Archive for December, 2009
Each year during the holidays I host a luncheon for my friends. We always have the same menu… by popular request… and we share books. It is always a highlight of my holidays, and I get book ideas of what I might read in the upcoming year! Everyone brings a new book, and then we do a book exchange using the method often reserved for white elephant parties. Each guest tells a little about her book, and then we each get a number and choose the book we’d like to take home (if we are lucky enough not to have it “stolen”). This year I got The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan, the creator of www.CircusofCancer.org.
Here are some of the books I’m thinking about reading that my guests brought:
- City of Thieves by Daniel Benioff
- Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
- Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall (two people brought this one!)
- The Blind Side by Michael Lewis (will read this before I see the movie)
- What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell (love all his other books)
- Mindset by Carol Dweck
- March by Geraldine Brooks (loved her People of the BookI)
- Somebody Else’s Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage
- Influencer by Kerry Patterson
And here’s my recipe for vegetable soup that I always serve at the party. It was given to my family by our 90-year-old next door neighbor when I was a kid. He told us that if we ate this healthy soup, we could bend nails! It’s probably my favorite soup recipe of all times. Let me know how you like it if you make a big pot during your holiday season. It’s quite festive!
Royer Homemade Vegetable Soup
- 3 cans each of corn, green beans, and peas (including liquid)
- 2 large bottles V-8 juice
- 1 lb. lean ground beef, crumbled (will cook in the soup)
- 1 small head cabbage, chopped into small pieces
- 1 bag baby carrots
Put all in a large soup pot and simmer for 2-3 hours. Add rivels to soup and cook for 15 more minutes.
Note: Rivels are a Pennsylvania Dutch kind of tiny dumpling that thickens and adds texture to the soup.
To make rivels, stir together (using a fork) 3/4 cup flour with 1 egg and a pinch of salt. Then add to the boiling soup and stir to break up the rivels so you have little dumplings. Cook for about 15 more minutes.
While I was in PA, I visited my family again. It’s always fun to go home, especially when you grew up in an idyllic little town. To get there, I took the train from Philly to Lancaster after NCTE, and my sister picked me up at the train station. We drove to Lititz, my hometown, and got to do a little shopping in the wonderful boutiques (that did NOT exist when I was growing up there).
One of my favorites is the Sassy Tassel, a unique gift shop at 35 E. Main St. My sister and I poked around finding Christmas gifts and interesting things that might be used in classrooms. Look at what we found! Love the Home Stickers and Amy Butler fabrics. Wouldn’t these be fabulous in a classroom library?
While at my mom’s house, we went digging in the attic. I found a real treasure– a certificate awarded to my mom in the 1940′s for completing the Palmer Method of Handwriting. I’m going to hang it in my office.
Here are some more amazing classroom spaces from my trip to Cabot, AR. This time they are from Ward Elementary School.
Feast your eyes and be inspired to create a place of beauty for your students!
When I visited a couple of schools in Cabot, AR recently, I was amazed at the wonderful classroom environments teachers created. At Northside Elementary, their use of lamps and lighting created calmness and ambience in their rooms. Color choices were thoughtful and deliberate. Upon entering their spaces, I felt at ease and wanted to stay for a while. Imagine how their children respond!
But this wasn’t just limited to classrooms. I saw it in the principals’ offices and even in the faculty lounge. When I visited principal Suzanne Proctor’s office, I was greeted by the sign, “Pretty is as pretty does.” It’s so true!
Have any kids who need practice with forming letters? Here’s a simple idea you might want to try from a teacher in Ward, Arkansas I worked with last week. She shared her magic formula for creating bags filled with hair gel. So fun and easy! (By the way, this is an idea I’ve tried to pull off in the past—unsuccessfully.)
Cut a piece of white foam board the size of a clear plastic zip lock bag. Fill the bag with a thin layer of colored hair gel. (Dollar stores and discounters like Wal-Mart are good sources.) Then cut a piece of white foam board about the same size as the bag, but a bit shorter, as shown in the picture below. Wrap the top edge of the zip lock bag over the white foam board, and fasten with clear packing tape. Tape the edges, too, so the hair gel bag stays in place.
Provide samples of the alphabet or letters you want students to practice forming as models. You might create several of these hair gel bags for handwriting with different colored gels in each. Students will love them!
This is a bit late, but I just wanted to share some more of the fun times I had at NCTE in Philadelphia. I saw old friends. Made some new ones, too. A big thanks to Laura Robb and Carol Varsalona with whom I presented a session on Saturday. They are fabulous educators who care deeply about children and learning to read.
It was great to be back in Philly and be able to walk across the street from the convention center to Reading Terminal, a huge farmer’s market. Enjoyed Philly cheese steaks with my editor, Philippa Stratton. She’d never tasted one before and was an immediate convert. They are delicious!
Yes, it snowed in Houston on Friday. Amazing! Having grown up in the North, I’m typically not impressed by the hoopla that accompanies possible wintry weather in Houston. But today it snowed big ole flakes for about 4 hours. I must admit, I got a bit excited, too! Snow in Houston is a rarity.
I was in first grade this morning, and Mary Brown, the teacher, said, “Look, kids. There are big white snowflakes falling!” All the kids turned and looked out the windows with their mouths open wide. When we started math stations today, a bunch of them gathered by the window to watch. When I got home, the golf course by our home was turning white. An unheard of sight in our city!
So, it was quite a day here. Hope you’re enjoying winter (even if a bit early) wherever you are.
Recently, an upper grade teacher told me she couldn’t have a whole-group teaching space where kids gather close to her, because she uses a document camera or projection device. She told me her students need to stay in their desks to see what’s projected on the interactive white board.
Yes, there are times when you might want students to stay at their seats when teaching with this kind of technology. For example, when teaching a math lesson with manipulatives, I often have kids sit at their desks or tables while I model with the document camera.
But there are other times, such as those on the pictures, where I bring students up close to read something together. They simply sit in front of the screen. This enables us to feel like a part of a group, or a community of learners.
I love having a whole group teaching area, even with older students. They like to sit together on the floor for a change of pace. And, by being closer to the teacher, are often more engaged in the lesson and learning. By the way, in this class, they were using Tumble Books. Teachers told me that they shared this new technology with parents in conferences. Some of their parents who didn’t have the Internet at home told teachers they were going to get the Internet just so their children could read using Tumble Books at home, too. The power of technology!
Last week in York, PA I saw students involved in lots of reading at drama work stations. This is a station that has great potential to develop reading fluency and comprehension, since kids love to act out stories!
Teachers used readers’ theater from a variety of sources, including their core program (Harcourt) and www.readingatoz.com. The pictures below show the variety of ways drama stations were being used.