Monday, December 31, 2012

My Reading Resolutions for 2013

For 2011 I read 26 books and then almost doubled it this past year with a total of 51 books. Out of that 51, 30 were fiction and 21 were non-fiction.  These titles included professional education books, novels for personal enjoyment, parenting books and chapter books I read to my 6 year-old.  As I've previously written in THIS POST I have learned that the more fiction I read, the more I enjoy reading and the more I end up reading.

My Reading Resolutions for 2013 are:
1. Use Goodreads to track my reading.  I've been convinced by Donalyn Miller to use Goodreads to track my books, keep a to-read list, and connect with others on books I'm reading. I spent time today exploring this site and can already feel a blog post coming on about how neat it is!
2. Have family "Read-to-Self" time with my kids. Read-to-Self is one of the components of Daily5 in our school that my son is familiar with.  This will be a chunk of time (at least 15 minutes, because that's all he can handle right now) that he can read whatever he wants (not to me) while I also read myself.  This will be a win-win for both of us! (I realize I did say kids plural--I'm hoping that the 2 year-old can be quiet that long looking at books or listening to books on the iPad).
3. Read 1 professional book a month I will probably end up reading more, but I want to focus on reading more fiction so I'm not so boring!
4. Read 280 books. I'm not as crazy as I sound, I swear!  As I was exploring Goodreads today, my son thought it was cool and asked if we could keep track of the books I read to him (and his brother) on there too, so out of the 280 goal, I expect 225 to be for picture books and 55 to be for novels, professional books, and kids' chapter books.

Reading Resolutions - staff memo edition

In my last post I shared my learning from a full day workshop with Donalyn Miller and what ideas we will be implementing in our school as a result of this learning.  After grade level meetings and a full faculty meeting, here is a post on my staff memo that I shared with staff on Reading Resolutions.  I try to share some of my staff memo posts here, because I often gain great ideas from reading what other principals post for their staff.

My next post here will be my personal Reading Resolutions.

Some of you asked about Reading Resolutions after the staff are the answers. If you don't want to think about it until closer to January, then save this to read later. :)

Image from BOTNS

In yesterday's staff meeting we talked about school-wide ideas to continue building a culture of readers.  We already have great literacy practices, but now we want to go further to help out students develop the habits of lifelong readers/learners.

One of the ideas I asked all of you to do is start out January creating "Reading Resolutions" with your students.  This would start with you creating your own Reading Resolutions.  I haven't written mine yet (there are still 14 days to read for 2012), however, I did write a blog post in June in which I reflected on my reading half-way through the year: HERE is the post.  In that post I noted how last year I read 20 non-fiction and only 6 fiction books and that I needed to read more fiction or I would become a really boring person!  I do not at all expect anyone to write something as long as I did for a reading resolution, but I just wanted to share that with you.

HERE is a post that Donalyn Miller wrote last year on her Reading Resolutions.

HERE is a post with some actual reading resolutions from students. HERE is another one.

I don't want to tell each of you how to do this with your class, you have to do what works for you.  I'm sure that several of you will also come up with some cutesy little form for students to fill out (and others can steal from them) and others (if it were me) might just use index cards or old-school paper.  I would share with students my own personal reflections on my reading for the year and then show them an example of what format they should write their's in (showing your own resolutions).

Thank you for all your hard work and for sharing your reading lives with students!

An idea found on Pinterest--maybe usable for 5K students?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Day with The Book Whisperer

I recently was fortunate enough to spend the day in a workshop with Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer, on Creating Classrooms Where Readers Flourish. I read her book over a year ago and immediately shared it with my staff in this post  and have continued to follow her on twitter, as well as the Nerdy Book Club blog and the monthly Twitter chat #Titletalk to gain book ideas.  So, you can just imagine my excitement of finally getting to meet her in person, greet her with a hug and get my picture taken with her:

Now, beyond my excitement...

Her session was AMAZING! You can read my full notes HERE (warning, it's a lot!).  I honestly wished I had a classroom to go back to and start implementing her ideas and inspiring my students to read, but I just had my office.  I did share my notes with all of the teachers in my building, but I know it is an overwhelming a lot of information to read.  I sat down and reread my notes, asking myself "what pieces can I share with all teachers in my building to continue to create a culture of readers in our building?"  I was still struck by the following statistic Miller shared:

"56% of unenthusiastic readers did not have a teacher who shared a love of reading, while 64% of enthusiastic readers did have such a teacher." (Nathanson, Pruslow and Levitt, 2008)

While I typed pages of notes with great ideas, my 2 biggest take-aways were that:
  • The adults in the school need to model a passion for reading.
  • We need our students to develop the habits of readers.
What are ways that adults can model passion for reading?  Aside from the teacher reading him/herself and sharing books with students constantly (just read The Book Whisperer!) some ideas I want to start are:
  • Continue to share my reading life with staff and students. Here's a post in which I reflected on my Reading Life. 
  • Including what I am currently reading in my email signature--each time you send an email you're also sending out book recommendations. 
  • Write reading resolutions...I am asking all staff to do this in January for themselves and for their students. 
  • Everyone with a door (that would be everyone in the building) display book covers on their door of either books they've read throughout the year or what book they are currently reading.  My door isn't visible to everyone, so I put mine up on the library door for all classes to see as they go to library. I also included a little blurb to explain why mine has 3 books of what I'm currently reading.
  • Create a basket of "light reading" books (I'm thinking magazines, joke books, etc.) in the hallway where kids line up for lunch with a basket to turn them in at the lunch room. Last year we let students bring their books to the lunch room, but had a few library books get wrecked.
When I discussed these ideas with teachers in grade level meetings, they came with additional great ideas that we want to to implement:
  • Leave a book, Take a book shelf in the hallway. (completely on the honor system)
  • Stop, Drop and Read during February. Wherever students go they will need to have a book with them, because I could go on the announcements at any time and say it's time to Stop, Drop and Read!
I would love to hear what other schools are doing to model a passion for reading and helping students develop the habits of readers!

(By the way...just realized this is my 100th post on this blog!)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works

With the increasing rate of new tech devices and web 2.0 tools being developed each day, it is very easy for both teachers and students to get excited by something flashy and lose sight of the purpose.  We often have to remind ourselves to start with our learning objectives and THEN decide what technology can enhance the learning process.

I recently finished reading the 2nd Edition of  Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works published by ASCD and found it to be a great resource to maintain this focus on the purpose.  This book is a  follow-up to Marzano's original book of Classroom Instruction that Works. In Marzano's original book we learned about 9 research based strategies that can have a direct impact on the learning in your classroom.  In this technology resource book, the authors take Marzano's strategies and explain a variety of a ways that technology can be integrated into the classroom as a tool for these instructional strategies.  This book is chock-full of ways to integrate technology for:

  • Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback
  • Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers
  • Nonlinguistic Representations
  • Summarizing and Note Taking
  • Assigning Homework and Providing Practice
  • Identifying Similarities and Differences
  • Generating and Testing Hypotheses
In the beginning of this book there is a simple chart that identifies which tech tools in the book relate to each of the 9 instructional strategies.  After seeing this, I was curious if the authors had done any similar work on iPad apps related to these strategies, so I simply asked one of the authors on Twitter and received a reply within hours (you've got to love how convenient Twitter can be!)...
You can find the Google Spreadsheet of iPad apps HERE
I am not one to typically read a book on technology (because I learn all about new technology from my Twitter PLN), but as I read through this book, I was constantly tabbing pages of ideas that I then shared with a variety of teachers in our district.  For teachers that are not connected online, this book is a great resource to get started with learning ways to integrate technology into the classroom with purpose.  

Will Richardson says it well in his forward to this book when he says "technology in all of its forms is no longer an add-on to the work that we as educators do. It is now a fundamental part of the way we live and learn and teach."  This book is a great place to begin the work of integrating technology into learning.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Monday Musings

Image from Sparkle and Shade

I've previously shared how I used my staff memo blog to share weekly updates with staff, as well as a method to model my own personal reflections with staff (you can find my previous post explaining it HERE).  Earlier this year I gave staff a survey to see what they think of my Monday Memo and Friday Focus which led me to make a change.  Basically, my 2 posts for the week have flip-flipped.  My Friday Focus, which used to be my reflective post, is now the post that includes: "Great Things I Noticed This Week", "Events Next Week", "Nuts&Bolts Notes", and "Blogs, Pins & Tweets...Oh My!"  This was in response to staff wanting to know what's coming for the next week before leaving for the weekend.  My reflective post is now called my "Monday Musings." I have found this change much easier for me, because it is so much easier to reflect on the weekends to write that post.

Here is a cross-post of this week's "Monday Musings:"

I recently read the blog post What the Kardashians Taught me About Reading (No, For Real)  written by Chris Lehman, co-author (with Lucy Calkins) of Pathways to the Common Core. To be honest, I love reading everything written by Chris, but I saw this tweeted several times and ignored it, because I couldn't care less about the Kardashians. I'm not sure what got me to finally read it, but when I did I read it several times through.  Please take a few moments to read the article HERE which is actually on Donalyn Miller's blog at Edweek (the author of The Book Whisperer that I raved about last year).

OK, you read it now, right?
Here is what stood out to me, that I'm still thinking about...

Brand Yourself as a Reader, So Your Students Will Emulate

Lehmann writes about using the Kardashians as a metaphor for how we can see our instruction in a new light.  He says, "we need to take a lesson from Ms. K and brand ourselves as readers just as carefully so our students have that vision to aspire to."

Are you known as a reader to your students?  Do your colleagues know they can ask you for a book recommendation or share with you a book they just finished reading?  

This has me wondering if you all think of me as a reader? I have certainly tried to by sharing my Shelfari account bookshelf on my blog and sharing my reflections of what I'm reading and learning about.  Do students think of me as a reader?  After reading this article (which I have actually read several times) I want to start my own little bulletin board in the media center to post a picture of what childrens' book I am currently reading to model for our students. 

There were several other great ideas shared in the comments section of the blog post that made me wonder if any of you would be willing to share your ideas on this in the comments of this blog post?  If you've never gone from the emailed post to the blog, go to and scroll to the bottom of the post and click where it says No Comments. This will open up a box for you to add your comment of ideas to share with the rest of us.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Too Little Time?

I have listened to podcasts from BAM Radio Network for years now, so you can imagine my excitement when I was contacted by Rae Pica to join in on a podcast.  I have joined in on other podcasts before, but I was still nervous for this one!

Over the years I have been learning new strategies to keep myself organized and efficient with my time, while struggling to meet the many demands of the principal role so the topic of "Too Little Time?" was well needed for me.
Click HERE to listen to the podcast

While I had the chance to share a few of my thoughts, I enjoyed learning from the other podcasters as well.  Professor Zoe Chance shared the following research on time management: "when people perform very brief, random acts of kindness, helping others they can feel as though they have more time."  Their studies found that repeatedly, people that help others, it contributes to the feeling of having more time.  She went on to share that "feelings of awe and wonder" feel that they have more time and are more productive. When you have this feeling, you feel present in the moment.

I found these findings very interesting, because even though it takes time each day for me to contribute to my Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter, it has always made me feel good to share with others, because it also requires me to reflect on the ideas I am sharing.  Lisa Dabbs then pushed the idea of "unplugging" and finding balance, which is something that I am working on too!

So, how does an administrator get into that feeling of "awe and wonder" to be present in the moment?  I've said before and I'll say it again, that you can learn a great deal from Getting Things Done and the productivity tips for administrators at Eduleadership.  I have found the app Remember the Milk to be an extremely helpful tool for me to manage the never ending list of everything I have to get done.  My desk used to be cluttered with post-it notes of everything I needed to do, but now everything goes into this app. If something pops into my head, I immediately put it in Remember the Milk so I can get it out of my head and focus on what task or conversation I have at hand.  Remember the Milk allows me to schedule what day I am going to complete a task, prioritize the list, add notes to each, make it a recurring to-do, and create separate lists that I can use for projects.

I'd love to hear your favorite tips to keep yourself organized and efficient with your time so that you can find that state of "awe and wonder" and be in the moment.