Tag Archives: #SOL16

Morning Devotions at My Caffeine Temple

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IMG_4545Stumble steps, avoiding pets

Paws and noses tripping threats.

Shuffle feet across the floor,

Cranium kissed in headline lore

Mornin’..love you.

Love you, too.

Make my way to caffeine brew.

Grab my mug, pour the joe,

Cup is filling, way too slow.

While I wait my eyes alight,

Images splashed with morning light

Memories, precious history,

Ripened fruit from  family tree.

Countenances cede me joy

My precious girl and baby boy.

Each morn I gaze at photos here,

So memories never disappear.

Frozen, static always young.

A visual reveille that’s sung.

I sip, pause and stare awhile,

Embrace the day with grateful smile.

Who Did the Learning Today?

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I stood in front of the 4th grade classroom yesterday afternoon, discussing historical fiction.  I’ve been collaborating with their teacher and she told me many students were struggling with writing their own historical fiction stories. I used a graphic organizer to plan and rehearse my own story-circa 1982. I talked about what life was like the year I graduated from high school and the kids were stunned to hear we had one lonely computer in my school with a green display and no internet! They laughed when I talked about ‘big hair’ and how girls would tease it to get that volume.  I advised them, “If you don’t know much about the period of history your story is set in, it’s going to be more difficult.  Try to pick a time in history where you could picture yourself and life around you.”

The children were sharing their time periods, most had chosen historically significant times that they had previously studied.It was then that I noticed several of our ELL students weren’t sharing. I realized when I said history, it was universally American History that the other students were considering. These children were from Iraq, they barely knew anything about our language, how could I expect them to know our history? I asked their teacher if I could pull them over to a table together.

I began, “Can you think of a time in history that you know quite a bit about?”

Azfar* smiled, “1982?”

I laughed, “Oh yeah? What do you know about 1982?”

“Big hair?”

I should’ve seen that coming!  I started again.  “Historical fiction are stories. They tell stories about  a person in a different time. We get to see what life was like for them at that time.  We see how that person has a problem that they have to solve. (We’d been focusing on this conflict/resolution idea in narratives) It can be a long time ago, but maybe it can be a short time ago. Maybe a story about a boy living in Iraq. Maybe a story about a girl moving to America.  Can you write a story like that?”

“Or move to Turkey?” Ameena* asked.

“Yes! You can tell about the problem your character solved when they moved to Turkey.”

Azfar offered, “My friend move Jordan. It bad.  Bad words. Bad fight.”

I tried to clarify, “He moved to Jordan or away from Jordan?

He move to Jordan. Not good. He America now. He name Musa.

It’s still not clear to me, but Mohamed has a story he wants to tell. I know all of these children have stories they want to be able to tell. I can’t imagine having ideas, and stories in my head with no way to communicate them.

Can you write a story about a boy like Musa? Can you tell us some problems that boy can have?

“Problem?  Eh, like what problem?”

I try to think of universal problems all children have and not just refugees. “Sometimes when we are new to a place, we do not have any friends yet. That can be a problem. Can you tell us how Musa makes new friends?

Azfar nods, “Ahhh. Yes. I can do this.”

I notice Ayusha* watching this exchange. She has a big smile on her face. She reaches over and hugs me.  “I will be your friend.”

I melt. Class dismissed.


*I did not use the students’ real names to protect their anonymity.


Mesmerizing Magic Made My Day

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My slice today is actually several similar slices. You see, it’s Read Across America Day and I have the perfect excuse for doing one of my favorite things in the world: reading aloud to kids.  I found myself invited (or self-invited) into classrooms from kindergarten to sixth grade with books that were both Seussical and non. I’m not sure who enjoyed these read alouds more, but it was a rush!

Wolfie The Bunny

I began with my kindergarten friends. When I introduced a book  as, “one of my very favorite books from a very fun author”, they peppered me with “What is it? What is it?” As I held it up they cried, “He’s not a bunny! He’s a wolf!”  I answered, “I know!  That’s what Dot is trying to tell her family! Let’s see what happens!” They wrapped their blankets around their jammie-clad legs and snuggled up on their pillows while I brought Wolfie to life for them. They sat captivated, their emotions conveyed by an emerging smile or widening eyes. Not a peep except for the invitations for audience participation.

I paused on the last page, letting the message and finality of the story sink in.  And of course, what is the first thing out of most kindergartners mouths after a story?  “Read it again!” I promised I would be back to read this and others, and when I asked them “What would you like to tell Ame Dyckman about her story?” almost all said, “She should write another one!” They wanted Wolfie at Christmas, Wolfie in Summer, Wolfie at  Halloween …basically a Wolfie for all seasons!

In room after room, I experienced such a similar audience captivation. I loved creating voices for characters, and pausing to let images and ideas saturate their minds. And all the while, I doubt that a motion sensor would have been triggered by these stilled listeners.  Between pages, I would look out at their faces and see them transfixed, frozen mid-scene. This is like magic I thought, no…like hypnosis!

I can’t show you the faces (I need to protect their privacy) but I bet you can transpose the sweet countenances of your own cherubs onto these heads. It is the look of enchantment, and the only charm needed was a wonderful book.

So thank you, to Ame Dykman (Wolfie the Bunny), Theodore Geisel (The Lorax), Ryan T. Higgins (Mother Bruce) and Matt De La Pena (Last Stop on Market Street) for sharing your charms.  You helped me mesmerize our students in magical ways and made these slices of my day so memorable!