Quick Update

I just wanted to pop in and wish you a wonderful holiday break. I am winging my way to my sister's house tomorrow. I'm excited about seeing all my family, especially these two precious kiddos. This is my great-niece and my great-nephew. Aren't they cuties?

I'll be back after New Year's.

December Currently!

It's time to link up with Farley for the December Currently! Here is mine...

  • I am listening to the Real Housewives of Atlanta. Don't judge! It's the only Housewives program I watch, and it's strictly entertainment.
  • I am loving that my UTSA Women's basketball has started. We've been season ticket holders for years, and these young ladies are so special to us. There's a nice sized group of us who sit right behind the bench and say all those things to the referees that the coaches can't say! The women's team doesn't get the fan support the men do, so we feel strongly about being there to cheer our girls on.
  • I'm thinking I'm crazy to agree to go to work for the next two weeks. The principal of my last school is such a dear friend (we worked together at district office before going different ways), and when she called me to ask me to help out, I just couldn't say no. Wish me luck!
  • I am wanting a new stove. I don't need it, but gosh, I hate the black top of my stove so much. It is impossible to keep looking nice - it always shows streaks. This want won't be fulfilled any time soon, though.
  • I need to fire up the alarm clock. Being retired means I seldom set the alarm. These next two weeks should be interesting. I haven't had to be anywhere at 7:00 a.m. for a long time!
  • I am giving you the link to my friend Kristin's Holiday Behavior Rewards product. I know some of you feel the same way I do about that creepy Elf.  You can use this instead to help motivate your monsters students during the looooong stretch between now and Winter Break!

Don't forget the Cyber Monday (and Tuesday!) sale on Teachers Pay Teachers. Check out my store - you might see something you like, and you can get it for 28% off when you enter the code CYBERTPT at checkout.

Now hurry over to Farley's site and check out all the other posts. They are so much fun to read!


Cyber Monday Sale

While you are out doing your Black Friday shopping, save a little money for the Teachers Pay Teachers Cyber Monday (and Tuesday!) sale.

Most sellers will have their stores set at 20% off, and with the additional discount from TpT, you can save up to 28%!

Make sure you enter the code TPTCYBER when you check out to get the TpT extra discount.

I have added several new products to my store. I invite you to go take a look and see if there's anything you want to add to your wish list. Happy Shopping!


Can't Live Without It!

I'm joining Fun in Room 4B and Beyond for her new linky party.

Here are a couple of the things I can't live without!

I try to make sure I get all the water in that I am supposed to drink each day (I've almost completely given up my beloved Diet Coke with Lime - only have one once in a blue moon) and this Tervis tumbler is helping me do it. It keeps water cold for much longer than other glasses and doesn't have the condensation problem so many other cups do. This one holds 24 oz. Three of these babies and I am good for the day!

I follow the style blog Pinterest Told Me To. She featured this sweater she calls a blardigan (a cross between blanket and cardigan). I thought it was a horrendous amount of money, but so many people kept commenting on how much they love it. So I bit the bullet and ordered one when it was on sale. OMG it is so soft! I can tell this will be my go to all winter. (I don't know why it is in the lingerie section. It is perfectly suitable for wearing out of the house. With clothes on underneath, of course.) Click the picture to get to Nordstrom where you can order one of your own.

Go visit Fun in Room 4B and Beyond and see what other bloggers can't live without. It might spark some ideas for Christmas gifts!


Veteran's Day

I wanted to put up a short post honoring my favorite veteran - my dad.

Dad retired as a major in the US Army. He served during both the Korean and the Viet Nam wars.

This is a picture of my parents at their wedding. They are both gone now, and I miss them every day.

Thanks for your service, Dad, and thanks for supporting him while he served, Mom. I love you both.

Currently November

It's time to link up with Farley for the November Currently! Here's mine...

  • I'm listening to NCIS because I took a little road trip this week and missed it. Some friends and I drove to Brenham (home of Blue Bell ice cream - the best!) to surprise a friend who is coaching the women's basketball team at Blinn Junior College. We were successful in surprising her! What a great time!
  • I am loving that we finally have some weather that is in the 70s and not in the 90-100 degree range! And we got rain Thursday night. Woo hoo!
  • I've been thinking that I have really neglected my blog. I've been working on some blog ideas, but it's hard when you aren't in the classroom any more.
  • I have been having the worst time with super dry lips. I've tried lip balm, vaseline, and coconut oil. Any suggestions?
  • I need to vacuum. Lucy, my golden retriever, is shedding like crazy. We don't have dust bunnies, we have golden tumbleweeds.
  • I am re-reading Mockingjay before I go see the movie later this month.
Now, go read more Currently posts at Farley's and link up your own, too. Don't forget the Rule of Three!

October Currently

Boy, this new month has really snuck up on me! I was totally unprepared to link up with Farley for the October Currently. Being retired makes the days run together. I hardly ever know the date.

  • I watched Stalker on tv tonight. Boy, is it eerie! I know it's only tv, but we sure got the creepy feeling when we were watching. Scary to think there are crazies like that out there.
  • I am loving watching tv now. The new seasons of some of my favorite shows have started. Who else loves Castle, The Good Wife, and The Amazing Race? Those are some of my faves.
  • I am going to my old school tomorrow to teach the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders all about CUPS. If you want to know what that is, you can read all about it here.
  • I want ice cream. I just do. 
  • I don't need a thing right now. My life is pretty good.
  • Here's a treat for you. I pinned this recipe and am dying to try it. I love me a Starbucks pumpkin scone in the fall. Let me know how they are if you give it a shot!
Now go visit Farley and check out the other folks who linked up! Click on the button below and it will take you there!

September Bright Ideas - Keeping the Classroom Healthy

It's time for the Bright Ideas Linky! I want to share with you a way I kept my classroom healthy.

It's that time of year. The beginning of school excitement is over. Our resistance to germs is down. Those nasty flu viruses are going around. That new respiratory virus sounds pretty darn scary.

Going back to school exposes you to all those germs your body was on vacation from over the summer. You start out the year strong and then slowly succumb to the colds and viruses the kids so gladly share with you.

After a particularly bad year when I was out several times and had numerous kiddos out sick, I wised up.

I started using Clorox wipes in the classroom. Every day I wiped down the door handles, light switches, computer keyboards, and my remote controls. Once a week, I had the kids use them to wipe down their desks as well.

While my school didn't provide these wipes for me, I thought it was money well spent. The year I started following this procedure, I had fewer students with illnesses, and I took fewer sick days. And we all know how much work it is to be out of the classroom.

Let me know if it works for you!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider visiting my Teachers Pay Teachers store and join me on Facebook for more great ideas.

For more bright ideas from more than 100 different bloggers, please browse through the link-up
below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!


The Sunday Scoop!

I'm joining my friends at The Teaching Trio for their new linky, The Sunday Scoop!

Have To:
  • Don't you love cleaning house? Ugh.
  • I have been working on this particular post for a few days. I am promising myself that I will have it finished before the end of the week!
  • I love my former principal so much that I agreed to be a community representative on the campus site-based decision making committee. The first meeting this year is on Thursday.
Hope To:
  • My eating habits have taken a back slide since my trip to Seattle/Portland. Time to get back on track.
  • I know I'll be watching, but the winner is my hope! Since the San Antonio Stars are out of it, I have to root for the underdog. (But really, I root for anyone but Phoenix!)
Happy To:
  • Three of us are meeting to plan a little road trip to surprise a dear friend. Fun!

Click on the cute picture below to visit The Teaching Trio and read some more Sunday Scoops!


Currently September

I am linking up with Farley for her Currently party. I love doing this each month!

  • Listening to Naked and Afraid - it's oddly addicting! (#realityshowsaremysecretshame)
  • Loving that school has started and it's easier to go places in the day (sorry folks who are still teaching, but it's so nice not to have to fight the crowds!)
  • Thinking about something I want to make for my TpT store
  • Wanting Indiana Fever to win the WNBA championship! My Stars are out of it and I am rooting for Tamika Catchings and Coach Dunn (really, it's anyone but Phoenix - those tankers! Yes, I hold grudges. Sorry not sorry!)
  • Needing to finish cleaning out my closet and chest of drawers. I still need to purge some clothes I no longer wear.
  • Trips to Niagara Falls, Ireland, and Australia. I've been lucky to travel as much as I have, but these places are on my bucket list!

Now go check out the other partay goers! And don't forget the Rule of Three!

Extend the Life of Classroom Library Books

It's time for a Bright Ideas Linky!

Today, I want to share with you a little thing I did to prolong the shelf life of my classroom library books.

If you are like me, you have a lot of money invested in your classroom library and want those books to last for a long time.

I found that using plain packing tape on the spine of my books kept them looking good for much longer. I just cut a length of tape the height of the book and applied it right over the spine, overlapping the front and back covers. If you cut the tape strip too long, just trim it after you have applied it. Easy peasy!

My books lasted much longer with less chance of damaged spines and covers.

Let me know if this idea works for you!

If you enjoyed this bright idea, please consider visiting my TeachersPayTeachers store and join me on Facebook for more great ideas.

For more bright ideas  from more than 100 different bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!


Carpe Diem

I'm going to get real here. I write from experience. I have suffered from crippling depression and considered suicide. 

The news about Robin Williams hit me hard. Reading the reactions on Facebook has been troubling. It's only a short time since the news reported that Robin Williams is dead by his own hand, and the shame-blame games have begun.

He committed the ultimate sin.



And that's complete crap. Suicide is not undertaken because someone is weak or selfish. Suicide is the last hope far too many people have for ending pain. These people are not weak. They have been strong for so long, but they just can't keep on being so strong.

What people don't realize is that a person reaches a point when their own pain is so overwhelming that all they want is to make it stop. They are no longer thinking clearly; the pain is everything, all-consuming, and overwhelming. They believe they're doing what's right for everyone.

Blaming someone for having depression is like blaming someone for having diabetes. Blaming someone for needing medication to control it is like blaming a diabetic for needing insulin. We don't choose the diseases that invade us, and no one should have to defend the medications that control them.

And yet, that's what happens.

If you suffer from depression, you already know that many people don't understand depression. The things they say not only don't help, they often hurt. It doesn't help that you know it's not intentional; you're backed into a corner where nothing is really helping. Those shadows get darker, thicker, and it's just so hard to see anything where the light is, and it's so incredibly fatiguing to keep trying.

But I'm begging you to reach out.

Find those who DO know what to do, and who know the right words and the order in which they should tumble out of one's mouth.

Try to reach through that thick molasses of fog, the one that makes your arms feel like they weigh a ton and a half, and pick up the phone.

Believe me, this world is so much better with you in it than not. There are people who have been trained, who know how to help you cope, and will never, ever blame you.

And if you're one of those people who think depression is weakness, selfishness, and something that a good attitude check will fix, then listen up.

Depression is a disease. Blame doesn't help and can only make things worse.

In the U.S., call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They also have a website

Bookmark that site.

Call if you need to.

It's okay to call.



Wow! Can you believe it's already August? Time to link up with Farley for her Currently monthly linky party.

  • Listening - I love this show - I am a proud nerd myself. These are my people!
  • Loving - I am besties with Farley's mom. This week has been our WNBA team's Breast Health Awareness Week. Farley's mom is a survivor. We are so incredibly grateful to celebrate and honor her and other survivors this week. Here's a link to a video the Stars filmed starring our friend.
  • Thinking - We are leaving at dark thirty tomorrow morning to check something else off our bucket list. We are following our San Antonio Stars to Seattle to take in a road game! I am also excited to go to Portland to visit my uncle and cousins.
  • Wanting - Tomorrow to hurry up and get here!
  • Needing - My life is pretty good right now.
  • First Day - I'll be having brunch with some other retired teachers and thinking of all of y'all.
Be sure to go check out all the other blogs in Farley's party - and don't forget the Rule of Three!


Revisiting CUPS for Grammar Practice

This post was originally published 2 years ago. I've updated it slightly based on my last year of teaching.

I want to talk to you about DOL. For my non-teaching friends who are reading this blog, it stands for Daily Oral Language. In traditional DOL, the teacher shows students some predetermined sentences that contain errors in grammar and conventions (spelling and punctuation). The students and teacher work to correct the mistakes orally.

Y'all, DOL doesn't work. Maybe the kids can identify some of the errors in those sentences, but they never transfer over that knowledge into their own writing. Correct a sentence from DOL one morning and you will still find students making the same errors over and over in their own work five minutes later.

So what to do? Students do need to be able to write with correct grammar and conventions. How do we teach them to do so without resorting to DOL?

We teach them in the context of their own writing. I use a system I call CUPS. I didn't invent it. I read about the idea about a gazillion years ago and have adapted it to work for me. The other teachers I have worked with who have implemented it also will tell you that it works.

Here's how it goes:

CUPS stands for Capitalization, Usage, Punctuation, and Spelling. Each student has a journal/composition book/spiral titled CUPS. Each morning (in my class), the students come in and write a few sentences on any topic they choose. How many? I required 3. They needed to write good sentences, not just I like my ____. When students approached me to tell me stories about what happened the night before or what they were excited about, I told them to write about it in CUPS. They need to skip lines as they wrote (this allows for editing.)

After they have their sentences written, students check them over for CUPS. This requires the student to evaluate each sentence for capital letters at the beginning and for any proper nouns; subject/verb agreement and other grammar issues (more on that later); correct punctuation at the ends of sentences and in contractions, possessive nouns, etc.; and correct spelling of grade-level appropriate words. (I encourage them to take risks by using interesting words and correct misspellings of those words without counting off.)

After they are sure they have corrected any errors, they meet with a partner. This part of CUPS is incredibly important to teach and reinforce. They must peer-edit. This is not trade-and-correct someone else's work. They must look together at one partner's work, checking for errors. If a student's partner finds an error, the partner must explain what is wrong and help the student correct it. Then the partner writes "Checked by" and signs his/her name at the bottom of the page.

After the partners check one student's work, they repeat with the other student's.

Then each child brings their work to me. I check for any errors and deduct one point for each one. Checking individually takes only a minute and affords me the opportunity to conduct a quick mini-lesson on an error. The child has an opportunity to earn 25 points each day, for a weekly total of 100. (We don't do CUPS on Friday.) It becomes a game to them to try to bring me a 100% correct entry each day.

I promised to tell you a little more about the usage part of CUPS. As I introduce grammar concepts in writing workshop, I require students to use them the following days/weeks in CUPS. For example, after we have learned about compound sentences, I tell them they must include one compound sentence in their CUPS. I also make them draw a star beside the compound sentence - just a way to double check that they included one.

CUPS works because it is editing the child's own writing. The students have a purpose for correcting errors. And the knowledge transfers over to those editing passages we have on our state tests in Texas. And one added bonus is that you will learn so much about your students from what they choose to write.

I am sure that this post is not as crystal-clear to you as it is to me, so please ask any questions you may have and I will gladly answer them.

Update: The last year I taught, I had much less time with students than in previous years. So I adapted the idea of CUPS by assigning the sentences as homework. Here is the letter I sent home explaining it to parents.

And here are the exact directions I gave students to put in the front of their CUPS folders:

  • Each night, write 3 good sentences.
  • You can write about whatever you like, so long as it is appropriate for school.
  • Use a new sheet of paper each night.
  • Put the date on the top of the page.
  • Skip lines – write on every other line.
  • Bring the journal with your completed sentences back to school the next day to edit.


Creating a Classroom Constitution

A detailed plan for establishing classroom rules by working with students to write a classroom constitution

I think most teachers would agree that it is incredibly important to establish class rules early on the first day of school. Instead of just posting my classroom rules, I always worked with my students to create a classroom constitution.


Writing Prompts to Start the School Year

Free narrative writing prompts based on children's books to start off your school year.

I love teaching writing. But few of my students ever came to me loving to write. I knew that I had to ease them into the idea of process writing and spending more than ten minutes on one piece of writing.

Vegas, Baby!

I'm linking up with A Burst of First to tell about my trip to Vegas.

When Teachers Pay Teachers announced their first ever conference, I hesitated for a long time about going. Vegas isn't cheap, y'all, and in the scheme of things, I am a baby blogger and seller. But I bit the bullet and decided to go.

I knew that a few of the bloggers I had met at local meetups would be there, and so would many of the folks I've "talked" with on-line. I was excited to possibly meet those bloggers I've followed and admired for many years.

Can I just say that I am so happy I took the leap and went? It was so inspiring to hear Paul Edelman, the founder of TpT tell the story of how the company came to be. I cried when Deanna Jump shared her journey. I learned so much in the sessions I attended and came home with a HUGE to do list. I talked to many of the bloggers I have loved for years and they were gracious and kind. I made new friends and came home full of excitement to share my ideas with all of you.

I arrived Wednesday afternoon and checked in. The Venetian Hotel is beautiful! This is the ceiling in the lobby.

The first event I attended was the Teacher Blogger Meetup. There was somewhere around 550 people in that room  overwhelming! I was able to speak to some of the people I "knew" already and met a few new ones, too! 

The next day I walked over the Mirage to pick up my ticket for the Cirque du Soleil LOVE show Thursday night. While there, I celebrated my geekiness by playing a Star Trek slot machine. I boldly went where most people go and donated a few dollars.

I returned to the Venetian in time to have lunch with this lovely bunch of women. I met Angela Watson of The Cornerstone for Teachers last summer in San Antonio. It was great to see her again and meet some new to me people.

That evening a bunch of us met up and went to the show. It was wonderful. If you like the Beatles at all, I highly recommend it!

 The next day was the conference itself. I attended sessions on copyright, blogging, marketing, and product creation. Every presenter was fabulous and I was amazed at their willingness to share what worked to make them so successful. In this day and age of fierce competition, it is so nice to be affiliated with people who are generous and kind.

I want to say a special thank you to Kimberly Geswein of KG Fonts. I got to have lunch with her and her husband (among others) the day of the conference. She gave away a license to use all of her fonts, and I was the winner! Talk about hitting the jackpot!

After the conference was a happy hour. I visited the photo booth with my new friend Kristen from Chalk and Apples. I had a lot of fun being goofy!

By then, I was pooped. But there was still one more event - a meet up sponsored by Ramona Recommends. I'm afraid I wasn't good company. Sorry friends. No photos from that.

I have some great blog posts in the works and I'm determined to keep up a consistent blogging schedule. Talk to you soon!


July Currently

I love linking up every month with Farley for her Currently. Here's mine:

  • Every weeknight at 10:30 is Perry Mason time. Love these old reruns.
  • I went to a beautiful wedding in Corpus Christi Saturday. The daughter of one of my dear friends got married in the Texas State Aquarium. It was such a unique setting and we had a blast.
  • We needed that wedding to take our minds off some bad news we received. A friend was killed in a motorcycle accident Friday. 
  • I need to lose weight but I don't want to work at it. Surely I am not the only one.
  • I am excited to go to the first Teachers Pay Teachers conference. I am having trouble deciding what to wear!
  • We always grill for the fourth and hang out here at home.
Go visit Farley and check out the other posts in the linky. If you join, don't forget the rule of three!


Notice and Note Book Study Part 8

Welcome back for part 8 of the Notice and Note online book study. I am so excited to be hosting!

Today we are looking at the following:

Our Generalizable Language

The authors point out that it is important for teachers to make signpost lessons explicit by using the generalizable 
language when doing a think aloud with students. They give us the generalizable language they use on p. 85 - what a great "cheat sheet" for teachers!

They also point out that it isn't important to use the same specific names for signposts that the authors use. We should use the label that works for us and our students. What is important is to notice the signpost and think about the anchor question.

Explaining the Sign Posts

The authors give some great tips to consider when we begin explaining the signposts to our students.

  • Decide upon an order for teaching the signposts. They recommend starting with Contrasts and Contradictions, Aha Moments and Tough Questions. These seem to occur more frequently and are more easily identifiable. Next they recommend Words of the Wiser, especially as it relates to theme. Then move to Again and Again and Memory Moments.
  • Set aside time to teach each signpost lesson. These are not mini-lessons, so be prepared to spend 30-40 minutes on each.
  • Teach each signpost lesson with a text that illustrates the targeted signpost. The authors provide suggested texts to use in the mentor lessons in the book and give tips to consider when selecting our own texts. It is very important to choose something that can be read aloud in 10-15 minutes.
  • Recognize that the model text you want to use might be one that is not at a student's independent reading level. That's ok as long as the students can deal with the content.
  • Use a gradual release model. Demonstrate first, then turn part of the task over to the students, and finally, have them do it on their own.
  • Think about the generalizable language you will use. It is important to plan what you will say. Create an anchor chart for the signpost as you teach and hang it on the wall for students to refer to.
  • Experiment. Try a different approach to teaching the signposts.
One reason I love this book so much is that the authors give us all the tools we need to teach our kids. I know that the first time that I teach a new concept, I tend to script my lessons. That is something I would need to do here as well.

I am also so excited to have another way to approach theme with students. This has always seemed a difficult concept for my third and fourth graders to grasp.

What are you thinking?


Signed, Epstein's Mom

I've been absent for a while. Here's my excuse:

This is my sister and her two grandchildren. Aren't they cute? They are here visiting, so I've been very busy coloring, swimming, watching movies, and talking. Lorraine will be in first grade next year and Peyton will be a Kindergartener. Such a fun age!

I'll be back on Thursday to host section 8 of the Notice and Note book study.

Notice and Note Book Study Part 5

Welcome back for part 5 of the Notice and Note online book study. Today we are looking at the following:

How do I Judge the Complexity of a Text?

My school district recently moved to requiring teachers to level our classroom libraries according to Lexile levels. We were to use those levels to instruct students after testing the kiddos to find their Lexile. I understand matching books to readers, but I had a problem with this idea. The Lexile does not take into consideration the content of the material. The books Monster and Speak deal with very mature issues, yet have Lexile levels of 670 and 690. Those levels are suggested for approximately grades 3-5. If I recommended them for my fourth grade students, parents would be very upset with me and rightly so.

I think it is important for teachers to read the texts we are using with students first to be sure it truly matches what we plan to use it for. We cannot rely simply on a leveling system to make those decisions. It makes me sad when I hear teachers say they don't like to read. If we aren't readers, how can we model a love of reading for students?

Are We Creating Life-Long Learners?

It seems to me that we are not creating life-long learners these days. Instead, we are creating test takers. I tried to fight that trend while I was teaching. I wanted my students to love learning, to be readers, writers, and thinkers. Those are skills that transfer over to real life. But the focus on passing high-stakes tests has killed the love of learning for many teachers and kids. I wish I knew how to make that better.

Go visit Meg at The Teacher Studio and Tammy at Teaching FSL to link up and read more thoughts on these questions!


Notice and Note Book Study Part 4

Welcome back for part 4 of the Notice and Note online book study. Today we are looking at the following:

Do Text Dependent Questions Foster Engagement?

In Texas, as in most states with high-stakes testing, students are taught to be text dependent when answering reading comprehension questions. This is because the questions are designed to try to eliminate bias since all students do not have the same background. These questions lead to a predetermined meaning, established by the people who write the tests.

Do your students seem engaged when answering those types of questions? Mine didn't. The difference in student engagement during testing type situations and a genuine discussion of our reading in class was palpable. 

I confess to leaving testing type materials for students to complete when I was out and had a sub. In my district, you seldom knew who the sub would be and whether they had any experience teaching. Even if they did, it was rare for them to understand the workshop approach I subscribed to. When I returned from being out, I often heard students complain that the sub didn't let them really read. They hated answering those types of questions, yet they loved real discussion and debating questions they asked each other.

In this section the authors give suggestions for ways to develop their own text-dependent questions, facilitating more engagement. When students develop the questions, it's because they truly do not know the answers. It generates a completely different type of engagement.

Must Everyone Read the Same Book?

I confess that I have been at both extremes of the spectrum on this issue during my teaching career. I started out teaching with a basal. I knew no other way to teach. I later read a book that inspired me to start reading workshop with my third graders. When I started the workshop approach, every student read books of their choosing. I found it so difficult, though, to teach certain concepts required by the state standards when all my students were in different books in different genres. I came to see that we needed to be in a common text at least part of the time. Not just because I needed to teach certain concepts, but also because I believe that there are certain books that all students should read and they might not if left complete freedom of choice. I stayed in this middle ground through much of my career.

What are you thinking? Go on over to Primary Inspired and link up. Or leave comments here. I'd love to hear from you!


Notice and Note Book Study Part 3

Welcome back for part 3 of the Notice and Note online book study. Today we are looking at the following:

What is the role of talk?

The authors point out the difference between monologic talk (presuming that the listener should learn from and agree with the speaker) and dialogic conversation (where the speaker and listener take turns being speaker and listener a give and take). They believe (as do I) that both student and teacher are responsible for the discussion in the classroom. 

They point out that teachers are the ones usually asking the questions, and they know the answers already. That is monologic talk.But when students ask the questions, they are authentic questions and promote true conversation.

I was fortunate enough to hear Richard Allington speak at a conference I attended. He said, "We need to move from interrogation to conversation in the classroom." That stuck with me and, I think describes exactly the point the authors are making. They provide great tips for improving student-to-student discourse in the classroom.

Students need practice in asking questions. One tool I used to promote student questioning is these dice. Click the picture to find the source. (I made my own with one inch wooden cubes and a sharpie marker.)

What is close reading?
Close reading is not just attending closely to the text and nothing else. Instead it is bringing the reader and the text together, so that they notice elements of the text that might be surprising or confusing and then pause and take note, think carefully reread, and analyze. We don't do this with every single text we read, only those that invite re-reading.

True close reading involves the following:

  • It works with a short passage.
  • The focus is intense. 
  • It will extend from the passage itself to other parts of the text.  
  • It should involve a great deal of exploratory discussion.  
  • It involves re-reading.  
I hope you'll join the discussion. Go visit Melissa from Dilly Dabbles to link up and read the other posts.


Notice and Note Book Study Part 2

Welcome back for part 2 of the Notice and Note online book study. Today we are looking at the following:

Where does Rigor Fit? 
The authors state that rigor does not lie in the complexity of the text we read, but rather in how we interact with the text. Simply selecting a difficult text does not make it rigorous. Instead, we must choose texts that are engaging to students so that they are willing to think in ways that are complex and challenging. I think it is important for teachers to keep abreast of the latest in children's literature and know what type of texts will capture students' attention. I also believe we need to rethink the traditional literature studies that are the simply "read and answer the questions at the end of the chapter" format. I don't think that is truly rigorous.

What do we mean by intellectual communities?
Beers and Probst contend that an intellectual community ought to be a place where teachers want to work and students want to learn; where student engagement is high; where students accept the challenging work that is offered. But today's high-stakes testing environment in directly in conflict with that type of intellectual community. Instead, students are taught to be test passers. Too much valuable curriculum is not addressed because it isn't on the test. I believe that students who are taught to think and question deeply will have no trouble passing tests.

This section is being hosted by Heather at 2 Brainy Apples. Go there to check out her ideas and add to the link up!

Notice and Note Book Study Part 1

Today is the first day of our online book study on Notice and Note by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst.

The first big question posed by the book is "Is Reading Still Reading?"
I think that reading has changed over the years only in that we read so many different formats now. When I was in school, we only read from textbooks and novels. Students today read books, magazines, web sites, graphic novels, and many do so on digital devices. Some of these formats require very different skills in order to process the texts. We as teachers have to embrace these formats and make sure we equip our students with the tools to be successful with these types of texts.

The second big question is "What is the Role of Fiction?"
There is certainly a push by the new standards adopted by many states for students to read more expository text and less narrative. We certainly see that push on state tests. I know that I most often choose narrative text to read for pleasure. There is such fun to lose myself in a good story. And with such a variety of characters and problems in fiction, I know that I could always find a book to appeal to even the most reluctant reader. We also start new readers out in fiction because the sense of story is so powerful

Yet, it is extremely important to teach how to understand nonfiction. Our students will need those skills to be productive in life beyond the ELA classroom. When I first started teaching, it was so hard to find age appropriate nonfiction for my classroom. But I knew that I had to provide materials to hit those kids (usually, but not always, the boys) who were so interested in nonfiction. I brought in maps, menus, magazines, instruction books, and so forth to fill the void. Now there are so many publishers offering wonderful books at all levels to appeal to any reader. And the newer narrative nonfiction provides the best of both worlds.


June Currently

It's always exciting when it's the first day of the month. Some of us stalk Farley's blog waiting for her to post her Currently linky. I may or may not have had this post written and ready to go as soon as she put up that post. (And I don't think I'm the only one.)

Listening: I love these old sitcoms. My southern accent always comes out when I watch the Sugarbakers.

Loving: WNBA season has started. I have a great group of friends I go to the games with. Our San Antonio Stars have had a rough couple of years - so hoping they get to the playoffs this year.

Thinking: I've been ordering from Bountiful Baskets to get more fruits and vegetables into our diet. We've received some interesting varieties that I've never cooked with before. It's a lot of fun to be surprised.

Wanting: I don't need a puppy. Maybe if I say it often enough, I'll believe it. Darn those friends who keep sharing pictures of their adorable golden retriever babies. There's nothing cuter!

Needing: We are planning to go to Seattle to catch our team play on the road. Checking another item off the bucket list! Do you have any places or restaurants that are "can't miss" to share?

Summer Bucket List: Go on that trip to Seattle and finally get to cleaning out that Room of Doom! I'm also going to the TPT conference in Vegas in July. Can't wait to meet all the bloggers I admire.

Now go visit Farley at the link below - just click on the picture. And don't forget her rule of 3!


Notice and Note Book Study

I'm very excited to be participating in an online Book Study hosted by Melissa from Dilly Dabbles. A number of  of other bloggers will be participating.  We'd love for you to join in with your comments and reflections as you read along with us.  You don't need to have a blog to join us. You can add your thoughts in the comments on each post.

The first section will be hosted by Dilly Dabbles on June 3 and continue Tuesdays and Thursdays after that through much of the summer. You still have time to get your hands on a copy of the book. As a reminder, here's what we are reading:

I hope you will join in!


Teacher Appreciation Sale

Teachers Pay Teachers is throwing a sale for Teacher Appreciation Week. The site offers 10% off every single product for the two days, and that's on top of the discount many stores are already offering. Enter the code when checking out to get your savings.

Everything in my store is 20% off. I have added some new products - I hope you'll go take a look!


Currently May

Wow! Is it me or did April just fly by? It seems like it was just yesterday that I was completing the Currently for April!

  • I'm listening to the news.
  • I'm loving this cool weather we've had today, especially since it was 99 Sunday. That's way too hot for not-quite-May.
  • Our WNBA Stars have their first game Tuesday. I'm excited to dive back into basketball with my buds! It's a morning game, and they are expecting a bunch of kids. I'm not used to be surrounded by kids anymore!
  • I'm wanting a new exercise bike - anybody have recommendations for a good recumbent bike?
  • I need a haircut! Since I retired, my hair grows faster and faster. I keep it short, and I need to get a trim every 3 weeks now. Thank goodness I have an appointment tomorrow. I don't know if I can stand these bangs in my eyes any longer!
  • Go check out Emily Kissner's blog. And then go check out her TpT store. She has the most fabulous units on text structures. Honestly, they are the best!
Now, go create your own Currently and link up with Farley. Her blog is linked in the picture below. Don't forget the rule of 3!

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