Category Archives: Uncategorized

Kindling Joy and Thinking in Emergent Writers

In my book Spark! Quick Writes to Kindle Hearts and Minds in Elementary Classrooms I share sparks for some of our youngest writers with the idea that we meet them wherever they are in their writing development. For some that may be at a drawing or a label stage of early writing. For others it may be at a word or phrase level. Too often writing is often seen as legitimate and “real” when it conveyed at a sentence level. But if we limit our definition of writing to that advanced stage we are in danger of missing out on some powerful messages being conveyed and limiting the exploration of thought that can happen with the smallest of pencil strokes.

In my district there are two first grade teachers who have made daily quick writes a routine with their students. The “Sparks” they offer may be pictures and images, a single word, or a question to stimulate their thinking. To make it easy and accessible for all students they have used labels to print the verbal (written) sparks so that students don’t feel the need to copy over those words before diving into their own writing responses.

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These short quick writes are not just about transcribing responses onto a notebook page, they are opportunities to activate thinking, and sometimes emotions, as students contemplate what they know or what they believe. Yes, they are getting practice with encoding letter sound correspondences, but they are also playing with encoding as the process of actively relating new information to knowledge that is already in memory as they respond to each spark.

Here’s what these teachers had to say about quick writes with their first graders:

Since starting Quick Writes in the classroom this year, I notice my students can start writing right away knowing they only have 5 minutes to write. Most of them started with pictures first and now they are writing words. I see their confidence growing in their writing… they are no longer saying, “I don’t know what to write about,” they just write. As the teacher, I am learning a lot about my students in just 5 minutes of writing daily.”Maureen Cooper

Screen Shot 2019-10-26 at 9.31.29 PMI think Quick Writes are having a very positive impact on my students’ ability to write joyfully and without the worry of someone critiquing their writing. I’ve seen their creativity emerge during this time as they are able to respond to a prompt in any way they choose. I have also noticed that ALL of my students (every single one) are excited to share their quick writes with each other when writing time is over and they all have the confidence to share their writing in front of the whole class. Quick Writes have really helped even my most reluctant writers find their voice and share it with others.” -Kate Parker

I believe Quick Writes are a perfect way to empower writers of all ages, and I encourage teachers not to wait until they are “writers” before starting. When we redefine what writing is to encompass all marks that convey meaning, we can see all of our students as writers and we can ignite a writing passion early in their school careers. If you use Quick Writes with your emergent writers I’d love to hear from you.  Let’s spark joy, thinking, and creativity with more bursts of low-stakes writing for all students.

One More Off My TBR Stack

Screen Shot 2019-10-27 at 10.51.09 AMThe Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras

WOW! I loved this medieval adventure for so many reasons. Diane Magras (Maine author) has given us a heroine we all need to cheer for-12 year old Drest is the youngest child of the Mad Wolf of the North, and when he and her 5 brothers are captured by invading knights and taken away to be hanged, she is the only one who can save them. She brings along a wounded enemy knight with her, who she plans to exchange for one of her brothers. But she encounters much danger along the way and is spurred on by the voices of her brothers in her head when she most needs their advice and encouragement. Drest also learns some hard ‘truths’ about her warband family that she wrestles with as she tries to make them proud, but also do what she feels is right in her heart. Her quest will keep readers riveted and they’ll be happy to know a sequel awaits them. I listened to the audio book narrated by the incredible Joshua Manning and it was fantastic! His Scottish voices brought each character to life so vividly. If you love a good adventure, do NOT miss this 2019-20 MSBA nominee! (Oh, and I equally love the sequel The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter!)

 

 

When Curriculum Becomes Life or Death Learning

This week we had a day and a half of professional development in our district. For some of that time we broke into teams and groups to work on curriculum and to share ideas on pedagogy, resources for implementation, and time for collaboration. We want to make sure our instruction is meeting the academic needs of all students and take that work seriously.

Then we focused on a side of education we rarely discussed at the start of my teaching career: the social-emotional needs of our students, in particular those who have experienced trauma and at risk for harming themselves or others. This was painful for us as teachers to explore, because we know how painful it is for our children who are experiencing this in their young lives.

 

We first had a training on “Understanding and Responding to Child Sexual Abuse”. When you hear 1 in 5 people are involved in sexual violence in your state, and you look out at your classroom to the faces of those 20 or more children, you know the odds and it breaks your heart.  I’m certainly going to spend some time on the Children’s Safety Partnership website this weekend to become more familiar with their resources.

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I kept wondering how many of our children struggling to follow rules, engage in our lessons, treat others kindly, or control their behaviors are dealing with trauma we could never imagine? How do we teach them when their little hearts and minds are so wounded?

 

Then we had a training session on Suicide Prevention. We learned that our state has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation and that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for 10-24 year olds!

We (teachers) might be one of the most protective factors for our students in  preventing suicidality.  Our relationships and connections with our students may be a lifeline we don’t even know we are throwing out. 

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The last session of the day was exploring the “Traits and Characteristics of Violent Offenders”- in other words, those who have carried out mass shootings .

Our local police department prepared a presentation that helped us recognize these traits but were careful to say there is NO “model profile” of a school shooter.

The term that stuck with us was “leakage“-signs that are red flags or indicators of threat that offenders put out ahead of their violent acts, but are often only recognized in hindsight.

Sandy Hook Promise has put out some great videos to raise awareness with this issue.

 

So being a teacher these days is not only about ‘Readin’, Ritin’, and ‘Rithmetic. Those 3Rs are competing with Social Emotional Learning  and truly life or death issues for our students. Later this month our state test results will be released and there will be cries from the communities for us to raise those scores and work on school improvement plans. Luckily our state has done away with school “Report Cards” that shamed us on these high stakes tests and would have tied them to our teacher evaluations. But the pressure is on teachers to transform lives both academically and social-emotionally with less and less resources.

Am I saying we should lower our expectations? NO WAY! I am saying we should increase our society’s expectations for raising and supporting our children. It needs to be an “All Hands on Deck”, “It Takes a Village”, “No Child Left Behind” mentality from our entire society. It takes money and resources and a real understanding of what schools are being asked to do. We will never be able to attract the best and brightest to become teachers in the future if we blame schools and teachers for every failure, if we don’t have competitive salaries that will draw and keep educators in this difficult profession, if we underfund resources by diverting them to private schools, and we throw around flip and ill-informed comments like, “We can’t throw money at all our problems.” Education is a piece of the puzzle, but so is health care, nutrition, mental health resources, and child care. Accountability is often laid solely on the shoulders of schools. This must change.

I go to work each week grateful for the teachers who return each day to their classrooms with a passion for what they do. They are making a positive difference in the lives of children, no matter what their MECAS score tells us. This weekend many of them will be contemplating the depressingly serious professional development we just had, I’m glad we have a long weekend.

One More Off My TBR Stack

THEY CALL US ENEMY by George Takei, (with Eisinger, Scott & Becker)
This graphic novel memoir by actor/activist George Takei (Sulu on Star Trek) takes us back to WWII when every person of Japanese descent in the west coast was rounded up, taken from their homes, and forced into “relocation centers”. They lost everything (homes, businesses, jobs…) and were held for years in camps with armed guards. This was America and these people were Americans. How could this happen? Could it happen again? As Mark Twain once remarked, “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.” Timely, powerful, and important memoir told in an engaging and accessible format for readers

World Teachers Day- So What Are You Doing?

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This World Teachers’ Day will celebrate teachers with the theme, “Young Teachers: The future of the Profession.” How fitting for me and my district as we have a large wave of novice teachers this year. Their enthusiasm and passion those first few weeks has been inspiring, and as we enter the second month of school the stresses and strains of finishing assessments, writing goals, setting up parent conferences, and starting RTI plans for students on top of dealing with some unprecedented behaviors are beginning to take their toll on many.

Teaching is hard, even for veteran teachers, and when your tool kit is stocked with the most basic supplies from your pre-service training it is often downright overwhelming. I’ve been trying to meet and collaborate as much as possible with our new teachers and I wish I could clone myself to be there more often. But what I have seen lately is so encouraging: colleagues, mentors, and partner teachers stepping up to support these novice teachers; putting in extra hours and energy to help them be successful.

Some of these partner teachers have always worked with veterans with whom they could collaborate or lean on, and now they are taking on that role for their peer. That is something I don’t think we can appreciate enough. Every teacher who teams with a new teacher is taking on an extra load of work. Even when it is gladly and willingly done, it is still more work that isn’t compensated and rarely recognized.

There is not always a lot of support outside of the school (though we are sometimes blessed with amazing parent groups and donors) so we must usually look within our ranks for that support. So what can we do to be supportive colleages?

For new teachers:

  • Volunteer to take a duty every once in awhile so they can catch their breath and catch up on the ever-growing “to do” lists.
  • Drop a note of encouragement on their desk or in their mailbox (and a piece of chocolate makes it even sweeter)
  • Give them specific feedback on something you notice that is working. Often we give them advice for what might be problematic, but we all crave that feeling of competence.
  • Offer a space in your room for students who need a time-out. It can make a world of difference for that teacher to know we are all in this together.
  • Ask them, “What went well today?” to help them to focus on the positive, it’s too easy to perseverate on our ‘failures’ and challenges. We sometimes need a reminder that good things are happening in our classrooms.
  • Create a care package at different times in the school year that are predictably challenging. (Some Tums, Advil, Vitamin C, Chocolate, or gift cards would be so appreciated)
  • Try to remember they aren’t familiar with our institutional knowledge and routines-check in with them after staff meetings or workshops to see if they have questions, concerns, or confusions they may not have voiced in a group.
  • Try to get to know them, or spend time with them, outside of school. Teaching is a lifestyle and not just a job. The happiest teachers are those who have found a tribe to laugh with and lean on in life.

For partner/mentor teachers:

  • Notice and thank those teachers who are partnering with a new teacher– recognize that their workload has increased significantly.
  • Offer to take one of their duties so they can work with their partner a bit during the school day and not just after hours.
  • Drop them a note of thanks for mentoring our next generation of teachers. We want our profession to stay strong and their role is essential in that goal.
  • Consider getting them a gift card or picking up an extra coffee on the way to work-they aren’t being compensated enough for that extra work.
  • You can never offer too much chocolate!

It’s World Teachers’ Day. Take a few moments to think about our fellow teachers. What is one thing we could do to make the life of a fellow teacher better? Will you do it?

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

It starts with one thing.

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

Choose Kind.

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One More Off My TBR Stack

Image result for Other words for home bookOTHER WORDS FOR HOME by Jasmine Warga

This is a story I wish every middle grade student (and their families) in America would read so we would have more empathy, love, and kindness and less talk of “go back home” and “build that wall” when we meet immigrants like Jude and her mother. They come to America to stay with Jude’s Uncle Mazin because her beloved home of Syria has become so dangerous and her mother is pregnant with her baby sister. Uncle Mazin’s wife, Michelle, and daughter, Sarah, are not Syrian (and Sarah becomes jealous that her father is giving Jude so much attention.) What does it feel like to walk in the shoes of someone fleeing violence and coming to America for comfort and safety, only to experience xenophobia and islamophobia that you struggle to understand? A much needed book that tears down the walls of “otherness” and helps us to see we aren’t as different as some would pretend us to be. A beautifully told novel in verse that will open hearts and minds.

Every Child Can Write Blog Tour Stop 3

I love when a professional book comes along that embraces my philosophy and passionevery child can write for writing with students. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of Melanie Meehan’s upcoming book Every Child Can Write from Corwin. One of my biggest beliefs is that there should be a place at the table for all writers and we as teachers have the power to create that space.

As part of the BLOG TOUR for this book (Stop 1, Stop 2) I wanted to focus on Melanie’s insights into environment. As she states, “Environments matter. Instruction and learning happen within environments, and it’s our job to set them up to be as conducive to achievement for everyone as we possibly can.” She shares a message from her 4th grade teacher friend, Missie Champagne, who told her class, “Everything in this room is made for you or by you.” Imagine how empowering that message is for students to hear, that this room is personalized for you! The intentional choices we make to set up our environments might not be obvious to every child-we need to help them see that this space reflects and reinforces the learning and the goals we have for success.

Melanie has 3 big ideas for environment:

  1. Striving writers benefit from an organized environment, and they need routines in order to maintain that organization.
  2. Our classroom spaces should contain only materials that foster student learning and independence.
  3. The more we create, provide, and encourage the use of tools for independence and repertoire, the more learning will happen in our classrooms.

She then meticulously shares ideas for how to set up the environment and create routines that help our students move toward greater independence. She shares tips on how to reduce clutter, maximize the physical space for working, and how to choose materials and tools to promote more self-directed learning.

She really encourages us to look at our classroom through a different lens. Do our spaces reflect our priorities? Would someone be able to recognize our recent learning emphasis? Does this help students learn? Do students know how to use this? DO they use this?  So often we see ideas in other classrooms, on social media, or TpT and wonder if we should try it. Being reflective and intentional in what we want our students to learn and do will guide our decisions regarding environments, and Melanie’s book can help you to become more reflective and intentional.

She also has a chapter on routines that can help you be just as reflective. She has examined some of the roadblocks to independence that inhibit writing and offers some support for teachers.

Melanie has 3 big ideas for classroom management and routines:

  1. Transitions work best when everyone gets to where they belong during instruction and independent writing time.
  2. In order for instruction to be effective, students must not only listen to it, they must understand it.
  3. Independent writing time should involve independent writing.

Now you might look at these and think, “Duh, that seems pretty obvious,” but we know it doesn’t always happen, especially for our striving writers. Melanie offers tips to help involve the students in the set up of routines and expectations as well as help teachers anticipate the inevitable challenges and barriers for students’ success. Teachers will definitely come away with more tools in their classroom management toolkits after reading this chapter.

The rest of Melanie’s book offers ideas and inspiration for supporting all writers with many of the “pitfalls and potholes” that inevitably occur, especially for those students who keep you up at night with worry and concern. She’ll help you establish entry points, bridges, and pathways for all writers to succeed.Screen Shot 2019-09-30 at 6.20.00 PM

Tomorrow, Lynne Dorfman will continue the conversation as the next stop on the blog tour, followed by  Fran McVeigh. Please plan to join the #G2Great Twitter chat  all about Every Child Can Learn, on Thursday, October 4th at 8:30 EST,.

For a chance to win your own copy of Every Child Can Write, please leave a comment by October 7th. I will use a random number generator to pick the winner’s commenter number.

Please leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, a contact at Corwin will ship the book to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)

If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of EVERY CHILD CAN WRITE within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

The Negation of Polarization; Book by Book

It’s getting messy out there in the world. We are becoming more and more polarized in our beliefs and our stances. We are seeing the rise of fearmongering for those who are “other”.  We are seeing emboldened acts of racism, xenophobia, misogyny, antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, that are being rationalized as normal nationalism. I could write a tome on the topic, but instead I would like to offer a short blog and a collection of picture books that might serve as a small antidote to the mistrust, distrust, misunderstanding, and misconceptions that are slowly poisoning our society. I believe in the power of books to change lives; to stimulate thinking and to open hearts. We are more same than different and yet we should celebrate our differences for the richness it brings to life. We need to love ourselves as well and feel like we belong. Mirrors, windows, sliding glass doors…it’s more than a catchy phrase for diverse books, it is guide for helping us get books into the hands of our children if we are ever going to raise a more compassionate generation.

There are soooo many out there, but I wanted to share a few picture books I have embraced recently. This is just a drop in the bucket of powerful picture books. I would truly welcome YOUR suggestions in the comments or on Twitter and Facebook. I’ve provided links to Amazon below but please visit your local indie bookstores or libraries to check these out as well.

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JUST ASK: BE DIFFERENT, BE BRAVE, BE YOU

THE PROUDEST BLUE: A STORY OF HIJAB AND FAMILY

A BOY LIKE YOU

SAY SOMETHING

I AM HUMAN: A BOOK OF EMPATHY

I AM PEACE: A BOOK OF MINDFULNESS

I AM LOVE: A BOOK OF COMPASSION

I AM YOGA

NEITHER

THEY SHE HE ME: FREE TO BE!

ERASER

AFTER THE FALL

THE BAD SEED

THE GOOD EGG

THE COOL BEAN

BE KIND

Book by book we can change the world!

Please share some titles that you think will help us make this world a more kind and compassionate place for our students to grow and thrive.

 

Sparking Social Emotional Learning

This week I’m sharing by guest post on the Stenhouse Blog. I believe writing has the power to transform lives, and it doesn’t require a lot of time.

Click the photo below for the link.

Below is a guest blog post from author of Spark! and Close Writing, Paula Bourque.

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I encourage you to subscribe to the Stenhouse Blog to receive cutting edge articles and ideas from literacy, math, and educational leaders each week.

One More Off My TBR Stack

TScreen Shot 2019-09-09 at 7.13.39 AMHE TORNADO by Jake Burt
Fantastic middle grade novel by Jake Burt (Greetings from Witness Protection!) that celebrates the power of creativity and friendship. Bell Kirby is a creative genius at Village Green Elementary School, he is also the victim of a deplorable bully, Parker Hellickson. The problem is Parker’s father is the principal and can’t believe his boy could ever be so evil. Things seem to get a little better for Bell when a new student, Daelynn Gower moves to Village Green. Her unique style quickly draws the attention of Parker
who shifts his target of bullying toward her. Bell is faced with a classic dilemma, does he stay quiet, uninvolved, and safe or does he help Daelynn? As he grapples with this problem he realizes he’s not the only one who has been victimized by Parker and a creative solution to the situation begins to take shape. Jake Burt is an incredible writer who gives readers compelling characters and plot that pull you in and make it hard to stop reading. I read this in one afternoon and loved it. Releases Oct. 1, but I would preorder this one, you’ll want it for a read aloud that will invite powerful discussions about kindness and friendships. Don’t forget to read the author’s notes in the back, you’ll appreciate Jake even more.

What Those Wiggles Might Be Telling Us

If you’ve ever walked into a primary classroom the first weeks of school you have probably observed a squirming tangle of post-toddler tykes trying to sit “criss-cross applesauce” on a rug. You’ll hear multiple moans of “I’m tired!” Try as we might to keep them focused, we find ourselves playing whack-a-mole with our calls to attention.  As teachers we are working to build stamina so that our young learners can focus and pay attention. But what if our efforts are directed more keenly on mental stamina and not as much on physical stamina?

As observed in over a dozen kindergarten and first grade classrooms this week I noticed how difficult it was for so many students to sit on the floor in an upright position. They were tipping over, lying down, rolling around…(in other words, normal kid behavior in most situations). But as I saw the teachers reminding and redirecting in order to get the students’ attention, many were struggling to sit upright in a comfortable position.

What if it’s not attention, but core strength that needs more stamina?

I don’t think it is an either/or proposition, but I wondered how we could help our kiddos develop more core strength. I think the first step may be to talk to them about it. Maybe a conversation like…

Hey kids, I notice it is hard or a lot of us to sit upright for awhile on the rug. We need to build up our bodies’ muscles so that we can sit comfortably and have stronger bodies. The muscles in our tummies and back are called our core. We use our core to help us sit and move. Try to tighten up your tummy muscles. What you are feeling is part of your core.

Then we can remind and encourage students as they fidget that they are working on building up their core, the more they sit upright the stronger it is getting. We can also try to implement a few core strengthening activities (and perhaps talk to our phys ed teachers about some games and activities as well)

Here are a few resources I researched. Not surprisingly they come from parenting and child development sites. They might good for us to share with our students’ families.

The Easiest Core Strengthening Exercises for Kids

9 Exercises for Kids to Improve Core Strength and Conditioning

Another idea might be to consider variations in sitting posture for our students. I know space is often limited, but are there opportunities for students to try a non-criss-cross-applesauce posture? This video goes over 4 basic ground positions:

  • Cross Sit Position
  • Bent Sit Position
  • Side Bent Sit Position
  • Long Sit Position

I am certainly not advocating that students need to sit still and upright like robots in order to be paying attention. (The teacher in the photo above recognizes that we don’t all have to sit the same way to attend and learn.) And I’m not saying this will cure all attention issues. Human beings are complex critters. We know some of our kiddos lack healthy diets and sleep regimens, are struggling with issues of trauma, may suffer from ADHD or mental illness, or are developmentally delayed. These can all contribute to a lack of attention. But giving our student some awareness and tools to help them build stronger bodies and minds is what we are all about as teachers.  There are benefits to floor sitting that can help with strength, flexibility, and physical fitness. Let’s tap into them. I’d love to know what you’ve tried and what works for your kiddos.

Here’s to a strong start to this school year.

One More Off My TBR Stack

Song for a whaleSONG FOR A WHALE by Lynne Kelly
Twelve year old Iris is a genius at fixing up radios, what makes it even more remarkable is that she is deaf. Iris feels isolated as the only deaf person in her school and a father who barely knows sign language. She becomes fascinated with Blue 55, a whale who is
unable to speak to other whales. Iris empathizes with him and devises a plan to sing to him using what she knows about radio frequencies and technology. But Blue 55 lives in the Pacific and she lives in Texas. Thus begins an unlikely adventure with her deaf grandmother who is grieving the death of her grandfather. Together they try to find ways to heal their loneliness and that of Blue 55. A great book for anyone longing for connection. Based on the life of a real whale (Blue 52).

Embracing the Novice Inside Me

I’ll be embarking on my 32nd year of teaching this week. I’ve learned so much over the years, and as a coach I am always eager to share ideas and experiences with others. But the more I know, the more I know I don’t know–and this is humbling.

One goal I have this year is to focus on being a learner. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I have ever closed myself off to new learning or felt as though I’ve “arrived”. I just want to approach it with a more humble and open heart this year-to take time to see my schools and my community through my novice eyes to help me notice and grow. Screen Shot 2019-08-26 at 7.56.43 AM

I was listening to a recent episode of one of my favorite podcasts (Hidden Brain – “You 2.0 Rebel With a Cause“) and they were talking about research on how experience could be costly. In one study the FDA put out guidance to cardiologists regarding a procedure that was harmful to patients and they found the more experienced the surgeon, the less likely they were to change their behavior, suggesting “when we gain experience we often feel like the expert and we think that we know better even when we hear information or when we see evidence that speaks to the fact that we are wrong. And so having that  learning mindset as with any experience is so so important.  And of course that’s difficult to do precisely because once you know something you ask yourself why should I go back to becoming a beginner?”

It made me wonder, “How often have I inadvertently ignored information or evidence that might help me grow because I feel like an expert?” After 32 years, is it even possible to think like a beginner? I expect it will be fascinating to try it from time to time. I won’t disregard all of my knowledge and experience, but I can certainly try to create some space in which I walk in the shoes of my students, our novice teachers, and my colleagues to see their realities without feeling the urge to impart some wisdom or support before speaking out.

Even writing this post makes me feel a bit vulnerable, and that’s probably a good first step in empathizing and understanding the learners in our lives. I can recall all too well, how anxious and insecure I was as a new teacher all those years ago. I had a horrible experience. It’s one reason why I wanted to become a coach, to support teachers in the way I needed (and yearned for) support. I would never wish my first year on anyone, and I never wanted to go back to that experience, but revisiting from this safe space might be just what this 32 year veteran needs to keep a fresh perspective and an active growth mindset.

