Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Books and New Years (*and a give-away*)

*The give-away is now closed.  Congratulations to the winner...Abby!  I will message you with more information!  Thanks for the great recommendations.*

Christmas break so far has been a lovely respite from teaching and grading.  While I've enjoyed time with family most of all, I've also enjoyed time with Ida B. Applewood.  I highly recommend Ida B by Katherine Hannigan.  It's a charming narrative with loveable characters--perfect for snuggling up with coffee and my Christmas tree. 

My favorite scene is when Ida's teacher "tricks" her into opening up to the class by having her read a story aloud.  Ida can hardly contain herself because she loves the book so much.  After the read-aloud Ida says, "Nothing was different except the warm glow that was in my belly and my arms and my legs and my head and wouldn't go away.  Even on the long, cruddy bus ride home."  Don't you love a book that makes you feel that way?

I'm even more delighted to start another book by Katherine Hannigan soon.  In a happy coincidence, my cousin gave me True as a Christmas gift.  I think both of these would make excellent books on tape, by the way.

What have you been reading?  In the spirit of the season (and paying it forward from a give-away I just won from Liz at My Life in Projects), I will send a $10 Amazon gift card to one lucky reader who leaves a comment with a recommendation and mini-review of a recent read.  It doesn't even have to be teaching-related.  You have until Tuesday 1/1 at noon to enter!
*This contest now closed!*

In other news, have you made any 2013 resolutions yet?  I have decided to pay off a large library overdue fee...long story, but the gist is that my teacher account with automatic renewal privileges doesn't apply to DVDs!  Anyway, because I was so mortified at my fine I've been avoiding the library, which is just plain silly.  I have resolved to make 2013 the year of the library for me!

I'm also looking forward to some blogging plans in the works.  Coming up, a multi-part tour of my classroom.  I'm also trying to line up some guest bloggers soon.  My best wishes to you for 2013!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Autism Speaks Donation Total

Drumroll please... the moment you've all been waiting for!  Thanks to all who have donated to our fundraiser for Autism Speaks.  We officially raised $505! 

In an exciting twist, the Autism Speaks Board of Directors is doubling all donations made between now and December 31.  So... that means our little snowflake project turns into $1010 for an amazing cause.

I am thrilled to send a check to Autism Speaks in the next few days.  I even thought about getting a giant check printed (a la Michael Scott from The Office "Fun Run" epidode).

I am beyond humbled by the sucess of this project.  If you didn't get to order one, consider making your own donation here.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gifts of Writing

Every year at the holidays my students create gifts of writing.  I've done it ever since student teaching and have even made sure to practice what I preach each year.  (Mom says it's one the highlights of Christmas when she recieves hers!  Aw, shucks, Mom...)

It's a fun way to encourage creative, authentic writing.  Plus it's always a great way to get to know my students when I see what they want to capture as they write to loved ones.

This year, for some reason the trend in my afternoon class became writing parodies to popular songs about ME!  They were all hilarious, some more creative, others more awkward.  Here's a sampling....

This one is the ending of "Sheets Style," of course to the tune of "Gangnam Style."  (I'm a sucker for a student calling me 'funny.')

This one is to the tune of "Black and Yellow."  The sweet introvert that gave me this tune does an awesome job of performing it. 

I'm partial to the line about Kathleen's laugh.  They cracked up when I imitated it one time.

This one is to "Party Rock" and realllly long.  (Four pages!)  But I love it!

I haven't been able to obtain the rights to "She's Funny and She Knows it."  That's right, it's to the tune of "Sexy and I Know It."  By the way, what is the correct way to respond to a fifth grader performing THAT parody?  Laugh uncomfortably?  I thought so. 
Anyway, my favorite lines in that ditty go, "She walks in the room, a confident teacher staring back at me" and "She's got knowledge in her head and she ain't afraid to teach it, teach it, teach it."  Classic.
I crack up at this pic taken at today's pizza party... Wishing you and your special friends a very happy holidays and a wonderful (restful) break! 

Friday, December 14, 2012


I'm at a loss.

My normally cheery blogging seems superficial and insincere in the face of the events in Connecticut today.  I just keep thinking (and shuddering), "What would I do?"  We dutifully practice lock downs every year, but one can never be prepared.  What would I do?

This week has been a hard one in many ways, but today put so much of my grumbling in perspective.  And while we all struggle to process what happened today, I keep coming to two things that have brought any sense of hope.

One is this quote from Mr. Rogers, a man I greatly respect and admire for his work with talking to children about life. 

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers--so many caring people in this world.

What a wise man with a wise message.  Tragedy is incomprehensible, but we need to keep moving forward, looking to "the helpers."  We need to live life with a sense of gratitude for each moment.

The other is a song by Tenth Avenue North called "Worn."  It summarizes my feelings perfectly and the reminder that this world is so broken but there is hope and healing in heaven. 

Praying for all touched by this tragedy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Girls Being Girls

So I've started ANOTHER blog :)

All in the name of "Girls Being Girls," a group ATP #2 and I plus our AGC (Awesome Guidance Counselor) are starting for our sweet girls.  We'll be teaching strategies to be a good friend, have self-confidence, etc.  All to be the best girls we can be!

So check out the Girls Being Girls Blog to see what we're up to!

Here's a sneak peak for today...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"The Magic of Belle Isle"

Upon a recommendation from my dad, I watched the movie "The Magic of Belle Isle" recently.  I don't even remember hearing about this movie coming out, but I'm glad Dad shared it with me.

The movie stars Morgan Freeman as a former western-novel writer who is past his prime.  He moves to a remote town and befriends a woman and her three daughters.  One of the girls takes interest in him and asks that he mentor her in "Imagination Classes."  

There were some insightful quotes on writing and the creative process in general.  Some of my favorites:

If you can't tell me what you see, tell me what you don't see.

(In reference to his distaste for fantasy/ sci fi books)  You don't have to leave this planet to tell a good story.

I always felt like a book is a friend that does what no friend can do, stay quiet when you wanna think.

Frankly, the plot itself was nothing too original, but the characters were endearing and memorable.  Plus, I could listen to Morgan Freeman read from the dictionary.  I think I'll post a quote or two on the writer's inspiration board in my classroom.

*Note--not an appropriate movie for students in my opinion.  Freeman struggles with alcoholism at the beginning of the film.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Follow Up to 'Nurturing Young Writers'

Yesterday I met with a sweet student to work on poetry (and build her confidence along the way).

It was fun and a big encouragement to me. We ended up writing two poems and painting with watercolors. In the spirit of sharing, here is my poem. Still needs a little work, but I think I like where it's going.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Nurturing Young Writers (and Hearts!)

Next week I am meeting with a sweet student in need of a little extra encouragement.  She loves writing and especially poetry, so we're going to have a one-on-one poetry/writing/I-want-to-build-into-you time.  So, today I'm prepping for it.

Here are my musings so far:

-Read SARK and Brian Andraeas (Story People) and other inspiring writers together and talk about what their work means

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{All images copyrighted by SARK/Fireman}
-Write letters to ourselves about what we think we ROCK at
-Write poetry about what's on our hearts and how to channel anxiety we feel.  I may even share this SARK piece about money.  Even though it's not something she worries about, we can look at how SARK addresses a specific, legitimate concern and then finds ways to free herself from it.

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Has anyone done anything like this with a child in your life?  I'd love some advice or feedback.  I'll let you know how it goes!

**This post dedicated to Mrs. Wolford, my seventh grade writing teacher, who would always share little SARK quotes in books she had made special for me.  She was so encouraging to my insecure 7th-grade self.  Thanks, Mrs. Wolford!