Saturday, August 30, 2014

Celebration 8/30

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This week I am celebrating positivity and a new beginning.

I am so relieved to be starting the school year with a team of colleagues that are positive about the job and what kids can do.

I love my classroom and what I was able to do with it (alas, I forgot to take pictures on Friday).

I enjoyed meeting some of my students and their parents at our Open House on Thursday. It was great to see the students gravitate right toward the carpet area and the library. 

I had the privilege and the challenge of training some of my colleagues on the new online student information system we will use this year. Compared to the old dinosaur of a system we were using, Infinite Campus is amazing and will be great. However, setting up a grade book online is a big challenge for some of the computer-phobic folks in my school. I had volunteered to work with the group that needed more support because I knew that they needed slow and patient instruction. Although everyone's mind was blown by the end of the 6 hours of training, I received several compliments on the way I worked with everyone to help them. The next day, I even got a thank you card from one of the teachers I helped. It is so nice to be able to help people feel less scared of technology. 

The new music teacher saw my display of books that I read over the summer and came into my classroom to talk about the Cassandra Clare series. LOVE that these displays start great book conversations. 

I'm not ready yet, but I will be by Tuesday. I love the energy that surrounds me as I plan and prepare for my first day with students. 

It really has hit me how very negative I had become in the middle school position. I am so glad this opportunity to move to 4th grade arose. I needed the change in scenery and the new start. 

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

Monday, August 25, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/25

Well, I officially have to be back at work tomorrow. Where did the summer go? Last week was a busy chaos of unpacking and sorting and cleaning in my new classroom.  I went in to school every morning and I feel like things are looking pretty good at this point.  Of course, there are still multiple pages of to-do lists to take care of, but what needs doing will get done.

Books I Finished This Week:

I finally finished listening to The Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare.  I absolutely loved this book and was really pleased with the way the trilogy ended.  I would highly recommend this series.

I really have enjoyed each of the books I have read in the Hangman's Daughter series.  This one had a great plot line and plenty of suspense.  If you like mysteries and historical fiction, this is a great series to try.  I recommend it for adults.

Many thanks again to Linda Baie who hosted a giveaway which I won.  The prize was this fun book by Varian Johnson.  I loved The Great Greene Heist. I highly recommend this one to grades 4 and up.

I re-read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume.  Her books are so fun.  I am seriously considering this one for a first read aloud this school year, so I read it again to remember it.  Although this one is not as deep as many of the other books on my list, I think it would be fun to get some students hooked on Blume's books.  Fudge is my favorite character from when I was a kid.

The Inside Guide to the Reading-Writing Classroom, Grades 3-6: Strategies for Extraordinary Teaching by Leslie Blauman is another great professional book about teaching a reading/writing workshop.  I was intrigued with the mentions that I have seen lately of the "book lovers book" in many articles.  I ordered this book because I was curious about it. I really love the ideas that Blauman gives in this book and will be implementing some of the great lessons this fall.

Books I Am Currently Reading:

I am reading In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson.  I am also reading The Rosie Project and listening to Enchanted by Alethea Kontis.

What's Next?

I have no idea what will be next. There will be less time for reading in the next few weeks so I will have to see how I feel.

Monday, August 18, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/18

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.

My mind is swirling and whirling during these weeks before school starts.  Much of my reading this week has been articles and rereading snippets of favorite professional books.  I am trying to remember what worked for me in 4th grade and to figure out what I will do differently now that I have 5 more years of experience and a wealth of knowledge from being connected the last few years. There have been some great articles in the Edutopia back to school series.  I definitely started thinking differently about classroom design after watching some videos there and then popping over to Choice Literacy and looking at their resources about it.  Anyway, here is my list of books for this week.

Books I Finished This Week:

The I Survived series is one that I have been meaning to read for a while.  I had heard of it as a series for reluctant readers.  I know the one that I had in my classroom definitely piqued the interest of one of my readers during last school year, but I had not read them yet.  I ordered the whole set from Scholastic.  I decided to read them in chronological order of the year in which they take place.  I read about the Battle of Gettysburg and the earthquake in San Francisco in 1906.  Both books were fast paced and full of information.  I can see how reluctant readers could be very interested in this series.  The books were very quick reads for me and while they aren't  amazing literature, I am glad I will have them to add to my 4th grade class library.  

When I read The Testing, I liked it, but had a few reservations about the book because it was so similar to The Hunger Games.  Reading Independent Study changed my mind.  I really got into this series and cannot wait to read Graduation Day soon.  This is a great series, full of adventure and the dystopian element will make you think.  What does it take to be a great leader? Cia is trying to find out.  I highly recommend this one. 

I enjoyed reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. She is really funny and the book was entertaining as well as having great advice for writers.  I would recommend this one to any adult who is a writer or wants to be one.  

I loved Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff.  I knew I would like it because so many people I admire had said fabulous things about it.  This book would be a great one for a discussion of the mindset of the main character and the messages that we sometimes give ourselves.  I felt so bad for Albie and his learning difficulties.  I also wanted to go into the book and smack some sense into his parents.  This is definitely a book you should read if you have a middle grade classroom.  

