Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Julius Caesar

We are sitting in the lobby. Collin, twelve, shifts in the Queen Anne and. It squeaks. I have chosen a cane back chair, less cushion. It's three minutes until the doors open. We're set to see Caesar. I'm thinking about argument and what I will teach next as Collin peals off his jacket and settles into a squirm.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring Break

It's spring break! The car is in the shop (likely until tomorrow). I'm home with a full pantry and parents on car pool duty.

This week I hope to

read, read, read then w   r   i   t   e
make Sky High Ranch Yeast Rolls
ride the waves
watch Pelicans swoop
listen to finches call

organize the studio



Monday, March 24, 2014

Prioritize People

Google always remembers. Love the birthday doodles. 

Today I was thinking about how I could celebrate my own birthday by serving others: volunteering, buying books for the children's hospital, face painting for fun. I thought of a few ways --the best kind of celebrations take me out of myself. Then I started thinking about students.

I am still not good at acknowledging and celebrating students' birthdays. I say happy birthday, yes, but that is the extent of it usually. I would like to plan and be ready.  I would like to have notes for students ready to go. I used to love the idea of writing "my correspondences"--I loved letter writing. It seems I could bring that passion back to life with birthdays.

Prioritize the people. How do we do that? How do we do that at home and in our classrooms? A note maybe, a poem, a drawing or a collage. The problem, at school,  becomes a numbers game.

I can certainly manage 150 notes, but not much else at that volume.  I need to think about something, a small thing, that would matter and be special. A book?

I had a professor, Dr. Crook who gave away books. After each test or essay in his Chaucer class, he'd set up a six foot table and lay out a smorgasbord of books: hardbacks, paper backs, glossy covers, new and used. Any one who'd earned an A on the test or an essay was invited to the table to choose a book to keep. I loved those book gifts.

Here's what I've been thinking about celebrating students's birthdays:

  • with a handwritten note or
  •  a homemade card
  • a favorite or iconic sweet treat 
  • a book gift
  • a poem
  • a book mark
  • a piece of word art

High school celebrations, like my life in the fourth decade, are low key: no whole-class cupcakes, no sheet cake, minimal singing. Still, more birthdays means better living. Celebrate.

This is 24  of 31 slices for the March Slice of Life Story Challenge
hosted by the gracious team at Two Writing Teachers

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Birthday Blackout

Today is Jere Daniels Junior's birthday. He was my next door neighbor growing up. Yesterday was Krystal's birthday--my cousin is two days older than I am. A Cris and a Krystin, both teachers from whom I learn had birthdays this week too as did two students. 

Tomorrow is my birthday. Tomorrow  Michelle and Bonnie celebrate too; we used to work together and it was fun being birthday triplets.  I played with blackout poetry to celebrate. For years growing up my mom and I would spend time at the art festival and enjoy lunch out together. My birthday gifts included new bathing suits and good hair cuts (sometimes with color). Yearly treats. She spoils me still.  Divergent's first page brought that back (but I left out the hair cut part for this piece). 


Engchat on St. Patrick's Day was filled with poetry talk and I've been toying with blackout and spine poems since. Lesley Mosher and Jason Stephenson are hosting a Blackout Poetry in the Classroom week April 7-11. We'll be a week away from our state testing and the creative outlet will likely do us good. I'm looking forward to seeing what students create.  Head over to Literacy Love for the details. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Short List of Sweet Spots

Celebrate your week with Ruth at Discover, Play, Build--focus on the sweet spots of your week. 

It's day twenty-two of the Slice of Life Story Challenge. Big thanks to the Two Writing Teachers team for keeping us going and writing alongside us. 

A short list of celebrations in no particular order. 

1. Divergent rocks. We loved it. Fast paced, well timed and cast, we enjoyed watching the book unfold on the big screen. 

2. The Legend trilogy by Marie Lu--definitely a golden story full of heroes and heart--left me gasping it is so good. So glad students recommended this one to me. 

3. Spring break and time to write--lots to look forward to this week. 

4. Listening to my husband and son build Legos.  Their talk and laughter is Saturday sweet.  They've been working on a motorized evacuator (Technic 8110) and are on the last pages of the build.

5 & 6.  Sunshine and blue skies were perfect for The Winter Park Art Festival this morning. We met my Mom, Auntie Gayla and Uncle Tim--visiting from Colorado-- Tim and Gayla are friends of my parents that moved away more than forty years ago. They still visit and I can't break the Aunt and Uncle habit. It is such a treat to visit and talk with them. We had a nice art-filled stroll down the Avenue. I really enjoyed talking to a few artists about their techniques and pieces. I learned about image transfer and welding and layering paint. Amy Flynn's Fobots make me want to learn how to weld--aren't they cool?  

7. Honey from Uncle Tim's bees. I am very curious about the honey making process--well the bees make the honey, I know, but collecting it, filtering it, jarring it. I'm curious about the process. Of course eating honey from a backyard beekeeper--that I love.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Movie Maddness

March maddness may be in full swing, but I'm over the moon for movies this month. This afternoon we're heading to see Shailene Woodley play Tris in Divergent.

Media from NPR to Nerdist News has my son and my students hyped, me too. One thing I've noticed about language reporters are using when talking about the film is how Woodley is walking into a "big franchise." I don't think of films, nor books, as franchises, so that language has put me off a bit. Still, these series are franchises, right? Merchandise, books, movies, fan events. Near infinite revenue streams it seems.

I swung by home to pick up the family after school. My sweetie drove, so I bought mobile tickets on the way using the Fandango app, no line, no kiosk just scan the QR code and we're in. 

The movie's about to start. See you on the other side!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

This Time Last Year

Check out Two Writing Teachers for more Slice of Life stories;
you might even consider adding your own!

This time last year, I was recovering from shoulder surgery. My new friend was the Game Ready ice and compression system rented for the first month of recovery. An anchor, two knots and a reshaped clavicle--it was painful--twelve weeks of physical therapy and I can finally reach behind my back (hook a bra) and raise my right arm (though it's a little off to the right and not next to my ear). I am grateful for my arms.

I cropped out the inside my should pictures...fascinating stuff. 

This time last year, I was hours out of surgery. I wrote the last eleven slice of life posts for my students ahead of time (I posted a writing quote and an invitation everyday for them). I had scheduled most of my own slices too. I'd been writing double for days.

Not so this year. I am not writing ahead much,  if at all, and it feels so good to have the time and the two hands to write as each day comes. Some days ideas come late, others I've thought about since waking. For both, I am grateful. I do love playing with words. I don't take enough time to do it.

Injury and illness are part and parcel of living an active life. After four orthopedic injuries in four years, I've cut back a bit. I skate less. I exercise differently. I've had to face the idea that I cannot do some things that my muscle remember and know how to do. That's not been so fun. My body and I are still in negotiations. Like the district and our teachers' union, we've been dealing with an impasse.

I have brave students who face illness and injury each week. Facing the day--especially an academically charged day--when one is pain or not as mobile or balanced as "normal" takes dedication, and grit. These students focus on the future. They are unstoppable heroes among us. Students who stay in school with cancer and arthritis and epilepsy and even when pregnant. All stand up and muscle through. I see you and witness your strength.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ahh.. Art

I've had more than my fair share of ahhh choo this week (allergy woes), but when I left my classroom today it was ahh, art. First the  my sky, a parade of clouds against gorgeous blue, it stopped me. 

Cloud Parade
iPhone photo
Orlando, FL 2:42 pm

I love clouds. I love drawing them, doodling them, painting and collaging them. I can't quite capture the gradual shifts in color but I enjoy trying to. Emerson said that the "sky is the daily bread of the eyes." Art is too. 

