Monthly Archives: October, 2014

#SOL14: Everyday risks?


Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy for creating a place for us to work collaboratively.

Warning:  This is a serious slice!

 Who is the most important person or group of people at school?

That answer might depend upon your point of view.  When referring to the standards, this would relate to

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6 –  Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Two other anchor standards addressed by this post are:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 –  Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 – Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

 Pre-assessment:  When you hear “school shooting”, what are your first thoughts?

Jot down your ideas.  Hold onto your thoughts.   Last week I reread  Snowflakes Fall.  I was introduced to this book in Patricia Maclachlan’s Closing Keynote for the 2013 #TCRWP July Writing Institute in New York City.  Revisiting the back story was both riveting and tearful! snowflakes fall

Here’s what Random House says about this book:

“In Snowflakes Fall, Newbery Medalist Patricia MacLachlan and award-winning artist Steven Kellogg portray life’s natural cycle: its beauty, its joy, and its sorrow. Together, the words and pictures offer the promise of renewal that can be found in our lives—snowflakes fall, and return again as raindrops so that flowers can grow.

MacLachlan and Kellogg, who are longtime friends, were moved to collaborate on a message of hope for children and their families following the tragic events in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012. Kellogg lived in Sandy Hook for thirty-five years—he raised his family there and was an active member of the community. With Snowflakes Fall, they have created a truly inspiring picture book that is both a celebration of life and a tribute to the qualities that make each individual unique.

In honor of the community of Sandy Hook and Newtown, Random House, the publisher of Snowflakes Fall, has made a donation to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund. Random House is also donating 25,000 new books to the national literacy organization First Book in the community’s honor and in support of children everywhere.”

The audience / purpose for this book was to “provide hope for children and their families.”  While reading, the reader has the option to use the words and illustrations to determine if that goal of “providing hope” has been met.  A conversation about the book would reveal exactly which techniques worked best for any one reader with different readers choosing different sentences, phrases, or pictures.

What was the impact in homes not just in CT but across the nation?

To say that was a “tough Christmas” is a gross understatement.  Thousands of children sent snowflakes, many parents hugged their children tighter, other parents thanked their teachers, and schools were told to put school safety personnel inside their school buildings to make sure that children would be safe.  Yet what of those children who wondered if their own parent-teachers were safe in their neighborhood schools?

Is safe even possible?

Last Friday, the national news was again electrifying.  A student shooting in a school cafeteria in Washington State.  Two students died.  The shooter is dead. Headlines immediately begin to “determine the motive” and “analyze the background” of the shooter.  “Well-liked” was one descriptive phrase repeated about the shooter in headlines during the first 48 hours following the tragedy.  Sound familiar? Immediately the press began to report that the police response was different “because of Columbine.”  That struck a chord with me as I had just spent the past two weeks reading Dave Cullen’s Columbine.  At Columbine the police were criticized for failing to take action sooner – and in particular, needing to enter the building sooner! That text, Columbine,  was the reason I was “rereading” Snowflakes Fall  because I was looking for hope and faith in a parallel situation.  When I hear school shooting, I think of two:  Sandy Hook and Columbine.  Yet as I read Cullen’s text, I questioned my memory of Columbine.

  •          “How did I have the facts so wrong?  
  • What was the point of view of the news reporting as the event and subsequent weeks played out?  
  • What images played over and over on the news?  
  • Which pictures were replayed for the one, five and ten year anniversaries?”

columbine-cover-200

There were times that I wanted to stop reading the book. It was horrifying and mesmerizing at the same time.  I needed to know what came next. I could not stop, yet I also had to take breaks and could not just read straight through the book.  I wanted to ask,”What were you thinking?”  “How could you not know?”  for starters. Here’s what Dave (@DaveCullen) says about his book:

“I spent ten years on Columbine. I was driven by two questions: why did they kill, and what became of the survivors? My big surprise was that most of what we “know” about Columbine was wrong.

It wasn’t about the jocks, goths or the Trenchcoat Mafia. The killers didn’t even see themselves as school shooters: their primary focus was the bombs. To understand this tragedy, the key is letting go of our concept of “the killers.”

Spend a few chapters with Eric and Dylan, and you’ll discover two starkly different boys. Their personalities were poles apart, like the motives that drove them. Eric Harris was monstrous; Dylan Klebold was a revelation. The survivors proved equally illuminating. Their stories are surprisingly uplifting—a refreshing contrast to Eric and Dylan. Thousands faced the unthinkable, most overcame it, often in extraordinary ways. I was amazed by their resilience.” (Source:  http://www.davecullen.com/ )

Why was I reading Columbine?

My friend and co-worker, Dyan, told me about the book.  She thought I would like it so she handed me the book to read.  Dyan has participated and followed “Rachel’s Challenge” for years.  While reading the book, we had many texts and phone conversations that included:

 “Bombs?  What bombs?

“How could I not know about 100 bombs?

“How could anyone else not have known about the plan?

“How did two teenage boys keep their planning a secret for over a year?   REALLY, A secret?”

“Whoa!  All that “stuff about psycopaths . . .”

“Feel so sorry for Linda who lost her husband.  Does anyone worry about the teacher’s family?”

OR the rant about “How could they have covered up Dylan and Eric’s past records?   What were the police thinking?”

 The purpose of this book was to tell Eric and Dylan’s story about why these events transpired and follow up the survivors in the years since Columbine.  It was to report the facts as accurately as possible, correcting the record and not to sensationalize or villify anyone.  The point of view of this text was totally different from Snowflakes Fall which was written to be shared with young students.  Facts were verified with hundreds of sources credited.

How often have there been deadly school shootings?

school shootings

An interactive look at that timeline with 18 dates marked with deadly shootings is available here.  That timeline includes details on each of the eighteen deadly shootings in the 15 years since Columbine.  That data is shocking to me.  Even more shocking was the number of times that adults were also killed. Maybe the emphasis has been on the students who have not yet reached adulthood, that full “potential”, but what about the devastation for those families of teachers who also lost their lives?

Is this a new issue?

When I quickly submitted a google search for “School Shootings in the US”, the first response was Wikipedia.  Yes, not necessarily the most accurate but incredibly sobering!  The first “firearm discharged in a school” in the US happened in 1764.  The next occurred in 1850 and then the time frames between shootings decreased and the locations were all over the country.  (540 references are included for the article labeled “List of School Shootings in the United States”.  Mathematically, the risks of being shot at school seem low if the total years and the number of students, staff, and schools are all considered.  Yet that would not be a consolation if any situation involved you or your loved ones. Multiple Standards.  Multiple resources:  a digital timeline, online references, Snowflakes Fall and Columbine (Multi-media and two books).  Different approaches. Different styles. Circling back around to the initial question.

Who is most important at school?

Everyone!

Please pay attention when someone needs help!  Don’t wait for them to ask!

Is there a bigger picture to school shootings?

How does the pain and agony of the student or adult reach that breaking point without family or friends noticing?  That’s an issue for mental health professionals, law enforcement officials and forensic investigators to continue to explore.  What can we do? We can continue to make sure that each and every person is a school building is valued day after day after day! Thoughtfullness. . . Compassion . . . Caring . . . #YouMatter

How do we know students are making progress in writing?



Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy for creating a place for us to work collaboratively.

 

Writing has become a more “urgent” focus in many schools due to the College and Career Ready K-12 Anchor Standards listed here:

W.1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
W.2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
W.3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.
W.4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
W.5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
W.6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
W.7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
W.8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
W.9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
W.10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
 How do you KNOW when students meet these standards?
What about instruction?

There are specific grade level standards that further illuminate the expectations for the end of the grade for each of the 13 years that students are in school.  Materials can be found for both instruction and assessment at all grade levels.  As a critical consumer, you can sift through those resources to find the ones that provide authentic writing opportunities for ALL students and a plethora of evidence of student growth.

What about assessment?

A three page checklist with a variety of “levels” describing writing for students in grades K-5 can be found here. This checklist is aligned with the Common Core writing standards that are outlined above.  Districts using standards-based reporting systems also have several variations of checklists or rubrics designed to measure “growth”.  Can you tell if a student is “making progress” from this checklist?

. . . Student Role in Assessment?

However, a system of measurement would be remiss if it did not provide student self-assessment of writing progress.  That progress can be captured in the children’s own words as in Dana Murphy’s blog here:  “What Do You Know About Being a Writer?”  The words of kindergartners remind us that reflection on learning needs to begin early – In kindergarten!

Are all students developmentally ready for writing when they enter kindergarten?  The chart below would suggest that there are many levels that can be “named” for early writing stages.  Waiting for “readiness” is not the answer.  Lack of quality writing experiences prior to school is also not an acceptable excuse.

Building a need for writing is critical from the first day of kindergarten.  How and when can and should the student be writing?  The end goal for the kindergarten year is “writing” and will require both instruction and practice each and every day of school. However, quality writing instruction can and should accelerate student writing because kindergartners are encouraged to “draw and write” all year long.

Will EVERY student go through every stage?

Perhaps not.  Maybe splitting out so many stages really just slows down the learning for students.

Will it be hard work?

Sure!

Will it require change?

Quite possibly!

Do kindergarten writers deserve quality instructional opportunities that engage them in authentic learning?

dev. stages of writing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 ABSOLUTELY! 

Consider this:  “Revision may seem like something older kids do, but really kindergartners revise in the block center so why not in writing.” -Lucy Calkins (TCRWP Saturday Reunion, 10.18.2014)  Check your beliefs at the door.  Open your eyes and mind to the standards to see which ones are “Mission Possible” for kindergartners.

Are teacher beliefs holding students back?
Is growth about counting the levels or writers who who read, talk, and do the real work of writing EVERY day?

Once students are sure that they have stories to share, they will be able to write those stories!  Once writers are TAUGHT at all grade levels, writing quality will improve.  No more assigning writing.  No more teaching writing.

Assigning writing vs. teaching writers

 

TEACH WRITERS!

 

#SOL14: Family Weekend FUN!



Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy for creating a place for us to work collaboratively.

It was a huge family weekend.  My youngest brother, the baby in the family, graduated summa cum laude with his BS in Business Friday night with Mom plus three siblings in attendance. We had a fabulous pre-party with food galore:  veggie and fruit pizzas, veggies and dip, sandwiches, cupcakes, pies, sweet potato cake, and a wee bit of Uncle Leo’s homemade wine.   Here’s a collection of photos from the festivities!

Wayne grad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone had read last week’s slice (Mom’s birthday post) except Mom so she read that later in the evening.  She wondered why I had left out the “riding the bull” picture.  That led me to wondering about the “Kiss the Blarney Stone” picture.  Darn, again. . . . all on an external hard drive at home – not where I am currently located.  I discovered this picture of orchids that Mom drew in a class on her Mediterranean cruise and decided to share it.  She has so much artistic talent!

Moms orchids

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday  was a fabulously great family day with our departure from Ankeny at 6:15 am for the Iowa Homecoming festivities. Drumline, Alumni Band, Hawkeye Marching Band – what a treat to see and hear so much great entertainment! And the “FUN that was had by all!  You truly can see just about anything and everything at a collegiate football game.  It was my sister’s first game sitting as a spectator in historic Kinnick Stadium, as well as niece Courtney’s first Hawkeye football game so the high-scoring first quarter and ultimate win were greatly appreciated!

homecoming game

 

 

 

 

Simple things like late lunch after the game, picking up Grandma and heading on to the next adventure occupied Saturday evening.  We watched nephew Josh’s high school band perform at marching contest at Muscatine.  What a pleasure to see and hear the pageantry that accompanies high school marching bands.  However, it was a bit nippy and the blankets to sit on and wrap up in were both greatly appreciated.

The big excitement from the weekend was skyping with my kids Friday afternoon.  It was so totally an “A-Marek-N” conversation with many people talking simultaneously and lots of laughter.  The seriousness was in this message!

Evan Julie and Coach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this one . . .

McVeigh pumpkin patch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So my final words for this weekend (courtesy of a vendor on Melrose Avenue), and I’m sticking to it . . .

20141012_125336

SOL14: Happy Birthday, Mom!



Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy for creating a place for us to work collaboratively.

 

Today is my mom’s birthday.  I searched for the perfect photo.  I found several and then I couldn’t make up my mind.

2011-10-18 13.35.42

 

 

 

 

 

Mom and Dad’s Wedding Day

2011-10-23 10.25.37

 

 

 

 

 

25th Anniversary

2013-07-19 15.51.39

 

 

 

 

 

45th Anniversary and the Grandchildren (My son Evan is the baby in Mom’s hands!)

I searched my memory for the perfect story.  I couldn’t make up my mind about which story to tell.  My mom has many talents.  She has been/is:

  • mom, grandmother, great grandmother
  • aunt, godmother, friend, confidante, citizen of the world
  • caterer, kolache baker, champion of the underdog, crocheted heart maker
  • cook, salad maker, bus driver, cake maker and decorator, Volunteer Soybean Spokesperson, sewer, quilter
  • support driver for RAGBRAI, concert attendee, Hawkeye Bowl Game attendee
  • mother of a nurse, farmer, teacher, doctor, hotel data management, soldier
  • a reader
  • a writer

So I continued my search for the perfect tribute; I found this poem that I really like!  I’ll work on my own for the next special event.

Her Hands

by Maggie Pittman

Her hands held me gently from the day I took my first breath.
Her hands helped to guide me as I took my first step.
Her hands held me close when the tears would start to fall.
Her hands were quick to show me that she would take care of it all.

Her hands were there to brush my hair, or straighten a wayward bow.
Her hands were often there to comfort the hurts that didn’t always show.
Her hands helped hold the stars in place, and encouraged me to reach.
Her hands would clap and cheer and praise when I captured them at length.

Her hands would also push me, though not down or in harm’s way.
Her hands would punctuate the words, just do what I say.
Her hands sometimes had to discipline, to help bend this young tree.
Her hands would shape and mold me into all she knew I could be.

Her hands are now twisting with age and years of work,
Her hand now needs my gentle touch to rub away the hurt.
Her hands are more beautiful than anything can be.
Her hands are the reason I am me.

Source: http://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/her-hands#ixzz3FUvCHmH1
Family Friend Poems

Memorable?  Memories?

mom and Obama

 

 

 

 

 With a President – to – be?

Mom outside St Peter's

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 In Rome?
Memories of my mom . . . Happy Birthday, with LOVE!

 

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