Friday, May 20, 2016

Celebrate This Week - Best and Difference

Today I celebrate a year of trying my best and knowing today I made a difference for one.  W walked into my classroom with his huge charming grin and held a little mesh bag for me with a handwritten note.  I could tell he was eager for me to open it.  I opened it, found a bracelet, and slowly burst into tears.  See that careful word choice because I was really trying to not instantaneously burst into tears.   He held up his wrist and said, "I got one too" with that huge charming grin.  As I hugged him, I asked if he knew I would cry and he replied with a yea.

This became our word this year; a little guidance, a little patience with uncertainty, a little encouragement when redirected, a little increase in stamina, a willingness to try again, a willingness to slow down, believing in himself, and less tears.


Thank you Ruth at Ruth Ayers Writes for encouraging us to find celebrations in daily lives.  If you need to read more positive things stop by this weeks linkup.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Mostly Monty by Johanna Hurwitz

Here it is the last week of school and I'm adding new characters and books to our classroom library.  I justified it because I need more boy characters.   Mostly Monty by Johanna Hurwitz is going to be a great addition to our collection and the three other books in the series.  Monty is a first grader but I think a mature first grader that second graders will enjoy getting to know.  

The first chapter might be my favorite.  We learn Monty has asthma and it's just part of his everyday life, like a pair of glasses.  He is worried about starting first grade.  He settles in and loves going to the library.  The librarian, Mr. Harris suggests the students pick from the picture book area in the library but Monty wanders over to the nonfiction section because he loves reading about animals.  Mr. Harris suggest these are too hard and Monty should wait a couple of years to read books in this section.  Don't worry, Mrs. Meaney his teacher saves the day and confirms Monty is a very good reader and can read anything.  Mr. Harris congratulates Monty and lets him browse for a book.  

Monty's next adventure involves having a pet caterpillar because anything with fur would bring an asthma but this caterpillar isn't a caterpillar for long.  Then  Monty rescues some treasures from the neighbor only to realize some of them are broken and can't be repaired.  However, there is one treasure he can keep and won't upset his asthma.  Then Monty becomes a lost and found expert at school which has an interesting twist for him.  Each adventure is told with humor and honest reactions that little kids would offer as they interact with each other.  It's interesting how each story has a small twist and turn with a positive outcome.  

A favorite line to enjoy - "Reading was the one thing he could do without worrying about his breathing."

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Slice of Life - Finding Joy

Last week I shared one way I find joy in teaching is through helping my students create.  It stirs my passion and keeps me going.  Several readers mentioned wanting to see photos of our poetry publication I had planned.  Today is a photo essay of sorts, I've been reading a lot of Elsie Tries Writing as a mentor text.

Before you look at the photos you must know this was worthwhile hard work.  The night I brought home 80 poems to read and offer some quick editing advice on was tiring.  The busy room was joyful and every student knew what they had to get done and what they wanted to get done.  There was lots of choice and voice.  I believe choice and voice brings magic and growth.  I wasn't happy using tempera paints as the color wash.  The students struggled with getting the right watery consistency.  Next year I will use liquid watercolors instead.  Oh there were moments of spills and messes but during those moments I encouraged the children to clean it up.  Messes happen but there was a double spill for one child that took a few deep breathes.  He doesn't understand the balancing act of a brush in a cup of water.  How is he going to learn?  There was paint on the floor.  Clean up means teamwork and it was amazing to see how clean we got our room.  There's still a small amount of paint in the hallway but the waxing this summer will get that off.  Watching each student pick one poem to orally share at our Poetry Cafe was joyful.  Watching parents mingle and read many student's poems was joyful.  Bringing home 20 books and reading 80 poems last night while leaving them a Reader's Comment was joyful.  
Drafting, Editing, Comparing Drafts and Final Copies

Creating Mental Images from the Words with Oil Pastels

Color Wash with Tempera Cakes

Messy, Yes!  Drying in the Hallway, Clean Up

Poetry Cafe

Published Poetry

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting this writing community and for encouraging us to live a writerly life.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Call Me Marianne - by Jen Bryant

Call Me Marianne by Jen Bryant is a picture book every teacher of writing needs and/or poet themselves.  David A Johnson's ink and soft watercolor illustrations help make this a soothing story for readers and one where the words lead the reader's journey.  

The story begins when Jonathan takes a bus ride on the bus to the city zoo.  He notices a woman city on the bus looking at the same article from the New York Times - "Exotic Lizards Have New Home at City Zoo."  The reader quickly learns Jonathan must visit the zoo often.  He knows the names of the elephants and sometimes the keeper lets him feed them peanuts.  On his journey to the new exhibit he sees a hat that belonged to the woman on the bus.  He hurries along and finds the woman at the new reptile house.  Jonathan returns the hat and after introductions he is invited to join.  He learns her name is Marianne and that she isn't a scientist but a poet.  

