Tag Archives: school

Primed for Summer Writing

Weirdly enough, this school year ended with 2 minimum days–on a Monday and Tuesday. With the class party dealt with on Friday, what do you plan for those last days of school with first graders?

Inspired by a post I saw on Two Writing Teachers, we began our last two days of school by creating a character–a puppet of sorts–to feature in our writing and to prime the pump for some possible summer writing.

Yesterday morning armed with cardstock, construction paper, scissors, glue, markers, and colored pencils we began creating our characters. Students knew I would make an egret. (They know I love egrets and often feature them in my writing) I demonstrated one way to put a character together…and also started talking through a story featuring the character that was brewing in my head. And then they were off…

As they crafted and created they were also having conversations about their characters. They talked about where the characters lived, their special features and coloring. All the perfect pre-writing you always wish for (and sometimes doesn’t happen). I love this time in the school year when students are comfortable and confident, allowing the creative juices to flow. Once completed, we left the character puppets to dry on the counter.

Today we began with our sketch pads, setting our characters in their places, giving them action and a problem to solve. And again, as students sketched and colored they also talked about their stories.

At this point students were eager to write. We talked about adding dialogue and thoughts, sound words, and setting. And on this very last day of first grade, these students wrote and wrote. They loved that they were filling the page (or more) with their writing. They were excited to read their stories out loud and they were willing to add even more details.

The added bonus is that they also created a list of other stories featuring this character that they may write in the next hours or days or weeks. They left with their notebooks and sketchbooks and their character in hand…and their brains primed and ready for some summer writing (I hope)! I leave the school year knowing that my students left on this last day of first grade as writers, knowing they can put their stories on the page for themselves and others to enjoy.

Would I have students write on the last day of school again…the answer is a resounding YES! It was a wonderful way to spend our last days together, immersed in this community of writers developed over the course of the school year. There were so many things that were hard about this year of teaching, which makes me even happier that these last two days were a joy…for me and for them. They and I left the school year wanting more…that wonderful bittersweet feeling of being happy and sad all at the same time.

Rainy Days and Mondays: SOL22 Day 28

Some days are the perfect convergence of conditions–that can either make or break your day.

Mondays can be challenging. Coming off the weekend students are unsettled–some tired, some amped, some seemingly have forgotten what this whole school thing is all about. And somehow, I always start parent conference week with an early morning conference. Today was no different.

I like morning parent conferences. They feel almost leisurely in the quiet of the morning before the stresses of the day emerge. But…today I had to rearrange my lesson plans since someone would come in to teach my class while I attended an IEP meeting. And…I didn’t know who it would be until I was already teaching this morning.

Then there’s the forecast. Last week we had summer mid-week, with coastal temperatures in the 80s. Today’s weather called for wind and rain…maybe even thunder and lightening. Any weather in these parts is an event–and my rain boot, umbrella toting students came to school ready for it! (What is it about wind and the prospect of rain that causes students to lose their minds? They were definitely stirred up today!)

No breaks later, it hadn’t rained. I wrangled the students back into learning mode as we explored some poetry (reading and writing) and did some drawing (tulips) that we will paint tomorrow. A minimum day dismissal arrived before the rain–so all those boots and umbrellas were not needed at school today.

But the rain did come, wafting in sheets during one of my conferences. We could hear the wind and see the sheets of water through the windows as we chatted about progress and appreciated the child’s unique qualities. And I was thankful for a rain-free teaching day since cooped-up kids are not my favorite start to the week.

You can see the rain pouring out the drains after the downpour.

Once my conferences were done for the day, the sun came out and I couldn’t resist a bit of photography outside the classroom, trying to catch the sunlight on the damp flowers that were clearly enjoying some rainfall in this usually dry climate.

While there is still some more rain in the forecast for the evening, it held off long enough for a neighborhood walk once I got home this afternoon. The snails were out everywhere creating their own kind of obstacle course (how I hate that crunch when I accidentally step on one!) as I made my way up and down the sidewalks.

End result? This rainy day and Monday converged in a way I can claim as a good day. It was busy and hectic as all parent conference week days are, but the rain made its appearances at times when I could appreciate it rather than curse it. All in all, a pretty darn good rainy day and Monday!

Schedules: SOL#1 March 1, 2022

Schedules at school have been challenging this year. COVID protocols meant staggered lunches and as the newest member of the grade level team, I started this school year with a lunch time so early it felt like brunch! The problem with an early lunch is that the afternoon (with 6 years olds) felt interminable. I was able to negotiate a slightly later lunch after the first couple of weeks–and 20 minutes really did help, but afternoons continued to be a struggle.

A few weeks ago as the Omicron surge began to level off, the rumbles of change started vibrating through our staff. Could we have students line up on the playground instead of waiting outside the classroom as they arrived on campus in the morning? What about letting students play before school for the 10 minutes before the bell rang?

And then a more seismic shift started, could grade levels share a common lunch time? A common afternoon recess? I was definitely in favor of this change–and a complete overhaul of my daily schedule. All of my recess times would change and I would gain precious instructional minutes in the morning and shorten that afternoon when student engagement was so troubling.

It was decided that our new schedule would begin when we came back from our February Family Week break…yesterday!

My Monday was magical! No, not perfect, but the difference was so significant that I felt like singing from the rafters! My students are engaged in meaningful learning right up to our 10am recess. They come back and continue with focus up until our 11:30 lunch. After lunch we settle in for 50 minutes until our afternoon recess and manage to maintain focus right up to our 2:35 dismissal–at least that was true for the last two days.

Honestly, these have been the best 2 days of the entire school year. Do schedules really make that much of a difference? Were these last 2 days just a fluke of timing? Can a shift of 25 minutes at the start of lunch change everything about how learning happens?

I don’t yet know for sure…but it feels like the best thing that has happened in a while. Maybe “normal” is in the little things, like lunch at lunch time, play before school, and breaks with my colleagues. This schedule change feels like a win.

Blackout Poetry: NPM20 Day 11

Thanks goodness for the National Writing Project…just when my inspiration was beginning to lag and a poem every day started to feel like a chore, this post arrived in my Twitter Feed. Blackout poetry–why hadn’t I thought of that?

So I grabbed the newspaper that arrives only on the weekend and was immediately drawn into an article about the only school in California that has not closed due to the coronavirus. I selected words that drew my attention, not really paying much attention to anything other than the fact that they called to me.

I started to arrange the words, grabbing one here, another there, combining others into phrases until I had a poem in front of me. And then I wondered…had I broken the rules of blackout poetry by rearranged the words rather than taking them in the order they appeared?

So I tried again–this time only using space as my poetic license. I haven’t taken the time to actually black out the rest of the text as I’ve seen done before…and I did doodle a laptop…a connection to the now of schooling with no schools.

So here’s the photo of the blackout process…and both versions of the poetry. Does one speak to you louder than the other? What meaning emerges from these selected words?

Holdout  (version 1)

Virus accelerates

U.S. now closed

 

10,520 schools

shuttered education

disinfected

sanitized

students stay home

 

Essential

social distancing

tangled clusters

walnut trees

 

generations

shelter-in-place

Civil War

 

None of us knows when

school will resume

®Douillard

 

10,520 Holdout (version 2)

accelerates

stay home

essential schools

students shuttered

 

Civil War

walnut trees

education

 

generations

shelter-in-place

 

virus

disinfected

sanitized

 

social distancing

tangled clusters

 

none of us knows when

U.S.

now closed

 

school will resume

®Douillard

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginnings and Endings

It turns out that the last days of August mark beginnings and endings for some of us.  This week was our first week of school with students, the beginning of the new school year…with sweltering heat (it seems to come only during our first weeks of school) and no air conditioning.  And our students were excited to be back…even taking the time to pick a beautiful rose of two from their home garden to set the back to school mood.

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And in spite of the heat, our learners dove right in, whether it was a first day team challenge to build the highest tower possible using only large index cards,

Preset Style = Bold Format = 6

or collecting data in small groups to display in graphs to help us get to know each other better (and what student doesn’t love a clipboard?)

Preset Style = Color Bloom Format = 6" (Medium) Format Margin = Small Format Border = Sm. Rounded Drawing = #2 Pencil Drawing Weight = Heavy Drawing Detail = Medium Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Normal Paint Intensity = More Water = Tap Water Water Edges = Blurry Water Bleed = Average Brush = Fine Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Wide Paper = Watercolor Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Light Options Faces = Enhance Faces

And while this new beginning was underway, we were also feeling the full blast of the end of summer.  Who can resist the allure of the layers of color from beneath a pier, while dipping your feet in the cool salty water?

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And it seems that the fishermen are also squeezing in the last of the summer fishing season…off the piers, in the surf…during the heat of the day or in the cooler evening hours.

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And last night, to celebrate the ending of the first week of school and to escape the heat of indoors, we headed to the beach at sunset…which also happened to coincide with the moonrise…and a full moon!

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It’s been quite a week of beginnings and endings for me.  What is beginning and ending in your life this week?  You can represent it literally…by capturing a moment, or use a metaphoric approach and use an image that reflects your feelings of beginnings and/or endings.

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #beginningsandendings for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

How will you capture beginnings and endings this week?  I’m looking forward to seeing beginnings and endings through your lens!

Playing with Perspective in the Garden

We’re lucky enough to have a school garden thanks to support from our school district, our local community, and a non-profit developed by a couple of teachers at my site called Scrumptious Schoolyards.  My students had time with the gardening teacher today observing how the garden has changed over the summer…before it is harvested and cleaned up for fall planting. While watching them and listening to their comments and looking at what they noticed, I also had time to snap a few iphone photos.

I’ve been playing around with perspective and point of view, trying a variety of angles–looking up, looking down, getting down low.  Here’s one looking up into the “face” of a sunflower.

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I purposely got close, wanting to capture the texture of the sunflower’s surface.  I love the bright yellow-orange of the petals around the top…and you can see just a hint of the chain link fence around the bottom.  This photo is unedited and not cropped…it’s just as I took it.

Another unedited and uncropped photo I took today is this one of squash blossoms.  I love the slight shadow on the blossom and the peek at the squash growing in the background.

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I also played around a bit with cropping and filters on this photo of the pile of watering cans. Only in a school garden would so many watering cans be sitting together just waiting to be used!

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We also have a small corn crop growing tall!  With this photo I cropped to focus the photo on the corn and not on the background…and wanted to move the viewer’s eye upward to emphasize the height (while including beautiful blue sky!).

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There is so much more that I noticed in the garden today–and saw through my students’ eyes that I wasn’t able to capture in photos.  I love their wonder and fascination with bugs and plants.  They uncovered caterpillars, carefully held ladybugs (both with and without spots–how I wish I had my macro lens handy!), avoided those big green beetle bugs, and noticed the dragonflies darting overhead.  They were astounded by the size of the tomatoes (heirlooms as one student pointed out) and the pumpkins.  And they can’t wait to literally dig in and get to the real work on gardening!

What did you see today through someone else’s eyes?  How does that change your perspective?