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Friday, June 29, 2012

Kinderchat Summer Blogging Challenge

Stumbled onto this today and felt like, "why not another challenge?!" Teachers Write,  #kinderchat‘s Summer Blogging Challenge, reading and writing goals, hey, this is all good!

At Kinderchat, every Friday a question or topic is posted to offer a prompt for reflection on the previous school year. 
The question for today is:
What did you learn this past (or, for our southern hemisphere friends, what ARE you learning this current) school year that you couldn’t have learned any other year, from any other students or colleagues or administrators or parents? What lessons did this particular year, this particular setting, these particular children bring into your life?

I can easily say that this year was my best. The most learning I have ever done came from this year because I see myself as a writer and that has been the best professional development (and free at that). I have been pushed to read more because I have wanted to write more and through all of this has come much learning. I have connected to other educators like me who want to write, read and learn. I've been welcomed into their communities through blogging and twitter. I feel more connected to the kind of teacher I have wanted to be.
I have always felt that relationships are the core of good teaching but this year I went further with those relationships. My patience was tested and it paid off. I connected more deeply to this class because I invested more individual time with them through conferencing for both writing and reading. This one on one time made a tremendous difference in my relationships with students. From there, I was able to make whole group teaching more connected for all students, pulling them in as mentors and always having time for sharing what we were reading and writing. They got more of me and I learned more from them. It was the kind of year that makes a great springboard into the next. I feel ready to tackle new things, new challenges and to continue the work that I have started--developing young writers--my biggest challenge and goal.

Things that have helped me along the way:
Best professional book I read this past school year: Talking, Drawing, Writing by Giacobbe and Horn
Best personal reading I did: Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Most supportive blogs that have guided me through: Two Writing Teachers, Teacherdance, A Year of Reading, Teach Mentor Texts, The Poem Farm
Best conference I went to this year: All Write in Warsaw, Indiana
Best bud to cheer me on: R-dog (you can find her here, and her real name is even revealed)!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Listening and Chalk!

Tuesday went right on by and here came Wednesday. I am definitely falling victim to summer days all blending together. So, I will slice on Wednesday instead!

I had to share my enthusiasm for meeting Ruth Ayres last week at the All Write conference. She gave a warm, genuine and inspiring keynote that got everyone ready for two days of learning. 

 When I got home from the conference there was a driveway full of chalk art to greet me! That of course stretched my face into a huge smile.

The next morning I started drawing, no plan really, but it turned into an ear (sort of) and I wrote the word listen. I realized this is something I continue to try to do better, listen to mentors, listen to colleagues, listen to my children, just listen better. 

The next day I started a feather in one of the last few spots of clear space. Then I was reminded of how I could tie that into writing. One of the messages I heard the loudest during Ruth's keynote was to write my story, that I have one and that it is a tool to share this with my students and others. 

I hope you will come back on June 30th to share your story with a little chalk and link here for Chalk-A-Bration 3. Want to learn more, check for the back story here!

Chalk-A-Bration 4 is July 31st and the last Chalk-A-Bration for the year will be August 31st 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Let's Celebrate TYPEWRITER DAY!

Yes, it is really Typewriter Day!

I have my husband to thank for a recent reconnection to typewriters. We have started, what I like to call, a typewriter museum in our home (they are growing on me)! We started with one, now we have three and are always on the lookout for one that is older, better, or unique in some way. I have to admit, they are pretty amazing and fulfill a lot of sensory stimulation. The loud tapping sound, the slap of the keys under your finger, the vibration of the base when you really get going. To type is to experience writing in a different way, and that is fun, plain and simple.

This is the first portable typewriter that the company Royal manufactured. It dates from the late 1920's.

Champion, made by Underwood was also manufactured as a portable typewriter. 
It dates somewhere in the 1930's.

This Underwood SX-100 is kept in our kids craft area. They love typing, and my son has also begun typing poems as a result. This is the best quality typewriter we own thus far. My husband calls this one the Cadillac of typewriters, at least in its time. It does exactly what it is suppose to do, has several features but unlike a Cadillac it is cheap these days. It dates somewhere in the late 1950's.

If you would like to read some lovely poems written on these keys check out my husbands blog, Beyond Innisfree, where he photographs his poetry, hand written or typed. He is as unique as these typewriters, probably more.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Back to Poetry

Poetic goodness can be found with Amy Ludwig Vanderwater at The Poem Farm.

I have been doing a lot of other writing lately, I am happy to come back to some poetry today, it feels good. Everyone should write a poem. My sister insists it makes the world a better place every time someone does. It sort of makes me think of that line in It's a Wonderful Life, "every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings." Maybe every time someone writes a poem, someone else smiles! Wouldn't that be nice?

Awe struck


The above is a list/acrostic poem of the wonderfully filling experience I had at the All Write conference in Warsaw, Indiana the past two days.

Today, Ralph Fletcher lead us in an exercise of borrowing a few lines from one of his poems and creating our own. He has used this technique, at first with hesitation, with students and noticed that it seemed to work well. He described it like giving you training wheels so you can go farther (something like that, he said it much better). Here is my poem, the first two and last lines are the borrowed parts.

(The Good Old Days)

Sometimes I remember
the good old days

Walking down to the river
skimming tadpoles from the still pools

Watching them
circle in my cup

Looking at you

Looking at me

I still can't imagine
anything better than that.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Random Word Sparks a Story

One of today's assignments for Teachers Write camp was to go to Random Noun Generator, grab the first word it gives you and see where it takes you!

My Random Noun Generator word: Neighbour

I found it funny that it gave me the New Zealand spelling, a place I would love to visit and get to know as a real life setting! (Or even a vacation).
Here is where my word took me:

I awoke to the sound of drops hitting the Monterey pines. Peering out my window I could see the puddle rings in the neighbour’s driveway. A bellbird stops for a drink. I listen closely for it’s song, but no notes escape it’s beak as it flits away. His green color blends him in with the neighbouring tree lined lot that sits on the other side of our house. I scan, straining to see which branch he chose to land on when I see Mrs. Vernon come into close focus outside my window. She has that scowly face on and her hair is wrapped in her plastic hat that ties tightly around her jowls. With her orange flowered rain boots and blue house coat she raps on my window with force. I startle at the sight of her, thinking the noise unnecessary seeing as I am already at the window. I slide the circular lock and push the wooden paint flaked frame upward a crack.
“Good morning Mrs. Vernon. Is there a problem?” I ask, knowing there is likely a problem.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers, Stacey and Ruth. 

What a great start to the week. Writing camp is proving to be surprising, fun and motivating. I started an outline yesterday for one of my projects; one goal for the summer is to write an article. It is for myself at this point, a means of growth, learning, a push to dig more into what it means to grow a reader. I am going to start reading Growing Readers by Kathy Collins as a starting point. I have gotten some other great suggestions for this journey and one of them was to post (literally, on a wall) all my questions separately, since that is how it began...lots of questions with no answers! Here is the wall next to my writing spot, with my questions to ponder.
(My post from yesterday).
And here is my writing spot. The artwork in front of my computer is a foam creation my son added to my desk! Maureen Young Ingram, from Pondering Preschool, had commented way back when I cleared this spot, asking me to post a picture after I had "worked" it a little. Less pristine and more real now, I am in love with my space.

Quick Write Poem--Character



am like a leaf.
Sunlight feeds my limbs.
am all alone.
Pine cones are my friends.
am curious,
a scavenger,
a thief.
am mysterious,
hidden, brave,
watch and wonder
everyday from my crypt.

will never see
all the crimes that
you commit.

Quick Write Tuesday:
Essentially, write about your character. Write a letter, poem, etc. about them. Deepen your knowledge of your character.
I went for the poem. I think my character is a rather poetic little creature and she should be swaddled in lovely words. I tried that here and had a really fun time doing this. I am enjoying this so much and think it might be the coolest thing I have ever done for myself (this whole writing camp)! I am waist deep in things to read, projects started, etc. But, I am not worried because I am really enjoying this part of my day. Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Attempted Outlining

I wrote that title and thought, it sounds like attempted murder, then I thought of  a chalk outline....(insert chuckle here)! Chalk-A-Bration is June 30th!

Mini-Lesson Monday has me writing an outline for a project. Sally Wilkins is inspiring me this morning with her insights and ideas on Kate Messner's blog for Teacher's Write, virtual summer camp!
As I began the list below (my form of an outline at this point in time for research) it was inspired by my many uncertainties with teaching reading to children who have very little or no experience with this rather large animal. I struggle with this. I now understand a little better where my frustration is coming from. I struggle with this because it doesn’t feel right. So, what do I do now?

My intent was to outline what I know about one idea in the area of early readers. What I found out is I just don’t know a lot!
What’s Age got to do with it?
Why is it that some children learn to read at the age of three and others at the age of seven?
Boys/girls, what is it about gender?
Where has shared reading gone? Is it a dying animal or is it standards that have shoved it into a closet?
How do you foster enjoyment with leveled reading? (Shared reading used to do this, where did that go again, I thought it was just here)?
How do you measure boredom? Is anyone really bored, is boredom bad? I tell my son when he is bored that it is wonderful because people do their best thinking when they are bored—yeah I get a big sigh out of that one!
How do you measure so many things? Why must I measure so many things? OH—because I am building something, well that makes sense. I am building a reader so I need to know how the boards fit together, what needs to be sanded and where I need an extra nail…get me a tool box!
Assessment, monitoring, how do you appease the testing gods who dictate?
How much of a roll does motivation play? Everything! (The longest one word answer ever).
How do I move past what is on grade level, and move toward, fostering a journey?

How do I answer all these question?

I am obviously at a point where I need more information. I sat down this morning with the hope that I could get started on a topic of research that would work for me, something I would want to read. There will always be more questions than answers, but the opinions are what get me. I often feel like I am running on opinions, are they mine? Are they my colleagues? Who do they belong to? Where did they come from, and how much of this is what is driving my teaching? Great, more questions.
I want to exist in a bath of facts and the only way to do that is to live, read and practice. Hmmmm….that sounds like it might take FOREVER! (That was for my daughter who lives in the world of forever, always and never, you know this world if you have ever been in a room with a child for more than five minutes). I feel a little bit like throwing a tantrum because I want to organize my thoughts, I want to write a piece that will move people including myself and yet I don’t feel ready.  

Friday, June 8, 2012

And then it was over....

Visit Jama this Poetry Friday at Jama's Alphabet Soup!

Every year there are bittersweet moments of growth. I watch mere babies turn into readers and writers and I am so proud, but they change so much, it can be a little sad as well. Today was our last day and I kept feeling like it wasn't really over, but it was. I am excited for a new group next year, a fresh start again. However, these little one's have helped me in ways that others haven't and I will feel the same way each year after. 

At times more bitter
and others more sweet
I sent you off today.

I hugged each one
held back my tears
and waved you on your way.

You'll bring me hugs
and wondrous news
next year from down the hall.

I've watched you grow
and now you'll go
a bittersweet so long.