Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Slice of Life

Looking back over our holiday photos I have noticed that our house is a gathering mecca.
A place for cousins to gather and creatively use their imaginations, reconnect, and become princesses.

A place for a grandmother and her grandchildren to cuddle and smile.
Where connectedness can be felt.

And where a tradition can be lived out year after year.
This building that we call our home, has become a place for all to gather, meet, and promise to love for a lifetime.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, from the Amicks

We hope your day is filled with many blessings!
God bless you all in the upcoming year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Things I do Have...

Stenhouse Publishers posted a poem on Friday for poetry Friday that really got me thinking. The title of the poem is, "You Can't Have It All, But You Do Have This" by Naomi Shihab-Nye here is a copy of her poem. We have had a wicked ice storm that has left many without power, people living in shelters, etc. The weather has been below 0, and the roads are not great. But I got to thinking in my hermit state of all the things that I have been blessed with this year. It made me make my own poem:

I can't have it all, but I do have this
a family, that is full.
A mother and father in love,
two children who get to see this love in action.
A profession that is challenging, its rewards forever redeeming
a warm home, a ride from point a to b
a lap covered in dogs, happiness when I walk through the door
I can't have it all, but I do have this,
a cupboard that is full of food, food for making, food for snacking
I am not scavenging, looking for loose rice on the side of the road
my water is clean, my clothes are the same
my skin smells like soap
I drive somewhere and Rona cuts my hair, just the way I like it
I don't have it all, but I do have this,
a healthy body, that loves to run, and take in this world that God created
a desire to maintain a healthiness that will allow me many years to fellowship
with the people I love
I have books, books to read, books that change me, and words that I use to allow my soul
to emerge
I have a brain, that is ready to learn more, evaluate knowledge, and desires to keep changing
I don't have it all, but I do have
a constant companion, who walks with me, behind me, and in front of me
he holds my hand, makes me giggle, and shelters me from this crazy world.
Two children, girls, upcoming women
I have the responsibility, the challenge
I have an opportunity to love, cherish, and set free these spirits into this world
Two parents who are living, healthy, and supportive
A grandmother, and then there was one
A woman that I worry about, take care of, and listen to her stories of old
An extended family that I relish, that I think of consistently, and want to keep in my life
I have clothing, a closet full, too many decisions, and too many shoes
I have friendships, old and new, loved ones who care for me, prosper me, and comfort me
I have laughter, daily seeping into my home, work, and play
I don't have it all but I do have
more than enough

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Angel Maker

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest,

...and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Our Amy

My cousin, Amy is our favorite. Amy is 15, she is your typical teenage girl. Loves sports, hanging out with friends, and texting on her cell phone. But, Amy has a secret. She has a fan club. This secret fan club consists of me, her 34 year old cousin. My two daughters, age 8 and 6. The ground she walks on is better because she walks across it. Tonight we had the pleasure of her company when we made cookies for Christmas. On Saturday, we visited with her at the Gingerbread festival. We try to spend as much time with her as our schedule permits. We are her biggest fans!

The thing we love about Amy is that she seems to want to spend time with us too! Perhaps no one has told her that when you are 15 you should roll your eyes more, or greet everyone with an abrasive attitude? Perhaps she doesn't realize that we are totally uncool?

I look at her, her attitude, her gentle spirit with my girls. I adore her ability to make them feel like they are very important, even though they have come in and wrecked her world. My girls arrived just as she was receiving the most attention. They have smothered that attention, I'm sure they have taken over. However, she has continued to love us in spite of our greediness.

I am astonished by her upbringing, I am hoping she will be the greatest influence upon my girls. They will see her model, her attitude, and her graciousness and want to be just like her.

She is "our Amy..."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Being Happy!

Be happy today. Be kind and be generous with your smile — you’ll start some ripples.
– Stacey Julian, Altogether Too Happy
Ruth, from Two Writing Teachers posted this quote today. I needed it desperately! Today, I envisioned myself doing something else. A different vocation actually sounded appealing to me today... In a world where people throw accountability around for accountability sake, I was ready to throw in the towel. I am tired, tired of fighting for what I am sure is the best thing for my students. I am tired of collecting data and wondering, "when are we going to do something with it?" Do you ever wonder: "where does all the data go?" I turn it in but nothing ever comes of it, it becomes balanced somewhere I guess...
Today, I found it hard to be generous with my smile, I wanted to go into room 142, shut the door and be with my kids. I want to give them all things, everyday, things that I know through my own research that they will grow as readers, writers, and mathematicians. I'm tired of sharing with people not ready to learn, people who are critical, and people who aren't willing to work hard. I'm tired of official people mandating that I need to assess, assess, assess, and then I watch my instruction diminish, diminish, diminish.
But, I'll go back tomorrow. I'll persevere through this rough patch, I'll do what I am asked, and I'll keep on believing. Not for you, or you, or you, but for those 24 students that I stand in front of every day. I owe it to them for they are the reason why I go there everyday, not to assess them, collect data, or for balance. I go there to teach them to love learning, to light the fire within, and guide along side them.
Tomorrow, I will be happy!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Memoir Monday

Waiting in the church nursery preparing to go upstairs my mother found me and shared with me that we would not be starting on time. My heart skipped a beat, had he escaped, was he here? Why were we not starting on time?

We ascended the basement stairs to the waiting area behind the sanctuary, this is where I would wait, and wait, and wait. Since I awoke that morning I had been waiting. Waiting at the hair dressers, waiting to get lunch, waiting until everyone had been seated. This was a day of waiting, and I hate waiting.

I heard the the sweet music of my wedding. I watched my flower girl, Amy, playing with some small toys. Completely unaffected by the timing of this day she was lost in her world of 5 years. Playing until she was called. Dressed prettily, the sun shone through the glass windows and her bright face met mine with a smile. My face returned her contentment and decided to wait with that attitude.

Finally, the candles lit, the runner placed it was our turn to walk down the aisle. With my fathers hand placed carefully on mine I descended to meet my groom. Fighting back tears I was anxious to embrace him. I had been waiting all this day, this summer, my life for this moment.

My father took my hand and placed it in his, and we began our life as one...

As I turned to leave I caught a glimpse of Amy, she was standing next to her mother, my aunt. She waved in my direction, I caught her smile as it spread across her face. Captured in this moment, I was whisked away to my new life.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My Heart...On the Outside

here they are, together...my heart on the outside
they walk among this earth
mingling, living, and coexisting
I worry, protect, and hover
around them
conscious that others may harm
but to not let them live, create, or prosper
means that this world would be without them
this sense of humor, this compassionate lover,
this beautiful heart sleeve, full of passionate change
what will you be?
whom will you change?
how can I make you into that person?

or this heart sleeve,
beautiful eyes, charming smile, always wondering...
questioning, black and white- forget the gray
tender heart
how can I make you stronger?
will I protect your esteem forever?
how can we foster your strength?

and, finally my heart sleeve,
we started as the two, slowly becoming 4
keep me ever in this circle, loving me close
caring for me deeply
for I wear my heart
on my sleeve...

Monday, December 1, 2008

My Closest Friend

As I opened the door of my dorm room I could hear her voice at the other end of the hall. She was already having fun. I was nervous as I opened the door, my arms full of things from home. My mother and father had pulled away, tearful I had raced up the three flights of steps to my home away from home. Putting things away I could still hear voices, fun voices, voices who had been here for a while. Later that evening, while I attended freshman orientation, and met with the other girls on my floor, I matched her voice to the voice I had heard when I arrived.

