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

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

 

 

 

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.

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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.

Traveling with Tulip

Looking for some end of year ideas to fill those last few days of school?

Here’s a fun and easy read aloud by author Cynthia Rylant that you can use to spark conversation about summer travel plans.  And because of the repeating language and beautiful imagery, it’s a no-brainer to connect this to a follow-up writing lesson.

Note to parents: Try reading this book at home and then using the attached handout Tulip Sees America as a summer writing activity.  A great way to document your summer travels in a meaningful, authentic way!

Possible Writing Objective: Use descriptive details to describe a setting

Possible Reading Objective: Create mental images to support comprehension

The Book: Tulip Sees America, by Cynthia Rylant

Before Reading (intro and possible language)

“This is about a boy who never goes anywhere as a child.  When he grows up, he decides to travel across the country in his VW Beetle with his dog Tulip.  (Show different states on map: Ohio, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado).  In each place, he notices something different about the setting.  As you listen, put your thumb up if you get a picture in your mind because of the details that the author uses to describe each state.”

During Reading: 

Stop to discuss parts of the text that stand out to the students.  Try one turn and talk: “What images stayed with you on this page?” or “Share your mental movie with a partner.”

After Reading:

Make a list of the descriptive words that the author used to describe each state.  If time allows (or during another lesson), try out the writing extension (see attached) Tulip Sees America.  The students can write their own “Tulip Sees America” stories based on a place that they have visited.

Disclaimer: I read this recently with some second graders and they got a good chuckle from the Nevada section.  I won’t give it away but be sure to preview that part before you read!

 

 

 

 

 

Give the Gift of Poetry

It’s the end of December and you’re still plugging away, counting down the days until winter break and some must needed R & R. Are you looking for some engaging – yet literacy based, authentic and meaningful – activities to round out the end of 2015?  Turn to poems and look no further!

 

Poetic Presents: Creative, Festive and Fun

There are many ways to integrate poetry into your classroom.  (See https://literacywithlisa.com/category/poetry/ for more ideas).

But one of my favorites is to have students give poems as gifts to someone special for the holidays.  There are two ways to do this: the student writes an original poem or the student chooses a favorite poem to share as a gift.

Option One: Student writes an original poem

If you’ve written any other poetry this year, allow your students time to reflect on their work and choose a poem that speaks to them.  Or, they can create a new poem just for this occasion.

List poems are a great place to start because they are just like they sound – a list!  Have a class discussion of different topics/words that relate to the season and create a chart.  Then let the students choose one that interests them.

They can create bookmarks:

 

Or just copy the poem onto paper, glue onto construction paper and illustrate.

Another idea is to make cards and place the poem inside.

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Option Two: Student shares a favorite poem from another author

How special is it to receive a piece of writing that someone chose just for you?  Give your students time to read poems and find one that reminds them of someone special. (Or just a poem that they really love!).  Then, like the example above, they can copy the poem over, illustrate it and give as a gift (on construction paper or inside a card).

Option Three: What other ideas do YOU have?

Be creative and share them below in the comments section.

And for more ways to get started with poetry in your own classroom, read this:  5 Easy Ways to Get Your Class Excited About Poetry. Then choose one idea and get started today.

You’ll be glad that you did.

Happy holidays,

Lisa

P.S. Parents – read the connection below! Continue reading

Write Your Heart Out (at home or at school)

Looking for a way to get your child to do more meaningful, authentic writing at home or school?  Maybe you encourage them to write only to be met with cries of, “I hate writing,” or “I don’t know what to write about?”

Try having them create a heart map.  It’s fun, easy and something that will be sure to foster ongoing inspiration in them (and you). And if you’re a “artsy/crafty” mom (or dad!) or teacher, even better!

What is a heart map?

I first discovered the heart map in the book, Awakening the Heart in 2003.  It changed my teaching and also my view of poetry and writing in general.  I highly recommend the book, especially if you are a classroom teacher.  A few years ago I even heard the author, Georgia Heard, speak and it was truly one of the most memorable workshops in my teaching career.

A heart map is a visual representation of “all the important things that are in your heart, all the things that really matter to you.  You can put: people and places, that you care about; moments and memories that have stayed with you; things that you love to do, anything that has stayed in your heart because you care a lot about it.” (Heard, 1999, page 108).

How do I get started?

Whether you’re doing this at home or at school…

1. Start by creating your own heart map as a model.

Materials needed: construction paper or chart paper for the model, sturdy paper for the child’s heart (consider tracing a heart on a file folder because they are sturdy), colored pencils, crayons, markers, cut-out photographs, tape and other art supplies

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(Map of a 2nd grade teacher’s heart)

2. Share your map with your students.  Discuss why you put each person, memory, etc., in your heart.  Illustrate the importance of choosing items for the heart that are truly meaningful (i.e. really part of your true heart!).  This “thinking aloud” will help the students understand the planning process that you go through as a writer.

3. Have the students plan the components of their hearts.  They can sketch our their heart on a separate piece of paper and/or make a list of what to include.

4. Let them get started! Play some quiet music in the background for inspiration, if that moves you.  Nutcracker (my daughter’s favorite), classical, jazz.  This will help them to relax and let go in the moment.

5. When finished, display the hearts and/or glue to the inside of their writing notebooks or file folders.  The students now have an ongoing list of writing ideas to carry them forward for the school year and beyond.

6. And last but not least, encourage them to choose something from their hearts and start writing!

Center Link: If you use literacy centers in your classroom, consider creating a “Write your Heart Out” center or add this as an option to Independent Writing.

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Let’s all remember the importance of what’s inside of our hearts and help our students to do the same.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

More writing – of their own choice

When I show teachers a sample literacy block, one of the most frequent comments that I hear is that they aren’t sure how to find enough time for writing. Or, that their students don’t get enough time to write topics of their own choosing.  Sometimes, this might be because teachers haven’t had a lot of background on how to support students in this way.

It can be scary to say, write about whatever you want.

The fear is that students will write for two minutes and say, “I’m done,”or worse, not start at all. So we fall into the trap of telling them what to write about, giving them prompts instead of empowering them to think for themselves.

Do you like it when people tell you what to write about? I’ve taken writing workshops before and for me, I hate being told what to write about or worse, finish this story starter.  Some people like that, so a range of topics can be useful.  The key, however, is to not stifle our students’ own creativity. When we let them write about what they want, we are teaching them to find their own ideas from the life around them, and most importantly that their life (and ideas) matter.

So a range of ideas can be useful but we don’t want students to always equate writing with following a specific prompt, topic or story starter.

Wondering how to integrate this into your own classroom without completely revamping your schedule and instruction? Here are a few easy tips to add more independent writing.

*Add to a center/workstation.  Teach them how them how to keep a list of their own ideas (i.e. things I’m good at, hobbies, favorite foods, etc.) and how to write in different genres (i.e. letter, list, brochure, poems, etc.).  When they visit this center, they can choose to write about anything from their notebook, in any genre that they choose.

*Heart maps (see my other post – Write your Heart Out – for more details on this)

*Let them share – whole class and in pairs  This lets them know that their writing matters

*Model with your own writing – YOUR life matters too and is a lot more interesting than you might think. Don’t be afraid to write about it for your students. What you have to say is much more interesting and insightful than a pre-written prompt from your basal series.

*Display all examples of their writing – not just their “best” work.  This will teach them to learn the writing process and take ownership of their work.

*Teach them to notice the way that other authors write. Keep a basket of books that you’ve read together that can help support their own writing.

*Use repeating texts and let them write their own verions. Put this in a center. Examples include:

The Important Book

When I was young in the mountains

When I am old with you

Letting students write about what matters to them doesn’t need to be scary or difficult.  Once you let them go, you will be amazed at what they create, from their own lives and ideas.