Best Book I Have Not Read

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

Central Ohio’s Got Talent! August 28, 2010

How exciting! A first successful week of school is under our belts and we have a get-together planned for  Central Ohio KidLit bloggers at our favorite indy children’s bookstore. Not only that, but the event ties in with a great author visit and a trip to a favorite eatery.

How could it get better? It’s hard, but today news came through the KidLit blog pipe that  Julie Johnson of Raising Readers and Writers won NCTE’s Donald H. Graves Award for Excellence in Teaching Writing! How does one find out they have won the award? With a phone call from none other than Katie Wood Ray!

Holy Cow!  I can’t even imagine answering the phone and hearing that southern drawl?

I first met Julie when I was fortuatnte enough to attend The Literacy Connection’s Carl Anderson visit 2 Aprils ago. Participants got to see Julie in action with Carl and her students in her Hilliard, Ohio classroom. A KidLit friend introduced us, it turned out she also had started a blog AND had taught with my former co-teacher in another life in another district. Small World!

Julie happens to be one of “them” that I refer to in my guest post over at Two Writing Teachers. If she happened to read that article, she probably didn’t know she was a “them” for me. Julie is one of “them” because she made the time for writing in her life both through the Central Ohio Writing Project AND her own classroom. She had a writing club! Ah…

One of her first posts on her blog was about the writing community her principal and fellow teachers were forming. Wow! The dedication…I still can dream of that day…

Congratulations Julie! What a deserving winner. May you continue to be an inspiration for people not just in your school, classroom, and community, but even further with the audience of your blog.

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Writing-about writing… August 13, 2010

Filed under: writing — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:33 pm

I felt very privileged to be asked to write a guest post for Stacey and Ruth over at Two Writing Teachers. Head over there to check out “Confessions of a Lurking Writer”.

 

Once Upon a School January 1, 2010

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My husband came home talking about the Pirate Supply Store and their tutoring center sometime in the past year. He is a big fan of TED “Ideas Worth Spreading” tv and had seen the video of author Dave Eggers’ 2008 TED award acceptance speech. In addition, one of the guys who works for him has a friend who is affiliated with the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company. I’m surprised I haven’t posted about it already.

“Founded in 2002 by author Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Calegari, 826 Valencia is dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their writing skills, and to helping teachers get their students excited about the writing. Our work is based on the understanding that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success and that great leaps in learning can be made when skilled tutors work one-on-one with students.”

I love his dream!

 

I love kid writing November 13, 2009

Filed under: writing — bestbookihavenotread @ 9:20 am
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I am in love with student writing. I never cease to be amazed at what kids can do with a little bit of instruction and a little bit of time.

My son is a classic hard case second grade boy. He never has anything to write about; it’s like pulling teeth for his poor teacher. She’s generated lists with him. She’s had us work on an expert list at home. Every generating trick known to teacher-kind, she’s tried it.

It seems that we  have turned the corner.

This past week while we were in his parent teacher conference, he sat and wrote a “book”. It’s “4 chapters”.

Of course before he could write, he had to construct a fort in the corner of my office made of a pad of chart paper and a computer printer box roof. He then found “special” paper to be his writer’s notebook.

He said he wanted to write a fiction book. I, of course being me, suggested he take a real-life problem and turn it into a story (classic UOS Calkins’ generating technique). Take for instance, his desire to have a lizard. I suggested he write a story about a boy who wants a lizard and the things he does to get his parents to get him a lizard.

“Mom, that can’t be a fiction story because that’s really going to happen. I’m going to get a lizard.” (Poor delusional boy-No truly means no).

Instead he decides to write about “his” lizard. He calls the “paragraphs” chapters and makes a cover page, staples it together, and is ready to read it to all who will listen. My favorite part is the about the author at the end.

“Simon wishes to be a cartoonist. He has a lot of hopes and dreams.” Squiggly lines to represent more writing

Right before we had left for parent-teacher conferences, I’d been reading parts of the NCTE annual convention program aloud and exclaiming in excitement for different parts of it. At the end there are Both kids had been peering over my shoulder to see what authors were going to be there and if they recognized any of the book titles. Jeff Kinney of Wimpy Kid fame will be there and his “About the Author” was the inspiration for my son’s about the author.

