Happy Week 7 and High Five For Friday! I had a great week, and I hope you did, too!
1. Sonday – I spent 2 days this week being trained in the Sonday System. I am so glad that we have decided to adopt this system at our school. We currently run two interventions for reading skills and strategies – Leveled Literacy Instruction and Read180 – but we needed a program that would address gaps in foundational reading skills like decoding and fluency. You wouldn’t expect to have students at the middle school level who don’t know all of the sight words or who are unable to decode words, but our need for this program has been growing over the years. I love the touch-spell approach, and I knew I was hooked when the instructor showed us the ‘b’ and ‘d’ cards. In the Sonday system, students are taught for the letter ‘b’ that “the bat comes before the ball.” Notice the number one starts at the top, making a bat (stick), and then a ball (circle)? Now compare this to the ‘d.’ Students are taught “c comes before d,” just as the letters appear in the alphabet. See how the ‘d’ starts by making a ‘c’ first, then the stick? This is brilliant! For our students who confuse these letters, such as students with dyslexia, this is a perfect way to differentiate between the sounds and to cement them into muscle memory. As with all elements of the Sonday system, everything has a visual component (look at the letter), kinesthetic component (trace the bumpy letter with two fingers), and an auditory component (“bat before ball” or “c before d”) to encourage multi-sensory learning. I am very excited that we have adopted this system and I just know it is going to be a major game-changer for so many students!
2. The Shot Heard ‘Round the World – In Social Studies, we are wrapping up our unit on Colonial America in preparation for learning about the American Revolution. We rounded out the chapter by studying the Battles of Lexington & Concord, then watching the famous Schoolhouse Rock video to review for the exam tomorrow. Doesn’t it just blow your mind that students are still watching, enjoying, and learning from these videos after so many decades? I just love Schoolhouse Rock!
3. Tachistoscope – Do you use highlighting strips in your classroom? I have a handful of middle schoolers who really benefit from using these. They use them as bookmarks, then turn them on their side to help them stay on track when reading their book. This helps with focus and eye-tracking. I learned this week that the technical name for these highlight strips is ‘tachistoscope.’ So there – enjoy that million-dollar word! I purchased these on Amazon, link here.
4. Pumpkin Farm – I took my niece and nephew to the pumpkin farm last weekend. Such fun! My ambitious nephew first picked out a pumpkin that weighed about 30-40 pounds. It was huge and lovely, and he wanted it so bad! I told him he could have it if he could carry it to the car. He opted for the one in his lap instead 🙂 And my little niece, how sweet is she? I absolutely adore these children.
5.Food! – I tried to keep things simple this week. I made some zoodles with my spiralizer, which I topped with tomato sauce (sugar and additive free) and shrimp for lunches. For breakfast, we had Egg Muffins, and for dessert, I slightly modified the Chocolate Hazelnut Energy Bars from foodie teen (I eliminated the maple syrup and chocolate, and I reduced the amount of coconut oil to 1/4 cup. Then I rolled the mixture into balls instead of bars for quick/easy snacking). I also got a great idea from a friend to put quick oatmeal, a pinch of salt, and freeze-dried fruits in a mason jar. All I have to do is add a cup of hot water and let it sit for a few minutes and voila – oatmeal to go! I know oatmeal is not strict paleo, but I have no problems with it and have chosen to incorporate it back into my diet now after a year off of it.
I hope you have had a wonderful week and that you are getting ready for a fun and spooooky Halloween soon! I’ll be making costumes this week and next to get ready. I’d love to hear about your week in the comments below!
Did you survive the Blood Moon? Did you know that Mercury is in Retrograde (whatever that means…)? It’s that time of year for things to start getting spooooooky! Thankfully ::knockonwood:: my students have been great, and we haven’t had any catastrophes during Week 6! Below, I share some highlights of the week:
1. Bullying Awareness – October is Bullying Awareness month. On Monday the 6th, we had a ‘Blue Out’ to bring awareness. We also had a PBIS lesson in which we watched this video and discussed the impact of our actions (positive and negative). Our students have signed a pledge to stop bullying, and the pledges have completely covered our walls in positivity and inspiration!
2. Contest Winners – This week, our Guess the Reader Winners received their self-selected book prizes. Oh the looks on their faces (which you can’t see), when I handed them a brand new book to keep! They were very happy campers 🙂
3. Google Doc Editing – Something I am doing this year that I simply LOVE is using Google Docs for student writing assignments. They simply share it with me, and we can edit it as we go. No more waiting to hand it in and get feedback – the students get feedback right away while they are in the writing process. This also cuts down on saving, emailing, and creating new files – who needs all that? The students love this and it’s so fantastic. I could just kiss these iPads! (But I won’t. Ew, germs).
