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Thanks to the more than 400 elementary educators who traveled near and far to Garland, TX for my vocabulary conference there! I was amazed at the teachers who attended from all over the state! We investigated how to teach high-quality vocabulary lessons in whole group using picture books for read aloud. A great resource for this is Isabel Beck’s Bringing Words to Life.

We learned how to choose the most useful words for teaching vocabulary—words spoken by people with mature speech that can be used again and again at school by kids, especially words that connect with the main idea of the story. Teachers, principals, literacy coaches, and staff developers worked together to create vocabulary cards to use with their students.

We watched vocabulary-related clips from two of my videos, Think Small! and Spotlight on Small Groups, available from www.stenhouse.com and shared ideas on vocabulary-focused literacy stations. If you’d like more ideas on teaching vocabulary in small group, check out these videos and read chapter 8 in Making the Most of Small Groups.

A big thanks to Kyle Warren of Warren Instructional Network and Garland ISD for hosting this day of learning at the Garland Special Events Center. We plan to make this an annual event!

Here are some pictures of educators working together choosing rich vocabulary from high-quality picture books:

A resourceful teacher uses her phone to search an online dictionary for help with creating a kid-friendly definition for one of the words she chose

A fifth grade math teacher’s vocabulary card and picture book

Another teacher’s vocabulary card

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“PlayStation” Station

No, that’s not a misprint! It’s a station. Recently, I saw a great new technology station in 5th grade. It’s the “PlayStation” Station! This school has quite a few of these. They were in a closet until one teacher thought, “Hey, these would make an awesome station.” And she was right! Kids are right at home using the controller as they read and play games here.

PlayStation for reading

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Today at a training on literacy work stations, a teacher told me about a poem she thought I might like. When kids aren’t taking home a backpack of worksheets every day, here’s a response to share with parents! It’s by Donna Whyte:
 
You ask, “What’s in my backpack?”
When I come home each day.
I wonder what you hope is there.
If it’s empty, is that okay?
I tell you about my busy day,
How the teacher watches over me.
We sing, we laugh, we share, we learn-
That’s the way it’s supposed to be.
You ask, “What’s in my backpack?”
I say, “Today it’s empty.”
I see the disappointment
As you look down at me.
School is much more than “things”
That you can see and touch.
It’s all of my life lessons,
And that means so very much.
For if you really want to know
What I do each day,
It won’t be on a paper;
You’ll know by what I say.
When you open the zipper wide.
What you are looking for today
Is all on my inside.
Ask me about my hands and ears,
My nose and my eyes.
Ask me what we talked about,
And if I remember why.
Each day we do so many things,
So many books to read.
Sure is nice my teacher knows
Exactly what we need.
That backpack on my back today
Carries back and forth my stuff.
If you want to know what I learned,
Listening to me will be enough.
My teacher wants to plant a seed,
Get my “love of learning” to sprout.
She wants it to last a lifetime-
That’s what school is all about.
It’s in my head and in my heart
That learning will take place.
“Childhood should be a journey…
Don’t look at it as a race.”

 
 
Last two lines of poem adapted from slogan by Bob Johnson and printed with permission from SDE/Crystal Springs Books ~ Ten Sharon Road ~ PO Box 577~ Peterborough, NH 03458 ~ 1-800-924-9621 ~ All Rights Reserved.

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Moving to Florida

Recently my daughter, Jessica, moved all  her stuff to Gainesville, FL. (She’s working at the University of Florida doing research and is very happy in her new life there!) We loaded up a moving truck with everything in the August heat of Houston. It was a big job, but I was glad to be home to help her. We shopped for things for the 1950’s bungalow she’s renting and found the perfect curtains at Target (of course!). I sewed a fun trim on them to spruce them up and couldn’t wait for pictures of the newly embellished curtains hanging in her new place. One thing led to another, and last weekend I found myself in a fabric shop looking for material to make curtains for her bedroom. What we moms do!

Tom and Jessica work to tie furniture in place in the van

I sensed a lot of "Spaces & Places" moments while trying to get everything to fit in the van

Jess is standing by the ironing board after trim has been added to Target curtains

New bedroom curtains sewn on Saturday ready to mail to my daughter

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Remember this post? And how about this one? There is still time for you to send me your ideas for book clubs and for packing up at the end of the school year. The deadline is June 1 and the winners will received either an “author visit” from me via phone, or a signed copy of Spaces & Places.

Send your ideas and photos to d.diller@live.com by June 1 – winner will be announced June 5! Hope to hear from you soon!

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Take a moment to connect with yourself and find your inner peace every week by receiving a Peace Partners message every Monday and Friday! To sign up, send an e-mail to d.diller@live.com. Until then, check out the Peace Partners page to see previous messages.

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Recently, I found a little book in a gift shop. Small Graces: The Quiet Gifts of Everyday Life by Kent Nerburn. In one piece, he writes about “the gift of the garden.” My grandmother, Huldah, and my father, Fred Royer, both instilled their love of gardens in me. Here is a sampling of Kent Nerburn’s words:

At least once in the course of a day, I try to contemplate a garden. The season does not matter. The weightlessness of snow, the timelessness of rocks, the timebound mutability of plants, the fragile immediacy of flowers—somewhere within is a lesson that will touch my heart and link me, if just for a moment, with the universal rhythms that are the source of all true peace.

One of my favorite classroom memories is of the spring I planted a container garden with my first graders. So many lessons learned in that place. Working in the garden alongside my children was one of our most peaceful of times. May you find time this week to spend in a garden.

Peace be with you,
Debbie

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