Posts Tagged ‘slice of life’

Slice of Life Tuesday: Learning to Unlearn

November 9, 2021

his post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Today was another good day.

I had lots of favorite parts, but my favorite favorite might be from first grade.

We had an inquiry lesson about fiction and nonfiction. My challenge to them: sort a group of picture books into categories fiction and nonfiction. My job was to stay out of their way while they worked. And then, they’d call me over to investigate the piles. I didn’t tell them which of their books were correct or incorrect, I just told them the number of incorrect books in the pile and let them try again.

Calder’s Circus: now THAT’s a tricky one!

I. LOVED. This activity. How cool it was to watch the conversation, taking notes of the knowledge and misconceptions as the evidence surfaced.

I also loved introducing the kids to a new concept: UNLEARNING. Yes, unlearning. Friends, I will tell you that it blew my six-year-old students’ MINDS to know that there are times where we have to take a fact or an idea and UNLEARN it. “Wait, Mrs. Levin. I thought we came to school to LEARN things, not UNLEARN them!” Yes, buddy. You’re right. But sometimes what we learn is not correct, and we need to replace it. That’s where the magic happens!

Among the ideas we had to unlearn:

Drawings go in fiction, photos go in nonfiction
Fiction reads like a story and nonfiction doesn’t
Nonfiction could happen, fiction couldn’t

At the heart of our discoveries today?

Sometimes the difference between fiction and nonfiction is messy. And the only way we can REALLY tell is to look at the text itself: titles, pages, back matter, dust jackets. 

We’re on to something, people. I’m excited to see where they go. And what’s even better? I get to do this same activity with my first-grade loveys at another school on Friday. 

Shhhh. Don’t give it away!

Slice of Life Tuesday: Gamifying Reading

November 2, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


It’s been two weeks since I first got my students. Yes, it’s a late start. I’m a gifted-talented enrichment teacher, so I have to wait on instruction until after our identification process.

Yes, there’s probably another soapbox waiting to happen about identification. But even with the struggles and challenges, I can tell you two things without a doubt:
1. Gifted kids NEED one another.
2. The fact that my job even exists is a miracle in and of itself.

One thing I’m excited about is a reading activity that I introduced a long while ago, but put away because…well, I don’t really know. As a teacher, I think we all have great activities that we shove under the proverbial bed and forget about sometimes, then take out and dust off, only to wonder why we ever put it away to begin with.

Let’s start at the beginning. Some time ago, I noticed that kids, especially when reading in a group, almost NEVER stop reading to ask about an unfamiliar word or pose a question they don’t understand, let alone marvel at fabulous language. Yet that’s exactly what I NEED them to do when they’re together.

I know I’m not alone in this.

So, I developed a reading activity that I’ve used with kids to “gamify” the group reading experience. I call it the “Speed Bump Game.”

Basically, when we’re driving, we know that speed bumps are there to slow us down. If we don’t, we’ll do damage, both to our car and perhaps ourselves! Well, if we don’t slow down for a challenge in our reading, we do damage – to our learning.

Right??

The Speed Bump Game treats us readers like we’re all just passengers in a car. The person reading aloud is our “driver.” Anyone can stop and say “Speed Bump!” any time they have a question that needs answering. The group then talks through or researches the question. If they can answer it, they’ve safely navigated the speed bump. If not, they report it as a “road hazard,” and I’ll help them out later on.

I’ve also started asking the groups to reread sentences or paragraphs after a stoppage so they can hear the word and understand it in context.

Here was a class example from today.

We didn’t have any “road hazards” here, but that’s because I was part of the discussion. These are, however, all their own answers after discussion. It’s all about the gradual release, friends…

I’m hoping this game accomplishes a lot of things:
1. Convinces kids what a relief and joy it is to admit when they don’t know something
2. Gives kids the confidence to work through difficult text together
3. Builds to text-based conversations about wonderings, reactions, thoughts
4. Transfers to independent reading
5. Transfers to instruction in the regular classroom

A girl can dream!

Interested in giving this a try in your classroom? I’d love to hear how it goes. You can make a copy and personalize the rules by clicking this link.

