When the learner is ready, but the teacher isn’t (‘real-life’ DI).

I’m slowly, slowly reconciling the fact that growing up on the farm is different than my experience growing up in town.  Differentiated, even.  I’ll let you be the judge.

So, my ten-year-old and seven-and-a-half year old have both driven our yard tractor.  The eldest hauls things around all the time, helping his father build our new home on the farm.  I haven’t even sat on the thing!

Getting tips on driving the  Boomer from Papa.

Getting tips on driving the Boomer from Papa.

The ten-year-old also drives the half ton around the yard.  He came around the small shop a couple of weeks ago hauling his brother on the contraption he built (see my post on Close Reading of Picture Books).  His father and Papa laughed about it.  I got over enough of my initial shock and fear to take a picture.

Little brother riding behind.  Big brother driving inside.  Mother freaking out.

Little brother riding behind. Big brother driving inside. Mother freaking out.

I guess that teaching them to drive at the farm seems unreasonable to me.  Reason One: age.  Reason Two: equipment.  Reason Three: see Reason One.  Reason Four: I didn’t learn to drive until the law said I was old enough to do it.

And here are the “counter-reasons” of which I was delicately (not really) reminded.  One: Curtis was 8 when he was driving the half ton.  Papa drove the combine about 50 km when he was nine.  Two:  the equipment has a safety feature that if they stand up, it shuts off.  Three: if there’s ever an emergency, our boy will be able to go get help.  Four: life is different on the farm.

That got me wondering: different or differentiated?

What the boys are learning at the farm is individualized, based on the environment, and includes content, processes, and products that I obviously can’t fathom for lack of background knowledge.  It’s based on their interests, readiness, and learning profiles.  Basically, it’s about them and not me.

Differentiated instruction is about meeting the needs of the learner in order that they have success and growth.  It’s about focusing on specific outcomes.  It’s about developing what kids know, understand, and are able to do.  And just because I’m not the instructor doesn’t mean that their “instructors” aren’t paying attention to all of these things and more!

I have goals professionally and personally to know more about what my students know and are interested in, but also to trust their educators (whoever they may be!) to be differentiating their instruction to meet their needs. I will also ask questions and raise concerns when I’m worried or don’t have a clue!

When have you ever felt that the learners might be ready or prepared, but you weren’t?


Exhaustion. Where’s the ‘pause’ button?

I am about to outline a scenario that many people may relate to in some manner.

So… kids to read with. Dishes to do. Meals to plan. Laundry to wash. Dirty floors.  Dirty sheets.  Dirty bathroom.  Shower time.  Soccer practice. Cub meeting. Swimming lesson. Science fair. Crop seeding. Crop spraying. Basement flooded.  Measurements wrong.  Confront engineers.  Plan refund.  Too much rain.  No spraying.  Finish editing criteria.  Finish papers.  Do the dishes.  Plan the meals.  Rinse.  Repeat.

I’m tired.

I went to the superannuation banquet of two colleagues and had a lovely time visiting and enjoying company.   I invited company over and had a lovely time visiting and enjoying company.  It’s 10:45, company leaves, and I’m asked about where the septic drain should be at our new house.  What???  Seriously???

Sometimes I wish there was a ‘pause’ switch.  Not an ‘off’ switch.  I have too much to be thankful for to turn it off.  Just a pause…from random questions, genuine enthusiasm, forced enthusiasm, cooking, cleaning, planning, organizing, smiling, chastising, consoling, supporting.  Pick a role.  I’m tired.  I need a ‘pause’ switch.

Being a teacher and a mom and a wife is a great combination most days.  It’s when all the excess piles up that’s hard.

Today is an excess day.

I am merely venting here.  I would trade very, very little about my circumstances.  Life is full and joyful and hopeful during most hours of every day.  Sometimes a ‘pause’ button would just help me regain perspective.

When have you needed a ‘pause’ button lately?

Close Reading of Picture Books, Part Deux!

Image from http://www.haikudeck.com/reading-signposts-education-presentation-kaYTJeMlYf (Kelly Gleason)

Okay, #pln.  I have finally found some time to do a second installment of picture books I would use to teach the Six Signposts from Notice and Note.  If you’re interested, there’s a video on The Importance of Close Reading (Kylene Beers and Bob Probst sharing their thinking) that outlines the key points about the signposts.  Otherwise, here’s a couple more ideas to consider.

