Early Morning Visitor

My eyes were still blurry with sleep when I heard the tapping on the window. I put on my glasses and caught a glimpse of a little sparrow clinging to the screen and peeking into my bedroom. I adjusted my glasses to get a better look when he flew away.

Tap, tap, tap

I heard the same sound on another window. I turned and noticed him as he sat on the sill. He fluttered his wings once more, making another loud pat, as if he was knocking and wanting to come in. I quickly picked up my phone and captured a picture before my feathered friend took flight again. I lay in bed and considered my little friend’s impromptu visit. I wondered if the extreme heat was getting to him as well and he wanted to come in for a little air conditioned relief to start his day.

Painting: Process over Product

I had plans for the day: touch base with colleagues about an online project, answer a few emails, and clean / reorganize one of my kitchen cupboards. It was the first rainy day that I had no plans and I wanted to tackle a few cool weather tasks that were on my list. The time whizzed by and before long it was already one o’clock and I was just wrapping up the computer work. I was tired and frustrated that it took longer than I anticipated. I made myself lunch and while eating I decided I needed a break… ditch the cupboard cleaning project and get out the watercolor paints that I promised I’d play with this summer.

I have been playing with these paints with the grandchildren but I haven’t painted for real for a good many years so it took me a while to gather my supplies: paints, brushes, paper, water, paper towels. I set it all out on the table near my favorite window by the lake. I put on my favorite music station and let the spirit move me. I had just purchased these cool “hello” and “thank you” cards that are made to be personalized with watercolors and was eager to set off painting.

It felt good to play, to explore color, and light, and shape. It was freeing to just do it without fear of judgment. The longer I painted, the happier I felt. Before long all 12 cards were painted and I was smiling. Were they perfect? Far from it! As I sat looking at the fruits of my afternoon I couldn’t help but think of the words we tell our young writers all the time – process over product! Next time will be better!

CyberPD 2019: Week 3 Highlights and Help

I’m participating in an online book study with the community known as CyberPD. This week we look at the final three chapters of the book Welcome to Writing Workshop by Shubitz and Dorfman.

My sketch note below shows the highlights from each chapter.

Developing a Schoolwide Plan

I was pleasantly surprised when in chapter ten I read about the idea to create a “mechanics team.” Like the teachers quoted in the book, we too have experienced many a teacher stating: “I can’t believe I have to teach my kids how to …They should have learned it before.” Our teachers have assumed that the grade prior had explicitly taught a specific skill mostly because there did not exist a scope and sequence for the teaching of conventions and grammar and therefore there was little accountability.

Earlier this summer I led a team of teachers K-5 in a summer PD focused on creating such a scope and sequence for our elementary teachers. Our team consisted of one teacher per grade level. I am outlining our process below in hopes that maybe someone has done something similar and could offer tips or tricks to help us be successful with this process.

We started by opening the state standards and using the plan outlined in Jeff Anderson’s Patterns of Power. We created a statement to reflect what we’d like each student to know or be able to do for every language standard in grades K-5. Our process was tedious and took most of our day, however by 3pm we all felt energized by the work we had accomplished. With this sequence in place we decided we would need time to adequately share this thinking with our teammates and not rush the process. Our next steps will be professional development for classroom teachers on the need to use mentor texts with rich language much like Stacey and Lynne suggest in their book Welcome to Writing Workshop, as opposed to worksheets or daily language drills. My plan has the “mechanics team” meeting regularly over the course of next school year to gather mentor sentences and texts to try out in their classrooms and eventually share with each grade level.

I appreciate Stacey Shubitz and Lynne Dorfman highlighting this in their final chapter of this text as it confirmed for me the importance of moving this work forward. I appreciate any insight / feedback from others who may have previously traveled down this “mechanics team” path.

Thank you in advance.

Dancing King

We were enjoying our pizza at our beach-picnic last week when the elderly man slowly made his way to the grassy area. He unfolded his chair close to our blanket and looked over at our three blankets of fun and mischief and smiled a warm smile. The band was testing out their sound system complete with squealing sounds and announcements of “testing 1, 2, 3.” Finally as the music began for real, the toes began to tap and his smile grew wider and deeper.

A familiar tune began to play and in a wink of an eye the man stood up and sauntered over to the walkway. With his hands in his pockets he began moving his body to the beat and started to step in line dancing fashion. He was alone in his dance, but he aptly executed the moves with swift and sure feet. Suddenly, a woman sitting across stood up and joined in the dance. Then another woman stepped in, and then my daughter-in-law with my grandson in tow decided to have a go as well. Within a few minutes the once lonely dancer had a team of six women.

I looked at the scene unfolding in front of me, instantly moved that this once companion-less gentleman now had six dancing partners at a park, at a beach, on this hot summer night. A tear formed and fell swiftly down my cheek. I looked around and noticed my daughter, sitting next to me had also begun to cry. We gave each other a quick comforting hug, chuckled at our similar ways, and turned to watch the dancing king turn this sultry evening into a joyous display of song and community.

Friday night and the lights are low

Looking out for a place to go

Where they play the right music, getting in the swing

You come to look for a king

Anybody could be that guy

Night is young and the music’s high

With a bit of rock music, everything is fine

You’re in the mood for a dance

And when you get the chance

You are the dancing queen

Young and sweet, only seventeen

Dancing queen

Feel the beat from the tambourine, oh yeah

You can dance, you can jive

Having the time of your life

from Abba: Dancing Queen

It’s Tuesday and I’m joining the community of writers over at Two Writing Teachers for their weekly hosting of Slice of Life Tuesday. Check it out and consider joining in.

CyberPD 2019 Week 2

This past week CyberPD posts were focused on gleanings from chapters 5-7 of the book: Welcome to Writing Workshop. Ever since I opened the table of contents I had been most looking forward to reading chapter seven on conferring. My sketch note below captures some of my bigger thoughts about this topic.

I think my biggest take away and one which I will be focused on next year is the aspect of joy. After reading chapter seven I began thinking about whether I am joyful when I am conferring. I questioned whether I let the students lead the conference. I wondered whether writers leave my conferences satisfied.

What I appreciate most about reading this section is that I have tools and techniques to refer to as I grow in my conferring techniques. This will definitely be a chapter I will revisit again and again!

Heidi Washing Her Windows

I woke up this morning and noticed the clouds in the sky. “Perfect morning to tackle the front windows” I thought. After a nourishing breakfast of eggs and coffee, and then some more coffee, I convinced myself it was time to wash the windows.

It’s not my favorite thing to do but with the views that I am blessed to have, I make a point of keeping the lakeside ones free from pollen and spider webs. It’s one of the first tasks of my summer and one I oftentimes put off, and off, and off. But today was the day, a perfect day: not too hot and very cloudy so as to avoid streaks.

I sprayed the windows with cleaner and leaned way out to try to get to the entire picture window. It was a sight – my yet uncombed hair was flying in the breeze, my shirt was picking up the pollen on the sills, and my window washer hanging from my hands. I looked over to see my neighbor and best friend on her patio.

She held her phone up to her eyes and a few seconds later I heard the familiar “ding” of a text coming through…

I stepped inside to read: Heidi washing her windows

Oh boy -Good thing I’m not vain!

It’s Tuesday and once again I am joining the writing community over at Two Writing Teachers. Won’t you consider joining in?

CyberPD2019 – Week 1

I am excited to once again be part of the CyberPD learning community. This year we are reading Welcome to Writing Workshop by Stacey Shubitz and Lynne Dorfman. This being week 1, we are reading and reflecting on chapters 1 – 4.

These first few chapters contained a wealth of information for the writing workshop newbie and the veteran teacher. I enjoyed thinking about flexible furniture, writing center setups, mentor author boards, and establishing routines. I highlighted so many wonderful sections there was barely any white space left.

Yet I think I became most reflective as I read chapter three: A Community of Writers, especially the section on being a teacher who writes. Since joining the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesdays and the March writing challenge, I have grown immeasurably. I do know that through these opportunities I have a greater understanding of the struggles AND joys of writing and therefore can be open to an even greater awareness of what my students are experiencing. I believe writing regularly at home and more importantly beside my students, shows that I too want to grow as a writer. I am not there yet and I am eager to continue to improve my craft.

By writing with my students I am building that writing community where everyone is learning together and supporting each other.