Monday, November 20, 2017

Thank you, Tupac. (Seriously)

Last week something remarkable happened.

A student of mine came in and asked me if I would read his writing.   HIS writing.   Not something I assigned him.    I agreed and before opening his book, I asked him what I'd be reading.   He told me that I'd be reading some of his wraps and poetry and he wanted my feedback.

Holy smokes.

It's amazing.   It's deep.   It's powerful.   It's so honest and real.    It's beautiful, and it blew me away.   Did it have some spelling and grammar issues?   yep.   Do I care?   Nope.   He let me in!  He let me read his thoughts, his feelings, etc.   What an honor!

After I read what he had wrote, we got on the topic of poetry and I asked him if he ever read the poetry of Tupac.   He had not.   I asked him if he would want to do a one on one book study with me and we would read it together.   He agreed.

Fast forward to a few days later.   Said student is sitting with me at the reading table and we're working on some progress monitoring.   I use my cell phone to do the timing.   An alert pops up on my phone indicating that "The Rose that Grew from Concrete" has shipped and is due to arrive on Friday.   I show my student the text and he smiles.   I said, "Our books will be here tomorrow!"  You would have thought he won the lottery.   He went on to thank me and to tell me that he has never ever had a teacher buy a book for him.   He's never had a teacher he wanted to let read his writing.   He's never had a teacher know the power of rap music.   He's never had a teacher who got him until he got me.

And that, my friends... made me cry.   These moments.   They happen.   I am forever thankful for the blessings I have received and forever grateful to have the honor of working with these amazing young adults.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Check out one of my Twitter pals and his website with this wonderful list of Podcasts.

I confess, Podcasts are very new to me but I have a feeling (hehehe) that I'll be well versed in such things pretty soon.  

What Podcasts are you listening to?   Who should I listen to?   I figure if I have this iPhone, I might as well put it to good use!   Comment or Tweet to me with your suggestions!


Read this awesome blog that tells the story of BookcampPD.   I am so blessed to be able to network with so many fine educators.   I'm presently in a Voxer Chat with several bookcamppd-ers and it's an amazing learning experience!   Check out @bookcamppd and #bookcamppd on Twitter!

Seriously.   Do it!   :-)

Monday, November 6, 2017

This one time... I lost my chapstick...

Sometimes shifting happens and it's the most pleasant surprise.   Students are working on being close and responsive readers, something we will focus on throughout the year.   The morning of introducing "The Landlady" to students, I was rushing around my kitchen looking for my chapstick.  I looked on the table.   Did not see it.   I moved things around.   Did not see it.   Then I had that moment where I swear I just saw it but now I was seeing it everywhere.   You know that moment, don't you?  I end up lifting my daughters upside down cup (why it was upside down is beyond me) and low and behold... there is my chapstick.   I just needed to look harder, look closer.  

As I was driving to work with nice moisturized lips, I chuckled to myself as I thought, "I could totally make this a lesson connection."   When students got to class, they were instructed to write down the names of places they would love to visit on the sideboard.  I explained to the students that the story we were about to read involves a young businessman traveling to a new place.   Something is "sus" with where he chooses to stay, in particular with the 'Land Lady' at the Bed and Breakfast.   Students should pay close attention to how Dahl characterizes this woman.  

As a warm-up, we played with cups.   Students had to find the eraser under a cup and then the winning student then had to host each round and relate it to the Essential Question.  We had so much fun with this activity and with the story.   Once again we were immersed in our unit focus and our story.  Discussions were fruitful.   Inferences were purposeful.   Questions were asked and I WAS NOT IN CONTROL OF THE FLOW OF THE CLASS.   The kids were sucked in, they were in control, and I could not be more proud of the work they completed.   We are well on our way.

Have I ever mentioned that I love my job!?!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Halloween Shift

I teach high school.   Let's face it, it can be a tough crowd.  Especially at Halloween.   Teaching on Halloween is interesting.   You have a unique population on this day.

For example... you could have:
A.) A normal day
B.) Students who already dove into the candy stash at home
C.) Students who are not focused because they can't wait to go trick-or-treating
D.) Students who are bitter because they want to go trick-or-treating but someone has told them they're too old for such things

I was wondering what on earth I could do for my students for Halloween without violating any wellness policies by sugaring them up and without looking like the corniest teacher they have ever met.   As the wheels turned, I decided what point is Halloween if I can't freak the children out a bit?

Mu hahahaha

The link above is to a Pixar Short called "Alma" - this story completely bugged the students out.   It's a bit freaky.   It's up to interpretation.   And oh my gosh there are NO WORDS!?!?!   Oh, the horror!

A few weeks ago we had discussed the difference between making an inference and making a prediction.   We talked about how similar these reading skills are but we drove the point home that typically a prediction is confirmed or denied once a story ends.   An inference, however, is open to interpretation.   What I had planned to be a forty minute lesson ended up spinning into TWO class periods filled with partner shares, discussions, a lot of "what ifs" and fact-checking.   The students completely took control.   And what's funny is my intention was to freak them out a bit.   I never expected for them to freak me out in return.   

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Center Shifting!

I decided to do another shift and I changed the layout of the classroom.   I didn't consult students beforehand and what's funny is two students came in and said, "Yes!   I thought it would look good like this."   Too funny!    We did three centers instead of two and it went really well for two of my classes.   My third class didn't like having three centers so we did two centers and then did the third center, whole group.    I'm having so much fun with this class.   I'm learning that the students learn best when they're given the time to reflect on their needs and then be able to state those needs not to me, but to their peers first.   Watching them learn from one another has been such a blessed and cool experience.   Have I ever mentioned that I love my job?   I do.   :-)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Independent Reading Time

Wow!   Check out all these awesome student reflections on what they like about Independent Reading Time!   I was really nervous to take this risk and make this shift this year.  However, I had to.  The research is there.  I can't expect my students to become better readers if I'm not giving them the time to practice their craft "without me."   I spent a great deal of time reading about this very statement throughout the summer.    I'm so pleased to see that my students are not only rising to the challenge but also embracing the challenge as well.   The students have been asking me, "Will we have time with our books tomorrow?" - Talk about a smile file moment!   Periods two through six are working incredibly hard and I'm so excited to take this further with each passing month.   At the end of the month, we will be having mini-conferences.   I do not assign book reports.