Monday, April 29, 2013

Screen Free

I am celebrating Screen Free Week this week. For me, this means:

·      No blogging
·      No Facebook
·      No TV
·      Limited time on Twitter and email

How about you? Want to join?

See you after the 5th! I’m hoping to get to many books that have been stacking up.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Skype Visit with Gae Polisner

I often joke that I don’t really admire celebrities – heck, I don’t even know the majority of people that are inside an US Weekly anymore – but I do admire authors. They are my superheroes. Friday was a great example of why I feel that way. As I wrote about last week (HERE), I am beginning a fiction unit in writing workshop. The students took a field trip to my preschool and we learned a bit about setting. The next writing day was going to be Friday and I was debating how to use it best. I knew that it would be our main jumping off lesson for the unit. Enter Gae Polisner.

I “knew” Gae through Twitter. Her fabulous book, The Pull of Gravity, won an award in our first ever Nerdy Book Club awards. She had offered before to Skype with my fifth graders and I decided to take her up on the offer.

When I sent Gae a tweet to see if she was still interested, she immediately said yes. We settled on a date and what we’d Skype about – she’d talk about her writing process, they could ask questions, and if time allowed – she would lead them in a creative writing activity.

Skype with Gae
The Skype started off great. Gae asked them how many students loved to read – and to be honest; she’d make me leave the room if necessary. Every hand shot up. Then she asked how many loved to write, only half of the hands went up. When Gae talked to them she discovered many didn’t enjoy writing because they weren’t good at it, in their opinion. I will be forever grateful to Gae for the conversation that came next. She talked about how many times she has been told her writing isn’t good enough. And how when you are told no, it just means it isn’t right for that other person at that time. That you should use the “no” to inspire you to improve. It isn’t an indication that you are a failure, but that you can grow. She discussed this with writing, art, sports, etc. What a fabulous message for my students!

Creative writing activity
Gae went on to discuss her own writing process, drafts, and more. We did have technology issues – but we worked around them. At the end she had me lead the creative writing activity due to tech issues – and I’ve emailed her the results of that writing. I believe she will be sharing that on her blog soon.

If you have the chance to bring an author to your classroom, I highly recommend it. My students were thrilled to talk to Gae, to hear her story, and left inspired to write. They learned so much more in that thirty minutes than I had ever anticipated. And if you haven’t read her fabulous book, remedy that immediately. It is a perfect middle school book.

Thanks, Gae! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Slice of Life - Farm School

Recently I had playground duty and as I walked around the playground talking to my students, my mind wandered to our next writing unit. We were going to begin a fiction unit and I really wanted the students to be inspired. When I’ve read their writing in the past, it usually lacks a strong setting. I wondered what I could do to help with that and then I turned and saw the farm on the hill. One mile from where I stood was the house I went to for preschool – Farm School.

I clearly remember Farm School. It might have been my favorite years of school ever. Many times in writing workshop I write about my experiences there. One that stands out is walking down the lane to the woods just south of the property. I’m not sure why we went there, but when we did I was certain the wood were magical. They felt special. With that thought in mind, I decided I wanted to take my students there to write.

We headed down the interurban track to the woods on the hill, just over a mile away. I smiled as I watched some of the boys race to the top – it was nice to be able to let them run ahead. With no traffic on this trail we could spread out without any worry.

Once we finally reached the woods, the kids spread out with their towels and blankets. I instructed them to stare at the woods, to let their mind wander. What stories could they tell here? What did they see? Were the woods magical? Did they hide something? Write.

I moved up and down the line of students. Some read to me what they had so far, some furiously wrote, some had to be reminded to get writing. J I watched as one student flagged down my friend and colleague who had come for a walk with us – he just had to share his story with her. It was amazing.

All too soon, we had to head back. I glanced up the lane at the beautiful house that held so many memories. Now it had given me more, this time as a teacher instead of a student. I cannot think of a better way to spend Earth Day than outside writing with my class. I can’t wait to see what stories then come up with. 

Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I’m joining Jen & Kellee (and many other bloggers) in discussing what we are reading this week. Join us! Go to their site and link up your own blog.

Fabulous books read this week – impossible to pick a favorite. Hope to review some later this week.

Here’s a complete list:

Up this week? Not sure – diving into my to read shelf and will see what comes to the top.

Happy Reading!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Watch what you say…

 I think every parent knows this scenario…

You are talking to your children, maybe having a lecture even. And all of the sudden it is as if your own parents are in the room. The words you heard as a kid, that you swore you’d never say, just came out of your mouth. This happens to me all the time. Chris swears I am an 80 year old in a 39 year old body. Some things that often fly out of my mouth include –

Holy Moses
Man Alive
Hang you by your toes
In my mother’s handbook
Whoopsie daisy
Bless her heart
Oh, honey

Not sure how this happened, but I sound like my mom.  Heck, sometimes I sound like my grandmother or great aunt. And the reverse happens too. As my own children began talking, I’d hear myself in their words. The word “actually” pops up in their vocabulary all too often.

This week I realized the same thing happens to me at school. I’m on the second floor of a building that was built in 1894. I used to be on the first floor. I’m all too aware of the fact that those on the first floor have to listen to the noise coming through the ceiling all the time. I often caution my students to be careful, not to stomp or drop things, the teacher downstairs is teaching.

This week I witnessed the following. A boy was goofing off during study hall and dropped something on the floor. Before I could open my mouth, I overheard this exchange.

Josh – Be careful! Do you want to go downstairs and apologize to Mrs. Meyer?

Me – laughing…Do I say that a lot or something?

Entire study hall group looks at me… Um, yes!

Mental note, watch what I say. J