Monday, December 2, 2013
It's been some time since I've participated in IMWAYR, but after receiving/gathering/buying some amazing books at NCTE last weekend, this seems like a perfect opportunity to begin reading again. I will have to intersperse what I'm reading with what my students are reading since I already took a suitcase of books to school to share with my students last Monday, and we took a leisurely hour of reading workshop and did a book pass, previewing each book, and collecting titles they wanted to come back to when they had an opportunity. Based on what they recorded in their readers' notebooks, the books in the suitcase were a big hit!!
A few books that were waiting for me to finish them, a book that needed to be reread in preparation for a GREat Discussion (parent/child book club), as well as some new ones worth sharing:
The Shadow Throne by Jennifer Nielsen -- Thanks to Scholastic Press for sharing these and to Jennifer Nielsen for signing my Uncorrected Proof! The Ascendance Trilogy concludes. Once again, Jaron and his friends have to come together for a noble cause -- trying to save Carthya. This book is due out Feb. 25, so I don't want to include any spoilers for those of you waiting patiently/impatiently for the conclusion of this trilogy. I will say that the action remains fast-paced, and leaves you wondering if Jaron learned how to play chess at some point in his life; he is always thinking multiple moves ahead.
Counting by 7's by Holly Goldberg Sloan -- this is the GREat Discussion book for our 5th graders and their parents. It is possible that I cried more this time than the first time I read this book. Closer reading with purpose in preparing for a book club conversation forced me to slow down and pay attention to some details I missed the first time. If it's even possible, I fell more in love with all the characters even more, especially Willow! I can't wait to have this conversation with our 5th graders and their parents.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo -- This is a book I heard many people discussing at NCTE, and I knew I needed to read it myself. So when one of my students was returning the library copy on Monday, I snagged it for myself (apologies to the rest of the school). Because of the author's name, I'm not sure what I expected, but I was pleasantly surprised. A mix of chapter book-like text interspersed with illustrations and graphic novel-like sequences made this an enjoyable read. My favorite parts of this book were Flora's continual reference to and use of the books, Terrible Things Can Happen to You and The Criminal Element.
The 14 Fibs of Gregory K by Greg Pincus -- I met this author four years ago at a KidLitCon in Washington DC. I have followed him ever since on social media, knowing he had a love of poetry. I was so happy to see how he infused poetry into this delightful text that should be a sure winner with students! Combine the ideas of not fitting in with your family (Gregory loves to write; his family are all mathematicians), not telling the truth and digging the hole of lies bigger and bigger, disappointing friends, and your best friend moving far away, and you get this wonderful book. I really like that the word "Fibs" in the title actually could have dual meanings. Teachers should definitely be book-talking this with their students!
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool -- This is a lovely book, beautifully written. It is a story of two boys taking a journey that allows them to find themselves and gain a better understanding of family.
It's good to be reading again! I can't wait to add to my growing booklist by reading what others have read this week. Head on over to Teach Mentor Texts for more posts.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
I laughed out loud when I read Cathy's #nerdlution post. I laughed for 2 reasons:
- She was doing exactly what I was -- tying to ignore the enticing peer pressure of our smart friends.
- I have been led to push myself and my thinking more times than I can count by ideas Cathy has concocted. :)
But I think Franki, Colby, Katherine, Bill, Chris L, Kristine, and all the others who were in on the #nerdlution thread on Twitter are on to something. I look at December and I think of all the ways my time will be challenged --
- preparing for the holidays as I write Christmas cards, bake, shop, and wrap
- helping my parents through some very difficult medical times, including surgery for both of them,
- gatherings of friends and family (even though these consume time, they all are blessings)
What I realize is that starting with Thanksgiving and moving through New Year, I mostly spend time taking care of those I love, and often times, neglect myself. So that's why I'm joining #nerdlution -- by participating and having the energy and support of those other participants, I stand a better chance of making sure I take care of myself as well.
So my 2 #nerdlutions:
First, I plan to take care of my physical self each day -- whether that is walking, yoga, water aerobics, getting my hair done, a pedicure, meditating, or simply "legs up the wall" -- a great de-stressor!
Second, I want to take care of my mental self -- I have not been reading as much lately and I know heading into the holidays that might be one of the first things to go when life gets hectic. I plan to read for at least 45 minutes each day.
It's a small start in gaining some balance in my life. I know I am a much better person when I am mentally and physically in shape. Thanks to all of you for supporting me with these two #nerdlutions !!
Posted by Karen at 12:42 PM
Once again, I am a day late to the party, but hopefully you will all understand as my celebration continued through yesterday evening, and this is the first opportunity I have had to sit down and process anything since returning home from NCTE late last Sunday evening.
I have been immersed in the celebration of family since right after school on Tuesday evening, when I picked up our oldest daughter at the airport. Then, on Wednesday, the daughter who actually lives in the same town as us, came to the house with a huge duffle bag, prepared to stay for the rest of the weekend. What a celebration to have all four of us in the same "home" for a few days!!
Our time together was spent in both traditional and non-traditional events.
The girls and I put up holiday decorations together on Wednesday, followed by our annual pre-Thanksgiving movie. We saw "Catching Fire" at our local AMC theater, which is now sporting these amazing tilt-back chairs. Great chairs, great movie, great company!! Life was good.
