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

Product Details

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

Product Details

and

A Child’s Calendar, by John Updike

Product Details

Suggested Poems to Read                      Routines to Teach  

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

5. Way I Feel, by Janan Cain

 Product Details

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….

Product Details

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

Product Details

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

Product Details

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

Product Details

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)

img_2287

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