Friday, October 24, 2014

Mouse Story on a Foggy Day

Our house was built in the late 1800's. It's an old farmhouse, now sitting in the middle of town. Nothing fancy, just old. And with old comes lots of little places in the foundation where those cute creepy,gross little mice get in. Since our cat died several years ago, mice have been a problem in the fall (and sometimes in the winter).

Chloe has never been a mouser. Squirrels. Rabbits. Cats. Anything outside she can chase is fair game (she caught the foot of a rabbit the other day). But mice?  Nope. I think she just watches them run across the kitchen floor, if she sees them at all.

And because of Chloe, the non-mousing dog, we have to rely on non-poisonous means to get rid of mice. Our brother-in-law, an exterminator, gave us a type of trap last year but we can't remember how to set it. So glue traps it is.

Now, we seem to have very smart mice. They avoided the glue traps easily. Would go right around it, them--or maybe over them... Obsessively  Diligently, I cleaned the counter several times a day with Lysol, hoping with no crumbs lying around, the mice would go somewhere else (I hear the neighbors are nice). However they did it, every day I was finding the signs of mice on the counter.
A couple of days ago I bought those little traps where the mice go in and don't come out. Hoping these would work I put one behind the microwave, the mice version of 5 star dining, and left the one glue trap behind it.

You know where this is going, don't you?

Fast forward to today. An extremely foggy day in northeast Iowa. Foggy enough we had a two hour delay. I was up at my normal time anyway. Time for an extra cup of coffee and some reading and commenting on stories from my creative writing class.

During my second cup of coffee and second class of stories, I heard a noise, a snap from the kitchen. Evilly I smiled, Gotcha I thought. I continued reading and enjoying my coffee.

About 8:00 I decided to take a shower and get ready for school. Two hour late starts are great mornings for accomplishing things at school. I wanted to get a jump start on things for next week. And, maybe, just maybe, I also thought, If I take a shower, and pretend like I'm going to school, maybe they will cancel. A three day weekend sure sounds nice. (Come on. Don't tell me you've never had that thought).

And sure enough, I check my phone and there is the message, CANCELLED.

Cool I think. I'll have a muffin and another cup of coffee.

Cue the creepy music

I put my cup under the Keurig and push the button. And there, behind the coffee maker,

MOUSE ON A GLUE TRAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Those exclamation points are not for excitement.

I'm not going to lie, I jumped and a small scream may have come from my mouth.

I grabbed my cup, inched over to the other counter, carefully avoiding looking at the coffee pot, and hurried to get the honey on my muffin and headed to the living room.

And now, here I sit. Breakfast done. Coffeeless. And waiting for hubby to take care of the mouse.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

5 Pics/1 Story: A Collaborative Effort

You know me and Twitter.  I love it. Follow great people. Try new ideas I find there.
That's what this post is about. It's full of links, so I hope you have the patience to check them out!

Two Iowa educators, Erin Olson and Leslie Pralle Keehn, who now work for one of the education agencies in our state, have started a Connecting Creativity Series. I'll let you check it out. There is a new activity every month, and I use these as a way to connect my students to students in other parts of the state.

This month's "assignment" is a 5 Photo Story. This one excited me because my Creative Writing students and I already do this in collaboration with our art teacher and her digital camera class.  This post will share how we go about creating this activity and even meet some common core standards!

STEP 1A (and beyond. Will try to have her write about what she does in class)
@Artteach13 talks with her students about telling stories with pictures. They need to take pictures to give a setting, characters, mood, etc.  They get about a week to take pictures. Once they have their pictures taken, they upload them to a google doc with numbered folders. @Artteach13 grades their photos separately from the story (although WHEN we are allowed to have our digital storytelling class, this will be one grade)

Meanwhile, over in Creative Writing....


This is the beginning of our fiction writing unit, so we spend a couple of days writing group stories from picture prompts I found on Pinterest (where else?):

My students have fun with these little writing "episodes" and there is no pressure. We share them out in class and talk about what it takes to write a story from a picture.

On Day 2 or 3, I send them to my website to work through tutorials on creating 5 Pic Stories. It includes sending them to a site dedicated to 5 Card Flickr Stories. On this site they can pick five pictures and write a practice story of their own. They also have the ability to share their story, so I have them email me the link. This is not a graded activity, but it is an expectation.

By this time, the digital camera class photos are uploaded to the google doc. My students have two more things to do: Read/look through @Artteach13's and my mentor text and watch the tutorial on using tackkboard. We post our stories to tackk, and the video shows them how to do it. (Our hashtag this year: #CHS5Photos14 Look for it after Monday.  Last year's photo stories are here)

My students have several class periods to draft/share/conference before their deadline. At first, they look at the pictures and think they can't possibly come up with a story. But you know what? Once they stare at them for awhile, talk about them for awhile, move them around for awhile, a story pops into their heads. And they write.

This is a fun collaborative project for our two classes. Do we have kids who don't get pictures done on time? Yep. Kids who don't get story done on time? Yep. But because they are collaborating with peers, no one wants to be that kid who doesn't do the work. It all gets done!

Our students (and ourselves, actually) are always surprised at how the stories turn out. The photographers had a story in mind when they took the pictures, but the writers can arrange the pictures however they want. Our kids have created some amazing stories. I hope you'll try this fun activity in your own class, either on your own or in collaboration with another.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Discover. Play. Build.

Sometimes, when I sit at the computer and get ready to write my celebrations, it's hard to think of what to write.

Either I have too many

Or I don't feel anything is worthy.

