Tuesday, October 17, 2017

{It's just not the same} #sol17

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

Last night as I sat watching my girls tumble at gymnastics, I picked up my pen and notebook. I started with these words: What to write? And this is what spilled on the page ... straight from my heart.

What to write ...

I wonder, think, ponder.

My words are hard to find today.

There are many celebrations and joys to share, but the darkness of frustration and loneliness hide them temporarily.

What to write?

I question, grumble, sigh.

My words are bubbling to the surface.

My closest colleague, thinking partner, and dearest friend and I were separated this school year. Two new positions in two different schools.

What to write!

My words boil with disappointment.

I feel the longing to turn and talk, the divide between us, the sadness fills my heart.

This teammate was the one who consistently pushed me in my learning and helped me outgrow my brain. Every. Single. Day.

What to write?

My words begin to simmer ...

I slowly release, relax my shoulders, close my eyes.

These moments don't last long. A text, a phone call, or an email from my friend reminds me.

What to write ...

My words fill the pages of my notebook.

I exhale, smile, pick up the phone.

Even though we are not making a difference side-by-side anymore, we are still finding ways to work and learn and grow together.

It's just not the same.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

{fall getaway} #sol17

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

A long weekend getaway
is needed every now and again.

Quiet days slowed enough to
hear only my breathing.

Time to just be together
as a family and make memories.

No email. No internet. Disconnected.
Just time. And books. And outdoors.

And us.

The crisp fall air enticing
the colors to begin to glow.

Outdoor events filled our time
from hiking to ATVing to boating

Nightly star gazing, stories by the campfire
in the stillness of the country.

Squeezing in longer moments
to read and close my eyes

And nap.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

{book bonds} #sol17

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

Books have created an amazing bond between us.

It's that special time we get to sit, side-by-side, snuggled in close with a book shared between the three of us.

The story, the characters, the laughs, maybe even a few tears.

The information, the interesting facts, the surprises, the I-didn't-know-that!

Favorite authors, amazing illustrators, continued reading in a series, brand new titles.

We read and reread. Some titles again and again and again.

My daughter P.'s goal is to checkout a book from her library at school that I haven't read yet that she thinks I will love as much as her. Her book choices are always exciting. And stretches me from my reading zone.

My daughter M. can't wait to find that next book that will either make me laugh silly or sob cry tears. She's more about the extreme emotions. Always checking my response to the books.

Book time together with my seven year old daughters is precious time that I hope continues on and on for years and years and years to come.

Books have created an amazing bond between us.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

{change is...} #sol17

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

Change is ...

How would you finish that thought?

There are so many different ways to think about change. Change can be necessary. It can be healthy.  Change can be positive or it can be negative. Change can be lonely. It can be a personal choice or a decision that has been made for you. Change impacts our thoughts, our emotions, our present and our future.

It's only been a little over a month. Five and a half weeks. Forty-two days to be exact.

All that time in a new school in a new role. Learning quickly that a new school means new rules. I'm learning all about the school's culture, new administration, new expectations, new colleagues' and teachers' names, new personalities, and new students. All new students.

Time spent building trust, rapport, and relationships. Differentiating for teachers and teams. Being responsive to the needs, questions, concerns. Jumping in to help. Being available for a meeting, discussing assessments, modeling, planning a lesson, sharing a book.

Setting high expectations for myself. I'm not trying to fill anyone's shoes, but rather "own" my new shoes in this new role in a new school.

Smiling. Some moments that's all I feel I can offer.

Only one month in ... Some days I feel like I'm making a home for myself and some days I still feel like a visitor.

Change takes time. It isn't (always) supposed to be easy. This change is stretching me and expecting me to grow.

Change is ... go on. Finish that thought.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

{#EnticingWriters, #EnticingMe} #sol17

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

I started reading Ruth Ayres' free preview of her new book ... Enticing Hard-To-Reach Writers as a teacher ... and then her words spoke to me as ...

A writer.

You see, Ruth and I go way back. (She maybe doesn't remember it.)


My babies were not even a year old and one February day during nap time for my girls, I stumbled upon the TWT blog.

Ruth enticed me then ...

I started a blog. I started writing. I just started and didn't quite understand why because really, what new mom of twin babies has any time for anything -- let alone time to write?!?

But I was enticed, invited, encouraged. I joined the Slice of Life Story Challenge that March with an amazing group of writers, many of whom are still around writing today.

I write because it's my story to tell.

Fast forward to today ... another Tuesday, another Slice of Life. It's been a few weeks since I wrote in a notebook or on my blog.

But there's Ruth ... again ... enticing me to just write.

Her stories are amazingly REAL and raw. She makes me laugh. She makes me cry. She makes me feel like I'm not alone in this mother-teacher-writer world ... that at times can be hard.

I have to believe that my words matter so that I can encourage my writers that their words matter. And our words collectively can make a difference in this world.

Thank you, Ruth, for yet again enticing me to write tonight.

One of the MANY embedded inspiring Tweets to share in the preview copy!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

{Books I CANNOT Wait to Share!} #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

After my move to a new school and classroom, I knew I would need to spend some additional time with my books: reviewing, weeding, resorting, and, of course, plenty of rereading. I was pulling books out left and right to share with new colleagues and new students … Books perfect for the beginning of the year. Books perfect for building community. Books perfect for writing. Books that I just love! As of right now, my classroom library is a mess with piles and stacks of books scattered. It will all come together, but in the meantime, I’m happy to be surrounded by books. But this made my task of picking just ten books even more difficult.

So, for one of my favorite days of the year -- which I do believe should be a national  
an international holiday with some bookstore sales and deals -- I selected one of my stacks:
New books that I CANNOT wait to share this year!

My previous #pb10for10 selections:
 2016    2015    2014    2013    2012    2011

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

{Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading: Week 1} #cyberPD

We have teamed up with yet another fabulous author 
and PD book for #cyberPD! 

This July we are reading and learning together around 
Vicki Vinton's newest title: Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading: Shifting to a Problem-Based Approach

Join in the conversation in our #cyberPD Google Community!

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My Thoughts and Reflections
I'm finally here and ready to join in the conversations around Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading: Shifting to a Problem-Based Approach! Family time, vacation, and several district workshops took precedence at the beginning of July. I read the chapters prior to vacation, but never had the time to bring all my thoughts together in one place. I'll finally be able to read other responses too and learn alongside all of you!

Introduction: Plunging Into Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading
First of all, I go into reading PD books with an open mind and heart, looking for ways to clarify what I believe and ask myself how I can grow in these beliefs to do more with the students and teachers I work with every day.

But Vicki stopped me in my reading tracks. She was pushing my thinking every which way and upside down just in the introduction! Even Ellin Oliver Keene jumped in too: "I hope you and your colleagues are stirred and inspired and that you experience a great deal of cognitive dissonance." (p. xiii) I laughed to myself and whispered, "Well, this is what #cyberPD is all about!"

I am a reading specialist working alongside developing readers in an elementary school. When I talk to my readers, I remind them they are readers, writers, and thinkers, but here is where I can grow: How deep is their thinking? Am I rescuing too much? Am I allowing opportunities for complex thinking challenges? Am I teaching in too many parts?  It's time to reflect on my practices in the classroom (and at home!).

Section One: On Beliefs and Big Ideas
Chapter 1: The Necessity of a Problem-Based Approach to Teaching Reading

Take Aways: 
  • I found myself nodding in agreement and understanding Vicki's thinking.
  • I love, love, love "first draft" understanding and using language like "might be" or "could mean" because this shows room for editing thinking, changing it as we read more. There is not a right/wrong answer. (p.7)
  • Read to wrestle with the "real problems" (p.11) But what about ELLs or developing readers? Still questioning, but maybe I just need to try to let them struggle and change the path of learning through a different text.
  • Let the text set the agenda using problem-based approach to reading - aha!
  • Teach the reader and let it be a productive struggle.
  • Dewey's thoughts ... amazing!
  • "To take a risk, make mistakes and get messy!"
Ok. So Vicki has flipped my thinking about teaching reading. I can see the 'big picture' but I still have some questions and wonders ...

