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

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!

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Few Things to Say On Monday! Slice 15

I have just a few things to write about as I am posting dangerously close to 11:59...It’s official. Winter is over now that I have finally tucked away the last snowman of my collection. Clearly I am way overdue at this task. And I definitely welcome the tidier look and feeling of spring. Less clutter, lighter, brighter colors, and flowers on the table. Yes, when spring fever sets in, fresh flowers are soothing like chicken soup. The only way to keep the fever in check is to keep bouquets in the house until there are flowers in the garden.
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

Just Listen! Slice 14

Listen. This advice I have received from my wise friend, Sue and my husband, Mark. Yet somehow I forgot this today when my son was venting about his job. I don’t think I really said anything wrong, but gave my opinion. Big mistake! Why couldn’t I have just listened, maybe nodded and offered a “hmm” or two? How long will it take me to remember this with our children? Is it that I feel the need to fix everything or turn it into a learning experience? N. is 19 years old, not quite independent, but learning and breaking away more all the time. He needs affirmation, encouragement, and support. So until the next time I slip and undoubtedly choose the wrong words, I will remember the quote we had on our refrigerator for a long time: We have two ears and one mouth. Therefore, we should listen twice as much as we talk. Not a bad idea to keep in mind in our classrooms. With students we must also choose our words carefully as we ask the questions that generate reflection and discussion. Then it is time to listen!

Traditions Slice 13

Family traditions – Sometimes they change and we long for the past. Sometimes they change and after time passes we get used to the new way of doing things. Sometimes we realize it’s actually pretty good. This all sounds very vague and confusing. The connection for me was tonight we had a pizza and wing night with our closest friends, Nance and John. We have been doing this for at least 15 years together. When our children were young, we alternated houses for many years on Friday nights. As lives got busier, we were flexible with our plans and did our best to accommodate everyone. Breaks from college always included a pizza night reunion, but weeks and months now pass without a get together. The adults will occasionally go out to dinner or during boating season we might grab lunch on the lake.
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

Posting on Friday night is tough. I need to give it go earlier next week. I actually fell asleep and typed three rows of e’s.

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

Early Bird Special

Shoppers know the best deals are found at early bird specials. The northeast is currently enjoying an early bird special in the weather department and oh what a deal. Delirious students blast out the doors gasping for fresh air. I almost trip on a stack of coats that are being shed like snake skins. The balls have lost a little of their bounce and roll straight for the mud, but no one really minds. Footballs are hurled to and fro with an occasional miss that also ends in the muck. Tiptoeing and stretching carefully, a brave soul has retrieved the ball. Jump ropes are twirling with catchy jingles in the background. Here and there a few quieter kids pair off for a relaxed stroll in the sunshine. Teachers mingle trying to chat a bit while keeping an eye on the early birds. What a great March bargain ~ I’ll take it!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Thoughts on Reading and Writing Fluency

We all know that reading and writing go together like peanut butter and jelly, bacon and eggs, or cookies and milk. Students who are strong in one area tend to have a good handle on the other. Ask most writers for advice and read often is on the top of most lists. Tonight I am also thinking about the importance of fluency for our growing readers. As I reflect on my students’ strengths and areas of need, it seems that the students who struggle to communicate their written message also have significant weaknesses in fluency. Neither comes easily to these learners. One of the girls copied an article titled: “Fluency- “The Forgotten Reading Strategy” for us to peruse…some good ideas and reminders.
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

Better Together

It is time to take a break from analyzing recent reading assessments. I sat down on the couch with my stack of Benchmark Assessments and a steaming mug of java around 8:00. Okay a couple little breaks - a trip to the kitchen to refill my cup and a stop in the bathroom, a quick phone call with my daughter, and a few glimpses at the TV. When my husband turned in for the night I switched to Pandora radio and some DMB.
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

What's for Dinner?

What’s for Dinner?
…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

Slice #7 Blogging Detours

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 muffinone 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 libraryI 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

Spring Fever in the Northeast!

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!


TGIF ~Thank god it’s Friday. Started the day off on the wrong side of the bed and I am ending it frantically trying to complete today’s slice. I made the mistake of dozing off for a bit. My husband and I stopped picked up a pizza on the way home. So we then settled down to watch the hockey game while we ate. I made it through a period and maybe half of the next one. I find Friday night’s I am often wiped out. Perhaps burning the candle at both ends has caught up with me. Speaking of that, I am planning an early start tomorrow since we are expecting another sunny day. Today was a gloriously sunny day that was screaming spring. Several students wrote spring poems this week. One in particular was very clever. The title alone Winter Chasing Spring really fit the weather we are having this week as the snow from last Friday quickly melts. I am working on one titled spring is Knocking on Winter’s door. Friday may have started on a bumpy road, but as I reflect on the week I am so very proud of my students’ participation in the SOLS challenge. I think most will write this weekend even though the weekends are optional in our class. I can’t wait to find out. Not only do we have a rapidly spreading case of Spring Fever we have the writing fever!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Day 4 Slice of Life

I was especially proud of two of my students today. Neither are the “stars” of the classroom, but more like slow, steady turtles –and today I know they were glowing like candles on a birthday cake! Do I recognize this often enough?
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

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

Excited About Teaching Slice #3

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!