Saturday, February 28, 2015

Twitter Inspired: Student Choice

Every Sunday evening there is a wonderful group of teachers who "meet" on Twitter and chat about issues pertaining to first grade.  This chat is called #1stchat and is hosted by Leka DeGroot and Valerie Ruckes.  I have learned so much from this fabulous PLN!  Check it out each Sunday at 8PM ET! (Twitter chats can be a bit overwhelming to follow at first.  I recommend using a Twitter dashboard/organizer; I use Tweetdeck on my laptop and just downloaded Plume to try on my Android phone.  I've also heard good things about HooteSuite.)

Last Sunday's chat was about student choice and was guest hosted by Karen Lirenman. (Here's a link to the transcript.)  The timing of this chat was perfect as student choice has been on my mind lately.  A group of teachers at my school are participating in a book study of Alan November's Who Owns the Learning? which has inspired me to provide choice to give my students a sense of ownership and help them learn become more engaged with their learning. I've given my students a menu of activities to choose from this week for our Dr. Seuss unit.  (Read about my plan here). My class is so excited about these activities!  I introduced the menu last week, and we discussed each activity.  They've been bringing in supplies for the creative choices all week and sharing their own Dr. Seuss books for our book basket.  I can't wait to see their projects!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Oh, The Places We'll Go!

I am so excited about the next 2 weeks!  For the past several years my team and I have been doing a Dr. Seuss week at the beginning of March, complete with our own mini read-a-thon. (Read about our day 2 years ago here.)  But we've always felt rushed to complete everything before spring break, so this year we have decided to expand our unit to 2 weeks.  Two weeks with Dr. Seuss- YES!

I might be sorry in a few days, but I've decided to jump in and try something VERY different for me.  A few years ago I created a differentiated menu of activities for our Dr. Seuss unit.  Due to lack of time, I've never been able to implement it completely, but my kids have always enjoyed the activities from the menu that we have been able to complete.  Since I will have more time this year, I want to be able to give them these choices and add in some opportunities to use the technology tools we've been exploring. So here's the new menu I've created.

To introduce the menu I've created a Powerpoint presentation that I can post on our learning management system, Canvas.  (I'm loving Canvas; I should blog about it soon!) That way the kids (and parents) can easily access the menu and see examples.  Here's a link if you'd like to check it out:

Hopefully I'll be back sometime next week to update how it's going!

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Comfort Books

A friend pinned a link that led me to an blog post titled " In which I share 10 books I read over and over (and over.)"  The author refers to these as her comfort books, and although we only share one title on our lists, I can totally relate!  I have always been a re-reader. It started in childhood. I loved reading more than anything and read ALL the time, but even though I made frequent trips to the public library, I often found myself lacking new reading material so I would simply re-read something I already owned. Also, I tend to read very fast because I get so caught up in the story and can't wait to find out what happens.  If I enjoyed the story, then I want to read it again for the details. And then again because I'm just not ready to leave the world the author created!

I read some books multiple times with my class as well.  Sometimes a few students will kind of moan and tell me that we've already read that, but most children like to hear a favorite book read again.  (How many of you who are parents have books like Goodnight Moon memorized because your child asked for them over and over? "In the great green room...")

As an adult, I like to revisit the books that gave me so much pleasure as a child or teenager.  Books like the Betsy-Tacy series just make me smile and long for simpler times, and books like Little Women become even more powerful through adult eyes.

So, without further ado, here is my list of comfort books.

  1. Gone with the Wind: My love affair with GWTW started when I was about 11 or 12.  The movie had returned to the theaters, and my mom and her friend were going.  Her friend mentioned that she was taking her daughter who was about 3 years older than me. My mom said I was too young to go, but I begged and begged, so she reluctantly agreed.  I was mesmerized!  As soon as I could I found the book, and I've been hooked ever since.  I have read the book too many times to count, written papers on it in school, watched the movie like 20 times and own all kinds of GWTW memorabilia.
  2. Jane Eyre: I get so caught up in this story every time I read it!
  3. Rebecca: "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again..."  I don't remember exactly when I first visited Manderley but I do remember staying up into the wee hours of the morning to finish  reading it that first time.  I had not read Rebecca for many years when my son was required to read it in high school.  I picked it up, and even though I was familiar with the story, still got caught up in the suspense.  I kept his copy and have enjoyed it several times since.
  4. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz:  Of course the movie is fabulous, but there is so much more in the book- the Hammerheads, the land made of china and even an additional witch!  For the past 2 years I have read this as our last chapter book read-aloud and my students have loved it! (Side note: as much as I love the Wizard of Oz, one of my greatest reading disappointments is that I have never been able to make it through Wicked.  I SO wanted to like this book, but I just can't get into it. maybe I should try again?)
  5. Little Women: I first read this book when I was about 10, and although I enjoyed it, I have much more appreciation for it now as an adult.  The March sisters, especially Jo, are some of my favorite literary characters!
  6. The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings trilogy: I still treasure my original boxed set of paperbacks, now yellow with age, given to me by an old boyfriend shortly after I discovered these wonderful books in high school.
  7. The Gallaghers of Ardmore trilogy by Nora Roberts: I confess- I have a weakness for Nora Roberts' books!  Sometimes I just want what a reading consultant for my district called a "lollipop" book (as opposed to a juicy steak book that you can really sink your teeth into!) and Nora's books are my favorite flavor of lollipop.  This trilogy takes place in Ireland, has a little touch of the supernatural, lots of romance and a few slightly steamy love scenes.  What's not to love? 
  8. Childhood series: Childhood favorites like Betsy-Tacy, the Little House books and What Katy Did just make me happy!
  9. A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, and The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness: Even though this trilogy hasn't been around all that long, I have already read through twice completely and have read the first book 4 or 5 times. I discover something I missed or a new connection to the other books with every reading.  I love trilogies and series; reading each new book is like coming home to familiar characters or places.  This one also has the added benefit of some magic/supernatural plus a love story so it's a winner in my book!
  10. Reading with Meaning:  Since this is a teaching blog, I guess a teaching book is called for!  I revisit and refer to many of my professional books, but I try to read this one in its entirety before school starts each year for inspiration!
I'd love to hear about some of your favorite books to re-read!

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