Monday, July 18, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Books I Loved This Week
I LOVED this book!  The character development is amazing as the plot unfolds between the alternating perspectives of Ravi and Joe.  Save Me A Seat will inspire conversations about bullying, friendship, empathy, and acceptance.  I believe that sharing this book with students will encourage them to reflect how we often make inaccurate assumptions about others.  I am planning to recommend this book as a read aloud for teachers in our upper elementary classrooms.  

I am a huge fan of What Do You Do With An Idea?  Both of the books in this series incorporate many signposts including Again and Again, Tough Questions, Words of the Wiser and Ah Ha Moments.  I can't wait to share What Do You Do With a  Problem? with teachers this fall!  It is an outstanding text to share in our work with the signposts, but I also think it would be a fabulous mentor text to encourage students to reflect on how we persevere through problems.  I highly recommend reading it aloud at the start of the school year.  As a classroom teacher, I know this would be a text that I would return to with students throughout the year.

After seeing a number of reviews for The Storyteller on Twitter last week, I was inspired to get my own copy! There are many possibilities for discussing this text with students!  I plan to share it with teachers at both our primary and upper elementary schools.  It offers connections to the signposts of Again and Again, Ah Ha Moment, and Words of the Wiser.  Even if you are not using the signposts, this book shares a beautiful message about the importance of storytelling.  I know this is a text I would love to share early in the year, so that I can refer to it often in my conversations with readers and writers.

I am grateful for the lovely employee at Barnes and Noble who recommended the Dr. Kitty Cat series to my daughter, Grace.  I can tell she's hooked because she has been walking around the house reading this book unprompted all week.  We already started Book 2: Clover the Bunny tonight.  This adorable series is about a pet vet who takes care of the ailments of other animals.  Dr. Kitty Cat would be an excellent addition to classroom libraries in second and third grade!

Currently Reading

I am halfway through Mystery of the Missing Fox and can't wait to discover who is bothering the new kit foxes at the Wilder Family Campground.  I love the character development in this latest mystery in the Cooper and Packrat series.  I'm anxiously awaiting word on my grant proposal for an author visit with Tamra for our third, fourth and fifth grade students this fall!

Here's a link to my reflections on Chapters 3 and 4 in DIY Literacy!

Up Next

Thank you to Elly Swartz for sharing a copy of Finding Perfect with me on NetGalley.  I can't wait to start reading it!

I was so excited to receive my copy of Sticks & Stones on Tuesday!  I think this book has great read aloud potential, as it's so important to talk with our students about the power of our words to help or harm.

I've seen many reviews of Nine, Ten on Twitter.  I'm looking forward to settling in with this book soon!

New Professional Book Recommendation

I recently finished reading Embedding Formative Assessment this week as part of my work with a cohort of teachers collaborating with the literacy specialists at the Maine Department of Education. Our goal is to craft professional development sessions related to formative assessment that will be offered across the state this year.  This text provided us with a great deal of background knowledge and strategies related to formative assessment.  At our training this week, we received a copy of Outstanding Formative Assessment, which is full of classroom examples that I am looking forward to sharing with teachers this fall!

Week 2: DIY Literacy - Chapters 3 & 4

I am very excited to share my thinking this week on Chapters 3 and 4 in DIY Literacy.  Thank you to Cathy, Laura and Michelle for organizing this incredible opportunity.  I have enjoyed reading many of the posts in the cyberPD Digital Learning Community this week!

After reading Michelle's post, I was inspired to try a similar format this week for my reflection!

Chapter 3

Confirming Ideas

  • In order for learning to stick, students need support, time and repetition. Teachers are often frustrated when students cannot recall certain lessons, but the issue may be that we have not provided students with enough support to remember how to use the strategies we've introduced.  I found myself thinking back to CAFE strategy lessons in reading workshop and the importance of our anchor charts.   
  • I appreciated the tips at the end of the chapter on knowing when students will be ready to give up the teaching tool.  I worry that too often we remove a scaffold, such as an anchor chart, before students have internalized the information.  A tip I learned from a colleague a few years ago is using foam boards for anchor charts instead of chart paper.  By using the foam board, the chart can be moved around the room from a lesson with a small group to the classroom meeting area.  Our foam boards were stored in a laundry basket in the meeting area, so students could access a board at any time.  Using foam boards preserved wall space for charts that I needed to be posted for a longer amount of time.
  • One of my favorite quotes was on page 41. "We believe in creating 'high-five' energy whenever possible, the feeling that we are proud of what our kids have offered." I plan to share this quote with teacher as a reminder that "high-five" energy needs to be palpable in our classrooms!


  • It's so important that anchor charts don't become wallpaper in classrooms!  Kate and Maggie's suggestions for keeping anchor charts alive are tips I plan to share with teachers next year (page 42)!
  • I've seen many beautiful charts in classrooms that are Pintrest worthy, but they were not constructed with students.  This chapter included many references to the importance of student input and engagement in the creation of the chart.  If students are involved in the crafting of the chart, I feel they are much more likely to use the tool.


