Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Keeping Kids Connected

This year as we said our goodbyes my hope was to keep us connected across the summer.  I talked with students about keeping our Kidblog site open for them to stop by.  Many of my friends on Twitter participate in "It's Monday.  What Are You Reading?" posts.  Each Monday participants write about the books they are reading.  I thought this might be a great way to help our class to stay connected and learning this summer.

We've been out of school for two weeks.  So far about one third of the students have stopped by to post.  Students have been sharing their favorite books as well as what has been happening in their lives.  One student stopped by to share the news that he finally - after a year of waiting expectantly - lost his first tooth.  Another told us of cookies she helped her mom bake.  Many have talked about their reading and their participation in our library's summer reading program.

I'm hoping to improve the participation in summer blogging by adding my own posts regularly, commenting often, sending updates through our class news site on Shutterfly, and occasional emails to families.  We'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Literacy Through a New Lens

Today is another day of learning at Hilliard's Summer Academy (#hsa12).  Julie Johnson of Raising Readers and Writers and I are talking about the changes we have started to make in our classroom as we begin to look at literacy through a new lens.  How has literacy changed?  How should our classrooms look different as a result of these changes?

Writing and Reading Our 21st Century Lives (presentation link)

Other Helpful Links
Following are a list of bloggers that often push me to think about literacy through a news lens.

A Google doc of Some Favorite Literacy Links

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Twitter in Education: Building a PLN

Today I'm looking forward to talking with teachers about Twitter (#hsa12).  I don't know where I'd be without the professional network of colleagues of created on Twitter.  Carolyn Carr (Carolyn's Pinterest Board), Deb Frazier (Deb's Blog:  Primary Perspective) and I will be sharing some of the ways we use Twitter for professional learning, to collaborate, and to improve our practice.

Twitter in Education:  Building a Professional Learning Network

Important Links for Today
Twitter Survey:  Survey Monkey
Twitter Collaborative Doc:  Creating a PLN
Final Article:  12 Reasons to Get Your School District Using Twitter

You Might Also Like These Twitter Links:
My Twitter Pinterest Board (below are 3 of the links you'll find there in case you do not have access to Pinterest)

Twitter Chat Schedule
My Twitter Must-Haves:  People to Follow

Sunday, June 10, 2012

48 Hour Challenge: Finish Line Post

The Finish Line
Well, I did it.  With 754 minutes I just barely crossed the finish line of Mother Reader's 48 hour book challenge (the actual breakdown of time and books is at the bottom of this post).  However, it was a personal best for me (well, it was the first time I participated).  Best of all, I managed to read eleven books I think I may someday be able to recommend to students.  I did all of my reading on my Kindle.  It's nice to find titles available on the Kindle as I much prefer reading on an eReader device.

I began at 9 pm on Friday, June 8th, and finished this evening (Sunday, June 10th) at 9 at night.  This was the perfect way for me to get to know a few new titles.  I feel much more up-to-date thanks to the recommendations from my literacy colleagues on Twitter.

More Great Books
Trouble at the Zoo:  Bindi Wildlife Adventures by Bindi Irwin and Chris Kunz:  This book is one in a series of Wildlife Adventures based on the characters of Bindi, Robert, and Terri Irwin.  This is the family of Steve Irwin who dedicated his life to helping the public understand more about animals in the wild.  In this story, Bindi's birthday is being celebrated at the zoo in a big underwater sea themed event.  Lots of people visit the zoo to help Bindi celebrate and raise money to help save the whales.  Zac isn't happy to be spending his birthday at the zoo with his little sister.  He decides he might feel better if he is able to take home a water dragon.  Will Bindi be able to help?  There is an informational section at the end of the book that tells the reader more about the animals talked about in the story.

Marty McGuire by Kate Messner:  I liked Marty right from the start.  She's not a follower and has her own way of doing things.  It's obvious from the beginning that Marty likes science, nature and discovery. It's not surprising that she isn't happy to be given the part of the princess in her class play, "The Frog Prince."

Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth by Jane O'Connor:  Nancy enjoys a good mystery.  She and her friend, Bree, work to solve mysteries from their very own "Sleuth Headquarters."  Nancy can figure out who left fingerprints in her book, a secret a friend is keeping, but can she figure out who took Mr. Dudeny's special marble from the memento exhibit in their classroom?  I think readers would enjoy putting together the clues to help solve the mystery before Nancy and Bree can solve it.

The Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin:  I've enjoyed Doreen Cronin's picture books, and found this book did not disappoint.  This book, as I have come to expect from Doreen Cronin, is about a few animals left home alone.  As I would also expect, these animals are a little too smart for their own good.  Moosh, the chicken, comes to J.J., a retired rescue dog, for help finding her lost chicks.  It isn't long before J.J. realizes he has been set-up by the inside dog, Vince.  When J.J. tries to save the chicks he finds himself in a little over his head and on his way to the vet for surgery intended for Vince.  Will J.J. be able to escape from Vince's evil plan?  As the story unwinds we learn that some chicks will do anything for a good book.  (Gotta love that!)

The One and Only Stuey Lewis:  Stories From the Second Grade by Jane Schoenberg:  This was the last book I read in the 48 hour challenge.  It seemed perfect as I read the last chapter which talks about the importance of beginnings and endings.  Having just ended a school year, I could relate to Stuey's feelings of not wanting the year to end and his worries about the coming new school year.  This book is a collection of four short stories about Stuey Lewis and life in second grade.  In this book Stuey wrestles with learning to read, pulling of the greatest Halloween Caper ever, living up to his big brother's soccer abilities, and saying goodbye to second grade.  Stuey and his good friend Will stick together through all of this.  I think the short story structure of this book make it perfect for helping young readers transition into longer texts.

Other Books Read:
Wonder, Franki Pickle and the Closet of Doom, Ivy and Bean
Roscoe Riley Rules #1, Heidi Heckelbeck Has a Secret, Keena Ford and the Second Grade Mix-Up

Time Read
I used BookTime on my Kindle to keep track of my reading.  I loved this app as it allowed me track my time, pause when I needed to stop for a second, and record notes about my reading.  I might just keep track of my minutes across the summer.  Maybe I'd surprise myself.

During this challenge I clocked 754 minutes which is just over 12 and a half hours.  629 minutes (almost 10 and a half hours) were spent reading early chapter books.  I so appreciated this time to catch up on many titles I've been wanting to read.  91 minutes (about an hour and a half) were spent writing reviews.  I wrote this review after the 48 hours so it is not included in my time.  I spent 34 minutes networking for #48hbc.  I pledged $2 per hour to Reading is Fundamental.

48 Hour Challenge: Three Great Titles for Your Shelves

Mother Reader's 48 hour book challenge (#48hbc) is just what I needed to kick off the summer.  It is a great reminder of how perfectly wonderful it is to pull up a chair on my back patio, read books, and ignore the millions of other things I should be doing.  Best of all, I'm catching up on reading books that I should know more about.  Here are the next three I finished:

Wonder by R. J. Palacio:  For months Twitter has been abuzz about this book.  All my #nerbybookclub friends have recommended it.  Every one that reads it raves about it.  I finished Wonder this morning.  To say it is "Wonder"- ful is likely a bit cliche.  I'm sure it's been said before.  This story about August, "Auggie," who is coming to school for the first time since being home schooled.  What makes this an even bigger deal is that Auggie has basically been home schooled because of a birth defect.  I'm not sure he'd want it called a defect, but his face has abnormalities that have required surgeries to help make living easier for him.  These surgeries were not able to cosmetically improve his face.  You can imagine the challenges for a child and his family in these circumstances.

R. J. Palatio divided the book into parts told in first-person by a variety of characters.  I fell in love with all of the characters.  Auggie captures your heart immediately, but I have to say Via was my favorite character.  Her love for her brother, and her conflict over some of the challenges of being his sibling, were heartfelt.  When I finished the book I just didn't want to start a new book as I wanted to sit with these characters for awhile.  I know most of you reading this have already read Wonder, but if you haven't you really should.  It will make you see life a little differently.

Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom by Eric Wight.  This book was an enjoyable read.  I hadn't really expected the graphic breakaways.  I think young readers would enjoy the way the author has shown Frankie's little side trips into the world of make-believe as he transforms from Frankie to superhero ready to save the day.

Frankie is another one of those characters you can't help but like.  When Frankie's mom tells him he no longer has to clean his room - as long as he is willing to live with consequences - he is thrilled.  It's every kids' dream!  Things aren't always what we think they'll be.  Frankie learns a valuable lesson.  I can't wait to share this series with my students.  I think they'll be able to relate to this character.

Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows:  My Twitter friends never steer me wrong, and Ivy and Bean is no exception.  In this story, Bean has been watching her neighbor Ivy from afar.  Despite her mom's requests, Bean just can't see herself playing with Ivy.  She just doesn't seem exciting to Bean.  One day, Bean gets in a bit of an argument with her big sister, Nancy.  As she races away from Nancy, she finds her herself in Ivy's yard.  Ivy is happy to help Bean hide from her sister.  Bean finds she and Ivy have more in common than she first imaged as they make a secret plan of revenge for her sister, Nancy.

This book is going on my chapter read aloud list.  This book is full of descriptive language the kids will just love.  In one part, Nancy catches up to Ivy and Bean who throw worms at her in their fury.  These worms get caught in Nancy's shirt, her hair, and even her mouth.  Kids will love that!  The great thing is they can enjoy Ivy and Bean in several different books.

Well, back to my books.  Only 6 hours left in my 48 hour window.  What to read?  What to read?

Opening Minds to #cyberPD

Summer is the perfect time to catch up on summer professional reading.  Over the last few weeks, colleagues have been sharing their stacks of reading.  These posts are getting dangerous for me to read as my stack was already too big.  As I've stopped by blogs (Laura, Jill, Franki, Maria, NicoleJaquelyn) I've added more to my "to be read" pile knowing there will never be enough time.  So many little time.

We are happy to announce our July #cyberPD event.  Twitter has definitely made summer reading a greater learning experience as talking with colleagues about books helps me to think more deeply about ways to put this new learning into practice.  Last year, Laura Komos, Jill Fisch, and I hosted our first #cyberPD event where colleagues from all over talked together about Patrick Allen's:  Conferring (the entire conversation is living here).  The event was such a success, we wanted to host it again this year.  After viewing everyone's professional reading stacks we have decided upon Opening Minds by Peter Johnston.  This book seemed to be on a multitude of lists and is a professional read that would be helpful to educators in a variety of teaching and learning positions.

Opening Minds:   Event Schedule
I know everyone is excited to begin Peter Johnston's new book, but if you can wait until July we'd love to have you join us.  We are dividing the book into three sections.  Each week we will be posting a reflection on our blogs and the host blog will be the place to leave links of other blogs participating in the event.

July 11th  Chapters 1-3  Hosted here at Reflect and Refine
July 18th  Chapters 4-6  Hosted by Jill Fisch at My Primary Passion
July 25th  Chapter 7-9  Hosted by Laura Komos at Camp Read-a-Lot
July 26th  Twitter Chat (time to be announced)

How to Participate

  • Blog Reflection:  If you have a blog you may join us each posting date with your reflection of the chapters read.  Then link your blog to the host blog by leaving a comment and your link.  If you don't have a blog, but have been considering getting started this is the perfect opportunity.
  • Blog Commenting:  If you do not have a blog, you are welcome to comment on the host blog to join the conversation.
  • Twitter:  You can also participate by commenting any time on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberPD.  
  • Other:  Last year we had people participate using other sites as well.  If you can link, they will come.  :o)  We love a little creativity.  
Getting the Book
Peter's book is published by Stenhouse.  You can preview the book at their website.  The book is available in hard copy or e-book. (Though I haven't found it in an e-reader version yet that allows you to highlight and annotate.  Please let me know if you discover it somewhere.)  
We look forward to learning with all of you in July.  I hope you'll join us!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

48 Hour Book Challenge: Early Chapter books

This is year number seven for Mother Reader's 48 Hour Book Challenge.  Every year I say I'm going to take the plunge and join the madness, but it is always such a busy time of year.  Between graduations, ending school years, and trying to get life back together it just never seems to work.  This year, I decided despite graduation festivities and other calendar obligations, I was going to give it a try.  (I swear it wasn't so I could sit on the patio and watch my husband mulch the flowerbeds.)  I made a plan, downloaded Book Time to track my reading, and picked a starting time.  On your mark, get set, READ!  (Book reviews at the bottom of this post.)

I decided this challenge was the perfect time to learn about some new beginning chapter books.  I'm a picture book gal and honestly hope the children I teach will enjoy picture books for as long as they can.  However, I know I have some obligation to learn more about beginning chapter books.  I know that reading these books is an important step in the reading lives of young learners.  I knew I needed titles beyond Junie B. Jones, Magic Tree House, and Henry and Mudge --- all of which I love.   This challenge does not include picture books which was perfect for providing incentive to catching up on  some transitional titles.  

I did what I always do when I have such a dilemma, I sent out a tweet.

My colleagues on Twitter never disappoint me.  Ask and you shall receive.
Thanks to @frankisibberson, @literacydocent, @sylive_shaffer, @komos72, @utalaniz, @lorilovesbooks, @mselke01, @jillfisch@donalynbooks, and @jmalphy I had list in hand.  Thankfully, most of the titles were available on the Kindle.  (That's a post for another day!)  I loaded the Kindle and began.

Early Chapter Series Books
Here are the first three books.  I love that each one is a part of series.  When I talk with people who are real readers --- the kind that will hide to read, avoid work to read, escape to quiet places to read --- they always talk of a series that was significant in their reading journey.

Roscoe Riley Rules #1:  Never Glue Friends to a Chair by Katherine Applegate.  This book made me laugh.  Roscoe seems to have a tendency to make decisions that might not be in his best interest.  As Roscoe tells us, "It's not that I try to find ways to get into trouble.  It's just that trouble has a way of finding me."

In this book a performance for parents, a class of students with a first year teacher, and some super-mega-gonzo glue create an interesting series of events.  At least Roscoe's intentions were good.  This book is the first in a series and I'm looking forward to finding out what other adventures lie ahead with Roscoe.

Heidi Heckelbeck Has a Secret by Wanda Coven.  In this book, Heidi is the beginning of her second grade year.  What makes the start of the school year more unusual is that Heidi has been home schooled until this day.  While her brother is quite excited about attending kindergarten, Heidi is not sure she feels she the same.  Heidi feels like she doesn't fit in to this new environment and Melanie doesn't make life any easier for her.

I enjoyed getting to know the character in this book, but felt like the book ended without a solution.  I'm going to have to read book number two to see what happens next.

Keena Ford and the Second Grade Mix-Up by Melissa Thomson.  I love love loved this book.  I loved the character.  I loved the writing.  I can't wait to read the next one!

It's true I loved Keena from the start.  I teach first grade so how can I not love a character leaving first grade and getting ready to start second?  How can I not love a character who journals --- even if it is to keep herself out of trouble?  How can I not love a character who seems to unintentionally get herself into some sticky situations?  How can I not love a character who loves a good dessert and will do most anything to find one?

In this book it is the beginning of the school year and Keena has just found out she will not be in her best friend Eric's class this year.  To make matters worse, she has just found out she will be in a class with all girls and he will be in a class with all boys.  Keena's not sure she will like a room that is pink and makes time for yucky tea parties.  However, when she gets to school she finds she might just like her new teacher and classroom.  However, telling the teacher her birthday is in September when it is in February and getting caught hiding under Eric's teacher's desk make for a rocky start to her year.  Like Roscoe, Keena doesn't intentionally get herself into these sticky situations.  Keena is definitely going to our school shelf!

Well, back to reading (maybe a break for some weeding too).  Thanks, friends, for the terrific recommendations!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Closing a Community: Time to Reflect and Celebrate

The end is as important as the beginning.  After spending a year learning beside one another, I want the year to end as a celebration of all we have accomplished.  When you think about it, it is the last time that community will be together.  As May began we started reflecting on our year, celebrating our accomplishments, and planning our future learning.  Despite my best planning, the last day was a bit of a rush, but for the most part the year ended smoothly.

