Saturday, March 31, 2012

Slice of Life #31

For Slice #31, I'm going to sum up some things I have learned:
  • Keep writing, even when you don't want to.
  • Positive feedback is important for motivation.
  • It is easier to write about what you know (school and my kids).
  • Planning and thinking makes writing easier and better.
  • Being part of a "group" helps motivation.
  • I need to continue working on my writing.
  • Don't be afraid to try something new and take a few risks along the way.
  • It takes lots of practice.
  • I'm not the best, but I AM A WRITER!

Engaging Students in "Wonder" Using Melissa Stewart's Nonfiction Books

In preparing for the #Wonderchat Monday night, I have been thinking about the books (both fiction and nonfiction) I use in my second grade classroom that promote and engage students in wondering.  There is one series of nonfiction books that I have found this year to be a great addition to our "wondering".  The series is Why Are Animals....... by Melissa Stewart.  In total there are six books in the series.  Each book focuses on a color and why animals are that color.  In addition to using her books, she has a great website to encourage even more wondering.

One of my favorite books in Melissa Stewart's series is Why Are Animals Green?  From the first few pages, Melissa encourages children to to wonder by saying, "go outside and look outside" and "Can you think of some green animals that live near you?"  One example of a green animal given in the book, was the male mallard duck.  Melissa shares that the male's head is green so that it can be easily seen and attract a mate.  She also shares how the female mallard duck is entirely brown to hide from enemies while sitting on her eggs.  This ties in perfectly with Do Animals Play Hide and Seek? and how and why animals camouflage.

In addition to using these books to encourage "wonder" in my classroom, I also used them as a mentor text in writing a lead and an excellent example of organizing information during our nonfiction writing unit.

What books do you use to encourage and engage children and students in "wonder"?  Come share them Monday, April 2nd at 8:00 pm EST on Twitter.  Be sure to the hashtag #Wonderchat.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Slice of Life #30

Back on March 1st, I wasn't sure I would make it.  Here I am a day away from the finish line.  I have mixed emotions about the Slice 2012 ending.  I'm excited, saddened and appreciative.  I'm also so glad that I participated and continued throughout the entire journey.  I have learned some valuable lessons about myself as a writer (which will be my final Slice) that I can transfer to help my students in the classroom.  I'm amazed that I am surrounded by some awesome educators and writers.  Finally, I appreciate Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers for organizing this event.  I'm so glad I felt the nudge from Ruth at the Dublin Literacy Conference to join in.  Finally, thank you to everyone for reading my less than interesting posts, commenting and encouraging me to keep going! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

#Wonderchat on Twitter

On the first Monday in March, I hosted a #Wonderchat on Twitter to talk about how teachers are using Wonderopolis in the classroom to facilitate learning.  I will once again be hosting the chat this Monday, April 2nd at 8:00 pm EST.

The chat this Monday will focus on books that engage children in WONDERING.  So... be thinking about the books (both non-fiction and fiction) you use or could use and how those books engage students in wondering.  If you are new to the whole "wonder" thing, come join us for some ideas!  Looking forward to chatting this Monday at 8:00 pm EST.  Don't forget to use the hashtag #Wonderchat.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Student Created Holidays

The Wonder yesterday at Wonderopolis was, Why Aren't There More Holidays?  As part of the Wonder, Wonderopolis encouraged their audience to create a holiday.  We took a few minutes to write in our "Wonder Journals" what our holiday would be, why we would have that holiday and how the holiday would be celebrated.  My students were so excited to write about a holiday they created.  They had some awesome ideas and reasons for their holidays.  After having my students create a holiday, I began thinking that this would be a great lesson for persuasive writing.  What an authentic way to engage students in trying to persuade why a new holiday should be created. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Slice of Life #27

A Few Wonders I have Tonight....

I wonder how many people fly on an airplane in one day?
I wonder how many hours of t.v. are watched in the U.S. each day?
I wonder how many animals are out there that haven't been identified yet?
I wonder why children who are very blonde as children end up with darker hair as they grow older?
I wonder why student behaviors get worse the closer you get to a break?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Wonder Words - Library Mouse A Museum Adventure by Daniel Kirk

The class in front of the door we decorated with "Wonder Words" from Daniel Kirk's book.

In preparation for Daniel Kirk's visit this week at our school, each classroom  is decorating a door.  Most doors are being decorated around, "We Wonder....."  One teacher did, We Wonder where Daniel Kirk went to college?  Another class did, We Wonder what book Daniel Kirk will write next?  After reading Library Mouse A Museum Adventure, I decided we could carry over how we use Wonder Words each week with Wonderopolis to help decorate our door.  The class is familiar with choosing Wonder Words, so when we were finished reading the book, we brainstormed a list of Wonder Words.  After brainstorming the words and discussing their meaning, students put themselves into pairs.  Each pair chose a word and made a design showing the meaning of the word to display on our "Wonder Words" door display.  It was both a fun and educational way to decorate our door.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Slice of Life #25

Things I'm Looking Forward to Over my Spring Break:
  • Sleeping in
  • Finishing my final Capstone for my Masters
  • Taking and picking up my own two children from school
  • Visiting with friends
  • Finishing the book I started over Christmas break
  • Catching up on some much needed house cleaning
  • Having some free time
  • Exercising every day
  • Shopping

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Slice of Life #24

We went to see the long awaited Hunger Games today as a family.  The only family member that read the book was my daughter.  She told me last night she was more excited for today than she was the night before we left for Disney in January.  I guess she really enjoyed the book!
I didn't read the book because it just never seemed to interest me.  I was repeatedly told by many people that I would enjoy it, but the topic just didn't seem to appeal to me.  After seeing the movie, I think I will be reading the next two in the series.  I am a bit disappointed that I didn't listen to others who told me I should read it.  I wish I had....  The movie was excellent, but being an avid reader I know I would have enjoyed the book more.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Slice of Life #23

Another Real Life Writing Lesson Learned from Slice 2012

I've learned that writing every day sounds much easier than it really is.  I wonder, is this how my students feel some days?  After all, I expect them to write for about 20-30 minutes almost everyday.  Could I really sit and write for that long everyday?  After completing 2/3 of the Slice, I'm not sure if I could.  I have a new found perspective on how some of my students must feel.  The importance of talking, planning and thinking about writing have been confirmed through this experience.  Throughout my writing, I've wished that I had a colleague to talk through what I am writing.  In addition, some of my best Slices have come from taking the time to plan and think before writing.  I'm not sure how I can imbed this time naturally into my second grade class room, but look forward to figuring out how to give my students the needed time to talk, plan and think before they begin their writing.  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Slice of Life #22

The conversation on the car ride home from my kids' voice and guitar lessons:

Ben:  Hey Betsy, why don't you get your ears pierced?
Betsy:  Why don't you get your ears pierced?
Ben:  Because it would look unprofessional when I grow up and want to get a job.
Ben: So, why won't you get your ears pierced?
Betsy:  Because I don't want needles putting holes in my ears.  Would you want needles poking holes in your ears?
Ben:  It isn't that big of a deal.
Betsy:  So, you don't think getting a needle stuck in you is a big deal?
Ben:  No!
Betsy:  Then why don't you take a needle and put a hole in your finger.

Betsy refuses to get her ears pierced.  When she was five and I suggested we get her ears pierced for her birthday, she refused and said she would do it on her next birthday.  Five years later, her ears are still not pierced and she has no plans on getting them pierced.  Everyone has tried to convince her to do so, but she refuses!  I've learned there is no convincing Betsy to do something she has her mind set against.  One day she may be ready!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Night of Wonder - Family Literacy Night

The theme for our Family Literacy Night was, "A Night of Wonder".  Each participating teacher picked a Wonder from Wonderopolis, or something they wondered about and chose activities to go with that Wonder.  All but one teacher chose an existing Wonder.  The event was open to all PreK-2 families, thus the activities had to accommodate students from different age groups.  The activities also had to be open ended and need little direction because families came and went at their own pace.  For each Wonder a child completed, they earned a ticket to put in a bin for a chance to win a grade level Wonder Jar.

An agenda for A Night of Wonder was handed out as families entered so they knew what the Wonders were and where to go.  We had about 110-120 families participate in an hour and a half event.  I can't think of a better way for families to spend an evening, interacting, learning and wondering!  It is a fun, non-threatening way to encourage parental involvement.  

Below are the Wonders and activities that each teacher planned:

#207 What do You Want to be When You Grow Up?
The teacher for this activity had dress up clothes for the children to "try on" some different professions.  She also had different versions of the Three Little Pigs on hand with marshmallows and toothpicks for children to try being a builder/architect/engineer.

This kindergarten teacher even dressed up as "Mother Goose".  Her activities included having the children make their own "Mother Goose"mini-book and reading nursery rhymes.

Our school Book Fair had a great Optical Illusion book.  The teacher took the book apart and laminated all of the "optical illusions".  She also put some copied optical illusions in plastic sleeves.  The students were able to take apart a plastic version of the eye.

#260 Do Birds Really Get Angry?
Our preschool teacher has her own pet birds.  She brought in two of them for students to meet during Literacy Night.  Her room was a real "tweet".  Besides petting the birds, kids got to see some real bird artifacts including feathers and eggs and read information about birds.

#342 Do Animals Play Hide and Seek?
Students got to make a butterfly and see which scene it was most camouflage in.  They watched the video provided by Wonderopolis and were able to learn more about camouflage and disguises in books and magazines.

#352 Where is the Tallest Waterfall?
The first grade teacher had all kinds of information about Niagara Falls for students to explore.  Sticking with the water theme, students were able to experiment with common items to see if they would sink or float.

#359 What is a Scavenger Hunt?
A "Wonder Word" was chosen to go with each Wonder and printed on green construction paper.  For each "Wonder Word" students had to find a certain letter in the word and write it in that Wonder's spot.  When they collected all thirteen letters, "Keep Wondering" was spelled out.  Parents were encouraged to discuss the words and how they related to the Wonder.
#415 What Rhymes with Orange?
This Wonder was organized by our two Title teachers.  They had rhyming games and activities for students play and interact with.

#430 Are Sloths Lazy?
Students were able to make a rain forest butterfly out of ripped up construction paper.  They also were given directions on how to draw different rain forest animals.  The video to this Wonder was also shown. There were lots of comments on how cute the video is that goes along with this Wonder.  If you haven't seen it, check it out!

#464 What Makes Art Priceless?
Our art teacher had the students painting and wondering with marbles.  Students made their own piece of "priceless" art inspired by Jackson Pollock as discussed in the Wonder.  This was a very popular Wonder!

#474 Which Dessert Takes the Cake?
Students were able to graph their favorite dessert using the eBeam (interactive white board), decorate their own cookie and read picture books about yummy desserts.  Many students found this Wonder to be their favorite.  They really enjoyed decorating cookies.

#505 Who's on Mount Rushmore?
Students read books about Mount Rushmore and were able use play dough to try to sculpt their own Mount Rushmore.  This teacher also drew Mount Rushmore so students could get their picture taken with "funny" glasses with the famous presidents.

#522 How Much Rain Can a Cloud Hold?
The first grade teacher used the science experiment described in the "Try It Out" section of the Wonder to engage students in exploration.  They predicted how many drops of water it would take to saturate a cotton ball and then got to test out their prediction.  They also got to read books on the water cycle.

How do you Mix Colors?
Students got to explore using paint to see what happens when they mix different colors together.  They also got to interact with a program on the eBeam (interactive white board).

I encourage you to consider organizing a Literacy Night at your school.  It was well worth the time and effort in planning and organizing!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Slice of Life #20

Our Scholastic Book Fair is this week and one of the books on the "adult" table is Save Me by Lisa Scottoline.  I can't remember when I read this book, but it has stuck with me.  
The book is about a mom who is volunteering in the cafeteria to keep an eye on her daughter who is being bullied.  After an explosion, the mom is faced with a choice, either save her own daughter or other children.   She is also faced with the consequences of her decision.  Every once in awhile, during cafeteria duty, my mind will wander back to this book.  I vision the cafeteria in the book being much like the one at my school.
This would be a great spring break or summer read!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Slice of Life #19

The excitement is building for me.  I've organized a Wonder Literacy Night at my school and tomorrow is the night.  I wonder.....  Will it be well attended?  Will parents feel the time was well spent?  Is the copier going to work tomorrow to copy everything (it has been broken down 5 of the last 7 days)?  Will teachers be glad they participated?  Did I forget to do something?  I'm sure these are the thoughts that will keep me up well past the time I should be and the thoughts that will wake me well before I need to be up.
I'm also looking forward to tomorrow night.  It's always fun watching parents interact at school events with their children.  I'm always amazed at the learning that goes on by both parents and children when they engage together.
Can't wait to share how it goes tomorrow night!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Slice of Life #18

Today was a beautiful spring day.  We did some of our favorite family spring activities, a long bike ride and grilling out.  While I was riding my bike, I found myself thinking about how I could describe the adventure through words.  I looked at the sky and thought of how I could describe it through words.  While grilling the steak tonight, I thought about how I could describe the scene through words. 

My bike glides over the pavement
The wind blowing in my hair
I love the feeling of flying down a hill
and hate the sweat that streams down my forehead
as I pump up the hill.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Slice of Life #17

Today I turned in my first paper in my last class for my Master's Degree.  The class is titled, The Reading and Writing Connection.  As part of the class I am required to read Regie Routman's book, Writing Essentials Raising Expectations and Results While Simplifying Teaching.  I thought I would share a few quotes from the book that have stood out to me so far and made me reflect on my own beliefs and practices in my classroom.  Hopefully they may make you think too.

"The question we need to be asking is, how can I teach writing so that all students become effective and joyful writers and communicators? not, what does the writing program look like? or what skills should I be teaching? Teaching the skills is crucial, certainly, but those skills need to be taught because the writer needs them to convey a message, not because they are on a checklist or in a prescribed "scope and sequence" program" (p. 12).

"All students, especially those who begin school with limited literacy skills, need to think of themselves as readers and writers, see the processes as meaningful, and have positive attitudes about literacy before they can successfully engage in literacy practices" (p. 34).

"If you're reading everything your students write, they're not writing enough.  Expect more.  Kids become writers by writing every day, not by completing exercises about writing.  Students who are excellent writers write a lot" (p. 65)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Slice of Life #16

Tonight as I watched the national news I saw there was another early outbreak of tornados in Michigan.  On March 2nd of this year, there was a record breaking outbreak that affected many states.  I was reminded of  the Youtube video below that I saw shortly after the tornados.  I can't imagine living through such a horrible act of nature and I hope I never have to find out.  My heart goes out to the people in Michigan and all those affected on March 2nd.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Slice of Life #15

Today my husband got word that a close friend of his passed away.  It makes me reflect on all that I have to be thankful for....

My husband
My children
My mom and dad
My sister and brothers
My friends
My do
My class
My colleagues
My job
My house
My health
My computer

Personification of Wonderopolis

Tuesday's Wonder was Who is Uncle Sam?  At the end of the Wonder, Wonderopolis challenged students to a mission to personify Wonderopolis.  The mission said, "personify Wonderoplis by coming up with a picture of what it -- or he or she -- would look like as a person."  I thought this would be a great activity to do after our practice Diagnostic assessment on Wednesday.  What an engaging activity it was.  Some students that didn't finish before recess even asked if they could take them out to work on.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Slice of Life #14

Today on my way home, I called my sister.  We both teach 2nd grade.  This is her 1st year back in the classroom after being a title reading teacher.  We spend many Saturday mornings talking about what we can do to improve our teaching and student learning.  Furthermore, I can thank her for my Twitter addiction.  While we were talking, she was shared about reading teacher blogs and how inferior she feels as a teacher because so many teachers are doing so many great things in their classrooms.  After I assured her she does some amazing things in her classroom, I told her how I can relate to how she feels by doing Slice of Life this year.  I feel so inferior as a writer when reading some of the amazing writing on different Slicer blogs.  I have realized that I am NOT a very good writer.  I'm noticing that I do some of the things that I try to curb my students from doing, like telling the entire story without focusing in on a small portion or that I'm really good at telling in my writing, but not showing through the words.  I also shared how doing the Slice has made me want to focus on my own writing in order to help me become a better teacher of writing.  I'm looking forward to keeping my own writer's notebook this year, collecting ideas, writing down possible words that could make my writing more interesting and simply just writing!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Slice of Life #13

Early Spring Eve

Blue sky
Birds chirping
Children playing
Sun setting
Windows open
Cooling off
Early spring eve.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Slice of Life #12

This is not the Slice that I had planned to write.  I had a bad day today.  It started by being awoken by my alarm clock and went downhill from there.  I usually wake before the alarm clock goes off and savor the fifteen or twenty minutes I have to lay in bed and think about the day ahead.  Not this morning though....

After a not so good day, I read How Happy Are YOU? by Pat Johnson at Catching Readers Before They Fall.  I encourage you to take the time to read the post.  I categorize myself mostly in her second type of teacher, "these teachers have a hard time leaving the job at the door."  On my drive home tonight I thought about trying to balance my life and what I need to do in order to make that balance happen.

Then after dinner I sat down to write my post.  As I signed on to my blogger dashboard, I noticed the two most recent postings by bloggers I follow.  The first was by Maria Caplin at Teaching in the 21st Century, titled Slice of Life-Putting One Foot Forward.  From the beginning I could related to Maria's day.  She started with, "Some days are harder than others.  I'm not writing anything that is a big news flash.  But today seemed harder than most."  I felt like she was saying what I was thinking and I could really related to what she was saying.

The second blog, just below Maria's post was by Laura Komos at Our Camp Read-A-Lot.  Ironically titled, Optimism - Slice of Life #12.  I immediately had to read this because I needed some optimism in my life tonight.  Her post is about a four-time iditarod champ who is struggling to finish the race, but remains extremely positive and optimistic--just what I needed to read after a crappy day.  Thank you Laura for reminding me to stay positive.  I also related to her post because at this time of year I am feeling like the race is almost over (the school year) and I question how I will finish.  Have I done enough for my students to help them win?

Thank you Pat, Maria and Laura for helping me look for the happiness, knowing I'm not alone in my bad day and for helping me to look positively and optimistically at tomorrow and as I finish the race!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Slice of Life #11

On my Slice Friday, I made a topic list to think of things that can write about in the future.  One of the things on my topic list was about my daughter breaking her collar bone.  Betsy from Teaching Young Writers commented on my post about being a "Betsy" and breaking her collar bone.  She said she would love to hear the story, so thanks to Betsy's encouragement I am writing about my daughter's experience tonight.

My daughter Betsy has broken her left collar bone not once, but twice.  The first time she was four.  The second time she was seven.

My husband had just left to pick up my new car, the date was March 31, 2006.  It was a beautiful spring day and we had spent the day new car shopping.  I was excited to be ridding myself of a car I didn't like and getting something more family friendly.  I decided to stay home with the kids while my husband went to pick it up.  I was in the basement on my computer when I heard a big thud proceeded by a loud screaming.  It was the kind of scream that you know instantly something is wrong.  I few up the stairs to find my daughter laying on the floor holding her shoulder.  Betsy's crying was inconsolable.  I knew immediately that our first emergency room visit was in order.  Betsy had been doing front rolls off the couch onto the floor for a couple of days.  That night she decided to try a flip.  Fortunately she didn't land on her head, but instead her shoulder took the brunt of the impact, breaking her collar bone.

Almost three years later in March of 2009, Ben and Betsy were play wrestling in our great room.  My husband and I were watching something on t.v.  The fun they were having was making lots of noise and after awhile the noise got to be too much.  My husband told them if they wanted to keep playing to go upstairs.  They were only gone for a few minutes when once again, we heard a thud followed by a scream.  The screaming wasn't as bad as the first time she broke her collar bone.  When Betsy came downstairs with a wash cloth on her shoulder and that undeniable hanging arm and sloping shoulder, I knew it was broken.  Before our second emergency room visit, I made a horrible mistake.  I suggested Betsy raise her arm just to see if she could.  The sound her collar bone made is enough to make me nauseous still today.  That rates as one of my finer "mom" moments!

Using Wonderopolis at Home

Most of my posts about Wonderopolis are about how I use it in my classroom, but we also use it at home as a family.  Many nights as we eat dinner, I will pose the Wonder to my family.  At different times, my husband and children have already checked it out and know the Wonder.  Other times, they haven't and I will share what I learned at school from the Wonder.
For about a month now, each weekend we have been encouraging our children to research something.  One weekend they were asked to research an alternate fuel, another weekend they were asked to research a famous person and yet another they were asked to research a some sort of technology.  After they spent time researching, they then created something to share.  This weekend, I asked them to pick a Wonder and come up with a project they could share with the family.  They were both VERY excited to do this.  My daughter, Betsy has her own YouTube channel and loves making movies.  She picked Wonder #472 Do You Believe in UFOs? to focus on.  Last night she made the video below.  As she shared this video this morning, my husband and I were in awe at what a 4th grader could put together in one evening, given little direction.  Both children also created really neat board games that we played after breakfast this morning.

Betsy created a new YouTube channel so she can make more Wonder videos!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Slice of Life #10

How I Named my Children 

One of the hardest things before my children were born was giving them a name.  I think the decision was more complicated because of being a teacher.  As a teacher there are so many names that you just "can't" possibly name a child, even if you loved the name before.  If you're a teacher, you know what I mean.

My oldest child is Benjamin "Ben" Woodrow.  We considered names like Forrest, Bradley and Jeffrey, but finally decided on two Benjamin and Gavin.  Woodrow was always going to be the middle name because of my husband's grandfather.  We thought since we had narrowed it down to two names we would wait until our son was born to name him.  I thought he would magically enter the world and immediately look like a "Ben" or a "Gavin".  It didn't quite work that way.  After almost 27 hours of labor and a c-section, I was too tired to even consider which name our new baby looked more like.  The next day, every time a nurse would enter the room, they would ask, "pick a name yet?"  This added to the pressure to pick the "right name".   Day one came and went and I still couldn't decide.  At the end of day two, I was really starting to feel the pressure from everyone to just pick one and go with it.  I'm not really sure why I finally settled on Benjamin, but I did.  I can't imagine him being any other name now!

My daughter is Elizabeth "Betsy" Mary.  I knew from the get go that we only wanted one name picked when entering the hospital, so we could avoid what happened the first time.  I've always liked the name Sarah and would have been happy with Sarah Elizabeth, but I made the mistake of looking at the most popular names and it was higher on the list than Elizabeth, so I couldn't go with that.  I like the name Mary and would have been happy with a Mary Katharine or Mary Elizabeth, but my husband felt those both sounded too catholic.  I also wanted to use Mary because my mom is Susan Mary, my sister is Mary Beth and my mother in-law is Mari Lou.  We finally agreed on Elizabeth Mary.  Unfortunately, I have two cousins with girls named Elizabeth, so I felt I needed to come up with something a bit different to call her.  I've known two people in my life named "Betsy" and adored them both.  I also loved the ring that Ben and Betsy had together.  The name Betsy really fits my daughter's personality and I think it couldn't be more perfect for her!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Slice of Life #9

Tonight I am struggling with what to write for my Slice, so I've decided to create a topic list that I can refer back to as needed.  Topic lists are an ongoing list we use throughout the year in my second grade classroom.
  • My dog, Sally
  • Betsy breaking her collar bone
  • Loosing my Tiffany's earring on The Tower of Terror at Disney
  • The Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue
  • My father in-law who passed away
  • The day I came face to face with a sea turtle
  • Friendship/Friends
  • Lessons I've learned from Slice of Life
  • A favorite t.v. show
  • What I'm reading
  • Why I don't like taking risks
  • My favorite drink
  • My favorite thing to do
  • Planning Literacy Night at my school
  • My plans for the summer
  • My favorite restaurant
  • Special moments as a family

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Our Follow up to Wonder #521 - Can you Speak in Code?

Yesterday's Wonder Can you Speak in Code? was an interesting one for my second graders.  What child doesn't get excited about using codes?  The Wonder talked about why the radiotelephony spelling alphabet came about in history and what it is used for.  After we read through the Wonder and talked about the "code", my students each spent a few minutes writing a word using the radiotelephony spelling alphabet.  Some students wrote their names, while others were a bit more creative.  The students are working on writing the alphabet on chart paper to post in the room, so they can write letters to each other using it.  

Below are two students sharing their words with each other.  You can tell all students were really enjoying this activity!

Slice of Life #8

I want to share this article posted on Twitter, "Teacher Survey Shows Morale Is at a Low Point" for today's Slice of Life.  I was not surprised by the surveys' findings, nor was a surprised by the reasons given.  Anyone in education could tell you that morale is low.  I spent some time last night and today reflecting about what I can do to keep my morale up.  I also feel fortunate to be surround by many like minded educators on Twitter that help keep me grounded in my beliefs during this uncertain time in education.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Slice of Life #7

"Just stopping by for dinner" the man called from the basket as I opened my front door.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  About 50 feet from our front door a hot air balloon was coming down.  We had only been living in our house for about two weeks and what a house warming gift we were given.  It was a very exciting evening for our kids, my husband and I.  Not to mention it made for some beautiful pictures.  The balloon owners let the kids get in the basket and they also got to help jump and lay on the balloon to get all of the air out.  It was an evening that we will never forget at our house.

It took awhile to get the air out of the balloon and loaded into the truck.  As the balloon people were working, I wondered why they landed in our yard and not the field across the road.  So, I asked the why they landed in our yard.  They said that farmers get pretty upset if they land in their fields and they need to have easy access for the truck to pick up the balloon.

Every time I see hot air balloons in the sky I think back to the fond memories I have of that cool, crisp fall evening.  I wonder where the balloons are heading and who will be the fortunate recipients of the landing.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Slice of Life #6

Lesson #1 
Learning from Slice of Life

I know this is only day six, but I have already learned some valuable lessons about myself as a writer and lessons that I can transfer to my teaching as a writing teacher.  

The first lesson that I have learned from doing Slice of Life 2012 is the importance of feedback.  The comments that I have received daily have been an enormous motivation to keep writing and participating.  So, thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my posts and leave comments.  Your efforts are greatly appreciated!

I've always known the importance of giving students feedback, but struggle giving all students valuable feedback in a timely manner during writing workshop.  In experiencing the effects of timely feedback, I have been inspired to step back and reflect about what I can do as a teacher to ensure that all of my students have the opportunity to experience this.  

Monday, March 5, 2012

Slice of Life 2012 #5

This past summer I was introduced to something called, "Quick Writes" by Jeff Anderson at the All Write!!! Conference in Indiana.  He described how you can use the writing strategy in the classroom.  I modified how he described it for my second grade classroom.  I give students two unrelated words, like ice cream and car.  Students are instructed to pick one of the words and use it at least once in their writing.  I then give the students one minute to think about their story and three minutes to write.  This summer Jeff Anderson stated, "this is prompt writing that your students will love."  He was right.  My second graders really enjoy doing this.  I am always amazed at what they can write in such a short period of time.

This weekend my daughter wanted me to draw with her.  After drawing my version of a guinea pig and her laughing at me, I asked her if she wanted to try some "Quick Writes".  My daughter loves to write and I was saddened when she announced that they don't usually do writing workshop in 4th grade.  She was excited to try.  I varied it by giving her the choice of a word that we would write about and she decided on the time, two minutes.  She was really enjoying this and we invited her brother to join us.  After each write we would go around and share what we wrote.  "Quick Writes" were a really engaging activity for all of us.  What a great way to extend the brain, practice writing and spend time together.

Below are our last "Quick Writes" using "white car":

Betsy age 10:
She pulled up in front of my small broken down house in a white car.  I looked over to my mom.  "What are aunt Paris and cousin Mimi going to be like," I asked.  "Well they do have many more things than we do and they will be bringing their....

Ben age 13:
Dale was about to open his first car shop.  He had his collection of cars outside and his good cars inside.  Like his white double engine ferrari.  So Dale was ready to open up shop but he did not know what he might sell first.

All I wanted was a white convertible for my sixteenth birthday.  My sweet sixteenth birthday.  The one I had dreamed about since I was old enough to know what a birthday was.  I wasn't a popular girl, but if I could only get a white convertible my popularity....

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Wonder Words - Using Wonderopolis to Build Vocabulary

Vocabulary development is important in all grades.  According to Sharon Taberski (2011), "we need to have an expansive vocabulary in order to be expansive in our thinking about topics and texts" (p. 103).  Furthermore, Taberski (2011) argues, "Children must know the meaning of most of the words in a text or passage to understand it" (p. 103).

One way that I build student vocabulary in my second grade class is by using  About twice a week after reading over the Wonder as a class we read through the "Wonder words to know and use".  I help guide students in choosing a word to add to our "Wonder Words" Wall.  The words are usually ones that I think they will encounter in their own reading.  In addition, I try to focus on words that improve and make their writing more interesting.  

After choosing a word, we go back up in the text of the Wonder and find the word.  We read the sentence before and after to try and establish a meaning for the word.  We will often talk about synonyms for the word, have students give examples of the word and/or use the word in a sentence.  We will also talk about the root word, suffix and/or prefix if there are any.

Sharon Taberski's book, Comprehension from the Ground Up she describes a neat idea that could be tied to Wonder Words that I may try in the future.  She calls it "Words Words Words".  She picks words from her read alouds, writes them on sentence strip paper and adds them to a list.  She encourages students to find, write and listen for the words to be used in a sentence.  If they find, write or hear the word, they are instructed to mark the page or write down the sentence.  Then during a share time, students will read the sentence omitting the word.  The rest of the class has to figure out what word the student is omitting.  What a creative idea for having students practice using words and exposing them on multiple occasions.  

Below are a few of my students describing some of our Wonder Words and using them in a sentence.

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Slice of Life 2012 #4

Today's Slice of Life entry did not come as easily as the other three have.  I started three different posts this morning, only to delete each one and start completely over.  The first was about a hot air balloon landing in my front yard.  I started that post at least three different times and each time it just didn't seem to flow so they were deleted.  Then I started a post about these t-shirts that I have my students decorate with pictures as one of their first homework assignments.  Nope, didn't like that one either, so it was deleted too.  I then started a post about what makes you feel smart, which is something I asked my students on Friday to reflect on.  Nope, that one didn't make the cut either, so it was deleted.   I was feeling rather frustrated.  The more I thought the harder it was to come up with a "slice" worthy idea. 

I then began thinking of the student who sits and does nothing the entire thirty minutes they have to write or the student who starts a new story each day and never goes back to it.  I also thought about the student who does everything to avoid writing.  You know the one who sharpens her pencil five times.  I could relate to all of these students this morning.  After my struggles this morning I began reflecting about what I can do as a teacher to help students through these times?  What environment to I need to establish in my classroom?  What routines can I establish to help these students?  Tomorrow I will look at these students from a new perspective and try some different strategies to engage and encourage their writing.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Slice of Life 2012 #3

Last night I did what I encourage my second graders to do before school even starts.  I encourage them to gather pictures that represent memories and help inspire writing and stories.  So, last night I started going through pictures hoping to find the "perfect" one to inspire a memory that I could write about.  I enjoyed my time looking through pictures and thinking about many memories.

Above is a picture of my son, Ben and daughter, Betsy.  In the picture Ben is 3 and Betsy is 4 days old.  They are now 13 and 10.  Whenever I look at this picture, I am filled with many emotions including, sadness, happiness, wonder, awe, anxiety, frustration, hope and guilt.

I am filled....
I am filled with sadness because they are not babies anymore and I miss that time with them.
I am filled with happiness because they are growing to be such wonderful young people with lots of characteristics any parent would be proud of.
I am filled with wonder because, I truly "wonder" where life is going to take them.
I am filled with awe because they impress me each day with with their thinking and perspectives.
I am filled with anxiety because I worry about the world and life that surrounds them and know that I won't be able to protect them from everything.
I am filled with frustration because we don't always see "eye to eye" as they become more independent in their thinking.
I am filled with hope for the world is at their finger tips, if they will just take hold and grab it.
I am filled with guilt because I don't always make them my first priority and I've made many mistakes as their mom.

Below is a Smilebox slideshow I put together last night after looking through pictures.  I made it for me, but thought I would share.

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