Thursday, March 29, 2012

What's the Alternative??

A conversation that I had with my husband probably over a year ago...

Me: "I am going to lose my mind." (This was in reference to my own two children seeming out of control).
Him: "No you aren't, you're fine."
Me: "No really, I am about this close to completely to losing it; my patience is completely used up."
Him: "No it's not, you haven't lost it yet, what's the alternative?"
Me: (pause, think, echo those words in my head..."what's the alternative"). "Huh, I guess you're right."

I was reminded of this conversation today.
Someone said to me (in reference to it being two days before spring break),
(insert an exasperated tone) "Are we going to survive?"

Now, to be clear, I totally get why someone might say this. I have been there, (see above)!

My response was, (insert slightly sarcastic tone for the purpose of a light delivery) "well, if I had to choose, I am hoping survival wins out. What's the alternative?"
She paused, nodding her head, kinda threw her fist up the in the air, to say, "yeah, we got this." And I was like, "yeah, we do."

When I am able to remember these words, "What's the alternative?" I am thankful because it immediatly calms me down. If I am barely holding it together and feel like I am about to blow, it is likely that I don't really need to. The alternative to holding it together, is not holding it together. Really, it is preferred by everyone that I remain patient, tolerant, open, and "held together," as opposed to falling apart.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Our Skies!

I have been meaning to share the samples from our book inspired by Audrey Wood's, Blue Sky

In her book, each page depicts a type of sky (dream sky, sunset sky, etc.) with a beautiful pastel drawing. 
We used chalk on blue paper to make our own "skies!"

 This one has to be my favorite. Book sky. Those are little flying books on her paper.

 Heart sky.

 Butterfly sky.

Rainbow sky.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Waiting and Anticipating

One on either side sconced in lights.
One behind openly revealing a different reality.
The opposite reflecting the light of those dreams, fears, anticipated horrors.
Those walls see it . The resulting tears, gasps, gaffaws, nauseum.
Our vulnerability seeping as the screened wall tells the story.
The adjacent absorbing the splattering and scattering from our surprise.
Seeing the disappointment, disgust and delight.
They bring this out in all of us.

I wrote this while waiting to see The Hunger Games this weekend. We got to the theater about forty minutes early so I had some time to kill. The theater slowly filled. There were gasps, tears, relief, it was good. Almost as good as my imagination had made it when I read the story.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


So, I am just beginning to type. I have things in here, ideas, poems, stories, lists. It is endless. Like talking, I always have a conversation, I am never short on words. I have so many words, it can be frustrating at times. I don't stop, listen, take in other people's words, I miss out...words are my weakness as much as they are my strength.

This is where I go when I just begin to type...

This is what I think when I just begin to type...


This is what I wonder when I just begin to type...

This is what I hear when I just begin to type...

words are my nemesis...outright...they are my life...they

Friday, March 23, 2012

Child's Play Haiku

A Slice of Life Post Hosted by Two Writing Teachers


Poetry Friday Hosted by A Year of Reading

A child's play haiku for today! :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Author Basket Motivation

One of my most challenging little writer's really impressed me today (really he's challenging in every way, but so dog gone adorable you can't help but love him to pieces).

I pulled out a basket, made some room in the classroom underneath some of our writing charts, and had a student design this label for my little authors.
 I explained to the class that each of them had an important job today.
"Read over your books from the last couple weeks. Choose one you think is your best and that others would like to read."
We talked about how we could do a little revisions here and there if needed.
Kids got busy, and quickly the basket filled.
The student I mentioned earlier was dissatisfied with his books and without me knowing, started a new book. He came over to show me each page as he finished, grinning ear to ear "look what I did now." His eagerness and focus today was amazing. He did every step independently because he knows he can do it, he just isn't always motivated, aaah, but that basket. He wanted to have something good in there. We share almost daily, but this was different. It was labeled "our classroom authors." Other kids might choose to read his book during free reading time. There was a little pressure, the positive kind.
The power of an audience. That's what I was reminded of today.
(I had really hoped to post his book in this space, however, my pictures only show up sideways, despite my efforts. GRRrrrr).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Is There an Ideal Age for Incoming Kindergarteners?

Conversations among my colleagues and I the past two days have been surrounding some recent legislation.
There are a lot of things I don't understand about politics, I'll just say that upfront. And...this is not necessarily a political post, nor do I want to elicit a heavy political response.
That said...
Michigan's Senate Bill 315 (here is a short summary), which I have not read completely but plan to, is a bill that would change the current kindergarten enrollment age. It has passed the committee and is going to hit the floor as I understand it.
In Michigan students can enroll in kindergarten if their fifth birthday falls on or before December 1st of that school year. That is quite different from a majority of the states in the US, many require students to be five by September 1st for enrollment. (Something that is more shocking, kindergarten is not required in most states for students. Fourty three states are required to offer a kindergarten program, Michigan is not one of them).

Now, some might say, "that's only three months difference!"

