Thursday, March 31, 2016

Positively Thinking about My Tribe {#SOL16 Day 31}

Here we are.

The finish line of the 2016 Slice of Life challenge.

31 days ago, today seemed so far away.  Looking back, the time flew.

I end this challenge with a Positive Thinking Thursday salute to all of you -- my tribe!

Putting slices of our lives out into the world takes a lot of trust. Knowing that my words will be held gently is an act of faith. The words of confirmation and inspiration that you have returned to me in the form of comments has meant the world to me.

Thank you for being a part of my life for the past 31 days.

Thank you for letting me be a part of yours.

You are my tribe.

PS -- Please continue to check back here on Thursdays for a weekly taste of positive thinking.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Things That Feed My Soul {#SOL16 Day 30}

These are the things that feed my soul....

Early mornings where it is just me, my coffee, a warm blanket, and silence

Leisurely time to spend browsing in a book store

Snuggle time with my Puggle, Rosie
Seeing my kids happy

The anticipation of writing, then the movement of my hand across the page or the click of the keys

Connecting with friends near and far

Being awake for a Superman sunrise
Baking something yummy, then sharing it with others

A nap in the afternoon when I can sleep as long as I want

The colors and textures of paper crafting (I have a slight addiction...)

The crispness of the pages of a new book

Sharing positive thoughts (Positive Thinking Thursday coming tomorrow!)

This community that understands me, nourishes me, encourages me and supports me.

These are the things that feed my soul.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

My Book Problem {#SOL16 Day 29}

I have a book problem.

It's not the kind of problem that is troublesome, but it is one that I wish there was an easier, faster solution for.

I love to read.  I love to buy books. Amazon Prime is (not) my friend.  Our UPS guy practically knows me by name.  Book recommendations from friends (like you) are a good bet that I will add another book to my collection.

Getting books is not my problem.

Finding time to read them all....that's the problem.

Here is the stack of books that I would LOVE to read over spring break:
Seriously....not even realistic.

Even if I sat and read 12 hours a day, I probably wouldn't get through all of these titles.  (And there is another stack underneath the coffee table waiting, just in case I need any backups.)

Oh, how I wish that I could slip a book under my pillow and its words would seep into my head like osmosis while I sleep.  Wouldn't that be wonderful?

A girl can dream.  But right now, I need to get reading.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Things I Hear {#SOL16 Day 28}

Being home alone, these are the things I hear:

Rosie (my Puggle) snoring on the bed in the next room.

The trill of the Red Winged Blackbird, probably out on the crabapple tree in the front waiting for her turn at the feeder.

The freezer dumping then refilling the ice cube trays.

The seesawing tick of two clocks in the living room.

The water heater firing up in the basement.

A faint wheeze each time Toby takes a breath at my feet.

The furnace humming to life before it releases its warm breath.

It isn't very often that I am home alone.  Usually, the house is filled with the chatter and arguing of three teenagers or the notes of music seeping out from the crack under their doors.

I would say, however, that the things I hear today seem amplified -- louder than the life they hold on their own.

These are the things I hear.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

I Remember Easter {#SOL16 Day 27}

I remember Easter....

Waking up early to find where all of the eggs were hidden, only to see my dad walking around in his underwear, hiding the eggs.

The year there was nail polish in my Easter basket.  I felt so grown up, even though I was only 8.

Getting dressed for church, my sister and I in matching dresses, my little clutch purse full of raisins to keep me quiet during the service.

My aunt's Italian easter bread with colorful eggs tucked inside its braid.

The year I found out there wasn't an Easter bunny, but my mom reassured me that I would always have an Easter basket for as long as I lived with her.

I remember Easter.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Traditions {#SOL16 Day 26/Celebrate this Week}

I have good memories of decorating Easter eggs from when I was younger.  Sitting around the kitchen table, we would swirl eggs into the oil dyes, careful not to get the dye on our hands because it would take days to come off and make our fingers sticky. (Anyone else remember this kind of dye?)
Last night, my daughter Kara, her boyfriend Zach, and our German daughter Hannah decorated our Easter eggs for Sunday.

At first, Hannah kinda rolled her eyes when I asked her to help.

I think she thought I was kidding.

She said they don't really decorate eggs in Germany.  (Really???)

Well, lucky for her, she wasn't in Germany and would get to experience the sheer joy of dipping an egg into a cup of colored water.  I handed her an egg.

Hannah's Green Bay Packers egg -- SO proud of her!
She and Zach had a little competition to see who could make the reddest egg.  (Zach won.)

I'm not sure why we still decorate Easter eggs, other than it's the tradition on every Good Friday.

We don't hide them, hunt them, and some years we don't even eat them.  (This is usually because I forget them when we go to my mom's for brunch.)

All I know is that for as long as my kids are home for Easter, there will be eggs.

For that, I celebrate.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Writing Warm Ups {#SOL16 Day 25}

I needed to switch things up a bit in my writing workshop.  With the year stretching into the spring, our routine was becoming a little stale.  Add to that, it was the week before spring break so energy levels for doing any kind of school work were at an all-time low.

At the beginning of writing time, I asked everyone to get out their notebooks.  I announced that we were going to do a 10 minute writing warm up.  I would write a prompt on the board and we all (me included) would write for 10 minutes.  

No talking.  No stopping.  No getting up.  No sharpening pencils. No trips to the water fountain.  No searching our desk for something we must have right now.

Just writing.

Monday's topic was a line of dialogue:  "I told you this wasn't a good idea."

Tuesday's was dialogue again:  "I think I broke it."

Wednesday's was a word:  Imagine

Thursday's was a bit trickier:  Write a paragraph about spring break.  Every sentence must begin with a word that starts with the letter "S" and you can't repeat words.

When we did this on Monday, writing for 10 straight minutes was a bit rough for some kids.  There were trips to the water fountain, staring off into space, and the rummaging through desks.  However, by Thursday, everyone had found their groove.  We all wrote for 10 minutes.

After the 10 minutes, we gathered into a circle and shared our writing (with the option to pass).  There were some truly fun writing pieces that could be the spark for a longer pieces.  

Here's what I learned from this activity:

1.  As the week went on, many of my writers tried writing in genres they were reluctant to write in before -- poetry, plays, etc.

2.  Even my most reluctant writers could handle 10 minutes.

3.  We haven't been doing enough sharing of our writing this year.  The circle time was incredibly valuable.

4.  Because I wrote and shared too, the students saw me as a writer, not just as a writing teacher.

5.  I could interject the "Stop and reread" lesson which reinforced the importance of stopping and rereading what you've written on a regular basis.

6.  It was fun!

7.  It is a quick way to plump up our writing notebooks with new ideas.

8.  The prompt needed to be very open ended, with lots of room for interpretation.  Canned prompts such as "Write about your plans for spring break" are boring, boring, boring.

When we return from break, I plan to continue writing warm-ups.  It will give me lots of new writing material to work on over the summer.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Positively Thursday {#SOL16 Day 24}

Thursdays are the days that I love to share positive thoughts.  I call it Positive Thinking Thursday.

This week's positive thoughts are dedicated to all of us teachers.  I am honored to be a part of such a life changing profession.

 To all of you superheroes -- have a great day!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Math Motivation {#SOL16 Day 23}

I am a very practical 4th grade math teacher.

Because I'm more of a literacy girl and can truly relate to my students who struggle with math (because I've been there too),  I really strive to make sure my students know how they will use the math skills I'me teaching them out in the real world.

I'm very honest with them.   I tell them when they will use certain math skills in real life.

It's because I'm honest with my students that they trust me when I say, "Listen up, we are about to learn something really important."

I have found myself saying this a lot during our fractions unit.  On paper, fractions are difficult for my 4th graders to conceptualize.  They might not mean much, but bring in food to practice fractions and you've got a winning lesson!

Last week, I brought in a loaf of Irish Soda Bread.  My students and I considered how we could cut the loaf into 20 equal pieces so we could all have a piece.  They talked amongst themselves and determined that if I cut the loaf into 10 slices one direction then cut it down the middle in the other direction, the result would be 20 pieces.  Brilliant!

Yesterday, I brought in eight pound cake muffins left over from Sunday's family dessert.  Again, they talked in small groups to see if they could solve this real life math problem.  How could they split the eight muffins into 20 pieces?
This challenge was a bit more difficult.  Twenty wasn't easily divisible by eight.  But, after talking it through, they determined that if we cut each muffin into fifths, that would mean we would have 40 total pieces so everyone could have two pieces, or 2/5 of the whole.
 Today, a parent came in to make no-bake granola balls with the class.  We talked about what we could do if we only had a 1/2 cup measuring cup, but needed to measure one cup -- use two scoops.  What if we only had a 1/3 cup measuring cup?  Use three scoops.  Need to double the recipe?  Multiply everything by 2.

Needless to say, my students have become quite proficient at fractions.  Food motivates!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

When We Read {#SOL16 Day 22}

Find your place,
Grab a pillow and a quiet space,
Your favorite book
And just read.

Go on a journey to a land far away,
To another time or another day,
You can go anywhere, any place you want
When you read.

Meet someone new,
Hang with a new crew,
There are amazing new friends to meet
When you read.

Short or long,
You can't go wrong,
Into the pages you'll escape
When you read.

Reading is our favorite time of day,
On the schedule, it will stay,
Lost in time is where we'll be
When we read.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Meet My Fear {#SOL16 Day 21}

Have you read the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert?  If you haven't, stop reading this post right now and go get that book.  Seriously.  It's that good.

This is the first book that I read that got me really thinking about the role that fear plays in my creative life.

Fear keeps me from starting.

Fear keeps me from ending.

Fear tells me it's no good.

Fear tells me I'm not a writer.

Fear tells me that I'm crazy to think that what I create matters.

Fear talks me out of taking chances.

Fear keeps me in my comfort zone.

In Big Magic, Gilbert tells us that fear can come along for the ride in our creative lives, but we must never let it drive.  We can't let it control us.  It doesn't get a say.  It doesn't get a vote.

That's all great and a bit reassuring, but I needed something more.  Fear is such an ambiguous thing.  I needed to see fear as something physical, something I could touch, something I could physically remove from my life when I needed to.

So, I'd like you to meet my fear:
I went online to Amazon and bought the ugliest stuffed animal I could find.  (Apparently, this is a character from Despicable Me, or so my daughter informs me.)

Now, when fear starts to take over, I can take him and shove him in a closet.  Keep him from driving.
But that's only if my two dogs don't conquer my fear for me first.  They've already been sniffing him out.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Perfect PD {#SOL16 Day 20}

The wonderful Kathleen Sokolowski has asked us teachers to share their ideas about professional development.  After thinking about this for awhile, I realized that  my "Perfect PD" already exists:
Here's why...

* Choice:  For me, EdCamps are the perfect PD option because I can choose the topics that are most meaningful to me and my teaching.  What works for one person, might not work for another.  Having the flexibility to choose what I want to learn is a definite plus.  It also honors me and my experience and knowledge as a professional.

* Teachers Teaching Teachers:  School districts are filled with experts on many different topics -- on their own payroll.  Why not tap into that knowledge by having them share what they know with a larger audience within their own school or district?

* Relevance:  It's frustrating to have to sit and listen to a speaker when the topic has little relevance to your teaching or its something you already know a lot about.  That's one of the reasons I like the "rule of two feet" at an EdCamp.  If you are in a session and it is not meeting your needs, you get up and go find one that does.

* Timing:  Many EdCamps take place over the summer or in the winter or spring, once the craziness of the beginning of the school year has begun to settle.  For me, it is difficult to sit still and focus in a PD session in August when I am itching to get my classroom set up and be ready for my students.

Other non-EdCamp thoughts on PD:
* I learn best by doing.  Sitting and listening or by following along in a manual doesn't always work for me.  Just as I like to change things up in my classroom to keep the kids moving and learning in different ways, I appreciate the same.  Hands on, take-this-back-and use-it right-away PD is a bonus!

* I want there to be a follow up plan.  How will the PD topic work in my classroom/school/district? I need to see the connection. Like Kathleen said, "not 'one and done' where the topic is never brought up again."  If you are going to bring in a speaker to talk about makerspaces, I sure hope that means that we will be developing makerspaces in our schools in the near future.

We have recently held three EdCamps in my school and district as professional development.  All three were positively received by staff.  I highly recommend that you be the driving force behind bringing an EdCamp to your school or district.  It is so worth it!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Waiting {#SOL16 Day 19}


For one more week to pass until spring break begins.

For endless time to sit and read and read and read.

For endless time to write and write and write.

For bursts of color to return to the landscape.

For consistently warmer days.

For purposes to be revealed and decisions to be made.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Leprechaun Lies {#SOL16 Day 18}

St. Patrick's Day fever and leprechaun hunts took over my school yesterday. I don't know how they did it, but a group of leprechauns reeked havoc on our kindergarten and first grade classrooms Thursday morning. Tables and chairs were overturned, Smartboard pens were found inside mail slots, and shamrock confetti was sprinkled through the rooms like puffs of dandelions after a windy spring day.

A group of kindergartners was out on a leprechaun hunt with their teacher during my prep period.  They asked me (very politely) if I had seen him anywhere.  I asked what he looked like and they gave me very precise definition: about 18 inches tall, red hair, freckles, and a green top hat.  Thinking for a moment, I told them I thought I saw him by the milk coolers in the cafeteria. Or maybe that was the janitor down on his hands and knees cleaning under the cooler.  I wasn't sure.  But either way, they should definitely go investigate.  The kindergartners thanked me (very politely) for the tip and off they went.

I'm not sure if they ever found the leprechaun.

When my daughter was in preschool, her teacher, Mr. Rob,  told her class of four-year olds that leprechauns liked to hide in closets.  Being a young and single man, Mr. Rob had no idea what he had just done.

That night, my daughter did not want to sleep in her room.  I was probably up at least seven times chasing her back to bed.  Closet light on, door open, leprechaun radar checked.  No leprechauns, I reassured her.  But there was no reasoning with her.

The next day, I took my daughter by the hand and brought her back to Mr. Rob.  I insisted that he tell her that there was no such thing as leprechauns.  He looked at me like I was the crazy one.  A night of no sleep for fear of an attack of the leprechauns will do that to some people.

Thankfully, today is March 18th and the leprechauns have returned to Leprechaun Land and order will be restored to my school.

But don't look now.  I hear the Easter Bunny may be hopping through next week.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Positive Thinking Thursday {#SOL16 Day 17}

It's Thursday, which means it's time for a weekly dose of positive thinking.  Since today is also St. Patrick's Day, this week's thoughts are inspired by all things 'lucky.'

And finally, my wish for you today: