Express Yourself

Be who you are and say how you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.
--Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Taking Shape

Day by day, minute by minute, and step by step my room is finally taking shape. Sure, there is much to do. It will be under construction the whole year. Today my library committee took some time to start their library project. They are working on labeling books and placing them in bins, shoe boxes, and other dollar store specials. They had a little time to do this today. The room looks and feels so much better. They also presented their work to the class and started some semblance of rules for their library.  I like how this is going. We will see how it goes. So far, so great!

In addition to that, I had some time to display  more student work. The young poets have written poems about themselves using my poem and Where I Am From by George Ella Lyons as an example. They have also incorporated the use of writing literacy letters to their parents and to me. I have learned so much from reading them and will answer them over the weekend.

For the past week, we have been using the Pentad by Kenneth Burke, to analyze and write. I red the book Red, A Crayon's Story to them. They worked by themselves and used the pentad to analyze the story.  Then they shared their pentad with a few others. After that, they wrote a reading response, using the Pentad as a guide. We then discussed which areas of the pentad that their response may have covered. I felt pretty good about their participation and engagement with their classmates, materials and thinking. Not bad, not bad at all.

The students have also combined some editing practice using the Express Lane Edit idea from Jeff Anderson's video called Teaching the Craft of Grammar. The editing shopping list was place on a large postit, along with the receipt. They used it today when they were writing a Math problem as well. It is amazing to see the improvement in their writing.

Classroom Math Wall! Got a compliment from one of my students today. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Triggers or Stimuli for Writing, Reading and Media Analysis

Since I am going to try out Gretchen Bernabei's  Memory Kernels this week with my class, I thought I would have visual stimuli ready. A colleague reminded me of using Mean Girls Video from Rachel Crow. It is great for talking about being bullied. I also thought of the new Verizon commercial at being better. It is hilarious. I also wanted to add the VW video of people laughing. I simply love it and it always brings a smile to my face. They are great trigger for conversation, analysis and writing. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Progress Reports and Shingles

I have been dying to post, but finding the time to do it has been impossible. I had to learn a new system for inputting grades for progress reports. It took me a while, but thanks to my good friend and colleague Noemi, I got it done in two nights. My work day began Monday and Tuesday at 5:00 am and ended at 11:59 am. Needless to say, I was extremely run down. I felt great because I could check that box off of my list. All weekend long, I was compiling grades and get things ready for these two days of progress reporting.

On Wednesday, my lovely friend, Migraine, came to visit on time. On time I say because whenever I am overworked and over stressed, he pays me an unwanted visit. This time was different. Not different because of when and where it occurred. I am used to the onset of morning migraines to meet their crescendo around noon and BOOM I am in for it. Different only because my stomach has been majorly rancid lately. I think I have an ulcer and am getting more tests done to find out the cause of my pain. My stomach hurts like the dickens with not much respite. I cannot take any NSAIDs. There is no pain relief from my migraine at all. I have to just as some people say, "deal." That is just what I did. I suffered through a long afternoon teaching. The kids were very kind to me. I tried to get through teaching some Math and then moving onto DRAs (assessments for Reading) where I could barely see the titles. My vision started to blur some. I suffered through two phone calls from the nurse and dismissal.  My ultimate goal was to get through it all and get home to sleep.  By the grace of God, I did it. I went home and slept from the time I got home until 10:30 pm. I awoke feeling somewhat better. The migraine had subsided to a minor headache. I hoped that the next day would be better.

On Thursday, I woke up feeling a little better. The effects of the migraine were minimal. I prayed that it would just leave me alone completely. When I arrived at work, I felt better. With migraines, the effects linger and could be triggered again, so I was guardedly optimistic. As it turns out, Thursday was quite a lovely migraine free day!  Yay! I did, however, find myself scratching the back of my neck some during lunch duty. I never thought much more about it. The rest of the day went spectacularly well.

On Friday, I was dragging. I was devoid of any energy. I couldn't figure out why I was so tired since I had a sufficient amount of rest the previous two nights. The day went okay and by the time I ended by last after school class, I felt completely wiped out. I felt confused all day because the back of my neck kept itching me the whole day. What was going on? I thought. Did I get bit by a spider or some insect? I remember seeing a little mosquito fly by me at home the night before. The weird thing about this was the itching area felt strange. It was swollen. What the heck can that be? I thought. When I was talking to one of my colleagues, I asked her to look at it. When she looked it, I imagine she winced because she said, EWWW! I thought, What the heck is this? She proceeded to take a photo of it on her phone. When she showed it to me, I was shocked. It was a patch of redness shaped like a photo of comet but eye shaped. In the middle it looked like there was a mini scab. From that patch of redness protruded some red chains rolling down my neck and embarking on a trip to my shoulders. The sight scared me. I thought that maybe I had some kind of MRSA or flesh eating bacteria. I thought about all the terrible things that it could possibly be. I watched plenty  of Monster Inside of Me shows. I had also read much about  flesh eating bacteria. My mom had recently contracted MRSA too. Could it be MRSA? I knew that I had to seek medical treatment immediately, but at 5:00 pm on Friday? I decided to visit an emergency room close to my house.

I went to hospital and within 30 minutes a doctor looked at my neck. They initially thought MRSA or Shingles. Another attending physician accompanied the first doctor that I had seen previously. They concurred on the shingles diagnosis. Shingles? I have shingles? Well, it is better than MRSA, I thought. They gave me a prescription of antibiotics and ointment. The nurse was adamant that I take the meds immediately, even though it was late in the evening. My pharmacy, however, was still open. I was able to start treatment immediately to stop the virus from spreading.

When I arrived home, I researched Shingles. All of my symptoms, leading up to the red rash, were spot on. I had the headache and vision problems on Wednesday. I have noticed the blurred vision, but I thought it was time to get my eyes checked and new glasses. The good thing is that I caught this early so that it cannot spread. I hear it can be very painful. Google images of Shingles was quite gruesome. My neck area is nothing compared to some people's Shingles.

A few weeks ago, I visited Walgreen's. They had this sign up advertising the Shingle vaccine. I should look into this, I thought. Should have listened. When I am finished with this Shingles incident, I will get the Shingle vaccine. I do not want to go through this again.

What causes Shingles? Stress and a compromised immune system. People have told me that progress reports are a monster to get done. I can concur and maybe, just maybe, they cause Shingles. Who knows?  Crazy week!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Top Ten List Reasons Why I Love My Job

I just got off the phone with a friend. My plan was to write about my day, but that will take too long. I have decided to let the ideas percolate a little more. Let them simma down nah (SNL reference). Tomorrow I will let them fly and give them the time and respect that they deserve. Needless to say, I have lots to write. This week was great, besides the onset of a migraine yesterday.

In place of the post that I intended and no longer have the energy to write, I shall suplant it with a top ten list. What top ten list?  The top ten reasons I am where I am.

The Top Ten Reasons Why I Love My Job

(in no particular order of importance)

  1. The people. The people with whom I work are first-class caring and fun individuals. (From the office staff, administration, teams of extremely dedicated teachers, and awesome students and parents.) They make coming to work each day a pleasure. Great people! Great place to work! 
  2. If I am  an early bird, I get the worm and a great parking spot. I am always super early. I like my parking place. I enjoy getting to work sometimes before Lisa Calloway. That's not always possible, but I like to rag her on. I text her: Where are you? I am here in the parking lot.
  3. There's a Burger King a skip and a jump away. (My breakfast stop.)
  4. El Gallo is two skips and a jump away. (I never get to go there, though, except for dinner.)
  5. I get to wear JEANS! I sometimes get to wear JEANS! TWO DAYS A WEEK I GET TO WEAR JEANS! I haven't worn jeans to work for seven long years!  Now it's twice a week!
  6. I get to wear teacher t-shirts! I get to wear teacher t-shirts with inspirational quotes and saying for the kids to read and be inspired. They really like my new subject related t-shirts. They even wanted to buy their own. Thanks to Amazon and, I found some doozies! 
  7. The school t-shirts are off the chain!  They are so nice this year. I don't usually like yellow, but the light bulb design is some kind of special!
  8. I have real windows and natural light in my classroom. I haven't had real windows for seven long years. Siberia comes to mind in my previous job.  No natural light. Maybe it could compare it to living in Antarctica. Now I feel like I am in Jamaica, Mon!
  9. I get to work with some serious nerds. The techie people are awesome. It is great to have some great techie talk and get some ideas rolling!
  10. My class makes my daily commute and early morning worth it! I love working with my class. Everyday I thank the good Lord for my students and their caring parents. They bring a smile to my face and are inspirational! Thanks everyone!
There you have it! Five weeks in and my top ten list. I have a feeling that there might be other things that top this list a month from now. Can't wait!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Egg and I, McDonald's Time Out, and Procrastination-In A Writing State of Mind

All day I have been in a writing kind of mood. I never know when it will hit me, but this week, I have been dying to get to writing.  I have other things to do like grading a thousand notebooks and changing out kitty litter, but for some reason, I just don't want to do them now. Not now. I have lesson plans to work on and I need to go to the store to buy some food for next week. I need to wash some clothes and clean up the house a bit. I don't want to do any of these things. All I want to do is write.

