Reading Doors

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.