Tuesday, December 13, 2016

'Tis the Season

'Tis the Season

Wrapping
Listing
Making
Doing
'Tis the Season

Decorating
Lighting
Stamping
Mailing
'Tis the Season

Hurrying
Running
Driving
Shuttling
'Tis the Season

But Wait!

Thanking
Singing
Pausing
Being
YES! 'Tis the Season!









I am grateful to the Two Writing Teachers for sponsoring Slice of Life Tuesdays, a place to gather as online as writers each and every Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Holiday Creations

I spent the weekend making things, simple little holiday gifts for family and friends.  It was great taking the time out of the busy-ness of the season to use my hands and a different part of the brain than I typically use at work and there is something about making that feels right to me.  The urge to get crafty and design a homemade gift often strikes at this time of year. I think it goes back to my youth when there was always a project in the works.  
Our family was of little means but we always had junk to create with: glue, paper, paint, clay, wire… all kinds of stuff.  I have fond memories of making simple doll clothes out of little white socks, cutting holes for arms and pulling it together with a ribbon belt.  Homemade beads were fashioned out of old magazines with colorful pages that we cut into long triangular strips and rolled tightly around a toothpick with a single dot of glue to hold it all together. Colorful telephone wire became sculptures of many shapes and sizes. Our hands were always busy using the materials we found around the house to make something new and novel for ourselves and for others. My mom would join in the fun for she too was very creative and good with a needle and thread. Dad fostered the artsy movement by finding all sorts of found objects for us to use. It truly was a fun family thing that we shared and still share to this day. I am not sure if this creative spirit is in the genes or in the environment in which I was raised but either way I am very grateful to my parents for this gift of creativity.
Spending this weekend was more than just creating gifts, it was also about re-living those making days from my youth. I captured so many nostalgic feelings this weekend, bringing a sense of simple joy to my holiday season.  I believe it's that joy that drives me to continue to make year after year.


I join the community of writers each Tuesday by posting my writing on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Thank you for supporting me in my quest to become a better writer and teacher of writing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Lost and Found

I have been looking for an important object in my house for a few weeks now.  The search for a special napkin ring nags at me at strange hours of the day and often times interferes with my ability to think.  I fear sharing these thoughts with others because it really seems such a silly thing to fret over.  But it’s not really the missing object, rather, it is the memories and the sentiment the object holds. It’s the table set with a special ring for each person marking their place at the family table.  It’s the countless dinners prepared and eaten together.  It’s the person that carefully slipped the ring off the napkin and shared a meal with us all.  Yes, that napkin ring is important.  What truly amazes me about the missing napkin ring is the amount of time spent thinking about where I could have lost it.  This napkin ring has truly interfered with my thought processing.  It makes me understand the connection between social-emotional concerns and learning.  How can my loss of an item halt my learning and thinking?  How do I move forward and help loosen that block? I fortunately have choices. I can simply buy an identical napkin ring and pretend it is the original and move on, or I can choose to let go.  
Some of our children come to school missing more than a napkin ring.  When our children come to writing (or school for that matter) how do they cope when there is a lost item, or other social emotional block?  How do they let go of their missing things and move on? What choices can they make to move forward?  
I don't think I have real answers to these questions, but as I think about how my simple napkin ring caused me to lose my focus, I have become even more sympathetic to those children with much more important items lost in their lives.


Thank you Two Writing Teachers for sponsoring a space to guide and develop a community of writers!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Creeping Towards a Goal: Teaching Lessons from My Granddaughter

Every Tuesday I join the community of writers at The Two Writing Teachers page where I post my Slice of Life story.  Thank you for offering me a forum to guide me and help me to hone my writing skills.



