Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Trapped At Home

I have always wanted to be a stay at home however the powers that be have not yet allowed me to win the lottery (perhaps I should by a ticket). So, today was Day 3 of being iced in with my 4 year old and almost 2 year old and I realize I am a trapped-at-home mom. I am yearning for the ability to leave the house even if it is just to get French Fries at McDonald's, but the roads are so slick that I don't feel as though I can put us at risk for an accident. So, we continue to color, watch Sesame Street (thank goodness for our DVR), and try to keep Emma from attacking Gracie. Isn't this a dream come true?

Gracie some how found a broken piece of glass. I have not broken anything, but yet she found a piece. She comes crying to me, "MOMMA!" I look down and see a trail of blood. Her fingers are spread as if she has cut off one of them off. I clean her up and realize the "cut" is very small.

I am supermom! I know how to fix this. I bet if I give her a band-aid it will stop the screaming oh, I mean crying.

Off we go! Found the perfect band-aid. Attach it. Kiss it and low and behold she cries harder! I am astounded!! I thought band-aids were the cure all for almost anything. The last thing I know to fix this situation is the ever loved sippy, so we trot into the kitchen and I give it too her. Astonished this does not fix the Gracie's alligator tears are coming so fast she has soaked the edge of her pjs. I pick her up again worried that perhaps there is another piece of glass stuck somewhere. Suddenly the crying stops. "Momma," she says calmly. I look at her as she hands me the band-aid she has ripped off and I take it. Silence. Perfect bliss with her sippy in hand and band-aid gone. I sigh and think perhaps is it time for all of US to go to bed.

Iced In

Well, we are iced in again! Hopefully, we will be able to go to school on Friday. The pics above were taken with my Digital Rebel that arrived last week. It is used, but I am so excited. I am really hoping to start taking some classes next month. Trying to think of some small moments to write in regards to the ice...hopefully I will have one posted tonight.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Slice of Life Challenge: 16 Things

Saw this on Ali Edward's Blog..thought I would try it....

1. Most of my defining moments as a child involve family members.
2. My parents have been married for 40 years. I am very proud...but I feel as if I let them down because my marriage did not make it past 10 years.
3. I am the mother of a special needs child.
4. I do not want anymore children, but when I see a tiny newborn, I miss holding mine.
5. It took me 30 years to realize who I am.
6. I finally love myself for ME and no strings attached. I accept myself with my faults.
7. I will always give a student a second chance... everyday is a new day.
8. I have an amazing amount of patience when teaching children, but very little patience when teaching adults.
9. I believe that my purpose in life is to teach children that the world has deemed "unworthy."
10. I live for the moments when I read in a student's notebook-"Thank you for not giving up on me. When I switch classes to your room...I get goose bumps knowing you believe in me." Then I try not to cry.
11. I want to write a book on how to incorporate reader's/writer's workshop in special education settings (whether inclusive or self-contained).
12. I miss my grandmother daily. I hope she is proud of me.
13. I never thought I would stay in Oklahoma...I thought I would be singing at the Met by now.
14. I may not always understand where my journey in life takes me, but I cherish the road I am traveling on.
15. I love frappachinos.
16. My life is not perfect, but I will live it to the fullest each day.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Memoir Monday~Water Logged

Saturday night ritual: bath, wash hair, curlers for Sunday, Hee-Haw, and Dukes of Hazzard. This night was just like any other Saturday night. Mom telling us to hurry up as she began the bath. The water shushing as it escapes into the tub.

"Come on, Lynnelle! Hurry up!" My mom yells as I come crashing through the door. I quickly grab a towel and wash cloth as she begins to turn the bath water off. Her hands grab the knobs, but the water continues to splash out. "What's happening?" I ask, "Did the faucet break?

