Thursday, December 31, 2009

Let the Hibernation Begin!!!

 It is thought that hibernation was once a shared characteristic among all mammals, and then we humans lost the ability to hibernate,- but it still might be in our genes.  Steven Swoap

I despise the cold!  For one who has lived in Ohio their entire life, I ask you, "How did this vile contempt for the cold begin?"  I believe it stems from a hypothermia incident while white-water rafting in Wyoming in my early days of teaching.  That incident forever changed my internal heating system, and I now dress in multiple layers from November until late April.  I am considerate in that I don't make everyone bow to my warmth issues, but I tend to come home from school and stay indoors for the rest of the evening.

I've found that the winter does provide one benefit...I read tons during the winter.  Reading is a part of our household.  Our anthem is "READERS ARE LEADERS!"  We have a family reading time from 7-7:30 nightly.  Books are plentiful, along with weekly trips to the library.  My favorite genre is non-fiction, because I can read a chapter or two, marinate, and come back to it.  A side benefit is that non-fiction is a genre my husband and I can share together.

But, the holiday breaks are great for reading fiction.  Once the busiest of the season is over, I lay on the couch with my blanket, coffee, a blazing fireplace, and get totally lost in my book.  This vacation has opened my eyes to the possibilities of reading fiction more.

During the drive down to North Carolina, I was completely absorbed in the book Sent by Margaret Peterson Haddix.  Next, my aunt loves mysteries and her shelves were filled with them.  I picked up Honeymoon by James Patterson, read it completely on Christmas Day. (Major rain storm knocked out their tv/cell phone service, and I realized at the end I had already read it.)  She also had a book on Queen Elizabeth/Princess Di comparisons.  While it was pretty dry, that topic continues to fascinate.  I finished that in one day.  The drive home was awful because of no reading material.

What I've noticed about myself is that when I begin reading fiction, nothing else matters except reading that book. I could be organizing my kids' rooms, my room, putting the Christmas decorations away, and more.  But, my winter hibernation has begun.  Tuesday, I made myself a goal.  I needed to get caught up on some emails, and begin some school projects that I'm putting off before I could "have" my reward...READ.  It worked!  I accomplished so much and was able to finish my book.  I'm going to be on the look for some good fiction to read in 2010.  Happy Hibernating!!!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Great Joy!

I love Kate DiCamillo! I "met" her many years ago when I read Because of Winn Dixie. Winn Dixie and Opal warmed my heart in such a way that I can still "see" Winn Dixie's doggy smile when think of him. After my first experience with Kate's book, I actively sought out her other works. She has been busy...She has a wonderful beginning chapter book series about a lovable pig named Mercy Watson that transitional readers can really enjoy.

This year I read The Tiger Rising with a small group "promising" fourth grade students. The book was the catalyst for the best book discussion with young students I have ever had. The students experience with the book was so real, so authentic, so joyful that they would come running in from recess all red-faced and winded to discuss the latest development in the story. Sistine, Rob, and Willie May became friends of ours for whom we cared deeply.

Like avid readers, when we finished The Tiger Rising, this group wanted more! Next we wanted to read, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. I had not read the book before, so I asked my colleagues what they thought of the book. I heard from them that the book was challenging because of the vocabulary and the story's circular framework over time. Tigger, my youngest son, and I love to listen to books on CD. I checked Edward Tulane out from the library and we listened to the amazing story in the car every day. We loved it and I knew my promising readers would as well....if they listened to it as they "read" it. I felt that we needed to keep the momentum going. I wanted to continue to give them the strong message that reading is fun, engaging...JOYFUL! They listened to the CD in their classroom during their reading workshop and we discussed, sketched, and recorded important information in our journals during our brief 30 minute lessons. It was magical!

Two weeks before Winter Break, I found another gem by Kate DiCamillo, Great Joy. This moving picture book is a wonderful story about a little girl who spots a homeless accordion player and his monkey on the street corner. She worries about them and eventually invites them to see her Christmas play performance. The man and his monkey come and stay for the reception following. It is a heartwarming story that is beautifully illustrated by the same man who did the artwork for Edward Tulane. This gem also included the book on CD and...drum roll please...a incredible interview with the author, my new BFF, Kate DiCamillo.

I shared this book with all of my promising readers as well as Shelly's fourth grade class. We carefully listened to and discussed the interview over 3 days. It was powerful. The students and their teacher took her message to heart. In order to be a writer you need to do two things: read all the time and write every day. I have the wonderful opportunity to go into this classroom every day and that is exactly what they are doing...reading and writing every day. Simple, but powerful stuff.

In thinking about my latest experience with Kate DiCamillo's books, I can't help but feel validated. As a Reading Specialist, I feel strongly that our focus needs to be on create joyful experiences with books. So many remedial reading programs focus on the skills, strategies, and levels that young readers need to have in order to read. In our efforts to "tool" them up, we forget what made us "real" readers...the Joy! Thanks Kate for creating books that bring JOY to us all.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Poetry Friday

Merry Christmas!
There's nothing like the wonder and excitement of Christmas morning as children rush from their beds to the Christmas tree. One can't describe the tales and stories they weave as they try to figure out Santa's path around the globe and how he came down the chimney. Enjoy this time with your friends and family today and this week.
Celebrate those special moments, those special times.

Family Joys

Christmas is filled with special joys,
And the very best of all
Is contemplating those dear to us,
And the memories we recall.
We often think at Christmas time
Of people, affectionately,
And we realize how blessed we are
To have you in our family.

By: Joanna Kunchs

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Poetry Saturday?

Santa came last night to the Archer household, bringing a trip instead of toys. We're heading to the Carolinas Monday(have you seen how much snow they've received!!!?) to go tubing, the Biltmore Estate, and visit relatives. Since we couldn't pack until Santa came(which I should be doing while everyone is outside making a snowman!), my husband crafted a poem to help Santa explain the trip. Addyson found it early this morning(before 7am on a Saturday!!!!!), and read it to us.

Twas the week before Christmas, and wouldn't you know
The tree was all lit, and it had started to snow.

The elves were all working away on their toys,
while Santa checked his list of good girls and boys.

A couple of kids soon caught his attention.
The ones his elf Ellie had happened to mention.

Addyson and Austin were the names of this pair,
And Santa had sent Ellie to keep an eye on them there.

At their home in Powell, on Watson Way.
Santa hoped they could stay nice until Christmas Day.

But he had reasons to worry, reasons to fret.
After all, Christmas was a week away yet.

Austin was already bored, with no school, nothing to do.
Santa heard Addyson exclaim "I'm bored too!"

