Monday, December 14, 2015

#D100 bloggerPD Book Study: Coda

If you look up "Coda" in the dictionary, one of the multiple definitions that you will see is "anything that serves as a concluding part" which is obviously a fitting title for the ultimate section of this book. If you've been following along, you know that I am posting the final installment of the #D100bloggerPD blog book study of Donalyn Miller's book Reading in the Wild. If you are here for the first time today, I'd love for you to check out the previous posts- as they include a multitude of resources, reflections, and thoughts from some very intelligent members of my district and our blogging professional development crew. Here's what has happened so far:

Miss G Does 5th with Vignette: Creating a Workshop Schedule that Works for You
Courtney O'Connor Guest Blogging on Literacy Loving Gals with Chapter 2: Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material 
Social Justice Superheroes with Vignette: Curating a Classroom Library
Responsive Literacy with Chapter 3: Wild Readers Share Books with Other Readers
Pershing Principal Blog with Vignette: Conferring: What's the Point?
That Literacy Lady with Chapter 4: Wild Readers Have Reading Plans
The Bazz Blog with Vignette: Building a Personal Canon
Reading is Thinking with Chapter 5: Wild Readers Show Preferences
*You can also read my post on the making of a blog book study here*

As I read the final section of Donalyn's book, which is a touching story of a reading relationship between her and her students, I couldn't help but think back to all the times I have had similar relationships with my students.  As some of my readers know, I am a reading specialist in an elementary school- and formerly in a middle school. As part of my job, I teach RTI (Response to Intervention) groups- which is basically a reading group for students who are struggling for a variety of different reasons with reading at their current grade level and the group is designed to help them grow to their reading potential.

I always stop people when they say that my job is to "fix" student's reading. I'm not a handyman- I don't fix anything.
I do, however, build a relationship with students to determine their current reading abilities and work with them to set a path to achieve their own potential. Because of this, I encounter students on a daily basis who finding their way to a love for reading. I believe that if I can help a student find that love for reading, while helping them bridge some of their gaps, that they too can become lifelong wild readers and begin to fulfill their full reading potential. This is my passion. This is my lifelong journey. 
Like Donalyn Miller talks about in this Coda section of the book, I, too, share wonderful moments with my readers. A couple weeks ago I reached a milestone with one of my fifth grade students. She has been in the RTI process for a couple years now and until recently did not identify as a reader. This story is proof that when students begin to identify as a reader, that they can transform their ability- just with a positive mindset. I started seeing this student in August at the beginning of the year. She was polite and well behaved in group but never really excited to be reading. This continued on with us- me trying to find a "hook" to ignite her reading passion and her making slow but steady improvement toward grade level. Then one day our Assistant Principal Ms. Bazz, a definite wild reader herself, went into this 5th grade classroom and performed (I say performed because it was, no doubt, an epic show!) some book talks. Later that same afternoon, this student came to my group and was raving about how exciting books can be.

Let this be a lesson- one amazing book talk can change your life- because for this girl, it did. Ever since that day, she has been devouring books. She has been zealous in group and improving daily. It's been a joy to see. This all culminated with last week, the student walked into our group with a book in hand and declared, "You MUST read this book!" As an RTI teacher, my students don't usually come to group with their independent reading books- let alone proclaiming their love for them. As a teacher, these are the moments I live for. These are the moments that are imprinted on my life forever.  I sometimes wonder if kids know, when we look at the with awe, how amazing they are. This student now has a new outlook on life- all because of a book.      

I think the only thing left is to leave you with this quote- which Donalyn used to begin her Coda chapter. I think it fits perfectly the summation of this book study as it is not, in fact, a coda at all, rather a beginning for all of us.

If you've enjoyed being a part of this study or enjoyed reading along with it, please  stay in touch! Keep up with future blog studies by following #D100bloggerPD on Twitter.  

Speaking of twitter, my district, Berwyn South School District 100, is hosting a #D100chat on 12/15/15 at 8:00pm CST.  I am guest moderating along with Colleen over at Literacy Loving Gals and the topic is about #D100bloggerPD! You can join in if you'd like to discuss wild readers and how blogging/social media impacts your teaching. If you can't make it for this chat, be sure to catch a future one- they happen every other Tuesday at 8:00 pm CST. We'd love to hear from you!

  I want to thank each and every blogger who took part in this inaugural book study as part of the Berwyn South District 100 #D100bloggerPD crew.

 Each of you are special and talented and I am lucky to work with all of you. 

