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

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cheers to a Poet Friend

I will be dashing home the next two days looking for a very special package. The Amazon box containing Forest Has a Song with poems by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, illustrated by Robin Gourley is on it's way! I may have actually ordered it twice, but that is even better, since I know how popular it will be in our classroom. Today I gave each student a lovely bookmark from Amy that features a poem from the book, with the promise that there will be more in a couple days!

I first met Amy three years ago when she presented at a Rochester Area Literacy Council event and ever since that wonderful morning, I have been a huge Amy fan. She has mentored around 75 fourth graders and their teacher in so many ways. The only thing better than having her blog to guide us as readers and writers, would be having Amy teach in your classroom. Her blog is that good! If you have never visited, stop reading this and follow the link to the Poem Farm.  Amy continues to give so much to enrich our literacy lives, so today I toast Amy from afar and celebrate this special day when Forest Has a Song is born! Cheers to author and illustrator.
The peeks that I have seen and the images on the book trailer are a perfect companion to the beautiful words singing on each page. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Not My Year

This is my third year participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge. The first two years, I managed to write for the committed 31 days or pretty close. Not this year.  I still love the challenge and even more,  I love this warm and caring community of writers.  When I read and learn about the full lives of others in this community, I scold myself for neglecting the commitment.  I have good intentions, but clearly need more than that (a swift kick...) to accomplish a goal.  Perhaps, I should tackle the regular routine with shorter posts....we'll see. I am trying, but once I get started I tend to be long winded!

So, to summarize...

I'll try not to whine.
But surely won't shine.
Nor will I blame.
But hang my head in shame.
Not for too long,
For pouting will only prolong.
I'll grab my favorite pen
and write once again
I will try to linkup
I will not give up.

Thank you Carol, for offering me the encouragement to jump back on board earlier in the month when I strayed. I am taking your advice and the encouraging advice we give to our student writers.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Waiting for the Buses

Wondrous Words

Dismissal time can be tricky to manage with a variety of interruptions that often begin when instruction is still finishing up. Once the announcements begin the calm seeps out of the room.  An elementary classroom can seem like a busy airport terminal with travelers racing to catch their planes.  Several students are picked up for activities "we can't be late for!" To which I wish to reply, "How can you be late when it is actually still part of the school day?"  Others are dismissed for school clubs.  After these groups depart, there is anywhere from ten to fifteen students left to wait a bit longer.  Hence, the "End of the Day" drawer: card games, word games, Rush Hour, Story Cubes, and a few others. Bananagrams is a one of our favorite end of the day activities. Kids know I love to play games and am especially fond of word games, so packing up and tidying up goes into high gear to make time for a round of word making. After several attempts at making the most of this hectic time of the day, I believe we have found a keeper! 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Looking for Spring ~ SOLS 11

Hey,  it's supposed to be March!
Surely this must be a mistake.
I know the reputation of this windy month,
but at the moment the roaring lion
seems extra fierce.
I did not pack for wicked winter weather.
 This blowing and
snowing has me puzzled.
Perhaps a protected place in the pines or
a hiding place under the Honda
Old Man Winter

This afternoon, I was bundling up for a walk with my dog, Grace and I spotted my first robin of the season. She was all fluffed up, bundled up in her downy coat huddled near the front porch.  For several moments, this robin gazed out at the swirling snow. It was as if she could not believe her eyes.  Spring stopped by a couple times recently. I hope she comes back soon and stays put. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Collector or Pack Rat ~ SOLS 10

How does one know if she is a pack rat? Even after all these years, she thought it was simply some items she liked to collect. It's not like she saves piles of things because they seem like something could be made with them. Items like Altoids tins, empty thread spools, or wine corks. Hey, I've seen some pretty neat bulletin boards.

I actually made one! 

Right now it's the magazine collections that have me thinking it's time to take action. I have occasionally sat down with scissors to sift through a stack searching for snippets to save.  But some of my magazines are too precious to clip apart. I have every issue of Quilt Sampler magazine featuring beautiful shops, inspiring stories with accompanying quilt patterns. Thankfully it is only published a few times a year. I have also been dipping into my fabric stash limiting my purchases until I absolutely need supplies for a specific project, except for my current collecting: alphabet fabrics and batiks. What for, you might ask? Not sure yet. Just collecting!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Table Talk ~ SOLS 9

The heart of our home.
This picture would have looked much different had I snapped it this morning. By the end of many weeks, our kitchen table is the keeper of piles: mail, newspaper, keys, and perhaps a baseball cap tossed there by our son, Nathan.  Both Nathan and my husband believe the chairs are really coat racks. Clearly, some tidying took place today.

I put away some winter quilts and decorations and decided on this hand quilted pinwheel table runner, a gift from my dear friend Nancy. Puttering around today I was thinking about all the living that has taken place around this table.  It's where we start the day with coffee.  It's the gathering place for dinner. It's often the game table. We have played heaps of Euchre games, Rummy, and Bananagrams. It used to be the homework spot. There may even be traces of children's hand writing etched in the wood. We made some fabulous crafts at this table. Decorated dozens of cutout cookies, sipped on coffee, toasted with wine, and slid over extra chairs when we gathered with our neighbors for Friday pizza night. We have often joked that sitting around the kitchen table is like Vegas. You can confide, vent, cry, or mend differences, but you always can trust that what happens at the table stays at the table.  Here's to many more memories made at the kitchen table.

Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more Slice of Life Stories and the March writing challenge.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thankful on Thursday

SOLS #8 

Today I am grateful
to teach and learn
alongside my incredible school family
young and old.

Today I am grateful for Math Workshop with
Capture the Fractions, "Just like war with fractions cards."
The nodding heads and gleaming eyes that whisper, "I get it now."
Students listening and learning from one another.

Writers settling in,  but..."Not until we put on the piano music."
Writers sharing and responding thoughtfully.
"I like the way you..." "Your piece has lots of details..."
Writers revising and publishing...."How does this word sound?"

Readers eager for Book Club time.
Time to share thinking about Sistine and Rob,
To chat about Catherine, David, & Jason,
To ponder Aaron's arrival and Tess's reaction.

Readers' enthusiasm, even for ELA practice passages! (Surprising, right?)
Looking back,
Marking-up text,
Stopping and jotting.

Musicians moving up to band
proudly packing their instruments
Setting up for an impromptu performance
proudly playing for their classmates.

Tonight I am thankful for
Pizza baking in the oven
Dinner with my boys.
Coffee time too.

An extraordinarily ordinary day
So many blessings.

A first draft, a rough draft, some rambling on a tired, but thankful Thursday night.  TGIF (almost.)

Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more on the March Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Every Picture Tells a Story

"Talking about my thinking helps me understand."
words from a wise 4th grader named Katie
March 13, 2013

A Slice of My Day 
 Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more on the March Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Slice of Morning

Journeying Writing my way through March. Not exactly meeting the goal of the challenge, but not giving up! Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more on the March Slice of Life Story Challenge.

I love the quote the ladies have posted today and since I am writing about delving into books, I took the liberty to copy and paste it here. LOVE Sharon Creech's writing. Especially love her character Jack (Love That Dog & Hate That Cat) who is often a part of our literature discussions.

“I love the way that each book — any book — is its own journey. You open it, and off you go. You are changed in some way, large or small, by having traveled with those characters.” 

― Sharon  Creech

Book Browse is a regular arrival routine in our room. Kids love it. I love it. I love it in the classroom. I love it when I am waiting at an appointment. I love it at the beach. I love it at a book store or at the library. I simply love to book browse. 

What is book browse? Let me tell you what it looks like in our classroom. Students clustered around the room, most in pairs or threesomes, or a few individuals that prefer to fly solo. Elbow to elbow, knee to knee, huddled over books and magazines. Reading snippets: photos, captions, bold words, side bars, and other standout features. 
What do you need? text: non-fiction, magazines, poetry, or picture books are all perfect choices. It's not the time to settle in with your novel.

When: Any short period of time will do. Arrival time in an elementary classroom, waiting anywhere, when you finish a task and it's not quite time for whatever is coming next, and so on. 

Where: in the classroom, the lunchroom, the car, the bus, the doctors, the dentist, the beach, most any place will do, especially if you have to wait! 

Why: we love to peruse different types of text with interesting facts and pictures. We love to read and learn new information with our friends.  

Arrival time in an elementary classroom is not conducive to the focus that many tasks require. In my opinion, bell work was a fiasco, a management issue, etc. There's the unpacking, the pencil sharpening, the hand washing,  the taking of lunch orders, the pledging of allegiance, the announcing of news, and so on.  It's a social time, yet also precious classroom time. Why not seize the moment? Encourage interaction. Find a partner.  Select text.  Choose a place to read and stay in that place. Beyond these few steps, the only rule is you must be engaged and enjoying written language. 


Monday, March 11, 2013

Inspiration to Write

The poem below was written by Kara, a 4th grade poet whom I have the pleasure of writing with everyday. She was inspired to write this after our World Read Aloud Day Skype with author Leslie Bulion. Kara could not wait for the March challenge to start! My students and I are participating in the 6th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, organized by The Two Writing Teachers.  To read more about our Skype and World Read Aloud Day see this post.

Beluga Whales
by Kara
Beluga Whales 
have a lemon
for a forehead.

Not like a lemon in
lemonade lemon
like an overlap
of skin.

