Friday, December 15, 2017

What's in a number? Details!

Today was the last day of the first hour, fifth grade, journal writing goal attempt.   At the beginning of the second quarter we set a goal to write 25,000 words in eight weeks.  That's 25,000 words for 12 students for eight weeks.  The numbers worked out to around 300 words per student, per week.  I don't know if that is a high word count, or not, but it's what I came up with.  Always before I had approached student journal writing by saying just write about the topic.  I have never put a number qualifier on writing.  This was something new to me.   But, I decided to try it. By knowing that they had a number goal to meet, they spent more time trying to add details to add more words.  More details are a good thing. 

My ideas with this goal was to get students to write.  I haven't ever assigned a grade based on a word count.  I do look for quality over quantity.  I know what the research says about requiring a word amount.  However,  I just wanted them to write and maybe get lost in the details, literally.  I wanted them to have some incentive to write more.  I have learned that students do use excuses to not write, sometimes.  

I'm very proud to announce that they met and surpassed their goal.  They wrote almost 27,000 words!  We are celebrating next week!  

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Reading Lives

A few days ago my 6th grade library class talked about reading lives.  What does that look like?  Obviously, it's different for everyone.  Sometimes, we measure reading lives with how many books  read.  Sometimes,  we measure reading life by how consistently we read:  every day, once a week during silent reading time during library class or sporadically without anyone reminding us.

My reading life ebbs and flows with ups and downs.  I'm kind of in a standstill right now.  I'm hoping that it picks up over Christmas break.  It seems as though everything is crazy at this time of year.  I'm taking time to write this because I just can't not write.  My goal last year was to read more.  My goal this year is to blog more. I write every day.  I don't have many blog posts, but I write every day.  I journal with my students.  I follow the writing prompt just like they do.  I have to write something everyday.

A random fun thing happened yesterday.  A popular children's writer liked my Instagram post.  Yay! I like that we can connect with those who we respect and want to be like (a writer...)

A random fun thing happened today too.  A group of students came to the lab to write a three page paper assigned by their music teacher about the three songs that have influenced them the most.  They were struggling.  The writing teacher in me came out.  I couldn't help myself.  I guided them through finding ways to add information to their essays.  I felt so needed.  It was a good feeling!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Kindness with a side of Donuts

Earlier I tweeted a video from CBS Sunday morning about a person who decided to spend the last two years of his life empowering children to do good.  As I understand it, it all began with his desire to take a Krispy Kreme donut truck and go to a school and just give away donuts.  It grew into grants that children could apply for to fund projects and ideas they could come up with to help others. Wow!

What a great story.  I decided to share it because I think we need more good news.  I think that we are better than what the news tells us we are.  I know that we need to be informed about things that are going on.  I realize that the news can't be all about good.  There are horrible, awful things going on in the world that we need to be aware of.  But, do we really need to go on and on about bad behavior.   It's like that old adage that as a teacher I have heard time and time again:  Children will get your attention.  And, if you don't give them regular attention and encourage them to be good, they will get your attention with bad behavior so that you have no choice but to pay attention to them.  I'm beginning to think there is not a age limit for this.

Our children will look at us when they are overwhelmed by a situation.  We have choices to make when this happens.  We can calmly assess the situation and figure out if their need for our attention is because they truly need us to help or they just need acknowledgment from us.  Or, we can overreact and feed into a common condition with today's youth, the need to be rescued.  Problem solving is an important skill.

I just finished the book Wonder by RJ Palacio with my 5th grade class.  Auggie shows a lot of tenacity.  Sometimes he struggles with problem solving, but luckily he has a lot of help from friends and family.  As the theme of the book goes, I encouraged my students to show kindness to each other.  My goal is to show kindness this week and always.  I hope I get it right.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sunday School Conversations and Rick Bragg

This has been a great weekend.  Several things happened to make that so.    First of all my youngest son took about a minute, 15 seconds, off his personal best in the high school cross country meet he ran in.  And, in that same day, my other son came home for a visit.  He’s busy in college and it’s a rarity that he just drives home for an afternoon.  I’m so glad he did!

Second,  my youngest  was the only one in Sunday School class this weekend.  Normally, I wouldn’t say this is a good thing because of course we all want all of our young ones to be in Sunday school class, especially once they become teenagers.  However, it was just he and I (the teacher… don’t you wish your mom was your Sunday school teacher… nope!)  Anyway, the lesson was about Satan’s influence on our lives.  The lesson began by telling how that Satan was one of God’s leading angels and then he decided to take on God and, of course, he lost the battle and was cast out of Heaven, and so on.   We talked about his and the Garden of Eden and Eve’s choice  and how the apple was not the problem, disobedience was the problem.  I took a moment to say to him that even though he is not perfect and does sometimes makes mistakes, he take the advice his father and I give and does better.  

He’s getting ready to go to college and that’s a scary thing for me.  I know that just like the other two, he is so wanting to make the world a fair and better place that I worry he will not always see the danger that lies just ahead.  I hope that over the next two years,  I can have time to instill in him things to look for and be wary of.  I keep telling myself, my other two children have navigated moving away from my watchful eye successfully, I have no need to worry about him.

Finally, the third thing … I introduced him to Rick Bragg’s essays on the last page of Southern Living magazine.    We had a conversation about how my fantasy of the South is usually about plantation homes and football tailgates with lots of friends and lazy Sunday drives with the top down.  I explained to him that I know that is not the true version of the South.  It’s quite a bit more complicated than that.  But, I like my fantasy.  Living in Southern Missouri I realize I’m not a true Southerner… I only play one in my head.  The thing I like about Rick Bragg is that his essays mix my version and the real version effortlessly.   So before you look at all the wonderful decor and recipes in that magazine, be sure you read the last page.

I’m going to have to fit more of these conversations with my youngest in during the next two years.  Or, maybe I’ll do what I have threatened with the other two and just go off to college with him.  Think he’d go for that?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

#nErDcampMI... oh Wow!

When I began this journey as a librarian I looked for resources.  I had the certificate telling me I was a certified librarian and I had attended some webinars and I was not shy in asking questions of my neighboring school librarians, but I decided to learn more.  I thought about checking into an MLIS; I'm still thinking about it.  

I'm not sure how I found popular bloggers.  I probably searched for popular literacy bloggers or perhaps book experts.  Who knows... I came upon several blogs including Nerdy Book Club,  Colby Sharp's Sharpread and Mr. Schu's MrSchureads.  That led me to nErDcampMI.  I had watched from afar for the first few years, but this year was different.  I attended!

It's really difficult to describe what this is like.  The attendees are authors and literacy experts and librarians and teachers.  There were 1600 people there and if I could have I would have stood and conversed with all of them.  Of course there was some awesome giveaways and there were a few vendors.  There were book giveaways and books you could buy.  The pre-conference panel focused on diversity and there were workshops and panels about lots of different things.  

I can't begin to say thank you enough to all those who volunteered to make this a truly worthwhile event.  I came home with a new clarity.  I came home with lots of books.  And, I came home with memories of an experience I will not soon forget!  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

It's Sunday night.. Are you ready to go back to school? I am!

The year is slowly winding down.  There are four weeks to go in the school year.  I'm teaching summer school and so I'll be back to work the Monday, after the Thursday, of the last day of school.  Summer school s a wonderful way for me to extend student's reading adventure and also teach somethings that I am enjoy like sewing and cooking and theater, etc. And, it will be over by June 16th.  So, that leaves an entire eight  weeks of summer vacation left.  Yay!

I have big plans this summer!  Myself and a colleague are traveling to nerdcampMI in Parma, MI!  I can't wait to absorb information.  When I first became a librarian I sought out practical information about how to facilitate student learning about books in the library.  I knew all the practical stuff, but I wanted realistic advice about what books to purchase, what authors to follow, etc, etc, etc.  I found several blogs that were very helpful including nerdybookclub, sharpread, mrschureads, vanmeterlibraryvoice, and scholastic to name a few.   I can't wait to meet some of these authors and teachers in Michigan this summer.

I'm also going to travel to the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum.  I've always wanted to go there.  When I first became a librarian her books had made a resurgence.  This year checkout has gone down a bit.  I'm hoping to find some inspiration to get them back in steady rotation again.

So,  I guess you could say that my vacation will be spent continuing my quest for more information to make the library the best it can be.  I want it to be better next year.  The middle school communication arts teacher and I are doing a book study on Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer.   She came in the library about a week ago and said that she was reading this book.  And my reply was, I'm re-reading this book!  We've decided to team up.  Makes sense.  Even though I'm a K-12 librarian, my most frequent clientele are 3-6 grades.  How can I make it better?  I'm always looking for information.

I hope you're planning for an exciting summer!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Twitter as a Professional Development Source

We all know the value of Twitter as a source of information.  There is a lot of stuff out there!  I teach in a small school and although my administrators have been very supportive of me and all our teachers attending conferences, we obviously can't attend something every week or even every month.  We all try to get to one each year.  

Twitter offers a way for me to keep in touch with other educators and librarians and to continue to learn daily and weekly.  I follow some of the most interesting people in the literacy field including authors, librarians, teachers and administrators.  

I just finished #titletalk facilitated by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp.  There were probably 30 to 40 teachers and librarians in on this chat.  It was awesome.  I have always wanted to join this.  I am ashamed to say, this was the first one I have gotten to.  It won't be the last.  I have already set it up to re-occur in my calendar.  

Tonight we chatted about summer reading.  How do we keep students engaged.  Lots of ideas floated around.  The ones I gravitated to, that seemed realistic to me, were setting up a book swap before the end of the year, opening the library during summer school 2or 3 days a week, and maybe... setting up a little free library on our main street.  

Another thing that was discussed at length was the value of offering incentives to reading.  Does it hinder students becoming lifelong readers.  I am going to be reading the research on this.  Interesting topic.  It kind of flies in the face of what we buy into.  

I have a lot of books on my pile for summer.  I think I'll get an early start, like now!