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Archive for March, 2015

Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us the celebrate each week. Click over to her site Discover. Play. Build. to read more celebrations.

SOL #21

SOL #21

Today is Saturday! Charlie knows this, somehow. He greets Saturday with enthusiasm and anticipation. “Maybe we will take a walk?” he asks. I celebrate this bundle of joy.

Charlie Saturday

This was testing week. While I was proctoring, I was able to finish this prayer shawl. It will go to a friend with breast cancer. I celebrate the gift of time and prayer.

prayer shawl Becky A

I celebrate my blogging community. I read many blogs daily and gain insight and inspiration, make connections, and feel loved and appreciated. Your posts inspire me. Your comments sustain me. On Tuesday, I felt my writing was dried up, so I went on a hunt for lines and wrote this found poem. Your words came together into beautiful poetry. I celebrate words.

I celebrate poetry. My students have been reading and voting in the March Madness Poetry (MMPoetry) at ThinkKidThink. Yesterday, while we were reading and voting, my 3rd grader Lani wrote this post.

Today in class we voted on thinkkidthink.com. We had to listen to Mrs.Simon read A LOT of poems. Some of them were good poems, but some poems were VERY confusing. Like this one that Reed is reading, ”How To Be A Big Bad Wolf.” I did not understand it but, I still voted on it. Some poems, you think will be non-understandable based on the title but, the poem turns out to be understandable.

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SOL #20

SOL #20

Join the roundup with Catherine at Reading to the Core.

Join the roundup with Catherine at Reading to the Core.

This week we talked about form and being innovative and creative with form in Slices of Life and in poetry. We looked at Tara Smith’s call for Classroom Slices in which she shared the poem That was Summer by Marci Ridlon. I had not seen this poem before. I trusted Tara that it would inspire writing.

Have you ever smelled summer?

Sure you have.

Remember that time

when you were tired of running

or doing nothing much

and you were hot

and you flopped right down on the ground?

That was summer. From That was Summer by Marci Ridlon

Today I would like to introduce you to my student, Erin. I wish I could post a picture of her because she is quite adorable. She has long dark hair that accentuates her tan skin (her mother is Filipino.) There is a dimple that appears with every smile, and she smiles a lot. She is small for her age, nine, which only adds to her charm. Erin experimented with two forms this week, the “Remember that time” form and a two voice poem with Spring arguing with Winter.

Spring flowers, Lytes Cary, Somerset  Copyright nick macneill and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Spring flowers, Lytes Cary, Somerset
Copyright nick macneill and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Can you feel spring?                                                               Remember the breeze blowing and you feel you’re flying.
That was Spring.

Remember the time you played catch with your dog,
and he knocked you down in the soft spiky grass?
That was spring.

Remember the wonderful warmth
of the sun on your skin
after the harsh winter.
That was spring.
Erin

Spring
I’m spring here to kick you out.
No one likes you with your cold heart and all.
While i am loved by millions all around the world.

Winter
Ha you wish.
You bring mosquitoes and bees stinging all about.
I kill and make them pout.
I rule all seasons. While  you are a slave.

Spring
Please, you wish.
You give people hatred and make them cry.
While I give them hope and sunshine.

Winter
Oh, really?
You make them happy.
I think that all that sunshine
is going to your head.
Now, be a good girl
and go to bed!
Erin

Can you hear Erin giggle after that last line? She had a boy in class play the part of Spring. He was a good sport about it. In fact, I think anyone in our class would do anything for Erin. You can click on her name under either poem to leave comments just for her.

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SOL #19

SOL #19

Join the Spiritual Thursday round up at Reading, Teaching, Learning.

Join the Spiritual Thursday round up at Reading, Teaching, Learning.

To have courage for whatever comes in life – everything lies in that.

– SAINT TERESA OF AVILA

 

 

 

 

A title and a quote
saved in draft
waiting for me
to be brave
to come to this page again,
to be present, and write.

Every day, courage is tested.

What ever comes, Teresa,
am I really ready for it?
Everything lies
in wait for my response.

