Saturday, March 31, 2012

Slice of Life Day 31: I MADE IT!!!!

For several years now I have tried to do the Slice of Life challenge. I usually made it for at least half of the month. I love to write and I believe in the power of writing. But for several reasons, I never could get to the end of the month with blogging every day.

One of the reasons, even though not a good one, was that I just ran out of things to write about. I would start out strong and have several ideas and then I would just go blank. Nothing seemed interesting enough in my life to but on paper for someone else to read. Sometimes knowing someone else might/probably will read what you wrote is the incentive to write. Sometimes knowing someone else will read it, scares you to death!

Another, and probably the main one, reason that I never can finish a month of blogging, is that Spring Break always messed me up.  I would be going along fine writing every day. Then I on the last few days I would take off for some unfamiliar hotel in a far away city. I would promise myself I would find a computer somewhere in the hotel or nearby library. Well, that never happens. One year I even tried to blog on my Kindle or iphone. That was not successful either.

This year I had it made. I thought I had enough material to write about in writing about all my 43 years of teaching.  That got old after about a week. Then I blogged about not knowing what to blog about. That was a new twist on an old problem. Then I found out by just starting to write, my ability to talk and love to talk saved me. I found out I could just write like I talk! I always have something to say!  The best thing though, was that our Spring Break vacation starts tomorrow!  We fly out early in the morning. AND I now have a new laptop computer that goes everywhere with me!  I just need to find wifi and I'm all set!

I am so thrilled that I found my blogging groove and I am hooked again!  Thanks for reading my posts, if you have become a fan. Thanks to Stacy and Ruth for hosting this challenge. I am going to try and be a faithful Tuesday follower. Thanks to all those bloggers out there who have shared their posts. I have loved meeting you and reading about your lives, too. 

Now, Happy April and Happy Blogging!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Slice of Life Day 30: Graham's Discoveries

One of my favorite things to blog about is my grandson, Graham.  He will be two years old in August. It has been such an adventure watching him change over the months. I love to watch him discover new things. Being the grandma instead of the  mom has allowed me to sit back and enjoy the adventure of growth. I was way too busy and too new to do that with my son, Graham's dad.

Last weekend Graham was exploring a Big Book that I brought him. I had cleaned some of the books from my collection in the basement as I was getting ready for retirement. I just thought he might enjoy a few of the old kindergarten big books that I had been storing to use in writer's workshops. Graham was thrilled with them.

We got down on the living room floor and spread out with the book in front of us. I turned the pages and talked to him about what we saw. Then I closed it and he took a turn, turning the pages more than one at a time. That's okay, he was loving it.  Then he spotted the page numbers on the corners of each page. He became fascinated with those numbers. He would point to one and say in his almost two-year-old voice, "What's that?"  I would say the number and he would turn the page, never bothering to look at the words or pictures. He did this over and over and over. Do you think I have a mathematician in the family???

This spring another thing he has discovered is the outdoors. He loves balls and has so much fun with the basketball on the driveway. Here are a couple pictures of him with the basketball.  Being a grandma is the best thing ever!


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Slice of Life Day 29: My Beach Reads


Okay, only one more school day until Spring Break. I can do this. I can do this. To keep my mind off all the things I really need to do before we leave for our trip, I thought I would make a list of books I will take with me to read. I'm not going to a beach, but there will be a pool. Guess I should call the list Pool Reads. Just something about Beach Reads that sounds better!

List of Beach Reads:
  •  Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story by Christina Baldwin
  • Learning by Karen Kingsbury
  • Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher
  • William Henry Harrison by Gail Collins
I think I have all my bases covered. I have our Book Club book.  It seems more like an assignment book. One that I enjoy, but need to  think. I have notes written in the margins so I will be ready to talk about it when I get back.

I have my fun read. This is the second of the Bailey Flanigan Series and I am hooked! This book makes me feel good when I read it. I love it. This is my "no-brainer".

I have the a book to challenge my writing talent. When I read this book, I have assignments that I want to try. With Slice of Life over, I need something to keep me going. I think Kelly Gallagher is just the author to do that.

I have my nonfiction book. With Common Core calling for the genres to be 50%/50% with nonfiction and fiction, I need to bump up my nonfiction reading. William Henry Harrison was a Hoosier. His presidential campaign was an extravaganza of parades, songs, dances and ball rolling, The presidential wanna-be's of today could learn from him!

