Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Getting at the Heart


We are working on heart transplant simulation activity this week. See the gist of it here.  I love the buzz of conversation; the click and clack of students using laptops to check sources or research facts; the gasps and groans as kids hear each patient's case presented. 

It's been engaging for kids to role play and I have learned a lot about what they know (or remember) about argument.

Eventually, I'll share more. I'll share more about this school-wide domain four day mandated by our principal and more about what it means when teachers give up control and go with it.

I'll write about the classroom move (more than 130 boxes unpacked so far!) and our pseudo-exam week. I'll write about where I am and where I've been in my PLC and in my thinking about grades and assessment. 

For now though, just a snapshot slice of love as my kids reflect on the heart of working together.




Thursday, December 3, 2015

Books Change Us


Reading matters. People who read have more opportunities than people who do not.

Kelly Gallagher brilliantly captures the many ways reading benefits citizens and societies in Reading Reasons, a collection of mini-lessons you can use with kids. Gallagher's lessons are great for answering kids'  questions about the value of reading.  His lessons take aim at the "why are we doing this?" questions that kids sometimes use to delay a lesson or disengage.

Kids aren't the only people who may question the value of using class time to read. Colleagues, parents, even, administrators may question the value of spending class time reading. Use those challenges as an opportunity to reach out and teach. View those challenges as an opportunity to illuminate. Shine the light of stories, books and their power to change people into the darkness of fixed mindsets.

Yesterday I did just that by asking former students and friends to share stories of books that changed them.



Books change readers. So many former students, friends and educational colleagues reaffirm that. Book resonate across areas of our lives. Christine, former middle-school teacher and current amazing gardener, is moved by Walden. John Green's The Fault in Our Stars changed her student, Amanda. Rhonda, friend and  youth leader at St. Luke's Lutheran Church was changed by Anne Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts



Educators from the Northeast (Sarah Gross, Kim McCollum-Clark, Nelson Alvarez and Penny Kittle) were changed by books they read as kids and continue to grow and change from the stories they read and share as adults. Midwestern and southern teachers too--Gary Anderson, Lee Corey, and Beth Scanlon, and Kathleen Richardville--have been shaped by books.


Books cross borders (into British Columbia, Meredyth Kezar). Books change readers in Iowa and in Washington State. 


Books break down barriers  (Navid Akbar) and connect us to one another. If you have fallen in love with a book, like Penny Kittle, author of Book Love, has then you will fight for the right to read. 


Books change kids. Books change adults. Books change teachers, friends, even friends of friends. Book change church workers, students,engineers, writers and even poets (Sara Holbrook). If  you can find yourself and others in story there is hope for our world. 
The next time someone challenges the value of reading in your classroom, ask them about a book that changed them.  Listen. Tell them about the book that changed you.  Then, fight for your students' right to read.

Reading matters.


If you want to dig into the research that supports independent reading, read or revisit this post from last year, "Life Demands Reading"



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sneak Peeks: NCTE

Thank you to StaceyBetsyDanaTaraBeth, Anna, Kathleen & Deb for creating community and valuing voice. Join us at Two Writing TeachersSlide by the Slice of Life buffet for seconds or link up to serve your own slice of life.

Catherine  and NCTE and Carol  and NCTE and Bonnie and Margaret, and Dana and oh so many teachers are packing for NCTE's annual conference. I am too!


I am excited to talk about art, writing and creativity with Paul Hankins, Glenda Funk and Melissa Sweet during our session Word by Word: The Art of Crafting Responsibility and Creativity on Saturday (F.47). My segment of the session will focus on an arts infusion project: the art of analysis. For this project, students use art to think critically and creatively about poetry in order to write analysis.

A student's surrealist illustration of a poem. I'll be talking about how teaching
art movements and techniques scaffolds literary analysis in the session.

Sunday, I'm looking forward to a round table session, From Oops to Aha (L.02). We will all be talking about what we have learned from reflective on failure in our classrooms, in our professional lives, in our writing lives or in our lives as learners.  I am going to talk about a student I, as a teacher, failed and what I learned from that experience. You can read my reflective writing here.

Collaborating with educators from fifteen different schools or states inspires and energizes me. These people are part of my tribe and I can't wait to see them and share what we've learned this year.

  • Co-Chair: Gary Anderson EMC Publishing 
  • Co-Chair: Teresa Bunner Wake County Public Schools
  • Co-Chair: Karen LaBonte Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York
  • Roundtable Leader: Russ Anderson William Fremd High School 
  • Roundtable Leader: Jennifer Ansbach Manchester Township High School, New Jersey 
  • Roundtable Leader: Leslie Healey St. Mark's High School, Wilmington, Delaware 
  • Roundtable Leader: Jeana Hrepich Antioch University Seattle 
  • Roundtable Leader: Kim McCollum-Clark Millersville University 
  • Roundtable Leader: Cindy Minnich Upper Dauphin Area High School, Elizabethville, Pennsylvania 
  • Roundtable Leader: Cheryl Mizerny Cranbrook Schools 
  • Roundtable Leader: Meenoo Rami Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 
  • Roundtable Leader: Amy Rasmussen Lewisville High School, Lewisville, TX 
  • Roundtable Leader: Jennifer Roberts San Diego Unified 
  • Roundtable Leader: Lee Ann Spillane Orange County Public Schools, Orlando, Florida
  • Roundtable Leader: Andrea Zellner Michigan State University, East Lansing 
I get to sleep at home one more night before I leave for NCTE. My husband will drive me to the airport early in the morning on Thursday. I can't wait! I can't wait to connect with authors at ALAN, to share great books with my son, Collin and enjoy a room full of passionate readers.

I can't wait to see my teacher friends. I can't wait to learn from the educators I admire. I can't wait to discover new voices and meet new people. I can't wait to man the ALAN booth and talk about YA literature. I can't wait to reconnect and recharge.

I told my students I'd be geeking out with thousands of English teachers who are just like me. It's true--we are going to geek out and fan girl and follow rock stars (teacher rock stars that is).

I can't wait. I'm packed.

In fact, I know I over packed.  I live in Florida and  thinking about packing for thirty degree lows sends
Love the Paper Towns echo...
me a sweater message. We just don't have those temperatures here (yet or often). I packed layers: shirts, sweaters, a cape, two suit jackets, a few sweaters, a coat. I even got my boots re-soled.

I can't wait to wear them. And I can't wait to see you at NCTE and ALAN. If you are not going to the conference this year, you can tune in using the NCTE hashtag on Twitter #ncte15 or #ncte2015. You can hear our voices on Voxer. Margaret Simon is setting up a Voxer stream to capture and share voices from NCTE. It's going to be a fantastic conference. I can't wait to see you.

Safe travels, everyone!