Mom life, SOL

Rookie Parent Moment: Spring Sport Edition #SOL

Spring sports are ready to go here and my second grade son is excited for lacrosse. Even more excited is my kindergarten daughter who debuts in her youth lacrosse league this year. Sidelined no longer because she’s too young, she’s been tearing around the yard with her cleats, goggles, and stick for weeks now.

Then comes the email…if nobody steps forward to coach the kindergarteners before Monday (3 days away), the kindergarten lacrosse season will be cancelled. Insert audible sigh by me because I felt as though the email was talking directly to me. Except for the fact I have NEVER played lacrosse, it would be easy for me to volunteer because I’m around, I’ll be at every practice anyway, I’m in good enough shape to run around with 5 year olds. I’m a teacher so how hard can wrangling some small kids outdoors be for an hour twice a week while their parents look on?

Ever reflective and trying to find a way to fix situations, my next round of thoughts included my husband- he was the lacrosse player and the driving force behind the kids trying lacrosse. I’m a softball and field hockey girl myself. He could coach. He should do it. He half shoots me down. I get it, his work is unpredictable and he has to often travel at the drop of a hat and he doesn’t want to make a commitment he can’t keep. Ok, what if we do it together? He agrees to that, so I email the league offering for us both to volunteer.

Great news comes in yet another email – kindergarten lacrosse is still on thanks to “several” parents…us and one other person I haven’t met yet. Just one more thing – we both need to get a U.S. Lacrosse membership, complete a background check, take an online child abuse prevention course as soon as possible, and update CPR certification. So much for trying to “do less” and learning how to say no for me!

My next round of thoughts included me berating myself for being so naive. I had a rookie parent moment again! You know there’s a falsehood in thinking that once you no longer have a baby you’re no longer a rookie parent. Then these moments crop up and I stand back and think, “I got fooled again!” Now I do realize youth sports really can’t happen without volunteers and I guess my time is here to step up to the plate – if only I was coaching a sport I actually knew about like softball I’d be all set – pun and all!

Here’s to all the rookie parents reflecting on their lessons learned and soaking up the craziness and magic of raising small humans.

Every Tuesday there is a call for slice of life stories from Two Writing Teachers. This snippet is my slice for this week. #SOL

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discussion questions, Teaching, Young writers

Ways to Teach Writing Conventions

Typing a story helped this student slow down and notice how to capitalize and punctuate complete sentences. I tried this with the whole class and they showed the same awareness!

Why is it more difficult than ever for students to understand what a complete sentence is and to start it with a capital and end with punctuation? This is my opinion, but it is important and something that seems like a bigger struggle this year than others. Rather than complain it’s because of all the in person instruction these children missed in 2020 at the most critical time of first grade, I just need to figure out how to teach where they’re at and move them forward. If only that was as easy as it sounds.

How have you tried to incorporate teaching conventions?

My go to methods are a combination of teacher or student modeling, conferencing, interactive writing, shared writing, sharing, and a few lessons scattered that are specific “find the mistakes and fix this sentence” type of lessons.

Interactive writing is one of my favorite instructional approaches because I can pinpoint so much, give students appropriate parts of the task, and tap into the social aspect of learning for engagement (Jack made the “ing” and I swear the class remembers that far longer than I do).

Rehearse before writing, read it aloud afterward. Saying the sentence out loud helps retain what the student wants to write and can also help them hear the complete thought that makes a sentence. I stress that when we talk we tend to pause in the correct places, so reading your story aloud will help you hear where punctuation should be if you’ve forgotten it or aren’t sure where to put it. I feel like this is a last resort because of course I want students to know how to punctuate as they write, but this tactic works for proofreading.

Typing? Sometimes (actually more often than I intend) I try something with my students and realize upon reflection that it actually worked for different outcomes than I had anticipated. Typing is an example of this. Some of my students type their stories because of accommodations they have. Because I feel strongly that second graders need handwriting practice – even though the world is becoming more digital – I have to use who can hand write in their writing notebooks or draft paper. Recently though I had the whole class type a story (part of a blogging challenge) they had written. Some finished early and so they continued by typing new stories. This caught on as it was very engaging for the kids.

I had to pause from writer’s craft lessons and teach some word processing skills since they were typing. What did I need to focus on? “Do you know how to make an uppercase letter on the computer?” They did! “Do you know where the period, question mark, exclamation point, and comma are?” Some knew, some learned. “Do you know you must make a space after the end mark of a sentence?” They did not know, but picked up on it. We kept going, typing the stories, conferencing with writers on craft as well as technical parts of typing so their story was readable.

One day in the midst of this, we paused because the students had completed book projects and were sharing them out. I gave each child a slip of paper for every other child and they wrote positive feedback specific to the project. (Here’s the post about the power of a comment .) As I collected the papers, sorted them into a piles, and stapled them into a booklet for each child, I noticed something that stopped me in my tracks: almost every student had a capital letter and a period!

So now I have been left wondering if the typing “experiment” was the hook they needed to tap into conventions. Did it slow them down? Did they rise to occasion because it was a big deal to them? Will they continue to transfer conventions to their handwritten work? Time will tell. It could be all the other ways and times I have tried to have them show transfer of knowledge just weren’t meaningful to them.

What is your go to way to address conventions?

Have you had any luck with a certain approach? Do you have favorite activities that help solidify the understanding for your students?

Teaching, Young writers

The Power of a Comment

Finding time to include authentic writing can be challenging when following a strict curriculum and pacing guides. However, the bang for your buck that comes with these moments of authentic are irreplaceable. It makes one wonder what children will remember years from now.

Our second graders have an annual book project that has become quite the tradition. In typical years, they complete the project at home, bring it into school, display it in the cafeteria and we have a celebration/presentation as a grade level complete with parents. This year we kept all we could, but since we couldn’t gather all together, classrooms shared within their walls and the projects were placed throughout the hallways. Classroom took turns browsing through the gallery of projects and it was still wonderful.

Since this year’s presentation was a bit different, I happened to think (last minute of course) of a way for students to provide feedback. We have talked a lot lately about writing comments on other’s writing (part of a blogging challenge we are doing for the month of April). Today I gave students a stack of papers for them to fill out (one for each child). They were to think of a meaningful connection or compliment for each student’s book project. When they were finished, they distributed them to piles I labeled with post its. I snapped a photo of each child with their project and made a quick cover page. I took the pages and stapled them together so each child had a comment booklet.

But here’s the huge thing – my students worked so long and so seriously on this. I was able to conference with many. From Elkonin boxes to capitalization, word choice to punctuation, it was differentiation at its finest. The engagement was higher than most writing blocks. Students who finished early showed the others how to distribute their pages while I continued to conference.

Now they each have a meaningful booklet and photo memory. I have wonderful authentic work samples and observation notes to help drive my next instructional steps. This was not part of a scripted curriculum. And it was perfect.

Simple booklets and authentic writing samples.
One example of a diorama of Junie B. Jones
A nonfiction book project poster example all about stars and black holes.
SOL, sol21, solsc21, Teaching

#SOL21 Day 31 of 31: I did it!

I am so happy I participated this year! #sol21

Ten thoughts about the 2021 Slice of Life Story Challenge:

1. I can’t believe this is the final day of March! I find March to be a very loooong month and participating in this challenge was a perfect way to scoot it along.

2. The community of writers here is uplifting. Although none of my coworkers participated (yet), I am grateful to have been a part of this online community of passionate teachers. I felt happy after reading through so many slices about so many topics.

3. The Welcome Wagon was wonderful! I appreciate all the comments, tips, and support. On the first day, I posted my link incorrectly and never would have realized it (probably for the rest of the month) if Erika hadn’t given me the heads up that nobody could comment on my post. Now that I’ve posted 31 slices, I have figured it out and am no longer a WordPress newbie. Haha.

4. I am amazed by the act of writing. I am amazed by the simple idea of writing down a snippet of life, publishing it, and the emotions and power it can evoke in a reader. I felt moved, laughed, pondered, and nodded in agreement after reading so many slices.

5. Comments are important. I found myself reading not only comments written to me, but comments on other posts. I appreciated all the comments I received and tried to give back. It also stood out to me the positivity of the comments. I wasn’t under a microscope where someone pointed out something minute I had done wrong. I love the safe, caring community this is!

