Best Book I Have Not Read

Writing, Reading, Teaching, Life, Attempting to Balance it All

Welcome Spring March 20, 2010

For those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you know I’ve been silent for a while. Thanks to those who didn’t give up, but kept coming back to see if I was talking yet.

I moved in mid-January (which has been wonderful), had four ‘extra’ snow days to unpack, but the rest has been hard.It’s not even been “my” hardness that has been hard, but our small town has been suffering through immense sadness.

I’ve spent many days plotting a trip to TCRWP for their March Reunion weekend. I figured if a shot of Jerry Spinelli, Lucy Calkins, Katherine Bomer, Alfred Tatum, and Jim Trelease mixed with the TC energy couldn’t fix my funk, I might need to seek professional help! Unfortunately (or fortunately from my husband’s point of view), I could not find anyone who thought NYC was ‘just a road trip’ from Columbus.

If I was there I’d be getting ready to walk into Riverside Church to hear Jerry Spinelli’s ‘Failure, Fried Chicken, Fiction’ keynote. I would then be trying to decide if I was going to hear Mary Enrenworth’s talk on “Reading Historical Fiction: The Project’s Latest Thinking on the Intersection Between Deep Comprehension, Interpretation, and Book Clubs” or Jen Serravallo’s “Reading Conferring and Small Group Work in a Classroom of Accountability”. I would then skip off to see Jerry Maraia, who was my TC staff developer last summer, talk, “My Students Just Retell! Getting Readers to Think Deeply About Their Books by Supporting Inference and Synthesis”. After lunch I would have been hard pressed to pick between Tiffany Nealy’s “Unit of Study on Mystery Book Clubs”, “The Intersection of RtI and Reading Workshop” (not because it makes my heart go pitty-pat, but because I have to think, talk, and advocate about the topic endlessly, or “Grammar Instruction on the Go! Creating Demonstrations Sketchbooks to Support Small Group Instruction in Writing”. (I will admit that I just flipped over to Expedia to see if a magical plane ticket for cheap had just appeared. I know I am nutty, but I’m a good nut). I will now make myself stop looking at the Workshop Schedule.

I haven’t been able to make myself read and finish a book. I’ve started several, but after a chapter I’ve put them down. Today, I vow that I will pick one up and finish it. It’s not good for me not to read.

Here’s the positive I’m going to focus on-

  • It’s the first day of Spring!
  • My kids and hubby are healthy and happy!
  • Not only am I going to attend a week of the July Summer Reading Institute, but I will have a teacher from the elementary school there as well! The August Reading Institute has another elementary teacher and two intermediate teachers! We have two on wait list for July! This is huge for us!
  • I have a huge TBR pile!
  • Four days until spring break!
  • I love walking two blocks to get a coffee, an ice cream cone, or a drink!
 

Make My Day September 13, 2009

Sometimes I worry about Facebook.

Is it mentally healthy to be able to stay connected to your childhood friends especially when you live in your childhood town?

Do I really want everyone who is my Facebook friend to be able to read my blog when that is not the audience I intend it for?

All kinds of other silly worries… I know I shouldn’t worry, but…I am me.

But on the other hand I recently received a message from a friend that I haven’t seen nearly enough in the past year (names changed for privacy). That is a positive of Facebook!

Subject: good feedback…

“I’ve been wanting to share with you…  last week I was asking the girls what their favorite part of the first week of school was.  Sally said that your writing time was her favorite, as she proceeded to tell me all about three stories that she started writing (along with a story that you had shared with them).  I didn’t even have to coax her beyond recess!  Thanks for your dedication to all of our kids and their education!  We are so fortunate to have educators and friends like you!”

How much do I LOVE that!

Not that I was her favorite part of her first week of school, but that WRITING was her favorite part! Presentation and storytelling is so important in inspiring young writers! Getting to kick off writing workshop in multiple classroom over multiple weeks has been a blast! It doesn’t matter what the age, their stories are so great, and the ability for kids to learn quickly how to shape words to pull their reader in is darn amazing. I’ve gotten to hear/read during writing conferences with students about how the wind blows your hair back from your face as you go up the incline of a roller coaster and how to feels to pull back the string (so not the actual word) on the bow of your first deer hunt while your dad whispers in your ear and lets you take the first shot (I hate hunting but was able to marvel at his words.).

Pretty amazing. I love my job and I love that most every work day includes a happy, waist-high hug, and enthusiastic silent waves from students on their way from one part of the building to the next.

 

A Trail Guide to a TC Institute Week August 11, 2009

Filed under: TCRWP,writing conferences,writing workshop — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:17 am
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Keynote (an hour)

Morning group  by age group assignment (2 hours) Large Group-theory and research behind; learning the how-to

lunch with sessions (optional) 1 hour

Afternoon Small Group-by age group assignment (1 hour and 55 minutes) Small Group-practice the structures discussed/learned in the morning

Closing (50 minutes) Choices

Informational Sessions (optional)

Homework Assignments (not short!)

