Thursday, February 20, 2014

A #nerdlution update

So, last week, I didn't blog about my #nerdlution work.  Annie and I were working on our 100th Blog Post!  It was fun to reflect and think about how we've grown as writers.  (And friends.)  

Writing Notes of Encouragement

I've written these this week.  Some interesting responses.  You see, when I set out to do this, unless you read this blog, you don't know I'm doing it.  :)  So there were a few interesting conversations this week.  One involved my reasons/intentions.  Instead of lauding #nerdlution, Ijust smiled and chatted a bit about the goal I set for myself.  In another situation, the note that I wrote wasn't in the plan.  :)  My husband and I had the opportunity to write a reflection for some people who are caring for one of our kiddos.  I know that some other people also responded, and chose to not be thankful and supportive for the work taking place.  We agreed not to do this, and instead chose to recognize the hard work taking place.  I know the teacher was grateful for the support.  Just a few examples of responses this week.  I don't know that I have any thoughts on this.  

50 bags in 50 days

You know, it's been easy to go through a space in the house and clean it out.  I completely went through our bedroom and organized a quiet study space for me.  Yes, I have two.  One downstairs for planning, blogging, email, etc. (So I can see and chat with my family when I'm working.)  One upstairs for studying coursework without interruption.  The one upstairs actually filled 3 bags at once!  (And I also organized the cords for our technology a bit.  Not filling a bag, but pretty cool.)  I also donated one of my bags this week. I'm hoping to do more donating as I continue to work.   

This has been a good goal.  As Spring break approaches, I'm not so worried about cleaning out the entire house.  This goal has lead me though to revisit our "backpack routine."  Between mail and the boys' work, there are some spaces that I should clean up 1-2 times a day.  Ugh.  Last night, I think I figured out a routine that might work.  All 3 of us sat down at the table.  Li'l T grabbed the cookies and there was homework, and a sweep of the backpacks.  Then I was able to move on with my night, knowing it was done.  Does anyone have a good routine for this?  

Hopefully your #nerdlution goals are going well!  Happy Thursday!


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My #nf10for10 : In my House and In my Classroom (Or Accessible and Engaging!)


As I was considering nonfiction that I love, I had to take a step back.  I read a lot of nonfiction, and put a lot of it out, but what nonfiction do I consider awesome?  So I did some looking at what we have at home for the 2 boys, and what I keep in my classroom for my 26 students.  (All these kids I love and adore!  I want the best for them!)  These are the books that you will find in both my home and my classroom:

The text features in this book are accessible and engaging.  

I felt like I was cheating adding a board book.  It has always been one of my favorites because from the beginning Smithsonian is using authentic vocabulary and amazing photographs for even the tiniest of readers.  

This is from a guided reading series by Scholastic called Guided Science Readers. For my earliest readers, having nonfiction that they are interested in and can read is motivating and a great way to build conversation.  

This Pebble series of books on ocean life are just one example of a topic covered by this series. 

Seymour Simon.  That is all.  

Again, this series by Scholastic is pretty amazing.  The authentic vocabulary helps both emerging readers and readers who are also developing English as a language.  

More National Geographic is coming in this post.  The "Little Kids" series is engaging enough that even my 9 year old will still pick them up and read them.  
When my 9 year old found out what I was doing, he ran to his room and got this book.  "My favorite part is when they award the medal to the angriest bird."  

I adore this series as well.  The topics are amazing and high-interest.  Li'l T isn't a reluctant reader, but definitely won't read something he's not interested in.  This mindset is in my classroom as well, and this series allows me to put high interest books in the hands of readers with discerning taste.
A brilliant book that gets picked up over and over again!

As I look  back on this post, I clearly love engaging and accessible nonfiction. :)   At first I was going to rewrite, but left it, because it's true.  I love it when a first grader (or one of my own children) reads the text and unlocks the meaning and more questions on a topic.  That is just magical, and some of my favorite conversations to have.  

Thanks so much to Julie BalenCathy Mere, and Mandy Roebuck for hosting this event.  I'm looking forward to looking at everyone's lists!  


