Thursday, March 2, 2017

Day 1: Texas Independence Day

Today, March 2nd, is Texas Independence Day. If you aren't from Texas, you may not understand the level of allegiance a Texan has to the Lone Star State. :) I thought I would start off this month long challenge listing reasons I love living in Texas.
  1. We are the largest state in the continguous US. That is, I believe, why everyone learns early that everything is bigger in Texas. I love that anyone in the US can easily pick out Texas on a map due to our unique and awesome shape.
  2. We won our independence from Mexico in 1836 and became our own independent nation, The Republic of Texas, at that time and remained independent until 1845. Independence is a cornerstone of my state and flows through the blood of all Texans.
  3. We make the best music. George Strait, Pat Green, Willie Nelson, and Beyonce all call Texas home. Do I need to say more?
  4. Texas is the home of Tex-Mex, the most amazing food you could ever eat. 
  5. Memphis may be known for their barbecue, but Texas barbecue is from another planet! Stop in at any local barbecue joint, you'll see what I mean.
  6. I love that I grew up in small town Texas. Roscoe, to be exact. Small towns in Texas are pretty amazing! 
  7. It totally rocks that in Texas we teach our kids Texas history not just once in 4th grade, but again in 7th grade, just in case they didn't get it down the first time. 
  8. I just recently learned that not all states have their own pledge that their kiddos learn early and say in the morning following the US pledge. Why not???
  9. Texas is the home of Texas Tech University, the center of the universe.
  10. Travel anywhere in the world, and when you say you are from Texas, they are immediately ready to start up a conversation about your ranch/horse/farm/cowboy hat that not all of us happen to own. The awesome thing about this is that the old west gunslinger, trailblazer persona is synonymous with Texas.

Monday, June 27, 2016

How teaching is like roller skating...

When I was a child, roller skating was one of my favorite activities. I would roller skate at the roller skating rink, in the driveway, or down the street at my friend's house pretending we were in the Olympics. The thing is, when I was learning to skate, there wasn't a lot of instruction and support. My dad did give me a few tips: the rubber stopper is to stop you; if you fall, be careful that you don't run over your fingers when you get up; always skate counter-clockwise around the rink. We figured it out from watching others and just trying until we got it. Recently, my youngest son, Brody, was invited to a skating party for a friend's birthday. He met the day full of trepidation and worry over the unknown. He worried about not knowing how to skate and what to expect when he got there. I gave him my dad's 3 key instructions, helped him get his skates on, and sent him off. Bad idea. Knowing everything I know about direct instruction, feedback, and gradual release, why would I not put those tools to use here??? So I picked my sweet boy up off the floor (again) and took him aside. I gave him some instruction on skating, along with some feedback on what I had seen so far. But then I realized he needed more support. In the corner of the skating rink, I spotted some super cool pvc pipe contraptions that kiddos can use as a support. GENIUS! Soon Brody was on his way to skating! All he needed was  explicit instruction on skating, a little feedback, time and  the pvc support to keep him moving while he was learning. The support didn't skate for him, but it offered him something to lean on when he felt like he was in trouble and kept him from crashing and burning. Soon, I noticed Brody would use the support for a little bit and then when he felt like he could do it on his own, he set the pvc support aside and gave it a try. There were times when he might go back and use the support for reinforcement, but as time moved on he needed the support less and less. 

I thought about what a great metaphor this skating experience is for our instruction in literacy. Our students need our instruction, they can't play the game if they don't know the strategies to play; however, they also need support. Not the kind of support that does it for them, but support that is there for them to use when needed, yet gives them the option to let it go when they feel like they are ready to try it on their own. In my classroom, I have lots of those supports in place. They might be mentor texts, anchor charts, our CAFE menu, checklists and rubrics for kids to use when self-assessing and setting goals to keep moving forward.  I think these supports are necessary in a student's journey. They give kids an opportunity to feel success without an all or nothing weight around their neck. What a great way to honor a child's individual learning journey! What are supports that you offer in your classroom to keep your kids going?

