Saturday, October 31, 2015

Celebration - Getting Lost in a Book!

I snapped these 2 pictures Friday fifteen minutes into a combined writing/reading workshop time.

Due to a school assembly, we had about 50 minutes only for our ELA block. Due to it being a Friday and a day before a much-loved holiday, I forfeited teaching a mini-lesson and gave my 3rd grade class a menu of  choices: write a spooky story for fun, do a math addition color-the-code worksheet, draw scary monsters inspired by Ed Emberly, or read, either a book or an e-book using your ipad. "Off you go..."

The boy in the photo on the left got lost in his book. Through the glass is another boy choosing to read on his ipad and another in the chair listening to a Tumblebooks story using his headphones. The boy pictured on the left, took the window seat and his Big Nate book and got lost quickly in the story.

A few other chose to make scary illustrations. A pair of girls rewrote nursery rhymes inspired by Mary Anne Hoberman's poems in 2-voices. Instead of Jack and Jill going up the hill, it was a vampire and a werewolf! The math lovers solved the addition problems and colored all the squares. For instance, the problems with the answer of 4, 5, and 6, got colored ORANGE according to the key...soon a pumpkin emerged from the colored squares! Two other girls collaborated, one writing a scary story and her partner being the illustrator.

I celebrate that as October comes to an end, my 3rd graders are readers and writers. They can get lost in their book. They can collaborate to create stories and pictures for others to read and enjoy.

And the best part, when I rang the chime to announce it was time to stop, I heard groans! Music to my ears. the sound that no one wanted our workshop time to end. We truly are readers and writers!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

1st Time - Personal Narrative

While attending TCRWP's Saturday Reunion, I went to learn about how to have stronger partnerships  in Writing Workshop from Ryan Scala, a staff developer I befriended years ago when he was a 3rd grade teacher in Long Island. My favorite part of Ryan's workshop was that he had me WRITE! Using the Generating Ideas Strategy of "Think of the 1st Time you did something and write about that moment", my partner and I discuss our ideas. She mentioned a time growing up and going to her synagogue. That gave me this idea to write about. Thanks, Ryan! *

As the congregation sat down, it was my cue to stand up and walk to the podium. I heard a loud echo with each step I took as my church shoes touched the marble floor of the St. James Church. Once at the podium, I stepped up on the stool so I could see the large book and so my mouth was close to the microphone. I saw placed on top of the opened book, a xeroxed copy of the reading, a reading I had been practicing for the past two weeks. I saw the many slanted lines my teacher had added to help me chunk the word phrases. I saw the punctuation highlighted at the end of each sentence. I cleared my throat and I began.

Even though I could probably recite the reading now from memory, I kept my eyes glued to the page, not looking up to see the many eyes staring at me as I read. In a loud voice, I said, "A Reading from Genesis". As I continued, I remembered to pause longer at each highlighted periods at the end of sentences. I remembered to also pause at each slash mark made by my teacher - a slash about every 4-6 words. "Scoop up a whole phrase and say it in one breath," she coached me. "It will sound funny to you to go so slow, but it will sound clearer through the microphone."

Then I was at the end. "This is the word of the Lord," I said and the congregation replied, "Thanks be to God." I carefully stepped down from the step stool and slowly walked back to my pew. I stepped mostly on my tippy toes trying not to make my shoes echo so much. Then I saw her - my teacher. She was motioning a thumbs up and had a big smile on her face. I breathed in and out and smiled widely too. I took my seat in my pew relieved that my reading was over and content that all my preparation, with my teacher's help, had paid off.

(* MY NOTES from attending the Saturday Reunion at TCRWP on Oct. 17, 2015)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Celebrate - I Am A Writer

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 was the NCTE's 7th Annual National Day on Writing. I happily shared this VIDEO by Lucy Calkins with my students. Lucy starts, "Writers, I'm talking to you today because you are writers. Because you do what writers the world over do - You live like writers."

Today I celebrate that I AM A WRITER.

I know I live like a writer because:
1. I now always carry a notebook and something to write with in my purse. It comes out when I hear something I want to remember or when I need to jot down a To Do list or when I just want to clear my head so I put my thoughts on a page.

2. I get excited to learn from real writers. For example, on Oct. 15th, I had my class watch author, Kate DiCamillo giving a live broadcast on the Anniversary of Mercy Watson's 10th birthday. I would not have missed this free opportunity to hear the Children's Ambassador speak! And I took notes to hold onto her ideas (in my notebooks!). She said, "I write 2 pages a day" so now I've been saying to my students at the end of the Writing Workshop mini-lesson "Let's be like Kate and try to write 2 pages today."!! I love learning from published authors.

3. I make a date to BLOG every Saturday morning and sometime during the day on Tuesdays. Thanks to Ruth Ayers' invitation to Celebrate, I am usually at Starbucks each Saturday morning blogging about one thing I can celebrate after reflecting back on my week and posting to her blog. Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers, I tried the Slice of Life Challenge during March, 2014 and again in 2015. Then this habit of sharing a small moment and reading and responding to other writers became my habit. Now I blog a Slice of Life EVERY TUESDAY and I am looking forward to March, 2016!

4. I read like a writer. I read lots! I read picture books and YA novels the most. I read the Washington Post newspaper daily.As I read, I notice genres now. I notice structural moves. I notice craft moves. I share, as mentor text, a variety of reading that I do with my students. I now get why writers always say the thing they do to get better at writing is to read!

5. I celebrate published writing. With my students, I plan publishing parties and then guide the class though the writing process so our final product is something we have worked on and can really celebrate at the publishing party. At school, I hang up our writing in the hallway for all to see. Personally, I get energy when I receive a reply to one of my blog posts I have published. It is always a risk to make writing public but definitely worth it and definitely something to celebrate!

Today I celebrate - I AM A WRITER!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Celebration - Saturday Reunion at TCRWP!!

I am celebrating that it is 5am on a Saturday morning .
I just took an uber to Union Station with a colleague.
I'm meeting 3 more colleagues and we are on the 5:25am train to NYC.
Then starting at 9am-3pm, I'll be learning with a 1000+ teachers at 
Teachers College from the smartest literacy teachers on the planet!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My birthday - halfway to 104

It is still Tuesday, barely. I still have time to make a post and my personal writing goal is to make a post every Tuesday. All day I wondered if I had anything to write about. But I did just have a birthday and today at school, I celebrated it with my students. So that is what I'll write about.

A week ago Friday, I found myself unexpectedly watching The Kelly Ripa Show. It was her birthday and she announced, "I'm halfway to 90." Her comment stuck with me and here is what I wrote as my Morning Meeting Message today at school:

Dear 3rd graders,
Over the weekend I celebrated my birthday.
I am now halfway to 104.
How old am I?

In the bin, I collected books that are as old as me.
Let's collectively try to read as many books as my age right now.
Get a book and read it. Then add a tally mark below.
Then get another book and repeat.
Have fun reading books written in 1963!

Mrs. Donnelly

In the bin I placed:
Where the Wild Things Are (it's copyright  is 1963 and it won the Caldecott in 1964)
The Snowy Day (1963 Caldecott winner) and other Keats books
Swimmy by Leo Lionni (1963 Caldecott Honor winner)
Amelia Bedela books (as the first one in the series came out in 1963)
Clifford The Big Red Dog books (as the first one in the series came out in 1963)

Along with gathering GREAT children's books published the year I was born, I made a poster showing images of the following,  also "born" in 1963:
Captain Crunch
The St. Louis Arc
The NYC MetLife Building
The first push button phone
The smiley face :)
and ME!!

As a read-aloud, I typed up Where the Wild Things Are as a Readers Theater and after I read it through once, I divided the 22 students up into three teams and asked them to decide who would be Max, who would be The Wild Things and who would be the narrators. Our goal is to practice all week and then on Friday, perform it for the Kindergarten classes!

Celebrating my birthday with third graders is fun, even when I suddenly find myself halfway to 104!!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Celebrate - Parent/Teacher Conferences

Thursday afternoon and all day Friday I had the pleasure of spending 20ish minutes talking with each of the parents of my 3rd graders. I will admit that by 4:30pm on Friday I was a little talked out. But overall, I celebrate that the moms and dads of my 22 third graders are caring and supportive. I am confident that their child will soar this year while in my classroom!!

I celebrate parent/teacher conferences.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Reflection on a Mindless Job

Early Friday morning, I observed a TSA worker doing a needed but very mindless job. The worker stood in front of the random-generating arrow machine and pressed a button to change the arrow. Then, as it pointed either left or right, her hand motioned to the next airport ticket holder to follow in the right or left direction toward the indicated corral. "That could be my job, " I thought to myself. But not with a sarcastic tone. It could be...just looking and pointing and not thinking. Frankly, at 5:02am in the morning, after spending 18 days teaching where I am constantly making decisions all day long, this thought felt pretty appealing. But just for a brief moment. In reality, I think I'd go crazy if I had such a mindless job. I like to think. I like to create. I like to interact with others in ways that help them to grow, not just move to an indicated spot.

Then I realized something. As I say at school, "I have a connection." Seeing this TSA worker wave her hand to match the random arrow, I thought about the Online PALS assessment I just administered to my 3rd graders.  During the one-on-one assessment, a word appeared on my screen and the child read it. If it was read correctly, my right hand pressed the right arrow. If incorrect, the left arrow. Then with my left hand, I pressed the spacebar and the next word appeared. Mindlessly, I inputted their word reading. Then the computer tallied and scored and assigned a reading passage for the student to read and I completed an online running record. as each student read to me.

I get why someone thought an online reading assessment should be created. But after completing 22 of them and printing out the summary sheet that looks so orderly with a list of numbers, I feel more in a robot coma. I need to snap out of it. I need to think. I need to create a reading workshop classroom where we are all readers, growing to become stronger readers.

I'm a Reading Specialist, according to the certificate I went back to school to earn in 2004. At that time I got good at listening to students read, as I took a running record by hand, using mostly the DRA. For me, this one-on-one task done by hand was just the beginning of the assessment. Once I finished, the important part began - the thinking. "Now what?" I'd ask myself and then implement just what that reader needed to learn or practice based on the assessment. And then I planned creative ways to grow each reader.

For a brief moment this morning, while waiting to get through airport security, I contemplated having the mindless airport job. Then once on the plane, I pulled out two Horrible Harry books from my backpack before placing it under the seat. I have four students that I grouped together based on their PALS assessment data to form a "Horrible Harry" book club. And I will spent the next hour, while flying to Chicago, planning out a way to grow these readers using these books.

I like to think. I like to create. I especially like teaching reading and writing in 3rd grade this year. The online assessment may have caused me to act like a robot while administering it. But now comes the best part - the part where I respond to my "Now what? pondering.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Celebrate - Airport and Hospital workers, Hotel and Uber drivers too

Today I celebrate from a hotel room in Chicago. My oldest daughter is a grad student at University of Chicago. I don't totally get what she is learning at the Harris School of Public Policy but I know it has something to do with using big data to solve problems in our world. Yesterday, she had an outpatient procedure scheduled and as a mom, I thought I should come to give her support. All went well. So I pause to celebrate.

...who knew that at 5am at National Airport there would be a very long line of people trying to fly.

My boarding pass printed quickly (thank you, Expedia, for the email reminder to check in online the night before) and said the plane would begin boarding at 5:45am and leave at 6am. Plenty of time,  my novice traveling brain thought. So I stood in the security check line. I mindlessly watched a TSA worker push the button that made an arrow randomly point to the left, to the right, then right again. The right side meant you got to keep your shoes on during the security check and it moved a little faster. At my turn, the arrow pointed left and her finger pointed me to the slower moving corral. 5:21am. I waited patiently thinking it is way too early to be annoyed. I still have time. At 5:51 I slid my laptop back into my carry-on, grabbed my shoes and ran to Gate 16. I boarded and happily sat down in my window seat. Then magically at 6:52am Chicago time, I landed.

Thank you airport workers!

---who knew hospitals are so tech-savvy now

Once my daughter check-in, the nurse handed me a color-coded form with a number on it and pointed to a computer screen. It would show me when #4925 was in Pre-ob (yellow ), surgery ( green ), post-ob ( blue ) and departure (gray). As I sat and watched perky Kelly Ripa and then The View on the TV screen, #4925's color changed. And before I knew it, we were getting into an Uber cab heading to the Hyatt in the Loop.

Thank you hospital staff!
(And Uber! and The Hyatt, too!)