Friday, February 27, 2009

Slice of Life Challenge Winner

My students who participate everyday in the Slice of Life challenge will be entered in a drawing to win a handmade notebook from an Etsy designer. They are adorable and so affordable. If you would like to order one go to Kitt's Krafts. I posted the sign below today after I made the announcement to my class.
SOLC Winner


Poetry is one of my favorite genres to teach. I use poems all year long in my reading curriculum. We wrote "Where I'm From..." poems the week before George Ella Lyon visited. Today we studies Antwone Fisher's poems. Many of his poems repeat phrases or words. We talked about the significance in why writers choose to do this. Students then went to their map of their heart to pick out a topic that was meaningful to them that they knew they could write about. One student dictated to me and I am once again amazed at my writers. They do truly listen to their hearts.

After visiting with my writers as they began drafting their poems, I have my mini-lessons for next week: stanza form, use of white space, poem layout. I hoping to have these published by student led conferences.


Monday morning I plan on surprising four of my students with matchbox notebooks. Students who wrote on Sunday will have an opportunity to win one of these. I had fun making them. I used the matchbox template at Mirkwood Designs. They were so easy to make!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Excitement with a slice

My students are ecstatic about our Slice of Life challenge, this morning as I read my slice of life about the student who called my house the excitement about what a slice is rippled through the room.

"So really what your asking us is to write about a small moment that happened today?" a student asked.

"Yes," I replied, "in fact I have another slice I can share with you and it is in a form of a poem."

I shared my poem from the day of the writing test. Silence was all I heard after I finished. Of course, this is when my stomach does a little twirl because I am a writer and I am sharing a piece of my heart.

"Wow, I love the words you used. You are a writer too...just like us"

Priceless moment.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gearing Up for SOLC

Today was W-Day. The state mandated writing test for all 5th graders. Prompt was good. The kids wrote long and strong. Now we can all breathe. As the students opened their booklets this morning and then began to plan their essay it seemed as if they all let out a collective sigh about 3 minutes in~"We are writers" they seemed to say. This has been my mantra for them. So I wrote this..

Journey of a Writer

pencils scribbling
we are writers
eraser flecks
we are writers
pages rustling
we are writers
minds engaging
we are writers




Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Slice of Life Challenge

As I busily prepared the girls for bed the phone rang, “Hello?” I asked. I quickly put Emma in her pajamas as I continued my conversation with my friend. While talking with her someone called. Hopefully they will leave a message I thought. A few moments later as I hung up the phone I realized I had a message. The message was from a parent of a child in my classroom. I picked up the phone and dialed.

“Hello, Ms Snow,” my student said, “My mom is not conferring with me like you, so we decided to see if you could help me.”

We discussed the problem he was having in his piece and decided that the stopping point was a good one and he could resume in the morning with me. I hung up the phone, put the girls to bed, propped up my feet, and turned on my favorite show. About an hour later the phone rang again, it startled me. I looked at the clock and quickly answered the phone.

“Ms. Snow, I need to talk to you about the green comet,” the student said.

“Okay, what’s going on?” I asked.

Suddenly I heard a woman ask, “Who are you talking to? You DID NOT call your teacher did you?”

“Yes,” he replied softly, “I needed to tell her something.”

“Tell her goodbye and hang up NOW!” I heard her say quite forcefully.

“See you tomorrow,” he said as he clicked the phone.

I giggled and hung up the phone. I love being a teacher.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Memoir Monday~River Rafting

“Come on!” exclaimed Brandon. “You’re on vacation! You’ve got to do this!”

“It is fun, Lynnelle,” my mother commented.

“Okay! Let’s go!” I replied.

We changed into our swimsuits and loaded the raft into the bed of our truck. We were off! We unloaded at the dam and walked down the tiny trail to the loading area.

Brandon began to explain to me how to get into the raft when I just “gracefully” rolled in. He laughed and jumped into the raft.

The moment we arrived in the middle of the river I noticed the silence. It seemed almost deafening. As we continued the birds sang and locusts buzzed. I could hear the water rippling around the edges of the boat. Suddenly, I hear water rapidly moving over rocks. Our raft dips and cold water splashes over my side of the boat. Then the deafening silence returns.

