Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Day in the Life

So I've been a Literacy Coach now for about 6 weeks. Here's what a typical day in my life is like now at work. btw....I'm loving my job!

7:30 - In early before contract time starts for a School Improvement Meeting. Meet in the teacher's lounge with my principal and a group of teachers to discuss our goals in the areas of continuous academic improvement, building positive partnerships with the community, safe and caring learning environment  and managing funds with financial responsibility. Great group, making jokes and having fun...even though it's only 7:30 am.

7:50 - Excuse myself to run over to the National Junior Honor Society's meeting at the middle school. Hoping to recruit at least ten 7th and 8th graders to donate service hours to our elementary school's Family Literacy Night. Run up the stairs and am out of breath as I explain the theme and what I'm looking for. Explain that it's going to be all fancy, as our theme is "A Red Carpet Affair," and I think they are hooked when I tell them that we need a red carpet, Hollywood stars, and some of them to be either VIP people or Paparazzi. All the kids raise their hands when I ask who's interested. Win!

8:00 - Head back to my first meeting. See my mentee on the way back and was happy to do so! Tell her I'm looking for help for our event and, thinking I'm asking her, she offers. What a nice girl! Buuuttt, she's happy to hear I was looking for kids and not adults.

8:03 - Sit back down in the School Improvement meeting. Try to figure out what I missed, and by the time I do, it's time to go.

8:21 - On my way out, ask my principal if we can feed the middle school kids who are giving us service hours. She agrees, and that's one less conflict on my to do list!

8:25 - Back in my classroom, I hurry up and update the power point I'm using for our common plan meetings. I add the norms for the current grade level and print their norm sheets out to give them. The reading specialist, Christine, runs down for the copies while I get everything else ready.

8:44 - On our way to the meeting, Christine and I notice all these boxes of books dumped outside the book room. She takes my things to the meeting, and I stay back to move books into the room....but, I can't get the lock on the door to open. I run to the office and ask them to see if maintenance can do it. Wouldn't be a big deal, but there was a Principal's Coffee today and parents were visiting classrooms. Needed to keep things tidy!

8:47 - Make it up to the meeting. On our agenda: review the Office Discipline Referral, share successes from the last two weeks, follow up with norms, guided reading groups, and scheduling, and then plan what skills and strategies they will be teaching for the next week. Talk about assessment of the skills and a multitude of other things. Feeling really great about the work we accomplished as a team!

10:00 - Head back to my room to grab the flyer original for our Family Literacy Night. Go down to the black and white copy machine to make copies to be sent home today, but the red ink on the original isn't showing up in black and white. Go back to my room, change all the text to black, and then reprint. But then I have to shrink the originals down to half size so I can get two flyers per sheet of paper.

Grab the purple paper, load it in the copy machine and make 176 copies. Take the copies, cut them in half, and begin counting out enough for each classroom. Paper clip them, label them, and then realize at the end I was somehow 20 short. I go back to the copy machine, load the purple paper back in, make 10 more, cut them to have 20, and finish my last set.

Go to the mailboxes and deliver.

Check something off the list.

This was just funny!

approximately 10:45 - Head back to my room and check emails, send out an email to all the teachers on the Family Literacy Night committee, and then take a few minutes to think about what is up next.

A second grade teacher stops by and tells me she's doing the I-PICK lesson for picking Just Right books and extends and invitation for me to come see her. I make a mental note to stop by after lunch.

The other reading specialist comes back in as I'm getting the norms sheet ready for the other grade level meeting I'm having after lunch. We catch up, I finish the norms and the corresponding power point, and then I run to make copies.

11:25 - In the office I'm doing just a little more revision on the norms, but while talking to another teacher at the same time, so I'm making all kinds of mistakes. Definitely can't deeply think and talk at the same time. End up having to reprint the norms like three times because I wasn't focused!

11:40 - Go back to my room to drop off the sheets and get everything in an organized pile before lunch. Grab my Qualitative Reading Inventory (QRI) book to ask a question of a colleague as I head to lunch.

11:45 - Stop by her room, ask a question, chat a little, then I'm off to lunch, 20 minutes late.

12:00 - Eat lunch fairly quickly so I can make it to playground duty on time.

12:20 - Pick up the 2nd and 3rd graders and go outside for recess. Beautiful day and I'm feeling lucky to be outside, and also that it's going to be so annoying when it's 10 below. But for today, Naylani hides behind me from Isaiah, a boy crashes into the fence and chips a tooth, and Halie shows me 14 cartwheels. I want to be a third grader again....minus that chipped tooth.

