Tag Archives: #sol15

#bookaday #sol15


Last summer was the first year that I really got involved with #bookaday.  I loved reading so many fabulous children’s books and connecting with the other enthusiastic participants.  If you’re not familiar with #bookaday, you can check out Donalyn Miller’s blog for more information.

I learned so much from my participation in #bookaday.  This experience helped me grow as a teacher because I was exposed to a variety of books that I then shared with students over the course of the past year.  For the first time, I explored graphic novels.  I was introduced to authors such as Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Linda Urban.  I laughed and I cried over so many books that I might not have read had it not been for #bookaday.

I’ve been a little slower with #bookaday this summer, though.  While I’ve read some fabulous books (The Terrible Two, Ranger in Time #2, and The Island of Dr. Libris, just to name a few), I haven’t read as many as I had by this time last year.  I reminded myself that I’ve been involved in several projects that include time revising my presentation for ILA and a project for my reading council.  I’ve also been distracted by some books that are not education-related.  I’m currently reading Cokie Roberts’ Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868 and I have Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly in my queue.  I’m a former history major and still enjoy reading books in that area.  However, I don’t want to miss out on expanding my kid lit repertoire.  As I reflect, though, I realize that this is not a bad a dilemma to have.  Either way I go, I’m going to have some excellent reading experiences!

Banishing Overused Words #sol15

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Do you have a word or phrase that appears too often in your writing? Do those words or phrases sneak into your writing, no matter how vigilant you’ve been while drafting? How do those words creep into the pages of a manuscript? And, once those words make it into a manuscript, they can be hard to remove because they seem to take over the whole piece.  Overused words are like weeds taking over a garden and they take a lot of effort to remove.

This morning, while working on revising a book review, I realized that several words and phrases appeared over and over throughout this piece of writing.  I typically revise as I write, but I’ve been struggling with this particular piece so much that I finally just made myself put words on paper without stopping to consider anything.  So, when I finally gave myself permission to revise, I discovered that the following words were a just few that appeared entirely too often:

provides

supports

essential

not only…but also…

I went through my manuscript, highlighting the words and phrases that had invaded my writing.  I struggled with finding the right words to replace them  Slowly and painfully, I finally eliminated the overused words.  It was an arduous process, but I feel much better about this piece.  While I still have work to do in other areas, such as expanding on a few ideas in this manuscript, at least I’m happier with my word choices.  I also have an important story about revising to share with my students in the fall.

Where Do I Write? #sol15

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Recently, I have been following #iwritehere on Twitter and I have enjoyed reading about and seeing pictures of all of the different places where people write.  I haven’t posted anything with this hashtag yet, but I have been thinking about where I write and how that shapes what I am writing.

I have a home office, and I write there sometimes, but not always.  Right now, I am sitting at my desk and an old episode of Grey’s Anatomy is playing as I write this.  My home office is a nice space with a desk and comfortable chair and shelves of books-some professional, some for fun.  My desk used to be in front of the window and sometimes I’d get distracted by passing cars.  Now, my desk is against a wall, but I can still turn and look out of the window whenever I want.

Sometimes, I write at the kitchen table.  I think that I got into that habit when the television in my office wasn’t working.  In the kitchen, I can watch the television that’s in the living room while also having easy access to snacks and drinks.  During the past semester, I did most of my classwork at the kitchen table, in addition to writing many of my slices there, too.  Often, the table would be covered with lesson plans, statistics notes, and my blank books.  A table where four could dine comfortably quickly became a table for one messy, but often productive, writer.

Occasionally, I sit in the recliner in the den and write, but I’ve found that I work better when I have my   blank books, notebooks, or computer on a stable surface.  If I’m writing in the den, more times than not, I’ll end up stretched out in the floor instead.  However, the den is not the place where I can usually be found writing.  I never really thought about this until I started considering all of the places where I write.

