Reading Doors

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I Am Thankful...

As Thanksgiving is fast upon us, I find myself busier and busier, trying to wrap things up nicely for my students before their break. This is making it very hard to take the time to slow down and appreciate what I have, to be thankful in the midst of this holiday season. My principal seemed to have picked up on this in many of us teachers. He created a shared Google Document for us to take a moment and record what we are thankful for. His request was that we all take the time to add to it. I have included what I wrote for that document:

I am thankful for my family, who support me even when we don’t see each other often, and for my friends. I am thankful that I am able to make the long drive to work and back safely each day. That I have a work environment that is fun and fulfilling with people who I truly enjoy spending all of my time around. I am thankful for Barb and Kelly, that they laugh with me and struggle through the stressful, rough days with me. I am thankful that God made my experience with melanoma a short one that was taken care of without harsh treatments. That I was able to go to work less than a month after my surgery. I am thankful for the gardens around my house and the flowers that start to mark the coming of spring. I am thankful for spring and fall days in the midst of the heat of summer and the freezing cold of winter. I am thankful for being able to spend summer mornings sitting on my back porch with a cup of coffee, a good book, and the cat and dogs curled up at my feet.

A Happy and Safe Thanksgiving to Everyone!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Slice of Life: Accident

Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Join in and write your own slice.

Yesterday my mom was in a car accident, not one that ended up causing much physical, bodily damage, but an accident none the less. It snowed in Ohio yesterday, the first real snow of winter. Half the state got a good amount of snow, the other half not much. 
I had no school due to the amount of snow in that county, and the fact that it hit at just the right time, when the buses would have been out. I got considerably less snow at my own house.

My mom, like myself, works a good way from where she lives. She was just about to work yesterday morning, on a straightaway, when the car coming towards her lost control, hit the brakes (which only makes things worse on slick roads), went into the ditch beside the road, corrected her mistake only to come back onto the road, cross the middle line, and smack into my mom's car. This sent my mom into the ditch, over the other side, and into the corn field. As the airbags went off, she saw the dim outline of something tall and thick in front of her and tried to swerve and miss whatever it was. After going several yards into the cornfield, she finally stopped. She had missed  the tall, thick telephone pole by 4 inches, probably saving her life, or at least avoiding major injuries. The police officers said that the other driver would have had to be going at least 15-25 miles faster than she should have in order to go so far and cause so much damage, while using her brakes, even with the added ice/snow. 

Both cars were totaled and are completely missing their front ends. My mom has a small abrasion on her left arm and the other driver went to the hospital with a knee injury, but is otherwise okay. They were very lucky.

My mom called me after she made it home, telling me what happened, but prefacing with, "There is no emergency, everything is fine, but..." As my mom told me about barely missing the telephone pole she said, "At one point I really thought, 'This is it.'" Even knowing she was okay, hearing this, knowing how close she was to major injuries or actually being killed, was hard. It reminds you how precious life is, how uncertain and unpredictable it is. 

For me, snow days mean staying home, catching up on things neglected, relaxing and enjoying the picturesque view out the window. But snow days, in all their beauty, are still dangerous. And this particular snow day was a reason to pause and appreciate all the little things I take for granted.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

African Children's Choir Performs

Today, the students at the various River View Local School District elementary buildings got the unique and special chance to watch the African Children's Choir from Uganda. This choir has been in existence for 30 years. They help "Africa's most vulnerable children today, so they can help Africa tomorrow." I have added a link here to their web page.

The performance was an incredible one! There was no denying the enthusiasm, fun, and hope shared by the children who performed. No matter what they did, whether dancing, singing, or simply standing waiting for the next song, the children always had a smile on their faces. These children were great examples for my own students. In addition, these students are on tour, away from their families, for 10 months at a time. This only adds to how impressive these kids are!

Not only did the students get to watch a great show choir, but they also learned a little about Uganda and the children's lives there, as well as the children's dreams and aspirations. The children wanted to be doctors, lawyers, pastors, judges, accountants, pilots, and even teachers. Two of the choir members shared what their home lives were like in Uganda. Some of them lived with families of 5 in a one room house. The choir director reminded our students that not everyone in the world has houses like we do.

