Thursday, June 25, 2009

Who Moved My Cheese?

Who Moved My Cheese? When you hear this title it doesn’t sound much like a book meant to help teachers improve the quality of their literacy instruction. In fact, this little gem by Dr. Spencer Johnson isn’t about teaching—it’s about learning.

In this book, two mice named Sniff and Scurry and two little people named Hem and Haw head into a maze searching for nourishment and happiness which for them, comes in the form of cheese. The journey is different for each character and when the cheese becomes difficult to find and eventually disappears, each character reacts differently.

In education, we face a constant stream of change in the way of student needs, assessments, administrative changes, and shifts in policy. In the same way that Sniff and Scurry and Hem and Haw deal differently with change, so too, do teachers. Who Moved My Cheese? helps to put change into perspective and forces us to think about the need to adapt and rethink how we deliver instruction. In my busy life, I relish simplicity. This story is a simple and valuable tale that takes less than forty-five minutes to read but leaves you thinking and questioning for hours and days after.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Start Your Reading Workshop Strong

With this year barely over, September is a far off, distant thought for most. At Literacy Builders, we are busy planning what promises to be our best offerings yet! I spent last week gathering thoughts and ideas for Organizing for a Strong Reading Workshop, our August 5th offering. Our day will begin with looking closely at assessing readers’ needs and learning about their interests and habits as readers. After that, we will talk about establishing expectations that encourage readers to set their own standards high as readers. The rest of our day will be filled with mini-lessons that lead to active readership and ideas that ensure that your reading workshop gets off to a strong, positive start.

Six hours is barely enough time to think about starting a strong Reading Workshop. For those wanting content specific information, August 6th is for you. The morning will be dedicated to comprehension monitoring. For any teacher who ever thought, “They’re reading, but I’m not sure if they are getting it,” this session is for you. This hands-on workshop will send you home with mini-lesson after mini-lesson to take back to your classroom to help develop your students’ concept of “What is understanding?” Our afternoon will be dedicated to looking at the specific needs of struggling and reluctant readers. What can be done to bring them on board? What understandings do teachers need to have in order to effectively teach and motivate these readers? Filled with hands-on activities to bring back to your classroom in September, this workshop promises to help get the year off to a strong start!

Visit for our course brochure. Hope to see you in August.

Monday, June 8, 2009


A kindergarten class that I visited today continues to learn about poetry. I struggled over the weekend with what to do with this group of writers to help move them forward. I was afraid of making poetry seem hard--their enthusiasm is infectious and their can-do attitude is astounding. I couldn’t bear to squash that energy. As I waffled through possibilities, I had to make a decision. I would teach them about how poems look a certain way on the paper as a result of line breaks.

In the same class, I had a conference with a young writer. He was writing about apples. By his account, he was done. Do I continue the conversation about line breaks seizing the opportunity to help him see how today’s lesson applies to his writing or do I make it about his process? Yet another decision.

Ultimately, the lesson about line breaks was mediocre at best. I used a pocket chart and index cards that could be moved around and while I was successful at not squashing their energy, I don’t know that I was effective in getting my point across.

The conference, however, was amazing. I decided not to stick with the conversation about line breaks and asked my young writing friend what his plan for writing was now that he was done. In our conversation, he not only let me know that he had options, he let me know of his intentions. Now that he was finished writing this poem about apples, he would go on to write a poem about carrots. When the carrot poem is done, he will write poems about a bunch of other foods and put them all together in a book of poems about food.

At the end of each day, we will have made countless decisions. Some of them will be insightful and brilliant and others, well, we’ll be inclined not to talk too much about them. I think what’s important about decisions is to reflect on them. We have so much to learn from ALL of the decisions we make—good AND bad.