Slice of Life: What a Day!

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A brief poem about my day at the TCRWP Saturday Reunion:

Time to see friends old and new,
and to learn a thing or two.

Patricia Polacco moved us to tears,
You “are our best hope for a better tomorrow” said Kylene Beers.

Dinner in Brooklyn, then time to leave,
Little did I know the roads would freeze!

So now it’s late and I haven’t sliced,
But don’t want my streak to be sacrificed.

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each day during the month of March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

 

 

 

 

Poetry Friday: A “Postscript” Imitation

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Congratulations, Brenda Davis Harsham of Friendly Fairy Tales! You are the winner of last week’s giveaway of a copy of The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations. I’m know you’ll love this impressive collection.

Recently, I’ve been reading A Poetry Handbook, by Mary Oliver. In the chapter, “Imitation,” Oliver wisely counsels readers that “you would learn little in this world if you were not allowed to imitate.” As I read these lines, I thought of “Postscript” by Seamus Heaney. My head had been full of Heaney’s words and images for days. How would I imitate this gorgeous poem?  Could I? Should I even try?

I have very vivid memories of driving from freshman orientation at the University of Maine at Orono to my summer job in Camden for the first time, almost forty years ago. Over the years, I made that trip hundreds of times. But it was that first drive that came to mind instantly when I read Heaney’s poem.

And some time make time to drive down east
Along Route One, where it hugs the edge of Penobscot Bay
In late June, when lupines
Stand at attention, spreading a carpet of lavender
Over the hills and in the hollows
And the bay on one side catches the bright light
Of early summer, glistening like shards of glass
scattered among the whitecaps,
blown up by the ceaseless breeze.
And inland, among the stones left behind by sheets of ice
the pastures are green once again,
dotted with cows grazing
in the shadow of a farmhouse,
that has stood for a century, sheltering
weariness and joy, sorrow and laughter,
filling its ever-expanding heart.

© Catherine Flynn, 2015

By Theendofforever at en.wikipedia. Later version(s) were uploaded by Ram-Man at en.wikipedia. [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/), GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

By Theendofforever at en.wikipedia (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Please be sure to visit Jone Rush MacCulloch at Check It Out for the Poetry Friday Round Up.

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each day during the month of March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

SOL: Knowing and Wondering With Fifth Graders

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I’ve been a fan of Vicki Vinton and Dorothy Barnhouse’s “Know/Wonder” chart since I first discovered it on Vicki’s blog a few years ago. Since then, I have read and learned much from Vicki and Dorothy’s book, What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making (Heinemann, 2012). If you aren’t familiar with Vicki & Dorothy’s book, a Know/Wonder is a simple tool students use to chart their thinking as they read.

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to spend the day at the Educator’s Institute in Rhode Island and hear Vicki speak about comprehension. She focused on ways we can help students think deeply about complex texts independently. I always feel like I gain new understanding when Vicki shares her ideas. She articulates her thinking about reading comprehension in such a way that I say, “Of course!”

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Earlier this week, I took Vicki’s advice and got “kids involved doing the thinking right from the get go.”  After a very brief introduction, I began reading The Fourteenth Goldfish (Random House, 2014), by Jennifer L. Holm, to a group of fifth graders. The first chapter generated a number of unanswered questions. The narrator isn’t named, and there is only one clue as to whether it’s a boy or a girl.  We find out that the goldfish who just died is really goldfish number thirteen. “So why is the book called The Fourteenth Goldfish?they wanted to know. Right away, they were:

  • gathering information
  • asking questions
  • making predictions
  • thinking about the plot—which has to come first in order to be able to problem solve for deeper understanding—both at the inferential level and the thematic level

In Vicki’s words, they were engaged in a “productive struggle” to make sense of this book.

Engagement is key. How often have you shared a book that you absolutely love, only to find that your students don’t love it? We take it personally, right? Vicki reminded us that “kids have to be engaged with their thinking about a book, not our love of it.”

So book choice is important. Vicki suggested that it isn’t Lexile levels that make a text complex; “texts are complex because they interact in unpredictable ways.”

