Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Best Pie in the Sky

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.


Remember Sunday drives?  I hated them as a kid, love them as an adult.  We took a Sunday drive on Tuesday night.

It was one of those nights...long day, tired and hungry when I walked through the door, empty refrigerator.  What else was there to do?  Go out to dinner, right?  We went to one of our favorite Italian restaurants.  We finished before 6:00 and I suggested a drive.  We headed west on US 40 and enjoyed the idyllic scenery.

It was leisurely and relaxing.  As we neared Springfield, Keith remembered his boss used to get pie in a nearby town.  A quick look on Yelp and we found Grimes Field Airport Cafe in Urbana.   They claim to have the best pie in the sky.

We walked in and felt like we were on the set of Wings (remember that show)?  It was obvious folks knew each other as they shared stories across the booths about getting fields planted, the welfare of families, and planned trips.  Then came the list of pies:  apple, peach, raspberry, peach crumb, chocolate cream, coconut cream, apple crumb, lemon.   The list went on.  Keith got peach crumb, and I went with the coconut.  



It ended up being the perfect evening!



Sunday, April 19, 2015

Table PD




I spent Saturday learning with some of my good friends at The Literacy Connection.  Listening to Jennifer Serravallo gave me so much to think about and I'll be sharing that thinking in future posts.

One of the best things about The Literacy Connection is the community.  I always learn so much, and yesterday was no exception.  Not only did I learn a lot about gathering and analyzing data to make smart decisions about readers, I gleaned much information from my table mates.  I ended up adding new apps to my iPad, blogs to my Feedly account, and podcasts to my account.  Believe it or not, I only ordered one book, Jennifer's new Reading Strategies Book, which I can't wait to get.  There are some Sneak Peeks on Heinemann's website.  Betsy Hubbard wrote a wonderful review of the book on Two Writing Teachers yesterday.



New Apps

As Jennifer shared the importance of gathering data around the conversations students are having about their reading and writing, Mandy told us about LessonNote.  With this app, you can record the conversations students are having.  I can see myself using this app in several ways:

  • Recording students' language and actions during a conversation
  • Looking for patterns in who is contributing to the conversation
  • Thinking about how students contribute to the conversation:  what kinds of statements do they make, do they ask questions, do they invite others to join into a conversation, can they disagree respectfully, do they move the conversation forward
  • Sharing classroom conversations with teachers when I'm coaching
  • Reflecting with a teacher about the conversation that occurred around her lesson

Marie then showed us an app called Record of Reading.  One of the things I liked about this app is the ability to audio record a child's reading.  You can then sync the running record with the child's oral reading.  I also like that I can save it to a file and/or email it.  While the app calculates accuracy and self-correction rate, teachers still need to analyze the running records. 

New Blogs


Indent a blog by Kate Roberts and Maggie Roberts  Kate and Maggie are staff developers with Teacher's College.  I can already tell that I am going to learn a lot from these thoughtful ladies.

Inside the Dog by Steve Peterson  I saw Steve present with Mary Lee Hahn at NCTE this year.  I was glad that Mary Lee shared his blog with me today.  He's currently teaching fifth grade.

New Podcast

We were chatting about the podcast, Serial, (which if you haven't listened to it, you MUST) when Deb asked what other people listened to in the car when traveling.  Mary Lee shared NPR TED Radio Hour.    Just scrolling through the available titles tells me that my brain will definitely be stretched.  The first one I'll be listening to is Press Play since I'm fascinated with play and the important role it can play in education.

Head over to Margaret Simon's Reflections on the Teche to read how other educators are using technology.  #digilitSunday  You can read more about yesterday's session at #litconn15


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Trading Places Slice of Life Tuesday

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



When I asked my after school digital writing club what they wanted to learn in our workshops, they all mentioned game design.

Game design?  I know nothing about game design.  I don't even play digital games.  When my own kids were little, I'd try to play with Zach and it ended up being an exercise in complete frustration.

My ears perked up during Troy Hicks' keynote presentation with the Educator Collaborative a few weeks ago when he encouraged his audience to stretch themselves a bit.  He mentioned GameStar Mechanic and I knew I had my answer for the kids.

I read about the work Kevin Hodgson has done with his sixth graders.  The I began to explore their site.  Thankfully, they have support for teachers like me.  I played some of the sample games and read through some of the lessons before introducing the site to the kids.  I was hooked!



And boy, were the kids hooked!  I played alongside them as they worked their way through the beginning episodes.  Here's a little of what it sounded like in the library yesterday afternoon:

"This is so fun, Mrs. Johnson."

"Shoot! I messed up again."

"This is the best class we've had."

"Darn!  Who can come help me get past this level?"

"I finished.  Can I go on to the next level?"

"I need help again.  Who's at a place where they can stop for a minute?"

Can you guess which comments are mine?  I was truly the learner in yesterday's workshop time.  The kids were the experts.

I plan on learning all I can in the next week before I meet with them again.  I'm pretty sure I had as much fun as they did.

I stopped Kayleigh in the hall today and said, "Do you think your teacher will let you skip class to help me pass level 4?"

I was only half kidding.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Obedience School is Exhausting #SOL15

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday.  Now that the month of March is over, I am back to posting once a week.  Let's hope I can keep with it.  Please visit their site to read and comment on other Slice of Life stories.


I don't know who's more tired after obedience school...me or the pups.  It's more than being exhausted, I am emotionally spent.  You see, I am someone who is used to doing things well.  I'm ashamed to say that if I can't do a task well, I tend to shy away from it.  I'm trying to do better, since I've learned to recognize it in myself, but still, it's hard for me.


Tuesday night is obedience school.  It seems that we are worse than the parents who don't check their kids' backpacks to look for homework.  We check the backpack and STILL don't do the homework.  Last week, Marlo, the instructor, told the class that it was important to practice the "stay" command because of the exercise we would be doing this week.  Do you think we practiced the "stay" command this week?  Nope.

I told Keith I wanted to skip tonight's lesson.  (I know, that's bad isn't it?)  He shot back that we weren't skipping just because we didn't do our homework.

"What would you tell your kids if they didn't do their homework?" he asked me.

So, we crammed for tonight's class, practicing "heel," 'sit," and "stay" 30 minutes before it was time to leave.  I was feeling a glimmer of confidence because they were doing pretty well.

They even started out well in class.  Until Marlo said, "Ok, time for "down."

Uh oh...we didn't practice "down" and Jem is especially bad at it.  (Can you guess which dog I had tonight?  If you guessed Jem, you are the winner).  Yes, I had Jem and he was not going to lie down for anything.  I could feel my anxiety rise as everyone else's dog laid down on the floor and stayed there.  Even Scout followed directions.  My cheeks flushed and my heart pounded harder and harder.  I was sure everyone's eyes were on me as I silently pled with Jem to lie down and verbally tried all the tricks I had learned.  I'm sure my rising stress level only made it worse and it wasn't going to look good if I broke down in tears.  (I'm only half kidding).  :)

I gave in.

I asked Marlo to come model for me.  Even she had trouble with him, but it was evident she was in charge.

Thankfully, we moved on to some new commands and Jem did much better.  Good thing, because I don't think I could have done it much longer.

The last thing Marlo told us was that we were going to do a 1 minute "down" and 1 minute "stay" next week.

Guess what we're going to be practicing this week?  I am determined that we can get better at this.  Maybe I'm not such a bad puppy parent after all.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Friends Bring Sunshine Day 31 of 31

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the March Slice of Life Challenge.  Please visit their site to read and comment on other slices.  This is the last day of the challenge.  It's been so good to get back into the habit of writing every day.


Today was a day that was made brighter by friends.

