Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Amazonian madness


Monday, December 15, 2008

Holy Snowballs!

It's cold. So cold exhaust freezes to the roads making black ice. So cold my glasses fog up entering buildings. So cold I don't even want to think about it.

That's what -29 feels like. Actually, you don't know what -29 feels like because I can't adequately put to words what -29 feels like. Let's just say for simplicity's sake that it's (expletive) cold.

Off to pay my full respects and attention to Johnny Depp in Benny and Joon. Because that's the only thing one can do when it's this cold.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Computer woes

Just so everyone knows...my computer died yesterday. Funeral services to be announced. Extremely disappointed. Probably in the market for another computer at some point. Blah.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Another one bites the dust!

LANG 7802
Text Set


I put together a set of books with the intention of teaching the theme of community. This includes but is not limited too getting along, making friends, finding the good in people, helping others, bullying, teasing, diversity, equality, appreciating differences, and fairness. I would use these texts with the elementary grades PreK-6, depending on the book I chose within the set. I would use these books at the beginning of the year, for example, to lead into how we want to treat our classmates and what makes a good friend. Later in the year, I would deepen the conversation to how the small-scale theme can be applied beyond the classroom, community, nation and world. When I thought of this set, I thought it would be a fitting topic to kick off a service-learning unit. Any one of these books can be chosen as a read aloud or independent reading book before students choose a community project to complete as a class. Why is this an important social justice issue? Children are the future. Societies are being ripped apart across the globe and in our own backyard by simple misunderstandings. If they don’t learn how to relate to each other at a young age, they will only contribute to the misfortune around the world. A small step would be to realize how their behavior affects themselves. A bigger step would be realizing how their behavior affects another person. Eventually, one would hope that the biggest step is made, realizing how a single behavior can affect a nation, and eventually the world.

Selection 1
Andreae, Giles and Guy Parker-Rees. (1999) Giraffes Can’t Dance. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Brief Summary:
Gerald is an awkward giraffe that is too clumsy to dance with the other animals until a cricket comes along and shows him that he can dance, given the right music.
Audience: Given that the book is written in rhymed verse with illustrations, audience is meant for the elementary grades PreK-3
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy with talking animals
Themes Present: fitting in, teasing, standing up for one another, finding strengths in people where they aren’t necessarily obvious
Rationale: Every group of children has a Gerald, and almost everyone can relate to being pushed out of a social circle, not being the best at something be it dancing or any other skill, being laughed at, and how to cope with those feelings.
Strategy Lesson: Interactive read-aloud modeling and sharing inner conversations to monitor comprehension: Teacher reads aloud and models thinking aloud connections as she’s reading. Particular emphasis paid to character’s actions throughout book and how characters can change their actions to make everyone feel like a valued member of the community. Teacher will model thinking aloud and monitoring comprehension by talking through important inner conversations. Depending on level of students, teacher will also leave tracks of these inner conversations on post-it notes (modeling first.) If students seem to understand, teacher can distribute post-it notes and have students leave tracks of their own thinking through a second reading.

Selection 2
Rosenthal, Amy Krouse and Tom Lichtenheld. (2008). It’s Not Fair. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

Brief Summary:
In rhymed verse, the author presents a series of situations that kids encounter that aren’t always fair but always happen. Examples include “Why’d I get the smaller half? Why’d he get the bigger laugh?” and “Why can’t I have my own box? Why now chickenpox?” Simple text structures with matching illustrations make it easy to understand and relate to.
Audience: Simple text structure (one sentence on each page), rhyming text, and smaller children on each page make this perfect for grades K-2.
Genre: Realistic fiction
Themes Present: Fairness, getting along, community, sacrifices, coping mechanisms
Rationale: I don’t know about anyone else, but I get really tired of hearing the words “it’s not fair” as a teacher. I thought that this might be a good book to hit on some of the situations where this might come up over the course of the year with students and teach the concept of “life’s not fair and it’s really OK” at the beginning of the year. Children will be able to relate to illustrations and simple text and be attracted to the rhymed verse.
Strategy Lesson Interactive Read Aloud while modeling making connections and monitoring comprehension: Teacher reads aloud and models thinking aloud connections as she’s reading. For example: “I remember a time when I felt left out too.” On the second reading, the teacher will use a two-column chart to write down the passage from the text in one column and her connection to it. When students understand, they can complete a chart of their own with their personal coded connections.

Selection 3
Prelutsky, Jack. (1984) “The New Kid on the Block.” New York, NY: Greenwillow Books.

Brief Summary:
In the title poem of this poetry anthology, the speaker presents the image of a new kid in school that is frightening. When the reader least expects it in the end verse, the speaker turns the new kid into something a reader would never guess. Guess you’ll just have to read the poem now!
Audience: Grades 1-5
Genre: Poetry, rhymed verse
Themes Present: Bullying, getting along, new kids, dealing with a tough situation, things aren’t always as they seem
Rationale: Every student has been the new student at one time or another, making this poem easily relatable and the bully easy to imagine. Also, I liked the idea that not all bullies fit a mold and not all people fit into the image that we create for them.
Strategy Lesson: Shared/Guided with initial read aloud—In a small group guided reading lesson, I would present this poem first orally. As I read, I would encourage students to make an image in their mind of the bully in the poem. I would stop after the first stanza, discuss what students are imagining, and hand out a piece of paper for them to sketch an image of their bully. I would read the second stanza, and we would continue to discuss what images arose while they sketched. After completion of the poem, we would discuss the end of the poem, asking questions such as why we were surprised at the end and what the author had in mind when writing this poem. This would lead to discussion of bullies and why they bully, what are common traits of bullies, and what we can do to make everyone feel welcome so they don’t have to bully. After the initial reading, I would have the students read and eventually memorize the poem, with the intent of improving fluency.

Selection 4
Bunting, Eve and John Sandford. (2000). Moonstick: The Seasons of the Sioux. New York, NY: Harper Trophy Books.
Brief Summary
Audience: Grades 3-5
Genre: Unrhymed poetry
Themes Present: Community, native settlers, everyone has a job to do, appreciation for nature
Rationale: I’ve used a lot of poetry and fiction so far, and although this is still poetry and fiction, I thought I could pave the way to talking about community in a genuine environment. The Sioux are a community of people that know that in order to survive; everyone in the community must use their strengths to pull their own weight. Everyone had a job to do for the harvest and other times, and although the children were small, each realized that he was still an important member of the community. Also, the text of the poems leads very well to a mini-lesson on visualization and creating images while reading, and is simply beautiful.
Strategy Lesson: Modeling and sharing visualizations with a small group: In a small guided reading group, teacher will read the book aloud to students, asking them to pay careful attention to what images arise as she reads. It might help to not show the illustrations immediately but let the ideas flow, and when students get enough ideas, show the pictures and talk about why the students imagined what they did. This will happen quickly, without laboring through too much of the text, the group making their way through the story poem by poem. If this is not overwhelming, the next group meeting can lead to a discussion on synthesizing and finding the main idea, with a two-column chart labeled, “text clues” and “what they mean” on each side. Teacher can model what each poem means by starting to fill in the chart. Eventually, this will lead to a discussion about the harvest and why it’s important to work together to get things done. Student responses will fuel the content of the lesson. If more modeling is needed, more will be provided.

Selection 5
Child, Lauren. I am too Absolutely Small for School (featuring Charlie and Lola.) 2000. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.

Brief Summary:
In true Charlie and Lola fashion, Lola is convinced that she doesn’t need to go to school and gives big brother Charlie a list of reasons why she doesn’t have to do so. Charlie has an answer for all of them, and convinces her she will do fine and even have fun. Lola ends up liking school, forgetting about her imaginary friend, and even makes a new friend on the first day.
Audience: Pre K-Grade 2
Genre: Realistic fiction
Themes Present: Sibling interaction, getting along, feelings about being in a new place, helping each other out
Rationale: Charlie is such a good big brother to Lola, and models what all siblings and friends should do to make their world a better place to live in. The illustrations are lively; the language of this text is livelier. I thought this would be a perfect “high-interest” book to capture the attention of many students and lead to a discussion on how we can make a better place to come to school everyday.
Strategy Lesson: Making connections: In a small, guided reading group, teacher will read the book aloud and tell students that they are reading to make connections. Students are to write down connections they have with the story. This is intended to be done after modeling takes place, so all connections will be made independently and written on index cards. After reading, students will pair share their connections and then individually share their connection with the whole group. Finally, students will classify connections and add it to classroom connection chart.

