Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Reading in the Wild - #cyberPD Part 2

Welcome back to week two of this year's #cyberPD event! My mind is still on fire from the amazing insights and reflections everyone linked last week on Cathy Mere's blog. If you are participating this week, be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post and insert your post using the InLinkz link. You'll be adding your own link instead of leaving it in the comments section. Comments really help to affirm ideas and push thinking in new directions, so please be sure to leave feedback on at least 3 posts from this week.

My Thoughts
Wild Readers Share Books and Reading with Other Readers
Sharing our books and our reading is one of the best parts of being wild readers, right? Even if our reading tribe doesn't share our exact book tastes, it's still so much fun to share titles and push each other to read titles we might otherwise skip.

As I was reading the beginning of the chapter, I realized that I still have work to do when it comes to fostering a home-school reading community with the families in my classroom. Yes, my parents know I love books, and their children certainly share tidbits with them. But as I continued rereading, I think I need to provide more information to parents about the kinds of reading we do in our classroom and how all reading is valued. Providing more insight to parents will help them understand and support the idea of "reading in the edges" as well.

We have a huge responsibility as the lead readers in our classrooms! In a recent conversation with Donalyn, she was saying that we'd never send our children to piano lessons from a teacher who didn't play piano. We wouldn't trust our children to learn from a coach who didn't practice and play the sport being taught. So how is it possible for non-readers to teach reading well? I feel the responsibility for knowing the books my kids are reading. I realize it might be impossible to read each and every book that becomes a part of my classroom library, but I make it my mission to read as many as I can. This helps me with conferring, building relationships, and becoming a member of the reading community in my classroom.

On page 107, Donalyn speaks about preserving the dust jackets from hardcover books. As silly as it may seem, I was concerned about this as I began curating my 4th grade library last year. I ended up with a great many hardcover books whose actual covers didn't provide a blurb about the book, so I wanted to make sure to keep those dust jackets. I took Donalyn's suggestion (actually, Katherine Sokolowski first brought it to me after she heard it from Donalyn) to have kids remove the jacket and store it in a basket while they had the book. Very simple, yet it worked beautifully!

After Donalyn tweeted about her "Reading Life" door last summer, I ran with it and used the idea on my classroom door. My plan is to share my summer reading again to kick off the school year. I'm looking forward to extending this idea and turning the door over to my kids, like Donalyn talks about on pages 116-119. I can't wait to see what they come up with!

"The anticipation of another great reading experience drives our continued enthusiasm and interest in reading." (p.136)

Wild Readers Have Reading Plans
After rereading The Book Whisperer last summer, I knew I wanted the 40 Book Challenge to become a central part of my 4th grade classroom. I structured it in a very open-ended way this year, but I was still able to use the challenge to have conversations with kids about their reading plans. Donalyn gives some outstanding suggestions in this chapter for ways to nudge students to read more widely! I plan to come back to these ideas as I'm meeting with my readers next year.

I first started really thinking about the power of series books when I read Beyond Leveled Books by Franki Sibberson, Karen Szymusiak, and Lisa Koch. At that time, I was teaching first grade but found that even my young readers loved reading books in a series. They felt a sense of accomplishment when they finished all of the Cork & Fuzz books or felt a sense of urgency when waiting for the next Heidi Heckelbeck book to be released. I found the same to be true with my 4th graders this year! Series books and favorite authors often have the power of hooking our reluctant readers. I shared many of the same experiences with series books that Donalyn mentions on page 151 - Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, V.C. Andrews. On page 152, I love how Donalyn suggests that kids who read an entire series of books then become epicenter readers for that series. Brilliant - and so true!

I'm still pondering the part of chapter 4 that deals with building our own personal reading canon. I have so many books that influenced (and changed) me. I hesitate to make a list for fear of leaving out an important one! One that I know without a doubt will be on my list is Harry Potter. Never in a million years did I think that would be true, but after reading the whole series for the first time this year, I know it belongs on my list.

