Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 31 - I did it, 2nd year in a row!!

This year, I wasn't so worried.

Not like last year. Last year was my first year doing this challenge. Last year, I was worried. I wasn't sure about the technology. Could I post a blog entry daily? Would I have a topic to write about every day? Would I have time to read and leave a comment? Would anyone give me a comment?

This year, I made 31 entries.
I gave at least three comments every day.
I did it!!
And I received 128 comments.

I wasn't expecting how much the comments would mean to me - both getting them and giving them. The process involved in commenting is so powerful. When reading others' slices, I noticed the craft moves made and thought about whether I could try this same craft move in my writing. I especially noticed what craft moves made me laugh or cry and then tried to write to elicit similar emotions. I would notice possible genres and structures of writing I could try. Without reading other slices, my slices would have been same old, same old. Probably all small moments.

But instead, I wrote:
3 poems
2 letters
5 memoirs
4 reviews
4 essays
3 informational pieces
and 10 small moments.

I spent lots of time revising and editing. This year I consciously tried to add hyperlinks and photos. I can now use the "LINK" button and photo button in blogspot! I can point to many places in my writing where the word choice and the structure and the elaboration are stronger than my writing from last March. A part of me feels surprised by this reflection. Yet, another part hears the saying "You get better at writing by writing." Of course, you do!

I can't thank the TwoWritingTeachers enough. Thank you for providing this space for a community of writers to gather. Thank you to all who left me comments. They gave me the energy to keep going. Thank you to my friends who did the challenge with me - Scott, Mary, Fran and Marilyn - I loved getting to know you all more through your stories and having your actually physical presence gave me energy to keep going. And know I can add Tara and Fran and Catherine to this list as I have met you too, though briefly! Finally, thank you to the 5th grade Janney students. So many of you wrote optional small moment stories and that also gave me energy to keep going.

Though I independently wrote and posted daily to the blog, I am so grateful that I could be together with so many SOL writers. As I celebrate today with my students - An Orange Party complete with the wearing of orange clothing and eating orange food - Scrabble Chees-its), I plan to show the scene from the movie The Wizard of Oz. That moment when Dorothy gets hit in her bedroom during the twister and then awakes, walks to the front door of her house and opens the door. Suddenly, the screen goes from black and white to vibrant techno-color! She begins to walk with Toto and says, "I'm not in Kansas anymore." Being part of a writing community has this same feeling - during March, as I wrote daily, I was so many other places. Just as Dorothy, I was on an adventure that only writing my stories can lead!!

Thank you Fran! I LOVE the roses!!!

Monday, March 30, 2015

March 30 - Before That

I entered my house, sat down on the couch, and closed my eyes for a moment, before making dinner

Before that, I walked my homeroom class downstairs for afternoon dismissal

Before that, I reminded M to pass out his birthday donuts, but "just to those students who are sitting and writing"

Before that, my homeroom class and I stood, according to height and said "Cheese" as the visiting photographer took our class photo for the school yearbook

Before that, my homeroom class listened to the writing mini-lesson and began to write independently

Before that, I sat next to O from Ms F class who has trouble focusing and when his pencil stopped, I said another prompt, to keep him writing ("For example...another example...I realize...Some people think...But I think....")

Before that, I sat with the team and the administration to discuss a prank-texting occurrence by some students

Before that, I took bites of my lunch while writing sub plans as tomorrow I need to be out

Before that, I sat with the 5 students from Ms L's class who did not put up their thumb when they heard "Thumbs up if you know what memory you want to write about now in your notebook" and I brainstormed with these 5 writers, until all had a story to go off and write

Before that, I watched the district evaluator come through my door after the first group of writing students arrived and my heart began to beat a bit faster, even though I had control of the first writing class of the day and had an engaging lesson ready to deliver

Before that, I was greeted by A who said, "Good Morning, Mrs. Donnelly. I am rooting for Duke" and I greeted F by saying, "Good Morning, F. I am rooting for UVA"

Before that, I turned the alarm off at 5:23am, showered, dressed, grabbed breakfast at Starbucks and drove to school, ready for a fun, busy day

Before that, I plugged in my phone that read Sunday - 11:11pm next to my bed, feeling ready to start a week of generating memoir ideas with my students during Writing Workshop

Sunday, March 29, 2015

March 29 - Highlights of my day at TCRWP 88th Saturday Reunion

1. Kathy Collins suggested a way to know more about a reader is to look at a reader's SHELFIE - a photo of the stack of books they recently have read. What can we infer about this reader? Who in the room do you think matches THIS "Shelfie" photo? This reminds me of tweeting out this picture of my kindle of what I read over Winter Break:
What does this tell you about ME, the reader of these four books?

2. Lucy has me wanting to teach READING again (presently, I teach 5th grade writing). The grade-level specific Reading Units of Study come out in a few months (click HERE foor info ) and she gave a workshop overview of them. She reminded us that both reading and writing need to be taught differently now in the 21st century. Then she challenged us: What are the pathways of my teaching to get students to read in this new way? She suggested in her hour workshop doing three things:
* Kids need to be assessed in reading using a running record and the data needs to be used and valued. It can be an informal RR - as they read their own book, listen and note their rate and miscues and then tell the reader what level of book to read.
* Running Records aren't enough. Performance assessments (developed and included in the new Reading Units of Study!) based on a progression of reading skills need to be used. This provides a clear pathway for a reader to know what they are able to do and what needs to be done. How to get better at a skill is named and known because the progressions name the skill, grade by grade so a skill can be deliberately practiced!
"Deliberate practice of a skill makes us better, not just doing a skill."

*Writing About Reading - we need to show HOW to write about reading in Reading Workshop. Mentor texts showing how the writing of a post-it needs to be shared and displayed so when writers stop to jot, they are using this non-reading time wisely.

3. Kylene Beers - this was my first first hearing this funny, smart voice of literacy. A Texan, she was appropriately wearing very cool red cowboy boots! I was able to get a seat for her first workshop on Fiction. As I was leaving, the line to get in was 3x as big as the room. All wanted to hear about her new book coming out - Notes and Notices for reading Nonfiction which she talked about in the next session.

In this session, she walked us through the Six Signposts to look for when reading fiction. I honestly have not taught using this language but I own her book and have skimmed it. Hearing her, it makes perfect sense to me as to why it works. As Ellin Keene got readers to notice what THEY were doing as they read (connecting, questioning, inferring, etc), Kylene tells us to notice what is happening to the CHARACTER and to pay close attention when the character acts out of character or has an ah-ha moment. Notice when another character asks a tough question of the character. Notice when something keeps appearing or is repeated again and again. When these moments are noticed, the reader is sure to get what the author is really saying through this book. Kylene's strategies build on how I thought about reading comprehension and I need to actually READ her whole book and get her new Nonfiction book coming out soon.

