Slice of Life: Reflections from a Writer

March 31, 2010

Over the course of this March month, I have been reflecting on my writing more than I have in a while.  I appreciated this slice of life challenge, as I have learned much about being a writer. Thank you, Ruth and Stacey, for hosting the challenge.  I needed a boost.

Some thoughts from me, the writer:

I have more empathy for students with writer’s block.

  • I remember on day ten sitting down at the computer and feeling like I had nothing to write about.  An idea would come to mind, and I would think, “I already wrote about that.”  Another idea would come and I wondered, “How do I start?”  The empty screen was a bit overwhelming.  I actually chuckled because I could visualize students having the same struggle or hearing “I don’t know what to write about.”

I have learned to press on even when my mind is being critical of what I’m writing.

  • I would begin to write something and think, “That doesn’t sound very exciting.  You need to change your wording.”  I often was almost fearful of writing because I didn’t have enough time to revise and play with my thoughts.  I didn’t want anyone to think that I wasn’t a good writer.  I was worried that the posts would be boring to my readers.  Now, although I still have those thoughts creeping in, I’ve learned to push them away and write.  If I don’t write, how will I ever improve?  Besides many of the slices were for me, capturing a memory for forever.

I have learned that audience does help motivate the writer.

  • I appreciated everyone who commented about my posts.  The encouragement helped fuel me.  With a deeper understanding, I see how sharing helps children to energize with their writing.   I can make kids famous, but the act of sharing their work with someone empowers them to be more independent and driven.

I have learned that it’s okay to read something to get an idea to write about.

  • I practice using books to springboard ideas for writing, but through this SOL Challenge, I have learned that I connect with others through reading their posts.  I form an opinion or agreement with the writing that spurs my own writing.  I see the importance of allowing children to ask their friends what they are writing about and listen to them to gain ideas.  Sometimes you need to write about the same topic.  It’s the act of writing that is the most important.  Ideas will come.

I have learned that if I want to write, I must make it a priority.

  • I have struggled with making time for writing.  I enjoy doing it, but with the demands of three children and a full-time job, time is precious.  I used the challenge as an excuse, “I have to post before I go to bed.  It’s my turn to use the computer.”  My family supported me in my efforts.  Now, I must continue to carve out time – intentionally – to write.  How else am I going to improve?

I have learned to be more in tune with my observations and surroundings.

  • Because I was looking for something to write about each day, I found the idea.  I noticed things happening around me that I would not have thought to write about.  The baseball banter was one example.  I hadn’t thought about the words being poetic, but now I can’t help but notice.  I can teach my students to notice more by sharing my SOL posts.

I have learned that I can write poetry.

  • Poetry is not my favorite genre.  I find it hard to rhyme and make the writing sound like music.  I pushed myself through the SOL Challenge and tried free verse poetry.  I like it.  I like that I can take phrases and play with them to make a poem.  I have a better grasp on how to teach it to my students and show them how to create poetry.

I have learned that even tough subjects can be written about.

  • I posted a difficult experience that my daughter went through.  The appointment had been set for almost two weeks and my mind had been on it.  I wanted to share my feelings yet would back away; my thoughts were too real.  By writing, I found the good in the experience.  I will remember the specialness because of capturing it through the written word.  I can help children to see that writing doesn’t always have to be about a pleasant topic.  Writing can be therapy too.

I have learned that I feel closer to my family and friends through writing.

  • By writing, I expose myself even more.  I can explain some thoughts clearer through the written word than through talking.  I can grasp ideas and share something special with my family and friends.  I have learned that several teachers are willing to write a special memory after reading mine.  Because my writing is not lofty and actually rather practical, they feel like they can write too.

I have learned that I am a better writer by reading others writings.

  • I would read different posts and would see phrasing that I liked.  I would fall in love with certain word structure and visual pictures the authors would use.  I would then try it in my own writing.  Writing and reading is like practicing for a sport or musical instrument – the more you practice, the more tricks you can learn.

I have learned much by writing daily for the Slice of Life Challenge.  I must continue to learn by practicing the skill frequently.  I am a writer.

Slice of Life: I Couldn’t Have Done It Without You

March 30, 2010

Today, my daughter and I skipped school.  Okay, we didn’t skip, although it felt like it in the afternoon.  E had some medical testing at the hospital early this morning that took two and a half hours.  When the doctor first told us of the procedure, E was instantly uncomfortable and apprehensive.  I decided then that we would have something to look forward to afterwards – shopping.  The mall is a favorite place for E to go.  Of course we stopped at the bookstore first and spent time browsing the sections.  We lingered in the bookstore more than any other store today.  We spent the afternoon having fun, forgetting the morning’s procedures.  We enjoyed each other’s company.

On our way home from the day, E said in the car, “Mom, I couldn’t have done it without you.  Thank you for being there.”  She leaned over and kissed my cheek.

My heart was instantly warmed.

I stood by her side.  I let her squeeze my hand until my fingers hurt.  I talked up a storm to distract her.  I was mom and I loved my daughter.  I was there for her.

Those words have lingered with me.   I hope that in the future E will be able to forget today, but I hope that she will never forget that I will be there for her no matter what.  Motherhood is definitely very busy, demanding, and often times noisy.  But I was honored today with my daughter’s words.  She highlighted the best of motherhood – being there.

Slice of Life: Baseball Banter

March 29, 2010

As I was listening to my son’s baseball game, one player’s voice seemed to rise above the rest.  His pitch added to the resounding boom of his words.  Naturally, I heard our players add in their rebounding comments.  In a strange way, the talk struck me as poetic, like a symphony of phrases.  Baseball has its own language. 

I grabbed my notebook and began to write as quick as I could.  I wanted to capture the vocal canter happening on the ball field.  In one way, the baseball banter was a two-, or possibly three-, voiced poem.  I’m not sure if I can scribe what I heard, but I want to try with at least one batter.  I scribed 5 pages worth and only made it through the first inning.  My hand could not keep up with the lingo that was happening.  I think I have a fun challenge ahead this season, as I know that my ear will be tuned in to the banter of baseball.

Balls in!

Let’s go Boggs; come on, Kurt                  Let’s go Justinnnn

Go 2-2                        PLAY BALL

                                       Strike                      Good pitchn babyyyyy;

                                                                         Let’s go babyyyyy

Let’s go Kurt                                               Come on 10; Good job,

                                                                         Will; Routine throw

Let’s go 12                   Strike                      Keep firing;

                                                                         You’re all right

Know what you’re looking for              Keep firing, babyyyyyy


                                          foul ball; 1 ball 2 strikes

Let’s go 1-2                                                    You’re all right; Don’t worry about it.

Box it up

Move him over                                             Yre still on top;

Do a job now, kid                                         You’re all right 10;

                                                                          Relax 10; Fire it in

Let’s go kiiiidd.


Run it out. 


Atta Boy, Kid!

Slice of Life: the Library

March 28, 2010

Yesterday, I had two hours to spend at a nearby library.  My daughter had a birthday party to attend, so I waited.  Waiting was fun though.  I planned ahead with notebook and pen in hand.  I love to read children’s picture books and savor the text, thinking of ways to use the craft as lessons.  This interest of mine is why R kindly and persistently suggested I blog.  Due to still learning to juggle the family schedule, teaching, and writing, the latter seems to take last place.  I am happy to say that I was able to write about seven books that I will be posting beginning April 1.  Yesterday was a good day.  I wrote my thoughts as well.

“Today I sat in a comfy chair at the library for two hours.  I loved it.  I savored 7 children’s books and wrote about them.  I was lost in a word of words.  In the peacefulness, I drift to different places and temperatures.  I peek at history and meet people.  I spy on authors and illustrators, seeking their insights of words.  I’m focusing and practicing and dreaming.

