The Perfect Mentor Text

Recently I was thinking about next year and how I'm going to build stamina in my 2nd graders. I want them to get what they need in a just fit book, but I also want them to begin to build stamina towards chapter book reading. It is in these longer books that they will find themselves and develop their reading identities.

After tweeting some ideas around which is how I find my best leads, I located a great Choice Literacy post and video with Franki Sibberson. I loved what I saw. Clearly Franki is someone who understands what I needed to do. I immediately ordered a few of the suggested books. Click on the link now, trust me. I'll wait.
Today I read one of them to my children while they ate lunch.
It was an astounding picture book because as I read it I realized that it could be used in multiple ways. It was the perfect mentor text for both reading and writing.
It could be used:

  • to build stamina in that there are chapters that are linked, but have enough meat in them where a child might not be able to get through the entire book at one sitting.
  • for narrative writing as the story is personal enough for a child to make life to text connections.
  • for information writing as there is a part where Henry must research and report out about his new duck pet. In addition, there are pages with labels, parts of a newspaper, and how tos.
  • for opinion writing as the story is about how Henry convinces his parents and himself which pet would be perfect for him.
I cannot recommend this book enough, in fact apparently I wanted it so badly I ordered it twice because I now have two copies. So in the interest of good karma, I'd like to give away one of my copies. Please comment on this blog post sharing your favorite mentor text and then I shall choose one winner on July 30, 2014.
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Starting with Choice

When I want to pay serious attention to improving or learning a teaching skill, I often turn to fellow blogger Karen Lirenman's blog Learning and Sharing with Ms. Lirenman. I also follow her on Twitter @klirenman because her ideas are helpful and concrete. She is the opposite of fluff. She doesn't write about her latest decorations. She writes about changing and shifting her teaching and thinking throughout the course of her career and life. She is inspiring to me, but not in the "I'll never reach that" sort. She reaches down from where she is, grasps your hand, and pulls you up level with her.
So when I learned that she had written a book as a part of the Apple Distinguished Teachers series "One Best Thing", I knew I had to read it. It was an iBook AND it was free. Yay! You can find it here:
What I love about Karen is that she takes things step by step. She doesn't start where she is now. I need this. I need to really understand how someone got from point A to point B in order to process how to incorporate the thinking and actions into where I am now and what my next steps will be.

A big takeaway for me was that she starts incorporating choice from day one of the school year. She eases into it and talks about the responsibilities of choice throughout the year. She lets them choose where they sit and where they hang up their coat. I think it is easy to forget how many choices we take away from kids all day long.

Here's where instead of telling you about the iBook, I invite you to download her book for yourself to find out how many other choices she introduces and maintains for her students. Believe me, it's a quick and powerful read, just the thing for July when we are quiet and can take time to think about culture in our classrooms instead of curriculum.

This book left me thinking about practicalities in my own classroom. How do I build on the choice I was already offering?

  • When sharing a target, how do I make sure students understand what they need to know in order to understand how to get themselves there?
  • How do I brainstorm ways to learn targets?
  • How do I make sure even my less action oriented students become more self-directed learners?
I am looking forward to reflecting on these three questions this year.


Growing Up Boy

Perhaps because I have four brothers and no sisters. Perhaps because I am not very girly girl. Perhaps because I just love boys. I'm not sure why, but I am drawn to and riveted by books about boys growing up. I love it when authors are exceptionally good at writing about the inner workings of a boy's mind. In many ways, I feel more for boys and their emotions and struggles because I think life is harder for them there. Few people ask them what they are thinking or feeling. They ask them how the game was and tell them in joking tones to stay out of trouble.

I am happy to say that there are now many books out there being written from the perspective of real boys who think, feel, and are introspective about their lives. Here are a few I highly recommend over and over again.

What are your can't live without favorites?



I love ending each week thinking about what I will choose to celebrate. Join Ruth Ayres who shares a Celebration Link Up on her blog each week. Thank you to Ruth for the inspiration.

I am late in celebrating online, but I have been celebrating all weekend. You might think it's because of Independence Day, but not so. I am celebrating a break in my usually rushed, errand driven world. Felix, Annie, and I went to the country to house sit, or more accurately chicken sit. Friends needed someone to look after their chickens and offered us their house for the weekend. 

This is no ordinary house. The people who own it, built it with their very own four hands. They planned every aspect of this house and it shows. These friends of mine are into good food, book love, art, France, gardens, and being individuals. I am lucky to be a part of their lives. 

The man who lives in this house was my instructional coaching partner for one year. We could have worked together for many more as we think alike, joke alike, and generally appreciate each other immensely. Sadly, I lost my job at the end of the year due to budget cuts. I miss this man throughout my days most especially when I want to share something funny or ingenious that happens in my classroom. His joy at how people think is infectious.

The woman who lives in this house is one of those women who can make you feel like you are the only person in the world worth talking to. Have you met people like that? I hope so. She and two friends started a fantastic company together. It is becoming wildly successful. You should check it out.
On the way to this house, we made a pact never to get in the car until Sunday. We wanted to stop the world for three days. We bought organic meat, veggies, and fruit. We arrived at the house and were completely transported. We ate well, wandered the gardens, ate sugar snap peas off the vine, swam in the saltwater pool, read in the barn, played cards on the screened in porch, chased the chickens, picked up frogs and salamanders, and enjoyed each others' company. I can't celebrate friendship and family enough today.


It's Monday! What are you reading?

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. The best way to grow your TBR list!

Last week
I need to blog about this as well because I was moved my this book and her latest post: When Teachers Bully Teachers. It is hard to take your own road and people in education are vitriolic about people who allow change regularly in their lives. Pernille does this with grace and a kind of modesty that demands reverence.

I also read all three Bink & Gollies and loved each and every one.
In fact, my love for them has made me want to re-read
I also read...
This week, I plan to read:



I love ending each week thinking about what I will choose to celebrate. Join Ruth Ayres who shares a Celebration Link Up on her blog each week. Thank you to Ruth for the inspiration.

Today I am celebrating that feeling you get when you become passionate about something. I am in the throes of an obsession. I thought my obsession was technology, but I realized this week that it's about getting kids more engaged.

Our world is exploding and we need to rethink what and how we teach. We need to tell kids that people like Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook), Drew Houston (founder of Dropbox), Gabe Newell (founder of Valve), and Elena Silenok (founder of Clothia.com) were  once kids named Mark, Drew, Gabe, and Elena who learned to code before high school.
Recently I introduced my son to coding. He hadn't known he could create his own apps until I showed him how. Now he is spending his summer talking about problem solving and thinking through issues in his work. He comes to me asking for problem solving ideas instead of new games to buy! I was trying to keep one step ahead of him so I can guide his process when I suddenly realized we could do this together. Holy celebration Batman! We. Can. Learn. This. Together. Total empowerment for him and joy for me.

His new thinking/problem solving skills have spilled over to his physical world. He came to me asking if he could join the local pool because he wants to build his swimming stamina this summer. He said, "I want to learn to code, create one video game, and be able to swim 10 laps before I enter 4th grade." As Mr. Slinger would say, "Wow, just wow."

"The programmers of tomorrow are the wizards of the future. You are going to look like you have magic powers compared to everybody else." Gabe Newell, creater of Valve

Click on the Transporter pic to read about the apps you should be downloading.



For my Maine Writing Project class, we were asked to read the book Thrive by Meenoo Rami. While reading I thought through the ways I work and need to work in order to thrive in my career.  I also realized that we need to write and reflect as we move through the world in order to share and remember what choices we made and why.
From the Heinemann Website...
As a novice teacher, Meenoo Rami experienced the same anxieties shared by many:  the sense of isolation, lack of self-confidence, and fear that her work was having no positive impact on her students.  In Thrive, Meenoo shares the five strategies that helped her become a confident, connected teacher.  From how to find mentors and build networks, both online and off, to advocating for yourself and empowering your students,  Thrive shows new and veteran teachers alike how to overcome the challenges and meet the demands of our profession. 
 Praise for Thrive"Whether you are entering your first year of teaching or your 40th, Thrive feels as if it were written just for you.  At a time in our profession when many of us are feeling stretched thin, Meenoo Rami offers strategies to reignite our passions and rediscover why we chose to teach."Christopher Lehman, coauthor of Falling in Love with Close Reading

"Teaching is a profession that eats its young.  Meenoo Rami offers guidelines for surviving the challenges of the classroom as well as the faculty room."Carol Jago, author, teacher, and past president of NCTE

"Thrive includes a mosaic of dynamic teacher voices from many grade levels and content areas. Reading their stories deepened my thinking about the immense untapped potential of our profession. Meenoo Rami’s vision of teaching and learning can sustain us all."—Penny Kittle, author of Book Love
Join the conversation on Twitter at #edthrive.

Then, I was asked to create a multi-genres response.
Here is what I came up with
Stickie Notes
Appreciation Dinner Commentary

edCAMP22 Flyer (click on image to go to flyer)