Tuesday, May 10, 2016

2016 Funeral

I got an email yesterday that read:

I will email you the short prayer service video for D held at the funeral home. You will be very moved and very proud of your former students, T, C, and E. T and C are speakers and E reads the petitions.

And many thoughts went through my mind.

Thoughts of sadness for this family. I met them as their children's teacher and then we stayed friends. I recalled how proud D's wife was when T got accepted into college. "Must have been that great 4th grade teacher he had," I joked with her.

Thoughts about how technology changes our world so much. And now, I guess, even the exiting of our world. Because we can record so easily, I guess it is an option now. Who knew?

I immediately thought back to 1988, October. Did I speak? No. Instead, I was busy trying to find a black maternity dress because I was days past my due date for my first child to be born. D and my dad exited this world in the same way - sudden heart attack. He at age 72 and mine at age 55. Neither meeting any grandchildren.

If I had a video of my dad's funeral service, would I rewatch it? I'm not sure I would. Instead, I liked that the email I got also said:

The family played highlights from C's wedding, including D's moving toast to C and walking her down the aisle.

With my dad and the technology available prior to 1988, I can only cherish photos and I do. I am also glad that I used Judith Viorst poem, What Dads Do to write my own poem last year about my dad. (I wrote about the writing of this poem HERE.) It goes like this:

What Dads Do by Sally Donnelly, inspired by Judith Viorst
(Click HERE to read Judith Viorst's poem)

Throws parties
Makes people laugh
Creates good times for all
Signs his signature in the fanciest way
Draws amazing illustrations for your school book report
Buys you just the present that you need
Visits you when you are away at college
Treats you and your friends to strawberry daiquiris.

Dads work hard,
play hard
and laugh big.
I wish I still had one.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

DigiLit Sunday: Curves

This week's DigiLit topic is CURVES
Connect to Margaret Simon's blog Reflections on the Tech to learn more.

To be perfectly honest, when I got a tweet yesterday sharing this word as an invite to join the Sunday conversation, I didn't think I had anything to say about technology as related to the word CURVES. 

In Virginia, there is a woman's gym called CURVES and as I googled it just now, I see it is a franchise with locations all over. I personally have never been to a Curves gym but one thing I know about it is that you enter, workout in one station, then move to the next station. And once at the end, your workout has targeted all parts of your body.

When I reflected on this gym called CURVES, I do see connections to it and using technology. I personally made it a goal after returning from the Digital and Media Literacy Conference at TCRWP, that I would try ONE technology a week until the end of school. Last week, I tried Todays Meet with my students. This week I asked them to go to KIDDLE to research  science topic. It is a safe visual search engine for kids. Next week, I want to try the GREEN SCREEN at my school. They are going to stand in front of an image of the natural disaster they researched and share as if they are a newscaster on the scene reporting on this "breaking news". Week by week, as if station by station, I am trying out something in the tech world with my students along for the ride. I guess I am curving my way along a tech path!!

I also think about CURVES as I recall how Colleen Cruz modeled how to teach kids to navigate a website. First, she had us PREVIEW the whole webpage. We saw a video, some text with hyperlinks, ads on the left side. After previewing, she reminded us that now we need to make decisions. Should I read the text first or watch the video? Should I click the hyperlink which takes me to another page to be previewed and then more decisions to be made? She described the inks as like wormholes. Do I click and CURVE my way down to the next page, next page, next page? Does each click help me to understand more about what I set out to learn today OR is the click and curve just a distractor? I'm starting to realize that I need to be an active digital reader who sets a purpose for my reading and then makes a plan to follow a path (sometimes CURVEY!) to reach my goal. 

And finally, as I prepare to post my blog reflection as related to CURVES, I will be hitting "SHIFT-2" on my keyboard and a CURVEY a appears ---> @ !! 

And to think that at first glance, I aw no connection between tech and curves

Thanks Margaret and the DigiLit community for getting me to think today!!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Celebrate - Moms and Poetry!!

Today I celebrate the magical hour spent in my classroom yesterday!!

I invited all moms and grandmas to come to our Morning Meeting in my 3rd grade classroom on Friday. My mom came (and it was even her 81st birthday!). Almost all my students brought along a mom (20/22!) and three brought grandmas and one grandpa tagged along too.

I asked them to bring a poem they liked and the day before I asked each student to pick a poem that either they had written or just one they liked. Then they practice saying it to a partner 10 times!

I recalled from last May, Judith Viorst saying when she visited my classroom, that I should encourage children to memorize poetry. She said, "A poem should live inside their body." (click HERE to read about her visit last year!)

So as I awoke Friday morning, I practiced my poem 10 times, too. I wanted to be able to recite it and have it live IN me!! I had chosen my favorite - Dreams by Langston Hughes.

Then at 9am, the magic happened!! My mom, one student whose mom couldn't attend and me started. Jackson told a riddle - A man lived in a one-story house with a pink door, pink shutters, pink couch, pink, table, pink bed and pink lamp. What color were the stairs?  (answer at the bottom!!)

I recited using hand motions, Dreams and my mom read Trees by Joyce Kilmer.
Then, as a symphony share, turns were taken.
Lots of Shel Silverstein
Lots of poems written by the student reader
A piece of Shakespeare read at Elle's mom's wedding
A piece written by Paul that a mom explained helps her be a better wife and mom and friend that started with the line "Love is kind..."
Then a grandma said she didn't have a poem but she likes to sing and asked us to sing along...
   "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine..."
That's when my eyes teared up!

Magic happens when moms and kids can just stop and take time to listen to poems and share a favorite!!

I celebrate moms and poetry, celebrated yesterday during a magical Morning Meeting!

Riddle Answer - There is no stair - it is a one-story house!!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

DitiLit - Function

This week’s DigiLit Sunday topic is “function”.

Connect to Margaret Simon’s blog Reflections On the Teche to read more.

Julieanne started her post this Sunday by stating: "I’m wondering, how are my students functioning with technology and how is technology functioning for them." As I read this, I thought about how, by using technology, my students' approximations look really good.

