Friday, August 26, 2011

First 8 days of School Reflection

Here we are fellow educator friends. The new academic year 2011-2012 has begun. This new year brings many hopes. For me, this year bring hope that I will be able to turn every child that walks into my room a lifelong reader and writer. I hope that this year my students devour books with pleasure and not pressure. I hope that every child finds JOY in what he does, whether it is writing a note to a friend, reading that chapter book he's been waiting for, or simply find joy in coming to school day after day. It is my hope that my love for reading and writing is transparent and contagious to everyone that steps in Room 102-ESL.

This first 8 days of school has been amazing. They have already opened my eyes to some  big small moments that I need to pay close attention to. This is what I've noticed this week:

* When I asked my 3rd/4th grade class how many of them read over the summer 29 hands went up. (Yay! Bravo!) and two children didn't raise their hands at all ( Challenge #1. How am I going to turn M and L into reading this year?)

*The 3rd grade teacher shared with the that the highest score in our first writing diagnostic of the year, the ESL students scored the highest. Every single one of them. I raised writers. (THank you Lucy Calkins, Katie Wood Ray, Lisa Cleaveland, Ann Marie Corgill, I couldn't have done it without your powerful teaching/books).

*Children's interest in books ignite my passion for bringing more books into the classroom. Finding out what they're INTO in the world of books is a MUST in my journey.

*I heard this week for the first time in my years teaching at Beechwood a child that said to me, " I can't read." I'll carry his words in my heart all year long and I promised myself that it will be the last time he'll ever utter those words.

*While I confer with my writers this week, I was able to synthesize all my information from my conferences right there on the spot. This allowed me to do a powerful wrap-up session after sharing time.  A powerful wrap-up with a lead to next day's focus.

*Matching readers with books was THE MOST exciting thing to watch. Children "shopping" for the books they'll read in independent reading. I told me them it should be a balanced reading salad: a little bit of nonfiction, a little bit of picture books, with a big pinch of chapter books. They were ready to devour books after the intro.

* We have PebbleGo at school finally!!! I was happy to discover that a lot of my students have internet access at home. Can't wait to discover the possibilities there.

*I love watching 1st and 2nd graders totally into those reading phones and boy it helps keeping our voices down while reading. I discovered those 10 years ago and every year I'm thankful I was introduced to those by a talented teacher in Colorado.
*This very simple yet powerful workshop structure allows so much understanding from the children's point of view and flexibility from my end.

*The love for reading is contagious! One of my students went to the Columbus Metropolitan Library and checked out 7 books in a series she is very interested since our classroom didn't have copies of those books. She took charge and showed everyone that she is, in fact, responsible for her own reading life. Her enthusiasm made another students bring his favorite books from home so that he can access them here at school. May I just say around of applause for these young readers who are showing us they ARE ready to learn, to read volume this year, and to be in charge of their own reading life.

As Friday approaches, I will make sure I take some precious minutes to enjoy our accomplishments from this week and look ahead at another exciting week of learning and new hopes.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

An Ode to Summer of 2011

Summer of Growth
by Stella Villalba

This was the summer that I lived in New York City
for ten glorious days.
Living and breathing city lights and Broadway signs.
Columbia University was my destination after my morning coffee
Ipod in hand, books in the bag, a whole day of learning
ahead of me.

This was the summer that I became a teacher consultant
for the Columbus Area Writing Project.
A group of dedicated teachers bonded at Kenyon University
for a weekend retreat where the most beautiful and
inspirational writing bloomed along with writers-in residence
and actors preparing for their next big screen success.

This was the summer that I stayed cool by eating
tons of watermelon during the day.
While I was writing, while I was reading,
sitting on the front steps of my apartment,
watching people on their daily run.
Watermelon by my side was my key ingredient
to stay cool and refreshed.

This was the summer that I discovered more places
in Columbus than I’ve ever had.
Mozart Café, Milestone 229, Java Central, Dirty Franks,
and my favorite one of all times: Columbus Commons
where an ideal reading room was born.

This was the summer that Cycle 20 Project Diversity from
United Way made their marks in this city leaving our footprints
behind at the Parson’s store where hundred of families
seeked for help and support to start the new school year.

This was the summer that one book club was born,
a group of women challenged each other to Think about
issues that matters, topics that rise the bar
and questions that are so controversial and unspoken.
We discovered our differences but also got united by
things that move us the most, revealing more than
we ever will.

This was the summer that I met Maria Guzman and became her
mentor. I considered this more MY blessing than hers.
I can only hope she can learn a thing or two from me,
but in reality she has been teaching ME more.
She is the living example of faith and perseverance.
of hard work and success.

This was the summer that I witnessed three of my friends
getting married, each of them promising  a life together
in healthness and in sick with the person that stole their hearts.
Their promising eyes and their unconditional love
were transparent for a whole audience to feel it and join them
in the prayer for this love to always be strong.

This was the summer I saw a Frida Khalo's original painting at MOMA in NYC.
Frida's life was a painful one but her love for the arts, for all things beautiful overcame the pain she learned to live with. 

This was the summer I read over 100 books…
some picture books, some adult novels, and young adult as well.
Poetry never misses from my pile and discovered some
great graphic novels that I will take to my classroom.

This was the summer I watch my friends’ life
making some positive changes in preparation of
the lives that will join them in the fall.
Preparing their soul for a lifetime of giving and caring,
what a joy is to watch your friends turn themselves
into the mothers they are meant to be.

This was the summer my desk moved to my living room
creating a perfect writing space for my daily mornings
in company with coffee and books.
My blue desk symbolizes the writer I’m becoming
yet it also represents the long journey ahead.

This was the summer I celebrated 10 years in the USA.
Ten years of grow…
ten years of life time friendships
ten years of moving, packing, going, arriving.
Ten years of discovering an inner strength
I didn’t know it existed in me.

Thank you Summer of 2011.
You were so much more than I expected.
You didn’t disappoint. and I made it to the end.

Monday, August 8, 2011

New Early Readers for the New Year!

As the new school year approaches, I get ready to talk a lot of new books I've discovered this summer right into my classroom. Maybe that's one of my favorite things about summer, besides the obvious which is pool and plenty of watermelon, is to have the time to read. I try to be as intentional as I can about the reading I do during the summer. Sometimes, I just go to the library and let the unexpectedness of it all to lead the way. Other times, I'm very intentional about the authors I want to discover, or a specific genre I would like to explore more.
On my last trip to the library I wanted to keep my eyes open for new early readers. I love being able to match my dear young readers with the just right book. This of course means keeping my eyes open for new possibilities and stretching my horizons when it comes about books.

Here are my latest finds on early readers on my last trip to the library:
:Kat's Maps (Trucktown Ready-to-Roll) Kat's Maps by Joh Scieszka. What a great Ready to Read Level One book series book! In this particular one, Kat loves to draw maps. She draws maps of her bedroom, of her block of her town and of her world! She loves maps so much that she gave Jack a surprise. A surprise that only Kat could give to her dear friend!

Trucks Line Up (Trucktown Ready-to-Roll) Also by Jon Scieszka, comes another great early reader. In Trucks Line Up, Jack Truck lines up all the great trucks as soon as he is ready to start the day. Everyone is in a beautiful line, but wait a minute, where is Pete? How can he forget about him? I'm sure my young readers, especially the boys will find this book so appealing! After  all, who doesn't love a great truck, right?

Mouse Loves School (Ready-to-Read. Pre-Level 1)Mouse Loves School by Lauren Thompson
A tiny little mouse gets inside a backpack only to find out the wonderful world of school filled with all the best things: colors, shapes, and mostly, friends! A perfect one for the beginning of the school year.

And now for all my dear Splat The Cat fans, here are some titles you may want to add to your library:
Splat the Cat: Good Night, Sleep Tight (I Can Read Book 1)Splat the Cat Good Night, Sleep Tight by Rob Scotton. A great short story involving three friends (well...sort of) and camping out.
Splat the Cat: Back to School, Splat! Splat the Cat: Back to School, Splat! by Rob Scotton. Oh so much to share about summer time with friends during Show and Tell! How can he only chose one? What will Splat discover about this homework? Read to find out!

Fancy Nancy and the Mean Girl (I Can Read Book 1)And last but not least, the special Fancy Nancy is out with a new book: Fancy Nancy and the Mean Girl. Jane O'Connor sure knows how to give us a special and lovable character like Fancy Nancy whose love for fancy words is bigger than her. This time, our young girl faces the problem of realizing she is not a good runner and thus wanting to avoid Field Day at all cost. I love how this early reader has a great message for our young readers who not only will learn more fancy words but also learn a valuable lesson.

My wish for you is that your summer was filled with adventures, fireflies, plenty of sun and plenty of watermelon too. But mostly, I hope it was filled with great books that you simply can't w-a-i-t  to share with your students!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Guest blog post!

Today please visit the amazing Two Writing Teachers blog. I'm honored to be a guest blogger today. My topic? One that is dear to my heart: Teaching Writing Through an Author Study. Hope you find it useful and remember to always enjoy the journey.