Monday, November 10, 2014

Sunday (Monday) Letters :)


It is such a gorgeous day here in Chicago! Trying not to think about the Polar Vortex that is going to be here in a couple days - yuck!

Well I'm a day late on my letters, but since I have the day off in observance of Veteran's Day, it feels like a Sunday! Plus, yesterday, I slept for 18 out of the 24 hours in the day. I can't seem to shake this cold, or whatever it is I have.

Anyway, here are a few letters! If you haven't yet, make sure to link up with Michelle at Big Time Literacy and share your letters!

Dear Jim,

Thank you for always being so kind and supportive of me. You made THE BEST homemade chicken noodle soup for me yesterday, and went back to the store for me today when I left a bag of groceries at the cash register. Am I the only one that leaves things at the store after I've paid for them?!

Your forgetful wife ;)

P.S. Thanks for taking this sweet pic of my golf swing. If you haven't been to TopGolf, you must go! So fun!

Dear 2nd and 5th graders,

You all were the sweetest ever when I paired you up for our first Wednesday of Quiet Time Reading Buddies. I loved how you were so into your books and using prompts like, "sound it out, what does the picture look like? and what happened in the book?" I can't wait until this Wednesday!

A proud teach

Dear LG,

Thank you for being the best PBIS co-coach ever! I seriously don't know what I would do without you! Our meeting at JJ this week was perfect! Can't wait until the next one!

The other coach :)

Dear Leaves,

Why won't you rake yourselves? I'm secretly hoping for a big gust of wind to blow them all in the neighbor's yard. Is that mean?

Not so much love,

Thank you, husband :)

That's all for today! Hope you're all having a fabulous Monday! :)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Letters

This is my first time linking up with Michelle over at BigTime Literacy for her Sunday Letters! I don't know why I waited until now to start this link up, but this was so fun!

Dear Airborne,

You taste really disgusting, but thank you for keeping my cold somewhat manageable this week. It was a long one!

OCD hand-washer

Dear husband,

Thank you for being the most fab dance partner at the wedding last night. We really know how to cut a rug!

Your wife who loves your 80's moves

Dear Michelle,

I'm sooo happy you're back from your vacation. It was pretty lonely in our office without you, and I had no one to share my stupid stories (or my hummus) with. 

Your work bestie

Dear Willy,

You are the BEST napping buddy ever! I love how cuddly you are and the fact that you love sleeping under blankets.

Your mom :)

snuggle bug :)

Dear Amy and Bill,

You two are such amazing friends to Jim and I! We had a blast dancing the night away with you guys and can't wait until you two tie the knot next year.

us :)

Bein' all fancy at The Drake Hotel!

 Dear Squirrel,

Stop eating my pumpkin!

A really mad suburbanite

caught ya!

Hope you all are enjoying your Sunday! Mine is being spent snuggling with my pup, watching the Bears game, and heading out later to get a new pumpkin! ;)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Picture Books for Bully Prevention Month!

October is Bully Prevention Month and our school has been doing a TON to support it! Since I am one of the the PBIS coaches, I've been trying to think of fun, interactive ways for students to become more aware of bullies, and how they can be prevented in our schools.

One of the ideas my amazing coach and I came up with was a Bully Prevention Book Box. This box houses 15 picture books for all grade levels and each one approaches the topic of bullying in a different way.  We put the box in our book room, created a checkout form, and let the teachers take and return them as they wish!

Here are a few of my favorites from the box:

Perfect for K-3, this book is about a new student who uses bullying behavior and the other students are not allowing it!   

This beautiful book with the most picturesque illustrations will leave you with tears in your eyes (and a simple lesson about kindness to teach your kids, where all you need is a pebble and a bowl of water.)

This 3 book series by Erin Frankel are true-to-life stories from all perspectives: the target, the bully, and the bystander.

This colorful book teaches kids about accepting differences, and how sometimes it takes just one voice to make everyone count.

So far, this box has been a huge success with the teachers at our school! Have you read any to your students? Even though October is the dedicated month for bully prevention, it always needs to be on our radar. These books are great to read year round, and will allow for some fantastic discussions in your classroom! Enjoy! :)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

IRC Recap!

This last week or so has been such a whirlwind... an amazing one! Michelle at Big Time Literacy, my principal Bea, and I presented at the Illinois Reading Council Conference in Springfield on Thursday morning and it was FANTASTIC! We were up until the wee hours of the morning on Thursday, putting the finishing touches on our presentation - a story about the journey of our school. We talked about how we've transformed from teaching test-prep, to using the workshop model and balanced literacy to create a love of reading within our students. I was definitely nervous and unable to sleep for the few days before our presentation, but once we started, the nerves went away and there we were: sharing our story about what we love doing! I know our story is a powerful one and I hope others who were there thought so too. My principal definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone by asking me to present, but I am so thankful she did. I absolutely loved presenting and want to do it again next year!