Mentor texts in a whole new light! I had not thought to have kids use the “About the Author” for inspiration for writing theirs. We’ll have to give it a try!

 

TCRWP Fall Reunion October 19, 2009

The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project


presents the

Saturday Reunion

October 24, 2009

9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Join the entire Project Community as we open our doors to thousands of educators from New York City and around the world for more than 140 free workshops, keynotes and closings throughout the day on state-of-the art methods in the teaching of reading and writing for grades K-8. Special guest speakers and literacy leaders from all over the country will join us to discuss such topics as: Help Students Think, Talk and Write Well About Reading, Teach Higher Level Comprehension; Use Assessment to Inform Instruction, and dozens and dozens more….

Katherine Paterson
The day will open with a keynote by Katherine Paterson, the author of young adult novels that have uplifted generations of children.  Her stories of perseverance in the face of impossible odds and her treatment of weighty topics, such as death and jealousy, have earned her numerous awards, including the National Book Award for The Great Gilly Hopkins, and the Newbery Medal for Bridge to Terabithia, and Jacob Have I Loved.

Speakers Include:

Lucy Calkins, Founding Director of the TCRWP is the author of many professional books including The Art of Teaching Reading, A Principals Guide to Leadership in the Teaching of Writing, and two series about units of study for primary and upper grade writing.  Her upcoming Units of Study on Teaching Reading for Grades 3-5 (Heinemann, 2009), co-authored with Kathleen Tolan, is due out from Heinemann soon.

Kathy Collins is the author of Growing Readers: Units of Study in the Primary Classroom. Kathy is a frequent guest lecturer at national conferences.  Her latest book is titled, Reading for Real: Teach Students to Read with Power, Intention and Joy in K-3 Classrooms.

Mary Ehrenworth is the author of Looking to Write: Children Writing Through the Visual Arts and The Power of Grammar: Unconventional Approaches to the Conventions of Language. Mary is the Deputy Director for Middle Schools at the TCRWP.

Amanda Hartman is Lead Coach at the Project and has co-authored three works with Lucy Calkins: Authors as Mentors, The Conferring Handbook and One-to-One: The Art of Conferring with Young Writers, as well as a CD-ROM: Conferring with Young Writers.

Laurie Pessah is Senior Deputy Director at the Project and leads study groups for principals, assistant principals, staff developers, and teachers, and she is co-author with Lucy Calkins of Nonfiction Writing: Procedures and Reports and A Principal’s Guide to Leadership in the Teaching of Writing.

Kathleen Tolan is Senior Deputy Director of Reading at the Project.  Kathleen co-wrote a FirstHand series on literacy coaching and co-authored with Lucy Calkins the upcoming Units of Study on Teaching Reading for Grades 3-5 (Heinemann, 2009).

Having found the “storytelling” behind history, our Closing speaker, Joy Hakim, author of the ten-volume series A History of US, will speak about shedding a new light on the teaching of history.  She put “the story” at the center of nonfiction again with her subsequent book, The Story of Science: Einstein Adds a New Dimension.  Her passion and style have brought her wide acclaim and recognition, and her awards include: The 2008 Benjamin Franklin Award for Education/Teaching/Academic, and the 2007 USA Book News’s Best Book in General Science Category.


The Morning Keynote will be held at Riverside Church9:00 a.m.

490 Riverside Drive (between 120th and 122nd Streets)

The remainder of workshops will be held at Teachers College, 525 W.120th Street, NY NY 10027

No registration required.

For more information, visit our Web site at: readingandwritingproject.com


 

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.

 

TCRWP Coaching Institute Reflections-six weeks later May 5, 2009

What an amazing learning experience the TCRWP Institute was for me in so many ways! 