The Conversation Continues
July 23 - chapter 5 & appendices at Michelle's Literacy Learning Zone
July 30 - 7 p.m. CST live Twitter chat with author Donalyn Miller

Instead of leaving it in the comments, please be sure to add your link using the blue button below so we can read your thoughts from this week's reading!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Nerd Camp 2014

I couldn't think of a better word to describe my experience at Nerd Camp than joy. Pure joy. Ok, awesomesauce would work, too... but I'll stick with joy. I'm already looking forward to next year's event!

Memories from Nerd Camp
Imagine a room full of book nerds, collectively letting out an "oooooooh" as a new book cover is revealed.
Shedding a tear when a presenter tells the story of a family outing to get a grandchild's very first library card.
Placing orders from our phones as we chatted about books at dinner.
Receiving a bag full of books at registration.
Book-loving, smart presenters on day one.
EdCamp style on day two with a schedule created and facilitated by attendees.
Deep conversations about the need for purposeful tech use in our classrooms.
Powerful conversations about remaining grounded in solid pedagogy.
Learning from each other.
Meeting Twitter friends in real life.
Reconnecting with "old friends."
Laughter. Lots of laughter.
Meeting our rock stars - the authors we love.
Sharing our stories, being surrounded by like-minded educators, and pushing our thinking.

Dinner with Nerdy Book Club friends is expensive,
especially when we can shop for books on our phones!!
(Photo credit goes to  Franki Sibberson)
Takeaways from Nerd Camp
Day One
Franki Sibberson and Gretchen Taylor's session on Small Group Instruction gave me so much to think about! One idea they came back to several times was modern learning spaces. Franki talked about how our spaces should reflect our purpose. For example, she talked about how more informal reading conferences take place around the coffee table in her classroom. This really hit home with me as I've gone back and forth with having a designated "small group" space in my classroom. The trapezoid table I planned to use for small group instruction last year was named the "random table" by my kids and served many different purposes. Franki also spoke about how she plans whole group, small group, and conferences all at the same time and doesn't worry so much about how many times she is meeting with students because she knows their needs are being met throughout the week. I loved how both Gretchen and Franki talked about the flexible grouping that happens in their classrooms; groups are formed for many different reasons and may change often. They urged us to "think about nudges we can give kids." Love this!!

Tony Keefer pushed my thinking in his session titled "Are We Climbing the Right Mountain? Purposeful Tech Use in Reading Workshop." When it comes to what we're having kids do during reading workshop, he referred to Donalyn Miller's idea of Language Arts and Crafts and asked if we are now moving to Language Arts and Digital Crafts. Powerful thought. Is the tech we're using truly extending what kids are able to do and how they're able to connect... or is it just fluff? My favorite quote from Tony, referring to tech use, was, "Is the juice worth the squeeze?" This needs to hang in my classroom as a constant reminder for me. He urged us to know what we value to make sure our tech use aligns with it. Absolutely! I love how he focuses on leading kids to living a "readerly life." Such a smart guy!

Donalyn Miller's keynote was filled with insight and laughter. Even if you've read her books, you have to make sure you see her in person! She is so down-to-earth, real, funny, and simply brilliant. No matter how many times I talk to her, I always come away with new ideas and books in my shopping cart!  During her presentation, she talked more about "reading in the edges." It's so important to talk to our students about this concept. Real readers steal reading time. We may not have a half-hour block of time to dedicate to reading each day, but we can make time by carrying books with us and finding time. We can read while we're at the doctor's office, while we wait in long lines, and while we travel from place to place. If you haven't read her latest book, Reading in the Wild, I highly recommend it!

Day Two
I attended four spectacular sessions - Genius Hour, Purposeful Tech Use, Choice in Math Workshop, and Math Workshop. This day, I spent time following along on Twitter so I could attend several sessions simultaneously. I also tweeted from the sessions to share what was happening in the sessions I attended. The group notes from each session were particularly helpful!

What really stood out for me on Day 2 was Katie Muhtaris and her use of Padlet. I've used it with my kids a bit, but we always had issues trying to use it on our Kuno tablets. Anyway, Katie used Padlet on her laptop to take notes during sessions and to curate a list of books recommended during a session facilitated by Donalyn Miller and Katherine Sokolowski. You can take a look at one of Katie's Padlet walls HERE. She really has my mind going on ways to use Padlet with my 4th graders...