Slice of Life Tuesday: All of the Things

October 26, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Today is a day
where I consider
all of the things I might blog about,
the many marbles rolling, clicking, bumping
around the ring of my brain:

1.
The to-do lists
and to-do lists
and to-do lists
that rack up in notebooks
and sticky notes
and phone reminders

2.
Children who discover,
quite accidentally,
that the right question opens us up
to big ideas, philosophy
our premise for life
THE premise for life

3.
The need to tell certain children
that there is such a thing
as a hypothetical question –
one that neither requires
nor desires
an answer

4.
The kids who complain
through smiles
that interaction with big ideas
breaks their brains
as I smile and offer up
another idea
to deepen the fracture

5.
The assurance that
getting stuck in our writing
is just more proof that we’re
real writers,
and the people who insist that
we should always have fluent ideas
might do well to
put a sock in it

6.
The power of persimmons
to reinstill gratitude
for simple delights and kindnesses,
for a calling that
twines my life with others

Perhaps each of these ideas
will find its own way,
asserting itself as a longer entry:
a poem, perhaps, a journal
or photo essay

Until then,
I’ll listen to the rolls,
the clicks,
the clacks
and wait
for my brain
to just
settle

down.

Slice of Life Tuesday: Story’s Sneak Attack

September 14, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you know that Story has been a recurring character in my not-so fiction. If you want the rest of the story, you’re welcome to dig in to our past “conversations:”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


It was a long day. A bone-tired day. The kind of day where she comes home from school and wants to get right into pajamas. But she doesn’t, because there are dishes and laundry and housework and cooking and homework. It was the kind of day where going to bed feels terrible because she knows she’s going to just have to get up and repeat the whole process the next day.

THAT kind of day.

She kicked away her sandals at the front door, narrowly missing the dogs. She gave each one a head pat and a butt scratch before shooing them into the yard for a long-awaited doing of business. School bags got dropped, one after the other, on the floor or the kitchen table or the counter – it didn’t matter, so long as she didn’t have to shoulder them any more.

What to tackle first, she thought. Empty the dishwasher? Walk the dog? Call her mom? Answer emails? Vacuum up the dog hair dust bunnies from the family room rug? Sometimes, she thought, the best solution to too much is nothing.

A few moments, she thought. Just a few moments to sit outside on the deck, to absorb some sunshine, to listen to the cicadas, to let myself just…sit…still. She made her way to the deck, found the chair in her favorite, sunniest spot, pulled another one up for her feet, and sank down to spend some quality time with the inside of her eyelids.

“It’s been a minute.”

She didn’t need to open her eyes to know who had just pulled up beside her.

Story.

Maybe if she just sat there without responding, Story would go away, kind of like when the dog wakes her up at three a.m. Five seconds went by. Ten. Fifteen.

Story cleared her throat. “You know I’m still here, right?”

“About that. You’re HERE. Usually you wait until I’m at a Starbucks to catch me off guard. Somewhere in public, where I know you’ll behave yourself. Can’t you give me just a little bit of peace in my own back yard?”

“Now that’s a good one,” Story chuckled. “When have you ever known me to give you a bit of peace?”

“I don’t know,” she responded. “You haven’t visited me for a while. I thought maybe you had moved on.”

“Moved on? HA! Oh, my friend, you may not have seen me in a while, but I am always, always here. Whether or not you acknowledge me, I’m wherever you go.”

“I’m not sure if I should be comforted or creeped out.”

Story shrugged. “It’s your imagination. You decide.”

“That makes the question even harder.”

“Well,” Story said, “all I know is you’ve been scarce. I miss you. Listen, not to guilt trip you or anything –“

“Too late.”

“–but it’s not just me. I’ve been talking to Poetry, to Memoir, to Essay, the whole gang. Nobody’s seen you around. What gives?”

She felt her shoulders go heavy, her stomach clinch. Why had she been staying away? Was it lack of discipline? Dried-up creative juices? Plain old apathy? Perhaps, she figured, it was a mixture of the three. “I don’t know,” she said. “I guess…I haven’t felt like writing lately.”

“Haven’t felt like it? Haven’t FELT like it? C’mon. How many writers sit down and write every day because they FEEL like it? Honey, both you and I know you’ve let yourself go. It’s time to slide on back and hang out a little more often. No pressure, no guilt or shame.” Story thought a moment, reconsidered. “Well, maybe a LITTLE guilt or shame. You’ve hung me out to dry, you know.”

“Mmm, I like the no guilt or shame route. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s been a rough go these last months.”

“All the more reason you should be writing. You’ve got things to say, my friend. It’s time to get saying them.”

She sighed.

Here we go again, she thought, as she opened her computer, squared her shoulders, and placed her fingers at the keyboard.

Slice of Tuesday: Welcome 5782

September 7, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Today was the Jewish New Year, a day to reflect and ground myself spiritually. It’s a day of traditions – some in the stricter cultural sense, others adopted as family rituals.

A new challah recipe and braiding technique. Yes, I usually make these breads round for the new year, but didn’t want to tinker too much on the first try…
Chicken and rice dish, perfect for our pre-services dinner
A moment captured on our annual apple-picking outing. We started when my oldest was an itty bitty, and it’s just been a fun thing to do ever since!
The place where I performed tashlich (literally “casting away”), a tradition of casting bread (and other figurative burdens) out upon the water.
Apples and honey. Folks were on to something when they thought up this pairing!

Slice of Life Tuesday: Another Sort of Slice

August 31, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!

Today was a whole day of online workshops. I really wanted to spend time writing, but couldn’t bear the computer screen any more. So, my Slice for today goes as follows. Enjoy!

Slice of Life Tuesday: At the Edge

August 24, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Next week I return to school, and I’ve been trying to articulate my feelings about it. I’m squished between a lot of emotions, and I thought this poem might reflect some of those thoughts…

At the Edge of School, 2021

It’s the
dread and excitement
that build with each step
up the high-dive ladder:
closer and closer to the top
the flutters grow
and it’s hard to tell
if my grip slips
from pool water
or sweaty palms

Standing at the top,
toes knurled around the edge
I take in the breeze,
the chlorine smell,
the faraway noises of grown-ups and kids
and splashes and squeals

I’ve been here before.

Sometimes
you don’t always
land so well –
you hit the water funky, or
water goes up your nose, or
your swimsuit goes rogue
and you question
why you ever came to the pool
in the first place

Looking down,
I wonder why I continue to
make this leap
year after
year after
year

But the pool is one of my
favorite places to be –
I’m comfortable here,
at home,
happy
within myself

So I guess
despite the funk
and the water noise
there’s really nothing to do
but brace myself
take a breath

And jump.

Slice of Life Tuesday: If You Give a Mom a Laundry Basket

August 17, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


It’s 8:47 p.m. on a Slice of Life Tuesday. Usually, I’ve posted by mid-morning, and I’ve already scrolled through several posts by fellow writers. Today, though, I’m sitting down to my computer for the first time after a long, productive day. Now, some people work through their first days of empty nesthood by laying low and relaxing. My version of that is to clean and declutter. What can I say? It’s just how I’m built. So, I thought I’d have some fun with today’s post.

If you give a mom a laundry basket, she’ll want to gather up the bedding that hasn’t been cleaned in too long.

If she gathers up the bedding in her son’s room, she’ll notice all the clothing he left behind when he went off to college.

Sorting through the clothing left behind from college will remind her how stuffy and smelly the room is.

Once she sees how sad and stuffy the room is, she’ll want to open the windows.

If she opens the window, she’ll see how many dust bunnies have accumulated everywhere.

If you let her take care of the dust bunnies, she’ll see how filthy the rug is and want to clean it.

When she moves the rug to clean it, she’ll see how nasty the floor is and move all the furniture so she can clean it.

If she moves the bed, she’ll want to take it apart so they can finally give it away, along with the brother’s.

Now that she’s giving away the beds, she’ll want to sort through the sheets and towels for give-aways.

And if there are enough sheets and towels, she’s going to want a laundry basket to store them in…

Thing 2’s college drop-off
Bonus: dinner on the way home with Thing 1!

Slice of Life Tuesday: School Shopping, Redux

August 10, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


It’s no secret that school supplies give me joy. For me, and for many folks I know, it’s why I got into teaching. Yeah, yeah, there’s all that noise about making a difference and touching the future, but have you seen a perfectly pink eraser?

