Monthly Archives: August 2016

Here’s to a Tuesday…


#sol- Here’s to a Tuesday (that felt like a Friday)

August 30. 2016

Today was our fourth Tuesday of the school year, but it felt a bit like a Friday. There were reasons both good and not so good for this. The not so good includes that the haze is back (haze is what they call the terrible pollution here that is mostly the result of the seasonal burning of land in the palm plantation areas of Indonesia. The smoke drifts here and makes the air TERRIBLE). The hazy weather makes everyone feel sick-symptoms range from sinus infections, to sore throats, wheezing, and more. It makes us feel sooooo sleepy! Yesterday the air was bad enough that the students were not allowed out for lunch recess. Today it was worse, so for the playtime that students usually have before school they were sent to their classrooms. Starting with students 20 minutes earlier than usual was hard when I had a parent conference scheduled for that same time. So my day began with a hurried conference in our team area while I kept an eye on my students as they started their day.  No snack recess or lunch recess outside later either, which made for some disappointed students (and maybe some teachers too). Did I mention the grade level assistant was out, as well, so we all had extra duties? As it is so early in the year we had not really prepared the students for what indoor recess entailed, so it was (a bit) chaotic and things were left (in a bit of) a mess overall.

The good reasons today felt like a Friday? We have the day off tomorrow since it is Merdeka Day (the public holiday commemorating the independence of the Federation of Malaya from British colonial rule in 1957). There have been many military planes flying overhead the last few days as they practice for the big day, and I will be glad to have the skies a bit quieter. So, after a mid-week

So, after a mid-week holiday we will be back at school on Thursday before we have our next Friday. This sounds nice in theory, but in practice it is early in the year and it is hard to disrupt our routine. Our 6-day rotating schedule is confusing enough! Thursday will be Day 5. Our calendar has other mid-week days off in the future. This country that has people from many different cultures seems to almost always be preparing for a celebration!

We will be glad for the extra day of rest next week when Open House is on Monday night (why a Monday I ask myself- Thursday night is my favorite night for late at school evenings). Busy, busy, busy!

Writing Like a Third Grader


#sol- Writing Like a Third Grader

August 23, 2016

Today I was humbled (again). We are in the part of the writing unit where I am supposed to introduce the grade three narrative writing checklist to the students. We looked at a sample third grade piece of writing and we discussed which parts should be rated “not yet”, “starting to”, or “yes!”. It was easy to go through and find proof of our assessment. Then came the hard part. We were each to turn to our most recent writing and self-assess it. We looked critically at our writing and searched for proof of our ratings.

As their teacher, I felt it only fair to look at my own writing through this lens. Keep in mind that I am many years past third grade. There are 12 criteria, yet in only three areas did I rate a “yes!” (and they were in punctuation and spelling). While I talked with my students about the need to set high standards for ourselves, and not talk ourselves into overrating, it was still humbling. Okay, so this piece in my school writing notebook was written for this unit, it was not writing I did for myself or for my blog, but still… I am asking them to do hard work!

It is in moments like this that I remember the reasons that I am a teacher who writes. Today’s lesson filled me with empathy for the writers who have so many goals they do not know what to work on most or first. I also understand the writers who see the end goal as being so far away from where they are today. I also face the challenge of continuing to work hard to improve a piece, even though the first draft was what you may have considered your best, or good enough. I love being able to talk honestly with my students about how hard it is to be a writer and today they got a close look at my checklist, to see firsthand that their teacher is working on goals too.

Tuesday Treats- Some Change Is Hard to Accept


#sol- Tuesday Treats- Some Change Is Hard to Accept

August 16, 2016

Almost a year and a half ago I decided I had to make a change to be a better teacher. I knew that as a teacher of writers I should be a writer, but my efforts until then had been haphazard at best. March 2015 I finally joined in the March Slice of  Life Challenge, even though I had been reading and commenting before. After that crazy month I decided I would continue and slice weekly, and I have. Some writing is better than none I decided. In the summers I have participated in Teachers Write (since its inception) and the summer is when I often make better use of a writer’s notebook too. Last January Kathleen Sokolowski wrote a great post on TWT calling on us all to be leading the way to raise the profile of teachers as writers. I joined the Voxer group, wrote some more, led a PD about teacher-writers, but still- find writing hard! In March I sliced again for 31 days. I am not a quick writer (and let’s not even talk about my lack of keyboarding skills). I am not a creative writer. I do not feel particularly called to be a writer. I enjoy it well enough, but to be honest I often write because I know I should, not because I really feel the need. But still I write (not every day- I did when it was a sticky note’s worth, so I should at least return to that).

