Monday, September 1, 2014

Summer Reading Sunday Series on Monday

Right click the sun to save it for your own Sunday Series post. 
Summer reading matters. We know from recent research that engaging readers during the summer months helps prevent summer slide especially in lower income students (Allington and Franzen). Conversations about summer reading expectations and assignments began at my school in January. The reading seeds we planted were supposed to take root and grow through the summer months.

Some did. If only gardening were simple. Sometimes I have a harvest instead of a growth mindset. If only seeds, water and sunshine were all that a bountiful harvest or a beautiful bouquet required.  If only readers could take root with assignments, but I know that is not how reading works. I love vegetables. I could gather flowers all day. I love the idea of the garden harvest, but not the work it takes to grow it. I do love working with readers and with teachers who engage readers in their classrooms though.

Nurturing readers takes work. Growing readers is a twelve-month commitment. I am set to explore that commitment and the topic of summer reading now.

This series is not about pointing fingers at teachers or students.  Instead I'm going on an explore. I will explore instructional practice. Explore the research. Explore what gets in the way of summer reading success. What do I need to weed out to make the experience work for students?  Writing makes my learning and practice public. It also holds me accountable.

Though today is Monday, for the next eight Sundays, I'm going to blog about summer reading. Here's a rough list of topics I want to explore starting next week:
  • the purpose of summer reading
  • beliefs about summer reading
  • access to books
  • autonomy and choice
  • assessing readers and writers
  • research on summer reading
  • communicating expectations to teachers, students and parents
  • collaborating across teams
  • connecting to future reading/writing
What topics around summer reading have you been wondering about?  If you'd like join in, grab the graphic and link up in comments. Write about summer reading on your blog. Share your link and respond to at least two other writers.

Put on your sun hat! Let's tackle the weeds in our summer reading gardens.

Lee Ann

Next Sunday: the summer reading collage assignment.


Works Cited

Allington, Richard and Anne McGill-Franzen. Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap. NY, NY: Teachers College Press, 2013.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Self Care at Year's Start

The start of the school year rushes across campus with schedules and syllabi, forms to sign and surveys to complete. We are in our second week. Students' schedules are settling down. We set up our journals.  We numbered pages. We set up table of a contents. We flagged a section for vocabulary and today we got to work talking about textual evidence.

From left: Me, Jackie, Beth from Seeking Six and Craig.
I am lucky to work with friends.

I love the start of a the school year. The faculty photo, the "Where I'm From" poems, the sentence surveys, the initial writing samples, new school supplies and shiny faces. There is a lot of energy at the start of the year. Sometimes the year's start can be stressful. Change is stressful. We have a new high-stakes assessment, new standards, new textbooks.  We have a new building on our campus too and are at the first third of a thirty-month renovation. We are running up the learning curve and practicing flexibility.  How do you take care of yourself so that you can be at your best for students?

Here are a few things I have been thinking about:

  • Eat and exercise. Teachers at my high school have to report to school at 7 a.m., but many arrive early. We don't always eat breakfast before our o'dark thirty departure time. Eat breakfast. Before you leave the house or in the car, or at school. Make time to eat. You need the energy. At the end of the day, you might need to burn off some of that energy. Take a walk. Skate. Jump on a trampoline. Figure out an exercise routine that you can do for free--you'll feel better, stronger and calmer in the classroom.
  • Stock a few favorite snacks in the classroom. Apples and peanut butter, microwave popcorn, Greek yogurt or individual servings of cottage cheese: grab and go. Eat while you supervise during passing time to keep your energy up.
  • Cook meals ahead and bring several days worth of lunch at week's start. Sundays are all about chopping salad veges and grilling chicken. It makes for an easy throw together dinner during the week--add rice or pasta or a potato and even the teen boy in our house is satisfied.
  • Do what makes you happy. I love to read. I love to eat ice cream too, but reading is better for me. Reading relaxes me. There is something magical about curling up on the couch, I escape when I enter into story.
 Can you offer advice to new teachers? I'd love to hear how you take care of yourself at the start of the year.

Hosted by the team at Two Writing Teachers, link up your Slice of Life 
on Tuesdays throughout the year. 




Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Learners Thrive

Our family took the 700 year tour Mesa Verde this summer. Our guide, Ruth, whose grandparents homesteaded nearby, recounted an amazing history from pit homes to cliff dwellings. On the stairs down to Cliff Palace, I turned my ankle on a rock. I stumbled. Before I could even call out, an arm grabbed me and pulled me close to  the cliff wall.  It was a woman my Mom's age.  We gasped. Disaster avoided. She said, "can you just imagine raising children here?" We peered over the edge in wonder.


I imagine that Ancestral Puebloan children learned quickly to stay away from canyon's edge.  To survive they had to learn. I imagine they learned to build, to hunt, to read weather signs,  to grow, to store, to grind and to cook. They had to learn about their environment, about edible plants (yucca, juniper berries, wild carrot, pinon nuts) and water sources.

It seems as if we teachers needs to learn too if we are to do more than survive the current educational landscape. Learning helps me thrive and my favorite place to learn is Twitter. On Twitter I can dip into a rich resource stream and fish for ideas--plenty to feed my curiosity or calm my teacher angst on any give nday. Meenoo Rami, founder of #engchat and author of Thrive, describes Twitter as the place that helped her feel not alone. The Twitter flock lifts me up on days that are hard and inspires me to learn, investigate and grow. When I participate or host a chat on twitter, I feel surrounded by encouragement.  I love to learn and I learn best in community. Like the woman who pulled me back from the cliff's edge at  Mesa Verde, my teacher friends and virtual colleagues on Twitter pull be back from feeling overwhelmed at the start of a new school year.


This past Sunday I had the opportunity to host #nctechat with Karen Terlecky. Our topic, Building Classroom Community. Karen and I planned ahead. We noted resources we wanted to share and crafted questions together. It was great fun talking and planning with Karen.  Twitter chats can be a whirlwind, but boy is it fun sharing the energy of our ideas. I hope you can take some time to do just that this month.

If you missed the chat Sunday and would like to slip into the story and skim the resources shared, find the archive by @NCTEStory  here

Happy new school year! I hope you have a great start.

Lee Ann

Hosted by the team at Two Writing Teachers, link up your Slice of Life 
on Tuesdays throughout the year. 


Works Cited

Rami, Meenoo. Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2013.