Thursday, December 31, 2015

Must Read in 2015 Comes to an End

Two years ago Carrie Gelson of There's a Book for That started a must read list and link up. It consisted of a list of books that we didn't read in the current year but wanted to read in the following year.  My first year my list was much too long.

This year my list was shorter, and I was surprisingly much more successful ~ I finished eight out of my ten books listed, but read two complete trilogies.  You can read my original post here. 

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!  So 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.  So, thank you friends for listening, for sharing, and for reading with me.

Here are my top two, or should I say top six in my Must Read in 2105 list!

The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer Nielsen

I chose this series because 2014 was my first year teaching 6th grade, and I knew I needed to start reading books for this upper grade level.  This series was so amazingly intense, I finished it before March.  It also introduced me to a new-to-me author, Jennifer A. Nielsen.  If you have not read anything by her, I highly suggest you change that soon.  A Night Divided, also written by her, is another excellent choice.

My Life Is a Zoo by Jess Keating

How to Outrun a Crocodile was on my list because it was the January pick for the Virtual Book Club, an online monthly book club/chat hosted by Niki Ohs Barnes (@daydreeamreader) and Beth Panageotou (@epan11).

I liked the first one so much that I read this whole series too. Ana, the main character is one of my favorite characters of 2015.  I would love to have her as a student and would have loved to have her as a friend when I was in middle school.  This is just a fun series to read!

I hope you consider joining Carrie, me and many other bloggers for Must Read in 2016!  Look for the link-up on January 5th.  Check out her blog here for everyone's final update for 2015.

Here is the lineup for the Virtual Book Club titles selected for 2016.  You might just find a few more to add to your Must Read list!

Happy Reading!

A New Year Awaits - December Haiku #31

Photo by Flickr
as I turn the page
reflections in the mirror
memories ahead

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Final Turn

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating a place to share our Slice of Life.  Read more slices or add you own here.

With just two days left in 2015, it means it is time to reflect on my one little word.  I have quickly learned how hard it is to say goodbye to my one little words.  I jokingly tweeted the other night that choosing a word was as serious as naming your children because so much time and effort is put into searching, thinking, and choosing these words which guide us through the year.

I knew 2015 would be a year of changes and challenges, or what I have referred to as life turns, and boy was I right!  We have had detours and roadblocks along the way, but we have become stronger as my family and I took the scenic route.

The year started out with my husband taking a detour and "trying out" retirement.  We often wondered why things turned out the way they did, but we eventually found our answer.  My son, who was a senior at the time, would be playing his final season of golf.  He has played for about 10 years and my husband missed many of those matches because of his job.  This year he got to not only see Ethan finish his final season, his final hole, but also got to see him make his first hole in one! 

Ethan graduated from high school in May.  He is still searching for a major and trying to find his way, but he made it through his first semester at our local college.  

Megan graduated from college and started her first year of teaching.  That has been a life turn I have written quite a bit about this year.  It has been a bumpy ride, but I think she is going to make it!

Because my life as a parent turned in new directions, I was able to take some time for me; it became my turn. I still have some things I want to do personally and professionally, but these things lead me perfectly to my one little word for 2016.

As I say goodbye to 2015 and make the final turn of the calendar page, I am grateful for the turns my life took, and I look forward to what 2016 brings.

Happy New Year!

Morning Treat - December Tanka Riddle #29

Back in early December, I was inspired by a post from my wonderful blogging buddy, LeAnn Carpenter, also known as Elsie.  After reading it, I knew I wanted to use her words for one of my December haiku because many of her lines were the perfect syllable count. 

To change things up a bit, I wanted to write a riddleku, taken from Laura Purdie Salas, where the poem is written from the point of view of an object or animal.  The reader tries to guess "what" has written the poem.

The only problem with using Elsie's post, was that I needed more syllables than a traditional haiku, so it is now a tanka.  Or should I say, a tanka riddle?  Read the poem and then scroll down to see if you correctly solved the riddle!

freckled with age spots
to the point of no return; 
I'm saved by retreating hands
only to be turned into 
a delightful morning treat

What am I?

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

Banana Muffins!

Pictures taken by LeAnn Carpenter.  Click here to read her post.

