Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Proud Moment


I know I have said this almost every day someone asks me, "How is your writing class going?"  My response each and every single time has been the same.  "I am amongst the most talented, creative and thoughtful educators.  I am proud to be one of their leaders in this Summer Leadership Institute.  I am learning soooo much for them!!"

Today, was the last day of our institute, and honestly, I feel like it was the end of an era.  Yes, we will see each other for a follow up meeting in October.  Yes, we will connect virtually.  But, it won't be the same.  I have truly enjoyed the 12 days we spent together and will take back so many new and fresh ideas to my classroom.  I now have 20 more resources to reach out to when I have questions, ideas to bounce around and fine teachers to admire.

Today as we shared our own pieces of writing, it was as one of the participants said, "like a therapy session" where we cried together, smiled together, laughed together and clapped together.  When it came to my turn, I was pretty nervous to share my Where I'm From poem, but my group members who listened to my poem last week, reassured me that I had this, and I had great things to share.  In the big group, instead of giving verbal feedback, we wrote out a sentence or two on post-its and handed them to the authors.  I would love to share some of my feedback from my fellow participants, my friends.

I enjoyed the poem.  Very descriptive and delightful.  Your writing brings a smile to my face.  It's easy to identify with your words.  You are a delight.

I love getting to hear this poem again!  I love it and I can't wait to share this with my students.  I feel like we learn so much about you!

You are from what sounds like a beautiful childhood.  It truly reflects why you are the lovely woman you are today.  Thank you for sharing.  So pleasant.

I enjoyed the details you shared:  New Kids on the Block to Coke Slurpees.  It makes me think about my own childhood.  I'd like to write one of these.

Very cool.  Love all the description - "the most manicured lawn on the block."

You are from names written with a heart over the i!  :)   Love your poem!

I am so glad you did not become a nun.  Your joy and effervescence have been a gift to our group, as I'm sure they are to your students and family.

I love the line about you sitting with your dad talking about Prince Charming.

I love this piece, Kari.  The structure afforded us great glimpses into important pieces from your part that have helped you become the wonderful person you are!  :)

I loved that poem just as much today as I did the first you read it to the quad.  It's honest, beautifully written and heart filling.  So great!

I am from a place that connected to a lot of what you mentioned.  So cool!

I love this.  A lot of memories were brought back when I heard it!  I can see using this as a beginning of the year activity!

Thank you for sharing your life.  Your word choice and the way you described your life drew me in and kept me waiting for the next piece.

Beautiful piece and so are you!  Your voice is loud and your enthusiasm shines through.

So...can you see why I absolutely loved working amongst these creative, dedicated and talented teachers?  I am proud.

I also want to thank each and every one of them for the beautiful flowers and the very generous gift card to Barnes and Noble.  I cannot wait to pick out amazing new mentor texts to use in my Writing Workshop!  :)


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Erin Condren Lesson Planner

I took the plunge!!  I ordered my first Erin Condren Lesson Planner!  I am very, very excited!  I just know that this will help with my organization and will aid in my teaching!  :)  And...it is adorable!!!  I will post a picture of it when it arrives!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Feeling Inspired

You know when you get that inspired feeling?  You know how that makes you feel?  Can you think of a time that you felt inspired?  Picture that moment in your head now...

I feel so lucky to say that four things happened today, SO FAR, that definitely made/make me feel inspired.

1.  At the Illinois Writing Project Leadership Training this morning, we found out on site there is a girl who just graduated from high school and will be entering into her freshman year on a writing scholarship.  She used to attend the elementary building where our training is.  We invited her into our session this morning to read some of her writing.  She was so excited to come in and share!  We were in awe of her, and I was definitely inspired.  
*Inspired to see a product of why we are at this writing workshop this summer.
*Inspired to meet a young woman as excited about writing as myself and the rest of our participants.
*Inspired as a writer myself.
2.  I led the teachers in a discussion on diverse learners this morning, which went so well.  First we finished the following sentences:
*Diverse learners are...
*Diverse learners have...
*Diverse learners can...

We then viewed this short movie clip from the Khan Academy.
It is entitled, "You Can Learn Anything.
Get ready to be inspired.  :)

After that, I had the teachers jot down any times in their classrooms that they helped a struggling learner:  ELL student, special ed student, any student who had difficulties that would make the learning process difficult.

