Thursday, August 30, 2012

100 Things About Me as a Reader (or Writer)

(Idea taken from Franki Sibberson :))

  1. I love to read series books -- I get really attached to characters, and I love to see how their stories continue.
  2. When I was younger, I bought every single Babysitters Club book as soon as it came out.
  3. I read to my daughter every night that I can.
  4. I have to set reading goals for myself, or I don't finish books.
  5. The best book I read last year was Wonder.
  6. I am terrible at summarizing.
  7. I love to read magazines -- I subscribe to about eight of them (Time, Working Mother, Parents, Parenting -- yes, those are two different ones, Reader's Digest, Experience Life, Sports Illustrated for Kids, National Geographic Kids ... and gosh, I'm sure there are more)
  8. When I was little, I read the newspaper every morning while I ate my cereal.
  9. If the newspaper delivery was late, I read the cereal box instead.
  10. I always used to read shampoo bottles in the shower and would try to read the words that are in French.
  11. I think I am not a great creative writer, but I'm working on it.
  12. I read to my daughter when I was pregnant with her.
  13. I love love love the public library.  I always used to check out 10-20 books at a time -- including picture books -- when I was growing up.
  14. I did not like most of the books that my teachers assigned me to read in high school.  I had to take a lot of notes to remember when I read, because I had a hard time paying attention to the books.
  15. I write articles for a literacy site for teachers.
  1. My daughter's current favorite book is If You Give a Cat a Cupcake.  We read it four times last night, and I admit that I skipped a few pages the last time I read it.
  2. Her other favorite book is Goodnight Gorilla; it makes my day when we get to the page where there are surprises... she raises her arms and says, "WHAT?!" 
  3. When I write emails, they're way too long.  I'm working on getting to the point.
  4. I enjoy writing and sending cards to people.
  5. I have a stack of 25-30 books I want to read.  Half are young adult, and the rest are either books about teaching or adult books. I have a hard time picking the order of books to read.
  6. My mornings are rushed now, so I don't have time to read when I eat my breakfast; that makes me a little sad.
  7. I can't stand books about animals. Too sad. 
  8. I did read The One and Only Ivan, though, because my colleagues Mrs. Caplin and several students told me I had to read it.  I'm glad I did.
  9. We had to memorize poetry in school, and it was really hard for me.
  10. I got a Kindle for my birthday in July, but I've not yet read a book on it.  I'm so traditional about my reading materials!
  11. I just sent in my daughter's first Scholastic book order yesterday, and it warmed my heart.
  12. I love to read blogs.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Liveblog: Reflections on the Marshmallow Challenge

Language Arts relies heavily on students' abilities to interact positively, honestly, and in a focused way. We need to be able to have powerful discussions in reading groups, give helpful writing feedback, and collaborate on literacy activities that take us to the next level.  Today's Marshmallow Challenge gave us the chance to refresh our group skills and reflect on how we work together to accomplish big tasks.  We liveblogged below during our class debriefing.

Check out the TED Talk Marshmallow Challenge

Reflections from Period 3/4 (Block 1)

The winning group (sorry, I didn't remember to write down the names... and I can't yet recognize you by your shoes!): 28"!

Builders found that they were less successful when they didn't plan ahead.  Many groups just started to put things together, because they wanted to finish quickly; they felt time pressure and they felt that they needed to rush.  They especially found that they built their bases too quickly, so the bases weren't sturdy enough to support the rest of the tower.  If they built again, they'd take the time to have a better understanding of their materials they were working with ("using our tools wisely").

"We found that we were just doing random stuff," one student mentioned.  His assessment is that that didn't work out so well. :)

Our builders also reflected that groups work best when everyone is pitching in for the same cause (like, everyone is working together on the base), everyone has a part and has ideas, and group members are positive and optimistic (they don't keep saying, "It's not going to work.").

Period 5/7 (Block 2)

The winning group: Y, R, W, T ... 31"!

The winning group's biggest tip for their success was that all of their group members listened to each other; everyone had different ideas, but they talked about the ideas before applying them, so when it came time to work, everyone was working collaboratively on the same task.  Other builders chimed in and agreed that, when everyone worked on their own ideas, the project did not come together smoothly.

One group shared -- and many other groups agreed -- that their biggest mistake was building without making a plan.

J. said,  "We lost four noodles before we even we got started... by the end, we were down to 40 seconds (and had to throw together the structure!), and we were down to four full sized noodles."

This class had a LOT of broken noodles... and not because there was a phantom knocking things over during lunch time ;)

This class also noted that they needed to re-start before they found a successful formula. They kept trying new ideas, and many builders were confident that, had they had more time, they would have been able to build a taller tower.  Sometimes, things don't work out how we originally planned, but we re-do our work, and we can find success.

Period 8/9 (Block 3)

Winner of the day: 37"!  P, G, K, J, K. WOW!

The groups that identified themselves as less successful reflected that they struggled because they dove right into their ideas without first stopping and thinking things through.  They were impatient and wanted to get started.  Next time, they said they would plan the first few minutes, and then get to work on the structure.

The top group of the day gave us some really interesting information.  Get this: at the end, they had only one broken noodle.  Unheard of!  I observed that, in this group, everyone took turns being a leader.  They started off using J's expertise, having previously done this activity.  After a few minutes, they'd easily put together about a 10" structure. They looked around, and K told them that they should try to keep building, because other groups around them were building still-taller structures.  How did it turn out?  With the tallest structure ALL DAY.  The lesson: have high expectations for yourself.

