Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dictionary Guide Words

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As ‘bell work’ my students complete a DLR. After independent reading time we correct them together. These five minutes often give me valuable insight into skills that need to be taught, re-taught, or emphasized. Today, as we looked at a dictionary guide word question, I realized something.

It was not the fact the several students had no strategies for identifying what words would fall on a page in the dictionary.

It wasn’t that some of them still need to have the alphabet written out, or sing it to themselves, in order to remember the order.

It wasn’t that some of them would rather guess than take the time to do their best work.

All of the above are true, but my realization was that my daughter, at nearly four, will never have a question like this on a test (or at least she shouldn’t).

Why is that?

She will never use a dictionary in book form, most likely. For her a dictionary will be an electronic resource therefore her dictionary searching skills will look very different.

What realizations have you had recently? How do you see learning (and testing) changing for the next generation?

Monday, April 29, 2013

What Are You Reading?

“It’s Monday! What are you Reading?” is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is a chance for book lovers to share their reading accomplishments as well as what is on the proverbial nightstand. She even does a giveaway. Subsequently Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts added an opportunity for those reading kidlit to join the fun. Since I read both I will post to both. Check them out, join the conversations, and discover more great books.

Must haves for my classroom library are marked with *.

The Gendarme by Mark T Mustian
History I had no idea about, the Armenians' forced exodus from Turkey. The story is intricately woven following a present and past duel timeline.

*The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
This is not just fun to read, with a powerful female protagonist, but helps kids understand a different time.

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (audio)
Didn't love it, but found the way the story wove together to be interesting with characters I cheered and cried for.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (audio)
So many of my students have loved these books. I can see the interest in having history feel exciting, but I don't need to read the rest.

*Lirael by Garth Nix (2/3 in series)
These get better and better! I have them cued up for my husband to read this summer (when he has time). The way he creates a new world with enthralling characters and rioting storyline is reminiscent of how I feel of Tolkien's writing. Read them!

*Guys Write for Guys Read compiled by Jon Scieszka
I couldn't help but read excerpts of this to my classes as I went. Gross and funny, just what most boys want. I can tell you I will never think of oysters or olives the same way.

*Abhorsen by Garth Nix (3/3 in series)
See above. Some series fizzle, this one never did - always a new aspect to the world I couldn't have imagined and characters I don't want to leave.

Have Mother, Will Travel by Claire and Mia Fontaine (audio)
Mother / daughter memoir of travel and relationship.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


We will have to wait until next week to see what the exact percentage of middle school girls will be, but there are going to be loads of them absent. No, it isn’t a bug going around, unless you consider “Bieber Fever” an ailment.

That’s right, Justin is going to be in concert and the fans from our school are headed to scream cheer him on.

If a concert goes late they might need to sleep in the next morning, right? It is more complicated than that. You see, the concert is in Dubai so our kids are flying to another country for the concert. Most of them will be gone four days – why not go for the weekend before the show?

Yes, the students here are not just begging for concert tickets, (which I had to pay for myself when I went to concerts AND that was in high school, not sixth grade!) Tickets for this show have to include airfare, hotel rooms, and plenty of shopping in the famous malls of Dubai.

They have it rough, don’t they?

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Thursday evening G was saying she was cold. I wasn’t cold and she is wired like her daddy, not me. Knowing something was up I leaned over and kissed her forehead. I then got the thermometer to scientifically confirm what, as a mom, I already knew – fever.
It was a low grade fever, but a fever none the less. Fever always leads to the discussion on ‘who will stay home’. You see, we are parents that follow the ‘required’ 24 hours fever free (without medicine) rule before she can be at school. A fever Thursday night nearly ensures one Friday morning, which means someone will be home Saturday.
The point of this post is not really about the fever, but about how thankful I am that my career is as valued as my husband’s. Many (if not most) of my girlfriends know that they are the ones who will be home with their child. No discussion, that is just the way it is.
In our house we often do half day shifts, but since I was recently out on bereavement leave (and then a conference that was scheduled last spring) we both understood that my being in my classroom was the best option.
I am thankful that his schedule for today allowed for what we both wanted to have happen (sometimes he has a meeting he just can’t miss). I am thankful that he is just as capable as I am. I am thankful that she is happy with either of us home. Most importantly I am thankful that the fever broke Friday afternoon and they ended up having a fun day together and everyone is headed back to school tomorrow.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Last Thursday I forgot to post the things I was thankful for. In hindsight, it may be a good thing that I did. At that point there were things in motion that very much looked like they were going to work out. To my (and other's) great shock, they didn't.

Am I still thankful?

Absolutely. Here's the thing. I believe God is in control. Even when I can't figure out how His plan is going to work out I don't lose sight of that fact. I am thankful for His sovereignty.

What else am I thankful for this week?

Cool (relative, I know) breezes
Good, dark chocolate and a husband who keeps me supplied
Internet. (G loves hearing the Mariners announcers say 'Seattle'.)
The ability to eat well
Kitchen appliances that help with the above
Other people who see injustices (and even use that term)

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A School Week


Life is all about perspective.

From my perspective, this week flew by. That is generally how things go for me from Spring Break until the last day of school. I reach the end of the week and look back, wondering where it went (and thankful that there is one less week to go). After tomorrow there are seven weeks of school remaining.

From my preschooler's perspective it has taken nearly forever to arrive at Wednesday. At the same time, there have been things she has looked forward to throughout the week.

Saturday is her Show and Tell day. This week she brought her camera. (That is a story in itself, which perhaps I will write about next Saturday when she tries again.) Saturday was also when we found out she would be going on a field trip and the count down began.

Monday, which is usually the day she hates, had her thrilled because for Earth Day she could wear something blue and/or green (as a fundraiser). Anytime she gets to wear a dress she is thrilled.

Today was an unexpected surprise. They have been studying spring and plants. This was the day she got to bring home her growing shoots in a cup. ("They need sun, air, and water everyday.")

She went to bed tonight so excited for the end of the week, as tomorrow she is going on a field trip to a 'garden' (really an elaborate plant shop) and Fuddruckers for lunch.

From either perspective, the week will end soon and we'll all be exhausted. Thankfully every week is followed by a weekend.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day

I wrote about our school going paperless (or at least shutting down the copiers) this week. Today is Earth Day itself. 

The best way to raise money in a school that wears uniforms? Allow people to wear jeans, with tops appropriate for your cause - green and blue today, and charge them money for the 'privilege'. Both students and staff are happy to help a cause, any cause, if it involves getting to wear jeans. 

So, all I know is the Environmental Club collected money today and my room is full if denim. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013


I used “Love and Logic” language, often. I give lots of choices and often responds to a poor choice with “bummer”.

Remember we have been in school for more than 3/4 of the year. I have uttered “bummer” an innumerable amount of times.

This week I had to pause when an ELL student told me they looked “bummer” up and couldn’t find it in the dictionary. Could I tell them what it means?

We segued into talking about context clues and possible meanings for “bummer” from their experience of how I use it. They had a clear picture of the meaning, from my use, but wanted to see a dictionary definition.

I had never thought about “bummer” not being in the dictionary, nor had I thought about my need to possibly provide a definition.

This story takes an interesting twist when I Googled “bummer” and found a slew of dictionaries with definitions, synonyms, etc. I wonder where this student looked up the word.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

And you worry about us?!

This post keeps scurrying around in my mind, but each time I try to get it down things don't come out quite right. I have written it in my head, typed it out (and deleted it), and talked about it with friends, yet I haven't published it.

I have finally decided that it is not going to come out 'right' and that I am not going to be able to fully develop my thoughts. Perhaps they need more incubation time.

I can share the initial thought with you.

I can not count how many times people in the U.S. ask if we are safe over here (be it Jordan or Saudi). I am pretty sure that is the mindset if we were anywhere in the Middle East. This week has helped to illustrate that we are far more safe than those of you in the good ol' U.S. of A.

And you worry about us?!

Our thoughts and prayers are with those impacted by recent events in Boston and West, Texas, but it doesn't end there. Our thoughts and prayers are (maybe even more often) with those impacted by Syria (all of it) and the West Bank and…

(This is where I start having to delete things so I will just stop now.) We are safe and hope you are too.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Next week our school is trying an experiment. In Honor of Earth Day the photo copy machines are being shut down, for the week, and everyone is being asked to try and go paperless.

There have been statistics shared regarding how many copies have been made, both as a school and individually, this year. The rationale has been presented. Now the challenge is nearly upon us.

If this were asked of you, what would you do?

There seem to be two approaches at our school. One is to give this challenge a try while the other is trying to get everything copied ahead of time.

Three cheers to those who give it a try. I gave it a try a few years ago and now I run a nearly paperless class.

There are two instances that I still rely on paper.

If I know I am going to have a substitute I might give them a back up plan since not everyone is as comfortable with the technology we use in my room. For example, during our persuasive writing unit there were two pieces of student writing we were using as mentor texts to look at the craft of persuasion writing. I was traveling for a conference so instead of having them only available as Google Docs I printed them out.

I also have a paper, self-evaluation rubric I have the students fill out a couple of times each quarter. This amounts to 1/3 of a page, per student, per quarter. I tried to do this electronically, but inevitably the internet would go down when I needed access to the documentation. I have found that giving in to this one, small paper task has huge advantages, so I continue. Next week is only week two of the quarter and I won’t need it anyway.

What about you? Could you do it, at least for a week?

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Doors and Windows

Recently we have been on an employment roller coaster. I was starting to wonder if we would be stuck on the ride while it stalled out, but (to mix metaphors) just as one door closed a window or two seem to have opened. I am encouraged, optimistic, and excited at the possibilities. It would be nice to walk around the amusement park for a while, having lemonade and popcorn, rather than all the loopy loops.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

To quote a student…

I am grading papers and have to share a line with you. If nothing else it proves job security for us teachers.

"Sometimes a terminal illness is fatal, but very rarely."

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The things I could write about…

Doors closing, waiting for windows to open
Report cards
Family dinner - prep and eating
Independent play
Bedtime rituals
Pretending to plan when you can't
Ready to head to bed, but needing to post first
Hot bath
Love of the library

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thankful Thursday

My real life friend, Kimberlee, shares a list of things she is thankful for sometimes on her blog. I love lists and have thought about penning some of my own. We'll see how it goes.
I am thankful for…
Family time; giggles, imagination, simple pleasures
Technology; photos, small world, and access to books
Airplanes that allow us to travel this vast world in such a short time.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tree in the forest

People have long wondered if a falling tree makes a sound when it falls in the forest and no one is there. That is like my pondering about foot massages. 

Hold on. It isn't that big of a leap, once I explain. This past week, as I have had nearly daily foot massages, as I wrote about here, I find my thoughts returning to the forest and the falling trees. Does one enjoy a massage to the same extent if you fall asleep?

I am sure that the long term benefit to the body is the same, asleep or awake. I may take more enjoyment in the actual receiving of the foot massage than the long term benefits. This being the case if I fall asleep I miss that enjoyment.  (Plus the observation that the quality of the massage decreases when the recipient is snoozing. 

So,  cousins - trees and foot massages. 

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Something Right

There are many things at our school that are far from exemplar right now. I am not dwelling on the negative here. My reflection from today is how refreshing it is to be with a group of people from a school that I find myself to be envious of and yet there is still something that we are doing 'right' and they strive to get there. It is refreshing to remember that we are doing something, even several somethings, right. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Awakening Senses

The flicker of the TV catches my attention
from beyond my eyelids.
I must realize I am in Luang Prabang because
the thumping that begins is the sound of the monks pounding on their drums. 

Why are they pounding so early?
It must be later than I realize. 
Wait a minute, there is no TV in this hut

My eyes peel open. 
The flickering continues
and is punctuated by actual flashes of light in the deep night sky. 

Perhaps I doze,
maybe not. 
I awake to the first sound of pitter patter on the roof,
the splash in the large tropical leaves. 

I love a storm. 

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Monday, April 1, 2013

Looking at the calendar

This is my last post as I am shutting down this blog. Thanks for reading.