Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Snowflake the Writer

With the 1:1 laptop initiative our school system started last year, our middle school has been working to incorporate the new technology into our classrooms in meaningful ways.  I started using Google Docs last year as a place for my students to write about their reading and for me to comment on and ask questions about what they were reading.  It has been a wonderful experience for the kids and for me and serves as a great launching pad for conferring.

The teachers at my school have adopted taking a "baby step" approach to using our laptops.   The students and I are comfortable with using Google Docs now so it was time to move forward digitally.  We chose to explore the world of writing through blogging!

Since my students have had no experience with blogging and we live in such a small rural part of our county, I knew their parents might be hesitant to allow their children to blog publicly.  To ease my students and parents into the blogging world, I choose to go with Kidblog because we can blog privately between my classes first to get use to the format and then open our blogs to the public as parents and students become more comfortable.  We are learning about what makes good posts and what constructive feedback looks like.  We are learning about how important language is. We are trying to make sure our conventions make our writing clear and meaningful to our readers.

At a time of year where the weeks seem to creep by, starting our blog writing has come to the rescue.  Students have written with more excitement than I have seen in a long time.  Sharing their words with an authentic audience has made such a difference in motivation and in the care they put into their work.  The writers in my classroom have started to awaken again!

Today, I talked to this student.  I talked to her about how proud I was of her and her growth as a writer.  Two months ago, she didn't worry about the impact of her writing or the "flow" of her words.  I listened to her talk about the meaning she wanted her readers to get from her poem.  We talked about how as writers we are always looking for ways to make our writing better and how to use word choice and punctuation purposefully.  We looked at the comments that other students have made in response and celebrated her success.

The significance of audience has helped her see herself as a writer--the writer that I knew was there waiting to spread her wings and fly!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mother's Two

Two eagles
the elder,
Confident, ready to fly from the start

The other,
more  h  e  s  i  t  a  n  t
developing slowly,
struggling to fly

the younger,
once committed
built bridges for others
helping them cross the path

Two eagles together
Mother's Joy
Each in his own way

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Can't Rush This

Never having been much of a baker, I have had to go out on a limb to learn something new.  I have starting making my own bread.  At first I learned to bake bread because I was facing some financial issues after paying my son's tuition.  Money was extremely tight for a while.  Now that has been taken care of, but I still find myself baking a loaf or two each Saturday.  I have come to enjoy the whole process.

Each time I get ready to bake, I have to prepare the yeast base first.  Since I make a honey wheat bread, I must add the honey to the yeast and warm water.  This mixture needs to sit for at least ten minutes to let the yeast get foamy and ready to do its thing.  Meanwhile, I measure out the olive oil and salt to be added to the yeast when it's ready.  I also get the flours, whole wheat and bread flour, set up to be added.  The next step is putting the wheat flour in the yeast-oil mixture.  Then I begin to add the bread flour a half cup at a time.  Once I can no longer stir the dough with my wooden spoon, I turn it out on the floured counter and begin to knead it, adding bread flour a sprinkling at a time.  At first, the dough is sticky and hard to work with, but with each additional bit of flour and kneading effort,  the dough becomes softer and more elastic.  It takes time to develop into a dough that will make a wonderful, light loaf of bread.

This honey wheat bread has two rising times.  After the dough is kneaded and ready, it is covered lightly with a clean cloth and sits for an hour to rise.  I always coat the ball of dough with a light spray of olive oil to keep it from drying out as it sits.  I can't rush the rising process.  It must sit.  I must wait.  It is a process that forces me to slow down.  I can do laundry, clean the house, read, work on school work, but I can't make the bread rise any faster no matter how much I wish to sometimes.  It does so in its own time and in its own way.

Once the hour has passed, the dough must be shaped into a log and placed in a loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray. It must be allowed to rise a second time.  I must wait another hour before I can put the bread in the oven.   Again, I cannot hurry the process.  It will be ready when it is ready.  After my loaf has risen for the hour, I am finally ready to put it in the oven.  It will bake for thirty minutes.  I am rewarded with a golden loaf of bread ready to be slathered with butter!

I think about my students and their writing now in terms of making bread.  I must be prepared for this process.  I need to slow down.  I may need to wait and let ideas sit for a while to develop and do their thing in their brains.  There must be a catalyst added to the proper ingredients for my students to grow.  Some of the ingredients come from them and some are added by me.   Depending on the conditions and the individual students, more of one ingredient or more time may be what they need to rise to their full potential.  I cannot rush the process.  It takes time for them to develop.  I must be patient with them.  Sometimes I want to hurry the work so I can get to the final product.  However, I must let time have its way and their need to think and work in their own way must be honored or the final product will not be what it could be.   This process takes awareness, patience, and effort for us to both be rewarded with something we can enjoy sharing, feel proud of, and appreciate after all this important work comes to a close.

I need to look at a few essays now so I think I'll have a slice of bread as I read along!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Writing Again Publicly...Finally

Well, it has been quite a while since I've posted.  I have been writing, but it has been a tough eight months for me on a personal level and the majority of my writing has been geared toward trying to make sense out of what was happening.  I think it's time to begin my "public" writing life again and try to move forward.

It's almost Slice of Life Challenge time again.  I wanted to become a year round slicer after the wonderful experience last year, but I didn't make it.  My reasons are not excuses, merely explanations of why I became a very private writer for a while.  Gearing up to blog for the SOLC has motivated me to start posting on this blog again.

Hope you will stick with me and that my goal of becoming a regular slicer will motivate me to put my writing out there each day of March and each Tuesday thereafter.   I need to feel connected to something positive and the SOL writing community is a great place to start.