They travel throughout the zoo together and she explains what she does as a poet.   It all begins by watching.  It involves reading.  It requires looking for details.  Of course, she is taking notes.  Jen Bryant's detailed description is a must read.  Here is a snippet, "Then I write them all down, I shuffle them around, like pieces of a puzzle and I read them over and over out loud.   I'm patient, very patient - "  After she shares this with Jonathan, Marianne just happens to have an extra notebook for him to use.  

This story is a fictional account by Marianne Moore, a real poet who lived in NYC and wore a black cape and hat.  She was interested in the natural world and visited the zoo quite often.  This is a perfect book to help children see poetry comes from observations.  

Thank you Violet Nesdoly / Poems for hosting Poetry Friday this week.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Slice of Life - Sad, Brave, Follow your Heart

I've been sitting on this Slice of Life for a couple of weeks.  It's not my story to tell but my reflections are.  My friend is in her second year of teaching and in her early thirties.  I checked on her one day a couple of weeks ago and I was so thankful there wasn't an away softball game because I could sit and listen.  Not only did I listen, I cried with her and for her.

Here is a mature, bubbly, young lady full of life, kindness, and joy.  Sadness surrounded her this day.  As I listened, I heard; teaching isn't what I thought it was going to be, I can't keep up with all of this as her desk was a mess of papers, my heart isn't here like I want it to be, I'm spending so much time here I can't work out, or help my family when they need me.  She's talking about her extended family, she doesn't have children of her own yet.  I sensed some frustration with managing the party of a classroom and I felt her sadness but a sadness of my own because this job has gotten really hard during my twenty years of education.  She commented on not feeling the passion and then told me you just radiate passion for teaching and get us all excited.  She caught me by surprise and I've been wrestling with this thought. 

Since our time together, I find myself asking, how do I find this passion when documentation is out of control.  Testing is way overboard.  Emails come pouring in.  My friend knew the joy wasn't there for her and as I pondered her situation my sadness turned to admiration.  I've felt these same frustrations.  I don't think any of us should have to search for the joy when we get the honor to work with children daily.  But I do.  My admiration found the word brave.  My friend is being very brave.  She is leaving something she's always wanted to do and has a plan to make teaching work for her in another way.  Every time I've seen her since our day of listening and crying - she smiles, there's a skip in her step, she's giggly with excitement.  She is following her heart and will continue to make a difference. 

This week I decided the best way to find my passion was to do what I/we love.  Create.  We are publishing our poetry into a hard covered book.  Our PTO is so supportive.  They prep the chipboard, contact paper covers and are ready to help us sew with needle and thread our stories.  The final product is always joyful but the process is what I love best.  Today we edited, made better 80 poems and hand wrote new clean copies in sharpie.  Tomorrow we will create About the Author pages in Google Drive and use oil pastels to illustrate our mental images.  Thursday will be our day to color wash over the illustrations and words.  Friday is our binding day.  Next week is our Poetry Cafe, sharing.  I think it's hard to stop and enjoy teaching right now but I am definitely on the lookout and trying to plan for those moments. It boosts my passion and will hopefully guide those days when sadness comes and I am feeling worn down.

Thank you to my friend for sharing a story that will stay with me a long time.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for encouraging teachers to write and fostering this community.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Celebrate This Week - Field Trips

This week I'm celebrating field trips.

I was able to take 20 students to our local Ohio Historical Society Museum this week and the day was perfect.  I had five parent chaperones.  I could place four students in each group.  I could float and spend time with each student; watching them enjoying and exploring artifacts from history.  Their natural interest, inquiry, and wondering made our day full of interactions about exploring changes over time.  The rain held off and there was moments of sunshine to brighten our day.

Each year I can't wait for students to start exploring the toys in the courtyard of the old village.  The minute the stilts come out of the box, I have to hide my excitement.  I wait until the students try the stilts on their own and then I have an introduction to join in the fun.  I can model how to walk on stilts!  Stilts are not historically from my childhood but they were a part of my childhood because my grandparents shared a piece of theirs with me.  My grandfather built a set of low and high stilts and they were always a hit at the family reunions grandma planned and hosted.  

Just like a lesson in the classroom, I model walking on the stilts, I offer my successful tips for stilt walking, and then I provide some support while different students try to walk on the stilts.  They don't pick it up the first time they try but they are willing to try and that is the first step in learning anything.  While field trips enhance the curriculum, they foster communities by creating memories and fostering connections.

Thank you Ruth at Ruth Ayers Writes for encouraging us to find celebrations in daily lives.  If you need to read more positive things stop by this weeks linkup.