Monday, March 30, 2015

Everybody Reading, Every Day

Principal ponderings...
**I am going to have to start calling my blog Monday Afternoon Musings!  Sorry for the delay today.

Everybody reading, Every Day...this is the topic I will be presenting on next week at the Massachusetts Reading Association Conference.  So I have been thinking over the past week about the transformation that I have witnessed in our school wide approach to literacy.  I thought back to when I first began working here 4 years ago.  Teachers were all doing different things during reading instruction time.  Some were using a program.  Some were doing guided reading.  Some were doing a version reader's workshop.  Some were doing a combination.  There were many times when I would walk into a classroom during a literacy block and no one was reading!  Or sometimes one or two students would have completed their work and were able to read from their book bags.  There were classrooms that had libraries.  There were classrooms that did not have libraries.

A lot can change in just a few years!

I came across this great quote from Stephen Krashen who wrote the book The Power of Reading: “There is massive evidence that self-selected reading, or reading what you want to read, is responsible for most of our literacy development.  Readers have better reading ability, know more vocabulary, write better, spell better, and have better control of complex grammatical constructions.  In fact, it is impossible to develop high levels of literacy without being a dedicated reader, and dedicated readers rarely have serious problems in reading and writing.”

Today, when I walk into classrooms during the literacy block...every student is reading!  Students are shopping for books in the classroom library.  Teachers are conferring with students about books.  Kids are coming up to me and telling me about the book that they are reading.  But what I love is that outside of the classroom people are reading and talking about reading.  On most days, someone comes up to me in the hall or in the staff room or as we are walking to the parking lot and tells me about a book they are reading or recommends a book or asks to borrow a book from me.  Our PTA has committed time and money to renovating and updating our library as well as our shared literature collection and our classroom libraries.  We have authors come into our school to talk to our students.  
It is clear that reading is important to all in our school.  No matter what our job title is, we are all reading role models for our students.  And that makes me proud.  Thank you for being active participants in this important school culture shift.  You are all part of making a difference in the lives of our readers!

Currently reading:
A friend gave me a great gift...a cookbook with tons of great recipes.  I have been reading many of the recipes this weekend and can't wait to try out many of them.
I'm sure you all know the book Goodnight Moon.  Well we have a parody of that book called Goodnight iPad.  Those of you who are technology fans will certainly enjoy it!
I was finding quick moments to read over the week..."emergency reading" as Donalyn Miller calls it.  That's when you carry a book in your purse and pull it out when you wait in line or as you are stirring a pot and cooking dinner.  I have the perfect book for that given to me by a dear friend.  It's a book of funny haiku poems called Haiku Mama (because 17 syllables is all you have time to read).  Here are a few gems from the book:

               Forty thousand pounds:
               How much stuff one baby needs;
               afternoon car trip.

               Awake so early,
               small boy rises with the sun.
               Can't snooze a baby.

                Same book twenty times:
                comforting for the baby,
                not so much for Mom.

Events this week:
**Reminder PARCC testing this week.  See separate schedule from Dianna
Monday - Report cards need to be completed and reviewed, Liz @ Crisis Management Meeting
Wednesday - Report cards available to parents, Grade 3 chorus practice @ 2:25, Staff meeting @ 3:30
Friday - Good Friday, no school

Great things I noticed last week:
  • Two of Mrs. Clark's students represented Florence Roche well at the school committee meeting.
  • Mrs. Taylor's class invited me to come and hear their story they wrote called Dan Flew Over Groton.  It was modeled after a story they read called Dan the Flying Man.
  • Mrs. Hoke's class worked together to create some very detailed informational posters about different kinds of penguins.
  • Some of the students from Mrs. Wilkins class having been reading non fiction books and used the facts they learned to write animal riddles.

Check it out:
A Washington Post article about Donalyn Miller and the importance of reading:
A great blog post by Donalyn Miller that supports the importance of independent reading:

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Invisible Learning

Principal ponderings...

The other night when I came home from work, I spent about 25 minutes watching my three month old as she played on her activity mat.  She is beginning to realize that the things at the end of her arms are hands and that they can purposely grab onto items.  She would lift her arm above her, stare intently at her hand and then reach for one of the hanging toys.  Sometimes her arm would just swing around in the air and sometimes she would actually latch onto the toy and hold it for a few seconds.  Each time, it was like I could see her gradually developing an understanding of the power of her tiny hands.  Her eyes would get wide and she would hold onto the toy for longer periods of time.  And of course I would talk to her and praise her and then she would smile and laugh at her accomplishment.

What an amazing thing to be able to watch her learn right before my eyes.  As a teacher, you would think I would be used to watching children learn.  But actually seeing the exact moment when a child learns...I don't think that usually happens for us in the classroom.  This moment with my daughter made me think about the fact that often the learning happening around us is invisible.  We don't really see the learning happen.  But somehow it does happen.

Each day in our classrooms invisible learning is going on around us.  Over time, the learning suddenly becomes visible because maybe we have a discussion with a child and realize that what they did not know a week ago, they now know.   Or maybe we give them an assessment and then we see the learning that has happened.  It's not like the cartoons when we can see light bulbs appearing over students' heads when it clicks, when they learn a new concept, that ah-ha moment.  And it's because of this invisible learning that we need to continually check in with our students to make the learning visible to us.

We are always fighting the time battle and moving quickly through our lessons, and the school day goes by fast with so much that needs to get accomplished during the school year.  But I wonder if you take some time to slow down every once in awhile in order to watch the learning happening right before your eyes.  Will you be able to see the actual moment when a child learns something?  I'm not sure, but whether it's a three month old discovering her hands or a third grader grasping the concept of equivalent fractions...what their brains can truly is awesome!

How will you make your students' learning visible this week?

Currently reading:
When I popped into Mrs. Mills' classroom this week, they were just finishing up reading The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck.  This was the MCBA book that won the Florence Roche vote.  I have to admit that I actually have not read too many of the MCBA books this year, but the students were so eager to hear the end of the story...I decided I definitely need to read this book!
Events this week:
**PARCC testing all week, see separate schedule for changes
Monday - 4th grade Forces in Motion @ MSN 9-10 and 1-2:30,
Wednesday - 3rd grade chorus practice @ 2:25, 4th graders doing the pledge at School Committee meeting @ 7:00
Saturday - Science Fair @ MS  

Great things I noticed last week:

  • The 1st grade and multi-age put on an amazing concert Thursday night.  The students certainly looked like they had a lot of fun as they sang and danced in place on stage.  Way to go Mr. Wiesner!
  • Mrs. Roundtree's class was exploring simple machines in Mrs. Potter's class.
  • Mrs. Spiczka's kindergarten students were practicing making combinations of ten with their ten frames.
  • When I stepped into the gym one morning, Mrs. Kinneen's group of third graders was creating routines, demonstrating their gymnastics skills.
  • Thank you to Rob, Mark and Dianna for leading us in some really great breakout sessions on Wednesday.  Hopefully those of you who attended Rob's session have tried out using Google forms.  I heard several good strategies shared by different teachers during Mark's sharing session.  And Dianna got us all thinking more about growth mindset and the power of "yet."

Check it out:
Loved this article about teacher focused versus student focused discipline:
Great short post about the power of the read aloud!

Monday, March 16, 2015

It's Time to Take a Walk in the PARCC

Principal ponderings...

We have been talking about PARCC, practicing PARCC, and preparing for PARCC, and now the time has finally come to actually complete the first PARCC tests.  The 3rd and 4th grade teachers have been working hard to make sure their students are ready for this new online test.  Teachers have taken the practice tests.  Students have taken the practice tests.  Students have been practicing with the Chromebooks for several weeks.  And now it is finally here!

But before all of the recent "test prep"...we have all been preparing our students to show what they know and explain their thinking.  Kindergarten teachers have introduced this way of learning and assessing students' learning.  First grade teachers have continued the work.  And so have 2nd grade teachers.  It may be a different format for assessing what students' are learning, but the work leading up to it has certainly not been to simply teach to a test.  We want to see how our students do with reading passages, comparing, comprehending, analyzing.  We want to see how our students do with solving math problems, explaining their thinking, understanding concepts.  Crucial critical thinking skills that we want all of our students to move on from our school with as they advance to the middle school, high school, college and beyond.

So while PARCC is new, what we are hoping it shows us is that we are on track for the teaching and learning happening every day in every classroom.  Take a deep breath, relax and watch your students demonstrate their learning.

Currently reading:
As I was going through things in my office that had piled up while I was on leave, I came across two books that had been given to me.  The first book was The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?  I love the Mo Willems books, and this is another great one.  I am sure it will make for a great read aloud with our kindergarten and first grade students.
The other book I discovered was Patricia MacLachlan's book, Snowflakes Fall.  This was a good one to read right now since it focuses on snow turning to rain so that flowers can grow. 
I donated both of these books to our library so you can check them out from the school library any time you want!

Events this week:
**PARCC testing in 3rd and 4th grade all week
Tuesday - Grade 1 & Multi-age rehearsal @ 12:00
Wednesday - Library Fund Committee meeting @ 8:15, Dr. Rodriguez visits in the am, Grade 1 and Multi-age school concert @ 1:40, staff meeting @ 3:30
Thursday - Grade 1/Multi-age field trip, Grade 1 & Multi-age concert @ 7:00

Great things I noticed last week:

  • On Tuesday, we had Digital Learning Day in the library!  Students got to experiment with MakeyMakey boards and augmented reality.  Thanks to members of the tech team who came over from other schools to help.
  • Mrs. Kavanaugh's kindergartners were practicing turn and talk after watching Mrs. Volpe and Mrs. K model how to do turn and talk to discuss a book.
  • 3rd graders in Mr. Smith's class were practicing on the Chromebooks in preparation for PARCC testing.
Check it out:
I thought this clip was entire neighborhood learned sign language and surprised a member of the community.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Sound of Learning

Principal ponderings...
I have been away from blogging for a little bit so I definitely battled a little writer's block this weekend as I sat down to write my first post back from maternity leave.  I have missed writing so I am excited to get back in the habit.  On Sunday afternoon, I sat in the audience of the Assabet Valley Master Singers concert, listening to my husband and sister-in-law sing.  They were part of a large community choir, joined by another local choir group, a full orchestra and a soprano soloist.  They were performing Annelies which is a work based on Anne Frank's diary and music written during her lifetime.  It was a beautiful and moving concert.

As I sat in the audience watching everyone on stage, I couldn't help but think of the similarities to what I saw in your classrooms as I returned last week.  I know that my husband and the other members spent many weeks rehearsing.  You have put many months of work into your classrooms and your students' learning.  During the rehearsals, smaller groups worked together, just like you have pulled students into smaller groups or sometimes one on one.  There were so many different singers, musicians, abilities up on stage.  Of course, you could group them by soprano, alto, bass, etc.  You could also group them by singers and musicians.  You could even group them by veteran singers, novice singers, and shower singers!  In fact, my husband had been told by the director to make sure to sing into the ears of the man in front of him because he tends to follow his own tune. :)  I'm sure you can think of a few learners like that in your classrooms!

You deal with your own variety of singers, or learners in your classroom in each day.  Everyone of them is learning in a different way, at a different rate.  And you are all the ones directing, conducting the curriculum.  After being out for a while, when I stepped into classrooms, I could see that all of your rehearsals are paying off.  Students are engaged, active, excited, learning.  Keep making that beautiful music because the sound of learning coming out of your classrooms is amazing.

Currently reading:
Just as I am gradually easing back into work, I am gradually easing back into my reading habits.  I have clearly had to make some adjustments since now my reading time usually involves juggling a baby or finding in between time when she is sleeping (which she was not doing much of last night!).  And of course now my reading also includes lots of board books like Baby Faces or Giraffes Can't Dance.  I was excited that Cynthia Lord sent me an advance copy of her new novel coming out in May.  I had two weeks to read it and then pass it on to someone else to read.  It is called A Handful of Stars.  It involves blueberries, a small town pageant, a blind dog and an interesting friendship between three girls.  I definitely recommend it when it comes out.
 I also read Counting by Sevens.  This is a story about a girl who could certainly be described as being on the spectrum or at the least...a little odd and rather interesting group of people who come together to help take care of her.  Such a great book!  Read it!
Events this week:
Tuesday - School Council Meeting @ 3:30
Wednesday - Kindergarten literacy meeting @ FR 12:45-3:15, 1st grade and multi-age chorus practice @ 2:25
Thursday - Curriculum half day, dismissal at 12:15, PTA General Meeting @ 7:30
Friday - Term 2 ends, grades will be open for teachers, para meeting @ 9:00, first grade and multi-age chorus practice @ 2:@5

Great things I noticed last week:
  • Everyone welcomed me back with such enthusiasm that it made my first days back a little bit easier.  I'm glad I was n't forgotten!  The students had lots of questions for me about the baby, including "do you have a babysitter?"  They are certainly thoughtful!
  • I noticed the great chart that Dianna put out in the front lobby where people are listing things related to growth mindset.  Mrs. Pierantozzi had a great discussion with her students about this topic, and then they added to the list!
  • We had standing room only at our kindergarten orientation on Thursday evening.  Lots of new faces coming to Florence Roche next year, along with many younger siblings.  The K team and Lorinda were on hand to answer parent questions and get to know the future members of our community!
  • Mrs. Clark and Mrs. Potter tried to bring some spring onto campus with their students.  They painted flowers in the snow with water bottles Friday afternoon.  Hopefully soon we will see the real thing instead of all this white stuff!
  • Thank you to Mark Coronis for encouraging his peers to share positive actions that you are all seeing each other do throughout the week.  It is so important that we all take time to recognize the amazing work done each and every day at our school.
Check it out:
As I quickly approach a birthday that ends in a zero, I found this list of 41 things I know about education interesting:
And here is a quick blog post with good suggestions about teachers using their own writing to add in instruction: