Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book Buzz!

Library Day is always highly anticipated! Even going back to when I was in school, I can remember wandering the rows, pondering the possibilities of what book I might find. And once I had that book, I couldn't wait to read it and show everyone around me what I'd found. It's the same for my 4th graders.

Last year, we'd come back from the library with the expectation that kids would put their library books away so we could move on. Yes, I made the mistake of thinking my fourth graders didn't have that same excitement I'd experienced as a kid. The buzz in the classroom was contagious, and we quickly adapted the routine. We'd return from our designated library time and take about 5 minutes to huddle up with a friend or two to share what we'd checked out.

A few weeks later, we were on our way back from the library, heading back to our classroom to share what we'd all found. One of my boys was walking next to me and asked if we'd have time for "Book Buzz." And so you have it. Book Buzz was born.

Book Buzz has become a tradition in our classroom that has carried over to my new 4th graders this year. As we return from the library, we all wander around the room, chatting about which books we checked out, what new titles we discovered, and who found the next book in a series they've been reading. We finish up by stealing a few extra minutes of reading time before we put our books away.

Something as simple as Book Buzz has succeeded in stirring up so much excitement about books and reading. It's definitely a routine that we'll keep! 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hooray for #PB10for10 in 2014!!

Thanks to Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek for hosting this wonderful event!! It doesn't get much better than being able to share our favorite picture books (until you start reading other people's posts... and shopping for new picture books!) Be sure to visit Cathy's blog and Mandy's blog to see their lists and to find links to other people's posts.

There are just so many picture books that I love and that my 4th graders love! I was having trouble picking just ten, so once again, I've decided to go the route of "New to Me" picture books for my post this year. I cannot wait to share these with my 4th graders this year!

I'm excited to share this book with my 4th graders at the beginning of the year! I think it will help them see that picture books hold lots of memories for us and that picture books aren't just for young readers. I love, love, love that so many well-known books are featured in the illustrations and referred to in the story.

While it was Dan Santat's illustrations that first caught my eye, I loved Beekle's journey to find a friend!

I'm a big fan of Lita Judge's nearly wordless books Red Hat and Red Sled, so I was thrilled to see this new title! Little Penguin really, really wants to soar like an eagle but has to persevere and use his creative side to make it happen. Adorable! This is a great one to use when teaching about a growth mindset. 

Thanks to NerdCamp, I found this gem! So many times, kids accuse other kids of stealing things before they have all of the facts. The story of a brother, sister, and a trouble-making raccoon will help teach a valuable lesson!

I'm a huge Peter Brown fan, and he does not disappoint in his newest book! Hilarious fun! This will be a great community-building read at the beginning of the school year.

With so much talk about the importance of STEM these days, I think this will become a very important title! I love that it focuses on a little girl, Rosie, who designs and builds all sorts of things. There is also great potential for talking about a growth mindset with this one!

How many times have we had an idea that is just going to be the MOST MAGNIFICENT THING, only to have it fail miserably? This little girl shows us how to rethink and rework our ideas. Again, a great title to help us teach about a growth mindset.

This one caught my eye at The Owl and Turtle, a wonderful book shop in Camden, Maine. I loved imagining the possibilities that this book suggests and was truly in awe of the beautiful illustrations! I can't wait to hear my 4th graders "oooh" and "aaahhh" over this one.

A couple weeks ago, Franki Sibberson wrote a post about sharing read aloud books "just because." This one fits into that category for me! I'm sure there are lessons I could attach to it, but it is just plain fun. It would pair well with Nighttime Ninja.

Oh, how I love Elephant and Piggie! And my fourth graders loved them, too. It made my heart happy to see them grab the entire basket of Elephant and Piggie books in our classroom and read their way through each and every one of them. Kids will be able to relate to how Gerald is feeling when Piggie makes a new friend!

I wonder which books others have chosen on their #PB10for10 lists. I'm off to find out (and probably add more books to my cart!)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reading in the Wild - #cyberPD Part 3

Wow! This event has simply flown by! It's hard to believe that today is our final day for posting reflections. Be sure to head over to Michelle Nero's blog Literacy Learning Zone to link up your post! And we hope you'll join us next week as Donalyn joins in the conversation for a live Twitter chat at 7 p.m. CST. We'll use the #cyberPD hashtag for the chat.

My Thoughts

"Sometimes, you read a book so special that you want to carry it around for months after you've finished just to stay near it." ~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Wild Readers Show Preferences
My reading tastes are constantly changing. Yes - I do have my favorite genres and authors. But I've found that as my life changes, so do my reading preferences. There was a time when I wasn't able to travel much, so I lived my adventures through travel narratives. Lots of them. I was in a reading funk for a while... and then I discovered paranormal romances. Quality literature? Some of it. Did it pull me in as a reader? Absolutely. I read just about every vampire, werewolf, werecat, and draki book I could get my hands on! Nowadays, I find myself reading as many middle grade novels as I can so that I am a better member of my 4th graders' reading community.

