The 18th Emergency by Betsy Byars – A Retro Review by Tony Keefer

Sometimes real life endings are better that ones we hope and strive for. Of course, I’d rather have students talk than fight. However, with bullying on the rise, this book may be a pathway to authentic discussions. I will be looking for it to read.

Pressed from the Nerdy Book Club…click below

The 18th Emergency by Betsy Byars – A Retro Review by Tony Keefer.

Florida Education

New Classroom, New Year…New Hopes #4thChat, #Edchat, #FCAT

Empty slate…but filled with possibilities!

It has been almost a full year since I have really reflected on my teaching and learning. Not because I haven’t spent quite a bit of time doing that, but because I taught 4th grade in Florida this year.

I posted last summer about the Florida Writes. Our district scores had dropped and teachers felt they did not have the support they needed for the new assessment guidelines. I had gone out to the State of Florida Education Department site to review the information teachers could use. The teachers were right. With new assessment guidelines, the older writing samples on the site did not apply and could not be used.

Fl Writes: A 4th grade writing assessment by the FL DOE.
Fl Writes: A 4th grade writing assessment by the FL DOE.

Fast forward a few months…and my absolute excitement at being able to teach 4th grade for 2012 to 2013! My school is departmentalized so I taught reading, writing, and social studies for a 2 hour block. It was tough, rigorous, and required a LOT of wonderful integration.

Still…what was truly wonderful was the help my district writing contact provided!

Theresa Phelps, Project Coordinator, Brevard County Elementary Writing Resource contact!

My writing hero!!! Picture from Edmodo

She not only sat teachers down at the beginning of the year and walked through points in the FL DOE sample text (which they now had 🙂 ). She also came to our school and provided our 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade teachers with professional development!

I learned in December that my scoring was too soft. I was about a point off of what Theresa felt the state might mark the papers from my 4th grade students. Now…you know…this is not an exact science. However, that ability to align my thinking with hers was invaluable!

Strong assessment requires the ability to understand and ‘see’ the levels in students’ work and understand how those levels align with state expectations.

In the end…I really wanted to reach the 80 percentile range for passing. Our school overall was about 58. However, 70% of my students passed! Considering our school pass rate was 41% last year, we grew a lot!

With the departmentalization, “I felt”, we miss out on opportunities to write across the curriculum. That is not to say that my team didn’t try. They taught math or science to 88 students in 55 minute blocks! It was fast and a lot of ‘content’ to cover.

Overall, I feel, we missed out the cohesiveness of a core planning process that could be apparent in all subject areas. Honestly, with the time it takes to assess 88 science notebooks, 88 math assignments, or 44 writing essays (in my case), plus 2 to 3 meetings a week… there was just little time for us to come together as a team to talk and plan. And when we did, it was scheduled data crunch time. With one teacher, you can create time for yourself, when you are able. You can see the day, the week, the year, more clearly, across subject areas! There are less classroom walls to work through.

THIS YEAR… I will be in a self-contained 4th grade classroom!!!!!

As I create plans this year, I am able to backward plans and choose reading that links to the standards in more than just language arts! I can pick a science article for science standards that work for the reading comprehension I intend to teach in my reading block.

Then, I can have students write to show learning of the science content as well as the writing standard we are working towards.

It’s not that departmentalization couldn’t achieve that I guess. But it did feel like for 4th grade, there were a lot of barriers. It was tough. For this year…

The best way I can explain integrated planning is like streams that flow into one river.

All paths lead to strong learning...(public domain image)
All paths lead to stronger learning…(public domain image)

Maybe if you look closely, you can see where water from one stream is in the teaching flow. But day-to-day, hour by hour…the learning is so intertwined that the overall experience is the beauty and process of learning the river ride.

When you finally arrive at the journey’s end, a student should have mastered all that was needed to make their way down…with a depth that can only come from applying the new skills and knowledges in an authentic, holistic setting.

Ok…enough said…

This is the beginning of starting up my blogging again. I learned so much this year. Departmentalization taught me to be faster, more efficient, and make do with less time. I hope that the new year brings a deeper understanding of 4th grade standards and the ability to hone my assessment for learning and differentiated through the flipped classroom and writing across the curriculum.

So excited!!!



Chapter 3 of The Daily5 – Book Review #d5chat

“Children are honored and respected for the types of books 
each needs to read to move toward the goal of being a better reader.” p 33
Welcome to week three of The Daily 5 book study…our host this week is Mrs. Freshwater’s Class.

This week’s shared reading: What’s the Difference?: Key MaterialsConcepts, and Routines For Launching the Daily Five

What “rings” true for you in this chapter?

1.  Why is a gathering place important?

 This was an instructional strategy I learned and used England.  Teaching was from the
floor.  Students were closer so I
could monitor not only behavior, but I could better assess and observe learning.
Students could easily interact easier from the floor and they were closer which allowed me to connect with a variety of students quickly.
I have used a ‘gathering place’ with students up to 6th grade.  Here in the US they weren’t as comfortable at first.  However, over time they sort of resigned themselves to it (since I also was on the floor) and we just got on with it.  In England, students came up through the grades that way and they settled in without thought.
I like the term “gathering place” and intend to use that term rather than “meet on the floor.”  I do intend to buy a bright carpet.  The one in England had the right size squares so student even had their own ‘space.’

2.  How can I best support students to pick appropriate books?

Teach and model I PICK.  I love the book marks found on Treasures for Teaching (see below).
I will also send home a newsletter before school starts to ask for books and share the IPICK strategy so we can ‘launch’ it from the first day!
I will do the ‘shoe’ lesson and ask the librarian if she wouldn’t mind using the same IPICK language.
image from Barnes and

       What are my concerns?

Supporting students to pick a book at the right level.  I may need to read  “Guiding Readers and Writers (Grades 3-6): Teaching Comprehension, Genre, and Content Literacy” by Irene C. Fountas, Gay Su Pinnell

3.  What rituals and routines to I need to teach this structure
to be successful?

  • How to use and keep full their book box.
  • Developing anchor charts and referring back to them.
  • Modeling good and wrong behaviour.
  • Bringing students back to the gathering place if they get
  • off task to soon.
  • Consider my signals and procedures for Checking In.
Treasures for Teaching
I also intend to use the IPICK book marks found on Monica’s Treasures for Teaching!
IPICK Bookmarks by Treasures for Teaching

     Will I need to adapt any?

The thumb over the heart seems good…  I need to think about how it will work with my AFL thumbs up/thumbs down though.

Don’t forget to join Mrs. Freshwater’s Class and Jan from Reading and Thinking Out loud for the blog hop!


Chapter 2 of The Daily5 – Book Review #d5chat

from The Daily 5
“Stay out of the Way” was changed to Respect and I added Resilience to Stamina because I think children learn and need to develop both.

First, Jordan you are in my prayers.   And Mel, although I do not know you, you are in my thoughts and prayers as well.  Blessings and Hugs…so so sorry about your loss. T


Submitted as part of my Daily 5 Book Study on Seusstastic Classroom Inspiration by Mel D.   I am excited to use some of the Chapter Two ideas shared there!  You need to check them out…the timer, the stamina necklaces and charts!  Too fun!

—————-Here are my Chapter Two responses ————————-

1 .What goals do you have for your classroom as you work to implement the principles and foundations of the Daily 5 discussed in chapter 2?

  • A. for students to have a strong understanding of their learning targets and a sense that they can help direct their own learning.
  • B. to incorporate students’ interests so they can develop a life-long foundation for how to learn and explore.
  • C. To develop independence and trust in our class community so we can communicate clearly learning needs.
  • D. To have a cooperative community so I can provide interventions or enrichments so all students achieve a years worth of learning gains.
  • E. to be able to clearly track rate of improvement (RI) for reading and writing.

1b.  What support do you need to do this?

  • I will be working with our district RTI coach for RI.
  • For the rest, I intend to participate in this book study to learn more about the Daily 5 and I have joined the Daily 5 group on Edmodo (the teachers network) so I can learn from others.
  • I want to start planning for fall to get a sense of others materials I will need.
  • Last, I am teaming up with the third grade teacher ( who is also starting the D5) and hope to collaborate with staff I our school that implemented it last year.
2. What stands out as the most significant aspects of this chapter?
  •  What doesn’t? Trust, Choice, Community, Sense of Urgency, Stamina and Respect (rather than stay out-of-the-way) are not only significant for D5 but for a teaching and learning environment and for life skills.  I truly don’t think I could choose one and don’t even know if listening them in order of importance aligns with my beliefs.  
  • Instead, I created the picture above to reflect how I think they all are needed and feed into the higher purpose of education.
3. How do the foundational principles of the Daily 5 structure (trust, choice, community, sense of urgency, and stamina), align with your beliefs that support your teaching strategies and the decisions that you make about student learning?
  • Trust:  I feel the teaching and learning relationship is stronger when trust is established on both sides.  In order to learn, students need to feel safe.
  • Choice:  I have always felt the best way and more important way to engage and develop life long learners is by teaching them they to explore their choices.  I want a strong student voice in my classroom.  I want students to learn about what interests them so they can use this foundation to create and problem solve in the future.
  • Community:  We need to help children understand and see value in their home, classroom, community, their nation and our world.  Community is much more than just our classroom but how we learn to work together in class can support learning how to work with others outside.
  • Sense of Urgency:  I always tell my own family I am tired of “I will” and “Paying it forward”.   I want my students to have that sense of  “doing it now” because life moves quickly and we will only be together in class for a 9 months!  I want them to know the ‘why’ they need to learn and how important that is to them.  I already use “I can” statements to share learning objectives with students and ask them “WHY is this important to you?”  I think that is why I am excited about the D5.  It seems to fit what I believe as well.
  • Stamina/Resilience:  Keep Calm and Carry on… We need to move forward regardless.  We all need to learn to hold our focus and be able to ‘do’ something for an extended amount of time.  There are some things that can be accomplished well quickly, but others that need time, practice and reflection if we are to become really good at it!  Oh…and moving on does not mean leaving gaps…stamina is about doing it until we can do is well!
Thank you for putting this book study together.  I am truly grateful because I was heading in this direction of learning and implementing the Daily 5.  Your book study is helping me to truly reflect and approach this new instructional strategy with thoughtfulness and insight.


The Daily 5 Book Study – Chapter 1 – focus on 4th grade

Staring a book review on the Daily 5. I love that I could download it for my NOOK!

I was researching the Daily 5 because I will be implementing the program in my 4th grade classroom next year.

I enjoy collaborating and learning from others so I was excited to find a Daily 5 book review hosted by Suesstastic Classroom Inspiration.  I found some bloggers and some wordpressers to link up with and am excited to learn and gain ideas.

I’m already about pg 55 out of around 90 pages in the text.  So the Daily 5 is not a long read…but it’s full of good information and I love the research links.  (I’m a Sheldon when it comes to researched based teaching and learning.)

This is my first book review on-line.  I don’t always type as fast as I think…so my disclaimer is that the any errors are my own.  Being that this is my reflective blogs/journal…that suits me just fine.

Here are the questions…

1. On pages 4-6, the authors present two different pictures of their classrooms. In thinking about and reflecting on your own practice, how would you characterize your literacy block? Does it look more like the first or second scenario, or is it somewhere in between? How will you change it?

This past year I taught science and gifted…but previously I’d say my literacy block was in between.  I did all sorts of small group, changing centers work.  My students became independent for the most part…but I definitely had those wanderers.

How will I change it?  I am going to start the year using the Daily 5 framework as it is recommended.  I hope to supplement instruction by complementing the Daily 5 with Flipping.  So students will be bringing into literacy block knowledge and skills gains from home lessons as well as what we do in class.

What I want to do do better is having students choose their own reading books.

2. The typical teacher is very busy having students do lots of different activities. How is what you are having students do now in your classroom creating quality readers and writers?

I integrate reading, writing, speaking and listening into my literacy teaching and learning.  I have students peer and self-assess as well as support.  I try to model what quality work is…asking how it feels, what it looks like and how will they know when they have achieved it.  So as they were at centers, those areas would be built in.  However, I can’t say students had real ownership of the material and what they read.

