Monthly Archives: February 2015

I Groaned on Accident

Here is a slice of life from room 37.


You can read more amazing slices here.

“Hey guys, I can see that you are interested in reading this book, but I have to remind you that you gotta stick together. Let’s look at your reading plan for tonight.”

Blank stares.

“You know, where you write down the chapters you will read tonight, so you all remember to stick together.”

Blank stares. And then a groan. I ignored it.

“Come on guys! If you all read different parts, it isn’t much fun to talk about it the next day. Okay, everyone go get a Post-it and let’s write down our plan for tonight. We can stick it in the inside cover of our books.”

Another groan. I eyeballed him. KNOCK IT OFF I signalled. He looked away.

It was our second day of historical fiction book clubs. The excitement was real. But these guys were new to each other. They

struggle a bit with organization. They needed a little support.

joshua copy

“All right, everyone has it down. Good for you. Let’s look at the other books you chose today. I am noticing that you are reading about the March on Washington and Pearl Harbor. But your HF book is about travelling west, and covered wagons, and the Oregon Trail. Let’s find a book that can support your understanding of the story you are reading now. You can come back to those books later on, maybe next week even.”


“There is no groaning in readers workshop! I am trying to help you. Trust me.”

His eyes went down, he wouldn’t look at me- just a smidge of a glance. Enough to know I knew he got it.

“Okay, so we are good, right? You know what you are reading tonight, let’s look for the informational text that can help you understand Joshua’s journey. I have some stuff right here.”


“HEY! I said no groaning!”

“I know! I only groaned on accident! I groaned on accident!”

How can you get mad at that?



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Nudging and Worrying


This week I celebrate our initial blogging steps. Thank you to Ruth Ayers who provides a place for me to share celebrations with others.

After worrying about how we could actually get this off the ground…

After waiting and waiting and waiting for their teacher (me) to set up the account, and get the tech forms sent home, and signed… and talking about what a blog is and is not, and netiquette… and my hopes for the stories and opinion pieces I will be reading! Oh the joy! The anticipation!

…We started blogging in earnest this week.


The kids were VERY excited.

Fights erupted over our measly five computers and my personal iPad. We had to negotiate scheduling.

“Can we stay in at lunch and blog?”

It made me happy to see such excitement and interest. Follow the energy. This level of engagement is good. It can give us an infusion of fresh energy during this long, strange, not-winter-California-style winter.

And what are we blogging about?

“What’s your favorite candy?”

“What is your favorite color?”

“Which app do you like?”

“Have you been to the horse or car races? Put which one and yes or no.”

Uh, yeah… hardly a festival of academia. But, it is a festival of inquiry. And that is what I have been after all year long. I gave them a platform on which to write, and they did! Not exactly what I hoped, but they are writing a lot of questions, and answering each others… So I asked them to do something with the results of their surveys. Compile the data, write a summary… I teacherified it. Can’t help it. If I don’t nudge a little, they won’t stretch. It is always difficult to find the balancing point between getting students to work a little harder and think a little differently, while not squashing independence, interest and motivation. I will let you know how that next step goes.

One of the most interesting parts of this week was noticing who showed up. B, who often (always) needs a reminder to write during writers workshop, has been the most active. Switching from paper to device turned a disengaged learner to a fully active one. Worth the extra time and the $30.00 I spent on a “premium account” with Kidblog? YES.

I am thrilled about the excitement my students are experiencing, the trails they are blazing, and the writing and reading they are doing while having fun. I wish it were deeper. I wish there were more stories. But I believe it will happen, if I keep nudging. Gently nudging.

Finally, I saw this post and got a little worried. How much censorship would I have to do? I don’t want to be a censor. And then I read it.



I didn’t nudge that! And I am not really worried anymore.


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Who is in Charge?



Here is a slice of life for today!

Today during read-aloud discussion, J said, “Mrs. Skubik, I think I have found a new signpost.”

REALLY!? I thought. That is an amazing statement. Truly. It took my breath away.

First off– for my non-teacher peeps (although you have probably already heard me talk about these since my boundaries have issues…), a signpost is something we teach students to look for in a piece of literature. They occur frequently enough to warrant a name and a question like…”What can we learn about this book from this signpost?” My favorite signpost is Words of the Wiser. This is part of most every book where an older and wiser character gives advice to the main character. The advice is often connected to the lesson learned or the theme of the story. Think of the moment that Dumbledore told Harry that his mother’s love for him was something so powerful and extraordinary that NOTHING could ever wipe it away or reduce its power.

Sniff, still gets me.

Anyway. So J thought he had a new one. A big part of me thought (to myself) “Do you have any idea how long Kylene Beers and Robert Probst worked on this? We can’t just think up a new one! They wrote a whole book about this. Geez.”

But I shushed that rude voice, and told her to ride her high horse off to somewhere else. Think about it!

ONE OF MY STUDENTS FEELS EMPOWERED ENOUGH to create a new signpost. They know how powerful the signposts are. And he discovererd one. HOLY CRAP!

So, that is it. My work is done. Thank you very much, I’ll be here all week.

Well, not quite. But I have made it a point to chart it, and check in with him, publicly and quietly, about how it is going with that discovery. What else have you found to back up your belief that you are on to a new one? How can we word it? Where should we put it in the classroom so that it is clear for others?

Oh, what was it you ask?

“You should be in charge of your own life.”

Amen J, Amen.


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