Monday, June 30, 2014

Found Poetry

Found poetry is taking language from a non-poetic context and turning it into a poem.  I first heard about this when I was reading "Poems Waiting to be Found" by Shirley McPhillips, one of the featured writers at the Stenhouse Summer Blogstitute 2014

I decided to give it a try.  The following are the original text I used and my attempts at Found Poetry:  
From Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella

The process is all so slow, as dreams are slow, as dreams suspend time like a balloon hung in midair. I want it all to happen now. I want the catcher to appear. I want whatever miracle I am party to, to prosper and grow: I want the dimensions of time that have been loosened from their foundation to entwine like a basketful of bright embroidery threads. But it seems that even for dreams, I have to work and wait. It hardly seems fair.

So s-l-o-w...
Dreams... are… slow
Time                    like a balloon hung in midair
For the dimensions of time to entwine
I have to work... and... wait
So s-l-o-w…

From the Summer of the Gypsy Moth by Sara Pennypacker.

I like to imagine the ties between us as spider silk: practically invisible, maybe, but strong as steel. I figure the trick is to spin out enough of them to weave ourselves into a net.  

Ties between us…
Like strands of spider silk,
Invisible but strong.
Strong as steel.

Weaved into a net.

I hope you feel inspired to try Found Poetry. If so feel free to share your attempts.

To Newsletter or Not?

Every year I debate on rather I am doing a classroom newsletter or relying strictly on my website to keep parents informed.  I am already having this debate. One issue is the creating of a fun layout that does not take forever to create or require me to purchase expensive software. 

I may have found the answer to the issue of how to create a fun and interesting newsletter after attending the Southwest Iowa Google Summit. It is called Lucidpress Layout and Design. It is found at the Chrome Web Store under apps.  

It seems to be a very user friendly way to create a newsletter. Once you have created your letter you have a lot of choices on how you are going to share it. 

You can publish it on the web.  I find this a great option since we are not allowed to print color copies in our building. This way you can make it as fun and colorful as you want and still have people see it. 

You can also share it through the Lucidpress software or you can download it as a pdf and share it through google docs or Doctopus or gClass folders.  

You can also print a hard copy, so that you can send it home with each of the students.  

Here is a practice page I created to experiment with:

Feel free to comment if you still create a newsletter and if you do how do you create and share it. If you don't how do you communicate with your families?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Southwest Iowa Google Summit 2014 Part 2

On Tuesday the keynote speaker was Eric Sheninger, awarding winning principal at New Milford High School in New Jersey. The message I walked away from his speech with was that we have to be willing to change the way we teach. We have to give up control of the learning to the students. We need to make technology available for students to use when it improves the learning. 

The first breakout session that I attending was Using Apps to Help Struggling Students.  I walked away from it with a plethora of resources for helping students with various educational needs.  The speaker showed us how to regulate the reading level of the articles that students are searching and how to increase the size of text on webpages. He showed us apps such as Read and Write Google which will read webpages to students. 

The second breakout session that I attending was What's New in Google Drive. I learned that you can now edit images in docs and slides. I learned about several add-ons that I want to try.  One of them is Avery labels and the other was gMath. In gMath you can create graphs and coordinate planes.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Southwest Iowa Google Summit 2014 Part 1

On Monday and Tuesday of this week I attended the Southwest Iowa Google Summit.  Each day there was a keynote speaker and breakout sessions over different features of Google.

On Monday the keynote speaker was Angela Maiers, author of Classsroom Habitudes. The message I walked away from her speech with was that we have tell and show our students that they matter. We have to depend on them to contribute their genius or talent to our classroom. I ordered her book, Classroom Habitudes, and it arrived today. I can't wait to read it.

The first breakout session I attended was Adds-on to Ease the Google Workflow. The two add-ons featured at this session were Flubaroo and Doctopus.  Flubaroo is an add-on that grades and analyzing the results of multi-choice tests. If your district is 1 to 1 this would be a great way to do a quick 2-3 question exit ticket to assess learning. Doctopus is an add-on that allows you to create class roosters and folders, distribute paperless assignments, and receive paperless homework without over loading your shared folder file. 

The second breakout session I attended was Get Organized with gClass. After attending the session I figured at the gClass does basically the same thing as Doctopus as far as creating roosters and folders.  I have not been able to get the send assignment feature of gClass to work.  If I choose to use one of these add-ons it will be Doctopus.  Both of these may become obsolete with the release of Classroom this September!
The third breakout session I attended was The Benefits of Blogging. The instructor was a sixth grade literacy teacher.  He showed how he uses his class blog to communicate with his students and parents. He showed how his students use their blogs to communicate with each other, their parents, and students from other countries.  His students use their blog to post writing and receive feedback about their writing. They also use them to publish their finished writing pieces.  

A great overall resource that I left the Summit with is the following webpage This webpage is an easy way to access information on how to do all things Google!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Twelve Books Done!

The twelfth Iowa Children's Choice Award nominee that I chose to read was The PS Brothers by Maribeth Boelts.

This story would work well for teaching literary elements, cause and effect, main ideas and details, and rereading the text.  

On Maribeth Boelts web page she has a question answer section in which she talks about her writing. There is some useful information here that would teach students about the writing process. 

Interesting Find!

While browsing the web one day I stumbled upon an advertisement for the upcoming Stenhouse Summer Blogstitute 2014. I decided to e-mail myself a reminder to check it out as it did not start for a few weeks.  I found the e-mail yesterday and went to check it out.  

So far there are two different posts by authors: The first post is on the teaching of grammar which is by Aimee Buckner ( I read her book Notebook Know How this summer. If you use writer's notebooks in your classroom, you should read it!) The second post is on writing found poems by Shirley McPhillips.  I can't wait to try writing one of these myself and then have my fourth graders try to write them. Not sure what those are here's a link to further information about them:

If you read and leave a comment on the posts you are entered for a chance to win a package of eight books that are written by the authors who are writing the posts for the blogstitute. 

Take a second or two or three and check it out!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Teaching Writing!

I have been reading Wondrous Words by Katie Wood Ray. This is a great book about teaching kids to be successful at and enjoy writing.  

Part of the process is learning to read books like a writer.  

A topic that appears to be a long ways from both these concepts is that fact that my son challenged me to read Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella.  So for those of you who aren't from Iowa and aren't baseball fans this is the book that the movie Field of Dreams was based on back in the 80's. Being from Iowa and actually having visited the Field of Dreams I decided to give the book a try.

Now I feel as if I should say this up front, I am not a fan of baseball.  I can take it or leave it!  That said I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. Not only did I enjoy the story from a reader's point of view, I also discovered some great things to share with my students from a writer's point of view.

I found many examples of how this novel could be used to help teach students about writer's craft. One type of writer's craft that Katie Wood Ray shares in her book is "Super Ellipses". Those are the three dots in a row. They can be used to show continuation, transition, or the lack of words to describe something. On page 14 in Shoeless Joe Kinsella writes: "It must of been... It must of been like..." But I can't find the words.

Writers also use a close echo effect.  This style of writing as described by Katie Wood Ray is when an author repeats words or phrases close together when it is not necessary and creates an echo effect.  On page 25 of Shoeless Joe Kinsella writes: The process is all so slow, as dreams are slow, as dreams suspend time like a balloon hung in midair. 

Now keep in mind you will only share bits and pieces as this is a novel for adults. If your students are interested in the topic here are books that I found that would be appropriate for students to read: Shoeless Joe and Me by Dan Gutman, Shoeless Joe & Black Betsy by Phil Bildner and C.F. Payne, and Shoeless: The Life and Times of Joe Jackson by David L. Fleitz.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Math Writing Dilemma!

During the last month of school I started the Math Daily 3 in my classroom.  I used these 3 rotations or stations: math by myself, math writing, and math with someone.  

My students enjoyed the new approach to math as did I.  The main problem I had was that math writing was creating a lot of paper work for me to correct. This was not really what I had in mind for this station. So I began searching the Internet for ideas.  I saw several sentence starter ideas.  I found two that I liked and did some combining and changing to create one I like.  

So here it is 

Feel free to use it if it works for you or share it with a friend!

Eleven Books Done!

The eleventh Iowa Children's Choice Award nominee that I chose to read was Pie by Sarah Weeks.  In this story young Alice loves to spend time with her Aunt Polly at her pie shop.  When Aunt Polly passes away Alice's world is turned upside down.  To make matters even worse Aunt Polly left her famous pie crust recipe to her cat, Lardo! Or did she?

This book could help students work on sequencing events, using prior knowledge, cause and effect, setting, character, and theme. The author also includes some readers theaters on her website this could be used to work on many different fluency strategies including reading like the author would to convey meaning. If you are interested in doing an author study or you have a student who is, Sarah Weeks has provided some wonderful suggests on how to begin on her website.  Click on the gold circular emblem that says "Are You Doing an Author Study?" to get started!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ten Books Done!

The tenth Iowa Children's Choice Award nominee that I chose to read was The Underdogs by Mike Lupica.  The Underdogs is a story of a struggling small town and how in order to save money they are going to discontinue little league football.  Will, a boy with a passion and talent for football, works to save his season.  

There are so many positive themes you could highlight out of this book.  It would also work well for teaching making predictions, character and setting.  

It could be used as a model during a lesson on persuasive writing! Will writes from the heart and well you will have to read to find out what it gets him!

Wonderful Words Wednesday!

If we are to teach students to love words, shouldn't we love words. To learn to love words join me each week in a Wonderful Words Wednesday Linky. Don't forget to link up below and share a wonderful word that you read or wrote this week. Share it's definition and origin. Then please visit the blog in front of you and after you, as a comment use their wonderful word in an inspiring sentence!

My word this week is: Epistolary: written in the form of a letter Novels that are written in epistolary form are listed as epistolary fiction.  

Origin as listed on
1650–60;  < Latin epistolāris  of, belonging to a letter. See epistle-ar1

Wonderful Words Wednesday! photo WonderfulWordsWednesday.jpg

Monday, June 9, 2014

Taking On a Challenge

I found this on twitter:

Powering Up on EdTech This Summer: The 7 Day Challenge

and decided to give it a try.  Here is what I have accomplished so far:

Challenge #1:  Go on a Blog Bender- Done that and continuing to do that.  Found this interesting site, as one place to start checking out blogs:  Teach Make A Difference  Started my own blog several years ago and then just stopped, so I am trying to pick back up again.  

Challenge #2:
I attended Building the Collaborative Classroom Best Practices in Reading and Writing conference.  At this conference I attend six different breakout sessions over a 2 day period.

Day 1 was focused on best practices for teaching reading.
The first session was Getting Started with the Making Meaning Program.  This is the reading comprehension program our district is adapting this fall.  This session was a great introduction to the materials we will be using.
The second session I attending was about small group reading instruction. This session provided me with a good solid review of everything I have read so far about small group instruction.
The thirds session I attended was about conferring during reader's workshop.  I love the basic structure the presenter shared with us to guide us through a conference.  1. Listen-Have them read to you.  2. Think/Decide- What am I going to teach? 3. Teach 4. Try- What skill am I going to challenge them to try during their reading time?

Day 2 was focused on best practices for teaching reading.
The first session I attended was about about assessments in the writing classroom.  I came away with 2 important things from this session. 1 it is very important to not only assess the final product, but to consider the rough draft. You can learn a lot about a writer from this part of the writing process. I also learned that it very important to focus on the data to justify the grade. Sometimes we as teachers get caught up in I know this student can do this, they must of had a bad day.  We need to focus on the data we have and assess it.
The second session I attended was conferring in a writing workshop.  I was excited to see that you can apply the same simple structure that we learned about yesterday in the reading conferring session to a writing conference. Two basic pieces of information that I walked away with were: that conferring allows for differentiation and published pieces will have some developmentally appropriate errors. Conventions are only 1/7 of the 6 +1 traits of writing, so do not over focus on them.
The third session I attending was Getting Started with the Being a Writer Program.  This is the writing program our district is adapting this fall.  I am excited to see that it teachings writing by using quality trade books to model it and it encourages learns to learn about the writing process from writers.  This session was a great introduction to the materials.

I am attending Southwest Iowa Google Summit at the end of June. This conference focuses on integrating technology into the classroom. I will let you know how it goes!

Nine Books Done!

The ninth Iowa Children's Choice Award nominee that I chose to read was Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur. This story addresses the age old theme of growing up.  Specifically that time period of leaving elementary school behind and entering middle school.  In the book it addresses it from Elise's point of view. Elise is a 12 year old girl who is being raised by her aunt and uncle, because her parents are deceased.  She struggles with school, friendship, bullies, and her identity.  Sometimes you want to shake her, sometimes you want to hug her!

This book would be good for teaching character, setting, theme, problem/solution, and using prior knowledge to connect with the text.  

Make sure you check out Suzanne LaFleur's website.  She shares some interesting insight into her writing process, which is so important for writers to see!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Eight Books Done!

I am making progress with my goal of reading all the 2014-2015 Iowa Children's Choice award nominees.  Eight down and nine to go!  

The eighth book I read was The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng.  Make sure you checkout the common core activities created by the author for this book. You can also check out the illustrator, Abigail Halpin's website. In this story Anna, an American Born Chinese girls struggles with fitting in, friendship, and her Chinese heritage.  

This book would work well for teaching summarizing, check for understanding, and back up and reread.  It would also lend itself well to teaching theme.  

I could see this book sparking some interest in China and the Chinese culture.  It might lead students to further research and learning about the Chinese culture.  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

I am linking up for Wordless Wednesday at

This summer I am reading Wondrous Words by Kate Wood Ray and The Daily 5 by The 2 Sisters.  It is time for some change in my reading and writing instruction.  What changes will you make in your classroom next fall?

Wonderful Words Wednesday!

I have been reading several books about installing a love for reading and writing in students.  One thing I have seen in several books is in order to love reading and writing we need to teach our students to CELEBRATE words.

So in my classroom this fall I am going to implement Wonderful Words Wednesday.  Students will be asked to keep an eye out for wonderful words in their reading and writing.  They will pick one, record its definite and word origin, and bring it to class to share in our community circle on Wednesday.

This got me thinking, if we are to teach our students to love words, shouldn't we love words. To learn to love words join me each week in a Wonderful Words Wednesday Linky. Don't for get to link up below and share a wonderful word that you read or wrote this week.  Share it's definition and origin. Then please visit the blog in front of you and after you, as a comment use their wonderful word in an inspiring sentence!

My word for this week is fascination.  Definition: powerful attraction; charm  Word Origin: 1595–1605;  < Latin fascinātiōn-  (stem of fascinātiō a bewitching. Seefascinate-ion  Definition and word origin found on Found in the book Wondrous Words by Katie Wood Ray.

Wonderful Words Wednesday! photo WonderfulWordsWednesday.jpg

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Seven Books Done!

The seventh Iowa Children's Choice Award nominee I chose to read was Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai. Inside Out & Back Again is a story of a young girl who left her home in Saigon when the Vietnam War reached her home and moved to Alabama with her family. 

This story would be great to teach students how to create a mental image or picture.  This book contains many interesting words in , so it would be a good text for tuning into interesting words.  

Monday, June 2, 2014

June Currently

I am linking up at 
to do the June Currently.  Here's mine:

REMEMBER to do the rule of 3...
comment on the 2 links ahead of you and the one after you...
PLEASE make sure your comments are about their post and thoughtful

Six Books Done!

The sixth Iowa Children's Choice Award nominee that I chose to read was Little Dog, Lost by Marion Dane Bauer. In this story one little boy has a dog and has to give it up, one little boy desperately wants a dog, and one little dog needs a boy.  Read on to find out how the story unfolds.

This story would work well to teach making and adjusting predictions using the text to confirm, cause and effect, problem/ resolution, and theme.  It could also be used to introduce the use of similes.  That said Marion Dane Bauer has created a nice discussion guide and a readers theater script to use with the book.