Sunday, April 10, 2016

Blog Move

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Have a great day!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Celebrate This Week: Routines 2/27

It's Saturday and that means it is time to reflect on the week and celebrate things both big and small. Join our community and celebrate this week by linking up or just stopping by the host Ruth Ayres' blog to read others' celebrations.

This week I am celebrating routines and rituals in my life. 

First, for the last six weeks, I have been doing a challenge. I discovered this challenge on Facebook when one of my friends shared that she had just finished. I quickly investigated and found out that this was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for to challenge myself to change my eating habits and be healthier. The Whole Life Challenge is an 8-week challenge in which you strive to do 7 daily habits: eat well, meet your sleep goal, exercise at least 10 minutes, stretch for 10 minutes, drink enough water, do a lifestyle practice, and reflect each night. The challenge lets you choose your level of nutrition so that you can decide how strict you want to be with your eating. The most difficult level is pretty much the Whole30 nutrition. I am doing the Kickstart level, which is basically cutting out bread/pasta and cheese and sugar. What is nice about this challenge is that there is an online game in which you earn points--you can eat that thing that is not compliant, but you lose a point for eating it. I love that this challenge is not expecting perfection, but is making me think twice about whether I really want the treat. It has been really surprising to me how I really don't miss cheese that much.  I have discovered some great and flavorful recipes.  I feel good about being healthier and forming some good habits to take care of myself. A bonus benefit has been some weight loss that I have experienced. 

In my classroom, I have been working on tweaking our math routines. The other day, I came across an article that mentioned the two sisters and their Daily 3 for math. I had not ever heard of this. I knew all about the Daily 5 for literacy instruction, but did not know about the math procedures. This really resonated with me with the kind of math instruction I want to be doing. So, I jumped in this week with both feet. We had math choices and we had mini-lessons in between. My students loved it. There are a lot of things we will need to fix next week. There are some things that I thought would transfer from the work we have done in literacy that I now know need to be practiced for math time. But, overall, I was happy with what we did this week. I will be working to tighten our routines and find activities that will work well with the idea of having work times and choosing Math by Myself, Math with Someone, and Math Writing. I love the way this makes my math classroom much more of a workshop classroom and frees me up to really work with my struggling mathematicians and provide the best support for each student. I like the way this structure also makes me really streamline the time I have with the whole group. 

The last celebration I have to share this week is the routine of independent reading in my classroom. My students are reading for stretches of 50 minutes to an hour. Yesterday, I stopped them after about 30 minutes of reading, because we had spent some of our reading time reflecting and writing goals. At the time when I stopped the reading, there was an audible protest from some students, even though they knew that board game time was next. I love that we have been able to create this sacred reading space that students look forward to each day. 

What do you have to celebrate this week?  I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Monday, February 22, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/22

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? --From Picture Books to YA is a weekly meme started by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers. This is a chance for bloggers to recap their week of reading and share their plans for the next reading adventures they will take. Visit the host blogs for a list of great blogs participating in this meme and a whole bunch of titles to add to your to-read lists.

I didn't post last week so I will be writing about the books I finished in the last two weeks. I had a lot of books going at once, so the list seems impressive, but I really have been reading some of these books for a long time. I do have to say that I am really enjoying the variety of books that I have been reading. 

Books I Finished:

Part of my new morning routine is to read some self-help books to think about what I can do to improve my life. I appreciated Ruth Soukup's advice in Living Well, Spending Less about some things I can do to gain some more control over my finances and my life. I am definitely more interested in her blog now and have been using some of the advice already. 

The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom by Suze Orman is full of great financial advice. I was surprised at first with how much she links our financial picture to our emotional reactions to money. It was interesting for me to think about that connection. I appreciated the practical advice in this book, but had to skim through some parts that got way more technical than I was ready for. Overall, I am glad I read the book and I have confronted some of my financial challenges honestly. 

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli was a book club pick. I really enjoyed the story and was glad for the book club because I most likely would not have selected this title on my own. It was fascinating and heartbreaking to read about a woman reporter who was living in Vietnam and going into the field to take pictures during the war.  So much was so awful for the people who were there. I appreciated learning more about it through this fictional lens. 

I listened to the audiobook of Bone Gap and found myself inventing excuses to put the book on. I loved this story and all of the characters. I thought the narrator did a fabulous job of reading this book as well. I don't really even have words to describe this one except: you should read it. 

