Thursday, April 29, 2010

What Guides Instruction in My Classroom

I just got home from dinner with Samantha Bennett, and the group that sponsors her visit her, The Literacy Connection. Samantha was delightful, and I'm so glad Katie and I had the opportunity to meet her before working with her in front of a large group tomorrow!!

Anyway, for the 2nd installment of my thinking before Sam arrived, I wrote about the things that guide my instruction. Again, I'd love to hear what guides other people's instruction as well. Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

What Guides My Instruction

In addition to the wonderful framework I mentioned before, our district has also developed a set of target statements for every grade level and every subject. The target statements are written in friendly “I can …” format so that students are clear about exactly what their learning should be on any given day, in any given subject. These target statements are directly related to our state’s grade level standards and indicators. I have a target binder for each subject that I teach and this is what I know my district expects me to cover with my students. This then is one way I know what I will need to have my students learn.

But after you put aside the targets, the key item that guides my instruction is assessment – lots and lots of formative assessments and time for observations. In the beginning of the year, I have several quick individual conferences with all my students where I glean information through surveys done together, listening to them read books of their choice, and talking to them about our current read aloud to check on comprehension. The first formal assessment I do is about three to four weeks after school has begun. I administer DRAs (Developmental Reading Assessments) to each child and the amount of information I can gather from this assessment is staggering. What they’ve read recently, whether they can identify their own strengths and weaknesses as readers, goals they set to improve, fluency, accuracy, expression, use of phonemic strategies, their ability to read a text and answer a wide variety of comprehension questions, and their ability to verbalize what strategies they used to make sense of the text – wow! That is a lot of information! No wonder I can use the results of the DRA to guide instruction well into November.

In addition to the surveys, the conferences, and the DRAs, I also spend time just doing kid-watching with notebook in hand. Which students have difficulty finding a book to read? Which students have difficulty with stamina when it comes to reading? Which students are social readers and need to share information from their own reading with others? Which students are capable of actually sticking with a book until the end? The answers to these questions and many more also help me focus my instruction – are there issues we need to address as an entire group, or is there work to be done in an individual conference or a strategy group?

Ok, that's all the deep thinking for now. :) Time to go to bed and get ready for the big day tomorrow. I'll post this weekend about the experience of working and thinking with Samantha, as well as posting a photo op of her -- she is just so darn darling!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Core beliefs

In two days, I will have the opportunity to share my class, specifically my reading workshop, with Samantha Bennett, author of That Workshop Book. In addition to Samantha, there will be a large group of educators watching the workshop on a live video feed from our classroom downstairs to our commons area. In preparation for our time with Samantha, she asked us (Katie of Creative Literacy will be sharing her writing workshop) to reflect on our own teaching, learning, our core beliefs, and what guides our instruction.

Because I've spent so much time on this reflection, I've decided to share it with our readers as well as the group on Friday. First, I will share my core belief section, and then by Friday, I will post the section on what guides my instruction. Since I believe that many of our readers here at Literate Lives are educators, I would love to open a dialogue about what your core beliefs are, and what guides your instruction. Please leave your thoughts in the comment section and I promise I will respond. I hope it will be a fun way to get the great thinking that we do out there and visible to all. Thanks for participating!

Here are my core beliefs (a little long, I admit):

My Core Beliefs

Belief in Workshop Model - When I came to the Dublin school district in 1986, I had already been teaching for seven years and thought I had a handle on what would be expected of me as a teacher. My life took a turn that summer day long ago when I was moving into my new classroom when another new teacher to the district was doing the exact same thing. She would be teaching across the hall from me. At the time, I had never heard of the workshop model. I had been taught how to teach with basals for reading, and to use teacher prompts, English books, and cute projects for writing. This wise beyond her years teacher introduced me to the work of Donald Graves and Lucy Calkins, and the idea of implementing a writing workshop in the classroom. Mini lessons, conferring, small groups, share – this all became new lexicon for me. Through the years, I have continued to develop and refine my approach to workshop – even at this stage of my career, I continue to be a work in progress. I thrive on professional development that pushes my thinking about workshop in any form. When a new professional book comes out with the topics of reading workshop or writing workshop, I just have to have it. And none of this might have happened had I not met my teaching colleague, Mary Lee Hahn (Reconsidering Read Aloud), on that hot summer day so many, many years ago. I realize how fortunate I was to have someone like Mary Lee travel with me on my journey to understand, and make sense of, how workshop might operate in my classroom.

