Posts Tagged ‘Wonder’

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


Over the summer I connected with JoAnne Duncan through Voxer.  JoAnne is an assistant principal in Washington. Connecting with other educators across the globe is exciting to me.  Little did I know how much this new friendship would grow and sprout new growth.

On Friday afternoon after a difficult day, I checked Facebook to find a video message for me (and others) from JoAnne.  She was challenging us to join a kindness project, #welearnkindness.  This project stems from the book Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  JoAnne’s school is reading the book and raising awareness of bullying in new and innovative ways.  One way is asking others to join the kindness challenge by taking 3 action steps in 24 hours.

The idea is to tag others on Facebook or Twitter to take on the challenge themselves.  This is how phenomenons are started.  Remember the ice bucket challenge?

On Monday, I did my three acts of kindness, but the planning started on Sunday. My husband added Swiss Rolls to his Walmart list so that I could treat one of my students for his birthday.  I grabbed a bouquet of flowers on my grocery run, and I located a gift I had bought during the summer to give to a colleague.

When I arrived at my first school, I caught the assistant principal in the hallway and asked if I could take her breakfast duty.  She was grateful and rushed to do whatever it is assistant principals have to do.  (I’m sure her list was long.) While in the cafeteria, I talked with our French teacher whom I know little about and learned he is from Niger, Africa.  We had a great conversation.

At school number 2, I handed my colleague her belated birthday gift.  I had tagged her in the kindness challenge, and she brought me cookies.  She also challenged other teachers in our school.  I saw one carrying around candy treats to give to kids caught being kind.  This kindness thing is spreading quickly.

At school number 3 where I am new this year, I brought fall flowers to a teacher across the hall who is helping me navigate this new-to-me place.  She was more than thrilled.  I think I made her cry.  She will talk to me about those flowers every day this week, I’m sure.

But I am not writing about these acts of kindness to tell you how wonderful I am at being kind.  I’m writing this post because of the way I felt all day on Monday.

Kindness buoyed me through my day.

Kindness lightened my heart and made me smile.

Kindness spreads like wildflowers on a spring wind.

Try it.  I think you’ll find that being kind makes you a happier person all the way around.

Pledge to Choose Kind!

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

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

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

My husband says to me, “Look at this!” He is not on any social media, but he reads USA Today on his tablet every day. He is a learner who always wants to know more. Yesterday he showed me this amazing video about a tiny poodle in a nursing home. Get your tissues out.






I want my students to know that learning is a part of life. Last week I brought in a snap circuit kit and just let them play with it to try to figure it out. My administrator was observing me, and I am hopeful that she understands the lack of instruction on my part. Discovery was the point, and the answer doesn’t always come immediately.

Discovery is an important aspect to any learning. Because we have so much available at our fingertips, discovery is easy and constant. “Look at this, Mrs. Simon” are words I hear often. Jacob wanted to know how many moons Jupiter has. That’s not something I keep tucked away in my brain. “Check NASA’s site,” I tell him.

Each week my students are engaged in discovery about whatever interests them. During the Slice of Life Challenge, their Wednesday Wonder has become a Wonder SOL. I ask them to write a paragraph about how they became interested in their topic and to conclude with ideas for further learning. Their research is now framed by a personal connection.

I wonder about a lot of things. Do tree trunks grow fungus to make their colors?

Were the leaves flowers at first but it just lost its petals?

Chlorophyll is a large molecule. It absorbs light from the Sun and because it is a green color it makes the plants green.

I was very surprised that Chlorophyll was a word and that it even existed. I didn’t know it made plants green. I wonder why plants are green and not different colors like,pink,black,brown,red,green,orange, or tan. I think that there is another planet out somewhere that has a atmosphere and has different colored plants.
–Jacob, 2nd grade

In what ways is discovery a part of Digital Literacy in your classroom? Join the discussion by leaving a link.

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

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

Gifted students visit with Mr. Al.

Gifted students visit with Mr. Al.

I tend to be an optimistic person. I look for the good in everyone and every day. But sometimes life has other plans. Sometimes we just have to weep.

On the day school started, August 7th, one of our gifted students collapsed. She died two days later. This was one of those girls who was always laughing. She had a cheerfulness about her that was contagious. At a friend’s house after a sleep-over (and probably lots of laughter), her heart stopped. No explanation. The doctors suspect that it was a syndrome that occurs in athletes. Lauralyn was a normal 12 year old girl. She was not on the basketball court. It doesn’t make any sense.

With my gifted colleagues, we attended the funeral home. Kids were all around in purple shirts and purple ribbons. Since purple was her favorite color, her school had decided that Friday would be a day dedicated to her memory. There was a banner draped over a table celebrating that Lauralyn’s organs had been donated.

In between the sadness, students found hope. Amidst the loss, there was a gift of life.

I started a blog on kidblogs for my students. For now it is private. (I would welcome connecting with other classes, though.) I’ve decided to post a quote of the week. My class theme is “Mrs. Simon’s Sea,” so I’m calling it “Snippets of the Sea.” Carol Varsalona’s inspirational images make great snippets. Last week I used the quote from E.B. White and this image Carol posted.

Childhood Wonder by @journeynorthed

Childhood Wonder by @journeynorthed

I think it is saying don’t ignore your curiosity. And to explore and discover new things. So if you go on a hike or a walk in the park try to look at the world around you. Most likely there are things you haven’t seen before. You just didn’t take the time to look. Like trees, flowers, and even places that you never even noticed were there!–Emily

This week I have posted this image by Carol along with a video of Michael Jackson at the 1993 Super Bowl singing “We are the World.”

We are the World

I’ve asked my students to write a response to the snippet in the comments. I want to be intentional in making my students think about wonder, hope, and kindness. We don’t know how long we are here on this earth. We should turn each day into the sparkle of a child’s eye, the hope in a rainbow, the kindness of a teacher’s smile.

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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 enjoy trying out new apps online but not as much as my students do. On Friday morning I had meetings, and my students had French class and hearing testing, so we were running behind in whole class time. Not the best atmosphere for teaching a new skill. (Did I mention it was Friday?) I was determined to have something new to write about today for DigiLit Sunday, so with only half an hour left for our class time, I showed them Piktochart.

Piktochart 2

Last week’s Wonder theme was Hurricanes, so for this first try at an infographic, I suggested they work on hurricanes. We brainstormed information we could find: categories, safety tips, cost of hurricane damage, and location. I paired off my kids, but with an odd number, I told Vannisa I would work with her. I sat next to her at the computer and watched her go to work.

First she chose a template that she liked. The template had a circle graph. We discussed what kind of information would fit in a circle graph. We found a web site showing the number of hurricanes that occurred within each month of the 6 months of hurricane season from 1988-present. Together we worked on the data chart. Here we quickly had to figure out what data went where. Vannisa was more skilled than me.

The short time that Vannisa and I were working together I was fascinated by how quickly and easily she jumped right in to the app. She was motivated to find more information. She kept saying, “Look at this,” and “I love this,” and “Let’s find more information.”

Matthew stayed late in class because he decided to make an infographic on Houdini. He is a bit obsessed with magic and just finished a biography of Houdini. When I told him he could use the Piktochart to make his reader response on the book, he hugged me.

Houdini Piktochart

I can’t promise hugs, but I know your students will be motivated by Piktograph. I plan to introduce it to another group of students this week. I look forward to seeing what they will do and how much fun learning can be.

If you have a digital literacy post, link up!

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Slice of Life Day 10.  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Slice of Life Day 10. Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

I teach gifted in a public school district. In my two schools, I am the only gifted teacher, but in my district, I am one of 6 elementary GT teachers. Yesterday, we met unofficially. We decided to start a once a month book club for reading middle grade literature. We decided that we needed to know more about what was new and what better way to learn about new kitlit than to read and discuss it. A little wine and some snacks, too.

This first month we decided to read Wonder. A few of us had read it and loved it. Wonder is one of those important books. If you haven’t read it, you must. For me, the book has taken on new meaning through two children.

One is my nephew, Jack. Jack’s school district in Round Rock, TX. did a “One Community: One Book” project. Everyone in the community was encouraged to read Wonder. Jack is in third grade, and he wrote a letter to the author to be able to attend an event where she spoke. He told me later all about it. R.J. Palacio told the story of how she came to write Wonder. She was in an ice cream shop with her children, and a little girl with a facial deformity came in. Ms. Palacio was not happy with her reaction. She mulled it over and over. That drove her to create August.

When we read Wonder in my classroom, I did not even consider my student Brooklyn. I was reading it for all of the other reasons; it’s a great book and teaches so much about how to choose kindness in this world full of intolerance. I thought it was important to teach this point, but I didn’t even think about how Brooklyn lives like Via, Auggie’s sister, every day. Her brother and her mother are disabled. She knows the looks people give, the head turns, the feeling of being different. But Brooklyn doesn’t feel different at all. Her life is totally normal to her. She expressed this beautifully in her letter to R.J. Palacio for the Letters about Literature contest.

Like Via, I get very angry when I see someone staring at us like they paid us to put on a show. They look my family up and down, but when their eyes get down, they stay down, staring at my family’s legs. “They aren’t aliens! They are just like me and you, but their legs don’t work exactly the same.” I say this every time, but only in my head. I’ve tried to see what they see, but I just can’t see it.

Momma always told me that God gave me to her and the family for a special reason. Your book helped me to realize being different isn’t always bad. Usually, I feel like no one understands what it is like living with my family. No one understands how normal it can be. Your book changed that. You understood, and I want to tell you thank you.

Next month we have selected to read A Snicker of Magic. I haven’t read it yet, but have seen lots of good reviews. Looking forward to reading and sharing with my colleagues who love a good kidlit book, just like me.

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

reading sky


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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