Sunday, June 23, 2013

Thinking Part 5 (The Art of Discovery)

I was part way through this chapter (of Mosaic of Thought) when I went to see a movie with my family. The movie provided me the perfect opportunity to practice questioning (did you miss that? read about it now).

So, to finish the chapter was a bit anti-climactic, but a few notes pop out at me.

1. Asking questions can help you get grounded in a story (proof of that)

2. Most students aren't aware of their questions and need to observe a proficient reader generate questions during think-aloud lessons (that is how I finally got it)

3. Questions can reveal more about children's thinking than do quick answers

This book suggests strategy studies. To spend 4-6 weeks studying one strategy, then add another on.

So, as I am thinking about next year I wonder--could that work for me and my first graders? Time to get out the Common Core Standards and match them up with these strategies.  

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Story about a Desk

Like most schools, my school has a carnival in the spring. This carnival is planned by the PTO, and run by the PTO, but teachers come and work and reap the benefits of this carnival.

There are games (a cake walk, ring toss, and loads more), a bouncy house, food, and a silent auction.

I worked at the lei and sunglasses station. Give me some tickets, I will give you some merchandise.

When my friend came to help me she sent me off to have a look around. I scanned the silent auction.

Halfway around the circuit I spotted an old-fashioned desk that had been refinished. It was gorgeous. I noticed who donated it. The family of one of my students.

There was one bid on it. So I added one. $30. It is a steal. While I was standing and admiring the desk the grandpa (who had done the work on the desk) started talking to me.

"It should go for no less than $150." "I spent 10 hours working on it." "I hope you get it."

Back at the lei table I told my friend about it. (She is a big auction gal.) She sent me off again to see if anyone bid after me. The nerve of another person. She bid $40! I went to $50.

But I was sweating, my husband had no idea I was bidding. 

Talked to Grandpa a bit. Back to my table. This time I was watching to see who it was I was bidding against.

This back and forth bidding went on for another 20 minutes. I was shaking. I wanted the desk, but what would my husband say?

Now Grandpa came and found me at my lei table to let me know that the other lady had the bid at $125. I just couldn't make another bid. So the lucky lady got my desk.

On the last day of school Grandpa told me that he is on the lookout for a desk for me, and then he would refinish it.

Two weeks ago I got lucky. While driving through town I spotted a similar desk at a garage sale. I swerved into a parking spot, raced to the driveway and looked at that desk.

It was in bad shape, but I brought it home with me. This desk was bought at a school auction. The middle school that my husband went to, and that my children attend. Cool history.

After making arrangements with Grandpa, and leaving it with him for a week, I got to go and get it today. It is gorgeous.

It will go to school with me in August. I'm not sure how I will use the desk, but I love it.

Thanks Grandpa!

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Five for Friday (June 21, 2013)


Summer Fridays seem almost like summer Mondays. Lazy, hot, do what I want when I want, drink as much water as I want, because I can use the restroom multiple times a day (and with no time limits), and sleep/nap to my hearts content.

Enough of that. Time to review my week and share five random happenings, and then link up with Kacey at Doodle Bugs.


I don't buy sugar cereal. But sometimes I want to spoil my kids. So, while a boy was away at summer camp, I bought the other boy a box of Lucky Charms. A box all to himself. Doesn't have to share it with anyone. Of course, when the other boy went to camp, I had to buy another box of Lucky Charms for the boy who had already been at camp. (Confused yet?) There is only one problem. One box was bigger than the other. And the boy with the smaller box now wants some of the other box. This is called spoiling gone wrong.

2. No picture for this one. I spent Tuesday with my 2 buddies from school. We met up and headed to Wichita. We leisurely shopped at a Goodwill, had a leisurely lunch at an elegant eatery, and leisurely shopped at ROSS. At times we caught ourselves talking about school (mostly it was me going on and on about comprehension, Mosaic of Thought, and planners), but tried to turn it around and asked each other questions. So thankful for friends and time to spend with them.


Wednesday was spent at a PD day. My brother-in-law (who is an amazing teacher) recommended to me last September to go to any LETRS training I could ever go to. I had no idea what it was. Didn't spend any time researching it. When my district announced this LETRS training in May to happen in June I jumped in. Because my b-i-l said to do it way back when. I'm so glad I did. 

Now to get my hands on other modules...


Not sure what other teacher's homes look like, but this is mine. My basement is overrun with boxes of files and books and binders. Yesterday I found a spark of motivation and started getting together all my files for "Back-to-School." That bit of organization led to the above picture. In the process I found: my SAT scores from 1989; my PPST scores from 1992; job search files from 1994, 2001, and 2009; and every teaching contract I have ever signed. Better head back down and create a bit more walking space.


