Category Archives: Literacy

The Slice of Life is Coming!

For the past 3 years, during the month of March I participated in the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by the Two Writing Teachers blog. Every day I write and post to my Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 7.50.17 AMLitCoachLady page a ‘slice’ of my life…a poem, a memory, a small moment. It’s not always easy, but it is always rewarding. Having some experience with it for a few years now has helped me realize that preparing some things ahead of time can make the challenge less challenging. I noticed yesterday my friend and fellow slicer, Leigh Anne Eck, was also preparing ahead of time. This early prep can give you a structure to build on each day, some ideas in the can for those hectic days, and as a way to commit (and avoid writer’s block).

This year I’ve decided I will be writing each day to a spark from my new book Spark! Quick Writes to Kindle Hearts and Minds in Elementary Classrooms. I’m going to walk the talk of a writing teacher, “Do as I do, not as I say.”  I’ve bookmarked 30 sparks, but I’m giving myself the option of choosing others, or to respond authentically to events that pop up in my life that inspire me to write.  This always helps me to walk through my day more present-knowing anything and everything has importance enough to write about.

So how can YOU prepare for the SLICE OF LIFE CHALLENGE and make the month of March a little less challenging? Here are some tips, I’d love to hear any others.

Preparing for the SLICE OF LIFE CHALLENGE

  • Visit the Slice of Life Challenge overview page and the participant information form.
  • Create a blog page if you don’t already have one. I use WordPress (you can get started HERE) but there are others Wix, Weebly,etc.  This is a good resource  on HOW TO START A BLOG.
  • Read slices from other slicers (think ‘mentor texts’). You can see some of mine HERE.
  • Try writing a few slices between now and March 1st. Save these as drafts on your blog site. Use these on those hectic days that will inevitably challenge you.
  • Don’t worry about being lengthy and lush…remember other slicers are trying to read at least 3 posts each day and we often appreciate brevity!
  • I’m not great at self promotion, but I’m proud of the quick write ideas I’ve put together in my new book and these might provide some SPARKS for you as well!
  • Go to Twitter and search #SOL19. There you’ll find other slicers you can follow and get support from. It’s truly a community event, so welcome to the community!

screen shot 2019-01-27 at 9.45.11 amShared Spark! This week I’ll share a few teacher quick write SPARKS to perhaps get you started on some slices. Just write for 5-10 minutes on whatever comes to mind. Try not to filter your thoughts or overthink it. Just let your ideas flow onto the paper without judgment. It can be fun to see what emerges!

  • When I look into the faces of my students…
  • The thing that surprised me most about teaching is…
  • Reframe a situation in your day or week that revises the narrative more positively, yet honestly.
  • What do you think school looks like through the eyes of one of your students?

Whatever approach you take, I just hope you take the Challenge! It will change your perception of writing profoundly and permanently…I guarantee it!

One More Off My TBR Stack!

TThe bridge homehe Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

I was totally spellbound by this compassionate and poignant novel. Living in poverty in India is hard, but imagine being Viji whose father abuses her mother and whose older sister Rukku has developmental disabilities. After her father turns his abuse to the girls, Viji knows she must flee to the city to find a better life for herself and Rukku. With almost no money and no plan, they encounter danger and hardship until they find shelter under an abandoned bridge. There they meet Muthi and Arul, two boys with equally tragic histories. Together they create their own family who work together to survive-pooling their meager resources and scavenging in trash heaps while Rukku makes bead necklaces to sell. When their safe haven is raided, they take shelter in a graveyard where they might be left alone. But with little shelter during the rainy season, Rukku and Muthu contract dengue fever from the mosquitoes. Viji and Arul need to find help, but they haven’t found many people they can trust or who would care about two of millions of homeless children. Padma Venkatraman beautifully shares the harsh reality and the courageous hopes of real homeless children in this fictional story. Open this book, it will open your eyes and your hearts

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An Amazing Kickoff

Pardon the football reference, but it IS Superbowl Sunday!  However, I’m talking about the kickoff I’ve had to a new year of reading. If January is any indication of how the rest of the year will go, I’m in for a terrific trip around the sun!

In anticipation of the ALA Youth Media Awards that were held January 28th, I tried to read as many books as I could that made Mock Newbery and Mock Caldecott lists. I always love trying to guess which books will make the final cut,and my track record is pretty dismal. However, I almost always love the choices the committee members make.

CLICK HERE FOR A COMPLETE LIST OF AWARD WINNERS

I felt like a winner by being able to read so many fantastic books this January, and this is only the tip of the iceberg of books still on my TBR stack. Here are the middle grade novels that kicked off 2019 for me:

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And here are the picture books that kicked off my Year of Picture Books 2019:

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I’ve already started digging into my February stacks and loving ’em! I’d welcome any suggestions of your favorites. I almost always make choices based on recommendations since there is so little time, and so many books I want to devour!

Here’s to A YEAR OF READING in 2019!

screen shot 2019-01-27 at 9.45.11 amShared Spark! OPENING LINES- We talk with students about the importance of leads and how those first lines can hook a reader. A fun Spark is to share a few opening lines from books and invite students to choose one and take off from there. Have students write for 5-10 minutes and see where those lines take them. It’s fun to share and discover where a lead may guide a writer and discover the endless possibilities. For more quick write ideas you can check out SPARK! from Stenhouse Publishers.

One More Off My TBR Stack!

33294200THE POET X by Elizabeth Acevedo

National Book Award, Pura Belpré, and Golden Kite Honor Award Winner!

Elizabeth Acevedo is renowned for her slam poetry, and now she is just as accomplished as a kidlit author. Her debut YA novel, The Poet X, tell us the story of Xiomara Batista. Xiomara (See-oh-MAH-ruh) and her twin brother (whom she refers to only as Twin) were miracle babies to their older parents who thought they’d be childless. Mami is ultra-religious and wishes she’d been a nun, Papi is a reformed womanizer who let’s Mami run the household. Xiomara feels unheard, but has so much she wants to say. She decides to write it all down in poetry in the notebook Twin gifted her. She finds love, but is forbidden to date or be around boys. She wants to join the slam poetry club, but must attend confirmation classes instead. Will Xiomara get to be her authentic self or will the collision course she is on with church and Mami’s rules destroy her chance at the life she desires? Amazing story in verse. I kept rereading sections to savor the #DeliciousWords!

Delicious Words

Have you ever been reading along in a book and suddenly the words wake you out of your reading trance? The precise selection, the unique arrangement, or the magnitude of their meaning dawns on you as pure delicious reading. And once you are awakened to their presence you hunger for more-then unsurprisingly you find more. You just needed to be stirred from your suspended animation.

I’ve decided I want to start collecting these delicious words so that I can go back and savor their flavor, but also to share them with others to give them a sample taste. Last week I started a hashtag on Twitter #DeliciousWords to begin collecting lines that caused me to pause and reread, to ponder the author’s process at that moment in selecting just the right words to convey their thoughts so beautifully.  Here are a few from this week’s reading:

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THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE  by Dan Gemeinhart
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SWEEP by Jonathan Auxier
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IN YOUR SHOES by Donna Gephart

 

And then Friday I attended a Heinemann workshop with Penny Kittle and Linda Rief in which they shared their writer/reader notebooks with us. I was totally mesmerized at the way Penny crafted “Beautiful Words” entries into her notebooks. This took #DeliciousWords to a whole new level for me! Now I want to collect even more deliciousness and preserve them in a notebook. Check out some examples she shared (used with permission):IMG_0706IMG_0708So if you are looking for ways to revitalize your writer/reader notebooks, literally take a page from Penny and Linda. They weave the look of Found Poems with the skill of noticing authors’ craft with these beautiful entries. If these creations of art are too intimidating, just start collecting with photos, copying lines, or tweeting out the #DeliciousWords you find.  Share what you savor knowing no two readers have the exact same tastes, variety is the spice of life!

What’s On My Book Radar?

Screen Shot 2018-12-16 at 8.36.19 AMSWEEP: THE STORY OF A GIRL AND HER MONSTER by Jonathan Auxier

Every once in awhile you read a book that you simultaneously can’t put down and yet want to it to stay immersed in that world and linger on-SWEEP is one of those books. Jonathan Auxier takes us to the world of child chimney climbers in Victorian London, who are typically indentured servants trapped in a life of cruel and dangerous work. Society turns it’s face away from the horrible child labor because their fear of fire is greater. We meet Nan who was raised by the Sweep, but when he mysteriously disappears she is forced into the servitude of Wilkie Crudd-a Fagin-like master who works his children to the brink of death. When Nan is nearly burned alive in a chimney she wakes to find herself in the care of a mysterious creature. She befriends “Charlie” and learns that he is a Golem sent by the Sweep to protect her. But in this hard life they struggle to save each other and the children that no one cares for. Beautifully told with so many lines I needed to write down to remember. Do yourself a favor and get a copy of this book-a perfect Dickensian read for the holidays!

How Can We Encourage Our Colleagues’ Writing?

If you read this blog, you probably know I am passionate about literacy.  It is easy to find colleagues who want to talk books and share new titles.  I’m part of many reading communities both in person and online.  When we ask teachers, “Are you a reader?” they almost always answer with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” and follow with their favorite genres or titles.  When we ask teachers, “Are you a writer?” they often look apologetically and respond with, “Not really.” or  “Not a very good one.

There are a myriad of reasons why this is so, but lately I have been pondering my role in this.  What do I do to encourage more writing from my colleagues? Well, a few things:     

  • I have some sections in my book Close Writing: Developing Purposeful Writers in Grades 2-6 (Teacher Mentor Texts p. 66, Teacher Writing Group & Teacher Mentors p. 90-98, as well as Walking the Proverbial Mile p. 229-230) in which I offer support to teachers for their writing.
  • I have hosted Teachers Write get-togethers at a local bookstore for the past few years with teachers in my district to work on personal projects.
  • I have participated in the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers each March and gave feedback to dozens and dozens of writers as well as posting my own slices.
  • I encouraged several teachers from my district to participate in the Slice of Life Challenge and four of them started their own blogs. We had a blast together.
  • I give writers notebooks to every new teacher in our district to encourage them to capture that first year of teaching.

This week I want to try something new.  I know not every teacher wants to create their own blog,  it can be time consuming and offer techie-troubles. So I thought why not create the blog platform for them and encourage teachers to share their writing there? I’ve seen very creative posts from teacher friends on social media that capture the chaos of parenting and/or teaching. What if we collected those pieces in one place that could provide inspiration for aspiring writers and an authentic audience for our work?

So today I am launching the blog Just A Moment. I’ve asked a few courageous teacher friends to share their moments, and they agreed. I’m not sure how frequently the moments will be posted, it depends on who I can encourage to share!  I would love to see my fellow slicers share some of their pieces here too. All you have to do is click the CONTACT page on the top of the post and let me know. Also,if you read someone’s moment, I hope that you leave them some words of encouragement. It would take JUST A MOMENT. 

Click HERE to visit www.justamoment.blog Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 5.33.03 PM

What’s On My Book Radar?

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Magnolia (Maggie) Grace’s mother is divorcing…again. Her stepfather left them for another man and now they are leaving Georgia to live on the farm in Vermont that Maggie’s real father left for her after he was tragically killed. Devastated to leave, she soon finds out what it means to be “home” and what it means to be a family. Slowly she begins to discover the father she never got to know and the mother waiting to break free from “Georgia Rules”.  I found myself sucked right into this charming story and the rich characters Steveson has created as a type of Modern Family meets the Waltons!