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Friends, I have to ask for all of the prayers, good thoughts, and well-wishes you have to offer for a friend and colleague of mine.  She is a fabulous fifth grade teacher at the school where I used to work – she teaches reading and writing, and her kids are SO lucky to have her.  Last April, she and her husband lost their four-year-old son Cade after he collapsed on the field during soccer practice.  He died of a heart condition that they were completely unaware of.  We were all so shaken, but their faith was an inspiration.  They immediately had their 11-month old daughter Addi tested and found out that she had the same condition.  She was placed on the heart transplant list last November and had a defibrillator put in in January, and we all prayed for the day they would receive the life-saving call.

Last week, sweet Addi’s heart stopped beating during a routine check-up, and she was placed on life support.  She made miraculous gains, astounding everyone, and as of Thursday, she was even up and moving.  But yesterday, God called precious Addi home.  She is no doubt rejoicing with her brother, and I am sure they are the cutest angels in Heaven, but that makes it no less heartbreaking.  Please, please, pray for this amazing family, and hug your loved ones a little tighter today.

You can read more about their story on Susie’s blog, The Carpenters.


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State testing was this week, and in Texas, it was our first stab at a new assessment – the STAAR.  Because I don’t have a class of my own, I tested individual students across three days.  While this may sound like a vacation from the everyday routine of work, I can assure you that it’s not.  Sitting and staring at one student all day is inexplicably exhausting.  I’m glad it’s over, and I’m ready for the April round to come and go as well!

In terms of updates, I’ve received several e-mails about trouble viewing the slideshows.  Because of bandwidth limits, I’m having to compress the pictures on my site more than I’d like, and this is making the slideshows behave in a wonky way, especially on non-Mac systems.  I’ve disabled the slideshows until I can figure this out.  You can still click on any image to enlarge it, and you can click on next underneath the pictures to scroll through the larger images.  I hope this helps!


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In terms of updating, I took an extended Spring Break, but even that extension is over now.  I just updated the site (as of this post, it’s still publishing) with a few new anchor charts and some pictures of a literacy station work board.  Also, I made a bunch of changes to the look of the site, as I’m trying to save bandwidth space.  Lots of traffic is a great thing, but it’s threatening to crash the whole site. 🙁

Enjoy the updates, and let me know if you have any questions!

Sweet, Sweet Spring Break

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I didn’t update this weekend because I was busy enjoying some glorious moments of nothing-ness. I’m trying my best to continue that streak for the entirety of my spring break, so it will probably be next week before I update the site. In the meantime, I’ll be adding to my reader’s notebook!

The notebook is about pushing our thinking as readers, and I’m always thinking about new ways to do that. My latest entry is about my thinking across several texts. When I looked at my reading log (yes – I keep a reading log), I noticed a trend, so I wrote about it. It’s rare that I talk about just one book at a time. As a real-world reader, I’m constantly making connections to other books when I share titles with my friends. This entry was a way to capture that thinking.


If you’re also on spring break, enjoy your time off! Even if you’re not on vacation this week, I hope you’re filling it with whatever makes you happiest.

Enjoy! 🙂

Thoughts on Assessment (and Weekend Update)

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about assessment lately, particularly about authentic assessment.  My school district uses the workshop approach to reading and writing, so students are working at their own level.  Daily conferring happens in both reading and writing, so informal assessment comes naturally.  Working individually with students allows teachers to meet individual needs right on the spot and keep track of how they are responding to instruction. The trick is turning all of this into a number to put in the grade book.  At my campus, we are trying something new in writing.  I am working with teachers to create simple rubrics for each curriculum unit.  When I say simple, I mean 8-year-old simple.  We are limiting ourselves to the five most important things we hope they will be able to produce in the writing unit, and we are making the language as kid-friendly as possible, because the whole point is to share the rubrics with the kids.

These rubrics are ideally introduced on Day 2 of the writing unit. (Day 1 is devoted to immersing in the kind of writing kids are about to do.)  On day 2, we want to push kids to reflect on everything they noticed as they were immersing in the genre.  Then they’ll be introduced to the rubric. (I’m including a picture of a 2nd grade rubric (from Mrs. Scott’s class) here, and I am adding more to the anchor charts page.)

The point of this rubric is not just to show kids one time, of course.  The rubrics are being referred to multiple times every single day.  Because we developed the rubric based on our curriculum, every mini-lesson should be connected to one of the rubric goals.  This will help kids add to their vision of where they are going in this unit. (Like Katie Wood Ray says, if we don’t give kids a vision, we can’t expect them to do any revision.)

These rubrics are also referred to in individual conferences.  A conference should include a compliment and a teaching point.  If the teacher is stuck, they can certainly compliment the student on one goal from the rubric they are really working on, and they can choose a teaching point based on a different goal.

 Finally, teachers are referring to these rubrics during the share portion of writing workshop.  I was in a second grade class last week during the share, and one student read her ending. (The mini-lesson that day was about endings.) After she read that part of her piece, the teacher thanked her and publicly praised her realistic solution (one of the rubric goals).  This not only made that student feel like a writing rock star – it made every other kid in the class double-check that the solution in their story was realistic, too.
This is a work in progress for us.  I’ll update as our work evolves.
Happy Saturday!
P.S. – I added a few other anchor chart pictures as well.  I may add another post about those later.  I also reorganized the anchor chart page for clarity’s sake.