Tuesday, November 22, 2016

{today} #sol16

The March Slice of Life Story Challenge
hosted at the Two Writing Teachers
Join us for a month of writing!

today:  i anticipate the long weekend ahead

today:  i could feel the excitement before a much-needed break
want to be:  snuggled up in bed reading a book without interruption
blessings:  my God, my family, my home, and my profession
thinking: i'm too tired to write with that feeling of no words to share
planning:  each of the next five days with family and friends and too much food
writing:  a little slice of life today
loving:  the peace and quiet right now
grateful:  for a loving family, a toasty-warm home ...

and today {again}: i anticipate the long weekend ahead

This go-to easy-format quick-thinking in-the-moment writing idea is compliments to:

"It's a single print out of the busy cycle of life, a pause, a way to plan, 
and to remember to breathe in the midst of the everyday."

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

{#PictureBookMonth} #sol16

Slice of Life is hosted at the Two Writing Teachers
Join in and share a slice of your life. 

November arrived quickly, but we were ready.

My colleague, Karen, and I have celebrated Picture Book Month in our classrooms over the last few years.  However, this year we decided to share this special month with not just our small groups of students, but with everyone at our school.

We started thinking about the importance of reading aloud picture books:

  • Builds commUNITY (Thanks to JoEllen McCarthy for this!)
  • Develops empathy
  • Builds vocabulary
  • Allows for deeper thinking
  • Showcases new authors, titles, and series
  • Reminds us that books are mirror and windows

We introduced the premise of Picture Book Month with our staff at a meeting and that we wanted to share our love of picture books with their classrooms.  We agreed to read aloud every day in November to a classroom in our school. We set up a sign-up schedule using Sign Up Genius and started pulling books from our classroom libraries that correlated with the daily theme.

Karen and I arrive every day in a new classroom ready to share a different picture book.  It's fun reading aloud with a partner, but it definitely took a day or two to become comfortable with sharing the read aloud lead! We make a great read aloud team!

We ask students why they like picture books and jot down their thoughts on a sticky note.  We discuss that pictures books are good for any grade, and remind students we never get too old for picture books! After we read, we take a picture with each class, print it out, and post it on our bulletin board with their ideas about picture books.  A copy of the cover of the book we read aloud is posted on our calendar and the books are on display.  We send a quick tweet with the hashtag #PictureBookMonth to share our daily read aloud, and sometimes connect with the author or illustrator.

It's been an amazing month so far of sharing books, new titles, new authors, and our love of picture books.  The students are excited to see us and we have even been asked on several occasions when we would be coming back.

That's the best compliment of all.  

We are booked this month, but we will be back! Happy reading picture books this month and every month!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

{stealing time} #sol16

Slice of Life is hosted at the Two Writing Teachers
Join in and share a slice of your life. 

The month of October is busy as it is.  School is in full swing. After school activities. Homework and projects. Multiple birthday parties.  A week of Halloween activities and fun. Every day planned.

Then throw in the Chicago Cubs and playoff baseball.

Stealing time.

I learned the game with my Dad.  I sat with him watching the Cubs win some and lose most. I grew up playing softball. I know the game and some of the obscure rules. But this game takes patience.

Stealing time.

We are more of a fast-paced-Chicago-Blackhawks-hockey-loving family.  Baseball is, well, just not the same. Unless we are watching playoffs.  More exciting than the long 100-plus game season.

Stealing time.

And we haven't missed a game.  I dug out my Cubbie Blue shirts from the back of my closet. We are the October fans of baseball. The excitement. The hits. The home runs and Grand Slam. The amazing play after play after play.

The gift of winning. But, oh, is it stealing time.  And many, many late nights.

Tonight I watch and dream about stealing time with ... One. More. Game.