"I don't know...hmmm..go get the wrench, " my mom says calmly. When I arrive back in the bathroom, my mom is no longer calm as the water is climbing higher and higher. As I watch the water climb, my mom taps me on the shoulder and tells me to run next door and get our neighbor. In my bathrobe, I run through the woods in my bare feet. I pound on the door hollering for Dewayne. "Please come quickly! Our tub is getting ready to overflow," I stutter. He grabbed his tools and ran to the waterline. He immediately shut it off. He was the man of the hour.

When I walked into the bathroom the water was skimming over the edge of the tub. He came in the house and fixed the faucet. And wouldn't you know it, I still had to wear those darned pink rollers that night for church the next day?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Slice of Life Challenge: Letter to my future self

I borrowed the idea from Stacey to write a letter to my future self. My students did the same. Not sure it is actually a slice of life, but here goes.


Dear Lynnelle,

What a day in history! It is exciting, hopeful, and awe-inspiring. Today is the inaugural of our 44th president-Our 1st African American President, Pres. Barack H. Obama. To think forty years ago, Dr. King marched on the lawn of capitol hill extolling his "dream from the American dream." He and MANY others who fought for equality were able to see a multi-racial democracy grow today. To be a witness to the sea of people, to the sea of colors-All races coming together to form a truly United States of America. How life changing one year can be for a people, for a nation, and for me.

This last year I may not have become the most powerful person in the US, but I have conquered my fears. I have stood alone and stayed strong. I have realized at 30 life isn't over because a marriage ended, but that my family still remains intact. It is not the end. I have just begun.

In 2010, I know life will be different from today, but I stand behind the ideals for my life that have kept me strong and will continue to give me the strength to be the best me.

CHERISH yesterday
LIVE today
DREAM tomorrow

Take care,

Lynnelle S.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Strategic Mini-lessons

Today students responded to a simple statement by writing their name where they felt they belonged. They had two choices: I have written at least 1 story to support each topic sentence and I am still writing stories to support each topic sentence. Yesterday's lesson was on revising so I sent the first group to continue and I will confer with them tomorrow. The second group continued working on the importance of writing specific stories to support our topic sentences. I was able to confer with all 12 of the students in the morning group. In the afternoon, I was only able to confer with six of my kids, but was able to reteach the importance of specific stories to support our topic sentences.

Tomorrow we will have a whole group lesson involving using other sources to gain examples to support our topic sentences!

Love Lucy's Units of Study. I just found out today that one of Lucy's developers is coming to our site at our professional day on Feb. 16. I am so excited. After seeing Lucy in November and in my second year of the Units of Study...I can't wait to see what other exciting things they have to offer.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Great Conferences

What a fantastic Monday! My conferences were fantastic as I visited with over half of my class. I had one other teacher come in to help, so that all who wanted to talk with a teacher today could. I really tried to keep in mind the points Ruth and Stacey made last week. I made sure that each student received what I liked best and the teaching point. Most students were still not restating their topic sentence at the end of their mini-stories. I don't believe anyone felt deflated...all kept writing even after I left.

One funny of my young ladies was writing about her favorite pet and that you can't leave them alone. Only in my classroom would you hear about a dog peeing on the carpet, but that being said...I wish you could have heard her voice in the piece and it was an essay piece. It just goes to show you can have great writing even within an essay. Genre does not matter; creating great writers matters.

Memoir Monday~Christmas Treasure Hunt

Christmastime was my favorite time of year as a child. As this Christmas was different from previous due to the divorce, I began to think about Christmases past and I remembered my favorite-Scavenger Christmas

"WAKE UP!!!" I yelled as I rushed into my brother, Brandon's room. "It's Christmas!!! And it snowed!"

Brandon hopped out of bed instead of his usual moaning and groaning and we ran into the den where Mom and Dad were waiting. We ripped open the beautifully wrapped presents and giggles and smiles were all around. Ahhh, I thought...this was a great Christmas.

Brandon and I began to help clean up the sparkly trash when I noticed two small envelopes on the tree. "Hey what is this?" I asked. I ripped it open as Brandon gently opened his. "Your first task is to get ready for a trip outside. You are going on a treasure hunt--a Christmas Hunt," I read.