Santa and Ellie worked for hours together,
to make this the kids' best Christmas ever.

A family adventure, the two had agreed,
was the perfect solution for this Christmas need.

So Austin and Addy, with parents in tow
would head out on Monday for some fun in the snow.

Some skiing, some tubing, some skating, who knows?
depends on how cold, and how the wind blows.

Or maybe some mini-golf, or bowling or wall-climbing?
Boy, Santa sure was getting tired of rhyming.

Then off to a castle, fit for a queen.
All lit up for Christmas, like nothing they've seen.

"But what about family, and time spent together?"
Ellie wondered out loud, as she checked the weather.

"So spend time with Aunt Dot," Santa was quick to suggest.
"And Uncle Steve and the horses, that would be best!"

"And bring Grandma and Grandpa Archer too."
Santa proclaimed, "That's the thing to do."

So Santa packed his sleigh early, and took to the skies.
To deliver and early Christmas surprise.

With Ellie's help, and his reindeer, all eight,
he set his plan in motion to make their Christmas great.

He left presents beneath Addyson and Austin's tree,
But the best gift of all couldn't be wrapped, you see.

For fun times together, don't need ribbon and bows,
And can't be delivered by Rudolph, with his shiny nose.

So pack your bags, kids, dress warm and get ready to roll!
On an adventure from Santa and all his elves at the North Pole.

Have fun, be safe on the snow and the ice.
And remember Ellie and Santa are watching,

Merry Christmas.

Have a Merry Christmas everyone.

Archer Accountability Plan Update: I haven't made as much progress in the book Sent as I would have liked. I'm taking it with me on vacation. However, I do have the article written, edited, and hope to send it off in January. So... I'm 50/50 on my accountability plan.
Thanks for checking!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Of Primary Importance for Intermediate Treasures

Throughout the past year, I've been reading blog posts referencing Ann Marie Corgill and her book, Or Primary Importance. While at NCTE, I was fortunate to listen to her speak about an author's apprentice and mentor texts in the writing workshop. She recently moved from teaching primary to sixth graders and I embraced the one line she spoke towards the end: "I have found that whether I am teaching first graders or sixth graders, both age groups need similar structures and strategy lessons. All we as teachers need to do is "bump" it up to the appropriate level."

I went to the library, read her book, and have purchased my own to mark it up. She speaks with sincerity, as she tries to create purposeful writing experiences in her classrooms. While I am currently teaching fourth grade, I am going to use her studies as a GPS for my writing themes in the new year.

Mary Lee, from A Year of Reading, has been sharing her ideas for Literary Essay thinking. Since we both are in the same district, I've been marinating on the Literary Essay study in writing, also. I'm going to approach it through a poetry focus in 2010, while incorporating visual arts and technology. I want poetry to be a genre they are choosing to read and write throughout the year, not during poetry month. We've been studying words: how they sound, how they look, how they mean, and how they feel when we say them. Using this schema, my goal is for them to find words and themes to use in their writing. Ann Marie recommends front-loading and previewing the genre before we write, so my treasures have been sharing favorite poems. We've been using an Elmo machine to project the poems. I'm amazed at how engaged they seem when they are doing the sharing.

The first two weeks back, I'm going to share mentor texts that depict various types of poems and have them try them in their independent time. I want these texts to be touch points for my treasures to reference as they begin to craft their ideas and mold their poetry thoughts. I'm also thinking of ways to use different media as a mode of expressing their craft. Fourth graders still want to use paint, clay, and other art medium, so I want to tap into that intelligence. The technology component is the area I'm working on. Our computer time has been limited, so I'm problem-solving some ways to include this component, also. Thanks, Mary Lee, for sparking my thinking! You always do!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Magic of Elves

As a teacher, I vowed I was not going to get caught up in the elf mania when my kids got to that age. But, oh how one's mindset changes, when it's your own child asking for an elf. A has never been one to ask for any toys. She plays with the small little items, but not any specific toy. Until the Monday after Thanksgiving...

She came home spinning all these stories that her friends were telling her about the elf. As all parents do, I thought this would pass. It did not. Instead, daily she would come home from school with another way to get an elf to come. She logged onto to and wrote a letter to Santa for an elf. She prayed at night for an elf.
Wednesday, she said, "Mama, this kid at Latchkey said for me to put my letter by the chimney so Santa may check for elf letters."

I must admit...I caved. However, I used it to my advantage. Her elf wrote her a letter giving specific instructions: cleaning her room, eating all her dinner, etc... A and her elf have been together non-stop. It has even become an authentic writing experience. She has written letters to her elf asking questions and her elf replies.

Sunday at Scramblers, she turned her placemat over, drew her elf, and then described her. "Ellie Elizabeth Archer is my elf. This is what she ate yesterday a milky way and a starbust." Authentic writing at its best. Perhaps this elf thing has some learning opportunities after all.
A little magic never hurt anyone. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Eleven days ago, I returned from Philly. After hosting 22 people at my house for Thanksgiving, completing progress reports, and dealing with a raging sinus infection, my head is still spinning, but my hopes and dreams for my students are so vibrant, so clear, I can taste them. While I was there, I experienced the best professional development I have ever been a part of in my 23 years in education...I attended the NCTE conference for the first time.

One of the most rewarding parts for me at the conference was the opportunity to network with other colleagues, teachers, authors, professional writers, and poets from around the United States and beyond. My friend, Shelly, and I chose to go to this particular conference way back in May after talking to colleagues who have been attending for years. The travel time allowed for us to have an opportunity to discuss best literacy practices for our "treasures" at school. When we arrived, we immediately broadened our circle and sought out several other teachers from our district. As the conference proceeded, our circle widened once again. We went to sessions that were being presented by two colleagues from our district. After the energizing session, our network grew once again. We met authors and bloggers that we love and respect so much that we consider them dear friends (see photos). Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, our circle grew once more. We met and talked to Ralph Fletcher, Julie Andrews (Yes, my favorite movie star of all time from the Sound of Music), Lester Laminack, The Sisters, Katie Wood-Ray, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Georgia Heard and John Selznick just to name a few. I was part of "The Literacy Club." This conference celebrated literacy and learning by inviting the best in the field. It allowed me to confirm, refine, and stretch my thinking and learning with others in a unique way that I will forever treasure. The conference is in Orlando in 2010...Is it too early to pack my bags now?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Putting Myself Out There

I shared with my class today how I couldn't remember what was happening in my book Sent. They brainstormed reasons why I wasn't very far when I clearly enjoy this author...not interested, sick, read at school, a lot of home stuff to do, and more. I asked them for help to keep me accountable. I promised to read a chapter every night, post-it my thinking, and share the next day.

