Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading?

 I’m joining Jen & Kellee (and many other bloggers) in discussing what we are reading this week. Join us! Go to their site and link up your own blog.

Working on my ridiculous stack of books to read. You can check out my video of it HERE. But I did make some headway this week!

Highlights would include Franki Sibberson’s The Joy of Planning. You can read my interview with Franki HERE.

The Mal and Chad series by McCraine was a great find. Thanks to Nerdy Book Club for that one. Stephen is Skyping with my class at the end of October. I can’t wait to introduce these books to them tomorrow.

Zita was great – as was I’m Bored.

Next up – I need to finish Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them. I’ve been reading it for over two weeks. Not because I don’t love it but because I want to savor it. Also, I have Teenboat on my table to begin tomorrow.

Finally – if you are on Twitter, don’t miss the Sharp-Schu book club on Wednesday!

Happy Reading!

The exchange...almost

Heather and I spent Saturday morning doing girly stuff - perusing the St. Lawrence Market and Winners. I refrained from purchasing any rings. I have willpower. It's hard though when the jewelry lady looks at you with such hope in her eyeballs.

And then...

L-dawg arrived. She barely acknowledged my existence, instead sweeping me aside in search of a bean burrito.

We spent last night at the Hamilton's. They wanted to say hola to Lindsay and say adiĆ³s to Heather all at the same time (you can tell I'm fluent in Spanish). We decided to walk/wheel there. Along the way we saw something I didn't think I'd see in Toronto - a freaking yard sale...and I use that term loosely. Buddy didn't exactly have any customers; likely didn't have any all day. 

He had junk that the junk yard would throw up.

The support person exchange was supposed to happen today. Heather flew out; Pamela and I drove her to the airport. I tried my hardest not to cry, but ended up bawling my face off. Seriously, it fell off, rolled around on the ground twitching and doing back flips.

Heather was really excited to get home...and then she didn't.

Her flight was diverted to Saint John, New Brunswick. She doesn't get to fly home until tomorrow. She's hunkered down in a hotel, perhaps sipping on a brewski?

Bonnie was supposed to be here today at 6:40 pm.


Nope. That didn't happen.

Apparently there's tonnes of H2O being poured down on Halifax. Cars are driving with their hazard lights on; some pulled over. This, combined with a reported sinkhole on the runway, has all flights cancelled. Either that or all the planes and/or pilots are getting makeovers.

Bonnie is holed up at her son's house for the night and will be here tomorrow.

Every time someone I love leaves Toronto, a ripple of sadness surges through me and tries to take me down. It's hard watching them go for a number of reasons: 1) I will miss them 2) They are leaving me and I don't know when I'll see them again **sucks** and 3) I wasn't able to sneak on the plane and go home with them.

For now I will continue to make memories, enjoy the view...


...and wait for the fantastical new windbags.

Aston Villa 1 West Brom 1 and EPL News:

Hello and welcome to my LATEST blog post, as I talk about today's afternoon match between Aston Villa and West Brom at Villa Park and talk about the LATEST EPL news.

Today's Afternoon Match:

Aston Villa vs West Brom:

This match was played at Villa Park as 16th placed Aston Villa hosted a West Brom side in 6th.

If West Brom won the match, they would move up to 2nd place, 2 points away from leaders Chelsea.

The first half of the match was pretty dull, with both teams failing to take their chances, notably Benteke of Aston Villa and Long of West Brom.

In the second half, the match was brought to life, after West Brom striker Shane Long latched onto a pacy cross by James Morrison to tap the ball past goalkeeper Brad Guzan into the net in the 50th minute.

Tap-in: West Brom striker Shane Long breaks the deadlock against Aston Villa.
Flying high: Long celebrates his 2nd goal of the season

Aston Villa made a substitution, with striker Darren Bent scoring in the 80th minute to equalise from a corner.

Volley: Darren Bent equalises in the 80th minute
Super sub: Bent celebrates his goal with his team-mates.

Barry Bannan whipped the ball into the box, and a header was partially cleared before Bent volleyed the ball past Ben Foster into the net.

