Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Room Grows with the Children: Thoughts From an Inconsistent Blogger

The last time I posted (yep, that would be the first week of school back in August), I started a "Setting Up the Classroom Series" of posts. I should know better. Note to self: Never start a series of anything the first month of school and never promise to do more than you know is ridiculously impossible. I will say that you can expect me to blog about the cool things that kids do and the fun literacy work I'm fortunate to be a part of, but it will only get posted on those early mornings with coffee when I put my butt in the chair and just write. Here's to more mornings like this!

It's the end of September, and I'm reflecting on my six weeks with a group of sixth graders...a group that I will have to give back to their real teacher on October 17th. It's been a gift and a pleasure to teach and learn with these kids over the past weeks. It's been especially fun to see the room (and their writing and reading) grow right before my eyes.

I've found that children only become invested in the work we ask them to do when it's meaningful, connected to their lives outside school, and co-created with them. As we finish our first writing study, we look forward to sharing our work and commenting on the work of the writers in Tony Keefer's fourth grade class in Ohio. Check out their class website and give these young writers a new audience!

Below you'll find photos of our classroom anchor charts and kids working--a visual representation of their thinking and growth over these past six weeks.

As my friend and principal, Phyllis Faust says,
To the Possibilities of This New Day.....

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Setting Up the Classroom Series....

It's that time of year when we think about setting up our classroom for new groups of readers, writers, mathematicians, social scientists, and problem solvers. Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing some ways to organize classrooms that will support students in both their academic and social growth. So, for the next few weeks, my blogging will be about my 10 for 10 list of picture books and ways to set up our classrooms for our students.

Below you'll find the link to a blog I wrote for my friends and colleagues at Developmental Studies Center. It's all about setting up the meeting area in the classroom to create that central location for reading, writing, thinking, talking, and problem solving.

The Meeting Area: An Invitation to Read, Write, Think, Talk, and Problem Solve


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10 Picture Books That Help Us Face Life's Challenges

This is my first post in a VERY long time. Thanks Cathy and Mandy for creating this wonderful event that would push me to write again.
This list of 10 books have in some way or another helped me face life's challenges with courage and strength this past year. I'll be telling the stories of these books in the coming weeks on the blog, but for now, here's the list....with the book covers below (I've already forgotten how to make the right book title and author fit nice and neatly next to the cover!)
1. The Little Hummingbird by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
2. All In a Day by Cynthia Rylant
3. I'm In Charge of Celebrations by Byrd Baylor
4. Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester Laminack
5. Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco
6. Zero by Kathryn Otoshi
7. The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood
8. A Box of Friends by Pam Munoz Ryan
9. Courage by Bernard Waber
10. Believe: A Gift to Celebrate New Beginnings by Dan Zadra and Kobi Yamada

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Because It's Just Fun To Read, an interview with Jack, Age 8

Meet my nephew, Jack. Above are just a few photos of the pivotal reading moments in his life.
...listening to mom read aloud as an infant
...eating breakfast cheerios with Moo Baa La La La
...learning colors with Eric Carle and Elmo
...loading new books on his Nook with Dad Christmas day
...potty training with the Toys R Us catalog
...studying the deer in Papa's Field and Stream magazine his favorite nonfiction author, Steve Jenkins
...enjoying afternoon partner reading with Granny
...unwrapping the gift of literacy

He's a second grader, a violinist, an artist, a T-ball catcher, and as you can see from the photos above, a lifelong reader (all eight glorious years of it!).
Last night I had a phone conversation with Jack about reading and homework.

Below is a transcript of our conversation: (and if I was tech savvy enough like my amazing blogging and teaching friends, I'd have a podcast of our conversation attached to this blog.....Ok guys, I need lessons on this, please! Soon!)

AM: Hi Jack, it's Ann Marie. Do you mind answering some questions about reading for me?

Jack: OK. I'm hungry and waiting for Mama to finish the spaghetti. (My sister was happy for me to distract hungry Jack for a minute or two so she could get dinner on the table.)

AM: First, can you tell me what you're reading now?

Jack: Well....The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle with Dad, The Magic Treehouse, and Lives of the Presidents.

AM: Three books, huh? Why those books?

Jack: In Dr. Doolittle the animals talk and I love that. You know Jack and Annie travel to different places and I like that too. And Lives of the Presidents tells you all about the presidents. Like all about them.

AM: When do you first remember loving to read? What book do you remember first loving?

DOGS! (I could hear him talking to his mom...Hey Mama, it was Dogs because it had all that crusty breakfast stuff all over it. Like cheerios stuck to the pages." Remember?! And that bird book that Daddy read to me that had all the bird sounds. That one too.

AM: Jack, does homework help you to be a better reader?

Jack:Umm....I think so.

AM: Can you tell me how it helps you be a better reader?

Jack: It teaches you better fluency. And expression.

Anything else?

Jack: Nothing else.

AM: Who are your favorite authors?

Jack: Jan Brett, OH! Rosemary know she writes Yoko and Friends and Max and Ruby, Dr. Seuss.

AM: Hey Jack, what do you think made you like to read or be a great reader? Was it reading homework? Getting things to do for homework that had to do with reading? Or something else?

Jack: Something else. Hey, can we go back to my favorite authors now?

AM: Yes, of course.

Jack Steve Jenkins. Definitely Steve Jenkins. I have no idea how he draws his pictures so good and he has lots of information and his indexes. And Tomie DePaola! I just love Strega Nona. It's so funny. He writes good stories and just writes funny books too. But I'm a nonfiction man. Cause I can read and tell everyone what I learned and say, oh I know that. I read it in a book.

AM: I know you like books, Jack, and I can certainly tell you love to read from your answers to these questions, but why?

Jack: because it's just fun to read! (answering me in this "this is a dumb question" voice.)

AM: Jack, what advice would you give to teachers who want to help their students love reading as much as you do?

Jack: Hmmm...I'd tell them to get more interesting stories and books for their students. And tell them that the book will take their mind places. That's what I would tell them. And then they would love it. I know they would."

I just love Jack.
But mostly today, I love the honesty, the passion, and the sincerity with which he spoke about his life as a reader.
Yes, Jack has been blessed with a mom, dad and family who all recognized on the day he was born what it took to help him become a reader and lover of literacy.
Unfortunately, that's not the case for all children who enter our classrooms each day.
Jack reminded me what it takes for us as teachers to "grow" these kinds of readers in our classrooms. So.... what can we do to ensure that all children leave our classrooms being readers and choosing to read for a lifetime?

Just a few important pieces of advice from eight year old Jack....
1. Get more interesting stories and books.
Children need to be reading books and magazines and short stories and fiction and nonfiction and poetry and everything they want to read and CAN read. All day, every day. So fill up your classrooms with those interesting books. Keep collecting books from yard sales, class book orders,local libraries, bookstores, family collections, etc., etc. and have those interesting books on the shelves and at your students' fingertips.

2. Books will take your mind places.
Yes, books can do that if teachers will demonstrate, model, lead by example, and show their students exactly how to read and comprehend. We want our students seeing demonstrations and then practicing and reading daily to allow these books to "take their minds places".

3. Reading helps build fluency.....
AND background knowledge and oral language and vocabulary and reading/writing connections and strategy usage---and all of that leads to comprehension and enjoyment! (see my friend, Sharon Taberski's blog All About Comprehension and her new book Comprehension from the Ground Up for more information on the pillars of reading)

4. Go back to your favorite authors now.
Re-read them. Soak in their words. Study their illustrations. Have conversations about them. Question their motives and their techniques. Listen to what others think about your favorites and then learn about theirs. Wonder with others about them. Try to write like them. Love them. Go back to them often. Click the link above for an interview with Helen Lester, a favorite author, posted by my colleagues at the Developmental Studies Center.

5. Read because it's just fun.
Not to answer questions at the end of the chapter. Not to get points. Not to earn a pizza party. Not to be the star student reader of excellence of the year. Not so you can say you did your homework.
Read for a reason and a purpose that matters....and just because it's fun.

Thanks to Mary Lee and Franki who gave me this "homework assignment" and got me thinking about reading and what matters for students in our classrooms today.
and with respect for all the amazing reading teachers everywhere,
Thank you!
Ann Marie

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Five Tips on Becoming a Reader, by Carrie Age 1

This is Carrie. She's my one year old niece. My "Care Bear".

I'm writing today to thank her for reminding us all how to grow up being lifelong readers and book lovers. (Mom Christine and Dad Paul, thanks to you also....I'm sure she had a tiny bit of help from you two.)

1. Napping is good, but reading is better.

2. Playing outside is good, but reading and playing outside is better.

3. Taking a trip in the car is good, but reading while taking a trip in the car is better.

4. Reading while lying in bed is good, but reading standing up works just as well.

5. Reading by yourself is good, but having someone you love read to you is even better!

Monday, February 28, 2011

To the Healers of Broken Wings.....Thanks

In my blog post on January 2, 2011 I resolved to say thanks more often. Today is February 28th.
It's only my second blog post of 2011, but it's to honor those treasured friends and those precious family members who know how to help heal broken wings. You know who you are, and today is my day to say thanks to you.

"a loose feather can't be put back...
but a broken wing can sometimes heal.
With rest...
and time...
and a little hope...
a bird may fly again."

If you don't know Bob Graham's award winning picture book, How To Heal A Broken Wing, read it, buy it,
..... and then give it to someone who has helped you fly again.

love and thanks,
Ann Marie

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 Resolution: Saying Thanks More Often

"The world is full of secrets, gentle, shy things that some people know and some don't. The best secrets are the ones that make us happy, and the best thing about any secret is sharing it with someone else who wants to know...."--from The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood

Two goals I have in 2011 are: (in order of least importance)
1. To blog more
I think I'm supposed to be doing this everyday,reflecting on teaching and learning in the early morning, but as you can see, my last post was right after NCTE (yep, it's January now, and that was November!)

2. To say thanks more often
This is my first in the "AM 2011 Saying Thanks" series.
I'm going to take the next several posts to say thanks to and "share the secrets" of the smart friends I'm learning from all the time.
If you are passionate about teaching, learning, reading, writing, blogging, having fun, and enjoying a good laugh from time to will want to check out the blogs below!

"The heart that gives thanks is a happy one, for we cannot feel thankful and unhappy at the same time. The more we say thanks, the more we find to be thankful for. And the more we find to be thankful for, the happier we become. We don't give thanks because we are happy. We are happy because we give thanks."

Today, I'd like to thank Patrick, Katie, Mary Lee, Cathy, Donalyn, Laura, Franki, Karen, Sharon, Karen, and Carol for making my heart happy and for teaching me so much!


Creative Literacy
Reading Year
Reflect and Refine
The Book Whisperer
Laura Robb
Web Tools for Schools
All About Comprehension
Literate Lives
Carol's Corner