Foster Parenting

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Power of Story

A little peek into our brainstorming

“Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.” -Madeleine L’Engle

I  love Tuesdays.  Tuesdays provide a break from my regular hectic schedule.  Every Tuesday morning, the literacy coaches in my district meet.  It's our time to talk about district initiatives, share what's happening in our buildings, and just generally support each other in our jobs.  I always leave our meetings feeling energized for the upcoming week. There's something about hanging out with others who "get you" and welcome those conversations that push your thinking.  

Once a month our large group breaks into smaller focus groups.  Our group's task today was to meet with the district web designer, Kelly, to discuss the new literacy website.  This is no small task, but gather 6 women who like to think big, and the task can soon become pretty daunting.

Our ideas were flowing as Molly jotted our thinking on the white board. It wasn't long before purple ink filled the board, our lists becoming longer and more complicated.  One idea spurred another idea, which led to another idea.  Where would we even begin?  You could feel the enormity of the task settle in on us.

And then Kelly asked us a simple question.

"What if instead of creating a typical website, we created a space where we could tell teachers' stories?"

Tell teachers' stories?  It was brilliant!  We all know the power of stories.  Stories bring us together.  Stories ground us. We learn from each other's stories.    Don't we begin our year by asking our students to share their stories?   These stories become the foundation of our writing workshops and make our community stronger.

Teachers have stories to share too.  We don't hear them often enough...stories of celebration, stories of frustration and being in over your head, stories of determination and success.  Each and every story is integral to who a teacher is.  They are important and they need to be told.

Kelly's simple question changed our all-been-tried-before website idea into something dynamic.    We tossed around more ideas, decided on a place to start and created a plan to gather stories.  We ended our meeting with a sense of purpose and excitement.

Kelly was able see what we couldn't see.  Sometimes it takes someone with a different lens to sort through the mess to find the gem that's buried deep inside.  She sat back quietly, took it all in, and helped us find our story.

Please stop by Two Writing Teachers to read other Slice of Life stories.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Taking Away Technology Tools as Punishment: Appropriate or Not?

I hear over and over again that the use of technology is a privilege. Colleagues that I respect and admire go back and forth about the appropriateness of taking technology away from students as a punishment for misbehavior.   I know that these words are spoken from a place of frustration.  It comes from, "I've tried everything else. I don't know what else to do."  It's an interesting concept to consider because I think we need to consider what we mean by privilege.

According to, the definition of privilege is a right or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most.

Yes, we are very privileged in our district that we have the technology resources that we do.  We benefit immensely from having an administration  that recognizes that our world is changing and we need to keep up. They are committed to providing the resources that will help our students be successful citizens in the future.  Teachers are provided professional development to keep up with what is available.

Is technology something that should only be "enjoyed" by a few who are fortunate?  I think we would all agree that the answer to that is, "No."  If we want our students to be productive citizens in the future, we need to equip them with the necessary skills to navigate our information rich society.

Is the use of technology a right that shouldn't be taken away?  When I think about how we use technology in our classroom, I have to believe that it is.  The use of technology is an integral part of our learning.  Our students are learning important strategies that help them navigate digital texts.  They study digital compositions as mentors and learn to make purposeful decisions as digital writers themselves. They are connecting with a global audience and learning how to be responsible digital citizens.  They are collaborating, creating, responding, and connecting all with the help of technology.  I would argue that the integration of technology is one more tool that our students have at their disposal when they are making decisions as readers and writers.  I would never consider taking away pencils and books as a punishment, so why would I consider taking away iPads and online websites that benefit my students?

I am sure that some may disagree with me.  I'd love to continue the conversation.  What are your thoughts about the use of technology being a privilege?  Is it appropriate for teachers to take away technology as punishment?

Please join other educators as they discuss how they are using technology in their classrooms.  Visit Reflections on the Teche to see other links to DigiLit Sunday.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Invitation to Magic

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays.  Head on over to their site to read other Slice of Life stories and join the fun!

I entered Abbey's room with my notebook and pen in hand, ready to take notes on her workshop.  She wanted feedback on how engaged the kids were.  She was worried that not everyone was using their time wisely.  Sitting down in a first grade sized chair and equally small desk, I readied myself to take notes.  I was prepared to give a reporter's account of who was doing what, wanting to give her an accurate account of her reading workshop.

And I watched magic unfold.

I found myself swept right in with the kids.

And taking notes took on a whole different spin.

How could I find the words to capture what was occurring right in front of my eyes?

I arrived as she was finishing her read aloud.  She reminded her young readers that friends recommend books to each other.  They decided to write a letter to Mrs. Miller's first grade telling them about the wonderful book they just read, Little Elliot Big City.   Their enthusiasm grew as they chose their words, careful not to give too much away.  She tore the chart paper off, folded it in fourths, and sent it along with the book down the hall.

"Today, you are going to get to recommend books to your friends," she told them as she stepped away from the share circle.  "But first, I have something special for you."  Six year olds sat up a little taller and tiny whispers of excitement began to spread.  The whispers soon turned to happy squeals of delight as she returned with a copy paper box filled with books.

"Remember the list of books we made for the public library?  Well, I reserved them and they came in.  I picked them up this weekend and all weekend long, I've been waiting to share them with you.  I had so much fun looking through the pile and thinking about who was going to love each book."

And then she drew books out one by one, bending in close to her little ones.  Using a soft voice that grew just a bit louder as the excitement built she said,

"This one made me think of Jason."
"Anna, when I saw this one, I just knew you would love it."

And on she went.  Each time she pulled out a book, oohs and aahs filled the room.  Little bodies stretched up, knees glued to the floor, children not quite getting out of their spaces, but oh, so close.  And I was right there with them.  A box of books that the teacher got just for me?  Oh my!

She sent them off to read and find new books that they could recommend to a friend.  I wish words could capture the joy that I felt in that classroom.  Chatter about favorite characters and series erupted.  I watched the love of reading being fed and nurtured right in front of my eyes.

Later that evening I received a text from Abbey.

No apologies are necessary.  This is what matters in the lives of young readers and writers.
And I love that I was invited to take it all in.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Books Bridge Healing #Sol15 #DigiWriMo

Tonight I participate in Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life and Digital Writing Month.

Nine weeks ago, my husband and I agreed to open our home to two sisters needing a foster home.  We didn't know how long they would stay.  We didn't know what to expect.  They were able to go back home last week.  It was bittersweet.  These thoughts have been twirling around in my head for weeks.  The power of books can never be underestimated.

 I wanted to play with images and voice in this poem.  I treasure the photograph because it captures how far we came all because of books.


You came to me
Hurt and wounded
The wall
Around you

In that first hug
Your stiffened body
Told me
“Stay away.”
I cried inside for you.

I introduced you to Greg
The Wimpy Kid
We had something to talk about
The wall shifted
Just a bit.

After Greg, I introduced you  to Sunny Lewin.
You understood her.
She hurt just like you.
The wall cracked.
A brick or two fell.
And I hoped.

Next, we met Crenshaw together.
Shared conversations around
An imaginary cat
Fortified you.
Tentatively, you crept closer.
More bricks came toppling down.

You moved to your own books
While I had mine.
Meeting each night
Snuggled side by side
The wall disintegrated.

Healing began.
I watched you
Amidst stories and characters
Who made you laugh
Who made you cry

And most importantly,
Who gave you hope.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Digital Writing Month #altcv

I am jumping into #digiwrimo, otherwise known as Digital Writing Month.  Find out more here.  For my introduction, I decided to play with Bitstrips.  I'm looking forward to trying some new things and meeting some new folks this month.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Explore and Discover

Thank you to Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche for hosting DigiLit Sunday.  Please visit her site to read how other educators are integrating technology into their reading and writing workshops.

"I'm not sure.  Try it and let's see what happens."  This statement, or something similar has been my mantra this year.

I decided before school started that I was going to change the way I introduced different apps and digital tools (I wrote about our core apps in an earlier post.) into my classroom.   We are using more of a "explore and discover" approach.  The technology integration teacher and I have worked closely in figuring out how to best introduce apps to the students.

We began with a quick, informal check on students' familiarity with our core apps (Pixie, Explain Everything, iMovie, GAFE, Notability).  For each app, I drew a continuum that ranged from "Never Used" to "Expert."  I gave the kids round dot stickers to place  on each continuum.  It gave us a quick look at where our class was as a whole.

First Round

For our first round, we put kids into small groups and assigned an app to them.  I created a Google document for each too that I shared with them in a Google folder. We let the kids explore the app, with little input from us.  We wanted to see what they could do on their own.  Some groups discovered a lot of different things about their assigned app, while others got stuck and didn't get very far.  It was a little messy to say the least.  However, I think that messiness is important.  When I reflect on how I learn new digital tools, it's not always a linear process.  More often than not, I go round and round, trying something, finding it doesn't really work and then trying something else.  The kids go through the same kind of process when they are learning on their own.  So, even though it took more time than we anticipated, and we didn't get the results we thought we would, it was still time well spent.  

Round Two

For round 2, we decided to give them some guiding questions.  The questions varied according to the app.  There was one commonality:  How do you save to Google Drive?  This skill is essential as it will allow students to easily share reading responses, writing projects, notes, etc. with Miss Moore and me.  

I added the questions to the original template.  We mixed groups up and let them go.  It was time well spent.  Not everyone got to every question, but everyone did discover something.  Feel free to copy the template and tweak it for your own use.  We then asked the students to share what  they learned.  Their work is also saved in the Google folder, so students can go back any time they need a refresher.  In addition, as students discover new features of the apps, they can add their discoveries to the document.

Round Three

This week we will create a chart that will help us categorize what apps will be good to use for different kinds of work.  For example, we are currently doing a small research project on space.  It will be important for the kids to know which tools will be good to use for note taking and which ones might be good for presenting their information.  

All of this information is in a shared Google folder that the kids can access any time they need it.  

We are spending quite a bit of time at the beginning of the year to lay the foundation for a strong digital reading and writing workshop.  These tools will become a regular part of our workshop, alongside the more traditional tools.  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Establishing Routines in the Digital Reading and Writing Workshop

Thank you to Margaret Simon for hosting DigiLit Sunday.  Please visit her site to read how other educators are integrating technology into their reading and writing workshops.

I am so very fortunate to have a second grade teacher coming along the digital literacy journey with me this year.  We are working closely with our tech teacher as we look at ways to add tech tools to what Cheryl is already doing in her classroom.

Last week, we had to solve a big problem.  She has 15 iPads for her class of 21 students.  There aren't enough devices for everyone to have one at the same time.  I know from talking to other teachers, that this is a common problem.  Sometimes the problem is so big that a teacher will give up, thinking that it just won't work.

As Cheryl and I talked about how we could solve the problem, we decided to give the kids a chance to help us figure out what to do.  We had some ideas, but we wanted the students to be part of the process too.  So, when we sat down with them, we weren't really sure where they would go with their ideas.

We talked about the purpose of keeping track of our thinking while we read.  And then we moved right into why we might want to use an iPad to track our thinking and why we might want to use our reader's notebook.  

Next, came the big question:  How are we going to share the iPads when we don't have enough for each person to have one?  Hands shot up immediately and a buzz filled the room as they began to share their ideas.

Our chart shows the beginning of their thinking:
  • We can take turns.
  • We could share them.
  • We could wait for another time if we already used an iPad.
  • We could use our reader's notebook and let someone else use the iPads.
  • We could take turns using our mailbox numbers (even and odd numbers) for first choice and then if there are any left over, we can see who still wants to use an iPad.
This is just the beginning of getting routines in place for using technology in our classrooms.  Cheryl will be asking the students to keep track of their thinking this week while she reads aloud and in that process, will be practicing and having conversations with her second graders about being respectful with each other and sharing the devices.  

It's been interesting to watch the process in my classroom.  So far, it hasn't been an issue.  I have some kids who right away want an iPad or Chromebook in order to read online, while others are content with their print books.  I'm not sure it will ever be an issue, but if it is, we just might ask some savvy second graders to come up and share their solution.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Slice of Life Tuesday...Becoming a Mom Again

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday.  Please visit their site to read and comment on other Slice of Life Stories.

This summer, I joked with some friends, "I think I'm ready to be a mom again."  My husband and I have raised 3 good kids, we've survived the bumps in the road, and I'm a lot smarter now.  I kind of feel like I know what I'm doing.  In my imagination, I'd bring home a new baby and would know all the right things to do.  No more guessing, no more fretting and hoping for the best.  I wouldn't make the same mistakes again.

Three weeks ago, the call came.  Could we take in two little girls?  We hesitated for maybe 10 minutes before saying yes.

And now, my wish has come true.  I am a mom to young ones again; a first grader and fifth grader.

And guess what?  I'm still not sure about what I'm doing.  This is a different kind of parenting.  Fostering children is not like raising my own children.  I find myself still fretting and hoping for the best.

And so we go at it again.  We will make decisions the best we can.  We will still worry.  We will laugh and we will hold them and love them while they are with us.

I am a mom to young children again.

The sandwich assembly line that comes with making lunch for 7 people.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Celebrating the Nuances of Family

"Julie, come here.  See what I drew of our family."

My heart quickens.

Our family.

On the patio I see...

Six blue hearts

Sketched in blue chalk

By six year-old hands

One for Autumn

            One for Destiny

One for Annie

            One for Zach

One for Keith

            One for Julie

Our family.

In one short week, our family now means something new.

Today I celebrate quiet time (and not so quiet time) with ALL of my kids and ALL of the puppies on this long Labor Day weekend as we settle into a cozy cabin in Pennsylvania.

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for providing this space of celebration.  Visit her site to read about other celebrations.  

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Celebrating Life's Unexpected Opportunities

Over the past year, I've been given opportunities to learn what's important in life.  That's a nice way of saying that the unexpected turned our lives upside down.   I haven't written about them, because they were such personal experiences that affected my family, and yet, I needed to write.  I struggled with using this space.  This blog began as a place for reflection and sharing about my work with young readers and writers.  I learned, though, that I have so much more to write about.  This week, Bonnie's writing, coupled with Kevin's words, nudge me to come forward with more writing about what touches me deeply.  So, maybe the readers and writers I reference in the name of my blog, reference more than just the students I see before me each and every day.  I think it also needs to include myself...because I am also a reader and writer who is continually growing through words written by others as well as putting my thoughts down for others to read.

This week, our family was given one more opportunity to learn what's most important in life.  We welcomed two young girls into our home.  Their lives have been disrupted more than once, and we hope that our home will provide a place where they can settle in.  As soon as I knew they were coming to stay with us, I reached out to my school family and other foster parents.  I am overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support we've received.  Every day this week, I've walked to my office and classroom to find bags piled outside the doors...bedding, clothing, toys...all the things little girls need.  Women who have walked these steps before me, as foster and adoptive mothers of children who have suffered trauma, have reached out with words of advice and promises of being there for me when those rough days, that I know will happen, come along.  The school district where we live, has been nothing but supportive.  School secretaries bent over backwards to make sure the girls were in classrooms where they would be nurtured and supported.  The bus driver is keeping an eye out for them.  He called me after their first day of school to make sure they had had a good day at school and to let me know that they had found some nice kids to sit with on the bus.  My principal and teaching team have been nothing but supportive as I have to come in late or leave a little early as we all get settled into our new routines.  And my own family...our two grown children who  live at home while going to college have pitched in with not one complaint.  My husband and I are blessed indeed.

The girls are teaching us about resilience and bravery.  I fought back tears (and finally let them come the second time), after I left each girl at their new school.  They smiled at me as I said good-bye, and yet  the fear in their eyes still told me the truth.  They've never gone to the same school two years in a row and my heart breaks for that.

 I welcome new opportunities and joys that come with having young children in the house again...

  • Snuggling in bed and reading bedtime stories with a first grader who loves princess books.
  • Sitting around the dinner table playing the high/low game.
  • Leaving work by 4:00 because I have more important things to do than be at school.
  • Cuddling with puppies on the couch with a fifth grader and reading Harry Potter.
  • Watching my 20 and 22 year old children step outside of their busy worlds to lend a hand, play a game, watch a movie, or clean up a mess.  I feel as if I've been given a glimpse into the future and seeing the kind of parents they will be someday.  It makes my heart smile.

Thank you Ruth for providing this space to share celebrations.  I plan on coming back on a regular basis!  :)  Please visit Ruth's site to celebrate with others.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Starting the Year with Digital Writing

Thank you to Margaret Simon for hosting DigiLit Sunday.  Please visit her site, Reflections on the Teche to read how other educators are integrating technology into their classrooms.

As the school year hovers ever so near, it's time for me to think very purposefully about how I will be integrating technology into my classroom.  One of my fundamental beliefs is that the technology tools available to us are just  They become one more tool, alongside pencils, pens, paper, books, and staplers (to name a few) in our writing workshop.  These tools allow for choice, one of the most important foundations of writing workshop.

So, where to start?  I've learned from past experiences that it's important to focus on a few core tools depending on my purpose.  It used to be I jumped on every new tool I learned and then wanted to share it with my students.  I'd create projects (oops..there goes the choice) for the students to do that incorporated these tools, and then we'd move forward to the next tool I wanted to try.  There wasn't time for the kids to learn the tool well, and be purposeful about which tool best served their needs.

While chatting with Kelly Riley, the new tech teacher assigned to our school, I talked to her about what those core tools should be and how we could help students understand the purpose of each.  Our plan is to let students explore each app/tool in small groups and create a chart that describes the tool and how it can be used.  Here are the tools we will begin with this year:

Google Apps for Education gives students access to:

  • word processing documents 
  • spreadsheets
  • presentations
  • drawing tool
  • saving photos
  • mind mapping tool
  • calendar
  • work is automatically saved
  • can be accessed from anywhere at any time
  • can be used collaboratively
  • other apps can be linked to it
  • can be shared with others

Explain Everything is an interactive screen casting whiteboard app that students can use to:
  •  annotate text
  • record presentations
  • share their learning with others

Pixie is a creation tool that allows students to share ideas using:
  • voice narration
  • text
  • images
  • original artwork
  • can be shared

Noteability is a note taking app that allows users to: 
  •  take handwritten notes with a stylus
  • type notes
  • annotate text
  • organize notes
  • record voice
  • can be shared

iMovie creation of video where students can:
  • import images
  • add voice narration
  • add background music
  • import video
  • add transitions
  • can be shared

In addition, my students will be blogging.  I'm still up in the air as to which tool I am going to choose for our blogging platform.  

Let's continue the conversation.  Which will be your core tools?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Unflattening the Classroom

Thank you to Margaret Simon for hosting DigiLit Sunday, a place for educators to share their experiences with technology in their classrooms.  Please visit her site to see what others are doing.

This week's CLMOOC make was to create a digital story about a public space and think about:

  • Why does this space matter?
  • How does this space shape you?
  • How do you shape this space?
I was all set to go, had my images and began to think about different digital tools, when I watched Tuesday's Make with Me where Nick Sousanis joined members of CLMOOC.  (And yes, I ordered his book, Unflattening while I watched the archived video).  He had so many great points, but one that stood out to me was the standardization of school, what testing does to students, and the importance of giving students voice and choice (my words, not his).  

I just finished reading Make Learning Personal, so I've been contemplating changes I want to make when I return to school in just a few weeks.  The math coach and I will be job sharing a 5th grade classroom (each of us teaching half day and coaching the other half).  In addition, we will be co-teaching with the special education teacher and about half of our students will have IEPs.  

I began to think about how I could "unflatten" school.  One of the first things that came to mind was the room arrangement.  Typically, on Meet the Teacher Night, students come in, find their name tags and choose a seat.  That becomes their seat until I decide it's time to change things up.  I wondered, "What would happen if we didn't have assigned seats?  How might our space change?"  I brainstormed some possibilities, knowing that it's important to get input from the kids when they return to school.  As I thought about what I might need as a learner, I thought about the following spaces that would help me:
  • a quiet place to work
  • a space to collaborate with others if needed
  • a space where I have access to technology
  • a space where I have access to tools to create
  • I need to be able to move around and spread out depending on what I'm doing
How could I create that environment for students?

I created this model during my initial thinking:

I envision a variety of places to sit, depending on students' needs:  tables, desks, plastic crates with cushions that can be moved around, and large pillows.  The large group meeting area is a non-negotiable.  The Quiet Zone is a place where students can work independently.  In the Creation Zone, students may work by themselves or with others.  It's a space where I imagine things are being made and problems are being solved.  In the Collaborative Work area, students may move desks around to form small groups.  And of course, there is a space to consult with the teacher.  Although, I can usually be found on the floor working with kids.  There will be no assigned seats.  Students will choose which space fits their purpose and needs.  We are also very fortunate because our students aren't confined to the walls in our room.  The special education teacher has a classroom that students will be able to use for small group work or if they need a place to work with no distractions.  The student always have access to areas in the hallway and media center too.  

Changing the classroom layout is only one tiny step in beginning to unflatten the classroom.  There are so many considerations as I begin to think about student choice, curriculum, lesson delivery, assessment, available tools, etc.  But it's a beginning.  

To read more about spaces, you can search the #clmooc hashtag on Twitter or the Google+ community.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

#CyberPD Digital Reading Chapters 6 & 7

I am participating in the summer #cyberPD group, joining others in reading and discussing Bill Bass and Franki Sibberson's Digital Reading:  What's Essential in Grades 3 - 8.  I invite you to visit the Google+ community and add your own thinking to the conversation.

As I read the chapter on assessment, I kept going back to the shift that occurs when we empower students with taking more ownership of assessing their learning as Bill describes in the section about digital portfolios.  It reminded me of the reading I've been doing about Assessment AS Learning from Making Learning Personal.  And is always the case, I end up with more questions.

What does it mean to "give students ownership of assessing their learning?"

In giving students more say in assessing their learning, the relationship between the teacher and student shifts to more of a partnership.  The first step, gathering information, includes sharing formative assessments with students as well as collecting information from them as to what they see as their needs.  There is so much information that can be gleaned from all the resources Franki mentions (anecdotal records, reading surveys, analysis of miscues and oral reading, artifacts of student work, analysis of comprehension, etc.)  It occurs to me that I have an abundance of information about my students, but I'm not sure how much of that information  they know and understand.  I am the one making decisions for what they learn next and how they will learn it.  I know that for my own learning, I am constantly reflecting and thinking about what's next for me.  I can't help but think that sharing this information with students will help them become more invested in their learning and help them set goals that are meaningful for them.  

How do I help students go through these steps?

Questions I might ask students to help them set goals, make a plan and reflect:
  • What do you notice?
  • What are you doing well?
  • What is difficult for you?
  • What would you like to improve?
  • How do you think we might work on that goal?
  • How will you show your learning?
  • How will you check your progress?
  • How will you know if you've mastered your goal?
It will be important that part of my conferring with students includes time for students to monitor their learning and reflect on what's next.  

How do I support students in sharing their learning with a larger audience?

One of my goals this new school year is to set up digital portfolios for my students.  Our district has  adopted a new LMS, Canvas, which has the ability to house portfolios for students from grades K - 12.  I'm also curious about using a wiki and plan on investigating some different spaces.   I hope to incorporate student led conferences this year that are meaningful for students and help them move forward in their learning.

 If we give students choice in these decisions, I believe that they will rise to the occasion.  I think it's important in today's world that we give students the tools to assess their learning and help them set goals.  As we prepare them for their future, we need to support them in being critical thinkers, problem solvers, and collaborators.  Making this slight shift in thinking about assessment and supplying the space for students to reflect on their learning is one of the first steps I'll be taking this new school year.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Missing The Chaos Slice of Life Story

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays.  Please visit their site to read and comment on other Slice of Life posts.

Our oldest daughter Molly just left after spending the last five days at home.  She brought her new Samoyed puppy, Harper, with her.  We all eagerly awaited her arrival because we couldn't wait for our puppies to meet her puppy.  It was 5 days of craziness with all 3 kids home and 3 puppies either playing hard or sleeping soundly.  As I sit amidst the mess, I miss the craziness already.  Poetry seemed to fit my needs as a writer today.

Missing the Chaos

I snapped photos of each puppy sleeping in various
parts of the house after a hard afternoon of playing.
The house has quietedSettled from the flurry of


The quiet invites peace,And yet leaves a hole.Yearning for the next time.


Filling our house with

I cherish every single minute.

It Doesn't Take Much Slice of Life Story

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays.  I invite you to visit their site to read and comment on other Slice of Life stories.

It doesn't take much to make me happy for my birthday.  If the day includes my family, a view of the water, good food, and good books, I am a happy girl.

And that's exactly what I got!
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If you live in central Ohio, check out The Smiling Daisy Cafe in Millford Center.

Heading to Lake Erie?  One of the nicest beaches is Headlands Beach in Mentor, Ohio. Stop at Scooter's Dawg House for ice cream and a hot dog.

I read The Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chamblis Bertman and really enjoyed it.  It reminded me a bit of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library.  I'm definitely buying a copy for my classroom library.

In the mood to bake?  Annie made Alisa Huntsman's Pistachio Cake (and took an hour to shell pistachios) and iced it with Honey Vanilla Buttercream (scroll to the bottom for the icing recipe).  Like the buttercream roses?  They're not hard to make.  Check out this video tutorial.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Continuing My Learning Journey #sol15

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays.  Please visit their site to read and comment on other Slice of Life stories.

If I could be a professional student, I would do it in a heartbeat.  Today was one of those days filled with great conversation, meeting new people, and lots of learning.

It started innocently enough.  A few weeks ago, Cathy shared a link about Dr. Bill Kist's class on New Literacies being held at Kent State University this week.  I sent an email, he replied with a gracious invitation to visit class one day, and we responded with a very grateful, "YES!"

I've been looking forward to this day for so many reasons...hanging out with Cathy is always good for stretching my thinking and making me laugh, I knew about Dr. Kist's work and I'm always wanting to learn more about using technology in authentic ways in my reading and writing workshop, and finally, Kent State is my alma mater.   I was going to enjoy going back as a student, even if it was for only a day.

The day started out with a Twitter backchannel that led to some sharing of great ideas... 

which then led to the purchase of two new books (and a few more added to my cart).  I can't wait to get started with Using Technology to Enhance Reading  and Using Technology to Enhance Writing.

Most exciting was the validation for what I believe...
  • Choice is key.  Learners need to own their learning.
  • All learners bring experience and knowledge to the table.  Honor that.
  • Young children are capable of making intentional decisions when composing digital texts.
  • It's important to study craft moves in multimodal pieces, just as we do in print.  The conversations we have with kids around those moves will help them be purposeful in their own digital compositions.
  • It's not about the tools.  Technology affords us more choices in tools.
  • Literacy is a social construct.  Connections are important.  Growing connections is even more important. (I was able to follow a lot more people from class)
  • PD does not have to be face to face.  One student joined the class from Saudi Arabia.  
  • Visual literacy is an important piece of comprehending multimodal pieces.  
The day ended far too quickly.  I left feeling energized and excited to do more thinking about embedding technology into the classroom in such a way that it becomes just one more way to read and write at school.  My wheels are spinning for both my coaching work and my teaching.  

Thank you to Dr. Kist, all of his students, and Cathy for making this a wonderful day!  

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Digital Reading What's Essential #cyberPD

I am joining educators from all over as we read and discuss Bill Bass and Franki Sibberson's Digital Reading:  What's Essential for Grades 3 - 8 hosted by Cathy Mere, Laura Komos, and Michelle Nero.  If you are interested in reading more, stop by the Google Community to read and comment on others' reflections.

The advancement of technology and digital tools has made me think more deeply about my reading and writing workshops.  It's forced me to look closely at what changes and what stays the same.  Through talking with others, (which include virtual conversations, thanks to technology), reading professional books, blogs, online articles, and attending professional development (again, some of which is virtual), I am convinced that the foundation of reading and writing workshop stays the same.   Franki's statement below sums it up beautifully.

"Fast forward twenty-plus years.  I believe ore strongly than ever that workshop matters and that students will need time, ownership, and response if they are to grow as readers."  pg. 17

And yet, there are still differences, which this book is helping me dig deep into my own reading process to help me define what those differences are.  The introduction of technology and digital tools opens the world of choice:  choice in media, choice in texts, choice in how to share, choice in with whom to share, choice in how to reflect and respond to one's reading.  It's mind boggling for myself as an adult reader.  When I think about the implications for what we need to teach kids, it becomes even more important to me that I am very purposeful in my teaching.  It become paramount that I am watching kids closely, analyzing their reading behaviors, having conversations with them, and helping them be metacognitive about their own reading/thinking so that they can be purposeful and intentional about their reading lives.

As I read, I began to recognize holes in my repertoire of resources and mini-lessons.  One of those areas is explicitly modeling my thinking as I navigate a web based article.  Figure 1.3 on pg. 10, "How digital reading expands traditional reading skills" helped me see where I might need to create some resources to help my students.

Because I am going to be teaching 5th grade next year, I also know that I need to begin to gather some content area texts.  It's no secret that my go-to website for many different purposes is Wonderopolis.  I found a Wonder that goes with our science curriculum to demonstrate my thinking as I read.  I used Explain Everything as my tool of choice.  It allows me to add the live website, write on the document and add my voice.  I can then add this final project to a digital bulletin board for my students to access.

In my classroom, I would probably record this lesson, add the chart we complete after the lesson, and put it on the digital bulletin board (Padlet) and my website.

There are still some things to work out on this's not perfect!

So, what did I do as a reader? (I would chart students' thinking at this point)

  • I set a purpose.  I am reading to get more information about a science topic, forces and motion.
  • I asked a question.  Why were my cousins' cannon ball splashes always bigger than mine?
  • I previewed the article by skimming through the text and looking for key words, headings, etc.
  • I began to read.  
  • I clicked on hyper-linked words I wasn't sure of.  The links provided me with a definition and helped me better understand what I was reading.
  • When my understanding broke down, I reread.
  • I asked questions as I read.
  • I underlined text.
  • I created a mental image of what happened when someone does a cannon ball dive.  I drew that mental image to the side of the text.
  • I paraphrased what I read to see if I understood the text.  
  • I determined what was important to my understanding.  I did not click on each and every link.
  • At the end I summarized what I learned.  My thinking grew as I gained a better understanding to my question.

I feel like I've just touched the tip of the iceberg in this chapter.  So many, many things to think about, which gives me more questions to ponder:

  1. What is the best place to create a space to help match kids to digital texts as well as print?
  2.  What digital texts can I add to pique kids' interest?  Where can I find those digital pieces?
  3. Does watching a video count as reading?
  4. If it does, how do I balance the needs of kids who need extra support in print text?
  5.  How do I read websites differently than I read blogs?  How do I read multi-media pieces?  What's important to teach kids about those reading practices?
  6. How do I support students in being intentional when reading and choosing reading material?
  7. How can I use formative assessment to analyze student reading behaviors?
  8. What are the skills I my students need to learn and how do I ensure that I am embedding technology into my instruction without making it all about the tool?
  9. Where do I begin to support students in making meaningful connections with other readers inside and outside our classroom walls?
  10. How does in the introduction of technology change reader's response?
  11. How do I ensure student ownership and help parents understand the important work their kids are doing?
I'm sure as I read more and dive into the reflections from others in the #cyberPD community, I will have even more questions to consider.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

#CLMOOC Make #2: ReMEDIAting

I wasn't quite sure where to being with this week's make, which is one of the things I love about #clmooc.  It stretches my thinking, which of course always takes me back to my practice in the classroom.  My offhand comment to Christina Cantrill on Thursday's Twitter chat got the wheels spinning, and the ideas kept coming.

I began to think about all the making I do in the kitchen.  I love to cook and the more creative I can be, the better.  So...

I had rhubarb, peaches and blueberries sitting in the fridge.
Could I reMEDIAte my favorite apple crisp recipe?  Of course I could.
I snapped a few photos to post on Instagram.

Hmmm...what would these look like in the Kaleidoscope app?  I had tried that for the first time last week and liked the effect it had on my images.  Another reMEDIAtion.

Could this count as my make?  It could, because there are no wrong answers (another reason I love #clmooc).

But I soon realized I wasn't done.  Could I take one of these images and turn them into wall art for my semi-bare kitchen walls?  What could I add?

A quote.  Yes, a kitchen quote was what I needed.  A Julia Child kitchen quote.

"Cooking is like love.  It should be entered into with abandon, or not at all."

I headed over to my favorite design tool for images, Canva and played with fonts, shapes, color and transparency to come up with this final image.  (I highly suggest you go through some of the tutorials to learn some cool design ideas).  And one more reMEDIAtion.

The next and final step will be to have this printed so that I can frame it and hang it in my kitchen.  

Thank you to the #clmooc community for pushing my thinking and allowing the time and space needed for this creation to exist.  

I will be adding more this week about the iterative process and the implications for my classroom. 

 So. Much. To. Think. About. And. Process.

Please visit Margaret Simons' Reflections on the Teche where she hosts DigiLit Sunday.  Check out how others are sharing their great work and smart thinking.