Musings from a K-5th Reading Specialist. I encourage my students to think, speak, read, and write, with my support.
I parent two amazing young adult daughters with my husband of 28 years.

March 31, 2012

Daughter - SOLC #31

It's my 31st slice!  I (we) made it!  I (we) wrote for 31 days!
This slice is dedicated to my daughters (and my husband) who have been my cheerleaders during this challenge.  I love you!!!

 August                                 July 
     oldest                                   youngest
     athlete                                    dancer
sports watcher                          app player
           coach                             animal whisperer
early bird                               night owl
  left-brained                        right-brained 
mathematician                           writer
my favorite

It's been a great Slice of Life Challenge!
Check out Two Writing Teachers to slice all year long!

March 30, 2012

The bird feeder - SOLC #30

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We hung a bird feeder on the side of our shed years ago.  When I keep the feeder full of seed and suet cakes, we get lots of bird traffic.  It helps that we have lots of bushes at our fence line, and we live across the street from a nature sanctuary.

Mornings are my favorite time of day when we don't have to rush to work and school.  I sit at the dining room table and try to identify all the birds who stop by.  Every year we see a pair of cardinals, lots of sparrows and we've even a woodpecker or two.  In late winter, a group of birds who look like they are wearing tuxedos stop by.  My mom thinks they might be from Alaska.

My most exciting bird sighting happened last summer.  I spotted an indigo bunting.  Wow - these birds have
the most beautiful blue feathers.  I tried to snap a photo through the screen with my phone, but I was unsuccessful.  I was so excited to see this bird that I was jumping around the living room, calling out to my family.  They really thought I was nuts!  Take a look at a picture I found - wouldn't you be excited, too?

From - photo by Lang Elliot
Maybe I'm a bird brain, but I do enjoy watching all the birds at the feeder.  They are happy creatures, hopping around, vying for a spot at the feeder, waiting their turn on the shed.  Today we were able to capture these photos.  They were taken through the windows, but you get the idea.  Enjoy!

Nuttall's Woodpecker (I think)
Cardinal on the feeder, sparrows on the roof

March 29, 2012

New experiences - SOLC #29

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We arrived back in our hometown this afternoon and unloaded our bags. The girls collected 3 new college t-shirts and lots of new knowledge after our 3-day road trip to Iowa.

My oldest daughter experienced over six hours of driving - on highways, around small towns and through a hilly college campus.

My youngest daughter learned some new organizational tips from a friend who also struggles with ADHD.

I learned how to be less of a white-knuckled passenger with my student driver at the wheel.

The girls experienced their first hotel stay in a No-Moms-Allowed room.  My girls and my friend's daughter were excited and nervous about being down the hall from the moms, but they did great.

We all learned that college campuses are very unique, and there are many pros and cons to all of them.  It will be a big decision for both of them.

I wish my husband was able to go on this trip with us, but during the trip I was reminded that I married the right guy nearly 22 years ago.  He managed our construction, dealt with his work responsibilities, and even took great care of the parakeet that he wished we didn't have.

March 28, 2012

Car Conversations – SOLC #28

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My teenage daughters and I drove five and a half hours across Illinois and Iowa yesterday.  We’re on a mini road trip during spring break, looking at colleges (for the oldest) and shopping (for the youngest).  During the long hours on the road, we talked about a lot of different things. 

Making and keeping friends, especially when there are boys involved 
Does Justin Bieber listen to his early music and cringe at how young he sounds? 
Different religions and churches
Funny stories about their paternal grandmother who grew up in Iowa
Are your GPA and test scores more important than being a well-rounded student? 
Excitement about their dad’s designs for our basement
Of course, when the conversation lapsed, my youngest took over the iPod and played the role of DJ from the backseat.  We listened to everything from hip hop to pop to classic rock.  The miles go faster when you’re singing along to The Beatles, for sure!

When we’re in the car, we can talk about nearly anything without anyone feeling too uncomfortable.  There’s no eye contact, and the conversation can quickly change. 

Mrs. V was right when she commented on my blog yesterday, “Enjoy the trip with your girls. It sounds like it will be a great bonding experience.

March 27, 2012

Road trip - SOLC #27

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Today we're off to Iowa, land of hogs and corn, two big universities and many small universities.  My oldest daughter is a sophomore in high school and her younger sister is in 8th grade.  Is it too early to look at colleges?  Not when you're on spring break, you're doing home remodeling ($) and your husband has to work. 

A three-day road trip fits the bill!

Last year we went to Ann Arbor to visit the University of Michigan.  I'd always wanted to go there as a kid, but I went to school closer to home.  (GO NIU HUSKIES!)  We wandered the campus and the downtown area.  It was fun to say we'd been there, so our goal for the next year is to unofficially visit a bunch of
colleges in the Midwest, taking our time, and getting a feel for each campus.

If you ask my oldest daughter what she's looking for in a college, she would say that she'd like a big school with great football & basketball teams, lots of different majors, a cool marching band and a girls' lacrosse team.  Don't ask her what she wants to major in.  It makes her stressed - she's my child who likes to plan out everything, and she doesn't know what she's exactly interested in yet.  I'm fine with that - we have time!

If you ask my younger daughter what she's looking for in a college, she would say that she'd like to go to a small school where she can dance, design clothes, go shopping when she's bored (the reality of being broke in college hasn't sunk in), and meet lots of people.  Can you tell she's 13?  It's all about the social life!

So, today we're heading toward Iowa State University (my sister- and brother-in-law are alums) and Drake University.  Tomorrow we visit the University of Iowa, then head to my friend's in the Quad Cities for a visit.    We hope it's a fun trip!

March 26, 2012

Pampered - SOLC #26

My daughters and I tried a new nail shop today.  I usually go for one or two pedicures in a year, and they have gone once before.  The nail shop is new and shiny, with friendly people who want to grow their business.  The gentleman who gave two of us pedicures made sure we were having an excellent experience.
"Do you like your pedicure?  Is this towel too hot?  Would you like a drink?  Have you had a pedicure with the leg scrub before?  Can I show you how to adjust the massage chair?"
We talked about word of mouth advertising. He firmly believes in it.  He and his business partner (we think she's his sister or wife - she kept chiding him about his technique in their native language) were talking about how they have only been open for four weeks, but they want to be a nail shop that stands out from the rest.

They are offering a first month discount (I love a deal!) and they offer student rates.  Their pedicure is a spa pedicure, and they have bowl liners.  The owner made sure he asked our names and shared all their unique offerings with us.

Yes, there was still some quiet time to enjoy the massage chair and relax.  We walked away with excellent pedicures and freshly shaped eyebrows.  The owner offered us a pile of advertisements and cards and asked politely if we wouldn't mind telling our friends about his shop.

It was nice to be pampered in such a lovely shop with genuinely kind people.

March 25, 2012

Sunday Morning Symphony - SOLC #25

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Sunday Morning Symphony

Cardinals singing, “whoop whoop pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty

Cars whooshing, rushing

Music flowing out of neighbor’s windows

Church bells pealing – inviting, celebrating

Airplanes accelerating

Children giggling, calling out, “Watch me!”

Dogs barking, announcing joggers pounding the pavement

Dishes and silverware chiming

Parakeet chattering, answering the outside birds

Hammer banging

Fingers tapping the keys

Sunday Morning Symphony

March 24, 2012

What to do first? - SOLC #24

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It's the first Saturday of spring break, and I have a few hours of downtime this afternoon.

We survived a Friday night sleepover (zzzz?) and a morning showing of "The Hunger Games."  Now I have to decide what to do.  My options are endless!

Let's see..

  • Continue knitting mittens for my friend 
  • Clean out my office 
  • Read 2 overdue library books 
  • Fill the birdfeeder and watch the woodpeckers and cardinals feast 
  • Paint my toes 
  • Pack for our mini road trip to Iowa 
  • Surf the 'net 
  • Practice my violin 
I think I've decided to.... take a nap!  It's not on the list, but I think I need one.  It's cloudy and cool, and I'm tired.

Have a great Saturday!

March 23, 2012

Friday. Finally. -SOLC #23

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Friday. Finally. 

We released our students an hour early. I waved to all the teachers and students leaving, and then I stayed for an hour and a half past dismissal time. I hid in my room and cleared all the papers from my desk (yes, I did put some back in a neat pile). 