Tara Reed

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


One thing I love about teaching elementary is watching the children develop their sense of community. They are so accepting of one another. As we were preparing to dismiss this afternoon, I watched my students and marveled at how they have built relationships and care for one another. I have a couple of students new to our school this year, and you would be hard pressed to pick those kiddos out of a lineup. 😊 I love how genuine they are with their feelings. They serve as such a great example of how things should be. In light of such a heavy day today, it certainly was refreshing to see that there is hope.

Tara Teed

Monday, March 21, 2016


I watched my daughter's future teammates play in the NCAA women's basketball tournament this evening. They are a really great team. They play hard, are coached very well, and trust themselves and each other to do their jobs effectively. Tonight they faced an opponent seated much higher than they were. However, true to who they are, these women came out fighting. Bit by bit the other team showed what made them elite. Bit by bit I watched these young women lose their confidence and their their fight. They stopped trusting in their skills and panicked. In the end, it wasn't meant to be for the Lady Hoosiers today. As I watched them second-guess themselves and lose their stride, I was reminded of so many of my students, past and present. Much too often kids stop trusting themselves to do their jobs effectively when they are faced with challenges. They begin to question the strategies that are still not routine in their reading process and fall back on less mature ways of tackling text. It is scary when you feel like you have to climb the whole mountain. My job is to help them realize they can do it, maybe not yet... but soon! Independence is vital for success and the best way to help readers achieve that independence is to show them strategies and set them loose to read. Uninterrupted. Every day.

Tara Reed

Sunday, March 20, 2016


Slowly but surely I've been trying to get ready for school tomorrow. It isn't easy when you don't feel well! However, I spent part of the afternoon looking at my students' writing. Wow! Finally, I see writers! I see kids with opinions who are trying very hard to support those opinions with evidence and examples. They are choosing their words more carefully, looking for ways to draw in their readers. From the most proficient to the most struggling, each one of these kids is a writer! They have a voice. They use their voices to talk about why things matter to them. For quite some time, they have been really good at looking at samples of writing and sorting the strong and weak. They have become quite adept at picking out what makes good writing strong and engaging. As I read through their essays today, I saw a lot of those qualities in their work. Of course there are some writers who are very eloquent and can incorporate their voice in more mature ways. I am thankful for those students and use their work as mentor texts for our class. I have also noticed some of the more reluctant writers become more confident in their ability and try some of the craft moves they see in other pieces of writing and borrow them for their own. It's exciting! I have to say that I am a HUGE supporter of the Units of Study in Writing (Lucy Caulkins). I think these Units have contributed greatly to my students' ability to lift the level of their writing. My hope for these young writers is that they will take some of what they learn in 4th grade and put that in their Life Skill Toolbox, holding on to some of the craft moves that good writers use. I have said it before, words are powerful... If I can teach these writers that their words matter and are so important, then perhaps I will have helped them become more successful citizens. Their voices matter! The future is bright, that is for sure!

Tara Reed

Saturday, March 19, 2016


So I'm sick. Boo! I hate spending the end of my break sick! However, I am thankful this didn't set in during our trip to Florida. I'm also thankful that if I had to get sick it was while I had a break from school so I didn't miss out on time with my students. Maybe tomorrow will be better!!

Tara Reed

Friday, March 18, 2016

I'll do better!

How easy it is to become distracted. I admit I have been hit and miss this year with my Slice of Life blog. I have had excellent intentions. I really love reflecting in this way and I truly love looking back each day to what I wrote last year. Some of what I wrote wasn't half bad! So I am recommitting for this last half of the month. I will do better. I want to have this reflective piece of me so I will have that thread of who I am and what I hold dear right now and have the opportunity to see what changes or stays the same. Blogging rocks whether or not anyone reads it!!

Tara Reed