Here are a few ways we took time to reflect, celebrate, and prepare for next year's first graders.  (Yes, I've learned to create the bulletin boards and wall displays for the following school year opening with the students leaving the classroom.  It actually makes for a welcoming transition.)

Time to Reflect
  • Reflecting on Our Reading Lives:  With two to three weeks left in the year I like to take time to reflect on all we have read.  We consider the authors, genres, characters, and favorites we've had across the year.  Keeping track of our books through Shelfari makes this task even easier.  This year, students commented with some of their favorites on a post I had written on Kidblog.  This was quick and easy.  
  • Book Recommendations:  After talking about our favorites for a few days, students then created recommendation sheets for next year's readers.  After choosing a few favorites students drew a picture and wrote a quick blurb to make next year's class want to read that book.  Each student made about four recommendations.  These will hang on the bulletin board at the beginning of next school year along with some favorite character posters drawn by this year's class.
  • First Grade Wordle:  You know how those conversations go with colleagues.  Carolyn on our team had just created wordles with her class about themselves.  These were hanging when Deb and I started talking about the end of year and somehow we came up with an idea to write wordles for the end of the year.  I had students make a list in their writer's notebooks about things they love about first grade.  Then we came together in a circle and took turns sharing things on our lists.  I typed these into wordle as students shared.  At the beginning of next year I will have the wordle copied poster size and hang it in our hall to greet the new first graders.
  • Reflecting on Our Writing Lives:  Each year I have the best of intentions to send writing home across the year, but it never quite happens.  As usual, at the end of the year we were staring at quite a stack of writing.  We gathered our finished writing and then took time to look through out best work.  We talked about how we had changed as writers.  Students filled out a quick reflection about all they had learned as writers.  This year I was happy to see more comments about writing in different genres and developing a process for writing.  We took time to separate our very best work into a special folder.  This folder went home with student reflections for parents to enjoy.
  • Next year:  Writing this I realize I need to find a way to reflect and celebrate our learning in math and content areas as we end our year.  Something to ponder.  

How do you celebrate learning at the end of your year?  Please comment with the ways you've discovered to close your community at the end of the year.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Writer's Notebooks: Capturing Summer Stories

It's hard to believe we are at the end of our school year.  It seems just yesterday my students and their families walked into our classroom for the first time with smiles of hopeful anticipation.  It seems only yesterday we started our writer's workshop.  Since then we've learned a lot about each other.  We've studied the work of authors, learned about craft, supported one another in writing, and shared our stories.

One of the ways we've learned to work as writers is by using a writer's notebook.  Early in the year we learned to collect ideas for our writing in these small containers for later development.  Some students liked to draw pictures in their notebooks.  Others preferred to make lists, web ideas, map stories, or just quickly jot ideas about a topic.

I realized the writer's notebook might be the perfect way to keep them writing through the summer.  After all, summer is the perfect time to capture stories.  When you are seven, summer is full of adventure.  Last week I gave the students writer's notebooks as part of their end of year gift.

On Friday, students brought items to decorate their notebook to make it their own.  These young writers came in with pictures of themselves doing what they loved, photos of family, pictures of favorite animals, stickers --- oh, yes --- and glitter glue AND duct tape.  They quickly went to work decorating their notebooks.  I was impressed by how quickly they mastered the art of duct tape.  It was quite a sight to watch them personalize their notebooks.

Yesterday I went into school to cover them with Modge Podge.  I had to smile as I looked at the notebooks; each one a representation of its owner.  I could see their stories right on their notebooks.  There were the animals G loves.  The grandfather M misses so much.  The brother E loves to write about.  The lizards N cares for every day.

As they left school Friday afternoon I heard one of my students say, "I already know what I'm going to put in my writer's notebook first - the story of H's birthday party."  Yep, they get it.

When we return in the fall, I am having a lunch with these writers to share the jottings we've collected across the summer in our writer's notebooks.  I'm going to miss this group of students, but their stories will stay with me always.