Saturday, June 30, 2012

Goodbye June sale! at my TPT store

Happy last day of June! I woke up this morning and decided to throw a sale! Check it out here:
Kindergarten, 2nd - Balanced Literacy, Classroom Management, Math - TeachersPayTeachers.com
have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Second week at Summer Institute...

I can not believe that we are half way finished!! This is the most amazing process and I have grown so much. I was asked recently what it is that is making this Summer Institute so wonderful and honestly it's the learning and the friendships that are forming. Each morning we come into classroom on the UALR campus and grab coffee (water for me) and we visit. We visit about our lives, we visit about what we have read... it's a wonderful way to start the day. Then we reflect on a quote or two, we are all taking turns pulling ideas from what we are reading each night. The best part is that we then discuss our responses! It is wonderful to talk through our thoughts and ideas on our new learning. This classroom full of educators all working together to construct best practice and solidify new learning. After our discussion we have 2 teacher workshops. Each teacher is asked to present a workshop showing how they might get kids to the business of writing. Mine was last week and centered around Pete the Cat by Mr. Eric and illustrated by James Dean. We meet in writing groups after a lunch break and discuss what we are writing. Before this institute I didn't write much but I am growing to LOVE writing. I love the writing groups SO much!! This is were I am forming such close friendships! We wrap up together by sharing a "poem in my pocket". This is just us finding poems to share.

I am looking forward to this next week because we are going to be looking at writer's notebooks and portfolios. I haven't used writers notebooks in my room but after listening to Pam (one of our writing project teacher consultants) talk about using them in her room, I'm really EXCITED about using them in my room. So my teacher friends... Do you use writers or writing notebooks in your room?? Please tell me about how you use them. Do you have any tips for me as I get ready to start using them?


Sunday, June 24, 2012

In Pictures and in Words CH 2

Chapter 2 is about building stamina for writing. Earlier this year I mentioned to some teachers in my building that our children lack stamina for things academic. Everything is instant gratification. To my surprise the teachers were more upset with my word choice... stamina. Rather than thinking that the word could apply to reading and writing, they stressed that stamina was a word that you use for running or physical activity. I love this word actually and it is something that my kids get excited about too. We are able set timers and see our growth! And how do I love to grow and celebrate growth!!

I love this quote from page 22: So composing with illustrations is the only logical entry point for them to begin developing stamina or creative work.

Think about it... all children can make pictures. Even the most unskilled child can make pictures. Here is my case in point, the child who drew the picture below was one of my lowest students. You can see that she is filling the page, but with random marks. However in the middle of the page are people... can't you see them?

Now lets look at her work from the end of the year. After lots of talking about illustrations and how we use the picture as much as the words to tell our story.
I really love her drawing here. You can clearly see the pet( it's an alligator) and the people in her family. Her mom is is on the left and she drew her with a red face because she didn't want an alligator for a pet. Now I didn't get this information from her words written on a page. I got that through a student interview. She could tell me volumes about this picture.

So much of this chapter was looking at the story of the young writers. Now one thing that I didn't do this year was to create student books, but I am really rethinking my whole writing block. I plan to use two new tools this year. 1) creating books and 2) the idea that something is NOT finished in one sitting.


In Pictures and In Words study ch 1


I hope that it is ok that I take creative license with how I will be participating with this books study. It fits SO nicely into what I am doing through the NWP( National Writing Project) and the summer institute(SI). BUT I want to take it a bit slower than the schedule. I want to share what I am collecting in my SI learning log and my reflections on the important theory and how other writers have tapped into these same ideas. So this post will just be on Chapter one: Illustration Study as a Foundation for Strong Writing.

This first set of quotes hit to the heart of what I think writing needs to be, and something I feel that I fight with everyone over. That is writing for children must be developmentally appropriate. I feel that so many teachers in my district rush to get to an end product. Children must all look like "this" at the end of the year. Let's toss to the way side where these children started or how they come to writing. Lucy Calkins in her book Pathways to the Common Core discusses this very thing, while the Common Core State Standards are the end result, some things might not be attainable for some students. Writing in Kinder is one of the areas she focuses on, and I believe that she would support this idea that illustrations ARE writing! Another support piece to developmentally appropriate writing comes on page 10 in the way of the NAEYC's position statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice, published in 2009. This piece is crystal clear that the spirit of play, which at 5 years old is developmentally appropriate, matters because through play children develop self regulations as well as language and social competence.

Ok take a second and think about this... a child plays, that is what they do, it's how they are wired as 5 year olds and if we can tap into this play as educators we have hit the gold mine. Katie Wood Ray wrote another book called Already Ready with Matt Glover talking about how children come to school already ready... because they see writing as play. It's just one way to tell about something. Just one way to share their thoughts and feelings. Matt Glover went on to write Engaging Young Writers. He also speaks volumes to the idea of writing as play and adds to it that children need entry points into writing. I believe that sharing good quality illustration study would be one of those entry points.

To sum up this chapter is for me is about tapping into children's natural love of play. I also believe that it's about children using illustration as an entry point into writing and valuing what that child is bringing to the table.

To see what others think of this chapter (actually the first 6- remember I am stretching mine out ;) ) goto Mrs. Wills Kindergarten blog: In Pictures and In Words book study

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Writing Project Summer Institute

There are so many things that I want to say about the National Writing Project and the summer institute. I can not believe that the week has flown by. Each day we have workshops presented by those who have come through the institute. The are all teachers and serve as teacher consultants for the Little Rock Writing Project. Then each of us in the institute this summer will also present a workshop. Mine was today. After lunch we meet with our writing groups or inquiry groups to talk about writing or best practices in writing. It is SOOO wonderful. I have grown so much as a writer and the theory that we discuss backs up what I want to be as a teacher of writing. I thought I would share with my blog buddies some of the books that we are reading, in case you want to read more about best practices in writing instruction.

We have four common reading books. We will not read all of them, but the parts we have read so far have been wonderful. Two of our books are by the National Writing Project:

  Because Writing Matters really lays the foundation for why we do what we do! It's wonderful

Because Digital Writing Matters is a more recent publication but it focuses on adding the digital element to writing. I must be honest this book is a dry when it comes to reading. But the information is really good.
A Writer's Book of Days is a wonderful book. It's an easy read and I have had some real connections to this book. It's secret feature is that it is divided by months and with in each chapter there are as many writing starts as there are days. I'm not sure I want to call them writing prompts anymore... that feels so high stakes testing. I kind of like writing starts. We'll see...
This last books is my favorite of the common readings. I have laughed and cried and gotten really upset while reading this book. I am beginning to thing that it is a must read for ALL teachers, especially in light of the common core.

We each have a personal inquiry that we are working on. Mine is teaching writing with the very young. I keep adding books that I want to read during my inquiry reading. I am reading a LOT of Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover. Here is the list minus one that I don't have a picture of- Already Ready by Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover.

Here are my teacher choice or inquiry books:
This is the book that started as my focus book, but as I am reading I am pulling in others, or Glover makes references to others that I, of course, feel that I need to read too.
I love this book!! There is a blog study that is starting on June 22 for this one. I can't wait to see what other teachers think about this book.
I haven't started this book yet but I am really excited to see how it ties into the ideas that are already forming in my head about talking and drawing and writing. I am getting SOOO excited about teaching writing. I think that some of my posts this summer will be from my SI (summer institute) learning log. I think it might be cool to get my blog buddies thoughts on the quote.

I need to get back to my reading... I still have quite a bit and I want to get caught up on my learning log. I want to spend more time with Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover.










Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Writing Project summer institude update 1

I must start this by saying if you do not know what the national writing project is you MUST go check it out! And then you MUST find your local writing project and do WHATEVER it takes to be part of a summer institute. We are in day 2 of our 4 week institute and I am blown away with all that I am learning. This whole process is demystifying teaching writing. I am so excited about teaching writing now!! I promise to update as I can and share what I am learning.

SO here is my first share we have four books that we are using to build a common knowledge. The four books are:
Because Writing Matters by National Writing Project and Carl Nagin
Because Digital Writing Matters by National Writing Project et all
The 9 Rights of Every Writer by Vicki Spandel
A Writers Book of Days by Judy Reeves

We have not started the Spandel book yet but it looks wonderful! I'll be back soon with more about the institute

Monday, June 11, 2012

Writing Growth... WOW!

As I have shared before... teaching writing is what I feel is my teacher weakness. So I've been doing everything possible to improve that. My current favorite resource book is "In Pictures and In Words" by Katie Woods Ray. This book really got me excited about teaching writing through illustration instruction. That is, the illustration is just as important as the words themselves. I can't say enough about switching from a focus on words to a focus on both words and pictures!! At first, I wondered about what would happen if we spent time discussing illustrations first and then focus on words. Ray says that it's hard for us adults to remember just how hard it is for five year olds to sound out and write words while trying to remember what they want to say. So that the ability to draw a detailed illustration gives them a strong foundation to build from. Ray also says that many of the same processes we use to write are the same in draw an illustration. WOW!! So with this new understanding in hand, I spent much of the spring talking about illustrations and what they have to offer us. We started with the book Tuesday by David Wiesner.




Here is what I love about this book... the illustrations are AMAZING!

Look at those frogs... the whole story is in the pictures...amazing pictures!
We stopped here and talked about what the dog must be thinking... did he know they were frogs... was he running from them...was he scared of them... great conversations!
After we look at this page, the kids were sent to their tables to come up with what happened next. I LOVED seeing them work. I had them work in groups on a large piece of chart paper. One group had the frogs going to jail, another group had the lillypads coming back to life and fly around.

Take a look at four of my students work from the beginning of the year and at the end of the year.

Student 1 is an average student in my room. She entered the year not being able to write her name. As her beginning of the year sample shows, she was in scribble stage of writing.
Here is her end of the year sample. She is now able to form letters and understands what happens when you are writing a story and run out of room. She also knows that a sentence starts with a capital letter.
Student 2 is probably my lowest student. Through some of our kindergarten testing we determined that this child's IQ shows that she will need further testing and probable placement in SPED. Our RTI team also decided that she needs to move to first grade to get that testing, something that our district will not do in kinder. Oh the frustration that I have with knowing that I must send children on who need testing and SPED placement but I also know how they will struggle. Here is the end of the year work for this student.
LOTS of growth!! I'm not sure if you can see the writing but there are still some numbers in this writing. But WOW...


This is my highest student. They left kinder reading on a DRA 8.
Ok this is where illustration study is SO amazing!! Look at those details!! This child worked and worked on this picture. With all the details in place, they were able to write about it. She told me that she wanted to write more but we had to leave for PE and could she work on it later if there was time.
This sweet little one goes to speech for processing and articulation. At the beginning of the year, he struggled with one step directions. He spent tons of time on this drawing but struggled to go any farther. Now look at what happened by the end of the year...
I love this!! Remember this child has trouble processing heard information into actions. I love how he sounded out cheetah...

Now here is the part that gets me really excited... my student population might change year to year, but the level at which my students enter school will not. By starting with illustrations, the children are able to communicate and make their own stories!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A little summer reading...

So school is out and I should be dreaming of hours laying by a pool reading books with chesty men on the cover and ladies with a "heaving bosom". But instead I am reading about teaching writing to small children, and LOVING it!!
here is the short list:
The first is In Pictures and In Words by Katie Ray Woods. This is a WONDERFUL book and one that Mrs. Wills Kindergarten is hosting a book study on.

The next one is Engaging Young Writers by Eric Glover. I haven't gotten past the first  few pages but what I have read SO far makes me extremely excited to finish this one.

The next one I want to read is Talking, drawing, writing by Martha Horn & Mary Ellen Giacobbe. I haven't read this one yet.

This one I've had for a while but put off reading because of the way that the book is laid out. It is a through the year kind of book, so I decided to set it aside until summer so that I could use it to build ideas for the beginning of the year. When I first got it I read the introduction that talked about how the book was set up and how it came about. That is why I decided to place this book on my summer reading list. ;)

Interactive Writing is one that was given to me during ELA (Effective Literacy in Arkansas). Actually I won it as a door prize. I've read bits and pieces along the way as I felt that I needed them, but I have never actually read the whole book. That is why I plan to fill in the gap this summer by reading the whole thing.


Back in the fall I read the next two books and LOVED them. This summer Live, Laugh, Love blog is hosting a book study on them. I am looking forward to going back through each chapter and being part of the book study. This study is going to be great because it's geared for Kindergarten teachers and their special breed of students. ;)

So those are my summer reading plans. I'm not sure everyone wants to read teacher books during the summer but it's really the only time I have to really read. My masters program ends in July and I graduate in August. That has taken up most of my spare time. I can't wait until graduation in August.

A little knee update, surgery went well. There were no big surprises. Damage was were they thought it might be. I think the coolest part was in the pictures they showed me of one section that was trying to heal itself. It was amazing to see how the body was trying to make things right. I've started PT, and it's a good thing Rob is so cute or I'd have to kill him.  ;) Truthfully PT stinks... I don't think that it hurt this bad right after surgery. But I know we have to go down this path to get better, and it is making since why it hurts to do some things and not others. 


Friday, June 1, 2012

Thank you!

Well I'm 24 out from surgery and I dont feel great but I don't feel horrible either. Thomas (DH) has been wonderful about gettting me what I need... and keeping pain meds in me. I've slept a LOT and I still feel sleepy now. I have a few more items to complete for my grad portfolio that i really want to get to work on. The portfolio is due monday and I'm 80% done....

Thank you all for the prayers and best wishes. I promise you I felt them all day. I'll be back in a couple of days, once the porfolio is done.