Tuesday, January 17, 2017

{one little goal} #sol17



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My twin six year old daughters know about "one little words." Last year, I was on a mission to live out happy. Happy this and happy that and just the word happy was plastered wherever I could possibly remind myself of my one little word.  Even the wallpaper on my phone. (Notice my one little word from 2016 to the right. -->)

Last week when the girls returned to school, I was happy to hear that as I was contemplating my one little word for the year, they were also thinking about a goal for the year too.

"Mommy, we talked about goals for the new year.  I chose healthy," P. explained.

"Me too! I chose healthy too!" M. exclaimed.  "I said I would exercise with my family, eat more fruits and vegetables, and also eat fish and chicken."

"I said I would exercise too.  I even said I would only eat dessert once a week," P. responded to her sister.

"Wow! I think it's a great word for all of us this year," I added.

"It's my goal, but it's like your one little word you do. Is that your word too?" M. asked.

"No, I think I have another word, but they still go together. Hey, do you want to make your own visual reminder, like I do? You can make your own and we can hang it as a reminder of your goal. What do you think?" I asked.

Of course, there was a resounding YES! I pulled out my phone, opened the "Word Swag" app and handed M. the phone. They each created their own visual. I printed multiple copies, laminated them, and they are ready to post around the house as our reminder of their one little word.

I am absolutely thrilled that my daughters, at six years of age, understand the importance of setting goals, focusing on living healthy, and owning a one little word (goal) for the year. A reminder for us all.

Something I just love.







Tuesday, January 10, 2017

{Sigh.} #sol17



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I don't even know where to begin ... as I stare at the daunting white space and the blink-blink-blinking curser.  {Sigh.}

Weeks have passed. Life has taken over. I'm sitting somewhere between busy and exhausted. I haven't been writing, or even thinking about writing.  Even though writing has brought me so much joy over the last six years.

Last week I received an email from Carol, just checking in, missing my voice, making sure I'm ok. {Sigh.}

My goal was to start writing and slicing again last week.  New year, fresh start. I know March will sneak up quickly, and I need (and want) to get into the rhythm of writing again.  I have stories to share, words to play with, memories to capture.

I had a plan scribbled in my new notebook (a beautiful gift from my six year old daughter).  I was going to share my one little word for the new year, as I know many of you did.  But sickness decided to creep into our house and stay awhile.  Days later I changed my one little word.  And today I sit pondering it again. I'm thinking it's not quite the word that I need this year. {Sigh.}

Things happen for a reason. And I know that I need to continue to work on balancing this life of wife, mom, daughter, teacher, friend, and just plain old me, who happens to love reading and writing. I'm gifting myself time and grace, lots of grace.

Then just yesterday I received a message from Terje, just checking in, hoping that I will slice today. {Sigh.}

And, so, I sit and just write, knowing I'm saying so little, yet so much. Sometimes this is what it takes for stories and writers and me to grow again.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

{today} #sol16


The March Slice of Life Story Challenge
hosted at the Two Writing Teachers
Join us for a month of writing!
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today:  i anticipate the long weekend ahead

today:  i could feel the excitement before a much-needed break
want to be:  snuggled up in bed reading a book without interruption
blessings:  my God, my family, my home, and my profession
thinking: i'm too tired to write with that feeling of no words to share
planning:  each of the next five days with family and friends and too much food
writing:  a little slice of life today
loving:  the peace and quiet right now
grateful:  for a loving family, a toasty-warm home ...

and today {again}: i anticipate the long weekend ahead
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This go-to easy-format quick-thinking in-the-moment writing idea is compliments to:

"It's a single print out of the busy cycle of life, a pause, a way to plan, 
and to remember to breathe in the midst of the everyday."
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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

{#PictureBookMonth} #sol16

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November arrived quickly, but we were ready.

My colleague, Karen, and I have celebrated Picture Book Month in our classrooms over the last few years.  However, this year we decided to share this special month with not just our small groups of students, but with everyone at our school.

We started thinking about the importance of reading aloud picture books:

  • Builds commUNITY (Thanks to JoEllen McCarthy for this!)
  • Develops empathy
  • Builds vocabulary
  • Allows for deeper thinking
  • Showcases new authors, titles, and series
  • Reminds us that books are mirror and windows


We introduced the premise of Picture Book Month with our staff at a meeting and that we wanted to share our love of picture books with their classrooms.  We agreed to read aloud every day in November to a classroom in our school. We set up a sign-up schedule using Sign Up Genius and started pulling books from our classroom libraries that correlated with the daily theme.


Karen and I arrive every day in a new classroom ready to share a different picture book.  It's fun reading aloud with a partner, but it definitely took a day or two to become comfortable with sharing the read aloud lead! We make a great read aloud team!





We ask students why they like picture books and jot down their thoughts on a sticky note.  We discuss that pictures books are good for any grade, and remind students we never get too old for picture books! After we read, we take a picture with each class, print it out, and post it on our bulletin board with their ideas about picture books.  A copy of the cover of the book we read aloud is posted on our calendar and the books are on display.  We send a quick tweet with the hashtag #PictureBookMonth to share our daily read aloud, and sometimes connect with the author or illustrator.





It's been an amazing month so far of sharing books, new titles, new authors, and our love of picture books.  The students are excited to see us and we have even been asked on several occasions when we would be coming back.

That's the best compliment of all.  

We are booked this month, but we will be back! Happy reading picture books this month and every month!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

{stealing time} #sol16

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The month of October is busy as it is.  School is in full swing. After school activities. Homework and projects. Multiple birthday parties.  A week of Halloween activities and fun. Every day planned.

Then throw in the Chicago Cubs and playoff baseball.

Stealing time.

I learned the game with my Dad.  I sat with him watching the Cubs win some and lose most. I grew up playing softball. I know the game and some of the obscure rules. But this game takes patience.

Stealing time.

We are more of a fast-paced-Chicago-Blackhawks-hockey-loving family.  Baseball is, well, just not the same. Unless we are watching playoffs.  More exciting than the long 100-plus game season.

Stealing time.

And we haven't missed a game.  I dug out my Cubbie Blue shirts from the back of my closet. We are the October fans of baseball. The excitement. The hits. The home runs and Grand Slam. The amazing play after play after play.

The gift of winning. But, oh, is it stealing time.  And many, many late nights.

Tonight I watch and dream about stealing time with ... One. More. Game.

Let's go, Cubbies! Bring Chicago a World Series Win! #FlytheW
Image result for this is the year chicago
Image from Pinterest

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

{kids can teach us} #sol16

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I'm thrilled to say that I am finally in a routine of meeting with my small groups of students (a.k.a intervention groups).  It feels so good to be spending time with students face-to-face who are just as excited to see me!

These kids amaze me every day when they get the opportunity to move to a smaller learning space where we are surrounded by books and not distracted by anything else.  It's just us and books and time to connect and read.

We are creating our small group learning community, where we value each other as readers, writers, and thinkers.  We talked about our purpose for working together.  We talked about our goals and dreams. We talked about our challenges. Yet, we know we can do it. No excuses.

We discussed that readers, writers, and thinkers need tools and resources to continue to grow.

Readers need books. Lots and lots of books. And a variety of books.
Writers need notebooks. And pencils, crayons, markers, pens. Maybe even a laptop.
Thinkers need their brain that continually grows as it is exercised and challenged.

We talked in depth about our purpose for reading.  We are not just reading the words on the page to finish. We are reading to understand, to ask questions, to think deeply about the characters, to think about what we learned, or how our thinking has changed, to think critically about the decisions the author and illustrator made. Reading is thinking. Reading is challenging work!

As my group of third grade students and I were discussing ... This happened.

Words started flowing from their mouths, my ears were tickled.

"Wait! Let me write that down!" I interrupted as I grabbed my pencil and bright orange sticky notes.

The words started again, and together they crafted a beautiful quote about readers and books and thinkers. I quickly scribbled, smiling in delight.

"This is amazing.  I'll be making a poster for us to remember your words," I announced as all three of my students beamed with pride.


Today, I will share the poster with them, giving them a copy to save.  They will also see THEIR quote on the glitter board, where I share reading and writing quotes.  This is the first time -- but not the last -- that students will be quoted on the glitter board because every day I'm reminded that kids can teach us too.

     

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

{back writing} #sol16

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I have all the excuses in the world ...