Revolution by Deborah Wiles was another amazing read. I loved the primary sources mixed in between chapters. I loved the way there were multiple narrators. I loved that this book helped me to learn more about a controversial time in our history. I loved this book. I highly recommend it. I am definitely going to look for the other books in the sixties trilogy now. 

I finished reading The Tiger Rising aloud to my class this week. I wrote about our emotional moments while sharing the final chapters in my Celebrate This Week post. This is the third or fourth time I have read this book, but the first time I did it as a read aloud. I will definitely continue to use this book as a teaching text. I am so glad the TCRWP chose it to be the anchor text in the first unit for fourth grade. If you haven't already read this one, you need to find a copy and get to it!

Books I am Currently Reading:

I am still reading 1Q84. I am still enjoying it and will still be reading it for quite some time. I am also reading The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer.

What's Next?

My book club is reading Cutting for Stone so I will probably pick that up to start it, although I am quite hesitant to do so since it is another long one. I have a stack of middle grade titles from my last Scholastic order that I will probably grab from so that I can get through a few books faster in the next week or so.

What are you reading this week? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Celebrate This Week 2/20 The Power of a Good Book

It's Saturday and that means it is time to reflect on the week and celebrate things both big and small. Join our community and celebrate this week by linking up or just stopping by the host Ruth Ayres' blog to read others' celebrations.

This week I am celebrating the power of a good book. 

For the last several weeks, I have been making my way through the first Unit of Study in the 4th grade Units of Study for Teaching Reading. I went to see Lucy Calkins speak this fall, and I jumped in with both feet to the first unit. I have been busy working through the unit but also trying to bring it into the workshop routines I had already established. Like any time a teacher tries something for the first time, it has been slightly rocky for me, but I love the language and the ideas in the minilessons and I will continue to work with the Units of Study this year with the goal of starting with them from the beginning of the school year next year and getting a better start.  The best thing about this unit is that The Tiger Rising is the read aloud and the book that all the lessons are centered around. We have spent a lot of time analyzing Rob and Sistine and the way the author describes them and the decisions that they make. 

Yesterday, we were four chapters away from the end of the book. My students begged me to finish the book. So, I scrapped the minilesson for the day and we read. We read intensely. The atmosphere in the classroom was focused and silent. Anyone who has read The Tiger Rising will know that some intense things happen in those last few chapters...I won't spoil it here. Suffice it to say, I started crying while reading the chapters. My students were crying too. We had an intense moment of shared vulnerability while reading a particularly emotional scene. And then, a few students who were uncomfortable with this, started trying to make fun of those students who were crying. I was able to take this moment and make it into a lesson about the power of literature to make us feel. I talked about the way that Rob's feelings about missing his mother made me think about how I felt when my father died when I was young. I talked about how it was amazing that books have the power to help you bring out some things that you might have locked away in a suitcase the way Rob did. As we finished reading the book, the class got quiet again and soaked up the mood of the story. If someone had come into my classroom at that moment, they would have seen a handful of students with red-rimmed eyes and all students silently listening with rapt attention. 

We are not finished with the unit yet. We will be analyzing some of what happens in the book to see if we can find some themes and the evidence to back them up. But these students will remember the afternoon that Ms. Payan and some of their classmates were choked up and touched by a powerful story. I cherish these moments and celebrate sharing the power of literature in our lives. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Celebrating Imagination 2/13

It's Saturday and that means it is time to reflect on the week and celebrate things both big and small. Join our community and celebrate this week by linking up or just stopping by the host Ruth Ayres' blog to read others' celebrations.

Field trips are always fun, but they are also the most stressful days for teachers. We worry about whether students will behave and be respectful to the educator at the destination. We worry about possibly losing someone or a kid having some sort of emergency while we are on the trip. We try to contain the unbridled excitement of the students all day. We also worry about what the parent chaperones might be thinking about the job we are doing keeping the students in check (at least I do). This week, on my field trip to the zoo, I had the chance to focus on fun rather than stressing out.

As I sat eating lunch with my students on our field trip to the zoo, I realized much more was going on than just a chance to learn about animals. 

"Mrs. Payan, we found clues!" Nicholas was glowing with excitement and ready to tell me all about it. 
"Yeah, first it was the way the peahen was following us, then the elephant gave us a signal," Moises chimed in.

"Clues for what?" I innocently asked

"We're not sure yet...look there is a birthday balloon. I wonder whether it is his birthday or if he is going to give it to someone. Oh! That's another clue!" Nicholas stopped to take a bite of his sandwich and I turned around and looked where he had pointed. One of the zookeepers had a birthday balloon on his chair. 

"That's It! The animals are planning something. See, there is the peacock and he's acting suspicious. They're planning to get out," Moises was letting the gears turn quickly in his brain. His face lit up and he became quite animated. 

Now, Michael started to join in the conversation. "Yes. I knew it was suspicious when Christopher said, 'Have a nice day' at the end of our program. He was trying to keep us from finding out." 

At this point, I just sat back and continued listening. We had already had a zoo class about endangered animals and had a chance to see the big cats. We were eating lunch and then were going to head out to see as many other animals as possible before our bus came to get us. We had the cafeteria to ourselves, because it was a school day in the middle of February and super cold outside. My fourth grade students were incredibly hyper and excited about the opportunity to see all these cool animals. And this lunch time was a chance to take a small break. 

I looked around the cafeteria and was full of pride about how well my students were behaving. It never stops making my heart sing to see the way these kiddos get along with one another. And now, I was listening to the most imaginative thinking in a place that I didn't really expect to see imaginative play. As I listened to the mystery and the clues unravel at the lunch table, I took a minute to drink it all in. 

Throughout the rest of the day, I heard one of the boys say, "another clue!" every once in awhile. Then, when we were back at school, the boys had the whole conspiracy figured out and told me the whole story (which unfortunately I do not remember to write it here). 

I love how this regular field trip day turned into an opportunity for these students' imaginations to run wild. I love a great mystery and I know these boys had an awesome day full of mystery solving. Now, I need to go find my copy of Chasing Vermeer to give them! 

What do you have to celebrate this week? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Slice of Life: How Writing is like Going to the Gym

          The number one excuse to not do something is that you don't have time for it. All of us are busy and our lives are full of things to do. How we choose to spend our time should be a matter of priorities, but many of us don't always prioritize. Many of us end up spending time on small things or time sucking, time wasting things such as addictive games or social media obsessions. Some of us are readers and can lose ourselves for hours on end in a good book. While this isn't exactly a waste of our time, in many instances we are taking those hours without really thinking about the things that we might be choosing not to do.

      Making the time to do something good for you is sometimes really hard. A good example is taking the time to go to the gym. If you have ever established a schedule for this, you will know that it is indeed possible and everyone can find the time if they try. But it is so hard to do this at first. It feels like you are robbing yourself of time for other things. Once you have the habit of going to the gym, your life adjusts around it and it doesn't seem like such a big deal anymore. But then, if you get sick or for some other reason stop going as regularly for a little while, it can feel like a huge hurdle to get back to the routine. Everyone understands that working out is good for you. You even probably feel awesome when you are finished working out, but it still takes a lot of willpower to establish the routine and really make the time for it.

     Writing is the same way for me. I know it is good for me. I even feel really good after spending time writing. But I still have a hard time adding it to my routine. I am still in those early stages of having to convince myself that it is worth giving up that time each day. Many times, I need to drag my butt to the chair to write. I have established a daily routine before, but then other things happened and I stopped. Now, I am confronting that hurdle of time and how I choose to spend it. Luckily, I know that prioritizing my time is important. I choose to make the time to write because it is important to me. Just as I choose to make the time to get to the gym. Both of these things will make me healthier. Now, I just have to stick to it.

Monday, February 8, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/8

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? --From Picture Books to YA is a weekly meme started by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers. This is a chance for bloggers to recap their week of reading and share their plans for the next reading adventures they will take. Visit the host blogs for a list of great blogs participating in this meme and a whole bunch of titles to add to your to-read lists.

Books I Finished This Week: 

I really enjoyed the audiobook of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. The author, Elizabeth Gilbert, read the book and I loved the conversational style of the writing. She has many good points that she makes about being creative and honoring that part of who you are. I enjoyed many of the stories she tells in this book. I think I would like to get a hard copy of this book in order to refer back to some of the ideas. I highly recommend this book.

Books I am Currently Reading:

   This is such a long list that I feel like none of the books will ever be finished. I think I need to focus on one of them in order to finish it this week. I am still reading 1Q84, The Lotus Eaters, and 9 Steps to Financial Freedom. I also started listening to Bone Gap and reading Living Well, Spending Less.

 What's Next?

    I will focus on finishing The Lotus Eaters this week. I need to start reading Cutting for Stone since that is my book club's March selection. Otherwise, I will just focus on trying to finish some of the books I have started.

What are you reading this week? I would love to hear from you in the comments!