Friday, June 30, 2017

My 5 Favorite Books of All Time!

I remember the day I got hired in my first teaching position.  It was a Friday afternoon and I was standing in my mother's kitchen.  The phone rang.  I ran to get it because I had just had an interview the day before for a first grade position at a local elementary school.  I prayed this would be the call.....being a teacher was all I had ever wanted to do.  As a little girl, I was always the one who wanted to "play school".  I would round up the neighborhood kids and I would be the teacher.  My neighbor Judy always told me that I was the one who taught her daughter Deann to read.  She was about 5 and I was probably about 8 or 9 years old.  I was a teacher my whole life.  So when I got that call from Ruby Hawkins ~ my soon to be principal ~ I was over the moon!

The day before I had gone on an interview.....I sat across Mrs. Hawkins desk and one of the questions she asked me was "Tell me some books you have read recently".  Hmmm.....ok that was easy.  I had just finished a book that would shape my career forever.  The book was "Marva Collins Way".  If you haven't read it, please put it on the top of your book list for your summer reads.  I wanted to be Marva Collins ~ her strength, her ability to connect with students, her way with troubled children. Marva Collins started her year with this statement "The first thing we are going to do here, children, is an awful lot of believing in ourselves".

I patterned myself after Ms. Collins.  I knew I wanted to connect with my students and find the good in all of them.  I wanted to take those troubled kids and show them that I loved them and believed in them.  Marva Collins taught me how to do that.

One of the next books I read, as a young teacher, was "A Room With A Different View".  I LOVED this book!  In her book, Jill Ostrow, takes her kids on a year long adventure where they transformed their room into an island.  The students, a multi-aged classroom of 6-9 year olds, literally built the island (and everything needed) and transformed the room.  No more desks and chairs.  This room had nooks and crannies and bridges and huts, all built with the strategies of cooperative learning and problem solving.  Jill Ostrow was the "flexible seating queen" and way ahead of her time, published in 1995. Flexible seating is not a new thing...Jill Ostrow was doing it 22 years ago.  Jill Ostrow taught me how to integrate my curriculum and reach the needs of all my students using differentiated instruction.  

Then, along came Debbie Miller.  Oh, how I loved her.  I wanted to step inside her quaint and charming classroom with the checkered tablecloth, twinkle lights and soft lamps around the room.  I read with understanding when she wrote about sitting quietly after school, with a cup of tea, reading over her students work for the day.  My quiet time is also after the students go home.  I rarely walk out the door on time.  I like to putter around my room, getting things ready for the next day, looking over my students work and thinking about where I need to go with each of the kids.  Looking over their reading levels ~ How can I get Ryan to understand those blends?  How can I help Emily with her comprehension?  Picking books that are just right for them.  

In her book, Debbie Miller teaches the importance of building relationships with our students. She teaches how important is is to really get to know your students, understand what makes them happy and sad and then building a relationship around that.  That is how you truly reach your students. Debbie Miller is the master at differentiation and teaching kids how to reading with meaning. She teaches us how important comprehension is in reading and how to truly teach your children to do just that. 

Next, I discovered Debbie Diller (not a typo....yep Debbie Diller....with a D).  I had always been an advocate of learning centers in my classroom.  I remember having centers in my very first classroom back in 1982.  It was VERY new back then and teachers thought I was a little bit crazy....and they were intrigued.  "Your students don't sit at desks in rows?", "Your kids move around the room and go to centers?"  What's that all about??? Those were some of the questions asked of me as a new teacher. It seems funny now....everybody uses centers in their classrooms today.

So when I found Debbie Diller's book "Literacy Word Stations", I loved it.  She was me!  She loved centers too and in her books she taught how to incorporated centers in your room, what materials to put at centers, and how to manage centers.  If you are new to the idea of centers, these books are for YOU!  She will teach you EVERYTHING you need to know.

 Finally, one of my more recent finds in the book world was Jan Richardson's "The Next Step In Guided Reading".  I learned about guided reading about 15 years ago.  I took a series of classes from a friend who had been trained at the Ohio State Literacy Collaborative,  which was started by the gurus of guided reading, Fontas and Pinnell.

I wasn't new to guided reading when I discovered Jan Richardson, and yet I still loved this book.  Jan Richardson delves into guided reading strategies in her book and teaches you how to have an effective guided reading lesson. She provides detailed lessons and lots of resources you can use in your own guided reading groups.  If you are struggling with guided reading or just want a refresher, this is a great book for every elementary reading teacher.

What's on my book list for this summer?  Well, I've been looking into Jennifer Serravallo's "Reading Strategies Book".  It looks like a winner to me and I've seen a lot of buzz about it on social media, so I'm going to give it a shot.  I'll let you know what I think of it when I finish.  

I know we all need time to recharge over the summer and get away from the classroom.  We need to connect with our families and friends, spend time at the beach or whatever makes you happy.  But we also need to recharge ourselves as teachers too.  We need to stay abreast of the newest teaching strategies.  Our kids are evolving and so, we must do the same.  Why not take a minute to pour yourself a tall glass of lemonade, find a cozy spot and read one of these inspiring books?  You won't regret it.  I promise.  

That's all from me for today.  I'm off to start getting ready for my annual July 4th picnic.  Lots of friends and family will be here for the celebration.  I hope you have a great holiday and I'll see you soon.....because you know, there's always something fun happening in

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