Saturday, June 28, 2014

Celebration Saturday - Choice Literacy Writing Retreat

Discover. Play. Build.

 I'm so happy that Ruth Ayres started a Celebrate Link-Up on her blog!!!  I will be joining the celebration every Saturday!!
     Lots to celebrate from the Choice Literacy Writing Retreat!  Brenda Power, the founder of the fabulous teaching professional development website, is so gracious and generous and provides time and inspiration to write for her contributors each summer.  Last year was my first year to attend with Megan, but we could only stay one day.  We were so excited to stay the whole three days this year! 
     The theme was RENEWAL, and I definitely felt renewed after gathering with some of the smartest, most dedicated, inspiring, funny, and kind people/teachers/writers I know.  They made us feel completely welcome.  I loved the conferring, discussions, reading, and writing.  Brenda makes us think with the books she gives us.  Thank you, Brenda, for your gift to us, and thank you, fellow CL writers - you're an inspiration to me!
Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered  The Way We're Working Isn't Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas

Friday, June 27, 2014

Poetry Friday - Sing, Spirit!

                                                            Photo by my daughter, Katie

Sing, Spirit!
Set out on feathery wings.
Dip and weave,
soar and sail,
then come back to me.

Bring the message songs
you heard from God.

Return from your journey
settle and perch,
windswept and wise,
and whistle whisper
to my soul.

This poem emerged after a three-day writing retreat with Choice Literacy's amazing, creative, kind people/contributors and reading the blogs from the insightful and inspiring folks who linked up to my Spiritual Journey Thursday post.  I feel like my soul has been renewed and strengthened.  The bird images were inspired from reading Mary Lee's poem today (I was blessed that she was at the retreat) and the reference to Emily Dickinson's "Hope is a Thing with Feathers" in Hope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera, a book I just finished.  Thank you, fellow writers, for enriching my life!

Visit Buffy for the poetry roundup this week at Buffy's Blog.

Hope is the thing with feathers

Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886

Hope is the thing with feathers  
That perches in the soul,  
And sings the tune without the words,  
And never stops at all,  
And sweetest in the gale is heard;          
And sore must be the storm  
That could abash the little bird  
That kept so many warm.  
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,  
And on the strangest sea;         
Yet, never, in extremity,  
It asked a crumb of me.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Spiritual Journey Thursday - Renewal

     Last week I wrote a blog post about wanting to write about my spiritual journey on Thursdays.  If you would like to join me, you may use the logo in your post and link back up to this blog post every week.  I don't really know how to make buttons, memes, or graphic design logos (I'd be willing to learn), so I just made something from one of my photographs.  Feel free to use it! 

     This week I am participating in a Choice Literacy writing retreat, and our theme is RENEWAL.  Our retreat is held in a beautfiul, wooded, hilly area in Hocking Hills, Ohio, and it is a time Brenda gives us to write, read, think, collaborate, and just BE.  It is wonderful.  The group of writers here is generous and kind.  It is indeed a time for renewal.

     If we take time to give ourselves breathing space, let our minds be still and open, and appreciate our surroundings, whether that be rolling hills and trees, beside the sea, or even in the midst of a busy subway, we can renew our soul. We talked last night at dinner about mindfulness.  Being thoughtful about the things we do.  Our souls need that mindful stillness. One of my favorite scriptures is "Be still, and know that I am God."  I think God tells us He can only speak to us if we are quiet.

     What are ways you renew your spirit?

     I hope the link below works!  Just click on it and add your URL to your blog post to the link-up.  We look forward to reading your thoughts!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nonfiction Wednesday

I'm excited that Alyson Beecher, at Kid Lit Frenzy, is continuing her Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge for the third year in a row.
Here is the children's nonfiction I read this week:

With very few words, Chin teaches us about the magic of gravity. Beautiful illustrations and a sense of fun make this a great book to add to your classroom library. Good information about gravity completes the book at the end.
A Boy and a Jaguar
Oh wow. This book gave me chills! Alan Rabinowitz is a stutterer but could always talk easily to animals. His disability turned out to be a gift and now he is an advocate for both wildcats and stutterers. Amazing. Pair this up with the historical fiction novel Paperboy by Vince Vawter.
A Walk in Paris
I enjoyed walking through Paris with a young girl and her grandfather, reading about French and Parisian culture and sites. The illustrations are lively and reminiscent of Madeline stories. I was fortunate enough to visit Paris several years ago, so it was fun to read about and see all the places where I got to sightsee. I would like to have this book in my classroom library.