Unpredictable things happen in the first three chapters of The Fourteenth Goldfish, but because students were engaged and were charting their thinking, a chorus of “I KNEW IT” erupted spontaneously at the end of one revealing chapter.

I will be working with these students over the next week or so. We will continue to “pay close attention to the details,” and develop ideas about this book. Once we have done that, we can start the next phase of this work by looking for patterns. Then we can “develop a line of inquiry” from these patterns and follow it as we continue reading.

Vicki ended her talk with a reminder that “kids can notice a lot if we open the door for them to notice.” Who knows where their thinking will lead us?

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each day during the month of March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Slice of Life: Pen Pals

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Throughout the movie Julie and Julia, Julia Child, played by Meryl Streep, keeps up a correspondence with Avis DeVoto. Late in the film, Julia and her co-author, Simone Beck, or “Simca,” travel to Boston to meet with a potential publisher. The two have this exchange when they arrive at the station:

Julia: “Avis said she’d be here…wearing a plaid jacket. That’s how I’m to recognize her.”

Simca: “What do you mean, ‘recognize her?’ Has she changed?”

Julia: (pulling out then reading from a letter) “Look for the middle-aged woman in the plaid jacket.”

Simca: (with some alarm in her voice) “You and Avis have never met?”

Julia: “We’re just pen pals.”

Simca: “You don’t know each other?”

Julia: “Well, we do. We write.”

“We write.” That sums it up, doesn’t it? Through their letters, Avis and Julia have become devoted friends. And when Avis runs into the station, she and Julia embrace like the old friends they are.

I had a pen-pal once. I have the vaguest memory of getting a post card from a girl in France. What a thrill it was to receive mail! When I was in college, my grandmother wrote to me almost every day, and I got letters from high school friends who were all far away. After college, I moved back to my home town, so there was no need to write to my family any longer. But now my high school and college friends were far flung. We wrote from time to time, but we were all busy getting our lives off the ground. The letters became few and far between.

My grandmother got letters from her sister and other relatives throughout her married life. When we cleaned out her house, it seemed as if she had saved every letter she ever received! As I read through some of these recently, and was struck by how similar the contents of these letters are to what we write these days in texts, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs.

In a letter my uncle wrote from Oberpfaffenhofen Air Depot in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany in 1947, he says, “In one of your letters you asked if I was getting enough to eat I get all I can eat. There isn’t any shortage of food in Ober.” (Mothers never change!)

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Another letter from Uncle Stuart reports that he and his girl “ went to Munich to the opera…we saw ‘Carmen.’ It was all in German, but I enjoyed it anyway. The Red Cross takes a group every Sat. afternoon.”

Later that year, my uncle included the Thanksgiving menu served at Oberpfaffenhofen Air Depot. Printed on creamy, heavy paper, the airmen were served quite a feast.

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A postcard from my grandmother’s aunt, dated November 11, 1955 reads, “I drove 349 miles today from Cheraw, S.C. to Waynesboro, GA.”

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On stationary from the Davenport Hotel in Spokane, Washington, someone named Flo wrote to tell my grandmother that she “had a private cabin with Mrs. Taber” and that they are “1st class passengers.”

I know many people lament the decline of physical letters and snail mail, and certainly the old fashioned kind of pen-pal has gone the way of the dodo. But no matter what medium is being used, the stories of our lives emerge through our writing and friendships are maintained or forged. I have made so many friends and acquaintances online who I would never have met otherwise. I feel like so many of you are my pen-pals. I know about your children and grandchildren, husbands and jobs. Like Avis and Julia, we support and encourage one another.

You have enriched my life in countless, unimaginable ways.

Thank you.

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each day during the month of March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Slice of Life: Book Spine Poetry

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11454297503_e27946e4ff_hApril is right around the corner, bringing with it showers, baseball, and National Poetry Month! Creating book spine poems is a great way to get your (and your students) poetic juices flowing.

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Look! Look! Look!
What do you do with an idea?
Draw!
It’s a book!

