Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Lincoln, a Girl, and Some Summer Fun

Sitting in the parking lot waiting on Lincoln to get finished with color guard practice, I realize I am famished!  It's almost six in the evening and my lunch time at school is 10:43.  My stomach makes that Winnie the Pooh "rumbly in my tumbly" sound that used to make my little boys laugh when they heard it.

Lincoln makes his way out of the high school slowly.  He has a girl with him.  Hmmm, interesting.  "Hey, mom.  You think we could give Morgan a ride home?"

I grinned at him and quickly said, "Of course we can."

Lincoln put his purple color guard flag awkwardly in the truck.  He angled it across the seat so that there was room for Morgan and her flag too.  He hopped in the truck bed so this cute brunette could ride up front in the cab with me.

We drove down the road and dropped Morgan at her house in a small neighborhood about half a mile from the school.  Lincoln joined me and I began to throw out the "mama questions" so quickly he finally said, "Mom, geez, can you give me a break here?"

I had to laugh.  He had just spent almost twelve hours at school.  He was tired and didn't feel like being grilled about a girl at the moment so I set my curiosity aside for the time being.

My stomach growled again which prompted him to ask the question that I constantly hear from him after a long day at school (and sometimes a not-so-long day).   "What's for dinner?"

"How about we run to Waxhaw and grab a bite there?"  I had had a tough day too and didn't feel like cooking, but I was so hungry!

"Sure, that sounds good," Lincoln replied.  "What do you feel like eating?  You want Chinese?"

"How about Luigi and Sons?  I really don't want Chinese,"  I answered.

"Okay, that works," Lincoln smiled.

We made our way into the small nearby town of Waxhaw.  It's a quiet little town with lots of charming antique shops and a few quality restaurants.  Luigi and Sons is one of our favorites when we feel like splurging on some rich Italian food.  It is small place with a quiet atmosphere that begs you to sit and relax a while over a great meal.

Entering the restaurant, we were suddenly hit with the amazing aromas of garlic , tomatoes, pizza, and pasta.  Lincoln and I look over the menu.  We talk about what we want to eat, decide, and the waitress, Heather, comes over to take our order.

As Heather leaves our table and enters the kitchen through it's silver door, we hear her loudly call out the cook's name, "Marco!"

Lincoln yells back lightning fast, "Polo!"

I can't help it; I burst into giggles.  The couple in the booth next to us crack up.  He has the whole place laughing!

He's a witty young man and since he was a July baby, summer is never far from his mind.

We finished our wonderful dinner and started for home.  With my hunger satisfied, I was happy to return to the topic we had shelved while we ate.

 "So, who is Morgan...?"

Planning to Write for Teachers Write!

A little late making it to the first day of camp, but I'm here finally!  It's the last week of school and there is a FULL MOON, people!  Making time to write is difficult at the moment, however, I have a plan.

I have thought about what I can let go for the next couple of days to be able to write.  I am at school generally until around 5.  Our students leave at 3:15.  If I leave at 4:30, I would have an extra half hour to write once I got home.  After the final end of year workdays and an instructional mapping workshop on the Common Core Standards, I will be able to write in the mornings after my wake up cup of coffee and my breakfast.  My fifteen year old son will still be asleep and my twenty year old will be at work so I will only have the cat there to distract me.

I will spend the time writing at my kitchen table--in the afternoons until school is over and then in the mornings.  Looking out the window there, I will be able to see my beautiful, green front yard.  I have two huge water oak trees the birds and squirrels love! ( I suppose I have to include watching them as a distraction for me also. )

My students at school as well as my sons know about my plans to attend writing camp and how and when I will work on becoming a better writer.  Now, of course, I have shared these intentions with other members of the Teachers Write! community--being held accountable to myself and the people that I've shared this plan with will should be enough to keep me motivated until August 10th and beyond.

Thank you, Kate, and all the authors and other teacher/librarian writers involved in helping me grow as a writer!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fun with Odes

We have not finished our school year yet.  I know that many of you have completed another year and I am a little jealous.  My students' last day is June 8 with teachers working until June 12.  This is the time of year that testing is almost over (we have re-tests the rest of this week), but I want to make their last days a meaningful learning experience.  Writing always comes to the rescue!

