Saturday, May 20, 2017

Big Messages from Little People {Celebrate this Week}

This week I'm celebrating word choice and big messages from little people.

Our Parent Teacher Organization runs a Write Shop for the students each year where they are able to publish their writing in a "hard bound" book.  If you've read Donald Graves work he wrote about the power of publishing many times.  The books are made from chipboard wrapped in patterned or solid contact paper.  The students help sew their writing with a needle and thread to the spine and rubber cement the end papers to finish off the inside.  We have a rubber stamp with our publishing company for the school and these books become treasures.  

Yesterday we started the morning with Poetry Friday but instead of reading other authors we read our Write Shop books and left Reader's Comments.  To be honest, I had read all the poems one night and early morning trying to help with editing.  It was quick and fast because I was focused on catching spelling errors and I was surprised the poems didn't stick with me.  As I read each student's book in a published format, my heart started bursting with joy.  I could see the mini lessons we had worked through come alive.  I saw details in illustrations but one poem in particular really made me stop in my tracks.

A quiet student wrote a short poem.  A short poem with carefully selected words with a big message.  Our world is filled with goodness but turmoil and sadness.  Our own lives are filled good things that can bring self doubt and uncertainty.  I'm sure we could all use or know someone who can use this kind of medicine.  


                                                

Thank you Ruth for encouraging us to stop and think about Celebrations.  
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Friday, May 19, 2017

Haiku #1 {Poetry Friday}

rhythmic back and forth
natural flashy Spring bursts
bouncing between clouds


Today is the last Friday of school and I'm thinking about my summer plans and things I want to rekindle, writing being one of them.  Another, is taking a few moments daily to focus and notice things around me.  I think focus, notice, my notebook, and haikus are part of my summer plans.

Poetry Friday this week is being hosted by Kiesha at Whispers from the Ridge.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Reading Fluency Probe Reflections {Slice of Life}


"For this reading project, I need you to read as fast as you can.  
I want you to pretend you are at the races.
When you are done, I'm going to tell you the number of words you read per minute.  
We are going to do this three times.  
Ready, set, go."


Reflection - 
I decided to try something different this time around with three one minute reading fluency probes (and stay within the parameters).  I decided to try and empower my students.  I decided to give them immediate feedback in numerical form.  I decided to be truthfully honest about their performance each time.  I decided to give them information to drive their performance.  

I'm about two-thirds of the way done administering this assessment and my students love knowing their numbers after each read.  They are impressed with how high it is and then driven to read a few more words per minute.  I'm blown away by how many words per minute they are reading without any practice in-between assessments.  The practice they have had is real reading in real books at their own pace.  

I had to set the stage today with a student I've told to slow down all year.  We've had moments of "mini conflict" because his speedy reading was not allowing him to comprehend.  I had to encourage him to read as fast as he could today.  When he got done, he looked at me and said, "Mrs. Robek, I didn't understand anything I just read!"  

I'm not a fan of how this assessment tool is being used.  I'm not a fan of what happens if a student doesn't meet the benchmark based on national norms but by giving my students the number of words per minute they are reading I saw their progress increase which should keep them out of the terrible outcomes and for one student, it helped reinforce the main reason readers read.  May we all continue to read for understanding.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing this writing community.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sweet Smells - Breath Slower {Slice of Life}

I open the back door on a mission to start the grill for dinner and I stop in my tracks.  The sky is blue with bursts of white clouds and sun radiating down on my evening; which is enough to make anyone stop for a moment to enjoy but it's the sweet smell that stops me.  I turn to my right and my lilac blossoms are bursting.  I find such sweet joy in their smell.  It lightens my step.  It makes me breath slower.  However, tonight I realized they do so much more.  They take me back in time.  

I'm standing in Grandma and Grandpa's driveway.  The same smell of sweetness is there.  It's toward the right, down a very small hill.  I can't get there on a direct path because the gardens are there with rows of berry bushes.  I turn my pace into a jog and dodge the garden by turning left, then right, and head straight to the three lilac bushes.  When I get there I take deep big breaths and am in love with their sweet sweet smell.  I believe her flowers were more blue/purple and white.  Quite often we would cut some off the bush/tree and wrap their stems in damp paper towels so I could take them home.  

I return to my current mission and light the grill.  The scent of these lilacs really gave me a mental image of a place.  As I write this post, I'm surprised my grandmother wasn't with me but in reality I would sneak to these lilacs whenever I could to smell them with or without her.  I don't know if I've ever really thought about the scent of something guiding my writing but I'm going to share this idea tomorrow with my writers.  

I wish you could smell these; allowing yourself to stop and breath a little slower.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting our Slice of Life writing community.

                                                


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I forgot something? {Slice of Life}


"Mrs. Robek, you forgot something."

I kept going with our shared writing experience because I didn't think I was missing anything.  We discuss more ideas for our piece of poetry.  We negotiate the text.  We edit.  We revise.  

"Mrs. Robek, you forgot something."

I need to validate this thought and inquire.  Maybe I did forget something.

"Mrs. Robek, you forgot the punctuation."

"L, poetry doesn't have to have punctuation.

The room erupts.  The room was buzzing with questions, exclamation marks, and puzzlement.  I tried to explain the difference between a sentence and phrase or a list.  Their little faces showed shock and awe and processing.  I can't wait to see how this impacts their poetry writing tomorrow.  

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing this Slice of Life community.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Simple Formative Assessment {Slice of Life}



Me:  What did you learn today doing this investigation?

7 and 17 are both odd
6 and 16 are both even


Me:  What did you learn today doing this investigation?

19 is odd
I actually thought it was even.
I tried 8 + 8 but that was only 16.
With 19, I can't make equal groups.


Impromptu.  Verbal.  Quick.
These are two snippets I wrote down on a post it note today as I conferred with partners after they did an inquiry during math workshop.  They were figuring out if the numbers 1-20 were even or odd.  They built a stick with unifix cubes and then tried to make the longer stick into two equal groups.  They then created a t chart or two circles to place their handmade post it note number cards in the correct spot.  I could easily see if they had the numbers placed in the correct category but I wanted to hear more about their thinking.  

So, I asked a simple impromptu question; What did you learn today doing this investigation?  I'm always interested in the words and verbal responses my students give.  It's much more fun and interesting than a paper/pencil exit ticket.  I was surprised to see my first discussion discovered a pattern and I didn't take them further with this justification but if the ones place number stays the same with the tens place value changing the number will also be odd or even. To continue their sharing; 47 is odd and 86 is even.   My second conference made me aware of a misconception a student had and how he cleared up his own misconception.  

As we walked to outside recess I realized these conversations were quick formative assessments.  Open ended questions that showed me more thinking than three questions asking students to identify odd and even numbers.  This was quick and easy and insightful.  I need to do this more often and possibly consider my students putting their thinking in writing in their math journal to capture more responses and thoughts from everyone.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing the Slice of Life writing community.




Friday, March 31, 2017

31 Days - Reflection {Slice of Life Story Challenge}



I did it!  

I wanted to jump ship twice and hang up my writing.  I had high hopes for using my notebook daily as I did last year but I didn't make that happen.  I posted much later than I had hoped.   I got caught up that a slice has to come from something on that day specifically but I don't believe it has to.  Maybe I should start collecting small moments now for next year so I can post earlier and I can overcome the day where I wrote about not having anything to write about.  

I did write for 31 days.  I did start a new notebook and captured a few thoughts.  There's potential here.  I enjoyed reading posts by others and often connecting with their small moments.  I did connect with old friends and enjoyed comments from new slicers.  I appreciated everyone who stopped by and scanned or read a post.  I appreciated the comments very much; we all need caring thoughts.  I laughed each time Clare commented about my posting time.  We live in the same time zone but she's convinced we don't.  I worried about a few friends who disappeared during the month and was glad to know things are okay; life just got busy.

I wrote more about my classroom than I usually do here and started off wanting to find the joy some days in this world of education.  I did find joy in education, it's there if we look and accept what we can control and gently shut the door to embrace what brings us joy.  

Thank you for joining me on this journey!  We did it!

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing the Slice of Life Writing Project.
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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Capturing Words {Slice of Life Story Challenge}



Today I wanted to remember words that were shared with me.  I didn't have to dash out at the end of my day so I pulled out my notebook and wrote down these words.  It felt good to capture words that made me laugh during a conversation that I didn't feel like laughing.  It felt good to capture words I could hold on to and use in the future when working with students.

"Teenagers are like a box of chocolate."

"Sometimes our best friends on the playground, aren't our best friends at the carpet."


Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Fluency Masters {Slice of Life Story Challenge}



I decided to revisit a Family Math game for the week.  Review is always good and the focus is on fluency with addition facts.  We are suppose to know our addition facts from memory by the end of the year.  I love the game Addition Top It for this but if you grew up when I did you might call this War.  

I begin modeling how to set the game up; removing the face cards, aces are ones, shuffling the deck of cards, and then dividing it in half.  The next step begins the play with both players flipping over a card and the person quickest to add the numbers together keeps the pair.  

Things are going well.  The students are attentive and interested.  My modeling continues with an actual game and a student as my peer.   Suddenly I'm overwhelmed with playing for real.  I don't think I'll be going soft.  No slowing down my pace for a younger opponent.  We model reading fluency through read aloud why not model fact fluency by playing the game for real.  The small crowd gives an ooh and then an ahh.  

I fell asleep on the couch...that's it for today.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing this Slice of Lfie Story Challenge.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

DIY with Guidance Tech Support {Slice of Life Story Challenge}


Ugh.  Where did the internet connection go?  I was just in my work email.  I just went through the school district's portal.  My desktop has internet connection but I can't move around with that.  I start doing some self talk - I wish we had technology support right here in the building but we don't.  That went away years ago with budget cuts.  I don't want to take the time to get help but once the students come I can't really spend time on this.  Okay, I better call the help desk.  I don't know the numbers for the help desk and it's probably the only number I dial this way - HELP.  

There she is - friendly Kim.  I don't know how she remains so friendly in a position that has lots of people calling with requests and so few people in this office to do the work.  I actually imagine this department at Central Office in a little tiny space; maybe the size of a master bathroom of a modest sized house.  I think there are 6 people for 23 buildings.  

Kim was glad I did some troubleshooting first.  I shut the laptop down and restarted it.  Still no internet connection.  I give her the asset tag number but she can't swoop in and ghost own my machine to fix it for me.  Then she guides me through what I need to do.  It involved unplugging the wire from my phone and putting it in the back of the laptop.  It then required I go to a couple of screens and try to reestablish the internet connection.  It wouldn't work.  She walked me through again and it did work this time!  I unplug the wire and plug it in to give my phone service.  Before she hangs up she wants to make sure the connection is established and really working.  She asks me to go to any website.  I type in www.amazon.com - yikes, books and prime membership makes a dangerous combination!

I never expected my teaching position would involve technology repair but I'm grateful for friendly Kim who is patient, friendly, and kind - often solving my problems and when she can't she can guide me so I can fix my own problems.  That is a good feeling!

Than you Two Writing Teachers for organizing the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Win for the Day! {Slice of Life Story Challenge}



My room is quiet again and I sit.  I think about our first day back after a week off and I don't feel drained.  I run through my day wondering why I don't feel drained.  It felt good to see each of my students again but we were missing four students.  Missing four students made the day seem a bit odd.  I didn't want to start anything new; some things are hard to recreate.  