Full-time score: Aston Villa 1 West Brom 1

Aston Villa move one place up to 15th place, while West Brom stay in 6th, failing to win and move up to 2nd.

Here is the updated EPL table after 6 matches played:

EPL News:

Juventus are ready to sign Manchester United winger Nani, after he reportedly punched 20-year-old team-mate Davide Petrucci.

Manchester United left-back Patrice Evra has said that United are putting their Premier League title hopes at risk with the kind of performance that they produced yesterday against Tottenham when they lost 3-2 at Old Trafford.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has warned winger Stewart Downing and full-back Jose Enrique that they are fighting to save their Liverpool careers after problems with their attitude.

Arsenal striker Lukas Podolski has said that he has come to England to 'win trophies'.


QPR vs West Ham United - LIVE at 20:00pm

Tuesday and Wednesday:

UEFA Champions League (EPL teams only):

FC Nordsjaelland vs Chelsea

FC Cluj vs Manchester United

Arsenal vs Olympiakos

Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund

20 Possible Causes for a Decrease in Egg Production

by Lisa Steele from Fresh Eggs Daily

Egg production naturally ebbs and flows in a backyard flock. Since the hens are not living in a light/temperature-consistent, confined and controlled environment like commercially raised hens, it's natural that they will respond to different stimuli (or the lack thereof) by ceasing egg production. 

Chickens are extremely routine-oriented and any change in routine can throw off their laying.  

A decrease in egg production this time of year can be perfectly normal and attributable to the shorter days and molting hens, but it can also be something a bit more formidable.

I keep track of the eggs I collect using a spreadsheet and totaling the eggs by color/day/month. Often, when a hen stops laying, that is the first sign that something is wrong, so tracking production is not only fun and interesting, it can be very beneficial. Click HERE for the link to download the spreadsheet. I'm happy to share it. It's an Excel document and easily customized for your individual flock.

Here are some of the more common reasons why a hen might stop laying, or lay at a reduced rate:

1. Shorter Days - This time of year, egg production always slows due to the shorter days. A hen needs a minimum of 14 hours of daylight to stimulate the ovaries to release an egg. Naturally it takes longer to accumulate the 14 hours during the fall and winter months. Action - You can add supplemental light in your coop to provide the additional light needed.

2. Molting - The fall is also the time when hens will generally molt. They usually stop laying all together during the molt. Click HERE for more information about molting. Action - You have to let the molting run its course, but added protein can help move it along and help your hen emerge faster and begin laying again.

3. Broody - When a hen 'goes broody,' she stops laying eggs and starts sitting on the nest 'round the clock, trying to hatch some eggs. Hens will do so with fertile OR non-fertile eggs, even sitting on no eggs at all! The drive for broodiness is in some hens/breeds genes more than others. Action - Break the broody as quickly as possible; read more on how to do that HERE

4. Egg Eating - While not terribly common, egg eating can be a very hard habit to break. Obviously, egg eating by your chickens will result in a reduction in the eggs left for you to collect. Once one starts, other will follow. Evidence may be seen in the nests in the form of broken eggs or empty shells, but most likely your chickens will eat the entire egg, shell and all, so unless you catch one in the act, you might not realize what is happening. ActionClick HERE to read more on egg eating and how to stop it. 

5. Predators - Not only will many predators steal and eat eggs, the mere presence of a predator lurking around your run area can stress the hens to the point that they stop laying. Snakes, weasels and rats can get through a space smaller than 1 inch. Other larger predators, such as foxes, opossums and skunks, will try and enter your coop as well if you don't have it securely locked at night. Action - Be sure that all vents on your coop are covered with 1/2-inch hardware cloth. Block any holes in the coop larger than an inch. Put predator proof locks on the coop and nesting box doors. NiteGuard solar predator lights will also keep predators at bay and away from your run at night.

6. Egg Bound Hen - Young hens, hens who consume too much protein or are otherwise not in tip-top condition can become egg bound. This potentially fatal condition must be caught and treated immediately. Action - Click HERE for more on treating an egg bound hen.

7. Overcrowding - Overcrowding in the run and coop can lead to pecking and other stresses that can cause your hens to stop laying. Action - Ensure that your coop provides a MINIMUM of 3-4 square feet per hen and your run provides a MINIMUM of 10 square feet per hen. Of course, size matters and bigger is better.

