Tuesday, October 27, 2015

owlways watching

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There I was, sitting in my office one morning last month, to have two third grade teachers come in. One of them, seeming kinda huffy; the other was more-or-less skipping into the office behind her more serious friend. As they entered, Ms. Huffy turns around and orders, "Stop smiling! This is serious!"

Happy friend changes her attitude and appears more somber. They march up and sit down at my table.

"We have a very serious question for you," Huffy declares. "Why are there little sunshine stickers next to some people's names on the mailboxes? Are you guys in some kind of secret club or something?"

Huffy's friend chimes in, trying to maintain a straight face. "Yeah, Christina has one, you have one, Tim has one...what's going on?"

I smile, giggling inside. "Friends, it's for Sunshine. We paid our Sunshine dues, so the sticker is just a representation of that."

Then both of them start cracking up. All along, their little show was just that, some early-morning entertainment.

At our school, our social committee is called Sunshine - we spread positivity around for all involved with little treats, appreciations, social events, and just make school a happier place to be. In order to make all the things happen we want to, it takes some money, so we ask for a donation from each teacher. This year, we wanted to recognize all of the staff who joined in the positivity and fun, so we put up a bulletin board in our lounge, with a sunshine for all the teachers who joined:

And, next to everyone's name on their mailbox, we placed a sticker:

At the end of the conversation with my two funny friends, they made sure I went back to check their mailboxes, because they had stickers of their own:

I guess they're owlways watching....

Make sure you share your Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers today!

Monday, October 26, 2015

posh purple pencil sharpener launches today!

Are pencils causing you a major headache in your classroom? Does your pencil collection end up looking all sad and beat up, like this one?

Do you feel like this when you think about how to get your pencils sharpened?

Do you wish you could have a stylish purple pencil sharpener to brighten up the mood in your classroom? If so, Classroom Friendly Supplies is here with the answer for you!

This company and the most amazing pencil sharpener ever was created by an elementary teacher who was so over the loud, annoying pencil sharpeners that were expensive and broke so easily. So, they created a great new pencil sharpener and are releasing a purple version of it today!

I was lucky to get one ahead of time to keep pencils in my classroom sharp and ready to use to get work done. Check out one of my students helping me out with pencil sharpening:

The sharpener works great, and gets the pencils super sharp. It's easy to use and makes kids...and teachers happy!

Make sure you head over to Classroom Friendly Supplies for a great product that was designed by a teacher and is for teachers and students! I hope that you can get a hold of this pencil sharpener and then you can experience the pure purple bliss we did last week in class.

Have a great week!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

our work matters

This month, I'm participating in an #educoach blog challenge, where instructional coaches share posts about the work they are doing. Thank you to Kathy Perret for getting this challenge up and running!

School is busy. Life is complicated. Put the two together and, even someone who loves to write just isn't up for posting on her blog, even though there's at least 10 ideas swimming around in my head at any given moment. After all, it is #DEVOLSON so may as well cut myself some slack. But I knew I would feel better if I made time to come to my writing as soon as I could, so here I am.

Thursday I attended an Illinois Writing Project event downtown. I think it was to celebrate the National Day on Writing, and so it was called Everybody Writes.  Nancy Steineke was our featured speaker with a great presentation on Integrating Writing Across Content, K-12. She read us a book I had never heard of: Piggybook, (I love when someone reads me a book!) and then we did a mini-text set with some data on gender equality (the theme from the book). Finally, we ended with a written conversation about our text set and gained new understandings from our peers.

After Nancy's presentation, we had dinner, talked with colleagues, and then our guest speaker, Adrienne Gibbs, left us with her inspiring story. She is a Chicago Public Schools alumni who was encouraged by her teachers to keep on writing. She went on to become a professional writer and editor. She ended her talk with these words:

One of my colleagues wrote an excellent post about passion, and it was a great reminder of why I do what I do: coach towards the Reading and Writing Workshop. I believe in it wholeheartedly! It's amazing to think that as teachers, we are able to inspire not only students, but also one another with the work that we do.

So while life gets messy and work is so busy, and you can feel like there just isn't enough time in the day, we need to remember that our work matters. We can potentially inspire the next big writer, create a passion for reading that cannot be extinguished, say words that could send out students off to be scientists and artists. In what other profession are they rewarded as such?

Anyone who inspired you? Leave a comment below!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

sunday letters

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Happy Sunday! Who else is on a three day, much-needed long weekend? Yesterday was awesome - only got dressed to go for a quick run, and just stayed home, relaxed, read my book, watched some Post-Season baseball, that's it! :-)

Anyways, if you're here for Sunday Letters, make sure to share yours with me below!

Dear Cubbies,
I'm pretty sure you're going to win it all, after all, Back to the Future predicted it!
Cheering for you,

Dear teachers who are 'just going with it' with your Calkins curriculum,
I LOVE to hear your stories about what the kids are doing in your classrooms as a result of Calkins. The ways the students are discussing text and planning for writing are so amazing, and much MUCH more rigorous than instruction I did in middle school without her curriculum. I know she's wordy, but stick with it, it's amazing work!
So impressed!

Dear Colleen,
Thank you for presenting with me at the IRC! I had such a great time hanging out, being inspired, and of course, planning and delivering a great presentation with you!

Dear Sister,
I can't wait to see you and jackfed in a month! Be thinking of everything you want to do and keep me posted! Excited!

Dear Bernie,
I believe! And I love the funny memes I find on facebook, like this one...

It's a political revolution! Keep it going!

Dear Blogging Club,
Can't wait to begin again on Wednesday! I'll be looking forward to reading your blogs this year!

A proud coach

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

a guiding light

Tuesdays this month, I'm participating in an #educoach blog challenge, where instructional coaches share posts about the work they are doing. Thank you to Kathy Perret for getting this challenge up and running!

I'm just getting back from the Illinois Reading Council Conference and slowly coming back to Earth, leaving my inspirational high over there in Peoria, Illinois. I always leave the IRC feeling so inspired, and as I thought about inspiration, I realized that sharing inspiration with others is a great quality for an instructional coach to have!

So...who has recently inspired me?

Dave Burgess
Dave is the author of Teach Like a Pirate and is very active on Twitter, just search up his #tlap hashtag! He's an magician and a teacher, so of course that definitely puts him in the difinitive entertainer category. (Aren't all teachers entertainers?) :-)

One of his quotes, in particular, is especially inspiring for me:

So true, right? When teachers create experiences for students, when students are living in your lessons because you have taken them beyond the lecture and homework, they respond differently. They like coming to school, coming to class. They put in more effort, because they have that internal drive to participate in the experience their teacher is creating.

In order to create these experiences for kids, we have to be creative and ask the right questions. Not, "Can I do this lesson outside of my classroom?" but, "How can I do this lesson outside of my classroom?" It's so easy to answer your questions with a no, so we must ask the right questions!

Penny Kittle
Penny Kittle was another teacher-author at the IRC. I heard of her a few years ago, but it was my first time going to a session with her. She teaches high school kids and is refining how teachers think about teaching high school English. The stories she shared with us about how she makes kids readers - amazing. Take a look at this kid - on the table beside him are stacks of books he read in each of his 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade years. Obviously, Penny was his teacher when he was a senior:

"Our daily practices show students what we believe." It's so true. The time we devote to the practices in our classroom reveals our values. If we value guided reading, and study it to make those most of those 20 minute sessions with students, it's very clear to students and observers that providing specific, differentiated instruction to each learner is of value. If we provide ample time for students to read and escape into their Just Right books, children and classroom observers see that time to do the work of reading is important.

How can instructional coaches inspire others?
I'm just scratching the surface with these two, but being inspired is an important part of the work we do as coaches. How do you inspire those you work with?

I believe part of this is evident in the content we coach. I am beyond passionate about Reading and Writing Workshop. To it's heart and core, I believe in the work around these practices, so it naturally exudes from me via conversations I have with colleagues.

Another way I (hope to) inspire others is through a weekly email I send - The Literacy Scoop. I send this message out on Friday afternoons right before I leave and it includes important announcements for the coming week, but it also includes appreciations to staff for the amazing work they do with students. As a coach, I have the luxury of getting into classrooms across the building on a regular basis, but because classroom teachers can't do so as often, I want to provide a window to classrooms via this email. In addition to sharing the great work our teachers are doing each day, it always feels good to get an appreciation, so that's what it's all about!

Finally, many of our teachers Tweet what is happening in their classrooms under our school's hashtag: #tigerslearn. Be sure to check that out by searching on Twitter! It's a great way to share what you're doing each day with the teachers on your campus!

How do you inspire your colleagues?

Friday, October 2, 2015

flipping for fall blog hop: reading with a writer's eye

Hi and welcome to BigTime Literacy! If this is your first time landing here, I'm Michelle, a Literacy Coach, advocate for Reading and Writing Workshop, and a writer myself. I'm really excited to be joining a group of amazing Reading Specialists and Literacy Coaches to share some mentor texts for the fall season!

Do you love fall as much as I do? It's been beautiful here in Chicago - 60's and 70's and sunny even! The leaves aren't falling yet, but I'm excited for that, and cool nights sleeping with the windows open, college football with friends, watching the Bears lose every week (grrr!), and sweaters and boots. I actually moved back to Chicago from Phoenix in 2009 for this season, if that is any indication of how much I love it!

With fall on our minds, each blogger from our tribe, The Reading Crew, has chosen a favorite fall mentor text to share with you. I've chosen is Scarecrow by Cynthia Rylant.

In this text, Rylant very thoughtfully and deliberately has described Scarecrow, and so it's the perfect mentor text to study with students who are working on personal narratives or fiction stories, so they can learn to craft characters just like she has. Rylant repeats one thing over and over, how even though the materials used to make Scarecrow are borrowed, it really is all about what is inside that counts.

Close Reading with a Writer's Eye
Many people often think of Close Reading as reading a passage or short text multiple times and annotating it. While those are some of the steps we go through as we close read, I believe it's more about looking through varying lenses to study what the author is saying. In the case of this text, as I kept reading, the word borrowed was repeated over and over, I began close reading to determine the significance of that word, which in the end, led me to theme. I was also looking closely for ways that Rylant revealed the Scarecrow, through his feelings, actions, physical traits, words, and thoughts. What close reading is really about is studying an author's craft and wondering she wrote in the way she did. This lesson, while about writing characters, is also naturally about close reading.

The Freebie!
Now that you have a fabulous recommendation for a Mentor Text, I have created a Characterization freebie for you to take and use with it! In this document, you can find the mini-lesson directions, the complete text of the book to use for close reading and study, a handout to model your anchor chart after, and a handout for students to sketch and rehearse ideas for the characters in their stories. I hope you will find it useful with your students!

If you like what you've read here at BigTime Literacy, be sure to keep in touch, here on the blog, or on any of my social media outlets! I love to collaborate with anyone who engages with my blog!

Did you find my secret word? If you missed it, it was the word in orange: borrowed. Be sure to record that to be eligible for our amazing prize package, copies of all the mentor texts we're sharing! You can find the details for the challenge and prizes on Gay's blog, The Book Units Teacher. Click over there if you want to go back to the beginning of the hop!

But, if you're ready for the next stop on the blog hop, it's time to head over to Pawsitively Teaching and see what Lisa has for you! 

Fall is my most favorite season, hope you enjoy yours this year!      


Thursday, October 1, 2015

currently october!

Hello friends! How are you? I hope well...and glad we can get together for another currently party! Thanks, as always, to Farley for hosting, and here's what's up with me this month!

Listening to Gonna by Blake
Ohh Blake, love you! Favorite line in this song... "Gonna put a little rock steady on your hand!" Love Love LOVE! :-) Listen and enjoy some country, friends!

Loving the Illinois Reading Council Conference!
I'm just home from Peoria and the IRC with lots of awesome people from my district and amazing teachers to learn from. To be quite honest, Dave Burgess (Teach Like a Pirate) stole the show for me yesterday, with his awesome session on creativity. Then today, my heart was full after listening to Penny Kittle. More to come on that later, though!

Thinking about my 1:1 kiddo!
I have one 30 minute intervention with one little kiddo and I love it. She's making so many gains - I can see them! The work we're doing with sight words is transferring to her guided writing. Then in her guided writing, she's remembering to capitalize the first letter of the sentence and correct capitals inside the sentence without prompting. She's becoming more fluent with the letter sounds and names and is using blends to increase her fluency as well. This is why I LOVE specific interventions with anecdotal notes as a measure - a standardized test could never tell us what I can tell my colleagues about my little one. I see so much growth and I'm so happy and proud, and I love our system for RtI - it's really working well this year!

Wanting one of my football teams to win a game
The Bears are 0 - 3 and ASU lost really bad to SC last Saturday. not cool. Can we please get a Sun Devil or Chicago Bears win sometime soon? Please?!

for realsies

Needing to go for a run
I've had such a hectic week and now I'm out of town, haven't been running, but have been thinking about it. I guess this is what happens when you become disciplined about something, right? Anyways, feet to pavement tomorrow morning!

Beautiful things? Listening and watching Dave Burgess yesterday reminded me how beautiful it is when teachers are amped up and loving their jobs. I can only imagine how awesome his kids feel to be in his class, and I totally want to be that teacher! One thing he said really rang true for me...

So that's all for me! Be on the lookout for some posts about the IRC in the coming days!

If you're landing here for the first time, make sure you check out the blog hop that is going on!

Have a great October! We'll meet again on my birthday! :-)
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