Back to school. New schedules. After school sports. Homework.
Out of practice. Not in a rhythm. Brain is full. Just too tired.
No time. No time. No time.

But I know you won't accept those excuses.  And I shouldn't either ...

I need to rethink my time.  It's about balancing.  Creating time.
Making time. Taking time. Getting back into the rhythm.
Feeling the need to practice. Allowing my brain freedom.

So that's it.

I need to give myself the space to write.
I need to remind myself that my words have power.
I have a story to tell. My story. To share with you.

All the excuses in the world
can't keep me from writing this little slice of mine
to stay connected with you.

I'm back writing. And it's starting to feel like home again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

{back to school life} #sol16

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Back to school is exciting. The newness of it all.
The wonder and curiosity. The hope.

It's doesn't take long for all that goodness to disappear ...
because back to school life includes so much more for this mom teacher.

There's wake up times, schedules to follow, lunches to make,
busses to catch, busy days, time to play, go to practices and homework to do.

There's books to read aloud, time to plan, analyze assessments, study data,
determine interventions, be a champion for kids and teachers, and smile. A lot.

Then there is everything else I need to do.
You know, laundry and cleaning and picking up and dinner and and and ...

And a little time squeezed to take care of me
like tonight and my hair therapy, as my friend Chris calls it.

Back to school is all new and ...
all about trying to get back into school life.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

{gratitude} #sol16

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Today I am so thankful for my daughters' teachers.

Every day my girls come home with stories and stories to share.

Stories about school and friends and special teachers.

"You know, Mom.  My teacher said when you think you've finished, you've only just begun. Turn the page and write more."

"Mom, I got to read with my teacher today! I read a story in the morning and then another in the afternoon."

"My teacher is reading a really good book to us."

I smile and share in their excitement!

So today, I decided I needed to share that joy with their teachers.

I took the time tonight to write a personal note to each teacher letting them know how thankful we are for their time and efforts to create a classroom where our girls feel comfortable to grow and learn.

A little note of gratitude is encouraging ... and touches the heart.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

{choice always matters} #sol16

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For six years of her life, I have provided my daughter choice when it comes to selecting books to read.

At the public library we visit often, she will grab a book that interests her, sit down on the ground, and slowly, carefully study the book page-by-page to decide if it will make it into the check out pile.

There are no levels or discussions about letters. There are no rules or boundaries. (I'll be honest. There have been an occasional eye roll at a book selection ... but I can only take so much Barbie or My Little Pony.  Yes, I know that I shouldn't book shame...)

Choice, interest, motivation, and recommendations drive our 100+ books checked out from our library.

And this is why a conversation that happened during our first grade meet the teacher meeting at our new neighborhood school surprised me ...

After briefly meeting the teacher and unpacking her backpack, our next task was to select three books for her book bin from the classroom library.  I thought this was an awesome idea as I now know that her teacher values books and provided us an opportunity to check out the library together and select new books for her book bin.

We walked over to the classroom library and I happily smiled at all the books in baskets organized by genre, topics, book series, and authors.  A great selection of books for her multiage classroom.

She stopped and looked at the book baskets and looked at me.  She then whispered, "But I don't know what level they are."

My heart dropped, but I quickly reminded her how we select books.

"Find a book that interests you. Here's a nonfiction book basket! You are really into learning new information. What about this favorite character? Remember, there are three ways to read a book. Let's open this book up -- oh, you can read the words in this one.  And this one you could read the pictures ... "

The fixed level cloud lifted, she pushed me aside and got to work browsing the library. She took her time. She selected an old favorite, a new-to-us book, and one that was just added to her to be read list that morning. Three books that interested her.  Three books that she wants to read.  Three books selected by choice. Then she added them to her book bin to start the year with excitement.

Later I thought about this brief, but powerful encounter, wondering why she had questioned her book selecting abilities ... then I squirmed remembering her kindergarten room with a small library organized only by level -- one basked per F&P gradient letters.  This is what she remembers from her kindergarten classroom library experience: Picking books from a leveled basket.

For six years of her life, I have provided my daughter choice when it comes to selecting books to read.  And I am thrilled to know that she can continue selecting books by choice this year in first grade.