Reading Teacher Writes

Sharing a love of literacy with fellow readers and writers


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Everyone Knows Better

“The grass is always greener on the other side.”

No, it’s not.

“Live Your Dreams!”

I wish.

“You should…(insert statement of advice here).”

I’m not you.

“Listen.”

You listen.

“Have a nice day!”

Thank you! You as well.

 

Another post about giving and taking advice that I found today was my daughter’s blog post, “Review of Katelyn Cameron’s Article.” It was interesting that we were both at our computers, essentially writing about the same thing. Hers is more detailed and specific, but pretty good, I think! Check it out.

http://courtneyrenee.me/2014/12/13/a-review-of-katelyn-camerons-article/


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Slice of Life Tuesday: Why Write?

“It’s misleading to think of writers as special creatures, word sorcerers who possess some sort of magical knowledge hidden from everyone else. Writers are ordinary people who like to write. They feel the urge to write, and they scratch that itch every chance they get.” — Ralph Fletcher

This is the inspirational quote I read today when I opened my “Two Writing Teachers” email post. I do love writing. Pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, photos to screen shots: all of these help me to show my passion for writing.  Thank you for reading my blog!

“Writers are ordinary people…” This part of Mr. Fletcher’s quote especially resonates with me. I’m just a girl, just a teacher, just a dreamer. Writing is a method of exploring the world. Writing is an acceptable approach to vent feelings and frustrations. Writing is a process to question others and our surroundings. Writing is a celebration of the freedom to be — whoever I want to be.

I love writing.

Slice of Life Small Logo

“Slice of Life Tuesdays” are sponsored by the Two Writing Teachers blog site. Thank you, ladies, for the opportunity to be a “Slicer!”

 

 


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Slice of Life Tuesdays: Dreaming

                                                                            Live Your Dream!

That was the theme of the first instructional window at school this year. Teachers tell students that nothing is impossible; dreams can become reality. All you have to do is learn to read and write (and know the way the earth works, and maybe some calculus), work hard, and make an effort, no matter what. And that’s why I won’t give up. I want to live my dreams, too.

Why should children and Martin Luther King, Jr. be the only ones who have dreams? All people need dreams. Gloria Steinem said, “Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities…dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” Teachers plan all the time. Why can’t teachers have dreams?

My dream is to write a book. Maybe a series (let’s not get ahead of ourselves now). Ok, one book — for now. Planning to achieve this dream gives me hope and excitement to live my life each day. Oh, the possibilities! Gloria Steinem was right.  I am currently planning the parts of the book. Each time I realize an idea floating around in my brain, I take out my Evernote app, log in to the notebook, “book,” and record my thought bubbles. Each note is one bubble that I don’t want to pop; I want the ideas to swirl around until I choose to organize them, to ground them into a page.

I love talking to my students about dreams. They have been reading and researching people who live their dreams: Ryan and Jimmy and the well in Africa…, Derek Jeter, and Samantha Larson, who climbed mountains — they all lived their dreams. Then I showed my class this quote by George Bernard Shaw: “You see things, and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were, and I say, ‘Why not?'” It was a joy to hear one student say to another recently, “Why not?” when asked about an idea.

Can you write about (insert topic)? Sure, why not?

Can you read that book in the library you have been eying? Sure, why not?

“Hey, Mrs. S, do you think you’ll really write a book?”

Why not? I’ll even dedicate it to you, my class of dreamers.

 


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“What Did She Say?” — My answers to chat questions from the past week

I want to remember and reflect on my participation in social media chats. Chatting with others is a wonderful PD-on-my-own-time opportunity, and I am learning so much from my time with new-to-me technology. I thought it would be fun to creatively record my answers to Twitter chat questions, so I dreamed up this blog column, “What Did She Say?”  — I will share my answers to some important Twitter chat questions and opinions about current educational issues each Monday evening.  Here’s the first one!

From “Teach and Celebrate Writing” First Sundays, August 3, 2014 (#TandCwriters):

Q1: What routines and procedures do you put into place to help students be organized as writers?  A1: Set up workshop routines the first week. Keep a consistent plan/schedule. We have notebooks and 3-ring binders. Never tear out pages of notebooks!

Q2: What are routines and procedures for conferring with writers? A2: I love Carl Anderson’s work, and attended his workshop on conferring in June. I love that you compliment the writer first. I found out about Penny Kittle’s “Bless (compliment), Press (research), Address (teach)” plan for conferring. I’m stealing it!

Q3: What are routines and procedures for helping students to revise/edit? A3: Read the piece aloud! (great help) Peer editing groups, circling parts to check, highlighting. I need to look up “Express Lane Edit” by @writeguyjeff (Jeff Anderson). I also learned that long-term writing partners give support.

