Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I Like Picture Books and I Cannot Lie

One of the things I miss most about teaching my own class is reading aloud to kids. It would be fascinating to know the actual amount of hours I have read books aloud in my entire teaching career. When I was pregnant, my own personal children got to hear my voice ALL.DAY.LONG. as I read The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, and The Magic Hat by Mem Fox.

The rhythm, cadence, and magic we find in picture books does so many great things for children. Reading aloud models fluent, passionate reading, it builds classroom community, it provides children with mentor texts they can emulate in their own writing, and it builds context for the rigorous content and complex social situations that kids must tackle on a daily basis.

I've tried to be sneaky and get into classrooms as much as I can to read to kids. is a great website with lots of information for parents and teachers about the power of reading. Regarding read alouds, it says, "Reading aloud is one of the most important things parents and teachers can do with children. Reading aloud builds many important foundational skills, introduces vocabulary, provides a model of fluent, expressive reading, and helps children recognize what reading for pleasure is all about." 
Isn't reading for pleasure really what it's all about?
For more information on the magic of reading aloud to children, check out the Ten Read-Aloud Commandments by Mem Fox. She's my literacy idol, introducing me to Radical Reflections, Tough Boris, Where is the Green Sheep, Reading Magic, and countless others that my kids have heard over and over and over.

Have you read to a child today?

Magical reads...


Sunday, April 10, 2016

What Great Educators Do Differently

This weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the What Great Educators Do Differently conference in Katy, Texas. It was a smaller conference with high-energy presenters, ed-camp options, and lots of opportunities to connect with educators who are making an impact in schools across the nation. I love my district and the fantastic teachers I work with, but there is something validating about connecting with people you are NOT around every day, people that will open your mind and heart to new ideas.

LaVonna Roth, part of my PLN and wearer of glittery, silver flats. I wish I had photographed them. Her session focused on the Ignite Your Shine platform, which focuses on empowering team members to be confident, creative, and present. 

Jeff, my favorite partner. It's clear he is way more attractive than me. I loved the vibe of this conference because there were opportunities to visit with other educators, learn from each other, and pose questions, even in the sessions with a main presenter. I even stepped out of my comfort zone and proposed a topic for an edcamp session. I was amazed that 35 brilliant educators showed up to discuss ideas for moving high-perfoming campuses ahead and empowering teachers to challenge themselves to even greater teaching.

Todd Whitaker, keynote speaker

Todd is a quick talker and shoots straight. I appreciated how he focused on meeting the conference participants, listened to us, and shifted the focus from programs to people. Todd has published many books, focusing on effective leadership, teacher motivation, and school culture.

Pernille Ripp, my literary soulmate

Pernille is a mesmerizing speaker. She is confident, composed, and speaks from a genuine place that is grounded in her work with real students in her actual classroom. Her session made me miss teaching so much. Please check out her website; it's a treasure trove. I want her to do the audiobook version of every book I ever read the rest of my life, so I can listen to her voice and feel calm.

I highly encourage educators to check out the What Great Educators Do Differently conference. It is unlike other conferences I have attended. It did not market programs, formulas, or trendy ideas. The focus remained on those things that continually impact teaching and learning:
No excuses
Leverage technology for learning
Know your students
Celebrate your colleagues
Collaborate instead of compete

What are your favorite types of professional learning? What should I set my sights on next?
Books by authors I met...


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems

My best friend just turned 40. We celebrated in New York City with our husbands, comfortable shoes, and an itinerary that wouldn't quit. One day, as we were heading from a movie tour of Central Park to the American Museum of Natural History, we happened to see banners for a Mo Willems exhibit outside a smaller building called the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library. Um, two teachers in NYC with a Mo Willems exhibit?! Yes, please. Our husbands sat at the museum bar. It was a win-win.

You can't quite see this Mo Willems quote, but it says, "All of my characters are thoroughly neurotic, and have very deep emotional lives." If I wasn't sold on these books before, surely I am now Mo's biggest fan, even if it is only because I am thoroughly neurotic and have a very deep emotional life. I mean, I'm passionate. Well, I cry a lot. I am emotionally present. Whatever. It's fine.

In addition to fun character cut-outs, explanations of plots and series, and getting to hear Mo's voice narrate the entire adventure, we got to see samples of his pre-writing process. He sketches out designs, plans dialogue, and explains how he changes the text on the page to reflect the emotion of the particular character.

When you enter the exhibit, you get a little remote that corresponds to bus stops along the way. You type your stop number into the phone and you get to hear Mo explain details of his creative process. This was the only hour of the trip that I wished my kids were with me. Kacee and I were like kids in a candy store, but we felt a tiny bit strange on our double date. We kept explaining to everyone that we were teachers as we took thousands of pictures of animated elephants, pigeons, and pigs. 

My niece lives in New York, and when she was first adopted I sent her Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems because it is hysterical and set in Brooklyn, New York. It was so fun to be able to finally experience this setting since it was my first time in this cool city. Of course, we had to pose with Knuffle Bunny. #thisis40

Happy birthday to my dear friend, Kacee! We have been teaching together for 18 years and it was such a fun, unexpected treat that we got to celebrate our love for a cool city, a favorite author, and each other, all at the same time! I heart NYC! 

What are your top two children's authors? I am always looking for new people to follow!