"Hey, my name is Angela. I'm from Colorado." she shyly said.

"Hey," I said.

I learned that she had arrived a couple weeks early, she and her father had driven all the way from Colorado to Indiana so that she could attend volleyball camp. She had been here all this time, waiting, and waiting. I felt for her so far away from home. All by herself, in a new state, without anyone.

We became instant friends she and I. She had so many life experiences, we had many classes together, and she got my sense of humor. We giggled until the wee hours of the night. She complained of the Indiana humidity, I complained about being away from home. We went to Denny's late at night, and church on Sundays.

Those two years at Anderson were the hardest years of my life. I struggled with friendships, studying, and being with people constantly. Angela, was always there, always encouraging me, and always being fun.

Today, we live 18 hours by train from one another. We call frequently, we email often, and we meet on Facebook every Saturday. I want to be with her more, but I know that when we talk, when we finally get to be together, our friendship will be the same. We are the closest of friends. I never had sisters, Angela has two, but I would consider her my own. Not because we always have fun together but because she has been my friend through it all. She puts me in my place, helps me hash out feelings that are harsh, and she laughs through my joys.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Living with Flat Stanley

My name is Flat Stanley, I have been spending time at Sarah's house during the Thanksgiving weekend. Here I am sitting with Sophie and Sydni while we watch Kung Fu Panda. Sarah is making the popcorn while her husband is taking this picture. I am having a great time! The girls are so nice to me, after they heard the story of why I am flat they have decided to show me a great time.
Here I am getting ready to go see the lighting of the Santa in downtown Fort Wayne. That will be fun but I wish that whoever made me would have made me a coat too. It is freezing here!
Tomorrow I am going on a hike at Sarah's grandma's house. I know that will be a lot of fun.
There is a lot to do here during the weekend. On Friday I got up real early to go Christmas shopping with Scott and Sarah. I know what the girls are getting for Christmas!
On Saturday, last night, I went to the Festival of the Trees. Sarah and Mrs. Barney went there and the trees were beautiful. We keep very busy!
I will be glad to be back at school on Monday, it will be a good rest for one tired Stanely!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It Seems Like a Lot of Fluff...

So I heard this phrase this week: "This writer's Workshop thing seems like a lot of fluff..."
Makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up doesn't it? Me too!

I pondered this statement a little further. I want my workshop to be fluffy. Any time I have ever read a book, or article that has touched me in some way I can imagine that it has been written with a certain flair of fluff. Any time I have every read something that has changed my life whether it be professionally or personally it has been surrounded by "fluff." Touching quotes that make me think, personal stories that make me weep, and differing ideals that make me stand up against the flow, these are the things that may be considered "fluff."
As I teach writer's workshop each day with my students I want them to believe that their "fluff," is real. Their words matter, what they have to say on a daily basis is important to me, and if that means I have to create an environment that others would consider too "fluffy" then so be it. This is my most important task, creating a world for children in which they believe that their words are worth putting down on paper. A world of fluff.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Beyond Leveled Books

Recently, Stenhouse Publishers, sent me a book to review for them. I was so excited to receive Beyond Leveled Books by Karen Szymusiak, Franki Sibberson, and Lisa Koch. But to review this book in one post will be impossible. After reading the forward, the list of mini lessons, and the first chapter I knew that I had much to gain from this book. Franki Sibberson, if you don't know is a co-blogger. Her blog, A Year of Reading, is a great place to land when you are looking for that perfect book. I have found myself browsing over there several times in the past. She and Mary Lee have much to offer to us in the teaching world.
Beyond Leveled Books draws you in during the first chapter as they persuade you to move away from the bookroom, away from the prepublished books from your basal, and to really evaluate the books you are placing in the hands of your children.
Chapter two begins by showing us that there is a place for leveled books, it is beside the real books. These books, in baskets are arranged with in our classrooms for students to pick from. Chapter 2 has an extensive list of authors that k-1 students can choose as "just right" texts for independent reading. This book list would be great for teachers who are just beginning to understand what Reader's Workshop is all about, and how to select and set up their classroom library.
However, where my learning occurred was through the rest of the book. These authors have shown me how to move my first grade readers into that transitional territory and then into independence. The authors discuss the importance for these transitional readers to choose books within a series. (Henry and Mudge, Mr. Putter and Tabby, The Magic Treehouse, etc.) When readers choose series books they can rely on the characters to carry them through the new material. They learn to rely on these sections of the book, they come to trust the author and even struggling readers can use their comprehension strategies because of the "known."
Again, there is another extensive list of series books, picture and chapter, that a teacher could use to select and use within their classroom.
Mostly, I have loved just reading that others that teach are excited about children learning to love books. At the end of the book the ladies give this information:
"In a time of test scores and accountability, teachers are being forced to spend precious classroom time in ways that do not necessarily foster lifelong reading. We worry that in the name of accountability we are increasingly pressed to find time for the things we know our transitional readers need." Amen sisters! This book keeps me from searching for those things that my students need, it is within this book. I am anxious to use the mini lessons, and strategies suggested in this book. I can more explicitly teach in my crunch of time. Thank you for showing me the important "stuff."
More to come from this book:
Mini lesson, mini lesson, mini lesson (this book is full of them!)
Ways to take learning home for your students, there are lots of ways to encourage your families in their discussions about books.
Graphic Novels, and their take (I love Graphica!)
Go get this book, it is phenomenal!!!!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Our Author Mentor...Lynn Plourde

Yesterday I gave my students a two column page and two books by our mentor. The student groups took to their places and scoured their books looking for things that they could use as a writer. Here is a list that we generated as a class:
1. She writes small moment stories-all of her stories could happen at school.
2. She uses comeback phrases.
3. She loves the seasons and creates imaginary characters out of the months.
4. She grows her story problem- it gets bigger and bigger like a mountain. And, then there is a solution.
5. She uses the dash, a lot. She also likes the exclamation mark and the elipses.
6. She uses letters to show how the character is feeling or the loudness of the voice. Gets bigger when their voice gets louder, and smaller when they are whispering.
7. Uses a lot of rhyming text and fancy words, words that roll off your tongue. She does this to make her words draw the reader into the story. (they actually said this!!!!)
8. The text on the page is placed weirdly on the page. I'm not sure if this is an editor thing or author sort of thing? Any ideas?
9. She loves sound words.

So today, I went a different direction, I went with the magical way she uses word groupings. We are going to do a few short practices together and then I'm going to have them have a go with it. It is so cool to see their growth from last year. They really get the idea of using an author to mentor them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thank you for your service...

Today I have the day off of school. I am remembering the sacrifices that these brave men and women face everyday. I thank them for their sacrifice. 1.6 million soldiers are currently deployed to other areas of the world. Whether you believe in the politics behind the deployments you must always support their sacrifice. Husbands, mothers, sisters, wives, dads, brothers, sons, and daughters currently serving our country for my freedom and yours.
Support our troops today!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Using Lynn Plourde as our mentor!

Last week, every day of the week, my students were greeted with a wrapped gift sitting on the chalk rail. Every morning they came in excited to see who would unwrap the gift, what the title of the book would be, and who would be the newest character we would be introduced to?

My students were very excited, I had learned of this author when I had coffee with a friend at Starbucks. Cathy, from becoming, had mentioned these books as being perfect for study an author as a mentor. She was right!

Lynn Plourde has published many titles that you have probably seen. The books we opened were from her series about a teacher, Mrs. Shephard and her crafty students. They get into a lot of mischief, and they are centered around real events that happen at school. Here are the titles we opened this week:

Teacher Appreciation Day

Book Fair Day

Science Fair Day

School Picture Day

Pajama Day

After we opened four of the books, on Thursday, I sent home a secret letter with each child. Inside was an invitation to wear their jammies to school on Friday. I mentioned that it was in honor of our last Lynn Plourde book.

Friday morning dawned and I arrived at school and hoped they were as thrilled about being in their jammies as I was. We hugged and giggled about each other's jammies. We talked about our adorable slippers, and then during our morning meeting we read the last of our series. It was a celebration that I didn't expect. We became one again as a community, we again enjoyed books, and we are anticipating this week's mentor lessons.

During writer's workshop we didn't even discuss the literary elements of Lynn Plourde's work. We discussed our own literary elements, things we have discovered about one another. I have a student who has been mimicking Kate DiCamillo in his own work because we have been reading The Tale of Desperaux. I used Lester Laminack as a mentor in one of my pieces and I wanted my students to see my end result. We also read Peter Reynolds' book The Dot. We noticed things about using books as our mentors.

Today I went to my main branch library, after checking out a gazillion books by Lynn Plourde I came home and brainstormed some things that I want my kids to notice about her work. Here is my current list:

1. Magical words of three

2. Sound words

3. Words placed weirdly on the page and in different colors. I have two people I know this will impress!

4. Characters have names used to describe their personalities

5. Mrs. Shephard, the setting, problems at school- they always reoccur in those series books

6. Clever use of elipses

7. Ms. Plourde loves alliteration

8. The story always seems to lead back to familiar phrases

9. Verbs in synonyms

While I realize that my students won't find all of these things within the pages, they will see some of these things very useful. I can't wait to see their growth! Here is an interesting quote I found in my teacher ideas notebook about this unit of study. Not sure where I got it but I am still going to use it with my students. Here it is:

What can I learn from this that I might try in my writing?

Caption: This is a beautiful book about a dump man who takes care of the town dump. He refuses to throw away books. He lends then out, gives them away, but all must promise not to throw them away. Through the storyline we discover that he himself can not read! Imagine, a person who can not read cherishing books so much, a lesson for early readers!

Friday, November 7, 2008

My Two Treasures

I took these photos recently of the girls. They are both oblivious to the fact that I am taking their pictue at these times. Recently, I have been reflecting on my life with them. It seems that eight years ago my life changed and now my two treasures are walking around in this giant world, unprotected. I question what I did before they were here walking this earth?
What did I do with my time?
Now my life, thoughts, actions, and emotions are wrapped up in these two little girls. I want so much for them, I want it all
Lately, I have felt this responsibilty the most as I haven't been able to attend all their field trips, as I have had to pick them up at school sick, and while the little one cries because,
"I want you to be a stay at home mommy like my friends."
As I look at these photos of them, oblivious, I see contentment.
I see happiness.
Their childhoods are more than most people can ask for, or have ever had.
I must push away the guilt, the questioning, the worry...
and just enjoy

Monday, November 3, 2008


We launched visualizing today in our classroom. I started by having the students take a large piece of newsprint paper and folding it into fourths. I then played for them 4 sounds:
1. A horse's neigh
2. crickets
3. fireworks
4. a crowd cheering at an event

My students were to draw connections that they made with the sounds, images that popped into their heads as they listened. Each sound was short, even played several times, but colored pencils were working themselves into a frenzy. When the sounds were finished, we gathered together on the rug and shared our picures with a partner. We discussed what each sound brought forth into our minds, the discussion was amazing. What we really discovered was how different our schema is, we have all been to some amazing places in our lives. Images are everywhere!
Tomorrow, When I was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant. I am going to read it and reference my images as I read, modeling the appropriate language. Already though, I can see the creative images flowing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

So Cool...

Tomorrow I have Parent/Teacher conferences. This week before school and after school I have been conducting conferences for parents who can't make it on Thursday. Already I am saying, "so cool." I have every one of my students signed up for confences. I usually have a great turnout but this year it has been easy to get parents signed up! My most favorite thing that we are discussing is choosing books for their child. More than a few times I have had parents asking me how to choose books at the library, on book orders, etc. They are truly looking for "just right" books for their student. This is exciting to me, it means that their student is wanting books, and the parents are understanding the value of books. Reading is becoming a priority in their homes!
During my 15 minutes I must again relay the power of reading at home with their child. Most of my parents are game, and they are seeing the results in their child. I have some parents that are still not getting it, they don't have time, they don't have the resources, they are not reading at home.
How can we get parents to understand the power of a reading time daily for their child?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bedtime Giggles

My children don't have school tomorrow. A friend called and asked if Sophie could have a sleepover. My youngest daughter is not ready for sleepovers and so was a little bummed to be left with just mommy and daddy. We made a trip to Sonic for a strawberry sundae and then she snuggled a little with daddy watching America's Funniest Home Videos. After that, we snuck upstairs to do some reading before bed. We always read before bed so this was not new. Being all alone with just mommy is new.
Good Night Alfie Atkins is a book that we checked out recently and we have read it every day since then. It is a wonderful book about a little boy who doesn't want to go to sleep at night. He keeps asking his dad to do things, and the father keeps doing them. My daughter's favorite part is when Alfie has to "pee." This totally cracks her up because the illustrator has drawn that into the picture. Alfie, is standing there legs crossed, holding himself. She always laughs big belly giggles. Tonight was no different. She laughed, showed it to daddy, explained it to him, and then giggled some more. Tonight reading was fun, this is what I want for her, this is my hope for her.
As you read with your children, in your classroom or at home this week focus on the joy of reading.
How will you show them that books can be fun?
What will you do to create a lifelong love of reading?

Friday, October 24, 2008

4 on Friday

1. My husband is finally on the mend and heading back to work. Two and a half weeks ago he had his tonsils removed on a Thursday. On Saturday we went to the emergency room twice on Saturday, the last time they kept him overnight. Sunday we returned home at about 4 in the afternoon. After only 4 hours of sleep I crashed on the couch for 2 went to bed at 9 p.m. and then began a new week of school. It was crazy!!! Thankfully, this week most things have returned to normal and he is going back to work. We are seeing normalcy back in our household.

2. I took this afternoon off from the classroom. I went with my family and we saw High School Musical 3. Great flick, but even better was sitting with both girls on either side. Watching my husband watching a "chick" flick is hilarious!

3. My students are doing awesome! We are moving through questioning, story elements, and next week we will begin questioning the author. I am excited to see what that holds for us. Writer's workshop has been fun this week. With our artifacts in hand I saw a renewed sense of writer's purpose. Suddenly, their stories needed telling! Very cool to see.

4. My own children had parent teacher conferences. This is always hard for me. I have a lot of role switching that I need to overcome as a teacher/parent person. Sometimes it is nice to have Scott there asking questions that I never seem to ask, and he calms my inner assumptions. They are doing fine. They are nice, kind children who love to learn. They are both creative, and imaginative. They have very good vocabularies, and they exactly where they need to be for their grade level. I knew this, but it is good to hear it from someone who spends 6 hours a day with them.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

All the buzz...

This week we began our week with artifacts from home. I sent home a letter last week to parents asking for students to bring in some special "things." We were ready Monday morning with our gallon size bags in hand to share what we brought. We got with a couple of friends and shared our baggies, each person valuing everything within. We photocopied pictures, did rubbings of several special artifacts, and then we placed them within our notebooks. Some students immediately had some things to write about and so that work began. Some of us sat back and began planning some stories that we would be writing in the near future. We were all the buzz...
Yesterday, another student modeled her list of story ideas that she had written on Monday. She talked about the piece that she wrote describing her picture but how that picture of her family planted even more seed stories for her to write. Many students spent yesterday planting seeds for some short story narratives.
Today, I pulled my piece about putting up Christmas at our house out and onto a large sheet of chart paper. I modeled for students what a "sensory" writing would look like. I used a web to display the different senses and then wrote some ideas for that piece. I encouraged students to use the web to help with preplan writing. I was thrilled to see some of them writing like this today during independent writing time.
Tomorrow, we will be discussing where to put periods. I have some students placing them at the end of every line in their notebook. Hopefully, I can model effectively proper placement of periods.
It is amazing to watch them grow. They are tremendous writers, living writerly lives.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Writing to a Prompt

My school corporation quarterly requires my students to write from a prompt. This is to prepare my students for next year when they will be given the state's standardized test, but also, it is a great way to see their progress periodically. This quarter's writing prompt dealt with writing a personal narrative story about a special memory. Last week we discussed several prompts that could be given for the writing prompt. I took some time to just let them talk about what they would write about for the writing examples, we talked through the prompts, we discussed what was required for each example. I also showed them the editing checklist that always appears on the test. We discussed each item and then placed a sample within our writer's notebooks. We underlined words that needed to be capitalized, and sentences in our own writing that needed punctuation. Today, I had my students do the actual writing prompt and then graded them for the assessment. I am using a new rubric because I have moved up a grade so it was a little new to me.
I think initially that I graded them a little harder than I should have, so I am going to ask a colleague to review my grading.
I also generated a list of things that I could use as mini lesson ideas for Writer's Workshop. (Writing to a prompt may not be such a bad idea at times!)
Here are some things I will conduct mini lessons on:
1. The use of i being capitalized when referring to yourself. Really, I didn't think it needed to be discussed but okay...
2. Going back over our work, rereading and finding the missing words. I noticed a lot of missing words in their work.
3. Run-on sentences, this is a hard concept. But, I do know that the use of and, and, and, and, And, and, And, is not going to be acceptable anymore.
4. Capitalization and punctuation. (always something we must model, model, model)
This gives me a good start...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Does my mindset reflect change?

You know with the upcoming elections we are hearing a lot about change. We are hearing a lot of promises that we know can't be kept, even in highly prosperous economical times. We hear a lot about that word, change.
I began wondering, am I a person who is willing to change? One commentator from my area, a man running for our school board, says that teachers, and parents, and apparently the members of the current school board, aren't hearing criticism and then changing. They say that the teachers in my district don't want to change, or hear the negative and then change. Am I one of those teachers?
I ask that question as one of reflection, (not necessarily opening myself up to criticism, believe me, as a teacher, I receive enough criticism.)
I think that I openly embrace change, change that is given to me in a positive way, in a way that is constructive, in a way that by no means tears me, my students, or my other colleagues (that I have grown to respect) apart...I respect this kind of change! But you see, many people who are talking right now are speaking not from their heart of change, but from the heart of election. They are so caught up in calling one and all to their cause that they are missing the true focus of what my profession means, to educate all students.
Most people running for public office are criticizing, pointing the blame, and promising things they cannot guarantee! This is not change we need, what we need is someone who will constructively come along side us and support us in our own change. We need to study best practices, we need to read about what works best, we need to begin to discuss, and mull things over. This is how change occurs, when people come together, out of respect, and say, "Let's work together."
If you are not a person that does that well, then you shouldn't volunteer to oversee a board, or partnership with a school corporation. We have big issues that need to be worked out positively. Your finger blaming, condescending, lack of respect tone will get us no where. Most people will rise up and buck the system if they feel the system doesn't respect the work they are doing. And then where will we be? We will be changing, it just won't be for the better...
Does my mindset reflect change? I think that if you read previous posts on this blog you will see that my mindset reflects change, you will see that I have grown, changed, and bettered myself because it was important to my students.
Am I perfect? By no means, I am still an active learner in my students' eyes. I want them to see me as a reader, a writer, and a person who loves learning. When they leave my classroom I care whether or not they are reading at grade level, I care whether or not they know their math facts, and I care whether or not they can pass the state standardized test next year.
But most importantly, the most important thing that I want for them... I want them to love reading, love what a book can give them, love the journey a book can take them along. I want them to be able to use the math that we have been studying all year, I want them to have number sense, and problem solving skills. I want them to value learning, so that they keep learning, not just for a test, not just for their community, not just for me or their parents, but for themselves.
That is change that I can believe in!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Watching Myself in my Students' Eyes

This morning as I watched my intern from a far I sat and listened to her teach a small group of students. Trying to stay invisible from my post I glanced around the room at two girls sitting close to me. Thinking to myself I wondered why they weren't at their workstation, why did they feel like they didn't need to follow routines. Grunting at their lack of focus I got up to go ask them to do what they were supposed to be doing! As I approached the two I quickly noticed one girl who was covering the text of a book. As she covered the text she asked the second girl, "what text can you predict will be on this page?" The student replied with a very good inference and the little girl said, "very good, you made a very good inference. What evidence did you use to help you come up with that inference?" Together the two girls practiced what we have been doing in our independent workshop! I walked back to my invisible spot and observed both my interns lesson and the lessons these two girls were learning together.
You know sometimes I have self doubt. Sometimes I think they aren't "getting it." Sometimes I wonder if it is really as useful as the research proves to me. And then I have moments like today, when I get to watch myself through my student's eyes...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Night For Us...

I hurried through my day at school, not caring about the things that would normally get me in a tizzy on a Friday afternoon. I had to get home, my mother would be arriving, I didn't want to be late! My mother arrived, two children excited about their overnight adventure greeted her at the door. Getting their shoes on they chattered away happily about what they wanted to accomplish in our absence.

My husband and I loaded up into the family mini van and off we went. We arrived in Chicago by 9:00 pm. The city was lit up like they were expecting our arrival. I chattered on about the beauty of the city, delayed in traffic we waited, and waited and... Finally, we arrived at the hotel, placed our things on the counters, vegged out on the TV, happy to be together.

Saturday arrived bright and early we readied ourselves, ate a continental breakfast, and took the shuttle to O'Hare airport. From this destination we took the blue line to the red line to downtown Chicago. We tooled around Chicago, popping in and out of stores. We watched street performers, and drank expensive drinks that we don't typically purchase. We went into the only "holiness" on Michigan Ave, the First Presbyterian Church, we joked about renewing our vows here. It was lovely.

We purchased two brownies from the Hershey store, mine minty and delicious his covered in chocolate.

We ate at Gino's East where we didn't worry about a 25 minute wait for pizza. We sat and discussed, watched the other customers, time was on our side.

Finally, we loaded the subway back to our stop, waited for the shuttle, and went to find some old dear friends. We ate dinner, conversed, again, time was on our side. Leaving Chicago we promised to return at the holidays for a weekend among friends, a new tradition, one were building for our children.

Our children... when we returned home we found them sleeping, we kissed them and smelled their familiar smell. We gazed at one another, whole and renewed, we were ready for these two little girls. Today we awoke to their wonderful voices, they snuggled down into our bed, and again, we were a family.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ahhh, much better!

Confering is going much better during that Independent Reader's Workshop time. Students are far more accepting of my invasion. We have discovered that we have some really great things to discuss even! Today though, I just sat back and watched...
We have a new student in our classroom and he has been getting adjusted to the routine of how things are done in this classroom. I am sure it is quite the adjustment, but he is doing great! Today, I watched as he and the rest of the class settled into the routine.
-Two girls were reading Green Eggs and Ham together, the inflection was incredible!
-One of my boys has moved from Flat Stanley to Flat Stanley Invisible. He is so in to the books! Finding an author that you really enjoy makes a huge diffence.
-Babymouse-how can one describe what joys this series has brought to our classroom? We are really sharing these books. I see trading, discussion, and boy is that mouse funny!
-Mighty Robots by Dave Pilkey has been another hit in our room! Today I actually had to break up an argument about who's book it was. We compromised and resolved a situation but it was humorous to see arguing about books!
Sitting back in reflection I saw them as readers today. They have come so far, working with a student who has no background in Reader's Workshop you see how far they have come. I was really proud of them!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Why We Confer

Today, after much deliberating I posed my problem to my students during my mini lesson:
"Boys and Girls, last week I really struggled to get you to confer with me during Independent Reading time. I would pull up next to you and try to pry you from your reading!"

"Well, Mrs. Amick, we just love our books, and we don't want to come above water." commented one of the boys. The rest of the class nodded their heads in agreement.

"Well, I think we need to confer, what will I do during that time if I can't discuss your books with you?" I asked.

Together, we discussed the importance of conferring, and why I needed to do this simple task with them. Together, we came up with a list of questions, things that I would be asking them when I pulled up next to them. Here, is my student generated list of things that I am going to be asking them:
-What is your book about?
-Do you like the book?
-What level is this book for you? Is it easy, medium, or hard? (1, 2, or 3)
-Can you read some of it to me?
-What strategy are you using with this book? (we made a list of comprehension or monitoring strategies)

We talked about how important it would be for them to be thinking about their reading and what I may be asking of them. However, if they really wanted to share something specific with me during that time then they could go ahead and do that instead.
Overall, I was impressed, it was a very student led conversation. I just simply wrote their suggestions down while they discussed. I also discovered that they know exactly what I am asking of them. They get it!

Friday, September 26, 2008

"Oh, just leave us alone!"

This week has been a truly great week. We have truly been into the schedule, we have met together as small groups, whole group, and we have been reading! We received two packages from Scholastic Book Clubs where I spent all my classroom PTA money on books for my pumpkins. I showcased them all from the boxes and we made it quite the spectacle. We got some really great titles that my kids are thrilled about reading! Here is the problem:
Twice this week I have pulled up next to some kiddos ready to confer about their books. Ready to hear what they have to say about their connections, their inferencing, etc... They don't want to confer! They don't want to talk, my talking to them is pulling them up from under the water! I have kids asking if they can take books out to RECESS because apparently the 20 minutes I have squeezed into our schedule for reading independently is not enough for them! Conferring is the last thing they want to do because they are to into their books! (I even had eye rolling!)
What would Carl Anderson say? How about the great Debbie Miller? Any ideas?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Inferring through the garbage

I am in love with a new book called Comprehension Connection. This book was recommended by one of my colleagues last year but my principal purchased it for us for a book talk. I am already using its contents. One of its contents was an activity on Inferencing. The author recommends bringing in garbage so the children can examine it and make inferences about the people that it belongs to, here is our conversation:
"I walk by a house everyday, they have the most beautiful yard, they have pretty flowers, and they have nice cars. Their house is immaculate. The thing is, I've never seen the people who live there. So, last night when I was walking by their trash, I took some!"
Here is where every jaw in my classroom dropped to the floor and they stared at me in astonishment. Their teacher had done the unthinkable...taken trash!
"So, I was wondering if you could help me solve the mystery of my neighbors?"
Every head nodded, still, no sound coming from their lips.
Inside the bag I had a Better Homes and Garden magazine, a coffee cup and lid, a tea bag, some receipts to very expensive places, and a band aid. Here are their inferences:
-The people who live there have no children. People with children don't have their "nice" things just out, they keep it up until their children are grown.
-The people who live here are older because they keep things so nice, they don't have to go to work a lot because their so old. That is why their stuff is so nice and why I never see them. They get up very early and they go to be very early at night.
They drink expensive teas and coffees because they don't have children.

About five minutes into this activity one of my boys says,"I don't think that you can get in trouble for stealing someone's garbage, they already put it out, they don't want it, I think it's okay."
Another little girl, "Mrs. Amick, you should get up early and go and knock on those people's door and introduce yourself. Then you should tell them that you took their garbage, because that is the right thing to do."
Have you ever been disciplined by a seven year old? I told them today that I really didn't take someone's garbage. I could see the relief on some of their faces!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Whole New World

Last Friday, at approximately 3:00 I received a package of 100 red worms. Worried that they would die over the weekend I went into a panic. I have never taught 2nd grade Science and so I was concerned about their well being! My other colleagues assured me that they would live in that box over the weekend and be just fine. Today, after forgetting my dirt at home on Monday, we "planted" our redworms. The concept of the whole experiment is to show students the work of the worms. We placed them in containers, watered the dirt, and gave them some compost that we collected in our school's woods out back. We also had a lot of worms and dirt left over and I put them in an aquarium that I stored in the attic. Many of my children are very interested in the changes that will take place in our containers. My surprise came during Writer's Workshop:
"What sort of work are you doing today as a writer?"

Many of my students that I conferred with today were writing about their worms, and the project. They were making predictions, giving them names, writing about the things they had seen, heard, smelled...
One boy discussed with me at length his learning. "You know Mrs. Amick, we created their world right here in our room! They have everything they need right there in that container! Isn't it cool to think that right now there are 100 worms working and doing their thing while we are here doing ours?"

I guess I didn't see it as that important! I really just thought that I was putting some worms into some dirt to watch them eat compost and poop it out! Boy, was I ever wrong!

Tomorrow: intensive group of students working on creating "worm like" words for stretching them into a story about a worm, or perhaps even a poem about what we're learning.
We'll see, the possibilities are endless!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

New Blogs!

So recently I stumbled upon the Stenhouse Blog by Stenhouse Publishers and I was impressed. Not only do they have some pretty great articles to read that I am completely interested in reading, but they have also created a really great Blogroll! I have been checking some of them out, they are mixed with just normal reflective pieces like mine, author's websites, and then great lesson ideas like at The Two Writing Teachers. Anyway you slice it, it is a great blog to add to your perusing! Check it out!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thursday...is library day in room 142!

A Trip to the Library...
You may not think that is a big deal. You may not think students would get excited about a little ol' trip to the school library...but not these kids. Thursday morning rolled in and I mentioned that I had spoken to our librarian, our school has Babymouse, and Captain Underpants! We have acquired these titles this summer in our classroom during my many trips to Village Books, Goodwill, and Amazon.com. The kids began to buzz, little post-it notes began to disappear, I was asked to write a note to the librarian. "Mrs. Amick can you write her and tell her we want to check out anything?"
"You always get to check out anything, now you just know what you want to check out!" I said.
Plans were being made!
Lunch arrived, "Mrs. Amick, Mrs. Amick, when are we going to the library?"
After lunch was over, we used the facilities, gathered our notes and we were off to the school library. As we entered, the librarian led them to the story area. She gave me a questioning look as it seemed everyone had brought a post-it note to the library. As I left the library, I felt proud of my students, they are readers. They are setting goals as readers, they are developing interests and finding favorite authors, they are excited (at the age of 7/8) about going to the library! Mostly, they are turning into lifelong readers, something I have tried to instill in them.
When I gathered them later they were all a twitter about their new finds. Some had stuck with with their post-it note ideas, some had been enticed by other titles. Mostly, they were just content. They were talkative, mentioning to their neighbor what book they checked out, some had gotten nonfiction books and were revealing new information they were learning. All the talk was "good" talk, it was about books!
Fast forward to Friday: "Mrs. Amick, can we do Independent Reading time all day?"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Building Stamina

Reading Workshop in first grade was noisy. First graders read aloud, alot. They aren't talking but they are "whisper" reading for about 20 minutes. It's hard to confer, it's hard to maintain focus for some students, but we got through it. This year I have noticed that most of my kiddos are drifting off and really valuing this precious time that I give them. At first they chatter while getting their books, they find their spot, and then the room falls silent. They are growing as readers.
Today we discussed our stamina. I used myself as a runner to model this new word for them. I talked about how I used to just walk the dog, then I started walking faster, and then I started running. I kept mentioning that all that time I was building stamina. Readers build stamina when they dive under with great books (this is an analogy we came up with when we talk about how readers dive into books. Like a SCUBA diver, they don't experience the above water world, only what is going on under the water, their in their own little world). We discussed that when they go to their reading spot that they need to have enough books to maintain their stamina.
When they marched off excited to read a pin could have dropped in that room.
I pulled up to a person who was reading just a simple Dr. Seuss book, I asked, "Why did you choose this book?"
"I'm working on my fluency, Mrs. Amick! I'm going to practice with this book (the Dr. Seuss book) and then I'm going to really dive under with this one!"
In one reflective moment I realized how much they have grown as readers. Not only do they value this time, they have built stamina, but they also know what they need to read to build themselves up as readers.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Living with a Kindergartner

So Syd is learning about beginning sounds at school lately. Everywhere we go she points out words and says what their beginning sound is, stressing the sound at the beginning. It's a start and we're so proud of her progress. Today at lunch though we had to chuckle when she said this:

"Scaragus, scaragus, Momma, scaragus starts with scary, that starts with 'S'! So, scaragus must start with S!"


We had to talk about Asparagus, starting with 'A' even though the beginning sound sounds like the 'E.'

Darn that schwa sound, gets us everytime!

Friday, September 12, 2008

When "**!!Eeerrrr*!*!*! becomes "WOoo Hooo!!!"

So, for the last three weeks I have been arriving at school prepared to greet my little pumpkins with my bright shining face, full of lessons that won't get taught, workstations that will be had (no small groups to meet yet), and workshops to be given minus the conferring. EEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRR! Yes, my system, my non meeting AYP (Annual yearly pain in the ?) system has to do DIBELS and TRC. We were given palm pilots to record our data and while that was very cool I saw myself losing ground. Dibels took no time at all, but the TRC, whoa, I was spending 30-60 minutes on one child. What were the others doing you may ask? Keeping busy! I became more and more stressed at just "getting it done" and I was not doing my students justice. I started to hate the system, hate going there, hate my job, hate, hate, hate. My mind said, "this is why the world loses good teachers!" Thursday, after almost 3 weeks of testing my students, I finished... (can you hear the hallelujah chorus?)
I synched my palm pilot and then printed out my data.
Here is what I discovered:

-My five students who are not where they should be, are already receiving interventions. Apparently, the moron that I am according to No Child Left Behind, is smart enough to notice when a child is not reading at grade level. Hmmmm.....
-My other students, the other 16 proficient readers, are reading at the end of second grade. How can that be? They just started 2nd grade, well you see, their teacher, has studied the benefits of Reader's Workshop and implemented that in her classroom. Those students excelled with that program and she continues to work with them again this year. Why? Because she knows it will continue to work.
-The other 2 proficient readers, are at grade level, and that is okay. They are where they should be, reader's workshop will get them to a k by the end of 2ND grade.
Maybe, I am not such a moron after all. Smart enough to read really great best practices and apply!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Our Family...complete

Last week we adopted a new dog. Her name is Lucy, she is rescued from God only knows where, she is a year, and she is ever so sweet. We feel complete now that we are a two dog family.

Writing From Another Perspective

Scott's Perspective:

"Oh, I know what this message is!"

"Um, Scott, this is Sarah, I am the one leaving our child's elementary school where she has just begun her first day of Kindergarten. She is so beautiful (sniff)babe, you should have seen her! She was sitting at her table, pencil in hand, and writing her name. (sob)I peered at her one last time. She is so confident, everything we wanted her to be and more. I think we can be very proud of her (sniff, sniff,)"

"I knew she would cry! She always holds it together but when it comes down to it, she sent her baby off to school today!" Scott says to his fellow worker.

Jen's Perspective:

"Hey, how's it going?" asks Jen.

"Not great! (wailing sobs) (sniff, sniff)

"Oh Sarah, I wondered, she's okay, she'll do fine!" Jen reassures me.

"I know but you should have seen her, (sob) she was so confident, and so mad at me for being at her new school. She doesn't need me any more! (sob, wail, sniff)" Sarah weeps into the phone.

"Where are you sitting? I need to get my mind off all of this! I'll call you back when I get to the coliseum!"

I sent my baby child off to school on Thursday. She did wonderfully, the bus ride was awesome, and Mrs. Hilger is very kind. Kindergarten has been a culmination of parenting to me, when I looked at her confidence, her stride, her independence...I knew we had done enough. She is ready, now I must find it within my heart to be ready as well.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Choosing 5...

If you could choose five books to have in your classroom library that you could use for both writer's and reader's workshop what would they be? These books encompass what you teach throughout the year, you can pull them from the shelf and your know exactly what you will teach. What would your five books be?
Here are my five:

1. Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes: I know I have said it before, "I love this book!" It's perfect for teaching small moments, dialogue, repetition, point of view, I could go on and on and on... In reading, this book is excellent for making connections, character development, protagonists, antagonists, heroes, repetition, making inferences, again, on and on and on... This book really is phenomenal when creating community. When we had a bully this year we simply reflected about how Chrysanthemum felt, and how Victoria and the gang only treated her this way because they didn't love themselves. We connected with Chrysanthemum!

2. Apples by Gail Gibbons: If you want to teach All About books, this is the book for you. Gail has such a wonderful way of turning nonfiction books into very interesting materials. You always learn something new when you pick up one of her books.

3. All the Places to Love by Patricia Maclachlan: Connections, imagery, writing a story using poetic words. Inferencing, repetition, using illustrations to make your reader fall in love with your story. Besides all that... it is a beautiful book!

4. Skippyjonjones: Okay, so it is a far cry from making connections, and sometimes it is hard to read and follow as a reader... by golly, this is a fun read! There is nothing like opening a new Skippyjonjones books and reading it aloud to your students. They make me giggle for goodness sake! My students love the language that Mrs. Jones uses with her kittens. They love the songs the chimichangos sing. We absolutely love using our "best Mexican accent." These books teach us that reading is fun! You can open a book, get lost, and have a blast!!!1

5. Charlotte's Web: I loved it in the third grade and I love it now as a teacher. I don't teach a lot in writing from this classic. I teach a lot of things from it in reading. We really connect as a class when we read this classic. We cry at the end, even the boys. We discuss their friendship, how even though they were very different they learned to get over their differences and enjoy each other for their strengths. Plus, E.B. White is phenomenal! His language usage is so beautiful when it rolls off the tongue. The kids can't believe that Charlotte dies, they just can't believe she's gone.

My five mainstays in my classroom. This week I have been putting books back on shelves, and organizing my books. Debbie Miller set up a nook in her basement when she retired from teaching so that she could be among her books. I was so glad to be back with my friends (my books) when I pulled them from the boxes. I held each one, put it in its basket, now we wait for our human friends to come and read.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Slice of Life

"I'm going to take my iron and ironing board to hen party tonight," I said.
"What?" he questioned.
"We have to iron all of Emily's chair covers and lavender sashes for the reception!" I replied.
(He has learned to not ask too many questions when it comes to the Hen Party.)

We all pulled into my mother's driveway separately but all of our cars contained the same items, an iron and an ironing board. We set them all up next to the six pronged outlet in the living room. We waited for the irons to heat up and then we began. Chipper at first we talked, gossiped about the beauty of the color lavender, and ironed. Our arms worked at a feverish pace. My girls worked in a corner to unwrap each piece of fabric, stacking them by the multiple ironing boards. We laughed about the hilarity of four ironing boards sitting in one room. What if someone could see into my mother's living room? What would they think was occurring inside this house?
After about two hours of continuous ironing we broke and dished out ice cream, strawberries, and shortcake. We sat, careful not to spill, and relaxed during our dessert break. My grandmother complained about her back hurting, my aunt about her foot, and I just kept ironing. We found the style channel on TV, watching "shallow" TV so that we could concentrate on our job.
At 10:30 p.m., four and a half hours after starting we began to get silly. Noticing any time that someone set their iron down. We counted how many pieces were left to iron, the task becoming daunting. Still, we continued to iron.
Finally, at 11:45 my mother and I, who had to be at work in the morning decided that we would stop at midnight. We sighed and continued to iron, watching the ever ticking clock. Our bodies tired, and sore. And then the clock struck midnight...
We unplugged our irons, collapsed our boards, loaded up and headed home...to our beds.
Finished? Not exactly, but close. We will finish this week, in the evenings, until Thursday when they will all be collected and taken to the reception hall. This slice of life was work, hard, hot, satisfying work.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A New Workstation

Last year I became very disappointed with my workstations. I just didn't feel like my kiddos were doing anything but playing around during their "work" time. This year we have a new basal series and so throughout the week I have been looking through materials. I am not a huge fan of any basal but I do use it for shared reading, I use it to pace my phoneme skills, and this series has a testing strategy for each unit. Since my kiddos are getting ready to take the state test I figure it wouldn't hurt them to learn some of the strategies they will need.
During the All Write conference in June I went to hear Georgia Heard. If you have never read, listened to, or aren't familiar with Georgia then you are living under a rock. I am a big fan! I was fortunate enough to listen to her speak about the Revision Toolbox. She created a revision center/workstation in her son's classroom. This was a place where kids could go and do some writing exercises to strengthen their revision skills. So, this year I am trying to incorporate that station during my small group instruction time. Here are some of the things that my students will be working on:
-Two verbs, walking and sleeping, can you think of as many synonyms that go with these words?
-Here is a sentence with the missing verb, replace it with your own.
-Here is a popular poem with some words taken out, replace them with your own.
-Here is a simple sentence, now you may describe what it is that made it this way. Here is the sentence: It was the perfect day.
-This piece of writing is missing the quotation marks, can you rewrite it so that the quotation marks are in the right place?
-Look through these books and make a list of different ways that writers write that someone is speaking. Instead of: The girl said, " what could replace "said?"
-This poem has a lot of alliteration, I describe the meaning of alliteration and then they must come up with their own!
-This is an idiom, can you tell me what it means?
-Find the simile and tell me what the item is being compared to.

So, I am also placing some information that is about grammar within this workstation too. I am hoping that my kids will stay busy, and they will learn some stuff that they can use later in writing. We'll see, I hope that it is a little more productive than last year.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ah... So True!

At the All Write conference I purchased the book About the Authors by Kate Wood Ray with Lisa B. Cleaveland. I read it pretty much in one day because it already contained much information that I already know. One of the things that I found to be so powerful was in chapter one when Katie is describing what writer's workshop is and why it is important. She says, "...if students have writing time every day, but that time is highly directed by someone else, then they have no need to think like writers outside of that time." I got to thinking about my own writer's workshop, my kids have choice, I simply give them a class generated list they can use if they get "stuck." I also wonder if that is the reason why they hated the All About unit? Could it be that it was too much about the creating of a book and not so much about their choice? Hmmm.....

She goes on to say, "... they don't see themselves as people who need ideas for writing. When someone tells students exactly how everything should be written, they have no reason to notice and ideas for their writing" Why would they need ideas when they come to school, someone opens their brains and tells them what to say, write, feel, prompting them always! So many classrooms are functioning in this capacity. Sad.....

Finally, (and bear with me, it is long) my favorite part of this section says this:

We are moved when we realize our decisions in the classroom teach students to think of themselves as particular kinds of people. But we realize that all teaching does this. If we told students what to do all day long, we'd be teaching them to think of themselves as people who should wait to be told what to do. So we embrace the people we ask them to become, people who make books, and we teach and teach into this essential identity."

Ah... so true!

Now the work of teaching teachers this way. I think there is a group of teachers out there who still believe that teaching is about dumping information in and spitting outcomes out. If we read work by Katie Wood Ray, Debbie Miller, and Piaget we begin to understand that teaching is about guiding, showing through example, and the chance for discovery. If we can begin to establish classrooms in this way then we will begin to see results.

Monday, July 14, 2008

6 Random Things About Me...

Cathy, at becoming... tagged me for this meme. I have to come up with 6 random things about me...

1. I love potato chips. I like all flavors, even salt and vinegar. They are my nemesis and I could eat an entire bag of them. If I have to take a snack somewhere, then I love to take chips. Since my dieting however, I have been trying to just stick to pretzels. I like those, but not as much as chips!

2. I have a routine in the morning, if I don't do the routine then I am all thrown off for the day. It goes like this: shower, contacts, hair gel, tooth brushing, moisturizer, blow my hair dry, make-up, apply body lotion, get dressed, put on wedding ring. It's the OCD in me I know.

3. I have always been alone. Since I was a child I have been a loner of sorts. I was an only child, I enjoyed playing alone, I lived alone in college, I go shopping alone. Now that I am married and have children getting to be alone can be a challenge but, I long for it. I long for solidarity. If I could spend a week alone I could do it. I am alone and never lonely, just like Sydni.

4. Anything having to do with teeth terrifies me. When people talk about their root canals, or children show me their loose teeth, it all grosses me out. I went to the dentist twice last year, prior to that I hadn't been in 9 years. I had perfectly fine teeth and didn't even have that much plaque! I hate anything that has to do with teeth.

5. I am learning more and more about loving the human race, not just Americans. I am learning that everyone wants to live the American dream (it doesn't always have to be in America, I just mean figuratively the "American Dream"), that we all want what's best for our children, and we want to just live and die happy. My world is getting smaller and I am liking all that I am learning.

6. Someday, in my lifetime, I don't know when, how, or why, but my heart is calling me to adopt a child from Africa. I am hoping for a boy, but a girl would be fine as well. I am hoping for someone who has HIV, or has lost their family to HIV, or just someone who needs... us.

(Seriously, I can't believe that I typed that out loud.)

So, the rules are simple:
-list 6 random things about you.
-tag 6 other people
-link back to the person who tagged you.

(I will admit, that everyone I know has been tagged! So, I am not going to tag someone else.)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Family Wedding

So, yesterday I saw my aunt's son marry a beautiful young girl. Dating for more than 4 years the happy couple today is boarding a plane to Hawaii to honeymoon. Weddings always make me nostalgic and this wedding made me feel old. I was only 11 when he was born and obsessed with babies. My aunt had me come and spend many weekends to help her care for her newborn. I rocked him, changed him, and sang to him. It was an odd feeling watching him walk down the isle.

My girls performed a task in the wedding that I had never heard of, they were bell ringers. They announced to the congregation that the ceremony was about to start. They started on each side, walk to the front and then together, up the middle. Yesterday, I took Sophie to get her hair done. They looked magical! I was so proud of them and their beauty, inside and out.

Magical weddings are, they are a culmination of all we have worked so hard to accomplish in our children. But, it is also the start of something new, a new life.

Leaving the wedding yesterday I walked to our car with my two lovely children, my husband of 11 years, and inside my heart was full. Looking at my life, I realize how truly blessed I am.

My cup, runneth over...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Poetry Friday

I mentioned the possibility of this poem yesterday in my post. An exercise that I tried was to take a noun and write as much as possible about that topic. Another exercise that I did was to lift a line from this entry and turn it into a draft of something else. I lifted four lines:
1. fly through the air so gracefully
2. soaring high above the tree line, gliding and swooping
3. mother bird tell them not to fly so high
4. the mama sits in the tree and squawks

Another exercise is to "top ten" something. I used the word: glide
soar, coast, float, balance, swoop, rustle, swing, fly, flex, levitate

Another exercise I used was to write from another person's perspective.
Here is the poem that I came up with:

Bird, Spread Your Wings and Fly
My little one from egg so small
I sat upon you
keeping you warm
protecting you from enemies and prey;
You are my little one, my pride and joy.
I brought food to your closed eyes
and your ever open mouth
Crying out in hunger,
you rocked and cried
rocked and cried
I fed you from my beak to yours
your belly fully satisfied you rested, safely.
Your wings have grown
your feathers soft and downy
are now full and strong
Your once closed eyes are now open
Take in your surroundings,
Experience life's joy
Ever watching for life's pain
Open your wings and fly through the air
gracefully, gracefully, floating
soar, high above the tree line
swoop and glide
swoop and glide
let your wings stretch and flex
feel the earth's wind in your feathers
open your eyes to the sights
listen to the sounds of your world
Go my little bird
stretch your wings and fly...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Where seed stories come from...

I have been trying many of the activities in Aimee Buckner's book just for myself as a writer. I have to tell you that I dig living the writerly life! I started with an activity where you take a noun and just write as much as possible about that noun. I reread some of my former notebook, another idea in the book, and found the word bird. I love birds, and I thought, I want to write a whole page about birds. This was easier than I thought! Aimee says to write anything, and if other things lead from that topic it is okay. So I began my piece about birds. Meaningless at first, I began to see the poetry of words coming together, I want to reread and highlight soon this one piece and change it into a poem about birds. So, a meaningless topic has been the seed to a poem.
Next, I was just doing some writing about a childhood memory. Aimee Buckner says that the start of writing with children in her classroom is through oral storytelling. My children and I were driving to the pool yesterday and Sophie asked me about my deceased grandfather. I began telling her that I have a lot of really great stories I could tell about him, as he was such a vital part of my life. I began telling her the story of family reunions and his watermelons. That oral storytelling led to me writing a piece about that memory.
I can't wait to share these workshop ideas with my kids this year. They will catch on fast I know, they are such great writers. I know that having these personal writing moments myself will encourage them that even I can do it! Kids love the fact that teachers write themselves!
Today, Sophie got her notebook out and wrote about flowers. She noticed that my notebook is filling up with all kinds of words. I read some of it and mentioned the noun activity. She said, "Can I get my notebook out and try that?" Well, duh, yea... I pressed her to pick a topic that she can write a whole page about. "I want you to fill the whole page!" Daunting it seemed, she began her piece about flowers. At first, it was about me planting flowers, how she gets to help, then it turned to labeling the parts of a flower, and then planting a seed, and growing a flower.
So what could this piece become?
All about
A story about planting flowers with her mom
A research project about the different types of flowers
The smells of flowers, a senses piece

The possibilities are endless...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

My Own Learning

Lately I have been reading Notebook Know How by Aimee Buckner a book that has been on my shelf for at least two years. When our facilitator gave it to us she said that she thought it would be for older students and I didn't read it. Wow, I wish that I had read it and at least tried some of the great ideas within it for myself. One of the first things that Aimee tries to stress is the importance of the notebook. She gives many quotes from the greats, Fletcher, Caulkins, Graves, etc. One of the greatest things that I am coming to understand is the importance of writing everyday, something, even if it is just a small happening. She says, "Interview after interview, book after book, writers talk about having a place to write every day... The concept is the same- to have a place just to write... a lot." She goes on to discuss that her first notebook she wrote a lot, and she seemed to think that there was not significance to what she was writing. This is how I feel a lot of times about my own writing. There doesn't seem to be anything significant to what I write about, who will really care. She began to notice though that as she wrote she began to get further away from diary like writing because she was revisiting, revising, and being a fluent writer. You see just from overly writing she began to notice things she could pull out from that mundane writing and turn it into something extraordinary!
I am thinking that that is the key to the notebook, we must encourage students to write even when they think they have nothing to say, to go back and revisit, and then write from those seeds.
Vicki Vinton says, "It is an illusion that writers live more significant lives than non writers; the truth is writers are just more in the habit of finding the significance that there is in their lives."
That significance comes in the form of writing, writing, writing...
I am making a commitment to write everyday, at least something, even if at the time it is insignificant. I want my students to know how writing mundane can translate into the seed of something bigger later. So, adios, I am off to write...a lot!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Things I am Pondering...

So, because I am marinating after the All Write Conference here are some things that I am trying to study or research:

1. More about launching Writer's Notebooks- I am launching WN because I know my class and they were already complaining about the use of folders, three pages of stories and their inablity to organize. I need more information about launching, collecting things to write about, and teaching the concepts of the Writer's Notebook.

2. I need to purchase more books for my students that are on a second grade level since I am looping. I hope some of you have some great titles that you would like to send my way for that grade level. My students are pretty great readers so send me whatever!

3. Mini lessons for both reading and writing workshop. This is going to take some time and a little help from the curriculum department of FWCS. I hope they have these things ready, because it is time to get geared up for second grade.

I am awake and ready to go, my fire is ablaze! Here we go...