Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Great Egg Hunt

Day 31 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!!!
"The Easter Bunny came!"  Before my parents even open the front door, we can see them through the window: the same pink bunny footprints that have greeted me every Easter morning for as long as I can remember.
Easter Bunny tracks!
Every year, the footprints lead the way to the first egg.  From there, the hunt begins!  All the rooms on the first floor of the house have eggs hidden in creative places.
pathway to the first egg!
With Husband's help, I grab my Easter basket and start:

crouching under tables and desks: "Found a plastic one!"
peering behind photo frames: "Here's another one!"
lifting up couch pillows: "Hmm, none here this year..."
examining cupboards: "Daddy, you put one in the Mountain Dew box?!"
(Daddy giggles gleefully, pleased with himself.)
peeking under pot lids: "Oh my gosh, there's one in here!"
creeping into closets: "Where's the basket?  We're running out of big places..."
searching on shelves: "I thought you looked here!  You missed one!"
brushing aside curtains: "Nope, none over here..."
digging through drawers: "Found a real one!"
opening cabinets: "OH, the basket's in here!!!"
Until finally,
"Maybe that's all of them?"
"Let's open the basket!"

We settle down on the floor and start inspecting our treats: candy, cute socks, lotion, Easter decorations, and even iTunes gift cards!  After assessing our loot, I head into the dining room to help my mom set up the table as the sweet scent of Honeybaked Ham wafts through the house.

my mom screeches my dad's full name like he's a little boy in trouble.
"You put one in here?!?!"

She's holding a china dish serving dish in one hand and a plastic egg in another.  Laughing through his nose, Daddy makes a pretend pouty face.  "Aw man, I didn't think you were going to use that one today!  I was hoping we'd discover that on Christmas Eve!"  (He prides himself on hiding eggs in such good places that they turn up months later, just when we least expect them!)

I wonder
where the next egg 
will turn up?

Saturday, March 30, 2013


Day 30 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
28 years ago, Grandaddy gave me a small stuffed bunny for my first Easter.  He was soft and cuddly, with sleek brown fur, perfect for snuggling.  He was also just another stuffed animal.  My parents set him against the wall with the ring of stuffed animals that encircled my room, right on the floor so I could easily get any animal I wanted.  There he sat, huddled among bears, lambs, dogs, and other bunnies... until I chose him.

One day, he must have caught my eye.  Suddenly, I was on a mission. Making a beeline for the cuddly new bunny, I crawled across the room.  My little fingers grabbed him by one fuzzy ear and I excitedly held him up, proclaiming "Minee-Minee!!!  Minee-Minee!!!"

From that day on, Minee-Minee was the one.  No matter where I went, he was hanging lopsided beside me, his ear clenched in my little fist.  When I curled up in bed, I couldn't fall asleep unless he was snuggled under my chin.  Other stuffed animals took their turns being favorites, but my love for Minee-Minee never wavered.  He appears in countless family photos and videos, looking shabbier more and more loved as I grew up.
Those bald patches are just years of love!
As I got into elementary school, he gradually became so special that I became afraid of losing him.  On the way home from one trip to visit Nannie and Grandaddy, a sudden panic coursed through me.  My heart pounded and sweat poured from my body.  "WE LEFT MINEE-MINEE!!!" I shrieked, and my mom knew the only course of action was to turn the car around.  When we parked the car in the driveway, I sprinted past my startled grandparents to discover Minee-Minee face-down in their hallway, camouflaged against their brown carpet.  After that, Minee-Minee was retired to a place of honor on my bed, too precious to leave the house again.

Husband made me take a side-view so you can see how squished he is!
Even though I'm a married adult, Minee-Minee still cuddles under my chin each night, perfectly molded into the best position by years of snuggling.  Out of all my stuffed animals, he is the most Real.

"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." 
-- Marjery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

This post was inspired by one of my students, who wrote about her special teddy bear!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Viernes Santo: las procesiones

Day 29 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
at Latinaish!
Today is Spanish Friday, so this post is in Spanish!  If you don't know Spanish, try out Google Translate and you'll be able to get the gist!  :-)

Siempre echo de menos a España durante la Semana Santa.  Hoy es Viernes Santo, y no puedo parar de pensar en mi Madrid querida.

