Archive for December, 2010

Gators in Gainesville

University of Florida’s “Gators” are more than just a sports team. While visiting our daugher in Gainesville, we went to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, an amazing site! We saw dozens of real live alligators sunning themselves on the banks and in the brush. There were lots of beautiful birds, and my favorite– wild horses! When Jessica told me we might be lucky enough to see the wild horses, I asked, “You mean like Misty of Chincoteague?” She smiled and said yes! That was a first for me.

Here are some photos of the amazing wildlife we saw.

Tom, Jessica, and Mike pose by the "Beware of Alligators" sign (note that we didn't take Jessica's little dog with us!)

Gators can be seen everywhere!

The lovely park in the fall

See the wild horses hiding by the trees

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What a fun city in which to stroll and shop! Jessica and I enjoyed visiting many unique shops while in St. Augustine, FL. One of our favorites was appropriately called “Anchor” and is owned by a young shopkeeper and jeweler named Laurel Baker. We loved meeting her. I bought a great necklace that was a wee bit too long, so Laurel adjusted the length to be just right. Check out her website at www.anchorboutique.com.

Owner/jeweler Laurel Baker in her boutique, Anchor. Note the old-fashioned cash register. Laurel actually uses this instead of a computer!

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Several years ago, a friend shared the most interesting poetry book with me called Fly with Poetry: An ABC of Poetry written and illustrated by Avis Harley (Boyds Mills Press, 2000). It includes samples of 26 different kinds of poetry! Here’s one called a doublet. In a doublet, a word is changed, one letter at a time, into another word and arranged vertically in the poem.

How Can You Change Sleep into Dream?

Instead of falling into      sleep

by counting                sheep      I listen for rhythms

inside my head: the     cheep      of a chickadee,

rain on my                cheek,

a murmuring             creek,

the              creak       of new shoes,

or cats lapping         cream.     These are the rhythms 

that flow through my   dream.

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In mid-November, Tom and I flew to Florida to visit our daughter, Jessica. What a wonderful time we had together! One day we drove to St. Augustine and visited the fort there. I remember being dragged there as a child! Why are vacations always so much more fun as an adult?

We toured the fort and met folks working there for the National Park Service, Jessica’s old employer. We shared tips for making those scratchy park uniform pants more fashionable (if that’s possible) with one of the young women employed by the park service.

What a beautiful old city St. Augustine is! Hope your plans may take you there to visit one day.

Tom and Jessica at the fort

Jessica examines an old cannon in St. Augustine

Orange trees abound in sunny Florida

Tom and Jessica feed koi by an historic building

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Little Miss Muffet

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

What do all those crazy old words mean? A tuffet is a small stool to sit upon. Curds and whey are the lumps and liquid found in today’s cottage cheese! One story about the origin of this rhyme is that it was written by Dr. Muffet (1553-1604), a famous entomologist who wrote the first scientific catalogue of British insects. He may have written it for his stepdaughter, Patience, who was frightened by one of his spiders while she was eating breakfast. Who knows????

I’ve created several big books around nursery rhymes, including this one, for Really Good Stuff (www.reallygoodstuff.com) complete with retelling pieces for use in whole group, small group, and at literacy work stations.

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New author/new friend at NCTE

One of my favorite things about going to NCTE is the opportunity to meet new authors and make new friends. This year I met Ranu Bhattacharyya who was there from Bangladesh where she teaches at an international school. She has taught all over the world and has such interesting stories to tell! Her new book, Castle in the Classroom, chronicles a year in her kindergarten classroom where children use their imaginations to play, tell stories, and act them out while developing literacy skills as readers and writers. As I read this lovely book, I felt like I was sitting in Ranu’s classroom reminiscing about my early days as a kindergarten teacher. You can browse her book online on the Stenhouse website

Ranu and Anne Goudvis at NCTE


Ranu and her new book, The Castle in the Classroom

Me and Ranu signing books at the Stenhouse booth

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Book signing at NCTE

I love getting to meet teachers at conferences like NCTE. Here are a few photos of people I met as we talked about teaching literacy and I signed books. Thanks to all of you who stopped by to say hello!

Upcoming conferences I’ll be speaking at (and signing books) include:

Nashville, TN Winter Institute with Debbie Diller on January 27-29, 2011

CCIRA in Denver, CO on February 3, 2011

Reading for the Love of It in Toronto on February 10-11, 2011

Indiana Reading Conference in Indianapolis on March 14, 2011

2nd Annual Spring Institute with Debbie Diller in Richmond, VA on April 7-9, 2011

NCTM in Indianapolis on April 15, 2011

IRA in Orlando in May 2011

5th Annual Summer Institute with Debbie Diller in Houston on July 14-16, 2011

Registration for my institutes are online at www.debbiediller.com


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A sneak peek at Math Work Stations!

Stenhouse Publishers just posted the first chapter of Math Work Stations on their website, so I thought I’d share it with you all as well! Enjoy! The book will be available mid-January, but you can pre-order it now!

Read the first chapter here!

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Here’s some information to share with parents at conferences this year… Did you know that children who know 8 nursery rhymes by heart at age 4 will be among the best readers by the time they are 8? (Mem Fox in Reading Magic). This is because children who know nursery rhymes usually can play with language and its sounds and have developed phonological (and phonemic) awareness. Pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade classrooms should be filled with rhymes! How about this one for starters?

Higglety, Pigglety, Pop
by Samuel Goodrich (1846)

Higglety, pigglety, pop!
The dog has eaten the mop:
The pig’s in a hurry,
The cat’s in a flurry,
Higglety, pigglety, pop!

This is a nice nursery rhyme to use with young children learning to read because of the sight words, the, in, and a. Also, there are several CVC words that are easy to decode including pop, mop, dog, pig, and cat!

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NCTE presentation

At NCTE in Orlando I presented to several hundred teachers with my friends, Carol Varsalona and JoAnn Scott from West Babylon Schools (Long Island), NY. Several years ago I worked with their school system to help teachers set up literacy work stations and best utilize their teaching space. In our presentation, Carol shared her perspective as a district administrator in her presentation, “Developing Active Literacy Environments.” Carol is a hands-on admninistrator and often works alongside teachers in their classrooms.

JoAnn talked about her work as a principal in “Collaborative Literacy Learning Communities.” JoAnn’s school, South Bay Elementary, was destroyed in a fire one evening last spring. Several days later, they all moved into Our Lady of Grace Roman Catholic Church and set up school using limited resources. Her story was inspiring and reminds of us what’s really important!

My portion of the program was about literacy work stations. One point I made is that the practice students do at literacy stations must be connected to quality whole group teaching initially. The better we model and involve the students in that demonstration, the better their independent practice. Also, what we ask children to do on their own must be familiar.

I met old friends and new at NCTE, including two teachers from Iceland! Their colleagues have been teaching them about work stations, so they attended our session to learn more. It is truly a small world.

Carol, Tom, me, and JoAnn at NCTE

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