Showing posts from 2012

Build It and They Will Come

Reflections on  Book Love  by Penny Kittle I'm participating in not one, but two online discussions about this book. I read it as soon as it came out, but these groups are giving me time to reflect and shape my thinking.  I don't know what I was thinking when I left most of my first classroom library in the junior high where I taught.  Did I think high school students didn't need books? Did I think high school students only read classics? Did I think high school students didn't need easy reads? I don't know. But I left most of that library on the shelves for the next reading teacher ( bangs head on desk) . I moved into my new room at the high school, a room I shared with another teacher. She taught freshmen English in the mornings while I was in another room. I taught speech there in the afternoons. Roomie and I are very compatible, so the arrangement worked great.  At some point, we began bringing our books into the room. And that is how the se

The Pathway to Difficult Reading Begins With Books They Enjoy

Reflections on Book Love by Penny Kittle I'm participating in not one, but two online discussions about this book. I read it as soon as it came out, but these groups are giving me time to reflect and shape my thinking.  Introduction and Chapter 1 I started my career as a seventh grade teacher. I was somewhat shocked that all students didn't love to read like I did. So we would talk. They told me they didn't like to read. They liked to hunt and skateboard and play video games. Some were musicians, others liked to sing or draw or act. I taught football players, volleyball players, basketball players, runners and wrestlers. But I didn't teach readers. Reading has been a part of my life forever. I don't remember not knowing how to read. And, as a child, I was surrounded by it. Both of my parents and most of my grandparents were readers. I read everything I could get my hands on. As I like to tell my students on the first day, I'll read the cereal box

Two Sides to Every Story....

It all started because I forgot to take my blood pressure pills and vitamins Monday morning. What started?  I don't know what she's talking about.  I was just entertaining myself. I went home during my prep because I left my pills and vitamins on the counter. The last time I did that, Chloe got the bottle  off the counter and got the lid off.   Thankfully, she didn't eat any of the pills, but I found the bottle and the pills on her  blanket, just outside of her kennel. I was  worried she'd do it again, so I went home. Really, shouldn't she have to warn me when  she's coming home early?  I mean, when do  I get a little privacy in this place? I walked into the house. The first thing I saw were chewed up kleenex on the rug. Great. She's gotten into the bathroom  garbage. At least there wasn't a huge mess. Maybe I'll pretend to be asleep. If I don't come out of my kennel, she won't yell at me

Words That Are Speaking to Me

Words that are speaking to me: "Writing, painting, singing--it cannot stop everything. Cannot halt death in its tracks. But perhaps it can make the pause between death's footsteps sound and look and feel beautiful, can make the space of waiting a place where you can linger without as much fear. For we are all walking each other to our deaths, and the journey there between the footsteps makes up our lives."      From Reached   by Ally Condie

They Were My Kids Too

It's not that I wasn't touched by the movie theatre shooting or the mall shooting or the temple shooting. I was  (How sad is it that I don't have to be specific in naming those events?). But today's shooting  massacre in Newtown, Connecticut had me in front of my computer all day close to tears and tonight in front of my TV letting those tears fall. It's not that those other shootings weren't horrific. They were. It's not that those other shootings didn't affect me. They did. It's not that those other shootings didn't leave families in mourning. They did. But this was a school shooting. And I am a teacher. Those were MY kids. That was MY classroom. It doesn't matter that I teach high school kids and the victims were babies. THEY WERE STILL MY KIDS. And I'm not sure that anyone who is not a teacher understands the depth of feelings in a teacher's heart tonight. We have lock-down drills in my high school. Practice for

12/12/12: My 12 Favorite Christmas Ornaments

I love decorating my house for Christmas, and, just like my grandma, I have LOTS of ornaments. It's only natural then that my 12/12/12 post is about my 12 favorite Christmas ornaments. The Noel Angels I love these little angels because they remind me of home.  I got them out of "Grandma's Garage" after she passed away. My mom also has a set that my sisters and I played with. For years, my mom was the N, I was the O, my sisters were the E and L.  My brother was born when I was 8 and we all moved up an angel. Poor mom was kicked out of the angel club.   Santa Baby Toy My oldest son was born a week before Christmas and this was his very first toy of any kind. It was given to him by someone who was a dear friend during this time of my life.  Although I gave both sons all the Christmas ornaments that were theirs when they married and moved out on their own, this one I kept. It holds lots of memories. Old Fashioned Santa This is

