Monday, January 30, 2012

Teaching About Expectations - Learning About Them Too

Slice of Life Tuesday can be enjoyed at Two Writing Writers

      It’s an exciting time at my school right now, and teachers are using different methods to help students understand the attributes of satisfactory final products.  In written assignments, all of us give the expectations of an assignment, yet seeing examples of real products are important too.  The week of Valentine’s Day also happens to hold another important day at my school, an event we call Expo, where every child in the school creates a display of their unit of study learning so far this school year.

     As I’ve explained before, each student in my school, kindergarten through eighth grade, studies a specific unit topic of their choice around which the curriculum is built.  The nearest I can describe to you about Expo is that it’s similar to a science fair, except there are no prizes and no best of show.  Everyone creates a display of the work they have accomplished during the year, the learning they have achieved.  There are three-way boards filled with reports and illustrations, artistic 3-D depictions of things as diverse as the Globe Theater, the Golden Gate Bridge and life-sized dolphin.  Also, there might be dioramas of survival shelters, posters of advertisements that use stereotypes to sell, sketches of famous people that have been researched and so on, and so on.  In recent years, more computer screens are in use, showing Powerpoints and Prezis, videos and artistic slides.  Some students offer hands on activities that connect to their topics.  There are many displays to view during the day and evening of Expo.  In the evening, students sit and/or stand with their work to greet visitors and answer questions about the topic.

Isn't Every Week Full of Wonderful Books?

You can hook up with this kitlit meme: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA at teach mentor textsthanks to Jen and Kellee!  Here you can discover what others are reading and what they’re saying about them!

       It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…who knows, you might discover that next “must read” book!

I browsed my school library this week, and found there are books there that should be off the shelf and into the classrooms.  You may be familiar with some, but I hope you find a new one here, too.
               These first two books give some views of different cultures, and the way small differences really don’t matter, that people have the same needs no matter what culture: the need to love, to be needed and to eat!  The next two are true stories of the persistence of the human spirit in personal passions.  The final one is a story teaching the lesson of liking oneself.

How My Parents Learned To Eat     Ina R. Friedman with illus. by Allen Say 
             Eating styles and habits separate people.  This is a sweet story told by a little girl  about how her parents fall in love and try so hard to please each other by learning  the ways the other one eats.  It’s one of the early books illustrated by Allen Say.

Arctic Son by Jean Craighead George illustrated with paintings by Wendell Minor
             Jean Craighead George, author of Julie of The Wolves, My Side of The Mountain, and my favorite, The Talking Earth, takes us to a new culture, showing her usual love for both the culture and the environment.  The story is that of Ms. George's grandson, Luke, who lives in Barrow, Alaska, near the top of the world.  This is a lovely tribute to the Arctic, particularly the Inupiat Eskimo way of life, and includes some of their language also.  The illustrations are beautiful.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Different Kind of Lullaby for Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday is hanging out today with Jim at Hey, Jim Hill.

My father-in-law and son, a long time ago, final run!

        My husband’s father was a railroad engineer for Union Pacific in the last years of his long railroad career.  We now have a number of different train memorabilia in our home because of him.  My husband talks of many trips his family took on the trains.  It sounds like such fun and I am also nostalgic about train trips after reading Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express and watching old movies where love and intrigue reside on the rails.  I grew up with others taking those trips and took one myself, with my Girl Scout troop, to Washington D.C.  Imagine the hours of giggling, hardly sleeping there and back!  I am grateful to our leaders who sacrificed their time and maybe sanity by taking us.
It’s a delight when I find prose and poetry about train travel, I read the words, and sometimes find them memorable enough to read to my husband.  Lately, on a website called The Daily Poem, a particular poem appeared with such rhythm and sweetness that I wanted to share it with you, and of course I shared it first with my husband. 
       I also found a little about Alicia Stallings, who is still writing and has published several books of poetry.  She is known as a classical poet, has translated from the Greek and lives with her husband and son in Athens, Greece.  More poems and a short bio can be found at The Poetry Foundation.

Lullaby Near The Railroad Tracks 
                         by Alicia E. Stallings

Go back to sleep.  The hour is small.
         A freight train between stations
Shook you out of sleep with all
         Its lonely ululations.

