Family Fun Nights

IMG_3620Last year, I wrote a post about “last times”.  In it, I reflected on the sadness that I feel when participating in “last time” events with my kids.  A few weeks ago, I developed a visual of my 18 for 2018.  One of the items on my visual is “Family Fun Friday Night” once a month.  That is one of my ways to make sure that as the kids get older and want to start doing things with friends, that we have one Friday night a month that is for our family.  We are each responsible for planning the evening for three different months in 2018.  Each person is able to plan Family Fun Friday for their birthday month and then we are randomly choosing the remaining two months.

Chloe chose January and last night was our first Family Fun Friday Night!  She did a great job in planning. She decided that we were going to have an evening in and she told us that we needed to wear our pajamas (my kind of girl!).  Then, we had game night.  She had us play three different games, and even though her brother complained about having to spend so much time with us, I think that he secretly enjoyed himself, too!

Our schedules are so crazy these days, and my friend Donalyn Miller once said that we make time for what is important — she was talking about reading, but I have a feeling she will agree that family is important, too! It is with that attitude that I wanted to create something where the four of us set aside the outside world for a few hours and just concentrated on bonding as a family.  Our first evening was a success!  Clark is in charge of planning the February evening, because February is his birthday month.  I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us!



The Storyteller’s Project/Proyecto del Cuentista Lesson #3

In the third lesson of The Storyteller’s Project we continued to explore identity.

We began by reviewing our study of the theme of collections.  We discussed the mentor texts we have read so far (The Matchbox Diary and My Name is Jorge: On Both Sides of the River).  We remembered the writing that we accomplished with each lesson (Heartmaps and I am poems) and how each time we write in our writer’s notebooks we are adding to our collection of memories.

Then we looked at the word “memoir” and determined what it meant.  I shared this video of a 5th grade class’ Six Word Memoirs and explained that we were going to begin by writing a six word memoir.  I shared some examples from this mentor text, Six Words Fresh off the Boat: Stories of Immigration, Identity, and Coming to America.

Students then wrote their own six word memoir to add to their collection of memories in their writer’s notebooks.  Here is an example of one student’s six word memoir.

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©2018 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

The Storyteller’s Project/Proyecto del Cuentista Lesson #2

The second lesson in the Storyteller’s Project series related to identity.

Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 12.20.20 PMI read aloud a poem, “The Photograph” from My Name is Jorge: On Both Sides of the River by Jane Medina.  We tied the idea that the author wrote about a photograph (a memory) to our over arching theme of collections.

I played two short pieces of music and students identified how each piece made them feel.  We discussed how poetry was about feelings and emotions and how poetry was similar to music in that regard.

Students then wrote “I am” poems. Along with their heart maps, their “I am” poems are kept in their writer’s notebooks so that they have a place to collect ideas for future writing pieces.



©2018 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Management vs. Leadership

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On Thursday, I read a blog post by George Couros, the author of The Innovator’s Mindset.  In it, he revisits (he originally wrote about this topic in 2011) the idea of moving from “classroom management” to “classroom leadership.”  In 2016, I began thinking about, re-evaluating currently held beliefs, and developing my own ideas around leadership vs. management through my coursework for my Administration and Supervision certification.  George validates my thinking when he paraphrases Stephen Covey, “you manage things, but we lead people.”  How true that is! People don’t want to be managed.  This is true for adults and children, alike.  Instead, if a person is inspired, they will do great things.  They will want to do great things!

As I reflect on this topic, here are a few things I believe:

  • People, in general, will rise to the expectations set before them.  It doesn’t matter if we are the leader of a school or the leader in a classroom, if we believe in the people around us (no matter how young they are), they will rise up!
  • We need to be cognizant of the language we use.  If we are always sending messages of deficit thinking, our students will internalize and believe that about themselves.  Wouldn’t it be better if we sent messages of affirmation instead?  Children will internalize those positive affirmations and will be inspired to do great things!  Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 11.58.18 AM
  • We have to be willing to re-frame our thinking.  And maybe even to change it.  Does the word “teacher” equate to an adult standing in front of the classroom sharing their knowledge day in and day out?  Or could the word “teacher” equate to an adult learning beside his/her students through the facilitation of active learning opportunities? Does “learning” equate to students receiving the messages the teacher is sending verbally (i.e. the content and curriculum)? Or could “learning” equate to students actively constructing their own meaning of the content in a way that works for them (creating, reading, writing, viewing videos, etc.)?  Is it necessary for a classroom to have desks set in rows, inhibiting conversations amongst peers (great for management)? Or, could classrooms become places of discourse and hubs for the empowerment of students (building leadership)?

