Thursday, June 19, 2014

Why Teachers of Writing Should Be Writers (or Bloggers)

I wrote a post the other day that was a reflection of why I blog, after I almost quit.

Head on over and sneak a peak . . .

Reflection:  Why Should I Blog?

Let me know what you think!

Shari :-)

Monday, June 16, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I spend an abnormal amount of time reading on the weekends.  It's a priority.  Or a sickness.  I don't know.  Some may say to that I need to get a life, but, reading is a big part of my life.  So, there.

Mondays, I'm going to hook up with Book Journey's weekly meme to share a current book that is creating sparks in my thinking.  Skip on over there to share your own reading and also, to see what others are diving into.

It's hard to focus on just one book, however, Donalyn Miller's, Reading in the Wild, sequel to The Book Whisperer, is my top priority to digest and let marinate in my brain.  (If you have not read The Book Whisperer, read that first ~ it's a must-read.  The two go hand in hand.)

The coolest thing about Donalyn Miller is that she writes in such an authentic voice.  She's real.  

And, she is honest.  She begins this book admitting how she used to blame the upper-level teachers and schools when her former students lost their reading motivation.  After all, in The Book Whisperer, she claims that all, if not most, of her kids leave her room as passionate readers.  She felt that if only the teachers would give them class time to read, self-selection/choice in choosing their books and the teachers would also read and share their own passion of reading, the kids would read!  Obviously, teachers were not doing this is why kids quit reading, was her belief.

This is where reflection comes in and taking a good look at ourselves as educators. 

 Donalyn then realized that she herself was not creating "independent" readers.  When her kids left her room, Donalyn was not there to support, encourage, and find those perfect fit books for them.   She thought her kids could do this on their own - after all, they could while under her wing.  However, her kids had not internalized the life-long habits that they needed to remain readers WITHOUT this daily support.  Had Donalyn continued to believe that her kids' reading habits beyond her own classroom were not her fault, this book would never have came to be.

Donalyn shares ways to instill these life-long habits and make them stick.  She helps us understand how to:

*Get to the root of fake reading.
*Help readers find time for reading inside and outside of school.
*Become CONFIDENT in self-selecting reading material.
*Give readers time to talk about books in book communities.
*Develop reading plans.
*Discover reading preferences, authors and topics.

You think you already know this stuff.  You don't.  Donalyn branches off in helping us try out strategies beyond what we normally do. 

And then, shows us how to make it stick.

Why?  Why is this even important?  Why use our teaching time for this? 


"Children who love reading and see themselves as readers are the most successful in school and have the greatest opportunities in life."
"No matter what standards we implement or reading tests we administer, children who read the most will always outperform children who don't read much." 
Research supports this over and over.

"But, some kids just are not born readers," you say.  "You can't TEACH a kid to want to read."

Donalyn calls this a cop-out and that if we believe this in our heart and soul,  we are selling our students short.  This dismisses us, as teachers, as having responsibility for our creating readers that love to read. 

Ouch.  The truth hurts.

I'm half-way through the book.  I'm already scribbling notes all over the pages, stopping frequently to ponder, and writing in my own reader's notebook in how I might apply these new understandings, so this book will take some time.  I can't wait to dig deeper into Donalyn's thoughts and do some unlearning to make room for new learning.  I just love it when a book does that. 

Shari :-)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sunday Reading Round Up ~ June 8, 2014

Wow.  There is so much good reading out there online right now.  My biggest issue is finding time to dig in and really digest it all, figure out how to apply it in our work, and then to organize or save it to pull up at a later time when I need it.

I've decided to use two tools for archiving online reading to access at a later date: Evernote and Pinterest.  Pinterest will be my main tool as it's visual and I'm a visual person.

Another way for me to save these weekly readings is to round them up for a weekly blog post and tag them to seek them out later.  Not only is this good for me, but it's a way that I can share any mind shifting, thought provoking reading with others.  My hope is to start conversations, but even if that does not happen, at least some powerful words of others have seeped into the minds of teachers looking to always "do better".
"When you know better, you do better."  ~Maya Angelou

Here are some places I visited online this week that really got me thinking. . .

Max Brand, a kindergarten teacher, shares his stack of touchstone texts for his classroom.  He explains his process for choosing these 15 books at the Choice Literacy site.  I've been thinking a lot about touchstone texts, mentor texts, anchor texts a lot lately and how these are defined differently.  Also, I've been collecting a stack of my own touchstone texts to share with teachers next year.  I'll be writing about them this summer. :-)

In another article from Choice Literacy, Jennifer Schwanke, writes about how kindergarten teachers can foster a love of literacy.  She tells a beautiful story of a kindergartener who was retained and had TWO literacy loving teachers.  These kinds of stories make me so happy.

I love Nerdy Book Club, and Jami Spauling has shared her book reading tradition in her family once summer hits, along with 10 fabulous ways to encourage your family to read all summer.  I'm wishing my kids were little so I could pile them in the car and live reading with them like Jami does.  But, I'm working on my 19 year old son and packing a book in his duffle bag when he leaves for work on his summer job - lots of time spent driving to the work site each week.  If you can believe it, he's reading. I'm so sneaky.

Stenhouse always has some cutting edge blog posts by authors hot off the press.  Mark your calendars for their Blogstitute 2014 which starts on June 17th.

Are you reading Donalyn Miller's book Reading in the Wild this summer?  It NEEDS to be in your summer book stack and then, as you are reading, you can hop on over to Reflect and Refine:  Building a Learning Community to join in the discussion of your thoughts on this book.  It's a cyber PD!  I know I'll be talking about this read!  Go buy the book at Amazon and then mark your calendar for talk!  What could be better than reading and talking about reading!

Make sure you digest this important article from The New York Times with the research on the importance of handwriting, written by Maria Konnikova.  It's so important for us to know why we do what we do in the classroom.  If you want to spend more time on handwriting, here is good reason.

And here is a little food for thought about how much it matters that we know about the history of education, especially when making technology decisions for our students ~ Dangerously Irrevelent is one of the top blogs in education and he is not afraid to speak his mind (or truth - as long as there is research to support it).

Finally, summer is a time for us to reflect and really take a deep look at ourselves in how we can cultivate an open heart and presence in not only our teaching, but in our lives.

Hope you have a wonderful week!  And, don't forget to rest!!

Shari :-)