March 11, 2021

Today I took a long, long walk after school. I wore my Teva sandals for the first time this season and just a t-shirt and khaki pants. No coat necessary. As I walked. the warm breeze created a calmness and gave me hope. Spring is coming. On my drive home, NPR was filled with 1-year ago stories anf the idea that our country is finally getting a handle on this pandemic is in the air. As I walk, nature herself seems to be cheering us on with her lovely springtime weather in Arlington, Virginia.

Reading and Playing

I arrived at 4:30pm. He had already spent the whole day learning from a distance. I sat on one side of his dining room table with my mask on. He sat across from me with his copy of A Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds in front of his mask face. He hands me the book and starts to fidgit with a pen. Presses down, ball point appears. Presses down again. ball point disappears.

Then he shares, “I’m to read to Floor 4 chapter.”

“OK, where are you now?” I ask.

“I’ve read floor 7 and 6.”

“Great. Tell me those parts.” As I listen, I can tell he totally understands who Buck is but is a little fuzzy about Dani so I open to the Floor 6 chapter and begin to read aloud. At times, I pause and make a comment. At times, he stops me to make a comment. He decides to underline these lines: Buck saying: You don’t have it in you. And Dani’s line asking: What if you miss?
His 8th grade English teacher expects annotations and words underlined and he complies.

I glance at the time showing on my iPhone and notice there is enough time to read another part. But I also see that we have read floor 6 and 5 and his fidgiting seems to be getting stronger. So I ask, “Should I read the 4th floor?”

“How about we play one of your games?” He is referring to games we’ve played before which I learned from reading Unlocking the Power of Classroom Talk: Teaching Kids to Talk with Clarity and Purpose by Shana Frazin and Katy Wischow. I draw a table on the notebook paper I brought with me and add the 4 labels to it. I give him a few torn off small square sheets and I take a few. He presses his pen again and writes Middle Drawer, Uncle Mark’s Video Camera and Pennydrop. I write Cream for Mom and Monkey Bars on my 2 squares. We place them together and mix them up.

He draws first. “This is kinda a big deal. Shawn was in that neighborhood buying the cream for his mom. It’s what started it all. I’d put it at Kinda or Really Big.” “I agee, ” I say and then drew my card. We conversed back and forth for 15 more minutes, playing this game. My 8th grade friend was tired on Wednesday afternoon, after already learning all day long from a distance on his computer. Having a game up my sleeve gave him the chance to solidify his thinking and live with this amazing book a little bit longer.

Once I got home, I thought about how I could use jamboard, a new tool I just started exploring, to play this game, too. So many possiblities to keep readers engaged and reading!


News via text

I awoke to two text. One from my daughter about her best friend:

The other from my friend who had her baby boy on Monday. Yet, due to her heart condition, she had to have a c-section and remains in the ICU after delivery and is awaiting a heart surgery. Days after delivering, she finally got to meet her baby boy. She sent a photo and this text:

These bookend text remind me of the preciousness of life. Today life feels hard. Today I am not really in the mood to work with self-absorbed middle schoolers. Today I want to just stay home and make each mother a meal and take them some comfort food. But I awake, read my texts and head to my daily routine. Even though my thoughts and prayers are with these two brave mothers.

(Full disclosure: after sharing my routine yesterday, I did not follow it last night. So tired, I went to bed without drafting. So this morning, with the text messages on my mind, I quickly drafted and published. So day 5, habit interrupted but I still push on and write.Today writing acts as a comfort.)

Making vs Buying

“We need 7 pig noses, a dozen small LED flashlights, 5 tutos, something to make the 6 girls look like a Jamaican band, a Frankenstein mask but one that doesn’t cover up her face, and a giant fork/wand for the Fairyfork Mother.”

“I’m on it!”

Immediately, I went to Amazon and in two days the smily arrow boxes got delivered. Noses, flashlights, tutos. Check.