Screen Shot 2019-08-26 at 7.56.19 AMEvery year I work with incredible veteran teachers, passionate new teachers and curious kiddos who can teach me so much. I know learning is a two way street if we drive carefully. This year I’m looking forward to traveling down that two-way street of learning to see how much we can all grow on this journey.

 

 


More Off My TBR Stack

Screen Shot 2019-08-26 at 7.49.48 AMThere are too many books to choose from this summer to share only one here (on my END OF SUMMER BLOG) You can see reviews of  my summer reads here at my GOODREADS SUMMER READING 2019

Would love to hear some of your favorites that I can add to my fall TBR!

“Burnt” Out? This Summer PD Will Revive You

Last week I participated in one of the best professional learning experiences of my life. I lived on an island in Maine for three days, enrolling in a course called “Lighthouses Across the Curriculum”.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but I quickly found myself in PD Heaven with a small group of inquisitive, curious, and adventurous educators. img_9249img_8741

Our instructor, Elaine Jones, is the ‘keeper’ of Burnt Island Lightstation in Boothbay img_8628Harbor, ME. She is a super hero to me. She runs the entire island from the lighthouse, to the keeper’s house, to the educational center she had built there. She designs and teaches the courses for educators  and she runs a “living” history museum two days a week on the island that recreates the lives of the keeper and his family from the 1950’s. (She also is in charge of the Maine State Aquarium). Plus she captains the boat that transports participants to the island and to surrounding lighthouses. She literally does it all!

img_8427For three days we learned about lighthouses and the lives of the keepers and their families but we also incorporated history, geography, biology, literacy, physics, and map skills (and more). We were immersed in island life and a deeper understanding that could never come from reading about it all. We were given a notebook that filled with our new learning, book recommendations, sketching,  poetry, and where we recorded our science experiments. (We even got creative with tempera paints and shaving cream to decorate our covers)

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If you live in or around Maine, I highly recommend you check out the summer course offerings. They vary from year to year a bit, but this summer you could choose from “Innovative Learning through Nature, Inquiry, and Mindfulness”, “Lighthouses across the Curriculum”, and “Visual Literacy through Gouache”. I had really hoped to take the img_8385first course, but it filled too quickly, but  I was thrilled with the Lighthouse Course. If you can’t visit, you can use some of the free Marine Educational Resources offered by Elaine.

It was certainly a summer experience I’ll never forget. You can check out my Google Photo Album here if you’d like to see more.   BURNT ISLAND COURSE 2019

This poem by Rachel Lyman Field really sums up my experience.

If once you have slept on an island
You’ll never be quite the same;
You may look as you looked the day before
And go by the same old name,
You may bustle about in street and shop
You may sit at home and sew,
But you’ll see blue water and wheeling gulls
Wherever your feet may go.
You may chat with the neighbors of this and that
And close to your fire keep,
But you’ll hear ship whistle and lighthouse bell
And tides beat through your sleep.
Oh! you won’t know why and you can’t say how
Such a change upon you came,
But once you have slept on an island,
You’ll never be quite the same.

 

One More Off My TBR Stack

Image may contain: bicycle, text and outdoorTHE PARKER INHERITANCE by Varian Johnson
Candice Miller finds a letter addressed to her grandmother that opens up a mystery about a young girl from dozens of years ago named Siobhan Washington and an injustice done to the black community of Lambert, South Carolina. Her grandmother, Abigail Caldwell, was vilified and fired from her job as the town’s first black city manager when she tried to solve the mystery. Now Candice, with the help of her friend Brandon begin to piece together the clues. Whoever solves the mystery will inherit a fortune to help rebuild the town of Lambert and right a wrong done to some of it’s citizens. Dueling plot and timelines uncover both overt and subtle racism (and discrimination) now and then. A total page-turner with complex characters and serious issues woven in masterfully will leave you loving this book. This brilliant book has it all! A 2019-2020 MSBA Nominee.

