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

 

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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Poetry Friday posts are with Kay at A Journey through the Pages.

Monday, August 21st is the day. Here in South Louisiana we will get about 72% of the total eclipse. On this site, you can put in your zip code to see what time is best for viewing and how much you will see.

Kelly Gallagher sent out this article of the week for students to read closely.

NASA is full of interesting information.  I even found a lesson for my students here that I adapted for younger kids.

On Facebook for Laura Shovan’s 10 words project, Jone MacCulloch posted this:

My students enjoy writing poems about science.  This 10-word prompt worked well for those kids who don’t know what to write when given a more open topic.  By doing this activity, we discussed words we didn’t know and then used them in a poem.  What better way to incorporate science topics, vocabulary, and reading comprehension?  Poetry does it all!

Solar Eclipse

As the sky turns obscure

the shadow will reveal the corona.

The eclipse will collect luminosity

as if it is understanding

that it is interconnected

with the universe.

By now the Solar eclipse should be charged

since the last random appearance.

–Faith, 6th grade

I drafted a poem alongside my students.  Mine is not about the solar eclipse, but an eclipse of another kind.

Cicadas Sing to the Sun

Charged with luminosity,
cicada songs rise in a corona of sound.

My shadow follows their lead,
not to understanding, but
to hope.

When hearts are eclipsed
by misunderstanding,
we forget
our interconnected stories–
yours, mine, ours,
theirs, too.

Obscurity reveals our vulnerability.

When we are too close to the edge
of possibility, one step forward
can change everything.

Be careful where you step.

–Margaret Simon

 

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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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Poetry Friday posts are here today. Scroll down and click the green frog.

Welcome to my birthday poetry party.  I am a birthday triplet with Linda Mitchell and Julieanne Harmatz, both of whom I originally met through blogging.  Now they are real life writing critique friends.  Hop over to their blogs to say Happy Birthday! Julieanne

Linda

I am sharing some poetic treasures.  Joy Acey sent me a beautiful watercolor painting of an iris along with a fluttering haiku for the Summer Poetry Swap.   She also sent a blank card, so I put it into WordSwag and wrote a response haiku to Joy.

Joy wrote in her note to me that she considered this alternate third line.
Blue Dutch Irises
flutter to the wind’s command
Happy Birthday wishes!

Sea blue echoes
Ukulele birthday song
Windcall my name
–Margaret Simon

School has started.  I found on a shelf in my classroom an old copy of Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.  I read to my students the chapter “Be Specific” in which she quotes William Carlos Williams, “Write what is under your nose.”  Then I read aloud River of Words by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet about the life of William Carlos Williams.  Writing prompt: Write a poem that uses something specific and ordinary and begin with “So much depends upon…” after W.C. Williams’ poem with the same first line.

I was pretty pleased with my poem about the sparkles of condensation on a glass of mint iced tea until I was absolutely blown away by my students’ writing.

So much depends upon
the warm glow of the fairy lights,
silver and golden with gems and hearts
gently pushing me to the ocean of dreams.

Drifting calmly until the waves
rock me to the land of reality,
until the fairies and their lights
send me out again.

Erin, 6th grade

 

So much depends upon
the brass uniform of a senior dragonfly
soaring past
the barking, yelling, chirping, rumbling
noises of the day.

Lynzee, 3rd grade

 

I can already tell that this is going to be an amazing year of poetry writing. Did you notice “brass uniform of a senior dragonfly?” We were all blown away by that line.

Link your Poetry Friday post 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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Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

I need to celebrate today.  I think the days when it is hardest are the days when celebration is needed the most.  Today I am celebrating in pictures from my phone storage.

I saw this scene as I was driving home.  I stopped, got out of my car, walked across the street to the bridge to capture the sunset.  I celebrate that every day there is beauty in the world.

This bulletin board is outside my room at one of my three schools.  This school has a Disney theme this year.  I celebrate the students who helped me create this board and I celebrate that the letters are running over the edge of the border and I’m OK with it. I had to “Let it go!” (That’s from another Disney movie, isn’t it?)

This sign was stuck to the mirror at another school.  I celebrate the positive messages I’ve received this week from colleagues and friends.  They are my rainbows.  I received this text on the first day of school: “Just thinking about you and wishing you a very good year at school.  I hope your travels to three school goes smoothly.”

Sunsets. Mermaids. Rainbows.  Positive, magical messages that make me happy.

What are some of the positive messages you’ve received this week?

 

 

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Find other posts at To Read, To Write, To Be with Julieanne

 

We had our first faculty meeting yesterday.  Our new master teacher was charged with leading an ice breaker.  She passed around a bowl of Hershey’s chocolate bars.  She told us to choose one carefully.  I chose Krackel.  The first personality she put on the board was Dark Chocolate.  I should have chosen Dark Chocolate.  I am more comfortable as an introvert.

You are a deep and complex person. You don’t let anyone get too close to you.
You stay a mystery, and you’re good at keeping secrets… especially your own.

You prefer to stay on the outside a bit and observe. You find people fascinating.
You seek to understand and appreciate the world. There is more to you than anyone will ever know.

But God had a message for me, so God made me choose Krackel.

You create a spark and leave a mark everywhere you go. You’re very bold.
Your days are full of fun and laughter. You love life, and you never take it too seriously.

You enjoy brightening someone’s mood, and you are always an optimist.
Things may not ever be perfect, but you’ll always find something to smile about.

I was caught being pessimistic.  I had to laugh at this joke.  Me?  A smiling optimist?  Full of fun and laughter?  Not at this party!  I have been anything but optimistic about this new school year.  I’ve been trying to change my attitude.  What can change your attitude better than random fortune cookie-like personality proclamations?  I am going to tape this Krackel wrapper to the front of my writing notebook.

 

On another note, but along the same topic of messages from the universe, I saw this sign on a fence in my daughter’s neighborhood.

What a great message!  I need to realize even though I am faced with a difficult schedule and new curriculum to learn, I can be better this year than I was last year.  And being better is a choice that is mine to make.

So for this new beginning, I am going to take these not so subliminal smack-me-in-the-face messages and start the new school year with optimism, a sense of humor, and determination to make it the best year ever.

 

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