We blew it again. Last week, Monday came and Monday went. Neither Kristi nor I managed to eke out a measly blog post. Chalk it up to being busy moms with busy personal and professional lives. Chalk it up to an unexpected meeting that got dropped in during the time Kristi had allotted to writing the post. Chalk it up to, well, life.
Life, as busy as it may be, always holds moments of time that can be repurposed or multi-purposed, freed up for things other than that for which they were intended. Which is how I find myself writing this when I don't really have the time. Multi-tasking as I wait for my youngest to fall asleep. I've been really thrilled lately to have received several compliments on our blog, a few (surprisingly, to me anyway) from non-teacher friends. So I feel like these stolen moments are important moments; I'm no longer writing just for me (which was fine, I enjoy doing it) but for others who are reading it too. Wow! So no matter how late, no matter how busy, I want to get something down, for me and for you. Thanks for reading!
Lots of professional reading going on this week but we'll throw in a couple of picture books to round it out.
Bear Says Thanks (Karma Wilson). I love all of the Bear books. Their rhyme and rhythm is so wonderful, I could read them over and over again (which is good, because my kids love to do just that!). Recent events in the world and in my own life have reminded me of how important it is to be thankful for the little things and this book is just perfect for that. Kind-hearted Bear discovers that, even though his cupboards are bare, he still has something wonderful to offer his friends, just as they have something to offer him. A beautiful book to use simply as a read-aloud, this book could also spark discussion about materialism, gift-giving and the importance of being thankful. A definite must-read.
Read, Write, Lead: Breakthrough Strategies for Schoolwide Literacy Success (Regie Routman). I've had the pleasure of hearing Regie speak when she came to Kelowna last year so when this book was presented as an option at a recent in-service I was excited to read it. The thing that struck me the most about this book was the focus on changing the culture of your entire school, from principal right down to student, to embrace literacy success. While this might seem to be rather obvious based on the title of the book, Routman's book goes deeper than just strategies and structures; beginning with establishing the communally held beliefs (even if, as she says, you can only agree on one!) of your staff about education, Routman charts a course towards a place where every teacher believes that every child will learn to read and does everything they can to make it so. Although not as easy and enjoyable a read as Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild, Read, Write, Lead is an excellent choice for instructional coaches, principals and other teacher-leaders looking to forge a way towards excellence in literacy instruction in their schools.
If I Built a House - Chris Van Dusen. One of the most powerful structures that we have in place at our school is deliberate chunks of time set aside for collaboration. Called, simply, collab blocks, these are two blocks per week where Kristi and I have intentionally scheduled nothing; this allows one (or both!) of us to cover a classroom teacher so that that teacher can meet with whomever they need to - usually one of us, since we do a lot of co-teaching, but occasionally with their grade partner. We have found this time to be invaluable to ensuring a responsive and flexible support schedule for our kiddos, allowing us to meet their needs quickly and accurately. What it also means is that one of us is frequently called upon to deliver a somewhat impromptu literacy lesson (that, or cover centres in Kindergarten, cringe). This is how, just the other day, I found myself reading If I Built a House to a rather large group of Gr. 2s and 3s. What fun! We talked about visualization, imagined what the rooms would look like if the book had no pictures (which, as a total aside, is a book I would love to read to this group!) and then got to draw out the rooms we would have in the houses we would build. Fun was had by all; I think I'd like to go back and do If I Built A Car!
Math Work Stations: Independent Learning You Can Count On K-2 (Debbie Diller). This is a book filled with practical strategies and ready-to-use activities for setting up math stations in your classrooms. I picked it up as part of our staff professional reading lit circle in the hopes that it would give me (and my co-teacher) some great ideas for the math pit. In reality, it has not been a great fit for us because it focuses on K-2 (I know, I know. It's in the title! I had hoped that some of the activities could be repurposed for older kids) and uses a somewhat different definition of stations than we do in the Lit Pit/Math Pit. That being said, there are tons of great ideas and activities in here if you do teach K-3 and prefer more of a centers-based approach to stations (Diller pairs students up and allows them, in a guided fashion, to choose their activity, rather than run stations on a small-group rotation basis.) or if you are just starting to explore the idea of math learning stations. I love that she guides you through everything, right down to the purchase and storage of your materials. I also love that most of the strategies can be implemented right away with very little work - as far as I'm concerned, that right there is worth the price of admission!
Thanks again for reading! Still filled with gratitude that others are taking the time out of their day to read what we write.
I'm Bryn, teacher, mom, book lover, athlete. I am passionate about literacy, collaborative teaching and finding new and innovative ways to engage & motivate all kids. I hope you find something that speaks to you here on my blog and would love to hear from you too!