                        The rest can be found here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My One Little Word - Needed Exploring

           I signed up for the One Little Word class, and have completed the first assignment, have found some few quotations I like, and written about poems that give me comfort, just as writing poems do, too.  I have read others’ posts that talk about their word, and have been interested in what they have invited into their lives because of that word.  The posts have been heartfelt, full of feeling and purpose and inspiration.
            My word is COMFORT, and the quote I chose is:  LIfe is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things in which smiles, and kindnesses, and small obligations, given habitually, are what win and preserve the heart and secure comfort, by Humphrey Davy.  I have since discovered that Davy was a British chemist who is known for discovering the anesthetic effect of laughing gas (nitrous oxide), among other things.  It gives me a laugh, not kidding, that the quote I chose was spoken by the guy that discovered the properties of laughing gas.  Terrific, quite an invention.   
            And so I begin thinking of all the things, like this quirky fact, that means COMFORT to me.  I have chosen to tie some things in my life to the synonyms of COMFORT in Webster’s Online Dictionary.   
            Assurance –  That the coffee will be made when I arise in the am, that the water in the shower will be hot and that the sun will rise.  There is a Mescalero Apache Song I used to read on campouts with my students when we rose with the sun to set off on our adventures:
                        The sunbeams stream forward, dawn boys,
                        with shimmering shoes of yellow.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Using Online Tools for All Kinds of Writing

 I'm having a great time in the twenty-one day comment challenge at Mother Reader, but my reader is still filling up.  Check out the challenge here.  Tomorrow is the final day!

The Slice of Life posts are hosted every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers

After reading the New York Times article concerning future changes in education, and discovering that February 1st is Digital Learning Day, a specific day set aside for adding to your digital learning expertise in order to apply it to education, I thought I’d recommend a few sites that I recently used in an online tools class.  Here are some things that happened:

I used Diigo, a bookmarking site (like Delicious if you use that) that you can use with a group or class by acquiring an educator account.   Each student has access to the personal ‘library’ set up online of the pages and sites I wanted them to explore, plus they could also recommend other tools they found and/or had already used to tell the rest of us about.  You can bookmark, sticky note and highlight specific portions of text.  You can add as many tags as you wish.  You can give assignments as to the approach of the link given. 
I found that the group loved it and looked forward to checking their account to see what had been recently added.  I imagine that students could send poems to share & to comment on within the site, or other kinds of text could be shared with a group, or a partner.  One project done:  I sent several articles of current interest to the students, and we had an online discussion of them with all of us sending comments.  One other idea is that students could send a review of a book read and others could agree or disagree with the review after reading the book.   

Here are other sites used that might be good for writing workshop: 

What I'm Reading - Late January

Just watched the awards!  Have read some, knew of some & some are ones I guess I'd better look up!  Very exciting day for the authors and illustrators.  I'm excited for them!

I'm participating in the twenty-one day comment challenge at Mother Reader.  It's been terrific finding new blogs to enjoy.  It's over on Wednesday.  Check it out here.

 You can hook up with this kitlit meme: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA at teach mentor texts!  Here you can discover what others are reading and what they’re saying about them!

       It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…who knows, you might discover that next “must read” book!


       A colleague and I ate lunch together the other day and shared new picture books we have recently acquired.  She showed me two wonderful books.   The Child of The Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton, illustrated by Raul Col√≥n is a memoir told by the author, the youngest child of Andrew Young, one of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement in the sixties and a friend and follower of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  She tells the story in her own words of her family’s and other’s involvement in the marches for the right to vote.  The book ends with the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  She writes for younger children, explaining the background of the term Jim Crow and telling of sitting under the table listening to the talk of her father’s and mother’s friends whom she calls her Civil Rights Family, people like Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy and Randolph Blackwell.  The illustrations are realistic depictions of the scenes described in the text.   It’s a good introduction to this history for younger students and for adults, to contemplate the difficult acts that this particular family and others chose even with their small children.  It’s inspiring and informative!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Poems Can Be Memoirs

This time, Poetry Friday can be enjoyed with Elaine at Wild Rose Reader!

        I wrote a poem of introduction this week.

I’m teaching students how to write memoir,
to write their lines, a knit of who they are,
with tiny rows that knit one, then pearl two
in colorful skeins of yarn.  They can do
a word or more, sew them all together.
Lay the pattern well, it really doesn’t matter
what they choose as long as some truth weaves part
and most that’s kept comes finally from the heart.