Brandon and I quickly went to the coat closet to bundle up and follow our next clue. We went all around our snowy acre of land looking for our Christmas Treasure. Finally, the last clue. "What? back inside?" I exclaimed. So, back inside we went to find...our brand new bikes!!

"All right!" Brandon yelled as he scrambled onto his new bike.

"Unbelievable!" I echoed with surprise.

Sparkly. New. Smell of leather. I could already feel the wind in my face, if only it wasn't a white Christmas.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Flooding with Teachers

On Monday, my classroom will be trying something relatively new. I noticed last week there was not enough of me to go around during conferring time. They were excited about their essays and wanted to confer, but I wasn't able to get to them. So on Monday I am "flooding" my classroom with teachers for my students to confer with. Three other teachers will be coming into my room to confer with students. I have identified some that I was not able to meet with last week and those that need to meet again. We will be looking for the following

  1. Are the thesis statement and topic sentences clear and concise?
  2. Are the mini-stories supporting the topic sentences?
  3. Does each story end with a restatement of the topic sentence?
  4. What other ways do you feel you can grow your essay?
My students loved being able to talk with their writing partner and with me and I found this time was very valuable. I hated to not provide everyone an opportunity to visit with a teacher and hopefully my solution will help identify any problems they are still having with building the frame of their essays.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Big Picture Series-It's a Matter of Choice

Today Ruth discusses the importance of choice in the Writer's Workshop and I love how she describes her journey to this element of the Workshop in her room. I think all teachers struggle with choice. Such as how much choice? When I was talking with other colleagues about the aspect of choice in the WW I was keenly aware that each of us were on the same, but different journey.

I tend to allow choice within genre. For example, students choose what they want to write within the unit of study of personal narrative, essay writing, memoir, etc. However, some teachers allow not only choice of topic, but choice of genre. So, the mini-lesson of the day may or may not apply to the student, but all are expected to then apply it when they try that genre of writing.

I have not nor have I thought of this before. This absolutely amazed me because I still have not let go of somethings. Now granted 5th graders are expected to have mastered the art of essay writing by Feb. due to state mandated testing and that is probably what drives my avoidance of letting go, but I do wonder like Ruth..could I do it? Could I handle all the different genres that may be written at one time in a room of 30? What about the students who need the black and white of the writing process? Food for thought....thanks, Ruth!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Framing Our Essays

Today the students and I framed our essays for drafting. I really liked the lesson. I had the students work on the floor and it seemed easier to work with them today. Usually, I let them choose where to sit. They seemed to be focus better closer to me. At the end of my morning block a few were still struggling with the framework of boxes and bullets and I color coded the process of writing the frame and it seemed to help. My afternoon block has more writers who struggle so not only did we take it slower, but I introduced the color coded organizer before I sent them to write. I was very pleased with their thesis statements. Over all they are very simple, but I keep telling myself that it isn't about depth of the subject, but that they are authentically writing and writing on a topic they chose. Tomorrow we will begin the organization and, hopefully, composing mini-stories. I will try to remember to take a picture of the boxes and bullet frame color coded and post tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Writing Thesis Statements

As I mentioned last night, my thesis statement lesson went great! I modeled for them my process. Then as I was "touring" the room, nudging those that needed help I realized what I was missing from my thesis statement. Tonight I will use my thesis statement and make a frame for my essay.

My thesis for my personal essay

People should look at others and see only a person who has a heart and soul, not our differences.

Our class essay will be

West Intermediate is a fun school.

We will frame this together after we look at mine and then they will work on their own to frame their essay.

I have to say I am was not a fan of the essay, but I really like the way Lucy has us teaching it. I feel like it is still connecting to them instead of answering a bunch of prompts. We will work on prompt writing, but only 2 weeks before the test.

She must have liked them--she made them shiny!

Okay, I don't always laminate their work, but I thought they would want these after they left my classroom in May, but their reaction at seeing the work published and laminated was not what I expected. As my students walked out of the classroom and were able to look at everyone's words one student exclaimed to her friend, "Wow! I guess Ms. Snow really liked our words, she made them shiny!" I giggled and said, "Actually, I think they are wonderful, beautiful and well thought out." They grinned and went on to music. Sometimes it is the little things in life that we appreciate the most.

Big Picture Series: Writing Daily

From Two Writing Teachers

Figure out what gets in the way of you writing regularly. Once you figure it out, grab your agenda, lesson plan book, or PDA, and schedule 10 – 20 minutes of writing time per day for yourself. Treat this time as if it were a doctor’s appointment or a visit to a manicurist. Turn off your phone. Unplug from your email. Set aside this time to just drop everything and write.

Reflective Journal:
Some questions to answer:

  • What is standing in the way of you writing regularly?
  • How will you make sure you drop everything and write during the times you’ve blocked-off daily?

  • Wow! I have to say that I really need to do this. I have been writing at least once a week, maybe two times in addition to the writing that I do with students. I firmly believe that writing along aside of them helps them realize that you too struggle with many of the same things that they do. My problem is that my best time of day is morning and that is when I am at work. So, I should get up earlier to accomplish some mediation/writing time, but single motherhood is hard and that makes it difficult. Most of my writing takes place after I am home from work and my girls are asleep. By then I am so brain fried that I feel it is worthless. However, I am sure it is just my view of it.

    So perhaps I should allot the time right after my girls go to bed, as my personal writing time. Thanks, Stacey for the friendly reminder that as teachers of writing it is our responsibility to actually craft our own writing pieces.

    Monday, January 5, 2009

    Thesis Statements

    Tomorrow I am teaching Session 6 from Book 3 of Breathing Life Into Essays. It is a very simple lesson on narrowing your focus into a thesis statement to prepare for drafting an essay...basically asking yourself "What is it I am trying to say?"

    As I looked through my own entries for the personal essay, I wrote many meaningless entries. At the time it seemed significant, but now a few weeks later they aren't inspiring. Which I am sure some of my students will feel tomorrow. So I went back and looked at my small moment entries from earlier in the year. My last published piece with my students was about the day I found out my daughter has Down syndrome. Many entries are about my experience whether positive or negative with the community. So I tried Amy Buckner's Try 10 strategy from her book Notebook Know-How. Here goes.

    1. Don't view people by what you think you know, but what you actually know.
    2. Disability does not mean retarded.
    3. Having a child who is considered disabled changed by life in many ways.
    4. Normalcy is never achieved in our lifetime.
    5. Everyone should be treated fairly, regardless of any difference the world may or may not see.
    6. Disability does not mean impossibility.
    7. People who live with a disability are truly amazing people.
    8. Disabled is a word that can break the heart of parents, but it is a reality in many people's lives.
    9. Children living with a disability should not be mistreated.
    10. When we look at others we should look at their heart and soul.
    I keep asking myself how do I sum what I am trying to say in one sentence...#2 seems so harsh, but in reality I have had people ask me, "How retarded is she?" So that is where that came from. Each one of my thesis statements could take me in many different directions. I think really when I explain this tomorrow I should focus on the Big Picture...what do you want to tell your reader? Which direction do you want to go? I want my reader to realize that when they see my child Down syndrome should not be the first thing they see, but a beautiful 4 year old child.

    Big Picture Series: Response Day 1

    From the Two Writing Teachers


    Today take note of the body language of each student you confer with. As the conference continues are they becoming lifeless or engaged? Is their pencil itching to continue working on the page or do they begin fiddling inside their desks, looking for a pencil sharpener or an extra eraser or anything else to avoid the writing? Record your observations before moving to your next conference.

    Reflective Journal:

    What did you notice about your students’ demeanors after they had a conversation with you about their writing? If there were different reactions, what do you think
    made the difference? Consider if you taught writers or writing today. Which did you teach yesterday? How can you ensure that tomorrow (and everyday after for-the-rest-of-your-life) you will teach writers, not the writing?

