Monday, November 30, 2015

Ralph Fletcher - a great writing mentor!

The summer of 2013 I got to hear Ralph Fletcher speak at TC. That day he shared this poem with us:
The Good Old Times  by Ralph Fletcher
Sometimes I remember
the good old days,
sitting on the kitchen floor
with my brothers and sister,
each on our own square
of cool linoleum.
I’m fresh from the bath,
wearing baseball pajamas.
Mom gives us a cup of milk,
two cookies, a kiss goodnight,
I still can’t imagine

anything better than that.

Click HERE to go to my Notes about Ralph's August 2013 Keynote

That day he told us to pick our own moment, one we remember well and write a poem about it. He suggested to get started, we use HIS first two lines and HIS last two lines.

Amazingly, that day, I wrote a poem quickly!! Since that day, I have shared his poetry writing tip every year with the teachers I help to teach writing and with the students I teach.

This year and days after Veteran's Day, I was sharing Ralph's poem with my 3rd graders. Afterwards, I was moved to wrote this poem:

Sometimes I remember
the good old days
Our guest arrived just before 3pm
to the Atmosphere Studio Classrooms
including Ryan's dad in his official Navy uniform
On cue, we sang "Anchors Away"
and all the military songs with gusto.
So many moms, dads, grandpas, grandmas, and friends
came to celebrate with the 3rd graders
Honoring ALL the Veterans who keep us free
I still can't imagine
anything better than that.

Thanks, Ralph Fletcher! You are a wonderful writing mentor!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

I did a 5K! Lots of Ups and Downs!

Last Saturday, I did a 5K!

At the TCRWP Summer Reading Institute, Mary taught me one way to comprehend fiction is to chart the emotions of the character onto an Emotional Timeline. I like this strategy and have used it often when reading and teaching reading. Here's my chart made while reading My Name is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada.

Last Saturday, as I ran my first 5K race, I thought of this strategy. Let me be clear - I am not a runner. I grew up swimming and more specifically, swimming backstroke, which allows one to breath easy as one glides through the water. My childhood memory of running is vivid - that annual day where we had to run the 600m for the Presidential Award and I barely finished, all out of breathe.

On Saturday at about the 2 mile mark,  I overheard this discussion:
                 MOM - Come on. We are almost done.
                 BOY (about age 7) -  Running makes me grumpy.

Hearing this made me smile and for the next 1.1 mile I thought about all the ups and downs I was feeling as I ran/walked. At the very moment of hearing this boy, I too felt a little grumpy but I kept moving (notice I did not type "running" for I was just moving at this point in the race!) Then later, after a hot shower and some breakfast, I felt the exact opposite.

Here's my chart of the ups and downs of my first 5K:

Today I am grateful to be alive to support the Jennifer Bush-Lawson Foundation Memorial fund - the race raise over $95,000 which will be used to bring high quality prenatal and postnatal care to the economically vulnerable in Arlington County, VA.

Today I am grateful for the students and parents at Discovery ES who cheered me on and the unexpected friends I met along the way. All help me keep going to finish the race.

Today I am grateful for all the hills on this course (no exaggerating, there were MANY!) because without that struggle, I could not know the feeling of joy when running downhill and when crossing the finish line.

Today I am grateful that TCRWP taught me how to read well and how to chart the ups and downs of characters. By understanding character struggles, I can better live my own ups and downs that life brings me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Look closely at the fingers to see what this student is thankful for!

Look closely at fingers to see what Mrs. Donnelly is thankful for!
Weekly, my students and I write to our parents to share highlights of our week. Because this is just  a 2-day school week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, I had them add a move I used to have my kindergarten students do - make a Turkey using the outline of our hand!!

On one side of the letter to the parents is the student turkey with their list of four things written across their finger/feathers and on the reverse side is my turkey. (see images above!)

I should also add that I am MOST thankful for the TwoWritingTeachers blog! It provides me with a space to make my writing public on their amazing blog that also inspires me as a writing teacher daily. And I am thankful for all the blog writers (most I only know virtually). You also inspire and keep me going!

Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Keep Writing!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

More Information Writing - Generating more Ideas with Table of Contents and Jeopardy!

My family has gotten into the habit of watching Jeopardy at 7:30pm each night. My daughter, Anne and my husband, Brian, are very good at stating the questions to the random answers posed by Alex Trebek. At the beginning of Round 1 and 2,  Anne and Brian will often say aloud words they expect to appear as Alex names the categories:
Alex - Old Testament
Anne - Who is Noah, Moses, Job?
Alex - Buildings of the World
Brian - What is the Louvre, The Empire State Building, Falling Water?
They seem to have go-to words that match a stated category.

As I continue to plan the 3rd grade information writing unit, I see a connection. I have been taking TCRWP suggestions to think of ways, kinds, parts, pro/con, problem/solution, and compare/contract to think deeper about my topic.

What if I think of my topic as a category on Jeopardy?
My topic: Children's Literature.
If the category was Best Nonfiction Children's authors, I'd expert Jeopardy to have an answer about Seymore Simon, Gail Gibbons and Melissa Stewart.
If the category was Best Picture book authors for 3rd gr. and up, I'd expect Jeopardy to have an answer listed about Patricia Polacco, Chris Van Allsburg, and Eve Bunting.
If the category was Best Children's Poets, I'd expect Jeopardy to have an answer listed about Judith Viorst, J. Patrick Lewis and Jack Prelutsky.

What if my topic was SWIMMING?  Would this strategy still work?
If the category was kinds of pools, I'd expect Jeopardy to have answers that included 50 meter outdoor, 25 meter indoor and 25 yards outdoor.
If the category was swimming strokes, I'd expect Jeopardy to have answers that included butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle and IM.
If the category was swimming parts, I'd expect Jeopardy to have answers that included the dive, the turn, the kick, the strokes and the breathing.

As TCRWP taught me, my brain is wired to learn things when grouped into categories. That is why Boxes and Bullets is such a successful strategy when reading and writing information. And now, I also will think of my information writing topic as a Jeopardy Game Show Category.

What answers would Alex Trebek state about my topic?!!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Celebration - a Happy Veteran's Day inspired by Tim Rasinski

On October 19, 2013 I had the pleasure of ending a day of learning at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project by sitting in the majestic, large Riverside Church on the Upper Westside of Manhattan to hear the final Keynote Speaker, Tim Rasinski, profession of literacy education at Kent State University. I had read his books on fluency and I had even heard him speak before at a conference. But that day was such a treat and I wrote this:

Tim Rasinski - Whatever Happened to the ART of Reading? 
First, Tim was introduced in such a clever way!! To the tune of Hey, Jude, a Staff Developer sang "Hey, TIm" and gave the audience a summary of his background through song. How fun that the church nave filled with "Na-na- na, na-ah-na-na, Hey Tim!"  This was the perfect intro for a speaker who continued to teach us using song!

Singing is FUN. Lyrics are getting read but it doesn't feel like hard work at all. He shared how he is working with kids to perform on Veteran's Day. They have been practicing the theme songs of each of the Armed Forces. (Lots of reading of lyrics!!) So Tim had us try this. We sang and honored each branch of our military, those standing when they had a personal or family connection. Along with being fun, it was so moving AND required loads of reading!!

He is also working with kids to celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth. Kids are preparing to perform read-alouds of his inaugural speeches and the Gettysburg Address. He found a song called Our Abe Lincoln. He found a Civil War letter and a poem. All these the students are reading and rereading which will improve their fluency as readers. And it's FUN!!

Thank, Tim for reminding me to add FUN songs, poems, readers theaters, etc to my classroom. Reading CAN be an art form, as well as the science related to reading score data.
All notes from that day are HERE.

So, I took what I heard that Saturday and returned to my then 4th grade classroom in McLean, VA and planned a Veteran's Day celebration. I wrote about that celebration by saying: Monday, we hosted 20 friends, most of them veterans or wives of veterans! We sang each of the Military songs to honor Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. We ate blueberry muffins and had our posters hanging! My students did such a GREAT job!! So proud of them!!

