Sunday Reflections: Dear Blog Readers

Dear Blog Readers:

In the next while you might notice a few changes in some of my posts. While this is still a place I will continue to share a LOT of book love (including reviews, author/illustrator interviews, best of lists, weekly sharing of what I’m reading), you will now be getting a larger peek into my classroom.

Sunday Reflections: Dear Blog Readers

What’s ahead? More student book reviews, more classroom photos interspersed into my #IMWAYR posts, sharing of student writing especially in response to what we are reading and various other classroom celebrations of learning. This fall I considered beginning a second blog for classroom related things which felt a little bit overwhelming in terms of time. I then realized that much of our learning is connected to stories and literature and thus, this blog is the ideal location to share both our adventures in learning and our love of reading. I remembered this again reading my own words in this post: Honest truths, metaphorical whales and the “in between” place

” . . . through books we find most of the answers and all of the questions and that these beloved book makers, when they share, help to illuminate both. ”

“The honest truth? I am a reading teacher. And I have important work to do.”

For those of you new to this blog, I am sharing some posts below (follow the links) that give a flavour of my teaching philosophy, my thoughts about reading and what I celebrate in the realm of teaching and learning.

Our words, after all, tell our stories.

Here is mine.

Classroom communities are pretty incredible places. We spend a LOT of time together.

6 hours x 5 days x 10 months

“But when we experience classrooms – as in, occupy classrooms for those 6 hours x 5 days x 10 months, it is mostly about relationships. Because none of that other stuff happens without them. At least not as deeply, meaningfully and wonderfully as it could. And should.”

I believe in the importance of “kid watching” and talk more about it here: The power of observation

 “I need time to watch and interact and notice. I need to trust that I know what I am looking for and that I can make decisions to best guide the learning based on what I see.”

Some of the best observations happen, when there is time for play.

Capturing Play

“There is more and more research to support the benefits of play on the social emotional well being and cognitive development of our learners. In our quest for the most meaningful learning opportunities for our students, we need to make room for play.”

Every child matters.  Every child belongs. Some children especially need us to be welcoming and patient. I feel blessed to have learned from some pretty incredible children over the years.

The Part that is True

“When I look at Harry learning and laughing and taking more risks every day, I know that my job is not to bask in the happiness of his growth and success. My job is to pave the way for more of the same in his future.”

The Kid on the Piano

“I stand there and watch him for a minute.

Shining in the sunshine coming through the windows.

I see the bright energy return under those stormy eyebrows.”

Be Gentle

“Sometimes with all of the busy and all of the rushing and all of the stuff we have to do in schools, we can forget to be gentle. Sometimes gentle is the most important choice we make.”

The more I do this work, the more I realize that there is so much I don’t know. But every so often, I celebrate what I have learned.

20 years, 20 things

“Value community. We are one of many people teaching the children in our classrooms. Students come from varied, interesting and diverse backgrounds. Honour their parents. The extended families. The community that surrounds the school. Make connections to the key players – community centre staff, public library staff, recreation program staff, community health nurses, etc. We are all in this together.”

All my Secrets

“Know that you are present everyday for the amazing of childhood. Don’t try to chase it away or shake it out. Childhood is sad with snotty sobs. Silly with contagious laughter. Angry with stomps and hiding. Wild with wonder and delight. Full with the magic of the world.”

I also need community. Last March, I wrote about realizing I was beginning to find it in my new school.

Finding Community

” Numerous children are nameless to me but we smile at each other each time we pass in the halls. The names will come. The connections will grow. We will make some shared stories.”

Books are my thing. I love the land of stories, words and worlds I find in them.

I believe passionately in classroom libraries and blog about this frequently.

Books, books, books – everywhere you look

“Classroom libraries are like a living, breathing, ever-changing creature. They reflect the interests, the questions and the passions of the readers in the room.”

When I packed up and moved schools after 21 years, books grounded me: These Books

“In those times when I look up and remember that it’s all new and not yet home, these books will help me find my balance. Let me place two solid feet in the middle of it all.”

In the month of March, I write every day. Be warned now.

This Writing Thing

“Writing steals time. While you try to capture the world, some of it passes you by. You aren’t where you started. You don’t remember arriving here.”

Happy reading! Happy writing! Happy Sunday!

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

I just finished the first full week of school with my new students. For me, there is lots of new. New students. New school. New grade combination (Grade 4 & 5). New community. New room. I teach and learn in The Land of New.

Nothing was perfect. But everything was about learning. Sometimes, I was absolutely the biggest learner in the room. Sometimes, I felt the beginning faith in my students that they are both learners and teachers here. I want them to always know this.

Today I celebrate that some wonderful happened. This classroom that I worked on for endless days in the summer feels like so much more with students in it. Together we are building community. It’s exhausting. But it’s fantastic.

And, there is no way I could be doing this alone. My family (parents, children, sister) helped me with set up all summer. My husband has helped me multiple days this week to hang art, affix labels and shift furniture around the room. My new school community has been supportive and willing to answer my endless questions. Things I have needed have been sourced. An iPad charger. A classroom carpet (thank goodness!). Blue markers for the white board.

I am constantly inspired by the PLN I continue to grow. You will see in this celebration that I have borrowed, emulated, utilized, shifted and considered the ideas and work of many incredible educators, authors, illustrators and artists in the work we did this week. I am always bursting with gratitude to be connected with so many creative and thoughtful individuals.

Now to celebrate!

We completed two pieces of art to celebrate International Dot Day. I wanted students to approach their work playfully and to embrace the feeling of no one way to make an art piece. I discovered the wonderful blog of artist Michele Guieu and was blown away by all that she does. After resurfacing from her blog (prepare to spend hours!), I had the inspiration for our Dot Day pieces.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

On one wall – our collective work! Can’t wait for students to walk into this on Monday morning.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

We are learning to think like scientists by waking up our brains to be observant, organized and full of questions. Thank you to Jess Keating and her Animals for Smart People videos. These videos are all under 3 minutes so we watch them twice and then talk about what we learned and the questions the information inspired.

Our first response web was completed together. Students will begin completing their own next week. We talked about jotting down new learning and connecting this to further questions.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of NewAll last year my students and I participated in #classroombookaday (Follow the link to the presentation that Jillian Heise and Angie Huesgen gave at nErdDcampMI 2016 for more information). Near the end of the year, I started choosing a collection of books around a theme. This year with an intermediate class, I decided to continue this and then have the students respond at the end of the week. What was their favourite book? What did they feel was the theme of the week? Which book best exemplified that theme?

We will be learning more about theme in the weeks to come, including how to think about supporting ideas from the text that confirm/illustrate the theme. What I love about this is the potential for students to be thinking and talking all week about how stories connect and what messages they include.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

In math, we began our week with representing numbers in interesting ways. While students built and created, I learned about their understanding of place value and ability to “count up” to prove to me that their structure/creature represented the number given.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

We have started Reading Workshop in full force. This group happily reads independently for 20-25 minutes and daily asks for more time to read. We have started to learn about genre through our picture book collection. This week we talked about fantasy stories, humour and books with rhyme and repetition. I have been trying to connect with each child to talk about books that are loved and what to read next. One important moment? When the child who told me he did not like to read and had no favourite books (on his reading survey) came to me on Friday and asked for my help in choosing a novel. The power of a reading community in a classroom full of books!

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

I finally finished covering exposed black board (non magnetic and marked up with tape marks) with book jacket covers. I call this book wall paper 🙂 The covers I selected are favourite titles of mine but I hope that they also convey a few things: we are readers here, we read fiction and nonfiction, stories are important, diversity is celebrated, we will be creative here, we will share laughter, we will learn together . . .

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

I celebrate turning out the lights on Friday afternoon (okay, early evening) to chairs up, art on the wall, student words in my head. Goodnight to my new classroom community.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community!

Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks.

celebrate-link-up

Celebration: Happy, happy, joy, joy

This week I am celebrating joy. The joy floating about our classroom community. We have been together not quite 3 months and this week, something clicked. We are a we, an us, an important, connected community. There have been signs. There have been traces. There have been moments. This week, we got there.

And so I celebrate all of the happy, all of the joy, all of the we.

I found it in all of these place . . .

Three boys and the latest Elephant and Piggie title.

Celebration: Happy, happy, joy, joy

Sisters off to book shop during buddy reading.

Celebration: Happy, happy, joy. joy

Sharing radishes during afternoon play time. Crunch, crunch. Munch, munch.

Celebration: Happy, happy, joy. joy

Science exploring with our Let’s Talk Science volunteers. “I am science!” one child exclaimed.

Celebration: Happy, happy, joy. joy

Sneaking up on Warning: Do not Open this Book! by Adam Lehrhaupt and illustrated by Matthew Forsythe Preparing to reaPlease, Open this Book! These titles required some very careful sneaking because there are wild creatures in them talking all about being well, wild, and then complaining about being trapped. Reading these was a full out adventure.

Celebration: Happy, happy, joy. joy

Sharing a book review with our guest reader from the BLG law firm who gifts us with books every week.

Celebrate: Happy, happy, joy, joy

The thing I know about arriving in the land of we – there is no going back. I am beyond thrilled to be here. And I’m not going anywhere.

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community!

Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks.

celebrate-link-up

Celebration: Giggles, tears and much in between

This week was a long week. Two evenings of parent/teacher conferences. Rainy days. Stormy nights. Seldom seeing the sun. In all of this, I appreciated things that made me smile. I also honoured the tears.

Looking back over my week,

I celebrate time for art and filling our room with bunnies. I am terrible at holiday art. I never decorate the classroom for specific holidays. I think about it going up and then being over and needing to come down. So, in this season, I cheat and do winter related art. This week it was little bunnies in the snow. I love how bunnies represent curiosity, inquisitiveness, quiet and calm. Every time I look at these little critters, I grin. In all of the busy, creating art together is a way to slow it all down. (Inspired by this project on the blog Mary Making)

Celebration: Giggles, tears and much in between There's a Book for That

I loved this one in particular – its wild nature and how it was branded “Gril” because, you know, if you have a bunch of bunnies, you should keep track of gender. 🙂

Celebration: Giggles, tears and much in between There's a Book for That

I celebrate tears. Tears shared during parent conferences. Tears of pride. Tears triggered by memories of challenging childhoods. Tears about opportunities and dreams for children. Much to celebrate. The generosity of stories shared. I am blessed to be meeting with some families for the second and third year. Trust takes time. Wow, is it incredible as it happens. I loved what parents and families (because I also had siblings, Grandmas, etc.) shared with me. A few highlights:

  • “My daughter comes home and follows me around asking me “Did you know . . . ?” and actually, I don’t know! I love learning about what she is learning.”
  • “I think our sister is really benefitting from the yoga that you do in class. She is really centered and she is showing more calm when dealing with her siblings.”
  • “I love all of the art! Can I take pictures of all of it?”
  • “My child is now helping her sister read. She says, “write down the words you don’t know and we’ll figure it out together.”
  • “My child is always reading. We have to go to the library every weekend.”
  • “My daughter is writing songs. Every day!”
  • “I put what you wrote about my daughter on my facebook page. It was so wonderful. I am so proud.”

I realized that much beyond curriculum is being learned. We were able to celebrate community, kindness, perseverance, risk taking, curiosity and the power of learning and wondering together.

Celebration: Giggles, tears and much in between There's a Book for That

I celebrate conversations with my students about buddy reading. After our little K buddies left this week, we gathered at the carpet and talked. My students (in Grade 3 and 4) shared highlights of their reading experiences. We discussed whether little buddies were ready for longer picture books yet or whether board books and concept books were still appropriate. My students talked so respectfully and thoughtfully about different needs and abilities of the K students. They recognized that different children have different abilities to attend and different interests and skills. They are so invested. I am so proud of them. I have regular moments of awe as I happen upon the interactions between the children. The gifts they give each other . . .

Celebration: Giggles, tears and much in between There's a Book for That

I especially celebrate things that made me laugh. In all of the busy. In all of the intensity of pre-holidays and family meetings, regular laughter was a must. My favourite giggle of the week was this labelled paper bag brought along on our field trip with a child who worried about getting sick on the bus. The worry of motion sickness passed once she had her “puking bag” firmly in hand.

Celebration: Giggles, tears and much in between There's a Book for That

‘Tis the season for lots of emotions. I celebrate the ability to feel them all. Resting up this weekend to prepare for another week of “pre-holidayness” next week.

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community! Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks. Read all of the celebrations by following the links shared here.

celebrate-link-up

Celebration: Snippets of Wisdom

This week we hosted four student teachers from Simon Fraser University – two on Tuesday and Wednesday and two more on Thursday and Friday. These visits were a part of a week of observations in a variety of classroom settings. I celebrate that my students were so open and welcoming and that we were all able to do some learning and reflecting together.

Always our room is a busy, full speed ahead place but at the end of the week, what was “learned”? I think we managed to pass on a few snippets of wisdom. I love that my students can be teachers. Miriam and I learn from them everyday. This week, I think they gave these SFU students lots to think about.

A few highlights:

Busy, active, exciting – these things need to happen everyday. But, so does calm. Things we do: quiet time, mindful breathing, gratitude circles, an afternoon walk and quiet, reflective play. It can be simple. Buttons, cardboard, markers = 10 minutes of magic.

Celebration: Snippets of Wisdom There's a Book for That

Have a classroom full of books and lots of time to read them. Every day. Reading is quiet and solitary and social and joyous. Make time for all of it.

Celebration: Snippets of Wisdom There's a Book for That

Great practice time for anything might involve “equipment” beyond a pencil. The handing out and collection of “stuff” needs to be well organized and logical. Let all of that process be smooth, and practice time can look like this.

Celebration: Snippets of Wisdom There's a Book for That

Let students collaborate and communicate while they learn. Talk, support, ask questions. And then, celebrate!

Celebration: Snippets of Wisdom There's a Book for That

Don’t be afraid to tackle subjects and things that are emotional. We shared a sad video connected to a picture book that we read this week: Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla written by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Yes, we had a few tears but we also had some great conversations. The resulting writing was powerful:

Celebration: Snippets of Wisdom There's a Book for That

Invite others in to share their expertise. Our Let’s Talk Science volunteers visited Friday morning for their first visit of the year. We learned about the three states of matter and that when a solid becomes a gas, it is called sublimation. How? Well, there were lots of bubbles, coloured water and . . . dry ice! Fun and fully hands on.

Celebration: Snippets of Wisdom There's a Book for That

The big tip here? Let the “experts” do their thing and the kids have fun and learn lots. The classroom teacher’s role? Support, management, enthusiasm. Help it all go smoothly so everyone wants to do it again!

Celebration: Snippets of Wisdom There's a Book for That

And of course, always be prepared. Have everything you need. Be safe. Look like you mean it.

Celebration: Snippets of Wisdom There's a Book for That

There were some other tidbits I passed on – things about paper (and aversions to it), creative interpretations of the IRPs and the power of clicky shoes. But it was the students doing what they do best that allowed the most powerful “teaching” to happen. And this is what I celebrate this week!

celebrate-link-up

Thank you also to Ruth Ayres, for the inspiration and her Celebration Link up that she hosts each week. I love how being a part of this #celebratelu community reminds us weekly to look for the positive and take some time for gratitude.

Celebration: Everything that happened (almost)

All week! I taught all week! Finally, finally in BC, we are back in our classrooms! When news that we had ratified the contract that took many months to get (more than 5 weeks of it on a picket line) I issued this warning:

So this week, my celebration post is all about all of it! All of the moments, all of the mumbles, all of the whispers and all of the shouts. The learning, the hugs, the love and the routines.

Please bear with me. I took a lot of photos. I scribbled little things on papers. I collected moments of magic. I even smiled through the testing of limits, the pushing of boundaries and the natural frustration that came with being back in school all day after not being there for 13 weeks. All of it was part of what we do. And I am just so ecstatic to be doing it. Good, bad, trying, joyous . . . I will take it all.

I loved these first “step back into the classroom” smiles.

Celebration: Everything that happened (almost)

I loved reading aloud to a group of students again. All of the predictions and questions and oohs and ahhs.

Celebration: Everything that happened (almost) The Mighty Lalouche

How about this? One student had a first day gift for the class – of course, a book 🙂 Part of a beloved series that we didn’t have yet.

Celebration: Everything that happened (almost)

The books that I couldn’t wait to share, were oh so happy to be shared.

Celebration: Everything that happened (almost)

And of course, old favourites were instantly grabbed from the shelves. What would we do without Elephant and Piggie?

Celebration: Everything that happened (almost)

Math everyday has been all about engaged and proud and busy. Everyone supporting each other. The students I had last year have retained concepts and most importantly, confidence!

Celebration: Everything that happened (almost)

I still get to work with the amazing Miriam which is celebration enough. That she shares the gift of yoga with us everyday means daily doses of wonderful.

Celebration: Everything that happened (almost)

We had lots of special visits this week. One from a boy who had been in our room for almost two years and had moved suddenly last March. His visit allowed us all to say both hello again and then goodbye.

Celebration: Everything that happened (almost)

We also had a visit from a Mobile Dairy unit that included a four year old female cow and a 2 week old baby. Little Tulip (pictured below) was a wonder for many children who have never seen a farm animal. How I love watching the children experience things for the first time!

Celebration: Everything that happened (almost)

Of course a cow and a calf on the school grounds is a sight to see. One neighbour riding by with his toddler popped in to check things out. They had visited us many times on the picket line. It was a special feeling to share a learning experience on the school grounds together. All of us doing what we should be and school being the center of community. We found these guests seats in the middle of our “outdoor” school experience.

Celebration: Everything that happened (almost)

So much to celebrate. Much that amused and delighted and a few things that brought me to tears. Often I just stopped by the classroom window to take in the view. How I have missed this perspective on the world.

Celebration: Everything that happened (almost)

A few of the words shared:

“I would like to stay in this classroom until I am maybe 95.”

“_______’s Mom says you are a great teacher. You are right?”

“I know what’s different in the room! I especially noticed J’s haircut. Maybe my Dad should get his hair like that.”

“I am so grateful school is really back again.”

With all of the excitement I also have to acknowledge the bittersweet. Four of my students moved on to new classes and after teaching all of them for two years, there is a lot of missing mixed up with the pride I feel in seeing them settle into a new classroom. One child in particular has needed a little extra support with the transition. As much for the adults as for him – it has been about gently helping to settle everyone and allowing acceptance and a developing understanding of how to best support him in a new setting. He and I shared one very important moment this week. It captured how our relationship has grown to a place of respect and trust. Sometimes a few words say everything. In the lunchroom one day I told him that I knew it was a lot to get used to in a new room and that I really missed him.

“I know that Ms. Gelson. I know it for sure.”

I know I have so much ahead with all of my students this year. But those few words have already been the biggest gift.

I celebrate such a beautiful week.

celebrate-link-up

Thank you also to Ruth Ayres, for the inspiration and her Celebration Link up that she hosts each week. I treasure this #celebratelu community.

Celebration: Book blogging

Thank you to Ruth Ayres, for the inspiration and her Celebration Link up that she hosts each week. I treasure this #celebratelu community who always find moments of gratitude in our busy weeks.

celebrate link up

As many of you know, B.C. teacher’s have been in some stage of job action for months and were out of our classrooms (full scale strike) for 13 days in June. We still don’t know about our return in the fall. It is hard to carry on as if all is normal, when nothing is normal. My life is not just my job but teaching is a huge part of my life. I am passionate about what I do and I miss it.

This week, I have worked really hard to reclaim a part of who I am – a reading teacher who shares a love of books with my students but also an amazing online community of book inspired colleagues. I have been reading and blogging and sharing and it is this I celebrate. I may not have a definite time when I will be sharing the magic of books in my classroom again. But I am sharing it here everyday and learning and being inspired by a community that shares with me. This has given me new energy and joy.

I celebrate the #booklove my blog allows me to share.

This week I blogged every day.

On Monday, I shared my reading from the week in my It’s Monday, What are you reading? post It was a big picture book reading week for me and I shared lots of treasures. I love learning from the book lists and reviews of the #IMWAYR community. It is a guaranteed day to add to my library requests, my Pinterest boards and my ever growing TBR list on Goodreads. These are readers who know their books. I never have to worry about what to read next!

 Emily's Blue Period Celebration: Book blogging There's a Book for That

On Tuesday, I shared a picture book wish list – ten titles that I would love to own. Book buying may be on hold until there is an income coming into our household again (two teacher family) but making lists is free. And dreaming in picture books is quite wonderful!

Celebration: Book blogging There's a Book for That

On Wednesday, I shared this book about moon bears and a number of other nonfiction titles about bears for my Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday post. Alyson Beecher from Kid Lit Frenzy hosts a nonfiction picture book challenge and invites bloggers to share their nonfiction reading each Wednesday. In sharing some of my favourite nonfiction titles of 2013 in January, I shared how participating in this challenge has transformed my teaching. I am pleased to report that I have already surpassed my goal of reading 65 new to me titles. Currently, I have read 80 nonfiction picture books in 2014 🙂

 Jasper's Story Celebration: Book blogging There's a Book for That

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of participating in a blog tour to celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of The Schneider Family Book Award. My post, written with my eleven year old daughter, featured a 2013 winner A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean. Thank you to Alyson Beecher for asking me to participate in this. It was an honour and an absolute pleasure to help highlight the importance of this award. We all benefit from reading and sharing more diverse literature and titles that highlight the disability experience are an absolute part of this.  This tour and giveaway are running until the 20th of this month. Check out some of the other posts and enter the giveaway to win the three books below. All links are included in my post.

 Schneider Blog Tour Celebration: Book blogging There's a Book for That

 

 A Dog Called Homeless Celebration: Book blogging There's a Book for That

On Friday, I shared a nonfiction picture book wish list because . . . I also dream in nonfiction. The first comment on this post has already led me to more wishing. Thanks @NorahColvin for the recommendation!

Creature Features Celebration: Book blogging There's a Book for That

And today, Saturday, I celebrate this wonderful week of book blogging here.

Next week we are away and so other than my Monday post which I will write in advance, I won’t be blogging. But I will be taking a little bit of time each day to connect with my online community of book passionate readers and teachers who share so much with me. Part of what I love about teaching is learning. And that I can always do!