She also had us read a poem called Forgive My Guilt by Robert Tristram Coffin (read it here)
With a partner, we were to fill in the chart Somebody-Wanted-But-So for the narrator and for the birds. Then she asked for volunteers to share sentences written. She asked us: Was the hunting deliberate? Accidental? What is the text evidence? She had us notice words we didn't immediately know, like frostflower, headland, plover, and quicksilver. This summary lesson still has me thinking about this poem! And such a simple strategy - using SWBS chart!

4. Shana Frazin - Help Students Love Rehearsal, Revision and Checklists: Tap the Power of Merging Joy with Assessment. She joked that the real title is Turning the Titanic! She walked us through an inquiry lesson on What is Revision? After stating what we know, she told us to look at some writing and to notice: 1) what revision work did the writer make? 2) how did the revision affect us, the audience? 3) as educators, what was the teaching that happened between the two pieces of writing
Here's two of the before/after writing pieces she shared:

The last part of the inquiry asked us to complete this sentence: I used to think that revision was ___ and now I think revision is ____.

A gem that she shared at the end was a way to help the checklists work better for student writers.
She reminded us of the brilliance of the writing checklists - the same 3 categories (structure, development and conventions) across the three genres (narrative, NF, and essay) and the same skills with in each category. Maybe to help our students, we hang 3 charts up, one for each category. In the first column, we list the skill (the part of their writing, like lead), the middle column, we add the words from the checklist that is the grade-level expectation of this part. Then in the last column, we add an example. We talk about if this example meets the expectation and why.

WOW - Shana - you are SO clear. I'll be tweeting the charts I make and how the Revision Inquiry lesson goes with my 5th graders next week as I'm determined to turn this lesson you taught me around with my students!
5. Mary - Good to Great Pathways and Ladders for Strong Writers so They May Become Extraordinary - Teaching in a school with lots of great writers, I loved hearing from Mary ways to help these top students. As she said, often these are the kids who get the least attention because a teacher's time gets sucked up by the struggling writers. Yet, these strong writers deserve attention so they don't just get good but can become brilliant writers.

* Make sure you actually confer with them
* Pair them up with other STRONG writers
* Suggest meeting with them at extra times or outside of class - give them the encouragement and the opportunity to work hard on this skill that they are strong in
* Offer them tools - the checklist at the next higher grade, a different mentor text, different inquiry questions

* Show them how to draft an entirely different draft - use a different style, write it for a different audience, try the 1st paragraph 5 different ways. She reminded us that this is the strategy suggested by Don Murray, Steven King and Mark Twain!

* Do serious and open ended inquiry work with a mentor text.
For example, use technology - she showed us the music video of Wake me Up by Avicii and asked us to think about the work the author is doing with SETTING. How is the setting important?
Click here to watch Wake Me Up  Then she played it again, turning off the sound and voicing over a story as the images appear emphasizing the setting. Then she suggested: Now try this SETTING WORK in your writing. Mary - you are so brilliant!!

6. Final Keynote by Kylene Beers
I feel lucky that I got a seat in Riverside church as my one friend stopped to use the bathroom and got closed out and could come in. The nave and both balconies were filled. As I read tweets afterwards, Amanda Hartman tweeted "4,000 people today, wow!" This was my 12th reunion - I've come every Fall and Spring following my first Summer Institute in 2009. It definitely felt more crowded. More and more, teachers want to learn HOW to do literacy work well. And in my opinion (and probably the opinion of the 4,000 around me yesterday), TCRWP is THE place to learn.

Kylene opened by pondering What do I believe about teaching?
"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
She then gave a brief overview of the history of education in America. She pointed out that literacy has always been tied to wealth. First, you were considered literate if you could sign your name, sometimes just by making an X.  Next, great penmanship was valued (clearly, the poorest didn't have time to write using beautiful penmanship). Then great speeches and poetry recitation. During WWI, the assembly line led to analysis and things like diagraming sentences and cliff notes. But now, she remarked, instead of taking things apart, we need to put things together. 

We need education practices to not just be interesting, but to be relevant. She suggested we need CHOICE, a curriculum based on more than tests, and that through literature we teach COMPASSION. Only than can those with power through literacy can use their privilege to learn how to navigate life well. 

7. Meeting Slicers at The Kitchette!! Hi Tara, Catherine and Fran!!
Far right is Fran - see her reunion reflection HERE
Middle is Catherine - see her blog HERE
Far left is Tara - see her blog HERE

So glad I went to the TCRPW 88th Saturday Reunion.
So glad I know it is worthwhile to spend all day learning on a Saturday, miles away from my home.
So glad I have a place to write about it here to share these great ideas with others who also believe that teaching literacy well is important.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

March 28 - Currently


sitting on the train headed north

watching the sky begin to get brighter

munching on a protein-rich powerbar

sipping my Starbuck's venti hot-chocolate with no whip-cream

chatting with my friend about books and methods

anticipating all the smart ideas I'll hear all day long

rereading the pages of workshop offerings

jotting down the 20+ talks I want to hear

preparing to only have time to hear 4 plus the keynotes

tweeting "I'm on my way to #TCRWP Saturday Reunion"

 What are you doing, currently?

Friday, March 27, 2015

March 27 - Birthday Letter to Brian

Dear Brian,
Happy Birthday!!

Last year, on your 50th birthday, this picture was taken of our project:


Today, on your 51st birthday, these pictures were taken of our project:

Neither of us expected that our project would still be a work in progress after a full year.
However, I truly believe that in another year, we WILL live in our project, our completed project.

We will awake on the 3rd floor each morning when the sun streams into the big, bedroom window.
We will slink out of bed and walk across the radiant floor for a morning shower.
We will sip coffee on the rooftop deck as we read the morning paper.
We will watch Jeopardy after work in the 2nd floor TV room.
We will prep and cook and grab a beer from the street-facing kitchen.
We will entertain in the double-height dining room space and onto the backyard deck.
We will retire to read before bed in front of the living room fireplace.

Neither of us expected that our project would take so long to complete.
This whole past year, you were architect, designer, project manager, quality controller, lawyer, bank negotiator, tour-guide dad, and calm husband. Soon, we WILL inhabit 5218 N 12th Street.

May all your wishes come true this birthday!
This amazing house you are creating for us is making mine come true!
Happy Birthday!

* photos from www.whiteouthouse.tumblr.com

Thursday, March 26, 2015

March 26 - To slice - definitely not in Kansas anymore!

Yesterday I shared lines from three of my favorite movies (inspired by my daughter's trip to Austria to see where the Sound of Music was filmed (another all-time favorite film of mine).

When I recall my favorite films, I recall these lines:
1. "M-A-R-R-I-A-G-E"
This is a line delivered v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y by the priest in The Princess Bride as Princess Buttercup and her not-true love are being united in marriage. I'm reminded now that Buttercup is played by actress, Robin Wright, the same actress that plays Claire Underwood so well in the series, House of Cards. If I was asked to compare these two characters (say like as a PARCC Literary esssay response!) I do think similarities and differences exist. In both, the female character is striving for true love only to be manipulated by the men around her. I think I'll rewatch this movie soon with House of Cards in mind. (I don't need to rewatch House of Cards - it is fresh in my mind as I sliced about it on Day 3 HERE )
2. "Let's be independent together."
This line is delivered by Rudolph to the misfit dentist-wannabe, Herby. They decide to go off to find the Island of Misfit Toys and cleverly say this line. I've always loved this line. It seems to be the opposite because being independent implies going it alone. Yet, it always feels better to me to not be alone, to be part of a community, whether it is family, school, work, friends. Even as I enourage my student writers to be independent, I know by being together as a writing community, we are stronger. Hey, maybe that is what SLICERS are - being independent together! I also relate to these two misfits who are both so brilliant in their own way, yet feel inferior. Don't we all feel that way at time? I know I do.
3. "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
This is stated by Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. It is that magical moment in the movie that I still recall so vividly as I watched it on TV as a child. That moment when the movie transformed from being in black and white to being in COLOR! The streets of yellow immediately appear so vibrant. The colors everywhere so bright. And clearly, Dorothy and her dog were "not in Kansas anymore."  

Looking back at all three of these films, I see connections. If asked to discuss the theme across these films (say like on a PARCC ELA assessment), I would highlight the theme of a journey and each of the above lines could be my text evidence. In one, the journey to find true love. In another, a journey to fit in. In the third, a journey home, because there is "no place like home". 
Not to sound too sappy, but being part of THIS writing community for 26 days plus 31 last year has been such a worthwhile journey, one where I am finding my true love while being together as I write independently. To slice - definitely not in Kansas anymore!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 25th - What movies stick with YOU?

My daughter is on Spring Break and she went to Europe to see her sister in France and included a trip to Salzburg, Austria. Yesterday she posted pictures to facebook with this statement:

The Sound of Music was my favorite film, growing up. I must have watched it over 100 times over the years. I even distinctly remember that I turned 7 on a Tuesday and therefore obviously wanted a pink parasol, just like Marta. Yesterday I explored the locations where the movie was filmed. So amazing!

Stories, whether read or viewed, do stick with us. 

When I recall my favorite films, I recall these lines:
1. "M-A-R-R-I-A-G-E"
2. "Let's be independent together."
3. "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
(Can you identify the movie? Answers tomorrow!)

What STORY sticks with you?
What LINE sticks with you?!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

March 24 - new births

A few hours ago, my one friend sent me a text that read "Jill is pushing." I immediately sent back a text that read "OMG!!!" to which she replied "I am so excited I can barely breathe!" Her baby is having a baby! She's also a fellow slicer and has written about this anticipated birth a few times this month. I predict more slices on this topic during our last days of this writing challenge. (To read her slice about this from yesterday, click here. My favorite line from that slice is:
Once you become a mother, there is no going back, no career change...

An hour later I got an email from a couple I am friends with. It read, "It's a boy". Their oldest delivered her third boy. Then another email arrived with a photo attached showing the wife holding the new baby, head covered with dark hair and all wrapped up in the hospital white with blue and pink striped blanket. I replied back, "Two angles!"

WOW - two new babies joined the families of two of my friends today.

In the photo attachment to the email, my friend in Virginia is holding a new bundle of joy, her fifth grandchild. When the 3rd and 4th grandbabies were born, her daughter lived in Colorado and my friend flew out each time to help her daughter with the new arrivals. Over a year ago, though, my friend changed. She started getting confused. She started talking in only short phrases, mostly mimicking words she heard. The daughter, her husband and the two grandkids moved from Colorado to Virginia to help out. Today, my friend holds her 5th grandbaby. If she could express herself, she would tell me how soft his skin feels She'd tell me how much hair is on his head. She'd tell me how she held the baby at the hospital while her daughter rested. She'd tell me how excited her other grandkids are - now big brothers. Yet, her words don't come anymore. Yet, she told me all that through the email photo today.

Thinking back to my other friend's words -
"Once you become a mother, there is no going back, no career change..."

I do agree, except when the mother is no longer capable of all the job requirements of mother. Then the child starts being the "mother" for her mother. Yet, a new baby, ALL can hold and enjoy!

Monday, March 23, 2015

March 23 - People are reading my writing from ALL around the globe

Saturday I had 14 people comment on my slice. Sunday I had 9. Yes, definitely the most comments in one weekend, which probably was a direct result of the fun Comment Challenge suggested by the TwoWritingTeachers. (Great ideas and great prize!)

The volume of comments had me do something different. Usually, I just read a comment, smile and have that jolt that happily motivates me to keep writing. This time I decided, for the first time, to actually use the blog as one way it is intended to be used. I replied to many of the comments I received. When I began this virtual dialogue, I discovered some things:

Kristi teaches 5th grade, just like me, but in an international school in Lebanon.
Alan lives in Australia and is a published author of a book I think I should buy about how he helped his students learn to write.
Beverly was a teacher for 36 years and now is retired and discovering art again. I'm only at year 23...
Marcie lives in upstate NY and loves TCRWP, just like I do.
Mary Ann lives in Ireland.
Darlene, in Chicago.
Fran is from Iowa. I follow her on twitter and will look for her Saturday at the TCRPW Saturday Reunion as she is coming all the way from Iowa. (And to think, I almost wasn't going to take the 3 hour train ride from DC to NYC)
Ms Victor is the comment that got me started on this hunt to find out WHERE people actually live. She posted:
 You have put into words what I have been thinking as this challenge has progressed. I am definitely getting more out of it than I thought I would! I want to live somewhere that gives me easy access to lots of authors!

After reading this, I wondered WHERE does she live? When I clicked on her name, I discovered she lives in Malaysia!

I discovered this weekend a new reason why comments can be so motivating. Somehow, when I know that someone far away, who also loves reading and writing as much as I do, is reading my slice and taking time to write a comment, it makes me smile and it REALLY makes me want to write more. TwoWritingTeachers - you rock!! This March Challenge gets better and better!

This slice was written by a humble slicer living in Arlington, VA, a county across the river from Washington, D.C. but connected to thoughtful writers around the globe via the internet @ https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/

Sunday, March 22, 2015

March 22 - inspired by TEDtalks

This week I watched two TEDtalks that I've suggested others to watch.
To make it easier, here are the links along with why I liked them:

1. Marc Kushner's talk is called Why the buildings of the future will be shaped by you. Being married to an architect, I was immediately drawn to watch this talk, as I am drawn to all things architecturally. I agree with his idea stated in the beginning that we spend "90% of our time indoors surrounded by architecture" and that architecture makes us feel. He points out that architects use symbols as what he calls "a predictable emotional trick" to get us to feel a certain way when surrounded by a certain kind of architecture.  He ends by suggesting that we should all work with architects to create the spaces we want to live in, feel in.

