Teaching = Learning

I’m stealing Jenny’s blogging day. 🙂 It turns out, our whole “let’s make a schedule for blogging so we can be more regular in our posting!” idea isn’t necessarily panning out the way we were hoping. But, we have been posting more, so that’s a plus for all parties involved, right?

Last week was a short work week for me, due to being incredibly lucky and being our building’s department representative at the WSRA conference. I left Wednesday after school with another co-worker, and was able to attend all three days of the conference. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to have this amazing opportunity.

After settling in Wednesday night and heading over to register, Thursday morning I was set and ready to roll. Our key note speaker was Sonia Nieto, who spoke about the importance of social justice in the classroom, and being advocates for all of our students. After learning from Sonia, I was off to a session with Jeff Wilhelm on teaching argument writing. Last school year, we did a book study on this topic, so I wanted to continue to learn how to be more effective in teaching this concept. The session flew by, and I learned a TON. I have lots of great ideas that I can’t wait to try out – we’ll be sure to let you know what they are when we try them out.

Then, my afternoon sessions dealt with student writing conferences with Carl Anderson, then I was back with Jeff listening to him speak about “Reading Unbound.” Carl was fantastic. I walked away with some great pointers to make my writing conferences much more effective and more impactful for my students. Jeff’s afternoon session centered around the idea of choice reading in the classroom, and what students learn and the deep thinking they do about social and political issues as they’re reading things like Twilight, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, romance novels, and other things that some people look at as “trash.” I was internally fist-pumping during this whole session because this is what Jenny and I have going on in our classrooms! #winning 🙂

Friday I was jittery with excited nerves: I was going to 2 sessions with Harvey “Smokey” Daniels!! Our key note speaker was Lester Laminack, and he was AMAZING. Seriously, I have ideas for an entire post devoted to the things he spoke about. Stay tuned.

Before my afternoon with Smokey, I attended a reading workshop session with Frank Serafini. This was affirmation of previous learning, and I got some great tips on how to incorporate more technology into some of our structures. Then, we hit up the exhibit hall. I came upon the Heinemann booth, and the heavens opened and angels started singing. Seriously, I could have purchased one of every single title they had. But I limited myself to these treasures:


Harvey Daniels’ lit circle mini-lesson book is PHENOMENAL. If you don’t own it, go buy it. Right now. Seriously. Chris Lehman is fantastic (Falling in Love with Close Reading – see above. You NEED this book.), and I’ve been wanting this book of his for awhile. Then, Carl Anderson’s book on conferring with writers – after attending his session, I decided I NEEDED this book.

After checking out the rest of the exhibits, I headed into the ballroom for Smokey’s sessions. I was *that girl* who sat front and center. (In case you’ve missed it, I’m kind of a nerd.) His first session focused on reading carefully and ways we can help our students tackle and be successful with text through scaffolding. He shared some startling statistics about the Common Core as well. Definitely left me pondering these standards in a new way. His second session was about written conversations – these will be happening in our classrooms this week. Such a powerful tool that embraces students’ desires to share with each other, and provides a springboard to collaborative discussions.

Needless to say, my brain is spinning and churning with TONS of new information and strategies. I now need to go back through my notes and make some lists of things I want to try out and incorporate into our lessons. Whew. 

Oh! And I was able to meet and chat with Wisconsin author Angie Stanton. She is so sweet, and I am hoping to set up an author visit for later this school year with her. She gave me a free book, and I purchased another one of her titles. I blew through both, and can’t wait to get them into the hands of some of my students. 🙂

Have a fabulous week!


All the noise, noise, noise!

Hello! 2014 is off to a rather rockin’ start on Morningside Drive. I hope your holiday season was great, and you were able to recharge your batteries a bit. Our semester is winding down – this is students’ last week to turn in any missing work or reassessments, and some are frantically working to increase their grade. It’s amazing how the end of the semester does that. 🙂

I must say, I’ve been on a bit of a roll in my reading the past couple of weeks. I’ve been devouring book after book, and loving every second. Some books have been on my TBR list for awhile (The Distance Between Us by Kasie West – AMAZING!), some are by authors I’ve enjoyed previously (Where She Went by Gayle Forman – loved it! currently reading Just One Day), and some were titles that just looked good (Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne). So far, my count for the year is 44 books. 

Last week, Jenny and I realized we’re facing the same struggle in one of our classes. Our last block of the day, we each have a relatively small class (Jenny has 19 kids, I have 17.). This is great theoretically, but we were having the problem of students being a little too comfortable. As in “We do what we want, when we want!” comfortable. I know I was ready to pull my hair out, and I don’t think Jenny was far behind.

Then, Jenny had an idea. A grand, fantastic, experiment of an idea. Why not combine our two classes and co-teach? We have the physical space for 36 students, and with the two of us…it’s worth a try. So, we talked with our fabulous principal and got the official go-ahead, and we launched it this week. Naturally, there were lots of questions on Monday – many of them were concerned about whether or not they’d have access to both libraries. 🙂 Such sweet things to wonder about. We addressed the questions, and got to work.

There hasn’t been a lot of “instruction” so to speak at this point, so I’m curious to see how things are going to grow and progress with the crew. We are on a two week trial right now, and are going to re-evaluate next week Friday to see what our thoughts are. It’s going to take the kids a bit to adjust (and us too!), but I’m hoping it will be a positive thing. Even though Jenny and I share a brain, our teaching styles are definitely different – and it’s going to be good to expose the kids to that in this way. Plus, if it goes well, that’s all the more support for knocking down our wall, right? Right. 

Well…at least we can dream about that last piece…