Saturday, January 21, 2017

Forward Motion ~ Celebrate 2017 (Three)

Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share our celebrations. 

When I chose my one little word for 2017, I created a monthly theme to accompany it. January was "Embrace Challenges."  Little did I know at the time, my personal life would test this.  But I chose embrace challenges because I knew a student, was returning to my classroom from our alternative education classroom.

I wrote about this student in another celebration post earlier in the year.  Each day with "B" brings a different set of challenges.  Will he cooperate?  Will he work? Will he act out? But each day I push forward.  

Many days it is one step forward, two steps back.

When we insist on dwelling in the backward motion, we reject embracing the challenges and increase the potential for failing our students.  

Yes, there are days when the rythym of my breathing is "ignore, ignore, ignore...push forward."  But it is this forward motion that grounds my belief in "B".   

Late this week we made a step forward, and I solicited some help from other teachers to support him.  A colleague, Mr. K., sent me a picture of this student reading (which he has refused to do all week) in his classroom.  Along with the picture, he sent these words:

"We never give up in our quest." 

Mr. K. is also a teacher who believes in relationships, who believes in forward motion, and who believes in this student.  I am lucky to have him as a colleague.

Yes, we may have many bad days; but it is those in-between moments, along with teachers who believe in celebrating forward motion, that I must hang on to. If not, I will fail those students who need me most.  And I refuse to fail.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Fake vs. Real News

Today I am participating in Digital Learning Sunday with Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche.  This week Margaret has encouraged us to share our thoughts on fake vs. real news.

When Margaret gave her plan for this month, and I read the topic, fake vs. real news, I didn't think I would have much to contribute. This is such an important topic in today's classrooms, but I have yet to really tackle it with my students.  

I always begin our research unit with lessons on how to evaluate websites.  It is a lesson plan from Common Sense Education and Teaching Channel where students evaluate websites using an extensive set of criteria.  I know these lessons open their eyes as to what sources they can trust and what makes a website reliable, but there is so much more to teach.  With the recent overwhelming amount of fake news in the media, teachers are scrambling to not only educate themselves, but to also find lessons, resources and ideas to teach media literacy, especially the discernment of fake and real news.  

After researching, reading, and learning, I have curated a list of links and sources that will hopefully encourage teachers to begin tackling this issue.  

I suggest you begin with a recent study by Standford researchers on "civic online reasoning" by middle, high school and college students.  They state that "Overall, young people's ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word:  bleak."  You can read their findings and see samples of their assessments here. The students' responses are interesting, yet disturbing, but I think they also would reflect the thoughts and reasoning skills of my students.

Website Dedicated to News Literacy

The News Literacy Project is a nonprofit organization that "works with educators and journalists to teach middle and high school students how to sort fact from fiction in the digital age."  I am still sifting through their website, but I have enjoyed reading their teachable moments section on their blog which takes news stories and shows how you can use turn them into "teachable moments."  Below is a video from their website.

Article for Students

Real news reports on fake news people try to figure out the difference by Newsela

Articles to get the thinking started.

How to Spot Fake News (and Teach Kids to Be Media-Savvy) and Teaching Kids Media Smarts During Breaking News by Comon Sense Media

Battling Fake News in the Classroom by Edutopia

Who Stands Between Fake News and Students?  Educators by NEA Today

10 Ways to Spot Fake News by EasyBib

Lesson plans and teaching ideas for middle to high school students.

Hoax or No Hoax?  Strategies fro Online Comprehension and Evaluations by ReadWriteThink

How to teach your students about fake news by PBS Newshour Extra

News Literacy:  Critical-Thinking Skills for the 21st Century by Edutopia

Teachers no longer teach just reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Fake news is in our world and in our classrooms.  We must teach media literacy and give our students the skills needed to navigate this media-driven society in which they live.

How are you helping your students to develop media literacy skills?  I would love to hear your ideas and for you to share them in the comments section below.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Words ~ Celebrate 2017 (Two)

Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share our celebrations. 

The phone rings.

I hear her words, 
that are never expected, 
 always unwanted.

Then I wait and wait.  

I pray for words, 
she wants to hear.

And I wait and wait.

He says words,
that make us think 
she is going to be fine.

I celebrate for a moment...

And now I wait for more...
more words
to come.

"Stage 0" ~ small words, yet still a celebration.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Poetry Friday ~ Persimmon Predictions

Welcome to Poetry Friday.  I am "embracing challenges" by participating in this weekly community of all things poetry. Please join Keri at Keri Recommends for this week's Poetry Friday Round-Up.

