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I am a wife, mother and first grade teacher. I am so blessed and love my life!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Whew Time to catch up... Final session of day 1 and Georgia Heard day 2

For the final session of day 1 I went to "The Top 10 Quality Teaching Tools." It was presented by a group of teachers from the area. It was VERY informative if not  a bit overwhelming. The presenters were great to listen to and happy to explain what we weren't familiar with (which for me was most of it). I thought the best way for you to grasp it would be to give you the link to the site they gave us where the handout and presentation is posted. I liked some of the concepts, and may put my own spin on them for my classroom (will post when I do). I couldn't help but wonder where they found time to implement all of the "tools." They assured us it is doable, and is best to take it one tool at a time.  http://wiki.gkb.k12.in.us/groups/spotlightonliteracy/

Georgia Heard kicked off day two. She had great ideas for showing kids how and giving kids the opportunity to "wonder" every day. She explained we need a permanent place for kids to go to every morning to ask questions, as soon as they come in the door. It can be as simple as a sticky note or as much as a whole area of your room. She then went on to say that we should pick one of these questions every week to make our "Wonder of The Week" ummm hmmm you guessed it..bag overflowing! She discussed that our "pondering time" should be exploring the question and then discovering how people find answers to their questions. Students should participate in shared research and writing projects. In doing that we hit the core standards for language arts.
Georgia explained we need to teach the difference of "heart wonders" in which everyone has a different response to, and "research wonders"-wonders that we can "look up" or "uncover" the information to. She believes that our libraries should be grouped according to heart and research wonders and that the students should be in on the grouping of our books.
I learned a lot from Georgia and can hardly wait to implement my "wonder spot."

Finally let me tell you what I learned about myself that day. I am SHY and not comfortable with initiating conversations with people I don't know, and that I feel inferior in groups of people I don't know (my biggest AH-HA not from a presenter). This would come as a shock to most people that know me, but it is true. And I think I need to change it. I say this because as I sat listening to Georgia I looked across the aisle- down one row, and who do you think I discovered sitting there? DEBBIE MILLER. By herself. Taking notes, like me. And so when Georgia asked us to "turn and talk" did I tap her on her shoulder and ask her what she was thinking??? Sadly, no. I did not. Did I do it the next time we were asked to share...nope not even then. Oh I wanted to, but I didn't want her to think I was some backwoods-country girl, teacher/author/presenter/idol- stalking goofball.  And now I think "why not?" It's not as if we would ever see each other again. It's not as if I didn't have anything to say, or wasn't interested in her thoughts. I just...didn't. But next time.....

And so you guessed it the next and last three sessions belong to Debbie. She was WONDERFUL (can you hear the lilt in my voice)!!! It's going to take some planning and rereading of my notes, but I promise I will get it posted ASAP!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sessions 3 and 4 day 1 KATIE Wood Ray

While I was rocking out to the knowledge of my idols, Donnie and Hadley were exploring the Warsaw area. They found a villiage, lakes (one with a diving board), parks, a black squirrel, and a really great place for us to eat lunch. They picked me up for lunch at the front door, and while I was thrilled to hear about their discoveries they were not as interested in mine "it's summer mom." So I've saved all my new found knowledge for you, my blogging buddies-and I'd better not read any comments about it being summer! lol

Katie (I feel we know each other well enough now to be on a first name basis....ok she doesn't know me at all, but if she did..) is energetic, sincere, calm, amazing, knowledgable, and engaging. She's Jeff Anderson and Ann Marie Corgill rolled into one. She shared ideas and thoughts and rexamined herself (in video) along with us. She's like your favorite teacher, best teaching buddy, and mentor all tied up in a perfect package. She presented two sessions and although the second one was a hard choice because Ruth Ayers was presenting at the same time; I stuck with Katie.  I felt her session was geared more toward my grade level. I'm sure I missed a great session with Ruth, but Katie was well worth it.

Katie began our conversation (no really it was just her and I...ok us and about 200 others) discussing literature. She asked; "What literature do you know well?" "Everything you can say about how it is written is what you can teach about writing." I wanted to run to Barnes and Noble that instant. She warned we need a deep knowledge base of genre, and reminded that nonfiction is what the common core is rooted in. Nonfiction is more than books, it is articles, how to's, profiles, and advice. To teach it well she explains, you must have a broader understanding than that of a typical nonfiction book (opening my Ah-Ha bag already).

Katie goes on to say we also need a knowledge base for text structure, the craft of writing, and a vision of length to "teach writing well." We should notice something in the authors' writing and then teach it to children. We need an even deeper knowledge base for convictions and usage, and what we teach should be embedded in real world writing. She relates that "we should find someone that writes the way we want to teach" (opening bag and leaving it open).

She shared with us videos of herself conferring with children. This is where I really became engrossed because this is where I feel I lack in my work shop. What I discovered was a conversation. A conversation about what they had written, or what they will be writing about, where they will be going in their writing and how they planned on getting there. The mentor text is key and should be preplanned and something we are very familar with so that we can  "zoom in" on what we want to teach and what they are writing.