I want to write about straws. I want to write about the lady who refused her food in the McDonald's drive through last night. I just have to tell this story. It has got to come out. I don't know what was wrong with the lady's order, but a young drive through attendant kept giving back the lady's McDonald bag to her. The lady, in turn, returned it back to the attendant. It was like patty cake. I was hoping that they weren't giving her my order. Then after a number of attempts to please this unhappy customer, the attendant sent the poor soul to time out. She had to drive over to the double lined yellow parking area of the parking lot. I saw the flustered teen just point to the time out area. Oh, how I hate the time out area! This area is for people who order something off of the menu. Maybe they want special treatment like ordering eggs with cheese instead of getting the humunga-chunga big breakfast that is carb addict's greatest pleasure. There's so much bread in there to cure world hunger. There is a biscuit and fifteen thousand hot cakes. They have time to make all of that, but if you order just eggs with cheese on go to the time out jail and you will not collect the hot cakes or biscuits. They even have dunce cap cones to show everyone what happens when you order off the menu. I suspect that is what happened to this unsuspecting woman. It was dinner time though. I wonder what she dared to order for dinner. Maybe she went crazy and ordered a Big Mac without the bun!  Uh-oh! No, she didn't!  Who knows?   I said to myself in the car, You know, you gotta write about this! I do talk to myself in the car. No one can hear this constant conversation with me, myself, and I. It is fun!  Shhh! Don't tell anyone.

I also want to write about how I am mad at The Egg and I. Yes, I said it. I am mad at The Egg and I and I haven't been over to eat there for two weekends straight. I love the normal people who work at Egg and I. When they bring in someone who quotes corporate lines, I think of The Office and all the red tape and hardship that it causes.  I have been going to Egg and I for about 3 years. I keep that place in business. Every time I have gone there, I order fruit and ask them to not put cantaloupe in the fruit assortment cup. I am allergic to it. Every sweet person that has waited on me has never ever had a problem or even thought of charging me extra for doing this. NEVER! I went to Egg and I about two to three weeks ago. I asked this new waitress to give me a fruit cup without cantaloupe and pineapple. Pineapple has been added to the list of banned substances. I think I have an an ulcer and it hurts my stomach to eat it. She told me that she would have to give me an up charge. I said, What? An up charge? I have been coming here for three years now and I have never been given an up charge. She told me that she had to do it. I was in total shock. Why did they start doing this now? She told me that she had to do it. I told her to forget about it and just to bring me the eggs. Then a new manager lady, one who I had  never ever seen there, proceeds to come over and talk to me more about it. I told her the same spiel. She mentioned the word Corporate. Corporate has told us...I wonder if corporate can do without my business. I wonder if corporate would like for me to go to IHop. I wonder if they even care about loyal customers who bring lots of guests with them to Egg and I.  I can do without corporate and I can do without Egg and I...for now. I want to find a way to write corporate a letter and see if they want to lose me over a few pieces of cantaloupe and pine apple. Why did a few people have to ruin such a great place? The regulars are the reason why I would go there so much. I went there every weekend practically. I loved the ladies who greeted me with smile and said, How are you doing lady? I had lots of conversations with them all. That was a part of Egg and I's charm. It felt like home. Now, with the corporate being brought in, it feels like lots of lawyers in black suits in a sanitized hospital. Not comfortable at all. Sad, so sad!

One of the ladies who works at Egg and I told me she was reprimanded for calling customers honey or babe or sweetie or sunshine. She told me that some anally retentive guy got mad at her for calling him honey. He reported her to the manager. I wonder if it was the corporate manager. It doesn't feel like home anymore. These people are taking the nicety out of my favorite breakfast place. Why? Why?

I guess this is why I have been dying to write lately.  It is my way to vent and get all of this pent up material to fly. I have been sitting on this for quite some time. Phew! Now I feel better. Now onto kitty litter, laundry, notebooks, and shopping. Glad I got that out of the way!

Interruptions-A Post About Nothing

I have been thinking all week about posting. Thinking about lots and posting nothing has been my mode of operation. I feel like I am in a holding pattern at JFK.  I want to get off of this plane soon because I am getting dizzy. Dizzy with anticipation.  What am I anticipating?  I don't know, but I have a post within me. Percolation. Simmering. Smoldering. Sauntering.(I know that sauntering doesn't go with the other words. It just came to mind. I saw Cathy Roth today and I remembered that sauntering is one of her favorite words.)  My favorite word of the day is ad nauseam. I think I have talked about a particular topic ad nauseam lately.  What might that be?

Being that I am back in the classroom, it would probably be about kids and instruction. Kids and instruction should go together. They do, but what about interruptions?  I hate interruptions.  I saw my friend Patty the other day. We both team taught back in the day. When she passed by my room, she saw me reading aloud to the students. She was passing by to go to the restroom. She told me, during planning, that she thought about walking in and saying hi, but remembered that my number one pet peeve is interruptions.  Yes, I know that I must get used to them and build up lots of tolerance and flexibility. I might need to get some interruption shots weekly. Lord knows I get them daily. I am severely allergic to them and an Epipen won't help me!  Call 911! I think I need to make an appointment with Dr. Phil or Oprah.

I know it has been a while since I have been teaching full time in the classroom, so I need to give my interrupting allergic reactions some time to subside. I need to kick it up another gear with some Benydril or Allegra D.  How will I accomplish this?  I must breathe deeply and count to ten.  Then I must remove myself from the source of the interrupting irritation.  At that point, I must walk back in to the offending area and do some self talk.  It will be okay.  Just think good thoughts! Think of teaching! Think of light bulbs! Think of Reading and Writing and quick writes and pointing and sketching and...and... After all of this self talk my blood pressure will return to the normal range and I will be in a nicer, quieter, (need I mention calming?) place. I would also think of hummus. Hummus has a soothing effect on me. Release the endorphins! It would be nice to have some hummus on hand, accompanied by some carrots and whole wheat tortillas. Chocolate pudding would do too.

What types of interruptions drive me up walls, through the ceilings and onto rooftops? There are many.  I have compiled them into a list (they are not listed in order of importance):

 The Usual Suspects

  1. The attendance bell. The bell for taking attendance always rings when I am in a very teachable moment. (Aren't most moments teachable moments any how? I mean I am teaching all day. But there is this time when all is right in the world. Things are flowing very well. Then out of nowhere an interruptions stalks me.) I am in the great part of my lesson and I have everyone's undivided attention. Then I hear the bell! Time to stop and take attendance. Will I ever get back to that moment again? It will take time and extra effort.
  2. Items in my box.The different items in my box always demand my immediate attention two seconds before my planning period has expired.
  3. Immediate attention forms. A form that needs to be sent out to students before the end of the day. It finds me when I am in another teachable moment.
  4. Dismissal tags. I don't want to write about them any more.
  5. Dismissal tags. No need to explain.
  6. Dismissal tags. Cause of much suffering.
  7. Elections. Elections of all types. (No option of opting out either.)
  8. Committees. Committees of all types that need my input. (I should form a committee to address all the committee in one full sweep.)
  9. Dismissal tags. Not going to say a word.
  10. Dismissal tags. Mum is the word.
  11. Specials. Time to go to specials.
  12. Specials. Time to go to specials.
  13. Calls in the classroom. (The last year I taught full time in a classroom, we had no phones. We were buzzed by the intercom. I didn't like that either.) I often want to put that phone on vibrate and send it to voice mail, but I was told that wouldn't be a good idea. It needs my immediate attention. I so want to say, "No one's home!"
  14. Fire drills. Loud noises that may cause serious hearing loss and migraines, not to mention a rise in blood pressure and heart rate. That's why I always say, "What? Huh?" I cannot hear anymore.(Try coming back to the optimal teaching zone after that one on a hot and humid Houston afternoon.)
  15. Tornado drills. A somewhat quiet drill that requires hallway sitting and the covering of the head.
  16. Lunch time. A long walk to food and a little wait in line.
  17. Did I mention dismissal tags? Not going there.
  18. Other? I am not sure when there will be more.
  19. To be determined? Next week we will see new types?
  20. To be continued. (This list is written in jest. Well, some of it.)
I think my brain has been rewired to include interruptions now. That is why I haven't written too much this week. I can't pay attention. I am on edge. The anticipation of more interruptions, makes me more nervous than drinking a 4 hour energy with a shot of espresso and powdery Matcha Green Tea. In all seriousness though, all week I was up late every night grading, grading, grading and grading.I was too tired to write.  I will be grading all weekend long. I hope to encounter not one interruption. I will put my phone on vibrate. I won't answer my door. I am going to be locked in so that I can enjoy a weekend filled with any possibility of interruptions. After grading, I will watch the Texans and other NFL games in peace. I won' t even have to search for any dismissal tags. I have to focus. Progress reports are due soon. Does that count as an interruption?

(Much of this post was written in a hyperbaric chamber or was that with a huge amount of hyperbole? I like to make light of things. It is my stress reliever. I love my kids, school and everyone who works there. The office staff and the administration are top notch. I hope everyone had a good laugh and that by reading this you were slightly interrupted from the seriousness of life.)

Monday, September 14, 2015

When the Crayons Quit Revisited!

Today I was fortunate to read the book When the Crayons Quit to my class. They absolutely loved it. I told them that I would share my video that I made for a colleague. I wanted to bring it back.  Then for the next book, to possibly have the kids read it and make a video. They wanted to act it out too! Who knows what we will come up with?  Vamos a ver lo que pasa!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Book Extravaganza

I was so happy to be back teaching today. I couldn't wait to show my students all the new books that I had brought with Scholastic points. It was like Christmas or a surprise birthday party for them. You could see their eyes light up when I introduced them to their new friends. They were close to salivating for those books. They really like graphic novels. I ordered more Bone books in the series. I ordered more Diary of a Whimpy Kid. The oooohhed and auuuggged with them Big Nates and then Gumball! I would have thought they had seen One Direction or something. They did  the same thing with the Legos books too. They went crazy of the I Survived Series too!  Wow! What fun! That's why I love teaching so much. When you see the joy in their faces and can help foster a love of reading, then it makes all the sacrifices that we teachers make so worth while.
 "I got dibs on that one!" one said.
 "No, I have dibs on that one!"said another.
 "Well, I said it first!"replied the first one.
"No dibs allowed, " I said. "There has to be better way to settle this!"
I was thinking about having a lottery for some of the books that were popular. It seems that Wonder has become very wonderful for them and I only have a few copies. I also bought the second book to Wonder and they are clamouring for that one too!  Ahh, the problems that great books create! Nice problem to have. What's the alternative? Don't even want to go down that path.

I really, really enjoyed reading and implementing many of the practical ideas that Donalyn Miller suggests in her book called Reading in the Wild. She suggests having a lottery system where students put their names in a hat or something like it. On Friday, a name is drawn for the coveted text.When the teacher chooses a name, that student reads it first and then a list is made. I think that is what I am going to have to do.

I am also calling together my library committee. Several students stepped up to volunteer to be on the committee to organize our classroom library. I will be selecting these members next week. They will formulate a plan to label and organize the library. I asked Ms. O'Quinn if she would be available for an interview. She is the school's librarian. I think she has lots of wisdom of how to organize and maintain a school library. The students took photos of her library the other day. They will be presenting to the class very soon. This will be an adventure. I look forward to seeing what they decide.  So many books, so little time. We will see what happens!  Chou for now!

Gretchen Bernabei's Staff Development Schedule

I am so excited to see that Gretchen Bernabei will be offering more workshops  this Fall. I plan on attending both workshops titled Fun Sized Academic Writing and Grammar Keepers. I always learn something new each time that I attend one of her workshops. My understanding deepens and now that I have a classroom of my very own, I am triple excited to attend. I can't wait to see how she uses Grammar Keepers and the writer's notebook. The sentence wringer will be fun to explore. I will be incorporating these strategies. In addition to that, she will share the wealth with the the kernel essays and icons. Pitchforking has constantly evolved too. I am looking forward to learning about the twists and turns. The day will fly by and I will enjoy every minute of it.  Can't wait!  For more information, go to or click on the link provided below. Hope to see you there!  Badabing, badaboom!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sick Day

I had to take a sick day today so that I could get more tests done for my doctor. I really hated leaving my students this early in the year. I spent two hours prepping for today's sick day. All through the day, I kept wondering how things were going. I left very detailed plans and tried to leave no stone left unturned on my first day away from my kids.

I texted my colleague to see how things were going during the day. I was done quite early with my scheduled test. The techs told me that my doctor would get the results in 4 to 6 hours. I am glad I decided to take the whole day because I knew that there could be some snafus in my schedule today. I went back to meet with my doctor in the pm. I was hoping that he would confirm his initial diagnosis from Tuesday.  I wanted to get the treatment plan and be on my way to healing. The truth be told, I didn't want to have to miss another day. I hate missing days. If I can be teaching, albeit under the weather and without being contagious, it is better than having a substitute. I know substitutes do great work, but it is better for my students and I if I am there.

I felt that I was on a roll lately and things were going great. Getting back tomorrow, after being out a day, will slow me down some. I have faith in my students and I know that they would do well. The mother hen in me, however, can't stop thinking about all the possible problems that could have occurred. I have been in this business for quite some time and there are plenty of things that could happen. That is why I spent two hours prepping my plans and the room. I took a lot of possible problematic things out of the way. Permanent markers were put away. My iPevo document camera was placed in a closet. My recent box of Scholatic books remained unopened and were placed in a corner. Plans were placed on my desk, along with all the materials needed to complete the lessons. Additionally, I wrote the plans and subjects on my board with a time stamp. I wanted all the students to see what I had planned for them. I didn't want anything to go wrong.

That reminds me of an incident a decade ago when...I taught 5th graders. I had to be out due to a staff development at the Science Center. I taught two classes of students Language Arts and Science. One class I taught in the  morning and the other in the afternoon. My morning class was quite mischievous. I prepped the room with this class in mind. My afternoon class was quite innocent, or so I thought.  I placed a  terrarium  on a shelf that I had to stand on a chair to reach. In the terrarium was a lizard, some small snails, isopods and a few plants. One of my students brought me this lizard that he captured near his apartment. I planned on housing it in the terrarium for a few days and then would release it into the wild. The previous day, in Science class, we fed it little crickets that I bought from Petco. The students loved seeing the lizard consume the little critters.

I let the students know that I would be attending a staff development the next day and to be on their best behavior for the substitute. My teaching partner next door promised to keep an eye out for me as well.. We shared a wall between our two classrooms This wall could be retracted if we needed to do so.  When I returned from my absence, I heard horror stories from the students and the front office. Two of my boys from my afternoon class were in some hot water. I never ever would have thought that they would be the ones that I would have to talk to about their behavior. Never.