El año pasado, os enseñé algo de las procesiones de Semana Santa en España, en particular la procesión del Santísimo Cristo de los Alabarderos. Mis padres y yo vimos esta procesión en 2005 mientras yo vivía en Madrid, y nos quedamos muy impresionados por su seriedad y reverencia.

Hoy encontré unos vídeos de esta misma procesión, así que podeis ver ese espectáculo que se realiza cada Viernes Santo por las calles de Madrid:

Si quereis saber algo más de esta procesión, hay un vídeo de Telemadrid que muestra su salida desde el Palacio Real, con unos vistazos breves de otra procesión también.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Gratitude on the go

Day 28 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
As part of my pursuit of my "one little word" this year, I've been trying to help myself realize all the little reasons I have to delight in my life.  I've always enjoyed other slicers' "Thankful Thursday" posts, but I've never written one of my own.

I love the way these posts often highlight big and little, serious and funny reasons to be happy.  Shortly after I chose "delight" for my word, someone (I don't remember who, sorry!) tweeted about an interesting app created just for this purpose: Gratitude 365.  It gives you a place each day to list things you're thankful for.  I thought this could help me build a habit of looking for (and remembering!) the delightful little moments in each day.

Since I almost always play with my iPod touch in the evenings, it's really easy to remember to take a few minutes to list my gratitudes with the app.  I can even add a little picture to highlight the most important gratitude, which is fun!  (I think I would add more pictures if I had an iPod with a camera so I could take my own.  I have to save pictures from the internet, which takes a little more time.)
Today's gratitudes! 
Sometimes (especially here in March!), I miss a day, but there's a calendar view that makes it easy to go back and add gratitudes to any day.  (It's also fun to see how many days each month I've remembered to write gratitudes!)  If you add a picture for any day (which I mostly haven't taken the time to do here in March!), it shows up in the calendar, which makes the calendar really cute!
Days with a dot (or a picture) are days I've written gratitudes!
It's amazing how taking just a few minutes to think about what I'm thankful for makes me happier and less stressed at the end of the day.  Even if I've had a hard day, I can find something good about it if I think for a few minutes.  (Those are the days I most need to think about being grateful, anyway!)  If I just tried to do this in a paper journal, I don't think I would keep up with it, but the app nudges me to do it and makes it more fun!

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My reading journey (part 2)

Day 27 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
Yesterday, I shared my childhood reading journey with you.  Afte reading it, Elsie called me a "reading machine.  Today I'd like to share the more recent part: high school through now.  Sadly, I wasn't exactly a reading machine during most of those years.  When I read Kelly Gallagher's Readicide, I knew just what he was talking about.

High school didn't leave me much time for reading, outside the required classics for Honors English that I wearily dragged myself through.  (There were a few I loved, but there were also more than a few that made me forget the magic of reading.)  While I mostly had wonderful teachers, I still experienced two of the causes that Gallagher cites: over-teaching and under-teaching books.  The classics we were assigned for summer reading were difficult (and old!) enough that they needed a teacher's guidance, or at least some thoughtful discussion... not a multiple choice test. (I can't even identify them in Jeopardy questions, for heaven's sake!)  As for over-teaching, well, we all know what that is.  (Thankfully, I didn't experience it to the highest degree, but there were still some slight instances of it.)

Some of the brightest glimpses of light in my reading life during high school were:
  • Walden (Shhh, don't tell my husband that I've been in love with Thoreau ever since!)
  • A Tale of Two Cities (SO glad this wasn't summer reading: I never would have enjoyed it without my teacher to explain all the murky historical allusions!)
  • Shakespeare plays (Yes, I really do love them!)
  • other good books that I liked, but might have loved were it not for under- or over-teaching...
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Thank goodness J.K. Rowling reminded me what it was like to sneak out my flashlight and read far into the night because I just couldn't stop!)
  • getting to write a senior thesis about a topic of my choice (contemporary American Indian identity in House Made of Dawn and related short texts)

Unfortunately, reading was still a chore in college.  Who wants to read for fun when you can barely slog through the hundreds of pages of assigned reading?  During breaks and summer, I threw myself into reading favorite children's books in Spanish.  I also re-read A Tale of Two Cities about once a summer, but I didn't read much that was new to me.