4. Fall Colors – My husband is a pilot, and we spent our Sunday morning flying around Southeast Wisconsin to enjoy the beautiful fall colors. They are not quite at their peak yet, but it was so enjoyable nonetheless.
5. What I’m Reading – I’m almost done with Birthmarked, and I’ve already got the next book, Prized, in my queue ready to go. Hopelessly addicted! All I can say is that it’s all about the suspense – I feel so left in the dark, and I’m so curious to figure out what’s going on here. Great series!
On an unrelated, entirely personal note, I’ve started running to prepare for the Hot Chocolate 15K in Chicago on November 9th (one month away, ack!). I’m so anxious about this and I am training very hard. At my current pace, it will take me 2.5 hours to finish the 15K; I don’t really care, as long as I actually finish. With my new shoes I just purchased, I can run 4 miles without feeling too terrible. I hope I can build up enough endurance and stamina by then!
And just like that, it’s October! We’ve been back to school for 5 weeks now, wow!
1. October – I enjoyed decorating my classroom for October. One can never have too many pumpkins, amiright?
2. I don’t read – I finally snapped this week. I’ve been so sick of students (AND parents! AND colleagues!) telling me, “I don’t read” with this brazen nonchalance, as if it’s a badge of honor or something to laugh or bond over. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I stole ideas from this article, added several of my own ideas, and I created a full 12-page Keynote presentation entitled, “My reactions to people who proudly proclaim, ‘I don’t read.’ ” If you’d like to see the full presentation, you can download it by clicking here: I don’t read (c) Kristen Dembroski
3. noredink – I had all of my students create an account and log into my virtual ‘classroom’ on noredink this week. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a wonderful FREE website where you can assign grammar homework and quizzes. Right now, my classes are learning about action and linking verbs. They really love this website because it gives you immediate feedback. It also tailors each sentence to student interests (based on a quick interest inventory when signing up). Check it out!
4. Birthmarked – This past week, I’ve been reading Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien. And when I say ‘reading,’ what I really mean is ‘spending every single minute insatiably consuming.’ This is a very interesting read! The main character, Gaia, is entrancing, strong, clever, deeply caring, and easy to fall in love with. And the story is a complete mystery! I find myself fumbling for words as I try to even describe the plot to anyone. I don’t know what to say, because I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on myself! I started reading it because I saw several of my students with it, and now I find that I can’t wait to see them at school to ask them what they think.
5. Pumpkin Spice – Everyone is completely gaga and obsessed with pumpkin spice, THE flavor of fall. The thing is, I don’t drink coffee (yeah, I know, I’m weird). So instead, I’ve been finding ways to enjoy the flavor in other foods. For example, I give you: Pumpkin Spice Cookies! I’ve also made pumpkin spice pancakes, which are just phenomenal. Canned pumpkin, plus a dash of pumpkin pie spice, are staples ’round this kitchen, and it’s pretty easy to substitute them in many of your favorite baked recipes. Very filling, tasty, and oh-so-appropriate for the lovely season of colors and change.
How was your week? I hope you are enjoying the changing colors! My husband showed me this Fall Color Report website that indicates where the colors are at their peak in Wisconsin. We are adventuring out this weekend to enjoy them for ourselves!
Happy Week 2! These first few weeks back to school are always the longest and most challenging, and I feel completely wiped out this week. We had open house on Wednesday, and I met a lot of wonderful parents. I can’t wait until tomorrow morning so I can sleep in and finally catch up on my overflowing inbox! Here are the highlights from week 2:
1. Guess the Reader– I’m working on a fun new bulletin board! Check back next week to see the final product.
2. Identity Pie Graph Activity – As an opening activity for our unit on Identity, my students created pie graphs to represent the various elements that impact their own identities. This is a great activity to learn more about your students and to get them talking!
3. Sea World Controversy / Practicing Argumentation – In Social Studies this week, we read various articles and watched youtube videos both in support of Sea World as well as condemning. We practiced writing claims and finding supporting evidence as well as working in groups and initiating collaborative discussions. In my opinion, this is a perfect controversial issue to use in your classroom because there are strong points on both sides of the argument. Sea World does a lot of critically important work in protection, education, and preservation. We watched the trailer to Blackfish as part of our investigation, and I have to tell you – the room was completely silent. After the clip ended, there was an audible “gasp” in the room, and I know my students were emotionally impacted. I watch it and feel like I got punched in the gut. The next day, several students told me they went straight home and watched the entire movie. This topic clearly got their attention.
4. Dissertation Bound – I completed my doctorate in June, but it takes several months to get your dissertation professionally bound. I got the call and went to pick it up from my university library. It is HUGE! Glad I brought my husband along to help me carry it!
