Thursday, March 31, 2016

Last Year

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

It is hard to believe that the month of March is over and we have written for 31 days.  This is my third year of participating in the challenge, but for some reason, this year was the most difficult for me.  

I found myself late at night without a slice or even a thought in which to write about ~ 
not like last year.

Words and stories were not flowing from my fingertips ~
not like last year.

I failed to plan ahead ~
not like last year.

I had a week of Spring Break ~
just like last year.

I had a week of testing ~
just like last year.

My children had major life events ~
just like last year.

But I still laughed and cried and shared and wrote for 31 days ~
just like last year.

I hope we continue meeting each Tuesday to share our story, our slice of life.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Book Spine Poem...Again

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

Once again I find myself sitting at my computer without a slice.  

No words.

Zip.  Nada

Wordlessness seems to have found me a lot this month.  I am not sure why because many people would say that I usually do not a have problem finding words.

I just finished making labels for some new books for my library.  As I sat here and looked at the stack titles on my finding room table, a poem just suddenly appeared.

Hmm...I have a slice.

the only girl in school
finding the worm
some kind of courage

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Two Students

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

I write this today with a heavy heart.  This weekend a former student of mine lost his battle with cancer.  He was in my very first class, and he is the second student from this class who I have lost in less than two years.  

Two students
traveled different roads 
yet similar paths

one took his own life
cancer took the other

Two students
looking in on a world 

a world that was cruel
a world that was unfair

Two students 
with so much to give
but such little time

to live 
to love

Monday, March 28, 2016

Lessons Learned from Student-led Book Clubs

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

My students recently completed their first round of student-led book clubs.  Overall, I think they were a big success, but I still have questions and kinks to work out.


Here was my basic process:
  1. Students had a book pass where students looked at all book choices.
  2. Students ranked three books in order of preference.
  3. I put groups together according to book preferences and book availability.
  4. Students read books outside and inside of class.
  5. Students recorded questions, thoughts, and wonders on a bookmark or sticky notes.
  6. Three discussion days were scheduled with reading assigned.
  7. Students completed a self-assessment.

Lessons Learned

Keep books in sets of 6 - I wanted to give my students many choices, and I have worked diligently on acquiring book sets to accommodate five periods and over 100 students.  Because I had some popular titles such as Crossover, Circus Miarandus, and The Walk On, I divided my six copies into two sets of three so they could be offered in two periods.  Dividing the books up did not work, because some of the groups were too small, and I had more students who preferred the book than the number of books I had available.

Groups vs. Choice - This first round I had students rank their top three book choices. Then I put the students into groups according to their choices.  The feedback I received mentioned that they wanted to be placed in groups first and then choose books as a group.  I have never tried this because I always thought that the choice in books should be the most important factor.  Since middle school is such a social time, I am rethinking that maybe next round I will try groups first, then let them choose a book.

Focus on Discussion - My students enjoyed the discussion days, and many students asked to have more discussion time.  I had them write questions, thoughts and wonders on a bookmark so they would have specific points to discuss.  I learned I need to model what these discussions should look like.  Many groups answered their questions, but did not know where or how to lead the discussion deeper.

Questions I Still Have

Here are some questions that I still need to answer and research.  Feel free to add your advice, expertise, and wisdom in the comment section.

  1. Do you let students read ahead or keep to the assigned reading schedule?
  2. Do you require a certain amount of response or questions for discussion?
  3. Do you put choice first and then groups, or groups first and then choice?
  4. How long do you spend in each group?
  5. Do you organize book club selections according to subject/theme/topic?  For example, social justice.
  6. If so, what are they?
I do know that I want to continue with book clubs.  Middle school students are social, and talking about books makes reading them even more enjoyable.  Creating those experiences is always my ultimate goal.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Cinquain

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

the stone is rolled
to find the tomb empty
"Do not disbelieve, but believe"
my Lord

Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Right Now - Celebrate #6

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

I am also celebrating with Ruth Ayres today.

This week my one little word - intent - has been nonexistent.  It has been one of those weeks where stress was at an all time high, schedules were not normal, and writing slices and commenting took a backseat to a research paper.  (I know you are tired of hearing me talk about that, but you just can't imagine what it has been like.)

Today, the first slice I read was Terje's at Just for a Month.  I have already done a "Currently..." slice, but for today, reading her slice was just what I needed.  "Right now" is all I have, and it is enough.

Right now I am

~ loving the quiet moments of the present.

thankful for the time I will be spending with family celebrating Easter the next two days.

~ accepting the fact that writing takes time and even a small amount of writing is better than not writing at all.

~ hoping that my new slicers will forgive me for missing a day..or two...of reading their words.  They do matter to me, but sometimes life just gets in the way.

~ understanding that sometimes when we help our own children, we learn lessons in the process.

~ forgiving myself for not being perfect.

worrying less about next week's plans because I have the best teaching partner anyone could ever ask for.

~celebrating this small moment of gratitude.

Have a great Easter weekend, and may you find many celebrations along the way!

Friday, March 25, 2016

I Opened a Book

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

I have read many posts about books that have shaped readers' lives and about readers' autobiographies.  I would like to write a similar post, but I have been busy helping my son with a 10 page research paper.  

I wrote a few days ago how parenting was hard.  My parenting skills were tested this week, but the rough draft was submitted today - on time and I learned many lessons as a teacher.  That will be a future post...but until then...I share a poem I found on Twitter last week.  I think this shows the power of books!

Thursday, March 24, 2016


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

Yesterday I was out of my classroom and left my students in the care of a substitute teacher.  Sometimes being gone is more work than actually teaching.  My substitute was a social studies teacher I had over 40 years ago.

This morning when I walked in, I saw he had written some words of wisdom for my students.  

Tonight his words are my slice.

Tomorrow may we all think about our own success and the success of those students sitting in our classrooms.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Top Five Books for Book Clubs

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

Book clubs are something I did as an elementary teacher, but had not tried it as a middle school teacher until last month.

I knew middle school students loved to talk, so I thought book clubs would be a great outlet in which to do this.  I began applying for grants, creating Donor's Choose projects, and purchasing books to establish a book club library.  When I started book clubs, I had over 20 different titles and six copies of each one to distribute to my five classes.

Here are our top five titles for this round:

The War with Grandpa is an older title, but such a fun one.  It is an excellent text for teaching basic story elements for those readers who are not ready for a difficult text.  Wonderful themes of war, peace, making choices, and relationships with the elderly.

Crossover was a hit with both girls and boys...and even another teacher.

Circus Mirandus is just a magically beautiful book.  Most of the students who read this commented on how they normally would not have a chosen a book like this, but really enjoyed it.  That is the power of book clubs.

I Am Number Four is a series that has taken off with my higher readers.  I have not read this, and I normally do not include books that I have not read.  But this has been such a hit, that I knew it would draw some interest.

Absolutely Truly is another book I have not read.  Here is the comment I received from a student:  "It was a mystery that turned out to be a love story!"  

I learned many lessons from our first round of book clubs which will be a future post, but overall, it was a success!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


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

Does parenting ever get easy?

I have been doing this for almost 24 years.

I made it through 
the late night bottles
the chicken pox
the school days
the friend drama
the broken hearts
the disappointments
the attitudes

I always thought that parenting older children
would be easier.

It takes less time,
and I have more time for myself.


I still stay up late
worrying about where they are 
and what they are doing.

I still wonder if they are happy with their chosen paths.

I still pick up their shoes and dirty socks.

I still grumble when they take all of the hot water

I still help them with research papers and lesson plans.

I still cook meals they eat hours after we have already eaten.

I still move over on the couch to make room for them.


I also still smile that they are both still at home.

Maybe I don't want parenting to get easy? 

Monday, March 21, 2016

I Could Write About...

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

It is late, and I don't have a slice.

I could write about how our Internet has been down most of the weekend and how disconnected I have felt.

I could write about how I overslept on my first morning back after spring break, and I felt rushed the entire day.

I could write about how the first student who walked into my room this morning said, "I need to get a book!"

I could write about how two students asked if we could do book clubs again.

I could write about how my substitute teacher for my professional day on Wednesday is my former social studies teacher who I had 40 years ago.

I could write about how I know a college student who has a 10 page rough draft of a research paper due Thursday, and he didn't start until tonight.

I could write about how that very thought makes me sick to my stomach and wonder how I will ever make through these last few months.

It is late, and I have a slice.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Fox and the Laundry - A Modern Day Fable

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

Once there was a fox who lived in the meadow with Mrs. Fox and their children Kit and Kat.  Mr. Fox left his den every day to work deep in the woods.  Mrs. Fox was left to care for the children, fix the meals, and clean the den.

Photo by Flickr
One day Mr. Fox came home and told his family, "I think I am getting too old to work, so I am going to stay home with all of you."

The family cheered, and they had wonderful days of playing and romping in the meadow.

One day Mr. Fox felt like he needed to start helping around the den, so he began helping with the household chores, especially the laundry.

But Mr. Fox didn't do the laundry the same way as Mrs. Fox.  He washed everything together, and their clothing faded.  He mixed Kit's shirts with Kat's shirts, and they could never find the right ones.  He never matched the socks correctly, and he never folded the clothes the way Mrs. Fox did.

"Momma, will you please make Papa quit doing the laundry?  He can't do it right." Kit and Kat whined.

Momma said, "Papa just wants to feel like he is helping out."  Mrs. Fox was feeling the same frustration, but she was tired of arguing with Mr. Fox.  She knew he wanted to feel useful, but she needed to find a way to solve this problem.

One day Mrs. Fox did a load of laundry a day early.  She usually kept it as a weekend chore.  The whites and the darks were washed separately.  Kit and Kat's shirts did not get mixed up.  All the clothes were folded the way everyone liked, and all the socks were matched.  Everyone was happy.

Mrs. Fox realized that if she kept up the laundry during the week and didn't wait for the weekend, then Mr. Fox wouldn't have any laundry to do.  And all would be dandy in the den.
Moral of the story:  If you want to outfox a fox, 
stay one step ahead of him.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Spring Break Celebrations

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

I am also celebrating with Ruth Ayres today.

My spring break is officially over - it is now just the weekend!

Here are some spring break celebrations.
  1. I went shopping with Megan and only bought two books!
  2. We ate lunch at my favorite pizza place which closed down in my hometown.
  3. I read books on the porch! 
  4. I stayed up late.  I love having the house to myself at night.
  5. I slept in.  I love having the house to myself in the morning.
  6. I stayed in my pjs until lunch.  
  7. I ate Snickers ice cream out of the carton when no one was looking.
  8. I depiled my dining room table.  (See this slice!)
  9. I held my teacher-friend's two week old baby, Mya!
  10. I did the laundry before my husband got to it.  (See tomorrow's slice!)
Happy Spring Break!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Dang Me

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

I received this text the other evening from a 6th grade teacher on my team.

"Dang u"

We are on spring break, and I was trying to understand why he would be "danging" me.  It took me a few minutes, and then the lightbulb came on.  I was smiling as I texted back.

"Are you reading???"

And he replies with a quote from the book.

"'I didn't jump ship da man says'...And I am reading this in public."

"I told you it was good."

"My face is red
and while the game is bad
This is making me so

I start laughing.  Before spring break I quietly slipped a copy of The Crossover on his desk and said, "You really need to read this book.  Spring break would be the perfect time.  It is short, and it won't take you long to read it. And you will love it!"  

I have been trying to get him to read this book since I read it last year.  Students who have read the book have told him the same thing.  He is our high school girls' basketball coach and loves to write poetry..or should I say make up rhymes.  (See the above text!)  I knew he would love this book. 

And he did!

Dang me!