Saturday, October 30, 2010

Red Thread

My learning journey has diverged.  It has a little to do with technology, some to do with reading and writing.  Mostly, it's about something that has changed my family's lives, my perspective, my writing and musings, celebrating the small moments, and making a difference.

I have big news...we will soon be a family of FIVE!!!  No, I'm not pregnant.  We are adopting an Eastern European princess.  She has chestnut hair, chocolate eyes, she turned 3 this month,  and is chromosomally enhanced.  She has Down syndrome and was most likely given up at birth because of her diagnosis.

On the last day of school  my RED THREAD journey began and would continue over the summer months until we committed to adoption the day before school began:)  Before I began writing our story, I found this quote:  "An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break." - Chinese proverb.  Then, I learned that it was a book, and immediately bought it as a keepsake for our journey.  I've used this book many times when I've been asked to speak about our story.  It's touching, the illustrations breathtaking, and every soul, young and old, can understand the message.  Even if you are not adopting, the Red Thread message is for all life experiences.  We are all connected some way, somehow.
 I've read  many books on adoption, orphans, and Down syndrome.  Mostly, my heart has been captivated by the community of bloggers advocating, celebrating, and sharing their world through a different "lens" than you or I.  Because so many stepped out of their comfort zone to write, other lives are being changed.  More and more are learning about Down syndrome and stepping out in faith to adopt a special needs child.   This network has reached out to us across the globe.  Once the beginning of our story was written, we've received an outpouring of thoughts, kind words, promises of conversations to come, and the knowledge that all we need to do is send out an SOS email, and we'll have a plethora of responses.  So much love, so much joy, so much celebration!!

I've learned more about Facebook, but needed to stop Twitter.  My focus has mostly been writing our story on our family blog, continually tracking down important papers, and preparing our home for our new arrival, all the while continuing with my "school" work.  We've been busy, blessed, and these last two months have gone by in a blur. 

We are all on learning journeys.  Some continue on a straight path. Some diverge.  Some take on a whole different journey.  Our mission is to  travel a path, one foot in front of the other, going forward.  We all have the need to learn something.

Our threads may stretch, tangle, weave, but they will never, ever break.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Broken Shells

My time to read is limited, so I grab non-fiction books as my genre of choice during the school year.  I picked up at copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Children with Special Needs at the library and have enjoyed reading some short excerpts through the family's lenses about their children.

    A mother and her 4-year old were collecting shells one summer at the beach.  She was meticulously searching out whole, complete shells to place in her bucket, while her son was picking up many broken ones so his bucket was starting to fill up.  When she looked in the bucket, all she saw were bits, pieces, and fragments of broken shells.    She stopped him and said, "Will, all your shells are broken and no good.  You need to find shells like this," and showed him a complete, whole shell.  Will looked, but continue to pick up one broken shell after another. 

    She stopped him again, with a frustrated tone in her voice.  "Why are you picking up shells that are broken?"  Will replied the only, honest way he could, "Mom, there are way more broken ones on the beach than perfect ones.  We'll fill up our bucket faster with the broken shells."  His mom thought, Okay but who wants a bucket of broken shells?  "Mom, these shells are broken, but they are still beautiful," and proceeded to point out something beautiful on each broken shell in his bucket.  His mother was taught the most valuable lesson that sunny, afternoon.

    We are all broken in some way, but possess beauty and uniqueness beyond belief.  If we take time to look closely at the broken shells, we can see beauty in their imperfections. 
    Debbie Jaskot

Monday, October 11, 2010

Writing In The Outdoors

During an informal conversation with a parent, I learned that she and her friend began a writing workshop event for kids 2-5th grade at her farm on the weekends.  Off the fly, I asked her if she'd like to come and do a mini-workshop for our class before the cold, long, dark winter!!:(  Of course, she said.  So, we worked out logistics, what was needed, and we anticipated for the day.  (So thankful it was today and not last weekend, when we got a taste of the winter to come!!)

We made nature journals and fabulatized them, had conversations of descriptive words and adjectives, and finally today was the day.  I was so thankful for the 80 degree weather!!:)  The ladies created 9 different stations outside to use our senses when we thought about fictional and personal narratives.  The kids had soooo much fun.  There was sand and shells, tasting table, caterpillars, mud pies, woods and many opportunities to explore, write, and sketch.

After exploring, we all found a spot on the grass and wrote.  We wrote poems, thoughts, feelings...the point is we wrote.  Then, we explored, and we wrote.   What a fabulous day!!!  They offered to come back and create another day in winter.  What a blessing to have parents willing to share their passions.  
We are all one with nature!!  

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I have a Voice...

My family walked in our first Buddy Walk, promoting acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.  Throughout the walk around Crew Stadium, this gallery was played on the big screen.  We all have a voice...Celebrating Down syndrome Awareness Month!!!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Big Elephant in the Room


One day I was in a panic, looking for a book on responsibility.  I had 5 minutes before I needed to pick up my kids, and traveled to one of my favorite first grade friends' room.  My friend, Patty, was gracious enough to look through her bins and gave me 3 "possible"  books for my need.  The first two were a little primary, but the last one would work.
The Big Elephant in The Room was PERFECT!!!!  It's written by Lane Smith, who is known for his subtle humor, with a deeper message.  The two characters are having a "conversation" about the big elephant in the room. You and I know it could be an issue that is "in the room", but noone is talking about it.  One of the characters is questioning all his previous "acts" that were self-centered and not at all like a responsible individual:-(  There is a literal ending at the end, which brings it all together.  But, fourth graders get the hidden message.

    I was in need of some heart-to-heart talks with my class.  We all were "talking the talk", but weren't "walking the walk!"  We opened up about the "elephants" in our room that were hindering our learning and working together.  Our discussion branched into other avenues that I did not even know were happening:(  All in all, it was the perfect book to bring all our issues out on the "table" and discuss ways to improve our classroom.  I've seen much improvement in our classroom attitude.    I'm going to reread this book every month to continue working on ways to make our classroom better than the month before.  I ended up ordering the book last week, and shared it with another colleague.  The same conversations took place in her room and she was amazed:)
I LOVE picture books:)!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

My First Two Weeks

These are the my Top Five things I am most proud of in my first two weeks of school:

    1.  I am moving agonizingly slow, but am seeing the benefits from my classroom community.  I have put blinders around me so that I don't start getting anxious when others are "testing" over material and I'm not halfway through.

    2.  My Morning and Closing Meetings are ROCKIN' the house.  We pass a stone so that whoever has the stone, has the voice.  We begin the day sharing and end the day sharing.  At 3:15, we pack up and sit in a circle celebrating something from our day.  For the first time in "many" years, the end of the day is filled with joy, not madness.  Today, we began Poetry Friday.  I had my students come to the Morning Meeting and we went around the room reading a poem.  I forgot to pass the stone.  One of my students said, "Mrs. Archer, we didn't have a morning meeting."  I, then realized that my class is recognizing our daily routine, even when I forget.

