Monday, August 10, 2015

August 10 for 10 2015~#pb10for10

#pb10for10: Picture Books for Professional Development/Coaching

As my almost 4 year old nephew would say, this is my "pavorite" day of the blogging year, hands down! I can't think of a better way to celebrate the power of picture books across grade levels and content areas. Now in it's SIXTH year, I'm always inspired by the variety of book lists that everyone creates. Today, and in the days to come because it will take that long to get to all the lists, we will see old "friends" in new ways, find new "friends", and inevitably create long hold lists at our libraries and pricey shopping carts at local bookstores and/or online outlets. 

Since last year, I've moved out of the classroom and into the role of literacy coach. The shift from focusing on children as my learners to teachers as my learners hasn't diminished my firm belief that picture books move our understanding and thinking. Because of that, I've always included them as read alouds in professional development session for a variety of purposes. Today I'm sharing ten titles with ideas and themes that support discussions about the teaching practices and classroom environments we strive to create.  If you've never used a picture book with teachers to get conversations started, I hope today's list will spark some ideas. 

If You Hold a Seed by Elly MacKay captures the magic that happens when dream seeds are planted and tended. Each year we are entrusted with a new packet of seeds. This beautifully illustrated book reminds us that will patience, skill, and perseverance, extraordinary gifts can blossom within our classroom communities. 

Courage isn't just found in the BIG things life throws our way. This book by Bernard Waber offers the opportunity to have teachers think about the things that take courage in their teaching practice.  Staying true to what you know is best practice, listening to another point of view, writing with your students, trying a new instructional strategy. It's the small acts of courage that make the most impact! 

Flight School by Lita Judge demonstrates the important reminder that success often comes out of  perseverance and team work. Moving teachers from working in isolation to working as a team is important work and this is a beautiful picture of what team work can bring about. 

The fact that one little bird's determination is responsible for saving a forest is one that shouldn't be lost on teachers. There is no problem too big when we are willing to face our fears, put aside misconceptions, and work to make a difference. Teachers do this every single day, in lots of small ways. The Little Hummingbird by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas is an invitation for teachers to talk about the little ways they face challenges everyday.

I knew on page 2 of this book that I must own it and add it to the picture books I use with teachers this coming year. My Pen by Christopher Myers is perfect for launching writing work with teachers but it can also be used to remind teachers to look beyond the page to truly see their students as individuals, getting to know their interests, fears, and dreams. 

Bringing this book out in the middle of the year offers the opportunity to remind teachers that learning something new...a new strategy, conferring, using a workshop model...takes time and practice.    Walk On! A Guide for Babies of All Ages  by Marla Frazee is a good reminder that missteps, bobbles, and failed attempts are all part of the learning! Embrace it!   

Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is an important book to share with teachers when thinking about teaching & learning. As members of a learning community, we need to be open to a variety of perspectives, taking time to listen to views that are different from ours. We all bring experiences with us that impact our perspectives..and allowing time to share them might just help us all look at a situation or student differently. 

We often start our school year with the big picture in mind. We know exactly the kind of learning environment we want to create. We just what we need to do to make it. And then we hit a roadblock. The plan doesn't go as we envisioned. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spire reminds that sometimes it okay to step away, to refocus, and then try again.  

Going Places by Paul Reynolds reminds teachers that it's okay to think outside of the box, embrace our creative side, and try doing things in a different way when it comes to implementing curriculum, school routines, and community. You never know what amazingness might emerge from the ordinary. 

I know many teachers used this picture book at the end of this school year but I think it's also a perfect one to share with teachers at the beginning of the year. I Wish You More by  Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld is a great reminder to stop and wonder along the way during the school year. Embrace the natural curiosity of the children you will teach...and don't forget to stop and wonder about yourself and your teaching too. 

I'm looking forward to seeing what books others have included in their lists this year! A huge thank you goes out to Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek for continuing to host the amazing celebration of picture books. I'm off to check out the #pb10for10 Google Community and hope you will too.

You can see my past lists here:

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The New Kid~Slice of Life August 4, 2015

Being the "new kid" never gets easy, no matter how old you get. You think it would, but it just  doesn't.  Last summer at just about this time, I took a new position as a Literacy Strategist in a new district. For the previous 19 years I had taught in the same district. My hometown district. The district from which I graduated. I knew the ins and outs, not just of the school system, but of the community too. 

When you''re the new kid, it can be a big scary world in the new neighborhood. Yes, even when you're a grown up. Driving to work that first "official" day, I was a jumbled mess of excitement and nerves. The realization that I was walking into a completely brand new school environment was a lot to process, and brought to my mind all those "new kids" that had crossed my path over 19 years in my former district.  

