Literacy Daily

Quiet! Teacher in Progress
    • Blog Posts
    • Teacher Educator
    • Literacy Coach
    • Job Functions
    • Student Choice
    • Teaching Strategies
    • Teacher Empowerment
    • Professional Development
    • Reading
    • Foundational Skills
    • Topics
    • Quiet! Teacher in Progress
    • The Engaging Classroom
    • Special Education Teacher
    • Reading Specialist
    • Classroom Teacher
    • Administrator
    • Literacy Education Student
    • Content Types

    'Make It Work': From Fashion to Freedom

    BY MRS. MIMI AKA JENNIFER SCOGGIN
     | Jan 13, 2016

    shutterstock_210167587_x300When you’re a teacher, every minute of your day feels important. Because it is. Every. Single. Minute.

    Often, many of these minutes are mandated. As in, how many minutes you must spend on reading instruction. How many minutes you must spend on writing instruction. How many minutes you must dedicate to character development or math or word study or science or social studies…or basically “insert anything here” and it is all urgent.

    My personal tipping point was when I was told to find an additional 30 minutes twice a week to accommodate recorder lessons. Now, I am all for instrumental music but, one, the recorder sounds like a goose in the throes of death, and, two, those 60 extra minutes pushed my mandated minutes so far beyond the actual number of minutes I had with children that I could no longer stand the lack of common sense. I marched to my administrator and said, “I have 330 instructional minutes with students each week. You have now mandated 450 minutes of instruction.”

    She replied, “Huh. That doesn’t make a lot of sense. Well, make it work.”

    So, in the wise words of Tim Gunn and my former administrator, I made it work. I made it work by choosing priorities for my students’ ultimate success. (Sorry, recorder.) At the top of my list? Independent reading and writing time. Kids get to be better readers and writers by actually reading and writing, not by listening to a teacher talk about them. These independent work periods also allow teachers the time to meet with students one on one or in small groups to address more personalized learning needs and goals. And I’m not talking about reading a pre-determined passage or writing in response to a prompt. Those have their place, but, for me, reading authentic student-selected texts and writing open-ended pieces were the minutes that mattered most.

    I began making these minutes a priority by keeping track of them over the course of the week. Every day for one week, I kept careful track of the number of minutes my students spent reading and writing authentically and independently. Then, I analyzed my data. (The Powers That Be just love that last sentence.) Was I happy with the number of minutes students were actually engaged as readers and writers? If not, where could I steal extra minutes? Could I tighten up my own instruction, get creative with time, or trim any fat?

    Let’s not get it twisted—this sounds much easier than it actually was in practice. I had to be very honest with myself about time-wasters and make tough decisions. Yet in the end, I was able to specifically diagnose my own redundancy and see how I could contribute to a solution, rather than continuing to complain about the problem of time.

    A recent article published in Education Week solidified my fear that I am not alone. Many classrooms struggle to “cram it all in” and, as a result, students are often left with very few minutes to fall into an authentic reading and writing life.

    So, yes, every minute is important. And no, there aren’t enough of them in the day. And of course, this reality is super easy to complain about—and complain you should.

    But maybe, in this new year of possibility, we can find some time to prioritize and be part of the solution, too.

    Mrs. Mimi, aka Jennifer Scoggin, is a teacher who taught both first and second grades at a public elementary school in New York City. She's the author of Be Fabulous: The Reading Teacher's Guide to Reclaiming Your Happiness in the Classroom and It's Not All Flowers and Sausages: My Adventures in Second Grade, which sprung from her popular blog of the same name. Mimi also has her doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

     
    Read More
    • Literacy Education Student
    • Special Education Teacher
    • Quiet! Teacher in Progress
    • Job Functions
    • Student Engagement & Motivation
    • Teaching Strategies
    • Teacher Preparation
    • Teacher Empowerment
    • Professional Development
    • Topics
    • Reading Specialist
    • Classroom Teacher
    • The Engaging Classroom
    • ~9 years old (Grade 4)
    • ~8 years old (Grade 3)
    • ~7 years old (Grade 2)
    • ~6 years old (Grade 1)
    • ~5 years old (Grade K)
    • ~4 years old (Grade Pre-K)
    • ~18 years old (Grade 12)
    • ~16 years old (Grade 11)
    • ~15 years old (Grade 10)
    • ~14 years old (Grade 9)
    • ~13 years old (Grade 8)
    • ~12 years old (Grade 7)
    • ~11 years old (Grade 6)
    • ~10 years old (Grade 5)
    • Student Level
    • Tutor
    • Teacher Educator
    • Blog Posts
    • Content Types

    Harness the Holiday Excitement

    BY MRS. MIMI AKA JENNIFER SCOGGIN
     | Dec 09, 2015

    ThinkstockPhotos-85449112_x300Ah, the holiday season: The lights, the music, the hot chocolate...the inability to get your class to sit still. Just this morning, I sent my own daughter off to school knowing that even her little firstborn, über-nerdy self was going to have a hard time listening with visions of imminent cookie baking, a trip to see the Rockettes, and the promise of putting up our tree this weekend dancing in her head. I almost feel as if I should send an apology e-mail to her teacher.

    I've been there. I know what it is like to desperately try to stick to the classroom routine when my students seem to be floating in a haze of holiday glitter.

    I have often likened teaching during the holiday season to keeping the lid on a boiling pot. I think the key to surviving—and thriving—as a teacher during this time of year is to first take a deep breath and then just accept that this is what is happening for the next few weeks and you might as well get on board. I mean, why fight it?

    If your students are going to be all amped up, you might as well harness that energy and help them to channel that buzz into their reading lives.

    Here are a few suggestions for survival that don't include massive amounts of caffeine or numerous glasses of your favorite adult beverage:

    •  Rapid read-alouds. Choose four or five juicy chapter book read-alouds. Carve out short sections of time across a day to read a chapter or two from each book and then let the kids choose their own adventure by voting on which book to continue reading. Be sure to have multiple copies of all the choices available for friends who catch the fever. Let them buzz about hot new read-alouds!
    • Three-minute book reviews. Have two or three students sign up at the end of the day to share a three-minute review of one of their favorite reads. Give students creative control over this presentation with a few guidelines regarding content.
    • Reading identity reflections. The impending holiday break serves as a big milestone for the school year—you made it! Allow students to reflect on how they've grown as readers. What authors, genres, themes, topics, or titles are they most interested in? Get creative with how students memorialize and share who they are as readers—get your collage on! Go digital! Let them go for it!
    • Faux online shopping. Let students create their own shopping cart to fill with titles of books they'd like to read in the near future. If you're feeling really crazy, let them browse new and upcoming titles online. Post your "carts" to share with all.

    Routines are amazing and essential. Anyone who knows me knows I love a good routine and have been known to have heart palpitations over a hot process chart. The joy! However, if asking your class to stick to the daily routine during this season feels like an uphill battle, be open to switching things up in the coming weeks. Although now is not time to jump ship and start hardcore crafting all day, it may be time to loosen up. If they're going to be all abuzz, they might as well buzz about books, right?

    Mrs. Mimi, aka Jennifer Scoggin, is a teacher who taught both first and second grades at a public elementary school in New York City. She's the author of Be Fabulous: The Reading Teacher's Guide to Reclaiming Your Happiness in the Classroom and It's Not All Flowers and Sausages: My Adventures in Second Grade, which sprung from her popular blog of the same name. Mimi also has her doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

     
    Read More
    • Quiet! Teacher in Progress

    Getting Past Assumptions

    BY MRS. MIMI AKA JENNIFER SCOGGIN
     | Sep 09, 2015

    ThinkstockPhotos-78773211_x300The start of every school year means a crop of fresh faces staring back at us from the carpet—faces anxiously waiting for their teachers to share their favorite stories, new strategies, exciting authors, and a love of reading.

    We carefully observe these little faces those first few days of school. We try to determine what they know, who to watch. We look to identify dangerous partnerships that could lead to disruptions galore. We generalize because we have to in those first frenetic days. Who is going to be a helper? Who is going to test your patience? Who is going to need intervention? Who needs an extra hug?

    Despite the excitement, the first days are long and filled with “getting-to-know-you” type activities, explanations of routines and a desire to just really get on with it and get to the good stuff. There is no tired like teacher tired in the first weeks of the school year. It is epic stuff.