So, my bags are still NOT packed. My clothes are in a pile waiting for me to make my decisions on what I will take. BUT, I have my books all ready to go. One thing checked off my list!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Slice of Life Day 28:Approximation

"Approximation is thse beginning of learning."
                                                                  --Lucy Calkins

I have been working on getting new curriculum ready for next school year. The Common Core Standards are on our doorsteps and we want to be prepared for them. Writing new curriculum for an entire district is an overwhelming thought and task.  While I was reading through Lucy Calkins' work on writing for the common core, I came upon this statement. I immediately fell in love with it.  It is SO what I believe.

Over and over I see teachers who think that students' work needs to be "fixed" to perfection. A child revises and edits and then the teacher says, "Do it again." Over and over and over the child works to get it "right".  Is there any wonder that children begin to dislike writing? How sad.

I continue to use another of Lucy's quotes: "You are teaching the writer, not the writing." Not sure anyone is listening. I also tell them if they teach one thing in the child's piece, they have done their job.  The child will make the other mistakes again, you don't have to teach all of the mistakes right now!

I feel the best thing we can teach is that the children believe they are writers!  So, let's hear it for approximation!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Slice of Life Day 27: I Love Young Writers!

The part of my job that I love the most is working with students as the work to write books. Today I visited a first grade classroom to support a teacher as she was struggling to implement her writing workshop. As a district coach with my expertise being writing, I get to visit lots of workshops.  Today's group was working on All About books.

I watched the mini lesson as the teacher and kiddos put together a Fun Facts page for their class book. The teacher sent them off to work with the challenge to write their own Fun Facts page if that was where they were with their own books. They all rushed back to their seats and began their books.

One little girl right in front of me didn't have a book. She simply sat there watching as the others began writing. Finally, the teacher got her a piece of paper and told her to make her list of things she knew a lot about. She worked on that for a few minutes taking time to grab a word from the class word wall. After a few minutes she had talked to the teacher and made up her mind about what her book was going to be about. She sat and wrote four words on her paper, looked up at me and smiled.

I couldn't help it. I motioned for her to come show me what she had written.  It was four words about a dog..."black and white dogs are fun".  I asked if she could sketch a dog. She went to her desk and took out her crayons. I knew that would take away from the actual "story" so I shook my head and said just draw. So she sketched two dogs and brought it to me.  I asked her to tell me about the parts of the dog. She told me about the face, legs and tail. I drew a line beside where she had pointed. She went back and added the words to the pictures...labeling. My next question was: What do dogs eat, I wonder? She said, "Dog food." and rushed back to add that to the 'story'.

I just love watching kids realize they can write just like everyone else. She became a writer today! And the good  news is, I get to go back on Thursday!!!!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Slice of Life Day 26: Good Writers Read

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

— Stephen King

Reading and writing just go together. If you want to be a good writer: read.  If you want to be a good reader: write. I remember hearing first grade teachers say: "FIrst graders can't write." Then we started doing writer's workshop. All of a sudden, not only could first graders write, they even became better readers!

One of my favorite units of study is Authors as Mentors. In that unit the students ultimately find their own mentor writers. After studying various authors all year and learning about their "fingerprints" on their writing, those young writers began modeling their craft from those writers.

Looking back over the images of past high stack tests I can tell who those writers had as their mentors. It is awesome to be able to know who those writers had as their writing teachers through the year.

So again, if you want to become a good writer....READ!!!!


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Slice of Life Day 25: Spring Break Hurry Up!!

Six days until Spring Break! I am so emotionally ready for this break. Being a district coach for a district with thirty-three elementary schools, is an amazing job. Still, it can be a bit overwhelming at times and these are the times! I am ready for the break, and yet I am not ready.

A week from today we are going to be flying out to Arizona. I am excited to see that land of the sun again. We have all kinds of things planned to do and see. We are staying in Tempe at a hotel where we have been before. We love this place because it is within walking distance of ASU. We walk the campus every day and hit the local stores. But we have other destinations in the area planned to visit also. So, in that way...I am ready.