Final Thoughts
Connecting with Twitter friends in real life has become my favorite part of conferences in recent years. Nerd Camp was no exception! Meeting Twitter friends for the first time and reconnecting with Twitter friends made me so happy. I learned so much through the sessions at Nerd Camp, and my learning was intensified through casual conversations with my Twitter friends. If you aren't convinced yet, do yourself a favor and a) join Twitter to help build your professional learning network and then b) make sure you attend Nerd Camp! :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Reading in the Wild - #cyberPD Part 1

And We're Off!!

Today marks the beginning of our 4th annual #cyberPD event. Be sure to head over to Cathy Mere's post to link your post/reflection today. You can participate in the discussion by...
*sharing your blog post
*tweeting your ideas using #cyberPD
*comment on the weekly host blog
*being creative and finding a new way to share your thoughts

It will help grow the conversation and our learning if you'll check out other participants' posts and attempt to comment on a minimum of three.

"We are the lead readers in our classrooms 
and model a reading life for students."
~Donalyn Miller (page xxvii)

My Thoughts...

Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read
I promised my fourth graders this year that no matter what, I would give them time to read at school each and every day. I made it my number one priority and kept that promise, even on the last day of school. If we want our students to make time for reading in their lives outside of school, we have to show them we value that time enough to keep it in our schedules regardless of what else is going on. No excuses - we will read every day. At the bottom of page 9, Donalyn talks about why reading time at school really matters. "They practice living like readers." Our kids deserve to know what it feels like to live "a readerly life" (love this phrase/idea from Tony Keefer!)

At the Nerd Camp keynote on Monday, Donalyn spoke about the idea of reading in the "edges." Readers carve out a few minutes here and there throughout their day, even if they can't set aside a chunk of time. We make time while we wait at the doctor's office, at our sister's soccer game, in the bathroom. In the book, I love how she talks to her students about finding reading these snippets of reading time and avoiding "book emergencies." We need to have these conversations with our kids! If the only time our students read is the time we give them in class, are we really creating wild readers?

"Reading a book in one sitting is a rare indulgence..." But how exciting to find those books that cause us to do it!! Just last weekend, I decided I'd read a few chapters of Hound Dog True before I got out of bed for my morning coffee. Two and a half hours later, I crawled out of bed after finishing the book! We know we've got wild readers in our classrooms when they find the books they just can't put down.

Being new to 4th grade, I'm consciously aware of the fact that I have a lot of learning to do. The ideas Donalyn shares about reading itineraries, response letters, and status of the class gave me a lot to ponder. Responding to reading and reflecting on reading are two areas I know I want to work on with my 4th grade readers in the upcoming school year. To add to the ideas I gained from Donalyn, I'm also reading a book Donalyn told me about, Janet Angelilli's Writing About Reading. I'm excited to see how it will grow my thinking even further!

I love, love, love the last paragraph on page 41. Core beliefs. Grounded in best practices. Reflective practice. Especially now with adding more and more technology into our classrooms, I feel we need to know ourselves as educators and ground ourselves in what we believe in. This was a big conversation at this week's Nerd Camp - one that we need to continue to ponder and discuss.

I spotted this Wild Reader on a beach in Maine!

Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material
Choice is absolutely key. I cannot imagine only being able to read what someone else tells me to read. A couple weeks ago, Leah Whitford tweeted this during a #satchat conversation: "If choice weren't so important to us,  we wouldn't have menus in restaurants." Donalyn makes some powerful points on the bottom of page 46 that support the importance of self-selected reading material. Yes, our readers need to have strategies and reasons for picking their books, just like we do. Teaching students about "good fit" books will help in their decision making process, but ultimately, I believe that each reader has to be able to make the choice.

Reading aloud to students has so many benefits that we have to make sure this is not something that we push aside in order to "cover more" during our day. Read alouds are such a great way to bring our reading community closer together! I guarantee that my 4th graders from this past year will continue to talk about the day we read Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant. Even though I read it before I read it to my kids, I got to one point in the story... paused... and the big, nasty, sobbing, can't-catch-your-breath tears started. I tried to pull myself together but ended up handing the book over to a student to finish reading for me. We were a stronger community after that day!

One of my favorite parts of this chapter is the idea of "Five Authors My Students Should Know" (from page 51.) From my days in first grade, my list would probably include...
Mo Willems
Peter Brown
Jon Klassen
Melanie Watt
Helen Lester
Being relatively new to fourth grade, I am still building my list of authors. One that I know for sure is Liesl Shurtliff (author of Rump.) Have you thought about which authors would make your list?

Curating a classroom library is a topic that is near and dear to my heart! I spent years curating a library of over 3,000 books for my first graders. Now, I have the exciting job of curating a library for my 4th grade readers! My Nerdy friends have been very generous in donating books to me to help with this process. I'm definitely going back to this section of the book as I continue to seek out new titles. In just one year, our classroom library has over 600 titles. My kids have been really helpful in teaching me about what 4th grade girl and boy readers enjoy!

The Conversation Continues...
July 16 - chapters 3 & 4 link up here at Ruminate and Invigorate
July 23 - chapter 5 & appendices at Michelle's Literacy Learning Zone
July 30 - 7 p.m. Live Twitter chat with author Donalyn Miller!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Announcing this year's #CyberPD title...

We are thrilled to announce Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller as this year's #cyberPD title! It appeared on many summer professional reading stacks that have been tweeted out in the past week.

Each week, we'll read and post our reflections. All you'll need to do is share a link on the host blog for the week. It's also really helpful to tweet out your link using the #cyberPD hashtag. We'd also ask that you stop by and comment on at least 3 other reflections each week to help grow the conversation.

This year's dates are...
July 9th - Chapters 1 & 2, hosted by Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine
July 16th - Chapters 3 & 4, hosted by me right here at Ruminate and Invigorate
July 23rd - Chapter 5 & Appendices, hosted by Michelle Nero at Literacy Learning Zone
July 30th - Wrap-up Twitter chat, 7 p.m. CST

Feel free to be as creative as you'd like when sharing your thoughts and reflections on the book! Having your own blog isn't necessary in order for you to participate, so don't let that stop you. Or... use this as your excuse to get your own professional blog up and running! This event is a fabulous way to get traffic flowing on your site.

Thanks to the amazing Mr. Schu for premiering this book trailer with the world back in November! It will give you a glimpse as to what we have to look forward to in July.

I'm super excited to dive back into Donalyn's latest book and to learn from each and every one of you! Happy reading!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Share Your Stack! Prepping for #CyberPD 2014

It's that time of year when we all start pulling together the professional books we'd like to read as we reflect upon the year we just finished and begin dreaming about the year to come. Cathy Mere, Michelle Nero, and I would love to see which books have made it into your stack this year!

We're asking people to post a picture (or link) to Twitter using the #cyberPD hashtag by this Saturday, June 7th. Once we see what people are planning to read, we're hoping to make a decision on which book we'll feature for this year's CyberPD event. We'd love to be able to make an announcement on Sunday, June 8th, to give people plenty of time to purchase their books before we kick off the event in July. More specific details will be shared in the coming weeks!

So, what's on your stack this summer? What books are you recommending to your colleagues? What do you think we should all read? Here is my already-ridiculous-but-sure-to-grow stack of possibilities...

We hope you'll join in the conversation! To read more about the CyberPD event and its history, please visit THIS POST by Cathy Mere.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Daily 5 (Second Edition) Blog Tour

I'm delighted to be kicking off Stenhouse's blog tour for the second edition of the wildly popular Daily Five book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser! This promises to be an exciting week, filled with great reflections and great questions.

Gail and Joan's Daily Five structure has helped to completely transform my teaching and my classroom over the past five years. Last April, I was told I was moving from first grade up to fourth grade in a new school. After getting over the initial shock of it, I started planning for my new adventure. The first thing I knew for sure was that the Daily Five would remain an integral part of the daily routine. This speaks volumes to the impact I know the Daily Five has on the learners in my classroom!

Even if you aren't currently using The Daily Five in your classroom, so many of the strategies can be applied! Joan and Gail pride themselves on keeping up with current brain research, best practices, and connecting with both students and teachers. They've built the Daily Five on the foundation of a workshop structure and continue to improve upon it as their learning grows.

My Big Takeaways from the Second Edition

Choice is a key feature of the Daily 5 structure, and it is mentioned throughout the book. I am a huge fan of choice in my own learning, and I believe it also holds true for our students. Joan and Gail remind us that choice increases engagement, fosters self-directed learning, helps students demonstrate responsibility, and gives students ownership of their education.

The Daily 5 Structure is flexible in nature. Students have choices, and so do teachers. While the Sisters give the guidelines for what they do in their classrooms, they share multiple perspectives and show that this structure can be tweaked to fit the needs of the students we teach. Gail and Joan also share how the Daily 5 has evolved since they wrote the first edition of the book, including the new order in which they introduce each component, how many rounds are done daily, the importance of Foundation Lessons, and more.

After the short bursts of instruction we give, Joan and Gail encourage us to trust our students and our teaching. So much of what they shared regarding stamina-building and brain compatible learning is incorporated into the Daily Five independent work time, as well as through the opportunities for movement between rounds. It all comes together after using the 10 Steps to Teaching and Learning Independence, designed by Gail and Joan. This strategy works so well in so many situations and can be revisited throughout the year as needed!!

I'm sure I'm not alone when I express my excitement over the Math Daily 3 chapter! I devoured their latest thinking about independent math practice. Looking ahead to next year, I can already see what my foundation lessons will need to be so that I can get Math Daily 3 up and running! I'll definitely be spending time over the summer revisiting this chapter in particular so I can be ready to go in the fall.

One of my favorite tips from the book was the reminder to have students share what their partner talked about during Turn & Talk time. I love how this fosters good listening skills and collaborative learning!

My Q&A with Joan and Gail
With the adoption of CCSS, many teachers are feeling the pressure to teach more and have kids independently practice less. How does the Daily Five structure support students as they learn the Common Core standards?
CCSS has come upon us and as Fisher and Frey said at the 2014 ASCD conference, it will likely be replaced by something else just as other mandates have come and gone.  That said we want to be very careful as teachers that we stay the course with what the research says really works with children.  In order to get better at reading, they need voracious amounts of reading. (

We also want to keep in mind the brain research, in particular that of John Medina and Ken Wesson.  Our lessons need to be brief, the number of minutes our children are in age up to 10 minutes for older students.  If we teach too long or too much, we are wasting our breath and their time, as the instruction will not stick.
CCSS is steeped in reading.  We cannot talk at children and expect them to learn to read closely, they need to practice themselves.  And thinking about text complexity, each grade level from 2nd grade up has CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL __.10 ( stating that by the end of the year students must read and comprehend at the current grade and with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.  The only way to progress into more complex texts or to achieve this goal is to spend time engaged in reading.  

Talking to kids about reading is much like talking to kids about how to make a free throw in basketball or describing how to play an arietta on the piano – not very effective.  However, just in time coaching or teaching, specific to the individual needs of students, along with substantial practice, that’s how readers progress and grow.

Technology has become more and more prevalent in many of our classrooms since the first edition of the book. Can you say more about how (or if) you’ve found ways to seamlessly integrate technology into the Daily Five?
Technology can be integrated into The Daily 5 in a number of ways.  The caveat here is that it all depends on the technology available in each individual classroom.
1)  Read to Self:  Personally, I love reading on my Kindle.  I choose to read this way over a paper book whenever I can.  Kindles, tablets and even computers are a fabulous way for some students to Read to Self.  In addition, given the wonderful resource of the Overdrive app,  anyone can read books on these devises for free by checking books out through this app from their public library.  All that is needed is a library card.

2)  Read to Someone:  Recording students as they read, then playing it back or even sending it as an attachment to a family member is one way of using technology to support Read to Someone.

3)  Work on Writing:  For some students, writing with a pen and paper can be frustrating.   Crafting a story can be hard enough and then layer on the laborious process of forming letters and words and the result can be a frustrated writer.  Having students write using a keyboard or tablet is a great option.  There are also some products on the market, such as Dragon Dictation, that are available in a scaled down version for free.

