This past week I worked with about 200 dedicated educators in Bethel Public Schools in Spanaway, WA. The workshop was on Spaces & Places and using every inch of space for instruction. As part of the session, I walked teachers through the process of setting up their rooms, step by step. After class, Tom and I drove to Gig Harbor and enjoyed some quiet time by the marina there. Pure bliss! It was 70 degrees with no humidity. Quite a change from our home in Houston!
Archive for August, 2009
What a great group of teachers I met in Winston-Salem, NC last week! Because we had a small group, I tried something new. At lunch, I’d shared that I was unable to dance at a 50th birthday party recently because I didn’t know the steps. My new friend, Joann, said it was probably the Electric Slide and said she’d show me. I asked if she’d teach it to our whole class during the afternoon break. Movement helps cement learning.
We found Electric Slide music via YouTube and Joann invited all who knew the dance to help her demonstrate for the rest of the class (kind of like a read-aloud). Many of us were reluctant to learn this new dance, so I insisted that they move close to the teacher so they could watch the model (just like having our students sit near us on the floor during read aloud).
Next, I asked Joann to explain the steps (using explicit language, like in a think-aloud). She told me she couldn’t explain it; she’d just dance and we could watch and do it, too. (This sometimes happens when we’re teaching in whole group. It’s hard to break down and explain explicitly how to do something.) The students who already know how to do that skill don’t mind. But those of us who couldn’t dance really needed the verbal explanation along with the demo.
Gingerly, I broke down the steps as I understood them. “Do a grapevine to the right. Watch my feet. Step right, left,
right, left.” We practiced a few times. Then I added a clap. The advanced folks were saying, “Tap and clap.” The strugglers were saying, “What do you mean, tap and clap?” I explained, “Just step with your foot and clap at the same time.” Ohhhh. We proceeded in this way with the rest of the dance steps.
Finally, we were ready to add the music. We readied ourselves, 1, 2, 3. What fun we had stepping together, while I called out the directions to the beat. Before you knew it, we were all giving it a try (just like shared reading where we all do it together with support).
At the end of the dance, we returned to our seats smiling, and I asked Joann if she could assess how the class did while we worked together. “Absolutely!” she said. “In fact, there were some people who need extra practice with pivots, like you, Deb. (Sounds like a need for small group to me.) “Some folks need to practice dips, and others need to work on their grapevines. And one group is ready to move on to the more advanced dance, the Cha Cha Slide.” (Sounds like we now have four differentiated small groups.) We talked about the need to have small group instruction with students who have similar needs so we wouldn’t frustrate kids who already have these skills.
One last lesson… if I were in a small group for pivots, we’d certainly practice pivots first in isolation. But then we’d put the pivots into the Electric Slide dance. If not, I’d never learn how to do the dance. I’d just know how to pivot (just like teaching skills in isolation in small group without direct application to trying to use that skill while reading). Fond memories and lessons learned in NC.
Okay, I’ll admit it. I went to see the new movie, Julie & Julia, TWICE this weekend! It was such a sweet movie, a tale of an era gone by. Right before I left for the movie, I finished reading My Life in France by Julia Child. What a lovely book it was! By the way, I abandoned Julie Powell’s Julie & Julia. (A group of teachers in Humble ISD told me I could let it go when I told them I just couldn’t get into the book!)
On a note of a text-to-text connection: Nora Ephron, the producer of the new movie, did a beautiful job of melding the two stories. One of Ephron’s books, I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, is one of my all-time faves! It’s a hoot!
So first, I saw the movie with my friend, Jamila. Then my daughter, Jessica, came home for the weekend and I had to see it with her, too. Jess and I both love to cook. Every time I saw our favorite red Le Creuset Dutch oven in the movie (in both Julia and Julie’s kitchen), I thought of Jessica. You can’t make anything bad in that pot!
After watching the movie, I had to go home and cook. A true “response to literature!” This time it had to recipes from Julia. I tried her Roast Chicken, stuffed with thinly sliced lemon, quartered onion, and fresh herbs. It was the best roast chicken I’ve ever made! Accompanied by Julia’s Grated Zucchin Sauteed in Butter and Shallots. Yum! And as Julia would say, “Bon Appetit!”
I just found out that my Literacy Work Stations Task Cards have been released by Really Good Stuff for the fall. Many teachers have been emailing and asking when these will be available again. The answer is now!
The cards are available in three different sets, including one for emergent readers (with simple text and lots of picture support for Pre-K, K, and early 1st grade). There is also a fluent set with more detailed instructions and higher level tasks (for middle to end of first grade into second grade and possibly third grade for some classrooms). And there’s a set that includes all the cards, emergent and fluent in one package.