Bea, Michelle, and I after presenting :)

After our presentation was done, it was time for... yep, you guessed it: COFFEE! We relaxed for a bit, debriefed about our presentation, and planned out the rest of our day. The highlight of my day on Thursday, besides our own presentation :), was seeing Richard Allington. I just love his brutal honest approach to education. He talked a lot about strengthening our Tier One: universal curriculum (something we hear often, but don't always act on), and offering more PD (60-90 hours!) to first year teachers to help them become effective teachers of literacy. He also discussed some core principles for RtI design. Two principles that stuck out to me most: having expert teachers deliver RtI (instead of computers, paraprofessionals, and/or parents), and having the interventions focused on meta-cognition and meaning. He got us all laughing by telling us the story about his granddaughter coming home with a worksheet for homework. He told her it was "crap and to throw it away." She responded, "But grandpa, my teacher will hate me!" He told her, "That's ok, you're not learning anything from those anyway." So true! :)

Thursday night was spent enjoying a few well-deserved cocktails, getting to know the other literacy specialists in my district, hanging out with my sister, Carolyn (who stayed in my room with me), and catching up with a friend who was in my grad program! :) Just what we all needed!

Friday morning, we were all up early to enjoy breakfast and listen to Lucy Calkins speak. I loved hearing her stories, and honestly could have listened to her all day :) She spoke about how our profession is being criticized and we must take it back: say no to say YES! I loved how we were able to read a poem and talk about it in the different lenses (something we ask our own kiddos to do, but don't often do it ourselves). She told us about how she went into a school and she saw kindergartners doing the same character trait work as 5th and 8th graders. The Common Core asks us to dig deeper with text meaning and that's an amazing thing! It was hard for us adults to even do this. But it's not about the right answer, it's about getting students to think and have conversations with each other around a poem, story, or article.

South Berwyn Literacy Team and Principals with Lucy!

The other highlight of my Friday was seeing Maria Walther present on Transforming Literacy Instruction for the Common Core. She actually teaches first grade across the hall from my sister, Carolyn, who is a reading specialist in Naperville District 104. I've heard some great things about her from my sister, but holy cow, seeing her present was AWESOME! She got us all hooked by showing us pages from the picture book On a Beam of Light, a story about young Albert Einstein asking many questions. If you haven't read this, you need to! Brought tears to my eyes. She then showed us the cover of the picture book Same, Same, But Different. She connected this to the Common Core and reaffirmed in all of us that the CCSS are the same, same, but different :) We've known for years that we need to use more informational text, and that we need to encourage kids to converse with each other. Now, we just need to make a few instructional shifts to create independent readers, thinkers, and writers out of our young learners. The work that she shared with us from her little firsties is beyond incredible: students asking great questions, creating their own captions for images in informational text, and using language such as, "My thinking is the same as," instead of the phrase we often hear, "He stole my idea!" I left her session feeling more inspired than I have in a while, AND with a super long list of picture books that I am going to send to my mom for a Christmas list :) I would love to see her in action in her classroom, and I'm hoping that Carolyn can help me do that!

Here's the link to her handout from the presentation, including all of the wonderful picture books!

This was my very first IRC experience and I cannot wait until next year! I'm so thankful to be a part of a district that encourages me to grow professionally. If you haven't had the chance to go to the IRC, you should definitely consider it for 2015 in Peoria :)

Have a great weekend!

Monday, August 4, 2014

picture books for the first week(s) of school

It's been a couple weeks since I've posted - I feel that it's going to take me a little bit of time to become more of a 'regular' blogger. I'm constantly thinking, "who is even going to read this? is what I have to say interesting? what if someone doesn't agree with me?" yada yada yada...

Anyway, I have to get past these thoughts and write for me - that's the reason I started this whole blog: to get my ideas down in one spot, to reflect on what I love to do, and to connect with other educators. So, here goes another post!

The first week of school is quickly approaching and in the midst of setting up new classrooms, labeling books, laminating, organizing, and all that fun stuff, one has to have a solid plan of what to do with their kiddos the first week of school! Someone once told me that you can have the prettiest, most organized classroom, but without a plan for the first day (& week) of school all that means nothing.