My second moment was the student exhibit set up in an empty classroom. The classroom, really partitioned offices in a portable building (or a "concrete-able"), is finding new life as a gallery. The white walls seemed whiter in contrast to the students' pieces. Mrs. Gardner have me a tour, talked me through the exhibit and kindly allowed me to take pictures. 

Students inspire. They create and have courage. I snapped a picture of Zhang's "Little Italy" for my brother. He's been playing with pen and ink drawing towns on stock paper. Though I wasn't sure about the Princess Leia-esque residents walking down main street, I like the perspective and the intricate detail. The water seems to be rising, but it looks good for whale watching, there's no worry over the tide in this piece.
"Little Italy" by Wailin Zhang
Ink on Paper
9 x 6
The difference in layered detail between Zhang's "Little Italy" and "Geometrics" reminded me of an artist's reach and willingness to stretch or experiment. "Geometrics" brought buildings and high rises to mind--though those are rare sightings here in central Florida. Something in the bend or the reflective gold called steel and sky to mind. 
"Geometrics" by Wailin Zhang
Acrylic on Canvas
12 x 9
Mrs. Gardner worked with these students through several pieces this year. One art assignment was to investigate a fairy tale and capture them in art. Ashley Arlow used photo and drawing transfer to create "The Fisherman's Wife." She's no victim. I love how Arlow recaptures the wife as sea-made siren. Those blood red lips and lobsters rolled coiffed into careful curls. The center design transferred and drawn out reminds me of an oracle or a totem capturing the essence of the wise Flounder.

"The Fisherman's Wife" by Ashley Arlow
Mixed Media on Wood Panel
19.5 x 12

See the cottage at the top of the totem detail? (purple circle mine)  I see two stacked heads and a fish-ish body--the powerful flounder from the tale is what this image brought to mind. I like the energy of the water swirls and the sea life Arlow captures. The hand drawn details are an interesting contrast to the  photomontage. As a whole, the piece reminds me of trophy, or a trophy wife captured at her greedy best.

"The Fisherman's Wife" drawing transfer detail. 
Look closely at those blood red lips. They're shrimp, though there is nothing shrimpy about them. The lips alone make quite the statement about thsi beauty though I love how the balance and symmetry of cheek and nose is lightly marred by wood grain. For me it echoes how "The Fisherman's Wife" goes against the grain of common sense or virture and falls into the trap  of her own desires.

"The Fisherman's Wife"  detail

"Plates" by Ashley Arlow
18 x 14
I've got to show "Plates" to my student poets struggling to describe love triangles this week. We talked a lot at Poetry Club about how "side ho" is not descriptive, but lazy writing. Dish came up as an appropriate euphemism and this piece captures that. The check board detail and balance rock too.

"Wave" by Leinani Hession
Media on canvas
16 x 14
Leinani Hession's work made me think about story and how images tell stories. "Wave" whispers to me of storms and traps of danger and anonymity. I wonder what my students would make of it? 

"Wave" seemed opposite in tone to Nicole Vargas' "Quinceañera." While "Wave" may dread the traps of adolescence, "Quinceañera" celebrates its transitory nature. The work in this piece impresses me--assembling each cut flower, persistence made tangible. The sash of fifteen (captured in the detail below) will soon be thrown off, the petals, though preserved, will wrinkle, but the memory, the whimsy of fifteen swings through the frame. 
"Quinceañera" by Nicole Vargas
Cut Paper and Wire
7 x 3.25 x 5.5

"Quinceañera" detail
Art works. Art attempts. Art speaks. So do our students. I love that I got to listen today., truly a treat.

Head over to Two Writing Teachers for a second serving;
the Slice of Life Story Challenge
runs daily during the month of March. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What Would You Do?

I'm put off today.
Head over to Two Writing Teachers for seconds or to serve up your
own slice of life story.
The challenge runs every day in March and Tuesdays there aftger.

A student lied about an assignment recently and it has thrown me for a loop. I am disappointed. I've drafted that post three times today, but it's one that will need to sit awhile.