I’ve created a variety of task cards for 8 different stations, including Big Book, Buddy Reading, Classroom Library, Drama, Listening, Poetry, Word Study, and Writing. There is a chapter on each of these stations in my book, Literacy Work Stations: Making Centers Work, available from Stenhouse Publishers to give you more information.
I love the new art and look of these cards! They’re in full-color and are in English on one side and Spanish on the other… for all my bilingual friends! They are already laminated, hole-punched and include an O-ring for assembly.
To use them, just start by teaching with one task in whole group. Then move it to a station after you’ve taught with it. Model, model, model! Add new cards over time, as you teach with new tasks. These task cards can be used in conjunction with an “I Can” list. Simply have one item on the list say, “I can use task cards.”
Let me know how you like them! I’m excited that they’re ready for back to school. For those of you who have been asking about my out-of-print book, Beyond the Names Chart, it is in production and will be coming out soon from Really Good Stuff, too.
Last weekend our daughter, Jessica, came home from her job in the Piney Woods of East Texas where she’s working for the National Park Service. I was so excited and went into “Mom Mode.”
I had just finished reading House Beautiful, one of my favorite magazines, and found a from-scratch recipe from the Barefoot Contessa herself! Before I knew it, I’d dusted out my cupcake tins and was baking up a batch of German Chocolate Cupcakes. Yum!
The best thing is that Jess could take the leftovers back to camp– and I wouldn’t eat them all myself. One tip: Put the frosting in the fridge to help it set up. Then frost the cupcakes (14 huge delights!) and store in the fridge, especially in Houston where the topping kind of just melted right off.
Shouldn’t I be writing that math book? Creativity takes so many forms!
Last week in Ozark wasn’t all just about work! I decided to take a trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Part of my quest these days is to “live an interesting life.” I’d read about Eureka Springs, but had never been there. It was almost a two-hour drive but was well worth it. Such lovely scenery along the way, too!
When I arrived, I was greeted by a burst of color and such amazing architecture! I saw one of three flatiron buildings in the U.S. (I have seen one in NYC before.) I met Blakely Wilson in her shop, Wilson & Wilson Folkart and had so much fun browsing (and buying a few trinkets for my home, too). Her shop was filled with layers of whimsical pieces that made me smile. I watched her work on one of her original paintings and heard about the talented artisans whose work she sells in her shop.
While in Ozark, MO, I did a second classroom makeover. It’s Amanda’s first year to teach, and she’s really excited about her new kindergarten room. She thought about having two whole-group teaching areas, but we decided to just have one large space for both math and reading instruction. She moved it to the magnetic dry erase board area. Now she can convert part of that dry erase board into a low interactive word wall. And she can use her document camera there, too, since this is a room set up for teaching with technology. Her classroom library could have become a “landing strip,” so we moved it to create a more open, welcoming reading area. See her before and after pictures:
We worked together last week to give Polly’s classroom a whole new look! She said that last year she moved things around every few weeks, but it never really felt right.
We started with a plan for instruction, and that makes all the difference. As part of our summer workshop in Ozark, we met in Polly’s room and mapped out the classroom with her. Teachers gave suggestions for furniture placement (and the “why” behind their reasoning), and then Polly and I planned where to place each instructional space.
Together, we moved all the stuff. We changed the color scheme in the room to make it flow, too. This is the first room where I’ve used black as a background on bulletin boards. I love it! The charts Polly hangs will really show in this new space. The built-ins are a funky color, so that’s why we used black and white with it. Now Polly’s room is ready for instruction, and she shouldn’t have to move furniture around at all.
Take a look at these before and after pics!
Last week I worked in Ozark, MO with about 200 dedicated educators in Pre-K-grade 5 classrooms. We talked about literacy work stations and how to best utilize classroom space for maximum instruction. A classroom makeover was a part of this, of course!
Polly’s classroom featured an odd color of built-ins, a color somewhere between salmon and cantaloupe! We put black and white with it to give it a fresh new look. We worked together to redesign her space, too. See these before and during pics and then check back later for the after pictures!
We moved the whole group area away from the cubbies. Too much potential trouble for traffic flow. Plus the document camera projects to another part of the room. New whole group area is by a dry erase board which will become an interactive word wall.
After school, we went shopping to the FM store in nearby Springfield, MO. So many choices! Then off to get border at another shop. Polly went home to sew, Deb and Karen returned to school to recover bulletin boards.
I was delighted to find a package in the mail last week from an online shop I just discovered on Etsy.com from LemonGrassJewels. Sweet handmade jewelry with vintage look. Posed it on a wooden fish carved and painted by my dad a few years ago. I like to be surrounded by vintage things from my family in my office. They inspire me to create. An old photo of my dad golfing, his fishing creel (I can still smell that stinky fish smell in our outdoor shanty where he cleaned his catch), an iron bunny from my Nana’s house where we drank from cool metal cups in the summer.