Saturday, April 14, 2018

Literacy Practices Hurting Our Readers

After reading Stacey's post about We Don't Need Your Good Intentions it really had me reflecting on what I have been seeing online the past few months about literacy practices, especially in the primary grades.  Many times, I am disheartened that a love of reading is not the priority.

Thinking back to my childhood, I did not enjoy reading.  Between the whole class novels that lasted all quarter, ridiculous amount of annotating, packets to complete, and sitting through a whole class period taking turns reading from a textbook....  Groan!  It is so important to me as a Kindergarten teacher that I do my best to make sure my students are engaged and love to read and write.  Along with that, we have to be intentional and provide time to do so.

Which practices are hurting our readers?
Students don't need to know their reading level because adults don't know theirs.
FREE from Jen Jones HERE
....Allow students to have a balanced reading diet.  Meaning, students have books on their independent level that they can read confidently in addition to books they are interested in reading.  As adults, we don't go to a bookstore or library and only select books from a leveled bin. Choice is choice.  Remember, during guided reading students are reading texts on their instructional level and are receiving support so they can apply these strategies when they read independently.

Students don't need to complete packets and reading logs to prove they read.
....there is no research to support that taking reading quizzes improves comprehension.  Yes, A.R. I am talking about you. Spending time reading and writing can improve reading comprehension.  Guided writing also plays a role in my guided reading lessons, usually after the comprehension activity.
If you haven't already, get Jan Richardson's book, The Next Step in Guided Reading.  Included are leveled sight word lists and leveled word work.  It is so simple to implement into your guided reading routine.  I highly recommend.  I met Jan Richardson at the National Reading Recovery Conference in February so I am a fan!

Students don't need classroom libraries that lack choice.
....Although it is important that students have time to read books on their independent level, choice is what motivates readers and what helps students discover their interests.  Classroom libraries should contain hundreds of books.  Not multiple copies of the same book.  A classroom library should have multiple authors /genres / series / interests.  This is what makes students excited to read.

Students don't need to stop listening to read alouds.
....listening to read alouds on the carpet has many benefits.  During this time, you are modeling a positive attitude towards reading and introducing students to a wide variety of books.  In addition, you are modeling skills such as fluency, expression, and monitoring comprehension.  Even with intermediate students, picture books are still a strong mentor text to model comprehension strategies.

Jen Jones from Hello Literacy has a free mentor text list for reading literature standards in grades K-2.  Download HERE and grades 3-6 HERE  It is one of the best free products I own because it is a time saver and easy to navigate when lesson planning.

Students don't need to skip writer's workshop.
                                                        FREE from Jen Jones HERE
....even in Kindergarten having a devoted writer's workshop time is crucial.  Writing and reading are connected processes.  Last year, a study was published illustrating that invented spelling is linked to reading ability.  Read more about the study here.  I also did my action research for my master's degree on this topic.  Student's writing reveals which spelling patterns they have mastered and how they manipulate sounds.  Many times writing and reading are viewed are separate subjects but we write to read and read to write.

People and Resources That Inspire Me:
-Donalyn Miller (Reading in the Wild and The Book Whisperer)
-Pernille Ripp (Passionate Readers)
-Jen Jones -- IG : @hellojenjones
-Jennifer Serravallo (The Reading Strategies and The Writing Strategies)
-Kylene Beers and Bill Probst (Disrupting Thinking)

How do you inspire readers in your classroom?

Monday, March 12, 2018

A Balancing Act

The #Compelledtribe is writing about balance for this month's blog post.  Although I am definitely not an expert on this topic, below are some ideas to help with the work/life balance.

Having systems and methods for staying organized helps reduce stress and unnecessary clutter.  For me, it is so important to know where everything is in a moments notice.

Here are a few ways I stay organized:
-Monday-Friday drawers:  I place all of my read alouds and any handouts I will need for each day.
-Copy/File/Grade drawers
-Classroom library bins:  As a Kindergarten teacher, all of my books are organized by author, genre, or interest.  Each book has a label on it that corresponds with the label on the book bin.
-Word Work/Math Center drawers: Using a 10 drawer rainbow cart, each word work activity is inside a drawer.  Each student grabs 1 drawer to work on and all materials are inside.  I use this same method for math centers.
-Email folders: Having folders helps prioritize what needs answered right away or tasks to complete later.

What Works and What Doesn't
Based off past experience, reflect on what systems work for you and vice versa.  Do you prefer to come to school early?  Stay late?  Come in on the weekend?  Leave work at school?  Thinking about what works best for you will help you in the long run by setting boundaries.

Although social media can put pressure on us to have Pinterest perfect classrooms, reflect on what is important to you and what will impact student learning.  Do you need to have matching borders for every holiday?  Probably not.  If that makes you happy, though, go for it.

Use Your Resources
Teaching is a job that can't be done alone.  Ask for support and support others when they need it.  By tapping into other people's strengths, we can build each other up.

Choose Joy 
Regardless of your situation, take time for yourself everyday to do something you enjoy.  Whether it is waking up early to enjoy a cup of coffee in silence, working out, or catching up on a favorite television show, you will thank yourself later.

Take Out
Sometimes a night off from cooking and dishes is necessary.

I would love to hear how you balance.  Share your ideas in the comments.

Sunday, December 31, 2017


2017 showed me how much can change in a year.  Although the word change can have a negative connotation, I am very pleased with the changes that happened.

Big takeaways from 2017:
  • Moved back to Ohio in August.   I love being closer to family and college friends.
  • Started a new teaching job.  I continue my journey teaching all day Kindergarten at a brand new school.  I loved seeing the new building come together.  This school year has been nothing short of amazing and I am so happy where I'm at.
  • Graduated with my masters degree in literacy from the University of Dayton.  Go Flyers!
  • Traveled to Los Angeles, North Myrtle Beach, Wrightsville Beach, Delray Beach, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Phoenix.
Moving forward, my #oneword2018 is present.

Present in 2018:

I completed my masters degree in a year and a half, which means 2017 was devoted to working hard in order to achieve that goal. Since I finished my masters degree in December, I now have much more free time, especially on nights and weekends.   I want to spend more time with family and friends as well as make time to do things I love such as traveling.  I also will hit pause more frequently to remind myself to live in the moment and not always feel on the go.

2017 was a positive year overall and I am excited to see what 2018 will bring!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Thinking about where I was a year ago and where I am today, I can't help but feel blessed.  I am back home in Ohio.  Being close to my family and friends is special.  Instead of being 2 plane rides away, I am now a short drive.  I get to wake up everyday to teach at a school I absolutely love and have fun with a group of Kindergarten students that are eager to learn and share their learning with me everyday.  The community is hands down the best; I have felt supported from day one.  Working with and learning from like minded people adds joy.

In May of last year, I started my masters degree in literacy.  As I am putting the final touches on my research, it is hard to believe I graduate next month.  Receiving my cap and gown in the mail today made it so surreal.  Since starting my masters degree, my passion for literacy has grown immensely.  I am thankful to have many opportunities to learn more about a topic I love.  For years, I have wanted to attend the National Reading Recovery Conference, but did not have the means to do so.  I am beyond thrilled to attend in February 2018 with coworkers.  I continue to strive to create a community of passionate readers.

When I reflect on the past year, so much has changed.  Today my heart is full and I am excited about the future.  Thank you to those that have been a part of my journey and continue to support me.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Classroom Tour 2017-2018

I hope everyone had a positive start to their school year!  I am SO happy to be back in home sweet Ohio.  I love my new school and am so happy with everything.  I have a wonderful group of Kindergarten students and very supportive families.

My school is newly rebuilt (old school was torn down in June).  Since it is a new building, we ordered furniture this past spring.  I am very fortunate to have many flexible seating options provided to us.  It is also the district's first year doing all day Kindergarten, which I taught the past 2 years at my previous school.   It was fun to see everything come together!  Below are pictures of my  Kindergarten classroom:
This is what you see when you first walk into my classroom.  The shelf in behind my couch holds math games and math manipulatives.  
Stools at my kidney table are from Five Below.
View from my carpet.  The blue chair is where I sit during mini lessons.
Themed bookshelf and calendar
The black crate to the left is where students place pencil boxes if they are working on the carpet with a scoop rocker.
Took advantage of the small space below my whiteboard.
View on the left when you walk in.  I sure missed having a bathroom in my classroom!  
Classroom Library
Shelf below the television holds student book boxes and the shelves below the word wall are picture books sorted by theme/author/genre.  The student work above the tv is covered since it is a student name craft.  Sorry!
READ letters are from Target dollar spot this summer.
All of the beautiful cabinets and cubbies!
The posters on the cabinets are Zones of Regulation, which my grade level is doing with our school psychologist and occupational therapist. 
The is the far right side of my classroom, my writing area.  Each student has a writing goal they focus on.  To the right of that are monthly themed words.  The door leads to my teammate's classroom.  
Scoop Rockers: Originally purchased from Wal Mart over a year ago, but they can also be found on Amazon.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Disrupting Thinking Takeaways

This summer I read a handful of professional books. Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters left the biggest impression on me. The book is structured by 3 main sections: the readers we want, the framework we use, and the changes we must embrace.  I was worried this book would be heavily focused on intermediate grades where students read to learn instead of learning to read.  However, I was pleasantly surprised how Beers and Probst illustrated how each topic or idea could be applied across grade levels.

What is the purpose of reading this book?
Beers and Probst challenge several classroom practices such as whole class novels, classroom libraries only containing leveled book bins, and reading to answer specific questions.  They want it to be better by helping students become responsive, responsible, and compassionate readers.  In order to do this, Beers and Probst say we need to be brave, open, connected and get uncomfortable.  Below are some takeaways that I had that can be applied to my Kindergarten classroom:

1. Creating Joyful Readers
The beginning of chapter 1 saddened me.  Although I was not surprised that children read less as they get older.  It also seems that as the demands increase, the purpose for reading changes and students refer to reading as "dumb" or "boring".  In today's society, students need to do more than answer questions.  Instead, they should be asking the questions.

"If the reader isn't responsive, if she doesn't let the text awaken emotion or inspire thoughts, then she can barely be said to be reading at all." (Beers and Probst, 2017, p. 28)  Responsive readers are the goal.

2. Choice
"Their choice will not have been guided by a reading level, but by interest.... choice means choice."  There are so many classroom libraries that only consist of leveled book bins.  While this is a strategy practical for guided reading, students can learn strategies such as the 5 finger rule to pick books.  As an adult, we do not go to a leveled section at a library.  In fact, I doubt many adults know their reading level.  Only reading books from a leveled bin will not create passionate readers.

3. Helping Kids Spot Fake News
Responsible reading is a critical skill.  Many adults get their news from social media when they need quick access.  If we don't teach students to read responsibly, then they could harm others by sharing inaccurate information.  With all of the comments and likes, readers assume it is the real thing.  Beers and Probst encourage us to teach readers to do 3 things as they read the news:
--How does it look?
--What does it say?
--How does it make me feel?

4. Book, Head, Heart framework
This direct and simple framework keeps kids focused on their thinking.  Learning to pay attention to the text is a necessary skill.  I plan on using this in my Kindergarten classroom, but modifying it a bit to meet their needs.  I love this section because Beers and Probst provide examples for various grade levels, which makes this framework relatable for educators.
--Notice and Note signposts (this is another book they wrote)
--Somebody Wanted But So
--Sketch to Stretch
--Fix Up Charts

--What surprised you?
--What did the author think you already knew?
--What changed, challenged or confirmed your thinking?

Elements associated with the text such as values, attitudes, and beliefs.
--What did this text help me learn about myself?
--What did this text help me learn about others?
--How has this text changed my thinking about the world?
--How will my actions or feelings change as a result of reading this text?
--Does this text offer me any of my own Aha moments?  Any tough questions?  Perhaps my own words of the wiser?

I can't say enough positive things about Disrupting Thinking and hope all educators take the time to read this book.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Areas of Focus Next School Year

I recently read a post by Starr Sackstein on Education Week.  As a connected educator, I am always reflecting, questioning, and thinking about changes I can make.  Starr's blog post had 5 areas of focus, which I will also use to guide my thinking about next school year.

Next school year brings a lot of excitement for me.  Most of you know I spent the past 2 years in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Although I learned a lot in my experience, I am eager to move back home to Ohio.  I will continue teaching Kindergarten at a brand new building.   Below are my 5 areas of focus for my new chapter:

1. Build Relationships - "We are better together" is a saying that never escapes me.  From day 1, I make it a priority to build relationships with students, families, and staff members.  I find that building a positive partnership with families leads to optimal success in the classroom.  I look forward to working with a new staff and team to see what we can do together for our student's learning experiences.

I always like gaining new ideas.  Comment with 1 idea you use to build relationships with students, families, or staff.

2. Ask Questions - With teaching in a new school, district, and state, there will be a lot for me to re-learn since I haven't taught in Ohio for a few years.  As Starr mentioned in her post, adults need to model this behavior.   I will ask questions to clarify, learn, stretch my thinking, and encourage.

3. Take Risks - I am not a teacher who does the same thing every year.  While there are some structures, routines, and lessons that remain consistent over the years, I believe in making changes to fit my student's needs.  This upcoming school year, I am going to continue trying new things or refining what I am doing.   I have recently read fantastic professional reads such as Disrupting Thinking that had some bold messages for educators.

4.  Lead - That one word has a lot of associations involved.  When I say lead, it does not have an authoritative meaning attached to it.  I want to lead by embracing change, lead with positivity, lead by collaborating, lead by communicating, lead with kindness, lead with a willingness to learn.....  All educators should aim to lead with intent in their classroom, school, and community.

5. Balance - I will graduate with my masters degree in literacy this December.  I have a lot of pride with this because I am earning my masters degree from the college I attended for undergrad.  I absolutely love what I am studying, but I look forward to having more free time on nights and weekends.  Completing a 30 credit masters degree in 18 months had come with many late nights and not much free time.  Fall will be very busy as I complete my research, but the finish line is in sight.  Throughout the school year I will work on taking more time for myself so I can be the best version of myself for my students.  Each school year I continue to work on balance.  Since I am living closer to my family and friends, I plan to make balance even more of a priority.