Brandon and I were just enjoying the quiet and nature sounds, when we felt this heat as if an oven had suddenly turned on. I looked and I could see “wind” coming. Our raft whipped around as dust flew across the river. Then just as the heat suddenly arrived, it was gone. We were once again left with our thoughts and nature.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Slice of Life Challenge~Birthday 2009

What a dreary day I thought to myself as I pulled into the parking lot. Another rainy Monday...UGH! I picked up my school bag and purse and rushed into the school trying not to get soaked while balancing the umbrella and all my work from the weekend. I looked at the clock. 7:18 AM. I quickly went into teacher mode. Put lunch in freezer, check mailbox, unlock door. As I walked into my room, my team partner yelled, "Happy Birthday!" "Thanks," I replied and thought I can't believe I am 31.

I turned on my computer and a small voice said, "Good morning, Ms. Snow!" I looked up to see a young man in my first block holding purple flowers. "Happy Birthday," he said as he laid them on my desk. How sweet I thought as I thanked Sheldon. It's amazing how a few flowers can brighten up a classroom.

This was just the beginning of the flower parade. Roses, tulips, mums, artistic renditions of flowers...all for me. I felt so loved and the kids brightened up my rainy day birthday.

Later, as we began our writing circle sharing time, one of my students exclaimed, "I know what I am writing about. Yesterday at church I saw Ms. Snow and I was the first person to wish her a happy birthday on her actual birthday, " I giggled and explained that it was true. Then he added, "You know what else guys. She really does take that writer's notebook with her everywhere...she had it at church!"

This had me in stitches! I was now laughing and giggling when I thought it was just going to be an icky, dreary day! Thank you class!!

Brain Overload

Today our school had an opportunity to listen to Constance Foland a literacy consultant in New York and New Jersey schools. It was magnificent. Invigorating. Listening to her, I felt as if I needed to holler "amen!" every now and then. It was extremely affirming that the practices I have implemented in the last 4 years are exactly what is best for kids. However, I also left with ways to improve upon my current workshop practices. I loved the conferring and assessing session. I feel this is my area of weakness even though it has improved from last year. I love that we were able to look at a piece of real text by children authors and discuss what we would do if we were conferring with the writer. It created insight and the realization that even as teachers we see the piece through different lenses. I began to wonder do I only use one lens or do I make sure the way I look at my student's work is balanced? I left with Ponderings...when you leave with these you know it was a good professional development day

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Memoir Monday~Solo Entrance

The sounds of the orchestra echoed in the church as Dr. Alexander moved his arms majestically. As he directed the orchestra and the choir, the sounds of Handel’s Messiah flowed in and out like waves on the ocean. It was time for the sopranos to make their grand entrance on “Gloria.” I opened my mouth, took a deep breath and sang the high G with all my might! Oh, no! I can’t believe I miscounted and came in 2 measures too early. As I looked around at the sea of sopranos, the horror on their faces was echoed on mine. I could feel the heat rise from the bottoms of my feet to the tip of my ears, but that didn’t compare to the icy stare of the conductor. I can’t believe I missed an entrance in front of these people. Hopefully, no one will notice.
After the performance, my friend Nathan came up to me and said with a wink, “Hey Lynnelle, nice solo!” I tried to laugh it off, but deep down I was dying of embarrassment of my not so grand moment.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Slice of Life Challenge~Tulips

As I gaze at the tulip I am reminded of my journey to Holland. This journey is somewhat like the seasons where you go through the dreary difficult winter days only to be surprised by the beautiful daffodils and tulips that arrive just as Spring begins and everything becomes new again. I will admit that I am not a fan of the cold, dreary winters, and when I see the bloom of the smiling tulip my heart is lifted for I know what comes next. The smell of fresh cut grass, the way the sky looks brilliantly blue after a night of Oklahoma thunder storms, and the looks on my children’s faces as they swing high into the air. My journey in Holland has made life move at a little smaller pace, but I think that allows me to stop and remind myself that life doesn’t have to be fast as if I were running a race, but to live life at my pace. Tulips…a simple flower, but has so many meanings for me.

PS I took the picture this afternoon with my new Digital Rebel..not bad for a newbie!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Memoir Monday~The News

**This piece was written with my students and revised with them as we began our journey to "revising to be better writers" series.**

Dr. Saddiqui and his messengers entered my room quietly. He came over to me. “I’m sorry, but we believe your daughter has Down syndrome,” he stated. “We are performing genetic testing and will have the results by Friday,” he continued. As the entourage left the room my mind swarmed with many confusing, racing thoughts. This isn’t happening. This can’t be happening! Not my daughter! This only happens to other people! My silent room was filled with emotional chaos. Outside my room the buzzing of the nurses continued, while the doctor’s voice echoed in my ears. I kept replaying the scene: genetic testing, no eye contact from the doctor, and I knew he was right. Emma had Down syndrome. Tears flowed down my cheeks in furious streaks and my temper flared!

“There is nothing wrong with Emma! How can they even think that? I exploded. I could feel the protective instinct envelop my child even though I had only been a mother for 24 hours.

How can this be happening? How can I possibly wait 3 days to find out? What do I do? Well, I waited. I prayed. I visited my tiny baby. And I waited.

On Friday, the hospital social worker called and asked us to come up to the conference room. My heart was thumping in my chest as I walked into the elevator and then into the room. On the table sat a box of tissues. My heart sank. I gasped. My heart began to break into tiny pieces. My sobs could be heard own the hall.

“Shh…you don’t even know the results,” said the social worker.

I wanted to scream what!!! This is my child we’re talking about! Instead I quietly replied, “True, but I don’t believe the news is what we want to hear.” I pointed to the tissue box and sat down.

A rush of activity caught my attention. Dr. Saddiqui entered the room with an unfamiliar doctor. She was very animated and it was obvious she was talking about my daughter. She turned and smiled at us. Then it seemed the whole world came crashing down around me. While I tried to stop my sobs and tears, Dr. Moghadan tried to explain what it meant when she told us Emma had Mosaic Down syndrome. But, it seemed that someone had pressed the mute button. I could not speak; I could not hear her words. My mind was rushing with many different thoughts. Will she be “normal?” Will she fall in love? Will she walk or talk?

Dr. Moghadan’s words changed me. I was no longer a “new parent,” but a parent of a special needs child. Not only did her words change me, but they changed others. People went from saying, “Congratulations” to “I’m sorry,” as if someone had died.

However, I learned a lot about my self that day. I would gladly sacrifice my life to prevent my child from being hurt. Now four years later, I see and experience the love of my daughter~who does talk, who does walk, and “woves” me.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Goals In Writing

This week my students celebrated their first essays and then we spent time reflecting (thank you Stacey!) the work that was published. Next, my students completed a writing quadrant adapted from Ralph Fletcher's book The Writing Workshop: The Essential Guide. It was fantastic. Students were able to then come up with a class goal and then derived their personal goal from the class goal. This was teacher facilitated, but their ideas.

Class Goal:

Plan: By March 2009 we hope to master pushing our thinking forward, write using great detail in our mini-stories, using transitions, write interesting introductions, and good conclusions in our essays.

Study: Read rich literature, write many different essays, revise, get feedback from writing partner and teacher

Do: Reread/revise essays, study other peer's essays, work daily with writing partner, confer effectively with our teacher

Act: (we will reexamine where we are on March 1, 2009) Did I accomplish my goal? If yes, rewrite a goal for the rest of the year. If no, what occurred that kept you from accomplishing your goal? Rewrite Study and Do and attempt again. :-)

This form really keeps the students focused on the goal at hand. Writing the PDSA was easy because of the quadrant. If you would like a copy of the PDSA or Writing Quadrant, please leave a comment with your email address and I will send it to you.

After the class writes the class goal, each student picks one of the areas from the class goal to own and to focus on. I have seen tremendous improvement with their udnerstanding of where they need to improve since trying the PDSA two years ago.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Prompt Writing

My students have completed their genre study of essays and today I introduced how we write to a prompt. Thursday I watched my wonderful principal teach a lesson derived from Chapter 9 of Writing a Life by Katherine Bomer. I had tried this lesson about two weeks ago and it didn't really fly or maybe I rushed it. I tried it again with my morning group and got the same reaction she did the previous day. So now my students understand and know what do to if on the day of the writing test they are stuck. They have LOTS of pieces from their notebooks to choose from. I believe the key to trying Bomer's method is too hook them a highly engaging piece that the teacher wrote. I used a humerous one as my hook. Then I took a piece I had written with them and showed them how that would also work. Then they came up with prompts to try and 'stump' me. Everytime I could make it work. I highly recommend reading this book and trying this method if your state assesses writing.