There will be prose and poetry written in this class, and I wanted to share a few poems that I will share with students to show them possibilities.  We’ve started to find the seeds of what memories we want to write about.  Now we’ll write, but then choose the audience we’re writing for, and finally the style, or genre to use to communicate our choices. 

Here are some poems I’ll share with my students that have pleased me as memories of the poet’s lives, all different looks at someone’s tiny moments.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Wrinkle In Time - Still A Great Read After 50 Years!

       This is my first review that celebrates award-winning books to be read and relished, hopefully more than once, sometimes for a lifetime.  The ALA will announce 18 awards next Monday, including the renowned Caldecott and Newbery Medals, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards and Printz award, so it’s a good time to start the challenge I have taken at Gathering Books blog.  Thanks to Myra and Iphigene and Fats from GatheringBooks for hosting the 2012 award-winning books challenge. 

        It is the 50th anniversary of the publication of A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which won the Newbery Award in 1963.  A Publisher’s Weekly article here tells of the year’s plans of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group to commemorate this beloved book, including a 50th anniversary edition that will be released soon.  And here is one of L’Engle’s acceptance speeches, when the American Library Association honored her in June, 1998 with the Margaret Edwards award for Lifetime Achievement In Writing in the Field of Young Adult Literature.

       According to a Study Guide from Glencoe Publishing, l’Engle once said: I start with what I know with all five senses, what I have experienced, and then the imagination takes over and says, “But what if—” and the story is on.   So, how does one review a book that has been in our consciousness for 50 years, has sold over 10 million copies, and even if someone hasn’t read it, they will always say, oh yeah, I know that book?  I think I will just respond to the reading I’ve just completed.  This is what I enjoyed this time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sometimes Teachers Just Need To Stand Back

I'm having a great time in the twenty-one day comment challenge at Mother Reader, but my reader is filling up.  Check it out here.

The Slice of Life posts are hosted every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers

          Ingrid, my two and one-half year old granddaughter, spent the weekend with us.  She is a delightfully energetic young child, always going, going, and rarely serene like her new baby sister.  Here is part of our trip to the school playground right by the park behind our house. 

The apparatus is one of those tinker toy-like structures, lots of climbing in various ways and one can climb back down, or slide down on one of six slides.  Ingrid has gained much self-confidence from attending pre-school since September.  This time, she was ready to try most everything except those climbing parts that simply were too high for her.  Remember this is the playground for elementary students.  I watched and reveled in her curiosity.  She went down the slides on her backside, frontside, and head forward, and climbed up them.  This might be because she knows that there are rules about slides and she, with her grandma’s approval, was allowed to try all those forbidden ways this time.  She is in the ‘no’ and ‘why’ stages all the time now.  She also climbed some of the way up on two of the climbing towers that seemed to fit her small hands.

            What struck me as I observed is that I walked around with her, would say things like ‘that bridge bounces if you jump on it’ and Ingrid would eventually get to the bridge, jump joyously shouting ‘bounce, bounce, bounce’.  Then she would look at me and just smile and smile.  She also explored the pea gravel that covers much of this part of the playground.  She picked it up and let it fall through her fingers, she threw it up the slides so it would rattle as it came down, and then she made a big discovery. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

What I'm Reading - Mid January

I'm participating in the twenty-one day comment challenge at Mother Reader.  It's been wonderful meeting so many good blogs & meeting their creators.  Check it out here.

 You can hook up with this kitlit meme: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA at teach mentor texts!  Here you can discover what others are reading and what they’re saying about them!

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…who knows, you might discover that next “must read” book!

     During this school year I have read a lot of books.  There are only two I read in a day.  In early September I read Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt and gave it immediately to a colleague, who then passed it on, and on and on.  It’s a marvelous book about a young man named Doug who is helped in a surprising way to find courage in solving his tough personal problems.  Yesterday I started and finished A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.  Its basic premise, a young man who is experiencing great emotional turmoil because his mother is dying, is not surprising, but the metaphorical monster and what happens within and around the story of the interactions with the monster is uniquely poignant.  I am reminded of a character of a long while ago, a young man in the book Ordinary People by Judith Guest. The boy’s work with his psychiatrist was heart-wrenching, but not as metaphorical as Ness’s creations in A Monster Calls. The illustrations offer additional insight into the complex confusion of emotions when a loved one is dying.  The story asks us for sympathy and calls us to wish for a hint of some goodness in the world.  Ness is sly with his sympathy for the reader, but does offer clues that everything will be okay with the main character, Conor.  Even in the first encounter with the monster, we learn that Conor, and we the reader, are there to learn the truth, and that Conor will tell it at the end.  I can’t tell more, only these early words said to Conor: Stories are the wildest things of all, the monster rumbled.  Stories chase and bite and hunt.  And this story did.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Poems Can Bring Comfort