Chapter 2: Shifting the Focus from Complex Texts to Complex Thinking

Take Aways: 
  • Vicki had me at the title of this chapter! Yes, that only makes sense!!!! This complex thinking is what we want of our students and teachers and the world!
  • I love that Vicki reminds me that we can learn so much from our students too through Takayaki's example.
  • Extraction reading vs. Transaction reading ... I think of "cold reading" - digging for answers and "warm reading" - allowing the book to touch your heart and soul and mind.
"I want students to be able to analyze and interpret, reason and imagine, critique texts objectively and respond to them personally. And I want them to do this with real independence and a strong sense of agency and identity as readers, in ways that support academic success and a love of reading." (Vinton, p.18)
  • A hundred yes, yes, yeses to Vicki's words!!! 
  • Text complexity ... After creating a school book room, we quickly realized that "leveling" text is a very complex process. My colleague and I did our best, but clearly expressed to teachers: Use your own professional judgement when selecting texts!
  • Whoever is doing the work is doing the learning .... even with the most complex piece. 
  • Text's message: "Comprehension is the floor ... connecting the dots to see the bigger picture." What a visual way to explain thinking to students!
  • Hmmmm ... I still thinking about this new vision of balanced literacy. (p.24) I need to reread and think through the differences of current practice of the balanced literacy components.
  • YES! Love the action plans for all students, especially for the Tier 2 students I work with. This is my goal: Think about:
    • What kind of problems is this reader facing?
    • What kind of text does this reader need?
    • How can we help this reader develop a more complex vision of reading?

"This deeper understanding is what I believe we, as teachers, need to aim for, since it's only when we read at this depth that our sense of human possibility is enlarged, we educate our hearts as well as our minds, and we are ready not only for college and careers but for whatever life might bring us." (Vinton, p.22)

Chapter 3: Toward More Complex Views of Thinking, Close Reading, and the Reading Process

Take Aways: 
  • I think internally I've always hoped and wished books changed my students lives ... but Vicki's approach to be more explicit about it just makes more sense!
  • Readers need more invitations and opportunities to think creatively and critically about text.
  • Again, I need to think more deeply about re-envisioning the reading process. It makes perfect sense, but need to dig into process this language and understanding. Love the reading process visuals Vicki included for fiction and nonfiction (p.41-3.) 
Chapter 4: Strengthening the Connection Between Teaching and Learning

Take Aways: 
  • Social-emotional and building relationships is essential to learning!
  • Ultimate Goal: Independence and transfer of learning
  • Mindset is important as well. Reminding students they may not be able to do it yet, but we can do this hard work!
  • Learning moves from short term memory to working memory (p.47) - One and done doesn't work!
  • Choice and opportunity to explore
  • Aha! Shift in my learning as a teacher of reading and the gradual release of responsibility: "seeing teaching as being less about explaining or showing students how to do things and more about creating and facilitating opportunities for them to learn through exploration, problem solving, and discovery." (Vinton, p.51)
  • Using a PBA, I need to consider when, how, and WHY we provide explicit instruction and teacher modeling.
  • The power of feedback and language has been a hot topic buzzing in my ears lately. I need to revisit Johnston's work and think deeper about this topic as I continue to work with developing readers and classroom teachers.

"And this is why David A. Sousa, the author of
How the Brain Learns, says 

that teaching is 'the only profession whose job is to change the 
human brain every day." 
(Vinton, p.46)

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As always, thank you for taking the time to read and sharing your voice!

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Join in the #cyberPD conversations this month!
  • Grab your copy of Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading and read!
  • Write a weekly blog post or share your thoughts in the Google Community.
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Read.  Reflect.  Share.  Respond to others.  Then repeat.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

{yeah, you rock} #sol17

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

I didn't ask, but I still received.

Do you know how amazing that feels?

I shared my feelings and ups and downs with my new role and changes in my professional life.

And you were there to lift me up. Reminding me I could do this. Sharing wisdom and advice. Reaching out to connect.

Yes, I'm nervous about what is to come. But with you all by my side, this journey next year will be doable.

And in case I'm in need of more positive, encouraging words ... I've started yet another Pinterest board: New Adventure!  Let's do this!