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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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Click over to Steps & Staircases for more Poetry Friday.

 

Inspired by Project 1,2,3 originated by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and continued by her daughter, Lisa challenged us to make a metaphorical poem from an object/image.  Many of us took the challenge.  To see more poems, click over to Lisa’s blog to read more posts.

I brought this idea to my students and combined it with a lesson from Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s book Poems are Teachers, “Make Metaphors” on page 136. We looked at model poems and talked about how an object can become a metaphor.  In one class, I passed around a paintbrush and said, “A paintbrush is…”  In another, I blew bubbles and said, “Bubbles are like…”  Each of these inspired beautiful responses from my kiddos.

  • A paintbrush is your imagination.
  • A paintbrush paints your path.
  • Bubbles are sparkling rainbows.
  • Bubbles are in orbit flying around Saturn.

As I wrote with my students, I grabbed a pink marker and made three swirls on my paper.  Back at home with a little time to craft (snow day!), I cut and pasted pink swirls in an art journal.  Thanks, Lisa, for the fun prompt.

 

Swirl of pink
sparkle-sky
diamond bright
stars of night

Swirl of pink
puffy parting clouds
play peek-a-boo
with the sun

Swirl of pink
licky-lick
sticky-lip
lollipop

–Margaret Simon, 2017

 

Chloe’s Bubble poem

Trace’s pink paintbrush poem

Austin’s wooden flute poem

Lynzee’s angel poem

After we wrote and shared our poems, Andrew had an idea.  “Why don’t we take a line from each of our poems and make a new poem?”  Sounds like a great idea.  Here’s the resulting poem.

To dream it, all you have to do is start.

Don’t erase yourself from the real world.
Paint your true colors.

There is no fright.
Not to lose but to gain.

Flying high above
a swirl of pink puffy parting cloud,

The sea is my world.
The sand is my happiness.

–Caneview GT Allstars

 

 

 

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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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Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

 

Developing a mindset for presence is difficult in these busy fall days.  I am adjusting slowly to the shifting of gears three times a day as I travel from school to school.  I use the car ride to reflect on the last class and prepare for the next.  I’ve got the time down so that I’m not rushing.  I’ve noticed on the sign-in sheets at my schools that my time is the same every day even without my paying much attention to it.

 

EnneaThought® for the Day

Type Two EnneaThought® for November 11th

How can you fully experience your Presence here and now? Observe the many thoughts that pass through your awareness without becoming attached to any of them. (The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 47)

 

This week I’ve been practicing mindfulness and meditation with my morning group of kids.  They looked forward to this.  But Friday was Friday and their little busy minds just would not relax.  Eyes were opening, mouths were smiling, feet were fidgety.   So after the timer dinged, I asked my students to open their journals to free write about the word ripple.  I selected the word from the mindfulness card that said to imagine dropping a stone into the water and watch the ripples.  Adding this layer to the meditation practice brought my students to a vulnerable place.  I’m learning that when we open up our classrooms to the experience of mindfulness and safety, emotions can arise.  We have to be ready to treat them with gentleness and kindness.

Focus on nothing
everything becomes clearer
morning mindfulness

 

 

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

 

We’ve been talking about mood lately, in reading and in writing. I pre-ordered a box of mindfulness cards, Mindful Kids by Whitney Stewart. They arrived last week.  I started to use them along with meditation first thing in the morning.  I wasn’t sure how a group of various ages would respond to the concept of meditation.  So far, I’ve been pleased.

I pulled a card from the Mindful Kids box and the instructions were to draw a picture of your mood.  I asked my students to select a color that depicted their mood. I talked about the importance of being in touch with what you are feeling.  Each response was as different as the kids in the room.

Dawson, 4th grade, said the picture on the right is how he felt when he came to school. On the left is how he feels in our class.

 

Austin, 6th grade, wrote a key to his color and image choices.

We turned off the overhead lights and sat in a comfortable position. I turned on the Insight Timer app, and we were silent together.

This was a beautiful and thoughtful way to begin a Monday morning, a Monday after another mass shooting, a Monday of a soft lockdown, a Monday in new time.  I am coming to believe more and more in the face of these troubling times, I need to create a safe place.  A safe place for expressing your mood, speaking your truth, and creating peace.

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

 

Collaboration was the name of the game at all three schools this week.  At each school, I was working with my gifted students on projects that required cooperation, communication, creativity, and critical thinking, the 4 C’s of 21st Century education.

At school #1, students were working on “Mood” stories.  With the celebration of Halloween, most stories took on a scary mood.  Some of my students asked if they could work together.  I considered it and decided to let them, but I was skeptical about whether they could truly collaborate.  I was pleasantly surprised.  They gathered together and used a story board to plan their stories.  They talked and wrote, wrote and talked.  The class was buzzing with the sound of collaboration.

Dawson was writing on his own.  He asked for big paper to use for his story board.  He wrote his “longest story ever!”  I enjoyed his use of text features to create the mood.  This was his favorite part to read aloud.

They all sat down and chanted,”Oh Ouija Board, oh how do you do, show us the spirit that lives here too.” Their hands moved and spelled L I G H T S O U T. At that exact moment the lights went out and the tv came on with static.

In the static they could make out a man that said,” III WWW III LLL LLL KKK III LL LL YYY OOO UUU!!!

At school #2, we are working on podcasts about endangered animals.  Each student chose an animal to research.  One of the best things was when we were able to talk on the phone with a local bird expert.  My students are powering through the steep technology learning curve.  I am hoping we’ll be ready to publish them next week.  We are looking forward to a call with a marine biologist this Monday.

At school #3, we worked with Mystery Science lessons and made a chain reaction machine.  After many tries, I was sure it was going to work for this video.  I ended up giving a little hand in the chain.

 

I am a strong believer in project-based learning experiences.  My students become motivated and engaged, and they own their learning.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

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