Celebrate Poetry Friday: Kinders Meet Middle Graders!

For today’s #PoetryFriday, I am linking up with others with Tabatha Yeatts @ her blog, The Opposite of Indifference. Thank you for hosting our gathering today, Tabatha.

Today’s #PoetryFriday is hosted by Tabatha @ The Opposite of Indifference

I am also linking up with Ruth Ayres to #Celebrate a very exciting day of poetry writing in my class this week. Click here to read other celebration posts, or better yet, add your own. The more the merrier!

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

In my first year teaching kindergarten, I committed whole-heartedly to teaching my littles poetry during the month of April. We have read a lot of poetry over the months in anticipation for the time they would begin composing their own poems.

I am happy to report that we are making great progress! With the help of Regie Routman’s book, Kids Poems: Teaching Kindergartners to Love Poetry, I have found the process to be a great deal of fun. My kids arrive at the rug each day, eager to read poetry from other young writers, talk about what they notice, and then try it out for themselves. Most days before I send them off to write, I model writing a poem through a shared writing experience, and some days we write together.

This week our focus was food. I told them they were “foodie poets” for the day. I shared with them how much I love sweets, and that one of my favorite sweet treats is cupcake ice cream. We decided to interactively write a poem about this delicious treat together.

When we finished, we were so excited. In the moment, I suggested we share our piece with a teacher friend of mine (and maybe yours too..she’s pretty well-known in the #PoetryFriday world!) Margaret Simon. We practiced reading it several times, then I took a video of them as they read it aloud. I sent it off to her, hoping we would get her feedback before day’s end.

While my students were at lunch, I was thrilled to receive a response from not only Margaret, but two of her students. They had watched our video and decided they would write a poem in response to ours! They posted a picture of the poem along with a Voxer recording of them reading it aloud. I couldn’t wait to share this with my students!

Later that afternoon, we listened to their poem and celebrated the joy of poetry. I’m not sure they completely understood how amazing it was that technology made it possible for kids all the way across the country to see us read our poem and then send one right back to us. I tried sharing my When-I-was-in-kindergarten-we-didn’t-have-computers stories, but I’m not sure they really got it.

What I do know they got was joy in writing and sharing poetry! This experience fueled them for the next day of writing, and the next, and the next. They have yet to tire of coming back to the blank page each day and trying another poem. Sharing our pieces with each other spurs on more excitement, as our folders begin to bulge with growing anthologies. I am hoping each student will find one gem they want to take all the way to final publishing and reciting at graduation in June.

It’s right around the corner!

#SOLC18 31/31: It’s a Wrap!

I honestly cannot believe I am posting my 31st blog post in the Slice of Life Challenge. When I started out, I questioned if I would be able to maintain the stamina to write every day for a month. Besides stamina, I had even greater concerns for what I would write about over the 31 days.

Happily I can say that both concerns, and many others I initially had, never caused a single roadblock in the journey. I had a few days when I experienced some writer’s block, but I managed to find a topic or unique post idea from others in the slicing community to keep me going.

I contemplated a few different ideas for this final post, but none really seemed to take flight. Before long, I realized the day completely got away from me, and after a late dinner with my husband, I realized I almost completely forgot to write my post!

Today was catch-up day in my classroom, since we have been on spring break this past week. It felt good to be back in my room, setting up the new April calendar, along with a few other beginning-of-the-month routines. I’m looking forward to the warmer days (goodbye, snowpants & boots!) and our month of poetry ahead. Fingers crossed for this new adventure with my kinders!

The rest of my afternoon was errand running. As I was entering Target, a little face caught my eye. It was a young girl, probably close to 18 months-old. She caught my eye because she reminded my so much of my 24 year-old daughter (whose birthday happens to be today). There was such a stark similarity I had to stop and take a second, and even third look. I was so struck  by it that the memory of that moment stayed with me for the remainder of the day. I have pictures of my daughter as a little girl, but there is something altogether different, and much more impactful, about an experience like this. For me, it was almost like being back in time, even if for just a moment. Part of me wanted to approach her and say hello, but I think that would have broken the spell. Just seeing her and having that memory for myself was enough.

 

 

#SOLC18 24/31: Celebrating: A Night at the Symphony

Tonight was Date Night, the final night on my 2 daughters’ choir tour. All of the kids were paired up, everyone dressed up, and we were off to a delicious Indian dinner followed by an evening at the Calgary Symphony.

The guest virtuoso was the incredible internationally known violinist, Phillipe Quint. He was the featured soloist for Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major. It was a stunning performance!

As I read the detailed description of the evening’s pieces in the symphony program, I began to see found poems emerge.

#SOLC18 10/31: Celebrating Time w/Family & Friends

It’s always fun to get away for a few days. Our daughters were accepted into the Northwest American Choral Directors High School Choir Conference in Portland, so my husband and I decided to make it a family trip with them and spend time with friends who live just outside the city. The girls would be busy all week rehearsing, and we would join up with our friends and enjoy the fun of Portland with them.

If you followed an earlier post this week, you saw that we journeyed west on Amtrak, which was a new experience for our girls. We have made several road trips to Portland with them, but the train is something completely different. Because it is an overnight train, most of our time onboard was spent sleeping, with a few hours left for enjoying the views of Washington while traveling along the Columbia River.

Our four days went by quickly, but they were a wonderful getaway from the winter blues of Montana. Spring was definitely in bloom here in the Rose City, and it felt wonderful to actually walk about outside in a light jacket.

My friend always lavishes us with gifts when we visit. I was delighted to receive a 5-year one-sentence journal. My grandparents were faithful to their 5-year journals, many of which are in my possession now to look back through when I want to take a peek into the daily comings and goings of their lives from the 1950s to just past the turn of the century. There is something special about my grandma’s handwriting, and even just the smell of those journals. Life was different for them.

My sentence for today is a quote of Anne Frank, and it reads:

“Whoever is happy will make others happy too.”

We can all think of happy and not-so-happy people we come in contact with, and how the attitude and overall demeanor of a person will affect others around them for the good or the bad. Reading this reminded me of a fortune found in one of our fortune cookies from our Sushi dinner:

 Ask yourself this question: “Is my attitude worth catching?”

The train is meandering its way west – much like my post today has meandered a bit from one thing to the next… thank you dear reader for staying with me. I think I will venture to the observation car before the sun sets and sleep beckons.

#SOLC18 3/31: Celebrating Saturday

      

Saturday mornings in my house once were full of activity. Four daughters, a dog, and a chatty cockatiel made for a whirlwind of comings and goings. My husband is a mail carrier, so most Saturdays he was long gone by the time the chaos took flight.

Presently however, Saturday mornings are quiet. Two daughters have left the nest, and the final two are busy high schoolers who are either sleeping or have already left for jobs or other social events. This leaves me with now two dogs and the cockatiel to keep me company.

After a busy week of teaching 5 year-olds, I find solitude and respite in my kitchen, pouring over recipes from favorite food bloggers. I love baking the most. Whipping up a batch of warm muffins feeds my soul and replenishes my weary spirit. A favorite playlist on my wireless speaker, and I am set. Measuring and mixing, followed by the aroma of something delicious in the oven, and my sanctuary is complete.

I do miss the days of flipping slices of french toast while the hungry eyes of my girls looked on. The chatter of shared stories of their busy days at school followed by queries of “what are we gonna do today, mom?” are but a memory now. Most Saturdays are just me and my furry friends. It’s a quiet world, but one I can and do celebrate!

What do your Saturday mornings look like?

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.

 

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.