Archive for March, 2011

Recently, I worked with teachers at Briar Gate Elementary in FBISD (Houston area). It was a delight to visit classrooms and watch literacy work stations and small group instruction in action in their classrooms. We worked together to plan guided reading lessons, too. One of the lessons I taught in 2nd grade focused on helping students better comprehend what they read. Teachers at this school use thinking maps, so we incorporated a bubble map into the lesson with great success.


Leap Pad station in 1st grade

Welcome letter from a student

Second-grader's bubble map recording what she learned while reading the nonfiction book, Goats

Bubble maps used in classrooms throughout the building


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Poetry Friday: Lullaby

Explore the idea of a quiet poem by studying lullabies with your class. Here’s one to get you started:


by Christina G. Rossetti


Flowers are closed and lambs are sleeping;
Lullaby, oh, lullaby!
Stars are up, the moon is peeping;
Lullaby, oh, lullaby!

While the birds are silence keeping,
Lullaby, oh, lullaby!
Sleep, my baby, fall a-sleeping,
Lullaby, oh, lullaby!


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Waiting for a plane

While lining up to get on a plane last week in Chicago, I began talking to a young woman. Our plane was delayed, and we were wondering how long it would be until our crew arrived and we could board. “You look so familiar,” she said to me. I asked if she was a teacher, and voila! Turns out Lauren teaches at a Jewish day school in Chicago. But she used to teach in Houston at Lovett Elementary, one of the schools where I studied math work stations. Small world! We had fun flying together to Houston and talked all about teaching and books, etc. It was a lovely way to spend the flight back home.


Waiting for our flight with Lauren


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Does your school have a book room or leveled book library for guided reading? Recently, I worked at Lovett Elementary in HISD (Houston) where they have a wonderful book room with guided reading books for teachers to check out. We held planning meetings in this room on my visit. So handy for being able to quickly refer to texts as we learned together about improving small group instruction.

Several years ago I worked with Spring Branch ISD in Houston and visited every elementary to help set up a leveled book library tailored to the needs of that school. It was such an interesting project! There were so many ways in which to organize the space and the books.

Here are a few photos of leveled book libraries used by entire schools.

Lovett Elementary's leveled book library

Close up of guided reading library shelves at McWhirter Elementary in Clear Creek ISD (Houston area)



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Here’s a fun poem to use for examining word choice. You might have kids try writing their own poems using this pattern. Or they could write alternate poems like “How to Talk to Your ….”

Enjoy! If your kids write their own poems, I’d love to see them! Send them to d.diller@live.com and I’ll publish some of them on a future Poetry Friday post.


How to Talk to Your Snowman
by Beverly McLoughland

Use words that are pleasing,
Like: freezing
And snow,
Iceberg and igloo
And blizzard and blow,
Try: Arctic, Antarctic,
Say: shiver and shake,
But whatever you never say,
Never say: bake.


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Recently I worked with teachers at East Elementary in Humboldt, TN. In grades 2-3, we examined how to “divide and conquer” while planning together in team meetings. We helped identify each other’s strengths and then made post-it “badges” naming our roles, such as tech guru, standards picker, materials manager, kiddie lit… It’s a start at working smarter, not harder!

Grade 2-3 teachers wear their new "job" badges for team planning


Look at all my jobs!


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I’ve been studying with first grade teachers, Michelle Giles and Maddi Johanek at Outley Elementary in Alief ISD this year. It is such a delight to go to their classrooms weekly and think together about meeting the needs of their diverse learners! They have been doing author studies and are just opening an Author Study Work Station. Here’s a photo of the first day this station was open:


And here’s another example of an author study area from a classroom in Denver, CO:


(show pic #31)


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While on a recent visit to York City Schools I talked with a Pre-K teacher who was using the most wonderful author study materials. Here are some photos that I hope will inspire you, as they did me!

These materials are part of Blueprint for Early Literacy.

Author study materials are stored in boxes under a skirted table.

An author study display in Pre-K

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Since we have a new puppy, I’m gravitating towards dog poems! The law of attraction, I suppose. Here’s a fun one to teach to your young readers.

Quiet Morning
by Karen B. Winnick

Early in the morning
dog, book and me
spend quiet moments 
just we three.

Snuggled by the window,
chin on my knee,
close to the raindrops,
dog, book and me.

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It was such a treat to speak at CCIRA in Denver. What a great conference! I had the opportunity to hear one of my favorite authors, Katie Wood Ray, talk about teaching writing. She began with a quote from a young child that just made me smile… “Are we gonna learn about that guy who books?” Out of the mouths of babes! The children she’d been working with were studying authors and learning about the craft of writing from books written by these authors. I celebrate using mentor texts and doing author studies with kids for the purpose of helping them become better writers!

Here are a few books Katie shared that I’ve added to my library of books to use with kids to teach writing:


And, of course, I’m ordering Katie’s newest book, In Pictures and Words.¬†

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