Three months isn't a big deal when you are an adult, however, a five year old has only been on the planet for around sixty months, so less than that can be a difference for some.
When I first learned of this possibility I was very excited. The prospect of not having any four year olds at the beginning of the year appealed to me. I love four-year olds, I just really dislike making them do things they are really not ready to do. There is so much assessment at the beginning of the year and all the routines are difficult, they just want to to play (as they should)! Then I began thinking about the flip side, what happens to the four year olds that are ready? We don't offer a preschool or early fives program in our building unless you qualify under the state guidelines of "at risk." What happens to them?
I recently was collecting data, mostly letter sounds, blending and simple "phonics like" reading. It is from an intervention program called Teacher Directed Pals. As I took in the information, I started to think, "probably all those young kids are pulling the scores down and have more needs." I couldn't have been more wrong. Sure, a couple were the young ones, however, some of the young ones are thriving, and some who are six are a little behind. Hmmm, no simple answers here, just more to think about.
I wish I had more data, more research and more guidance on this issue. We shall see how things turn out, if the bill passes, and if there is a large or insignificant impact. Time will tell.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Finishing and Starting...

Slice of Life Story Challenge Hosted by Ruth and Stacey of Two Writing Teachers 

Teach Mentor Texts
It's Monday! What are you reading? 

Reading for me:
I finished reading Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins. I  am hooked again by these characters that I put away in December. Mockingjay is at the ready, a little afraid I won't be able to put it down. 

Reading for my children:
We finished Pirates Past Noon and Night of the Ninjas this week. Onto book six! My son is in a competition with his teacher; she is reading them to the class and he is determined that we must get to book ten before she does! 

My daughter's favorite book last week was Camilla the Cupcake Fairy by T. Bugbird. It is all things sparkle, treat and magic. Very cute rhymes too. It confirmed for my daughter that she "needs" pink cupcakes on her birthday!

Reading for my students:
We are doing an author study on all things Audrey Wood. The students immediately loved Quick as a Cricket as well as The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear. However, a new one for me was Elbert's Bad Word. It is quite funny and the bad word that Elbert utters in the story is never actually revealed but instead represented by a furry little creature. The class was fascinated! Not surprising, anything that has to do with a "bad word" is like gold if you want  a five year-olds attention!
Another new one, just released this month, was Blue Sky. It is, of course, beautifully illustrated and is a concept book, (storm sky, moon sky, rainbow sky). The page I included here is "Dream Sky." This was my classes favorite page and now I think we all have to make a dream sky drawing for another class book! I will try to post when it is finished. She seems to use pastels, so I think we will experiment with her technique too!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Seeking the Story...Part 2

I didn't know last night when I wrote SOLSC post #17 that there would be a part two today.

I went back downstairs to my back corner room full of boxes and all things school, memory and mess. I had been down there so many times in the day, thinking, "I'll find it. It has to be here...I never would have thrown it away." Each time I went down my hope grew weaker, dissipating to almost nothing. I was beginning to feel a despair that could only be repaired if I found at least a part of what I was looking for. I started looking in places less obvious, calling out in a tone only I could hear "come on Betsy, where is the least likely place, it will be there." These little fragments of hope were continually destroyed when I was again left empty handed. I was now on the opposite side of my basement, ready to retreat, surrender. I whisper, "I could really use your help on this one; where is it?" I again walk into my back room, standing there, defeated. One hand on my head, the other on my hip knowing deep down that I must have thrown it out and it is time to accept it.  Knowing I have searched every possible and impossible place; my husband's work table piled high, underneath each shelf, the closet under the stairs, everywhere. I'm sure even the box at my feet that holds all my Nancy Drew books; it's been in my way in that back room all day. There, a small stack of papers tucked in the lidless box. My hand lifts them out, and there it is. In my hand, the little girl, the big tear, the pouty lip. Behind it, on blue paper, my story. The one I once needed to write and the one I now needed to read. I can't even describe the coolness that overcame my body. The electro like charge that ran up my neck and down my spine. The almost unnatural and uncontrollable pull that stretched my face in elation. All by itself, in a box of books that had once been my grandmother's, my mother's, sister's and then mine...possibly the most likely place.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Seeking the Story

Today marks the anniversary of my grandmother's death. She battled leukemia. It was a long time ago, but like most life changing experiences, it feels like it just happened.
I remember in one of my last classes in college, a writing class, we read an article (my professor was the author) called, The Writer's Eye. His daughter crying was the photo that accompanied the article. I wish I could remember his name. I can see the xeroxed copy so clearly, his daughter's pouty lip and big tears, she might have been three in the photo. The article was an important piece that was a resource to our final project.
Our final paper was suppose to be a personal narrative to share with the class our last day. I remember toiling over what to write, probably because I knew what I needed to write about, however I was fighting the urge. I did it though. I wrote the story of my grandmother's last day. Every detail I could remember. The sensory detail was thick and tear provoking. I remember writing it, revising it, rewriting it, and finally reading it in class as everyone was silent. I remember feeling the healing that took place after the whole experience was over.
Today all I could think about was that piece of writing. How I wanted to read it, but I can't find it. It's really bothering me. I can only assume it is probably because I am afraid that maybe I have forgotten something, something important. I hope I find the story. I hope I can find that article too.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Poem Inspired by The Thin Prison, Leslie Norris

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Greg at Gotta Book.

Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted by
Stacey and Ruth Two Writing Teachers
About three years ago I read the book, Dancing With the Pen: The Learner As a Writerby New Zealand Staff Ministry Of Education. It was a book I picked up and read a little here and a little there. It is a great book to read if you are beginning to question your own process as a writer or a teacher of writing. It helped pull things into focus for me at a time when I was ready to reflect on these aspects of my teaching. However, the part that remains fresh for me, even after three years, is the poem that opens chapter three of the book, The Thin Prison, by Leslie Norris. It is the poem that lead me to write Steps and helped me realize if I am going to understand writers, I have to be one. I think each day I get closer to convincing myself that I am a writer too; still on my journey like everyone else.

Steps are what I take
every time I pick up my pen.
Words take me somewhere. A medium
to expression, an art that too many never try.

We all have words,
an audience, a pen, yet,
words do not escape among the
doodles, smudges and ink stained fingers.

Let your words out.  

Inspired by
The Thin Prison,
by Leslie Norris       
The Thin Prison
 Hold the pen close to your ear.
Listen—can you hear them?
Words burning as a flame,
Words glittering like a tear,

Locked, all locked in the slim pen.
They are crying out for freedom.
And you can release them,
Set them running from prison.

Himalayas, balloons, Captain Cook,
Kites, red bricks, London Town,
Sequins, cricket bats, large brown
Boots, lions and lemonade—look,

I’ve just let them out!
Pick up your pen, and start,
Think of the things you know—then
Let the words dance from your pen.

Leslie Norris

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Audrey Wood, Quick as a Cricket

 Enjoy a slice of life, hosted by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers

I have always loved the book Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Wood. I finally landed on Audrey Wood for an author study last week. We have continued to poor over her books through this week as well. Thanks Elsie and Robin who helped me decide this is who I should do, since I could not make up my mind! The kids are really enjoying her stories and of course her and Don Woods illustrations. This week we wrote our own version of Quick as a Cricket. The kids came up with some great ideas and made paintings to represent their portion of the book.
Here are some samples. Fun was had by all!

                                            Cute as a butterfly!

                                             Fast as a frog!

                                      Tough as a lion!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Head Full of Doubt--Road Full of Promise" The Avett Brothers

I was reading song lyrics this morning, kind of looking for inspiration. I love music, I always have, it's in my blood. I get to see the Avett Brothers perform in late May and was drawn to one of their songs. As I read the lyrics to one of my favorites I couldn't help thinking of my students, a few in particular. 

Their heads are so full of dreams...

"Mrs. Hubbard, when I grow up I'm going to be an artist!" 
"I will come to your gallery B."

I look at them and I hope that they will never be filled with doubt, that they will never feel discouraged, knowing they will have tough times ahead...

"I'm going to be an author when I grow up and write books!"
"I will read your books P."

I hope that I can pave a road of promise for each of them, at least a start in the right direction...

"Mrs. Hubbard, when I grow up I want to be a teacher."
"So many lucky children will learn from you K."

Decide what to be and go be it!

The Avett Brothers
Head Full of Doubt - Road Full of Promise 

There's a darkness upon me that's flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what's wrong and what's right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I'm frightened by those who don't see it

When nothing is old deserved or respected
And your life doesn't change by the man that's elected
If you're loved by someone you're never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it.

There was a dream
One day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid, with a head full of doubt
So I scream till I die and don't ask for those bad thoughts to find me out

There's a darkness upon you that's flooded in light
In the fine print they tell you what's wrong and what's right
And it flies by day and it flies by night
And I'm frightened by those who don't see it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Reading and Reading and Reading

Slice of Life Story Challenge Hosted by Ruth and Stacey of Two Writing Teachers 

Teach Mentor Texts 
It's Monday! What are you reading?

Reading for me:
I finished Wonder by R. J. Palacio yesterday, wow. That's all I need to say. A fairly quick read (part of a weekend and three nights if you're like me and don't have a bucket full of time). I really enjoyed the characters, getting to know them and all the different perspectives. It was a great story.
I then started reading Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins. I had finished The Hunger Games over Christmas break and had not had a chance to get back to the second book in the series. 

Reading for my children:
I started Pirates Past Noon, by Mary Pope Osborne tonight before bed with the kiddos; they are enjoying it immensely!

Reading for my students:
I have been talking with my students about "good fit" books for a few weeks. I found a great book called, Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians (yes, Libearians) by Jacki Mims Hopkins. It is similar to the original story with a closely related title showing a variation of books, too hard, too easy and just right! It helped the idea sink in a little further for my students.

A book I discovered a couple weeks ago by Helen Lester was, Author, A True Story. It is the story of Helen as a child and her struggles with the writing process. The beginning starts by saying, "A long time ago there lived a three year old author. Me." Her illustrations show a scribbled grocery list and her scrawls of  "writing". My class was riveted by this rather long story, she started out just like they did! Like we all did! I thought this story was very relatable to young authors.