Thursday, March 31, 2016

Poetry and Art

I am joining Two Writing Teachers in the March Slice of Life Challenge.  Please visit their site to read other Slice of Life stories.


Poetry and art on a field trip?  I can't think of anything better.  What a wonderful day we had.  Our fifth graders visited the Columbus Art Museum today to see beautiful art and explore poetry writing.  We each received a blank book and a pencil.  As the docent led us around, we stopped at different pieces of art to wonder and imagine and write.  The kids' words poured out onto the page.   Kids who usually don't share much in class became prolific poets and were eager to share their creations.  And our docent was the best.  As it got closer and closer to the time to leave, she said, "Oh, I have to show you just one more thing."  She said that THREE times.  Yes, we were one of the last ones to get back to the bus, but it was worth it.  Tomorrow, we will take our poems and create our own art to go with them.  



Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Saying Good-bye to a Special Man

This month I'm participating in the Slice of Life Challenge.  Please visit Two Writing Teachers to read other Slice of Life stories and leave a comment or two.





For the last 5 years, I've had spaghetti dinner from the Italian Club in Akron with my Uncle Jack on the Tuesday of my spring break.  We began the tradition right after my Aunt Cathi died.  The two of them used to go to Carovalisse every Tuesday night when the club was open.  Two weeks after my aunt's death, I spent my spring break with him so he would't be alone in the house.  Being with him brought me the comfort I needed after losing my aunt and I hope that I did the same for him.

 This year, I was traveling for spring break and I made a promise to myself that I would get spaghetti with him this summer.  When I got a message from my mom to call her back, I could hear in her voice that something was wrong.  I called her from Charleston and got the news.  Uncle Jack had a heart attack the night before and passed away.

I have a hole in my heart.

So many wonderful memories...

He was my second dad whose arms opened for me without question when I needed a shoulder to cry on.  Growing up, he took my side whether I was right or wrong.  I knew that I could count on him no matter what.

  Uncle Jack was a dancer.  He and my aunt loved to dance and they knew how to cut a rug.   Dancing with him at my wedding holds a very special place in my heart.  As he guided me across the floor, he talked to me about having a happy marriage.  "You've got a good guy," he told me.  "You two are going to have a good life."   I took his words to heart because he and my aunt were my role models for a strong marriage.  I wanted what they had.

He lived life with gusto.  He loved with all his heart.  He argued with all his might.  And, oh, was he stubborn.  But, to me, he was the best.  I am going to miss him.

Uncle Jack and Aunt Cathi



Sunday, March 27, 2016

Trust

Today I am cross posting with Two Writing Teachers for the March Slice of Life Challenge and DigiLit Sunday hosted by Margaret Simon.  I invite you to visit both of these sites to read other posts.




Margaret has invited us to write about trust.  There are some wonderful posts linked up at her site.  I hope you'll have a chance to stop by and read.


Trust is the foundation of all relationships.  We spend the first weeks of school building a safe community where students can take risks.   I am reminded again and again how our community needs to continually be nurtured.

The majority of my fifth graders have chosen to write their Slice of Life stories in their journals.  Since they weren't writing on their blogs, I knew it was important for them to have the experience of sharing their writing with each other in person.  One afternoon in early March,  I created an opportunity to share in small groups.  As I explained what we were going to do, I noticed a hesitancy with some of the students.

"Do we have to?"
"I don't want anyone to see what I wrote. It's not very good."

I encouraged those who were worried to choose a piece that they were comfortable sharing, while also giving them the choice to not share.  Once the room was abuzz with students sharing in small groups, I joined a group.  They were having some difficulty being respectful to each other.  I spotted some eye rolling and titters of laughter toward one child in particular.

What to do?  Although inside, I was angry, I knew that showing that anger wasn't going to help.   I've witnessed first hand the ups and downs of negotiating relationships among adolescents this school year.  They are trying to figure out where they fit in and how they fit in.  I took a deep breath and participated in the conversation like nothing was wrong.  I asked questions.  I invited the others to ask each other questions and comment on all of the writing, modeling what the conversation should look like and sound like.  My goal was to empower each student to feel valuable as a writer.

At the end of sharing, I asked the class as a whole who had been nervous about sharing their writing.  I was taken aback when most hands went up.  I had assumed that because we were in March and had been working together all year, that we had that trust issue down.

As I reflect, though, I realize that we always need to come back to nurturing those relationships.  Those first moans and groans that I heard from a few students were most likely signs of nervousness in sharing their writing.  The eye rolls and laughter that I observed in the small group was probably the same thing.  I imagine that by making themselves appear superior, these students were protecting themselves from being made fun of by the others.  It's easy to forget the vulnerability that is required in putting your work out there.

And so, we go back to building stronger relationships.  We go back to building trust with each other.  We have open, honest conversations and we (including me) allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  We don't throw our hands in the air and give up.

I hope that my students will look back on their fifth grade year and remember these very important lessons we've taught them.  If nothing else, I hope that they'll remember that each and every person has value and deserves to be respected.  If we can treat each other with kindness we'll earn others' trust and feel safe to let our guards down and trust in others.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Home

I'm cross posting today with Slice of Life March challenge with Two Writing Teachers and Celebrate with Ruth Ayres.  Please visit their sites to read others' posts!

After being on the road for a splendid spring break trip, we are home safe and sound.  Yes, the mess of the partially finished hardwood floors is still here.  There is a miter saw in the kitchen where the table usually sits and dust covers everything.  But, I am so grateful to be home.
It's here that...

  • I have two kids who I love watching grow into adults.  They are good friends who are there for each other (that is as long as Zach hasn't eaten all the food that Annie was planning on eating).
  • I have a husband who I celebrated 31 years of marriage with last week.  When we were first married we wondered what it might be like when we got to this point.  Would we be bored?  Hah!  I'm glad to say that each day brings something new.  (Right now...it's a little remodel of the house).  We laugh together every day.
  • I have a daughter, who although she lives far away, has grown into a young woman that continues to amaze me.  We are so proud of her!
  • Three puppies were so glad to see us come home!  What a greeting!  And now they are camped out with us, conked out for the night.  (Yes, that's the suitcase that still needs to be unpacked in the background).

I am feeling very blessed tonight for this very good life that I have.  Knowing that my family is healthy and happy is all that I need.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

Florida in its Natural State

This month I am participating in the Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Challenge.  Please visit their site to read and comment on other Slice of Life stories.


We had some issues with Internet connection when on the beach, so I'm a few days behind in posting.   I'll be spending the next few days catching up with all the stories I've collected while on our spring break trip.

There is something to be said about pressing the pause button, which is exactly what I've been able to do this week.  My writing has taken on different forms other than writing on my blog.  My eyes have been open wide to possibilities, not only for topics but for ways to communicate my message.

As we floated down St. Johns River in central Florida, I wondered how I could share the beautiful images I was capturing on my camera roll.  We got a glimpse of what wild Florida looked like hundreds of years ago before it became so commercialized.  The music we heard was that of birds calling to each other.  The characters we saw were real...wildlife and flora on the stage of the river.  Slowing down gave me the opportunity to take it all in.  Here's a brief glimpse into our afternoon on the river.



Natural Florida

Monday, March 21, 2016

Today's Spring Break Bests

This is a busy month of writing and commenting on Slice of Life stories with Two Writing Teachers.  I invite you to visit their site to read other Slice of Life stories.







Today's Spring Break Bests

Blue Spring Park

Sister time
Lunch at Angelina's Pizza

Afternoon naps as the scent of orange blossoms waft by

Fresh picked orange juice dribbling down your chin
In my PJs and cuddling with Roxie by 7:30 pm

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Best Christmas Gift

I'm joining Two Writing Teachers for a month of writing and commenting.  Please visit their site to read other Slice of Life stories.





"What do you want for Christmas?" Keith asked me in December.

"The only thing I want is to visit my sister in Florida."

And today, I got my Christmas gift.  

As you can see from the photo, I've found the perfect spot for visiting, writing and reading.  I can hear the fountain outside as the breeze weaves in and out of the orange trees.  Laughter fills the porch as we catch up.  It's perfect.  

The next several days are dedicated to sister time.  

Thank you Keith.  This is the best Christmas present ever.  

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Welcome to the Low Country

It's a busy month of writing and reading Slice of Life Stories.  I invite you to visit the Two Writing Teachers to read other slices and leave a comment or two.





Today has been a wonderfully fabulous day in Charleston, South Carolina.  My Slice of Life today sums it all up in this poem.




Friday, March 18, 2016

At the Edge of the Orchard

It's a busy month of writing and reading as the Two Writing Teachers host the March Slice of Life Challenge.  I invite you to visit their site to read other Slice of Life stories.

We first began listening to audio books on long trips when the kids were little.  We actually fell upon the realization accidentally.  I had checked out some books on tape for Molly, who was then about 11 years old when we were traveling to Florida.  I didn't think Zach and Annie would pay attention.  Much to my surprise, the books on tape kept everyone in the car mesmerized.  We never traveled without audio books again.

We haven't gotten out of the habit now that we travel without kids.  Our book for today's 10 hour trip was wonderful!  At the Edge of the Orchard is historical fiction that takes place in northwest Ohio in the early to mid 1800s.  Since I grew up in northwest Ohio, I thought it would be fun to listen to.  We weren't disappointed.

As we listened to the harrowing experiences of the Goodenough family, we watched the landscape blossom, quite literally.  It was the perfect way to make a long trip go just a little faster.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Packing Up for Spring Break #16 of 31

It's a busy month of writing and commenting with the Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life March Challenge.  Please visit their site to read other slice of life stories and leave a comment or two.





Spring break begins on Friday.  My husband and I are driving to Florida.  I tell people we are going to meander because when you travel sans children, you can do that.  

When you meander, that means you have time to read for long stretches of time.  Oh, how I've been looking forward to this time.  

Here's a little peek into my spring break stack...








And to listen to...



If you've got more suggestions for good reads, let me know in the comments.  







Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened at the Voting Booth Today #15 of 31



It's a busy month of writing and commenting with the Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life March Challenge.  Please visit their site to read other slice of life stories and leave a comment or two.




I am a small town girl and always have been.  Today, I got a taste of what it's like to live in a really small town...

Today was voting day!  I was excited to be able to cast my vote in this historical election.  Since moving, this was the first time I was voting in my new town.  

I walked in, gave the clerk my driver's license, and took the ballot she handed me.  

Um...this ballot was much larger than the ones I had used in my previous county.  I looked up, scanning the room for the electronic voting machines and instead saw rows of white banquet tables set up with dividers (like the ones we use for testing) and folding chairs.  No machines...there were pens.  Ok.  I quickly realized that I would be filling in bubbles to do my voting.

Then, the clerk handed me a cardboard sleeve like the one pictured below.  

I was really confused as to what to do with that, but decided I'd figure it out at the table. I quickly found a seat and cast my votes, carefully coloring in the ovals with my black ball point pen.  I put the ballot into the cardboard sleeve, not sure if I was supposed to line it up a certain way.  The arrows indicated that maybe I should.  I walked the ballot over to the next table where a young lady asked me to take it out and tear off the stub.

Oh my.  These were not steps in my voting repertoire!  I fumbled with the ballot, keeping my colored ovals facing the table so as not to reveal my choices, and tore off the stub.

"Do I put the ballot back in the cardboard sleeve?"  I asked, feeling a little foolish.

The young girl looked at me and replied (very politely) that yes I should and pointed to a machine with two high school boys standing nearby.  

"Oh, I take my ballot over there?"

"Yes, ma'am."

So, I walked over to the machines (again, something new to me) and asked the boys if I should insert my ballot into one of the machines.  


"Yes, ma'am."  they replied (again, very politely).

Now, there was no picture to guide me, as the one shown below.  I looked at the machine very carefully, wondering how that whole cardboard sleeve was going to fit into that very tiny slit.  I decided to give it a try.

"Um, ma'am.  It will probably go in better if you take the ballot out of the cardboard."

Oh!  

I quickly pulled the ballot out and slid it into the machine and returned the cardboard sleeve to the very polite boys.

I could only imagine what they were thinking about me as I walked away.  

I'm sure I provided a chuckle or two as they told their friends about my inept attempts to finalize my voting.  





Monday, March 14, 2016

Cure for What Ails You #14 of 31

It's a busy month of writing and commenting with the Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life March Challenge.  Please visit their site to read other slice of life stories and leave a comment or two.


What to do when you are suddenly struck by a nasty attack of the flu:

1.  Stay snuggled under the covers...layers and layers of covers.  A puppy nearby makes it even better.




2.  7-Up is better when sipped through a straw.
3.  Sleep.  An added bonus?  I don't have that "jet lag" feeling I usually get with the time change.  I slept through it.  
4.  Read...I can suggest 2 great middle grade novels.  Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart and Pax by Sara Pennypacker.  Having time to read not one, but two books is rare indeed.

Thankfully, I'm ready to get back to the real world tomorrow!  Sometimes these unexpected setbacks can help you get back on track.



Saturday, March 12, 2016

Keeping my Day Job #12 of 31

It's a busy month of writing and commenting with the Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life March Challenge.  Please visit their site to read other slice of life stories and leave a comment or two.









Supplies


How to Remove Baseboards


1.  Use a carpet cutter or any other sharp cutter you have to score along the top of the baseboard to break the seal between the baseboard and  any caulking or paint.
2.  Pound a flexible spatula thing (DIYers would call it a putty knife) between the baseboard and the wall to separate the two.
3.  Leverage a crowbar (backed by the putty knife so as not to put a hole in the drywall) between the wall and baseboard and pull with all your might.
4.  If done correctly, the baseboard will separate from the wall, nails protruding from both the wall and baseboard.  If you have trouble, call husband over to help you get started.
5.  Label the baseboard so you'll know where to put it back when it's time to put everything together after your husband lays the hardwood floors.

Today, I learned how to remove baseboards from the wall.  I jokingly told a friend that if I liked this new job of mine, I may quit my day job and start my own business and TV show that  would be a hit on HGTV.  I was going to name my new business Reading Teacher Rehabs Homes.  
Yes, that's my handiwork.

Well, after being on the job for a day, I'm pretty sure no contractor is going to take me on.  My routine went like this:

Go through steps 1 - 5.
Take baseboard outside to the garage.
Repeat steps 1 - 5.
Garage.
Take a break (at least 20 minutes).
Repeat.

It's been a slow process, but I did complete the job my husband asked me to do.  And, the bonus?  I think I'll get a good night's sleep tonight.  As for my new job...I'm thinking I'll stick with the reading teacher part and let the rehab homes go to the wayside.
Husband made much more progress than me.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Questions with No Easy Answers #9 of 31

It's a busy month of writing and commenting with the Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life March Challenge.  Please visit their site to read other slice of life stories and leave a comment or two.




I'm taking a discourse analysis class and just finished analyzing my first transcription.  As I reflect on the conversation I recorded, I am reminded of the book The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig.

And it makes me ask...

Who decides who is seen and who is invisible? 

Does one decide that it's easier to be invisible rather than seen or does one just quit trying to be noticed?

How do we help our students practice what we teach?  Every person has worth.  Every person deserves respect.  

How do we empower the "invisible ones?"

There are no easy answers to these questions.




Tuesday, March 8, 2016

International Dining Night

It's a busy month of writing and commenting with the Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life March Challenge.  Please visit their site to read other slice of life stories and leave a comment or two.


"We should have an International Dining Club," I said in passing to a group of friends several months ago.  We all share a love of good food and we're all pretty adventuresome when it comes to eating out.  (Well, most of us are).  So, once a month, we meet to try something new and catch up with each other.  We've had Turkish, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Greek, and Mexican.  If we go to a restaurant that has familiar food, then we order something we've never tried before (think cactus tacos).  Tonight was a new Chinese place.  Thank goodness for Yelp!  The food was delicious and the company was fabulous.  Our conversation continues long after our food is gone.  It's a night that we all treasure.


Monday, March 7, 2016

New Project

It's a busy month of writing and commenting with the Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life March Challenge.  Please visit their site to read other slice of life stories and leave a comment or two.




It's always something at our house.  The newest project?  Hardwood floors.  We are Do it Yourself kind of people.  Although, to be honest, Keith has taken the brunt of this project.  The carpet is up, new tools bought, and even more hard core tools rented.  We are avid watchers of YouTube videos as we learn the ins and outs of taking up tile and preparing the floors for new wood.  I can say without a doubt, it's never boring at the Johnson house.




Sunday, March 6, 2016

Crafting Decisions #6 of 31

It's a busy month of writing and commenting with the Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life March Challenge.  Please visit their site to read other slice of life stories and leave a comment or two.

I am cross posting with Margaret Simon's DigiLit Sunday where
other educators are writing about digital literacy.  This week's theme is technique.  




Last week, we had the opportunity to Skype with Kelly Gillis from Apple to talk about iAuthor.  I met Kelly when I was working on  Launching Digital Writing in the Elementary Classroom (a collection of teachers' stories about their own journeys with digital writing).  She had flown in from Cupertino, CA to meet with everyone who was creating an iBook.  I knew right away that I wanted to connect her with my students.



As part of our life science unit, our fifth graders are in the middle of researching information about an environmental issue.  They are taking that information and writing an argumentative piece that will become a chapter in an iBook.  We've read mentors, studied leads and endings, and learned about counter arguments.  They've determined their audience and crafted their thesis statements.  As is always true in a writer's workshop, each writer is in a different place.  Some are still researching while others are drafting their essays.  

Soon, it will be  time to transform that information into an interactive digital book.  (This is one of my favorite parts.) It's time to start looking closely at some digital books to study the writer's craft. As Troy Hicks reminds us in Crafting Digital Writing, digital composers have to think not only as writers, but also as artists, designers, and sound engineers.  


Kelly introduced me to Invertebrates, an iBook written by 8th graders for 8th graders.  We'll be using that as one of our digital book mentors.  We're also fortunate to have a collection of interactive books in our school library.  They too, will become mentors for us.  We'll also be using this great website, Wordless News:  One headline per day, vowel and consonant free (thank you Cathy Mere for this resource).  Websites like Wordless News and Wonderopolis allow students to think about and discuss visual literacy.





Some guiding questions I'll ask my students to think about as they study mentors:  (Thanks to Katie Ray, these are always my foundational guiding questions.)
  • What do you notice?  
  • Why do you think the author chose this craft move?
  • How does this craft move affect you as a reader?
  • How might you try this in your own writing?
The answers to these questions will guide my young writers as they begin to create.  

Finally, Kelly reminded the students of several important factors.
  • Think about your audience.  What do you want your audience to do as a result of reading your writing?
  • Images are vital to your writing.  What kinds of images will you choose?  How will those images enhance the meaning of your writing?
  • Photo galleries allow your reader to interact with your images.  They keep the reader engaged because they are physically touching the images as they scroll through.
  • A glossary (which needs to be done at the end), is very helpful for your reader as they encounter new words and concepts.
  • Get feedback from others.  Being open to feedback and being willing to revise your work will make your writing even stronger.
The next few weeks will be very busy, but I'm so looking forward to the process.  Thanks to the support of our wonderful tech teacher, Kelly Riley and our media specialist, Phyllis Brown, we'll be working through the process together,  helping our students make thoughtful, purposeful decisions as digital writers. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Slicing with First Graders #5 of 31

It's a busy month of writing and commenting with the Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life March Challenge.  Please visit their site to read other slice of life stories and leave a comment or two.



Imagine my delight when I received an invitation from Mrs. Cochran to join her class for Slice of Life writing.  Who wouldn't want to spend 30 minutes with  6 and 7 year-olds as they write and share their Slice of Life stories.

I entered the room just in time, writer's notebook in hand.  First, we talked about who might have had a hard time writing.  Several of us shared our stories (me included).  Writing every day is hard!  Then, Mrs. Cochran asked a few kids to share their ideas before we set off to write.  We all know that writers get ideas from other writers.  So those who might not have known what to write about could get an idea or two.

Time to write! Music played softly in the background while we spread all over the room, intent on our writing.  For 15 minutes, we wrote.  I came with an idea, so I was able to get started right away.  Markers and pencils were scattered across the floor as my fellow writers concentrated on their work.



Sharing is always my favorite part.  I got to sit with several students as we shared our writing and gave each other feedback or asked questions.  The half hour came to an end all too quickly.

I'm really hoping I get invited back!



Friday, March 4, 2016

My Tumultuous Relationship with My Iron

Today is day #4 of the March Slice of Life Writing Challenge. Please visit Two Writing Teachers to read other Slice of Life stories and leave a comment or two.




I remember an afternoon, some 20 years ago, when my young niece picked up a toy plastic iron and said to Zach, "What is this thing?"

Zach quickly replied, "I don't know.  Maybe it's something you cook with."

Yes, that tells the sad tale of the relationship I have with my iron.  It's not that I dislike it so much, it just seems to easier to wear something that doesn't need to be ironed.  Or, if the article of clothing isn't too badly wrinkled, I shake it out and put it on, hoping that no one notices I should have spent a little time with the iron.

It's not like I didn't have ironing role models.  I have fond memories of sitting under the ironing board as my mother or grandmother drew out the ironing basket every Tuesday afternoon.  Tuesday, after all, was ironing day in my family.  The generations of women did not veer from this sacred schedule.  The Young and Restless hummed in the background as droplets of Niagara spray starch drifted down onto me.  My grandmother, mom and aunts were religious about their ironing.  They ironed pillow cases, handkerchiefs, and dress shirts for the men in their lives.  My grandmother even ironed my grandfather's underwear and her sheets.

And I tried.  I tried to establish an ironing routine, but for some reason, that gene skipped me.

So, it was with a smile and a grimace that I ventured down to the basement yesterday morning.  One of my favorite shirts had been hanging in the closet for over a month because it needed to be ironed before I could wear it.  There was no shaking this one out.  (Believe me, I tried.)

As I opened the door to the back basement, a bit of panic gripped my stomach.  I haven't ironed since we moved into this house over a year ago.  Did we even keep the ironing board?  Did the iron work?   Did we even still own an iron?  Yikes!

Thankfully, we had all the equipment and I was able to complete my ironing with success!  I happily put my freshly ironed shirt on and went off to work.

However, I know that this shirt of mine will come out of the dryer this weekend, wrinkled as ever.  I wonder how long it will be before I wear it again?


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Change of Plans

Today is day 3 of the March Slice of Life challenge.  Please visit Two Writing Teachers to read other Slice of Life stories.



I've been thinking about today's post all day.  I've rehearsed it in my head over and over.  I've thought about the details I wanted to include, memories that just have to be in my post.

I told myself that I'd write as soon as I got back from class.

And then I saw the mail.

I think this might be one of my favorite Christmas presents.  After reading several posts from Franki Sibberson about how much she loves this magazine, I added a subscription to The Horn Book to my wish list.  I know, some women want expensive jewelry.  Not me, I'm quite content with this gem (no pun intended).


So, I hope you'll forgive this very short post.  I'm really feeling the need to dive into my newest issue. Who knows, maybe it will give rise to a different Slice of Life story.