I know I am lucky. My husband has designed a house for us. One of the principles of the house is to bring the outside in. Whatever room I stand in, I will have more than one view to the outside and all the windows are wide and long. On the second floors, it literally feels like I'm in a treehouse! On the third floor, I can sit on the rooftop terrace! I know I will love the feeling of living in this house once it is completed!

I encourage you to listen to Marc and then think about the SPACES you like being in.
Click HERE to hear architect, Marc Kushner's TEDtalk

2. David Eagleman is a neuroscientist whose talk is called Can we create new senses for humans? The introduction to the talk states: As humans, we can perceive less than a ten-trillionth of all light waves. “Our experience of reality,” says neuroscientist David Eagleman, “is constrained by our biology.” He wants to change that. His research into our brain processes has led him to create new interfaces — such as a sensory vest — to take in previously unseen information about the world around us.

I watched this talk and kept thinking "Who thinks this stuff up?!" I have watched it two times and still don't think I totally get what he is doing and how he is doing it. It did give me a better appreciation of the animal kingdom, which has different biological ways to perceive and survive in the world.

I encourage you to listen to David and then think about the senses you do have and what it would be like to wear that vest.
Click HERE to hear David Eagleman, neuroscientist

I am a big fan of TEDtalks. They inspire. They allow me to hear about new ideas. They allow me to try to understand different ways to approach ideas. Over winter break, my daughter was reading Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, a historical fiction novel set  during the 1893 Chicago's World Fair. We don't seem to have World's Fairs anymore. Maybe TEDtalks are a kind of 21st century virtual World's Fair.

Enjoy TEDtalk viewing!

And in preparation for National Poetry Month in April, I recommend watching these TEDtalks:
Billy Collins - be sure to watch to the end...his last poem is the best, in my opinion!
Sarah Kay - amazing performance poet!

And for inspiration any day, from a great teacher, watch Rita Pierson, my champion!

Mac Barnett
Brene Brown

Saturday, March 21, 2015

March 21 - Writers get better by reading

I often go to hear authors speak. Living outside of Washington, D.C., I easily attend the National Book Festival each fall allowing me to hear a different author speak each hour of the weekend celebration. I also check when authors visit bookstores and go listen. The one piece of advise I recall hearing is: If you want to get better at writing, SPEND TIME WRITING and SPEND TIME READING!

I've been writing for 20 days straight now (21 once I publish this post!). But I have also been reading so many short slices each day. Some give me ideas of topics I also might write about. Some give me ideas for craft moves I could try or genres I might write. (I really am doing to try to write a Currently Poem before March 31st). Some have made me laugh and some brought tears to my eyes.

I think about all this as I then go to write. Because of all the reading I am doing, I know now I am also spending more time revising as I write. Someone else is going to read this. What might I do to put a grin on their face? What might I do as I tell this touching part of my story to get them to feel it more? What genre would work best?

Because I have been READING so much as I write, I know my writing is getting better.

As a teacher, I just started teaching the Memoir Unit in 5th grade. I made sure to first have my students read a memoir together - Eleven by Sandra Cisneros and then I spent two more days having them read one more memoir within a group to present to the class. And I got 30 picture book memoir to have in the class for more reading. (If interested, I wrote and added pictures about this teaching HERE ).

I used to tell parents when they asked for ways to help their child: You get better at reading by reading and better at writing by writing.

Now I think I will say: You get better at reading and writing by spending lots of time reading and writing.

BOTH are needed which I am reminded of everyday during this Slice of Life Challenge.

Friday, March 20, 2015

March 20 - Do we REALLY hate change?

As I left the faculty meeting, where a lively discussion around the topic of the staff selection committee picking a the new principal occurred, the AP said to me, "It is hard. Nobody likes change."

With this thought in my mind, I read a few hours later, my colleagues funny "slice" about window treatments. (Click HERE if you want to read it). He beautifully describes the view out his windows, a view he can see thanks to his new kitchen windows. A view that CHANGES from season to season.

As I sit at my laptop this morning, it is raining. Yet, my phone just alerted me to the fact that just to the west and north, that precipitation is falling as snow and some schools are closing. I am glad to see it is just rain where I am. I am ready for winter to end. I am ready for the CHANGE.

Why do we seem to embrace the CHANGE of the four seasons?
Why don't we have the same feeling of renew and rebirth when the PEOPLE around us change?

One might say it is the fear of the unknown. I know what winter is like - the bare trees covered with a layer of white after a snowfall. I know how then the buds blossom to become pastel colors. I look forward to smelling lilacs again. I know how refreshing it feels to dive into the pool on a hot summer day. I know the sound of the fallen, crisp, colorful leaves while hiking in October. I know and like that feeling that comes when the news announcement reads "DCPS schools closed due to the weather"  after an overnight snowfall.

Maybe we do like CHANGE.
Predictable CHANGE.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

March 19 - I Can't Find my Writers Notebook

I can't find my Writers Notebook.

I know I had it on Monday when I went to the library. I remember I had it opened to the list I made of Memoir Mentor texts and I was at the online catalog seeing if any of the titles were available. I went back to the library after school today and looked in their lost and found but I found no notebook.

Then, Monday after the library visit, I went to the Westover Beer Garden to check out the Book Club meeting with a friend. I don't think I had it at the Beer Garden?? I guess I can check back there, though after school tomorrow.

On Tuesday I did carry the memoir picture books, and I think the notebook, to my classroom. BUT....it was the last day of PARCC testing on Tuesday so maybe I carried it to the 4th grade classroom where I was giving my test to those kids. I checked Room 302 after school today but did not see it.

I keep looking through my tote bag. I guess I am hoping it is just hiding behind another book and it is in there. But it is not.

The notebook doesn't have tons of writing in it. I make a new one every school year, decorating the outside with photos of things I love and then covering it with contact paper. This year on the outside, I added pictures of my favorite places - that photo I took of the lion at the NYC Public Library with the sunlight peeking through the trees and a photo of the lawn at UVA and photos of my favorite people  - Brian, Bridgit, Anne and my mom.

Inside is my drawing of a HEART filled with possible story ideas. It also has my planning of my fiction story from October. It has my notes from my research on Venice, Italy done during the January nonfiction unit.

And the last entry is a list of possible stories I might write about for the Two Writing Teacher's Writing Challenge. I numbered each line from 1 through 31 and next to 1-17, I wrote that day's writing topic.

But 18 isn't filled in and neither is 19 because I can't find my notebook.

Notebook, where are you?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

March 18 - I love my public library

I love Arlington County Public Library.

One reason is because it has multiple copies of the same book. This came in handy when, as a reading specialist with a low budget to buy new books, I could check out 4 copies of the same novel when the teachers I supported were starting their book club unit.

