Friday, June 5, 2015

Emily's Blue Period

Emily's Blue Period by Cathleen Daly and illustrated by Lisa Brown is a sweet picture book on the Texas Bluebonnet List for 2015-16.

Emily is artist who finds out that even the best artists got through a "blue period" when things in their life make them sad.  Emily's blue period starts when her family gets mixed up and she has two houses to live in - one house for her mom and one house for her dad.  Which one is her "home"?  It isn't until her brother quotes a potholder... "Home is where the heart is"... that Emily gets an idea and her creative juices start flowing again.
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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Book Whispering

Over the weekend, I read the book The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. (I'm behind the curve in reading this, I know). But I am so glad I finally did.
It has taken me a while to write this post because this book spoke to me on so many levels- as a teacher, a librarian, a parent and as a reader.

My husband would call me an idealist and to me what Donalyn has accomplished in her classroom is perfect! Heaven! The epitome of reading class!  It sounds so simple... give them books and let them read!  Why don't more of us do it?

Twenty years ago when I began my teaching career in a third grade classroom, I read outloud to my students everyday and we always had silent reading.  I, like Donalyn, taught whole class novels.  I had been in college during the "whole language" teaching movement where topics were integrated in all subject areas for weeks of study.  My favorite of these was our Mr. Popper's Penguins unit.  We studied the heck out of penguins.  We researched the different kinds of penguins.  We did science experiments about blubber.  Every math problem was about penguins.  We capped off the unit with an overnight, YES OVERNIGHT with 100 3rd graders, trip to the penguin house at Sea World where we learned even more about penguins and observed them all night long.  I thought the kids were engaged and I thought I was doing it right, and to some extent I might have been.  I was at a pretty affluent school. We didn't even mention the "T" word until January.  Students came to us with a rich vocabulary and exposure to books at home.

Now, I cringe as see what miracles teachers are asked to perform.  They have a tremendous amount of curriculum to cover in less and less time every year as testing and benchmarks take over the classrooms.  I hate that they have to rush through skills or concept, just grazing the surface. There is no time to delve deeper or do the reteaching of some concepts that they know they need to do because they have to rush on to the next topic in time for the next benchmark where the students will be tested on it.  Things have to give and unfortunately, read alouds and silent reading have suffered.

Are there teachers, administrators and district leaders out there that still value reading in it's true form?  I sure hope so.  I hope that soon the pendulum will swing the other way and reading test questions will not be the reading that is taught in our schools.

Reflection 2014-2015

As this school year comes to a close tomorrow (Yea!!), I wanted to look back at the professional goals that I set for myself in August (see this post).  My 3 goals were professional development, technology and networking/professional learning community.

Professional Development - I did attend TCEA this year where my brain almost exploded from all the professional development (see this post), but I think I fell a little short of seeking out other professional development opportunities throughout the school year.  I did present two sessions at our Region 20 Resource Round Up in the fall and 2 Twitter sessions (one to other librarians in my district and one to teachers in my school).  I also co-presented a genrefying session to other librarians.

Technology - I received a whole class set of iPads from library bond money this year so I used those A LOT.  My SmartBoard area was under construction as I was transforming my space so that my teaching area will now BE at the SmartBoard.  So this goal will be continued for next year.

Networking and Professional Learning Community - I did MUCH better at blogging this year.  Still not where I want to be, but much better.  I took on Twitter this year and really expanded my PLN and networking abilities.  Twitter is amazing for connecting not only yourself, but students as well.  Through twitter, my students and I found out about opportunities to connect with other libraries via Skype for World Read Aloud Day and Poetry Month.  We also connected with authors and other students in chats on Twitter.  I am loving it and will for sure be looking for more opportunities next year.

My summer goals are to try the #bookaday challenge and blog or tweet about what I am reading, both children and adult books.  I am also trying a summer reading google classroom for my 3rd-5th graders - not sure how that is going to go, but I am hopeful.  And amid the baseball practices, games, tournaments, and strength and conditioning camps, we ARE going to my happy place this year - where I will be assuming THIS position for most of the 8 days we are there!