6. I thought I would run out of ideas when I had thought about doing the challenge in the first place. I worried if I should even try. I wound up with more ideas to write about than I expected. Honestly, I did have a dip around the 20’s of the month, but reading other slices sparked ideas and I was back on track!

7. About those ideas, I surprised myself that I had so many! Not just topics, but writing poems and narratives, lists and reflections. It felt empowering to just write without guidelines (well with some…I do like parameters). I also found that I love the blog draft feature in WordPress and have saved ideas and half started posts there for the future.

8. Participating in this challenge gave me a renewed perspective on how students feel when we ask them to write and share. I feel like my thoughts paralleled student feelings. Careful and reserved at first because you’re in a new group, but as time goes on and you feel safer there is the ability to open up more and try something new as confidence is gained.

9. If I ever get to be a literacy coach (I finished my training last year and then due to the pandemic, budget, and other variables out of my control, I didn’t start coaching this year and it is currently on hold), I want to share this community as was done for me by my literacy coach years ago. Maybe I will still find a way still being a classroom teacher longing to coach.

10. I am excited to continue writing more! Although I won’t be posting everyday, I will certainly make more time to write as it’s rather therapeutic and gives me a feeling of accomplishment. I will turn my sights to the Classroom Slice of Life Challenge now as I search for classes to connect with my second graders.

So as March comes to a close, I feel grateful to have been a part of this year’s challenge! I look forward to posting on Tuesday’s #SOL call. Thank you to Two Writing Teachers and the strong community they’ve created for promoting and celebrating writing!

Mom life, SOL, sol21, solsc21

#SOL21 Day 30 of 31: Magical Imagination

Not a cushion, but rather an island.

Safe from alligators and lava below.

Complete with adrenaline, squeals, and quick limbs.

Not a doll, but rather a baby.

To feed and tuck in, cuddle and love.

Complete with a name, feelings, and plans.

Not just a mud worm, but rather a pet.

For whom to design a container habitat.

Complete with “sleeping” precariously on the bedside table.

Not just a toy truck, but rather equipment.

To grind and beep, rev and tow.

Complete with trailers of blocks and rocks to build something big.

Not just children’s ideas, but rather magical imaginations

To witness in awe each new day.

Complete in all ways yet infinite possibilities await you.

Spring clean up with help from some heavy equipment.
Baby wanted to draw something.
Cutie the Worm is its pet home.
Writing each day in March as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. #sol21
SOL, sol21, solsc21, Teaching

#SOL21 Day 29 of 31: Why I Don’t Dislike Mondays

As an unexpected, fun weekend ends, I could be dreading Monday. But, I don’t! I know Mondays aren’t popular with the majority of people and I understand that. To me, Monday morning is when I start my week routine and it feels normal to get back on track.

I like to wake up before anyone else in my house and enjoy my hot coffee alone in the quiet. I have come to realize that if I can get in a workout after that, my mood is better for the day, and so I try hard to do that on Mondays to set the week off right.

I look forward to going into school Monday and seeing what the week has in store for me. Inevitably, something happens as it always does, and that leaves me dreading possibly the following day, or the upcoming difficult meeting, or the need to have a hard conversation.

But almost every Sunday night, I find myself looking forward to a new week. Maybe I’m the naive optimist, or a hamster stuck on a proverbial wheel. Whichever the reason, I will take embracing a Monday over dreading it.

March is the month of the Slice of Life Story Challenge and I’m writing each day with my fellow slicers in this community of writers fostered by Two Writing Teachers. #sol21
SOL, sol21, solsc21

#SOL21 Day 28 of 31: Dog Cairns

Dog statue on skis welcoming us to the Gore Mt.

Someone creative,

With a good sense of humor

Placed you there

And started a rumor.

“He’s there to say welcome. ”

“Have a great day. ”

“Are there more of them?”

My family will say.

Perfectly placed rocks

An ode to a canine

Triangle rock ears

Looking happy and fine.

A dog cairn so whimsical

An artist spreads joy

Marking their territory

For others to enjoy.

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for creating a community of writers and for hosting the Slice of Life Story Challenge in which I am writing each day in the month of March. #sol21

SOL, sol21, solsc21, Teaching, Young writers

#SOL21 Day 27 of 31: My Classroom Helpers

Witnessing moments of engagement and helping like this in my classroom this make my heart full of happiness.

“So I have something totally new for us to try. But I have to ask one thing – can you be patient with me? I know you’ll need my help, but I won’t be able to get to each one of you at the same time.” We have been practicing writing slice of life stories for the upcoming classroom challenge and we were moving on to the next step.

We have a lot of pieces in our writing notebooks and today I was showing the class how to type in a Google Doc, insert a photo of their illustration, and upload their writing to our Seesaw blog. This was their first time doing any of those things.

One realization I have had from teaching in person this year is that normally I rely on students to help each other, work together, and take ownership of their learning. Although my philosophy hasn’t changed this year, my go to methods have had to shift with social distancing. Often it has felt like I’m hopping from student to student because I can’t pull small groups. Something clicked today and it was a day to celebrate.

Another realization from the last year is that children catch on quickly and can figure out ways to solve technology problems, and given the opportunity, they will teach each other. It catches on like wild fire and the student taught becomes the student to teach. I have no problem with allowing this to happen. In fact, it makes me swell with happiness when I witness it. So, today was a day to celebrate.

There were so many teachable moments and I found myself slipping back into my old way of answering questions with, “Oh! Leo just did that. Ask him to show you.” And, “Freeze and look at Claire. She’s going to tell you how to upload a picture you drew.” “Ciana, can you go around and see who needs help now that you’re an expert uploader?” “Greyson, can you show Addie how to make a new doc for her next piece and how to title it?”

I snapped a photo of two of my girls working together. They had done this all on their own and I marveled at how grownup they acted, asking good questions and patiently helping (without touching the other’s Chromebook).

The buzz of learning was certainly happening that day and it was something to celebrate!

Mom life, SOL, sol21, solsc21

#SOL21 Day 26 of 31: Distressed Jeans Humor

“Mom, why do you have all these holes in your pants?” my seven year old interrupted during bedtime reading and began poking and pulling at my jeans.

They were some distressed jeans I had pulled on that afternoon now that I ditch my work clothes the second I walk through the door.

As I explained that they were made to look like that, making me feel like I was in high school again defending my wardrobe choices.

As I got back to our book, he interrupted again.“So you’re so stressed out that your pants got holes in them?” he asked innocently.

I chuckled and said not exactly.

Even though he wasn’t trying to be funny, the last two weeks have been so extremely stressful at school, I had to laugh because it did seem in a way to me that maybe my pants also could have been a casualty to the recent weeks.

I’m writing each day in March in the Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

SOL, sol21, solsc21

#SOL21 Day 25 of 31: A Slice of Lemon Meringue Pie

My grocery store’s magazine sitting next to my couch inspired this slice about lemon meringue pie!

I love pie. I don’t think there’s a pie I don’t enjoy (except mincemeat…I never have liked that one). Lemon meringue pie is one I remember my grandmother teaching me how to make when I was little. It stood out to me how many steps were involved between boiling the filling with its egg yolks and then using the separated whites to fluff the meringue. I filed it away as it being a special pie because not only was it laden with steps to follow, she told me it had been my grandfather’s favorite.

So when I met my husband and he was coming to visit me for the weekend early on in the dating years, I had this fabulous idea to bake him a lemon meringue pie. I made a homemade crust and baked the shell, slowly boiled the filling so it wouldn’t scorch and then baked that part, carefully and patiently fluffed the meringue with clean beaters so the peaks would form properly and watched it baking until they showed a tinge of golden brown. The pie turned out beautiful!

After dinner, I pulled the surprise out. He likes just about all food and isn’t a picky eater. I plated the slices of pie and served us. I devoured mine. Then I noticed he was taking a bite, then putting his fork down for a long time. Then he’d take another bite and follow the same pattern. Something was wrong. I asked and he said it tasted great.

Later that night, he confessed he hates pudding and pies because of the texture. Glad he told me! Ok so I had a whole pie to myself now. I

actually have never made lemon meringue pie since. That was 14 years ago. Ha. I’m writing this slice because next to my couch is a food magazine with a meringue pie on the cover and it reminded me of that silly memory of how I learned my husband doesn’t like certain desserts. I’m also thinking that I’m going to go ahead and make that pie again soon to enjoy.

Writing each day in March as part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge. #sol21