Writing Tips from Third Graders


#sol17- Day 17/31 March 17, 2017

We have just begun a poetry unit in third grade and yesterday at sharing time I decided to have the third grade writers share some advice. We had created word banks for various emotions and some students used those to inform them as they wrote their drafts.  I talked to the students briefly about some author speak- pantsers and planners. I asked them to identify their preference and based on that think about tips they might offer fellow pantsers or planners (or writers who wanted to try the opposite strategy). I must interject that I am a complete pantser- I feel like a fraud when I introduce various planning strategies, as I am terrible at planning in my own writing.

The class was split, with a preference toward pantsers.

The Planners suggest:

  • trying out various kinds of plans
  • writing a few drafts and try them out with a partner
  • making lists
  • talk with a writing partner throughout the process
  • use charts
  • use a word bank

The Pantsers suggest:

  • reading aloud your draft to revise
  • go with the flow and trust your quick reactions
  • start quickly
  • know your subject well before you start writing
  • look for inspiration
  • write fast and then check
  • talk with a writing partner after you draft

I love that these writers already have some affiliation as members of a group of writers. We also talked about how our preference to be a pantser or planner can vary depending on what we are working on and some things outside of our control.

Yahoo for empowered writers!

Resets Help!


#sol17- Day 16/31- March 16, 2017

Yesterday was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day in our class. You can read all about it in yesterday’s slice, but suffice it to say, it was! After reflecting last night I came in determined to make it a better day today.

We started with Morning Meeting and I wanted their ideas, so here was my question:


We had a parent in as a guest reader and the students were the best audience! I then shared yesterday’s post and shared responses and I told them that I knew together we could make today better.

We had a busy morning of poetry writing (which ironically included creating word banks for feelings) and spirited debates in book clubs. As we lined up for recess one of my wonderful ones slipped me this note: unnamed-1.jpg

In talking to the messenger it turns out that it was a peace offering- an apology for her part in yesterday’s drama. Of course, I happily accepted the apology.

The day continued well. At lunch recess once a week I allow the students who want the time to come in and read and write freely to do so, and about a third did so (a few forgot and regretted it later) and so they chatted and wrote companionably.

During math students were partnered randomly to work on a project and all were productive. We finished the day with a lesson in how to upload videos to our class YouTube channel to post on our blogs (as EasyBlogger, our former method, is not working).

The positive energy was back. This does not mean the day was perfect- there were still a few moments where feelings were hurt, people made poor choices, or things did not go as smoothly as one would like, but today we were definitely a community of learners in it together. I am so grateful for resets! Phew!


Today Was Hard


#sol17- Day 15/31 March 15, 2017

Today was hard- really hard. Students were upset- upset with me and each other. Days like this hit me hard because it matters. I want us all to feel good and safe and happy at school, and some days it just feels like the balance is not there. I am hoping it was just a blip and that tomorrow will be better. When there are days like this I look inward first- what did I do that I could have done differently. I will admit that today I was a bit at a loss- there did not seem to be any one thing, so I looked at several things. Next, I look for solutions- how can I help to make things better? In this case I talked to the people who seemed most involved and affected. I also talked to the whole class and told them that I never wanted them to feel like I do not care or that someone is a favorite and they are not. I want them all to feel valued, because they are who they are. Finally, and here is my current struggle, I look forward- how can I help to prevent these kinds of days again? I think here that catching upset earlier may help (or at least that is my hope).

Here I sit, still mulling things over long after the school day is over. I sometimes wish I could turn off the “replays” in my brain. It all makes me think of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Some days can be like that, even in Kuala Lumpur.

The Weather Calculation Game


#sol17- Day 14/31 March 14, 2017

I have to admit I NEVER look at a weather forecast here. For giant swathes of time you know what to expect; it is always hot and at certain times of year you can anticipate a late afternoon/early evening thunderstorm.

Today after school I had my after school activity, then I hitched a ride to my second ever Pilates class (see last week for lesson #1). As the class progressed the sky outside darkened, so that by 5:30 when class was ending it was pretty dark in the fitness room, in spite of the wall of glass exposing us to the scrutiny of every passer by (okay, maybe my insecurities imagined the careful looks, as I am pretty sure nobody was interested in what we were doing).

I was happy to get a taxi pretty quickly and I only got a few drops of rain on me as I scurried to the car and here is where I had to choose my odds. Would I be able to make it to the mall next door to home and pick up a take away dinner, or should I head straight home? There was almost no traffic, thunder was rumbling, but the sky had not fully opened, so I decided to take on the weather challenge.

I got to the mall, changed out of my sweatpants in the bathroom (oh vanity, a few minutes lost) and headed downstairs. Now I was torn- pizza or a sub? Pizza would be more delicious, more filling, and take longer. A sub would be quicker and cheaper, and after all I was not that hungry.

I went with a sub, but by the time I made ouside it was raining, hard! Now another calculation- to wait out the storm or make a dash for it? I decided to brave the storm, after all, I had an umbrella and my building is nearby. I opened my umbrella only to have it turn inside out- useless! Then I decided to continue on my way. I carried my two bags and yoga mat and made my way across the construction site between the two buildings. All was well until I hit street level- it always floods on the “protected area” for pedestrians. Taking giant steps I tried to guess where the more shallow parts of puddles were and balanced one Birkenstocked foot at a time as I made my way through the muddy path.

I arrived home drenched, but not muddy- and I will take that as a win, as the rain is still pummeling the pavement outside and I know I would have run out of patience being stranded away from home.

Poets’ Eyes


#sol17- Day 13/31 March 13, 2017

We started our poetry unit

 my students are wowing me

 they know where to put the words

 to create the images

and evoke the emotion

sharing bravely

It is times like this that I am reminded

we are all teachers

we are all learners

and those that look at the world with poets’ eyes

can write to my heart.

Working to Travel


#sol17- Day 12/31 March 12, 2017

For most of my adult life I have lived outside of the US, so it is no surprise that my sons love to travel. I have just got off Skype with my older son. He graduated with a BA in Psychology and then worked as a beer manager at a liquor store in Boston for four years. Although he loved being a beer expert there was not much chance for advancement. Along the way, while working full time, he decided to get a TEFL certificate to open up more opportunities, as he has always wanted to move back overseas. He was all set to go two years ago, but then was offered more responsibility at work, so he hung on.

Last summer it became clear that things were getting more chaotic at work, so he took the plunge and applied to teach in South Korea. He quickly landed a job at an after school tutoring center and August 1 he started.

In talking to him today it is funny to hear his take on teaching. This semester he has lots of younger students with more beginning English. The teaching he does is very workbook based and he has little choice in how or what he teaches. I keep encouraging him to get a degree in education so that he can be an international school teacher with me.

The bottom line is that he works to travel. He has traveled around Korea, been to Vietnam, Hong Kong, and has plans for more of Korea (including the DMZ) Malaysia, Japan, and Thailand (but he wants to do more) before his year is up. He is an outdoor fan, so is excited that spring is starting to make its presence known and can enjoy more local sights. In talking to him today he would like to stay one more year, but I know that the traveling bug will not be out of his system even then (he is already talking about the possibility of graduate school in Korea or Germany).

The travel bug is hard to cure!

Why Can’t You Teach an Old Cat a New Trick?


#sol17- Day 11/31 March 11, 2017

I know there is a saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” but I wish I could teach my old cat just one new trick! Pele (named by my sons 14 1/2 years ago. Yes they are soccer fans, she is female, but Pele is also the Hawaiian goddess of the volcano) and I are all alone now. At one point there were six of us living together, but since then I have divorced, my two sons have grown up and moved out, and a year and a half ago Pele’s litter mate died.

Pele has always been snuggly (also known as clingy), but as time has passed she has become even more attached to me. When I walk in the door she comes running in dog-like fashion. When I sit on the couch she is usually as close to me as she can be, if not actually on my lap. I thought the worst of this is that she likes to sleep on my pillow at night, but I have changed my mind.

The worst is she wants company early in the morning. Pele is an early riser, usually waking between 4:30 and 5:15, though truth be told I am often not sure who has woken who up. My weekday alarm goes off at 5:15, so this is often not a huge deal (although I blame her for stealing those last minutes of shut eye). My weekend alarm is rarely set, but sadly Pele does not consult a calendar. Last night I was up late, which should have clued Pele in to the fact that today is Saturday. Unfortunately, Pele must have heard her internal alarm clock chiming because before 5 she was meowing incessantly. If I close my bedroom door she scratches on it, so her meows shocked me awake. She does not settle down until I get up, and it is never because she needs food or water, she just seems to think I need to be out of bed.

So I dutifully got up to read on the couch and what does she do? She falls asleep peacefully next to me-if only I had those napping skills. So the new trick I need to teach Pele is to sleep in on weekends! Even my kids learned that trick in their teen years, so maybe there is still hope. Weekends are my chance to catch up on sleep, but not with Pele on the job.