Yesterday I was thinking about that experience. I started ticking off things in my mind that the veterans of the neighborhood might take for granted, not intentionally, of course.  But things that would help the new kid feel at home more quickly.  These go beyond the housekeeping things like curriculum, schedules, bussing and lunch procedures.  Hopefully the building and/or school district has a mentoring program in place that covers those things. If not, then add those to the list.

The necessities. Don't skip these. Trust me.

Say hello. Introduce yourself and your role in the building. Especially if you see them standing or  sitting alone. 

Introduce them to "key" players in the building...the secretary, the custodians, the cafeteria staff. 

While you're in the cafeteria, fill them in on how to order/pay for "teacher" lunch. Or where to put their lunch if they bring it from home. Or the best (code for "fastest") place to pick up lunch if they have time to run out for lunch. I know..who has time for that...but still....

The supply know every school has a "stash" room. Show them where it is. 

Technology 411 such as where computers print to...or which printer is the better one to print to.

The chocolate drawer..or shelf...or closet.  This could save a life! True story!

The extras. To the new kid, any (or all) of these would be icing on the cake.

Invite them to eat with you in the Teacher's Room one day each week for the first month. 

When you're talking about how things are done, remember the new kid doesn't have the "history".    Try to fill in the "code" talk for them.

Give them the 411 on special school events or days (this is code for "we all dress up here") well in 
advance (again code for "not the day before") so that they can participate at the right level. 

Provide them with a map of the school, labeled with teachers first and last names. Include support

Start up conversations that aren't about school and work. Ask them about their families, interests, hobbies.

Invite them to events outside of the school day, like the standing invitation to Friday Happy Hour that they might not know about.    

Maybe you have a new kid in your neighborhood this year. Remember, the new kid could be a new specialist or support person in your building. They are especially susceptible to feeling alone as they don't come with the ready made neighborhood of a classroom.  It doesn't have to all fall on your shoulders. Enlist your teaching team. The point is to look out for those new kids this year. Someday the new kid may be you.

A special thanks to my teaching friends who shared ideas about welcoming new staff this afternoon! I hope the conversation got you thinking.

You can find more Slice of Life post at Two Writing Teachers.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ripples~Slice of Life July 27, 2015 idea that's been stirring in my head since I had the opportunity to spend a few days on Cape Cod last week. As myself and some dear friends were being "toasted" by our generous host at dinner Monday night, she talked about the "ripples' we send out and it stuck with me.  It's not an earth shattering epiphany...but honestly as I looked around the dinner table on that hot, humid Monday evening, the idea of how 'ripples' had brought this group of people together really resonated with me.

       ....a random "retweet" that connected not just me, but my students at the time, with an genuine, kindhearted author through a Skype visit.   That Skype visit led to a class visit...which led to a dinner...which led to threads of conversations that revealed our hearts, tying us together in friendship.

      .....a unplanned face to face meeting at the Scholastic Warehouse after following each other on Twitter for several months. A meeting that led to continued conversations via Twitter and Facebook around our shared loved of books and teaching. Conversations that led to an invitation to dinner...which led to an invitation to a Maine Reading Association meeting and threads of conversations as we commuted to meetings together,  revealing literacy centered passions that tied us together in friendship.

     .....happening upon a literacy coach in a hotel lobby at NCTE Boston, trying to problem solve a technology glitch for a presentation the next day. A mutual friend calling me over to see if I could help.  Over laughter and many attempts to help...threads of friendship beginning to be glitch fixed.  Drinks later in the weekend...where conversations began to reveal our common interests...binding us together in friendship.

     .....while waiting in line to check bags, the person behind me being brave enough to say she followed me on Twitter (I'm way too shy to do something like that), and through conversation discovering that she was coming to Maine that coming January. Staying connected through Twitter, and then offering a welcoming hug to her when I saw her at our first Nerd Camp Northern New England...which she came to alone. I want to be brave like her. Threads that began to tie us together in friendship.

     ..... a brief conversation after a presentation with an attendee, that revealed he was alone...not just at the conference, but in his teaching situation. Making a note to continue to reach out to him through Twitter. Running into him again several times during the conference.  Then sharing ideas at random times via Twitter as the threads of friendship began to weave their way across cyber space, stitching our lives together.

     .....a message left in a Voxer group, where I could hear discouragement in a voice. Sending a separate message to encourage a colleague to keep doing what she was doing. Keeping her "why"...her students as her main focus. Which led to daily morning commute Voxer conversations sharing ideas, thinking, and daily life events with each other.  Threads of friendship, intertwining our lives through conversations. 

Ripples. Turned into threads because of actions and reactions of those caught in the current
of the crest. Now bound in genuine friendships. 

Ripples...a beautiful ebb and flow.

