Thursday, July 31, 2014

Readers Can't Be Choosers {Or can they?} // And $25 to TpT!!??

Y'all, it's confession time.  Ever since I read {who-in-the-world-knows-where} that most newspapers are written at a 5th grade reading level, I have dreamed of starting each day with reading newspapers in the classroom; discussing current events, eying the map to locate countries that are mentioned, and completing Sudoku {just had to google that because I never know if it's Sudoku or Soduko?!} or the crossword puzzle as a class.  Students would be working on their reading skills, acquiring background knowledge, and getting caught up on what's happening in the world!  Sigh... heavenly, right?  Unfortunately, as hard as I've tried, I've yet to be able to make this happen.  But as I was reading the final chapter, chapter 5, of Reading in the Wild, I realized that while this incredible-I-so-wish dream of mine seems superb, some readers aren't drawn to reading newspapers, and really they could care less if I make one available to them every day.

You know the student- the one who always seems to find something to do that has NOTHING to do with reading??   These students aren't bored, or incapable of reading, they just haven't yet found the right book.  Three years ago I was teaching 4th grade and had Reed in my class.  Reed had been home schooled since pre-school and while his Mom had done a wonderful job, Reed disliked reading.  For a while Reed poked around in the classroom library, chatted with friends, and flipped through picture books.  We met, I recommended books, he pretended to read them, we'd chat, he'd make up details about the book, I'd recommend more, and this went on and on.  Eventually I started to get really concerned because he was already below grade level.  I knew that in order to grow, he needed to READ!  And Reed was doing anything but reed-ing {haha sorry I couldn't help myself :)}!  Finally, one day his buddy Chris recommended the first book in the Magic Tree House series.  It was the same book I had recommended over and over and over again.  But when Chris recommended it, Reed took it and read it.  And seriously never.stopped.reading after that.  He devoured the series and then moved on to bigger and better books, looking to Chris for guidance. 

Chris was Reed's mentor, his coach.  But guess who was Chris' coach...  ME!  Chris was, and still very much is, a Wild Reader who is comfortable trying new books and willing to push himself as a reader.  But as teachers, our wild readers look to us for new books.  And these Wild Readers aren't satisfied with the book their neighbor is reading.  What I learned from Reed and Chris that year is that book conversation is a MUST.  And not just, "What are you reading Chris?"  But more in depth.  "What's your favorite quote?"  "Why do you like it?"  As elementary readers, students need to learn how to have these conversations.  And we have to have the conversation with them before they can have them with other students.  By chatting with Chris about his reading, he felt comfortable talking and recommending a book to Reed.  Chris will never know how he impacted Reed's life, but Reed is now a wild reader who cannot consume enough sport books or historical fiction books to satisfy his need to read!

Holding conversations can be tricky- especially with those students who are quiet anyways.  To support teachers, I have included a quick list of Questions to Ask Readers.  These questions are great conversation starters and can help even the most finicky reader open up!  So can Readers be choosers?  Yes.  Absolutely they can!  But they must choose something and they must always always always be willing to try!

Because it's that time of year and to celebrate the end :( of this great book club, I am hosting a giveaway!  You can win $25 to TpT!  Just enter below!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to stop back by tomorrow for a heart warming story about another sweet teacher out there in our blogisphere!  Thanks!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Staying Motivated To Be a Reader

As readers we often come across obstacles that cut down our reading motivation.  Crunched for time, poor recommendations, lack of books... all of these crush our motivation.  I know when I was recommended Gone Girl, I was extremely disappointed.  While it rushed to the top of every chart, I was just unable to connect and love it.  Readers face these challenges.  Sometimes we allow them to set us back and not move forward right away.  Other times they drive us as readers and push us forward in our stack of "to-be read" books.  When we move forward, even after a disappointing read, we know we are really readers; not afraid of a setback!

But is this behavior in our nature?  Or is it learned from our family, teachers, and friends?  Most likely, it's a nurtured behavior, right?  One shaped by years of being surrounded by parents who read, teachers who read, and friends who read.   In chapter 4 of Reading in the Wild, Donalyn Miller addresses the need of being a reader who plans.

Now, don't freak out.  This doesn't mean we have to be regimented readers with every book strictly planned out with a goal completion date.  But it does mean that as teachers we need to model and use a "to-be read" book list.  And it does mean that we need to think ahead sometimes.  Like before a vacation.  If you're going to the beach for a week, do you only pack one book?  If you're not going to be in your classroom all summer, do you leave all your books in your classroom?  Of course not!  As readers, we need to teach our students to plan ahead; to think about what's next. I've never thought about modeling this behavior.  Sure, I've let students borrow books for winter break, but have we ever reflected on this?  No ma'am.  Miller states that we need to be planning ahead, lending out books for long breaks {such as Winter break} and thinking through these book choices.  Is it a series?  Do we need not just one book, but two or three in the series?  What times will I be able to read?  Is there a car trip involved?  Can I read in the car {or do I get carsick}?  Writing about these plans in reader's notebooks also helps hold them accountable and makes them think about themselves as readers.

