Wednesday, February 1, 2017

We Did It! #gspd2017

Before school, I simply set out the toys around the room.  We had race cars, dinosaurs, blankets and stuffed animals, our math materials (pattern blocks, games, tangrams, etc.), art supplies, a makerspace shelf (legos, tinker  toys, k’nex, origami, etc.), a few traditional board games, train tracks, gears, books, and wooden blocks.  

I have a preschool friend who visits my classroom every morning.  He intuitively knew what to do, sat down, and started to play.  In the spirit of observation, I watched my first graders.  They knew they should be getting their book boxes ready for the day.  But they naturally sat down with my preschool friend with their books by their sides and tinkered with the toys.  Of course I let them.  I couldn't snap a picture fast enough.

It’s Wednesday, so we delayed our play until we returned from school-wide chapel.  

We started in a Morning Meeting, so I could show some pictures and talk about what they would do all day long. I had to talk about it, because, well, we just don't stop and play the whole day. Ever. Even in our flexible environment. Where there is a fair amount of play. Needless to say, they were eager to get started.

Holy imaginative play with blankets.  All morning.  They negotiated their game.  I can’t tell you what is was.  Puppies, a friendly dragon, sleeping.  “Pretend you are..”  The story telling…   They would stop mid story and renegotiate.  "Now pretend the stranger is coming! Stranger Danger!" In between our "other blocks of time" (lunch, art, recess, etc.) they would return to this story and continue it on. This went on At first, I was feeling unsettled about this-until I read some research. (Ashiabi , 2007; Singer and Lythcott 2004)  It turns out, kids who are allowed to play pretend games can be more creative, and show more readiness for learning.  We talked at the end of the day how such a day of play could lead to amazing writing tomorrow.  (Stay tuned...)  I learned so much today.  There is power in pretend play.  My kids are storytellers.  I knew this, but they are intricate story tellers.  I hadn't embraced this about them really until today.   This was my big "Ah-Ha!" moment.  

How was your day of play?  


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Must Read in 2017

Hi Friends...

A huge thank you to Carrie Gelson at There is a Book for That for organizing all the readers.  It was inspirational and encouraged me to set some goals for reading this year.

Like always I have a stack of books I'm sure I'll never finish.  As I sorted through the stacks to pick my 2017 reads, it was fun.  My sister always generously shares books with my mom and I when she's finished.  I need to get reading and share the love.

My son is starting to pass more books my way.  At Christmas, he re-gifted books from his stack to me.  I will always read them.

I've set a goal for 20 books this year.  It's based on what I recorded over the past two years.  I was just under 20 both years, so let's bump that up and hopefully pass it!

Here we Go...

Adult Novels:


Young Adult/Middle Grade  (Some of Both...)


Professional Books/NonFiction

Image result for free to make dale dougherty98977921599833713387168

I feel like I should say that of course this will change.  My 8 year old is already asking me about Red by Liesel Shurtliff.  That's the one I haven't read yet!  And I'm off to see what Carrie has compiled from all of you!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Let's Look at 2017 Shall We?


Link up at  We are so grateful for this community. 

Fearless.  My One Word for 2017.    Let's try this with some free verse-ish writing, shall we?

Isaiah 41:10:  "Do Not be afraid, for I am with you.  Do not be dismayed, I am your God.  I will strengthen you.  I will help you.  I will uphold you with my victorious right hand."
Fearless in Faith.
More learning to be had here.  
Less fear in trying to write and share my learning.  
Fearless in Friendships.
Uphold the ones that are critical.
Fearless in love.
It's for All People.
(That phrase, "all people" is in Luke chapter 2.  It's really been on my heart since Christmas.)

2 Timothy 1:7:  "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline."

Fearless in Running.
Find that girl and get her back.  

Fearless in fitness.
Cliche--I know.
But I've lost that too.  
I boldly need to reclaim that on all fronts.  

Joshua 1:9:  I command you-Be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid or discouraged.  For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

Fearless in ambition.
I'm not afraid anymore.
Fearless in the work.

Fearless in the journey.
I don't know where it's going to take me.
But I know Who is going with me. 

And I'm going fearlessly.

Some music to get us started:


Thursday, December 22, 2016

More on Purposeful Play: When the risks kick in.


Have you read this book yet?  I've written about it a few times before.  And all fall, we've been dabbling in "play and project" time.  It's been good!

Then December happened.

You see, the short story is, in December, in our Faith-based school, the Christmas Pageant is the hard work of December.   The kids are engaged in:
  • Large group community work.
  • Shared reading in musical lyrics.
  • Exposure to reading basic melodies.
  • I was fascinated to watch as the kids were exposed to speech enunciation techniques.  
  • The self-regulation it takes to stand with a large community of kids and focus on singing.
  • The fun and festiveness of dressing up and presenting a beautiful story.  
Christmas Pageants are hard work.  And may I say, Music Education rocks?!?!  

A purposeful teacher is careful then, about how to proceed with the classroom setting.   I could have steamrolled through lessons.  I could have insisted on routine.  I could have ignored the needs of my students.  

None of those would work for me.  
Yet, we need to also be engaged and learning.  

Today, I want to share the work of Play and Project time and the moment I realized my Firsties were taking risks in their writing during this time.  

In our classroom, there was a place to work with foam, nails, screws, bolts and washers, and rubber bands.  First, the project encouraged kids to create Christmas Trees with these items.  They took these items and started to create Robots.  Hey, it's cool!

A safety note:  I have a small class size with kiddos who have a LOT of self-regulation.  There are years where this wouldn't have been an option.  

Enter the Robot Store.  Every good store has signs.  Come Now!  Play!  Love and Name Him!  
These three signs?  Made by a former reluctant writer.  In these moments, to protect her risk taking, I always ask what she thinks of them and I honor what she is saying.  Occasionally she will revise a sign, but she is also starting to monitor her work as she is creating it initially.

Come On to the Shop!

That last sign?  We've also been working on digraphs in our word study time.  When I asked her to read it to me, she did.  And she self-corrected herself on the placement and directionality in this writing. For this student, it was way more powerful than even a mini-lesson on editing and revising.  Because it revolved around her play.

She asked if she Had to make a new sign.  I left that up to her.  (She didn't.)  But as a developing writer, I was so pleased  to have the opportunity to have this conversation with her.  

The other thing you don't see in these few pictures, are the volume of signs that were taped around my classroom.  On desks.  On my desk.  On cupboards.  Tables, Doors.  They just kept writing.  

Keep in mind, this wasn't Writer's Workshop.  Intentionally, I didn't swoop in and conference on the writing process.  But I did observe risk taking, joyful writing, a large volume of writing.  

December showed me that play does encourage risk taking academically.  We'll be playing in get the picture...

How are you using play in your classroom?


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Heart Maps-Part 2. Writing in December.


Link up at  We are so grateful for this community. 

Hello Friends!  The last time I sliced, I was writing about Heart Maps!  Well.  December Happened.  This means Lots of work on Christmas Pageant.  Lots of learning and community is built during that time, but when you are back in the classroom, there's a shift.  You have to be so purposeful in what you are asking kids to do.  This includes reading, writing, math, the whole idea of your classroom.  

So, when this blog post from Ruth Ayres showed up, I was so relieved!  It saved Writer's Workshop in December in my classroom.  A pause.  This doesn't mean that we didn't write.  We just paused on the topics of revision, editing, readability, etc.  We only wrote.  I asked for the kids to think about only writing when it was time to do so, and that was pretty much it.  

But, as December went on, some bumps kept popping up.  How was I going to honor my students, and yet maintain some sense of writing as we got closer to Christmas break?

Enter Heart Maps.

Once upon a time, I won this book in a #g2Great chat.  I have perused it.  I have tried some out on my own.
I just jumped in and shared the idea with my First Graders.

It was awesome.

These Heart Maps ask kids to map about what is important to them.  So-they did.  Many kids made more than one over these past few days.  And for some kids, it resulted in journal entries and writing.  For other kids, it gave them the chance to just reflect on what was important to them.  

As we move into January, I'm excited to see how they respond to Reader's Heart Maps.  I'll plan to use them in Nonfiction as well.  And of course with Poetry and Visualization.  There are guidelines for all of these topics in Georgia Heard's book.  

So, stay tuned.  There could be parts 3, 4, and 5.  This is developing into a highly useful strategy in my classroom.  

Have you used Heart Maps in your Writer's Workshop?


Monday, December 19, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Gift Edition.

Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who link up.

Hey Friends, My Family?  We are nerds to the core.  Books all around for everyone.  

It's a tradition in our household to celebrate Advent and stop and reflect each week on what this means.  We also open a present or two.  Nothing fancy.  Clothes.  Fun.  Faith.  And Books.  Lots of books.  

Here's a snapshot of what we are giving and have received in books this year.  A span of ages and interests here:

Here's what was gifted to me:
A quick honest reaction?  I'm not enjoying this book at all.  I asked for the book.  I'll finish it.  But the short story is this did not resonate with me.  At all.  I'm a little angry at this book actually.  Does this happen to anyone else when they read?  It's a blog post for another day...

I'm loving this cookbook.  I love her stories and her voice.  I also learned she has a blog.  It's on my list of things to check out over Christmas break.
This picture book is really about me.

For the Mr.:
Image result for the man in the high castle book
What's funny is we both said no books for each other.  That we had enough.  Yeah, right...

For All the kids of each Shape and Size:








Does your family do books as gifts?  What are you giving/receiving this year?


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Celebrate! Christmas with the Cops...

Friends, You can celebrate too!  Link up at  I thank Ruth for sharing her space with us. 

Two weeks ago, dear friends, I wrote about this...

But our Friendship with the police department is just beginning.  

This past week, we had lunch with them at school.

And it was awesome.  

We served them lunch.

First graders told them a bunch of jokes in the way a first grader can.  

Everyone had a blast.  

I'm celebrating continued friendships in the midst of tragedies.  Our kids were still hugging them and offering condolences for their losses.  And telling them how awesome they were.  And taking over their hats and jackets.  What gracious officers.  

As I think about this, I'm praying and thinking about what else we can do for our friends.  This has turned into Service Learning at its most authentic.  What else can we do?  I'm celebrating the fact that we get to ask that!