We have been studying odes in poetry.  We have looked at several and discussed what we notice about how the author puts the poems together.  Students have done a bit of brainstorming in their notebooks and we are now at the drafting phase for most but with some ready to begin revision.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from the Slice of Life Challenge in March is that I must write with my students.  They must see me as I struggle through my own writing process.  I have written an ode which is on draft number 5!   They thought it was "good enough" back on draft number 3.  I wasn't satisfied with it.  Over the course of drafting, they have seen my poem evolve into this :

Ode to a Book

A rectangle that seems ordinary
Opens onto a new adventure, 
a new place, a new friend,
a new enemy
A book

Endless letters,
those sticks and circles and zigzags
Help me capture ideas
Escape my troubles
A book

When I slow down
get comfy with my fuzzy red blanket
and peek between the covers
the World opens its arms
makes me Feel
Calms me, Angers me, Humanizes me
Offers me laughter
and healing tears
I am not alone
A book

I'm still working on it.  There are a few more changes that I am playing around with as I continue to draft.  We will complete these by Friday and then celebrate!

I have learned so much from participating in this community!  Thank you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Just a Number

Today we had our End of Grade Reading Test in North Carolina in Grades 3 through 8.  In seventh grade, this test consists of nine passages--fiction, nonfiction, and poetry selections.  There are sixty two multiple choice questions to complete after reading these passages.  Students are given 140 minutes to complete the test, but may take up to 240 minutes to finish the test if they need it.  Does it really take a test that lasts from two hours and twenty minutes all the way up to four hours to figure out what a student knows about reading?  Can it show what a student has learned in a year's time?

As I watched my students take the test today, I was hopeful that the things they learned during read aloud, during thinking about and responding to their independent reading, during conferring, during sharing and discussing what they read together would translate into a multiple choice, one day test that will be used to determine if they are on grade level or not.  

Sadly, I am afraid that some of my students will say when they get their scores back, "I'm not good at reading." They will base this belief on this one test regardless of how they have grown and what they have accomplished in seventh grade in the time between August and May.  

These kids aren't just a number!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Student Voice


     Today I was looking back at some of the work my students have completed on their Google Docs Reading Response Logs.  I have 7th graders and sometimes quite often I can only shake my head at their thinking and writing about what they read.  These students have so many things going on in their lives. "Drama" is a synonym for most 7th graders!  However, many students have real talent in writing about their reading which unfolds as the year progresses.
     A. is one of those kids.  She is not at the top of the "A" honor roll each six weeks.  She has a tendency to procrastinate sometimes quiet often.  She is also one of the most creative students I have ever seen.  She's a thinker!
     We had Extend 2 testing going on in our building today.  This testing is an assessment that certain kids in our special education program take instead of the regular End of Grade tests.  Teachers had their homerooms for over two hours this morning!  We worked on many things during this time.  Regular testing begins next Tuesday with the Reading EOG.  Of course, we are all feeling the stress and pressure of the testing.   I needed to take a look at my Reading Response Logs for evidence that my students were ready for two hours of reading selections (9 passages) and answering 62 multiple choice questions.
     I was reminded that sometimes I need to look at the big picture of the growth over the course of the entire year.  A.  sometimes quiet often always makes me smile!  I do not worry about her or her ability to ace any Reading test thrown her way.
     A.'s voice and  personality shine through in her writing about her reading.  I hope you enjoy these excerpts from her Reading Response Log and I wish you many students that bring you joy during this Teacher Appreciation Week!  Thanks for all you do!

     When I look at her work, she is authentic and thoughtful.  She has areas of need and areas of tremendous strength in her thinking about her reading.  Sometimes Quiet often I am so glad to be in a classroom working with these awesome kids!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Last Saturday

     I slowly headed in, dragging myself into the building to sign the book.  The black ink flowed smoothly across the page.  Standing with the other people there, I pulled my Kleenex from hand to hand, stretching it as far as I could without ripping it as I kept hold of the papers.  Voices sounded around me; some talking softly, others too loud in this quiet place.
     We moved along slowly.  Me, dreading my arrival at my destination.  Was I doing the right thing?  Was this the right time?  Questions chased each other around in my mind.
     My heels felt strange on my feet.  It was a beautiful Saturday evening and I only wore them to church or to special occasions.  I really did not want to take another step forward.
     It was finally my turn.  I reached the platform.  So many things hit me at once--the large screen displaying pictures of a little boy with blue icing covering most of his face then looping to another picture of this same little boy but a little older, portraits of a smiling young man out by the ocean with the waves tumbling to shore in the background, and two weary people, Gina and Burt, standing beside a small, brown casket with a beautiful spray of twelve perfect white roses on top.
     " I'm so sorry," I whispered through a throat suddenly closing up with tears.
     Gina lifted her arms and placed them around me.  "Thank you for coming.  What I wouldn't give to be walking him into your classroom again, Ms. Cress."  I squeezed her tight and moved back a little.
     "I brought this for you.  I thought you might like to have it." I handed over the rough draft and memoir that Josh had handwritten in October.  She took the sheets of paper and quickly hugged them to her; tears rolling down both her cheeks.
     Burt, Josh's dad, looked at the papers filled with some of the last words Josh was able to write on his own. His arm came around me on one side and Gina's arm came around on the other.
     "Thank you so much,"  Josh's parents quietly said and smiled.
     After one last quick hug, I moved across the platform and out through the crowd.  I looked down to see my Kleenex tattered and crumpled in my tight fist.  I relaxed my hand.  I think I did the right thing.

This post is dedicated to the memory of my student, Josh, who lost his battle with cancer on Wednesday, April 25, 2012.  He was 12 years old.  I wrote about Josh earlier in the March SOLSC.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Final Copies

Today we had to finish an essay that our administration was requiring be done as evidence that writing is taking place in our Language Arts classrooms in 7th grade.  This is a slice from one block today..

Ten students who took chances in their writing--whether it was trying out a new word or a different type of lead--these students wanted their essays to reflect how they have grown as writers this year.

Nine final copies that were great examples of "voice" in a text.

Eight computers that had some type of technical issue that had to be fixed before their essays could be published.

Seven students who wanted to confer one last time before deciding they were ready to publish their final copy.

Six students who loved their essays and wanted to share what they had written.

Five titles that were interesting enough for other students to comment "Oh, I wish I had thought of that one."

Four students who did not complete an essay.  :(

Three essays finished with only a few minutes left before the deadline in the block.

Two out-of -ink pens.

One teacher who was happy with the accomplishments of her students!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


There is no "official" Slice of Life Tuesday today since Stacey and Ruth over at Two Writing Teachers are taking a much deserved break.  However, many who slice regularly and those, like me, who started the SOLS Challenge in March for the first time this year, wanted to keep writing.  I am very late posting today and must admit that I'm beat!  If you are a teacher, you know how hectic and stressful this time of year (Testing Time...oh, joy!) is for us.  Out of respect for my tired body and brain, my slice is a very brief one tonight.


Listening to the rain peppering the roof and the thunder clearing it's throat

Loving that the day is winding down and I finally have enough time to be able to write

Thinking I need to make sure my fifteen year old is actually in bed trying to fall asleep and NOT on his cell phone, but first I need to write

Wanting the field testing and the regular testing to be behind the kids so we can concentrate on learning and stop stressing

Needing some uninterrupted sleep tonight with no worries

Super Power finding a way to let the day settle inside myself, going to a quiet place, and writing--no matter how briefly

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Haiku

Celebrating the last bit of Spring Break out in my yard today--beautiful Carolina blue skies and a mild 66 degrees outside!  I walked around the side of my house and ran into my azaleas, blooming in an amazing display of pinks and reds.  I rushed inside and grabbed my writer's notebook and jotted down some words and phrases trying to capture those flowers at this moment.

This haiku is what eventually formed from my scribbling:

Azalea parade
Pink and red pirouetting
Charming Southern belles

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Teacher Brain

I am on Spring Break this week and boy, I needed it!  This year has been a tough one.  We have children who are sick, deathly so, and children who are challenges (to the point where one of my assistant principals calls us "THE team."  So, I am in need of time to relax to renew my energy for the whirlwind of testing that will soon begin.
One of the things that I did yesterday was catch up on some of my neglected blog reading.  I love the blogging world and the ideas that I get from fellow teachers, literacy specialists, and coaches.  There are so many wonderful things going on in schools and it amazes me all the shots that are being taken at educators right now.  The hard work and dedication to kids that I see each time I read the blogs out there show what you all value and how much you care about your students.  (Sorry, hold that thought for another post!)

Yesterday as I was reading the blog, A Year of Reading, I caught a post from Saturday on Newspaper Blackout Poems.  I was captured right away!  The thinking and creativity involved in this type of poetry would be just the thing to capture the interests of my seventh graders coming back after a week of Spring Break.  My "teacher brain" was intrigued.  Now to gather enough newspapers for my 100 students!

Quickly, I opened my school email and sent out an all-school request for newspapers.  This new idea really got me excited!  Even on break, I couldn't help but think about school and my students.  My "teacher brain" would not turn off.  Not long after I sent out the email, I received a reply.  This reply told me to quit thinking about school and enjoy myself this week.  Today, I got another response telling me basically the same thing.  My "teacher brain" DOES ENJOY finding new ideas to try out with my kids!

This all started me thinking about teachers, literacy specialists, coaches, and the like.   Doesn't everyone have a "teacher brain" that continually sifts through information and ideas for school?  Is this something that is that unusual?  What do you think about having a "teacher brain"?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Still More Book Spine Poems

Here are the rest of the "best of" my students' Book Spine poems.  We all enjoyed this assignment so much!  The kids are still talking about it.  Thanks, Dana, (She Writes Because...) for sharing your poems that inspired us to get started!  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

More Book Spine Poems from My Students

Yesterday I posted three book spine poems my students put together in our Media Center with the promise of downloading some more off the memory card from a camera the media assistant let me borrow.  I did that today during planning.  Here are few more of their poems.  (I will post a few more this weekend.)  Hope you enjoy them!

 One of my boys who hasn't really participated all year!

My personal favorite of this group.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Spine Poems with My Students

Today my students went to the Media Center and created book spine poems.  We had a ball!  They were really unsure and a little leery of playing around with the titles at first.  Once they got started though they really got into it!  Once they realized they were free to use their imaginations (and that there were no grades involved) they explored so many options and actually had some fun with it!  Here are a few examples--I have 100 students and I took pictures of all of them, but I only have a few on my phone to upload here.

The media assistant felt sorry for me having to use my phone to take pictures so she swiped one of the cameras reserved for the yearbook and let me use it to take more pictures.  I couldn't bring the camera home to download more pictures of the book spine poems so I've only included three here.  I will try to put a few more of my best ones up tomorrow.

It was awesome fun for both the kids and me!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Slice of Life Challenge 2012 is Over

I am at a loss today.  Every day for the past month I have been writing for the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by Ruth and Stacey over at Two Writing Teachers.  This being April 1, I have completed the challenge!  I feel very proud of myself for this accomplishment and for the first time EVER, I feel like a writer.

I have felt like a phony in my Language Arts classes for a long time because I didn't write.  I mean I wrote, but not like I was asking my students to write.  Now I have a much better idea of what it means to write every day--how difficult it can be, how sometimes you just have to write junk just to get going, how you have to have strategies to get you moving again when you are stuck, and how opening yourself up for others to inspect takes a lot of courage.

I have also learned how important audience is when writing.  Before when I felt I had no true audience, I did not invest much in the act of writing and writing well.  Who's going to be reading it anyway? Now, I realize that I need to know that someone is going to be reading what I write.  They might be commenting on it too and telling me how they feel about the piece and their connection to it.

The feedback part of the Slice of Life Challenge is one of the most valuable parts of each day.  When people comment on what you have written, it validates your writing.  Those comments often fuel another day of writing.  I looked forward to reading those comments each day.  In turn, commenting on other writers' slices gave me a chance to pass along those wonderful connections too.  Many times, reading the blogs of others sparked a new piece of writing.   I learned about some wonderful new structures for writing that I did not know about because I took the time to read and comment on the work of others in the challenge.

I think the most important gift of the challenge was the writing habit that emerged.  The way I now feel that I have to write.  Everyday.  I haven't felt this strongly about needing to put pen to paper before this challenge.

I will continue to write.  I will slice each Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers. I will look forward to continuing to work with this wonderfully supportive community and cultivating the friendships that have developed during the month of March.

Thank you, Ruth and Stacey, for giving me the chance to write and learn so much!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

How My Writing is Like Playing Angry Birds

Today is the last day of this writing challenge!  I can't believe it.  When I look back on it, it doesn't seem like it has been thirty one days.  I have left tonight's slice till late.  I think I put it off because I truly don't want it to be over.  I know I will slice on Tuesday's, but this month has been such a valuable experience for me and it's hard to let that go.  One thing I learned is that writing in the Slice of Life Story Challenge this month (and writing for me in general) reminded me of playing the game Angry Birds.  Here's my explanation:

  • In Angry Birds, there are different levels.  The birds have to go through obstacles to get to the pigs.  Sometimes a piece of wood or a rock will help the bird blow up the pigs. You get through a level by taking out all the pigs.  During this challenge, I have had obstacles to tackle to try to get to the next level in my writing.  Finding the time to write, a topic that mattered to me, and the self-doubt I experienced all worked to keep me from writing.  My Writer's Notebook became my piece of wood and your comments and encouragement became my rocks to help me take out those pigs!
  • The birds have different abilities and talents they use to blow up the pigs.  I was amazed at the different talents that I came across when I read the slices of others in the challenge!  There are so many wonderful writers participating and I learned something from each of the slices that I read.  These writers sparked ideas and made me stretch my thinking when deciding the structure of what I would try to write.  
  • Playing the game can be very frustrating at times!  I can't always get it right and wipe out the pigs each time I play and I leave them there smiling at me like "Ha ha!  I won!  You aren't very good at this game, are you?"  When I sat down to write each day, I didn't always get it right.  I wrote pieces that never made it to the blog and I wrote pieces that made it, but I wasn't happy with the results.  I felt I wasn't very good some days, but I continued to write just like I continue to play Angry Birds.  I will keep trying to get a little better each time I play and each time I write!

I will keep writing and I thank you all, especially Ruth and Stacey, for the opportunity to participate and be a part of this wonderful group!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Letter to You

Dear Slicers,
    Thank you so much for the support you have offered me in the month of March.  This month has been filled with so many ups and downs.  I have written every day even though I didn't always make the midnight cutoff to get it posted.  I have commented on other posts, marveled at the talent of the writers here, and been amazed at the comments that were offered on my writing and the writing of others.
     When I started this challenge, I was frightened about opening myself to the blogging world.  Even though I did not know you all personally, my heart was going to be opened for all to peek into and it was a scary prospect.  However, you put those fears aside with your kindness and support--even when I knew some of my posts weren't that great!  You all made me feel like you were with me and understood despite how well (or not so well) I expressed myself.
     You have given me the courage to write about memories, stories, people, and topics that are difficult to write about and put out there.  You have encouraged me to write from the heart and I have done that.  Thank you for nudging me to explore and come to know myself as a person, teacher, and writer!
     I will continue to write (and grow as a writer) and I will be able to help my students grow as writers as well because of you!  Thank you so much for helping me find the confidence so that I may help others find their voice.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Reason

Yesterday, my slice was about the many blessings I have.  I was prompted to write about them because of a situation with a young man I have in my seventh grade Language Arts class.  At the end of the year last year, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.  He went through chemo over the summer before starting back to school this fall.  He was only allowed to attend a partial day so he was in my class and in my team mate's Math class.  He would leave to go home around 10:30.  His attitude was positive and he was thrilled to be here at school.  He always had a smile on his face and a kind word for his classmates.

 He was doing very well for a while and the tumor had shrunk, but he was scheduled for another round of chemo (at double the dose of the summer) after being back at school for about eight weeks.  He became very ill this time (he wasn't sick over the summer from it) and had some very negative side effects from the treatments.  He has not been able to come back to school, but he has never been out of the thoughts of his friends here or of his teachers.  Yesterday, I received this forwarded email :

And then a little later in the day a second one--

I have lost people in my life I cared very deeply about, but they were adults and older than I was.  This young man is twelve years old.  He is a blessing to all who know him.  His strength and grace and his compassion for those of us he will be leaving is truly amazing.  HE is the one trying to comfort US!  I am at a loss to describe my feelings because they are so jumbled.  If I feel like this and he is not my child, my heart aches for his parents and grandparents.   I wrote about my blessings last night because it was the only way I knew to try to step back from the emotions of the day.

If you feel so led, please say a prayer (or many) for this special child and his family.   

And hug those you love a little tighter.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I Am So Blessed

Today was one of those days you would like to start over and change reality if you could.  It's been a tough day.  I am focusing tonight on my blessings.  It's taken me a while today to get to the point that I could!

Here's my list of 10 blessings (although I have many, many more):

  •   Good health and the good health of my family and children
  •   Family
  •   Friends, including my furry ones 
  •   Job and my students
  •   Belief in a higher power
  •   Needs being met and my wants being fulfilled sometimes too
  •   Blogging friends in this community and all the support I have received here
  •   Laughter
  •   Love
  •   Being able to recognize I am blessed!

I want to thank God for so richly blessing me because I had news today that reminded me that my issues seem awfully small compared to some that people around me are facing.

Tomorrow's post will be about what happened today that compelled me to count my blessings!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Student Poets


  We have been attempting to write our first original poetry this week.  I love Georgia Heard's ideas in Awakening the Heart.  I like to begin with something pretty structured to scaffold those kids who don't like poetry or have a fear of the blank page.  The Six-room Image-poem fits well here.  Students divide their paper into six boxes or rooms, each containing a specific quality.  Students fill in each box and then use this graphic organizer to write their poem.  My students always surprise me with some of the lines they come up with and how poetic they can be!  Some of them will tell me they can't write poetry or they hate poetry, but decide they might give it a chance after they complete this piece of writing.
     Today, I was conferring with several students during each block about their rough draft of their Six-room Image-poem.  I lifted a few lines from some of their poetry to share with you.
     "With your dark cold eyes, I see you stare."  and in another line later in the poem--
     "You stay when the whistling wind blows." --Sam T.

     "My name being yelled...twice
      Once from my mother telling me to come in,
      Once from the waves, telling me
      Just one more!
      Just one more!  --Steven S.

     "Soft white sand kissing your feet." --Pooja T.

     "Behind the barn, the mountains rise
      with an ocean of trees trying to hold in the sunlight" --Dalton P.

     I love that some of these students are not considered to be the brightest stars in seventh grade, but they show through their poetry they have flair and imagination and deserve to be heard!  Poetry levels the playing field for my students that might not excel in other areas.  We talk about writers being hard working-- searching for that "just right" word, phrase, or line.  I am so proud of their efforts in trying to create their best work!


Monday, March 26, 2012

Piedmont's Killdeers


     For a few weeks now, there has been a Killdeer couple nesting under a picnic table outside my room.  These fiercely protective birds nest on the ground. They use the brown colors of the ground to blend in and disguise their eggs so as to protect them.  If the camouflage doesn't work, then Killdeer use a "broken wing display" to lure dangers away from the nest.  If that still doesn't do the trick, the bird will charge the danger head on to try to prevent damage to the eggs.

     Knowing how middle school students are, custodians roped off the area around the picnic table with yellow "DANGER" tape.  Students were curious about what was going on and why the tape was there and asked about the birds once the secret was out.  Since teachers have to be outside during transitions from class to class, we kept a close eye on our mascots, anxiously awaiting the baby birds.

     Friday was hatching day!  The four brown speckled eggs revealed four tiny brown birds.  Today our birds are gone. As soon as their feathers are dry, the babies can walk right out of their nest!

     I will miss this pair of parents and the feeling of being close to nature even in an area next to a school building housing over a thousand students!

Impossible to see the nest at this distance, but it's by the right front leg.
Mama or daddy sitting on the nest.

All 4 babies have hatched!
Broken wing defense in action.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Some Questions and a Belief

My Sunday slice is short; just a few comments and questions rolling around in my head about Common Core---

     I have been reading about the Common Core on Twitter lately and I am trying to wrap my head around this idea of deconstructing text in the very intellectual way the writers of the standards expect our students to do.  I don't know if it's just me, but I'm afraid I see a clinical dissection of text that leaves scant room for the emotions of the reader and writer.  As a writer, I am passionate about what I write.  I want my reader to be passionate about it as well.  How does that passion fit into the Common Core?  How do the emotions of readers connecting with well written text work with the new standards?  I know I have a lot of work to do to better understand what my students and I are expected to know and be able to do independently at the end of a school year.   As a workshop teacher, I feel better prepared to tackle the challenges given in the Common Core for which I am thankful.  As long as I believe the individual needs of my students come first, regardless of what standards I am following, my students will be successful!

Aunt Kate

This slice should have been posted for Saturday, March 24, but I was sick with a nasty stomach bug.  I will not share the personal details, but I was not up to sitting anywhere expect in a certain "room" of my house!  Feeling a little better now so I will post two slices today.  Thanks for your understanding and I will still write each day of this challenge!

     My Aunt Kate was a fiery red head who had the stereotypical temper to match.  She and my Uncle Buck never had any children so all the nieces and nephews became "hers."  She took us on vacation trips to the beach and the mountains.  For me, this was the most wonderful thing in the world because with a three boisterous brothers and me, my parents did not have a lot of money for the "wants" we had.  They took care of our needs and we were very happy, but Aunt Kate was special.  She worked at Woolworth's in South Park Mall in Charlotte and I thought she was the greatest person in all the world!
     As I walked into Target this afternoon, the beautiful greens, yellows, and lavenders of the Easter season greeted me.  Colorful Easter baskets lined the aisles with their shallow basins ready to stuff with chocolates, jelly beans, marshmallow chicks, and plastic eggs filled with treats.  This time of the year always brings my Aunt Kate to mind because every year she would carefully and thoughtfully prepare Easter baskets for each niece and nephew around some theme that she knew we would love.  
     Being the only girl with two older brothers and one younger, you might assume I was spoiled rotten.  However, at the age of 7, I could not imagine anything as horrible as being in this family with my mean brothers.  They ganged up on me and constantly teased me.  (Please don't misunderstand, we were and still are a loving, close-knit family.)  I was surrounded by "boy stuff," and I wanted some to have some "girly stuff" that I could play with once in a while.
     My Aunt Kate knew that I had a tough time in the realm of sibling affairs.  She decided that year that she would whip up an extra special frilly Easter basket for me.  I think she must have bought out every color of fingernail polish at Woolworth's that year!  I had a lovely purple and pink basket with nail polish, a Barbie doll with two outfits complete with tiny plastic shoes, a tube of "grown up" lipstick (a very light pink that was Mom-approved), and some little white gloves with lace to wear with my Easter dress to church on Sunday.  Oh and enough candy and chocolate to keep a little girl's tummy happy for some time!  
     She worked at a dime store so she really didn't spend much on what she put in my basket, but she gave me so much that year.  She let me know I was special.  She gave me permission to be pretty and feminine and enjoy being a little girl in a house of rowdy boys!

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Short Slice to End the Week

A short slice to start the weekend:

     I'm looking out at my students right now during independent reading time.  Some are working on writing reading responses, some are reading from their chosen books, some are readying themselves for conferring by looking for parts in the book they want to talk about, and some are choosing books to read from my book shelves.  Every one is engaged in some type of purposeful reading or writing about their reading in some meaningful way.  Sometimes everything goes according to plan and the teacher in me is blessed!  Ending my school week with a smile!