Selection 6
Pickerill, M and Rutter, K. (2008) Changing the World. Time for Kids, September Vol. #14 Iss. #3. Online here: http://www.timeforkids.com/TFK/teachers/wr/article/0,27972,1841189,00.html

Brief Summary:
A group of students in New York have it rough, but realize once they involve themselves in a South African community stricken with the AIDS virus that they can do things to help others, while unconsciously helping themselves.
Audience: Grades 4-6
Genre: News article, non-fiction
Themes Present: Community service, helping others, every little bit helps, gaining a worldview
Rationale: I chose this article because I wanted first, a piece of nonfiction and a news article and second, a first-hand look at what kids can do to help the world. Community service starts with small actions in the classroom, namely treating each other with respect. This is the first attempt to get students to think globally, and apply what they know about helping others at school to situations in the community.
Strategy Lesson: (Guided Independent thinking, reading, and writing) There would be a fair amount of modeling done before this lesson, so this would be students’ opportunity to put their knowledge about reading strategies to use. I would begin with a before, during, and after reading three-column chart. Students would have this chart in their reading journals. Before reading, students would be asked to think about and respond to the question: “What is community service and what kinds of community service projects have you done?” in the before reading section of their charts. Students would read the article independently and use what they know about reading non-fiction to comment in the margins, make notes, or do other things that help them comprehend the article. During reading, students would be asked to continuously think about the question, “In what ways did the students in the article benefit from their trip?” Students in pairs would discuss this as they read, and complete the “during reading” section of their chart with the answer to this question based on what they discussed. After reading, students would share answers with the class and think about the similarities and differences between the American and South African students, discuss, and write in the final column of the chart. The teacher would stop and model if students appear to be struggling with the task.

Selection 7
Bunting, Eve and Ronald Himler. Train to Somewhere. (1996) New York, NY: Clarion Books.

Brief Summary:
Marianne is a passenger on an orphan train that goes out west looking for parents for all children that need one. Marianne is one of the last ones to be chosen, and the reader follows her emotions as she watches the other orphans leave, find families, and come to the realization that her mother is not coming back. She eventually comes to terms with the fact that things aren’t always as they seem and may work out for the best, if she changes the way she thinks.
Audience: This book is designed for a mature audience, due to themes of abandonment and homelessness, and is ideal for grades 4-6. I would not read to a class with a student who has recently lost a family member, as it might bring up too many unwanted feelings.
Genre: Historical fiction
Themes Present: homelessness, family, choosing people based on looks rather than character traits, feelings and emotions related to family and fitting in, belonging to a community
Rationale: My first book in the set that is based on true events, I chose this book because it delves into the themes of homelessness and the feelings created when a child doesn’t have a home. It’s raw and emotional; the book did have me in tears by the end. I thought I could use this book to spring board into the topics of what a community is, what feelings come up when people are chosen by how they look rather than what they do and the quality of their character.
Strategy Lesson: Modeling making inferences: Because feelings of characters are not something that is explicitly stated, I would read through this book and model using post-it notes what I thought the characters were feeling when certain events happened. For example, after reading “Nora’s still crying and looking back.” I would write, “I know that people cry when they are sad” and code BK for background knowledge. I would explain that when students infer they use what the know (background knowledge) and what is written in the text (text clues) to make their inference (what students think.) I would divide the board into three sections labeled “Background knowledge,” “Text clues,” and “Inference” and make the equation. Each time I made an inference, I would put my post-it notes in the appropriate column. I would finish reading the book, stopping to clarify meaning and infer. We would discuss the inferences before students were released to make their own. I would distribute post-it notes and read the book for a second time, repeating the process of placing the post-it notes in the appropriate column and discussing the inferences students make.

Selection 8
Bunting, Eve and Ted Lewin. One Green Apple. (2006) New York, NY: Clarion Books.

Brief Summary:
Farah feels alone, even when surrounded by people. She just arrived here from another country, and her class takes a trip to an apple orchard. All through the trip, she struggles to pick up the language and social cues of her classmates until the very end, when she realizes her strength (literally) and helps push the crank that makes the apple cider. On the ride back through the orchard, she slowly begins to accept herself as an individual as her classmates open up. It all starts with a laugh.
Audience: Grades 4-6
Genre: Realistic fiction
Themes Present: Community, fitting in, getting along, laughs are universal, language barriers, cultural barriers
Rationale: The book shows how isolating not knowing the language can be, which is a universal theme in today’s schools. I chose the book because I liked how it described this feeling of isolation and how all involved in the situation dealt with it. I thought it would be good selection to start a discussion about how we can include all classmates despite race, gender, culture, or language. It all starts with a laugh or a smile.
Strategy Lesson: Making connections independently: Teacher will read the book aloud and ask students to think of instances where they felt alone or left out. Teacher will model as well, but this is an independent work after a fair amount of modeling with other books, so students will be on their own to come up with connections and write them on index cards. Teacher will finish reading the book, students will pair share their connections with their partners and eventually with the whole group before taping them to the chart at the front of the room in the appropriate column.

Selection 9
Farris, Pamela J. and Valeri Gorbachev. Young Mouse and Elephant: An East African Folktale. 1996. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Brief Summary: When Young Mouse believes he’s the strongest animal in the jungle and his grandfather disputes that, Young Mouse sets out to prove his point, believing in himself all the way. The characters he meets tell him all the same thing---he is and never will be as strong as elephant. He laughs in their face and goes about his merry way, to meet this elephant character that seems so allegedly strong. When he is out done by strength, he doesn’t believe so. He keeps his head held high and attitude positive; he is never defeated.
Audience: Grades 3-5
Genre: Fiction/fantasy with talking animals; folktale from East Africa
Themes Present: Anything can be achieved with a positive attitude, the power of belief in oneself goes a long way
Rationale: I chose this book to go along with the “small minds, big differences” theme because the main character does just that. Young Mouse has never seen the elephant, and therefore believes he can defeat him. Young people are some of the best people in the world for thinking about solutions to global problems, simply because they have some of the most positive attitudes. They don’t know the challenges yet and haven’t seen them. The book is a good discussion starter for point of view and perspectives, starting with the differences in point of view of the Young Mouse and his grandfather.
Strategy Lesson: Sequencing events while monitoring for comprehension: Teacher will read the book once aloud while modeling thinking aloud and having an inner conversation think-aloud to the class. Emphasis will be made on what comes first and what the Young Mouse did before, during, and after he talked with his father and the other animals in the story. Questions and other discussion will be encouraged, and students will complete a time line of events that happen in the story as they read independently.

Selection 10
Weatherford, Carole Boston and R. Gregory Christie. Dear Mr. Rosenwald. 2006. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Brief Summary: Written from the point of Ovella, a southern black girl in a one-room schoolhouse in the 1920s, the story follows her quest to raise money and watch a new school come up from the efforts of the community. It’s based on the story of Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears Roebuck and Co., who donated millions of dollars to build schools for African American children in the rural South. The Rosenwald fund required whites and blacks alike to work together to donate, raise money, and finally build the schools they built. Ovella’s story ends with a heart-warming letter to Mr. Rosenwald thanking him for the school she received.
Audience: Grades 4-6
Genre: Historical fiction
Themes Present: Community organizing, slavery, inequalities of black and white in the times of slavery, producing change, and finding ways to make a difference in your community
Seeing how all my other choices for literature in this set revolve around making a difference in a community big or small, I thought this would be a good one to end with. It touches on themes of why we need to make a difference, and I would discuss Ovella’s overall attitude toward change and why she wanted it.
Strategy Lesson: Modeling background knowledge and making inferences: Teacher would lead a discussion about the student’s prior knowledge of civil rights and segregation. Students’ knowledge would be written in the K section of a KWL chart. Teacher will solicit questions and write them in the “What do we want to know” column of the chart. Teacher would then read aloud, stopping periodically to model how she uses her knowledge of civil rights and the times to make an inference about Ovella and her co-characters. Students would be asked to contribute inferences as they arise. At the end of reading, teacher will model inferences knowledge gained when reading, and mention that inferences are a way of learning new information. Teacher will write inferences of her own in the chart, and solicit other inferences from the class.

Reflection (aka smell the BS steaming LOL)

The greatest amount of learning while completing this assignment came with the vast variety of text I forced myself to check out. As teacher, I believe that one can never stumble upon something too new. I forced myself out of my realistic fiction comfort zone bubble and opened myself up to new possibilities in historical fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. I would like to gain access to more non-fiction work, and that’s what I hope to do by reading my classmates’ text sets when they come in. In thinking about how I would use the books, I found it hard to narrow topics down and make it specific to a strategy. I feel like keeping content away from strategy is difficult, but must be done at times if a strategy is to be taught effectively. I also found it hard not thinking about a particular group of students too. I felt like all my work is general now, and since I’m not teaching currently, making it specific to a grade level or individual student’s needs is quite the abstract concept.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Really cheesy poem

My classmates and I had to do something to synthesize the end of LANG 7802 and talk about reading strategies, so this is what we came up with. I thought I'd post it here for you dear readers to have a good laugh. If you say "what the hay?" that's fine too. It's pretty re-DONK-u-lous. Enjoy.

Twas the Night Before Wednesday

A Collaborative Effort for a LANG 7802 Final Project
by Cheryl, Cheryl, Kari, and Jennifer

Twas the night before Wednesday
And all through the school
Not a teacher was sleeping
They were all thinking about the 6 tools

The anchor charts were hung
In the classroom with care
In hope that their students
Would learn and be able to share

The students were nestled all snug in their desks
And were "MAKING CONNECTIONS" to a story that was being read
I started my lesson by modeling with a book
And I used many sticky notes and showed my students how they worked

"A connection" I said, “will help you better understand this story
So I'll jot down your thoughts and your personal experiences”
At the end of the story when we are all gleaming, I stated again
“Now you understand how connections help us construct meaning!"

More rapid than eagles their QUESTIONS did come
So I said, “This is great” and to the board did I run
“I WONDER,” I wrote in all capital letters
If you children can list all of your thought-provoking questions
“A question alone means you clearly understand
What you’re reading and how much you knew before hand.”

“Make sure you note too, the difference between THICK and THIN
For QUESTIONS do often have more than one spin”
I was excited because they were stopping to think
They realized their thinking could take more than one week
And then, in an instant, I heard it: the proof
“Dear Teacher, I WONDER, what do I DO with all this? Surely it can’t just go POOF.”

As I drew back my chalk to answer the student
I mentioned two more tools, visualizing and inferring
Let’s visualize, I said make a picture in your mind
To really make the author’s words come alive

Close your eyes and let’s think
How did the author describe that cold, snowy day?
Were the flakes heavy and wet, making mittens sopping wet?
Or were they fluffy and dry, all too eager to fly?

Were their feet stinging with cold?
Or sweating from the fun?
Were flakes pelting their cheeks?
Or were they freezing to their lashes?

Don’t forget about inferring
Let us read between the lines
We should make an equation
Add background knowledge and text clues to the nines.

Inferring is like predicting
And drawing conclusions
Why did the author write what he wrote?
“What was his purpose?” I wanted them to note.

My students were imagining
And examining the lines
And soon I knew I had nothing to dread
For images and inferences danced in their head.

I spoke not a word, as I walked into the room,
Melissa said it was important, I asked, “Important to whom?”
She said, “Well to me, it helped me discover
There’s more to the book than what’s on the cover!”

She sprang to her feet and ran to the wall chart
And said “It’s all about facts, questions, responses, now therein lies the art,”
To understand what the author intended to get into my head
I have to determine the importance in text, just like you said!”

The teachers sprang to their cars at the end of the day,
Making sure all the students were on the bus that day.
We heard them exclaim as the drove out of sight,
“Happy reading to all and to all a good night!”

My contribution was the 12 lines of questioning strategy. Pretty sweet.

And then Cheryl's husband chimed in with an unpublishable last verse that I thought was pretty funny as well:

I've done so much work
For this damn reading class
That by the time I walk out of here
You can kiss my sweet (you know what...fill in the blank)

What do you think?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Totally copying a totally rad post...

...from Ms. Ameri-awesome tetetetigi over at motown throwdown. Tetetetigi is bra-girl extraordinare over at Macy's in St. Paul and wrote up a thing or two about bra fitting that every woman should read, in my humble opinion. It will totally make you want to go out and buy a bra today, and when do you ever want to do that? Seriously folks, it's that good. Make sure you make it to the very end.

A little while back, I promised to include tips on how to measure oneself for a bra and other bra-fitting tips. As I’m stuck at home with a nasty sore throat and fever, and as classes ended yesterday (woo!), I have time now to be thorough about it. First, a tutorial on how to measure yourself. Ideally, you should have someone helping you, but you can do this on your own.

Measuring Yourself:

1) Make sure you are wearing a bra. You’ll need it as a guideline for the measuring tape.

2) Take your measuring tape and first wrap it straight around your back right under your bustline. This measurement will help you figure out your band size according to this formula

a. If you measure under 30 inches around, add 4-5 inches to your total (to the closest even # -- so if you measure 27 inches, go to 32. If you measure 30, your band size is 34)

b. If you measure between 31-36 inches, add 2-3 inches to your total (so if you measure 32, your band size is 34, if you measure 33, your band size is 36)

c. If you measure 37+, add 0-1 inch to your total, depending on if you are at an even number or not.

3) Take the measuring tape and bring it straight around your back over the fullest part of your bust, probably right over your nipples for most women. This measurement will help you figure out your cup size. Subtract your band size from this measurement and use the difference to figure out your cup size according to this formula:

a. 1 in. – A

b. 2 in. – B

c. 3 in. – C

d. 4 in. – D

e. 5 in – DD

f. 6 in – DDD (E)

g. 7 in – F

h. 8 in – G

So, if you measured 34 inches under your bust (making your band size a 36), and you measure 41 inches around the fullest part of your bust, you are a 36DD. In my case, I measure 40 inches under my bust (thanks, mesomorphic frame!) and 46 inches around the fullest part of my bust, so I’m a 40DDD. (At the rehearsal dinner for my brother’s wedding, my sister-in-law’s step-grandma made a comment to me, while I was holding my niece, that babies probably liked being held by me because of my “large, comforting chest.” I laughed really hard about it later on with my mom).

Swing sizing: Note that the measurement you get is just a guide to shopping. If you try on a bra and it doesn’t seem to fit correctly, swing-size it by going up a cup size and down a band size, or up a band size and down a cup size. So, say you’re a 36D, and the cup on a bra feels fine but the band feels tight – try a 38C.

What to look for:

1) Cups should not pucker (too large) or cut into breast tissue (too small)

2) Center of bra should hug close to ribcage

3) Bra should feel snug but comfortable.

4) Underwire should rest comfortably against ribcage and should not move independent of your body – test this by moving your arms up and down.

5) Straps should be tight but not too tight – you should be able to move one finger comfortably under each strap

6) Try on bra on second hook, and you should be able to pull the back part of bra about ½ inch before you feel some tension.

Myths about Bra Fitting:

Myth 1: The straps are for support, ergo, strapless bras offer no support.

Fact: No support should come from the straps. All support comes from the band and the underwire of a bra. Straps hold the cups in place against your chest, and offer a little extra “lift,” but no support. This is why you need to make sure your band size is accurate and snug, and also why you should consider underwire if you wear a D-cup and up. I see little old ladies who have been relying on straps for support for YEARS and they all have something in common – little dents in their shoulders. Wear the wrong bra, and your BONE STRUCTURE WILL CHANGE. Strapless bras can be quite comfy, actually – just go down a band-size for extra support. I have a great strapless bra in a 38.

Myth 2: If I have a roll of back-fat, I should switch to a larger band size

Fact: Back-fat exists, and there’s nothing you can really do to get rid of all of it. If you are not happy with how a bra makes your back or sides look, get a wider band, not a larger band. The more vertical hooks on a bra, the smaller the appearance of back-fat will be. You’ll get better support as a bonus, you’ll stand straighter, and you’ll look taller. See, back-fat is giving you better posture! Love your back-fat. It’s a part of you, it wants to be your friend.

Myth 3: Padded bras are only for women with small chests

Fact: Most “padded” bras are actually “contour” bras that have no actual padding. And anyone can wear a contour bra. Contour bras are fucking sexy. Give that shit a try, man.

Myth 4: No bra in the world can fit me

Fact: I once did a fitting for a woman who had a weird bone protrusion between her breasts, enough that it looked like a third breast. Guess what? We found her a bra. So clearly, your case is not hopeless.

Bras to Consider Trying:

Small-Chested (A-B) – First of all, you are in vogue. Most clothing is geared towards smaller-chests these days. A push-up bra works with what you’ve got and can give the illusion of a larger chest. A bralet gives you the support you need, is comfortable for every-day wear, and allows you to wear a lot. A bandeau bra is a wire-free strapless bra that offers you enough support and lets you wear skimpier tops. Brands to look for: Calvin Klein, Wacoal, Jezebel, Luleh, Maidenform, Warners, Jockey, Barely There.

Medium-Chested (C-D): You have the most options, you lucky bitch. Try everything. Buy fashion bras like whoa. You should consider owning every kind of bra in the world. But I would say try: A plunge bra for low-cut tops, a contour strapless for certain dresses, and a convertible bra for most everything else. And try on the fashion bras. They are made for you. Brands to look for: Calvin Klein, DKNY, Wacoal, Jezebel, Vanity Fair, Luleh, Maidenform, Warners.

Large Chested: (DD+): You may think you need cranes and scaffolding and unsexy bras for your boobs, but you are wrong. Don’t limit yourself to grandma’s Playtex bras. The right bra can make you a fucking bombshell, sister. You are not exempt from sexy lace. You are not exempt from colors. You are not exempt from contour and push-up bras. You should actually try them on and see how great they make your tits look. I’m for serious here. I AM ONE OF YOU. Now, you may think you need a minimizer, but you may not – get a good-fitting bra and you’ll look “proportional.” Minimizers reduce projection, but they can also squish the shit out of you and give you weird flat boobs. Try a balconette: it gives you a very modest cleave, but holds you up impressively, and creates a sexy line. Look for a soft-cup strapless bra with an underwire – something that will hold you in place and keep you comfy. Some brands make a “push-up” bra for larger chests – and design it so that it’s a minimal amount of padding in the right place for push-up. Try ‘em out. Brands to look for: Calvin Klein’s “Seductive Comfort” line (geared towards larger chests), Wacoal, La Mystiere, Felina, Olga’s Christina, Lilyette, Bali’s “Amazing Lift” bra (the only Bali bra I like), Cacique (especially good for 38+ band sizes, and very good at making COLORFUL SEXY BRAS in LARGE SIZES seriously what did I do before I met you, Cacique?), Lunaire. ALSO: figleaves.com for great selections of full-figure lingerie.

Final words of encouragement:

Bra shopping scares a lot of people because they have this idea that it’s only for Victoria Secret’s models. But you should not aspire to be one of these models-sexy, you should aspire to be you-sexy. Block these images from your mind when you try on bras. Shop with someone who makes you feel good about yourself – your best friend, for instance. Don’t be afraid to ask a salesperson for advice – technically, we’re supposed to be trained to be sensitive and supportive (Also, don’t be afraid to complain if you get shitty treatment). And most of us are not going to be horrified by any body-type, honestly. I’ve seen and helped thin women, fat women, women who have just given birth, women who have lost a lot of weight all of a sudden, women who have gained weight, women who have odd body quirks, old women, young women, middle-aged women... and so forth. And you know what? No one looks grotesque to me. No one. No, not even you. You want to know why? Because for the longest time, I thought the most grotesque body in the world was the one I’m walking around in everyday. And then I started seeing women regularly in their bras, and seeing a lot of body-types, and hearing them all say the same thing – “My body is so bad. It’s so awful.” And… not so much. Everyone thinks their own body is gross, but it’s just a body. It was after working as a bra girl that I realized that I’m probably not grotesque because, well, as far as I can tell, everyone thinks their body is grotesque – but they’re all wrong. So, I figured I was probably wrong too, and that’s when I began noticing that I was just fine. And so are you.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Sheesh it's December 2008 already. It seems like it was December 2007 yesterday. Where has the time gone? 2009 will be here before you know it. I'm grappling with the decision of whether or not to write Christmas/Winter/Holiday/Politically Correct cards this year and who and who not to send them too. I want to let everyone in my life that I've slipped talking to in the past two years know how am doing and what I'm up to, but I just don't want to sound forced and "look at me, I'm fabulous" sounding. I want to sound genuine, but without the effort. I might not even send these at all. What do you think?

Another of my assignments for LANG 7802

I'm on a roll and cranking them out. I might as well go ahead and post this one too.

Analysis of a Young Reader

Description of Assessment

For this assignment, I assessed B. B is five-year-old girl who lives with her mother and older siblings in a transitional housing collaborative unit in South Minneapolis.
(I help coordinate a youth tutoring and enrichment program in her building.) She attends Kindergarten full-time in the Minneapolis school district. The testing context was a tutoring center of the housing complex in which her family lives. B is a part of the tutoring and community program there and receives other such services from her building during the after school hours. I have known B for four months (since the beginning of the school year) and have been on many community outings with her and her siblings. The time was evening, after much of her after school programming had taken place. I know that B is a non-reader, and that much of her tutoring time is devoted to reading and phonics activities.

To begin the assessment I gave her a peak at the wordless book we would be reading, Follow, Carl by Alexandra Day and told her we would be reading a special kind of book with no words. I explained that the book is about a dog and some kids that do some very special things with the dog. I explained that I would read the first page and after that she was going to "read the book to me" by looking at the pictures and pretending I was blind, that I couldn't see the pictures and she was going to tell the story to me. She seemed confused by this, so I modeled the first page for her. It seemed like this was too much of a task for her. With the first page, she stared at the book, almost overwhelmed. I intended throughout the assessment to record her retelling of the story and jot down interesting phrases, however, never having administered this assessment before and never having worked with this child academically before, I ended up doing a lot more cueing and teaching and modeling than I did assessing, simply because she didn't have any knowledge of reading to assess. I still did tape record our conversation, but it was just that, a conversation that allowed me to see how much work we needed to do with literacy.

Type of Reader

B's initial reaction to reading when I suggested we read a book was to run away. She said a few times before we started that "I don't know how to read!" She also insisted that her head hurt for the first couple of moments of our conversation after I introduced the book. It wasn't until after I persuaded her to stay several times reassuring her that she could read this book and look at the pictures because the book didn't have words that she was reasonably happy with the task. She was still frightened she would say the wrong thing a lot of the time also. As she looked at the picture of the children stretching with the dog on the first page, I could tell by her worried look that she didn't know what to say. Either that, or she had no vocabulary to express it, but I didn't think that was the case because I had heard her talk at events and other activities. She responded when I phrased my assessments as questions, asked things like, "What are the children doing?" Instead of stretching, she replied that they were "playing." I wanted to see if she had a concept of where they were going to go, if she could make something up, so I asked, "Where do you think they are going to play?" She answered, "the park" with a question mark intonation to her voice.

At the next page, she seemed pretty confused as to what to say as well. We sat in silence for a good three minutes before I asked her to tell me what was going on in that picture. "Where are the children and the dog going?" I asked. "I don't know," B replied. "Where do you think?" I said back to her. She thought a little harder. "Maybe to the park?" she questioned a few seconds later. I turned the page. I thought it would be better to model this page, hoping she would catch on for the rest of the book. "I'm going to give you an example," I suggested. "Look at these children here! They are the same children as before. I see them jumping off the wall now. I wonder why they are jumping off the wall. The dog is carrying the little child. And there is a baby with a toy horse watching all the children jump off the wall. I wonder if she wishes she could play," I modeled. It was a pretty stupid modeling session, I thought to myself even after I said it out loud. Even stupider listening to it play back. I watched B's eyes sweep the page, taking it in. "What do you think?" I asked. Silence.

The next page was hopeful. She studied the page and suggested that they were chasing a squirrel up a tree. Even though they were just looking at it, I didn't correct. I just let her tell the story. But that was all she had to say. She kept studying the pictures. I kept expecting some questioning to come through, for her to ask about what it was that she was confused about, but then I thought, wait, we learned in class that students have to be taught to question when meaning breaks down.

We kept turning the pages together. B kept starting, her eyes sweeping each page, with not a lot to say about each series of events. Even on the page with the woman giving out the cookies, or pancakes, she didn't say anything for a good thirty seconds until I asked her if she thought those were cookies or pancakes they were begging for. It hit me later that B might not be familiar with the term "begging."

It occurred to me through this entire process that B is somewhere between a TACIT and AWARE reader, leaning more to the AWARE side of her reading. If she were a completely a tacit reader, I think she would have just skimmed through the pages without much thought. Instead, she sat and studied the pages. Even though she does not read, she has an understanding of print and gets the idea that books are opened from left to right and the story continues from one page to the next. She tries to understand. I think that she is aware of the breakdown in meaning, but lacks the strategies for fixing the problem, so she sits in silence and waits for someone to come to her rescue. She might lack awareness at times, but for the most part, I believe she just doesn't have the knowledge of how to fix reading problems.