If I’m sitting in line at a fast food restaurant or at the local pharmacy, I’ll sometimes capture my ideas on my iPhone.  Having the WordPress and Pages apps on my phone make writing this way pretty easy.  Instead of getting frustrated by what can be long wait times, I use the opportunity to write.  Sometimes, I only get a few words written, but at least I’ve recorded something that I can always revisit.

My table at school is also one of my favorite writing spots.  The horseshoe-shaped table allows me to spread out my things and the end of the day is the perfect time for me to write and my chair is pretty comfortable, too.  When I need to get writing done without procrastination, school is the place I go because I’m not easily distracted there.  The television in my room doesn’t have a cable connection and unless I happen to have a DVD in my bag, I won’t spend time watching television.  Instead, all of my attention can just be focused on writing.

When I reflected on the different places where I write, I felt that I understood a little bit more about my process as a writer.  I realized that certain settings promote writing more than other places.  The choices that I make when choosing where to write are important and shape me as a writer.  The places where I choose to write impacts what I create and as a result, I should consider my setting when trying to determine exactly what I want to accomplish as a writer on a given day.  Some places support me more as a writer than other places and when writing gets hard, as if often does, I probably need to retreat to those places where I am the most comfortable.

“Watch out for the little deer” #sol15

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Every night when I leave my grandparents’ house, I tell them good night and that I love them.  When my grandfather responds, he also tacks on “and watch out for the little deer.”  I can’t remember exactly when he started telling me that, but it’s become a part of our routine.  Very rarely has he not included this as a part of our nightly ritual and while driving home this evening, I thought about how much those simple words mean to me.  Last summer, we almost lost my grandfather and he continues to battle serious illnesses so I look upon every day with him as a gift not to be taken for granted.  Hearing his words means that we’ve been blessed with another day together.

What Kind of Writer Am I? #sol15

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After reading blog posts by Stacey Shubitz and Michelle Haseltine, I was encouraged to think about what kind of writer I am.  You can check out Stacey’s post at https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2015/05/22/kindofwriter/ and Michelle’s post at http://1gratefulteacher.blogspot.com/2015/05/what-kind-of-writer-am-i.html

What kind of writer am I?

I’m a writer who is a teacher and a graduate student.  As a result, I’m trying to find the balance in my writing life between the personal and the professional (Ruth Ayres wrote a great post that addresses this at http://www.ruthayreswrites.com/2015/05/celebrate-this-week-lxxxiv-84.html), which is not always easy.

I’m a writer who flips back and forth between writing with paper and pen and writing on the computer (or iPad or iPhone).  Sometimes, it just feels right to scribe my ideas into a blank book, while other times, my writing flows more with a digital tool.  Sometimes, it just depends on what’s available, particularly if I’m sitting in line somewhere and I have the urge to write.

I’m a writer who is picky about pens and papers.  My pen has to be just right and I can’t pick up a random pen and expect it to meet my writing needs.  Sometimes I like bold colors, while other times I stick with either black or blue ink.  When I’m composing on a computer or tablet, I often change the font.  I might select Comic Sans, Curlz MT, American Typewriter, Lucida Handwriting, Monotype Corsiva, or Noteworthy.

I’m a writer who revises and edits as I go along.  Sometimes this is a good thing, but sometimes it can also be bad because it’s so easy to get swept away with making changes instead of moving forward with a piece of writing.  Sometimes, the Track Changes feature works for me, but there are also times when I get overwhelmed by that tool.  It just depends on what I’m trying to do.

I’m a writer who sometimes writes at the desk in my office at home.  Other times, I’ll spread my things out on the kitchen table or stretch out in the den floor.  Sometimes, I write while in line at McDonald’s or CVS or any other drive-through.  There have been times when I’ve had to dictate ideas into my smartphone (thanks, Siri!).  Sometimes, I need quiet, but other times, I can write with all of the noise that comes from daily life.

I’m a writer who has learned to celebrate not just the final product, but also to celebrate the process that leads to that final product.  I’ve realized that I need to celebrate the small accomplishments as well as the bigger ones.

I’m a writer who spent a long time avoiding writing because of a bad experience with a class.  With the help of #TeachersWrite and #SOL15, as well as realizing that to teach writing I actually have to be a writer, I have put my fears aside and to embrace my writing life.

I’m a writer who is thankful for this community and all of the support and encouragement that has been given.  This community of writers has enriched my life.  I’m so glad that I stumbled onto #sol15!

That time of year-#sol15

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At the end of the year, I always struggle when it’s time to pack up my classroom for summer cleaning.  It always takes me days to complete this task, no matter what I try to do to facilitate the process.  Things would probably progress a little faster and easier if I wasn’t such a packrat.  I hate to get rid of anything because I’m always afraid that later on, I’ll regret tossing something that I’d thrown out in a cleaning frenzy, even if it’s something I haven’t touched in years.

Realizing that it was time to get busy, I started going through my files to purge anything unnecessary.  I quickly filled up my recycling box, as well as a basket for things that need to be shredded.  I organized files to keep and tried to find a spot for them in my crammed-to-overflowing filing cabinets.  I came across running records from my first year of teaching and decided that it was time to toss them, especially since most of those kids are now high school graduates.  I found minutes from meetings held in 2004 and started humming “Let It Go.”

I also started going through my classroom library to determine what, if anything, needed to be culled.  I chose books to give away while trying to straighten up my guided reading and independent reading libraries.  Somehow, no matter how organized I try to be, copies of books for guided reading get mixed up with independent reading materials and vice versa.  Occasionally, I even find a stray library book months after the original due date.  Often, I come across a book that I’ve forgotten about, so I have to stop, sit down, and re-read it before it can be packed away for the summer.

As I look around at everything that has to be done in the next week, I realize that I’m not ready to say good-bye to the school year.  It’s been a good year with a lot of learning and progress with so much to celebrate.  Maybe I drag my feet when it’s time to pack up my classroom because the empty bookshelves and stack of totes are a visible reminder that the year is over.

Wait! That’s My Exit!

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I was cruising down the interstate early Saturday morning on my way to meet up with two friends for the trip to Richmond to VSRA’s Leadership Team meeting.  It was a beautiful morning.  The sun was rising and it looked like it was going to be a perfect spring day.  I was excited because Saturday’s meeting was my first as a committee member and I eagerly anticipated connecting with other educators from all over the state and increasing my involvement with the state reading council.

My friends, who are the co-presidents for our local reading council and also attend the Leadership Team meetings, invited me to ride along with them and we had chosen a central location to meet.  The place we had chosen was very familiar to me and was only about a thirty minute drive from my house, so I knew exactly where I was going.  I stopped at McDonald’s for a biscuit and iced tea, and as I drove, I thought about many things, from the upcoming week at school, to a presentation that I’ve been working on for a conference this summer.  Then, I started thinking about writing.  I’d had a tough writing week and had battled writer’s block for several painful days.  My drive provided me with the perfect opportunity to reflect on those experiences with writer’s block and to flesh out some ideas that had not yet developed into anything concrete.  The ideas were bouncing around in my head and I was so busy thinking, that I didn’t realize just how far I had traveled.  Suddenly, I looked up and realized that the exit I needed to take was in my rearview mirror!

Luckily, my inattention to the exit wasn’t a huge problem.  About two miles down the road, there was a second exit that I could also take.  While this exit was a little out of the way, it wouldn’t take me too far from my destination.  As I flipped on my blinker, I laughed at myself.  Then, I remembered the old Jeff Foxworthy “You might be a redneck if…” jokes that used to be so popular and decided that this was an example of a “you might be a writer if…” joke.  Maybe my joke could be something like, “you know you’re a writer when you’re so busy thinking about your writing projects that you miss your exit on the interstate!” Well, maybe not.  That’s sounds kind of silly when I say that out loud.  Maybe I should just skip the jokes:)

Anyway, at least I had a funny story to tell my friends when I (finally) arrived at the mall parking lot!

Writer’s block and an attempt at poetry-#sol15

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Writer’s block struck me with a vengeance.  I started several posts, only to reject them.  I took today’s quote at the Two Writing Teachers site to heart.  I just need to write-no filters, no internal critic, no worries.  I need to get some words, any words down onto paper.  Until I became I slicer, I really didn’t write poetry, but that’s what grew out of today’s slice.

A blank piece of paper with empty lines

Pen to paper as words begin to flow

Crossed out lines with arrows drawn

Scribbled quickly, no time to erase

Paper crumpled up, then smoothed back out

Try again.

The Mother-Daughter Construction Company:) #sol15

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Let me start this post with the disclaimer that I am not a carpenter.  I cannot draw a straight line even with a ruler.  However, somehow, I ended up helping my Mom make a new well cover for my grandparents yesterday evening after supper and this was a pretty unusual mother-daughter project!

When I was a child, I tried to steer clear of my grandparents’s well, especially when the well cover was off.  It seemed like a damp, dark, and mysterious place that I had no desire to explore.  I was much more comfortable exploring such places when reading my Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden mysteries.  Thankfully, a wooden cover fit snugly down and over the well.  This cover looked like just a piece of plywood cut to fit the hole, but it had these four pieces of wood that were nailed underneath and prevented the cover from sliding off and exposing the hole.

The cover on the well had deteriorated over time and the wood had warped.  My grandmother had asked my cousin to fix it, but he never did.  So, my Mom decided that we were going to make a new cover for the well.  She found some lumber, nails, and a saw and we set everything up under the tree in my grandparents’ backyard.  Since we didn’t have any sawhorses, we decided to use the picnic table.  The old well top provided a template and soon we were sawing and hammering.  I realized that I had picked a bad day to wear black pants because I was quickly covered in sawdust.

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As we cut and hammered, we laughed at some of the crooked cuts that I made with the saw.  We also giggled when I nailed the new well top to one of the little blocks of wood that acted as a buffer between the picnic table and the main piece of plywood.  Sometimes, it was hard to stay focused on the task because we were laughing too hard.

As I worked with Mom, I thought about how moments like this are precious and need to be stored in our memories (and on videotape-we would have been a shoe-in for America’s Funniest Home Videos!).  I loved having the time to hang out with Mom and I cherish the shared laughter and experience.  Too often, life gets so busy that we forget not only to savor these times, but also to prioritize family and make time to spend together.

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When we finished, we dragged the new top over to the well and held our breath as we slid it into place.  Mom tried to wiggle the top and surprisingly, the new well top actually fit! Now, it just needs a coat of paint, which will probably be our next project!

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(Some of the nails were sticking out, so I had to beat them down a little more-by the way, this is a great stress reliever!)

Blue Lights-#sol15

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I glanced up in the rearview mirror and saw the flash of blue lights.  My heart seemed to stop.  What had I done? I wasn’t speeding-I had just accelerated after sitting at a stop light.  I’d used my turn signal when changing lanes.  I was pretty sure that my tail lights were working.  So why were those lights flashing behind me?

I looked for a place to turn off.  McDonald’s was just ahead.  I used my turn signal again and started to turn into the parking lot, trying to mentally prepare myself.  But, just as I turned into the parking lot, the police car accelerated and sped on past me.

I pulled into a parking space and put the car into park.  The police car had disappeared, but my heart was still hammering and my palms were sweaty on the steering wheel.  I took a couple of deep breaths and finally felt my heart slow down.  Ignoring the urge to swing through the McDonald’s drive thru for a sweet tea and a chocolate chip cookie, I slowly backed up and pulled out of the parking lot, ready to go home.