Monday, August 10, 2015

August 10 for 10 2015~#pb10for10

#pb10for10: Picture Books for Professional Development/Coaching

As my almost 4 year old nephew would say, this is my "pavorite" day of the blogging year, hands down! I can't think of a better way to celebrate the power of picture books across grade levels and content areas. Now in it's SIXTH year, I'm always inspired by the variety of book lists that everyone creates. Today, and in the days to come because it will take that long to get to all the lists, we will see old "friends" in new ways, find new "friends", and inevitably create long hold lists at our libraries and pricey shopping carts at local bookstores and/or online outlets. 

Since last year, I've moved out of the classroom and into the role of literacy coach. The shift from focusing on children as my learners to teachers as my learners hasn't diminished my firm belief that picture books move our understanding and thinking. Because of that, I've always included them as read alouds in professional development session for a variety of purposes. Today I'm sharing ten titles with ideas and themes that support discussions about the teaching practices and classroom environments we strive to create.  If you've never used a picture book with teachers to get conversations started, I hope today's list will spark some ideas. 

If You Hold a Seed by Elly MacKay captures the magic that happens when dream seeds are planted and tended. Each year we are entrusted with a new packet of seeds. This beautifully illustrated book reminds us that will patience, skill, and perseverance, extraordinary gifts can blossom within our classroom communities. 

Courage isn't just found in the BIG things life throws our way. This book by Bernard Waber offers the opportunity to have teachers think about the things that take courage in their teaching practice.  Staying true to what you know is best practice, listening to another point of view, writing with your students, trying a new instructional strategy. It's the small acts of courage that make the most impact! 

Flight School by Lita Judge demonstrates the important reminder that success often comes out of  perseverance and team work. Moving teachers from working in isolation to working as a team is important work and this is a beautiful picture of what team work can bring about. 

The fact that one little bird's determination is responsible for saving a forest is one that shouldn't be lost on teachers. There is no problem too big when we are willing to face our fears, put aside misconceptions, and work to make a difference. Teachers do this every single day, in lots of small ways. The Little Hummingbird by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas is an invitation for teachers to talk about the little ways they face challenges everyday.

I knew on page 2 of this book that I must own it and add it to the picture books I use with teachers this coming year. My Pen by Christopher Myers is perfect for launching writing work with teachers but it can also be used to remind teachers to look beyond the page to truly see their students as individuals, getting to know their interests, fears, and dreams. 

Bringing this book out in the middle of the year offers the opportunity to remind teachers that learning something new...a new strategy, conferring, using a workshop model...takes time and practice.    Walk On! A Guide for Babies of All Ages  by Marla Frazee is a good reminder that missteps, bobbles, and failed attempts are all part of the learning! Embrace it!   

Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is an important book to share with teachers when thinking about teaching & learning. As members of a learning community, we need to be open to a variety of perspectives, taking time to listen to views that are different from ours. We all bring experiences with us that impact our perspectives..and allowing time to share them might just help us all look at a situation or student differently. 

We often start our school year with the big picture in mind. We know exactly the kind of learning environment we want to create. We just what we need to do to make it. And then we hit a roadblock. The plan doesn't go as we envisioned. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spire reminds that sometimes it okay to step away, to refocus, and then try again.  

Going Places by Paul Reynolds reminds teachers that it's okay to think outside of the box, embrace our creative side, and try doing things in a different way when it comes to implementing curriculum, school routines, and community. You never know what amazingness might emerge from the ordinary. 

I know many teachers used this picture book at the end of this school year but I think it's also a perfect one to share with teachers at the beginning of the year. I Wish You More by  Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld is a great reminder to stop and wonder along the way during the school year. Embrace the natural curiosity of the children you will teach...and don't forget to stop and wonder about yourself and your teaching too. 

I'm looking forward to seeing what books others have included in their lists this year! A huge thank you goes out to Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek for continuing to host the amazing celebration of picture books. I'm off to check out the #pb10for10 Google Community and hope you will too.

You can see my past lists here:

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The New Kid~Slice of Life August 4, 2015

Being the "new kid" never gets easy, no matter how old you get. You think it would, but it just  doesn't.  Last summer at just about this time, I took a new position as a Literacy Strategist in a new district. For the previous 19 years I had taught in the same district. My hometown district. The district from which I graduated. I knew the ins and outs, not just of the school system, but of the community too. 

When you''re the new kid, it can be a big scary world in the new neighborhood. Yes, even when you're a grown up. Driving to work that first "official" day, I was a jumbled mess of excitement and nerves. The realization that I was walking into a completely brand new school environment was a lot to process, and brought to my mind all those "new kids" that had crossed my path over 19 years in my former district.  

Yesterday I was thinking about that experience. I started ticking off things in my mind that the veterans of the neighborhood might take for granted, not intentionally, of course.  But things that would help the new kid feel at home more quickly.  These go beyond the housekeeping things like curriculum, schedules, bussing and lunch procedures.  Hopefully the building and/or school district has a mentoring program in place that covers those things. If not, then add those to the list.

The necessities. Don't skip these. Trust me.

Say hello. Introduce yourself and your role in the building. Especially if you see them standing or  sitting alone. 

Introduce them to "key" players in the building...the secretary, the custodians, the cafeteria staff. 

While you're in the cafeteria, fill them in on how to order/pay for "teacher" lunch. Or where to put their lunch if they bring it from home. Or the best (code for "fastest") place to pick up lunch if they have time to run out for lunch. I know..who has time for that...but still....

The supply know every school has a "stash" room. Show them where it is. 

Technology 411 such as where computers print to...or which printer is the better one to print to.

The chocolate drawer..or shelf...or closet.  This could save a life! True story!

The extras. To the new kid, any (or all) of these would be icing on the cake.

Invite them to eat with you in the Teacher's Room one day each week for the first month. 

When you're talking about how things are done, remember the new kid doesn't have the "history".    Try to fill in the "code" talk for them.

Give them the 411 on special school events or days (this is code for "we all dress up here") well in 
advance (again code for "not the day before") so that they can participate at the right level. 

Provide them with a map of the school, labeled with teachers first and last names. Include support

Start up conversations that aren't about school and work. Ask them about their families, interests, hobbies.

Invite them to events outside of the school day, like the standing invitation to Friday Happy Hour that they might not know about.    

Maybe you have a new kid in your neighborhood this year. Remember, the new kid could be a new specialist or support person in your building. They are especially susceptible to feeling alone as they don't come with the ready made neighborhood of a classroom.  It doesn't have to all fall on your shoulders. Enlist your teaching team. The point is to look out for those new kids this year. Someday the new kid may be you.

A special thanks to my teaching friends who shared ideas about welcoming new staff this afternoon! I hope the conversation got you thinking.

You can find more Slice of Life post at Two Writing Teachers.