Someday, I will be a children’s librarian.  Someday I will write a book.  Today I persevere.”

Slice of Life: Baseball Morning

March 27, 2010

Sleeping in seems to be a lost art for me.  My internal clock triggered me awake at my normal school-time this morning.  Our oldest has his first baseball game today, so he was readying for the game.  Even though W is able to dress himself, I was up making breakfast, double checking that he had everything he needed for the day.  W had prepared last night, equipment packed and uniform laid out.  I guess my motherly instinct nudges me to care.

Now I have some quiet time as the others sleep.  I inhale a long breath, savoring the peace.  These few quiet moments spread a calm before the active day.  I’ll read, reflect, plan, and then begin.  Today is going to be a smiling day.

Slice of Life: Kindergarten Round Up

March 26, 2010

Yesterday and today I was involved in Kindergarten Round-up.  Our incoming kindergarterners go through some formative activities to help the teachers have a better understanding of the child.  We introduced this style of Kinder Round-up last year and found the information to be very helpful.  Students needing immediate intervention where able to receive that within the first week of school.  Students identified as high ability were able to be provided with higher level activities.  Our speech and language pathologist was able to project some possible students for the fall.  Parents received important information from our principal.  They were able to view a video of activities their child would be involved in for the coming year.

My role – I’m the “holding pen” supervisor.  Everyone chuckled when I stated that, but the preschool room provided activities for the children waiting their turn.  Each one rotated through the stations.  It was rather animated watching fourteen children share, pretend, and interact with each other.  I survived.  My body is tired and I seem to be on neutral with my thinking.  The energy of young children – their amazing.

All day I had my notebook, jotting down little comments the children said or I observed.    One bright, verbal,  little girl, soon to be five, said, “I have been waiting for this day my entire life.”  Her eyes were wide with anticipation and sincerity.  We chuckled.  Below I have tried to summarize the Kindergarten Round-Up with a simple poem.

Kindergarten Round-Up

10 volunteers to help with transporting the children from one station to another

9 testers, including our school psychologist, to administer the informative activities

8 animal crackers as a snack

7 stations for the preschoolers to rotate through

6 times 10 (that’s 60) preschoolers attending the round-up

5 sessions offered in the two days, including an evening session

4 rooms for the round-up to be successful

3 Kinder teachers leading the way

2 hour sessions allotted  for each child

1 Holding Pen, where they play.

Slice of Life: First Grade Notebooks

March 25, 2010

A first grade teacher, Mrs. F, and I have been collaborating this year in writing.  Independence is not a natural attribute for first  graders.  sols2You have to guide and model and gradually release time for the little guys to be independent.  Using the timer, Mrs. F would set a goal with the class on how much time they could write in a quiet workshop setting.  They began with 3 minutes, then 4, and now the kids will beg for 30 minutes to write.  Mrs. F will receive several “ahhhh, I’m not finished” when writer’s workshop is coming to a close.

Sustaining the independence is our challenge at hand.  The children seem to be able to write when they have a topic in mind, one that they love and are interested in.  Lately, the children seem to have writer’s block and finding topics to write about has been a frequent topic.

We decided to try some type of writer’s notebook for first grader.  We copied lined paper, front and back, and placed 20 sheets in a 3 pronged folder.  Then, modeling our ideas, we showed them how to capture their ideas.  We made a page for family, pets, places we like to go, activities we like to do, friends, and things we wonder about.  I modeled how on each page, I had listed some words with some ideas behind each.

Our goal is to help the children have a place to keep their ideas.  Mrs. F has some kids that are very inquisitive and daily are showing her what they are reading about.  They will write, or sketch,  their thoughts on sticky notes.  Some of the students chose to have some pages to put their sticky notes.  We are finding that the children are gathering their ideas.  Now, they are first graders.  These notebooks are not like a fourth graders, but it’s a start.  We want them to see that they can gather ideas throughout the day and have a place to hold them.

I appreciate the fact that Mrs. F wanted to try something different, to help lift their writing at this time of year.  We are experimenting and at least for now, the excitement in the class has lifted.  It’s like a breath of fresh air.

Slice of Life: Silence

March 24, 2010

Silence is a necessity in my life

It’s lacking at the moment

I can’t think straight

I can’t write

The family keeps talking

I love hearing the stories

But, I cannot think and write and type

Laughter explodes

My attention is distracted

“Mom, did I tell you about…?”

My attention is distracted – but in a good way

“Mom, do you know where my shirt is?”

My attention is distracted – again, but it’s okay.

Silence is lacking in my life.

I miss silence.

But I would miss my family even more!!

Slice of Life: A Kindergarten Writing Conference

March 23, 2010

I’ve been working in a kindergarten writing class.  I so admire Kinder teachers – such patience.

Our kindergarten students are working on a nonfiction All About unit.  One particular boy was writing about the farm he lives on.  J is a bright child with a wealth of knowledge.  For a five-year old, he can write with detail about a small moment in time.  I was a little surprised then with what he had written.  J had five tractors, all painted in different colors.

“J, what are you writing about?” I asked.

“Tractors,” he said so matter-of-factly.

“Wow.  I like your colors.  What are you trying to teach your audience?” I asked, looking at his pictures.

“That they can be different colors.”

My mind was wondering if he planned to tell about different manufacturers, as there wasn’t much meat to the piece.

“Well, this is a green tractor.  It has headlights.  This one is red.  It has headlights.  This one is yellow.  It has headlights.”  I restrained a chuckle.

“So what information are you teaching us in your All About Book?”


I smiled.  So honest.  His teacher had warned me that J did not want to revise.  Colored tractors was his plan.  Adding the part about headlights was an accomplishment.  Recognizing J’s contentedness with his piece, I did not want to hurt his feelings.  Yet, I knew his potential was so much more.  “Forming the question to grasp that willingness was the challenge I was faced with.)

“J, how do you know about tractors?” I asked, hoping to ignite some idea.

“I ride with my dad in the field.”

“Oh, so you’re an expert on what tractors can do?”  My eyes were looking at J intently, excited about his knowledge.


“Could you share some with me?”  My mind was wanting J to share from the heart, to know that he had information to extend to his fellow audience.  If only he would be willing to take a risk.

J began to share his background knowledge.  “Oh, you plow with a tractor.  You can plant.  You can ride your tractor.  You can disc with a tractor,” he replied looking frankly at me.

I pointed to his first tractor.  “So this tractor can plow?”  J nodded.

Pointing to the next page, I asked, “What can this one do?”

“It can plant.”  I nodded with understanding.

“How about this one?”  I said turning the page.

“It can disc.”

“Wow J, you have a lot of information to share with your audience.  Your all about book is about teaching your audience something.  Will you write that information down for us?”  I said with a nudge.

Off J went.  He still had his colored tractors but he lifted his work with so much more information.  I sat watching him, marveling at how children process.  They have a plan.  Sometimes they need a nudge to make the plan go farther.  Sometimes they need appreciation for the attempt they have tried.  In both cases, each child needs someone who looks at them intently, leaning on every word they say.

Today that person was me.

Slice of Life Challenge

March 22, 2010

For anyone who is just checking in on my blog, I have been writing a slice-of-life daily for the month of March.  This challenge has been presented and hosted by TwoWritingTeachers.

In April, I will begin sharing some new books.  I went to a presentation today at the Michigan Reading Conference on “Great New Books, Great New Learning”.  The session was very informing and motivating.  I wish I had an unending cash flow for great books.  Books give us a glimpse into history, imagination, and knowledge.

Here are some great books:

  • Bubble Homes and Fish Farts
  • Adventures in Cartooning
  • 14 Cows
  • The Printer
  • My Abuelita
  • Those Shoes
  • Ron’s Big Mission
  • Redwoods
  • Music in Harlem

Have fun at the library!