I put all my intervention materials away. The books that were haphazardly tossed on the shelves were lined back up, spines facing out. 

I left for spring break with just one school bag full of random papers and progress monitoring packets. I came home to a clean house, ate dinner, and planted myself in my comfy chair. 

Friday. Finally.

March 22, 2012

Lucky to be "famous" - SOLC #22

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One of my students came to our game night on his own.  The principal and his mom were fine with his solo attendance, and I offered to walk him home.  As I left the building, I told the other adults I didn't have my badge.   I promised to be back in just a few minutes.

The one block walk turned into a 10 minute walk (I'm not built for speed!).  When I returned to school, I saw one car in the parking lot - our night custodian's truck.  Hmmmm.  I tried the front door, and it was open.  I stepped into the vestibule and tried the interior doors (all four of them).

I was locked out.  Oh boy.

I peeked in all the windows with lights inside.  No sign of our custodian.  I knocked on all the doors.  No answer.  I could see his vacuum in one hallway, and his cart in another.  He likes to listen to music (but not too loud) through his earbuds as he works.  I banged on the windows.  Loudly.

I was still locked out.

As I rounded the school, I heard a voice from the playground, "Hey, Mrs. R!  Whatcha doin?"
I called back to the first grader, "Well - I got locked out of the school!"
"Oh, what will you do now?" she asked.
"I'm trying to figure that out!" I replied with a smile.

As I stood on the playground, watching the sun fall lower in the sky, I saw a 5th grader and asked if he had a phone.  His little sister came running up to me.  I think she's in kindergarten.  I couldn't remember her name, but she knew me.

"Mrs. R!" she squealed.  "I saw you on the TV today at school.  Come to our house.  My dad has a phone!"
My luck had changed!  I'm glad I'm recognizable, even on a dark playground!

Their dad was walking from their house on the edge of the playground towards the kids.  They caught up with him first.  They started explaining my situation.  He welcomed me to their home to make a call.  I called my husband and asked him to pick me up.  My husband chuckled and agreed to come fetch me.

Their dad was very kind and offered to wait with me outside of the school.  I declined and continued to profusely thank him for his kindness.  I returned to school and checked the door.  Our night custodian was coming to lock the outside doors.  He was more than surprised to see me at the door!

I canceled my husband's ride, and our custodian wrote down the school cell phone number.  We laughed at my starring role in the school surveillance video.  I headed home to put my feet up!

March 21, 2012

Game Night (small scale) - SOLC #21

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My co-Title I teacher and I hosted a small game night for students in 3rd-5th grade who get extra support in reading.  Our first idea of game night was to send home games with every family who attended.  We'd show them how to play and then they would take the games home.  Our district coordinator thought that it would be wiser to purchase a bunch of games, then have a lending library.  That way our budget would work, and we could share the experiences with more families.

We had 10 families attend tonight's event. We taught the group how to play Basta! (think Scattergories) and gave them a make-and-take bag with letters, categories, a 3-minute timer, golf pencils, and lots of paper.  While different home languages were spoken by these families, we were able to communicate how to play and keep score.

The other games we purchased were Boggle, Apples to Apples Junior, and Bananagrams (in English and Spanish).  We loaned out nearly all the games tonight as the families were leaving.  The biggest hit?  Apples to Apples Junior.  They love that someone gets to be the judge and there's really no wrong answers.  Every answer is considered, and they are learning some great vocabulary.

Even though it was on the small scale, I think we made a big impact.  The families had personal attention from our principal and assistant principal, two teacher assistants, and two reading teachers.  We sat and played with the families and shared laughter and excitement.  It was time well spent.

March 20, 2012

Celebrate Reading Week - SOLC #20

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My friend, Michelle, and I are the committee for Read Across America at our school.  It's not that we don't want or need help, but we usually forget about the celebration until the week before.  Thankfully, we have many understanding coworkers (including Lynn!) who help us and/or go along with nearly every activity and crazy idea we offer.

We usually wait to celebrate until the week preceding spring break, as our state tests are the first two weeks of March, so we change the name to Celebrate Reading Week.  Over the past 9 years, we done lots of activities and skits on the school television broadcast, and each year we come up with better ideas than the year before.  This week we've only celebrated for 2 days now, but the students are really enjoying what we've done so far.

Monday:  We started the morning broadcast by showing the Gotta Keep Reading clip.  Even though it features a middle school, our elementary kids were singing along by the end.

Tuesday:  Today we asked students to share book recommendations by hanging a sticky note on a poster either in their room, by the principal's office, or near a resource room.  One third grade student made sure he stopped by my room twice today - once to tell me he was going to recommend his favorite book to me, and then to place the recommendation on my poster.  He seriously wanted me to read this book!

For the next three days, we're going to ask all our students and staff to decorate an index card with a colorful "READ" or "LEER" to hang all over the library window.  We'll caption that display, "500 ways to become a better reader!"  (As seen on Pinterest - still looking for a link)  We will also bring back our reading mascot, Fred the fish, to remind kids and teachers to enjoy Free Reading Every Day.  Finally, we'll ask students and staff to ask their family to snap a picture of them reading over spring break.  This will go up in another display case called, "Where will we catch you reading?"

Whew!  It's been a busy week and it's only Tuesday!  Gotta keep reading!!

Chris & Michelle - circa 2008

March 19, 2012

Heat Wave - SOLC #19

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I had a terrible time sleeping last night.  It was 80 degrees here in Illinois.  I really hate to turn on the AC when the air outside starts to cool, so I had the whole house fan going instead.  I tried desperately to find ways to bring the cooler air into our house, but I had no luck.

My husband tried to explain that the best way to get the air into the house was to create a vacuum - only open the windows a tiny bit in a few rooms.  I couldn't believe this would work, so of course I had a few windows wide open and even opened a few doors.

The house was still hot.

"Give up.  Turn on the AC," he said.
"It's March,"  I replied.  "Besides, it's cool outside.  It will cool off inside soon!"

It never did.

2:34 a.m.
I'm lying on top of the sheets, blankets thrown off.  I'm really crabby when I'm hot.  I opened the door to the backyard.  Cool air outside, but nothing coming in.  I still don't turn the AC on.  I think about sleeping outside, but I roll over and manage to fall asleep.

6:30 a.m.
I crawl out of bed.  The air is thick with humidity.

"Turn on the AC,"  my husband says.  (I'm surprised he doesn't add, "I told you so!")

I switch the AC on.  The condenser roars to life.  The house starts to cool.  Maybe I'll sleep tonight!

March 18, 2012

Creaky knees - SOLC #18

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Creeeeakkk... crack.... POP!
When I walk upstairs
My knees like to complain
About how much
I trudge up and down.

I never thought that my joints
Could feel so crispy and crunchy
At the ripe old age
of 42 and one half.

Bad knees run in my family
I try to fight the possibility
Will I need new ones
or can I make
my originals last?

For now I just keep
w a l k i n g
Hoping my attempts
at more exercise
will help my
worn out

March 17, 2012

Orchestra practice mirrors literacy block - SOLC #17

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I was very late to community orchestra on Monday night.  I went to the auditorium and found a sign that directed me to the music classroom.  When I finally arrived, the orchestra was already running through the first movement of Beethoven's 5th symphony.  I quickly pulled out my violin, only to find two strings loose and the other two dreadfully out of tune.  I stayed in the hallway, trying to tune quickly and quietly.

I waited for a pause, then started to walk into the room.  I realized my seat was nearly impossible to get to without bothering many people, as the room was so crammed.  Our conductor is serious yet kind, but I could feel his eyes boring through my head as I tried to quickly and carefully get to my seat.

My stand partner smiled as I sat down, and we started playing the 2nd movement of the piece.  It was a bit of a rocky start, as this movement isn't as well-known as the first.  The conductor stopped.  He reminded us that, in this age of technology, there was no excuse for anyone in the room not to be familiar with the music in front of us.  Many recordings are available, and it was our job to be prepared when we sat down at rehearsal.  He wasn't pleased at our first attempt.

My mind instantly flashed to my developing readers.  How many times have they been the last one in the room, not prepared for class, trying to slide in without being seen?  How often have we told them, "You must practice reading when you're at home!"  How many times have they heard, "You should already know how to do this!"

