Thursday, August 14, 2014

Storify. Learn it. Live it.

I'm always looking for new ways to get my kids excited to share their thinking.  Enter: the Twitter Talk.  How many of you have tried these with your kids, colleagues, or friends? We've been participating in quite a few twitter talks this week at Teachers College. I've used this concept with my kids before, and it's a great tool to get them engaged in a book talk!  Coolest thing ever......fairly simple concept.   Posing  questions to your readers, and collecting them in a central place by using a pre-decided upon hashtag.  GREAT for book talks! The moderator will ask the questions and finish with the #hashtag, and the participants can respond and follow with the same #hashtag.  TwitterTalks are definitely a topic for another post, BUT.............not this one.

Today, I'd like to share with you a rockin' new FREE website, Storify.
Simply put, it's a storyboarding platform.  Platform, you say?  Yeah, that's just a fancy way of saying a tool to do something.  The possibilities are endless for this "drag and drop" technology. First things first....go to and sign up for a free account.  (Quick and easy, just choose a username and password.)  Then you're ready to create!  
Wheels in my head are turning now!  I thought this would be a great tool to showcase all the great thinking in your twitter talks!  You can import tweets, facebook feeds, or picture files.
For importing tweet, all I did was choose the twitter icon on the right hand side of my dashboard.
Like magic, Storify will automatically prompt you to log in, and then all you have to do is search a #hashtag or an account you want to use as your story objects.  I chose my twitter feed, so I typed @MissCurtis5th in the search box.  Then, just "drag and drop"  whichever tweets you'd like to be a part of your storyboard.  
When you're satisfied with the length of your slideshow (I used all the tweets from my time @TeachersCollege) choose the "Publish" button in the top-middle of your dashboard.  
The only other thing you need to do is add a headline to describe your Storify board. Unfortunately, I was not too witty at midnight (when I was putting this together.)   
Now I need to publish.  Once again, Storify will magically prompt you to publish your awesomeness.  Just click the blue button & you're set! 
All that's left is to decide how to share your storyboard.  You could embed it in your website (yay!) or share it on Facebook or Twitter.  You are also now the proud owner of a unique web address to easily share with friends, if neither of the first choices interest you.  
Awesome tip: If you share it on twitter, it appears as a slideshow. I love technology!!

Storify.  Great free resource to DOCUMENT your Twitter talks, or anything really.  Learn it, live it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

NonFiction shouldn't be a four-letter word in your classroom

Week 2 Here at Teacher's College is all about Reading.  #Favorite

Today we spent our time working with a subject that scares the bejeesus outta me....NON-FICTION! *If you read all the way to the end...I'm sharing some great FREE online resources!

I know what you're thinking, snooze-fest. BUT.....I now realize what a powerful tool this type of writing can be.  Not only can it be high-interest (hello, SHARK WEEK!)
#ForReal  The cross-curricular connections are endless.  What a novel idea, teaching reading while we're in the middle of science? Social studies? 

Idea #1: Read the best parts of several non-fiction texts. 

This is something I've always struggled with.  Instead of drudging through an entire text, why not pick the best examples of the information you're trying to access?  Maybe that author didn't hit all the points you want to make....find another book!  Even better, find a different format to share (maybe an article.) 

Idea #2: Give them artifacts to use while you read.  

A must if you're having them take notes.  Give them a word bank of important academic vocabulary they'll hear in the text.  A map of Africa when reading about Gorillas.  Even better, expect them to interact with those artifacts.  USE that word bank to add to your turn & talk conversations.  Show me on the map where you think the Western Lowland Gorilla might live....why do you think that? 

Idea #3: Give them a strategy to take notes

Guilty!  Are your kids just copying information and regurgitating facts?  Teach them how to dive into that text, find information, and assimilate those facts in a new way.  They need to decide how to organize the information, and what makes the most sense to them.  

Idea #4: Take something unknown and attach it to something known

#CHALLENGE  This is my absolute favorite idea.  If they truly understand the new information, they should be able to flip through their notebook and compare these ideas.  Higher level thinking!!!  
This connects to.....
This fits with......
I love this type of connection!  This is a huge TEK for us in Texas, and I'm sure the Common Core is all over this too.  

Here are some great places to find kid friendly articles: 

News-o-matic : an app with daily news articles for kids...LOVE IT!! : check here to find new articles every day, they even offer articles on different reading levels, and checks for understanding on some!  : This is actually the Smithsonian for kids, lots of great articles, sorted by age level.  

In closing, I am so excited to really start pushing my teaching forward with non-fiction texts.  They're a great way to incorporate and reinforce the habits of good readers all day in any subject.  The possibilities are endless!  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Celebrations #TCRWP

Today wrapped up my week at Teacher's College, thanks to the awesome folks at Fund for Teachers!
I've met authors, teachers, leaders, and most importantly...people who are passionate about what they do! It's intoxicating, and I am so pumped to #getthispartystarted  next year!  

In processing all I learned this week, I think I'm going to share a few pieces at a time.  Today, we were wrapping everything up, and at the end of every writing unit you should include some sort of celebration.  It's an accomplishment to finish a piece of work....celebrate it, get your kids excited & proud about all their hard work. 
There are lots of ways to do this.  Cornelius Minor, @MisterMinor, shared a few ways on one of my first days here. One of my faves were business cards!  Business cards?  Well, after they finish 3 or so pieces of work, they are officially a writer. Give them some business cards that express that, they can hand them out to their friends, the cute girl down the street, and family.  Let them brag a little about what they've been doing in school!  I found some great free templates online that work with the cheap Avery labels template (5376) cheap and easy!  Click the pic to go to the website & download your own! Add any info you'd like...I recommend their name, WRITER, and the address to the blog where you can find their work.
He also had some other unique ideas in getting their work out there.  Find out where the people in the community go.  Talk to the people in those places.  @MisterMinor used the examples the laundromat, doctor's offices, or the local Target! He actually has a board outside their nearest Target, next to the ads, where he can post their finished writing pieces for reading. It seems like a strange notion, but putting their work out into the world is a powerful tool to make them realize how important their thoughts & ideas really are!  

Celena Larkey , @celenula, adds that we should celebrate not only the piece, but also the writer AND the process. Give them time to reflect.  Reflection can only lead to growth as a writer.  Feedback is also an important part of the process. *Before you have them give feedback, make sure you've taught them about constructive criticism & how they should be looking for good things too! Then there's the fun!  Have the celebration match the writing.  Informational writing?  Have a how-to fair!  Let them read their pieces and demonstrate what they were writing about.  The possibilities are limitless.  LET THEM COME UP WITH UNIQUE IDEAS TO CELEBRATE!! (I'm not talking cupcakes and coke)
Kids are way more creative than we are at times, so poll the peanut gallery & see what they come up with.

Sorry, that was a long post.  There's so much more to share, but I'll leave with this thought.  In order to become stronger writers with clear voices, kids need to work that writing muscle.  The only way to get them writing is to motivate them.  Pride in their work is the best motivation you can offer.  


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Teacher's College @ Columbia University Week 1

This week has been both overwhelming and inspiring.  When I say overwhelming, I'm referencing the enormous amount of information, methodology, rationale, and passion for teaching  that has been shared with me this week.  AND it's not even over yet!!

I started my Fund for Teachers journey this week in New York City.  We have been attending Columbia University's Writing Project headed by Lucy Calkins.  It is obvious to me the #passion for teaching that everyone involved with this organization shares. I have had one amazing speaker after another, and this has been one of the most meaningful trainings I have ever attended in my 15 years of teaching.

The keynotes. #Amazeballs  That's the only appropriate word I can attach to the speakers and their messages this week.  We started with Lucy Calkins welcoming us, and sharing some stories of the beginnings of the projects, successes, and of course my new favorite word....#shittycasual .  So many other inspiring speakers, one of my favorite being Lester Laminak.  He reinforced the teaching we'd had all day, talking to us about the power of story telling.  Writing really gives kids a voice, and gives them a productive way to express themselves. Mr. Laminak's explanation was clearly more eloquent than I could ever be; made even more endearing to me with his thick Southern drawl.
by Lester Laminak

Today, I heard Seymour Simon talk extensively about non-fiction writing, and Carl Anderson gave us some new insights on mentor texts.  I had an #aha moment when he basically told us mentor texts should be quality, not quantity.  I've always used this technique, but I'd have a different text for each skill or move to be taught.  By using all those different books, the kids will focus on the read, instead of the outstanding writing you want them to soak in.  This whole week has basically been filled with these mini-epiphanies!

The classes. I haven't even touched on all we've learned in the classes.  I'm so thankful to be in a large group lecture and small group with @colleen_cruz .  #myhero  She's so knowledgeable about the writing project, and the best part...........she's hilarious!  I'm ok with being up at the butt-crack of dawn on  my summer vacation when I am starting the day listening to her!

More about my week tomorrow, but now....the fun random moments of the day.  We took th train down Broadway to get some coffee at Dean & Deluca (WHY does Houston not have these?!) My favorite, we hit the Scholastic Bookstore.  I seriously was like a fat kid in a candy store.  I controlled myself, when my person wanted nothing more than to buy every book in that store.  When I checked out, I was chatting up the cashier & she ended up giving me a 25% teacher discount!!  #winning  We wove our way through Little Italy, and ended up in Chinatown.  SoupDumplings.  Have you had these?!  Like a party in yo mouth!

That's all for tonight....waking up early to get a good spot for the morning keynote!!!


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Back to School Sale at TpT!!

It's that time of year again......Back to School at Teachers Pay Teachers!!!  Have you shopped yet?
Make sure you use the code to get an additional 20% off all your purchases.  I know I have burned up my Paypal shopping, but here is my absolute favorite purchase so far.  (I mean, I still have 13 hours left to shop)
I am spending this week at Columbia University, attending a Writer's Workshop training. So....I love Jen Bengel's units. I gots me one!!
I know I want to start the year off with narrative of some, this is perfect!  Her units of study are great.  They are detailed and she explains everything so well.  Pretty pumped to start using this in just a few weeks.  eek! 
What about you?  What have you bought so far?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

August currently

It's that time again.....I'm linking up with Farley for another edition of currently! This post is gonna be short, because I'm in NYC & I neeeeeeeeeed to get off of my computer and explore!  So, here goes....
Let me summarize:  I'm in New York for these next 2 weeks, thanks to a grant from Fund for Teachers...YAY! 
My colleague and I will be here attending the Columbia University Teachers College, learning all the ins and outs of Readers & Writers workshop.  I am #pumped ! Monday can not come soon enough. 
BUT our weekend is still upon us, so I must go out and enjoy this amazing city!  Coffee is first on my list, and shouldn't be hard to come by.  
These are the last 2 weeks of my summer, and I'm determined to enjoy all 14 days of it!!!!!!!


New York City....Here we come!!!!

we left for our Fund for Teachers adventure early this morning!  The flight in was fairly uneventful, short of a few colorful characters met along the way.  There are stories to be told, but you'll have to find me in person to hear those ;)

We made it into Newark late afternoon; our flight even arrived AHEAD of schedule!  I totally played up my bum knee and caught us a ride on the golf cart. The driver. Oh, the driver.  His cart was not equipped with a horn of any kind, so......he used his mouth-hole to make beeping noises! This lovely shot is him flailing his arms, as he  DIY-ed a horn.
he insisted I sit up front with him. joy.

After a short subway ride, (see mystery stain pic;) we made it to our hotel.  Let's play a little game, what do you think it might be?  And go...........

I won't name the hotel we're at, but it is pretty awesome.  The rooms are small, as is standard in New York, but they are modern and we are in a great location!

Just a block away from Broadway....I'm reminded of all the shows we need to see while we're here!  Times Square is just a block or so, and that's where we caught the train to the Flatiron district for dinner.

Eataly was where we landed.  This is a Mario Batali project, and is pretty much an amusement park for foodies.  It's a giant market filled with all sorts of italian style foods.  Sprinkled around inside are different won't find anything here that won't knock your socks off!  We hit 2 places inside--the Piazza (the butcher shop restaurant) and the Pizza and Pasta eatery.
La Piazza butcher counter

 We tried the "venetain bites" at the Piazza, which are 3 different types of crostini.  I don't remember anything about them, short of the homemade ricotta. O.M.G.  I am seriously #obsessed with this stuff now!  To die for!!!
crostini...LOOK at that ricotta!!

Then, we got the text our table was ready at the Pizza & Pasta!  This meal was totally worth. the. wait.   Each one of us picked an entree, and we just shared family style: GREAT idea.  I got a ravioli filled with homade RICOTTA (#obsessed) and spring pea puree.
Lara had the lasanga.  This was a veggie version...made with a bechamel, pesto, and green beans!
And then, there was the show-stopper.....Renita's calzone.  NOM.  This bad boy is stuffed with prosciutto, homemade RICOTTA, mozzarella, and a tomato sauce.  
Are we done yet?  We're no quitters!!  Our last stop was the chocolate counter and cappuccino bar.  Chocolate.  Enough said.  And coffee.  Perfection. 
We took our sweets and coffee over to Madison Square Park and did a lil people watching, and proceeded to chat the night away!  

So, good night New York....we're going to be real good friends!