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.