Last week I learned about Brian Cambourne's research on the Conditions for Learning:

The idea is that the approximation step allows for the learner to be free to approximate a skill, as making mistakes is essential when learning.

This week my students used kidblog, iMovie trailers, and TodaysMeet as three tech tools, all functioning as a way to show their thinking. Because of the tech form being used, it allowed their approximations to look really good! Sure, mistakes were there but because kidblog allows for a photo to be easily added to enhance the words and iMovie adds the dramatic music to match the story line and TodaysMeet limits you to just 140 characters, all 3 tools allowed for sharing of thoughts in a form that makes all users look and sound smart.

I think it is a great time to be a digital native! So many tools are available, allowing each user to function and share their thinking to communicate with others. It is also a great (but very challenging time) to be the teacher of these digital natives. As the teacher, I will push myself to think about the function of each digital tool and help each user make wise choices so they can best share their thinking.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Celebrate - Using a new technology - TodaysMeet

Today I celebrate using new technology. I returned to school on Monday after being out last week Wed-Fri. Instead of teaching my students, I was a student myself at Teachers College. I attended their 2nd Annual Digital and Media Literacy Institute.

During the keynote by Heidi Hayes Jacobs, she suggested picking an app or a technology and trying it out for the week. In that spirit and because of the modeling of this website during the institute, I picked Todays Meet.

On Monday, I introduced it to my students through a read-aloud and called the "room" Readaloud212.

On Tuesday, a student asked if they could "say something" about their independent reading using Todays Meet. Duh! Of course!! So I set up the 2nd TodaysMeet room called IndepReading212. I set the room to stay opened for a month and for the rest of the week, reminded the students to "say something" about what they read that day during independent reading time in the IndepReading212 room.

On Wed, two girls picked the 2 copies of I Survived the Shark Attack and started reading it as a "club". I asked if they wanted me to set us a TodaysMeet for them to jot down their thoughts to share with each other. They loved this idea so I set up a room called CarolineEllieBookClub.

On Thursday, it was library checkout time. I asked if anyone else wanted to form a book club. I suggested that they could find multiple copies of books while at the library. MANY wanted to, so I set up six more rooms to hold onto book club discussions.

On Friday, another class joined my room for a lesson that ended 10 minutes early. Whenever I have time like this, I like to fill it with a read-aloud. I quickly created another room on TodaysMeet called MadelineReadAloud and had all 44 kids access the link. And in honor of Ludwig Bemelmans' birthday, I read aloud his book, Madeline. All in the room were engaged, enjoying an old favorite while using an iPad to jot their thoughts about the book on the TodaysMeet page!

I celebrate that I tried using TodaysMeet this week.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Form helps!

I awoke knowing I had to pack and head home. I've been in NYC all week attending the 2nd Annual Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Digital and Media Institute. My head is spinning and so ready to explode. The thing giving me comfort is that it is almost summer...a time for me to play and explore and try all the things I became aware of this week as the best literacy minds shared!

Then I read Margaret's focus today on DigitLit: Form

The institute ended with a celebration involving an Ignite Session. Ignite was described in the Welcome email as:

Finally, during the last day of the institute, we will be offering an Ignite session. For those of you who are new to Ignite sessions, they are participant led presentations, which are very quick and packed with information. Like its older sister Pecha Kucha, Ignite is a presentation structure that has a strict time limit which forces the speaker to be precise and thoughtful about what to include and how to show it. It is completely voluntary. In an Ignite session, presenters will have 5 total minutes to present. They will have 20 slides, each slide automatically moving on after 15 seconds. We will offer a sign up for the Ignite session on site and will have a limited number of slots available.

You can prepare your presentation ahead of your arrival at the institute, or you can plan it based on what you learned during your week with us. If you are interested in learning more about Ignite, you might want to watch a sample. Here is a link to Penny Kittle’s Ignite session at NCTE 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Zp‐GUaX2ow . Additionally, if you would like to learn how to create your own Ignite session, you might want to check out these tips:http://scottberkun.com/2009/how‐to‐give‐a‐great‐ignite‐talk/

As I read this in the email before arriving, I thought how I could share about blogging - my own experience, as well as, the story of my students' experience with Kidblog since March. I had some ideas in my head so when once at the Institute, I signed up to give one.

Wednesday evening I started gathering ideas, photos, jots of why I love to blog and how amazed I was by my students' blogging experience during the month of March (which I posted about on this blog a few times in March!).

After sitting in a day of workshops, I also thought I needed a structure to my Ignite presentation (all the wonderful staff developers had done this so well as they presented). On the first day, Colleen Cruz shared the research by Brian Cambourne on Conditions for Learning. This list seems the prefect lens to use to share my blogging story.

I was thinking of this list as the lens to see my story through but as I read Margaret's DigiLit#24 post today, I realize it is also the FORM. I wholeheartedly agree, FORM matters, no matter the writing genre. Seeing my story through the conditions of learning allowed me to share my love of blogging across 20 slides in the 5 minute format.

I need to head to the bus station now and will plan to add MORE (like the link to my presentation!) to my post on Tuesday to the TwoWritingTeachers. But just had to celebrate now with Margaret, a day to celebrate FORM!!!

P.S. Despite being SO nervous to present, I included my favorite bloggers in my presentation. Having you along helped me to be brave and IGNITE!!

Two slides I shared:

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

All Aboard - Next Stop TCRWP Digital and Media Institute!!

I'm on the train!!

It's taking me from Union Station in DC to Penn Station in NYC.

Then I'll take the 1 Uptown and get off at 116th/Columbia University stop

Where I'll head 5 blocks to TC's Guest housing.

Wednesday I'm observing reading and writing workshop at PS158.

Then Thursday-Saturday from 9-3pm I will  happily learned from Colleen Cruz in a large group and Lindsay Mann in a small group and have an option to attend a closing workshop each day. I'm also being encouraged to try to present Ignite-style during Saturday's closing.

I'm on the train!!

I'm excited to learn from the best all at the 2nd Annual TCRWP Digital and Media Institute!!

Be sure to check out my tweets (@sally.donnelly1)

and I promise to take good notes and share what I learn!!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Celebrating Poetry Writing using Online Poet Websites and Kidblog

Looking back on teaching writing last week in 3rd grade, I see it as a week with not enough time. We had a special science unit to share, led by a resource teacher, so something had to give. Instead of a good 45-60 minutes of Writing Workshop, only about 30 minutes happened. However, looking back, I can celebrate that with wonderful online poetry models and with the tool, Kidblog as a place to easily draft our poems, LOTS still got done during Writing Workshop!!!

First, I placed links to 6 poets in Google Classroom and each day held a 4-7 minute mini-lesson where I simply clicked on one poet's website and shared one of their poems. Then I suggested that my students try either to draft their own poems now or continue to read more poems, searching for more inspiration. Then I sent all off to work as poets.

Our Google Classroom page looks like this:
For example, on Wed, I shared how Amy reads the Wonderopolis Wondering of the Day and then write and posts a poem related to the wondering (Thank you Educators Collaborative for sharing Amy last Saturday so I could learn about her and her The Poem Farm website!!) 

Wednesday night,  I looked on my class Kidblog and saw that Lucas was inspired to write this after he noticed that Amy had written a 26 line poem about Compost, starting each line with the letters A-Z:

and a day later, Lucas' poem inspired William to begin drafting this:
All because Amy showed us the ABCs of Composting inspired by What is Fertilizer?!!!

On another day, I shared J. Patrick Lewis' page of POEMS/RIDDLES that looks like this:

Next thing I see on Madeline's Kidblog page is this:

I also shared Kenn Nesbitt's poem, Joe the Emoji!

My students already have been using emoji to tell their stories and I wrote about it  HERE. 
Now they are having fun writing poems and songs using lots of emoji. My class regularly takes movement breaks using GoNoodle as our guide. Now the songs we move to there are being written in emoji on Kidblog!! Here's one example:

I recall one of the Poetry presenters during the Saturday Educator's Collaboration Day say that when she hears teachers say they don't have time for poetry, she will fire back, "Do you have 20 seconds to read aloud a poem?" Last week, I did not have the time to run a regular hour-long Poetry Writing Workshop. But my students proved to me that just being exposed to a poem, a riddle, or a song for a few minutes was all they needed to write some fun poetry!!

What poetry are YOU sharing TODAY during National Poetry Month?!!
Be sure to make the time! You'll be amazed at what gets produced. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Celebrating - Connections to Smart Educators

Saturday, I celebrated connecting to smart educators by posting to Ruth Ayer's Celebration blog. (If you are looking for another place/day to post your writing, I recommend this!!) Today I am posting my expanded revision of this same post! 

Maggie Beatty was my small group staff developer at TCRWP in 2010. I learned so much from her that summer and I stayed connected to her brilliance through #TCRWP and then when Kate and her began their Indent blog.

When they posted asking for real problems writing teachers experience, I thought why not. I'll send them one or two.

How fun that this week, they posted their first video sharing a practical way to solve a problem by making and using a DIY (do-it-yourself) Literacy toolkit page with a small group or during a conference.

Why so fun?


Take a minute and watch their brilliance HERE!!

Immediately after watching the video, I sent it to many of my literacy teacher friends who wrote back, just as excited as I was!!

And then of course, this video inspired me to use my Michael's coupon  on Sunday to purchase MY TOOLS.

My first page is written!!

Next update - my reflection on using it with students!

I continue to celebrate connecting to smart educators!!!
I can't wait for the DIY Literacy book to come out.
You can pre-order it HERE

Thursday, March 31, 2016

#31 - I did it - 3rd year in a row!!

I did it!! I completed the March Slice of Life Writing Challenge
for my 3rd year!!

DAILY I made a post - that's 31 posts.

DAILY I received comments - a total of 215 comments in all!! (Thank you!!!)

DAILY I left comments for 5 new slicers as part of the Welcome Wagon, as well as, for the handful of Slicers I now feel I know because I regularly read their blogs (like Margaret and Erika) and for those I have now met in person (like Fran, Tara, Julieanne, and Michelle) and for my two friends (Fran McCrackin and Marilyn) and best of all, for my daughter (Anne)!

Looking over my daily posts, I see that I wrote:
4 poems
10 small moments
7 big idea essays
7 times I wrote, inspired by reading another Slicer's post
9 moments were school moments
4 posts were in response to a writing tip shared while spending the day learning at a Lucy Calkins conference
5 times I wrote about my class using Kidblog for the first time this month

At no time this month did I struggle to have something to write about. I think it is because I tried, for the first time this year, to just live as a writer and use something from the day to drive my post.

I also know I got so much energy to keep writing because my students were also writing up a storm!!!
Thanks to much assistance from Margaret Simon's and a Middle School colleague and my daughter, Anne, I was able to launch Kidblog with my 23 students.

Today we celebrated with an ORANGE PARTY.
Today my Kidblog DASHBOARD reads:
We graphed our posts and comments.

We reflected on our work.

Best of all, we used the very cool Blue Sky Studio in my new school to gather in. We easily airplayed Kidblog stories from our iPads to share our favorite post written this month. What a magical hour. The students picked and I "read their writing like it was gold" as Lucy suggests! And we just enjoyed hearing the stories that only we can tell!!

I can't thank the TwoWritingTeachers enough for providing this March Challenge. Looking back, I realize I have read so much this month. I have written so much this month. And most of all, I have surrounded myself with writers!! What a perfect month!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"Come have fun playing here while your learn."

Today the architects of my new school are visiting. They hope to capture through interviews and just watching, what we think about the space they designed for us.

What do I think? What should I say during my interview?

The building they created is quite unique. Along with just being brand new, it screams "Come have fun playing here while your learn." This is loudly shouted when you leave my 2nd floor classroom and walk to the center of the 2nd floor and see THE SLIDE!

