the importance of ownership.  The Daily 5 and CAFE framework created by "the 2 sisters" provides an excellent example when they encourage students to create the strategy labels for the living bulletin board.  Sure, we can easily go online, search the Internet, Pinterest, or TpT store and find beautiful signs to print out.  But who owns that learning?  No one.  It's not about a pretty bulletin board or classroom.  Imagine the excitement when a student walks a parent over to the board to share the sign they made for the class.  And guess what?  That student can talk about that strategy as an expert.  Guess who owns that learning?

Now imagine the possibilities when the audience widens to include not only classmates in the classroom, but classmates worldwide!  As Darren stated:  "Every voice speaks with the same volume, whereas in a classroom, the popular kids or the vocal kids are heard and the quieter kids sometimes fall through the cracks" (p.42).  Every student has a voice and online that voice can be heard  in the classroom and around the world.  The continued conversations and review of learning grows and grows and grows!

I love how throughout this chapter the focus is NOT on the technology.  It's about the "collaborating, communicating, organizing, writing and critical thinking" (p.39).  I also believe what is key to this learning is the shift in our teaching:  "...a shift in control and pedagogy, as well as an openness to imagine the possibilities offered by available technologies. However, perhaps the biggest challenges for some teachers will be redefining the role of the learner as contributor, and building a collaborative learning culture" (p.45).  This is what is most difficult for teachers - to let go and let the learning happen, even with mistakes sprinkled throughout.  

I believe all of us participating in this #cyberPD conversation are not afraid of shifting control or the technology.  It's the hundreds and thousands of teachers not willing to "think outside the box" of their four walls.  Yet, I love how November makes it inviting: "Anyone who can send an email can use the technologies necessary to launch a class blog, wiki, and student scribe program" (p.45) and then Darren suggests, "Even if all you do is lurk and listen to what other people are talking about, maybe that's a way to start" (p.48).  It is true.  Jump in!  Let the students take some control of the technology learning and lead us without fear.  

But are we ALL open to the ideas?  Are we ALL willing to let go of control?  Are we ALL wanting to dive into the 21st century digital learning sea?  How do we encourage ALL teachers around us to see the amazing possibilities?  My only suggestion?  

Live it and share it.  The results will speak loudly.  There are enough of us making waves.

The use of the Internet exploded sometime after I graduated from college. (Perhaps a good Wikipedia link would be useful here for more specific dates.  I admit: I was one to shy away from using it.)  Therefore, I was never taught how to navigate the overwhelming amounts of information (factual and not-so-much).  Navigating the web is difficult.  Click a link here and then there and now I'm reading about a topic different from where I started!  I slowly learned what was reliable and valid.  Perhaps I should say, I'm still learning!  And I think this is true for many teachers.  This is probably the number one reason why we shy away from online searches and research.  Yet, I know we can't because we don't want our students to flounder in the sea of information.  We want them to navigate the waters and become captains of their own learning vessels. 

Yet, as I read chapter four: The Student as Researcher, I cringed wondering how to begin this process with little ones (K-5).  I truly believe it has to begin in the elementary grades.  We cannot wait until junior high and high school - for by then they are navigating on their own with their own set of beliefs and researching tools, which would be similar to mine:  Guess and check.  Hit or miss.  This or that.  No, we need to start teaching critical thinking skills and researching on the Internet early with a structured approach.  I believe it is doable and I know there are many teachers, librarians, tech specialists out there that are willing to aide in the process.  November points us to many resourceful educators that we can connect with via Twitter, and blogs and articles to read.

Quite honestly, I need to reread this chapter.  It is about comfort.  In one breath I criticize that not all teachers are willing to step outside their comfort zone, and yet I am quick to say that this doesn't apply to me.  I have in the past turned my head because "I don't teach that" or "I don't need to know this."  Yet, I can assist students and teachers to learn about the importance of digital literacy.  It's a heavy chapter with so much information that I learned many tips and hints about researching.  I need to play a little more and become comfortable creating search engines.  I knew about Google's Advanced Search feature, but never used it or thought about starting there with students!  Brilliant!  And to know there is an option to produce results in any language is ridiculously amazing!   Again, think about the possibilities!  I need to tell myself to be open and get comfortable:  It's for the students.

"If we only teach one skill to prepare our students to survive in a web-based world, 
it should be that of critical thinking in the analysis of online information" (p.62).

Implications in My Classroom
As I previously mentioned, I will create a new forum to share our learning.  I want students to be a part of the digital sharing, so I may have to try a more kid-friendly site, such as Weebly.  (Cathy Mere has suggested this site.)  If you have any other suggestions, do share!

I will also incorporate opening student blogs to the world as I thought about in my previous reflection.  I talk about Internet safety briefly with students and this was my reasoning for keeping our voices quiet; however, I understand that I can still maintain control and moderate what students share and comments posted.  I know many educators share student blogs on Twitter requesting comments, and I love, love, love, Darren's suggestion of commenting with "a star and a wish"... "to push the students to expand their thinking" (p. 43).  I will also use this strategy as well with students, teachers, and bloggers!

Another specific plan of action:  check out VoiceThread.  Lucky for me, I already have an online mentor when I have questions: Deb Frazier.  You see, that's the power of sharing and learning together using social media sites like Twitter and blogging globally.  

#cyberPD is the perfect example.  I can read a book, close it, and consider how I would use my learning in my classroom.  Or, I can read a book, reflect and sharing my insights, learning, and ask questions globally to which in return, I learn more from others who share their thinking, learning, share suggestions and answers to my questions, and ask their own questions to continue pushing my thinking forward.  

Living and breathing like a "21st century learning specialist," allows me the opportunity to experience learning with others outside my four walls and I understand and see the potential for my students to be life-long learners.  

Thanks for stopping by and please share your thoughts and ideas!

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#cyberPD Schedule:

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

sols: ten years

Slice of Life hosted at the 

On July 12th, my husband and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary.  It's quite amazing to think that it seems like just yesterday, yet so much has happened since the day we married.  And to only think, it's really still the beginning . . . with so many years of ups and downs to come!

it seems like just a year ago
we walked down the aisle
a picture perfect day
to celebrate our love

my best friend
the one I trust the most
makes me laugh and
reminds me what is important

every day isn't easy
there are disagreements
quiet and conversations
but we always work it out

you listen you care
you protect you love
you hold you snuggle
you are my rock

to celebrate our love
on a picture perfect day
we walked down the aisle
ten years ago

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

#cyberPD Part 1: Who Owns The Learning?

Another opportunity to learn right beside you (Cathy) and you (Laura) and you (Jill) and YOU (Yes, YOU!)?  I'm in!

This summer I am participating (again) in the #cyberPD conversations about the book by Alan November titled Who Owns The Learning? Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age.

Reading any PD book grows my thinking and gets me wondering about the implications in my school and more specifically, in my resource classroom.  This title was not in my original #cyberPD summer book stack, but I wasn't about to miss out on the conversations and learning.  Opening up the conversation to educators across the globe, exponentially  e x p a n d s  my thinking and learning.  Because YOU just might:
  • Pick a phrase from the book that I missed and share your thoughts.  
  • Ask a really good deep question that makes me ponder.  
  • Share your insights to your understanding and the implications in your classroom.
...and all of your great thinking pushes my thinking.  Let the learning begin!  I hope you will join in the conversations too -- whether you are reading the book with us or not!  Your ideas and thoughts MATTER!

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"Unlearning is more difficult than learning something new, 
and one of our most important challenges is to let go of 
existing structures in order to build more effective ones." 
Alan November (p.15)

My Thoughts and Reflections
This is a book that is needed now.  We are breathing in the advances of technology on a daily basis.  There is already something newer or better (or shinier) ready to be sold on the market.  This is the world we live in, so how do we learn (and survive) when we are inundated with enormous amounts of information and technology tools and apps?  

Slowly.  We MUST do it right.  I'm a believer that we cannot just throw technology into a classroom and think we are preparing our students for the future.  It goes so far beyond access and a busywork app.  As November stated, "Instead, we have to teach students to use information and communication technologies to innovate, solve problems, create and be globally connected" (p.12).  Because we know, the novelty of the "new, shiny technology" will wear off, and we must push forward and continue to learn how to help our students be researchers, designers, collaborators, and innovators -- and to be ready for those jobs that they will create: "Truly educated people of the next century will not apply for a job.  They will create their own" (November quoting William Cook p.14).

As I think about the previous PD book I read, Teach Like a PIRATE by Dave Burgess, and also the many characteristics of a distinguished teacher from the Danielson Framework for Teaching, it is essential that students are engaged and want to contribute for the good and the learning of the class.  Students are helping students. Students are asking the questions.  Students are sharing feedback.  Students are pushing each other to do something bigger and better.  All because they want to -- not for a grade or points.  Who owns this learning?  It's quite obvious.

That is the culture for learning I want to create in my classroom.  And thus provides a shift in our thinking: "Rather than simply focusing on the transfer of knowledge process, teachers in the Digital Learning Farm model guide students in the complex tasks of innovation and problem solving, and in doing work that makes a contribution to the learning processes of others" (p.18).

As I continued to read, there were so many words that I highlighted over and over that go "hand-in-hand" with the success of a Digital Learning Farm model:

Powerful words for Powerful Teaching and Learning
"And I doubt that my students' test scores would suffer 
from the depth and detail of this purposeful work" (p.24).

