Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sneak Attack Follow-Up

Finally an update on our finished products!
This was one of our first published pieces. I rarely have students re-copy a piece when publishing, but it was so early in the year it seemed okay. I do look forward to the day, oh let's say in mid-March, when they are writing buckets of words and their stories are full.
But, I will take their random letters and amazing watercolor illustrations that they are producing right now. It is a nice peek into what will be!
Here are some photos of the process.


A happy pile of drying artwork.

I took those watercolors and their writing. I typed their stories and mounted all of it onto some black paper. We talked about what a sneak attack of kindness does for someone else and for ourselves. 
It makes our hearts happy. 
Each student wrote their name on a heart to display with their work. 
A portion of the display...oh so happy am I!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sneak Attack...

of Kindness!

Last week I was listening to a kids radio station and heard a great idea.
"Call in with your sneak attacks of kindness!"
Kids from all over were calling in and telling how they helped their moms, they smiled at people, helped a friend all kinds of little acts of kindness they noticed or participated in.
It inspired me to do a shared writing activity with my class about sneak attacks of kindness...what are they?
They knew and came up with a great list.

Later that day students drew and wrote their own special sneak attack of kindness. Then we paired our words with lovely watercolor illustrations today.
It was a warm and cozy kind of writers workshop day today. Watching them outline their sketches in black crayon. Carefully apply the watercolor paint like I demonstrated. I was shocked at how well it actually went. When they did their final draft of writing (in kindergarten this really just means re-writing the story again) they all looked great. I was so proud and impressed with their progress.
More photos to come later this week!

Did you experience a sneak attack of kindness today?

Slice with fellow slicers at Two Writing Teachers!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Revealing Trees

Many thanks to Anastasia at Booktalking, our Poetry Friday host today. Fill up with some delicious poetry today and all weekend. There's plenty!

I notice you
your leaves have ceased.
Dendrite limbs
reveal abandoned homes
of twigs and time.
In circadian rhythm
I passed each day
not knowing the teams of life
that sat chirping and cheeping
in the crooks of your trunk.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Valuing Where We Are

 Join in and share a story with Two Writing Teachers Ruth and Stacey.

This slice starts out with a reminder about a book I read recently, Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon. You can read about Ralph here or here.
Ralph got me thinking about a lesson in the book Talking, Drawing, Writing by Mary Ellen Giacobbe and Martha Horn. There is a lesson all about valuing where everyone is as a writer. Some may write letters, some may draw a detailed picture and others may write a story with lots of letters and sounds. I did this lesson with my class last week and then shared samples of what writing was looking like in Ralph's class too.

It was neat to do this lesson and use Ralph's "classmates" as an additional example. (I of course lead them to believe that I had access to this information).

On my way to work today I was having a conversation in my head with a "doubter" of my "way" of teaching writing. Thinking about what I would say? What proof do I have? Why do I need proof? Why do I sometimes feel like the doubters are trying to fear me into "their" way instead of looking closer at "my" way? And it hit me, they aren't there yet. I need to value them where they are. I am in a different place as an educator, on my own journey. So is everyone. I will try to value where they are and continue to build their understanding as I build my own.
I will not be afraid, or defensive, instead I will be me. I will continue to travel on my journey as a teacher of young writers.

Then by chance, I stumbled onto Scholastic's author interviews while researching author David Shannon (our mentor author for the next couple weeks). Norman Bridwell had an interview so I watched. He talked about how sometimes when you do something, not everyone will like it, but believe in yourself anyway. Then he went on to thank teachers. What an affirming message. (There are great videos on the link above. E.B. Lewis is one to watch too. I am full of new inpsiration today).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

LIBERTY by Janet Wong

It is your right to slice a story today, so do it with the Two Writing Teachers!

It seems a poignant day to slice with a piece from Janet Wong's DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE. I absolutely love this poem.

I pledge acceptance
of the views
so different,
that make us America

To listen, to look,
to think, and to learn

One people
sharing the earth
for liberty
and justice
for all.

Monday, November 5, 2012

You Will Love Ralph!

Visit Kellee and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts for the best of the blogosphere's current reading! I always leave their meme with a list and several tabs of other great books to check out. 

"Did you see Stacey's post yet? If not, go read it." My bestie colleague buddy messaged.

I listened, went and read. Then rearranged my day so I could go get the book Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon, because I could tell, it was going to be that good.

I looked online to see if my library had it, check! I would just have to go to the branch that is a bit further away. I knew it would be worth it.
I got there and was totally disoriented, it was not my normal library. Looking, trying not to look lost. Feeling the eyes of the security guard on my back. Of course filling my bag because even though I am only there for one book I got seven.
Then...finally...victory. Into my bag, checkout, go home.
As soon as my feet hit my living room my kids were running up, "what'd you get?"

We love Ralph! He is the perfect reluctant writer and he is a brilliant storyteller. He has supporting characters, Daisy and his teacher. "Stories are everywhere!" Is what his teacher always says!
This story is so realistic and the quirky illustrations depict a workshop environment. You see it all unfolding in the little classroom of writers.
I hope if you teach prek-first, maybe even second you will give it a glance. And, even if you teach higher grades, go get it and read it anyway because we all have a Ralph or know a Ralph or two or three. This book is a must read.

Here is Stacey's post including an interview with Abby Hanlon! 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Back to the Visual Plan

It was a nice week of writing in kindergarten. I love these periods of growth that spike at different points in the year. We are still in our phase that is heavily focused on talking and drawing and students are working on peer planning. We added the visual plan to our process this week. As I watched students do this it reminded me of a former student and former post on this very planning process.

Here's what our workshop time looks like in steps:
Step one-Sharing Circle, "Who has a story today?" This gets our storytelling juices flowing and sparks our idea banks.
Step two-Knees and Noses. Students sit with knees touching knees to a partner and noses facing so the talking time is actively engaging. This is our transition talking time. Everyone gets an opportunity to share a story and have an audience. Right now we are still working on listening and speaking. Later, questioning and active revision will be in play with peers!
Step Three-Pick a good spot with your knees and noses buddy to practice your spatial plan! Below are two students, one watching his partner draw his plan with his finger. This helps him really think through what elements he wants included in the picture and where they need to go! We do this part right in the spot the student is writing so the ideas are not lost on the trip to get materials.

Step four-Drawing time begins, quiet ensues and thinking is thick. These two stuck together through the drawing process.

Step five-Meet up with your knees and noses partner. Check your picture and retell your story! How did it go?
Step six-Sharing Circle, "who has a story today?" This is optional or planned during a conference and used as a peer model/mentor text for the writers in the room.
Our stamina continues to grow in all these areas. Right now these six steps take around 30-40 minutes to make our writers workshop complete!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Wordless and Wonderful...What Happened?

Join in and share a story with Two Writing Teachers Ruth and Stacey.

I was excited to bring all my new wordless books into school today. Heavy on my shoulder but worth every strained muscle!  (A few trips to the library were necessary this weekend).
Writers workshop began and I pulled out The chicken Thief by Béatrice Rodriguez. This is what happened.

"I am really excited to share this book with you today. It's called The Chicken Thief. Béatrice Rodriguez is the author and the illustrator. You are going to be amazed at what she has done in this book."
I show the first page, "What do you notice?"
Students begin calling out observations. "The fox took the chicken...the bear is mad...they're chasing each other...foxes eat chickens...there aren't any words."
"Isn't it amazing that Béatrice Rodriguez told you this whole part of her story with no words?" 

I'm not kidding you when I say this, I think there was a look of awe in their eyes. We have been talking at length about "showing" your whole story with detailed drawings. It is a big feat!

"She put all those details and even got you thinking about what might happen with just her first picture."

We continued and the class came up with all kinds of observations, details, predictions...this went on for several minutes. I was actually beginning to get concerned about the time, but everyone was so engaged I had to keep going with my plan.

So, I pulled out all my wordless books of the day, most of them are listed and pictured here. I paired up the students and gave them a wordless book to wonder over and notice together. Then we joined back at the "sharing circle" and each pair told what their book was all about. The stories they told were full of details and amazing verbal stories. We all listened intently and they went out to write their own stories. It was a fun day. I'm looking forward to tomorrow when we can think more closely about how "we" can be like Béatrice Rodriguez and the other wordless book authors, seeing a story through just the picture with details a plenty! 

Here is the list of books I used in my lesson today:
The Chicken Thief by Béatrice Rodriguez
Rooster's Revenge by Béatrice Rodriguez
Fox and Hen Together Béatrice Rodriguez
Rain by Peter Spier
Time Flies Eric Rohmann
Moonlight by Jan Ormerod
The Umbrella by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert
Bear Despair by Gaëtan Dorémus
Ice by Arthur Geisert
The Giant Seed by Arthur Geisert

Wordless and Wonderful

Join Kellee and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and share your picture books or YA reading!

We have been a focused little bunch in my kindergarten classroom working to draw pictures that tell a story. In an effort to continue to show some great examples of well illustrated stories I have been on a hunt for more wordless books. Here were my findings.

Enchanted Lion Books has a six book series that includes three authors of "Stories Without Words." The titles include Ice and The Giant Seed by Arthur Geisert. The chicken Thief, Fox and Hen Together, and Rooster's Revenge a trilogy of stories by Béatrice Rodriguez. Bear Despair, the most recent publication by Gaëtan Dorémus. Each one of these stories has captivating characters with simple yet detailed illustrations. Some of the illustrations are done only with pen. Some are ink and watercolor with the characters darkly outlined. I am so excited to have come across these books. They are just the thing I need to show how details can be done in simple ways while carrying a big message.

I also came across the book Looking Down by Steve Jenkins. This book is illustrated with torn paper and cutouts. It begins with a look from space and each page zeros in closer to the final page, a magnified illustration. I think I will save this one for later when I introduce maps and globes in our social studies units.

Finally, The Umbrella by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert. This is a story of a dog who finds an umbrella that becomes his transport across the world. A beautiful book and a fantastic story of the awe that would be if one experienced the world in this way.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

How to Begin Building Independence in the Youngest Writers

Writers are being born in my classroom. It is so exciting to watch the layers of a new writer strengthen and tighten into a little crafter of words. I think one of the biggest challenges when teaching the youngest writer is knowing when to teach him to get his words down and how to do it! There is an impression that little one's can't write or that it isn't appropriate. However, there isn't just one formula to this magic; you have to know your crafter's talents. These talents are his strengths, things he can do when no one else is around. To find this out you have to monitor the work. When he talks is it organized, is there a main idea or is it disjointed phrases and a lot of little pieces of many stories? Are his pictures detailed and recognizable or does he have to point out where the people and objects that form his story have taken shape? I could write a whole post on monitoring so let me get back to the birthing of words.
Here is a rather "direct" set of directions that will get you and if you are lucky your teaching aid or volunteer heading in the right direction to create independence in your young writers. I give this set of directions to anyone who enters into my writers workshop time because children know adults usually cave to their demand of "can you do this for me?"

Writers Workshop Instructions

In a later post I will share a detailed description of a continuum that I created to help guide and focus my teaching. It is based on my monitoring of student work coupled with the different teaching stages of the process for young writers.

My learning has come from having great colleagues who dialogue with me, wonderful resources like Assessing and Teaching Beginning Writers  Every Picture Tells a Story, by David M. Matteson and Deborah K. Freeman, work from Katie Wood Ray like About the Authors, of course the book Talking Drawing Writing by Mary Ellen Giacobbe and Martha Horn (these people are my rock stars) and finding myself on blogs like Two Writing Teachers and other greats on the blogosphere.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What's That?

On this colorful drippy day go visit Linda at Teacherdance for an extraordinary poetry experience.

trees dripping
a storm of leaves
tsunamis of color
a confusing blur
I double look
as remainders approach
like little toads
across my path.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Listen to Life

Join in with a little life story at Two Writing Teachers.

I went to the apple orchard this weekend. Got my donut, cider, watched my kids enjoy all the activities, took photos of the amazing pumpkin crop, it was wonderful. A sun shiny grass glistening kind of morning.

