Math & Literacy Unite!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Follow @mrsforest!

     I have discovered a new hobby of mine.  Recently, I have become an Annie Forest groupie. That might seem odd to some of you, seeing as I am a Literacy Coach and she is a math centered iCoach, but it really is not odd at all.  Trust me.  Literacy and math are not all that different.

     Sure, they are different.

     Yet, they are also the same.

     Good instruction is good instruction.  We can learn instructional techniques from all teachers, regardless of content.  It started with a building meeting that I couldn't attend, so Lucy Carrera videotaped it for me.  Then it was catching 10 minutes of a lesson she modeled in our 5th grade. After that, we ended up having a conversation around coaching, and she recommended a book.  Then, I got to see 10 more minutes of a lesson in a 2nd grade room.  The conclusion of my groupie-like stalking was her debriefing with 2nd grade today during their common plan.  She had me at "debrief."

     The truth is, I am a Literacy Coach by title. But, I taught math for 15 years before I switched roles, and even now I can't help but use my math background when it comes up.  I am definitely more of a literacy person, and explaining math is a little harder for me.  I was always good at it, but I soon discovered that teaching it and being good at it don't always add up to make the perfect equation.

     Annie modeled a lesson called Which One Doesn't Belong? (#WODB). This type of lesson was created by Christopher Danielson (@trianglemancsd).  Unlike the Sesame Street version, where there is one right answer in a simple classification activity, there are 4 right answers in #WODB.  In fact, when Annie modeled one in our 5th grade, I actually didn't have an answer for a minute.  If she had called on me, I would have sat there silent for a bit.  That's when I knew I was going to be her groupie.

        The truth is, I am a sucker for student led lessons.  That's why book clubs and true close reading are a few of my favorite literacy things.  You put yourself in front of students, or you gather students around a topic, and you let THEM drive the conversation.  Sure, you have taught them some things along the way that you hope they consider, but they have the keys.  It's been those lessons that I leave inspired.  So, seeing Annie step in front of students she doesn't know, and watch her ask them what they thought, was just perfect.

     Students need to have ideas of their own, grounded in some sort of evidence.

     Students need to know that their ideas can be shared and valued by others.

     Students need to know that not everyone will agree with their ideas, and there is often more than one right answer.  Ambiguity exists.

     If you are teaching math or reading, those above statements are true.  See, these two content areas can collide!

     If we can support students in building their ability to think critically, support their ideas, and have a conversation around them, then the same skills can transfer to other subject areas.  We are truly #bettertogether.

     If you want to read more about the kind of lesson Annie did, you can read this blog post here by Christopher Danielson, or you can visit Annie's blog here.

#sol17: Reflections

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Day 31 of #sol17


     And, suddenly, Day 31 is here.

     On the 1st of March, I really didn't think I would make it to March 2nd in this year's Slice of Life Challenge.  It has been an incredibly busy school year for me, and I did not think I would be able to commit to writing every single day.  Yet, when I set my mind to something, I really try to follow through.  This year, I had some classes joining me, and it they were going to do it, I was too.  

     We did it.

     Well, just about...  I did miss 2 days right around my daughter's birthday.  I remembered at 11:30pm CST (which is past the deadline here in the midwest) so I didn't post.  Rather than make it up the next day, I skipped writing again because birthday festivities got the best of me.  But, other than that, 29 days were blogged and posted on the correct day.  I can be proud of that.

     I'm even more proud of the student writers who blogged with their classes!  We had 7 classes blog: Ross/Waszak, Carrillo, Flowers, Ivnik, Harvey/Bludeau, Milford, and Haar.  Perhaps not every child blogged every day, but they wrote and commented on most school days.  Some classes did more, some did less, but all committed to giving their students a voice.  We saw their writing stamina grow, their sense of audience increase, and their feeling as writers become established.  I am so proud of our student writers!  For the past 2 months (thanks to One Book, One School and Slice of Life) my phone has been getting over 200+ email notifications a day from Kidblog for post approvals.  I'm going to miss all that writing, but perhaps not all the emails.  :)

     One special shout out is to +Kathy Ross for writing every day in March, too!  She has been writing on Facebook and her blog, with such great memories and stories from the heart.  Thanks, Kathy, for becoming a writer yourself this month.  You have a voice that wants to be heard (and read) by others!


     We ended the month by recognizing our classes at a PBIS assembly.  Here is a representative from each class receiving their award!

     My one BIG regret?  I did not comment nearly as much as I wanted to.  I usually wrote 2-3 comments on teacher blogs, and wanted to do more.  It was the student blogs, though, that I really want to comment on more next year.  I was approving posts more than commenting, so I read them but just couldn't comment on that many kids.   That's my regret.

     Overall, I feel like a writer!  

     Until next year, or next Tuesday, slicers!


#sol17: Charlotte's Web

Day 30 of #sol17

     There is just something about that pig...  Or, maybe, just maybe, it's the spider that gets me every time.  I bet it's a combination of the two.

     I have always had a problem reading Charlotte's Web aloud.  I had to pass the book to my co-teacher once mid chapter, and then again to a co-worker when I was a guest reader in a classroom.  I just can't make it through the book without crying.  The tears, however, don't always come at the same spot.  The sentimental sap that I am sometimes cries at the loss of a friend, the growing older of a young child, the selflessness of a friend, or the choice to stay by new friends.  There is just one guarantee: I will cry.

     My children came home with Charlotte's Web for their One Book, One School title a month or so ago, and I immediately knew I might be crying in front of my own kids.  I secretly hoped that my husband would end up reading those heartfelt chapters, just to spare my children the ugly tears that might be shed.  No such luck.

     Last night, we had three chapters to go.  We settled in, and I made it through the first chapter.  I then felt the tears start to well up.  My voice started to crack.  My kids both stopped and looked at me, suddenly curious.  I tried to continue on.  It just wasn't going to happen.

     "I just can't do this," I said between tears.  "Brian?"  No response.

     "Daddy, Mommy needs you.  She can't read anymore."

     My husband came into the room, awoken from his sleep, to find his crying wife.  He looked slightly confused, yet sat at the end of the bed and continued the story to the end.  My hero.  I could quietly cry in peace.

     Today we went to the family literacy event celebrating Charlotte's Web, and I am happy to report that I did not cry during the crafts or the activities.  It seems that the words of E.B. White alone are the cause of my tears.  :)

#sol17: Spaces

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Day 29 of #sol17

     I am frustrated.  I  was typing a blog post the other  day, and  when I was done I  reread it back. I thought  I  was going  crazy, but there  were a lot of extra spaces  between my words.  I  thought it was pretty odd,  deleted the spaces, and went to sleep.  I figured I was just typing too fast, too late at night.

     Funny thing is, the next day the spaces were still there when I typed.  Randomly there were just extra spaces between my words.  Not all the time,  but enough to drive  me crazy.  Like that extra space between "drive" and "me" in that last sentence.

     Today, when I was working on curriculum documents, the  plans in Google Drive had more space in them than outer space.  OK, that might be a  slight exaggeration.  

     By process of elimination, I narrowed it down to my spacebar.  I think it is mad at me.

     I just saw my  cursor jump an extra space when I was indenting.  

     It didn't do it that time when I was indenting.  Weird.

     Just looking at this post with random double spaces between some words is driving me crazy, but I can't delete them because then I would really look insane.  (I typed a whole sentence with no double spaces.  Make that three.  Trying four...  I'm on a streak!!!)

     I googled it, and it suggests I might need to try canned air, or to replace the keyboard.  Just the thought of sending my computer off to get serviced gives me anxiety.  

     Also, this is kind of weird, but it seems like some people spell it spacebar (compound word) and others spell it space bar (with a space).  Doesn't the second one seem more fitting, since it has the word space in it?  Now I am just ramble typing, just waiting to see if my spacebar/ space bar sticks.

     Well, for now it seems to have stopped adding spaces.  I think it is because I am now typing very deliberately.  At least it gave me a topic for day 29.  :)


#sol17: Dunkin

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Day 28 of #sol17


There is nothing quite like you,
my comfort in a styrofoam cup.
The days just seem more doable with you in my hand.
A medium with cream,
a present from a friend,
delivered with a smile!
Appreciation and caffeine fill my cup. 
Oh, how I love you, Dunkin.  

#sol17: Speaking Narrative

Monday, March 27, 2017

Day 27 of #sol17

     The experiences in our life are just like the pages in a novel.  Each event that happens, every relationship we have, every success or failure we experience, all contribute to the bigger plot line of our lives.  Our story is being written as we spend our days, and only when we choose to reread our past do we see how those parts connect to our present.

     I started my day speaking with a teacher about the idea that we don't just move on, because those experiences shape us.  I somehow then spent the day finding random moments of my past, and reflecting on how they have somehow affected me today.

     It's days like today that you may want to avoid me, as simple conversations turn into narratives.  Small moments of my life spilled out of me.  Stories of my aunt's school experiences, unit lessons that spoke to me, my manager days at McDonalds, college loans, my experience with CAT tests as a student, and my past weekend.  Today I spoke in narrative.  I just can't close the book once it has been opened.  

     I'm going to blame #sol17.   This slicer now slices orally, too.  Was that part of the challenge? :)

#sol17: Gratitude Tired

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Day 26 of #sol17

     Today I am filled with so much gratitude that I have too much to say.  The ideas are floating in my mind so quickly that I can't really grab onto just one of them to write about it.  My daughter turned 7 on Friday, and the whole weekend was spent with family and friends celebrating her.  It truly makes you grateful when you are surrounded by other's love for your child.

      So, this little slice is one great big slice of gratitude.  I'm sure I'll take moments from this past weekend to write more about the moments we had, but for now I am just sitting in a quiet house, listening to the hum of the dishwasher and the tapping of the keys on my computer, embracing the quiet moment to reflect on it, but also tired enough where this will be good enough for now.  I think I am #GratitudeTired.  You know, that state where you are mentally and physically drained because you are so filled with appreciation for the moments and people in your life that you can't do much more than sit and ponder it all.  That's where I'm at.

       In a few moments, I will be #GratitudeSleeping.  If that's such a thing, of course.  :)