Today I gave myself a pedicure. I soaked my feet in bath salts made at Ag Camp, put on some foot cream, put on pedi socks my mom made, and then added polish. Now my toes are all ready for my business trip next week.

I am traveling with 8 colleagues to Minnesota for the National Ag in the Classroom conference. (I went last year as well, it was in Colorado. Read about my fun times here.) It feels crazy to call it a business trip, but that is what my buddy calls it and she knows about this stuff.

Alrighty folks, head over, read posts, leave comments. Have a wonderful First Day of Summer!

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I Tried It, and I Liked It

I'm like a teacher that has something new to try out. It is all I can talk about. My family and friends are probably tired of hearing about it. But I am so excited that I just can't help myself.

Comprehension Strategies.

The "stuff" that has had me crying (what in the world are they talking about?) and wondering (how do they know this stuff?).

Tonight my son, husband and I went to see the Star Trek movie. They were both surprised that I agreed to go.

I generally cannot sit through a movie. I ask a lot of questions. They get tired of my questions. I get frustrated. They get frustrated. I wonder when the movie will finally be over. We don't have a good time.

Tonight was different.

I went with the idea that I would sit, do my best to sit through the whole movie and be happy to be together. (If I watch a movie it's more along the line of a chick-flick, so this movie was outside of my genre comfort zone.)

This is what happened.

The movie started. I started thinking and a question popped into my head. Instead of being frustrated that I didn't "get it" I posed the question (to myself) like I read about in Mosaic of Thought. Then I asked myself another question!

These questions weren't really meant to be answered and I knew that as I was asking them. I was asking them to help me understand the movie. Just like I read about!

I continued posing questions. Then I whipped out my tiny notebook from my purse and started writing notes and questions in it. That was a bit tricky in the dark theater, but I wanted to make sure that I remembered. And the next thing I new I was enjoying the movie! 

The authors of Mosaic of Thought wrote that to enjoy a book you have to understand (comprehend) it. I guess the same could be said for movies.

At some point I realized that I wasn't asking questions (or writing in my notebook), but truly into the story. 

I am learning skills and strategies! And applying them on my own!

Watch out first graders--we are going to rock the comprehension strategies next year.

I think there are a lot of movies I should watch, now that I have skills and strategies to understand them. Or maybe I should get a book of poetry.

I feel like I've just learned to read, I have some catching up to do.

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Why do we think about thinking?

Are you tired of all this thinking yet? 

I have my "I'm done" moments. But I also have "Wow, this is so cool" moments.

I've read four chapters of Mosaic of Thought so far. It has a lot of background knowledge (good for me),  and many stories to keep me entertained.

You know how when you get to see someone else teach, or see their room, or look at their "stuff" how cool that is, right? Well, that is what this book is like.

I don't see the room, but there is so much narrative about how some teachers are teaching. And I am just loving reading that.

Do you remember having education professors teach some content, but not in the way they have taught you to teach? This book is nothing like that.

The authors have included many think-alouds that are oriented to teaching me, at my level of understanding. Then, they give narratives about teaching children. See...amazing.

What have I learned recently that made me go hummmmm?

**As a piece of writing is read or listened to, what ever number of readers/listeners that there are, there are that many insights and streams of understanding. And each one is valid.

**Gone are the days (like in my high school days) when a class reads a poem and there is one "right" theme. There may be many, there ought to be many. Because each reader has their own background knowledge to bring to the piece and when each person works at making meaning what they understand is unique to them.

**If the above is true (and it makes sense to me that it is), then why are the students given state standardized tests and asked what is main idea? Both of my sons (who are strong readers) HATE the tests. This is what they tell me--I can narrow it down to 2, but then how do you know? I just have to guess, and I don't want to guess.

So what's next? Finish this book, because it is helping me grow my own background knowledge of what comprehension strategies I use. 

Then read Reading with Meaning by Debbie Miller. Many friends are recommending it. So I will buy it with a bookstore gift card. 

Why do we think about our thinking? Because it helps us understand what we are reading, and we enjoy our books so much more when we are comprehending them.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Thinking Part 3

Thinking about thinking some more.

Chapter 3 in Mosaic of Thought is titled "Mindful Reading."

As I began this chapter I wrote in my journal this--"When reading I don't really monitor my thinking. Only when I read technical pieces/books. Fiction, poetry, songs are all surface levels of understanding. Why would I need to do more?"

By the end of the chapter I came around to understand that I am doing way more than I even thought I was. I didn't have the words to describe what I have been doing, or notice that I was doing it. Hence, the problem with teaching comprehension.

