Foster Parenting

Sunday, April 27, 2014

DigiLit Sunday...Thoughtful Decisions

Thank you to Margaret Simon of Reflections on the Teche for providing this space for teachers to share what's going on in their classrooms around digital literacy.  Please go to her blog to read more posts.

Yesterday, I mentioned how well our research unit was going.  It's at this point that we bring everything together.  We've spent the year reading critically as we look at different websites.  We've considered what works for us as readers and what doesn't.  Wonderopolis continues to be our go-to mentor text.  The kids have been blogging all year as well as learning different digital tools to show their thinking.  My hope is that they become more and more cognizant of the choices they are making in their digital compositions.  I want them to be able to explain why they are making the moves they make.

This week I showed them two more tools to use:  hyperlinks and Google Draw.  It's been interesting to listen in as they incorporate these tools into their work.  I asked students to include a hyperlink in their Monday Slice of Life blogs.  We looked at some examples in Wonderopolis and talked about why a person would want to use a hyperlink.  Typical, a few students had already tried using them in their blogs, but many had not.  As I walked around the room last Monday, I heard conversations about which words would be important to link.  Then they had to think about which website was the best one to link to.  They were reading and thinking critically and I was one happy teacher.

I also wanted to give them another tool with which to create diagrams, flowcharts, etc. for their final websites.  I introduced Google Draw by showing them this video, then I let them explore.  I've left it up to them to decide how to incorporate Draw into their final project.  Again, they've had to decide what kind of visual will best support their writing.  Grace decided to create a diagram, which I think is really good.  Others are creating timelines, flowcharts, and comparison diagrams.  

I'm looking forward to seeing the final product.  We'll be using Weebly to create our websites and the kids are itching to have all of the elements gathered so that they can start on their individual web page.  Hopefully, we'll get to make lots of progress this week.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Celebration Saturday...So Much to Celebrate

Thank you so much to Ruth Ayres for creating this space for celebrating life's wonderful moments.  Please check out her blog for other celebrations.

There are so many nice things to celebrate this week.  A sunny day with birds chirping outside helps tremendously, doesn't it?

First of all, I'm happy that I have this wonderful space in which to work.  I am renewing my National Board Certification as well as working on a chapter of a book, and it's getting to be crunch time.  However, I have a plan and I'm not stressing (which is way different from how I usually operate).  Actually, I'm really liking the not stressing part.  :)  

It's nice to let go a little bit.  I've discovered that life will not fall apart if I am not perfect.

I had time to cook a late lunch today so that we could all eat together before Annie went to work.  Time to cook is probably something silly for some people, but  not for me.  I enjoy spending time in the kitchen.  I tried a new recipe for Eggplant Parmesan today that was definitely a keeper.

This week at school has gone especially well.  Although we've had to spend some time on test prep, we've also had large chunks of time to work on our research projects.  This year, the intervention specialist and I have co-taught writing workshop, which has been a wonderful experience for all of us.  Here's a picture of one of my kiddos proudly showing off the work he's done on Bill Gates.  He's taken notes and is now doing his rough draft in Google docs.  He's made so much progress this year and I'm very proud of him.

We had a few extra minutes at the end of the day yesterday, so I asked the kids what their high point of the week was.  The majority of the kids said, "Research."  Sarah, my teaching partner and I had to agree.  Our room hummed with busyness as the kids worked on different aspects of their projects.  Our goal is to build a website using Wonderopolis as our mentor.  Everyone is in a different place, but that's ok.  They were all engaged and on task.  There's nothing more I could ask from them.  

I hope this spring weather is giving all of you something to celebrate!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Slice of Life Tuesday...A Full House

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays.  You can visit their site to read more slices.

Our house, once filled with noise and clutter is now quiet and less cluttered.  I miss the confusion of having a house full of kids.  There was a time in the midst of changing diapers, doing endless loads of laundry and cleaning up the same messes over and over again, that I thought I would never have time to myself again.  And in a blink of an eye, that time is here.  Don't misunderstand.  I enjoy this season of my life, but I didn't know the first part was going to go by so quickly.

I was feeling very nostalgic on Saturday, and a little sad that Zach couldn't join us for Easter weekend.  We had seen him on Tuesday at his concert and delivered an Easter basket filled with fresh fruits and veggies and other goodies...all the  stuff that a poor, vegetarian college student can't afford.  Still, I was hoping that he would change his mind and come home.

