Tuesday, December 29, 2015

I loved reading ECHO by Pam Munoz Ryan

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan is quite a book...really many books/genres held together masterfully through music. It starts as a fairytale that includes a scary witch who casts a spell on three princesses. Then those three met Otto in a field and a fantasy story begins. Then three different historical fiction stories are told, all about terrible times in history - 1933 Germany and the rise of the Nazi Parry, 1935 USA and the struggle of orphans in America during the Depression and 1942 California and the story of the Japanese Internment Camp. And then in 1951, all three of these stories magically meet in NYC at a concert at Carnegie Hall!! And after the concert, we learn more about Otto and more about the fairytale princesses! And during it all, MUSIC holds the lives of the characters together. Music played on a shared harmonica as this thought is recalled:
"Even in the darkest night, a star will shine.
A bell will chime. A path will be revealed."

I was drawn to take notes as Mary Ehrenworth taught me this summer at the TCWRP Reading Institute to hold onto this story:

I wonder about reading this book to my 3rd graders...it is long, 587 pages. It does deal with sad times in our history. But it is filled with characters that persevere and overcome struggle and value music.
Now I can't wait for January 4th when school is back open so I can begin this read-aloud!

I am glad to be connected again to this amazing author.
She truly has outdone herself with this novel of so many genres woven together with music.
Pam Munos Ryan Website

I thought I was going to write about my 2015 OLW - responsiveness - today and reflect on my 2016 OLW - transparency ...next Tuesday!!

Today, my thoughts are echoing and I feel moved to go buy a harmonica!!

And I also want to TALK to someone who has read this book. Have you? 
Maybe a virtual book club on twitter soon. 
Favorite parts, favorite characters, music....so much to discuss.
Let me know if you are interested!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Literary Gift...for my Architect Husband and Building Contractor!

Two weeks ago, a mother volunteered to read a book to our class and brought The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater. I had a teacher friend who always started her school year using this book but I personally had never actually read it myself. As Ethan's mom read, connections were made for me!

I was moved by these lines:
First line - "...all the houses were the same." 

"My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams." (stated AFTER main character changes the appearance of his house).

"..whenever anybody visited Mr. Plumbean's house, the very next day that person would set about changing his own house to fit his dreams."

"Our street is where we like to be, and it looks like all our dreams."

Immediately, I bought two copies of this book to use as Literary Gifts:
1. One for my architect husband who designed a very smart, sustainable, energy-efficient home (which we are moving into TOMORROW!!!!) which does NOT look like all the other houses on the street.
2. One for Galaxy Homes, our building contractor, who welcomed the unconventional design of the house, and worked hard to build it, following Brian's drawings and making his dream a reality.

I taped these two photos to the last page of the picture book, adding my own THANK YOU note - Thank you for building us a home that is NOT the same as all the others!

Additional Findings:
When I googled this book, I discovered it was picked as #48 in Top 100 Picture Books for Children
by ALA.

By going to Daniel Pinkwater's website, I learned he have written LOTS of books and that his wife, Jill, is also a writer. Then I discovered I have probably heard him on NPR (He is also an occasional commentator on National Public Radio’s All Thing Considered and appears regularly onWeekend Edition Saturday, where he reviews exceptional kids’ books with host Scott Simon.) I see that for $.99 I can buy many of his novels for my Kindle, something I plan to do! And I thought he was only known for The Big Orange Splot published in 1977 by Scholastic!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Celebrate - BEST family EVER!

Looking back on this week, I must celebrate my family, my two daughters, Anne and Bridgit and my husband, Brian.


who shared a clever Ancient Greek Pottery craft she learned while teaching last year in France. With her help, photos of my students were taken posed as Greek warriors or gods, and then used to decorate a paper pot to tell a story, just like the Ancient Greeks did.

Anne ....

who when shopping with me at IKEA, was as excited about their puppets as I was and who helped to type up a planning packet so my students could collaborate in small groups to plan out and then perform puppet shows before we left for Winter Break.


who spent a whole day at my school while home from the University of Chicago where she is earning a Masters in Public Policy and Computer Science and spoke to each 3rd grade class about the job of a computer programmer. She also pushed me to make sure my class participated in Hour of Code activities which they ALL loved! Thanks to Bridgit, lots of 8 year olds are aware that coding can be hard but is something they can all do!


who spent years thinking about the design of a house for us and who spent the last two years overseeing the construction of a very energy-efficient and modern house for us and who received word on Friday that our permit to occupy the house has been granted. 


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

OLW - Responsiveness

Inspired by @FranMcVeign's post today, I am reflecting on MY 2015 one little word- responsiveness.

I have written about it here in January, 2015 and here in February, 2015 and here on last day of May, 2015.

Now I am 15 days away from picking my 2016 OLW.
But first - How did I do with my 2015 word?

I am drawn to the definition and synonyms to help me reflect on how I did this year.
"…to adjust quickly to suddenly altered external conditions…”
 I still struggle with the "quickly" part. I naturally reflect but often seem to have my best thoughts after the fact. But if "quickly" were removed from this definition, I do think I have responded better when the situation calls for adjusting this year. My response now is to think, "There are many ways to do something" and respond in a more tolerant way.

“to resume stable operation without undue delay."
Again "without delay" may be a stretch at times. But as I reflect back, my response to situations is putting me in a more stable place. As I compare teaching 5th grade from Jan-June and 3rd grade from Sept -Dec, I would say I am better suited to spending my school day with 8 year olds. Their joy, their wonder, their response to me, helps me to better ensure a "stable operation".

Responsiveness Synonyms:
openness - From Sept-Dec, I have held a Morning Meeting every day at school. I have included student shares and stayed committed to taking the time to start our day in an open and welcoming manner. It has made all the difference. And yes, I will admit that the minutes spent learning math has been less on some days due to more minutes spent during Morning Meeting but in the big picture, all my days of learning are stronger because of the time spent being open to greeting the students daily, laughing with them as we play a game and listening as they share their interests.

acceptance - During all of 2015 (and 2014), my husband and I have been building a new house designed by my architect husband. It has been the biggest thing my husband and I have ever done. By January 1, 2016 we expect to move in. As I look back on all the ups and downs of this endeavor, I can honestly say that I have shown acceptance of all we could and could not control. It helped me to kept busy responding to and placing my energy in the things I could control, like teaching 3rd grade and letting go of the things I couldn't control, like the pace of the construction crew. My friends hear me say often, "It's all good" when they see a smile on the outside of my face when inside I want to really just cry. But instead, I accept it and know it is worth the wait. 

tolerantAs I enter my 24th year as a teacher, I feel less tolerant at times of my colleagues. I want them just to know all that I know and be on the same page as me. Instead, I feel myself become impatient when instead, I have to convince them of what I know and believe are best practices. But then I try to remember and respond in a tolerant manner. Some days are better than others.

As 2015 comes to an end, having responsiveness as my one little word has helped.
Now I have 15 days to think about what my 2016 word will be??!!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

I disagree with this author's opinion about having an iPad in a 3rd grade classroom

I just read this article on the front page of the Outlook section of Sunday's Washington Post:
When I Powered On Their iPads, Conversations Shut Down

This article is one tech-novice teacher's opinion. I also am a 3rd grade teacher in Arlington. I am a novice to having one-to-one iPads in my classroom but not a novice to teaching. As I began my 24th year as an educator this year,  I was given 22 students and 23 iPads (one for me!).

As a teacher, I reflect often. If I saw less talking between my students once the iPads arrived like the author of the article did, I'd reflect on WHY. Then I would problem-solve to ensure that this tool isn't causing my students to talk less because I value talk. By talking it out, we show our understanding. I would NOT simply blame it all on having an iPad in the room, as it feels like the author of this article is doing.

Instead, I tell my students, "The iPad is a tool you can choose to use to do the work. You can also choose paper and pencil. You can choose white board and marker. You are the learner so choose what works best for you." By telling them this, I set the tone for why we gave them an iPad, "not a toy but a tool" and the expectation is set. "You choose how best to do your learning." Then, as with all my lessons, I provide lots of time for "turn and talk" so we can talk to another about the concept we are learning with our tools next to us to support our talk. As an educator, I remain open to learning along with my students about how this new tool can help us to grow and learn best in the 21st century.

It is only December and together my 3rd graders and I have learned lots with an iPad alongside all of us. I am glad to have the opportunity to have this tool to use this year in 3rd grade.

Do you have an opinion on the use of technology in the classroom and its impact on talk? 
Please share it!!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Celebration - WORDS must change the world

As I drove to the dry cleaner this morning, doing a mundane Saturday chore, I heard the announcer on npr say, "The first time since 1920....prime real estate space...editorial about guns."

My next stop aftr dropping off the shirts to be pressed was Starbucks and there it was, this editorial:
End the Gun Epidemic in America by the NYTimes

I celebrate today, that despite the horrid news of the last few days, weeks, months, years, relating to gun violence in my country, the leading newspaper in our country LOUDLY stated their personal opinion, pushing for the citizens of America to take a stand.

I hate that so many places in my country/world have suffered because of guns.

But this move by the NYTimes is definitely in the right direction, as hopes and prayers are no longer enough, as implied by the New York Daily's headline - God Isn't Fixing This.

I also celebrate that as an American, I vote. I will be listening so my vote for the next set of leaders is for leaders who also demand the changes called for by the NYTimes today.

I believe WORDS can change the world. And now I see more clearly how leaders are needed to make the words become a reality.