On the first day of school I have always read First Day Jitters by Julie Danneburg. It's a super cute story about a girl named Sarah who is very nervous for the first day of school. She imagines many terrible things happening in her classroom but finally her dad convinces her to get up, eat some toast, and get in the car for school. When she gets there, her principal introduces her as the new teacher, Ms. Sarah Jane Hartwell.  Surprise! :)

This book is fabulous for the first day because I always have the first day jitters (and second day jitters, too). It definitely makes the students feel more comfortable hearing me talk about how nervous, anxious, and excited I was for the first day of school that I couldn't sleep at all the night before. I then open the conversation up to the students to talk about what they are nervous for and it makes us all feel a bit better knowing many of us had those same feelings!


Another one I always read was Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. This is a popular book about a girl named Chrysanthemum, who always loved and felt proud of her name, until she started her first day of school. She gets teased by some girls and her self-esteem has wilted. She then meets her music teacher who is also named after a flower and is pregnant with a baby. When the teacher tells Chrysanthemum that she plans to name her baby Chrysanthemum if it's a girl, she blossoms again and learns to love who she is.

This book tugged on my heart strings because my first name has 9 letters and although my teachers could pronounce it, it barely fit on a name tag. The letters always got smaller toward the end or my last name would be squeezed in on the bottom. What was worse than that? During standardized test time, my whole first name wouldn't fit in the squares and it always ended up saying "Christ" instead of "Christine" - so embarrassing for a 3rd grader.  One may think, "oh no big deal, it's a name" but many kids get made fun of for their names and those types of things stick with kids. This book always helped me to discuss the differences among us with my students and to be proud of who we are.

The last one I always read was The New Bear at School by Carrie Weston. This is a simple book about a grizzly bear joining the classroom after the first day of school and friendships have already been made. He has a hard time fitting in since he's so "hairy and scary," but when he saves the other animals from a bully, they all learn to love him. I actually liked to read this one during the second or third week of school because when I was teaching in the inner-city, we would have about 10-15 students on the first day of school and gradually get more throughout the first month until our class was full. So, there were always those "new" students!

There are a ton more books that I loved to read to my class during those first few weeks of school, but these 3 were always on the "must-read" list. What books do you make sure to read to your students during those crucial first few weeks of school? :)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer Bucket List

Welp, there are only about 4 weeks of summer left before school begins (not complaining - I'm extremely lucky to have the whole summer off), but I want to make sure I get some of the things on my Summer Bucket List checked off!

At the beginning of the summer, I made a mental list in my head of all the random things I wanted to accomplish this summer, some small, some big. Let's take a look at how I'm doing so far and what else I have to get done!

1. Landscape our backyard - done!
2. Host a bbq for all of our friends - happening on Aug 2nd :)
3. Learn to play golf - kinda done - I need to work on my swing a bit more before I can hit the course!
4. Go boating on Lake Michigan - hasn't happened yet, but plans are in the works :)
5. Organize our extra bedroom - ugh... let's just say I've been keeping the door shut so I don't have to look at it.
6. Buy a bike and take bike rides with my hubby, Jim - he bought me one for our anniversary and we took our first ride last night! The saying is true about once you learn to ride a bike, you'll always remember because I haven't been on one in about 15 years - I didn't fall off, but my tush is sore!
7. Get an area rug for our basement - why has this been so difficult to find?!
8. Start a blog - here we go!
9. Read The Daily Five - almost done!
10. Go to Jim's softball games - I've been going every Wednesday for the past 7 years, but I knew this summer would be a bit more difficult since we moved out of the city. I love watching him play and I don't mind the sometimes hour and a half drive to the north side :) plus, the chicken quesadilla I get after is totally worth it!
11. Host a book club meeting at my new house - happening next Tuesday! We are reading Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
12. Start cooking more - Jim is the main cook in our house, and to be honest, we both like it that way! I did make a mean spaghetti sauce but that's about it. We cook on our grill a lot, and I won't even dare touch that thing ;)
13. Visit the farmer's market by my house - not yet! It's only on Wednesdays so maybe this week or next!
14. Meet our new neighbors and have them over - I've met them and the girl next door is my age, and a teacher - WIN! Jim even went to high school with her husband - how crazy is that?! We've invited them over a couple times, but summer is so busy for everyone it hasn't worked out yet.
15. Workout 3-4 times a week - I hate to say this, but even with all the extra time, this hasn't been getting done. I take my dog, Willy, for daily walks, but I need to add in some weight training! Come on, Jantz!

I've got a lot to do before school starts on the 15th! What's on your summer bucket list?

Cruisin' the neighborhood :)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Very First Blog!

I am so excited to start this blog!!! My amazingly fabulous coworker, Michelle, has inspired me to start this blog and share my thoughts about teaching reading with the blog world :)

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