    3.  Over a 5 minute conversation at recess, a fellow colleague and I came up with an idea, wrote it up at lunch, was approved by our principal, and shared with our parents at Curriculum Night.  I LOVE being self-contained!!!!  I LOVE my math workshop, my reading workshop, and my creation station!!! But, I can take or leave the content areas.  My fellow colleague LOVES, LOVES, LOVES science, and I enjoy Social Studies.  We mapped out the year, so that our classes will switch monthly for Science and Social Studies.  It's going to benefit both of us, along with our kids.  But, the biggest reason it will work, is we are like-minded thinkers.  We both are very hands-on, project-oriented teachers and our philosophies mesh!!  What a ride it will be.  I shared with our class that we are the first at our school to try this, so we need to work diligently to pave the path for others.

    4.  I've been taking ideas from the Responsive  Classroom and making them my own.  Today, we talked about how once our words are out, we can't take them back.  Similar to crumpling up a piece of paper, you can never make it smooth again.    Sometimes saying "I'm Sorry" isn't enough.  Today, we started a list of Apologies of Action, things to do instead of saying I'm sorry.

    5.  I've made an impact on some of my "promising" students.  They are recognizing I accept them where they are, and will do anything to move them forward.

All in all, a good two weeks.  How have your first weeks gone?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"I'm Not A Good Reader"

I've enjoyed the network of families that I've found since my children have begun elementary school.  I'm no longer in teacher mode, but mother mode when discussing our children together.  Addy has a very close friend who lives in the next neighborhood, so we invited their family over  for a Back To School cookout the night before the first day.

I love talking with Imogen because we are honest, we trade babysitting, and we have similar likes and dislikes.  Another bonus is that we both have husbands who travel extensively for work so we can identify easily with one another.  I recently wrote about A in a post Not Good Enough.  Tuesday evening, we were talking about our Meet The Teacher experiences and what she said hit home to me as a mother and a teacher.

A's teacher had a scavenger hunt going on when the children arrived.  Mrs. P began talking to A and showed her the clues.  A was taking her time reading, but Mrs. P kept telling her the words.  Imogen wanted to shout, "Stop telling her the words.  She'll get it.  She only needs time!" But, she didn't and then A said the words that break a mother's heart and my teacher heart..."I'm not a good reader!"  Here is a young second grader, whose parents have read with her and read to her since she was a baby.  Here is a girl who is loved by her family and they celebrate her big and small moments.  Her mom knows she will figure out the story, but it takes her longer.  She is 7 and already feels behind because she cannot read as fast as the kid next to her at school. 

My heart went out to the mom and I talked with her and gave her some Mom/teacher ideas.  Truly, A needs time like Leo the Late Bloomer, and be given the time to blossom.

So...I'm taking this story to heart and reminding myself daily that friends in my class need Time.  Time to blossom, time to feel accepted, time to learn.  As you are learning about your new students, remember they may need time to blossom this year. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thoughtful Thursday

I am always on the lookout for video clips to share with my class on inspiration and making a difference.  But, many of the sites are blocked, or I need to convert it at home to a file I can open at school.  The system's worked for me, but tedious. was shared by some guidance counselors at Leadership Academy.  I now have my one stop shopping for inspiration and the website is not blocked at school.  There are quotes, clips, good news, stories and more.  It's like the Hallmark of the feel good moment, and just as sappy!!  The world would be a better place if all the tv commercials and billboards were replaced with inspiration from this website.

This summer has been an awakening on many levels, and I'm heading back to school with a new sense of purpose.  I wrote earlier about a parent's plea for their child:   
Expect,  Don't Accept.
I found a clip for that very goal:  The Track Coach  Watch it and enjoy a feel good moment today!!!

"The best way to pay for a lovely moment is to enjoy it."  Richard David Bach

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lessons in Life

Hello Blogging Friends!

It's me, Lisa. I am sorry I haven't contributed very much over the summer...ok and the spring, but I'm back. Just like you, I've been busy living life. Unlike my amazing, analytical, organized partner, Shelly, I do not have a list of any of my summer accomplishments. However, I do have a few stories that I think you might enjoy.

In July, I went on a cruise with my aging parents. It was such a blessing to spend an entire week with them on such a beautiful ship cruising the high seas. Although I experienced some difficult, heart-wrenching moments with my father, we saw some amazing sights and met some remarkable people.

James (Jim) Kennedy was one of those remarkable people! One evening, my parents and I were seated with Jim and his delightful wife, Bernie. We exchange the normal casualties: names, home, etc. From the moment we first met, I could tell Jim was a charmer. He was caring, sincere, and engaging. He took particular interest in my father who suffered a spinal cord injury 5 years ago and is confined to a wheelchair. As we talked, I started to put some pieces of the conversation together and realized that our new friend, Jim, was the former Director of NASA who had been introduced to the entire ship in the theater on our first night. Celebrity Cruise Lines offers an educational series for the cruisers and I was eating salmon with the key note speaker! How cool is that?

Honestly, I know very little about NASA or space. I was never a "Trekkie," and I suffered through all of my science courses in high school and college. However, I literally would go to the moon with this new friend of mine, Jim. Although I missed the first class of his series, after our dining experience, I was determined to attend the last two. The next "class" started at 10 pm. During his class, he showed amazing pictures taken in space and talked about his astronaut, political, and famous friends. Jim is a storyteller and I was mesmerized. He also covered many of the technical aspects of sending a rocket ship into space. At the end of his fascinating presentation, he announced that at his last session, he would be sharing with us: "Lessons in Life and Leadership (as inspired by stories of the Good Life at NASA). Now he was talking about my world!

Jim originally created this slide show to present to high school students. It has been so well received that now travels all over the country inspiring students, teachers, professional groups, and even "cruisers" like me. He has over 50 lessons that can be applicable to everyone. With each lesson, he tells a "real life" story. Here are just a few that struck a cord with me:

Lesson #5 Go the Extra Mile: Astronaut Suni Williams ran the 26.2 mile Boston Marathon in space! Jim told us how important it is for astronauts to exercise in space because they lose a percentage of muscle mass while in space. Not only did Suni run, she also made a huge impact on a little girl who shared her name.

Lesson #11 Have Courage in Your Convictions: Jim told us about a young man who saved the space program a huge amount of money by convincing NASA to use orange foam on a fuel tank.

Lesson #27 Teachers Rock! Jim told many stories about the impact that teachers have had on his life. He shared how devastating it was when the Challenger exploded and Christina McAuliffe and the other 6 astronauts died.

Jim Kennedy inspired me with his life lessons. He reminded me that what we do every day is important. Thanks to Jim, I am going to look for life lessons in every day events and share them with my family, friends and students. His final lesson #51: Have Fun, Learn and Get Inspired.

This school year, I am going to do just that! May the force be with you!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

10 for 10 Picture Book Blogging Event

Lisa and I decided to combine our Top 10 books. 

Lisa's Top 5...

1.  Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas:  Dust Bunnies make my students (of all ages) and me LAUGH!  The illustrations are simple and yet endearing.  The kids love the bunnies personalities, appreciate the humor. and ask to read it over and over again! 
2.  If I were in Charge of the World by Judith Viorst  Even though this book is OLD, I still love this charming collection of poems that eloquently describes the good. bad and the ugly days of childhood.  What not to like when one of the poems is titled something like this:  Thoughts of getting out of a nice warm bed on a cold dark night...followed by:  Maybe life was better when I used to be a wetter.  
3.  Life-Size Zoo by Teruyuki Komiya  There are three of these gems out now.  My "promising" readers many times shy away from nonfiction books because of the vocabulary.  However, these books are fascinating for children of all ages.  They are "SUPER-SIZED."  The real sized photographs are amazing and I find children love to read them together.  
4.  Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold  I am always looking for books that are readable for my students and yet are sophisticated enough to keep their interest.  The Fly Guy books meet these requirements.  Fly Guy is a HOOT!  The kids and I love the illustrations.  We have had a wonderful time creating our own Fly Guy books.  
    5.  Roscoe Riley Series by Katherine Applegate  First Grade student,  Roscoe Riley, starts every book off in Time Out.  What kid can't relate to that?  I love how the story is structured.  All of the books in the series start at the end and then the story unravels.  As an added bonus for my readers, some of the chapters are only 1 page long!  Even children who are older than Roscoe can see the humor in his many predicaments.   Kids beg to read them all...Now that is a good book series. 

Shelly's Top 5...

1.  Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney:  I enjoy beginning the year with this book because it shows how Miss Rumphius followed her passion and made a difference.  Throughout the stages of her life, she was thinking about her three goals:  to travel, to live by the sea, and to make a difference. 

2.  The Scaredy Squirrel series by Melanie Watt:  this series is enjoyed by every age group alike.  Whether intermediate or primary, kids are inspired by Scaredy Squirrel to write their own adventures.  I use it as a mentor text for text features such as diagrams, maps, and speech bubbles.  Some of the craziest narratives from my students were inspired by Scaredy Squirrel.

3.  We all Sing with the Same Voice by J.Phillip Miller: our first grade friends at school always do a program and end with this song.  It's catchy, the message hits home, and I find myself singing after I leave school.  We may look different, act different, but we all have a voice that needs to be heard.  I bought this book at the beginning of the summer, and can't wait to use it as a mentor text for celebrating diversity.

4.  Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller.  Another book for building community and classroom attitudes.

5.  Hope is an Open Heart by Lauren Thompson:  Other blogger friends wrote reviews on this book, so I ordered it.  I enjoyed the brilliant photos and inspiring messages.  But then, I was reading another professional book where it talked about having your students write out their hopes and dreams.  This book will become my mentor text for this project at the beginning, middle, and end of the year Hopes and Dreams lessons.

Lisa's top 5 took a broader spectrum than mine.  I'm deep into building my classroom community mode now, so my picks are about the beginning of school.  Thanks, Mandy and Cathy to not only hosting, but pushing us to think about our favorite picture books.  Check out the event at their two blogs!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Look what I found...

Earlier, I wrote about painting stones for my Morning and Closing meetings.  I found some stones by the railroad tracks, took them to school one evening, and painted them.  I got out  bright and soothing acrylic paints, and enjoyed my time thinking.  The stones looked okay, would serve the purpose, but I wasn't overly excited.

Today I ran into a fun, eclectic store in downtown Powell called Shyne Inc.  It's a jewelry and accessories store, and my neighbor had raved about it.  I looked around and saw some potential for later purchases and gifts, when hidden on a shelf were rocks EXACTLY like I wanted.  I thoughtfully chose these four because the words pack a powerful punch for sharing.  I LOVE these!!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Expect, Don't Accept

 Most, if not all teachers, are beginning to get in "game mode".  We are thinking, planning, and mentally gearing up for that new group of young minds who will step through our threshold that first day of school.  Over the summer, I began reading family blogs of special needs children.  They were inspiring!  They celebrated what their child can do daily, and concentrated less on what they can't.  It didn't matter to them.  As with all my late night navigating on the internet, I navigated over to a site written by a special ed teacher, Beth, through the eyes of a parent, Hope for Elijah.   One post hit home with me as I'm getting my game face on...Expect, Don't Accept.   She writes with passion, with emotion, and with conviction that we, as teachers, need to see children as who they are.  Inspire and challenge children, and then you will see their potential.  I would also recommend reading the speech, Paul Daugherty wrote about his 19 year old daughter with Down Syndrome, "Expect, Don't Accept!"  It will get your school fires burning for sure!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

As the summer ends...

            I've been attending our district Leadership Academy these past few days, and was asked in one session to list an adjective that describes you at this moment...mine was PENSIVE.  I love the definition:  dreamily or wistfully thoughtful.  I can't remember when I first heard the word pensive, but relish the way it feels in my mouth when I say it and the way it sounds.  It describes my mood at the moment:  dreamily or wistfully thoughtful.  I'm pensive as I think about the summer we've enjoyed as a family, and the family that I will work to build in my classroom.  As I was reading other family blogs this evening, I decided to make a list of my summer accomplishments.  So here goes...

    1.  I learned how to BRAID.  My daughter has been wanting to have her hair braided for the longest time, so I made a deal with her that I would learn, but she would need to let me practice on her and be patient.  We got books from the library, and she practiced on her Barbies while I practiced on her.  So, now her hair can be braided in one or two braids.  French braiding is on the agenda for next summer!

    2.  I learned how to "Fabulatize" and "Fancify" our blogs.  Other blogs I visited had these adorable backgrounds, so I practiced and played to Fabulatize ours.  Sometimes I run into glitches, but I've learned how to problem-solve them.  I also have had fun matching fonts, colors, and gadgets.  I also learned how to embed youtube videos into blogs.

    3.  I took an online sign language class and learned about the history and pioneers of the deaf community.  I have figured out ways that I'm going to use some signs in the classroom to enhance my curriculum.

    4.  I created a family blog to celebrate the big and small moments of our family.  It's been a great tool for family members in other states and cities to catch up on our lives. It's been useful for my parents who only have learned to get on the internet, not use email or other networking tools available.  At least they've learned how to bookmark the site and read it!!

    5.  Facebook:  I created an account in January, but didn't do a lot with it because the site was too busy for me.  I wasn't able to navigate it properly.  This summer, I changed my profile picture, uploaded our beach photos from the photographer, and uploaded a video.  I'm working on it, but still feel like I'm lurking in one everyone's lives.

    6.  I used OneTrueMedia to create a photo montage, and upload it to facebook and blogs.  It"s what I call "Shellyproof" and simple.  I can see huge possibilities for me to use.

    7.  I read and have thought a lot of how I want to structure the first six weeks of school.  Our guidance counselor is going to a week of training by the Responsive Classroom to share with our staff.  I'm hopeful of good things to come.

    8.  I was able to disconnect from technology for 7 days and survived, so I know anything is possible!!! I've also cut way back on my caffeine...only 1 cup a day, not even Diet Coke.  I'm not certain the "new" me is as fun!!!

    9.  I learned some new tools to use with the Smartboard software.  I want to up my game and use it well in the upcoming year.

   10. I learned to create a sense of gratitude within myself.  I'm surrounded by a healthy, wonderful family.  My children are thriving, happy, and embrace life daily.  I am thankful for the past two months, where I could sit by the pool and watch my children celebrate new tricks they have worked on.   My husband makes me laugh and is always willing to listen to my "ideas"!!!  He processes and is honest about  his thoughts.  He takes my children on their back to school campout weekend by himself, so I can have a weekend of pampering!!  My parents and I are very close and I can call them on a moments notice to vent, celebrate, and cry if need be.  I am blessed with two dear friends who knew I needed the summer to renew and refresh, and gave me space to do just that.  They knew I would get back to where I needed to be, but needed to do it on my own terms.  Thank you!   I've seen random acts of kindness happen to my children this summer, and celebrated them.  I am choosing to live a life of gratitude, hopefulness, and love.

