reading · slice of life

Digging in the Heels Over a Mentor Text

I’m going into Isabelle’s second-grade classroom tomorrow morning during writing workshop. As a result, I asked her teacher what the kids would be doing so I could make a conferring plan. Isabelle’s teacher informed me the students are coming to the end of their information writing unit of study and that tomorrow’s minilesson is on content-specific language. She told me Isabelle was writing a book about Halloween. However, when I asked Isabelle to tell me what she was working on as a writer, I learned nothing more than what her teacher told me.

Since I knew Isabelle might have a tough time with using technical language to teach about her topic, I grabbed one of my favorite books, The Slug by Elise Gravel, to use with primary writers who are doing informational writing. I’ll never forget how the first class (of first graders) cackled when I read it aloud to them soon after it came out in 2014. I expected Isabelle would love it too.

She didn’t. Isabelle showed her disinterest in the text by refusing to look at the pictures, playing with a small piece of skin on her thumb, and keeping a straight face during the first few pages of the book (even when the slug, himself, uses the word snot). In fact, she seemed perturbed I was making her listen to a book. I was feeling frustrated but didn’t want to show it so I closed the book. I told Isabelle I was going upstairs and when she was ready, I’d be happy to read the book aloud to her.

Moments after retreating upstairs, Ari woke up and I became consumed with his needs. About 20 minutes later, Isabelle appeared in my room.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“What are you sorry for?” I asked.

“I’m sorry I didn’t want to listen to the book you wanted to read to me.”

“I appreciate your apology. But do you understand why I wanted to read that book to you?”

She didn’t. So I explained, again, that it was to help teach her something as a writer. I explained that books, not teachers, help me write better now. I explained how this book was funny and could also teach her how to teach her readers about her topic.

She agreed to go downstairs and try again. I grabbed my phone and took the kids downstairs. As I did, I noticed I had a voicemail from my husband. Odd. He was in his home office. I put the phone to my ear and discovered it was from Isabelle (who had called from our home phone to my cell). Go ahead and read the transcript.

img_0398

She’d left that message about 10 minutes prior to coming upstairs to apologize in person. I guess she figured out what to apologize for when she didn’t get me on the phone.

I’d like to say everything went well when we got downstairs, but it didn’t. Isabelle tried to employ more stall tactics. Once we finally made it through the book, I went back and quickly reread the pages that contained content-specific language. She didn’t seem to care.

{Sigh.}

Frustrated — again — I simply told her we’d be looking at the book together in writing workshop tomorrow. She said nothing. I don’t like being ignored, but I know when I’m not wanted too.

img_0399
I’m armed with my materials for tomorrow morning.

Four hours later, still feeling like I wish our interaction had gone differently, I sat down at my computer and typed up two mentor sentences. It’s my hope she’ll be more agreeable when her peers are in the same room tomorrow. Sometimes peer pressure can be a good thing.

slice of life_individual
Head over to http://twowritingteachers.org on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.
Advertisements
slice of life

A Red Pickup Instead of a Blue Truck

truck-1042600_640After we lit the menorah, we sat down for dinner in the dining room. Once the food was on the table, we debriefed our days. I talked about the classrooms I visited and shared the highlight, which was helping a fifth-grade teacher launch independent writing projects in her classroom. After we chatted about the substance of the day, I turned the conversation to my 75-minute drive.

“I beat the school bus,” I told my in-laws and Marc.

They nodded. I could tell they probably didn’t want to hear my lamentations about the school bus I often get stuck behind when I drive to this particular school.

“I arrived a half hour early because I beat the bus! But I almost didn’t arrive early. You see, about 30 minutes into the drive, I got stopped near a curve. And you wouldn’t believe what I saw! A pickup truck was stuck on the side of the road. I think the guy was right outside of his house. Traffic came to a standstill because people got out of their trucks to help the driver.”

“People just got out of their trucks?” one of them asked.

“Yes! It was really sweet. But it stopped traffic. By the time I could make it safely around the curve, there were four or five people pushing the red pickup truck out of the mud.”

Suddenly, everyone around the table was laughing — except for me.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“It’s like the book,” my mother-in-law said.

Little Blue Truck!” my husband or father-in-law replied through their chuckles.

“You’re right! I hadn’t thought about it like that?”

They were shocked I hadn’t envisioned that since Little Blue Truck by Alice Shertle and Jill McElmurry is one of Ari’s favorite books. Each of us has probably read it to him upwards of 200 times.

“Did they all look like the animals?” my husband asked.

“You mean head-to-head and rump-to-rump?” I asked, finally in on the joke.

He nodded.

“Kind of, but not really,” I said trying to envision the scene again. I reconsidered. “Yeah, they actually did look like that!”

I wonder what will await me on my drive tomorrow. (Hoping for an uneventful one!)

slice of life_individual
Head over to http://twowritingteachers.org on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.
music · slice of life

Singing Songs

stars-1245902_640Earlier today, I walked into a neighboring room and overheard Ari singing “Ba Ba Black Sheep.” (Where did he learn that song? It isn’t one we EVER sing together! Maybe from my in-laws.) What surprised me wasn’t the fact he knew most of the words, but that he was singing by himself! It was the first time I had ever overheard him sing a song spontaneously without a stitch of adult prompting. I’ll admit, I got a little teary.

I continued to listen from the next room as Ari began singing another song. This time, he sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” which is one we sing together constantly. Again, he knew all of the words! So I did what most mothers would do. I entered the room Ari was singing in, opened up the Voice Memos app on my iPhone, and requested for him to sing.

And what do you think he did?

If you guessed that he kept on singing songs independently, well, then you’d be — wrong.

But, he did sing with me. His little voice is quite cute (if I do say so myself). Take a listen!

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/535897518&color=%23ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true

Maybe next time I’ll wisen up and secretly record him singing from the next room!

slice of life_individual
Head over to http://twowritingteachers.org on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.
slice of life · travel

Highlights from #NCTE18 and the Re-entry to Home

I almost didn’t make it to NCTE because of the fluke of a snowstorm that rolled through the Mid-Atlantic on Thursday. What should’ve been a nine-hour trip, door-to-door, turned into a 16-hour ordeal that led to me being without my checked luggage for 48 hours. Alas, if I put the inconvenience of being without my luggage (and the hassle that went with it) aside, I had a fantastic time in Houston! While I was at NCTE, I…

* Presented three times and learned a lot from my co-presenters.

* Attended a few sessions, including a general session where students spoke, which were inspiring.

* Shot a video about Welcome to Writing Workshop, which will be published in late March, with Lynne.

* Shared a room with Melanie, which allowed us to catch up.

* Ate lunch with Kelsey, who had to miss the Slicer dinner because of her own travel delay.

* Attended the Slicer Dinner and learned more about everyone with an impromptu (and funny) share that led to some interesting stories.

* Caught up with other authors and the folks who work at Stenhouse at the annual Author Reception.

* Found a fabulous restaurant with gluten-free pasta where I dined with some of my favorite PA educators, Lynne, Rose, and Aileen.

I departed from Houston this morning. Thankfully, I had an easy trip home. However, I started to miss my kids during my lay over in Dulles. I pulled out my iPad and watched videos of them. Despite enjoying a few days when I cut only my own food and took long showers, I missed my kids. I was glad to be heading home.

Marc picked me up from the airport and we went to dinner. Isabelle called and FaceTimed with me since she was heading to bed before I arrived home. (She did jump out of bed to surprise me once she heard I was home.) I partially unpacked, showered, and snuggled with Ari while he drank his bedtime bottle. Once he was finished, I asked him the question I ask him every time he finishes a bottle at bedtime.

“What time is it?”

“Love time!” he smiled. (A few weeks ago, I absent-mindedly said, “What time is it?” to him after he finished a bottle. He responded “Love Time,” since I often rock him in my arms before putting him down in his crib. It’s become a bit of a running joke now since I ask him this every night.)

And right there, in my house with a partially-unpacked suitcase and a brain filled with new ideas from a weekend away at NCTE, my heart felt full. It’s good to be home.

slice of life · writing

What color do you use for drafting?

I try not to look in my Isabelle’s cubby or desk when I go into her school. That doesn’t mean I haven’t peered into those places. Rather, it means I *try* not to.

I went into Isabelle’s class for writing workshop yesterday. I restrained myself from checking the neatness of her desk when it was time to confer with her. After all, we were talking about her writing, not her organizational skills. However, as Isabelle took me on a tour of her writing, I noticed she was still alternating between colors when she was writing. I’ve bitten my tongue about that before since I didn’t know if the colors corresponded to drafting, revising, and editing pens. However, she was in the first bend of a unit of study on information writing. She’s *only* drafting. Yet, her pages were covered in two — and sometimes three — colors of pen.

“Do you have a blue or black pen?” I asked her, noticing she was writing with a red one.

“I have a blue one, but it doesn’t work right.”

“Can you show me?”

Isabelle rummaged in her desk.

“I can’t find it,” she said.

“Don’t you have supply box?”

“Not in this teacher’s room,” she replied, ducking back down to look for the blue pen.

I looked at my watch. This was a waste of time. This wasn’t what I would have been doing with any other kid. Yet, I was going down the rabbit hole, so-to-speak, because this was my kid. I was about to stop Isabelle when she pulled a retractable pen from her desk.

“Found it!” she said setting it on her desk.

I picked it up and realized it was slightly unscrewed. Problem-partially solved.

I gave Isabelle a spiel about using one color when she was drafting going-forward — blue OR black — and then moved onto something that mattered (i.e., breaking down her new book’s topic into a table of contents).

After I left her school for the day, I made my way to Staples to remedy the supply issue. I picked up a pack of blue pens and a pack of black ones, plus a zip-top supply bag in her favorite color. Later in the day, I typed a reminder note and gave it to her. Isabelle was elated by the bag filled with new pens. I reminded her, again, to only use ONE color while drafting.

This afternoon, when she returned home from school, I asked her how it went with the new pens.

“Great!” she said.

“What color did you use when you drafted today?”

“Black.”

“Only black?” I asked.

“Only black,” she replied.

Democracy · slice of life

455

After waiting nearly two hours to vote in 2016, I timed my voting for mid-morning. I was shocked when I signed in, at 10:20 a.m., only to find that I was voter #455 in my ward. To me, that seemed like a remarkably small number given the polls had been open for over three hours by the time I voted. Were people waiting until the after work hours or was the rain keeping them away? (I am hoping for the former, not the latter, reason.)

As I walked out of the precinct with my umbrella ready to open, I was handed an unexpected “gift”:

After nine years of living in PA, I finally received a sticker!

Our wardman felt it was important to give people “I Voted” stickers so he ordered them himself! Hopefully, the folks who haven’t voted yet will see more “I Voted” stickers around this year. I’m hoping that translates into higher voter turnout because being #455 at 10:20 a.m. was disappointing.

Jewish · slice of life

I write to find peace when the world is falling apart.

My husband and I almost named our son Alexander — instead of Ari — back in 2016. We wondered, due to the rise in anti-Semitism, if it was wise to give our son such a Hebrew first name. After many discussions, we ultimately decided to name him Ari since we wanted him to be proud to be Jewish.
I was breathless as I squinted to read the subtitles on my phone from the live local CBS coverage from Pittsburgh earlier today. I couldn’t turn on the volume since my kids were within earshot. Congregants celebrating Shabbat were met with bullets during morning worship. The shooter is reported to have said “All Jews Must Die” (or some iteration of that) before he opened fire on the worshippers. As of this evening, the anti-Semite and anti-immigrant shooter behind this hate crime was apprehended. That’s cold comfort since 11 people are dead — and others injured — in what is one of the deadliest attacks against American Jews.
img_2215
I found some comfort in tonight’s Havdalah ceremony. It was a way to shed some light on a dark day.

As someone who spent nearly every Friday night at synagogue until the age of 30, I can tell you today’s attack is one of my worst nightmares. I grew up in a synagogue with an off-duty police officer protecting us. I worked at and took classes at the 92nd St. Y where I passed through a metal detector every time I walked into the building. In my 20s, I was a member of a large synagogue on the Upper West Side that checked everyone’s bag before entering the synagogue. Having security at synagogue doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable since it is what I knew as a kid, which was long before the rising Anti-Semitism we’ve seen in this country in the past two years. Unfortunately, I knew from a young age, that there were people in this world who wanted to harm us just because we were Jews. However, other than several insensitive remarks in middle and high school, I didn’t deal with much anti-Semitism growing up outside of New York City.

This afternoon, I was trying to figure out what I could besides do shelter my daughter from the news. I could donate to the Tree of Life Synagogue sounds like the kind of synagogue I would join if I lived in Pittsburgh. On their website, they describe their congregation as “traditional, progressive, and egalitarian.” I could also make a donation to Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, or HIAS, which resettles refugees (and partnered with Tree of Life). But those things didn’t feel like enough. Therefore, I told Marc, “I’d like to do Havdalah tonight.” (Click here to learn more about Havdalah.) He didn’t ask why. He didn’t have to. He just knew.
We rarely end Shabbat with Havdalah, but tonight we did. And I was a mess. I could barely chant the blessings without crying. Isabelle pressed me for why I was crying. Marc said, “A lot of people died in Pittsburgh today who shouldn’t have.” At the end of Havdalah, we sang “Shavua Tov,” which is a wish for a good week. The English, which we sang, put me into full-on crying. Because the words are:
A good week, a week of peace, may gladness reign and joy increase. 
After the week we’ve just had, we could all use a week of peace.
growing up · slice of life

You can always come back home.

Inside Waiting

“Can I go outside and wait with Fox?” Isabelle asked.

I checked my phone. Two minutes until the bus would arrive. I checked the sidewalk. Fox was already waiting — between his driveway and ours — for the schoolbus.

“Sure!”

Isabelle looked surprised so I continued. “I’ll watch from the window until you get on the bus.”

Isabelle donned her backpack and walked to the door. I stooped down, though not quite as far as I used to, and kissed the top of her head. I opened the door, waved hello to Fox, and felt the cold hit me.

“Are you sure you want to wait outside? It’s cold.”

“I’m sure,” Isabelle replied.

“Have a good day!” I called to both of them as I closed the door.

I cradled my coffee while Isabelle walked towards her 12-year-old neighbor. Next, she walked to our mailbox and opened it. She noticed it was empty and promptly closed it. Then, she walked in a couple of small circles. She peered longingly at our house. She walked closer, but not too close.

I opened the door, “Are you cold? Do you want to come back inside and wait?”

She nodded. Fox and I exchanged knowing looks.

“Do you want to come inside and wait too?”

He replied with a polite no, reminding me he’s always warm.

Isabelle hustled back to the front door. I smiled and reminded her, “You can always come back home.”

Those words lingered in my mind. To me, it meant more than coming inside on a cold morning, but I doubted she picked up on the dual meaning.

Less than 30 seconds later, the school bus rounded the corner. Time to say goodbye again.

slice of life

Who do you greet at the grocery store?

I shouldn’t have spoken up. I should’ve let the little girl’s mother think my son was the friendliest toddler around.

But I clarified. Because I am honest. Almost to a fault.

…..

As we rounded the bend onto the dairy aisle in the supermarket, Ari began calling out the names of his “friends” he wanted to visit.

“Califia! Starbucks Lady! Butter Lady!”

What does that mean, you might ask? Well, my sweet son has taken a liking to the logos on a few products — namely the women on my almond milk bottle, iced coffee bottle, and butter container.

“We’re not stopping by Califia,” I said as I purposely buzzed by the nut milk case.

“Starbucks Lady,” he called out as I stopped to pick up a bottle of Blonde Roast.

I snagged a bottle from the shelf and handed it to Ari who said, “Hi, Starbucks Lady” and then gave her a fist bump. I shook my head. Sometimes this kid is too much!

We kept walking.

“Butter Lady!” Ari called out as we got close to the butter display.

“I don’t need butter today,” I told him.

That didn’t matter. At the top of his lungs, he yelled, “Hi!” And started waving.

A woman with a bow-wearing daughter looked up at Ari. “Hi,” she said, grinnning at him.

She went back to chatting with her daughter while Ari called out, “Blue one! Hi, Butter Lady! Red one! Hi, Butter Lady.” (In case this doesn’t make sense to you, these represent the different-colored lids of Land O’ Lakes Butter. Ari likes to greet each variety.)

Oh. My. Goodness.

Here’s a photo of Ari greeting one of his “friends” at home. (Yes, this kind of thing happens nearly every time I open my fridge.)

“Honey, we aren’t buying any butter today. I need to put these containers back and we need to go,” I said patiently.

“Hi!” Ari waved to the rest of the Land O’ Lakes display.

The woman turned around. “Hi there. Look how he’s saying hi to you,” the lady told her daugther. “Can you say hi back to him?“ She gave Ari a wave.

“Ari, can you say hi to the girl and her mom?”

The mother looked at me quizzically, as if to say ‘hasn’t he been doing that all along.’

Ari waved hello to them. And that’s when the words bust loose from my mouth, “He was actually saying hi to the lady on the butter container.”

She looked at me funny.

Let’s be honest, I would’ve looked at me funny too. What kid greets butter with that much excitement?

“Okay, say bye to the nice lady and her daughter,” I told Ari.

“Bye-bye,” he said.

And then, “Bye, Butter Lady!”

raising boys · slice of life

A View from the Floor

I thought about writing a poem today. But then I came across Jennifer Flyod’s Six-Word Story Slice of Life post and I reconsidered my plan. Believe it or not, I haven’t done much Six-Word Story work so I Googled it to learn more. (Click here for to my favorite summary of what they are.) So, as a recently-ordained boy mama, here goes:

He’s teaching me to play trucks.

img_0588

slice of life_individual
Head over to http://twowritingteachers.org on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.