Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Faithful Writing Life ~ #sol17

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for creating a space for me to share my corner of the world.

When I tell people that I am participating in my 4th March Slice of Life Story Challenge, I get asked, "Every day?  How can you find time to do that?"  
I tell them it is not easy, but it is worth it.  

I recently read a post, "The Long Term Results of a Faithful Writing Life" from Ann Kroeker, a writing coach.  She says:

"Anything worth doing will ideally be something that also makes life worth living. 
I’ve concluded writing is worth doing and is part of what makes life worth living."

I believe writing is worth doing because I know what a difference writing has made in my life.  I know Ann's audience is people who have much loftier goals than writing slices, but the importance of showing up and being faithful in something that is bigger than each of us is still the same.  

Writing has changed me.  I look for the small things.  I notice more.  I pay attention.   This writing community has changed me.  It welcomed me and has given me support and encouragement for almost four years.  It has given me a place to show up every week and build a faithful writing life.

And when I have a faithful writing life, I find the words.
I find the story.  

Tomorrow the challenge begins.

May we all continue to be faithful because yes, it is worth it.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Finding Relationships in the Middle of Conferring

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 relationships.

I write many posts about my relationships with my students because I know they are key to student learning.  Research overwhelmingly supports this, but many of us do not need research to affirm our beliefs.  

We live and breathe it every...single...day.  That is all the research we need.

I have been taking an online miniCourse from Ruth Ayres called Conferring Notes 101 Lite which is strengthening my beliefs about relationships.  She believes that "conferring is the heart of teaching writers."  But sitting right smack dab in the middle of conferring are relationships.

When we confer with students, we build relationships with them.  Pulling up a chair, sitting alongside a student, and giving them our attention let's them know that we care not only about their writing, but about them.

Effective conferring is a weakness for me, which is why I am taking advantage of Ruth's free course.  Regardless of how ineffective my conferring is, my students still need and want that one-on-one time with me.  That short period of time that I spend with a student in a conference gives me a glimpse into their writing, but also helps me to build those relationships. 

Ruth's key points in her first session are:
  • Conferring connects us to students.
  • Conferring builds confidence in student writers.
  • Conferring tailors teaching to the point of need of every student.
Each one of these is the foundation of building those relationships, which is the key to learning.

Infographic by Sylvia Duckworth

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Gardener ~ Celebrate 2017 (Seven)

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

Every stage of parenting is different; every stage of parenting is hard.  My current stage is parenting young adults.

They are independent, which is our goal as parents.  But with independence, comes the tedious balance of his disregard of my wishes and my acceptance of his.  I try hard to accept that.  

Last night he tried a little harder.
 And today I celebrate.

As a wife, a mother, and a teacher, I plant seeds.  

I am a gardener of love, life and learning.

I pray those seeds firmly take root and grow into something beautiful, and allow me to reap what I sow.  

Last night I reaped.

And today I celebrate.

Three years ago I wrote a similar post about my son making good decisions, and today I celebrate some of those words again.

The Gardener

Tilling the ground
Preparing the soil 
Planting the seed
Watching it grow
Blooming...into a young adult
I am the proud gardener

©2014 Leigh Anne Eck

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Poetry Friday ~ Reflections of Abuse


It's Poetry Friday, and I am continuing to embrace the challenge of sharing something poetry each week.  This week's round-up is hosted by Jone at Check It Out.  So be sure and check out all the poetry goodness.

For the first time, I participated in Michelle Barnes' Monthly Challenge at Today's Little Ditty.  To be honest, I was nervous about posting on that Padlet.  Maybe it was because I was leaning out of the comfort zone of my own blog or comparing my own writing to the caliber of writing from the real poets who participate.  I am just the new kid playing on their playground.  But...I did it!

I am unsure of how this poem arrived in its published form.  It started out being about a shy little girl wanting to share a gift with the world, but her shyness led to her inability to do that.  Shyness was the emotion I wanted to personify.  

Somehow, it turned into a poem about a woman suffering from the effects of abuse, and submissiveness is what I personified. Both emotions had downward glances and both were avoiding something, but for extremely different reasons.

I typically do not write about dark topics such as this, and I certainly did not write this from a personal experience.  

But this is the journey of my words this week.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Book Mail ~ Celebrate 2017 (Six)

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

Gone is the day when my mailbox is filled with bills.  With online banking, bills are thankfully at a minimum.  This week my mailbox has been filled with book mail ~ a true celebration!

I belong to a group of teachers who receive ARCs from publishers and authors, read and leave notes, share on social media, and then send off to the next reader.  Our group's hashtag is #bookrelays, and we love passing the baton to each other.

This week I received Scar Island, by Dan Gemeinhart.  It has completed the relay and found its way back to me, full of everyone's thoughts and notes.  It has been fun to go through and read everyone's sticky notes posted throughout the book.  It didn't take me long to hand this one off to a student.  You can read here about how I may have hooked a reader with this book.

Publication date:  October 2017
Tony Abbott sent me a copy of his new book, The Summer of Owen Todd.  I finished this book last night and will write more about this heartbreaking story at another time.  

But I will say, I have never read a story about sexual abuse for this age level.  Although it is a much needed book about a sensitive topic, I feel this book will take a special audience.  

Publication date:  October 2017

I also received a copy of Mr. Lemoncello's Great Library Race, the third in this series, by Chris Grabenstein.  This book stresses the importance of research and reliable sources while still playing games and solving puzzles.

My students have loved reading this series, and I can't wait to for this one to be published.

Midnight Without a Moon is a book my #bookrelays group shared late summer.  This is a powerfully intense middle grade book that takes place in Mississippi in the 1950's.  Linda Jackson has written a book that deserves to be placed in the middle of any civivl rights unit.

 wanted to reread this book before I wrote a more formal review because it truly deserves one.  I was ecstatic when my own personal copy came this week too.

Last but not least, I won a copy of Here We Go by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong from Margaret Simon in a giveaway on her blog.  An added bonus in my package was a poetry postcard from Margaret.

Click here to read Margaret's post about the book and how her poem was published in the collection..

It has been a book week worth celebrating!  Now, if I could just figure out how to get rid of the junk mail!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Found Poetry - A Tribute to Terje

It's Poetry Friday, and I am continuing to embrace the challenge of sharing something poetry each week.  Join Katie at The Logonauts for the this week's round-up.  

My one little word this year is RISE.  I believe in the power of positivity, and have made it my mission this year to lift others. Last month I wrote a tribute poem honoring Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche, using comments left from readers on her blog.

This week's Poetry Friday offering comes from the work of another online friend, 
Terje Akke at Just For a Month.

Last week Terje wrote a celebration post about the emotions of her week. Terje is from Estonia, and I remember once reading how she is sometimes unsure of her translation to English. But post after post, her words and images inspire me.

Her prose last week was so poetic, that I quickly went about writing a found haiku using her words and her image.  

"I have understood that capturing the dimensions and emotions of a week is as impossible as holding a snowflake on a fingertip. Moment follows a moment, each individual, the last the freshest and brightest, and even that moment melts into a drop of memory."

I hope you take a moment to visit Terje's blog.  This link here will take you to her "photos only" posts.  These images are breathtaking, and I promise you will find an abundance of inspiration.   When I look at her photos, I have no doubt there is a Creator.

Author's note:  Friday is a vacation for me, so I have been ahead one day this week.  Hence the reason why my PF post was ready a day early too!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I May Have Hooked A Reader Today

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

I may have hooked a reader today.

I walk down to our alternative classroom with a copy of Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart in my hands.  I have been waiting for it to arrive so I could give it to one of the students in that classroom.  Without violating student privacy, let's just say this student has a little bit in common with the main character. 

I go up to "G" and say, "I have a book for you."

"I ain't readin' no book," he says with a scowl on his face.

Ignoring his announcement, I keep pressing on.  

"It is about a boy named Jonathan Grisby who is sent to a reformatory school for boys on this island."

"I ain't readin' no book."

I keep pressing on.  "All the adults get killed and the boys are left by themselves to run the island.  I think you will really be able to connect with one of the characters."

"I ain't readin' no book."

I keep pressing on.  "Well, why don't I just leave it here on Mrs. V's desk just in case you change your mind.  I think you will like it, if you just give it a chance."

"Ok, but I ain't reading' no book."

A little later in the day, I see "G" walking in our wing.  When he sees me, he gets this great big grin on his face.

"I started reading that book.  And I ain't nothin' like that kid."

Oh, yea...I think I may have hooked a reader today.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Vocabulary Instruction

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 vocabulary, beyond definitions.  I am not sure this post is "beyond definitions" and it certainly isn't digital, but it does go beyond "look up, write, and memorize the definition in the glossary" as a teaching method.

 Click on the image to take you to Dr. Archer's website
Click on the image to take you to
Dr. Archer's website
Just this week, my daughter Megan said, "I love the way I teach vocabulary."

I asked her, "Are you still using the Anita Archer method?"  

She said, "Yep!"

I showed her the Anita Archer method last year, her first year of teaching.  Dr. Anita Archer is a consultant on explicit instruction, total participation, and active engagement.  I have had several opportunities to see her presentations and have implemented many of her strategies in my own classroom.  

Dr. Archer's book, Explicit Instruction Effective and Efficient Teaching, explains the research behind direct instruction and includes methods for applying it to skills and strategies, vocabulary and concepts, as well as rules and procedures.  This is content we all teach and many students struggle to grasp independently. 