We have three persimmon trees near the edge of our property.  When we built our house, these gnarly looking trees remained standing.  When my children were little, we picked up the ripe persimmons from the ground, shook the trees to make some fall, and made our own pulp for persimmon pudding.  This process is quite messy and takes many persimmons and hard work to make the pulp.  Might be the reason we only did this a handful of times.

Early this week, the few remaining persimmons were holding on and holding out for winter's wrath.  After a windstorm today, the trees are now bare and the critters are having a feast of leftovers on the ground.  Looking at the seeds on the ground reminded me of one of nature's weather forecasting methods - cracking open the persimmon seeds.  

If we see a spoon - expect shovels of snow.  

If we see a knife - expect cutting, cold winds.

If we see a fork - expect a mild, warm winter.

An ice storm is on its way as I write this.  May all of you in its path be safe.  Let us hope the weather folklore was not a knife.  (Personally, all I ever see are spoons!)

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Letter to Writing Teachers Who Don't Write

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating this space for me to share my corner of the world.

This week I was to present a PD on teachers as writers.  Although it was canceled due to a lack of participants, I will continue to advocate for the importance of walking the talk.  I know how much being a teacher who writes has changed my classroom, and I want others to reap the benefits too.  

Below is a letter I wrote to those "would be" participants and all writing teachers who have not yet found the benefits of being a teacher who writes.

Dear Writing Teachers,

Today was my day to share one of my passions with you - writing.  Unfortunately, it was canceled due to a lack of participants.

I can honestly say I understand.  Budgets are tight and money designated for PD is typically used for one-size-fits all, not personalized professional development tailored to each teacher's needs or passions.

I didn't have a program that guaranteed better test scores.  I didn't have a product that was a quick prep for the spring standardized tests. And I didn't have a technology tool that would engage your students tomorrow.

But if you would have been at my workshop, you would have learned how your teaching of writing could change simply because - you write.  

You would have gained confidence in your own writing which leads to competence in your teaching of writing.  

You would have understood that teachers who write increase their level of credibility in the eyes of their students, which in turn leads to increased learning.  

And you would have become a part of a writing community and realized the importance of that support.

I have always been a writer.  I have been a writing teacher for ten years.  But I became a teacher writer five years ago, and what a difference that has made in my teaching and for me and my students.

Because I write:
  • I understand the fear of a blank page.  
  • I look beyond conventions and celebrate my students' words.   
  • I believe feedback is more than a letter grade.
  • I now teach writing, not assign it.
  • I realize writing is hard.
  • I know my story matters.
  • I am a better teacher.
I am sorry I did not get the opportunity to write with you today.  I hope that some day you discover the difference between being a writing teacher and a teacher who writes. 

And I hope that some day our paths - and our words - may cross.

Leigh Anne Eck

Friday, January 6, 2017

Cherishment ~ Celebrate 2017 (One)

Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share our celebrations. 

Photo by Leslie Ann

My one little world for this year has many dimensions to it.  I have such big plans in 2017 for this word.  One of them is celebrating the people who help me to rise, and who have influenced and inspired my writing life.  One of those people is Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche.

When I visit her small space in the world and read her words, I stand in awe of her brilliance as a writer.  Her words give me hope; they bring me joy; they encourage and inspire me, and they allow me to rise as a person and as a writer. 

As I was reading about her one little word, cherish, I was once again reminded of the impact her words have had on me since I have "met" her.  I told her that her words give me "cherishment" - a step above inspiration.  

But it is so much more than that.

Inspiration is creating a positive or creative feeling in someone. 

But "cherishment" is when you feel a movement, a stirring that is so deep, it can only be felt with the soul. 

I know I am not the only one who cherishes Margaret's words.  I took comments  from her readers and weaved them together in this celebration poem.


You are magical
born to weave words
a master of inspiration 
we are your benefactors

your care and attention you bring to life
capture the joy
awaken my senses

your sentimental ways
your desire to help others
tells a story of your heart

I am in awe of your way with words
you give your words so freely and abundantly
you teach us too, with your gentle example
your “Melody” fills my spirit

magic is always here
the world will be better
for your poetry is in it

Thank you Margaret, for feeding us and nourishing us through your words.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Poetry Friday ~ Sparkling Silence

Happy New Year, and Happy Poetry Friday.  I am new to this community, as I have only contributed one time, and those were student poems.  My One Little Word for 2017 is Rise, and in January I am rising to "Embrace Challenges."  What better way to challenge myself than to share poetry once a week.  

Mother Nature blessed us today with our first snow of the year.  As my daughter and I pulled out of the driveway this morning, our inaugural tracks led the way down the deserted street.  The snow glistened as the beams from our headlights lit our way.  A beautiful, undisturbed sight that only a snowfall can provide.

I told my daughter, "Look at the diamonds."  I only wish I had stopped for a picture.

Mother Nature
under the cover of darkness 
bequeaths a gift 
of sparkling silence

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2017 

Join the Poetry Friday Round Up with Linda over at Teacher Dance.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Books in Boxes - #MustReadin2017

Being part of several reading communities rewards me with many book recommendations, sometimes too many.  This past year has been no different.  It is time to reflect on what was read in 2016 and round up those books that we didn't read because 2017 came too quickly.  I am joining Carrie Gelson of There's A Book For That, and many other bloggers to create my Must Read in 2017 List.  

I keep several boxes and stacks of books at my house.  My TBR boxes.   Most of these boxes contain books that I want to read before I hand them over to my students. When too much time goes by, new books are purchased, or boxes are overflowing, I begin to purge the stacks.  As I was purging during my Christmas break, I pulled out the ones I truly wanted to read in 2017.  These are the books that will stay with me just a little bit longer before I take them to school.

So here is my #MustReadin2017 list:


I have been trying to stock my classroom library with nonfiction for upper grade levels. I brought many lower to middle grade books with me when I moved to 6th grade, but needed to think about titles for middle school readers.  I recently had a Donor's Choose project of nonfiction books funded, so I have added two of those titles to my list.

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

2016 Nerdies

Several books in my boxes were awarded a Nerdy this year.  (I must have good taste...just not enough time!)  Here are three titles that made my list.

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds
The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

2015 Nerdies

And several books in my boxes were awarded a Nerdy in 2015.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

A Little Help from My Friends

Many books I own received some type of book love by my reading friends, or else I would not have purchased them.  These books in the boxes fall into this category.

Summerlost by Ally Condie
Mayday by Karen Harrington
Save Me a Seat  by Sarah Weeks
OCDaniel by Wesley King


Last but not least, I am in a group of middle grade teachers who receive ARCs from various authors and publishers.  We read the books, talk about them on social media and blogs, and then share them with each other.  This group has brought a new perspective to my reading life.  It is fun  receiving books in the mail filled with their thoughts written on sticky notes and tear-dried stains.  I received this ARC back in the summer, and it has now made it to my #mustreadin2017. (I want avoid being kicked out by my relay team!)

Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar

I know many of these books will make it out of my boxes and will be replaced with 2017 books. This coming year looks to be a great year for reading.  Follow along with us and mark your calendars for these updates on our progress.

Spring update: Thursday April 6th, 2017
Fall update: Thursday September 7th, 2017
Year end update: Thursday December 28th, 2017
Thank you for being a part of this community. You all make my reading experiences so much richer!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

One Little Word 2017

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating this space for me to share my corner of the world.

Social media this week is full of people claiming their one little words.  This is my fourth year of choosing a OLW to guide me through the year.  Search (2013), Reach (2014), and Turn (2015) were all words that suited me well.  

I felt I had a purpose for the year. 

Last year I struggled with Intent (2016).  The word fit more with my personal life, but it failed to encompass my professional life.  Looking at my words, I also noticed that the first three were verbs.  An action I had to take.  Something I did.

Since I am a doer, I knew this year I needed another verb, and I needed something that would guide all the "people" who make up who I am.  

I began reading other peoples' words hoping that one would find me.  I thought about the words quest, journey, metanoia (means a journey of changing), and elevate. I read tweets, followed the #OneWord2017 hashtag, and poured over pins on Pinterest, hoping something would surface.  

And it did.  

I read and pinned the quote "Decide to Rise".  It lingered in my thoughts.  

It was a verb; it was an action.  But could it guide all of me?

I thought my word had found me, yet it still wasn't perfect.  How was I going to rise in the year 2017?  It needed a purpose, a focus.

I found my answer through a post written by Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience. I discovered how I was going to purposely extend my word across an entire year.  

Last year, Ann made a list of verbs for each month and attached a noun to make a "SOULution" instead of a resolution.  I knew my one little word was leading me in a new direction.  (This also makes the fourth word that has been influenced by Ann. Read how she previously influenced me here and here.)

