Life. Literacy. Learn. Lead.

Life. Literacy. Learn. Lead.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

#SOL15 Connections 2/24/15

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers and the Slice of Life writing community for providing this opportunity to share our "slices." Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy for creating a place for us to share our work. Check out the other slices and join in the fun!

We know that teachers do more than just teach. We connect.

Yesterday I'm thankful to have had a moment to connect with a former student who is now in third grade. It's cliche, I know. But sometimes I have to stop and savor the moment especially now since I don't have my own classroom anymore. The student was having a bit of a rough day and we talked it through together over lunch. While it saddened me to see him having such a tough time, I was thankful he reminded me that our jobs are much more than test scores, data, and graphs (which is pretty much how my day was filled up prior to eating lunch with that student). 

We must connect.

It was so nice to drive into work today and think about this. These connections aren't just a "bonus" or something we do because "we love our jobs." It truly becomes the foundation. Feeling connected, valued, and having a sense of belonging has to be in place before students can learn.

And isn't this true for teachers, too?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

CELEBRATE: It's All About That Joy, 'Bout That Joy- 2/21

Ruth Ayers invites us to participate in a Celebrate Link-Up on Saturdays. Click here to see what others are celebrating and maybe join in yourself, too! 
                            Discover. Play. Build.  
Today I celebrate the cold weather.

Ouch. Did I just say that out loud?

As we were driving home from the mall last night, we looked up at the temperature on the rear view mirror only to find that it said -11. My six year old was just so impressed that it was a negative number. My husband and I? Not so much impressed. In fact, I almost started to complain. Almost.

But, then it got me thinking. Here in upstate NY we have had the past week off for mid-winter recess or "February Recess" as we call it. Although I squeezed in four doctor appointments and bunch of little things on my "to-do" list, I just hadn't felt very accomplished.

Insert my celebration. 

Thanks to the cold weather I was able to squeeze in my #OLW of want. This past week brought below zero temps, but it also brought me the opportunity to do what I wanted to do...and that was stay cozy, inside with my two boys. We slowed down the pace. Heck, almost to a down right lazy speed at times. That's unheard of around here. Jammies till 2pm. Legos strewn about. Pokemon cards just about everywhere. Each evening as we cleaned up, I felt thankful for the chance to be home with them this week. 

That is why I'm celebrating the cold temps this week. 

If you can't beat 'em- join 'em!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

#SOL15 Real Superheroes 2/17/15

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers and the Slice of Lifewriting community for providing this opportunity to share our "slices." Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy for creating a place for us to share our work. Check out the other slices and join in the fun!


Real Superheroes

In the blink of an eye, in the flash of a light the real superheroes around us everyday pull off amazing stunts. 

My superheroes are my parents. 

So last night my dog, Owen, start limping. Of course my parents, my boys, my hubby and I were all concerned. Trying to figure out the problem, we settled on the hypothesis that maybe the mountains of snow that our dog has to climb over to get to the backyard could of perhaps caused him to pull a muscle. We evaluated. We called the vet. We worried. 

My dad went into action.

My husband had to work late last night an hour away so my boys and I hung at my parents. My dad, concerned for his grand puppy, offered to drive Owen home. Now we seriously live at opposite ends of the same street. About a quarter mile :) My dad insisted and won. So, Owen climbed into the minivan which my dad insisted was easier for Owen to climb into while my boys and I climbed into our Equinox. 

Sneaky moves.

As my dad gets Owen out of the van I see a shovel. Mind you it is below zero out in upstate NY. I asked "What are you doing?" He said, "Just shoveling a path for Owen." So there he went to work. Below Zero. Cold hands. Numb limbs. Heavy work. 

My dad would literally move mountains for his grand puppy, grand kids, kids, neighbors, whomever.

But, this time he moved snow mountains for Owen. True love.

My dad is a superhero. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

CELEBRATE: It's All About That Joy, 'Bout That Joy- 2/14

Ruth Ayers invites us to participate in a Celebrate Link-Up on Saturdays. Thanks Ruth! Click here to see what others are celebrating and maybe join in yourself, too! 
                                   Discover. Play. Build.

Today I celebrate love and how it begins with a smile.

Yesterday, our second grade team led an amazing school-wide assembly focused on caring. It was initiated by a wonderful friend of mine who is the epitome of a teacher who embodies character education in everything she teaches.

The students began the assembly by singing along to a song from Sia. One-by-one, students began a flash mob style dance led by our school mascot, Leo the Lion. Leo brought each second grade class up one at a time. The students then passed our flowers to each staff member and before long you see people swaying, singing, and smiling.

The message is simple: You are never fully dressed without a smile.

How simple, yet powerful that message is. 

Here’s the video that inspired the second grade team. 

I just had to share this today on the Celebrate Link-up because I found it to be so heart-warming. I carried a smile all day thinking of this song, the assembly, and the way our staff reacted. 

You see, our school district community just passed a vote on Tuesday to reconfigure our schools to accommodate full day K. While happy about full day K, this will mean big changes. Our school will no longer be a K-5 school in 2017. So, I'm taking moments like this in. Pausing. Reflecting. Enjoying. I know in just a couple of short years, our Sherman family will no longer look like this or be comprised of the staff members I've worked with for 14  years. 

So here's to a brand new Celebration Saturday--a special one in fact. Valentine's Day is the perfect day to watch this video, soak up this message, and share with all those you love. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. 

In fact, the smile hasn't left. As grown ups, I think watching this video reminds us that we don't just have to teach our students how to bring joy to others, but we should be modeling it everyday just like we saw on the streets of NYC. You can even bring The Great Kindness Challenge to your school. Here's a sheet to distribute. 