Belief in the importance of building community - In order for our workshop to run smoothly, I invest a great deal of time at the beginning of the school year, and then throughout the year, developing and building a community of learners in our classroom. We spend time on activities that allow us to know each other as people, often with a twist of their history as literate learners in there as well. We share our favorite books from when we were younger. We take pictures of ourselves reading in our favorite places at home, share them, and post them in the room where they hang for all to see. We continually share stories of our lives outside the walls of school. Like all the other classrooms in our school, we write a class pledge together in a shared writing activity during the first week of school – the pledge embodies the expectations of each and every community member. These are just some of the threads that we weave together that make the fabric of our class community.

Belief that children should have choice in reading and learn to become life-long readers - As our community begins to develop, we are then able to focus on what I view as critical if my students are to become life-long readers. We spend much time chatting about how important it is for the students to know themselves as readers. I use myself as a model for how that can happen. I bring in pictures of my overflowing bookshelves and baskets of books, magazines, and newspapers at home, I bring in a variety of reading materials I might be involved with at any given time, I share how I decide if a book is “just right” for me or not. When my students hear and see what I know about my own reading identity, it allows them to start analyzing what their interests are, and who they might be as readers. A crucial part of establishing a reading identity is knowing that “choice” is important in our workshop. Students in our classroom select books based on their interest, their comfort level, friends’ recommendations, my recommendations (I am always bringing in current books or current additions to series), their interest in a particular series, their interest in a certain genre or author. The list goes on and on. The important thing, though, is that the students are selecting their own texts for reading. They have choice and they learn how to articulate why they make the choices they do.

Belief in the apprenticeship model - The final piece of my core beliefs is embedded in our district’s learning framework. This is not earth-shattering, but it is so smart. Basically, our learning framework, and for the purposes of our time together, our literacy framework, is entirely based on the gradual release of responsibility from the teacher to the student. It works in the same way apprentices have always worked – first the teacher models how to do a skill in front of the student, then the student and teacher work together to perform the skill, next the student works with other students and then checks back with the teacher, and finally the student is ready to try the skill on their own – independence and mastery of the skill are met. That independent stage is our goal, but working through the previous stages is how we get there.

That being said, with the learning/literacy framework in mind, and knowing that focus lessons are not to take up the bulk of any workshop, I am very thoughtful in my planning of literacy instruction (see attached planning for this week’s literacy instruction). We can spend anywhere from several days to several weeks on a new strategy, depending on the needs of the particular class and the difficulty of the skill. I model, we try it together, they try it in small groups, and then I use some type of quick formative assessment or anecdotal observation to learn who truly is independent and who needs some more time with the skill. The beauty of the workshop is those students needing more time can practice with me in a strategy group or individually during the “work” part of the workshop.

**I'll keep you posted on how the demonstration teaching goes this Friday as well. :) I'm both excited and nervous to have Samantha Bennett watch our reading workshop. I keep telling myself it will just be another day in our very busy workshop.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Countdown ARC Doesn't Disappoint

I'm a big fan of Deborah Wiles. Each Little Bird That Sings was a huge hit at a Grand Discussion, and the other two books from the trilogy, Love, Ruby Lavender and The Aurora County All-Stars make my list of favorites. I am constantly recommending them to kids in the library and usually get a very positive response when they are finished.

When I read on Goodreads that Franki had Countdown, a new novel by Deborah Wiles, on her "to be read" shelf, I immediately emailed her to get the details. Since it's not released yet, we were able to score a copy from Sally at Cover to Cover. Franki got her hands on it first and reviewed it here.