12:35 - Bell rings and the helpers put all the playground equipment away. They keep asking me the same question over and over, which doesn't need an answer for at least two weeks, so I just ask them to do their job and we'll worry about it later. When they continue, I ask them if they want to be fired today? hahhahaaa. (Middle school kids get my humor way easier...) They kinda laugh and then stop : )

12:42ish - back in my room and I have an hour till my next meeting. Decide I will make some of those QRI copies so I head down to the copy machine, but then I remember my mental note to go see the second graders and their I-PICK books. Stop in there and things are going so well with a shoe metaphor, so I run to grab my iPad to get a few pics. The teacher tells me to jump in and coteach...I love it! We tag team the lesson and get the kids reading, and then I slip out to go get those copies ready.

1:05 - When I get back to the office to make the copies, the secretary asks me when the jackets I ordered will be in. I realize I never completed the order, so I complete it now: print the doc, fill it out, scan it back to email, and the reply to the rep from the company. By the time I finish, I have to go to my next meeting. I also didn't get the QRI copies done.

1:40 - Arrive at my next meeting. Tell some fun stories before we begin. Go through the same agenda as the last group and get lots done. Someone asks me a question about how to do something in first grade, and I reply, "Well, I never taught this grade level, so I'm just going to make this up...." They all laugh, I think aloud my answer, and they think it could work. Win. Productive meeting again...feeling awesome!

2:52 - The announcements come on and the teachers realize we were so involved we forgot our meeting ended at 1:50. One runs out to grab the kiddos. I run over to ask the principal a few questions about our evaluations, and then I head back to my room.

3:10 - Back in my room, catch up with Christine and the Stephanie. Talk about our day, and then the Steph heads back to her room to get some things done.

3:30ish - Christine and I had decided to work on a few things after school before we left, so I show her the online lesson planner, we talk about evaluations, and I show her her ePortfolio for the mentoring program. We decide we need to make an order for some supplies for Family Literacy night, but since it's already 4:30, we decide to wait until tomorrow.

4:30 - Wrap things up and head home. Get outside the school door only to realize I left a bunch of dishes in my room. I go get them, lock up the classroom and finally head home.

So that's all...a busy day, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm loving all the collaboration that's happening in various classrooms! Love teaching, love the teachers at my school, love literacy....that about sums it up!

Happy Friday eve!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Five for Friday

Another week gone by - I think that marks the fifth back to school? Crazy how fast time flies by! Here's my Five for Friday and a Link-Up with Doodle Bugs Teaching!

One of the best parts of my week was all the classrooms I got to see. As Literacy Coach at my school, my weeks alternate: week one, I attend all the literacy common plan meetings with all grade levels, week 2, I'm off to model lessons, observe in classrooms, and work on other tasks, like creating an order for a Writer's Workshop Mentor Text library. (So fun!)

This week, lots of memories come to mind from the classroom, but seeing our Bilingual Kinder class in action was so fun. I speak enough Spanish to follow along and the kiddos were doing a read-aloud with their teacher and working on making predictions. It was the fact that they were kinders, plus the fact that they were doing a lesson on predicting, plus the fact that they all spoke Spanish, plus all the little management techniques their teacher used. I was sitting there thinking, "I wish I had my iPad - I want this on video" - but I was too engaged to go get it. Such a fun time in kinder this week...Actually all our kinder classes were deep into their literacy centers, working on building independence for guided reading that will be starting very soon. All of this makes my heart so happy, and reminds me how hard kinder teachers work with their kids. So happy to see these little ones engaged and having fun with friends in class!


I taught the Watermelon and Seed Story lessons in a few classes:

So this lesson is great to get kids to think about whether or not their idea is big or narrow.

The watermelon story is the big juicy watermelon that is your life.

Within your watermelon story, you have lots of seeds - seeds about family, friends, vacations, school, houses you've lived in, celebrations, cousins....every memory is a seed.

Anyways, there's lots online about the Watermelon and Seed Story lesson - so check it out. It's great for kids because then your conversations go like this:

Here's a great anchor chart created by one of our second grade classes:

So the anchor chart is awesome because it's all of the kids' language about Just Right, Vacation, and Future books. Teacher facilitated the discussion and recorded their words and now the kids have a great reference to use in their classroom!


Part of the reason I haven't been writing as much is because of Grad School. Yes, I'm back for a second Master's...this time for a Principal's Certificate. It's not hard, just a lot of work. But, it's really interesting. Now that I have this position as Literacy Coach, I'm not just me, in my own classroom...I get to work with all the teams around my school. So, I can see lots of theory in practice.

Of course, I'd rather be spending my free time blogging, and watching Breaking Bad (new obsession now that I've finished Friday Night Lights) but I am reading about Organizational Structure and writing philosophy papers again. But, it's I said, super interesting and I love the people in my cohort at NEIU!


The best weeks are those that involve me hearing from former students, and I heard from six of them since last week! My girls, Ali, Lillian, and Michelle are all doing well in high school, Baltazar sent me a picture of his progress report that was straight A's, and then Kirstin and Andy visited last night after school. Andy was so sure he was going to get space from another kid in from our homeroom last year, but now he still has two classes with him....and they're at a *huge* high school. Hhahaaa! Kids are so funny. I'm so proud of all of them - doing so well in their new schools, and keeping me in the loop with what's going on!

That's all from me here at BigTime Literacy. Hope you have a great weekend!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Just Right, Vacation, and Future books in 2nd Grade

Yesterday I got to teach second graders how to pick books that were "Just Right." I call these JR books and you can read all about how to explain these kinds of books here, but I'm excited to share that this lesson that I used in middle school also works in the primary and intermediate grades!

So we started off gathering together on the rug. I had the easel next to me and some markers and chart paper. I told the kids our objective, that today we're going to decide if books are Vacation (too easy) JR, or Future (too hard) books. We composed a chart together:

and then I had them pick two books from a few boxes of books I had available. We decided to read for five minutes the first session, at which time I would call them back for a "Check-In."

Couple of issues came up in the first five minutes:

1. I left all the boxes of books scattered around the carpet, so when they would need to switch, they were distracting one another by stepping over each other. For the second session, I got the books out of the way and put them in another area of the room, which worked much better.

2. I have an armchair and another little chair in my room - I prompted them before we started that we can't argue about the  chairs and things like that, and they didn't. They were so quiet about it and respectful, but these two chairs still led to time off task, so in the future, I would have to assign them to two people just to take away the calling seat-backs and saving the chair for friends situation. Again, they were great kids, but they are kids and don't realize the very most important thing is to be engaged as long as possible.

Okay, anyways....

We meet back together as a whole group for check-in. I reminded them what each of the three kinds of books were - Vacation, JR, and Future. I then asked if anyone was reading a Vacation book. A few kids raised their hands and I had them come up to guide them through an explanation of why the book was a vacation book. Then we did the same for Future books, and finally we talked about JR books again. This conversation is so important for all the kids to hear, so they not only learn about what these three kinds of books are, but they also think about the book they are reading to decide if it's JR. This is essentially a teacher think-aloud, but with the child's  thinking!

We decided to do another session of reading - this time, 7 minutes (their other objective was to build their stamina), so they went back, maybe traded books, and then went to get to reading. I reminded them of their objective once again - to figure out if their book is a Vacation, JR, or Future book as they read.

We also talked briefly about how Reading is Thinking, so if we have to move around the room for a new book, we should be doing it soo soo quietly as to not disturb our peers.

Our seven minutes wrapped up - and the on-taskness (making up words: love!) was much better with the books in another place. Kids remembered to be quietly move around the room and they did great for seven minutes.

This time rather than sharing in a group, I wanted individual information on each child and their book, so I modeled this exit slip, one part at a time:

The hardest part was the Why? part, which I had two kids explain their answers to me and I wrote their why answer for them, showing all the others.

Here are two exit slips I collected:


We wrapped up and that was that!

Here's what I learned:
  1. This mini-lesson works in seventh and eighth grade, all the way down to second. First and Kinder - ehhhh....not sure yet!
  2. This lesson is actually easier with second graders - they really want to find the book that is JR, and they don't have as much social pressure (like a 7th grader would) to read a certain kind of book.
  3. This isn't the end of the lesson(s) with Vacation, JR, and Future books. I need to do more with this lesson - add more descriptors to the chart, have more sessions for kids to read and think about what kind of book it is, and more time for kids to share and evaluate their book choices. Little kids need lots of practice with this, and this is a conversation that will keep coming up all year long!

Centers vs. Independent Reading
Centers take so long to plan, prepare, and set up. It's the teacher who has to do all the work for the centers, because they have to be changed often. This is why I love independent reading (or listening to reading on tape, or buddy reading) so much more. It's less work for the teacher and it's more time with books and reading for the kids. I'd much rather have kiddos doing authentic, purposeful reading - volumes and volumes of reading - than stressing myself out planning 100 centers for the year!