We split up into 4 groups.  We took these ideas we jotted down around on a Gallery Walk and referred to these strategies as we read each scenario on chart paper.  The scenarios were:
1.  Peter is in 3rd grade, and he has trouble coming up with ideas to write about.  He speaks Polish at home.
2.  Angelina is in 9th grade.  She struggles finding the correct word choice while she is writing.  She speaks Spanish at home.
3.  Bobby is in 5th grade.  He struggles with spelling, conventions and grammar.  It's hard for anyone to read his writing.  He is embarrassed.
4.  Kailey is in 1st grade.  She gets distracted easily and is a reluctant writer.  She writes one sentence and says she's done.

The teachers came up with amazing supports on their posters!  So inspired!

3.  Have you heard of Kid President?  If not, please drop everything you are doing right now and watch, listen, reflect, smile and many even tear up.  :)  Here is the other video I shared at my Diverse Learners session at our Illinois Writing Project Leadership Training.

4.  This morning, I left before Emma woke up so my husband, Joe, just sent me a picture of what he found on his jeans at work when he looked down.  Awwwww...our little bug.  She teaches us things day in and day out.  This morning's lesson:  I am always with you.
And....it is ok to be addicted to stickers.  ;-)

So, this is what inspired me today...what has inspired you?!?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What I'm Loving Wednesday-Family, Writing, Music, Show, Dinner and Dessert

Again today, I am accepting the daily challenge of Michelle over at BigTime Literacy!
So, here is what I'm loving today (and always)!

I am beyond in awe of our daughter.  Every. single. day.  My heart is overflowing with love for her.  I love my husband more today than the first day I met him because of all of the connections we now have together.  One being our daughter.  She reminds us about the important things in life.  Never take those for granted.  #lovesofmylife

Fresh Writing Ideas
I always love hearing about new ideas to get kids writing.  I hope you do as well! 
*Tell your students to write down 5 or so different names for themselves.
My example:
Mrs. Commare

*Next, pick 3 of your favorites.
I picked:  Kari, Mommy, and Karl

*Then, invite kids to write about one of the names.  Kids can write down a funny story about the name, something interesting, or the origin.
I wrote about Karl.  :)
Sometime in upper middle school, I had a PE teacher who seriously called me KARL like every single morning during attendance for almost two weeks!  Seriously. how. embarrassing.  I got the stares, I got the looks, I got the points from the cutest boy in class.  Every. single. day.  Finally, the PE teacher realized my name was Kari.  Not Karl.

This could be an awesome beginning of the year activity to get your kids knowing each other, which will allow your students to become more comfortable sharing their own writing!

I need to always remember, "Prewriting is more important that the actual writing itself."

Boy am I jealous of anyone who was able to go see T. Swift this past weekend in Chicago!  My favorite as of late...Style!

I cannot wait until The Big Bang Theory comes back on this fall!!!  I love Sheldon and Penny's relationship!

I <3 this meal!  I make it often, and it is super easy!  Just a lot of chopping involved!
corn, red peppers, green peppers, black beans, cilantro!  YUM!

How can I pick just one?!?!  Haha!  Well, good old chocolate chip cookies are my absolute favorite!  Maybe I should bake tonight?!

We Read it Wednesday: In My Heart - A Book of Feelings

We Read it Wednesday...well not really.

So, obviously I did not read this in my 2nd grade classroom today.  ;)  However, I did share this with my amazing group of educators we are working with in this year's Summer Literacy Institute (SLI) for Illinois Writing Project (IWP).  Lots of acronyms.  ;)  Check out out on Twitter!  #IWPsli15
We have a few tweeters, so there is some pretty good stuff on there.  :)

I am so excited to share this book with my team, as well as my adorable upcoming 2nd graders in the fall.  This is the perfect mentor text for brainstorming about topics/ideas that they want to write about.  The author, Jo Witek, does an outstanding job of showing students that our hearts feel all different things at all different times, and that is ok.  Witek gives new vocabulary to new students with feelings such as:  delicate, fragile, twirl, frighten, bob, calm, etc.  I attached the Amazon link to the pic to the left, but I found mine at Target.  I snagged the last copy!  #gottalovetarget

Witek writes,

Sometimes my heart feels like a big yellow star, shiny and bright.
I smile from ear to ear and twirl around so fast,
I feel as if I could take off into the sky.
This is when my heart is happy.

Students will all know times they felt happy, and this mentor text will allow them to remember times they felt this way and will give them ideas to write about.

Witek also writes,

Some days my heart feels as heavy as an elephant.
There's a dark cloud over my head, and tears fall like rain.
This is when my heart is sad.

 All students can remember a time they felt sad.  These are also topics they might want to write about.

So, do you have a mentor text you would like to share?!?!  I love picture books, and I love finding classroom application even more.  :)  I am working on compiling a book on mentor texts for all aspects of literacy!  :)  Please contact me at teachingwithsmiles@gmail.com if you have some ideas!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Slice of Life: Counting the Clouds in the Sky

I am linking up with my friend Michelle over at BigTime Literacy for her BigTime Blogging Writing Challenge!!  Today is my first post for the month of July considering I just found this awesome linky!  I am challenging myself to write a blog post every single day that is left in July!  Ready?!  Here I go!!

Have you ever counted the clouds in the sky?  Have you ever tried?  Honestly, have you ever considered this task?!

Perhaps, you might be thinking that I am crazy right now for asking this question...why would anyone count the clouds in the sky?  Why would anyone set up this impossible challenge for themselves only to know that he/she will fail?

The amazing thing to me is that, most two year olds don't know that counting the clouds in the sky is an unbelievable task.  They see objects to count, and they start counting.  Many adults see this task and turn the other way immediately.  Honestly, I too would turn away and run in the other direction.

Well, my daughter decided that counting the clouds in the sky was not too hard of a task for her.  She grabbed a stick from the ground on our walk this afternoon , pointed it at the sky, and dove right into counting.

After E went to sleep tonight, I rehashed my amazement with my husband, and we both started to truly think about what this adorable and innocent act reminds us of.  Adults often run away when times get rough.  Children often dive right into the task at hand.  At least that is what I have seen with our little girl and many of the students I teach.

*I want to remember this next time I want to run in the other direction when times get hard.  When times get rough.

The sky is endless, and so are our abilities.

Do you want to jump onto this Linky?!?  Check it out here and get the directions here!!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Classroom Transformation

Woah!  My classroom transformation is underway!  Check it out in the MY CLASSROOM section of my blog, or click here!  I cannot wait to go into school next week to check it out!  I will share pics as they become available!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Letters from Past Students

Every year the 5th graders are given the opportunity to write to past teachers before they leave for middle school, and every year I secretly hope that I get a few letters from my once 2nd graders.  :)  Well, they did not disappoint.  Here are a few.  :)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

"You are the Good Ones," said Grandma.

Another amazing day of Writing Workshop today with these super talented teachers!  Here is a piece I wrote two years ago, but was able to continue to work on it today during workshop.  After I read Remember, Grandma? by Laura Langston to begin our Guided Imagery for a Memoir piece the participants began writing, this is the piece I revised from two years before.  It is far from the publishing stage, but I hope you enjoy.  I hope it paints a clear picture of my grandma, our family's relationship and how much I miss her.

We all sat in the living room.  Together.  Staring.  Waiting.  Wondering.  Finally, I said, “Grandma, Hi!”  She stared at me with a blank look.  Sometimes we get what we are looking for and sometimes not.  Today didn’t look like it was going to be the kind of day where a glimmer of hope would be released.  What was going on inside her mind?  I thought.  Sometimes I try to imagine what she’s going through, and then I stop because it is just too painful.

Still waiting...I grab the scrapbook Mom made when times get rough.  Grandma’s eyes lit up and she grabbed the book out of my hands, just as a 3 year old would.  Flipping through the pages one by one, she made comments about each person on each page.  Well, maybe not comments, more like grunts, but we knew what she meant by the pointing, her confused looks and her strange noises.

She began by pointing at a picture of a gorgeous, young woman with hair and makeup done to perfection.  The clothes and shoes were a close second.  As she pointed, Mom said, “That is you, Mom.”  “No, sister,” Grandma replied.  Grandma looked confused.

On the next page there was a picture of a man standing by himself.  He was a dapper man in a 3 piece suit standing next to a light pole.  Grandma pointed and smiled and then slowly her smile turned to loss.  “Gone?”  Mom nodded with tears in her eyes.  Grandma stroked the picture with tears in her eyes.  As fast as the smile faded turning to despair, so did this distant memory.

Next page.  Four kids sitting in a row.  Grandma smiled again.  Mom reminded her of the names of her four cute kids’ faces.  Confusion.  Hearts breaking.