Another reason is because it has unlimited checkout. This came in handy when, as a reading specialist with a low budget to buy new books, I could check out 4 copies of the same novel times 50 titles when the teachers I supported were starting their book club unit. It wasn't until I was trying to check out about 200 book club books that I learned of the unlimited policy. I recall heading to the self-checkout desk with stacks of books. I got nervous as I swiped the 99th book, thinking surely it would stop accepting my request. But it never did. It came in handy again two months ago when my 80 fifth graders had about 60 different American history topics that they wanted to learn about and then teach the information by writing a nonfiction museum display. Again, I checked out LOTS of history books!

A third reason is because it is open until 9pm Mondays-Thursdays and on Sundays. I appreciated their hours tonight. After teaching all day, attending a faculty meeting after school, and then getting home, eating dinner, and chatting with my husband, I still had time to stop by the library. I am beginning a Memoir writing unit. I simply googled memoir picture books using my iPhone and then walked the stacks, grabbing the suggested books off the shelf.

Now I can't wait to go to school tomorrow. Armed with about 20 memoir picture books from my favorite public library, I am ready to give my students time to immerse themselves in this genre.Then they will be ready to write a memoir.

I love Arlington County Public Library.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March 17 - Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I am wearing my shamrock socks and a green sweater. My husband is traveling so the corned beef and galushca (cabbage and noodle dish) that I made over the weekend is in the car, ready to share at work during lunchtime with my colleagues. Last year, I sliced the recipes of this meal  HERE. 

As I sit in Starbucks this morning, writing this slice, shamrocks are taped to the window and hang from the ceiling around the bar area. My daughter in Chicago mentioned seeing the dyed-green river on Saturday as the city celebrated this holiday over the weekend. Driving to Starbucks, I listened to Garrison Keillor on NPR's The Writer's Almanac note the story of Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland. He stated that since 1762, New York City has celebrated with a parade down 5th Avenue and that today, the largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the world will be marching in New York, 150,000 in all.

It is St. Patrick's Day. I no longer practice my Catholic upbringing much but I will dress for this day and I plan to grab a green beer after work. Why? Who doesn't want to spend a day thinking about the Luck of the Irish smiling down on them, dreaming of the pot of gold beyond the rainbow.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 16, 2015

March 16 - Lawyers

I'm a sucker for The Good Wife, Law and Order and years ago, LA Law. I like watching how lawyers show how the law can be interpreted so their client wins. At the same time, I am glad I am not a lawyer. I tend to believe what people tell me. It seems like lawyers are the opposite. They need to remain sceptical and instead, figure out how the law can be used to the advantage of their client.

Recently, my husband and I have a lawyer helping us. We signed a contract to have a contractor build us a new house based on my architect husband's design. It's called the white(out)house, as we whited out or demolished the 80-year old house on our land and are having a new green-designed 21st century house built. We had planned to be in the new house for Thanksgiving. Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day and only the shell of a new house is complete.

So lawyers are involved...

A year ago October, I signed my name to a piece of paper excited to have a new house built. The words on that contract have been read, reread, discussed, and interpreted in a variety of ways over the past 18 months.  Hopefully by Friday, I will sign my name to a new document buying out the contractor and agreeing to no longer have them complete the building of our house.

This situation reminds me that the world is filled with different kinds of people who have different ways of seeing things - different perspectives. The builder thinks... We think... Luckily, the builder's lawyer and our lawyer have drafted a document that will allow both parties to agree to break a contract and no longer work together. Though I know I could never be a lawyer, I am glad one is helping. Without a lawyer, the thinking of the builder and our thinking would never be reconciled.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

March 15 - Fan Letter to Judith Viorst

I have another blog that I started back in 2011 - http://funwithreadingandwriting.blogspot.com/   where I post my thoughts about reading and writing.

Looking back through it, I have celebrated the many times I have heard authors speak. Living just outside Washington, D.C., I attend the Annual National Book Festival and I wrote about it here and here and here.

AND I celebrated new books by my favorite authors like here with Eric Carle and here with Sarah Weeks and here with Kathryn Erskine and here with Ralph Fletcher and here with Ralph and The One and Only Ivan and here with Candice Fleming.

AND I honored favorite authors who die like here - Maurice Sendak and here - E.L. Konigsburg.

To me, authors are like rock stars! I am amazed by their writing talent. They can place words in such order to transport me to other places, times, perspectives and they keep me thinking, questioning, pondering, and trying to live better. Writers change my world and as a writing teacher, I constantly am sharing authors' writing as mentor text for my students. Today I wrote this letter as a fan letter to one of my favorite children's writers and poets - Judith Viorst.

Dear Mrs. Viorst,
I am a new teacher at Janney ES but not new to teaching as I started teaching Kindergarten in 1986. Your first Alexander book came out 7 years before and it was one of the first books I bought for my classroom library. I'd read it aloud to my students, we'd all laugh, and then all easily wrote about their worst or best day, inspired by your writing. As a new teacher, I appreciated having you in my classroom through your books.

Seven years later, I took my daughters, age 6 and 3 to a free lecture at the Library of Congress while on my spring break in April. You were one of the speakers, as was Niki Grimes and student writers from DCPS. That day, as my littlest sat on my lap and her sister next to us in the beautiful Library of Congress building, we realize you as a poet. Our favorite poem you shared that day was Sad Underwear! A parent of one of my students worked at C-SPAN at the time and got me the VCR tape of the event. For the following 7 years, I showed you to my students each April as we celebrated National Poetry Month and you, again, inspired my students to write stunning poetry.

I began teaching 5th grade writing at Janney ES the week before the 2014 National Book Festival. I told my new students that I was attending this event and if they were free on Saturday, they should too. "So many great authors and poets will be there. I planned to go hear Judith Viorst." When I said this, a child said, "That's Isaac's grandma." "Really?" I replied. "Yes, and she's my grandma's friend," Avey said. "Really?" I guess I knew you lived in Washington, D.C. and that your grandkids go to a school. I just never thought about where. As your fan, I love that I am teaching at the school where some of your grandkids attend school!

Last week, the 4th and 5th grade students at Janney participated in state testing and as teachers, we did not moderate our homeroom students but instead, switched. This switch gave me the the pleasure of meeting Isaac and being his 4th grade teacher last Wed - Fri and again this Monday and Tuesday. Last Firday was Idol Spirit Day at Janney. The kids came dressed as someone they look up to or idolize. During our Morning Meeting, Isaac mentioned his idol is a guitarist, a few kids dressed as their moms and dads, a few as sports fan for both soccer and baseball and I wore my t-shirt from Columbia's Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. I told the class I go there each summer to learn how to teach writing better. Later, after testing for the day ended and I was helping Isaac with a math problem, I told him, "You know, I could have dressed up as your grandma today. I do look up to her as she helps me to write poetry." Hearing this, a big smile came across his face.

As I end my fan letter to you, I'd like to invite you to come to Janney ES to speak to the 4th and 5th grade writers. ANYTIME! I am not sure if your schedule allows for you to do school visits. However,  I know the time would be worthwhile to the students at Janney, just as sharing your books and poems have been for me these past twenty-some years as a teacher. Feel free to email me at sally.donnelly11@gmail.com or send a note back via Isaac.