8. Additions or Subtractions to the Flock - Any time you add or take away a hen, the entire pecking order of your flock is upset and (usually minor) adjustments are made. Often this can stress hens so they slow their laying. Action - Once the pecking order is restored, laying will resume. New hens might need some time to get used to their new surroundings before they start laying for you.
9. A Change in the Nesting Area - Any change in her nesting area can throw off a hen's laying. Things such as changing out the nesting boxes for a different type, switching the type of nesting material, hanging curtains (although, in the long run, curtains can help increase production ... click HERE for more on that!) or moving your flock to a new coop can cause stress and break their routine to cause a decrease in production. Action - Try not to disturb the nesting area unless absolutely necessary.

10. Illness/Disease - Often the first noticeable sign of illness in a chicken will be the cessation of laying. Chickens are masters at hiding symptoms in general, because weakness can cause pecking by other hens in the flock, as well as attention from predators. Action - Do regular checkups of your flock. Read HERE what to look for and how to treat if something is wrong.

11. Extreme Heat - Hens lay best in temperatures between roughly 50-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Any deviation, higher OR lower, can cause a reduction in their lay rate. Action - Do your best to help your hens stay cool and comfortable during the summer months, especially if you live in a Southern climate. Read HERE for tips on beating the heat.

12. Extreme Cold - Extremely cold temperatures can likewise cause laying to decline, as the hens are using all their energy to stay warm. Action - Use scratch as an evening wintertime treat. The act of digesting the grains helps keep the hens warm overnight and maintain their laying.

13. Lack of Adequate Ventilation in the Coop - Ammonia fumes can build up in a coop that is not well-ventilated. That can cause irritation and respiratory illness in a hen. Action - Rule of thumb is that 1/5 of your total coop wall space should be vents/windows that can be opened or closed, weather dependent. Of course be sure all vents are covered with 1/2" hardware cloth to deter predators from gaining access.

14. Poor Nutrition - Low-quality feed, a lack of feed, or inadequate calcium or protein can all reduce egg production. Action - Ensure your flock has access to a good-quality layer feed that isn't allowed to get moldy. Provide a dish of crushed eggshells or oyster shell free choice so each hen can eat what she needs. Limit treats to 10% of their diet and choose healthy treats such as greens, weeds, sunflower seeds, nuts, grains, insects and meal worms.

15. Overfeeding - Overfeeding can lead to a drop in egg production. A diet low in protein will cause a hens' laying to slow. Action - Don't overfeed (a hen will eat roughly 1/2 of feed per day) and provide adequate protein in the form of meal worms, sunflower seeds, etc.

16. Lack of Water - An egg is roughly 75% water. If a chicken goes without access to fresh, clean, cool water for even a few hours, that can lead to a reduction in egg production. Action - Be sure to keep plenty of water available in the run and change it regularly. Scrub out the waterers with a white vinegar/water mix regularly and add a splash of apple cider vinegar to the water a few times a week. The apple cider vinegar not only helps keep algae and bacteria at bay, it is thought to improve the taste of the water and make it more appealing to your chickens. On hot days, add frozen water bottles or ice cubes to the water, because chickens won't drink warm water on a hot day.

17. Free Ranging - If you allow your flock to free range, there's a good chance that they are going off to lay their eggs and hiding them. A hen's natural instinct is to lay her eggs in a secluded, safe spot to keep them safe from predators. Action - Because most hens lay their eggs in the morning hours, try keeping your flock cooped or penned up until early afternoon so they will be forced to lay their eggs when you can find them.

18. Hiding Eggs - Even in an enclosed run, hens will sometimes quit laying in the nesting boxes and instead start hiding their eggs in an effort to collect a 'clutch' to sit on and hatch. Last summer, our egg production went down, and I thought it was the heat until I found their 'stash' of 14 eggs behind a bush in the run! Action - Chickens like to find out-of-the-way places to lay their eggs, so check under and behind bushes, shrubs, anything else you have in your run they can use as cover. Sometimes you have to learn to choose your battles, and if I find our chickens starting to lay elsewhere than the coop, I will set up an outdoor nesting box or basket for them. As long as it's out of the way and they're happy, at least I know where to check for missing eggs.

