Chatham Road Bus Stop (Slice of Life Tuesday)

Chatham Road Bus Stop

Joey, 1st grade.

Little hand in mine.

So fragile, yet strong.

Wearing his black Nike jacket,

with red letter on the sleeves.

Carries a Ziploc bag of Captain Crunch

for the walk.

“Look both ways before you cross,”

I remind him.

He does and then we’re there.

I chat with parents,

As he blends into the sea of other kids.

Oblivious to my presence except

for a brief second,

when he rushes over to

press the empty cereal bag into my hand,

then scurries back to his friends:

Cal, Lily, John.

When the big yellow bus rounds the corner,

I see that he doesn’t look back,

even once.

Soon, he climbs aboard

and is gone.

 

Note: I “found” this poem when I recently paged through some old journals.  “Found” poems are always a nice surprise, yet this is not something that I have focused on much with my students.  

Have you ever taught your students the strategy of looking back through old journals/pieces of writing to find the elements of poetry?

The Perils of Blood Orange Soda

It was supposed to be an innocent shopping trip to Trader Joe’s.  Joey and I had just finished another errand – to buy a container of the coveted Super Lava putty – and needed to grab a few things:

  • drinks for my last session of grad class
  • flowers for my neighbor’s ill mother
  • a card to send to my daughter, Julia, who was at sleepaway camp.Image result for hot lava putty

An easy, fast trip, right?

It seemed that way until we came to the drinks aisle.  (Remember how I needed to bring something to my class?).

“I’ll get the pizza and Lisa, you buy some soda,” Dr. Portman instructed last Thursday night.

So here I was, following directions as usual, in the sparkling soda section of Trader Joe’s.

Should I get the Blood Orange variety or the Sparkling Pink Lemonade?  Or would they prefer Limeade?  As I pondered these unimportant – yet difficult questions – I casually placed the glass bottle (note – the packaging is important to remember) of Blood Orange soda back in the front basket of my red cart.

Image result for picture of trader joe's blood orange soda

If you’ve ever been to Trader Joe’s (or any grocery store, for that matter), you probably know that there is a plastic rectangle that you can push up to keep your groceries in.  Then you put it down if you want to seat your child in the cart.  Up equals secure, down equals open.

Image result for trader joe's shopping cart

Well, I thought the rectangle was up.

But alas, it wasn’t.

As I placed the soda bottle in the cart (and watched it fall quickly to the ground), I felt like I had entered a slow motion movie.  I remembered a moment years before, when Julia took a tumble down our back porch steps.  As she flew through the air, I envisioned the ensuing trip to the emergency room and all that would involve.  The mommy guilt took immediate hold on me, like a cloud of smoke filling up a room. miraculously, Julia emerged the episode unscathed, her blond curls a bit tousled but that was it.  Amazing.

But here I was now, as the aforementioned soda bottle crashed to the concrete floor of the drinks and condiments aisle in the Ardmore, Trader Joe’s.  Smashing into a million pieces.  Soon, the space around my feet had transformed into a slurry of glass, orange soda and…you guessed it.

Blood.

At first, I didn’t think it was much.  The glass hit the floor, right? Not my body.  But nonetheless, tiny gashes dotted my legs.  Three on the right and two on the left, to be exact.

“I’m okay, ” I said to the cluster of employees that quickly gathered around Joey and me, like paramedics in a crime scene.  “I’m more embarrassed than anything, really,” I said to no one in particular, forcing a fake chuckle.

“I told you to get the plastic apple juice, Mommy!” Joey chimed in and although I couldn’t agree with him more, it wasn’t what I felt like hearing right at that moment.

Image result for trader joe's apple juice

Soon though, as often happens in times of crisis, the employees had cleaned up my legs and the floor, with a myriad of first aid items (band-aids, antiseptic ointment and wipes), a mop, sudsy water, and an old-fashioned broom.  During that time, fellow shoppers walked past, peering discreetly (and not so discreetly) at the “accident scene.”

“Do you want to fill out a report?” the friendly store manager asked, her notepad and pen at the ready.

“Of course not,” I answered truthfully.  “This was a freak accident; I don’t hold any blame on Trader Joe’s.  Really.”

She took my information anyway, to follow-up with a call the next day.  In the meantime, as always happens during embarrassing moments, someone that I knew strolled past.  (Julia’s former after-care teacher from years back).  We stopped and chatted for a briefly and I couldn’t help thinking about how surreal the whole situation felt.

