And, breathe…

You did it! You survived another year.

This summer, I wish you:

  • longer than 4 1/2 minutes to eat lunch
  • time to go to the bathroom whenever you please
  • time to read at least one of the books on the stack you have waiting
  • every day moments of beauty
  • a little bit of adventure
  • and, of course, some well-deserved rest!

As for me, I won’t be posting for a few weeks… see you in August!

It’s not too late to write!

With one week left of school, it’s not too late to write!

Ask students to write a letter! To who?

  • to a student entering their class next year telling them what to expect
  • to next year’s teacher sharing accomplishments or anything they want the teacher to know about them
  • to you, their current teacher, sharing their learning and memories from the year

Another engaging writing task? A summer bucket list! Encourage students to research activities within your city or community including prices. Challenge them to make a list of ten things they would like to do, half of which are free.

To promote summer writing, provide students with an envelope addressed to you at the school. Invite students to write to you over the summer highlighting their adventures.

If you have older students who love to write, suggest one of the websites within this link: http://www.readbrightly.com/6-great-websites-teen-writers/

So… enjoy fun day and the end of year celebration, but in between, find a few moments to write!

Sharing the Gift of Literacy

My favourite gift to give my students at year end is a book. Some children live in homes full of books; for others a book is a rare treat.

Books are more than words on a page. They can be a window into the lives of others, a place for children to find themselves, an opportunity to connect with family members, and possibility the inspiration for a lifelong love.

Yesterday I finished reading Brown Girl Dreaming. I revelled in the beautiful words of Jacqueline Woodson… not wanting to finish… finishing and then wanting to start again immediately…

I had parents who nurtured a love of books and words and reading when I was a child. Teachers too. Giving the gift of books has the potential to change lives. 

 

Energized

On Friday I had the opportunity to attend my first staff meeting as part of my new department for next year. Yes, it was a long time to sit and listen for someone who has been in control of her own schedule for a year. But…

I was energized. Energized by the people in the room who seem to value professional learning as much as I do. Energized by the willingness and openness to understand that we are all on an ongoing journey of learning. Energized by the ideas that were bouncing around in my brain: ideas that were already there and some new, all given permission to take life. Energized by the possibilities that lie ahead.

So although I didn’t get my daily steps in to feed my body, I was surrounded with ideas to feed my mind.

Enveloped in Words

I love words. I really do. And right now I have the luxury of spending my days enveloped in words: writing, reading and writing some more. Much of it, outside on my deck.

I’ve been reflecting on my process too. A few things I’ve noticed?

  1. Reading fuels writing. I continuously move back and forth between the two.
  2. I’m working even when I don’t look like I’m working. Those midday walks with my dog are deceiving.
  3. I thrive with multiple projects on the go. Near the end of the day with non-fiction, I turn my attention to fiction for a surge of creative energy.
  4. Praise can be motivating. That email from an editor last week inspired me to keep plugging away…
  5. And when I’m really hard at it, I seem to nibble while I work. Go figure!

Of course, I realize that the creative process varies from person to person. But, I wouldn’t be a teacher without considering how these thoughts on process might be applied to the classroom… I’m sure you’re doing the same!

Class Journals

Looking for an authentic writing activity for your class from now until the end of the year?

Try introducing a few class journals. The format doesn’t really matter: coiled notebooks, extra scribblers, dollar store journals. These shared class journals can have various titles: Favourite Moments of the Year, The Day I Will Never Forget, What I’ve Learned This Year, or The Best Thing About 5B. You get the idea.

What a wonderful way to encourage our students to read and write, to hear the voices of their peers and to help them reflect on the school year.

P.S. My students always liked to draw for them at the end of June…

Starting Over

I grew up in the same city, on the same street, in the same house for the first twenty years of my life. I always felt safe: thoughts of brutality, violence or war never crossed my mind. My parents never considered packing us all up and travelling to a new country to begin a better life.

And yet, this is the reality that millions have faced in years past and still today. It is a reality I simply cannot imagine. To leave your job, your home, your country – to leave all you’ve ever known – and start over.

We saw a performance at the Citadel Theatre on Saturday night entitled Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story. Consider this lyric: “Where are we welcome? Where will we thrive? Where are we going? Will we survive?” 

The journey itself can be treacherous and many do not survive. And those who do face the shock of a new country and all that goes along with it: the people, the culture, the climate. 

The refugee story is replayed time and time again. Stories from our parents, grandparents or great-grandparents. Stories from the family next door. Stories from the children in our classrooms. From different countries, cultures and specific circumstances, sure. A similar story all the same. Stories of fear, heartbreak and loss. Yet also stories of hope.

 

Lost and Found in Books

I had the pleasure of a few days in Banff surrounded by two of my favourite things: the beauty of the mountains and people who love words as much as I do. I came away feeling rejuvenated and energized: my purpose reinforced and renewed.

Many of those speaking at the conference referred to the power of literacy (not surprising considering it was a language arts conference). Penny Kittle spoke of how books enable us to make a place in the classroom for everyone. We can choose books that reflect the cultural identities of our students. We can choose books that help our students realize that their experiences are not entirely unique and there are others in the world like them. We can choose books that help our students explore themselves and find themselves. Books can teach our students: “You matter.”

In The Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller explains, “The uninitiated might say that I am lost in my books, but I know I am more found than lost.”

Get lost in a good book and you just might find your true self…

Excited by Ants

The other day I saw a couple of ants. You know its been a long winter when the sight of a few ants excites me. Life! I’ve been waiting for some green: a glimpse of my perennials poking through, buds on trees, the grass beginning to turn. Haven’t seen much of that yet so I’ll take the ants.

Perhaps Spring is actually on its way…

P.S. This post is proof that anything and everything can become topics for writing!

Read what your students are reading!

On Saturday I presented at a Literacy Conference. Each time I do, despite my specific topic, I speak about the empowering nature of literacy.

Yes, reading and writing are part of the curriculum. However, they are so much more than that! If we, as teachers, view reading and writing as a form of empowerment, our students will too. They will begin to realize the relevance beyond the four walls of our classrooms. As Kate DiCamillo says, “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty.  It should be offered to them as a precious gift.” The gift of literacy will enable them to function in our world, find meaning and purpose, and experience life more fully.

Besides reading aloud, one of the most effective ways to encourage our students to read is to read what they are reading! When I see a student deliberating at the book bins, I go over and say, “I’ve read this one. I think you’ll like it!” Checking in periodically helps too: “What part are you at?”

These casual conversations and moments shared through the pages of a book are enough to motivate many young readers. Habits and attitudes develop early. Take time today to nurture those readers and writers in your classroom!