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

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

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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.

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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!