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!