So I'm pensive...wistfully filled with an air of gratitude, celebration, and anticipation.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Power of the Sharpie

Every July/August, I LOVE shopping school supplies!!!   There is something about the new box of sharpened pencils, the smell of a fresh box of Crayola crayons, with crisp points that have never been used.  There's the choice of decorative journals and spiral notebooks, fun folders, and now my favorite...the SHARPIE.  There is nothing like opening up a new package of sharpies.  I LOVE the ultra fine points for writing, the fine points for outlining, and all the vibrant colors.  In my classroom, I have stainless steel buckets filled with multi-colored and multi-tipped sharpies for my treasures to use.  Looking at them, its a bouquet of sharpies brightening any desk, any shelf, any project, and any work of art.  Sharpies make everything POP, and  have a definite purpose when used correctly.

    One of my first mini-lessons (besides making sure caps are on tightly:) when using Sharpies is to place scrap paper underneath because Sharpies can bleed through and leave marks.   Sharpiesare meant to be permanent and cannot wash away.  When I'm not careful I've been known to have Sharpie marks on my hands for days, or worse it leaves marks on the furniture.  Our words are like Sharpies.  Words can be teasing, hurtful, unkind, and with sarcasm that leave marks like black scribbles deep inside us.  Words that build up, words that are kind, words that show us we are special...these are like the beautiful masterpieces that colorful Sharpies make.  They are permanent, but we want to share with everyone.  Our words change those around us and are like Sharpies.  What color will your words leave?

I've been reading The First Six Weeks of School and The Morning Meeting Book from the Responsive Classroom this summer and will be working on slowing myself down, slowing my treasures down, and creating a safe, warm atmosphere in my classroom.  The whole premise is to begin with predictable structures and to teach everything, routine and structures beginning on Day One.  How to use a pencil, how to use sharpies, how to line up, walk in the halls, EVERYTHING!!  I do many of these things, but am prone to rush into curriculum too fast!   I found the Sharpie analogy on another "mom" blog I've been reading, and will use it to begin having discussions about the power of our words, and to think about the marks my own words leave on my students.

I'm also in the process of painting two sharing rocks for our Morning and Closing Meeting.  The morning rock will be brilliant, with bright colors to depict the endless possibilities that we will begin to learn and share throughout the day.  Each child will hold the rock,share something, and pass it around the circle  before we begin the day.  The Closing Rock will be colored in soothing colors like blues and purples because  I've  never mastered the end of the day, and it's always chaotic and CRAZY!  By having a closing meeting (with a "soothing" rock), each child will go around the circle and share something they are proud of for that day.  I'm excited to try a Closing Meeting and see how it works, and I will definitely be using the Sharpie analogy!  What are some ideas you are going to try this year to build your community?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thoughtful Thursday

"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and proclaiming, 
'Wow, what a ride!!!'"

Monday, July 12, 2010

Changed Lives

Last year at this time I was volunteering at my church's Vacation Bible School, and wrote about a friend J, who needed teachers to recognize his special gifts.  Because my friend Debbie and I stopped to see how J was unique, he had a fantastic week.  I realized then that by serving and giving of my time, I made a difference in that one child.  It was my way of paying it forward.

It's that time of year again, and I had another one of those "special moments!"this morning at VBS.  A young man, much taller than I (who isn't?!) was picking up his sister, when he smiled and said Hi.  Smiling back, I heard him say to his sister, "Is that Mrs. Archer?"  So, I stopped and said, Yes!  I recognized him, but his name was on the tip of my tongue, but couldn't find it.  My first year in Dublin, I had this young man in my class and now he is in college, running track, and made the Nationals this year.  Amazing, on two levels:  1) He still recognizes me or I haven't changed since then! 2) He has come full circle and taken advantage of all life has and is making a difference in the athletic field.  His twin brother, from another class then, is playing football at another university.

What a great moment when he hugged me, introduced me to his sister, and shared with me his life celebrations.   Teachers, we are changing lives! We may not see the fruits of our labor immediately, but we are changing lives every day.  Remember that during those frustrating, overwhelming moments in September and recognize we are making a difference.
To Whom Much is Given, Much is Expected.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I Learned Something New!

Summers are all about family!!   I began reading blogs of families who have made a difference and are celebrating small and big moments in their lives. One mother used One True Media to create a montage that left me teary-eyed each time I watched it. I wanted to try it myself, yet the downloading pictures and cameras are challenging for me. (Perhaps it's the way my engineer husband set up the picture files and process! Not blaming, I'm just saying:)!!) So, I haven't been sleeping, not because of caffeine(I've cut WAY back!), just cannot quiet my mind and I find myself working on the computer at all hours of the night. I began working on this a couple nights ago, had too many pages open, and closed out without uploading all the pics. That's multi-tasking for you and frustrating to say the least. Tonight, I was able to upload them, find music that I love, edited and sequenced them, and finally learned how to embed it into a blog. I'm excited about the possibilities and so proud of myself>

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thoughtful Thursday

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
I saw this quote, and then played around with the formation.  While the message is strong and purposeful above, look at what happens when I add line breaks...

Finish each day and be done with it. 
You have done what you could. 
Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; 
Forget them as soon as you can. 
Tomorrow is a new day; 
Begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Powerful...something to think about...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Technically Speaking...

I am on vacation, technically speaking. As a teacher, I feel so blessed to have the summer to relax and refuel. Since school has been out, I have thought, planned and toyed with ideas for the upcoming school year, but not seriously because...I am on vacation!

Tonight, however, I met at a colleague's house with some really smart teachers to talk about how to use technology in our classrooms. I was able to play with an Ipad and a Kindle. I learned more about Flickr, Imovie, and Twitter. I even visited some kid created blogs. Two smart teachers in our group each have really smart, tech-savvy kids who created cool blogs about things they care about. We talked about our summer professional development opportunities and planned for upcoming events. I learned a lot and I had fun with my "tribe" even though...I really am on vacation!

Sunday, July 4, 2010


After complete relaxation on a beach vacation, minus internet, blackberry, and phone connections...more on that later:(, I've found I cannot sleep once I'm home and have access to the outside world!!! It's 2am and I've been keeping up with some family blogs and saw how darn cute their layouts were.  So...I explored and found a wonderfully easy site if you want to change up the layout of your blog.(I like these better than the new improved blogger changes!)

 The Cutest Blog on the Block offers so many options for changing the layout of your blog, adding banners, buttons, and these blinkee things (check out below:)... all for the low,low cost of FREE.  You can even change your Facebook or Twitter background if you want.   There's more I want to try at a later time, but I'm liking the changes I've made.  Hopefully, Lisa does too when she checks out our blog!!!  Happy Creating!!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Latest Project

The end of May, I was trying to find a summer project.  I always need a challenge and embrace learning something new. (I'm definitely not one to sit idle for the summer!!)  I went online to look at Ashland's summer courses, knowing the class would need to be independent, a weekend, or online.  My goal was not to take too much time away from my family, yet satisfy my constant desire to learn something new.  Ashland had an online, self-paced class for sign language, which I decided was for me. 