 

 

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The dreamer,
A swinger of birches
Chasing redbird,
Words with wings,
The secret hum of a daisy

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Dragons love tacos,
Alphabet soup,
Apples & oranges.
Delicious!

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Steam train, dream train,
You nest here with me,
Goodnight songs,
AGAIN!
Sleep like a tiger.

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each day during the month of March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Slice of Life: What I Didn’t Write About Today

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What I didn’t write about today:

Driving to work this morning…
Thinking about a poem for Heidi’s MarCH challenge. Today’s word was clutch.

Clutch—
of eggs,
fancy purse,
exciting baseball,
get a grip!

Won’t let go
changing gears…

I need a dictionary.

Or a thesaurus.

Oh wait. I shared this book with a group of fifth graders toady. The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet.

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Later, at home…

On the treadmill.
Reading a chapter from Kate Messner’s 59 Reasons to Write: “Point of View, Voice, and Mood”
“What would this object say?”
I look around.
What a weird conglomeration of stuff there is in this basement!

My eyes settle on my son’s collection of antique hand held planers.
Think of all the wood they’ve caressed,
boards they’ve smoothed and
readied to become a table or a bookcase.

Later still…

At my desk
What to write about?

I have no idea!

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each day during the month of March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Slice of Life: Musical Memories

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Yesterday, Stacey wrote about singing lullabies to her daughter. Her post got me thinking about songs I sang to my kids, and songs from my own childhood. My boys are grown, but I have fond memories of the lullabies that were part of their bedtime routine.

When my children were babies, I sang to them all the time, and we quickly developed a bedtime playlist. And because we camped with my husband’s family quite often, my nieces loved these songs, too. In fact, Kelly asked me to sing them when we were all on a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon when she was thirteen!

Not surprisingly, most of the songs I sang to them were ones I had loved as a child. My parents had different tastes in music, but there was no question that they both loved it. We had a small portable record player on a metal stand in the dining room, and on Saturday mornings, my mother played her Glenn Miller records while she cleaned. She listened to other big bands and singers from the forties, but Glenn was definitely her favorite. Soundtracks, especially “The Sound of Music,” also got played frequently. My father, on the other hand, was a country and western fan. I have a lot of Marty Robbins and Jim Reeves songs in my head. The songs my parents played throughout my childhood influenced my own musical tastes. I love harmonies and ballads, and never really loved rock.

Alzheimer patients can often remember songs from their youth better than the names of their grandchildren. Educators have know for years that music helps students memorize rote material. (Think Schoolhouse Rock) Sometimes, just the first few notes of a song transport us back to the time we first heard it. I remember when I first heard She & Him, tears came to my eyes. Their retro sound automatically brought me back to that sun-drenched dining room of the 60s, listening to that little blue record player.

I can’t remember when I stopped singing to my kids, and I could never choose just one song as my favorite. But, of all the songs my parents shared with me, and that I shared with my children, there is one that sums up my wish for them as they make their way in the world.

Dancing with Brian to "The Five Pennies" at his wedding.

Dancing with Brian to “The Five Pennies” at his wedding.

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each day during the month of March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

(This slice is a modified version of a post from 2012. You can read the original here.)

SOL: “Live With Your Hands Unfolded”

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Like millions of people across the country, I look forward to the StoryCorps segment on NPR each Friday morning. Some of these stories have made me laugh, others have moved me to tears. They are always compelling. Yesterday, nine-year old Aiden Sykes had some questions for his father, Albert Sykes. When Aiden asked “What are your dreams for me?” Mr. Sykes told him

“My dream for you is to live out your dreams. There’s an old proverb that talks about when children are born, children come out with their fists closed because that’s where they keep all their gifts. And as you grow, your hands learn to unfold, because you’re learning to release your gifts to the world…For the rest of your life, I want you to see you live with your hands unfolded.”

Mr. Sykes’s wise words reminded me of Cornelius Minor’s keynote, “The Things that Break Us Don’t Have To,” at last Saturday’s Educator’s Institute in Providence. He urged the teachers in the audience to empower kids to be the superhero of their own lives and “give kids the tools they need to rescue themselves.” In other words, teach them that they have the power to find their gifts, to unfold their hands.

So how can we support our kids, both at home and in the classroom, so they can discover their gifts and passions?

Give them the skills they need to accomplish their goals. Begin with the basics of reading, writing, and math. But go further. Give them resources, both print and digital. Surround them with as many books as possible. Then, as Cornelius encouraged us, teach them “how to acquire their own prior knowledge.” The gift of how to learn is one they will never lose.

We also have to give kids plenty of opportunities to practice whatever it is they want to be good at. This is true for both home and school. My son can play one particular Nirvana song REALLY well because he played it about a gazillion times when he was 14 and 15. I personally don’t like the song, but I listened to it a gazillion times because it was important to him.

But above all, we have to be their champion. We have to, as Cornelius pointed out, give kids the feedback and encouragement that will help them pick themselves up after they fail. Because it is through these failures and missteps that they learn. It is through the advice and guidance of mentors that they gain knowledge. It is through our faith in them that they learn to have faith in themselves and realize their dreams.

 Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each day during the month of March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

SOL: Poetry Friday is Here!

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Welcome to Poetry Friday! Today is my first time hosting, so I feel like celebrating, and there is a lot to celebrate today. To begin with, it’s the first day of spring! It’s also the International Day of Happiness. What better way to spread happiness than by sharing poetry? So share your poems, read what others have shared, and enjoy! And, to celebrate the publication of The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, I’ll be giving away a copy to one lucky person. Just leave a comment and a winner will be chosen at random. In the meantime, visit Poetry Celebrations for a sneak peek at this fun-filled collection.

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It’s also World Folk Tales and Fables Week. To celebrate that, I’m sharing an original poem inspired by this photo (from a calendar I received for Christmas) and “The Frog Prince.” Although “The Frog Prince” is technically a fairy tale, the connection was too good to pass up.

Automaton, Swiss, 1820 Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Murtogh D. Guinness, 1976

Automaton, Swiss, 1820, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Murtogh D. Guinness, 1976

No princess would refuse this frog
with shiny ruby eyes.
His pearl encrusted legs
would surely mesmerize.

But, oh, poor frog, trapped within
this jeweled enamel toy;
no longer can he jump and splash,
or sing his songs of joy.

Her company cannot replace
the summer sky above.
Back to the pond he’d rather go,
And forsake her possessive love.

© Catherine Flynn, 2015

Please leave your link in the comments and I’ll be back throughout the day to round up your links. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Spring is sprouting everywhere today!

Robyn Hood Black at Life of the Deckle Edge starts us off by celebrating spring with a triolet all teachers will relate to.

Buffy Silverman has a menagerie of animal poems at Buffy’s Blog.

At Friendly Fairy Tales, Brenda Davis Harsham has gorgeous photos and a lovely concrete poem about the coming season.

Michelle Barnes welcomes Laura Shovan to Today’s Little Ditty, where shares her plans for an upcoming poetry workshop and a list poem from Heidi Stemple.

Jama is also celebrating spring with a poem from Wendy Cope, a bouquet of photos, and a giveaway of a Julie Paschkis print! 

At Random Noodling, Diane Mayr has two poems for Heidi Mordhorst’s March CH challenge, and at Kurious Kitty, she shares Wallace Stevents “The Poems of Our Climate.”

Keri Collins Lewis, of Keri Recommends, takes us traveling to California with a tanka for Michelle’s challenge.

Colette Bennett celebrates the anniversary of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s “I Shall Return” speech with a tribute to teachers at Used Books In Class.

Matt Forrest Esenwine is sharing his original poem, “No-Moon Day” at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.

Linda Baie at Teacher Dance has another sign of spring with her original haiku, “Arrival.”

Charles Waters has a poem of spring and a basketball poems for Heidi’s CH challenge today at his Poetry Time Blog.

Over at GottaBook, Greg Pincus tries to convince us he’s in a poetry drought. I, for one, find that hard to believe!

At The Opposite of Indifference, Tabatha Yeatts has a beautiful poem, written by her daughter, about finding poems.

Robins have arrived at The Poetry Farm, and Amy is celebrating with an original poem.

At My Juicy Little Universe, Heidi isn’t letting a little snow spoil spring sharing from hatCHing out. Her original poem about 4 year old chefs is making me hungry!

Laura Shovan and Laura Gehl have an interesting discussion about whether rhyming picture books are poetry at Author Amok.

There are more spring poems at Reflections on the Teche, where Margaret is sharing two poems from her talented student, Erin.

Cathy Mere at Merely Day By Day contemplates the beauty of being up before dawn in her original poem.

At The Logonauts, Katie is featuring Jane Yolen,Heidi Stemple and Melissa Sweet’s lovely new book, You Nest Here With Me.

Memories of childhood inspired Donna Smith of Mainely Write to write a hatCH poem for Heidi’s challenge.

Mary Lee ponders hummingbird hatCHings at A Year of Reading.

Catherine Johnson shares a peek into Alice Walker’s book of poems, There is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me.

Myra has a wonderful clip of spoken word poets Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye performing “When Love Arrives” over at Gathering Books.

Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect has two inconceivably good poems, both entries from her March Madness rounds.

Have you ever wondered what those black carts full of books at the library are thinking? JoAnn Early Macken share her idea in an original poem at Teaching Authors.

At The Drift Record, Julie Larios is sharing a spring spell, of sorts.

Julieanne Harmatz is sharing an amazing found poem her students have written from their responses to Jacqueline Woodson’s Each Kindness at To Read To Write To Be.

Karen Edmisten is in today with James Weldon Johnson lovely poem, “Deep in the Quiet Wood”.

Bridget Magee has a tanka about a crane fly for Michelle’s challenge at Wee Words for Wee Ones.

At Bildungsroman, Little Willow is sharing “If Spirits Walk” by Sophie Jewett.

Ruth has an original poem about a multitude of tears at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town.

At Reader Totz, Lorie Ann is sharing “Paulette” from Bronzeville Boys and Girls by Gwendolyn Brooks and illustrated by Faith Ringgold. She also has an original haiku at On Point.

Football season may be over, but that’s no reason not to celebrate Jone’s poem in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations.

Over at Pleasures from the Page, Ramona shares her thoughts about I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery by Cynthia Grady with illustrations by Michele Wood.

Just in time for National Poetry Month, Kim of Flukeprints has a review of A Poem in Your Pocket, by Margaret McNamara and G. Brian Karas, as well as how she plans to celebrate with her students.

At Poetry for Children, Sylvia Vardell’s 700th (!) post is celebrating the publication of The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations and features “Spring” by Jane Lichtenberger.

Carol Varsalona is anticipating spring in a lovely CH poem at Beyond Literacy Link.

This post is doing double duty for the March Slice of Life Challenge at Two Writing Teachers. Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each day during the month of March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Slice of Life: Ten Things on Thursday

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I have started at least four different posts today, but none of them were coming together in a way that I was happy with, and I have no more time to write today. So I’m resorting to a 10 Things Right Now list, an idea Mandy Robeck shared from Ali Edwards way back in October, 2013. Many Slicers used this format last year, and I’ve seen more this year. It’s a tried-and-true option for a busy day.

10 Things on Thursday

  • The sky is a brilliant shade of blue this afternoon.
  • I crossed three items off my to-do list at work today.
  • One of my students made some terrific inferences today, which is typically a real challenge for him.
  • We have leftover corned beef, so I don’t have to cook supper.
  • The new issue of The Horn Book arrived today and I can’t wait to read about all the wonderful new books coming out in the next few months.
  • I’m still processing all I learned at the conference I went to last weekend.
  • This morning my husband asked me what movie I wanted to see this weekend. Any suggestions?
  • I MUST do some laundry tonight.
  • My critique group meets on Sunday, and I have new chapters and picture revisions in my mailbox that I’m looking forward to reading.
  • Tomorrow is the first day of spring!

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each day during the month of March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

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