Archive for September, 2012

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

This summer I participated in the Teachers Write virtual writing camp made possible by author Kate Messner. She had many guest authors teaching and posting writing prompts. From one of the posts, I learned about the young adult character generator. Earlier this year, I introduced this tool to my students. They loved it, and much writing has been inspired by it.

Using kidblogs, my students are working on stories that develop their characters. I am pleased with how motivating this activity has been. One of my students, Matthew, was a reluctant second grade writer, usually satisfied with a few sentences. When asked to elaborate or incorporate figurative language, he would say, “I like it the way it is.”

Now a third grader, Matthew’s writing has taken off in the first few weeks of school. He wrote his whole story in his journal, posted it on kidblogs, pasted it onto paper, drew illustrations, and painted a cover for his book. I don’t know if a summer’s worth a maturity or the young adult character generator was the impetus, but this year Matthew is a writer.

Chapter 1 The Curse
It was a normal Tuesday morning at Denver Catholic High, or was it? Aiden was walking to gym, twitching as usual. Then out of nowhere, it started getting dark, really dark. Then, a giant ghost came out of the dark and said, “Da school curse is a spreading.”

Suddenly, Aiden’s friends came outside as zombies! “What happened?” said Aiden’s still human friend, Jenna.
“I… I don’t know,” said Aiden, frozen. for once in his life. He’s feeling a feeling he has never felt before, fear. He was so afraid, he couldn’t move. He could barely speak and refused to look away from the ghost or even blink.

Chapter 2 The Adventure

“Da only way to stop it is to get da gem of legend,” The ghost said in a country voice.
“What gem?” asked Aiden.

“Here, take da map.”said the ghost.

Aiden read the map and said, “Jenna, we’re going to the beach.”

“OK,” said Jenna.

“I’ll drive,” said the ghost.

“What?” said Jenna and Aiden.

They headed to the beach. As Aiden got out of the car, he said, “Hey, I’m not twitching!” He was happy, but then the ghost pushed them in a cave. They put on headlamps and started walking.

“OK,” said Aiden nervously. His head suddenly jerked to his shoulder, twitching again. ”We, uh, go that way?”

They stopped at a pool of…lava! Only a few rocks to jump on.

“Well, let’s get moving,” said Aiden.

They hopped across, rock to rock. Finally, they got to the other side. They walked until they stopped at the end of the cave.

“Look!” shouted Aiden. The gem was standing on top of a cone-shaped rock structure at the end of the cave.

“It’s beautiful!” cried Jenna, leaning back. The gem was a glowing baby blue color in the shape of a diamond.

Swiftly, Aiden grabbed the gem, “Got it!” He held the gem over his head in triumph. Then he heard a loud caw caw!

Aiden looked up and saw a blue-gray falcon swoop in toward him. Before he could draw the gem out of the bird’s reach, the bird quickly grabbed the gem with its talons.

“There goes all our hard work,” said Aiden. Of course, he was right. They had worked so hard.

They went after the bird. They hopped across the rocks. Aiden found a light, sharp stick and threw it at the bird, but before the stick could hit it, the falcon flew down and accidentally dropped the gem.

“Thanks,” said Jenna.

Chapter 3: Lifting the Curse

“Well, let’s get going!” said Aiden. ”It’s been a great day. I stopped twitching, we got the gem, we lost the gem and got it back. Now, we can lift the curse!”

So, they were off. They went back to school.

Chapter 4: Curse Gone

Aiden and Jenna lifted the curse by saying, “I here-by lift the curse of the Hex, and I shall face anything next! I will not say ‘no’ or ‘I’m afraid’ I’ll face anything, alive or slayed!”

But before the magic could work, a half moth half cat flew toward the gem. Aiden’s allergic to cats and hates moths.

“No!” Aiden yelled, then kicked the creature hard. Whack! The creature fainted in pain.

The curse was lifted! They had done it! Aiden said in triumph, “We did it, guys!”

Read Full Post »

Daisy, the Spider

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

The first few weeks of school we had a visitor at our window, a huge garden spider. One day, my students decided that we needed to write about the spider. I teach gifted students, so I am always looking for ways to exercise and inspire their naturally curious minds. One of my students, a sixth grader Kaylie, decided to do some research about the spider. We all thought that our spider needed a name, so we gathered at the table and brainstormed names. We agreed on the name Daisy.

I have started using kidblog in my classroom. I love how this forum is making my students want to write. I encouraged Kaylie to share her research in a blog post. I will copy it here. Teachers, if you use this post as a model for writing, please leave a comment that I can share with Kaylie.