I just realized I did not follow the tanka line/syllables rule! Oh well, I kind of like it the way it is!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Mother Nature's Ball - December Haiku #28

Yesterday...or I should say for many poured down rain.  For a brief moment the sun poked its head out after a day of dark, dreary clouds.  I was working at school and looked out my windows and the reflection of the sun turned these raindrops into Mother Nature's diamonds.  

sparkling diamonds 
and black tie required for
Mother Nature's ball

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Turn - December Haiku #27

It is almost time for me to say goodbye to my one little word for 2015.  A reflection post will come on Tuesday, but for now it is my haiku for the day.

my one little word 
leading me on a journey
telling my story

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Celebrate Turn #33 and Christmas Haiku #26

Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share and celebrate events, big or small, from our week. I cannot believe that this is the last celebration post of 2015.  This year I have numbered my posts as Turns because that has been my one little word for 2015.  Looking at the number, 33, I may not have written every Saturday, but I have always celebrated.  I have learned it is the celebration that is most important. 

I have written many posts this year about parenting my almost-adult children.  It has not been easy.  I have found that this type of parenting seems to be the most difficult during big moments such as birthdays, first and last days of school, but especially Christmas.

Thankfully my kids continue to let me celebrate their childhood at Christmas time.  Or maybe it is because they are not quite ready to give it up either.

The night of the Christmas parade in our town, we always eat at a pizza place which is right on the parade route.  We continued that tradition this year and even went to look at Christmas lights afterward.  We hit our favorite spots and added a few new ones while singing..if you want to call it that...Christmas songs.  

Christmas Eve the four of us continued our tradition of making homemade pizzas after Christmas Eve church service.  And the 24 hour marathon of The Christmas Story movie began. 

Santa no longer visits our house, but my kids want me to wait until Christmas Eve to put their gifts under the tree.  I am glad they still want to feel that excitement of coming downstairs in the morning and seeing that "Santa" really did come.  The biggest difference is that it no longer happens at 6:00 in then morning!

Christmas Day we were all getting ready for our family celebration at my aunt's house.  Each of us came from our different corners of the house and arrived in the living room.  Megan looked at all of us and laughed.  We all had green on.  Granted they were all different shades of green, but they were green nonetheless.

It was a perfect representation of our small family.  We all have different hues and tones.  We definitely have different contrasts and brightness.  But when we our brushes come together and our colors are mixed, we make the perfect palette.  

different hues and tones
mixed by our Creator's hand
a perfect palette

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas - Christmas Haiku #25

celebrate the day ~
joy and peace of the season
in one small package

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve - Christmas Haiku #24

I remember those sleepless Christmas Eve nights as a child, waiting for morning and thinking it would never come.  I shared a room with my older sister, and we would lie awake wondering and hoping.  Even as my own two children become adults, that excitement and anticipation is still there, leaving me wonder if it ever goes away.

night before Christmas
the wrapped gifts under the tree
waiting for morning

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

In From the Porch

Have you ever had a student who you thought hated school?  I have one.  I believed she hated school and anyone or anything associated with it.

But those beliefs all changed last Friday.

It was the end of the period on our last day before Christmas Break.   My co-teacher and I were wishing our students a Merry Christmas and a happy break.  

H said, "Well I won't."

This comment did not surprise me because of her negative attitude and her general demeanor toward school.  When my co-teacher asked her about it, she replied, "I don't want to be on break.  I don't want to go home."

I was astounded and speechless.  I know that not all of our students have happy homes, and that school is the best part of their day.  But I certainly did not expect this from H.  I assumed school was the last place where she wanted to be.

How could I be so wrong about a student?

One day last week, I was playing around with book titles to create haiku for my December challenge, and I created this one.  Now, it makes me wonder about H and the many other students who are just like her.

the boy on the porch
I'm not who you think I am

How many of our students stand on the porch of our classrooms waiting to come in?  

Waiting for us to see who they really are?  

Waiting for the chance to bloom?

When we return to school in January, I know I will see H in a different way.  I will look for her bloomability.  I have to believe it is hidden deep somewhere inside her, and it is up to me to invite her in from the porch.

Molasses Cookies - Christmas Haiku #23

molasses cookies
warm from the oven, begging
for a glass of milk

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Last Minute Shopping - Christmas Haiku #22

last minute shoppers
push, shove, toss kindness aside
in search of bargains

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015

Summer Wishes - Christmas Haiku #21

My December haiku writing challenge took a short detour due to chaos:  end of the semester, Christmas, and life.  But break has officially started today, and I am back writing again.

Last week as I was shelving books in my classroom library, I noticed the syllable count of many titles.  So many titles had five syllables which was perfect for a book spine haiku.  I have played around with book spine poetry, and it is not an easy poem to "write."  So what made me think book spine haiku would be any easier?  I began pulling titles and rearranging.  It actually became quite fun!

This one is my favorite because I think the only good thing about the months of December, January, and February is Christmas.

takeoffs and landings
the last best days of summer
where I'd like to be

Monday, December 14, 2015

Santa's Job Description - Christmas Haiku #14

This haiku is part two from a writing assignment I gave to my students.  We were talking about point of view.  This one is from Santa's point of view.  Click here to read from the unhappy little girl's point of view.

my job description
says:  bring joy to little children
does this look like joy?

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Picture with Santa - Christmas Haiku #13

I have been writing a haiku a day for the month of December.  In my classes this week, we are writing from two different points of view from a picture prompt.  I chose this picture, and I decided to write beside my students.  My haiku is in rough form and was written in ten minutes.  This one is written from the little girls point of view.  Tomorrow will be from Santa's.

with my Christmas bow
and on Santa's lap, someone
take the picture, please!

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Toy Boy - Christmas Haiku #12

When my daughter Megan was about 3 or 4 years old, she called Santa the Toy Boy and it has just stuck with us.  Here is  my haiku about The Toy Boy.

Photo by Flickr

the toy boy putting
smiles on children's faces
on Christmas morning

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Christmas Story - Christmas Haiku #11

Last night I went to my former school and helped at their Family Christmas Night.  I snapped this picture of the daughter and husband of a former colleague.  It reminded me of reading Christmas stories to my own children.  

My children were always surrounded by books.  Reading to them was not only a pleasure, it was also a responsibility I took seriously.  But the Christmas books were only brought out at Christmas time.  I wanted those to remain special.  Because they were so well-loved and could only be read for a small number of days, I read the books to my kids again and again...a wonderful memory.

Snuggling up close
to hear a Christmas story 
again...and again

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Cookies for Santa - Christmas Haiku #10

Photo by Flickr
cookies for Santa
lovingly placed on his plate
only crumbs remain

...and there are always crumbs.

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What Has Twitter Done for Me Lately?

I love Twitter, although many of my colleagues have yet to find its worthiness.  I have tried to start Twitter chats in my district, and only a few teachers participate.  I talk about Twitter and how important being a connected educator can be.  But they just don't see it.

I am often asked about my take-aways from Twitter.  Some teachers think it is all technology related, while others think it is a waste of time.  But Twitter is so much more than that.

I know that I am a better teacher because of Twitter and the PLN I have established.  Twitter is full of golden tweets.  Sometimes it is just a simple quote that makes me smile or think about something in a different way.  Other times it is an idea, a lesson, or information on something I want to do in my classroom.

Many times when I am asked about Twitter, I am unable to quickly recall something I have taken away from tweets or links from tweets.  Curating the information from Twitter will allow me to show my colleagues just how valuable Twitter can be.

This Week's Twitter Take-aways

Readers' Notebooks

I want to do more with writing about reading with my students, as well as with my own reading.  This week Clare and Tammy from Teachers for Teachers wrote a post about using a virtual mentor text using the strategy of "lifting a line" which is from Notebook Connections by Aimee Buckner.  They took their thoughts from their notebook and "wrote long" or in this case, wrote a blog post.  Click here to learn how they a created virtual mentor text for reading notebooks.

Big idea notes from the notebook of Clare and Tammy at Teachers for Teachers.

Highlighting their big ideas in their blog post.

Reading Levels

I am always looking for ammunition to use against "living by levels alone."  This picture taken by Travis Jonker from 100 Scope Notes only solidifies my beliefs that levels are only a number...and many times not an accurate one.


It is important for me to reflect on my assessment and grading practices.  I know I need to improve in this area, and reading about these two areas only helps me to become a better teacher. This is a quote I found on an assessment post by Erin Murphy at Murphy's Musings.

Independent Reading

Because I am an advocate for independent reading, I am always looking for articles and posts to read about this topic.  This week the International Literacy Association had an article by Deborah Hollimon about independent reading.

"There really is a proven formula which, when practiced with fidelity, consistently produces lifelong readers. I call this four-part formula the ACTS of Reading:  Access, Choice, Time and Socialize."

I have given two presentations on motivating and creating lifelong readers, and reading this article motivates me to keep advocating for independent reading in our classrooms. 

