Wednesday, March 22, 2017

#SOL17 - 23/31 The Me I Used To Be

SOLC #23/31 - 
      Still slicing with the Two Writing Teachers community for Day Twenty-Three of Thirty-One of the Slice of Life Challenge in March.   

                                Eight Days To Go!

          As you can easily see, years ago the "me I used to be" was a first-grade teacher. This was the sixth class of first graders I had taught, two years each in three different cities.  I took over a first grade class a few years later when the principal of this school called me with an emergency because the teacher was very ill. That was my final class for a long time until we moved to Colorado. This is the year my son was born, and I was fortunate enough to be able to stay home with him.
         I've erased the school's name for privacy issues. This is the class where I feel that I really became a teacher. Aren't they sweet! It was so long ago that there was no extra resources to help teachers, no school library, just me. It was a small class because these were children that didn't quite make it out of kindergarten, but no one wanted them in their first-grade classes either. It was called a "transition" class. This is what I learned:

      That kindness and creative responses help upset children. And when one upset child is helped, the rest of the children become calmer too, and can learn. That extraordinary gestures can effect change.

*One of these children sat on my lap nearly all the first month. She was shy and scared and came every day, rarely cried, but insisted that my lap would be her chair. When I had to stand up, she sat and waited for me to return. When she did hand work, she did it at a little desk by my desk. 

*Another child I now realize was emotionally out of control, and needed help.  He acted out numerous times in the day, threw things at others, smeared his saliva on himself, and tried to do that to his classmates, too. He spent most of the day in a chair and small desk by me (opposite the student above), and I kept a bucket of warm water and a washcloth for him. I found that if I washed his face occasionally, it helped to calm him down. And, he became my helper often. He arranged books, sorted pens and pencils, wrote names for nametags (Yes, he was already liiteate.) I did what I needed to keep him calm and from hurting others.

*Alll of the children learned to read by the end of the year. I wish I had a picture, but I created a long timeline that gave tiny prizes for every two books they read. I drew the kids as little stick figures, took their pictures and cut out the heads, pasted them on the figures. These figures "marched along" the timeline that was "the path to reading", and they read PLUS gathered little rewards: a piece of candy, sitting at my desk for an afternoon, a flower to take home (I always had flowers on my desk.) and so on. When they completed the path that followed the alphabet (52 books), I gave them their own book.

*I do remember having a lot of easy reader books. And I read aloud often. I can only remember reading Milne's Winnie-The-Pooh, and many picture books. I "soaked" them in books. I suppose I am lucky that I've always been such a reader. Reading was a salve for each of these children. We created puppet shows sometimes from the stories.

*I have lots of memories from this class, and you won't be surprised when I tell you that I took them outside often. We walked and marched and examined things like grass and flowers and trees. I regret that I never thought of having them journal about what they noticed. Now I know that even the youngest students can capture observations in pictues and words. 

         I did love teaching the little ones. As my own children grew up, I became more interested in teaching older kids, thus when I did return to teaching, I fell in love with those middle-schoolers, and can privately find some parallels. If you know both groups, you probably understand. However, part of that first grade teacher "me I used to be" will always stay.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

#DOL17 - 22/31 - Not Political, Well, Maybe!


SOLC #22/31 - 
      I'm slicing with the Two Writing Teachers community for Day Twenty-Two of Thirty-One of the Slice of Life Challenge in March.  Thank you, Stacey, Beth, Deb, Betsy, Lanny, Kathleen, Lisa, and Melanie.  

                                          Nine Days To Go!

              And, Thanks to Alyson Beecher's Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge at Kidlit Frenzy.  

     I have a second post today about a new middle-grade book, and it's a giveaway, too. Go here to read all about it!  Comment by Sunday!


       As you see above I said this is not a political post, but in considering non-fiction texts, and the political events in our most recent history, I guess it really is political. After reading this book, I know that Martin W. Sandler, with so many other historical non-fiction authors, has written TRUTH, with sources, footnotes of explanation and extraordinary care to point out stereotypes that are not true.
        For example, the notion that pirates buried their treaure and created maps to remember where was created by Robert Louis Stevenson in his book Treasure Island, and has been kept alive in other books through the years as well as in movies. It is a myth that has never been proved.

         Another myth also shown to be incorrect is the way pirates spoke. The book states; "It's simply not true. . .one man can be credited for having created the fictitious pirate speak--the British actor Robert Newton. In 1950, he played Long John Silver in the movie version of Long John Silver and went on to play him in a television series in which he popularized the accent and many of the sayings that are commonly associated with pirates today." No more "ahoy, matey" or "Arrrrr". 
        Not only is this a wonderful look at pirates of long ago, how they became pirates and how they really lived, but it traces the history of the pirate who acquired the biggest fortune
ever with his fleet of ships, and it carries the history forward with the exciting find of this large ship, the Whydah which sank in the treacherous waters of Cape Cod. This was a ship with a treasure so large it is hard to believe the tales. Archaeologists use the artifacts to show the lives of pirates on board and to see the goods stolen. They were not only gold, but goods  transported to the new world that were needed, like fabric, tea, spices and wine.
        Sandler begins with a description of this famous ship that started its career as a slave ship and then tells the tale of its final owner, Black Sam Bellamy. Some of his actions earned
him the name Robin Hood of the Seas, but he was not only that. He began with a love of the sea and joined the British Navy, but soon became a bigger adventurer because his higher goal in life was to become rich. With some compatriots, he went off to find the treasures from ships. 
        Within various chapters lie “extra” pieces that add to the pirates’ tales and later to modern day treasure hunters. One of these extra parts explains the “Articles of Agreement” 
that all pirates signed in order to be on a ship’s crew.  If you agreed, you were “on the 
account” and expected to follow all the rules. If not, you could lose your life or be put ashore 
on a deserted island. 
          Another part explained what historians believe is the origin of the “Jolly Roger” that pirate’s flag we all know.  Toward the end of the book, we are moved to modern times and 
talk of the artifacts and how they are preserved, what they tell us of the "truth" of pirate life. 
The book is an extraordinary look at this early part of our history in America, the lives of various parts of society, but especially how people lived as pirates and what people thought of them.  Thanks to Candlewick Press for this advanced copy!
        How wonderful it would be to have a student read this book, or to read parts of it with a class and to discuss the research to discover the truth of pirates. And then to extend that to what they hear, what they read and how to find their own truths.

       "Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold. ~ Leo Tolstoy

A Poignant Story - A Giveaway

     I've read a number of books for children or young adults in recent years about a death in that child's life. Perhaps it was a friend of a young adult, or the loss of a parent or a sibling. Yet one of the few in my memory of the loss of a young friend is Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.  More recently, there is also The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. 

       Here then, in 2017 comes Matylda Bright & Tender, a debut novel by Holly M. McGhee, that tells another story of a young girl, Sussy, and the terrible loss of her friend, Guy. We may not think that the middle grades need to know of such tragedy, yet in Holly's story also lie the universal feelings that people of all ages feel in their grief.

       And who is Matylda? She is a leopard gecko, a new pet that lives with Sussy, but chosen as a living creature both Guy and Sussy will share and love. Matylda with a "y" that's her very own name also receives her own origin story according to Guy, a loving friend with a big imagination. Between him and Sussy, plans are made of how to care for this new and amazing pet, and stories of her previous "warrior" status are created, too.

     On what was to be a fun trip for new kinds of food for Matylda, a terrible accident occurs, and Sussy is left, without Guy, without her life's guide. Suddenly, the book's story is no longer about this friendship's hilarious fun, but about Sussy's grief in caring for Matylda the way Guy would have wished. Sussy goes through numerous trials and travels perilous paths to cling to the lizard in the hope that Matylda likes her because Guy is no longer there. There are secrets kept by Sussy, alarming deeds done, but more than anything, Guy is ever present in Sussy's thoughts. 
      Parents might be shocked at the times their children don't tell their feelings, and while Sussy's parents try to support, when they look at Sussy with the hope that she'll soon "get over it",  Sussy knows she must pretend. Time and Sussy's thinking about the kindnesses given her, by Guy "before" and by the pet store owner, other friends, and her parents help her know finally that she's going to be okay. 
      One of the best things that Holly's story shows is that grief is complicated and everyone is different. There is one late scene in the book where Sussy and her dad share a bit of happiness at good news. Dad says, "Paper tigers. Thank goodness for paper tigers." Sussy asked what that is, and Dad answers: "Things you worry about that end up being harmless."  It's a part I'm glad that children who read Matylda might latch onto, might keep for helping them when needed. If you read this with your child, or with students, good conversations will happen, and they will happen because this topic is opened, not hidden as it is so often.

You can find more about Matylda and Holly McGhee at her website here!

The press release can be found here!

        Here's the list of other blog posts in this tour. Matylda Bright & Tender was released March 14th. I'm grateful to Candlewick Press for the copy of this book, and the chance to share it.

Tuesday, March 14                          Reading With Mr. Teut
Wednesday, March 15                   Randomly Reading
Thursday, March 16                        Reading Nook Reviews
Friday, March 17                               The Children’s Book Review
Monday, March 20                          Cracking the Cover
Tuesday, March 21                          Writer, Writer Pants on Fire
Wednesday, March 22                   Teacher Dance
Thursday, March 23                        Word Spelunking
Friday, March 24                               Blue Stocking Thinking

If you're interested in winning a copy of the book, leave a comment on this post by Sunday, March 26th, and I'll draw names from a hat to find a winner. US addresses only, please.

Monday, March 20, 2017

#SOL17 - 21/31 - Borrowed Words

         SOLC17 21/31 I'm writing for the March Slice of Life challenge with the Two Writing Teachers community for Day Twenty-One of Thirty-One.  Thank you, Stacey, Beth, Deb, Betsy, Lanny, Kathleen, Lisa, and Melanie.   

     Margaret Simon shared a post for writers yesterday that I want to share again. It is worth keeping for all writers, and an inspiration if you're feeling like you're running out of, well, words! Thanks, Margaret!

       I hope you don’t mind if I borrowed these words?

          In the recent few days, I began to choose certain phrases that stood out for me. It may not be because they are written beautifully, but sometimes they are. The words might not make sense out of context, but I liked the way they sounded, or the way the words were used.  I didn’t collect from all those posts I read, but I’ve attempted to arrange them into something that I hope declares to all you slicing writers that your words mean something, the sad and happy, the philosophizing and the life’s moment. All good, all great to read!  (I did change some punctuation.)

this week you get what you get  

Thinking in life is not optional.
I know my routine is here somewhere.  
There isn’t much room for breathing.  
They can’t be secrets.  
It might have been one of the last sledding days of winter.  
If you give kids a little bit of scaffolding and a whole lot of choice, they will create amazing things…they will innovate.  
Now he's ready for summer,   
spirits filled with good food, good talk, and love.

Someday you’ll learn    
what the week looks like for me.
They are my little wonders, sweetest little face and eyes -
Baby yoga.
Ask me how I know.

I'm grateful for my tribe.  
But this morning, I heard other voices. 
For a moment, it seemed like the train was headed straight toward me.  
My self-talk is interrupted by the William Tell Overture blaring over the sound system.  The crowd is now screaming.
Somehow this conversation is not going well.
Now there is only one way to go, away from this and towards a story to tell. 
It reveals pieces of hope we had thought were lost.
I hope there’s still chocolate at the end.

 She wants her work to be blessed.              
A perfect Sunday!
      Everyone (C) All Rights Reserved

      If you'd like to take part in a Poetry Scavenger Hunt for a found poem, Donna Smith at MainelyWrite offers a challenge today for World Poetry Day! Take a look!

photo credit: GrungeTextures Wrinkled Notebook Paper via photopin (license)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

#SOL17 - 20/31 - It's Monday!

      I'm slicing with the Two Writing Teachers community for Day Twenty of Thirty-One.

          Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who link up.  tweet #IMWAYR

Happy Spring!  My poem, Ode To Wind 
is visiting Today's Little Ditty today.

         I know many of you have heard me say how much we need rain or snow. Recently, I even posted a picture of a couple of puddles because I was so excited. While it was wonderful, that little rainstorm lasted about 20 minutes! Despite recent snow, and significant snow in the mountains, Colorado's plains and foothills have emerged in drought-like conditions. There are fires in various places happening right now.

        Somehow I seemed to have read three stories about rain this past week. And if you consider also the sci-fi talk about potable water on Mars, I can also count The Last Day on Mars as a futuristic water challenge.
       Here are the current facts from, including one in ten people on earth, 685 million people who lack access to safe water.

Figuring out how to make water.