SOL 23: You Never Know

March 23, 2011

Today I had a ray of sunshine enter my room – a former teacher I mentored the past two years stopped in for a visit.  With the budget cuts, Bethany was let go at the end of last year. Thankfully, she was hired in at a nearby corporation.  Bethany is on maternity leave and brought her darling baby daughter to have lunch with a few of us. Her hug made the dreariness of the days slide off. I miss her.

Bethany came to our school a few years ago, her first teaching assignment. She was full of ambition, ideas, and excitement. She still is. Each day, her smile spread cheer everywhere. As literacy coach, I modeled writer’s workshop in her class and reflected with her on a regular basis.

One afternoon as we were planning, I mentioned a prior school I had taught at. Bethany perked at the name. “I went to school there,” she said. I smiled. “When?”

“I went there the first year the school opened. I was in kindergarten,” Bethany stated.

My mind raced and I think my face flushed. “Bethany, my first year at H. Elementary was when it first opened.”

We started to laugh. I was teaching (and got married that year) when she was attending.  Bethany brought in her yearbook and yep, there she was a cute little kindergartener and there I was a younger looking me. We shared our story with her class and stated that we had an important job teaching them. “One of you may teach alongside us in the future.”

SOL: An Epiphany in the Laundry Room

February 15, 2011

Laundry.  Just saying the word creates a sigh.  A young mother once asked me, “Does it (the laundry) ever end?”  I smiled and shook my head.

As a veteran mother of three children, I have often wondered how many hours aI spend in the laundry room.  Darks, whites, baseball uniforms, gym clothes, work shirts, socks.  Over and over and over, the laundry is gathered, sorted, washed, dried, folded, and put away.  Just writing the words creates the routine.  A routine that is so necessary in running a household of five.

If I ever build a new home, I’m making the laundry room a priority.  Better Homes and Garden magazine shows elaborate, well-organized laundry rooms.  I do not consider that a luxury anymore.  Rather, I see it as being a necessity.

As I was once again sorting laundry one morning, I decided that listening to my favorite music might improve my attitude.  And it has.

When I begin my laundry routine, I flip the radio on, and my favorite station begins playing music.  The music is very inspiring.  It lifts my spirits and energizes me.  Yes, it boosts my mood.  It’s not like I want to do more laundry, but I have decided to make the situation better.

So until my dream laundry room is built, I will renovate my thoughts by turning on the music.

Oliver’s Game – Where a story comes from

November 18, 2008

Having a son who eats, breathes, and sleeps baseball, my eye catches books about the game.  Historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine, so Oliver’s Game was a treasure find.  I was even more thrilled when I noticed the Chicago Cubs were featured.

Oliver Hall loved baseball. …and he loved listening to Grandpa Hall’s wonderful stories about what he called the Golden Age of the Game.”

The story begins with Oliver finding a Chicago Cub’s uniform in an old trunk.  “Every item in this shop has a story to tell,” Grandpa Hall would say. After questioning his grandpa, Grandpa shares his story through a flashback.  He was 18 and asked to practice with the Cub team at the end of the Cub’s season.  Matt Tavares explodes the moment when ‘the rookie’ hits the ball.  You can feel his spirits soaring as his dream was coming true.

But the story takes a turn when World War II begins.  He joins the marines.  Upon turning the page, you see a young uniformed soldier on crutches in the dug out.  Your spirit as a reader cringes when you read, “After that, I stayed away from Wrigley Field.

Grandpa Hall shares how he struggled and then opened Hall’s Nostalgia.  Flashing forward, the story ends with them ready to watch the Cub game from his rooftop.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Oliver’s Game:

  • Exploding the Moment – “A shock ran up my arms as the bat struck the ball head on.”
  • Childhood memories – In Matt Tavares’s illustrator’s journal Dec. 16, 2001, he stated that “Hall’s Nostalgia is a tribute to a baseball card store I spent many a Saturday afternoon when I was a kid.”  I find that fascinating!  Kids need to know that authors take ordinary every day activities and weave them into their stories.
  • Internal struggle – being close to his dream
  • Flashbacks

Boxes for Katje

November 2, 2008

Image result for boxes for katjeI often will read the dedications to get a glimpse of the author’s life.  I wonder how the people named touched the life of an author.  In Boxes for Katje, Candace Fleming’s dedication states: “To Mom, for sharing her life’s stories.”  It roused my curiosity, and so looked for the author’s note.  I was pleased to find on the end sleeve that Candace shares “A True Story about Boxes.”  She states that the book is “based on events that really happened.  In May 1945, my mother sent a small box to Europe.”  Because Candace’s mother shared a story from her childhood, a book was created to touch people’s hearts.  How many life stories do we have that will change someone’s life?  More than we think.  We need to teach our children that life stories are important to share and holding on to memories can create hope for someone else.

Boxes for Katje begins in Olst, Holland in 1945.  Stacey Dressen-McQueen adds to the beginning text by illustrating another little girl, Rosie, mailing a package. A little girl named Katje receives the package from America containing four items:  a bar of soap, wool socks, a chocolate bar, and a letter. Holland had been hit hard during World War II and the people’s needs were great.  Candace Fleming states in her introduction, “They patched and repatched their worn-thin clothing, and they went without soap or milk, sugar or new shoes.”

Katje, from the start, unselfishly shares her gifts with her neighbors.  In our country of plenty, even in this economic struggle, we take for granted so many of life’s pleasures.  This book continues to show how Katje shares what she receives.  She writes letters of gratitude to Rosie, who in turns creates more awareness with her community of Mayfield, Indiana.    In the end, Katje sends a gift to her American friend, Rosie – tulips.  Notice how Stacey Dressen-McQueen illustrates the before and after scenes of Mayfield, Indiana in the end sleeves.  I think this book paves the way for discussion on philanthropy and thinking of others.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Boxes for Katje:

  • Hybrid text – letters are displayed as the story goes from one scene to the next
  • Illustrations – inlays from each country/community to see the events between the pen pals
  • Highlighting scenes – creating a story with
  • Passage of Time – the seasons and its hardships create the passing of time:  “Weeks passed, and winter roared in, snow-deep and bitter cold, the worst winter anyone could remember.”
  • Philanthropy – learning to give to others; excellent for Thanksgiving season
  • Math connection and superlatives:  comparison of packages beginning small and getting bigger each time; big, bigger, biggest