Saturday, February 28, 2009

night sky

I wished I had a really good camera last night-well I do but who knows where the film? Then I would have had to find the tripod but my trusty little digital camera wouldn't have been able to do last night's large sliver of a moon justice. Oh well. And while we are on that subject I need to upload my latest pictures. And where was my camera when the grade one's were composing poetry? Lost Kodak moments but good thing, I can visualize!
Hmm... bits and pieces. Aaron's class at Cavell made a profit of over 300 dollars at their Peace Carnival on parent teacher night ready to donate to two worthy causes.
I spent a lot of time in classes at False Creek, Maple Grove and Waverley this week. Highlights-False Creek grade ones tackling poetry. This was a first for their teacher, Patty, and me. I mean we have shared poetry with grade one's but neither of us had ever actually tried letting them write poetry and it was very free form but I think they even understood assonance. And they had a great time poetry slamming. Too fun! Rachel's grade ones at Waverley amazed me with their factual paragraphs on penguins. Wow!
Then there were the David's grade seven's at False Creek. I have to say one never knows with grade seven's but this was an enthusiastic group who enjoyed the picture book Terrific and were totally into dialogue writing and asked when I was coming back. That doesn't always happen! I ended my "teaching week" with Chris' grade fours at Maple Grove working on the Daily Five (three) and R5 and I didn't want to leave.
One of the privileges of this job has been being invited into the classrooms of so many wonderful and dedicated teachers and being allowed to get my kid fix and trying out what I read about.
Speaking of penguins, I am hoping to host soon an after school workshop with Ashley Spires, author and illustrator of Penguin and Cupcake with an emphasis on how to do illustration and collage.
Yes, I had winners who proved they had read my blog. Special prize to Moira, our teacher-librarian consultant (I hadn't disqualified consultants) and to Sarah who teaches at Moberly.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Literacy Day and the Peace Carnival

I have to say it was so nice this morning knowing my most pressing thing to do was make chili to have friends over to watch the Oscars. And by the way if you haven't seen Milk, I recommend it. I know it will be in my mind as we honour Pink Day this Wednesday.

Literacy Day-well Thursday when we arrived and discovered we literally had to haul all the tables and 100 chairs to where they were supposed to be not where VSB Stores had dropped them I was reminded that the best laid plans can go awry. To all conference planners, from my experience just face the fact that something will go wrong at some point, and you just have to deal with it not too grumpily. Hauling chairs is rather minor. And anyone who wants to become a consultant, a little weight lifting in anticipation is recommended.

Other than that, I think Literacy Day was an unqualified success. Over 700 teachers and teacher candidates had a great time. At least no one complained to me and there were lots of compliments. Our hosts from Killarney were wonderful. Our tech, Linda, phenomenal. The refreshments were excellent and plentiful. Our presenters were awesome. Linda Kaser,former Vancouver student and teacher before she went on to a varied and distinguished career as consultant, administrator, and now U Vic assistant professor and co-leader of the Network of Performance Based Schools, really clearly explained assessment for and as learning. From book making to writing to drama to reading strategies to fluency, our participants had a varied and stimulating day as well as managing a bit of shopping. Thanks to all our dedicated professionals who attended and participated.

Yesterday was the Peace Carnival at Once Upon a Huckleberry. We were so sad that Michelle Mulder who was unable to join us due to being hospitalized due to pregnancy complications, but the staff at Once Upon a Huckleberry carried on and for me, it was fun, as so many of my friends kept appearing! Kids snuggled in to listen to Emilie read chapters from Yenny and the Peace Carnival. Irma, my friend from Columbia was there to fill in some of the background. The artwork from the fourth and fifth graders at Cavell was just beautiful.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Good Choice!

