Saturday, November 14, 2015

Celebration - a Happy Veteran's Day inspired by Tim Rasinski

On October 19, 2013 I had the pleasure of ending a day of learning at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project by sitting in the majestic, large Riverside Church on the Upper Westside of Manhattan to hear the final Keynote Speaker, Tim Rasinski, profession of literacy education at Kent State University. I had read his books on fluency and I had even heard him speak before at a conference. But that day was such a treat and I wrote this:

Tim Rasinski - Whatever Happened to the ART of Reading? 
First, Tim was introduced in such a clever way!! To the tune of Hey, Jude, a Staff Developer sang "Hey, TIm" and gave the audience a summary of his background through song. How fun that the church nave filled with "Na-na- na, na-ah-na-na, Hey Tim!"  This was the perfect intro for a speaker who continued to teach us using song!

Singing is FUN. Lyrics are getting read but it doesn't feel like hard work at all. He shared how he is working with kids to perform on Veteran's Day. They have been practicing the theme songs of each of the Armed Forces. (Lots of reading of lyrics!!) So Tim had us try this. We sang and honored each branch of our military, those standing when they had a personal or family connection. Along with being fun, it was so moving AND required loads of reading!!

He is also working with kids to celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth. Kids are preparing to perform read-alouds of his inaugural speeches and the Gettysburg Address. He found a song called Our Abe Lincoln. He found a Civil War letter and a poem. All these the students are reading and rereading which will improve their fluency as readers. And it's FUN!!

Thank, Tim for reminding me to add FUN songs, poems, readers theaters, etc to my classroom. Reading CAN be an art form, as well as the science related to reading score data.
All notes from that day are HERE.

So, I took what I heard that Saturday and returned to my then 4th grade classroom in McLean, VA and planned a Veteran's Day celebration. I wrote about that celebration by saying: Monday, we hosted 20 friends, most of them veterans or wives of veterans! We sang each of the Military songs to honor Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. We ate blueberry muffins and had our posters hanging! My students did such a GREAT job!! So proud of them!!

Then, yesterday, Friday, November 13, 2015 I hosted another Veteran's Day celebration!! This time in Arlington with my 3rd grade class along with my teammate's 3rd grade class. Our 44 students spent the 2 weeks prior learning all the songs of each branch of the military. Thanks to technology and my tech-savvy daughter, Anne, I now have a Spotify Veteran's Day playlist and we used this to play the tunes as the words to the songs appeared on the smart panel. Thanks go out to our music teachers, too who also spent time in their class helping the 3rd graders to learn the songs well.

We came to school wearing read, white and blue and military-inspired t-shirts! At 1pm, we opened the wall between the two 3rd grade classrooms studios and we did a run through of our program. A student speaker welcomed our guests. Different students introduced the songs. And all 44 loudly sang each song as I queued the spotify playlist. Our finale was all standing to sing God Bless America. Our run through went well so we then got busy decorating!!

Half the kids went with my colleague to her side of the studio space and wrote a letter to a veteran. I took the other half and on large posters, they decorated signs for us to hang up and made red, white and blue tissue paper flowers as a party favor for our guests.

Then just before 3pm, we took our places. Our honored Veterans and family and friends arrived and took their seats. Our celebration began! We sang. We listened as our guest introduced themselves and said how many years they have served. I personally invited my mom and two retired friends who live in the neighborhood. I loved having an older generation of Veterans to join with my students' families and a few of the students also brought along a grandparent. As the program ended, we had a little time for all to mingle and Veterans answered questions and shared.

Today, I celebrate inspiration from smart educators, like Tim Rasinski who taught me on Oct. 19, 2013 to SING! Singing is a powerful teaching technique. Singing is fun! Singing honors those we love and unites us across generations. 

To hear us SING, view the VIDEO LINK post to twitter @SallyDonnelly1 and VIDEO LINK2


  1. Love this post and all that you shared about your Veteran's Day. What a celebration! Thanks to Tim Rasinski for inspiring you two years ago and for the ongoing celebrations with your students. These are events they will remember long past the daily lessons that occur in your classroom. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love Veteran's Day celebrations in school. Kids are always so kind to the veterans, and they are so appreciative. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Wow! What wonderful literacy work. "Work" that celebrates what matters in such a joyful and meaningful way. I agree with Ramona. Your students will remember this.

  4. It was great reading this. You definitely created an experience that had depth and significance.

  5. Touching Exciting Fun to watch and hear the singing. You are an amazing teacher! Much appreciation for all you do!

  6. I love adding singing to my library classes. It makes anything more interesting and gets people involved. We feel like participants instead of just spectators.

  7. This is terrific, Sally, to carry an idea forward & celebrate with your own students, too. I hope you shared what Tim Rasinski's talk meant to you, your students, & your guests. He would be so proud.