    To me conferring isn't about "correcting" their writing. When I was in Dallas at a writing conference that Lucy Calkins presented she said something very profound and I heard several other teachers comment also. If the student's published piece is significantly more advanced than their entries in their notebooks you wrote the piece during the conferring session. Several of my colleagues have now been looking at Carl Andersons work and restructuring this time.

    One of things that really helps me is to think of them as a person or my own writing partner. How do I want them to feel after they leave this session? My answer...empowered as a writer. To continue to write; not give up.

    Tomorrow as I work with students on their thesis statements I plan to take note of their body language as we progress into the drafting process of a genre that makes some of them uncomfortable.

    Hopefully, when conferring with students they feel we are in this together and not the teacher pointing out all of the mistakes. This may be a good survey question to ask the kids.

    One Little Word-Class Reaction

    It was a great success!!! Not only did my students participate, but several other teachers joined after I sent the idea via email to our site. The responses from my students were amazing, "Thanks Ms. Snow for this project it really made me think about what I want to do for the year." Another student chose to do a phrase-"Be cool; stay cool"-his definition-stay calm in all situations. Oh, I wish you could have seen how proud he was of this statement. This was the first time he has ever shared with the whole class!

    Another student chose-"active." His reason was to be an active person in all places of his life.

    Wow! I was so amazed and impressed with their ability to think outside of the box. As soon as I have their finished projects laminated I will post a few.

    Sunday, January 4, 2009

    Back to School

    Back to school we go tomorrow! We are currently working on an action research project as a grade level. This is one that I am extremely excited about. We have 5 sections of LA/SS teachers at our site. 2.5 of us are taking the Lucy Calkins route for writing test prep and 2.5 of us are taking the more formal 5 paragraph song and dance routine for writing test prep. I am on the Lucy side of things and I am writing the daily lesson plans from Book 3: Breathing Life into Essays. I am using Lucy's Lessons as a guide and adding my own "isms" in it. We have been meeting weekly to discuss how it is going in the classroom. We started Dec. 1, but missed almost a week due to ice before the holidays.

    I am so excited about this process. So far the students are responding very well to the essay process. They understand that there are different genres of writing and this is a new genre. At the same we (the 2.5 using Lucy's WW) will be trying Katherine Bomer's ideas from her latest book, Writing a Life. I am very excited about the process we are trying because writing takes place daily in my classroom. However, we also have to get the students ready for a test. So, this provides them with authentic writing and test prep. So this week my students will be writing thesis statements and framing our essays. Cheers to a great writing journey!

    Saturday, January 3, 2009

    Salon Stylin'

    Ahh, the joy of going to the salon. Well at least for an adult, but when you are talking about Emma Lynne...that is a different story entirely. Evidently the thought of having her hair cut is so distressful the girl will be beat red screaming at the top of her lungs while sitting on my lap and my mom holding her face while the hairstylist cuts her hair. Needless to say we haven't been back since summer. After being two weeks home with the long haired beauty who cries and runs away when she sees the hairbrush and rubberbands, I decided Mommy had enough. After the girls went to bed last night I got online and googled kids haircuts and found a delightful salon-Kuts for Kids. I called this morning and it was a drop in and no appointment was needed. I went ahead and told them that I would be coming in and that my daughter had Down syndrome, so she would need a little extra time. No problem! Stated the young lady on the phone.

    I called Nana and she came by. She decided to take Gracie with her and Emma and I were able to go ALONE to the salon. I told her we were going to get our hair cut because we were big, pretty girls. Much to my astonishment she said Okay!

    We walked into a a very cute salon with scriptures written on the sky blue walls and very inviting toys. Emma went in said hello to the receptionist and began to play. A few minutes later it was her turn, she went right up to the hairstylist who was just as a nice as can be. She got into her "car" and drove herself to a FABULOUS haircut. She wouldn't let me take a picture of the back, but it is in a wedge. But what I loved most of all is that the hairstylist made her feel safe and there was no crying, no screaming and best of all...FRIES for all after the appointment!!!