I don't know how they reached the terrarium, without the substitute knowing or if the substitute allowed it, but they were able to get their hands on the terrarium and the poor lizard. (I explicitly, in my plans, asked the substitute teacher to not take the terrarium down.) These rather calm boys got a hold of that lizard and tried to staple its head to the wall!  I kid you not! I never ever would have thought that these two never-in-trouble-tranquilo boys would have done something so cruel. I was in state of complete shock. Needless to say, I calmly had a come-to-Jesus talk with these two boys. The previous day, the office had done their due diligence. Wow!  That was a the worst incident of my long educational career. I felt disappointed and embarrassed at the same time. I was embarrassed because these were my kids. My kids rarely got into any trouble at all. Again, I never would have thought that this class would have done something like that. They were never problematic.

With those memories fresh in my mind, I am sure that my class would not have done something so crazy and extreme. I don't have any lizards and my terrarium hasn't been set up yet. What could they do with tons of books, pencils, notebooks, and anchor charts? I hope that they read and wrote wildly, shared ideas and work, collaborated and have lots of great things to tell me tomorrow. The lizards are safe!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Invisible Writing and the Weather

I haven't posted this week because time got away from me.  I have been a little under the weather lately. I have this horrible cough and sneezing problem. I thought I could go at least a month before catching any bugs, but my immune system isn't what it used to be. How I wish I had the same immune system that I had 11 years ago. Alas, I don't, but I wish I could beat this cold without having to take any antibiotics. We will see.

I had decided last week that I would post everyday during the week. I wanted to chronicle my journey this year and find the learning in each day. My goal was and is to write about things that make me think and cause me to laugh. Here goes!

What happenef today? What stayed with me? I couldn't wait to get out my carbon paper and have the students try out Invisible Writing. It is a prewriting strategy from the Abydos Literacy Institute and from the book called  Acts of Teaching by Dr. Joyce Carroll and Edward Wilson.  I spent the early morning prep time putting paper clips on three pieces of lined, carbon, and copy paper. I brought in my wooden skewers for the student to use to write. They thought that was a craziest thing to write with skewers and to not be able to see what they were writing..  "How are we supposed to write if we can 't see what we are writing?"  I asked them to be patient and write what they could. "Trust me!  Just try it!" I wrote along side them for 10 minutes. My trigger word was trouble. I had previously read one of my stories from my life map. It was about me getting into trouble. It also connected to our study of the narrative text structure with the main problem, conflict and trouble.

I heard the squeaking of skewers. It sounded like the dreaded scratching of old chalk boards! The students were so intent on writing, but yet not so sure how it would all work out. A few curious souls checked the white paper on the back. When ten minutes were up, I asked them to check their back page and I heard wows and whoas settle in the room. "Cool! Wow! Awesome! How did you do that!" resounded. They loved it!  "Can we do this again?  Can we try it again?"they asked. When I get the carbon back from my colleagues, I am going to give them the carbon to take home and try out with their family members.

We debriefed the process. "How did it go?" I asked. "I liked it, but my writing looks horrible!" some said. "I couldn't tell where I was writing, so I found it difficult," one said. "I thought it was great!" said another. Some of the kids had no problem letting it fly and others got stuck having not written their letters in a more clean fashion.  They all agreed that is was something special to see their writing on the other side.  Finally, after we debriefed, I had them write what they thought about the experience. One student wrote a whole page full of a deep reflection. She said, "I was really disappointed with my writing because I wanted to write more and need more time. It took me a long time to think of something to write about. Other students had no problem thinking of something." I thanked her for her candor and reflection. It was great to hear that. I jumped on this opportunity. I let her know that all writers have days where an idea may come to them in a split second. Still other days it doesn't come so easy. I praised her thoughtfulness and invited her not to worry. "Just trust the process,"I told her. Sometimes the well seems dry...sometimes it is a waterfall. I loved talking to her and the class writer to writer. Pretty nice day--no matter the weather!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Fridays Are Always Welcome

I woke up a little later than I usually do in the morning. I panicked a little until I realized...hey, it's Friday. Friday means the end of the work week. It means Saturday is near... the beginning of slumber without the stress of morning traffic and being rushed. Friday means that I can relax and take in life, a little at time. Friday means that the Egg and I is not far away. I cannot wait to eat there tomorrow morning. Usually, I will go with a colleague or two. This Saturday, however, is special. My daughter is in town and we will get to go to our favorite breakfast place for the weekend. There I will see my favorite Egg and I people. They always great me with a smile and they know me by name. (Sounds like Cheers!)

I look forward to this three day weekend too. I need to catch up on a few things and to go shopping with my daughter. Books are what I have on my mind. I think I will stop by Angel's Attic. It is a thrift store that has very cheap children's books. I will peruse them for sure. Finally, we will go to some coffee shop to get caught up on some work. She has plenty of school work and I have to prep for next week's classes.

This week was so good. I really am enjoying my new role as a classroom teacher. I love the camaraderie of my team and school. My work environment is wonderful. I send out some props to my team this week. The school and my team make coming to work a pleasure. Sure it is all work, but a great collaborative work. Thanks to everyone at my school, I very much enjoy coming to work everyday.

To end my school day today, I took my class to the computer area of the library. Again, my friend and colleague Angelique was there for me. We team taught the lesson together. I set up a Google Form for my students. It was a reading preferences and habits survey. When they went to use the computers, they were able to access the form and begin answering. They were so excited to answer the survey and to send me an email. Iam looking forward to reading their responses. This will be fun. Once I get some devices in my room, then I can do more of this type of thing. I hope to see which tools they know how to use.  I would like to introduce them to more.

As my students were lining up and leaving my classroom today, one boy reached over and hugged me. That was a surprise. I guess he really liked working on the computers and was expressing his gratitude. After that, a few girls came over and hugged me. I wished them a great weekend. Fourth grade is such a sweet grade to teach. The students are so very kind and caring. As I cleaned
As I readied to go home today, I felt totally exhausted. I was greeted by a smiling face at my classroom door. It was my sweet daughter. She hugged me and I hugged her tight. It was so great to see her again. Life is good. Fridays always bring a welcome surprise.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Great Day For Writing!

My day was very long today. On Thursdays, we don't have a planning time until late in the day. I really liked not having to stop my student mid-stream to go to specials. It was a long stretch of learning. I was really proud of my students today.  After brainstorming different ways to respond and write a reading response, the students spoke about which ones would suit their purpose. They then responded, as they said, "In a quick write." They have the verbiage down. After writing for a short period of time, they took the time to meet with a partner, read to a partner, and then get his/her signature. We did this same process yesterday. When we debriefed one student said that he/she liked sharing in this fashion because they could see how other people responded and learned about other books they might want to read. Point of view! I have been talking to them about point of view. They are experiencing point of view within reading responses and within the books that they are reading.

They had some time to continue with their life maps today. After working on it for a bit, I had them share their life map with someone from another table. They found a partner and shared their life maps. I could see how excited they were to refer to the moments in their life and share the story behind the icon or sketch. I saw them pointing to the different parts.  They did this so well today! They are to choose a moment and then write about it for homework. Let's see what they come up with this time. I will leave time tomorrow to have them share.

We started Jeff Anderson's Editing Invitations today. We were studying simple sentences. I started with the invitation to notice. We had a great conversation. Then we discovered that a sentence must have a subject and verb.  I heard Jeff Anderson in my head saying, "The subject is the who or what of the sentence."  I had them label the subject and verb from the mentor sentences. Then we made up a chant. A sentence must have a subject and a verb, a subject and a verb, a subject and a verb!  A sentence must have a subject and a verb, a subject and a verb, a subject and a verb. It was maximum fun!  I can't do the Whip or NeNe, but I can make up a decent chant!

We worked on some Math and made up some Math word problems with our problem of the week. It was fun to see them discover to the pattern and then replicate the pattern using your own words and situations. They love to do this!

Then we were off to the Science Lab! The students, with their group captains, went through 3 stations of estimating and checking. I womaned the volume estimation using graduated cylinders and food colored blue water. The rest they did within their group. They did a good job with this. They worked well within their groups. We then came back to the room to talk about what we learned and to check the data that was gathered. We brainstormed key words that they might want to include in their reflection. Then they wrote. Some wrote and sketched. Others wrote without using sketches. It was nice to see them bring what they are learning in Language Arts into the Science arena! Writing, writing, writing!  Is that all we do?  Certainly!  We write about everything that we learn and do!  What a powerful tool!

Sharing Life Maps
Creating a Life Map

Sharing a life map with a friend

Composing a Reading Response

Sharing a life map! Got prewriting?

Creating a life map

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Rainy Days and Mondays...Not Bad At All!

When I was driving to work this morning, these lyrics kept sounding in my head Rainy Days and  Mondays always get be down. This Carpenter song would leave me alone. I wondered what type of day would I have. I left my  house at my normal time. I hoped that there would be no blinking lights, car accidents or high water along the way. I expected some delays...I just didn't know how much. Surprisingly, I arrived at work 5 minutes than I usually do. There was only one car in the parking lot. So far, so good. Things were going well.

I had about an hour or so to prepare for my day. I put on some calm music and forgot about my active board. The evening before, someone had replaced a rather murky bulb with a bright one. Now I could actually use the active board and the students could actually see the board from the back of the classroom. Previously, they could see it only if both lights were off.  The students also had to be within 3 feet of the screen. I am sure they felt myopic. When I turned it on today, I was wowed by the amplification and clarity. My day was definitely upbeat, despite the rainy forecast.

Today I was able to show my students my blog. They kept asking to see it, along with my YouTube channels. I only had time to show them this blog. As I scrolled down, it was evident how much I love to write, and in particular, poetry. I read to them my poem about Making Lemons. It was nice to share my love of blogging and poetry with them. One day soon, I will show them some of the educational videos that I previously made for the Elementary Digital Reading Project. (I feel the spirit movin' me to create a Google Site this year for and with my class. I have been thinking about doing something like this for quite sometime. Now I have the class and the platform to do so. Karen Justl and Angelique Moulton are you listening?)

This may sound rather elementary to some people, but I must confess that today I used  Active Inspire without another person's help. In the past, I had always worked with  teachers who would assist me as I worked with their classes.  Today, all by my lonesome and with nineteen experts, I used Active Inspire. It went great. I used it mostly for Math In Focus-the online version. I think, the more I use it, the more comfortable I will feel. With Active Inspire, it is easier to use. I kept forgetting to "turn my mouse on" as the students kept telling me. Tomorrow, I will talk to them about using the cursor and pen. I asked them, "How could I have a mouse? I don't have a mouse! I have three cats!" "Huh?" one said and then with a short pause, he smiled. "Oh, I get it now!" Tomorrow we will refer to the mouse as the cursor.

To end the day, I finished the book Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. What a charming book! I have been speaking to the students about how much I liked the book. One girl asked me, "Do you have two copies of that book?" I said, "Nope, but when I finish it today, would you like to read it?" That is the second student who has asked to read it. One of my students went to a colleagues Ludic Reading Library and checked out the book last week. When I gave the interested student the book today, her face lit up. She was so excited to read it. I brought in three new books to school that I received yesterday in the mail. I previewed Kate DiCamillo's new book with the class. Sure enough, just before Ludic Reading, one of my students asked to read it and took it home to read. I just love it! Love teaching! These moments are priceless. When you can put a book into a child's hands and make their day, it is so exhilarating. When I was their age, I hated reading. I don't want anyone to feel that way.

Now I love reading. Someone along the way introduced me to a good book. It was the librarian at little hole in the wall library in New Boston, Ohio. I remember going there in the Summer on my way home from baseball practice. The walk home was hot and the library had the best air conditioning in town, the coldest water fountain, and books that awaited me. I remember finally digging into biographies. The librarian always had kinds words to say to me and gave me lots of fun book marks. I hope to be that person who inspires others to read and write extensively this year.

Yes, I know, we have Math, Science and Social Studies too! We read and write in all of them!

Rainy days? Getting me down? I will leave that to The Carpenters and take my classroom any day. Four consecutive days posting! Not bad...not bad at all!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Writing, Notebooks and Other Happenings

Wow! This is my third consecutive day to post! What has gotten into me? Well, last week I was too, too tired to even think. This week I am still tired, but I can be a little more reflective. Today, I had to attend an early morning meeting. The meeting went fine, but I didn't have my usual chill routine. I need a peaceful morning before the storm. That is why I get to my job so early. I like to take my time because I know the rest of the day will be some kind of crazy. Nineteen young learners need my complete attention. I want and need to be at my best!

Today, I started my work day out of sync.  I didn't get to meet with my students to chat about the day and to find out how they are doing.  Instead, I caught them being wild readers. They were all sitting comfortably and reading quietly. Another colleague was watching them, while I was at the meeting. That is a great thing to witness. Even though I didn't get to start my day the way that I am comfortably accustomed to, it was nice to see the difference a week makes.

My day became brighter as my class and I read and discussed the poem Where I Am From by George Ella Lyon.  I shared my poem called To and Fro'. I shared my literacy life with them through this autobiographical jaunt through my literacy life. While I was reading it, with much expression and vigor (Eddie Wilson would be proud), I heard one of my boys saying, "That's me!  That's me!"
I expressed my early struggle with reading in the first few stanzas of my poem. They seemed to identify with my early experiences with reading. When we finished analyzing my poem, my students asked, "Can we write of poem of where we are from?" I loved it!  They were so excited about writing!  We then brainstormed ideas in a word splash. We then took a quickwrite.  Many of my students were lost in their writing. I could say they are wild writers too! They wrote in many different forms as well. I loved this moment!
Meet My Notebooks!

Near the end of the day, one of my students asked me, "Ms. Ucles, are you going to finish decorating your reader's and writer's notebook? What about your Science notebook?" I regretfully said, " I would love to, but I haven't had the time." I stayed extra late at work tonight. I stayed to finish decorating and making my notebooks. It was what I needed. It gave me time to create, slow down, and design my notebooks. I cannot wait to show them to my students tomorrow. I still have to work on my Math and Social Studies books yet. Maybe tomorrow I will be working late as well!

Another very nice day over and done. What will tomorrow bring?