Becoming more proficient in sign language has been on my "bucket list" for sometime.  When my children were little, I taught them basic signs, plus we bought the Signing Time videos to view and learn.  By watching these 30 minute videos off and on, my children began using some signs in their day-to-day happenings. 

Talking With Your Hands and Listening with Your Eyes is a must have for anyone learning sign language and wanting to incorporate signing in their classroom.  It was the required text, but when it came in the mail, my son recognized it from his own classroom at school.  It's a complete photographic guide to learning the language.  The chapters are organized by usage, and not alphabetical.  For example:   conversing; pronouns, people, and relationships; actions, home & clothing, etc... Even chapters on school, geography, math, communities, and science.

I want to incorporate signing in my morning and closing meetings, learning new content vocabulary, and non-verbal community signals.  Seeing, hearing, and moving to new concepts and words can help students understand better, so I'm hoping this may be one strategy to help my students.  As I work on my new vocabulary this summer, why this summer did I choose to learn the language?   Is there a child who I may reach by using this skill?  Is this a tool that I can make a difference in the life of just one?  Will someone come into my life who I may reach?  I can't answer these questions.  All I know is I've been given this time to learn the language.

The purpose of life is not to be happy - but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all.  ~Leo Rosten

Saturday, June 19, 2010

How Full Is Your Bucket?

Attending Meet The Teacher and Curriculum Nights as a parent last year, I noticed every teacher had these books displayed at the school my children attend.  The premise is that everyone carries an invisible bucket around and when random acts of kindness happen "buckets" are filled.  A bucket dipper is someone who tears down another person and so they are "dipping" in a bucket.  This Bucket-Fillers initiative was bought in by everyone on their staff, from the top down.  The teachers, parapros, cafeteria workers, custodians, and most of all the administration emphasized being bucket fillers daily.  Throughout the year, the conversations were constant, even with fourth and fifth graders.  What I noticed was a community that worked together making a difference.

At home, my children began talking about bucket fillers.  It became talking points at dinner about how they filled someone's bucket at school.  Filling a bucket can be small and not noticeable, but you are looking out for someone.  As a family, our conversations  about making a difference have meshed with the Bucket Filler philosophy.  The other day, we rode to the school park and took grocery bags to spend time picking up trash.  As they noticed how much trash there was, Austin said, "Mama, we are filling Wyandot Run's bucket by picking up trash!"  He got it!

Thinking about the beginning of the year, I'm going to use this idea for my classroom, as part of my building a learning community work in September.  Filling up buckets with kindness, small or big,  

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Puppy Place and the Pool

Our first official day of summer began yesterday amidst torrential rains in Central Ohio, so we trekked to the Northwest Library (my fav!) for some summer reads.  Addyson and her friend were searching for the Puppy Place series.  The series centers around foster dogs that make their way into various homes for training and the struggles that arise.  After searching the database, Austin found the few remaining on the shelf.  We walked out the door with 9 Puppy Place books!

Today, we ran some errands and headed to the pool.  Both kids threw books in their pool bags and were so excited to read them.  Their friends caught on to their enthusiasm and read along with them before and during the breaks.  Amazing what transpires when a series captures their interests. 
Our family motto:
Readers are Leaders!

Monday, June 7, 2010

And Here's To You!

Over the holiday weekend, my family traveled to our hometown where we stopped in Ollie's Bargain Outlet.  It has the biggest children's selection of books in the entire town.  Sometimes it can be hit or miss, but I hit jackpot that weekend.  And Here's To You! by David Elliot

I love this book because it celebrates the uniqueness of all creatures in a catchy verse form.  As I read it aloud tonight, I found myself speaking in an announcer's voice:  "Here's to the frogs! The Singing People! Frogs!  Oh, I loooooove the frogs!" After every creature's uniqueness, the voice would repeat that same phrase. David Elliot and Randy Cecil did an nice job of combining verse with brilliant illustrations.  I didn't think Austin was listening until before baths he said, "And Here's To Austin" in the same voice I read!

As I'm thinking about building my community next year, and tapping into their uniqueness, I can imagine my class creating their own "And Here's To You!" poem about themselves.  Each one writing a page, perhaps using keynote to create a class digital book.  Oh, I looooove picture books!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sights of Summer

My children anxiously await the first backyard camp-out of the summer.  They have the camping genes from their father's side, not mine!  Last weekend, Andy decided Sunday night would be the "Welcome Summer" camp-out.  He put up the tent and built a fire, while the kids brought out their sleeping bags, pillows, and a plethora of stuffed animals. 

After the smores, Austin popped up from his chair and ran inside.  "I'm going to get 'The House That Jack Built' to read," he yelled as he flew past me.  A minute later, he sat in his chair, by the fire, and proceeded to read aloud his book.  He made sure to show us the pictures as his precious teachers have modeled for him all year.  Addyson followed suit by finding her newly acquired Skippyjohn Jones book and read it for us.  Only for her, darkness quickly came and she finished reading aloud by flashlight.

My heart was filled with joy as reading is not mom, dad, or teacher initiated.  It's part of who they are.  They are living literate lives!  Thanks to all the teachers and mentors who have touched my children this year.  You have changed their lives and are better for having you as their mentor!!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Last Day

As I'm sitting in my library typing this post, remnants of the last week of school are apparent.  In one corner are baskets of picture books that I want to organize into mentor texts for the beginning of the year.  Books on friendship, manners, diversity: but mostly about building a community.  In another corner are gifts from students, newly purchased professional books, and my books bags from school dropped from the moment I came in.  In the middle are my kids' art work, summer reading programs, and brain games they were excited to look at when they got home.  My kitchen is messy, laundry is clean/not folded, and my family has dispersed to their own "getting ready for the weekend" activities.  Authentic evidence of how crazy the last week can be!

Our last day tradition at school is the 5th Grade Clap-In.  The entire student body lines the halls clapping, as the fifth graders walk through one last time.  For the adults, it can be emotional when you see that special student whom you made a difference walk through.  Today, I was already teary due to a retirement breakfast speech, so the tears flowed freely.  As one particular class walked by, six students broke rank and came over to hug me, boys and girls.  (At this point, I was flowing like a faucet!!)  What a special moment that was!  I guess it's never too cool to hug a teacher.

Later, a family I had 4 years ago was out in the hall with their two toddler daughters.  An amazing family that recently adopted a toddler from the Ukraine and what a beautiful family they have.  The mother has been blogging about her adoption process and bringing awareness to children with special needs.  As I read it tonight, one common theme was prevalent in her writing:  treat each day as a gift and live a life filled with love.  I'm attaching the link to Loving Alina and Bridget's Light. Bridget and Alina's  mother writes with love, with gratitude, and with appreciation for her children.  Check it out.  It's amazing story!!  

So, now that the last student has left the building, the desks are piled on top of each other, my books have been used, I think the gift I gave my students was a classroom environment filled with possibilities!

As you begin to renew yourself this summer, live each day with love and gratitude for the gifts around you.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The End of the Year

Well, it is the end-of-the-school year! With a high pitched almost tangible frenzy in the air at school, I am feeling excited about summer, proud of my students accomplishments and yet I am feeling a little melancholy as well. The older I get, the more I realize that change is hard. The end of every school year brings changes to my little world. Our school will have teachers moving to different grade levels, students shuffled into different classes, and I will have a new batch of promising readers in August...a fine mix of "newbies" and "veterans."

As I have been administering the required end-of-the-year reading assessments, I have been able to reflect about what went well this year and what I would like to improve on next year. Here is my progress report: This year I think I did a really good job of nurturing a love for reading with my students. We laughed, cried and discussed lots and lots of great books. That is good...Grade=A. On the other hand, breaking words into syllables to decode continues to be tricky for my students...Grade= C+. I diligently collected photos and video clips of my students and I will give them a digital portfolio of their reading development along with their writing journals as a gift...Grade= A. I could go on and on, but certainly I did a good job in a lot of areas and of course there is room for improvement in others.

It is hard evaluating yourself honestly, but I know it is one of the most important tools that teachers can use to promote personal growth as professionals. I would love to hear about your personal successes and perhaps areas that you could improve upon as a teacher. After all, change is hard but oh so important!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Web 2.0 Tools

After my son's birthday party (wild!!!), I needed some quiet downtime, so I began "playing" online.  Life has been funny these last few months because I've had little time to allow myself to "play" and find something new.  I've struggled to write and struggled to find some sense of calm, but tis the end-of-the year season and that's the way it is.

My friend, Tony at Learn me Sumthin', is always inspiring me to do more.  Whether he knows it or not, I come away from district meetings wanting to challenge myself after talking to him.  Tonight, I typed Web 2.0 tools into google and came up with this hub called Go2Web20 .  It's an index of many Web 2.0 tools and categorized for easy finding.  While I haven't tried to see if it's blocked at school, I'm wondering what all could take place if our students knew of this Web Hub of applications.  There's kid video sites, survey sites, art sites, educational game sites, collaboration tools, and more.  What if purposeful assignments took place on a Web 2.0 tool?  What if students' could not wait until they could get online to continue their learning?  What if....?  So many avenues to explore.  I'm going to be thinking about what I can do with this site and see how to use it purposefully.

IWEB: Electronic Portfolios

As the year is winding down, I've been reflecting on my purpose for having my students create Iweb portfolios.  Originally, our tech specialist asked my class to experiment on this application and see what all it could do.  So, we focused second trimester creating, adding, experimenting, and sharing ideas together.

When my colleagues and I had a brainstorming session, a big disadvantage was that students could not work on these at home because it was solely intranet.  If we truly want students to internalize and apply classroom learning, bridging that home/school connection is a must.  That's why so many Web 2.0 tools are becoming ever popular with students to explore.  It matters not what platform you use, PC or MAC, one only needs access to the internet.

Now my scope has changed.  The IWEB has become a centralized place to house their learning.  Whether working on Pages, ComicLife, Kidspiration, or more, my students transfer their finished products to their Iweb pages.  They have even imported quick movies to document their reflections and to keep book lists of all they read.    My student, N, is learning how to import Garageband into Iweb.  It's an application I'm playing with and want my students to try this year.  The latest step was to connect our pages together and create a more website look.  The last week of school, parents will be coming in to see what all they have done and we'll burn everything to a cd.    As I think about next year, my goal is to begin early enough and keep adding all throughout the year.  

My passion has always been primary students and their learning.   The possibilities with this application are endless.  If first and second graders created their portfolio with a couple pages, continue on throughout their elementary career, think about the growth we would see when they left as fifth graders!!  As a fourth grader, they could look at something they created in first or second grade.  It may spark ideas for other projects or new ideas.  But, what an authentic Mentor Text. This is also a wonderful tool for parent/teacher conferences.  I showed each students' portfolio on the smartboard to parents and they enjoyed seeing a visual snapshot into their child's learning.

Thinking about my Big Ideas for learning next year,  the IWEB is going to be a place to begin learning together, and a continuum of learning throughout the year.

Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.  ~Chinese Proverb

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

National Poem in Your Pocket Day-April 29th

Tomorrow...National Poem in Your Pocket Day.   Our school literacy committee has been promoting this day.  We created a "pocket" template for each student to write or copy their favorite poem on and keep it in their pocket all day.  It's something to bring an awareness to poetry (National Poetry Month), an awareness to poetry analogies and books, and an awareness to literacy.

Fifth graders took flip cams around the school and shot clips of students and teachers reading their poems.  They've been sharing them on the morning announcements live video feed all week.  Primary and intermediate buddies got together to work on their poems for the day.  At the end of the day on Friday, we're having a Poem In Your Pocket Pop!  A time where the whole school is focused on reading and sharing poetry.   I'm excited to see so much enthusiasm for something so little, so small, but can reap great rewards.

I've been thinking about what poem will be in my pocket and I chose bubble wrap because I LOVE popping it.  We are forever receiving packages at our home because of my husband's work and my favorite thing is to lay the bubble wrap on the kitchen floor and dance on it.  My children enjoy hearing the popping sound and join in.  A little elementary, I know, but it makes me sooooooo happy.  I laugh. I smile.  I live in the moment.

Bubble Wrap, Bubble Wrap
Bubble wrap, bubble wrap,
pop, pop, pop.
Wrapped around my bottom.
Wrapped around my top.

I'm double-wrapped in bubble wrap
It's covering my clothes.
It's wrapped around my fingers.
It's wrapped around my toes.

I've wrapped myself in bubble wrap
exactly as I'd planned.
But now I'm tied so tightly,
I can barely even stand.

I'm having trouble walking.
I can hardly even hop.
I guess I'll have to roll today.
Pop, pop, pop.
Have a great Poem in Your Pocket day tomorrow!!! 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The 2 P's

Passion and Perseverance have been coming up in the world around me.  Whether I am listening to talks or reading, these two powerful words are present everywhere. 

Perseverance is a team sport that requires the giving, as well as, the receiving of encouragement.  Since Spring Break,  every message, lesson, and concept seems to be clicking with my treasures.  The understanding of math concepts begun in December is clicking.  Utilizing classroom resources for their inquiry writing is becoming ingrained and thinking about their next read is a constant.  My treasures have persevered because of daily encouragement from myself,  their peers, and their family.  They keep on keeping on because they know someone will be there to encourage them throughout their endeavors.  Springtime is when all our hard work is blossoming from the long, hard winter and we reap the rewards from our encouragement.

Passion:  using your natural talent to drive your personal passion.  Last year, I fell in love with The ELEMENT by Sir Ken Robinson.  His entire message centers on passionate living and finding our path.  If we are passionate about what we do, getting up in the morning isn't a chore; it's our destiny.  For me, I need to reread his book.  Not because I'm not passionate about my teaching.  Teaching is my passion.  Teaching is my destiny.  Teaching is my love.  But, because I need to keep on keeping on to renew that passion for my love of learning.

Passion and Perseverance:  together they can change everything!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring Break

Late into the night, I was finishing the last touches of my packing when I looked out the window.  Imagine my surprise...2 inches of snow blanketing the ground.   I'm looking forward to seeing the sun continuously and reading.  Nothing big.  Nothing fancy.  Just me, my family, and my books.  To all on spring break, Rest, Renew, and READ!!!  Carpe Diem!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ken Robinson on standardized testing

Ken Robinson on standardized testing

Posted using ShareThis

Learning is not a Race!

For those of us who blog and many who do not, teaching is a Passion.  Learning is not a race, but a journey.  It's not a line segment, but a line that continues on infinitely.  We are always moving further on the continuum to help our treasures become stronger readers and writers, powerful mathematicians, and problem-solvers.  And yet, those who do not teach and have never been in a classroom, write education policy and tests.  They use words like value-added, achievement, standardized,  Race to The Top, and common assessments, all the while throwing in 21st Century Learning ideas and thoughts.  How can you measure problem-solving?  How can you show all the growth of a child in one 2 1/2 hour test?

Imagine G: she is very creative and is not afraid to share what she is thinking.  While it does not always come out positively, I know she is constantly thinking.  In January she told me, "Mrs. Archer, for some reason I don't like the words Mentor Text.  I don't like the way it sounds or feels when I say it."  Last week, she shared with me that she was using another student's quilt square as a mentor text for her own.  She has internalized what a mentor text is.

L:  There is a reading pattern from previous years:  cannot choose books or stay engaged.  As of last week, he had read 22 books and can read for longer periods of time.

N:  He is now taking ownership of his work and is striving to complete quality projects.

C:  One of my promising mathematicians:  she has recently shown a lot of growth and feels math is not a 4-letter word.

Each student spent 12 weeks creating an electronic portfolio of their writing, reading, and reflections of math and content areas.

How do you measure these celebrations with a multiple choice, short answer, and extended response test?  One answer:  you cannot.  Ann Marie Corgill quoted Albert Einstein yesterday on her blog:  Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.
She also has a great powerpoint by Marion Brady on this message.  Check it out!

So at 9:00am today, I will welcome my treasures in my room. I will close the doors and celebrate the learning that counts.  The learning that cannot be measured and the unique treasures in my room.   I will conference with my friends on their "How-To" projects.  I will talk about their reading choices.  More importantly, we will learn and celebrate our growth.  When I begin to feel boxed in because of common assessment tests, standardized tests, and achievement tests, I will step back and celebrate Learning That Counts. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Break Reading List

I LOVE planning for vacations.  Mostly, I LOVE planning what I'll be reading while I'm lounging in the Sun.  I always have some ideas, but need to check out Amazon reviews and bookstores.  The past two days I had Book Dates with each of my children.  We head out to the bookstores and library to get our vacation reading material.  For me, it's always a challenge packing.  I tend to go lighter on clothes and heavier on the books.  I can always do laundry!!  My only goal is to keep all luggage carryon!

My Son's  Reading List:
Curious George and the Pizza Party, Curious George Goes to the Chocolate Factory, a Cars book, a Nemo book, and Ranger Rick magazines.  We also have a travel journal to write in because I'm taking them out of school. (Our spring breaks did not match this year!)

My Daughter's  Reading List:
Fancy Nancy Poison Ivy Expert, Thumbelina, 2 Cam Jansen's mysteries, Highlights magazines, and a travel journal.

My Reading List:
The Lucky One:  Nicholas Sparks (a light read)
The Friday Night Knitting Club:  Kate Jacobs (strong women characters)
Magnolia Wednesdays:  Wendy Wax (a quick pick-up at the store)
Born to Run:  Christopher McDougall (inspiration to get back running)
Crazy for the Storm:  Norman Ollestad (saw the book at Starbucks)
Drive (heard about it through morning news shows and friends)

My husband chose to stay home this year.  He's tearing up carpet and putting down wood floors.  He most likely won't be reading much but the internet and instruction manuals.

What are you going to be reading next week?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sprouts of Spring

My winter hibernation is over!  (I read over 14 mystery/thrillers during my hibernation period!!!)  I must be a daylight savings girl because as soon as the time changed, so did my willingness to exercise.  I was at the gym 4 days this week.  For me, I need the SUN!  Not so much for heat, but for light.  When the gray, cold winter air hits, I come home from school, change into my comfy clothes, and take a nap.  But, Spring has Sprung. 

Saturday,  I woke up, had my daily fix of coffee, and went for my first pedicure since summer.  (I know it's truly spring, now.)  There's something about having pretty toes and shoes to showcase them in.  When I came home, my kids and I went outside.  Last summer, my daughter tried to ride a 2-wheeler, but continued to struggle.  She used different strategies, but her confidence was shot.  Finally, she gave up and used her scooter for everything.

So, we began practicing again.  A year older, and a year stronger.  Amazingly, she did it.  She was riding past with a sense of accomplishment.  We were able to go on a mile bike ride.  My goal is to be able to ride to the pool (1 1/2 miles) this summer.  I'll even be able to run alongside them now.  Yeah, Addy!

This afternoon, I went for my first 3 mile run.  There  is something about running outside, seeing the flowers come to life, and listening to the birds chirp.  I love Spring!  Carpe Diem!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cultural Self-Portraits

As I blogged earlier, we used our People in Societies standard as a branching off point to paint our self-portraits and discuss our heritage.   We glued them on 9x18 black construction paper, and then ran them through the laminator.   My thinking is to keep these up all year-long (provided the fire marshall okays it) and add their writing pieces to them.  The plastic bags are for their Author's Statement to reflect and share their inspiration.    Currently, the watering cans are reflections of how they have grown as a writer this year.  Growing Writers... imagine if these are used all throughout the year to showcase student work, what a powerful and authentic message for our Growing Writers.  Thanks, Ann Marie Corgill.

Intermediate Learning Mats

My friend, Cathy Mere and her teaching partner, Deb presented at the Dublin Literacy Conference on goal-setting with young learners.  I am always excited to hear primary teachers talk about ideas, and then I up the ante for my fourth graders.  After all, my friend Ann Marie Corgill says intermediate learners are just big primary learners.

Anyways, they shared these learning mats that each student utilizes for conferring and referencing during workshops.  One side has their reading and writing goal, along with an alphabet chart for placing words they're unsure of spelling.  Math "tools" were glued on the other side:  a hundreds chart, math goal, and more.  I simplified it for my intermediate friends and placed an area for math vocabulary and definitions.  Once laminated, they have become a daily reference for all my learners.  Just an idea...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Power of One: Part 2

Our discussions have led us to writing about what we could do to make a difference. After viewing the video, my treasures began focusing on what we have termed "power words."  Teamwork, Effort, Perseverance, Believe, Unstoppable, Unique, Can:  they each chose their power word and began webbing ideas.  As Lisa and I conferenced while they were writing, a pattern emerged.  While they understood the meaning of the word, they needed to work on specifics.  What can they do more than encourage with quotes?

Lisa, who is the ying to my yang, spoke on passion.  She shared that my treasure, G, has a passion for reading.  He reads at latchkey.  He's the last one to leave for related arts because he is so caught up in his book.  How could G use his passion to make a difference in his part of the world?  Another treasure, L, has a passion for sports.  He is one of my promising readers, but has read every book on sports and loved them.  What could L do to use his passion of sports to make a difference?  That gave my treasures some thoughts to think about over the weekend as we prepare for the video-making process.

In the midst of a project that I love, my mind whirls with possiblities.  During our discussion on power words, I thought of my new love for painting in the classroom.  How could I use this?  In thinking about a clip in the movie, Chrissa Stands Strong, my treasures are going to paint their power words to create a class quilt of making a difference.  I'm excited about the impact it could have on those around us.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Power of Using Mentor Texts

A couple of months ago, "Tigger" (my 9 yr. old promising reader) and I went to our favorite local book store, Cover to Cover. We treasure our visits. We have a routine we follow...We browse. We flip. We build a big pile of books that must be read right there and then. After we have had our fill, we purchase just one or two must have titles.

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas was a must have. My son and I giggled our way through the brightly colored, adorable tale about dust bunnies! We fell in love with all of the playful characters and their rhyming ways, but the blue dust bunny, Bob was our clear favorite. Bob doesn't always rhyme because he needs to alert the other dust bunnies of pending danger!

As a mom, I purchased this book because we both loved it! However, as a teacher, I bought it because I could see that the structure, visual layout, the story and the endearing characters would make for a wonderful mentor text for writers of all ages!

Recently I shared the book with two classes: fourth and first grades. Of course, both classes laughed out loud and begged for me to read it again and again, but the writing that came from it was powerful! The fourth graders extended the story in creative ways and the first graders...Well, take a look at the photos and see for yourself.

Mentor texts are one of our most powerful tools in our "teaching toolbox." What are some of your favorite mentor texts, blog readers???

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Right To Read Week: Favorite Book Characters

Alvin Ho and 
Fancy Nancy

The Power of One!!

Make a Difference in Your Corner of the World:  the centralized theme my class has been focusing on through our read alouds.  It all began with the Freedom on the Menu book in early February, and has spread like a ripple in the ocean.  Youtube has some great videos on this message, and I've been converting them to share at school. This morning, I found the perfect song for my class.  The Power of One blends the message of historical figures who made change and the unsung heroes of today in a music video.
Enjoy the message and become THE POWER OF ONE in your little corner of the world!! 
You can make a difference!
(for those of you who've embedded the entire videos before, would you send me instructions!)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

To Paint or Not To Paint

I DID IT!!  I managed to have a full classroom painting at the same time and I never "wigged" out until the cleanup process.  Painting has always been the one medium I have feared in my teaching career.  While not rational, my thoughts would run rapid of all the "what ifs" when I would introduce paint.  I know learning is messy.  I understand kids need to do.  I recognize the need for artistic expression.  BUT, what if paint got on their clothes, the carpet, all over:  what would I do?!!!!

Referring to my favorite characters...Alvin Ho and Scarredy Squirrel...I devised a fool proof plan.

Mrs. Archer's Painting Preparation Process:

1.  Buy paint and brushes....check
2.  Secure painting area (a.k.a the cafeteria)...check
3.  Spend prep time sketching portraits and tracing with crayon...check
4.  Line tables with drop clothes...check
5.  Make a visual aid (chart) of clean-up jobs and the student responsible...check
6.  Pack multiple cleaning aids to the painting area...check
7. Bring a Diet Coke or Cup of Coffee for Mrs. Archer...I FORGOT!

As you can see, I was very detailed in my preparation.  My treasures painted with precision, waiting in line for their next colors.  Through their own schema, they began mixing paint to create the specific color they were seeking.  It was smooth! The portraits are amazing! (Will be sharing at a later post!)  Then, as with all projects, some began finishing at different times.  "What do I do now, Mrs. Archer?  Is it time for recess?  Are we going to recess?  Can I help do something?"  Aghhhhhh!  I forgot to plan some "what do I do when I'm done" stuff because we weren't in our classroom.  Then, it went crazy
( in my head) and my treasures were everywhere.  After much meandering, loitering, and dancing (yes,some of my treasures love to dance!)all the materials were cleaned up, spotless, and inspected.  It went well, and I'll do it again.
But, I will always remember: to take deep calming breaths (especially during cleanup),  bring a diet coke for me, and that could make all the difference!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Not Good Enough?

As part of the Daisy Troop Cookie Drive, my daughter, her friend A, and the mothers sold cookies at Old Navy today.  As all mothers do, we began chatting away on a variety of topics. (Both of our husbands travel extensively for work, so I've found another mom who identifies with me!!) Our conversation turned to school, and I soon became saddened by what she shared.

She volunteers as part of the school Kids Reads program, and mentors a young kindergarten child.  As her meetings progressed, she felt the child was reading okay and had a conversation with the teacher.  What transpired,  bothered and saddened this mom.  Because the school district has a high achieving clientele, the gap between those working on grade level and those above grade level is so great.  This kindergarten child was one at grade level and the teacher was using the mentor to help bridge that gap.  My heart cried for this young child.

This mom also shared that her daughter, A, is one of those students.  Her teacher is asking her to frontload A with material at home so that she can be ready when those concepts are introduced.  A is doing homework all the time.  I gave the mom my favorite educational website that A can do at home, which is more fun than paper/pencil worksheets.

All afternoon I've been marinating this notion that "on grade level" is not good enough.  What are we teaching our students at the young age of 6 or 7?  Where is the differentiation?  If a true workshop model was in place, wouldn't kids like A succeed along their own continuum?  Children need to be cherished and honored for the work they do.  When I think of all the great leaders of our time, were they told they were not good enough?

Global Community?

NCTE's 21st Century Framework is my GPS for moving my students into the 21st Century, but the component of sharing with a global community is one that my colleagues and I in our district are trying to achieve, while working within the confinds of our out-dated technology policy.  Most of our student work needs to be password-protected and not shared with the outside world.  I have even had a parent concern about placing work on our school's intranet, so for me this issue is one dear to my heart.

Listening to Tim Tyson at the Dublin Lit Conference, I was convicted that I need to find global avenues for my students to share.  His students work, if  the qualifications were met, was posted for a global audience.  The students internalized his message, and he found global avenues for them to share.  After a few days of marinating on the issue while sitting through hours of  painful national testing for fourth graders, I thought of some ideas:

1.  Jeni's Ice Cream came and spoke about it's business practices as a tip-off for economics.  We wrote thank you letters to the speakers when one of my treasures said, "Mrs. Archer, are they really going to read them?"  Ouch...everything we do must have an audience and purpose.  Yes, I copied their letter on colored paper and sent them the next day.  Future ideas:  taste-testing 4 flavors and writing reviews to send to Jeni's. (thanks, Ann Marie Corgill)  It may not be global, but the audience is in our small part of Columbus. 

2.  My brief  Freedom on the Menu  read aloud blossomed into a month-long study of those who made change.  A seed was planted and through other picture books, mostly fiction, we'll tackle how my treasures can make a difference, big or small in a little piece of  their world.  Through painting, videos, photography,and more, my treasures will be creating a class video on making change.  My thought is to burn dvd's and send them out, but I've got to tackle the parent/district paremeters first.  Any other ideas?
Change the World in 5 Minutes a Day At School gave me the inspiration! (Next on my learning continuum, learning how to embed youtube videos!)

Sharing with a global community is the one facet that is limiting my treasures.  Like Tony at Learn Me Sumthin' has posted, we need to move forward, even if our hand is slapped!  It's easier to ask forgiveness, than permisson!