Creeping Towards a Goal: Teaching Lessons from My Granddaughter

This weekend I was doubly blessed to see both grand-babies and sit back in awe over how quickly they are developing their personalities. And as they grow into themselves, I am discovering that they are helping me think about teaching and learning in new and different ways.  
Sunday I was watching my granddaughter enjoy a little tummy time on my living room floor in hopes we could see her make movements towards crawling.  We placed a book just out of reach of her grasp and watched and waited. She stretched her long arms but she couldn't quite reach the book. This grandma wanted to push the book closer to her long fingers, but her mama wanted her to try for one more minute.  Her attempts and reaches got her ever so close to touching the corner of the cover and her grunts and fusses became louder. I wondered whether she had reached her point of frustration yet and whether this would propel her more or turn her off. When do we give that little push towards the next step? These thoughts were churning in my head when my daughter in law patiently edged the book closer to her and my granddaughter responded by reaching further, touching the book but not quite getting to her goal and still no leg or knee action. Finally, her mom placed her hands behind her feet and pushed her legs forward to give her the sense of forward movement.  At last, she reached the book and the smile on her face showed pride in her accomplishment.  
I paused to reflect on the steps we took to move her towards her goal without frustrating her: pushing the book closer, then closer still so that she could just barely touch the book and finally pushing against her feet to help propel her forward, tiny scaffolds to guide her towards success.  I likened these baby steps to what we do in the classroom when our students encounter trouble. We see a child approach a new skill with a little bit of frustration.  We want to swoop in and take over the task for the child, hand him/her the book so to speak. That is the easy way.  But we need patience and we need to take baby steps towards the child’s success.  So instead we inch the book closer with lean prompts like: What’s wrong?  What should you do next?  What have you tried and what else could you use? When those prompts don’t work we lean in a little closer and ask if s/he has any charts to look to for help. And finally we might place a little pressure on the feet and nod towards a wall where the strategy chart is hung. We take these slow and calculated steps towards the goal, gently guiding the child and making sure they are doing most of the work for that is when the learning takes place!

I know that my granddaughter will be crawling in no time.  Just like I know our students will master that strategy in no time. In both cases, we need to be patient and slow down by offering lean prompts that give our students every opportunity to crawl towards their goal on their own!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Time to Make the Donuts: Playing with How To’s

Every Tuesday I get to join the community of writing "slicers" on a blog hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I am grateful for this community of supporters.

Time to Make the Donuts: Playing with How To’s

My niece's baby shower brunch was last weekend and I offered to make homemade donuts. I have an old time favorite recipe from my mom that I like to use so I proceeded to make them.  As I was cooking the donuts I heard my mom whispering little tips to me.  Since I am relatively new to living a writerly life, I started thinking about how those tips would look in a how to text so I decided to have a go at it.

How to make Donuts:

You Need:


Donut batter (made from an old recipe)
Cooking Oil
Heavy pan
Candy Thermometer
Paper bag filled with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg


First fill a heavy pot half-full with cooking oil and heat to 375 degrees
While the oil is heating up, make the donut batter according to the recipe
Using two spoons, drop a spoonful of batter into hot oil
Remove the donuts from the oil and place immediately into sugar mix
Serve warm


Tips from my mom:
Do not flip the donuts over in the oil. They will flip themselves when they are done on that side.
Use a slotted spoon to remove cooked donuts from oil.
A paper bag for the sugar mix helps absorb the hot oil making the donuts less greasy.
These donuts taste best hot, so eat immediately.

If there are any leftover donuts, heat them up in a toaster oven.



When I started envisioning this what this "how to" would look like on the page, I imagined creating a 6 page book, one page listing the ingredients and the other 5 pages for each step.  I humorously thought it could be cute to draw my mom speaking to me from a little angelic cloud at the top of the page whispering the tips to me at the appropriate times. 

What a fun experiment this was!  Now that I have had a chance to play with this genre a little, I appreciate "how to's" so much more!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Poetry ala Georgia Heard’s Heart Map

I picked up Georgia Heard's Heart Map book at a conference a few weeks ago and opened the pages to read: “Heart mapping opens the door to literacy for all writers - including reluctant, struggling, and blocked writers.” (Heart Maps p. 6)  My mind instantly went to a very reticent student that froze during any written task.  I had to buy this book and read more.  
Upon returning to school I immediately shared the heart map book with a colleague in hopes we could reach that reluctant writer.  She was more than interested in collaboratively planning a lesson.  The class was just starting a mini poetry unit the following week so we decided to introduce heart maps to her class as a way to inspire nature list poems with her first graders.  Here’s how it went:
  1. Share a nature walk through a picture slide show.  
    1. Share pictures
    2. Point out interesting features
    3. Remark on feelings throughout


  2. Project the related heart map
    1. X marks the spot - beginning of walk
    2. Discuss how map contains drawings and words
    3. Make note of what’s happening in the heart
  3. Take class nature walk - in rain
    1. Discuss what we see
    2. Hear
    3. Feel - what's happening in the heart
  4. Class creates heart map
    1. X marks the spot
    2. Add drawings
    3. Words
    4. Feelings
  5. Use prompt:  I opened my eyes and what did I see… (as suggested in book)
    1. Share my poem
    2. Starting at X - if they so choose
    3. Encourage describing words with feelings
    4. Illustrate


We were both amazed at the success of their first poetry writing of the year.  Most children were able to put pencil to paper quickly to write their first poem of the year in a carefree manner.  My reticent friend produced a nice heart map of our nature walk, but couldn’t transfer his thoughts to the poetry paper. I was able to take steps towards conversing with him about his map, and judge that was the first step towards building a trusting relationship. After all writing makes one vulnerable and you have to trust your audience.  



Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life blog area each Tuesday. Through this site I learn and grow from writers across the continent.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Off We Go

It's Slice of Life Tuesday. Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for hosting this wonderful writing community each and every Tuesday!



Last week I was fortunate enough to hear Lucy Calkins speak at a conference titled: “Leading Implementation of Units of Study in Writing and Reading K-8.”  Anytime I hear Lucy speak I come away feeling inspired, and this time was no different. Her words gave me just the right nudge I needed to move forward with the balanced literacy initiative we started in our district 5 years ago.  
Lucy Calkins began the conference discussing the need to reform our teaching of literacy.  She reminded us that in the past it was the teacher’s job to bring knowledge to the uninformed. Times have certainly changed as she reminded us that almost any tidbit of information can easily accessed through a swipe on our watch.  With all this information at our fingertips our job as a teacher, the purveyor of information has changed.  We now need to teach students how to access, how to evaluate, how to organize, how to synthesize and how to apply that knowledge.  The problem with all of this is unfortunately many of us were not taught to teach this way.  Before we can teach this to our students we need to learn how to do this ourselves, as a team and never alone.  In order to move forward we need to rally around a shared vision and work towards that goal as a team.  Lucy made this point very real by sharing a very emotional story with the message: “we don’t want to be alone in the hard parts of life.”  She charged us to become a community with a shared vision and dream and to lead by influence, inspiring our colleagues to prioritize what is important and to focus on what matters.
If I sit too long with these thoughts I could easily get overwhelmed with the arduous tasks ahead. As we move ahead in our district with the next steps in literacy instruction, I need to keep my thoughts positive and my spirits high. I know that this is hard work, but I feel fortunate that I am not alone in this effort.  I work with fabulous colleagues that believe in the same dream and vision and therefore judge that together we can maintain the focus and keep the passion high even when the work gets hard. Lucy said it best:  This work is NOT for the weak of heart.  It is a lot of work, but it works.  
I am ready.  Are you?  Well then...off we go!



Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sadness

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays. This space helps me learn what it takes to be a writer so I can be a better teacher of writing.


Today my writing was easy to write, but difficult to post. I am considering the following question today:
How does taking a risk to be vulnerable impact our writing?

Sadness

Sometimes it hits
like a ton of bricks 
but more often it
creeps up on me 
so quickly and 
so quietly
Like when I 
glance at that card
Meant for us
An anniversary greeting 
or possibly
Seeing that couple 
Enjoying a Sunday afternoon
Holding hands and smiling
The warm tear slowly
falls down the cheek
Knowing that it will 
never be that way again
For love was deep and
love was lost.

It hurts.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Time for a Walk

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing a community of writers to guide us on our writing journey.

Time for a Walk
I took a walk yesterday on the Columbus Day holiday.  It was a chance to get outside for a change of scenery with my daughters and my new little grandson.  I spent the morning prepping for a day of professional development and I needed a break.  The weather was sunny and chilly and the colors around the lake were just beginning to show their glory.  I couldn’t help but stop at every bend to capture the beauty of the lake, trees and sunshine.  As I walked through the woods I was so inspired by the natural beauty of the day that I wanted to write, write, write.  Poems were popping out of no where and stories of walks when our kids were little were quickly coming into my mind.  The exercise had cleared the cobwebs and I was bursting with writing enthusiasm.



Once home I started to think about the creative juices that flowed due to my walk.  Without that walk I would have been stuck at my laptop regurgitating the same old ideas.  The fresh air cleared my brain and allowed for many new ideas to surface.  What might happen if I take my walking break to my students?  Would allowing for walking breaks get the creative juices flowing?  Would changes in setting and routine bring about fresh ideas?  Would traveling to the nature trail encourage poems and other creative words?  I can only guess that the answer would be yes.  I am excited to try it out and see what might blossom. After all what have I got to lose?  I think I’ll only have much to gain.


Time for a Walk

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing me and so many others with a community of writers to guide us on our writing journey.

Time for a Walk
I took a walk yesterday on the Columbus Day holiday.  It was a chance to get outside for a change of scenery with my daughters and my new little grandson.  I spent the morning prepping for a day of professional development and I needed a break.  The weather was sunny and chilly and the colors around the lake were just beginning to show their glory.  I couldn’t help but stop at every bend to capture the beauty of the lake, trees and sunshine.  As I walked through the woods I was so inspired by the natural beauty of the day that I wanted to write, write, write.  Poems were popping out of no where and stories of walks when our kids were little were quickly coming into my mind.  The exercise had cleared the cobwebs and I was bursting with writing enthusiasm.