I sent him a little text with a little bribe.

And went on with my day, knowing that he probably couldn't get away.

Imagine my surprise when the doorbell rang on Saturday night at 8:30.

"Are you expecting someone?" I called out to my husband.
I rounded the corner, not sure who I would see.
It was my boy!
"Zach's home!"  I reached up to give him a great big hug.
His sisters rushed him, jumping all over him.  I was in heaven! All 3 kids were  home for Easter.

My house was full.  My heart was full.  All was good.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

If Not For Franki

Thank you Ruth Ayres for creating this button for our posts.
I was so happy when I received an email from Mary Lee Hahn a few weeks ago asking for stories to celebrate Franki on her birthday.  Like so many others who are posting today on #ifnotforfranki, I am so very thankful for the encouragement I received from Franki several years ago.

I remember the day distinctly.  Carl Anderson was doing a demonstration lesson in my classroom as part of the Literacy Connection that Friday in April.  It was only my second year of teaching first grade after being in 4th for most of my 18 years of experience.  I was nervous about having so many teachers watching my classroom and hoping my kids would do a good job.  I knew Franki was one of the officers of the Literacy Connection, but I didn't know her personally. I was kind of like her groupie.  I had read all of her books and always loved her articles on Choice Literacy.  I'd been reading A Year of Reading (check out this link to read other #ifnotforfranki posts), the blog she and Mary Lee started. It was at that time in my life that I began thinking I'd like to do some professional writing.

The first grade hallway, lined with book filled tables, was jam  packed with teachers perusing the latest professional and classroom titles.  I was looking for some new books to add to my classroom library when Franki stopped to tell me what a nice job my kids had done while Carl was in my classroom.  I thanked her and then did something totally out of the ordinary.  You see, I'm very much an introvert and don't do well at making small talk with people I don't know very well.  Instead of going on my way, I stopped and told her how much I enjoyed reading her blog and her articles on Choice Literacy.  I really went out on a limb next when I told her I was thinking I would like to write for Choice Literacy.

It was then that Franki encouraged me to start a blog. She said that was an easy way to get my feet wet in writing for a larger audience and to find my voice in the professional world.   Writing blog posts would help me decide on some topics to propose to Brenda Power for Choice Literacy articles.  Her kindness and encouragement was what I needed to take those first steps.

Within the next month, I began Raising Readers and Writers and by the following fall, I had contacted Brenda Power and proposed my first article.  Franki offered to proofread my writing for me and gave me some good advice.  I am forever grateful to Franki for what she has done for me.

So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you Franki.  You are an inspiration to me.  I have made it my goal to do for others what you have done for me...encourage, advise, and help others realize their dreams.  I hope you have a wonderful day today!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Celebration Saturday: Let's Celebrate Everything Spring

Thank you so much to Ruth Ayres for providing this space for celebrations.  I'm finding that focusing on  things to celebrate make a world of difference on my outlook on life.

Ohio's weather is so very crazy...70 degrees and sunny last weekend, snow on Tuesday, back to sunshine and high 60s today.  They always say, "If you don't like the weather in Ohio, wait a few hours and it will change."  It's so very true!  However, signs of spring are popping up everywhere.  Daffodils are blooming, the grass is a succulent green, fairy rings dot our yard, and it stays light until a little after 8:00.  There is hope that spring just might be here to stay.  

Today's celebration is all about spring...

The week began with a drive to Cincinnati to see my son's spring percussion concert at CCM.  I always love going to percussion concerts.  It amazes me to see all the different objects that are used as percussion instruments.  Zach and his friend Danny played a prepared piano for one of the pieces.  Later, Zach and two other percussionists played a beautiful piece called Meditations, which was written by a CCM graduate student.  One of the instruments Zach played was the water glass.  When the piece ended, my husband looked at me and said, "Remember when he used to drive us crazy playing those when he was a kid?"  I was thinking the exact same thing...Zach used to line up all different kinds of glasses on the counter, fill them to different levels, and then run his finger along the rim.  Who knew that one day he'd be making beautiful music?  
An example of a prepared piano from

My fourth graders got to spend time with their second grade buddies on Thursday.  They walked around the school yard looking for signs of spring.  (We had tried to do this activity a few weeks ago and it was too blustery that day.)   :)   Then, we got the sidewalk chalk out and let them write poetry inspired by their spring observations.  The playground was filled with poetic words and spring pictures.  It was a great way to end our week.