Then, yesterday, Friday, November 13, 2015 I hosted another Veteran's Day celebration!! This time in Arlington with my 3rd grade class along with my teammate's 3rd grade class. Our 44 students spent the 2 weeks prior learning all the songs of each branch of the military. Thanks to technology and my tech-savvy daughter, Anne, I now have a Spotify Veteran's Day playlist and we used this to play the tunes as the words to the songs appeared on the smart panel. Thanks go out to our music teachers, too who also spent time in their class helping the 3rd graders to learn the songs well.

We came to school wearing read, white and blue and military-inspired t-shirts! At 1pm, we opened the wall between the two 3rd grade classrooms studios and we did a run through of our program. A student speaker welcomed our guests. Different students introduced the songs. And all 44 loudly sang each song as I queued the spotify playlist. Our finale was all standing to sing God Bless America. Our run through went well so we then got busy decorating!!

Half the kids went with my colleague to her side of the studio space and wrote a letter to a veteran. I took the other half and on large posters, they decorated signs for us to hang up and made red, white and blue tissue paper flowers as a party favor for our guests.

Then just before 3pm, we took our places. Our honored Veterans and family and friends arrived and took their seats. Our celebration began! We sang. We listened as our guest introduced themselves and said how many years they have served. I personally invited my mom and two retired friends who live in the neighborhood. I loved having an older generation of Veterans to join with my students' families and a few of the students also brought along a grandparent. As the program ended, we had a little time for all to mingle and Veterans answered questions and shared.

Today, I celebrate inspiration from smart educators, like Tim Rasinski who taught me on Oct. 19, 2013 to SING! Singing is a powerful teaching technique. Singing is fun! Singing honors those we love and unites us across generations. 

To hear us SING, view the VIDEO LINK post to twitter @SallyDonnelly1 and VIDEO LINK2

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Information Writing - Generating Ideas through Table of Contents

As a 3rd grade teacher getting ready to start the Unit of Study for Teaching Information Writing, I'm inspired by Lucy Calkins and Colleen Cruz to write lots and lots and lots of Table of Contents. As a way to generate ideas for writing an Information book, I picked a topic I feel I am an expert on (BOOKS!) and started to write some possible Table of Contents.

Topic - BOOKS
1. Genres - 
Fiction - realistic, fantasy, mystery, historical
Nonfiction - sports, animals, poetry, biographies

2. Kinds of Books -
picture book, novel, graphic novel, magazine, books on CD, online Tumblebooks, online e-book

3.Where to get books - bookstore, library, online, friends who share with me

4. Favorite Books for different ages of kids - toddler, kindergarten, 3rd grader, Middle Schooler

5. Where to find out about book ideas - 
Twitter - Mr. Shu, Eric Carle Museum, 
My Librarian, Mr. Re
Website - NYC Public Library 100 books to read 
Author Website

My...this took time and I've only drafted five Table of Contents!?!?

Lucy, in her Information workshop at the October, 2015 Saturday Reunion said Graves told her to write 10-30 Table of Contents. I guess I should be happy I did five...I think I need to really stretch my brain to see a topic from LOTS of angles. Then maybe, with practice, I can grow this work. I got to start somewhere so glad I got five generated.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Celebration - 3rd gr Publishing Party

My 1st quarter as a 3rd grade teacher ends Tuesday. Today I celebrate all the writing my students did during Writing Workshop in just one quarter.

We first published a "tweet" in one day to experience going through the whole writing process - immersion, generate ideas, choose, draft, revise, edit, publish and celebrate. Then. while learning how personal narrative / small moments go, we published our first personal narrative. Next, because our new school was celebrating with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, we quickly published a piece about a time in our new school. These got hung and read by the community as they toured our new school. It even prompted our district's Superintendent to write us a letter thanking us for sharing our school stories! Then finally, we went through the writing process one more time to lift the level of our narrative writing skills.