Happy Valentine's Day! Hope it is JOYful :)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

CELEBRATE: It's All About That Joy, 'Bout That Joy- 2/7

Ruth Ayers invites us to participate in a Celebrate Link-Up on Saturdays. Thanks Ruth! Click here to see what others are celebrating and maybe join in yourself, too!
                                   Discover. Play. Build. 

So today I celebrate a few small moments at breakfast.

The Seashell Bowl
Yup. It's just a bowl, but to me it is a flood of memories. You see, every summer we head to the shore and for just one week we pretend we own this beach house and lifestyle. We've been renting for several years now and it really does feel like home. My parents, my cousins, us. Magical time together that we just can't wait to recreate every single summer. 

Well, part of this time together includes breakfast in my favorite bowl. The amazing family who owns the beach house we rent each summer has an eclectic collection of seashore dishes. I choose this one shiny, white seashell bowl to have yogurt and berries in every morning. I do this every year... actually, I can't wait to do this every year. The yogurt just tastes better in this bowl :) 

This year upon leaving, my cousin and I said our goodbyes but she also snuck a fast one in and said "look for something in the mail." A few days later after returning home, a package arrived with an E-bay order inside. My bowl! My seashell bowl! She bought me this treasure and although it's, "just a bowl," it certainly means more to me.

Lucky or Lucky Charms?
Eating breakfast this morning, my son gets the box of Lucky Charms, a bowl, spoon, milk and says "Mom, will you help me pour?" We exchanged a look and a smile that made buying this box of cereal worth it. Knowing we never buy Lucky Charms or other sugary cereals, he knows he wore me down. After all it was a 4 for $10 sale :) Totally worth that cute smile he shot me. Then he starts whispering in my ear. Whispering so softly I actually couldn't make out what he was saying... something about a trap?! It's only him and I at the kitchen counter breakfast bar, so I ask:

"Why are you whispering?" 
His reply:
"What if the leprechaun hears us?" 

Oh, to be six. I feel so lucky.  And it is only breakfast. The day still awaits us.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Dare We Add Some Fun To Assessing and Scoring?

Testing is everywhere.

We are in the midst of testing, assessing, report card writing, and more assessing! Teachers and students are exhausted, stressed, and zapped.

Enter me.

As our school Literacy Coach, I am leading our staff meeting next Wednesday and guess what our task is? To score our district K-5 Winter ELA assessments!

Woohoo, might not be the reaction our staff will respond with.

As educators, we know the value of assessment. Day after day we are using formative assessment all the time, making decisions that will impact tomorrow's work. Without it, we wouldn't be able to refine our practice, reflect on our teaching, or capture what students have learned. But, what feels overwhelming is the amount of testing we sometimes have to deal with.

While I know we can't necessarily always change the "must-do's" of our profession, I'd like to at least bring in some fun or at least add an element of fun next week as we come together as a staff to score our grade level ELA tests.

Any suggestions to help make this staff meeting feel a little less painful? Chocolate is already on the list :) Please feel free to use the comment section below if you have any ideas.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

#SOL15 Learning from Twitter- Book Club Edition 2/3/15

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers and the Slice of Life writing community for providing this opportunity to share our "slices." Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy for creating a place for us to share our work. Check out the other slices and join in the fun!


A few weeks ago I blogged about independent reading and the recurring theme it kept having in my life. I continue to think long and hard about how much reading we actually ask students to do in school. And the results are bothersome.

We live in a culture of testing and as tough as it, we must fight back. My friend Leigh Ann recently wrote about her reactions to testing here. Although I reside in a different state, our stories are similar.
Just as she mentioned, we still love our jobs.

I feel inspired to:
Value the time we have with our students
Value authentic opportunities to read and write
Value workshop time where students are buzzing as readers and writers
Value our philosophies and teaching that we know is important...
                                     ...for children to see themselves as readers and writers.

All of this thinking was further examined during a recent Twitter chat I participated in discussing "book clubs" with my favorite #TCRWP friends. I wanted a place to gather my thoughts on this chat and all my other thinking, so here I am. I'm new to blogging and this is my favorite benefit to blogging...the ability to stop, think, reflect, and share! I'm hoping to begin working with our second grade teachers in a coaching opportunity for students to participate in book clubs

How I've organized my thoughts on book clubs (reminders, new ideas and ways to freshen them up!)
-Text selection involving student choice is imperative
-Accountable talk is a must to empower students to talk and learn from one another
-Group agreements and/or contract (idea from @jesslifteach)
-Thinking stems, sentence starters, prompts help prevent wandering conversations

New Ideas:
-Video a book talk group fish bowl style and learn together as you reflect on how it went
-Goal cards--> flip them when you do them.( idea from @hayhurst3)
-"Grow and Glow" time at the end idea from (idea from @rollinsteacher)
-Have students view #tcrwp videos on vimeo and they'll have an image of what is possible (idea from @rscalateach)
-Students can create book trailers (idea from @KristinZiemke) using Drawing Pad, iMovie, story boards (idea from @Teach4SpclNeeds)

Freshen Up Old Thinking:
-ditch traditional "roles" and consider a monitor for each group instead
-encourage those reluctant to share to maybe put tokens in a pot to represent your sharing and then celebrate! (idea from @jarhartz)

Quite the process and I'm far from done, but I'm happy to see my thoughts coming together. I'm still looking for suggestions, ideas, and tips so please share if you have any.