Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Slice of Life {Ready, Set, Go}

I wasn't sure I was going to participate this in the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I got the itch and got excited this past weekend when I was at a conference with my friends to jump on board.  I was reminded that this is something I do for myself.  I know a teacher of writing needs to be writing.  

Last year I used a notebook for the first time to collect my ideas and play around with words.  I really liked that and went back to look at those entries on paper and how the revision played out as I typed each post.  Sometimes I wrote a little summary of my process or thinking behind the piece.  I found that a bit interesting now.  Last year I wanted to stop and notice snippets of my day and I tried to play around with language a bit.  

I thought if I looked back it would help me look ahead.  I thought maybe I would create a plan for my writing but I don't have one yet.  If I listen to my intuition it tells me part of the writing process is how the writing evolves, no plan needed right now.  I did decide from looking back to continue to use my notebook this year for collecting and drafting.   Maybe planning the how to will help the what evolve.  

 Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life writing community.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Snail and Worm - A Student Recommendation

I love when student's discover a book and tell me I have to read it.  Snail and Worm Three Stories About Two Friends by Tina Kugler is a delightful book about two friends.  There are three stories within this book that will give early readers a "chapter book" feel.  The first story is a sweet story about two friends playing tag.  The second story is about encouragement and doing something you think you might not be able to.  The third and final story is filled with simple humor but will delight primary students.   The combination of illustrations, small bits of text on a page, and the frequency of sight words will make this a great book for students.  

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Simple and Effective. {Celebrate This Week}

This week I swayed from my "mandated" systematic phonics resource because it's missing a standard or two I have to teach.  Yahoo!!!  Maybe that should only have one exclamation point.   I had only intended to focus on contractions but the picture books we read explaining the apostrophe naturally led us to learning about how it can show possession.  I wanted to see if the student's understood how an apostrophe could be used to show possession.

I recalled making lots of class books years ago, often in word study to share something we were learning.  I began thinking about making a class book.  The idea seemed almost too simple but it worked years ago when I taught second grade.  I found myself wondering why does school seem so much harder now and does it need to be so much harder?  I decided not.  I just need each child to demonstrate an understanding for how to use an apostrophe to show possession.  I planned to have each child use their name and generate a sentence of their own.   All they would need is paper, pencil and an illustration tool.  That was my plan; let's make a class book.

They were so proud to read their page to the class and the topics they wrote about were relevant and personal to them.  Every child was successful with one sentence.  It was simple and effective; a win-win for everyone.

Thank you Ruth at Ruth Ayers Writes for encouraging us to find daily celebrations in our lives.  If you want to read more positive things stop by this week's post, It's Really Real.

Friday, February 24, 2017

To My Sewing Machine {Poetry Friday}

To My Sewing Machine

You may not look like much,
But the unseen potential is
Forever unmatched.

There are no limitations or rules.
No promises of success but the promise to learn
is always guaranteed.

Endless creative dreams and wonders
And you are able to make them come true.

Sliding the thread on a spool pin,
Weaving it in and out of the gears of creativity.
Finally fishing the bobbin thread from the unknown,
We are unstoppable.

I gently press on the foot pedal
And like a car you are excited to go
always getting me to where I need to go.
Manipulating fabric
Sewing seams
Getting lost for hours

Nothing can amount to you
For you are one in a million
And I thank you.

@A. Robek

We sat waiting for the ortho and she said, "Mom what do you know about odes?"  I had to think for a bit and realized I really only knew it was form of poetry.  She shared she could write an ode for extra credit for AP Literature.  I decided to pass the time we should do some research but really that we meant was I.  I got out my notebook and started writing a list; lyric poem, moderate length, serious subject, and elevated style with word choice.  I also found out odes explore aspects of the thing being praised, making keen observations, and personification.  An ode essentially celebrates a person, place, thing or idea.  I suggested she write an ode to her missing adult tooth, her implant that's in process, or the quarter braces we were putting back on her teeth to fix a problem she has.  She chose her true passion, celebrating what brings her joy.  I'm happy to have been part of the writing research.

Thank you Karen at Karen Edmisten (The Blog with the Shockingly Clever Title) is hosting Poetry Friday this week.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Transitioning Seasons {Slice of Life}

It's Sunday night and I pull the car into Trader Joe's.  There's a moan from my travel companion who kind of demanded, "How long will we be here?"  Just five minutes, I replied.  I believe there was a huge eye roll here but I had decided to fully embrace spring and eye rolls weren't stopping me.  Then I had to explain why were just getting daffodils. 

Here are my reasons why.
1.  The temperature this weekend was mid to sixties and SUNNY!
2.  I packed away some winter evergreen I still had out to embrace winter.
3.  I packed away my a few snowmen I had out to embrace winter.
4.  I changed a few holiday family pictures to spring family pictures.  
5.  I had to take the next step, which has really become a yearly tradition - buy daffodils.

