Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Blogging Challenge - What Book Made the Biggest Impact on Your Life?

Rain Makes Applesauce, by Julian Scheer, is hands down my choice for the book that has made the biggest impact on my life. I vividly remember going to the library in my small town on Saturdays with my Mama to check out picture books. We stumbled across this book on one of our trips and I'm quite certain we checked it out 10-15 times during my childhood. I can still feel the disappointment I experienced on the few weeks we wanted to check out the book only to find that someone else had beat us to it. I loved it because it made my Mama smile to read it's silly verse and we'd sit together for hours and look at the extraordinary illustrations. In looking back I know that this book is the one that "taught" me to use images to bring life to the words I read because even though the words didn't make sense the pictures created comprehension for me. As a result taking the time to create mental images and see the story as I read has became a gift (and a curse - slow reader) as I tackled the written word throughout my life. when I decided to become a teacher it is the first book I went out and bought for my classroom.

About the Book:
Rain Makes Applesauce is filled with seemingly nonsensical verse after verse of “silly talk” coupled with the repeating line “and rain makes applesauce” which at first sounds absurd but actually holds the only real truth found in the lyrical poem. The elegant and fanciful prose is perfectly suited to the equally as engaging illustrations found in this delightful book. The pictures are full of intricate detail designed to stretch the imaginations of the reader. It is only under closer observation that the reader discovers the surprising image on each page that mirrors the repeating line. In 1965 this book was chosen to receive the Caldecott Honor Medal.

Using the Book with My Faculty:
I chose Rain Makes Applesauce as our April 2008 Book of the Month because from time to time I think we all need to be reminded that it is important to look upon ideas and images with the wonderment and interest of a child. Just as a child may return to this book over and over again and each time see something new and interesting and different so must we in our work with students. We must be on the constant search for “new meanings, new images and new responses” to impact our instruction and our interactions with students. Our students are like the apple seeds in the beginning of this book. Knowledge for them must be planted carefully, cultivated and nurtured regularly. From time to time a storm will have to be weathered and understanding that even a little rain goes a long way towards producing a great result makes the journey pretty sweet in the end. Rain does indeed make applesauce and I’m not just talking silly talk!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Blogging Challenge - My Life as a Mathematician

It's funny.  When I saw that this was one of the topics for the blogging challenge I have to admit I was dreading it, but ironically, I've ended up spending more time thinking about it than the other topics.  Growing up I never hated math and in fact when I think back I'm pretty sure my worst grades were in Reading, which was my favorite. I can vividly remember learning my times tables in the third grade by singing them.  The 6s had a country beat and the 7s were disco!  Those two were my favorites!  I could memorize the steps and I certainly could repeat them problem after problem.  However, word problems were a completely different story - yikes!  My life as a young mathematician was uneventful, just page after page of problems, and I was happy until of course, I got to the two word problems at the end of the workbook page.

My happy go lucky math life completely changed when I got to the tenth grade.  Algebra II! Binomials, conjugates and logarithms - oh my!  I had the worst experience.  I didn't get it and my teacher didn't help me - I made the first and only F ever on my report card that year. :( At the end of that year I closed the book on Math and made sure I never took another Math class until college.  I only took one then because I had to.  That professor was slightly more helpful but I really only made it through because of the outstanding tutor I found who could actually explain the concepts to me in a way I could understand.  I've worked hard as an adult to improve my mathematical skills and understanding.

As my own daughter came through elementary school completely immersed in a conceptually based math curriculum I began to realize why I did okay early on but struggled as the Math got more complex.  I had absolutely no idea what I was doing - what the Math really meant.  As long as I could memorize the facts or repeat the same steps over and over to solve the problems I had it made.  My daughter understands why the Math works and knows many ways to solve any problem she encounters.  I've learned a lot from helping her her over the years and I still learn something about why Math works with every lesson I observe.  If I had been taught the way she was there is no telling how far I would have gotten in the study of Mathematics.

I have always been able to just see patterns and sequences.  Timing, schedules and organizing data are easy for me and I use Math almost every day to do my job.  I calculate percents and averages, generate complex schedules, analyze and create data, and efficiently manage a large budget.  I view each task as a personal challenge and every time I approach a problem these days that requires me to think mathematically, I feel encouraged and accomplished.  Conquering something that hasn't always been easy makes you feel pretty great! Effort + Determination = Skill

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Blogging Challenge - Class Poll

Sometimes a blog post can be as simple as polling your class about a topic and then sharing the results.  It's fun to see what others think and discover the similarities and differences between us.  This week I polled my "class" (the teachers) to find out:

What was your favorite subject in elementary school?

