If you want to teach me to write, first you have to love me. ~AVI

Friday, December 31, 2010

Reminising, Reflecting and Rocking On

Poetry Friday ~ A Refrigerator Poem

My poem this week is not really a poem, but it's what I came up with on this last day of 2010. I don't know what I will do when this old refrigerator with the magnetic doors dies. I love the newer stainless steel ones, but what happens to the kitchen collage!

Another year gone by...I hate to state the obvious, but if you are over a certain age (not sure what age, maybe 30) time really does fly by! After spending a few days with extended family, I have been perusing photos, reading quotes, and feeling very sentimental. A new year is a refreshing time, but also a time to long for the past, a reminder to appreciate the present, and live life to the fullest.

On Sunday, we went through old photos and letters that my grandparents had saved over the years. Such history here. They had saved every letter and postcard we had ever sent them. With the astounding technological advancements that we have witnessed it's hard to imagine writing a ten page letter to your mom. Long distance phone calls were costly. There was no email or text messaging. You waited for the mail and looked forward a phone call a few times a month.

What a treasure to have bits and pieces of the ones we will miss so dearly. We have been blessed by grandparents that lived to 90 and 91. Grandpa passed away last December 27th and Grandma this December 17th. Last week at Grandma's funeral mass, the priest said that after more than 70 years of marriage, they will still be together for Christmas. There was a lot of digging for tissues at this point when he made a reference to the song "I'll be Home for Christmas".

All this reflecting and remembering is getting me closer to a word for 2011. I have it narrowed down to a couple and am trying to wait for something to nudge me to a final choice. Several bloggers have recently discussed their choices, including Ruth from the always inspiring Two Writing Teachers. I also like her intentions rather than resolutions for the new year. Read more about the One Little Word project (OLW)at Ali Edwards blog. More on my word choice next week. Until then Happy Poetry Friday, Happy New Year ~ Rock On!

**I must thank Amy at the Poem Farm for welcoming my class for a "Poetry Peek". Amy has been such an inspiration to me over the past year as have all the bloggers I have met through Poetry Friday and the Slice of Life Stories at Two Writing Teachers. Surely on my list of intentions for 2011, I will include a commitment to give back to these on-line communities with more regular posting. Head over to Carol's Corner for the final Poetry Friday for 2010.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Slice of Life ~ The Gift of Writing

Our room is a bit like the North Pole with Santa’s elves scurrying around to finish their work. Instead of toys, we are writing piles of poems and selecting just the right words for our gifts of writing. Each student is creating a calendar with his or her own collection of poems. Many writers will compose twelve originals for their 2011 calendar with the option to add a few by published poets. This is clearly one of my favorite writing projects. Watching the seeds germinate, sprout, and blossom is a beautiful thing!
Fingers were tapping, counting out the beats for the 5-7-5 pattern. Awhile back I read a review of a new book titled Guyku written by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Peter Reynolds. While the book was written with boys in mind it is equally appealing to the gals. The website has a sampling of poems from the book and a gallery of haikus submitted by young poets. You will also find handouts with directions and tips for writing guykus. Such fun! Each day will feature a different poet mentor. These mini author studies are like stops on a cruise ship with just enough time to look around places you might like to visit again for a longer period of time.
I love the steady buzz of worker bees. “How does this line sound?” “Will you listen to my poem?” “I’ve got an idea!” In my mind, there is nothing like the power of poetry. Children feel the strength of the language as they search for just the right word. They experience the gratification of a published piece in a relatively short period of time. Writers, young and old find their voices and know the words of the song. Music to my ears! The gift that keeps on giving.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Poetry Friday

Next week, my fourth graders will begin to work on poetry calendars for holiday gifts for their families. While I have done this project for several years now, each year I look for ways to improve the experience. This past year, my blogging journey has perked up my passion for all things poetry and I am looking forward to trying some new techniques. Folders are overflowing with possible mini lessons to inspire young poets. This weekend I am fine tuning my plans and writing some poems to use in my lessons. Each student will create a unique collection of poetry with accompanying illustrations. Some children have chosen themes that represent something that they care about and can write about. We have also been talking about modeling our pages after many other calendars or poets like Joyce Sidman, by including some factual information to accompany the poems. I usually offer writers the option of selecting favorite poems for a few of the months and we often write a class poem for one month. One year on our July page, we compiled a list of Ten Favorite Poets. I am looking forward to the enthusiasm that this project generates as students are busy like Santa’s little elves. These gifts really turn out to be such treasures. Please let me know if you have any suggestions or thoughts about this project. As Lee Bennett Hopkins says, “Pass the Poetry, Please!”
I love when the snow clings to the trees. Yesterday morning the bare branches were shimmering like crystal wine goblets and the pine trees were draped with snow. I am posting a haiku that celebrates the beauty of the evergreens:
Pine trees pose proudly
Sporting sequined snow ponchos
Charming chill chasers.

Thank you to today's host, Tricia. If you are a night owl blogger like me, head over to http://missrumphiuseffect.blogspot.com/ for today's round-up.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Balancing - Slice of Life

Recently, I have been thinking more about balance. As teachers, we strive to maintain balance in the classroom. We provide a variety of learning experiences: mini-lessons, guided practice, independent work, partner activities, projects, etc. For the most part we do a decent job with this type of balance.
How about balancing the hats we wear or the balls we juggle? How do we make time for the people we care about, the activities that help keep us healthy? How do we carve out leisure time, time to read for pleasure, time to feed our creative souls? I am reminded of a quote I used to have on my bulletin board that helped to keep me grounded. I was pretty sure it was from a book I read many years ago, Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas by James Paterson. Sure enough after a little digging around on Mr. Patterson’s website, I found the following excerpt:
Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you're keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls— family, health, friends, integrity—are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered. And once you truly understand the lesson of the five balls, you will have the beginnings of balance in your life.
Copyright © 2001 by James Patterson
Balance seems to be my personal theme for the school year. How do you maintain balance in your life? Please share your thoughts. If you haven't read Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas, I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Slice of Ideas!

Idea Walk
Today was a gem, an ending to a fabulous summer that felt more like the departing season than the one we will greet tomorrow. In the spirit of the sunshine, my new writers and I sans notebooks, pencils, and for many, magnifying glasses, just in case. My charges were raring to go after a brief discussion about today’s idea gathering mission. Our first stop was a brief pause to soak in the sights and sounds of children enjoying a break from the classroom -our first pinch of seeds. For the next twenty minutes we strolled around the perimeter of the playground peeking into the patch of trees that borders the fields. Much to my delight most of the students were “into” it. We looked like we were part of task force gathering important evidence. “I see berries!” “Look at this bug with my magnifying glass!” “Oh no, someone left litter behind!” “I caught a butterfly!” “Listen to the crickets!” “Hmm, I think I saw a rabbit hop away.” This seemed to be working. I think they were getting it. When we returned to the classroom, we topped off our lists with final thoughts, starred the ones that we thought we could write about, and talked about the specific snapshots that might lend themselves to poems. Haikus and acrostics were recommended by two students. Heads were nodding at these suggestions. Too bad we had to get ready for dismissal. I can’t wait to read their notebooks tomorrow!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Poetry Friday

“Things to Do If You are a Frog”
Set up housekeeping in our pond
Sun yourself on rock mountains
Resembling a rock yourself
Peruse the pachysandra
Or nestle down for a nap instead.
Leap into the pond when someone startles you
Or lurk in the rustling reeds
Ready to pounce like a wild cat in the jungle
Cast out your sticky tongue for tasty treats.
The master mosquito muncher.
Sing your song of summer
Serenade us with your quirky croaks
Until fall sneaks in and off you hop
Hibernating in deeper waters far beneath the ice.

I have had so much fun this summer watching and photographing the frogs that made our little backyard pond their home. It seemed fitting to try another Things to do poem modeled after the many mentor texts written by the talented Elaine at Wild Rose Reader. Head over to Wild Rose Reader where Elaine is hosting this week's Friday Poetry celebration. Thanks Elaine!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Books are Singing to Me ~ Tuesday Slice

Overtaken by the piles around the house, most of which belong to me (okay they all belong to me), I got the urge to tidy up a bit. Sometimes I am so like the moose with the muffin. Easily distracted while in the midst of one task, I veer off track to something else that needs attention. Anyone who knows me will not be surprised that the piles and distractions involve books. Throughout the summer, I dove deep into a pool of books. Actually three piles of books: children’s books, teacher books, and novels just for fun. I love books from all three of these categories. I really can’t get enough and just when I think enough is enough, no more, along comes a new release that I can’t wait to get my hands on. Like many other bloggers have done recently, I decided to compile some lists. So far I have one list to share. I know I have more to add to this list and they are certainly not rank ordered. I don't know that I could do that as I love them all. The authors of these books are my rock stars. I turn to them when I need a boost, a reminder of why I am a teacher, or a fresh idea to start a new day. I would be remiss if I neglected to send out a shout of thanks to Ruth and Stacey here at Two Writing Teachers and all of my other blogging mentors. MANY THANKS!!
“Ten Books That Speak to My Teacher Heart”
1. Lasting Impressions by Shelley Harwayne
2. More Than Meets the Eye by Donna Skolnick
3. In the Company of Children by Joanne Hindley
4. For the Good of the Earth and Sun by Georgia Heard
5. Awakening the Heart by Georgia Heard
6. Reading with Meaning by Debbie Miller
7. Reading Essentials by Regie Routman
8. Pass the Poetry, Please! by Lee Bennett Hopkins
9. Poetry Matters by Ralph Fletcher (and many other titles)
As I was finishing this post, not really paying attention to the TV, a song caught my ear. “Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true…someday I’ll wish upon a star…where troubles melt like lemon drops…somewhere over the rainbow blue birds fly, birds fly over the rainbow…”
Don’t you just love recent remakes of this song? I may not have the lyrics exactly right, but they seemed to fit the spirit of my thoughts tonight. They also bring back fond memories of a lullaby tape that I used to play for our children at bedtime. It may have even been an album. Oh heavens, I’m old! Good night, sweet dreams.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Night Before School Slice

I have a terrible habit of staying up way too late especially on school nights! Here is a silly little poem I just wrote - clearly a first draft, but a pretty good synopsis of my night. Quoting our school board president, "Happy New Year!" Teachers get to celebrate twice.

On the night before school…
Not a creature was stirring
Except for teachers scurrying
Unable to rest
With details to make it the best.
A first day poem,
Just the right books
For baskets and nooks,
Sharing with students
Guiding readers and writers
Our co-teachers for sure!
Flowers are cut.
The coffee is set-up.
Lunch is packed.
Outfit selected and pressed.
Dog out one last time.
Teeth brushed.
Pillows fluffed.
Why am I still wide awake?
Oh no, I hope I don’t oversleep!!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday Slice

This has been a fabulous summer, an old-fashioned hot sweaty summer. I love the laid back feeling of summer. I can’t get enough of the outdoors – morning coffee and every possible meal on the deck; walks with my dog, Grace; visiting with friends and family; gardening, floating in the pool; and lazy lake afternoons. Often times with coffee in one hand, you will find me hunkered down in a comfy spot with my other hand clutching a good book.
My summer selections have left me with many fond memories and connections to my “teaching life”. In a bit, I will finish up a gem, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. Like the other books and characters Creech has created, I have fallen in love with Sal who tells the story of her longing heart and the heartache of her best friend, Phoebe. During her journey with her grandparents she becomes even wiser as she shares her stories with them. “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins” is one of several messages that teach lessons to both the characters and readers of Walk Two Moons. As always, I will share my love of Sharon Creech and will surely recommend this book. I am not sure yet if it will be a class read aloud, but there are several passages that I will flag for mini-lessons.
Another book that left its mark on me long after I read the last page was Leaving Gee’s Bend by Irene Latham. Ludelphia a young quilter wise beyond her 10 years of life tells the story of her family’s joys and struggles living in a small Alabama town during the Great Depression. Quilting is deep in her bones, a source of nourishment, it’s therapy, and a way for Ludelphia to make sense of the world around her. Early in the book, Ludelphia flashes back to the accident that left her blind in one eye. “I may have only one eye that works, but I got to tell you it works real good.” “It’s like you was born to stitch,” Ludelphia’s mama tells her. I love the voice of Ludelphia and the voice she gives to other female characters in the book. Of course, as a quilter I also was drawn to the quotes about stitchin’. Ludelphia sees no need to sort fabric colors which seems to be a metaphor for life – “Seemed to me some of the best things just happened with no order to ‘em at all. But Mama, she believed in having a plan.” Ludelphia notices the world around her, a trait of great story tellers, writers, and quilters too. “…the clouds raced across the sky like they was in a contest with the river. They was in a hurry just like me.” As Ludelphia sets out on a journey to seek help for her ailing mother, having never left Gee’s Bend, she musters up the strength and bravery to fight for her family and her community. Thank you, Irene for a wonderful story and also for the give-away book, Three Rivers Rising (more on this book later.)
Summer’s winding down. I will savor the remaining days and reading that I can squeeze in, but am ready to get to know my new learners and savor good writing together!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Poetry Friday!

This week I have chosen to share a poem by Bobbi Katz from a poetry book that I recently added to my collection: Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems edited by Georgia Heard. Earlier this week, I selected this poem to read with my "tutee" and we decided the main character in our book would love it too. We are reading Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli with illustrations by Matt Phelan. It is a lovely little book written in verse, narrated by a young girl who likes to write poems and loves learning about space.

Choosing a poem or other piece of text and saying, "Hey, I saw this and it reminded me of you" or "I thought you would like this," is something we naturally do as lovers of the written word. What a fun literacy connection to extend this idea to book characters that we get to know! Students could clip poems inside the book cover or perhaps some sort of bulletin board display could be created...hmmm... it's that time of year when the wheels are turning with ideas! Happy belated Poetry Friday! Visit Zsofia at The Stenhouse Blog for the Poetry Friday roundup this week.

“Things to do if you are the Sun”
By Bobbi Katz

Let planets loop around you.
Be Earth’s very own star.
Keep things warm enough for people.
Keep things cool enough for penguins.
Slip away to end the day.
Light the moon at night.
Let people and animals sleep.
And at the crack of dawn,
wake up the world!

Copyright c 2007 by Bobbi Katz.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Poetry Friday!

Happy Poetry Friday. Today I am sharing a poem written by my summer student and I told in the voice of a great white shark. We have been reading more about the great white this week and I having been watching some of the Shark Week programs on the Discovery Channel. Fascinating, but a bit too graphic for young children. Be sure to visit Author Amok for this week's gathering of wonderful poetry.

Many THANKS to Irene Latham and the Teaching Authors. I won two books this week!! I am so very excited and will be sure to blog about them both. So generous ~ this blogging community.

Great White Shark
By Hannah & Mrs. A.
I’m the king of the ocean.
I have been swimming in the sea since before dinosaurs roamed the earth.
You might see my dorsal fin out of the water.
I swim with my tooth-filled mouth wide open.
I am always searching with my huge bold eyes even when I was a baby.
My eyesight is excellent even in cloudy dark waters.
I have a super sense of smell.
I lurk deep in the ocean or shallow seashores hunting for my next meal.
I wear camouflage to protect myself from a few predators
But rarely am I hunted.
It’s true,
I’m the scary beast feasting on fish, seals, or other sharks.
That’s why I am the GREAT WHITE SHARK!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mid-Summer Reflecting

When summer vacation started I thought hmm why not set a reading goal; so many others are doing it. I should push myself with a new challenge. In March I wrote a slice a day. I came close to 30 poems during poetry month. Well I am falling way behind on a book a day. I could catch up if I sit down with a stack of picture books and I do have a basket that came home with me on the last day of school plus a growing list of recommended titles. Therefore I may finish the race, but not in record time. After all, shouldn’t I practice what I preach? Reading is not a race and I am not a fast reader. In fact the more I think about writing, read about writing, read like a writer, and read like a teacher of writing I am actually reading more slowly. Don’t get me wrong I still love to get lost a good book. There’s nothing like a good “beach” read, but I am a different reader today – a reader that slows down, rereads, and savors good writing. Perhaps I need to set a goal that is a good fit for me as a learner. In the meantime I will continue to savor summer with a good book every chance I get!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bouquet Time

This little poem came to me late last night. Fresh flowers on the table are a wonderful treat anytime of the year, but I love little hand picked summer bouquets or even a single bloom in a teeny tiny vase or cup. These simple arrangements always remind me of little voices saying, "Here mommy, I picked this just for you!"

Bouquet Time
Remember when,
Your chubby hands
held stubby stems
of beautiful blooms.
Picked with care
for me from YOU!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Poetry Friday!

I wrote this poem modeled after Elaine’s fabulous mask poems. Visit Elaine at Wild Rose Reader and you too will be amazed by the offerings at her blog. This technique appealed to my fourth grade writers who were extremely talented poets. We pretended to be animals, colors, school supplies and more. It is a fun challenge to write in another voice, be it an animal or nonliving object.
This summer I am working with an incoming fourth grade girl. We have been reading about sea giants, pausing often to say WOW that is amazing or I wonder about… So of course we grabbed the laptop and signed on the National Geographic for Kids site to learn more about ocean life. Like any publication by National Geographic, you will find breath taking photography and mind boggling video clips that complement the written research. Since our time together is limited, I wanted to go through the writing process on my own first. (I am currently reading What You Know by Heart by Katie Wood Ray. This book along with the support of my blogging friends is giving me the nudge to “experience” writing. ) As I wrote the poem below I thought about the tendency to spit the gathered facts back out in pretty much the same way they were taken from the text – difficult to teach young writers this skill. I think that an “aha” moment for me was incorporating facts into a more creative venture. I was concentrating on word choice, imagery, alliteration, and other techniques that we often notice in fiction writing. Here is my slightly revised version of “The Giant Squid.”

I’m the biggest invertebrate,
massive and maneuverey.
I’m the giant squid
enormous, yet elusive.
No one knows for sure
where I may turn up,
But scientists are certain
I have lurked in all the world’s oceans.
With beach ball size eyes
that never close,
I am a deep sea hunter who is second to none.
My eight arms and two whip-like tentacles
serve up seafood platters of fish, shrimp, and
maybe even an occasional squid or small whale.
It’s true.
I’m beasty.
I’m bold.
Yet mysterious and sometimes even shy.
By Theresa Annello

Be sure to visit Live Love Explore for this week's Poetry Round-up. Thank you Irene for hosting this week.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Late Night Slice

I was unpacking and tidying up after spending the weekend out of town, visiting with family. It was a short trip, but jam-packed like my suitcase, from early morning to late night. As I was puttering around today I thought about the people I spent time with, most of whom I don’t live around. We come home from these weekends a bit over tired after burning the candle at both ends. However I wouldn’t want to give up any part it from the peaceful morning walks with my sister – our chance to chat without interruptions or the not so peaceful late night board games. Our Ohio meeting place afforded us the opportunity to catch up with aunts, cousins, and our almost 91 year old grandma. She is confused and doesn’t remember the names of all of her great grandkids, but enjoys the visitors. We met our cousin’s new baby and another cousin’s new puppy. We hung out at our hotel pool, went out to dinner, did a little shopping, went to a pizza party, and much more. How fortunate we are to have these people in our lives. They know our stories and we know theirs. We can reminisce about the past and look forward to the future together. Ahhh…family.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Poetry Friday ~ If You Are a Friend

If You Are a Friend
Ask how a friend is doing
because you really want to know
Listen with your heart.
Give advice sparingly
for advice is like seasoning
and good cooks know
you can sometimes over do it.
A good friend knows that lending an ear
is often all that is needed.
Share a cookie for cookies can help almost as much as listening.
Surprise a friend with something you know she loves
or let her pick the game
even if it’s the same one all the time.
Have a party for your friends just for fun,
go to their parties too.
Be there on sunny days and
stormy ones too.
Find laughter in unexpected places
for I have often heard laughter is the best medicine.
A laugh with a friend
can surely help smooth
the bumps in the road.
A friend travels by your side
even when she is far away.
A friend is like a favorite song.
You will always remember the words,
but should you ever forget
a friend knows the same song by heart.

~ Theresa

Several times this week I found myself thinking of relationships/friendships and how critical they are to our existence. At a baseball game this week I watched 9 and 10 year old players sitting on the bench chatting, kicking their feet in the dirt, giving high fives, but not really worrying about the game, just enjoying each other. Working with a small group of teachers on science curriculum, a few whom I had never really worked with before, we accomplished a great deal of work, but also had some great laughs, shared ideas, and a sheet pizza on the last day. After less than a month into summer vacation, some school friends gathered together missing each other already. Tonight my husband and I will get together with some friends we got to know many years ago in cold ice arenas. Our sons no longer lace up their skates, but we continue to nurture our friendships. This weekend I am looking forward to spending time with our children and some family friends. Yes, we are blessed by the many relationships in our lives! My contribution this week is a tribute to friends near and far, old and new, each one a valued part of my existence. It also is my attempt to connect to this week's poetry stretch at The Miss Rumphius Effect by including a couple common expressions. Today's Poetry Friday is hosted by Heidi Mordhorst over at my juicy little universe. Thank you Heidi, I love your poetry.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Poetry Friday!