    No matter how tired we are or how little voice we have left, those faces return to us each and every morning, their wide eyes begging us to dig deeper, to identify them beyond the label of “helpful” or “smart” or “disruptive.” 

    Behind those faces, our students have a million stories of their own—stories of their families, their lives as readers, their previous experiences with books and exposure to text, and more. Some will love to read, some will hate reading, some will read beautifully, and some will struggle with text far below their grade level.

    One year, I had a student who came to me with a rap sheet a mile long and a reputation even longer. Hates to read, unfocused, disruptive—did I mention he was in first grade?! His name was that name on my class list; you know, the name that gave me a bit of a pit in my stomach and required me to take an extra deep breath before pasting on my omnipresent professional smile.

    “No problem,” I said, my mind already swirling with assumptions of who this little boy was and why he had become this way. Of course, this was before I met him and saw that little face.

    After a few days, I could definitely understand how my new friend had earned all those negative labels. I mean, boyfriend kind of earned them with an attitude bigger than his years. What really bothered me as I looked at that little face, though, were all the assumptions about how he had come to act that way—as if that was all there was to this little friend.

    I found extra time to spend with him. I got him to talk to me about his interests, his friends, what he did after school, and, after some time, his family. Not only did I shake off some major assumptions that this little friend was simply “disruptive and unwilling to learn,” I got to the root of some of his struggles with reading and was able to better match him to books  he found engaging.

    So let the fall be about wrapping your head around this new group of little ones sitting in front of you. Make a few snap decisions, a couple of quick judgments, and just survive the first few weeks. Then, question your own assumptions and dig deeper. I promise it will not only transform the way you look at that group of faces, but it will transform your practice.

    Mrs. Mimi, aka Jennifer Scoggin, is a teacher who taught both first and second grades at a public elementary school in New York City. She's the author of Be Fabulous: The Reading Teacher's Guide to Reclaiming Your Happiness in the Classroom and It's Not All Flowers and Sausages: My Adventures in Second Grade, which sprung from her popular blog of the same name. Mimi also has her doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

     
    Read More
    • ~13 years old (Grade 8)
    • ~11 years old (Grade 6)
    • Blog Posts
    • ~12 years old (Grade 7)
    • ~9 years old (Grade 4)
    • ~8 years old (Grade 3)
    • ~7 years old (Grade 2)
    • ~6 years old (Grade 1)
    • ~5 years old (Grade K)
    • ~4 years old (Grade Pre-K)
    • ~18 years old (Grade 12)
    • ~17 years old (Grade 12)
    • ~16 years old (Grade 11)
    • ~15 years old (Grade 10)
    • ~14 years old (Grade 9)
    • ~10 years old (Grade 5)
    • Content Types
    • Tutor
    • Teacher Empowerment
    • Teacher Educator
    • Special Education Teacher
    • Reading Specialist
    • Reading
    • Literacy Education Student
    • Literacy Coach
    • Librarian
    • Graphic Novels
    • Administrator
    • Quiet! Teacher in Progress

    Finding Student Excitement With Graphic Novels

    BY Mrs. Mimi aka Jennifer Scoggin
     | Aug 12, 2015

    ThinkstockPhotos-78423346_x600I have long been a lover of children's books, particularly picture books. A wise man, Mr. Mimi, learned quickly that I cannot be trusted with a debit card and long stretches of free time in Barnes & Noble. I am not alone. One of my favorite things to bring when I visit schools is a new and exciting title. If I have come to understand anything about teachers in my role as a literacy consultant, it is that all teachers love new books. (I have found that teachers' love of new books is second only to their love of fantastic pens and book lists. These are primary reasons why I am proud to call myself a teacher.)

    I thought I had reached the peak of my love for picture books—and then. Oh, and then! I was asked to write a unit of study focused on the reading of wordless texts or texts whose stories are told primarily through pictures. Friends, I kid you not when I say I fell harder and more in love with picture books over those few weeks. Not only are they beautiful, but also their rich images (with or without words to accompany them) allow an even broader range of students to engage with and access text. Even as I type those words, I know they don’t make sense logically on the page, but they came to life for me when I shared a few pages of Kate DiCamillo's Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, a graphic novel, with a group of third graders. For many, the text was quantitatively too difficult. However, as we dug into the images on the page, these kids blew my mind with their insights into the story. And it wasn't just the ideas they shared, it was the confidence with which they shared them that truly took me by surprise.

    There are a number of books that I hold dear to my heart and that I want to share with children. They include titles that make me laugh, make me think, or just make me happy. If I'm honest, most, if not all, of these stories are told primarily through words. Many could be considered traditional in their format. These books represent what I love, but not what every student loves. Perhaps graphic novels get some students excited about reading, for others it is biography, and others still prefer informational articles.

    I spend a lot of time talking with teachers. I also spend a lot of time listening to teachers. Frequently, I hear the same titles mentioned over and over. I hear the same conversation pooh-poohing trendy humorous series and condemning graphic novels as "frivolous." I am not here to slam teachers. I am here to gently nudge you outside of your comfort zone and to suggest that maybe, just maybe, we should focus more on what makes students excited to read instead of what we think they should be reading.

    Mrs. Mimi, aka Jennifer Scoggin, is a teacher who taught both first and second grades at a public elementary school in New York City. She's the author of Be Fabulous: The Reading Teacher's Guide to Reclaiming Your Happiness in the Classroom and It's Not All Flowers and Sausages: My Adventures in Second Grade, which sprung from her popular blog of the same name. Mimi also has her doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

     
    Read More
  • Teaching is all about the small steps in a long journey. Ah, the Zen of education.
    • Blog Posts
    • Quiet! Teacher in Progress

    Quiet! Teacher in Progress: The Quest for Zen

    BY MRS. MIMI AKA JENNIFER SCOGGIN
     | Jun 10, 2015

    Sometimes I feel as though I am on a lifelong quest to find my Zen. I am constantly trying to figure out ways to balance work and family, to maybe squeeze in some exercise, to take feel more positive about the challenges in front of me, to focus on all that I do have and, you know, take the occasional deep breath. Oh, and napping. I’m always trying to figure out where that goes.

    As teachers, we are kid watchers. We diligently study our students each and every day in order to develop ways to best meet their needs. As a result, we often can’t help ourselves from noticing all that our students aren’t able to do—yet. We notice struggles, pay attention to difficulties, and try to diagnose why our friends cannot seem to do whatever-it-is more independently. This is a slippery slope, because it can quickly lead to thinking of our students through the lens of their deficits, not their capabilities.

    When you see what your students need, flip your point of view to think about what is the next logical step for your students as learners. Set small goals. For example, your students may not be able to read for 20 minutes, but they can read for 10, so why not shoot for 11? One friend may struggle to engage with stories, but he is motivated by informational text. Let’s start there and celebrate that.

    If we determine that our students are currently unable to reach a goal, it is our responsibility to simultaneously unearth what they are doing well so we have a starting point for our work, by emphasizing what they can accomplish and setting small milestones to move them slowly but surely toward that larger goal. We can celebrate growth and promote increased student independence. It is a win-win, people!

    Let’s not forget how we view ourselves either. With all of the end-of-the-year demands, it might feel hard to breathe, much less tackle the enormous number of tasks that lie before you, as the days count themselves down to the bitter end. We start thinking of all we can’t possibly accomplish, haven’t done, don’t have time for, won’t be able to complete. Again we emphasize deficits, not possibilities. Instead of thinking, “Ugh, I have to get all my portfolios organized today” try thinking, “Today I get to put together evidence of all my students have accomplished and check a major to-do off my list.” Rather than avoid reorganizing your classroom library because it is a BEAST of a project, try setting aside 15 minutes a day to tackle this (or any other behemoth end-of-the-year project) a little at a time. You can do anything for 15 minutes. Especially to a killer playlist.

    So enjoy your summer. Sit by a pool. Sleep in. Watch bad re-runs on TV and catch up on your magazine reading. Maybe clean out the closet that has been giving you the stink eye. Rest. Then begin anew your quest for Zen—next year is all possibility!

    Mrs. Mimi, aka Jennifer Scoggin, is a teacher who taught both first and second grades at a public elementary school in New York City. She's the author of Be Fabulous: The Reading Teacher's Guide to Reclaiming Your Happiness in the Classroom and It's Not All Flowers and Sausages: My Adventures in Second Grade, which sprung from her popular blog of the same name. Mimi also has her doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

     
    Read More
Back to Top

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives