Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Newspaper Generator

Tuning in to EdmodoCon today (it's a virtual conference put on by Edmodo...check it out here).

One teacher shared a quick and easy resource that looks really cool with lots of uses!

The Newspaper Generator creates a jpeg with your typed text that looks just like a front page! 


How cool!  I could see using it as a student project or even on an assessment!  Other ideas??

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Slice of Life Writing

One of my favorite parts of OWP classes is the time for pleasure writing.  It's such a good habit to get into, but always the first thing tossed to the side when life gets busy.  And yet, so important to practice as teachers of writing!

Here is a piece I wrote last week.  It still needs a little tweaking, but in the name of practicing what I preach, I thought I'd go ahead and share it.

One fateful day I was helping my students with independent reading projects.  Rachel B. came up and asked for help in cutting a box.  I grabbed an Exact-O knife to make the cut she wanted.  And promptly sliced into my left pointer finger. 
The pain was immediate.  And being in front of a classroom of students, I tried not to curse or cry or be too dramatic.  I walked over to the sink to wash it off and told one of the students to get our support ed.  When she came into the room, I told her to look at it for me, as I hadn’t yet been able to.  She took one look at my finger and wrapped it back up, telling me to go down to the nurse, she would watch my class. 
My students were so sweet as I left the room, telling me to be brave and that it would be okay.  C.C. even said, “Miss Sheets, I just got stitches and they didn’t hurt at all!  They’ll put this special goo on your finger to numb it and you’ll be good to go!”
            As soon as I got out into the hall, I dropped my brave fa├žade and cried my way all down to the nurse’s office.  I remember walking into her room, probably paying no mind to the actual students who were in there, and telling her I needed attention.  She took one look at it and said, “Yep, you need to go get stitches.” 
At which point I cried even harder.  When she asked who she could call to drive me to the hospital, I let out an inconsolable, “I don’t have any family in the area!” 
“That’s okay.  I’ll get a principal to take you,” she reassured.
After a few minutes of my pity party and with my finger wrapped up tighter than Fort Knox, I had calmed down enough to drive the two miles down the road to an Urgent Care.
I filled out the paper work, including the forms on workers’ comp (They didn’t have a box to check labeled, “I’m just a klutz!”), all the while holding my left hand in the air to stop the bleeding (which in my mind was I’m sure gushing out of me at a much faster rate than in reality).


The nurse took me back to the doctor surprisingly quickly and both were so incredibly kind and calm.  The doctor told me, “I want to do a really nice job with these stitches because that will be your ring hand some day.” 
To which I again wailed, “I’m never getting married!”

The best part was I got to go home right away and even got Chipotle on my way home.  And the next two days brought two snow cancellations!
            Which was great until I started getting emails from worried parents with traumatized children!  My favorite said, “Rachel is really worried about you after you cut your finger off.  Are you okay?”
            My sweet Rachel, not only am I okay (and even getting married after all), but I will never forget you!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Real Life Poetry

A few days ago a colleague sent me an awesome real world example of poetry, and Double Voice at that!! (Check out how I teach this form here). 

What do you think about sharing this with kiddos?  Is the wife in the bath towel too scandalous?!

Friday, July 25, 2014

What I Wish I Had Known...

This week ended my OWP Class.  I had such a good time learning alongside these teachers about literacy in our classrooms. 

To cap off the class, we had a writing marathon (read about it in my classroom here).  I was blown away by the pieces these teachers shared.  They were heartfelt and real and powerful and funny.  And it's always so nice to have time to be inspired to write and share with colleagues.

One of my favorite prompts was generated by a lovely teacher from the Dayton area.  She asked, "What is one thing you wish you had known when you started teaching?"  Below is my response.

One thing I wish I had known when I started teaching is how hard it would be.  I thought if I could get my classroom cute enough, and know my content, and get my lessons organized enough, everything would be okay. 

No one told me that often parents don’t follow through and maybe they don’t even really know how to be a parent.  And that colleagues don’t always agree and that other teachers can sometimes be really negative and sometimes you don’t have the energy to fight for what you believe in.  And the work just never ends.  And weekends and summer is a myth.  And the emails and calls keep coming and there will never be enough of me to go around.

But one thing I have realized is how great it is.  It’s the parents or students who tell you what a difference you made.  Or the light bulbs you see illuminate for the first time.  Or getting to not only tell, but show a kid just how much you believe in them.  Or getting to watch younger teachers grow in skill and confidence.  Or problem-solve with a team and really know the work you are doing is having an impact.  Going to work each day knowing I will never be bored, and even when I think, “Why am I here?,” I know my day was never wasted.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Q is for Duck

We're talking about vocabulary instruction today and, boy, do I have a fun book to share!  It's an oldy but a goody! 

Q is for Duck!

This simple alphabet book has a format that is adaptable to any grade or subject area.  Each page has a "riddle" to it to guess why that letter stands for that particular object.  For instance, G is for horse.  Why?  Because a horse gallops!


Can you guess why H is for owl?  Because an owl hoots!

And it's great for higher or lower students along with showing their understanding of word relationships.  (Could be good for instruction on word analogies, too!)

Here are some the teachers in my workshop course came up with for content they teach:
L is for rock, because rock is the lithosphere.
M is for water, because water moves.
D is for the Civil Rights Movement, because African Americans faced discrimination.
V is for algebraic expression, because the variable is what you're solving for.
S is for terrace farming because it looks like steps.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Online Portfolios

Thursday wrapped up the first week of my OWP Content Literacy class and meant hearing from a fabulous guest speaker, Betsy Woods.  Betsy was my coteacher last summer for our online Historical Perspectives class.  She teaches at Milford HS and is a wealth of knowledge...particularly when it comes to technology!  And she is OWP's new "Professional Coordinator."

She shared tons of great tech resources with us that are housed here in her online portfolio.  I am particularly excited for some possibilities with audio recording, both students and myself for student feedback.  I'll keep you posted as I try it out!

Does anyone else give audio feedback to their students?  How has it worked for you?

Friday, July 18, 2014

I'd like to thank the Academy...

FOREVER ago, sweet Holly gave my blog quite the honor, the Liebster and Sunshine Awards.  

The Liebster is really just a way to get to know small bloggers.  Liebster, in German, means endearing, valued, lovely, etc. The Sunshine Award is similar to the Liebster Award in the sense that you get to know small bloggers, but bloggers are nominated if someone feels that your blog brings a little more happiness into the world and you positively inspire others. 


I am so touched because I really love reading Holly's blog, Finding My Everyday Happy.  In it, she writes with such honesty about living and teaching with OCD and Anxiety.  Holly is an incredible teacher who blesses our ESL kiddos (and me!) in big ways every day. 

Liebster Award and Sunshine Awards Rules:

1. Tell us 11 facts about yourself.

2. Answer the questions that the tagger has asked of you.

3. Create 12 questions for those you want to nominate

4. Choose bloggers give this award to and link them in your post. This one I have seen people do many different numbers. Some nominate 5 people. Others nominate 11. You can see what I did below!

5. Go to their blog and let them know they've been nominated.

6. You may not nominate the person who nominated you.

So FINALLY, here is my response to Holly's questions! 

Eleven facts about me:
1. I consider my most embarrasing moment throwing up on the bus in seventh grade. All down the aisle.
2. I love, love, love lists, organization, planners, etc. I doubt there is a single person who knows me well that would be surprised by this statement.
3. My New Year's resolution was to learn how to make macarons.  I have only attempted it once, with much guidance and little success.  But the study of macaron eating baking has been a ton of fun.
4. One of my favorite movies of all time is Jurassic Park.
5. When I was little I wanted to have a different job every day of the week: dolphin trainer, skydiver, ballerina, teacher, and mom.

6. I have been skydiving (after deciding the night before to go) and would love to do it again.
7.  I have been white water rafting, spelunking, rappelling, and have run two marathons, but I still consider myself a wuss when it comes to sports. I hate jump roping and dodgeball. I am always the last girl standing there with all the balls on her side who is afraid to throw them because the boys will catch it and she will be out.

8. I have both my undergrad degree and masters from Miami University.  Man, I love that place.
9. I am getting married on Valentine's Day.  It's always been one of my favorite days of the year, even when I was a single gal.
10. With the exception of my first few months of life, I have always lived in Ohio.  When I was born, my parents lived in Michigan.
11. My sister and cousins and I have a secret language.  You can ask about it, but you will probably think I'm real weird (as if you don't already) when I explain it.

Here are the questions Holly asked me to answer.

1. What is your favorite go-to meal? Chicken and broccoli.  Or Chipotle.  
2. If you had a day to yourself, how would you spend it?  Waking up to coffee and a good book, going for a run, getting lunch with a group of friends, working in my garden, and maybe read some more by the pool.  Or going shopping!  
3. If you could describe yourself in three words, what would they be? This one is all of a sudden really hard... let's go with quirky, positive, and organized.  
4. What is one goal you have for the next month? Get my classroom ready.  
5. Why did you start blogging? Honestly?  I wanted a free pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies.  Ha ha!  Plus it helps me keep track of resources I have used and ideas.  And it's a great way to be a more reflective teacher.  
6. What is your favorite aspect about your chosen profession or something enjoy doing with your life? I love getting to be the first one to introduce students to a new idea, author, time period, etc.  It's so fun actually seeing those light bulbs go off and know I had a hand in it!  And I could hang out with 10-year-olds all day long.  They are my people.
7. If you could learn any language in the world, what would it be and why?  Hmm, maybe Spanish or Chinese because they seem so practical.  But really, I don't know when I would use them.  
8. If you won a dream vacation of your choice, where would you go?  Probably Australia and New Zealand.   
9. What are you reading/listening to right now? Do you have a favorite quote or lyric? I just started reading The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan.  Holly loaned it to me.  Her writing style is so fresh and memorable.  It's really been sticking with me.  
10. What is your best memory from the past week? Laughing with my fiance Brian.  
11. Is there anything that you dream of doing in your life? A must on your "life to do list"? I want to write a children's book.  
12. What are you grateful for today? Colleagues who inspire me. (I'm teaching a class this week and next for the Ohio Writing Project and there are some awesome teachers from all over the area in it!)

So here are my nominees!

My nominees for the Sunshine award are:
1. Liz at Life in Projects.  I love seeing what she's up to... it's always something new.
2. Lisa at Making Home Homemade.  She is a dear friend and talented designer.

My nominees for the Liebster award are:
1. Kathleen (my sister) at Presbydestrian: Presbyterianism on the Ground.  Her writing is just so dang fun to read.  Where'd she get all that talent?!
2. Janelle at Simply Love.  Her photography is amazing.  And I want to go to every one of the parties she has thrown.  It's been fun to reconnect with her (we were in the same undergrad education cohort) via blogging.
3. Chelsea at Endeavors of Innovative Teaching.  She is brand-spanking new at blogging and I am so excited to read more!

So those of you nominated should (if you would like to--please feel no obligation!!):
1) Link back to my blog
2) answer the questions below
3) nominate others for the award(s) you were nominated
4) write 12 questions that each has to answer.

1. What does your name mean?  What does it mean to you?  
2. What was the last thing you bought?  
3. What is your favorite summertime (or anytime) snack?  
4. What new skill do you wish you could learn?  
5. Why did you start blogging? (stole this one from Holly, but I really love it!)  
6. What is one of your favorite pieces of jewelry?  Why?  
7. What was your dream job when you were 10?  
8. What is your favorite hair or beauty product?  
9. What is your favorite font?  
10. What physical feature do you like best about yourself?  
11. What was your favorite book when you were a kid?  
12. What are you grateful for today? (Another one stolen from Holly)

Have fun, ladies!  Can't wait to read your responses!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Writing Prompts

This week I am teaching a class for the Ohio Writing Project on content-area literacy (more on that later).  I just love the energy I get from an OWP class.  It's such a wonderful time of thinking and reflecting and re-energizing my teaching.

One of the added bonuses (and a core tenet of the National Writing Project) is time for my own writing!  Here are some prompts that have been inspiring me to write:

Writing prompt

The Lil Journal Project Day 38 #artjournal #theliljournalprojectThe Lil Journal Project Day 12 via lilblueboo.comThe Lil Journal Project Day 37 #artjournal #theliljournalprojectThe Lil Journal Project Day 19 (Childhood Travels) via lilblueboo.comThe Lil Journal Project Day 3 (simple pleasures) via lilblueboo.comThe Lil Journal Project Day 32 via lilblueboo.comThe Lil Journal Project Day 10 (Heirlooms) via lilblueboo.comThe Lil Journal Project Day 16 (Mapping out where you've worked) via liblueboo.comwriting inspiration quotes | For Your Writing & Inspiration Daily: Quote + Prompt + Question ...
 And my own "Guarding your Benches" prompt.

In my classroom, I have a bin full of prompts generated by students over the years from our writing marathons.

I hope you've found time for some writing this summer!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Hardest Part of Teaching

Just read this powerful article from Peter Greene called, "The Hard Part."  Definitely worth a read, but here was the most powerful part for me:

Teaching is like painting a huge Victorian mansion. And you don't actually have enough paint. And when you get to some sections of the house it turns out the wood is a little rotten or not ready for the paint. And about every hour some supervisor comes around and asks you to get down off the ladder and explain why you aren't making faster progress. And some days the weather is terrible. So it takes all your art and skill and experience to do a job where the house still ends up looking good.

Here's to the amazing teachers I know who are giving all they can to make that house look good :)  You inspire me!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Summer Book Purchases

A few weeks ago I was at the Eric Carle Picture Book Museum in Amherst Massachusetts (AKA the BEST gift shop/bookstore ever).  I can never get out of there without buying at least a few new books.

This year I walked out with signed copies of two books I can't WAIT to use for our regions unit, both by Diane Siebert.

The first is Sierra.

The second is Heartland.  Both have beautiful illustrations and lovely, poetic text with great details!  They're just begging to be a mentor text!


I have Mojave already, so I'm excited to add more to my collection.

I added Mississippi to my wishlist!

Another great one for your consideration is Tour America: A Journey through Poems and Art, perfect for a regions study!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Guest Blogger Bette: OWP Take-Aways

I have hit the guest blogger jackpot! Chelsea was talking up my blog and another awesome Ohio Writing Project colleague asked to share her summer take-aways....uh, heck yeah! So without further ado, I will let Bette introduce herself! Thanks again, Bette (and Chelsea!)

Hi, my name is Bette Williams. I am a kindergarten teacher at Bogan Elementary. I have taught kindergarten for 15 years. I really enjoy writing activities in my classroom and try to combine the activity with a craft for a culminating activity as often as possible. I am currently in the Ohio Writer's Project 4 week summer session where I have met some amazing teachers and have been getting great ideas to  include in my writer's workshop this school year. Here are my thoughts for a kindergarten character study.

What you need: 
-Several different versions of the story Goldilocks and the Three Bears such as: Believe Me, Goldilocks Rocks by Nancy Loewen.
-A character web of Goldilocks using the traditional story.
-Several colors of construction paper, tissue paper, googly eyes , markers and glue.

1. Read the traditional story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Fill out the character web together as a class, brainstorming ideas as students copy responses onto individual papers (you can do this as a class, depending upon the time of year and student ability).

2. Read Believe Me, Goldilocks Rocks by Nancy Loewen.This story is a modern version of Goldilocks. She takes a dare from Red Riding Hood to visit the bears home while they are away. The kids will love how Goldilocks uses  her cell phone to take pictures as proof of her adventure. Discuss the difference in this view point. How is Goldilocks the same/different? 

3. Again brainstorm ideas for a character web of Goldilocks. How is this character web different? How is it the same?

4. Create a Goldilocks using the supplies listed above. Goldilocks should match the character web created. Is she a traditional Goldilocks or does she look more modern? Let the kids really experiment with this project. I have the basic shapes available, arms, legs, head and a trapezoid for the body. Students can change the body shape , and skin color, and add googly eyes.

Other books your students may enjoy:

Beware the Bears by Alan MacDonald

The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett

Yours Truly, Goldilocks by Alma Flor Ada (this text works for letter writing and is a great book to pair with upper class buddies. For example my class works with a third grade classroom.)

Common Core: I can statements
K.RL.1    I can ask and answer questions about what was read.
K.RL.2    I can retell a story.
K.RL.3    I can name the characters , setting , and events in a story.
K.RL.9    I can compare characters and events from different stories.
K.RI.9     I can compare two stories