If I do not know what I do or how I do it or why I do it, I cannot possibly be able to teach those skills to someone else.

The authors gave an amazing list of what proficient readers do when reading on pages 63-65. It was this list that led me to understand that I am using those skills and strategies. Hallelujah! I have assimilated the strategies to the extent of using them without even knowing it. Not sure I can teach them yet, but at least I am effectively using them when I read fiction (and nonfiction).

Two long narratives captivated me. I loved the first one about a high school teacher named Cris. She very creatively taught struggling readers about monitoring for meaning and how to do it. After she taught them, they practiced using their textbooks (science, math) and manuals (computer, SAT forms).

I may not have cared about this in high school and might have thought it stupid to be taught this, but I think it would be great to have a school full of teachers like Cris.

The other narrative was set in an elementary class.

Not only do we get to read about her good instruction, we are privy to her thinking as she teaches. That in itself is great to read.

I need no longer fear when a student is not comprehending. I will celebrate the opportunity to learn together.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Year of the Planner

Last school year has become known as "The Year of the Pencil Sharpener." Remember the craze last summer, August, September? Everyone was posting about this pencil sharpener...

I got mine (in red, of course) on August 18, 2012. (My purchase story is here. Many teachers can relate to it.) The sharpener went to school with me and 9 were ordered by PTO for our classrooms and the office. AMAZING.

My husband refers to the 2012-2013 school year as the "Year of the Pencil Sharpener." As in...
1. Remember, that happened in the year of the pencil sharpener.
2. We took a trip to Disney World in the year of the pencil sharpener.

It is time for the new year to begin. 2013-2014 is now known as "The Year of the Planner."

Love it!

This was by my front door this afternoon. A box from Erin Condren.

(Not sure why the FedEx guy never rings the doorbell, I would smile and be polite to him...)

The fancy packaging.

The week after school was out, as I was blog reading, I came to a blog with a video that went through the planner, section by section. I was SOLD! But the price. Could I really justify it?

(Certainly wish I could remember whose blog I was at...There has to be a way to search--like in Google Reader--but I haven't figured it out.)

I tried to recreate the planner with free pages from TpT. But I still had to bind it, and the wonderful laminated front cover? So amazing.

With one day left in the teacher appreciation sale (15% off) my husband said, sure, order it.

I was hesitant, do I really do it? Will it be wonderful? Is there something better?

Yes, do it. It is wonderful. I have not seen anything better.

So begins the year of the planner.
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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Thinking Part 2

Time to get back to "Thinking About Thinking,"and chapter 2 of Moasic of Thought.

As a teacher I want to lead my students toward loving to read. What an ambitious statement. If I break it down, what does it mean?

Years ago I was a special education teacher. I took many hours of training in how to teach children to read. I mean, decode. As I spoke with other sped teachers we all agreed on one thing. Teaching children to decode was easy (relatively), but when it came to teaching them how to comprehend we were all wondering how.

Now I'm a first grade teacher. Decoding is fun, exciting, rewarding. Comprehension is what, how, when? So the same questions.

I also work in a district that has not had a basal for 15 or so years. Many of us have been crying this past year, just give us a basal and we will be happy. But that is not in the plan--at least until something is really Common Core aligned.

If we have a basal, will we be able to get the kids to read (and comprehend)? That is what a majority of us thought would happen.

But now I have my own questions about a basal series. The basal will not make me a better teacher. The basal will give me a false sense of security. I need Professional Development in comprehension instruction. I need to know my students and what they need. I need to immerse myself in comprehension lesson design. 

The good news is that I think I am on the right track. I have my group of core teachers that will wrestle with comprehension with me and a plan for next year.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Thinking About Thinking

So many times I think, "How did she know that?" Or, "I never learned about that in college."

Right now I'm referring to reading comprehension.

This year my buddies and I had several conversations about read-alouds, comprehension and good teaching. Mrs. Roux was super pumped about this book.

I bought it on Memorial Day and read chapter 1 this morning. 

Can you say, "a bit overwhelmed?" I took notes, wrote down questions that I hope will be answered, and sighed a lot.

When I went to college I had NO IDEA that teaching was this thought-provoking. Or this scary. My job is to teach these kids. Not just sounds and sight words, but how to comprehend a text. Heck, I'm not sure how I even comprehend a text. It just happens (or it doesn't and I put the text away). 

So, I'm thinking I better get on to the next chapters. Get some information, ideas, and learn what I need to know.

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Friday, June 7, 2013

What a Week! What a Day!

I'm so tired I don't even want to write this. But I need to write this. So, here goes...

Doodle Bugs Teaching has a great weekly linky party that I like to participate in. It is a fun (and structured) way to share about my day.

