Showing posts from March, 2017

Day 31 The Treasure Chest Closes #SOL17

On the first day of the March SOLSC, I wrote about this challenge being like a treasure chest. On March 1, the chest opened and each Slice became riches gingerly placed inside the box. Today, the last treasure is placed inside the box and another chapter closes. 

Ferris Bueller wryly said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." March is my chance to stop and look around- to slow down and notice, to wonder, to reflect, to question, to celebrate, to mourn, to feel. Writing every single day is not easy- in a month where report cards were due, and my daughter turned 4, and I attended professional conferences, and so on and so on. All the more reason to pause this month- to breathe in life, and exhale here, with all of you. 

I have been touched by your stories, your treasures, too. Reading the many Slices that were shared this month expanded my world view, my compassion, my conviction that we all have a story to tell. Wri…

Day 30 When Bad News Isn't Yours #SOL17

On this day before the last day of the challenge, I wish I could write something different. I wish this story wasn't weighing on my heart, but it is. It's not my story to tell, but there is nothing else for me to say today. 

When the news is bad,
and it's not your own,
how do you act?
The sun is shining warm sunny rays
and the sky is that beautiful blue
you've been missing
but a friend's world is collapsing
or torn apart 
Your world is not.
Your children, rosy and healthy
do their normal things:
ride bikes, and glide on scooters,
dig in the dirt,
have a full-blown sock war,
with socks strewn all over, 
laughing and then crying.
The same.
Alls well.
But the news you heard
is that all is not well
for someone you know.
And you are sad for them
and scared and worried
and guilty and anxious
and angry that life can turn
in a split second
robbing happiness 
from where it rightfully should perch.
When the news is bad
and it's not your own
the sky should not be blue
the sun should not be so sunny.

Day 29 Ripples of Kindness #SOL17

This story caught my attention as I watched in on Facebook: (Posted on March 11th, 2016- pinned post.) 

Earlier this month, I attended a Long Island Writing Project workshop at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County. The Holocaust is such a painful topic: I'm embarrassed to say I rarely let my mind think about it because I find it so upsetting. As a parent, I find it even harder to think about what so many families endured and how so many lives were ripped apart. It's inconceivable to me that such evil exists, yet we know it does.

This story, though, makes me think of a mother's influence. The lady speaking in the video describes how her mother packed chocolate for her, knowing there would be awful times ahead and the chocolate might somehow make things less horrific. The mother very kindly asks her daughter if she can give her chocolate to the lady going into labor, knowing the lady might not make it…

Day 28 Know Thy Self #SOL17

When I was younger, I loved taking quizzes in magazines like YM or Teen. I would circle the answers, then add up my score, or count how many A's and B's and C's I selected. Next, I would find the category that fit my score and read the description, nodding in agreement or taking the quiz again to get a better result!

I was reminded of this because I've taken two personality quizzes this week. One was shared on Facebook by Michelle Haseltine: What Is Your Teaching Spirit Animal? I got the Fennec Fox:"Well aren't you just a fluffy-eared angel! Students and staff alike are drawn to your sweet nature and willingness to listen (although some people may abuse these qualities). Also, you probably have the cutest classroom ever." (If "cutest" is defined by lots of piles of papers- mine's the cutest! Ha.)

The other quiz, The Color Code Personality Test, was shared by my friend Nicolette James. It was shown to her at one of the #CELI17 workshops she att…

Day 27 So You Want to Be My Next 3rd Grade Read Aloud? #SOL17

Okay, Books. The One and Only Ivan received the final rose, wore the crown, had the was our slam dunk, home run read aloud. It will leave a lasting impression on my students, as it has left on me. 

But now it's your turn. We are looking for our next, best chapter book read aloud. Are YOU the one who will cause my students to beg, "Just one more chapter!" Will YOU be the book that makes them think more than they ever have, feel more, be inspired more? 

Here are some of our contestants for the next read aloud:

The Wild Robot 

The Terrible Two 

Out of My Mind

Charlotte's Web

What books would YOU add to my list of contenders? We just finished a fantasy, so I was thinking another genre might be important to read, but I LOVED The Wild Robot and I worry if I don't read Charlotte's Web, my students might never experience it. 

I am looking for our next chapter book read aloud and would love your ideas! 

Day 26 First-Rate Teachers #SOL17

Tonight, while surfing on Twitter, I stumbled upon this article from 2004, written by Donald Graves. Entitled, "What I've Learned From Teachers of Writing", it's a fascinating piece. I particularly was interested in the section where Graves details what he believes first-rate teachers do:

"They are highly literate. Good teachers are voracious readers who read for personal and professional enjoyment. They write for themselves, their students, and for broader audiences through publication." (Donald Graves)

So many of us here in the Two Writing Teachers community live this each day. We are also members of the Nerdy Book Club and read widely for ourselves and to be able to recommend books to students. We listen to podcasts about books and writing and send each other Voxer messages about these very ideas. All this month, here we are, living the writerly life, often reflecting on our teaching and publishing our work to a wider audience of educators. We read each ot…

Day 25 #CELI17 #SOL17

Today I had the chance to participate in the Connected Educators Long Island Summit (#CELI17), sponsored in my district, Farmingdale. It was an honor to be asked to be part of the panel that was the opening conversation for the day. The panel included education leaders (Superintendent and Principal), teachers, and students! The students were middle schoolers who spoke articulately and with conviction about how schools should look and feel. Their driving message was "Let students follow their passions." 

At the end of the Summit, this video was shared:

The difference between the adult answers and the kid answers was startling and revealing. Why do we go to our flaws first? The kids in the video thought of ways to improve upon their already fabulous selves. The adults thought of all the ways their self needed to change. What if we saw ourselves through a lens of possibility and positivity? How might we be able to create a better life if that is the lens we use?
Thoughts are still…

Day 24 An Anchor of Hope #SOL17

"Your spark can become a flame and change everything." -E.D. Nixon
"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does." -William James
The other day, a colleague who works with some of my students, providing reading support, relayed a story. She said my students told her, "Mrs. Sokolowski has that book. She has so many books. She really, really loves to read." 
The story was a sunbeam piercing through the storm clouds of doubt, rolling through my mind about all the ways I am getting it wrong in the classroom.   
I could make an extensive list of all the things I need to change and fix. But, perhaps, the one thing I am getting right is my students believe me to be a person who loves reading. Of course, they are right- I am a person who loves reading. I hug the book when I finish reading it, and sigh the sigh of a person who has just experienced something exquisitely beautiful. My throat catches as I read the last pages of The One and Only Ivan. I fill our classr…

Day 23 How Do I Make Them Care? #SOL17

How do I make them care?
Pencils strewn on the floor
Cast off, ignored, then swept away.
No pencil to write with, they tell me.
How do I make them care?

How do I make them care?
Notebooks home once again
Unprepared for the day's work.
A shrug when asked why.
How do I make them care?

How do I make them care?
Failing grades on math quizzes
Week after week after week
Practice your math facts, I ask
13 out of 25 didn't.
How do I make them care?

How do I make them care?
Talking, laughing, ignoring
the teacher trying to teach
Funny chats, lectures, 
good choice tickets given
Still... teaching interrupted.
How do I make them care?

How do I make them care?
Name-calling, fighting,
squabbles to settle all day long.
So many lessons on being empathetic
Yet they can't see the other's perspective.
How do I make them care?

I have really tried to get away from giving student's rewards and consequences, points and prizes. I want my students to pick up a pencil on the floor because it's their classroom and …

Day 22 The One and Only Ivan #SOL17

This is my third year in third grade, and my third time reading aloud The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. I read it once before by myself, which means I've read this gorgeous book four times in all. You would think my voice wouldn't catch anymore on the last line, but today, as I read the last page aloud, I felt the tears threatening and had to stop, breathe, and then push myself to say the words. I didn't want to ruin the very end of the book by blubbering, but it just gets me every time. 

Yesterday, I asked my students to write the formulaic "I am" poem as if they were one of the characters in Ivan. Their writing showed how they understood the characters deeply. One of my students, who absolutely struggles mightily with reading and writing, was captivated by the story. I had him dictate the poem to me and I was touched by how much he was able to express and how much he understood. It's the power of an exquisite book, being read aloud by someone dee…

Day 21 Back to the Pirate Ship #SOL17

Friday was not a great teaching day. It was one of those days where you shut your classroom door with a bag full of work and a heart full of worry. How do you shift the energy from negative to positive? How do you help students care more about each other, their learning, our classroom? 

On Sunday night, I turned back to a book that made a deep impact on me as a teacher. Paul Solarz's Learn Like a Pirate is about creating a student-centered, student-run classroom. I need to reread it, cover to cover, but only had time to flip through it. That was enough to help me come up with some new ideas for Monday.

On Monday, I added 3 new jobs to our list: Morning Meeting Leader, Afternoon Meeting Leader and Maintenance Director. We've been having a Morning Meeting all year, but I've facilitated it- called students to the carpet, started the greetings, called on the quote person to share, and facilitated calling on students who've signed up to share. It dawned on me that the student…

Day 20 Five Favorites #SOL17

I have been in "Report Card Hell" (just kidding- I love report cards!) all weekend long, with 5 more comments to write. I am out of ideas for today's Slice, so cashing in my "Get out of writer's block free" card by using Leigh Anne Eck's brilliant idea to share 5 favorites. If you missed her post, click here to get your card too! 

Today I'm going to share my 5 favorite podcasts.
1. Books Between Podcast
2. Stories from the Teaching Life with Penny Kittle 
3.  Kids Deserve It!
4.  Happier with Gretchen Rubin
5. Missing Richard Simmons 
I never understood what podcasts were until last summer when I finally figured out how to download one and listen! I've been hooked. They are fun to listen to in the car or while I'm folding laundry. I love how listening to the stories told and the new ideas shared. The 5 listed here are among my favorites, but I listen to others, too. Missing Richard Simmons has become my favorite one lately because the story is so c…

Day 19 Making Writing #SOL17

"Don't go in there yet!" my six year old son, Alex, warns me as I walk into the office, where he is cutting paper. He scurries into the living room to finish his project, then beckons, "Okay, come in now!"

This is what I find. A banner of papers taped together, with emoji looking hearts and happy faces. Then, signs and books he has created (I'm partial to the "I love mom" one). He reads me a book he made, The Hat Book. The first page says, "A red hat" with a picture of a red hat. The next page says "Family" and Alex leaps up to get a pen to revise his work and add the word "hat." He is so proud of what he has created. 
This is why I'm a "Pantser" and cannot plan out Slices. I was thinking about writing something else entirely different tonight, until I walked down the stairs and had this experience with Alex. I am thinking about how my son loves to write for his own purposes. Imaginative and inventive, Ale…

Day 18 Limping to the Publish Button Slice #SOL17

This is a limping to the publish button Slice. 
This is a Friday-night-after-St-Patrick's Day-craziness-at-work Slice.
This is a report card weekend, stacks of papers to grade first Slice.
This is an exhausted, 'cause it was my daughter's fourth birthday this week Slice
This is a someone hurt my feelings and I don't want to talk about it Slice
This is a rough teaching day, feeling kind of down Slice.
This is a reason my blog is about having courage to try again tomorrow Slice.
This is a hoping tomorrow brings fresh energy and ideas for a Slice. 
This is a limping to the publish button Slice.

Day 17 The Luckier I Get #SOL17

"The harder I work, the luckier I get." -Samuel Goldwyn
I shared this quote with my class the day before St. Patrick's Day. I should have waited until today, when "the luck of the Irish" is on their minds, but the quote came to my inbox that morning and it struck me as important to share. One of our class jobs is the Chief Inspiration Officer, and that person selects a quote to share with the class at our Morning Meeting. I need to add more quotes to our selection because we've been hearing the same ones again and again. This quote seemed like an important one to share.
When I read it to my class, they didn't quite get it. Didn't make the connection that when people say you are lucky to win the game, or get the prize, they sometimes miss the fact that you practiced for hours each day or worked really hard on that poster which won the contest and earned you the prize. 
It's been true for me. The harder I work, the more opportunities present themselve…

Day 16 A Pantser Reflects on Student Blogging #SOL17

As a "Pantser" (yet to grab my badge),  I don't plan my Slices in advance. I wanted to be more of a Planner and even though I could create a theme for each day. Turns out, as much as I love the idea of knowing what I will write before I write it, that isn't really how I process life. I need to write after I live it, if that makes sense. 

The down-side is, some nights or mornings don't have a fabulous idea all ready to roll and the pressure of the clock ticking doesn't allow for time to come up with one. Yesterday was my daughter's 4th birthday and by the time the festivities were done, I was exhausted. A full work bag begged for my attention because report cards are due Monday and I still have endless hours of work to go to make that happen. Still, I was exhausted and sleep won, before I could do any more work or compose today's post.

As I sat down to write this post, I first checked my class' Kidblog page. We are deep in the challenge now. I'm …

Day #15 This is Four #SOL17

This is four. Four is all about asking the hard to answer questions: Heaven, and bad guys, and babies in tummies and how they got there.  Four is starting to name letters of the alphabet and typing out the word "Biscuit" on the computer (with some coaching from Mom). Four is wanting to do everything just like her big brother. Four is using words like "supervised" as in "I can use Sharpies if I'm supervised." Four means she can still cuddle into my lap and I can still lift her up. Four is hair being uneven from when she cut it at three and 1/2  Four means ballet classes, soccer, yoga, and soon swimming. Four is coloring and painting and making art projects. Four is listening to books read aloud: Biscuit, Madeline, Knuffle Bunny Four means actually hiding during Hide and Go Seek and not screaming out  "I'm in here!" Four is not a baby anymore. Four looks more like a little girl.
I look back at my baby, my one year old, two year old, and tonight for the …

Day 14 It's "Pi-ku" Day! #SOL17

Last year, I discovered "Pi-ku"- a type of haiku, but written for Pi Day (3.14) which is today. I wanted to share this with my students, but we are in the midsts of Stella, a nor'easter I suppose. It is a snow day here, but I didn't want to miss my chance to write some Pi-ku. 

