Tuesday, August 30, 2016

{choice always matters} #sol16

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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

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

{olympic dreams} #sol16

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This summer Olympics has a new level of enjoyment.  This summer we introduced our girls to the amazing world of pure determination to be the best of the best in the world at your sport and represent your country yearning for a medal.

What a perfect opportunity to share a love a sport where you commit to practice and practice and more practice.  As you set into motion talent and commitment, there are visions of greatness and dreams of winning at the Olympics in front of the world.

The variety of sports -- from swimming to gymnastics to volleyball to fencing to soccer -- the men and the women, individuals and teams, every country, and all the excitement.

We have been addicted to watching. Staying up later. Watching in complete astonishment.  And answering lots and lots of questions, as our six year olds could easily win the "Gold" of asking great questions.

It has been amazing showing our girls greatness when the world around us has been less than. I don't think we have an aspiring Olympians ... yet. You never know what the future may bring.  But we will continue to watch in awe. Go USA!

Image from here

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

{that day} #sol16

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I still remember.

I was driving to school that beautiful day.

It was only my second year of teaching precious second graders.

The sky was an amazing, crystal clear blue with white puffs scattered about.

I was on Higgins Road speeding through the forest preserve listening to a local Chicago morning show that was usually full of laughter.

A serious tone in the voice of the announcer had me captivated. I turned up the radio.

"A plane ... New York City ... not sure ... small plane ... lost ... waiting for more details."

I wondered why a small engine plane would be near the big city buildings.  I was only minutes from my school and turned off the radio without much thought or worry.  I said a little prayer that all would be okay.

After lugging my school bags into my classroom, an announcement came over the loud speaker.

"Please come down to the library for a quick meeting."  I don't remember making any connections yet.

More details were shared about the events that happened that morning.  My hand covered my mouth in complete disbelief. Many speculations, many worries.  I never imagined a second plane ... and then more.

We were instructed to go on with the school day as usual with a few restrictions: no TV and no outside recess.

I don't remember the details of the day with students because that's what we do for our students: it was a regular school day. I'm sure a few came in with some knowledge of what had happened. Our goal was to minimize speculations and opinions and worries.

"Talk with your families tonight at home.  We are safe here.  Know that we are safe." I had to keep saying those words to reassure myself. It was also my little prayer to God as well.

We made it through the day. I was emotionally exhausted wondering ... What else? What more? Why? When will it stop? Why? Why? Why?  September 12th came and went.

I was drawn to the television for weeks. Watching the footage over and over again. Then hearing story after story of survivors, of heroes, of the amazing goodness that arose from tragedy.  There was still so much goodness, unity, and pride even though all of America was emotionally drained.

But what has happened? How can we so quickly forget that we are one -- only fifteen years later? How can we forget that all lives matter? I was hundreds of miles away from Ground Zero, but the ripples left my heart broken and yet come September 12th, renewed with hope.

Sharing my September 11th story was triggered after reading the middle grade novel "nine, ten: A September 11 Story" by Nora Raleigh Baskin. A beautifully written story from the perspective of four children and how their lives intersected and were affected by 9/11.

Today I also read a picture book that perfectly matched the hope of people and the power of our story.  My friend, Karen, talked about this book all last year, wanting desperately to get her hands on it.  She asked me to keep an eye out for it because it was out of print and Amazon wanted some ridiculous amount of money.  Last week, as the girls and I perused the used book sale at my local library, I found it: Skin Again by Bell Hooks and illustrated by Chris Raschka.  I couldn't believe my eyes! For 25 cents I will gift this beautiful book to her.  I finally read it this afternoon and the first line says it all:

I'm in 
is just a
It cannot
tell my story.

And then it goes on ... 

If you want to know who I am 
you have got to come inside ...
and open your heart way wide.

We need to hear this story today and every day. We need this reminder that our skin is only a covering and we have to open our hearts to know and love each other. A heavy reminder that we need in America as we embark on the 15th anniversary of that day, 9/11.