Next page.  The five grandchildren.  Grandma pointed and let out a disapproving sigh.  I knew it was my shorts that caused Grandma to roll her eyes and place her hand over her chest.

Next page.  Next page.  Next page.  Pictures and pictures and more pictures.  Waiting.  Wondering.  Staring.  Hoping.  Then it happened.

“You are the good ones,” was all she could mumble.  We knew that Grandma wanted to say so much more.  But, she just couldn’t.  She was unable to.  But, her comment was exactly what we needed to be content.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Writing Workshop

Do you use Writing Workshop in your classroom?!

Thoughtful ideas
Perfect word choice
Strong voice
Daily revisions
Smart writers
Proud students

I owe it all to Writing Workshop because all of these occur in our 2nd grade classroom.  :)  I could not ask for more energy, determination and focus in our room during Writing Workshop.  If I could store in a jar the excitement and learning that happen every day during Writing Workshop, I would be a millionaire!  :)

If you are not doing Writing Workshop, please consider it!  If you need help with any resources to get your started, please do not hesitate to ask!  I LOVE talking about Writing Workshop, and I love teaching Writing Workshop even more!

Ummmm...I think I just said WRITING WORKSHOP 15 times!  :)

During my time in Hinsdale with the Illinois Writing Project two summers ago, one participant in my workshop asked me if I ever considered consultation work.  Woah.  What an honor to have been asked that.  I am doing consultation work right now with the Illinois Writing Project.  I am living the dream.  :)

These books are new for me through Heinemann Publishing.  I hope my order comes soon!  I cannot wait to incorporate more anchor charts in my classroom this coming school year!!  I have always had students be included in the process of creating the anchor charts that they will be referring to in the classroom, but these books have amazing strategies that I need to know about!!  Do own these in your library??

Where I'm From Poetry

What a fantastic week it has been so far!  I am a leader for the Illinois Writing Project  www.illinoiswritingproject.com, and I am teaching teachers in Elmhurst, Illinois all about Writing Workshop and strategies to use in their classrooms.  I sooooo enjoy sharing ideas!  I am also learning TONS from such talented teachers in our group!  It is a win-win!  :)  One participant came up to me today and asked, "Can I just get into your head and learn all of your ideas and gain all of your knowledge?"  I.was.honored.  Me?  Little ol' me?  That comment will sure stick with me forever.

One of the activities tomorrow:  The teachers will write a Where I'm From Poem.  This idea is originally from Georgia Ella Lyon.  Boy did I love this experience.  Brainstorming at the beginning...prewriting ideas...and drafting this reflective poem.  It makes me smile about where I came from.  Maybe you want to try it and see what you come up with!  Here is a resource you can use to get your mind thinking.
Here is what I wrote tonight in preparation for tomorrow's class!  Hope you enjoy!

           *Where I’m From

I am from the hardworking
and responsible.
I am from the parents who taught me right
from wrong.
I am from the immediate family of 3
and extended family of many.

I am from the smell of my mom’s homemade pizza
lingering in the kitchen,
from New Kids on the Block singing “Hangin’ Tough”
and from the original American Girl doll Samantha.

I am from the movies
“What about Bob?” and “The Mask “ on Friday nights.

From watching the movie “Father of the Bride” on the couch with Daddy
both of us dreaming of my future prince charming.
I am from nicknames like, “Pumpkin” and “Daddy’s Little Girl.”

I am from the most manicured lawn on the block,
And the looooooooong driveway with planters ending each side.
I am from playing catch with Daddy and shopping with Mommy.
I am from being the tom-boy playing basketball with the boys and
being the girly-girl playing Barbies.

I am from stockings stuffed
and from a long line of presents on Christmas morning.

I am from being able to tell my mom anything
without fear of her response.
I am from Saturday lunches with 3 generations
and outings of women.

I am from long legs in the family tree,
from Gabl and from Sweiding.
I am from a long line of emotional women.

I am from the mind your p’s and q’s
And look both ways before you cross the street.

I am from skinned knees after hot summer afternoons
on the softball field.

I’m from the most voted to become a nun in the high school yearbook.
From mashed potatoes and Coke Slurpees
From the original Nintendo days
And Super Mario Brothers.

I am from pride.
I am from unity.
I am from the generous.
I am from family.
I am Kari.