Slice of Life:

If anyone had told me I’d slice every Tuesday during 2014 and every day in March of that same year I would have said, you are crazy. In fact that is exactly what I asked myself in my first SOL post in November of 2013: Am I Crazy?

I sliced even when I thought I nothing to say or sometimes too much to say.

I worried when I hit the publish button.

Did that make any sense?

Was that too personal?

Too long?

Too short?

Was that a slice?

This happens sometimes, in fact all of those questions are rattling around in my mind right now and as I publish this reflection on my year.

Maybe I should just write about something safe.

In the Slice of Life community my worries were unwarranted. Not that every post was perfect, or couldn’t be improved. SOL welcomed me, typos and all.  The community allowed me to just write, to try.  In joining this community of writers I started to consider myself a writer.

Slicers’ comments quieted my fears, made me brave, and brought me back. Without feedback I know I would not have written week after week.

Today I remember those slices when worries surrounded my words. I hit publish and held my breath. Slicer words came back and I exhaled. Someone read my words and understood.

When I started slicing I thought it would be a place to help me become a better writing teacher .I had no idea what I was in for.

Friendships created through written words is a very special thing. I had no idea. People who share their words and understand mine.  Miraculous.

Thank you Slicers. Thank you Two Writing Teachers. Thank you Anna, Beth, Betsy, Dana, Stacey and Tara. You have changed me as a teacher, but more importantly you have taught me the power of the written word.

Read more slices here.




New Year, Next Steps

recite-12936-765988298-tnu77rI always question my actions; whether or not it is the best thing, the right thing. While I don’t believe there is one way, I do believe there are things to aspire to, goals to reach for.

A new year is a great time to review the goals: where we are right now and where we want to be next year.

FIRST:  Students need to understand what it means to be swept away in a book and to know that books are a way to experience and improve their world.

Right now: all students don’t always feel that swept away feeling, BUT they all know that feeling. Every student in my classroom loves graphic novels and read aloud. These are the gateway drugs. The trick is getting these habits to bridge to other reading  domains.  While all students can’t reach these expectations in all reads, they know what it feels like to read, to comprehend, to enjoy a book.

Next year, I want to move students toward finding books that meet their interests; to become proactive in their search for reads. I want students to grow their thinking about the world through reading. I want to students to move their questions in fiction towards answers for and within their world. I hope to create pathways that students will take naturally: using literature to lead to personal action or to research questions that were provoked by fiction.

Next year, I want students to build better relationships with and through literature. My students don’t all get along.  Kindness can be lacking. I believe they don’t see kindness as often as they should; they aren’t really acquainted with it.  Selfishness can be very natural. Sometimes it’s about survival. In our classrooms we need teach kindness. We need to notice and name it; model it, practice it, and work toward independence. Without kindness, most students, most people don’t have much of a chance. We live with each other, our actions effect each other deeply. Imagine the classroom with “behavior problems.” That is the classroom with very little kindness; one that is filled with selfish disruption. If I have to justify the teaching of kindness, that would be my reason. But honestly, without a good dose of kindness, what kind of a life are we creating. Not one I want for my students or me.

SECOND:  Students need to be able to communicate their feelings and ideas in writing.

Right now: Students love blogging and they are proficient writing about their passions. Generally speaking they know how to structure informational and opinion work.

Next year: I want students to become better listeners. They are social beings and want to talk to each other through their writing. They just aren’t listening. Perhaps that starts with their own writing. Students write but struggle to go back and listen to their writing. Getting those ideas out is hard. Still we need to listen to what we write. To make sure what we said is what we want.

Next year: I want students to listening to each other’s writing and respond to what was said in a way that builds writers and relationships. While it is hard for students to listen to their own words, it is even harder to listen for another’s words. This goes back to the need for kindness and understanding when commenting on another’s writing.

Next year: I want technology to help students more than it has. We have iPads and blogging, but we need more. We will be FINALLY going to Google docs and testing out a new Chromebook. I’m so excited for this new tech that will make the physical work of writing easier.

THIRD:  Students need to have goals that matter to them.

Whenever I struggle with something, anything I try to take note of what keeps me going. What stops me from giving up. Reaching goals no matter how small the goal makes me feel good and willing to keep trying.

Right now:  In reading, students have benchmarks in terms of number of books read and levels. Students have looked at their reading habits in the classroom and at home and have set some personal goals. There are expectations as to writing about reading that are not always met. In writing students use checklists and exemplars. Students love genius hour but have not set up goals or expectations which has led to some questioning of the work.

Next year: We need to set up systems to monitor the personal reading goals as to genre, volume and writing about reading. The goals are there they set them we just need to monitor them or they are useless.

Next year: Students set personal reading goals, but they haven’t done this for writing.  Writing is a unit-driven process in the classroom, and that is good. But students need to grow their writing outside of those units in an authentic way. Genius hour might be one way to build in authentic personalized writing work.

I believe with these goals. standards will be authentically reached for, and learners will emerge.

A few other things on my mind as I start the new year …

  1. Students need to become more conscious of their learning process.
  2. Steps learners need to take to get to their goal are personal and varied.
  3. Listening well is my biggest challenge