I keep coming back to consequences, character and compassion. How do we act compassionately while still teaching students that character matters.

When we lie we face consequences. When we cheat on our taxes or speed down the highway, we risks consequences. There's no sugar coating that truth.

High school students, like the rest of us, sometimes make bad decisions. Sometimes they act in the moment and don't realize the consequences (executive functioning after all isn't fully functional). Sometimes those mistakes are minor--on a scale of one to ten they fall at a five or below-- cheating on a homework assignment,  making up an excuse or lying about why something wasn't completed. I don't think those are gateway "crimes", but I do think that they indicate a need for a change in course. They indicate a need for conversation and instruction. They are not life threatening mistakes like weapons, drugs, fights and the like, but they matter too.

So how do you shape students' characters? How do you turn mistakes into learning opportunities? Can we compassionately correct, in ways that teach instead of shame (as Pam said on Brian's post about a tech mistake yesterday). What would you do?

That's what's on my mind today. What about you?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Knotty Questions

Skip over to Two Writing Teachers to serve up your
own Slice of Life or to help yourself to seconds. 

Do your learning goals match a scale you use to rate or measure students' understanding? Can you have more than one learning goal a day or do we learn one discrete byte at a time? Could a learning goals carry you through an entire year? How long does it take a student to analyze how a character develops a theme or sets a tone? Is analyzing character the first step there? How many steps are there in that equation?

Are you required to use scales (read rubric if that language is better) to assess students' understandings of learning goals? What types of formative assessments are daily specials in your classroom and which ones appear on the regular menu?

How do you assess what your students know and are able to do? Is what assess at the start of a unit different from what you would assess in the middle or at the end? During a lesson do you  walk around? Do you listen in? Do you record conversations? Do you have a hive of inter-dependent digital documents tagged and organized in Evernote binders by student name or class period? Do you keep anecdotal records in a  journal, on post its or the random napkin, paper towel, Kleenex, open hand space?

 What do your students know? How do you know? Who says? What are your students able to do? How do you know? Who says? Do you have evidence of that?

Image from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation
Do you pre-test and then post test? Will a set of five multiple-choice questions tell if you a student has independent? How do students tell you what they know before you begin a unit of instruction? Or do you just start everyone at the same place?
mastered a standard? Are those multiple choice questions text-dependent or text-

Do you ask students about content, theme or skills before you start a unit? Is a theme in an English class more important than a set of skills? Can you  teach skills without some sort of themed set of texts? What does research say about the brain and connections? What if we just read a variety of short texts every week and practiced the same set of skills? Is that the same thing as connecting texts and ideas over time? Which matters most?

How much depends on the society we envision or the status quo we keep?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

House Painting

Head over to Two Writing Teachers
for more Slice of Life stories. 

Sixteen shutters, one rain gutter, four sides, the house needs a new coat of paint. We began last week with a good pressure wash. Like a lesson, painting takes prep work.

We washed walls and cut back grass and shrubs around the house. We washed the under eaves and painted the trim (one side left). We purchased the supplies and organized our support staff (in-laws). We scheduled the work and set goals for the day.

We're about half-way home on the house painting. Weather's moving in tomorrow, so it will be Wednesday before we get back to it. We rolled a five-gallon bucket of paint today onto two and an half sides. The set up and clean up seem to take longer than the actual painting event. Up the ladder, stretch the blue tape, stick down the edge along the trim, down the ladder, move the ladder, up the ladder--you get the idea.

Before you paint, you tape. While you paint, you watch the coverage and catch drips. After the roller paints, the detail person comes in to cut in the trim.  Once we got our system down, we moved quickly. Set up and clean up took as long as the actual painting. Lately lesson planning and reflecting on assessment data seems to take as long or longer than the actual lessons too. I started thinking about parallels and perhaps I will come back to them. Now, it's time for a cold drink and a comfy chair.

Shutters stretched across the porch.

