Tuesday, April 28, 2015

3 Thoughts on a Tuesday.


Two Writing Teachers host Slice of Life on their blog.  Join us and link up too!

This morning, I set off for a run.  I'm getting my groove back.  Even thinking about a 1/2 in the fall.  I'm rounding the corner, I'm in my groove.  I see him.
He's 77.  He waves and calls, "Hello!"  I wave back, and he continues to ask me questions.
Without even thinking, I stop and take out my headphone.  (Only one.)  And here's what I learn:
He's trying to master the geography of our state.  He thinks it's great politicians come here.  He values manners, and thinks my family is brave.  We've been invited to the street party on August 29th at 4:45.
I made it a total of 1.5 miles.  Who cares?  Not me.  The miles will be there tomorrow.  I have to believe that it's time for us--all of us to lean in and know our neighbors.  Really know them.

Today at school, like an angel from above, a former student shows up with tiny chocolate cupcakes at the end of the day.  (Because Mrs. Limback needed a little chocolate.)
Me:  Is it your birthday?  Are you 9?
Kid:  Yep.  9.
Me:  Gosh.  When did that happen?!
Kid:  (Shoots me funny look).  Well...today...
Well played Third Grader...well played...

It's my Mr.'s birthday today.  The note that Li'l T write to his dad goes like this:
Dear Daddy-You are almost 40.  You are growing up so fast. xoxoxoxo, Lil' T.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Celebrating Teachers and Possibilities.

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

So earlier this week, my dear friend Tia let me post some ramblings on her blog on the state of education and a new position for me after almost 15 years in the place I've been now.  They are here.  (Also, she is great storyteller.  You should spend some time there and linger a bit on her blog.)  I'm working through the bittersweet this morning...I'm leaving some amazing, amazing teachers.  Yet, there are possibilities in store for me that are exciting too.  This is my attempt to celebrate both.  

I've been thinking a lot about teachers and education.  In drawing inspiration from Ruth's format, a list of what I'm celebrating about teachers and possibilities this morning.  

1.  Teachers always make the best of what they are given.  They create and innovate around any challenge brought upon them.  

2.  The possibility that I can reflect and return to my roots about assessment and instruction.  This spring I'm reading these two titles again to start that reflection:


3.   Teachers who are there for any student, any time.  The social-emotional support that they provide for students impacts kids in ways that we can't even imagine.  

4.  The possibility of time.  In working with a framework of a schedule, I'll be allowed to determine how we spend that time each day at school.  I'm celebrating and imagining an unhurried schedule.  

5.  Teachers who are committed to seeing the best in kids, even when others can't.  Developing and working on leadership for kids when you could be doing something else.  Seeing the best in kids and what's good for kids.  

6.  The possibility of teaching kids about servanthood and community service, being able to participate in that during the school day.  

7.  Teachers who dream, worry, and prepare for their kids constantly.  Breakfast foods, snacks, food bags, books, coats, hats, gloves, the list could go on.  I've watched countless teachers just purchase these things for student because they needed them. 

8.  The possibility of time and choice for students and teachers. 

9.  Teachers who are brilliant.  They read, study, and read some more, just to improve their practice.  

10.  The possibility that our Great State will realize that all kids deserve the teachers and possibilities that are listed here.  

There is much to celebrate in possibilities and education.  


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

An App, Some Screen Time, and Digital Citizenship


Two Writing Teachers host Slice of Life on their blog.  Join us and link up too!

It was raining.  Again.  
"Mom!  Can we use the iPad?"  

I said yes, and proceeded with my business as usual.
But out of the corner of my eye, I could see the brothers gathered together.  Like something good was going on.  Too Good.

If my boys are anything, it's honest.  :)  The looks on their faces told me enough.

As I take the iPad from them, I see they are using phone4kids.  It mimics texting, calling, drawing.

The "texting" part of the app looks like this:

This is where the story picks up again.  My two sons are passing messages back and forth like this: 

"Hey tootface"

"Butt fart."


"You are poop."


After I moved past my "Really?!?!?" moment as a mother, I went straight into digital citizenship mode.  If it's not nice, if it's not telling your story (insert a little snark about the bathroom), if it's not necessary, don't say it!  

I couldn't help it.  At 10 and 6, we are just a few short years away from being on social media.  Real Social media.  Clearly we have more work to do as a family.  And we will keep doing that work.  

But wow!  Did my brain start moving about the implications for the classroom.  I know many of you are already rock stars in the area of teaching digital citizenship and integrating technology with backchannels, Padlets, etc.  I've learned a lot this year, but I'm still learning...

