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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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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

I know, it’s summer and who wants to think about problems during summer?  I didn’t expect to, but I do enjoy having more time to read.  I’ve been reading Dynamic Teaching for Dynamic Reading by Vicki Vinton.  This book was chosen for the CyberPD book for July. To follow the discussions around this book, tune in to #cyberpd and Michelle Nero’s blog Literacy Learning Zone. 

In Dynamic Teaching, Vicki sets us up to think more about the complexity of and the authentic purpose for reading. She leads us into the problem solving process for students when reading.

 

It’s one thing to read theory in a professional book, but quite another to see the theory play out in your own life.  I started reading Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder.  This book is intended for middle grade students, the students I teach. Immediately in the first chapter, I have to enter into the process of solving a problem.

Jinny heard the bell.  She threw down her book, rose from the stale comfort of the old brown sofa, and scrambled to the door.  When she burst from the cabin into the evening air, Jinny ran.

I can assume from the title of the book that Jinny is an orphan.  This first paragraph makes me think she is at camp.  A bell rings, and she runs from the cabin.  As I continue to read, though, I find clues that she is not at any camp I’ve ever known.

My purpose for reading is heightened.  I have to figure out why Jinny is at this camp.  Who else is there?  What happened to her parents?  Reading only this first chapter, I am full of questions.

It is time to honor this process of problem finding and problem solving with our students.  How could I set my students up to do this?

  • What do you think is happening?
  •  What are your questions?
  • Why do you want to keep reading?

My summer reading has taken on a different dimension.  I’m not only reading for understanding, but I am reading to find the problem.  Where can I apply this problem to my teaching?  How do my students find problems?  How do I present problems that will interest them enough to solve?

I have found a problem that interests me.  In fact, it came in the mail.  I think it’s from someone in the CLMOOC postcard exchange, but that in itself is a mystery. I received a postcard with a snippet of text glued to the back.  The instructions are to create a poem out of the text, black-out style.

As you may be able to see, I’ve started underlining words in pencil.  I haven’t committed to any of them yet.  The fact that I have to black-out and send the postcard back with some sort of meaningful text selected has heightened this problem from one of mere play to a serious thoughtful process.   How can I take this experience and apply it in my classroom?  I want my students to both play with language and see the serious potential of making meaning with words.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to send a postcard to each of my students with these same instructions?

Problem seeking leads to problem finding to problem solving.  This is the way of language in reading and in writing.  I invite you to contemplate problems in your own literacy learning and teaching and link up your blog post below.

 

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

I have taken a few art classes. In art, perspective is important and obvious to the eye. One of my favorite artists is Georgia O’Keefe. A series of her paintings focuses in on the center of a flower. Looking closely changes the perspective. Seeing the center without white space to guide your eye makes the image more focused.

wikiart.com

wikiart.com

My school year ended ten days ago. This period of time I have worked hard to relax and be present. I have actually avoided thinking at all about school. However, teaching is never far from my radar.

Today, I can see more clearly the white space. I understand the structure of my year and have some perspective on things.

At the center of focus is always literacy.  Writing is an important component in my class. We wrote daily about our lives, about our reading, sprinkled with poetry.

But as I look forward and begin to shift my perspective to the horizon line, I see where my focus should be next year.  I will have the same students. In many ways this makes the transition to a new grade level much smoother. They know what to expect. They know me.

Because of this, I will have to be intentional about changes and make them happen early on. I am reading Katherine Bomer’s book, The Journey is Everything. The intended audience is teachers of middle grades 6-8. The highest grade I teach is 6th, but I can see ways to incorporate her ideas in my lower grades as well.

While we need to pay attention to structure in the essay, that is not the purpose. I will continue using blogs as the main format for writing. A few points of perspective their writing will take are 1. writing to discover and 2. writing to explore language.

I want to be more aware of my students’ perspectives and allow them to discover them safely in our classroom. When we focus on the single poppy in the field, we can see more clearly the unique individual. We can honor their voices and work toward developing authentic, valuable writing.

In order to prepare to teach essay differently, I am experimenting with my own writing.  I am trying out “writing for discovery” and “exploring language” with more intention in my blogging.

Perspective as a writer gives me a clearer lens for teaching writing.

you have a story to tell

Please add your blog post link below:

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Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us the celebrate each week. Click over to her site Discover. Play. Build. to read more celebrations.

Photo Credit: Linda Jordan on Flickr

Photo Credit: Linda Jordan on Flickr

Is there ever a time when you read too much? I teach at two schools. I insist on silent reading, so I have a book going at each school. At one school, I am reading Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana. Along with Armani and her family, I am suffering through Hurricane Katrina with a family trapped in their attic watching the water rise. Cynthia Rylant’s The Islander is our second read aloud this year. This book takes us to an island in Northwest Canada. There’s a hurricane and the boy searches for injured animals to rescue. This is a beautiful read aloud book because the chapters are short and keep the students wanting to know more. There is a bit of magic and strong symbolism. (You can get it for a penny on Amazon.)

At my other school, I am reading the new chapters for Wonder, Auggie and Me. Currently I am reading Shingaling, the Charlotte chapter, and getting angry about the mean girls of middle school.

Sunny Side Up came in the mail yesterday, and I finished it in one sitting. Can you imagine that such a difficult issue like drug abuse is dealt with in a graphic novel? Lots of talk around this book in the kidlitosphere. Read this wonderful post by Caroline Starr Rose on Nerdy Book Club.

Everything, everything

By my bed is Everything, Everything, a heartbreaking young adult love story about a girl who cannot leave her home due to illness, the modern “girl in a bubble.”

And with the commemoration of 9/11, I have been reading post after post about the bravery, the tragedy, the sadness. This post from Bernadette broke my heart again with the bravery of one woman who did what she had to do to save lives.

Reading can take you to many different places. I celebrate reading, but I think I may take a break. I don’t think my heart can take anymore.

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  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

I’m sure there must be one in every classroom, right? The nonreader. The one who pretends he has it all together. The one who keeps the same book for weeks traveling to and from home.

I am having a hard time writing about this. I’ve already gotten up twice to make tea, to eat a cookie. My heart wants to talk to you, but my head is not sure how.

I made a student cry last week. I don’t like to make students cry. This one came about unexpectedly. I asked Mitch (name changed), a 6th grader, about his reader response post. He explained that his post about “The Elf on the Shelf” was his reader response. I thought it was his Slice of Life story. I said, “We need to talk about your book selections.” His face turned red. His eyes welled up. We moved out to the hallway.

facs_feelings

I want to honor free choice. A few weeks ago, I allowed him to read “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” But even then I said, “OK, but next time you need to pick a book on your level.”

“I’m just not much of a reader,” Mitch told me, “I’d rather play outside.” We talked about ways he could work reading into his nighttime routine. When we returned to the classroom, my other students rallied around him with book choices.

Most of my gifted students are avid readers. I gave up the nightly log last year when it became burdensome for both me and my students. Every day we have discussions around books we are reading. This student, however, has not caught the wild reader fever. Quite the opposite. He is a closet nonreader. Now we all know, and he felt the chastisement. I’m not sure if things will change very quickly. Mitch has to find the right book. He will flourish only when he is understood and accepted. So how do I make him excited about reading, honor his choices, and advance his reading skills? Please give me your advice in the comments.

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Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge!

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge!

Discover. Play. Build.

Celebrate #1: Happy March! Welcome to Slice of Life, a challenge to write every day in March sponsored by the Two Writing Teachers. This will be my third year to join in. My students are also slicing in March. We have a special class blog at kidblog for the Slice of Life Challenge. Since we will be out of school Monday through Wednesday of next week due to Mardi Gras, I encouraged them to get a jumpstart. Some did. Please stop by our site and make a comment. They love comments!

The Cat in the Hat visited the Book Fair!  Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

The Cat in the Hat visited the Book Fair! Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Celebrate #2: This week was the Scholastic Book Fair at my school. We also celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday. I added to my class library and enjoyed visiting with our librarian, Mrs. Armentor, otherwise known as “The Cat in the Hat.”

Have you read any of these books?

Have you read any of these books?

Celebrate #3: My students created a skit for Family Night. It was cute and clever, and they were terribly nervous. The skit was on the theme of bullying. They encouraged everyone to THINK before they speak.

Think before you speak

Printable Poster Available:

Before You Speak Think

Celebrate #4: My oldest daughter had her 29th birthday. She went to San Francisco for the weekend to visit a close friend from high school. I wrote a poem for her from Laura Shovan’s color prompt at Author Amok.

29 year old
For Maggie, 2/24/14

Ballerina pink is not your color
as you take to the streets in an obsidian Lexus,
Independent,
daring,
bold
You fly to San Francisco. Run by the Golden Gate;
International orange looks good on you!
Undaunted, throw your hair to the wind—
Quick like silver, don’t look back.

–Margaret Simon

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

reading sky

Wonder

I am reading Wonder by R. J. Palacio to my morning ELA class. We are moving through it slowly. I set aside time at the beginning of school. Then we got busy. But recently, as we are getting deeper into the story, the students remind me and keep me committed to daily reading aloud.

Last week we got to the second section written in the voice of Via. Via starts, “August is the sun, and we are the planets revolving around him.” This was a tough chapter to get through. I had to take a few deep breaths. The only place Via has ever felt the center of the universe is with her grandmother, and her grandmother dies suddenly.

Palacio’s book is real. The kids get it. They know what it feels like to be in a school like August’s school. But most children do not know what it is like to grow up with a disfigured face or to have someone in your own family draw attention when out in the world. Via describes this feeling. At home with August, she feels normal. She loves him like the little brother he is. She doesn’t understand how people stare, how they don’t see beyond his face. That is, until she does understand.

I read to my students books that move me, that will hopefully move them. What I wasn’t thinking about when I decided to read Wonder was Brooklyn. I have written about Brooklyn before. Back in 2012 when she joined my gifted class. I was impressed then about how she handled herself with such gentle poise and strength of character.

Brooklyn, like Via, is in the universe revolving around the sun, her brother. (See this post: Dare to be Different.) Bryce is a senior in high school and has accomplished amazing feats in sports. He is an international gold medal athlete in weightlifting and javelin. Bryce competes in para-athletics because he has cerebral palsy and walks with crutches. Bryce does not go unnoticed. People stare. Brooklyn says the little kids don’t bother her so much , but when she sees an adult stare, she wants to punch them. She knows that they stare in ignorance and curiosity, but it still makes her mad.

This day, when we finished reading, Brooklyn came to me for a hug. Her eyes were teary. She said, “I get it. I know how Via feels.” And then it hit me. Of course she does. This is Brooklyn’s life.

R. J. Palacio has created a powerful book that not only will help students learn to practice kindness, but Wonder also comforts those children who can relate to the experience of being different and wanting nothing more than to be normal.

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