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March 29, 2018

Building a Community of Readers

Picture the first week of school. You walk in and tell your students it is time for some independent reading. They instantly run to your classroom library and grab a book they have been eyeing up.

And then you wake up.

It was a beautiful dream. Sadly, that is not how most of my students in my 2nd grade classroom are were. Goodness it wasn't even how my 5th graders were. Why is that? Why do some students struggle to find a book that speaks to them? I fully believe that it is because they never had someone guide them to find a book.

Finding THE Book

Last year I was teaching 5th grade. I was teaching Math, but it was so important to me to have my students be readers. At this school we used the AR program*. Which in my opinion, kills a desire/love for reading for some students. (I however, would have been the student who loved AR because I just loved reading.) We tell kids that they can only read books on their level and then force them to take a test on it. THEN, if they don't pass it hurts their reading grade. That year was like a knife in my heart. You see, I'm a reader. I always have been. I loved getting lost in books and wanted my students to know that feeling.

* I recognize that different schools run their AR program differently, this was mt experience at this particular school.

I specifically remember one student who did not like to read. She was not reading on grade level and was concerned people would make fun of her. Then we found THE BOOK. You know the one I am talking about. The one where a connection is made. The one where she reads it because she wants to and not because she has to. The one where she goes, do you have any other books like this? You may ask, what was this amazing book that changed her outlook? It was The Crossover. If you do not have this book in your upper elementary library, please get it. And then consider Rebound.

Sadly, this book had gone missing from my library. Am I sad by this? Absolutely. However, it is somewhere where it is needed.

My Classroom Library

Now - I let my students take my books home. Some will argue that they wont come back. Sure, that happened with maybe a handful of my books, but not with the majority. Why not? Well my students knew how much these books meant to me. How much I valued them. That I purchased them with my own money specifically for them.

My classroom library is my pride and joy. However, when I was hired to teach 5th grade I was coming from Kindergarten. Yep -  needed a whole new library. I started the year with the books that were in the there as well as the books my brother and I read growing up.

My classroom library started out a little sad looking. (Just one bookcase of 3).
Slowly through Scholastic and my own purchases these bookshelves were bursting by the end of the year. Don't be intimidated. Just let time takes its course.

Books Change Everything

As I have said before, I truly believe that the right book can change a reader. In the younger grades we spend the time to help students find a book, sometimes we forget in the older grades. This year we took our whole school to go see Ferdinand. Before we watched the movie I wanted to read the book with my students. It was perfect timing as Scholastic Book Clubs released the book as one of their dollar deals. I was so excited, I was able to buy ALL of my students this book. We read it together. Completed STEM activities. And then were able to experience the movie. It was a great connection. 

As we were walking into the movie theater a mom of one of my boys told me a story. They were out shopping and he saw the book Ferdinand. He asked her to buy it. She bought it for him because he NEVER asked her to buy a book before. You guys, I cried. This right here is why I do what I do. This kid just asked for his first book because he felt connected to a character.  Even the smallest moments can make the biggest impacts.
He gave me this card for Christmas. Yes, I cried again. 

Dollar Deals

Dollar deals seriously make me so happy. They help me to get books into the hands of my students. I am a sucker, I buy my students their own book about 3-4 times a year. Why? Because it gets them excited. It gets them reading. It gets them loving books.

This year I purchased the Gruffalo from Scholastic. We read the book together and then watched the video on Netflix. What had my teacher heart so happy was having these scholars follow along with me while we were reading. Then I watched as they followed along in the book with the video. 

We watched The Gruffalo after reading it as a class.

They Read What I Read

A HUGE part of developing a reading culture in my classroom is by sharing books with them. One thing I have noticed is that they are drawn to the books I share with them. We read The Wild Robot as a read aloud this school year. When I shared with them that there was a sequel, I asked if we should read it. It was a unanimous vote. (No Joke). What happened was my students connected with a character and wanted to continue the journey.

Story Time! One day I saw The Wild Robot Escapes on one of my students desks. Now, they all had been trying to sneak the book to read ahead. So, jokingly I picked the book up and said we aren't reading ahead. Well joke was on me! I go to put the book where I keep it and wouldn't you know, my copy was there. Here this student had purchased the book over the weekend so he could follow along with me.

Ask yourself, what kind of books are you sharing with your students? Are you sharing books with your students? Could you share more?

Building Your Classroom Library

I shared a post on my Instagram about how it took time to build my library in my 5th grade classroom. One tip I used was making sure my Scholastic Book order was $300 in September. This gave me a ton of points that I used throughout the year. Plus, in order to make it to $300 I had to spend some of my own money.

I very much recognize that new teachers and teachers in private schools or Catholic schools can't always afford to do this. Believe me I know, my salary was under $20,000 for 5 years. In that case - ask! Make a wish list on Amazon or send a wish list home to parents. I know it can be awkward to ask but someone spending $5-10 is better than you spending $200. And trust me when I say, people like to help teachers. Also, do not forget about Donor's Choose. 

According to an article from Scholastic, they feel classroom libraries should have approximately 20 books per student. Other articles argue at least 500 titles per classroom. Ultimately your goal is at least 300-600 titles. Again, do NOT panic. This will not happen in your first year of teaching. It takes time. Use your local library and be purposeful about your purchases. In time you will have a classroom library that you love!

Let Them Take Your Books

My classroom library. Messy and well read.
This is obviously a personal decision for individual teachers. I have had a pretty high return rate of my personal books. Have some gone missing? Absolutely. I shared with you how The Crossover went missing from my library. When this happens I have two choices, to be completely upset and never want to let them check out my books again OR I can believe that those books are in the hands of some child somewhere. I suggest an effective checkout of your books. I tried this. But since I did not have all my books scanned it didn't work to well. Y'all, I have a lot of books to scan. It is my goal to get better at this though. 

How do I make sure my books are returned? I am honest with my scholars. I tell them that these books are special to me. I tell them that I buy them with my own money. I tell them that I buy them so they can read them. I make a connection. 

Before my Spring recess I told my students to make sure they had a book in their book bag to read over the break. Several asked me if they could borrow my books (one was The Wild Robot which we already read). Of course I let them. One boy took 3 of my Junie B. Jones books because he reads them quickly.  One boy took the Book With No Pictures because he wanted his mom to read it to him. Do I worry they won't come back? Sure. But my joy in their desire to read them outweighs that greatly. Set your expectations high, they will reach them. 

Literacy changes everything for our students. Building a community of readers should be a goal of yours. I hope some of my experience will help you in creating that culture. #readersareleaders

March 14, 2018

My Travel Quest: 7 Wonders of the World

Every now and then you read a book that changes you or inspires you. Recently, my very dear friend, Keep Calm and Teach Fifth Grade sent me one of those books. Myranda and I have a friendship that I hold dear to my heart and one I would not be complete without. We have seen the world together. Spent the night in an airport together. Sweated our butts off together. And all of this has created a bond like I have with no one else. See, we are travel partners. We are like minded people. (If you don't have a like minded person in your life - find one!)

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Myranda understands my strong desire to travel. She never judges me for it, or asks why. She challenges me and makes me better. She recently read a book that she mailed to me across the USA because I had to read it. And boy was she right! The Happiness of Pursuit is a book I needed in my life. Not to fuel my desire to travel, but to show me there are people out there who leave their comfort zone and are beyond glad they did. 

Chris, the author, took on a quest to visit every country in the world. Amazing! Why did he do it? He felt a strong calling that would never go away. That is how a quest begins. You get this idea and it never leaves you. It keeps eating at you until you decide to do something about it. 

I have always had a strong desire to travel. Never truly to a particular place, I want to see many things. I want to teach abroad with my TESOL certification, not entirely sure where. However, one idea that has been eating at my is seeing the Seven Wonders of the World

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While reading, I realized that, this was my quest. I felt such a calling to it that I needed to act on it. Guys, I can NOT get the idea out of my head. The best part, I have already experienced one of the wonders, so I only have 6 more to go!

So it is decided. I will take on this quest. I do not have a timeline to do it in. However, I would love tom have it accomplished before I am 40. That gives me 10 years. I will be documenting my travels, beginning with writing down my experience in Rome.

I highly recommend you read the Happiness of Pursuit. I challenge you to leave your comfort zone and do something that will change your life. We are given this one life. What will you do with it?

My Travel Quest:

1. Great Wall of Chine (China) - Potentially Summer 2018
2. Christ the Redeemer Statue (Rio de Janeiro)
3. Machu Picchu (Peru)
4. Chichen Itza (Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico)
5. Roman Colosseum (Rome, Italy) - Completed July, 2012

6. Taj Mahal (Agra, India)
7. Petra (Jordan)

March 11, 2018

My Travel Quest: The Colosseum

My quest of visiting the New Seven Wonders of the World began in 2012. The best part, I did not even know it at the time. Click here to read about how my travel quest began. 

Part 1: Venice

In the summer of 2012 I planned to meet Myranda in Italy. We began our journey in Venice. This was probably my favorite part of the trip because there were so many moments of "Oh, Snap". One of those being our last night when we missed our shuttle to where we were staying. Now, the reason this mishap is my favorite is because we met some amazing people. We ran into some Australians who were trying to catch the same shuttle as we were. We got on the last people mover of the night and made our way back to the hotel via public transit. An amazing experience when your language is limited. But we did it!

Part 2: Rome

The Stats

Location: Roma, Itlia

Time: August 1-4 2012

Travel Partner: Myranda

Mishaps: Nothing major. Just some missed transportation.

We traveled to Rome via Easy Jet - which does not have assigned seats, so people can be a bit pushy. We landed at 11:30pm. Our plan was to stay in an actual hotel for the night. The hotel said it would only take 2 minutes by shuttle. Oh hello mishap number who knows?! We called the hotel and no one answered. (Keep in mind friends, I hadn't done much traveling before Rome. I was stressed. But a rule of traveling is patience and honestly, everything works out eventually. These crazy mishaps become some of the best memories).

Since we obviously were not spending the night at our hotel we called the hostel we would be staying at. Luckily they had something for us. 1 hour and 60 euros in a cab with a gas tank on E, we finally made it.Exhausted and just wanting to sleep we had to make a steep climb to our tent for the night. This is where we met Chris. He is from Australia and we still remain Facebook friends to this day. 

That first full day in Rome we visited the Fontana di Trevi. 
Tradition says, if you throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain you are guaranteed to return to Rome. I will keep you posted on that. 
The next day was an insanely hot day. Clearly, not the best season to visit Italy. However, when you are a teacher summer is all you really have.  Water bottles are everything as there are public fountains you can drink from. Sure, they make look a little questionable, but clearly I didn't get sick. 

This was our historic tour of Rome. And it was stunning and so humbling. Let me say again how much I love to travel. We ran into two Brazilians multiple times during the day. The best part? They turned out to be our neighbors back at the hostel!

The Colosseo

I can not put into words what it is like to walk out of the metro and be greeted by the Colosseo in all of its glory. All I can say is that you need to experience it for yourself. (Also, it is super easy to get to! Take the Metro Line B to the Colosseo.)

First view of the Colosseum.

 There is a reason it is a Wonder of the World.*TIP - buy your tickets in advance so you can skip the line. 

Built in A.D. 72.

The History 

The Colosseum was the largest amphitheater in the Roman World. It was able to seat 50,000 - 70,000 people. Seating was based on social ranking and these people were probably squished together!
Seriously. How did men build this?!

The amphitheater was used for combats, fights and hunts. They even flooded the amphitheater for naval combats. Most gladiators that fought we men. Typically the gladiators were either slaves, prisoners of war, or condemned criminals. (history.com)

And naturally, I need some super touristy shots. When in Rome! 
While I didn't fall in love in Italy, I did eat some amazing food and meet some amazing people. Remember - Travel is the only thing that you can buy that will make you richer.

*Remember - last time I was there was 2012.