It has been a beautiful summer week here in western New York. While at times the sky has turned a little hazy, from dawn to dusk the sun has been shining. My kind of weather! The sky called out to me in many places this week. The theme for the Poetry Stretch this week at Tricia's blog The Miss Rumphius Effect is "The Sky is the Limit." Toby at the Writer's Armchair is featuring a sky a day photograph. While I love peaceful sunrises, beautiful sunsets, and starry nights, I love blue sky days the most!

Happy blue sky day and happy Poetry Friday! Please visit Carol's Corner for the poetry celebration. Thank you Carol for hosting.

Blue Sky Days

In every season
Find a reason
to listen
As our closest star
It’s a blue sky day
Come out and play!
Ski down my mountain,
Build a snowman,
Dive in my leaves,
Pick a plump pumpkin,
Walk the dog,
Plant a glorious garden,
Shoot some hoops,
Build a castle in the sand,
Toss a ball,
Stay away from the mall!
Take a hike,
Ride your bike,
Catch a fish,
Make a wish,
Pour some tea
Come join me
It’s a
Blue sky day.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mid - Week Meandering

I just want to say
I am counting the days.
Can't wait until Friday!
Poetry Friday.

After a fabulously beautiful Fourth of July weekend, I have been enjoying catching up on all my reading. WOW, you are all so dedicated. Reading recent posts really just confirmed what I already knew. Impressive! I have to admit I tucked a notebook and pencil in my boat tote, but that's as far as I got. Perhaps some of the photos we took will spark some written thoughts. It seems to work well for Toby at The Writer's Armchair. Check out her sky photos and the story of the robin family. Love it! Amy at the PoemFarm often includes photos and illustrations too.

This will be my second week participating in Poetry Friday. Many thanks to the people who responded with words of encouragement. This is truly a welcoming, supportive community of writers/bloggers and terrific teachers too.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Poetry Friday!

This past year I was blessed with a hard working, reflective group of writers. One of their final writing pieces in June was an end of the year letter. Each student discussed something he or she was especially proud of, an area of growth, thoughts about hopes and dreams, best thing about 4th grade, suggestions, and so on. Many students reflected on their accomplishments in March’s Slice of Life Story challenge. My heart was bursting as I read about their pride and growing desire to write. A few students remembered one of my hopes and dreams was to work on my writing. They liked when I shared my writing pieces.

A common thread in their letters was a fondness of poems and pride for the poems they have composed this year. Poetry is an integral component of reading and writing in my classroom. Many years ago I fell in love with children’s poetry and continue to be astounded by the magical effect it has on a classroom community.

To celebrate my first time participating in Poetry Friday I am sharing a few selections from this year’s class and my farewell poem, “Remember.” Head over to the PoemFarm where Amy is hosting the Poetry Friday celebration.

“Red” by Brian
Red paint is often used for blood
‘specially on Halloween.
That’s not a very good role for Red,
I often think it’s mean.
But Red’s a boasting color,
Red shouts, “look at me!”
Red accompanies Orange and Yellow
On a bright, warm autumn tree.
Orange and Red are brothers,
Some very close family.
And while Orange takes an orange,
Red prefers a strawberry.
Some crazy, wacko people
Like to red-dye their hair,
But still, not just there,
There’s Red everywhere!
A Red apple, fingernails,
A Red umbrella with it hails,
When you’re hurt, Red is pain.
And at sunset, there’s Red rain.

Tree by Dassy
A seed, a bird who dropped it down.
It fell and plunked into the ground
It grows into a little sapling (it wants to grow
higher before it’s Spring.)
Over time it grows, it grows.
Into a really mighty oak.
The bird came back to build her nest.
She said: “This tree is simply the best!”

Cats by Emily

Cats are a purring love of joy
They bounce they pounce
They go all over the place!
they are like bouncy balls
Jumping all over ,
Climbing on the furniture
curtains too,
never stopping
They are curious creatures
Ah! Finally, it's nap time for
the cats.
Today was a fun day for cats
and they will do it again
tomorrow, as a daily routine!

Remember by Theresa
Remember when you first arrived?
One teacher greeted one student.
Then another and another
Until four groups of six had arrived.
We gathered together
a packet of seeds
ready to be scattered,
Soon to sprout, soon to grow
Into seedlings with great potential.
Each flower – unique and special
Nurtured and pruned,
Growing lush and full.
Glistening and glowing,
On sunny days and a few gray days too,
Bursting with knowledge.

Oh how our garden grew,
More leaves and buds
Scattered on stems strong and tall
Buds ready to burst with beautiful blossoms
Each one unique and special,
Together a blooming bunch.
A bouquet that will never wither
Beauty that will never fade
For soon the seeds will scatter,
And grow in new places, but
the 2009-2010 garden will forever
Bloom in my mind and sing in my heart.
Thank you for leaving your mark,
I will always remember you!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Slice of Summer

A Slice of Summer ~ Two days into summer 2010, the body and mind are adjusting. Is it the summer sense of relaxation? Baking cookies instead of grading papers, ironing fabric for a quilt project instead of tomorrow’s outfit – hey I did both tonight and also had coffee with our daughter, Katie. Now I am trying to capture some of the magic in a slice of life story.
The afternoon was perfect for a few errands. I went on a little jaunt to a neighboring library to pick up a copy of Roses, our book club selection for July. I better get started it’s a thick book although all thumps are up for this one.
Before heading home I detoured to check out the summer sales. Can I help you find anything? My response ~ no thanks, I’m just browsing. Yes, I definitely spent some time browsing, meandering around, scoping out the bargains. Shopping is not often “my thing”, but every now and then it hits the spot. My favorite find today ~ a new bathing suit: black one piece. Simple and 40% off! YAY! Also found new swim trunks for Mark. Can’t wait for those high 80s this weekend!

Monday, June 28, 2010

List 1

Summer is here – happy reading!
1~ Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm. Eleven year old Turtle narrates the story of the summer of 1932 when she is sent to live with relatives in Key West, Fl. I fell in love with this character the way I fell in love with Opal, Ida B., Jack, and many others. These characters become beloved members of your classroom after you read their stories together. Turtle is a mix of sarcasm, spunk, and sensitivity. Through Turtle’s eyes readers get to know her mama whom she misses dearly and the relatives that she meets for the first time when she arrives on their doorstep. *****
2~ Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan. This is a short, but meaningful little book of inspiration. A fourth grade class works for several weeks with a visiting author. She brings new ideas about writing and in the end inspires both the students and their teacher. This is a good choice for anytime in the year, but especially valuable for kicking off writing workshop in the fall. I might do a little author study including other titles by MacLachlan such as All the Places to Love, Sarah Plain and Tall, and others.

