Wow, did February fly by! Week 26 is over, and when we return on Monday, it will be MARCH! Yippee skippy! I hope you had a fantastic week. Below are the highlights of my week.
The Education Dream Team!
1. Author Visit! – We (my coworker, Linda, and I) were THRILLED to host author Trudy Krisher at our school on Monday of this week. She came to provide a writing workshop for our 8th graders who are also currently reading her novel Spite Fences. Students selected an object from a table and developed some creative, sensory language to describe the item. Ms. Krisher had lots of great tips and suggestions for bringing the writing to life. We especially loved when she shared her own writing process, which includes a long and arduous journey of many, many revisions. How lucky are my students?!
2. Freedom on the Menu – To accompany a chapter in our novel study, we also read “Freedom on the Menu” this week. This picture book is about the lunch counter sit-ins of the 1960s, as told from a young girl’s perspective. It provides a powerful ‘first hand’ account of the events from the questioning, curious mind of someone who doesn’t understand everything just yet. A great read!
3. The Jungle – In Social Studies, we are learning about the Progressive Era. When we reached a section in our text about muckraking, I had my students read select excerpts from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, which is about the horrific conditions of the meatpacking industry during the Gilded Age. I think more than a few students walked out of my classroom as vegetarians 🙂
4. Political Cartoons – The Progressive Era is known for its many political cartoons. These are often very challenging for students to understand. To that end, I created a packet of cartoons, and we analyze one cartoon a day. This gets them into the mindset of analyzing the imagery, background, and message of the image beyond just the literal. As a culminating project, I will have them create their own political cartoon about an important concept from our unit. They did a rough draft today, and there were so many great ideas! It is very rewarding to see their minds develop right before my eyes.
5. Important Words – I came across this image on facebook this week, and it definitely struck a chord. I have learned in my years in the classroom that some students desperately need/want attention, and they will take any kind they can get (positive or negative, and sometimes both in the same hour!). I have a student who recently started a new habit where she comes and gives me a hug at least once a day. That is just one of my many jobs; educator, cheerleader, nurse, librarian, bookkeeper, accountant, part-time-parent, disciplinarian, and sometimes, a hug-giver.
::spooky voice:: OOoOOoOoooH, Friday the 13th! ::knockonwood:: nothing goes wrong today! I don’t really believe in superstitions, though. I hope the students are well-behaved today! Here are 5 highlights from this week:
1. Author Visit – First, my best news – we are honored to have a visit from Trudy Krisher! She will be visiting our school in just 10 days. We are so excited! I can’t believe how lucky we are! More to come on that later!
2. Would you? Our students are doing their own self-designed Science Experiments, which is a fantastic, student-centered, inquiry-based lesson. So a student came up to me and handed me 2 cups of water, asking, “Would you please take a sip from both of these and tell me which one is tap water and which one is bottled water?” I can’t believe it, but I did it. I had so many questions (Are these new cups? How did you get the tap water? Did you DO anything to this water?!?), but I took a leap of faith and gave it a shot. Turns out, I was wrong! I thought the more metallic tasting water would have been tap water, but it was actually the bottled water. Hmm!
3. Coloring Book – I’m working on my next coloring book on – you guessed it – dinosaurs! It will be a gift for all of my little nieces and nephews as well as a new product up on TpT. If you are interested in any of my other coloring books, they are Zoo Animals, Rainforest Animals, and My Animal Coloring Book.
4. Cooking – I got back into cooking this weekend. I had really fallen off the wagon this winter, eating lots of soups, fried eggs, and pasta, because I had been hit with one virus after another and I went for the easy/quick fix foods. Well I had forgotten how meditative, relaxing, and fulfilling it is to make your own foods from scratch. This weekend I made Bacon-Topped Spinach Meatloaf and Broccoli Egg Bake, two of my favorites. Lots of protein and vegetables for the win!
5. Stir Crazy – Okay, we are all going a little nuts around here. Me, my students, even my dogs. Winters are HARD! I feel so bad for this toy monkey, but then I realize he is pretty much a metaphor for my life. We are in the heart of winter and in for at least another 2 and a half weeks of freezing temperatures. I miss sun! At least I have little dogs who can get a lot of exercise just playing inside. For my students, on the other hand, indoor recess isn’t cutting it. We need an outlet for all our energy! Maybe a roller skating field trip?
I had a great time this week teaching a Children and Adolescent Literacy Course to graduate students in the Reading Program at Viterbo University. I met so many awesome, motivated, passionate, and knowledgeable teachers. I know I learned as much from them as they learned from me – what a win-win!
We started each day by reading a children’s book and discussing how we might use this in our own classrooms. We looked for concepts, language, intertextual connections, and how to use the literature to encourage joy and a love of reading.
As a class, we also read “Readicide” by Kelly Gallagher and “Book Whisperer” by Donalyn Miller as our textbooks. We had many discussions about the challenges we face in education today, and what we can do now to start a grass roots movement to begin a positive change.
Each day, every teacher took a turn sharing a favorite literacy resource. This was maybe the most powerful and informative thing we did all week. If you put a group of passionate, driven teachers together in a room and ask them to share their favorite resources, you are going to walk away with an amazing list of classroom-tested ideas to try. I have so many cool new tools to try in the fall!
Other topics we discussed this week included Independent reading, close reading, incorporating reading and writing, using technology effectively, multimedia, vocabulary, and encouraging a school wide reading culture. We put all of our resources and ideas on a wiki so that we could reference them throughout the year.
For their final project, my students had to create a literacy unit that they could use in their own classrooms next year. It had to include an anchor text, intertextual connections to another expository text, multimedia, vocabulary, close reading, prior knowledge, and text analysis. They made some really great units that they should be so very proud of!
It was an exhausting week, but in a really great way. I met so many wonderful people and I’m so very reinvigorating for teaching reading in the fall. I can’t wait to teach this course again!
Week 31 is over? Where did it go?! Time to celebrate the highlights!
1. Championship – Today is the final day in our March Madness Book Bracket! It all comes down to the final two: Divergent vs. Catching Fire. I’ll be back to let you know which post-apocalyptic dystopian novel won!
Speaking of Brackets, I gotta brag. I had Wisconsin in the Final Four, and my students said I had lost my mind. Well who’s laughing now, eh guys? ON WISCONSIN!
2. Show Me – My students recently completed our unit on Show Me or Descriptive Language. I’ve been teaching this unit for 7 years, and it is definitely one of my favorites. We have such creative, inspired authors that can really capture a moment. I am sharing a sampling of their beautiful work above.
3. April Fool’s Day Prank – So I was lucky this year (knock on wood) and did not fall prey to an April Fool’s Day Prank. I usually have at least one student try to pull a fast one – but no! Harumpf. Well, I did my best to fool them. I have several students who are always begging for food. I used to have loads of snacks and granola bars in my cabinets, but I can’t seem to keep up with their appetite. Now I save my food for students who forgot breakfast or lunch, not students who just need a snack. Anyway, on April Fool’s I offered my Hungry Hippos a “Brownie” I made especially for them. They were not very happy with me! Some students even ate the paper. Yeah – this is what you are missing out on if you don’t teach middle school. Goof balls!
4. Chapter 6! This week I seriously busted my BUTT and finished Chapter 6 of my dissertation. I reached 393 pages – wow! But ‘finished’ is a funny word, you see, because it isn’t really finished. Not until my committee all get a crack at it and probably give me another month or two worth of revisions. But STILL, I am super pumped and proud of myself. I feel like I have rounded the corner and I see the finish line. It’s a mirage, because I can’t really tell how near (or far) the finish line is, but the point remains – I see it exists. Can’t wait for the next steps!
Congratulations, Week 29 Survivors! Enjoy these highlights from the week!
1. Elite Eight – The Book Bracket is evolving, and we have selected our Elite Eight! The current contenders are:
* The Lightning Thief
* Diary of a Wimpy Kid
* The Eleventh Plague
* Catching Fire
We will vote again today (Friday) and Monday. I’ll be back on Facebook and the blog to keep you updated!
2. DVD Project Display – I finished another display of my students’ DVD Case Projects. We have such a beautiful case to display their amazing work!
3. And Isn’t it Ironic? – I taught my students about Irony this week. We even listened to the Alanis Morisette song “Ironic” and discussed how none of the examples in the song is actually irony (with the exception of Mr. Play-it-Safe saying, “Well isn’t this nice?”), and how the real irony of the song is the inappropriate name. It should be named, “Unfortunate Circumstances,” which would be a much more fitting title. Anyway, it was fun to watch their heads spin and churn and wrap themselves around this new concept. Like little light bulbs popping on one at a time. We had a good time and a good laugh! If you want to download the handout I used, I’ll put it up on TpT this weekend!
4. Neck…less? We’re reading the story “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant. I had to draw this on the board this week because, well, isn’t it obvious? They were so oblivious of their own spelling errors that they didn’t even ‘see’ it at first. Yes, ‘necklace’ and ‘neckless’ ARE 2 different words!
5. Healthy Eats – If you’ve been following this blog, then you know I loves my food, and I am trying my best to eat healthfully. My favorite quote about food is, “The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison” – Ann Wigmore. I truly believe that. You are what you eat, and I want to be very mindful of what I put in my body. My husband bought us a juicer for my birthday, and we have been having so much fun juicing for breakfast! I tell him we’re ‘drinking the rainbow,’ haha! And the foods pictured above are from my weekly Sunday Cook-a-thon. This week I made Grain-free Cookie Bars, Veggie Stir Fry, Fire-Roasted Slow-Cooker Meatloaf, Teriyaki and Veggie Stir Fry, and Zoodles, as well as our weekly Veggie-Egg Muffins for breakfast (all dairy-free, grain-free – Paleo). Add the daily juicing, and we are in good shape! By the way – I’m totally new to the juicing scene. If you have a favorite ‘recipe,’ I’m dying to learn more! Please leave a comment below!
I recently attended the Wisconsin State Reading Association in Milwaukee. I had such a great time meeting wonderful educators and literary heroes. At the end of the first day, there was an awards ceremony for the important, influential people that help promote high literacy standards in Wisconsin. One story brought me to tears. A school bus driver started a program on his bus called “Books for the Bus.” He brought in his daughter’s outgrown books and shared them with the students on their hour commute to and from school. He told them if they liked the book, they could keep it, and if they wanted to donate, they could bring their book to share on the bus. The idea was a hit, and soon spread to all of the busses in that school district. I was so touched! You can read more about this heart-warming story by clicking here.
I was also there to celebrate my friend and colleague, Lynda, who received the “Friends of Literacy” lifetime achievement award. She is completing her doctorate (her topic is helping teachers use rubrics to evaluate iPad apps for the classroom), she is a professor, she is an amazing cheerleader and supporter, and an all-around amazing person who can make friends with anyone, anywhere.
I met other important legislators, authors, professors, student teachers, and inspiring educators. Everyone I met was passionate about literacy and student learning. I remember thinking to myself, “These. These are my people.” I can’t wait for WSRA 2015!