Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spring, Bluebonnets, and Poetry

Spring Has Sprung!  FINALLY!

At least in Texas it has.  Don't get me wrong - that doesn't mean our temperatures are set at a beautiful 75 degrees.  Any Texan can tell you we cannot count on the same weather two days in a row these days, but we are seeing the signs.  Birds are tweeting, trees are budding, grass is growing, and so are the weeds...  But the best thing about Texas this time of year for many of us is driving along the roads and highways and seeing blankets of bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas.
Our beautiful daughter years ago in a field of bluebonnets.
There are many potential projects, so I thought I would share a few ideas with you.  Maybe these will inspire you to create a few of your own.

One project involved one of my not so pretty, yet authentic anchor charts our class created, which listed reasons we like living in Texas.  The class generated the ideas during a brainstorming session, I recorded them on the chart, then they used these and other ideas to write their own paragraphs about why they like living in Texas.
This week I read aloud The Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie dePaola..  We discussed the genre of "legend," and talked about the bluebonnet being our state flower.  There is so much rich vocabulary in this book and the illustrations are beautiful.

It is important to stress that this activity integrated the subjects of Reading, Writing, Social Studies, Science, and Art! We are learning about plants and plant parts in Science, and we have been discussing Texas and its symbols in Social Studies.  I love integrated teaching!

After reading and discussing this book - the students loved it, by the way - it was time for a little art.  I didn't find exactly what I was looking for on Pinterest, though I got some ideas and of course I loved looking. :)

So, I decided to be brave, which is not exactly like me when it comes to art...  I have found it is more authentic to ask my students to take risks and try things, if I show them I will do the same.

 Now if you know me at all, you know I am a tiny bit of a control freak in some ways.  Just the tiniest bit ;)  Those who are like me have a little bit  lot of trouble with things like GLITTER and PAINT... YIKES!  That is what makes this next part pretty AWESOME!!  Well that, and the adorable projects my students made - I was giddy with excitement!  They had so much fun!

The class took a look at some images of bluebonnets, along with a silk one from the craft store.
We started with plain old white and green construction paper.  I cut some strips of green for stems and they were responsible for cutting out a few leaves on their own.  This was more difficult for some than others.  I just praised whatever they came up with for leaves. Then we each got a bit of paint and painted our bluebonnet with - Q-tips!  So simple, almost mess free, and so much fun.  I modeled first (scarey...) and let them create.  Every one of the bluebonnets turned out different (you can imagine some did not exactly look like a bluebonnet) and I loved them! (more pictures coming soon)

Since April is Poetry Month - YEA - I have created two different Acrostic Poem frames to be used in conjunction with this project.  Both are listed in my TPT store found HERE:      

The first one is a TEXAS Acrostic Poem and can be found HERE::
Texas Acrostic Poem
And for those non-Texans or those just wanting to celebrate the new season, a SPRING Acrostic Poem can be found HERE:
Spring Acrostic Poem
I hope something here inspires you...to celebrate the new life of Spring, whether it's Texas Spring or a snow-capped Spring in your "neck of the woods."

Keep writing,

Friday, August 2, 2013

Challenge, Writing Lesson, & Tribute All in One!

Hello Teacher Blog "Family,"

I wonder if anyone took my challenge out there.  If not, it is NEVER too late!  If you missed my Writing Challenge, you can check it out HERE.
We are putting ourselves in the shoes of our students and writing, even if it is uncomfortable.  The more we do something, the better we become at it.  We are MODELING, which is an important part of teaching.  And...by the time you get back to school, you will be able to share your new Writer's Notebook with your students!

For those of you who are getting started, I would like you to think about he word "inspire."  What does it mean to you?

Dictionary.com (awesome resource) says this:

inspire

                               

in·spire

[in-spahyuhr] Show IPA verb, in·spired, in·spir·ing.
verb (used with object)
 
1.  to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence: His courage inspired his followers.
2.  to produce or arouse (a feeling, thought, etc.): to inspire confidence in others.
3.  to fill or affect with a specified feeling, thought, etc.: to inspire a person with distrust.
4.  to influence or impel: Competition inspired her to greater efforts.
5.  to animate, as an influence, feeling, thought, or the like, does: They were inspired by a belief in a better future.
 
 Now, get out your Writer's Notebook and make a list of people, places, or things that inspire you.  If you want to take it further, write about a person, place or thing that inspires you. 
 
I'll show you an approach your students might like - a format used for assessment in Texas:
 
Look at this picture:
In class you can display any picture that you think might spark ideas for a given prompt.
I picked this picture, because we (adults) often think of older people who have inspired us, family, friends, teachers, etc.    
 
Two of the most inspirational people in my life - my Daddy and his sister, My Aunt Vivian.
 All of us have people that inspire us.
 
THINK about some people that have inspired you.  (Be sure to address new vocabulary words like "inspire" after you read the prompt together. Teacher may want to give an example of her own.)
 
In class, you might use a strategy like "Think, Pair, Share."
Give students 1-2 minutes to sit quietly and think. (Hint:  Use a timer.)
Give students 1-3 minutes to discuss their ideas with a partner or small group.
Use a strategy like pulling name sticks to have a few students share whole class.
Or... better yet, after discussing with a partner, set the timer for 2-4 minutes and have students write as many ideas as they can think of, then share out whole class.

This process of BRAINSTORMING is an important part of writing, because not every student has their own ideas for each prompt.  It is important to teach students that is normal.  Sometimes we immediately come up with something to write about and other times it might take us a little more time to think about it.
 
WRITE about a time someone inspired you. (THIS IS THE WRITING PROMPT.)
 
 In class, we would go back to the list we generated and pick one we want to write about the most.
By generating a list, we may have more than one idea, but we teach students to focus on ONE and write about only that ONE.  They must keep focus.
 
Any piece of this "lesson" is perfect for a Writer's Workshop mini-lesson or something you can train your students in and practice throughout the year so that they can work independently during "Daily 5."
 
But you, you may use this approach - Look at the picture, Think, List, Write,
OR you can use this page to inspire you to write in any way you want, because it's your Writer's Notebook and the point is to just become comfortable writing and making a habit of writing SOMETHING on a regular basis.  
 
 Here's a little modeling for you:
 
People Who Have Inspired Me:
Daddy
Trey
Trey
Kelsi & Kyle
Annette, Karen, Allen, & Skeet
Marci & Dave, Debbie & Bill
Debbie (lots of them - lol)
Liz & Joey
Nona, Jan, Wendy, Valerie, Susan
Karen & Tim, Kara & Michael, Traci & Ken, Susan & Mark
Clair, Denise, Wendy
 
This is where I could go on and on, but my timer has gone off, so I'll stop there - especially since I wrote this post already knowing who I want to write about. :)
 
One Inspiring Woman
 
      I have had the blessing of knowing many inspiring Christian women in my life, but one sits on top of the long list - my Aunt Vivian.  I am inspired by her loving, giving spirit and her servant's heart.  She inspires me by how she openly and joyful loves her family - ALL of her family.  I don't believe there is anyone in the family who doesn't know if we needed her she would be there in any way possible!  Probably because she lives her life showing us that.  
     She did not grow up as a woman of "means," but one of her blessings was parents who raised her to love the Lord and do for others with whatever she had.  She has been a loving daughter, niece, wife, mother, sister, aunt, and on and on.
     When you are with Aunt Viv, you know you are going to feel special and loved.  She is for sure going to call you "precious" at some point in the conversation.  She will tell you how special you are, and make you feel like it's true.  She will hug you and give you a cookie, or a yummy piece of cake she just whipped up in case someone dropped by.  She will pray with you.  She will tell you how she can't wait to see you again!  You walk away warm and smiling after spending time with her.
     Aunt Vivian has suffered tremendous loss in her life - a granddaughter, her siblings, her parents, countless friends, and most recently, her son.  Each time she has leaned on the Lord and shown that life is a beautiful gift to be enjoyed.   
     I have many memories of my Aunt Vivian - from shopping to visiting nursing homes.  They all hold special places in my heart.  Because she made me feel loved.  And isn't that what everyone wants and needs...
     Happy Birthday, Aunt Vivian!!!  I love you and treasure your inspirational example!!! MUAH!  
 
 
Obviously I could have written far more, but this is a first "draft" of a much larger piece.  I believe it is called a "seed story."  I can choose to leave it in my Writer's Notebook, or revise and edit it and publish it in some form.  
 
Try it out folks - WHO INSPIRES YOU??

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Finding New Inspiration and a Challenge for YOU

Tomorrow will be August 1st -- the month school starts... and this "inspired writing teacher" finds herself without a classroom for the first time in five years.  My family made yet another move from our beloved "Aggieland" to "Bear Country," due to my husband's job at Baylor University.  I am now longingly walking through the Back to School supplies, knowing there is no reason to even purchase a box of markers - but they are on SALE and such a good DEAL right now!! 

For anyone who was following me in the early days of this blog, you will remember that my passion was teaching writing to 4th graders. (It actually still is.)  It was difficult, but so rewarding!  I taught 4th grade for 7 years in both self-contained and departmentalized classrooms.  The job was becoming more and more difficult, life was handing our family many challenges, I had a few health issues, and my dear, dear Daddy passed away...  So, I made a change and moved to 2nd grade - a whole different ballgame - also fun and rewarding.  Blogging took the FAR back seat, like outside the car.  Oh, I was still following and "pinning" away, but was not able to write.  Some "Inspired Writing Teacher" I have been.

My Daddy was seriously incredible, and I miss him dearly.
Then came this move, and the obvious need to resign from my job.  I mean, it was time, but it didn't make leaving that empty classroom and turning out the light any easier.  Don't get me wrong.  I know God has other plans, but guess what... He hasn't let me in on them yet.  "So what is to become of this lovely blog?" I have been wondering.

Well, I am enjoying a new "season" of life I realize.  We have a new home which we are loving.  Our daughter just graduated from college, and our son just graduated from high school.  (Expect a sad post coming as he (our baby) leaves for college in August.) Yep, we are about to be "empty nesters."  I have no idea how that happened so quickly. 

Aren't they ADORABLE!!!  Kelsi - Texas A&M 2013, Kyle - Bryan High School 2013
I am applying for jobs, have had a few interviews, but no new job yet.  I wait faithfully, knowing God has a plan and knows what is best. (Did I mention, He hasn't let me in on it yet?)  I am trying to use this time to rejuvenate and refocus.  I am trying to lose the weight I have packed on and heal my body that I have not treated well.  I am spending more quiet time, more time with God.  I'm spending more time writing... Wait, What?  Writing???   Hmmm...

It occurred to me this morning that I have not only taught writing to children these last ten years.  I have also tried to share my passion with the adults in my profession.  One of the things I found so often was teachers who just didn't feel confident teaching Writing.  We all know we teach less of what we don't personally enjoy.  We also know students get excited when we are excited about what we are teaching.  It is the modeling that is missing in many cases. 

"But I can't write."  "But I never liked to write."  "But I don't have anything good to write about."

Do any of these sound familiar?  We've all heard our students say them, and I've heard teachers say them too.  Do we let them get away with not writing?  I HOPE NOT! 

Here comes the FUN part =)
How about I try to "Inspire" YOU, my TEACHER friends for a while?  I don't know if I can do it, but it's worth a try. 

Like I said, tomorrow is August 1st, and we all know school is starting soon.  We will soon be (likely already are) putting so much time into school that we will once again be trying to find "time for ourselves."  I'm going to remind you that you are not very good for anyone if you do not take time for yourself.  I want you to take some time each day, or if that is too much to fathom, every other day.  In addition to other activities you may enjoy, I want you to do some writing.  BREATHE, please :)

Now, we are in this together.  I would never just thrust a challenge at you and call it "inspiration."
We'll take it step by step, one day at a time.

Step 1:  Gather your materials

You'll need something to write on and something to write with. 
So grab one of these:

Used from home or OH SO CHEAP right now!!!
 Or one of these (filled with paper of course):
You can even customize the cover or pick a pretty color.
Or for those of us who want to make this special, (We all know who we are.)
one like these:
Now we're talking ;)  All sizes, styles, and colors - YIPPEE!
Then gather a few of these (or more depending on your level of school supply hoarding collecting):
A small sampling of my collection...

You will probably want to grab one of these:
(If you'd rather have an "It's 5 o'clock somewhere" drink and are over 21, I certainly won't tell. lol )

Find a comfy spot, and WRITE!  About anything.  Really.  Anything.  Do not limit yourself.  Write, Doodle, Draw, Make Lists, just WRITE!

But for those of you that get completely freaked out by open-ended writing, I'll give you some ideas:

*Make a Title page for your new Writer's Notebook - yeah, I talked you into getting one so that's what we're calling it.
*Make a list of reasons it is important to write, or a lists of things to write about in the future
 Brainstorm - that means all answers are written, even if they are never used.
*Write about what excites you about going back to school.
*Make a list of places you visited this summer, or a list of places you would like to visit someday
  (or both)
*Make a list of as many things as you can think of that you are grateful for today. (This is a great starting spot anytime you don't know what to write about.)

If you need more ideas, drop a comment below, and I will help you out.

I hope no one is saying, "Well, she's not talking to me.  I don't TEACH Writing." 
We all know that every student should be writing across the curriculum.  In my opinion, we, the teachers are responsible for modeling this behavior.  You're not getting out of this. :)

No matter if you love to write or you have hated to write.  I want you to take a deep breath and take this one day at a time.  By the time you go to school, you will be able to share your own Writer's Notebook you started this summer.  Your kiddos will be IMPRESSED

Who knows?  Maybe you will teach INSPIRE one of your students to be as excited about writing as this dear former student of mine was:
Happy Writing!!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

America Acrostic Poem

Hello Blog World and Happy Summer Break to one and all!

In the spirit of "planning ahead," I have posted a new, fun activity in my TPT store.

Our 2nd grade students enjoyed writing an A M E R I C A acrostic poem this year.
It was a perfect integrated activity during our Social Studies unit on American symbols and our Writing unit on Poetry.  I think it would be an excellent 4th of July activity for students at home and at school.  It can should also be "pinned" for later use, as it is perfect for Veteran's Day, President's Day, or Memorial Day. 

If you are using this in your classroom, remember to always allow time for pre-writing and MODEL based on age and ability level.  Since this was one of our students' first acrostic poems, I made sure to model on chart paper.

We started our lesson by talking with our table groups about words and phrases we think of when we think about America.  We shared whole group, and I recorded their ideas on the whiteboard.  Finally, we did a Shared Writing - I recorded our poem on chart paper for students to refer to while they write.  The bubble-type letters and adorable clip art (found at www.djinkers.com) were perfect for students to color and "make it their own."

 You are a click away from patriotic FUN!  Print a few out, grab a slice of watermelon or a popsicle, and your kids won't even know they are practicing WRITING! :)

Click here:  
America Acrostic Poem