I’m not a shopper, but I could spend all the time in the world browsing notebooks, pencils and art materials. If, for any reason, you need to keep me occupied for an hour, just drop me off in the middle of the school supply area of any store.

So way back when my children started school, I had visions of us shopping for school supplies together (please tell me you see where this is going). I dreamed of sharing – of reveling! – in the sheer delight that can only come from a new pack of colored pencils. We’d go through the school supply list, using our time in the aisles to bond and get excited about the school year to come.

My expectations for school shopping and the reality couldn’t have been any different. The kids whined, fought with each other, and were completely uncooperative. Any joy I had about markers, glue sticks, or pristine journals was promptly stomped to bits by constant squabbling and complaints.

It took me a few years of torture, but I eventually figured out that the best thing for all involved was to grab the list and do the darn shopping myself. My kids didn’t really care what I bought them, so long as they had what they needed that first day. (Actually, that’s not entirely true. My older son developed a preference for matching folders, binders and notebook color for each of his subjects, even choosing colors that he felt were suitable to the class at hand. Hope springs eternal…) Once I figured that out, it freed me once again to enjoy that time – alone! – with the school supply list.

So.

Why on earth did I think that college preparation would be much different?

This time, I pictured my younger son and me cruising through the stores with our shopping list, chatting and dreaming about college life, how the dorm room was going to come together, (now please tell me you see where THIS is going!) what sorts of things he’d need to survive the transition, literally and figuratively. Or perhaps we’d be huddled together around my computer, comparison shopping the best blankets and power strips.

Yep. That…wasn’t a thing.

By the time we made it through one store, I knew we had both had enough. I felt the grey hairs sproinging one by one. Did you know that it’s possible to get stressed out over hangers? Or pillows? Or room fans? Or coffee makers? Sproing. Sproing. Sproing.

So now, I’m clicking and shopping. By myself. I’ve got my chai tea, a trusty dog for company, and the satisfaction of knowing I can do this, pain and conflict free. Lap desk? Check. Ethernet cords. Check. Ironically-chosen pink blanket for the dorm bed? Checkitty check.

And really. Isn’t that what most of parenthood – most of life – is about? Releasing ourselves from expectations so that our current reality becomes easier to focus on?

While we’re on the subject of releasing expectations, I’ll leave you with this thought. Right now in our house, things are messy. Not in the figurative sense, I mean truly. Literally. Messy.

As long as it’s out of my living room by next Tuesday, I think I can live with this!

That little mama dream I had of piles of clothing, sorted out by what goes, what stays? C’mon. Who am I fooling? That’s not going to happen. And that’s okay. It may boil down to my son scrambling for a half hour with a bunch of garbage bags, but as long as the clothes are gone from the living room by the time my son is, I will be just fine.

Gratuitous doggo pic. I think she might miss the mounds of clothes. And maybe her brother. But mostly the clothes.

Releasing expectations.
Releasing expectations.
Releasing expectations…

Slice of Life Tuesday: Two Weeks

August 3, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Two weeks.

In two weeks, both of my guys will be away at school.

In two weeks, my husband and I will have the house to ourselves.

In two weeks, I won’t have to listen to complaints about how empty the pantry is.

Poor guys. How will they ever cope?

In two weeks, I won’t have to nag anyone to take out the recycling and trash, or be up to my eyeballs in dishes that nobody’s putting away.

The answer is YES. I have a PHYSICAL response to looking at this…
(but I’m also not doing the job for them!)

In two weeks, I don’t have to close the door to the glory that is a teenager’s room.

now is probably NOT the time you wish you had Smell-O-Vision…

In two weeks, I’ll be able to enter the hall bathroom without a hazmat suit.

The bathtub. I just. Want. The bathtub.

In two weeks, I can worry so much less about grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking. I’ll be without the compounding of clutter that causes that tangled feeling in the pit of my stomach.

But…I’ll also be without THESE guys.

(Yes, this is how it goes when I ask my guys to take a photo together.)

They won’t be around for random conversations, for occasional date days, for the get-a-load-of-this-video! nudges, for the can-you-guess-this-song game, for kitchen dance parties, for constant bickering and ribbing and poking, for eye rolling at the latest dumb thing…

…and I might miss them, just a little bit.