Implications in My Classroom
As a reading specialist focusing on small group targeted interventions and Response to Intervention, I'm wondering how the Digital Learning Farm model fits into my little world.

Many educators on Twitter and in the blogging world share social media and other communication tools to enhance the learning in the classroom.  A short list that comes to mind includes: KidblogTwitter in the classroom, SkypeGlobal Read AloudWonderopolisAnimotoEdmodoVoicethread.  All tools and projects that allow students to connect and contribute in their classrooms and beyond the four walls of the school.  November reminds us that "...technology is simply the means that makes the process possible ..." (p.14).  Some of these tools and projects I mentioned I have played around with, but I need to do more to learn how to use the tools to create that sense of ownership, purpose, and mastery in my classroom.

I have implemented the use of Kidblog in my intermediate small groups to encourage more writing and reading, but I have also closed the door and created our own private room.  I can easily change that setting and share with a more global audience.

I'm looking forward to learning with others how I could use other tools to improve reading and comprehension in our daily lives and to continue to encourage a life-long love of reading.  I would love to be able to record students reading to improve fluency or record book talks to share favorite titles.  I'm also curious about digital portfolios and capturing learning in one place.

In addition, I grabbed my school iPad, downloaded the ScreenChomp app and started recording.  I can see how easy and fun creating purposeful videos to share with others could be for our students.  Perhaps students can retell a story through drawings and words.  I can also see how this app would be beneficial for ELLs (really all students) to say it first (before writing) or a new version of "Turn-Talk-and-Draw".

Here is MY first ScreenChomp video. It's a bit rough, but I had to play in the "Digital Playground"!

Go on now and play too!  Try it and let's find out who owns the learning!

Thanks for stopping by and please share your thoughts and ideas!

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#cyberPD Schedule:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

sols: connect

Slice of Life hosted at the 

My Mom, my girls, and I took a little road trip during our vacation --

Two hours in the car through the hills and valleys of Arkansas over the state line into Missouri.  We landed ourselves in Branson -- the "Puts the show in show me state" town.  All sorts of attractions to see and places to go, but we were there for only one reason.  (Well, actually, two -- the first stop was at the winery.)

The other attraction was to meet with the ONE, the ONLY, real-life slicer and comment extraordinaire ... elsie!

Yes, Elsie in real life!

(I know some of you recently connected with her and many others are wishing it was you!)

I wasn't nervous about meeting Elsie because one knows through her stories, her words, and her comments that she is quite possibly the sweetest person on earth.  She knows how to connect with slicers.

My mom spotted her first.  Elsie was carrying two little baskets filled with goodies for my girls.  What a sweet gesture!  (Thank you, Elsie, for connecting with my two special little people.  And thanks to Robin for the suggestions!)

We went through the brief introductions and perused the goodie baskets.  We wandered inside Bass Pro so the girls could see the fish while we chatted about family and locations, connecting the cities and towns we knew.

We moved through the store and M spotted some benches.  We rested and chatted more while the girls colored and explored the contents of their baskets.  Elsie shared her excitement about the All Write!!! conference and gushed about the connections, the conversations, and the camaraderie.  She talked about specific slicers, knew their names and blogs, and more importantly, knew their stories.

We meandered outside searching for a spot for lunch conducive for kids.  Our lunch destination was selected and it was time to eat, but the chatting did not stop.  We continued to connect our lives through the stories we shared.

It can be difficult to be fully present and connect when three year olds vie for Momma's full attention (who is also hoping to keep everyone calm and safe).  My Mom was so thoughtful by taking the girls for brief periods of time to provide Elsie and I several opportunities to connect and chat.

And then our time was over . . . not before we snagged a picture of the three of us!

Elsie, me, and my Mom, Judy

We hugged, said our good-byes, and Elsie turned and walked away.

It was a H.O.T. day.  But, thankfully, we did not melt during our three hour visit.  I was worried we "over-cooked" the girls, but once we were in the cool air conditioning of the car, they went fast asleep.

My Mom asked, "So, what did you think?  Was she exactly what you thought she would be?"

"Absolutely.  And so much more!"  I responded smiling.  Thank you Elsie for connecting with us!!!

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I now understand the feeling of connection that so many slicers shared last week when they met at the All Write!!! conference.

Connections and relationships are key to learning.  I've depended on Elsie for her words of advice and comments to support and encourage my writing and to know that my stories are significant.

I realized that everyone has a story and we may only know bits and pieces, but we are not alone.  And that is why I write.  I write to share, to learn, to connect.

And it's truly a gift to connect in real life.  I hope to meet you one day too.