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Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

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

I am a co-moderator with the #TeachWrite chat on Twitter. (Note the graphic on the side bar.) One of my colleagues in this endeavor is Michelle Haseltine.  Michelle put a photo on Facebook of a journal page from one of her students.  The page was filled with the outline of a jar and words and sketches were drawn inside the jar.

I took this idea and presented it to my students with a Brene’ Brown twist from Braving the Wilderness. 

We all have times when we feel lonely.  Have you ever felt alone in a crowd?  Like you just don’t fit in? There’s no one around who sees you or that you connect with.

We all have these times.  But when we do, we can take with us a jar of things that make us feel joy, make us feel safe.  What would be in your jar?

One student jumped up from her seat to draw a jar on the board.  She labelled it “Our Happy Place Jar.”  Her instructions were for everyone to draw one thing from their jar onto our shared jar.  (I love it when kids respond to the lesson with such leadership and participation.)

My students drew a variety of jars.  Some were filled with specific things from our class, Slice of Life, read aloud, computer (blogging), friends.  Others find joy in nature or family or funny memes.  Whatever their choices, they engaged with the idea and filled their jars.

Near the end of the week, Chloe announced, “Even if I have to throw away this journal, I will tear out this page and save it forever!”  That’s what I call Joy!

Mrs. Simon’s Sea

We are fish,
fish swimming through a treacherous sea,

a book,
open and full,

a nest,
a place of warmth,

a pencil and paper
for expression,

and a poem.

by Lynzee, 3rd grade

Austin’s Double E Jar

Andrew’s Rainbow Jar

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

 

Music has always been a part of my life.  From very young listening to my mother play the piano to teenage years hearing my brother through the walls between our rooms.  The musical talent was passed on through the lefties in our family, my mother and my brother.

I took piano lessons until I entered college.  In high school and beyond even to today, I’ve sung alto in multiple choirs. So you could say music is part of me, but I’ve never felt very musical when it came to playing an instrument.

At NCTE this year, I sat in a circle of ukulele players.  Jan Burkins placed her instrument in my hands and taught me three easy chords.  She said, “You could do this!”

I asked Santa (my husband) for a ukulele for Christmas.  He loved the idea.  He researched and visited local music stores to find the just right one. I started practicing early Christmas morning. I’ve practiced every day since.

 

I cut my fingernails on my left hand.  Those fingers are sore and numb from pressing hard on the strings.  They say this gets better with time. I am determined not to give up because of a little pain.  My husband, the runner, says you have to move past the pain.

I haven’t been able to sing and play at the same time which is my end goal.  I do have an awesome teacher, though.  Her name is Cynthia Lin.  She’s patient and kind and takes it slow.

I’ve decided to take on the word EXPLORE for my One Little Word for 2018.  No better way to begin my exploration than to learn to play an instrument.  I will be exploring chords, strumming, and patience.

This photo is a bridge over the Mississippi River near New Orleans.

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

Not every student is made to be a mentor.  A common thought about gifted kids is to encourage them to mentor other students.  As a teacher of gifted, I’ve seen students who work well with other students and I’ve seen those who don’t.  I feel it is important to know a student well before pushing him/her to help other students.

I haven’t taught Chloe long, but I knew she would make a great mentor. She is confident without being condescending.  She’s enthusiastic about whatever we are doing in class and spreads that enthusiasm.  So when I asked her if she wanted to teach her regular class about color poems, she literally jumped up and down.

At NCTE I grabbed an Advanced Reader’s Copy of Polly Diamond and the Magic Book by Alice Kuipers and Diana Toledano. I also picked up a teacher’s guide which led me to the color poem pattern from Read, Write, Think.  (Polly writes a color poem that her teacher loves.) Chloe wanted to write a color poem like Polly.

First she chose her favorite color, pink, and made a list of pink things.  We talked about figurative language and how she could use it in her poem.  Chloe wrote this poem:

Pink is cotton candy.

Pink is a horn of a unicorn.

Pink is my blanket.

Pink is a flower.

Pink tastes like bubble gum.

Pink smells like a rose.

Pink sounds like a violin.

Pink feels like a pillow.

Pink looks like my mom’s lips.

Pink makes me beautiful.

Pink is magnificent!

When Chloe shared her poem with her classmates, they were ready to write their own.  Having a form helped.  Her friends selected their own favorite colors and used the form to guide their writing in their writing notebooks.  As she walked from group to group, Chloe checked in to see what they needed help with.  She was patient and helpful.  Her classmates were focused and serious about their writing.  Chloe was a proud teacher.

Writing is hard work!

 

by second grader Kelsie.

 

 

 

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Slice of Losing a Life

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

I put off going to visit.

I took my time finishing a prayer blanket. Then busy days kept me away. Until Sunday.  I knew I needed to go before it was too late.

I knocked tentatively on the door.  No answer.  Another knock. No answer.  I hung the bag with the blanket inside on the door handle and tip-toed back to my car.  I texted her daughter, “I left a package at the door.”

She responded, “No one answered the door?  I’m not home.  They must be on the back patio.”

I turned my car around.  Ok, here I go.  I walked around to the back and met her husband and her sister.  “I have the monitor, so I can hear her,” her husband said. “It’s time for her medicine. It’s a good time to visit.  She will be more alert.”

“You may be shocked to see her,” he added.  I remembered seeing my husband’s father near death.  I felt prepared.

I wasn’t prepared.

She lay in the bed. Her face pale, almost stone-like, but still soft and warm.  I lay next to her, placed the blanket over her, and cried.

When I spoke her name, she opened her eyes.  Did she see my tears?  She tried to reach out to hug me, but her arms had no direction.  I held her hand and rambled:

“You are beautiful.

You are a queen.

I love you.

God is with you.”

She mumbled.  I didn’t understand her words.

I think she said, “I’m sick.”

I think she said, “I love you.”

I think she smiled.

When her husband came in with her medicine, I saw true love.  He climbed onto the bed, raised her up, and said, “Breathe, breathe. I love you. Breathe.”

As I left, I hugged him.  A man I just met.  He was doing the best he could.  He’s holding on to a small thread and knows that it will soon break.  He will lose her.  She will die.  My eyes met his.

“I’m sorry,” I said.  “I’m so sorry.”

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Slice of Life: Racism

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

Up early this morning, I was reading my email and read a blog post from my friend Julieanne. She lives in Los Angeles, but a few weeks ago we were together at NCTE in St. Louis.  NCTE planted seeds. We left feeling refreshed, renewed, and challenged in our thoughts about teaching and about our lives.

This morning Julianne wrote:

I have been afraid to face racism straight on in the classroom. Fearful of being wrong. The thing is, it’s a done deal. I am wrong. I had manufactured a dilemma to hide in.
–Julieanne Harmatz

Her post reminded me of a conversation in the hallway returning from lunch.  Noah said to Jacob, “You know, you are my slave.”  He did know.  They had both figured out without any words from me that in the play they are rehearsing for the Shadows, a local plantation home, that they are acting as owner and slave.

My students have done this play for years, but this year I wanted to be clear about what their roles were.  I hadn’t talked about it yet with these boys, but they figured it out.  Jacob said, “I’m OK with it.  It’s just a play.”

But is it just a play?  What is our role in stopping racism?  How are we perpetuating the story without saying anything?

Back in class, we were looking through the collection of books I got at NCTE.  One book was Can I Touch Your Hair? by Irene Latham and Charles Waters.  I explained that Irene is a woman who looks like me, and Charles looks like Chloe’s dad.  In their book, Charles and Irene face racism head on. (No pun intended.) We came across a poem about the N-bomb.  What is the N-bomb?  My students wanted to know.