Before I knew it, the helpful employees had whisked us up to the cash register, opening a new lane just for us to circumvent the three and four deep lines in each row.  They also dropped two bouquets of fresh flowers in our shopping bag – a small (but much appreciated) get well token.

Wanting this embarrassing ordeal to finally come to a close, I rushed home with Joey.  To be on the safe side though, I decided to make a quick trip to my local Urgent Care, so that I could rest easy that evening.

That visit turned out to be more than I had bargained for: stitches in three out of the five cuts!!  All from a seemingly normal jaunt to TJ’s on a glorious June afternoon.

Oh well, things could be worse, I told myself.

And in the future, I will take Joey’s advice:

Choose plastic.

 

Teacher’s Note: You might be wondering how this post relates to Literacy with Lisa. Here’s how:

As teachers, one of the most powerful things that we can do for our students is to share our own stories. To let them know that like them, we are also writers.  That we draft, revise, edit and publish.  That we make mistakes during the writing process, get frustrated sometimes and keep going anyway.

Most importantly, we let them know that the stories of our lives are worth writing about.  That they matter. And that their stories do too.

To quote from The Fabulous Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore:

 “Everyone’s story matters.”  

Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Image result for fabulous flying books of morris lessmore

So, what story from your own life will you write and share with your own students?

Editor’s Note:
For more tips on writing for our students (and creating a writing community in your classroom) read this post:
Building a Community of Writers from TWT

Got Grit?

It sounds simple, right?  I’d like to think that this is common sense.  But sometimes I think that kids – and adults – are so afraid of failing that they don’t even try.

“Falling down is part of life.  Getting up is living.” (anonymous)

The word “grit” is a hot topic of late.   Maybe it’s a buzz word in your school, district or community.  You might have watched psychologist Angela Duckworth’s inspiring  Ted Talk or even read her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

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A few months ago, I attended a book singing/speech that she gave at the University of Pennsylvania, where she works.

When I listened to her speak, I felt newly motivated to live a “gritty” life, as a parent, teacher and human being.  To follow through with my hobbies and other personal interests.  To instill a sense of dedication and “sticktoitiveness” with my own children.  (Is that a word??)  To inspire my students to “keep at it” and believe in themselves.

This sounds great in theory, but sometimes life gets in the way.  Sometimes I realize that I haven’t posted anything new to my blog in months.  (Although in my defense, I have started many blog posts in draft form!).

How would Angela rate this, I sometimes wonder to myself?  Would she think I’m not gritty?

But then I think of the times when I have followed through in my life:

  • moving to Florida without knowing anyone to start college
  • attending grad school while working full time
  • improving my water-ski skills by dedicating three days a week to the sport – even when it meant driving an hour and a half before work one day per week (and eventually participating in the national championships)
  • more recently, applying over and over again with my local school district (for two years!) until I finally got a job

When I water-ski, sometimes I fall.

Often, it’s just a casual drop to the side, like I’m momentarily stopping to rest on the water.  As if I had planned it.  Other times, it’s choppier, abrupt.  Unplanned.  And occasionally, I’ll take an extra hard one, where I wonder if it’s all worth it, question why I devote so much time (and money) to something that’s so difficult.  But then I’ll swim to the boat, climb inside, reach for my towel.  I might be sore, tired, or frustrated. Maybe all three.  But eventually, I get back out there again.

As teachers, we do this every day.

Some days, I leave school on the high of a well executed lesson, a special connection with a student, the feeling of hard earned accomplishment.  I’m riding my slalom ski with ease, slicing through the water as if it’s butter.

But other days, I’m falling again, anything from the casual spill to the massive wipeout (an “out the front” or “header,” as water-skiers like to say). I leave work wondering if I made the right choice with my profession.

But when I drive home, I’m already reflecting about the day, about what will come next, about how to make tomorrow better.

Because tomorrow will come.  

It always does.

And I will dip my ski back into the water, grab onto the handle and take another set.

And if I fall again?

I’ll get back up.

So will you.

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We have a sign posted in our classroom that reads:

Keep at it!

I can’t say for sure, but I think that Angela would approve.

 

An Evening with Wally Lamb

 It’s Slice of Life Tuesday!  To learn more about what this is, click here: Slice of Life Tuesday on Two Writing Teachers.  Read on for my Slice of Life Story for today.slice of life_classSlice of Life

About two years ago, I attended an author event near my house, at St. Joseph’s University.

The headliner?

Wally Lamb, the novelist and author of She’s Come Undone, I Know This Much is True and The Hour I First Believed.

She’s Come Undone  is one of my long time favorite novels.  I read it years ago on my honeymoon to Europe, across transatlantic flights and early morning Eurorail rides.

So I couldn’t wait to meet Mr. Lamb in person: to hear him speak, have my book signed and listen to him read from his new book: We Are Water.

But when the evening began, Wally appeared and then introduced his son, the poet, Justin Lamb.

My first instinct was one of annoyance.  (Sorry Justin!).  I was there to listen to Wally, not his son.  And although I love poetry, this wasn’t what I had originally planned for my Thursday evening.

But I quietly waited for him to begin performing from However It Turns Out is Perfect.  Like the opening act at a rock concert, I didn’t have high expectations.However It Turns Out Is Perfect

Boy, was I wrong.  Justin opened with Tips for Scaling Barbed Wire, based on his tutoring experience with an adolescent boy named Daniel.

Within moments, I was riveted, on the edge of my seat.

Click here to listen to Justin and see for yourself! 

Live Performance of Tips for Scaling Barbed Wire

Viewer Discretion Note: This is NOT suitable for children

All I can say is that at the conclusion of the evening, I decided to forgo the line for Wally, that stretched out the door and around the corner. Instead, I spent a few moments speaking with Justin.  I told him about my job as a consultant/literacy coach in Philly at Children’s Literacy Initiative.  We shared some stories about teaching and he autographed my CD.

His words stayed with me long after that spring evening.  I played his poem for friends, teachers and colleagues.  But then the CD got filed away in a pile of other odds and ends (as often happens in life) and I forgot about it.

Until recently.

The “Daniels” Out There

I’m in a new role now – teaching 2nd grade in a more suburban setting – but there are Daniels everywhere.  Even if a student doesn’t have a checkered past like him, every child has a story, a road map that brought him/her to today.

I ask you to reflect on Justin’s poem as you work with your students.

Thoughts to ponder…

What factors have influenced your students?  How does that affect their academics/behavior? And how does this knowledge impact the way that you approach your interactions with them today?

Please share your thoughts here on this question or the video itself.

Happy Slice of Life Tuesday,

Lisa

 

 

 

Poems to kick-start the year!

It’s hard to believe that the school year has already begun.  The start of this year also marks the one year anniversary of this blog!  In one of my first posts (Paving the Way with Poetry), I wrote about something near to my heart: poetry.

As I plan beginning of the year lessons for my own 2nd grade classroom, I like to select and read poems as a way to introduce daily procedures and routines.  I do this for several reasons.

First, they are fast and fun to read.  Second, there are many poems written about the school day, which makes it easy to connect them to the students.  Third, reading poems early on (instead of waiting for National Poetry Month in April) helps to foster a love of poetry.  Finally, poetry opens a door to literacy that is not always accessible with other genres.  This is especially true for struggling readers and writers.  Because they are shorter by nature, poems often feel less threatening to these students.  And ALL students can enjoy and be challenged by poetry.

Ready to get started?

Here is a list of some of my favorite beginning of the year poetry books and poems, along with procedures/routines that connect to them.  Don’t have the books?  They should be easy to find in the school library or even online.

1. Almost Late to School by Carol Diggory Shields

Suggested Poems to Read             Routines to Teach  

Word Problem                                   Introducing Math Workshop/Journals

Gotta Go                                              Bathroom Procedures

Almost Late                                        Arrival Routines

After School                                         Dismissal

2. Creatures of Earth, Sea, and Sky by Georgia Heard

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Suggested Poems to Read                        Routines to Teach  

Fishes and/or Frog Serenade                    Partnerships and teamwork

These are “poems for two voices” and lend themselves well to introducing the concept of “working together.”  Let the students decide how to read them together as an initial team building activity.

3 & 4. Chicken Soup With Rice, by Maurice Sendak

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and

A Child’s Calendar, by John Updike

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Suggested Poems to Read                      Routines to Teach  

September (or August)                             Reading a poem to introduce each month

5. Way I Feel, by Janan Cain

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Suggested Poems to Read                      Routines to Teach  

Scared, Shy, Excited                               Beginning of the year feelings

This is a fast read and I recommend reading through the whole book if you have time.  It’s also a great segue into Morning Meeting/Responsive Classroom.  The students can state one feeling that they have as part of the “share” portion of the lesson.

Note: Today I Feel Silly by Jamie Lee Curtis is another great read aloud for discussing feelings.

6. I Like it Here at School, poems collected by Jack Prelutsky

*You can purchase this for $.01 on Amazon! Now that’s a good deal….

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Suggested Poems to Read                       Routines to Teach

Why My Homework is Missing            Daily homework

Look in a Book                                            Independent Reading

7. If I Were in Charge of the World, by Judith Viorst

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Suggested Poems to Read                       Routines to Teach

If I Were in Charge of the World             Creating classroom responsibilities/rules

Apology                                                              Problem Solving/working cooperatively

Summer’s End                                                 Back to school

8. The Mouse Was Out at Recess, by David L. Harrison

*You can buy this used on Amazon for $.084!

This book is chock full of poems that connect to the school day.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Suggested Poems to Read                                                          Routines to Teach 

The Bus                                                                                               Arrival/dismissal

Mystery Lunch                                                                                 Lunch

They Call it Science                                                                        Science

In the Hall                                                                                          Hall procedures

Raise Your Hand if you Know the Answer                              Raising hand

Teacher’s Eyes                                                                                  Staying focused

9. Honey, I Love by Eloise Greenfield

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Read Things to introduce writing workshop. (Click on the link to for “Things” to see a Brain Pop activity on Eloise Greenfield.  This is one of my favorite poems to read with students so I’m sharing the text here:

Things

Went to the corner
Walked in the store
Bought me some candy
Ain’t got it no more
Ain’t got it no more

Went to the beach
Played on the shore
Built me a sandhouse
Ain’t got it no more
Ain’t got it no more

Went to the kitchen
Lay down on the floor
Made me a poem
Still got it
Still got it

I like to read this poem to introduce the concept that our writing is special, something to be treasured.  It’s also fun to act out.  Give one stanza or line to teams or partnerships.  Let the students be creative!

11. Lunch Money and Other Poems about Schoolby Carol Diggory Shields

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Suggested Poems to Read               Routines to Teach

Pledge                                                  Pledge of Allegiance and/or school announcements

Decisions, Lunch Money                Lunch routines

Far Away                                              Independent Reading

Moonwalker                                        Dismissal

I’m Doing my Homework                Homework

Read this book to hook your students on poetry!

12. Alphathoughts, by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Suggested Poems to Read                                 Routines to Teach

Books and Library                                               Independent reading

Pencils                                                                     Classroom pencil routine

Those are a few of my picks of poems to kick-start the school year.  Please let me know if you try them and/or if you have other favorites.  For additional book recommendations (poetry and otherwise), read:

A is for Musk Ox and a few other good books…

Launching a Love of Reading from Day One

Recommended Picture Books

And for more ways to integrate poetry into your lessons, click here: 5 Easy Ways to Get Your Class Excited About Poetry.

Here’s to a successful start of the year!

Happy reading,

Lisa

 

Outdoor Sketching on Slice of Life Tuesday!

Have you ever visited this Two Writing Teachers?

If you haven’t checked it out, you should!  With everything from craft through Writing Workshop Transitions, teaching the youngest writers through adolescents, there’s something to be gleaned for teachers of all levels.  Another cool thing about this blog is that every Tuesday is Slice of Life Tuesday.

slice of life_individual

Just What is Slice of Life?

Stacey Shubitz (co-founder of the award winning blog Two Writing Teachers) originally created Slice of Life as a way to inspire her fourth graders to notice – and write about- the everyday moments in their lives.

“If I dismiss the ordinary – waiting for the special, the extreme, the extraordinary to happen – I may just miss my life.”
– Dani Shapiro in Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life (2013, 123)
Every Tuesday, Two Writing Teachers challenges readers to write a Slice of Life post on their own blogs.  I’m joining in today and pledge to write a new post each week, either here or on Say Goodbye to Summer Slide, my companion blog for parents.

Outdoor Sketching

My Slice today is based on a writing workshop for teachers that I attended last spring.  I participated in an activity called Outdoor Sketching, where we drew pictures of something in nature and then wrote about what we saw.  It was raining that May day – one of those cold, spring rains that makes you wonder if warm weather will ever come.

