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

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.