My children's favorite activity was the enormous slide. You have to walk a hill to get to the top, wait in a moderately long line and then WHEEEE!

My husband and I sat on one of several available benches that are near the bottom and listened as child after child came down.

Every little face was elated. Huge smiles and giggles were everywhere. It was pure and un-messed with joy that almost always ran from the bottom of the slide back up the hill and into the line for more!

We sat there and listened to life. It was magical.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dinner Conversation

Yesterday, after dinner...
"Mom, can I get one of those things like you and dad?"
"I'm not sure what you mean."
"You know one of those things you and dad write poetry in."
"A writer's notebook?"
"Yeah, can I get one?"
(chills) "Of course you can get one, maybe this weekend we can go pick out a special one."

This evening after walking in the door from school...
"Hey dad when are you gonna take me to get a writer's notebook because I really want to get one tonight, can we go to the store?"
(Shawn) "Well, I really thought we would wait until this weekend, but let's see if we have time after dinner."

(Mom and dad have a conversation that the pharmacy/everything under the sun store down the road might have a notebook).

After dinner and a short trip...

And, he's already put a poem on the first page inspired by one of his favorite Jack Prelutsky poems, "High Atop a Lofty Mountain."

This kid has a lot of notebooks, but I think he knows that there is something special about "this" notebook. There's definitely something special about him. Love this seven year old.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Poetry Friday is Here!

  As you may have noticed Amy from The Poem Farm and I traded hosting days. If you normally keep the Poetry Friday schedule on your page please post the change. Amy will be hosting on November 30th.
I am so excited and honored to be joined by amazing and inspiring writers, readers and thinkers today. Thank you for celebrating poetry with me at Teaching Young Writers. My poetry offering is meant to inspire you to see beyond your troubles, pain, suffering or struggle. Our stories are written chapter by chapter. 

I live in a community that has a reputation for violence. However, I am so proud of the young people in this same community who refuse to be defined by negativity, who refuse to live in a world that doesn't hear them and who refuse to sit by and watch their community crumble. These same young adults organized a march of more than 2,000 students, parents, and community members from theirs and surrounding communities to show that "We Are One" following an act of violence wrongly generalized as an act of the community's public school's students. I heard them and I hope others will heed their message of hope.  
I have once again found myself on the near other side of a painful chapter in life. I am so close I can practically see how much better life will be once I am through it. Different types of pain, different struggles, it is what makes us who we are. The struggle is worth it once we have found ourselves on the other side of the pain we have felt and lived through. Everyone feels pain differently, literally, figuratively, excruciatingly, negatively...multiple ways. But we all feel it. We all live it and hopefully we all move to the chapter beyond it. I first posted the poem below in March (my first time posting to Poetry Friday) after living a long chapter of very literal pain that after years of searching for a means to health was slayed. I could only write this once I was well beyond it, but I still feel my victory.

The Chapter Beyond Pain

I have known pain 
I will know it again.

A crime against pain I would commit
With no shame.
It distracts me, attacks me.
In its scope it will track me.

Pain is blinding and binding
Debilitating without discriminating.
Pain can prickle or trickle
Throw me down without thought.

When faced in its arena
It counts me as weak
It stands confident before me
Intimidating, me bleak.

But I choose what I see
In those moments of pain. 
Though distant, I see it,
My weapon to slay.

I reach out for it
Grabbing that place beyond pain
My defense from the wounds
From worries and shame.

I have known pain 
I will know it again.

I will be swinging my lasso throughout the day as time allows to summarize the poetic offerings of this enlightening community. Hope you can stop back often to share in the greatness.
Early Risers:
  • Renée LaTulippe, from No Water River brings us some GOOD NEWS, a celebratory GIVEAWAY, and an interview with poet CARRIE FINISON, who is sharing her fun poetry video for "Idunno." 
  • Charles Ghigna, is harvesting the Fruit of the Moon Tree at Father Goose. Go read his poem and check out the accompanying artwork by Chip Ghigna.
  • Sylvia Vardell shares A Clam by Jack Prelutzsky at THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY along with some great teaching tips for this week's theme, In the Water.
  • Myra invites us to read and eat some poetry at GATHERING BOOKS
  • Robyn Hood Black at Read, Write, Howl tells us where seconds graders find poetry. 
  • Dian Mayr At Randlom Noodling has an original poem, "With a Bang and a Flash." She also invites us to visit Kurious Kitty with a very old poem from China and KK's Kwotes quote for today is by Czeslaw Milosz.
  • April Halprin Wayland from Teaching Authors shares a patient poem and a writing workout as she wrestles with realizing that maybe her writing life ISN'T going to go the way she thinks it's supposed to...
  • Linda at Teacherdance is celebrating her birthday today (I am singing the Happy Birthday song right now so join in everybody). She brings us a poem about Columbus Day with mixed feelings.
  • Tabatha Yeatts from The Opposite of Indifference brings a collection of J.R. Solonche.
  • Amy Ludwig VanDerwater from The Poem Farm has a little poem about a little brother who is no longer just observing his world, but crawling into it!
  • Heidi Mordhorst shares a wonderful Ode on Dictionaries at My Juicy Little Universe.
  • Mary Lee comes to us from A Year of Reading with a poem of change. 
  •  Jama is celebrating Fall at Jama's Alphabet Soup today with a 4-book Janet Wong giveaway!
  •  Jeff Barger At NC Teacher Stuff, is featuring a football poem penned by the late Steve Sabol.
  •  Laura at Author Amok is featuring poet Tony Medina's children's books from now until the presidential election. You'll also want to check out the wonderfully rich verse biography of Bob Marley, I AND I BOB MARLEY and the book trailer!
  • Laura Purdie Salas from  Writing the World for Kids  is in with another poem from the beautiful new National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry, with a link to the classroom guide!
  • Liz Steinglass at Growing Wild has an original poem about Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was targeted by the Taliban because she is a vocal advocate for girls' education.  
  • Katya Czaja from Write. Sketch. Repeat. shares a poem from Kipling's The Vampire. She has an interesting unraveling of information including a related play and a movie.
  • Anastasia Suen from Booktalking shares Self-Portrait With Seven Fingers, a biography of Marc Chagall in free verse.
  • Jone is featuring one of  Irene Latham's original poems titled "Window," at Check It Out.
  • Steven Withrow from Crackles of Speech shares an original tanka poem, a poetry form from classical Japan.
  • Tara from A Teaching Life brings a poem called Courage and an inspiring heartfelt story about the struggles of a young girl living in Pakistan.
  • Karen Edmisten shares a delightful "October," by Robert Frost.
  • Andromeda Jazmon from A Wrung Sponge has an original poem titled "Missing Cat" that follows a trimeric form. 
  • Matt Forrest from Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme is featuring "The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue," and for the first time his recorded reading of the piece. 
  • Little Willow at Bildungsroman shares a quote from The Mathematician's Apology by Hardy.
  • Sylvia Vardell was back for more from her own blog Poetry for Children to share a great list of text sets for young writers (it's like she wrote it for me, I love it)!
  • Ruth from There is no such thing as a God-Forsaken town brings us a poem that reminds us most things in life are invisible. 
  • Elaine Magliaro from Wild Rose Reader takes us into her childhood with a poem of burning leaves and memories. 
  • The Write Sisters have a poem by Cheyenne poet, Lance Henson.
  • Marjorie at Paper Tigers brings an animated poem to the party.
  • MotherReader is reviewing and sharing a poem from Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It.
  • Lorie Ann Grover gives us a two-fer with a one sentence poem at On Point and Readertotz will have you saying "be-doodly dum be doodly day!"
  • Mrs. Merrill's Book Break features a poem by Charles Ghigna called "The Scary Dictionary."
  • Doraine Bennett shares a poem by James Dickey at Dori Reads.
  • Kort brings us some prose from Dorianne Laux. Go read some powerful words over at One Deep Drawer.
  • Joy has ideas for a Halloween costume. If you haven't made your decision yet check out her poem at Poetry for Kids Joy.


Wow, what a delight today has been. I have been showered in a vast variety of words and phrases and loved it from start to finish. If you post late or even tomorrow I will be back to add you so don't be shy, join in!