Saturday, August 29, 2015

Celebrating Life's Unexpected Opportunities





Over the past year, I've been given opportunities to learn what's important in life.  That's a nice way of saying that the unexpected turned our lives upside down.   I haven't written about them, because they were such personal experiences that affected my family, and yet, I needed to write.  I struggled with using this space.  This blog began as a place for reflection and sharing about my work with young readers and writers.  I learned, though, that I have so much more to write about.  This week, Bonnie's writing, coupled with Kevin's words, nudge me to come forward with more writing about what touches me deeply.  So, maybe the readers and writers I reference in the name of my blog, reference more than just the students I see before me each and every day.  I think it also needs to include myself...because I am also a reader and writer who is continually growing through words written by others as well as putting my thoughts down for others to read.

This week, our family was given one more opportunity to learn what's most important in life.  We welcomed two young girls into our home.  Their lives have been disrupted more than once, and we hope that our home will provide a place where they can settle in.  As soon as I knew they were coming to stay with us, I reached out to my school family and other foster parents.  I am overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support we've received.  Every day this week, I've walked to my office and classroom to find bags piled outside the doors...bedding, clothing, toys...all the things little girls need.  Women who have walked these steps before me, as foster and adoptive mothers of children who have suffered trauma, have reached out with words of advice and promises of being there for me when those rough days, that I know will happen, come along.  The school district where we live, has been nothing but supportive.  School secretaries bent over backwards to make sure the girls were in classrooms where they would be nurtured and supported.  The bus driver is keeping an eye out for them.  He called me after their first day of school to make sure they had had a good day at school and to let me know that they had found some nice kids to sit with on the bus.  My principal and teaching team have been nothing but supportive as I have to come in late or leave a little early as we all get settled into our new routines.  And my own family...our two grown children who  live at home while going to college have pitched in with not one complaint.  My husband and I are blessed indeed.

The girls are teaching us about resilience and bravery.  I fought back tears (and finally let them come the second time), after I left each girl at their new school.  They smiled at me as I said good-bye, and yet  the fear in their eyes still told me the truth.  They've never gone to the same school two years in a row and my heart breaks for that.

 I welcome new opportunities and joys that come with having young children in the house again...

  • Snuggling in bed and reading bedtime stories with a first grader who loves princess books.
  • Sitting around the dinner table playing the high/low game.
  • Leaving work by 4:00 because I have more important things to do than be at school.
  • Cuddling with puppies on the couch with a fifth grader and reading Harry Potter.
  • Watching my 20 and 22 year old children step outside of their busy worlds to lend a hand, play a game, watch a movie, or clean up a mess.  I feel as if I've been given a glimpse into the future and seeing the kind of parents they will be someday.  It makes my heart smile.

Thank you Ruth for providing this space to share celebrations.  I plan on coming back on a regular basis!  :)  Please visit Ruth's site to celebrate with others.



Sunday, August 9, 2015

Starting the Year with Digital Writing

Thank you to Margaret Simon for hosting DigiLit Sunday.  Please visit her site, Reflections on the Teche to read how other educators are integrating technology into their classrooms.

As the school year hovers ever so near, it's time for me to think very purposefully about how I will be integrating technology into my classroom.  One of my fundamental beliefs is that the technology tools available to us are just that...tools.  They become one more tool, alongside pencils, pens, paper, books, and staplers (to name a few) in our writing workshop.  These tools allow for choice, one of the most important foundations of writing workshop.

So, where to start?  I've learned from past experiences that it's important to focus on a few core tools depending on my purpose.  It used to be I jumped on every new tool I learned and then wanted to share it with my students.  I'd create projects (oops..there goes the choice) for the students to do that incorporated these tools, and then we'd move forward to the next tool I wanted to try.  There wasn't time for the kids to learn the tool well, and be purposeful about which tool best served their needs.

While chatting with Kelly Riley, the new tech teacher assigned to our school, I talked to her about what those core tools should be and how we could help students understand the purpose of each.  Our plan is to let students explore each app/tool in small groups and create a chart that describes the tool and how it can be used.  Here are the tools we will begin with this year:







Google Apps for Education gives students access to:

  • word processing documents 
  • spreadsheets
  • presentations
  • drawing tool
  • saving photos
  • mind mapping tool
  • calendar
  • work is automatically saved
  • can be accessed from anywhere at any time
  • can be used collaboratively
  • other apps can be linked to it
  • can be shared with others


Explain Everything is an interactive screen casting whiteboard app that students can use to:
  •  annotate text
  • record presentations
  • share their learning with others



Pixie is a creation tool that allows students to share ideas using:
  • voice narration
  • text
  • images
  • original artwork
  • can be shared

Noteability is a note taking app that allows users to: 
  •  take handwritten notes with a stylus
  • type notes
  • annotate text
  • organize notes
  • record voice
  • can be shared

iMovie creation of video where students can:
  • import images
  • add voice narration
  • add background music
  • import video
  • add transitions
  • can be shared

In addition, my students will be blogging.  I'm still up in the air as to which tool I am going to choose for our blogging platform.  

Let's continue the conversation.  Which will be your core tools?