P.S. It was especially great to see our #D100bloggerPD hashtag trending on Twitter back on 11/29- I love the fact that we are all getting together to spread the learning in our district and share our thoughts with the whole twitter-verse! Remember: we are all in this together. The more we share and the more we learn from each other- the better!! Thanks for reading this and being a part of my PLN!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Blooming Reflection

Like most students of education, I learned about Bloom's Taxonomy in college during one of my many educator prep classes. As a person who loves rubrics, routines, etc.- I immediately jumped on board with this idea of Bloom's Taxonomy. I love the structure of it, I love the concise but ambiguous nature of it, and most importantly, I love how it always seemed to be pushing me to go up, up, up with my students and my instruction. Recently, I came across the image below- which I have made huge so you can see all of it, but in case you can't- access it here where I found it on This image represents so much about me as a teacher that it's almost scary. Let me walk you through how Bloom's Taxonomy and I have evolved in my time in education.
On the far left, you have the traditional Bloom's that we all know and love- starting at Knowledge and going all the way to evaluation. This is, as the visual shows, the created in 1956 version and is probably what most people think of when they hear Bloom's Taxonomy. However, times began to change and as you can see in the middle- Anderson and Krathwohl revised the original version in 2001. There are some significant changes- most notably the base level of knowledge is now referred to as remembering- a change that I was a bit resistant to at first but have come to appreciate. The other big change is that it seems like synthesis and evaluation on the original became just Evaluating on the revised- leaving space for the new top tier of Creating. I love this change mostly because when students are capable of creating something new then does that not show a true ability to evaluate and synthesize? Not to mention the shift in thinking that students who can regurgitate information can be masters of it. This is just not true anymore. We have to provide more opportunities for our students to make their education just that- their own.  Sure it probably seemed scary at first- and I'm guessing that in 2001 this was probably a polarizing issue (meaning some probably loved the idea of Bloom's Taxonomy changing and some probably didn't) but I'd be willing to guess that in the field of education- the kinds of changes that cased the most waves were the kinds of changes that needed to be made. 

Moving along the image to the right, you see that in 2008 Churches came out with Bloom's Digital Taxonomy- no doubt to fall in line with the ever-changing educational climate and match the increasing use of technology in the world. But here is what strikes me as interesting. I graduated college and started teaching in 2008. I can still remember using the original Bloom's Taxonomy with my students. I remember the exact activity in fact- it was a worksheet with six cubes on it. Starting at the bottom, I had a box for each of the original levels of Bloom's Taxonomy with a sentence starter (including a Bloom's verb) in each box. I then assigned this worksheet to my students for whatever we were doing at that moment (my guess is some type of literature study) and had them complete the worksheet. I thought I was being clever and ensuring that my students were working their way up the pyramid of understanding. 

Now, I'm not here to debate whether or not that was the best way to incorporate Bloom's into my classroom- but the intention was there. I was sending a message that simply hanging around at the Knowledge level with verbs like define, duplicate, and recall was not going to be enough to prove to me your understanding. Even during my 1st year as a teacher, I knew I wanted more. 

Which leads into why it's interesting that, in 2008, I was still using the 1956 version when the subsequent two new versions had already come out. My gut reaction is to say "if it's not broken, don't fix it" because my Bloom's worksheet crafted from the 1956 taxonomy was certainly helping students. But if I was using that worksheet to get more out of my students, why wasn't I also aware of the "more" that was out there for me!  It wasn't until maybe 2010 (yes, I'm behind the times apparently) that I even knew that the new 2001 version of Bloom's had come out. Like I said above, I embraced the changes in the pyramid- I thought they made sense and made things a little more clear for students- which is always a plus. 

Right around 2011, my school district made a big change to incorporate 1:1 technology into every classroom K-8. This was a huge and significant undertaking that we took on for the betterment of our students and to prepare them for their undeniable future in a different world than we grew up in.
Take for instance, this quote from Tom Leonard (who happens to have been my high school principal!) that he said at iEngage Berwyn last year. My district saw the need for incorporating technology into the lives of students and acted on it. Because of this, and our desire to continuously push students toward better, we now need to start working on that far right column of the visual above- on the Bloom's Digital Taxonomy version. This version allows for traditional teaching to be mixed with modern and current ways of learning. What I find interesting at that this digital version came out in 2008- the same year that I started teaching and using the original version. It just goes to show that you will use whatever you are ready for- but please, be sure to make sure that you, as the teacher, aren't monopolizing the need in the classroom. It shouldn't be about us. It shouldn't be about what we are ready for. It should be about the students. What are they ready for and capable of? What can they accomplish if given the tools to do so? 

This is where the SAMR model (Ruben Puentedura) came into play in our district. When you get to know the SAMR model, you will see that it has 4 levels-
 Substitution: the technology acts as a strict substation and there is no functional change- for example: reading a textbook on your iPad instead of reading the paper version.
 Augmentation: technology acts as a substitute but with some functional improvement- for example: reading that same digital textbook on your iPad but being able to click on a word to find out the definition or extra information.
 Modification: significant task redesign is taking place- for example: you are able to annotate your reading in notability and begin to create an iBook of your own.
Redefinition: new tasks which were previously inconceivable- for example: making the iBook that you were creating interactive and sharing it with other classes, schools, and even countries for commentary and collaboration. 

