Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Personal Essays

We're in full swing of our first writing project, Personal Essays.  They're going well and I'm super impressed with the writers in my classroom this year.  We have topics ranging from "My mom has taught me how to care for others," to "Even though moving is hard, it can also be exciting," to "Football has shown me how to have teamwork and responsibility."  I'm loving the one on one conferences I've gotten to have so far with my writers on their various topics.

For mini lessons, we've been working on a series of structure/ drafting lessons.  I'm pumped to be sharing them on TpT.  Check them out and let me know what you think!

Not the prettiest wall chart....but good stuff the students discovered after reading sample essays.

 What are your students writing these days?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Treasured Books

I finally got around to a project I've wanted to do for years. Meet my "Treasured Book" treasure chest ($10 on sale at Hobby Lobby). This is where I'm keeping any book we read-aloud as a shared text. It will be growing all year as we explore more books together.

The hope is that I'll have a collection of books, characters, settings, etc. to readily reference during reading workshop or student conferences. It's already been fun to see students selecting a book to revisit from it during independent reading time. (We can't seem to get enough "Scaredy Squirrel!") This weekend I helped make it official with my fancy ribbon n' rhinestone tag!

Sunday, September 16, 2012


We are so blessed to be gearing up for a visit from the wonderful author of the book Rules, Cynthia Lord.  Have you read it?  I highly recommend this story of a girl named Catherine and her struggles with accepting and embracing her brother with autism. 

We just started reading it at school and are PUMPED to watch class community develop around the book's theme of acceptance and just as PUMPED to meet Cynthia Lord a month from today!

Our soon-to-be-BFF, Cindy
Co-worker shared this awesome article from "Cindy" (as we can officially call her after email exchanges).  It tells a little more about her writing and the influence raising her own daughter with autism provided.

Read more from Cindy's website here.  Can't wait to share more of the prep work that happens over the next month. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

Today was a Tuesday for meetings! They all went really well, but with so much distracting me from the business of actually teaching and no end in sight, it's always helpful to have points of light amidst the crazy. Like a great email to fill my bucket from ATP (Awesome Teaching Partner) or some really positive encouragement from several parents at Open House tonight.

Or even a great book. Right now I'm totally digging Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. Her sardonic, witty memoir has me closing the day with a smile at the crazy stuff of life when I read before bed. Highly recommend it (but NOT to share with kiddos or the faint of heart. Her dad was quite the inventive taxidermist I'll just say)!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Story People

My sister is a huge fan of Brian Andreas, the insightful poet/artist and creator of Story People. His work can be seen in many galleries and gift shops and also on his site here.

It's lovely and powerful and full of simple yet profound truths.  Today I've been thinking about Andreas' story "Listening for the Future."  It is speaking to me right now partly because sister is moving today and I always think of her in relation to Story People.  Mostly I'm thinking of it in relation to some of my students with autism this year.

{"Listening for the Future," Brian Andreas}
The world can be so full of noise.  My students with autism remind me to slow down and pay attention to all the details of life that often get overlooked.  The way a room smells, the way a crowd sounds, even the details of someone's outfit can be overwhelming and yet make life so interesting. 
Hmm...profound or cheesy?
I'll leave you with some other lovely Story People quotes that make me think of teaching for your viewing pleasure.  I hope your day gives you a moment or two to let the details of life surprise you.
{"Growing Fast," Brian Andreas} 
Open large picture
{"Laughter and Children," Brian Andreas}
Open large picture
{"Real Reason," Brian Andreas} 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Where Does Writing Hide?

The lovely Georgia Heard in her book Writing Towards Home, has a prompt called "Where Does Writing Hide."  She starts with with this poem:

Valentine for Ernest Mann
by Naomi Shihab Nye

You can't order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, "I'll take two"
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, "Here's my address,
write me a poem," deserves something in reply.
So I'll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn't understand why she was crying.
"I thought they had such beautiful eyes."
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.

Heard goes on to challenge writers to search for the places that writing hides for them.  To me, this remains one of my favorite beginning of the year writing prompts.  My students follow me on a search through and around our school as we create a list in our notebooks of places we found hidden writing. 

Then I have each student choose one line, record it on a post-it, and we each share out our one line.  The resulting wrap-around is a lovely poem in itself.
{sorry the title got cut off}
Check out these lines:
In the sparkle of the silver earring
in the warm bricks of my old school
in the white, cold, glowing snow*
in the fire of the blazing sun
in the soft, colorful feather of a peacock*
in the prickly feel of a cactus in flip flops
in the pages of a book

Hopefully we'll add to our lovely poem as the year goes.
*Editor's note- I have NO idea where my students saw snow or peacocks.  We've got some good imaginations!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Team T-shirt Remix

Every year our team creates a shirt to wear for field trips, assemblies, and special events like field day. And every year, I end up with one more t-shirt in the stack.

A few years ago I came up with the semi-brilliant idea (if I do say so myself) of up-cycling those shirts into a pillow. This solution is not only great for providing comfy cushions for independent reading times, but students also delight in seeing the names on the back of siblings, friends, or neighbors.

Today I worked on the latest edition that will go in the room tomorrow.

{Shirt design courtesy of Image Market}
Easy and cute (if I do say so myself).