Almost anyone would benefit from attending a TC Institute as long as you had some background in reading/writing workshop. The only suggestion I would make is that I think they should record their sessions and put videos on-line, similar to Choice Literacy. Then they could have a subscription fee for those who can’t attend, but would like to view the staff development opportunities/professional learning.  

Here is a reflection I wrote a couple weeks about the Institute. State Testing weeks here in Ohio don’t put many people in very happy moods, which is where I was (smack in the middle of the dark place of testing) when I wrote this reflection.  I hope you, the reader will read more of what I’ve written in order to realize that I am not often so gloomy.

Reflection– April 2009

I learned so many positive things through my attendance at the Third Annual Literacy Leaders/Coaches Institute at Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.  I met amazing people from around the country and world. I heard how so many schools are trying to work through similar problems as the district that I come from. I learned about the great work TCRWP is doing in regards to Reading Units of Study. I was able to personally witness the amazing possibilities that exist when a school district the size of NYC puts its resources and energy into a focused endeavor.

I was inspired to set up a “Mega Lab site” of my own for students and teachers. I was motivated to try yet again to open conversations among grade level colleagues about the benefits of having a shared curricular calendar. I’ve been motivated to read and learn more on my own since my return. I can’t get enough reading/learning to fill up all the possibilities about which I wonder.

I’ve also learned how far I still have to come in my own learning about the teaching of reading and writing and how much further we as a district still need to come. I’m trying to focus on the latter as a positive, but it is hard having what you have suspected for years come and hit you full-force in the face with its reality. As we had an opportunity to discuss at TC, this is a lonely position in the vastness of education.  Laurie Pessah and Lucy Calkins would say that we need to start by establishing our “non-negotiables”. That’s easier said than done in a district where teachers have always been allowed to do whatever they want as we are considered an “excellent” district by the state.  How do you counteract the mentality that we are successful just because a test(s) says we are when we don’t examine our practice on a regular basis? How do you convey that “good enough” is not really good enough? We owe it to our students and community to be so much better. Does that mean we have uncaring and unmotivated teachers? Quite the opposite. Our teachers and administrators work incredibly hard and want children to be successful.  It’s not unusual to find teachers in the buildings working all hours of the morning, night, weekends, and summers (and no they don’t get paid for those additional hours.)  But just as a person won’t ever truly learn to speak Spanish fluently if they aren’t made to speak aloud, teachers cannot be certain that we are truly doing what’s best for all students if we are not willing to examine our practices on a regular basis.  As TC stated, “One of the greatest gifts a school district has is the collective intelligence of all their teachers”. Good ideas are not meant to be hoarded. Can I really not accept responsibility for any other students than the ones in my own classroom? Can it be okay for me to have thousands of books for my students to read and enjoy if the teacher next door has one hundred that are not at a level that can be accessed by her students independently?  Yes, I bought them myself, but that is not the point right now.

For too long, some district have treated its teachers like American Idol contestants where some will get voted off and others will go on to win the adoration of the community, the accolades of their principal, and parents will wrestle with other parents wanting their students placed in one or two certain classrooms within a grade level. One of the greatest things that has come out of my participation with The Literacy Connection and Teachers College Reading and Writing Project workshops is the common conversations colleagues (both locally and nationally) and I can then have about raising the level of all students’ learning.  Our district has begun making those baby steps to being collegial colleagues

                   Definition of Collegial:

                             Collegiality is the relationship between colleagues. Colleagues are those explicitly united in a common purpose and respecting each                                          other’s abilities to work toward that purpose. Thus, the word collegiality can connote respect for another’s commitment to the common                                           purpose and ability to work toward it.

                                     Source Wikipedia

I see one of my greatest tasks to come is to continue the work to try to help district teachers, “explicitly unite in a common purpose and respect each other’s abilities to work toward that purpose”. When I am feeling positive, I realize that it is one drop of water at a time that made the Grand Canyon. Each drop towards reform I can make is progress. Some days my personal perfectionism and sense of obligation to our community make the progress of growing a Grand Canyon remarkably frustrating.  I can only continue to be the drips, hoping that the erosion of one layer will cause a landslide of progress underneath.