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Saturday, September 1, 2018

the peak and the pit {week 2}

One of our awesome iCoaches in our district started a new podcast series called The Peak and The Pit. Every week she's sharing her high and low, and encouraging all of us to do the same. Be sure to find her on twitter and add your stories to #thepeakandthepit hashtag!

The Peak: BB3
Brezek-Bortscheller-Block 3 is BB3. It's always the kids (well, prob 95% of the time!) Our class is a seven-eight combo class. A few years ago we had to do this for scheduling reasons, and I was happy to hear, because one of my favorite teacher-researchers, Nancie Atwell, also teaches a 7-8 combo class. Why it's amazing? Well, the kids loop. So this year, we have 6 kids who are back and on year two with us. They know Andrea and I, they know the routines, they know what to expect, and so naturally, they help get things done without me even having to ask.

One day, one of them took it upon herself to do some portfolio organization for an absent student. collect all the extra supplies, and remind us as we taught the Signposts that we usually do a certain  formatting with the note-taking.

These six also know that we do not repeat for quiet kids during whole group discussion, so you can count on them to begin the modeling of, "I didn't hear what you said, can you repeat yourself?" Already our seventh graders are learning about our classroom from all angles, including the returners.


And just generally speaking, we have a great class. For me it's great because I love my coteacher. We get along really well, we plan well together, we alternate who is teaching what naturally, and she's just easy going. In one of the letters a returning student wrote on week one, she said something like, "I'm so happy to have two teachers that are best friends." I'm glad the kids see it that way. I do too!

And also, our kids are pretty wonderful too. Our seventh graders are not quite as quiet as I was expecting, and we have a lot of leaders in the seventh grade class, too. They are not afraid to share out with the group and take chances. They are funny, and they are learning our limits, and it's all just good. So good.

I'm so thankful my principals take the time to figure out this logistical nightmare that involves scheduling the combo class so it actually works. I see so much value in it, and I'm hoping we're really going to see the perks in the Map and Parcc data later this year.

So the peak? BB3, most def. 

The pit: I'm clumsy
I fell twice last week.

First time was right outside the cafeteria. I slipped on a banana. The custodian was walking towards me at the moment I fell with a mop, but it was just me trying to move too fast and in too much of a rush. I told a friend in the lounge what happened, and she's like, "What are you, Mario Kart?" That was a super funny interpretation of that situation, I'm still laughing about it! But seriously, I need to JUST. SLOW. DOWN. Right?



Then, later in the week, I was walking into the grocery store during a downpour and totally fell, that time, it was super embarrassing since there were a few people watching, and I am not sure how, but I bruised the inside of my upper arm. It still hurts!

So as you can see, nothing is perfect, but there are certainly great moments in any week!

Be sure to share yours on Twitter - as a tweet, a blog, or any other way you'd like to share, and use #thepeakandthepit hastag to connect with us.


Wishing you many peaks in the coming week!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Launching Independent Reading

The routines and habits we create in our classrooms show our students our values. We can tell kids all we want that we'd like them to read at home each night, but if we do not make time for reading in class, that message isn't conveyed, and more than likely, they also are not reading at home.



In 180 Days:Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents, Gallagher and Kittle  state, "Every day we send a consistent message: Everyone reads in this class." (page 49)

Me: same.

Every day kids read their Just Right books. Every day I take status of the class and ask them what they're reading. When they abandon a book, I know. When they leave the book at home three days in a row, I know. When they finish a book, I know. When someone reads a great book, we tell the class about it. They add to To Be Read Lists after book talks and they log all the titles of the books they complete. In my class, kids read during our block, and they read the 20 pages every night assigned as homework, because every day, I ask them how it's going. I expect them to read VOLUMES of text, and they do!

We also have to confer with our students for lots of reasons:

  • To help the kid who has never picked a book pick one.
  • To find out why another keeps leaving their book at home.
  • To figure out who is "fake reading" and who's actually really reading (comprehending).
  • To see if they are applying the strategies from universal curriculum into their texts.
  • To be the person to look a kid in the eye and be there, just with them, to listen to how a book changed their thinking.
  • To share a joy and love and passion for a book or a character. (Edward Tulane, anyone?) :-)

Every day while students read, teachers confer. Kittle and Gallagher note that in a ten minute period, they aim to talk to 3-5 students. To begin the year, they focus on getting to know the students' reading habits. These are fact-finding conferences. Information is collected and recorded. These early conferences may go like this...

If a student indicates that he or she likes to read, Gallagher and Kittle follow up with:

  • What do you like to read?
  • What are your favorite genres?
  • Who are your favorite authors?
  • Do you have a favorite series?
  • What are you currently reading?
  • How do you find time to read?
  • Where do you read?
  • When do you read? (page 32)
If a student indicates they do not like to read, they follow up with:
  • Why don't you like to read?
  • Did you like reading when you were younger? If so, when did you stop liking reading? What caused this shift?
  • When was the last time you selected a book on your own to read?
  • Have you ever read a book you liked?
  • Can you name an author you like?
  • What interests you? What do you do in your free time? (page 32)
It's going to be day 3 of school here in D100 tomorrow. It's getting close to the time when students will begin picking books. Time for Kidwatching (Goodman): who will easily pick a book and settle in? Who will avoid books at all costs? Who will pick one, then return it, then pick another? Who will sustain reading for 25+ minutes? Who can recommend a book?