On page 166, Donalyn reveals the preferences that students in her classroom identified. My 4th graders definitely echoed those preferences as well! By far, the most popular genre for my readers this year was fantasy. I found myself searching (and buying) more new fantasy books more than anything else, except possibly graphic novels. Pages 171-175 were particularly of interest to me! Graphic novels are often discounted as "fluff reading," but they are oftentimes more difficult to truly understand and grasp. Readers must really pay attention to every detail included in the pictures, as well as understand the importance of dialogue. I've found myself turning to graphic novels (both with first graders and now fourth graders) when I'm trying to hook a reader. Because kids see the comic-type format, graphic novels appear to be less intimidating. This past year, my kids devoured the Amulet series!

Another target area for me this year will be nonfiction. I am positive that many of my readers would echo Ashley's feelings about nonfiction being all about dead presidents and whales! Looking back, I can count only a small handful of times I book-talked a nonfiction book or expressed my excitement over an informational text I'd read. I'm consciously aware that I need to fix this! The same goes for poetry.

I wrote a little about the 40 Book Challenge in a post last summer, but I've really been rethinking a lot about the freedom I gave my kids this year. I didn't have any genre requirements for them, but I did give some suggestions. After rereading Donalyn's thoughts about the 40 book challenge in this chapter, I'm almost positive I need to stick with the 40 books but give some genre requirements. I keep going back to this sentence, "The main reason Susie and I expect students to try a little bit of everything is so that they can find what they like to read." Makes so much sense!!

So, I started making a list of all of the forms I loved from the appendices... and then I realized I was pretty much writing every form down. I think the genre graph, reading list, and reading itineraries will be especially helpful in teaching readers about their reading habits and preferences. I'm very curious to see how my new readers would answer the Wild Reader survey!! And then I started reading Appendix E and forced myself to stop when I realized I had already added more than 10 books to my online shopping cart. Spectacular lists of books!!

One more thing...
When I first got my copy of the book back in November, I expressed my excitement on Twitter. Donalyn quickly replied and told me I might want to look at page 255. I was absolutely stunned and honored to see my name listed. Donalyn has impacted my teaching in so many ways! I consider myself very blessed to be able to spend time with her a few times a year in real life, as well as connecting on Twitter. Our conversations always inspire me and are filled with laughter!

Nerdy Book Club fun at MRA, 2014

The Conversation Continues...
Today - Be sure to add your own link on Michelle's Literacy Learning Zone blog!
July 30 - 7 p.m. Live Twitter chat with Donalyn (co-hosted my Cathy, Michelle, and me!)

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!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? Student Edition

Do you know of the "It's Monday, What Are you Reading?" meme? While I don't participate often, I am a big fan! I've brought the idea into our classroom and have asked my students to write these posts as a part of their reading reflections.

Yesterday morning, I decided to up the ante and take a new approach. Patrick Andrus is a 4th grade teacher who does some amazing weekly posts on his blog! I especially love his "Trailer Thursday" and "Friend Friday" posts. For Friend Friday, one of his 4th graders posts a review of a book. This is mentor text gold! Written by a fellow 4th grader. Ideas for organization. Book titles. Gold!!

Before we started writing our posts yesterday morning, we took a look at a couple of different Friend Friday posts from Patrick's blog. Students quickly noticed there was a format the posts followed and certain sentences his students used as a way to organize their thoughts. My kids asked me to leave one of the Friend Friday posts projected on the board so they could use it while writing their posts. I was happy to oblige!

As you read our IMWAYR posts this week, you can see how Patrick's students really influenced our thinking and writing. Thanks to Patrick and his 4th graders for "mentoring" us!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

If Not for Franki...

As soon as I saw the hashtag, I was inspired to join in the celebration for Franki Sibberson! So, here we go with a few of my favorite things about Franki.

My "advanced" readers in first grade would not have had the opportunities or variety in our classroom. Franki taught me there is more to literacy instruction than leveled books, the power of series books for readers, and how all readers are "still learning to read." (among many other things!) Her wisdom and thinking influences my work with my fourth graders just as deeply.

I wouldn't have known I was absolutely, positively #TeamBear. I love that this debate over Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back lives on to this day!

I probably would not have attended professional development conferences in three different states... and felt right at home. She makes everyone she meets feel comfortable, welcome, and valued. 

Without Franki, hilarious memories like #KatieKnows and #GHO (Go Home Ohio) would not have been created. I treasure the laughter we shared over our weekend of learning at MRA!

Her incredible talent and drive for trying new things pushes me to think more and explore more, all while remaining grounded in my beliefs. I'm thankful to have connected with Franki on Twitter. I'm just as thankful for the times we've learned and laughed together in real life!

