Foster Parenting

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Helping Hands Project

This whole school year has been dedicated to kids making a difference in the lives of others.  When Kate, my partner in crime, asked me if I wanted to join her class in a service project this holiday season, I immediately said, "Yes!"  Kathy, our teammate, joined us and we now have the whole fourth grade working together to help those in need.  We decided to make no-sew tied fleece blankets to give to the local women's shelter that gives women and their children a safe place to stay.  I was hoping to connect with other classes who are doing similar projects.  Hence, the beginning of the Helping Hands project.

Here is the plan...

  • The group is open to all classrooms who want to share their thinking and their work with others.  You can share via blogs, Skype, Voice Thread or any other way that fits your needs.  
  • I began a group on Edmodo called Helping Hands.  The code to join is qlglas.  You can also access the site at   If you've never used Edmodo before, it's easy to sign up and get registered.
  • As you read great books, work on projects or share your thinking, connect with others on Edmodo.  You  can set up a time to connect that is convenient for all parties.  I've already heard from a couple of people who are doing great things and my class is so excited to share with them.  We will keep Helping Hands open until the end of January. 

I'm launching the unit with Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting.  It's one of my favorite books.  I hope that we can connect with lots of people!  Please join us.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Slowing Down to Savor the Good Things: Slice of Life Tuesday

Today is one of those rare days that people get in December.  A break from routine.  A break from the hustle and bustle.  Time to slow down and savor.

Today I received the gift of time spent with some  amazing women.

The morning began with meeting a friend for breakfast before a doctor appointment.  The best wasn't a quick breakfast meeting that had to end by 8:30 to get to school in time for the 8:45 bell.  No, this was a leisurely breakfast where time was of little significance.

My friend retired last year, and I moved to a new building, so we haven't had a chance to catch up.  What a joy this morning was.  We shared stories about our kids and our lives; sometimes laughing, sometimes just shaking our heads.   I left the restaurant feeling uplifted, realizing how easy it is to let these moments slip by.

This evening was spent with four fabulously smart ladies who all share a love of literacy and teaching children.  Again, we shared stories of our own children and our teaching lives.  There was no hurrying to get to the next appointment or to check the next thing off our to-do list.  Instead, we lingered over delectable food and stimulating conversation.  New friendships were made and old ones were strengthened.

Spending my time with each of these women today was exactly what I needed.   I didn't dwell on what still needed to be done.  Instead, I just enjoyed.  During this holiday season, I hope all of you find time to spend with the people that buoy your spirits, feed your soul, and leave your heart full.

Thanks to Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What is Expository Text?

I love teaching with nonfiction.  There are so many possibilities for my students to fall in love with informational text.  The topics are endless and I'm lucky to have quite a few books in the nonfiction section of my classroom library.  I decided to return to a focus on nonfiction, specifically expository text for the three weeks between Thanksgiving and our holiday break in the middle of December.  We've had many conversations about hybrid texts and now we are studying how expository text is different.  I'm amazed at how astute my students are.  

We started the week with an inquiry about expository text. We looked at lots of different examples and wrote about what we noticed.  It's always amazing to me how observant kids can be when we give them opportunities to slow down, think, and have conversations.  They noticed the usual things...captions, titles, index, glossary, headings, subheadings, etc.  They also noticed things that my students in the past haven't noticed before:  acknowledgements from the author, dedication, additional websites and author notes.  Our chart is filled with their noticings.  (I think I may have just made up a word).

Inquiry Leads to Definition

This year, I decided to add a component to my nonfiction study.  I wanted the kids to write their own definition of expository text, instead of me just giving it to them, or assuming that they had a good understanding from our conversations.  I adapted the Zoom In Zoom Out graphic organizer that we had used in our inquiry teacher group last summer when coming up with a definition of teacher inquiry.  I gave it to the students to complete with a partner before we gathered as a whole group to create our own definition.  It was very interesting to listen in on the conversations between students as they shared their thinking.  I was quickly able to ascertain who understood certain concepts and who still had some gaps in their understanding of nonfiction.

Here is some of their thinking:

Expository Text is Similar To:

The Important Parts:
  • It has true facts
  • You can learn something new
  • You can read it for pleasure or to do research (Isn't that an interesting observation?)
  • Title, Index, Glossary, Headings (we decided to call these ways to organize the text)
  • Diagrams, Photographs, Captions, Bold Words etc. (we agreed that we learned important information with these features too)
  • The author can be talking to you
  • It is about a lot of different topics
What it's Not:
  • A story
  • Fiction
  • Made up
  • Fantasy
The next step was to synthesize our information...I wanted the students to own the definition.  We decided which parts were most important to include. This is their final definition:

Our Definition:

Expository nonfiction is text that has facts where you can read and learn new information.  It is organized and has visual information that gives the reader more information.

We will hang the definition on a bulletin board that is dedicated to our thinking and learning about expository nonfiction.  

I'm looking forward to the rest of this unit.  We'll be delving into: 
  • how the different organizational and visual features support readers, 
  • taking notes and learning which note taking tools best help us (different readers will find that different tools better support them)
  • favorite authors and series
  • evaluating the author's credentials
  • studying different text structures
  • finding other sources of nonfiction we like (we already love Wonderopolis, other webistes, magazines, etc.)
I'll be using Steve Moline's book I See What You Mean to guide my students in critically analyzing the visual features of nonfiction and how these features can be used as readers and writers.  If you haven't seen this book, you need to check it out.  I also just ordered Chris Lehman's Energize Research Reading and Writing.  I wasn't able to attend his session at NCTE.  A friend took notes for me and went on and on about how great the session was.  Right after receiving Robin's notes, I read Franki's post.  Five minutes later, the book was in my Amazon cart.  (Gotta love "One Click" shopping).

Now that I'm back into blogging mode, I'll keep you posted on our progress.

What mentor texts do you like to use when studying nonfiction?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Importance of Community Slice of Life

I moved to a new school and new grade level this year and also  started working on a doctorate program this semester.  I vowed to not take on any extra commitments so I didn't overcommit myself.  Those of you who know me, know that I have a little problem with over commitment.  :) I started out really well...I didn't join the social committee, I didn't start an after school writing club, and I didn't volunteer for any committees.  However, early this fall, I got an email from Cathy Mere of Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community wondering if I'd like to teach a blogging class with her. We had presented at the Summer Academy in our district and several teachers showed interest in beginning a blog.  Whenever I get the chance to work with Cathy, I always say, "Yes!"  I love working with her and  learn so much.  So, I immediately forgot about my promise to not "join any clubs" and jumped on the bandwagon with her.  And I am so glad I did.

I looked forward to each night that we met.  The group came from different backgrounds:  classroom teachers, guidance counselor, teacher leader, and intervention teacher.  They all had something in common though; each of them wanted to connect with their students, parents and other teachers using technology.  It didn't matter how tired any of us were at the end of our school day, our time together rejuvenated us as we worked together and learned from each other.  That was the beauty of this group...everyone brought an expertise in one area or another.  So, even though this class started out as a place to learn how to blog, it became much more. We shared book titles, favorite websites, and strategies to use in our classrooms.

Once again, I am reminded of the power of community.  We spend so much time building community in our classrooms.  We know how important it is for students to feel safe to take risks, to have a place to share their thinking, and make mistakes.  As teachers, we need that support too.  When we embark on a new journey, we need to have others beside us to catch us when we stumble and cheer us on.  This group gave us that.  We carved out the time to think, play, experiment, and take risks.  We gave each other the support we needed to move forward.  Tonight as I watched one of the teachers excitedly launch her new website and student blog, I was thrilled for her.  I am so grateful for this group and excited to see them join the blogging community.  The students whose lives they touch are very lucky indeed.

Thanks to Stacey and Ruth for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Slice of Life Tuesday...Kindergarten Teachers Who Rock

Thanks to Stacey and Ruth for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday.  You can go to their blog and read more Slice of Life posts.

Five years ago, the Enid Paskes Bloome Kindergarten Teacher Award was established in honor of Enid Bloome, the mother of Dr. David Bloome.  Enid was a kindergarten teacher for over 30 years and wrote two books, Dogs Don't Belong on Beds, and The Water We Drink.  Children's literature was an integral part of her curriculum.  Wonderful teachers from central Ohio have been honored and one of the best parts of the award ceremony was listening to David's father, Sel, talk about his beloved wife.

Sel was a tall man with a booming voice.  I can still picture him standing in the Martha King Center at OSU in his black pants, charcoal gray shirt, and suspenders.  Each year when we met to honor the recipient of the Bloome Award, he would tell us about his wife and her love of literature and children.  His eyes would well up with tears while he told us stories of Enid.  Listening to him talk, even though it was just for a brief time, was my favorite part of the ceremony.  He loved meeting the kindergarten teachers and was so appreciative of the work they did.  We were all saddened when Sel passed away this summer.  The award became known as the Enid and Selwyn Bloome Kindergarten Teacher Award.

On Saturday, I had the honor of introducing the 2012 recipients of the award, Lynn Seguin and Jill Kelly.  I am fortunate to work with both of these ladies who teach our neediest kindergarten students in our KLIP progrram (Kindergarten Literacy Intervention Program).  Here is an excerpt of the nomination letter:

Their rooms beckon children to come in and read.  Lamps light their rooms, cozy curtains hang in the windows, plants sit on shelves, and kid sized chairs and tables invite children in.  Books are prominent in their rooms.  Colorful baskets line the shelves where students can easily access them.  Picture labels help students quickly find the books they want.  When asked to draw a picture and write what they loved about KLIP, many of the children drew the classroom library.  Children’s literature is used to build a strong learning community among the students. They read stories to learn more about themselves and each other.  Books are used to build vocabulary and a common language in their classroom.  Charts hang around the room for shared reading and independent reading during the day.  It is here that children learn to love words and discover that words have power.

