90 Plus Degrees

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The weather report calls for a high of 93 degrees today so it’s lucky I found some golden lines from my 5th graders’ essays on the first snowfall of 2012.

You’re welcome. 🙂

The fun part about sledding is making ramps to ride on and fly through the air like I’m a mighty hawk eagle, eyeing the pole I’m about to hit. Michael

As I slumber, a heavy snowfall covers the small town of Leesburg, Virginia where I live.  Courtland

We slipped and slid, laughed and smiled.  Hollie

I peered out the window to see a thick layer of fluffy white cotton on the ground and large flakes still falling.  Katie

On a clear day, the snow glows in the sunlight.  Mitchell

When I snowboard, the little tiny specks of whiteness are cool against my lifeless skin.  Phillip

[My brother] is already in full snowgear and looks like a giant marshmallow.  Elli

When I hear the snow dancing on my rool, I jump out of my bed and run for pencil and paper.  Haley

You think the place is a white desert, but then you focus your eyes and see that it’s snowing.  Jack

Getting in the soft, squishy bed is the best part of the day.  Cameron

All the Difference

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They came to us
Full of stories
never recorded,
open to genres
never read.
We asked them to
“skate across the surface of a poem”
(Thanks, Billy!)
they did.

Golden words
spill across the pages.
Books fly open,
pages shooting out wondrous words.
Eyes alight at the author’s craft…
While those same minds think…
“I can do that!”
and then…they do!

Readers who write and
writers who read…
This year- such a gift!
All wrapped up in book jackets
and the clear voice of writers
like water spraying over rocks,
spilling truth and pain and beauty.

What a lucky world –
One day soon
these shining children
will lead with golden hearts and minds.
Fast forward to fall
New faces, new places
Earth shifting beneath my feet
The children are the only constant…
the ones I dream of still.
And they have made all the difference .


Scrapbook and Memories

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So I began sorting through some of the notes, cards, and writing from the past school year today.  I came across some of my students’ 6 word memoirs regarding being able to choose for themselves every book they read this year:

Read with all of your freedom. – Haley

Reading whatever, whenever, is like flying. – Maddi

words, pages, chapters, books, series, Reading! – Cameron

Let reading rain all over you. – Sarah

Never stop the revolution of reading. – Belynda

Fiction and fantasy rule my world. – Chloe

They responded so intensely to this idea of choice.  This was the first year that I was allowed to completely embrace Donalyn Miller’s (The Book Whisperer) philosophy to focus on student selected independent reading exclusively.  Now we did read The Tiger Rising by the incomparable Kate DiCamillo together to start the year off right. We had to learn how to read as a writer so we could learn to write as a reader!  What a difference it made to these students. They became readers right before our eyes!  For some, it took a while to find that book, that one book, that made all the difference.  One of my students, Sam, would keep me updated each week in his reading response letters as to his status as a ‘real reader’.  It happened in February as he was reading The Hunger Games – he wrote, “…it finally happened, Mrs. McG.! I’m a real reader now!”  Somehow matching the right book with the right person at the right time can allow that student to see what a book can do for your life…and then they’re hooked because they want that feeling again…that ‘I can’t stop reading now because I HAVE to find out what’s going to happen next” feeling that those of us who are already readers know very well.

Outline for Summer

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End of a teaching era
Learning new curriculum
Reading Atwell, Rief, Calkins
Rereading Layne, Atkins, Lane
Writing daily

Preparing UDL & Technology
Creating blog & website
Adding websites to Delicious
Logging books into Library Thing
Writing daily

Preparing Book Talks
Sorting genres into tubs
Arranging desks
Decorating room
Establishing routines/procedures
Writing daily


One School Year Ends…

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So…what the general public doesn’t understand is how hard the end of the year can be for teachers.  We spend months and hours with these wonderful children, trying to help them learn all the important things we have to teach them and then…we say goodbye, probably forever.

This past year was one of the best in my 28 years of teaching.  During the course of a school day I taught writing to a group of approximately 70 5th graders. That’s what I call heaven…

In my teaching career I’ve had two groups of students who stand out – (teachers know them as ‘the golden group’ – a set of children who come through (rarely) that are kind, hard-working, smart, and just generally fun to be around).  Don’t get me wrong, most kids are like that every year but once in a great while, the whole group just gels together and becomes greater then the sum of it’s parts.

My first golden group was The Moose Club.  They were my first group as a general education teacher and I had them for two years, looping with them from 4th to 5th.  They were the group that cemented my belief in the power of writing – the power to heal, to bond, to believe in oneself.  They graduated from high school on June 6th. (They were all very tall and it freaked me out.)  I still have many of their writing pieces. 

They are with me still, every day, in so many ways.  Dale’s poem about ‘Freedom’ after viewing the pictures from Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison, Darryl’s rap about the move of the colonial capitol from Jamestown to Williamsburg, Samuel’s letter apologizing to his classmates for missing school and letting down his team, all of these inform my teaching to this day. So today I am allowing myself to look back, to see where the journey has taken me and to be grateful, so very grateful, to all the students I have loved over the years.