Category Archives: Slice of Life

Let’s Party: Celebrating Our Writers

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The idea for this post was inspired by Anna Gratz Cockerille’s article,“Ending a Year of Writing With a Group Reflection”, from twowritingteachers.org, June 18, 2014.

person thinking

 

The whirlwind of teaching for the 2016-2017 school year is quickly coming to an end.  Teachers, on the whole, are a reflective lot, but in the midst of the busyness of daily teaching, it may seem hard to pause and reflect.  As the time to bid au revoir to our students approaches, what better time is there to spend a few minutes reflecting together on our past year of teaching writing within the Literacy Collaborative framework? Reflection is the key to becoming a reflective practitioner, and it is at the heart of a growth mindset.

MontgomerySchoolbus

 So…

Let’s party!  I am excited about all the growth I saw in my first graders this year…students who are able to write and write and write…students who consistently write 25-30 minutes daily…students who are plain excited about writing.  My biggest celebration is the ability of students to draw on a repertoire of strategies when writing.  Where I notice this most often is when students have choice writing time or when they are in the Writing MIL (managed independent learning centers). Students create something, such as a paper airplane, and then write a “how-to” paper to teach their friends how to make it.  During Share Out, they want to read what they wrote, they want to display their item with the accompanying paper.  That is authentic writing!  These students were drawing upon their understanding of procedural texts and how they work, especially the form of “how-to” writing.  Another students write and illustrate stories about an animal they know a lot about, using their understanding of informational writing.  Other students write stories with a strong lead; students add dialogue and descriptive words and sound words!  I’m celebrating because these students are using a repertoire of strategies when writing.  I’m celebrating because they are much farther in their writing practice than I thought they could be by the end of the year.  I’m celebrating because they are a community of writers.

While reflecting, the area I believe that needs shored up is an area in which I still struggle.  I struggle with having the writing not feel “perfect” at the end of the story.  All the theory about lifting the writer is in my head, and I really believe it in my heart, but–I will own this to teacher pride–it just doesn’t necessarily look like something that I think parents will look at and say, “Wow!”  I haven’t worked out how to balance the lifting of the writer and the final project.  Now, don’t get me wrong, we have “published” projects like the Franklin stories and the Awesome Author books (animal research writing), and the final projects are amazing, but the stories I’m excited about may not look like much to the “outside world.”  These everyday stories are the ones that show the fledgling writers trying out new strategies, taking risks, and being, oh, so excited.  Oh, well, this is definitely an area to shore up…at least in my own way of thinking.
As I reflect on next year, my goal is to integrate mentor texts more fully into my instruction.  I want to be like Carl Anderson and have a little stash of books ready to go in conferences.  Like him, I want to develop my go-to books, complete with sticky notes to mark the pages, pages with clear examples of powerful writer’s craft and elaboration.  My goal is to use those mentor texts to help lift my writers.  I’ll let you know how well I meet my goal next year.

I hope you’ll join me in a moment of reflection.

Swirling, twirling

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Swirling, twirling

Hurricane of thought

Unsettling whirling

Chaos of confusion

Twisting, turning

Sleep eluding

Restless, dreamless

Wakeful brooding

Should I?

Could I?

What if?

Or… not?

Sun dispelling deepest night,

Dawn-exploding, shimmering light.

Return my peace,

Serenity of soul.

© Barbara Donaldson, 2017

Temperature Afghan

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On January 1, 2017, I knit the first row of a 365 row afghan.  I can only knit one row a day if I stay on track.  If I don’t, I have to catch-up knit.  By that, I mean that I have to knit the rows of the days I missed.

My daughter saw the idea on Pinterest.  A gradient of  temperatures are created and one color yarn assigned to each range.

These are the yarn colors for temperature ranges from coldest on the left to warmest on the right.

The knitter checks the high temperature everyday, and then knits the row in the color for that temperature range.

This shows the temperature ranges (left) that match each color

It is really quite exciting.  Not only will the knitter have a wonderful temperature history for the year, but also a cozy, warm afghan in which to wrap on cool evenings.

I added one row of white yarn for March 21, the day my beloved Golden Retriever, Gracie, died.  My sons, who ask me daily if I knitted my row, and I wanted to add this special row to my afghan to remember the day of her passing.  We chose white, because it would stand out.

Gracie in Autumn

I waited until today, March 31, because I wanted to show the afghan as far as possible.  Unfortunately, because I spend my evenings writing, I am a bit behind.

Temperature Afghan as of March 21, 2017

Think of me next March, wrapped in this snuggly and completed (I hope) afghan, writing my slice.  I’ll be smiling!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dandelion Bouquets

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“She’s so slow,” said Tommy with exasperation.

“Hi, Mom!” added the blue-eyed brother.

“Hi,” I responded, “Where are Jimmy and Maggie?”

“Jimmy’s waiting for Maggie. It’s his day,” Tommy said over his shoulder as I watched the two brothers fly down the stairs to the basement.

BAM! The door flew open five minutes later, and in stomped my third son. “Why is she so slow?” Jimmy asked me as he grabbed a chocolate chip cookie off the plate with avocado flowers that sat innocently on the island. “I had to wait forever at the top of the hill.” Then, reaching out his hand, he grabbing the doorknob, opened the basement door, and followed his brothers down the stairs.

“Hi, Mommy,” came a little girl voice behind me, a voice bubbling with excitement. My little-girl daughter eagerly looked up into my eyes, her hand outstretched. A golden ball of dandelions was held securely in her chubby little-girl hand. A warm feeling spread in my heart like hot fudge sauce on ice cream. My eyes lit with a wonder glow as I reached out my hand and gingerly took the offering. Bending down, my lips kissed her rosy cheek.

“Thank you, Honey! They’re so pretty. Let’s put them in some water.” A little dried beef jar became the vase that humbly displayed this sweet gift. No fancy, store-bought bouquet could rival their beauty in my heart.

Now, many years have passed. I look back to those days of childhood innocence when all of God’s creation was delightful and enchanting. I gaze back to my little girl child, my sweet, little girl-child daughter who loved to bring me wilted dandelion bouquets and wild snapdragons with love in her eyes and joy in her heart.

Why?

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So many whys-

Why do letters make sounds

and sounds make words

and words make ideas

and ideas change the world?

 

Why does one man love one woman

and why is that woman the one?

Why does that man become the one

to that woman?

 

Why does love kindle desire

and desire bring babies

and babies grow love?

 

Why does time go by

and people grow old

and people pass away

and why does time leave us…alone?

 

Why?

Why?

Why?

 

 

Commenting on Commenting

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I can tell you right now the name of fellow slicer who gave me my first-ever comment when I was a brand-new member of the Slice of Life community last year.  Why can I remember her? It was shocking and thrilling and invigorating, all at once.  I have thought a lot about comments over the past year.  I have thought how I have appreciated each comment and have enjoyed commenting on the slices of others.  In light of all that thinking, here are my thoughts on commenting.  What idea can you add to this list?

Ten Reasons Why Commenting is Important

  1. Commenting gives bloggers something to read when they check their blogs zillions of times a day just to check for comments.  Yea!  Someone stopped by…
  2. Commenting shows the writer has an “authentic” audience, something all writers need and crave.
  3. Commenting helps writers and commenters become long-distance friends.  I have gotten comments from people in Thailand and Australia and Pennsylvania and…
  4. Commenting sends sympathy when slices speak of sadness; encouragement when slices reveal discouragement;  reassurance when slices show vulnerability; and cheers when slices are celebrations.
  5. Comments identify favorite lines or phrases. Wow!  Someone liked that part…
  6. Commenting blesses the commenter.  The blessing can be an inspiration, a new form to try out, a new idea, a chuckle, a tear, or the connection to a long-lost memory.
  7. Commenting tells the slicer that their teaching or coaching idea may be borrowed by the commenter.  What a thrill!
  8. Commenting expresses the excitement of seeing the world through the eyes, words, or perspectives of others.  Did I mention the photographs of others, too?
  9. Commenting is the laughter bubbling up from the humor in the slice.
  10. Commenting is the bridge that connects writers!

I’ll be watching for your comment today…thank you…and please share your ideas about commenting.

Learning Language

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Her eyes locked on mine; she became still.  “What is that big story you are telling me?” I asked in a quiet voice pitched a bit higher than normal.

Her brows came together just a bit as she worked to get her lips to make an O shape.  Then, “ooo” she replied

“You’re talking to me,” I answered with a little smile. “Ooo,” I added.

Again, the little brows furrowed.  “Ooo-ooo,” and the corners of her lips turned up.  Her eyes were still locked on mine.

Awe filled me.  Mabel is learning to talk.  This is how language is acquired.  What a miracle.

Some may say that  these were random baby sounds, but I know better.  This was communication between Mabel and me.  She was answering me by trying to imitate the words I was making.   Mabel is learning to talk!

Visiting

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The time has gone fast today. We visited some old friends (about 96 years old and about 91 years old). When we were younger and my youngest children were only a month or two old, my husband traveled all the time. This couple became like a third set of grandparents. My parents lived 500 miles away, and there is nothing like family when you are far away. That was in a different state and 22 years ago. Now our “grandparents” live in our state, only over an hour away. We visited them today. Returning some of the love they gave us when we needed it so much.