However, I did fall in love with Julia Alvarez after reading In the Time of the Butterflies, and I read her books until there were no more.  I actually felt that old melancholy I used to feel when I finished a series or author!

During my first few years of teaching, I was actually one of those teachers who didn't really read, at least during the school year.  (That's right!  You can gasp now!)  I'd occasionally read some books in Spanish, but mostly just on breaks and over the summer.  I played with the idea of trying Hunger Games since so many kids were reading it, but I wasn't sure if I would like it...

Then one summer, I stumbled across Inés del Alma Mía and brought it to the beach.  I fell into that old, deep reading zone where I'm so immersed in the story that I'm completely unaware of my surroundings.    How could I have lost this?  I resolved to never lose that delight again.  (This was also right at the time when I had started teaching ELLs in summer school and reading blogs that pushed my thinking...)

That spring, I was mesmerized by Donalyn Miller at the Dublin Literacy conference.  After her keynote, I bought The Book Whisperer and devoured it the next day.  I knew she was right.  (And this year, when I read Book Love, I knew Penny Kittle was right as well!)  Teachers need to be readers.  Schools need to be creating readers, not killing them.  No kid should have to suffer through mind-numbing worksheets on a book they've already read, like I did in 7th grade.  No kid should be dragged through an endless parade of "classics" just because they're famous, while hiding or losing or never even finding their true reader selves.  All kids should have the chance to read books that will draw them in, mesmerize them, and make them utterly lose (and find!) themselves.

I made a commitment to read all the time, not just on breaks: for myself and for my students. I joined Goodreads, and now I'll never run out of books again!  Who knew there were so many great YA and MG books written since I was a kid?!

A few months later, I finally got the opportunity to teach ELLs.  Now reading is more than a part of my life; it's a part of my job too.  I read because I love books, but I also read to help my students love books.  The more books I read, the more chances I have to find the book that might hook that one reluctant reader.  The more books I read, the more opportunities I have to hand a book to a student and say "I got this for you.  I think you'll love it", while meaning "I know you.  I care about you."  I don't think there's a bigger gift I could possibly give to my students than turning them into readers.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Reading Journey

Day 26 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
Earlier this month, Christy wrote about her "book self" and linked  to the Ideal Bookshelf project.  Wow, what a cool idea, right?

Books and reading are such an important part of who I am.  My first sentence was "Daddy sitting reading paper."  My kindergarten teacher came to our house to study it because she wanted to know why I was so far ahead in my reading.  My elementary school freaked out because I entered 1st grade reading at a 5th grade reading level.  (They were afraid of not having enough books to challenge me.  My mom and I just went to the public library every week with a laundry basket!)

Some of my earliest memories are of reading with my parents.  I can still hear my parents' voices reading favorite lines of favorite books.  We loved to curl up and read delightful books like:
As a child and tween, I was a book monster.  I devoured just about any book I could get my hands on.  (I think the only book I ever abandoned was The Old Man and The Sea... sorry, Hemingway!)  Every summer, my goal was to read over 100 books, and I easily met it every time.

In those blissful days, my reading self enjoyed:

I can't even begin to list the books I hungrily consumed during that time, but I know that at some point in middle school, I started running out of books.  My mom took me to the library in the next city over because I'd read all the books I wanted to read at our library.  Mary Higgins Clark (loved that her titles all came from song lyrics!) and Lillian Jackson Braun (The Cat Who...) got me through most of middle school, but I was really stuck when I finished their series.  It didn't really help that I was so far ahead in my reading that I had already read most "middle school" literature in elementary school.

I did start to seriously devour poetry at this time, including The Dream Keeper and Muse of Fire (which I think was one of my mom's old textbooks, but it was in the house, and it had good poetry inside!)