When I bring friends to see my school, they ask right away, "When do you use it?" And my reply is, "We just do." The slide is just another way to get from the 2nd to the 1st floor. My class knows that it does take a little more time to wait your turn to go down. So it is a choice. Those that really want to get outside for recess to play tag, usually take the stairs. Others say it is worth the wait. All understand that the slide is just another fun way to move in our very unique building called our school. I have come to realize that the beauty of having this feature as a permanent part of the building is that it isn't a reward. It just gets used because it screams, "Come have fun playing here while your learn."

The building also is designed to allow for tons of natural light in the classrooms and the hallways. I've worked in other schools where I've had no windows at all in my classroom or just a few. Here the outside is brought in throughout the entire building. I can't quote the science of why this is important but I can anecdotally share that I feel better in this building. I feel better because the building allows me to see the sky regularly as I have fun learning inside.

Finally, the building is designed with lots of open gathering spaces. I will admit that this is still something I am learning to figure out how to use well. As a teacher, I'm used to planning lessons and teaching them WITHIN the four walls given to me called my classroom. But this school is different. Now my students regularly spill-out into the hallway. Since the wall to the hallway of my classroom is glass, I can see them as they learn outside the four walls of my classroom. Fun chairs and stools dot the hallways, providing fun places to sit and work. Other spaces throughout the building provide spots to gather and collaborate. Many spaces, I will admit, I still need to explore with my students. And I will, as my mindset of what "my classroom" is, broadens. Really, my classroom at Discovery Elementary is THE ENTIRE school building, a building designed in my opinion as a place to PLAY while learning.

My new school, Discovery ES, truly screams, "Come have fun playing here while your learn."

Thank you, VMDO Architects!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

I'm sad

I got news today about someone leaving.
I am sad.

I am drawn to these words from the Musical, Wicked, the song FOR GOOD:
I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you...

I immediately found some comfort in knowing that, with technology, we can easily keep in touch.

I, a lover of books and believer that through story, we learn how to live, immediately thought of the book to give this person as a remembrance of our time together and a help in the future.

People will continue to cross paths with me.
And I'll continue to feel sad when they leave.

Monday, March 28, 2016

#28 I believe writing is both words and pictures!

At the beginning of the month, I was wondering about emoji. ( HERE and HERE).
A colleague didn't think kids should use them when writing their kidblog posts. I listened and wondered.

This post that I read yesterday which was typed in ONLY emoji solidified my thinking. I believe writing is both words and pictures! Therefore,  think writing with emoji IS writing.

As I type this, I'm recalling how years ago, some librarians didn't want graphic novels in their libraries. Again, I wondered. I took time to read one, Smile. I noticed as I read that not only was I enjoying a good story, I actually had to work harder to comprehend this story told mostly through pictures.

Yesterday I cooked a special birthday breakfast for my husband - German Apple Pancakes. I saw this recipe on facebook. It was want I call a video recipe. I had to watch and pause a few times to ensure I was including the right amount of each ingredient. But I loved watching how to combine the ingredients and how to cook it in the cast iron skillet in the oven. It turned out yummy! And I was able to cook it because I could read both words and pictures.

Next month, I am attended TCRWP 2nd Annual Digital and Media Institute. I'm not surprised at all that this literacy think tank now offers an institute devoted to figuring out ways to help teach reading and writing specific to our digital and media world.

From emoji to graphic novels to video recipes, as a reader and writer, I will continue to honor both words and pictures!! Because I believe writing is both words and pictures!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Long Phone Call (as a found poem)

As I prepare to teach a Poetry Unit, I found directions for writing a FOUND POEM on the amazing  website of Kenn Nesbitt - How to Create a Found Poem

Using the directions, I took the slice I wrote on March 22 and used the words to FIND A POEM inside!

First, I copied the words into a word document and highlighted some in YELLOW.
Then I opened a second blank word document. I started to add on the blank page, the highlighted words to form a poem. It looked like this on my computer screen:

And now here is my slice of Life today -

A Long Phone Call
(as a found poem)

I texted, “I’m free to chat today”
“How about in 20 minutes?”
A happy face reply
I send.

The phone rings
To free up my hands
I place the phone on speaker
And asked, “So tell me why this company?”

Lots of rattling off of lists
Of ideas that attracted her
Clarifying questions posed
Brainstorming together
And clearer answers practiced.

A beep from the phone signals "low battery"
and shows the beginning of 
hour three of this conversation.
“I think I better go. I hope this helped.”

Now off the phone 
I think
Hire her.
Any company 
would be lucky.

Now off the phone
I plead
Treat her well,
As a valued employee
With time off to enjoy 
and not just work.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Before That

Before That

I opened my eyes, removed the earplugs from my ears, turned off my kindle and the light and went back to sleep.

I climbed into bed, propped up with 2 pillows, placed the ear plugs into my ears, clicked on my kindle fire and picked Episode 49 of House of Cards to view.

I turned on the shower, very hot, to soothe my aching muscles.

I enjoyed pizza and popcorn while watching my favorite basketball team, Virginia, move into the Elite Eight after beating Iowa State easily.

I texted my friend, "Did you see that move?" as I watched the instant replay to actually see the behind-the-back pass.

I watched a VA player bring the ball down the court, and then suddenly he didn't have the ball but the player on his right did and he scored.

I saw Anna at Pietaza as I picked up a pizza to enjoy while watching the VA basketball game.

I washed my hands, covered with dirt from cutting away the overgrown bamboo seeping into our yeard from our neighbor's yard.

I grabbed the rake, the branch trimmer and lawn waste bags and headed to the back yard.

I drove home glad to have connected with a SOL blogging friend in person.

I drove two counties over to meet in person a SOL blogging friend for breakfast.

I awoke ready to start my seventh day of Spring Break.

I've seen this form of poetry last year and this year.
With days to go in this challenge, describing my Friday in this form, seemed to work.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Learning about the next chapter - retirement!

I had friends over on Tuesday for lunch. I met these friends 15 years ago when I started teaching at their school. Now they have all retired. As one arrived, she said, "I just love being retired. I am so busy, I don't know how I would get it all done if I was still working!" I loved hearing all their stories relating to the next chapter, even though for me, it feels very far away. 

As they left, I found comfort in knowing there is so much to do each day, no matter what our age or stage in life! They kindly brought me flowers and gifts. So as the weekend begins, I still am remembering these great ladies as I see them all around my house.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

#24 - TIp - Use Elaboration Prompts to Grow Your Big Idea...Take 2

Yesterday, I grew my thinking about being a teacher in a self-contained classroom. Today I plan to repeat this exercise by taking the stance of being a teacher who teaches many classes of students and not all subject, the departmentalization model.

I like the idea of being departmentalized as a classroom teacher. In other words, I like teaching reading and writing. I'm realizing that over the past 8 years, the majority of my time has been spent on getting better at teaching literacy. For example I've attended summer institutes and I earned my National Board in Literacy. This is giving me the idea that all that knowledge I have, shouldn't be limited to helping just one classroom of students. For example by departmentalizing, I could reach more kids using what I know. To add on, I have a ways to go to be an OK math and science teacher. I'm not harming the kids but I'm realizing that I need so much more time spent learning how to teach these subject well. I'm realizing there is only so much time and a better use of it might be to use what I already know well and teach literacy. An example of this was last year. I taught 5th grade writing. I was able to focus just on writing. I planned with the 4th grade teacher and together we pushed each other to teach the writing process through many units of study ending each unit with publishing parties. My 5th graders wrote LOTS and I was proud of what I helped them accomplish. Looking back on this gives me the idea that when a teacher really knows a subject and feels comfortable with it, the teacher can help her students soar. On the other hand, this year I have tried to make math exciting and fun and rigorous. But it is very time consuming. What surprises me about this is that after 23 years as a teacher, I still have so much to learn. For example after all this time, as I look back, so much of my time has already been spent teaching literacy - 6 yr as a K teacher which is a big literacy year, 5 years teaching 4th all subjects, 12 years as a Reading Specialist (all literacy!) and one year as a 5th grade writing teacher... What surprises me as I list the years and my focus is that I shouldn't be surprised that I still struggle to teach non-literacy subjects. This is giving me the idea that maybe I should push to ask my administration if there is a spot for me to use all I know about literacy and teach just those subjects. Many people think that elementary school is the time to teach the whole kid and those kids deserve one teacher devoted to them. But now I am wondering if the expertise of the teacher shouldn't also be valued and utilized? To add on, I have loved the flexibility of my self-contained schedule and I have loved knowing one group of kids really well. Yet, I wonder if they would be stronger mathematicians with another and if more of the 3rd graders would be stronger readers and writers if I had the chance to guide more of them. Many people think that classrooms should be self-contained in Elementary school. But I think we should be open to many possibilities and not ignore the strengths of the teachers as we staff a school.

Again, I started this piece with a stance and the writing prompts I talked about in my #23post open on my computer. When my hands stopped typing, I glanced over, picked a prompt, typed it and kept typing. Once finished, I went back and highlighted the prompts used.

Now that I finished yesterday and today's writing, I clearly see this is an issue with 2 sides!
I can't wait to see what I'll be teaching next year, in the next 10 years.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

#23 - TIp - Use Elaboration Prompts to Grow Your Big Idea

At the Monday conference in my town, Lucy shares tips for teaching essay. After having us learn the STRUCTURE of essay using her bootcamp strategy to write I love ice cream because...because...and most of all, because .... , she reminded me that to revise essay, elaboration prompts help. I have used elaboration prompts with my writing students and it never fails!! I made this bookmark for my students to hold and use. Feel free to use and/or tweek. The prompts are from the Units of Study for teaching Writing. I vividly remember Kate Roberts teaching me this at a workshop where she bravely had someone in the audience name a big idea and then had the list of prompts projecting from the document camera. She started to write and when she got stuck, we called out a prompt to keep her going. Since seeing that, I have bravely repeated this in my classroom, handing cards with a prompt on it to a handful of kids. And I write in front of them as I jot down the prompts heard and fill in more ideas, elaborating! I can still see a 4th grader I taught 2 years ago smiling at me at the end of the workshop where this was the mini-lesson. "Mrs. Donnelly, I used every prompt on the bookmark," she said as I looked at her notebook, two pages filled!

Here's my attempt now to grow a big idea in draft form - Self-contained vs Departmentalized?
(Full disclosure - I am not sure what I'll be typing here - as I've recently taught both and like both for different reasons...)

         As it becomes springtime in a school, teachers start to think about NEXT year. Right now I am teaching all the subjects all day to one group of kids. I call this self-contained. I'm realizing that I like the flexibility. If I want a math lesson to go longer, I can. If I want to squeeze in another read-aloud, I can steal time away from science and make it up tomorrow. An example of this was last Wednesday when we had an author visit. We attended his presentation first thing in the morning. I had math and social studies activities planned. But the author got us excited to read and write. So, I pushed those lessons to the next day and we spent more time reading and writing. I could do this because no one was expecting me to change classes like you do when you departmentalize.  I also only have 23 students and families to know well. I see this being helpful when the parents write me emails asking me questions. With just 23 families, I have easily been able to respond. This is giving me the idea that self-contained is where I should stay. What surprises me about this is that I took a job 2 years ago specifically to be the 5th grade writing teacher. I only had to plan writing and teach it to 4 classes a day. I used to think that only having one subject to worry about as a teacher would be the best. And I did like feeling very prepared in my one subject. But now, I realize some of the cons to being departmentalized. One is you have to teach LOTS of students that one subject and I found it hard to know them all well. To add on, I had to set the timer at the beginning of every class and no matter where we were, when the timer went off, we had to stop. Many people think that being departmentalized sounds easier - only one subject to know so well. But having done it and now also done self-contained, I prefer self-contained. It allows me flexibility with my schedule and time to really know my students. (And I am even getting better at teaching math!)

(Full disclosure - I did not expect to write this much. Proof that these elaboration prompts work!! Once done, I went back and bolded all the prompts I used.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

#22 - Tip - Include what the story is really about.