Three generations working the rollers.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Just a poem fragment today. I'm saving it to come back to as I celebrate time to read. I finished Lu's Legend and am committed to the series. I may need to come up for air Sunday.

Squeezing seconds 
out of each morning minute
minutes from each near noon hour
days are fuller than daylight allows 
and this time of year writing 
beyond the reach of time

Friday, March 14, 2014

Finding Happy

Talk about a first class start to my school day. Look what I found in my teacher mailbox this morning!

A handwritten note and Chocolate Frogs from The Harry Potter Alliance floored me this morning. I made my Project for Awesome video in support of The Harry Potter Alliance this year and the note and frogs thanked me for my efforts. Just wow, it was the first happy thing to find me at school today. 

The Harry Potter Alliance combines fandom with activism empowering thousands to give back to their communities and speak out on a variety of important issues. One of my favorite campaigns  is the annual Accio Books! Campaign which has donated more than one-hundred thousand books to needy children and libraries.

If you love helping out in the name of Harry Potter and all that is good in the wizarding world, sign up for action at The Harry Potter Alliance. If you're not ready to commit, maybe you would consider signing the Make it Happen Hank petition asking Hank Green to vlog Accio Deathly Hallows every day in April.

I  want more Hank Green singing, so please add your name to the petition! Spread the word to students too. Surely you have budding Ravenclaws, Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs and Slytherins in your classrooms.
 Happy bubbled up at lunch today too. 

There were bag pipers! For a special St. Patrick's day treat we had the Pipes and Drums of Orange County Sherrif's Office. Our cafeteria manager sent out an email earlier in the week to come to the courtyard during lunch for a special surprise. I had a hunch. 

My cheeks cramped up from smiling! The officers were kilted out--pressed and pleated in their Tartan plaids. Every detail, inspection perfect. Here are a few seconds of the men playing.

I didn't have to chase happy today. It found me. 

I'm participating in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge.
Visit  Two Writing Teachers for seconds or to serve up your slice.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

At What Cost?

This is 13 of 31 slices for the March Slice of Life Story Challenge.
Visit  Two Writing Teachers for seconds or to serve up your slice. 

A teacher stopped in to to say hello this morning on her walk from the parking lot to her room. My door was open. It was dark, not yet seven. Coffee was brewing and I was heating up some breakfast. She shared how difficult her year has been. A young mother of two children under the age of seven, she said that for the first time ever she has felt as if she has to choose between work and her family.

I don't have a lot encouraging words for my friend. She and I both acknowledge that the work on being a teacher extends being our "contract time" to use union language. I have never been able to fit lesson planning, assessment, evaluation and preparation into the 7.5 hours of the teacher's "official" (paid) work day. Before we had children the hours did not matter as much it seems. Now we face hard choices. I talked about setting boundaries, creating systems, and maintaining balance. There will always be more work to do. The work of a teacher does not end.

The cost of doing the business of teaching is high, but who is paying the price?

"You're working hard. You're barely making ends meet. You should be paid over time. Period."

That from President Obama in  Jim Zarroli's "Employers React to New Overtime Expansion" on NPR's All Things Considered this afternoon. Like the hard working people who make "thirty  to thirty-five thousand dollars with managerial responsibilities" in retail--jobs so labeled managerial so as to exempt the worker from overtime laws. Teachers (and administrators) are exempt from overtime. We do what it takes to get the job done.

Can you imagine tracking actual work hours? What would count? Could we count thinking and planning time? Could we count professional learning? Could we count assessment, diagnostic or intervention work we do with our students after school hours? Could we count grading papers at our own children's sporting events or school plays? Could we count driving to meetings? Could we count going to our own students' sporting events and functions? What could be paid parts of our job?  What is "worth" it in the work of a teacher? Could we count the commute?