#nf10for10: Girl Power Edition

Thanks to Cathy, Mandy, and Julie for hosting this Nonfiction 10 for 10 Event (#nf10for10)!  I have been trying to read down by TBR list (plus the extras I discover at the library while retrieving books from said list) by genre...all the concept/alphabet books, all the poetry books, and so on.  When I first began working on picture book biographies, I noticed that I checked out a lot of books about dead presidents.  Admittedly, I have been fascinated by JFK since 7th grade, but I was surprised by this trend in my reading.  Therefore I made a concerted effort to read more picture book biographies about women.  This is especially important to me as Little C's -- and, for that matter, Big B's -- mom.  Filling this reading gap confirmed what I already suspected...girls rock!  And there are a lot of awesome books that celebrate this!

Here is my ever-growing list of favorite picture book biographies that celebrate Girl Power.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel

Here Come the Girl Scouts!: The Amazing All-True Story of Juliette 'Daisy' Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure by Shana Corey

Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children by Jan Pinborough

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford

Players in Pigtails by Shana Corey

Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg

The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins

Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Less Stone

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull

I'm anxious to see what others chose for their #nf10for10!


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Celebrating 100!

If you are a primary grade teacher like us, the 100th Day of School is a big deal.  Even though Annie has left the classroom, she still couldn't help but make Big B a sandwich shaped like the number 100 and dessert that looked like the number 100 (Swiss Roll and two Fudge Stripe cookies).  Something about the first triple-digit number makes it so important.  So last week, Kendra was typing a little blog about what she's been reading and noticed that we were getting close to our 100th post!  (We love that blogging means we're reading more too.) So Kendra immediately emailed Annie.  After an exchange of emails, and some funny text messages that really didn't have a thing to do with blogging, we knew a joint post was in order to share and celebrate a bit.

What started as an idea between three teachers-moms-friends has become a place to reflect upon literacy and learning in a new way.  We are grateful for the connections with other educators that the blog has helped to foster.  Our blog has helped us to develop a greater understanding of what it means to be a writer.  We have learned a lot during our first 99 posts.  The video, THE GAP, by Ira Glass (another Twitter find!) speaks to where we are at in our journey -- truly the beginning.

THE GAP by Ira Glass from frohlocke on Vimeo.

We know enough to know our writing isn't where we want it to be yet, especially if you consider Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000-Hour Rule.  (Note to Us: Need more time to become a better blogger.  Figure out a way to add more hours to the day.)  But we're finding our voice and growing.  Blogging requires you to put your thoughts and words out for public consumption.  This can at times be a doubt-inducing experience.  

So, thank you for letting us learn and join the conversation.

Our celebration will continue (because we love a good party) as we post 100 things about us...some school-related and some not.

Annie & Kendra

Monday, February 17, 2014

Lego Love

Big B's love of LEGOS has been previously documented here, but the new LEGO Movie reminded me of how popular all things LEGOS can be.  (My husband and Big B went this weekend.  They're still talking about how much they liked it.)

I was looking through the rather extensive collection of LEGO books in our house.  They are well-loved, since Big B has read them over and over again.

These two are the hands-down favorites.  I like how they encourage imaginative play.  Although we own numerous LEGO sets, free play is incredibly important.  Big B reports that he likes how they tell you about the builders and give you building ideas with different views.  Plus he enjoys the Quick Builds and Cool Brick features.

And, what Lego discussion would be complete without a Lego Star Wars book?  Big B actually read the Star Wars LEGO books before owning a single Star Wars LEGO or watching the Star Wars movies with us.  Big B's pick is LEGO Star Wars The Yoda Chronicles.  (Although he had a very hard time deciding between this and LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary.  The spine is falling apart on that one because he has studied it so much.)

This book is filled with lots of charts and graphics.  It is interesting to see Big B using these to gain more "information" about Star Wars.

A two-page spread.  Image from,,9781409333586,00.html 

We also own several of the LEGO early readers.  Nothing fancy here, but these books are certainly motivating and provided opportunities for Big B to read on his own successfully.  His favorite is Detective Chase McCain: Stop That Heist!

Happy reading (and building)!


Monday, February 10, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I'm joining Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?  

Front Cover

This is my current afternoon read-aloud with my first grade friends.  This is an awesome book about friends, second grade/elementary school, and the thoughts an 8 year old has.  My kids are connecting to it and loving it!  

Flora & Ulysses

After seeing this book a few places, and trying to get my hands on it, I'm going to have to order it! Trying to borrow it has been elusive, which is making me want to read it more!   Confession: I'm not reading this book yet, but am so excited to!  

Our Teacher-Librarian has been reading award winning books with us as a class lately, and my students are really into what awards a book has won!  (Another avenue for them to try new reading material.  Which was a goal of mine.)  This past week, we were introduced to an old favorite:

Henry and Mudge and the Great Grandpas

After hearing this title, I had several kids who were demanding to know where "Henry and Mudge was."  (Yes, was.)  They are moving in my classroom now, and they were scouring our school library on Friday to try and find them.  

Happy Reading! 

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Discover. Play. Build.

I'm linking with Ruth Ayres, and her weekly link up.  Read More about that here.  

Celebrate #nerdlution

This week continues to be a good #nerdlution week.  Our house is slowly becoming organized.  This week one of my own children noticed a section of the house!  "Mom!  We have so much tape!"  Each day I'm working on throwing away and cleaning out things that we don't need.  It's really starting to impact how we function.  I'm not a naturally organized person, so this is exciting for our family.

I'm also loving the connection with my staff this week at school.  I'm starting to look for people that I don't connect with daily and think about what I enjoy about them.  It's just been lovely to connect.  

Celebrate Good Meetings

There were a couple of good meetings this past week that I sat through.  I love exchanging ideas.  (I could do that all day long.)  I love having people around me that can make those ideas into something purposeful.  From these meetings I have some new ideas to try, and some new books to read.  (Another blog post for another day...)  

Celebrate Good Food

In my secret-dream-life-where-I-can-do-whatever-I-want-and-it's-magical, I drive a food truck and serve good food to lots of people.  In this magical place, it's not hard work, and my kitchen is always clean and organized and the kids love whatever I've made.  The unicorns fly, and I sing in tune along with the radio too.  

But seriously.  Dinner can be hard.  I do love to cook, but sometimes, you just need dinner done.  And it needs to be healthy and fairly quick.  So I made this gnocchi dish and this potato soup.  Both were pretty good, and both were eaten by the masses in this house.  The gnocchi dish actually saved me from calling my husband and asking for a drive through meal.  A celebration!  

Here's to more celebrations this week!  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

#nerdlution goals--an update

I really want to blog about how cold it is this morning.  But I won't.  Let's look at some #nerdlution progress shall we?

1.  Notes of encouragement to others each day.  

Last week, I had written to only my husband in the spirit of this great guy getting the best of my energy in something during the school year.  That was great, but I realized after watching some staff members and how awesome they are too, it was time to reach out!  So at the beginning of this week, I started writing to people in my school.  

An unintended consequence of this?  I had the opportunity to have some great conversations with people afterward and see some really big smiles.  How often do we rush through a conversation at school because there is so much to do?  (I'm guilty, and raising both hands at this one.) I started with some people that I consider myself closer to, and then now I'm searching and thinking of people that I'm not as connected to during the day.  

I've learned it doesn't take much.  It's also been such a blessing to think about the awesome people at our school, and what makes them awesome.  How many people in your life just need to hear a kind word or that they are doing a great job or what you enjoy about them?

2.  Dumping the clutter. (50 bags in 50 days)

It was a blessing (?!?!?!?!?) that someone in our family flooded a bathroom a bit this weekend.  This accelerated the throwing out of the clutter.  In this case, it was almost easier, because there wasn't a question of if we should save it or not.  This allowed me to get a jump start on our basement!  :)  

My husband noticed our "junk drawer" in the kitchen wasn't so junky any more.  And in my "study/working nest", I cleared out the drawers on the end of what used to be a dining room table.  Easy.  I'm starting to notice a small difference in the spaces in our house.  

I hope that you are finding success in your #nerdlution!  Stay with it, and look for the success, even if it's not perfect.  Have a great day!  


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Another round of winter weather had me thinking about what we do all season...

Another Midwest Winter day.  A fresh layer of snow, and dropping wind chills again.  It's the perfect sized hill for my own kids to sled on and build ramps on.  They can manage climbing it themselves.  :)

We don't really need outside recess.  These boys fashioned a basketball hoop out of construction paper, and made balls too!  They played a lovely game of knockout.  :)
My "nest" for the winter.  Lots of reading, writing, planning, and thinking done here.   
My study buddy.  Even when he's naughty, I'm still glad he's doing okay this winter. Love that face...(he was looking for food...still love him.)


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Slice of Life-The Late Winter "Magic" And How Pic Collage is Helping Us Summarize

Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Two Writing Teachers.

First of all, I apologize if this blog post gets lengthy.  Maybe this slice will be more of a wedge tonight.  :)

So, I'm watching my students today, and it hits me.  We are experiencing the 'magic' in my classroom right now.  You know, where you look up at them one day, and they are (consistently-not perfectly-which I'm cool with because we know it's a process) doing what you want them to do!  I set out the expectations for a project today, and was amazed at what they were accomplishing even when we had an early out due to some snow.  It was a good feeling. There was a calm buzz about my room.  (Until dismissal time anyway...) They are definitely working hard, and accomplishing a lot!  I hope you are seeing some of that magic too!  

During our literacy block we are working on the strategy of synthesizing.  This higher level thinking skill has proven to challenge my kids, and I knew I had to get them to internalize and engage with it.  The inspiration for this project came from this book.  Really.  Click on the link and go buy it.  I'll wait.  

Okay then, you are back!  After reading the section on summarizing, I was inspired to try a project of my own.  Beginning with our district materials, the students wrote some ideas for a summary of themselves as people using this graphic organizer:

The kids came up with some great responses.  My friend below in the glasses summarized his helpfulness.  He wrote some ideas about how he serves silverware to his family, listens to grown ups, and takes care of his glasses.  

With the iPads, the students learned how to use Pic Collage.  Then they were off to capture some pictures that helped show their 'Big Ideas.'  They could type their text into the collage and save it to the camera roll where I will upload them into a slide show to share.  

An example of a work in progress:  

This friend is summarizing what she does that is kind.  She is still working on text, but is on her way!

The verdict?  We aren't finished yet, but we are now engaged in the strategy of summarizing!  Today was the first day after a week of discussion that I felt like we were on our way!  


Monday, February 3, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I'm joining Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?  

I had a list of texts I wanted to share with you, and I still might next week.  In my classroom, the reading lounge is up and running.  There were new titles in the library, so I promptly grabbed borrowed as many of them as I could.  But we checked this book out from our public library and read it tonight as a family.  It's going to school.  

I'm in Love with this book!  The language is minimal.  The pictures really tell a story.  I read it with my 5 year old tonight.  It was so cool to watch him really take the dynamic in.  The premise of this story is the Bully is really just sad, and is acting out because he is so sad.  His friends don't allow him to act this way, and the ending is happy of course.  It's immediately going to school.  I can't wait to see what my little friends do with this book!

When the bathroom floods, someone has to get new books, right?  Long story short-yes, the bathroom flooded a bit on Saturday. One yoga mat, two throw rugs, and a pair of boots later, all is well, but one child was able to take a trip to the bookstore with his mama, since we didn't make it to the library.  When I told him at bedtime that I wanted to blog a bit about this book, first he made me promise to bring it right back, then he immediately launched into a retelling and became very animated.  He loves this series for a quick read.  I also learned tonight that he sleeps with a nest of books around his head.  :)  Love Him.  

Happy Monday and Happy Reading!