It hasn't snowed yet, really here.  It's been cold.  It's been gray and dreary.  This weekend and week is a sign - out with the drab and in with the new.  A few years ago I realized I really enjoy fresh cut spring flowers just ahead of the blooming season in my yard.  It helps pass the time and make me smile when winter has been enough.   I don't have my usual, winter has been enough feeling but I do have the feeling that winter was disappointing.  It never really snowed enough to shovel.  I think I shoveled just once, if I check Instagram and that was a stretch.  I did it just because shoveling makes me happy.  It never snowed enough to throw a snowball.  It never snowed enough for a snow day, just two delays for ice.  It never came close to an Upstate NY snowfall.  

So, if you have the winter is enough feeling or winter was disappointing feeling I highly recommend buying stems of daffodils and watch them bloom inside all over your house.  They are in our kitchen, our playroom, each daughter's bedroom and my bathroom.  Burst of yellow to enjoy and remind me warmer days and new things are ahead.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life writing community.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Music to My Ears {Slice of Life}

It's high school scheduling here and next year for the first time and only time I will have two daughters in high school together.  My heart is tugging a bit at this thought because my baby will be a freshman and I will have my second senior year to enjoy.  My first senior year experience involved scheduling a double late start.  Our students can plan late starts and early releases for up to two periods.  I anticipated one of these options being presented to me for our second senior year...

A:  "Mom, can you look at my schedule."

Me:  "It all looks good but I don't see a late start or early release.  Did you want to do that, N did."

A:  "Why would I do that, there are things I want to learn about."

She stopped me right in my tracks.  I think my reply was, "Oh, okay."  I should of stopped and shouted, "YAHOO - I have a daughter who chooses to learn.  I have a daughter who wants to learn.  I have a daughter who enjoys learning."  "You go girl, soak it all in and enjoy your senior year of high school."

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life writing community.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Nonfiction Books for Independent Reading in Second Grade - #nf10for10

Dear Betsy,

You sent me a message a few weeks ago asking me about reading levels in second grade and thinking about the reading your own special boy is doing.   Learning to read is a journey and you've mentioned it's a struggle over the years.  This night we chatted you said he had brought home a nonfiction book and nonfiction is hard.  You made me stop and think.  Nonfiction can be hard but does it have to be?  I wondered how can we simplify it a bit for those early readers so they can have some independence.  

My wondering turned into collecting books I thought your special boy might be able to read.  You'll notice the nonfiction features are simple and not hectic busy.  The text is larger, sometimes with a pattern and definitely pages with white space.  I love white space!  You will notice many of these are books have a series/collection from the same publisher giving you way more than ten ideas, maybe 100.  Some of these books are old and dear to my book loving heart.  I picked books that might spark some interest in fun animals, animals you might see while camping, and a few that could connect to your gardening.  

These are all books I have on my shelves right now and I can send them over to you via school mail. Just let me know.

Your friend,

BAT LOVES THE NIGHT by Nicole Davies

narrative format sharing bats nightly activity
tidbits of facts here and there
soft illustrations


I love Joy Cowley books!
photographs are quite fascinating
carefully chosen words for accessibility

Joy Cowley again!
more fascinating photographs
text a bit easier

HOW A SEED GROWS by Helen J Jordan

illustrations tell a story, maybe an early narrative
reader follows the journey of a few different seeds
might help readers enjoy nonfiction

RACCOONS by William John Ripple
lots of interesting facts
a sentence of two on a page
pure nonfiction for early readers

Seed to Sunflower by Camilla de al Bedovere
lots of nonfiction text
beautiful photographs
you'll want to grow sunflowers

Fabulous Frogs by Martin Jenkins
beautiful playful language
narrative format
subtle facts

Opossums by Mary R. Dunn
an animal I wouldn't dream to think about
filled with interesting facts
easily accessible for early readers
Busy Squirrels by Melvin and Gilda Berger
probably an easy read - confidence builder
up close photos
one sentence per page

My tenth book for second grade readers might require a treasure hunt - Where Do Birds Live? by Ron Hirschi.  It appears to be out of print.  Lovely photographs, one line of text, with more at the end of the book.  I hope you can find it at the library or you can borrow mine.


Nonfiction Celebration - #nfpb10for10 is Here!

I can't wait to see all the nonfiction picture book love being shared today.  If you are reading this post and thinking - ugh the week got away from me and I don't have my post ready for today.  Don't fret, we won't close the community at midnight.  Take the weekend and join in the fun.  Here are the nuts and bolts to share the books you love right now today.  My book love is always changing so maybe yours is too.