Instead of writing outdoors, as the activity was intended, we improvised.  So I sketched a picture of a tree that I glimpsed through the floor to ceiling windows on the second floor of Penn Wynne Elementary School.  I couldn’t see the whole tree, just a clump of branches jutting up to the dreary sky.  Here is my sketch: (please don’t judge my artistic qualities – or lack thereof)

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Then we wrote about what we saw:

Top of a Tree

How does the tree feel being out there in the cold,

with rain falling on its leaves and branches?

Does the bitter air make it

long for the warmth of the summer

sun, or the fresh breeze on a spring day?

Does it shiver like we do,

even though it cannot reach for a new

hat, coat or scarf?

Does it mind staying in one place all the time,

like a stationary statue?

Only able to move if the winds push its branches,

this way and that,

to and fro.

Mother Nature’s marionette.

Here’s my challenge to you…write your own Slice of Life Stories with your students on Tuesdays.  If you have a blog, post some on there.  If not, please share a story or two with me, either via email at lmazinas@gmail.com or in the comments section of this post.   I would love to read them!

You might also consider taking your students outdoors for Observational Sketching, while the weather is still warm.  This is a great way to spark interest in writing during the beginning of the year. It also provides excellent practice with descriptive writing, including details, verbs, personification and specific word choice.  Let me know if you try it out and how it goes!

Happy writing (and sketching),

Lisa

Just Let Them Write

 

I’m a strong proponent of writing workshop, of letting students choose their topics, of Lucy Calkins and Ralph Fletcher’s  school of thought. But when I recently re-entered the classroom after taking time off to have children and then work as a literacy coach, I forgot how hard it can be to do just this.

I started in January and after a few days of getting to know the students, I immediately felt the pressure of curriculum timelines, district benchmarks, etc.  We were in the middle of a unit on persuasive writing and I struggled to make sense of the lengthy lessons that came with the district’s writing program.  I found that I spent more time actually reading the information than actually teaching the lesson itself.  Not to say that the students didn’t produce good writing but I felt the need to “get things in,” as opposed to just allowing them to discover the wonder of writing on their own.

In short, I didn’t feel like the writing teacher that I imagined myself to be.

But then I attended one of three after school district writing trainings that I had registered for with my district, “Writing in the elementary classroom.”

I knew I was in the right place on the first day. Just by the feel of the room and the way that the instructors greeted us.  They instantly made me feel welcome and at home.

Our first assignment was to write about a “quality.” They shared an old book called, “The Book of Qualities,” which judging by the cover, looked like something from 1982.  As if reading my mind, Sherry responded by saying, “This book is old, but give it a chance.”

She then proceeded to hand each of us a word from the book, asking us to conjure up an image or feeling about what the word meant to us.

My word was patience. Others included, fear, frustration, joy, etc. She read some of the samples from the actual book, where the author writes a paragraph about each one, like this excerpt from Fear:

Fear has a large shadow but he himself is quite small.  He has a vivid imagination.  He composes horror music in the middle of the night.

Then she said, “Think about what this word makes you feel, or whether it reminds you of a person.Try not to let your pen stop moving.

Just write whatever comes to mind.”

Then she got quiet and asked everyone to write.

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Back to the Clasroom

The next day, I felt inspired to try the idea with my class.  We had just finished our persuasive essays and I was ready to move on from the following sentence starters:
“I know you think that I should….but here’s why I shouldn’t”

Or “I know you think that I shouldn’t…but here’s why I should”

And last but not least…”________________ is the best _____.  Here are three reasons why….”

Ugh.

So I wrote several words on index cards, choosing some from the book and others that just came to mind. Patience, frustration, courage, fear, joy, confidence.

We briefly discussed what the words meant and I wrote a short poem  about what joy means to me on chart paper:

Joy

A fresh cup of Starbucks coffee waiting for me in the morning

Waterskiing on glass – calm water at the lake

A game of Uno with Joey and Julia

I had no idea what the students would produce and also worried that they would find the whole activity “weird.”

But I went with it anyway, handing each of them a card to take back to their seats.

They liked the novelty of this, I think, and seemed excited.

As they went back to their desks, the room suddenly became a flurry of:

What did you get?” and “Oh, I wanted that one, can we trade?

(I ended up telling them that no matter what word they got, if they preferred a different one, they could write about that instead).

I started to give more directions but then remembered the words of Roy Peter Clark from his book Free to Write, a text that I had discovered years earlier when I taught in Pinellas County, Florida:

“The most important strategy I learned as a teacher of writing was to be quiet and let the students write.” (Clark, 1987, p.23)

“I want you to write silently for 5 minutes,” I told them. “I shouldn’t hear anything but your pencil moving acorss the page.  Think about what the word means to you and write whatever comes to mind. Just write.”

“And I’ll write too. Now go!

I sat down in the rocking chair in the front of the room, with the new fancy notebook (pink, green and blue flowers on the cover) that I had received at the training, pen in hand. I decided just to write, like I said that I would.  After a few moments of doing so, I looked up at the class.

I did so with apprehension, half expecting a few of them (or more!) to be playing in their desks, staring at the ceiling or reading a book instead. Maybe drawing.

But a magical hush had fallen over the room and they were all writing! Even Kevin, who often struggled to follow directions.  Now his pencil moved swiftly across the page, as if with a mind of its own. And Pete, who left every day for reading with our learning support teacher and often only seemed to complete literacy tasks if I stayed glued to his side.

His pencil also kept moving, back and forth across the page, back and forth.

After 7 minutes, I stopped them. It was time to line up for lunch.

On a whim, I glanced over Pete’s shoulder curious to see what he had written. The language was sparse and basic, but it evoked a clear image in my mind. It was beautiful.

“Did you know that you just wrote a poem?” I asked him.

“No,” he said, looking surprised and also excited. Then, “Can you read it to the class?”

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Sharing our Feelings Poems

Later, I read his, Kevin’s and Sam’s.  Sam often needs extra support with all areas of instruction.  This is what he wrote in those 7 minutes, without any help.

Loneliness

by Sam

In the desert.

Nobody there,

not even a squeak.

Nobody there.

Just you.

So lonely.

Sometimes scared.

At night,

your only buddy is the sand.

 

We soon started calling these our “feelings” poems and continued them for several days.  I eventually asked everyone to choose one favorite to publish and we displayed them proudly in the hallway, for all passerbys to see.

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These poems reminded me that sometimes we forget what our students are capable of accomplishing. Instead of giving them space to write – letting them surprise us – we uninentionally hold them back.

What I thought might be an activity that the students would view as silly or trivial, turned out to be one that unlocked the potential that lies within all of our students. When I decided to trust them and just let them write, they proved that they can and want to do so.

I stayed quiet and let them write.

And they did.

Reader Challenge:

How can you try this out/adapt this idea for your own classroom? Can you connect it to beginning of the year lessons about routines and building classroom community?

Please share your thoughts and anything that you implement in your own class.

*The names of the students in this post have been changed but the poems are original.

Sources:

Clark, Roy Peter. Free to Write: A Journalist Teaches Young Writers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1987.

Two Amazing Sites (and a few books too)

We often turn to our favorite professional books and web sites to start the year. What books do you turn to again and again and how do you use them? 

Teachers need books that are accessible, practical and easy to implement.  Sometimes a book looks great at first glance but can be daunting once we actually try to use it.  We are busy, of course, and don’t have the luxury of time to sit and read a book from cover to cover.  (Okay, let’s face it.  Sometimes even finding the time to read one chapter during the school year can be tough!!).

Here are a few books that that I’ve used, as well as two web sites that I recommend to help launch the new school year:

Web Sites

1. Two Writing Teachers

Two Writing Teachers

I just recently discovered this writing blog and am so glad that I did.  It’s jam packed with practical, research based ideas on writing workshop.  Sign up to receive daily blog posts through email, written by a whole host of authors.

A recent post is about A Game Plan for Transitions in Writing Workshop.  Read this short essay to help plan mini-lessons and strategies for successfully lauching Writing Workshop from the first day of school.

Another cool thing about the site is the Slice of Life on Tuesdays.  More to come on that, as I plan to start taking the weekly challenge.

2. The Next Steps in Guided Reading Companion Site

Jan Richardson Guided Reading

I learned about this site in a professional development seminar last year.  Already familiar with her book, I wasn’t sure how much different the site would be.  So glad that I took the time to check it out!  It’s definitely worth exploring, whether you use her companion text, The Next Step in Guided Reading, or not.

Click here: Jan Richardson Resources to find a whole list of free printables that you can use to enhance guided reading in your classroom. This is a site to bookmark!

Books

1. The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo

 

This book is exactly what the title states: an index of reading strategies.  The chapters are divided by general reading goals, like fluency, decoding, etc.  From there, each goal is further broken down, with one page lessons for each.  For example, fluency is not just fluency, but has separate lessons for “reading with phrases,” and “paying attention to ending punctuation.”  And each lesson has specific, easy to use language that teachers can use to introduce the objective as well as sample anchor charts.

What I love about this book is that you can find an example of how to teach almost any reading strategy or skill, without having to sift through multiple pages to find what you need.  And the chapters are further divided by reading level, which also saves time for teachers.

A great resource to have for any elementary (or possibly even pre-K) teacher!!

2. The Next Step in Guided Reading by Jan Richardson

This book is used widely in my local school district and is a great resource for guided reading.  Divided into four main stages of reading development (emergent, early, transitional, fluent), this resource has everything that you need to plan and teach guided reading to all students.  What’s great is that there are several options for each stage, which makes differentiating instruction easy.

If you teach guided reading, I highly recommend taking the time to get familiar with this book!

3. Children Want to Write, by Donald Graves

I just discovered this text during a spring PD session with my school district.  There were many new ideas and strategies that I would like to try with my students this year, including a sharing protocol (ways to share during writing workshop) and also “actions” that teachers can take to better know their students. One of the Donald Graves key points is that when we truly know our students, we can better support them and help them grow as writers.  He also believes that as teachers, we should sometimes write alongside our students.

4. The Cafe Book, by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser

Product Details

I like this book because not only does it take teachers step by step through the nuts and bolts of small group instruction, it also has a handy appendix with strategies and skills to teach during guided reading (or even whole group).  Do your students need help with “using context,” for example? Or reading with fluency?  Use the appendix to find the right language to teach exactly what your students need.

 

5. Guiding Readers and Writers by Fountas and Pinnell

An oldie but a goodie.  When I taught third grade, I used this book as a way to introduce the procedures of independent reading and reading workshop.  Turn to The First Twenty Days to find easy to teach mini-lessons to help your students become focused and independent while you meet with small groups.  What I loved about these mini-lessons is that they came complete with sample language and even anchor charts.

Product Details

 

What is your favorite “go to” book or web site and how do you use it?? Have you used any of the resources above and did you find them useful? Please share your comments here so we can support each other as we begin a new year!

“Does it Spark Joy?” – A Japanese Lesson in Decluttering your Classroom

A few months ago, I discovered The Life Changing Habit of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo.  Shopping in a local bookstore, Main Point Books, for a birthday gift, I noticed the book and browsed through its pages.

Intrigued, I asked the shopkeeper if she had read it.

“Oh yes, I highly recommend it,” she replied.  “Her ideas are a bit intense but it really helps with getting your life organized.”

Get my life organized? Did I need that?

Sold.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Classroom Connection

Maybe one of the reasons that I liked the book is that it reminded me of my prior job as a literacy coach for a Philly non-profit.  During those five years, I coached teachers on different literacy practices, such as reading/writing workshop, guided reading and Intentional Read Aloud.  We even spent time setting up their classroom literacy environments, which included organizing classroom libraries, leveling books and decluttering.

Lots and lots of time decluttering.

I’ve since returned to the classroom full time and said farewell to my job with the Philly non-profit.  But this book happily takes me back to the incredible experience that I had with those teachers.   Together we purged old materials, re-organized spaces and cleaned out clutter.

It’s a lot easier to do this in someone else’s space than it is in your own. Diving into old forgotten closets , boxes or drawers would actually give me a rush of adrenaline!  At a school where I spent two years,  the janitors would often shake their heads when they saw me coming, knowing that soon I would ask for one of the grey, rolling waste bins and a sleeve of oversized, black trash bags.

In one room, the teacher and I discovered two sewing machines during our cleaning binge.  Two!  This wasn’t a home economics room, it was third grade. She is retired now and I’m writing this post about her in the highest regard.  She was an interesting, amazing teacher, who took circus lessons in her spare time and lived in a purple house.  She also loved books (especially Babar and  Eleanor, Quiet No More  – a cool biography about Eleanor Roosevelt), science and you guessed it – sewing!

The Kondo Method

Back to the Kondo book.  In case you don’t know much about it, it’s written by a Japanese home organizing phenom, who started decluttering her own belongings as a child.  She guarantees that by following her methods of purging, folding and organizing, you will not only create more space and have a tidier house, but also transform your life.

Transform  your life?

Her method is quite simple, really.  She has a specific order to follow as you organize and declutter.  Clothes first, then books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items) and finally, mementos. She also states that you must put all of your items together in one place.  For example, if you keep seasonal clothes in the basement, you must group them in one pile for the process to work.  Sort by category, not by space.  This is one of her cardinal rules.

Another critical point is to handle each item.  Yes, you actually have to pick up each shirt, even one that you just wore yesterday from the clothes hamper.  And when you touch it, ask yourself:

“Does it spark joy?”

If yes, keep it. If no, say goodbye and move on to the next item.

Now, I’m only on the first part of the process – clothes.  But I am already amazed at the amount of space that I’ve created in my dresser.  By simply asking myself, “Does this item spark joy?” and folding properly, I have a totally new view on clothes and space.

My newly organized shirt drawer:

Kondo method

Feeling a “spark of joy” after my own success, I tried getting started with my husband’s shirts.

That didn’t work as well.

Note to readers: Do not take all of your significant other’s clothes and pile them on the bed all at once on a work night.

“There is no way that I’m doing this tonight,” he said, shoving everything back into the drawers and in a heap on the floor.

Gasp!  What would Marie think if she saw this?

As a last resort, I held up the book to him and pointed to her picture.  “But Marie says that if you do this, it will transform your life!”

“I don’t want to transform my life right now,” he said, pulling back the sheets and climbing into bed.  “I just want to go to bed and get some sleep.”

Fair enough.

Kondo and the Classroom: How to Declutter and Organize your Space

The purpose of this post isn’t to have you try this book out at home (although I certainly recommend it if you are so inclined).  Or, to urge you to dump your loved ones items in a heap as I did.

What I do want is for you to think about your own classroom as you approach the year ahead.  Close your eyes and picture all the items inside that you’ve accumulated over the years:

  • Books
  • Furniture
  • Files
  • Papers
  • Teacher resources
  • Sewing machines

 Do you really need all of them?

The Question

As you get organized and consider whether to discard or keep certain materials, ask the Kondo question for each one:

Does it spark joy?

If yes, by all means, keep it.

If no, thank it for its service to you and pass it along (or throw away).

This will allow more space for the items that you do need and appreciate.

Of course, the “Does it spark joy?” question might not always be feasible in your classroom and/or school.  For example, you might have district math materials to use.  Whether they spark joy or not is really not the issue and you have to use them.

But I also guarantee that there are some items sitting there collecting dust.  Maybe it’s an old, tattered stack of books, a dusty bookcase or a dirty rug.  With a good washing or a fresh coat of paint, maybe they will find new life.  On the other hand, maybe it’s time to say thank you and let them go.

It’s up to you to decide…

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Reader Comments

What are your thoughts on this topic? Is it hard to follow this process in your classroom or have you had some success?  Whatever the case, please share your thoughts here.  I would love to hear from you!

Happy cleaning/decluttering,

Lisa

P.S.  For more tips on classroom organization, check out these books:

Spaces and Places

Teaching with Intention

Or, this blog post, which gives a great overview of the Kondo method:

8 Decluttering Lessons

Also, this post from Ed Week, which summarizes classroom decluttering in general:

Declutter your Classroom, Declutter your Life

 

 

 

 

Will Read for Cookies

Summer is in full swing and nothing motivates children (at least my kids anyway!) more than the promise of sweet treats.

Here is what my son, Joey (age 7),  received at the local library today after returning his summer reading club sheet:

IMG_2094

My next several posts will all offer tips, strategies and ideas to keep your child reading and writing in fun, meaningful and authentic ways.  Summer Reading Tip #1?

Join your local libraries program.

Most libraries have them and are a wonderful way to keep kids excited about reading.

Here is a link to the site for our local library system (Lower Merion Library System):

http://www.lmls.org/summer-reading-clubs/

On the first day we joined, Joey came home and wrote a poem on Spiderman so he could check off the box for “Write a poem.”  After 8 checks, he will earn a reading certificate.  He also receives a prize at each visit (with a free book on the third time).

IMG_2095 IMG_2097 A cookie, plastic toy and free book might not seem that exciting to us.  But if it keeps my kids motivated to read and write (and engaged with something other than asking to watch t.v.), it’s well worth it.

So join a library program today.  Or at the very least, go visit your local library and take home some books.  Read my next post for a few of my favorite titles to try and for more summer reading tips!