Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July - Currently!

It's July 1st - How did that happen?  I'm pretty sure I have not posted since June 1st, but I'm scared too look.  Either way, today is a new day (and a new month).

The last day for students in my district was June 5.  My summer officially started this week, because of extra training and projects I was working on for my position.  We enjoyed a visit with my college roomie and her family at the lake and had dinner with friends last night.  This morning, I worked on my grad work inside while I listened to a conversation that a family was having on a fishing boat about 350 feet out in the lake.  I'm sure they have no idea that I can hear every single word they are saying.  Note to self:  sound travels differently on the lake. Yikes.

I love having time with my own kids (and husband) in the summer.  Focusing on them and us is so important.  Staying up late to talk, taking long walks together, teaching them new things, practicing things that get pushed aside during the school year and laughing together fill our summer days and I am so grateful for this time.

Thinking - no Vegas for me.  Last year, I felt a little left out (and slightly annoyed after a while) when social media seemed to be completely taken over by Vegas posts.  Let there be no misunderstanding that I am happy that so many educators, bloggers, Tpt'ers have the opportunity to enjoy this time together.  It is a powerful networking opportunity!  I'm super grateful for the blogging friends I've connected with over the years.  I'm also ok with being one of the few people who are not going to Vegas again this year.  I have two full weeks of training this summer, plus several other days to work.  I'm also taking 2 grad classes this summer.  So, the rest of the summer is family time and that's ok with me.  I do hope ya'll have a great time!  

I've been wanting to find more time to read and write.  I do a lot of professional reading for my job and for my grad classes.  I need to make more time to read and write.  I recently started a journal. However, I quickly discovered that when you are super, super busy the journal that you intended to be a place to let ideas flow freely turns into another giant to do list.  

Needing to refocus is a little tricky.  I really need to do that since I have so many things going on.  I'm sure this time at the lake will help.  

All Star  - I'm really good at taking on challenges.  I talk about the challenges I face to help me gather feedback, vent about things that are not going well, reflect about things constantly and try and try again.  Staying the same is frightening to me.  Change is an opportunity to improve.  

It feels so good to be "off the hamster wheel" for a bit.  Make time to relax and enjoy your family and friends today!

Please visit Farley to read about what others are currently doing!  Thank you, Farley, for hosting!  You will have a great time in Vegas!  I'll pray for you to be able to relax on the flight. :)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Currently...It's June!

It's June and it is time for Currently!
Hosted by Oh Boy 4th Grade as always.

I've been  doing a ton of reflecting lately.  This June is different from any other June I've experienced in the past 17 years.  Since I am working as an instructional coach this year, there are no children to say goodbye to, no memory books, no CD's of pictures to burn, no report cards, no field day, no ice cream sundae parties, no reading celebrations, no grandparent tea, no Camp Read A Lot, no students who will "miss me so much they don't want to get on the bus to go home" and no waving at the bus as they drive out of the parking lot.  Honestly, that part is kind of depressing.

Instead, I am up to my eyeballs in school improvement planning, summer work coordination, professional development planning and scheduling madness.  Do I like my new job?  Yes, because it brings new challenges each day and I actually like challenges.  I love my new team!  I enjoy having the opportunity to work with team members who are focused on change to make a great place even better. All that doesn't change the fact that I miss the little ones like crazy.

And currently...

Head over the visit Farley to read the word on the street for June!  If it's not your summer yet, it will be soon.  Time to recover, relax and recharge.  You deserve it!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Good Teacher, Bad Mom

Sometimes being a teacher makes you feel like a really bad mom.  At 4:15 this morning, I put my daughter on a bus to Toronto.  She is going on an overnight field trip with her 6th grade class.  Many of the moms I know from dance, soccer, church and baseball were there with clipboards ready to chaperone the trip.

My daughter was super excited about the trip and I'm excited for her to have this experience.  When we arrived at her school, I signed my daughter in, found her chaperone, snapped a picture of her and her friends and kissed her goodbye.  On my way out the door one of the moms who knows me said, "Kimberly, aren't you glad you don't have to do another field trip? Teachers probably dread field trips."  I said nothing.  Isn't that what you are supposed to do when you don't have anything nice to say?  I cried on the way home and sat in the dark on my front porch thinking about the truth.

The truth is that I have never been on a field trip for either of my own children.  Since I'm a teacher, I've taken hundreds of other children on field trips over the past 17 years.  I have only been able to go to 2 class parties for my own children.  As teacher, I've hosted several class parties each year for the students and families in my class.  My own kids don't ask me anymore if I can come on a field trip or to a special event that is hosted during the day, because I'm a teacher and they know I can't.

Since I am working as an instructional coach this year, I could have gone on this trip.  I have more leave days than I'll ever need to use.  My boss would certainly let me go since I am not directly responsible for students.  So, I volunteered when the chaperone forms came home.   I didn't get chosen.  The moms who held the clipboards this morning are the same moms who have been the volunteers on my daughter's field trips since Kindergarten.

Sometimes the chaperones send me pictures of my own kids on their field trips.  They almost always say something like, "Wish you were here"  or "Thought you might like this since you can never come".  While I'm grateful for the pictures that I can't take myself, it is still a reminder that being a good teacher sometimes makes me feel like a really bad mom.

My daughter won't know that I was upset on the way home today.  When my son wakes up I won't share it with him either.  I'll pretend I wasn't crying for an hour on the front porch and I will wait for my pictures.  I'll silently be the teacher mom who does not dread field trips with her students (for the record), but that wishes somehow I could enjoy all of these things with my own children too.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Chocolate Milk, Por Favor! Blog Tour and Giveaway!

Extra!  Extra! Read All About It!

My favorite author released her newest book, Chocolate Milk, Por Favor!

Maria Dismondy is an award winning author, a former teacher and a mom who writes books that empower others and encourage us to celebrate diversity.  I've known Maria for a few years and have had the pleasure of hearing her presentations several times in my school.  My own children have also been empowered by her message when she visited their schools.  She is a fabulous presenter and I can tell you from experience that her positive message sticks with children and adults.

I've read and enjoyed all of Maria's books in my classroom and at home with my own children. Her new book is the story of a two boys, Gabe and Johnny.  Gabe speaks a different language than the other students in his new school and Johnny struggles to accept Gabe at first.  Throughout the story, Johnny learns to celebrate diversity with empathy.  Chocolate milk plays role in the story as well!

Chocolate Milk, Por Favor! sparked conversations at our house about important topics like ways we can make people feel welcome, getting to know more about people to honor the differences among us, celebrating diversity instead of pretending we are all the same and having empathy for others.  In our family, we want our children to do more than accept others.  We want them to learn from each others differences, accept each other without the expectation that we should all be the same and encourage others to be the best they can be.  I tried to teach the same to the children in my classroom. Chocolate Milk, Por Favor! is a book that I will definitely be recommending to teachers and parents for years to come.

I have a great deal of respect for Maria Dismondy's work and the positive messages she shares.  I am honored that she asked me to create a reader's guide for Chocolate Milk, Por Favor!.   The reader's guide includes activities that are aligned with the common core standards (but will work with any standards) for teachers and parents to use as they enjoy the story together.  You can read more about this book (and her other books) and download the reader's guide for free on Maria's website by clicking on the image below.

As part of the blog tour, Maria is allowing me to giveaway a signed copy of Chocolate Milk, Por Favor! to one lucky winner!  The giveaway ends on April 11th at midnight.

Congratulations, Maria!

Another fabulous book!
Another powerful message!
Looking forward to filling our shelves and our hearts with more of your stories in the future!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Currently April

No joke - it's time for Currently!

I received a call toward the end of the day today saying my son got sick at school.  Poor thing!  I would much rather be sick myself. This time we are both sick with different things.

Our spring break begins on Friday.  We really, really need a week to slow down and disconnect  a bit for some family time.  I opened the windows the get rid of the germs today.  That's what we do when it hits 45 degrees in Michigan. Ha!

I need to pray more.  I'm not sure if it's because I went to a Catholic school or because I sometimes struggle to focus my attention, but I need total silence to pray.  A nun told me when I was little that you need to "be quiet, so the big guy can hear your prayers".  Total silence doesn't happen often enough, so I need to work on that.

Fingers crossed that my son feels better soon and that my daughter stays healthy.  In the meantime, I'm bringin' out my Windex!  (Hello - Windex Marketing Department, I am your biggest supporter!  It's time to contact me.)

I lost my voice last night.  It was nothing more than a whisper all day today.  I am pretty sure the folks I work with enjoyed the peaceful day.  However, this chatty gal is hoping to be able to talk again very soon.

Ha!  I decided on a name before I was sure I was going to start a blog. That was years ago...and now I work as an instructional coach.  I miss 1st grade and especially my students, but love the collaboration in my new position.  Changing the name of my blog seemed like too much work... so I didn't.

Head over to visit Farley to find out what the rest of the world is Currently doing!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Good Comprehension, But Not So Great Accuracy

There is one question that people ask me about teaching reading that is more frequent than any other question.  It actually usually starts out as a statement.

"He has great comprehension, but he makes lots of errors with word accuracy on the assessments."

Here are the steps I recommend for addressing this problem.

1.  Name It
Talk to the student about what you are noticing about his/her reading accuracy.  Name the problem by telling the student that you notice they are having difficulty with word accuracy.  As teachers, I think it is important for us to give purposeful feedback to students to help them improve.  I am definitely from the camp that believes that it is hard for students to improve something if they do not have specific feedback.

2. Explain It
Explain why word accuracy is important to the student.  Even though some students may have good comprehension with decreased word accuracy at first, their comprehension will likely decrease when they encounter more complex texts in the future.

Some struggling readers are used to being challenged by word accuracy.  They constantly need to use strategies to decode words.  Around 3rd and 4th grade, the children who tend to struggle with word accuracy are often those who had no trouble learning to read in previous grades.  These are the children who did not necessarily have to use strategies at first. Words just came easy to them and when they begin to encounter multisyllabic words in 3rd and 4th grade, they have difficulty decoding the words.  They often tend to only focus on the beginning portion of the word.

3. Check for Discrimination
It is important to determine whether or not the student can discriminate when someone else makes errors as they read.  If they can't tell when someone else makes an error, then it will be hard for them to self correct their own errors.

To work on this, I give the student a copy of a book at their level and I read a few paragraphs  (or pages if the text is short) from another copy of the same book.  I ask the student to track the print and either knock on the table or ding a bell (just because that is more engaging) every time they "catch Mrs. Gillow" reading a word incorrectly.  Taking the focus off the reader, but asking them to focus on my reading accuracy helps me determine if they are able to discriminate the correct vs. incorrect words that I read.

I practice this for the first few minutes each day during small group instruction with students who have good comprehension, but reduced word accuracy.  Then I simply remind them about the importance of word accuracy and continue on with their small group instruction for the day.

4.  Reverse Roles
Once I know the student can discriminate word accuracy in someone else's reading, I reverse the roles and practice the same routine with the student doing the reading and me knocking quietly on the table.  Competitive students often beg me to ding the bell, but I only use the bell if the student requests it.

5.  Try Tracking 
Over the years, the single most effective strategy that my readers have used to improve their word accuracy is tracking the print.  I encourage my students to use their finger (since it's always with them).  From time to time, I give students a color overlay bookmark to help them track the print.

I disagree with the folks who have recently recommended that students should stop tracking print at level D.  As an adult, I sometimes track my print to help focus my attention.  If it works, you are never too old to track the print.

Now off to walk my doodles!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March Currently

March - what?!?  How did that happen?

March is an exciting month at our house!  Here is what is happening...

It seems like every month when I finally have time to sit down to work on my currently post someone is snoring by my side.  This time it is Kalli, my youngest goldendoodle.  She is 4 years old and sleeps on my feet every single night.

March is birthday month at our house and it is full of family fun!  Within the next two weeks, we will celebrate my son's birthday, my daughter's birthday and my husband's birthday (and his twin's birthday). His twin does not live with us (anymore). Ha!

In January, my husband and I did Whole30.  At first, Whole30 was something that I figured I might as well try because nothing else seemed to work.  Now, I am a firm believer in the benefits.  It really worked and we are still eating about 90% clean as a result.

Between my new job, lost of presentations, grad school, baseball, soccer, dance and a few big projects that I'm working on...I'm looking forward to crossing a few things off my list this month.

It's been extremely cold in Michigan.  I actually like winter, but I am looking forward to the days when I can take a nice long run with sunshine and warmer temps.

We're staying local this spring break for the most part.  I am planning a visit to the Vera Bradley outlet sale with my mom and my daughter.  Other than that, we're staying here to take care of something top secret.  I'm one of those people who thinks it is a bad idea to announce big things...just in case something doesn't work out in the end.  I am hoping to be able to share more in April.

Now, I really need to go to bed.  Looking forward to reading through the Currently posts as always.

Head over to Farley's blog to check out the party!