Happy Summer!

Never mind the less than sunny skies, today was the first day of summer vacation here in western NY. Of course after a few weeks of neglect, there’s the usual catching up to do around the house and the summer projects that I am planning to tackle, but first things first. After much pondering and inspiration from dedicated bloggers, I have set a reading goal for the summer – a book a day. YAY! Lounging on my deck with a tall glass of iced tea and a good book has been my idea of a perfect summer day for years, but this year I want to do more to nourish my literacy life. I intend to read a variety of books - children’s literature on the lookout for reading and writing implications; novels for middle readers; professional books; and naturally some summer “beach reads.” Several times a week, at the very least, I am planning to post the titles and in many cases some follow-up thoughts.
As I continue to creep into the blogging world, summer will afford me the much coveted time to establish a regular routine for posting and managing my blog. That being said with more active involvement on my part I am looking forward to communicating with other bloggers. I am in awe of the generosity of bloggers like Amy at the Poetry Farm, Stacey & Ruth at Two Writing Teachers, Elaine at Wild Rose Reader, Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect and many more! I have learned so much in the few months I have been dabbling that has enriched my life. My students and I participated in the March Slice of Life challenge and April’s Poem a Day program. I love the routines like Monday Poetry Stretch and Poetry Friday Round-up. However, I am still very much a rookie. I welcome and appreciate any and all feedback. Many thanks!

Summer is here – happy reading!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Trying to Get Back in the Slicing Groove

Our students have eight days of school left, but who’s counting. With the nagging thoughts of what to keep on the to-do list and what I might have to let go, I reflect on the year. Oh no, we have a unit left in social studies…we haven’t worked enough on word study…or cursive...Is there ever really enough time? We have a chapter book to finish and several picture books that are must reads before next Wednesday.
In March, we all sliced the month away and learned so much about each other and ourselves as writers. This week, we are reviving that part of our writing lives in hopes to ignite a routine for notebook writing over the summer.
I suppose we have a decent list of accomplishments to balance out the list of inadequacies. My students are passionate readers and writers. They can spot powerful writing that makes one stop and say, “Wow, I wish I wrote that!” They are expert poets and simile writers. They know the names and can recognize the voice of many authors. They fell in love with India Opal, Bud, Crispin, Catherine, Joey Pigza, Jack, and many more book characters that we talk about like old friends. Several times now students have said to me, “You really should add this book to your summer reading list, Mrs. A. I think you would like it!” I haven’t had a chance to read many yet, but their suggestions look like winners. Also I loved their confidence and finesse for recommending good books.
This morning after the pledge as students settled down, I looked around to find students huddled in twos and threes over the latest National Geographic for Kids and other fascinating non-fiction selections. Others were flying solo, perusing poetry books and others were working on composing summer poems. Ahh...what a great place to start the day – in the garden with the soft steady buzz of the worker bees!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Freaking Out on Friday!

Ever since discovering the wide world of poetry and other writing blogs, I have so enjoyed “meeting” so many fabulous writers. They are amazingly generous; spreading their words out there like Miss Rumphius sprinkled her flowers to help make the world a beautiful place. (What a great name for one of my favorite blogs: http://missrumphiuseffect.blogspot.com/index.html.)

Most nights you can find me hunkered down with my laptop perusing my favorites and bookmarking more. The words I read stop me in my tracks, stay with me, make me think, and inspire me to want to write more. And as much as I try I still get stuck. This part of the experience has been an eye-opener for me; so many ah-ha moments. This is the feeling our students frequently experience. Now I get it. I am walking in their shoes, but thankfully I also have my teacher shoes that take me on adventures that will help me to help them. In the meantime, I will kept trekking the blogging trail and pulling out my tried and true writing resources. But most of all I need to write.

Tonight I took the advice I have read and often shared with my students – look around, write about the little things that catch your eye, the slices of your life, the things you wonder about, the things that make you laugh.

This is a common complaint towards the end of the week when there is nothing to eat in the house. This is when you have to look a little harder and be a little less choosy. Or maybe make the list and go shopping yourself. Hmm…wouldn’t that be a nice surprise? So I wrote a poem tonight dedicated to my hungry son who is staring in the refrigerator hoping something delicious appears on his plate.

"Freaking Out on Friday"
Bare spots in the cupboard
When are you going shopping?
Finish the cereal crumbs,
There’s nothing to eat!
The last bowl of salad,
When are you going shopping?
Dressing bottle stands on its head
There’s nothing to eat!
Get the last drop.
When are you going shopping?
Perhaps peanut butter toast
There’s nothing to eat!
Or scramble up
When are you going shopping?
The last few eggs,
There’s nothing to eat!
With the last drop of milk.
Add it to the list.
Grab the coupons
Time to go shopping.
There’s nothing to eat.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

NaPoWriMo Day 28

Last week I spent a couple of days visiting my sister, Lisa's family. My nieces and nephew are quite active. We went to each one of their soccer games. I captured some moments on film and am posting a list poem that needs something to bring it to life, but for now this is it.

Play your position
Winger – left and right
Spread out
Get the ball
Nice try
Great block
Striker steals the show
Shot on goal
Goalie leaps, but misses
~Mrs. Annello

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

To or Not to Plan ~ NaPoWriMo Day 27

Today we wondered-
Do writers always need to plan?
We pondered…hmm…
Some say sometimes-
Like essays on THE TEST.
It’s good to plan out what you want to write,
But sometimes I get carried away
And overdo it with the planning,
I should be writing.
Some say no, never
I just like to start writing
I don’t need a plan
If I have an idea,
When I start
One thing leads to another.
My story comes to life.
Turn to your notebook if you get stuck
A treasure chest
Collections ~
Favorite lines,
Favorite words,
Favorite memories.
So, can't we just write?

We had the greatest conversation today about the planning part of the writing process. Children are so insightful...why don't we ask for their feedback and reflections more often?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spring Sampler

Yesterday I spent some time in one of my favorite outdoor spots. Since is always a good spot to hunker down with a book, I thought I might be inspired to write. I had every intention of sticking with the Poetry Month challenge...one thing led to another and I fell behind. The sights and sounds of this scrumptious spring afternoon got the creative juices flowing. Here is a sampler platter of poems to make up for some of my absences - most definitely works in progress...

Tap, tap, tap
A gentle hammering
A child’s toy
A creaky door
Branches in a breeze
Tracking the tap
That sounds like cereal crackling in milk,
There it is
That red headed suet snacker.


Bully bird
in your bright blue uniform
please go away.
For if you stay,
others won’t.
Your noisy caw and flapping jaw
dominate and
shout out a blockade
to smaller troops
that flock to safer stations.


Fire engine show-off,
Crimson chatterer,
Crisp chirps call out
Look at me
In my new ruby red dress.


Fuzzy buzzy,
Ball of fur,
Stopping at azaleas for a sip or two.
Bumble bee
Happy hour.


Lovely ladies
In yellow bonnets.
Some side by side like a receiving line at a wedding.
Others mingle in crowds,
Spring’s welcoming committee
So happy to see you are back.