Of course, there are times when you do need some kinds of literacy centers to build up the prerequisite skills to reading a book, but once they become independent with reading, and with the exception of some remediation for various aspects of their reading, independent reading is the way to go!

What do you think? Any suggestions for getting independent reading off the ground with primary kids? Please share your tips and tricks!

Until next time,

Monday, September 2, 2013

September Currently

Today is my favorite blog to write because I get to link up with Farley for Currently!

Listening to: Drake
Do you like rap music? Well, I used to love it when I was in high school. Some of it now is too much - too vulgar, to many bad words.... but then there are some great songs, too! When I was watching the VMAs, Drake performed two songs: Hold on We're Going Home and Started from the Bottom. I'm sharing the first song with you, but the second, even though I love it, is not the most appropriate video to put on this blog.

The Started from the Bottom song - I love it because everyone starts at the bottom no matter what they're working on. As far as teaching goes - I remember being a first year teacher who didn't know what the heck I was doing - I was just trying to keep my head above water and manage my middle school kids - it was a day-to-day struggle. Over the course of 10 years, I have moved up from that my management down, instruction looks good, measuring success with assessment and was using a good feedback loop. Not exactly on the top just yet, unless that means that I'm loving my job....because I so do!

Loving: Gluten-Free Snacks
Have you read Wheat Belly? Well, if you haven't, I highly recommend it. It basically talks about how foods that are designated "100% healthy whole grains" really aren't that great for you, and that wheat is just super bad for you. It's because the wheat we are eating today is not like the amber waves of grain that we were eating 50 or 60 years ago.

Anyways, I've been doing my best to avoid wheat (and sugar as much as possible). My new colleague, Christine, has let me try some of the Gluten-Free products she eats - so far, pretzels and brownies. The brownies were just like the real thing and the pretzels taste almost exactly the same.

So, I'm just trying to clean up the food that I'm putting in my body. I'm mostly doing this to lose weight, but I also feel so much better when I'm eating more whole foods. In the last two weeks I've lost two pounds - and that's mostly because of the food choices I've made and about 5 sessions of yoga. Two pounds isn't much, but it's a steady loss and motivates me to continue!

love these!

Thinking: I'm a writer now
I'm not sure when it happened - probably some time this summer. Before I started this blog, I had a personal one (still have it!) but I made a goal this summer to be better at writing. So I was totally writing more and I'm loving it.

It's different now though...

Now I walk around in my day-to-day life and things I see...well, I think, "That's a blog." Everything is a blog. I talk to my friends about relationships or hear stories in yoga: blog. Kids telling me stories - I tell them to save them for writing workshop. I take pictures everywhere - I love my iPhone and that it syncs so easily with my MacBook. I love writing, and now I can see how the best teachers of writing are writers themselves! When you constantly think about writing, it's easy to pass that on to your kiddos. If I were teaching middle school again, I think I'd have every kid make a blog. But, I think this is a topic for another post....

Wanting: a Writer's Desk
Really I just want any desk. I have two bedrooms (they are tiny though) and in my 2nd bedroom I have my old bed. I need to get rid of it because I found a great desk on

Anyways, right now I work in my kitchen, but then my papers and books and binders and mail and everything gets all over the place and I just want all of that to be out of sight. So, I want to get rid of the bed, and put the desk back there.

The good news is that my bedrooms get awesome evening light. So, I could totally see myself working back there. And then, my kitchen will be cleaner... win!

Needing: A new white dress
I'm so excited! In a few weeks, I'm going with some friends to Chicago in White!

Chicago in White is a pop-up dining experience and it's totally a secret. You buy tickets and pick a "harmonization point" but that's all you know. You plan by getting a white outfit together and planning your dinner (which you bring). Then, you meet at your harmonization point (a train stop) and then they take you to the spot for your dinner. So fun!

Last year there were 1,600 people and it was at Merchandise Mart. Who knows where it will be this year?

So anyways, I need a white outfit. I love dresses, so I'm going to try and find something online - since it's Labor Day I bet there's not much left in the way of white (unless it's on a clearance rack which would be perfect!) If you see anything cute in white, please share with me!

Taking care of myself:
Well, I've already mentioned the eating and yoga a little bit. But I also want to be smart about money. I'm paying off next summer's trip to Europe so that's got me a little stressed. Just have to be smart about my money!

So that's all for September. Hope you all have a great month!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...