The Book That Changed Everything

This is the personal narrative that I am working on alongside my students in our first unit.  It’s a work in progress. We’ll be publishing by the end of the week! 

Ring.  Ring.  Ring.   I saw Jackie flash across the screen.  Why is she calling me?  What does she want?  She only calls when she wants something.

“Hello.” I answered.

“Guess what, Jennie?!?!”

“What?”  I was surprised at her excited tone.  What could it be?

“I finished Twilight already!”

“The book?  Didn’t you just start it the other day?”  That couldn’t be right.  She had barely finished a book in her life, let alone one for fun…and only in a few days!

“Yes. I couldn’t stop reading.  I was picturing Bella and Edward in my head as I was reading-  since I knew what they looked like from the trailers.”

“Wow…Wait, you didn’t usually see pictures in your head?  With other books?”

“No.”

That was the first time I truly realized that the reason I loved reading was the movie that was happening in my mind as I read.  Jackie never had that before.  But because of the movie trailers out for Twilight, she saw the “mind movie” and she enjoyed reading.

Because of this realization, visualizing became a much more significant part of my reading instruction.

The book changed everything for Jackie as a reader.    The book changed everything for me as a teacher.  The bheading

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“She grabbed a gray crayon and put pants on me.” The Importance of Feedback

I have been in a writing slump, but then I read this post from Two Writing Teachers about the book Feedback that Moves Writers Forward.  It left me with food for thought, a book to add to my summer reading list, and inspiration for a blog post.

The feedback we give our young writers is so important, be it formally or informally.  Our words can encourage, lift, or stifle their work. I know this as a teacher, but have seen it up close as a mother.

My son will be entering sixth grade this fall and has loved drawing and writing since before he could actually write or read. Even before he entered Kindergarten spent his days filling page after page with drawings that made stories.

In Kindergarten, he loved to write books.  And since he was in kindergarten, his books were mainly pictures that he narrated for us.  I would come home from work and he would have stacks of pages, stacked up in a specific order, ready to share with me.  He would tell me what was happening, complete with dialogue and sound effects.

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As you can see from the picture above, his characters didn’t have bodies.  The arms and legs came right out of the heads.  I got that developmentally he should have been drawing people with bodies, but he didn’t want to draw people that way.  At one point his teacher sent something home about this and I sat with him to help.  Turns out, he knew exactly how to draw the way she expected, he just didn’t like the way that looked.  He liked his way of drawing.   He was making an artistic choice. (One reason I try to find out WHY a student made a choice in his/her writing before dispensing feedback about it.)

You can see a video of him talking about one specific experience here.  “She grabbed a gray crayon and put pants on me.”    There have been plenty of times he told the story of his teacher “vandalizing” (the word Troy uses) his work.  I wasn’t there when this happened, I didn’t see it.  However, I did see how it affected him and his desire to create.

Luckily, since then, he has had teachers who provided feedback that made him proud of his work and encouraged to create more.  To grow. To move forward.  Teachers that read his personal blog and left him encouraging comments.  Teachers that return his hyperbole filled emails in the summer time.   It is because of those teachers that he will continue to move forward in his writing.

 

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I think of Troy’s experience every time I consider picking up a pen and writing on a student’s work.  How at the end of his elementary career, he still gets fired up about the teacher who didn’t like his drawings six years ago.

I very rarely write directly on my writers’ drafts.  Instead I leave comments on google docs, give verbal feedback in conferences, or use post-its.  My job is not to pick at each tiny mistake.  It is not my writing.  The writing belongs to a child.

My goal is not to create perfect writing, but motivated writers.

I can’t wait to get Feedback that Moves Writers Forward and learn more about moving my young writers forward!

 

SOL #14 – Gotta Love a Good Writing Mini-lesson!

My writers gathered on the ground, crisscross applesauce, for today’s mini-lesson.  It was an idea from Craft Lessons by Ralph Fletcher and Joann Portalupi about word choice.  I explained to the students that we would be reading Shrek for a purpose today – to find alternatives to the word walk.

I read.  At the end of each page I stopped so students could share the synonyms they had heard.  A student added them to our anchor chart.

They were enthralled with the ugly guy who breaths fire, eats pheasant, and is looking for his even uglier princess.  Very engaged, listening for the words that were used instead of walk.

“Why do you think the author is using all of these words that we don’t normally hear, all in one book?” I asked.

“Because it makes it funnier,” they answered.

“Some of the children kept hugging and kissing him, and there was nothing he could do to make them stop,” I read.

“Some people don’t like to be hugged,” a student empathized.

And when he found his princess and they started to recite rhymes to each other!    They loved it!

Said Shrek:

“Oh, ghastly you,

With lips of blue,

Your ruddy eyes

With carmine sties

Enchant me.

I could go on,

I know you know

The reason why

I love you so –

You’re ugh-ly!”

We finished and I sent them off to slice, paying attention to the verbs they choose to use.  No one is too old to enjoy a good picture book!

 

 

SOL #9 – No Offense

Light chatter filled the room and stories were being shared.  It was writing workshop. A small group of students were sitting around my table, chatting.  A few slice ideas were being passed around.  Writing was happening in notebooks and on iPads.

“I don’t know how to end this,” one of my girls said, pen in hand.  The statement wasn’t directed at anyone specifically.

“Just say The End,” replied another.

“I can’t do that!  Ms. Bless said that I can’t do that,” said the first.  “I always remember Ms. Bless telling me not to say The End.”  She was referring to third grade, because I have been lucky enough to have some of my students in both third and now fifth.  It is good to know that several of my lessons have stuck.  Because then she continued, “She also always told me not to say no offense.  Because if I say ‘No offense,’ I just shouldn’t say what I was going to say after that. It’s probably offensive.”    I love that I have been able to build onto what I have already taught some of my kids about writing and life.  🙂

I pulled up a slideshow of ideas for narrative endings and passed my computer to her.  (She knows how to take a mentor and use it.) Then, I turned to talk to another student.   The chatting and writing continued, but I’m not sure what was being said.

She eventually passed me back my computer, as I continued to work with other students – seamless.   A sign that we know each other, we are a team, and words aren’t always necessary.

“No offense, but…” and then she stopped.  We made eye contact.  “Never mind.”

Text to Speech in Writing Workshop

In a 1:1 district, where every kid has a device, technology is always present and used every Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 11.46.47 AMday.  However, sometimes looking for all of the newest ways to integrate technology causes you not see the most obvious ones.  This is how I felt when I read the chapter in Use Your Words about Technology Tools. Specifically, the section about “Text to Speech.”

My students have used “Text to Speech” before – to listen to text that is beyond their independent reading level, especially for research.   However, Deveny says that she uses it daily in order to listen to her writing.  Not in place of reading your text aloud, but in addition to what we ask the kids to do – you know the thing you are constantly reminding them of during conferring, but they never actually do?

Deveny suggests using the “Text to Speech” that is already part of your device to listen to your writing and revise/edit.  Of course!   This will be huge in writing workshop this year!  It will become part of my writing checklist and I have a feeling kids will enjoy it (especially because you can change the accent of the voice), so they will actually use it!

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Just one of the many insights I have gained from this book, useful in my writing life and in my writing workshop for my students.

 

Evaluate and Judge

“the ability to evaluate and judge is not a school skill, it is a life skill.”

– Kelly Gallagher

I’m working through the different real world writing purposes in Write Like This.  In the chapter on Evaluate and Judge, Gallagher gives many examples of evaluation in life:  print ads, YouTube videos, commercials, websites, and presidential candidates.

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Express and Reflect √

Inform and Explain √

Evaluate and Judge – ↓

Inquire and Explore √

Analyze and Interpret√

Take a Stand/Propose a Solution√

Gallagher states in this book, and repeats, “it is valuable for students to watch their teacher produce a crummy first draft; it gives them an honest look at how writing is produced.  In fact, modeling on days when I don’t write very well may actually be more valuable than modeling on a day when my writing is flowing.”  Therefore, I will continue to share my writing for each of these purposes, even though these first drafts aren’t spectacular writing.

With the upcoming election, this year will be a great opportunity to teach students how to evaluate and judge candidates.  And then hopefully these skills will transfer to literature as well.  So,  today I am going to Evaluate and Judge a YouTube video – kids (including my own) do spend a lot of time there.

I found this series by Kid President:  Awesome Girls!  And I thought it was the perfect thing to write about.  Especially after the amazing essay by Jennifer Aniston.  Here are the links.  You need to watch them!

Kid President Talks to A Girl: Rachel Platten! #AwesomeGirls

The purpose of this campaign is to make sure that girls know how amazing they are and to remind everyone that girls should be cheered on.   The audience being twofold:  the girls that need to be encouraged and the people who need to encourage them.

The first video linked above is Kid President introducing the idea of Awesome Girls and explaining his (and his brother’s) purpose for this campaign.  He also asks for help, for people to share examples of awesome girls using the hashtag #KPAwesomegirls.

In the second video, Kid President shares his struggle being a boy and doing this campaign about girls.  There are two videos of Robby (KP) juxtaposed, one being the inner voice supporting girls, and the other being a “typical boy” inner voice.  He asks, “What about awesome boys?”  And then he explains to himself that supporting girls isn’t saying that he doesn’t support boys, it is just that girls don’t have all of the opportunities that boys have.  (Sound familiar to something else that has been all over the news?)  The two “voices” side by side is very effective in bringing up counterarguments in order to argue against them.  Way to go KP team!

The final video linked above, is Kid President talking to Rachel Platten.  She encourages him to not feel awkward against girls and gives great advice to girls across the world.  This one is a great message from a successful girl and would be even more focused on a female audience.  She tells KP that as a young girl she was very hard on herself and never felt like enough.  Which one of us haven’t felt that way?  It is so important for kids to hear they are not alone in the way they are feeling.

And the video concludes with Rachel Platten finishing the sentence that KP always asks, “The world would be a better place if…”

“…if we understood how similar we are to each other.  […] if we were all a little kinder to each other.  […]”

Awesome Girls!

#btbc16

Take a Stand/ Propose a Solution

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Express and Reflect √

Inform and Explain √

Evaluate and Judge

Inquire and Explore √

Analyze and Interpret√

Take a Stand/Propose a Solution ↓

Another real life writing purpose that Kelly Gallagher addresses in Write Like This is Take a Stand and Propose a Solution. Gallagher wants his students to not just give an opinion, but to also give solutions.  Therefore, the activity I am trying out today is “Five Things You Can Do To _________.”

3  Things You Can Do to Be a Good Teacher AND a Good Mom

I don’t know about you all, but it can be hard to find a balance between being the teacher your students need and being the mom that your kids need.  I am by far the perfect example, but after the last seven years I have been able to find a few tips that have helped.

Use your personal days.

I don’t think I used any of my personal days my first year of teacher and only took sick days if I was very sick.  But, I have learned that the personal days are given for a reason.  For me, that reason is time with my son.  Now, I take all of my personal days and use them for time with my son.  I take off for his birthday so I can be there when he wakes up and when he gets off the bus.   I volunteer for Author’s Day at school every year and we get to spend the day together with some other kids at his school, learning, reading, writing, playing.  And then one more day, different each year.  Regardless of what is happening at school, I don’t feel guilty for taking these days.  This is time with my son that I will never regret!

Bring your kid to work.

My students know I have a son, my son knows that I have students. However, when they meet, each realizes the other is a real live human.  And you are a real live person outside of you time with them.  My son knows how amazing these kids are that I spend my days with and he understands why I care about them.  He knows that there are 28 reasons I can’t be there when he gets off the bus every day.

Time with your kids first, school work later.

I do plenty of work at home, as do all of you, I am sure.  However, I try to do it after spending some quality time with my son.  I pick him up, we eat dinner, we talk and maybe play.  Then, after he has had my uninterrupted attention, I get some work done.  This is a big one I had to learn when he was younger and I was in college.  I could get a lot more done if I spent time with him FIRST and then worked.  Plus, I am sending him the message that he is my number one!

Do you have any tips you can share?