Saturday, January 16, 2010

Maternity Leave

For any of you teachers out there that also wear the hat of mom, maternity leave is a two word phrase that can be scary, freeing, and overwhelming all in one.  I'm due with our first child on February 8th...which is just 23 days away!  From the middle of the summer when I notified my principal of the news, the process began.  He was concerned with finding the right sub to take over my classroom because of the math content I teach.  As you know, some elementary teachers are scared of math, but that's a whole different post. 

The preparation for the sub taking over my room has really made me reflect on all that goes on in my classroom - a lot!  Communicating with my sub about my standards-based math grading system including how I grade homework, score quizzes, and allow retakes was just one part of it!  My students also write to me about what they're reading once a week, and I respond.  They also use Google Docs and Blogger in the writing process!  (Check out their writing at: and leave some feedback!)  These are some of the major things.  Then there's the, "This student may do this...."  "This student is always reliable...."  "Our morning routine looks like this..."

I have basic plans worked out until my due date, and my sub seems very capable of picking up and continuing wherever I leave off.  I did have some thoughts in this preparation like, "Can she handle it all?  Should I cut some things out?  Will she grade the quizzes correctly?  Should she just bring them to me so I can do it?"  The answers to these questions have ended up being, "Yes, she can handle it.  I will not cut things out because my students still need to be learning while I'm not there.  She can grade the quizzes and just ask me if she has questions.  No, I will not grade quizzes while I'm on leave." 

My district wonderfully paid the sub to come in earlier this month and shadow me for a day so she can see how things run and where things are.  I feel very confident that my class will be in good hands while I'm gone. 

  • Will I miss it?  Yes, but I can still see and interact with what my students are doing through their work on the blog. 
  • Will I be where I need to be?  Yes!   That's a given.
  • Will learning continue while I'm gone?  YES! 

Monday, January 11, 2010

Book Bistro

Last year I wanted to find a different way of doing the classic "book report."  I do the First 20 Days of Reading from the book Guiding Readers and Writers in my classroom.  This system of Reader's Workshop relies on reader's response letters and book recommendations.  Some students really struggle with finding good books, so I thought a fun venue to share books would be a cafe-like atmosphere.  Last year, we called it Book Cafe, but since some teachers have been implementing the Daily 5 and The Cafe Menu, I didn't want the two cafes to be confused.  Thus, this year we changed the name to Book Bistro. 

Our elementary operates on trimesters, so we have 3 rounds of Book Bistro.  Each student presents one time per trimester.  With my class of 22 students, we hold 4 Book Bistros per trimester so there are 5-6 students presenting at each.  This usually takes up an hour of our morning, but it's definitely worth it.  It helps the students presenting work on oral communication, and the listeners get to hear about some great books!  The students have a list of ideas to choose from, but as you can see, they may also come up with their own idea and get my approval.  We've had some great presentations this year including a newscast shot on multiple locations!

Because it is a cafe or bistro atmosphere, the students presenting bring in treats and beverages for the listeners to enjoy as they present.  I've even had students bring specific food because it relates to their book!  

At the beginning of the year, I held my own Book Bistro for the students.  I brought the treats and modeled three different ways to present with three books that I enjoy.  We also discussed proper "cafe etiquette" including not scarfing down your food, sipping your beverage, sitting quietly, and not getting up to throw things away when someone is presenting.

Students really seem to enjoy this venue for sharing books.  It's fun to hear them tell me ," This book is GREAT!  I think I'm going to share it at the next Book Bistro."  Talk about motivated readers!