Sunday, April 29, 2012

Best Week Ever!

If you read my previous post about getting to spend the week with Stephanie Harvey and Smokey Daniels, you know exactly why this was the best week ever! Can I just say, Steph hugged me twice! I was really so lucky to have had this opportunity - I soaked up every word they said. If you ever have the chance to hear either of them speak - DO IT - it will not disappoint.

Ok...on to what they said and what I learned. 

- Kids need to read, read, read. This point was drilled into my head from start to finish. The number one thing that makes kids improve their reading, is reading. This may seem so obvious, but think about your daily schedule. My students have at most 40 minutes a day to be actually reading. Many days, it may only be 20 (read to self). I need to find ways to increase that number. How? I am going to immediately get rid of non-reading activities during the literacy block and try to incorporate more reading into science and social studies. 

- Comprehension = constructing meaning...which is at the core of every single thing we do as humans every single day. So, our teaching should be no different. Therefore, we need to teach comprehension strategies explicitly (monitoring reading, connections, visualize/infer, ask questions, determine importance, synthesize). This is so important. After all, comprehension strategies are really just thinking strategies (we rely on them when we have a conversation, listen to a speaker, view an image, write...). Steph recommends using the workshop model to do this, but it is not a must. If you have not heard of or used the Comprehension Tool Kit - it is a fantastic resource. I've been using lesson ideas from the tool kit for 4 years, so I'm not just saying that :) 

- Collaboration. This is Smokey's baby...the combination of teaching the comprehension strategies with explicitly teaching collaboration strategies will get us the results we want with kids talking about books (book clubs/ lit circles) and being able to respond to and think about texts with others (not to mention just work with others in general). Some examples of these strategies are: "share the air," "piggybacking," "inviting someone into the conversation," "how to get back on task when the group has gotten distracted," "active listening," and the list goes on. This completely blew my mind and I will be implementing some of these strategies right away!

- Inquiry. A lot of us have heard this word thrown around in education PDs for awhile now, especially when it comes to teaching science. What I saw this week at Burley Elementary was nothing like I'd ever seen before. I had the pleasure of watching Kristin Ziemke, a first grade teacher, during her "research workshop." Research workshop is how she teaches science and social studies (she alternates 5 weeks of each). This week, her class was in the immersion phase of the inquiry process (in which they were studying Africa). 
An inquiry goes through 4 stages: immersion, asking questions and investigating, coalescing, and going public. The immersion phase is when (from what I understand - I wish Kristin was here to make sure I am telling it right) students are gathering up as much information as possible in order to begin asking questions. During the investigating phase, students are researching with a question in mind, but at the same time, this is when the teacher is making sure students are accessing the knowledge they need to meet the state standards. Students choose a topic they want to go deeper with and the teacher puts students in inquiry circles (based on student interest) to continue researching more specifics. In the coalescing phase, students ask themselves questions like, "so what?" "why does this matter?" I think it's sort of like a synthesizing phase. Then in Going Public, students are creating their project to share with an audience. Some examples of projects done at Burley (in all grades) are: murals, public service announcements, brochures, i movies, informational books, etc. I think the difference between these types of projects and others I've done is the responsibility on the learner to teach the class or in some cases the school or community at large. 

Wow - I feel like I learned so much and I have so much more I could say about these three topics. Please let me know if anyone has questions (that I can try to answer) or wants to hear more about anything. I will try to keep talking about what I learned as I try things out in my classroom!

Hope you all had a great weekend!!!!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Star Struck

Hi everyone! I hope you all are having a great weekend! I am just sitting here avoiding writing sub plans for Tuesday-Friday. I'll be out of the building because I have to represent our school at a professional development at another CPS school. Normally, I would be furious that I have to miss 4 days of school because sub plans are such a pain - I know you know what I'm talking about! But, even though I'm not thrilled about being away from my kids for 4 days, I am so excited about this professional development! This week, I get to work with....Drum Roll Please......Smokey Daniels and Stephanie Harvey!!!!!!!! I cannot tell you how excited I am for this opportunity! There are about 20-30 teachers who will get to have this opportunity and from what I know half of us will be spending time in small groups with Stephanie Harvey and the other half with Smokey Daniels. If you haven't read Strategies That Work by Stephanie Harvey, I highly recommend it for some summer reading! We are also required to read Mini Lessons for Literature Circles by Smokey Daniels. I've gotten through part of it, and it's super helpful, practical, and a quick read! During this "institute" we will be watching teachers teach lessons from the Strategies book and then I think debriefing with the experts. I. Can. Not. Wait.

I will be back later this week or next weekend to report back on the experience! I have a feeling I'm going to be learning a lot! Do you think it's lame if I have them sign my books? :)

Monday, April 9, 2012


I've been tagged by 2nd Grade Rocks! Here are her questions and my answers:
1.  What is the last movie/tv show/book that made you cry? I think it was The Vow (love Channing Tatum)!

2.   What is the oldest item you own? This is a tough one - it could be the Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal I have. He's been around a while! 

Where is your favorite place to shop? Definitely Anthropologie

4.   If you had to pick 1 place in your town to bring a tourist, where would you take them? Probably Wrigley Field

What one food do you never get tired of? Pizza, cereal, watermelon, and chocolate chip cookies came to mind first

6.  What is your favorite book? I'm not sure I really have one...but I'll say I loved the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.

7.  What is your favorite season? Summer!

8.  What is your favorite beverage? :)

9.  When is the last day of school for you? June 22nd 

10.  If you could live anywhere at all where would it be? Somewhere with a warm climate - maybe California or Florida!

I'm going to break the rules and not tag anyone. I feel like everyone has been tagged! If you haven't - I am tagging you right now :)

Hope everyone is having a great Monday. It was hard for me to get up this morning!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Guest Blogging

Hi Everyone! I am sooo excited because today I am guest blogging over on Gladys's blog - Teaching in High Heels. I'm sure you're already following her because she is amazing, but I'd love if you'd come on over and check out my post :) Thanks in advance!!

Teaching in High Heels

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spring Break, and Currenty

I haven't checked my blog-roll for the past couple days because I have been laying on the beach here in Naples, Florida. I just opened my computer for the first time and saw that I had 144 posts to catch up on! Yikes! What have I missed?!? It's been amazing weather here - 80s and sunny - which means I am a little crispy! I am going back to Chicago tomorrow, which is always nice, but it's hard to leave what feels like paradise! One thing I did see while I was browsing my many missed posts is the new "currently"! If you haven't linked up with Farley at Oh Boy 4th Grade - go to her blog to check out this month's edition of "currently"! 

I'll leave you with my view that I have to leave tomorrow :( The glare isn't helping, but that's the sunsetting on the gulf! Hope all of you on spring break are having a well-deserved relaxing week!!