One more lesson: several builders observed that, if they did this again, they'd use some of the ideas that the successful groups used.  There's a lot of power in observing and trying to apply what's effective.

I wonder ... what does this process teach us about reading and writing? Highlight some connections that you see about the reading and writing processes.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Welcome to the Year!

What an exciting first day we had today!  I saw many smiles and no tears, and I'm hopeful that everyone went home feeling like Sells will be an amazing place for them.  I'm positive that it will be.

Today, I'm kicking off my new blog.  The blog my students and I used last year is based on aging technology, so the tech folks tell me that I need to move to something new.  I'm bummed that you probably won't get to see my former students' work, but I'm looking forward to everything you'll have to offer! Let's take a few minutes to think back on today, and for me to answer some of your burning questions.


On our first day, we took care of many "housekeeping" tasks (tour, checking schedules, going through the handbook, filling out planners for the first time), and we also had our first chance to get to know each other.  I've really enjoyed reading your "Most Important Fact About Me," and I'm laughing out loud at some of the questions you've asked me.  Here are a few of the most common/most laugh-worthy:

My Cats
Oh man, y'all are super interested in my cats.  I get the sense that we have a lot of animal lovers in our classes -- hurrah! So, as you could see, I have three cats: Ellie, Newman, and Ruby.  Newman and Ellie are both eight years old, and Ruby is three years old.

Ellie came to us first, from my then-boyfriend's (now he's my husband) parents' farm in Xenia.  I was fresh out of college (2004 -- how old you were you? Three?), and I wanted my first cat.  The timing was perfect, because my husband's mom had been taking care of the sweetest little farm kitty -- itty bitty, fuzzy, and very chatty.  There was something special about this cat, and sadly, the cat's mother abandoned her, so I took her in when she was just a few weeks old.  We spent many late nights together, as I moved her from canned milk to regular food, and a year later, Ellie moved with me to Columbus.

So, I had one cat.  In March of my first year of teaching, another Sells teacher was getting married, and his fiancee' was allergic to cats.  He sent an email with pictures of two cats, I went over and met Newman, and his "love me love me love me" personality won me over.

Now, I had two cats.

Several years later, we were browsing Petfinder, ooh-ing and aah-ing at all of the cute adoptables.  I honestly don't remember what inspired the next step, but for some reason, we just had to (had to!) take a look at a sweet dark gray cat named Susan.  (You're confused here. It's okay. Stay with me.)  My husband called up the shelter, found out that "Susan" was still adoptable, and decided to pay her a visit.  Just to look, of course.  When he showed up, he said that he was there to see "Susan," and lo and behold, they pulled out ... Ruby.

Not a dark gray cat. Not the one we were looking at all. But how could he say no to this purring, kissing, darling kitten?

Then, we had three cats. I love all of them equally.

I've been running since 2008, when I trained for my first half marathon through a program called Team in Training.  TNT is an organization that raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which fights cancer.  I had never, ever run a complete mile, instead spending my childhood and high school years on swim teams.

Turns out, I really prefer running.  I suspect it's because I can socialize while I train, unlike in swim practices, when I would have to stare for hours at a black line at the bottom of the pool. Now, I usually train for half marathons, but I've also done the Warrior Dash, a handful of 5Ks, a few 10Ks, and -- get this -- a 5K stroller race with Zoe.

I run just about every morning before school (which means I have to get up around 4:45 ... I am a morning person!), and it really is fun and a great stress reliever.  When I was pregnant with Zoe, I was able to run right up until the end of my pregnancy, and I am hopeful that I'll be able to do the same this time around.

I hadn't been out of the country until my honeymoon, so for those of you who haven't done much traveling, don't fret -- you have the rest of your life to travel. I hardly traveled as a child, so I was really excited to find that my husband and I both enjoyed it.  When we went to Europe, we traveled to England (London), France (Paris), Germany (Munich, including some castles! Super cool), Austria (Salzburg, including the Sound of Music tour. Amazing!), and Italy (Rome, Florence, and Venice).  We saw as much as we could, ate a lot of cheap food, did laundry in bathtubs and sinks, and really enjoyed our time together.  We've traveled to North Carolina and Michigan with Zoe (and we often travel to Cincinnati to see my family, too), but I think most of our traveling will be finished for a few years!

New York is my favorite city, partly because one of my best friends lives there, and partly because I just love spending a few days in a place that's so different from what I'm used to.  I could never take the pace of big city life full-time, but for small portions, I love the craziness of the subway, the abundance of ethnic foods, the huge buildings, and the sights that you can only see in New York City.

Odds and Ends
Zoe's age: 18 months

My husband's name: Brett. Mr. Taylor. :)

My husband's job: He used to be a lawyer; now he is a full-time sports writer and editor, focusing on the Chicago Cubs. I love baseball, and I also enjoy college football.

The new baby: We do know if we're having a boy or girl, but we aren't telling anyone until we have our next ultrasound in October.

My favorite book: Hm, I can't pick a favorite of all time, so I'll pick recent favorites.   Realistic fiction: Wonder or Okay for Now.  Science fiction: The Line.   Humor: Fake Mustache.  Historical fiction: Weedflower


We'll talk soon about opportunities for you to be guest bloggers and to participate through comments.  If you'd like to comment, you'll need to do it via your parents, either on their email address or with their permission.