No, I'm sure the drive wouldn't count. That's just wishful thinking there. But in thinking about possible pay outs,  I have to acknowledge true costs of benefits my job provides:  health care, leave time and retirement. I appreciate health insurance and my schedule and possible retirement benefits. I know that according to one report, eighty-five percent of the education budget goes to payroll. Payroll costs account for the largest slice, no doubt. Still. Money matters in education.

Teachers want to matter too.

Angela Maiers says we are created for significance--teachers too.  What can I say to a mother of two children trying to choose between doing what is right for the students in her classroom and doing what is right for the children in her arms?  What can I say? You matter. It is a great message and if you have not watched Maiers deliver it, do.

Teaching (and parenting) is hard work, but it is work that matters. It is country building work. It is work that frees people. It is work that changes lives.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Learning Moves

The Slice of Life Story Challenge runs every day in March.
Thanks to Anna, Beth, Betsy, Dana, Stacey, 
and Tara at Two Writing Teachers 
for hosting!

"Mrs. Spillane, I have to do the slice of life today and I'm not sure how to post."
"Come up to my laptop and I'll show you during reading time."

The bell rings, students settle into tables, pull out their independent novels and start reading. Analiese comes to my teaching station for a quick Wordpress lesson. I don't usually like to usurp a student's reading time, but this is the time we have. Her need is immediate.

My students are taking turns posting their slices at 31 students.
I have her log into Wordpress and I show her around the dashboard. I guide her through creating a draft of the post she will finish after school. She nods and follows my lead controlling the mouse on the screen. The five minute lesson ends and before she goes back to her seat, she spontaneously retells me what she needs to do.

"Okay, so I go to dashboard."
"Yep," I nod more than say.
"Then I go to all posts."
I nod again, "uh hu."
"Okay, then I click edit."
"Okay. Okay. I think I got it."
"And you can text me if you get stuck," I tell her.
"Do I have your number?" she asks.
"Well, it's on your syllabus," I reply.
"Mmm hmm," I nod.
"Oh, okay."
"And if you don't have it, it's posted on the wall by your table right next to the clock."
"Oh, okay."

And she's off. She feels ready to be our classroom slicer for the day. Her perception of her ability is as important as her ability. She did the verbal rehearsal, the self-check retelling all on her own.   I'm please with her learning moves. That's what we do when we're learning. We retell. We summarize. We recap. We trace our steps. She's learning! I can't wait to see what she writes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Planning Practice

The Slice of Life Story Challenge runs every day in March.
Thanks to Anna, Beth, Betsy, Dana, Stacey, 
and Tara at Two Writing Teachers 
for hosting!
{Rough draft thinking ahead!}

"Good instruction takes time to plan.
If we do not take time to plan, how 
will we expect students 
to take time to learn? 
How will students get to the goals we set?"

My principal said that at our last curriculum leaders recently. I agree with her statement, completely. Planning is essential to instruction. My principal, new to our school this year, was updating and clarifying expectations about lesson plans. Teachers at my school are expected to upload unit (new) and daily lesson plans (new)  to a share point site (new). Administrators have been tasked with giving lesson plan feedback to five teachers a week. We began the practice last month (Feb. 20).

This type of accountability is not a new practice, but it is new to many of the teachers and administrators at my school. We are in the midst of learning. 

Our lesson and unit plans need to include the following: 
  1. unit learning goal(s)
  2. unit scale
  3. standards
  4. daily objective(s) or goal(s)
  5. weekly or daily plans
  6. accommodations for English Language Learners or Exceptional Education Students
Eventually our unit plans must also include: 
  • elements from the Marzano Framework by Design Question (DQ 2, DQ 3, DQ 4)
  • Depth of Knowledge learning targets
  • monitoring strategies
I'm adding the elements I was missing into the lesson plans I write for students and post online (sophomores and juniors).  I'm learning.  I reflected on my lesson planning process last March here. Since, I've been studying lesson planning with fresh eyes. I love Franki Sibberson's The Joy of Planning and I've gotten a lot of ideas by reading our shared plans at school. I have questions too.

