Friday, October 26, 2007

I did it!

Poetry Cafe today - it was great! I'm soooooo relieved. Noteworthy:

1. Students were great. One class (inclusion) surpassed our expectations. We had a few tricks up our sleeves, of course. Another class annoyed the heck out of me, right in front of their own parents.

2. Administrators who said they'd attend - did so. They gave very positive feedback and support.

3. Fellow teachers - I love them! My teaching partner (special ed. teacher) was fabulous. Other teachers came in to visit and support.

4. Parents were great - super good turn out in 2 classes (out of 5).

5. Food was fantastic. Some students (and their parents) really came through. Most popular: taco dip, apple pie, apple cider, Halloween cookies, chocolate-dipped strawberries.

6. I admit - it was fun to be the center of a whirlwind activity in the school.

7. Last night and early this morning, to calm my nerves, I thought, "All that's left for me to do is show up at school today. Just get to school."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

current reads #2

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen- I've been re-reading this at school and have about 10 pages left. I start teaching it next week. The protagonist Roy is what I hope my students are or about to become, a young teen who is more caring, more smart, and more brave than he shows to adults on a daily basis. The save-our-environment message of the novel is terrific, and I hope to tag on a community service project for students when we finish reading the novel. But the bullying story hits home - there is truly no easy solution to bullying. There never has. Now that bullying victims grab headlines by committing the ultimate act of bullying - homicide - society scrambles to solve this problem, as if bullying is a new phenomenon. (My teaching partner just read Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes, the fictional story of a school shooting, victims, perpetrators, etc.) I want my students to think for themselves, to know who they are and who they want to be, and to know their own values. Bullying seems to me like most of life's problems - it's not solved by one act, in one day, by one person; it's a day-to-day struggle that has ups and downs; it involves people seeing the big picture, and being brave, kind, and smart.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - I just started reading it. A Holocaust novel that opens with Death as narrator of the story of a German girl who is the book thief. It's a beautiful, haunting opening "prologue".

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Halloween cards

This is what I love to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon, nowadays. I love the graphic images, playing with textures, colors, and patterns of paper, ribbon, with a little stamping mixed in. One of my few cheap hobbies - most of the materials and tools are gifts or borrowed from my sister-in-law who shops sales and belongs to a stamping club. Halloween cards have been great fun to make! My favorite - popping the dark neutrals with red ribbon.

Monday, October 22, 2007

great expectations

Poetry Cafe this Friday. My students will read their poetry, serve and enjoy refreshments with parents who attend. I invited my building principal a few weeks ago, and he suggested that I invite the district superintendent, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, and the curriculum coordinator. So I did, and the first 2 of those 3 said they plan to attend. So yikes. Then today I invited the district PR administrator to attend and bring her camera, just in case she wants to snap some pics for the district newsletter.

This week, students compile their poetry into booklets, complete with colorful cover page and letter of introduction. I instruct "how to read poetry with expression" - using the Favorite Poem Project poetry readings. Students will practice with partners, then use a microphone and podium during the event - my new brainstorm this year!

So I'm anxious, excited, hope I don't forget anything important. The students usually are on their best behavior. I'm the nervous wreck!

Friday, October 12, 2007

latest greatest

... book - Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult. Positively can't-put-down (except for the next item). Picoult truly has a knack for creating characters that I love and stories that I don't want to love but I can't stop reading. For instance, as mom of 6 year old, I don't want to hear stories about 4 year old kidnapped girls. This story starts from the adult life of this woman who was kidnapped at age 4, and the mysteries of how and why and now what draw me in.

... cyber-obsession - Facebook. I know, it's true.

... song - "The Story" by Brandi Carlile - I've been listening to it over and over again on my work commute all week. After the first few days, I printed the lyrics and read/sang-along (while driving 70 mph - how's that compared to talking on mobile phone?) till I know it by heart now. Since I'm in the middle of teaching a poetry unit, I keep thinking, "GREAT examples of alliteration! simile! metaphor!" ("I crossed all the lines and broke all the rules / Baby I broke them all for you / And even when I was flat broke / You made me feel like a million bucks") I love this central idea: "All of these lines across my face / Tell you the story of who I am / So many stories of where I've been / And how I got to where I am." Sorry - words alone aren't enough - you have to listen to the song. And maybe watch Season 3 of Grey's Anatomy, or at least the music video for this song.

... poetry lesson - this week, write a poem describing an emotion, using similes and the five senses. Example (adapted from a student's poem):

Fear looks like a pitch black graveyard
It sounds like children screaming and crying
It tastes like bad candy from trick or treating
It smells like smoke from a haunted house
Fear feels like a hairy spider crawling down your back.


Monday, October 8, 2007

birthday indulgence

Snapshots of my 38th birthday festivities over the holiday weekend. I call this indulgence because I won't make any overt connections to teaching. (The teacher in me blurts, figure out the connections yourself!)

#1 - Buffalo Sabres home opener against NY Islanders Friday night - it was fun to start the year in the arena with other fans, even if we lost the first (and second) games of the season.

#2 Blackman Homestead Farm in Lockport, NY - a little maze action for daughter before picking apples and pumpkins.

#3 - The Great Pumpkin Farm in Clarence, NY. Daughter and her BFF are at the base of the pumpkin pyramid. And meet the Flintstones (husband and me).

Thursday, October 4, 2007

nature and poetry

I'm having a great time with a poetry unit right now. After reading Love That Dog (which was great introduction to poetry elements like onomatopoeia, alliteration, repetition, line break, white space, simile, metaphor), this week I started their poetry writing with a "list" poem to teach voice - they list the "don'ts" issued by their parents and respond in their own voice to the rules.

Second, we went on nature walks on school property - across the practice field and near the trees at the edge of school grounds - and wrote prose observations of nature (sky, grass, trees, flowers, etc.), then used line breaks, white space, and (drumroll, please) economy to transform prose to free verse poem. I have been happily surprised by some lovely writings! (I've also been highly annoyed by the need to snap at 7th graders who interpret "nature walk" as run away from teacher and kick a friend who's in the middle of a run.) We befriended a green inchworm (too small for my camera lens to focus, I learned) and many spiders, and we pondered the mysteries of rabbit holes with only apples in sight. We used our slogs (composition notebooks) to write both prose observations and poetry rough drafts during these outings.

Here are some pictures I took of the sky, which was my prose-to-poetry subject. (I confess the first pic was taken during my drive to work, on the expressway, of sunrise.) (Tricia's photo essay post was a primary inspiration.)

I never enjoyed poetry until I started teaching this unit, and I know it's because no one taught poetry to me this way. I know I promised to cite the book where I found these great poetry lesson - I really will, soon!