I was thinking of how frustrated my conductor could be, on a weekly basis, with the variety of people in front of him.  Our ages range from 18 to 75, and we have varying levels of musical ability.  Some of the orchestra members are music teachers, some are full-time musicians, and the rest of us play as a hobby.  Does he become angry each week when we can't play the music at 100% perfection?  No.  He may express  frustration at times (especially when he's explained something and we don't try to fix it), but as a rule, he is an excellent instructor.  He's good at making jokes when there is tension, and when he wants a specific bowing technique to be used, he will name the technique (I don't know most of them!) and then he will demonstrate, giving specific feedback.

I wonder how may teachers could learn from a conductor, especially mine.

March 16, 2012

To Do Lists - SOLC #16

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I made three to-do lists today.  One on my desk, one in my day planner (an oxymoron when you're me!) and one in my car. I'm a big fan of random lists on left in many places.

How many things did I get to cross off?  None.

I'm a compulsive list maker, and I'm excellent at writing things down.
I'm terrible at doing what I've listed.

I can remember the dry cleaners once in a while (thank you, pink receipt) and the library books floating around my car eventually make it back (this week I owe $ for late books).

The lists I always forget are the lists of items I want to bring to school to add to my students' schema.  These lists reflect what we're reading and learning about, and I've had some unusual items listed lately.

Yesterday's list, which I left on my desk, included the following:

  • piece of tree branch showing rings
  • pinecone
  • Life Magazine - moon landing
  • Natalie Merchant CD
Well look at that.  I remembered my list from yesterday!  If I can just focus for five minutes, I might be able to collect a few of these items.  Wouldn't that be something!

March 15, 2012

"Is this a book theater?" - SOLC #15

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I am the lucky teacher to host First Grade Reading Club in my room during lunchtime twice a week.  While the six students eat their lunch, I read aloud a book or two and engage them in conversation.  Then we then work on readers' theater scripts, word work, fluency phrases and/or writing & drawing about a story we read.  I try to keep their minds engaged with lots of different activities because -- let's face it -- first graders have teeny, tiny attention spans.  Especially when they should be out at recess!

During one club meeting, a student asked if I could play them a video on my computer. He wanted to hear some music while he ate.

I remembered the link to TumbleBooks on our public library's website.  "How about I show you a really great book?" I asked

I  set my laptop on top of my stacked rolling carts.  We agreed on Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (I LOVE this book!).  I turned on my desk lamp for a bit of background light, pressed play on the TumbleBook and shut off the room lights.

"Ooooooohhhhhhh!" said the first graders.

"Is this a book theater?" exclaimed J.  "All we're missing is the popcorn!"

March 14, 2012

How I Met Your Father - SOLC #14

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Dear daughters,

Beware the 13-year-old boy who knocks books out of your hands and run circles around you on your way to class.  Beware of the boy you want to shove into his locker, especially because he can fit inside!

One day you might marry him!

I met my husband, Jeff, in 7th grade.  He popped into my language arts class to bother his sister, my friend.  He decided that I was someone he should bother, too.  Jeff and his buddy Jeff (two times the trouble!) had all kinds of free hallway time before they had to report for chorus down the hall.  I had never found anyone to be so annoying (but kinda cute!) in my life.

Flash forward four years later to junior year of high school.  Jeff socializes in my large circle of friends.  I have a puppy love crush on a boy from another school.  When I'm snubbed for the last time, I finally give up on the other boy.  It's now the summer before senior year.  

I'm running errands with my mom, and the subject of dating (!?) awkwardly comes up.  "Yeah," I mumble.  "I could see myself going out with a couple of the guys in my group, like Jeff, but no one's asked me."

3rd of July, 1986
The phone rings.  It's Jeff.
"Hey, a bunch of us are going to watch the fireworks tomorrow.  Do you want to come?"
"Sorry," I tell him.  "I already have plans for that day."
"That's okay," says Jeff.  "Let's go see a movie next week."

Beware of the boy you want to shove into his locker.  One day you might marry him!

