Milestones

My family is experiencing a sequence of life milestones. It is exciting and stressful all at the same time. I can’t help but reflect over the last 20-25 years as we are facing major life changes.

Today, Friday, September 13, 2013(seems like an unlucky date), my son Luke completed his coursework to be a sound engineer!  Jason and I are so proud of him! He has worked extremely hard, long hours, and through stressful proficiency exams.  He has learned all aspects of the sound recording world.  His training included live sound, studio recording and post production editing, T.V. and movie sound effects/voice overs, and video games audio.  I have enjoyed listening to Jason and Luke’s conversations about plugins and compression, even though I have no idea what they are talking about. Jason also likes to mix music and Luke has helped him with some of his original songs and recordings.  I don’t think Luke realizes how knowledgable he has become.

Luke working in the recording studio.

Luke working in the recording studio.

Luke working on a recording project.

Luke working on a recording project.

Our daughter, Tess, has also faced a milestone.  She moved into her own place for her senior year of university! She lived away from home last year when she was in the Disney College Program, but this is the first time she found her own place and is paying her own rent and utilities, and bought her own furniture.  I have to admit that I love the fact that she is still close enough to come home for dinner or just to hang out.  I don’t think that I will have that luxury a year from now. She is such a talented journalist, I’m sure she will be picking up and moving to where incredible job opportunities take her.

Tessa's new place/ Elijah is putting together some of her new furniture.

Tessa’s new place/ Elijah is putting together some of her new furniture.

I am in awe of the two mature, kind, thoughtful, adults I call my children. They have been a joy to raise and watch grow.  I am super excited to see what their futures have in store for them.

Love them!

Love them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Slow Down To Catch Up

As a reading intervention teacher I constantly have to remind myself to slow down so my students can catch up. I have to balance the sense of urgency to bring the students up to grade level in reading, with what I know they will need to be successful.

Previewing text before students read helps them learn from and understand the text better. Teachers (myself included) often want to skip this strategy so they can just move on to the text and teach the Common Core Standards.  This year my professional growth plan is to make sure I am including previewing activities in my lesson plans. This is forcing me to take the time to front load the text,  for and with my students.  By forcing, I don’t mean for it to sound negative, it is just that now I need to make it part of my deliberate practice.  So, even though I was anxious to jump into books this past week with my students, we practiced previewing strategies.
Previewing strategies help to set the purpose for reading, get the students focused on the important information, and make connections between what they already know and the text.  English Language Learners and students below grade level in reading have a greater difficulty than their peers, to jump into new text without background support. Students need to be introduced to the topic before reading.
Pre teaching vocabulary and concepts are two ways to set the readers up for success. This past week I used two different methods to preview text with my groups. Some of my groups created a probable passage to preview the text and other groups used an anticipation guide. I will explain both methods.
Probable Passage- The students are given vocabulary words from the text.  Discussion follows to make sure the students understand the meaning of each word.
     Non- Fiction text- I have the students sort the vocabulary words by the parts of speech.  They group all the nouns, proper nouns, adjectives, verbs (usually all the important vocabulary will fall into these four categories) together. Then, either orally or in written form, they make predictions about what information or what they will learn from reading the text. I find this previewing strategy to be very powerful. The students definitely have a greater understanding of the text after this strategy is implemented.
     Fictional text- The same method is used for fictional text except for the sorting of the words. For fictional text, I have the students sort the vocabulary words by story elements (characters, setting, problem, solution, and events).  The students then predict what the story will be about. My students demonstrate great excitement to share their ideas!
Probable Passage- Students sorting vocabulary words

Probable Passage- Students sorting vocabulary words

Anticipation Guide- This strategy is only used with non- fiction text. The teacher looks through the text and pulls out facts. Some of the facts will be typed up accurately and some will not be accurate. The students read each fact, before they read the text, and decide if they agree or disagree with with the statement. As they read the text, they refer back to their anticipation guide, and check their accuracy. I also include a spot for them to record the page number where they found the fact. My readers approach this strategy full of energy! They enjoy the challenge of finding or disproving the facts. It draws them into the text and in turn, have a greater understanding of the text.

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I am always on the hunt for new previewing strategies. I know previewing text is well worth the time it takes. My mantra for this year is going to be “slow down so my kids can catch up”! I know it will pay off in the long run.

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Battle of the Books

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I am the Battle of the Books coach again this year at my elementary school. In my opinion, it is the best club offered. In what other club can 5th and 6th graders read twelve incredible novels, discuss them with peers, and battle to see which team remembers the most details from the books. It is a ton of work to coach BOTB because I have to stay ahead of the kids reading schedule and write questions so the students are ready for the battles. I was so proud of my team that competed against the other schools in the district last spring. They did a great job! This year I have tripled the number of students in the club. 
The first book we read this quarter was Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. What a great story! It had all the elements: adventure, mystery, courage, and a wonderful message.  The message of the story is that knowledge is power. The rats become super rats because of their ability to read and write. They read anything that they can get their hands on, and in turn, create an unbelievable life for themselves. This book is a must read for every elementary aged student. 
The second book we read was Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. I loved, loved this book! However, I’m not sure how it ended up on the BOTB list.  This book is incredibly deep and intense. It did not seem like the author wrote this book for a young audience.  The whole time I was reading this book, the lyrics to a Florence and the Machine song, kept running through my head. “And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off”.  I do this a lot when I read. I make a connection to a song, it seems to help me connect the characters better. Usually, each character has their own song, but in this book, all the characters reminded me of this one song.  This song is about regret and not being able to put the past behind, which was a common theme of all the characters. The two main characters of this book are 12-13 year old girls, with pre-fourty year old, stay at home moms.  Their moms have zero sense of self worth, and in turn, run away from their families. See why I am questioning this book for 5th and 6th graders?  The girls are left with fathers, longing for the past, and not knowing what went wrong.  Like I said, it is intense.  Walk Two Moons, is a book, I will not soon forget. Now I just need to figure out the best way to approach this book with my students. For the most part, they are pretty literal and will not have dissected the characters as deeply as I have.  Lucky for me, they are not attuned to middle-aged mom issues.  I’m sure their discussions will just focus on Sal’s crazy grandparents that let her drive their car, and the kiss from Ben. I will gladly leave it there and we will be ready to move on to our next book, Jennifer Murdley’s Toad. This book seems like it will be very appropriate for my young book lovers. 
 

 

 

 

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Furry Family Members

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I bet that I could ask fifty people what the picture above is of, and none of them would guess correctly. I’d get responses like, “What a cute picture of your dogs ” or maybe ” What a cute border collie, chihuahua, and papillon”. Neither of theses responses would be correct.  This is a photo of three family members.  Jack, the border collie mix, is my grandson, Tillie, the chihuahua, is my niece, and Abbey Road “Abbey”, is my 3rd child. These three, are furry family members. They each have distinct likes and dislikes, and all have great personalities!

I am one of those people who could not live without a pet.   I got my first dog, Candy, at the age of 5, and  now could not imagine opening the front door without a puppy running up to greet me.  Sure they require work, and I have to mop and vacuum more than non-pet owners, and you have to figure out where they will stay when you go on vacation, but they are worth it. I talk to them, confide in them, and have even composed songs, that I sing to them.  Anyone who has not owned a pet, has no idea of positive affect on their spirit and soul.
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The Best Laid Plans

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I get to begin my reading intervention groups the day after Labor Day! Plans, plans, and more plans. Planning is critical for my students. I need to help them catch up, and get on grade level, as soon as possible.  It is difficult for me to wait more than a month after school starts, to begin my intervention groups, although I understand why it is necessary. I’m on the school benchmark team, so it takes us the first few weeks to get the school-wide assessment taken care of.  So now, the students have been strategically grouped and we are ready to hit the ground running.  Three of my groups are made up of ELL students. So besides the reading instruction, I will provide them with 30 minutes of their speaking and listening instructional minutes. These lessons take a lot of time to develop. Teaching the ELA Common Core Standards, ELL Speaking and Listening Standards, incorporating grade level Science and Social Studies Standards, and selection of materials, takes a lot of time to piece together.  I have been teaching reading for more than 20 years and have not found a shortcut yet. I don’t mind putting in the time. My kids deserve it! They are great kids who want to learn.  I realize that I will never be compensated for my time, in a financial way, but I’m compensated daily when I look at the smiles on the those little faces!

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Get Moving

imageI got new running shoes today! I am in no shape or form an athlete. I jog/run, cycle, work out on the elliptical, complete the 30 minute strength circuit, but am not an athlete. So why would I be excited about new shoes? Because even though I’m not an athlete, I love being active. I exercise in some form, at least 3 days a week. I don’t have a schedule, I don’t have to go a certain number of miles/pace, without feeling like a failure, and I’m not training for a race. I just exercise. If I feel like running, I run.  If I want to read while I exercise, I’ll get on the stationary bike. If I want to switch things up, I’ll do the 30 minute cardio/strength circuit.  The most miles I have run is 10k and I have no desire to go farther. Once the weather cools down and I can run outside again, I will probably go on some longer runs, as I don’t like to stay on the treadmill for more than 40 minutes.  Exercise adds to the quality of my life. I was diagnosed with a chronic disease,  Crohn’s Disease,  in my early 20’s. I know that my active, yet not obsessive, lifestyle has helped me function with this disease. Even though I’m not athletic, I love getting new workout shoes. They will serve me well for the next several months.

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Mother/Daughter Day

I have wanted to start a blog for awhile, but never took the first step. As an elementary teacher, I find myself reading other teacher’s blogs and loving the ideas and stories they share. I put off starting my blog because I kept telling myself that I wouldn’t have enough to write about. Then I decided that I wouldn’t limit myself to just education. I’m also a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, pet owner, music lover, savvy shopper, organizing queen, avid reader, penny-pinching traveller, and friend. This is why I decided to name my blog the Eclectic Educator. I am not going to limit my posts to teacher stuff. I’m going to include all the parts of my world.
So it is fitting that my first post is about a mother/daughter day. Tessa and I drove up to Scottsdale this morning to the new Living Spaces store. No, we were not in need of new furniture. Jeff Lewis from the show Flipping Out was going to be there for a meet and greet! It is my favorite show! We not only got to meet Jeff Lewis, but his partner Gage was there too! They were both so sweet and spoke with each and every fan as if they were old friends. After Tess and I got our photos and chatted with Jeff and Gage, we went for lunch at Picasso Pizza. All in all, it was a perfect afternoon.

Mother/Daughter Day

Tessa and I got to meet Jeff Lewis and his partner Gage in Scottsdale.

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