Friday was a day off for our school.  My friend  Kate and I drove to visit a teacher we used to work with.  She retired last year, bought a fixer-upper on Hoover Reservoir, and is now enjoying her new life.  We had such a wonderful time catching up over breakfast, watching the myriad of birds that visit her yard, and walking by the lake.  

I came home to the wonderful news that our oldest daughter, Molly, accepted a job in D.C.  Yes, it's far away, but it's much closer than when she lived in California.  I am so excited for her and this new adventure in her life.  She has so many opportunities waiting for her.  It seems like we just brought her home from the hospital and here she is all grown up ready to begin a new chapter in her life.  Seeing your child be happy is one of life's greatest gifts.  If you have time, take a  look into her thesis project.  It's all about the future of e-books and it's incredibly interesting.  (And I'm not just saying that because I'm her mom).  
From Molly's blog

Finally, I celebrate Pretzel Salad.  It's not a holiday dinner or family party if we don't have Pretzel Salad.  If you haven't had it, you need to try it.  We decided to stay home this Easter instead of traveling north to be with our families.  The girls will be home (and I still hope Zach will decide to drive up tomorrow) and a friend will join us for dinner.  This afternoon's been spent making desserts for tomorrow and Pretzel Salad.  My friend hadn't heard of it before.  My husband explained that there is nothing "salad" about it.  I got the recipe from my mother-in-law when my husband and I first dated 30 years ago.  I then introduced it to my family.  It's now a staple, no matter the season.  Whenever I make it, I think about our extended families and the fun times we have together.  And it brings a little brother-in-law hates it and my youngest sister can't ever seem to make it right.  The jello invariably drains under the pretzel crust.  It's become a family joke that Susan isn't allowed to bring the Pretzel Salad.  Preparing it today makes them all seem a little closer when we can't be with them in person.  
My sister Linda (who CAN make Pretzel Salad) and my dad a few Christmases ago. See the empty pan?

As you can see, there's been some conversation on Facebook today.  :)

I hope your week is filled with many things to celebrate.  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

How Do We Teach Kids to be Good Digital Citizens?

Thank you so much to Margaret Simon of Reflections on the Teche for hosting DigiLit Sunday.  I am very appreciative of this space to share my thinking and experiences about digital literacy.  You can view other posts about digital literacy on her blog.

The last several weeks have given me pause to rethink how I teach digital citizenship.  I thought I had done a pretty good job.  We spent the beginning of the year learning about the importance of being a good digital citizen:

  • Don't give identifying information about yourself when you are online
  • Keep your password private
  • Don't ask for others' passwords
  • Leave a positive impression when commenting or connecting with others
  • View information that is appropriate for school
  • Cite evidence you find on the Internet
  • Be responsible for the information you put on the Internet
I used a lot of information from Common Sense Media as I got my kids ready to venture into the digital world.  Our lessons have been reinforced by the media specialist and the technology teacher.  I sent a letter home to parents explaining our guidelines and asked students and parents to sign the letter before we started blogging and allowing kids to bring in their own technology.  I thought we had it under control and we did for awhile.

The first problem occurred after Christmas break when I received an email from a parent saying that some kids were playing inappropriate games during indoor recess.  They would quickly switch to the home screen if a teacher checked to see what they were doing.  The clincher was that a child was watching an inappropriate music video and showing it to other kids.  That was an easy one to fix.  We wouldn't use devices during indoor recess because the teacher on duty couldn't supervise every single student.  We had a long, intense chat about the importance of following the rules.

No incidents occurred until 3 weeks ago.  Two boys Googled "sex" on the iPads and left a trail.  Last week, another student guessed someone's password and got into his blog.  All three received consequences.  

To say I'm upset is an understatement.    If it had only been one occurrence, it might not have had such an impact on me.  But putting all of these instances together has me frustrated and perplexed.  

I don't write this post to be a Debbie Downer.  Instead, I am asking myself, "How do I impress upon kids the importance of being safe and respectful when using digital technology?"  I get that kids are curious.  Back in the day, kids might have looked up dirty words in the dictionary or looked at the naked pictures in National Geographic and snickered with their friends.  The amount of information that is available to us today is astronomical.  Our firewalls and filters don't always work.  Unfortunately, it's too easy for kids to be exposed to and share information that is not appropriate for their age level.  

These breaches have taught me some important lessons.  First, I understand that going over this information at the beginning of the year is not enough.  We need to revisit this topic throughout the school year and talk about the importance of being responsible.  Secondly,  I wonder if I should bring in an expert to talk to the kids.  I certainly don't want to scare them, but I do want them to understand these safety issues.  

I don't know the answers.  What I do know is that this topic is very important for my  young learners.  This is the time we build the foundation for good habits when using technology.  They need to learn it now, because as they get older, they will be exposed to so much more and their decisions may impact their dreams and goals for the future.  

What are some of your strategies for teaching digital citizenship?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Celebration Saturday

Thank you so much to Ruth Ayres for providing this space for celebrations.  I'm finding that focusing on  things to celebrate make a world of difference on my outlook on life.

Three writing celebrations this past week...

First, my after school digital writing club shared their work with their parents after school on Tuesday.  The library was filled to the max and the kids did a wonderful job of presenting their work.  This was my first attempt at a digital writing club.  I've had an after school writing club since 2007, but never one that focused solely on digital composition.  It was a great experience.  I learned a lot (like the importance of having another teacher on hand) and was excited when the fourth graders asked if we would do it again next year.  I told them they could count on it!

Second, we had our Slice of Life celebration on Tuesday afternoon.  Two cafeteria tables were laden with sliced goodies while third and fourth graders gathered to share their slices and the experience of writing every day for the month of March.  It was so fun to be part of this celebration.  The kids were proud of themselves and all they accomplished.  (Although, the principal shared with me that her son asked her if she could fire me.  He did not enjoy the experience so much.  But since his mom was participating, he had no other choice but to complete it too.) We both got a chuckle out of that one.  :)

The third celebration was a little quieter.  Cathy Mere and I wrapped up our teacher digital writing group on Thursday afternoon over iced coffee and bubble tea at the local coffee shop.  Those who were able, joined us and we talked about everything and anything that colors our world right now.  We had a great group of teachers who were all willing to take risks, share with each other, and grow.  Several blogs were born, other blogs were refined, and lots of conversation stretched our thinking to new possibilities.

A final celebration is for my own writing.  To be more precise, it's really about my attitude as I work on two big projects.  Instead of letting myself be overwhelmed and focusing on "all I have to do," I'm giving myself permission to tackle a little bit at a time and taking time for some fun in between the work.  I'm finding it's a much healthier way to be.  Why did it take me 50+ years to learn this lesson?  I'm not really sure, but I'm glad that I'm finally getting it.  :)

Here's to a week of celebrations to all of you.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Slice of Life and a Pizza

Now that the Slice of Life Challenge is over, it's back to Tuesday slicing. Thank you so much to the Two Writing Teachers for hosting.

Tonight was one of those nights.  I don't have them very often, but when I do, I'm tired and starving when I arrive home.  I had 3 commitments after school, so it was about 7:00 when I headed home. I had told Keith that I would get something and not to save dinner for me.  I was now regretting that conversation.  I decided against going through the drive-thru, just wanting to get home.

As I got closer to home, I considered what I might have.

Do we have bread?  Yep, I think we do.  I could have grilled cheese. 
Or, even quicker, I could just have cheese and crackers.
Hmm..maybe I should eat veggies and hummus.  That would be healthier.
I could eat oatmeal.  No, I probably shouldn't have carbs for dinner.
Ok...I'll just do grilled cheese.  I know, it's carbs, but it will be quick and easy.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the door to the most amazing aroma.

Keith called out to me, "It's your lucky day.  Annie made pizza."

Pizza?  Yum!!  Forget what I said about carbs.

"It's zucchini pizza."

I peeked around into the kitchen and saw hot, cheesy pizza on the stove.  The crust, made out of zucchini, boasted no carbs at all.

From Food and the City

I grabbed a plate, scooped up 2 pieces of pizza and sat down to enjoy every single bite.

It was definitely my lucky day...

  • Dinner was made when I got home.
  • They saved me leftovers.
  • It was absolutely delicious.
  • I didn't have to clean up the kitchen.
  • AND, we went out for ice cream afterwards.  (I decided the carbs didn't matter after all).
If you want to try this amazingly scrumptious pizza, check out the recipe here.