It's the beginning of a sixties trilogy and it is awesome! The story revolves around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The main character, Franny lives just outside Washington, D.C. and her father is part of the Air Force stationed at Andrews Air Force base as an officer. She is struggling to make friends in her new school, dealing with an uncle who suffers from some mental health issues, trying to figure out what is going on with her college age sisters who has some new "thinking" friends, and worrying that the U.S.S.R. will drop the bomb on them at any time. There are so many plot lines and stories in this book that every kid who reads it will focus on a different one, and they are all good.

Deborah Wiles not only wrote an excellent story in Countdown, but she infused it with informational interludes that completely set the tone for the book. Between chapters there are advertisements for build it yourself bomb shelters, lyrics from popular songs, photos of President Kennedy and Nikita Krushchev, quotes from important world leaders and common people, along with comics and all sorts of pop culture things from 1962. These breaks in the story keep the reader in 1962 so they are totally immersed in the story of Franny and her family.

Deborah Wiles also builds the tension throughout by slipping quotes from the Duck and Cover movies that were shown in schools during this time. Every time I came across one of these:

Yes, we must all get ready now,
in case the atomic bomb
ever explodes near us.
If you do not know what to do,
ask your teacher when this film is over.

As the missile crisis reaches it peak, these excerpts from the movies come more frequently, which just helps the reader get a feel for what these kids were going through. The whole crisis played out in their classrooms and homes.

I love this book, it will be tough to recommend in the elementary school, it will take a pretty sophisticated reader to really get it and appreciate what Deborah Wiles has created, but I would definitely get into the hands of middle school readers. Franki mentions using it as a read aloud, and it would be good for that, my only concern is the visual aspect of the time period interludes. I would really want the kids to be able to see the pictures to give them a better sense of the time period.

It may be really early, but I think this book has Newbery potential all over it!

Other reviews:
Fuse #8
educating alice
Eva Perry Mock Newbery

Monday, April 19, 2010

Wildfire Run Coming in August of 2010

I met Dee Garretson at the Kid Lit Bloggers Conference in October. Dee was there promoting her book which was then called Escape From Camp David was changed to Wildfire Run and will be released as book one of a series called Danger's Edge in September. Fortunately, the plot stayed the same, because as she described it in October, it sounded pretty exciting. I signed up to receive an advance copy when it came out, and, since we are fellow Ohioans, Dee sent a copy to Literate Lives a couple of weeks ago. The whole title switch thing is a bit confusing as blogged by Dee here. Notice the cover change!

Simply put, the president, his son Luke, and Luke's friend Theo are at Camp David. While they are there, a major earthquake strikes along the New Madrid fault in Missouri. The quake sets of a series of events that start two forest fires on either side of Camp David. The security team goes into action to evacuate the president back to the White House. Luke talks his dad into leaving him behind at Camp David along with his friends and the adventure begins. As the fire closes in, Luke and his friends get trapped inside the security fence with most of the security detail injured and out of commission.

Luke and his friends become like the old TV show MacGyver, minus the duct tape. They come up with all sorts of ways to make their way to safety including sending a golf cart down a zip line to get it across an electric security fence.

For kids who love to build things with Legos and create things on the computer, this book will be a hit. The three kids stuck inside Camp David are amazing engineers and have some pretty wild ideas to get themselves and the Secret Service agents to safety.

I enjoyed the book and the action kept me involved and turning the pages. I can't wait to get this into the hands of the kids who loved Swindle and Zoobreak since the action never slows down in those either.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Fast and the Furriest Meaningful Fun

Once again while looking at the new fiction table at the library, I couldn't resist the cover of this one. Just look at that dog's face! The Fast and the Furriest by Andy Behrens will be very popular with my fourth and fifth grade students, because most of them are suckers for a good dog story, especially a dog story where there are no dead dogs! Sorry if I just spoiled the ending.