I have made my own list of twelve verbs and attached a purpose to each one, very similar to Ann's.  Now I hope to RISE each day with: 

love on my lips, 
hope in my heart, 
and thankfulness in my thoughts.

My word has a purpose for each month, a purpose to make a difference in my life and the lives of others.  They are not resolutions, but instead, a way to look positively in the year ahead.  I look forward to writing about and sharing my one little word this year with all of you.

Monday, January 2, 2017

It's Monday! What are You Reading? 1-2-17

Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What Are You Reading?  Be sure and stop by to participate or see what others are reading and recommending this week.

With a new year upon us, it is my goal to write a #IMWAYR post on a regular basis, even if it is every other week.  My reading life in 2016 became a little stagnant, and I missed reading and sharing books with others.

What I have read lately.

Yard War by Talyor Kitchings

I am always looking for titles to add to our Civil Rights because this is a period we must never forget.  This book takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in 1964.  Trip Westbrook invites the family maid's son to play football, which causes quite a stir in his white neighborhood.  Trip learns about how racism can divide neighborhoods, friends, and even families.

The football plot in this story will certainly add interest for the boys in the my classroom.  Although this book takes place in 1964, I never felt like I was placed in the time period.  Something just didn't connect the setting for me, but I am sure many of students will enjoy reading this book.

Code of Honor by Alan Gratz

Kamran Smith plans to go to West Point, just like his brother, Darius.  His plans change and his world turns upside-down when his brother is accused of being a terrorist.  Kamran sets out to clear his brother's name after watching videos of Darius making terrorist threats against the United States.  Kamran believes that Darius sent him clues in the videos to prove his innocence, and Kamran knows Darius would never break their code of honor. This book is action-packed and certainly makes the reader think about the times in which we currently live.

This is my second book written by Alan Gratz, and certainly will not be my last.

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

I participate in a group of teachers who read books, share on social media and pass them on to the next #bookrelays team member.  We were blessed to be given the opportunity to read an ARC of Goodbye Days.  This book is written by Jeff Zentner whose debut novel in 2016, The Serpent King, is receiving rave reviews.  His second book leaves no doubt that he is a brilliant writer.

This book is about four boys, Carver, Eli, Blake, and Mars, who attend an arts school in Nashville.  Three of the boys are killed after the Carver sends them a text.  Carver is asked by Blake's grandmother to have a goodbye day with her to share their favorite moments and memories of Blake, and to say goodbye.  As Carver tries to forgive himself and overcome his guilt, he faces severe anxiety and panic attacks.  Unfortunately for Carver, the other two families are not as forgiving as Blake's grandma, and his goodbye days with them are heart wrenching.  

Carver's story is one that will make you laugh out loud, will pull on your heartstrings, yet will also help you find hope in moving on.

Reading this book as a parent with of young adults gave me a different perspective.  The boys reminded me of own son and his three friends. (Yes, one is even named Eli!)  Several times I wanted to go hug my kids while reading about the lives of these four boys.  

Circle March on your calendar because this is a book you will NOT want to miss.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

#MustReadin2016 Comes to an End...Thankfully!

Three years ago Carrie Gelson of There's a Book for That started a reading challenge for the year which consisted of a "must read" list and link up. Basically the challenge is a list of books that we didn't read in the current year but wanted to read in the following year. This is my third year to participate, but also my least successful year. My reading as a whole declined in 2016, but this challenge was particularly stagnant.

Although I read 100 books for my Goodreads challenge in 2016, I had 22 books on my list this year (which is way too many!) and I am embarrassed to say that I only read....


And here they no particular order

The highlight of this year's challenge is that I was introduced to a new author, Alan Gratz.

His book Code of Honor was on my list, but I also read Projekt 1065.  Both books are historical fiction and are great middle grade reads.  I guess finding a new author can be considered a success for this year's challenge.

Sometimes I wonder why I participate in reading challenges.  The first answer and the only answer for me is that sharing books makes my reading experiences even better! Many times when I finish a book, the first thing I want to do is talk about it.  I never lack for a listener because of my connected reading groups.  (Although my TBR lists grow longer!)  So, thank you friends for listening, for sharing, and for reading with me this year.

I hope you consider joining Carrie and many other bloggers for Must Read in 2017!  Look for the link-up on January 5th.  Check out her blog here for everyone's final update for 2016.

Happy New Year 
and Happy Reading!