We began our day with a find a friend search.  Each student got to share something from their week away from us.  We reviewed ay and ai vowel teams for word study.  Our read alouds were picture books not a chapter book.  The students got to choose which math game to play today for review.  We figured out where we were in our reading and had independent reading.  We had an extra recess as a birthday treat.  We started a backup piece for our writing folders.  I introduced my students to Discovery Education and their first "assignment".    

Maybe this was the best plan for everyone - a day of review and going slow.  I did want to make sure I helped my students make connections.  I made sure I paired students up with different people throughout the day to work with.  I made sure we had opportunities for conversations.  Maybe the key to not feeling drained is to allow the social/emotional side of students be the win for the day!

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Tonight's Weather Adventure {Slice of Life Story Challenge}



The sky is dark.  There's a looming stillness in the air.  There's an eery calm above us as if time is standing still.  The luminous clouds appear to be standing still.  The sky feels lower than usual.  The siren is deafening.  It's loud and sending a warning for conditions to stir the sky into a tornado.  As the siren stops, the surroundings are quiet.  Weird for a busy city street and there are people moving about all looking up and possibly noticing the same things I am.  

PS - A tornado didn't touch down or begin to stir near where we are, thank goodness.  Just a lot of rain and some thunder.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for organizing the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Goodbye Flannel Sheets {Slice of Life Story Challenge}



I breeze through the door and notice right away my flannel sheets still on the bed.  I instantly think, these have to go.  I came home to 75 degrees and sunshine.  Then I have a moment of sadness.  I love my flannel sheets.  They are soft and provide extra warmth on those chilly fall, winter, early spring nights.  That's right - if I can get away with it, my flannel sheets are part of three seasons for me. I don't like to be cold.  It takes less time to warm up under the covers with flannel sheets. Something about flannel sheets relaxes me at the end of the day. I wonder what will happen tonight with my spring, summer, early fall sheets? 

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Thoughts on Leaving {Slice of Life Story Challenge}



Leaving can be sad.
Leaving can be happy.

Leaving can be an ending.
Leaving can be a welcoming.

Leaving can be a journey - 
something waiting at the other end.

Prior to the leaving - 
stay within the moment,
creating a memory,
an addition to the journey.

Leaving can lift you up
Leaving can touch your soul.


Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing Slice of Life Story Challenge.




Thursday, March 23, 2017

Oh My Goodness! {Slice of Life Story Challenge}


Oh My Goodness!  An all you can eat SEAFOOD buffet.   Where does one start?  I took a little tour and I decided to start small.  It began with a small salad and New England Clam Chowder; a winning combination!  The I decided one item to focus on - crab legs.  Crack, crack, slide, dip in butter and a little piece of heaven.  My next two plates were one vegetables and samplings of various seafood - steamed to baked to grilled and yes a smidge of deep fried.  The meal was filled with good conversation around softball this week and just life in general.  

Then I learned there was even dessert - INCLUDED.  I love ice cream and thought I was headed just for that.  Soft serve vanilla and chocolate were in the machine and I love to show my expertise in swirling the ice cream in a cone.  But wait, there was an all you can eat DESSERT buffet, too!  Not just ice cream but puddings, cheese cakes, cookies, cakes, and a few others.  I was quickly reminded of my grandmother at Thanksgiving.  She always took a sliver of each pie for a sampler.  I could do that here.  My plate had a sampling of rice pudding, banana pudding, peanut butter cheesecake, cherry cheesecakes, and coconut pudding.  Oh My Goodness!

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sunshine, Wind, Layers of Clothes {Slice of Life Story Challenge}



While watching softball games today I decided to collect words about my experiences with the sunshine, wind, and layers of clothes I had with.  I really think slices can be really small moments and thoughts that might have a place in another piece of writing.


Sunshine 

uplifting
cheery
bright
yellow
cheerful 
bursting
soaking
shining
disappears
reappears




Wind

calm
subtle
gentle
breezy
chilly
windy
gusty
brrr
cool
refreshing
annoying



Layers of Clothes

vest
running jacket
tank top
parka
on
off
repeat
sleeveless
layers
decisions


Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing the Slice of Life Story Challenge.





Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hiding My Ego {Slice of Life Story Challenge}


We are back from dinner for a few minutes.  The girls are telling riddles and jokes to each other with lots of giggles.  We get a text another part of our group is ready for us to come over for make your own sundaes.  We gather to walk over together and I notice one of my girls is wearing sunglasses.

Me:  "E, do you know it's dark outside?  Do you think you need to wear your sunglasses?"

E:  "I'm hiding my ego!"

We all burst into laughter.  High schoolers are clever, cute, and full of themselves.  The best part was everyone laughed.  This trip is about building a community.  I hope moments like these will help them through their season. 

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing this Slice of Life Story Challenge.



Monday, March 20, 2017

Doughnuts to Green Screen {Slice of Life Story Challenge}


While stopping for lunch in Winston Salem, specifically Old Salem we saw a plaque in the ground sharing this was the location of the first Krispy Kreme years ago.  The plot of land now sits bare and I found it interesting this company had a place in history from so long ago.

At the time, I thought we have a Krispy Kreme store near us in Ohio; really no big deal - just another doughnut shop.  I try to avoid doughnuts for many health reasons.  My youngest is obsessed with doughnuts and they are often her thing to get while we are on vacation.  When she was little, her  eyes would be open wide with a huge smile on her face as she returned with her dad and a dozen doughnuts.  These thoughts always flood my memory when the topic of doughnuts comes up.

After dinner with my friends they wanted to show us around and part of our journey was to drive into Raleigh to get Krispy Kreme doughnuts and see one of the first stores ever.  I didn't want to hurt their feelings for two reasons; we have a Krispy Kreme shop and I don't really eat doughnuts.  I did want to see the area and eating a doughnut wouldn't be so bad while on vacation, so off we went.

I can't believe how much this trip changed my life.  The parking lot was full.  The store was full.  We went through the drive through but then hopped out to go inside and see the conveyor belt and process in action.  Then there was the true life changing moment - eating one hot.  I've always had them cold.  

Then the doughnut story was created and published as I learned how to create a green screen movie using the app, Green Screen app.  I'm so lucky my college roommate has an Instructional Technology position right now.  This is a bit silly but I always accept and encourage my students to share their work and try new things.  We should make learning in various stages public.  

video


Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing the Slice of Life Story Challenge.
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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Reunited and it Feels so Good {Slice of Life Story Challenge}



As I make a left turn, I remember this street and know I'm close to my destination.  There's the neighborhood playground and the community pool that looks so inviting.  I'm looking for a house number and the next house doesn't have it on the mailbox so I worry about which of the next two houses is my destination.  I look for clues but it's been many years.  I had just two babies not three the last time I was here.  As I scan the house again, no more clues are needed.  There she is; working on her laptop, enjoying the sunshine, and waiting for us to arrive.  

I hop out of my mini-van and give probably one of the biggest hugs of my lifetime.  There's a constant babble of exciting thoughts being exchanged.  "You look the same."  "You look so good."  "You haven't changed."  "I can't believe you are here."  "I'm so happy to be here."  Laughter and giggles and squeezes, oh my.  She moves on to hug my daughter and her friend.  We go inside as she announces, "Mandy's here."  More hugs and smiles with her husband and sons.  

It's been years.  We roomed together in college.  We stood up in each other's weddings.  We moved to two different states to teach and raise families.  Our seasons are the same and for 18 hours it was like we had been together all these years.  We told old stories of when we were together.  We told stories of from our days of being apart.  We made new stories together.

We made stories for our future.  She's going to live and travel in her motor home changing the setting every so often and I'm going to drive up in my convertible with my dog wearing a long scarf that blows in the wind.  I look forward to this season but for now I find peace in knowing it's okay to focus on the current season because we can pick up right where we need to be without skipping a beat.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing this Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Using Goodreads in a New Way {Slice of Life Story Challenge}



I'm looking at the Kindle Daily Deals and some titles look interesting to me but I wish I had more information to help confirm I want to make a purchase.  I read the blurbs online.  I talk to myself; going back and forth do I really need another book in my TBR pile to read.  Then I sit some more until I get an ah-ha moment.  What if I go to Goodreads and type in the title to see if any of my friends have read any of these titles.  I carry through on this action and its brilliant.  I find friends who have read some of the titles I'm reading.  Several friends rating a book with five stars so that was an easy yes.  Then three to four more titles were on Julie or Cathy's to read list.  These ladies are always dangerous in person to buy books with and now it's carrying over to my e-reader experience.  I was very happy to think about using Goodreads for book purchases and not just tracking what I've read.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Spring Break Manifesto {Slice of Life Story Challenge}



I will rest.
I will drive.
I will visit.

I will be helpful.
I will chaperone.
I will watch softball.

I will sit.
I will walk.
I will run.

I will do laundry.
I will cook.
I will drive.

I will knit.
I will read.
I will write.

I will collect my thoughts.
I will collect my words.
I will collect some peace.

I will follow.
I will be available.
I will rest.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Obvious Mistake {Slice of Life Story Challenge}



S says - "That was an obvious mistake!  It says right there one cent, right there."

S just completed correcting a formative assessment where he had to count coin collections and I was asking him if he knew what he missed when he did the problem the first time.  When trying to guide students with their own reflection I often ask these questions; 

Was that a simple mistake? 
Do you need to study this more?  

I never thought to ask if something was an obvious mistake.  I actually think this might come across a bit rude but for S today it was just right; actually perfect.  The back of two pennies were shown in one collection with the words ONE CENT along the bottom edge.  That truly was an obvious mistake, he thought they were nickels the first time and he couldn't believe he missed reading ONE CENT.  I wish I could share with you the voice, intonation, and seriousness S displayed as we had this quick two minute interaction.  It gave me the biggest smile, a chuckle, and warmed my soul.  

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing this Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tomorrow {Slice of Life Story Challenge}



I didn't collect any ideas today along the way.
I've been trying to think of something I want to hold on to with words.
Time is passing by and maybe it's okay to end this slice for today and start fresh tomorrow.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Reading During Recess? {Slice of Life Story Challenge}


I ran an errand today during the second indoor recess and when I came back, I was surprised to see four to five girls with books out and reading at the carpet.  I've taken some ideas from the book Playful Purpose and have my students sign up for an area during indoor recess in hopes of promoting more detailed play and lots of social skills.  Reading was not on this list as an option and never really has been; we just finished independent reading.  I scan the room and notice reading was added to my sign up board in very cute student handwriting with a list of participants underneath.  How can I say no to any of this.

Then M comes over to share with me she finished a book and started a new series - Judy Moody.  She's so excited to share with me a discovery she made.  The end pages have pictures of each character and a little bit of information about them.  To me it looks like a mini biography.  We just did a reading mini lesson yesterday and discussed how sometimes readers get confused about the characters and one thing they could do is take notes about each one on a post it note.

M is grinning ear to ear and energetically sharing how this book has already started what we talked about yesterday.  She's going to share what she discovered with her classmates tomorrow.  Watching M connect a mini lesson to her own reading made me realize how helpful authors can be to support their readers.  I'm going to school tomorrow to see if all the Judy Moody books have this support and hope on their own my students add reading to our inside recess choice board.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing this Slice of Life Story Challenge.
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Monday, March 13, 2017

Notebook Ramblings {Slice of Life Story Challenge}



Tonight on Instagram slicer Michelle Haseltine posted a picture of her 72nd notebook!  I find this amazing.  I've dabbled and if I made up my own definition for dabble it would say - short burst of activity, good intentions, hopeful thoughts, inconsistent execution.

I had ambitions of using a notebook this year while slicing daily.  Last year I faithfully did my collecting and drafts on paper first which really helped my publishing/blogging.  Instead of trying to write/revise/publish in one sitting I felt it gave me time to write and then I would revise some within the notebook and as I typed my post some revisions might happen.  I might write in my notebook earlier in the day and sometimes it was right before I typed but either way it always went in a notebook first.  I liked being able to look back and see my daily entries in my paper notebook as I contemplated slicing this year.  It really gave me the nudge to join again.  I even have a new notebook to use personally and one for school topics.  I carry them with me everywhere but I'm not using them very well.   Maybe just sharing my thinking here will bring those notebooks out more tomorrow or maybe tonight.  I have an idea for a future slice or post and if I don't write it down, I might forget.

When I went to link Michelle's blog above I read today's post - Am I a Writer?, I felt like she wrote it just for me today.  You must stop by and read it.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Lost Time, Gained... {Slice of Life Story Challenge}



I was planning out about an hour of my time this evening and feeling a bit cranky from my day.  I really think losing an hour of time just felt awkward; leading to a cranky feeling inside.  As I made my plans to buy new makeup sponges, fold and sort 1 basket of laundry, water my plants, purge/organize/clean my small makeup collection, and walk my dogs the cranks started to fade away a little bit.  I had an hour where I knew no one needed me but the real fading started to happen when I realized if I worked fast I could walk my dogs at twilight just before 8pm.  

I love to be outside walking or running at this time.  The neighborhood is often settling in, bringing a sense of stillness.  The sky is changing colors right before my eyes.  I take the same one mile loop in the morning and evening.  Tonight I walked a little quicker to catch the sky on the way back in the background over a small pond.  When we stopped here for a break, I noticed a star or two peaking out shimmering within the extra hours of daylight.  Maybe they are celebrating too.  

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Top Secret Reveal {Slice of Life Story Challenge}

I have a voice message.  It's my oldest and she beat me home today and discovered my top secret project I mentioned earlier this week.  


Oh my goodness, this is amazing!  
You should be on HGTV!  
Literally this is the most beautiful room I've ever seen in my entire life.  
Ahhhhh!

Before - she picked these colors when she was entering sixth grade.  In these photos I had started to take things down and then realized I needed a before picture.  


                                                  


After - I have a few more tweaks or ideas to finish the room but she has a space to reflect where she is now as a junior in college.  My hope was to create a space where she would want to come to and spend time with us and have some rest and peace.   I'll think she'll be back after spring break with her friends.


                                            


Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Wrestle, despise, maybe friendlier with... {Slice of Life Story Challenge}



Prologue - I wrestle with my districts systematic phonics resource at times.  Honestly, use to despise it but everything needs a chance so I've been a rule follower and done it pretty faithfully for two years.  I spent a day this past summer with an "official" program trainer and she had some good ideas but didn't have some of the answers I wanted.  I wanted to know how to differentiate the program.  I wanted to know how to extend those natural born spellers.  I wanted to know more ideas than repeating what I had initially done with the strugglers.  I asked some questions and was told if they are natural spellers they probably still don't know these rules and should learn them.  I don't know these rules after two years and have to really pay attention to them each time to hold on to them.  For example, f, l, and s get doubled at the end of a word and we call them bonus letters only when they are in a closed syllable - aka short/one syllable word.  I sometimes think if I could make a new resource in anything if I just change the name of what we've done before.  Repacking can work wonders sometimes!  

Today - I'm so excited my old CD - Phonics Lessons CD Grade 2 can work in our old laptops in the computer lab.  I've decided to blend some resources but anchor it to the topic in the systematic phonics program.  I found lesson LS16 for vowel teams and wanted to focus on ay and ai.  I used some words found on the CD list and then pulled more from the systematic phonics book to make some different games for a word study menu.  I easily typed in 30 words and had 24 random generated lotto boards today.  I made a game sheet for dominoes - matching words with the same vowel team.  I made a memory game where students would flip over two cards and look for the same vowel team feature.  The last game is a bit simple.  It's a game board called Follow the Path where students read practice reading words.  Bright colored cardstock, laminated, and will be ready to go on Monday.

I've been noticing my struggling spellers are identifying new letter sound combinations, can identify where they should go but struggle with applying these rules on the summative assessment and within their own writing.  My purpose for offering some menu choices is because I feel like we need to see the words in print more.  We need to notice and think about word families.  We need to notice what is the same and maybe it will help us internalize how to use these rules they must learn and how to use them with greater success.   We need to talk to each other about these words and rules. 

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing this Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Offtrack/On-track {Slice of Life Story Challenge}


The room is quiet and everything seems on-track. I had just finished reading some oral directions for our standardized math test today.  Sniffle.  Sniffle.  Sniffle.  I scan the room for the cause.  I catch a head down and tears flowing.  I walk over quickly to see why my friend is crying.  I noticed a question was missed and then one was answered with two more unanswered and my friend has a very puzzled look.  I'm not sure the correct answer is in the right place.  There are so many rules and procedures when administering a standardized test.  I'm not sure what to do.  I start scanning the manual for answers and discover I can reread the questions as they are written.  I start to reread the questions, the tears disappear and we are back on track. 

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Ending the Day {Slice of Life Story Challenge}


I LOVE this time of day.  There's a sense of peace and calm.  The students are at their special area class which is usually earlier in the day but due to standardized testing we are now the last time slot.  This new time slot is much more relaxing.  The students pack up before going to their special area and we leave directly from that location in the building to go home.  I'm getting some big projects done or I'm thinking and mapping out things that require a bit more time.  I think I'm more productive because I don't have to think any more about this particular day.  Today I had a flashback to my first seven years of teaching.  I taught in a different district and our schedule was to arrive 10 minutes before the students and stay an hour and ten minutes after the students were dismissed.  The school day was 8:10am to 4pm.  My day now is 8:20 to 4pm but my students dismiss at 3:45 and by the time the last bus rolls in I might have 7 minutes to get my things, pick up the room, and I might look at email before I switch gears to motherhood.  I know I could stay after the scheduled day but most days I'm needed at home.  There's something to be said for quality time at the end of the day for teachers, productivity, and a piece of mind.  

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Hopes and Prayers Answered {Slice of Life Story Challenge}



Outside conditions - It's gray.  It's gloomy.  It's raining. 

Inside conditions - Lights are on.  Pencils are sharpened.  Gray and gloom are hovering in the air.

I assigned seats.  I passed out the testing booklets.  I opened up to page one and guided my students through their first ever standardized test for two and a half hours.  The directions say we can close their booklets and take a break; I can't get the words out fast enough.  

Please stand quietly.  As I count to 10 reach for the sky.  As I count to 10 touch your toes.  As I count to 10 twist your hips.  Now 5 shoulder shrugs back.  Please sit back down.  

My mind wanders outside and I start hoping and at some point one might consider my thoughts to be prayers for the rain to stop.  I can see their bodies and minds get tired.  I can see them trying to comprehend the amount of verbal directions I keep reading and often repeating.  I can see them feeling successful.  I can see them feeling puzzled.  I can see them feeling hungry.  My mind wanders back outside and I continue my hopes and prayers for the rain to stop.

They were answered and we were the first grade level to get outside for lunch recess today.  As I took the class outside, we walked more slowly than usual.  I think we were all savoring the movement and smell of fresh air and rain.  I was grateful the rain stopped so my students could be free and playful.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for organizing this Slice of Life Story Challenge.