A Little Laugh

That wraps up my week on Twitter!  What has Twitter done for you lately?

Advent Wreath - Christmas Haiku #9

Photo by Flickr, wilsonevergreens 
wreath of evergreen
symbols of Christmas joy, the
coming of the Lord

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Oreo Cookie - Christmas Haiku #8

who will be the first 
to dig through the box and find
Oreo cookie

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

For 16 years, this is the ornament that everyone digs to find and fights over because everyone wants to be the first to put the Oreo on the tree.

A Writing Life

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating a place to share our Slice of Life.  Read more slices or add you own here.

Last week I was reading a slice at Carol's Corner and saw where she was joining Mary Lee Hahn at Poetrepository to write a haiku every day in December.  Haiku is my favorite poetry form to write and I loved the book Santa Clauses by Bob Raczka, so I thought why not?  

So far I have published every day.  Many of the poems revolve around Christmas memories in my house with my children.  I look at the tree and many ornaments bring back such special times I have shared with my family.  Since my children are now 19 and 23, this challenge has been serendipitous for me.

Then last Friday Mary Lee wrote on her Poetry Friday post about this December challenge.  Her words gave me much to think about.  She told about how she challenged herself last year, but she wrote alone.  This year is much different, as others have joined her.

She wrote, "I am learning (again) that while the writing habit opens my eyes to the world, encourages me to notice, and instills discipline, it is the community and the conversation that make it a writing LIFE."

When I think about how my writing life has changed in the past several years, I know it is because of the communities in which I belong and participate.  You, my dear slicers and writing/blogging friends, are what keep me writing and have influenced what I can now call, my writing LIFE.

So, being the reflective teacher that I am, I ask myself:  How could participating in writing communities affect my students' writing lives?  How can I create safe, risk-free writing communities which extend beyond the regular classroom for them?

This is now something I will think about over the Christmas break and be ready to implement in January.  Feel free to suggest any ideas in the comments section.  

Also, please check out my Christmas Haiku along with Carol's and Mary Lee's this month!  And feel free to join in.  It's never too late to start.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Poinsettia - December Haiku #7

red poinsettia 
"Flower of the Holy Night"
a gift for Jesus

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Patchwork Stockings - Christmas Haiku #6

from the mantle hangs
Christmas patchwork stockings with
Santa's surprises

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Anticipation - Christmas Haiku #5

slumber slips away
excitement envelops the

©Leigh Anne Eck, 2015

The picture inside this ornament was taken nineteen years ago and still hangs on our tree to remind us of the excitement of Christmas seen through the eyes of a child.

Celebrate Turn #32

Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share and celebrate events, big or small, from our week.  This year I have numbered my celebration posts.  I am only at 32, so I have missed a few along the way.  I may not have written, but I have always celebrated.  I have learned it is the celebration that is most important. 

Today I celebrate finding the good.

Thursday night I attended my daughter Megan's first Christmas program.  Watching her students on stage, I stood in the back of the dark auditorium.  A young man with a hood over his head comes up to me and whispers, "Hi Mrs. Eck."

Did I mention it was dark?  He gets closer and laughs because he knows I can't see who he is.  "It's me, Nathan."  

And he hugs me.

Nathan (not his real name) was a student I had in my ELA class last year.

Nathan is in trouble again.  This breaks my heart, because I know Nathan is a good kid.  He has rough edges, and sometimes people see these edges as a reason not to care or a reason not to find the good in students.

And I am sure many believe that a kid with rough edges is not a person who hugs a teacher.

He told me what happened and how he was sent to our detention center, was on house arrest, and now on probation.  

When I had Nathan as a student last year and he would get in trouble, I always talked to him.  I always told him he was better than his actions, and that I believed in him.  He always promised he would try to do better.

I always found the good.

I did the same Thursday night.

After our conversation, I searched in my purse for my notebook and wrote down my email address and my phone number.  I handed it to him and told him, "Call me if you need help with anything. You're a good kid, and I still believe in you."

Nathan did not have to come up and speak to me.  Nathan did not have to hug me.  But he did. For me, that hug speaks volumes about trust.  That hug is a true celebration.

Life is so tough for many of our students.  I want to believe that Nathan will make it because he has the ability to do just that.  But he is also going to need someone who believes in him and someone to just find the good in him.  Nathan may have left my classroom last year, but he never left my heart.  

Today I celebrate finding the good.

Have a great week and may you find many celebrations along the way.