As parents, our legacy is not just how we raise our children, it is what our children become because of the way we raised them.  If my children are inspired to give back to this world in some way, if they go out and do great things, I will consider my parenting a success. The same holds true for our other “kids.”  The children that walk through the doors of our classrooms and schools on a daily basis.  Our legacy as educators does not lie in what we do in our classrooms every day, it is in what our students do as a result.

©2018 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.


The Storyteller’s Project/Proyecto del Cuentista Lesson #1

Our first lesson in The Storyteller’s Project revolved around collections.

First, I read aloud The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman.  We discussed how the Grandfather collected memories in matchboxes.

Next, students created heart maps.  Heartmaps provide an opportunity for students to make a map of all the things that are in IMG_3199their heart, all the things that matter to them.  The heart map was developed by Georgia Heard as a way to collect ideas that are rooted in memory and experience.  We made a connection between the Grandfather’s collection and students’ collections of ideas on their heart map.

I also gave students their writer’s notebooks and read aloud “What is a Writer’s Notebook Anyway?” from A Writer’s Notebook by Ralph Fletcher.  We finished the lesson by determining that the writer’s notebook is the perfect place to collect ideas for writing.



©2018 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

The Storyteller’s Project/Proyecto del Cuentista

The Storyteller's ProjectLast spring, I applied for a grant from the State of Maryland International Reading Association Council (SoMIRAC).  In September, I received $1,000 check from SoMIRAC to begin administration of my project.   Here is a little background on The Storyteller’s Project/Proyecto del Cuentista:

Our school is extremely diverse. We are a Title I school and the majority of our students are Hispanic. Some of our students are children of undocumented immigrants.  Our students have stories to share and I want them to feel empowered to share those stories.  I want students to feel valued and realize that the stories they have to share are important.  I want our students to view writing and reading as a pleasurable activity. With this vision in mind, I designed the Storyteller’s Project/Proyecto del Cuentista.  

I created this project for our 5th graders.  Once a month, I go into both 5th grade classrooms and teach a writing lesson.  The Storyteller’s Project/Proyecto del Cuentista will allow for students to authentically write their story in the form of a memoir. My hope is that they will share their memoir at their 5th grade promotion in June.  

With the grant money, I was able to purchase copies of three mentor texts for every student as well as one copy for each classroom teacher to place in their classroom libraries (I will share these in future posts).  I also purchased and gave each student a writer’s notebook, pens, and colored pencils.









This I Believe

Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 4.43.26 PMAs I head back to school today on this second day of 2018, I go with hope and a renewed sense of purpose.  Over winter break, I had the opportunity to reflect and re-imagine.  I thought about what I want to accomplish personally in 2018 and developed my goals. And, I thought about what I believe when it comes to my work in teaching and learning.

I begin this new year with these core beliefs:

  • I believe that all children deserve to go to a school where they feel safe and secure for the six hours they are there.
  • I believe that all children deserve to feel respected and to have their voice heard.
  • I believe that learning and teaching should be fun!
  • I believe that teachers “know best” pedagogical practices; not politicians, bureaucrats, or school boards.
  • I believe that relationships come first; teaching and learning come second.
  • I believe that all children deserve to hear a book read aloud to them every day.
  • I believe that all children should have access to an abundant and diverse classroom library (and school library).
  • I believe that it is the responsibility of educators to remove barriers, so that all students have access to an equitable education.
  • I believe that all children deserve to participate in authentic learning, not canned curriculum.

This I believe.