You chatter, bounce, and flitter
Snatch a seed and go.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring Evening

Lace up your sneaks,
Before the sun sinks down
And the temperature dips.
Let’s go this way.

Switch it up,
No more mundane Monday.
Kids gather and play.
Shout out a friendly greeting.

On this fine evening
You and me
Keeping pace,
It’s not a race.

Robins twitter and chirp,
Reminding us that
Spring is here.
Give a cheer!

I should be inspired to compose something tropical tonight. Writing to the music of a Kenny Chesney concert. Beautiful music! I often wonder what musical artists like him were like as students. Were they good writers? Did they like to write poems?

NaPoWriMo Poem 10

Early this evening, I perused the outdoors to capture some of spring's beauty on film and with words.

Sky painted clear blue
Birds chortle songs of delight
Trees dressed in green lace

Sunday, April 11, 2010

NaPoWriMo Poem 9

What a fabulously beautiful spring day! Actually the whole weekend was a winner. Blue sky days that you want to do over and over again. I love the laid back feeling of Sunday mornings. Lingering over a bottomless mug of coffee.
Perusing the newspaper. Working on report cards. Anything is more bearable in your pajamas when have your hands wrapped around a steaming mug of coffee.

I have a few days to catch up on, but here goes a Sunday selection.
Sunny day
Peeking through the curtain gap
Everything is fine
Fresh brewed java
Seeping up the staircase
Luring me
From the cozy covers
Wake up
Sleepy head
No worries
No rush
Grab a mug
And the news
Time to greet the morning

Thursday, April 8, 2010

NaPoWriMo Poem 8

This week we have been practicing for the N.Y.S. E.L.A assessments. One of my students whispered to me "Hey there is a poem in here!" He later shared that it was reassuring to see a poem was one of the five passages. This poem is dedicated to that special student.

Hey look,
There’s a poem in here,
He let out with a cheer
I feel comfort
In something familiar
Something shorter than prose
Something playful
Something funny
Something wondrous
Something new
Something lyrical
Something musical
Something wonderful
Something calming
Something cool
A sight for sore eyes!
Something for me
Hey look!

NaPoWriMo Poem 7

Starts as a slow simmer,
Momentum builds,
A speed skater,
A racecar,
A homerun hitter,
A breakaway,
A freight train.
Rumbling, bubbling,
like a pot of spaghetti sauce.
Reeling, wheeling, a rolling boil.
Surely something, someone
has a suggestion.
A sip of sunshine,
A dose of fresh air and movement.
Try soccer, baseball, tennis, or perhaps
A stroll in the park
A bike ride..
Deep breaths.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dazzling and delightful
Dressed for the dance
Singing out
We’re here
We’re back
Let’s celebrate
A brand new spring!

I truly have been obsessing about all things spring. In Rochester, we have recently had some bonus days in terms of the weather. It reminds me of a quote from a movie that I can't ever seem to remember the title for, but the family called the really good days "do over days."

However, I do plan on writing about other topics this month, but for now a little snippet on flowers that shout out spring to all!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Poem #4

"Spring is Here"

Open the windows,
Dust off your sandals,
Polish your toes.
The sun is shining,
Let's sing and dance.
Let's celebrate and cheer.
For the sky is blue,
The grass is green.
Daffodils announce
Spring is here.
We hope she will stay!

Poem # 3

It was a Haiku kind of day~

Early morning chatter
Songs of welcome and wonder

Friday, April 2, 2010

Poem # 2

Spring Fever
Spring Fever
Call the doctor
The nurse
On second thought
Why bother
There’s no cure
I know this for sure
Just wait for it to pass.
Perhaps some sun,
Or maybe some fun.
A walk, a stroll,
A hike in the park
Or even a picnic
Window washing
Gathering garden trash
Leftovers cluttering
Must make way for
New residents to bloom
The symptoms will wane
So too the pain
As spring fever subsides.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Poem #1 NaPoWrMo

“Side by Side”
Writing side by side,
Like flowers unfurling on a sunny day.
Like seeds in a spring garden
Nurtured and coaxed
Soon to brighten our path,
Blooming beauties standing proudly,
Side by side.

Words that bind us
Like the patchwork of a quilt,
Stitched together
Strong and sturdy
Wrapping us
in a warm blanket of wisdom.
Standing side by side.

Reading side by side,
Awestruck authors.
Stories of life.
Unwrapping surprises
Like gifts under the tree!
Celebrating side by side.

~ Theresa Annello

Hoping to sustain the momentum for writing after March's Slice of Life Story Challenge at http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/. I am signed up to participate in the April Poetry Project at http://www.napowrimo.net/.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Slice 31 Thoughts and Thanks!

As we close out March, I feel blessed to have been a part of the Slice of Life community of writers. Our hosts Ruth and Stacey really have something special going on. The dedication to our profession as educators, specifically in the area of writing enriches not only our lives, but the lives of our students. The continued excitement, enthusiasm, and effort of my students have spread like good news. They can’t wait to show off their slices and stamp their calendars each morning. Several students even expressed a bit of sorrow as they finished today’s entry. There is something about writing together that builds the sense of community. The feeling resembles that bond created through the sharing of a powerful book. Is it the common challenges we tackle or the accomplishments we celebrate together? I have always shared the belief that we are truly better teachers if we walk in the shoes of our students, especially in the area of literacy. We can genuinely model the behaviors of readers and writers if we have relevant background experiences to connect to our lessons. I am looking forward to moving forward on the momentum of March as we shower ourselves in a month of poetry. Thank you slicers! I am looking forward to Slicing on Tuesdays.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Slice 30
Like most school districts ours is facing the possibility of many lost jobs. The board hosted a community forum tonight and offered individuals the opportunity to share their thoughts. A large number of teachers and other staff members were in attendance with 50 or more signing in to have up to three minutes at the podium. I was impressed with the outpouring of support for the work we do with children. Many brave students spoke quite eloquently about their experiences and concerns. Our hearts were moved and many eyes glazed over listening to the stories they told about the relationships teachers, counselors, and coaches have built with them. I certainly would not want to be in the shoes of our superintendent and school board as they surely can’t escape the reality of proposals that have a significant impact on human lives. We have staff that cares deeply about children and children that are truly connected to the adults that are devoted to helping them meet their potential. Here’s to the hope that we can listen and learn and remember to put children first.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Birthday Slice

What a fitting way to end my birthday – with a conversation with my beloved mom. Really once you have children their birthdays become much more special. So I know why her gifts always arrive on time and she always calls on birthdays wishing we could have spent the day together. In July, mom will celebrate her 70th. I would like to plan to make it memorable for her.

My husband and daughters took me to dinner tonight. Each of the girls spoiled me with treats that they knew I would love, but really it’s the gift of time. I know it’s corny, but whenever they ask what I would like I respond, “Your presence is my present.” I have an IOU from my husband for kayaks, YAY!. If we have to grow old, how blessed we are to have loved ones to share the journey and build the memories together.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Slice 28 Testing

I had a thought provoking conversation with a parent this evening. She was curious about the use of tests and quizzes this year. Having heard that 4th grade was a big year for testing, she is surprised that there has not been more of this type of assessment throughout the year. This year we have made the switch from percentage grades to performance indicators. It is definitely a time of transition for teachers. We need to develop more rubrics and checklists to support this new format and to provide feedback on student progress. We have had several unit tests and quizzes, but are putting a greater emphasis on day to day performance and observation. I discussed the importance of ongoing assessment that helps us to best meet the needs of our students. Frequently, unit exams test a rather large amount of material requiring a significant amount of memorization of facts. Is this rigor? Do children who are tested more, learn more? Of course, I am now reflecting on my belief system. Am I doing enough to challenge students? Am I holding them accountable? Must a worksheet be completed to gauge understanding? Isn’t it important to instill a love of learning, to foster a sense curiosity and a “can do” attitude? I feel that it is also important to teach children the value of a strong work ethic and provide opportunities to work cooperatively with others.
It is evident that I need to digest all of this in order to organize my thoughts to better explain my philosophy on assessment. Like I often do I will gather some mentor texts to assist me. Please share your thoughts and suggestions.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Slice 27 Saturday Delights

Teach us delight in simple things. ~ Rudyard Kipling

Saturday Delights

Waking to a fresh pot of coffee
Bird song serenade
Fresh flowers
Extra exercise time
A walk in the noonday sun
Catching up with a school friend
Spring cleaning
Weeding out the old
Boxing up donations
Clearing the clutter – the material and the mental
Nails painted ready for new peep-toe shoes
Borders on a baby quilt
White veggie pizza
Comfy sweats and slipper socks
Funny photos
Clean laundry
Love and laughter

Time to curl up with my book ~ ahhh … simple delights.

slice 26 Friday Nights

I feel like a student turning in a late assignment. So….here’s my story ~ like most Friday nights, we went out to dinner. We rarely go out during the week, especially in the winter months, but come Friday it’s either order pizza and wings or head out for a bite. Last night after perusing around for something different, we decided on a new venue. I remembered reading about the old firehouse that was renovated and opened in the fall. Their menu was posted on-line and looked inviting. Not only do I love going out to eat, I also love to try somewhere new and support the business venture of a local person. When we arrived, there was a 45 minute wait. No problem, pager in hand, off to the bar we went. This actually is my favorite part of an evening out – the lingering, chatting, anticipating, people watching, sipping wine time. The waiting time is even better when the outdoor dining season begins. Once the locals open up their decks and patios, the prerequisite of restaurant selection is, do they have outdoor seating? Our hungry companions spotted a couple finishing up at a pub table, therefore our wait was much shorter than originally expected. We started off with delectable artichoke spinach spread on French bread – a double serving and wine would have sufficed as dinner for me. However, we ordered and our dinners were quite tasty. The bonus for me is salad and leftover chicken for lunch today – yummy.
Still I haven’t really explained the reason for my delinquent post. Two glasses of wine at dinner and a seat on the couch when we got home was like a lullaby for a sleepy baby. Laptop settled on my lap of course, the plan was writing before snoozing. It didn’t happen. One of these days the laptop is going to roll off my lap! Cheers to Friday nights!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Early on Day 25

I am posting earlier than usual because tonight is our TV night and I may not consume enough caffeine to keep me going later. My daughter K. and I have looked forward to our Thursday night tradition for quite awhile. When she moved out last year I knew I was going to miss having her around on a regular basis and yes I do, but we are blessed to have her and her husband living nearby. K. also values our Thursday night ritual and usually comes home to watch our shows, but tonight she wants me to go to her place. So I will slip on some comfy shoes over my slipper socks and be on my way. Even though I often long for the days of younger years I treasure our time together and new traditions.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Slice #24 Only One More Week...

“Hey, we only have one more week in March,” commented several students as they were stamping their calendars. I am so glad that I decided to give this project a whirl. Each morning at arrival time students are eager to show me their notebooks and record their accomplishments with a stamp on individual calendars. About half of my 24 fourth graders are on the path to 100% participation for the month of March. Certainly, we can celebrate increased interest and excitement to nourish our writing lives.
One frustration I have is the struggle to read all of their slices. Or is that even a realistic goal? My quest to improve writing instruction seems to be a journey with no end in sight. I suppose that is not necessarily a problem. As teachers, we really are life-long learners on the prowl for new and improved ideas. What is the best plan for a routine that includes a conferencing schedule and better/timely feedback for my students? I have experienced the value of feedback as I receive comments from my fellow slicers. The sense of community here at Two Writing Teachers is powerful and motivating. I also feel like I am developing a better understanding and appreciation for the struggles of writers.
The slicing project and the conversations that it has generated in the classroom have also enhanced our classroom community. Students are taking new risks, seem to feel more positive about writing in general, and are excited to share their writing. This week, my glimpses into their writing have also led to some new mini lessons on voice. More thoughts later in the week…

Slice 23 No Matter What

I have really loved all the stages of development that our children have gone through. Although the sleepless nights, ear infections, terrible twos, etc. seemed to be the toughest as we were living them. Then you realize later with bigger children come bigger problems, but also great joys! I miss the days when the voices of children were filling the house and the yard…You really do blink and turn around one day to find them all grown up.
One of the things I miss the most is reading aloud to a cuddly little person snuggled up close. I started a new book collection this past weekend when K and I were browsing – books for snuggling up with grandchildren (no I don’t have any yet, but it seemed like a good thing to prepare for ahead of time.) I fell in love with a couple titles that I could not resist: No Matter What by Debi Gliori and by On the Night You Were Born Nancy Tillman. I may even read the first title to my son who may need a reminder that in spite of bumps in the road I still love him - “my love never wears out, breaks, or bends.“ When I read it I was reminded of some wise advice I got many years ago, that when our children are the most unlovable they need our love the most. This has stuck with me and helped me to love no matter what!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Today my students typed up their color poems on Microsoft Word. When we have them posted to our class website I will include a link. In the meantime, here is my first attempt with one of my favorite colors:

Yellow is a new day
Yellow can be playful like a babbling baby
Yellow is a treasured medal,
A sunflower standing tall and proud.
Yellow can be the center of attention,
Or a daisy’s middle.
Yellow smells like the snack counter at the movie theater.
Yellow is slippery and tasty on your ear of corn.
It leaves a puddle in your mashed potatoes.
Yellow flits and dances
Showing off a new spring outfit.
Yellow is the kind of day
That you want to all over again!