On the actual day of Thanksgiving, it was just the four of us enjoying the turkey with all its fixings. Because we knew this would be a tough Thanksgiving as we lost my father-in-law last February, we decided to throw in the very non-traditional excursion to the casino. The trip served its purpose perfectly -- after reflecting on stories about Dad T at dinner, the trip to the casino provided us with much hilarity.
Friday, my extended family got together at my brother's home. Another wonderful turkey dinner surrounded by people I love. Then, one last holiday tradition remained when we returned home -- putting up the Christmas tree. I think it's one of my favorite traditions because the ornaments I buy each year for both of the girls or for our family have some type of significance for that particular calendar year. It is fun to reminisce about each of those events.
Saturday, was a mixed blessing day. We love to watch football together and three of us did that (the other was actually at the OSU/Michigan game). Then, it came time to take our oldest, Kate, to the airport so she could wing her way back to her "other" home - DC. Knowing that I would see her again in about 3 weeks, made these good-byes a bit easier.
I hope these past days were full of time with friends and/or family for all of you as well. For all the Celebrations, head to Ruth's blog to see this week's line-up.
Posted by Karen at 10:37 AM
Saturday, November 16, 2013
This week, I had several reminders of why I want to celebrate working with teachers and students:
- Twice within this past week, I gathered with colleagues outside of the school setting just to have fun. It certainly helps reduce stress when you can eat, drink, and laugh with the people you see on a daily basis. And I think it's even better when we get away from our work environment and see each other in different surroundings. Both opportunities allowed me to appreciate my colleagues in more personal ways.
- I am co-mentoring the 3rd year teachers in our school district this year. I spent Wednesday morning meeting and collaborating with several of them, as they work on refining their own practices as teachers. I loved our conversations as they shared with me about their students, their assessments, and their teaching. So incredibly reflective. We are lucky to have these teachers moving from the "Resident Educator" status here in Ohio to being fully licensed. I'm very fortunate to be a part of this journey they are on.
- This week was the end of the trimester, and time to have students fill out reading reflections for their growth as readers the past 12 weeks. Here are just a few of the comments or thinking that help me celebrate:
- when talking about his comments to other classmates on reading response letters: "I've gotten a lot better at commenting to others. I'm paying attention to what they say before I comment."
- when talking about what specifically she wanted to celebrate as a reader this trimester: "I read more books this trimester than in all of 4th grade."
- another student sharing what they wanted to celebrate: "I started giving better book recommendations when I know books others might like."
- when sharing how many books they completed in first trimester: A prolific reader recorded finishing 35 books so far while a reader that struggled to find a book and to complete it recorded finishing 5 books. Both of these numbers and all the other numbers in between are huge celebrations because it means we have a community of readers who understand that time to read is valuable.
Posted by Karen at 12:07 AM
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
That's right -- I just realized I was the guest at Kirby Larson's blog today. What an honor to be asked, and I got to write about one of my favorite things -- Mrs. T letters (reading response letters), and building a reading community in our classroom.
Head on over to Kirby's blog for the entire post.
Thanks for having me, Kirby!!
Head on over to Kirby's blog for the entire post.
Thanks for having me, Kirby!!
Posted by Karen at 12:32 AM
Saturday, October 26, 2013
My first celebration has absolutely nothing to do with school, but it has been oh-so-fun!! Friday was our conference comp day so this weekend became a 3 day weekend. I spent the last 36 hours doing some power shopping -- some cute dresses, new boots (thanks to Franki for the inspiration), new yoga attire, a new tree to replace one that had to be removed, and a new console for our television. My credit card hasn't had this much exercise in quite a while!! But the biggest deal of all these things is what I'm typing on right now -- my brand-new MacBook Air. I love the Apple store and the people who teach me so many new things every time I walk in. And I love my new laptop as well!
But, on to the true purpose of the Saturday celebration, the part about my students, not me. I was having a writing conference with a student this week. She has been somebody who learned how to avoid writing along the way - she would draw pictures, write notes to friends, and just chat up a storm. That ability to converse is why I knew she had a lot of important things to write about; I just needed her to commit to putting those great ideas down on paper.
She had a breakthrough this week. We had spent a great deal of time this past month learning and applying revising and editing skills to help enrich and polish our pieces. With all her newfound skills, she was ready to tackle a new piece. So, during our conference, she shared that she wanted to publish a story one chapter at a time on our KidBlog. Her rationale was she planned to end each chapter with a cliffhanger that would leave the reader wanting more. How cool is that?!! She is thinking and planning like a writer. I can't wait to listen to the "buzz" her installments will produce. I've already read the first chapter and it's a doozy! Classmates will be begging for more.
How wonderful for her that she found her writer's identity, and how lucky for the rest of us that we get to take the journey with her.
For more celebrations, head on over to Ruth's blog. Have a great weekend!
Posted by Karen at 8:27 PM
Saturday, October 19, 2013
1) From one boy's reading response letter:
- Dear Mrs. T
I have really enjoyed living in this classroom full of books.
- Talking to Barbara o Conner she does not act like a famous person.
- "Thank heavens you were here!" -- I guess he never thought about trying a different clue. :)
- BEST. FIELD. TRIP. EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by Karen at 1:39 PM