My "Go Home Ohio" friends -
Mary Lee, me, Franki, Karen, Katie
Wishing Franki the happiest of birthdays today! Thank you for sharing wisdom, pushing thinking, and infectious laughing. Let's make that "meet in the middle" road trip happen!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Building Our Wonder Workshop!

Inspiration to Begin
Recently, I wrote about some of my questions around the topic of Genius Hour. I've been drawing inspiration from Paul Solarz, Joy Kirr, the Twitter Genius Hour hashtag and chat, and my crazy cool Coffee & Collaboration colleagues to get started with Genius Hour in our 4th grade classroom.  Paul's blog, along with Joy's Genius Hour Live Binder, have become my go-to sources of information.

Where are we in the process?
I decided to try to start small and give it a whirl in our last quarter of the year, so what we are currently doing is really a trial run. Right now, it's looking like a smash-up of open inquiry and the Genius Hour concept. We started by creating lists of what we wonder about and forming those wonders into questions. Students then picked one question they were each "crazy excited" to learn about (I wish I could give credit to the person who shared that phrasing on Twitter!!)

We watched videos of completed projects by students in Mr. Solarz's class to open our eyes to the possibilities of what that time could look like. We also perused some of the questions his kids had asked to see if ours were on the right track to asking really deep questions. My students filled out a quick Google form to submit their idea for their first question. With a little bit of fine-tuning, I approved questions for all 26 of my kids. We also read the picture book "What Do You Do With an Idea?" by Komi Yamada to reinforce the idea that we all have different interests and styles of learning. We shared stories from our own lives about how ideas sometimes permeate our brains and just won't go away. These are the kinds of ideas that work best for an extended project!

Our First Genius Hour
Friday was our big day! I actually allowed a bit more than an hour so we had time to go over some reliable, kid-friendly research sites and review expectations before they were off and running. I confessed to them that I had purposely not given this time in our classroom a name and that I was torn about what to call it. We'd talked about Genius Hour, but I keep going back to my idea of a Wonder Workshop. Being the creative bunch that they are, one of my boys offered, "Why don't we just call it Happy Hour?" As much as I love that idea (and I giggled over it... a lot,) I explained that it might not be the best choice as many people know Happy Hour in a different context. The majority of my kids wanted to go with Wonder Workshop, and so it is!

I did offer the KWHLAQ form as an organizational tool (which I learned about from Paul.) Kids have access to the internet via their Kuno tablets, an opportunity to visit open check-out at our school library, and access to our growing classroom library for resources so far. My only other directions were to try to keep focused!

They're already learning that some of the questions they asked were either too easy or way too broad. They're putting to use their researching skills. We'll be talking a lot about how to take notes to keep track of our thinking. (Many were tempted to just use the very limited space on the KWHLAQ form... or to copy word-for-word from a source.) We'll be talking more about using our time wisely and remaining focused. We also need to talk about options for sharing our learning as some students might begin to wrap up their learning in a week or two.

It was inspiring to hear the excited buzz all across our classroom. Students were intrigued by what their colleagues were studying and finding. What an exciting journey for all of us to share! I love this time of year for trying out new things and spicing up the end of our year together. I'm already looking forward to this week's session!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Coffee and Collaboration!

Thursday mornings have become my new favorite! Last week, a tiny group of colleagues from my school and I were chatting on Twitter about a whole bunch of ideas and tools we wanted to share. We decided the conversation warranted more than 140 characters, and so the idea of "Coffee and Collaboration" was born. 

The conversation last Thursday morning was simply outstanding! It was like our own little version of a Smackdown. What are you doing in your classroom? What new tools are you using? How are you using them? What do you want to try? It started with just four of us, camped out in Joanna's room with coffee cups in hand. A few others trickled in for a few minutes and promised to join us the next time.

Fast forward to this week... 7 of us started our morning with coffee, conversations, collaboration and Butter Braid (thanks, Kristi!) The conversation was just as inspiring as last week! It made me smile that we now have 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade represented at our morning coffee talk. I made a quick word cloud to share some of our topics... 

I can't even begin to explain how much I need this. How much I crave this. I am a huge (HUGE!!) fan of Twitter and enjoy dipping my toes into the waterfall of splendid ideas shared by educators and authors. It's also my hope that sharing my ideas and thoughts will help inspire people in the same way they've inspired me. 

Twitter fulfills my need to connect, chat, and collaborate quite often. Conferences I attend fulfill that need for me, especially when I can connect with Twitter friends while I'm there. It is a refreshing feeling to be able to have those conversations in real life right down the hallway! 

Some of our Coffee & Collaboration friends are just beginning their journeys on Twitter while others of us have already found the power of Twitter as a professional development tool. If you want to come along for the ride, feel free to click on each name listed below to follow them on Twitter!
3rd grade teachers - Joanna, Kristi, Sara, Denise
4th grade teachers - Laura and Laura (me!)
5th grade teacher - Phyllis 

I can hardly wait to see what next week's C&C holds for us!