Saturday, March 31, 2012

Slice of Life Day 31

When we reach March 31st I can't help but think of my dad because it is his birthday...his 92nd today.  His birthday always marked springtime, with my mom's following a month later.  We are celebrating today a life that has been a long and winding road.  He was born in 1920 and grew up in poverty.  His dad was a milkman with a horse and wagon delivery system, so cool! His mom was the heart of his life, I think he still misses her every day.   My dad was the oldest in a large family so from the time he was 12 he had to work odd jobs to help out.  His stories of the Great Depression bring it to life.  Then he was in the CCC in northern Wisconsin and met all kinds of interesting people.  Even though he was a bit older than the average soldier he went to England in WW II and witnessed the end of the war and the concentration camps.  He came home and became a policeman and married my mom and had 6 children.  Many people thought he was my youngest brother's grandpa.  But today...he looks 72, not 92.  He still rides his exercise bike every day and roots for his beloved Cubs.  Happy birthday Dad.  So glad to take this journey with you through all the ups and downs of life.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Slice of Life Day 30

One of my students has a younger sister in kindergarten who comes up to me every chance she gets to tattle on her sister.  My student is a wonderful kind hearted girl, but her sister really tries to persuade me otherwise.  Yesterday after another attempt by the sister to convince me not to like my student, I said, "Belle, it's too late to convince me.  I love Lydia."  The kindergartner replied, "Teachers can't love people! She's not your daughter."  That gave me a good laugh.  She is very sincere and serious, but she is wrong.  We can and do love our students and will defend them to the end!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Slice of Life Day 29

Yesterday was one of those days where whatever can and will go wrong...did.  Not catastrophically, but bad enough to bring me down.  It's strange how you can be going along at status quo thinking, life is on a pretty even keel and then within 24 hours one thing after another tumbles till everything is like a house of cards.  But as I advised my daughter, who is just finishing up her 9 weeks of student teaching, you put in your best effort and soldier on.  Sometimes that is all you can do.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Slice of Life Day 28

Today a student slice by a shy 2nd grader who has troubles with writer's block:

   Yesterday one of our hermit crabs died and our mom and dad didn't tell us.  One of them had spots like hulk on it and another had squids and diamonds.  The other was very small and had a spot that looked like Dora.  One is still alive.  My mom said they're in hermit crab heaven.  I cried when they died.  My mom said the hulk hermit crab almost made it a year.
     He had nice illustrations too!  He is one of the best writers, but he spends a lot of time staring at the blank page most days.  Very thoughtful child.  The best part:  he will be my student again next year in third grade.  I can't wait to see what he will be able to do.

Slice of Life Day 28

Today a student slice by a shy 2nd grader who has troubles with writer's block:

   Yesterday one of our hermit crabs died and our mom and dad didn't tell us.  One of them had spots like hulk on it and another had squids and diamonds.  The other was very small and had a spot that looked like Dora.  One is still alive.  My mom said they're in hermit crab heaven.  I cried when they died.  My mom said the hulk hermit crab almost made it a year.
     He had nice illustrations too!  He is one of the best writers, but he spends a lot of time staring at the blank page most days.  Very thoughtful child.  The best part:  he will be my student again next year in third grade.  I can't wait to see what he will be able to do.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Slice of Life Day 27

Yesterday a student excitedly asked " Is the party on Friday?"  I quickly brainstormed through holidays trying to dredge up why we would be celebrating...and she meant the Slice of Life party!  I had such a big build-up at the beginning and have displayed the prizes and Birthday Cake oreos for the entire month.  How could I possibly forget?  Well, for me it has been all about the writing.  I have learned so much about my students.  They have ALL written every day and it can't just be for the oreos.  A few have gone on vacation and took their binders along to record every day.   I have enjoyed writing too.  It will be interesting to look back a year from now and be able to relive every day of this Slice of Life month.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Slice of Life Day 26

The wind shifted to the east off the lake today making it icy cold at recess.  I knew that the warm weather wouldn't continue until May but it is such a rude awakening.  Most of the flowering trees and shrubs are already blooming or ready to bloom.  This has been such an unusual spring, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out.  Will we have August/Sept. weather in June since we had June weather in March?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Slice of Life Day 25

Every spring the third grade studies Charlotte's Web;  this was in the curriculum when I arrived and I did not change that.  So every year my days are once again shaped and influenced by the exquisite writing of E. B. White and I have the privilege of sharing my love for this book with a new group of students.  This year I've been doing some searching for a few new ideas and stumbled (as usual) across this lovely poem that E.B.White wrote for his wife.  Enjoy!

         Natural History-by E. B. White

The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unwinds a thread of his devising;
A thin, premeditated rig
To use in rising.
And all the journey down through space,
In cool descent, and loyal-hearted,
He builds a ladder to the place
From which he started.
Thus I, gone forth, as spiders do,
In spider's web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken strand to you
For my returning.   

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Slice of Life Day 24

This week when we were looking at An Author's Story by Helen Lester she mentioned that her characters were students she had but in her stories she would make them animals.  I thought it would be fun to chart what they would like to be if I wrote a story about them.  We went around the circle and when we got to Matt he said "Yale."  Well, I've heard of Yale Univ. but not the animal so we looked it up.  He inspired all the other students imaginations by mentioning this mythical animal and then he said "Can you look up manticore?" and we had another fantastic looking animal.  I learn so much from this interesting little boy that one day I said "Matt, I think it's so great that you have all these ideas, do you get them from what you read?"  He answered as only Matt can, "Nope.  Video games."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Slice of Life Day 23

My colleague is going to stand in line to see Hunger Games tonight...but I haven't been impressed with the previews.  Time and again that has happened throughout my life:  the images in the movie do not match what I envisioned while reading the book.  It is so disappointing.  But then again...maybe it just means I'm a book person.  I love movies, don't get me wrong, but not when they are based on a book.  I'm trying to think of one that did it well...I know there must be one!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Slice of Life Day 22

Yesterday we met the young man who will be our new principal to lead us into the future.  Our current beloved principal is retiring, somewhat reluctantly because he is 68 years old, not that you would ever know that.  I have had 5 principals in my career, and struggled with most of them.  Even if they meant well their criticism usually was painful.  Our current principal has always been kind and friendly and we have all blossomed and grown under his positive leadership.  It truly shows what a difference good leadership can have on a school and its teachers.  What a blessing he has been to us.  Thankfully the new young man promises to have the same qualities.  Looking forward to the future as we honor the past!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Slice of Life Day 21

Yesterday we read the second Library Mouse book by Daniel Kirk.  The kids love all the little details, I especially love his little acorn top hat.  Daniel Kirk has a fantastic website, you can tell he loves children.  We made little books with his set of directions besides writing our slice for the day and no one complained!  Today we are looking at Written Anything Good Lately by Susan Allen and Jane Lindaman.  I saw in a bio that it took 5 years to write because they only worked in summer.  Must be on 'teacher time'!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Slice of Life Day 20

Spring has come early this year to the midwest and all through the lovely weekend this poem went through my head:

I Meant To Do My Work Today

by Richard LeGallienne
I meant to do my work today,
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.
And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand,
So what could I do but laugh and go?

I couldn't say it any better than this!  So glad for poets who express their feelings when I can't always put mine into words.  I noticed this morning that the frogs are croaking already in our neighbors pond.  I'll take that as a sign that spring is here to stay.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Slice of Life Day 19

This week we are doing an author study and writing immersion unit on 'how writers work".  We are going to study Tomie dePaola, Helen Lester, Peter Reynolds, Daniel Kirk, and use their websites to learn about them.  I had fun doing research over the weekend, especially with Daniel Kirk's website.  I know they are going to love his quirky sketches of naughty snowmen and weird but cute aliens.  Looking forward to an interesting week of learning!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Slice of Life Day 18

Whenever I work in the garden this time of year I feel as though I am living in The Secret Garden novel.  The author described so vividly how it is when everything is overgrown and just awakening from winter.  I had my own secret garden awhile back...we bought property that had award winning gardens in the 1920's but since the 1960's had been neglected.  It was a lot of work but we brought it back to life.  It was hard to leave it and move here to a new subdivision where there was not even landscaping when we moved in.  I miss my overgrown garden at times, but it was fun to plan and plant a new garden that is truly my own.  Two extremes that is for sure!  If I had to choose though- I would take the overgrown secret garden every time.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Slice of Life Day 17

I have filled my Facebook page with educational topics as well as friends so I'm constantly getting new ideas, more than I could ever use...but that is a good thing!  I mentioned the other day that I was reading an article by Judy Willis on brain research and as I read it I kept thinking, I have stumbled onto some of these ideas just by reading and brainstorming on how to solve every day classroom problems.  Last year we had quite a problem with bullying so I did research on how to cope with that.  We started having daily or weekly meetings to talk about the problem and I continued that this year, even though we don't have that same issue.  Well lo and behold that came up in the brain research article:  when you have them work together to resolve their problems they are making  brain connections they can use the rest of their lives.  It is so rewarding to kind of stumble onto doing something that is beneficial and then find out there is research backing it up beyond the purpose for which I first used it.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Slice of Life Day 16

Today we will celebrate the gift of maple sugar.  I quickly made a batch of silver dollar pancakes this morning so we have something to put our taste of syrup on.  I also brought dill pickles just for fun, since people in Vermont eat them along with their maple treats.  I thought about doing the raised doughnut dipped in syrup and then having them eat the dill pickle as the tradition goes, but not sure I want 22 sugared up children on a Friday afternoon!  Especially since it is supposed to be warming up again.  I think they learned a lot this week, and I especially enjoyed the beautiful writing of Kathryn Lasky in Sugaring Time.  I mentioned to them that nonfiction can have beautiful writing too.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Slice of Life Day 15

Writing has been on my mind more during this month, especially the writing my students are doing.  It has been a struggle at times with some disappointment in lack of effort.  But other times it has been a complete joy and has opened up quieter students and given me insights  I might not have had without this project.
This morning I stumbled across this quote from Judy Willis on Edutopia:
"Writing can increase both personal relevance and confidence. Personal relevance comes when students can write for creativity and personal expression." Wow!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Slice of Life Day 14

Today's temperature in Wisconsin is breaking records. It was so warm we went outside to write.  It was like a day in June!  We spread out over the playground, found a comfortable spot and sat down to write.  I played a roving reporter and went around with a little notebook to document everyone's writing.  Here is what I found:
Brendan found an acorn and drew it and wrote about it.  He had to go get a cone from the gym materials to hold down his papers as he wrote.
Brady wrote:  Today I am writing outside and it is very hot.
Annika drew a circle with sidewalk chalk on the pavement and wrote about Fun in the Sun.
Cody wrote about his day and mentioned that he had a Danish for snack today.
Naythenn sprawled out on his stomach on the warm pavement and wrote a fish story.
Cameron wrote about how his pollution collector experiment blew over the fence into our butterfly garden.
Matt wrote:  Today it is beautiful.  He also wrote about time he gets to spend with his mom.
Samantha writes every day about what she had for breakfast among other things.  (No waffles today:)
Anna wrote about her day and mentioned that she did a flip on the bar.
Ava made up a story of her own.
Lydia wrote:  I love it.  It feels awesome.  Today is my mom's birthday.  A bird is chirping.  It is beautiful.
Kayleb wrote about Grandma Jo and her trip to the Grand Canyon.  He can't wait to see her again.
Marissa wrote about our beautiful day and drew a picture to go with her story.
Nevaiah sat at the picnic table and wrote about the rocks she has painted to sell.
Sawyer sat on the monkey bars and wrote:  Today is the best day ever!
Maddie sat on the slide platform and made up a story.
Ella also sat on the platform and wrote about sewing a toy cat.
Nevaeh wrote as she sat on the ladder to the slide.  She enjoys writing, so she usually fills more than a page.
Mike was distracted by a fly as he sat at another picnic table, but he wrote about the game at recess.
Kaitlyn wrote about a camping trip on a day so warm some vehicles sank into the parking lot.
We missed Mikailah because she left early today.  Hope she writes about her afternoon for us tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Slice of Life Day 13

When I recently took a course online about the Common Core Standards, one of the speakers on a video expressed concern that if so much emphasis was put on nonfiction and persuasive writing, would there still be time for students to 'find their voice'?  She expressed that a writing teachers great joy is helping students find their voice.  I found that so beautifully expressed and agree that is one of the joys of teaching, when everything clicks and they write from the heart.  I've been seeing so much of that in just these thirteen days.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Slice of Life Day 12

When I was young I had to write, I felt compelled to write my stories and my poetry.  Then in college I took a creative writing course and the first time we had to share what we had written I realized I was not as gifted as the writer in the class that the teacher praised.  It stunned me that the type of writing the professor liked was so far from what I was writing, it was a universe apart.  By the end of that semester the professor actually liked what I wrote on a prompt for the final exam.  Afterwards he caught me in the hall once and said "I hope you are still writing."  At that point I was writing a play for a drama class, and that professor (total misogynist) completely squelched any  hopes that I could write.  I still wrote for myself but not with the same burning need as I had in the past.  By the time I was 25 I no longer wrote at all.  This is the first time in thirty years that I have put my words down.  It has brought a part of me alive again. I will continue to write when this month has ended, and hopefully never stop again.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Slice of Life Day 11

When I was growing up I wrote all kinds of stories, mostly about a family with lots of daughters since I had 3 sisters.  I loved coming up with interesting names for each of them.  My mentor was Louisa May Alcott and I absolutely loved An Old Fashioned Girl.  I wrote many of my own versions of that story.  When I was finished I would hide the stories in my desk in my part of the large attic room my sisters and I shared.  Once in awhile I would decide to share my stories...and my younger sister would tell me she had already read it!  She would dig in my hiding place and read my stories.  I continued to be reluctant in sharing my work, but when I finally showed my daughter the book I had written as a child with Louisa as my mentor her reaction surprised me.  "You wrote in a very old fashioned way, like from another time."  At first I was offended, then realized I had written in the style of my mentor!  I still have my stories and poetry hidden away, it really was only a way of expressing my feelings and I rarely shared any of them unless I really trusted the person. (not my younger sister!)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Slice of Life Day 10

Years ago when we ordered a series of Guided Reading books from Scholastic, the book Sugaring Time by Kathryn Lasky was included.  This week we will use it as a reference as we study making maple syrup. This is a wonderful way to celebrate the days just before spring.  We begin the study by hearing Maple Moon, so that we remember the Native Americans first shared this gift with the settlers.  At the end we have a tasting party and do a few square dances that we learned in music to recreate the sugaring off parties we also read about.    Looking forward to an interesting week...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Slice of Life Day 9

After reading The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater I put a blob of orange on a piece of paper and asked each student to turn it into something and write about it.  This was my favorite story by my wonderful student Matt:
     Once there was an artist dragon.  He always had a cigar in his mouth.  One day he didn't know what to paint, so, he just splattered orange on paper!  It inspired him to paint a chunk of meat! Fin!
   One of our read alouds this year ended in Fin instead of the end and he always writes that now with a flourish across the bottom of his stories.  I love it!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Slice of Day 8

One of my second grade students is very shy and thoughtful and has been having a hard time writing every day.  He came into school yesterday so excited and the first thing he said was "I know what to write today!  I had a really bad dream and I'm going to write about it!"  He did, complete with illustrations. It was an undersea adventure with sharks and other ocean animals.  The part of the dream that was scary was that the  shark tried to eat him.  Another student, a third grader asked if she could take her binder home to write more.  She has struggled in school and never had much interest in learning because of this.  It is wonderful to see all the changes this project is bringing about.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Slice of Day 7

Woke up to the sound of strong winds today, and thought...the winds of March.  This was the name of a book I read as a teen by Lenora Mattingly Weber.  So many literary references in life.  I also think of Stacy from the same author when she had to write 'mea culpa, mea culpa' over and over as a punishment whenever I really mess up.   Strange how these book memories pop up randomly after many years.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Slice of Life Day 6

This week we are reading books by Tim Egan.  I love his subtle, quirky humor.  The second grade read Serious Farm, the third grade Chestnut Cove and then I did a read aloud of my favorite The Pink Refrigerator.  Today we're going to watch a few things I found online:   first he draws and describes what he is doing and in another he is being interviewed by a girl their age.  Then we are going to spend time doodling and try to come up with a story afterwards to go with the drawing.  Last year when we did this it really helped some reluctant writers to draw first.  We shall see...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Slice of Life Day 5

This morning there was a dusting of snow over everything and this poem came to mind:

A Dust of Snow

The way a crow 
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.
      Robert Frost

  I really didn't want to rue this day, I stopped on the way to school to buy raspberry white chocolate scones for my coworkers and a cup of red velvet mocha coffee.  But best laid plans...the day didn't go very well.  Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Slice of Life Day 4

A few people that commented on my blog had some questions for me so I thought I would write the answers as my post today:
  One of my students wrote about the lively kickball game they had just played at recess.  The game did not go well, so it will be interesting to hear his version!
  I am going to ask them to share their favorite piece from last week after we write tomorrow.  I would not have thought of that, so I appreciate the suggestion.
  We come in from recess at 9:30 and begin the Language Arts block.  I put all of their binders in a central location and they pick them up as they come in, sit down and start writing.  So far they have been really into it.  We usually do small group reading at that time, but this past week I  held off until a few of them were done writing, I really didn't want to break the flow.
  I should also mention that they are amazingly great kids.  It has been a wonderful year of learning.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Slice of Life Day 3

Wicked snowstorm last night...lost power for an hour or so.  It is surprising how quickly the house gets cold.  I felt a little spoiled listening to music on my laptop and reading things I'd saved in my documents.  Not quite the same feeling as sitting in the dark with candles lit all around.
   Today my daughter is coming down to watch Hugo.  We tried to see it at Christmas but it had left town before we could.  We are highly anticipating this since we loved the book so much.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Slice of Life Day 2

Yesterday we began the Slice of Life Challenge in my classroom of second and third graders.  They were writing furiously for almost half an hour.  If we had started this early in the year, it would be wearing thin by now.  The timing of this idea is brilliant, just when things have become too routine we get a challenge and see colorful prizes awaiting us at the end of the month.  The second graders actually wrote much longer than the third graders.  I have high hopes for next year and anticipate it even more knowing this great group of learners.
  On the home front, my daughter called me after her first teachers conference.  She attended two interesting presentations and wanted to discuss them.  It gives me great happiness to be able to share these things with her!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Slice of Life Day 1

I started this blog to keep track of my reading of the last six years.  I chose the name Amethyst Remembrance from one of my favorite poems by Emily Dickinson...
I held a Jewel in my fingers --
And went to sleep --
The day was warm, and winds were prosy --
I said "'Twill keep" --

I woke -- and chid my honest fingers,
The Gem was gone --
And now, an Amethyst remembrance
Is all I own --

It has so many meanings to me of not letting important things in life slip away unnoticed and contains the reference to my  favorite gemstone.  
     So in this month of March 2012 I will write every day to make sure I remember what is important in each day.