In Katie's session for Primary writers she begins by warning us to be careful what we call a book. She explains "not all books are stoires" (yep into the bag). We need to undersand and teach the difference between an "about" and a story. An about gives information. A story flows and has a beginning, middle and end. She showed examlpes of both in video.

When conferring with young children about the books they make we should repeat what they tell us, tell them what you noticed, and relate it to mentor text. Share with them what you think their next book may look like. Finally have them explain to you what they think their next book will look like. This gives them a plan, a place to begin (yep bag again).

Katie tells us at this age (kindergarten, 1st, 2nd) children should be learning what what it means to be a writer, have a sense of self, and how to own their writing. Rivising for young children simply means 1 of 5 things: take something out, add something, change something, move something, or start over.

She left us with this message and although not an Ah-Ha for me (already believed this) it could be for some. "Copying is not writing, it is handwriting. If you understand writing you understand it is more complex than that. But it can be made simple for younger children. You have to be willing to turn loose of the control."

Is your Ah-Ha bag open?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Session Number 2- Ann Marie and Linda


Ann Marie Corgill was the next presenter in the auditorium so I got to stay put. Many left for other sessions and some moved to new seats. To my delight a nice lady (Linda) asked if she could sit next to me, "of course" I smiled. She sat down. As we waited I asked if she was from the town of Warsaw. She replied that no she is from Ft. Wayne which is about an hour from Warsaw. She asked where I was from. The look on her face was comical when I said, "Oklahoma." She quickly wanted to know why I was at a workshop so far from home. I explained that we just don't seem to get presenters like this in the mid-west, at least not all at one time. I explained how my family and school had been gracious enough to let me have this experience. We spoke about the area, our trip, and she talked of things my family might do while I'm attending the conference.

As we settled in to listen to Ann Marie I asked if she was a teacher and if so what grade she taught. She explained that no she was the principal of a school for about 700 students Pre-K thru 5th grade, and that she had just retired. I thought it spoke volumes for this conference in that a retired principal still wanted to be a part of it.

As Ann Marie started her presentation I noticed right away that she and Jeff were two completely different presenters. She had an easy- calm-soothing way to her. Jeff radiated exuberance. I thought how much I would enjoy her if she were my teacher.

The topic of Ann Marie's presentation was two of the six A's she writes about in her book (analyze, ask, applaud, assist, asses, advocate). For this session she would be discussing ask and assist. She showed us pictures of her classroom(s) and related that every time she makes a decision about her students or teaching she asks herself "why."

She explained that in her classroom she tries to show (model) and assist in student learning-not direct it. She wants her students to know that their voices will be heard, their opinions and interest matter, and their differences will be celebrated.

She believes that children should be shown how to ask thoughtful, meaningful questions. This doesn't come from raising hands, but instead conversations. "We ask and teach them how to ask."

Writing units in her classroom are five to eight weeks long, "we need to cover less, but uncover more." To me this was key, and will be put into that bag of "AH-HA'S" too. It means one topic at a time and digging deeper for concrete understanding, not just hitting teaching points and moving on. I thought how great it would be if through collaboration of colleagues we could come together and find areas for each grade to focus on, and then build on from grade to grade (curriculum mapping?). Our teaching would not work along side of one another, but instead be built layer by layer for student learning and understanding.

Ann Marie was easy to listen to and made me want to be a better teacher, calmer, settled, more organized and clear in my teaching and thoughts. I enjoyed her session. AND the fact that when she asked us to "turn and talk" I now had someone to bounce ideas off of, and in turn hear her perspective. Linda seemed as if she would have been a great principal to work for. I bet her students and staff will miss her.

Books Ann Marie recommended:

 Educating for Human Greatness            Product Details

Tomorrow- KATIE RAY WOOD!!! My American Idol! (I told you this was like a rock concert for teachers!) and lunch!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011 Day 1 of Conference Keynote:

I did not sleep again. It wasn’t the noise this time but instead my anticipation of what was to come. Sunday had been filled with driving, exploring the area, and our short trip to Lake Michigan. It was a Father’s day to remember, one like we had never had before.

My family deposited me at the conference with well wishes and blurry eyes. It was dreary and cool, but I was full of smiles. I was finally here.
I walked up to the registration desk and gave the lady my name “Klinger-with a K” I smiled. She handed me my folder and name tag and told me not to forget to register for the door prizes. “Door Prizes…” I started, but she had turned to talk to the lady beside her. I walked over to the next table to get my ticket for dinner, and to register for the “door prizes.” The lady with the tickets asked for my school, “McCord” I said, “in Oklahoma” and pointed to our schools’ name. She handed me my ticket, and said to make sure I registered for the door prizes.  

The lack of familiarity was one of the first things I noticed that was different about this conference and the numerous of others I have been to in Oklahoma and Kansas. I saw educators everywhere, but I did not recognize or connect to any.

I looked around for the complimentary water, coffee, tea, muffins, mints… There were none to be found. Nothing to say “welcome” “we’re glad you’re here,” with words or actions. I ventured into the room of vendors. I scanned the room and paused at a few tables. I have never been to a conference that a vendor did not try to engage me in some way. Until this one.  
I decided to grab my seat before the conference room filled for the key note speaker. Jeff Anderson; www.writeguy.net. As I sat I scanned the room and people. Some walked in alone like me, but quickly joined others. Many came in large groups happy to be together, and out of school.

It was an uncanny feeling to be there in a sea of educators, all with the same purpose, same goal, and yet not know or recognize anyone.  I wanted to stand up and say “Hello!” “New girl in town!” “I know no one, will someone be my buddy?”  I wish I had.
Jeff began to speak and right away I felt a connection. Yes! He’s from Texas. Someone close to home. His address was full of energy and positive thoughts. He engaged his audience and kept us that way. I felt more at ease and ready to learn. (That was what I had come for, not to be noticed…) The one glitch was when he asked us to “turn and talk” or “share our thinking.” I found myself looking at others; not looking at me. So I wrote.

Jeff spoke of writing, and the teaching of writing. He quoted text he had studied and read, and conclusions he has defined. He told us that writing is much like the scientific method in that you (or students)should; notice (observe, research) other writing-mentor text, try (hypothesize, test) your own writing, reread/revise (analyze) your writing and others, and finally celebrate (conclude) your completion. Like scientist we (and students) need to become exact in our writing. Gone are the days of “add more detail.” Our writing needs to be engaging, interesting, and to the point (oh boy I’m going to have trouble with that one).
He talked of the many resources and books he reads to help him in his writing. It hit me that this is what we should show our students. We need to “show” them the things we as teachers read and study to be better teachers; whether it’s a teacher manual (if that’s all you have) or a plethora  of professional books (like me).

Before I had thought as “mentor text” as stories I read to my class to point out writing elements or author’s craft.  But I see it now as more. They are books, text, writing, stories, articles, etc. we use every day to discover, learn, teach, stretch ourselves or hold us steady, and so should they be for our students.

I have many things to tuck in my bag of “AH-HA’S” after listening to Jeff. The first is my new thought on mentor text. Next is that I need to “curtail” my writing and details (ok I’ll try). My favorite quote; “The right answer is something you get on a worksheet, OWNING it is something that comes from a conversation.”

And finally the realization that for a girl that loves to write, and will show it to anyone; I have a hard time putting myself “out there” verbally in a room full of strangers.

I wonder how many of our students feel the same way. So this next year instead of just using “turn and talk” I will give the option of “writing (or drawing) your thoughts” OR “turn and talk” with a neighbor. My thinking being; what if that neighbor makes you feel unwelcome, or what if you are feeling insightful, but not ready to share? I thinking writing or talking may cover both bases.

Text Jeff mentioned for writers and teachers of writers:

Y’all come again tomorrow where you’ll meet Ann Marie Corgill, and I’ll meet a friend.

Friday, June 24, 2011


I like to write. I like to put words down and see how they fit together and blend into a story. Or how they can frame a moment in time. Or they can take the jumble ruins in my head and make them interconnected.

I like to try new words. I like to use words to create feelings. I like to position them in the perfect spot; then read them and know I have just painted a depiction of my thoughts, feelings, life, with my pen.

That’s what I want to “teach” my kids. I want to show them they can see, be, do, anything through writing.

I learned so many things from the All Write Conference I attended in Indiana this week. As I sat there bright and early Monday morning I covetously wanted to embrace it all. I wanted to see every session and hear every presenter. I text my husband and told him “I feel like I’m at a rock concert for teachers.”

But of course I could not “do” it all. So I had to pick and choose very prudently, and thoughtfully. I value the choices I made and the sessions I sat in on.

The next few days I am going to let everyone in on what I learned, relearned, and felt the few days I was there. It was an experience I will cherish forever.

I have been to MANY Professional Development Conferences in Oklahoma and some in Kansas. I will write about what is similar and what is different. I’ll give you my take on presenters, the place, the people, the FOOD, and how it felt to be the only girl from Oklahoma in a building full of Indiana (and some Michigan) teachers.

Tonight is just a teaser. It’s a HOOK to get you to come back.

I’ll leave you with quotes of the “common” thread I heard from every presenter both days about writing in the classroom and out; and my take on it.

Jeff Anderson-“energy- interesting, engaging-quick and to the point”

Ann Marie Corgill-“cover less-uncover more”

Katie Wood Ray-“zoom in on what you want to write about”

                             “what is behind the writing”

                             “own your writing”

On Mentor text: “find someone that writes like you want to teach”

My favorite from Katie:

“Copying is not writing, it’s handwriting if you understand writing you understand that it is more complex than that, but it can be made simple for younger children, you have to be willing to turn loose of the control.”

Georgia Heard: “pondering time-explore only one question”

Debbie Miller: “read aloud 10-12 books EVERY DAY”

                         “be deliberate show them how, then give them time to                                do it”

                         “reading well is reading and thinking at the same time”

Lester Laminick- “don’t be a tourist, be a participant”