Monday

Keynote-Lucy Calkins-Teaching the Inner Writer: Putting Our Lives on the Line

Large Group Mary Ehrenworth

Lunch/Book Browsing

Small Group-Jerry Maraia

Closing Choices-I went to the Mary Ehrenworth on books to start the year

Tuesday

Keynote-Nikki Grimes-The Color of Poetry

Large Group Mary Ehrenworth

Lunch Session-Supporting English Language Learners in the Writing Workshop

Small Group-Jerry Maraia

Closing Choices-haven’t decided yet

 

Preparing for August July 27, 2009

Filed under: school,TCRWP,writing conferences,writing workshop — bestbookihavenotread @ 3:54 pm
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Depending on which side of the pendulum you ride, hearing the words Back to School can either strike dread and form a pit in your stomach or produce euphoria! 

I go back to work full-time August 3rd, part-time this week.

I should figure out a way to word it better. It doesn’t sound nearly dramatic enough that way.

I have been working full-time this summer as the mother of two young children, but August 3rd sees the recombination of full-time work outside the home with full-time work inside the home.

My children don’t care for what that means for them.

Neither does my husband.

Me? I’m most worried about keeping my house ready for a showing at a moment’s notice. I will get this thing sold! I will admit I had a spring in my step as I headed into school office on my way to work. 

It is the last week of July and I am preparing for the class I will be teaching next week as well as trying to get my head wrapped around another week out-of-town for work-all sandwiched around picking up my daughter from camp in Michigan, and her 10th birthday.

I’m not afraid to admit that life does get easier for me when the kids go back to school in 3 weeks because that at least reduces my mom-guilt and need to be in too many places at once. I am not a mom who has ever cried or thought about crying when school starts. I actually feel kind of bad for those moms who feel that Back to School equals loss or a tear-worthy event. Mom-guilt makes me wonder if it means I’m not as dedicated of a mother as they are. Common sense tells me that I LOVE school and have a hard time imagining anyone not LOVING school. School is such a part of childhood, like losing a tooth or falling off your bike, that it has always just been part of the rhythm of my children growing up. I find it fascinating that there are moms who have parties to celebrate their children going back to school and others who have parties to mourn the same thing. I’m going to be at school having a great time with their children, no judgement attached.

 

Here’s what August has in store for me:

The first week of August I am teaching a class for Teachers on Writing Workshop and conferring with writers.

The second week of August I am back at Columbia’s TCRWP for a week of intense training in Writer’s Workshop.

The third week has me in consulting meetings throughout buildings and with teachers who have willingly given up one of their last free days to meet and plan with me for this upcoming year.

What does the year have in store? Everyday Math version 3 adoption in full swing; a Writing Units of Study Calendar that has each grade level having a dedicated 4 and half days to meet before each new unit of study in writing commences; further training of staff in reading assessments; Response to Intervention work-working to get the buildings in-sync and not falling into a cart-before-the-horse trap; Professional Learning Communities throughout the district; Book Studies.  And of course all the emergencies that can’t be planned for that crop in the day, week, life of a school. 

 

It’s going to be a great ride.

 

The Cafe Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser “The Sisters” April 15, 2009

I became a fan of “The Sisters” with their publication for The Daily Five: Fostering Literacy Independence. Even though the book was aimed at more primary students than my fourth graders were, I was game to give some of their strategies a try. I had been a huge proponent of individual reading conferences for many years, but the management of the rest of the class as well as the organization to ensure I was meeting with students in a way that met their needs was still a challenge. The Sisters got me with their quote, “Did those things (centers, projects, worksheets…)just keep our kids busy or were they engaged in literacy tasks that will make a difference in their literate lives.” Their concerns mirrored many of mine.cafe

You can read the entire Cafe Book book online. I made it about halfway through before my copy arrived in the mail Friday.  You can also hear a  blog interview on Stenhouse to see some more information from the sisters. They do also have their own website-part free, most subscription.  

The Cafe system makes record-keeping and organization accessible for teachers who feel often feel overwhelmed by the management of workshop or conferences.

They are coming to Columbus, Ohio this summer for some workshops in conjunction with Choice Literacy and I am thrilled a few of the elementary teachers I work with will be in attendance.  They did a great job presenting at the Dublin Literacy Conference-very engaging and had me laughing quite a bit. My favorite story was from the one sister who tried to make post-it notes into wearable jewelry so she wouldn’t keep losing them. 

Many of us have made their “Pensieve” notebooks and love having all our records in one place. It’s a nice complement to any reading or writing workshop, not just one new thing to try.

 

Professional Learning Focus: Reading and Writing. I Just Can’t Get Enough April 5, 2009

Having had the opportunity to hear Carl Anderson speak about conferring and assessing young writers yesterday just 2 weeks after attending a Lucy Calkins Literacy Institute, I am in professional learning and reflection rapture.

A blogging friend ran into me yesterday at the workshop and remarked, “You’re at everything”.

