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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

The end of the school year came too quickly this year. The Two Writing teachers blog series, however, helped prepare me for the inevitable- summer writing slide. Kidblog.org published this blog post of mine around summer writing.

The gifted program in my district has always recognized the need for summer reading.  We carefully choose a list of books and send home a required reading packet.  Last year we tweaked the requirements and the kids actually responded that they enjoyed doing the work.  The packet was designed around choice and activities that were interesting and motivating.

What about summer writing slide?  My students actively write every day of their time with me.  Will they keep writing over the summer?  Not likely.  So I took it upon myself to encourage summer writing.

I found a stack of summer postcards in my endless supplies of teacher stuff.  On each card, I placed a label with our kidblog site address, my home address, and my email address, three different ways my students could keep in touch over the summer.

Friday was our last official day together as these last two weeks are full of end of the year activities.  I brought out marbleized journals.  We start the school year decorating a journal for the year, so why not close the year with decorating a summer writing journal?

Have you started thinking about summer slide?  What are your plans?  Share your blog posts in the link below.

 

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Do your students ever ask, “Why are we doing this?” Friday we celebrated the completion of the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Kathleen from Two Writing Teachers shared a Google Slide Show in which she posed these questions to student bloggers:

I discussed these questions with each of my class groups. Sometimes I wonder if my students really understand why we do this. I can see the benefits daily. Each day, they try to do better, write more, and add more craft into their writing. But it’s more than that. They grow as human beings, too. They share a piece of who they are and who they are becoming.

Noah said, “I learned that when you write on the blog, you are showing other people who you are.”

Sometimes these are hard lessons. These kids are at an age where they are still figuring it all out. They try stuff. They write things that may not be true to who they are or want to be. This blog space becomes a safe place for them to express whatever is on their minds.

Erin said she has learned to be more open. Kaiden has expressed emotions through figurative language. And even Tobie said he learned he wasn’t so bad at poetry.

With all the balking about writing every day and even the multiple posts of things like Google tricks, writer’s block, and “Idontevenknowwhywearedoingthis” posts, my students grew as writers and as people making their way in the world. I am grateful to the Two Writing Teachers, especially Kathleen and Lanny who led the classroom challenge. Another year down and many lessons learned.

I am sharing Kaiden’s clever poem about writer’s block.

A vacuous screen

filled with a picture

of a polar bear

in a snowstorm.

Snow swirling,

chills sinking

into your skin

in this winter wonderland.

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

Thursday was an adventurous morning, so I created a Slice of Life model post for my students.

When I got to school this morning, I saw a crowd of teachers looking at a wall of the school.  In fact, they had their phones out and were taking pictures.  I finally saw what they were looking at.  A rat!  

Ms. Katie wasn’t taking a picture.  She was making an emergency phone call to the maintenance department.

I was on car line duty, so I could watch the whole adventure take place.  Mr. Rat stayed in place in the crook of the corner for a while.  Then there was Mr. Leonard with a black trash can.

The rat scurried around the corner and the chase was on!

Not long after Mr. Leonard and Ms. Katie disappeared around the side of the school, the cafeteria side which was smelling strongly of syrup, the maintenance department trucks (there were 2) showed up.  I didn’t see the action, but I assumed the ratty rat was caught and disposed of.

As we walked back into school, Mrs. Delahoussaye reminded me, “We are taking over their environment, the canefields.  They have every right to be here.”

I’m not sure I agree.  

One of my students started drawing a picture a day on the whiteboard.  Here’s a collage of her drawings:

 

Speaking of art, the mural is complete.  Here’s a picture of the completed gator mural by Mary Lacy.

 

Today is my oldest daughter’s wedding.  Talk about a celebration.  She wants me to read a Margaret Atwood poem at her ceremony.  It’s not sentimental (not Maggie’s nor Margaret Atwood’s style), but I still hope I can get through it without choking up.

Habitation
by Margaret Atwood

Marriage is not
a house or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn

the edge of the receding glacier

where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far

we are learning to make fire

 

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

I was just informed that March is SOL challenge month. It’s a cruel, cruel world. We have to make SOL every single day. I don’t know if I will survive this deadly month. Okay, that was a little ( lot ) over the top of the ice cream cone. Yeah, that was a metaphor.

That’s kind of like saying over the mountain but in your mind picture a mountain sized ice cream cone with a ton of chocolate going right on the top and turning it into a chocolate avalanche. Did you do that? Good for you. Now I will grant you as many wishes as you want. NOT!! I am not a genie. But if I had one wish it would be not doing any Slice of Life challenge posts ever again. That is how bad I don’t want to do the Slice of Life challenge.

by Andrew, Feb. 21, 2017

“Andrew, the Slice of Life Challenge is voluntary. Are you saying you don’t want to try it this year? Should I make you a sticker chart?”

“I’m not making any promises. Yeah, go ahead, make me a chart.”

I teach my gifted students year to year throughout their elementary schooling. This is a blessing and a curse. I am blessed to know my students really well. I don’t have to pretest to find their reading levels. I don’t have to do writing prompts to see how well they write. I know all this.  They also know that when March rolls around it’s torture time. Time to write a Slice of Life every day!

Every year I try something new to motivate my students. Last year it was these buttons designed by Stacey Shubitz of the Two Writing Teachers. My students proudly collected badges until about March 15th when the newness wore off.

I also use incentives. One day of the month I hold a commenting challenge. The reward, one Skittle a comment. I soon ran out of Skittles.  I buy a book for each child who completes the challenge.  I usually buy 3-5 books.

Another thing we’ve done is connected with other classes doing the challenge. I’d like to do that again this year.  If your class is using Kidblogs, please request to follow by signing in to Kidblog and posting my URL, http://kidblog.org/class/mrs-simons-sea/. Click on the Follow button. Once I approve, I can follow you back. It’s fun and motivating to connect kids across the globe.

After seeing Holly Mueller’s students’ long slices, I implemented a word count rule. This has been both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is found when my students elaborate and expand their thoughts like you see in Andrew’s post above. The curse happens when they ramble on and type things like, “I’m up to 198 words, just 2 more to go!”

This is the nature of the beast that is SOLC! Blessings and curses! We are going to jump in despite the deep waters. Tomorrow we return from a break. Our challenge will begin. I wonder where this journey will take us.

I wrote a blog post for Kidblogs about the Slice of Life Classroom Challenge here.
If you wrote a DigiLit post, please link up with this button.

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Today is the first day of March, and I decided I would take the plunge once again into the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge. This will be my 6th year doing this daily writing challenge. My purpose is completely selfish. I want to continue my connection with the wonderful, kind, and intelligent community of Slice of Life. After 6 years, I’ve made friends. And we stay in touch with each other through our blog posts.

I have been writing long enough to know that writing every day is a discipline that builds my writing muscles. I will be writing for myself. I’m not saying that I am not aware of my audience. I am. But I rarely look at stats. I have to say I do get a charge when WordPress sends me a notification “Your stats are soaring!” Who wouldn’t?

I begin today with a photo essay of a walk in New Orleans City Park on Monday with my daughter and her dogs, Abby and Mabel. In this section of the park, there is an old concession stand. Who knows why it was built! There are no ball fields nearby, only walking trails. A sign in the stand told this tale:

The Coven Bar
Built by hand in 1854 by honorable member of L. Clamput Vitus, Mary Jones Thicklebrush. This bar was erected after she and her Bernese mountain dog, Helmut, rescued a drowning man from an alligator attack in the river behind it. May her bravery and her thick callused hands be remembered for all of time.

The Coven Bar, New Orleans City Park

The Coven Bar, New Orleans City Park

A Google search turned up nothing about this “bar” or any of the names mentioned.  It seems The Coven Bar is a gay bar in Berlin.  But that’s all I got.

Graffiti covers the structure.  A green Grinch-like hand holds a pink telephone with the quote, “You Go Girl!”

city-park-grafitti

go-girl

In my opinion, this graffiti is both ugly and beautiful.  While set in the midst of nature, grassy fields, draping oaks, bouquets of palms, this structure turns my attention away from nature to the irony of artistic expression.

What is the message here?

Is there any meaning in the artwork or the bogus tale of its origins?

I don’t believe the purpose here is political, but I may be missing something.  The painting is quite clever.  I wonder if it has any connection to the tale about Mary Jones Thicklebush.

We continued on our walk.  Abby and Mabel both enjoyed off leash time sniffing, running, and meeting other dogs.  (Abby is in the photo below.  Mabel is much larger and still young so she was too fast to capture.)

abby

This Slice of Life challenge makes me pay more attention.  I look at the day to day and ask questions, wonder, write randomly.  Some days I may come to some wisdom, but today is not one of them.  Some days there are no answers, only questions.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Lani watches a video about solar storms on Wonderopolis.

Lani watches a video about solar storms on Wonderopolis.

 

Yesterday I made the biggest mistake of my life. I went outside in a big, fat LIGHTNING STORM! I almost got struck by lightning too! (Kids, just don’t make my life choices.) It all started in Breaux Bridge…

I went to Dixie RV ”Super Store” to shop for a vacation RV. Out of the crystal blue sky fell a raindrop. It started drizzling. (I don’t know How it was possible, when all the clouds were pearly white.)

In a matter of SECONDS it started raining in like the flood was back. The ditches were filling up in 0.2 seconds. Then, the lightning started acting like stupid Angry Birds and I was the little Piggie with a phone as an egg. To make matters worse, Dixie RV has to be rich and have golf carts to ride around in the windy rain. While the rain was blowing in my face I noticed a tragedy. My phone was getting wet! I screamed in my mind so loud that I am sure everyone heard me.

I got out of the golf cart and a lighting strike was about 2 inches from meeting my face! I screamed to the gods and cried of scaredness. Hey! You would cry too! Guarantee!!! That experience has taught me a very important lesson: NEVER GO OUT IN A LIGHTNING STORM! BAD IDEA!!!!

Slice of Life by Lani (5th grade)

Every week my students write a Slice of Life on our class kidblog site, Mrs. Simon’s Sea.   With digital tools such as grammarly, edit, copy, paste, etc., they can successfully post a small piece of their lives.  Some of my students, like Lani, write these with ease.  Lani sees the drama in everyday life.

I used the above slice as a mentor text this week.  I wanted my students to notice how a small moment can be big. I wanted them to identify craft moves to emulate.  So I asked them, “What do you notice?”  We made a list.

  • All caps used to show emphasis.
  • exaggeration (hyperbole) that creates interest.
  • paragraph structure
  • ellipses…
  • parenthetical statement (adds voice)
  • imagery “crystal blue sky” and “pearly white clouds”
  • simile (metaphor)

Madison tried it out.

Two NIGHTS ago there was a LITERAL LIGHTNING STORM!!!! It all started on my way to Olive Garden…..

We were just on the highway out of my cousins trailer park and when I was looking out of the window and then there was huge flash of lightning and another and they scared me, but, atleast they stayed in the clouds!

After a few minutes, when I was looking out of the front window, there was a HUGE flash of lightning and I practically jumped out of my seat, and since the sky was so black that you couldn’t see the clouds, I was really scared!(It was scary since you couldn’t see where the lightning was going to come from.)

Slice of Life by Madison (3rd grade)

Drafting and revising a weekly slice gives my students practice in writing long about a small moment, a chance to try out craft moves, and a platform for their own voice.  For me, when my students compose digitally, I am able to easily grab mentor texts for lessons.  I can hold up my students as examples.  I can shine a light on good writing.

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth's blog.

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

I missed the Saturday Celebration post, so I am double-dipping today.

I want to celebrate good old-fashioned snail mail.  This week I received the invitation to my daughter’s wedding (coming up very soon on Oct. 1st), a #clmooc postcard from Karen Fasimpaur (she tells me she lived and taught in Tanzania?!), and a poetry exchange card from Joy Acey (make that 2 cards from Joy: the heart and the zebras.)

I celebrate the connections I have made through this blogging adventure that encourages me daily.

snail mailzebra card

 


Today is #DigiLitSunday.  I tweeted out the topic of #motivation.  This year is my tenth year teaching young gifted students.  I have redefined my role of teacher from someone who imparts knowledge to someone who motivates learning.  My students are way smarter than I am when it comes to a measurement of intelligence.  I am ineffective if I stand before them and tell them what to do.  It just doesn’t work.

I have learned the art of motivation.  And technology has been right beside me.  I love Animoto for its immediate access to cool designs and background music for video production.  I turned to Animoto this week to motivate my students to explore Wonders on Wonderopolis and to practice creating a thesis statement.

My students were motivated by choice as well.  Many of them find interest areas through their reading.  I Survived has become a favorite series.  Andrew wanted to know more about tsunamis after reading I Survived the Japanese Tsunami.  He watched videos, read a Wonderopolis post, and then branched out to search further questions.

 

Kaiden was inspired to learn about club foot from the book The War that Saved my Life.  

Some students were motivated by watching each other’s videos.  Jacob decided to research earthquakes after seeing Andrew’s video about tsunamis.  (Andrew and Jacob attend different schools, but they keep in touch on our Kidblog site.)

 

Motivation can come from me, the teacher, from other students, or from books, and even from conversations.  I went to Tanzania, Africa this summer and was chatting with Lynzee about the giraffes I saw.  She wanted to know why giraffes have such long necks. Wonderopolis answered her question.  Here is her video.

Obviously, I had a hard time choosing which video to share with you.  Another cool aspect of teaching with choice and technology is the variety of projects that are produced.  My students can now learn from each other as we post each video on our Kidblog site.

Please share your motivating #DigiLitSunday posts here.

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