The problem is: I am not ready physically.  Oh, I am ready for the walks.  I am ready to climb those mountains. I am ready to hike to the nearby stores. BUT, I am not ready as in packed, cleaned, or gotten Dave, our golden retriever, ready. I have so much to do, all with a week of teaching/coaching to do. Every night this week I have an appointment or assignment to do.

Dave does have his doggy-sitter ready to go. She is amazing and more than ready to spend the week with him. I do have new luggage to pack. I still have to figure out what I am going to wear, what to take to read, what exactly am I going to take with me? 

Still, I am VERY ready to get to that warm weather and relaxing atmosphere. Ok, Spring Break, let's hurry and get here!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Slice of Life Day 24: Building Writing Muscle

“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.”

— Jane Yolen

This was the quote posted on the blog of Two Writing Teachers, the host of this month's challenge.  I like it, so I decided to blog from it today.I really like the part: "Writers are like ...athletes."

I am now a part time runner. I have been a marathoner, a track and field coach, a cross country coach. I know what daily exercise means to the athlete. When i was training for the long 26.2 mile race, I ran almost every day. I would take a day off to rest the muscles, but not much more than that and I would be redoing what I had worked toward instead of resting it. I would build my stamina week by week.

That is what it is like for writers, too.  I had not thought of that. With this challenge I have written every day. I can now look back after 24 days and see that the writing process is getting easier.  My blogs are getting longer (if I have the time to write them long). I find myself thinking about what I will write today. Things pop out that never did before. I am looking at things with fresh, new eyes. I look at things as a writer.

After running a marathon I usually rest up for several days to allow my muscles to recoup. It takes me awhile to get back to the distance I was running before the race. However, it does come back. By writing every day for this month, I don't want to lose my writing muscle. I  may not write absolutely EVERY day when March ends, but I will write more days than not write.  I don't want my writing muscle to go away. I want to continue building my stamina!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Slice of Life Day 23: Another GREAT Reason to Retire

If you have been following my blog, you know that after 43 years of teaching I have finally decided to retire! I know it is the right time.  I am not sure what will come next. I have cleaned a corner of the basement for reading and writing.  I have books boxed up to take to classrooms. I am cleaning out file folders and desk drawers. It is feeling great to unclutter my life. I am still reading professional books and articles. That probably will never end, it is just a part of me.

One of the reasons I want to retire is to have more time to work out. My husband and I walk with Dave, our golden retriever, every morning and again at night. We have a work out room in the basement where we do weights and workout routines from videos. But, I want to walk in the middle of the afternoon. I want to get back to running without having to head right to bed afterward. I want to get the bike back down and go for those long bike rides again. Yes, exercising like I want, is a reason to retire.

I also want to be able to travel. I absolutely LOVE New York City!  I love the theater. I love walking the Brooklyn Bridge. I love shopping in Manhattan. I love Central Park. I want to be able to visit that great city more often. We have been planning a trip to Hawaii for a  long time. That is going to take a long vacation...now I will be able to do that. I have past students all over the USA and would love to visit them! So, traveling is a reason to retire.

Playing and being with Dave is a very important reason to retire. I want to take more walks, play more ball, and cuddle on cold rainy days. I want to take him to agility. I want to go to the state park in the fall and walk the trails.  Not sure Dave is so excited about my retiring, but that is a reason to retire.

However, today I have the best reason of all to retire. We got a peek at our newest grandchild. It is just a "picture", but it is enough to get us excited. ANOTHER REASON TO RETIRE IS TO SPEND TIME WITH MY NEW GRAND DAUGHTER!!!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Slice of Life Day 22:Biker Chick is BACK!


The weather here in Indiana has been unseasonably warm.  In fact, it has been about 30 degrees warmer than normal. We feel like we are in the middle of June instead of the end of March. Our trees are turning a light shade of green.  Our flowers are budding and I have even seen some dandelions. 

My husband decided to get the lawn fertilized before it rains tomorrow...or at least they are calling for rain. He was out there about half an hour walking the lawn with the spreader. I stayed in the basement doing my exercise routine. Before I knew it, he called me to come outside.

I went out and there it was. I had been hinting casually over the last few really nice days, but I didn't think it would happen before at least May. I was rather surprised. A smile spread across my face. I went in and changed into a heavier t-shirt and rushed back outside.

Time for the first Harley ride of the year.  Biker-chick is BACK!  YEAH!!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Slice of Life Day 21: TIPS FOR RETIREMENT!

Today we went to lunch with a friend who retired last year.  We asked her to give us some tips for retirement.  With those tips, I decided to collect more tips from things others have told me when they find out I am retiring this year.  Here are TEN tips that I have collected. 

  1. Don't commit to anything the first year.
  2. Remember, summer doesn't end in August.
  3. Read whatever you want!
  4. Don't do anything you don't want to do.
  5. Life is short, play with your dog.
  6. Write, write, write!
  7. Spend time with the grand kids.
  8. Make memories.
  9. Collect your stories.
  10. Enjoy every moment doing whatever you want!
 If you have more for me, add them to your comment!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Slice of Life Day 20: What is YOUR Legacy?

When speaking about his grandfather, Ray Bradbury says, "It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”  

I have been thinking about legacy lately.  This quote from Ray Bradbury makes me stop and think.  As I am leaving a career of 43 years, I wonder what my legacy will be.  I like the way he says, 'so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away.'

When I leave in June, will there be change that I made when I take my hands away? I know I brought the pure writer's workshop to many teachers.  I know I have touched the future as I work on the new writing curriculum with the Common Core State Standards for grades K-5. Still, did I do enough touching?

I remember last year working with some 8th grade students with their reading and writing. It was wonderful watching someone who thought she hated reading get caught up in a book and continue to ask me questions about the main character. I'll never forget when secbond grade Eric looked up at his teacher and me, his coach, and said, "I'm not just Eric the Artist any more, now I'm Eric the writer." 

I will continue for the next 48 days to think about the legacy I am leaving when I leave teaching. But even more than that, I want to start thinking about the legacy I will leave when my days are completely done!


Monday, March 19, 2012

Slice of Life Day 19: I'm a Morning Person, Or Am I?

I'm a morning person. I was raised that way. My mother would tell me the story of when I was very young and we lived with my grandparents. My grandfather was an early riser. He would be up by 4:00 a.m. fixing his breakfast and getting ready for his day. When he woke up, I would wake up. My habits were forming.

Today I was up, as usual on a school day, at 5:15 so I could go for our two-mile walk with Dave, our golden retriever. The rest of the morning took shape with all my usual routines. I gathered my purse, bookbag and water bottle and headed for the car by 6:50, to make the 35 minute trip to work. Getting into the car I fastened my seat belt, laid my cell phone beside me, and turned on the car.

I arrived at the parking lot in plenty of time, so I decided to check my phone for missed calls or new email. When I picked up the phone, I had a big surprise. It wasn't my phone...it was my husband's. Since his cell phone and his business phone are the same thing, I knew he would be frantically searching for it. I figured I had picked up his phone by mistake and mine was probably there on the counter where his usually laid. So, I called my phone number.

The next thing I knew, I heard the ring from my cell phone...which was beside me in my purse! Now remember, his cell phone is his work phone! My frantic hope was that he had not left for work, but was still at home looking for his phone. I now called our home number.

When he answered, I asked, "Do you know where your phone is?" He said, "It's in the kitchen on the counter where I left it."

"No," I assured him, "its in my purse!" I further informed him that I had BOTH phones! Yes, he had to drive the 35 minutes to come and retrieve his phone so he could conduct his business day!

Sometimes, we think we know how our day is going to play out, and then it changes in an instant!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sllice of Life Day 18: What is This Chapter of Your Life Called?

As I was driving to church this morning with the radio on,  I heard the d.j. say: "So, what chapter of your life are you on?  What would you title this chapter?" Made me stop and think! He continued on by challenging his listeners to contemplate this question.  As we move through life, some parts are just naturally obvious like: Growing Up Years or Newly Married Years or Frantic Family Years.  But, I had to stop and think about what chapter I was on and what I would title it.

I know I am finishing my 43 year career as a teacher.  I know I am in the middle of thinking about what I am going to do next.  I know I am not only a mom but now a grandmother of 11 (almost 12).  But, what chapter is this?

I would lean toward the ending of a career because that will be happening in just 50 school days. That is what has caused me the most concern lately. I have been doing a lot of reflecting.  I look at what teaching was like 43 years ago. I remember how we met as teachers after school in one of the classrooms and discussed if women should be allowed to wear pants to school. I remember when students would get 15 minutes for recess in the morning and afternoon and a half hour after lunch. I remember not starting school until after Labor Day and being done after Memorial Day. It's good to reflect.  So, should I call this chapter: The Reflecting Years?

The other thing that is big on my mind is trying to decide what I want to do next.  This fall will be the first time in about sixty years that I have not done the "back-to-school" thing. What will I do instead? One of my already retired friends told me, "Summer doesn't end the first of August." Wow, that was a startling thought.  It doesn't? I can continue to finish whatever book I am reading out by the pool.  I can continue to take long walks in the early afternoon. I can even take a nap! But, I might want to help some of my teacher friends every once in a while with their kiddos.  I might want to continue to help with curriculum every once in a while. I might want to just play with my grandkids! So, should I call this chapter: What's Next Years?

In our sermon today from James 4:13-17, one of the topic-questions was: How should I live?  The answer was: I should do good in this world...and be prepared for the NEXT.  I guess, whatever I am doing right now and whatever I decide to do next, that should be my motto: Do good in the world and prepare for the next.

So, what are you going to title this chapter in your life?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Slice of Life Day 17: Sorting Through 43 Years of Teaching

One of the chores I am facing now that I have decided to retire after 43 years of teaching, is to get rid of excess "stuff".  That not only includes all those files with loads of papers that I have saved, but also books: both trade books and professional books.  When you are a teacher, I think you are just naturally a "keeper".  You just never know when you might need a book, a lesson, or some information from a conference.  So, you keep it all...filed away on one of many bookshelves.

My first attack was with the bookshelves.  I went through them and made piles: keep/give away.  I know I should give away more than I put in that pile, but I will continue to purge as the retirement day gets closer.  I then put the give away pile into two piles: primary and upper.  I have a box of each now.  I will give them to some starting teacher who will love them and share them and allow the kiddos to read and read and read them.

The next attack for today was the boxes of papers: some in files, some not! There were curriculum maps, curriculum guides, ISTEP prep lessons, all of which are way out of date, especially with the CCSS coming on our doorsteps. I found student writing.  I found old mini lesson plans. I found transparancies of graphic organizers.  I even found an obituary for my mom's cousin...how did that get in there?

I have many more hours of sorting and organizing to do, but it was rewarding to get started today. When I am done, I will have a space for my future writing/reading time! I have dreams about how it is going to look when I am done with all this sorting!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Slice of Life Day 16: How Do You Pick a Title?

One of the hardest parts of writing, in my opinion, is picking out a topic. At times, the topic just comes to me. It is something that I have been doing, or something I have been thinking about or something I have read that inspires me.  But when none of that happens, it is tough just coming up with that just right topic.

This week I have been working with my coaching team to come up with how to help teachers next year work with the new Common Core State Standards writing curriculum.  We know we have to increase the rigor for students.  Still, one of the toughest lessons for students is to pick a topic within the genre they are studying.  So, if that is such a difficult task for adults, how to we help children handle it?

Again and again we say: "As a teacher, whatever you are asking your students to do, you have to also do."  The other advice is: "Model, model, model!"  We can't be afraid to show our students that we, too, have those struggles.  By sharing our struggles students will be more comfortable taking risks and feel safe in their community of writers when they do.

Okay, for me not having any idea what I was going to write about tonight, going "cold" came out pretty good!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Slice of Life Day 15: Street Corner Symphony

After a wonderful sunny 77 degree day, we had a busy night.  We went to Hicksville, OH to have supper with one of our favorite people.  We had the most delicious meal and then took off for a concert at the magnificent Huber Theater.  Just to enter the theater and sit looking at the historical building is enough to keep a person in awe.

We then were entertained by the group: Street Corner Symphony.  The members of Street Corner Syphony are from all over the southeast US and are proud to call Nashville, TN their home base. The group swas formed in May of 2010 for the sole purpose of entering the Sing Off, and after many weeks of hard work, they won second place.  While Street Corner Symphony offers a diverse repertoire, the group has a rich heritage in gospel music. Three of the members are grandsons of the legendary southern gospel tenor Bill Shaw of "The Blackwood Brothers."

The music kept us entertained all night.  We couldn't get enough of their unique way of performing. This is the last of the Huber Series we have been attending this school year.  It really was the best of the series in  my opinion and the perfect way to end the season. Check these guys out at www.streetcornersymphony.org 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Slice of Life Day 14: My New Best Friend

Almost everyone has a best friend.  Someone they love to spend time with, telling secrets to, share things with. Someone who is so special you know your life is better just by having that them as a friend!  I got my new best friend just 2 1/2 years ago.  His  name is Dave!

No, it is not my husband...although he really is my very best friend.  Or my son...who I love dearly.  It is a big, loveable golden retriever.  When we lost our last golden, we thought we would never find another one we could love as much.  Then we got Dave.  I can't say we love him more, but just in a different way.

We spend as much time as possible with him.  He is my faithful walking partner.  We walk two miles every morning and every evening.  In the summer we add another four miles to that routine in the afternoon.  We have games we enjoy, like "find it", rope pull, catch the ball and tag.  He listens to my stories about school.  He is the best cuddle puppy you could ask for, too. 

Before we got him, my husband was sure he did not want another dog.  It just hurt too much when we lost one.  However, I kept up the persuasive treatment.  I told him if we got a dog, he could name him.  My husband thought he had me then.  He said, "Okay, we will call him Dave."  He thought I would say, "No way!"  Then we would not get a dog.  Little did he know that I could care less what we called him...I just wanted a dog!!!  So we found our puppy and named him Tucker's Star of David, (his father's name was Tucker).  He became our Dave.  It is the perfect name for him. The perfect name for my new best friend!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Slice of Life Day 13: Is It Really Spring?

Today it was 70 in northern Indiana.  That is unheard of in March!  We are used to having our last snow storms the first weeks in March  during our March-madness basketball tourneys.  I am all in favor of the warm spring weather.

Tonight we took our usual two-mile walk around our neighborhood with Dave, our golden retreiver.  We have been wearing two pairs of pants, a sweatshirt, a hoodie and another heavy winter coat over that.  Tonight we wore light pants and thin shirts...that's it!  So much  nicer than pulling on all those clothes. 

The neighbors were out in their yards.  Young kids were playing basketball in the driveways. We met other walkers walking their dogs, too.  We saw some who were jogging in shorts and t-shirts.  Little kids were playing with balls and toys outside their garages. Boys whizzed by us on bikes. 

The sun was shining.  The air was warm. The flowers are peeking their leaves out of the ground to see if it really is warm enough to come all the way out. I can hear the birds singing even in the early morning darkness.  If this isn't spring, it sure is a bad joke!!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Slice of Life Day 12: Spring Forward



It's time for the Time Change again this year.  The annual "spring forward" is here.  I am  not a fan of the Time Change.  I am not the type person who resists 'any' change. After all, my word of the year is: flexible.  I am open to doing things in a different, out-of-the-box sort os way.  But, please, don't take my newly lit mornings away from me already!

I know the nights will be light longer.  I know I will fit in that extra walk with Dave, my golden retriever.  I know I will get more done at night just because it has fooled me into thinking it is earlier than it is.  But...

The mornings!!!!  I leave home before 7:00 and it is DARK.  There doesn't even seem to be the promise of light yet at that hour.  When I make it to my destination, it is a little lighter, but not enough.  Just last week I could hear the birds as I walked to my car in the morning.  Just last week I could actually SEE the sun as I walked into the building.  Just last week it seemed that spring was just around the corner.  Don't take my glorious bright mornings from me already!

Everyone says that after Spring Break, it will be light in the morning again.  That's what they say.  But right now, that doesn't help.  It is still very dark as I drive into the big city.  It is very dark when I travel that long highway.  It is very dark when I begin my day.  Hurry up spring!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Slice of Life Day 11: My Special Word




For my Slice of Life piece today, I am going to write about my Word of the Year. It is the word that I find that I need to use over and over and over. The word is flexibility. It seems I use that word in all woalks of my life. At home, I have to be flexible when dealing with my golden retriever, Dave. His schedule and my schedule do not always run on the same wave length. He wants to go out and I want to get some work done inside. He wants a treat and I am busy fixing supper. He wants to go to bed and I still have loads of work to do. I guess we both use flexibility on that one.

I use flexibility at work, too. It never fails that when I have my weekly schedule all set and it looks like everything is going to work smoothly, someone emails and wants to cancel or add another visit. When I have a professional develpment session all prepared, that's when for some reasong it gets cancelled.