  • I am hoping to model a lesson for creating bookmarks in classrooms this year.  There are so many possibilities for using this tool as a personalized way for students to remember information.  I loved the suggestion of creating them for test taking tips!
  • As an instructional coach, I create a digital newsletter (using the Smore website) every week.  I plan to share photographs of well-created charts in my newsletter next year so that teachers can see examples of charts (created with students) that anchor learning.
Chapter 4

Confirming Ideas
  • I love, love, love the description of rigor at the beginning of the chapter.  Kate and Maggie stretched and confirmed my thinking that rigor is "a performance - it is a stance, an action, a state of being that is taken to move through the world, tackle tasks or work toward a goal." 
  • Daniel Pink's quote on page 55 is one that all teachers need to remember. "One of the keys to increasing motivation is to create a sense of autonomy, a sense of I know what to do. Control leads to compliance.  Autonomy leads to engagement."
  • When I introduce the micro-progression tool next year, I plan to share the sidebar on page 55.  The three signals that rigor may be the issue are a great way to highlight the value and purpose of the micro-progression.
  • The teachers in both of our elementary schools are beginning to implement the Units of Study writing program in the fall.  As I read this chapter, I kept thinking about how we can use micro- progressions with students during writing workshop next year!  On page 59, Kate and Maggie remind us that students need to be able to transfer the micro-progression to all of their work in other subjects.  It's easy to fall into the trap of creating a model or progression that is specific to a particular task or piece of writing.  I agree that it's important for the details and models to be transferable other tasks and subjects.
  • I loved how the examples of the micro-progressions in this chapter were all created with students.  Once again, teachers should not create a mico-progression, review it in a lesson and post it on the wall for students to use as a tool.  For it to be a living document, it must be co-created with students!
  • My other favorite pages in this chapter to share with teachers are the example of using charts to highlight the steps or skills in high levels of work (pages 64-65)  and the signs of rigor (pages 68-69).
  • There are many ideas that I would like to use from this chapter during my lessons in classrooms next year.  My primary goal will be to create a model of a micro-progression during professional development sessions this fall as we begin our work with Units of Study.  I'm hoping that by creating a sample and sharing some of the information and tips from this chapter with teachers, they will see the potential impact this tool can have on our students' learning, growth and engagement!

As I continue to dig into the chapters for next week's post, I hope to find some time to check out Kate and Maggie's DIY videos!  When I share my learning with teachers in the fall, I know they will appreciate time to watch the videos and read some of the posts for DIY Literacy on their website!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Thanks to Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for hosting this meme!

I'm three weeks into summer vacation and have already finished six middle grade novels!  Although I can't keep up with a #bookaday, I'm proud that I've read at least two books each week.  Most of all I'm thankful for my book-loving colleagues @kfmayoKaren, @vglueck69, and @HiltonKinsey.  The four of us have formed our own book group to share our favorite new books!

Here are some of my recent favorites!

Students will love The Wild Robot!  My soon-to-be second grader is already hooked!  I think it would be a great read aloud for second through fourth grade.  Peter Brown has written a beautiful story centered around Roz's relationship with the animals on the island.  There are great messages in this book for classroom conversations.  The ending left me hopeful for a sequel!

I've read many of the posts on Twitter related to The Seventh Wish.  I love this book and truly believe that it has a place in our classroom and school libraries. As a classroom teacher, I would prefer to use this book as a read aloud in order to have important conversations with students.  Kate Messner handled a topic that is often avoided in such a beautiful manner.  If you haven't read Melissa Guerette's post on Using The Seventh Wish in the Classroom, I highly recommend it!

Thank you to Jen Vincent @mentortexts for my copy of this incredible book.  Ms. Bixby is the next Mr. Daniels in children's literature for me.  I love how this book alternated perspectives between Topher, Brand and Steve.  Although this book was deeply touching, the comical situations added so much to the story.  I highly recommend this book to all teachers.  We should all aspire to have the type of strong bonds with our students that Ms. Bixby shares with these boys.  

Once I started The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price, I could not put it down.  In many ways, this was a difficult book for me to read after losing both of my parents in the last two years.  As a classroom read aloud, I think this book would inspire deep conversations about the results (both positive and negative) of Charlie's decisions.  Readers can't help but feel a strong connection to Charlie and his sister.

I loved this novel in verse!  The narrative storyline is beautifully told through the perspective of eighteen different students. One of our fifth grade classes really enjoyed this book as a read aloud this spring.  Their recommendation would be to track the characters on an anchor chart or in a notebook to support students' understanding.   I think Laura Shovan's beautiful collection of poems during a challenging school year would be a great middle grade read aloud.

Wolf Hollow was the first book I finished this summer and it is sure to be one of my favorite books of 2016!  There are so many deep messages in this book, including loyalty, kindness, honesty, and courage. You absolutely must read it!

