Godzilla Gazette, 5

Week of September 19, 2016


  • From Grace
  • The Reflective Practitioner
  • Weekly Events
  • Kudos
  • Upcoming Events
  • Website to Explore

From Grace

Hi, everyone! Happy 100th Birthday Mathews Week! I absolutely cannot wait for this Friday's main event as we honor the amazing legacy of a full century of teaching and learning at our school. Our history is so meaningful to the alumni who have walked our halls and to our current students who are creating their own special memories of their elementary years.

One of the most powerful elements to our story is the way Mathews has changed from a school that only served white students to a school that truly embraces all who walk through the doors. Several of our students have written reflective essays on the power of diversity and their insight and passion never ceases to amaze me. On Friday we had a beautiful celebration for Hispanic Heritage and I know our Cultural LAUNCH Team will be working hard to celebrate our varied cultures throughout the year. These assemblies are only a part of helping every child feel welcome at school. Our classroom and campus libraries should also reflect authors and characters (especially protagonists) that are representative of all our students. As you conference with kids and help them select individual reading books, and choose with read-alouds to share, please keep this in mind.

Speaking of reading, this week's Reflective Practitioner is an article by the great Lucy Calkins on the ways teachers make Reading Workshop a powerful tool for building literacy. It's also a powerful way to continue to build in student choice in the classroom so they are invested in their own learning in ways that may not be if only participating in teacher selected activities. When students craft meaning for the texts they read, it's powerful. When they take that meaning and apply it to something else in their lives, or get inspired to tackle a problem or research more, they are Making sense of their own learning - which is our goal for them. Notice the really rich connections and thinking that the students are engaged in when talking about their books - they are learners! Enjoy!


  • Friendly Reminder - 100th Day Bulletin Boards - Sicily has done a great job of mapping out the school so visitors see the history surrounding our school in chronological order. Please work with your students to learn about the decade of time you're assigned and work with your team to create informational bulletin boards to be completed by September 22nd. I know some teams had expressed an interest in doing one decade over the others - it you care deeply about that, please work to switch with someone else but keep the decades in the bulletin board order they're assigned. Please let me know if you need something to help complete your boards. Thank you!

6th Grade = Future (already completed)

5th Grade = Room 213 = 2010-2016

Rooms 209 & 211 = 2000-2010

3rd Grade = Room 208 = 1990s

Room 207 = 1980s

Room 205 = 1960s

Kinder = Computer Lab Board = 1970s

4th Grade = Art Board and Room 204 = 1950s

Room 202 = 1940s

Room 201 = 1930s

1st Grade = Library & small boards next to office/stairs = 1920s

2nd Grade = Room 107 = Pre-Mathews (Austin snapshot in 1910 before Mathews)

Restroom & 105 = 1916-1920

PreK = Large Board across the stairs

Room 102 = Our Mascot and Colors Through the Years


  • WELCOME! - Please join me in welcoming two new members to our Mathews Family! Liv Meland will take over our vacant Teaching Assistant position that has been filled with our fantastic sub, Carol, since the beginning of the year. Say thank you to Carol if you get the chance and welcome Liv on Thursday. We also have a new nurse for Mathews! Please help me in welcoming Avery ______, who started on Friday and did an amazing job with our kids. :)

  • Tuesday-Thursday Kinder Specials - Amy, Steve, and Jennifer will be working with our pageant crew for dress rehearsals in the morning and won't be finished in time for Kinder special areas. These classes will be covered by one school staff member and one volunteer. Locations will be shared soon!

  • Friday - There will be many, many visitors on campus. Please keep a close watch on your students throughout the morning, particularly during assembly. Know where every child is at all times! Consider asking a trusted parent volunteer to help, if necessary.

The Reflective Practitioner

Here's how teachers like you are using independent-reading time to help students build literate lives:

Lessons from Great Readers

For several decades, I have been squeezing into crowded author sessions at International Reading Association conferences. How I love learning about writers' habits--that Robert McClosky kept ducks in the bathtub of his Greenwich Village apartment while writing Make Way for Ducklings, for example, and that E. B. White took time away from Charlotte's Web to sit on a hay bale and watch a spider at work on its web.

For literacy educators, these anecdotes are not just cute, they are revolutionary. They have reminded us that writing is not desk work, but life work. It is not a little thing a person does with black marks on the page, but a big thing we do with our whole lives.

