Saturday, April 30, 2016

Another Year {Celebrate this Week 4.30.16}

After teaching 4th grade for eight years, I felt a change coming. When the opportunity to move to 5th grade next year popped up, I took it. A new grade level meant new challenges and opportunities to both learn and teach new things.  Moving to the next grade level meant that I could also bring my class along with me.

I love my class.  There's just something about them.

Several times they have asked me if I would be their 5th grade teacher.  I always joked back that I've had enough of them or that I didn't want to torture myself for another year. They always "got" it.  They know that I care deeply about each and every one of them.  They are "my kids."

On Wednesday, I could finally share the big news. I was expecting the kids to be happy. I was not expecting them to be as elated as they were.

But this was not just about me.

It was about keeping our "family" together.

It was about the relief some of them felt at having consistency in their otherwise chaotic lives.

It was about putting to rest the fears they had about next year, about the anxiety some of them were already feeling about having to mesh with a new teacher with new expectations.

It was a wonderful celebration of how far we've come this past year and where we can go.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I Need Quiet {SOL 4-26-16}

Julia Cameron, author of one of my favorite books, The Right to Write, has written much about the power of Artist's Dates, a field trip away from home to be at one with your creative self.

On Saturday morning, I took myself on an Artist Date to the local Panera to enjoy a change of scenery for my writing time.

I ordered my lemonade and a cinnamon crunch bagel, found a quiet table in the corner, and began writing.

About 20 minutes later, I noticed an older gentleman take a seat at the table behind me.  I looked around the restaurant.  There were lots of other tables he could have picked, I thought to myself, but I went back to my typing.

After getting situated, the man took out his cell phone, brought up Monty Python episodes, and began to watch.

Without headphones. 

With the volume cranked up loud enough for half the room to hear. 

I gave an irritated glance over my shoulder, hoping the man would get the hint and turn the volume down.

He didn't.

Several more irritated looks, but still no compliance to the common courtesies of watching videos on your phone in a public place.

I stopped typing and just sat.  I couldn't concentrate.  All I could hear was fake laugh tracks and British guys yakking in the background.

I searched my bag for MY headphones.

Unfortunately, they were still at home, which was where I was now headed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Soaking it In {SOL 4.19.16}

This past Saturday, the weather was absolutely perfect.  The temperatures rose to the low 70's, the sky was true blue, and I was so thankful to be able to wear short sleeves outside.

I soaked in as much of the beautiful day as I could....

I planted a couple pots of flowers (that could easily be brought inside to escape a chilly night):

I dragged out the cushions for the patio furniture and added some new pillows.
Then I took the new pillows for a test drive while I read my book.
Even the dogs were basking in the glorious day.

When the sun passed over the house and the patio became shaded and cool, I moved to the front porch.  Life was just as lovely there:
I wish I could take days like this and bottle them up to save forever.

But I can't.

I realize that it is the cold, dreary days of winter that make me appreciate days like this past Saturday even more.

If every day was this beautiful, 75 degree days in April wouldn't feel as special.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Links I Loved Last Week {4.17.16}

Here are a few links I found this past week that are worth sharing:

The history of the five paragraph essay is a very interesting read for all writing teachers.

Makerspace for Education will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about makerspaces and how to bring one into your school or classroom.

Interested in learning more about flexible learning spaces?  You must check out Rebecca Malmquist's classroom for some very cool ideas.

Jennifer Gonzales at Cult of Pedagogy shares a video to teach you how your students can publish an easy book using Powerpoint.

Thank you to Elisabeth Ellington for sharing this idea for a blog post!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Every Student an Author {Celebrate This Week 4.16.16}

This past week we celebrated every student as an author with our Cartonera Celebration.  It is one of my favorite weeks at school.

What is a cartonera?

It is, quite literally, a cardboard book.

To make their cartonera, each student went into their writing "treasure chest" (folder) and decided upon one of their favorite pieces of writing from this year.

We rewrote them on lined paper and illustrated them.

Our amazing art teacher worked with the students to create their covers.  Last year, we used actual cardboard.  This year, we used cardboard card stock because we were short on manpower to cut 800 pieces of cardboard. (Next year, our plan is to go back to cardboard, but to start cutting it much earlier in the year.)

We put the writing together with the covers, hole punched them, and tied them with yarn.

Each day, a different grade level had their books on display in the hallway during the PTO Book Fair and Special Person Lunch for families and the community to read.  

At the very back of each book was a "Raves from Readers" page.  Classes would visit the cartoneras each day, read them, and leave kind comments.

The students were all so proud of their cartonera books and were excited to read the raves that other students had left.  (One student came up and hugged me during recess to thank me for reading her cartonera and leaving a comment.)

As a school, I celebrate seeing us all unite to celebrate writing. We have been working hard to build our level of writing and celebrating is an important part of that. Sharing our writing with others gives us an authentic audience and builds a sense of pride in our writing. 

As a teacher, I celebrate being to read the work of students in other grade levels. It gave me a good feeling for what students were able to do at each grade level. 

For my students, it was good for them to read what other students wrote.  Many of them commented to me that they had learned something from another student's cartonera (many students' writing was non-fiction) or they saw how important good spelling (or neat handwriting) was in delivering your written message. Many students were impressed with the level of writing from students who were much younger than them. As they read, I would often hear giggles as they encountered something funny or see them recommend a just-read cartonera for another student to read.

Writing was alive and breathing at my school this week!

Celebrating every student as an author -- what could be better than that?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Too Many Needs {SOL 4.12.16}

Writing at home has its challenges.  When I have time to write, things always seem to get in the way.

You may be familiar with some of these things -- The dishes NEED to be washed, the floors NEED to be vacuumed, the dogs NEED to snuggle.  I NEED to check Twitter, I NEED to look up something on the internet, I NEED to get dinner started.

I'm sure it's not a funny coincidence that all of these NEEDS pop up when I am writing (or not writing) something hard or I feel stalled in my writing life.

Add to this that I am a napping girl.  I love naps.

But napping and writing don't mix well.  Napping always wins out.

This past Sunday, the weather was really miserable--cold and rain all day long.  It was the perfect day to write, but the only way that was going to happen was if I left home and got away from all of the NEEDS and the seductive call of the sofa.

So I packed up my notebook and my laptop and took myself on an artist's date at nearest Panera. After getting myself a cup of lemonade and a cinnamon crunch bagel, I found a table and settled in.

That's when I made a big mistake.

I checked my phone.

On my phone was a frantic text that NEEDED  to be handled right away. Before any writing. Before even unpacking my laptop.  I knew that if I didn't handle this text right away, there would be no way I would be able to focus on my writing. It was as if the writing angels had all conspired against me. Again.

This text led to an email that took me 45 minutes to type.  When I was finished, I had little energy left for working on my writing project, or much else for that matter.

I packed up and went home.

No writing for me.

I NEED to try again.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Links I Loved Last Week {4.10.16} shared this interesting research on how building connections with our students can change so much.

If your students' reading notebooks are beginning be somewhat hum-drum, Maggie and Kate will show you how to use charts to get students refocused on the role of their notebook in this DIY Literacy Video.

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater uses Wonderopolis' Wonder of the Day to inspire a poem every day in April.  I am trying this with my class of 4th graders and we are loving it.

Flocabulary is a wonderful resource for your classroom.  They have a wide variety of rap videos to teach all subjects.  My class uses the Word Up Vocabulary program to learn 10 new words each week.  They love the videos! You can sign up for a free 30 day trial to take a look for yourself.

Owner Media puts out a great newsletter twice a week that always contains some nugget of advice that hits home. Even though it's geared toward business owners, I promise their words will speak to you too.

Where do you stand on the homework debate?  This post from NEA Today gives some interesting perspectives.

Love. Learn. Lead shared some interesting insights in Why We Are Moving on From AR.

Thank you to Elisabeth Ellington for the inspiration for this post.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Celebrate This Week {4.09.2016}

I've been in quite a creative funk lately, so I decided to present my celebrations this week visually.  All of the papers and clip art came from a very cool website, Sweet Shoppe Designs.  I put it all together in Powerpoint, saved it as a .PNG file and I am ready to go.
Hoping you've had many things to celebrate this week too!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Recipe for Success {Positive Thinking Thursday 4.07.16}

A Recipe for Success

Make the decision to try.  Combine a lot of hard work, sacrifice, discipline, reflection and learning. Mix well for a really, really long time.  Mixture may become difficult to handle and contain some failure, so keep at it.  Add more persistence. (Adding a few tears or laughter are optional, but can be added at this point.)  Keep mixing until your success has been achieved.


I saw this sketchnote on Facebook this morning and it inspired me to write this recipe poem in honor of Positive Thinking Thursday.

Thank you also to Niki Ohs Barnes for sharing this on Facebook.  It fits in perfectly with what I'm feeling lately and is a good reminder to keep going!

Have a positive thought of your own you'd like to share?  Feel free to leave the link to your post in the comments below.

Wishing you a great day!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Give It Away {SOL 4.05.16}

Some things have lived here too long....

Gravy boats and Christmas trays
Once-favorite sweaters
Winter coats
A carpet cleaner
Lamps from living rooms past
Pants that are too short
Puzzles we no longer play
And much, much more.

We've lived in our home for 13 years and closet space is becoming an issue.  I told my husband that we have a "storage space problem."

He replied that we have a "too much stuff" issue.

Over spring break, I took the phrase 'spring cleaning' to heart and went through our closets. I took two loads of donations to the local Goodwill.

I'm trying to simplify.

If we haven't used it or worn it in the past year, chances are that we don't really need it anymore.  So why keep it? feels good.

Here is today's haiku that was inspired by yesterday's Wonder of the Day on Wonderopolis, which was about fertilizer.

Grow Your Mind

The mind is made strong
With fertilizer of words
Found in books. So read!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Storm Chaser {4.3.16}

Amy Ludwig Vanderwater came up with the great idea of using the Wonder of the Day from Wonderopolis to inspire a poem each day in April in honor of Poetry Month.  I thought I would give it a try.

I was intrigued by the Wonder Words in yesterday's Wonder.  They almost seemed like a reverse blackout poem and inspired me to write this today.

Storm Chaser


Time to go --
a thrilling adventure awaits!

Driving into its direct path --
data to be recorded
observations made
all in the name of science and safety.

You have to be a little bit crazy,
a lotta bit fearless
to run into the storm
when others are running away,
hunkering down, 
hiding from the storm
while you say,
"Here I am! Come get me!"

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Celebrating Spring Break {Celebrate this Week 4.02.16}

I have found that the best way to stay on track and get stuff done is to write it down.

If I don't write things down, I tend to stare listlessly out the window, trying to remember what I should be doing.

Or I take a nap.

At the start of my spring break a week ago, I created a Spring Break Wish List.  I put down anything and everything I wanted to do.  I called it a wish list because if I called it a "To Do" list, I would feel a sense of dread and failure if I didn't get everything done.  This way, it reduced the pressure.

You can see from all of the filled in boxes that I got a lot of my wishes granted -- everything from cleaning the bathroom to buying myself flowers.  This system really worked for me!
This week, I also celebrate...

* The safe travels of my family who went to Orlando for a band competition.  (That's my son, Ryan, in the background helping to load suitcases.) 
* Meeting this amazing lady, Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts, for coffee.  We talked and talked and before we knew it, almost two hours had passed.  Jen and I have a lot in common (aside from our names) and I look forward to the next time we get together -- where we plan to spend time writing and not talking so much. (Yeah, right! :) 
* On Thursday, I took my mom out to lunch for her birthday.  I'm so lucky to have her so near and still a part of my life.
* The first peek of spring.  This burst of color surprised me when I went out to get the mail yesterday afternoon.  It wasn't there the day before.  I hope this is a sign....

Finally, in honor of April being Poetry Month, I am going to try to write a haiku on this blog every day.  Try....


The moments of life
Sometimes whisper, sometimes yell--
Calling out "Notice!"

Friday, April 1, 2016

Unexpected Red {4.01.16}

Unexpected red
Burst through dirt for spring hellos -- 
Even as hail pelts.