March 13, 2012

Remodeling - SOLC #13

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Remodeling is a work in progress
Contractors come and go
Dust covers every surface
It travels through the air

Gypsum dust
Concrete dust

Walls coming down, being rebuilt
A ceiling finally covers the room
Paint, flooring, cabinets next
Remodeling is a dusty, messy, crazy
Design coming to life

March 12, 2012

Chocolate Chips - SOLC #12

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Two Writing Teachers

Oh, yes, ladies and gentlemen.  It's Monday.  The least favorite day of the week, if you're me.

Let's forget it's Monday and talk about....
Chocolate Chips
Chocolate chips are the best food on the entire planet.  (I dare you to argue with me!)  They are small, sweet little smooches with an adorable tiny top.  They are made by some of the finest chocolate companies on earth - Ghirardelli, Nestle, Hershey.  You can store hide them in the freezer or in the cabinet - whatever's most convenient for a quick hit.

When you need just a bit of chocolate love, chocolate chips are there for you.  They come in a variety of chocolate styles - milk, semi sweet, mint and white chocolate (which I've heard really isn't chocolate, but let's not be picky!)

My favorite chocolate chip story was told at my husband's Grandma Jane's funeral.  She taught 5th grade for many, many years, and she was a chocolate chip connoisseur, like myself.  During one holiday visit to my husband's house, Grandma Jane walked downstairs to have breakfast.  The kids were quick to ask her about the brown smear at the corner of her mouth.  She distracted them as she found a napkin and quickly cleaned her face.  As the kids grew older, they learned that Grandma Jane had a habit of carrying a handful of chocolate chips to bed with her at night, and sometimes she fell asleep eating them.

Ahhh, chocolate chips are little pieces of heaven!

March 11, 2012

A Visit to the Farm - SOLC #11

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I'm lucky to have a historical farm across the road from my neighborhood. I've always enjoyed the programs run by the park district, as well as just having a quiet place to wander around.  After my morning walk around the neighborhood (hooray - 3rd week in a row!), my 13-year-old daughter A expressed interest in walking over to the farm to see the animals. Even though my knees screamed, "No!" in response to another walk, I took advantage of a positive interaction with my teenager, and I agreed to go.

We started by visiting the chicken area. Roosters, hens and some caramel-white ducks were waddling, clucking or attempting to sleep. We had to laugh when one of the chickens hopped over the fence to waddle at our feet. I guess he thought it was feeding time. When we didn't offer any feed, he hopped over to a bench and used it to launch himself back into the pen.

A fawn and white runner duck
Next we visited the cows and steer (yes, I recently learned that only the girls are cows). Our favorite steer, Otto, was sleeping on his side in the mud. My daughter was vey concerned that something was wrong with him - we've never seen any cow sleep on its side. Of course, as our concern grew, he moved back to a traditional resting position. We felt better that the steer we had met years ago, when he was a mere three months old, now looked fine.

Finally we walked to the far side of the barn and stood at the fence across from the draft horses' stall. A made kissing noises and called sweetly to the horses. One popped his head out, then walked right out the door and over to the fence, nudging her shirt with his runny nose.

"Aha!" A exclaimed, "I'm a horse whisperer!" As she pet the horse's nose, a large family with small children approached. The horse saw them coming and backed up away from the fence. His fellow draft horse came out of the barn, but neither put their heads over the fence.

We returned home with smiles on our faces. We laughed about the horse, sharing the story with my husband and A's older sister. I'm glad I took the time to visit the farm.

March 10, 2012

Book "Collectors" SOLC #10

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I have a few book collectors this year.  These are the students who check out books from my library and aren't the best at returning them so other students can have a turn.

Now, I should remind you (and myself) about the title of this blog ... Reading Amid the Chaos.  Yes, I have the   resource room library that is a mish-mosh of books, magazines and graphic novels.  I have only sorted books by fiction/non-fiction, AR vs. not AR (I'm sorry - my kids begged me... that's a whole other post).  I haven't taken the time or bought the supplies to properly sort out the books to make them kid friendly, and grouped by topics or authors.  I'm hoping to do this sooner versus later.  

I also have a terrible check out system:  none.  <Sigh>

So, my dilemma is now how to get books back from the students who have them at home.  I do realize that they have similar organizational challenges that I face.  I'm thinking that if I hand each of them a canvas shopping bag with a cute note stapled to it, I might recoup some of the books.  I'm also thinking of giving each student a friendly call that evening to remind them to fill up the bag.  Wish me luck!

I've been teaching nearly 10 years now.  I've learned that the more proactive you are, the less reactive you have to be, but I'm still not very good at it!

March 9, 2012

Sharing Slices - SOLC #9

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It's been two weekend days and three long days of testing since I last saw my 5th grade group.  You know, the ones who "signed up" to join me in writing each day in March.

I'm excited to say that two of the four students have written EVERY DAY since March started.  When one left her notebook at school, she found paper and wrote her slices there.  The two other students said they've written a few days, but their notebook was at home.  I assured all of them that it was optional to be part of the challenge - it was great if they wrote, it was fine if they didn't.... no pressure!

I showed the group a few of the comments I've received on my writing (thanks, everyone!), and I asked the two EVERY DAY writers if they wanted to share their writing with each other.  I invited them to sit on the rug and have a conversation about their writing.

They did just that.  They sat for a good 10 minutes, reading slices to each other and having a conversation.

I'm sorry that I wasn't sitting next to them.  I'm sorry I missed it, but I know that conversation will inspire these students to keep on writing -- even when it gets tough -- for 22 more days!

Happy writing to all, and thank you so much for your encouraging comments!  I appreciate them!

March 8, 2012

Eight is Great - SOLC #8

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Hooray for number 8!

It's one of my favorite numbers for many reasons...

* I love to watch ice skaters gracefully shape this magical shape

* It's the subject of a cute elementary joke, 
What did zero say to eight?
Nice belt!

* 8 looks like a snowman, especially when I draw it with my loopy handwriting.

* You can easily make 8 with 4 fingers on each hand.

* My birthday is on the 8th of September, just like the poet, Jack Prelutsky.
Woo hoo! It's my half birthday today!

* It's the subject of a Beatles song with a catchy tune ("Eight Days a Week")

* Eight rhymes with lots of words with lots of different spellings.... freight, late, great, state, trait.

Hooray for number 8!

March 7, 2012

Stress Relief - SOLC #7

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How do you spell relief?  (Remember the old commercial? Maybe I'm showing my age!)

I spell it D-I-N-N-E-R with F-R-I-E-N-D-S.

I went out with two fellow teachers tonight.  We were celebrating the end of our official state testing times, but in reality, we needed social time.

We started with venting about students and parents.   Before you ask, we went to a restaurant far from school and asked for a corner table!  (Can't be too careful!)

Our conversation morphed into our goals, dreams and our families, past and present.  We laughed.  We ranted. We smiled.  We laughed some more.

I left the restaurant feeling lighter than I have in weeks.  I recommend everyone take time this week to catch up with a friend or a few friends - you'll definitely feel better!

March 6, 2012

Routines - SOLC #6

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I think my thirteen-year-old daughter needs a morning routine.  Our mornings are a bit rough, to say the least.  I'm sprouting new gray hair each day.

We've tried lots of different options over the 9 years she's been attending school.  Nothing works.  She's really hard to motivate and get up in the morning.  We've tried the radio, buzzing alarms, and pulling her out of bed.  This year I spent $80 on a light that gets brighter over 30 minutes and sounds like birds chirping.

She still has to be coaxed, coerced and/or dragged from her bed each weekday.
(Guess who gets up early on her own on the weekend?)

Here's how our mornings have sounded lately:
Me:  "Good morning, A!  It sounds like an enchanted forest in here!  Time to get rolling!"
A:  Grrrrrrrrrrrr!

5 minutes later

Me:  "I already asked you to get out of bed.  It's time to get up.  Let's go!"
A:  Mmmmmppppffffff!

5 minutes later

Me:  "It's time to get UP!  I now have your PHONE in my HAND.  You will GET UP NOW or the phone is GONE for 24 hours!"
A now slides out of her bed, grumbling, and walks to the bathroom.

Hmmm.... now that I've put this in print, I believe we already have a routine.  I think someone has me trained!

Me:  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

March 4, 2012

Yes, we can? SOLC #5

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We're starting to take the state test today.
I just can't bring myself to say, "Hip, hip, hooray!"
I worry that my students who look
To me for help in finding a book
Will find themselves drowning in a sea of text
And think they're under some terrible hex.


I think I'll start the day with a big smile and cheer,
Telling them, "Good to see you!  I'm so glad that you're here!
You've worked hard to learn, to think and you've grown
As readers, so show us all the knowledge you know!"

Wishing all teachers a calm, positive state testing season! 
When your students do well, check the mirror... 
you're one of the reasons!
From United Feature Syndicate

Outside! SOLC #4

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It's still winter here in northern Illinois, but yesterday I had to get outside for a walk.  We have a moderately hilly neighborhood and a walking path through a nature area, so I can vary my route each time I walk.

As I trudged up the first hill, against the 22 degree, 10 mph winds, I tried to figure out why I didn't take more walks this winter. (Yes, I was being a bit sarcastic with myself!)

We didn't have much snowfall, so the sidewalks were clear.
The temperature rarely got below 20.
I have lots of cold-weather wear:  scarves, hats, mittens.
It's winter. I decided to stay inside.  It was easier!

AHA!  I caught myself!

Today I'm hoping to get outside for another walk, even though it's windy, snowing, and the sky is really gray.  After my quick (it was COLD!) walk yesterday I realized that I like being outside.  I need to get outside.

Now that we are in March, and the First Day of Spring is actually listed on the calendar, I can't wait to get outside and enjoy a walk!

March 3, 2012

Good Night's Sleep? SOLC #3

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11:12 p.m.
I crawl into bed
with my copy of Wonder.
Eyes so heavy, I read only 5 pages
Before my soft pillowcase encases my drowsy head.
I fall into a dreamless, heavy sleep.

2:17 a.m.
My husband's cell rings.
After I peel myself off the ceiling,
I demand to talk to the caller.
"Nuh-uh," he grunts.  "It's work."
The phone is turned off.
I roll over.

Crazy dreams ensue:
Trucks, bugs, laughing kids, 
Friends, driving, bathtubs.

6:34 a.m.
I crack one eye open and look at the clock.
I roll over.
I fall into a
Heavy, dreamless sleep.

9:23 a.m.
Huh?  What time is it?
I should get up, I'm hungry.

Lesson learned:  don't eat brownies at bedtime!

March 2, 2012

Generating Ideas - SOLC #2

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When my four 5th grade students walked in the door March 1st, I presented them with an empty March calendar and a plea, "I signed up for the Slice of Life writing challenge.  I need your help!"

When my students heard the word writing, I think I saw two of them cringe.  Then they started asking questions.   I explained that my fellow reading teacher had talked me into writing every day, for 31 days

“Oh yeah,” said student A, “she LOVES to write.” Then she walked over to the white board, wrote Signup, and wrote her name underneath.  “Who else wants to sign up to write every day?”

Wow.  I think A already knows she’s a writer, and she’s definitely one who will enjoy the challenge! Wait!  Did she just volunteer to write every day? Wow.

For the rest of our 40 minutes together, the three girls worked on filling out their own writing calendars.  K started jotting ideas.  C filled in nearly every day (except for spring break; she’s leaving that open).  A wrote an idea in each box.  J gave lots of ideas, but he didn’t fill out a calendar.  He was more interested in giving me an idea for each and every day of March.

Here’s my completed idea calendar.  I’m considering writing about the ideas they gave me on the random days I noted them.

Our conversation turned to writing, then notebooks.  I showed them my empty Moleskine notebook that I picked at the store years ago to write in.  They decided that they would like little blue notebooks, too.

Perhaps I have four more writers participating in the Slice of Life Challenge with me!

March 1, 2012

First Slice in the Challenge - #Slice2012

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So... it's my first SLICE of the Slice of Life Challenge 2012.  Whoa.  I'm feeling a bit of pressure because it's the first time I'm trying the challenge.


Then I realized... writing doesn't have to be hard.  It's just a matter of putting thoughts on paper.  Easy, right?


I'm going to get my intermediate students (specifically my very verbal 5th graders) to help me out.  Tomorrow they will help me generate a list of topics I can and/or should write about.

I can only imagine the ideas they will have because I will be the person doing the writing, not them.

They will love the power.  They love to have their ideas heard.

Will they feel the urge to write as well?  Should I challenge them to try?
Will they take a leap, like me?

We shall see!