Nonfiction Writing Graphic Novel Style Day 29 #SOL21

My second graders have been working on nonfiction writing projects. They have been able to choose from a variety of types of writing for this nonfiction unit. Most have decided to write a how to book but some have decided to write an alphabet book and a few have chosen to try a graphic novel nonfiction piece. This is new for me but I am embracing it because two of my graphic novel authors are reluctant writers.

This week we are focusing on helping our reader get a picture in their mind to teach them our topic. We are learning to use descriptions and comparisons to help give our readers more information. Today I modeled this with my how to book on cookie decorating. Tomorrow I will be modeling this with the graphic novel book I’m attempting to write to teach the same topic. I’m hoping my reluctant writers are motivated by my page on piping and flood.

I am participating in the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge by Two Writing Teachers. This is my third year of daily slicing during the month of March. Thanks for stopping by!

Teachers are Writing Again! Day 1 #SOL21

It’s March which means it’s time for the daily Slice of Life Story Challenge. This is my 3rd year participating though I joined mid-month last year so maybe that one doesn’t count. I was grateful for the opportunity to now have a record of some of my experiences early on in this pandemic. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep writing as my last blog post was in April of 2020.

Writing is akin to healthy eating and exercising. I know all three are good for me but there are so many other things demanding my time and attention. Pandemic teaching is taking most of my time and attention this year. I’m excited to be a part of a group of teachers in my district who are coming together to support one another through the March Story Challenge for the first time this year. Some of us are experienced Slicers and some are first time Slicers. Knowing I’m a part of a community is motivating.

I’m pretty much a rule follower so I know I’ll complete the challenge. I’ve done it before so I know I can do it again. While it seems like a daunting task, once you get in the habit you really do start to see stories throughout your day. I find I’m so much more observant when I’m slicing. The past two years I’ve told myself I would continue to slice every Tuesday but sadly, I have not. Maybe this year will be the year.

Writing teachers writing and sharing in a community of writers is powerful. It benefits our teaching, our students and our writing. I’m excited to be a part of that community again through Two Writing Teachers. I’m grateful to my instructional coach @Ona Thought for organizing a group of us to support each other through the March challenge. I look forward to growing and learning with my colleagues as well as connecting with them through their slices when it is so hard to connect at all right now.

From My Chair Slice

I was inspired today by a video my instructional coach (she slices at On a Thought) made to teach primary students about Slice of Life writing. Two years ago she and I worked with my 2nd graders on Slice of Life writing as part of an inquiry I was doing for my yearly evaluation. It was a powerful experience and one I need to return to doing. I haven’t been slicing with students the last two years because of the demands of learning some new curriculum resources. This time of remote learning seems to be the perfect time to try some other types of writing with my students.

So here’s my From My Chair Slice for Slice of Life Tuesday:

From my chair I see . . .

My computer screen.

My new normal classroom.

 

From my chair I see . . .

Post-It notes at the ready.

Neon green reminders of things my brain can’t hold.

 

From my chair I see . . .

Stuffies given in love.

Reminders of smiling students.

 

From my chair I see . . .

An almost empty paper box made for a joyous summer celebration.

A vessel for stress relieving morsales of chocolatey goodness.

 

From my chair I see . . .

A precious photo of days gone by.

Little boys dressed for Halloween

 

From my chair I see . . .

All I need to get me through another day of teaching and learning from afar.

 

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Two Writing Teachers

Day 31 or Day 16 #SOL20

It’s day 31 of the 2020 Slice of Life challenge but it’s day 16 for me as I joined the challenge half way through this year. I am thankful to Two Writing Teachers for opening up the challenge midway through the month as a way to help many of us process how the world had changed in just two weeks. I’m grateful to have these 16 blog posts that have chronicaled this historic time.

