Thursday, July 18, 2013

Under Construction

"Your teaching assignment for next year is 4th grade at Martin."

Those words have echoed in my brain since April 19th. My jaw literally dropped that day when my principal shared the news with me. Due to lower enrollment at our building, three sections of first grade were being cut. My principal explained that I was "chosen" to make the move because I am a strong teacher with experience in using the Daily 5 and technology, both of which are being used at my new building..

I'm not going to lie. I cried. A lot. I spent a weekend feeling like it was time to update my resume and move on. I got angry. I was bitter. I just couldn't understand why. Why didn't he move her? She causes all of the drama. Why didn't he move that one? She is on her phone all day long. Why not her? I've been here way longer than her.

And then I stopped.

I had no choice in the matter. Strike that. I do have a choice. I can choose how I react to this unexpected change. And I CHOOSE to step up and rock this!  

In retrospect, I am feeling like this is a blessing in disguise. I'm already finding that my new teammates are challenging my thinking and pushing me to grow. While I enjoyed my first grade teammates, we were at very different places in our educational philosophy and practices. Maybe I do belong in this new place after all.

I have a lot to learn. 1:1 Kuno tablets. New technology. New curriculum. New team. New possibilities for books to read. 

And I know I'll fail. That's ok. I expect to make mistakes alongside my 4th grade learners. I expect them to make mistakes, too.

Like my new learning space, my teaching is still under construction... as it should be.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Who Owns the Learning? #cyberPD Part 3

Our Event
I'm honored to be hosting today's installment of #cyberPD around Alan November's Who Owns the Learning? Our first week was held over at Cathy Mere's blog, Reflect and Refine, followed by week two at Jill Fisch's blog, My Primary Passion. Please be sure to leave a comment below with the link to your post. You can also tweet it out using our #cyberPD hashtag. I'll be spending some time listing everyone's links within my post later today!

My Thoughts
After reading one of Tony Keefer's recent posts (Thinking About Roads and #allwrite13,) I'm still mulling over his very important reminder about slowing down and revisiting ideas from the past. Tony says, "Eventually we will get where we are going, but we also backtrack several times along the way." While I absolutely do intend to continue to move forward, learn new things, and try out some of what Alan suggests, I want to make sure I stay true to my beliefs in all of it. If we are simply adding technology to say we have added technology, we've really missed the eye of the education reform hurricane. This book has really helped me ponder where I need to go while holding on to what I believe to be true about teaching and learning. Thanks for the reminder, Tony!

That being said, I know I still have so much to learn, but when I was reading chapter 5, I had to stop for a minute and think about what I've already been able to do with my first graders. We had our own individual blogsa class blog, and a Twitter handle - and all of these helped us make connections with other first grade classes from the US, Canada, and New Zealand. I wrote more about what we were able to accomplish on this post from my old blogging space. Moving forward, I know this will form a great base for the work I plan to do with my future 4th grade learners.

I read and reread the story Alan shared on page 71. Hearing this young lady's story made me consider the importance of authentic work. I love how she responded with, "Every day, I have to decide if I will write for my teachers or publish to the world." Such powerful thoughts! Later, on pages 82-84, Alan had me thinking more about the grading and homework debates. I wonder how I will go about giving grades in 4th grade. If we want students to do the work because it truly matters, how does that tie in to the traditional grading system?

My "homework policy" has changed so much in recent years. My expectation was nightly reading, with a few nights of word practice and the "required" math pages. Very low-key. More often than not, I also received compliments and thank-yous for my stance on homework. And more often than not, my kids were inspired to read more than expected and write on their blogs from home. Because it mattered to them. I have to believe I'll want to take the same approach with my 4th graders.

When Alan talked about respecting others' perspectives, I couldn't help but break it down to a very primary (but important) debate right here in the Chicagoland area. Even my first graders have an opinion and get into heated debates about who is right. While it's not a truly "global" issue, they are all well-versed and can defend their position when we ask... Cubs or White Sox? :) It's ok. You can giggle. But it's true! We always had fun sharing which team was our favorite and why. We also learned to respect Karen Lirenman's hockey perspective as they were Canuck fans while we all cheered on our Blackhawks. Using examples like this one helps young learners understand varying perspectives on a very basic level.

