Wednesday, May 30, 2012


So this post is mainly just for me because I wanted a way to keep track of these ideas visually and in a way that I can refer back to later.

I am having all of those "ahhhh" feelings that happen to first grade teachers at the end of the year. The students have grown so much that they are sometimes not recognizable. I want to keep track of this feeling and the knowledge of how far they have come to refer back to next year when we are in the middle of the year and we are all working so hard to make this growth happen. This post will inspire me to keep plugging along and working at it.

I am mostly just going to post photos with a few sentences to tell about what growth I see in each photo. There will be samples from all types of writers. I will still see many things to teach each child but I will also see just how far each child has come. So here goes.

This writer is combining things she learned in math, art, our bee study during our Expedition and writing.

This writer used an idea from a book we read as a mentor text and tried fold out illustrations.

This writer used The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer as a mentor text to create this book called, The Frog Room.

This student attempts to add descriptive language to her story to create a setting.

Another writer was inspired by The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer.

This writer was inspired to try a technique she noticed in Ready Freddy books. She added a hidden word to each illustration in her book. She hid the word "life" in each picture because it went with the theme of her book.

This writer was inspired to write his own version of a Fly Guy story.

This writer tried many things on this page - bold print, quotation marks and stretching out a word for emphasis.

This student combined two ideas into a new book of his own creation. He read Wump World by Bill Peet and the play Willy Wonka (that was put on at our school this year) to come up with his own story about The Wonka World.

This writer tried circling words that didn't look right to him and also using all uppercase letters for emphasis.

This student uses descriptive language in his story - "It was a peaceful and calm planet."

This writer had a different way of adding a foldout illustration to his story.

One of our school's character traits showed up in this illustration. This writer shows you what the world would look like with stewardship of the Earth and without.

This writer found his passion in writing. He struggled to come up with ideas all year until we wrote nonfiction. He is working on a series of nonfiction books. So far he has written about worms, bees and frogs. He is taking what he learns during our Expedition and incorporating it into his writing.

Every writer in my crew is not represented here. These are just photos that represent what many of the writers are attempting at this point in the year and will remind me of what things inspire first grade writers next year.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Summer Professional Reading

Even though the school year is not quite finished yet - this will be my last week - I am starting to think about what professional books I want to read this summer. My mind is spinning with end-of-the-year details but I know that soon I will let it all go and be ready to read and think about next year.

Last year around this time, I was on Twitter and chatting with Laura Komos and Cathy Mere about summer reading plans and we decided to have an online book club of sorts. We decided on a book, Conferring by Patrick Allen, and started #cyberPD. For our #cyberPD, we took turns hosting conversations about parts of the book on our respective blogs and had a twitter chat when we finished. Many people joined in and it turned out to be a great experience.

We are planning on doing it again this year. So to get things started, we have decided to share our summer professional reading book stacks and see what we have in common.

You can probably see that I have already been reading bits and pieces of some of these books by the sticky notes sticking out of the top of the books. These are all books that I really want to dive into this summer and read deeply instead of just skimming and scanning them.

I also always reread Choice Words by Peter H. Johnston every summer to really prepare myself for the new school year. This year I think I will add two other books, Math Exchanges and Catching Readers Before They Fall,  to my reread pile because they also really reflect my personal teaching philosophy. 

If you have a summer professional reading book stack, please share it in the comments below or on Twitter using #cyberPD. I am always looking for great books to add to my stack. Cathy, Laura and I will be filling you in on the details of this summer's #cyberPD soon.

Be sure to visit Cathy's blog, Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community and Laura's blog, Our Camp Read-A-Lot to see their summer reading book stacks.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Yesterday I tweeted the following:

Kathy Cassidy responded with this tweet:

I haven't been able to stop thinking about what she said. I completely agree with her that first grade teachers are addicted to that progress and that it is not the same in any other grade. It is certainly true for me. I have taught grades 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8 in addition to 1st grade and I can say that students do show lots of growth in those grades but Kathy is right -- it is just different in 1st grade. The change in 1st graders from the beginning of the year to the end is quite dramatic. I find myself awed when I take a moment to step back and just watch them. I have been able to capture a few of those moments recently.

This moment is the one that I tweeted about yesterday. Cole had a new book from our school's book fair and was reading it to a group of kids during snack time. This happened several days in a row.

Then on Friday, I was conferring with students during Writer's Workshop and just happened to notice how very engaged all of the students were. I jumped up and grabbed my iPad to capture the moment. We have come so far since the beginning of the year. They are all so independent now and have many ideas that they want to write about and share. As I was walking around I also noticed how much their writing has changed over the year - conventions, content, handwriting - all of it is vastly different from where we started in the beginning of the year.

These are the moments we live for as teachers. They keep us motivated and inspired. We need to be sure to take the time to find these moments in each day.