Once home I started to think about the creative juices that flowed due to my walk.  Without that walk I would have been stuck at my laptop regurgitating the same old ideas.  The fresh air cleared my brain and allowed for many new ideas to surface.  What might happen if I take my walking break to my students?  Would allowing for walking breaks get the creative juices flowing?  Would changes in setting and routine bring about fresh ideas?  Would traveling to the nature trail encourage poems and other creative words?  I can only guess that the answer would be yes.  I am excited to try it out and see what might blossom. After all what have I got to lose?  I think I’ll only have much to gain.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Writing Time

Writing takes time.
I know because every Tuesday morning I wake up and realize that once again I don't have a post for the Tuesday Slice of Life completely written.  My ideas are drafted out with the promise of refining over the weekend but Tuesday morning arrives quickly and I wake up early to pull it together.  It is not a good use of my time, nor do I judge that it is my best writing, but I post regardless.  

So why do I continue to write?  I write on this Tuesday Slice post because I truly believe that to be a good writing teacher I need to live a writerly life.  I have learned so much about the writing process since starting this “slice” journey and I am determined to continue.  And today I am once again growing in my knowledge of what it takes to be a writer: time, and lots of it!


Thanks to my Tuesday Slice posts and the community that supports this writing habit, I see the importance and the value of the time devoted to daily writing workshop. There is urgency in the daily writing habit.  There is value in the traditions of the workshop routines established in the earliest of grades.  There is importance in camaraderie of partners and peers to listen to their words.   In our writing workshop we are planting the deep seeds necessary to produce great authors.  We are developing lifelong habits for writers. We are creating writers that long to put pen to paper! 

Boy do I wish I had writing workshop when I was 7 years old!  Maybe then I wouldn't be panicking every Tuesday morning!   



Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for providing the space to help guide me in my writing journey!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A 5 minute Snippet of Life at the Lake

The sunrise - changing colors from grey to orange to gold

The waters - in perfect harmony with the spectrum in the sky

The swans -  a new gray colored bird spotted with her white friend - perhaps it’s mother

The geese - forming their V and calling in their awakening voices

Sleeping swan - Lifting their heads briefly as the noisy birds fly over head

More geese - Running across the water, flapping their wings in attempts to capture their cousins

Morning has broken




Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for creating a space each Tuesday, for me and so many others to capture nature at its finest.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

#itsstillsummer

I have been in denial.
Despite the fact that we have been in school for 14 days, I still want to live like it is summer.  Late night movies, cookouts, stargazing, and extra family time are still wanting to be on my daily agenda. My first summer on the lake held lots of promise, especially those noted in a Slice of Life post in June. My vows included:
  • Enjoy more ice cream cones
  • Float on the lake
  • Laugh with my children and new grandchildren
  • Read for pleasure daily
  • Stop, look and listen to the lake
  • Spend TIME with friends
  • Kayak in the early morning or sunset hours
  • Take more nature pictures
  • Write for fun
As I reflect on my list, I'd say I was fairly successful in fulfilling these promises this past summer, rating it a 7 on the scale of 1 to 10. And as the season draws to a close I still yearn for more.  I keep trying to squeeze in that promise that wasn’t quite filled: more friends over, kayaking and reading each day. But alas, fall calls, as noted by our neighbors taking their boats out of the water for their seasonal repairs and winterizing. The sun is setting earlier and the geese are practicing their Vs.  

My #itsstillsummer needs to be put away to be replaced with #fallonthelake, and I guess I don't mind. For fall brings a beauty of its own!

#itsstillsummer

I have been in denial.
Despite the fact that we have been in school for 14 days, I still want to live like it is summer.  Late night movies, cookouts, stargazing, and extra family time are still wanting to be on my daily agenda. My first summer on the lake held lots of promise, especially those noted in a Slice of Life post in June. My vows included:
  • Enjoy more ice cream cones
  • Float on the lake
  • Laugh with my children and new grandchildren
  • Read for pleasure daily
  • Stop, look and listen to the lake
  • Spend TIME with friends
  • Kayak in the early morning or sunset hours
  • Take more nature pictures
  • Write for fun
As I reflect on my list, I'd say I was fairly successful in fulfilling these promises this past summer, rating it a 7 on the scale of 1 to 10. And as the season draws to a close I still yearn for more.  I keep trying to squeeze in that promise that wasn’t quite filled: more friends over, kayaking and reading each day.  

But alas, fall calls, as noted by our neighbors taking their boats out of the water for their seasonal

repairs and winterizing. The sun is setting earlier and the geese are practicing their Vs.  My #itsstillsummer needs to be put away to be replaced with #fallonthelake, and I guess I don't mind. For fall brings a beauty of its own!