Who is the audience? Who is the lesson plan written for? 
What does the audience  need from the lesson plan? 
Is there value or difference in plans written for different audiences? 
How are lesson plans written for students different from lesson plans written for teachers or administrators? 
What is my purpose (beyond instructional planning) in writing or sharing or publishing lesson plans? 
How does transparency of planning affect my instructional practice or professional knowledge? 

Aside from what's mandated, what are lesson plan essentials?
What do the changes in required elements say about our beliefs and values?
How do our beliefs match our practice as Sibberson says and how are they captured in our plans?
How do essential elements shift or change depending on audience and purpose? 

How can a lesson plan distinguish between what the teacher teaches and what the students do
How do lesson plans distinguish between the work/text being used and the standard or skill being taught? 

I pasted this post into Wordle just to get a sense of patterns and import. I don't like that, at the moment anyway,  lesson plans seem to usurp students. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Scouting the Future

The Slice of Life Story Challenge runs every day in March.
Thanks to Anna, Beth, Betsy, Dana, Stacey,
and Tara at Two Writing Teachers 
for hosting. 

My son is working on an interview project for school that demanded a tour of my childhood scrapbook. Flipping through the pages for stories, I came across my Girl Scout's sash. I belonged
to the Citrus Council and though I'd say I didn't earn too many badges, I was tickled by the ones I did see. I may need a Girl Scout Handbook to decode the sash nearly thirty years later. 
Do you remember what these badges?

The badges got me thinking about how online spaces, learning environments and  games-- Mozilla's Open Badge initiative-- have used badges as a motivator and a representation of learning.  I need to read more Gee , more McGonigal, more Hattie.  I'm curious about the gaming potential for learning and achievement in my high school English classroom.

I am generally a "good work is it's own reward" sort or in this case reading is its own reward, but there is something (challenge, choice, autonomy, responsibility) to setting learning goals, achieving them and marking them with a badge. I built story and experience and identity and  community earning badges as a Girl Scout. The sash got me thinking, so today I shared the tip of my thinking with students. I told them to play with it for five minutes and talk, draw and or come up with badges for readers. They came up with all sorts of badges.

I questioned myself for a minute though and thought, is that reading for a reward? I want students to read for pleasure, to read to pursue a passion, to read because they are driven to story. But then I realized that even readers like a challenge. Donalyn Miller's #bookaday and book gap challenges came instantly to mind as badge worthy today.

My favorite moment came in conversation when one small group recommended genre badges. Andrew said something like, "you could get badges for action books or classics or dystopian novels..." which led to Yesenia's idea of having badges for each series, "Like a  Hunger Games badge." Which got me thinking about how even within a series or genre readers could earn behavior or theme-specific badges: a Mockingjay badge for activism or loyalty, a district 19 badge for energy conservation. Students said they could earn badges for book talks or book reviews or exceeding page goals.

The bubble of badge talk made the room bright with creative ideas. And their conversations was a good check of our reading values (but that's another story). Today's story is the  worth the five minute detour from our agenda . Then, of course, we settled in to spend some time reading.

Epiphany badge, reading knight and reading voyage badges

Super reader

Book worm

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Demanding Daisy

Like my friend, Chloe, March can be rough. 
I'm Daisy. I'm two.
What are you up to? 
I'm trying every cute trick
but she's not buying it.
Mom's ignoring me--
email, writing, Twitter, 
now it's March and she's into 
some Slice of Life thing. 
Who knew it would be a weekend 
commenting challenge? 
I'm about to get into the laundry
basket and drag out the socks
and underpants.
Is she finished ? 
Can we go outside? 
Surely she needs 
to talk a walk? 
She spends a lot of time 
on this machine in March. 
Good thing, Sunday 
was a paint-the-house sort 
of take-a-break day. 
At least we got to go outside!

Stop by Two Writing Teachers  for seconds or to
serve up your own Slice of Life.