We had an honest discussion about how that word (I spelled it because I couldn’t say it out loud.) is racist.  And what is a racist?  Someone who judges another person by their race and not by who they really are.

Like Julieanne and many teachers affected by the words of Jacqueline Woodson and Jason Reynolds at NCTE, I will take the opportunities when they arise to have these tough conversations.  Teachable moments.  I am a white southern woman. I am part of the dilemma, but I can also be part of the solution.  So can you.

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

 

As I sit at home rummaging through my notes and photos from NCTE, I wonder how I can capture this amazing weekend in a single post.  Then I wrote my title, “A Slice of NCTE.”  I can do a slice, a snippet, a taste.

The overarching message that I came away with was equity.

From Katherine and Randy Bomer, as they accepted the NCTE award for Outstanding Elementary Educator, equity is communicated in their core values.  Meet every child with an air of expectancy and listen with love.  When I attended Katherine’s session “Appreciative Response for Writers: Words and Ways to Reclaim our Voices and Instill Agency in All Students,” once again the word equity arose as she and her teacher educators gave very practical ways to give students what they need in feedback to writing. I stopped by Corwin Books to buy Patty McGee’s new book Feedback that Moves Writers Forward.  In the session, Patty showed us how to honor what students are already doing and yet, move them toward growth.  I look forward to digging into this book.

From Jason Reynolds, the equity message was evident in his acceptance speech for the NCTE Charlotte Huck Award.  The story of Ghost is based on Jason’s real life friend, Matthew.  The real Ghost also loved to eat sunflower seeds.  Jason challenged us teachers by asking us what kind of sunflower eater would we be.  One who puts the whole seed in your mouth and sucks all the salt off to spit it out whole?  One who chews the whole seed and spits it out?  Or one who carefully finds the perfect place to crack the shell, hides the tiny seed in a safe place, then takes out the hard, cracked shell?  #sunflowerseedchallenge.

 

Jack, the lemur, eats sunflower seeds slowly.

From a panel of moving educators (Sara Ahmed, Katharine Hale, Jessica Lifshitz, Donalyn Miller, Katie Muhtaris, Pernille Ripp, and Katherine Sokolowski), all women who have a story, a story of inequity, a story of how they were called to stand up and stand out for justice.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.  I was more than moved by their stories.  I resolved to be better, to do better.  I resolved to carefully eat my sunflower seeds and offer a place a safety, a place of equity, a home for all student voices.

 

 

 

 

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

On Saturday I attended a photography workshop about using your smartphone held at The Shadows on the Teche, our resident plantation home.  I have fond feelings for this place not just because of its beauty, but it’s a place where my students participate every year in a play for first grade students in the parish.

After James, our presenter, gave us much technical information (some of which flew right over my head), we were sent out on the grounds to find interesting things to photograph.  Although he didn’t say it, most of us interpreted that James wanted us to look at things with a new eye, a different perspective, and an appreciation for the hidden beauty of the place.

I was drawn to a lace curtain over a window with moss in the trees barely visible beyond.  When I got home, I played around with the effects on the iPhone app and sent the photo off to Shutterfly and ordered cards.  One thing that James pointed out to us is that nothing is more satisfying than seeing an actual, hands-on print of your photo.

I also wrote a haiku to place inside the card:

Through the lace curtain,
moss hangs in soft stillness
whispering a prayer.

James assured us that not every photo we take will be “the shot”. We have to take a bunch, practice moving around the subject for many angles, and give yourself permission to try new things.

Here is a gallery of a few of my favorite photos from the day.

The Shadows on the Teche

Moss hangs over the Bayou Teche.

My photo partner wanders to find a perfect shot of the graveyard.

This workshop helped me feel more confident with photography with the camera I always carry with me. I am now more alert to what may make my next winning shot.

This week I’ll be at NCTE.  Hope to see many of my slicing friends there. I’ll be presenting on Friday morning with a panel of knock-out authors.

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