Monday, December 31, 2012

My Favorite Reads of 2012

So, I don't always like to play by the rules. I love seeing everyone's Top 10 books from this year, and I wanted to share my favorite books I read this year, too! First, I couldn't limit it to just 10 (shocker!) and second, not all of these titles were new in 2012... but they were new to me! :) In any case, I loved these books in 2012 and have simply grouped them for ease of sharing.

Picture Books

(Had to include this one as it was the first book I read to my niece when she was born last January!)

Graphic Novels and Chapter Books

Middle Grades and YA

Professional Reads

(Cheating just a little bit since I haven't quite finished this one yet...) 

I'm sure as soon as I hit "Publish," I will remember more books that I loved this year! I plan to spend this New Year's Eve finishing Book Love and rereading The One and Only Ivan. They deserve my attention. Here's to more happy reading in 2013!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Snowy (Measuring) Trees

I have to start out by giving credit where credit is due... so, thank you, Pinterest, for helping me find this idea. It was originally posted on Mrs. Lee's Kindergarten blog. And thanks to my colleague Jen for explaining how she did it to tie in with our current math focus on measuring!

I cut strips of green paper (roughly 12 inches long and 1 inch tall) to get us started. I then asked the kids to use their ruler to measure out different lengths (7 inches, 6 inches, 9 inches, 11 inches, 2 inches.) When they made the cuts, they'd actually have a 7 inch and 5 inch piece, a 9 inch piece and a 3 inch piece, and so on. They ended up with all different lengths so it could be stacked from longest to shortest.

I adore our snowy first grade forest!

Some of us added a trunk and a star on top. Then we used Q-tips to dot paint on our snow. So pretty! It was a great way to see who is grasping the measuring concept and who is still learning.

It's kind of sad to me that my first graders were so incredibly excited to do this today. "Miss Komos, you are the best teacher ever!" "We love you!!!" This is only the second artsy project we've done all year. We might have to work on that.

Now, if only we had some real snow...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Going 1:1... our journey...

I am extremely fortunate to be able to serve on a committee of Kindergarten, First, and Second Grade teachers who are helping our administration team figure out our plan of action for implementing tablets in K-2 classrooms. We asked if we would be able to visit a district currently using tablets in these grades, and this week, we got our wish. We set out to visit Glenview District #34, as they are piloting iPads in several classrooms in several buildings. Before I get to my observations...

Here's where we are now...
Our district purchased Kuno tablets for students in grade 3-5 at one of our buildings this year. Along with those tablets came the adoption of a basal reading series (Reading Street.) As you can imagine, there have been many hurdles to launching both! I have really been struggling with the decision that was made to purchase this new reading series. Philosophically, it just doesn't match with what I know to be good literacy instruction. HOWEVER... during our meeting last Friday, we were told the district will not be purchasing the digital (or paper) workbooks that accompany the series because that isn't something they want to encourage or support. I think we're getting somewhere... :)

A part of our committee's job is to think through when tablets will be in K-2 classrooms (if we'll all get them in year 3 or if we'll have some next year when the rest of 3-5 gets them.) We're also helping to determine professional development that needs to happen before, during, and after we get the new reading series and the actual tablets.

Transforming Instruction, Moving Forward
I've heard both of these phrases so many times that I've lost count! During our visit, Glenview's tech facilitators reminded me today that tablets become a tool in the classroom. The way in which we use this tool is what helps to drive that transformation. They pointed out some thoughts from the SAMR model and how they hope their iPads will move from substituting activities to redefining them. I think this is going to be key in introducing tablets to our district K-2 teachers. The tablets have the potential to be really fancy worksheets... or really amazing tools for learning.

Seeing this chart in one second grade classroom hit home with me.
Just as we introduce tools now that can be used for Word Work,
our tablets will have apps that can also be used.

There's an app for that!
While this may be true, our visits today led me to thinking about how using tablets isn't all about loading as many apps as possible to keep the kids busy. Can apps help reinforce concepts we're working on? Absolutely. Are there apps I'll want to have on each tablet? Sure. But I think the true power comes in the sharing, collaborating, and connecting students will be able to do.

Cheetahs, Elephants, Hippos
Ok, so this analogy is going to stick with me for a long time! The head tech person from District 34 was responding to a question I asked about what we can be doing now to help teachers prepare in advance of getting the tablets in our rooms. He mentioned how some teachers are cheetahs. They're fast to pick things up, usually are out ahead of everyone else, and want to get started right away. Some are like elephants; they're easygoing, will do what you ask them to do, and tend to follow along. Then, there are the hippos. These are the ones who are ornery and stuck in the mud. It makes me giggle, but isn't it so true?!

I'm looking forward to continuing to help my district through this process and reporting back as we continue moving our way through this journey.