Image credit:

You can find more Slices of Life at Two Writing Teachers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Dee Dinner Date Night-Slice of Life July 14, 2015

It started as a small gesture in navigating a "new normal".  I'm a doer.  I see a need and I want to do something to help. So I offered to make dinner for my father-in-law, having my husband and I join him on the first night he would be at home...alone...for the first time in almost sixty-six years. I had no idea what this one small gesture would become for me.

My mother-in-law passed away in April. April 25th. 5 days before her 84th birthday and 5 months before her 66th wedding anniversary. After her faith in God, her family was most important to her. She was always most happy surrounded by her children and their families. 

That first Tuesday I made homemade chicken pot pie. The three of us had dinner together. Tuesday arrived again. I called my father-in-law and invited him to come over to our house for dinner. The three of us had dinner together.  Lasagna was on the menu. Tuesday arrived again. And...well... it's just become what we do. Dee Dinner Date Night. Every Tuesday.  

Friends and family members say things like, "That's so thoughtful of you." or "What a nice thing to do for your father-in-law." But as I was prepping dinner last Tuesday, I started thinking about how it's become so much more than that. 

It's reignited my love of cooking. I'm enjoying coming up with a new menu each Tuesday. I scour cookbooks and websites, looking for new recipes to try each week. I try to make everything from scratch. I make sure to cook more than we can eat, sending home enough leftovers for another dinner for my father-in-law later in the week.  It's like new self imposed challenge each week.

It's my way of showing my husband, my father-in-law, (and even the immediate family) that I hurt with them in their loss.  I feel the void, not in the exact way they do. Their history with her is much longer than mine. But I feel the void. And I loved her, just as they loved her. Our dinner conversations always include stories about her...and just by sharing these memories together, we heal a little bit.

And in this small gesture...making dinner...I remember and honor my mother-in-law. I find myself thinking about her as I'm prepping meals each week.  I remember how much she loved sitting at the table, with family all around, sharing home cooked meals together. I can hear the pride in her voice when she talked about her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren.  I remember her style of measuring...but a little of this and a little of that, tasting as she would go...and I smile. 

Dee Dinner Date Night connects me to her. And as I prepare the meal, set the dinner table, and prepare to welcome them both to the table each Tuesday evening, I'm saying to her

"I know how much you loved them, your husband and your youngest son. And I'll continue showing them love...just as you the doing."

You can find more Slice of Life Posts by visiting The Two Writing Teachers.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Living Among the Books~A Slice of Life July 7, 2015

I'm joining the Slice of Life Challenge today for the first time, as I try to add more writing into my daily life. You can find more Slice of Life posts at The Two Writing Teachers

I always look forward to July with great anticipation. It's the month of the year that I get to live among the books.  Spending my Mondays through Thursdays spreading the love of books, reading, and writing with the young and not so young, brings so much joy into my summer.  Yesterday was our first day with children and I couldn't wait to see familiar faces and meet new reader/writers! 

The anticipation of the first day always brings out so many thoughts and feelings. The unpacking of a complete lending library can feel so overwhelming. I wonder if I've purchased "the" book that will capture that resistant reader, finally giving them entrance into the "literacy club".  I spend what sometimes feels like way too much time on which basket certain titles should be housed. I worry that I haven't expanded the series section enough to give those late initial and early transitional readers enough titles to choose from. And of course there are the graduate students, for whom this program is the main focus. Will they like me? Will they find my ideas, organization, and book choices inviting enough to support the work they will do over the coming month?

So yesterday arrived...and all my worries and doubts began to dissipate as the graduate students started to visit the Library with their young learners for the first time. There were lots of hugs from returning reader/writers. Books quickly began finding their homes in the hands of readers. Conversations were buzzing around the library that revolved around interests, favorite authors, and themes...always with choice as the guiding light in selections. 

Snippets of conversations began to stick within my reading heart...
            from a returning 10 yo reader..."Remember that book that kid had lost and then found on the last day last summer? You know..about the donut? I really wanted to read that one!" (I knew it...and had it...and had to create a Wait List)

           from a new 10 yo reader..."Wow! Usually I'm always the last one still trying to find a book when my class visits the library but I already have three books I want to read! That's NEVER happened to me before!" (Ah...all the unpacking and exact placement of books already paid off 30 minutes into day one!)

            from a new 6 yo reader..."Just so you know, I want books that will challenge me 'cause I already know a LOT about books!" (Duly noted sweetheart!)

Thirty minutes to wipe away the doubts and worries. The time spent reading books, pouring over new titles, creating an order of new books that would cover a wide range of reading abilities and interests, moving furniture, unpacking and organizing books, and creating a welcoming environment will be well worth it! Books will find their readers...and readers will find their reading lives. And I have the honor of witnessing the connections as I live among the books for four short weeks.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Another Layer to Professional Development

My professional reading has become a bit more intentional since taking on a new role as Literacy Strategist last summer. I mean, I have always read with intention before now, but there is something different about reading professional literature when you know the audience for sharing your new learning and understanding will be teachers. Before, I read with my students in mind, thinking about how I would refine and improve my teaching in the classroom. I wasn't necessarily going to have to explain the thinking behind my instructional decisions and moves to them, but rather I would be doing the new learning.

Now I read with the teacher in mind, thinking about how I will facilitate conversations around instructional strategies and ideas from the professional texts I'm reading, in order to help teachers have a better understanding of the "why" and "how" of the instructional moves they make in their own classrooms. This has changed how I annotate and keep track of my own thinking as I'm reading. I started last fall by keeping notes using Google Drive, where I could link handouts I create and web links within my notes so it was all in one place. I found this made it easier for me to share with teachers this year, as I could create "synopsis" notes that could be shared with them during coaching cycles or professional learning sessions.

This summer I'm taking this a step further, using "virtual" avenues that I've expanded through my PLN (Professional Learning Network).  The National Council for Teachers of English just published a qualitative narrative study on teacher participation in online professional development. As I tweeted out today, I'm a big believer and participant in this kind of learning!

This summer I've added another layer to my professional learning! I'm using Google Drive and Voxer to participate in several professional book studies.  This idea started back in May when people were sharing their #cyberpd book stacks via Twitter, Facebook, and Google Communities. Several people in a larger Voxer group I'm a part of noticed that we had similar titles. 

And so a smaller group of us decided to read three books we had in common during June, July, and August. Michele (@knott_michele) set up a Voxer group and reading schedule for the first book, Writing About Reading: From Book Talk to Literary Essays by Janet Angelillo. I set up a google doc where we could keep notes and add comments as we read. It's been a great way to share ideas and thinking, while still enjoying summer time trips and activities. As a literacy strategist, I've really appreciated the comments and questions the teachers & teacher librarians have added to the conversations, both through Voxer and the google document. We've worked together to create handouts and charts that capture key ideas that we can easily reference once we're back in the busyness of a school schedule. We're just getting started on our next book, Conferring~The Keystone to Reader's Workshop by Patrick Allen, using the same format. 

Voxer has benefited me in many ways, since someone first tweeted about last summer. Working in separate buildings, my coaching partner, Jamie (@fivenomar) and I found it very helpful this past school year to stay connected during the week and in planning professional development. My new coaching partner, Matt (@Matt_Halpern) and I are already using it for thinking about & planning for the upcoming school year. My colleague, Natalee Stotz (@nataleestotz) set up a #nErDcampNNE Group for our planning committee to use the weekend of Nerd Camp Northern New England, which helped us all stay in touch in various parts of a large school building. I'm a part of a 'Coaching Connections' Voxer Group that includes a small group of literacy coaches who support each other in work specific to coaching and working with adult learners. We started by meeting monthly via Google Hangout and added Voxer as a way of sending quick messages of encouragement or questions during the work day. An 'All Things Literacy' Voxer group was created when I tweeted out a question looking for input from 3rd grade teachers about how they use & organize Readers Notebooks and our conversation needed more than 140 characters. Honestly, the more I use Voxer, the more I see the powerful layer it adds to an already vibrate, engaging professional learning community! I'm so thankful for those in my PLN who have been willing to try this idea out with me! 

How are you leveraging the various online professional development opportunities and platforms?  I'd love to hear more about the ways your using it to expand professional conversations and learning! As for the professional books I'm reading this summer, I'll share big take aways from my reading in upcoming blog stay tuned. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

It's Monday! What Are YOU Reading? February 23, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Shelia over at Book Journey.

Be sure to also visit Jen at Teach.Mentor.Text  and Kellee at Unleashing Readers for links to all of the blogs participating in the Picture Book to YA addition of It's Monday! What Are You Reading!

February Vacation afforded me time with family, staying up late, sleeping in, and of course time for reading. One of the highlights of my week was traveling to Blue Bunny Books & Toys in Dedham, MA for my friend, Lynda Mullaly Hunt's Fish in a Tree Book Signing. This was my first visit to this fabulous independent book store, owned by twin brothers Peter & Paul Reynolds. Yes, THE Peter and Paul Reynolds! Book friends, if you are ever in the Boston area, you really must make an effort to visit their store. I felt like I had "come home"! And the place was PACKED with readers eager to meet Lynda and hear more about her newest middle grade novel; which will be featured in a upcoming post here with a giveaway, so stay tuned!  I've heard her speak about writing multiple times, and yet every.single.time. she brings me to tears. Lynda is such a champion for children and for teachers. 

Some great reads this week from picture books to another adult title!

A photo posted by literacydocent (@literacydocent) on

A photo posted by literacydocent (@literacydocent) on

So there you have it....another week of reading is in the books!
Have a great week among the pages!