Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Writing Workshop Wednesday - Week 3

Young writers learn to plan their writing because we teach them to plan.  Storytelling is part of the planning for narrative writing.  You can read my post from last week about storytelling here.

These are the steps I use to help writers learn how to plan a story.  Whether your writers are early elementary or later elementary students, they probably need reminders and extra practice planning their stories.  This is another one of the mini anchor charts that will be in a pack that I'm working on s-l-o-w-l-y. 

I start by showing students an example of how I planned in the same way to write a story of my own 
(my real adult writing in my real writer's notebook).  Then I ask students to practice thinking of a true story from their own life.  I struggle with the silence sit patiently, while I give them plenty of time to think. Next, I ask the students to turn to a partner to either tell the story across their fingers or we use a blank pre-made book and ask them to tell across the empty pages.  

I also created a graphic organizer to help my students sketch across the pages.  You know, so their story doesn't end up all on one page.  My Sketch Across the Pages is a freebie in my Tpt store if you'd like a copy.

This tired girl has to be at school at 6:45 in the morning to finish setting up for professional development.  So, that's all for now...

Happy writing!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Writing Workshop Wednesday - Week 2

My brain is overflowing with ideas that I want to share with my teachers after attending the Summer Writing Institute at Teacher's College two weeks ago.  I will be posting about the things I learned a few times each month on Wednesdays for a while.  If you missed the first post, you can find it here.

One of the things I learned is that writers need more opportunities to practice storytelling. If they can think can it, then they should say it, before they write it. We need to teach our writers that it is part of the planning process.   

Young writers benefit from the strategy of telling their story across their fingers.  This helps them define the beginning, the middle and the end of the story before their words hit the paper.  

I have been working on creating small versions of the anchor charts I use with students, since my job requires me to be in several buildings each week.  The chart below is one example that will help me prompt students for storytelling.  All of them will be included in one product that I'm hoping to finish to add to my Tpt store soon.  

Another strategy in the planning process is to sketch the story.  The sketches of the story can be used as a tool to help a child verbally tell their story to a partner before they begin to write the words.

Storytelling is a strategy that helps our writers form narrative stories in their mind and clarify the details for their audience.  During my week at the Summer Writing Institute, many teachers asked if it was necessary to start with narrative units for writing. The experts at Teacher's College agreed that you should start with narrative writing.

Here are a few of the reasons to start with narrative writing...
1.  It values student experiences.
2.  It helps build a community of writers because stories are personal.
3. The ability to retell a story in a sequence is a foundational literacy skill.
4.  Narrative writing is a building block for other types of writing.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Writing Workshop Wednesday - Week 1

Last week, I attended the Teacher's College Summer Writing Institute at Columbia University. It was an amazing experience full of learning on so many different levels!  Each day was jam packed with things that I want to share with the teachers in my district.  That is part of the plan, but I decided to also blog about some of it here.  It may be just the next few Wednesdays or it may an effort to seek balance in my life I won't make any promises to myself or others about that.

On the first day of our time at Teacher's College, we talked about the importance of teachers being writers.  The presenter said if you want your students to be writers, then you have to be a writer yourself.  A real one...who writes adult things.  Apparently a grocery list and a thank you note don't count.

Earlier this summer, I began journaling.  I think it started because I splurged on a new set of my favorite pens.  They are Frixion erasable gel pens...DREAMY.  It was also an effort to help me reflect and sort through my reflections.

As a classroom teacher, I did a good job of modeling being a reader.  Daily, I shared my love of books and enthusiasm for reading with students.  My shelves were overflowing with stories that were inviting the little people in my room to love books as much as I do.

Modeling being an adult writer was different for me.  I frequently wrote newsletters, blog posts and samples of things I wanted to model for my students.  Bravely, I will admit that my students didn't really see my adult writing.  Well, there wasn't much to see at the time.  On the hamster wheel of life, I didn't make time to practice writing as an adult.  I wrote things for other people more than I ever wrote for myself.

Now, I am on a mission to change that.  Inspired by the writing workshop experts at Teacher's College, I now realize that I can jot my thoughts, release a story that I've been wanting to tell on paper, write a bit about something I learned, brainstorm my own ideas and share some of those with students.  I want my students to get to know me as an adult writer.  I want them to know that I'm developing my craft and bravely sharing it with the world...just like I want them to do.

Here is one of the journals that I have been filling up this summer.  At times, I fill a page with things I love.  Other times, I use the space to reflect on my goals.  Most of the pages have lots of writing, but below you'll see a few of my brainstorming pages. Now that I'm back from Teacher's College, I'm going to attempt a story that I've been wanting to put in words.

Grab a journal or a notebook that inspires you and your favorite writing tools!  
Write for yourself.
You'll be better prepared to share your love of writing with your students if you do!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Currently - AUGUST!

Seriously, how did this happen?

It's August and I'm trying to cope, while I link up with Farley for Currently.

Oh, summer - I love you.  Hearing my kid laugh, staying up late to watch someone build Tiny Houses, having an empty schedule...oh, I love summer!

I'm leaving tomorrow for Teacher's College in New York to attend the Summer Writing Institute.  I'm excited to learn as much as I can to share with the teachers in our district.  I'm also freaked out that my suitcase might burst open on the scale at the airport.  

I took 2 grad classes this summer.  I'm working on a educational leadership certification. Both of the classes were jam packed with interesting learning and encouraged me to reflect on some improvements I could make personally as a leader and that the district could make in general. However, cramming what is usually a semester long 600 level class into 6 weeks is no joke. My brain is not feeling refreshed.  It's feeling kind of full.  Let me just tell you the major victory related to this summer of intense learning is that I did not drink Diet Mt. Dew once. In fact, I have not had a drop since January 1.  Go me!

I don't really want to learn to mediate, but I keep reading about how good it is for busy people to meditate.  If someone could just hit the off switch on my hamster wheel brain, then I could get started.  Focus on my breathing...I read that in a brain research journal this morning.  I haven't tried it yet.

This will be the first time in 17 years that I have not "set up a classroom" in August.  I thought I would feel kind of "free" from the mountain of laminating and open house packets.  But, my random act of back to school kindness this year is going to be to offer my "Slide on the Side Laminating" services to a few of my teacher friends.  Truth be told...I love cutting out laminating.  I also love to write on name tags.  My SOTSL business will be opening at the end of August and I can't wait to surprise a few of my best teacher pals!

Check out what everyone else is CURRENTLY doing on Farley's blog!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Time for Tieks!

Oh happy day!  
I'm talking about the day the mailman delivered a package 
from Tieks and Stitch Fix on the same day!  

I confess that sometimes I let other people try trendy things out first (Pinterest, Instagram, Erin Condren, Stitch Fix).  I'm not even ready to talk about Periscope yet - unless it would help me spend more time with my kids somehow. I'm a review reader.  Eventually, I get on board if the reviews are good enough.

That's how I ended up ordering my first pair of Tieks!  I'll admit, I struggled with the both the price and the color choices at first.  Since I have never met an unhappy Tieks owner, I decided to go for it!
Then came the color drama.  There are so many beautiful colors to choose from at the Tieks Boutiek! My husband laughed when I whined to him about being torn between pop pink and cobalt blue.  He actually suggested that I just buy both if I really like them, which means he was unaware of the price.

Sensible me appeared right after I put pop pink in my shopping cart and I ended up buying matte black instead.  There are only so many days I can wear pop pink, right?  That's what I keep telling myself.

The folks at Tieks know how to do things right!  From the fancy box to the handwritten note inside, it is clear that customer service is a priority.  My daughter tried to snatch the "headband" off the box before I could take this picture.

So here they are, my new matte black Tieks!
 Almost too pretty to wear...incredibly soft leather, a carrying case for when I pack them in my suitcase and a cute little card!
Let me just tell you - yes, they are really as comfortable as everyone says they are!
I tried them on with jeans, a skirt and a dress - LOVE them!

I'm picky about my shoes and comfort is a priority.  I rarely wear heels, but dress up daily for work.  I've been searching for a pair of flats that had enough support and was comfortable enough for me to walk in all day.  Cha-ching!

I'm going to really put these Tieks to the test when I travel to New York for a conference later this summer.  I'll let you know how that goes in a few months.

For now, who knows where these Tieks will take me?
(Please excuse my rolled up yoga pants summer uniform.)

 I do know that I think pop pink might be callin' my name...

The answer is YES - Tieks are worth it!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Get Your Fix!

If you have not tried Stitch Fix...maybe it's time!

Last summer, I tried Stitch Fix for the first time.  For busy, working moms like me it is dreamy.  I do like to shop, but finding time to do it is a problem.

It's simple and easy.
You sign up and fill out a profile to help your stylist get to know your preferences.
You pay a $20 styling fee, which is applied to anything you buy.
You choose a delivery date and wait for your surprise package to arrive.

Here are some snapshots of the things in my most recent Stitch Fix delivery.

I must confess, that when I opened the box I was not going to try on the jeans with the 1980's zipper ankles at first.  However, I've learned to try on everything Marisol (my stylist) sends me.  She rocks! So, I tried on the skinny (even though I'm not) jeans with the funky zippers.  They were sooooooo comfortable and they actually looked nice on my under 5 ft body.  The looked super cute with the shirt above (which happens to be Detroit Tiger colored). The neckline on the shirt was a little low on me, which would mean that I would have to find a navy high necked tank to wear underneath - another short person problem I suppose.  

When I ordered up this fix, I asked them to help me find a cargo jacket.  Yep, you can do that and they will try!  Marisol sent this cargo jacket, which fit really well.  However, I avoid ironing at all costs and since the box turned it into this wrinkly mess...I decided this one wasn't for me.

The last two items in my box were this super cute dress and the necklace.  I am definitely keeping both of these!  The dress is perfect for work meetings and or presentations and the necklace is exactly what I've been looking for (although I never shared that with Marisol).  

Very rarely do I ever go into a store and try on 5 things that fit, so having a box delivered with 5 things that fit for me to choose from is completely refreshing.  I am still trying to decide if I am going to keep the super comfy funky zipper ankle jeans.  They are expensive...but soooo comfortable.  Do I even care if my pajamas jeans have zippers on the ankles when they snap, zip and I can breathe when I sit down in them?

Another successful delivery for me!  You can click on any of the images above if you'd like to try Stitch Fix yourself.  If you order a fix after clicking on my link, I earn a referral credit.  However, you don't have to order if you just want to visit and find out more about the Stitch Fix craze.

Dear Marisol,
You rock!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

2 Types of Readers

When I reflect on my years as a classroom teacher, I think about my students as individual learners. I spent a lot of time reflecting about teaching and learning this summer. It became clear to me that 2 types of readers have passed through my life.

The 2 types include those who get lost in books and those who read until the timer goes off.  In fact, the two different types of readers are represented in my own house as well.

My daughter read over 100 books in 6th grade last year.  Big books.  She has her nose in a book while she walks around the house.  I frequently find her reading under the covers with a flashlight long after her bedtime.  She has stacks and stacks of books waiting to be read in her room and frequently runs out of things to read.

My 9 year old son is a good reader, but he reads approximately 25 - 30 pages a day with a timer in his hand. When the timer goes off, he happily drops the book.  He won't pick up another book until I remind him about what research says about summer lag the next day.

This summer, I'm collaborating with some of our 5th and 6th grade teachers and our Instructional Support Team to re-read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.  I have read this book six times and each time it leaves me reflecting on different ways to reach our young readers.

The first step for me (although I'll admit that it is painful) is accepting the fact that not all readers are born with a natural love for books.  The second step as a teacher (and a mom) is to let what we know about the reader and the books they choose "whisper" (as Donalyn Miller says) to us so we can support them as readers.  The third step is to never give up hope.

I'm hopeful that my son will soon fall in love with a series or genre so much so that he no longer feels the need to read for only 20 or 30 minutes. Until then, I'll keep modeling a love for reading.  I'll keep exposing him to different authors, genres and series.  Most importantly, I'll let the choices he makes whisper to me so I can support him even if it is for only 25 - 30 pages a day (for now).