And sometimes, I let dumb things block the celebrations.

This is one of those weeks.

But as I sit here, snuggled in a blanket, schoolwork spread around me, coffee in hand, waiting for the football game to start, lots of celebrations come flooding into my head

  • Our IT department. I can't imagine how hard their job is. 2 people and LOTS of devices. We are a 1 to 1 district. Every student in kindergarten through 12th grade have a device of some kind. Keeping everyone up and running is a tough job.
  • I have an amazing principal. Even when I don't handle things in the best way, he's got my back. He has totally changed the culture at our high school by being a role model and leader. I am so blessed to work with him.
  • I'm home. You all know I LOVE the lake, our friends there, the peace and quiet, being close to the grandkids.... But there's no place like home. And now that we've closed for the season, I can get some things done here.  Home gets a little neglected during lake time :)
  • Alone time. My husband has been at his brother's house for a couple of days. It's given me time to get grades done (end of first quarter-where did the time go?). I really needed this time!  He'll be home later today and promised going out to dinner or takeout. 
  • YEA for not having to cook!
So a little less thoughtful this week, but still celebrating. 
How was your week?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Forgetting Aloha: Anger

I could feel it welling up
(Damn it all. Why do I cry when I'm angry?)

A semi-unprofessional email
for which I will apologize tomorrow
But it got the job done

Why does it have to go this far
Why do I have to get angry
Why do I have to ask three times for
Which should have been done a month ago

Tired of being part of the
Red-Headed step-child building
(I apologize for those I've offended with that remark)

Even now
hours later
I'm still angry
I had to take it this far

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Celebrating Student Voice

Discover. Play. Build.

After two days of state testing in Language, I explained to my #Crazy8s (8th graders taking 9th grade English) that we would be starting a personal narrative unit.

They moaned.


At 13 they are sick and tired of personal narratives.
I get it, but now what?
I know they are right. It's the go-to writing piece for everyone. I hate being lazy. My excuse is that I wanted to plan a new unit for them and doing something familiar would make that easier for me.

Shame on me.

Truth is. These are REALLY smart kids. Smarter than most I've had in advanced classes before and I'm struggling to challenge them, yet keep things fun.

So this weekend, our last at the lake, I am scrambling for new ideas.  (Any ideas appreciated)

But I'm still celebrating. The fact that 13 year olds speak up and let me know this is not an engaging lesson is GOOD. It's their education. They should speak up.

So I'll keep thinking.
This week has also been demonstration speech week. And if you've read my blog before you know I love this week. I've written about it before (although I can't find the posts right now).

As always, I learn a lot about students (and sometimes other staff members!)

Lots of drawing lessons and braiding lessons and gaming lessons
But I've also learned about the care and feeding of Royal Pythons (UGH!)

How to make a weed wacker bike. This was an amazing project done by this kid (Totally Unacceptable). He had to repeat my class and we still have issues, but as the para in my class said, "Why don't we have class like this for kids like this?"  
Yea, why don't we?

But the biggest celebration this week is for A. A tall thin young man, who seldom speaks above a whisper. He has a para who goes to every class with him. Speech class is his nightmare, his hell on earth. But it's required for graduation and we're doing our best to get him through the class. He has been doing his speeches just for me, out in the hall. Friday morning he came during his study hall to do his demonstration speech for me. He made a homemade lava lamp (pretty cool. He let me keep it in my room). At the end of his class later in the day, he put an Alka-Seltzer tablet in the bottle and showed a couple of kids how it worked.  Others noticed and liked his lamp.

It was a small, but important step for him.  And we celebrated!

And how was your week?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I Forgot

So caught up in the teaching of genres,
      in the teaching of the how and why and what
I forgot to make writing fun.

But they reminded me today
That everything doesn't have to be
        or polished
          or even finished.
They reminded me of how important sharing is
      Even if it's just a silly little piece
        or one great line
          or a title that says it all.

I forgot
      the hook
        the engagement
          the fun.

But they reminded me.

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Discover. Play. Build.

This past week was Homecoming week in our district.  A week not only celebrated at our high school, but with our elementary and junior high as well. It is a crazy week of dressing up, selfie contests and and anticipation. For some it is easy to see negative behaviors and wasted class time, but for most of us, IT IS FUN.

Three little words that are so powerful.  I love you.  I've been saying them a lot this week--to students.  And I've been hearing those words a lot this week--from students. Kids drop in to talk, "Love you, Mrs. Day."

"Love you, too"

As I thought about it one night this week, it just made me smile.  Today, as I was looking through my quote board on Pinterest, I found this:

My students and I are creating quite the little community. We have a few "family" members who need to shape up, but most of us are taking care of each other in the classroom.  We're not perfect. Sometimes we lose our patience with others, sometimes we say things we shouldn't, sometimes we let things slide that we shouldn't. But mostly, we are getting it done.  And I do love my kids.....

This is my favorite picture of the week

When I asked him if was getting work done or if he was watching a movie or something, he immediately turned his computer around and showed me his work.  Never underestimate the power of putting yourself in the corner and getting a little work done!

And the last thing I am celebrating this week is a new friend, someone I know I can go to if I need to. She has joined @Artteach13 and I every Friday morning in a little project we have.  We are writing Happy Grams, for lack of a better term. Notes home celebrating something a student has done in the classroom or in school.  Not just the A students, but any kid who needs a boost.  It's been fun for us to meet and talk and write these notes.  We also decided that maybe they shouldn't be just for kids...there are a few adults who could use a boost also.  Here's to sharing celebrations!

3/17 I'm So Lucky

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