Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Travels With Chloe

Guess what everyone???? I get to go on vacation with Mom and Dad!!! You know, they left me home when they went to Hawaii, which really wasn't fair. I got to stay at Teddy's house, but still, I love water and sun. Sure wish I could have gone along.....

Anyway, they decided last week to go to some place called South Dakota and see some mountain. They decided they would take me with them!  First, they had to find  a place that would let me stay there. I just don't understand why I am such a big deal, but it must be.  

We left yesterday morning. I love riding in our new car because there is lots of room for me to stretch out and even move around a little.  I didn't know, though, that we were going to be in the car FOREVER!  We did make a couple of stops so I could get out and walk around a little bit, but WOW.  It was a long drive!

Finally, we got to where we were going to stay. It's kind of weird. There are 2 beds and not a lot of room.  And the smells!  Lots of dogs and kids and people smells everywhere. It's going to take me a long time to figure this place out. But, at least Mom packed my bed so I can sleep comfy! (I did sneak up on the bed when she fell asleep though.)

Well, I've got to go for now.  We going to go to some big park today and do a little sight-seeing. I bet I'll have lots to write about tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

#CyberPD: Wild Readers Show Preferences

I am a grandma who always has books around for the grandkids to read. As I am out at garage sales or flea markets or Goodwill stores or second hand stores of any type, I am always looking for books for my classroom. And now, I am also looking for books for the grandkids.

On Saturday we babysat two of the grandkids. The rest of the gang was coming later in the afternoon. Wild reader, Tony, decided to grab a book while he waited for his boy cousin to arrive (the girls he happily played with last summer have become "girly girls" this summer).

He browsed through the pile of Dav Pilkey's Ricky Ricotta books, deciding on which one to read.
"Are these any good?" I questioned.  I was trying to figure out what he liked.
He shook his head yes and then said, "But I'd rather read Captain Underpants."

Going into second grade, he has a favorite author and a favorite series.

He's way ahead of many of my high schoolers.....

Back when I taught 7th graders, I had a student who read nothing but R. L. Stine books. And by nothing, I mean, nothing. I was always trying to suggest other books to her. But. Nothing else. She wanted to be a writer. I tried to convince her she needed to be widely read in order to be a writer. But. Nothing else.

Flash forward a few years. She is in high school and in my creative writing class. We laughed about her obsession with R. L. Stine books. And she told me something I will always keep in mind when working with student readers, "They were comfortable for me. I always knew how things were going to happen.  I guess they were safe choices."


Both of these stories remind me that all wild readers show preferences. Sometimes we have to find ways to expand their preferences, but we can only do that when we really know them as people. We also need to model for them a wide range of reading. I try to do that with students, but sometimes even I get stuck in a reading rut.

The top of one shelf. Shows a part of my reading influences.
I worked in my room today, and then first thing I did was put up my book "canon". Those books that mean a lot to me in my reading life. And as I was putting them up, I kept thinking of other books that I could be including. I also found myself thinking about what I would say about those books and how they influenced my reading life. I hope they can share books that have influenced themselves as readers. I can't wait to have these conversations with my students.


I love all the forms included in the appendix of the book. While I won't probably use them all (time will be a factor) I definitely plan on having them use the Genre Requirement Form and the Reading List to keep track of what they read in a semester. And I will also have them fill out the Wild Reader Survey on the first day of class.

The Selection Reflection will make a great blog post as will the Reading Influences form. Both have great questions that will really get students thinking about what they read and why.

I think my biggest take-away from Reading in the Wild is the need to talk with students purposefully about their reading.  While I talk with students every day, I want to make sure this year that I focus those reading conversations and use them to help move students into independent lifelong readers.


I've loved connecting with all of you during this summer's CyberPD. My husband and I have decided to take a little trip next week, so I'm not sure I'll be available for the Twitter chat.

Monday, July 14, 2014

#CyberPD: Readers Need Other Readers

I'm joining professionals from all over the world for this year's CyberPD as they explore Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild. I'll be blogging and tweeting my thoughts out as I read. #Cyberpd is hosted by @cathymere at Reflect and Refine@laurakomos at Ruminate and Invigorate, and @litlearningzone at Literacy Zone. If you'd like to join in, check out any of their blogs or follow the hashtag #cyberPD

Chapter 3: Wild Readers Share Books with Other Readers

Can I tell you how much I want my high school reading classes to look and sound like the classes Donalyn describes in the opening pages of chapter 3?  I want to create that environment, that culture that screams, "It's cool to read!  Reading is valued here!" I've been scribbling notes to myself for an hour. Things I want to remember to do in my classroom to enhance and share our reading community.

And don't you love the questions Miller shared from Jeff Wilhem?
"What's your bottom line? What do you really want to happen for your students? Now, how does what you do every day serve that bottom line?"

Those are such great questions for teachers to ask themselves each year before school starts. I know I will be thinking a lot about them in the weeks to come.