Here’s the thing- I love reading other people’s writing, so I make deals with myself. I tell myself I can not read any slices until I have written my own. I reward myself on Tuesdays to keep going. One way I have rewarded myself is with a delicious dinner on “Slice Night”. Last year it became a habit to stop off at the nearby Japanese restaurant for sushi on Tuesdays. Sometimes  I would eat there and start to think about my post while munching away. Other times I would bring the sushi home and get a start while devouring the tasty treats. Last spring I found out the restaurant would be relocating in August. Sadly, when I returned to Kuala Lumpur on July 22nd it was already gone- no last celebratory meal for me. Somehow now I need to start a new tradition for Tuesdays, so tonight I am brewing a cup of cammomile tea as a reward for writing and a treat to savor as I read the words of others.

#pb10for10 (late again) Mentor Texts for 3rd Grade Writing Units


Apologies for posting late- students started on the 9th and I knew I should write early, but life got in the way!

This year I was inspired by my week at TCRWP’s June Writing Institute and Stacey Shubitz’s fab new book, Craft Moves. I want to improve my use of mentor texts to help teach writers this year, so I have selected two main mentor texts for each unit we will teach this year in third grade. My plan this year is to also use these same books (and others) to teach grammar through mentor sentence study. I tried to use some old and new favorites and include different perspectives. Please let me know which titles you would add!


Personal Narrative:

Come On, Rain


Last Stop on Market Street


(also Yard Sale)


These will all be used within the first few weeks of school and will also spark conversations about books being windows and mirrors.

Information Books:

Deadliest Animals!


We had the opportunity to Skype with Melissa Stewart last year and the students got so much out of it! Her website is amazing too!

The Slug (new to me, thanks to Stacey!)


(also Coral Reefs and A Rock Is Lively, because how can you resist the way these two put words on the page). )



Persuasive Letters, Editorials, Speeches, and Petitions:

Our science unit at this time is Ecosystems, so the last two link with that as well.

One Word from Sophia


A Pig Parade Is a Terrible Idea


(also Dear Greenpeace, No Monkeys, No Chocolate)1169669.gif



Old Elm Speaks


Poems in the Attic


(also not a picture book Love That Dog)











Fairy Tales/Intro to Fantasy

Cheers to unexpected twists on traditional fairy tales (yes, we read the traditional too).

Prince Cinders


Clever Jack Takes the Cake


The year is only 4 days old and we have already shared at least 6 picture books. I look forward to sharing these 10 (oops 15, plus one that is not a picture book) as our main writing mentor texts as the year goes on. Please do let me know if there are others I should add to our third grade list!



#sol- Wahoo!

August 9, 2016

The first day of school (today) was filled with so many highlights. It was nervewracking waiting for all the students to arrive (you’d think after ALL these years I would be calm), but once they arrived it was go, go, go. We spent time building community, learning names, sharing read alouds (The Story of Fish and Snail and Ish  helped us talk about our goals for the year). We watched a short video (of Colby Sharp proclaiming his love of reading) and then I might have jumped up on a table to extol my own love of reading too. We talked a bit about what math is, and why people read and write. We talked about the kind of group we want to be.

At the end of the day we got together to share some of what we had learned this first day of third grade, we talked about what we would share at home, and hugs or high fives were exchanged. It’s going to be a great year, but phew am I tired!

#sol-Today I Remembered


August 2, 2016

Today I Remembered

Today I remembered why I decided to go in to school for the last few days of my break. Those days in my quiet classroom gave me time to reflect on the changes I wanted to make in the layout, the things I needed to start looking for (read alouds for the first days, “getting to know you” activities, new organizational systems and more).

Today was the first teacher work day and I was happy to be there, but also happy to not be seeing my classroom for the first time, happy to not be jetlagged, happy to have already have started activating my school brain. Our day was full of meetings, with short bursts of time to spend time socializing and catching up. The morning was a whole school “assembly” introducing new faculty and new initiatives. In the afternoon we had time to get to know our new principal, our colleagues, and a more in depth view of curriculum office work completed recently. We have a new principal and it was clear that she knew the value of both the social and the work. We are lucky to have five teacher work days, so although we never have enough classroom preparation time we know we have some.

Today I remembered that I am the kind of person who needs transition time, so the days before everyone else was there was time well spent, even if I did not accomplish much.

One of the messages we kept getting today was that we should be all that we are. To me this means accepting where we are and looking to where we want to be. Reading back over this I can see many reminders for me as I plan the first days of school. There will be students who also need that ease in time, while others will hit the ground running. There will be plenty who enter jetlagged, some who need the time to socialize first.

A week from today is our first day with students and by then I will be ready!