For all those reasons, that is why I made flexibility my word of the year. Hopefully, by the end of the year I will be ready to choose another word because I have mastered this one!























































































































































































































































































































































Sunday, March 11, 2012


Slice of Life Day 11: My Special Word



















































































































For my Slice of Life piece today, I am going to write about my Word of the Year. It is the word that I find that I need to use over and over and over. The word is flexibility. It seems I use that word in all woalks of my life. At home, I have to be flexible when dealing with my golden retriever, Dave. His schedule and my schedule do not always run on the same wave length. He wants to go out and I want to get some work done inside. He wants a treat and I am busy fixing supper. He wants to go to bed and I still have loads of work to do. I guess we both use flexibility on that one.

I use flexibility at work, too. It never fails that when I have my weekly schedule all set and it looks like everything is going to work smoothly, someone emails and wants to cancel or add another visit. When I have a professional develpment session all prepared, that's when for some reasong it gets cancelled.

For all those reasons, that is why I made flexibility my word of the year. Hopefully, by the end of the year I will be ready to choose another word because I have mastered this one!












































Saturday, March 10, 2012

Slice of Life Day Ten: Kindergarteners CAN write!

For my Slice of Life pieces, I am writing memories of my 43 years of teaching.  This spring, I am planning on retiring, so this is a perfect way for me to collect my stories from all those years.  Many of the years were spent in Douglasville, what I called my second grade classroom, so that is what many of the stories are about.

The piece I am sharing today came from a journal entry that I found about being a district coach and realizing that many people felt that kindergarten children were too young to actually "write".  I knew that wasn't true.  Today's blog is that journal entry from 2009.

The unit of study for kindergarten in our district this month is: Authors as Mentors.  Here's how I look at that: pick an author and become familiar with that work.  What does the authhor do that I could try in my writing? Sound too difficult for a small child just learning letters and sounds?

In Mrs. B's classroom this week we started letting Ezra Jack Keats be our writing teacher. I found some pictures of him and placed them on our chart. I then showed the class six-seven of his books. Some they had seen. Some they had heard.  We read The Snowy Day. It was perfect for the weather we were having. Then we discussed what he did in the book that they could try.  They came up with:
He wrote the words AND drew the pictures; He wrote lots of words on the same page; He wrote few words on some pages; He wrote about what he knew.

We put a picture of the book cover on the chart and listed our finding next to it. Then we wrote. Our conference question was: What are you doing today that is like Ezra Jack Keats? They knew. At sharing time we simply gave a thumbs-up if we did one of the items on our list.

Next day, we reviewed and then read Whistle For Willie and made another list. We put the picture of the cover on our chart. We found ellipsis. We found the same character: Peter!  Then we wrote...Matthew wrote "Chapter Two" on the front of his book. It was about him and his dad playing an alien game. Garrett had on the front cover of his book---illustrated by Garrett.  Tabby had a page with this: Tabby said, "I want to go with you." Yes, punctuated correctly.

Now, you really want to tell me kindergarteners can't write? Don't tell that to Mrs. B's class!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Slice of Life Day Nine: Breakfasts in Douglasville

For my Slice of Life pieces this year, I am writing about my 43 years of teaching.  I thought this would be a great way to keep my memories and stories. 

While teaching second grade I had decided to call our classroom Douglasville to promote the idea of community and bonding.  One of the units of study that we had every fall, was the Food Groups.  This was part of the Health unit, but we incorporated reading, writing and science into the unit. 

We would go on many field trips during this unit of study.  We would always visit an apple orchard in our community.  We had wagon rides through the orchard, made apple cider and of course got to take home an apple.  We used to visit Kellogg's in Battle Creek, Michigan for years.  It was great to walk through the factory and see exactly how they made corn flakes. We all got to take home a box of our favorite cereal. 

We sometimes went to a pickle factory where we saw the vats that kept the pickles. At the end of our tour there, we would all get a big jar of pickles.  A few times we went to visit Atz ice cream and took a tour of the factory to see how ice cream was made. We also went to Seiferts' potato chip factory a took a tour there, too.  We even got to see the famous chips that seemed to look like famous people.  The lady from Fort Wayne who collected them even got to be on the Tonight Show.

