It’s that good: Slice of Life #30

It's that good: Slice of Life #30

Scene one: Reading Workshop. Conferences. Question this week is “How are you feeling about your progress with your Reading Challenge? What’s happening?”

Ms Gelson: Asks the question

Student: “It’s going really well. I have read so many books! Last year I just mostly read graphics. But since I’ve been in your class, I’ve read so many novels. I really like realistic fiction. And I LOVE historical!”

Ms. Gelson (outwardly) Smiles and takes furious notes. Checks student’s Reading Challenge chart. Smiles bigger.

(inwardly) Cartwheels. Like twelve of them!

Scene two: Thirty minutes later. Word Work. Students working independently. Resource Teacher arrives.

Ms. Gelson: Shares this quote from student. (Beaming)

Resource Teacher: (Expected big smile) “Amazing. That sounds like something you told her to say.”

Ms. Gelson: “I know! It’s that good.”

Various later scenes: Teacher engaged in various reflective moments recognizing the strength of the current reading community. The over stuffed book boxes. The long lists of names of students wanting to read titles just book talked. The student who is suddenly taking a book home every night. The hopeful requests, “Can you get the next one in the series?” The engagement during independent reading time. A reading community.

I know.

It’s that good.

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Stand Up and Sing!

The older I get, the more I think picture book biographies are some of the most inspirational seeds that allow meaningful conversations in classrooms to happen. Maybe it’s because I clearly see that a life is a story and that anytime we hear a story told, we have the opportunity to learn. As we connect deeply to a person through their story, we reflect on ourselves and our communities. We have the chance to think about things in new ways. Kids get it too. A few years ago I asked some of my students why biographies needed to be shared. Their responses revealed a lot. Some highlights:

  • “I like those books that tell the story of someone who can’t but then they did.”
  • “It’s so we can know that one person can change things.”
  • “These books teach us about community and dreams. We should think about that.”
  • “They show me not to be scared.”

I have a new must read biography that I think is particularly timely for its messages about standing together for truth and justice:

Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice written by Susanna Reich and illustrated by Adam Gustavson Forward by Peter Yarrow (Bloomsbury 2017)

This detailed biography would make an incredible read aloud. It is a story to share over multiple read aloud sessions. There is much on every page for discussion and elaboration. The full page illustrations tell a beautiful story as well. Looking closely at these allows the reader to move through one life and decades of history.

I first read this book about three weeks ago. It was a humbling experience. I closed the book and felt a strange mix of fired up and sad and quiet. I began to do some of my own further reading about Pete Seeger, often realizing songs I have known all my life were songs he had written. This took me down further thinking paths.

The sadness came from a reaction to current day news and media coverage. There is so much in stories about people that is about self rather than other. Pete Seeger clearly lived a life where self and others were completely intertwined. His motivations were clear and strong. He respected the truth. He valued its importance. He valued social justice as our most important goal to attain. I think my sadness came from just acknowledging the loss of Pete Seeger who passed away in 2014. In many senses, my sadness has no place because Pete did his work through music and music has some of the most incredible lasting power of any medium. Power to wash over people. Become part of their motivation. Become part of their own story.

I picked up and reread this story a few times over the past few weeks. Over multiple readings, I have been inspired by Seeger’s commitment to use music as a vehicle to unite people over important issues. Pete Seeger was motivated early on in his life by folk music and the connection between audience and musician. He recognized that the content of songs could be transformative.

I was reminded of precious Thursday afternoons of recent years experiencing a room full of music. My class had the weekly opportunity to sing with the talented Jill Samycia from St. James Music Academy. Singing together brought a joy and a connection to our community. There is such power in singing together especially when the lyrics hold messages of hope.

Susanna Reich’s account of Seeger’s life brings particular questions to the surface numerous times:

What do we notice?

What speaks to us?

How do these things shape our work? Our actions? How do they form our truth?

Pete Seeger‘s life work was his music. Through music he conveyed his love of people, equity and justice. Reich explains that Pete “saw that music could fill a room with peace and harmony. . . ” A wish to make this happen is what motivated him to become a more accomplished musician.

Seeger‘s path was not an easy one. His end goal wasn’t fame and fortune. It was to lead people in song. He wanted to “sing for – and with – average working folks.”

His courage, his commitment to peace, the rights of everyone in a society and hope for our world live on in his music.

Such an incredible story of one man. Back matter includes an important author’s note, a list of quotes, detailed sources and a list of popular recordings.

Recommended for Grades 3 to 8.

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2017. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

No surprises: Slice of Life #28

No surprises: Slice of Life #28

And we’re back.

Our two week break is over and things rolled out in first day after a break fashion.

There were new haircuts. New shoes. New glasses. New sweatshirts.

And all of us back together.

The smiles were big and sincere. The reality? Most of us were happy to be back into the routine. Despite early wake ups and late nights and tired all around, there was happy.

There was also testing. Pushing to the edge and then a little further. A specific word. A particular tone. Being where we shouldn’t when we shouldn’t. Doing things we aren’t supposed to do. The eyes always giving it away. “Yes, I know better but I’m going to try it and okay, yes, you noticed.” And then it stopped. Or it didn’t. Some of us need a few days to remember the way a classroom community needs to work.

There was magnetic pull. Visiting and reconnecting couldn’t be helped. We made room for it. Recess and lunch just weren’t enough. It’s hard to write when you have stories to tell in person. It’s hard to settle when you have too many wonders. “Did you see . . . ?” “Where did . . .?” “Did you know I . . . ?”

There were highs and lows in terms of emotions. Cranky. Distracted. Silly.

Some of us couldn’t stop smiling all day. School is about returning to a place of safety and belonging. Others were angry. The break wasn’t the best and now away from it, it was safe to express that. Some of us expressed it outwardly at others all day. Purging the angry. It was sad to watch. But our classroom is about all of us and this is what’s going on for some of us. We all experience pieces of what we each are going through.

We had to have one serious conversation about who we are to each other. Over and done in less than ten minutes. I recognized maturity, best intentions and contributions. Reminded that all of our actions are choices. Requested that we choose to give and not take away because we all learn best when we allow for space for all of us to be our best to each other.

There was more silence than usual from some. Contemplative thinking. Readjusting. Observing. Taking some time. Remembering how to be in our space.

There was ease with the familiar. We know reading. This is when the room is at its best. Most of us can get immediately lost in a book. Some went looking for new titles. I heard some children literally greeting books they hadn’t seen for two weeks.

We know listening to stories. If our learning community has tangible edges, this is when it began to take shape, to firm up, to smooth out. Our collective breath slowed. The calm was comforting and became deeper. Muscle memory. The connections were shared. The noticing happened. The building on each other’s ideas. Respect.

We know outside. Racing about. Skipping in time. Charging up rocks. Jumping over mud puddles.

We know each other. There was kindness and irritation as we all settled back in. Amusement. Contented socializing. Happy reunions. Laughter. Impatience.

To be expected adjusting.

No surprises.

We’re on route to recapturing our momentum, our rhythms, our way.

We need a few days.

Some patience.

Smiles.

Kindness.

Time.

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Monday March 27th, 2017

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Each week I share a reading photo of the week. As we were off this past few weeks, I have a photo of a bookstore visit to the incredible Munro’s Books  in Victoria B.C. Here is part of the picture book display.

Monday March 27th, 2017

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. It’s the best way to discover what to read next.

IMWAYR 2015

With Spring Break and being away for a few days I missed last week’s IMWAYR so this post captures 2 weeks of reading.

On the blog:

Continued Slice of Life posts mean daily posting:

Missing Primary: Slice of Life #26 I love Grade 4 and 5 but I miss the little ones

Shopping: Slice of Life #25 I am not a good shopper

So far: Slice of Life #24 So far from a year ago

Rain: Slice of Life #23 Caught in a deluge

Quiet Things: Slice of Life #22 The quiet things I love

Chapter book Challenges: Slice of Life #21 How we support students moving into chapter books

Writing cheats: Slice of Life #20 Words still eluding me

Missing words: Slice of Life #19 Writing steals my reading time

Simply easier: Slice of Life #18 Preparing to write about teaching before? Maybe soon

Slightly Awkward: Slice of Life #17 Thinking about the work that change in our practice involves

Mud: Slice of Life #16 Nothing to write about

For nonfiction Wednesday, Nic Bishop’s newest: Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Penguin Day – A Family Story

Capturing play: Slice of Life #15 The importance of play

Sometimes Guilt: Slice of Life #14 Sometimes, thinking back to leaving my previous school  brings guilt.

The little girl I should have taught: Slice of Life #13 Thinking about a child who should have been in my class

Books I enjoyed:

Triangle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

Love the way these two partner up to make us smile and wonder and shake our heads. Little bits of sneaky. Lots of funny. And always, the stunning artwork from Klassen.

A Walk in the Forest by Maria Dek

Oh this book. Visually it is absolutely stunning. If this doesn’t make you want to wander through the woods and use every sense . . .

Shy by Deborah Freedman

Underneath a very sweet story is permission to be just who you are.

Rain by Sam Usher

Gorgeous rain. The pages seem slightly drowned. The images feel like they are full of puddles. And a lovely little story about a boy and his Grandpa.

A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young

More than an “I want a pet” story. This is “I want a unicorn story” With big expectations come big disappointments. And then, big love.

Life on Mars by Jon Agee

Not really about Mars. More about set up and surprises and wanting something to be so. Really liked this one.

Dear Dragon written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo

Charming and full of all kinds of classroom possibilities. Writing to a pen pal becomes even more exciting when you begin to share more and more about yourself. What happens when the chance to meet in “person” happens? Told in rhyming letters, there is a lot to this little picture book.

Egg by Kevin Henkes

I have a thing about picture books where the egg plays a starring role. This one is especially wonderful.

Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Steve Jenkins 

For years, I have made it clear that I do not like squirrels. At all. They steal my daffodil bulbs. They have tried to burrow into my house. They make feeding birds a battle. So, I wasn’t sure about how I would feel about a title devoted to these creatures. Must admit, I kind of loved it and I learned a lot. But, I still do not like squirrels.

Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep

Feathers and Hair, What Animals Wear written by Jennifer Ward and illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong

This is a must experience it yourself nonfiction title. Really incredible illustrations. Would be a beautiful addition to any school or classroom library.

Completely Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

I have been putting off reading the final Clementine title because I didn’t want to say goodbye. We found Clementine as an audio book years ago when my children were smaller and went on to read all of the titles. In fact, I have read all but 2 titles aloud to my children. At 14, they weren’t going to sit through this one but I am excited to share it with students who I know have been Clementine fans.

Feathers  by Jacqueline Woodson 

A story of hope.Of family. Of observations. What a lovely read.

Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart 

Dramatic and hard to put down. There were parts of this story I found absolutely creepy. Kids who love action driven books will love this story. I am a big fan of Gemeinhart. This is not my favourite of his three so far published titles. But definitely an action packed read.

Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan 

Holly Goldberg Sloan has a way of showcasing characters in stories that we don’t always see together. This is what I loved about Counting by 7s – the diversity of characters who were in each other’s lives. In Short, it is all about friendships between generations. It’s also about a play and all of the wonderful behind the scenes preparations. I fell in love with the characters here. A must read middle grade novel!

Reading Progress updates:

2017 Chapter Book Challenge: 17/75 complete

Goodreads Challenge: 94/365 books read

Progress on challenge: 11 books ahead of schedule!

#MustReadin2017: 8/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 17/50 titles

Diverse Books in 2016: 13/50 books read

Up next? I am reading The Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen

60% chance of rain: Slice of Life #27

Tomorrow we return to work after two weeks away. I have a rough plan for the day. I went in twice over the break to clean and organize so an extra strong coffee and an early arrival should ensure that the day will flow.

Mostly, I have been checking the weather. What is going to be going on mid afternoon? Because by mid afternoon, we will all need a break. Despite my plans to ease back and take it slow, by 2 p.m., we will need to move. The kind of moving that involves fresh air, the chance to yell and the chance to run.

This is the most important thing on my day plan tomorrow.

Math is on there. We will do some number puzzles. Some partner games. Remind ourselves that we can do some tricky equations and problem solve without picking up a pencil. Pages of unanswered questions are not going to stare us down.

There will be time to write. About a picture book we need to finish. About our break if we so choose. Or to the author of the novel we finished for book club. The beginning of a story? There will be some options. But here, we will put pencil to paper.

Of course, we will read. And of course, I will book talk. We need to rev up the book excitement once more. So Reading Workshop will be extra long. Time to record our spring break reading. Time to reacquaint ourselves with the contents of our book boxes. Time to shop the shelves. Lots of time to read!

I will read aloud. Little bits all throughout the day. Our novel of course because it’s been two weeks and I was begged not to stop the last time I read it. Two weeks! A picture book for #classroombookaday because it’s not a regular day without a picture book. The title we were reading about residential schools and didn’t quite finish. There is time for this.

We need time to visit. Time to smile at each other. Time to walk in circles. Time to notice. Just time.

This is not a day for starting new. Not a day to be overwhelmed. It’s a day to do some work and get outside and run off the back to routine energy that won’t quite feel right. The most important part of our day will be to get out of the building. As a group. To race about and laugh and whoop.

And there’s a 60% chance of rain.

Hoping everyone brings a rain jacket.

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Missing primary: Slice of Life #26

Missing primary: Slice of Life #26

Confiscated lego. Paper hearts. Lineup drama. Finger spaces between words.

The land of primary. I miss it.

I miss the affected sneers and huge put on grumpy faces.

I miss the toothless smiles. Rosy cheeks. Shy grins

I miss sticky out pony tails and falling out braids.

I miss the giggles. The shushing. The tattling and the denial.

The wide eyes and the gasps at the smallest of things which often turn out to be the biggest of things.

Unabashed asking.

“Are you married?” “Who’s your husband?” “How much money do you have?”

I miss the repeating. The asking and telling again and again and again.

I miss sparkle dresses. Hairbands. Droopy tights. Polka dots.

I miss yellow rain jackets. Broken umbrellas. Muddy layers.

I miss new reader pride. Pages that take forever. Not breathing through one long stretched out sentence.

I miss little hands reaching for mine. Spontaneous singing. Silly little poems.

I miss stompy feet that seek out puddles. Dancing. Prancing. Spinning in circles.

I miss messy play. Toppled towers. Imagined lands. Race car lanes.

I miss the ease of imagination. The willingness to believe. The joy.

Paint splotches. Standing on chairs. Untied shoelaces.

I miss the love. The mush. The gush.

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Shopping: Slice of Life #25

Shopping: Slice of Life #25

I spent much of the day shopping with my daughter. We went with things we needed in mind and came back with none of it. Ironically, we celebrated how well we did. Part of me celebrated that it was over.

I love the idea of shopping much more than the actual experience of it. The usual outcome: less money, tired feet and uncertainty about a bunch of things I will not care about in a day. Doesn’t seem worth it. Perhaps this is age.

I find I am usually only attracted to the colour and pattern of new styles hanging in windows. The styles themselves? Much less often. I like greens I wouldn’t wear. Florals on black. Rusty colours I could give amazing names to – burnt something or other, sienna, cactus flower. I’m not sure what any of those might be but I like to imagine. Again, the idea of all of this is quite wonderful. Much more wonderful than the doing of it: the traipsing from store to store, choosing things, trying things on, standing in lines.

The actual styles often confuse me. How can one hem on a pair of jeans be so popular this season when nobody thought twice about it in another? This no shoulder thing? Oh my. Wrapped skirts, wrapped shirts, wrapped this and wrapped that look all too confusing. And the silhouette of boxy cropped shirts. Yeah. Well.

This is me. Old, I remind you. Can’t keep up. Can’t be bothered to.

Not to say I don’t like fashion. I do. But my fashion sense seems to be summed up by this rule: find something that works and hit repeat. When I shop, I gravitate towards the same things over and over in slightly different variations.

Really long sweaters. Huge scarves. Sleeveless tunics. Dresses I would never wear with bare legs. I like linen. Jersey. Cotton. Never wool. Wrinkles that should be there. Too much grey. Natural colours – muted, nothing bright. Anything printed in serious moderation and ideally, amusing. Ravens on scarves. Giraffes on a silk sleeveless blouse I found at the consignment shop. A blue dress with tiny white stars that can be mistaken as dots. The perfect black everything: summer dress, silky T-shirt, slouchy cardigan. All of this worn over skinny jeans. Ideally soft and worn in. I am constantly searching for the army green jacket that will be my favourite. I have some that come kind of close. I buy too many sandals and not enough closed toed shoes even though it rains here for half the year or more. I have too many over sized bags. No small purses. But I do own the perfect tiger eye ring I have been wearing for decades.

My favourite things have come with me through years and have stories. I keep coming up with new reasons and ways to wear them so that they remain my favourites. Other things that don’t seem to fit my style, I am happy to give up after a season, wondering why I ever liked it to begin with.

My purchases today? Another pair of skinny jeans – soft and grey. A blue linen like dress perfect to wear over pants. Something black and sleeveless – you might call it a dress. I call it a tunic. Sandals for my daughter. Even though today was all about rain. So we also bought her a summer dress. And shorts.

Of course.

How well we did!

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.