Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Slice of Life #3 Letter from the Puppies

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the March Slice of Life Challenge.  Bloggers, both newbies and seasoned have committed to blogging every day in March.  Please visit Two Writing Teachers to read other Slice of Life stories.  #SOL15

                                                                                           March 3, 2015

Dear Cousin Roxie,

Today was the our first day of Puppy Obedience school.  Our mom tells us that you was never able to go to obedience school, so we thought we would write you a letter and tell you what our parents learned.  (Mom says that sometimes you doesn't behave very well.  We think Mom is probably not telling the truth about that.  You know her.  She has very high expectations when it comes to doggie behavior.  To tell the truth, we're wondering if maybe it's Aunt Linda who isn't trained very well.)

As soon as Mom put our collars and leashes on, we knew something was up.  We really don't like walking on the leash or wearing our collars.  Jem tried to hide in the crate and wouldn't budge even with the promise of treats.  Dad told us we needed to hurry as he scooped us up and carried us to the car.

Don't even get us started on the car.  It is SCARY!!  Who ever thought it was a good idea to put puppies in a vehicle that goes 55 mph was crazy.  We whined and shook the whole way.  Mom's sweatshirt looked like she'd been rolling around in dog hair.  (Maybe that'll teach them to make us go in the car).

We were a little nervous going into the school.  The good thing, we met some new friends.  We don't remember their names, but they were nice dogs...a German Shepherd and a black and white friend who, like us, doesn't really know her heritage either.  GS (German Shepherd for short) was extremely noisy.  He whined like a grown puppy.  We're not sure why.  He was the biggest and oldest one there.  Marlo, our teacher had some good treats.  We're hoping Mom and Dad buy some of those Pupperoni things instead of the boring sweet potato bites they give us now.

Anyway...we are off track.  We were able to teach Mom and Dad quite a few things.  We taught them how to give us treats when we waited quietly.  We taught them how to walk beside us.  They sounded hilarious, saying, "Heel," in their fake confident voices.  They weren't fooling us.  We knew they were comparing their skills with the other dogs' people, worrying that they might not be doing as good of a job.  We also had to work on helping them stay with us.  If they got too far behind, we'd stop and wait for them to catch up.  And then we'd take a treat every time they did a good job of walking next to us.  It took them awhile to get the hang of it, but eventually they learned.  We then taught them how to stop when walking us on the leash and give us a treat as we sat down next to them.

All in all, they did a pretty good job tonight.  The best part?  We trained them to buy us special treats after class.  We're just going to lay back for the rest of the evening and enjoy our rawhides.

If you want more tips on how to get Aunt Linda trained, let us know.  We are going back to class next week.  We'll be sure to pay close attention so that we can be as much help to you as possible.


                                                                                           Scout and Jem

Monday, March 2, 2015

Best Laid Plans Gone Awry...Slice of Life Challenge Day 2

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the March Slice of Life Challenge.  Bloggers, both newbies and seasoned have committed to blogging every day in March.  Please visit Two Writing Teachers to read other Slice of Life stories.

When I woke up this morning, I thought I knew what I was going to write about today...introducing first graders to Slice of Life writing.

I love first grade writers...their enthusiasm is contagious!  I had grand plans for my post.  I paid particular attention to our before lunch gathering, keeping mental notes of what my piece would look like.  The kids were so excited as they left the room, talking about what they might write about and making plans for inviting the principal to join them.

However, best laid plans...we all know how that goes.


"Mrs. Johnson, are you alone?" came the voice of the school secretary over the intercom this afternoon. That "are you alone" phrase is never good news.

"Yes," I replied.

"Can you teach kindergarten this afternoon?  Mr. S. is ill."

"Sure," (although inside my head I'm thinking about all the time I've missed with my reading groups due to testing).

12:30 pm

I head over to kindergarten, half-eaten salad in hand.  This was a last minute absence (Mr. S. stopped at Walgreens on his way to our school to get a strep test and lo and behold...he was positive).  

Hmmm...here's another Slice of Life I could do.  Although notice, there are no pictures.  I was too busy doing kindergarten.


I say good-bye to wonderful kindergarteners and head upstairs to after school digital writing club, questioning whether maybe I'm too old to teach kindergarten.

More introductions to Slice of Life writing...(maybe another Slice of Life, or combine both stories of getting kids excited about the challenge).


I send a text to husband:  I had to teach kindergarten and I'm really tired.  Can we go out to eat?  His reply?  Yes!  (Thank goodness, because otherwise it was going to be PBJ for dinner).


We had a lovely dinner at the local Mexican restaurant.  Chips and salsa are always good for making you feel better.  As I crunch through the basket of chips, I dream of heading home and collapsing into my bed.


Finally, I walk in the door, and drop my coat and bags on the chair.  I let the puppies out, feed the puppies, and grab my computer.  Deep sigh!

6:31 pm

I trudge upstairs...put on pajamas and plop into bed.  My plans for Slice of Life fizzle into a puddle of exhaustion.  There will be no deep thinking tonight.  

Tomorrow is another day...

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Slice of Life Day 1 Challenge: New Slicers

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the March Slice of Life Challenge.  Bloggers, both newbies and seasoned have committed to blogging every day in March.  Please visit Two Writing Teachers to read other Slice of Life stories.

"I want to do that Slice of Pie thing you put on email."

Abbey, a brand new teacher, and I meet once a week to see how things are going.  I'm her mentor and I'm try not to overwhelm her with too many new things.  I had put an all call out on our school email about the March challenge and hadn't heard from anyone that they wanted to jump in.  I was disappointed, but also understand that teachers are overwhelmed right now with testing, so I didn't pursue it.  

My heart did a little happy dance when I heard Abbey's words.  Apparently, my friend Debbie, another first grade teacher who did the challenge last year with her third graders was talking it up with her new team.  She saw the power in writing every day with her students and wanted to take the challenge with her little ones.  One of the reasons I love Debbie is that she is willing to jump in and try new things and she's not afraid of messy.  On Friday afternoon I found out that all four first grade teachers wanted to participate in the March Slice of Life challenge.

We all pitched in Saturday afternoon.  We made almost 100 Slice of Life journals in the sub-zero office...copying, folding, stapling in our own little assembly line.  It was great fun and tomorrow we share our plans with the first graders.  I can't wait to write alongside them and see what they come up with.

Now for that slice of pie...I definitely think Abbey and her team deserve a little treat!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Slice of Life Tuesday...Writing Love

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday.  I invite you to visit their site and read others' slice of life stories and leave a comment.

It's become a habit.  Once a month, a small group of us meet for dinner, writing and feedback.  This time together feeds my writing as well as my soul.

Tonight we were treated with homemade red beans and rice...the real thing,  a drawer filled with a lovely assortment of teas, served nice and hot on this bitterly cold evening, fresh veggies and peanut clusters dressed in chocolate.

We sit around the table filling each other in on how things are going. We talk about the newest books we've read.  We share stories and laughter.

And then it's time to write.  We find spots to settle in and before long, the room is quiet except for the sound of computer keys being tapped.  There are periods of furious typing and then a lull as we stop to think and revise at different points.

We end with sharing and feedback.

I relish this time together.  These ladies are more than my writing group.  They are my friends and I am so glad we've worked to carve out this time to support each other on our writing journeys.  https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/posttuessliceshere/

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Digital Maker Playground

Thank you to Margaret Simon for creating this space where educators can share how they are authentically using technology in their classrooms.   Please visit Margaret's blog, Reflections on the Teche, to read other teachers' posts.

 This summer, I participated in the Connected Learners MOOC, also known as #clmooc.  I spent 6 weeks making different things based on themes that were created by different writing projects.  As would be expected, I learned a lot as a digital writer...new tools, reflection on crafting moves, and I got connected to new people.  It was a powerful experience.  

During the summer, I got a message from my friend Cathy Mere, wondering what this #clmooc was all about.  We chatted about it, I shared my excitement for the possibilities and a new plan was hatched.  We have a way of nudging each other into new projects.

We wanted a space for teachers to create, collaborate, connect and learn from each other.  One of the most powerful aspects of the summer #clmooc was the support provided by the other community members.  Everyone came with an open mind, expertise in different areas, and a willingness to grow.

We designed the Digital Maker Playground, using the structure of the #clmooc from this summer.  We're offering it to staff members in our district as well as anyone else who wants to participate virtually.  We are really excited about the possibilities.  Anyone who lives nearby can join us every other week for face to face workshop time (see dates and times on the S'more flyer).  It doesn't matter if you can't join us physically.  You'll be able to see each theme there on our Google+ Community as well as share your makes.  The beauty of the Google+ Community is that we can have continued conversations around our work.

If you have questions, don't hesitate to contact Cathy or me through our blogs or Twitter.  See the S'more flyer for details.  We hope you'll join us for lots of fun and learning.

See Cathy's blog for more information.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Puppy Perks Slice of Life Story

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Tuesday's Slice of Life Challenge.  Please visit their site to read other slices and leave some comment love for those slicers.


People ask me what we were thinking when we decided to get not one, but two puppies the day after Thanksgiving.  Three months later...

We still clean up poop piles in the house.    We still run around like crazy people as we try to grab articles of clothing (usually socks or underwear) out of their mouths.  We still find chewed up shoes or shredded paper towel tubes lying sadly on the floor.  

But even with all of these annoyances, the puppy perks make it all worthwhile.

We are loved unconditionally.
We are warmed on these bitterly cold days as they snuggle up against us.
We are comforted on those less than perfect days.
We are entertained by their crazy antics.
We are kept company...no time to be lonely.  

And as you can see from this photo, I'm also never short on brain power.  This little guy spent the day with me as I worked on various projects for school.

I couldn't have done it without him!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rethinking Digital Writing Club

Thanks to Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche for providing this space to share how teachers are using technology in their classrooms.  Please visit her site to see what others are doing.

Tomorrow is the beginning of Digital Writing Club.  This is the second year I've hosted the after school club.  I decided to open it up to fifth graders only, so that I am able to work with the kids more easily.  

To get started, I created a website using Weebly for Education.  It will be our home base.  I created a class and added my students.  Tomorrow, they will design their own web page and complete the  interest survey that I created in Google forms.

Because I've been reading and talking about Education 3.0, I am rethinking what our workshop will look like.  We will definitely be sharing our work on Twitter and working to connect with others outside our group.   I'm also going to use the information that I gather from the survey to do a couple of different things.

Our first two meetings will be planned by me.  I mentioned that we'd be creating webpages tomorrow.  Next week, I'm going to borrow from #clmooc and ask the kids to make something that will introduce themselves to the group.  I learned so much from the maker summer and I want to share that with my students.  

After that, I envision the kids working on creating what they want to create.  Our mini lessons may be led by me or by another student or students who have expertise in an area.  I'd like to work on some design elements with them and I'm sure that the kids will have ideas of their own.  I am envisioning small groups forming organically as the kids find common interests.  In addition, I will seek mentors and other experts and house that information on the homepage of our website.  

I imagine there will be blogs, videos, presentations, digital stories, comics, etc.  I want the kids to make decisions about what format best fits their needs based on their audience and purpose.  

I'm excited about the possibilities, and I'll be sure to share with all of you.

Please share if you've done anything similar with students or if you'd like to connect with us.  Leave your class' twitter handle in the comment section and we will definitely connect.