One of the benefits of being a teacher is summertime learning.
This week I celebrate this annual indulgence. Find more celebrations here. Thank you, Ruth, for this weekly opportunity to reflect joyfully.
First I want to celebrate my blog makeover. When I started blogging, I had no clue. I looked at themes and chose the one with the plainest possible appearance. I wanted to be low key, unnoticed, invisible. And that was a good place for my insecure self. Now my blog has become a safer place. A notebook of sorts. Friends stop by. I have some extra time, why not remodel.
I played around with some color. For a few minutes, my blog had a bright yellow background. Then green, blue and finally this lovely share of grey-green. Ok, I’m still the gal that wears no makeup, low key. But, the picture at the top can be changed. Allows for a little wild and crazy.
My second celebration is writing about reading A Handful of Stars with my virtual colleagues. The writing has accelerated my thinking and meaning making around this book in ways I didn’t expect. The simple post-it or jot in the journal has exploded on collaborative Google docs. Each participant has offered their thoughts, each reader adding into the discussion and the thinking. Throughout this, I wonder, how to bring this collective, complex, and engaging thinking about reading to students. Working on that one.
Next I want to celebrate the virtual summer camp program sponsored by the National Writing Project, CLMOOC. It’s outside-the-box thinking about teaching and writing: fun and a little scary. I’ve attempted one and done a lot of “stalking” or should I say analyzing mentor text to figure out what might work for me. Yesterday, I saw Margaret Simon’s offering for week #3. It is a simple but beautiful word play game using game cards from Apples to Apples. It accommodates players abilities by allowing them to create sentences or poetry.
Taking cues from Margaret’s example and my virtual book club experience, I came up with this game, Capture the Quote. In our club work, many found that lifting lines from the text and writing about them was a powerful way to grow thinking. This game attempts to help students explore lines in books as we did. Students could use this as a game during a club meeting, small group work, to begin, end, or in the middle of reading workshop. The “value” of a quote could then be debated. Some lines, by virtue of the random choice, will be less powerful than others. That’s a lesson in itself. It seems to work for A Handful of Stars. In the spirit of game design, test it out on something you’re reading. Does it work for you?
Finally, I celebrate the power of my future students’ writing notebooks. My incoming fifth graders left their old notebooks with me for the summer. I thought, in my teacher mind, I could find teaching points, group them, put them on a continuum of learning.
But I found more. In every notebook, I see their school persona but also a bit of who they are. What they want and dream. What worries them. What matters. Alongside the lessons of how to find a small moment, write a compound sentence, and stretch your thinking are words filled with the passion and humor of being nine. Those lovely gems shine through and say this is me!
I wonder what people think when they look at me. They don’t know what I’m really like.
I snuck in the kitchen, late at night when everyone was asleep, I ate ice cream, it was delicious.
My brother was the golden boy, he was Mr. Little Prince until the dentist.
Pink is the best. Sometimes soccer teams wear pink…on their shoes like my dad.
I wish people called me the best basketball player ever, the smartest person ever
I got in trouble–accidentally
People who don’t like sports just haven’t learned how to play, yet. I was like that.
Reading student writing always makes me laugh and fall in love just a little bit.
Taking the time to read their writing makes my virtual and often theoretical summer learning more concrete. Real. A notebook or two a day keeps me in touch. Grounded.
Every day my learning expands. And I’m so grateful for it.
Then I read a notebook or two. And try to process that learning through the lens of a soccer player, a little brother, a Minecraft expert, a passionate reader, a comic book writer, a believer in the power of all kinds of sports, a big sister, a video gamer, a cat lover.
This week I celebrate the joy of time that lets me read, think, learn and grow alongside published children’s authors’, trade book writers’, my colleagues’ and students’ words.