On the first day of Gifted and Talented in Mrs. Simon’s classroom, we were all amazed to look out the window. A black and yellow spider had spun a web outside our window. We watched it through the morning, spinning its web. That was the first day.

On the second day, when I walked into the room, Matthew burst with joy and guided me to the window. The web was covered (and I mean COVERED ) in flies and gnats. And there, sitting in the middle of the beautifully spun web, yours truly, our spider was chomping on a grasshopper. It was so interesting, because none of us had ever seen something like it before. We got a good view of the spider, because it was facing the window, and we could see it from our desks. We marveled over the ‘banana spider’. I wasn’t so sure about its species, so I went on the internet to do some research.

It turns out that the spider was no banana spider at all, but a garden spider. Our little buddy perfectly matched the picture on the internet. Garden spiders have large abdomens that have intricate patterns of yellow and black. Its long legs are nearly two inches long. The eight legs are black with yellow tips. Its head, what you would expect to be yellow is actually a dusty gray. The spider created a 5×4 silk web, completely flawless. That was the end of day 2.

This morning, I wanted to post a poem about our spider on this blog. We needed a picture of it so you can get a clear image of our amazement. Matthew, Mrs. Simon and I took a little ‘field trip’ to the playground, where our window was. She snapped a picture, but after, we noticed something unusual. A plump brown sac, about two inches in diameter, was hanging in the corner of the window, where we couldn’t see from indoors. I threw out the suggestion that it was an egg sac. For further reference, I went back to the computer and searched ‘garden spider egg sacs’. Sure enough, a picture came up looking very similar to the one we saw out side.

I read on. The paragraph said that garden spiders lay their egg sacs at the beginning of fall, and that they hatch in the spring. Sadly, it also said that the grown garden spiders die shortly after they spin their egg sacs, so the spider might die soon. With that in mind, we looked toward our spider who was hanging solemnly from its web. I couldn’t stand that it had been our pet for so long without a name. After a classroom vote and a lot of bad names, we finaly came up with Daisy. I think she seemed to like that name.That was the end of day three.

On Friday, we didn’t have G.T., so we could not check on Daisy and see if she was still hanging in the window. On Monday, we came back. We saw an egg sac hanging in the window. The other empty sacs weren’t Daisy’s. They were of other spiders.

Our spider was starting to wilt. Her abdomen was shriveled up. I didn’t think she would last any longer.

Yet again, our spider has surprised us. Another egg sac was added to the window, so now there are two egg sacs from our Daisy spider.

Sadly, four days after hurricane Isaac, Daisy disappeared. Her memory will live on in her hundreds of beautiful babies that will hatch in the spring. We will look forward to watching many little garden spiders crawl away. Thank you, Daisy.

Read Full Post »

Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved a tall.
—Brian Rhoades, 6’10”

Read other Slice of Life writers at The Two Writing Teachers

This weekend I attended two memorial services. One for a beloved coach gone too soon at only age 54. The other for a beloved patriarch of our church and town, passing slowly a week before his 91st birthday. In both services, these things resonated with me: community, legacy, and faith.

Brian Rhoades was a pillar of the school community at the Episcopal School of Acadiana. All three of my daughters received the caring encouragement of Coach Rhoades. Our girls were with us Friday night along with many hundreds who weathered the heat of the gym to share, remember, and cry together. Since our last graduated in 2008, we have kept some ties to the school. As sad as we all were to lose a friend, we were comforted by the closeness and love of the community there.

On Saturday, our church community came together to honor George King Pratt Munson. What a great name for such a wonderful man! We sang together and listened to the long history of Pratt’s life in New Iberia. Then we celebrated with a feast and conversation in the parish hall. Pratt’s ashes were the first to be placed in the columbarium outside in the courtyard. I love knowing that a part of him remains with us.

Both Coach Rhoades and Mr. Pratt leave behind a legacy, not only in their children and grandchildren, but in the kind of people they were. I heard words like kind, compassionate, gentle, funny, always smiling, honest, genuine, mentor, and friend. If any of us could embody half of these words, we would be grateful. When we were leaving the memorial at ESA, my husband said, “I think someone should have said, ‘Be Brian Rhoades.'” You could say that about Pratt, too. The legacy of being the best that you can be.

Just last week, our new bishop, Jake Owensby, spoke to us about faith. He said faith is plunging in to God’s grace. I love the word plunge. And plunging I did when I held Brian’s wife and Pratt’s granddaughter. What can you say? What words are there to comfort the grieving? None, really, except love. I offered love with all my being. I have faith that they are both with God now, shining like the rainbow, offering us each hope in God’s eternal grace.

Read Full Post »