Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Conferring" Blog Bookchat

I'm thrilled to announce a new, exciting adventure for me here in Cyberspace! Cathy Mere, Jill Fisch, and I will be hosting a Blog Booktalk (a.k.a. A Linky Party.) Everyone is welcome to join in the learning, reflecting, and discussing of Patrick Allen's book Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop. The three of us will take turns hosting the weekly blog chat throughout the month of July. Participants can reflect along with us on our blogs, post links to reflections on their own blog, and look for updates on Twitter with the hashtag #cyberPD. Even if you don't have your own blog, you are welcome to comment and/or write your reflections on the host blog.
I've heard phenomenal things about Patrick's book and his insight into the world of conferring with children. Plus, there's a foreword by his friend and colleague Debbie Miller (who ends it with her signature "Happy reading!")

The book is divided into three sections. Blog discussions will take place on the following:

July 6th
Part 1: What Brings About a Good Conference, Anyway?
Hosted at Reflect and Refine

July 13
Part 11: What Are the Essential Components of Conferring?
Hosted at My Primary Passion

July 20
Part 111: What Emerges from our Reading Conferences:
Hosted here at Our Camp Read-A-Lot

July 21
Twitter chat using hashtag #cyberPD for final reflections and more connections

The best part of all of this is that it is FREE professional development (other than the cost of the book!) You can learn and reflect right along with us from your favorite comfy spot! What an amazing way to share and learn from each other!

I hope you'll join us!
~Komos :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Welcome to Camp Read-a-Lot!

Over the years, I've grown and changed so much as a teacher! One thing I've been very proud of in the past couple of years is the set-up of my classroom.  I've always loved nature and the woods. I find so much peace and inspiration there. I wanted my classroom to reflect that!  So, a tour of my classroom seemed like the perfect place to start for my brand new blog! (Insert cheering here!) These photos were taken before school started in August of 2009.  A few things have changed, but for the most part, this is my home away from home! Let the tour begin...

 This is the view you'll get when you first walk into my classroom. (Notice that it's pitch black outside. I'm a bit of a night owl!) You can't see it in the picture, but immediately to the right is a whiteboard which is technically the front of the room.  Out of view to the left is cabinets, countertops, and my built-in teacher desk.
The front of the room will hopefully have a SmartBoard someday! Below the board are shelves where we keep our individual Book Tubs, as well as books for Read to Someone.  Materials for Word Work are also kept there.

This is our Book Nook area where a lot of whole group instruction takes place.  Off to the right you see our Cafe menu board (which for me has transformed into our Literacy CAMP board. In keeping with the woodsy theme, I adapted the Sisters' Cafe into Comprehension, Accuracy, Make reading fluent, and Practice vocabulary... spelling out CAMP!)

Small group and guided reading instruction takes place here.  I'd like to say I sit on the floor with the kids for conferencing, but more often than not, this is where we end up! My students sit under the tables, in tiny little corners, or sprawled out on the floor. Their choices for comfortable work spaces aren't always ideal for adult bodies! :)
Quite possibly the best feature of our room! This is our Cozy Corner, which serves as another place where we can curl up and enjoy our reading.  (Old couch cushions were donated by my mom and work perfectly as comfy seating areas!)

Supplies are shared at the tables.  In the background, you'll see just a few of my 30+ book baskets!  These are sorted by topic.  I also have a library of leveled books for the kids to "shop for books" for their individual book tubs.

Fantastic purchase from Really Good Stuff !  They were a bit pricey, but these colorful plastic book tubs have lasted me a few years already.  Before the year begins, I use the end-of-year information from kindergarten teachers to put books in each child's book tub.  This becomes very important as we start Read to Self and learning how to pick good fit books.

One thing I've added since these photos were taken is lamps.  Lamps add so much to the cozy atmosphere of our room!  I found woodsy themed lampshades at Meijer and bought five of them!  They're located in the four corners, as well as on my built-in teacher desk.  When the main classroom lights are off, there is a peaceful glow about the room.  Bliss!

So, that's it!  That's my classroom!  I feel like it captures the essence of who I am and how I teach.  I hope you'll join me for my next post... coming soon!

~Komos :)

Summer Reflection and PD

Every year around the beginning of May, I start my hunting and gathering. This year was no exception! It was easy for me to gather a giant pile of professional books to read over the summer. Whether I finish all of them or not... well, that remains to be seen!

I've actually added one that wasn't on my original pile but is written by a Twitter colleague, Cathy Mere (@CathyMere.) I'm super excited to read this one and have chosen it as my first summer professional read! I'm only a chapter into it but am loving it already.

Thanks to conversations with Cathy and Jill (@jillfisch, another favorite Twitter colleague) and reading their thought-provoking blogs, I was inspired to make a list of things I hope to accomplish this summer for my PD.

  • Professional reads, starting with More Than Guided Reading
  • Continue to build my PLN on Twitter and learn from conversations there
  • Start my own blog and post at least once each week
  • Search for blogs I'd like to follow
  • Become more tech savvy with things like Evernote, Flickr, Skype and Dropbox
  • Find workshops or conferences to attend (online courses, webinars, or f2f)
I'm already signed up for an online course titled "A Dash of Wonder," thanks to a suggestion by @happycampergirl! The course is designed to help teachers figure out what they value and are passionate about in their teaching. Sounds magical to me!

There will be plenty of rest and relaxation going on for me, too! What are you planning on doing this summer to refresh and re-energize yourself for the next school year? I'd love to hear what you're learning!

~Komos :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The house that built me...

I absolutely love Miranda Lambert's song "The House That Built Me!" Through the years, there have been people and things that have influenced the teacher I have become and the teacher I am still becoming. Here's my "Top 13!"*

13) First and foremost, I have to mention my Twitter PLN. Until the past few months, I was not a believer in using Twitter for professional development purposes. What. A. Mistake. I have learned so much and made so many incredible connections because of Twitter! Thanks, Tweeps!

12) My students over the past 16+ years have taught me so much! Looking back at photos of former students reminds me over and over again about just how much I've learned from my 6 and 7 year olds.

11) My colleagues over the years have been a powerful force in influencing what I do in my classroom just as much as what I don't do! It's amazing how colleagues can show you who you want to be as a teacher and who you don't want to be.

10) Mr. Madalinski was my 4th grade teacher, and I will never, ever forget the enjoyment and laughter he brought to the classroom! He laughed, sang, played, and learned right alongside of us.

9) Janean Hansel was my principal for over 10 years. She was an incredibly talented speaker and reading teacher. I would not be the teacher I am today if she hadn't challenged and encouraged me in so many ways!

8) Marilyn Meyers was my cooperating teacher when I student taught many, many moons ago! Through her, I gained my desire to read professional resource books and know what is going on in the field of education.

7) Donalyn Miller (author of The Book Whisperer) taught me to share my reading life and really talk to my first graders about books they're reading. She also validated my enormous classroom library!

6) "The Sisters" Gail Boushey and Joan Moser have brought serenity back to my classroom! Implementing the Daily Five and Cafe has been incredibly powerful for me and my little friends. I would HIGHLY recommend looking into it if you haven't already!

5) Ok, I have to say... there are probably a lot of other author/teachers that have influenced me as well. People like Debbie Miller, Regie Routman, Franki Sibberson, and so many more have each left their imprint on who I am as a teacher.

4) Northwest Illinois Operation Snowball was a leadership group I joined in high school. I would not be the person I am today without NIOS! The people I met are my best friends to this day. The lessons I learned there made me a better person and are watermarked on my soul.

3) My all-time favorite teacher was my first grade teacher, Mrs. McCamman. One thing that sticks out in my mind is how Mrs. Mac was right by my side during our weekly presidential fitness runs (that I dreaded!) Her loving encouragement has stuck with me in my teaching.

2) Without the loving support of my family, I'd be lost! Whether it's laughing about my latest "Oh, you have to see this!" moment, shaking their heads at my huge pile of TBR books, or visiting my classroom, I know they love me and support what I do. I also have so many wonderful memories of my incredible childhood out in the country. My life wouldn't be the same without my family by my side.

1) The Chicago Cubs. Yes, you read that right. The Cubs. The only team that hasn't won a World Series in over 100 years. I bleed Cubbie blue. My die-hard love of the Cubs has taught me to never, ever, ever, ever give up. I believe that with my students and with my teaching, too. Even when things seem impossible and can't get any worse... there's always next year. :)

*I have to laugh when I use a "Top ... List!" No matter how many or how few numbers I gave my kids this year, inevitably they would need to add lines to finish their thoughts. It led me to realize that it doesn't always have to be a neat and tidy number. Sometimes a Top 10 just doesn't fit nicely!

Thanks for reading!
~Komos :)