Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Motivation comes in all shapes and sizes.

My colleague (and great friend), Chris, and I have been pushing each other this year.  Not only do we have great conversations about kids and reaching all learners, we have blogged and twittered our way into the 21st century.  A new genre of learning.  We are not only the teachers incorporating technology into our daily lessons, but we are the learners of this inspiring technology as well.  Learning together.

Check out what Chris created:  a prezi.  An online presentation motivating students to read this summer.  I L.O.V.E this!  And, of course, I can't WAIT to try it out for myself!  I could easily make a prezi about where we can catch our students writing this summer!

What do you think?   I'm motivated.  What about you?  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

This Plus That: More Little Equations

This school year we are counting down the last days of school.  I mean, we all secretly count down the days, but this year for the first time we are doing it together as a school.  We are counting down the last 26 days of school by participating in an ABC countdown.  You know, A is for art creativity day, B is for busy buzzy bee day, C is for compliment day . . . and so on, until Z -- zip up your bags and zoom home for summer!  I have to say, the students are really enjoying each simple, yet fun activity as a break from the normal routines!

Well, Monday was M day (secretly that means there are only 13 more days to go).  M is for math activity day.  I teach reading and writing, so how was I going to manage this one?  Of course, we could read a book about fractions  -- Hershey's chocolate anyone?  We could write our own story problems using our names, or even write about why we love math so much because most kids who struggle with reading love math . . . There are numerous ways to integrate math, reading and writing.  But I have something better!

I recently shared a great new book that I discovered by Amy Krouse Rosenthal:  This Plus That: Life's Little Equations.   This was the perfect opportunity to share this selection with my students!

("M" day + fun math activity) x one perfect book = FUN(reading + writing + math)

After enjoying the book and sharing some of my equations, the students were challenged to create and write their own little equations.  Here's a sampling:

baby + toys = mess (Sehade, age 8)
Santa + gifts = Christmas (Khush, age 7)
book + read = happy (Rachel, age 6)
ice cream + toppings = yummy (Kacper, age 7)
bee + sting = ouch (Angel, 8)
best friend + angry = not best friend (Tristin, 8)
ice pack + patient = nurse's office (Carmen, 9)
friends + pillow fight = sleepover (Daniela, 10)
daylight + dimming = sunset (Cassi, 10)
reading + reading = improvement (Yvette, 9)  
papa + mama + baby = family  (Hannah, age 8)
D. Rose + slam dunk = MVP (Andrew, age 7)
water + waves = surfing (Tristin, 8)

Awesome mentor text + Great thinkers = Life's new equations

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Long Walk To Water

A Long Walk To Water, by Linda Sue Park, was recommended by a fellow blogger, Linda at teacherdance, a couple weeks ago.  I love when teachers share great books; especially books that I may not decide to pick up on my own.  (Sound like any of our students???)  I've recently professed my love for picture books, so I'm not always scouring the internet or bookstores for young adult books.  So keep those recommendations coming!

I'm always encouraging my students to share a great book that they have read and loved, and think about who else would enjoy this good read.  (Check out this "gotta read it" form your students can use to recommend a book!)  Well, Linda said that she loved this book, and after reading her post, I was thinking it would be a good read -- even though my schema about the troubled country of Sudan and the 'lost boys' was minimal.

What a great read!  I started the book last night and didn't put it down until I finished it!  It is an amazing true story about Salva, who was caught in the middle of a rebel war back in 1985.  Salva was told to run -- run away from home, run away from family.  Years and years Salva traveled from refugee camp to refugee camp, until his final destination in the United States. In the book we also meet Nya, a young girl living in current Sudan, who must walk miles and miles each day to retrieve water for her family.  The author weaves these two narrative stories that finally merge in the end.

It's an amazing story that makes you think about the struggles in other countries, like constant fighting and war -- and even struggles for things that we take for granted every day of our lives, like water.  Yet, it also inspires hope.  A hope that change will come.  A hope that anyone, even you, can make a difference.  Today, Salva is continuing to make a difference!  This is a must read!

Check out these video trailers to see more:

Also, another book trailer from BookWink -- a resource that I'll be checking out again! 

Linda also offers many ideas of how the book can be used in the classroom.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Best Medicine: You've Got to Try This!

open widephoto © 2009 brendan.adamson | more info (via: Wylio)

Some of the best medicine
these days is free.
We all need a little dose
every now and then to feel better.

It doesn't come in a pill or
taste like pink bubble gum.
But it is good for your health --
a healing gift that keeps on giving.

Enjoy a little by yourself, but let me tell you:
it's even better when shared with a friend.
It will make you feel silly and
sometimes you may even cry.

It lightens the mood, calms the tempers,
diffuses tension, and chases away anger.
Some say it can be addicting, but
I know for sure it is contagious.

What is it you ask?  Where can you find it?
How do you get some?  Now?

It all starts with a smile and a giggle to follow.
Then the laughter arrives.  And it doesn't stop.
Laugh.  It's an amazing cure.  Try it.  Just laugh.
Feel better?  I sure do.  And it was free!

Laughphoto © 2009 Justin Cellini | more info (via: Wylio)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

End of the Year Crunch

Are you feeling it?
Summer is coming.
Time is up.
Seventeen more days.
We're making lists.  
Sharing data.
Using every last tick of instructional time.
She's moving?
Oh, they need to be separated.
Intensive.  Strategic?
Keep an eye on him.

We have all year to stress about our students and what we are teaching, yet it catches up to us in May.  We feel the push.  We want what is best for our students and prepare them for the next grade.  We plan extra mini-lessons.  We plan with big ideas.  Then the questions begin:  Did I do enough?  Is she ready?  What about this?  I still need to teach them that.  It feels like May is jammed and crammed.

We should be feeling this pressure all school year.  We should feel this concerned and aware of who is sitting in front of us.  We should be worried about what we need to teach them to move them forward.  All. Year.  With excitement and enthusiasm.

Let's teach every month as if it's always the last month of school.  I bet we'd be amazed at the results.

Are you feeling it?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Life's Little Equations

Ok. I'm a reading teacher, so I love books.  All books.  But here is the brutally, honest truth: I L.O.V.E. picture books. I need them. I want them. I have to have them!  I check out books all the time from my local library, but then I fall in love.  I need them. I want them.  I have to have them in my hands!  (Ask my husband, I seriously have a problem.  There is no budget big enough for great books!)

I just picked up this book a couple hours ago from the library and I've already purchased in on Amazon!  I need it!  I want it!  And you are going to have to add this book to your collection at home and at school too!

One of my local (Chicago) favorite authors is Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  She has written many fun books like Little Pea,  The OK Book, Yes Day! and her newest titled: This Plus That: Life's Little Equations.  Amy plays with words in math sentences and proves to the reader that life is made up of many equations, but it always adds up to something special.

Some of my favorite little equations:

practice + practice = learning

          practice + practice + practice = mastering

cozy + smell of pancakes - alarm clock = weekend

          good days + bad days = real life

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

My Turn:  Life's Equations for Tuesday

Ice Cream Sundae Chocolate Sauce Food Macro November 08, 20103photo © 2010 Steven Depolo | more info (via: Wylio)
vanilla ice cream + lots of chocolate sauce = yummy dessert
anything + chocolate = better

Playground shadowsphoto © 2006 Phil | more info (via: Wylio)

sunshine + warm breeze + recess = students think it's summer

DSC_0179photo © 2010 Joelle Inge-Messerschmidt | more info (via: Wylio)
snuggles + giggles + smiles = 2(happy baby)

walking + falling = one year olds

mama + dada + uh-oh = first words

2(beautiful daughters) + pure love = amazingly blessed family

great idea + mentor text = perfecting a craft
          writing + sharing Slice of Life x comments = happy blogger

Life starts todayphoto © 2008 Jonas Bengtsson | more info (via: Wylio)

What little equations 
sum up your life?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Blogging: Practicing a Craft

Writing is My Hobbyphoto © 2009 Charles J Danoff | more info (via: Wylio)

Just over three months ago, I thought about venturing into this world of blogging.   It was full of promise and learning and cool technology.  It was intriguing, yet frightful.

I want to be the best me no matter what hat I'm wearing or what role I'm playing in my life.  I'm constantly searching for ways to continuously improve: reading, learning, discussing, collaborating, and experimenting with technology.  I want to improve myself as a teacher, a mother, and expand my knowledge and schema about so many topics.  Life-long learner at heart!

I decided to take the first step in blogging.  Yet so many questions swirled around in my head:  Did I want to create a professional blog and share my thinking and learning?  Or, what about a personal blog and I could record the details of being a new mom of twin daughters?  What do I write?  Where do I write it?  I think it's going to be difficult to manage one blog, so how can I manage two blogs?

Deep breath.  Luckily, setting up a blog was as easy as 1-2-3.  Therefore, I created a professional blog and a family blog.  (Besides, no one is going to read them, right?)  I wasn't sure I knew what I wanted my blogs to represent or showcase, but they were blank slates ready for words to fill up the spaces.  I realize now that my blogs have grown beyond what I ever anticipated.

The blogs were created in a click, click, and save.  I started writing.  I was writing for me.  Then I joined the TWT Slice of Life March writing challenge.  The challenge was to write every day.  I struggled with what to write on which blog and . . . and . . . and.  In my mind, I thought my professional blog was all about teaching and reflecting on my practice in the classroom.  After starting the challenge, I knew I would not be able to write only about teaching.

My two most important worlds, my family and my teaching, overlap.  I'm learning to balance and prioritize in both worlds.  Therefore, my writing had to represent this life that I live.  I had to incorporate my family life and teaching life.  I had to be able to write what was speaking from my heart.

I'm blogging to share. I'm blogging to learn.  I now realize that I am blogging to practice the craft of writing and to share my learning as a writer.  It doesn't matter what my topic may be, or what world I'm referring to in my writing.  "Just write: It's good for you."  I fully understand that the art of writing improves my learner-self, my teacher-self, my mother-self, and my techy lover-self.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

First Birthday Celebration

Family and friends arrived with hands full of thoughtful goodies and gifts.  Hugs came with smiles of pure happiness.  Loud laughter echoing.  Constant chatter consuming.  Children floating inside and out.  Babies being bounced from here to there.  Everyone clamoring for their attention.  All trying to hear a giggle or see a smile.  Stunned looks on the babies' faces as they did not know what to think of all this excitement.  Joy in the celebration of our two beautiful daughters on their very first birthday.

One year full of . . .

smiles   giggles
playing  dancing
bathing     eating
     changing     changing
and more changing

     hopes  dreams

     waking   crying
     holding    snuggling
hugs     loving  

surprises     newness
     deep breathing

comfort.  relief.  peace.

two precious angels.  all our love.

one. full. year.