Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Happy Birthday or is it Happy Anniversary

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Happy Birthday or is it Happy Anniversary?

Yesterday was my oldest daughter's birthday.  As I was leaving for work I went to say happy birthday and give her a hug, and she replied with "And Happy Anniversary to being a mother!"  I wasn't expecting that response.  It made me think about that day years ago when I first become a mother.  It was a wonderful time in my life as I felt so proud and filled with such love.  Fast forward to now. I still feel proud and full of love thinking about my children, my grandchildren, and my family in general.  Each day they do or say something to make me stand tall and proud.   

Happy Birthday Sarah and thank you for once again giving me that different perspective.  

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Of Picasso and Mentor Texts

It's Tuesday and The Two Writing Teachers are inviting you to join them on their Slice of Life blog.  Feel free to join in!  

Of Picasso and Mentor Texts

I spent this past weekend exploring the city of Portland, Maine with my daughter.  She had visited the city previously and told me it was a wonderful city filled with great restaurants to explore. Despite mother nature's first blast of winter air, we enjoyed three days of foodie heaven, eating our way through the sea-side city. 

We also made time to visit the Portland Museum of Art and was wowed with the exhibits of some great artists including children's artist Dahlov Ipcar, Winslow Homer, and Pablo Picasso.  I thoroughly our time at the art museum and was especially in awe as I looked at the Picasso painting. I was emotionally moved with happy feelings as I looked at the colors he chose for the painting.  I was intrigued at his use of shapes to represent a face, and I marveled at what seemed to be simple brush strokes that made this painting so elegant and magnificent. I walked away from the painting so inspired to paint something - anything. Picasso inspired me so much that I simply wanted to paint. I left the museum with high hopes of picking up a brush soon.  

It was then that I began to wonder about the power of a mentor text.  Much like the Picasso painting created an urge in me to paint, my hope is that the stories I read become tools to produce better and more writing.  I hope that my use of mentor texts create an emotional reaction in my children, causing them to include deep feelings in their stories.  I hope that mentor texts I use include colorful language that the children can mimic in their texts.  And I hope that the mentor texts that I use are powerful in their words yet simple in their message so that that I create an urgency to keep at the work of writing.  I believe I use mentor texts in these ways but the experience of looking at a Picasso has left me with a resolve to ensure that I make better use of mentor texts in writing workshop.  Picasso inspired and moved me to paint, and I would like to create opportunities to do the same for my writers! 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

I Am From

It's Tuesday and The Two Writing Teachers are inviting you to join them on their Slice of Life blog.  Feel free to join in!  

Today's post was written as part of a course I am taking on race and racism. The poem: I Am From..., comes from Linda Christenson's book: Rhythm and Resistance: Teaching Poetry for Social Justice.

I Am From...

I am from
A rather large family
Seven to be exact
Born to Teresa and George
58 years ago

I am from
A father, who was a hard working milkman
And a lover of gardens:
Corn, beans, radishes and more
He spent his Sundays polishing his shoes
and visiting flea markets
In search of more milk bottles to add to his collection

I am from
A mother who loved to make and bake
From sweet treats and halloween costumes
To the best penuche there ever was!
She spent her Sundays singing at the high mass
For she had the sweetest voice - like an angel
She loved to sing in minstrel shows and for wounded vets

I am from
Mechanic Street
Where we learned how to fish
And play capture the flag
We spent hours riding bikes along this street
Just being kids and having fun

I am from
A Church - Holy Angels to be precise
Where I received all my sacraments including matrimony!
I became part of the ones who chose to work on building a newer space -
St. Gabriel’s - a source of great pride

I am from
A large extended family
That used to gather for thanksgiving
60 plus relatives, 3 turkeys, bowls of stuffing,
And loads of pumpkin pie.
Time to play in the basement, creating plays and such
How I miss those days with people who have long since gone

I am from
A large clan of relatives that celebrate the fourth of July
Gathering in a big red barn, cleaned out for the day.
Eating Helen’s Swedish rye, and making our own lemon-orange sherbet
Cranking the handle ‘til our arms fell off, but enjoying every bite!

I am from
Old fashioned memories of Christmases long ago
Of silver- aluminum trees glowing with the light of the tri-colored wheel
Of midnight mass and stuffed dates
New pajamas and corny Christmas card poses
And spending the day visiting relatives across the city of Worcester

I am from
A marriage filled with love and blessings
For thirty two years of wedded bliss
Missing my man who lives on in my heart and
In the lives of our three wonderful children
And now in our two plus grandchildren

I am from
A loving family
That supported me when life was grim and gloomy
They gave me strength and hope
They filled me with endless love, laughter and peace

I am from

A grateful heart!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween Memories

It's Tuesday and The Two Writing Teachers are inviting you to join them on their Slice of Life blog.  Feel free to join in!  

I entered a meeting the other day feeling slightly harried when a teacher suggested we have a little fun for a moment and think about a halloween costume from when we were little.  Memories came back to me like a flash and since then I can't help but thinking about my mom and her halloween talents.

