Tuesday's Slice of Life stories are hosted by Ruth and Stacey at their blog Two Writing Teachers. Head over to their blog to read more great slice of life stories and even add your own!
I'm reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio right now. I took my children to the library on Saturday morning and began reading it that afternoon. I could not put it down all weekend. That being said, I still haven't finished it. (Here is where I give the excuse of having four small children...reading time is hard to come by during the daytime hours!) But, possibly because can't spend the time I'd like to really devour the book, I have had time to reflect on my reading as I go.
It seems to follow the overarching themes that have been floating around me during the last two weeks. I have been running into the ideas of making a difference, standing up for what you believe in, standing up for others and choosing kindness.
I see it in the book: the children who become friends with Auggie and choose kindness, they stand up for each other, and they make a difference in each other's lives.
I see it in my classroom: making an extra effort to connect with a child and make a difference in the way they see themselves in school, as a student and as a learner.
I see it in my colleagues: standing up for the type of professional development that will be helpful and not hurtful to their team, thinking about relationships and the dynamics of teamwork and collaboration.
I see it in my mentor: teaching others by showing them their gifts and using those gifts to benefit the whole, encouraging people by meeting them where they are, validating them and then giving them a nudge to soar on their own, fostering independence, and leading by example.
I see it on the signs I drive past: "To belittle is to be little."
Then again today, as I settle in with Wonder for a few minutes this evening, I see it again. Only this time, it has an additional message attached. Auggie said it well: "I do know what I'm really known for. But there's nothing I can do about that. A Star Wars duffel bag I could do something about."
Sometimes things happen and we can't do anything about it. BUT...sometimes we can. Don't complain about what you cannot change but take charge of what you can change. Never be little - never belittle. Take a stand where you can. Make a difference. Choose kindness.
I love a long weekend! But hey, who doesn't? I love them because I have an extra day to do something I want to do. Not dishes or grocery shopping or planning for school, but something for me. This weekend I chose reading! Or maybe, reading chose me.
Saturday morning found my oldest two kids and I at the library. Here is my week ahead (both came highly recommended):
City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems
Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker
Last week, from my last library stack, I read another Mo Willems book. Can I Play Too? This may be my favorite Mo Willems book ever! It's tough to choose just one because I love them all, but as I read it to my kindergarten class and saw them actually rolling on the floor with laughter, it was hard not to be swayed! In this story Elephant and Piggie decide to play catch, which is fine until their friend Snake asks if he can play too! It's just hilarious, as you can probably imagine.
Currently, I'm reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I sort of feel like a late-comer to this book. I was interested in reading it after hearing a lot about it, but I wasn't really in a rush to seek it out. I figured I'd get to it over the summer. However, I accidentally knocked it over on the shelf at the library as I was looking at another book. I figured it was meant to be! I have to say, I CAN'T PUT IT DOWN! My favorite quote:
"...we should be remembered for the things we do. The things we do are the most important things of all. They are more important than what we say or what we look like. The things we do outlast our mortality. The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor heroes after they've died. They're like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the pharaohs. Only instead of being made out of stone, they're made out of the memories people have of you. That's why your deeds are like your monuments. Built with memories instead of with stone."
~ Auggie, page 65
I'm also reading books with my children right now. My daughter, the first grader, is into Junie B. Jones. We are currently reading Junie B., First Grader Aloha-ha-ha! I have to say, so far, I have enjoyed this one more than the others we have read. My son, the third grader, is reading Percy Jackson The Lightening Thief. He checked out both the book at the movie at the library this week...I guess he's interested in this one! And, last but not least, my three-year-old is in love with Max and Ruby. This week we have been reading Max's ABC's and her all-time favorite, Max's Bath.
Professionally, I am in the middle of a few good books. I just got Mentor Author, Mentor Texts by Ralph Fletcher. I'm also reading Katie Wood Ray's Writing Workshop: Working Through the Hard Parts (and They're All Hard Parts. I'm gearing up for seeing both of these great author's at the All Write Conference in June!
I'm also looking forward to Thursday's Chalk-A-Bration! Don't miss the chalk poems on Betsy's blog Teaching Young Writers. Drop by to read, link your own chalk poem or do both on May 31st! I can't wait!
Yesterday I urged everyone to choose to be happy and go make a difference to someone. I started my day out today reminding myself that today I was holding myself accountable to meet my goal. I didn't know how I was going to do this but I trusted that an opportunity would arise during my day. I also promised myself that this would involve someone outside my immediate family...more specifically, someone at school. I think I had in the back of my mind that this would involve one of my students but I wasn't going to limit myself. On the other hand, I only worked a half day, so I knew I had a more limited timeframe for meeting my goal.
No worries, right?
Well, even though it was only a half day, it was one of THOSE days in the classroom. It was pretty clear from the beginning that the majority of my students were thinking about the long weekend and feeling like they would much rather be outside playing, or inside playing for that matter, than be in school.
This is a challenging group of students. I love them, but they are a tough group. I knew I would have to work harder to engage them today. It was time to pull out the paint and the bingo chips! What better way to jump into the day than by painting? I figured that the kids would be more able to sit and read after painting. Once clean up was complete, out came the book boxes. I was surprised by their stamina - 25 minutes - I guess it worked! Then I brought out the bingo chips, but I threw them a curve ball when I told them we weren't going to be playing bingo with them. I was able to sneak in a little subtraction practice by playing with the bingo chips. Then they were even able to accomplish a little writing time as well.
Through it all, most of the kids did a great job. There were a few that were obviously just going through the motions today, but they were hanging in there and I managed to engage them, too, eventually. But then there was my little pumpkin Jake. Oh Jake.
All morning he was dragging his feet. The painting didn't hook him. Read to Self time caused him to make three trips to the Kleenex box, two trips to the bathroom, and one trip to the drinking fountain. Yep, all that in 25 minutes. Think he was able to get much reading done? Me neither. At this point, it was only 10:00. I knew that we were still facing writing workshop...his least favorite activity of the day. In 140+ days of school, I still have not been able to convince this little munchkin that writing is fun, important, exciting, anything. He dreads it every day. I figured if I didn't do something quick, the Kleenex/bathroom/drinking fountain process was going to start all over again.
What to do...what to do...how was I going to get him to add periods to his story when he didn't even want to open his writing booklet? Think...think...think...
"Hey Jake? Would you bring me the book, Papa Please Get the Moon For Me, by Eric Carle please?
His face ACTUALLY lit up at this request. I know it was really only because he would rather do anything than write, but I still took some satisfaction in seeing his smile. He happily bounced over to the author study basket and found the book for me. We read the book yesterday - he loved it, just as he loves anything about the moon, stars, planets, space, etc.
He brought the book over to me and stood waiting to see if I was going to read it...of course, I took advantage of that. I started reading the first page quietly to myself. I started a little dialogue with myself. "I wonder what Eric Carle does to show his readers where to stop reading and when a sentence is done? Hmmm, let me look...."
"Mrs.S! I know! Eric Carle puts a dot at the end of the sentence! That's how we know when to stop! Remember? It's like a stop sign!" (I love it when a plan works!)
"Wow Jake! I think you are right! I bet you did that in your book too!"
A perplexed look flashed across his face. "Just a minute," he said as he dashed back to his table.
I watched as he bent over his story. He checked each page, added a period to each, closed the book and brought it over to me. "Look! I did! I have a dot at the end of every set-nance!"
"You put a period at the end of each sentence Jake? That's great! You are just like Eric Carle!"
S-M-I-L-E-S! Then he proceeded to tell me he was done but didn't want to start a new story today. He thought he'd had enough. (Just when I thought I had him...)
"Hey Jake, you have been enjoying Eric Carle's books a lot, haven't you?"
"Yeah! I like the caterpillar one and the hermit crab one and the sloth one and the moon one."
"I like those stories too. You know what? I noticed that Eric Carle seems to write about things he really likes. He really likes animals and he likes to teach kids about them. I bet that's why we like those stories so much! Because we can tell that he worked hard on them and he was really interested in those topics and he shared them with us so we could enjoy them too!"
"Oh. Is it almost free choice time?" (Sigh. Guess I'll need to work a little harder.)
"What do you like to play with most?"
"Do you have a lot at home?"
"Yes! I have all different kinds. They are different colors and different shapes and they are really cool. I even have a track that they drive on and a ramp to jump and my brother has a lot of cars too!" (Set the hook!)
"You know, that reminds me of Eric Carle! He write about things he likes. You could do that too! You could write a story about your cars!"
Gasp! "I could! I could do it right now! I'll show you when I'm done Mrs. S!" he said over his shoulder as he ran away. (Reel him in!)
"Hey Mrs. S? I liked writing today. I started that story about my cars! It was kinda fun!" (Ahhh...caught him!)
It took a while. It took a lot of tries. It took a lot of patience. It took some new ideas, but I did it! I made a difference to Jake today. And you know what? It felt really good. Really good. It was totally worth the time and effort. I can't wait to see how his story ends. I love that Jake chose to be happy today.
What did you do today? Who did you make a difference to? How did you choose to be happy?
What on earth? Is that a person? Yes. I'm pretty sure. Is she...flapping her arms? In the middle of the road? What is going on? Break lights. A car on the side of the road. Is that a kid hanging out the window? What is she doing? Doesn't she realize what a busy road this is? 55 miles per hour isn't going to stop quickly, no matter how much you flap your arms woman! Sometimes I honestly think people are crazy...oh, wait...what? Is that...a horse? No. Correction. That's three horses. Ok, maybe those are technically ponies, but yes, there they are, in the middle of the road, in the ditch, trotting wherever they please. What is going on here?!
I was driving home after an impromptu family dinner at the local pizza place tonight (my daughter's idea - and a good one too!) and I was feeling pretty content. My day in the classroom left me somewhat discouraged, but dinner with my own children had lightened my mood. I was feeling pretty good as I sang along with the radio, windows down, enjoying the sunshine and warm weather. That's when I saw this odd spectacle. It's just not every day that you see a woman, in the middle of a busy road, flapping her arms! I realize she was trying to get the car in front of me to stop but let's keep in mind that this road is BUSY and traffic was humming right along - probably a bit faster than the posted 55 mph signs would encourage. For a minute all I can see is a vehicle on the side of the road, parked haphazardly nearish to a driveway, with a young child half hanging out the side window and a woman standing in the center of the road flapping her arms, and breaklights on the car in front of me, which was rapidly slowing down.
That's about the time that I saw first one pony, then three ponies. They were obviously skittish and out of sorts. Once the woman was satisfied that the cars were stopping on the road, she moved to the side and tried to encourage the ponies to stay away from the road. Keep in mind that I travel this stretch of road twice daily and never have I seen horses near the road. There are often horses in a field that is way off the road, but they are never anywhere close. And I've never noticed these particular ponies among that group either, so it was an all-around surprising scene.
Apparently, the woman was about 2 minutes ahead of me, saw that the horses had gotten out and stopped her car to help. She left her small child sitting on the side of the road, hanging out the window in order to see, and she was trying her best to corral the ponies. About this time, a truck came flying in from the opposite direction. He whipped off the road and jumped out of his truck, quite possibly before he even had it in park. I'm guessing the 3 ponies belonged to him.
As I drove away, I had several thoughts competing for my attention all at once.
"Thank God I didn't get there right before the crazy arm-flapping lady! I could have easily hit one of the ponies with two of my babies in the backseat."
"That woman must actually be crazy to leave her car parked that way with her small child hanging out the window while she stood in the middle of the road."
"I wonder what I would have done if I had been there first?"
"I'm certain I would not have gotten out of my vehicle and left my children on the side of the road. I'm even more certain I would not have attempted to stop traffic on that busy road by standing in the middle and flapping my arms. There are other ways."
"It's pretty amazing that someone who was willing to stop the car and stand in the middle of the road to stop traffic happened to drive that stretch of road at just the right moment to help. And did."
"It's a blessing that the child didn't fall out of the window or end up in the middle of the road too! And equally amazing, noone got hurt - not the woman, the child or the horses - by someone trying to avoid the woman in the middle of the road and the ponies running around."
"Here is a prime example of someone being kind and caring to others. The ponies didn't belong to this woman. She stopped anyway. She went above the call of duty and made a difference in someone's day."
"I just witnessed an act of kindness. It's time to pay it forward."
I am challenging myself tomorrow to make a difference. Even if it's something small, something meaningful to one person. Anything. Just make a difference. Inspire someone. Notice an act of kindness and pay it forward. I'll let you know how it works out for me. I hope you will come back and let me know how it worked out for you as well.
Until then...choose happiness and make a difference.
Normally, I start the school year out with nursery rhymes in my kindergarten classroom. It allows me to see what kinds and how much experience my students have with literacy. It shows me who can rhyme. It also allows me to begin working on letter and sound identification.
This year I was out on maternity leave for the month of September. Let's just say, that situation is less than ideal. My substitute did some nursery rhyme work, but I had noticed, on several ocassions throughout the year, that many of my students did not know some of the most common nursery rhymes. I know, sad, isn't it?
With all the time we were spending in the last couple of months on poetry, I decided to incorporate some nursery rhymes in once again. Yes, some kids already knew them all, but I found that they still really enjoyed revisiting them.
This time around I didn't spend the time on letter and sound recognition. Instead I did some copy change activities. We changed "baby" to our names in Pat-a-Cake, changed "merrily" to different adjectives in Row, Row, Row Your Boat, and we also changed the way and the type of boat of traveling in that rhyme. For example, we wrote "Paddle, paddle, paddle your canoe/quickly down the stream/happily, happily, happily, happily/life is but a dream." The kids loved this! It's been a few weeks now since the copy change activities, but I still hear the kids singing their own versions. Success!
We finished up our nursery rhyme play with some art projects last week. The kids picked which rhyme they wanted to learn from several choices. Then they worked on an art project to match. After completing the art, the kids stood before the class, in their rhyme groups, and recited their rhyme/showed off their magnificent art. Check it out!
I'm a Little Teapot
Itsy Bitsy Spider
Jack and Jill
The projects were great fun and the performances were even better! This is what kindergarten is all about!
First, I have to say, I have been reading and enjoying the book reviews that people post as part of this meme for a while now. I finally decided that it was time to jump in there myself. So, here we go!
What have I been reading? Last week was a crazy jumble of things! My kindergarten students have studied several authors this year and one of the favorites, and one of my favorites as well, is Mo Willems. We studied Mo a while ago, but recently, on a trip to the library with my own children, I found a couple books by Mo that we hadn't read yet.
My students LOVED this book! They thought it was hilarious! After about the second page, when Elephant and Piggy decide to play catch and Snake asks if he can play too, my students started making predictions like crazy! This book was a joy to share.
I also found this little gem - I know it isn't new but I hadn't been able to get my hands on it in the library yet. I guess everyone likes it because it's been checked out each time I've tried to find it! My students adore Pigeon and loved this story. They were hooked as soon as I read the title!
This book was shared by a colleague. My students had recommended a Mo Willems book to her students during our author study. She bought this book for her class and when she read it to them, they decided my students would enjoy it too and wrote us a letter telling us about it! They even shared the book with us for a couple days. The kids really enjoyed it and said it was one of their favorite Pigeon stories!
We have also been conducting a study of Eric Carle - both as an author and an illustrator. Last week we read:
The Grouchy Ladybug
The Mixed-Up Chameleon
The Tiny Seed
A House For Hermit Crab
Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?
This week we will be continuing our study of Eric Carle. We will be reading:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me
The Very Lonely Firefly
Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too?
We will also be trying our hand at painting like Eric Carle this week. We will be making our own Hungry Caterpillars using some of Carle's techniques.
At the end of April, we had just dug into writing nonfiction. I gave my kindergarten students many choices: what topic, write a poem or book? They were so excited to begin and so was I! If you want to read/see the beginning stages, check out this post.
Most of my students chose to write a book, but a few brave souls decided to try writing a nonfiction poem instead. The buzz in the room while the kids were working was absolutely amazing! It was one of those moments when I thought to myself, "This is why I teach!"
All of the books and poems turned out beautifully. It was really hard to choose a few to share here, but here are a few that are updates from the kids I showcased the beginning stages of in the last post, as well as a few more that I just couldn't resist!
You will notice that all types of writers did really well with this project. The highest writers did their normal great work, but the lowest of my writers really did a fantastic job too!
As you may know, my recent posts have been a journey through kindergarten poetry. We observed the playground and school garden, we made a list of what we saw, we wrote a poem and we illustrated.
Knowing the amount of love that went into these poems and illustrations, I knew we needed to display this work for others to see and appreciate. We mounted the pictures and poems on black paper and laminated them for safe keeping. Here are some samples:
What to do?
The water is
Blue, blue, blue.
He eats an antelope
I see a black cat.
I see a blue bird.
I see a black and white zebra.
I see a green frog.
I see the leaves.
I see the butterflies.
I see flowers.
I see the trees.
I see the fence.
I see the people.
We hung these works of art in the hallway and we will continue to enjoy them for a while at school before we (I) part with them and send them home for parents to enjoy.
We had a lot of fun with this project and the kids have continued to enjoy reading poetry books. To keep the momentum going, I began reading nonfiction poetry to my students this week. I read several nonfiction poems from The Poem Farm blog to my students. They were eating it up! Come back soon to see what happens next!
It's May, it's crazy and now the baby is sick! What?! You do the math:
sick baby + tired mommy = no slice
Please check out my recent posts on my student's poetry journey here and here. Also check out the research project we've been working on in kindergarten here. I will return soon to post the wrap-up post for each! Stay tuned!
** SPECIAL NOTE **
If you missed Betsy's chalk poem challenge yesterday, don't waste any more time! Check out her Chalk-A-Bration here!