Then I decided to try to make the last props for the play. The accent for the girls band was easiest. I just went to the fabric store, purchased a yard of beautiful jamaican fabric and cut it into 6 long strips. Each girl used it as a head band. Check.

The only Frankenstein masks I could find at the Party Store covered the whole face. I searched on google and found an image. I bought some foam sheets – green and black. But how to wear it? Of course, taped to the back of a baseball cap, she could wear it with the mask part becoming her forehead. Check.

Now for the fairy’s wand/fork. I bought a wand at the Party Store and bought some gray foam sheets. Looking at a google image of a fork, I cut out four prongs and covered the wand stick with gray. The giant fork was ready to make magic in the play as a prop. Check.

I fully admit. I was nervous about successfully gathering the random list of props for the play. But with an Amazon prime account, a credit card and access to a fabric and craft store, plus a little creativity, I’m feeling pretty successful.

Theater

It really is amazing how it all comes together.

9:15am on Saturday –
“I have a wheelbarrel. Do you still need one? It’s green.”

“Yes! We need to decorate it so it looks like it is overflowing with mail.”

“I can pick up envelops at Staples.”

“Yes!”

10:15am on Saturday –
“Tech crew, I need a few to go help unload a car.”

11:30am on Saturday –
“Let me take your picture in front of the wheelbarrel. It looks perfect”

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Theater mom’s and student tech crew members are the best!!

I did it!

Since this was year 6 for me, I knew I could write for 31 days, post and read at least 3 others and leave a comment, daily for each day in March. But as I reflect back on this month, I am celebrating all I did:

  • I added a Featured Image to each post: I learned this from a great online class I took this summer by Cult of Pedegogy  finding my image using Pixabay , as suggested in the course.
  • I added hyperlinks to direct the readers to another place to go related to my topic (see examples in last bullet point!)
  • I added Tags, something I started last year. Now on the right-side of my blog, a word cloud appears. A glance at it now shows the topics I write lots about include my daughters, Anne and Bridgit, along with books, my home, reading, writing, TCRWP, travel, and my OLW (one little word).
  • On the 28th of this month, a fellow slicer and colleague taught me how to make a slideshow in wordpress. First I pick the +Add dropdown menu, then choose Media, then pick 3 or more photos, then press Continue. A new screen appear. Pick Layout Dropdown menu. Scroll down and pick SLIDESHOW and insert. Magically, wordpress inserts those images as a slideshow! (Must choose 3 or more images to have slideshow option in layout). For example, I just snagged an image of the blog headers of all my friends in the DC/Arlington, VA area that I know sliced and who I have been reading with month. Now here are those images in a slideshow:

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  • As I look through the 30 posts I made this month, I notice:
    • 8 poems
    • 9 true small moments
    • 9 school stories
    • 6 related to porfessional development
    • 2 family stories
    • 1 basketball story
    • 1 about an Orange Slicer Party
    • 1 about the PLACE I like to write
    • 2 about time
  • As I reflect, I know I spent more time trying to craft my stories and when I got this comment yesterday, it became my favorite because I had really worked to set up a contrast:Screen Shot 2019-03-31 at 9.05.24 AM
  • As I reflect, I am amazed at how much went on in my personal and school life this month and yet, I still took time to write. It was hard. But it is a routine I am glad I embraced six years ago. It is also one I am fine to now just post  weekly on Tuesdays! (And to be honest, maybe I’ll start my Tuesday posts after Spring Break! )
  • As I reflect, I give a special thank you to TwoWritingTeachers who include Stacy, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, and Melanie. The community of writers you create is one I feel honored to be a part of. March is my now favorite month!
  • APRIL 11 – If you are in the DC area, come to my SLICER celebration! Orange Party at my house at 4:30pm. (Leave your contact info in a comment and I’ll send you the address) Wear ORANGE and/or bring an orange inspired snack to share! I plan to make an Aperol Spritz Pitcher.IMG_4413

 

Signs of Spring

As I headed to the bakery for scones to go with my Sunday morning, I noticed signs of spring.