Our walk through Paris, seeing some of the same things mentioned in the book:
We got to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre!

Seine River cruise

Notre Dame

The Louvre

The Eiffel Tower lit up at night

Pompidou Center

Getting dinner at the patisserie and market
Paris is such a wonderful city!
Off to read what nonfiction YOU read this week!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Slice of Life - #nctechat

  I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.

     On Sunday night, I co-hosted the #nctechat with Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) about summertime professional learning.  It was a whirlwind of a chat, just like most Twitter chats I've been a part of, but it was the first time for me to host one.  I was nervous, but Nick reassured me, and we prepared together.  He recommended Tweetdeck, which is DEFINITELY the way to go!  It makes participating in a chat a hundred times easier!  I'll write more about that in Sunday's Digilit post.  For now, I want to write about all the teachers across the country who continue to learn throughout the summer.
View image on Twitter
Tweeted by @EduNut
     Our first question was "Why would you choose to give up parts of your summer for professional learning?"  Answers started pouring in.   Here were some of my favorites:
- For me, I never look at it as "giving up" something.  I'm actually gaining something wonderful wit summer PD. - @thenerdyteacher
-  The learning never stops for me.  Learning=playing, in my world. - @ShawnaCoppola
- As a professed lifelong learner, I don't view it as "giving up" time; I love teaching and want to be the best I can for my kids. - @dashthebook
- If you're a teacher and not passionate about learning, then I worry you might not be in the right career path. - @BethShaum
- Teaching is a year round job.  Summer pd is a chance for me to better myself and my classroom practices. - @my4ccoa
- I can choose what inspires me.  Last summer, paid own way for a 3day Kelly Gallagher writing wkshp.  Best PD I've ever attended! - @sandyrotto
- It's the best time for me to pick an area to focus on to become my very best. - @ACommaQueen
     There are many, many more, and we went on to ask how teachers prioritize personal and professional learning, their  favorite PD opportunities. plans this summer, favorite PD books, and how they will implement their learning in the fall with students.  There were SO many passionate teachers sharing ideas and thoughts.  It was inspiring, and made me proud to be a teacher.  I hear sometimes that young people are being talked out of becoming teachers because of the "state of education today."  That breaks my heart.   When you join Twitter chats, attend conferences, read blogs, and books and meet all the amazing educators out there, you get a different understanding of the"state of education."  It is definitely something I want to be a part of, and I hope that anyone with a desire to teach is not talked out of doing so! 
     Thank you, Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) , for asking me to co-host this amazing chat, and thank you, Nick, for c0-hosting with me!  If you would like to go back and read the archive, just click here.
Thanks for the #nctechat As usually teachers sharing empowers us all.
@Teachr4 my room is being used for a writing camp so I brought home a bunch of my PD books. #nctechat
PD books:  Tweeted by @CHERYLTEACHES

Monday, June 23, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

These are memes started by Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey, and I'm excited to participate, along with many other bloggers, in reviewing books I read the previous week. I'll be reviewing picture books through adult books. 

The One (The Selection, #3)
You'll want to take this series along to the beach and read it with your tween/teenage daughter. All her friends will want to read it, too (and maybe yours). It's like getting together on a Monday night for "The Bachelor" - yes, I do that with my friends! Don't you love the gorgeous cover? This is just a fun series, and your students will love it.  I know mine do - we've all been fighting over the copies I bought for the classroom. :-)
Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)
Another gorgeous cover!  For some reason, this took me a while to get into - I even considered abandoning it at one point. I'm so glad I didn't. I learned to love Seraphina and her journey of self-acceptance. Hartman created a complicated world - be sure to make use of the glossary in back!    I'll be book-talking this one to my sixth graders in the fall, especially to those who loved Eragon.
Little Bee
I know I'm behind on this one.  It's been sitting on my shelf for a long time. I finally picked it up.  Oh, this novel is heartbreaking, excruciating, devastating, and beautiful. Cleave's writing in this novel is brilliant. I admired the way he could build tension and go seamlessly back and forth between the points of view of a British white woman and a young Nigerian teen. The violent scenes were so graphic and so horrible, and yet there were so many points of hope, humor, and beauty. I loved Little Bee and Charlie. I loved the symbolism and the circular structure. I loved Little Bee's survival instincts.  Favorite passages:

"Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived." - p. 9

"In your country, if you are not scared enough already, you can go to watch a horror film. Afterward you can go out of the cinema into the night and for a little while there is horror in everything. Perhaps there are murderers lying in wait for you at home. You think this because there is a light on in your house that you are certain you did not leave on. And when you remove your makeup in the mirror last thing, you see a strange look in your own eyes. It is not you. For one hour you are haunted, and you do not trust anybody, and then the feeling fades away. Horror in your country is something you take a dose of to remind yourself you are not suffering from it." - p.45

"A story is a powerful thing in our country, and God help the girl who takes one that is not her own." - p. 79

"Even the missionaries had boarded up their mission. They left us with the holy books that were not worth the expense of shipping back to your country. In our village our only Bible had all of its pages missing after the forty-sixth verse of the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew, so that the end of our religion, as far as any of us knew, was My God, my god, why hast thou forsaken me? We understood that this was the end of the story." - p. 182

My other favorite passage is on page 264, but it is a spoiler, so I won't include it here.

This is one of those books, much like Khaled Hosseini's, that is hard to just recommend and hand over to someone.  You have to warn her/him in a way.  You have to say, "This is going to be hard to read, but you'll be in the presence of a brilliant writer. Godspeed."

Hope Is a Ferris Wheel
All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1)
(Be sure to sign up for e-mails from this summer.  You'll get an opportunity to download free audio books.  That's where this title came from.)
My family loves to read, too!
Katie (18) just finished:
The Summer of Letting Go
Libby (21):
I and Thou
My dad:
The Keystone Kid - A Frank Roderus Western
My mom:
The Headmaster's Wife
Off to read what all of YOU are reading!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

DigitLit Sunday - Google

      I love that Margaret Simon has started a Sunday Link Up for posts about digital literacy at her blog to challenge us to share our technology journeys.  
     I spent my second week of summer break going to my district's Google training.  We laughed about now easy it is to sign up for something like that in April and it hit you like a brick in June.  However, our in-house trainers were great.  They made it easy, fun, and taught us a ton about how to use Google effectively in our classrooms.
     Our district went to Google about a year ago and started investing in Chromebooks.  They are organized in carts and can be checked out through Google calendars.  We are fortunate that new Chromebook carts are being purchased frequently, so though we are not a 1 to 1 school, we have many computers available to our students.  Each student and teacher was given a Gmail address, and we went from Outlook to Gmail for our e-mail correspondence.   As more and more teachers take the Google training, the more they realize how much they like it. 
     The first day we started with the basics involving Gmail and calendars.  We moved on to how to make forms, quizzes, and documents.  I was familiar with Google Docs since my writing partner, Megan, and I use them to work on our potential book.  We love how we can collaborate on one document and use the chat feature while we work in our separate houses.  David Etkin and I used Google Video Chat to plan our #ReadWalkWater project with several other teachers.  I also used Docs this past school year for writing and reading workshop and loved that my students could share their writing with me and each other, and we could comment, edit, and revise together.  I'm a big fan of how it reduced lugging around notebooks and papers.   In training, I learned a great new feature - the research option in which students can pull up research beside their documents, include it in their work, and  cite it instantly.  How exciting!  It is also fun to explore add-ons.  I'll be looking throughout the summer into which ones would be helpful in my literacy classroom.
     The last day was my favorite because one of the things that bothered me about students sharing their documents with me is the mess it created in my drive.  Hundreds of shared documents started "piling" up.  You can sort them into folders, but that is somewhat time consuming.  I loved learning about Doctopus. a Google add-on that helps you create a template for your assignment, sent it to students (we learned how to instantly gather e-mail addresses through a form at the beginning of the year), and then when they share them, they are instantly gathered in a folder.  You can include Goobrics, differentiate easily and privately, and more.  Yay!
     I'm excited to apply what I learned in the fall with my students.  I know I have a lot more to learn - Google is constantly updating and adding new features, but I know enough to know it will continue to be a great tool in our classrooms.  Tara Smith at Two Writing Teachers wrote a terrific blog post about using Google Docs in the writing workshop.  Please stop by and read it!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Celebration Saturday

Discover. Play. Build.
 I'm so happy that Ruth Ayres started a Celebrate Link-Up on her blog!!!  I will be joining the celebration every Saturday!!