 

 

 

nErDing Out!

Following up on last week’s post …I made it to nErDcamp Michigan! It was everything I’d hoped for-and more. There were basically 3 parts to the conference.

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Day 1 were the featured speakers and presenters. We started with an incredible panel called “Feminism for All” that really resonated with me. I created a sketchnote to capture some of my big takeaways.img_7861

 

I was especially intrigued by the concept of Intersectionality; the idea that that people are often disadvantaged by multiple sources of oppression and that when we focus on one at a time (gender, race, sexual orientation) we are fighting small battles separately rather than trying to lift all and elevate all voices.

 

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We then heard 3 great nErDtalks by authors Minh Lê,  Cece Bell, and Laurie Halse Anderson. They were inspiring advocates for the power of kidlit and for teachers to make a difference in the lives of their students.  Minh spoke so beautifully about our need to counteract dehumanization through story and books. Cece shared how she looked for books with characters like her, and how important it is for our students to be able to find themselves in books. Laurie gave a brutally honest talk about the critical need for information on healthy sexuality and TALK BEFORE TOUCH. If you haven’t read her book SHOUT, I beg you to check it out. Such an important text.

Then The Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller fired up the crowd with the charge to “Make good trouble when you leave here”. Her message is that teachers need to be more engaged to advocate for the lives of our students. I love her quote, “Every exchange of book to kid contains hope.”

We then broke out into sessions from featured presenters. I was lucky enough to be one of those presenters and shared my passion for writing and my desire to expand our definition of writing so that all learners have a place at the table. You can see my full presentation on THINKING THROUGH OUR FINGERS here.

The day finished with author signings and lots of free books. I was in kidlit heaven. Getting a chance to meet and talk with authors about their work was inspiring. Here are some of the authors I met at nErDcamp, there were so many others I didn’t photograph!   AUTHOR PHOTO ALBUM

Day 2 We built our idea board. People lined up to propose session ideas and thenErDcamp team created a Google Doc menu of each session. There were so many to choose from, but the great thing is if you can’t be in two places at once  you can read the notes attached to the Google Doc for all sessions!

I offered a session on sketchnotes that  filled a classroom with eager teachers. It was so gratifying to have several share their first attempts at sketchnoting later in the day and post to Twitter with the hashtag #nErDysketchnoter!

Day 2 ended with nErDcampJr. THIS WAS INCREDIBLE. 1500 kids in grades 1-12 signed img_8027up for mini-workshops with kidlit authors. Each child got to work with 3 different authors, have a pizza dinner, and watch a ‘Draw Off’ with kidlit illustrators. I was a group volunteer who took “Team Ibis” to meet and work with Matt Tavares, Jon Sciezka, and Jennifer Torres. All of this was FREE for these students. Thanks to the work of the nErDcamp team organizing an army of volunteers and truckload of donations!

This was definitely two days I’ll never forget. If you get a chance to attend a nErDcamp, don’t pass it up. There will be one in Maine Sept. 28th. Look for registration to nErDcampNNE soon!

One More Off My TBR Stack

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THE PARIS PROJECT by Donna Gephart

I was so fortunate to get an ARC of this book at nErDcamp. Donna Gephart is such an ally to kids whose stories need to be told, who need to see themselves in the stories they read, and a gift to the kidlit world. In this novel we meet Cleveland Rosebud Potts whose greatest desire is to attend the American School of Paris and live a life of culture. She’s created a checklist of six tasks that she thinks will help her attain her goal, but nothing seems to be going right. Her sister is trying to get into college far away in Vermont, her mom is working extra jobs, her best friend from elementary school has turned on her, and her closest friend Declan has a crush on someone Cleveland is angry with…but worst of all her Dad has done something that has made life almost unbearable for the Potts family. Donna Gephart has a way of breaking your heart and putting it back together so compassionately by touching on so many challenging issues our children are dealing with. Set to be released October 8, 2019-If you are curating a collection of ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) stories you just might want to pre-order this one!