And what will we find out when we sit down and give our time and hearts to each child, individually? Hopefully these prompts for conferring with kids will get you going!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

responsive literacy giveaway!


You are going to love Responsive Literacy: A Comprehensive Framework! This book will not only explain in great detail what this framework is all about, but SHOW you in a multitude of colorful photos about every aspect of this framework.


If you're familiar with balanced literacy, you're right on track with responsive literacy. This framework is all about providing structures for students to engage in literacy via reading, writing, listening, and speaking, but thought a multitude of modalities. Students will find these experiences in the Reading, Writing, and Word Study Workshop formats.

The foundations of this framework rest in the Zone of Proximal Development, teaching students to be participants in active thinking, engaging conversations, and authentic reflections about texts. Students engage in this work as the teacher plans with the workshop model in mind:

  • Whole Group Teaching in mini-lesson, including interactive read-aloud, literature discussions, and shared and interactive writing
  • Workshop time, where students have an opportunity for application of new learning on their own, in pairs or triads, or in small-group meetings with their teacher
  • Share time, which is typically a celebration of learning related to the mini-lesson and closure for the day's learning
This workshop model works for reading, writing, and word study instruction, each practiced overviewed in detail in this comprehensive text. This book in broken down into six sections:

  1. Professional Learning
  2. Organizing for Learning
  3. Reading
  4. Writing
  5. Building Blocks of Language
  6. A Learning Community: Students, Teachers, Principals, and Families
Some of my favorite parts of the book include:
  • Discussion of Author's Craft, pages 44-55
  • Starting the Reading Workshop: The first 30 days, pages124-147
  • Systems of Strategic Actions Wheel, and descriptions of thinking Within the Text, About the Text, and Beyond the text, page 196
  • All of the references to quality books that serve as mentor texts for students, which are found throughout the text
  • Possible ideas for writer's notebook entries, page 266
  • "Your goal is to lift the writer, not fix the piece." page 273
  • A WHOLE CHAPTER on handwriting!! Page 305 and Specific and Consistent Language for lower and uppercase letter formation - a dream for all of the K-2 teachers who scaffold their students to write the letters correctly! Page 311
  • The last section that is of particular use to Literacy Coaches and Administrators, so that a building-wide culture can be built around this framework
If you are new to this framework, this book has it all, and thorough explanations and so many photos of classrooms, organization systems, student work, student-teacher interactions - everything! This book is geared toward K-6, but ideas can be adapted up to seventh and eighth as well.

I have a copy of this book to give away to one lucky winner! In order to win, leave a comment or question on this blog post and follow me on Instagram (@bigtimeliteracy). Can't wait to share the wealth of information with someone from this book!

Happy Saturday!

Monday, May 21, 2018

best books of 2017-2017


This school year I have finished 22 books! Here's a list of all the books I have finished:

  1. Dogman, Dav Pilkey
  2. The Outsiders, SE Hinton
  3. Ghost, Jason Reynolds
  4. The Water Princess, Susan Verde
  5. Life, Cynthia Rylant
  6. Jabari Jumps, Gaia Cornwall
  7. Solo, Kwame Alexander
  8. Wishtree, Katherine Applegate
  9. Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom, Lynda Blackmon Lowery
  10. Refugee, Alan Gratz
  11. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, Trevor Noah
  12. Inside Out and Back Again, Thanhha Lai
  13. After, Anna Todd
  14. After We Collided, Anna Todd
  15. After We Fell, Anna Todd
  16. After Ever Happy, Anna Todd
  17. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
  18. The Dream Keeper and Other Poems, Langston Hughes
  19. One Last Word, Nikki Grimes
  20. Love, Hate, and Other Filters, Samira Ahmed
  21. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Saenz
  22. Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng

Looking back at the list, I feel super proud that I was able to accomplish all of that. Our goal was 25, but 21 is still great. By reading this books, I was reminded that you can get lost in a book (the After Series by Anna Todd was that!), that sometimes you just need to read something super easy for fun (Dogman), and that sometimes books are written so beautifully, you want to pick out all the little lines and put them all around your home (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe). Here are my top three books from this school year that you should read!

#3 The After Series, by Anna Todd


So these are romance books, and definitely edgier than even YA books. Love stories, drama with a couple of college kids, and the back and forth of the relationship between Tessa and Hardin. She's the good girl, he's the bad boy, and there's all kinds of secrets and drama at play. I'm pretty sure I read all four of these books in December - they were so good all I wanted to do was read in my free time. Books can definitely be even better than the movies or TV; and speaking of, this series is in production for a movie for next year!