The wilderness is dark,
lonely, scary, and fierce.
The path is grown over with weeds.
The branches hang low blinding me
from the way through.

Then there comes a light
rising up from the East
creating a rainbow in the clouds
showing me
I am not alone.

The sparkle in your eye,
the gentle song in your voice
call to me
to be
brave
and true
to shine the light
in me
that comes only from
my God.

st_teresa_of_avila_quote_bbq_apron

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SOL #18

SOL #18

I have been brainstorming all day.  I am chasing an elusive topic.  I know what my fingers want to write about, but I am avoiding it.  There are just so many things that are easier to write about, like spring happening outside my door or my cat chasing a baby lizard.  But these subjects are fluffy, romantic, stupid.

It’s moments like these that I wish I were Donalyn Miller or Nanci Atwell, and I could just come right out and say it.  I’d say it so eloquently that someone would get it and do something about it.  I’m not a famous educator.  I have not published any books on teaching.  But I am there in the trenches, as they say, doing the job.

This is the week, the dreaded week, of testing.  Actually, this is only the first of three weeks of testing.  We have another one in April and a third in May.  What is this world coming to?  Who in the real world takes tests for three weeks?  My daughter took the Bar Exam and it was only one week.  And at the end of that test, she became a lawyer.  At the end of this testing, where will our students be?  Gladly out for the summer!

Prior to this testing week were weeks of “test prep.”  Why?  Because we fear that our teaching isn’t good enough, that the test is too hard, that they are not ready.

I am one of the lucky ones.  My students are gifted. They are telling me the test is not as hard as they thought it would be.  I think this is a good sign.  But even so, the test is not what we have been doing in my class.  In my class, my students read the books they want to read and write about what they want to write about.  Horrors!  Will they be ready?

I’m wondering what happened to putting students first.  What happened to good old Piaget’s theory of child development?  (Note: Theoretical, abstract logic do not happen until 11+ years.)

piaget-550x325

 

Today I listened to beautiful and eloquent Nancie Atwell on CNN.  Her students do authentic writing and reading, so they know what writing and reading are good for.  She would not encourage any creative thinker to go into the field of public education as it is right now.  “It (CCSS) has turned teachers into technicians, not reflective practitioners.”   Wow!  That is heavy.  If Common Core and the tests have done this to teachers, then heaven forbid what they are doing to our students.

Where is the love of learning?  Who will teach our students that reading is pleasurable?  What about creativity?  I shudder to think what kind of adults this testing environment will produce. Creative problem solvers? Effective communicators? I think not.

 

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SOL #17

SOL #17

IMG_4376

The azaleas are blooming. Spring is finally here.
For this slice, I collected lines from other bloggers to create a SOL Spring found poem. At first I thought this would be an easy way of getting out of writing; however, I had to read quite a few blogs (never a bad idea) to get these lines. Then to decide how to put them together. In the end I enjoyed the exercise, but it was not easier than writing.

Because these words
have to tell the truth.

Each time I step outside,
I feel hope.
Something is different.
The silence gone.
I hear the snow crackling.
The ground breaking.

The clouds seem to have made a window.
I look out to a beautiful blue sky
Springing forward.

The pitter-pattering is punctuated
with swooshing and swishing of cars.
For already they have forgotten the dark.

Lines from Tara Smith, Catherine Flynn, Cathy Mere, Kim Doele, Meandering Maya, and Write Kim Write, and Julie Johnson.

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SOL #16

SOL #16

Join the IMWAYR meme.

Join the IMWAYR meme.

fish in a tree - final cover

If you do not have this book in your library for middle grade students, then get it now. I read Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s first book One for the Murphys and now again with Fish in a Tree, she has drawn me in to love her characters.

I read for strong characters, characters I can believe in, characters who speak to me. Ally Nickerson and her quirky friends are a group I want to hang out with. I was sorry to reach the end and have to tell them goodbye. In my mind, they continue on and do great things.

Ally is in 6th grade and struggles with dyslexia; although, she doesn’t know that her problems stem from a real disability. She believes she is just plain stupid. She plays movies in her head and draws in her sketchbook of impossible things. Until Mr. Daniels comes along and notices her. He reaches out to her and helps her to understand dyslexia. She believes in herself. Every teacher should read this book to meet Ally’s empathetic, caring teacher and see the power you have to change a life.

I recently read a touching post by Lynda Mullaly Hunt on The Nerdy Book Club about her own relationship with her brother which informed her creation of Ally’s brother Travis. Not only was this an awesome post, but Lynda responded to each comment. I spoke to her of my own struggle to create real characters with a deep relationship.

Nerdy book club comment

Here is a quote from Chapter 48 that shows how Lynda’s books are about more than the characters and their individual problems. They teach life lessons.

And looking around the room, I remember thinking that my reading differences were like dragging a concrete block around all day, and I felt sorry for myself. Now I realize that everyone has their own blocks to drag around. And they all feel heavy. (p. 245)

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SOL #15

SOL #15 

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

I invite teacher bloggers to write about their digital literacy experiences in the classroom and link back to this round up. Please leave your link in the comments. I will update the post during the day.

This week I read an NCTE article in Council Chronicle entitled Students as Makers and Doers by Trisha Collopy. At the end of the article is an “Authenticity Test” for student activities. This test includes two major priorities: 1. Is the activity used outside of school? and 2. Is it a literate habit of experienced adults?

As a reflective teacher, I wonder about the activities and lessons that I setup for my students. In gifted education, we strive to center our work around student interests. When students are interested, they remain engaged and motivated. When you think about authenticity, adults usually engage in activities that interest them. When we are interested, we immerse ourselves in the subject. If you were to look at my email inbox and my Facebook feed, you would know immediately that I am a teacher who loves to read and write.

How do I make activities that advance a students’ learning, engage them in their interests, and practice an authentic task? Blogging. As I sit here at my computer writing about an intense interest of mine, I realize that this is what I pass on to my students. In the Slice of Life Challenge, they are allowed to write about their interests. They are engaged in the process. They are learning by doing. Some of them are even choosing to write outside of school.

Erin is a third grader. She is a voracious reader. She loves all things Rick Riordan. She devours these books within days. But her writing. Well, that has not been quite up to my expectations. For some reason, though, with the SOLC, something has clicked in her. She came to school on Monday with pages of a notebook filled with slices. Her typing is slow, so I helped her type them in. Not any more. On Friday, she went home and typed 3 slices. You can see Erin’s blog here. She writes just like she speaks, with great enthusiasm.

I am probably preaching to the choir here about blogging with students. I love that I have found “real, authentic” articles to back up my convictions.

Don’t forget to leave your link int the comments. Thanks!

Tara Smith tells about preparing her sixth graders for historical fiction book clubs. https://ateachinglifedotcom.wordpress.com/2015/03/15/sol15-march-15-2015-digilit-sunday-preparing-for-historical-fiction-book-clubs/

Julie Johnson tests out Animoto by creating her own six-image story. Great idea! http://www.raisingreadersandwriters.com/2015/03/spring-break-with-puppies-6-image-story.html

Julianne Harmatz is here with a reflection about blogging with her students. https://jarhartz.wordpress.com/2015/03/15/sol15-day-15-reflections-on-tech-in-writing-workshop/

Deb Frazier is trying out Nutshell to define her maker space. http://debfrazier.blogspot.com/2015/03/slice-of-life-my-maker-space.html

Cathy Mere defines a Maker space and invites us all to participate in the Digital Maker Playground. http://reflectandrefine.blogspot.com/2015/03/digilit-sunday-digital-maker-playground.html

Carol Varsalona shares some of her experiences in digital literacy. http://reflectandrefine.blogspot.com/2015/03/digilit-sunday-digital-maker-playground.html

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SOL #14

SOL #14

Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us the celebrate each week. Click over to her site Discover. Play. Build. to read more celebrations.

