Musings from a K-5th Reading Specialist. I encourage my students to think, speak, read, and write, with my support.
I parent two amazing young adult daughters with my husband of 28 years.

February 28, 2012

FreeRice Frenzy

Slice of Life Stories hosted

Every week I borrow the laptop cart for my little resource room.  I've tried to inspire my developing readers to dabble in technology.  We've used, looked up author websites, and spent time using the student interactives on (We really love the Stapleless book!)

Last week, the 5th graders were losing steam as they tried to write blog posts.  Student J put it this way, "I can't possibly think about writing.  My teacher worked my brain too hard today."  

Great.  Now what?

Then I remembered  Aha!  Vocabulary development in disguise!  (Mwah-haa-haa!)

Student K jumped on the site, and two others looked over her shoulder.  We soon learned that she is a vocabulary whiz.  The other two had trouble reading some words, but when they heard the word, they knew the meaning.

Fast forward to yesterday... the computer cart is in my room.  J is the first one at the door.  "You'll let us on FreeRice, right?"

"Of course," I answered.

The students spent over 30 minutes sharpening their vocabulary skills.  Their goal was 1,000 grains of rice (100 correct answers).  They achieved it!!!  Now, Student A is still randomly clicking on answers before J can help, but J was adamant that A should "slow down, or people will starve!"  (He does crack me up!)

On their way out of class, J asked A for her phone number.  My ears perked up at this request. 

"I'll call you later so we can log in to FreeRice and donate more grains of rice!" stated J.

It's a full-out, FreeRice frenzy!

February 21, 2012


I spent some quality time this weekend catching up on my favorite blogs.  I've been looking for new books, new ideas and some inspiration.

I need inspiration at this time of year because our state tests begin March 5th, and I'm determined to keep my students, my developing elementary readers, learning and thinking and reading and writing, even when others around me are going crazy with the test prep materials.  Yes, I will sprinkle in a tiny bit of test-taking strategies, but they will be centered on starting and staying confident during a tough passage or test session.

My developing readers are looking for inspiration from me, not frustration.  I can't worry about how they will do on their tests.  I must keep reading and sharing and talking and listening.

Inspiration Found
I found some great inspiration today on Cathy's blog, Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community.  She wrote about Kevin Henkes, and now I'm on a quest to read more of his books, especially his chapter books. Tonight I found 6 new-to-me Henkes books at the library.  I'm going to prepare an author study for my 4th & 5th graders.

More Inspiration
My friend, Michelle, over at Literacy Learning Zone writes a Slice of Life each Tuesday and challenged me to join in on the fun. Will I become a regular "slicer?"  It will definitely be a little out of my comfort zone, but I'm up for the challenge

Where do you find inspiration?

February 19, 2012

Finding Comfort in Books

I've been in a reading slump, so I started knitting again.  I'm trying to knit a pair of mittens (first pair ever!) for a friend before winter ends (did we really have winter this year?)  One mitten is coming along nicely, but ...

I still missed reading.

Last week, after arguing with both of my teenage daughters, I stormed out of the house and found solace at the library.  Of course I picked up two books to help me weather the next few years, Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall? and Queen Bees and Wannabees.  (I started reading the first and I felt much better, thank you!)

I also enjoyed two books on sensitive topics.  I went looking for one, and grabbed the other on a whim.

The book I grabbed on a whim was Pearl Versus the World by Sally Murphy.  This thin, quick-reading middle-grade novel was such a poignant story from the beginning.  Pearl's Granny is sick, and doesn't respond to Pearl or her mother.  Pearl tries to fit in with other kids at school, but it's just not working.  My heart hurt for Pearl.  This book is a must read.

Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson, is a book I've had on my TBR (to be read) list for a long time.  The main character, Lia, is struggling with anorexia nervosa and the loss of her former best friend.  It's so tough to be inside Lia's mind as she counts every calorie and tries to hide her food issues from her family.  Halse Anderson is a brilliant writer.  I found myself staying up late to keep reading to see what would happen to Lia., but other days I had to walk away from the book because Lia was in such a delicate, terrible state.

While their subjects were sensitive and heartbreaking, these books brought me comfort.  I'm back on the reading wagon, and thankful that my daughters are simply arguing with me to assert their independence.  I found myself reading parts of Wintergirls aloud to them, sharing how Lia hid her feelings from her family, and how I was happy that my daughters share their feelings (good and bad!) with me.

February 2, 2012

Reading in Random Places

It's a week of ACCESS testing for our kindergarteners, so I've given up my cozy little space.  The kindergarten teacher so appreciates my little room - it's perfect for testing.  It's a cute, little room (with a door!) in the library, painted blue, with LOTS of books.

I miss it!

I'm working in the library today in our very overcrowded school.  We are hoping that our school board will vote for an addition.  There are 4 learning spaces already in the library - I'll be the 5th today!  There's a small group space in the back (with windows, but no walls), a mini lab and a computer lab that host all grades, all through the day, and the library counter and read-aloud space.  Our program assistants float in and out with students to the tables as well.

Today, my developing readers will have the extra challenge of staying focused amid all this chaos.  I'm hoping that they can still get some reading, writing and thinking done with all the extra auditory and visual stimuli!  I promise to have lots of patience (and stickers) to help them.

Maybe we'll connect our learning in the library today to the trouble they might have at home focusing on reading when their household is bustling.  Many of them are selective listeners already! :)

I know we can have a positive and successful week as we read in random places!