4)  Word Work is often where many people start with technology and Daily 5.  These links take you to an article by Holly Valentine and show you Word Work with iPads in her room.
5)  Listen to Reading is also a simple way to integrate technology into the classroom.  There are a myriad of programs and apps that read to children and allow them to interact with books.  Here is a link that will take you to a list of sites and apps.

Accountability is a concern for some teachers I know. How do we know kids are practicing the skills and strategies we’re teaching in our small bursts of instruction?
Because of the Daily 5 Structure, we are allowed the time to conduct more individual conferences than ever before in our career.
Each time we meet with a student, we are looking to see if our instruction and their practice is sticking.  Are they using the strategy yet? Are they using it with automaticity? Do they need more support?  If they aren’t grasping the strategy is this the best strategy for them right now or perhaps I need to change the strategy?
These are the questions that are always running through our minds with each conference.   Since our goal is to confer with between 9-12 individuals every day and even more if we do not pull small groups, we have time to revisit our work with the children often and change and adapt our teaching to best meet their needs. This is a very high level of accountability for students verses handing out a worksheet and giving a grade.
Here are two resources that support accountability.
The first is a student conferring form for students to use to keep track of their goals and learn, the second is a video of Pam, a sixth grade teacher, conferring with one of her students, holding him accountable for his work.

Our struggling math students are often missing the fundamentals and need more time than your average or advanced students. Do you differentiate Math Daily 3 the same way as you differentiate Daily 5 (with goals for individuals?) Can you share about what you're working on with small groups or with individuals during that time?

Once we had developed The Daily 5, it became our favorite time of the day.  The ability to work with individuals and small groups while the rest of the class was engaged was heaven!  That said, when it came to Math, it was still a struggle.  For us, we were still teaching with the whole group ‘spray and pray’ method of teaching.  You know, spray them with instruction and pray they get it.
That led to our work with Math Daily 3.  Since we have always used a math program with our students, we use that as our guide for our lessons.  However, we do not just teach the same lesson to all the students in small groups.  As you can see below, the whole group focus lessons are taken from our math program.  These three lessons result in the gradual release method of instruction:  I Do, for the first band, We Do, for the second band and You Do for the third.  If we are finding they are not ready for the We Do guided practice or the You Do, individual practice portion of the lesson, we will wait until the next day and continue with I Do, or the guided practice of We Do to offer more support.  This link to the article gives a visual representation of what we are talking about along with more in-depth information on using the gradual release method in Math Daily 3.
When we meet with small groups and individuals, we are tailoring our instruction to better meet their needs.  For some this means they are getting more in-depth instruction or review on the day’s lesson.  For others, in particular the students you are talking about, it means we are able to meet their needs and take them from where they are.  To help us plan for those small groups or individual meetings, we will either use early portions of the program we use or  John Van de Wall’s books.

The Blog Tour Continues...
May 6: Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning
May 7: Matt at Reading by Example
May 8: Katherine at Read, Write and Reflect
May 9: Roundup on the Stenhouse Blog

And... there is a special giveaway for each of the stops on the blog tour! Leave a comment to be eligible to win a free, signed copy of the new edition of The Daily 5! One winner will be chosen from each blog stop.

Thanks again to Zsofi from Stenhouse and Gail & Joan for including me on this blog tour!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Coming Soon... Stenhouse Publisher's Daily 5 Blog Tour!

Beginning on Monday, May 5th, Stenhouse Publishers will be kicking off a blog tour to celebrate the second edition of the Daily Five book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.

From Stenhouse Publishers
The tour includes...
May 5: Me at Ruminate and Invigorate
May 6: Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning
May 7: Matt at Reading by Example
May 8: Katherine at Read, Write, and Reflect
May 9: Roundup on the Stenhouse Blog

Each of the four bloggers will be posting reflections after reading the book, and we'll also have an opportunity to share answers to the questions we've asked Joan and Gail.

As an added bonus, readers who leave comments on the blog posts will be eligible to win a free, signed copy of the new edition of The Daily Five book!! I hope you'll be back to join in the fun!