Archive for the ‘My travels’ Category

The past two weeks have been filled with travel and conferences. First NCTM in Philadelphia, then IRA in Chicago. It is always so nice to get out and meet with so many talented and passionate teachers and her so many inspiring presentations. Here is a picture of me signing books at the Stenhouse booth at IRA. See you again soon at a conference!

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What a wonderful time I had working with over 100 teachers this past week in Nova Scotia! And what beautiful country! This was my first visit to this part of Canada. It was a bit chilly but lovely.

Teachers were so eager to learn and share what they’re trying with math work stations. We spent two days thinking and growing together. A few things I love about Nova Scotians:

  • their friendliness and warmth
  • their sense of humor (we laughed until we had tears rolling down our faces)
  • their willingness to share and ask questions
  • their appreciation of style and fashion
  • their healthy snacks!

If you attended this training and want to share what you’re doing, please email me at d.diller@live.com. I’d love to hear how things are going. And I hope to see you in the fall at training on literacy, too!

Healthy snacks at training in Nova Scotia... what a great idea!



Me with "Flat Jodi" at training (she couldn't attend, so her friends brought her along in 2-D form)

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What an honor it was to work at Green Hills School in Green Township, NJ again this week! This amazing K-8 school is filled with inquisitive students and teachers who are definitely 21st century learners!

This week, author Frank Serafini and I worked with teachers and students in different classrooms on the same day. Frank modeled mini lessons, and I worked with stations and small group instruction. Frank is helping teachers with deeper questioning and stepping out of the way to have students discuss and share their thinking. My assignment is to help develop structures for independent learning (through independent reading and stations) and differentiation in small groups. A third consulting group, Thinking at Every Desk, is sharing an innovative tool called ThinkBlocks and the DSRP Method for teaching thinking skills with this school, too.

I shared ideas for social studies stations in middle school using a project-based approach around the big ideas of the impact of religion and beliefs on a civilization, the impact of geography on a civilization, and we are who we are because of where we came from (legacy). As students prepare for writing a paper comparing two civilizations, they might use stations several days a week for about 20 minutes each time. Stations will be clustered around small bits like note-taking, visuals, primary sources, and Venn diagrams.

I also taught a small group lesson with middle-school students in a language arts classroom to help with test prep. We approached a test passage in a playful way, deconstructing the pieces and then putting them back together. Looking at the text structure of a test passage (and at the test as genre) was very helpful and gave students confidence.

Technology abounds in this building! This week I saw iPads in action at research stations in 2nd grade, teachers and kids using Smart Boards for lessons in math and literacy, and even the new 360 degree camera for the iPhone at a round table discussion. A special thanks to visionary leader, John Nittolo, Principal and Superintendent at this outstanding school! Can’t wait to see what’s happening next time I work here.

With Frank Serafini and John Nittol (left)

With Frank Serafini

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I love the images in this poem. It reminds me of a drive I took from Washington, DC to the mountains of Virginia recently. Huge, thick flakes of snow were whirling around me in the gray sky. It was just beautiful!

Snow Towards Evening

by Melville Cane

Suddenly the sky turned gray,
The day,
Which had been bitter and chill,
Grew soft and still.
From some invisible blossoming tree
Millions of petals cool and white
Drifted and blew
Lifted and flew,
Fell with the falling night.

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We used a variety of materials with upper grade students in guided reading in Spring Grove, PA. Kids love reading short pieces of nonfiction text, such as those pictured here in this post. What materials have you found useful in working with guided reading with older kids?

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I spent four wonderful days with non-public school teachers in Archbald, PA through the NE IU-19 in late March. Although high winds and snow delayed my travels, I finally arrived there 24 hours after flying out of Houston! I worked with folks from Catholic, Christian, and Hebrew day schools. We planned curriculum, learned about small group reading instruction, designed literacy work stations, and mapped out classroom spaces. Teachers tried things and brought back samples of their work several days later which was very rewarding!

Here are some photos of some of the work we did together:

Interventionists in grades 4-8 list materials they use in small group instruction

One of the groups I worked with

We took a field trip to see how an itinerant teacher organizes her teaching materials in her trunk!

A Pre-K teacher made a big book of color words and task cards which her kids loved

Big book of color words used with Pre-K

Planning curriculum together

We had a great time working and learning together!

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On my trip to Bethlehem, PA I visited a pre-Civil War cemetery. Had to take pictures of some of these most-interesting gravestones. I plan to use them with older students in a lesson on inferring. What can you infer from these unique burial markers?

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On a recent trip to Scranton, I stopped in Bethlehem, PA to visit an old friend from college. He is a high school history teacher and showed me many historic sites in and around his hometown. It was fascinating to tour this city and see so many parallels to my hometown of Lititz, PA. Both places were settled in the 1700s by Count Zinzendorf as Moravian communities. Don’t ask how I remember this bit of trivia from elementary school! Probably that unique name!

Here are some of the things I saw and experienced on this springy Saturday:

Lovely park by the river

Unique door handle on the Moravian Church

Beautiful old stained glass church window

Suspension bridge in Riegelsville, PA built by same builders as the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC

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As I drove up to my training site in Indiana, I saw the most unusual site! A large bus from Kokomo Schools had just pulled into the parking lot, and teachers were getting off the bus carrying camp chairs! I had been told that our venue was in an interesting space, but this was a first!

You know that times are tough out there! So, to save money, these dedicated teachers took a bus (rather than driving in their own cars) to drive over an hour. The bus wouldn’t start several times, but they made it (there and home again!). We had to meet in a gym in an old school that no longer has kids there (it was free to meet there!) and there wasn’t enough seating. That’s why these folks brought their camp chairs. We had a wonderful training on math work stations. It was a venue I’ll never forget!

Teachers in camp chairs at training on math stations

Teachers sit at cafeteria tables and camp chairs during training

Kokomo teachers and their bus (that kept breaking down!)

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Last month my Stenhouse editors Philippa Stratton and Toby Gordon took a welcome break from their Maine winter to visit Houston at the start of our spring season! They visited classrooms at Askew Elementary where I’ve been working all year in preparation for filming a video on math work stations in grades 1 and 2 next fall. It was fun watching stations in action, and my editors got their first glance at seeing a Smart Board being used by students, too! After our visit, they had a chance to dine outdoors before heading back to the airport (and the freezing Northeast!). Their visit was a treat for us all!


My math editor, Toby, talks with a pair of 2nd graders at a math station about their work.

My editors, Philippa and Toby check out the Smart Board in Asma's 2nd grade classroom along with Rebecca, our producer.

Philippa, Editorial Director at Stenhouse Publishers, enjoys visiting the classrooms where I am working.



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