Poetry Friday: Winter Cinquain

Today’s #PoetryFriday is hosted by Sally Murphy

Here in Montana winter takes on many different appearances. From picturesque snow covered mountains to stepping out your back door into several inches of snow waiting to be swept off cars and shoveled off porches and driveways. There is beauty in winter, and there is a fair share of sheer endurance as well. For those of us who are native Montanans, we take the months of longer days filled with more inversion-driven cloud cover than sunny skies in stride.

Yesterday was a day when Old Man Winter played the part of trickster on us. We have been experiencing a few days of milder weather, and by noon, the sun made a rare appearance. At 2:00 recess, the temperature read a balmy 52 degrees. Children began shedding their heavy winter coats in celebration of this welcome warmth.

It was short lived. When I opened my weather app to check the forecast, the report was dismal. By 3:30 it would be snowing and the temperature was expected to drop significantly. Sure enough, children were bundled up tight as we dismissed at day’s end, and by bedtime, it was snowing and blowing like a December blizzard.

This is the not so picturesque scene of a Montana winter. We do however, have glimpses of winter beauty that makes appearances during the long winter months. One such day in late January I captured it on my phone as I was driving to school on a quiet Saturday morning. I live in a neighborhood where the avenues are lined with maple trees, and after a fresh snowfall with just the right amount of moisture, it is a sight to behold.

Today, on a morning of bitter cold after a blizzard-y evening, I pulled out my picture and wrote a cinquain. It was a nice chance to remember the beauty in a Montana winter right before I have to open my back door to start shoveling.

Celebrate! World Read Aloud Day

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

On Thursday this week, I, along with my kindergarten class, participated in our first ever World Read Aloud Day. Earlier this fall a friend shared a link to Kate Messner’s blog where Kate shared an extensive list of authors who do free Skype in the classroom visits. This was too good to be true!

I scanned the list, and found author & illustrator, Monica Carnesi. Her picture books looked wonderful, and I knew my students would love the opportunity to meet her via a Skype visit. I emailed her, and we soon confirmed a time to connect.

To familiarize my students with her work, we read both of her books in preparation for our visit. The book we chose to have her read and share with us was a delightful story titled Little Dog Lost. Oh my, if you have not read this book, you must. It tells the true story of Baltic, a dog who finds himself adrift on a chunk of ice on a river in Poland and how he is at long last rescued. My students were captivated by this story, and even more so when Miss Monica appeared live and in person on our Smart Board to read it to us!

Monica was a delight! The children hung on her every word, fully appreciating this extra special experience with a real author and illustrator. She read the story, then shared actual photos and stories about Baltic beyond what we learned from the story. They couldn’t get enough!

Baltic, shorty after his resuce – very cold, but oh so happy to be safe!

She graciously gave time for our questions, and answered each one with the greatest of detail and clarity for my young readers to understand. She was so wonderful and personable with my students! Here is young Dylan at the camera asking her question:

After our Q&A she gave us a tour of her studio and even showed us some of her actual drawings from the book, as well as a sneak peek at her next book she is working on! We felt quite lucky to be in the know of this rather secret information!

During writing workshop that afternoon, we wrote and illustrated our own reflections from the experience to share with Monica. Some students created tiny books about Baltic, while others shared how much they loved Baltic and what a brave dog he was. Connecting a story to the creator behind it made a lasting impression on them, I am certain. They continued to talk about it even the next day, some returning to their tiny books, while others started new pieces.

Have you ever done a Skype visit with an author? Kate Messner has another blog post of more authors you can contact. Now that I have done one, I am hooked. What better way to celebrate books with your students than with the actual author? I believe this experience demystified the person behind the name on the cover of a book for my students. They could see that real people are the people writing the words and drawing the pictures in the very books they read! And who knows, maybe the experience will plant a seed in a future author or illustrator whose books will delight a future kindergartner just like them.

 

Poetry Friday: Nearly Grown Up

As someone new to writing poetry, I have found myself steeped in this genre as of late. This is my 5th Poetry Friday post (third in a row for the past 3 Fridays), and just today I began a month long journey of attempting to write a poem a day with a Facebook group. Yikes! Nothing like jumping in with both feet.

I must say that the more I put myself out there, and make what feel like feeble attempts at writing in verse, the less intimidating, less daunting, and less nerve wracking it is. It goes without saying that warm & welcoming communities like Poetry Friday are the best place for someone like me to share what I am trying.

