Foster Parenting

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

OLW...End of Year Reflection

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays.  Please visit their site to read other slices and leave a comment or two.


It's been a year of discovery for me.  Focusing on this One Little Word has helped me pay attention to the little things.  When I chose Discover as my word, I envisioned discovering new places to dine (my husband and I really like going out to eat), and new places to visit...maybe some new recipes (hmmm...things seem to revolve around food).  I did discover all of those things, but I also discovered so much more.

Once a month, I meet up with some friends for Sunday brunch.  Our friend Stella has organized us and she KNOWS our town.  We try new restaurants and we spend the next few hours laughing and sharing favorite books we've read.  I am currently reading The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen Year-Old Boy with Autism and can't wait to start The One Thing, both books I learned about at brunch.  Sharon shared The Best Yes, which was a great book for me to read.  I knew I needed to read it when I read the description:  Are you living with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule and aching with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul? And if you haven't heard about Serial, you need to check it out.  I'm hooked and find myself listening to this riveting podcast every time I'm in the car.  From the website:  Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, and is hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial tells one story - a true story - over the course of an entire season. Each season, we'll follow a plot and characters wherever they take us. And we won’t know what happens at the end until we get there, not long before you get there with us. Each week we bring you the next chapter in the story, so it's important to listen to the episodes in order, starting with Episode 1.   

I am on Episode 7 and am looking forward to listening to the rest of the series before winter break is over.

Franki shared TheSkimm and I'm so glad I discovered it this year. These two ladies have such great voice and I find myself trying to guess the story based on the headlines. So far, I'm not so great at it, but they make me chuckle. I read it in the morning before I go to work and it makes me feel like I can talk intelligently about what's going on in the world.

After two years of having no pets in the house, Scout and Jem adopted us right after Thanksgiving. I rediscovered how much fun (and work!) having puppies can be.
I watched both my mother and mother-in-law deal with serious health issues this summer and fall. I discovered what love looks like after 50 and 60 years of marriage. I saw sides of my dad and father-in-law that I hadn't seen before and it has been so beautiful to watch.

In fact, I discovered a lot about my dad this summer. After a brief explanation of hashtags on Twitter,
I started calling my dad #Awesome because he was literally awesome in how he took over Mom's care. I then got the nickname "#AwesomeToo. I spent quite a bit of time at their house before and after surgery. Some of the times I enjoyed the most were those Dad and I spent fixing dinner together. It turns out that we make a good team in the kitchen. Imagine my surprise when I opened my gift this Christmas.  

It's been a year of ups and downs. I've dealt with things that I never thought I'd deal with as a wife and mother, but in the end, I discovered some important truths...

  • Some things are worth fighting for, especially when the going is tough. 
  • Your kids never stop needing you. It doesn't matter how old they are. You never stop worrying and will do whatever is needed to help your kids, no matter how old they are. 
  • It's ok to ask for help. You don't need to be strong all the time and you don't need to have all the answers all the time. 
  • Family and friends are a lifeline. Sharing stories is healing. 
  • Prayer is essential. 
Discovery has been a good word for me this year. I'm still waiting for my new word to find me, although I think it's lurking nearby. 

Here's wishing you a very happy New Year!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Celebration Saturday

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for hosting Celebration Saturday.  It's a place for people to gather to celebrate the big and small things in their lives.  Please visit her site to read about others' celebrations.






Baking Christmas cookies ~ it's one of my favorite traditions.  I started so many years ago, standing on a kitchen chair next to my mom.  She taught me how to carefully measure - not over the bowl- but over the sink.  It wouldn't do to have extra salt or flour falling into the bowl.  She taught me how to crack an egg without getting any shell into the batter.  She taught me the difference between folding and mixing.  I knew it was getting close to Christmas baking time as an assortment of containers began piling cream tubs, gift boxes, Cool-Whip containers, anything that would hold cookies in the freezer. When she ran out of freezer space, Mom started stacking containers in the frigid garage.  

Every Christmas Eve, we gathered at my Aunt Cathi's house.  Grandma, Pop, aunts, uncles and loads of cousins filled her house.  It was a night of laughter, love and lots of good food to eat.  My mom and aunts brought their specialties.  I couldn't wait for my Aunt Cathi's Spritz and Peanut Butter Blossoms, Mom's Butterballs (known as Mexican Wedding Cakes to most people) and iced sugar cookies  and Aunt Janey's Molasses cookies sprinkled with red and green sugar.  

 Today, I continued the tradition.  Candle light flickered, Christmas music filled the background and I began...sifting, cracking, mixing, scooping, and rolling.  As the aroma of cinnamon and chocolate swirled throughout my kitchen, my mind wandered back to those early days of baking with my mom and how much I loved spending time with her and my aunts.   I wondered what went through their minds when they were doing their baking all those years ago.  Did they reminisce about the important women in their pasts like I did today?  I hope so.

And now tonight, it's my table that's filled with these old favorites.   It's just not Christmas without them.   It's been my favorite kind of day.

Wishing all of you a very happy and blessed holiday season.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Taking Ownership of Blogging

Thank you to Margaret Simon for hosting DigiLit Sunday.  Please check her site to see how others are using technology in their classrooms.

The first grade teachers in my building have taken the dive into blogging with their students.  We began with looking at mentors and doing some shared blogging.  And that's where the similarity ended.

Each teacher has now taken ownership of blogging in their classrooms,  going  in the direction that works for their kids.  It's been my privilege to go into their rooms and see the excitement on the kids' faces this week.  Everybody is in a different place.  Here's a glimpse into the three classrooms I visited this week.

We did our first shared blog in Mrs. Miller's classroom.  The kids were very excited to share the learning they are doing with their eighth grade buddies.  Check out their blog at  

In Mrs. Shell's room, students created their own blogs for the first time and left comments for each other.  (URL to come soon.)  There were some popular topics...the running test in gym, another student's birthday, to name a few.

This little guy just posted his first blog.

She is reading her first comment.

Abbey decided to create blog teams.  Her students are most excited about getting comments from their parents and she thought this would be a good way for them to get started.  I had never even thought about team blogging and I loved the idea.   Here is the text she sent me on Friday afternoon after they posted their first team blog.

Team bloggers from Mrs. Cochran's class.

Please check out Mrs. Cochran's team blog at  Leave a comment about your favorite holiday tradition.

Mrs. Klochak's class has done a few blogs on their own.  Her student blogs are at

I so appreciate that each teacher is willing to take the risk of taking their students' writing outside their classroom walls.  Because I've seen the power of blogging in my own classroom, it's very exciting for me to watch the kids as they begin these first steps in becoming digital writers.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Reflecting Digitally

Thank you to Margaret Simon for hosting DigiLit Sunday.  You can stop by her site, Reflections on the Teche and read how other educators are using technology in their classrooms.

As I prepared for my NCTE presentation on raising the quality of student digital compositions by using mentor texts, I wanted to share some of my students' reflections.  Last year, I began to use screencasting as a way to let students share their process with me and others.

We spend a lot of time in class looking at author's craft in both traditional and digital texts.  Students are anxious to try these moves in their own compositions.  While conferring with students, I often will ask them to explain why they chose a certain image or graphic or text feature.  I want to know if they are making cognizant decisions that reflect their purpose.  We have all had the experience of students clicking away changing fonts, adding animated graphics, or whatever else they think "looks cool" but add nothing to the intended message.

When we get to the point of publication, I ask students to reflect on the decisions they made.  I think this is important because it gives them the message that their decisions matter.  These reflections give me a glimpse into the process that I might not have otherwise known.  In addition, the students learn from each other as they listen to students' choices.  I will soon see others try some of the same things in their writing.  Likewise, the more reflecting students do, the quality of their writing improves.

I've used both Educreations and Explain Everything for these reflections.  The apps are on our iPads at school, so it's easy to access either.  For the NCTE presentation, I used Explain Everything because I wanted to learn more about it.  I was able to import the students' work (website, Animoto slideshow, blog) into the app.  The students could then scroll through their work as they talked about the decisions they made.  They can use the tools to draw on the screen, make arrows and add text.  Below you will find an excerpt from Alex as she shared the decisions she made about her Norway website.  I uploaded the file from Explain Everything into iMovie and edited it.  The original is 8 minutes long (too long for an NCTE presentation).

I learned a lot from Alex as I listened to her explain her decisions.  She got the idea for the organization of her site from a book she read.  She thought about the text as a whole when she decided to add an image of a train station at the end, which signified the end of the journey through Norway and her web page.  She made conscious decisions about images, layout design, color, topics, and the inclusion of video.  It was evident that she had put a lot of thought into her work.

For more ideas on using technology to reflect on the writing process, read Katharine's Hale blog post.

How do you ask students to reflect on their writing?  Please leave a comment.  I'd love to continue the conversation.