Sadly, my clearest reading memory from middle school is being forced through the weeks of worksheets and quizzes on White Fang even though I had just read it the previous summer for pleasure.  I prided myself on acing them all without even cracking the book back open.

I was going to write all the way up to my current self, but this post is already too long... so tune in tomorrow!  :-)

Monday, March 25, 2013

The words of my heart

Day 25 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
Throughout the year, I've seen several slicers post word clouds from their blogs.  (Most recently, Kay posted a very cool footprint one!)  It seemed like a neat idea, but I never got around to trying it.

Today was the first weekday of break (i.e. the first day that I would have normally been in school!) and I can already tell that I'm never going to accomplish all the things that I've been hoping to do over break.  However, I'm not going to let that bother me, and I'm going to try to focus on relaxing and having fun so that I can go back to school next week refreshed and rejuvenated.

Since I spent way too long on Shutterfly today (one of my favorite hobbies that I hardly ever get to do during the school year!), I didn't leave myself much time to write.  It seemed like the perfect day to try out a word cloud!

One of my favorite quotations about writing is Wordsworth's "Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."  According to Tagxedo, these are the words of my heart:

It seems to focus on words from the last few posts... but it's still a pretty neat visualization of what I've written about!  I love how the biggest words are READING, LOVE, STUDENTS, TEACHERS, BOOK, and TEACHING... followed closely by WRITING, SLICE, and SHARE!  :-)

I think that's a pretty good picture of me, don't you?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Emblematic Easter Eggs

Day 24 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
When most people decorate Easter eggs, I think they use traditional shapes and symbols: zigzags, dots, flowers, etc.  In my family, our Easter eggs are an expression of ourselves and our love for each other.

We have some eggs with bunnies and duckies on them, but mostly because those are my two favorite animals.  Most of our eggs are little surprises for each other: names and nicknames, pictures of our favorite animals, Ohio State logos.  Pulling the eggs out of the dye cups results in giggles and squeals as the creative pictures are revealed:

"A Script Ohio egg!"
After marching Script Ohio so many times, it's easy to draw it!

"Look at our two bunny eggs!"
my bunny and Daddy's bunny are pretty similar!
"Mommy, you made me a 'Sweet Pea' egg?!"
"Sweet Pea" is one of my mom's many nicknames for me!
"It's a turtle family!"
Husband loves turtles, so we all made turtle eggs for him!

Later, when we find them again in our traditional Easter egg hunt around the house and eat them in our lunches, we smile and feel loved.

our special family <3

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hello Spring!

Day 23 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
Despite the fact that a "Winter Storm Warning" has been issued for our area until 8pm on Monday night, spring is here.  (At least, Spring Break is here, and that's good enough for me!)

Today, the sun is making my eyes squint and blink with its unfamiliar brightness. (In Ohio, our winters are dark and dreary, with few peeks at the sun!)  Today, I walked with my jacket unzipped and my hands freed from their gloves, soaking in the fresh air.  Today, I didn't cringe against coldness when I opened the car door.  Today, no biting wind made my ears or nose achy and red.  Today, it was spring.

Spring is my favorite season, and I thought it would be fun to welcome it like Ruth welcomed fall last August.  So, hello spring!

  • Hello golden sunshine streaming through my windows.  
  • Hello birds chattering and chirping in the mornings.
  • Hello evenings, slow hours stretching daylight into twilight.
  • Hello walks in the park and listening to the neighbor kids giggle outside.
  • Hello porch and patio and yard, soothing my stress and calming my soul.
  • Hello sniffing bunnies and wiggly duck families, fuzzy and joyful.
  • Hello bike rides and metro parks, deep breaths of sweet, fragrant air.
  • Hello cheerful flowers and budding branches, wide-eyed wonder as the world comes alive.
  • Hello birthday, you make me feel like a kid again!
  • Hello poetry, you always fill my heart in springtime.
Hello spring, you renew my spirit and enliven my heart.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Una chispa

at Latinaish!
Day 22 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
 Today is Spanish Friday, so this post is in Spanish!  If you don't speak Spanish, try out Google Translate and see what you get!

-- ¡Recibí un comentario de la maestra del arte! --

-- ¡Y yo de la maestra de la lectura! -- 

Mis estudiantes se sonríen a leer varios comentarios de maestros de nuestro colegio en el blog de nuestra clase.  Muchos maestros están emocionados con nuestra participación en el desafío Slice of Life.

-- Me gusta la idea de ese blog. ¡Qué buena práctica para tus estudiantes!  -- dice una maestra en el pasillo.

-- ¡Todos me han dicho que tengo que visitar ese blog!  ¡Buen trabajo! -- dice un director durante una reunión en su oficina.

-- ¡Qué idea más maravillosa!  He dejado algunos comentarios en el blog.  -- escribe el intérprete árabe por correo electrónico.  

-- ¡Hola!  Sólo quiero decirte que me encanta tu idea del blog para tus estudiantes.  Espero que les ayuda a perfeccionar su fluencia en la escritura. -- saluda otro correo electrónico, este de una maestra del inglés.  

La directora del programa de ELL (inglés como segunda idioma) de nuestro distrito escolar ha reenviado el enlace del blog a los otros maestros ELL, con el mensaje: -- Espero que Uds. pueden encontrar un momentito para dejar un comentario para estos escritores maravillosos! --

Sólo se necesita una chispa para encender una luz brillante.  :-)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Internet is cool!

Day 21 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
After getting dressed this morning, I quickly glanced at my iPod to see who left comments on my blog after I went to bed.

Michelle! She's so nice. :-)


Mandy.  I don't know her!  Ooh, A new person!


Linda Mullaly Hunt.  LINDA MULLALY HUNT?!?!  Seriously?!  I check the name again to make sure my eyes aren't deceiving me in the dimness.

Oh. My. Gosh. Linda. Mullaly. Hunt.  My body does a funny little jumping dance, seemingly without instructions from my brain.  An author left me a comment!  A real author of a real novel, not even a teacher-author-blogger like Ruth or Stacey or Lee Ann!  (Not that they aren't amazing enough, but this is a whole new level of amazing!)

oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!
A small squeal escapes from my lips.  I glance at Husband's sweet, peaceful figure cozily curled under the blankets.  He doesn't move.  My eyes shift over to the clock: still 20 minutes until it's time to wake him up.  I'm going to burst before 20 minutes have passed!  I squeal again, on purpose this time.  He groggily rolls over and squints at me with sleepy eyes.

"Honey!  You know when I posted about my booktalk in class the other day?  THE AUTHOR OF THE BOOK left me a comment on my post!!!  She read it and she liked it and she said she learned from it!!!"  My words trip over themselves as I breathlessly read him the whole comment.

I couldn't wait to get to school and show my students.  They didn't exactly jump up and down, but they thought it was pretty cool.  (They also got quite a kick out of how excited I was.  Nothing wrong with letting them see me delighting in my reading and writing life!)  We also had fun watching the book trailer she recommended.

After school, I got on Twitter to tweet about my exciting comment from a real author.  While composing my tweet, I searched for Lynda so I could cite her in the tweet.  Curious to see what she tweets about, I looked through her recent tweets and almost stopped breathing when I saw this:

Not only did she comment on my post, she tweeted about it!!!
Could this get any better?!

I read a book, I shared it with my students, and I wrote about it.  Five or ten years ago, that would have been the end of it.  Thanks to technology, the book's author read what I wrote, wrote back to me, and shared my writing with people she knows.  She learned about how teachers share books with students, and I feel like I met a rock star.  The Internet is so cool!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What does Book Love look like?

Day 20 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
This week I've been sharing my quest to turn my students into lifelong readers, guided by Penny Kittle's Book Love.  Yesterday, I described how her ideas transformed my book talks, and on Monday I shared my attempts to create a classroom atmosphere of reading.

Today, I thought I'd give you a peek at the results of this work.  What does it look like when students delight in reading?

It looks like...

  • book love: For example, the boy who called me over today at the end of independent reading time just to tell me how exciting Stormbreaker is.  He chattered on and on about everything that was happening to Alex, ending with "I just want to keep reading and reading!"
  • goal-setting: 
Students LOVED the goal-setting feature on Goodreads and how it tracks your progress!
  • planning future reading:
Students love to add books from my Goodreads shelves!
  • rating books and sharing them with others:

  • author love:
For some reason, it shows the times 3 hours off, so this was actually before school!
  • series love & enthusiasm for discovering new books:
(read the conversation from bottom to top)

Hopefully, my students will look back on 2013 as the year they became readers.  Thanks to Goodreads, maybe we'll even still be sharing books years from now!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fostering Book Love

Day 19 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
"Do you know what a foster family is?" I'm holding up a copy of One for the Murphys, and my students are have their notebooks and mobile devices out, ready to add today's book talk title to their want-to-read lists.

"Is it like adoption?"
"I think it's like when someone's parents don't have enough money to take care of their kids."

As we figure out what foster care is, the students are already hooked.  This book isn't going to take a lot of selling, but it's easy to sell because I just finished it recently.  "I LOVED this book and I think you guys will too!  The narrator speaks with such an authentic teen voice: she is funny, spunky, and emotional..."

After a short introduction, I open up the book and start reading from an early chapter, where Carley has just recently come to live with the Murphys.  She doesn't trust them yet, doesn't believe she'll be staying long, and isn't very happy to be there.  In the page and a half that I read, she's snarky and sarcastic while also revealing the heart-tugging emotional depth the story is charged with.  No fidgeting, no whispering: all eyes are on me.  I stop and leave them hanging right where she lodges the basketball between the rim and backboard after asking God to swish it if her mom still loves her.  

"So if you'd like to see how she gets along with her foster family and find out with her if her mom really does love her... you might like to read One for the Murphys, by Linda Mullay Hunt!"  Fingers are tapping on Goodreads apps and scribbling in notebooks, and I remind them that it's now written on the Realistic Fiction book talk list.

lists of book talk books by genre, next to the bookshelves
If you'd come to my classroom at the beginning of class today, that's what you would have seen.  Any other day, you'd see the same thing with a different book... unless I'm showing a book trailer from YouTube instead!

However, if you would have come this fall, you might not have seen a book talk at all, because I didn't do them every day.  And if you saw one, it wouldn't have looked like that.  I wouldn't have read a passage from the book, because I didn't know how powerful that could be!  There wouldn't have been any book talk lists on the wall either.  

What changed?  Penny Kittle's Book Love convinced me of the importance of frequent book talks.  Even better, she gave a detailed breakdown of the components of an effective book talk so that even an ineffective salesman like myself could "sell" books!


(This is part 2 of my series about creating readers in my classroom, based on ideas from Penny Kittle's Book Love.  Yesterday, I shared a peek at how I've made changes to my classroom to encourage authentic reading.) 

Monday, March 18, 2013

A classroom full of Book Love

Day 18 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers
During winter break, I participated in Penny Kittle's Book Love Book Club on Facebook.  The book was amazing, and it was even more incredible to discuss it with educators across the country (including the author!) as I read.

I had already been inspired by Donalyn Miller last year, but at the time, I was teaching middle school Spanish.  When I began teaching high school ELLs, I immediately put many of her ideas in practice.  More than anything, I wanted my students to become readers, and I knew that traditional teaching methods were not going to do it.

With my signed copy of The Book Whisperer in one hand,  I enthusiastically emptied the drab, boring bookshelves of my new classroom and put the books into labeled bins so they'd be more inviting and accessible.  Once I saw the selection of tattered, unappealing books that had been left in the classroom, I started buying appealing middle-grade and YA books that my students would actually enjoy. To grow readers, I knew I had to to turn my classroom into a book forest.
our humble but happy book area!
I taught my students how to choose a "just right" book and gave them about 15 minutes of independent reading time on Mondays and Fridays.  We studied book reviews and discovered how to write a book review.  In addition to book reviews, I made a selection page of book response choices that my students could do in response to a book, all based on things readers really do.  At least once a week, I tried to do share books that I thought my classes would like. I got my advanced class to start using Goodreads, because I knew what it had done for my own reading life.

That first semester was hard, but I did score a lot of little victories.  One by one, my students were discovering delight in reading.  However, I wanted more, and I still felt like I was floundering.  What was I supposed to talk about with students during our reading conferences?  How was I supposed to have time in class for free reading, all those reading conferences, close reading of short texts... AND writing?  How should I hold students accountable for reading at home without forcing them to do some sort of parent-signed reading log that they'd just fake anyway?

When I opened Book Love, I found exactly what I needed.  Penny Kittle's practical ideas and examples helped me develop my thinking about all of those tough questions. (More on that another day, because this post is already too long!)  Moreover, her enthusiasm nudged me to revisit ideas from The Book Whisperer that I just "hadn't had time" to implement. Right after break, I finally created that display of my reading life that I just hadn't gotten around to putting up in the classroom yet: book covers with blog and website logos scattered in their midst.
my reading life this year, with space for more!  :-)
I made a "Mrs. M is currently reading..." sign with the cool black mini dry-erase board (with neon markers!) that my uncle got me for Christmas and hung it outside the door.  My students always knew what I was reading, but now other students and staff started to notice.  Teachers even began dropping in to talk to me about my books!  Suddenly, our "book love" was seeping out of the classroom... maybe it will spread its sparks throughout the school?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

They Love Me

Day 17 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
Last week, I used the format of an old post of Deb's to describe all the little ways I know my husband loves me.  Since we've been spending a lot of time with my parents this weekend, I thought it would be fun to write a similar post about them!

People often correctly guess that I'm an only child, because my parents show their love for me so enthusiastically.  Mommy and Daddy became a running joke in the marching band because they not only attended every performance (big or small, close or far away), but also somehow managed to always appear in the front row!  (One time, they even beat us to a high school band show we performed at after a football game... when we had a police escort from the game to the high school!)  Everyone in band knew (and loved) my parents, and now the members of the alumni band are starting to feel the same way.

However, they haven't even seen all the small, everyday ways my parents love me.

  • Mommy sends me little notes and presents through inter-office mail.
  • She takes me out to lunch and shopping on days off school.
  • She makes my favorite meals, like her special spaghetti, when I come over.
  • She calls me up "just to hear my voice", and her voice is filled with delight when I answer.
  • She still uses all her little nicknames for me, like "Sweetie Pie", "Honey Bunch", and "Sweet Pea".
  • She still sings me our special lullaby when we snuggle on the couch.
  • Daddy, the engineer, gets so hyper when I come over that he dances around the house, makes a million corny jokes, and ensures that every meal we eat together is a feast.
  • He drives my mom crazy by saving every little thing that belonged to me when I was little.
  • He still brings me little presents every time he goes on a business trip and gives them to me in a family ritual that we call "The Unpacking of the Suitcase".  (I guess I need to write a slice about that sometime!)
  • He teaches my husband how to take care of the yard and fix things in the house.
All that, and a million other moments throughout my life.  I love my parents because they love me.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

So much fun!

Day 16 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
"We've had a lot of fun lately..." I rub my eyes and push myself to sit up.  It's Saturday evening and I've been curled up on the couch in my footie pajamas for several hours, struggling to keep my eyes open.

Fun is a running joke between my husband and I.  In my family, you haven't had enough fun if you're not completely worn out at the end of the day.  Daddy plans trips so that every minute is filled with fun activities, so we usually come home from vacations more tired than when we left.  I inherited his trip-planning style, and Husband quickly discovered that my family's version of fun is, in his words, "exhausting".

Last night, we had a "feast" while watching the OSU basketball game with my parents (much more fun than it sounds!).  After all that fun (and food), we got up early for our traditional St. Patrick's Day celebration: pancakes with green syrup, music, and a parade!  Of course, all this was after a week of state testing at school and two weeks of spending my evenings supporting my students in our classroom challenge while writing my own slices.  All this writing and commenting is also quite fun by my family's standards, because my eyelids are getting heavier and heavier each day!

Every fun day though, it's always worth it.  Sleep will bring the rest I need, and the memories of all the fun we've had will stay with me forever.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Un festín

Day 15 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
Today is Spanish Friday, so this post is in Spanish.  If you don't speak Spanish, try out Google Translate -- it will get the main points across, and might give you some extra entertainment trying to figure out what it means the rest of the time...

-- ¡De la pizza grande y las treinta alitas de pollo que teníamos para cuatro personas, sólo nos queda tres alitas! -- Mami pone los ojos en blanco mientras mi esposo y yo nos reímos.  -- ¿Papi, cuánto comiste? --

-- ¡Es una fiesta!  ¡Es un festín! -- Con una carcajada de felicidad y una sonrisa enorme, Papi casi baila sentado, agitando sus brazos.  Para él, sólo necesitamos muchísima comida y algún partido en la tele para hacer una "fiesta"; no le importa si sólo estamos los cuatro en la casa.

Ya sabéis que mis padres y yo somos aficionados bastante locos para los equipos del baloncesto y fútbol americano de Ohio State. Y si haya alguna cosa en el mundo que a Papi le encanta más de los deportes de Ohio State, seguro que es la comida.  Hoy había un partido del baloncesto del torneo Big Ten, y cenamos (o mejor, "festejamos", según Papi) en la casa de mis padres para mirarlo.  Dado que Papi no puede permanecer sentado en el sillón durante ningún partido de Ohio State, todos cenamos en una manta en el suelo, como un picnic dentro de la casa.

Ahora sólo hay un montón de huesos de pollo (principalmente en el plato de Papi), una caja de pizza vacía, y cuatro sonrisas satisfechos.  Ha ganado el equipo de Ohio State, y hemos disfrutado de un "festín" delicioso.

-- ¡No sabías que estuvieras competiendo en un concurso de comer! -- Mami dice a mi esposo, señalando a Papi con la cabeza.  -- De veras, deberíamos haber invitado al hombre de Man vs. Food -- les bromeo.

Papi agita sus brazos en triunfo, y todos nos reímos.  Con Papi, una cena es un festín, y todo es más divertido.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Shared Stories

Day 14 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
"We read to know that we are not alone." -- William Nicholson

This is one of my favorite quotations about reading, but I believe it also applies to writing, or at least to published writing like blogging.  We WRITE to know that we are not alone, to connect to our audience with the hope of stirring something deep inside them that connects to us or learns from us or is inspired by us.

Throughout the classroom challenge, and especially over the past few days, my students have begun to experience exactly what I'd hoped they would: what it's like to write for a REAL audience, and what it's like to connect to others through writing.

Last night, one of Jaana's students wrote this incredibly thoughtful comment to my Iraqi student's amazing post about her home country:

This morning, I woke up to a comment on our classroom blog from New Zealand!  The students thought it was SO cool to have a comment from a class that far away! Moreover, it brought up a personal connection for me; I've had a pen pal from New Zealand for the past 20 years.  (I was so excited to write back to that class and share that with them!)

After testing today, I got back on our classroom blog to an astonishing sight: 126 new comments waiting for me to approve them!  Let me guess, some kids got impatient with the slow school Internet and pushed "submit comment" 20 times each...  But no!  My heart raced as my eyes skimmed page after page of comments: real comments from Lee Ann's students!
connecting about tough friendship issues
reflecting about true love
learning about my students' countriescultures, and religions

"I have 24 comments on my post about Iraq!" shrieked the Iraqi student when she got on the blog. "I know, isn't that awesome?"  I grinned at her.  "That's because it was such an interesting and well-written post!"

Not only are my students thriving on the excitement of connecting with readers, they are also learning important lessons about writing for an audience!
Proof that a catchy title is important!
Readers outside Ohio don't know our acronyms!  Students are learning to clarify their explanations by keeping the potential (wider!) audience in mind.  

So much learning, such powerful connections!  Just what I had dreamed of!