In the words of my principal, "It wasn't just the performance, it was how the kids carried and handled themselves that spoke volumes to me. To hear them talk about their aspirations and what they wanted to become when they grew up truly touched my heart." Talk about living a "rich" life. "These kids get it. They make the most out of what they have, instead of focusing and worrying about what they don't have. Our students learned a lot from this experience."

All of my students had a wonderful time at the concert. They were enthralled by the performance and by the lives of these kids. If they could have, I'm sure they would have asked all of the children to come back to the school and spend several days with in our classroom. Over and over again, I heard my students say "This is so cool." What an affirmation that the experiences we try to provide for students are worthwhile!

Slice of Life: World of Possible

Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Join in and write your own slice.

Last week, Scholastic presented a live webcast with special guest Usher, entitled Bigger Than Words. During this special program students learned "how to take informed action, become reading advocates, and help make a difference in their schools, communities, and the world." I had heard about this program through multiple outlets and shared a short commercial video with my class to determine the interest level of my students. They were thrilled, of course. I was able to rearrange our schedules in order to make this special event happen.

The day of the webcast (Thursday, Nov. 6th), my students were anything but still and attentive. They were all looking forward to the live webcast. In class, we discussed the books that inspired them or books that are their favorites. We shared why these books had lasting impressions and what made the adventures so memorable. The students then decorated a small book cover for the book they had chosen and we decorated the classroom door with reminders of what books inspire them. 

The greatest moment came when a student told me that the book we are reading in a small book group, Masters of Disaster by Gary Paulsen, is a book she just can't put down or stop reading. This book has inspired many great conversations and more than a few laughs in our little book talks and is one I love as well.

Two of the big questions that were asked during the webcast were: 1. Why do we read? and 2. What can we do to open a world of possible for ourselves and for others? What great questions! The following day my students wrote about and then discussed with each other their own answers for these questions, taking ideas and inspiration from the webcast. 

Scholastic will be continuing their World of Possible initiative with a plethora of resources on their World of Possible website and with four "calls to action" that will be released online throughout the year. Here is the link to the webcast and first call to action. Teachers, parents, and students will be able to take small actions that will have big impacts on the lives of children!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Slice of Life: Agricultural Awareness

Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Join in and write your own slice.

This year, like every year that I've been in my district, my 4th grade students got to take a field trip at the start of the year to the local fairgrounds for the 4th grade Agricultural Awareness Day event. During this event, the students rotate through 15 minute sessions with their classes, learning about the many different aspects of agriculture specific to our county and state. 

Despite my students having grown up in a farming community, there is a lot that they don't understand about the business of agriculture and how important it is to our environment and economy. At our Ag Day event this year, students learned about the crop produced the most in our county, corn, and how the tassel pollinates the silk. They learned about the process by which plants make food and some of them "became" the elements needed for photosynthesis. A bee keeper was there to teach our students about pollinators of all kinds and to explain the importance of protecting the honeybee. Students also learned how to trace every food they eat back to soil in some way. They became a living chain of ingredients in pizza that were all connected to soil. Several stations had live animals for the students to learn about and of course, pet, including sheep, cows, poultry, and swine. 4-H and FFA were there to help with the day, as well as to share information about their many opportunities with the students. 

The Ag Day trip is always a favorite of my students and this year was no different. The weather was a big muggy within the barns, but beautiful when outside. I appreciate the groups and individuals that spend their time preparing this learning experience and the people who volunteer their time to spend the day with the children. What a great way for our students to learn about their community, the environment, and the careers that are available to them. (The photos that I have included are from our 15 minute dairy cow session.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Slice of Life: School Starts

Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Join in and write your own slice.

Another school year has begun. The students are finally getting use to their schedule, coming in and reading as soon as they are in the classroom. Switching classes when we need to and knowing what to take with them. But their attention only lasts so long when it is as hot as it is, and with no air conditioning in the building. By the end of the day, all of us feel like we are melting and can't get enough water. 

Along with the start of the school year comes the stress and the very busy schedule. I'm writing and reading significantly less than I would like to, in fact I should be creating differentiated group activities right now. Each day I sleep in a little more, until I have no extra time in the mornings. Then the weekend comes, I get a little more sleep, wake up pretty refreshed on Monday, but start the cycle of no sleep over again Monday night.  

This is not just a slice of my life. For the next 9 months, the classroom and my students will be my entire life. I spend more time working with them or creating things for them than I spend on anything else.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Reading Doors

Over the summer, I read the book Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller, along with many of my colleagues, and took part in this summer's #cyberPD of the book. I enjoyed every minute reading the book and found many useful tools and ideas to implement in my own classroom. 

One of these ideas immediately struck me as something that would greatly benefit not only my classroom, but out entire building. Reading Doors. Donalyn explains in her book that school staff in her building utilize door space at the start of the year and decorate their doors with the materials they read over the summer. Donalyn goes a step further and allows her students to decorate the door with books they love a few weeks into the school year. What a great way to visually show students the importance of an active, wild reading life!

I decided that this would fit perfectly with the goals and focus of our building and asked that everyone start the year off with a summer reading door. What a great response I got! Many were excited and had thought the same when reading the book. Some weren't sure how to create a summer reading door when they don't read books often. I offered my help to any who needed it and tried to brainstorm ideas for materials with those who seldom picked up a traditional novel. 

As the school year has started for teachers, and will soon start for students, the doors are almost all covered now. I got to share the purpose of these doors with all of the parents and students present at open house last night, encouraging them to beginning conversations with their children about the materials on the doors. Although much of what our staff read was traditional books, we also have e-readers, tablets, blogs, magazines, newspapers, brochures, playbills, and postcards displayed on various doors. Keeping with our focus of creating a family reading community, many teachers have used their doors to showcase what they read with their children over the summer. Several of us have two classroom doors and are keeping one reserved for our students to create a class summer reading door.

Not all of the doors are completed yet, as our students don't start until Wednesday, but already it has created an atmosphere of reading and truly shows the value of reading in everyone's life. I'm very happy with how well this has gone. It has been a little more work on my part, helping so many of my colleagues in order to get this done, but it is every bit worth it.

I plan on having more photos of all the doors up soon and of writing a Part 2 that shows the doors that our students make once the year begins. 

UPDATE Aug. 21, 2014: A slideshow of the reading doors has been added to the top of my blog. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Slice of Life: Family Golf-Scramble

Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Join in and write your own slice. 

I sit in the familiar garage of my uncle's house waiting for my parents and siblings to arrive from the annual Shetler golf scramble, something I never participate in. It is hot and humid, easily pushing 90 degrees with very little cloud cover to ease the scorching sun. Today I'm glad that I don't golf. 

Every year my mother's family holds a sort of mini-family reunion, during which they have a golf scramble and then dinner afterward at my uncle's house. This annual gathering is a massive undertaking. My mother has seven other siblings, all married with at least two children. I have 19 first cousins, most of which are married now with children of their own. My mother's aunts, uncles, and cousins don't come, but still, with nearly 50 people present, visiting with everyone is difficult and something that overwhelms me.

When my mother's family finally returns from the outing, many of them are a bright red, with distinct lines from their hats and sleeves. I remind them that sunscreen is a useful tool when spending such a day outside. (No one laughs.) Uncle Merle then decides we should attempt a whole family photo. This is met with jokes from his brothers about needing a wide camera lens that are immediately followed by many eyes rolling. We succeed in taking the photo and dinner starts. Buffet style with fresh fruit, smoked and grilled halves of chicken, potato salad, broccoli & sausage calzones with cheese, and homemade cupcakes and pie for dessert. 

Even though everyone at dinner is family, we still group ourselves with our immediate family. It's especially difficult for my family and I to integrate in with the rest. Most of my cousins grew up together, in the same area of Amish Country, going to school together and sharing friendship as well as a bloodline. My siblings and I did not. We grew up over two hours away and saw our extended family maybe twice a year. It was always obvious, with so many cousins, that they didn't need to include us to have fun. We were often left behind when they would go on adventures through my grandparents' woods. I learned to enjoy talking and cooking with my mom, grandma, and aunts instead. 

Nothing has changed. Sitting in the garage after dinner, I still see my cousins gravitate to each other, catching up and sharing stories of marriage and parenthood. I gravitate to my aunts and uncles, talking about our jobs and their retirements, and sharing homemade recipes (I'm one of only a few of my cousins who still cooks and bakes from scratch). Although I really enjoy these outings, and it means a lot to my mother to spend time with her siblings, it is still a bit sad to know that nothing changes, that where you grew up and who you grew up with can have more of an impact than bloodlines.

Slowly people head home, needing to rest for work on Monday or to put their small children to bed. My parents finally decide to leave as well, with such a long drive ahead of them, and I go too. As we leave, my uncles start to talk about plans for Christmas, the only other time during the year that the entire family might get together. On my drive home, I think about how nice it is, despite the stress, to have a chance to see people who shaped my life, even if only in small ways.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Picture Book 10 for 10 - #PB10FOR10


This year I have discovered the August Picture Book 10 for 10 Event hosted by Mandy Robek and Cathy Mere. Here is the "What is it?" description from Cathy Mere's blog, Reflect and Refine:
What Is It? The idea began as Mandy and I wondered what ten books were "must-haves" in the classroom.  If you could only choose 10 picture books, what would they be?  It's not an easy question.  We've had participants find some innovative ways to cheat the system (and we love that!) and share interesting groups of ten titles in our past years.  Each year the collaborative effort produces an informative picture book resource.
 I am excited to be able to share my favorite picture books, even though I'm a day late! As this is my first year taking part in the #PB10for10, I decided to pick many that I loved as a child and that still hold places in my favorites list because of the influence they had on my young reading life. They are in no particular order:

1. The Monster at the End of this Book - This has always been one of my favorite books, but was suggested by several others as well when I was discussing the Picture Book 10 for 10 with some of my non-blogger friends. One of my friends said, "My mom used to read it with all these different voices, which was a lot of fun for me. I loved her monster voice the best." I realized, as I talked with my friends, that this book was one of the first times that we had been introduced to the idea of reading a book with different voices to represent different emotions, characters, or tones. It became a gateway to the dynamic and engaging reading of books.

 2. The Rainbow Fish - I have always loved this book and use it as a fun read aloud whenever I have the opportunity. As a child, I was drawn to the beautiful foil-stamped pages, and the idea of being a gorgeous fish with such desirable scales. I learned that one must give friendship in order to gain friendship, though obviously sharing is always what one thinks of when talking about The Rainbow Fish. This will always remain one of my favorite picture books because of the memories I have of reading this in the library at a young age.

 3. Thumbelina (the Little Golden Book version) - My grandparents used to have a closet full of children's picture books and when we stayed there, we were aloud to choose a book for them to read aloud to us before bed. If my siblings didn't express their outrage at listening to Thumbelina yet again, I always chose this book. When I could finally read it myself, I read it over and over and over. My grandparents gave it to me when I was in elementary school, but I have no idea what happened to it. This book was the cornerstone of my earliest reading growth.

4. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish - This is another title that I still love due to my memories of reading it with my grandparents. I don;t ever really remember not being able to read this book. I just remember reading it to my grandparents as soon as I found it in their closet, which had probably been there since my father and his brothers had been small. I would pull it out and read it to my two younger siblings after they had sat through yet another reading of Thumbelina.

5. If You Give a Mouse A Cookie - I don't remember when or where I first read this book, and I don't know how young I was. I do know that I love the story and I love the little mouse. This little mouse makes me smile and makes me wish for my own little mouse pet to eat cookies with.

6. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom - This book is not one that I remember loving or reading all the time for myself. This is one that I remember because my siblings, especially my sister, loved it and so it was often being read. It was fun and silly to read with them or to just listen as mom read it.

7. Chrysanthemum - I received this book as a gift just before starting school as kindergartner. I was so proud of myself for being able to pronounce the name Chrysanthemum and immediately thought it was the most beautiful name I'd ever heard. This book helped build my confidence in successfully pronouncing 4+ syllable words without assistance. This became my second favorite book, next to Thumbelina.

8. Corduroy - As with many books I love from when I was younger, I don't remember how I first came across this book. The story has stayed with me though. The adventures of Corduroy made me want to live in his world, where teddy bears were alive. I wanted to go on my own adventures and the book helped encourage me towards a life of wild reading where stories can take you to other places.

9. The Mitten - A classic picture book that I love for all the reasons so many others love it. I became a huge fan of Jan Brett and her style of writing and illustrating at a young age. When I realized that the side-bar pictures showed hints to the story, I was thrilled with the idea and spent more time looking at these illustrations than the main illustration of the pages.

10. The Berenstain Bears - When I was younger I loved all of The Berenstain Bears books. This is one that I remember reading specifically, but I know I read dozens. I loved the family and the antics they sometimes got into, but most importantly I loved the way the family would come together and help each other.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Slice of Life: My Happy Place

Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Join in and write your own slice. 

The air was cool and crisp, promising a fall like day despite the mid-summer date. I was awoken by the sun's warm rays on my face. I climbed out of bed and stumbled to the bathroom to get ready for the day. I chose jeans and a thin sweatshirt, knowing the back porch would feel 10-15 degrees colder due to the shade it was always wrapped in. 

As I headed to the kitchen, I grabbed my small stack of to-be-read books, the ones sitting on top already having been started. Coffee first. I hit the power button and listened as the machine gurgled to life and the water inside began to bubble. While it did, I took care of the dogs. One headed out after being in all night and the other came in to eat after having been out all night. Finally the coffee was done and all three of us headed to the back porch. 

My books and coffee went on the small table that barely fit when the dogs and I were out too. I picked up the first book for the day, a Ricky Ricotta's Might Robot, one of the many classroom books I was trying to read before the school year started. As I read for what became hours, the dogs curled up behind me, content to sleep, though they'd barely woken up. 

The morning was perfect. The backyard sprawled out in front of me, a sea of green. The dogs, and now the cat who had joined us, laying beside me. The cool air a relief from the blistering heat of a couple weeks ago. Getting to do what I loved without interruption or obligation.

I had many days like this during the course of the summer. Some days grew too hot and I would begrudgingly head inside to work. My mornings spent reading were an oasis away from the house work, the errands, the planning for the upcoming school year, and I wished for nothing more than to spend forever on my back porch reading, happy and at peace.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reading in the Wild Reflection Ch. 5 & Appendices - #CyberPD


 Here we are in the final chapters of Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild. The journey is one that has definitely help me to grow and to improve myself and my teaching. I have reawakened my wild reading life and started my own blog due to this summer's #cyberPD. I have an overabundance of activities I want to try and conversations I am ready to have with my students once the school year starts. When I finished this book, all I wanted was more of it to read. 

Chapter 5: Wild Readers Show Preferences
"The more widely we read, the more expertise we offer to our students." (pg 167) I was struck by this sentence and the ramifications that not reading widely as teachers can have on my students. As I read this chapter, I was reminded over and over again that in order to have a meaningful and deep conversation with my students about their reading lives, I must have a deep knowledge of what they are reading. I must read more than my students and delve into the realms of all my students' preferences so that I can offer my students the books they need in order to push them forward. 

I know my preferences and my favorite authors, and I tend to stick to that small sphere of works. Though my preferences have changed in small ways (I used to read romances and Christian titles frequently, neither of which I do now), the core of my reading likes have not (I still absolutely love Agatha Christie mysteries, fantasy titles, and Kim Harrison books). I rarely venture out and most of the titles my students love, hold little appeal to me (Warriors series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants). Donalyn says that we need to "offer readers with strong genre preferences read-alike titles with similar themes or storylines" (pg 170) but how can I do this if I don't know what read-alike titles are available. I must read what my students are reading and take an unbiased look at them. 

Donalyn also devotes an entire section to graphic novels, magazines, and "light reading." I was introduced to graphic novels in high school through the Maus books by Art Spiegelman. However, my knowledge of other graphic novel titles, especially of titles appropriate for my 4th graders, is almost non-existent. After being reminded of the power these books can have to motivate some readers, I have committed myself to discovering graphic novels and other "light reading" materials that will be appropriate for my 4th grade readers. 

Request: If anyone is familiar with appropriate graphic novels, please let me know in a comment! It would be greatly appreciated!

Ways I Hope to Increase Wide Reading
  • Increasing the amount of informational, unique, and strange read-alouds. "By reading aloud more engaging historical and biographical works, introducing students to noteworthy authors, and encouraging students' interest in weird, unique, or fascinating information, we increase their interest and build background knowledge." (pg 178) This is one of my favorite suggestions in Donalyn's book and it's made on multiple occasions. What a great way to encourage student interest! I love read-alouds, but rarely use anything but fictional stories. That will be changing!
  • Pairing fiction texts with nonfiction related topics. (pg 181) This is something I have always tried to do, since I teach both social studies and language arts, but I could definitely be more intentional about it and have intentional conversations about the titles.
I want to "[encourage] students to read what they want while exposing them to high-interest, quality texts of all kinds." (pg 192) I want to share in the joy that my students will experience when they finally realize they can read and that it can be fun!

I LOVE that Donalyn put blank copies of her forms in the back for us to use and tweak. It is one thing for her to talk about them in her book, but it is much easier to understand what she means when I can see them on the page. Many of these forms I will be implementing into my classroom. Some of my developing readers will need scaffolding and a gradual release of responsibility, but most of my students will be able to handle the forms I am choosing to use. 

A Few of My Favorite Forms        
My favorite form is "My Reading List" (Form A.2) because it allows students to rate the books they read while tracking their reading life. I plan to use "My Reading Itinerary" (Form B.1) and "My Selection Reflection" (Form B.2) I plan to use these in the same manner as Donalyn described. I want my students to take ownership of their reading once they leave me and to do this they must be aware of when and how they read. 

I have several students every year who are reluctant to read during the independent reading time they are given. After observing an ongoing pattern of reading avoidance, I confer with them about this behavior. However, I think it would be great to have a record of exactly what they were doing instead of general statements and will use the "Independent Reading Time Observation" (Form C.1).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Slice of Life: A Cheese Festival

I discovered the Slice of Life Challenge that takes place at Two Writing Teachers through Michelle of Literacy Learning Zone. Please join me and write a slice of your own life and link to the Two Writing Teachers blog.

As my friend and I drove back from a relaxing weekend on her family's boat at Lake Erie, we came to the small town of W------. We had passed through the town on the way up as well, taking note of a cheese festival they were having that weekend. Driving back through, we saw that the festival was still being held and decided to stop on a whim.

We found a place to park at a beautiful nearby church. The sun was shining and there was a steady, cool breeze. The first table we came to was an information booth. The lady sitting behind the table looked tired, as though she had been there all day. She asked us to enter the macaroni and cheese eating contest that would be held in a few hours. We politely declined and continued to the next table, the only cheese table at the entire festival. The cheese had been out for quite some time and had severely softened. We tried some anyway, to be nice, but did not make any purchases.

The rest of the festival consisted of about half a dozen fair food vendors and a wine tasting tent. None of this was appealing and my friend and I started to regret our decision to stop at what could barely be considered a festival. I followed my friend as she meandered around, not really into having stopped anymore. Then she asked if I wanted to see what types of shops downtown W------ had to offer. Of course I did, anything to provide some worth to our sudden decision to drop by.

Very few of the stores seemed interesting either, and as it was a Sunday, many were closed. A small cafe caught our eyes though. It was called the Bread-N-Brew and seemed cheery, inviting, and delicious. We crossed the street and went in. The atmosphere was comforting and one corner was made up to have the feel of a living room. The menu was extensive and fresh. We decided to have lunch, sitting at a high-top table by the big front window. It was one of the best meals I've had in a long time due to the fresh produce used by the cafe.

Sitting and eating, my friend and I discussed the weekend fun we had just had and the festival we had decided to stop at. We both teach and we knew that school and sports would soon be starting back up for the both of us, taking our time quickly. Though the cheese festival was a disappointment, we found a gem of a cafe that provided us what well may be our last adventure for the summer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Reading in the Wild Reflection Ch. 3 & 4 - #CyberPD


I realize that I did not write a blog for Week 1 Ch. 1 & 2 of this year's #cyberPD, but I am remedying that with Week 2. I have thoroughly loved reading Donalyn Miller's book Reading in the Wild. The ideas keep flooding me as I read through the chapters and I often have to pause to place tabs in the book or to type notes/ideas in my ever growing Google Doc, and chapters 3 & 4 were no exception.

Chapter 3: Wild Readers Share Books and Reading with Other Readers
Ideas to Build a Reading Community  
The best idea I am going to be borrowing from these two chapters is definitely the Reading Doors (pg 116-119). I got so excited about this idea as I was reading that I immediately contacted my principal, who is also read Reading in the Wild this summer, about making this a building wide endeavor.     
 In addition to the Reading Doors, our building and district has been taking extra steps (starting last year) to spread our reading community to the families of our students. We want to help parents and other community members understand the importance of reading. Chapter 3 reinforced what we have been working towards, while giving me many new ideas to share. Our district and building hosts family reading nights 3-4 times a year that provide reading activities and reinforcement for the students, while educating parents about the importance of reading, how to help their children, and what resources are available to them in the community/district. Every child walks away with a free book as well.  
Our building has invested in webcams for all of our SmartBoards this year. We plan on using them at the beginning of the year to hold book discussions with classrooms from another elementary in our district that is 15 minutes from us. The principals of our buildings are working on bridging the distance gap between buildings in order to expand each buildings reading community. We will be reading and discussing the same book, which every family will get a free copy of in order to promote reading and discussion at home as well. This will be a great chance to show students the importance of connecting with others and how to do it through technology.
Other Thoughts from Ch. 3   
I love when Donalyn Miller states on pg 100 that "Reading is ultimately a social act." How true! I can not imagine reading and never discussing it or never sharing what I have just experienced with others. I hope that all of my students will take part in the social act of reading at least while in my classroom and hopefully continue the practice into their adult lives. However, if this is to happen, I must not only show them during the confines of our classroom, but also within my own life of wild reading. I want to discuss with my students all of the reading interactions I have taken part in this summer and share with them the passion that I have rediscovered. I want to show them what I have done on GoodReads, Twitter, and now on my new blog. I want them to understand that as someone who is constantly learning, I too take part in educational discussions such as #cyberPD. I can only do these things by having an open and honest conversation with my students about our reading lives and looking carefully at the activities and assignments I give them. Are they showing my students what a wild reading life looks like or are they "busy work"?"We must consider whether school and classroom reading initiatives and assignments support students' development of wild reading habits or hinder them." (pg 139)

Chapter 4: Wild Readers Have Reading Plans  
I must admit that this is probably the area in which my wild reading life has always been weakest. Although I have often had a couple books sitting on my nightstand in a to-be-read pile, I more often than not simply read one book straight through before starting another or thinking about what I will read next. In high school my preference leaned heavily towards all mysteries by Agatha Christie and my plan simply consisted of reading through all of her works, especially Hercule Poirot books. When I started college, my reading life became largely dormant and I read only a few small series now and then.  
Since reinvigorating my wild reading life, I am excited to help my students do the same. My current goal is to read through all of the new books I received at the end of last year (about 25) before adding them to my shelves. I am also reading through many of my students' favorites that I've never read. I want my students to see that I care about what they like to read and that I am knowledgeable about these books too. If I am to teach my students to be wild readers with plans, then I must live that too.  
One of my favorite ideas from chapter 4 is that students must slowly build stamina for reading goals. Donalyn Miller says that "For students struggling to finish books or commit to reading, setting small goals helps them achieve success quickly and rack up positive reading experiences, which feed more reading." (pg 144) How true! Runners don't immediately run successful 5K races when they've never been a runner before and students shouldn't be expected to go from learning to read to reading extensively and for prolonged periods. Stamina in any form must be built through practice and through small steps towards the goal. Read a little longer each day, and eventually they'll have the stamina to read the whole 30 minutes or to read all 300 pages. Try to push students who struggle to read through their plans or their committed readings and they may never gain a love of reading.
I am excited to see where the rest of 2014's summer #cyberPD takes me and what having my own blog will do for my learning and collaborating!

Starting My Blog

After taking part in just the first week of #cyberPD this summer, I decided that I needed to start my own blog. It will be easier to link my extensive ramblings this way, rather than in the comments sections. I also think that it will be a good thing to write about the extensive professional and pleasurable reading I have been doing. I want to collaborate, share, question, and curate with all of those out there who share my love of learning.