Earlier this week I had lunch with my friend, Diane, from my days on the multiliteracies project. My computer skills then were very much limited to e-mail and some researching. I only had dial up internet at home! This position has definitely upped the ante, but Diane and I have had an ongoing discussion of the possibilities and limitations of the internet. Thinking more, blogging is a way for me to clarify my thinking and share my reading... Reading my friend, Pavan's blog, reminds me of the enjoyment of receiving a letter from a friend. Facebook provides an opportunity for me to get a glimpse into younger cousins' lives thousands of miles away. I think it's interesting how the internet has found different paths for us to connect through (imagine) reading and writing.
But then there really is the joy of reading a book and this morning I have been having a bit of a conversation with Tony Stead. His words speak to me and I think and connect. Again I thought I was quite an avid reader until I became a consultant and now often feel overwhelmed with there never ending richness of professional books out there.
This is his latest book, Good Choice! Supporting Independent Reading and Response k-6. Lately I have been doing lots of demonstration lessons on the use of the Daily Five (Daily Two) and R5. One concept that I have been dealing with lots is that of students knowing what a Just Right book is and choosing them for independent reading.
I look back at my teaching and wonder why I didn't always insure that all my grade six students had books that they really could read at the right level and wanted to read for silent reading.
I digress. This is a great book really looking deeply at how we can support independent reading and response. Just so many great ideas and interesting anecdotes. I love the list of websites (page 83) he provides that are kid friendly for research purposes. And best, Stenhouse is letting you read all their new books free online (that includes Pembroke books as well). Part of me loves the feel of a book in my hands but what a great way to preview text. The Daily Five sisters have a new book as well I see...
I am giving away a free surprise book to the next VSB teacher who proves they read my blog. Could it be you?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Working in a community

Just a quick note here. Yesterday, Irma, who is from Columbia, came into meet with Aaron's class at Cavell (a block from my house) who have been doing a novel study of Yeny and the Children for Peace. This really makes me really think about community in a large city. I wandered into Once Upon a Huckleberry during the Christmas holidays when I couldn't get my car out of my street so that I was walking alot. Portia told me about the book. I read it and thought it would be a great project to do with Aaron and her class. Portia already had an idea about hosting a peace carnival with the author, Michelle Mulder on February 21.
Sometime in early January I went to my fitness class at nearby Douglas Park Community Centre. I realized that one of the people who has started coming to the class was from Columbia. I gave Irma a copy of the book to read which she thinks is excellent. Yesterday she visited the class and it was an event that I doubt anyone will forget as she showed us pictures of beautiful Columbia and explained so much more to us about the society and what the children's Day of Peace meant in this country.
That afternoon Aaron and the class were off to walk to the conservatory at Queen Elizabeth Park to sketch tropical vegetation. They will be making decorations for the big event at the store on Feburary 21 (1:00-3:00) and Irma is planning to be there as well. The class is also planning their own fundraiser at school just before then. We learned that Columbia is the country with the second most land mines and many people including children have been injured by them. Irma told us about an organization that assists these children and we want to help.
Even in a large city we find community and community to help right across the world.

Monday, February 9, 2009

On teaching...

I find this blog is such a combination of things-book reviews(trade and professional), reflections, hopefully a source of information. Currently I am reading about three professional books on teaching and literacy as well as spending a fair amount of time in classrooms. And last night I spent two hours (a school year) in a Parisien middle school mainly in the French class of one teacher, François Bégaudeau, with a challenging mix of kids when I watched the movie, The Class. This is based on a book by the main character, the teacher, and the students are played by students at the school. I totally recommend looking at the press kit which you can access on the website. I also would be fascinated to see what our students would think of this class.
I am reading Never Work Harder than Your Students & Other Principles of Great Teaching
the latest ASCD book club selection. The first advice is to start where your class is. Excellent advice. This book deals with how to become a master teacher. Always an interesting term. Occasionally I have been called a master teacher but if I am (which is extremely doubtful and definitely not always) it has only come from hard work not from natural ability. As I observe in classrooms, I see many teachers achieving so much and notice how much we can all learn from each other.
In my other blog, I commented on an evening with master teacher, Donald Leu, and I referred to tap dancing to work. Today my next step is making mango milkshakes for Aaron's class at Cavell. We have finished the novel,Yeny and the Children for Peace and the class is about to meet Irma, who is from Columbia, where the novel based on true events takes place. They are ready with questions and are already planning their own peace carnival to fund raise for UNICEF and some yet to be decided endangered animal. I think tap dancing with a jug of mango milkshakes may be risky but...