Saturday, May 31, 2014

Safety, Student Conversations, Endings, and New Beginnings

                                 So excited to join Saturday Celebrations with Ruth Ayres! 
                        It is fun to live my week thinking about what I will celebrate on Saturday.

Discover. Play. Build.
A week filled with moments to celebrate and remember!

1.  Everyone is home safe and sound.  Last weekend B & S were in Tokyo, 
and S & W were in Boston.  Instagram pictures allow me to enjoy their travels with them
I'm always thrilled to get the text messages that all are safely home.  

2.  A student shared his excitement about a current project.  Students selected their own topic for a mini-research project in two ancient civilizations.  I provided carts of books in the classroom, but this particular student requested several books from the public library.  He told me that instead of just using them for research, he ended up reading the entire books (all because it's a topic that's personally interesting to him).  I celebrate student choice.  I celebrate every time a student is excited about learning.  I celebrate that he shared his passion with me.  I wish I could clone him! 

3.  I had my last evaluation conference this week (after my administrator allowed me to reschedule twice).  I opened my celebratory Dove Chocolate to find the words - Exhale!  I'm surprised that the final weeks of my career are bittersweet and filled with conflicting emotions (just like the end of every school year).  I celebrate my search for new ways to share my passion, my upcoming stint with the Poetry Box in October,  and my first NCTE conference in November! 

4.  B will arrive home for a quick visit this week before he embarks on his career.  
Interesting that I'm disembarking just as he is beginning.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What I did on my four day weekend . . .

Today I join my fellow bloggers in "serving up a slice" 
to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by 
Two Writing Teachers.
Some years I don't assign the personal poetry anthology project, but this year I did. And so I spent some major time this weekend savoring 49 of these collections (four are still missing), and once again I'm glad that I made time in our busy schedule for this project.   It's fun to escape into the mind of a 6th grader as I peruse the anthologies, read their responses to the poems they choose, and discover new poems and poets with my students as my guide.

Here's a quick look at a few selected student responses:

"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth:
"This is one of my favorite poems.  I love the way it rhymes, and the way it's worded.  I love how I can imagine the 'golden daffodils . . . Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.'"

"Poet's Tree" by Shel Silverstein
"This poem has always been one of my favorites because I love to read underneath a big tree in my backyard and lately I have been reading a lot of poetry underneath it.  The tree is like a big umbrella blocking everything else out so I can just worry about reading and nothing else."

"Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost
"I felt chills over my body when I read this out loud - 'Shook down on me.'  It was a trembling sort of feeling with a happy ending you could say."

While student anthologies include Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, and Kenn Nesbitt, I'm delighted to find William Blake's "Tyger, Tyger," as well as poems by Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson in many anthologies.

This student's annotated copy of a Robert Louis Stevenson poem (new to me) captures the joy he discovered in "Summer Sun!"

This year, one student included a prize-winning poem written by his mother when she was twelve years old.  Another student included a poem because his dad shared it with him.  Knowing that his project often involves the entire family in a poetry scavenger hunt is a wonderful by-product of this assignment.  

Whenever I think of abandoning this project due to the time investment it requires (for my students and for me), I remember this parent note from two years ago:
"Just wanted to thank you for prompting our family to explore poetry!  S. really let this project get away from him (he seemed to think that he had a lot more time than he actually did...) but, as a result, we had SO much fun reading poems together!!  S., I., and I spent an amazing afternoon in our hammock yesterday, reading poetry aloud to each other.  We must have read 100 poems!  It was an afternoon that changed our feelings about poetry."

I still recall "The Sugarplum Tree" from  2nd grade in Mrs. Trutmann's classroom, "Little Orphan Annie" from 4th grade in Mrs. Lewallen's classroom, and "Outwitted" from Mrs. Powers" 7th grade poetry packet.  Hopefully, some of my students will recall the time we spent exploring poetry together as a catalyst for a lifelong love of poetry!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Facetime, fluff, 2 Fridays and friends in the know!

                                  So excited to join Saturday Celebrations with Ruth Ayres! 
                        It is fun to live my week thinking about what I will celebrate on Saturday.

Discover. Play. Build.
A week filled with moments to celebrate and remember!

1.  Facetime with son!
My son actually connected with me while I was walking in Pioneer Park.  
He showed me views from his hotel in Hong Kong, and I showed him the woods.  

2.  Cottonwood fluff!
My friend and I loved seeing the piles of fluff on our Wednesday walk.  
And I learned more about cottonwoods here.  
3.  Our Thursday was Friday!  
We had an unused snow day this year so our Memorial Day holiday became a four day weekend.  My real Friday was filled with fun - time to make appointments, time to grade papers, 
time to walk with friends, and time for dinner at a favorite restaurant 
with one of those friends and our husbands!

4.  Friends in the know!
I made cookie bars to celebrate the end of our week of testing.  With several bars remaining, 
I left the container at school (enticement to return there for some grading on Friday).  
Fellow teachers (also working at school on our day off) introduced me to Webdings 
to solve a technology question, so I shared the last of the cookie bars with them.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Look What Alexander the Great Made Me Do!

Today I join my fellow bloggers in "serving up a slice" 
to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by 
Two Writing Teachers.
I've been in search of a slice most of the day.  Perhaps it's the end of the year doldrums or maybe the ennui of a week of SBAC tests, but I couldn't settle on a slice.  And then after school, I succumbed to the call of the siren.  I meant to make a quick stop on the way home, drop off some important items, pick-up another item, and dash back to the car for the quick drive down the hill for home, dinner, laundry, and more papers to grade.
I stopped to drop off the important items . . . and chatted with a friend.  She showed me the oral history site she's working on with high schoolers . . .  and we talked about books.  
I stopped at the holds shelf to pick up a DVD for Greece . . . and tried to march myself straight to the self-checkout and out the door.  
But the call was too strong to resist . . . so I made a quick circle around the Choice Reads Display and picked up three titles.  I tried again to stride straight for the self-checkout . . . but I was so close to the middle grades display, and they always have something fun for my classroom.  
At that point I mustered my meager reserves of self-control . . . and made a beeline for the self-checkout counter.  When I arrived home, I added today's titles to my stack.

The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler
(the middle grade title)
 Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg
 (summer escape reading-female friendships)
My Wish List by Gregoire Delacourt 
(set to follow the success of The Elegance of the Hedgehog)
The Wisdom of the Myths by Luc Ferry
(How Greek Mythology Can Change Your life)

And that's how my stack grows.  No, I'm not a fast reader, but my book eyes are always bigger than my available time for reading.  I'm fond of telling friends,  "I checked that book out once, caressed it, and longed to read it."  
Our end of school is still four weeks away (five for me since I'll be packing up my classroom), but I'm ready now for reading time on the deck!  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Notes, Dinner Out, and A True Friend!

                                 So excited to join Saturday Celebrations with Ruth Ayres! 
                      It is fun to live my week thinking about what I will celebrate on Saturday.

Discover. Play. Build.
A week filled with moments to celebrate and remember!

Ruth's words "gritty celebration" are perfect.  Only other teacher friends truly understand the exhaustion that comes as we head for the finish line of a school year.  Our end is still five weeks away. and we head into a week of testing for sixth graders next week (our third week of crazy schedules for our school).  I'm thrilled that participating here helps me discover moments to celebrate every single week!   

1.  The best kind of appreciation ever, a handwritten note from a former student, appeared in my school mailbox this week.  What a joy to hear her gratitude for the year we spent together.  I celebrate her thoughtfulness!

2.  My husband gets it that on Friday nights I'm in no mood to cook dinner.  He's dieting, so ordering pizza was not an option.  He indulged me with dinner out.  Then when our dinner took forever to arrive, he understood my desire to put my head on the table and nap while we waited.  I didn't, but he understood.  And next week, I'll remember that a simple supper at home can be better than dinner out!

3.  I celebrate a true friend who understands when I pick up the phone, and shout "No," before even greeting her.  She calls me to leave the piles of work behind and take a walk.  She understands my crabby moods, listens to my tirades, and indulges me as I snap pictures on our infrequent (this time of year) walks.  This week I may have stepped over the line . . . she laughingly commented that I could be replaced!  

I'm so glad for this weekly call to celebration.  Have a fabulous weekend, dear friends!  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Good things come in threes!

Today I join my fellow bloggers in "serving up a slice" 
to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by 
Two Writing Teachers.
I know that my slice of life is supposed to be one small moment from my week, but this week I simply must share three special moments:

New book friend arrives
A Wednesday walk without rain
Mother love abounds!

The first one came when I wandered into a friend's classroom to ask a question.  He's my go-to guru!  As I left his classroom, a student whispered to me, "I heard you love books. May I stop by sometime to talk books with you?"  Her words delighted me, and I didn't have to wait long for our first conversation.  Friday morning she arrived in my classroom with some of her favorite reads.  I made a stack of her favorites that I haven't read!  And today I must make time to scan my shelves for titles to share with her.

When a blue sky arrives in the middle of a rainy week, it's time to grab my tennis shoes, call a friend, and head out for a walk.  This friend indulges me as I stop to snap pictures on our walks.  While it may not be the most aerobic walk, these pictures feed my soul (have I told you that I love trees?).   After this Wednesday walk with a friend, it was back to school to grade a few more papers with newfound energy and zest for life.

On Friday my sixth graders filled the room with laughter as they created original cards with poems and prose for Mother's Day.  I assured them that homemade is best, definitely less expensive, and infinitely more meaningful.  

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Sunshine, Photos, Mother's Day, and Books!