Here's what the "class" had to say:

Julie - Reading
Liz - Reading
Danielle - Reading
Nina - Math/Science
Laura - Math
Debby - Reading
Michelle - Reading
JJ - Reading
Vicky - Reading/Writing
Brooke - Writing

First Grade
Patricia - Math
Toni - Music
Tracy - Science
Rebecca - Reading
Maria - History
Cheryl - Math
Debbie - Reading
Lauren - Reading/Writing
dayle - Algebra/Biology (yeah, right!)

Second Grade
Rachel - Reading
Heather - Writing
Karen - Social Studies
Lori - Science
Jessica - Reading
Kathi - English
Lauren - Math
Wanda - Writing
Christina - English
Laurie - Art
Debbie - Reading/Writing
Beth - reading

Third Grade
Lynn - Reading
Lindsay - Reading
Katie - Math
Randi - Reading
Melissa - Reading
Ashley - Writing
Denise - Science
Cindy - Math
Cheryl - Math
Tammi - PE
Christy - Writing
Melonie - Social Studies/Writing

Fourth Grade
Bridget - Math
Joe - Math
Angela - Math
Rick - Math
Meli - Reading
Christine - PE

Fifth Grade
Kristin - Social Studies
Tom - Social Studies
Terri - Reading
Sherrie - Recess
Carolyn - Science
Lauren - Math

Moe - Science
Suzanne - Math
Melanie - Reading
Betsy - Reading
Jen - Art
KK - Reading
DeeDee - Language Arts
Nikki - PE
Ray - Math
Jane - Recess
Joy - Math

It was so interesting to find out how many of our teachers are actually now teaching in the exact subject areas that were their favorite as children, and how many that aren't!  Some of the responses really surprised me and then others were exactly what I thought.  And as for has always been...READING!

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Blogging Challenge - My Life as a Reader

About a year ago I wrote a really great post about my life as a reader - one that I think most accurately describes my reading life most of the time. At least the reading life that's most pleasant to live. However, when I look back over the last six months I clearly see that the reading life described in that post is definitely not what I've been living lately. I love to get lost in a great story but right now I can't even remember the name of the last piece of fiction I read. How sad is that?

My more recent reading has included all informational text like medical research, insurance policies, professional books, online journals, blogs, charts and tables of test item specs, standards documents, data and then there's the email. Email these days accounts for over half of all that I read...ugh. There are days where I think I'll never get it all read or answered.

I guess the point is that there are seasons in the life of a reader too and while I certainly enjoy "summer" reading more, "winter" reading is a necessity. I have learned a lot from all that informational reading, facts that have helped me make sense of chaos, ideas that have helped me to plan, and opportunites that have made a difference in the life of others. Maybe "winter" reading isn't all that bad after all.

This week my standards coach popped into my office with a book, a piece of fiction, that she just felt I had to read. I believe her exact words were, "you will love this book, you won't be able to put it down once you've started". She never, ever brings me "summer" reading so perhaps it was fate that sent her to me with a book to take home this weekend. A good reading "vacation" might be just what I need...
Photo courtesy by: Michael (mx5tx) on Flickr

Friday, October 1, 2010

Will You Accept The Blogging Challenge?

Once the first several people began to blog at Chets Creek the opportunity quickly caught on like wildfire, just as the many really exceptional ideas do around here.  It was new, we had exciting things to share and it was easy.  Well folks, it's not new anymore, but we still have exciting things to share and it really is easy.  I think we make it hard sometimes.  We allow ourselves to collect preconcieved notions about what our posts have to look like, or how long they have to be, or what they have to say.  By overthinking it we became paralyzed by it and forget that each and every one of us has something to share.  Throughout last year the majority of us fell victim to "unblogging" and missed out on the power that can come from taking the time to reflect on your work and then share it with others.  I completely undersand why it happens - it happened to me, too!  At the end of the year I encouraged each of you who had fallen out of the habit (including myself :) to get after it again.  Throw out those ideas about what should be and just do it.  Getting back into the habit  will remind you why you started in the first place - you just have to get your groove back.

Earlier this week my tech mentor, Melanie Holtsman, (who also struggled with blogging last year :) approached me about an idea that could help those who are struggling to get back into the routine of blogging - a blogging challenge.  Write one blog post a week for 10 of the next 11 weeks.  Tag your post with "fallblogchallenge2010" and send Melanie an email so that she'll know you're joining our challenge.  She and dayle timmons even came up with a list of topics you can use to jump start the practice.  Feel free to modify them to suit your needs.  They are all things that each of us would be interested in knowing about our colleagues and their work.


I'm in!  Let the blogging begin! Are you ready to take the challenge?