Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
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
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
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
Teach us delight in simple things. ~ Rudyard Kipling
Waking to a fresh pot of coffee
Bird song serenade
Extra exercise time
A walk in the noonday sun
Catching up with a school friend
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
Love and laughter
Time to curl up with my book ~ ahhh … simple delights.
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
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
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…
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
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
Saturday, March 20, 2010
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
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
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
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”
by the Canadian Tenors
“Your moment is here
Set aside your fears
For it’s time to make
It through the
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!
Monday, March 15, 2010
The urge to get organized is also nagging at me. Starting tomorrow I am going to try some of Ruth’s suggestions from her post last week, titled “Take a Few Minutes to Organize.” I especially loved the suggestion to set a timer for certain tasks breaking the big daunting job of organizing into manageable pieces. I know that inside of me is an organized person dying to get out. Is this person also the one that needs a bit more sleep? Are really organized people morning people? Or do they burn the candle at both ends? Probably not…that usually describes me and I have already shared my need for more order in my life. Enough said!
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Last night brought back great memories as Nance and I sipped wine and tried to change our losing streak in Euchre. While life has changed and I often long for the old traditions, we can be comforted in the fact that we need to keep working on our card playing strategies. Our traditions are alive and well, just a little different. Change is ok and life is good. We are blessed with friendship and laughter. Our oldest daughter joined us tonight for a bit and we know that when they are able the rest still treasure our pizza nights together.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Ten Happy Moments
Chatting with my son, N.
Happy hour with school friends
Walking in the sunshine
Listening to Lys’s student teaching stories.
Writing with my students
Reading their writing
New brakes in my Honda
Pizza on the couch with Mark
Watching the hockey game with N.
Thursday night shows with my daughter, K.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
I like to use poetry often throughout the year so the students are comfortable with poems and are actually quite fond of reading and writing short pieces. Poetry is a popular genre with young writers. Poems are like those short quilting projects that offer a quick turn-around time and almost instant gratification. They are wonderful little treasures that are sometimes forgotten. Poems are volunteer fluency mentors ready and willing to lend a hand. So I am going to dig out my overflowing folder of poems that I have snipped, copied, or typed and select some favorites to share. I also need to visit one of my favorite poetry blogs, http://missrumphiuseffect.blogspot.com/ to read about the week's poetry stretch. This poetry feature is often appropriate to use with young writers and a fun way to play with words. There is much more to think about, but for now "Cheers to good books, poetry, and mentor texts."
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Tomorrow afternoon, our 4th grade team and support staff will meet collaboratively to discuss the results of our assessments. I am looking forward to the conversations and support from colleagues in terms of literacy growth. As teachers I feel like we tend to spend a great deal of time flying solo. Sure we discuss upcoming units, share materials, and map out general plans, but how often do we have the opportunity to delve deeply into our craft. I am looking forward to the opportunity to look at best practices and how to apply this knowledge to meet the needs of our students.
My group is pretty typical in that students’ instructional levels, strengths, and needs are quite varied. Naturally, I have a handful of students that are reading below grade level that I need to meet with four to five times a week to strengthen decoding and fluency while also working on comprehension strategies. On the other hand, I have students that can decode pretty much anything they pick up with solid comprehension within the text. What are the next steps to help them dive in to deeper meaning?
For my fellow elementary teachers, surely this all sounds familiar to you. The buzz words in education, the common challenges we face with the unique needs of our learners, the nights on the couch covered in a blanket of papers…and so on. I noticed that today’s mail included the latest issue of American Teacher with the cover article titled “Better Together.” The Iroquois figured this out over 200 years ago when they formed the League of Nations. Ben Franklin and other wise colonists urged the colonies to come together to build a land of liberty. This theme is important in my classroom this year more than ever before as I have switched from individual desks to tables with teams of six students working together. Dave Matthews sings about it in “You and Me” a wonderful song from the Big Whiskey CD. Well I had best post before the clock chimes…One last thought…isn’t this another example of the power of working together here at Two Writing Teachers sharing our stories.
Monday, March 8, 2010
…the dreaded question, especially on a weeknight. Don’t get me wrong I love to cook. I just struggle with ideas when I get in the dinner rut.
The good part tonight is that I pondered the answer before I stood in the kitchen staring at our options. So I stopped for a loaf of fresh bread. I remember the fresh veggies in the refrigerator. There are always spices in the cabinet, along with pasta and bam a pretty good meal, maybe a little heavy on the carbs, but not bad for a Monday night.
Chop, chop on the cutting board-onions, portabella mushrooms, and some broccoli tossed in a little olive oil and we are on our way. Don’t forget the garlic, a splash of white wine, salt, pepper, and a few other spices. The aroma is enticing and it looks good. A small taste, a bit more seasoning and I’m satisfied with my concoction. In comes my husband Mark, who like Emeril prefers to kick it up a notch even after I think there is already a zip to it. According to him, “It needs something.” We find a can of tomatoes, but I am a little apprehensive about the HOT on the label. There are chilies in the tomatoes. I start with half the can and can smell the spiciness, but it has thickened up the vegetable mixture nicely. “Dump in the whole can,” urges Mark. “Bam, it sure has some zip now!” Mark loved it. Bread definitely helped balance the HOT. He thinks the leftover veggies would be great on pizza. Yes, we have the answer to tomorrow’s inquiry, “What’s for dinner?” Maybe Emeril will do the cooking tomorrow!
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Well I do love reading all the slices and as often happens, I ended up on a detour or two. It is so interesting to check out the other blogs that the slicers are following. It is comforting to see that many of us share similar challenges with students, families, health, exercise, etc. and balancing it all. I am like the moose and the muffin…one click of the mouse gets me further from where I started.
I am an avid reader and there are so many good books to read. I have a stack to read for pleasure and a constantly growing tower of books that my students are reading. My daughter was surprised that I haven’t read all the books in my classroom library…I wish I could keep up, but I can’t resist adding new ones. Next week, we have a buy one get one Scholastic sale at our school. Irresistible! The number of incredible blogs devoted to children’s literature blows my mind too. I think that I am most amazed by the time people devote to sharing their expertise and passions.
One of my detours led me to fabulous blogs and websites about quilting, another passion of mine. As much as I love perusing all these blogs, this week I need to spend some time each evening in my sewing room. I know I feel much better after cultivating my creativity.
More thoughts on balance in a future slice.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
A sunny Saturday ~ ahhh…so nice. Spring is flirting with us, but the chilly breeze is a reminder that old man winter is still hanging on. Clearly, Grace and I needed a walk in the sunshine today. So, about 4:00 before the sun started to set, we bundled up (a little lighter today, no scarf) and off we went on our almost daily jaunt. Neighbors – young, old, and furry ones too emerge like bears from hibernation, hungry for vitamin C and fresh air. I haven’t seen this many neighbors since Halloween! I’m thinking before long we will be breaking out the sandals and capris and working in our gardens. Spring fever in the northeast!
Thursday, March 4, 2010
The first moment was during reading, I was working on mid-year reading assessment with a Kaleigh. She soared through the first one with excellent accuracy and solid understanding. On to the next level – no problem. What pleased me the most was how hard she worked and how at ease she was previewing the cover, wondering, and thinking out loud. The formal running records do not solicit these behaviors from readers. Kaleigh very confidently and smoothly read the passage. Throughout the comprehension discussion, she looked back in the text for passages of supporting evidence, yet another solid behavior that the administrator can not encourage. In October grade levels met to discuss the results of our most concerning readers. When we get together next week, I will proudly share Kaleigh’s story of growth!
Working with Andrew during math today reminded me that each student progresses at his or her own rate and baby steps need to be celebrated. Numbers often do not make sense to Andrew, but he works hard and has been making steady progress. Today students were playing a game called Close to 1,000. I was working with a small group that included Andrew. After a few turns I sent one student off to another group as he was ready for the independence. The other two boys and I continued together. I was so proud of his efforts and attention to detail. The numbers were making sense to Andrew today and he too shined with pride, priceless!
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
My first slice… I updated my class calendar, noticed the air seemed a bit warmer this evening and it was also light out well beyond 6:00. March, the month that features the first day of spring! Well, the calendar will declare the start of the new season. New Yorkers know that “Mother Nature” does not always cooperate, stalling like a stubborn toddler refusing to share his or her toys.
Even so, we are in the homestretch, the final laps of winter. A straggling snowstorm that arrives like a pimple on prom night will surely not last for long. Today I noticed that the snowbanks are shrinking and slipping back from the driveway and roadways. My neighbor’s snowman is now headless after several days of looking more like the Leaning Tower of Pisa than Frosty.
The days of March will certainly be blustery and roar like a lion at times, but in the meantime, I will slice towards spring!
*Posted on twowritingteachers.wordpress.com on Monday, March 1st
Today my life was enriched by two future teachers. This morning, we welcomed an enthusiastic education, major I’ll call Kay, who will be completing 50 hours of field work in our classroom. This is my first experience working with a college student, but seeing I am in my ninth year of teaching I feel like it’s my turn to give back to the profession. Well, already I can see that my students and I will clearly be the receiving end too. Kay clicked with the children in a warm, natural way. The little bits of time her and I had to chat was ready to soak it all in like a giant sponge.
My oldest daughter, Lys is so close to being a teacher she can taste it. Soon she will be finishing up her first student teaching placement. I know I am maybe a little biased, but Lys is a natural teacher. Her reflections are insightful, she notices things, understands children, and her enthusiasm is so inspiring to me. I love sharing our school stories at the end of the day. Tonight Lys is getting her plans in order for a writing lesson that her college supervisor will observe. It sounds engaging and balanced with the components of a great lesson.
Thanks ladies for making my day!