Summer Read: Me Talk Pretty One Day

I realize this book has been out for many years, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I just read it. That said, I should have read it years ago, because it is one of the funniest books ever written. That is a high compliment coming from me, since I rarely read books in the "Humor and Entertainment" category. (Or else it's not a compliment, since I rarely read books in the "Humor and Entertainment" category.)

I was hooked from the beginning, when Sedaris details his childhood experience with speech therapy and the elaborate lengths he went to while avoiding the letter s... including anything in the plural form, or reading about the adventures of seals or settlers named Sassy or Samuel.

Actually, my real motivation for reading Me Talk Pretty One Day is because I knew Sedaris had written about his move to France, and I wanted to hear those stories most. Even if you've never lived as an expat, I think you will find this section of the book hilarious. As someone who has experienced the pains of living abroad and learning a second language, I was laughing out loud continuously for several chapters. (Don't you love to laugh out loud while reading?!) I also love that Sedaris moves to France and chooses to learn the least helpful words and phrases possible, simply because he likes the sound of them. I completely empathize with sounding like an angry child due to lack of vocabulary, and admire the way he persisted despite his French teacher making fun of him at every opportunity. I think I would've just given up, gone to the café, and eaten a dozen pastries.

If you haven't read this book yet, you should do so immediately!

Rethinking Reading Logs


This year I taught all four classes of second grade English at my school. I saw each group of students for a half day of reading and a half day of writing every week. One of the things that really struck me was the EXTREME difficulty of implementing a (consistent) system of reading accountability for my students... especially for at-home reading. I've always used reading logs in previous years (sometimes as simple logs, other times as reading response sheets), but this year had me pulling out my hair. 

Initial Goal(s) for Reading Logs
My inability to discuss home reading with students' until the following week made reading logs essential to help keep track of the kinds of books they were reading and how long they were reading each night. I wanted students to understand that reading volume is so crucial to becoming better readers, while also helping them see patterns in their reading habits (genres they tend to read, which nights they're able to read for longer periods of time, etc.). I also wanted the reading log to serve as a reminder for one of the most important things they could do to become better students: Read at home as often as possible!

The Problem with Reading Logs
The main problem with reading logs stemmed from the infrequency of my classes. Seeing students only once each week for Reading made follow-up and feedback very difficult. Seven days would pass between one lesson and the next. Seven days is a LOT of time to a seven-year-old! Building and maintaining a consistent routine took about three months for some students, and other students never latched onto the reading log as a helpful tool. And although I communicated with parents, I received a lot of, "Yes, we're reading at home, but we just don't have time to fill out the reading log." Even though I was asking students to write only the title of the book and pages or minutes read, I kept getting excuse after excuse about how they didn't have time to fill out the log. "But I'm reading!" so many of them would say to me. They didn't see the reading log as helpful or necessary, and it didn't add to their love of reading in any way.

My Revised Plan and Goal
Needless to say, reading logs were not working for my kiddos. I was spending too much time checking them and practically begging students to fill them out, while wasting valuable time that could've been spent teaching, reading, or doing anything else to nurture a classroom full of readers.

Near the end of the year, instead of checking reading logs, we began to do Book Talks each week. The whole point of the reading log had been to encourage reading and help students develop some awareness about what they were reading and enjoying. Since that hadn't worked for most students, I thought Book Talks during our morning meeting might be an alternative. I chose three students at the beginning of the week to share their thoughts about their reading during our following class together. I posted a few ideas for things they might talk about, and we discussed as a class the importance of hearing from each other for book recommendations and inspiration. After all, it's one of the things I value as a grownup reader! Even though I started this near the end of the year, students became hooked. They loved Book Talks and even my reluctant readers begged to have a chance at one. 

Instead of reading logs next year, I think I'll start with Book Talks instead. Whether you see students every day or even just once per week, I think it's an important consideration. What's the ultimate goal of reading logs? Are you achieving that goal?

Currently... June!

It's finally June!!! This is the BEST month to link up for Currently with Oh' Boy Fourth Grade!

I recently discovered the series Damages. I really like it... except for one thing: The constant shifts in time. There are at least 5 flashbacks per episode, shifting the viewer from what we know, to "pretend you don't already know that" frame of mind. It can be kind of annoying. Otherwise, the acting is great and the story lines leave you in suspense wondering how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. 

I've been getting back into a routine of spinning and TRX this past month, and it feels really good. I took a very long break after the holidays. I don't know what it was... maybe the lack of daylight hours or the general blah feeling that accompanies me through January and February. I slowly started to get back into my fitness routine in March, but finally started going at least 3 times per week this past month. I have so much more energy these days. 

I am SO ready to get this summer started! I'll be traveling for six weeks, mostly visiting my former home, Madrid! I have really missed it this year. It's my first year back in the US after living abroad for many years, and I am really looking forward to being back in Europe. I'll be sure to post pics throughout the summer, so be sure to follow me on bloglovin, instagram and facebook to see some amazing views and get updates from across the pond. 

Now that testing is over and I've finished writing (73!) report card comments, I really want to enjoy the last 7.5 days with my students. I have some fun things planned, and I'm looking forward to keeping things light! Click on the product pics below to see what we'll be having fun with during these last couple of weeks! :)

The day after school is out, I'm flying off to start my summer vacation by visiting my family and friends in Atlanta. I haven't seen my sister for over a year!

Summer Lovin
As I mentioned, I can't wait to catch up with the family! Also, spending a week in Crete, a week in Cyprus, and 4 weeks traveling around Spain is certainly making it difficult to get through these last 2 weeks of school! I can't wait can't wait can't wait!!! And to top it all off, I'll be spending a few days at the Reading Institute at Teachers College in August, right before school starts. I feel very lucky indeed.
What are your summer plans?

Be sure to check out more blogs by clicking on the link below! :)

Naming What We Do

As I reflect on this year of teaching, I've been thinking about the missed opportunities more than anything. It's so hard for me to celebrate the little successes (although I try to do that in front of my students at every opportunity) instead of dwelling on the things I could've done better. I always tend to focus on those things I want to do better, while not giving myself enough (any) credit for the things I do well. I believe I'm good at what I do. It's just that I'm constantly striving (expecting) to be a little better each day.

I've been thinking about all of the opportunities we have as teachers to specifically name what we're doing (as teachers, learners, thinkers) to make that same thinking and learning easier and more meaningful for our students in the present and future. For example, how often do we refer back to one piece of writing and teach something that will make it better? Guess what that's called? Revision! I have an extensive literacy background, and I have no excuse for not using the term "revision" at every appropriate moment, but I don't always use the vocabulary I want students to know and use. And by calling it different things on different days, aren't I just making more work for myself? Aren't I just making the writing process more complex instead of less? Of course, this is just one example, but others abound. Just last week, I heard myself reminding students to use the words and sentences around an unfamiliar word to help them figure out its meaning. I had JUST taught a lesson on context clues the previous day! Why didn't I say, "Use CONTEXT CLUES to help you figure out the meaning of that unknown word."? After all, if we expect students to use academic vocabulary, we have to do it ourselves.

Consistently naming the strategies I use (and therefore want students to use) is definitely something I need to work on. It's an opportunity to help students build academic vocabulary, and helps make our thinking visible.

What are your missed opportunities? I'd love to hear from you!

Happy Saturday! {A TpT Celebration with Freebies}

Yesterday, Teachers Pay Teachers announced one of the free products I'm offering from my store this week, and I was overwhelmed by the response! In case you missed it, here's my newest product: Superhero Sentences (offered as a free resource through tomorrow).

I can't express how much Teachers Pay Teachers has changed my life for the better. It has enabled me to do things I would never be able to do on a teacher's salary, encouraged me to continue developing as an educator, helped me step out of my comfort zone by stepping into the public realm, and has enabled me to connect with educators around the world.

As the school year comes to a close, I'm looking forward to having some time to reflect, recharge, and even to work on a few products that I used with my kiddos but didn't have time to polish. I hope you have a great last few weeks of school. Be sure to download these limited-time free resources to use during these last weeks... or next year. :)

Happy weekend!

Five for Friday {with Freebies and a Giveaway!}

This is a very special Friday! Starting with Teacher Appreciation Week, and ending with a TpT milestone celebration, I've had a lot to be grateful for this week! Not to mention, there are only 23 days of school left! And to top it all off, I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday!

I'm so grateful for the resources I've found on TpT, and for the motivation it's given me to continue developing as an educator. I was thrilled when they contacted me to include me in their Milestone Celebration! I wanted to show my appreciation to all of you who have supported my store by offering free resources throughout the week. Also, be sure to scroll down and enter to win any product of your choice from my TpT store. Five winners will be selected on Friday at midnight.

Today I'm offering a fluency freebie! We started using these fluency fact cards during our nonfiction reading and writing unit, but my students love them so much that we've incorporated them into our Literacy Choice time. They have such a natural curiosity about animals, so they especially love this batch: Fluency Fact Cards: Spiders and Insects.

As another nonfiction reading and writing activity, my students have really impressed me with their close reading of photographs. It does take a bit of modeling and practice at first, but it really pays off in the end! I especially love that struggling readers can feel successful with this activity. You can check out the free resource I created by clicking on the product pic below. It includes several levels so you can differentiate for a variety of needs.

While organizing some of our classroom book bins, I came across these little sticky note treasures that someone had forgotten to remove. I love this time of year, when everything seems to fall into place...those moments when you smile and say to yourself, "They DO get it!"

I spotted this outside my grocery store yesterday. There's also a children's book section below, not in the photo. I love that people in my neighborhood value reading enough to create this community book loan idea next to the newspapers for sale.

On a personal note, I spent last weekend with some girlfriends in Napa. The sun was shining, the weather was perfect, the wine and food were delicious... and I even had my very first mud bath... which I probably won't be doing again. ;)




Enjoy your weekend!

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Celebrating with Giveaways and Freebies! {Day 4}

Thanks for stopping by to help me celebrate a TpT milestone this week! To show my appreciation of all the encouragement and kind words I've received along the way, I'm offering free resources for the entire week!

Freebie #4 is a resource I created this year to help my students express themselves in their speaking and writing. We spent quite a bit of time at the beginning of the year learning a variety of vocabulary to express our feelings. Then we took it a step further to incorporate these feelings into character dialogue in our narrative writing. The kids loved it... And they're still using the vocabulary in their daily interactions with each other!

Be sure to click on the product pic and download this free resource before midnight! Tomorrow will be a new freebie! :D And don't forget to enter the giveaway to win ANY product from my Teachers Pay Teachers store! Five winners will be chosen on Friday at midnight...Good luck!

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