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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

 

Madison came into my gifted class when she was in second grade.  On day one, she wrote 3 blog posts and was hooked on writing.  Now in 4th grade, she came up with an idea for a story writing club.  This was a result of problem solving.  She loves writing stories, particularly fan fiction to Warrior Cats, but she didn’t think many people were reading her blog posts.  She thought if we had a blog that was specific to writing stories, maybe those kids who are interested in writing as well as reading stories could join.

 

With a new subscription to Kidblog from my district’s gifted program, we teachers are able to have multiple sites with the same students.  Story Writing Club was born. The day after I set up the blog was a Saturday, but Madison checked in and wrote this post.

Hello. This was originally my idea, so.. I guess I’ll make the Welcome – To – This – Blog – Post. 

This is a blog where you make your stories- nonfiction, fiction, or any genre. Chapter by chapter, or just a normal picture book.

Word, by word, by word, we are changing ourselves into authors. Word. By word. By. Word.

Think of your ideas as silk or cotton. Weave them together- make cloth. Now it’s time to put the cloth together to make a wonderful story.

I hope you enjoy making wonderful stories out of many ideas.

Buh-bye!

I introduced the idea to all my classes (I teach 3 groups of gifted students at 3 different schools).  To date, eleven kids have signed on.  And they can’t wait to write.  This is an highly motivating free time activity.  Madison created a story about cats, of course.  She is also very talented at digital art.  This is an image of one of her story characters.

When students writing stories they want to write, they learn the stuff of writers that I could never teach them.  Jacob was writing his second chapter today, and he exclaimed, “You know the berries from chapter one? Well, turns out he needed them in chapter two.  I didn’t know that would happen.”

Jacob wrote, “He took out the berries that Triton saved in his booksack. The creature seemed to love them. Triton tossed the creature a berry, in a second it gobbled up the berry.”

Sometimes writers follow the story and find their way.

I love that my students are experiencing the joy of writing with little direction from me.  We often talk about student-driven learning but rarely do we really have the opportunity to make it happen.  I applaud Madison’s resourcefulness in building a community that would support her passion.  These are lessons that don’t make it into the standards but will support my students in being the best they can be.

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

Dawson is new to gifted classes, but he is not new to helping others.  I found out on Friday that he had a bake sale on Thursday to benefit a local diner.  I asked him to tell me all about it.  We talked about the efforts that went into the process, talking with the principal, advertising, and making all the treats.  His goal was $50.  Selling each treat for 50 cents takes a while to reach $50, but he was determined.

He wrote this on his Kidblog post:

I’m so excited I can’t wait till I get to see the happy looks on the homeless people’s faces! I just can’t wait. By the time the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders come, I will have no more food. Some of the comments they gave me were ” Delicious brownies Dawson”, and ” Wow, great cookies Dawson”.

When Dawson finished his post, I asked him what else he was passionate about.  Without hesitation, he said “Reading.”  He had figured out a way to get all his AR points by reading every night before bed.  He also learned that reading before you go to sleep actually creates melatonin and helps you sleep better.  Did I mention that Dawson is in 4th grade?

As a teacher of gifted kids, I am used to being blown away every day.  They can say the most amazing things.  But Dawson’s only been in my class for 2 weeks, and already he is showing the kind of leadership I can work years to instill in my students. I couldn’t help myself; I had to egg him on.

In the end, he created this public service announcement that we recorded and emailed to all the teachers.  What a joy!

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I believe there is a time for everything, like the song, “To every thing, turn…” Even for the best of ideas, the time for its purpose runs out.  I have been struggling with this idea about DigiLitSunday for a while.  It’s hard to let it go, but I feel it’s time to move on.

This school year has new challenges for me.  But the greatest challenge is time.  Some things have to go.  I’ve decided to let this blog link-up go.  I will continue to try to post on Tuesdays for Slice of Life and Fridays for Poetry Friday and the occasional Saturday Celebrate. I love my blog space and my blogging community.

Recently I joined the team for a new Twitter chat, #TeachWrite.  Join us for our September chat on Monday evening, Sept. 4th at 7:30 EST.  Ironically, our September topic is “Finding Time for Writing.”

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

 

I know “pantser” isn’t a real word.  It’s derived from the phrase, “flying by the seat of your pants.”  I’ve seen this term used in reference to writing style, “Do you plot or pants?”

This tweet from Ralph Fletcher during the Two Writing Teachers Twitter chat jump-started my thinking about this idea.

I started thinking about my first week of teaching and how often I veered off the plan. Pantsing it is where I find my creative teacher self. It’s when my students tend to respond more authentically.

I understand the purpose of planning, and I am certainly capable of falling into a planning zone when I’m writing my lesson plans for the week. I research to find the resources I may need to use. I write out an outline of this, this, then this. But once the day starts and there are real live children sitting in front of me, I begin to fly by the seat of my pants.

Actually I like the phrase, “Go with the Flow” better. As a teacher, my calling is to respond to the needs of my students, or to the creative flow they direct.

This is a silly example: I bought a chair at Goodwill that had an exercise ball in it. I spray painted the black plastic part orange. I brought it to my classroom. When we had writing workshop and were ready to share, the students brought out the ball chair to sit on. I said, “This is our new author’s chair” like that was my plan all along. The kids called it a snail. I said, “Author’s snail” which became “Arthur the author’s snail.”

I wanted to have a soft start to the day this year. This is the kind of thing that if you don’t start on day one and continue, it won’t happen. The planner in me put on some quiet music (I had carefully selected and downloaded it to my phone), and we all read silently for 20 minutes. I read, too, which felt like a joyful rest from the rush of getting to school.

Then my pantser self kicked in, but only because I had read Dynamic Teaching by Vicki Vinton this summer. Following the quiet reading session, I asked my students to take some time to write about what they knew so far and what they were wondering about. Then to turn and talk to their neighbor about the book they were reading. This started meaningful conversations about books that have continued all week.

Being a pantser comes with experience. I have lots of strategies in my tool bag just waiting for the right time to be used. I think it’s time for me to stop feeling guilty when I run off the lesson plan. Actually, I want to embrace my pantser self and bring her out more often. That’s when the real teaching happens.

If you wrote a blog post for DigiLitSunday, please link below.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

 

This summer I have been nurturing myself.  I know that’s a good thing, but in doing so, I lost some of my stamina.  I always do.  During the summer months, I sleep a little later, linger a little longer, and relax into a slower pace.

When school starts back up again as it has for me this week, I have to build my stamina for getting up before the sun, going longer between meals, and being alert.  Our kids have to build their stamina, too.

 

Nurturing myself this summer included yoga classes.  Yoga is all about stamina, sustaining a pose for minutes at a time, all the while your muscles are vibrating and telling you to release.  When I stood in warrior pose on Saturday, I thought about how this relates to my school year.  The instructor said, “In warrior pose, you are both guarded and open.  Your arm shoots straight out like a drawn sword while you stand wide legged and open for attack.”

I will be a warrior for my students.  I will guard them and be open to them.  I will honor their presence and push them to new limits.

When I learned that I would be teaching some new students and different subject areas, my sword went up, and I resisted.  But once I started delving into the content, I felt my stance relax.  I got this.  My focus shifted to the thrill of planning for new learning.  I hope this will happen with my students as well.  Once they get into the swing of things, their focus will shift, their stamina will rise, and they will become warriors for their own learning.

Click on the link below to add your own DigiLitSunday post.

Don’t forget to join us Monday, August 7th at 7:30 Eastern for the new #TeachWrite chat. Questions with times are available here.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Saturday morning yoga, my instructor, Susan, says “You should not tell yourself that your body can’t do something. Challenge yourself to try, and your body may just surprise you.” So when she said we were going to do head stands, I stopped the “No way,” and said, “Ok. I’ll try.” I opened myself to her knowledgeable instruction. She guided me step by step. And when I was upside down, I felt powerful, giddy, invincible.

I want to take this learning into my classroom and into my teacher-self. Our school year begins on Wednesday. Scheduling is a nightmare for anyone who has to look at a master schedule and plan for all the various pull-outs and special classes. I am one of those teachers that messes up the master schedule. This year I will be servicing three schools. Three different schools with three different schedules pulling out gifted students in 5 different grade levels. I know you must be saying by now, impossible.

Teachers, isn’t that how we roll? Turning impossible into possible. Whatever it may be, a move to a new classroom, grade level, or position, a new administrator to get to know, a crazy schedule to make work, we put on our super hero capes and take off, letting the winds of self-doubt fly past us. Flexibility is in our stride.

 

If I can do a hand stand, I can go confidently into this school year. But just in case I need a guiding mantra, I made a Canva poster out of Cornelius’s charge and my friend, Dani Burtsfield’s photo from Glacier Park in Montana.

 

 

Be sure to join me in the new #TeachWrite chat on Monday, August 7th at 7:30 EST.  For more information and a list of questions, go to #TeachWrite Chat.

 

Link up your DigiLitSunday posts below:

 

 

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Not really, but I didn’t get the DigiLitSunday post up this morning.  I have my excuses.  Don’t we all?  But the basic reason was self-doubt.  I battle this as much as anyone. Even some of my favorite authors go through this, so why would I expect anything different of myself?

I’ve been trying to keep up with #cyberPd.  This group is reading and responding to Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by Vicki Vinton.  This week’s posts are around chapters 7 and 8.  I just now finished chapter 7, so I didn’t do all of my homework.  I was reminded by a friend that this is a self-made assignment and if I don’t want to do it, nobody will care.  That is true, but then I had to re-assess why I am reading and writing in the first place.

I want to be a better reader, a better writer, and a better teacher of both reading and writing.  I believe that I should practice what I preach.  So, for better or worse, here I am.  If you did write a digilit post, link up below.  It’s not too late.

Chapter 7, Creating Opportunities for Readers to Interpret, begins with this epigraph:

We search for patterns, you see, only to find where the patterns break.  And it’s there, in that fissure that we pitch our tents and wait.  –Nicole Krauss

Readers do not build interpretations on what is obvious in a text.  We sit in the fissure of broken patterns, wondering, questioning, testing out our theories, and peeling away the layers the author has set up for us.

I feel I have done a disservice to my gifted students in not helping them understand that we don’t always understand.  Julieanne Harmatz wrote in her reflections about Chs. 7 & 8 that we must embrace confusion as part of learning.  Vicki Vinton shows me how to honor my students’ thinking and hold onto it in order to promote engagement, a sense of agency, and ownership.  They need to understand that not knowing is part of the thinking process. And what’s wrong with going back to the text to re-read?

Have you ever had an Aha moment while reading, and turned back to say, “Oh, that’s what that was about!”?   Of course you have.  Because that is how authors grab us and make us want to read more.  By focusing on the process rather than the product (test, essay, whatever), we can mold our students into problem-solving thinkers.

Reading is a transactional act.  The text comes alive in our minds when we interact using our own interpretations and our own hearts.  Then a story becomes real and meaningful.  We can encourage this flexibility of thought within our classrooms.  Vicki Vinton helps show us how.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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