I'm participating in the twenty-one day comment challenge at Mother Reader.  It's been terrific to meet new people! Check it out here.

Poetry Friday today is hosted by Tara at A Teaching Life – Enjoy all the wonderful words!

In addition to enjoying Poetry Friday for the recent months, I have this year chosen a One Little Word, COMFORT, for the year.  It is hosted by Ali Edwards of the Memory Keeping Website.  In this process, we are given monthly challenges, like at this beginning time, to define the word, find an appropriate quote, and so on.  I love poetry, and feel it holds a positive place in the lives of men and women, and since I’m a teacher, for children, too.  So in addition to directions for a cover page, I’ve decided to begin collecting poems that offer comfort.  I don’t mean exactly those one might send to someone with great loss or need, but those that when you read them, you sigh and say ‘this is just great’, and then you read again.  Sometimes comfort means tea and sympathy, and sometimes it means looking outside at a snowstorm from inside a warm house, but many times for me it is a poem, or a line, or a particular rhythm and rhyme that touches my heart.  I copy and carry poems around with me in a little notebook so I can just pull them out and read them again.   Here’s a bit of comfort for you all today:
Sandinista Avioncitos
        Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The Little airplanes of the heart
with their brave little propellers

                     The rest is here.

Going Out With Students To Write

I'm participating in the twenty-one day comment challenge at Mother Reader.  It's been terrific to meet new people! Check it out here.

        If we want our students to write, it is helpful to teach them some ideas of how to observe when they are in the world, riding home with parents as chauffeurs, riding home on the city bus, walking home with or without friends, riding the bike home.  We can travel with a small group to a park, a small shopping area, down the block from school to give them a chance to write in a different setting.  In class, we talk and talk and list ideas in our writer's notebooks that are good, actually, but nothing holds interest like sitting on a bench in a small town setting and watching people go by.  
        Every few minutes one can put down a word or two, and in between those minutes, one can imagine:  Where is that woman going dressed as if she stepped onto a modeling runway at Saks?  Who is that group of three, two older, one younger--lunch for three from the office, the younger tagging along because she just had a fight with-her husband, her girlfriend, her mother-and needs some advice.  What is that young boy doing on the side with his scooter?  Isn't it school time, shouldn't he be somewhere?  Do you see the trash under the bench?  Did you notice the cupcakes in the window?  Who is the band playing on the loud speakers?  Did you see that woman with the dog in her handbag?  Did you hear...? Did you smell?  

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Preparation for Writing Memoir

I'm participating in the twenty-one day comment challenge at Mother Reader.  Check it out here.

The Slice of Life posts are hosted every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers

When I wrote in December about using the term backstory, I also included some discussion of teaching memoir writing, and said I would share some resources as I moved closer to the group I will be teaching.  Well, the group begins tomorrow, and among all the other reading over break, I’ve been selecting some books to use, including picture books, longer books like Homesick by Jean Fritz, and different poems and scraps of texts I’ve collected. 
Since I have been planning, I have noticed more and more ideas that connect to story, so much that I wonder if I shouldn’t have chosen story as my One Little Word, instead of comfort.  However, isn’t that what stories are, especially memoir, those collections of words that so often give us comfort?  Last week for Poetry Friday, I shared a line from the poem Beach Glass by Sara Holbrook: It takes slow-walking patience to fill a pocket full of untold stories. I hope in this class that I will be able to teach some of this patience to the students.
For my own inspiration and guidance, I have re-read Chapter 12, Memoir: Reading and Writing the Story of Our Lives in Lucy Calkin’s book Living Between The Lines.  Calkins shares words I find helpful as the whys of teaching memoir.  This is taken out of context, yet I believe you will still find it meaningful.  When we hear Updike talking about learning to love the selves we leave behind, when we hear Becker saying that what humans fear is not growing old but growing old without things adding up, we, in our egocentricity, tend to forget that no one is growing old faster than children.  It’s children who know the glee, and the sadness, of finding they can no longer squeeze through the gap in the backyard fence.  And from David Booth: All we can give children is a sense of story, of something caring and committed to carrying them through their lives.