I've taught grades 7-12 for 25 years. I've taught remedial classes, gifted classes, and everyone in between. Here's what I know: Many kids don't like reading or won't admit to liking reading because they aren't very good at it. Others don't like reading or won't admit to liking because they don't want to be labeled as "smart" or a "nerd". Both groups feel like no one would listen to them when it comes to the books they like.


If you can create that reading community and make reading a valuable part of your class time, everyone's voice gets heard.  This year I taught two periods of freshmen English. We read every day. One of my "epicenter" readers was also very quiet and had been homeschooled for many years. She was smart and articulate but hesitant to speak out in class at times. Eventually, though, other epicenter readers began asking her about the books she was reading. And one on one she would share. By the end of the year, she was much better at sharing with others who were not in her small circle of friends.  I truly believe the reason was she knew and others knew that reading was valued in our room.

I need to do an even better job of creating community, of creating a reading valued classroom and I wrote down lots of ideas from chapter 3.

I loved my reading door this year. But it was all mine. The idea of getting kids to take it over appeals to me. I'd love to get them to create their own reading doors on their lockers, but I think that would be too much for high school students (at least this first semester of me teaching these classes). Taking over the door sounds like a great project for my new Individualized Reading class!

I also have plans for a graffiti wall. I think I have a great place for it. Right behind the couch on the wall beside the book cases.  Hope I can get it all arranged so it works out well.

I'm seriously considering having my students create Goodreads accounts and creating a group for them.  I know they will be writing some reviews and blog posts about what they are reading. Will have to think about the timing of it all and how to fit this into a 45 minute class period.

Other things to try: book commercials, book trailers, and more speed dating with books. But this year, instead of students passing books around and jotting down titles that sound interesting, I'd like to change it up once students have been reading a bit. I've thought about having half the class sit with a couple of books they have read. The other half of the class would "date"  them. The students with the books could quickly book talk them and the date could ask any questions they wanted about the books. Then the next time we could switch book talkers and daters.  I haven't worked this out fully in my head yet, but I think it could work.

And I MUST do a better job of conferring--especially in Individualized Reading. I like the idea of recording conferences. My ipad may be getting a workout this coming school year :)  

Chapter 4: Wild Readers Have Reading Plans

And here's where I "fail".  Although I make plans on what and when I'll read, I don't share this with my students, nor do I work with them to create their own. 


First, I want Individualized Reading and College Prep Lit to create a reading goal for the semester. How many books do they think they can read during the course of the semester they are with me.  I'll make one too and keep my results posted in the room. We can talk about how many books that reading rate can translate into if they plan their reading.

And I know that they will tell me they don't have time. 

Because sometimes I think I don't have time either....

We'll look at their day...at how much homework they normally have...if they are in sports....have a job....all the things that fill their days. 

And then, we'll work on carving out time to read. And, we'll revisit reading rates and reading time periodically throughout the semester to make sure those things are still working.

Speed dating and book talks will help them keep a list of what they want to read next. 


Building a Personal Canon
I couldn't not (how do like that double negative?) write about this.....

My shelves at home and at school show this....

Part of my personal canon on display in my room
When kids ask me what my favorite book is, I always tell them I can't pick just one, that I have many. And if they keep pushing, I share a few with them.  I write about books that mean a lot to me. I want to find a way for students to share their own, something other than a blog post.  

Something I'll be thinking about the rest of the summer, I'm sure.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Happy Saturday Celebrations!

Discover. Play. Build.
Ruth Ayres has created a wonderful spot for sharing moments from your week. She even has  a page to give you all the details you need to know about sharing your own celebrations. So head  on over and see what everyone else is celebrating. 

 Happy Saturday!

I know I haven't been around much lately, but that doesn't mean I'm not celebrating.  Summer has been jam packed with new learning situations, lots of reading, and time spent with friends and family.

This week I am celebrating

Rainy days:  Although I love the sunshine of summer, once in awhile, rainy days are great reminders to slow down, read a little, write a little, talk a little.  Today looks to be one of those days.  Hoping I can finish Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (the sequel to The Shining).  It's a great sequel, but my husband will go home for a couple of days and I don't want to be reading it when I am at the lake alone :)

As always, I celebrate family.  We went and picked up my mom a couple of weeks ago and brought her to the lake for a short visit. The trailer we now own was hers previously, so she likes getting back up here for a visit.

Our oldest son and his family packed up and moved to a town just south of where we are at. They can now just run up for an afternoon if they want, not have to plan and pack for several days. They both found jobs before they even had housing or daycare, so things were a little tense for awhile, but now all is good. Our youngest son is also here, so now it's just us that needs to make the move.  

Lifelong Learning My husband keeps asking me when I'm going to be off of school time. I just laugh and remind him that I am never really "off". I've been to two conferences, I read Thrive and am now reading Reading in the Wild and participating in #CyberPD.  My mind keeps swimming in ideas. My notebooks are full of things I'd like to try next year.  Now I just have to find a way to organize my thoughts!

And finally, the gift of time. No bells, no schedules, no to-do lists (well, at least not deadlined to-do lists). Sleeping past 6:00am, an afternoon nap if I want, later dinners, long conversations with friends, wine at sunset. Summer is definitely time to recharge my batteries and get ready for the craziness of a new school year.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

CyberPD: Reading in the Wild (Chapters 1 and 2)


I'm joining professionals from all over the world for this year's CyberPD as they explore Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild. I'll be blogging and tweeting my thoughts out as I read. #Cyberpd is hosted by @cathymere at Reflect and Refine@laurakomos at Ruminate and Invigorate, and @litlearningzone at Literacy Zone. If you'd like to join in, check out any of their blogs or follow the hashtag #cyberPD


I bought this book and read it as soon as it came out. But I was missing something--the chance to TALK about it. I was so happy to hear that Cathy, Laura and Michelle chose it for this year's #CyberPD!

Since I am a high school teacher, I come at this from a little different perspective than those of you who teach elementary school, or even middle school. But trust me, I found LOTS AND LOTS of takeaways.

I am a wild reader. I read everything. I share what I read with others. I talk about books with others. And I always have a "next book".  I buy books, check them out from the library, listen to them on audio and read them on my Kindle app.

And I've taught reading in various forms and grade levels for most of my teaching years. Next year, I will be teaching two new classes, College Prep Literature (obviously upper level class for those who plan on going to a four year college) and Individualized Reading (meant for those who need another English credit and are probably not college bound). As I read Reading in the Wild again, those two classes are uppermost in my mind.

Donalyn was right when she wrote in the intro that many secondary teachers don't create a supportive environment for reading. But that doesn't mean all of us. There are plenty of teachers like me. Teachers who put their reading/writing lives front and center in their classrooms. Teachers who share books. Teachers who read aloud. Teachers who recommend great books to kids based on what they know about those kids. Teachers who know that there is a gateway book out there for everyone.

Chapter 1: Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read

I've been thinking for weeks about how I will share the importance of reading with my juniors in CPLit. Besides the obvious--they'll be doing LOTS of reading in college, a lot more than they are used to--I need to work with them on understanding what it means to be a lifelong reader, a wild reader. I also need to convince them they do have time for reading.

Two years ago, after reading Kittle's Book Love, I began giving my students ten minutes at the beginning of class for independent reading. We figured how many pages they could read in two hours, kept track of what we read, and nothing else. No reading logs, no quizzes, no projects. Just read. Even my conferences with them were informal. They were expected to read outside of class to complete their page count. With sports practices, jobs, friends, family, and high school life in general, my job will be to show them how "reading on the edge" will help them continue reading. I need to make sure they understand that they don't have to sit down and read for an hour after school every day, or even a half hour. They need to keep they books handy and read when they have a few moments.

I loved the questions that Donalyn shared in the "reading itinerary" section. I'm going to create my own and have students write blog posts about them. It will be very similar to the writing autobiography that I have students complete in Creative Writing. I think it's important for students to think and reflect on their reading lives and those questions sound like a great blog post to me :)

Chapter 2: Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material

Much of chapter 2 has great ideas I can use in individualized reading. I like the reflection questions and conversations Donalyn has with students. We will definitely talk about getting through the slow parts and abandoning books that we have given a good shot but just aren't grabbing our attention. I want to conference with each of them about books they've liked in the past and how they choose books now. These are readers who may struggle or may just not like reading. It will be my job in the first few days to get past those obstacles and get them to choose books they really like, not the easy ones, the ones with not a lot of pages, not the ones they've read three or four times (although there is a place for that).

I share books in many different ways with students. I put book trailers on my website. I keep a list of books I've read during the school year on my door. I book talk anything new that comes into my room. But I want students to share their books and I'm trying to come up with ways for them to do that without it becoming just another "diorama project". I want to think of ways for them to share, to connect, to try new reads. In Individualized Reading, I can make the sharing part of the class expectations. In CP Lit this is the tough part. I want them to read independently, so how do a I reconcile having them write a review or make a book trailer?  I guess it's something I'll just keep thinking about.....

Curating a Classroom Library
I worked in my room at school today, getting my classroom library put back together again after my room has been cleaned. 

I love my classroom library. I'm very lucky to have supportive administrators who see the value in reading. This is an old picture--I've added more shelves and more books since this one was taken a couple of years ago.  I have library cards in all of my books and students sign them and put them in a box I keep on my desk. When they are finished, they find the card, put it back in the book and put the book back in the returned book bin. I generally put them back on the shelf, although after the first few weeks, many students put them back also.

Do I lose books? Of course.  I have purchased two copies of Insurgent in the last year and both have disappeared. When I taught middle school, I lost count of how many copies of She Said Yes I bought. For whatever reason, books disappear. If it's worth replacing, I do. If not, well, I cross it off my inventory.

How do I get them? I haunt garage sales and Goodwill stores. I've found lots of treasures for little money by doing that. But as I said earlier, I also use part of our department budget for purchasing books and I can also use at-risk funds for buying books. I keep a list of books I want for my room and have an order ready whenever they tell me there is money.  Like a good scout, I am always prepared.

Until next week!

3/17 I'm So Lucky

  I'm so lucky to have a birthday on St. Patrick's Day☘️ Everyone likes to celebrate my birthday (even if they don't like green ...