Which texts have influenced you?

Textual Lineage Charts.  Ever heard of them?  I hadn’t until teaching the Fantasy Book Clubs unit of the 5th grade LC Reading Units.  (Session 7)  Your Textual Lineage includes the books that you have read that have influenced you.

I loved this idea and I needed more information than was in the curriculum.  The most helpful resource I found was from Teaching Tolerance.  So, I provided several of the prompts from the graphic organizer from Teaching Tolerance to my fifth graders.

I got mixed results…

From the very goofy, ready for summer responses…



To the thoughtful responses I had hoped for…




I’ve been thinking about my textual lineage ever since I first read about the concept and this is what I have come up with…

Top 10 Must-SeeTravel Destinations

Falling Up by Shel Silverstein

This was not the first or favorite book of my childhood.  There were so many.  But this is the one I read over and over.  The one that I talked to other people about and that led me to Shel Silverstein’s other masterpieces.  Even though part of my love of books has always been the solitude, there is still enjoyment to be found in sharing them.  This is the text that solidified that books are fun.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

I’m not sure exactly when I first read this book, but I think it was sometime in middle school?  And then again in college.  I love this book and it helped me realize that there is no such thing as a “boy book” or a “girl book.”  And if we put these labels on our favorites, a whole group of young people will never read a book that may change their views of reading and life in general.

Furiously Happy:  A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

This is one I just read last year and posted about here.  It helped me see that I am not alone and there is nothing wrong with me.   Self-acceptance is a long road, one that I am still traveling down.  However, the message I found in this book sure helped with the journey.

Which texts have influenced you?

Summer Reading 2016



I’ve finished six books so far this summer and have many more on my summer reading list.  The books in the pile on the right are up next.  Plus, I am reading all of the fifth grade LC Units of Study for Writing and Reading to prepare for my grade level move.


Me Before You

I planned to read this one before seeing the movie, but it just traveled in my purse for ever and I never got past page three.  Instead, I read and finished about eight other books!  Sometimes I’m just not ready to read a book – it isn’t the right time.  I am always reassuring my son that it is fine if he isn’t interested in reading a book right now.  Just put it on the shelf and eventually, when the time is right, he’ll read it.You’ve had this issue before, right?

Ready to read it now!




Thank you, Jenny Lawson!

I listened to the Furiously Happy audio book read by the author, Jenny Lawson.

I laughed. I cried. I realized that I may be crazy – but I am not alone.

I laughed out loud at the absurdity of her train of thought. (In part, because it isn’t far from what happens in my head.)

I mumbled, “What the…” to myself more than a few times.

Then, all of a sudden, chapter thirty hits me. And I’m bawling in the car, driving down the expressway.

Yes.  That’s exactly it.  THAT is how I feel.  It’s not just me.

This is how it feels – this is what I have never been able to put into words – will never be able to put into words even in my head. 

I’m not sure that I ever truly understood.

And then I heard her words echo through my car.  I heard her explain to her readers what my life feels like some days.

Tears fell.

But, instead of sadness, I felt relief.

So, thank you Jenny Lawson.  Thank you!




My co-teacher, Christina, is a competitive person.  She likes to win!  (How have the two of us, both very controlling, made it this far into the year without killing each other?)


Yesterday, she was subbing in another room.  The kids and I started trying to read Fox in Socks without making a mistake…not as easy as they thought.  I got to page 12 and most of the brave souls who tried got to 7.  One young reader tied me and stumbled on page 12. 

Today a few students wanted to try before we started our read aloud.  When I explained that we did this yesterday, her hand automatically went out for the book.  She NEEDED to get past page 12.  I knew it, and reluctantly handed over the book.  I did not want her to beat my page, but she just might…





Anxiety built in my stomach…page 5…6..7…8…9…10…11…12

YES! She messed up on page 12…on the same word as I did!  I’m pretty sure I jumped up and down in excitement.  She, however, was not excited that we tied.  And that is why I win!

Random Slice Plus a Thought

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI listen to audio books on my commute.  This morning I plugged my headphones into my newest Playaway and…it was a narrator with a British accent!  I can’t put into words how excited I was by this discovery.

I love books, but a British accent just adds to the magic of the text.  It just does!

So my thought about this slice of my life:  Libraries should organize their audio books by the accent of the narrator.  Yep.  Life changing.

One Right Answer

Growing up, there was always just one right answer in school.  I had to know that one right answer, but that isn’t how I teach.  Sometimes there is one right answer, 2+2 is always 4.  However, sometimes there can be more than one right answer, if you can defend your answer with evidence.  This especially applies in reading.

For a week and a half, we focused on fables in reading.  We taught students the characteristics, practiced sequencing events, and modeled inferring morals.  When we got to inferring morals, we found that students didn’t always get the same message we did out of them.   Students saw a different message and were often able to support their opinion with evidence.  It made sense.

We not only tell them there can be more than one answer, but we also encourage the idea.  Students have learned that they should share their ideas, but they need support.  This became clear when I was grading summative assessments this weekend.

This is a great answer…


But is this answer wrong?  Personally, I don’t think so…


Academic Parent Teacher Teams

Thanks to our Literacy Coach the entire third grade team (three classes) is participating in Academic Parent Teacher Teams.  You can read more about these teams at our coach’s blog, BigTime Literacy.  We decided to focus on reading data and strategies this year.The idea behind them is to share data and give parents strategies to help their kids.

At our first meeting we gave parents their child’s reading level and strategies to help with inference and character traits.  We noticed while doing the initial F&P testing that this was a major weakness across the grade.  You can see our presentation here.

Last week we had our second meeting.  Ten out of our twenty-five families were present.  We shared the student’s reading data, information about Standards Based Grading, and strategies to help students with evaluating texts.  You can see our second presentation here.Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 3.19.57 PM

Parents were able to learn strategies and set goals for their children.  Most parents were able to see that their child met the goals they set in the fall.  So exciting!  Our third meeting is set for May where we will focus on ways for parents to help prevent a summer slump.    We are not getting paid for these meetings, they are not part of our contract, and they require a huge amount of preparation and planning.  However, the fantastic progress students are making is worth it!

Some questions…and one piece of advice


Dear Mr. Sparks,

     Why do you always kill off one of your characters?  That isn’t exactly what I needed this morning, but I should have known better.  I have been listening to The Best of Me for the past few days.  At first I saw a lot of similarities to The Notebook: star crossed teen love, pretentious parents, letting go to come back together later in life.  Eventually I stopped thinking of the similarities, but why does death of a character need to be in every book.  But, I guess the better question is, why do I keep reading your books when I know it will end with me crying?!

                                                                                                                         A fan


Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 9.39.16 PMDear Education.com,

     How did you know that I am short?  When JennieB was taken, you gave me “shortJennieB” as an alternative.  How did you know?




Dear Self,

Why did you not wake up to your alarm this morning?  I know that you set your alarm, but it wasn’t set this morning when you woke up, LATE.   Did you turn it off in your sleep?  Whatever happened…DON’T let it happen again!!!



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Dear New Teachers,

     I know that this job we love is difficult.  There will be days that you feel completely inadequate, ready to break down and walk out.  We all have them and I can’t say that these days stop with experience.  (They don’t.)   But, I promise, there will also be days that you will break through walls and help turn on light bulbs.  There will be days that you get emails from former students that make every day they made your head ache worth it.   Work hard, don’t forget you always have room to learn, and most importantly, please don’t give up.  These kids need us and you can do it.

                                                                                                              A Sixth Year Teacher


“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

– Martin Luther King Junior





Five for Friday


1.  I love school supplies!  I know, I’m nerdy!  I get excited to see them up in the aisles and walk through them multiple times.  However, my son’s supply list generally results in a little stress.  There is always something that requires trips to 3-4 stores even though I shop in July!  This year it is the elusive plastic ORANGE folder with prongs.  I will find you plastic orange folder with prongs!

2.  Speaking of school supplies, it drives me nuts when kids draw all over the class erasers, especially the giant ones I buy.  So this year Bob the Eraser will be standing guard…



3.  My son and I started listening to Tuesdays at the Castle in the car this week.  We were really enjoying it, but we didn’t finish it before we had to return it to the library.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t renew it.  Luckily there was a copy of the book in print available, but now the British accent will only be in our heads.  😦    (The lady reading the story had a British accent!  How fun!)

The characters are the prince and princesses living in a magical castle.  Every Tuesday the castle changes, a tower here, an extra room there.  How awesome!  Right now the king, queen, and oldest son are missing.  The remaining siblings are working with the Castle to find their family and keep their kingdom safe.  I can’t wait to find out what happens!



4.  Exactly two weeks from today will be our opening Institute Day for the school year.  I have mixed emotions.  While I can’t wait to start teaching again and applying everything that has been filling my brain all summer, I am going to miss spending all day with my son.

5.  Finally, my birthday is coming up next week.  28.  That is way close to the big three zero.  I know that I am still young and have so much ahead of me, but I keep thinking of that Tim McGraw song, My Next Thirty Years.  When that came out I think I was in middle school and I remember thinking, “Gosh, that is really old.”  Now I know better, but it is still hard to believe I am this old!  It’s freaking me out a little.