B's strengths lie in her hesitation for instruction. She knows that she doesn't understand what's happening on a particular page and she stops to study, she doesn't go ahead and skip it like many children her age would do. She does have an appreciation for the pictures telling a story, but didn't have much vocabulary to show it. Her eyes were sweeping, and her mind was working, but she didn't have much of a working vocabulary pool to express that knowledge, at the time of testing. B also holds strengths in her determination, and her hard work ethic. She realized that she was tired and went ahead with the activity as best she could. This will get her many rewards in school and in life.

I would say that B's greatest need is more modeling, more reading with this type of reading, and someone to gradually release the responsibility to her while reading with her. She appears to have an awareness of when she doesn't understand something, but doesn't know what to do about it. Perhaps some explicit strategy instruction about questions to ask when we don't understand what's happening, or some vocabulary instruction so that she has a bank of words to use when talking about a book such as this again. She also relies on adults for help in understanding, and non-verbal cues a lot, even though she can speak, so I suspect this is a confidence issue. She responded well when I praised her answers, so I think she needs a lot of verbal praise and encouragement from adults in her life. With time and experience, I feel that she will learn how to adapt to reading like a duck takes to water.

My suggestion for B would be to model, model, model and read, read, read. When adults read with her, they should start reading, but encourage her to chime in with ideas and don't shoot down any ideas she may have. Praise all ideas she may give with a "good idea" or "you're brilliant." Let her hear and experience new vocabulary for herself, and encourage her to experiment with it herself. I might also introduce the idea of accountable talk when discussing the books she reads, giving her access to phrases like "what do you think" and "why do you think that" and "find some evidence from the story to show me why you think that." I think that she is used to living in a large family and answering questions only when asked. This type of instruction would allow B to show that it is OK to speak up and let someone know what she knows. She's still early in her reading development process; I wouldn't suggest an intervention yet. She knows her letters and most letter sounds, and she works with a tutor doing phonics activities. All genres of text and picture books should be included in her reading library. I suspect that the uncertainty on B's part was due to inexperience. The more experience she has with it, the more she will feel comfortable telling a story in the future. Because I didn't finish the assessment, I didn't get to see if she could retell the story. It was already late, and B was showing signs of fatigue and disinterest. There's always next session.


Because this was my first experience with assessing a non-reader, I feel like I learned a great deal about early literacy in this process. I have much experience assessing upper elementary students using standard assessments like running records and vocabulary lists other pre-packaged assessments. I have never had the experience of starting with a student from scratch like that before. It absolutely threw me for a loop how silent she became when she didn't understand. I definitely became more aware of how children make meaning while reading and how they don't communicate it all the time. I will definitely be more aware in my practice of eye movements and wait time when teaching and assessing in the future. I will definitely incorporate more observation and critical thinking activities in my classroom teaching practice.

Monday, December 1, 2008

More of my assignments

Plan for Scaffolding Instruction
Strategy Focus: Activating Background Knowledge and Making Connections
Grade 2

Book #1: Teacher Modeling (I do, you watch…and listen)
Author: Kevin Henkes

Brief Description of Text
Kitten mistakes full moon and its reflection for bowls of milk everywhere, and it gets her into quite a bit of mess. No matter what she does, she can’t seem to catch the full moon and lap up the milk that she wants so badly. Finally, she sees the reflection of the full moon in the pond and mistakes it for a bigger bowl of milk. She dives in, expecting milk, and ends up sopping wet, cold, hungry, and quite miserable. When she does make it home, there is an actual bowl of milk waiting for her on the porch. She realizes how lucky she is to have such a loving home.

Teaching Context
I would begin by explaining that characters in books share many of the traits that characters (people) have in real life. I would ask if anyone had a kitten or cat at home and if they could share their experiences. Gathering information like this would allow me to quickly assess what the students already know and where to guide them with my modeling. I would briefly discuss my experiences with kittens and explain that kittens, like people, use what they know to help them form an opinion of what they don’t know. I would explain that the kitten in the story does this, and read the story before giving away too much of what happened. The first reading would be just a reading to enjoy the story. Then I would read the story again. Throughout the second reading, I would stop to give an example of a time when I thought something was different than what it actually was. I would give several examples. For example, I used to think that fairies existed behind cars that would help push them along. I would think aloud and explain how my thinking over the years was corrected when I learned about gasoline and how cars actually move. I would continue with these examples as I read the story. I would give an example about people in the desert thinking they come to water but what they actually saw was a mirage and talk about the consequences of their actions. With each page on the second reading, I would encourage children to share their thinking about a time when they mistook an object for another object and what the consequences of their mistake was and how it turned out. With each example that I model, I would explain that I just made a connection to my own life. With each example from a student, I would explain that he or she just used what he knew (activated background knowledge) to make a connection about to the book.

Rationale for Choosing the Text
Everyone makes mistakes based on what they know; the kitten is the perfect example of this. It’s perfect for modeling making connections because I can think aloud the many misinterpretations I have made over the years and encourage students to also think of a time when they have thought something was different from what it actually is. This simple text structure also allows me to focus on the content and meaning of the story rather than teaching the story itself and frees a lot of my time to teaching the strategy of activating background knowledge and making connections. I also want to incorporate more author studies into my teaching, and wanted to focus this entire plan on books by Kevin Henkes. If I see that students are applying the strategy, I can also talk about differences and similarities in the books by the same author.

Book #2: Teacher Modeling (I do, you watch….and listen)
Title: Wemberly Worried
Author: Kevin Henkes

Brief Description of Text
Wemberly worries about everything! From the cracks in the wall to the slide on the playground to her friends at her birthday party, there is not a thing that she doesn’t worry about. One could argue that the girl will probably end up with an ulcer at the age of 40 if this continues. Finally, the first day of school comes and she’s beyond worried about that. She worries that someone will make fun of her for carrying a doll more than anything else. Finally, the first day of school arrives, and she sees that school is not so bad, and even makes a friend that also carries a doll as a comfort item. She realizes that school is not so bad and the worrying is needless. She is definitely coming back to school the next day.

Teaching Context
With the last book, I modeled orally, and invited oral responses. This time, I will continue to model, but write down what I am modeling and the connection I am making in three-column graphic organizer the second time I read it. The first time I read it aloud I’d simply ask with each page if anyone has a similar worry. I’d still think aloud my worries and state that I am making a connection with the main character. The second time I read it, I would explain that I am going to organize my thinking in a chart. The chart will have three columns labeled “Wemberly’s Worries,” “Our Worries,” and “Other Worries.” As I come up with my own worries, I will model coding them T-S (and explain that I made a text to self connection), and write them down. For example, Wemberly worries that the slide is too high, and I will give an example and write it down that I remember being worried when crossing the Hennepin Ave. Bridge that it is also to high and I don’t like heights. Another example would be Wemberly rubs her bunny’s ears when she is worried, and I also have a bad habit of biting my nails when I worry. I would continue to write these down on the chart and invite other connections as well. Other worries would be worries from other people not in the class. For example, I might say, “I bet out principal worries about the school a lot and if everyone is getting along and learning what they need to learn and everyone is safe.” I’d write this down and code it a text to world connection. I’d also try to find other books that have characters that worry in them. For example, “I bet Ramona Quimby worried a lot about her first day of kindergarten in our read aloud book this month.” I would write that book down and code a T-T and explain what it means. I realize too that modeling is just that, and not sharing, but part of my modeling I want to see how well students do and if I have to model some more. I realize that I might have to give more examples and I will be prepared to do that if I hear examples from students that don’t really qualify to be connections.

Rationale for Choosing the Text
As someone that struggles from some pretty severe anxiety myself, I can definitely relate and found this as a perfect opportunity to model some text-to-self connections with Wemberly. The text is simple, and easy to understand, leaving the strategy of making connections and activating background knowledge rather than teaching the story the focus of this mini-lesson. I also wanted to keep with my Kevin Henkes author study theme and this was a good Henkes book applicable to modeling the strategy of making connections. I figure all students have some worries that will surface as I read, which leads into a great transition to the next part of the making connections unit, the shared responsibility and demonstration part.

Book #3: Shared Demonstration (I do, You Help)

Title: Owen
Author: Kevin Henkes

Brief Description of Text
Owen brings his blanket wherever he goes. He’s like Linus from Peanuts. (See, I made a Text-to-Text connection without even thinking about it!) Owen’s parents, with pressure from the nosey neighbor Mrs. Tweezers, decide that they want to wean Owen off the blanket using every strategy possible, but to no avail. Owen just protests. Owen cries. Finally, they come up with a solution that all (even Mrs. Tweezers) can live with, and all is right with the world again.