I also did this with an article I've been meaning to write since September. Using the Elmo, I shared my thinking and notes, where I quickly write everything that comes to mind. Next, I organize it into a sequence that the reader will understand. As I was sharing my thinking, they were getting the analogy that I was trying to make. Tomorrow, I'm going to begin a shared writing experience.

My goal is for my treasures to understand that authentic writing takes time. Authentic writing is messy. Authentic writing needs an audience.

Day One: of the Mrs. Archer Accountability Action Plan. We'll see where it takes us.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Good Reading Strategies

Today was my first day back after the NCTE conference and my bout with the flu, so there was a great need to check in with everyone, find their status, and review our classroom expectations. I also needed to "talk" with my treasures to find out what's been going on in their lives. During read aloud, I began by asking questions about what they found out during my absence in the book FOUND by Margaret Peterson Haddix. I was surprised by their response.

"Mrs. Archer, we don't remember. Our guest teachers didn't read with expression, so we don't remember. And we didn't chart what we found out after every chapter." Plus, many left early to begin traveling to their holiday destinations. So, we talked a little about what should we do. We can't go on when we don't understand what's happening.

They decided we should go back and begin reading Ch.4, where all the confusion began. And that is what we did. This time, we made sure to jot our findings on our anchor chart(which I still need even though I have a smart board. But that is another topic for another day.)

As I drove home and reflected on the day, I'm going to use this "moment" as an opportunity to drive home the importance of rereading and how good readers use this strategy to help them remember what has been happening. I think I'll use my own practice. I've been reading the sequel Sent, but I've been out of it for two weeks, that I need to go back to beginning because I've forgotten so much. Our treasures identify with us when we use our own strategies and findings as teaching points during our workshops. Plus, I like the fact that I will be accountable to my treasures. I'll let you know how it goes. Happy Reading!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Newbies at NCTE

Last May, I was all the rage about the upcoming NCTE conference. I read on twitter the excitement brewing, the keynote speaker, Julie Andrews, and knew this was the year. I willingly dragged my partner, Lisa, along and we made our reservations.
Fast forward a few months, and we were off. Thursday, began with a wonderful session on Word Play. I learned so many new ideas to implement with my students and other ideas that I need to think how and when to fit them in. It made me excited to think about words. Think about one word that: 1. feels good when you say it 2. sounds good when you say it. 3. it makes you feel happy. Have you thought about it? My word is marinating! I love that word. Not for the cooking aspect, but the learning aspect!

Next, we went to an Elementary Get-Together, where we got to sit with....Lester Laminack. He's coming to our school in January, so we got to talk, laugh, and ask some questions to make his visit special. He is hysterical!

Friday began my downward spiral. It was that day that I began to get sick and ended up in bed the rest of the conference and for two days after. But, the highlight for me was to talk informally with Donalyn Miller, from the Book Whisperer, The Sisters, from Daily Five, Aimee Buckner, Notebook Know-How, Debbie Miller, and more in one room. All my book BFF's together. They probably thought I was crazy going up and saying, "You don't know me, but I'm your book BFF. I use so much of you in my classroom." Lisa got some pictures to share later. I was so excited! No matter how bad I felt on Saturday and Sunday(I was laying flat in a hotel room all day Saturday)I enjoyed every minute of the conference. I'll see everyone next year!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009


It has been sometime since my last post and I have not been on Twitter, either. There was a three-week lapse when home computer was not opened. Between family illnesses and my husband's travel schedule, new initiatives at school, and other district commitments, I have been in survival mode for the past month. Like all seasons, change is coming!! We are all healthy!! Traveling has slowed. My school have-to's are completed.

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.” John Rohn

I'd like to share a "find" with you. A friend and I always share books, so during one of our conversations she told me about a book/video for fourth graders. It's from the American Girl series, Chrissa. The main character is the victim of mean girl bullying: physical, verbal, mental, and cyber-bullying. Chrissa goes through all the steps of trying to solve the issue on her own, while finding some new friends for support.

That night, I reserved a copy at the library. My daughter and I watched it that weekend while she was sick. Amazing! It shows how to stand up to a bully, whether you are the victim or going along with the bully. The character displays leadership, perseverance, empowerment, acceptance, and more. Chrissa even has a website with some games and strategies to learn.

I went to share this with our guidance counselor and a parent had already given her the video. I'd recommend it to any parent with a young daughter and teachers. I want my daughter to be strong, secure, and assure of herself. Young girls need to see and read about strong female characters in our media today. Check it out!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Workshop Wonder

After compiling all our landform video for the virtual museum, I gave the flip cam to my treasure, N. He is an absolute marvel with technology and that domain is his passion and where he shines. His face lights up and is quick to offer suggestions when I'm dealing with technology "opportunities" in my classroom. So, he was an obvious choice for my mission. His goal was to walk into the classroom with the flip cam on and capture moments of engagement during our Creation Station.

What he captured was more than I could imagine! Through his eyes, one is able to understand the workshop. He caught on film what the meaning of differentiation is. While there are have-to's in school and in life, there is also choice. Choice to let our passions shine. Choice to learn in our own way. Choice to be who we are. My treasures are Embracing Learning, Embracing the Workshop, and Embracing their Passions! Enjoy!.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Today, my heart was not in my morning plans. I was leaving at noon to attend a funeral of a family friend, so sub plans and have-to's were on my mind along with the service that afternoon. Our schedule is very rigid in the mornings because Lisa (my partner) pushes in for 35 minutes to support 4-5 of my treasures in reading. She was absent, so I decided to change up the schedule.

After attendance, Reader's Cafe began. For 30 minutes, all you could hear was the environmental music in the background. All my treasures were engaged in their books. No movement except to find another book. No one was talking. As I walked around checking on their selections and notebooks, they were quick to finish our conversation and get back to their books. Today, I was a distraction. How did we get to this point?

Next, we had our morning meeting where we integrate math into weather and daily numbers. It was rainy and dreary outside. What a great day to experiment with Explore time. So, I explained that during our Explore Time, here are our choices: read/buddy read, write/buddy write, math choices(we have a math choice wall), and draw. As they dispersed to their choices, once again I watched closely at what they chose. I have many treasures who have a passion for drawing and art. I showed them how to make a "drawing book" by stapling and folding multiple papers together. Other treasures chose to go back to their books, even my promising readers. Some of my boys have a passion for writing. They have been collaborating on a story and were working on the final piece. While I was working at our "Guzik's Galaxy" table, I looked at each one of my treasures and was filled with emotion. Not once did I need to redirect. Not once did I need to have them lower their voices. Talking was minimal and quiet to respect those reading. How did we get here?

Our class is a community! We have respect for one another! We value our opinions and thoughts. Self-doubt has been my internal battle lately. I've been lacking assurance in my heart what I know about learning in my head. Today, I felt validated. Today, I was reaffirmed by my practice. Today, I recognized I am reaching my treasures in my own way. While I can't control the extraneous duties, have-tos, and meetings that are supposed to make my teaching easier, I can control the atmosphere and climate of my learning community in my room. Today, I celebrated learning!!!

Celebrate what you want to see more of.Thomas J. Peters

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Landform Museum Part II

Thursday and Friday, we began working with the clay to create our landforms. Many conversations took place about the different textures of the clay when everyone had the same recipe. Some clay formed great. Others were a gooey mess and not able to mold. One of my treasures began crying she was so sad her clay didn't set up. I used my personal moment from the day before and let her regroup by taking a walk. She came back and her friends loaned her some of their clay so she could participate in the inquiry time. She was going to try to make more that evening for Friday.

Of course, I forgot my flip video or camera, so I didn't capture what was unfolding. They were engaged. Conversations about the attributes of different landforms were taking place. Collaborative learning, questioning, and problem-solving were happening. Another teacher walked in and observed our time. She saw they were having a wonderful time and loving every moment, yet knew my "messy issues." It's those times I need to let go of my "control "(yes, I have issues only in Science!) and let them explore.

After we cleaned up, we discussed why some clay set up and others didn't. One variable was that some put it in the fridge overnight. A few decided to make another batch at home for Friday. The variable worked because the next day, everyone had perfect clay. Landforms were created and displayed in the hall with a "Landform Museum In Progress. DO NOT DISTURB!" sign they drew. Our goal Monday is to begin writing fact cards and speeches for our video taping.

I feel validated when my thinking and my treasures engagement mesh to create a wonderful learning opportunity. You can't quantify these moments.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Vision Therapy

Tigger, my 9 yr. old son who is currently in third grade, has been in many supplemental programs in his young life...Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Reading Recovery, Reading Support, and finally the latest, Vision therapy. And yet, learning to read and write has not been an easy process for him. Vision Therapy is somewhat controversial in the Educational and Medical Worlds. I know. I, as his mother, did some extensive research before we committed to it. However, I think it is working! Hold on...I'm not convinced that it is the "therapy" per se. Let me clarify.

Although we have been pretty diligent about taking Tigger down to OSU for therapy two times a month in addition to doing his therapy exercises at home 3-4 times a week, I think it is working because Tigger is ready! The vision therapy has made it really clear to Tigger that he has to look at the print in order to read. It has also made it really apparent to his parents and teachers that Tigger has been trying to read without looking. This seems obvious to most of us, but let me tell you a little more about Tigger.

Tigger is an auditory learner. He loves to listen to high level children's novels on CD from our local library when he is trying to get to sleep at night. Tigger loves stories. I have read to him since the day he was born. Many mornings and every night, he begs me to read to him. He has grown up in a rich literary environment and yet phonics are hard for Tigger. Applying letter sounds and recognizing word patterns is hard work and far from automatic for him. Tigger is busy...bouncy. It has always been hard for him to sit for long periods of time. Reading, for Tigger, is way to slow and methodical.

So, is Vision Therapy really working? Yes and no. No, because Tigger has had all of the pieces of the literacy puzzle all along, but yes, because he neglected the visual piece. Reading is a visual activity. Tigger's visual therapy brought that piece to the forefront. You have to look to read the print on the page and make meaning. Tigger has been trying to read without looking! His sense of story and knowledge of the language is so well developed that he has been trying to muddle through learning to how to read without looking. Slowly, but surely, under the watchful eye and careful guidance of his teachers and parents, Tigger is clawing his way into the the Literacy Club.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Through The Eyes of My Learners

Our district has been implementing numerous technology initiatives this year, and it has not been a smooth transition. Many "special opportunities" have created huge learning curves for my colleagues as well as myself. Today, I sat in a meeting, trying to learn how to create interims on a database I have yet to understand. I listened to the instructor. I tried to follow her, but was getting lost as she continued to finish her talk in the time allotted. I began to feel completely overwhelmed. Everyone was talking at once and on different steps in the process. I was confused, unfocused, and on the verge of tears. So, I followed the defense mechanism that works for my learning needs. I left, went to my room, and closed my door. I sat at my desk with the step sheet and computer, and worked my way through the process. I am savy enough on the computer, but the past technology learning environments have not met my needs. I can't learn in a large group with everyone talking and asking questions. I don't need complete silence, but when there's too many conversations and questions going on around me, I can't focus. I need to process and reflect on my own, then ask questions as they come.

So, I realized how my treasures feel when I am moving too fast for them. There are some learners who are auditory. Some are visual. While I am a very visual learner, my daughter is auditory. I'm understanding how they learn. When frustration levels are high for my treasures, I'm going to remember this moment:

1. Give them time to regroup. Take a walk around the halls.

2. Stop tasks and come back another day.

3. Those learners may do better one-on-one or in small groups.

4. Write visual steps as well as auditory for all learners.

5. Students must "do" to understand.

Today, I walked in my treasures' shoes and that has made all the difference.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Blinkers...the sole purpose is to inform those around you of your decision to make a new direction. We've all been sitting at a stoplight, waiting for the car to pass, when they make a turn without turning their blinker on. Or, you're behind someone, thinking they are going straight and then they turn, all without notifying you of their decision.

As a teacher, I've always been one who has her "blinkers" on sometimes, not always. I teach with the state, district guidelines in my head, but always prepared to change direction as my treasures veer in another path. I am always open to their interests, questions, and inquiry so I can weave them into the curriculum as our year unfolds.

But, lately I've had to wrap my head around the fact that the paradigm is moving into a more "blinker" approach to teaching. Where are you going with this subject? When are you teaching ____? How will you assess and grade their learning? What is your purpose for doing this? Why are you not moving along as quickly as other teachers? All these are questions I've been asked lately and I'm not certain I have the answer. I look at my students. I know if I move slow this trimester, I'll be able to move faster the next two because the routines, the workshops, the expectations will have been set. For now, I'm working on finishing my "have-to" assessments. I'm learning what each student is reading and likes to read. I know who I need to touch base with daily in writing. I have my students who I need to have small groups in math weekly. I know who have some social issues. I am learning about my students. Perhaps it's not the "blinker" approach to teaching, but if I'm asked where I'm moving forward...that's where I'm going. I'm moving to a collaborative approach to learning where they will learn more from each other, than from me.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


We've been working on character development and identification throughout our writing workshops this week and my focus was for them to visualize their characters, then bring their characters to life in their narratives. Each student sketched and colored their characters for a "character museum" we'll share during The WOW Factor.