My students and I have fallen in love with Red Sing From Treetops. They have responded very positively to Joyce Sidman's poetry and were inspired to write poems that really are much better than mine.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Procrastinating for a Bit

Grading papers is not my favorite task. I love every part of the school day and the planning for lessons, but procrastinate terribly when it comes to correcting. Not sure why, but once I get started I am fine. I sat down at the sunny end of the couch this afternoon with several Reader’s Notebooks and for the most part was delighted with their entries/letters. Some students continue to write primarily a retelling of their recent reading, but most reveal a solid understanding. Isn’t this an objective for utilizing reader’s response? As much as I enjoy chatting with my students about their reading, we need another means of communication. This is also a major component of our NYS ELA assessments. A goal for many of our readers is to think beyond the text to make deeper meaning. While it may seem like a slow process, extensive modeling and guided practice are transferring more frequently to independent reading. A couple weeks ago my heart was warmed when one of my students was so relaxed during a benchmark assessment that she previewed the text, made predictions, stopped along the way to “think out loud” and was very reflective during the follow-up discussion. WOW ~ what more could I have hoped for! I better stop procrastinating and get back to the notebooks. Would love to hear from others on the use of Reader’s Notebooks. Do you vary the assignments? How do you assess them? Rubrics?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Browsing for Books

Our daughters love children’s literature as much as I do and are excited to fill their bookshelves. Of course I am delighted that we have this common passion. Our oldest daughter, Lys already has a knack for selecting just the right book for her student teaching lessons. Her younger sister, Katie creatively incorporates picture books as part of her occupational therapy sessions.
This afternoon, we headed out to take advantage of Educator Appreciation Week at one of our favorite bookstores. If you have one nearby it’s worth a visit during this event. We picked up lots of freebies – calendars, posters, bookmarks, literature guides, small books, cookies, and samples of a delectable coffee drink. For the next hour or so we browsed- first in new adult fiction where I started gathering titles for summer reading. Then we trotted over to the children’s area to peruse the selections. This is where we really had fun. We volleyed back and forth with “Hey this looks good” or “Read this one, I love it!” At one point I had several books that I was not familiar with found a sitting spot and determined that most of these books needed to go home with us. We worked our way to the line, each with a few treasures, although my treasure was walking by my side.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Power of Poetry

It’s funny not funny ha ha, but interesting how a task can transform into a lifeline , a routine that sustains us. I felt that way about walking and other exercise. At first I dreaded it. Then I tolerated it as something that was good for me. Eventually it was something I looked forward to; I needed it; it sustained me.
Perhaps, now I am taking the turn with writing. The past week, I have had some bumps in the road. I usually find comfort in the routine of the school day, long walks with my dog, Grace and this evening writing is giving me a feeling of solace (evidenced by a much earlier post time, not that anyone besides me notices.)
Trying to see the glass as half full, I am going to share a high point of my day. Today my students wrote fabulously beautiful color poems inspired by this year’s Cybil’s 2009 Poetry winner. Twice recently, I have read about Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. Most recently, Stacey’s from TwoWritingTeacher.com wrote about color and poetry in yesterday’s post. A few years ago I had used a different book as inspiration for color poems around St. Patrick’s Day, so I decided to tweak today’s plans and have some fun with this new title. I recalled seeing this book displayed in our reading teacher’s room and sure enough she was ready to loan it out.
Poetry is like a magic potion. At just the right moment it reminds me of all the reasons I love being a teacher. With only a short period of time to write we had to break for lunch and could not return to writing for close to two hours with lunch and special back to back. Fresh eyes and a short time later, we gathered around our meeting area to share. All, but 5 students (all boys, interesting…) shared heartfelt words related to favorite colors. There were surprising comparisons, vivid descriptions and adjectives that awakened our senses. Monday we will revisit and type them in color to create our own classroom color anthology.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Each of my children holds a special place in my heart. My own children each have a big piece that was theirs since the day they were born. Somehow the same children that fill your heart can also leave it feeling empty. It’s like the space left behind by a lost tooth that you constantly notice and have trouble getting used to. You know eventually the hole will be filled in with a new tooth.

I can’t remember exactly how it goes, but I am also thinking of the quote about giving your children roots and wings. Yes, this is our wish as parents and even to a certain extent as teachers. We hope to instill a sense of commitment, a strong work ethic, and a passion for life long learning. I also read a lovely little poem tonight that spoke to my heart. Click here to read it: http://myjuicylittleuniverse.blogspot.com/2010/03/signed-sealed-delivered.html. Feeling rather emotional tonight and having trouble finding the right word...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Slice 17 ~ Writing Inspiration

How can I regenerate interest and ideas for writing? Sometimes literally walking away from writing is helpful. Going for a walk with my dog, Grace, especially on a fabulously glorious day like today, clears my mind. I click on the iPod, hit shuffle and we are off. I may mull over the moments of a school day or soak in my surroundings.
Other times I may read for awhile. Thank you slicers for thought-provoking and inspiring words. Last night’s writing stemmed from a connection to Ruth’s slice. Therefore, today when a student shared his dilemma in selecting a moment to write about, we paused to discuss this as a class. He felt that many of his slices were similar and it was getting boring. One of the girls suggested we get a jar for slips of paper with story prompts or ideas. Hmmm…not so sure I want to do that or maybe I should. At home and in the classroom, I love surrounding myself with photos, poems, quotes, books, flowers, music and much more for inspiration. We collaged our notebooks in the fall and have lists of ideas, but Slice of Life stories are different and still relatively new to us.
So anyway, back to the dilemma. Today I offered students the option of swapping notebooks to read a few slices and offer a short response on a post-it note. Tomorrow we have to discuss this process for those students that participated in the swap. We still have at least half of the class that has written all 17 days so far and I don’t want to lose them.
On Friday, I shared the theme from http://missrumphiuseffect.blogspot.com/. Last week, it was travel and this week it is something flowery. Each student received copies of a couple “travel “poems (mentor texts of inspiration.) Students may choose to write in different genres and several love writing poems. Thus far many turn out to be journal entries. I would be delighted to hear your thoughts or ideas. How do you feel about offering prompts? Thanks!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Going for the Gold Slice 16

I am posting a slice I originally wrote on February 24th when I was introducing slice of life stories. I had first introduced the idea the day before. We did a quick write about our day filling in a 3x5 card with one thought leading to the next. I was hoping that this would help demonstrate the idea that any little moment could lead to a Slice of Life Story. That night I was watching the Olympics, the song below inspired the following slice. After reading Ruth’s slice “My Playlist” I was thinking of the power of music and how writing inspiration is all around us, if we live with our eyes and ears wide open.

“Going for the Gold”
by the Canadian Tenors
“Your moment is here
Set aside your fears
For it’s time to make
It through the
Finish line.”

This was part of a song that accompanied a recap of Olympic highlights (I am fairly certain that I have the title and musical group correct.) The film clips featured the joyful reactions and pride of the athletes at the finish line. The finish line for hockey is the goalie area where teammates gather for hugs, high fives, and head taps. For figure skaters, perhaps it’s the final spin. I’m not really sure. The events are engaging and exude high levels of heartfelt emotion and energy.
As my daughter, Lys and I chatted about the excitement, we spoke of the high level of commitment. These athletes play their hearts out. They bring their A-game. They go for the gold. They reach for the stars. Shoot for the moon. Follow their dreams…
As I continue to live by these same principles and strive to model and instill a strong work ethic in my students, my dream is that they will go for the gold. In March, will the Slice of Life Story challenge inspire our writing lives…I can’t wait to slice into the pie and celebrate new discoveries! The sky is the limit! Dream big!