As you can see, technology plays a role in making the ways we teach better- but we need to harness it. In my district, we have created SMARTD100- which is a committee designed to work with teachers to help bring their teaching up the SAMR ladder. We can't afford to hang out at Substitution anymore- just like we can't afford to hang out at Knowledge (now remembering) on Bloom's Taxonomy. We must be doing more for our students and constantly reflecting on our teaching to do so. Here's a (very overwhelming but) fantastic image that combines the digital taxonomy, the SAMR model, and iPad apps. It's definitely a lot to take in- but I think it's pretty fantastic. You can find the original post here- called A New Wonderful Wheel on SAMR and Bloom's Taxonomy and view a much better and more detailed PDF version of the image if you go to that site. I highly encourage it.
Notice in the middle you have Bloom's levels and how they correspond to SAMR levels- all while including iPad apps, action verbs, and activities to accomplish it all. It's a daunting yet incredibly helpful resource!

I want to sum this up with a quote from Albert Einstein. I think it explains perfectly the need for this blog post. Thank you for reading and if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
Courtesy of

Thursday, November 26, 2015

What's a Cherpumple?

I'm breaking free from the regularly scheduled "reading blog post" programming to bring some holiday cheer. I hope you enjoy!

If you're like me, you've never heard of a Cherpumple before. And you probably thought your life was just fine not knowing. That is...until you know. Once you know, you can never go back. 

What I am about to introduce you to is the weirdest, most adventurous, most intense Thanksgiving dessert ever imagined. This fantasy dessert has some drama as to who created it- a quick google search reveals that it was created in 2009 by Charles Phoenix, however in some of the comments, people claim to have seen it before by a place in Utah named Cakewalk. I am not one to settle these types of debates- however- if you want to see how Charles Pheonix made his- watch this handy YouTube video here. And perhaps, if you are incredibly interested, you could also read this article- if you want to know Mr. Phoenix's reasons for creating the Cherpumple- which basically boils down to the simple fact that, at Thanksgiving, everyone always wants "a little piece" of each type of pie- and perhaps even some cake. So poof- he combined them and the Cherpumple was born.

So there I was, living a perfectly normal life, until two days before Thanksgiving this year, when my husband starts talking about this quizzical dessert. He explained it's just like the "Turdunkin" (which, of course we all know is a Turducken- he just can't ever say it right...) and that it's the dessert equivalent. Luckily for me, I don't like eating any type of pie- or really any dessert for that matter- but I do love baking...and him. So we hatched the crazy idea to actually attempt this monster pie/cake for our guests at Thanksgiving this year. 

I started where I normally start when I want a cool, new baking idea- Pinterest. Turns out, there are way more crazy people than me in the world and many people have tried this before us- which is a great thing because I was able to read up on many tips and tricks before starting. (Spoiler Alert: Even with the tips- some stuff still goes always does!) This blog post, from 2011, was my go-to inspiration. And because I loved how she documented her journey so much- I figured I would do the same- hence this post that you're reading right now. 

I know, by this point, you're just dying to get the how-to started- so let's begin. First things first- the ingredients. It's a pretty hefty list!

Above is a picture of everything included in making my Cherpumple. Now- this is a good time to point out that no recipe needs to be exactly copied- so I took some liberties and changed up the types of cakes. In the traditional Cherpumple (as if that's a thing!), Charles Phoenix uses three types of pies (apple, cherry, pumpkin) and three types of cakes (yellow, chocolate, spice). I did stick to the types of  pies (otherwise I'd have to come up with a new name and I'm on vacation, after all...) but I altered the types of cakes. So here's a list of everything involved:
Nonstick cooking spray, four cans of cream cheese icing, one apple pie, one cherry pie, one pumpkin pie, eggs, parchment paper, cooking oil, one box butter yellow cake mix, one box red velvet cake mix, and one box carrot cake mix. 
I should note that I also had to purchase that 9" springform pan- I didn't have one and it was on a great sale so I figured why not! Just made sure that when you are buying your pies- you don't get a pie bigger than your pan. Typically pies come in 8" or 10" so get the 8" if, like me, you have a 9" pan.   