And Miller doesn't stop there!!  Upon returning from these extended breaks, Miller and her students reflect on their reading.  How much did they read?  What did they like?  What didn't they like?  By reflecting on these bits of reading time, students are able to process more of their reading life.  Doing these things help them learn about their book choices too, really supporting students as they learn to live the life of a reader. I really had an "ah-ha!" moment here.  Donalyn takes things we're all doing and shows us how to utilize them as teachable moments.  I know that this coming year I will really strive to model and discuss more of our reading lives with the goal of shaping readers who enjoy reading and understand themselves as readers.  How do you plan to do this? 

I don't know about you, but my "to-be read" book list hasn't gotten much shorter this Summer- but not because I haven't been reading!  Thanks to conferences, blogs, Instagram, and Facebook, my never ending list has continued to grow- keeping me busy and happy as a reader :)  How do you spend your reading time?  What's on your "to-be read" list?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Made It - Wooden Letters Remade!

Happy Monday Made It, friends!!  It's a rainy day and I'm all settled into our new city, Greenville, SC.

Tonight is the first meeting with my new 4th grade teaching team and I really wanted to bring something more than a bottle of wine and an app.  I racked my brain and finally decuded to try something I've been eyeing for a while- decorated wooden letters.  So I ran up to our nearest Michaels {the first of many trips I'm sure!} and grabbed these important materials {+ all the wooden letters I needed}.

  I'm looking forward to sharing these guys with my new team teachers and getting back into the groove of teaching!  What's the best teacher gift you've given or received?  Have a great week!

Monday, July 14, 2014

What I Learned in Vegas at the TpT Conference
Link up with A Burst of First the share your Vegas Story!
Oh my word!  It’s been three days since I left Vegas and my mind is still reeling!  I cannot believe what an amazing opportunity it was to be there, learning from the best.  In the true TpT spirit of sharing, I wanted to share some of my major take-aways. 

Even the best are still leaning

Sitting in Cara Carroll and Erica Bohrer’s session, I realized, they still have lots to learn too.  In the middle of the session, Cara learned a new way to make Product Previews that was way faster than the way she had been doing it.  Whaaat?  You don’t have it all figured out either?  TpT is "new" and we’re all learning the “best” ways to do things.  There’s still plenty of time to learn more.  I don’t know about y’all, but each time I make a new product, I learn something new.  I realize now, that will continue!

We’re all in this together

I couldn’t have gained over half of my knowledge at the conference if it wasn’t for talking to other TpT'ers.  I love how open and willing everyone is to share.  It also shows me that the conference doesn’t have to be the only time we share.  When I have questions, I can take them to the blogisphere.  We can work through them together.  This is a group effort and everyone supports it as such!

Loved loved loved meeting Catherine from The Brown Bag Teacher!!
There is not enough time and sessions

There was SOO much more I wanted to learn and see and explore.  I wish I could have gone to every single session and talked to everyone.  Just like I would love to spend more time working.  I can’t do it all and so reading about other people’s experiences, talking to other bloggers and TpT'ers, and doing my own professional development will have to be enough.  It’s okay to not do it all and to not know it all.
It was SO nice to catch up with Martina from Mrs. Cahill's Class

Sometimes, you’re doing it the best way, even if it feels like you’re not.

Some things I do, I feel like there has to be a better way.  And I realized at the conference, whatever works for you IS the best way.  Other TpT'ers and bloggers are creating in Powerpoint like me (or Publisher or Notes- please don’t ever try to create in Word!) and working through clip art issues and sizing issues and coloring issues just like I do.  It was a great affirmation that I’m doing what I need to be doing.  

We are all teacher nerds ;)

I won a free commercial font license, y’all!! From JEN JONES!  Oh my word… SO exciting!  No big deal or anything, but I woke up this morning to an e-mail from Mrs. Jen Jones.   

AH!  Now, my husband looked at me when I told him all this and said “wooooo” in the most sarcastic way possible.  But I can literally feel your excitement for me through the screen.  Being surrounded by people who share your enthusiasm and care for teaching and blogging and TpT like we do is just amazing.  I’ve never been in a school where all the teachers share that level of enthusiasm, and so the energy at the conference was just unreal to me.  Everywhere you looked, you could meet people ready to share their brilliant ideas and discuss what they’re doing.  Sigh.  Is it July 2015 yet??  

P.S.  My phone decided it wasn't going to take any more pictures during the conference but I know I have pictures with some amazing bloggers such as Molly from Lessons with Laughter.  If you happen to have any pics, please send them my way!!  Muchas gracias :) 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Summer Siesta

It's time for a nice little Summer Siesta.  I'm hanging up my hat and taking a two week break from all things teacher-y.  It'll be the first time in a while, and I'm looking forward to reading a lot, (teachery and non-teachery), body surfing, enjoying some wine, spending time with family and friends, cooking, and making a job out of applying sunscreen.  I am ecstatic to be going to Vegas next week for the SDE Conference of Differentiated Instruction AND the TPT Conference!!  I cannot wait to meet everyone.  Happy and safe travels to all who will be traveling! 

To see a little bit of our travels, be sure to follow me on Instagram! {@appleslicesteacher}

Muchas gracias!!