A blue jay flying in and out of my shrubs.

Green buds all over my liliac bush.

Pink covering the branches of a cherry tree.

Then as I parked the car outside of my favorite bakery, a man stood tall playing his bagpipe and dressed for the day making it sound like spring.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Happy Spring, 2019!

Double Numbers

I’ve always liked double numbers.

Probably because my birthday is on the 11th of a month. Seeing a double number calms me. I think of repeated numbers as thumbs-up encouragement to me from a greater being. As I type this now, I know it may sound silly. You may be laughing at me. It may seem completely irrational. But it is something you now know about me. Double numbers calm me.

Yesterday, I was equally excited and nervous. I was at a State Reading Conference, slotted to present with another colleague from my district at 2:45pm (not a calming number).

However:
The night before, as we checked in, we were given the hotel room number 2020.  Calming.

As we checked out and checked our bags during the conference morning break, I glanced at my phone. It showed 10:10am. Calming.

As we sat and reviewed our presentation over lunch, I glanced at my phone again. It showed 12:12. Calming.

I’ve always been the kind of person who shares. If I learn something that works, I naturally want others to know. This attribute served me well as a Reading Coach. Yesterday, it gave me the opportunity to share with other Reading teachers in my state. But I won’t deny it. I do get nervous before presenting. I rehearse it over and over in my head. I want it to go well. But I am nervous.
Yesterday, when I glanced and saw double numbers around me, I was able to breathe. I was able to feel a calmness from above. I was able to smile and confidently start the presentation: by saying, “Welcome! Thanks for coming to hear about how we use Reading Notebooks with our students. I am excited to share some tips with you that I hope you can take back home to help when working with your students.”

NOTE: All the resources for our presentation are on this Padlet:

If you scroll over to the LAST column, you can view the powerpoint that Katlyn and I followed during our presentation. All the other columns on the padlet are resources we use with our students as we helped them make their invisible thinking they have while they read and make it VISIBLE in their reading notebook.

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Place Matters

I don’t even drink coffee.
Instead I declare,
“Venti Black Iced-tea, no sweetener
or Grande No-whip Hot Chocolate”
when it’s my turn.

Once seated and computer plugged in
I sit at the high-top counter
facing a windowed wall
revealing a sky beginning to brighten
and listen to the upbeat music playing in the background.

My favorite place to write – my neighborhood coffee shop

How about you?
WHERE are you writing?

Worktime

I’ve spent much time learning about Reading and Writing Workshop and I’m sold that this is the best learning structure to have in a classroom. I explicitly teach for about ten minutes. Then ALL work. Students read or write. I watch, listen and confer, confering more explicit teaching specific to each student based on what they are showing they can do during worktime. Currently, I’m in a district cohort studying Personalized Learning. My focus has been on giving my students choice and offering them authentic experiences.

 

I took these photos after worktime began yesterday. The girls on the right are passionate about saving the tiger. They are drafting a brochure. Then on March 12th, it will be on display to help raise awareness about this issue during our Social Issue Fair.

The photo on the top right shows a pair making images for their homeless display. Then asked if they could use origami and cut out images they draw to create what the homeless park in our county looks like. They help at the food bank near this park and want to teach others how to help this group in our town.

The photo on the bottom right shows another pair. They are researching asthma, a health issue they realized they both suffer from and could teach others about.

My favorite part of worktime is how it sounds. It starts with the room erupting. Voices chatting. Questions pondered fill the air. Opiinions shares. Chair legs scrape the floor as one moves to collect markers and scissors. Then the sounds change. Each settles into worktime and a quiet hush hangs over the room. All have entered the learning zone and are thinking so quietly.

I whisper to a pair of students, “How’s it going?” as I begin to confer with them. Softly one replies. We confer quietly among ourselves, not wanting to break the sound of worktime in the room.