Thursday, December 19, 2013

Honored To Be A Guest Blogger for Kirby Larson

If you're a teacher, librarian, or book lover, and you don't know Kirby Larson, then do not pass go.....go directly to the bookstore or library and get her books! She's amazing and my students and I are huge fans!
I was honored to write a guest blog for her today.
Check it out here:
Then, go buy all her books for some great reading over the holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all,
Ann Marie

Monday, September 30, 2013

Our Class Website

My fourth grade class is blogging and keeping a class website.  Please visit and let us know if you would like to connect with us on Kidblog.

Have a great week of learning!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Common Core, Curriculum Units, and Common Sense

Good teachers, effective teachers, matter much more than particular curriculum materials, pedagogical approaches, or "proven programs" 
(Allington & Johnston, 2001; Darling-Hammond, 1999; Duffy, 1997; Pressley, et al, 2001; Sanders, 1998; Taylor, Pearson, Clark & Walpole, 2000).

I am a sucker for creative advertising and marketing. 
If this "never before seen on TV and can only be ordered within the next 17 hours and 4.5 minutes" product promises to melt away the body fat, plump the lips, grow the plants, whiten the bathroom grout, or bring shine back to the hair, I'm all over it. I can so easily get sucked in to Consumer-ville.

And I have cabinets full of stuff that made promises and didn't deliver. 
And these companies have my money. Dang it.

Fortunately, over the years, I have tamed my impulsivity to purchase the hot-off-the-market product that promises the skinniest body, greenest plants, or whitest teeth and bathroom grout...... with common sense

I've learned....

A fat busting pill in a bottle won't make me skinny. 
I have to work at getting my body healthy. 
I make wise decisions to exercise, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, drink water and watch portion sizes.  

A bag of fertilizer won't miraculously grow a garden full of flowers. 
I have to work at growing that garden.
I make informed decisions about when and how much to water, which plant needs an extra bit of fertilizer, and how to prune the stalks and stems.

A container of whitening agent isn't going to clean the bathroom grout by itself.
I have to work at keeping that bathroom clean.
I make timely decisions about when to clean so that the shower tile isn't a grimy mess. I practice my grout cleaning technique over and over, so that I can be both effective and efficient in my cleaning.

Unfortunately, we are in a time in education where it feels like the Common Core and the hot off the press current curriculum units have plowed their way ahead of our common sense.
And's up to us to make sure we don't allow ourselves to simply become curriculum consumers. It's imperative that our common sense and knowledge of best practice is at the forefront of the work with do with children, colleagues, and all those invested in preparing future generations for a world that looks very different than it looked when we were in school.

Wouldn't you agree that we want the children in our classrooms to become forever learners? We want the children in our classrooms to be questioners, creators, innovators, and critical thinkers.  We want the children in our classrooms to enter the workforce and world as autonomous, independent, thoughtful, and reflective human beings.
So if this is what we want for our students, then this is what we have to be as their teachers. We have to practice what we preach. We can no longer be mindless consumers of box after box of new curriculum materials, without making wise decisions in how to use those materials based on the learners in our classrooms. 

We cannot just accept the curriculum sets, the binders, the online resources at face value. Companies and publishers, and authors sometimes throw around words like best practice, grade level specific, and the classic new line....common core aligned in the name of making a buck or two....or three million. 
Don't get me wrong. There are lots of amazing, well-researched professional resources out there for us to learn from.... but not to imitate word for word. It's our job to innovate, not imitate.
Do not let Unit One, Lesson 12, page 3 trump what you know about the children you work with every day. 
It's imperative that we read, we think, we question, we create, we innovate, and we teach for and learn with the children in our classrooms, using the supports and the resources we've been given wisely and well. 

Let's use our knowledge and our common sense to make wise teaching decisions, informed teaching decisions, and timely teaching decisions for the forever learners in our care.

Happy Independence Day! 
Ann Marie

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Authentically Yours....

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.(page 49)” 

I am a declarer, a startera goal setter, a wanna be a socially networked, literate, super human educator.

I run from discipline. I procrastinate. I perseverate. I think and plan more than I produce.

I declared to be the #1000giftsofsummer blogger who would document every day's gifts in photos over the entire summer. 
Yes I did.
Three days of great photos, several days pass, and then I'm so many days out of the new blogging routine, I'm onto creating a mosaic of June photographs with zero writing to go with the pictures. 
I'm grateful for the gifts of summer, but I'm so over photographing and blogging about them on July 2. 

I started the Couch to 5K routine (for the 5th time this year). On the outside I am new running shoes and the Nike Fuel Band and the tracker of calories on My Fitness Pal app.

But underneath I'm the resort to eating baking chocolate because there's nothing sweet in the house, 
the I'll start tomorrow because I'm already at 3,200 calories after the frozen margarita with salt and a basket of chips 
and by the running shoes gave me a huge heel blister.

I set the goal to work all of June on workshops, book writing, presentations, and new school year preparation... and then have July to relax, not set a morning alarm, do exactly as I pleased in this fantastic summer month.
Great goal. Great big fat unrealistic goal.
I meet with my new fourth grade team in exactly one month, and I have thirty unread fourth grade novels stacked in my bedroom, a reading, writing, math, science, social studies, and word study curriculum to read and learn, writing to finish, and four workshops to create. All before school starts on August 7th.

Socially networked. I'm 90% stalking and retweeting the social media gurus who've already done the hard work.
Literate.  Sometimes I click "read" on Goodreads even if I'm only on page 18.
Super Human. What does that even mean?

What I've realized as I write this post is this:

I am not great at blogging regularly, exercising daily, working responsibly, or even living realistically.

But I am passionate, reflective, honest, growing, hardworking when I want to be (at the very last second), and loved. I've learned that being me is the best person I can be. I'm thankful to have strengths that I can use and share with family, friends, colleagues, and strangers. I'm also thankful for the struggles that I can be so very okay with admitting.
Happy Summer Everyone!

Authentically yours,
Ann Marie

Thursday, June 20, 2013


I've been so busy enjoying summer and all the learning (and relaxing) opportunities that I haven't posted my daily gifts pictures in a while.  For now, here's a collage of the latest gifts of summer.  Some photos were taken during the school year but they directly connect to the blessings I've received this summer.  Can't wait to share about this past week. I'm off to learn and plan our first writing study with my new fourth grade team, but for now, here's a peek of the beauty of summer in photographs!
Ann Marie

Monday, June 10, 2013

#1000giftsofsummer Gifts from Workshop Preparation

I've been at the computer and at my kitchen table for days going through student work, reading, and preparing for upcoming summer workshops.  The gifts that were hidden in piles of paperwork, shoved in dusty files, and nestled in the middle of a professional book or two have made the work feel more like a joyful trip down memory lane.  
To the children of Birmingham, AL I've had the privilege of teaching and learning alongside these past few years...thank you all!
Take a look at the photos below.  I've been reminded of what's important in our teaching and learning lives these past several days by children from second to sixth grade.
Ann Marie

Friday, June 7, 2013

#1000giftsofsummer Day 4 and 5 and an Important Side Note

First, the side note.  I will continue to blog about my teaching and thinking about teaching, but for now, I'm enjoying this 1000 gifts photo project.  I'm sure it will somehow evolve into something I can or will use in my teaching or in our 4th grade classroom this year, and it may even end up as a blog post itself at summer's end. But for now...Day 4 and 5 of #1000giftsofsummer.

June 6, 2013:  My Man and Meningitis

Christian, my six year old nephew, also known as “My Man”, is the June 6th gift for #1000giftsofsummer. He  is one of the five nephew and niece gifts I have in my life . Christian was at the beach with his family this week, but spent a good part of the vacation in the hospital with meningitis. Thankfully, it’s the less severe kind and he’s going to be better soon!

My First Letter From Christian
My First Book From Christian, with the brilliant title, AUNT REE’S
Hospitals Are No Fun!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My 1000 Gifts of Summer Project

I think what has kept me from blogging regularly is that I think anything I write and post has to be really good and teach something really big or have a really big meaning.  What I've realized is that I need to take more time to stop and celebrate the little, daily accomplishments in my teaching, learning, and life and not worry so much about how important or thought provoking or brainy my blogs are. 
Sims, one of my sweet second graders, gave me the book, One Thousand Gifts by Anne Voscamp as an end of year present.  I’m still reading it, and I love it….but as I was reading the other night, I thought it might be fun to capture the daily gifts in my life this summer as photographs. This post includes my first three days of #1000giftsofsummerproject.  (technically it's the #198giftsofsummerproject...not exactly enough days for 1000 photos before I go back to school.)
This post includes the first three days of my project.
DAY 1:  Funny Gifts
 All three of these gifts came from my friend, Jeff, who loves to make people laugh.  
1. A bear stick for protection (in case I go bear hunting in my Homewood, AL neighborhood)
2. A "house warming" and 40th birthday present (This guy has a twin and both statues still sit on either side of my fireplace because they make me laugh.)
3. An original piece of art to hang in my classroom....that he painted himself, while painting with his granddaughter one afternoon.  

DAY 2: The Gift of Time for Summer Projects
I’m thankful for the gift of having time to pursue summer projects, and the happiness that will come from completing these three projects.
1. A Year’s Worth of Video Footage Project….Seeing what footage I actually have…really watching the footage…sorting and categorizing the footage…editing the footage…showcasing the amazing thinking and work of the Corgill kids in the footage…maybe even talking to a documentary filmmaker about the footage…
The Video Project

2. Organizing the Jewelry Drawers Project….So I don’t have to untangle necklaces and find the matching earring that goes with the lonely single one I want to wear.
Organizing the Jewelry Drawers Project

3.  Repainting the Bird House For My Patio Project….so it’s not faded from the sun anymore or a memory of a wedding gift from a bad marriage.... and is a happy and bright red, with a brown roof instead of the ugly, faded, washed out, too many hours in the rainy weather look it has now.
Repainting the Birdhouse Project

DAY 3: Three Things That Make Me Smile and Clap!
Greatest Billboard Ever
My Next Summer Reading Stack!
Quote I Love From Venspired on Facebook!

I like to end my posts the same way my friend and former principal, Phyllis Faust, ended her daily emails to our school the possibilities the possibilities and the gifts of tomorrow!
Ann Marie

Monday, June 3, 2013

My Global Twitter PLC and Inspiration to Blog Again

If you are reading this post, you are probably shocked that I'm actually blogging....since my last post was in November of 2012.  I don't know what happened, but I just quit blogging publicly. Just quit. Just like that. For no particular reason. Maybe from fear of not having enough important things to say....maybe I used time (or lack of it) as an excuse...or that I blogged with my students on our kidblog account so that was enough?  Who knows?!  But I'm least more than I was six months ago.
Why? Well..I was reading my Twitter feed this past week, I clicked on a link and read a post that really resonated with me. The post was from one of my #nevermetinpersonbutoneofmymanyawesometwittercolleagues.
Justin Stortz, @newfirewithin, thanks for reminding me that it is our passion for teaching and learning and children that keeps us doing the work that we do. Thanks for inspiring me to get back to writing because in order to be a great teacher of writing, I have to keep writing daily, good or bad, and get my voice out into the world. Blogging more frequently will allow me to live out that passionate writing life and show my fourth graders this upcoming year how to write with passion and get their voices out into the world too.  
Just in case you didn't know..... Twitter is one of the greatest gifts and opportunities for a global professional learning community and worldwide friendships.
Follow me @acorgill and follow @newfirewithin too.