In addition to taking notes of suggestions from Calkin’s chapter, I have noted other sources that also will help me work with this group.  Mary Lee Hahn in her blog A Year of Reading wrote a review of Drawing From Memory by Allen Say and The House Baba Built: An Artist's Childhood in China by Ed Young to help with a study of influences in one’s life.  And Alan Wright who writes the blog Living Life Twice discusses how using the influence of other writers and practicing some intriguing parts can help us teach our students.  Alan also writes about helping students explore the small moments in this post.

This earlier post by Stacey at Two Writing Teachers discusses a new discovery to use for a mentor text, Grandma’s Scrapbook written by Josephine Nobisso and illustrated by Maureen Hyde.  When The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant and What You Know First by Patricia MacLachlan are also mentioned.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What I'm Reading - Early January

 You can hook up with this kitlit meme: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA at teach mentor texts!  Here you can discover what others are reading and what they’re saying about them!

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…who knows, you might discover that next “must read” book!

I have finally finished reading Chime, by Franny Billingsley, showing such a unique writing style that I had to slowly read and sometimes re-read passages.  I admit I struggled with it, and sometimes wondered how it made the finalist list of the National Book Award.  I noticed hints early in the book of the resolution, yet they were so subtle I found myself saying things like “no, it couldn’t really work that way”.  So I would dismiss that theory and move on.  It turned out that Billingsley did what I thought, and wrapped everything up so beautifully that it brought tears to my eyes.  Chime is about self-doubt, about courage, about love.  For those of you who have read it, I wonder if you have thought of it as a metaphor for something bigger?  Every reader brings themselves and his or her life story to the books read, and perhaps, like response to poetry, I see this book as much more than the story about a girl who thinks she is a witch and not very lovable. 
     Billingsley uses words so beautifully: The wind slapped at the ancient trees.  It slapped at me too, but I slapped back...  and She looked down the spill of moor. , at the wind tearing through the scrub, at a bundle of ponies tumbling by.
When describing simple buns with cream and jam at a picnic: Eldric handed me a creamy sunset of a bun: mounds of cream, a mere splash of pink
And about capturing stories: But tha' needs must scribe 'em, mistress!  Scribing, it don't never die, but a story what be on a person's tongue--well, there don't be no person what lives forever an' aye.  Scribe o' my power that it don't be forgot.  Scribe o' how I surges into the fringes o' the sea.  And I think about the inevitability of death, and whether it’s not that very inevitability that inspires us to take photographs and make scrapbooks and tell stories. That that’s how we humans find our way to immortality… That that’s how we find our way toward meaning.

And I have finished several new picture books purchased during the holidays.  You may recognize some because they have been lately and lovingly reviewed. 

Looking Back On My Writing

      A comment on yesterday's celebration of my 200th post suggested sharing some popular posts and some favorites.  I did a quick look and chose a few.  I have struggled with what I want my blog to be, and like others, have focused on teaching the language arts, with some personal moments shared, although almost always with teaching connected in some way.  One cannot be a teacher and not connect every part of one's life with that experience.  I wonder if those not in this profession know that?  Those I know who have different professions do not read the newspaper and say things like "I'll cut this article out to share with my class, or colleagues." or "That comic would be terrific to teach about dialogue".  And they do not visit stores ever looking for bargains that would add to the amazing collection of 'stuff' that teachers use: they do not collect egg cartons, two liter pop bottles, cardboard from the shirts at the cleaners, and the netting that holds little potatoes.  Thus, my posts tend always to connect my life's adventures to the teaching.  Here are a few favorites:

      The end of the March Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers was also the end of my first month.  My post described saying goodbye at the end of the year to my students and I wrote a poem of goodbye to the slicers of that month.

       Poetry plays an important part in my life and I have lately become involved with the Poetry Friday group.  Each day in April I wrote a poem.  William Stafford is known to write a poem every day and when asked how he did it, he said he lowered his standards.  During April, I certainly did that too, but here is one poem I feel is worthy to re-read.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Celebration

It's like sitting on a bench with a friend, listening and responding.

   from Dr. Seuss

“We’ve GOT to make noises 

in greater amounts!

So, open your mouth, lad!

For every voice counts!”

It’s a time for celebration!  Yesterday was my 200th blog post at TeacherDance.  My first post was March 1st, 2011 when I wrote about starting a workshop on personal essays, an intensive with another teacher with whom I was teaching.  I was starting the March Slice of Life writing challenge with Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers, jumping into a pond I didn’t realize was big until I was with them for a while.  I talked two other colleagues into doing it with me, but only one stayed, and continues to write.  It’s always a pleasure to see her writing at Prose Cents, and we support each other in our writing at school as well. 

        On that first day I received five comments, and I was hooked.  What a special experience to start a new thing and then have strangers actually respond to my writing, my ideas!   Wow!  During that day (I’ve peeked back) I heard from Tam at Clay Fragments, Tara at A Teaching Life, someone whose blog is no longer among the slicers, Ruth at Two Writing Teachers welcoming me to the challenge, and Mary Helen at BookSavors. Imagine this: except for one, everyone is still here! 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Poetry Friday - Once More With P*Tag


        Poetry Friday today is hosted by JoAnn at Teaching Authors – Please come read and relax; it’s Friday!

     I know at least some of the poem Beach Glass by Sara Holbrook has been shared before, so I’ll piggyback a bit on Elaine at WildRose Reader who shared part of the poem from P*Tag, shouted out as “the first ever electronic poetry anthology of new poems by top poets for teens”.  My husband has lately been doing some therapy at a local rehab center, and I wait for him as he does it.  Earlier this week, I had the chance to take my IPad and relax with a more thorough reading of this e-book, purchased quite a while ago when it came out, but not really READ by me until that morning.  If you haven’t already, please purchase this book.  It is marvelous to read, and I know will be a treasure also as a mentor text to use when writing poetry with older students, intermediate school and up.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My One Little Word - Finally!

        Tuesday Slice of Life is always fun at Two Writing Teachers with Stacey and Ruth

I’ve been fussing about with choosing my One Little Word and doing the class with Ali Edwards this year.  I started with a word last year and lasted until March without sharing with anyone, and although it was a good start, I really lost the momentum and just stopped.  
This year I have signed up for the class, but haven’t started anything because I have had several words running through my brain, unfortunately never stopping.  Until today.  I have been writing about my memoir class today and making plans for books I will use and lessons I will do because the class I am teaching begins next week.  And in the other part of my brain, I’m thinking about my Christmas week last week, and how empty the house seems with all the decorations put away except for the kitchen tree which I keep up until the twelfth day of Christmas.  And it is especially empty because my son, daughter-in-law and grandson Carter left yesterday for home, in Texas.  We haven’t seen Carter and Barb since July, and Nathan since September and we spent a little time just falling into our usual rhythm together.  They arrived Christmas Eve Day and soon we were back to the old visiting, discussing, elaborating, eating long meals together, and just having a good and comfortable time. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

What I'm Reading This Week

     You can hook up with this kitlit meme: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA at teach mentor texts!  Lots to read about books and what people are saying about them!

I received more than one book for Christmas, but one is already a favorite I could use as a mentor text for using factual research to tell a story.  It is Heart and Soul, The Story of America and African Americans, by Kadir Nelson, who is not only an accomplished writer, but an extraordinary artist.  The story, chapter by chapter with each beginning with an important quote, covers the history from the struggles of slavery to the accomplishment of the Civil Rights Act, ending with a Prologue of the election of President Barack Obama, the country’s first black president.  The pages are filled with beautiful full page paintings by the author/illustrator, according to the bookflap, one of our country’s most accomplished, award-winning artists. 
         The stories in Heart and Soul are told by a kind of ‘everywoman’.  Nelson has given her a strong voice that includes quiet words, yet powerful.  For example, in the chapter about the great migration, she says:  Now, leaving was easier said than done.  White folks didn’t exactly want us to go.  After all, we worked their fields and paid their rents.  If we all upped and left, they would have been in a real fix.  So they tried their best to stop us.  She goes on to describe the ways that did make it so difficult to move from the south, like being harassed at the train stations.