So, What if?  What if we teach kids to text properly using such an app?  As students are reading to someone, they could also be "texting" thoughts to each other about the reading.  What a safe environment to learn in.   

It's late, my brain is shutting down. :)   But when you look at this from a classroom perspective, what do you see?  

I'm going to keep mulling this one.  


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Celebrate! Peace in the Congregating.

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

If you go back to Ruth's post, you'll find these words, "Wherever I plant myself to write, they congregate."  

This morning, last night, even earlier this week I was just praying.  Praying for a quiet moment.  One where I didn't feel like I had to be "on."  One where I didn't even have to form words.  Just quiet.  (With a coffee or tea too of course.)

So last night I go to bed just empty.  No more requests, no more questions, no more statements from people who don't really know.  I'm desperate for the quiet and freedom that comes from just getting to sit and write.  Or run.  Or drink coffee.  

This is what I changed my Facebook profile picture to as an expression of that:

Humorous?  Yes.  True?  Indeed.  

When I woke up this morning, I was desperate for a quiet morning routine.  Coffee.  Running.  Writing.  All the good things.  

A kid was up when I rolled downstairs, with the TV on watching cartoons that make my skin jumpy. (A blog post on how I despise Pokemon?  Coming right up!)   A second one appeared shortly afterward.  Followed by a house guest, and then my husband.  

I'm hesitant to tell you, my first thought.  It was this:  
Ugh. We are all in this living room together.  Get you away from me!

I leave for the kitchen, telling my husband I'm going to write for a bit.  

Sometimes, when I can't find the celebration, I just read first.  And Ruth's words have resonated with me.  

And now I can celebrate:

While I was writing, this happened:

They congregated.  (The little one is trying to "toast his buns" by the way.  I'm just so proud.)

This blog post has taken twice as long to write.  I've joined in the giggles, the pouring of the milk, the chatting with my Mr., another cup of coffee.  We've made plans for the day, and I see it now:

I celebrate the congregating.  



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Let's Chat About Math: When Choice Leads to Extension of Learning and Some Cool Ideas.

I don't have any graphics to lead with tonight.
I'm not linking up anywhere.

I just watched something amazing happen today.  And I had to write about it!

Today in math, we were explored finding landmarks with various sets of data.  We've also been exploring the number grid at length and 2 digit addition and subtraction.

I've blogged about choice in math here.
It's been a process.  Sometimes I've loved having a choice board in math and all the math angels were singing and all was right in the world.  If we're being honest, sometimes I wanted to just teach what was on the page in the manual and play it safe.  But in my heart of hearts, I knew the kids deserved better.  So I pressed on and asked for more.  Even when it's messy.  Even when it's hard.

So, today brought some confirmation of what I had been working for.  I happened to be catching up on a lesson, and had some time to just observe.  Here's what I saw:

Above:  Our original conversation.  Creating a bar graph.  Finding Landmarks.  

This friend is making a new graph.  He wanted desperately to use his full name instead of a nickname.  Once he learned how to spell it, he knew that using his full name would change our landmarks.  So he's creating a new graph and will work on finding the new landmarks.  

These 3 friends?  They caught onto a math activity I assigned a couple of days ago.  I asked them to count by 10s starting with 7.  It was meant to be a 5-7 minute activity.  They are well into the thousands at this point.  They aren't into writing on a number scroll (numbers by 1) so much, but they are definitely into counting by 10s, and working to see how high they can count this way.  One friend set a goal of 10,000.  

These are all activities designed by Tiny Mathematicians who need extension.  None of these activities were on my choice board.  I met with this group yesterday.  We had a lesson on rounding.  It was great.  But the work they design for themselves is amazing.  In #1stchat on Sunday night on Twitter, Kathy Sather said it best.  The kids have "an affection for math."  Isn't that the best visual of math you've ever had?!?!  

The message here?  Try some choice.  Trust the students.  It's amazing what they will show you if you let them.  This is so new for me.  I always dictated the rotations and activities.  It was fine.  It was terrifying to jump in and let the kids choose.  But I would never go back at this point.  Is it loud?  Sometimes.  Is it messy?  Usually.  

(Also, I sense a blog mini-series coming up.  What about students who need readiness activities?  What about kids who need core instruction?  Does this really work?!?!)  

What is going well for you in math?

Stay tuned Friends.  Have a great week.  


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Celebrate #sol15!

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

It was not quite a month ago when I decided I would plunge into Classroom Slicing!  

I was peeking at my first blog post on Slicing with Firsties.  

Today I celebrate my Tiny Slicers, as I started to call them.  
There ended up being about 17 of them.  That is almost 70% of my class!  

Slicing was available everyday.  Some kids chose to simply manage it at home, and had the supports to do that.  Awesome.  

Some kids needed to write at school.  So they did.  My Literacy block is designed for lots of choice. (Giving choice has been a process for me...another blog post for another day.)  When it was time to work, Slicing was always a choice.  

There was a balance of blogging and handwriting.  I honored this, because I wanted the focus to be on telling the story!  And they did.  

We ate lunch once a week.  Toward the end, based on schedules and a few unplanned absences, it was sometimes on Friday.  This was one of my favorite times of the week.  I tried to tweet pictures of them when they were working through lunch.  I didn't always link up their blog posts to honor the privacy of some students that need it.  

Also, in this lunchtime, I would have used it to look at more mentor pieces of writing through blogs and tweets.  (A piece for next year.)  

Did we celebrate?!?!  Of course we did!  I debated this a bit. But I asked the kids to step out and try something new.  I was trying something new.  I wanted it to be as positive as I could make it.  

3 kids wrote all 31 days.  We celebrated with pizza lunch and "treat bags."  
Treat bags = a tiny notebook, pen, pencil.  :)  Writing tools of course.

14 of my kids wrote on average 20 extra pieces of writing!  We celebrated too with a picnic lunch and more treat bags.  (tiny notebook, pen, pencil.)

What about my non-Slicers?
I really believe that it's okay that not everyone participated.  Writing is a hard process when you are emerging into literacy.  When it came up in conversation (i.e. "I'm not slicing.  I want to go to recess.")  I would always reassure them that it was okay.  At the beginning, I would offer the invitation to try Slicing. Then I would compliment them on something they were working on in Writer's Workshop.  Every time.  

Next year?
I will try again.  I will work on connecting more digitally.  But consider Mrs. Limback's class all in for next year!  


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Friendly Duel: On Baseball.


Greg Armamentos introduced me to the wonderful world of Duet and Duel writing.  Man has it been fun!  (He's also participating in an A to Z blogging challenge--head on over and check it out!) Also: It's great to see you again Slicers!  Happy April!  

Play Ball!

It has been a long, cold hibernation waiting for baseball to begin anew. Today, our teams christen a new season, and hopefully one that brings competition, intrigue, and a postseason run to delight the fans. Kendra and I are taking a few moments to discuss the friendly rivalry of our favorite teams, as the White Sox and Royals open the season. Chicago and Kansas City have been rivals since the Royals entered the league as an expansion team in 1969.
Kendra:  Let’s be clear. 
I am a Royals’ Fan.  I’m my Husband’s Girl.  He brings me Diet Dr. Pepper in the middle of the day, I cheer on the Royals by his side.  He’s on the closing below, because about ½ these words are his.  All last fall, whenever the family would depart from each other, “Be Royal!” was the rally cry.  It’s a family trait really. 
Baseball through a Mama’s eyes is something special.  Watching Mr. share this love of baseball with our two sons has been nothing short of awesome.  So, it’s a sentimental tribute to the Royals.  The best team in Baseball.

1: Which Team has the Best Stadium?
Sox: Chicago's stadium, known as "The Cell" has countless amenities, and has been in a continual renovation since it opened in 1991. Concession food is varied and delicious. There is an open air shower for fans on the outfield concourse. Statues of White Sox heroes adorn the center field concourse. I love The Cell, but I'll concede this one without a fight. While I've haven't yet visited Kauffman Stadium yet, it has always been one considered one of the most beautiful in the game. With it's recent overhaul, it is even more gorgeous.

Royals:  Oh Kauffman stadium.   All I know is there is a fountain. 
And Sluggerrr…the mascot.  I mean, you must be Royal if they spell your name that way!  I kind of want to be Sluggerrr. 
Beautiful.  The fountains in the outfield.  Did we mention beautiful fountains? 

2: Which Team has the Richest History?
Sox: While neither team can match the championship echelon of the Yankees, both teams have their own glorious stories embedded in team lore. The Chisox have tasted the champion's cup three times, including the recent title in 2005. They won the first game ever played by an American League team, defeating the Indians in 1901. There are 15 members of Baseball's Hall of Fame, including Nellie Fox and Frank Thomas.

Royals: The Mid 70s to mid-90s was the Class of American league. 
There’s the time that the Limback’s traveled to see KC play in the Metrodome back when it was the Metrodome.  A woman actually approached Papa and asked him if he was George Brett’s brother. 
Then there was the World Series in 85-Mr. remembers piano lessons during the playoffs and rushing out to see them win the playoffs and go to World Series.  He was about 10 at the time.  He remembers a call being blown in the 6th game-that umpire was from his stomping grounds.  In the last game, there is the memory of watching the Cardinals implode and the Royals coming back to win the Series. 

3: Favorite Players in Team History.
Greg: Countless players have worn the White Sox jersey over the years, winning over fans by their excellence on the field, as well as off of it. Some were leaders on winning teams, and some toiled with obscure teams. Ron Kittle was AL Rookie of the Year in 1983, quickly wining over the team's fan base. Joe Crede put together a magical postseason in 1985 that propelled the Sox to a title. Wilbur Wood, was a multiple 20-game winner, capable of starting both games of a double-header. Some players' excellence demanded that you stop and watch their every at-bat, such as Frank Thomas, Dick Allen, and now Jose Abreu. Some players combined excellence on defense as well as offense, like Robin Ventura, Carlton Fisk, and Adam Eaton. Throughout their history, they have had pitchers who possessed a filthy repertoire, such as Mark Buehrle, Jack McDowell, Rich Gossage, Chris Sale, and Ted Lyns.

Kendra:  Billy Butler.  There is nothing funnier than your two younger sons yelling “Billy Butler” at the top of their lungs.  And a husband who may or may not have kept yelling “Country Breakfast!” when he was at bat.  When he left last summer, there was a slight period of mourning in this household.

Alex Gordon.  The triple at the end of the World Series game in 2014 sent us all into a tailspin.  He handled this with such awesomeness.  I predict the “hustle discussion” isn’t even going to be on the radar this year.  Big A has declared him his favorite player, because “he’s in left field like me most of the time and he’s really good.”  (It’s okay, I held my tongue.)    

4: Favorite Personal Fan Memories.
Greg: I have been to numerous games over the years, and witnessed a variety of magical moments. I witnessed a brawl against the Brewers when our manager, Tony LaRussa broke his arm in the fight. I witnessed many extra-inning victories, and near no-hitters. My all-time favorite moment was watching Bo Jackson seal our trip to the 1993 playoffs with a tape measure home run that began resembling a routine fly ball.

Kendra:  In 2014, it was game 7 of the World Series.  The World Series.  I was wanting to go to bed so badly.  I should have sent my 10 year old to bed.  It was 10:00 but I couldn't.  He and his dad were having a Father-Son moment.  Then Alex Gordon his a triple.  And there was the “hustle” conversation.  This is all taking place while my son and my husband are standing up in the middle of the living room hanging onto each other with all their might.  There was jumping, there was wishing with all their might.  There wasn't a world series. 

5: Rival Players Most Admired.
Greg: The Royals have had many colorful players over the years. I loved the defense and grit of Cookie Rojas and Freddy Patek. I trembled when Big John Mayberry came up to the dish. I cringed when we had to face Bret Saberhagen, or John Quisenberry. Billy Butller was always clutch against us, but nobody caused greater fear and admiration that George Brett (whose brother Ken pitched for the Pale Hose in the late 70's). Brett was one of the greatest players of all time, and rightfully has served as the face of the franchise.

Kendra:  Paul Konerko; a long time first baseman.  He’s a great hitter, He’s a class act.  Such great sportsmanship to cheer on the Royals a bit last fall. 
Frank Thomas; a Hall of fame first baseman, A great designated hitter, a really good designated hitter.    

6: Predictions for 2015.

Greg: As last season drew to a close, our beloved Paul Konerko congratulated the Royals on making it to the postseason, and then encouraged them to make our division proud. Kansas City lived up to that challenge in spades. Their postseason run was glorious, and they made the game fun to watch with the defensive wizardry and their shut-down bullpen. This year, their starting rotation isn't quite as deep, and their offense still has noticeable holes. While they will fight and scrap with their typical grit and class, last year's summit won't be relived. I believe the White Sox will win 87 games, and potentially earn a Wild Card berth, while KC will find their way to 83 victories, just short of the postseason.

Kendra: The White Sox?  While I know they are on the up and up, I predict a middle of the pack finish.  Maybe a wildcard spot in the playoffs?  In the spirit of sportsmanship, I’ll keep my fingers crossed. 
For my Royals?  A World Series naturally.  It’s a bold prediction.  I think this team has heart.  A bullpen that’s ready.  Players that are ready to hit.  It might be bumpy along the way, but I think it can happen. 
It’s Mike Moustakas that will break out this year.  He has a ton of potential.  I (Kendra thinks that this is his year to shine!)  Now pass me a Moose, I’ll wave it proudly. 
Go Royals.  

Kendra (And Mr. too!)