5. Paleo Foods this Week – I received my copy of Meals Made Simple in the mail, and I’m in LOVE! I’ve been cooking exclusively from this cookbook this week, and I’m absolutely loving everything. Here we have Mexican Chicken Soup, Cumin-Garlic Summer Squash, Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies 2.0, Pumpkin Bread, Chicken and Rice Casserole and – my own recipe – frozen Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites (a great summer treat).
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!
This Saturday, I will be presenting my research at the Reading Research Symposium at Cardinal Stritch University. I am very excited and grateful for this opportunity to share my research and findings with other professionals in the field. Conducting research and writing a dissertation is one thing, but being able to collaborate, get feedback, network, and gain a new perspective really makes all this hard work feel worth while.
The following is my poster presentation for this session:
Below is my favorite (and most informative and interesting) flow chart created from the results of this research. I think it is very telling about the kinds of navigational habits that are found to be most successful for online reading comprehension:
Summary of Findings and Visual Representatino of the Effectiveness of Four Navigational Profiles Used by Phase 2 Participants
And here are a few more flow charts and figures that help to visually explain the results of this research. Fascinating stuff, right? If you have any questions about my research, I’d be happy to answer them – please ask away in the comments below.
Pie Charts Representing the Number of Participants who Engaged in Specific Navigational / Reading Style – by Percentile Grouping. For each chart, N = 4
Flow Chart representing the Number of Participants in each Percentile Third Group That Engaged in a Reading Strategy or Behavior (N = 12)
Summary of Findings Regarding Variables that Influence Online Reading Comprehension
Week 33 is O-V-E-R! I lived to tell the tale and share some highlights:
1. Spite Fences – Just before Spring Break, we began reading Spite Fences, our final unit and novel of the year (Here is a link to our novel study unit). It is about a 14-year-old girl named Maggie living in Georgia during the Civil Rights movement. She is given a camera as a gift, and she begins to see the world around her with new eyes. I love teaching this unit every year, and I know my students learn a lot and enjoy reading it. We’re up to Chapter 7 as of today.
2. Audio books – I am so thankful for our iPads every single day. We are such a lucky district! The iPads have allowed us to share the audiobook version of Spite Fences with some students who really benefit from this extra level of support. I’m seeing so much more engagement and higher levels of comprehension this year with that modification in place. (Note: Only 8 of my 90 students receive this modification)
3. Countdown – With Spring Break behind us, it’s officially time to start the end-of-the-year countdown (29 days left, but who’s counting?!) Some teachers would caution against this. They would say that it encourages students to start slacking too soon as they dream about summer. On the contrary, I use it as a motivational tool. I have already planned all of our lessons through the end of the year, and I’ve shared every single assignment with my students via email already. They know exactly what they have to do before June 12th – and it’s a lot. Each day as we remove a ring, I remind them that we have X days left to finish our work, to cultivate good habits, and to end the year on a high note. We have grit, we have stamina, and we work right up until the bitter end. We don’t coast to the finish line!
4. Doggy Bath– Would you please look at these pathetic dogs. Just look! Don’t feel sorry for them. Their lives are filled with walks and belly rubs and treats and snuggles. Such ninnies.
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!
Congratulations on surviving Week 28! SO. MANY. HIGHLIGHTS this week! It was hard to pick just 5!
1. March Madness Book Bracket – I had a really fun time this week putting together a March Madness Book Bracket. Click here to read more about it. With the help of our Instructional Technology Coordinator, we made online presentations and easy-peasy school-wide voting via Google Forms. I plan to update the blog every week as we narrow it down to the champion!
2. DVD Projects – The DVD Projects have been submitted and graded. My students did an awesome job, as they do every year. I think this project really brings out some talents and lets students shine!
3. The World’s Best Custodian – I firmly believe that Joe, our beloved custodian, is first class. Can you believe I get to come to a room so sparklingly clean every day? After he sweeps the floors, he then puts down all of the chairs so he can disinfect the tables. Then he stacked my books so neatly. I am SO grateful for him! #joestrong
4. Birthday – Last Friday was my birthday (oh yeah!). It was a great one! So much love from family, friends, and students. I had several students sing to me and make me cards. My loving husband gave me a juicer (I’m already obsessed!) and I also got two new Vera Bradley purses. I’m so spoiled!
5. Spirit Week – You know me – I LOVE dressing up! This spirit week included St. Paddy’s / Green Day, Neon Day, PJ Day, and 80’s Day.
6. Spring – As I’m sure you know, yesterday was the first day of Spring. I feel like Nathan the Dog, dancing like no one’s watching. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_wgb1q1opQ <— if you watch this video and laugh as hard as I do, then you and I are destined to be best friends!