And used for
with clicks,
and clanks.

They are
pod animals.

And can get hunted
by US.

They live in
the Arcticoceans
sub Arcticoceans.

The Arctic ones
to the
oceans so
the ocean freezes 
they woun't

They can 
weigh up  
to be
1 ton
to a
ton and a

And are half
the size
school bus.

Remembering World Read Aloud Day

Written March 6, 2012 
*trying to catch up on some missed posts...

Today, people all over the world celebrated the 4th annual WORLD READ ALOUD DAY.  Our class recognized the day with a couple of special activities and talked about the importance of reading. We had a midmorning Mystery Reader visit from Sydney’s mom. She told us stories about growing up near her grandparent’s farm and her longing for a horse of her own.  These stories were the perfect opening for the book that she selected. Mrs. S. whet the appetites of our readers with an excerpt from chapter one of The Little House on the Prairie.  I think some readers added the novel to their Books-To-Read list.

Later in the day, we had a Skype visit with author, Leslie Bulion

From her home office in Connecticut, she read a few poems to us and in between chatted and answered questions. Ms. Bulion told us about her longtime love affair with science and how research is a big piece of her life as a writer. She loves creating poems about unusual critters and the unique details that make people say, “GROSS!”  Her current writing project is a book on body parts and she also hopes to publish a novel. The glimpse into the writerly life of Leslie Bulion fueled a room full of 4th grade writers and their teacher too!  Many thanks, Leslie! Check out the LitWorld website for more information on the work they do to spread the importance of reading and the ways they help the 793 million people that cannot read. Shocking, but true! 

Monday, March 4, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? SOLS Day 4

There are so many cool worthwhile important  AMAZINGLY wonderful traditions to participate in as a blogger, an educator, a reader, or a person passionate about literacy. I love the It's Monday, What Are You Reading? segment sponsored by Teach Mentor Texts. Some of the blogs I follow participate weekly and I am constantly jotting down titles to look for at the library or toss in my Amazon cart! 

So, what am I reading these days? Not as much as I would like...I will be rereading the following brilliant works with my book clubs: a couple titles by Cynthia Lord, Touch Blue and Rules, and Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo.  I am also just starting Notice and Note by Kylene Beers & Robert E. Probst. And of course, all month I will be I reading and enjoying Slice of Life Stories! 

Lastly, tonight I have been reading more about World Read Aloud Day. This Wednesday, March 6th people all over the world will be participating in literacy activities to focus attention on the importance of reading and writing. Participants will celebrate the power of words, hoping to spread the message "that all people have the right to read and share their words to change the world." (LitWorld.org) My students and I are looking forward to a Skype visit Wednesday afternoon with author Leslie Bulion. For more information on World Read Aloud Day and Lit World go to http://litworld.org

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Saturday at the Kitchen Table


A red rotary wall phone, a deck of cards, and nonstop eating - what do these things have in common? We spent the weekend visiting with my husband's family at his mom, Lynn's house. When we were first married (almost 30 years ago!), I asked her what I should call her. Her first response was, "Well,  I'm not your mother, so mom does not seem right." After a somewhat awkward discussion, it was decided - I would call her Lynn. She's always been a little rough around the edges and very set in her ways, but a wonderful lady nonetheless.

Back to the phone, the cards, and the eating. Lynn is a wonderful cook and loves nothing more than preparing good food for her guests. And like many homes, the kitchen is where most of the living happens. We no sooner have our coats off and Lynn is like an attentive waitress ready to take our order. Coffee, pastry, lunch, more coffee, snacks, later a pasta dinner and dessert, of course.  Her Italian cooking is top notch, the real deal. A jumbo pot of blazing red sauce with sausage, both sweet and hot; thin spaghetti, enough for an army; tossed salad; and garlic bread. We graze like cows and in between the chewing the cards are dealt, nickels and dimes are bet, and so goes the afternoon at the kitchen table. At one point the red phone rings, the caller is informed of the festivities and welcomed to join the party.  A classic day, around the table, in a kitchen that smells better than any Italian restaurant.  I must also add in a house with no Internet connection, hence the missed post yesterday.

For more information on the March Slice of Life Story Challenge head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com, the blog of the amazing Ruth and Stacey, the Two Writing Teachers.

Saturday, March 2, 2013



"Just get a grip. It's only a month. Thirty one days. Not a big deal. It's only a month. You should be writing more often. You believe in the power of writing alongside your students. It's only a month. "

So I have talked myself into committing to the challenge. My students really have unknowingly given me the nudge. They are so very excited. I overheard two students talking today. Student one said, "I am really liking writing." Student two, "Me too. I love writing." 

So there you have it. Twenty four writers from room 25, looking for the write words. 

More on this student writing later.