#2 Love, Hate, and Other Filters



I loved this book because it told the story of someone so different from me. Maya Aziz is American-born, but she is Indian and Muslim. I was able to learn lots about that culture and religion, and the book is set in Chicago, so I loved to see what train she might be taking or the neighborhoods she was hanging out in. The main character is also REALLY into creating videos, so it was cool to see how she viewed her world through a camera lens. Finally, theres a big theme about not judging people based on their outward appearances. A bombing happens, and immediately, Maya's family is targeted because of their race and religion. That isn't cool, so it's good to live her experiences to see what that might feel like, and to be aware of our own biases we might hold.

#1 Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe



Best book, hands down. It's the story of Ari and Dante, both high school guys. Ari has never had a friend, and Dante is very social. They meet by accident, and then go on to have this awesome friendship. Eventually Dante comes out of the closet and shares with his family and friends that he is gay, so you have to see how that plays a part in the book. I don't want to give much more away, but read this to be mesmerized by the beautiful language and the tale of friendship. It also shows that boys don't always have to be these tough guys, and shows how we all deal with emotions and feelings differently.

So there you have it. What are you favorite books of this school year? How many have you finished?

Thursday, April 5, 2018

spoken word poetry favorites

It's National Poetry month, and in celebration of that, I bring you some of my favorite Spoken Word Poems!

All time fave - Poet Breathe Now by Adam Gottlieb. Part of Louder than a Bomb here in Chicago, here's a great reason to write, and share, poetry.


Touchscreen, by Marshall Davis Jones. While technology is wonderful in many regards, we mustn't forget those personal, face-to-face connections.


Knock Knock, by Daniel Beaty. Just heard this one for the first time today and it's powerful. Family connections and loss. Making the world a better place, and sometimes having to do that on your own.


What Teachers Make - a classic, a favorite since my first years of teaching. I'm sure students would love it too! Discusses what teachers make, and not necessarily money. And if you like Taylor Mali, check out this link for more of his work.


If I Should Have a Daughter, by Sarah Kay. Wishes from a mother, to her future daughter.



Three Ways to Speak English, by Jamila Lyiscott, a "trilingual orator." If you've ever been around someone who says with a negative connotation, "Oh, that's just how *they* speak..." this poem is for you. Code switching, and pride for all the ways we do that.


Complainers, by Rudy Francisco. You're having a bad day? Let's put that in perspective. Thanks Gorz for sharing this one :-)


Somewhere in America, by Brave New Voices. (Explicit language and mature content.) Three girls discuss the ironies of America.


I am not black, you are not white, by Prince Ea. Racism, or labels? Listen and you decide.


Lift Off, by Donovan Livingston. "Our stories are the ladders that make it easier for us to touch the stars." What are students meant to do? Donovan explores that in his address at Harvard's Graduation ceremony.


Trigger Warning, from four girls from Hinsdale Central High School. This poem is a dedication to the shooting in Parkland, Florida, performed in Chicago at the March for our Lives Rally. 


Just a few of my favorites, what about you? Leave me a comment with yours!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

sol 27: simple reminders

Oh yesterday. Yesterday didn't start off in the way I wanted. As with life, sometimes you have things on your mind, or heart before the students walk through your doors, which lessens your patience for them (by no fault of their own.)

So kids came into homeroom, and my patience already thin, put me in a disagreement with a student, about something petty from that began the day before. We were kinda going back and forth, arguing, when a third student made a comment, "Somebody's in a mood."

And I was stopped. Dead in my tracks.

Here I was all upset about something unrelated to my students, yet they were feeling the weight of my frustration.

So right away, I apologized. "You guys are right. My lack of patience has nothing to do with you. I'm sorry." The two girls looked back, and smiled, and we all felt better.

Fast forward another 3 minutes, and I was feeling my patience begin lacking again, as another student didn't have the proper uniform on. I said something, to which he replied, "You're totally making assumptions!"

"You're right," I told him, and as he began to walk away, I reached for his arm, and asked him to come back. "Ok, I"ll listen better. Go ahead, explain it to me."

And he did. And I listened. As he finished, he began to walk away, and then I asked him to stop again.

"You know, thank you for reminding me to listen better, but now, can I have a turn to talk?" He nodded, and I continued on, about uniforms, about being ready for school, about how as a young adult, I'd expect him to be in charge of that. He nodded, and we were done.

Just reminds me of this, that I had read on facebook the night before:
This is a big part of my classroom management, and so it's important for me to apologize when I screw up. I may be older, but I'm human, and it matters to kids that I set my ego aside and just be honest.

My day could've continued in a very anxious, stressed, and frustrated way. But, because I accepted responsibility for my actions with my students, I was able to make it better for all of us. So thankful I was given these reminders the day before.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

sol #24: not just a moment

A moment.

Today, I marched with 30,000 others in Chicago to make our voices heard for common sense gun reform.

I listened to poetry, I heard speeches, I chanted with those around me, and I carried a sign.


See how a whole bunch of moments are creating a movement, here.

See how kids of privilege use their power to give voice to those who have been silenced.

Let's be this movement.
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