I also did some picture book reading this week.  Nighttime Ninja and Interrupting Chicken were both cute books that would be fun to read with kids.  On a Beam of Light was amazing! I love how this book celebrates the life of Albert Einstein, but does it in such a way that kids will understand.  I can't wait to share this book with my students.  

Mindsets in the Classroom by Mary Cay Ricci is bursting with great advice about how to bring about a growth mindset culture at a school.  I appreciated the chapters about how having a responsive and differentiated classroom is important to having a growth mindset stance.  In chapter 8 of the book, she gives a ton of ideas of lessons and activities you might do in the classroom to help students gain a growth mindset.  She also gives some ideas for how to involve parents and help them learn about this concept.  I will definitely be using some of the ideas from this book to supplement some of the things I already was doing to promote growth mindset.  I highly recommend this one for your professional reads.  

Books I am Currently Reading:

I started reading Comprehension Going Forward and am really loving the ideas that are pushing my thinking.  I also am still listening to The Clockwork Princess and have started reading The Beggar King and In a Sunburned Country.

What's Next?

I will probably read the rest of the I Survived series this week.  Other than that, I will have to see where my moods take me.  I can get into my classroom starting tomorrow so some of my time will be spent setting up.  

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

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Celebration 8/16

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The first thing I want to celebrate this week is medicine.  I had another bout of Diverticulitis last week and I am thankful for the quick acting antibiotics.  

The second thing I want to celebrate is rest and relaxation.  On Monday, my husband and I took the dog and drove to my parents' camper in a campground a couple hours from here.  We had fun spending time with my mom and stepdad.  It was fun to take our dog down to the small lake and take her swimming.  She is part lab so we knew she would love it.  She was quite cautious at first, but by the end of our two days she was a swimming pro!  

The third thing I want to celebrate is all the amazing ideas out there for classroom organizing.  I will be starting to set up my classroom next week and I love the way the internet is just bursting with DIY ideas and videos and articles about setting up good creative spaces.  I spent a good couple of hours on the Choice Literacy site finding really helpful ideas about creating learning zones.  I have also enjoyed reading some of the articles on Edutopia.  

Last, but not least, I want to celebrate the life of a creative genius who has affected us all in at least one of his many roles.  I was devastated when I heard the news that Robin Williams had died.  When my husband and I started to list his movies, we really understood how many great roles he had played.  My favorite movies of all time include many that he stars in.  I am so thankful that we all were able to learn from having this incredible actor in the world for the time that he was here.  

I also am thankful for the way that his death is bringing out discussions of depression and the need for people to better understand this condition.  I lived for years with a person who was living in the dark space of depression.  I went to work every day and prayed that I would not come home to discover that he had killed himself during the day.  I watched the desperation and listened to the irrational thinking.  I lived with this dark abyss.  It is not something that people can overcome without help.  Luckily for me, he got help and rose out of that place.  However, I would not have thought him selfish if he had not.  I would have understood that the hopelessness that he felt had taken over.  I hope that the many heartfelt things being written about suicide and depression will help some people to have more compassion and understanding for those with mental heath issues. 

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

Monday, August 11, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/11

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 started this week with meetings to write our school improvement plan.  All day Monday and Tuesday, I had a mix of training and time to work with my school team on our plan.  This took away a lot of the time I would usually have had for reading.  Also, I got sick again.  Round 2 of Diverticulitis is now under control with another antibiotic, but while I was sick I spent lots of time watching television instead of reading.  I hope all this getting sick will be out of my system so that I can be healthy as we start the school year.  Suffice it to say I didn't do much reading this week.

Books I Finished This Week:

En el tiempo de las mariposas (In The Time of the Butterflies) by Julia Alvarez is a fabulous book.  I was fascinated by the story of the Mirabal sisters in a country led by the dictator Trujillo.  I do not know much about the history of the Dominican Republic and it was really interesting to get this small fictional glimpse into that time period. 

Gulp! by Mary Roach is a fun non-fiction book that explores different aspects of digestion and eating.  I laughed out loud multiple times because of the author's hilarious play on words and sarcastic voice.  There were quite a few parts of the book in which someone with a weaker stomach might be quite grossed out, but I was fascinated by the curious questions this author explored.  I am definitely ready to find her other books and to learn about other science from this fun author.  

Books I am Currently Reading:

I am still reading Bird by Bird and Escaping into the Open.  I am also still listening to The Clockwork Princess.  I just started reading Mindsets in the Classroom and Independent Study.  I am in school planning mode already and so I am also re-reading excerpts from multiple books and articles on Choice Literacy as I make decisions about how to plan for fourth grade.  

What's Next?

I have Absolutely Almost along with a bunch of picture books in my library bag that I will get to this week.  I also want to read some of the I Survived books.  I will probably also start Spook by Mary Roach or In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. I know I will also continue reading articles and excerpts from some of the professional books I have as I continue to plan my procedures and first lessons.  

What are you reading this week? Do you have any recommendations for me?  I would love to hear from you in the comments! 