After studying the many types of food, we would plan to have a breakfast at school.  Everyone had a job to do for the breakfast.  Then one day we would have toast, cereal, orange juice and milk.  The smells of this food would rush down the halls making everyone else in the building jealous of our feast.  What a perfect way to study health!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Slice of Life Day Eight: Books We Loved

My Slice of Life pieces are written around the memories I have of my 43 years of teaching. I am retiring this year and I thought this would be a great way to collect my stories!

Being a Reading and Writing classroom, we enjoyed using mentor text in our writing. Every year we would study certain authors.  They were authors that would touch the lives of my second graders.  We did author studies starting with the first day of school and by the end of the year, each student had their own author that became their personal mentor.

On Day One of the school year, we would read Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. That began a study of our own names, where they came from and why we were given our names. The rest of that month we would study Kevin Henkes. I would do a read aloud and we would discuss the traits of writing and if the author was also the illustrator, we would talk about those traits, too.  We would then chart what we discovered. We called the chart: The Fingerprints of______.  Each day they would write a response to the read aloud book. During Independent Reading time, they would also read books by that author. At the end of the month we would do an activity where they would name a title of one of the author's books and then prove how we knew it was his book.  These second grade writers would then write like the author....standing on the shoulders of the author, as Katie Wood Ray says.

Each month we studied another author.  Some of the authors we used were: Patricia Pollacco, Cynthia Rylant, and Tomie dePaolo.  At the end of the year, each student had their own fingerprints which we could also pick out because we knew each other as authors so well. 

I think this was a favorite part of Douglasville, the name of our second grade classroom, for me!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Slice of Life Day Seven: How I Began With All Write!!!

For my Slice of Life pieces I am writing about my 43 years of teaching.  Since I am retiring this Spring, I thought this would be a wonderful way to collect my teaching stories!

It all started on a warm October Saturday. The kind of day that you know isn't going to last very much longer with the winter just around the corner.  That is the day that I made the decision to travel to a neighboring city and be part of a group of teachers listening to Ralph Fletcher talk about writing.  We listened, we wrote, we shared.  Then the people who put this together gave us a challenge.  They were looking for 20 educators who would like to be part of a project that would train them to be able to teach writing.  They would be trained throughout the school year, a couple days a month, by JoAnn Portalupi...Ralph's wife.

I couldn't wait to get home and fill out the application.  I couldn't wait to get to school the following Monday to get permission to send it in.  I couldn't wait to be part of the 20 educators. 

That did happen.  We gathered together on an icy January evening along with the coordinators of the program.  We were 20 promising writing teachers who were the original All Write!!! group.  We met with JoAnn in a nearby school and watched her weave her magic in two different classrooms.  We were hooked!

I went back to my second graders and told them, "Guess what!  We are going to write differently...no more prompts.  You get to write what you want and I will talk to you about your writing work."  They cheered.  Yes, cheered!  I had thought they loved to write the way we had been doing.  "Not really, Mrs. Douglas." they told me.  So we started writer's workshop.  I continued to learn from JoAnn and my new friends.  Then I was able to learn from Carl Anderson and Penny Kittle and Katie Wood Ray and Jeff Anderson and...

How blessed I have been to find my love of writing through these amazing teacher friends and national consultants!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Slice of Life Day Six: The Tie-Dyed Sky


For my Slice of Life pieces, I will be writing about Douglasville, what I called my second grade
classroom.  Since I am retiring after 43 years of teaching, I thought this would be a great way to collect my stories.

Today I am going to share one of the pieces written by one of the former Douglasville citizens.  One morning Jordan was riding to school with his mother.  He looked out at the sky and commented about how different it looked.  He decided he would then write about it because he knew that writers see things with fresh new eyes.  Jordan is now a senior in high school.  Here's his piece: Tie-Dyed Sky.  Thanks, Jordan!

Have you ever seen the sky when it was pink
then tie-dyed blue, then pink again?
I have.
This morning November 20, 2002
Well, it all started when I was riding to school.
I saw it sitting up in the sky with a big light shining down at me.
It looked so cool,
so peaceful
and I thought maybe it was a sign that
a marvelous day was right in front of me.
So, when you see a kind of sunrise like I did,
then be happy.
A great day might be right in front of your nose!