Q4: What routines and procedures do you have for students to share? A4: Penny Kittle’s “Symphony Share”; writing alongside a mentor text to show comparisons. I want to review the book, Write Beside Them again. There was a YouTube video, “Austin’s Butterfly critique” I want to see again. The message from the chat group was that students need more audience — more forms of sharing. I loved the idea of “Best Lines of the Week” — students each share one great line from notebook.

Q5: What writing routines of your own do you share with students? A5: I share my mentor texts, my blog, my ideas list, and my past (college) assignments. I also show risk-taking — things I tried. The chat group repeated the “BIC” way of writing: “Butt in Chair.” Just do it!

Q6: What is something new to try this coming school year? A6: I want my students to blog at school, maybe using KidBlog. I joined a writing group already, and I want to have students get together in writing groups often. I loved the idea of going to a bookstore (field trip!) for a publishing party!

Q7: What are you celebrating as a writer? A7: I am writing more, and more often; I have carved out times in my week to write. I have writing buddies now. Writing is so much fun!

Thank you for taking time to find out, “What Did She Say?” I hope this outlet will help all of us to remember to be great readers, writers, and teachers. See you next week.

 


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First Reaction: I Saw the ISTEP Scores…and the News

I read the news from our local TV sources about the state’s ISTEP scores, released this week. I thought about what I would say to others who saw the same results. As I teacher, I have a vested interest, but more importantly, as a citizen of this state (which is experiencing an education crisis), I want to know more about what I can do to help my students learn. As I read, my first reaction is that scores are basically flat. Some scores are tenths of a percent higher than last year, and some are tenths of a percent lower (remember: this is my first glance — no analysis yet). Not horrible, not worse than last year, but still not the improvements and growth I want to see.

After reading several comments from the public, (people can log in to the news websites and record opinions, etc. under the published stories) I thought, “Why are you doing this to yourself?” As I perused the snarky, mean-spirited words — writers voicing their frustrations about public schools vs. private schools, bad news, political views, arguing with each other instead of making suggestions —  I felt defensive. Then I stopped myself. “No way. These people are not teachers, administrators, or students at these schools, nor do they know what these standardized test scores really mean.” I wrote this instead:

“Bad-mouthing each other/schools does not help the children. Start the education at home, and then build at school. Do you read to your child every day? Do you help them with their math? Are there clubs/sports/social activities that your child does that enhance getting along with others and learning life-long skills? Teachers, we need to improve as well. Do we attend PD (professional development) with open minds and willingness to change to best practices of instruction? Do we plan and implement lessons and units with authentic learning goals in mind, or are we just teaching to pass the test?…The buck stops with me. Goal-setting…”

My goal is always to be the best teacher I can be. Some years are better than others, and there is always room for improvement. My goal for my students is to become life-long learners and leaders who know how to read and write, speak appropriately, and act intelligently —  ideals that the published standardized test numbers and percents just don’t show.


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DRAFT of Idea: July 23, 2014

 

What I Learned While Teaching Others, by Jennifer Sniadecki DRAFT

*Establish Routines and Follow Them*

Routines are required because routines are reassuring.

Routines lead to relaxing and getting down to work without distractions…

or trouble.

Teachers teach procedures and routines in the first weeks of school so that students can have order and consistency in their lives, so they can feel successful, and so they can learn to get down to business without worrying about the small stuff. Don’t sweat the small stuff (they say). Having routines makes life easier – really! Students know where to turn in homework, when to go to their lockers, and how to get to the lunchroom independently when teachers help them to learn the daily procedures. Harry and Rosemary Wong even wrote about it in The First Days of School. But I’m finding more and more that teachers need the procedures and routines just as much as the students.

(The following is a personal story that is meant to show how teachers need routines just as much as students. Thank you for allowing me to share.)

As a “veteran” teacher, I’m supposed to know how to teach content, manage my classroom, and manage my time. Daily tasks such as taking attendance, transitioning to the related arts classes, and end-of-day dismissal procedures need to be taught, practiced, and mastered by staff and students alike. I’m still learning…nowhere near mastery yet. Here’s one tidbit I learned:


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Slice of Life Tuesday: Now That School’s Out…

Now that school is out for the summer I am working through my “to-do” list of items I left on the back burner. First, get away from home, to a quiet place, and read and write more. Yes!  Two days in a row now, I have read books for the #bookaday challenge. I heard about this through several friends on Twitter, and decided to take the plunge, into books! It’s been a wonderful “waste of time!” Lol

I planned next week, too. I will be at Butler University for the writing workshop with Carl Anderson! I cannot wait to be a learner again — and I’m jealous of all of you attending the TCRWP summer institutes! So this is my back-up plan. It’s a good one, yes?