19. Age - A hen lays best during the first two to three years of her life. Her productivity will drop after that, but well-cared for, healthy hens can continue to lay for years after that. Action - Continuing to add new chicks or pullets to your flock each spring ensures a constant supply of hens at prime egg-laying age. (Note: While older hens don't lay as well, they are thought to make better mothers, so keeping them around to sit on fertile eggs is a wonderful way for them to 'earn their keep.')

20. Stress - A stress-free hen is a good laying hen. Any stressor, such as a barking dog, traffic noise, being bullied by another hen, neighbors' children chasing them and trying to pick them up and hold them, etc., can cause a drop in production. Action - Remember, a hen is laying her egg with the ultimate goal of it hatching into a chick. She won't be happy laying in an environment she doesn't feel is safe for a chick to grow up. Try to reduce any outside stresses as much as possible.

Before you despair and think that getting a hen to actually lay an egg is about as rare as a blue moon or you'll have to wait until the stars align and pigs fly, remember that she is programmed to lay an egg about once every 26 hours. She WANTS to lay that egg. So anything you can do to help her in that venture is going to boost productivity and make it easier on her.

Join me at my Fresh Eggs Daily blog and also on Facebook for more tips, tricks and advice on raising happy, healthy hens naturally.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

5 Tips for a Cleaner Coop with Less Effort!

It’s that time of year when I do a major coop cleaning and this year, it's an easier task than ever before due to a few simple modifications that were made in our coops. Not only is it faster to complete the semi-annual ‘deep cleanings,’ but I find that I am able to keep the coops cleaner in between deep cleanings by employing these five elements: droppings boards, removable roosts, a dedicated coop duster, sand and apple cider vinegar.

Droppings boards are essentially a shelf designed to collect chicken poop deposited overnight. Backyard chickens spend most of their waking hours outside the coop, either ranging freely or inside the run, which means that droppings inside the coop accumulate primarily overnight when they are roosting. Utilizing droppings boards to collect those droppings is a simple and effective method for keeping the coop largely poop-free.

 Each morning, I take my trusty beach pail and scrape the droppings into it with a taping knife. The droppings are then added directly to my compost pile. Droppings boards keep the litter/bedding cleaner, which means less frequent litter changes; less frequent litter changes result in time and money savings.
Beyond coop sanitation, droppings boards provide a daily opportunity to assess the health and well-being of the flock. I am able to see plainly whether a chicken has been injured in a scuffle overnight, has contracted coccidiosis, worms or diarrhea. Without droppings boards, most of that evidence would be hidden in the bedding, denying the chicken-keeper the opportunity to detect and treat certain health problems as early as possible.
 Drying the droppings boards outside the coop.

These roosts were removed with a sledgehammer.
 The 2 x 4s were inserted into brackets like these:

When we purchased our first coop, it came with roosts permanently affixed to the walls. When we decided to install droppings boards, the roosts needed to be raised in order for the droppings boards to fit underneath. When reinstalling the roosts, my husband affixed brackets for the 2-by-4s to fit into, which made the roosts removable for cleaning. I find that removable roosts are much easier to scrub vigorously and thoroughly if they are on the ground outside the coop. It is also much easier to access the areas behind and underneath the roosts when they are out of the way. I tend to clean the removable roosts more frequently than I would stationary roosts because the task is so much easier.
Coop with roosts and droppings boards removed for semi-annual cleaning.

I had always used pine shavings as litter/bedding inside my coops until this spring, when I was persuaded to try sand. I was dubious about sand’s ability to perform as well as pine shavings, but I had a pile of sand in the backyard for use in the run, so I figured I’d give it a shot. After eight months of testing, I can report that sand has allowed me to keep my coops the cleanest they have ever been for a fraction of the price of any other bedding material.
Like the droppings boards, sand is attended to once daily. I sift the sand using a compost/mulch fork that I have converted into the world’s biggest kitty litter scoop, with fine mesh hardware cloth and zip ties. It takes less than five minutes to sift the sand and doing so keeps the coop clean and augments my compost pile with primarily nitrogen-rich droppings, not pine shavings, straw or hay.
I used to clean out my 4-by-6-foot coop twice a month at the cost of approximately $10 per month in pine shavings. A one year supply of sand for both of my chicken coops and two runs is only $30.
 For more about the benefits of using sand as chicken coop litter, please visit my blog post here. 