While I don’t attend “everything”, I would agree with her that I do attend everything that I possibly can that is professionally valuable.  I do draw the line and know that I can’t focus on everything. For instance, several years ago when I had first started using Lucy Calkins Units of Study, my principal got a little annoyed with me when I refused to attend a workshop on 6 + 1 Traits of Writing.  He could not understand why I would prefer (and insist) on going to a workshop about new literature at the Columbus Public Library when I had the opportunity to hear a presenter from Texas in my own school.

“My brain can’t handle any different information at this point. It is really hard work getting Units of Study up and running and I can’t afford any distractions from it if I am going to give it the attention it needs to be successful.”  I tried to explain to him.

I even went so far as encouraging him to cancel the speaker. After all, we were all supposed to be working within the parameters of Calkins Writing Workshop, and I truly believed that all the session with that Texan would do would get people excited about something that they really shouldn’t be doing that year and frustrated that they couldn’t go try out what they had just sat through a whole day session about. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. 

I also have learned that I have to go out and find what I am looking for in the area of professional development. Being a teacher in the community I live in, has so many positives, I can’t even begin to name them. Unfortunately on-site professional development is not one of them.

Bigger districts have had the opportunity to bring in renowned experts to talk and work with their teachers for years and years.

“What!? Ralph Fletcher was in your room teaching writing workshop!” I would drool hearing this year after year while talking to teaching friends at the Dublin Literacy Conference.

I, on the other hand, have had the opportunity to read their books and try things out with a couple of like-minded individuals.  Really good, but not in the same league. Rec league basketball instead of the NBAs.

Fortunately, it has gotten easier over the years with opportunities such as the fifth annual Lakota Literacy VIEW , The Literacy Connection, as well as the annual Dublin Literacy Conference, on-line resources such as Choice Literacy, blogs (see my sidebar for my favorites) such as Two Writing Teachers or Reading Zone and nings with like-minded teachers.  For now, I am still a learner and need to soak in everything I can in order to best help the teachers and students I work with. My excitement over the possibilities leaves me recharged and ready to learn more!

 

Conferring with Writers April 3, 2009

Filed under: writing conferences,writing workshop — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:11 pm
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Today was part 3 of 4 sessions studying conferring in the writing workshop with a focus on Carl Anderson’s book Assessing Writers. As part of the Literacy Connection, Carl is in Columbus today and tomorrow.  He led a writing workshop in a fifth grade classroom, complete with mini-lesson, student conferences, and share. There was time for debriefing between sessions. Tomorrow he will lead a workshop for teachers on the same topic. 

I learned a lot watching Carl in action and am looking forward to learning more tomorrow. I’m also hoping to pick up his newest book set Strategic Writing Conferences: Smart Conversations that Move Writers Forward. Stay tuned for another update this weekend.

 

Richard Peck, Lucy Calkins, Author’s Readers Theater, Oh My! March 21, 2009

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Sarah Weeks, Richard Peck, Avi, Pam Munoz Ryan

 

My favorite quote of the day comes from Richard Peck:

“You learn the most from the experiences you would have avoided if you could have.”

 

The day was wonderful I will have things to share, but for now it’s time to go to bed so I can get up early again for tomorrow. 

If you ever have the chance to attend the TCRWP Saturday Reunion you will not be sorry. What an amazing day. 

 

Getting up early (again)

I’m up at the crack of dawn to attend the 76th Saturday Reunion for The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. I’ve dreamed and drooled over this for many a year. It starts with a keynote from Richard Peck and then offers choices for 4 more sessions (20+ for each session) before having a Closing talk, a reception and then a debrief with the people attending the Coaching Institute.
It’s hard picking what to go to, but I have the train ride to narrow my choices down a little more. I am planning on seeing Lucy Calkins talk about Best Practices in Reading Workshop for grades 3-8 (TC has a Reading Units of Study in the works for publication in 2010), Author’s Readers Theatre with Avi, Sarah Weeks, Pam Munoz Ryan, and Brian Selznick, but still need to read through the 100 + choices again en route.

 

Assessing Young Writers by Carl Anderson February 5, 2009

51mc6ahuwkl_bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-clicktopright35-76_aa240_sh20_ou01_I just finished reading this 2005 book by Carl Anderson and it is great! I wish that I had read it the year it came out at the same time as I was first reading Units of Study by Lucy Calkins. It would have been so helpful to me as a classroom teacher and really has helped gel my thinking about writing workshop. 
I highly recommend you add this book to your professional reading list! 

 

This review at Amazon sums it up very well:

I wouldn’t be as good a teacher of writing without this book. No kidding. It provides the daily nitty-gritty practical solutions to common writing workshop problems, and has great ideas for conferring, unit planning, troubleshooting, and more. This is for the every day teacher and college folk alike. 

Some of the blacklines from this book are ESSENTIAL to my organization of workshop. I can’t imagine trying to do it without his advice and guidance. His book was the “Miracle Grow” to my Calkins kit experience. The piece I needed to REALLY pull it off and feel good about it. Heworked in the project with Ms. Calkins, so his ideas line right up with the ideas I already have in motion. I don’t work for anybody, but I heartfully encourage you to help yourself by getting this one (and I love his How’s It Going? too…)

 

 
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