Thursday, June 21, 2018

Writer's Workshop 1st Week

Gathering Those Ideas

Every classroom in August will be getting ready for the incoming excitement
and chaos of the beginning of the year.  Throughout the first weeks in August,
teachers will begin thinking about the first two weeks of school. Oh, how tiring
those days are...the days seem shorter as you try to physically cram every
part of your to-do list together. Your shoulders slump, your feet shuffle, eyes
glaze over, but your keeps going & going & going: never giving up
on adding to your "to-do" list. But it’s with much excitement that teachers plan
those first two weeks. I’m going to focus, today, on those first two weeks of

First, let me start by saying that I hated writing during my schooling.  In fact,
I would say that it’s my second to last favorite thing to teach in class (history
is my last...yuck...sorry to my mother-in-law who taught US History).  In fact,
in the past, I’d often look at my husband, then boyfriend, sideways when
he’d turn on the History Channel during our dating years. I mean...what in
the what? Ha. Now, back on track.  Due to writing being blah for me as a
kid, I have tried very hard to make writing “fun” in my classroom. I use lots
of colored pens, colored pencils, music, and colored paper throughout the
year of writing.  But it’s those first two weeks that set the stage for the entire
year. And if you approach writing like I did the first few years of teaching (blah),
you’ll see the blah results of it. However, in the last 8-10 years of my teaching
I transformed how I approached writing with my classroom in the first two
weeks, and I saw great effects of that.  

Here is my “formula”:

*Decorate in the classroom - YES!  You heard me...don’t send those writer’s notebooks home to be decorated there.  BLAH! No one wants to sit and do “homework” like that the first week one (student or parent).  And parents don’t have extra pictures just lying around for the kids to cut up...come on! So, over the summer, I would hit up Michaels or Hobby Lobby or WalMart for 12x12 scrapbook paper that was on SALE!  The best place I’ve ever found (price and quantity wise) has been Michaels.  Buy some fun designs & colors. I often found a pack of over 100 sheets for $10 at Michaels (on sale).  I usually buy three packs to have plenty of choice in my room. Then I ask for parent donations (at Meet the Teacher Night) of stickers; both letters and images.  Anyone can find stickers at HEB, WalMart, etc.  The first day we talk about what a Writer’s Notebook is and how it’s really a place to house our treasures and memories.  The second day is decorating day!  I let each kid pick out two pieces of 12x12 scrapbook paper to decorate their notebook.  I show them how I cover both the front & back cover like I’m wrapping a present….a present to myself.  (Yes, I know...cheesy, but you need the kids to buy in to this.) I use duct tape and stickers to complete the look.  Let them use glitter, shiny stickers, smelly stickers, glue, tape, feathers...whatever you have!

*The 3rd day of school I talk to my kids about storytelling.  I explain that when a writer writes, that it’s a form of storytelling.  We, then, chart out what makes a good storyteller. Typically, students will say things like excitement, humor, voice.  I really try to focus them on the “explaining” part of storytelling and how a storyteller talks to the audience. I give each kid a half of a manila folder.  We tape those half folders into the very back of the writer’s notebook. This will be called our “Catalog of Ideas”. Next, the students sit all around me with their “catalog of ideas” open with a pencil.  I explain that as I tell my story that they will have ideas of their own memories that come up. As that happens, instead of raising their hands and telling me about their stories, I want them to write down a quick-few-worded phrase about the memory.  This will remind them of the story. My hope is that when I finish my storytelling that each kid will have 1-3 things written down on the “catalog of ideas”. Now it’s time for the storytelling. This is where you have to sell it, people. You have to get into it.  You have to run, skip, talk loudly, whisper, make faces, make noises...I mean all of it. If you have a bird in your story, then you should shout “CAW CAW, CAW CAW”! You are a one-man show at this time. SELL IT! Next, have kids try doing the same. BUT remember...they have to SELL IT now.  So if a kid starts boring you...remind them of what good storytellers do! As other kids are sharing, the audience should be writing down memories in their “catalog of ideas”.

*Guess what we do on day 4?  THE SAME THING as Day 3. Why?  To get
more and more ideas going, people  I mean, I want up to 10 ideas on each
person’s “catalog of ideas” folder be the time we are done.  Emotional stories,
stories of a water park, stories of trips, hurt stories (a time you injured yourself),
a time you were peer pressured, a time you babysat, a time you goofed up….
all of it!

Day 5….take one entry.  Using the catalog of ideas, have the students pick one
idea to write about.  Do you care about spelling...nope. Do you care about
capitals...nope. Do you care about writing...yep.  This is where I establish
my “your pencil is talking, not your mouths” and my music playing. I, personally,
like Vitamin String Quartet.  If you don’t know them, they are great at
turning popular music pieces into elevator music.  :) We write for about 15 min.
and then share out.  While people are guessed it, we are writing
down ideas we get into our “catalog of ideas”.

Want to know more about Writer’s Notebooks?  Click here.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Follow Your Heart

We've all had times in our lives that our hopes or dreams haven't become reality.  It's part of life...not a part that I particularly enjoy, but a part that truly teaches us resiliency and grit.  When we are in the midst of one of these life lessons, it's hard to see the light or lesson before us.  

In 2014, I finally began to work towards my Masters in Educational Leadership.  Throughout my teaching career I had always thought I wanted to be in administration.  During my degree program I was able to step out of my comfort zone.  I was asked to video myself, teach lessons to teachers, and provide professional development to educators.  During this time, I truly loved working with other teachers to share ideas, problem solve, and help teachers learn new skills.  However, I had decided many years before that my goal was to be an administrator...right?  I felt that I needed to stay on the path that I had chosen.  Fast forward through a few hard times and decisions (because I wasn't ready to listen to the lesson I had learned), and I'm finally opening my mind to where my heart has been leading me.  I am super excited to be moving to be an Instructional Partner and to be going in the direction that is really feeding my soul; helping other teachers.  

So what's my point?  Well, my point is that even as adults, we can change directions...change dreams....listen to our hearts.  Although you may have already known this, it's taken me a while to learn it.  AND it's a lesson that I share with my own children and students now.  If we, as adults, don't open up to our children and share our life lessons, then how can we expect them to be resilient as they grow up?  My point is...have you shared a time when you followed your heart or when you learned a life lesson?  If we never share our hard times (within reason) with our children, then they begin to see our lives as perfect....and don't know we have hard times, as well.  It's important for our children to see that we overcome obstacles every day.  We aren't perfect, and it's okay to be vulnerable with our little ones (again, within reason).

Follow your dreams.
Listen to your heart.
Know that your honesty will mean so much to others.