Monday, June 22, 2009

Dynamic Duos!

I promise that I have not forgotten to write about Teaching with Intention (WOW-LOVE IT!) or Ann Marie, Mary Lee, or Cathy-some wonderful and inspirational women! I will return to that VERY soon!

In the meantime...

This week I am attending a Reading Institute with a staff developer (Alison Porcelli) from the Teacher's College in Milan, Michigan. It is a great conference, very intense-as these things often can be. I am neglecting homework for tonight to do this quick post-oops! I have had this thought on my mind and I feel the need to express this to all of my new "blog" friends. Be warned...this is a sappy post :)!

I have been thinking a great deal about the influential people in my life, and there are many! As I have developed into the teacher and person that I am today and as I continue to grow and learn and reinvent myself I realize that I am not an island.

I am first a mother to three of the most adorable children you have encountered! I am so thankful to have a thoughtful, caring, and supportive husband. He is a wonderful dad to our children and a husband who listens, challenges, and encourages me daily.

I also have a "partner" at school. I currently job-share with an incredibly gifted teacher. We have been teaming for 2 years and we are about to enter our 3rd. I feel like we often share a brain. When we spent time together last summer, our husbands were a bit skeptical of the way we could finish sentences for one another. She has taught me so much as a teacher, friend, mother.... She is always open to trying new things and we are able to figure out these new ideas together. It is a beautiful partnership and one that I hope continues for many years.

This week I have the opportunity to share some time with my best friend. She is a teacher in a neighboring district. She quickly took me under her wing during my student teaching experience and has been a mentor and friend ever since. She is so knowledgeable and she is always learning more and more. She shares her thoughts and ideas with me encouraging me to take risks. When I was coming back to teaching after a year off, she was the first one I called. She taught me the workshop approach and set me on the path to creating workshops in our classroom. The following year, with our Writer's Workshops and Reader's Workshops up and running, we attended conferences together and talked non-stop all summer about the changes we would make the following year, planning units of study, management, environment, organization, etc... In our personal lives, she has been a shoulder to cry on during one of the darkest times in my life and she was there on some of the brightest days-visiting when each of my children was born. She is a friend like no other.

So when I think about influential pairs or duos like Fountas and Pinnell, Sibberson and Szumasiak, Laverne and Shirley.... I think about the people in my life and the duos we create! They are pretty dynamic, if I do say so myself!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I am still working on some other posts. Hopefully this weekend will afford me sometime to finish my impressions of the other three speakers and a post about Debbie Miller's book Teaching with Intention. I am loving that book!

Mary Lee Hahn encouraged us to step beyond children's literature and professional literature. She suggested we read some books for fun. Ironically, next week I am going to a reading institute and one of the requirements is to bring some adult fiction to read during reader's workshop. When I took my own kids to the library today to sign up for the summer reading program I looked at some books for myself. I chose The Secret Life of Bees to start far it has me hooked. I might have to return to the library this weekend for another book to keep me going next week. I am devouring this one.

The balance now is spending some time with The Secret Life of Bees while continuing to read and process Teaching with Intention. I will keep you posted on both!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Impressions Part 1

As stated before, I recently met some pretty amazing people. I had read reviews, books, and articles related to these women and I had formed my impressions based on all of these things. I admired them greatly, but didn't think of them as "real" people. I didn't recognize the sense of humor or the genuine kindness. With each one I had carried their books around in my pocket or bag, devouring the contents and bringing it back to my classroom. Then they stepped off the bus and into my life last Thursday morning....

Franki Sibberson

I actually met Franki for the very first time last summer when I attended a conference in Ohio. I remember scribbling notes as fast as I could during her session. I was writing names of friends and family members next to the books she described so I could share them. I remember thinking about my classroom library and I even approached her after the session (where I found her reading Kathy Collins' new book, Reading for Real) to ask some questions about the classroom library. This visit was even more meaningful because Franki invested in this conference the moment she was contacted by our school district. She was instrumental in bridging many of the details. Her session was spectacular. My only wish was that there would’ve been time in the day for me to attend both of her sessions, primary and intermediate. She also has created a time consuming addiction for me with her App a Day for the summer. She inspired me to start this blog when she suggested I start writing about my thoughts related to literacy. I am looking forward to seeing her when I attend the Dublin conference next year.

Debbie Miller

Years ago when Debbie’s book, Reading with Meaning, was brand new a friend told me about it and I read it. It was my first exposure to the workshop model for reading instruction. I have to admit I was a bit overwhelmed. I took some of the simpler strategies and applied them, but the book remained tucked on my shelf until a few years later when I began to organize and plan the reader’s workshop for my classroom.

I had put Debbie on a pedestal and I felt that she would be unapproachable. She is so brilliant, I felt that it would be difficult to relate to her on a personal level.

BOY WAS I WRONG. Before the first keynote I was assisting the speakers in the set-up in the rooms for their breakout sessions. Debbie was working to get her document projector up and running. While we were waiting for tech support I saw her preparing and spoke to her briefly. I saw the warmth immediately. Then after her break out session I approached her to sign my book. I share some thoughts and ideas with her and she said, “You should write a book.” Can you imagine? I was so touched at her genuine interest and her kindness. As you know, I am now reading her book Teacher with Intention. As I am reading I feel that my perspective is now colored my interactions with her-I can hear her sweet, small voice as I am reading.

Kathy Collins

Two years ago I was returning to the classroom after a year long maternity leave. I was researching and developing ideas quickly to prepare for my return. Growing Readers was a book someone suggested. I followed this book to a T. I read it and then I would reread it. I talked about it with colleagues and in online forums. I was obsessed, to put it lightly. Last June, a week before it was available, I purchased Reading for Real. This year I started to do reading partnerships with the first graders in my class. It is a book that I have on my list to read again this summer. The session with Kathy has inspired me to go deeper and develop the partnerships even further.

Might I add that Kathy is one of the funniest people I have ever met! She made my cheeks hurt from laughter. Her wit and dry sense of humor kept the crowd engaged and wanting more. I am looking for opportunities to see and learn from Kathy again soon.

Stay tuned for my impressions of the other 3 fabulous speakers....

Friday, June 12, 2009

Batter Up!

One of my summer time passions is baseball. Each year we travel to the nearest major league (and sometimes minor league) baseball stadium to cheer for our favorite team-GO TIGERS!

Tonight I sat with books sprawled all over my bed. I was also considering books that are sitting in my classroom that I also hope to further investigate. I decided to make a list of all of the books that I would like to read this summer from cover to cover. I decided to make a "batting order" for the books I would like to read this summer by the pool....or perhaps at the ball park.

The first book I have selected is Debbie Miller's Teaching with Intention. As you know from my previous post, I was fortunate enough to meet Debbie Miller this week. I read Reading with Meaning years earlier when I set out to establish Reader's Workshop in my classroom and I have revisited it frequently since that time. I have admired Debbie from afar for so long, but nothing prepared me for the woman I would meet this week. She is warm and nurturing. A mentor with a heart for children and teachers. In the very early moments we spent in the classroom preparing for her presentation I knew she was going to teach me something that would alter my thinking forever.

I selected Teaching with Intention for my first book study this summer because I am eager to synthesize my ideas and reflect on the reasons behind the practices in my classroom. I believe that this book will allow me to establish my list of "non-negotiables"-the principles that I believe with my whole heart. I want my classroom practices to reflect that list.

Over the next few days, I am going to begin reading Part 1 of this book. Come and join me.

A Very Fine Place to Start....

Hello Everyone!
Thank you for traveling on this road with me. My purpose for this place, "Literacy Conversations," is for educators to journey together-to read, to practice, to share, and to have come along with me!

I just returned home from the most amazing two day conference. Debbie Miller, Kathy Collins, Franki Sibberson, Ann Marie Corgill, Cathy Mere, and Mary Lee Hahn were the presenters at the C.L.A.S.S. Literacy Conference. I was fortunate enough to serve on the committee for this conference so I was able to spend some extra time with these inspirational women. There is so much that I could share from the past two days, but this post would go on and on and on. I promise that I will share bit by bit as I sift and review my notes.

For now, I am exhausted and preparing to tuck my three little children in bed for the first time in almost a week.