Monday, August 4, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/4

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:

El misterio de la cripta embrujada by Eduardo Mendoza is a mystery with a very unique protagonist.  It is a well-written book and many people really like it.  I did not like it very much.  I found it hard to connect with the protagonist and he kind of disgusted me.  I think I just have a hard time connecting to books with an odd person as narrator.  This happened to me with Perks of Being a Wallflower as well.  I think many people would enjoy this book.  It just wasn't my cup of tea.

In The Fourteenth Goldfish, Jennifer Holm takes a premise that seems utterly unbelievable and somehow makes it believable. I love the way she weaves the love of science into this book.  Kids who read this book will find out about some famous scientists as well as connecting with Ellie, the main character.  I highly recommend this book!  Look for this one later this month.

As many other bloggers have said about this book, it will be an important one to add to class libraries when it comes out in the fall.  The protagonist and narrator of this book is a girl with Asperger's syndrome.  There are many challenges for her in her daily life.  As an adult, I just wanted to get in this book and beat some sense into her father.  I think this will be an excellent book for students to read because they will be able to connect with Rose through her connection with her dog, Rain.  I cannot say enough great things about this book.  You should order Rain, Reign by Ann M. Martin when it comes out in October.
I had not read any of the Squish graphic novels before this week.  It is such a cute series.  I will definitely keep looking for these books to add to my class library.

This graphic novel is about the author and how he started writing comics.  I think it will be a great book to have in the class library.  I really enjoyed reading it.

I started reading Article 5 by Kristen Simmons at bedtime one night.  Big mistake.  I read until I couldn't keep my eyes open any more...way into the wee small hours.  Then, I read the next morning until I finished the book.  This is another dystopian book and I could definitely imagine our world getting to this state.  The romance part of the book bothered me a little bit because it is another book in which the girl doubts whether the guy loves her and spends a lot of time being insecure about the relationship.  I think it rings true to how a teenager would be in a relationship, but it always bothers me a little.  I feel like getting in her face and yelling "IDIOT, of course he loves you!"  Overall, though, I really liked the book and will be looking for the other ones in this series.

The Literacy Teacher's Playbook by Jennifer Serravallo is a very interesting professional read about reading assessment and analyzing the data.  I read this one on the Digital Campus on Heinemann's website, but might need to order a copy to keep nearby.  Her approach to collecting and analyzing data is straightforward and easy to follow.  This is such an important skill to develop in order to really do the best we can for all students.  I highly recommend this book to reading teachers in elementary school.

Books I Am Currently Reading:

I am still working my way through Bird by Bird and Escaping into the Open.  I also am still reading Gulp! and listening to The Clockwork Princess. I also just started reading En el tiempo de las mariposas (In the Time of the Butterflies) in order to continue reading in Spanish.

What's Next?

I borrowed a copy of The Right to Write from my mother so I hope to get to that this week.  I also just got Absolutely, Almost from the library. Otherwise, it will really depend on my mood.

Blog Posts This Week

What did you read this week? Any recommendations for me? I would love to hear from you in the comments! 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Celebrate 8/2

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This week was full of celebrations, big and small.

On Monday, we went to the art museum with my mom.  We all wanted to see the Kandinsky exhibition that is currently at the museum.  The exhibit was really well done and the audio guide had just the right amount of information. Also, they have now made it free admission to all K-12 educators in Wisconsin.  I love our Milwaukee Art Museum!

Then, we walked through downtown Milwaukee to go to Cubanitas for lunch.  We had a perfect lunch of Cuban sandwiches and plaintain chips with guacamole.  Of course, we also had a nice mojito.

Thursday was my birthday. I had a nice relaxing day and some fun treats.  For lunch, we went to one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants.  Then, I went to Starbucks for an afternoon fancy coffee drink treat.  Then, we went out to dinner at the Brazilian steakhouse in town.  They had a crazy good deal on Groupon and I was happy we could have a nice dinner for a good price.  The food was so good!

The best part of my birthday celebration was The Phantom of the Opera.  When I heard that the tour was going to be here over my birthday, I immediately got tickets.  It was fun to take my husband to see this show.  I LOVE Phantom and I was happy to experience the new pyrotechnics that were added to the show.  There is something magical about that dramatic Phantom music being played in a theater with an orchestra.  It wasn't the best performance I have seen of this musical, but I still enjoyed sharing the experience with my husband.

Wednesday, I enjoyed going to the annual sale at The Learning Shop, which is a local teacher resource store.  It is so much fun to share this part of the anticipation of setting up my classroom and getting ready for the school year with my husband.  I wasn't just dragging him around the store looking at my stuff, he was wandering around looking for his own stuff.  Although this is a little dangerous for our wallets, it is so fun!

Lastly, I worked again to make writing a priority this week.  I missed a couple days, but I definitely am developing much more of a habit.  I started drafting another incarnation of the novel that I have drifting around in my head.  The narrator who emerged in this draft surprised me, but it feels right so now I will play with this version to see what comes out.  I also experimented with writing in the present tense, which was challenging, but felt right as well.  We shall see where it goes, but I am celebrating the seed that might grow into something good.

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