                                 So excited to join Saturday Celebrations with Ruth Ayres! 
                      It is fun to live my week thinking about what I will celebrate on Saturday.

Discover. Play. Build.
A week filled with moments to celebrate and remember!

1.  Sunshine and mid-70's are in the forecast for Monday's field trip to the International District.  
The threat of rain for this field trip always worries me since there is really no place to shelter.  
It's an outside, walking, discovery field trip (except for the inside lunch).  

2.  I shared Sam's book review of You Wouldn't Want to Sail on the Titanic! with my students. 
One student created a drawing for Sam and several wrote notes to him.
Ruth sent us a photo of guest blogger, Sam, with our card! 
3.  We wrote notes to mothers and made cards to showcase the delightful prose and poetry.  
I love seeing the creativity as my students make something personal for their moms.
I always share my Mother's Day notes, including the one written by my daughter
when she was at our middle school, and the humorous one penned one year
by my son with coupons that had a one-day expiration date.

4.  Packages and cards have already arrived from both children for Mother's Day. 
Yellow daisies from husband are on the kitchen island.
I can't wait to FaceTime with everyone tomorrow! 

5.  I discovered Linda Rief's new book, Read, Write, Teach in an email from Heinemann.  
I may have to break my resolution to NOT order any new teaching books for this one. 
I may be leaving the classroom, but I can never leave my love of teaching. 
A quick glance at the preview, and it went on my birthday wish list!
(If I don't order it, I'm not breaking my resolution, right?)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Our Visitors Meet Different Ends!

Today I join my fellow bloggers in "serving up a slice" 
to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by 
Two Writing Teachers.
Today's slice is triggered by Elsie's poem.  Quick, go read it!   Then come back for my connecting story.  It is the season for spiders.

I casually scoot Miss Hadley's box away from her favorite spot.  She owns our mudroom vent during fall, winter, and spring.  She stretches her paws over this piece of real estate, her perfect spot of heavenly heat!  While it's rare to find her out of the box, I do occasionally need to clean the throne upon which our Princess slumbers.  (When we adopted her sixteen years ago, I pointed out to her that we already had the Queen of Everything - me, and the Princess of Quite a Lot - my daughter.  Therefore, if she wanted to join our royal entourage, she would have to be the Princess of a Little Bit, but I digress.)  
Hadley:  Princess of A Little Bit
I reach in to pull the blue fleece throne out for cleaning when a huge spider crawls out - whether it was in the box, or under the box, I'll never know!  My screeches startle Hadley, the spider scurries about, I hesitate briefly and then execute a firm stomp - crunch! Hadley eyes the spider, wondering if it would make a tasty snack.  I encourage her to stay away from the carcass while I retrieve toilet paper and send our unwelcome visitor to a watery grave.    

Why do spiders strike such fear in me?  My mother claims it was because I picked up a scorpion and was stung while still too young to know better.  Now I know better . . . and the only crawling critters I pick up are dead ones.  I did manage to raise a daughter who catches live spiders and takes them outside!  I have no idea how Elsie could hold the iPad with a spider on the screen.  I would have flung both spider and screen.   Lucky that spider dropped into Elsie's world and not mine!

Advice to spiders:  Choose who you visit carefully! 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Who knew Mrs. B. could be so silly?

                                  So excited to join Saturday Celebrations with Ruth Ayres! 
                      It is fun to live my week thinking about what I will celebrate on Saturday.

Discover. Play. Build.
A week filled with moments to celebrate and remember!

1.  Our final SOL party!
I moved our 1st period celebration to Monday morning when parent e-mails informed 
me that two of my platinum writers would miss the celebration due to a field trip.  
My morning crew set the stage for our party with this colorful illustration on the whiteboard.
Students created posters with their top four slice of life entries and chose one slice to share 
at the celebration, I awarded prizes, and we enjoyed treats and lively conversation.

2.  Visitors!
Someone is making a new home at this spot outside our kitchen window.

3.  Poetry Alive!
Due to the generosity of Friends of the Library, our public library 
brought Poetry Alive to six classes of our sixth graders on Friday afternoon.  
It was a fabulous finale to Poetry Month.  
I was randomly selected to portray Tillie in Silverstein's "When Tillie Ate the Chili."  
I loved running amok in front of 180 sixth graders!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Chalk-a-bration with 6th graders!

Today I join Betsy Hubbard for Chalk-a-bration.  I participated in two previous chalk-a-brations, once by myself and once with the children of a friend.  When I realized this morning that today was chalk-a-bration, I scrapped my lesson plans and encouraged my students to search for or to write sidewalk poetry to share.

It was delightful to celebrate the last day of poetry month outside with my students.  And we even welcomed Mr. Sunshine to our celebration.  With temperatures in the 80s, it was an absolutely perfect day for Chalk-a-bration!