The time has come for us to take a similar attitude toward the teaching of reading. How good it would be if we could squeeze into sessions at IRA conferences to hear the stories of great readers. If we did this, our methods of teaching reading would most likely change. I do not think those readers would tell us about making shoe-box dioramas of beloved novels or writing new endings to published stories. They wouldn't talk about sending make-believe letters from one character to another, or about cutting books into sentence strips and reassembling them. Instead, I think that great readers would tell us about weaving reading together with the people and passions of their lives. They would tell us that reading, like writing, is a big thing we do with our whole lives.

Focusing on Independent Reading

With support from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project and Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc., teachers throughout the New York City metropolitan area are putting that idea into action. "What I've come to realize," says Hannah Schneewind, a second-grade teacher at P.S. 321, "is that during independent reading, my children are composing their reading lives in front of me."

She and hundreds of other teachers have made independent reading a priority--the rest of their reading curriculum grows out of needs they identify during that time. "If our efforts to teach reading don't affect what happens during independent reading, they probably don't affect kids' lives as readers," Hannah says. "And my whole goal is to help kids invent richly literate lives for themselves."

Set the Stage with Mini-Lessons

In our classrooms, reading workshops usually begin with children gathered on the carpet for a mini-lesson. We read a text aloud and then mentor kids in talking, writing, reading, and thinking in ways that skilled readers do. We then encourage students to use those strategies during independent reading. For example, Hannah paused during a reading of The One Hundred Dresses's final chapter--at the moment when Peggy pushes aside her guilt about persecuting Wanda--and looked at her students, silent and expectant. Chris, taking on the role of Peggy, said in a high-pitched voice, "I don't care about Wanda. If it weren't for me, she wouldn't have won the drawing contest at all, so I'm going to forget about her!" Clearly, Chris had been taught that skilled readers walk in the shoes of a book's characters.

That comment piqued other students' curiosity about the characters. Sylvia went on to say, "I think Mattie changes because she feels bad about teasing Wanda, but Peggy never changes."

David concurred. "I don't think Peggy is a main character because she stays the same the whole time. Wanda and Mattie are the main characters because they go through things and change."

"How could Wanda be the main character?" asked Kath. "After they tease her, she moves away. She's not in the whole last half of the book."

For a moment, students sat silent, turning Kath's idea over in their minds. Then Chris said, "But in Narnia,Aslam is hardly ever there but he's a main character."

After a while, Hannah spoke up. "I'm going to write these big questions on sticky notes because tomorrow, when we finish the book, I have a feeling we'll want to talk more about who really changes and about the issue of main characters. Meanwhile, today, before independent reading, will you have a talk in your mind or with your partner about these issues in the book you're reading? How are the characters changing? Who are the main characters and why?"

Create Social Supports for Reading

We figure out what work readers need to do and then create social supports for that work. For several weeks last fall, Katherine Bomer's fourth and fifth graders at P.S. 11 studied ways to not have lonely reading lives. How could they find reading friends? They interviewed Katherine about her reading friends, and discussed their own from the past. While gathered on the carpet, and later during reading workshop, children talked in partnership about the read-aloud book, their self-chosen books, and their histories and hopes as readers.

Together, the class talked about how reading friends sometimes look back through a book together, retelling poignant, funny, or important parts. They discussed how readers read with their friends in mind, marking places to share. Sometimes reading friends decide to try books by a particular author so they can talk about his or her style and quirks. Sometimes reading friends follow a theme in books, as when two girls begin to wonder if mothers always leave in Patricia MacLachlan's books.

Make Independent Reading Central and Collaborative

For teachers like Katherine and Hannah, independent reading is not independent. It is collaborative and central to their curriculum. Students create partnerships that provide a structure for whatever scaffolding they need. Hannah's second graders, for instance, sit side by side, arms almost entwined, pointing together at each printed word. They may read chorally or by taking turns. Either way, they work together through the sentences of their book. These children often take an initial "picture walk" through books and talk over what will probably happen before homing in on the print to confirm or alter their guesses. They have strategies for dealing with tough sections, such as "turning your mind on higher" by rereading to find and hold onto the sense of the story.

Other students in Hannah's classroom need support for comprehension. Sometimes these children can recite words on a page but the story escapes them, so Hannah devises ways of helping them. In one partnership, for example, children meet daily to add to a timeline of main events in their book. Another group regularly uses sticky notes to identify "the big things" in their books and begin each reading workshop by summarizing those things to one another. A group of mystery readers meets to compare how their different detective characters solve cases.

The social fabric that supports independent reading in Hannah's classroom is also a part of Katherine's. Her students exchange book reviews and beloved poems. Together, they go to book signings, have poetry play dates, and visit the public library, among other activities.

Focus on What's Working

A lot of our teaching involves naming what is already working in our students' reading lives and making those things even bigger. In Katherine's class, for example, Tamika looked up one day from a long stretch of reading to find that Sonia was eager to talk. Leaning back against a pile of pillows, they started thinking together about their books. Tamika opened her novel to an illustrated page depicting several characters. "I wish they didn't have this page," she said. "I had pictured the people in my own way. This wrecked my picture totally." Her reaction spawned a discussion between the children about how they often "make movies" in their minds while reading.

After listening to this conversation, Katherine gathered the class together and said, "Today I'm wondering if we could all try something that Tamika and Sonia do in their reading lives." Soon, during read-aloud, the children were whispering, "What I'm picturing is...." Later, when it was time for independent reading, Katherine reminded the children that they could borrow Tamika and Sonia's strategy of pausing to envision texts as they read.

Reverse What's Not Working

Because we coach according to what children are doing, we are in the perfect position to recognize and suggest ways to outgrow unnecessary reading habits. For example, in Hannah's class recently, two children finished a book, snapped it shut, and ran to the shelves for another. "I'm so surprised by what you guys do when you get to the end of a book," Hannah said. "For me, reading the end of a book is like reaching the top of a mountain. I don't usually run right back down. Instead, I linger and look back over the trail I've taken."

Soon this pair, and eventually the whole class, was charting things readers could do when they finish a book: They could reread favorite passages and rethink them in light of the whole book; reread to notice how and when characters change; think about how the book relates to other books they've read; go back to difficult passages and talk about strategies they used to figure them out; and so on.

Make Time for Sustained, Solitary Reading

Talk is important in these classrooms, but so is time for sustained, solitary reading. We provide explicit and direct support for this kind of reading.

  • Some children use two bookmarks--one for the page they're reading and one for the page they're reading toward.
  • Other children leave sticky notes in books to mark the end of each day's reading, and then teachers join them in looking back over their journey through the book.
  • Many children have found that by choosing more than one book at a time, they create a pile for their bedside table, which helps them to maintain momentum between books.
  • Children also spend time in school inquiring about how to create places for reading. In Hannah's class, children use sticky notes to claim spots to sit in and try those spots out to see whether they truly support deep, long-lasting engagements with books. Meanwhile, they also make reading nooks for themselves at home.

Get the Most from Teacher-Student Conferences

During reading workshop, we move among children, conferring with them individually as they read. Usually, we initiate these conferences after observing the child discreetly. When Katherine noticed Virginia hovering near the classroom library, searching again for a new book, she asked, "What happened to yesterday's book?" Virginia explained that she'd abandoned the book because it had been boring, like the ones before it. Within a few minutes, Katherine had gathered together a few other children who, like Virginia, gave up on books easily. "Let's see if we can help each other to invent ways to stick with books even when they seem a bit boring," Katherine said. Rachel shared her strategy of stopping at a cliffhanger, usually two pages before the end of a chapter. "I learned this from reading Nancy Drew," she explained. "Every chapter ends in a way that forces you to read on. So I want to always start my reading at ends of chapters; they're usually good hooks."

The important thing, of course, is not this particular strategy for sustaining interest in a book; Virginia could have found it helpful instead to have someone read a bit of the book aloud, or to speed through the text until she got hooked on a plot line. What is important, however, is that Katherine watches the children for challenges they encounter as they compose lives as readers, and goes on to encourage habits that work for them. In this way, Katherine Bomer and other teachers in the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project create a reading curriculum that helps children do the very real work of inventing and living inside their own literate lives.

Lucy McCormick Calkins is founding director of the renowned Teachers College Writing Project, a national coalition of teachers, teacher-educators, professors, and writers. She also directs the Teachers College Reading Project. Lucy is the author of The Art of Teaching Writing, New Edition (Heinemann, 1995) and a new book for parents, Raising Lifelong Learners, which will be available this August from Addison-Wesley Longman. She will soon begin writing The Art of Teaching Reading.

Please send comments and suggestions to Senior Editor instructorwebed@scholastic.com

For Your Information


  • If you need something, ask.
  • Ensure you have a plan for after-school pick up - know how each child gets home.
  • Take the Suicide Prevention online training by September 30th!
  • Remember to take attendance between 9:15 and 9:45 am each day.
  • Make sure to utilize reading/writing workshop and small group instruction during core.
  • Incorporate number talks into your math lessons - check out the book from the library if you haven't already - there are sample talks on the included cd.
  • Arrive and pick up your class from special areas on time - respect each other's time.
  • Ensure 504, IEP, ELL, and Gifted Accommodations are being followed
  • Actively supervise your students - Spread out at recess to monitor each area.
  • Check our calendar for important events
  • Try something new and have fun!

Weekly Events

Monday, September 19, 2016 - B Day - Mr. Hardie at Mathews

  • Admin Team Meeting - 8:00 am - Office - Bradford, Robin, Grace
  • Calibrating Observations - 9:00 am - Classroms - Bradford, Grace
  • 504 Meeting - 3:15 pm - Office - Diana McG, Chad, Robin, Grace

Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - C Day - Mr. Hardie at Pease

  • Dress Rehearsal: 1st Half - 8:00 am - Music Room - Pageant Cast, Amy, Steve, Jennifer
  • Judges Visit - 9:00 am - TBD - Grace

Wednesday, September 21, 2016 - A Day - Mr. Hardie at Mathews (am) / Pease (pm)

  • Dress Rehearsal: 2nd Half - 8:00 am - Music Room - Pageant Cast, Amy, Steve, Jennifer
  • Elementary Principal Meeting - 8:00-3:30 pm - PAC - Grace

Thursday, September 22, 2016 - B Day - Mr. Hardie at Pease (am) / Mathews (pm)

  • Dress Rehearsal - 8:00 am - Music Room - Pageant Cast, Amy, Steve, Jennifer
  • ARD - 1:55 pm - Office - Kirstie, Michelle, Margaret, Grace
  • CAC Meeting - 3:15 pm - Library - All CAC Members
  • Current and Former Mathews Staff Reunion - 4:30 pm - Threadgills - All Invited

Friday, September 23, 2016 - C Day - Mr. Hardie at Mathews

  • Coffee Reception - 8:00 am - Library - Julie, Grace
  • 100th Birthday Celebration!! - 9:00 am - Blacktop - All
  • Cake Reception/Alumni Gathering - 10:00(ish) am - Library - Julie, Bradford, Grace
  • School Tours - 10:15(ish) - School - Susan, Grace
  • Alumni Classroom Visits - As Scheduled - Classrooms - Teachers/Students

Sunday, September 25, 2016

  • Happy Birthday, Kirstie Osten! :)

Kudos: Do you know of something good? Share it with Grace to be included here or write it in the comments below!

  • To Diana McG. for organizing the Hot Science-Cool Talks event, managing tickets, and accompanying folks on the bus on Friday evening. It was an inspiring event!
  • To Maria and her dancers for sharing the beauty of Ballet Folklorico with our school on Friday!
  • To everyone who completed the PPfT individual learning plans and goals!
  • To Angela, Monica, and Sicily for a successful Back to School event last week!
  • To Claudia and Diana McM for presenting our gardening work for the SFC!
  • To Amy for all her work on the pageant leading up to this week's celebration!
  • To Corinda, Kellie, Kristen, and Cindy W. for welcoming in new students with loving care this week and to everyone for making sure all of our kiddos, especially our newest ones, feel connected to school!

Upcoming Events:

  • September 26th - Science/Math LAUNCH Team Meeting
  • September 27th - ISIP BOY Window Closes
  • September 27th - Maker/Technology AND Cultural LAUNCH Team Meeting
  • September 28th - Boy Scout Evening
  • October 4th - Mock Election
  • October 7th - Principal Coffee
  • October 7th - SLO Assessment Selected
  • October 10th - Parent/Teacher Conferences

Website to Explore:

  • https://www.jeopardy.rocks/ - From the School Library Journal: Easily create quiz show style games for up to four teams using Jeopardy Rocks. Games can be shared online with a simple URL. The company is working to develop a resource bank of games designed by educators so make sure to submit any games you and your students design. Appropriate for all grade levels, encourage students to design their own quiz questions for sharing with peers.