Alexander, Who’s Not (Do you hear me? I mean it!) Going to Move by Judith Viorst – you can see the transformation come over this little guy as he comes to terms with moving.  I think this is a great example of Contrasts & Contradictions or Again & Again.

The Hat by Jan Brett – another good example of Contrasts & Contradictions or Again & Again as the hedgehog struggles with a sock.

Big Bad Wolf is Good by Simon Puttock – there are some great Aha Moments for the Big Bad Wolf and Mrs. Duck as they figure things out about themselves and others.

Tuesday by David Wiesner – I have to give a nod to this (almost) wordless picture book as a great example of Contrasts & Contradictions.  Flying frogs, anyone?

Julius, The Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes – the description of the cute baby mouse and Lilly’s adamant “disgusting” illustrate Again & Again. And eventually, Lilly has an Aha Moment about her brother.

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes – when Lilly gets her purse taken and gets upset, she retaliates and ends up having an Aha Moment after some Words of the Wiser.

Hey, Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose – decisions, decisions, decisions… do the Words of the Wiser make a difference?

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado – gotta love the Words of the Wiser of Abigail, the old cow.  She gets it.


I realize that I do not have any explicit examples of Tough Questions.  What books might you suggest for Tough Questions?  What other suggestions do you have for picture books that support the six signposts?  Please leave me your ideas.


Related posts:

Close Reading of Picture Books – my first post on this topic

Beginning to Close Read {Notice and Note} – blog post about Notice and Note classroom applications

Notice and Note Strategies for Close Reading – gives a great example of using Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting




Being Part of the “Nerd Herd”

So, I actually looked it up.  There are several versions of nerd herd out there.

There is a tech support company at NerdHerd.com.  There is a book called Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd (Black & Castellucci, 2010) that looks pretty good.  I found a take on it in the blogging world called Nerd Heard.  There is even a Nerd Herd group on Facebook with over 16 000 likes.

Why had I never heard this expression before?  I belong to the best nerd herds ever!!

Though http://www.urbandictionary.com had several definitions of nerd herd, I came up with this one:

nerd herd (n.): an intelligent, like-minded group of individuals who stick together because of common interest, ideas, and/or support

Admittedly, the members of my nerd herd aren’t always together at the same time.  But if they were, man, we’d have some serious fun!

Clayton, who decided he wanted to be a combine for Halloween this year.

Clayton, who decided he wanted to be a combine for Halloween this year.

Anthony, loving life while painting a bird house.

Anthony, loving life while painting a bird house.

The youngest members are my children, Clayton at age 10 and Anthony at age 7.  It is not uncommon for my 10-year-old’s conversations to start with, “Mom, have you read___?  You have GOT to read it!”, followed by a delightful conversation about the virtues of a great book.  My 7-year-old is constantly challenging me with fabulous questions and infinite curiousity, as in, “Let’s make up a cool craft, Mom… what would happen if… check out what I built… look what I just figured out…” Love it.  Love them!

Curtis and I at the Regina Home Show in March.  A great weekend get-away!

Curtis and I at the Regina Home Show in March. A great weekend get-away!

My husband and I have an exclusive nerd herd around farming and home building.  Well, not exclusive for him.  He talks to plenty of people about such things all the time.   But, he is definitely the lead nerd in our home building herd.  Love it.  Love him!

Next up are my students.  I am no longer teaching in one school specifically, but when I return to the school that I had taught at for the past seven years, the kids and I connect over a variety of topics, from books, to hunting, to classes, to movies – you name it. Love it.  Love them!

Meeting Richard Allington at the Saskatchewan Reading Conference 2014 in Saskatoon.

Meeting Richard Allington at the Saskatchewan Reading Conference 2014 in Saskatoon.

And there are my totally awesome colleagues.  Colleagues in the schools I work in, at my office, in my university classes, on Twitter (#myplnrocks), that I meet at conferences.  These are the major nerds in my professional nerd herd, the peeps who make me feel like I am part of something so much bigger than myself.  They support me, challenge me, cheer for me, and question me, and some I have never even met!  Love it.  Love them!

I am so very thankful for these guru groups or pensive posses or collaborative crowds (I could only think of alliterative words – rhyming would have taken me way too long, much like the delay between my blog posts).  Regardless, I couldn’t be happier to be a nerd, particularly when it means I get to spend time with such amazing people.

To you, unknown reader, welcome to the herd.