My school day ended with a friend responding to my frantic text and meeting me for coffee after school.  She listened, asked questions, threw out options and asked more questions.  I left after our chat feeling a little more hopeful and optimistic about some decisions I have to make.  Thank you Cathy!

Earlier my school day was brightened by another friend. But first, a little of the back story...

We were greeted at school on Monday morning with this amazing lemon pie.  I remembered Cheryl's Facebook post from the week before and knew right away who had brought in this wonderful dessert.  I took a sliver and deemed it a must have dessert for Easter Sunday.


When I got to Cheryl's room to tell her how much I liked the pie, I told her I was going to make it for Easter.
"You have to have Arizona lemons to make it," she told me.
"You're kidding, right?"
"No, my friend made it with regular lemons from the grocery store and the pie was bitter."

Well, darn.  I was pretty sure my principal wasn't going to let me take a few days off to fly to Arizona so I could get myself some Arizona lemons.   Maybe Meyer lemons would work.  I wasn't going to give up quite so easily.

Lucky for me, as Cheryl passed me in the hall today, she whispered, "I have a surprise for you on your desk."  I was hoping it might be one of those Arizona lemons.  

I quickly went back to my office and found not one, but two beautiful, round yellow orbs that looked more like yellow oranges than lemons.  They were huge and they smelled heavenly.  I was a happy girl!  A new fruit, a new recipe, what more could a girl want?  (Well, at least a girl like me).

So, my family will be eating Arizona Sunshine Pie for Easter Sunday, thanks to Cheryl and the Arizona sunshine.  I can't wait to share this little bit of heaven with them.  

Thank you Cheryl!

Now, I will be on the lookout for ways to pay the sunshine forward.  :)




Monday, March 30, 2015

What Would You Say? Day 30 of 31

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



The Johnsons are a little nerdy, all in a good way. Every night at 7:00, whoever is home gathers to watch Jeopardy and then Wheel of Fortune at 7:30. We're all pretty good at the Wheel, but Zach is the king of Jeopardy. He knows a lot of facts about a lot of things. 

The other day I posed the following question to my family as Alex Trebek introduced the contestants, "What would be your claim to fame?  What would you want to say about yourself when you got introduced?"

For the life of me, I couldn't think of anything out of the ordinary to say about myself. I haven't traveled to 53 countries. I wasn't a Raynette (back up singer for Ray Charles).  Those people come up with the best stories. 

I think about this every time the Jeopardy jingle begins to play. So far, nothing great has come to mind, but I did find this article from NPR that might give me some ideas. 

So what would your story be?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Being Present Day 29 of 31

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the March Slice of Life Challenge.  Please visit their site to read and comment on other slice of Life stories.   I am also cross posting this with DigiLit Sunday.  You can visit Reflections on the Teche to read other posts about how educators are using technology in their classrooms.




I received this in my email today.  It's an important reminder that I need often.


One of the reasons I chose "Quiet" as my OLW is because there is constant chatter going on in my head.  I'm always thinking about what needs to be done next or what I should be doing to better myself...read more, study more, practice more, try new things to push myself to achieve more.  It goes on and on and to be honest, can be exhausting, because in reality, I can never accomplish everything that I feel like I must accomplish.  Sigh!

I tried to keep all three things that are mentioned above in mind as I went through the day.  It's the last day of spring break.  I didn't crowd my day with things that needed to get done.  Instead, I chose to do spend the day with the people I enjoy the most doing the things that make me happy.  Each thing got my full attention today, which felt so nice.

Tonight, as I sit in my living room, I can hear the rain tapping against the window and the chimney.  Candles are lit and it is peaceful.  I relish the quiet.  

Because I can't relinquish all of my bad habits, I decided to try Nutshell (remember the line above...try new things to push myself) to illustrate the serenity here tonight.  I am a work in progress and tomorrow is another day to remind myself to be present, open my heart, and quiet my mind.