Thursday, August 15, 2013

A New Year-A New Me...Thank you Twitter

A most marvelous thing happened to me last May.  I needed to accumulate 2 more hours of inservice or have those two hours removed from my pay.  Hm...I really didn't want my pay decreased, but inservice offerings were hard to find.  Why is this such a marvelous thing...because I attended two Twitter inservices led by a few teachers in our district (@bqcasey & @mjuech27)..  I convinced myself to take these inservice classes seriously and use the new learning to improve my teaching.  Wow...I couldn't be happier!

As Chris Lehman (@iChrisLehman) said at the Wisconsin Reading Summer Institute, "Twitter is the best professional development out there." That is pretty powerful coming from a someone who spends his day working at the  Teacher's College & The Reading and Writing Project!  I have immersed myself with all kinds of new learning with educators from all over the country.  I have rethought my best practices and gained new insight from different perspectives.

So I am calling this a New Year-a New Me as September fast approaches.
  • I read many, many middle grade books, YA books and picture books this summer based on recommendations from people I follow on Twitter.  I have participated in the #bookaday challenge, reading a book a day all summer.   I look forward to sharing them with my students. 
  • My last post also reflected my opinion of the Top 10 Best Picture books shared at #pb10for10, where I found numerous other picture books to read.  Thank you to @CathyMere and @mandyrobek for organizing this!
  • I learned about Teaching Like a Pirate (@burgessdave), primarily as an ELA teacher #elatlap (now #elachat, hosted by @JoyKirr, @BHomel1, @KrinerMom, @JayhawkTN)  and hope to infuse more creativity and engagement in my lessons. 
  • I have also joined numerous chats and connected with administrators and lead learners who inspire me to be a positive, productive teacher leader. (#TCRWP, #wischat, #satchat, #mschat, #colchat, #titletalk, #tcrwpcoaching)
  • I was also fortunate enough to meet two brilliant people I follow on Twitter this summer Chris Lehman (@iChrisLehman) and Jillian Heise (@heisereads).  It was fantastic to connect with them in person.
I am so thankful for connecting on Twitter, and for changing into a "NEW" me.  I am also so excited about trying all the new ideas I learned this summer with my students and also with the wonderful team of teachers I am a part of.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

August Picture Book 10 for 10

My top ten picture books...not in any order.

This wonderful memoir written by one of my favorite authors, and promoter of 6 read alouds a day, Lester Laminack.  I have used this book in both the reading and writing workshop as a mentor text for my 3rd graders and now my middle schoolers.

Beautifullly written personal narrative about Jane Yolen's husband who takes his children on late night walks to see owls.  The piece is wonderful as a mentor text and uses lots of figurative language.

I love this text as a reminder to hold on to summer even in the coldest of Wisconsin winters.  The author is from Minnesota and crafts a remembrance piece about her time at the cabin.  I have come back to this text many times as a mentor text in 3rd grade for reading and writing workshop.  Lots of figurative and descriptive language.

Helen's Big World is a biography. It is very moving as Doreen Rappaport writes this gorgeous piece about Helen Keller.   Rappaport uses Helen's quotes to frame this book and the illustrations by Matt Tavares are exquisite.

What happens when the author and illustrator don't get along?  Find out in this hilarious picture book by Max Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex.  My 6th graders adored this book. Also check out the cute book trailer.

Such a strong message written by Jacqueline Woodson in Each Kindness.  Wonderful to use on a bullying topic, to remind them that there isn't always a happy ending.  My daughter and I cried when sharing this book, and my middle schoolers understood the message.  Great to partner with Wonder if using as a read aloud.

Love to use this book, app and short film to start the year.  William Joyce does a fantastic job sharing his love of books with us.  There is deep content that can be discussed with middle school readers.

Another biography (will use in my NF picture book suggestions) that is written AND illustrated by Matt Tavares.  Kids will enjoy hearing about Ted Williams as a child and can relate to the simplified version of the facts offered by the author.  I used this with middle schoolers as a mentor text for literary nonfiction writing.

Wonderful personal narrative by Patricia Polacco (it's what she does best).  Follow along as this class of "misfits", with the help of their loving teacher, grow to cherish their differences.  I used this with my middle school intervention groups to help them see that we all have something to offer, and that we all are wonders.

So here is where I bend the rules...I absolutely LOVE Patricia Polacco and couldn't decide on which other book to add to the list.  She is a master of storytelling and with sharing her past with her readers.  I have found that her books work with young children, as well as, middle schoolers.    I have used Thundercake and My Rotten Red-Headed Older Brother as reader's theaters with much success.  I have also used many of her books as mentor texts for writing.

There you have it.  I have so many more that I wanted to add.  I use picture books often in my middle school classroom and adore sharing them.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

My Literary History

In the June/July 2013 issue of Reading Today, we are introduced to the current President of the IRA, Maureen McLaughlin.  In her first presidential column, she asks us to consider our literary history and shares with us her own.  As I read through her column, I began to reflect on my own literary history.  What were my experiences and memories?  In what way did they shape the reader I became?  What did I learn from it?

My earliest memories of reading were of the cereal box and of reading books we had at our house.  My mother was a stay-at-home mom and was very involved as a reader-herself (would get lost and take hours to return) and in getting us to be readers.  My mother was also a big advocate and member of LaLeche League, so we had numerous stories on breastfeeding and on natural ways of living (this influenced me later in life).  My favorite book as a young child was anything with the Bernstein Bears in it.

As I entered school, reading was a breeze for me and I was always put into the "high" group.  In class, I always raised my hand to read round robin style.  I enjoyed being read to, but not all teachers did.  The ones that did were my favorites.

In middle school, my 5th grade teacher read The Blue Man.  My class could not wait for this part of our day and the suspense nearly killed us.  I began to fall in love with Anne of Green Gables and all the books in that series. My 8th grade teacher required numerous pages of chosen books to be read for an A, and I always exceeded the requirement. Reading was pleasurable.

Enter HS and college and things start to fall apart.  I became that dependent reader who only read what was assigned, not for pleasure.  Reading textbook after textbook didn't allow much time or leave me any interest in reading anymore.  (I currently see this as a big problem in with kids this age.  I am encouraged by my PLN on Twitter that independent, choice reading can, and should, still occur in this age group.)

I was reintroduced, during my second stint in college, to children's books through the requirements of my children's lit class.  I was hooked once again.  Then I began having children and a whole other door opened with the reading of board and wordless books to my children.

Move to the present and part of my day involves teaching middle school reading.  My summer has been spent on reading YA books and picture books.  My husband asked what I get from reading all those books.  I quoted Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer  (Jen Robenson) and said, "It keeps my imagination active, sets an example for the children in my life and will strengthen the relationships with the children I teach who read."  He was satisfied.

Books are a huge part of my family.  I have a 6 and a 3 year old, who my husband and I read nightly to.  We take weekly trips to load up our book bags from the library, my husband & I read our share of magazines, newspapers, blogs and articles, and I am always on the lookout for new titles to introduce to my children.

I guess my literary history started well, had a dip in  interest for a few years and is gaining strength.  I can only hope I keep progressing.