Today I am sharing a poem I wrote for our first day of the month long poetry writing challenge. During the month we are writing ekphrasis poems, which are poems written in response to and/or inspired by a piece of art. Today’s image was credited to Jay Shovan, a high school senior, and is an unfinished self portrait. Take a look:

As I studied the portrait and considered the artist, I began to wonder what he might have been like as a very young boy. In my kindergarten class I have a few very busy little guys who at times are a challenge for this mother of 4 daughters. It took me years in my early teaching career to get the “boy thing.” I continue to struggle at times with understanding the behaviors, rough play, and those boy noises so many of them seem to need to make!

When I look at the face in this portrait, I see a mature 18 year old young man. I wonder if he was a rambunctious kindergartner. Did he struggle to sit still? Did his teacher feel like she had to constantly remind him to stay focused and keep his listening ears on?

If he did, it doesn’t show now. Clearly the passage of time that added years to his young life saw those characteristics slowly fade away. The silliness and perhaps uncontrollable exuberance of his boyhood are distant memories. He now appears to stand in a place of looking ahead at his future, in a place of great decision making, perhaps even at a crossroads as he considers what he will do.

This encourages me as I spend my days corralling  my little guys with all of their rough and tumble play. I sometimes find myself imagining them walking into my classroom a decade or more in the future, and seeing tall young men, calm and confident, who I hope remember they days of their youth and recognize the transformation they made from childhood to adulthood.

Today’s #PoetryFriday is hosted by Donna @ Mainely Write

 

Spiritual Thursday: Lavender Moon

I am happy to once again participate in Spiritual Thursday. This month our host, Donna, at Mainely Write is hosting and posed our topic: the moon.

This beautiful quote speaks a message of hope to me, causing me to consider others who need hope right now. Perhaps they are fighting an illness out of their control, or wrestling to restore a broken relationship, or simply struggling to make it to the end of a challenging work week. Real people we interact with every day are carrying heavy burdens and need hope to sustain them.

I have walked through my own share of difficult seasons in my life, and felt hope waning. The thought of gazing up at a sliver of the moon, with the quiet and stillness of nature surrounding me, brings me to a place of peace and belief in the power of hope.

A scripture I have often turned to when hope feels far away is Hebrews 6:19 – “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast” is a powerful truth. I once heard a message in church where the pastor described hope as a rope, and how when we find ourselves in a place without hope, heaven has a rope attached to us. No matter how desperate things get or how hopeless we feel, he is holding on to us and continually pulling us toward heaven. We are anchored.

Vera’s quote reminds us: imagining a lavender moon or heaven’s rope around us – neither may be very useful. But sometimes they are enough.

Poetry Friday: Super Objective

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Today’s #PoetryFriday is hosted by Carol @ Beyond LiteracyLink

I am currently reading a new book titled Brave Leadership by Kimberly Davis. I cannot say enough about how much I love this book and her call to action for readers. This book is for everyone, because simply put, we all have an impact in our world with the people we come in contact with each and every day.

Kimberly challenged me to look inside myself as a leader and ask, “In my role, what do I care about? Why do I personally care? What is the impact I want to have on those I lead?”

When considering answers to these questions, I find that I often get sidetracked in worrying about what others might think about me. Will I offend someone? What if they disagree with me? Worse yet, what if I make a mistake?

Kimberly’s book sheds light on what brave leaders do to combat these misleading questions; I discovered that I must adjust what I allow myself to focus on. The best of leaders focus on achieving purpose outside themselves through actionable moves.

Enter the Super Objective. As an educator, I have developed my own personal philosophies and beliefs around teaching and learning. Kimberly reveals that the problem with philosophies and beliefs is they simply live in your head and require nothing of you. Without action in our beliefs, we have no impact.

As I contemplate what my Super Objective is, I want to frame it in active words that put me on an active path in order to more effectively lead my students. I must remember that it is not simply a belief; I must be able to measure my actions against what I say I want to do.

I don’t want to focus my objective on a number or on a score. I’ve learned from Kimberly that if I focus solely on a measurable goal (e.g., All of my students will know 95% of their letter names and sounds by the end of the year) I can find myself on a slippery slope where I lose focus, my authentic self disappears, and my Super Objective is no longer leading me. Goals are good, but they need to be the byproduct of my actions, and ultimately I will achieve better results as long as I remain anchored in my Super Objective.

Reading and learning from Kimberly’s book, I felt the desire to write a poem. I wanted to encapsulate my new discoveries into a nugget of inspiration I could turn to again and again. Here is my haiku that will serve as my own personal mantra as I carefully contemplate what my Super Objective will be.

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Would you like to know more about Kimberly and Brave Leadership? The first and best place is her website: http://www.braveleadershipbook.com/

Another great opportunity is to join us on Twitter Thursday, February 8 at 8:30EST when Kimberly joins the Good To Great Twitter chat to share conversation about her book. If you have never done a Twitter chat, I encourage you to come! Enter the hashtag #g2great and you’re in! The conversation will be lively and fast-paced, but the beauty of Twitter chats is you can take your time, reading tweets and interacting at your on pace. The Good To Great community is a warm & welcoming group of educators from many backgrounds, and we love newcomers. Hope to connect with you there!

Celebrate! Silly Snowmen Stories

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

Teaching writing is hard work. Every classroom of students presents unique and different challenges for the classroom teacher. This year I am teaching kindergarten for the first time, and working alongside these little learners has proven to challenge me in ways I did not anticipate.

Simply holding a pencil for some of my students is a challenge. Others arrived in my room with stories already churning inside of them, eager for pencil/marker/crayon and paper. Between those ends of the spectrum were many who have been slowly finding their way as emergent writers, leaning in during mini lessons, willing to try new ideas in their writing along the way.

I purchased a book at NCTE in November titled Text Structures from Nursery Rhymes. Authors Gretchen Bernbei, Kayla Shook, and Jayne Hover present 53 lessons using nursery rhymes to help our youngest primary grade writers grasp an understanding of text structure in writing. What I love about this book is how they reveal how we can break down simple nursery rhymes to reveal the story telling taking place in them. From there the fun begins, as together, teacher and students apply these elements to their own stories, first in shared writing experiences, and finally to students infusing the structures into their own story ideas.

I am just beginning to introduce these lessons to my budding writers. Over the past 2 weeks we have been focusing on descriptive writing using the nursery rhyme, I’m a Little Teapot. Most of the children grasped the text structure elements in our shared writing, but applying it to their own ideas during independent writing proved challenging for many. At times I felt defeated. Some days as we closed our workshop, I questioned my approach, wondering if we should (or I could!) continue. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I had the stamina to keep trying.

What I have learned in my years of teaching writing in grades 1-3 is that often writing is messy. Many days can be down right ugly. Venturing into new and more challenging work is tricky, but when I have persevered with my students, patiently re-teaching when necessary and adding support  where needed, time and time again they flourish. So when their initial attempts to apply the structure lesson to their own ideas was missing the mark, I decided to try a shared entry point for writing, and have everyone write around the same topic.

Enter Snowman craftivity!

Who doesn’t love a snowman project in the middle of the January doldrums? Our frosty snowman scenes (thanks to a final wash of “magic water” to create a blizzard-like look of snow) were just the inspiration my kiddos needed to share funny stories of their snowmen. 

 

At the close of this week, I proudly poured over my students’ snowmen stories. From my independent writers to those who needed step-by-step support and everyone in between, I could not be more excited to celebrate where each of them are in their writing journey. I won’t say the days we spent this week were all easy, but I will say they were filled with lots of laughs, smiles, and joy as proud writers sat up a little taller when it was their turn to share their writing from the Author’s Chair.

Poetry Friday: Room

Today’s #PoetryFriday is hosted by Kay @ A Journey Through the Pages

I recently joined a wonderful group called Teach Write. They have monthly Twitter chats focusing on developing our teacher-selves as writers. Just after the New Year I joined their Facebook group in hopes of developing a stronger commitment to writing daily.

One of the practices members can employ in their writing routine is called the Daily Writing Habit where we are given a single word to write about. While I haven’t tried this specific exercise yet, today’s word caught my eye, and I was inspired to try a simple poem around it.

The word is ROOM. Initially I thought of room in my life – more specifically margin, and the lack of room I so often feel I have in the margin of my life. That idea didn’t feel like the direction I wanted to go. Then I thought of my classROOM. I thought of the 19 boys and girls who I share that room with every school day. I thought of what that room looked like and felt like in August, and how it has evolved over the last 78 school days.

We have created a fun space, a warm space, a safe space. This room is ours, and we all know it and feel it. We have visited other classrooms, and you can see it on their faces and in the way they respond in another classroom; this is not familiar to me. I can visit, but I’m not going to stay. When they return to their room, they are home.

I am happy we are only just at the halfway point in our year. We have so far yet to go in learning and growing! This ROOM has so much more in store.