Sunday, February 24, 2019

Spread the Literacy Love!

Principal ponderings...

In a few days, it will be March!  Sometimes people think that March is a really long month sandwiched between two vacation months.  Personally, I love that March is full of so many days to celebrate literacy!  We have a lot of things packed into this month.  We start with March 1, (Dr. Seuss's birthday is March 2), and at Mayo it will be Community Reader Day.  We have people from all over the community coming in to read special kindness books.  After they read the book to your class, the new book will be donated to your classroom library.  This week we will also start our "All for Books" coin collection and if we reach our goal of raising over $600, I will prove that I am truly stuck on reading...I might be getting duct taped to the wall!?

Our staff meeting will have literacy focus with a special book tasting activity.  And on Friday, March 8, we will have a chance to preview the book fair.  A fun buddy class activity would be to do the book fair scavenger hunt together and the big kids can write down the book titles that they find during the hunt.  During the week of the book fair, we have two evening events for families to have a chance to select books together.  We have Wednesday evening as a family book fair time, and Friday night, during BINGO night, families will be able to shop at the book fair.  And we finish off the month of March with Gordon Korman visiting Mayo on March 28!!

During the month of March, we will also be doing a March Madness book tournament.  You will see the front lobby transformed into a bracket display.  I will send out weekly surveys for you to have your class vote on the books that should move forward.  By the end of the month, we will have one book that becomes the Mayo champion!  Wonder which book it will be?!  I will send out a survey this week to help decide on eight picture books and eight chapter books that will be part of the "Sweet 16" book tournament.

With all this focus on reading, we can't forget about writing.  March is the month of the Slice of Life Challenge.  I have been participating in this challenge for the past several years.  I plan on tackling this challenge once again this year.  The goal is to write a slice of life story every day during the month of March.  That's 31 little snippets of your life.  I have honestly surprised myself and written for 31 days straight during the last few March challenges.  I did not think I could do it, but it has been so rewarding to be able to look back and read my writing and see my perseverance in action.  During the challenge, you are also encouraged to read other people's posts and comment on their writing.  I am part of a group of educators called TeachWrite.  It's a group of mostly teachers (and one principal) who believe that to become a great teacher of writing, we have to be writing as well.  I enjoyed going back and rereading many of my posts from last year.  I love that I have these moments in time documented and can go back and enjoy them whenever I want.

So what do you say?  Who wants to challenge themselves and try to write everyday during the month of March?  You can either create a blog to post on everyday or you can simply write in a journal for yourself each day.  Read more about the challenge here:
And if you are ready to commit to writing everyday, sign at this link as a participant:  (The first year I signed up, I failed and did not write everyday.  But I tried and I certainly wrote more than I had the previous month.)

We all want to be the best teachers we can be for our students.  And to be a good writing teacher, you need to actually write.  You need to practice writing.  You need to write so that you have writing to share with your students.  You need to write so you can reflect on your teaching or simply reflect on life like I did in a lot of my posts over the past few years.  You need to write so that you can get your thoughts out, so that you can have written memories to go back to and reread and remember.  I know as educators, we all have a lot to say.  This is the perfect time to share your voices, share your opinions through your writing.  Write so that others can read and agree or write just for yourself so that you can make sense of your thoughts.  No matter the reason, just write.

Here's the link to the blog where I will post my daily writing.  And if you want to read what I wrote last year, feel free:

I discovered this post last year, and I continue to reread the steps he suggests for helping you write from the heart. I felt it was perfect to share with you as we talk about writing and the power of our words:

Who is ready to spread some serious literacy love during the month of March?  And who is ready to take the Slice of Life writing challenge with me?

Currently reading:
Considering the fact that I spent part of the vacation week at the Scholastic board meeting...I definitely had time to read and explore new books!  On the plane ride I finished reading The Unteachables, which is Gordon Korman's newest book.  Even though this book is about middle schoolers, the message that every kid deserves to be taught is one that all kids should hear.  And it's also great to see a teacher character who had something happen to him that caused him to lose his passion for teaching...find his love of teaching again, thanks to an unusual group of kids. This book will be at the book fair in a few weeks...(I hope kids and teachers will check it out!
While waiting for my plane to be de-iced, I read the perfect book for me.  I had picked it up at Target. (Naturally, I was there to buy some things for my travel bag, but I ended up in the book section!) This book, called Book Love, is a collection of comics about how much the author loves books, reading, book stores, talking about books...and no, the author is not me, but she sure seems a lot like me!  This book would make a great gift for all of the book lovers that you know.  
I am trying to finish reading Dry.  It's an interesting story about the state of California running out of water and how people respond to this crisis.  Honestly, it's keeping me hydrated because when I read it I find myself guzzling water bottles!
While I was with Scholastic, they gave us some gift certificates to shop the book fair...yes during the several days, there was a book fair constantly on display!  And as we bought books and were gifted some books, they just filled a box to ship home.  So in a week, I will get a box full of books!

Events this week:
Monday - Welcome back! CST Meeting @ 10:50, District kindergarten PLC meeting @ 4:00
Tuesday - Grade 4 team meeting @ 8:00,
Wednesday - All for Books collection starts, Grade 5 Museum of Science program,
Thursday - Liz and team at S3 Academy meeting in Marlboro, Grade 5 team meeting @ 8:00
Friday - Community Reader Day!  Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Over the break, I finished the painting project that several students had started.  And we now have a little free library in the lobby.  Students will be able to take a book to read or they can donate a book to our little home for books!  I am hoping to add one to the cafeteria too! 
  • While at the Scholastic board meeting, I was lucky enough to have time to chat with one of my edu-heroes, Donalyn Miller!  If you have not read her books...The Book Whisperer, Reading in the Wild, or Game Changer...what are you waiting for?!  
  • I was also fortunate to be seated at the table with Sayantani DasGupta, the author of The Serpent's Secret.  She spoke to us about how important it is for students to see themselves in books.  As an Indian immigrant child, she realized that there were no books with characters that looked like her.  So she decided to write books that reflected her and her culture.  She also talked about how as a pediatrician in New York, she would prescribe books to children and families.  How wonderful is that?  And she helped spread the message that stories are good medicine. 
  • I saw lots of posters and notes popping up around the building after our assembly with Brian Williams from Think Kindness.  Can't wait to see how many acts of kindness our school does when we return next week!  Love this message by the cafeteria...
  • I caught the 3rd-5th science club in action after school last week.  They were exploring gravity and inclines and more while using the walls to help! 

  • I also loved catching some of the after school enrichment groups in action.  Thanks to many parents for helping students learn new crocheting! 
  • While down in Florida for the Scholastic meeting, I stayed an extra day with a principal friend of mine.  She is a principal of a PK to 5th grade school with about 625 students.  I had the chance to shadow her for half a day before I had to fly back home.  I saw 5th graders who got to choose a band elective, a student garden where strawberries were growing and produce had been harvested and sold during the carpool line, a STEM teacher who was helping students build cars to race, and a principal who gets to know all of her kids and wants the best for them.  It was a great experience, and I am working on writing a post about principals observing each other in action. 
Check it out:
Since this post is pretty much all about literacy...check out this short video clip from my friend Brad Gustafson, a principal in Minnesota.  He has some great tips for bringing the H.E.A.T. in a book talk:
And here is a great video clip with Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp talking about book talking:

Monday, February 11, 2019

What Will You Be When You Grow Up?

Principal ponderings...
I like to joke that I still don't know what I will be when I grow up.  Maybe someday I will be an author.  Maybe someday I will own my own bookstore.  Maybe I will be copy machine repair person.  I love talking to kids about what I will be when I grow up, not because of the different job options, but because of the thought that I have not grown up yet!  Those of you that know me well know that I definitely still enjoying acting like a kid much more than acting like an adult. :)

When I talk to kids, even my own, about what they want to be when they grow up, I have to be honest that I am not really as concerned about the specific career aspiration they have.  What I am concerned more about centers around a four-letter-word.  It's a four-letter-word that we should be talking about and thinking about.  What am I hoping kids will aspire to be?  Kind.  I hope more than anything that they will be kind.  Whether a 3rd grader becomes the next president of a company or a kindergartener becomes a store owner or a 5th grader becomes a teacher...I really just want them to be kind human beings.

And here's the great thing...while we have to wait a while to see what career path our students will choose, today we can help them become kind human beings.  We can talk about kindness.  We can celebrate when kids are kind.  We can read books about being kind.  But the best thing we can do is model for our students.  It's a very powerful thing when our students can watch us being kind to each other and to all of them.  They are learning from us, even when we are not teaching a lesson, especially when we think they are not watching.

To be honest, teaching about kindness is more important to me than teaching a student how to divide, more important than teaching a student how to write a compound sentence.  More than anything, I want  to be part of a school that teaches kids to be kind, caring, empathetic, inclusive, respectful, amazing human beings.  And guess what?  There is no curriculum guide for kindness.  There is no scope and sequence that maps out how and when you develop kind kids.  You just do it.  Everyday.  Even when you have had a tough moment with a student.  Even when a student does something unkind.  Even when we are tired.  Even when we feel like they should already know how to respond in a situation or we think they should not have to be taught or retaught. We need to just do it.  Every single day we are helping to create kind human beings.  We want them to grow up to be kind people so we need to keep that thought in the back of our heads during each interaction.

What will your students be when they grow up?  Hopefully kind human beings. 

Currently reading:
With Gordon Korman's visit coming up at the end of March, I am working on reading more of his books.  I started reading his newest book, The Unteachables.  I am looking forward to meeting all of the characters in this book...Gordon always manages to create interesting characters.  I am only a few chapters in, but I will let you know what I think of it once I am finished reading.
I was excited to get a new picture book in the mail called Dragon Post.  This is a great book that contains 5 "urgent letters" to open and read within the book. 
I pulled out an old favorite that I love to read and reread during Valentine week, Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch.  If you have not read this one...I recommend it!  I love Eileen Spinelli's books.
Events this week:
Monday - Kindness Assembly @ 2:30
Tuesday - Genius Hour Info Session in 3Pz @ 8:15, CST Mtg @ 10:50, K-2 ELL Science Club @ 3:25, K and 1st grade team meetings @ 3:45
Wednesday - Grade 2 and 3 team meetings @ 8:00, 3-5 ELL Science Club @ 3:25
Thursday - PTA Bagel Breakfast @ 8:00am, Grade 1 Family Math games @ 9:00, K, 3, and 5 Electrical Safety Program in the afternoon
Friday - Happy Friday!  Enjoy vacation week!

Great things I noticed last week:
  • Seeing a rainbow over the school when driving in on the 100th day of school was a wonderful way to start the day! 
  • Hard to believe we have already been learning for 100 days!  Saw lots of 100th day fun on Tuesday. 
  • There were so many amazing experiences on Global School Play Day!  I took so many pictures that it's hard to pick a few to post here.  I did put them into some Quik videos to share through our school Facebook page.  I enjoyed talking about this experience with many of you and look forward to more discussion about play in school.  Loved seeing so many kids and adults enjoying puzzles. 
  • 5th graders were able to get outside and try out their bee hummers! 
  • I had lots of great moments on Friday with Robert, the principal for the day, but one of my favorites was after he read to KM and said, "I did it! That wasn't so scary."  He was very nervous to read to the eager kindergarteners, but he did an awesome job after he conquered his fears. 
Check it out:
Here is the video I shared during our half day, all about kindness:

Monday, February 4, 2019

So Many Books, So Little Time

Principal ponderings...
In honor of the 100th day of school which will take place on Tuesday this week, I have 100 books to recommend to you!  Some of these are books that I have read and some are ones that I want to read.  I have divided them up into four categories.  Up are 25 professional development books for you to take a look at:

Up are 25 chapter books for you to take a look at...

We are halfway to 100!  Now it's time for 25 picture books...

And now for the final 25 books.  Here are 25 books to read for fun...

Currently reading:
After just listing off 100 book recommendations, you would think that I would not have anything to add to this section.  Haha, of course I can't leave my currently reading space blank!  I am still reading the book Dry (and drinking lots of water while reading!).  I am excited to join in a book chat that starts tomorrow night about this book written by a principal friend of mine:

Events this week:
Monday - Way to go Patriots!  Liz to visit Naquag at 2:00, Mike Wilde - new custodian starts tonight
Tuesday - Happy 100th Day of School! Mr. Wilde's Fit Club @ 8:00am, CST Meeting @ 10:50, K-2 ELL Science Club @ 3:25, 5th grade Girls' and Boys' Night @ 6:30 pm
Wednesday - Global School Play Day! Staff Meeting @ 8:00am, 3-5 ELL Science Club @ 3:25
Thursday - Mr. Wilde's Fit Club @ 8:00am, Liz @ Central Office 7:45-9:45,
Patty @ CPI training all day
Friday - 2nd grader Principal for the Day!  Railers Game @ 7:00pm

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Saw 2nd graders diving into opinion writing in several classrooms. 
  • Love seeing the 1st grade paper sculptures on display!
  • On Friday, I saw lots of students working hard and showing their support for the Patriots. 
  • If you pop into 3Pz, you will see their genius hour questions that have helped guide them with all kinds of passion projects. 
  • Thank you for all of the donations to the Wachusett Food Pantry...only two days and we collected so much! 
  • I loved this image from the opening remarks at the EdCampMALeads on Saturday.  The evolving role of the educator...
Check it out:
How cool is this link?!  You can write a positive note to yourself and receive it in the future:
This weekend, I spent Saturday morning at an EdCamp in Franklin.  EdCamps are free PD with an "un-conference" format.  Basically we build the sessions by using recommendations from people attending.  And then the sessions are discussions with the group, instead of a presentation being led by one person.  Here is the link to the "board" we created and embedded in the board are Google docs where people took notes during each session.  There's a lot of information in here!  Maybe something catches your eye and you want to check out the notes and resources:
Want to attend an EdCamp?  There is one coming up in March that you could check out: