Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ending Excuses {SOL 1-27-15}

I'm a world class excuse maker.

But I don't like to call it that...I call it 'justifying'.

I can justify just about anything....
Why my husband needs to go pick up the kids instead of me.
Why we need to pick up Chinese for dinner instead of having me cook.
Why it's OK to spend the evening sitting on the sofa instead of walking on my treadmill.

One of the places I've been feeling my justifying, or excuse making, the most is in my writing.

I KNOW it's important to write every day.
I KNOW that to be the best writing teacher, I need to write.
I KNOW that just wanting to be a writer isn't enough to make it happen.

I have to do something...I have to write.

This was a page from my writer's notebook last week, when I made the decision that I needed to stop making those excuses, or justifications:
Doing things that are important to us need to become a habit.  

And excuse making shouldn't be one of them.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Growth Mindset: How the Packers' Loss Turned into Our Learning Win

I sat and watched in disbelief as the game ended...

My beloved Green Bay Packers had just blown a 12 point lead to lose the final playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks.  Whereas I had already started planning the green and gold appetizers I would serve at my Super Bowl party, I was now it total...utter...shock.

How did this happen?

According to NBC Sports, the statistics were definitely in the Packers' favor to win when they were ahead.  The Seahawks only stood a 1.8% chance of coming back from the 12 point deficit with 10 minutes left in the game to beat the Packers and earn their trip to the Super Bowl.


That's IT.

Returning to school the next day, my good friend Bridget and I were talking about the game and she asked, "How can we turn this loss into a learning moment for our students?"  Surely, our young southeastern Wisconsin students would be majorly bummed that the Packers blew it.

This got me thinking.

This past year, I have been learning a lot about growth mindset and implementing it in my classroom. I have written about how a growth mindset has helped us in math and how the word "YET" is now a part of our daily classroom vocabulary.  The Packers' loss -- or rather, the Seahawks victory -- was a perfect way to talk about growth mindset.

When my 4th graders arrived and we we had our "Thirty Second Share" about our weekends, I took the time to address the football game.

I asked my students how many of them thought the Packers were going to win.  Almost every hand went up.

Then I shared the statistic with them.  I explained (in very 4th grade words) what probability was and that some experts had predicted that the Seahawks only stood a l.8% chance of coming back and winning the game.  To make it even more concrete, I explained that that was like less than two pennies out of a dollar.


"But they did it," I said.  "The Seahawks worked hard and put forth a great effort and won the game.  They didn't care if they only stood a 1.8% chance of winning.  They just did what they had to do and the rest took care of itself."

Then I asked students to think about someone in the room who they felt was an awesome reader.  You know the ones -- they always have a book in their hands,  talk about books, seek out new books, actually read during silent reading time. How do we think they became that way?

It wasn't by sitting back and doing nothing.

Sure, maybe they were born with some talent, but if they didn't nurture it with effort, nothing would come of it. What about someone in our classroom who is good at math?  Did math just come easy to them?  Nope, they put in a lot of hard work and effort to get to where they are today.

I then asked my students to think of something in school that is giving them some trouble and to consider the amount of effort they were making in that area.  Were they able to see that maybe, just maybe, they were having trouble because they weren't putting in their best effort? That a little extra effort could be the difference between success and staying the same? Between being that awesome reader and one who just gets by? Between understanding fractions and failing at them?

So the word "EFFORT" has now joined the word "YET" as a regular part of our classroom vocabulary.  It's right there, on the front board, as a constant reminder of what's important to help us learn.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Celebrating Sunrises {1-24-15}

Saturday mornings are my favorite day of the week.  I get up early, pour a big cup of coffee, and settle in for some "me" time.  Saturdays are also the day when we can all share our weekly celebrations with Celebrate This Week and Ruth Ayres.  Thanks, Ruth!
This week, I am celebrating sunrises.

Of course, by sunrises, I do mean the natural event that happens each morning.  I'm noticing the sun coming up earlier every day and that makes my heart happy.

But I also mean other more figurative sunrises...

The sun rising on another year of life for my son, who turned 17 on Thursday.  My dad and sister also celebrated another year of sunrises this past week and I will celebrate on Tuesday.

The sun rising on my writing.  My friend, Heather, gave me this as a gift.  It was the push I needed to get back at it and tell my story.
This past week, I began working on a book that I've had rolling around in my head for a long time.  It is exciting, but also a bit scary to put the words down on paper.

What sunrises are you celebrating this week?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Celebrate This Week {1-17-15}

I love reading everyone's celebrations each Saturday at Ruth Ayres' Celebrate This Week link up.
This week, I am celebrating:

* Five days of school!  No snow days, no cold weather days.  It's good to be back in the routine!

* On Sunday, the weather was cold but there was no wind so it actually was quite pleasant.  I took a walk up my street and thought it would be the perfect time for a picture.  How many times can I say that I went for a walk in January in Wisconsin?
* During our meeting with our 2nd grade buddy class this past week, we talked about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the concept of peace.  Everyone decorated a Peace Dove with beautiful colors and wrote on it one way they can bring more peace in the world.  We hung them outside our classrooms from the ceilings so everyone could see them.  I have to say...standing under them, I do feel more peaceful.

* My students also thought of their One Word for 2015 and we made posters for the hallway.  I had them use their Chromebooks to look up the definition of their word and synonyms.  They then explained why they chose their One Word.  I was super impressed with the words the students chose and how some of them are using them already in their daily decisions.

* We finished up 2nd quarter at school.  According to Accelerated Reader, my students read 5.3 million words this past quarter -- more than I've ever had!

* Tomorrow, my beloved Green Bay Packers will play in the final playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks.  It was Superhero Day at school yesterday, and I couldn't resist the enthusiasm of our 5th grade teachers for the team they love.
Please head over to Ruth's blog to share your own celebrations this week!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Had Enough {SOL 1-13-15}

Thank you to the ladies at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the weekly Slice of Life.
For the past three years, my daughter has worked a few times a week after school at a horse farm down the street doing chores -- feeding the horses, bringing them in at the end of the day, getting fresh water, etc.  We also leased a horse for her to ride during the summers.  Over the years, we've watched Kara grow in confidence and connection with the horses and other girls who worked at the farm and we were thrilled!

But as time went on, her relationship with the people at the farm began to change...

Over the past year, the owner of the farm and several of the other girls who work there have not been treating Kara so nicely.  We're not sure when, why or how things started to go south.

At first, it was just something that happened occasionally.  Kara would be excluded from group barn events like barn sleepovers and helping with camps.  My daughter became really good at covering up the hurt this caused her.  She still loved riding and felt a certain connection with her horse.

Then it became more frequent.

The barn owner would yell at Kara for minor things. The other girls began posting team outings on Instagram that Kara would see.

As time went by, I watched the pain that this caused my daughter.  She had to balance her love for the horses with the cruel treatment she was receiving.  It was killing me!

Then, on Sunday, Kara had had enough.  She found out there was another sleepover at the barn that she was left out of and she decided it was time to stand up for herself and not let people treat her so poorly. So on Sunday, she made the very difficult decision to quit working at the barn and to leave the horses she loved.  She went to the barn, got her riding gear, said goodbye to the horses, and gave her notice.

As her mom, I was so proud of her for standing up for herself, but my heart also broke for her as well. She loved riding and loved the good times she spent at the farm.

Now, we are in the process of finding a new farm for Kara to join.  I'm sure that the right barn will come along and Kara will ride again.  I'm also sure that she will remember what it felt like to have had enough and how empowering it was to speak up for herself.

As her mom, I know I will.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Celebrate This Week {1-10-15}

Thank you, Ruth, for offering this place for weekly reflection and celebration!

This week, I am celebrating:

* Our (somewhat) return to school.  The two weeks were relaxing and refreshing, but I was ready to go back.  I think my students felt the same way.  Monday and Tuesday were great days of returning to our regularly scheduled lives and then the Polar Vortex arrived and we were given two more days off this week.  Next week, I am hoping for a full five days.

* For Christmas Break, I asked my students to each read one chapter book...just one.  When we returned on Monday, my class of 24 students had read a total of 44 chapter books over break! I was overwhelmed and thrilled!  In years past, I was lucky if half of my students had read even one book.  This year, I have a group of amazing readers.

* I am also celebrating this book that I am almost finished reading:
It is hilarious!!  I shared so many of the same struggles that the main character, Ana, faces and only wish I could have handled them with the same humor and grace that she does.  Oh....to live my youth over again. I think Jess Keating captured the spirit of growing up as someone outside of the "popular" crowd perfectly!

What are your celebrations this week?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Connect with Us for World Read Aloud Day!

Wednesday, March 4th is World Read Aloud Day, a day to celebrate the importance of sharing stories and reading around the world.
This day also happens to fall during Read Across America Week and that's exactly what my 4th grade classroom would like to do!

We are looking for other classrooms around the country -- and around the world -- who would would like to connect with us some time during the week of March 2-6, 2015 to share a read aloud.  Any grade is fine.

If you are interested, please fill out this short form and I will be in touch!  (Once we settle on a time/day, we can figure out the details of how we can make this work -- Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout, etc.)

For more information about World Read Aloud Day, you can visit the LitWorld website where you can also find classroom kits and ideas for participating.

Hoping to read with you soon!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Fly {SOL 1-06-15}

Thank you to the ladies at Two Writing Teachers for hosting A Slice of Life!
It's so exciting and inspiring to read everyone's OLW for 2015.  As I read blog posts and Tweets, the stories of how we chose our OLW -- or how it chose us -- reaffirm how important this little word can be in our day to day lives.

My OLW for this new year is FLY.
I had  settled on another OLW before this little word found me.  As I was writing one day, a few days before the new year, this word whispered in my ear and I knew right away that this was the one word I had to have.

2014 was a good year for me.  My OLW2014 was FORWARD and move forward I did!

Now, in 2015, I am ready to keep moving forward and FLY.

Here is a poem I wrote on New Year's Day as I reflected on my new OLW:

Step away
from the known,
           the safe,
           the sure,
           the secure.

You have stayed there too long.
      Grown too comfortable,
           too complacent,
              too connected.

Test your wings.

Scoot to the end of the branch
                       {That's were the fruit is}
Take an affirming breath, be brave --

And jump.

                  Your fall will be short.

The breeze will lift you,
Your wings will carry you,
The clouds will welcome you.

And you will remember....
            The amazing grace,
            The unique talents
            The unwavering perseverance
That helped you grow those wings.

All it takes is
     A little bravery
     A little faith
     A little push
          {if necessary}

And you will


Wishing YOU a day full of flight!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Celebrations! {1-03-15}

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for hosting Celebrate This Week, the weekly linky party where we can all share our blessings from the past week.
This second week of winter break went by too quickly.  I really, really want a do-over.  I have really enjoyed these past two weeks of "living horizontally" as writer Julia Cameron puts it.  I have had the luxury of stretching out, slowing down, and savoring my free time.  Next week, I (like most of you) will return to the craziness of life called school.

Here are some other things I'm celebrating this week:

One Word Party:  On Tuesday, I had some friends from school over for a One Word painting party.  We all decorated a canvas with our OLW for 2015.  It was a ton of fun!

Reading:  My TBR list keeps growing and growing.  This week I finished The Night Gardener.  It took me longer than expected, but it was worth it.  I also received this fun thing in the mail this week from Etsy:

The Price of Gas:  A silly celebration, I know, but this is what I paid for gas this morning:
Yes....$1.95 a gallon.  Wahoo!!!!

There are lots of things in life to celebrate if you just stop and look around.  What are your celebrations this week?