I guess you know where I stand. :)
Me and my all-time favorite Cub, Rick Sutcliffe.
Alan talked a lot about using Skype as a means of connecting students with other classes and people from around the world. I think the possibilities are truly endless with video chats and am super excited to be able to have better access to it next year.

Next Steps
We'll be announcing our final (live) Twitter wrap-up chat. Details will be shared soon!

This Week's Reflections

Erika Victor shares her international school perspective from sunny Berlin. She is looking to connect her students more this year as she writes in her post #Cyber PD Part 3 - Who Owns the Learning?

Mary Lee Hahn teaches us more about the importance of leaving a legacy while she also shares some honest feedback about how she plans to proceed in her post #CyberPD -- Who Owns the Learning? Ch 5-end.

Maria Caplin's honesty about her struggles with technology and her excitement about starting a class blog are woven into her post Who Owns the Learning? Ch. 5-6 #CyberPD.

Linda Baie investigated and created some new search engines to go along with her reflections in the post #CyberPD - WOW!

Suz reminds us of the importance of the collaborative power of learning and seeking out other viewpoints, even in places like Twitter. You can read more on her post Valuing Perspectives & Opening Networks.

As she shares her thoughts on this week's reading, Julie Balen invites us to try out collaborative content by joining in on her Popcorn Maker tool. Check it out in her post #Cyberpd 2013 ~ Collaboration for learning.

While sharing her take-aways and unanswered questions from the book, Pat Johnson also reminds us of the importance of those face-to-face conversations in her post Final Thoughts on Who Owns the Learning.

Read Tony Keefer's post #cyberPD (Who Owns the Learning (part 3) to find out about what he plans to do now that he has finished reading this book.

Cathy Mere reflects on what her students have already accomplished as digital learners and what she plans to do to help further their global connections in her post "WE" Own the Learning: #cyberPD.

Jamie Riley shares her perspective from the library media center and offers some additional resources to us in her post #cyberPD - Who Owns the Learning Ch 5-6.

You'll want to stop by Michelle Nero's blog to read her thoughts about starting small, remembering to ask questions, and a great description of our book chat! Check it out here in her post #cyberPD part 3: Who Owns the Learning? 

Katherine Sokolowski shares her plan of action for the upcoming year and her goal of balancing her classes more in her post Who Owns the Learning? - #cyberPD part 3.

Barb Keister is back from the beach and weaves together thoughts on empathy, Common Core, and more in her post #cyberPD week 3 - Who Owns the Learning by Alan November.

We are reminded to slow down and breathe as we join Jill Fisch, talking to us about her feelings of being overwhelmed. Find out how she helps herself get through these times in her post I Did It Again.

Barbara Phillips transforms her take-aways into a two-step plan of action for the next school year in her post Who Owns the Learning? #CyberPD - Part 3

Amy Rudd ponders the path she will choose as she moves forward from our book chat and shares the connections she has made in her post At the Fork on the Trail - CyberPD #3.

We get to enjoy a moment with Rose Cappelli as she connects new learning to what she already knows in her post An 'Aha' Moment.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

My Juice Pack Saves Me!

My friend Jacquie busted out her portable charger (juice pack) one night when we were all hanging out in the city as everyone's phones had started to die out. It didn't need to be connected to an outlet. It quickly added some juice to each person's phone so they were no longer in the "red" battery zone. I was intrigued, so I added it to my Christmas wish list.

My Mophie Juice Pack rocks!!!
I love this thing. It has saved me on so many occasions since I got it in December! I can charge up my Droid phone and then switch out the cord to give some life to my iPad. This has been especially handy at workshops and conferences when I'm sitting in the middle of the room, in the front row... and am nowhere near an outlet. I don't have to miss a thing! Just plug the juice pack into my device, and I'm back in action. When I get to an outlet, I just make sure I get my Mophie charged up so it's always ready.

There are many different versions, sizes, and capabilities of a portable charger. I've seen them at Best Buy, Office Depot, and on Amazon. Mine is about the same size as my phone and fits nicely into my satchel.