Let's go, Cubbies! Bring Chicago a World Series Win! #FlytheW
Image result for this is the year chicago
Image from Pinterest

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

{kids can teach us} #sol16

Slice of Life is hosted at the Two Writing Teachers
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I'm thrilled to say that I am finally in a routine of meeting with my small groups of students (a.k.a intervention groups).  It feels so good to be spending time with students face-to-face who are just as excited to see me!

These kids amaze me every day when they get the opportunity to move to a smaller learning space where we are surrounded by books and not distracted by anything else.  It's just us and books and time to connect and read.

We are creating our small group learning community, where we value each other as readers, writers, and thinkers.  We talked about our purpose for working together.  We talked about our goals and dreams. We talked about our challenges. Yet, we know we can do it. No excuses.

We discussed that readers, writers, and thinkers need tools and resources to continue to grow.

Readers need books. Lots and lots of books. And a variety of books.
Writers need notebooks. And pencils, crayons, markers, pens. Maybe even a laptop.
Thinkers need their brain that continually grows as it is exercised and challenged.

We talked in depth about our purpose for reading.  We are not just reading the words on the page to finish. We are reading to understand, to ask questions, to think deeply about the characters, to think about what we learned, or how our thinking has changed, to think critically about the decisions the author and illustrator made. Reading is thinking. Reading is challenging work!

As my group of third grade students and I were discussing ... This happened.

Words started flowing from their mouths, my ears were tickled.

"Wait! Let me write that down!" I interrupted as I grabbed my pencil and bright orange sticky notes.

The words started again, and together they crafted a beautiful quote about readers and books and thinkers. I quickly scribbled, smiling in delight.

"This is amazing.  I'll be making a poster for us to remember your words," I announced as all three of my students beamed with pride.

Today, I will share the poster with them, giving them a copy to save.  They will also see THEIR quote on the glitter board, where I share reading and writing quotes.  This is the first time -- but not the last -- that students will be quoted on the glitter board because every day I'm reminded that kids can teach us too.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

{back writing} #sol16

Slice of Life is hosted at the Two Writing Teachers
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I have all the excuses in the world ...

Back to school. New schedules. After school sports. Homework.
Out of practice. Not in a rhythm. Brain is full. Just too tired.
No time. No time. No time.

But I know you won't accept those excuses.  And I shouldn't either ...

I need to rethink my time.  It's about balancing.  Creating time.
Making time. Taking time. Getting back into the rhythm.
Feeling the need to practice. Allowing my brain freedom.

So that's it.

I need to give myself the space to write.
I need to remind myself that my words have power.
I have a story to tell. My story. To share with you.

All the excuses in the world
can't keep me from writing this little slice of mine
to stay connected with you.

I'm back writing. And it's starting to feel like home again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

{back to school life} #sol16

Slice of Life is hosted at the Two Writing Teachers
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Back to school is exciting. The newness of it all.
The wonder and curiosity. The hope.

It's doesn't take long for all that goodness to disappear ...
because back to school life includes so much more for this mom teacher.

There's wake up times, schedules to follow, lunches to make,
busses to catch, busy days, time to play, go to practices and homework to do.

There's books to read aloud, time to plan, analyze assessments, study data,
determine interventions, be a champion for kids and teachers, and smile. A lot.

Then there is everything else I need to do.
You know, laundry and cleaning and picking up and dinner and and and ...

And a little time squeezed to take care of me
like tonight and my hair therapy, as my friend Chris calls it.

Back to school is all new and ...
all about trying to get back into school life.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

{gratitude} #sol16

Slice of Life is hosted at the Two Writing Teachers
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Today I am so thankful for my daughters' teachers.

Every day my girls come home with stories and stories to share.

Stories about school and friends and special teachers.

"You know, Mom.  My teacher said when you think you've finished, you've only just begun. Turn the page and write more."

"Mom, I got to read with my teacher today! I read a story in the morning and then another in the afternoon."

"My teacher is reading a really good book to us."

I smile and share in their excitement!

So today, I decided I needed to share that joy with their teachers.