Then I will drive south to visit my best friend. I haven’t seen her in soooo long! It will be fantastic to catch up.

Last, but not least, I must prepare for school again in August! It seems hard to believe that summer is flying by so fast. I hope to rest and get a little more sun before the new group of students enter Room 138.


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Day 30: SOLSC Slice of Life Story Challenge

GRATEFUL for my new friends at SOLSC

G is for the GRAVITATIONAL pull of the SOLSC network. You kept me going. When I fell, I got back up. I kept writing, because my SOLSC pals pulled me towards them.

R is for REVEALING myself to new people, and for REFLECTING on my life as a mom, daughter, teacher, and human being.

A is for APPLE. Just because, “an apple a day keeps the teachers at play.” Right?

T is for TECHNOLOGY that I am learning to use because of this project, and for TIME to do what I’ve always wanted.

E is for EXCITING new stories to tell. I’m also giving a virtual “high-five” to my EXCELLENT SOLSC team of leaders who organize this event every year. Thanks!

F is for FUNDAMENTALS — I will use this writing experience to become a better writer and teacher.

U is for ULTIMATE goals! My goal is to become a published writer, so writing every day gave me the chance to experience my dream!

L is for LEARNING. Oh, that’s the ultimate goal — yes! For me, for my students. My time with this SOLSC project helped me to renew my faith in the learning process.

Thank you everyone at SOLSC! It was nice meeting you all, and sharing stories with you. Keep in touch!

 


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Day 22: SOLSC Slice of Life Story Challenge

Wish You Were Here!

I wish I could have attended the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Saturday Reunion today. I loved reading about the highlights on all the blog posts — another amazing Saturday in New York City! Diane Ravitch was a keynote speaker! This amazing event drew the usual crowd of teachers from around the country! The weather wasn’t too shabby! Smiles to all of you. Thank you for sharing.

I read that some fellow Slicers got to meet each other for the first time in person! How wonderful! Finally getting the chance to truly become personal friends AND share in the learning — the opportunity of a lifetime. I look forward to the next time I will walk with a thousand other people along Broadway, crossing over at 120th ST to Riverside Church, arriving at least 45 minutes early to get a good seat (now there’s a challenge!), and enjoying a fun-filled day of thinking and sharing time with the experts in the field of education.

As for today’s events at home, I have to admit it was a productive, busy, yet relaxing day. The dryer got fixed — yay! I can do laundry! (Note the sarcastic tone.) We did our taxes — yay! (No, really! We needed that done.) My daughter and I went to the mall and brought home dinner — yay! (No, really! It was nice to get out.)  And for tonight’s main event, I watched “Pretty Woman” on TV — yay! (I enjoy viewing my favorite classic movies again and again.)

Bonus! It’s only Saturday and most of my chores are done now; I can enjoy the entire day tomorrow, too!  “Wish You Were Here” — not just a line from a postcard.

 

 

 

 


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Day 13: SOLSC Slice of Life Story Challenge

Inspiration

In our Language Arts cross-grade level meeting this afternoon, we discussed the week’s standardized testing experience. One comment that stuck with me was this:  students who read a lot seemed to do well on the writing part of the test. I thought, “Yes, that simple idea makes so much sense.” One strategy that we want to keep in mind for next year’s curriculum is to use more mentor texts in the classroom. Immerse the students in different types of model texts, teaching them what we want them to understand using authentic means, and they will have a better opportunity to merge what they learn into their own writing.

I’ve used mentor texts for years. Each workshop or class I attend, I bring back ideas, check book list suggestions, and stock my shelves (at home and at school!) with reading that will model what I want the students to do when they write. My minilessons always spiral throughout the year: “Remember when we learned to use alliteration? Hey, look! Here’s another author who knows that trick!” (I make sure I identify my students as authors — they are!) Using mentor texts is a research-based, best-practice strategy for guiding students to write future best-sellers. Mentor authors help children build confidence. Mentors show children how the experts use the tools, tricks, and knowledge available to them when they write. Mentor writers are life-long readers and researchers themselves, the roles that we want children to take as they work through their writing.

Who hasn’t been inspired at one point or another by a painting, sculpture, musical score, or book? You know you have. You say to yourself, “I can do that.” Mentor texts inspire children to write like the experts. They can do that, too!

Disclaimer: This blogger does NOT using reading texts merely to teach reading or writing standards in the classroom. People should read for many reasons, not the least of which is to ENJOY reading!  Please do not tear apart mentor texts until students do not recognize them for what they truly are — wonderful reading material. My daughter and I once talked about author’s purpose. She said, “Authors don’t sit around and write to teach you about imagery (or making predictions, or identifying character traits, or anything else!). They just write, and you buy the book because you want to read it.