Sunday, January 27, 2019

Turn Up Your Reading Volume!

Principal ponderings...

Did you know that this Friday, February 1st, is World Read Aloud Day?!  It's the 10th annual World Read Aloud Day to help promote the idea that everyone in the world should be able to read and write.  And it's a good time for us to talk about and think about how important read alouds are for all of our students.

Here's what is posted about why we celebrate World Read Aloud Day:
Every year, on World Read Aloud Day, people all around the globe read
aloud together and share stories to advocate for literacy as a human right
that belongs to all people.

There are lots of ideas on the LitWorld website of how you can celebrate this day. I encourage you to think about connecting with another classroom in another school through a format like Google hangout. Or maybe try to set up a session with an author. If you use social media, share how you celebrate using the hashtag #WorldReadAloudDay. Check out this link for more ideas and resources:

Since this special day is this week, let's talk about how important read alouds are in our classrooms (and at home, too!).  Read alouds need to be a part of students' lives everyday.  Hopefully students are being read to be teachers and parents on a daily basis.  

Yes we are helping kids develop a love of reading when we read aloud to them.  But there are so many other benefits as well.  There are actually many answers to the question of why should we read aloud to children.  Here are a few: vocabulary development, comprehension skills, phonics development, fluency, storytelling, understanding the concepts of print, language development, brain development, connecting with students, listening skills, attending, imagination, developing empathy... I could go on and on.  The point is reading aloud is important, and we need to make sure we are making time for it on a daily basis.  For younger students, listening to picture books or poems does not take more than 15 minutes during the day.  For our older students, reading a chapter from a book is a great activity to start the day, transition from a special or recess, or end the day.  And don't forget that our older students love to listen to picture books and poems, too!

Here are some facts that might persuade you to not only focus on read alouds more, but also share their importance with parents.  
  • Did you know that a child not reading at grade level by the end of 1st grade has an 88% chance of not reading at grade level by the end of 4th grade?
  • Did you know that kids not reading proficiently by 3rd grade are 4 times more likely to drop out of school?
  • Did you know that only 48% of young children in this country are read to every day?
  • Did you know that more than half the children in this country, 13 million children, will not hear a bedtime story tonight?
  • Did you know that reading aloud for 15 minutes every day for 5 years = 27,375 minutes or 456.25 hours of exposure to books?!

If you don't want to take my word for it about read alouds, check out this article about why every class needs read alouds.
Or this article about the benefits of reading aloud to older children.
Motivated to focus even more on your read alouds this week?  Check out this post about how to pick a good read aloud text. 
And if you are looking for some ideas, here's Scholastic's list of 100 best read alouds.
Not sure how to connect with authors virtually?  Check out this link or this list that Kate Messner has generated.

Check out this possible literacy opportunity this week that I discovered on Twitter:
And here's something else I found on Twitter...tune into Scholastic on Friday to hear authors reading aloud!

Celebrate #WorldReadAloudDay with us on 2/1 by tuning into our LIVE read-aloud event featuring authors @StudioJJK, @Sayantani16, @peterhreynolds, Ross Burach, and Carmen Agra Deedy! RSVP here:
I could not agree more...being read to is such a good feeling!  And reading out loud to kids is certainly one of favorite activities.  (If anyone wants me to come read to a classroom over the next few weeks...let me know!) Reading out loud to my daughter at night is also one of my favorite activities...even if I feel like we have read the Pete the Cat book about a thousand times.

What read alouds will you enjoy with your students this week?  With your families?  With each other?  Let's turn up the reading volume and get loud about reading aloud! 

Currently reading:
I might have visited a bookstore recently, and I might have bought some new books.  :)
I got a few new picture books including this one called Just Add Glitter.  It's a fun, rhyming book where a little girl learns if there is such a thing as too much bling. 
I had hard some great reviews about a book that might be one for 5th graders.  The book is called Dry.  I started reading it as soon as I brought it home.  It's the story of what it would be like if the California drought went to extreme.  What would you do if there was no more water?  I definitely read this book with a big glass of water next to me!
I am also reading a book called She Dared: Malala Yousafzai.  I have read about her before both in a picture book format and in another chapter book.  I am thinking this version will be good for 3rd or 4th graders; I will let you know when I finish it.

Events this week:
Monday - Report cards will be made available to parents through PowerSchool, School Council Meeting @ 4:00 in the conference room
Tuesday - Mr. Wilde's Fit Club @ 8am, CST meeting at 8:30 and 9:00, K-2 ELL Science Club @ 3:25
Wednesday - 3-5 ELL Science Club @ 3:25
Thursday - Mr. Wilde's Fit Club @ 8am, Half day dismissal @ 12:15 - PD in the afternoon, PTA 99 Restaurant Fundraiser 4:00-9:00
Friday - World Read Aloud Day!
Saturday - I will be helping to lead an EdCamp in Franklin.  Never been to an EdCamp?  Come check it out if you are free...and by the way it's free! Learn more about it here:

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I happened to time it just right to pop into 4V for a rock party.  I was thinking along the lines of rock and roll music, but it was actually more along the lines of rocks and minerals.  A parent came in to share her knowledge and some hands on examples. 
  • Wonder if these houses built during Science Club with Mrs. Hilton will withstand a windstorm?! 
  • During a visit to 1R, I saw students sharing different performance tips as they prepared to start doing some reader's theater. 
  • Principal Jenna did a great job being the Principal for the Day on Friday.  She logged almost 10,000 steps on her fitbit and made it into every classroom at some point in the day, plus some cafeteria visits, recess time, and a meeting with the assistant superintendent! 
  • Thank you to everyone who helped make Friday's library committee appreciation dinner a success.  The ladies enjoyed the food and loved the poems and cards.  And they were still busy planning and brainstorming for the library, even while enjoying their meal! 
Check it out:
Take three minutes and listen to Kate DiCamillo describe how important reading aloud is to people of all ages.  I seriously don't know if it's possible to love her anymore, but this video clip definitely made my heart grow even more for her!
Check out this quick video clip that talks about how old is too old to read aloud (spoiler are never too old!)

Monday, January 21, 2019

The (Productive) Struggle is Real

Principal ponderings...
It could be because the past week in the Garden house has been a challenging one...where everyone in the house has been sick.  It could be because it's that time of year when it's so cold out that it takes every last ounce of strength in you to get out from under warm covers and put one foot in front of the other on the cold floor.  It could be because on Sunday many of us watched the Patriots and Chiefs struggle up and down the field, with the Patriots winning the struggle in overtime.  Or it could be because today is a day when we remember a great person who had a dream of how we could be living in a world where love is stronger than hate, yet the love/hate struggle among all kinds of people is still unfortunately going strong.  Whatever the reason, I have struggle on my mind.

While home recovering, I remembered a video from when Emerson was a baby.  Of course it's a great memory of our little one learning to crawl, a little being working incredibly hard to move her body form one side of the mat to the other.  The struggle was real for her in the moment, but I love that Dave captured this moment of productive struggle.  He did not just give her the little puffs that were motivating her.  He did not pick her up when she cried and seemed frustrated.  He encouraged her and gave her specific, positive feedback, while also recognizing that sometimes there would be distractions along the way.  She was successful, and after attending her preschool parent conference today, I am happy to report that she continues to productively struggle through life!
I know many of you have talked about or read about growth mindset.  I love reading about and learning about the brain and how we all learn.  Growth mindset has a very important part in the learning process.  In particular, this idea of productive struggle is one that we all need to embrace and encourage our students to experience.  We need our kids to persevere when trying to find an answer or solve a problem.  We need them to be willing to think flexibly.  Even though for many of us school was always about finding the correct solution and moving on to the next odd or even problem, that is not how school should look for our students.  Since we were not always allowed to experience productive struggle, maybe we should think of ways to push ourselves so that we are thinking flexibly.  If we expect it of our students, then we need to expect it of ourselves.
Have you heard of Carol Dweck?  She is the mindset guru who speaks about and writes about growth mindset quite a bit.  What a wonderful gift to give our students.  Let's teach them to love challenges.  Let's model for them how to be intrigued by mistakes.  Let's help them understand that they should enjoy effort, not give up or shy away from it.  That makes me think of the Billy Ocean song..."when the going gets tough....the tough get going."  Sorry, not sorry if you all have that song in your head now too!

I came across this image as I was reading and exploring about growth mindset and productive struggle.  I love the idea of comparing the different kinds of struggle.  Not all struggle is a bad thing.  If it's productive struggle, you can totally see all of those synapses firing in the brain, making connections, molding new pathways.  But if it's passive struggle...not much going on, a complete roadblock in the brain pathways.  It might be interesting to engage your students in a conversation about the different kinds of struggle, do they recognize a difference, do they understand that productive struggle is a good thing?  Are we teaching them the answers or are we teaching them how to come up with questions?

The struggle is so real in terms of first letting our guard down and sharing our mistakes with our students so that we can model productive struggle for them.  Next, we have to be okay with teaching that leads to more questions than correct answers.  And finally, the struggle is ridiculously real in terms of helping parents understand the importance of this failing and growing.  I love the book The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, written by Jessica Lahey.  It would be a great book to do a staff book study with and eventually a parent book study.  I learned so much as a parent and an educator when I read it last year.  Jessica does not hold anything back and puts some bold statements out there that make you stop and rethink your actions.  The book is full of amazing statements, but here's one of my favorites:

      “Out of love and desire to protect our children's self-esteem, we have bulldozed every              uncomfortable bump and obstacle out of the way, clearing the manicured path we       
       hoped would lead to success and happiness. Unfortunately, in doing so we have 
       deprived our children of the most important lessons of childhood. The setbacks, 
       mistakes, miscalculations, and failures we have shoved out of our children's way are 
       the very experiences that teach them how to be resourceful, persistent, innovative and 
       resilient citizens of this world.”

Even though this poster says it's for "math teachers", I think these habits can be put into practice by all teachers.  Would you say that you do some of these things in your classroom?  Could you do more?  Not sure, ask a colleague to come and observe you.  It's hard to make something a habit, something that you can do without thinking about it.  Have someone observe you and see if you are embracing productive struggle in your classroom.

Yes, the struggle is real.  We have all kinds of struggles in our lives everyday.  How can we welcome struggle in our classrooms and teach our students to embrace the struggle in order to grow stronger?

Currently reading:
Being sick in bed for several days helped me finish several books!  Although I don't recommend getting sick, I do recommend getting lost in books.  I finished a book called Forget Me Not.  This is a book written in verse which I always love to read.  It amazes me when authors can tell a story and paint a picture for the reader in less words than the traditional chapter book.  This book is about a girl who has Tourette's Syndrome and her mom keeps moving them to new locations.  Calliope struggles to make friends and keep her Tourette's hidden.  I learned that the author who wrote this book has Tourette's so she can certainly write from experience.  I also finished Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus which has a character with Tourette's as well.
I finished Because of the Rabbit.  This book is about a 5th grade girl who has been homeschooled and makes the decision to start going to public school.  She desperately wants to make friends while also trying to be herself in this new world of school.  There is a character who probably has autism in this story, and Emma learns a lot from him about being true to yourself and others.
I also started reading the graphic novel, The Cardboard Kingdom.  It's a quick read, but full of kids using their creative minds to create characters in their backyards and garages that transform into kingdoms and lairs.
I am also excited to read the actual book of a new PD book that I was lucky enough to read before it was published.  A friend of mine who is a teacher in Natick just published a great book called Lead Beyond Your Title.  I love her message that no matter what title we have, we all need to be leaders in our classrooms and in our schools for our students.  And pretty excited to see my review of the book in the published book!  I plan on ordering several copies in case anyone wants to read it.

Events this week:
Monday - Dr. Martin Luther King Day, No School, End of Term 2
Tuesday - Mr. Wilde's Fit Club @ 8:00am, Grade 5 Team Meeting @ 8:00, CST Meeting @ 8:30, K-2 Science Club w/Mrs. Hilton @ 3:25
Wednesday - 3-5 Science Club w/Mrs. Hilton
Thursday - Mr. Wilde's Fit Club @ 8:00am, Liz G at Board Meeting in Franklin, Ben Franklin visits Grade 3 @ 1:15, PTA SkyZone Fundraiser from 3:30-8:00
Friday - Jenna Hiller will be Principal for the Day! Library Dinner @ 4:00

Great things I noticed last week:

  • When you are sick in bed for two makes it tough to see all of the great things happening at school.  Hoping for a better week so that I can be out and about in all of your classrooms!
  • Thanks to kindergarten...they brightened my spirits and sent me some pictures of little readers and writers. 
  • And thanks to Mrs. Olson for sharing some photos from science class...a submersible engineering challenge! 
Check it out:
Love this challenge from teacher Pernille Ripp.  She knows that this time of year is a time when educators need to be reminded to take care of themselves.  Click here for a "30 Days to A Better You" calendar:
And I love this idea from Colby Sharp...what if we told the students that they had a certain amount of money to buy books for the library?  Check out his video where he talks about the experience at his school:

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Plato and Play Doh

Principal ponderings...
This weekend, we enjoyed some time playing with play doh...and slime (ugh).  Even though I am still finding and cleaning up pieces of play doh under our dining room table, I never get tired of the fun and creativity that happens with play doh playtime.  Speaking of play doh, there's an interesting quote from Plato: "You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."  

Did you know that there is such a thing as a Global School Play Day?!  I have had previous schools participate in it, and the feedback has been very positive.  This year, Global School Play Day is happening on February 6th.  And I am hoping that many of you will want to join in on the fun on this day.  Here is the link to the site which explains how the day works:  I love how the motto of Global School Play Day is...restoring unstructured play to a generation of kids!  How often do our kids get the chance to enjoy unstructured play?  Think about how much unstructured play was involved in our lives growing up.

Here's a one minute clip from Boston College researcher Dr. Peter Gray advocating for Global School Play Day.  If you have 15 minutes or so, look up his TedTalk about the decline of play.

You might decide to go all in and have your whole day be a play day or you might decide to do an hour of play.  I just hope everyone will participate in some way.  You can sign up if you would like to on the website link above.  Let me know if you decide to participate in some way.  I will share with parents that we are looking into exploring this fun, but important day.  And remember, this play is not structured play, not organized by teachers, and definitely does not involve batteries, electricity or devices!

Last year, there were 388,493 participants from all around the globe.  Several other elementary schools in Massachusetts have participated in this day, and many of them unanimously decide to do it again and again every year.  Check out what other MA teachers and principals have to say about Global School Play Day:

"When I asked the staff about participating again it was unanimous.  Here are some of the reasons they wanted to do this:" 
  • Simply put - you can learn through play!
  • It was a great way to encourage interactions between students, to be able to relax while learning
  • Hands on games are important to developing motor skills
  • I think it's a great way for students to problem solve and resolve conflicts
  • It's important to educate parents and the community about the benefits of play
  • Playing is learning and exploring
Here's a two minute clip from a random school, explaining about how their global school play day was a success: 

So who is excited about a day of play?!  Think about how much fun you will have with your students and how you will learn so much more about them by watching them play and interact with their friends.
Currently reading:
I love when I get a box of books from Scholastic in the mail!  This week I got some new picture books, some new chapter books, and some new graphic novels.  I love this new picture book called The Very Impatient Caterpillar.  This funny book mixes in some real facts about metamorphosis while also giving a humorous picture of that tough skill of patience.
In my book box was a new one from Mo Willems called Should I Share My Ice Cream?  I actually gave this book to Emerson during our December book countdown since she loves ice cream and sharing is a big topic in our house right now.  Will Gerald the Elephant be able to do the right thing in time?
I was especially excited to get the newest book from my friend Cynthia Lord.  Her newest book is called Because of the Rabbit.  I started reading it as soon as I took it out of the box!  This book is about a girl who has been homeschooled, but she is starting public school in the 5th grade.  She wants to fit in, but is worried that the first friend she makes is one who will prevent her from finding the best friend she thinks she is supposed to find.  I always love Cynthia's books so I am sure this one won't disappoint.  

Events this week:
Monday - Facebook Live Bedtime Story w/Principal Garden
Tuesday - Mr. Wilde's Fit Club @ 8am, Kindergarten and Grade 1 Team Meetings @ 3:45, PTA Meeting @ 7:00 - Liz to speak about ALICE
Wednesday - Grade 3 Team Meeting @ 8:00
Thursday - Mr. Wilde's Fit Club @ 8am, Liz at Curriculum Meeting 7:45-10:00, CST Meeting @ 10:50, Grange visits Grade 3 for dictionary distribution @ 1:00
Friday - Grade 3-5 Winter DRAs end, PTA Family Movie Night in the gym @ 5:30

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Caught kindergarteners turning knee to knee to talk about a read aloud. 
  • 4th graders started their 'power half hour' sessions three days a week in the afternoon.  Lots of different areas of need being addressed, including this group that is working on number sense. 
  • Loved walking into library and finding these 4th graders doing some comfy cozy reading on the couch! 
  • Thanks for being willing to be creative during our staff meeting.  So many great #onewords and now you all have your word on a mug to remind you throughout the year. 
  • Here are some of the #onewords that 5th graders choose and are on display in the office. 
  • I stopped into 3Pz and saw the work they have been doing on their Genius Hour projects...getting ready to present to each other. 
  • I had fun surprising all of the students on Friday!  I served lunch to all of the grades.  A huge thank you to the ladies that work in the kitchen.  It is non-stop action in the cafeteria for several hours, and they still manage to help every kid and even give out special hugs if needed! 
Check it out:
Some visuals to make you think...

Sunday, January 6, 2019

A Little Birdie Told Me...

Principal ponderings...
The little birdie I am talking about today is Twitter.  Since 2012, I have been on Twitter, following other educators, sharing with them, learning from them.  I have three Twitter accounts that I manage.  My main account is @PrincipalGarden.  I use this account to participate in lots of Twitter chats, connect with various educators, and share all things education related.  I also have an account that I created for the school, @MayoElem.  This is where I share our school story.  Anything I post to Instagram with the hashtag #mayorocks automatically also posts to the school Twitter account and the Facebook page.  The third Twitter account that I help maintain is the @momsasprincipal account.  As you can see, I love Twitter!

Are you on Twitter yet?  If not, you need to stop reading this post and go set up your Twitter account now.  Don't worry, we will wait for you.  Are you still reading?

Ok, now that you have your Twitter account set up, check out a few of these posts for advice for educators using Twitter:
So You have a Twitter Account, Now What?
Teachers on Twitter: Why You Should Join and How to Get Started
Why Teachers Are Turning to Twitter
Twitter for Teachers

Or maybe instead of reading about Twitter you would prefer to watch a short video clip about it?

Or this funny video clip about how to use Twitter:

Once you have your account set up and have read or watched to learn more about Twitter, now it's time to have fun and start exploring Twitter and the different hashtags, chats, and people that you should follow.  Here are a few ways to get started...

Who is ready to give Twitter a try?!

Currently reading:
I finished reading The Serpent's Secret.  I love that the main character is a strong girl!  Can't wait for the next book in the series to come out at the end of February.  I am also still enjoying listening to Michelle Obama's book Becoming.  Thanks to our book swap before the break, I started to read a new Jodi Picoult book...small great things.  Just started it this weekend, but I do love all of Jodi's books.
And I am working on Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus.  Such a great story about two kids dealing with being different, one is a girl born with no arms and the other is a boy with Tourette's Syndrome.
I also am enjoying a quick professional book read: Who's Doing the Work? How To Say Less So Readers Can Do More.  This books brings up some great points about how we often scaffold our readers and don't help them to become independent. 

Events this week:
Monday - **Liz H will begin conducting ACCESS testing during this week.
Tuesday - Mr. Wilde's Fit Club @ 8:00am, Patty at a training for the day
Wednesday - Staff Meeting @ 8:00am (Don't forget your homework!), Grade 5 Parent
Meeting @ 7:00
Thursday - Mr. Wilde's Fit Club @ 8:00am, Kindergarten F & P training day, Liz meeting with Commissioner Riley in the morning
Friday - 1st grade F & P Training Day

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Even though Mrs. Petersen is off celebrating the birth of her new baby, Ms. Shaughnessy is helping with a smooth transition in 3P.  I caught everyone working on their weather opinion writing when I stopped by. 
  • In 3D, students were having fun with multiples. 
  • I popped into 5G and found students having some fun with fractions. 
  • And I loved hanging out with kindergarteners and Mr. Wilde and Ms. Hall...a great way to end the short week! 
Check it out:
Here's a short video clip of the authors of the PD book I am reading talking about what a classroom could look like when it's more student-driven, where students are doing most of the work: