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Archive for October, 2009

Word wall

I received this great message and picture from Jeanne Messmer, a third-grade teacher in Arcadia, Indiana:

“Debbie, I am a third grade teacher, and was at your workshop in Lafayette, IN. I talked with you about arranging my Word Wall Words around my Read Aloud books instead of in ABC order. I have attached a picture of the books I have read aloud this year, and the vocabulary words we talked about. I find it very useful to have the words connected to a story we have shared. The students find the words in books they are reading independently, and I use the words as much as possible in my teaching.”

Jeanne's word wall in her third-grade classroom

Jeanne's word wall in her third-grade classroom

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recessRecently, I blogged about the Drama Work Station and received a comment from Alexis O’Neill, the author of The Recess Queen. I had mentioned that this is a great book for students to retell and dramatize at the Drama Station. After hearing from Alexis, I emailed her and asked her to be a Guest Author on my blog, and she agreed. What would you like her to tell us about?
 
In the meantime, she sent me some info about why she wrote The Recess Queen, the story of a bully, Mean Jean, and her transformation through meeting a new girl at school. Here’s what Alexis had to say:

Q: How did you come up with your story?
A: This is going to sound incredibly silly, but I began the story because I liked the sound of “mean” “Jean” and “queen” together (and I do hope that any of my friends named Jean do not take my book personally . . . ) Then I wondered what Mean Jean would do – and what she kingdom she would reign over. Since recess was (and still is) my favorite part of the day, I made her queen of the playground. The character of Katie Sue was inspired in part by my niece, Megan Rose, who on the surface looks quiet and shy but is the most energetic player I know. Other parts of the book were inspired by my younger nieces Stephanie, Allison and Laura, but mostly by my sister, Donna, who has a great sense of humor.
Q: How long did it take you to write your story?
A: I wrote notes  for The Recess Queen in 1992. The first title was, “Mean Jean, the Playground Queen.” But I just kept putting notes into a folder off and on for a long time. I wrote the first two pages in 1993. I wrote the first full draft in January 1999. Then I workshopped about 6 revisions with my writers group before I sent my story to a publisher in June 1999.
Q: Have you written any other books?
A: In addition to The Recess Queen, my other books include Loud Emily and Estela’s Swap. My newest book, The Worst Best Friend, is a companion to The Recess Queen.
 
I hope you’ll read aloud these books written by Alexis O’Neill to your class and try them soon at a Drama Station. Let us know what you try! We love pictures, and so does Alexis! Leave your questions in the Comments area and send your photos of your drama station to d.diller@live.com.

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I am very excited about presenting at this year’s NCTE conference with my colleagues Laura Robb and Carol Varsalona on Saturday, November 21, in Philadelphia, home of Temple University where I went to graduate school! Please check out the video about our session online!

At the 2008 NCTE convention with Carol Varsalona and Laura Robb

At the 2008 NCTE convention with Carol Varsalona and Laura Robb

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One of my favorite things to do is visit a park on a Sunday. Families and friends are walking, picnicking, playing, relaxing. This past Sunday Tom and I went to Hermann Park in the heart of Houston. I took pictures of some of the things we saw. It’s a beautiful spot. Almost makes you forget you’re in the city.

While in Paris a few years ago, we enjoyed strolling in its parks on a Sunday afternoon, too. Much like one of my favorite paintings, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. And like a favorite book, The Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland, a story told about a famous Renior painting of friends enjoying a weekend afternoon together.

Hope you enjoy a park near you during one of these upcoming, cooler fall weekends.

Reflecting pool at Hermann Park in Houston

Reflecting pool at Hermann Park in Houston

The new Houston Zoo train travels through the park

The new Houston Zoo train travels through the park

Water lilies in the park

Water lilies in the park

Driving along Rice Ave., lined with live oaks en route to Hermann Park

Driving along Rice Ave., lined with live oaks en route to Hermann Park

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This week I worked with kind, caring K-2 teachers from Tennessee. Dyersburg is in farm country about 3 hours driving time from Nashville. We drove past cotton fields and saw lots of soybeans too, on the way there. In the evening, we enjoyed cool temperatures as we strolled past a historic monument and restored buildings.  On the way home, we flew on a 9-seat Cessna back to Nashville to save driving time. Smooth ride on Tennessee Air!

I look forward to ongoing work in this part of the world. The teachers I met care deeply about their children and doing the best they can to help them achieve. They were warm, friendly, and fun. As part of our work together, we studied the power of developing “I Can” lists with students to give them ownership for their work at literacy stations. We made some together to experience the process and the thinking behind them. One of my favorite moments was when we were working in grade level teams brainstorming ideas of what children might do at a poetry station. A 2nd grade teacher pulled out her iPhone and looked up the state standards to be sure they were including meaningful independent practice linked to standards. Now that’s 21st century teaching!

Sample “I Can” list for an observation station in 2nd grade

Sample “I Can” list for an observation station in 2nd grade

A 2nd grade teacher consults an iPhone to check state standards to include at poetry station practice

A 2nd grade teacher consults an iPhone to check state standards to include at poetry station practice

First grade teachers brainstorm ideas that might go on an “I Can” list for poetry

First grade teachers brainstorm ideas that might go on an “I Can” list for poetry

Kindergarten teachers think about what kids might try at a poetry station

Kindergarten teachers think about what kids might try at a poetry station

Downtown statue in Dyersburg, TN

Downtown statue in Dyersburg, TN

Downtown drug store in Dyersburg

Downtown drug store in Dyersburg

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Anchor charts

These two great pictures of anchor charts come from Deedee Wills, a kindergarten teacher at Owensville Elementary School in Missouri. Deedee created a morning procedure chart and since that worked really well, she also created a chart for use at the end of the school day. Great ideas!

morning

afternoon

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