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Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

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

 

New York, NY, September 13, 2001 — Urban Search and Rescue specialists continue to search for survivors amongst the wreckage at the World Trade Center.
Photo by Andrea Booher/ FEMA News Photo

I never know if it’s the right thing to do.  I didn’t write it into my lesson plans.  I hesitate every year about teaching 9/11 to my gifted students.  But there’s a part of me that thinks they need to know the truth.  The need to have some seed of understanding about the meaning of that tragic day.

In my email on Monday morning, I read “Teach this Poem” from the Academy of American Poets. I forgot that I had signed up for this email, but I was glad it came.  The lesson gave me strong footing for talking about the unspeakable tragedy of 16 years ago.

First we looked at a photo of the destruction, writing down things we saw.

Some words collected from the image

dust
ash
destruction
devastation
war
dark
despair
collapsed
ruined lives

Then we read Lucille Clifton’s poem Tuesday, 9/11/01.  We noticed in the structure of the poem spaces, no capital letters.  This structure, someone said, expressed how raw and true her response was.  One student read it aloud.  The others hummed at the end, that hum when words hit you right in the gut.

I looked at their faces, the faces of my students who were innocent of terror and fear, but they heard it, they saw it, they got it.  And this understanding made me so extremely sad.

At the end of class, Faith came to me and said, “I need a hug.”

She knew it was me who needed the hug.

How do we best teach this history that is still so new and raw?  Pictures, poems, words, talk, tears.  That’s how.

My students wrote their poetic responses. Some wrote the facts they learned.  Some wrote their own feelings.  Some wrote through the eyes of the helpers.

I wish I didn’t have to teach this day.  I wish this day never happened.  I hope my students walked away with not only the details of the tragedy, but also a heart of kindness, hopefulness, and (please God) peace!

 

Madison’s journal page

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This summer after our Father’s Day lunch, a stroll in the lower garden district of New Orleans with my daughters led me to Sophie Bell Wright. When I saw what seemed to be a random statue of a woman, I paused.  Curiosity got the best of me, so I walked across the street and through the tall grass to see this statue.  A woman?  Who is she?

In this season of southern statues causing uprisings, Sophie Bell Wright sits unguarded and untouched, practically hidden from public view.  When I got close enough to read the plaque, I saw that she was a teacher.  I had to know more.

 

My research led me to Know Louisiana, a website curated by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.  I have supported this organization for years, but didn’t know about this site for historical documents.  This primary source newspaper article was there.  Click on the image to go to the article.

Sophie B. Wright only lived for 46 years. In those years she struggled with a disability and rose above poverty to create a public day school for girls and a night school for boys who had to work during the day.  In 1904 she established the first school for disabled orphans. In her spare time, Sophie Wright worked for prison reform, public playgrounds, and as president of the Woman’s Club.

I saw a Tweet from a friend about a NY Times article by Julia Baird entitled Why We Should Put Women on Pedestals.  While this article speaks of a statue of Queen Victoria in Quebec that was damaged by vandals, it inspired me to look back at the photo I took this summer. In the process, I found the story of Sophie B. Wright.  This amazing woman should be recognized for her strength and courage during post Civil War New Orleans to face obstacles and persevere for education for all.  This is a statue that will continue to point us toward a deeper understanding of the purpose of statues and monuments: to inspire us to be better, do better, and know better.

 

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Grace takes a breath.

Grace assumes positive intent. Grace gives us permission to fail or forget or forge ahead. Grace helps us to try again, to keep going, to work the tasks, one manageable piece at a time.

Lee Ann Spillane

For my one little word in 2017, I chose Cherish.  There was purpose in this as I knew the special moments with my children would be fewer.  I wanted to be sure to cherish every family event.  And I did.  We had a beautiful wedding in March, and I cherished visiting time with family this summer.

 

Things change.  Fast forward to August, 2017 when the thing I need most is grace.  The kind of grace that Lee Ann Spillane is asking for.  The grace that lets me be imperfect and unorganized, stressed out and overwhelmed.

This grace comes in the questions from my yoga instructor on Saturday:

How will you enter into this day?
Will you try to fit through the needle?
What is the shape of a cloud?

Metaphorical me wants to have grace like a cloud, not the stormy ones that have threatened the Gulf coast this week, but those white fluffy ones.  The ones that cover the sun allowing crepuscular rays to escape.  I find hope in those clouds. I can be any shape I want to be.

I received grace in the storm.

Hurricane Harvey has devastated Houston. For that, I am deeply saddened and continually praying.  Around here in South Louisiana, we’ve had rain, rain, rain.  School was cancelled due to street flooding, but so far no home damage.

My grace came in the shape of a storm.  Time to resettle myself.  Time to regroup, reorganize, and get a grip.  Time to cherish my good fortune and blessings.

Help Houston:

Kate Messner has set up an auction KitLit Cares.  Please consider a bid to benefit yourself and your students and ultimately help our friends in Houston.

This storm just won’t quit.  My friend, author Caroline Sibbald Leech, posted this link for places to donate and ways to help.

 

Be sure to set aside time on Labor Day evening to join the #TeachWrite Twitter chat as we discuss finding time to write.

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There’s no denying that this has been a difficult start to a new year of teaching. I’ve been faced with a number of new directives, new policies and new students. I have felt like I would never quite get my feet on the ground.

I started this week with teaching the Book, Head, Heart framework from Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst. (Christina Noseck was interviewed by Scholastic and quoted in this article about the framework.) While I was discussing the Heart part of reviewing a book, I made a mental connection. Here I’ve been overwhelmed and quite ranty if you’ve been within earshot lately, but what is the heart of my call to teaching?…the kids.

I looked at my group of students all attentive and ready to learn and realized that none of that other stuff matters all that much. Not as much as this: The heart of my teaching is connecting to the heart of a child. This is going to be a great year all because of the hearts I have the privilege of spending time nurturing.

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Rain falls every day where I live, deep down south in Louisiana bayou country. And it never fails, Charlie, my nearly 10 year old schnoodle, gets upset. He cries, and I have to open the back door to let him run outside and bark at the rain. I tell him, “Charlie, it does this every day! You should know by now.”

This is a dog that sets his clock by a treat in the morning and a Dingo at dinner time. He knows when it’s time, and he sits by the cabinet and waits.

This is a dog who knows when I have tennis shoes on, we are going for a walk. His tail wags, and he gladly stands still for the leash.

This is a dog who grabs his ball and runs to the door when I say, “Daddy’s home!”

If you have a pet, you know how they are. Creatures of routine. So why, when the thunder booms and the rain falls, does he always need to bark it away? Ah, yes, routine. Rain comes around every afternoon. He feels the lower pressure. He anticipates the fearful storm. A creature of habit.

I hear the rumble of thunder, feel the rhythm of cicada song, and know that all is well with the world. Charlie is on call.

Charlie sits for a treat.

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..out in de camp, out yonda in da camp, de ole, ole women too old to work and too old to make babies, dey stay an mind de young chilens so dat de me kin all work in de fields and dey fee dam an all so when de ma come back all dey got to do is to push ’em in de bed, all of dem in de same bed. –Frances Doby, age 100
Cammie G. Henry Research Center
Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Federal Writers Project Folder 19

On Monday, I went on a summer field trip to Whitney Plantation located in Wallace, LA. Established in 1752, Whitney Plantation was a working sugar plantation until the early 1970’s. Recently, it has been transformed into an active museum that captures the experience of enslavement.  This place tells the unheard story of all other plantation homes.  This story is not a romanticized version of plantation life.  This story is gripping and harrowing and sad.

Inside the old Antioch Church, statues of enslaved children stand, some sit on the pews.  The children of the slaves from Whitney Plantation tell you the story with their staring eyes.  These stories were captured by a Federal Writers Project led by John Lomax in 1936.  The plantation now honors over 100,000 names of slaves and children.

The Antioch Baptist Church was moved to the plantation in 1999. This church was built post Civil War (1870) by former slaves.

This memorial statue stands in the Field of Angels to honor all the slave children lost before age 3.

Panels in the Field of Angels include etched photographs, prayers, and quotes along with 2,200 names from documents in the Sacramental Records of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

A Jamaica line of sugar kettles remind us of the long, arduous task of turning cane into sugar.

If you are ever in the New Orleans area, Whitney Plantation is a worthy side trip.  I believe we must try to understand our history to move forward into a better future.

 

 

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