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A Crafty Hodgepodge

Wednesday always seems to roll around so quickly these days, does it not?  I’ve been a busy gal and haven’t had quite as much time to blog, so Joyce‘s questions keep me going during the weeks when work seems to get the best of me.  Thanks, as always, for the great questions!

1.  Describe a typical Sunday from your childhood.

I grew up in a small town in Alabama.  Life centered around church.  A typical Sunday involved church in the morning, some sort of lunch at home afterward, perhaps a nap or reading, and church in the evening.  It was very low-key.

2.  How comfortable are you with uncertainty? Explain.

I do not like uncertainty.  Heck, I’m a teacher so, despite despising lesson planning, doesn’t color outside of the lines.  I like knowing what’s coming up so I can plan accordingly.

3.  What have you accomplished recently that might be described as crafty, as in ‘arts and crafts’ crafty?  If crafty doesn’t work for you, how about handy? Or both?

I’ve been doing a lot more knitting thanks to the Harry Potter Knit/Crochet House Cup that I joined on Ravelry.  I’m a Hufflepuff, by the way.

My latest creation is a Face Spa Cloth.  It was a simple, quick knit…rewarding because of the instant gratification.

4.  Have you ever worked in a ‘food place’? What did you take away from the experience?

I have never worked in the food industry and admire all of those who do.  It seems to be a thankless job.

5.  Cold turkey, talk turkey, what a turkey…in recent days, which turkey phrase or idiom best applies to you and why? Click on the word turkey if you need to read more about the meaning behind each phrase.

I gave up sodas cold turkey about a month ago.  To my credit, I was not hooked on Mt. Dew, as in the past.  I think my students are proud of me because I had talked a good game, but when push came to shove, I “turned up,” as they would say, and was true to my word.

6.  If you could have any one guest join your Thanksgiving dinner table, who would it be?

I think that this year, I’d go with Mama Dot, the Mr.’s sweet grandmother, who passed away a little over a week ago.  She was a lovely lady who was such an inspiration to me with her strong faith.  Her best friend passed away six days after her, and I know they are going to be enjoying a fine Thanksgiving meal at the table that God, Himself, will be dining at.  What an honor!  We are certainly going to miss her during the holidays!

7.  What is one thing you must accomplish today?

Oh good grief…just one thing, Joyce?  I am a teacher with an endless list of things to do.

I think I’d like to get my new anchor chart drawn up so my students will see, on the wall, a copy of the concept map we’ve been using of late.  They are learning about main idea and details, and my grand idea this year was to teach them how to write an essay, organizing ideas and details, so they can turn around and identify these items in others’ writing.  Fingers crossed that my strategy works.

8.  My Random Thought

Speaking of concept maps…

My district has been administering school-wide writing prompts as a way to address low writing scores.  We had our second prompt yesterday, and several of my students came in and told me that they had used (or attempted to) the concept map I’d taught them the week before.  One student, in fact, told me that his map had kept him focused on his topic…YAY!  Another student told me that every time she forgot what she was writing about, she looked at her map.  Double YAY!

I feel incredibly validated as a teacher.  I have been trying to help my students see the value of what I’m teaching, but until they are placed in a situation such as this one, they really don’t “get it.”

A teacher sometimes doesn’t know what’s going to stick.  I think I’ve found one thing that will.  I hope that my students will be life-long writers…or at least a bit better at it…after the series of lessons I’m conducting.

When Teenagers Write…

This year, I am teaching primarily tenth grade students.  Two of my classes are a combination Intensive Reading/English.  Within that framework, I am also teaching writing because tenth grade students in my state have to take FCAT Writes in February.

The task is huge.  For some reason, most students in today’s schools do not know how to write properly.

I had a very frank talk with my classes and explained that they would be writing every single day.  Not that they didn’t before, but those assignments were usually responses to the reading they had done each day.

This year’s writing instruction will be much more formal.

With this in mind, I set the stage from Day One by having my students write a letter to themselves on the first day of school.  I asked them to describe things they had liked and disliked about the previous year.  I asked them to describe their feelings going into the new school year.  I asked for examples of goals they hoped to meet this year and a plan for attaining these goals.

You could have heard a pin drop as those kiddos went to work.

When I read the responses later, my jaw dropped.

Students had been very candid, and I learned so many things about each student…much more than I had up to this point in previous years.

The stories they wrote…of running away…of being bullied…of skipping school…of being suspended numerous times…oh, how they broke my heart.

What made me weep openly, though, was their expressed desire to change…to be a better daughter and sister…to make new friends who would support them…to attend school every day…to be on their best behavior so they could stay in school.

It was as though time had stopped while I sat on the couch late Tuesday night, hesitant to read each story because of the pain and hope that sprung from each page.

The second day of school, we watched Ashton Kutcher’s speech from the Teen Choice Awards.  I’d seen the speech on Facebook and decided to turn it into a learning opportunity inside of my classroom.  I broke his speech into three sections, created questions related to these sections, and watched as my students diligently answered each one.

We had wonderful discussions as we analyzed each part for a deeper meaning.

These students are bright.

They are eager to share.

They are eager to learn.

Teenagers’ writings reveal glimpses into the vortexs of feelings that swirl within their souls.  Not quite adults, they don’t always know how to express their feelings, so they act out.

Given a pencil, a piece of paper, and a prompt they can relate to, students find a way to escape from the shackles that mire them down in muck as thick of quicksand.

They are given a voice, from which sings lyrics of sadness and hope.

When a teenager writes, he/she finds something that is often missing from their world…a voice.

It is a beautiful thing to behold.

Mentoring Budding Writers

One of the two final projects my students have begun working on is an original, fictional book.

A few weeks ago, I accidentally discovered a website called storyjumper.

After playing on it, I began thinking about how I could use it in my classroom.

Slowly, an idea was born.

I created classes and set up student nicknames.

Then, I began working on the project specs.  I found a rubric online and tweaked it.  I created project packets that included the rubric, project instructions, story maps (a CRISS template), and pages from the teacher resource area on storyjumper’s site.  I also created a Student Accountability Sheet for students to log daily progress.

I spent part of one class period reviewing the rubric and packet.

Students were not amused.  I could see their brows wrinkle up, and their eyes began to glaze over…


I showed students the following video (a link is also on storyjumper’s website)…

Next, I demonstrated how to log in.  Students enjoyed watching me begin the process of creating a book.

The kids’ curiosity had been piqued, and the grumbling died down.

They spent the rest of the period brainstorming and adding ideas to their story maps.

One thing I had not anticipated but have been blessed to watch has been the collaboration that has been occurring, unbidden, among my students.

Two of my students are creating Book 1 and Book 2 of a “series.”


What makes things even more exciting is hearing students talk about sharing their stories with their families.  One young lady told me that she had to rewrite her story because her mother lost her only copy!

Because the work is being done on a website, students are able to work from home, saving their stories as they make modifications.

This is the first time that students are asking to take work HOME!!!

I’m rotating students through the computer station in my room.  When students aren’t working on the computers, they are working on poetry packets, learning about Giving Poetry, Diamante poems, and other poem formats.  Before all is said and done, they will have created five original poems.

Meanwhile, I’m constantly moving around the classroom, helping reluctant writers pull ideas from places deep inside their minds.

It’s exhausting but thrilling work…truly an honor to be a part of.


Every Story Has a Beginning

Yesterday, I attended a reading conference that was held in Podunk, USA.

It’s an annual event that local teachers and others from surrounding counties look forward to each year.

There are lots of workshops to choose from…lots of experts in education ready to share and inspire attendees.

This year’s keynote speaker was Janet Stevens.  She’s an artist as well as a children’s book writer.

I’ll admit that I found her rather odd, at first.

She spoke in a strange voice.

It’s one that can only be described as the kind of voice kindergarten and first grade teachers use when they read.

But she was talking to adults.

I wasn’t exactly sure what her message was supposed to be…at first.

And then, I realized, as she took us through some of her books, annotating along the way, that she was explaining how she got ideas for her stories.

Then, I sat…completely enthralled…as she demonstrated how she took one simple thing, be it her sister’s blue dress, which she got as a hand-me-down, or a tennis ball that her dog dropped down a gopher hole…and created an entire book based on that object.

I got chills as I listened.


Because that is what I do as a blogger, although not nearly as well as Ms. Stevens.

The longer a person blogs, the more time that person spends thinking about what to write about.

Bloggers find inspiration in the smallest details of life and create stories…life lessons…around those details.

The artwork we include with our stories are the seemingly-random pictures we take throughout the day.

We never know what we’ll be writing about.  Often, our posts begin with a moment that we’ve captured in a photo.

Ms. Stevens truly inspired me.

I’d love to write a book one day.

For now, I’m satisfied with writing on this blog of mine.

Maybe one day a book will come forth from this keyboarding fingers of mine.




When I Write

When I write, funny things happen.

Depending on the topic, I may laugh.

I’ve usually got funny tales that seem to silly too be true (but really are because I am AuburnChick, a gal who has no luck whatsoever).

Sometimes, I may get on my high horse and express anger.

Just think back to the posts I’ve written about Not-A-Lady-Gag-Gag and the way Hollywood ruins perfectly good movies.

More often than not, when I write, I cry.

I never used to be sappy, but as I get older, I find myself growing softer in some ways.

Oh sure, my heart is still stubborn in others, and some of my hurts have led me to put up impenetrable walls.

BUT, still, I cry.

Writing is so cathartic.

It’s a release.

For me, writing is an expression of the whispered conversations that exist only in my heart…

To be made public to any and all who are interested enough to read.

I am not a great orator, I’ll admit, although I fancy myself funny.

I lose focus when I speak, though.

I have so many thoughts running around in my head…competing for a chance to make their grand appearance outside of my mouth.

It can be embarrassing.

Writing keeps me focused.

Sure, you may be thinking that I ramble, but my rambling is always with a purpose.

It’s a focused rambling, if such a thing actually exists.

When I write, my fingers become the instruments through which my soul sings its happy, sad, and reflective songs.

It is when I reflect that I cry…happy, sad, and overwhelmed tears.

All of these things happen…

When I write.

My Crazy Brother

Yesterday, while I was pulling out photo albums for Chicky (she’s designing her senior ad for the yearbook), I came across her academic portfolio.  It is a snapshot of some of her best work and assessments from first through third grades.

The first thing I saw when I opened the binder was a self-portrait that Chicky made at the beginning of first grade…

You can see how much she enjoyed soccer way back then, and she had only played one season!!

Now, finding that picture was fun, but the next thing I found was even better.

It was a writing sample from third grade.  I scanned the pictures because it will have more of an impact than my typing the words out (read both pages)…

Page 1

Page 2

You could have heard us laughing all the way down the street.  I couldn’t even get through the first page without stopping several times to catch my breath.


The funnier thing?  I have a picture of Rooster biting his toenails!!  Chicky found it after reading this story.

There was a third page attached to the above story…


You may be wondering what this is.

Well, it’s a graphic organizer.  Students in this day and age are taught different strategies for organizing their ideas during the pre-writing phase.

Given my adoration of everything educational, and my children’s academic success over the years, it was icing on the cake.  We laughed even harder, impressed at Chicky’s thoroughness even in first grade.

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