As with all beginning writing workshops, I'm constantly told "Mrs. Archer, I finished my story. Mrs. Archer, what do I do now? I'm ready to publish." All within 30 minutes of beginning. B was that student today. He was sharing with me his story he wrote on recycling because he looked around the room and saw the recycling bin over-flowing. Without much introduction or development, his character began with, "You must recycle." B understood his purpose and audience, but was failing to recognize the need to bring the reader up to speed with the character's mission. He would go back and write, then ask me another question. But, I could tell he wasn't getting the character development part. He even visited our school secretary, "the resident recycling expert" to ask her questions on why laminating film could not be put in the blue bins.

Later that afternoon, he was reading Loser by Jerry Spinelli, when he came up to me. "Mrs. Archer, I'm understanding what you mean by describing the character. Jerry Spineli described a character in the middle of the book so well, I was able to picture it in my mind. I'm going to try that tomorrow in my story." He got it!! No matter how many different ways I tried to explain my thoughts, he was able to grasp it by looking at a mentor text. B placed a post-it note in the spot to share during creation station (our writing workshop). These are the shining moments! These are special times!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Landform Museum

Anyone who knows me understands my apprehension for dirt, mess, and clutter. While I am not an over-the-top-Type A, I come pretty close to the mark. I understand that learning is messy. I recognize the need for play, discovery, and inquiry. I know students learn by doing. Yet, why does all the dirt, sand, and soil have to be in Ohio 4th grade Science !! We're beginning our Landform unit, and I've been thinking about ways to make it valuable for my students, yet doable for my "messy issues." I've been teaching 4th grade for three years, and very rarely do I teach the same way. So, I've thought up some ideas to make it a global project.

1. Using our textbook, landform readers, websites, and more: we're going to find similarities and differences between: mountains and hills, valleys and canyons, deltas and dunes, plains and plateaus. I created text boxes for the students to write their ideas for the landforms.

2. I was reading my last issue of Family Fun and there was a recipe for "All Natural Play Clay."
(Isn't great when the "universe" aligns with our teaching?") I'm sending the recipe home on
Friday so they can create 2 different landform colors of play clay and bring to school next week.

3. By taking a virtual tour through the Smithsonian, we're going to discuss the set-up of a museum, descriptive cards next to the museum features, and more. They are going to create 2 sets of landforms, and write descriptive placards next to their landforms with their research on it.

4. While writing this, I thought about having each group use the flip video to tape their landform ideas and talk, and then make a "virtual landform tour" to share with others in the school, home, and other classes.

I'm excited for this project to see how all my treasures stretch their thinking, their ideas, and themselves. My treasures matter.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Musings

Tonight as I was eating my ritual of cereal before bed (a family thing), I traveled through my news sites and moved onto some teacher blogs. I haven't navigated to Two Writing Teachers for a while, but there I was reading her Monday Musings. I enjoy alliterations, catchy titles, and intriguing words. Musings... a synonym for considerations or meditations. falls freely off the tongue, but hardly ever used in conversations. Ruth shared her thoughts about herself, her teaching, and her goals. From her few thoughts, I recognize her frustration with change and paradigm shifts, her understanding of her "circle of control", and her thankfulness and gratitude for the life she is living. Musings...

I found myself thinking about my musings...:

*I am an all or nothing girl. I dive in with my whole head, heart, and soul, or I don't do it at all. So, much frustration, disappointment, and sadness is felt when my idea falls flat.

*I read 25 letters from my students today asking for more time to read, more time to write, and more time for math games.

*25 students are writing conversations to one another on a wiki that I introduced last week.

*I am fortunate to work across the hall from a colleague and friend who lets me process ideas to her and gives suggestions. I value her insight.

*My own children love to read and plan their book selections when we go to the library. They love math, also.

*I am filled with gratitude to the wonderful professional learning community I've found through blogs and twitter.

Musings...perhaps my word for tomorrow. What are your musings?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Friday AHA Moment

This summer, I fell in love and cherished The Book Whisperer while on vacation. I borrowed it from the library, read it on a train, took notes, and bought my own copy as a mentor text for my teaching. Donalyn Miller encompasses all I believe about reading, about passion, about doing what's best for kids, and most of all cherishing the special moments. Getting back to more reading time in the classroom, reading for pleasure, and having a purpose for a reading practice are all philosophies that come through in her writing. I found one idea of hers that I personalized and implemented in my 4th grade classroom...the Book Requirement.

Before school, I sat down with Lisa and came up with a 30 book requirement they must read and finish this year. Lofty, but doable if I commit to a 30-45 minute block of reading. I wanted it to be challenging, purposeful, pleasurable, and authentic, so I charted the requirements by genre. The chapter book choice had the most because I wanted my treasures to understand I value their uniqueness, their interests, and their favorites. Other genres only had a taste so they would try different genres. It's like trying new food. Some we like, others we don't. The important thing is we try.

Every Friday, I'm committing to meeting with each student, looking at their log, signing off on their finished books, and plotting them under the genre. This past Friday was my AHA moment. It was such that I had to walk over to a 5th grade room next door and share my findings. (She's doing something similar!)

The way the tally sheet was set up, I was able to see at a glimpse the reading patterns of my students. One student had completed his entire informational section. He loves reading about the ocean and fish. So, a brief conversation was in place to stretch his reading into a different genre. (He tried a graphic novel yesterday!) When I met with P, she had been tearing through the Bone series and realized her book choice only counted once. It was time to stretch her reading stamina into a lengthy genre. (I think this will be a year-long goal for her and I.)

My treasures are reading 30-45 minutes at a stretch. They're engaged. They're lost in their books and making recommendation to others. They'll be time soon to begin strategy lessons on responding to their reading. They'll be time to write. For now, I have a roomful of readers who choose to read whenever they can throughout the day. What a great AHA Moment!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Power of Puppets

"Gooood Mornnnin' First Graders!" This is the way Daniel the Spaniel, a 20 year old handmade puppet from my classroom days, has greeted all of his new school friends this year. Daniel says and does things that teachers wouldn't even think of saying or doing. Using his friendliest Southern drawl, he confesses to his audience that he likes "purdy girls", doggy naps and dog biscuits. But more importantly, when Daniel talks, croaks and sings, kids of all ages listen.

This year our school has about 75 new students. As a reading support teacher who comes in and out of the classrooms, I wanted a chance to introduce myself to all of the students in the school and offered to teach a mini-lesson to the class of the teacher's choice. I was surprised and excited by the response I received from the teachers. Several primary teachers who use the Daily Five approach in their literacy workshops, requested a lesson about picking just right books. One second grade teacher wanted me to talk about interesting words in books. And finally my biggest challenge was to teach a mini-lesson to a third grade group about reading a variety of "just right books."

The thought of working with a whole group of students (and their teachers) excited me but it also made my stomach flip-flop from nervousness. I knew that when I had used puppets in my classroom in the dark ages, the kids loved it so much that Daniel and several other stuffed friends became part of our daily routine. But I couldn't help but wonder if during these high tech times filled with video games, computers, digital cameras, DVDs, Ipods and more would still be entertaining...

With butterflies in my stomach, I ventured into the classrooms with a lesson plan in my head and Daniel the Spaniel stuffed in my bag. I may have felt nervous, but big, bold Daniel was not. He entertained, laughed, howled, chanted and even snored through his first appearance and many more. The children were mesmerized. They hung on his every word. The teachers laughed and giggled along with their students and some even cried. The experience was powerful and meaningful. The word spread throughout the school like a wildfire. To date, Daniel has made an appearance in most of the primary classrooms, several class newsletters, and even the school's monthly bulletin.

Although Daniel the Spaniel is missing some fur, a few eyelashes and even has a yucky stain on his felt mouth, I am confident that he will continue to spread the word about good fit books, interesting vocabulary, and many other important standards in our our high tech educational world filled with 21 century learners because Puppets are Powerful! You should try it "ya'll!"

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The WOW FACTOR important, yet so forgotten in our day-to-day routine. I've put sharing in my lesson plans, but incidentally I've gone longer in one area and I rush to catch up. Especially in these first few weeks, I'm so unsure of myself, my class, and my routines. This year, I've designated the last 20 minutes of our day as...THE WOW FACTOR.

The WOW FACTOR is time for kids to share part of their lives, their passions, and their celebrations with our community. It's a time to invite guests in to share their passions, their reading practice, and their ways of communication. It's our time to share. I know that it will never be forgotten, skipped over, or missed because it's written on our daily schedule. My treasures are now asking if it's their WOW FACTOR or do I have something planned. It's our time to cherish together.

We've had my partner and friend, Lisa, share her reading practice by using her lunch as an analogy. Her apple is her teaching books. Their healthy and help her grow. The vegetables are the online and internet reading and her chocolate is the books she reads for pleasure. My treasures understood what she was saying and used her ideas in reader's cafe the next day. Questions like: "I'm looking for a candy book, Mrs. Archer. Do you have any ideas?" or "It's time I look for a vegetable or protein book today." They understood her ideas.

Our Phys. Ed teacher, Sharon, came in and shared her running passion. She showed us how she keeps her running practice on a site, called Logarun. Her conversation about online running logs will be our "mentor text" when we move into online reading logs using a wiki.

Our new guidance counselor, Leslie, shared her reading practice. She didn't think she read much until I asked her to share with us. She realized on her own that she does do a lot of reading.

I plan to share flip video clips, student work, and they have come up with their own ideas to share. I didn't have a plan when I set out declaring a time called "THE WOW FACTOR" but it's evolving into something greater than I could imagine. That one change has revolutionized our daily routine. It's the Tipping Point. That one thing that makes all the difference.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Together We Can Climb Mountains

This past weekend while I was catching up on my school to-do list, I had the television on watching the Kennedy tributes and memorials that were ongoing. Politics aside, the family has always fascinated me. I've read many biographies and autobiographies of the clan, and continue to read online the news articles about them. The family has had an impact on history, which is a favorite of mine.

At the mass, Ted Kennedy Jr relayed a story about his father that many of us would not know. It was right after Ted Jr. lost his leg to cancer. A great snow had fallen and they wanted to sled, but Ted Jr. kept falling due to the conditions and the instability of his new leg. He looked up at his dad and cried, "I can't do this. I'll never get up that hill." Ted Sr. did what any dad would do. He picked him up, looked him in the eye, and said,"I know you can do this. We're going to climb that hill together, even if it takes all day." And so they did. Ted Sr. holding on to Ted Jr. climbing that hill, father and son. A balancing act of part pushing and part pulling.

What an analogy for teachers! Our students came to us this past week. We're not sure where each one stands on the learning continuum yet. Once we conference, assess, and listen to each student, it will be a balancing act of part pushing and part pulling to help them succeed. We know they can do it and we're going to lift them up, even if it takes all year. But it takes working together, climbing that hill, one step at a time.
Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others let go.
William Feather

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lesson Five: Find Your Success

Today was our first day of school. A lot of excitement and apprehension was felt all throughout the room. We finished labeling supplies, wrote about our Fav Five, and learned about each other. It seems that the more years I teach the same grade, the easier the first day is. What a great day!

As we embark on our journey together, I want to be reminded to look for the daily successes, no matter how small. Our district is undergoing a technology overhaul with numerous mechanical "opportunities." We've become so dependent on technology, that we do not know what to do when it 's not working. Email, printers, internet...all have had "opportunities" that needed to be addressed. A few minutes before school began, I was getting my flip video ready when the batteries died. AGGG!! A quick call to my husband and he brought me some that afternoon. I shared with my class how it works and ideas that we could use it for in our learning. I handed it over to some girls at recess and they spent the entire time interviewing one another. The video clips are precious and I can't wait to use them at curriculum night. I'm excited about all the possibilities to use this tool in the classroom.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


A few weeks ago, a group of educators from two neighboring districts met at Panera Bread to discuss an upcoming author visit by Lester Laminack. You could feel the energy and excitement in the small room. Our agenda was simple: How were we going to make the most of this opportunity for our elementary students using the resources we have available?

We looked at his picture books and discussed ways that we could use them in meaningful ways with students ranging in ages from 5 to 12 years old. We also looked at new technology. We have set up a Stixy Board where teachers from both districts can share ideas. We discussed flip cameras and ways that they can be utilized to document students' projects. We brainstormed ways that we can collaborate in person as well as via video conferencing. Professional books written by Lester Laminack were shared and discussed. Lastly, we surprised everyone that our principals have agreed to finance an additional professional development opportunity with Laminack after school.

We did all of this in about an hours time on our own time over coffee and bagels. It is a great time to be an educator!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lesson Four: It's All About The Kids

While we were finishing our race, my in-laws were trying to find the start of the kids' race. We made it 4 minutes before the start. My husband ran with our son and I ran with our daughter. She held my hand as we ran her half-mile through the Nick Universe of the park. She knew when she needed to walk, and when she could start running again. She was high-fiving Pablo, from Backyardigans, Spongebob, and other characters. Our son enjoyed watching the characters as he ran. When they began the home stretch, my husband and I stepped aside so they could bask in their moment, running through the finish on their own. They were greeted with a finishing medal and were elated with their success. They were unaware of all the inconveniences and problems of the race. All that mattered to them was seeing the cartoon characters and accomplishing their goal. It was all about the kids.

As I begin the year with all the challenges, I need to remember...It's all about the kids. They are there to learn. They are there to be challenged. They are there to set and achieve their goals. And they are there to be loved. Everything I do needs to focus on my group of treasures. It does not matter all the behind-the-scenes frustrations that I may experience, I need to have my game on when they walk through the door. Remember: It's all about the kids.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lesson Three: Be Flexible

When we decided to run, I mentally set up a training plan to prepare. Each week I would run a minimum of three runs: a 6 mile, a 4 1/2 tempo run, and a 3 mile sprint. On the off days, I would bike, walk, use the elliptical machine, or easy runs. My strategy worked. While I could not always determine the day of the run, I made sure each facet was accomplished sometime throughout the week. I felt prepared. I set a finish time goal, that I thought was doable. I was ready!

Race day came and everything went out the window. I wasn't prepared for the hills or climbs, nor all the other inconveniences of the morning. As I was running, I mentally changed my goal. There was no way I was going to be able to meet it, so I needed to adjust my thinking. I needed to be flexible, look at my performance, and adjust "on the run."

That's how it is everyday at school. I have a mental game plan of how I want the year to go, when units will be taught, how my classroom will run, and what outcomes I hope to achieve. It's a flexible plan because my treasures may chart a different path. Their thinking may take us off in another direction and I need to be ready for that change. I tend to not get hung up with the little details because in the grand scheme, they have little value. But, the conversations, the thinking, the big questions, and inquiry of my treasures: that is what makes my classroom thrive. Like a rubber band, be Flexible!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lesson Two: There's Always Growing Pains

The race at King's Island was it's first. There were so many problems and issues to count from registration to where the restrooms were located. It was postponed for 30-45 minutes because they could not get everyone checked in. There were two lines you needed to go through: getting your number and checking in for King's Island. There were 3 races that day: 10k, 5k, and a kids' race. Yet, the start of each was at different locales, not marked very clear. The race course was horrendous. It included hills, which is tough. But after a series of hills, there was a vertical climb marked STEEP! Were they serious? 5k/10k runners lost track of which path to follow. I had to walk a long way for the restrooms after the race. They ran out of water. Lack of communication between the racing organization and King's Island. And the list goes on and on. It was great idea, but lacked strong execution.

This experience represents all the new initiatives sent down to teachers from above. We are in the trenches trying to manage all the new programs, technology, and initiatives while maintaining our focus. In our district alone, we have over 4 different initiatives this year. There will be "growing pains." Some things have not been worked out, yet we need to figure out how this fits into our classroom.

My goal this year is to take everything, learn it, and make it fit my needs. Whether I agree or disagree, does not matter. It's here. How do I implement it into my classroom? How do I make it fit my needs and not adapt my teaching to it? It needs to work for my students and myself. There will always be "growing pains." It's a guarantee. How I react to those "growing pains" will be the difference. Am I reactive or proactive?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lesson One: Find Your Tribe

I've been reading a lot of Seth Godin lately. I enjoy his blog and his books. The message that strikes home with me is: Find Your Tribe. Look for the people who will lift you up, celebrate with you, help you grow, and be the best you can be. Find Your Tribe.

My family is fortunate to have grandparents who are involved and willing to share in life moments. Last October, my husband and I ran a half-marathon together and my parents went with us to watch the kids before their race. This past weekend, his parents came with us to another race. We could not stretch ourselves physically and mentally without the support from our parents. They are our Family Tribe.

During the race at King's Island, I saw another tribe: a tribe of runners. Very few knew each other, but we were there for a common goal. I saw one runner stop her race, run back, pick up something, and run it up to the person who lost it. She sacrificed seconds off her time to help another member of her tribe. While I was running up a hill, I began talking to another runner. She was from Cleveland and felt her entire training did not prepare her for this course. (It was HORRIBLE, but more on that another day!) I told her I was a teacher and blogger, and was writing blog entries about this experience in my head. She followed me for a while. After the race, she stopped me to ask what the name of my blog was and she was going to look it up. (If you're out there, Kudos to you for finishing! You did great!) Another guy, encouraged me along while I was grumbling going up a hill. He's running the Columbus Marathon in October and was glad to hear there wouldn't be hills. Towards the finish, he was struggling, so I encouraged him along through the finish chute. I do not know any names, but they made an impact on me and I hope I did on them. That's a Tribe.

Lastly, I have a Professional Tribe. There is a small core group at my school collaborating in every manner. They encourage one another. They share ideas. They stretch their thinking. They matter. I found a tribe throughout our district. We met a couple times over the summer to share technology ideas to use with our students. Lastly, I have a twitter tribe. I have talked with more teachers and individuals throughout the country and have learned so many things. While we may never meet in person, we are a Tribe.

So, my tribes vary. But they are my tribes. As you begin the school year, Find Your Tribe to help you along and stretch your thinking.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


We start back this week. It's time. I've had some time with my family. I've had couple time, and I've had Me time. My kids have had a summer of firsts: losing teeth, chin stitches, and becoming better swimmers. My husband and I traveled together to Southwest Colorado for a vacation. I READ for fun, for pleasure, and for learning. I stretched out of my comfort zone on some professional collaboration. And I'm happy with the completion of some of my summer goals list. Therefore, it's time to return to school.

This weekend, my family ran in the Inaugural King's Island Race. My husband and I did the 10k, while the kids ran 1/2 mile. While I was running, I came up with my Top Five Lessons to Remember at the start to a new year. Everyday this week, I'm going to share one with you and the analogy I came up with as I ran.
Lesson One: Find Your Tribe.

Check it out on Monday!

Monday, August 10, 2009

One Thing To Remember

I've been working on my curriculum night presentation, trying to "keep the main thing, the main thing." There is so much to share in a little time. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one to talk for hours, but what do parents truly want to know about their child's year? Is it the nuts and bolts or do I go in depth?

I read a blog by Kristin Armstrong called "Mile Markers." Her latest post shares her apprehension at being chosen to speak at her daughter's Kids In Motion club. The girls are 7 and 8 year olds, and she writes about her preparation. I like her last line:
"But even if they take one thing -- one single thing, away that lodges into a crack and sticks there -- it will be more than enough for me."

Perhaps that should be my mindset: What one thing do I want parents to take away on that night?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Where do you like to think?

At the beginning of the year, I want to learn about my new group of treasures. I ask them to think about their favorite places to read and write, bring in pictures, along with "scrapbook" items that define their personalities to decorate their notebooks. These exercises and conversations bring my community of learners together on their journey throughout the year. This year I want to bring more to the conversation, "Where do you like to think, to create?" As I think about my own creative process, my place is the road.

I run. I am a runner. Not for sport. Not for racing. But, for recreation. I run through the highs and lows of life. I run through the plateaus. But, mostly I run to think. When I was elated about new career opportunities, I ran. When I was distraught with disappointment and despair, I ran and cried. When my husband traveled, my kids hopped on their bikes and I ran. It's more than stress relief, it's how I process events, ideas, and strategies. It's just me and the road. No IPOD, no technology. Just me and my thoughts.

I've created so many projects and ideas while running. When my treasures are not understanding a concept, I run and think of a new strategy to try. I think about colleagues. I think about students. I think about metaphors and analogies. It's where I go to truly process issues, concepts, and ideas. The road is where I go to create.

Where do you go to think and create?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Technology, Target, and the Haircare Aisle

Have you ever gone through the haircare aisle at Target and looked at all the different options you have? There's shampoo, conditioner, gel, mousse, spritz, hairspray, pommade, and many more. Then, you can even look at the purpose for each item: curly hair, fine hair, normal, straight. So many choices, so many uses.

I recently attended a two-day Leadership Academy in our district and many of the sessions focused on technology. As I learned many of the options out there, I needed to marinate on how I would use them and apply them to the learners in my room. Katie at Creative Literacy, and Karen from Literate Lives and myself had conversations about why we would use one software idea over another. There is so much out there that I sometimes feel overwhelmed and unprepared. But, I slow down and step back.

My mission is to teach my kids to understand their purpose of the the project. They need to think about their audience and then decide which program would be beneficial for them. Like the haircare aisle, there's so many choices. Instead, think about the learning style, purpose, audience, and then decide what would be best for that project.

Monday, August 3, 2009

21st Century Class Reunion

Last weekend, we went to our hometown for my husband's high school reunion. What fascinated me was how 21st Century literacies have evolved that the 2oth Century is taking hold of them.

1. Facebook Organization
The organizer began in January with a page on Facebook and began hunting down classmates via the internet. All communication was on the web except we needed to mail in a check by the postal service. RSVP's, questions, dates, and agendas were online-based. Out of a class of 200, there were 90 classmates plus spouses for the dinner. Amazing how communication has changed.

2. Video Clips
One student video-taped his entire last day and projected it on the screen. Can you imagine how big and bulky video cameras were in the 80's? It was fun to see hairstyles, clothes, and the old high school through the eyes of a student. Everyone was mesmerized for over 30 minutes trying to identify classmates on the grainy clips. Our children now use a Flip Camera the size of your palm and can upload to the internet with a few clicks. My own children are constantly asking to use the "video-taper" as they call it, around the house.

3. Cameras
I only saw 3 cameras in the room. Everyone was sharing photos and taking pics with their cell phones. The next morning, reunion pics were posted on Facebook and comments about their evening flew fast off their fingers. So, I'm beginning to see the connectivity of Facebook, as opposed to Twitter (my personal fav).

Now, if the 20th Century is taking hold of technology usage when it was not around then, what will the 21st Century students take with them to their reunions?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Early Computer Literacy

"Readers Are Leaders!" That's the motto that can be heard around our house as I share with my children the passion for reading. Today, my son, who will be in kindergarten, was reading this book in his room. He is already very computer literate, even more so than my daughter. He can navigate to websites he has visited and maneuver around the site to where he wants go and read. Coming down the stairs he said, "Mom, can I go to this website on the back of the book?" I bought the book a few years back because it was his name, and did not even realize it had a website.

I asked him how he knew that the book had a website and here's his answer, "Mom, it had a www. and a .com on the end." I was amazed that he is already recognizing environmental computer print in his daily life. The education that he will have will be so different than mine, but better. He was born in a different time. Between flip video cameras, internet literacy, and using Google as a verb and noun, his learning opportunities will always be evolving as new software, gadgets, and technology will be coming out in the 21st Century. Soon, he will be guiding me into his learning world. For now, I'm going to enjoy the "Mom knows a lot" phase. It won't last long!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Music in The Classroom

Sunday evening I was at a dinner party and they began discussing the Wedding Entrance Dance video that is all the rage on youtube.
I hadn't heard of about it so a friend pulled out his Iphone and showed me. I was intrigued enough that I watched it numerous times at home and read the evolving story online. Even today, I can't help but wonder why the world is entranced with the video and idea. Yes, it's totally a feel good moment, but there's more. Weddings are celebrations and the wedding party began the celebration at the ceremony using music to share their joy. There wasn't a script to follow. Each member showed their individuality in the way they danced down the aisle.

Wouldn't it be great to see a class create their own dance to music? A dance or song to come into the classroom in the morning and one to leave. Or a Friday afternoon tradition as they walk out to the buses for the weekend. Think about the community building for the beginning of the school year. Or maybe choosing a song for background while they share their writing or book review. Or finding a song for science experiments. Each student showcasing themselves in a way that is typically not seen in a self-contained classroom. The possibilities are endless. What are some ways you have used music in the classroom?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Twitter Tolerance

I absolutely love Twitter. I am extremely linear, in the way, that my life revolves around lists. Lists of books, to-do lists, travel lists, school lists, house renovation lists: they keep me balanced. So, of course, the way twitter works would totally fit in my realm. After all, the tweets come in a narrow timeline and if you add tweetdeck, you can organize into groups. I currently have a Dublin group, technology group, running/athletic group, and the public group. I can easily move from one group to the other by a mere scroll of my cursor. It works for me. But, I know of friends who could not "get" twitter.

I've recently joined some Nings, but am struggling through the process. I have difficulty focusing and finding information that can help me. Yet, I've heard great response from friends about Nings and Facebook. Different learning styles, different forms of communication tools. What works for one, may not work for another.

Mary Lee, at A Year of Reading, wrote an entry about too much online chatter. I, too, have felt that way and needed a break from technology. This past week, I read online but did not participate in Nings, tweets, and emails. It was a much needed break where I was able to reflect upon what I want the purpose of technology to be in my life. I will be the first to admit that it has so many uses, but I need to remember to be present in day-to-day matters.

Franki sent a twitter mosaic meme. I posted all my "friends" and they are an eclectic group.

Get your twitter mosaic here.