The Book Whisperer Read Along

My first impression of this book was "this is me." Teaching was my second career. I love to read, have always loved to read, I reread and mark in the books I read,  as a first grade teacher I love to teach kids to read, and I have always thought there is a better way than what I am doing. I have spent every summer (and much of the school years) trying to find better ways to help my students learn to read, learn to love reading, and better ways to make me a "better" teacher. I wanted to "get it right" like Donalyn writes on page 13.

My real "Ah-Ha" (I have a bag I keep my Ah-Ha's in) was on page 14 when she writes of what Susie Kelly her curriculum facilitator said to her "If you ever think you have all the answers, it's time to retire." I have always thought there is something wrong with me because I'm always reexamining what I do, how I teach.

My next favorite passage is from pages 17 and 18  when she speaks of all the books she read from the experts and practitioners "The structure of the workshop drove everything I did, and it left me frustrated." "I forgot what workshop teaching was all about-my role as master reader-which goes beyond just following a lockstep sequence of lessons that some distant guru had advised me to use." Can we get an AMEN!

And finally the biggest Ah-Ha to stick in my bag from chapter one - page 18 "I accept that I may never arrive at teaching paradise, but as long as I hold on to my love of books and show my students what it really means to live as a reader, I'll be a lot closer than I once was." DING DING DING bells and whistles going off here. I think I may even hear angles singing- and one of them may be named Donalyn.

I loved everything about this book and can hardly wait for the next chapter- to reread. I posted on my question link that Donalyn will be at the All Write summer institute in northern Indiana next June. She was there this summer as a guest. It was one of the best workshops I have ever been to. My husband drove me 700+ miles to attend (we live in Oklahoma). He told me next year I have to fly :) anyone care to join me? lol

When I went to wordle it kept crashing (I think too many of us are trying to use it today). I found this great site to use today and I'll be having my kiddos use it this year too. it even has grade specific word clouds. You may already know about it, but it was a cool new find for me. :)

Read Along Questions

Thinking of Teaching is hosting a read along about The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. I read it in one day, the day it came in the mail. Now I am rereading it chapter by chapter with the read along. If you want a great book to read about teaching kids to read run out and get your copy today. Thinking of Teaching has interviewd Donalyn and has her answers on her blog. She has also asked us to join in, so here are my answers.

1) What is your favourite book (or series) from childhood? The Ugly Duckling

2) What is your favourite book (or series) now? I love anything by Kristin Hannah

3) What is your opinion of e-readers? Love, love, love, my Ipad

4) Finish this sentence: "On Sundays I like to..." spend time with my family having cook-outs in the summer or big family meals in the winter.

5) Describe yourself in 5 words! Mother, wife, writer, teacher, learner

6) Hardcover or paperback? Why? Doesn't matter as long as it is a good book.

7) Coffee or Tea? only tea, iced and not too strong
Just a FYI if you live in or close to Indiana Donalyn Miller will be at the All Write summer workshop June 21, and 22, 2012. She was there this year but only as a guest, next year she will be presenting.

I've been away

A week ago Saturday my family and I set out for a vacation wrapped in professional development for me. We left Oklahoma at 8:00am and crossed into Indiana by 6:00 that evening. We spent the night just inside Indiana and then headed out the next morning to Warsaw, Indiana and the "All Write Conference." And boy was it worth the trip! The presenters were AMAZING! Katie Wood Ray, Debbie Miller, Ann Marie Corgill, Georgia Heard, Lester Laminick, Jeff Anderson, and the list goes on.

I am writing my reflections from the sessions I went to on my other blog "first grade & fence posts."

One session I went to was presented by a group of teachers, and was about "quality tools" for the classroom. It was very interesting and a bit overwhelming.
One concept I became interested in is the "data board." I vaguely remember reading about these before, but have never seen one in use.

Do any of you use data boards in your classrooms? If so, how do use them, and what do you put on them?

Thanks for sharing!

T. Klinger

Thinking about the end with the beginning in mind...

I’ve always secretly thought I must not be a very good teacher. I no sooner get my kiddos out the door, room packed up, important things hauled home, turned in, and tied up when I start contemplating the next school year. I think about what I want to change. What worked this year, but needs tweaking for next year. What can I move in my classroom to make things more accessible for my kiddos?  What can I do to reach more kids, make things available to them?  How can I make my feelings and thoughts about the importance of our classroom and its daily activities clearer and better understood better by parents? What do I need to change? How do I need to change? What can I read, watch, attend to make me a better teacher?
I used to envy teachers that pack up their rooms, say goodbye, and start their breaks with plans of vacations, relaxation, visits, family gatherings, etc, and a clear picture of what they need to do the following school year. Many already have their rooms ready, copies made, and lesson plans made up through the first few weeks of school. They know where they are and where they are going; and here I am still wondering and searching for thoughts of where we've been.
One thing I do know I will do again next year, is the end of the year “family day” I had this year. The Friday before the last two days of school we invited families and friends in for the kids to teach math games, word games and reading activities to “play” over the summer. We asked them to join us at 10:00AM for fun in learning, and then extended the invitation to include lunch in the cafeteria, and a readers’ theater of Meanwhile Back at the Ranch afterward. I told the kids that all teaching would be up to them, and that I was just there to work the camera. They loved it. The parents loved it, and I loved it.
Below are some pictures of the kids as they took their families around the room and “taught” them how to play the various activities and games. We also laid out all of our writing from this year, journals, reading games, the Oklahoma game we had made, and our “poetry pockets” (envelopes decorated by the kids to keep their poetry in). 

I made a packet for each student with a copies and instructions of all the games (for those parents that couldn't attend), a list of books they might like to read over the summer, and a note to parents. One item the kids begged me to put in their packet was a smaller version of our "word jar." We made the word jar at the beginning of school after reading Donovan's Word Jar.  We added words we discovered in our stories at school and home that were new to us, or made us think. We had collected over 110 words and the kids weren't quite ready to give them or their jar up. So I "made" (drew) a jar and made a copy for each . I then gave them mini post-its to have their own word jars at home.  You can see our word jar behind the desks. The rest of the walls are pretty bare from removing work, charts and items already. I didn't have the heart to remove the word jar until after all the kiddos had left for the year.
I don't know if I'll ever be a teacher that steps into my room the first day and knows what I will be teaching and where we will be going from the very start. I don't know if I want to be. How can I be? I don't know my kids yet and they don't know me. I am learning along with them. 
Don't get me wrong I love my summers! I love being able to reflect and recharge. I want to think about my teaching and have the time to do it. I love getting to read, search blogs, go to workshops and find new ideas as much as I love mornings on my patio, and spending time with family and friends. Does that make me a bad teacher, a teacher that doesn't know her way yet, a teacher that is unorganized or ill prepared? I don't know.
Maybe I never will.

My post from my other blog...trying to get it all together

I did it!!! I have a personalized blog button!!! I was determined that I would have one today and FINALLY I figured it out! If you want one for you blog I have a couple of sites you can visit that will help. The best source for the design though was  they have really cute graphics and picture to use for FREE! And they give you the url for your picture so it makes it SO much easier. You can also post it right from there to your blog, facebook, twitter and other accounts! I am so excited just to have it DONE (not that it was a matter of life or death, but I really wanted one J).
In other news… today is Thursday and I am behind on my “burning question” (because it took me alllll day for my button). Since I don’t have to now ask “how do you make a blog button” my question is about Phonics.
We have always relied on phonics to teach reading in our school (among other things of course), but it has always been at the base of our teaching. At our last reading textbook adoption each grade opted to receive different publishers of reading programs (no I do not know why); which did away with what many were teaching for phonics, and made pre-k through third grade have different programs from one another.
My question is what you use to teach phonics?” Do you teach phonics?  Do you have a program that each grade uses together? Or does each teacher “do their own thing?”  Do you have a specific program or do you just use many things pulled together? And do you think each grade needs to have the same program or way of teaching it for students to build on each year?
Thanks for your help in answering my “burning questions!”
Visit me at my other blog (soon to be just  I don’t have much there yet, but I do have a blog button!!!

Brand New Blog

One of my goals for this summer is to start a new blog. I have a blog that I started last summer at wordpress called "First Grade and Fence Posts"  I had followed "The Two Writing Teachers" all summer, and was so inspired. I knew NOTHING about blogs, but I knew that I loved theirs. I loved reading other blogs. And I love to write. So I jumped in.
Then I discover "Teaching Blog Addict" and all the great blogs there. I couldn't help but think maybe my blog needed just a bit more. While my other blog has been such an inspiration for writing and I have "met" and other amazing bloggers; I really like the sharing, linky parties, TPT links, community, and ideas that come from the TBA and teacher blogs.
So here I am jumping in again, heart first, full of hope, and bursting with excitement. I'm still a little lost on what to add and share for classroom ideas, but I am working on it, and will hopefully have something up very soon.
Thanks to all of you great teachers and bloggers out there that have given me the push to get going in a different direction with my blog, and hopefully you will be seeing much more of me.
If you'd like to visit me at First Grade and Fence Posts you can at If you have never been to the Two Writing Teachers site and are looking for inspiration for writing or writing workshop it's a great place to start.

More to come soon!