 

I had a rough week physically, fighting congestion and cough and feeling generally yucky.  Yet, there are still many moments to celebrate.  I like to collect these moments on my phone and look back to see that this has indeed been a week to celebrate.

I have been eliminated from the MMPoetry 15 in round one.  I gave it a good shot and now, according to Ed, I am part of the “club.”  My students knew I was going to get beat as soon as they read the competing poem by Tiffany Strelitz Haber.  It’s hard to compete against Mr McStuffins baking muffins.  I am proud of my Poetry Friday friends who moved on to the next round.  Good luck! Be sure to follow the next brackets and vote.  It’s a great learning activity to do with your students.

My students are slicing away.  Friday was Digital Learning Day.  Our activity was a crazy comment challenge.  I offered candy prizes for comments.  (Skittles for single comments and Dum Dums for 10)  Two students wrote 50 and got a treat from the lounge.  I offered the challenge on Twitter and Holly Mueller’s class took it on.

Tweet from Holly

commentsJacob tally

Because I have small groups of students, I am able to celebrate birthdays with a special treat. Vannisa wanted cinnamon rolls and apples and the apple peeler. I have an old fashioned apple peeler that spins the apples and slices in a spiral. My students love it, and it’s become a favorite for birthdays.

cinnamon rolls

Book gifts are always a reason to celebrate. We had a book fair this week, and Emily’s grandmother bought 3 books for my class library. Two of my boys, Reed and Nigel, knew I wanted Terrible Two (teachers make a wish list), so they went in together to buy it for the class. How special!

Book fair gifts

On one of my lowest health days, I got a card in the mail from my friend, Jen. She made it herself. Isn’t it lovely? Despite the incessant rain, my nagging cough, and the loser poem, I feel lifted by my students and my friends. Celebrate!

card from Jen

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SOL #13

SOL #13

Join the roundup with Laura Shovan at Author Amok.

Join the roundup with Laura Shovan at Author Amok.

Bayou morning photo by Margaret Simon

Bayou morning photo by Margaret Simon

I love touring the slicing community and finding ideas.  Greg Armamentos has inspired me once again. He posted about writing dueling poems with opposite words. He and his student teacher wrote about old and young here.

I spoke with Tyler, a 6th grader,  about his slice for the day. He didn’t know what to write. I challenged him to a duel. He suggested sun and moon. He took moon, and I took sun (which, btw, we have not seen in days.)

I’ve been missing you lately
hidden behind sheets
of stratonimbus clouds.
Where have you gone?
When I wake up each morning,
you wave to me
along the bayou waters
touching tree limbs
with gentle, warm kisses.

I look for you
send your glowing rays
out from the clouds
to light up a rainbow.

I find you
in the wild flowers blooming
golden in the grass
sending scents
of glory and love
like honeysuckle– the taste
of sweetness on my tongue.

My pale peach skin
longs for your tanning rays,
bringing health back to my cheeks
and energy to my walk.

Won’t you come home, bright star?
I miss you.

–Margaret Simon

Tyler’s response: The Moon (Click here to leave comments for Tyler)

On the ocean
your light shines.
Lighting the way
during the night.
Controlling tides
as you please.
You are a guardian, the
Man on the Moon.
I see you in the day,
but better at night.
You watch us
sleep and protect
us as you do so.
Stay the same
no matter what
they say.

–Tyler

From Creative Commons

From Creative Commons

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SOL #12

SOL #12

Spiritual Journey framed

On Thursdays I join Holly Mueller’s round up of Spiritual Journey posts. We are all writing around a theme. This week we explore Jaana’s one little word, Discover.

I have an offering of a beautiful photograph taken by my friend, journalist, Chere’ Coen and a small poem based on these words of wisdom from Eknath Easwaran:

This prayer (Seek ye first the kingdom of God) is not addressed to someone outside us, but to our deepest Self, the Lord of Love, who dwells in the hearts of us all. When we repeat it, we are not asking for anything in particular, like good health or solutions to our problems or richer personal relationships. We are simply asking to get closer to the source of all strength and all joy and all love. Eknath Easwaran

Seek poster

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