I have been absent from Celebration Saturday for a couple weeks - not because I didn't have anything to celebrate, but because I've been so busy creating and enjoying celebrations!  I've missed since Katie's graduation and party, but I covered that in a Slice of Life.  Here are my celebrations since then:

1.  I celebrate my two-year blogiversary today!  My first post was written on June 21st, 2012, and it was on the 40 Book Challenge.  It was an entry into a wonderful blogging community.  Since then, I've written 402 posts, have 149 followers, and 95,873 pageviews.  How exciting!  It's not the stats, though, that keep me writing.  I love participating in memes and link-ups and following blogosphere friends and their wonderful blogs.  Blogging keeps me motivated, gives me a forum to practice a habit of writing, connects me to others, and helps me clarify and share ideas and philosophies.  Yay, Blogger!

2.  Two weekends ago my husband's company had their summer outing.  We enjoyed Cincinnati and a Reds baseball game.  We always have fun with the people in his company - they are wonderful.

3.  Last Saturday
I drove up to where Libby is living during her summer internship with Smuckers.  We had fun eating and shopping at the company store, finding a great bookstore and clothing boutique in historical downtown Wooster, and spending time together. 

4.  I'm excited for the #nctechat tomorrow. I'll be co-hosting with Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher).  Thank you, Beth Shaum, for asking me!  We'll be talking about summertime professional learning.  That's something to celebrate!  Join us!

 Off to read all of YOUR celebrations!

Friday, June 20, 2014

My First Poetry Friday!

     I've been wanting to participate in Poetry Friday for a long time, but haven't for various reasons.  No more stalling!  I'm going to jump in.  Visit Jone's blog to find the roundup.  Today I want to share my love for novels in verse.  I just finished Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes, and it reminded me how skilled a writer must be to write so sparely and yet say so much.  Here are my intermediate grade favorites in this genre:

Words with Wings
Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes
I was rooting for Gabby, a daydreamer and outcast who just needed someone to believe in her when she moved to a new school after her parents' divorce. Grimes's words, like Gabby's, definitely had wings.
Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
"Fiction, it's been said, makes immigrants of us all." What a fabulous book! It would make a perfect pairing with Applegate's Newbery Award Winner, The One and Only Ivan since they have the same theme topics - hope and home.   This book would also make an excellent read aloud and a ladder to use in jr. high and high school reading classes to get ready for young adult and adult stories about refugees, The Lost Boys of Sudan, and child soldiers.
Love That Dog
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
What a masterpiece this book is. I don't know how Sharon Creech makes such an emotional story with so few words. It takes less than an hour to listen to the audio. This is a favorite in my classroom and has helped more than a few students after the loss of a pet.
Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse
Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse by Tamara Will Wissinger, illustrated by Matthew Cordell
I thoroughly enjoyed this little book of poems that tell a story about a fishing trip from three points of view: Sam, the brother, Lucy, his annoying little sister, and their dad. Wissinger defines poetry techniques and poetic forms in "The Poet's Tackle Box" at the end. Cordell's illustrations capture each character's emotions and personality perfectly.


May B.
May B. by Caroline Starr Rose
This is one of my favorite novels in verse to recommend to kids new to the genre.  It grabs their attention right away, and readers can't help but be swept up in May B.'s struggle to survive on the winter prairie.

Here are some videos with some of my favorite writers of novels in verse:
Thanhha Lai won the Newbery Honor and the National Book Award for Young People's Literature for her amazing novel in verse, Inside Out & Back Again in 2011.
     I have some other favorites, but I'd love to hear about yours!  I love helping kids discover novels in verse.  It's important to give them strategies for reading this genre.  Kids tend to read them too quickly or abandon them too soon.  When they get the gist of how to read novels in verse, however, they can become an important and enjoyable part of students' reading repertoires.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Spiritual Journey - Prayer

The difference is so clear and sometimes you know that he knows what you want, and its hard because you want his will to match yours.
     My OLW this year is JOURNEY, and one of the journeys I'm on is a spiritual journey.  I am always trying to grow in my faith, but there are other things fighting for my attention constantly.  I need to be more focused on God.  I'd like to do more thinking, reading, and writing about spirituality on this blog since part of its title is LEARNING.  I love to participate in memes and link-ups because they keep me organized in my blogging.  I participate in something every day of the week (I'm going to start doing Poetry Friday ASAP), but Thursday is free.  I thought Thursday was as good a day as any to add a theme topic: spirituality.
     Maybe I'll start my own meme/link-up!  I don't really know how to do that, but I know I need a button and a link up form.  I'll work on that!  Let me know in the comments if you'd be interested in participating.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on your own spiritual journeys.
     This week I watched a Master Class show on OWN with Robin Roberts.  I think she is very inspirational and positive, and she gave me a lot to think about during and after the show.  This was my favorite part:
     I love that:  God has three answers to prayer:  yes, not yet, and I have something even better in mind.  Isn't that fantastic?  I had this demonstrated not too long ago.  In 2008, I decided to job share because of a family health issue.  My job sharing partner was Megan, who is still a great friend and now a writing partner on a book we're hoping to publish about teaching.  The way we became job sharing partners is a story in and of itself and demonstrates what God's "yes" feels like, but it was 2012 that illustrates the "I have something even better in mind" answer. 
     In 2012, Megan decided she wanted to start teaching full time again.  At the time, I wanted to keep working half time, but the family issue was stable, so I agreed that I would go back to full time, too, and not try to find another job sharing partner.  It was around February, and I remember the disappointment I felt when my principal said that would be fine, but he wouldn't have enough 5th grade positions for both of us because they had a smaller upcoming class.  Megan would be given the full time position because she had more years of seniority in the district.  He said there would possibly be a 3rd grade or 7th grade position open, so I needn't worry about not having a job, it just wouldn't be in 5th grade.  I tried to keep a positive attitude, but I really loved the intermediate grades, so it was hard.  I began praying that a 4th, 5th, or 6th  grade position would come open somehow. 
     A couple months passed without my prayer being answered.  My emotions were all over the place.  I was trying to keep positive, but anxiety and disappointment threatened my positive outlook.  I tried to keep an open mind about 3rd grade and 7th grade and knew I would try to make the best out of whatever situation I was handed, but I didn't want to leave my colleagues or my favorite grade level.  Then something exciting happened.  A 4th grade gifted reading teacher position was posted at Kings, which is a district very close to Lebanon, where I taught and lived.  I couldn't believe it.  I had gotten my gifted endorsement in 2008 but thought I'd never be able to become a gifted teacher because Lebanon had cut their pull-out programs due to budget restraints.  I applied immediately and was called to interview!  In May, I was offered the job.  Of course I took it!  It has become my dream job, and I often have to pinch myself to believe that I'm able to make my passion my career.  I have amazing students and work for an incredible district.  I still miss my former colleagues, but fortunately, I still get to see them.  How's that for "I have something even better in mind?!"

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Nonfiction Wednesday

I'm excited that Alyson Beecher, at Kid Lit Frenzy, is continuing her Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge for the third year in a row.
This is the nonfiction I read this week:
The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Having just finished the adult historical fiction novel, The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin, about Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, this gave me an interesting perspective on a French pilot in the same era. I read The Little Prince years ago. This book makes me want to read it again. As in Sis's other books, there is so much information and intricate illustrations throughout.   You can't really read a Sis book aloud easily.  You'll want to introduce it and then leave it our for kids to pour over.  Beautiful!
Plant a Pocket of Prairie
I couldn't resist...
It's so sad that most of our natural prairies are gone. I remember reading Little House on the Prairie and marveling at the setting of that wonderful book.   Beautiful illustrations and poetic text explains that we can each do our part by planting pockets of prairie in our own backyards to encourage lots of wildlife to come visit. Good information at the back of the text about prairies and the wildlife that live in them.