So here is what my final product will look like. On the bottom, a cherry pie in red velvet cake. In the middle, an apple pie in carrot cake. And finally, the top layer, a pumpkin pie in buttery yellow cake. Shout out to Reggie at ISU- who would no doubt love to try this Cherpumple! There did seem to be some controversy as to which pie to put in which layer- some saying that pumpkin should be on the bottom because it is the most dense and would withhold it's shape at the bottom the best. That was the plan for us, too, but unfortunately, we put the cherry/red velvet on the plate first and it was too unstable to take off and move. We'll address that later, too. It's also important to note here that in preparation of the cakes, I followed a tip from the blog I linked above and anytime the cake box recipe called for liquid- I deducted 1/8 cup of it. And because I love being helpful- 1/8 cup is equivalent to 2 tablespoons- thanks Siri- which will come in handy when you need to do some conversions. Apparently this 1/8 cup less liquid is because you don't want the cakes to be too moist- because then they might fall apart around your pie. I wasn't willing to take that risk, so I deducted the liquid.

Now that you have prepared you cake mix according to the box (following the 1/8 less rule), you need to pour 1/3 of that mixture into your pan. Also important to note- every picture that I found online had parchment paper in the bottom of the pan. Being the rule follower that I am, I bought some parchment paper (thanks, Dollar Tree!) and traced the pan to make a round paper disc for the bottom of my pan. You need to spray the pan first, then put the paper in, then spray again. Don't ask me why- I just follow the rules! Your pan is now prepped and you need to pour 1/3 of the cake mix (thanks, math!) into the bottom of the pan.
Next, carefully slide your cooked pie out of it's tin and place it on the 1/3 of the mixture. Then top the pie with the remaining 2/3 of the cake mixture and pop it into the oven.  In the above picture- I showed each of these steps. In the picture to the right, I just showed a couple of the steps with my final two pies. You'll need to repeat all the steps for each of your other two pies. Also, I only have one 9" springform pan- so I had to wait patiently which each pie cooked before I could make the next- but I suppose if you have more than one pan this process would go much quicker! I cooked each pie/cake at 350 degrees for about 34-36 minutes. I set the timer for 30 minutes and then just started poking it with a toothpick until it came out clean.
Depending on your oven/shade of pan/how often you open the oven- this time could be more or less so be sure to just pay attention to your pie/cake and use your expert instincts. When they come out of the oven, free them from their springform pan and let them cool. The blog I was following wanted it to sit on the counter for about 30 minutes and then in the freezer for about 30 minutes. I'm not totally sure what purpose the freezer serves-minus speeding up the cooling process- since everyone knows not to frost anything until completely cool. But like I said before, I love following rules, so into the freezer they went. The picture to the left is what the pie/cakes looked like when the initially came out of the oven. Pretty delicious, if I do say so myself. 

Next, and once the pie/cakes are absolutely 100% cool, you need to give them a crumb coat of icing and stack them. As I mentioned above, you might want to put pumpkin on the bottom- unlike us- but then again, the whole process is totally up to you! Make it your own! So the cherry was first (bottom left of the picture) and then frosted it with the cream cheese frosting. I like to put the whole tub of frosting in the microwave for 30 seconds before doing anything- just to make it easier to work with. Be sure to open it, take off the foil safety cover and leave the lid off before melting. Once it is easier to work with, frost your first layer. Next, we put the apple pie encased in the carrot cake and frosted that one. Finally the pumpkin pie encased in buttery yellow was put on top and the whole thing was iced. Be sure to fill in the little gaps between each layer- and remember- this is just a crumb coat. It isn't meant to be pretty- just get you a base coat for you final layer later. So don't stress about it being perfect- that comes later! I also feel like it is fun to mention here that our Cherpumple clocks in at just over 7" tall! It's a monster pie/cake for sure!
Fast forward a couple hours (you probably didn't have to wait as long as we did- but we were busy making other Thanksgiving goodies) and we took the crumb coated cherpumple out of the refrigerator.
It was ready to put the final coat of frosting on and decorate. Now, how does one decorate a monster pie/cake without going even more over the top than you already are? We decided to go simple! We tried to make red- but as you can see, it turned out a bit pink- yet still marvelous in all it's glory. Side tip here: you can buy food coloring at the dollar store (by me it's Dollar Tree) and that is significantly cheaper than the local grocery store- and if you have kids who like to bake/frost things with different colors (like I do) I highly recommend just getting it cheap- it's the same stuff.
After that final red frosting, we needed to decorate. We had some leftover white frosting that we dyed orange and put in a squeeze bottle with a fun tip on it. Easy way to do this? Melt the frosting in the microwave so it is pourable- then pour it into the bottle and put the bottle in the freezer to it hardens back up. Make sure to give it enough time to harden- we didn't (too excited) and the beginning of our flower dots were a bit melty still. Nonetheless, we made the ring around the top of the cake, filled the inside in with red sprinkles, and were ready to call it a day. I should also point out that I didn't use the 4th can of icing- but I could have if I wanted to decorate more or make the outside more smooth. Next, the cherpumple sat in the refrigerator overnight until the Thanksgiving festivities the next day. My guests had no idea what they were in for!  

Here's a look at the completed Cherpumple- I am not going to lie- I'm shocked it cut and served so well. As for how it tasted- it was a big hit- I can't honestly say that I tried any of it (not a dessert person) but people enjoyed it. Granted, 7 people ate about a 1/4 of it and were full- but think of the impact one little slice can have- three pies and three cakes after all. As you can see- it is a pretty impressive feat. Above all else, it was a good discussion piece- but now I have to find a whole bunch more friends to finish this thing! There will be leftovers for days! 

Now that we are at the end- I feel the need to point out that my husband Peter really was the one doing all the work on this creation. It was his idea- he made everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) from start to finish, and he was the one who was the most proud to show it off at the end. So even though this blog post is written mostly in the first person- I can in no way take credit for his hard work! 

That's all for now. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and got a chance to spend time with those they are thankful for. Gratitude and kindness goes a long way in this world- so don't just wait for one day a year to be thankful for what you have. I am sure we could all find one thing everyday to appreciate- I know that I can. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Paperless Running Records/Assessments

So it's that time of year again- Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark time! My district shifted things a bit this year and our first whole school benchmark of the year has just been completed. Between F&P Running Records and my own F&P Progress Monitoring of my RTI groups- I am celebrating having completed my 200th paperless assessment this year! Let's do some math! :) Each running record or progress monitoring passage has about 6 pages- some more, some less, so let's settle on six. Take my 200 assessments and multiply it by 6 pages each- that's 1,200 pages of paper saved- and it's still November! That doesn't count an entire future school benchmark or my bi-monthly progress monitoring for the rest of the year. That means that since testing began in September- in 2.5 months I have saved 2.5 reams of paper. 

Now I know what you're thinking- that you would totally love to try this if only you knew how! That's what this post is here for! I get a lot of emails and questions for help on how to begin paperless assessment- so I figured I would finally do what I've been saying all along- and that is write a blog post about it so anyone and everyone can access it on their own time! Plus, it's a perk that I don't have to retype it each time!

Here are my steps to take if you want to begin administering paperless assessments:

First, you'll need an iPad. It doesn’t matter which one- some teachers prefer the larger iPad because it has a bigger screen, but I use a Mini and it works just fine. I suppose you could probably do this on another type of tablet- but since my district is 1:1 Apple products- and very proudly Apple Distinguished, I might add, I obviously use my iPad.

Next, in my district/school, we use the app Notability. This is a great app for many reasons (easy for students to use, nice clean interface, works on my iPhone) and it's definitely my favorite app that I have used regarding assessments like running records. The app allows us to upload a document into Notability so that we can write on it. I don’t think Notability is free, but I don’t remember it costing too much, either.

Next, you’ll need to have the document (assessment) to upload into the app. What I do is go to the website which houses all the FnP resources. You could also just scan the paper copies you have. In the interest of being paperless, I don't recommend just printing them out for the purpose of scanning them. They get a little fuzzy if the print quality isn't great and obviously a digital file is much cleaner and easier to work with.

Next is a tip that seems tedious but will pay off forever:
I highly recommend that as you are getting forms from the website or uploading them from paper copies, that you keep them very organized. 

For example, yesterday I wanted to progress monitor a student at level L. So I went to the FnP resource website, used the login my school has, and found the Lesson L Recording Form for Lesson 2. I opened it, downloaded it to my desktop, and saved it with a very descriptive name- like LLI RED Level L Lesson 2. I also usually put the name of the book or a shortened name of the book.

A view of the website when you log in- You can get digital resources for everything!

This is the where I find the Recording Forms ^^^ and download them to my desktop.

Once you have the form saved on your desktop, you’ll need to get it into Notability. For me, I like using Google Drive for this. I just open up my drive, drag it in from my desktop so it uploads (love this feature!), and put it in the proper folder (for me, it’s a folder called Progress Monitoring Masters). 

As you can see, I like to keep my Google Drive SUPER organized. How can I manage this? It works in two ways. First- if it is not a CURRENT and IMPORTANT file- it needs to be in a folder. The only time I use the space at the bottom is for things I need immediately when I view my drive. So things like my daily schedule with all my groups (and where to find my kids), my progress monitoring schedule, and my 2015-2016 RTI Data are always there. I need those things every single day. Also, right now, you'll see the organization files for the blog book study that I started in my district on Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild. Those are important now but will be moved into a folder upon completion of the study. Curious about that book study? Read more here. 
Everything else that is not immediately needed upon a glance is put into a folder. As you can see- they range from everything to lesson plans, FnP, MAP information, and so on. For this next picture, I simply clicked on the folder titled Progress monitoring Masters. That's what you see below.

This is also where that "drag and drop" that I mentioned above comes into play. I drag the file onto my main screen, it shows up (alphabetically, thanks google!) and I can easily see it without it getting mixed in with my millions of files in my drive. 

As you can see, we are now in my progress monitoring folder and this is where I drag the files after I upload them to notability. I suppose I don't need them anymore- since they are in my iPad in Notability...but I like to keep a backup just in case.

Now that the file is in Google Drive, I go back to my iPad and open up Notability. There’s a little icon that stands for “upload” and I click that, select Google Drive (you’ll need to log in to link these accounts) and then you can select the file (in this case LLI Red Level L Lesson 2- and perhaps the name like I mentioned above) to upload.

Now the file is in Notability and ready to go. You’ll also want to be sure to keep your Notability very organized as well. For me, I have folders called Progress Monitoring Masters, Benchmark Masters, etc. Never use your master copy. Since this is the first time I was uploading that Level L Lesson 2 (and name of book) form, I put it into my “Progress Monitoring Masters” folder, then duplicated it when I wanted to use it for a student. Duplicating is easy- you just press and hold the file and the option to duplicate pops up, you tap it, and it's there. Duplicating is important- this way there is always that form in my master folder so tomorrow, when I want to use the same form, it will still be in Notability and I don’t have to go through that process again. In this way, all the above steps only have to be done once and then in the future I just go and get everything out of Notability. 

As you can see on the left- I keep everything inside my Notability in a folder- in order to find everything nice and quickly when I need it. And as a side perk- what you're looking at above is where I keep my lesson plans and anecdotal notes- ANOTHER great use for Notability. I can make my lesson plans in google drive, upload them into notability, and write on them if anything changes, any notes for the day, etc. It's pretty amazing.
Here's where you can see the Progress Monitoring Masters folder and it's contents. Nice and easy to navigate!
It works the same way for benchmark masters. I just have that file of masters in my Notability- and when benchmark time rolls around, I look at who I need to test, see the level book I need, go to Notability, click the 'Benchmark Masters' folder, find the letter/book I need, duplicate it and rename it with the name of the student and date I am testing.

Same thing with Benchmark Masters!

Then, I get ready to administer the running record. I get the book, the kid, my iPad, and a nice stylus. I recommend spending the money on a fine tip stylus, but it’s totally up to you. And perhaps, if you have a very nice administrator (hint, hint) the might get you an Apple pencil- in which case life would be amazing. Hint, hint.

Finally, I just conduct the assessment as normal, and when you are done, you can share, through notability, to email, google drive, or other places. For me, I just keep a folder on there of “completed PM” or "completed benchmark" and that way it’s easy to access during teacher meetings. If the teacher did want to see each of my assessments, I could just go in and email them to the teacher through notability.
Wondering what a RR looks like when marked up with Notability? Here's a little view:
I can do anything I could've done before- just digitally now!

This is me writing with the highlighter- what I like to use when listening to student responses. 

This system in Notability also makes my own personal data collection much easier- because I always have the files at my fingertips. So I pull up my data spreadsheet in google drive on my computer, open up my iPad to Notability- and use the assessments to write the results and anecdotal notes on each student. In all my years as a teacher- the best and most smoothly functioning years have been when I have been (1) paperless and (2) so incredibly organized with data/goals/notes that it's impeccable. I like to think of it as being transparent. I can share that data spreadsheet with my principal, fellow teachers, or even other support staff and they can see everything I am doing at any time. And then if they want the actual file- I just open it up in Notability and email it to them. I don't have to wonder where I put a piece of paper- or get stalled during benchmark time because I ran out of copies. Or get stalled altogether when the copy machine breaks. Nothing is going to stop me!

So I know that seems like a lot- but really it's only complicated like this the first time you do everything- because eventually everything you need will be at your fingertips in notability. Please don’t hesitate to comment with any questions you might have concerning this process. 

I know it seems like a lot of work up front, and it is, but I promise it is worth it. Last year, alone, I saved 5,376 sheets of paper from doing my paperless assessments. This year is on track to be even higher than that. And that’s crazy. 

Thanks for reading and feel free to share- but please be nice and give me credit if you do. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

#D100BloggerPD: Reading in the Wild: Introduction

Welcome to the blog book study of Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild! This study is being put on by some members of Berwyn South School District 100 in Berwyn, Illinois. Our district, located outside of Chicago, Illinois, has 8 schools K-8 and the bloggers in this study, 11 in total, consist of classroom teachers, reading specialists, literacy coaches, and administration members. It's a great group of people who love learning and blogging-and for this reason, we are members of the #D100bloggerPD crew! This hashtag captivates our desire to join up with other teachers in our district to "take to our blogs" to share our knowledge with the world. But this blog study has one more specific focus in mind- and that is reading! Our love of all things reading is what has brought us #D100bloggerPD members together for this inaugural D100 blog book study!

As you can see, the mentor text for this blog book study is Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild. Right now, you are either thinking- "Oh yes, I just loved The Book Whisperer!"  or "Who is Donalyn Miller?" Well, if you are thinking the latter, I am so glad you're here! Donalyn Miller is an absolutely inspirational vision of reading leadership and insight- and as a young teacher, her book The Book Whisperer shaped me as a teacher and a person. It is, hands down, one of my most favorite "teacher books" and is a go-to recommendation for any person who teaches reading to add to their list. It's not just something reading teachers or reading specialists should read. It's a book that any person who comes in contact with any type of reading in any form should read. Yep, that's everyone. Seriously. Get it. Read it. Now.

If you have read Donalyn's first book or you just know of how awesome she is, then you are definitely in the right place as we take on her book Reading in the Wild for this blog book study. I have been wanting to read this book for quite some time now (it was released in 2014) and after participating in a fantastic blog book study over the summer of 2015- with Jennifer Serravallo's The Reading Strategies Book (check out the posts in my blog!) I knew I wanted to bring that concept to my district and it was clear that this would be the perfect book for that task.
In the fall, I met Donalyn Miller at the 2015 Illinois Reading Council Conference.
It was a fantastic moment, for sure!

If you aren't sure about how a Blog Book Study works, check out my preview post here to get a quick idea of how the book study came together, how it will work, and what to expect. Basically, each member of the #D100bloggerPD crew will post a reflection on her blog from either a chapter or vignette from the book Reading in the Wild. You'll be able to follow along because at the end of each post there will be a link to the next post in the study. If you want a heads up of what's to come, check out this fantastic schedule:

As you can see, I am beginning and ending the book study- which leads me to the task at hand today- reflecting on the Introduction and opening vignette "Life, The Universe, and Everything" from, obviously, Reading in the Wild. I'll begin with the Introduction.

As if I was looking for (yet another) reason as to why I chose this book for the book study- the opening paragraph validated me once again. Donalyn Miller, when lamenting on the reasons her carefully cultivated wild readers from her class did not stay wild readers in middle school, very honestly says, "I blamed upper-level teachers and schools when my former students lost their reading motivation." (Introduction, page xvii). I instantly connected to this because, in my eight years of teaching, I spent the first six as a middle school reading teacher and the most current two as a reading specialist at an elementary school- not having changed districts so I was able to witness this statement from both sides of the coin. It's a sad but true realization that she is absolutely correct. Teachers do blame each other.

This is both heartbreaking and incredibly unjustified all at the same time. First and foremost, teaching is hard. It's flat out difficult and if we, as teachers, do not stick together, then who can we rely on in this world? We must stop the blame game of middle school teachers thinking elementary teachers did not prepare them and high school teachers thinking the same of middle school teachers. There is always another side that we cannot immediately see- and I'd love if the culture of education (both internal and outside perspectives) would take a moment to gather the whole story before jumping to conclusions about the shortcomings of any one piece of a child's education. But secondly, and more to the point Donalyn Miller was trying to make, is that perhaps maybe we need to rethink the things we are most sure of in our classrooms. She goes on to say that, "If my students were truly independent readers, why did they still need a teacher to orchestrate their reading lives?" (Introduction, page xviii). Looking inward like that as a teacher is incredible and vulnerable. It's hard for teachers (read: humans) to step back and evaluate themselves. However, without personal reflection and evaluation, how are we to grow? And that question, of personal growth and ultimately the growth of wild readers, is the spring board for this amazing book.

As you can see in this quote, from Introduction page xviii, it explains perfectly the need for teachers to provide students with the necessary
tools to be successful. We must help our students to become self advocates of their reading (and ultimately their learning) if we expect them to be in control of their reading lives. If our students can only be successful while we hold their hands, what happens when they must let go and walk alone? I (and I can't think of another teacher who would disagree with me) want to prepare them for those moments when they will be faced with reading choices and I am not there next to them. This is a serious responsibility for a teacher- yet anyone who wants to create their own "wild" readers must take on the task and try their very best to accomplish this. 
There is a point that is very clear that Donalyn Miller wants us to understand from reading this introduction- and that is that the only true way to become a better reader is to read. And read. And read. And read some more.

If you've read The Book Whisperer, you got that message- and if you're at the beginning of this Reading in the Wild, you're beginning to understand that Miller's fundamental philosophy is the rooted in the fact that reading is they key to reading. Yes, read that again. Reading is the key to reading. It's not about tricks or arts and crafts. It's not about state tests or gimmicks. It's about reading. As you can see from this quote, from Introduction page xix, lifelong reading habits are not made just by teaching reading skills. We must also instill in our students a reading lifestyle. We have to teach them that reading is more than just the words on the page or the means to an end like a test or assignment. Reading exists for purposes other than answering "right there" questions on homework and we must teach students this value the same as we teach them character motivations. 

Those of us who love reading know that reading, quite simply, makes our lives better. We know this to be true because we know the feeling we get when we finish a book, the emotions we share with a character, and even the void we feel when we haven't picked up a book in far too long to admit.
What I love about the introduction to this book, though, is that Donalyn Miller proves to us that readers are overall better members of society. She provides us with studies that prove readers are more likely to be academically and economically successful, have access to better job prospects, are better in the workforce,  and are stronger socially.  Obviously, then it seems, that this quote to the left is spot on. Reading is valuable. It's that simple.                               So now that we know how important turning our students into lifelong (wild!) readers is, Miller gives us "five general characteristics" that she and Susan Kelly (a contributor to this book) found to be the key traits that all wild readers possess. This list of traits, which is found in the Introduction pages xxiii and xxiv, is literally a game-changer for how we teach reading. If we use these traits as our starting point and aim to create readers who possess these traits, rather than the ability to identify the setting in isolation, we will finally make forward progress toward the goal of creating lifelong readers. Here's what they found are the five important traits- "Lifelong readers: (1) Dedicate time to read (2) Self-select reading material (3) Share books and reading with other readers (4) Have reading plans and (5) Show preferences for genres, authors, and topics." (Introduction pages xxiii-xxiv). These five traits are further explained in the book as they are the topic for each of the five chapters. You'll learn more about them as you follow along with the blog study.

 Obviously, each of these traits are explained further in the text- which is a fantastic reason to stay tuned for the rest of the book study! But even now, if you consider yourself a reader, doesn't this make perfect sense so far? I know it does for me. I can think about people who I consider to be "wild readers" and each of those traits apply to them. I can also think about myself and how, with two toddlers ages 4 and 2.5, I'd love to be able to say I follow trait 1- dedicate time to read- more faithfully- but I keep making excuses to why I can't. Things like making dinner, cleaning the house, the ever-elusive potty training are barricades to my reading time- but I must be honest with myself here. If I am truly not dedicating time to read even with those obstacles, can I truly consider myself a lifelong wild reader? I'd like to think I am, but again, self reflection needs to be honest, and I can't always say I exemplify all five of those traits at any given time.

So if it's difficult for me- it's going to be difficult for my students. That's where this book comes in to save the day and help us with that task.  I love this quote on the right here. My love exists for two reasons- (1) That the phrase 'ethical responsibility' makes my job feel so powerful and amazing- which it is but I sometimes forget under piles of stress but also (2) That somehow Donalyn Miller believes that this great task is possible- and therefore, so do I.
Moving on the vignette "Life, the Universe, and Everything", I love this personal window that Donalyn Miller opens up for the reader into her life at home. Miller explains how her "path to understanding reading habits began at home" and she walks us through the lives of the readers in her household. She tells of her husband and his reading habits, her daughter and her unique reading habits, as well as the students in her classroom. This is very true to these vignettes in the book- they offer a real world glimpse into a certain topic- in this case examining reading lives and their importance.

Each vignette is very short- 5-8 pages max- and for me, when I read them, I felt refreshed and energized. This vignette solidifies the point that we must teach students to truly become readers. They need to personally identify as a reader if they are to continue reading into their adult lives. I also love that Miller reflects on the "activities" that teachers make students complete after reading- things like crossword puzzles and dioramas- in which she hopes "teachers might realize that instead of encouraging students to read, these mindless assignments make kids hate reading." (Page 3). I absolutely love this- partly because I am guilty of having done these activities in my early career (and yes, am willing to admit it for the sake of growth) but mostly because she is coming full speed at these "cheap" ways of teaching reading and flat out demanding that we teach reading in an authentic way. And if you were worried about how to do that- that's what the rest of the book is for! 

Next up, on Wednesday 11/11, is Colleen with her reflection on Chapter 1: Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read. Be sure to check out her post at Literacy Loving Gals and don't forget to keep up with the entire blog book study by tracking #D100bloggerPD on Twitter or Instagram or following the schedules posted above.

Also, you can always check back here- as I will be linking each reflection as they are posted on the blogs.

Miss G Does 5th with Vignette: Creating a Workshop Schedule that Works for You
Courtney O'Connor Guest Blogging on Literacy Loving Gals with Chapter 2: Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material 
Social Justice Superheroes with Vignette: Curating a Classroom Library
Responsive Literacy with Chapter 3: Wild Readers Share Books with Other Readers
Pershing Principal Blog with Vignette: Conferring: What's the Point?
That Literacy Lady with Chapter 4: Wild Readers Have Reading Plans
The Bazz Blog with Vignette: Building a Personal Canon
Reading is Thinking with Chapter 5: Wild Readers Show Preferences
Reading and Owl of the Above with Vignette: CODA

Please don't hesitate to leave your comments or questions below- I'd love to hear from you. 
Thanks for reading. 
Want to follow along with us in this study? Grab your own copy of Reading in the Wild!