Monday, September 30, 2013

Magical Reads

I was excited to start and finish Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches this past week.  It is book number 1 in the All Souls Trilogy.  What do you hand students in 11th & 12th grade who loved the Twilight and Harry Potter series?  You might hand this book to them.  It is grown-up, but it delves into the world of witches, daemons, and vampires.  Not only is there room for magic, but science and history fill the pages as well.  Are you looking for a grown-up book that will help you escape the world of muggles?  This book might be the just-right  one for you.  It kept me from finishing my book club book and doing all the work I needed to finish, but the escape was worth it. I am disciplining myself before I start book #2.

Another vampire book that you might hand to upper grade readers might  be The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.  It was written for adults, but students who were nourished  by magical reads such as the Beautiful Creatures series and Ms. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children might enjoy leveling up.

I am rereading the Percy Jackson series with my daughter.  We are finishing The Sea of Monsters this week. It makes me happy that we have books that we can read together. She wants me to read aloud to her again. which she rejected in 2nd grade.  She is a fourth grader now.  Now that we are co-reading, we take turns. We even have her dad reading with us some nights.  I have a professional book, Using Data for Instructional Improvement,  to finish this week and am planning to start two memoirs this week, Carlos Eire's book, Waiting for Snow in Havana and Alexandra Fuller's Don't Let's Go to The Dog's Tonight. 

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Writing Dayz

Don't you think the cool thing about teaching is that we two New Year's, one in September and one in January, to work on celebrating and establishing new goals? Writing routinely is a goal for myself this school year, which includes posting a weekly Slice of Life. Last week I messed up!  I did get up at 3:30 am last Tuesday. I did start writing my post. I wrote a decent first draft. I like to proof.  I put it aside for later in the day. I should have posted it then. I should have known that later would not come. Waking up at 3:30 doesn't bode well for the rest of the day. I ended up trounced by the fever flash-flu and ended the day curled up in bed. Rather than writing when I got home, I made a decision that at that moment meant more, getting well. Sometimes in our life we will have to make choices, but failure to achieve your goal doesn't mean you didn't succeed. Instead I learned a lesson about how to better met my writing goal the next time that happens.

I focus on getting good at one thing each year Last year it was working out, the exercise habit. Sidelined by recovery from ACL surgery has granted me a little extra time since physical therapy doesn't take as long as working out.  Therefore I have time to work on establishing my writing habit.  When I am released in January from PT, I hope to have established a writing habit, but also know that I need mile-markers along the way to keep going.

Much like my exercise where I chose some runs to celebrate and set goals of time and length, I have established some short-term and long term goals for myself. With my students, I learned that setting small concrete writing goals by marking our lines per minute with fluency Friday actually helped most of them improve.  It made writing tangible for them. Participating weekly in the Slice of Life is a tangible goal for me versus writing an article to get published, a goal, however, that looms long-term.  If I can't discipline myself to write once a week and work a little each day at writing, then I won't reach my long-term goal. I've made it through two Slice of Life monthly challenges in March so I will continue working on being a weekly contributor year-round. Happy Slicing!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Service Learning

It takes a village to raise a child.  As often as we talk about the hours that teachers spend, but volunteers are also an integral component of healthly functioning of a school.  I wanted to celebrate the work of my student volunteers. Schools thrive on the volunteer work of students, especially at high school whether they are delivering schedules or shelving books.  My service learning students, however, provide a unique service at my school. Rather than take a class for no-credit or working in the office as clerical staff, they have elected to tutor reading and math students, working side by side with teachers in their classroom during the day. This past year was the fifth year that I have managed these students as an opportunity for them to earn credit and back to their school.

My colleague calls them "Lit Leaders" and she takes as many as she can get in a class. In her class, you will often find them reading to students in small groups or one-on-one, while others help manage the reading centers. You might see them sitting by a student in a math class as a designated tutor for a specific student or circulating among the students during practice time.

Some students enjoy the work so much that they take the course for two periods or take it on a second year. Last year two seniors opted-in for two periods to help out with math classes. Many of the students who joined this past year were students who had passed the FCAT or ACT mid-semester and this class provided an opportunity to help students just like them.

I've found the  best format is for students to work with a specific teacher and class daily.  They too develop relationships with "their students", relationships that matter. Alejandro was profoundly impacted by his work with one student who quite simply started coming to school more often.  In his second year as a "Lit Leader" he became instrumental in helping his teacher manage small groups while she worked with students during guided reading. Gabby discovered that the ELL student she was working with was brilliant in math and became his advocate with the teacher and guidance counselor to have him enrolled in upper level math classes. Tyronna is looking forward to hosting a chat and chew with her students outside of class to promote reading. 

This year I am using Remind101 and Google Forms to stay in virtual touch each week. I'm in the processing of connecting them to the just right teacher right now.  We're expanding our program with more students in math classes. As the year unfolds, I can't wait to see their impact on students and their ideas.