Foster Parenting

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dancing with Words: The Poetry Box Project

Kevin Cordi wrote this pledge for the Poetry Box Project.

Kevin Cordi left us with these words at the end of our assembly.  These words are the key to unlocking the magic in our students (and ourselves) when we write.

How many times do we tell ourselves that what we have to say isn't good enough?  Or, who is going to want to read my work?  Why would we want to try if we are going to fail?  Our inner critic is very harsh.  And it's easy to let that voice take over.

I love Kevin's words.  They give us permission to play, explore, make mistakes, and try again.  That's also one of the reasons I love working with poetry.  There are no hard and set rules.  Kids can experiment with words.  Their poems can be about anything and everything...funny, sad, heartfelt, silly...whatever the poet is feeling.  Font, shape, size, white space, and line breaks all become important decisions for the young poet as he gets his thoughts on paper.   And just like all of our other writing, we can go back and tweak it to make it better.

As Sarah and I sent the kids back to write on Friday, I cautioned them to put a damper on that voice that told them their ideas weren't very good.  "Write down whatever comes to mind."  We have a few writers who freeze up when brainstorming and their pages remain empty.  I was hoping Kevin's words would give them the freedom they needed to let their words flow.

When we shared at the end of our writing time, Sarah and I were thrilled with what we heard.  Here are a few examples of first draft playing with poetry.
Here J. plays with snow words and images.

P. plays with font, shape, and size in her poetry.

Both of these students gave themselves permission to play with words in different ways.  They took the pledge to heart.

  I'm looking forward to see where this unit leads us.  We'll be spending a few more days learning some different poetry tools and exploring the authors who submitted poems and then the kids will begin to finish the poems in the Poetry Box.  The energy for writing poetry is on a high right now.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Slice of Life Tuesday...What is That?

Thank you to the ladies at Two Writing teachers for hosting Tuesday's Slice of Life.  Please visit their site to read other slices.

Ohio, along with most of the midwest and eastern coast, is in a deep freeze.  We got word yesterday afternoon that school would be cancelled today.  I wonder if there is any school open in the state of Ohio.  The frigid weather brings many hardships for people as they brave the cold temperatures.  I am thankful that I am safe and warm and don't have to go outside today (as opposed to my daughter and husband who have to work).

For all the annoyances of never-ending indoor recess, bundling up, shoveling walks, not to mention those who have lost power, there is a special beauty this weather brings.  Yesterday morning, we woke up to these unusual snow sculptures in our yard.  As I drove to school, I saw them dotted throughout farm fields and front yards.  We even had a few in our school yard.  They are called snow rollers.  They are beautiful, cylindrical sheets of snow...nature's snowballs.  Apparently, they are quite rare.  The conditions need to be just right for them to form.
This was taken in our front yard.

  So, for today, I'm going to enjoy all of the unexpected occurrences the day brings.  That's the beauty of a snow day.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Nerdlution...Let's Try Again

I started Nerdlution, Round 1 with a bang.  I think I was on top of it for almost 2 weeks, then started drifting away.  I didn't feel guilty, but I did feel like I had failed.  I got bogged down with life.

So, one thing I've learned is that life is always going to happen.  I need to decide what it is that I DO want to accomplish in spite of the detours along the way.  I also need to recognize that I can't do everything and it's ok.

Over the next few months, I've taken on some extra responsibilities which means that my nerdlution needs to help me, not hinder me.  I need to take care of myself, feed my soul, and push myself forward.

For the next 50 days, I am going to work on:

  • Moving at least 3 times a week.  I'm finishing up a round of physical therapy and I can join their wellness program for a very reasonable price.  I'm going to take advantage of that.
  • Writing 5 times a week.  I just downloaded A Writer's Book of Days:  A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life  I'm hoping it will give me some inspiration.  Plus, all kinds of writing will blog, writing in my journal, responding to blogs, writing for publication, etc.  
  • Every day I will do something that counts as being nice to myself.  It might be some quiet time, reading a book just for fun, going out with friends, or as simple as taking time to put lotion on my hands.  I have to remember to take care of me so that I will be there to take care of the others who are counting on me.
So here guilt trips allowed.  We'll see where the next 50 days take me.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Celebration Saturday...Announcing the Poetry Box Project

Thanks to Ruth Ayres for creating this space to share our celebrations.  Please check her blog to see other celebrations or check Twitter for #celebratelu.

On November 12, I received this message from Kevin Cordi, Assistant Professor  at Ohio Dominican University and one of the co-directors of the Columbus Area Writing Project.

I thought it was one of those hacked messages from friends that say if you send $250.00, you will receive $5,000.00 in return.  Kevin immediately assured me that this opportunity was for real.  And of course, I was in!  His idea?  The Poetry Box Project.  

First, a little history.  In 1995, Kevin had a friend from Brazil who said to him how nice it would be to be able to share their stories.  That simple statement was the beginning of the Story Box Project.  Since then over 50 Story Boxes have been launched all over the world, collecting the stories of people from all walks of life.  (To read more about The Story Box from Jen Mitchell an ELL teacher in Dublin, Ohio, and a teacher consultant with CAWP, read her blog post here).  The Story Box is what inspired the dream of the Poetry Box Project.  He asked himself, "What if we could get published children's poets to write the beginning of a poem with the intention of letting children finish them?"  

Kevin shared his dream with J. Patrick Lewis, the U.S. Children's Poet Laureate from 2011 to 2013.  Together, the two of them contacted many poets, asking them to submit an unfinished poem for the Poetry Box project.  In the end, over 20 poets submitted poems that are now housed in the Poetry Box.  Schools from all over the United States will host the Poetry Box; their students also completing the unfinished poems.  When the box returns to Columbus next year, it will be filled with poetry from hundreds of children who were inspired by the very gracious children's poets who were willing to send in their work.  In addition, each teacher who hosts the box agrees to write an article about the importance of children's poetry.  Kevin is working to publish a book with input from each of the teachers involved.

So where do I come in?  Kevin asked me if I would want to be the first to host the Poetry Box.  I didn't hesitate saying yes to this wonderful opportunity.  I immediately sent an email out to my colleagues at Scioto Darby Elementary, asking if anyone wanted to join me.  Seven different teachers were as excited as I was and jumped on board.  In addition, the art teacher is collaborating with us to help the students create images to go with their poems.  Two third grade teachers, the art teacher, his intern, the intervention specialist who co-teaches writing workshop with me, two other fourth grade teachers, and the media specialist all met last week to make a plan.  
Our official kick-off was yesterday, when Kevin came to our school for the unveiling of the Poetry Box.  Kevin, who is a professional storyteller, is dynamic to say the least.  He spent time telling the kids about the history of the Story Box project, reading poetry from J. Patrick Lewis and Ken Nesbitt, the current Children's Poet Laureate, creating some impromptu free verse with members of the audience, and finally, the unveiling of the Poetry Box.  The kids were jazzed to say the least...if they weren't excited about poetry before the assembly, they certainly left excited.  In fact, my room was buzzing all day yesterday as the kids talked about the possibilities.  You can get a glimpse of Kevin's energy in the clip below.

Unveiling The Poetry Box from Julie Johnson on Vimeo.

One of our third graders shared his poem about writing poetry.  His poem will go on top of the Poetry Box as inspiration to others.
The students at Scioto Darby are honored to be the first school to host the Poetry Box Project.  We will be sending the box off to its next destination (Chicago, IL) on February 24th at the Thurber House.    Here, a few students will read their poetry and all of the children's poetry will be displayed.  J. Patrick Lewis and Kevin, along with other local poets will speak and share some of their work.  Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing our process and more information about the finale in February.  We can't wait to dive into the poetry and see what we are inspired to create.  Thank you Kevin for this wonderful opportunity.
Here are just a few of my kids as they came into school Friday morning, excited for Dr. Cordi's visit.

If you would like to participate in this unique experience or get more information, please email Kevin at or you can call his cell phone at 559-213-0161.  I hope that some of you will be inspired to join.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Slice of Life Tuesday

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers  for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday.  Please visit their site to read other slices.
Today has been one of those days and my propensity to procrastinate has made it necessary to write a very quick Slice of Life this evening.  I missed last week and didn't want to miss two weeks in a row.  

Five Things That Made Me Smile Today

1.  My day started at Bob Evans as I had breakfast with a friend this morning.  Breakfast at Bob's on Tuesday morning is an eleven year tradition that I never miss.

2.  As I began to show my students how to divide using partial quotients, Camille said, "Oh, now that's the correct way to divide.  That's how my mom told me to do it."  We've been using different strategies to divide and today was the first day I drew the division box around the dividend.  It wasn't long before she realized that we were not doing traditional long division.  I'm not sure if she still considered my way the "correct" way or not.

3.  I got my hair cut and colored tonight.  I LOVE getting my hair shampooed at the salon.  I almost fell asleep in the shampoo chair!

4.  I worked late getting ready for a sub.  My husband sent me this text as I was leaving school. The whole way home, I looked forward to the homemade enchiladas he and Annie made.  

5.  I am now home, my belly is full, and I'm drinking hot chocolate.  The car thermometer showed the outdoor temperature was 5 degrees.  (I don't even want to know what the wind chill is).  I'm happy to be home and get my SOL done before nine o'clock.

Have a great week!  

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Saturday Celebrations

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for hosting this space for celebrations ~ big and small.  Please check her site to read other celebrations.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were big days of celebration for my young writers.  Two and a half weeks later, after a nice holiday and then and extra 2 snow days, we returned to school not quite ready to dive back in full force.  So, we eased in slowly.  And I'm so glad we did.

Let's create!

My kiddos participated in One Little Word.  I shared my word, discovery, and then showed them some other bloggers' posts.  They were so excited to come up with their own words.  At the last minute, I decided to get out the paints and other craft supplies.  (Remember, I was easing into getting back into the groove of school too).  My original thought of letting them illustrate their words with crayons and markers sounded a little boring.  I wanted them to be able to create something fabulous, and boy did they!  They also posted their OLWs on their blogs.  If you have time, would you stop by and leave a comment?  They would be thrilled.
Leaving feedback for each other

We had our writing celebration on Friday afternoon.  We began working on our Persuasive Writing unit in the middle of October and finished final drafts right before break.  There were many days that I thought, "Oh boy, this is going to be hard."  And it was hard.  Sometimes, the things we asked the kids to do was very hard.  But, guess what?  They worked, took risks, listened to suggestions and wow, did they ever make progress.  I asked them to look at their on demand writing we did back in October before we had any instruction on persuasive writing and compare it to their final drafts.  I heard laughter, "oh my gosh," and "I can't believe I wrote like that," spread throughout the room.  The principal, media specialist, and our literacy coach joined us for our celebration.

I'll be writing more in depth about both of these topics, but for today, I wanted to touch on the parts I was celebrating.

And last, but not least, we've been able to spend the day with my husband's family as we celebrated his mom's birthday.  It's been a lovely day of reminiscing as we looked at pictures and read letters that our kids had written to their grandparents when they were little.  Lots of laughter and good food filled our day.
Happy Birthday Shirley!

Here's wishing everyone a new week of celebrations.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Slice of Life Tuesday...One Little Word

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday.  Please take some time to visit other slicers and leave a comment on their blogs.

I've been thinking about my One Little Word for 2014.  Words have come and gone as I've considered their implications for myself.  Each year, I want to choose a word that will help take me places that I need to or want to go to.  2013's word, reach, was a good word for me.  I not only reached out, but I reached inward too.  Here's a quote from last year's OLW post:

Finally, I will reach for acceptance, acceptance that I can't do it all and that's OK.  I will give myself a break from perfection, and striving to know it all, do it all, and be all.  I will let myself struggle with new things and take myself a little less seriously.  I will work towards continuing to grow into the best person I can be, for we are never really done are we?

Whew! That's been a hard one!  When you expect perfection in all you do, it's difficult to let your guard down and admit that you really don't have everything under control.  I discovered that the world didn't fall apart, nor did I when I accepted that I didn't have to know it or do it all.  That knowledge is really the foundation of my word for 2014.

My word was born one afternoon while our house was being shown.  My husband, daughter, and son decided to try a new restaurant.  (Going out to eat seems to be the thing we do when our house is being shown).  Dane's Dessert Cafe is owned by the parent of one of my students and we've been wanting to try it.  We had a fun time together, laughing over scrumptious crepes.  After we finished, the kids went one way, and my husband and I went another.  It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon with unseasonably warm temperatures for December. We walked through Goodale Park, and then decided to venture to the North Market. I love North Market...there are so many different foods, colors, aromas, and people.  I always find something new to try there.  As we were meandering through the aisles, my word came to me.  It was Discover. it sat with me, I realized that I was in need of discovering new things.  I've spent a lot of time avoiding  new things because I might not be good at it.  At this point in my life, I now understand the importance of giving myself permission to not be perfect.  A sense of hope and excitement filled me when I thought about the possibilities.  I turned to Keith and told him what I was thinking, "I want to discover new things.  I'm thinking it would be fun to try one new thing every week."

So, I'm excited about new discoveries.  

As I mentioned in Saturday's post, I'm reading You're Made for a God-Sized Dream (thanks to Ruth for the recommendation) and talking about the book with some friends and my sister.  I'm looking forward to see what I discover through these conversations.  I'll be checking in on Holley Gerth's website and participating in her Wednesday posts.

Tomorrow, I'm meeting with Kevin Cordi about a new poetry project.  There's no doubt that I will be discovering so much through this process.

Cathy Mere and I will be working with colleagues on a teacher's digital writing workshop.  I can't wait to see what we discover here.  (Cathy and I are indeed kindred souls.  Please read her OLW post and you'll see what I mean.  I called her immediately after I read her blog because I was so surprised.  Although I shouldn't have been.  This happens to us a lot).

And then there's my personal home on the horizon and new adventures.  I'll be sure to write about my discoveries, both professional and personal as they happen.

Oh, and my fourth graders will be writing about their OLW this week.  I always love doing this activity with my kids.  It's one more way to discover something new about them.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Saturday Celebrations...Catching Up

Thank you Ruth for bringing us together to focus on our celebrations.  Please visit her site to see what others are celebrating.  Check out #clebratelu on Twitter too.  

The last 2 weeks have been filled with celebration.  I focused solely on taking time for my family and myself over our holiday break.  I feel refreshed and rejuvenated.  I felt a little guilty that I didn't do any school work, but I got over it quickly.  :)

So, I laughed out loud when Cathy Mere shared this site with me last night.  You'll want to check it out if you are in any way a procrastinator.
Cathy and I are kindred spirits and we always get a chuckle at the way we work together.  When we present together, you'll find us hurriedly finishing up at the last minute...each apologizing to the other for leaving things to the last minute; both secretly glad that we understand each other's ways so well.

So, today, I am going to celebrate the things I finished today that I've been putting off...

1.  The holiday mess is finally cleaned up.  Zach has gone back to school, which means my kitchen will stay clean.  (It also means no more fresh bread waiting on the counter for me).

2.  I unsubscribed all of those annoying emails that at one time I thought I needed.

3.  I got some writing done that's REALLY needed to get done.

4.  I read 5 books over break...4 middle grade books and one professional book.  I loved them all and it gives me something to blog for It's Monday, What Are You Reading?  

5.  I downloaded a new book on my iPad (You're Made for a God-Sized Dream by Holley Gerth) and will be reading it with my sister who lives in Florida and 2 friends from school.

6.  My husband and I tried a new restaurant today.  Since no one in my family (besides me) likes sauerkraut and my son is a vegetarian, we didn't have the traditional pork and sauerkraut dinner on New Year's Day.  I got a kraut dog today, which I think counts as my good luck pork and kraut.

7.  I watched a news segment about Lu Ann Cahn who just got her book published, I Dare Me:  How I Rebooted and Recharged My Life by Trying Something New Every Day.   I was intrigued and decided that for 2014, I want to try something new every week.  It's become very easy for me to stay in my comfort zone.  Today, I not only tried a new restaurant, I made a new recipe for Creamy Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup.    I know I need to venture outside of trying new recipes and new restaurants or I'll be needing to find new ways to lose weight.  :)

Don't worry...I am still procrastinating on getting lesson plans done.  I'm hoping that the snow storm that is forecasted means another day off school on Monday and I'll get one more day to procrastinate.

I hope this week brings you many things to celebrate!