The main character, Kevin Pugh is an overweight, video game playing, TV watching, junk food eating, couch potato. His family refers to the basement as his office and doesn't really notice when he comes out to do something active. He isn't interested in any sort of sport or physical activity like the rest of his family.

Kevin's dog Cromwell is just about as bad, always laying around sleeping in a lump. Cromwell doesn't enjoy exercise or physical activity, just like his master Kevin. However, it is Cromwell that gets Kevin off the couch and into the active lifestyle of dog agility, dogs running on an obstacle course.

Kevin's sister Izzy, 10 year old soccer phenom and the star of the Pugh family. The parents spend all of their time supporting Izzy's soccer and she is focused and determined to be the best. Izzy is the only one who notices a change in Kevin and even tries to support his new interest.

Howie Pugh, Kevin's dad and former Chicago Bears linebacker. He is a local fan favorite and always in demand for card shows and sports talk show interviews. Howie has dreams of football greatness for Kevin, even though Kevin has expressed no interest in athletics at all. Howie isn't supportive of the dog agility idea and refuses to pay for training because in his view if it doesn't use a ball or involve contact, it isn't a sport.

Zach, Kevin's best friend and the man with the money. When Kevin's family won't pay for the agility training, Zach reveals the fact that he has a huge sum of money in the bank and is willing to pay for Kevin and Cromwell's training. Zach is extremely enthusiastic in his support for Team Cromwell as he calls them and sometimes unnerves Kevin with his pep talks.

Elka, the agility trainer and almost mystic dog whisperer at Paw Patch the local facility to learn how to compete in dog agility competitions. While all of her communication goes through Cromwell, the dog, she also reaches Kevin and helps him get off the couch and in shape. Something his family has really given up on.

Kevin is spurred on by Cromwell who sees a late night television show with dogs running agility courses. Cromwell is hooked and begins practicing in the back yard. Andy Behrens uses great humor to describe the chubby dog trying to leap through the tire swing and getting hung up on his belly half way through. The story continues with Kevin's father refusing to support the agility training unless Kevin shows some dedication to something like football camp for an extended period of time. Kevin reluctantly agrees and is the victim of the star athlete bully at the camp which leads to him leaving the camp.

His best friend Zach offers to pay the $200 entry fee for agility training, partly for Kevin but mostly for Cromwell. The dog takes to it like a superstar and the mystic trainer Elka convinces Kevin, through the dog, that he has to work as hard as Cromwell so they can both be successful.

In the end, Kevin experiences success for the first time in his life and finds something he loves to do. It leads to weight loss, physical fitness and self confidence. Finally his family notices and his dad is forced to accept that dog agility is a sport and his son is very good at it.

The Fast and the Furriest is a funny story with lots of underlying messages about finding what you love and sticking with it, regardless of what others think, being honest with your family, friendship, and perseverance. I'm sure this one won't be staying on the shelves very long.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Delightful Spring Treat for Middle Grade Girls!!

I've been so busy with my adult book reading the past few weeks, that I've sadly neglected my children's book reading. I rectified that situation yesterday with a visit to my favorite independent children's bookstore in our area, Cover to Cover.

I actually went in to buy three baby shower books, but it came as no surprise to me that I couldn't limit myself to just those three books. So, while I browsed and was assisted by the very knowledgeable Beth, I managed to find a few books I just had to have.

I am a huge Wendy Mass fan!! When I saw her latest, Finally, on the shelf, I knew I just had to have it.

I feel like Finally is sort of Mass's ode to girls of this age (11 - 13) who go through awkward phases as they try to discover who they are and what is really important (besides what all their friends have). I'm talking about the girls whose parents won't allow them to go to the mall by themselves, girls whose parents see no reason they need a cell phone even when "everybody else" has them, girls who want to have pierced ears but aren't allowed, girls who have no fashion sense, girls who would love to wear makeup but either aren't allowed or don't know how to apply it well or are horribly allergic to certain kinds of makeup and break out in welts when applying it, girls who wear big glasses because they haven't made the transition to contacs yet, girls who aren't allowed to stay home alone, girls who don't have many friends, girls who have younger siblings that can quickly take off their pants and run butt naked through Applebee's while the popular kids are sitting there watching and laughing, girls who have no idea about how to make conversation with boys.

The main character in Finally, Rory, is just such a girl. Rory, in addition to having the same name as a BOY in her grade, is a girl like the one described above. Her parents are very protective of her, and whenever she has wanted to stretch her wings a little, and asks her parents for something, they always tell her to wait until she is 12 years old.

The story starts on the day before Rory will turn twelve. In fact, frequently through the book, Rory has a countdown on how many hours, minutes, and seconds are left until midnight when the day of her birthday arrives. For years, whenever Rory has asked her parents for something, only to be told to wait until she was twelve, she wrote her wishes on scraps of paper, and kept them in a shoebox. She didn't want to possibly forget even one of the privileges she has so been looking forward to.

To add a little spice to the already quirky story line of becoming a 12 year old, Mass adds a movie being filmed at Rory's school, and an opportunity for the students to become extras in the movie. The reason this is such a big deal is that Jake Harrison, THE current heartthrob of all tweens, will be starring in the movie. When Jake actually notices and talks to Rory (almost always because of some unfortunate incident), the reader can't help but be happy for her.

Mass brings back three characters from 11 Birthdays -- Amanda, Leo, and Angelina. I don't think you have to read 11 Birthdays to still enjoy this story, but it did make it more fun -- I felt like I was in on the joke that no one else knew.

There are many laugh-out-loud funny parts as one awkward thing after another happens to Rory. But Mass wrote it in such a way that I didn't feel like I was laughing at Rory, but rather at the situational comedy of being a 12 year old. Most importantly, however, is what Rory realizes when she sees herself through other's eyes at the very end of the story. Turns out all those things Rory had been wanting for so long were not the things that make her the special, amazing person she is.

I will be sharing Finally with my class tomorrow. I already have many Wendy Mass fans in my classroom, so it will be fun to see how fast it flies out of my hands! I'm hoping they decide to read it together as a book club. I envision lots of fun conversation. It is truly a most delightful book!!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lucky Brings Baseball History to Life

It never fails that at this time of year, I find a new baseball book to share with the kids in the library. This year I found Lucky: Maris, Mantle and My Best Summer Ever by Wes Tooke which is set in 1961, the year that Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle were competing to see who could be the first to break Babe Ruth's record number of home runs in a season. The two Yankee players and friends were about as different as two men could get. Mantle loved the spotlight and the night life of New York. Maris loved baseball, so he put up with the spotlight and avoided the night life as much as possible. It's a great baseball story on it's own and the subject of what some call one of the best baseball movies ever, 61*.

Wes Tooke takes the drama of that summer and lets Louis May have a front row seat to tell the story. Louis is a child of divorce, a rarity in 1961. To make matter worse, his mother has begun to live the beatnik life in New York City. His father re-marries to the typical 1960s suburban mother who has a son of her own. In her eyes, Louis can't do anything right, and her son, Bryce, is wonderful. Both boys love baseball and the Yankees, Louis shows it by studying and memorizing baseball statistics from the cards in his extensive collection. Bryce does it by imitating them on the stick ball field.

Louis' father has tickets to the Yankees games and the boys take turns going. On a trip to Yankee Stadium Louis extends an at bat for Maris by interfering with a foul ball. At the end of the game his is invited into the locker room to meet the player. Battling his star struck induced nerves, Louis is able to quote all of the players' stats and figure batting averages and is asked to become a Yankee bat boy. While it may be a little far fetched, I could accept it knowing that it was going to further the story line. Throughout the summer, Louis gets an inside and up close look at the two baseball legends, and the reader is let in on the extreme differences in each players' approach to the game and life.

I really like the way that Wes Tooke weaves the history and culture of 1961 throughout the book and the way he develops the character of Louis. When the step brothers have to work together to solve a problem and help Maris the author brings them together in a way that is believable. The chapter where Maris, Mantle and Bob Cerv teach Louis to hit using a plunger handle and ball of tape. Both Maris and Mantle give a clinic on how to hit, but Louis still can't get the hang of it. Bob Cerv, who looks nothing like an athlete, steps in and helps Louis stop thinking so hard and just focus on the ball. The writing is entertaining and easy for a guy who could never hit to relate to.

Overall I liked the book it simple and enjoyable and will introduce kids to a baseball story they probably aren't familiar with. I think most third and all fourth and fifth graders can enjoy this book.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Out of My Mind

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper is a breathtaking book. I actually read it yesterday afternoon, and have already gone back and reread it. I read it on my Kindle (which normally I love), but for a book as amazing as this one, a book I want to leaf through the book over and over, I can't wait to go buy an actual copy of the book.

The story revolves around Melody, a child who has cerebral palsy. Melody is the narrator of the story which makes it even more powerful. My Kindle only has the actual text and doesn't include any flap jacket information, so I'm not sure if one of my questions will be answered once I buy the book. However, I am very curious to know how Draper did her research into children like Melody -- their actions, their thoughts, and their feelings.

The first part of the story deals with Melody's life before she gets to fifth grade. It deals with the specialist who tests her, and then tells her parents she will be retarded for life and maybe institutionalizing Melody would be the easiest thing for them. Luckily, Melody has parents that see beyond the surface (her wheelchair, her inability to talk or take care of herself, very limited body movement) and know that her eyes are bright and show understanding of what goes on around her. It talks about her different special ed teachers once she gets to school (Melody is in a total pull-out program and not included in anything with her typical peers), both the good and the bad. It made me sad and proud of my profession -- sad, because I know teachers like the ones who weren't kind or tolerant of Melody's special needs, and proud because I know many, many teachers who go more than the extra mile to help meet students at their level.

As an aside, there is one point where Melody gets mad and starts screaming and making noises when her special ed teacher in third grade is trying to teach her the ABCs and is only on the letter B half-way through the school year, even though her teacher in 2nd grade realized that Melody could listen to audio books of chapter books and answer comprehension questions about them using her voice board. Turns out the 3rd grade teacher never took the time to read all the information the 2nd grade teacher had left for her, because she didn't want to be influenced by what the teacher the year before had to say. I cringed when I read that part and thought shame on me for voicing those same thoughts for many years. It made me realize yet again how important it is to put all the pieces of the puzzle together when learning about our students each year, and we need to find that critical information in whatever places it might live.

The majority of the book deals with Melody's life in 5th grade, and the exciting changes that happened at her school that year. It was decided to have special ed students included into some of the other classes. In related arts, the music teacher had said she would be glad to have Melody and the other special ed students participate in her class. She went out of her way to have music that these new classmates would respond to. Melody came to love the day of the week she had music more than any other day. After that experience was such a success, they moved on including Melody in language arts and social studies as well.

As you can tell, Out of My Mind struck many chords with me. Instead of waxing on and on about it, I do want to leave you with a few very key points in the book:
  • Many people thought Melody had no vocabulary. Quite the opposite was true. She remembered all words she heard; she just didn't have the ability to speak. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be to take in all around you, but not be able to communicate with the people you love? Having Melody be the narrator of her story with all the words she does know makes this this discrepancy even more powerful.
  • I loved how Melody's parents read aloud to her every day. Taking care of Melody's physical needs was a big job, but that never stopped them from trying to enrich her life even further with books.
  • Melody's mom becomes pregnant during the story. Melody's parents fears of what will happen with this baby are real, as well as the fear Melody has herself. When Melody's new sister, Penny, is born, she is a very energetic, and moves through the typical child milestones with great ease. Melody both loves that about her, and is a little envious as well.
  • There are 2 people that absolutely have to be noticed in this story. The first, is Mrs. V, who early on realizes that Melody has untapped potential and capabilities. Mrs. V is Melody's neighbor who watches her for a few hours each day. She is responsible for Melody learning to roll over and scoot to get something she wants. Mrs. V is also the one who realized all the language that was locked up inside Melody's head. She was the first one to start doing language flashcards with Melody and then putting them on her communication board to point to.
  • The other person is Catherine, a college student who comes to school to be with Melody when she attends her inclusion classes and to help her at lunchtime. She is amazing because she can look past Melody's wheelchair, her lack of body motion, and her lack of oral language and see the wonderful person Melody is.
  • A turning point in the book is when Melody gets a computer that allows her to have a voice. She names the computer Elvira. She is able to program in some phrases and words she uses over and over, as well as type in other words. When Melody would hit a certain key, the computer would respond with a voice of Melody's choice saying Melody's words. Talk about your breakthoughs!!
  • Soon after Melody got Elvira, there were tryouts for the Whiz Kids team. Melody got 100% correct in both the preliminary rounds as well as the round to decide who would be on the team to represent their school. Mrs. V was the first one to realize that not only did Melody have language locked up in her head, she also had a photographic memory. Melody made the team and was an integral part in helping them go to the national championship in Washington, D.C.
The final point I'd like to address are the reactions of the other students to Melody. There were a few exceptions, but for the most part there was very little tolerance for, or acceptance of, Melody by her "typical" peers. These peers play a pretty large role in what I think of as the climax of the story. I was so mad my entire body tensed up as I read this part. And, unfortunately, though it was very dissatisfying to me, I have to give kudos to Draper for keeping it realistic, and not making it a happily ever after ending.

I loved Out of My Mind as much as I loved When You Reach Me, and we all know how that turned out!! :) My hope is that however I decide to share it with my class (whole class read aloud, parent/student book discussion, student Book Clubs), that it will help promote understanding of children like Penny. For the final time, I will say that this was an amazing book!!!

Finally, my friend Franki at A Year of Reading, just sent me this link to an interview with Sharon Draper. It is most definitely worth checking out.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring Break: Counter Point

So I've been reading my friends' emails and blogs from their beautiful Spring Break locales, Hilton Head, Siesta Key, Savannah, Georgia, and I thought it was about time for the rest of us to respond. While I'm happy that my friends are away relaxing and enjoying ocean views, wonderful restaurants, and glorious sunrises, I must admit, I'm a bit jealous too.

One of the drawbacks to teaching in a different district than where I live is that my Spring Break and my kids' Spring Break don't match up most of the time. Fortunately, we've enjoyed the same week for about three years, but not this year, so my kids were home last week and I'm home this week. No trips to exotic places for us, no, we're spending Spring Break in the Spring Break Capital of the World, Hilliard, Ohio! What!? You've never heard of it!? All the cool kids are going there, Hilliard is the new Fort Lauderdale, for cryin' in a bucket!

Let me explain:

While my friends are enjoying beautiful ocean views, I got to see the inside of Great Clips, PNC Bank and a number of grocery stores!

While my friends are dipping their toes in cold ocean water, I waded through the pile of paperwork that goes with filing taxes!

While my friends are watching groups of dolphins swimming, I watched 2 guys hang six new blinds in 10 minutes, it would have taken me 10 days!

See what I mean? You better book your rooms now, Hilliard is selling out months in advance.

Honestly, even though I wish we could have gone away as a family, especially since it's my daughter's senior year in high school, there have been some memorable moments so far.

I 've gotten to see Meredith's excitement of her first "real" job at Panera. She's still in the training phase, but you can expect to see her behind the counter soon!

I got to see Steven's first volleyball match as part of the Darby High School team. A match they won with a 9 point comeback sparked by his awesome serves and enthusiasm on the court in the third game.

I got to enjoy a nice Italian dinner out with the lovely Mrs. Prosser, just the two of us. Something we better get used to with our kids getting older.

All in all, it's been a pretty relaxing week, and I've read several good books that will give me material for the coming weeks, but right now I've got to get to Kohl's, Steven needs some new shirts and socks.