Archive for August, 2010

This year I had the pleasure of celebrating my birthday with the wonderful teachers of Rogers, AR. These folks were really amazing, as they met with me the day before their kids started school! They surprised me with a cake topped with candles, a tiara, and a wand. Here you’ll see us having fun during lunch and after the training. A big thank you to everyone who made the day so special!




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Recently I got a lovely email from Michelle O’Mara in the Fayetteville School District in Arkansas (right before my visit there). She told me that she knows how much I enjoy taking a little peek into classrooms and sent me a link to her website where she has posted many pictures of her kindergarten classroom. Hope you enjoy the visit as much as I did.

If you’d like to see other classrooms as inspiration (or for help) in setting up your room for back to school, check out our flickr site at www.flickr.com and look for the Spaces and Places group. Would love for you to join us!

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 At the request of the PreK-5 district language arts director, Joni McEvoy, I recently presented several days on word study for back-to-school training in Humble ISD. For the past 10-12 years, I’ve been a huge fan of Donald Bear and Shane Templeton, both of whom I’ve had the privilege to study with. I’ve also studied phonological awareness and oral language in depth and have written about these topics in my book, Making the Most of Small Groups.

In Humble ISD, I walked teachers through developmental word study, using the developmental spelling continuum found in the book, Words Their Way. My roots are in child development, and I always find it easier to know how to teach if I can wrap my head around the stages of development for whatever the area is—reading, writing, word study, oral language, math, etc.

Many teachers spent 2-3 days with me, delving deeply into why kids spell like they do (and what we can do about it as teachers)! This area has fascinated me for many years. My daughter was a struggling speller as a young child, and Bear and his colleagues helped me understand how to help her.

We did all kinds of word sorts, including concept sorts (or sorts focused on meanings of words, rather than spellings). The brain is a pattern-seeker, so kids love word sorting. Some of the teachers created sorts for social studies to use as a pre-assessment to see what kids know about the topics they will teach in the fall. They’ll begin with open sorts (having kids sort the words however they want, and then explaining to the class why they sorted like they did). What an engaging way to see what their students know!

Teachers sort words ending in –ant and –ent and look for spelling patterns

Colleagues look at last year’s data using Bear’s Spelling Inventory to determine where to begin teaching this year

Concept sorts made by teachers to use early in the year for pre-assessment in social studies

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Early in the 21st century, my friend, Sheron Brown, wrote a series of books I loved called All Sorts of Sorts. We lost Sheron to cancer several years ago, and I miss her terribly. Every time I do word sorting with teachers, vivid memories of Sheron pop into my mind, and I wish I could call to tell her what we did. Sheron and I had the privilege of presenting together at IRA, and I’ll never forget when we appeared at the conference in San Antonio to do word study and work stations with the many teachers there! We were walking to the room, and there was a huge line outside the door. “I wonder who’s presenting in there?” we pondered. And then discovered that it was us! (:

While in Humble ISD this week, I again shared Sheron’s books, available now only at www.trcabc.com. I shared many different ways to sort with teachers there. One group of teachers created a sample of a chart they’d like to make with their kids this year to remind them how to sort words during word study. Love it! They, of course, will make the chart with the class.

All Sorts of Sorts by Sheron Brown

Sample chart showing kids a variety of ways to sort words (over time, of course!)

A mom brought her daughter to training one afternoon, and she participated in the fun, too. Look at the chart she was inspired to make after listening to how her teachers should present word study! (Animals and Accessories)

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We ended our week of training in Humble ISD with the training that everyone wants at this time of year… how to set up your classroom space to maximize instruction! It’s the popular Spaces & Places training we do, based upon my book of the same title.

Teachers worked together mapping their classroom spaces on paper and were inspired to clean up their closets and get organized as the school year begins.

You might want to check out the Spaces and Places blog that Stenhouse Publishers has set up at www.flickr.com. Just look for the Spaces and Places group. You can post your own pics of your classroom, or check out what others are doing as they set up their classrooms. It’s a great site, and it’s free!

Teachers share what they’re thinking about as they prepare to set up their classrooms for the new school year

Teachers work with colleagues, mapping out their spaces on paper first

One teachers’s notes on where she'll put the whole group area

Teachers share ideas during the workshop

Here is another group of teachers sharing their thoughts

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While working at the administration building in Humble ISD in the Houston area, I had a chance to visit their professional library for teachers. One word describes this space—WOW! The librarian there has created lovely displays to encourage “Teachers as Readers.” I saw lots I wanted to check out… if only I taught there.

I took some photos to share with you. Hope some of these might inspire the displays you create to encourage Teachers as Readers in your school or district this year. If you have photos you’d like to share, please send them to me at d.diller@live.com and I’ll post them here for others to see.

Look at these lovely displays at Humble ISD:


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My book, Literacy Work Stations, has just been translated to French. And when I say translated, I mean the text AND the words in every picture AND all the appendix pages have been written in French. This new book, Les Centres de litteratie, is available from Cheneliere Education at www.cheneliere.ca

Here are a few pictures from this newest version:

The cover looks very different, but it's still the Literacy Work Stations book

Look! Christe is teaching with a French word wall!

This classroom library is set up with the labels in French

And even the big book and listening stations hold French materials

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I was working in Missouri when one day I watched two teachers walk through the gym carrying red furniture on their heads. “Where are they going?” I wondered. So I followed them down the hall with my camera, curious to see where they were going.

They ended up in kindergarten. Turns out they were moving furniture from one building to another, since all the kindergarten classrooms are being redistributed among the district. (Formerly, all kindergarten was in one building.) They marched that red furniture into the classroom library they were setting up in a cozy little corner.

Jill and a friend carry small red furniture on their heads into a classroom

Jill says, “I’m taking all this down, really!”

“Let’s do it together,” I suggest, and we bare this bulletin board to make it ready for kids’ work.

Ta da! Look at the library now! Good job, Jill!

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All the elementary teachers in Republic, MO are moving classrooms this year. The district is reconfiguring schools. After we set up several classrooms there, two charts appeared in the school office the next morning. One says, “I Have Extra….” and the other is titled, “I Need…” Teachers jotted down notes to communicate with each other about their needs. Great idea!!!


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Last week in Republic, MO I did training on Spaces & Places. We reflected on classroom essentials. We mapped out our classrooms and even set up two rooms as a group.

Here are some of the things K-5 teachers there said they would give up this year….

  • glitter! (much of it in the cabinet was dried up)
  • big birthday cake display on the wall (takes up too much space)
  • twirly stuff hanging from the ceiling (that distracts some students)
  • my big “Hoppy Helpers” frog chart (takes up more space than needed)
  • the 6 ft. tall chart with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division symbols on it (it serves no purpose except to cover up a wall)
  • my teacher desk (I just pile stuff on it)

One teacher told me, “I slept so soundly last night knowing that I don’t have to spend all that time decorating my walls before school begins!”

What will you give up this year, so you can leave space for children in your classroom?

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