Thank you for considering this invitation and thank you for mentoring me through your writing to be a better teacher.
Your fan,

Sally Donnelly
5th Grade Writing Teacher
Janney ES

I hope she is able to visit my school and speak to my students. But either way, I'm glad I took the time to write her a fan letter. Writers really are rock stars!!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

March 14 - A Memory from my Catholic Upbringing

Growing up, I went to St. James Catholic school for K-8th grade. I wore a grey and maroon plaid jumper with a Peter Pan collared white shirt and maroon sweater. I had some nuns for teachers and some regular ladies as teachers. I sat in rows, learned to read using Dick and Jane, and an SRA kit and went to school Mass once a month and on Sundays with my mom and siblings. I was taught to be dutiful and I worked hard at being good, following the rules imposed by the priests. nuns and teachers. I didn't question why, I just did what I was told to do.

During Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas), we gradually lit the three purple and one pink candle each week awaiting the Christmas holiday. Just before Christmas break, the whole student body gathered for Carol Night in the church. Each grade took turns singing a carol as the story of Christmas was retold for the parents and parishioners. Thinking back, Dona Nobis Pacem (Latin for Grant Us Peace), immediately comes to mind. I can still sing it by heart as a round. When googling to spell the title of this song correctly, I fould this video:
Chorus singing Dona Nobis Pacem in round .
Listening to the video, it is exactly what I recall my class sounding like. Yet, my class was dressed in our best Christmas outfits sitting in a large, beautiful Gothic-looking church.

I participated in Carol Night all nine years while being a student at St. James. Yet, this is the only song I recall singing. Why? Maybe because it was the first time I got to sing in another language. Maybe because it was such a challenge to sing it in a round. I do remember being yelled at as a class by Sr. Maria George. She had us practice it over and over and over again. It seemed that the 4th graders were being singled out and had to practice this more than any other grade had to practice their song. But then, on the night, at our time, the practice paid off. We sounded beautiful and our timing for the round was perfected.

At the moment, I am part of a teacher inquiry group studying how we might guide our students to have a growth mindset over a fixed mindset (based on work by Carol Dwek). Thinking about this song, I wonder if it was also a time I experienced a growth mindset. At first, as a class, we failed to sing well. But then, through practice and practice and practice, we finally got it! And now 40 years later, I can still sing it correctly.

I wonder if I am helping my students to practice their writing or reading enough so that 40 years from now, they will recall a school memory where their hard work related to literacy paid off??!!

Friday, March 13, 2015

March 13 - Every minute counts

One thing I recall doing when I stopped being a classroom teacher to become a reading specialist was no longer looking at the clock constantly. As a classroom teacher I glanced up at the clock and asked Is it time for the kids to arrive? No, I have 3 minutes. Is it time to get to a special class? Yes and unless we get lined up very quickly, we will be 2 minutes late for PE. Is it time for lunch? No, we still have 4 minutes. Enough time to play a game. Is it dismissal time? Still have 6 minutes. Enough time for another read-aloud. As a reading specialist, I did not have a classroom of kids in front of me at all times to guide and herd throughout their school day. I had to be on time for meetings and to co-teach but the minute-by-minute accountability seemed lifted. Now I am back in the classroom as a 5th grade writing teacher. Again, I find myself constantly looking at the clock or constantly setting the timer on my iPhone to help keep on schedule. Every minute counts!

I was reminded of this when reading my daughter's blog post yesterday:
She is working as a native English speaker in a French elementary school in Chambery, France (which is about an hour south of Geneva, Switzerland...a very pretty part of the world). As I finished reading her blog post about the reaction of her littlest students, I felt very proud of her. Thanks to Anne, these kids now know of the favored American book character, Pete the cat and can sing his song in English!

Anne's blog post, though, got me thinking about my time as a classroom teacher. How often am I rushing through my school day? Do I take enough time to enjoy my students? Maybe I shouldn't glance at the clock so often. Maybe I need to take time to experience, as Anne describes it, "the pure unbridled happiness of children."

Thanks for helping me to keep time in perspective, Anne.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

March 12 - My Writing Place

I sent this photo in when asked, Where Do You Slice in March 2015? And it got added to this video made by @blkdrama:youtu.be/onfdjS03fG8

As you can see, I'm at Starbucks. I am not a coffee drinker. I either order a vente hot chocolate, no whip or a vente black iced tea, unsweetened and a sausage sandwich. 

If I go to the Lee and Harrison Starbucks, I sit at the counter facing the large window which looks out at the strip mall parking lot. Not a great view but I like the feel of the large view offered by the large picture window.

If I go to the VA Square Starbucks, I usually walk. It is about a mile from my house. I enjoy the morning walk and then, once there, sit in a booth and write.

If I go to the Chesterbrook Starbucks, I order and then head upstairs. I call it the double-decker Starbucks. I sit at one of the large dining room tables, both next to the large picture windows with a great view of morning horizon.

At all, the piped in music lulls me to my writing zone. I tune out all the hustle and bustle around me and can write. 

If I stayed home, like so many others on the video did, I'd never write. I'd be too distracted by the dishes that needed washing in the kitchen sink, the homework bag filled with ungraded papers and the lack of background music.

At the moment, Starbucks provides me with a great writing place!

However, as soon as my house that my husband and I are building is done, I do think I will be able to stay home and write. Maybe while sitting at a large dining room table in the double-height dining room or in the TV room chair next to this beautiful window:

 I guess I'm realizing that I will always write.
 And I'll probably always be drawn to sitting next to a great view to get my writing ideas flowing.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

March 11 - numbers I like, like 11!

Eleven (11) has always been my favorite number!
It is my birthday number, October 11th.
I like that it is a double number, fun to write - one(1), one(1).
When I glance at a digital clock and it reads 3:11 or 7:11 or  9:11, I smile.
When it reads 11:11, I feel a bigger sense of happiness.
I don't know why.

I could not sleep last night so I saw 3:11am on my phone and finally at 4:11am, I just got up.
I started reading and commenting on slices. My friend ended hers by saying rather wisely:
"I imagine what should be..." This simple line made me smile, just like seeing 5:11 makes me smile!

I am reading aloud Rain, Reign by Ann Martin to my student (highly recommend it!!) and the main character, Rose, loves prime numbers. In the chapter yesterday, she was adding up what words were worth when A=1 and Z=26. So, this morning in my restless state, I thought more about numbers, something I don't spend much time thinking about other than happily spying my favorite number.

I took time to add up what SHOULD is worth. It equals 79. I will admit that I don't have prime numbers memoried but I googled a list and 79 is a prime number. Rose from our book would like this! 79, Google told me, is also the atomic number of gold. This symbolism is not lost on me.