Friday at 1pm, all five third grade classes came together to celebrate with a Publishing Party. We opened the wall between two of the classrooms. Two other classes placed their writing on the benches outside in the hallway and the fifth class on the tables set up by the custodian. Next to each piece of writing was placed a GLOW sheet - a page for readers to write a glow about the piece of writing, a positive, specific comment. Each student was given a glow bookmark with sentence stem reminders of how a glow sounds.

With glow bookmark and pencil in hand, the students moved from classroom to tables to benches and back to classroom, reading!! The 107 students read about soccer games and family trips and time spent with grandparents. Then they wrote on the glow sheet a sentence - I like how you described the dog. I could picture it. - Your lead made me want to keep reading - I like the sound words you included. 

Then the best part - we returned to our seat and read the GLOWS that others left for us after our story was read! I asked the class to read their glows, to think about the kind of writer they were as they began third grade and then to reflect in their notebook by writing:
I used to be the kind of writer who_______.
Now I am the kind of writer who ________.

I got goosebumps listening to them take turns sharing aloud what they wrote:

I used to be the kind of writer who wrote short stories.
Now I am the kind of writer who adds details and writes longer stories.

I used to be the kind of writer who added some details.
Now I am the kind of writer who includes more action and dialogue.

I used to be the kind of writer who never used ...I forget what it is called...begins with a P.
Now I am the kind of writer who writes with paragraphs.

And my favorite - 
I used to be the kind of writer who did not like to write.
Now I am the kind of writer who loves to write.

Today I celebrate all the writing my students did during Writing Workshop in just one quarter.

I am most grateful for all I learn from Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.
Their Units of Study for Teaching Writing allow me to teach my 3rd graders so well.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Revisions to my 1st Time Personal Narrative

Last Tuesday, I typed my draft of a first time story. This week, I spent time revising and reflecting on how I went about revising. If I “get” what I do, then I feel more confident to teach my students how to revise.

REVISIONS: As I revised, I tried to do these things -
1.     I looked at my lead and checked to see if it told WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY.
2.     I looked at the heart of the story – the part where I was reading – and made sure it was stretched out.
3.     I looked at my ending and made sure it had a feeling that connected back to the beginning.
4.     I also noticed that I drafted using very long sentences. I tried out changing the length of some of my sentences.

First Time Reading at Church by Mrs. Donnelly

As the congregation sat down, it was my cue to walk onto the altar. My third grade teacher had picked me to be a lector for the school Mass, a job I had never done before. I heard a loud echo with each step I took, as my church shoes touched the marble floor of the St. James Church. Once at the podium, I climbed to the second step of the step stool. Now I could see the large book and my mouth was close to the microphone.

I saw placed on top of the opened book, a xeroxed copy of my reading, a reading I had been practicing with my teacher for the past two weeks. I saw the many slanted lines my teacher had added to help me chunk the word phrases. I saw the punctuation highlighted at the end of each sentence. I cleared my throat and began. Even though I could probably recite the reading now from memory, I kept my eyes glued to the page, not looking up once. I didn’t want to see how many people were sitting in church and how many were now listening to me.

In a loud voice, I said, "A Reading (pause) from the Book (pause) of Genesis". As I continued, I remembered to pause longer at each highlighted punctuation mark. I remembered to also pause at each slash mark made by my teacher - a slash about every 4-6 words. "Scoop up a whole phrase and say it in one breath," she coached me. "It will sound funny to you to go so slow, but it will sound clearer through the microphone."

The next thing I knew, I was reading the last phrase, "This is the word of the Lord” and the congregation replied, "Thanks be to God." I stepped down from the step stool and slowly walked back to my pew.

As I walked, I saw her - my teacher. She was motioning a thumbs-up and had a big smile on her face. I breathed in and out and smiled widely, too. I took my seat in my pew relieved that my reading was over and content that all my preparation, with my teacher's help, had paid off.

Friday is our publishing party and I plan to display my story, too!