At the Monday conference I attended in my town on the Units of Study for Teaching Writing, Lucy taught us revision tips - after telling the story bit by bit and using storytelling techniques, she said to ask "What is happening internally with the character (often stated by finishing these sentences: I wonder....I notice...I remember.... )" and ask "What is this story really about?"

My story summary is about the time I spent two Saturdays ago chatting on the phone for three hours to help my oldest prepare for a job interview. Here is my attempt at writing it as a small moment that uses Lucy's the revision tips:

I picked up my blue iPhone and texted Bridgit by typing "I'm free to chat today." and I got this text right back, "How about in 20 minutes?" After sending a happy face reply, I grabbed my laptop, my phone and headed upstairs to my bedroom. Up there, I could talk and type on the computer easily. 

After a bit, the phone rang. "Hi mom, I sent you a google doc with the questions." 

"Great, let me open up that file," I said set the phone on speaker, freeing up my hands. The document was a list of questions she had received from her recruiter and also another document was her resume. 

"So tell me, why this company?" I asked using one of the questions. And she started to rattle off things that attracted her to this job. And I typed things she said into the document as she talked. When she started to ramble, I asked clarifying questions. Then told her to start over and answer it again and I typed the clearer answer. When she hesitated on an anecdote to use, we brainstormed together and then I asked her again and typed her chosen story. 

Finally, I looked at the phone and it showed a low battery and that we were approaching hour three of this conversation. "I think I better go soon. I hope this helped." 

As I hung up, I wondered about Bridgit. I would hire her in a heart beat. She is very accomplished for her 27 years. She is smart and has a great work ethic. Any company would be lucky to get her. And one will. As her mom, I just want it to be a company that she is passionate to help and one that treats her well as a valued employee. And one that includes hours off to enjoy things, like visits from her mom on holidays!

Monday, March 21, 2016

#21 - "add the weather..."

I feel very spoiled. Today, just 2 days after being inspired by Lucy and the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at their 90th Saturday Reunion, I was invited to a conference 10 minutes from my house to spend the day with Lucy learning about the Units of Study for Teaching Writing. During her presentation, she had us writing. To make this point: Writers get better with explicit instruction, she told us to pick a moment that happened over the weekend and jot it down.

I quickly jotted:
I walked with Fran, Tara and Donna down Broadway to Deluxe. Once there, we sat at a booth and ate and shared all we learned during the day. 

Lucy stopped us and said: "Try this tip - add the weather to mirror the inner emotional state of the character."

So now that I have a little more time, I wrote this, trying to use the tip to add the weather to mirror my emotional state:

              "Hi, Tara. Hi, Fran! It's great to see you in person," I said as I pushed through the crowded Riverside church. "This is my friend, Donna. Do you have time to grab a bite? We're starving!"

            "That place you mentioned sounded good. Let's head there," Fran said and the four of us began to walk slowly down the main aisle of the church, slowly because he were following the herd of a thousand teachers also leaving a busy and tiring day of learning at TCRWP. As we exited, I pulled my coat closed and zipped it up as a cool breeze reminded us that snow was in the forecast. I was next to my friend Donna, while Fran and Tara followed a few steps behind us. Down Broadway we walked.

       As a cold wind kept blowing as we walked, I wondered about having lunch with these two teachers who I don't really know that well. Would I, who tends to be shy around strangers, have stuff to talk to them about? Then I remembered that I had met Fran last summer twice - to chat at a coffee shop and then again while attending a week-long institute together. We even spent a whole afternoon together at a piano bar (The Carlyle where the walls were painted by Ludwig Bemelmans, the author/illustrator of Madeline) followed by dinner. "You have nothing to worry about," I reminded myself . "Fran is very easy to talk to. I can ask her about her grandson and about books she has read recently and of course, about the writing challenge we are all doing." 

     As the wind continued to blow, I thought how crazy it was that I get to eat with Tara today. She is one of the TwoWritingTeachers! She is one of the leaders of my favorite blog which sponsors the March Slice of Life Writing Challenge. I guess I am a bit starstruck by Tara. I love reading her blog posts. She always has strong school reflections and stories. And now I'd be sitting in a restaurant talking with her over a whole meal.

     As I wondered if this lunch idea was a good one, I realized it was too late to change our plan. We were  standing outside of Deluxe. I stepped inside and it felt so warm. I unzipped my coat and a friendly waiter led us to a booth. He even agreed to plug in Tara's phone so it could charge while we ate. I sat down thinking how lucky I am to spend time with these two ladies. And for the next 45 minutes, we all chatted non-stop, as if we have been close friends for a very long time.

PS - Thanks Lucy for the writing tip!
I do think the explicit instruction made my writing better today!!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

#20 - "I come here to feel less weird."

As Lucy greeted a packed church at the closing of the TCRWP Saturday Reunion yesterday, she reflected on it being the 90th Reunion. 90 Saturdays. 90 times where teachers volunteered to share what works for them. 90 times where teachers volunteered to come to learn from bright teachers. All coming to lift the level of their teaching.

For me, it has been 14 times. After my first Summer Writing Institute in 2009, I came that next October. I was overwhelmed by the crowd. Yet, after 5 hours of inspiration and a filled notebook of great ideas to guide my teaching, I return by train to VA. When March came, I trekked north again on a Saturday. And now it is my tradition. Now, I mark the Saturdays in October and March on my new calendar and you will find me at TC learning.

Lucy told a story about how 100+ Calkins family members gathered for a reunion years ago. Being among this extended group of related people, her son commented that made him feel OK and less weird. That is EXACTLY how I feel about coming to the TCWRP Saturday Reunion. I come to be around those who "make me feel less weird". Back in VA, a few that I work with have a literacy focus and a desire to grow it as I do. I value the conversations I have with them that lift the level of our practice. A few have time to work on their literacy craft as I strive to also do. I value the collaborative times we share. Many have a different focus - math, young children to get home to, a wedding to plan, an aged-parent to look after. And I get that. This life we lead is big and our world offers so many focal points.