The list also reminded me that 11 is a prime number. On the 11 Wikipedia page it states,  "If a number is divisible by 11, reversing its digits will result in another multiple of 11. As long as no two adjacent digits of a number added together exceed 9, then multiplying the number by 11, reversing the digits of the product, and dividing that new number by 11, will yield a number that is the reverse of the original number. (For example: 142,312 x 11 = 1,565,432. 2,345,651 / 11 = 213,241.) Really? Really? Who thinks up things like this??

Maybe a mathematician who also couldn't sleep one night!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

March 10 - Technology...love it / hate it

Looking around my living room/dining room last night I saw my school mac laptop, my blue iPhone 5C, my kindle, my husband levova laptop, his surface and his windows phone. Just the two of us have LOTS of tech devices in our lives. At times, I love it. At times, I hate it!

I love technology when it works for me...

I love the March writing challenge. It is just my second year and at firt, it seemed like a lot of tech to figure out to participate. But now I easily understand how to post to my blog, copy my link to the www.twowritingteachers.com and how to click and leave my comments. Lots of steps but now I can do it seamlessly and I love the writing and reading practice I am getting!

I love Wed night twitter chats with #tcrpw. After a year of "lurking", I have started to post my own tweets during their hour conversations.

I love connecting with my daughters who live far away from home now. I can text them. I can call them. I can view their instagram photos. I can check their status on facebook. Using technology, they don't seem so far away.

I love having my map app on my phone help me drive to a new location.

I love downloading a book to my kindle and reading a new book without needing to visit the library or bookstore.

I loved binge watching House of Cards and viewing other stories on Netflix and being inspired by online Tedtalks.

I hate technology when it doesn't work for me...

I hate it when at school, I can't connect to a printer, (which seems to have happened lots lately and I don't get why).

I hate it when I can't remember my username and/or password to log into a site I really want to get into.

I hate it when I sit and listen to the PARCC webinar (what I did yesterday from 3:30-5pm) that is explaining how I am to administer the online PARCC test starting Wednesday. The voice says a step. My brain begins to comprehend it as another important step is shared. The webinar screen changes and I have no idea how to make my computer screen change also. Lucky for me, a repeat webinar is occurring this morning at school. I plan to go. Afterwards, I hope I will say that I love how easy it is to start the PARCC assessment using my computer!

Technology...I love it sometimes and I hate it sometimes.
But I guess that is how it is with most things!

Monday, March 9, 2015

March 9 - Morning Routine

I walk out the door of my rental home and cross the street to grab the plastic bag with The Washington Post inside. It lays on the ground in front of my under-construction house. My husband, an architect, designed a new, energy-efficient home that we are having built. We were able to rent the house directly across the street during the demolition of the old house and creation of the new. Along with being here to watch the new construction, the rental allows us to keep our same commute to work and even our address. The mailman knows to deliver mail for both #5218 and #5219 to the rental house. However,  I never took time to tell the Washington Post delivery person that I'm in a different house so each morning I walk across the street and grab the paper.

Barbara is my next door neighbor to the lot where the new house is going up. She's a widows in her 80s and last year began fighting cancer. Most Sundays I stop by to check on her. She likes reading mysteries so I pick her up some when visiting the public library. Mostly, I just sit and chat. She loves to talk and I figure during the week, she may not talk to that many others. Her own kids and grandkids visit but don't live too close by.

A while ago, I began to change my morning routine. First, I'd cross the street and get my paper. Then I walked the sidewalk, grabbed Barbara's, walked up her walk and tossed the paper to be right on her front porch. Then I crossed back and return to my rental.

I can't remove cancer from Barbara's life. But I can ensure that she can get her paper easily each morning by just opening her front door. No walking outside and down the to the sidewalk required. I can at least help her to have her normal morning routine of reading her newspaper.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

March 8 - Supporter of the Arts

After months of rehearsing, 100 Janney ES 4th and 5th graders took to the stage to perform Shrek, Jr., The Musical yesterday, even after a 2-day snow break that canceled two rehearsals. As they say in show business, "The show must go on!" and on it went with a bang!!

Memorized lines, delivered loud and clear.
Each stood confidently, heads held high.
Their elaborate costumes and stunning make-up, matching their personality perfectly.
The most stunning being the villain dragon!
All moved about the colorful scenery.
Sharing their sweet singing voices.
Some tapped.
Some delivered funny lines at just the right pace.
Some moved the story forward with their dialogue.

All taught lessons...
 The 3 Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf
 The Ugly Duckling
 The Wicked Witch
 Peter Pan
 The Three Bears
 The Gingerbread boy
 Puss in Boots
 Aladdin, Jasmine and Genie
 Sleeping Beauty
 Snow White and the dwarf
 Little Red Riding Hood
 The Pied Piper and Rats
 Lord Farquaad and his dad
 The Deer, the Knights, the Guards, the Bishop, the Dragon Chorus
 The Captain of the Guards and the Police
 The Dragon and her wings

And the biggest lesson was learned from Shrek...little one and older,
 His Ogre mom and dad,
 Fiona, young, teen, and Princess
 and the friendly and funny Donkey.

My favorite lines from the songs sung:

It's a big bright beautiful world
With possibilities everywhere.

now I'm a believer
Not a trace of doubt in my mind

It's time to stop the hiding. It's time to stand up tall.
Sing hey world, I'm different, and here I am splinters and all!

What makes us special
Makes us strong! 

What a production!
I just love being a supporter of the arts!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

March 7 - I Tried Betsy’s Poetry Idea!

As Betsy suggested on Day 5, I took my March 4th small moment:

In Venice, laundry seems to be more than just a chore. It seems to be a work of art. First, it is pinned and moved along the pulley line to form a perfect composition. As each piece is hung, a piece never drops by accident  or comes loose and falls to the sidewalk or canal below. Then, as it hangs, one piece next to another, a pattern is created. Like a border painted inside a room for decoration, a Venetian's clean clothing decorates a building's facade. Laundry Day brightens up the neighborhood!

I pulled out some words, some phrases.
I wrote as a poem:

Venetian laundry
More than just a chore 
It hangs as a work of art
One piece next to another
Pinned along the pulley line
Above the walkways and canals
A colored pattern created
Against a stucco canvas

Venetian laundry
Decorating a building's facade
Brightening up the neighborhood
A perfect composition

Thanks, Betsy!!

Friday, March 6, 2015

March 6 - Things Heard while Chauffeuring Loved Ones

Chauffeuring my two daughters and their friends around was always an eye-opening experience. Somehow it was forgotten that I was in the car and I was privy to many insider conversations. I could overhear the latest gossip, like who likes who or the latest injustice, like the stupid assignment demanded by an unfavorable teacher. Sometimes, I’d be included in the discussion for some topics seem easier to discuss without direct eye-contact. The bubble of the car was conversation heaven.

I had a similar car ride experience last May, yet those involved were not teenagers but octogenarians. I was driving my 80 year old mother and her friends to a birthday dinner at a restaurant in downtown Washington, D.C.. All those in the car, including my mom, had grown up in D.C.. As we passed landmarks, they shared their memories while I drove.

“How did we survive without AC?” my mother asked as we drove in my air-conditioned Subaru on a Saturday afternoon in May when the temperature on the dashboard read 92 degrees.

“My brother and I would go to Rock Creek Park and sleep there overnight on hot days,” one women remarked. “You probably can’t do that today.”

“You just camped out?” I asked, thinking how that doesn’t sound like a safe thing to do.

“It was a different time and the park, with all those trees, was so much cooler on a hot night,” she answered.

“That house reminds me of Dr. Brennan’s row house on my block,” another said as she pointed to a row house with a corner tower on its right side. “His house was the first with an indoor bathroom.”

“Your house didn’t have indoor plumbing?” I asked.

“Not until I started school,” she replied. “I remember we were all a little skeptical about using an inside bathroom. We were used to the outhouse.”

“That’s where I got the bus to ride back home after school,” a third friend said pointing to a street corner. “I remember how my mom gave me a dime each morning to ride the bus home. But I wanted to buy candy from the candy store that was on that corner. So I would. Then I’d stand at the bus stop and cry. When asked why, I said I’d lost my dime and can’t ride the bus. Someone would always feel sorry for me and give me a dime.” Laughter filled the car after hearing that third story.

I kept driving through the city with these friends who grew up in a different time. I wondered what stories I might tell 30 years from now. What memories might I share while being chauffeured?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

March 5 - Another SOL about Laundry

Armed with my 2 rolls of quarter from the bank, my jug of Tide detergent and my overflowing laundry basket, I pulled into the coin laundry mat. Both the washer and dryer at my house were acting up and with no time to call/meet a repair man, I decided to do what I did back in college - visit the coin laundry mat.

As I entered, I noticed it right away. The people inside were mostly Latino men. They were either watching soccer on one of the four flat screen TVs or chatting in Spanish to a friend while folding laundry. There were just a few women, also Latino and a few young kids. I was the only mid-aged white lady doing her laundry.

As I added 12 quarters and detergent to a washer filled with my whites and then to another filled with my darks, I thought about my life and the life of those around me. I own a single family home in a neighborhood outside of Washington, DC which has both a washer and dryer in the basement. Due to my teaching schedule, I haven't been able to call a repair man or be home to meet him if I did. So for now, I'm just a visitor here and not a regular. Yet, around me are the regulars.  I admit, it surprises me that they are mostly men. The TVs are a great draw for this crowd.

I wonder which came first..Latino men at the laundry mat or the flat screen TVs?!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

March 4 - Laundry

While visiting Venice, Italy over Winter break, I saw this:
 and this:
I snapped both photos while I, myself, was wearing layers of clothes under my heavy winter coat on a very brisk December day. I kept wondering, "Will this laundry really dry? It is 32 degrees outside. If so, how long will it take?"

In Venice, laundry seems to be more than just a chore. It seems to be a work of art. First, it is pinned and moved along the pulley line to form a perfect composition. As each piece is hung, a piece never drops by accident  or comes loose and falls to the sidewalk or canal below. Then, as it hangs, one piece next to another, a pattern is created. Like a border painted inside a room for decoration, a Venetian's clean clothing decorates a building's facade. Laundry Day brightens up the neighborhood!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March 3 - Are you a House of Cards fan?

I will admit it.
I came home from work Friday and began watching House of Cards, Season 3 on Netflix.
I watched more on Saturday.
I finished the binge on Sunday. 13 episodes.
I won't give anything away here (in case you are still watching).

I will admit, I like watching a soap opera without commercial interruptions.
I will admit that not much else got done this past weekend other than me watching a long story.
I especially like stories set in Washington, DC, as I live in Arlington, across the Potomac River from the White House. The opening of the show has GREAT images of our capital city!
I don't like Frank Underwood. I would NOT want Frank Underwood to know me.
I wouldn't want to work with him. Ever.
Yet, I do like watching him and his decisions.
I'm still wondering if I like Claire. Am I at all like Claire as a wife? Do I want to be? or not? Ever.
House of Cards reminds me of my fascinated with The Godfather Trilogy.
I am just as hooked on this series.

I will say that I have lingered with the characters and their actions in Season 3 lots since Sunday.
Why did they do that?
Why did they change? Did they change?
Are men and women wired differently?
Do they have different motivations? 

At the end of a read-aloud, I ask my students, "What do you think the author wanted us to learn?"
I do think the makers of House of Cards want me to learn....but I still am pondering exactly what!

In the meantime, whether you are a fan of House of Cards or not, I recommend watching this episode of Sesame Street:    Sesame House of Cards Parody 

And if you virtually want to discuss your reactions to Season 3 with someone, email me at sally.donnelly11@gmail.com!!

Monday, March 2, 2015

March 2 - Dr. Seuss B-Day!!

For me, Fox in Socks is the Dr. Seuss book that comes to mind every March 2nd. It was requested over and over and over again by my daughters when they were little. At least, The Tweetle Beetle Battle always had to be read before lights out each night.

"Let’s have a little talk about tweetle beetles…

What do you know about tweetle beetles? Well…

When tweetle beetles fight, it’s called a tweetle beetle battle.

And when they battle in a puddle, it’s a tweetle beetle puddle battle.

AND when tweetle beetles battle with paddles in a puddle, 
they call it a tweetle beetle puddle paddle battle.

When beetles battle beetles in a puddle paddle battle and the beetle battle puddle is a puddle in a bottle…
…they call this a tweetle beetle bottle puddle paddle battle muddle.

When beetles fight these battles in a bottle with their paddles and the bottle’s on a poodle and the poodle’s eating noodles…
…they call this a muddle puddle tweetle poodle beetle noodle bottle paddle battle.

Now wait a minute, Mr. Socks Fox!
When a fox is in the bottle where the tweetle beetles battle with their paddles in a puddle on a noodle-eating poodle, THIS is what they call…
 …a tweetle beetle noodle poodle bottled paddled muddled duddled fuddled wuddled fox in socks, sir! 

Fox in socks, our game is done, sir.
Thank you for a lot of fun, sir."

"Again," they would chant as I finished that funny tongue twister and close the book. Most nights, I would agree. Other times, I was too tired. Sometimes I would purposefully let pages stick together so we'd get to the end of the book very quick.

But I could never skip any part of the Tweedle, Beetle Battle because they knew it by heart and it had to be heard in its entirety. How much fun it is to read nonsense words and hear rhyming words and have your tongue tied up!

Today, my oldest is in grad school in Chicago and my youngest is in France working as a teaching assistant. And I am a 5th grade teacher. I couldn't find my very worn copy of Fox in Sock last night so I downloaded it to my kindle to share with my 5th graders today.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss.
You published Fox in Socks in 1965 (when I was just 2 years old).
Today you would be 111 years old.
And your words live on!!

What's your Dr. Seuss memory?