I won't lie and say I can recommend the best or fastest or cheapest device, but I will tell you that it's worth investigating and purchasing one!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Who Owns the Learning? #cyberPD Part 2

Our Event
Today is our second installment of our #cyberPD event around Alan November's book, Who Owns the Learning? Last week's reading and sharing was A-MAZING! If you missed out, be sure to visit Cathy Mere's Reflect and Refine blog and get caught up. Cathy has also been getting some extra workouts as she created her "Jog the Web" to collect posts related to our event. This week, you'll want to be sure to visit Jill Fisch's post at My Primary Passion to follow the conversation.

My Thoughts
Much of the beginning of chapter 3 affirms what I believe to be true about how online/digital forums are especially powerful for our quieter learners. It gives them a way to be heard, without the sweaty-palms feeling of sharing in front of the class. When he mentions the social dynamic of the classroom, he hits on the fact that offering these opportunities to kids really brings together the concept of a learning community that connects both inside and outside of the confines of classroom walls. The quote on page 43 says, "...when you blow the walls off [the classroom] then learning happens anytime, anywhere." I think that's really the key point of what we are all trying to accomplish! Ooh, and did you catch when he talked about inspiring the "learner's mind" throughout kids' lives? Love that!

When Alan shared Darren Kuropatwa's story in chapter 2, one thing Darren said really struck a chord with me. "I wanted the blog to be in their voices, not mine." (p. 41) This is one of my big goals for next year in 4th grade. I will probably still contribute to our class blog, but I really want my students to have ownership over what we share with the world. I know it will take some modeling and the gradual release of that responsibility, but I want my kids to be able to share what they feel is important... in whatever way they choose. In first grade, our class blog was more of a shared writing and modeled writing platform. I never took it to the point of truly being "their" space. (Although they did have their own individual blogs!)

In my new school, I know they are utilizing a "SWAT" team. I know this was crucial, especially last year when the tablets were new to both students and teachers. While these kids in each classroom specifically help with tech issues, I can see it becoming much bigger than that. I loved reading the chapter on page 46 where he talked about having kids help each other out. That is a major community/team-builder! And it also allows for different learners to shine at different times.

Ok. I'm going to put this out there, because I was stunned as I read more into chapter 4. I didn't know a lot of the information he talked about as far as validity of sites and building custom search engines. Yes, I knew about the different endings (.com, .org, etc.) but never really felt the need to teach my first graders about that, since most often, I was their tour guide to many of the sites we visited. But with 4th graders, I can see this information being absolutely essential! When faced with a question we couldn't answer, my first graders would giggle as they suggested that I just "ask my friend, Google." Now, I guess I have to learn more about customizing "my friend" so I can share that with my older students!

I digress, but...have you used the Kid Rex search engine? I stumbled upon it last year and showed it to my first graders. It's a kid-friendly search engine (that might be connected to Google somehow, I think.) We used it quite a bit to glean more information on topics we were interested in. Just thought I'd put it out there!

I have to go back to page 47 before I quit rambling. There, I found my favorite quote from the book so far, and it's from Darren again. It speaks to a sense of agency and a growth mindset (see, Peter? I didn't forget your wise words!) It also encompasses so much of how I feel about improving my teaching craft. Ready?!
"As long as you're asking what's next, you'll get there. 
But never be content with where you're at." 

Next week
I'm thrilled to be hosting next week's installment of #cyberPD, right here at Ruminate and Invigorate! We will also be having a follow-up/wrap-up live Twitter chat at some point after next week.

I wonder what you're all thinking about this week's chapters. Off to find out! 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

4th Grade Reading Recommendations

One of the many book stacks
I've built to bring with me to 4th grade!

Every time I see my former students, we always seem to get into a conversation about what we're reading. We've built that reading relationship through our year together, and it follows us when we meet again. I'm fortunate to still be in touch with many of the families I've worked with over the years. Those families have all been so helpful and supportive as I get myself ready for 4th grade!

Just the other day, I asked one special family to chat with their daughter about books she thinks I MUST have in my 4th grade library. K was in my 1st grade class and will be going into 4th grade this year. The two of us grew together as readers and still enjoy recommending books to each other. These are the books she has read this summer that MUST be in my classroom, according to K...

Mockingbird by Katherine Erskine

The Last Newspaper Boy in America by Sue Corbett

The Secret Series books by Pseudonymous Bosch

100 Cupboards series by N.D. Wilson

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (which she read because I recommended it to her!)

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper (also recommended by me!)

Theodore Boone series by John Grisham

The Kane Chronicles and The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

Swindle and Zoobreak by Gordon Korman

The Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson

The Burning Questions of Bingo Brown by Betsy Byars

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

I immediately thanked her and returned the favor by recommending both Rump by Liesl Shurtliff and The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher. I know I have a few of K's "best books" already in my inventory, but you can bet that I'll be adding the rest! What books would your students recommend as "must haves?" I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pinterest and a Confession

This post was inspired by #Kinderchat's call for confessions on their summer blog challenge. I love the idea of a blog challenge! We'll see if I can keep up with it. In the meantime...

Actually, this topic has been on my mind for a LONG time, but the fine folks over at #Kinderchat gave me the perfect opportunity to write about my Pinterest confession. I'm not going to write about how it irks me when people only share worksheets on Pinterest. I won't tell you how many times I've cringed when I've seen reward systems that pay kids to be good. *clears throat*

It makes me a tiny bit (okay, a lot) crazy when people have a ton of Pinterest boards that aren't in alphabetical order.

Below are the directions I used to follow.... but I just noticed that with the "new look" on Pinterest, you can just drag your boards to arrange them. So, all you have to do is go to the page where you see all of your boards and drag away!

Old Directions
Ahhhh. I feel so much better. Before you panic and think that I'm judging your boards, I'm here to help. It  has made my life SO much easier to have my boards in order so I can locate them quickly. And it's actually really easy to move your boards around! Here we go...

Step One

Click on your picture in the upper right-hand corner to bring up the drop-down menu. You'll want to choose "Boards."

Step Two

When this screen comes up, click on the little icon that looks like a computer (right next to where it says "Edit Profile.") 

Step Three

Now it will give you the option to "Rearrange Boards." They're your boards, so arrange them in a way that makes sense to you... but just know that for some of us, it's easier to peruse your pins if you have them arranged alphabetically. (Or maybe I'm the only one who is weird enough to need that order!!) Be sure to "Save" before you exit that screen.

That's it. Three steps. And it will (hopefully) make your Pinterest life easier to manage! Thanks again to #kinderchat for pushing me to write this quick post that's been brewing in my mind for some time now.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Math in My World

My friend Mandy Robek (from Enjoy and Embrace Learning) invites us to think about math in our world. In her recent post, she talks about how we share reading and writing in our lives, but do we do the same for math? How often do we focus on real-life uses of math? I love how the possibilities are endless!

Here are a few examples that I found of #mathinmyworld!

Patterns, Fractions, 3D shapes

Geometry, Symmetry
(And I just came up with the question, How many triangles do you see?)

Symmetry, Measurement

Pairs :)

I'm going to keep this idea fresh in my mind so that I can use it with my 4th graders in the fall. I'd love to be able to have them put together some sort of collection of math they find in their world so that we could share it and have others add to it. Hmmm.... 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Island Life

What would it be like to live on an island that was only accessible by boat? And what if the only "transportation" on that island came in the form of horses, buggies, and bicycles? I had a chance to ponder these questions (among others) when my mom and I visited Michigan's Mackinac Island recently. 

The island is surrounded by beautiful lighthouses, trees, and lots and lots of water. ;) Visitors take the ferry across from Mackinaw City. After chatting with some of the locals, we came to find out that many of them take the ferry across daily to get to and from work. There are some people who live on the island year-round, but the majority of people and shops are only there for 3 seasons each year. I love referring to it as "Mack-in-ack" Island but have learned the correct pronunciation is "Mack-in-aw." According to people at the Visitor's Center, Mackinac gets its name from the Native name, Michilimackinac. Interesting, right?

What would it be like to travel daily by horse-drawn buggy, by bicycle, or by my own two feet? We opted to walk for most of our time on the island. Watching people stop at the small grocery store on the island proved to be quite interesting. They'd load up the basket on their bicycle to transport their items home, sometimes by way of the large hills found on the island. Most locals appeared to walk or use bicycles, while many of the tourists enjoyed traveling via the buggies. Listening to the horses as they clopped down the main street was music to my ears! And, my... there were some absolutely beautiful, big horses!

Although I sometimes complain about the 10 minutes I have to drive to get to "town," what would it be like to live on an island where I couldn't get everything I needed? Locals take the ferry across to Mackinaw City and stock up on supplies to help last them through the long winter. At some point during the winter, there may be an "ice bridge" across the Straits of Mackinac which assists people in getting to/from the island. When I think about how many times I have to run to the store because I've run out of something, I cannot imagine having to plan that far in advance!

Views like this one can be found around the perimeter of the 8-mile island. Staying on the island is a bit pricey (be prepared to spend $200 or more per night for a room,) but waking up to views like this make it worthwhile! I should also mention that there are some delicious restaurants and fabulous fudge shops on the island. (And all of the fudge shops give out free samples. Just sayin'!)

Taking the horse-drawn carriage tour was enjoyable and educational! It's worth it to be able to ride through the beautiful forests of the island, learn about different places on the island, see Fort Mackinac and visit the Arch Rock. Perhaps my favorite stop was Wings of Mackinac - the butterfly conservatory. I'm not a big fan of bugs, but I did surprisingly well as these amazing creatures flew about freely around us. I appreciated the soothing music being played as we wandered around, admiring the beautiful flowers and pausing to take it all in. I recently bought a new, fancier type of camera and had a fantastic time trying to capture great shots while we were there!

And, finally... the school. What would it be like to teach in a school on this island? I did sneak a peek in some of the windows and wasn't surprised to see tables, computers, and lots of books. I'm sure the population is much different than where I teach. I mean, they have 500-600 residents of the island. My K-2 school had almost 1,000 students! 

As we travel, my mom and I rely on the Trip Advisor site to help us decide where to stay, where to eat, and what to do. We've also signed up and reviewed many of the places we've visited recently to help other travelers. You can find us by clicking HERE!

Visiting new places and imagining life there always makes me stop and think. It also makes me appreciate what I have and where I live! Off to my next adventure...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Who Owns the Learning? #cyberPD Part 1

Our Event
Cathy, Jill, and I are thrilled to be hosting our third annual #cyberPD event this year! Each week will be hosted on one of our blogs, so be sure to add your link in the comments section. It will also help if you tweet out a link to your blog or whatever way you decided to share you thoughts! Be sure to include the #cyberPD hashtag. This week is being hosted by Cathy over at Reflect and Refine.

My Thoughts
In the new school year, I'll be walking in to a 3rd-5th grade building where every student has a Kuno tablet. Although I've already begun making changes in my first grade classroom in recent years, reading books like this one have become even more important to me now.

I found it so powerful that November refers to Daniel Pink and his Drive book.While I haven't read it myself, I've heard bits and pieces from it. I really appreciated how Alan shared Pink's most important predictors of high-quality work (autonomy, mastery, and purpose.) Wow. Do we provide opportunities for children to excel in environments where they are expected to master content but have the autonomy to learn in ways that best suit them? Do students understand the more global purpose in their learning?

Alan really got me thinking more about traditional learning spaces. Society has changed so dramatically since the years of that "one room schoolhouse." And yet, so many of our schools and classrooms look identical to the days when I was in school (just a few decades ago!) :) It always confuses me when kids are handed a device (tablet, iPad, iPod, whatever) but they're expected to work alone, quietly, at their desk. Shouldn't our learning spaces reflect the "new ways" in which we all learn? The last paragraph on page 17 illustrates some possibilities for what these new spaces might look like.

My mind is spinning after reading chapter 2. Especially with having 1:1 tablets in my classroom, I am intrigued to see how my 4th graders might be able to take on the role of Tutorial Designer. After years of teaching, I've seen how powerful it is for students to explain things to each other. Not only does it solidify their understanding of a concept, it also helps students to hear it from another person's point of view. Actually, this chapter had me thinking more about thinking. I'm wondering about ways in which my students can share their thinking and show their understanding with their classmates and with the world. I know their individual blogs will be a key part of this, but I'm curious to see what other tools emerge to help us. This chapter also reminded me that I've had the book Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, and Independence for All Learners in my TBR pile for quite some time. I might just have to move that one to the top!

In this article from MindShift (Feburary 2013), Alan revisits some of the key points from his book. It was a good follow-up and refresher after reading the beginning of his book.

Modern learning spaces have been on my mind for a while now. Actually, I've created a Pinterest board to capture some ideas for what these new classrooms might look like. You can see the board HERE.

Next Week
We'll continue the discussion (July 10th) over at Jill's My Primary Passion. We'll be thinking about chapters 3 & 4.

And now, I'm off to start reading what other people have posted about the beginning of Alan's book!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Reading Challenge

Over the past few years, my thinking about "reading logs" has changed dramatically. Reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller was one major influence on me as I thought my way through a practice I wasn't sure I supported. If you haven't read this one, be sure to add it to your "must read" list! Katherine Sokolowski's wonderful recent post "How do you know they are reading?" brought this topic up again in my mind and begged me to think about it again.

Last year, instead of asking first graders to write down titles of books they read at home, I asked them to keep track of the minutes they were reading. All of the research I've read points to reading a minimum of 20 minutes daily, so I felt like this was more in tune with my beliefs. And what happened? Yep. The kids who read no matter what read for 20 minutes or more daily. And the rest? Hit or miss. Some read, some of the ones who really need to read at home didn't. So it was better than tracking the titles, but I'm still not convinced it was a perfect system.

Fast forward to now. I found out a couple of months ago that I'll be teaching 4th grade next year. Oh... the possibilities! One thing I know for sure is that I will not be asking my kids to keep track of their minutes. Yes, I'll still encourage the 20 minutes or more... but I think we have to go beyond that. I go back to Donalyn's book and her "40 book challenge." I know this is what I want for my 4th graders. The challenge to read at least 40 books throughout our year together. And I'll be standing beside them as a fellow reader, trying to do the same.

As a reader, I use Goodreads to keep track of the books I read and the books I want to read. While I don't want to "require" a specific way of keeping track of their reading, I do want my students to find a way that will be both user-friendly and helpful as they strive to read all those books! I really value choice and autonomy, and I want my kids to know that. So... I plan to provide choices and options but also give the freedom to come up with a system that works for them!

A few ideas I've come up with so far include...
*Biblionasium - This amazing site is quite similar to Goodreads but is aimed specifically at kids. I love that they can add titles to their shelf, rate books, and recommend books to friends.

*Google Doc - We'll have 1:1 Kuno tablets in our classroom, and I know my students will already be familiar with using Google to create documents. They could create a list or a spreadsheet.

*Reader's Notebook - I think some 4th graders might prefer a special notebook for writing down their thoughts and titles.

*Blog post - I'll be setting up a KidBlog page for us and wonder if some readers will want to create a special post that they can continue to add to throughout the year and list their book titles.

*Pictures - I know the tablets already have Skitch on them, so I'm also interested in seeing if anyone will want to keep pictures of all of the books they read. Using Skitch, they could write their thoughts or rating right on the picture. The pictures could be kept in a special folder for easy access.

How do you keep track of your reading? Do you ask students to track titles or minutes? I'd love to hear what you do in your classroom!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Happy Blog Birthday!

Ready to take flight with Ruminate and Invigorate!
(Photo taken June 2013, Mackinac Island, MI)
Happy July and happy birthday to my shiny new blog! My blogging focus has evolved over the past 3 years, and I wanted a new space to go along with my new adventure as I move up to 4th grade. And so... Ruminate and Invigorate was born! As I move forward, I plan to share my thoughts on literacy... learning... and life. I wanted to start fresh as I turn a page in my teaching career and have a fresh, new place to share what I'm thinking. 

Making my thinking a bit more transparent...
(Photo taken June 2013, Mackinac Island, MI)
I'd like to thank my trusted #cyberPD co-hosts (and friends!) Cathy Mere and Jill Fisch for encouraging me to run with this new idea for a blog. Thanks for giving me the push to make it happen!

Our Camp Read-A-Lot has served me well, but I'm ready to recreate myself as a blogger and teacher. My new space will be great motivation for me to write and share more often. I hope you'll follow along and help stretch my thinking in new directions!