Archive for June, 2010

Last week I worked with K-1 teachers in Fayetteville, Arkansas. What a great time we had together. We examined small group instruction and literacy work stations. Many confirmations of things folks were already doing well, and some slight tweaks, too.

One teacher exclaimed on day two, “I get it! Organization is everything. If I can get my small group area and my lesson plans and my groups organized, instruction will go even better.” Amen to that!

After day one, someone in the group went home and made guided reading folders for her team. How’s that for collaboration? She used the example on the cover of Making the Most of Small Groups. Way to go!

With the lovely group of literacy coaches

Teachers show their small group folders

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Summer gardens

When I’m not writing about math or literacy, I find myself in the garden these days. This summer I planted mini-succulent gardens in pots. These will only be watered about once a week when I begin traveling again, so they have to be drought-tolerant.

We have a great sprinkler system, so it’s color galore in the rest of my gardens. Just planted the summer beds full of hardy stuff that loves the heat. Decided to tuck herbs into the flower beds in the front, since Hercules doesn’t hang out there and tranple them. I love cooking with fresh herbs! So I’ve got lots of basil, thyme, marjoram, sage, rosemary, and Italian flat-leaf parsley.

In the back are the really tough plants. Knockout roses that bloom 12 months a year here. Lots of butterfly-loving plants abound.

Trying succulents this year

Thyme as the centerpiece in front beds

Summer color in front of my house

Butterfly-lovers in the backyard

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Gardening fiasco

It’s summer here. Blazing summer!

I decided we needed some pots with plants by our fountain in the backyard. After visiting just about every nursery in town, I found the perfect pots. They were on sale, too! Only $20. They were lightweight, made of fiberglass, and would blend perfectly with the stone fountain. They had a few little cracks near the top but nothing major. I could repair them.

So, I took them home, leveled the ground, laid down some stone, filled the pots with dirt, and planted the flowers. Took hours. Sweated bullets. Battled fire ants. Got sunburnt. But the pots looked lovely. Two days later, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. One of them had turned into the Leaning Tower of Pots!

The darn thing had collapsed. So much for my bargain. Back to the nursery I went. This time I got big ceramic pots. Lovely. Not $20! And I could barely lift them. A high school friend carried them from my car into the backyard. I replanted, wore sunscreen this time, and voila! Lovely summer pots.

Hope you’re enjoying your summer, too.

Leaning tower of pots

New pots planted with gardenia, bird of paradise, penta, coleus, angelonia, sweet potato vine, vinca, and rudbeckia by backyard fountain

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What’s on your “next read stack” for summer? Here’s what’s sitting on my bedside table:

  • Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson- I just finished this one. Such a lovely story. A gentle read.
  • Mennonite in a Little Black Dress (A Memoir of Going Home) by Rhoda Janzen- I grew up in PA Dutch Country in Lancaster County, PA. I was friends with several Mennonites, so this one struck a chord!
  • What to Wear for the Rest of Your Life: Ageless Secrets of Style by Kim Johnson Gross- I’ve read about 1/3 of this and am very inspired. In fact, I’ve done several “responses to literature” as a result of what I’ve read. More to come…

Note: I've unplugged my glow-in-the-dark digital clock on my nightstand. I hated waking up in the middle of the night and reading 2:30 AM. Now if I wake up, I have no idea what time it is and go right back to sleep. I still use an alarm clock, but it doesn't light up.

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Recently, my friend Mary got a job offer to become a Math Recovery teacher. She’d be leaving her 1st grade classroom at one school and relocating to another campus. It was a bit overwhelming to think of moving all her stuff to a new place.

I asked if she’d like help in packing and moving, since I had actually written a book about this! I told her we could get her room ready in one day. She looked at me like I was a bit crazy, but agreed to let me assist.

Two days before Moving Day, I gave Mary a copy of Spaces & Places and asked her to read the chapter on “Packing and Moving.” I also helped her make a list of what was important for her to pack and take along to use in her new job. She made a 2nd list of packing supplies needed for the move, so we wouldn’t waste any time on Moving Day. And I took photos of areas around her room to help her remember how we’d set up spaces that worked well for her. On Moving Day, we’d tape those pics to the outside of the boxes we packed her materials in.

Friday was Moving Day. Our friend, Christe (who used to be Mary’s teammate), Sara (Christe’s daughter) and I showed up at 1:30 PM on Mary’s last day at school after the kids had left. Little did we know that the custodians would be locking the building at 4 PM and we’d have to be out by then.

Not to worry—we had a plan! See what we did in just 2 ½ hours. Many hands make light work!

Mary and Christe empty the cabinets to prepare for packing

All of Mary’s stuff sorted into piles. Each has a label: math, language arts, office supplies, Martin Elem., etc.

Sara helps us make labels for boxes to be moved. Each will have a photo of the kind of stuff that’s in the box taped to the outside.

Christe cleans out Mary’s files, and Mary gasps with horror that she has to part with stuff she’ll never use again!

Two and and a half hour later… everything Mary keeps is in a labeled box ready for moving

Look at all those containers Mary had!

We’ll put the containers in an XXL ziplock bag and move them to her new building.

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As I read the back of the book, What to Wear for the Rest of Your Life, I made a text-to-self connection: I woke up one morning and couldn’t believe my life. I had turned fifty…. Not only had my life changed, but my body was changing without my permission! I had to rethink the way I had been dressing for the last thirty years. It was time for a fresh start.”

Even if you’re not fifty (or more, like me), you might relate to these words! This book called to me from its shelf at Barnes and Noble. Soon it was sitting on my nightstand for bedtime reading. Not only did I read it; I also responded to the book by taking action. I “shopped in my closet!” I took an honest look at what I already owned.

All my friends know that I love organized stuff (almost as much as accessories)! This book just helped me kick it up a notch. I got to work in my closet. First, I created a “Feel-Good Closet” as suggested by the author, Kim Johnson Gross. She says that most of us only wear 20% of our clothes over and over again. So, I took the things I love and always feel good in and put those in a separate part of my closet. Then I added a good full-length mirror in good light nearby. I also folded all my tanks and ts and put them on a shelf (just like in the cute boutiques). I color-coded everything to make it easy to locate. (I had sorted my clothes by color before, but I’d mixed in things I rarely wore with stuff I wear all the time. Now that infrequently worn stuff is in another part of my closet.)

I love it! And it makes me feel good. I’m guaranteed to feel good by grabbing something from this section. Nearby, I have my favorite shoes in a Target-shoe holder. And I hung a few of my favorite accessories on a cute rack from Anthropologie. A while ago, I hung all my earrings on a screen from Lowe’s Home Improvement to make them easy to find, too. I’m ready for summer with my new “Feel-Good Closet!”

My "Feel-Good Closet" as response to literature!

Some favorite accessories hang where I can easily see them.

Earrings organized on a sliding window screen are propped in plain view.

Shoe organizer from Target displays favorite shoes to make accessorizing (and packing) easy!

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Friday night fun

Last week instead of having “Friday Night Out,” we had “Friday Night In.” Our daughter, Jessica, was home from FL where she’s now living and working. Our son, Jon, was off work and could join us for dinner. And our friends, Sharon and Ron, whom we usually go to dinner with on Friday nights were available, too. Instead of going out like we normally do, we had a “Friday Night In.”

First, Jessica and I chose the menu. We decided on a recipe from Rachael Ray’s 365: No Repeats cookbook–  Balsamic-Glazed Chicken with Smoked Mozzarella and Garlic Rice Pilaf along with fresh asparagus. Jon brought Texas Herb Bread from my favorite, Stone Mill Bakery in Houston. Sharon brought the wine and made a homemade fresh strawberry pie. I cut roses from my garden for the table, and voila… instant dinner party! Our dog, Herc, was in heaven with company in the house.

Hope you’re taking good care of yourself this summer and doing something special on Friday nights!

Delicious Balsamic-Glazed Chicken with Smoked Mozarella on Friday Night In

Jessica and our Great Dane, Hercules

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Working in NC again

I am so happy to be on the road again and working in Clemmons, NC! I met so many wonderful teachers eager to learn about literacy work stations and small group instruction. We explored how to better engage students, and teachers participated in some engaging work themselves.

“After school,” I visited Reynolda Village in Winston-Salem. There I strolled through the lovely gardens at the historic home of R.J. Reynolds. What a lovely place!

Engaged teachers work together on literacy stations ideas at training


Gardens at Reynolda Village

Victorian greenhouse at Reynolda Village

Beautiful hydrangeas (one of my favorite flowers as a child)

Victorian home of R.J. Reynolds is now a museum

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One of the teachers at the school where I visited today had this sign posted in her window. It was her birthday this week and her friends “decorated” the window outside her room. She’s a math specialist there. Can you tell?

Birthday sign outside the teacher's classroom

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Here are a few of the books I’ve collected recently. I place them on the coffee table in my office for others to view when they visit.

I picked up The History of Counting on a recent visit to Liberty, NC. I love this book for older kids! Look at the rich detail the author shares about body counting on one of the many informative pages inside the book.

Also, from one of my favorite children’s book authors, Melanie Watt, you’ll find several of the Scaredy Squirrel books in her series: Scaredy Squirrel: Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend; Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach; Scaredy Squirrel at Night. I’ve just ordered the Scaredy Squirrel plush puppet from amazon.com, too! I love this character!

I also am collecting her Chester books: Chester; Chester’s Back!; Chester’s Masterpiece. And of course, I just got her Have I Got a Book for You, a great book for teaching about persuasion.

What are some of your favorite new children’s books?

Inside pages of History of Counting book

What's on my coffee table

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