Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Slice of Life - Golden Shovel Poem

        Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for giving us a writing community to join each week.

One Last Word Cover

     I finished this fabulous book of book of poetry by Nikki Grimes, who gathered her favorite Harlem Renaissance poems and composed original poems from them using the "Golden Shovel" technique.  Grimes defines it like this: The idea of a Golden Shovel poem is to take a short poem in its entirety, or a line from that poem (called a striking line), and create a new poem, using the words from the original. I was fascinated by this poetic form and was inspired to try it out.  I want to challenge my students to try it, also.  Here is my attempt:

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
—Mary Oliver

What direction will my life take? Only time will tell.
I can try to choose the paths, but ultimately, who controls me?
Do I make my own plans, no matter what?
My future - do I determine what it is?
Or fate? Or does some higher power make it?
Is that higher power created by me and you?
Or is It/He/She part of a grand, cosmic plan?
Do I believe like the teachers at Sunday School told me to?
An Alpha and Omega showing me what to do
if I commune with, meditate with, and pray with...
Is that higher power my Father, my Friend,  your
Savior, the only One?
Oh, these thoughts, so rebellious, hopeful, and wild!
After all these questions and the pondering and
the doubts, ultimately faith comes in, and it's precious.
This path or that, left or right, chosen by me AND You... life.

--Holly Mueller

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Slice of Life - The Goose Patrol

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for giving us a writing community to join each week.

     I started out this week in a funk.  This is unusual as I'm ordinarily cheerful and positive.  I couldn't put my finger on exactly why I was feeling a little depressed, but alas, there it was.  Maybe because there are three more days of testing this week, and I miss my regular schedule with the kids?  Or that the weekend was so fun, and I wasn't ready for Monday? I don't know. Shortly after I arrived at school, I got this text from my husband: "Sorry, but I am going to make your funk worse.  Goose patrol just walked by nest..."  There's more, but I'm going to spare you the details.  However, I'll give you some background on the Goose Patrol.

     As many of you know, we moved into our lakeside condo a year ago this April.  It's a wonderful place.  We love the shade trees that bloom in the spring, the blue herons and bald eagle that soar over the lake, the skidding landings of the ducks in the water, the incredible colors of the sunrises and sunsets, and yes, even the constant honking of the geese.  One of the first experiences in our new condo was spotting a nesting goose right at the edge of our back yard, on the edge of the lake, her fiercely protective gander floating by her side.  I snapped the photo above, and eagerly watched her faithful nesting, waiting for her goslings to one day appear.

     Much to my dismay, however, a group of men came by one day while I was at school (Ed was at home, showing some friends our newly moved-into place) bearing rakes and screwdrivers and wearing brightly colored vests.  Their mission?  To destroy goose eggs around the lake.  This is not an easy task - if you know geese, they are vicious when protecting their eggs and young.  "My" goose was discovered, and her eggs were smashed.  Our friends witnessed the deed, not entirely realizing what was going on until afterward, and were horrified.  Ed didn't tell me for a while because he knew I'd be sad.  He finally caved after a couple days because I was posting updates on the nesting on Facebook and he couldn't take it anymore.  One of the saddest things is that the geese keep on nesting for a while because they don't realize the eggs won't ever hatch.

     Now understand this.  I grew up a country girl.  I'm pragmatic when it comes to animals (although, I do admit I become very attached to most animals).  I was even a bird hunter.  We investigated and learned that this is a sanctioned practice - the Goose Patrol has permission to do this, so no need to protest too much.  I know that some people hate geese.  I know they are messy and problematic.  I know they are pests. I know their poop is disgusting and can cause diseases.  I know they are loud and obnoxious. I know all that, and I understand the need to keep the goose population down. Animal overpopulation is bad - they end up competing for resources and interfere with humans.  But dang it, I wanted to see those goslings hatch!

     Fast forward to yesterday.  Our front landscaping has a tiered wall that leads down to the grass below since we're on a hill.  I discovered a goose nesting just down from our main landscaping and on the mulched area on the wall below.  It's several feet up from the grass beside the lake.  A perfect spot!  She was hidden from above AND below.  Her only give-away was the gander floating on the edge of the lake below.  Well, that and her loud hissing whenever you came near.  That's how I discovered her as I was checking out the emerging perennials.  I smiled, thinking that we were co-conspirators - she may just "stick it to the man" nesting there!  I silently willed her to keep quiet and wished her good luck.  Meanwhile, I saw a couple other goose families that got by the Goose Patrol.  Yay!  I hoping for this one.

    It wasn't to be.  When Ed started his text that way, I knew they found her.  He felt really bad about it because he knew I was rooting for her (he's actually not a fan of geese, but knows I am, so sympathizes). Apparently, they almost walked by her, and even the gander had stepped away for a few, which helped in not drawing attention to a potential nest, but one of the guys got too close, and she hissed and spread her wings, giving away her position.  They moved in for the kill. Unfortunately, she hasn't figured this out yet and is still sitting there.  My mood has barely improved...

Sunday, April 9, 2017

DigiLit Sunday - Digital Poetry - Where I'm From

It's DigiLit Sunday!  Thank you, Margaret, for this week's topic, Digital Poetry.

     I've written about this before, but each year, I start with 6th graders writing "Where I'm From" poems, modeled on George Ella Lyon's beautiful mentor text.  We then make them into Animoto videos.  I haven't had a chance to share this year's creations, so during this National Poetry Month and Margaret's perfect topic, now's the time!  Here are a few!








Thursday, April 6, 2017

#MustReadin2017 Update!

It's time for an update on my #MustReadin2017 list! Thank you, Carrie Gelson, for encouraging us to make reading plans!
1. Salt to the Sea Cover
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

This was one of my Junior High Girls' Book Club picks.  I'm embarrassed to say I didn't finish it in time for our meeting. :-(  I'm still struggling through it.  I know everyone loves it, but I'm finding it a slow read.  Ugh!

Lily and Dunkin Cover
READ 1/10/17
Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
I'm listening to the audio of this book and am captivated by the endearing main characters

The Girl Who Drank the Moon Cover
READ 1/14/17
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
We read this for a staff book club pick, and I'm so excited it won the 2017 Newbery Award!

The Inquisitor's Tale Cover
READ 1/19/2017
The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz
Our staff book club also read this one, and so we were thrilled when we learned that it won a 2017 Newbery Honor!!


The Lie Tree Cover
Still haven't gotten to it.
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

Snow White Cover
READ 1/24/17
Snow White by Matt Phelan
An interesting historical retelling of Snow White.  In order for kids to fully grasp it, they would need background knowledge of the 1920s/30s and would need to do a lot of inferring - it's not an easy graphic novel!


Cloud and Wallfish Cover

Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet

Not yet - still want to read it!


Full of Beans Cover

READ 2/15/17
Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm
This was such a unique historical fiction novel for middle graders since it was set in Key West during the Depression Era.  I loved being immersed in that setting.


Some Kind of Happiness Cover

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand
Not yet.
I saw Claire on a panel at NCTE and loved what she had to say.  I look forward to this book!


Falling Over Sideways Cover

It's sitting on my night stand!

Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick

I got this title from the 2016 Young Adult Fiction Nerdies.  I've loved every Sonnenblick novel I've read, so I'm sure this will be no exception.


Still a Work in Progress Cover

Not yet.

I bought this a while ago and haven't gotten to it yet.  The subject matter in this book hits close to home, so I want to be sure to get to this soon!


Throne of Glass Cover

Still waiting to read...

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I've been wanting to get to the series for a while now.  We picked as one of our books for my Junior High Girls Book Club in the spring.  My daughter, Libby, loved it and has gone on to read the rest of the series.


Moo Cover
READ 2/15/17

Moo by Sharon Creech
Aw, this brought me back to my 4-H and Warren County Fair days.  Loved this simple story of a city girl moving to Maine and discovering the magic of taking care of farm animals and showing them at the local fair.  Charming.

The Sound of Gravel Cover
READ 1/29/17
The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

My book club picked this one for January. It was kind of icky, I have to say.


Born to Run Cover

Got 15 hours in on our way back from Florida after Christmas break - LOVED it so far (and so did my husband - he finished it), but haven't I finished it. :-(

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen


Presenting Buffalo Bill Cover
Not yet.

I love Candace Fleming books!  I got to see her at NCTE in a round table session, and she talked about this book.  


The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary Cover
Not yet. 

I read a Colby Sharp post and a Donalyn Miller post about this book - how can you resist after those two rave about a book?


Finding Perfect Cover
Nope, not yet, but several of my students have read it, and they loved it!

Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz

This is a 2016 Middle Grade Nerdy winner.  It looks great!


Scar Island Cover

LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Some Kind of Courage, and Dan Gemeinhart Skyped with us after I finished Some Kind of Courage as a 5th grade read aloud.  I've yet to get to Scar Island, but many of my students have read it and liked it!

Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart


What Elephants Know Cover
Not yet.

What Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein

I accidentally bought TWO copies of this book - I must have loved the cover!  It's about time I read it!


Upstream Cover
Still need to get it back from Libby!  Ha.

Upstream by Mary Oliver

I love Oliver's poetry, and I know I'll love these essays.  I lent it out to my daughter, Libby, though, so I need to get it back!


Flying Lessons & Other Stories Cover
I've read the first two stories and love it so far!

Flying Lessons & Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh

I'm excited about a book of short stories for middle graders!

Just a few more - these are books that aren't published yet that I can't wait to read!


Short Cover
READ 2/21/17 I like it a lot!

Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan


Orphan Island Cover

Requested from the library!

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder


The Inexplicable Logic of My Life Cover

The Inexplicable Logic of my Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Oh boy - only 8 out of 25 so far.  That's okay!  There's still lots of reading to be done in 2017!!  The year is young...

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Slice of Life - Why Are We Doing This? (The March SOLSC and the SOLCC)

     Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for providing space for us to write Slices of Life each week.  This week, I couldn't post in time for DigiLit Sunday, hosted by Margaret Simon because I was traveling, but I'm glad I waited because I read my students' final March Classroom Challenge Slices of Life on the way home, which perfectly answered Margaret's question of the week: Why Are We Doing This?

     This was my fourth year participating in the March SOLSC myself, and the fourth year for my students to participate in the Classroom Challenge.  Each year poses its own challenges and rewards, and this year was no exception, and I think it was the best yet for my students. Part of that is my experience in presenting the challenge - after 3 years, I've done a lot of trouble-shooting! I also think I got better about providing ideas, using mentor texts to encourage good writing, and reading as many of their posts and commenting on them (I have 53 students this year - most of whom participated to some extent) as I could while trying to keep up with my own participation (I didn't make it to all 31 Slices - I wrote 26).  It was A LOT of reading, writing, and commenting!  I was so impressed, though, with my students' comments to each other and their quality of writing this year.  I did a couple mini-lessons just on commenting, and I think it paid off.  They built quite a writing community among themselves.

     I create levels and prizes so that those who write all 31 days and comment on three other Slices daily are aptly rewarded (although several wrote that even though the treats enticed them, the sheer act of writing and responding/getting responses is what drove them).  Even if they don't make it to Level 5, which is every day, there are treats for other levels as well.  I want to give them the freedom to miss a few, especially since our spring break falls during March, but still particpate.  Tomorrow I'll get their charts to see how many achieved each level.  They're also writing reflections on the experience, also due tomorrow.  I always look forward to reading those!

     When Margaret asked the question this past week, Why Are We Doing This? (I ask myself this every year - ha), I had a feeling my students would answer it, and indeed, they did.  Check out this post from one of my 5th graders, Leo.  Another 5th grader, Grace, wrote about her "Why" in this post.  Katelyn wrote about the struggle and the journey here.   Braden, a 6th grader, also wrote about the journey and his accomplishments.  I couldn't express the "Why We Do This" any better than they.  I'm always amazed by how the March Challenge transforms us all into a close community, provides a forum where we can express ideas and tell stories, and develops us into better writers.  THAT'S why we do this!