The harsh reality of housekeeping in chicken coops is that they are perpetually dusty. Regardless of the litter choice, it generates dust. In fact, chickens themselves are especially dusty. If you have ever raised baby chicks in a brooder, you know this to be true.
To keep the dust to a manageable level, I keep a duster inside the chicken coop. Whenever I have a moment to spare, I give the walls, nest box curtains, window dressings and feedbag artwork a quick dusting, which makes the semi-annual cleaning a much less tedious undertaking.

The fifth tip for keeping a cleaner coop is to use raw, apple cider vinegar (ACV) to clean the coop, not only for seasonal deep cleanings, but for spot-cleanings as needed. I would never suggest paying upwards of six dollars for 8 ounces of brand-name ACV for coop cleaning; rather, I make my own raw apple cider vinegar. I use ACV in my flock’s drinking water, which is why I began making it initially this spring and for less than the price of a cup of coffee. I now have enough ACV to clean the White House from top to bottom.  

The droppings boards are cleaned with ACV and a brush.
For cleaning purposes, I pour the vinegar into a small bucket and use a stiff-bristled brush to scrub down the walls of the coop. For spot-cleaning other surfaces such as the PVC feeders, I simply pour some ACV onto a rag and wipe.
The acidity cuts through dirt, droppings and blood (yes, it happens) much more effectively than any other cleaning product I have tried. There is no rinsing required and interestingly, it does not leave the coop smelling like a salad bar. There is no need to dilute it or mask it with some other scent; the vinegar smell dissipates very quickly, leaving the coop sparkling clean ... at least until the chickens return.  

I invite you to follow my blog, The Chicken Chick to get the latest posts delivered directly to your email inbox, Google dashboard, by NetworkedBlogs on Facebook or RSS feed!
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Surviving the emotional toll of a chicken attack

by Rachel Hurd Anger

Our backyard chickens just celebrated their second Happy Hatchday, and as we sort of pat ourselves on our backs for having some of the world's oldest chickens, we're all still recovering from our first predator attack.

The victim was Clara, a Partridge Plymouth Rock, our most robust and beautiful hen. She's a calm, easygoing gal who falls somewhere at the back of the pecking order, following instructions from the others, dutifully laying and foraging, and staying out of the way of the dominant chickens. She's often seen snuggling with Helen the Australorp, and avoiding Sookie, our attack Polish, because everyone avoids Sookie.

I should preface the account with the fact that we live in the suburbs, our back yard is small, we free range 24/7 unless we have friends or family visiting, and our yard is 100% privacy fenced.

One late night around 2 a.m., not long after a new moon, the sky was black, the night was cool, and the girls were roosting fast asleep along the top of their mobile ark coop. Just hours before at dusk, I watched from my bedroom window as the girls flew up, one by one, to nestle up together. Oddly, I paid special attention to Clara that night, noting how beautiful she was, as she settled to roost alone that night.

I woke up to a chicken sound like I'd never heard before. It was screaming. Actual chicken screaming. It was terrifying. Groggy, I wondered what it was. And, when it started again, breaking the silence of the night with absolute terror, I leaped from bed and ran to the back door, but it was too dark to see. We scared away the predator, and found mounds of feathers strewn over the patio. At first glance, the feathers looked black, so we assumed Helen had been attacked, but Helen was asleep in the coop, and we couldn't find Clara. Without light, there wasn't anything we could do at 2 a.m., so we tried to go back to sleep.

At 5 a.m., whatever attacked at 2 a.m. was back for more. Again, chicken screaming. My husband ran outside, and Clara, who doesn't like people, walked toward him from under the bushes like she was asking for help. It was still too dark to see her injuries, so he tucked her into the coop with Helen, and came back inside.

The next morning, I dressed and went out back to find Clara. The girls were just standing in the grass, on alert and assessing the carnage instead of foraging for breakfast. Mabel, a Red Star and the head of the flock, usually runs to me whenever I step outside the door, but on that particular morning, she stood watch on top of the coop, her body rigid, and her neck shortened, waiting to alert the minions if the predator returned.

If I hadn't been able to look at Clara and see that she wasn't stark naked, I would have guessed she lost all of her feathers. They were everywhere, in clumps, all over the yard. She was missing feathers from the left side of her neck down the entire length of her body, her tail feathers were gone, her bare tail exposed, and what I call the "butt ruffles" were completely gone, too. Worse, under her right wing, a chunk of flesh the size of a quarter was missing, and I could see bare chicken breast meat.

On the upside, she was able to run away from me, but I couldn't understand how she could tolerate the kind of pain she must have been feeling.

I consulted my chicken books, chatted a bit with my farmer friend Sarah, and opted for iodine and bandaging. At the pharmacy where I went to buy the iodine, I decided to visit the pharmacist to make sure I could use it on that injury where bare muscle was showing–I just didn't want to hurt Clara.

The pharmacist giggled when I asked her about chicken first aid, but we agreed that our tissues were similar and Clara should be just fine.

Later, I cleaned Clara in the bathtub and wrapped her up with gauze as best I could. It's been nearly three weeks and she seems perfectly fine. She's covered in pin feathers, and she's resumed foraging as normal, but (dare I say) the emotional toll of the attack on the flock was unexpected.

After Clara's attack, we didn't have eggs for three days. And, since, we haven't found more than one or two eggs per day, versus the usual four. Sometimes, one of the eggs we get is a failed egg. At the time of the attack, one of our hens began her annual molt, but after the attack, none of them followed, their energy now focused on protection and survival rather than production.

Tonight at dusk, the girls were tucked into the safety of their coop. We've been lax about it for the last week or so, confident that our predator problem was a fluke. Early this morning, the chickens were fussing in the yard, where we discovered Bobcat, the neighborhood tomcat, lurking around the chickens. He's been hanging around for almost two years, prowling the yard, sunning on the patio, but our indoor/outdoor cat Lily kept him honest, until she died in July. It would seem Bobcat has developed at taste for chicken.

Contact the writer at, or visit her website.

Photos: Rachel Hurd Anger

Interview with Franki Sibberson

Last week I was blessed to have the chance to sit down and curl up with Franki Sibberson's  new book from Choice Literacy called The Joy of Planning: Designing Minilesson Cycles in Grades 3-6. It was just a beautiful book. I felt like Franki and I were sitting and having this conversation over a cup of coffee. She made me rethink some things about planning, gave me new ideas, and left me inspired. I immediately gave a copy to both of my sons' teachers and let my student teacher borrow mine. This is a book you must have in your collection- even if you aren't in grades 3-6. There is information there for everyone. 

Upon finishing there was so much I wanted to ask Franki about this book, and so many days left until NCTE, so she kindly agreed to an interview. Hope her answers will inspire you as they did me. And I highly recommend her new book. An excellent addition to your professional development library. 

Where did the seeds for this book originate?
Well, when I left my classroom and went into a position as a school librarian, I did a lot of work with teachers, choosing books for lessons, units, etc. I had never really thought about the process of my planning until I had the opportunity to work with so many other teachers. I also never had the time to really think about the ways in which books and resources scaffold students in different ways. As a librarian, I often read a book over and over to different groups of children. Some books naturally invited certain kinds of conversations with children. So, this book is kind of a reflective journey of my planning process. I had done other work on deciding what to teach but this one really focused on the process that comes after that decision and what I discovered about how to get children from where they are to where we want them to be as readers.

If you were speaking to a new teacher, what advice would you give them in regard to planning?
I think planning has to be about thinking about your children first. We have to know where are students are and where we hope to take them as readers. Once we know that, they it is about planning a very flexible journey. My other piece of advice would be to overplan and then to be okay with not getting to everything. What I’ve learned is that when I overplan, I am able to be really flexible each day with where I go next based on how students respond. When I overplan, I have more books and ideas than I need and I can pick and choose from this menu as we move along. For years. I overplanned and then became frustrated that I couldn’t get to anything. Now, I understand that the planning process is a way for me to understand where I am going and to think through what support students might need to get there. Then I get started, knowing I won’t follow the exact plan I created.

I like how your digital reading life has made such an impression that you share it with your students. What do you feel that teachers must share about digital reading with their students?
I am all about authenticity and I realized this year that when I share my reading and writing lives with students, I can’t possibly be honest without including the digital piece of that.  So much of my reading life is the same but so much is different over the last few years. For me, it is about really sitting down before I do any minilesson work in which I share my own life as a reader and being really honest. I have to really think through my reading—how much of it is actual books, how much I read on my Kindle, how much time I spend reading blogs. So, if teachers have a piece of their reading life that is digital, I feel like that has to be part of our teaching in order to keep it authentic and grounded.

When you sit down to plan, do you plan out the next cycle only or do you have a rough sketch for the semester?
I have a sketch that never works out. I think I know where I am going for the year, then I meet the kids. And usually, they are not where I plan for them to be so I need to revamp. I wouldn’t say I have a rough sketch in a calendar, but I do have thoughts about which cycles I am pretty sure will be included each year. I know I want to teach kids to support their thinking with evidence from the text. I know I will want to do lots with nonfiction. Theme is usually important. But I am never sure where those will fit into the year until I see where kids come in to the classroom.  I try to start with the thing that will move them forward fastest and then build from there. So, I have a list maybe, rather than a calendar and even the list changes. 

What do you feel is most often overlooked in regard to planning?
I think the small scaffolds are critical and often, when we don’t plan big picture, we miss those. The things we are teaching kids as readers are very complex and without breaking them down for ourselves, it is hard to break them down for students. For me, when I am in a hurry or don’t have the time to put into planning that I need, I tend to plan without this careful attention to the scaffolds that will take kids forward in small steps.

I think that planning has gotten such a bad rap by teachers and I love how you seem to look forward to it. What is your number one recommendation to help teachers make this switch in attitudes?
I think this is really an issue of time.  So much is demanded of teachers today that planning often takes a back seat. I like to plan when I have time to plan and to plan well. I need time to sit at the bookstore or library and find the right resources. I need time to spread out at my kitchen table and think through the whole of it. Without giving ourselves time to plan well, it is no fun.  A good 2 hour block gets me to feel really good about my work but anything less than that is hard. So I think it is about not trying to plan in 30 minute chunks but to really give ourselves time to plan well if we are to enjoy it.

With Common Core becoming so important in our planning, I was glad to see that you had a balance of non-fiction and fiction lessons. I think many people see the need to increase our readings of non-fiction texts but I believe fiction will still have its place. After studying the standards, what do you feel we need to be aware of?
I feel like the nonfiction piece is really telling us that we need more reading and writing across the day.  We need to embed literacy in our science and math classrooms. So I don’t think  more nonfiction means taking time away from fiction. Instead I think the Common Core standards give students the opportunity to read and write for a variety of purposes across the school day.

Colby Sharp tweeted yesterday that reading your book may be expensive – he wants to read every book you mentioned. I had the same problem as I read it this week, so I’m going to ask you the impossible question. If you had to grab five picture books before your collection was lost in a fire – what would those five be and why?
Hah!  I have old favorites but I tend to love my newest books most. I love falling in love with new books and I am tempted to tell you about the ones I used this week with kids. However, I guess if I had to choose 7 books (5 is impossible!), books that kids have learned from over and over again in minilesson work (and I am going to stick with picture books), it would be the following.  I think these books (along with a ton of others) have lots of possibilities. They invite lots of conversations naturally and kids can grow so much as readers.

How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham
City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems
The Summer My Father Was Ten by Pat Brisson
Walk On! By Marla Frazee
Emma’s Rug by Allen Say
Twilight Comes Twice by Ralph Fletcher
The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

Note from Katherine: See what I mean? Now there are even more books I NEED to purchase! Franki, thanks for letting me interview you!