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Welcome to kindergarten! Join me as I share my experiences in the classroom, my professional learning and reflections and my love of teaching. Teaching is an exciting journey - come along as I share mine!


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Things I learned in March

Slice of Life Challenge - Day 31 - hosted by Two Writing Teachers


Top 10 Things I Learned From the SOLC:



10.  Feedback is important.  Comments were motivating.
9.  It's amazing how much inspiration you find just by looking around you.
8.  It is important to know who your audience is when you are writing.
7.  I need to figure out a good way to celebrate my student writers.
6.   I thought I would run out of ideas...I didn't!
5.  I feel like I have something to say now and people will want to read it.
4.  I enjoy putting my thoughts onto the page - it is freeing.
3.  My children and students are quite inspiring as writing subjects.
2.  I had no idea about the sense of community that would be gained from this challenge.
1.  I am a writer.

Thank you to all who commented on my slices this month.  This was my first SOLC and I loved it!  I will continue to slice on Tuesdays and look forward to seeing you throughout the year.  Thank you Ruth and Stacey for an amazing challenge!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Nonfiction Writing!!!

 Slice of Life Challenge - Day 29 - hosted by Two Writing Teachers

I have been taking a class called Crafting Nonfiction as Readers and Writers for K-2 teachers.  It has been awesome!  I have been learning not only from a master teacher, but also I've had the opportunity to see what other teachers are doing in their classrooms regarding nonfiction reading and writing.
The "homework" for us is to try something new, nonfiction-related, and bring samples or pictures to share with the class.  I spent time last week taking pictures of all the things we do during a day in kindergarten.  My kids each chose a picture (that they starred in, of course) and wrote a caption for it.  Some chose to say exactly what they were doing in the picture (i.e., I was reading with Tyler in the library.) and some were more general (i.e., We go to music class.).  I left the door open for them to choose how they wanted to write their caption, what they wanted to say and then sat back to see what they would do.

My purpose for this activity was three-pronged.  First, I needed to have something "nonfiction related" to share in my final class.  Second, I wanted to be able to finish up their last "normal" writing pieces and not leave one hanging out there half-finished over spring break.  Third, I wanted to have a display to show parents during our kindergarten round up meeting because they always ask the question: What will my child do in kindergarten all day long?  One activity...three problems solved.  Nice!

The kids really did well with the captions.  Most wrote one simple sentence.  A few wrote a longer 2-3 sentence caption.  Three kids had minimal sound support for writing (ONLY because I wanted the parents to be able to read it) but the rest figured out their sounds and I'm confident that parents will be able to read them just fine.  A couple kids needed support to remember the spaces between words...popsickle sticks and gentle reminders did just fine for this purpose.

The kids loved it!  I loved it!  It was a nice way to wrap up our writing workshop during this crazy week.  I grouped the pictures and glued them to construction paper with titles to further explain to parents what they are seeing.  The kids oohed and ahhhed over the display!  They are so excited to help the parents of the "new kindergarten kids" and they feel so grown up thinking that they are writing for this big, real world purpose.  It really was the highlight of the week!

Here are a few pictures to show their hard work!  Enjoy!

I rolled the ball through the tunnel.                      We can read.  Books are fun when the teacher reads them.



 I play with Bristle blocks.                                                 We write stories.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Write On Princess


Slice of Life Challenge - Day 28 - hosted by Two Writing Teachers



My children are fortunate/unfortunate to hang out in my classroom with me after school.  As I "finish up" my work for the day (like it's every really done?), they entertain themselves.  They use the computers, play on the ipad, make paper creations born out of the scrap box, etc.  Sometimes I even get lucky and find them working on homework together.  Those are the good days. 

But it's a different story when we get home.  Everyone goes in their own direction.  Son usually goes downstairs for a little video game down time...his break from the day.  Princess (above) usually turns on the tv...her break from the day.  Sassy (3 year old) usually begins to pull out the toys and proceeds to fill the living room floor with every Polly Pocket, Lego, wooden block, plastic animal, Squinky and Lalaloopsy toy we own...and we own MANY...her break from the day.  Baby girl usually sits in her high chair munching on banana puffs while I begin to cook something excellent for dinner.  :) 

Today, instead, Son and Princess threw their backpacks into their bedrooms and ran out the door to the freedom of the backyard.  I watched their various activities as I put away the lunch boxes, pulled food from the fridge and began to cook.  At one point, I looked up from my chopping to see Princess, standing in the middle of the yard, notebook in hand, trying to write something and balance at the same time.  I hadn't noticed that the notebook went out the door with her, along with her new "clicky" pencil.

Later, in the middle of shooting baskets with the soccer ball, I heard her tell Son that she was taking a break for a minute.  I took a break from my stirring.  There she was, my girl, hunched over the patio table, writing furiously in her notebook. Icouldn't resist so I asked through the open window:

Me: What are you writing Princess?
Her: A story about soccer.  Want me to read it to you?
Me: Of course!  [Son sighs impatiently]
Her: I'll read it to you when I come inside. I've got to get back to my game!

About every five minutes or so the play would stop and Princess would return to her notebook to write more of her story.  She read me a little snippet when she came in.  Later, I checked out her notebook.  Here is what I found - in true six-year-old form:

page 1 - i'm loven' it
page 2 - [sister's name]
page 3 - belev me
page 4 - I like [sister's name]
page 5 - bee biy the door
page 6 - my favrit techer is Ms.D
page 7 - fliing away ahhhhhh!
page 8 - 10x10=100   10x0=0    100x0=0
page 9 - playing a new game
              cote with hande
              bowns on the wall
              ceche
              hit the bottom of my hande
page 10 - and basketball
                yes basketball
                no!
page 11 - new flowre
page 12 - Sokre Ball - I can't play the game. How can I play sokre? Yes I get my sokr ball.
page 13 - The Skare chree's - I so a tree. It was qwiite and still. I go agen. ahhhhh.
page 14 - The ride to School - I am in the car. My mom is driving. I am so Happy! My techre is Mrs. D. I eat at 12:30. I love math. I kinda donte like read to selfe.  [Don't like read to self? Made Mommy sad...until she explained that it's right before snack and she's always hungry then. Whew. Close one.]

That's my girl! Writing her thoughts from the world around her as only a munchkin can do. I wonder what tomorrow will bring to the notebook.  Write on Princess...write on.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Just the Facts...

SOL Challenge - Day 27 - hosted by Two Writing Teachers


Fifteen Things About Me:

  1. I have 4 beautiful children - one boy, three girls - ranging from 9 to 7 months.
  2. I am the youngest of 5 children.
  3. I play the violin.
  4. I am a new fan of guacamole.
  5. I never met either of my grandfathers - both died before my parents were 10. 
  6. I was going to be a country singer when I was little - I had the cowboy hat and guitar to prove it.
  7. I love chick flicks.
  8. I need music and I love to sing...by myself, in the car, making dinner, at bedtime.
  9. I knew all the words to every Elvis song long before I could tie my shoes - they were lullabyes from my mom.
  10. I would like to solve the world's problems-I hate politics-why can't everyone get along?
  11. I wish I could play the guitar and the left hand on the piano.
  12. I think pizza is the perfect food-so many possibilities, so much gooey cheese.
  13. I have learned that five-year-olds are incapable of whispering.
  14. I believe that the day needs more hours for time spent at home (not for work).
  15. I am sad to see the SOL challenge come to an end...I will miss all the lovely words I read and the words of encouragement I received and the sometimes surprising words that poured out.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Free

Slice of Life Challenge - Day 26 - Hosted by Two Writing Teachers



The wind rushes past
Brushing all my cares to the side
The wind rushes past
I pump my legs harder
Until I can only see blue sky up ahead.

The wind rushes past
Shoving all my cares away
The wind rushes past
I trudge up the rungs and
Whoosh, down I go!

The wind rushes past
Spinning away my worries
The wind rushes past
Circling around but not landing
A flash of objects past my eyes.

The wind rushes past
My concerns vanish
The wind rushes past
It’s a playground day
A day of feeling free like the wind.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Book Spine Poems

Slice of Life Challenge - Day 25 - Hosted by Ruth and Stacey of Two Writing Teachers

I have seen several people create book spine poems in the last couple of weeks.  Until this SOL challenge, I had never heard of them before.  As a kindergarten teacher, I'm not sure this would be a form of poetry that I would use in my classroom as a teaching tool, but certainly as a type of poem I could read and expose my students to.  So, here is my attempt to create something new out of all those great titles sitting on my children's bookshelves at home.  This pile comes from my son's shelf.  I'm not sure I love it, but here is my first try!  An ode to the snow days we DID NOT have this winter:


After I made that first bookspine poem, I didn't publish the slice right away.  It just didn't feel done and I had nothing left to give it just then.  It has been hanging out there as one of those "maybe someday I will come back to this" slices.  I thought more about book spine poems yesterday after reading Grade4Wizard's slice about stacks of books and I decided to give it another go.  I hit up the book shelf again...this time with my middle daughter in mind.  These were her baby books, now outgrown and passed along to my youngest daughter.  I still picture her sitting with them piled high around her when I see them.


One last attempt...from my oldest princess's bookshelf.

Well, now I can say I've tried it!  I won't quit my day job to become a full-time book spine poet, but it was fun to try anyway.  It's certainly harder than it looks! 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

How It Happened - Part Two

Slice of Life Challenge - Day 24 - hosted by Two Writing Teachers
Roomie: Robin! Phone call!  It's a BBBBOOOOYYYY!!!
Me: Who, my dad?
Roomie: Ha, Ha!  Here!
Me: Hello?
Bill: Um, hi, this is Bill.  I'm Joe's roommate?  I was wondering if you wanted to go get dinner or something?
Me: [Gulp!] Um, yeah, that sounds good! [Holy Crap! It's actually him!]
Bill: How about tomorrow? Do you like Fazoli's?
Me: Tomorrow is good...I like Fazoli's!
Bill: Ok, I'll come pick you up...what's your room number?

--------

Her: So...did you have fun?
Me: Yes, he is awesome!
Her: You like him a lot huh?
Me: Yes!
Her: Well, Joe said that Doug said that Bill said that he likes you a lot too!
Me: Seriously, back to junior high again!?
Her: [laughing] I know, but still...He likes you!
Me: I like him!

---------

Her: You guys have been going out for a while...has it been a year?
Me: Yep...over a year! 
Her: Are you going to marry him?
Me: I don't know. I would say yes if he asked!
Her: AHHH! That is so exciting!!!
Me: Well, he hasn't asked yet!
Her: He will.  He loves you. You can tell every time he looks at you!  I'm so glad I made you go visit that day freshman year.
Me: Me too!  Thanks again, by the way.

---------

Her: I'm going to be getting home a little later than I thought.
Me: Ok, Bill is bringing me dinner. I'm sure we'll still be here when you get home. I think we are going to watch a movie or something.
Her: Ok, see you later!

---------

Bill: I brought us Fazoli's! I ordered baked ziti for you and spaghetti for me.  Remember our first date?
Me: Yes, I do! I thought it was funny that you ate your spaghetti with your spoon.  I have only seen people do that on tv!
Bill: I only did that so I wouldn't be so messy on our first day.  I didn't want to get it all over me!
Me: You do have a special talent for that.
Bill: [gets out of his chair, down on one knee] I bought this over the weekend and I just can't wait any longer to give it to you.  I love you.  Will you marry me?
Me: [jaw on floor] YES!

----------

Her: [peeks her head in the door]
Bill: You can come in now!
Her: Well? [all smiles]
Me: We are getting married!  Look! [holding out my hand]
Her: I've already seen it.  Why do you think I was late?  It's so beautiful!  I'm so happy for you guys!
[hugs all around]

----------

We've been married almost 11 years and we still celebrate that first trip to Fazoli's - January 16, 1997.  There have been a lot of highs and lows since then, but always we have been by each other's sides.  Best friends.  Who could ask for anything more than that?

Friday, March 23, 2012

How It Happened...

Slice of Life Challenge - Day 23 - hosted by Two Writing Teachers


Her: Come with me to visit the guys!
Me: I don't even know them.
Her: It's ok! You'll like them. They are a fun group of guys.
Me: You just want to go see Joe. Isn't he the guy you went to prom with?
Her: Yes. I still like him! I'd like to go out with him again.
Me: Isn't he your cousin? Didn't you meet him at a family reunion or something?
Her: Yes but it's not gross like that or anything.
Me: Uh, is he or is he not your cousin?  [perverse pleasure...hassling a close friend, all in good fun]
Her: Yes but it's only because his grandma is my grandma's cousin.  She's adopted and then there is a divorce and a remarriage and blah, blah, blah.  We are only TECHNICALLY cousins, not for real cousins.
Me: Sounds like cousins to me.  You do call his sister your cousin pretty willingly, don't you?  How is he any different?
Her: Easy. He's nice, he's hot and he's a guy.  So, are you going to come visit with me or not?

---------

Her: So, what did you think? They are all so nice!
Me: Yep, they're nice - seem like fun guys.
Her: Which one did you like?
Me: I didn't know this was a date.
Her: It's not, buy come on...which one?
Me: Well, obviously you have your eye on Joe [and he's way too sarcastic for my taste]. Steve is nice.  Doug was pretty cool.  But, I'd definitely pick Bill. He seems like my type...quiet, funny, nice, cute.
Her: I KNEW you were going to say that! I thought you would like him. I think he liked you too!
Me: MmmHmm...we will just call you Little Miss Match-Maker now. 

--------

Friend: Hey, guess who is in my Bio class?
Me: No idea - who?
Friend: Joe, Steve and Bill!
Me: Huh, nice!  So, are they smart?
Friend: Seem to be.  They are so funny!
Me: Yeah, I hung out at their dorm once...it was fun.
Friend: One of them likes you.
Me: Uh-huh.
Friend: No, really!  Joe asked me to ask you if it would be ok for Bill to call and ask you out?
Me: What is this, junior high?  I think Joe is making that up.  Probably thinks you are pretty gullible.
Friend: Ok...maybe...but just in case, is it ok for Bill to call you?  Can I give him your number?
Me: Yeah, sure.

---------

Stay tuned for Part Two -- tomorrow!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kid Speak

Slice of Life - Day 22 - Hosted by Ruth and Stacey at their Two Writing Teachers blog.


"We broke up today, Mom.  I just can't have a boyfriend who always wants to fool around!"

[Mom demonstrates the ultimate control here...so many different ways she could react - hysterical laughter, cringing, sarcasm, the list is endless.  But instead...]

"Well Honey, you are only seven.  Since you aren't old enough to have a boyfriend yet, I think that is best."

[What she said under her breath to her husband: "I hope she still feels that way in high school! I have a feeling she will feel differently about 'fooling around' then.  Of course, that isn't the fooling around she meant, but if she only knew what she just said!"]

----------

"Mom, guess what?  It was hot at school!  Even my armpits got sweaty today!  You know how I know?  Cuz my shirt was wet!"

Mom: fits of laughter!  [C'mon, who wouldn't have laughed?  The girl is six!]

---------

"You know what B did AGAIN today?  He ran out of the classroom.  He always does that.  I had to go get Mr. P for the teacher again.  B knows he isn't supposed to do that.  How come he keeps running out?  Why is he always getting into trouble?"

[Hmmm...how do you explain to a nine-year-old that not all kids have the kind of home life they have.  Not all kids get to grow up feeling loved.  Not all kids have limits and boundaries because their parents don't know how/don't care/don't understand how they are impacting their children.  Some kids carry more baggage with them everyday than adults I know.  Yes, how should I explain this to a nine year old?]

--------

"B, there are bugs over there!"  She points to the floor under the window in the garage.
"I know M, but they are dead."
"B, kill them!"
"M, they are already dead. They won't hurt you."
"B! KILL THEM!"
[enter A, the 6th grader] "She killed them M."
"Move the bugs, B. I don't like them!"
[sigh]

--------

Ah...it's amazing what kids say.  The good, the bad, the funny...you just never know.  I think that is one of the things I enjoy most about teaching and being a mom.  It's different every day, every minute.  There are fun times with laughter to share, hard times when I just can't find the words, and easy times when things just seem to flow.  So refreshing, so meaningful, so fulfilling.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Kindergarten Kind of Busy


Slice of Life Challenge - Day 21

Hosted by Two Writing Teachers blog creators, Ruth and Stacey











I believe the children are our future,
     Lincoln log fortress!

Teach them well and let them lead the way,
"Purchases" in our store.

Show them all the beauty they possess inside,
A puzzle with a friend.

Give them a sense of pride to make it easier,
Mo Willems! There's Pigeon!Duck and Cover
                                                                                      by Jackie Urbanovic

Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be.
Block creations!

I heard this song on the radio this morning. It was stuck in my head all day and each time I looked around my room, taking a status of the class glance, I couldn't help but notice that this was the soundtrack to what I was seeing. I love my job!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Things that make me smile...

  • My children and their hugs and kisses.
  • The grass turning green in the spring.
  • The birds chirping outside my window in the morning.
  • Hearing my kids say those magical words "I love you Mommy!"
  • A note from a friend.
  • Flowers growing in my yard.
  • The sound of children giggling.
  • Smiles on my students faces.
  • A beautiful sunrise.
  • Summertime and strawberry shortcake.
  • A favorite song on the radio.
  • A shared joke with a friend.
  • Reading a good story...and now...writing a good story.
  • An early morning snuggle with a jammie-clad little body.
  • My husband.
I hope you enjoyed a few smiles today also!  Happy Tuesday!

Slice of life - Day 20


Monday, March 19, 2012

Can't Girls Wear Green?

Slice of Life Writing Challenge - Day 19 - hosted by Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers blog.


I rarely take my children grocery shopping with me.  It's just too much to take all four if I don't have to!  It takes twice the amount of time necessary, it creates situations where I have to say no too many times, and it's just no fun for them (or me, most of all!). 

However, once in a while I amend my rule of shopping alone and take one of them with me.  Saturday happened to be the day I broke this rule and took my seven-month-old daughter.  Being St. Patrick's Day, we were both dressed in green.  She had on Daddy's favorite Michigan State outfit.  She was looking awfully cute in her MSU gear, perched in her pink polka-dotted car seat in the shopping cart.  She loved the new things to look at and did a wonderful job of entertaining herself as I shopped.

Then an older woman stopped me so that she could look at my cute little GUY. 

"Oh, he is just so cute!  What a handsome little guy you are."

I smiled, said thank you and walked on.  [just let it go, I thought]

A few aisles later and I am again stopped by an older woman who needed to see my "little bundle." 

"Oh, well, would you just look at this handsome fella?  Isn't he just the cutes little boy you've ever seen Charlie?" she said to her husband.  "Yep, yep, he sure is!" he said.

[just smile and thank them and let it go...AGAIN, I thought]

I finished my shopping as fast as possible (I don't enjoy this process very much).  I begin to head for the check out lines...almost there...almost home free!  And then it happens.  Again.

"Look at those big blue eyes!  What a handsome little man!  Isn't he just precious in his little green Spartan clothes?"

[SERIOUSLY???  Ok, I can do this.  They don't know she's a girl.  I mean, never mind the fact that she's in a car seat that is covered with PINK polka dots.  Ok, she's wearing green and white, not pink or purple.  Just smile and be polite.  You can do this!]

"Thank you," I said and I quickly walked away before the elderly woman could see my rude, yet uncontrollable, eye roll. 

Do I really have to dress my daughter in pink when I go out in public just so people don't call her a boy?  Is it her fault that her cute little head only has a little blond peach fuzz?  Does she have to wear a headband with flowers to be a girl?  Or a dress? 

Sigh.

Maybe I can let it go this time, but next time?  I make no politeness promises.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The River

the river runs
deep and dark
full of anger
full of rage

it crashes the rocks
it slams the shore
it batters everything
in it's path

the rain comes swiftly
with the blowing wind
it beats
it retreats - it ends

the calm comes in
spreading
lightly touching
all is soothed

the clouds part slowly
intentionally
distant and then gone
light moves in

the sky begins to glow
it brightens
it shines
it sparkles brilliant blue

the river slows
to a lazy roll
the storm passed
lays dormant

until next time
Slice of Life Writing Challenge - Day 18 - hosted by Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mama

Slice of Life Challenge - Day 17 - hosted by Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers.

It was an ordinary evening. We had just finished eating dinner and we were still sitting around the table talking about our days.

She was in her high chair for the first time, enjoying this new perspective on life.

It might not have been intentional on her part, but she said it.  She didn't mean to, she was just babbling, but out it came!  My head spun around and my ears perked up!

"Ba ba ba da da ba ma ma ma!"

"Mama!  She said Mama!  Did you hear her?"

"She said Dada too, you know?"

"She's said that before.  That was her first Mama!"

I know I will hear this many, many more times over the next months, and I know that it will be even better when she says it with meaning, but it was still pretty cool.

It never gets old to hear your baby say your name.

"I love you too, Baby Girl!"

Friday, March 16, 2012

Slice of Life - Day 16 - hosted by Stacey and Ruth at their blog, Two Writing Teachers.


I've been laughing at myself today.  It's the first day off of school that I've had in a long time that didn't involve being sick, having a sick child, a doctor appointment or an in-service.  I have been looking forward to it for some time now...a whole day home with my kids to do whatever we want together. 

When I started the SOL challenge at the beginning of the month, I noticed that I had to always squeeze in time for my writing and posting, usually during my breaks at school.  Then, later, after the kids were in bed, I could go back and read as many slices as my eyes would stay open for.

This is all fine and so far I really haven't had any trouble deciding what to write about each day (my biggest fear at the beginning).  During the week, there is so much material to use if I just keep my eyes open for it.  The weekend days are easy because I can be more leisurely about the whole process. 

I've been looking forward to this day off and thinking how easy it would be to write today, on this day-long vacation.  Instead, I've been struggling for my topic today.  But instead of feeling dread, I have been laughing to myself about it all day. 

It's just ironic that on this day where I can do whatever I want whenever I want I can't think of something to say?  Funny.  And then I realized that THIS was my topic today.  Just when I thought I didn't know...there it was.

Nothing fancy today, just a day off.  :)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I Am...

Slice of Life Writing Challenge - Day 15 - hosted by Two Writing Teachers


I am...

a doctor, a keeper of ice packs.

a dentist, a catcher of loose teeth.

a therapist, a giver of smiles.

a speech pathologist, a rephraser and repeater.

a photographer, a holder of memories.

an artist, a painter/sculpter/sketcher.

a writer, a model to watch.

a surgeon, a bandaid dispenser.

a picture book reader, a word enthusist.

a mom, a giver of hugs.

a friend, a person to count on.

It's all in a days work, so they say.

I am...

a teacher!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I Want You

"I want you Mommy!"

"What do you need sweetie?"
"I want you."

"What can I do for you honey?"

"Mooommmmyyyy, I WANT you!"

Clearly I was missing something important this morning.  In the midst of the morning "gotta-get-out-the-door-with-four-kids" rush, my three year old was whining and pulling at my shirt.  Now, mind you, both of these things can push my buttons in the  morning when patience begins to run thin, but today was different.  Today the rush wasn't as frenzied.  Today I had more time to really stop and listen.  I was handsomely rewarded. 

"My ear hurts Mommy."

[thinking] Oh please, please, please not today!  "Where sweetie?"

"Up here." [pointing to the top edge]

"Ok, maybe you slept on it funny and it's still bothering you.  It will probably feel better soon."

The morning routine continued fairly well.  Breakfast eaten.  Teeth brushed.  Backpacks stuffed.  Lunches packed.  Clothes and shoes all in place.  Whew.

"Mommy, my ear hurts."

[I thought I said NOT TODAY!!!]  "It still hurts?  Show me where again?"

"Right here.  [still pointing to the top edge] Rub it Mommy."

I sat.  We cuddled.  I rubbed her little ear.  She smiled.  She wrapped her little arms around my neck and said those magic, addictive, fabulous words.

"I love you, Mommy!"

"I love you too, Baby Girl."

Best part of my day.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Choices

Slice of Life Challenge - Day 13 - hosted by Two Writing Teachers

We all make decisions in life.  We make our choices based on a variety of things.  Sometimes they are easy and sometimes they are not.  Sometimes they are insignificant, such as what color of socks to wear, but sometimes they are life-changing.  Sometimes our choices mean that we miss out on something important.
I made the choice to go to visit a close friend instead of spending the weekend at home.  I chose to travel to her new house and spend some time in her new world.  I chose to miss out on spending time with my own family.  It wasn’t an easy choice, but I chose based on the fact that I thought there would be many more weekends to enjoy my family and not as many times to visit my who now lived two hours away from me.
It’s a choice I will forever regret.  Not because I didn’t have a nice visit with my friend, but because I missed out on something much bigger.  Of course, as often happens, I could never have known what would happen.  I could never have anticipated that I’d never see her chubby little cheeks alive again.
You never imagine that a precious young girl, a baby really, at two years old, will be taken from your life.  You never dream that making a simple choice will mean a huge regret to shoulder forever.  As a young twenty-something, death is for old people, drug addicts and people you don’t know.  It’s not for spunky young girls with big blue eyes and a smile that could wrap you around her finger in mere seconds.
No, it’s not fair.  It’s not fair that I missed her last days.  It’s not fair that the car crossed the center line.  It’s not fair that her brothers lost their baby sister.  It’s not fair that I lost my beautiful niece.  It’s not fair that my sister lost her baby girl.  Sometimes life is not fair.
People say everything happens for a reason.  I have said it.  Most days I believe it.  Life has shown me enough by now to believe it.  I choose to believe that the reason she is gone is a big, important one.  I choose to believe that God had a very important job and needed a special helper to carry it out.  What other reason could there be?  There is no other reason that brings me comfort like that one, so I choose it.  I make the decision to believe that God needed a very special angel and someday I will understand why...but I don't have to like it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cheers - a reflection on reading and slicing


Slice of Life Writing Challenge - Day 12 - hosted by Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers.


Recently, as part of the Slice of Life challenge, Stacey asked slicers to reflect on our writing so far this month.  I answered her charge at the time by commenting; leaving my thoughts.  However, I have continued to reflect on this and was even thinking about it as I woke up this morning.  Here is today's reflection:

"Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?"


                               
   

I've had the "Cheers" tv show theme song in my head all day.  I'm not sure why.  I couldn't tell you the last time I actually heard the song...but it's there, so there must be a slice about it, right?


As I pondered this idea today, I was watching my students read.  I couldn't help but feel proud of their reading journey.  I thought about how hard it was when they first started; how long it took for us to build up our reading stamina to the point we are now...20+ minutes!!

The atmosphere in the classroom today as they shopped for new books was electric.  Many of them were shopping in a new reading level!  It certainly makes my job fun, and worth while, when I see that gleam in their eyes that tells me they are feeling proud of themselves.  (And it doesn't hurt to know that over half of them just moved up a reading level either!)
I just love the way they drape themselves around the classroom now and get cozy during reading to self time.  Some of them truely lose themselves in their books for a little while.  The SOL writing challenge has become this for me!  Writing and reading SOL stories has become my time to:
 
"...take a break from all [my] worries
[and it] sure does help a lot. 
Wouldn't [I] like to get away..."
 
Yep, I think I'll go read a few slices.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

6-Year-Old Logic Train

Slice Of Life Challenge - Writing Day 11 - hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
Check it out...maybe even join in the fun!

"Mom, has it been 6 weeks?"

"What do you mean honey?"

"Has it been 6 weeks yet?" [sounding a little put off]

"I'm not sure what you mean sweetheart.  6 weeks since what?"

[all out exasperation] "I said, has it been 6 weeks yet?"

Ok Mom...stop and think for a minute...clearly you are supposed to understand and be able to follow this train of thought.  Six weeks.  What on Earth is she talking about? 


In a moment of pure Mommy Genius:

"Do you mean has it been 6 weeks since Groundhog Day?"

"YYYEEEEESSSS!!!" 

Ding Ding Ding!  Mommy got it right!!! 

"Yes, it has."

"Oh.  I thought so.  That's why it's so warm outside today."

You just have to love her and the simple logic of a 6-year-old mind.  Happy spring!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What is she thinking?

Slice of Life Challenge - Day 10 - hosted by Two Writing Teachers.



What is she thinking?

She's 7 months old now and it happened right before my eyes, whether I wanted it to or not.  It's hard to believe she can be that old.  There is that part of me that feels like I've known her forever, and that other part of me that feels like I learn something new about her every day...still getting to know her as she grows into herself, into her own person.  It's a joy!  As I interact with her and watch her interact with her dad and her siblings, I often wonder what she is thinking.

Why do they keep trying to feed me this mushy, gray paste?  Don't they notice that I don't like it?  Don't they notice how I spit it back out?  How I let it dribble down my chin?  How I keep the bananas in and spit out the mush?  Pay attention peeps!  It's not like I do that because I enjoy feeling it on my face!

Why do these strangers always get in my face?  Do they want someone they don't know to come up and rub their cheek?  I think not.

Look at my sister...she thinks it's going to make me laugh if she jumps up and down in front of me.  She's sweet.  I guess I could give her a couple laughs to make her happy.

Must I always drink the same milk every day, all day long?  How 'bout a little variety up in here?  Got Cherry Coke?  Anyone?  Anyone?

Ah, there's my Dad.  Now, he's funny!  He's the one with the whiskers to rub...that always gets me.  I just can't help but laugh when he blows on my belly and his whiskers tickle me! 

Ooooh, my Mom is coming!  If I make some noises she'll pick me up and hug me...watch this!  "Ehhh...da...ba...ba..."  See?  Told ya so.  I can make her smile like a crazy lady too...watch this!  [raspberry]  There it is...there's that smile!  That's almost too easy.

Yes, I wonder what she's thinking. I look forward to the day she can just say it out loud!  I also hope it doesn't arrive too soon. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Author Study: A Powerful Mentor

Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers
Slice of Life - March 9th


Author Study Power!

For the past week, my kindergarten students have been wrapped up in an Anna Dewdney author study.  They love Llama Llama and can't wait to see what he's up to in each new book. 

We started with Llama Llama Red Pajama, which quickly became a new favorite.  After I read the book, I asked my students, "What did you notice?"  Since we had been learning about onomatopoeia (noise words) before starting to read Anna's books, students noticed those words right away.  They also noticed that most of the words were black but a few were red.  Of course, we discussed this idea further:

Me: "Why do you think the author did that?"

"Maybe she likes red!"

"Maybe she wanted us to read those words really loud!"  (He was remembering how Mo Willems makes some words large when the characters are yelling!  Hello, text-to-text connection...nice to see you!) 

And then it happened.  My little rock star raised her hand and said:
"Maybe those are important words and she wanted us to know that."

Ding! Ding! Ding!  I explained that I thought Anna Dewdney wanted to be sure we, the readers, noticed those words. 

And then, rock star #2 said, "I guess those words must be important words!"  Yep...atta boy!

The next day found us reading Llama Llama Mad At Mama, which the kids enjoyed even more than the last book.  They laughed and giggled with delight as little Llama threw a fit in the store!  They loved the picture of the pasta, clothing, juice and paper towels flying through the air.  It was pure joy to read this book to them!

After reading, I asked, "What did you notice in this book?  What did Anna Dewdney do this time?"

"She used those colored words again!"
"Yeah, colors for the important words again!"

Rock star #3 had something different in mind.  Her hand was a bit tentative as she raised it.  She said, "I liked the part where Llama is in the shopping cart and he looked mad."

Ah, yes my child.  Tell me more!

Me: "How did you know he was mad?  How did Anna do that?"
"His lip was sticking out like this [enter perfect pouty face here]." 
"His head was tipped down like he was kinda sad."
Rock star #4: "Anna draws Llama so that he looks real!  Like he is really mad at his mama!" 

Total teacher delight!

Fast forward to day three of the author study.  We had just finished reading Llama Llama Misses Mama and gone off to begin writer's workshop.  Mr. Rock Star #5 raised his hand, he wanted to read me his book.

As I listened to him read the title, I knew I was in for something special. 

Title: My Brother Is A Brat
Page 1: My brother punched me in the face.
"Wait...I need to fix my picture!  I made a happy face on me but I was mad when he punched me."
"What would you like to do?"
"I need to erase my face and draw a mad face...can you get me the eraser please?"

You betcha!  He fixed up his picture and continued reading me his story.  The next day he shared his book with the class on the document camera.  The kids sat and listened with interest as he read his story to them.  Then he told about how he had accidentally drawn a smile on his face but he changed it to a mad face because he wanted his people to look like they really felt..."just like Anna Dewdney does in her Llama Llama books!"

Ahh...the power of an author study. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How About a Little Thankfulness

Slice of Life Challenge - Day 8 - hosted by Two Writing Teachers


On a dreary Thursday, at the end of a long week, sometimes it's hard to find things to be thankful for off the top of your head.  But today, thankfulness just seemed to keep slapping me in the face!  So, when I sat down to write my slice today, I couldn't NOT write about it.  Here is my list for today:

I am thankful...

for the little one who is snuggled in her pink fleece footy pajamas in the crib across the hall.

for the three year old who has to be pried out of bed in the morning...a night owl like her Mama.

for the six year old who loves to crawl into bed and cuddle with her Mama in the early morning hours.

for the nine year old who still wants to be tucked into bed at night with a hug and a kiss.

for knowing I should be thankful for that because it won't last much longer.

for the husband who got up first when the alarm clock buzzed and let me have a few more minutes under the covers.

for the Mama who lives down the street.

for the good friend to share a chat with in the morning.

for a challenging group of students that I get to spend every day with.

for the hugs I get every day from those challenging kids...especially from little E, who needs more hugs that I can give her in a day.

for the babysitter who took a vacation and "allowed" me to take the afternoon off to spend with my two littlest sweeties.

for the homework that my children bring home because it means I get to sit down and devote some time just to my two oldest sweeties.

for the teachers who give that homework because they love my sweeties each day at school.

for dirty dishes in the sink and laundry on the floor because I didn't take the time to clean them up but instead spent some time with my family - they are my everything.

I am thankful.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Happy Birthday Dad!

Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
Remembering you today.
Your eyes and your smile.
The way you could make everything seem ok.
Teasing. Loving. Doing. Being there.
Cars, sports, racing.
Bon fires and stars.
The over-the-glasses look that was All your own.
Proud.  Saying:
"It doesn't get any better than this!"
And meaning it.
Thinking of you every Day.
Remembering you today.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Gotta Love Those Books

Books.

I love them!

I still remember that feeling of excitement as a child when my teacher put the new book order forms in my mailbox.  I would scour them and select all the best books.  Then I would formulate my strategy for convincing my parents that I NEEDED them.  I usually won...who tells their child they can't buy new books to read?

I still feel this way.  The prospect of books orders are still fun.  I love it when I prepare one to send home with my students and they get excited to see the order forms in their mailboxes!  I love it when my own children bring them home from their classrooms!  I can always tell when they have brought them home because they will both be sitting at the kitchen table with their pens in hand and their book orders spread open in front of them, circling all the best books, just as I had done years before.

Fast forward a few (twenty-whoa!) years and imagine my excitement when I got a phone call from a good friend.  She has started selling children's books and she called to see if I would like to host a book party.  Of course, my immediate response?  YES!  We quickly worked out all the details, sent out the invitations and then I started eagerly looking forward to all the wonderful books that would soon be gracing my home.

The party was fun, the books were ordered and yesterday was the big day.  Two big, heavy boxes carried by the man in brown arrived at my doorstep. Ahhh...I could almost smell them through the boxes!  But, it was dinner time and there were three children gathered around my knees wondering about the contents of those big, heavy boxes.  So...I stacked them gently in the corner of the living room and I waited.  All through dinner.  All through play time.  All through bedtime routines.  Still longer...through the cereal and bottle and rocking routine for the baby.  And the whole time those two big boxes stared at me and called to me from the corner.  Just like my books used to call to me from my mailbox when the book orders would come in!

Finally, it was time.  I sat in the middle of the floor, with my scissors in hand, and gently sliced through the tape.  I ever so quietly pulled out the paper stuffing, not wanting to wake any of the snoozers in the house (including the hubby snoring on the couch).  I pull the books from the boxes and stacked them all around me, like a nest.  All at once, I was in my glory.

I sat for an hour in the middle of those book piles.  But more importantly, I looked at them all!  It was terrific!  All those smooth, colorful colors, all the bright pages with pictures to explore and words to devour.  The smell of the new books and the crack of the book opening for the first time.  I drank in every last book.  Then, and only then, did I place the books into separate bags and prepare to give them to their rightful owners. 

What a great night it was!  Ahh...gotta love those books!

Monday, March 5, 2012

So many topics, so little time...

I am taking a class about nonfiction reading and writing right now with an amazing instructor.  We meet once per month and we are busy learning about different text types - everything from picture captions to reading responses to persuasive writing...so far.

I am also reading Talking, Drawing, & Writing by Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe and The Writing Workshop: Working Through the Hard Parts (And They're All Hard Parts) by Katie Wood Ray - both excellent books.

Because of this class and my current reading, I have been thinking a lot about topic selection for writers.  I have never before thought about how to teach my students how to select a topic to write about.  I have created idea lists with different topics they could write about with my students and I have done think alouds as I am writing during which I talk through which of two ideas I will write about that day.  But, I have never, in eleven years of teaching kindergarten, thought to show my students how to pick a topic.

After that thought hit me, another one, a bummer of a thought, hit me.  I'm not sure HOW to teach my kindergarten students how to choose a topic for writing.  I'm just beginning myself to stick my toe into the writing waters (through this SOLC) so I am learning too! 

So far, the only piece of advice I have to offer them is to look at the world around you.  There are often ideas for topics that pop into my head at random times now that I am considering myself more of a writer but that is awfully hard to explain to a five or six year old.

And so, I'm turning to you all...my new community of people...for some help.  How do you teach your students to select a topic?  How do you select your own topics?

Thanks in advance for any words of wisdom you have to offer!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Intricate Dance of Sweet Potatoes

If you have ever fed a six month old baby, you know about it.  That intricate dance of sweet potatoes.  The intricate dance of spooning the food in and being ready to catch half of it as it dribbles out and onto that cute little chin. 

Last night, as I was participating in the dance with baby, I admittedly was thinking more about what my slice would be for today than what was happening with the spoon.  Until, of course, my six year old woke me from my thoughts with the insight of a big sister.

"Mom, she's doing good tonight!" she said. 

And she was right!  The baby was doing well!  She was enjoying the dance of sweet potatoes-opening wide and savoring each bite.  I almost missed the beauty of the dance because I was lost in my own thoughts.  Such a wise big sister to point out the obvious to the mommy who was missing it right as it was unfolding right under her own nose!

Almost immediately my mind started to swirl. That one comment from big sister is all it took to set my thoughts in motion.

As I'm scooping sweet potatoes into baby's mouth it hits me.  This intricate dance of sweet potatoes is just like the process of teaching.  We spoon in little scoops of knowledge and only some is retained.  The rest seeps back out uneaten, unused.  So we do what we do and we catch the dribble, shovel it back in and hope that this time it stays.  But, like all good baby-feeding moms, we stay at the ready, knowing that the dance might not be done...knowing that we might need to catch and scoop yet again before the dance is complete.

And so I sat there with my mind buzzing from this idea.  Thinking all at once that it was pretty late in the day to be thinking in metaphors and how cool it was that four days ago I would have had the thought and let it go but now, instead, I will share it with the world through my slice and just maybe someone will read it and relate to it! 

As we get ready to stare down the barrel of Monday, let's remember to have our scoops ready.  There might be a little bit of dribbling, but at least we will be ready for it!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Persuasion of Penguins

Slice of Life Challenge: Day 3

My first grader is lucky.  She is lucky to be in a classroom with a teacher who is willing to look at all the standards and expectations for a first grader and then put in the effort of making them meaningful.

My daughter has been enjoying a month-long study of penguins.  Her teacher teaches this famous penguin unit every year and it is one of the highlights of the year for her first graders.  It's the time that they all look forward to in all the days leading up to it each year and my daughter is no different.  She couldn't wait for it to begin because she had already heard so much about it from other kids and her teacher.  She'd been saving up all her penguin "stuff" for this moment!  All throughout the first 100 days of school she had been thinking about showing her teacher her penguin socks, her stuffed animal penguins, the talking and dancing penguin she got for Christmas, her penguin books...and the list goes on.

And so it finally arrived and it didn't disappoint.  My daughter has come home every day with new facts she has learned about penguins.  Her class has even decided to raise enough money (by selling tickets and raffling off a blanket) to adopt a Rock Hopper penguin.  Yes, her teacher is awesome!

Her: Do you know why the Rock Hopper penguin is on the "dangered" list?
Me: No, why?
Her: Well...(yes, that's how she talks, my little adult-child)...the sun is coming into the Earth and it gets trapped and can't get out.  That makes the ice melt.  And do you know what happens then?  ...   And do you know why?  Well...      

And on it goes.  She has learned so much about penguins!  But the beauty of it is that she is also learning about writing, both nonfiction and persuasion (they wrote letters to their parents about why we should buy raffle tickets and help them adopt the penguin), reading nonfiction, science, math (they are measuring penguins and comparing how tall they are with how tall the students are) and art (they made posters for the hallway to interest people in buying tickets for the raffle and soon they will be making paper replicas of the penguins they have studied to hang in the hall with labels that give facts about their size, where they live and what they eat). 

She is such a lucky girl to be involved in this unit of study with a teacher who is smart enough and works hard enough to integrate all those standards and expectations into a fun, meaningful unit for her students.  So, you might be asking, how is this teacher going to top this and finish out the rest of the school year with this same level of enthusiasm?  Well...(I guess my daughter gets that from me)...she will begin a unit on farming and farm animals next.  The excitement is already building and they aren't even finished with the penguin unit yet!

Yep, my daughter is one lucky girl!

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Slice of Mo

Slice of Life Challenge: Day two!

My students and I have been studying Mo Willems during the month of February.  We have really enjoyed reading about our new friends: Elephant and Piggy, Pigeon, Knuffle Bunny and Trixie, Amanda and her Alligator, Leonardo, Edwina, the whole gang!

Each day as I finish reading a new story or an old favorite I ask my students, "What did you notice today?"  And each day I am blown away by the insightful answers that I hear.

Now that we have read all the Mo Willems books that our school library owns (time to make a trip to the local city library now!), we are looking at his books as writers.  Again, when I ask the kids what they notice, they amaze me!  With all the great ideas and wonderful things they are noticing...it was time for a chart.

Last week we took all the great things we had learned from Mo and turned it into a chart for our wall.  My students have not only begun to point out the things we learned from Mo in other books, but they have also started trying to include them in their own writing!

I have been a fan of author studies for a while now, but the power of the author study this year has reached new levels!  I can't wait to see what happens next!