I took the time tonight to write a personal note to each teacher letting them know how thankful we are for their time and efforts to create a classroom where our girls feel comfortable to grow and learn.

A little note of gratitude is encouraging ... and touches the heart.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

{choice always matters} #sol16

Slice of Life is hosted at the Two Writing Teachers
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For six years of her life, I have provided my daughter choice when it comes to selecting books to read.

At the public library we visit often, she will grab a book that interests her, sit down on the ground, and slowly, carefully study the book page-by-page to decide if it will make it into the check out pile.

There are no levels or discussions about letters. There are no rules or boundaries. (I'll be honest. There have been an occasional eye roll at a book selection ... but I can only take so much Barbie or My Little Pony.  Yes, I know that I shouldn't book shame...)

Choice, interest, motivation, and recommendations drive our 100+ books checked out from our library.

And this is why a conversation that happened during our first grade meet the teacher meeting at our new neighborhood school surprised me ...

After briefly meeting the teacher and unpacking her backpack, our next task was to select three books for her book bin from the classroom library.  I thought this was an awesome idea as I now know that her teacher values books and provided us an opportunity to check out the library together and select new books for her book bin.

We walked over to the classroom library and I happily smiled at all the books in baskets organized by genre, topics, book series, and authors.  A great selection of books for her multiage classroom.

She stopped and looked at the book baskets and looked at me.  She then whispered, "But I don't know what level they are."

My heart dropped, but I quickly reminded her how we select books.

"Find a book that interests you. Here's a nonfiction book basket! You are really into learning new information. What about this favorite character? Remember, there are three ways to read a book. Let's open this book up -- oh, you can read the words in this one.  And this one you could read the pictures ... "

The fixed level cloud lifted, she pushed me aside and got to work browsing the library. She took her time. She selected an old favorite, a new-to-us book, and one that was just added to her to be read list that morning. Three books that interested her.  Three books that she wants to read.  Three books selected by choice. Then she added them to her book bin to start the year with excitement.

Later I thought about this brief, but powerful encounter, wondering why she had questioned her book selecting abilities ... then I squirmed remembering her kindergarten room with a small library organized only by level -- one basked per F&P gradient letters.  This is what she remembers from her kindergarten classroom library experience: Picking books from a leveled basket.

For six years of her life, I have provided my daughter choice when it comes to selecting books to read.  And I am thrilled to know that she can continue selecting books by choice this year in first grade.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

{realization} #sol16

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Yesterday was my first day of school with my colleagues.  Starting the year off with meetings. There were many new faces, including new staff members, teachers, and student teachers. As they were introduced, one name sounded familiar.

I leaned forward to get a better look at this student teacher. There was a familiarity in the face. But I just wasn't sure.

The meeting moved forward and I continued to think about this name and face.  I did the numbers in my head.

That's it! That has to be it. I thought and leaned over to a colleague and whispered my realization.  Or at least what I thought.

Later, I returned to my room.  I have a photograph in my classroom of my very first class that I taught at another school in our district.  I pulled it close to get a better look.

I confidently walked down the hall holding this framed picture.

As I walked into this third grade classroom, I was met with two smiles.

"I have something to show you," I said to this visiting student teacher.

"No. No. No. It is you! I knew it was you!"

"Do you recognize this girl?" I asked pointing to her second grade self. "I was your second grade teacher!"

"Amanda and I wondered what happened to you! We wanted to find you after you left!" Vicky said.

What a celebration to meet a former student who is now moving into your profession. I am so excited for her opportunities at our school and in our district.

I also can't believe I am old enough that my first class from 2000 has graduated from college and making a difference in this world.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

{In My Heart: Heartprint Books} #pb10for10

Check out other favorite Picture Book Lists: Picture Book 10 for 10 Google Community
Learn more about #pb10for10 from Cathy at  Reflect and Refine and Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning

Picture books tend to touch our hearts and leave us with so many different feelings. 
All of the picture books I selected for my list are #heartprint worthy. 
They have left an impression on my heart and I want to share these books and feelings 
with my students, my own children, and you.  

Our hearts overflow with feelings with each picture book.

My #pb10for10 list of books is full of feelings -- inspired by the picture book
(Yes, I snuck in an extra book!)


In my heart ...


This is when my heart is ... HAPPY:  

Mother Bruce 
25745002by Ryan T. Higgins

My girls and I have read this one over and over, and every time it just makes us laugh and smile and feel good inside. The illustrations crack us up! Mother Bruce is about acceptance, even if your Mama looks different or your Mama is a Bruce!  Just a HAPPY read!

2.  This is when my heart is ... BRAVE: 

One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree
by Daniel Bernstrom

Oh my! What a fun little rhythmic read! It's a new favorite in our house.  A spin-off of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly books, but this boy with a whirly-twirly toy is BRAVE in the belly of the snake one day in the eucalyptus, eucalyptus tree. 

3.  This is when my heart is ... MAD: 

13588082Each Kindness 
by Jacqueline Woodson

This is such a special book and it has been on my list several years.  It brings up all sorts of feelings.  It makes me sad, MAD, and broken when students, teachers, or parents choose mean, laughter, whispers, or ignoring. What makes me happy is that we can learn from books and characters. The message in this book is clear: Each kindness matters. It doesn't cost anything to be kind. Choose kind.  

4.  This is when my heart is ... CALM

by Jenny Offill

Sparky, a sloth, just calms me.  He reminds me that life goes by too fast and I must. slow. down. One day I may want to be a sloth and hang out or play statue or just stay CALM. Full of giggles and all sorts of silliness too -- all the while Sparky remains calm.

5.  This is when my heart is ... BROKEN

Ida, Always
by Caron Levis

Oh, Ida. This book just BREAKS my heart.  And every time I read it.  My girls watch and wait for the tears.  Lots of tears. Such a beautiful story.  Such amazing illustrations.  Such a powerful story about friendship and love. A must read, always!

6.  This is when my heart is ... SAD:

Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate

By now, I'm sure, everyone knows the story of Ivan. My heart is SAD when I read his story in picture book or chapter book. One of my all time favorite stories to share with students because there is still hope for the future.

7. This is when my heart is ... HOPEFUL:

22747809Yard Sale 
by Eve Bunting

Big changes in life are hard. Reading this book allows students the opportunity to understand that even when life happens without understanding, there is room for hope.  It's not the stuff that matters most, but the people in our lives -- family, friends, neighbors, teachers -- that allow us to stay HOPEFUL.

8. This is when my heart is ... AFRAID:

I'm Trying to Love Spiders
by Bethany Barton

I just don't like spiders. They are quick and crawly and I want them dead.  "I'm trying to love spiders" are not words that I will speak, but I do love this book about spiders!  It still makes me AFRAID when I read about spiders. And for now, I still want to kill 'em. Splat! 

9.  This is when my heart is ... SILLY:

This Book Just Ate My Dog
by Richard Byrne

This one is just SILLY! What fun to read and wonder about how this book is taking bites.  The illustrations compliment the text and silliness of the characters disappearing into the gutter.  The letter to the readers, the shaking of the books, and the final last page make this book even sillier.

10.  This is when my heart is ... SHY:

What Do You Do With an Idea?
by Kobi Yamada

I absolutely love the message of this book. The beauty of the idea growing beyond imaginable. I have ideas that I let sit and wait. I sometimes ignore and push to the side.  Life is already busy and with a lack of time, space, and other worries ... I SHY away from moving forward.  I know that is no good excuse and I would never accept that from my students or own girls. So, perhaps, returning to this book will remind me to nurture my ideas and be brave in my future quests.

 Please share YOUR 

#heartprint book and feeling:

This is when my heart is ... 


My previous #pb10for10 selections:

2015    2014    2013    2012    2011


Be sure to check out other favorite #pb10for10 picture books at