Yesterday, I left feeling exactly as Lucy's son. It feels so OK to spend the day with people who all make me feel less weird! I came to the Saturday Reunion to be with my people! I am part of this family of educators who will never stop searching for an answer to this question: What can we learn today to lift the level of our practice?! I left with a notebook filled with ideas and a calendar in my purse marked to return on October 22, 2016 & March 18, 2017.

90 times. Definitely a TCRWP tradition. 
14 times/ Definitely now MY tradition.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

#19 - First Day of Spring Break

As a teacher, I love the built-in breaks!
I am now on Spring Break.

I do not need to grade any papers this weekend.
Or plan out any lessons for a unit.

I do not need to visit the library to checkout books.
Or plan out a read-aloud for a mini-lesson demonstration.

I do not need to gather items for the estimation jar
Or make a fraction anchor chart.

It's Saturday, the first day of Spring Break!
I can sleep until noon.
Then stay in my pajamas to watch  NCAA basketball.

But I'm not.
Instead, I'm up at 4am.
I'm heading to Union Station.
I'm training to Penn Station, NYC
I'm heading to Riverside Church.
To pray with my people.

It's the 90th Saturday Reunion.
My 14th.
At Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.
THE place for me to be today!

Friday, March 18, 2016

#18 - Memories recalled from reading "Sip a Little Springtime"

"Sip a little Springtime" the sign read as I purchased a Friday breakfast treat at Starbucks this morning. Instantly in my mind, I was transported back to a day spent sightseeing a dozen years ago. My mom, my two girls and I did all the touristy things - saw the ducks, rode the swan boats, went to the top of the Prudential Building, played in the fountains we saw nearby from above. As we were walking back to the T to ride back to the hotel, we were sweaty and so hot. "Let's cool off inside here," I suggested and I ordered four grande vanilla bean frappuccinos. Sipping this cool drink was a great ending to our first day of sightseeing in Boston.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

#17 - Jarrett!

It's a great time to be a kid, with so many great children's authors writing books.

In my classroom, we know some authors so well.
We watched Kate DiCamilla online celebrate Mercy Watson's birthday.
We celebrated Dot Day by reading all of Peter Reynold's books.
We laugh along with Elephant and Piggie and the Pigeon as we enjoy all books by Mo.
We cheered when watching the live announcement of the Newbery Honor award for Pam Munos Ryan's book, Echo.

Then today an author visited my school - Jarrett Krosoczka.
You know his books - The Lunch Lady series - Punk Farm - The Playtpus Police Squad.
(If you don't, take time to get his books, enjoy them and then share with kids!!)
So far, at age 38, he has written and illustrated 27 books, co-authored 2, illustrated 4 and he has one coming out on May 17th (yes, I'll be at the bookstore buying it on the 17th - exactly in one month!!)

Favorite quotes from his presentation:
"I published a book in 3rd grade and all the lessons I learned to write that book, I still use today - I brainstorm, draft, revise and edit."

"I love to use my imagination."

"Even after LOTS of rejection letters from publishers, I did not give up. I did not quit."

"It's a wonderful thing to be bored. It is important to be bored."

"What I hope you remember from meeting me today is that my career started in school and in my free time, I used it to do what I love - write and draw. I hope you use your free time to create."

After hearing Jarrett's story, seeing the process he follows to create books and even watching him effortlessly sketch a few of his characters on the easel, I returned to my classroom with my class. I told them to use their iPad and explore Jarrett's website.  In minutes, kids were collaborating to create comics and sketching ideas for animal stories. Seeing how engaged they were, I thought about how I had lessons I had planned to teach for the rest for the day but all could be held and taught tomorrow. I decided instead, we needed to be like Jarrett today and have time to "be bored"!

By 3pm, we met in a Closing Circle and shared. One pair had drafted a dog and cat comic. Another a party favor comic. One group was creating an animal school. One was sketching a rock band. All enjoyed time to be "bored" so their imagination could work and they could create!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

#16 - Living History

I had an unexpected treat yesterday. A 4th grade teacher sent out an invite. Her students were performing monologues as an American history figure. The event was titled The Library of Living Books. Of course, I accepted the invite and took my 3rd graders.

As we entered the library, violin music filled the space. The music seemed to transform us and settle us. We were told to mingle and things would start in a few minutes. "Hi, I'm Benjamin Franklin," a student dressed in 18th century-like clothing said. Immediately, we could tell this was going to be fun! I gathered my class to the left of the library steps where the violist was playing and told them to look at their program. It taught us that across three parts, 7-8 presentations would take place and the last page of the program had a map of the library numbered to show the performance spaces. "I want to meet Martha Washington!" I heard. "She's in Session Two over there in he 4th area."

Then we were formally greeted and Session One began. The teacher in me was a little nervous. I was hoping my students would figure out that they were to move from place to place throughout the library and listen carefully to the prepared speeches. I soon realized, I had nothing to worry about because of the 4th graders - I mean, because of the various historical figures. Each spoke in such a manner that they immediately had their audience's attention. They spoke, telling their story of a life during the American Revolution. They were dressed just as they would have dressed in the 18th century. They had their prepared speech written on their iPad to refer to but they spoke loud and clear with passion and expression in their voice. King George's words made me wonder why the colonists weren't more appreciative of all he had done to build them a new colony and Deborah Sampson had me cheering for her, a women who fought as a man in the Revolutionary War!

For three sessions, we meandered through a 21st century library, from station to station, but feeling like we really were back in time! We had the chance to meet important players in America's early history. Then, after gathering back to the stage area and clapping for the performers, the violin music played once more and we drifted back upstairs to our 21st century 3rd grade classroom.

Yesterday, I had the best time studying American History because, thanks to the extensive research and writing and preparation by a group of 4th graders, history came alive for me!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

#15 - Reflecting at the half-way point!

Today in my 3rd grade classroom, I assigned this task for my students to complete using Google Classroom. I wanted them to reflect on their 15th of the March Writing Challenge.

Since they were reflecting, I thought I would, too, as my post today!

1. Go back and see what your writing goal was? How are you doing?
* My goal on Feb. 29 was to write ______. Today I have written _____ posts.

* My goal on Feb. 29 was to write 31 posts or one post each day in March. 
Today I have written 14 posts and as soon as I post this, 15. 
I feel confident I WILL reach my March Writing Goal!

2Is READING others' post giving YOU ideas about what to write next?
* The post by _____ inspired me to write _____ because...

* The post by FRAN inspired me to write the poem called Since Last March because it was a poem format she modeled well and I could follow easily!

* The post by MICHELLE inspired me to to write Five Challenging Questions because she had honestly reflected on her struggles and achievements and it seemed an easy format to follow.

* The post by DEBORAH inspired me to write my MISSION STATEMENT because she shared her draft and it pushed me to try writing my own. 

3. Are COMMENTS encouraging you to write more?
* Comments by _______ keep me writing!

ALL my comments keep me writing!! It is truly amazing how getting a sentence or two about a story I have posted can lift my spirits, make me smile and keep me writing, day after day!! THANK YOU for leaving me comments!!
I am especially grateful for comments by FRAN, MARILYN, TARA, JULIEANNE, FRAN, and ANNE. These are all people I have met so when I read their comments, I see and hear their voice!

I was also SUPER excited that Kathleen linked MY post about my students using Kidblog to the Classroom SOLSC - A kind of comment that kept me writing!!

Maybe YOU might want to reflect, too!

I am super proud of my students 23 of them, who LOVE to blog and make comments. 
Today, our dashboard (after only 15 days!) reads:

And these are their Google Classroom reflections:

Comments from "Peters " comments because he always is the first one too comment.
I am inspired by Madeleines posts because they are very expanded.
My goal was 4 but I have 9.

My goal was to write 3 posts. Today I haven't written any posts yet. Comments by Ellie kept me writing. Some of the posts by Elle kept me blogging so I wrote one about a roller coaster.
My goal was 2 I have 7 story's . comments by Stella keep me writing. the post by Stella inspired me to write about dogs

My goal was 4 posts and i did 11😀. Mary Frances commented and it made me keep writing.The post by Caroline inspired me to right about roller coasters like she did.

My goal was 4 story's I wrote 7. Comments from Caroline keep me writing. And a post from Caroline gave me Insperation.

My goal on February 29th was to write 3. Today I have written 8. Comments by Lauren keep me writing because she told me i described it really well. The post by Roland inspired me to write the big thunderstorm because Roland wrote a story on a thunderstorm.

Reading is giving my ideas.
Comments by Jackson keep me writing because there comments are very inspiring.
The post by Quinn inspired me to write Liberty skiing because he wrote a hockey story.

I'm doing good I have 2 posts which is what I wanted I love comments on my posts it inspires me to write more I was inspired to make a car wash story because I go in lot of them

My goal on February 29 was to write 4 post.Today I have written only 1 post but comments by Mary Frances keep me writing because she commented twice on my 1 story and on her second comment she wrote when I read it the second time I liked it better! That comment made me want to keep writing! And I had the idea on writing a sports story because everyone was writing one and I love sports so why not do one.

My goal on February 29 was to write 10 posts. Today I have written 4 posts. Comments by Jackson and Mary Frances keep me writing because the comments so make me want to write more.

My goal on February 29 was 4. Right now I have written 3 posts. Comments that say to keep writing really makes me want to keep on writing for my class. The post by Caroline of the mouse trap inspired me to write about a roller coaster because it had things that you can say like BOOM or DROP.

My goal on February 29 was to write 13 times. Today I have written 1post. Comments like jacksons keep me writing because they were positive and friendly. The posts by mr re inspired me to write because they are detailed.

Mary Frances:
Comments by Stella, Laney, and Ruby keep me writing because they make connections and compliment me on little things.The posts made by Ryan inspire me to write because he adds lots of things that I think that I could write about. My goal on Feb.29th was to write 3 posts. Today I have written 15 posts.

My goal on Feb. 29 was to write 25. Today I have written 9 posts.
Comments by Jackson keep me writing because he always says nice things about my writing!
My mom inspired me to write my Ireland story's because she said that we would be going in a month so I thought why don't I say what I will do there and so I did it on kidblog!

My goal on February 29 was to post 24 times, today I posted 4 posts. Comments by Roland,Owen and Lucas keep me writing because their comments make me feel special inside. The post by mr. Re going to wonder inspired me to write going to Hawaii.

My goal on February 29 was 11. Right now I have 13. Comments by William R and Jackson kept me writing. The post by Mrs. Donnelly inspired me to write poems because it was something fun to do if your bored.

My goal on Feb.29 was to write 19.Today I have written 8 posts.
Comments by William keep me writing because he tells me what is good about my story's
The post by Owen inspire me to write more because it has good story's and details

My goal on Feb.29 was to write 8. Today I have written 3 posts. Comments by Mary Frances keep me writing because in each comment she keeps a smile on my face. The post by Laney inspired me to write my "first Tournament of the season #1" because she wrote about sports.

My goal of March was to write a blog almost everyday! In March I have written 13 posts! Comments by tons of people like Mary Frances keep me writing! The poem post by Quinn gave me an idea to write my own poem because I really like that he used animals with words that sound alike!!

Comments by Destiny keep me writing because she says stuff like "can't wait for more" and not just " I like the details" but she says which details specifically. Destiny really inspires me. The post by Mr. Rey about "A Wacky Place to Read" inspired me to write because I really liked how he added a question at the end. And was also a very good story.

11 post
11 post this month
Quinn because it's nice
Owen I was inspired to do parts because you can get more post

My goal was 3 story's and I've written 1 post. Mary Frances keeps me writing because her comments are really good and nice.

William R:
My goal on Fed. 29 was to write 2 posts. Today I have written 8 posts. Comments that kept me going was Quinn because he does kind comments. The posts
by Peter and Quinn inspired me to write animal poems and from Peter a Christmas story.