1. Our students ran a farmer's market today. The adults helped out also. The adults hauled the goods (baked goods, flowers/plants, artwork and tables) two blocks to the convenience store and set up shop. These kids are holding a sign to encourage motorists to stop and buy. See the orange cones? That was the line to stay behind. US 50 is on the other side of the line. 

2. These sweeties will be in first grade in August. The redhead spent the whole time with me, just hanging out and chatting.

3. Some kids passed the time with sidewalk chalk. This friend got really messy with the chalk, but he had a great time.

4. This farmer arrived on his tractor. After he bought some rolls, he left again.

5. I spent the afternoon putting the finishing touches on my classroom. I may be moving. I'm not sure when I find out. I started to pack, but then decided to wait. So today was the "throw everything into a cupboard/shelf/cabinet day." Guess that will be waiting for me in August or July.

 (And my van packed full of all the STUFF I may or may not need over the summer.)

End of the year happens twice for me. Once in May. And another today. Tomorrow I can take 3 naps and watch HGTV all day long (at least when I'm awake).

Ag Camp was great, and we are already planning for next June and that Ag Camp.

By the way... Remember the cow paintings we made? Every.Single.One. sold today. The paintings were bought by either the child or a parent of the child that created the painting. Even my painting sold. My mother-in-law bought it. That made me smile. But it also made me sad (I wanted to take my painting home with me). But maybe I can see it when I visit her and I have a photo of it.

Take a little trip over to 

and see what my friends have been up to. Leave a comment if you want or follow a new-to-you blog. I love finding a new blog.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ag Camp

School was officially over May 23. 

Last week was a lazy week. Some reading. Some thinking. Loads of HGTV watching.

This week is "Back to School." The Ag Camp way.

Our students have the option of coming to camp (one week, 8-12) at school. We volunteer to run centers. This year we are lucky to have 6 centers that the kids rotate through.

1. Kitchen: so far they have made strawberry jam, cinnamon rolls, dog biscuits.

2. PE: cup stacking, Wii, Minute to Win it.

3. Wheat weaving: stars and I'm not sure what else.

4. Painting: (This is my center.) We have been working on a cow painting. Tomorrow is a watercolor (I have yet to decide the subject.)

5. Soybeans: making products from soybeans like lip balm, bath salts and hand lotion.

6. Tie dye and garden: they tie dyed shirts on Monday, and then harvested potatoes and onions from our garden.

Tomorrow is our last day of doing the centers, because on Friday we will sell it all at our Farmer's Market. We will walk the two blocks to the convenience store and set up shop. We will be open until we are out of products.

I am totally in love with our cow paintings.

The idea came from Art Projects for Kids. (I love that site, go check it out!)

And because we are selling this art, each child did their painting on a real piece of canvas!

Day 1 (Monday): Draw the cow following my directions. The kids used a pencil. Then went over all lines with a Sharpie.

Day 2 (Tuesday): Paint the cow.

Day 3 (Wednesday): Add Mod Podge to seal the painting.

 (I love this picture.)

This is my cow. I HAD to do one, right? As an example? I loved it.

I'm kinda looking forward to next week when I can be lazy again...

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Saturday, June 1, 2013

It's June!

Happy June my friends!

Lazy days. Thoughts of healthy lifestyles. Books and HGTV to devour. 

Perhaps some good Writing Workshop reading.

And the June Currently by Farley at Oh Boy Fourth Grade

My son watched the movie Les Mis this spring and fell in love with the music. We have a CD soundtrack and he loves listening to it. And singing along. And I love listening to him. He loves Les Mis so much that my husband is taking him to see a production this summer. Just the two of them. I'm so happy for them.

The weather was just right. Cool enough for sweats and a nap. If I had plans to be outside I may not have liked it quite so much.

Knowing that I will be back at school next week for Ag Camp, I didn't find it necessary to really clean up yet. School was out on May 23, and I have spent only 3 hours on cleaning/packing. Not nearly enough.

I ordered an Erin Condren Teacher Planner yesterday. I could have spent a lot of time printing, planning and binding a less expensive planner, but I am getting a dreamy planner. (Erin Condren Teacher Planner)

Needing to pack. I will be switching classrooms. Not grade levels. But holy moly! Two teachers retired in my room, so my stuff and their stuff needs to be packed, moved, unpacked, and ready to go. The good news is that I finally am taking time to see what treasures are hidden in the room.

Vacation: I need my family, I get lonely without them; some books to read; and my phone, to check in on my instagram, blog and facebook friends.

That's my currently. What's going on in your neck of the woods?

Time for me to hop on over to Farley and leave some comments. Want to join me?

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