Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Chalk-A-Bration December 2013: Chalk Three Ways

Chalk-A-Bration in December? Never thought I would see myself chalking in December, but here I am! I hope you will join me through chalk, whether it be real or drawn out on your iPad! Did you know there is an app for that? I wish I had created it. Linda Baie was the first to begin chalking for Chalk-A-Bration using an app and I finally got on board when I realized sometimes you just can't chalk on a driveway covered in snow and ice. But, occasionally you can!

I was recently asked for some advice on chalking a poem. The chalker felt like her poem was too short.

Short is fine. Often I just chalk a stanza or a line from a poem. Especially when I am limited to the app version. When I am outside there are fewer limits; there's more space. I have also chalked on a chalkboard easel that I commandeered from my children. Chalking a poem is a challenge but a fun one. I hope you will join.

Since this question was posed I thought I would do three versions of chalking with the same poem. This will show some ways to make it work and make it fun!

Here is the poem in its entirety on my driveway. It was inspired by a new hobby of my husband's, penny art. He is taking old pennies, pounding them out with a hammer and putting poetic lines on them with metal stamps (this one has a Neruda quote).  The only space I had that wasn't ice covered was under my car, which worked out pretty nicely for a chalk poem in December!

Penny Jar

a well of stories
a penny holds
each year a new
each year an old
a cent for candy
a cent for tea
a coin to capture
a story key

Here is my little easel chalkboard. I chose four lines that I felt made their own poem and chalked them here.

On the app I have very little space. So I just "chalked" the title and my favorite lines. 

Get your chalk, real or virtual, write up a poem and take a photo. Post it to your blog and link it here! If you use twitter, tweet your chalk using #chalkabration!

Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve!

Let's Begin:

Linda joins us with a poem that is a shout-out to Chalk-A-Bration! She also offers a nice round-up of events in 2013! Be sure to go check her out at Teacherdance

Stacey from Raising a Literate Human is chalking for the first time today using her iPad! Take a peek at a poem for her daughter as we round the corner into 2014.

Margaret and her students are chalking out the old year with great offerings today. Find them at Reflections on the Teche.

My mother-in-law tried to brave the elements but realized once she got outside, things would change. I love this un-chalked poem!
Leigh Anne is joining in for some chalk fun with the app today for the first time! Go see her OLW and poem for #chalkabration over at A Day in the Life.

Robin at Teaching Tomorrow's Leaders wrote a poem and got some help from her kids this time around for Chalk-A-Bration. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Importance of Monitoring

I have not always been a teacher who monitors student work. I used to say things like, "I know my students." This was true, to some degree. However, I didn't know enough. What I have found is when I monitor not only do I know them, I know their next steps and I know what is sticking. I don't make assumptions about the learning. I see the learning. I keep track and have a system. If I didn't do this my lesson planning would be based on what I think is going on instead of what is truly going on with student learning.

What is monitoring?
When I monitor a piece of writing I am looking for characteristics of learning taking place. I may look for one specific thing or I may leave it general. For instance, this week I am looking for evidence of independent revision. Not necessarily whether it has been effective or not, but how many students are really trying to revise their piece. They may not be doing a great job but I want to see if I have to put more emphasis on the act of revision. Then I can get into the nitty gritty of it all. When I look for more general sources of learning I may jot down what I notice the student is doing and what I think should come next. When I go through this process it helps me to plan for small groups. Often the characteristics of student work fall into categories and I am better able to meet needs. I can look for trends in the work and decide what needs to be taught or re-taught in the whole group lesson.

I find that monitoring the work helps me to be more intentional. If you want to be clear on your expectations with students you need to know where they are in their process. Monitoring does this and will bring your teaching of writing to a new level.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chalk-A-Bration November 2013

Happy Chalk-A-Bration Day! It is chilly here in Michigan. Glad I bought lots of chalk before the warm weather turned off.
So today marks a first for me on Chalk-A-Bration. My kids and I decided to chalk at night on this long weekend away from school.
Here is Elliot doing a little star gazing.

Here is Elliot's poem about a bat.

Bats bats
how they fly.
All around in the sky
I see a mosquito
then I don't.
The bat it flutters
in the night.
I like to watch 
them eat the bugs 
on this really great night.

Janie hard at work.

Here is her poem about a butterfly.

Butterflies butterflies
first a caterpillar.
Butterflies butterflies
they dream of nothing.
Butterflies butterflies
they munch munch
and crunch crunch.
Butterflies butterflies
sleep in your chrysalis.
Butterflies butterflies
wakes up in the morning.
I'm a butterfly.
I fly high high high high high 
the sky.

Night chalking was fun. It was a little twist on something we do so often at my house, making it a bit more exciting! When I told my kids we were going to do night chalking I should have had my camera ready. Their faces lit up confirming for me this was a good idea. 

night stillness
night beams
night noises
night dreams

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Why do I tempt her? Why is it even within reach?

My husband, Shawn, collects typewriters. Yep, he does. We have four of them. He's always looking for one that is more ancient than the last one he's purchased. One of the typewriters sits in our living room and is "untouchable." Shawn will occasionally type on it but otherwise it is basically a decoration. Last night my daughter was plucking away at it and we reminded her not to touch. She stopped and we thought it was handled.
After the kids went to bed we noticed a paper next to the typewriter. An old large sticky note with several typed letters. At first I thought, "Was it my son this time?" Um, no it was little Jane. She had typed JHubb in several spots on the paper, basically labeling the evidence that she had touched the typewriter AGAIN. Then I looked up and noticed what was at the top of the paper, "mmoomm I Love you." Kinda made it hard to be upset with her...how do they manage to do that?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Classroom of Love

Celebrations, thanks and gratitude...I have them all. 

I celebrate my students everyday but what I love the most about each of them is the tolerance they demonstrate on a daily basis. We have a lot going on in our first grade classroom:
A student who screams because it is a release from all the sensory stimulation we cannot relate to, but is loved.
A student in a wheelchair battling a disease, but is loved.
A student who goes under the table because he is overwhelmed, but is loved.
A student who interrupts, distracts and disrupts, but is loved.
A student who is very hands on with peers, but is loved.
A student who is difficult to communicate with because of a neurological disorder, but is loved.

All these students and their needs are tolerated, embraced and accepted in a classroom of love. What could be a better celebration? I can't think of one.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Chalk-A-Bration October 2013

Are you new to Chalk-A-Bration? 

Here is some background:
Chalk-A-Bration began back in March of 2012 when my husband and I were chalking on our driveway with our children. He began writing song lyrics and I began to think that a poem in chalk would be neat. I decided to do a Slice of Life in chalk for my SOLSC and the response got me thinking further. What if others wanted to chalk a poem? My husband pushed me to start the celebration and Chalk-A-Bration was born.

I chalk with my students now and the excitement they have at the end of the month is always a delight. They love to illustrate and write poetry in chalk. I hope you will join and bring your students along for the ride as well.

Here is my chalk poem for the month:

With a tinge of green
an atomic clock
ticks, as colors stalk
they spread
like red fire
encapsulated color. 

My daughter joined me in the driveway this week too. She was inspired by trees we drove past when going on a "color drive" this past weekend. It seems they inspired both of us.
 I hope you will come back to see all the celebrations students and grown-ups create. In the meantime you need to go out and chalk, take a photo and link up! Remember, we aren't picky here at Teaching Young Writers, link up today, tomorrow any time in the near future and be sure to check out the other chalkers! Come back at the end of each month to share in the celebration of poetry and chalk.


Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche shares her students spooky collection of chalk poetry.

Linda Baie from Teacherdance has a goulishly frightful poem using a chalk app! 

Robin from Teaching Tomorrow's Leaders is in with her students chalk illustrations. Even though it was raining they broke out the chalk.

Miss Scott and her students from First Grade Learners and Wonderers are in with a poem about What Halloween Is.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

An All Week Celebration

I was lucky this week. I got to celebrate triumphs and struggles all week long with parents during conferences. Struggles are a celebration as well. We get to see where the child is going. What will they do next? What is their next hurdle to jump and triumph to share?

I won't gloss it over too much. Students have struggles. Struggles that have as much to do with school as they do with their whole life. We all focus on these at times. However, I don't always see this focus as a bad thing as long as we have an ending goal in sight. My mom always says, "What we focus on expands." She is right. If we only focus on what is wrong and despair in this weakness it will grow like a weed in a rosebush.

It was my challenge this week to focus on all that was going well but to also share honestly.

I shared. Parents and I walked through all the content areas and learned where their child excels. Some are really good at Social Studies. Some are showing strength in science. Others are reading well above grade level. Students are growing and learning everyday.

During the conferences, if the students were present, I had them share their writing with their parents. It didn't matter what level the writer was, I did not see a single parent sit quietly or disgusted when their child shared their words. They were proud. They had every right to be proud. The evidence of growth from their once four or five year old, now five or six year old was there; right on the page. Everyone was smiling.
This is what I love about being a teacher of writers. The growth and evidence are always right in front of me. Sometimes with math or science it is harder to show a change over time with evidence. A unit test? It just doesn't have the same effect as a piece of writing from a once four year old to a year later.

Another celebration: Apparently there are rumors going around about me among students and their parents.
I had one parent ask, "So this looping thing, when does that end?"

I was a little taken aback. Uh oh, not sure I like the sound of this. I responded, "Well, after this year they will go to second grade and have a new teacher."

I had thought based on their tone maybe they were unhappy with the looping process. Wrong assumption.

"What? Why? I thought you were going to have them until fourth grade!?"

Upon further questions and discussions with parents, some thought I would continue with their child next year or through third grade, the misconceptions were plenty and I was a little bit touched by their responses. These parents are so invested in me and their child's education. We have a bond. One that will be hard to say goodbye to at the end of the year. I feel a tear already.

And finally, I think I shared a bit of this is a previous celebration. Here is a video of my school's middle school boys football team showing the world what it means to be a champion. I had several of these boys in kindergarten. Talk about needing a kleenex, go get one before you click the link.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Sometimes it still shocks me what my students do and say at writing workshop. Today we had a schedule that deviated from the norm. There were fire trucks for fire safety, a tornado drill....you get the picture. Among all the chaos we had to fit in writing workshop. I knew I would have to cut it a little short, mind you we are up to sometimes more than an hour when all is said and done. When I say cut it short, there is still lots of time. Anyway, one of my little boys had been planning away, had been working on his story diligently and I had to give a "five minute sign" warning. It was just about time for lunch. His response was priceless. You would have thought he lost his dog. Shoulders slumped, sad eyes, a pout, and to top it off a moan...picture it AaaaAAaaAAah!
I looked at him, kind of unsure why he was upset. I mean really, this was a bit over the top.
"Dylan, what is it?" I asked him.
"I wanted to keep writing," in the whiniest voice he could muster.
Then I think my face mirrored his a bit because I felt so sad that I had to tell him to stop soon. He kind of tossed his pencil in frustration and began to clean up. I wasn't going to mention he still had five minutes, he was at the point of no return. But I stood back a moment and felt proud. My kids really love this time of day. It is probably their favorite. They love it so much they would rather write than go to lunch. I call that a big WIN!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Chalk-A-Bration September 2013

I just recently experienced some of the most amazing chalking a girl could ever dream of. Ruth Ayres was celebrating writers in Dublin, OH on Saturday. She suggested, with a little help from Franki Sibberson, that we should chalk some poetry as part of the celebratory conference. I cannot even express how I felt when I returned from lunch and saw a saturation of people among dust and pastels chalking away. Of course I joined in after the shock. Mary Lee Hahn, Cathy Mere, Franki and Ruth all got busy and we chalked up the sidewalk like champions. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE was smiling. What could be better?

Here are some photos and a video that doesn't do the experience justice but you can imagine the excitement. I wish you could have been there (if you weren't already)!

 Ruth Ayres chalk, and I believe Franki Sibberson did the "L." At least that's what I heard. :)

 I wish I could give credit to all the chalkers. There were too many to count!

One group of chalkers.

 Mary Lee Hahn and her beautiful chalk art. 

 My offering this month.

 Some of my favorites.

A perfect day indeed. 

The video shows all the chalk drawings, words and poems. It was such a beautiful day apparently my shadow wanted to be a part of the video too. Enjoy the chalk and the perfect accompanying song, I Chalk by Justin Roberts.

Now it's your turn. Chalk some words (your own or borrowed with the author's name), take a photo, post it to your blog and share the link in the comments. I will happily round-up all the chalketry later today. If you do not have a blog please email me your photo and I will add it to this post, bets577@gmail.com

A side note: If you would like to be a guest blogger on Teaching Young Writers please email me your idea. I consider K-12 students all young writers so I welcome you to contact me.

And the roundup begins!

At Hubbard's Headlines my students share their abration of chalk!

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater from The Poem Farm joins us with a poem in a pear tree!

Cathy Mere from Merely Day By Day came along for the ride this weekend at the Literacy Connection conference in Dublin, OH.

Cathy also had her students join in with a treat filled poem at Merely Learning. See there tasty post too!

See Ruth Ayres celebrate at Ruth Ayres Writes. She also shares her favorite bits of the week.

Katie DiCesare's students chalk inspiration came from a question: What is First Grade? See there chalk at Growing and Learning in First Grade.

Miss Scott's first graders also answer the question: What is First Grade? Check out First Grade Learners and Wonderers post!

Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche came prepared for chalking today with chalkboard contact paper! Her students wrote poems for two voices. Go listen now!

Join Robin at Teaching Tomorrow's Leaders for her iPad chalk poem. Thank you my dear friend. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sensory Details

Today we began talking about how to add details to our writing. We are starting with sensory detail, something with which they are familiar. This video was a great tool to get a conversation going. It suggested writing in your notebook about what you were noticing in the video clips. We did shared writing instead and ended up noticing that our phrases looked like a poem. Then began the challenge to write a poem about each sense. EXCITEMENT was brewing! We had such a great time. The kids sat for forty minutes as we watched a minute of video, talked and then wrote a poem together. "FORTY MINUTES" you say? Yes, it normally would be way too long, but we were on a roll.
I love my class. Their stamina for learning is fantastic. What a fun lesson and a fun time together. 

Students then went to their writing from yesterday to see if they could add sensory details to make their writing more interesting. Many of them did just that! I use the word amazed a lot as a teacher but I find myself in this position often. I am AMAZED to see them take on learning and utilize it so quickly. I can't wait for tomorrow when we chart what we learned and share our details peer to peer. FUN!

Chalk-A-Bration is coming up soon, September 30th.
I hope you will join in and share your chalk poetry. 
Click here for more information. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Internal Debate


I am finding myself questioning a few things this year because I am in a new grade level. As some of you know, I looped with my kindergarten students this year and am teaching first grade. For the first time! I feel a little bit like a first year teacher.

So, the debate begins. In kindergarten writing workshop we focus a lot on drawing and talking at the beginning of the year. I am finding my students have easily gotten back into the swing of this routine. It has been a great process to observe. I am also finding that they are spending a great deal of time drawing their picture instead of getting their words on the page.

I am such an advocate of planning and taking time to do this with drawing and talking. However, I am feeling this need to put a bit of a limit on the planning if it goes much past fifteen minutes. If I thought it was successful for everyone I might feel differently, but their results are not necessarily their best work.

Before Workshop Today

I am planning on setting a timer today for students to pause in the planning process after fifteen minutes to try and write their thoughts. I want to see if they are able to do this, therefore not necessarily needing all the drawing as plan time. The illustrations could be enhanced after the writing. I hope to update as the workshop begins and ends today!

After Workshop Today

Well, I am happier with the results of pushing the writing over the planning. I set the timer for fifteen minutes explaining this was their plan time. Several students used the entire fifteen minutes. I only required five minutes of writing, but most wrote for longer than five minutes. Many students were able to transition easily.  They just needed the push and the structure.  A sizeable handful chose to write  a small moment as well. This was exciting to me as we have been talking about small moments in writing and stories for a over a week now.
We continued our writing workshop for forty minutes and the students seemed to more easily pace themselves. I hope to only need the timer for a short time until they more independently regulate their planning vs. writing time. Overall, a successful day in workshop.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Chalk-A-Bration August 2013

Are you ready to chalk?
I bet you are or you already have so let's just get right to it! If you are new to Chalk-A-Bration all you need to do is chalk a poem or art illustration of a poem, take a photo and share your link in the comments. I will round up all the links and add them to the end of this post.  If you don't have a blog but would still like to participate, just email the photo to me and I can add it to the post that way. Just be sure to send the photo and the text in case I can't read the picture. bets577@gmail.com

Be sure to visit as many of the chalkers as you can to see what they created with their bare hands and some chalk. So simple and so fun!

My chalketry of the day!

Chalk lands tell
a secret kept
of pastel words
on which we step.

Mists of dust
the secret safe
swept up with breeze
the words awake.

And this is my mother-in-law's contribution:
And now as
the summer dies
what happens to
the fireflies
are they the
glisten on the

Yay for chalk. Here are the chalk-a-brators so far:

Liz Steinglass comes in with her children to share their chalketry and you will love her son's comment about her poem. Go see it now! 

Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche had her students do some chalking yesterday. She got the attention of her principal who was so delighted she asked if they could do it again! Go see their beautiful work. It will make your heart happy. 

Linda Baie from Teacherdance shares her chalk about the season changing. She includes a tree pic as well showing the changing colors of fall. 

Robin joins in from Teaching Tomorrow's Leaders with a chalk poem about summer slipping away! Go check her out.

Ramona from Pleasures From the Page joins us with some friends today for Chalk-A-Bration. Go see her poem about turning the page on the calendar as the classroom calls us back to school!

Franki Sibberson from A Year of Reading shared the Chalk-A-Bration idea with her students and they've joined in with a variety of chalking ideas. Be sure to stop by and take a peek!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

More Than Guided Reading

It is always nice to read a professional book that follows your own philosophies for reading and writing. In Cathy Mere's book, More Than Guided Reading, she demonstrates a seamless pairing of teaching strategies while also merging guided reading into the mix. I have struggled over the years trying to define how these two types of teaching work together. Thank you Cathy for showing me that I haven't been doing it wrong. It seems that all too often there are educators on one side or the other. Teach strategies....no, no do guided reading and back and forth it goes. It can all be balanced and it can include things like poetry and tie into the reading and writing link that we all know exists but is too often separated. What I took away from Cathy's book was to follow your heart and the hearts of your students. Tune into their needs and teach them. "Reading makes readers." (pg. 142) This also happens to be the last statement of the book and it all builds to this message. Reading is not a race or a teacher's nightmare it is an opportunity to learn about our students and take them further. It is not about teaching kids to reach the next reading level it is about teaching readers to love reading. If you haven't read Cathy's book and struggle to find the balance between these two very important means of teaching students I would highly recommend that you get it now and share it with your colleagues. Then put the balance into practice and watch your students thrive.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chalk-A-Bration 2013--July!

 Chalk-A-Bration is HERE!!
What a great month for chalking, I hope you have found some time to get dusty and put your words and pictures out there. Here is my chalk-a-brated offering of the day!

words flee
like a bee
to a hive
of poetry

Earlier this month my husband's family and I chalked on the fourth of July while camping. Here are some samples of everyone's work!

My toes :)

 Gavin and Janie

 Samantha working hard.

 Samantha's wordle of sorts with everyone's name...there were 16 of us!

Janie, little artist!


come fireworks.
~John, Gavin and Elliot all have a little piece in this masterpiece!

 Shawn added some illustrations to his poem.

 Hello in several languages, Samantha!

Elliot, another budding artist!

I couldn't fit the whole poem in  a photo, but here it is below. 

Stars bursting
color through the
expelling darkness
expanding light
souls soar higher
near the sun
with blinding brightness
all are one


Okay, now it's your turn. Link up your chalky poem or illustration in the comments today or tomorrow and I will add you to the post!

Here We Go!!!

Margaret Simon, from Reflections on the Teche, borrowed some children and chalked. She even took a moment to teach an incoming kindergartner what a poem is and he wrote one! (You know I loved that). Keep waving your magic wand Margaret!
Robin, from Teaching Tomorrow's Leaders, brings some chalk from her own children and some soon to be kindergarten students!
Check out Ramona, at Pleasures From the Page sharing her chalk haiku about the school year that is just around the corner!