Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How Can You Change Seem Into Heal? (SOLS)

As I was reading Debbie Diller's post, Poetry Friday: A doublet, I was inspired to try one of my own.  I was not familiar with doublets, and became intrigued by the one she created.  According to Debbie, "In a doublet, a word is changed, one letter at a time, into another word and arranged vertically into a poem." 

What may seem to take forever,

are the important things we seek,

the things desired by a meek heart.

Inspiration from the muses we meet,

are as vibrant as the color of a beet.

The thought makes my heart skip a beat.

I sense the heat of it

as my thoughts begin to heal.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Little Poets

Today I launched our poetry unit in my first grade classroom.  Using an idea from the Two Writing Teachers, I decided to have my students write a poem prior to teaching the unit to determine what my students already knew about poetry.  I read Zoe Ryder White's poem, The Pencil Sharpener, and we talked about looking at ordinary objects with poets' eyes.  I also had my students close their eyes while they listened to me sharpen a pencil in our electric pencil sharpener.  Immediately, I heard words like bees, point, stinger, sharpen, and buzzing.  Excitement filled the room as the light bulbs began to turn on in their heads.  It was truly an "aha moment".  My first graders are beginning to understand what it means to look at ordinary things with poets' eyes.

I created new poetry folders for the unit.  Inside the folder I placed ten sheets of paper with a box at the top for a picture and lines below.  I asked my students to try their hands at writing a poem.  It could be a poem about anything at all.  "Can I write a poem about a poem?" asked Emily.  "You sure can!" I responded with a bit too much enthusiasm.  "Can I write a poem about a clock?" Aidan asked.  "Yes." I responded.  "You can write a poem about anything at all."  Everyone was sent off to write.  I started the music for Quiet Ten.  (Ten minutes of absolute quiet writing time by everyone, including me.)  Today however, it was more like Quiet 20.  I wanted to give my poets enough time to illustrate and write a poem.

Everyone wrote a poem, including me.  There was another pencil sharpener poem written.  Several kids wrote poems about clocks.  I was surprised and amazed at what my new little poets were able to do.  Below is the poem I wrote during Quiet 20, and another poem written by one of my first graders.

(My district uses Units of Study for Primary Writing:  A Yearlong Curriculum, Poetry: Powerful Thoughts in Tiny Packages by Lucy Calkins as a resource for teaching writing.)

First Grade Poets
by Valerie Ruckes

Pencils at the ready
eagerly preparing to write
a poem, a thought, a memory.

Heads bent in concentration
eyes focused on the paper
some drawing
some looking up and into thought
imagining the possibilities
of creating
something special.

by Rachel

Firework Flame
Firework Flame
They dance awake
like a game.
Fireworks, Fireworks, Fireworks
Oh how beautiful
fireworks are!
I love Fireworks

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Never Give Up! (SOLS)

This week I started playing my flute again.  I played the flute throughout middles school and high school.  After that, I grew tired of it and didn't pick it up again.  A few years ago, I encouraged my daughter to take band, hoping that she would play the flute and learn to love it as I had.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen.  I was constantly reminding her to practice, I paid for extra lessons over the summer, and was present at every school performance.  Still, she didn't show much interest in learning to play the flute, and I finally gave up.  That was a couple of years ago.  I remember reassuring my husband that this flute purchase was not in vein.  That I would take the flute and learn to play it again.  That it would become MY flute.

I dug out my old flute music, along with the music books I had purchased for my daughter, and I began to practice again.  I started reviewing the notes and a lot of what I knew started to come back to me.  I'm still in the beginning stages of playing the flute, and I'm nowhere near as good as I used to be.  However, I know that little by little, I'll get better.  The more I pick up that flute and actually practice, the better I'll become.

All of this reminds me of my first grade readers.  At the start of the school year, many of them were excited but apprehensive about reading.  Could they do it?  Would reading be difficult?  How much reading would they be required to do?  I'm sure those are some of the questions that went through there heads as they embarked on their reading journeys.   Those are the same questions that are going through my head as I embark on this flute playing journey.  Months have gone by and most of my first graders are very good readers, and all of them, every single one, has shown a tremendous amount of reading growth.  Some have had to work extra hard to make the progress they have shown, but they stuck it out.  Reading success is an important achievement for first graders.  It's the grade where students show the biggest reading growth.

If my first graders can work so hard at reading, I can certainly work as hard to learn to play this flute again.  Like them, I must demonstrate determination, desire, enthusiasm, and a positive attitude toward learning.  Most of all, I can't give up.  Thank you first graders for teaching me another important lesson.  Never give up!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Waiting Is My Friend (SOLS)

This poem was inspired by a post I wrote this morning called, Waiting.  You can take a look at it here.

In line
At the grocery store.
Sign says,
Express Lane.
I'm not moving
At express speed!
Still holding
My few items.

Sitting here,
Sitting there.
Lost in
My book.
Of the time,
Still waiting
My turn.

At my computer.
Click, click.
Too many
Pages load.
Green bar appears.
Come On!
End Task?
Still trying,
Still waiting.

To Calm down.
Did I read
That correctly?
Did I hear
That right?
Processing my thoughts.
Not now,
It's too soon to respond.
I'm waiting,
To clear my head.
To make sense of it all.
Waiting is my friend.


Do you ever get tired of waiting?  It is a part of life.  We wait in line at the grocery store.  We wait in line at our favorite department stores.  We wait in line to buy fast food.  We wait for appointments at the doctor and dentist office.  We wait for services at the hair and nail salon.  We wait for the computer to accomplish various tasks.  Even with high speed Internet connections, it still seems that we have to wait longer than we should.  Or perhaps, I'm just extremely impatient where computer tasks are concerned. 

Our mentality is that we want everything done fast.  Sometimes, we wait through telephone prompts, just trying to talk to service representatives.  Often we, or maybe it's just me, hang up because we get tired of all the waiting.

Is having to wait necessarily a negative thing?  Most of the time, it sure feels like it.  However, there are circumstances where waiting can be a positive thing.  I'm sure part of it has to do with what we're waiting for.  We wait when we are trying to learn new things.  After all, learning something new doesn't usually happen over night.  Teachers give students "wait time" when answering questions.  This allows students time to process information prior to responding, giving them more time to think before someone is chosen to answer the question.  Additionally, we wait for the right time to meet someone, to marry, to have children, to change careers, to begin new business ventures and adventures as well.  In all these instances, waiting is a positive thing.

What does all this waiting mean?  Waiting can mean an awful lot, when it comes to how one responds to a given situation.  In all the ways that waiting occurs, this is one of the most important.  I know you've had this experience too.  The one where you responded too quickly, and it just didn't come out the right way.  What came out of your mouth wasn't what you really wanted to say or intended to say.  It has happened to all of us.  It's still happening to some of us. 

What's the solution? ...WAITING!  When we have to respond to a comment or remark (usually negative in nature) we should wait, before sharing our response.  It can make all the difference in the world.  Our knee jerk reactions never seem to be the best response.  When we wait, take the time to think and process, our response comes out a lot better.  By waiting, we allow ourselves time to calm down, think about what was said and determine how we should respond.  Waiting can make a huge difference.  It can mean the difference between coming to an understanding or creating an even bigger problem.  Waiting gives us time to clear our heads.  Waiting, can be our friend.
What do you think?