My classroom is not a quiet, orderly place.
Students are constantly moving, thinking, talking, reading and writing.
I do my best to help my students find success.

October 29, 2013

The Dinner Dilemma

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Two Writing Teachers

It's hard to be married to a man who is a great cook and also loves to eat out.

Our kids definitely have opinions on what makes a great dinner:
  • caesar salad
  • beef tenderloin
  • baked potato with everything
  • sweet dessert
I'm lucky to remember to defrost some meat from the freezer and toss it into the crock pot with a can of condensed cream-of-something soup and some spices.

I'm not the person in the family who should be shopping, planning and preparing dinner.

The person who should works out of town 3-4 days per week.  When he gets home, cooking is the last thing on his list, even though he's been hanging in a town where the "fine dining" is Olive Garden.

Another force working against me ... the oldest teen has a job at a grocery store.  She spends hours checking out her favorite foods and snacks, taking mental notes about what we groceries we should have in the house.

What's a mom to do?  I'm capable of cooking with spices, creating rues from soups and sauces.  I know how to handle a meat thermometer, my oven and the grill.

I turned to Pinterest this year.

My cooking has not improved.  It's become more unexpected and experimental.

Maybe I'll make a list of some go-to dinners that the family likes and enjoys - (hahhahhahah) I wonder how many meals will be on this list.  Maybe I'll precook meals and keep them in the freezer.  Maybe I'll inspire my girls to take over dinner duty once in a while.

Then again, I may just stick to my favorite meal.  Eating out!

October 15, 2013

Building relationships

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Last year, I worked with a group of 4th and 5th graders, all afternoon, in an intensive reading intervention program.  By May, the kids were exhausted, I was jumping out of my mind with stress.  There was no time to talk about books, and very little time to connect. We had to stay on task, work well in a group of eight, and push through.  We weren't having any fun.  At all.

This year, I have three of those students (now 5th graders) in a small group.  I started out the year excited to see them... forgetting how tough the end of last year was.  I let them know that I had picked them specifically to work with me - we would be working with a new intervention program, and we were going to be talking about books....ALL THE TIME.

I talked with them about writing about books in a journal.  They decided that each of them would pick a day to write:  Mon, Weds, Fri.  They were good about it the first week (especially after I gifted them a beautiful - yet inexpensive - new journal), and they are working to get back in the habit.

The girls are really trying their best when they come.  I am being patient and helpful.  I'm modeling and asking more questions.  I give them time to discuss what they are thinking while we read.  Some of our small but significant successes:

  • S has finished!!! reading THREE graphic novels (this is the same girl who announced "I don't like books" - while B gasped in horror - during our first meeting).
  • S has encouraged T and B to also read graphic novels (Babymouse and Smile top the list)
  • B has reminded S that we all need a turn to talk.  She is the model for waiting and not interrupting.
  • T is carrying many books (old habits die hard), but she is concentrating on reading Double Fudge and working hard to understand the story.
  • T is our lead note-taker. She understands how to find evidence in the text.  She helps S and B do the same in a kind way.
Today I was given a chocolate bar from S.  It even had a little bow.  I profusely thanked her.  Later, I wrote a thank you note to each of the girls, pointing out how they've been working hard and contributing to our small group discussions on books.

Does every day roll smoothly with these girls?  Nope.  Do we all want to accomplish the same thing?  Yes.  They know they are off to junior high next year, and there's not much time to become more confident and proficient readers.

I'm happy to help.

October 8, 2013

Trying to contain the chaos

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I know, I know.

It's always been part of my life.

I bring it on myself. I claim that I can't find time to organize.

Well... that's not true.  I have the time, but

I do other (more fun!) things instead.

But then it starts to get to me.

CHAOS:  In the classroom

  • student materials in need of reorganizing (did take care of that today)
  • library ... half at home, most on shelves, most labeled, not quite in boxes... barely even touched
  • papers for a binder laying on top of the binder
CHAOS:  At home
  • the drawer full of bills and papers to be filed
  • the socks that need pairing and rolling 
  • the pile of sheets pulled from beds on Thursday
Since we survived a crazy homecoming week with two teenage girls,

I'll take every drop of sympathy I can get this week....

(can you hear the violin music in the background?)

  • "You need more sleep!"
  • "It's not that bad!"
  • "You've had a lot going on!"
  • "Do you feel okay?  You seem out of it."
Maybe after a cold beverage, a funny sitcom, a soak in the tub and a full night of sleep....

I'll feel a little better

Less whiny 

and more 


to clear a little bit of the chaos.

October 1, 2013

The Book Talk Tuesday Phenomenon

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It's Tuesday!!
What's so great about Tuesdays at my school?
This calls for a t-shirt with some reading celebrities!
Wonder Shirts
Then I meet Michelle (friend! colleague! best reading teacher!) at the computer lab for our school wide television broadcast.  One of us has written a script, but we usually don't practice.  (We love to ad lib... it's funnier for the other adults watching!)

"It's Book Talk Tuesday," announces one of our 5th grade anchors.
"I wonder what reading tip we'll learn today," muses the other anchor.

We've talked up books, BIG TIME, this year:

  • we discussed finding a good fit book
  • we talked about the SHINY Newbery and Caldecott medals
  • we shared how fun it is to READ a book (we read "It's a Book" by Lane Smith)
  • we've interviewed other teachers about their reading (thanks, Karen!)
On Tuesdays, when kids from all over the building (even the littlest bilingual kindergartners) see us in the hallway, their eyes light up.

"I saw you on the TV!"
"I like your shirt!"

When we talked about the SHINY Caldecott and Newbery medals that adorn many books in our library, we added a little sparkle of sound... a little riff on the xylophone (psst... Michelle - that was brilliant!).  After school, I was standing across the room from three 5th graders.  One called my name.  As I looked over, the three of them mimicked playing the xylophone and in unison exclaimed, "SHINY!"

I have to admit, this Book Talk Tuesday bit is the highlight of my week.  Yes, we plan to get students on board and share their books, but right now I'm enjoying the conversations we are creating throughout the school.  Classroom teachers are using our BTT topics as a springboard for more book conversations in their classrooms.  We've built a bulletin board to track our topics.

All this... and we're just talking books.

I love it!

P.S. Michelle talked about BTT on her blog back in September.  Enjoy her post here.