Sel would have loved these ladies.  Their love of children and literacy is evident the minute you meet them.  I know that I would feel very lucky if my children were in their classrooms.  (Although Jill was probably still a teenager when my children were in kindergarten).  Lynn and Jill received a gift certificate to our local independent children's bookstore, Cover to Cover.  I made them promise to take me shopping with them.  I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon...lunch, shopping for books, and hanging out with a couple of my favorite people.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

It's Monday What Are You Reading?

Thanks to Jen and Kellee for hosting this meme.  You can go to their blog Teach Mentor Texts to read more about what others are reading.

This week has been a light reading week for me.  I finished Keeper by KathiAppelt.  Loved it!

I was excited to get Bonnie Pyron's newest book The Dogs of Winter at the CAWP Fall Writing Conference.  My class loved A Dog's Way Home last year.

My professional read for this week is Visible Learning for Teachers:  Maximizing Impact on Learning by John Hattie.  One of my colleagues from my teacher inquiry group had rave reviews for it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Slice of Life Tuesday...Finding Happiness in Every Day

Thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life.  You can read other slices at their website.

This year I have made a commitment to focus on finding the joy in each and every day.  I'm one of those people who tends to take on more than I should (although most of it sounds fun when I say "yes" to something new) and then before I know it, I'm overwhelmed.  After one especially crazy weekend, I decided that no matter how stressed or behind in my school work I was, I was going to look for and focus on the good in my day.  It's put a much more positive spin on my life.  So, what has been bringing me happiness?  It's the everyday simple things where I find the most satisfaction.

The following Monday, after my crazy weekend, I received a text from my husband that said, "READ ANNIE'S BLOG."  I was actually on my way out the door to go to class, so I dropped my book bag (full of school work that I probably wasn't going to do) and logged on to Annie's blog.  (For those of you who don't know, Annie is our 17 year-old daughter who is currently in Turkey for the school year as a foreign exchange student).  The tears came on quickly and I immediately sent the above text to my friend Kathy.  Annie's words were the ultimate gift any parent could ever receive.

My family definitely makes me happy.  My husband and I have 3 kids who have grown up into wonderful young adults. In addition, since we've begun hosting foreign exchange students, our family has expanded to include Sana from India, Adrianna from  Spain, Fiona from Germany, and Duygu from Turkey.  (And I can't leave out Jonathan, Annie's boyfriend, who is a pretty neat kid himself.)

I LOVE fall!  Taking walks and listening to the leaves crunch under my feet is the best.  The solitude brings peace to my soul.

Baking is my therapy.  I got home early from class last night and decided to make a new cookie recipe just for fun.  I'm thinking that this baking therapy is not really good for my Weight Watchers journey.  :)

There are so many other things that bring me friends, my CAWP colleagues, my blogging buddies, friends  at school, Tuesday morning breakfast at Bob Evans with Joyce and Kathy, beginning my doctoral journey, losing myself in a good book, writing, gardening, playing FB Scrabble, and last but not least, my kids at school.  Every day brings something new with the 29 fourth graders in my life. Yes, my days are hectic and crazy, but all in all, hanging out with curious, eager learners is a pretty good way to spend the day.

Monday, October 22, 2012

It's Monday What Are You Reading?

Thanks to Jen and Kellee for hosting this meme.  You can go to their blog Teach Mentor Texts to read more about what others are reading.

I have taken a break from blogging and it feels good to be back at it.  I've changed blogging platforms, so hopefully people will find me again.  

I've read a lot of great books...both professional and for my fourth graders.  My husband and I took a trip this past weekend which included some drive time.  That meant lots of time to read!

I was so happy when I received Franki Sibberson's new book in the mail.  I have so much respect for her and always love reading her work, be it one of her books, her blog, or her articles in Choice Literacy.  This book came at the perfect time when I was beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities that come with school (interims, data teams, beginning of the year assessments, etc).  Reading The Joy of Planning gave me the needed reminder that it's ok to slow down and use what I know about my students to plan instruction.  I'll review Franki's book in further detail later this week.

The other professional book I read this past week was in preparation for the Children's Literature Across the Curriculum class I am taking.  Steve Moline's book I See What You Mean focuses on the importance of visual literacy, strategies for teaching students how and when to use them strategically, and how to assess their use.  It's a user friendly book with a lot of good information.  A second edition has been published which now includes information about online resources.

I read Kate Messner's Eye of the Storm in one day!  I can't wait to share it with my students.  I stayed up way past my bedtime so that I could finish reading it.  My class Skyped with Kate to talk about Capture the Flag.  I know that they will love her new book.

New books for the classroom: