Growing Myself as a Reader at TCRWP’s Summer Reading Institute

After day one of TCRWP’s Summer Reading Institute I am overwhelmed with the volume and depth of what i’ve heard and learned.

A lot has changed since the last time I attended a Summer Reading Institute six years ago.  One of the biggest changes has been the expectation of the Common Core. . The other change you might not be as well aware of is the change in me. I entered  classrooms a very different person.

Today I sit in a place taking in information that is rich and complex for me to synthesize and understand. Today I access knowledge on a deeper level. Just like my students who have to dig deeper to take in text, I have to work at a different level. Before I understood the idea of the work, and I worked hard to bring it into my classroom, but the practice wasn’t the result of my personal practice.It was processed by others.

Today I’m at point where I need to take this work to a deeper level. Just like my students. Lucy Calkins’ keynote address  highlighted the call to see reading as a personal challenge. The expectations of what it is to be a reader have changed. Drastically.  Students need to process information at a deep level.  They are no longer the receivers of information. Now they have to do something with it. And, we teachers are not the information source. Now we are one source of how to access text, how to interpret, to synthesize meaning. Lucy asked us to see this as a  turning point for students and for teachers.

Today teachers need to take this challenge on and grow ourselves as readers. We work on our writing to get better at it. Why should reading be any different.  Getting better as a reader needs to be something we take on. It’s personal. Sure we’ve been reading for a long time, but we need to look at our reading closely and ask ourselves how can we get better. Most people I know accept the fact that we could learn a lot about writing. How is reading all that different? Just because no one sees what you think as you read? Try one of the common core tasks with a piece of literature and you tell me. Is it easy? Could you improve? Absolutely.

We need to work on it and at it.

What a huge aha that was for me. Of course. Why wouldn’t we need to work on ourselves as readers. This will allow us to work side-by-side with our students, drawing upon our own struggles and our found strategies to help students attack their struggles. Just as we do in writing.

Today is another day to try this work and get better as a reader.

Celebrate: Summer Learning

Time to celebrate this  week with Ruth Ayers.  Read more here and consider joining in the weekly celebration of the big and little things in your life.

celebrate link up


Today, I have five rather big things i’d like to celebrate

FIRST: Two Writing Teachers. If you don’t already, subscribe to this blog. There is always something worthwhile and inspiring. Their teaching sticks with me as a writer and a teacher of writing. A perfect example of this is Dana Murphy’s recent post on internet writing. Every time I blog I’ll be thinking of the tips I took away from this post.  I’m working on word count (under 500), offering hyper links and when possible, bullet or list key points.

SECOND: A little reading and reflection. Blogged about my thinking here and here.

THIRD: My youngest as she learns to drive. I am so proud of her respect (read healthy fear) of driving. She is taking baby steps and I get to cheer her on. Don’t you love these keys. She sleeps with them.

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FOURTH: Twitter and TCRWP Summer Writing Institute. Every morning this week I woke up to look at the tweets coming from educators in New York CIty. I busily favorited and retweeted  the gems I saw. My fav’s from last week are storified here. They are all worth posting on your walls, your computer, your notebooks, wherever you find or need inspiration. This one is particularly appropriate:

FIFTH: TCRWP Reading Summer Institute all next week. .I am overwhelmed and grateful for the opportunity to walk on Columbia’s campus, enter Riverside Church, hear Lucy.  learn from TC staff with educators from all over the world, ride the A train, eat all over New York City, run in Central Park humidity, see my virtual colleagues for the first time, go to Bank Street Books, and even do some homework.  Boarding pass is on my phone. An extra bag is packed to carry back all the books I know I’ll HAVE to buy.

My heart  is bursting!




Reflections on My Year Part 2: Reader’s and Writer’s Notebooks

I’ve been thinking a lot about Reader’s Notebooks and how my students used them.  I’ve wanted the Reader’s Notebook to show students’ thinking about and process while reading; ultimately showing their growth as readers over the year. Now I’m wondering, after reading and rereading Linda Rief’s book Read, Write, Teach, if I have overlooked something important. In Rief’s 8th grade classroom, students have a WRN, a Writer’s-Reader’s Notebook that co-mingles their reading responses and their writing entries. Would this work for 5th graders? Could my students’ reading lives feed their writing lives? Could this mix create better readers?

I had to try this out. Honestly, authentically. But first a  confession.

Reader’s notebooks are a tough sell.  Students either just want to read, or they just don’t like doing it.  I get their point. I take notes on reading (often informational or for a book club), but these notes usually end up in the books I’m reading. I annotate, use post its and leave loose leaf pages in books, but I haven’t  used a reader’s notebook to keep track of my reading thoughts over time. “Teacher me” can see the potential, but “Reader me” hasn’t owned this.

What I discovered. First off, it was difficult to develop the habit. I kept forgetting. And, it is a less natural thing (for me) to do with fiction.  After three weeks, with the notebook near by,  I’m writing responses to the text and pulling quotes. I write about what mattered to me. I write when things kept hitting me again and again, or when characters surprise me or irritate me. More importantly, I’m noticing a shift in my engagement in and attitude toward writing about reading.

The payoff. After a few reads, my writing about reading is becoming a collection. Those lines that come from multiple texts are there in one place and are easy to set beside one another and see connections. (Ooo, Teacher me is seeing Reading Standards 1 and 9 in flashing lights, and Reader me is just thinking that’s so cool!)

And a writing bonus: Quotes and responses from reading  have become  jumping off points for writing entries. This line from Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy  started an entry on naming my kids and one on the importance my mom placed on naming me.

2014-06-26 09.50.11Then I noticed another quote pulled from Snicker of Magic and I thought about the connection to names in that read as well.






Rief’s Writer’s-Reader’s Notebooks include sections on response, classroom lessons, vocabulary, and spelling. Lots of valuable writing and reading connections all in one place. In the response section she asks students to do a multitude of things with text and life. It is all about noticing and responding to what you encounter be it text or the world.

*to collect/respond to/react to/reflect on reading (books, magazines, instructions, other classes, etc.), writing, observations, and discoveries about yourself, others, and the world with writing, collected pictures, charts, cartoons, lists, drawing

I love these thoughts Rief gives her students for inspiration:

Your notebook is a room of your own. It provides a safe place for you to ask: What do I notice? What do I care about? What really matters? What moves the deepest part of me? What haunts me? What do I want to remember—in my life, in this world—for the rest of my life? What do I want to write about?” —Ralph Fletcher, Breathing In, Breathing Out, p.3

The point of a notebook (journal) is to jumpstart your mind.” —John Gregory Dunn from Shoptalk (1990, Don Murray)

My notebook is who I am/everything I want to remember as a writer, reader, thinker, listener, observer of the world around me.” —Linda Rief

I’m keeping the last quote for the front of my notebook. One I will share with my students at the end of the summer.

While the idea of a combined Writer’s-Reader’s Notebook breaks away from my original construct of a separate Writer’s Notebook, introduced at my school in 3rd grade and then developed in 4th, I think next year I’d like to venture into this hybrid idea. I’ve noticed  my students’ Writer’s Notebooks are not used very heavily.  This trend speaks to the earlier drafting and revising work they are doing outside of the notebook. Which is good, but their independent writing lives seem underdeveloped. Perhaps bringing the two notebooks together will motivate readers to write more about their reading and find more inspiration for their own narratives and opinions.

How have you and your students document your reading lives? Does the work support your writing life?

College Ready, College Done, Whadabout Life?

It’s time for Tuesday Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers.  I love this weekly writing. Read more slicer posts here. I’m coming to this post later than I normally do for many reasons. One being that the classroom schedule is lifted. Now is my time to read, recharge and rethink. Some of that rethinking is here.

Checking the Twitter feed for #TCRWP is also cutting into my time. It is a bit of an obsession right now. If you can’t be there, it’s the next best thing. I can credit the fact that I wasn’t at last year’s institute for my discovery of Twitter and blogging. Sometimes disappointment can bring unexpected gifts.

But wait focus. Turn off the phone.


My slice starts at the dinner table two nights ago.

It’s my dad’s birthday, he just turned 94 and if that isn’t enough, all of our kids were home. Lots of reasons to celebrate.

When big kids  come home it is startling. They are adult sized living in spaces that used to house smaller people. The noise factor changes. When they left home, it became disturbingly quiet. But you kinda got use to it and now, they are back and the difference is well, startling. Back to dinner.

Things were lovely. Lots of good conversation and then someone asks the oldest:

What happened to your cell phone.

He looks sheepish.

I know he doesn’t have it. He threw it away. This one is very retro. Really belongs in a different era.

So he tells this story:

I was waiting for the bus. And there were these two beautiful girls focused on their phones. They were surrounded by this beautiful place, trees, blue skies. And they weren’t paying attention to anything, just their phones. Not the place or the people. And it made me sick. So I threw mine away.

Ok. Making a statement. And I feel a little pang of guilt, because I love my phone and should pay more attention. Unplug.

But, what if you need help? Or someone needs to get in touch with you.

That’s my mom.

And, what if you’re late for work. How will you let them know?

That would be the dad comment.

Son goes on to defend his choice on principle.

Others go on to loudly rebut and cite evidence proving the value of their devices, the apps, etc. We’ve clearly hit an emotional chord. I am silent.

The lovely dinner becomes not so lovely.

I pull the mom card and say,  “ENOUGH.”

It stops. Deep breath.

The discussion of job, turning over that VISA card, taking on responsibility and generally growing up is tabled, at least until my parents go home.

Move forward, one hour.

Dishwasher running. Daughter is in her room.  Sons are talking behind closed doors. Husband rolling his eyes.

Proud parent of yesterday’s magna cum laude graduate has changed his tune.

Sides are being taken.


Next day,

So Mom, I’m getting that cell phone, just no data.

I think, baby steps.

Laughing he tells me,

I’ve learned how to read. Now I have to learn how to live.

He is a reader, a writer, a thinker. A graduate with two degrees in the humanities, brilliant, great kid. Thousands of dollars invested in higher learning.  But wait. What about that other thing he has to learn now. Life.


Here’s a test of my beliefs. We strive towards making our students literate. That is my passion and very clearly a literate life is what my son has chosen. But literate career?

Writing?  Maybe teaching?  To quote my husband:

 He’d better marry someone rich.


Reflections on My Year Part 1: Read Aloud


images-2 It’s summertime. Time to reflect on practices that worked and areas that need some work. Time to dig a little deeper..

Today I’m thinking about reading and specifically interactive read aloud. My reflection here is based on a mixture of data: what my students reported directly, my observations (so often documented with pictures)  and reading assessments of many types.

My reflections on our reading year is filtered through the lens of two goals: 1) that students walk away knowing that reading is a place to find learning and joy and 2) they know how to find this on their own. If they come out with these two things, I believe they will keep reading.

My students rate read aloud as the best part of the day. The interesting aspect of this is why.  So I asked. Results of their responses are interesting.

Scratching the surface of why —  it seems to be for the pure entertainment of story or the fascination of figuring something out. Students want to know what comes next or understand the why or how of something.  Digging deeper into student thinking, students love read aloud because of the  laughter, suspense, wonder, fear, sadness, and knowledge they get from it.  Another thing that comes up for so many students is coming together to experience these big emotions and learning as one: to talk about it, question it, figure it out, all together. Some revel in the fact that when I do the reading work they are free to do the thinking work.

Being that read aloud is interactive, not passive, there is a fair amount of opportunity to access the text independently while read aloud is going on. I project the text as I read it, so students can see what I’m seeing and get that much closer to how I’m doing it. I show my thinking when I stop and wonder, or figure it out in an attempt to demonstrate all the things that readers do.

imgresI give them a chance to wonder, to jot, to turn to share what they think; to think beside me.  I chart, they chart.  I ask them to read/think with purpose, to read/think closely.  They try, I listen in to conversations or collect their jotted thinking to figure out how closely they are to riding that bike on their own.  This is practice of how it feels to read and think deeply, connecting the pieces.

In the beginning of a book, I  purposefully request their noticings; building class understandings with collected post its and comments. Because I control the pace of the reading, it makes getting students to take more control of the reading work tricky. My goal has been to move them towards holding on to their noticings and add them together to get develop understanding across the text. The more students hold on to and connect it to a stopping point, it seems the more they are growing as thinkers.

This is just one part of a literate classroom and students accessed it on different levels this year, but each walked away from read aloud loving the books we read and gaining skills they used during read aloud.

  • Collecting know and wonders
  • Noticing what repeats (again and again)
  • Sketching scenes to help visualize moments
  • Writing on graffiti walls to hold quotes that matter
  • Using post it parking lots to make thinking visible
  • Writing longer about what noticings/wonderings make you think.
  • Extending talk with thought prompts
  • Going back over text to pull words and lines to wonder about and  to hold on to
  • Re reading with a  specific lens
  • Making connections between multiple texts’ language and ideas

Looking back over the list, many students were not able to access certain strategies (in bold) without support. And it’s not surprising. These are the tasks that are higher on the continuum of understanding literature.

With this in mind, I start out the year aware and focused on what purposeful support I need to provide next year’s kiddos.

  • More whole group and small group lessons around each of these trouble spots
  • Partner/group work to support each of these areas
  • Many opportunities to talk and then write longer about their thinking
  • More writing about reading that bridges into the writing workshop

Lots of this looks like more talking and writing about their reading. Practicing what is a bit tougher to do. Making it audible and visible.

Next reflection, that reading notebook.






Celebrate Extra Time and Space

Every week Ruth Ayers invites bloggers to celebrate their week by focusing on about the big and the small things worth holding up and celebrating. Thank you Ruth for this lovely ritual. Read more celebrations here.celebrate link upToday I celebrate the time and space created by summer. As a teacher, the school year is very time driven. We eek all we can out of every minute. And we get a lot done. But with that pressure, that efficiency, we loose a bit of mind space that allows for possibility and growth. Today I celebrate all that can go with the extra time and space that summer allows.

1. Conversations. In the hurry of the school year, I maintain friendships with a text, a wave, a promise to get together, but in the end, while I mean to take the time, I often can’t or maybe just don’t. I say, next week, tomorrow. All of a sudden, time has slipped by and it hasn’t happened. With a little less schedule, I stop and talk. Today I celebrate two long conversations and how the ebb and flow, the back and forth that goes with it can move your thinking and lift your heart.

2. My desk. I’m one of those teachers who cleans up their classroom and brings a lot home. Because I need to read it, organize it, cull through it, re think it in a thoughtful manner.  The upshot of this is that my desk, in the corner of my bedroom, is inundated with charts, books, papers, more books, files, stacks and stacks of things to go through. Yesterday I went through my stacks of papers, took pictures of charts, filed, tossed and so today, I can celebrate my desk. You can see the color of it!

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3. Projects Completed. This desk space was only possible after I finished a few school related “projects.”  All were opportunities to interact with other teachers, to do things I love, but the prep took mind space, leaving no energy or time to clean up. I moved from one project to the next, telling myself, when it is done then I’ll organize, make dinner on time, shop before 6 pm. I promised myself, my workspace would move to one spot of our house rather than the living room, the dining room and sometimes the kitchen. Today I celebrate the completion of these projects and the space that finishing creates.

4. Reading. Reading takes on a different persona in the summer. I read during the school year, but my summer mindset changes how I understand things. In the summer, I see things that could be. I can see how certain things apply beyond the moment I’m in because there is no particular moment I’m in.  It’s time to fall in love with reading again. Today I celebrate the time and space created for reading and the thinking that goes with it.

5. My family all in one spot, at the same time. Everyone is scattered and schedules seem to never align. But this weekend, the amazing will happen and (because school is out) all will be together at one time. Today, I celebrate that rare occurrence.

Happy first day of summer.


Happy weekend to you.

So Hard to Let Them Go

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h“Which was harder for you when Andy (my oldest) or when Matt (the middle son) left home?” my daughter asks me  as we drive to school. 

She has volunteered herself to help me sort through the many, many books in my cupboard. Actually she volunteered to give her time as long as there is an hourly wage. That’s ok. I gladly pay her. She’s got a good sense of organization which I need when it comes to the books in my classroom.

I probably have 2,000 books, maybe more. That sounds insane. But it’s true. You see, I never get rid of anything. The thought of letting a book go is just too difficult. I mean after all, someone might like this book. The pages are falling out, yeah, but we can tape it.

I told myself that this year, I’d change. I’d get rid of those well loved books that are broken into three parts and have covers attached with packing tape. I mean who would read that? It’s totally unappealing. I promised myself I’d get rid of those books that no one picks up. The problem is I keep having hope for the-never-read-books. I think some day, this book will be just right for some student. I just can’t bear to let them go unwanted. Today, I’m telling myself to let them go.

I have a box in front of my closet.  In it are 25 year-old Roget’s Thesauruses and  35-year old Intermediate Dictionaries. It’s a start I tell myself.

The room is covered with books on tables. Not categorized by author, but by genres. The dog lover books on one table. Historical fiction stacked on two tables. Sports, mystery, bullying, boys against girls, girly girl, adventure, fantasy tables are all around the room. This is how I think when it comes to books.

I keep pulling out books. We look for partner books, for book club books. The club books with missing partners might get mixed in with the partner books. Many books are put in the independent pile, the pile with no partners.

Books like songs bring back memories of time and people. I pick up the Unicorn Chronicles series and remember Lilly. This year, two groups of girls found them and loved them again.

Shredderman, Origami Yoda and Winn Dixie saves boys every year and this year was no different. Isaiah came in not liking reading and left asking for more reading time.

My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish and Doll Bones were big hits as was the ever popular Amulet series.

One boy really loved On My Honor. He read it four times. He was also slow to come to the reading party. But that book somehow just made it click for him.

I start to put away my historical fiction. Nazi Germany was high interest this year. I notice one copy of The Boy in Stripped Pajamas is missing. Probably at Mauricio’s house. He tends to hold on to things. Lucky for me his little brother is coming back.

Every year there is a contingent of kids who love the Warriors series. I think those who love fighting animals are of a certain type. I can’t get anyone to take up Perloo. I just loved the fighting rabbits. I set the fighting animal series on one table. It really is its own genre.

I pull out the one copy I have of the children’s version of the Odyssey. No one has read this since my son. But it was The book for him. So I keep it, even though no one reads it, I have to. There can’t be just one boy who loves this book. There has got to be another. .

My daughter picks up a book from the Candy Apple series. “I loved these books,” she says.

We all have our pet books. The ones we hold close. Every time you see them you get a certain feeling of excitement, of remembering, of wondering who will love this treasure.

After two hours we have to go. I pack away the partner books next to the single copy treasures that might be just The book for someone next year. These books hold histories, relationships and hope for more. They are packed away waiting for the right person to love them again. .

We walk out the door with my not-so-heavy box of books  to be given away. Am I crazy to hold on to some of these books in the closet? Absolutely. But I suppose I’m not quite ready to let go yet. So I house them for a little while longer, still waiting for just in case.

As we drive away from the school, she asks me again about how I felt when each son left home. Which was worse she asks.

They are the same, but different, I tell her. I try not to think too much about it. If I did it would be too hard. I tell her, this is what happens in life, kids move on. She’s asks how I will take her leaving in two years. I’ll have to find out when we get there, I say. I shelve away my feelings about such things. And go on.


Celebrating Independent Learning

Every week Ruth Ayers invites bloggers to celebrate their week by focusing on about the big and the small things worth holding up and celebrating. Thank you Ruth for this lovely ritual. Read more celebrations here.celebrate link up Today I’m celebrating independent learning..

One.  My students are still blogging and it’s summer. Technically they are no longer my students, but they are still blogging. One student has started a challenge – a do it yourself challenge a la Genius Hour! This student is putting herself out (a bit of a risk) to her peers with a challenge. No one asked her to. It wasn’t an assignment. She just did it. She is a writer and a creator all on her own and I hope forever.

Second. My own children are learning to handle life on their own. One son had to get through finals, job recertification (he’s a summer lifeguard and has to pass a open water swim test), look for a new house to rent (apparently “no one rents to male students”), and not feel well (probably stress) at the same time. He is dealing with it, without complaint. I worry but I’m proud of his independence.

Third. Teachers are choosing to spend the beginning part of their summer learning. These teachers came and worked all day with energy, learning a challenging but powerful way to teach writing. The extraordinary thing is that these teachers have lots of experience and success in their classrooms, BUT they aren’t satisfied. They have their sights on what is best for their students, and they are looking to raise the level of  instruction with Teachers College Reading Writing Projects’ Units of Study. I am inspired by their dedication to their craft and their students. These independent learners who came wanting more, left excited about what might be for next year, considering how to overcome obstacles and bring home the work to their school sites.

Fourth. The people and resources of TCRWP help us learn and push our teaching to higher levels. . With internet access, the classrooms and teaching of Cornelius Minor, Kate Roberts, and the coaching of Lucy Calkins comes to life for teachers, 3,000 miles away, to observe and learn.

Fifth. My  exceedingly talented colleagues work together to do masterful work teaching other teachers. Today, I celebrate their gifts and the magic that happens when it all comes together.

Scheduling Time to Drift

It’s the first summer Slice of LIfe. Thank you all at Two Writing Teachers. I’m looking forward to the summer slices. Read more of Slicer work here.


I woke up this morning thinking; running through what was on my to do list. I knew swimming was up first. I really wanted to go. Some mornings I’m excited to get to the pool, other days not so much. This morning lying there in bed, I wanted to swim.

Not yet though. Still things to go over in my head. Yesterday was strange. The PD I did on Writer’s Workshop was bugging me. I have a second class on Friday for another group, so I ruminate on what to change. More activities I’m thinking, six hours is a long time to fill. Set norms up front I think. Those certain folks with the phones out talking about apps that were totally unrelated, when they were suppose to be working on creating teaching points based on student work. Really? But wait, this is just depressing me. So I stop.

Think. Today swim first. Then go to my classroom; finish up the room for summer. This brings my brain to the recent news of people leaving my school. Others coming in. Shifting sands, leaving me a bit off, a bit irritated. Felt that last night as I went to bed. Fell asleep after reading the first chapter of Linda Rief’s Read, Write, Teach (thank you Tara for this great review.) That centered me and reminded me of why I do love what I do. The anticipation of spending the day with this book lifted me up out of bed and to my back pack.

Swim things ready? Hmm, shorts? I pull open the drawer that holds clothes I only see this time of year and that rush of summer hit me.

I put the shorts in my bag, and I’m reminded of the appointments I need to make. With less scheduled time, comes all of those things I’ve set aside to do when I have the time. That time is now, so I tell myself after swim, make those appointments.

I walk into the bathroom grab a towel. Nice, I think to swim today. Normally I don’t swim on Tuesdays. Tuesdays, I think. Hmm. Why is it that I haven’t been swimming on Tuesdays?

Slice of Life! I totally forgot. Only the second day of summer and I’m lost. With freedom from the bell schedule, comes disorientation.

I sat down and thought, maybe I should skip the swim get right to blogging, then I can get my classroom, clean it up so I’ll be done.

But, no wait.

I can swim, blog and then clean. No one but me will go in the room.

Breathe, it is summer I remind myself.

It’s time to create a different way of moving through time. I have lots of things scheduled.  But I want to find time to “do summer.”  I want to find those spots, moments that allow time to move a little slower, so I can move a little slower. I want to find that time to be outside, doing un school like things, That time to talk, to not worry about getting to the next thing. TImes when no one is expecting me there, when I can just drift a bit, without a to do list.


Celebrating Choice!

Time to celebrate the week with Ruth Ayers! Thank you Ruth for this great ritual. Read more and contribute your celebration here.

celebrate link upThis week I am celebrating choice. All year we have worked to include as much choice as possible into the school day. There really isn’t much choice for kids. Teachers and parents control their lives. At school, bells signal went they play, eat and go home. . Yet at a point we want them to have “agency,” to make good choices for themselves. It’s unfair to think they can make these choices, unless we give them the opportunity to try and possibly fail. Choice that could lead to a good or a bad result. A choice they’d have to live with.

This week was the last week of school for my 5th graders, and they made some very good choices. Some of the choices were seemingly small and some were bigger. Some were personal and some were group decisions.  I am proud of the choices they made,but also proud we teachers allowed choice.

One: During the last weeks of school we have a crazy schedule, so structure tended to be a little loose. My students didn’t have enough time  for both reading and writing, so I let them choose: poetry, blogging, reading the just released Julian Chapter from Wonder on the iPads or reading a book of their choice. It was pure joy to watch them go to what they wanted for as long as they wanted and then if they wanted, switch to something else when they wanted. One student (a struggling reader) said if given pure choice in reading she could read all day. Interesting and worth taking her up on.  I do give students choice with reading and writing, but  within the genre or unit we are studying. So the choice isn’t really complete.Perhaps those strugglers we need room for more choice to build that capacity for the genre study we attempt. Perhaps next year we should do this more often.

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Poetry books and blogging
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Reading the Julian Chapter

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 Two:  Every year at culmination we choose students to give culmination speeches. This year we let the students choose. The entire class heard speeches of students who wanted to present and then voted by secret ballot. I’ll admit I feared it would be a popularity contest. We told them to choose two speeches that they felt would represent them well.  In the end, students made great selections, but more importantly they gave reasons for their choices.

It made me want to cry.

It made me laugh.

It sounded like a speech.

It was like a conversation with the audience.

Three. There was one student who was especially sad about not being chosen. Truth be told, she was writing it as she listened to others present, so her speech, which could have been good wasn’t.  Interestingly, even though she was not chosen to speak, she chose to write a speech  She shared it the day after culmination. We  commended her on not letting the loss stop her from still writing and giving that speech she wanted to give. While she didn’t get to share it with the culminating class,she shared it on our blog.

Four: The day after culmination we always go to the park next door to play games. The first part of the time is free play. This class all chose to play games together without any instruction or refereeing by an adult. They played, made sure it was fair, listened to each other and could have gone as long as water was available. They chose to play and play well together.

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 Five: After free play we played team games that they’ve never experienced. “Old fashioned” completely entertaining games: shoe relays, tug of war, and sack races. No choice here except to have fun.

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Six: After school on the last day of school, some students chose to stay with me. They read, went on the iPads, wrote poetry. Some helped me put books away. Some chose their favorite poem copied from books posted on the wall. One took her favorite chart. One student told me the best things about being in fifth grade were 1) genius hour, 2) read aloud, 3) the Catalina Island field trip, and 4) Colonial Fair. I asked him why and he gave me the best and most logical answer:

Because they were all really fun.

Happy weekend, and for some happy summer!