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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Parents' Day is July 28

Parents' Day was established in 1994 by former president Bill Clinton to "recognize, uplift, and support the role of parents in the raising of children." Personally, I did not know Parents' Day existed, and I'm wondering how many other educators were aware of the holiday. In what ways can we celebrate Parents' Day?

My parents taught me to "do a job right the first time", to "treat others as I expect to be treated", and to "help those in need". All are great rules to live by! And, I hope I have passed these rules on to my children. What life rules did your parents instill in you?

I have many things to thank my parents for: a "roof over my head", essentials needed to be successful in life, and good, sound advice--if I had only listened "sooner rather than later"! What do you have to "thank" your parents for when it comes to advice?

As educators, we are similar to parents, and many of us take on the role of parent in the classroom. We teach students to be courteous and respectful. We teach students to "listen and learn". We help students overcome and work through classroom learning and social problems. We encourage students to "do their best" and motivate them to "pursue their dreams". Educators are definitely surrogate parents.

Therefore, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Parents' Day!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

How Do You Compose?

Authors compose in many ways. Some storyboard while others list, yet many just let words flow as characters develop across blank pages. To me, writing is like a road trip. There is a starting point or point A, but getting to point B can be a difficult journey. Adventure, battles, decisions, pitfalls, and surprises happen along the way. As a writer, perhaps I took "The Road Less Traveled" by Robert Frost much too seriously!

It doesn't matter what method you use to compose as long as it works well for you. However, if your method does not produce good results, then it's time to try something else. One of the best series of books on writing comes from Ralph Fletcher. The short, easy-to-read books are packed with gems and tidbits, or stories about composing and writing. Young or old, Fletcher will have you engrossed in writing in no time. 

Here are a couple of Fletcher's books: 

Start with "seed ideas": 
Move onto revising and editing:
Then write your life story:
Or, try writing poetry:

How do I use Fletcher's books in the classroom? Students read "How Writers Work" and "A Writer's Notebook" as outside readings then complete their weekly quizzes. The two books are divided into four sections each, and students respond with answers: Paragraph 1 = summary of reading/story-within-story with full citations; Paragraph 2 = Analysis or choose one quote then explain its meaning and use citations as needed; Paragraph 3 = connect what you read to real-life or to your own life. Each paragraph must be at least five sentences without quotes. A Quiz Workshopping Sheet that includes skills worked on in class is used. Students use the checklist to highlight skills within their quizzes. They correct errors in pen/pencil then hand in the messy quizzes--I want to see their processes and know they understand skills covered during the week. Skills are added weekly to the quiz checkoff sheets. 

 More information and examples can be found at Visual Learning for Upper Level Learners.  

One last story: 
I had the pleasure of meeting author Ralph Fletcher through National Writing Project's Greater Houston Area Writing Project. His advice and stories create enthusiasm in all learners! A huge "Thank you!" to Mr. Fletcher for inspiring new groups of fledgling writers each semester!

Activities for aspiring writers:

Comic Book Writing

Back-to-School Make a Book

Monday, July 1, 2013

Celebrating July the Fourth's Freedom

July the Fourth Sale--20% off all TpT products July 4-6!

Freedom! As a kid, celebrating July the Fourth meant fireworks, fun and games. The holiday started with a trip to the local firework stand where I purchased as many goods as allowed. Afterwards came the big event--the July Fourth celebration at the town's park. The event took place where the baseball and football fields sat east of the elementary school. In front of the baseball field and to the north of the stadium was a detached kindergarten building with a park behind it. The grassy area was shaded by large, mature trees and when not being used for public events the park hosted horseshoe players and families of picnickers . 

A favorite of July the Fourth celebrators was a donkey softball game with teams made up of families and friends. Donkeys are so unpredictable, and scoring was difficult. Some stopped dead in their tracks as riders sailed over their heads or slipped off their backs. Other times, donkeys ran one direction while being urged otherwise. Getting donkeys to round bases was no easy feat. If you have never been to a donkey softball game, you don't know what you've missed! 

There was an egg toss with two-person teams carefully chosen--some participants were more in demand than others based on prior years performances. This was largely attended since throwers were sure to come away with splattered eggs on their hands and faces. 

When I was young, I scoured dirt and two-lane roads weeks in advance to find a tortoise for the turtle race. It was a challenge to keep a turtle around the homestead for more than a week, so on many July the Fourths I had several
different ones before the big race arrived. I can't remember having a winning turtle, but it was always a toss up which animal would win. There was no advantages in turtle racing. Still, I tried to train one each year.

Perhaps one of the best things about July the Fourth was homemade ice-cream. Every family seemed to have an ice cream maker--rectangular steel containers that went inside wooden buckets, later on plastic holders. Ice and rock salt was layered in between the steel containers and buckets. Once tops were placed on, people turned crank handles which rotated the buckets. In later years, crank models were discarded in favor of electric motors, which rotated steel containers when plugged into electrical outlets. People brought flavors of all kinds--banana, chocolate, peach, vanilla. It was free as long as your family brought a bucket of icre cream. Yum! I wish I had a cupful of each flavor right now...

Finally, there was time between park events and the night's firework's display for sandwiches at  home. A few personal fireworks were set off before the mad dash to the football field at dusk. Aluminum stands were filled with families and young children. But, on a hill that overlooked the stadium sat carloads of teenagers and young adults; some drinking, some not, and late night parties were planned around ponds in pastures. Then, night signaled the first bang and "ewww" and "ahhhh" echoed across the town as colorful lights glowed in the dark sky.

July the Fourth is about freedom. Whether attending a celebration, partying with families and friends, or relaxing alone at home, it's your's all about freedom.

Have a safe and wonderful Fourth of July!

Check out:
Fifteen July the Fourth Coloring Sheets for Young Learners 

Fourth of July: 24 Fun, Interactive Activities