In 2010 Cathy and I hosted our first picture book event.  In 2013, Julie Balen suggested we add a nonfiction picture book event that worked the same.  Participants choose 10 - well, usually 10 (they're a crafty bunch) - nonfiction picture books to share.  On the day of the event, we'll ask that you visit the Google Community site to add your nonfiction link to the 2017 #nf10for10 tab

  • What:  10 nonfiction picture books you can't live without.
  • Hashtag:  #nf10for10
  • Who:  Anyone interested --- educators, media specialists, librarians, parents, and book lovers.  
  • When:  Friday, February 10th - TODAY
  • Where:  All posts will be linked on the 2017 #nf10for10 page of our Picture Book 10 for 10 Google Community Site.  
  • How:  Stop by our community site, join the community, and share your favorites on February 10th. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom; Words to Live By

Bizarre Birds Almost Changed my #nf10for10 Post! {Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday}

I couldn't resist Bizarre Birds by Sandra Horning at the book fair last week.  The letter i is dotted with an egg, alliteration makes the title and the close up bird face was just calling my classroom.  I do have a nonfiction tub for bird books in my classroom and this title will be something different for my readers.

The reader learns about 14 different bizarre birds that probably aren't in their backyard.  I know for certain they aren't in mine here in the Midwest.  Each bird has a two page spread with a one page photo and a paragraph of information about 4-7 sentences on the opposite page.  Just enough text but not overwhelming as nonfiction can sometimes be.  The paragraph format varies but you will often learn where the bird lives, what they might eat, information about their size or a strange fact one would never guess.  Each bird also has a close up and caption sharing another interesting fact.  I love the simplistic layout, which will help younger readers navigate the text easier.  I hope you will find this book and enjoy learning about the Hoatzin, Oxpecker, or the Common Tailorbird and yes this bird can sew!

Thanks to Alyson at Kid Lit Frenzy for encouraging us to share nonfiction books weekly and if you are interested in knowing how to join #nf10for10 this Friday you can find out more information at my Sneak Peak post.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

She Made Me Laugh and More... {Slice of Life}

This morning she made me laugh.

After getting her out of a pair of overalls with a broken zipper she asked me from the top of the stairs..."Do you have a pair of overalls?"  I burst out laughing and said no.  Then I remembered all my overalls.  My full length overalls that I loved to wear with my black turtle neck thin sweater - not a bulky sweater.  Then there was my short length overalls with the folded cuff that I loved to wear with a white sleeveless t-shirt like tank.  They were so comfortable and quite in fashion when I started teaching.  I had overalls year round and I thought they were cute and fun!  

I had one more pair of overalls and I wouldn't say they were cute and fun!  They ended my overall ownership.  They had a purpose and served me well but maternity overalls just weren't the same.  They weren't the same weight of denim.  They weren't the same cut.  They weren't the same shade.  They were big.  I felt like I was wearing a tent.  But to give them a fair chance I didn't really like any maternity clothes. After probably over wearing my maternity overalls, I swore I'd never own a pair again.

But just maybe, these fond memories and being able to save the day for one very cute daughter requires me to give this life decision a second look.  Which requires a whole set of questions to investigate.  Are overalls in style again?  Can a mama of teenage/college kids wear overalls?  I've heard if you wore something once and the style returns you shouldn't wear them the second time around.  Is that true?  After mulling these questions over, I realize some times you can't save the day and you don't need to rush into something so you can save the day.  

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life writing community.

Piper Green is back in The Sea Pony

I noticed a few of my students trying the first two Piper Green stories during independent reading and it triggered my memory; Piper Green and the Fairy Tree The Sea Pony was in my TBR pile!  I immediately moved this book to the top of the stack so I could keep some reading momentum going in our classroom.  

With each Piper Green and the Fairy Tree story, I seem to fall in love with her more and more.  I love the format of her stories; short chapters, a smidge larger font, an occasional black and white illustration to support the story, and a good amount of white space between the lines.  

Piper's personality is one any reader must adore.  She's spunky, helpful, and hopeful.  Piper really wants a horse and witnesses the first horse coming to the island in which she lives on.  She decides to help her dad on their lobster boat by stocking feeder bags for ten cents each bag.  She soon realizes it would take a long time to save money for a horse this way.  She has a fairy tree in her yard where she leaves things for the fairies and in return the fairies leave her things.  An interesting whistle was left in the Fairy Tree and helps Piper connect with a sea pony while on a lobster catching adventure with her dad.  During this adventure, she helps her dad find something really important.  In return, he surprises her with a new opportunity.  She doesn't get a horse to own but her dad's clever thinking is one any parent should/can admire.

I can't wait to discuss this book with my students.  I think we will definitely discuss finger snails, bosun's whistle, gullywhumpers, and sternman.