Wednesday, September 24, 2014


I will fully admit, as I sit to write this post, that it is probably not the most jazzy of my posts to date, but it is weighing heavy on my mind- and truth be told- my heart as well.

Engagement is an issue in our schools! I believe ALL schools have this problem! Not all classrooms, but in all schools there are children who are watching the clock, waiting for this thing that they consider torture, that others call school,  to be OVER!

I was never one of those students. I loved school.  Rather, I had my new pens, I had my Trapper Keeper (yes- I just dated myself) and was the one talking in class! Equity sticks were designed to keep me QUIET! However, when I observe in schools, I see the opposite! Especially in late elementary school, middle school and high school.

So... for that reason let's talk about engagement.

I have a few questions to ask you:
Are your students participating?
Do kids talk (about academics) during your class?
Are there kids that get by the whole day without saying a word?
Doesn't this bother you!?

Let's think about this! Linda Hoyt says, "Float the learning on a sea of talk!" If you've ever been in my trainings, you know I believe in it! I probably say Turn and Talk more than you'd like, but one thing is also true- you participate! You have to- and many of you actually want to!  I usually say turn and talk, at a point when you are itching to talk with your neighbor about the learning anyway!

So one of the first things that could potentially increase engagement is TURN AND TALK!  Use it! Please! I'm probably preaching to the choir, right? If so, you can stop reading now!

Turn and Talk allows more students to grapple with the content. Let all kids talk about the answer before one kid gives the answer to the class. Try it for a week! Keep track of the number of times you use it! Set a goal- three times each class/subject!

Participation can be accomplished with turn and talk... but it can still be avoided by students! How are you being equitable in who you ask to participate? I am not here to argue that equity sticks work in every classroom or for every teacher, but they are worth a shot!. Equity sticks, popsicle sticks, whatever you call them, they let students know that at any time, any day, even without volunteering, they may be called upon to participate!

I honestly never used them in my classroom. But, now I wish I did! Is it possible that I always called on the same kids? YES! Is it possible that I never called on others? Absolutely! If I could go back, I would do things differently. (Wouldn't we all?) I would keep allowing kids to turn and talk, but I'd also have student numbers, or desk numbers, or popsicle sticks- but the cool kind- an APP version of course!  

Kids (even if they haven't raised their hands) need to participate- and be called on!  Is it possible that kids won't know the answer- of course! So think about what you would want them to say- because I don't know is an excuse! Instead, brainstorm a list together.  Do you have the anchor chart for what to say instead of IDK?

I remember a student one year, who noticeably did not participate, and it was because she was incredibly shy.  We used talking chips with her! Each day she started with three counters on her name tag, her goal was to get rid of them (by participating) by the end of the day! It worked. The other thing I appreciate about this is the ownership for learning and working that it places back on the students!

Engagement is an issue! It is our job to not let kids slide through their school day without being made to work, participate, or talk! Join me in efforts to see kids involved in their learning every day, in every classroom.

Share your ideas with me! How do you keep your students (all of them) ready and willing to participate each day!


Monday, September 8, 2014

Rainy Day Book Shopping

My husband and I spent Labor Day weekend at the TX coast. We towed our boat down to Rockport. We've done that three times now and it is heaven on Earth.  Rain or shine, that was our weekend to be there, and truth be told, there was some rain.  I of course brought a book with me, but I had not expected so much time to read (I was actually supposed to be doing work on the drive down there, but my computer BROKE at the 30minute mark of the 5 hour drive, so I read the rest of the way).

All that time for reading meant I finished my book. So I found myself in Rockport, in the rain one morning, without anything to read! And that just wouldn't do!

I was with my friend Jessica who is a teacher/reader/leader like myself. So what do you imagine two reading people would want to do on a rainy day of their vacation? We went to the used bookstore of course! A quick google search- and VOILA! We packed in the car (my husband as our driver) and headed out on the town!

Lori's Book Nook- in Rockport, Texas! Woo-hoo!

I realized something on this trip to the Book Nook… navigating a used book store is challenging! It made me wonder as a teacher if we are preparing students/readers to know what to do should they find themselves someday in the same boat (pun intended).

Let me explain…

The first thing one needs to know in a used bookstore is what genre they like to read.   Right?  I headed right away to the fiction section. It was probably (lucky me) the biggest section in the store. Romance might have been 2nd! (#notmystyle) Fiction found… I started to browse.

Then I realized… our students need to have favorite authors in order to navigate this favorite section of books.   Books were just swimming in front of my eyes on the shelves so I decided to narrow my looking to my favorite authors.

I started looking for my favorite authors... Charles Martin... Nicholas Sparks.... John Grisham.... Dean Koontz....

And look what I found…
Another thing that I realized, in order to be successful in a used book store, like Lori's Book Nook, our students/readers need to have a list of books to be read! I started to think of my Shelfari page… and what is waiting on my TBR (to be read) list.

What have I been wanting to read for some time now? This might be a good place to buy those books and add to my TBR (to be read) pile.   That started to guide my decision making… I started to look for books that I have been planning to read and found a few.   Do our students have plans like that? Do they have TBR lists so they could hunt for specific titles in a used book store like Lori's Book Nook?

We owe it to our students to prepare them for a day when they too might find themselves without a book to read, and heading to a used book store! What we'd really be preparing them for... is the life of a reader!


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Currently September

Where does the time go? Who else is just in survival mode? The start of the school year is so crazy!

My husband gave me the best gift today which is the house to myself. He is at the boat, but he let me have the weekend off. Don't get me wrong, I love being on the boat, but other things in my life are sacrificed when we spend the entire weekend on the boat. And being back to working full time really cramps my style and makes me truly NEED every moment of the weekend.

So here it is! Thanks to Farley for giving me a reason to get back to blogging! Only a week late… but better LATE to the Currently Link Up than NEVER!

Listening:  I have to say, it's time for FALL TV! My DVR is holding onto pretty slim pickings these days.  Today is a day where I actually have TIME to watch something, but I have nothing to watch.  I think I may need a few new shows to get hooked on soon!

Loving: So it totally says laps in the image above, but I don't want to go through the work of making a new jpg! Ha! I did a little shopping today. I got two new lamps for our bedroom- they are the non matching kind of lamps which is new for me! I feel pretty jazzy and totally Pinterest worthy! Had to get a new rug for the kitchen, let's just say a dog ruined it, and leave it at that.  And last week (late at night on my iPad in bed) I ordered new bedding from Pottery Barn for the guest bedroom. It's Blue Toile and I've been coveting it for a while now… so it's mine! Can't wait for it to arrive! I had to then get new sheets… and curtains… and… I spent the morning shopping! Woo-hoo!

Thinking: So I'm on a diet. And a very restricted one at that.  Which means all I can think about is food. I've never thought bout food so much in my life!  And I'm an eater (part of the reason why I need to be on this diet) so it makes me so angry! Hungry+Angry- HANGRY!

Wanting:  So see above… part of what I do all day is DREAM about food. Right now, I'm battling the desire to go make Mac & Cheese! My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I've realized being on a diet is easier at work then there isn't a closet full of food to tempt me! This is not easy people! Not easy at all!

Needing: The graphics card on my computer stopped working the other day. I did not realize how dependent I am on my computer, nor did I realize how hard it is for my husband to share his! Fantasy Football doesn't make it any more likely that he won't need to use his computer, but he has loaned it to me for a few hours today. Going in the morning to get my computer back, because they JUST emailed me and told me it's ready! YAY!

3 Trips: I think I just want to be surrounded by the accents in Australia!  I've never been to the upper East Coast and I would love to see the colors in the fall.  Finally, Ireland, what's not to love about a place like that!

Hope you are all finding some relaxation this weekend and preparing for another wonderful week of school! Cheers!