Currently Reading

I am so grateful for this book recommendation from Carrie Thurston!  I'm halfway through Save Me a Seat and anxious to see how Ravi and Joe will work together to handle the challenges of Dillon, the class bully.  I know that I will be recommending this book as a middle grade read aloud!

Up Next

I am looking forward to reading Mystery of the Missing Fox!  My son and I are Tamra Wight fans!  My fingers are crossed that my grant proposal for an author visit with her is funded soon! I would love to share the Cooper & Packrat books as a community read aloud this year!

Both of these titles appear often on my Twitter feed.  I'm looking forward to reading them in the next few weeks!

Recent Professional Reading

If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it!  I'm looking forward to rereading it before school starts to prepare for sharing it with teachers this fall.  

Current Professional Reading
I'm excited to participate in the #cyberPD community discussions for DIY Literacy this summer.  Here's my recent post for Chapters 1 and 2, as well as the Bonus Chapter.  I'm looking forward to putting these teaching tools into practice this fall.

Up Next Professionally

I'm looking forward to gathering high impact practices to share with teachers next year!

#cyberPD ~ DIY Literacy Week 1

I am very excited to share my thinking this week on Chapters 1&2, as well as the Bonus Chapter in DIY Literacy!  This is the first time I have participated in cyberPD, so thank you to Cathy, Laura and Michelle for organizing this incredible opportunity.  I'm hoping to join some of the Twitter chats for the book in the next few weeks!

As I thought about how to organize my post, I decided to collect my favorite quotes in one post.  I also wanted to reflect on how I can share my learning with teachers in the fall. As an instructional coach, I am always reflecting on how I can share my professional learning with my colleagues.  

Chapter 1

Favorite Quotes to Share with Teachers

"True learning happens when students get the instruction that fits their needs, have the agency and motivation to work hard, and remember and recycle what they've learned." (pg. 2)

"...often we get trapped in the hamster wheel of breadth - of being sure we have gotten to everything - rather than catering our work on depth." (pg. 3)

"It is important to create authentic, deeply known repertoires of strategies for students, but sometimes these clear strategies become muddy from overcrowding." (pg. 5)

These three quotes resonated with me because teachers are always talking about how overwhelmed they are with the amount of content that needs to be covered.  I agree with Kate and Maggie that we need to focus on true learning, as we avoid the hamster wheel.  I love their reminder that less is more.  It's important to remember that students don't need more tools and strategies; they need a toolbox of tried and true strategies that they can rely on in a variety of situations.

As I share th
ese tools with teachers in the fall, I plan to emphasize the value of making learning stickier through using tools that are:
*make the abstract concrete, and
*encourage repeated practice.  It's easy to forget that one has to practice something for at least twenty-one days to make it a habit.  

Chapter 2

Favorite Quotes to Share with Teachers
"You are never strong enough that you don't need help." Cesar Chavez 
Teaching Charts 
  • "Both types of charts (repertoire and process) are lists to help students get going in their work largely by recording the teaching that has already taken place, preventing its loss in the sands of time." (pg. 13)
  • "The best charts, whichever the type, are those made in front of students and as collaboratively as possible." (pg. 13)
Demonstration Notebook
  • "A demonstration notebook is a collection of interactive lessons the teacher can use to demonstrate repeatedly with kids, whether individually in conferences or in small groups across the day, unit and year." (pg. 14)
  • "...only by knowing the full trajectory of a certain skill can we possibly create a pathway for how to get their with students." (pg. 18)
  • "Allowing students to decide and write down for themselves the teaching that is most helpful creates space for them to be self-directed and reflective on the teaching happening in the classroom." (pg. 19)
As I read this chapter, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could use these tools in my work as an instructional coach. Although I hope to share all of them in my professional development work with teachers (especially in the upper elementary grades), I think it's important for me to find ways to include these tools in my work in classrooms.  My plan is to create a demonstration notebook that can be a collection of my lessons in classrooms.  I would love to have a model that I can share with teachers, but I also think it would be an incredible way to archive my lessons in a variety of classrooms between two buildings.  I also plan to create a few model micro-progressions that I can share with teachers for reading and writing workshop during our professional development in the fall.  I agree with Kate and Maggie that zooming in on a smaller span of a skill's level and pairing each level with models can provide a visual and powerful path for both students and teachers.  The impact micro-progressions can have on student learning and reflection is exciting to me!  

Bonus Chapter
I love the reminders and guidance in this chapter on how to find help and how to mine our own work for strategies.  Most of all, I appreciated the reminders at the end of the chapter of common problems and obstacles, as I think I've encountered all of them at one time or another!

Be on the lookout for strategies that are too wordy.  (Guilty!)  Keep it simple.

Be on the lookout for strategies that are too general. (Guilty!) Make sure the strategy is clear.

Be on the lookout for cramming too much into one strategy or tool.  (Guilty!)  Once again, less is more.

I am looking forward to reading Chapters 3 and 4 this week and reflecting on memory and rigor. I looked at a few of the videos this spring before I purchased the book, so now that I have started reading, I'm excited to watch the videos again, as I think I will have a deeper appreciation and understanding!