I read a post earlier today by Book Dragon that was a play on a spine poem.  My fellow slicer encouraged me to give it a try in the reply to my comment on the post so here’s the story my titles tell:

A Slice of Morning Meeting

An Afternoon of Decompressing

Stay at Home Order

Schools Closed Indefinitely

Revelation

There Will Be Good

The encouragement from other writers throughout this challenge is what keeps many of us writing for 31 days or in my case 16. Thank you to the Slice of Life community for you words of support and encouragement. There were many stories to tell this year. I hope to join you on Tuesdays.

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Two Writing Teachers

I’m not a Writer #SOL20 Day 27

I’m not a writer. I have been saying this for years. If you asked me to describe myself I would not say I am a writer. I would say I am a wife, mom (and now mother-in-law), teacher, knitter, baker and cookie decorator but not a writer. I am a teacher of writing, a blogger and the author of many cheesy personal narrative stories that entertain, and hopefully instruct my students, but I’m not a writer.

IMG_3559 (1)I came across this collection of writing today as I was searching for some plastic page protectors to house all of my important remote learning papers. The oldest of these items is my writer’s notebook from my very first graduate class that I took early in my career in 1992. It was a writing class for teachers of writing that my school district strongly encouraged us to take. Since I needed hours for my 5 year recertification I dove in with another teacher in my building. I wrote personal narratives, article response papers, a book review and the first chapter of a mystery piece but I didn’t feel like a writer after this course.

Some other items were my teaching journals that I kept when I was working as a graduate assistant while working on my master’s degree. I was teaching language and learning education classes to preservice elementary teachers. My teaching journals were part of my teacher research that resulted in my final paper for my degree. My paper was accepted after I completed the revision of one small section but I still didn’t feel like a writer.

Finally, I also found my Slice of Life journal that I used in my classroom two years ago. I was focusing on writing for my differentiated supervision project during that school year and with the help of my awesome instructional coach (you can find her slicing over at On a Thought) we taught my 2nd graders how to slice. It was an amazing experience as was slicing myself everyday during the #SOL18 challenge. Sadly, I have been sporadic with blogging since the 2018 challenge. I find other things take priority over writing. I think if I was a writer I would make sure there was time for it. I appreciate that the Two Writing Teachers opened up the challenge half way through this year. Maybe it will help me to finally become a writer.

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Two Writing Teachers

One Last Look

Dear 18 Year Old Me,

It’s almost time to leave so take a long look before you head westward because you won’t be back except for summer visits. Notice the way the sun sparkles on the water as you drive along Maple Avenue. Do you see how the water touches the sky? You won’t be able to see the horizon like this every day anymore so don’t take it for granted. Take in the sun and the ever squawking seagulls as the cool morning sand oozes between your toes. The sun will only be a sometimes visitor where you’re headed.

You’ll never live in this house again so take a walk around the yard. Make sure it’s when the rhododendron are blooming and not when those hard nuts are falling from the tree in the front yard. Take in the forsythia that grows along the neighbor’s yard right outside your bedroom window. The screened in patio is just to the left. Remember that August night when we sang Happy Birthday to Mom as 40 candles illuminated her face? She wasn’t happy with us. Who knew she would never make it to 60. Mark milestones because you never know when you won’t be able to mark them.

The maple tree still has the L shaped scar from the night the car came barreling through the backyard only to be stopped by the boat anchor in the shed. What a night that was. It was the first time I heard my older brother swear and he didn’t even get in trouble. Remember how Dad tried to coax the neighbor out of the car but she wouldn’t emerge until she had her wig back on? Little did she know there was a gas can nearby. Fortunately, the only damage was to the tree and the contents of the shed but it was a memorable night in our quiet neighborhood. Be thankful for near misses.

The roses are just around the corner. Mom loved the roses. Be careful of the thorns though. Life is kind of like those climbing roses. There will be many beautiful moments but there will be some thorns along the way. You’ll suffer the occasional pains from them but in time you’ll see the beauty. Sometimes it takes a while to see the beauty though. Keep searching, it’s there.

The last stop around the yard will bring you to the tree. You spent hours under that tree watching your little sister play in the dirt with her Matchbox cars and Tonka trucks.  That tree provided shade for your 11 year old self as you watched her blond banana curls blow in the breeze while she rode her Big Wheel in the street with the neighbor boy. Someone would always be there to yell “Car!” as kids played. Kids don’t play in the streets anymore because they are over-scheduled. Make sure your kids have time to play in the street.

You’ll have a few more places to call home after this one and you’ll make great memories in all of them. This first one will always be special though so keep it close to your heart. In the future you’ll only be able to drive by to show your kids and husband but you’ll marvel at how much the trees have grown. Though most of the families have probably moved on each house will always belong to that family who lived there when you were a child. I hope our neighbors are driving by their childhood home and remembering our family and our street games of Kick the Can and Cops and Robbers. There’s no place like home.

Love,

Much Older Me

 

 

 

 

A Season of Not Writing?

The last time I blogged was August 7, 2018 while I was sitting on a beach in my home state of Connecticut. Today I’m sitting on a beautiful beach on the Jersey Shore reflecting on the school year I just finished last week. It was a long hard one this year which might explain my season of not writing.

Last year writing was the focus of my evaluation project. This year it was math which was driven by a change in curriculum and a new resource. My writing suffered as did my teaching of writing. A teacher of writing must also be a writer. I feel like I failed at this somewhat this year.

I did write this year but only for my students. I wrote pieces to model the obligatory genres of narrative, information and opinion writing to meet the ever looming standards. Don’t tell, but my colleagues and I snuck in a little poetry at the end once ALL the assessments were done. I modeled using my poet’s eyes to write about something but the topic escapes me now and it’s locked away in my file cabinet until the next time I feel I have the time to sneak in a little poetry.

I’m sure I wrote narrative pieces back in the fall about my new puppy, Milo, but I can’t remember those either. If you’re an elementary teacher you really do need a pet so you always have something to write about. Feel free to quote me if you’re trying to convince your significant other of your need for a pet.

Milo helps out when I’m all out of small moments ideas. His dad is pretty awesome too.

My greatest accomplishment as a writer this year was the information book I wrote about decorating cookies. A new passion I acquired this year as a way to relieve stress and prepare to make cookies for Thing 1’s wedding next month and Thing 2’s wedding next May. Exciting times for my family.

I delved into Book Creator this year with the help of my technology coach. This endeavor motivated even the most reluctant writers in my room this year. I highly recommend it if you’ve been hesitant to give it a try. Learning along side my students was one of the highlights of the year. Here’s my how to book about cookie decorating https://read.bookcreator.com/qSvMHc97kBcJnk9RQkOPfJ0IE9Y2/TC17THBcSdG7Ffw9vf_fDg

Through the encouragement of a much younger colleague (I could have a daughter her age:) I also gave Google Classroom a try during our opinion unit. I had been feeling overwhelmed by trying to conference with 24 writers throughout the year and Google Classroom helped to alleviate some teacher guilt. Though I have to confess I did sometimes feel like I wasn’t really teaching as I sat at my computer commenting on student’s work. Being able to view and comment on their pieces at home had it’s pluses and minuses. In the end, I’m hopeful the experience prepared them a little more for third grade. In addition to MANY changes in my school district this year, 2nd graders having their own Chromebook was new this year which made using Google Classroom more feasible.

I modeled opinion writing with a piece I wrote last year with my husband in mind. Unfortunately, my opinion piece on We don’t need anymore cars at our house was still pertinent so it made its way to my document camera again. I also wrote a passionate plea about our ever shrinking carpet to my principal. This piece helped me model how to write for change. Sadly, the carpet remains and we still have 5 cars at my house. To be fair I haven’t actually shared my letter with my principal. I need to put that on my summer To Do list.

I started this post feeling guilty about my lack of writing this year but as the breeze provides relief from the scorching sun and the waves roll over the sand I’m reflecting on all the good that happened in my writing workshop throughout the year. I may not have blogged or sliced but I wrote for the most important audience I have, my students.