To write a Pi-ku, you need to make the first line 3 syllables, the second line one syllable, and the last line 4 syllables.  Give it a try!

Snow falling
Inside all day

Hot coffee
first sip renews

Report cards
so much to do

get my steps in

So now I'm off to exercise (workout video in the living room) before everyone wakes up! Stay safe in the snow, all of you in Stella's path. 

Day 13 Literacy Empowers Hearts and Minds- Part 2 #SOL17

Yesterday I shared the first part of my experience at the Long Island Language Arts Council and Nassau Reading Council's 2017 Conference, entitled, "Literacy Empowers Hearts and Minds." 

Today I will share the rest of my experiences!

Empowering Students' Writing Through The Conversation of Response Karen Buechner (left) and Nicolete James (right) are exceptional educators and friends through the Long Island Writing Project. The description of their workshop said, "Responding to student writing is inarguably the most demanding job of the ELA teacher. Empowering all our students as writers and giving them authority over their writing happens when we provide them with context-based commentary and opportunities to participate in a dialogue with their teacher and peers." The workshop opened with a question for us to consider: "What is feedback?" We shared our ideas with the person near us and then shared out as a group. Karen and Nicolette then made conne…

Day 12 Literacy Empowers Hearts and Minds #SOL17

My post on Day 10 was about a snowy morning possibly getting in my way to attend the Long Island Language Arts Council and Nassau Reading Council Conference, entitled, "Literacy Empowers Hearts and Minds." The good news didn't! I was able to attend the conference and I'm so glad I did. 

Here are the highlights:

Pam Allyn

The conference's theme, "Literacy Empowers Hearts and Minds" was just the message I wanted to hear. Pam Allyn was the morning keynote speaker. The thing that strikes me about Pam, and speakers like Penny Kittle, Lester Laminack and Kylene Beers- these literacy legends are so likable, so funny, and they know what it's like to be a teacher. Listening to Pam speak, you just know how smart she is but you also see how relatable and funny, too. 

Pam described how in changing times, our work as teachers stays steady. She said there is a how and what to teaching literacy, but the bigger part is the why and the why is what will be our l…

Day 11 I Don't Believe #SOL17

(This post was inspired by an idea I read from a student while perusing the Classroom Slice of Life Challenge. This student is in Margaret Simon's class and you can read his post here.)

I Don't Believe 
I don't believe that numbers tell the whole story.
I don't believe test scores should decide any person's worth.
I don't believe in giving a lot of homework.
I don't believe in reading logs that make you count pages or minutes. 
I don't believe schools should look and feel the same as they did 100 years ago.
I don't believe students should learn the way I learned in 1988.

I don't believe any research that says class size doesn't make a difference- it does.
I don't believe you should become a teacher to get summers off.
I don't believe  you should dangle a prize or a pizza coupon in front of a student to get him to read.
I don't believe you should ever go a day without reading aloud to students.
I don't believe that readers are letters of …

Day 10 Clouds Got In My Way #SOL17

Rows and flows of angel hair  And ice cream castles in the air And feather canyons everywhere I've looked at clouds that way But now they only block the sun They rain and snow on everyone So many things I would have done  But clouds got in my way -"Both Sides Now" Joni Mitchell

Born in 1979 and a kid in the 80's, a record player was how I first knew about music. My dad had lots of records and many nights, he would play them. I got to know the Grease soundtrack, Dolly Parton, and more this way. The record that stands out in my mind was Judy Collins, "Colors of the Day."

My favorite song on the album was "Both Sides Now." Even as a kid,  the music and the words sounded magical. As I grew older and listened differently, I understood the song in new ways.
I thought of "Both Sides Now" as I prepared for today. A conference I have been looking forward to for weeks and a March snowstorm on the same day. I'm waiting to see what the predictions are. I …

Day 9 Treasures Where and When You Least Expect Them #SOL17

"I made something for you!" my six year old son gleefully calls out. I am in the bathroom. 
"Can I see it when I come out?" I ask, trying to hide my annoyance. It's been a long day after a night with only five hours of sleep. My patience has already clocked out, calling it a day and heading wherever patience likes to go when it leaves me. 
Apparently, he cannot wait until I come out, as I see a little something start sliding under the bathroom door. A picture frame he made at school with the note he wrote here at home, afixed with the tape he asked me to cut before I went into the bathroom. 
And there it is: "I lvoe (love) Mom" complete with a heart. Words he's learned to write himself, to send a message, to communicate. This is one of the treasures I spoke about in my first day slice- the notion that all of these moments will live on in these slices. Years from now, I can look back at this- when Alex is a teenager or maybe even leaving for college o…