When I was very young

We are diving into small moment narratives this week. We are reading small moment stories. We are writing small moment stories. We are sharing our small moment stories. We are knee-deep in small moment stories.

This week, we are writing a lot of flash drafts of small moment stories. Flash drafts may or may not be revised and edited, but the goal is to write, write, write without thinking too much about quality. The point is to get the words on the page. Then, we can revise and edit later, if we want to with that draft. Next week, we are going to dive into specific strategies to make our small moment stories better.

In an effort to be good writing teacher, I am modeling this type of writing for my students. Each day, they get three choices during independent writing time: they can answer one of the two prompts I have provided, or they can write a small moment story about anything they want. So every day, I write two small moment stories of my own to share with my students if they want some inspiration. This way, I will have my own flash drafts to model the specific strategies we will learn about in the upcoming weeks.

I thought I would share one of my flash drafts with you today. This is a response to the prompt: Write about something that happened when you were very young.

Mary and Maddi became my friends in fifth grade. We weren’t in the same class in fourth grade, but we were in fifth grade. So, of course, we became best friends.

Mary and Maddi lived close to each other, so they walked to school together. I walked to school with a different girl, and I usually got to school after Mary and Maddi. Everyday, when they got to school, they would hide somewhere on the playground, and I would find them when I got to school.

One day, I couldn’t find them. I looked all over the playground. I looked under the slide, behind the bushes, by the tennis courts, behind the other bushes, near the kickball field, near the soccer field. It was a very large playground space, so there were so many places that they could be hiding. I looked and looked and looked, but I just could not find them.

By this time, the playground was starting to fill up with other students, and I was starting to get nervous. I was always able to find them. The playground was big, but I had been going to that school since second grade; I knew all of the good hiding spots. School was about to start. What if I couldn’t find them? Where could they be?

Then, I heard them. I looked over the swing set and felt relief wash over me. I found them, hiding in plain sight. They had been swinging on the swings the whole time, right under my nose. It was so nice to see them. As I ran over to join them, I had to admit, it was an excellent hiding spot.

So, there it is, a small peak into a small moment of my life. I’m excited to see what I can do with this story once I start revising and editing it.

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Visit From an Old Student

Yesterday, I had a student from my class last year come back to visit me. Since I teach fifth grade, all of my students move on to middle school at the end of the year. I teach at a small, private school, so the students tend to spread out quite a bit; last year’s class went to six different middle schools.

It was so nice to see her. She loves her new school, is making friends, and is on the volleyball team. She seemed more grown up but also the same student that I got to know last year. It was fun to hear her talk about her classes and her teachers and her locker. She has seven different schedules, so it’s hard for her to remember what she has each day. The school day starts thirty minutes later this year so the teachers are having a hard time remembering the new schedule too. She told me about her first volleyball games and how she decided not to try out for the play (which she is now regretting).

I loved hearing about her new life in middle school. I left with a huge smile on my face and a light, happy feeling. #teacherlife

Thoughts in My Head Right Now

My brain is a jumble with teacher-thinking things. Here is a cross-section of my brain right now:

  • How do I help my tutoring student who doesn’t know that 265 is between 260 and 270?
  • My coworker gave me some good ideas for my third unit on economics.
  • Did my students learn anything today?
  • I’m excited about doing my first PenPal Schools project.
  • How often should I get them to post messages to their pen pals?
  • I can’t believe my principal is letting me use PenPal Schools.
  • Am I going to get all of the parents on board for this project?
  • Order of operations went surprisingly well today!
  • Why did some of my students not do all of the corrections on their math tests?
  • I need to write down those ideas for my economics unit.
  • What was so tricky about that one word problem on that test?
  • I don’t think I was intentional enough with my lesson on revising in writing.
  • Why are some of my writing lessons so magical and some so droopy?
  • I have had three successful guided reading meetings in three days!
  • Why does that one student think “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer to an open-ended question?
  • We are almost finished with our read aloud book.
  • What am I going to read next?
  • I was thinking about The Watsons go to Birmingham–1963.
  • Where is my copy of that book?
  • I need to order another copy if I can’t find mine tomorrow.
  • What does the summative assessment look like for this unit in math?
  • I think I did a good job helping one student with order of operations today.
  • What kinds of summative assessments will my students create at the end of this unit?
  • The unit is over in less than three weeks!
  • What have they learned?
  • I think it’s time to try something new with history.
  • Have them learned enough?
  • There is so much more that they could be learning about.
  • Why don’t I have more time for science?
  • I like the way our science labs are going on Fridays.
  • Which picture books should I use to get our narrative writing unit started?
  • Friday afternoons are a good time for science inquiry.
  • Should I do a short series of picture books in between chapter books for read aloud?
  • I like reading picture books with my class.
  • Which human rights activity do I want to do tomorrow?
  • I like reading chapter books with my class.
  • Would the speech bubbles be better tomorrow?
  • Read aloud is so relaxing right after lunch.
  • Or would the maps be better tomorrow?
  • I still need to cut out those speech bubbles if I am going to do that activity tomorrow.
  • Which student should I meet with tomorrow for guided reading?
  • I need to remember to get them to share examples of equality and inequality that they learned from their research today.
  • How will the distributive property go tomorrow?
  • I miss my class from last year.
  • Will we have internet tomorrow?
  • I like my class this year too.

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Small Victories

At the beginning of the year, the speed and smoothness of our transitions always annoy me. They are not fast, they are not smooth, they take up too much of our learning time, they aren’t automatic.

It’s hard to remember that this is always how it is at the beginning of the year.

For me, the perfect transition starts with the timer going off (from whatever they were working on, whether independently or with a partner/small group) to them checking the board for instructions to them getting the materials they need to them getting where they need to be, all without me saying anything.

Needless to say, this takes lots of time and practice.

Today, we had a little victory with one particular transition. We had a really good transition from math to spelling to independent reading. My students are definitely getting better with transitions in general, looking at the board and stopping when the timer goes off. We came to the carpet quickly for them to choose how they were going to practice their spelling words; then I released them individually as they picked one. As they finished practicing their words, they put away their spelling words and got a book to read independently. Yay!

Soon, I won’t even need to “check in” with them before spelling, and they will move directly from math to spelling to independent reading. Hooray for small victories.

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Poetry and Figurative Language

What is poetry? This is always an interesting question to ask students and hear their responses. They often think there are a lot of rules, so we try to write (and read) poetry that is more free verse. We put that to practice today.

We have been reviewing different types of figurative language, and I wanted us to practice putting some of this figurative language to good use in a poem. So this is what we wrote together:

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I particularly love the simile at the end of the poem: Like a limousine (pardon my incorrect spelling in the photo), long and taking you places. I just love the idea that my students think about school as a medium for getting them to where they want to be in life, even if it feels long sometimes. At least limousines are stylish; better to be in a limousine for 12 years than in a regular bus or van. Hop on board, class!

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Do You Like To Read?

I didn’t think it would happen two years in a row. I felt pretty lucky that it happened last year, and I wasn’t sure it would last. It did, and it made me happy every day.  This year would have to be different. Different class, different students; there was no way it would be like that again this year. Last year had to be an anomaly, right?

Lucky me! It happened again this year! It started with a simple library activity: Look through the books in our classroom library and write down the ones you want to read. Then, choose one and start reading it. Everyone was talking about books. Books covered the tables and windowsills and floor.  Then, the books were put away and everyone was reading. Music was playing. It was pretty great for the first day of school.

So maybe yesterday was a fluke, just an example of sucking-up to the teacher on the first day of school? Maybe it was just a nice break from having to be back at school after a summer of free time? Maybe it was all my imagination?

Today, it happened again. Music was playing. Students were reading. 20 minutes later, I knew. I have another class that loves to read!

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The Slices of Summer

Since this is my last week of summer vacation before heading back to school for teacher inset, I am going to share some slices from my vacation.

Learning to drive a car with manual transmission: One day, I was trying to drive to Walgreens (which is half a mile from my house), and I stalled the car so many times at a traffic light that people had to get out of their cars to help me. It felt like I was there for hours, though it was probably not even five minutes. It was pretty embarrassing.

Learning German and going to Germany: Among other things, Duolingo has taught me how to say things like The mouse is reading a book, Your eyes are like stars, and He loses a lot of blood. I can safely say I used none of those phrases while I was in Germany. I did have another funny memory in Germany that you can check out here.

Paddleboarding for the first time: My husband and I spent the night at a friend’s parents’ lake house while we were traveling in Wisconsin. The sun was setting, and we decided to try out the paddle boards they had. We strapped on our very hip life vests and headed out on the lake, me with a paddle that was a bit too short. It was easy to paddle with the current, but a little harder once we had to turn around.

ISTE in San Antonio: Since I couldn’t get a hotel room, I had to drive to and from San Antonio every day. It was a bit tedious, but it gave some good downtime and mental space to process everything I learned while I was there (which you can read about here, here, here, and here).

Baking my first cherry pie: Nothing says Texas summer like standing by a hot, hot oven and baking a pie! I made my first lattice crust, and even though pitting the cherries was a bit like a battle (my hands certainly looked like they were covered in blood by the end of it), the pie was delicious!

A couple of special slices from a summer full of reading by the pool, running in the morning, spending time with friends, and traveling.

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Everybody Loves a Wedding

There is a lot to love about weddings: friends, family, dancing, love, commitment, happiness. I have been to several weddings in the past few years for friends that I have known for most of my life. This past weekend, I went to my last wedding for awhile; I don’t have any other friends who are engaged. This made me think about all of the fun, beautiful, unique details that I have seen at these special events over the past three years (in no particular order):

Handwritten notes to each guest from the bride and groom

Tacos for cocktail hour

DJs who know just when to move on to the next song

Strings of lights hanging above the dance floor

Live bands playing covers of your favorite songs

Seeing all your friends together in one place (so much better than a high school reunion)

Helping groomsmen tie their bowties

Photobooths and instant cameras that create a pictorial guest book

All kinds of “first looks”: whether at the ceremony or before, there is nothing like watching the groom see his bride for the first time.

Perfect wedding weather (I hope I’m not jinxing future weddings, but every wedding I have been to has had amazing weather.)

When the groom dips the bride for their first kiss

Toasts that make you laugh

First dances at the beginning of the night, right after they enter the reception

Meeting new people at your table

Sitting with all of your high school friends at your table

Driving the bride and groom to pictures

Sitting in the limo with the entire wedding party after the ceremony

Watching the bride and her bridal party get “prettied up” with fancy hair and makeup

The minutes after the bridesmaids are in their dresses but the bride hasn’t put her dress on yet

The bride’s parents seeing her for the first time in her dress

Meeting old and new friends of your friends that you have never met before

Decorating the bride and groom’s hotel room for after the reception

The thing I love the most though is just how beautiful my friends look when they are getting married. They are love and happiness personified in these moments. I am so lucky to have such lovely women as my friends.

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Miles and Miles

The feeling of getting on a bicycle seat after riding 140 miles is not a pleasant one. The last rest stop at the Scenic Shore 150 is about ten miles from the finish and about 100 miles from when you could last feel your legs (and your seat). But there are Jolly Ranchers, bananas, and Gatorade to get you through, not to mention your team. Seven of us conquered this fundraising ride to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in honor of my dad, who was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in 1997 when he was 40 years old. This year, in celebration of 20 years since his diagnosis and 60 years on this earth, we brought back the tradition we have continued off-and-on since 2001.

As we rode through Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon, it was fun to think about all of the things we experienced together over the last two days. Some were fun: riding along Lake Michigan, relaxing in camp chairs after the first day, eating a lot of good food and snacks. Some were less fun: riding into the wind for 15 miles surrounded by flat Wisconsin farmland, getting back on that bike seat after lunch, pedaling up the millionth hill. And some were just…experiences: getting soaked through our tent when we were trying to sleep on Saturday night, putting on wet clothes when you are already wet, walking with leg muscles that feel like they are on fire.

150 miles are a lot to spend on a bike seat. 60 years are a long time to be alive. 20 years are a long time since a cancer diagnosis. 7 people are a lot to corral after lunch. But the time we spent together and the money we raised will hopefully allow more 20-year survivors to ride 150 miles with their friends and family. I love you, Dad!

Running in the Summer #sol17

It’s hot

Even at 7:15 in the morning

It’s hot

I can get about a mile in

Before the sweat starts

Dripping in my eyes

It’s hot

It’s humid

The cruelest joke of Mother Nature

The coolest time of day

Is also the most humid

It’s hot

Darting from shady spot to shady spot

Avoiding the bright sunny spots

Feeling the heat coming up from the pavement

It’s hot

The sun is in my eyes

I feel it on my head

On my skin

It’s hot

The rain last night

Has made my trails unmanageable

So for today

I have to run

Away from the shady trees

And summer leaves

And cool, dark patches

Of wooded trails

It’s hot