Her vocabulary instruction was one of the many important changes I made when I taught 4th grade.  

I am embarrassed to say that in my early teaching years, yes, I was the "look up, write and memorize the definition" type of teacher.  Until I met Dr. Archer.  

This method is steeped in quick, direct interactive instruction.

The basic instructional steps are:

  1. Introduce the word.  This first step involves pronouncing the word for students or helping them with the decoding.  If students cannot pronounce the word, it will be more difficult for them to attach meaning to the word, storing the word into their memory, and retrieving the word when needed.
  2. Introduce the meaning of the word.  Dr. Archer explains five methods of introduction.
  3. Illustrate with examples.  This step gives students examples to firmly establish what the word is or is not and includes all critical attributes of the words.  She suggests using concrete, visual and verbal examples.
  4. Check students' understanding.  Check students' understanding of the word by having them interact with the word.  Use examples and non-examples, have students generate their own example, or ask students questions to process the deeper meaning of the word instead of just regurgitatiing the definition. 
The key in using her strategy is to make all of the steps interactive.  Students participate through the entire process from repeating the word multiple times, turning and talking with their partner to illustrate and check for understanding, and eliciting whole class responses.  

I have just touched the basics of the way she teaches vocabulary, so I have included a video for you to watch.  Many resources about Dr. Archer are available online.  You could spend hours sifting through videos and notes from her presentations.

I asked Megan why she liked this method of teaching vocabulary, and she replied that it was quick, intense, and it kept her students' attention.  So, if you are looking to add something new to your vocabulary instructional routine, besides looking the words up in the dictionary, you might want to look into these resources.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Listy Celebration - Celebrate 2017 (Five)

Today Ruth Ayres  writes about claiming time.  We all have busy weeks, some busier than others.  These weekly celebrations are proof of what we choose to claim.

This week's schedule calls for a "listy" celebration.

1.  Reading aloud The Watsons Go to Birmingham to my 6th graders with the room so
     quiet, I could hear a pin drop.

2.  Winning two post season tournament games and watching my daughter be a part
     of this as a coach. (Final game tonight!)

3.  Watching a student use his potential in positive ways.

4.  Burning wood in the fireplace while curled up on the couch reading or writing or 

5.  Trying a new recipe and the family asking me to make it again soon.

6.  Laughing until tears come with amazing colleagues after a long day of teaching.

7.  Receiving and sharing books with my #bookrelays team.  

Seven days + seven celebrations = a great week

Friday, February 3, 2017

Poetry Friday ~ Birmingham

It's Poetry Friday, and I am continuing to embrace the challenge of sharing something poetry each week.  Join Penny at Penny and Her Jots for the this week's round-up.

I have been reading The Watsons Go to Birmingham with my 6th graders.  Some days they read in groups.  Some days they read on their own, and some days I read to them. The days I get to read are my favorite because I get to choose the best chapters.  

Today I read the chapter when Kenny goes to Collier's Landing and finds himself in the middle of a whirlpool.  You could have heard a pen drop as they sat on the edge of their seats listening to every word.

Many of them have no idea what is about to hit them in the next chapter, the story of the Birmingham Church bombing.  This is another chapter where I get to read and watch their faces as a I tell about an ugly moment in our history.  Again, they will be hanging on my every word.

I like to pair the text with the poem, "The Ballad of Birmingham" by Dudley Randall.  I think this poem expresses the innocence of those four little girls who went to church to "sing in the children's choir."  

This poem certainly pushes me to think about and to compare life in 1963 to our lives in 2017.  Reading the two texts will surely leave them asking the question, "Just how much has changed?"

Ballad of Birmingham

Related Poem Content Details

(On the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963)
“Mother dear, may I go downtown 
Instead of out to play, 
And march the streets of Birmingham 
In a Freedom March today?” 

“No, baby, no, you may not go, 
For the dogs are fierce and wild, 
And clubs and hoses, guns and jails 
Aren’t good for a little child.” 

“But, mother, I won’t be alone. 
Other children will go with me, 
And march the streets of Birmingham 
To make our country free.” 

“No, baby, no, you may not go, 
For I fear those guns will fire. 
But you may go to church instead 
And sing in the children’s choir.” 

She has combed and brushed her night-dark hair, 
And bathed rose petal sweet, 
And drawn white gloves on her small brown hands, 
And white shoes on her feet. 

The mother smiled to know her child 
Was in the sacred place, 
But that smile was the last smile 
To come upon her face. 

For when she heard the explosion, 
Her eyes grew wet and wild. 
She raced through the streets of Birmingham 
Calling for her child. 

She clawed through bits of glass and brick, 
Then lifted out a shoe. 
“O, here’s the shoe my baby wore, 
But, baby, where are you?”