Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I think we have to be careful with our words
and think about who is listening when we use them
or how they may be interpreted
by those who just like to toss out those catch phrases
so that they can capture our attention
before we quietly close our doors
and teach our children.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

ProKids - Slice of Life

Like many of you, I always grimace at the amount of time we have to spend outside of our classrooms for assemblies and "special events." However... I will tell you that I look forward to Tim Hannig's ProKids Assembly every year!

We had our ProKids assembly yesterday, and the first thing I heard this morning was, "Miss Komos, do you remember when Tim..." So many stories, so many memories, so many laughs! They love his humor, his magic tricks, his message, and his bird, Vern.

Each year, he changes up the program but the message is always about character education. This year's show is the iShow! The "playlist" features:

Not only does Tim capture the students' attention for the 45 minute show, but he has all of us teachers mesmerized, too! He is witty, punny, and energetic. He provides lessons and entertainment for the kids, but he also throws in some jokes for the adults (which I always appreciate!)

If your school has a character education program or PBIS efforts, Tim would be a great addition to what you're already doing. We've had him come back to our school for several years now, and I've never been disappointed with one of his shows!

As Tim talked about yesterday, I am filled with an "attitude of gratitude" that this time spent outside of our classroom was filled with learning and laughter!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Rites of Passage... Chapter Books

The Babbling...
So, I have these ideas/thoughts/concerns all jumbled up in my head and need to get them out. And I am very curious to hear your feedback on all of it! :) I know that in upper grades, this probably isn't as much of a concern, but here in first...

Chapter books.

Why are they such an ordeal in first grade?! Is it such an ordeal? Is it okay for kids to be reading (longer) chapter books in first grade? Should there be guidelines for who can/can't add these books to their book tubs? Are first graders truly ready for the kinds of readers they need to be in order to successfully navigate longer chapter books?

These questions/concerns have been invading my brain all year. I know children MUST have choice in what they read. I believe this. My first graders have choice. But how much choice is too much?

After all of the reading and workshop-hopping I've done this year, I thought I might have an answer. Instead, I have more questions. (But that's a good thing, right?)

The Background
We have a full-day Kindergarten program in our district. 99% of our kids come to first grade after being in that full-day K. What this means is that most of them are already reading... so by January, there are quite a few who are at the point of wanting to be "chapter book readers." I know that many of them are absolutely ready to take on those longer books that require "stick-with-it-ness."

But what about the kids who aren't... and want to read those chapter books anyway? Am I hurting their reading development (especially comprehension) if they are reading those books but aren't ready? I've had conversations with students who are picking chapter books but aren't ever finishing them. I've had conversations with my one little boy who is barely ready for level E books (if I have to put a "level" on it,) and yet he insists on choosing chapter books.

We spend time each week discussing "good fit books." We know that involves much more than the level of text difficulty. My first graders are growing and learning. All but one are already meeting the end-of-the-year benchmarks for first grade. When we shop each week, I've asked children to choose most of their books from the "leveled" book tubs and then add just a few more from anywhere in our classroom library. My thinking is that this helps to add to the balance of what they're reading.

The Baskets
Right now, my chapter books are scattered across the classroom. Some are in the regular classroom library, in the "chapter books" bin or in a themed basket. A whole bunch are in my very generously "leveled" book boxes. I'm struggling with if I should keep it this way, or if I should start creating baskets of "series" books (for example, Geronimo Stilton, Magic TreeHouse, Puppy Place, etc.)

While I was thinking about this, I stumbled upon Beth Newingham's Third Grade classroom blog (wow!!) and her page on her classroom library. I think I need to give this a little more thought!

The Brilliance
Well, friends... here is where I need your help! How do you handle chapter books? Am I making more out of this than I need to? What advice do you have?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Conferring - Slice of Life

I would definitely consider myself a Debbie Miller fan! I was thrilled to be able to attend "A Day with Debbie Miller" at Judson University this past fall and to be able to chat with her one-on-one throughout the day. We have some mutual friends (thanks to my connections on Twitter!) So... as I was attempting to get myself back into "school mode" as Spring Break was coming to an end this past weekend, I decided to watch the Debbie Miller "Joy of Conferring" DVD that I borrowed from school.

I was not disappointed.

Debbie has such a calm, easy way about her that just sets you at ease immediately. At the beginning of the video, she said something that I've been trying to keep in mind all year long as I learn to confer with readers. She encourages the listener to think of conferring as just a conversation between two readers. I find this to be incredibly powerful and yet so simple.

Ultimately, isn't that what real readers do? We have conversations with other readers. We talk about books we're reading, we recommend books to each other, we help each other to understand, we give suggestions. And for me, a conference really does need to be a conversation. It's not just me talking. I absolutely must engage my partner in a true conversation. Yes, there are times when I have to teach a skill or strategy on the spot... but it has to be a part of that conversation.

Now, I will definitely not go so far as to compare myself to Debbie. I have WAY to much to learn and strive to be as smart as she is! However, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that many of my conferences with my first grade readers look and sound very similar to the demonstration ones on the video. Talk about an affirmation! (Disclaimer: Of course, I have those conferences/moments/days when I think, "Oh, my... what in the world just happened?! That did NOT go well..." I'm not that good!!)

Because I've read so much, listened so much, connected so much... I truly feel like I'm on the right path with my conferring journey. I've been influenced by the work of so many amazing educators! What really put me in the frame of mind to make the change in my classroom was our Conferring Blog Book chat last summer. I am forever thankful to the friends who participated and pushed my thinking.

Back to the video... if your district has a professional library, I'd highly recommend Debbie's video for K-2 teachers. Patrick Allen also has an incredible video on conferring, geared toward the 3-5 crowd! Both are available from Stenhouse Publishers. Happy reading... and happy conferring! :)