Teaching Context
I would begin by reminding students that we are still working on making connections with a text we are reading, and remind them of the importance of making connections. They make reading more interesting, we are more likely to understand what we are reading when we can put ourselves in the position of the characters, and we are more engaged in what we are reading. I would explain that the character in this story has a problem, and suggest that I’ve had similar problems and many students can probably relate to Owen’s problem. I would then introduce the task. “Your job,” I would say, “is to think of a time when you felt like Owen did when they wanted to take his blanket away.” I would pass out large post-it notes and have the students take out their pencils. When reading, I would still continue to model and think aloud at times when it is appropriate to do so. I would invite students to share and write down their thinking, asking questions such as, “What choice would you have made if you were Owen?” or “How else might you have solved that problem?” Other questions students could think about are “Are there items that you feel similarly about in your own life?” I’d pause for moments after a few pages at a time and invite students to write down thinking. After reading the story, I’d invite students one by one to share what they wrote and we’d discuss the connection made. We’d put all the post-it notes on a diagram similar to the one in the last lesson, with three columns labeled “Owen’s Problem,” “Our Problems,” and “Our Connections.” I’d think aloud as to why I was putting each note in each column. Closing the lesson, I’d remind students that each of them made excellent connections to the reading and that it is important to make such connections and think about what they know every time they read a piece of text.

Rationale for Choosing Text
Again, Kevin Henkes books have so much content in them that children can connect with naturally, and I wanted something that would do just that. Every child has an item or two that they have a hard time parting with, and I wanted a book that would bring this out for my first shared lesson. Plus, this is the first book in this set with a male main character and I always make a conscious effort not to read aloud too many books with a male or female main character when I do read alouds with children. I’ve never done this series of lessons with children, but I will look forward to putting my creations to use soon.

Book #4: Shared Demonstration (I do, You Help)

Title: Chrysanthemum
Author: Kevin Henkes

Brief Description of Text
Chrysanthemum loves her name, until she goes to school that is. Everyone teases her because it’s too long, and it’s a flower. She feels awful. Everyone in her class is named after their grandmother or has a “normal” name. Then she meets her music teacher that is also named after a flower and her class is jealous of her. Chrysanthemum learns to appreciate her name and love it again, just like she did before she started school. Her music teacher has a baby girl and names it Chrysanthemum after her favorite student.

Teaching Context
I would again review that we are learning to make connections and activate background knowledge while we read. I would have students think of a time when they felt left out and what made them feel that way. They would think-pair-share it with their neighbor. We would begin reading, and I would continue to model at appropriate times when I connected with the character and why. I would also ask students to share their connections and questions such as “Who had a connection with a name?” or “When you shared with your neighbor, how many of you shared a time when you felt your name was not important or silly?” For students who don’t have connections, I would ask questions such as, “How would you feel if you were in Chrysanthemum’s place?” at given points in the story. I would again use the think-pair-share or turn and talk when appropriate. I would continue to model, using phrases like, “I remember when my first grade teacher said something to me to make feel good,” and “I felt just like Chrysanthemum when I started a new school.”

Rationale for Choosing Text
Again, everyone has a time in their life when they felt out of place and not comfortable with something about them. I thought that in keeping with my Kevin Henkes author study theme, this was definitely a text where there were plenty of opportunities for students to make connections with the characters and share those connections with their classmates would arise. As a side note, Kevin Henkes also lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and there is a place in this book where there is a pull down map of Wisconsin, so kids could make a connection to the Midwest, since we live in Minnesota.

Book #5: Guided Practice (You do, I help)

Title: OH!
Author: Kevin Henkes

Brief Description of Text
Snow falls and brings the squirrel, the rabbit, the cat, the dog, and the children out during what seems to be the first snow. Everything is white and everyone wants to play. Finally, the sun is shining and a snowman is built. Night falls and playtime is over for everyone. Everyone rushes home and promises of fun tomorrow abound. Oh! Refers to the exclamation of joy everyone seems to have on the first snow of the season.

Teaching Context
Small group guided reading, where everyone has a copy of the book or there are at least one copy per two students, I intent to introduce the book as a book by the same author as the one we’ve previously been reading and remind students we are looking for connections with text and we will do that by thinking about what we know about snow. The students will read this text by themselves in pairs once. On the second reading, students will discuss the following prompt: “This story reminds me of…”. Students will share with their partner and then with their whole group, one at a time. I will correct thinking and model more if appropriate. Students will then write in their journals according to the prompt, “The snow reminds me of…” If students need more of a cue to visualize their last snow experience, I will ask questions such as “What do you do when you play in the snow?” Or “how do you react when you see snow fall for the first time in the winter?” I will remind students that when they answer this, they are making a connection with their reading. I will collect journals and monitor progress and adjust with the next lesson the way I see fit.

Rationale for Choosing Text
I wanted something simple enough for second graders to read by themselves on the first guided practice session of this unit. The text is simple in OH! And in keeping with my theme of Kevin Henkes and local work, I figured that snow (being that I’m teaching in Minnesota) is something that every student has a connection with and can share that connection with and can apply their own background knowledge to sharing their connection with the rest of their small group.

Book #6: Guided Practice (You do, I help)

Title: Lilly’s Big Day
Author: Kevin Henkes

Brief Description of Text
Lilly longs to be a flower girl in her teacher’s wedding, but there is one problem: her teacher’s niece is already promised to be the flower girl. Lilly practices and practices and gets her hopes up until she is disappointed. When she attends the wedding her teacher promises to let her be the flower girl’s helper. Good thing too, the flower girl gets scared and forgets what to do on the big day. Lilly to the rescue! She ends up carrying flower girl Ginger up the aisle shows her what to do and gets to stand right next to her teacher on his big day. Everyone lives happily ever after and Lilly gets to dance at the reception and make friends with the girl she initially thought was going to be her competition and worst enemy.

Teaching Context
I hope to do this in small groups and I’m hoping that not much reminding will have to be done about connections. The task: Students will be given the book (assuming I have one for each student) three large post it notes and be instructed to write down three times at which they made a connection to Lilly or another character in the story. Students will do this independently, with some prompting if needed. I will begin by asking if students have ever had a big day of their own. They will turn and talk to their neighbor to share their experiences. I don’t anticipate having to do a whole lot of modeling, but can certainly do so if needed and appropriate for the situation. I’m a little worried about the level of this text and if it can be read independently, but I can always circulate and help with hard words and comprehension. Students will share what they have written and we will display our connections and background knowledge on a chart for the whole class and other classes to see. I will continue to refer to this unit as I teach other strategies throughout the school year.

Rationale for Choosing Text
Again, everyone has had a time in their life where they have really looked forward to something and were disappointed by how it turned out. We look at these as learning opportunities in childhood as well as adulthood. I think that this is an excellent book to test how much students have learned about how to make connections to a particular text, plus, I love how relatable Lilly is as a main character. As I said, I wish I could find a simpler text for guided practice, but the skill focus will be the making of the connections, not the actual reading, so if all else fails I can also read this aloud and have the connections made in writing or orally. Also, I wanted to conclude my Kevin Henkes author study with this gem of a story. I’m glad I got to explore this author that I haven’t really had much experience with this far. This is definitely something I will use with students throughout my career.

This activity definitely made it clearer to me how to break down each strategy and choose text for my teaching. I still struggle with how to isolate a strategy, but I feel like this assignment was good practice with that. I would welcome feedback on this and suggestions about what to do or not to do all at once. I also feel that best laid plans also go astray, and would be eager to try these strategies out with students to see what they say. I can only imagine the connections that students make to these books, and I feel that the first book I choose for the modeling portion should also be used for the guided practice because it’s simpler text and students in second grade can read this on their own easier than they could read Lilly’s Big Day. Before this assignment, I had a very abstract view about how to teach reading, and this made it slightly more concrete. Like anything, I feel that I will need much more practice with this but that is what life and teaching is all about, I suppose. This was also my first experience with grouping books by author, and I really like this style. It makes it much easier to focus on the strategy at hand, I believe, when you aren’t comparing one book to another.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I'm on my way

Back to the Twin Cities in the next hour or two. I didn't get a thing done this weekend it terms of work for Hamline classes. That's all plane work and Sunday night work. Oy. I'll leave you with more pictures of the work I did get done this weekend. Just because it rocks.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

More of my work today

Totally not finished because I still need to add captions and birthdays and figure out who the hell these people are, but that's the basic layout. I'm quite pleased so far.

This is what I do when I'm at home...

I thought I'd give you some idea of what my scrapbooking and history-preserving efforts turn out to be. I started some more, which I'll post soon. This first one is a collage I did for my grandmother's 90th birthday. She passed away a few months later. These things really don't photograph well.

One of the scrapbooking efforts I did today, not finished, but a work in progress:

Still at home....

Trying to drum up some entertainment until I meet up with friends tomorrow. (All friends seem to be involved in some type of Black Friday activity, be it shopping or selling.) I think I'm going to head down to Micheal's Craft Store (hoping it's not too crowded) and browse the selection of photo albums and photo organizers and try to make some sense out of grandma's photos. Might make a stop at Starbucks too, a peppermint hot chocolate sounds awfully good to me right now, so we'll just see about that today. I don't have any exciting photos or pictures to share, so I'll just save that for another day. I don't even know how I feel about blogging today and telling the world that I exist. I want to, but then again, it just seems so, well, vain. Thoughts?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I have nothing to share

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers. I feel the need for a profound post here, but have nothing to say. I don't even feel like looking for a hulu.com or YouTube video to post. So I will just say there are many many things to be thankful for this year and end it at that. I am reading a really intriguing book though. Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone is fantastic, so I will probably go back to reading that soon. Sorry for being so, well, boring.

Friday, November 21, 2008

How do you know you are a broke late-twentysomething?

It's Friday night. You are curled up with a book and a laptop on your mattress on the floor of the room you share with an early twenty-something who is out at a concert. It is your idea of heaven to have the room to yourself for at least two hours. You also happen to be sipping hot chocolate from a used salsa jar because you are too lazy to wash any of the three coffee mugs in your house. That jar of hot chocolate also happens to be your dinner. And it is fabulous. Aren't you jealous?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Rethinking Radio

If you haven't already (and I'm sure you have because I'm hopelessly behind on all things technology) you need to check out Pandora.com. Put in a couple of artists and songs you really like, and the site (affiliated with the Music Genome Project) will design a radio station just for you, playing only songs you like. If you don't like a song they chose, you can tell it so and it will revise your radio station. Seriously the best thing ever and I've been having a a pretty good time playing around with it. It's great for discovering new music and having access to the music you know and love. Check it out!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Visit the Widget Gallery

Saturday, November 15, 2008

This week on TV

It's after five am.
I'm awake. Which means I'm watching and posting episodes of the office.
I love my life.
I love the office.
I love NBC.com.
I love hulu.com.
My life can't get much more fabulous than this. WooHoo. AmeriCorps to Teaching Temp to Associate Educator with Minneapolis Public Schools.

You need to watch this weeks OFFICE. Period. End of Story.

Enough Said.

Damian Lewis.
Hot Redhead.
Enough Said.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ghostly Relationships

I'm thinking a lot about sixth grade and relationships. In two entirely different contexts. And this is what comes to mind. Remember this? It was about sixth grade that I watched this scene in total awe, thinking I want this to happen to me and this song rocks! Why can't a boy appear out of no where and pretend to show an interest in me when no one else does? And of course, that's none other than Devon Sawa, preteen heartthrob of the nineties. That's right bit&*#@! I said NINETIES!!! Eat my dirt I'm old.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Easy Fixings

To avoid getting absurd tickets from the City of Minneapolis, I had my roommates help me attach this plate to the front of the car. Yes, that's string. Yes, it's stayed in place for two months now. Go roommates. Getting things done for America. Or at least the recycled art guru's bank account and parking ticket record.

Monday, November 10, 2008

More photos!

More photos from my wonderful city, mostly taken from my outings with my kids at work, but another reason why I love my city in the fall. It's getting cold here, so I won't be outside for much longer. Enjoy it now!

Picture time!

Loring Park, Minneapolis MN
Why I love fall in my city

Sunday, November 9, 2008

This hit close to home tonight

I'm browsing PostSecret, as per usual on a Saturday night/early Sunday morning and I stumble upon this postcard that hits maybe a bit too close to home. After all, it wasn't too much longer than a year ago that I decided to completely move to a city for the same reasons. I wanted to be anonymous. I wanted no one to know me. I wanted to start clean and have no one realize who I was. For reasons that I realize now and that I'll elaborate on later, that didn't work. I'm OK with that. I realize that I am who I am and I just want to make myself better. I didn't fresh start, but I started better. I'm still working on improving. I'll keep you posted. I'll update with more details later. I'm exhausted and my roommate just returned.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hulu how I love thee, let me count the ways

This is pretty funny, or as funny as the new SNL can be. Just thought I'd share with my lovely readers.

Friday, November 7, 2008

My first task

For my new LANG 7802 Class at Hamline is to find a book that I have a text-to-self or text-to-world connection with. Do you think I'm being treated like a child? Input welcome. I mean, as much as I love diving into the world of children's literature again, part of me wants to scream "QUIT TREATING ME LIKE A THIRD GRADER!" I'll let you know what I come up with in terms of a "connection book" or whatever they want me to call it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Shamless Plug

In case you're wondering where I've been spending my time online in the past week, it's here: Bookmooch.com. The site is an awesome book trade site that I discovered in my favorite monthly magazine, Skirt! The site is a book exchange site, and it's free to join and trade, as long as you pay the postage of the books you are sending to other people. You gain points by giving away books, and can use those points to mooch books from other people. The inventory is solid, and usually in good condition. I've yet to receive a book from someone, but that's only because I just started mootching at the beginning of the week. I'll keep readers posted. Just wanted to let you know of another resource for book swapping, and let you know of another reason why the internet is amazing.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Practical Matters

Yes it's me. I'm posting again. Trying to avoid what? Oh nevermind. You know what I'm trying to avoid. I just thought I'd drop you a note to say how annoyed I am with Tires Plus. They are such a corporate money-grubbing chain. Not that there is anything wrong with corporate America, per se, but I was just highly annoyed that I went to them in desperate need of two tires today, and end up spending $430 four tires. I'm a little annoyed at myself, and a little annoyed at the fact that the guys there saw a female who didn't have a choice in where she went becuase her car was undriveable and began to give me their sales pitch.

I don't give a rat's behind what your tires are. I just just need new tires. I can't drive to Wal-Mart or the Sears at the Mall of America because, oh yeah, that's right, my tires are torn to shreds and FLAT. I created an account with them because I didn't have a choice in how I was going to pay, but you better believe I will be paying off this in full each month and closing my account as soon as I can. I just hate sales pitches, and I hate inconveniences. It's also a lesson to keep your car in good working maintenance. I guarantee if I had this done (tires rotated, aligned, changed) before now I wouldn't have had to change all at once. I did it because it's a safety hazard, and I don't want to be another statistic on a highway.

I just wish I didn't feel a little taken advantage of. They even told me that my struts were "severely worn" in an attempt to get another $560 from my wallet. I have news for you. I don't have another $560 to my name right now. Sorry dudes. I think I will go get my car inspected from a friendlier, non-pushy, non-flirty mechanic in another neighborhood. Don't try to pick me up. Don't be a creep. And don't tell me my car is fucked up. It's fine. It just needs new tires. I'm so annoyed. You happened to be close to my house today, but you aren't going near my car again.

Anyone know a good mechanic?

A Blast from the Past, take IV

In a recent conversation with a housemate at a Halloween Party, I came to the realization that I am quite a bit older than the majority of my housemates.

Me: Clever costume, I love foxes!
PumpkinMaster Housemate: Thanks! It's all vintage and completely under $3.
Me: Great. You know, the more I look at it, the more it reminds me of the fox from Zoobilee Zoo. What's his name? Oh...Bravo! That's it! Bravo the Fox!
PumpkinMaster Housemate: (stares blankly) Uh...who's that? What's Zoobilee Zoo?

This is when I realized that yes, I must be older than dirt. This girl was a mere junior at Augsburg College, putting her birth year at roughly 1988 or 1989. Yikes! Of course she wouldn't remember such a gem of a show. How silly of me to remember and bring it up in casual convsersation at such a Halloween Party. So, to educate the masses of youngsters out there, I have included a clip. Enjoy.

Who was your favorite character? I was always a fan of the journalistic, scholarly cockateil (though she was rather annoying at second glance) and the leopard at the anchor desk.

Why am I posting again? Oh yeah, because I don't want to work on my NOVEL. Damn it. Back to work. Help.

Noveling Madness

As some of you well know, I have taken on the challenge of writing a novel in a month. As some of you may not know, I am failing miserably. Here it is the third day of November, and I am at 963 words. LOL. If I have to arrive at 50,000 by the end of the month, I have to write 1,667 each day. That should put me at 5,001 by the end of today. Yikes.

I have never had more motivation to organize everything in my wallet, closet, kitchen, or bathroom. I have never had more motivation to NOT WRITE. There is something so daunting about 50,000 words and having them have to make sense. It's a challenge that far exceeds blogging on a regular basis. With blogging, I can make my posts random and incoherent if I wish to. If I want to do that in NaNo, I will have a harder and harder time turning it into something. Maybe I shouldn't worry about that. Maybe I should just write. Right now, I've started with something autobiographical, hoping to turn it into a chick-lit story of four girls facing the real world. I've started categorizing chapters around each girl. I have a lot of characterization. I don't have a lot of plot. For those of you who have written a novel, will plot come naturally? If I have all the characters in mind and what I want them to behave as, will plot flow into something interesting and readable as time and word count progress?

It sounds like every other piece of chick-lit novelish drek that's out there already, no? You're probably right in assuming that. But if they can do it and get rich, so can I, right? Anyone else doing NaNo this year? Anyone want to share there advice? Comisserate? Offer motivation? You are welcome to do so here. Calling you, dear readers...especially one in particular...that's YOU: EMMY @ LUCKY BALL CHARMS. Yes, now you can't escape.

Friday, October 31, 2008

More school

Since I'm on a roll with my assignments, I might as well post chapters 4-6 of that book you readers liked so much, right? Ha! I'm going to post it anyway. Chapters 7-9 are coming tomorrow. I don't work Fridays, so I'm going to spend all day cranking out the last three chapter summaries for this Saturday, my last day of class for LANG 7801 at Hamline University. In two weeks I'm up for LANG 7802: Literacy in Grades K-6 with a different professor. I'm looking forward to the change. I need to keep things fresh to avoid getting myself into another rut. Here you go:

Chapter 4: The Presence of the Past (Using Schema to Understand and Remember)


The authors begin to explain what schema is with a short introduction from Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. They take turns discussing how they personally responded to the passage and what it reminded them of in their own lives. They explain that schema is nothing more than capitalizing on the known before diving into two portraits of classroom teaching where the teachers focus on this strategy in their classrooms. One of the teachers they follow for an eight-week schema unit is Debbie Miller. The other is Kathy Powell. Both are primary grade teachers in the Denver area. Both use the “Gradual Release of Responsibility” model for their schema units. The schema strategy studies involve four phases in both classrooms: planning, early, middle, and late. These are explained in a useful table on page 76. Both teachers model thinking aloud as a way to tap into student’s prior knowledge frequently and believe that good literature is vital to teaching the strategy of thinking aloud. The authors include a useful table about how to choose a good think-aloud text on page 81. Finally, in true Keene and Zimmerman form, they list a summary of what proficient readers do in bullet point form as it relates to schema and using background knowledge to remember what is read.

Personal Response

Reading about Debbie Miller’s classroom in this chapter is absolutely inspiring! Hearing about good teaching practices while using excellent literature in the classroom to inspire young minds is what I aim to do as a reading teacher, so it’s always nice to read about someone doing just that. I got many good ideas from Miller as to using the language of schema strategy in the classroom whether it is writing it down on a chart or just addressing it orally to students. I know from previous educational experiences that Miller is a teacher that spends months establishing the culture of her classroom, and I think that is essential to solid reading teaching. She would not have been able to have those discussions without that structure in place. It seems daunting now to think about spending eight weeks on a schema unit in a classroom, but the results that Miller was able to achieve are incredibly rewarding. Also, Miller emphasized author schema as a strategy, bringing together books of similar authors for students to study so that when they read a book with that author, they will know how to go about thinking about their reading. I never realized how much what I know about a particular author influences my reading as well. I will definitely use these author studies in my practice as well.
Chapter 5: The Art of Discovery (Questioning)


This chapter begins with Susan Ludvigson’s poem “Inventing My Parents” and an immediately following reflection from the authors on the questions asked while reading the poem. The authors point out that questioning is really just a quest for more information and that it along with the other strategies in the book is essential to reading comprehension. The authors quote research that states children who struggle to read don’t consistently ask questions as they read. The chapter also follows the middle school classroom of Julie Melnyk as she uses Chris Van Allsburg’s The Wretched Stone to teach questioning while reading. The authors then follow a primary teacher as she leads her first-grade class in the practice of questioning while reading using reading and writing workshops. Both teachers use authentic literature and model thinking aloud to formulate questions before asking them to generate their own questions on their own books. Both teachers use the Gradual Release of Responsibility model for strategy instruction. Both teachers use reading and writing workshop as an essential part of their strategy instruction, and a crafting session plays a huge role in the writing workshop. Finally, the authors discuss the culture of the classroom and how to set expectations during an open reading and writing workshop, including crafting sessions, invitational groups, and reflection sessions.

Personal Response

The authors make a point that resonates with me deeply when they talk about people who never ask us questions about ourselves and how we take this personally. They say that these people are people that we don’t make friendships with because we feel like they don’t care. They turn to mere acquaintances. I’ve never thought of before. Questions are just so vital to human existence, when we don’t ask them, we feel that we are being neglected. Questions are things that I thought were natural, just not to children. Because questions are so natural in teaching, I think it has become too habitual and teachers (like myself) often forget to ask real and thought-provoking questions. I’m learning through my work with the AVID program that children have to be taught to create higher level thinking questions and they need explicit instruction on how to do this. I use cue words, words such as “hypothesize”, “compare and contrast”, and “analyze” just to name a few. I’m sure there are other ways to do this though. I also use a lot of the thinking aloud strategies with questioning that the middle school teacher in this chapter does with her students. I think questioning is one of my strengths when it comes to teaching strategies, just because it’s something I do so naturally. Where I fall short, however, is the talking about the strategy itself. The middle school teacher in the chapter says specifically, “I realize that when I ask these questions, they play a very specific role. They help me get grounded in the story. The questions pull me right into the story and make me want to find out more.” This is something I think to myself, but not something I have been saying out loud. I will change that from now forward in my personal and professional practice because I have learned from the reading that this is important for students to know so they don’t protest by saying things like, “why do we always have to ask so many questions?” (I’ve had students say this to me too.)

Chapter 6: Creating Meaning (Inference)


The authors begin with their usual piece of text and reflection based on the strategy focus, this time inferring. The authors state that “when we’re considering the most effective ways to teach inference, we must begin by scrutinizing how we infer. We need to be aware of our thinking, so we can be as explicit as possible when describing to children how we infer in lessons.” The authors also state how important it is to listen to an inner voice and trust that voice when making meaning from reading and how readers need to know that they aren’t “wrong” in their inferences if they are different from those of their classmates. The authors stress the importance of conferring in strategy instruction once again. A useful table that I know I will refer back to is that on page 160, telling me how to instruct careful book selections for students. The authors do their usual following of a two teachers during conferences with students, and are painfully careful to listen to both student and teacher during the conference.

Personal Response

I like the way the one of the authors describes inferring in this chapter. She states that “I trusted that listening to my inferences would help me understand. I didn’t always read this way. I have had to work hard to make myself a more aware reader, one who thinks about her thinking as she reads. I have moved from a passive to an active stance.” I like this series of statements because I think many students are similar, from what I’ve observed. Again, I think it is important to implicitly tell students that they are thinking about their thinking as they are reading, and this is not something that I thought about before reading this book. I do a lot of questioning when reading myself, I don’t trust myself or my inferences a lot of the time, so this strategy is one I’m going to have to work a little harder on if I’m going to teach it effectively.

Major Learnings

A major part of what I learned this week would be the fact that it is preferred for teachers to use the big words such as schema in front of their students, even as low as second grade. It seems to be that when students know what you are teaching and have a firm grasp on why they need to know what they need to know, they are more active in their learning. I don’t think I would have thought to use the word “schema” when addressing a group of seven-year-olds, but after reading this I just might. One of the teachers in the case studies uses the phrase “your very important job when I’m reading” and I will use this in my practice because I know believe it is important for students to know what the goal is before reading.

Classroom Connections

A lot of what I read about this week with teaching reading strategies also holds true with just plain good teaching strategies. Know your students and what they know so that you can activate the right schema for the book or lesson you are teaching. Listen to your students and their responses when you are reading so that you know how to correct thinking and redirect conversation as needed. Come prepared to the classroom goes without saying. The most powerful classroom connection however comes with the thought that reading is synonymous with thinking and doing. There needs to be a system in place in a classroom so that students know that the culture of that classroom is a thinking culture. Students and teachers alike need to be held accountable for their thoughts and this takes time to build this classroom culture. This is what I will strive for in my future classroom and all other educational experiences that I come to before my own classroom. There is no one way that does this. There are strategies that the authors suggest and I will use thinking aloud and model taking notes with the best of them.