Snow Dog

It snowed here on Sunday. Big fluffy flakes. Picture postcard perfect flakes. Beautiful for a first snow, although I'm sure the same snow in February or March won't be near so beautiful or perfect. I don't think Chloe remembered what that white stuff was. At first she just went out, did her business and came back in. It wasn't until we went in the back yard to play that she really got the white stuff figured out. And then she went nuts. I tried to play fetch, but the cold air made her frisky. She growled and jumped and did her happy, crazy race around the yard. She stuck her nose in it, tasted it and rolled in it. And then, I tried to make a snowman. I start the perfect ball. Get it rolled just right. Put it in the perfect spot. Chloe thought the ball was for her. It must have looked like a fun toy. Surely if she picked it up and ran, I would chase her. Every time I made a ball, she dove in. Sometimes she tried to eat it. Sometimes she tried to roll it with

The Unwritten Vow

It wasn't part of our wedding vows, but it should have been. I dealt with poopy diapers and poop in the yard.  I dealt with puking kids and puking animals. I kept turtles and frogs and fish in the house when everyone knows those creatures live in the wild (I drew the line at snakes). I killed my share of spiders and other creepy crawlies. BUT I will not deal with mice and dead critters.  That's his job. (I'm sure it's written in a husband handbook somewhere.) And it is a hard and fast rule in our house (It tops my No gifts with cords rule). So when I saw the tell-tale signs of a mouse in the house, I followed the rule and told my husband about it. "Oh, no. Are you sure?"   Am I sure? Really? As I am taking all the dish towels out of the drawer and washing them (I'd really like to throw them all and get new ones, but that may be a little extreme), he asks me if I'm sure. I give him "the look". "OK. I'll get something


Explosion in room 25 Combustible attitudes Overworked teacher Tired Students An F bomb drops Not acceptable An "I'll do what I want" Attitude Confrontation Going nowhere Others waiting To see where this train is headed Headed To an impasse No winners Only whiners Today's Task Rebuilding Connections

Where I'm Headed

I first heard about flip classrooms last year. And, true to form, I began reading and learning all I could about them. I didn't jump right in. I sat back and watched and learned.  Here's what I believe and where  I am headed (and in many ways, I'm already there). Flip class--giving students what they need when they need it. Not on my time. Their time. So I'm not flipping lectures. If I need to say something to the whole class, then I'll talk to the whole class (and record it for those who are absent. A bonus for those kids who want to go back and see it again.) And maybe that's blended learning..... Flip class--expecting students to take charge of their learning. Yes. I know I have to help them along the way. Yes. I am the teacher. Yes. I need to give them a gentle nudge once in awhile.  But they need to take charge. What do they need to know to move forward in their learning?  I expect them to tell me and find some of the information themselves. Google it

What Do People Need to Learn to Write

Last week, Ruth Ayres wrote a thought provoking post over at Two Writing Teachers . At the same time, I have been struggling with where I want my Creative Writing classes and English 9 classes to go.  I can see in my head my ideal classroom, but the reality is ugly. We're not there. And I'm not sure of the road I'm taking. So, the questions Ruth asked got me thinking and questioning myself and exploring and writing. The results, my beliefs about writing, will be here, in a series of posts. I learned to write by writing. Sounds simple, doesn't it. But it's not that simple. I really believe there is much more to it. People need time to learn to write. A dedicated time in their day where the focus will be putting pen to paper---or fingers to keys--and they write. And how do I know this? Because I haven't been making that time. I find all kinds of other little time suckers and I haven't been writing. Not like I used to. And in my classroom, I sometime

The Smiley Faced Box

The Smiley Faced Box. It sat on the kitchen table All night Waiting patiently. But, I knew what was inside So I left it where it was So it wouldn't distract me. 7:15am I bring it to school  for that is where it belongs. I didn't open it. At First. I planned to organize my room and clean the smudge off my desks. I would write lesson plans and run off papers and be ready for next week. But, There it sat. The Smiley Faced Box. Looking at me. Whispering "Just take a little peek." So I did (even though I already knew the magic it held). And there inside the Smiley Faced Box were whining children waiting to be eaten by MONSTERS! And there was Ralph who thought he didn't have a story to tell, but told me one anyway. And  best of all waiting patiently at the bottom of the  Smiley Faced Box Cassia and Ky and Xander Reached for me Ready to share with me How

The Absolutely True Slice of Life Post

This is another one of those "I don't write about books, but I gotta write about this book" post. And. I'm late to the party. I've been meaning to read this book for awhile now. It's been out for years. I just never got around to it. Kept putting it off. But this school year, it kept creeping into my life. I'm talking about Sherman Alexie's  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Kelly Gallagher used   The Unofficial and Unwritten  (but you better follow them or you're going to get beaten twice as hard)   Spokane Indian Rules of Fisticuffs  as a mentor text in his book   Write Like This.  So I tried it with my students. They loved it and wrote great unwritten rules of their own Then, Ruth sent me this quote: Back on the rez, I was a decent player, I guess. A rebounder and a guy who could run up and down the floor without tripping. But something magical happened to me when I went to Reardan.Overnight, I became a good pla

Thankful For Parents

After reading Stacey's post about the month of thanks and reading several friends' Facebook posts, it came to me that one thing I am thankful for is caring parents. Those parents who take the time to come to conferences when I'm sure there are other things that need their attention. Conferences are different in high school. Although they can sign up online for a time and they don't have to see every teacher, not as many parents come to them. Some because their kids are doing well and they don't see the need and others, well, maybe they don't come because it's just to depressing. I had a good crowd this week. Not swamped, but quite a few parents showed up. I am happy they all came, but here are a couple who stood out. I am thankful for the parents who showed up at 7:00pm Thursday, apologizing for being early, but wondering if I could fit them in. I gladly did. The only problem, and one they didn't realize, their conference was actually supposed to be

HIdden Heartshots

They were here for under 24 hours.  Things shouldn't "disappear".  Four adults scoured the house,  looking for anything left behind  or forgotten.  But, slowly  throughout the week,  small heartshots revealed themselves  A pacifier  dropped as something new to explore was found. A sippy cup Abandoned in the excitement of being outside and dogs and balls and running A shirt nestled in the couch A package of wipes forgotten on the table. All found at different times  On different days bringing smiles in the midst of a busy week

Sometimes It Gets Ugly

I'm starting a personal narrative unit with my freshmen, so in looking for mentor texts, I decided to share a couple of blogs posts with them. I wanted them to see how to take a small, everyday moment and explode it into a piece of writing. I've discovered that since sharing with all of you on this blog, I don't mind sharing my writing with my students. It gives me another audience and it lets them see that when I talk about writing, I know a little something. As I was reading, I discovered something... I write a lot about the successes in my classroom. It sounds like a magical place to be. But It's not. Sometimes, it's just plain ugly. For every boy who comes in, excited about his poetry , there's five more who would rather do homework for other classes, check out Craig's list, and watch videos on YouTube.  By the way, the tech guy in our district called me one day when a boy was on Craig's List, that's how I know it happens.  The

What I Write

Letters and lists Plans and poetry and posts Tweets and To dos Status updates These are the things I write. Conversations with Chloe Sharing giggles with grandkids My love of the lake and my classroom. These are the things I write. A secret novel Mentor texts Comments for kids Ideas ideas ideas These are the things I write Hopes and fears Dreams Regrets Loves and hates These are the things I write...

What I Didn't Intend to Write

I didn't intend to write a post like this today. I intended to write a poem about fall at the lake, or a review of The Raven Boys, or ...well, anything but this. Shots were fired in a small town to the south of us. Our school district is not in lock down, although the schools closer are. It's scary. And here's what is worse. One of the shooters is rumored to be a former student of our district. As soon as his name was announced, there were shakes of the head. Kind of like, Yeah. That makes sense.   He always was trouble. And I know he could be.... He must be 25 or so now, but to me, he will always be 13 and sitting in my English class. Hair in his face. Doodling on his paper. Drawing cartoon characters. He almost never turned work in. When he did, it was a mess. Pencil smudges everywhere. He was often sent to the alternative classroom for behavior or late work. I remember his dad died after he left my class. Mom didn't have much control over the three boys (br

Why Do You Come To Work Every Day?

That's the question Bossman has asked us to discuss in our PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) during Wednesday's inservice time. Oh, there are other things scheduled. Other learning we will be doing. But this is the first task on the agenda.  I've been thinking about it for several days.  It's a question that hangs with me. Monday I came to school to begin our demonstration speech unit. I think it's my favorite speech.  I am privileged to sit and learn about the passions of my students--most of those passions I don't really have a working knowledge of, so it is truly a day of learning. Tuesday I came to school to wear J's volleyball button as she played her first JV game. She was nervous about moving up. I think she was worried about what her friends would think and what the JV players would think.  She did great. On Wednesday I had to come to school to chew on a student a little bit.  This young man is in my room twice a day. Once for speech. O

A Little Secret

Check out more Slice of Life at Two Writing Teachers. We're going to let you in on a little secret. Shhhhhh. Don't tell anyone. It's OK to write poetry in Creative Writing. No one makes fun of you. It's not girly. It's not "gay" (God how I hate that word). It's not stupid. It doesn't have to rhyme---or it can if you want. It can be about anything-- cars farming girls boys love suicide Anything at all. And we're pretty good at it too! Just don't tell anyone about it. We don't want them to think we're weird.

Sometimes They Still Surprise Me

I know most of my students pretty well. I work really hard at knowing them. I learn about boyfriends/girlfriends, out of school activities, jobs, sports, music, family, books. You name it, I really try to find out about it. But, once in awhile, one of them surprises me. Today was one of those surprises. It started with a phone call... "Sorry to bother you in the middle of class. H has some questions about some poetry you are doing in creative writing. Can he come down or are you in the middle of a lecture?" Lecture? Me? "Send him down. My students are recording today. I've got the time to visit with him." Now, you should know that this is the same young man I wrote about last week . We're getting to the meat of his story, but it still has a ways to go. He saunters in. I really expect to tell him that he doesn't have to write poetry. I just want him to try a draft of it. "So," he begins, "last night, when I got home from

The Real Story

He thinks he's writing about his small cousins' birthday party. But he's not. He doesn't know I understand. His sister shared a very similar story last year. His first piece of writing is just too much. You know what I mean. There's almost too much story there, covering up the one he really wants to tell. We talk. We peel away layers. We strip away details until it hurts. And there it is. The real story. He won't want to share it with anyone and that's OK. He shared it with himself. The real story.

Things That Made Me Smile

Taking a moment to remember the little things that made me smile this week. Smile number one: My freshmen English classes meet the last two hours of the day.  On Fridays, it's almost impossible to get them to focus on much of anything.  The last two weeks we have worked on "fun" writing assignments. The first was a version of a pass-back story. I gave them three totally unrelated words and they had to use them in a story.  Each member in the group of four wrote for one minute. When the timer beeped, they passed the story on to the next person in the group. These turned out pretty silly, but the kids had fun and they were writing. Last week we wrote ABC stories. The stories were 26 lines long and each line started with a letter of the alphabet.  I couldn't believe how hard they worked on these!  They giggled. They wrote. They shared. I love it! Smile number two:  This smile started with a post Chloe and I wrote this summer.  One of the elementary teachers in ou

Don't Be Boring...

I love my drama class. Most of them are my "Speech kids"...those kids who work with me from November through March to go to contest.  But there are also about five who just took Drama because they needed an English credit. They are, however, very talented and fit right in with my kids. The assignment I give the first day of school is called "Don't Be Boring".  Students can do anything they want in one to three minutes. They just can't be boring.  It's purpose is to get them to perform right away. There's nothing worse than waiting for days before you have to perform in front of the class, even if you know them well. This class showed some talent--I had a student play the ukelele and sing a Jason Mraz song . One sang, another played her clarinet, several told stories. And when we were done, they wanted to do it again. They seemed to have a new found respect for the others in the class--especially those they didn't know well. "I

Getting Them Ready to Write

My creative writing class this semester is boy heavy. Boys who don't like to write. Most, took this class because they needed another English credit, and they like me. That's not bragging, it's just what it is.  They are some of the SSB's that I have written about in the past.  Many are not the students that one would wish to have in class--especially a class that makes them think and write and create. They're just not that kind of student. Ask one about the band he is in and you are likely to get a history of rock and roll. Ask another about what he did over the weekend, you'll find out everything you ever wanted to know about racing. Hunting is always a favorite thing to talk about. So is football. So is wrestling. So is farming. There is one young man that I can't get to be positive about anything. But write? Text messaging is about all the writing they do. A few also on Twitter or Facebook. They write when they have to at school. They writ


It's been four years since I've taught a drama class. In four years, I forgot how much I enjoyed it.  I laugh every day at the craziness that comes out of high school students. For them, I think this class is like recess.... Anyway We've been working on pantomimes in class.  Creating small stories without props. Today's assignment was a real person pantomime. We had moms driving cars, little kids watching TV and even Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk. My favorite was a dead on pantomime of our principal when he walks into a classroom. Hysterical. Really. Everyone knew who she was doing. Next, a student did Neil Armstrong walking on the moon.  And the following conversation brought tears to my eyes. "Isn't it Armstrong? Isn't it Louis?" "No. Louis was a jazz trumpet player. Neil was the astronaut." "Yea. Yea. Neil. Didn't he just die or something?" "Yes. He did." "Oh. Now both moonwalkers are dead.

Practicing What I Teach

After reading and discussing  Write Beside Them  by Penny Kittle this summer with a group of blogging friends, I vowed I would write more WITH my Creative Writing students. Today's prompt I really like ("stolen" Diana at One Literacy Coach ) Things I Didn't Do This Summer: I didn't go to the hospital when I rolled my ankle (although I think I should have) I didn't get to see Los Lonely Boys in concert in Arnold's Park (although we went to another concert and saw them. I didn't enjoy the excessive heat we had for much of the last part of the summer (although I found ways to beat it) I didn't miss my grandchildren ( I saw them a lot) I didn't read near enough books I didn't break any records in golf I didn't write all I wanted I didn't catch the bouquet at one of the weddings I attended this summer I didn't cry when school started Something Just for Fun I found this video through Pinterest this morning and

A Letter to My Students

Read more great slices every Tuesday at TwoWritingTeachers Dear Students, If you haven't noticed from my whooping and hollering in the hall, the high fives with former students and the big smile on my face every day, I'm pretty excited about school starting.  I'm something of a school geek. I wake up in the morning thinking about what I'm going to do that day and fall asleep at night reflecting on the day. And here's my little secret I sometimes think I've failed you. Really. Sometimes I feel like a dog and pony show. I'm there for your entertainment, but am I really getting through to you?  I can make sure you pass the class. I can help you write wonderful speeches, create six-word memoirs, and understand theme in a story. By the time you leave my class you'll learn to deal with nerves, create a portfolio of your writing, and have your own idea of who was responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. What else is there you ask? Passi

Working on the Resolutions

Thanks to Christy Rush-Levine for this graphic It was a great first week of school. Even the three days of inservice/work time. You know what I mean. Sometimes those professional development days are pretty worthless.  I felt good about most of ours, so that was a nice feeling.  Our district attempted differentiating the PD on Monday and that is a step in the right direction.  I learned a new tool to use with my classes and I always love that! But Thursday was the day I was waiting for. First day with my kids. It was fantastic! One of my New Year's Resolutions is to make better connections with my freshmen and I really concentrated on that the first two days.  Step one was making sure I learned all their names as quickly as possible. By Friday, I had learned the first names of all 45 of them (I also learned the names of the random upperclassmen I didn't know, but there aren't as many of them). I told them that we might have to review a bit on Monday.  Sometim

My New Year's Resolutions

And here we are. Another summer gone. Another school year starting. And let me tell you a little secret... I'm really, really excited to start school. Not necessarily the professional things we are doing before kids come, but the real school. You know...when the kids come. As I did last year, I thought I would write down my resolutions for the new year.  Last year I referred back to these many times throughout the year. It kept me on track. Reminded me to keep reading my professional books. Kept me focusing on my quotes.  I felt better about my teaching and my life because of writing them down. When I look at my resolutions, I don't feel like I did as well as I could have using technology in my classroom.  I wanted to integrate it into units more than I did, so I am keeping that resolution: 1. Teach Web 2.0 tools to my students and ask them to use them to display their learning. I have learned several new tools this summer and have been writing down ideas for th