Mom & Dad celebrating their
anniversary in costume!
My mom was an expert seamstress.  Not in the traditional sense of the word, rather a seamstress that could fashion a halloween costume out of almost anything.  Each year my mom would create costumes for me and each of my six siblings.  She sewed for hours on end, working on her sewing machine and creating something wonderful using some old discarded dress, shirt, or small piece of fabric that was found around the house. I was always surprised with her ideas and recall outfits to make me feel as if I were Mary Poppins or even the flying nun. I can feel confident in saying that she was the best halloween costume designer because each year most of the seven of us would walk home with the silver dollar prize in the local halloween parade.  
And if that were not enough, once she finished creating the seven costumes for us, she began on hers and dad's costume!  Since they were married on Halloween they typically celebrated the event in masquerade style!   
I am not sure how my mom found the energy and stamina to get all these costumes done but she did so every year and with grace and style.  I probably never really thanked you for those costumes, so today I say to you in heaven, thanks for making halloween memorable mom!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Learning - and Teaching - From My Mistakes

It's Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers.  Won't you join in?

Learning - and Teaching - From My Mistakes

My social media feed was blowing up with its glowing reviews of After the Fall by Dan Santat. Kirkus Reviews said it was "A validating and breathtaking next chapter of a Mother Goose favorite,"  The School Library Journal called it "A terrific redemptive read-aloud for story time and classroom sharing,” and The Horn Book stated it was "luminous."  These reviews encouraged me to pre-order this masterpiece. I couldn't wait to read and share this new version of the story, thinking it would be a good fit for the many classrooms that were working on the power of persistence.
The book arrived on a Tuesday afternoon.  I was so excited to read the story that I quickly tore open the box even before taking off my jacket. I stood in the kitchen, school bags at my feet, reading the book aloud to my adult daughter, feverishly turning the pages, anxious to get to the ending.  I read so quickly and without thought that once I got to the last page I was lost, baffled and I stood there wondering what had just happened.  I realized that in my haste to get to the end, I had word-called my way through the book, not taking any time to stop and think. I felt like many of my students that simply read the book and can't recall a single detail.  I knew I had to go back and re-read the book, this time slowly reading the words and pictures, trying to capture all that I missed. 
When I got to the end of the book I quickly understood why it was called luminous, a breathtaking next chapter, and a redemptive read aloud, that is as long as the reader stops and notices along the way! I was now so in love with the book that I wanted to share it with everyone, but I also decided to make my mistake into a teaching opportunity.  After all, how many times have we seen our students read so quickly they missed the main point?  I needed to use this luminous book to share my mistakes with students so that they could learn how not to read the book or any book for that matter.
To help me model reading is thinking, I decided to use a technique known as the know / wonder chart. I first heard about using this format to make thinking visible during my summer #cyberpd study of Vicki Vinton's book: Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading, and I knew I wanted to try it out.  My visits to classrooms began by telling my story of reading quickly and getting to the end and being confused by the story.  I asked the students if this had ever happened to them.  Most hands went up. It was then that I shared how the second time I read After the Fall, I spent more time looking at the pictures, and stopping to think about what happened,  and changing my predictions along the way.  All of these strategies helped me to truly understand the story.  Finally, I shared the importance of stopping and thinking when reading a book using the know / wonder chart as a tool to help with this thinking.  As we read the book we stopped at key locations to think, change our predictions and wonder a little more.  When we finally reached the end of the story the children's expression showed me that real thinking and deep understanding had taken place.  Their surprise and astonishment of what had happened "after the great fall"  was unmistakably a sign of deep comprehension, and more importantly joy in understanding a great story.  

Our know / wonder charts were messy, filled with cross-outs and arrows and ideas, but as we reflected on our learning, I knew that making our thinking visible through the charting led the students to a greater understanding of the story.  More importantly I was thrilled that my mistake, my first quick read of the words in the story, created an important comprehension opportunity for all.

Oh, and the book: After the Fall?  You HAVE TO READ IT!  It's brilliant!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Oh No! Not Yet!

It's Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers.  Won't you join in?

Oh No! Not Yet!

I was running late for work when I looked out the window to see my car covered once again in dew.
Oh No! Not Yet!

I checked the thermometer - 39 degrees.
Oh No! Not Yet!

I opened my car door and decided I should put on my gloves.
Oh No! Not Yet!

I started the car and turned on the wipers - frost?
Oh No! Not Yet!

I opened the trunk and dug it out.
Oh No! Not Yet!

Scrape, scrape, scrape.
Oh No! Not Yet!

But Wait - didn't I post about the glorious weather last week?
But still...
Oh No! Not Yet!

I am not ready for winter to arrive.
Oh No! Not Yet!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

One More Time

It's Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers.  Won't you join in?
One More Time

The beautiful, summer-like weather we have been experiencing in New England this October has allowed me to capture a few more stolen moments of summertime. This month I found myself saying over and again "just one more time."

Just one more time to...
    watch the sunset on the boat
    kayak across the lake
    swim to the rocks
    jump off the dock
    float on the tube
    eat on the deck
    read on the lounge chair
    splash in the water

Just one more time... 

until next summer.