3. What sets the Daily 5 structure apart from what you are doing in your classroom?
More student choice and hopefully more time to really develop in students an understanding of personal learning goals.  I guess I’m not sure if I don’t already ‘do’ and have many of the philosophies of the Daily 5 as much as I need to learn how to manage this great plans better.
It’s great to want students to be independent and have your classroom centered around their interests…but at the end of the day…I feel the Daily 5 framework seems to be a proven way to make that happen.  And…I want to NAIL supporting my approaching readers and writers.  I want to have time for them and to have time to stretch my gifted.
 Tomorrow (since they are now in the second week)  I am going to look back over Chapter 2 and consider these questions…
The next chapter begins to discuss the foundation to the management systems used in the Daily 5.  Come back and visit next week!  I’ll be posting my answers to the following questions:
1 .What goals do you have for your classroom as you work to implement the principles and foundations of the Daily 5 discussed in chapter 2? What support do you need to do this?
 2. What stands out as the most significant aspects of this chapter?
 3. How do the foundational principles of the Daily 5 structure (trust, choice, community, sense of urgency, and stamina), align with your beliefs that support your teaching strategies and the decisions that you make about student learning?

Excellent poetry book for children “In Bits!” by Neill Stevens

As if the days couldn’t get better.  Last night my son asked me to read poetry to him!  We found a book from an English poet who visited our school in England.

“In Bits! A Collection of Poems by Neil stevens

This book is full of fun and engaging poems about school life and more!  We had an opportunity to hear the author live a few years back with Key Stage 1 (and 2) as the author not only entertained…but taught and encouraged pupils to enjoy writing poetry!

Years later the memory of Neil Steven’s and his poetry is still in my son’s memory….and the laughs continued last night as we read through some of his favourite poems!

There is so much you could do with this book as far as integrating it into the curriculum!  Good fun!


Researching Lewis Carroll for my #gifted class….it’s getting “curiouser and curiouser”

Lewis Carroll from Christ Church's website

My 1st and 2nd Grade gifted class decided to study Lewis Carroll and have a Mad Hatter Tea Party.

Here is our ‘Tea Unit’ so far!

First, we brainstormed our KWL and sat down and planned our project over the term.  Since then we have…

  • investigated different types of tea as scientists looking through magnifying glasses
  • tea tasting – using our sense of taste to compare the properties of each tea.
  • researching the history, uses and transportation of tea…along with Lewis Carroll and the Mad Hatter of Alice.
  • had a wonderful visitor!  A master herbalist that taught us how to mix herbs to make our own tea.

Last week we went on a virtual tour of Oxford, down the Thames and to the Oxford University Natural History Museum.  We learned about the life of Charles Dodgson and how the story of Alice was based on the animals found in the museum and the children and people met during his adventures around town.  Then the children decided they wanted to write their own book of wonder to share at their tea party!  So we explored our school as Lewis Carroll did Christ Church, wondering the ‘real’ purpose and mysteries found on our campus.

Photograph of Christ Church from their webpage...

The creativity and imagination of the children was truly astounding!  I gave a digital camera to our ‘photographer’ and instructed the students to guide him when to take pictures so we could use them as a foundation for illustrations later.  We have pictures of the ‘tree of insight’, the ‘forest of heroes’, the Troll HQ and many more magical places on our campus I was just made aware of! I’m so excited to watch their book and excitement grow…

Next week we create our own tea blends, writing down the recipes and making sure we measure ‘exactly’ – using our math and writing skills.  Then we have invitations to create, people to invite, decorations to make and etiquette to master!  Oh such a terribly busy term this will be!

Nothing like candle light and Carroll...

So tonight I thought I’d learn more about this Lewis Carroll.  I’m researching Charles the mathematician and want to incorporate Logic Puzzles like he created into our unit.  The children would like to create some for our party….

Transporting myself back in time…to capture the essence of Oxford and LC as much as possible…I lit my honeycomb candle and downloaded Lewis Carroll’s ‘Doublets – A word puzzle’…setting the mood for a “curiouser and curiouser” night.


ICPALMS – Are you standards driven and value content reviewed lessons? Check this out!

More than just Florida standards…
as a Race to the Top participant, lessons
use the National Core Standards for
reading and math! So don’t tune this out
if you don’t live in Florida!

Florida Association of Science Teachers – F.A.S.T  learning on science and more!

ICPALMS – Are you standards driven and value content reviewed lessons? Well…
Ok.. I just left the Florida Association of Science Teachers, F.A.S.T conference… OH MY GOSH!!!  I am so excited.  Yes…there was some really good courses on science instruction and I will share more. However, however..HOWEVER… the best resource I have seen since coming back to the US.. CPALMS!And even if you don’t work in Florida, I would take a look at this program.
CPALMS was designed to be a standards driven, content reviewed site…. to be a ‘one source’ for teachers.  A site to help improve the efficiency of planning…to save teachers time…connect them to quality resources embedded within the Florida standards (and now National Core standards for math and reading).
Ok… so there are A LOT of sites that promise standards and links… but the ease!  The FREE-ness!  Yes it is FREE!  This is a site that places teachers in the driver’s seat and encourages sharing, continuous improvement and growth through professional development.
Well.. Somehow they did it RIGHT!  They created site based from strong teachers with techs that listen to educators AND have the insight to intuitively create resources we don’t even know will make our life easier (yes!  I am excited). AND ITS FREE!!It’s promotes collegiality…it is encouraging…
Remember… I teach K-2 science in a lab setting.  11 classes!  Then I support 1st-6th grade gifted children in pullout sessions that need to link to NGSSS and Florida DOE standards/goals for gifted.I am embedded in benchmarks that cross a mind boggling amount of age groups and content areas.  And… I have the experience of teaching in a country where true differentiation – based on a student’s current level and needs – was in place, expected and moderated.  So I’ve lived it… believe in it…and want to continue the practice.. even in a crazy world of all these age groups and content.
The review process works to help ensure lessons are standards driven,
with strong instructional practice guidelines and authentic
But it is VERY hard.
So imagine… when I saw the CPALMS demonstration and heard the thoughtfulness and strong practice behind it….I became excited!
Each lesson plan has been reviewed by at least 3 teachers who have been trained in the NGSSS standards/core standards.  They ask:  How is the pedagogy?  Is the LP or resource truly useful in a wider spectrum?  Will it be easy to implement for a wide audience? Does it follow the benchmarks and promote best practices?  Is it age level appropriate?

THEN…. THEN.. (and this is where I get really excited)… subject matter experts review the lesson to ensure the concepts are accurate!  So now.. real scientists and more are looking over the material to ensure the skills and knowledge are up to date and based on real, accurate information (For example…seeds do not use the sun for food!  Are you truly teaching the difference between ‘observation’ and ‘inference’?)

Did I say it’s FREE!I was working last night on my medium term lesson plans for K-2 science.  I mapped out the benchmarks.. created my “I can” statements.This is a draft…thought about the learning needs and styles I want to meet…thought about the outcomes and how they could be measured…thought about activities that might link (especially some I’ve learned from our F.A.S.T conference)…put down some ideas..but that all took awhile.Tomorrow (I’m done for the day).  I am going to research the activities on CPALMS and look at the lessons out there.  HOW EXCITING!  I probably could of just gone straight to CPALMS but I want to start with a map first and then check their work just to be safe.
The database is growing so I know it won’t have everything I need right now…but…I know as time progresses and our great teachers work together.. Just imagine!
Long term I want to help with primary lessons that link to the English National Curriculum to support our primary students interested in our Brevard Cambridge Programs at the middle and high school.
One of my PGP strategies this year was to investigate the district recommended technology resources for data and planning that is out there to support my transition from England back to Florida.  Well… here is where my PGP lead me to a GREAT RESOURCE!
You can set up an
account to keep notes
or have info on new
lessons on specific
benchmarks sent right to
your email!
WOW!  There are moments when you realize….I might  know what I am missing or need to become a better educator…but rarely do you find resources that so strongly fit an actual need.  Usually, by the time you fill it…you are using a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
Maybe not with CPALMS!  I am so excited about CPALMS!
You need to check it out!
 — Some highlights —
Resources for teachers – lesson plans, units, URLs
Some resources for students –
You can add your own lessons for review!  Free professional development through feedback from experienced teachers and subject matter experts!
ICPALMS – Build on success
Best way is researching by benchmark…
Started in 2008 – or floridastandards.orgAlso.. you can email an address and LPs with the benchmarks will come flowing back!  AWESOME! (I’ll try it out and share).
I’ll share more as I use it!