Saturday, March 25, 2017

sol17 #25: love and understanding, positivity

Have you got your hands on Ed Sheeran's new album yet? It's so good. My favorite song on the record is What do I know? If you have a few minutes, take a listen:

But if not, here are my favorite lyrics:

We could change this whole world with a piano,
add a base, a guitar grab a beat and away we go
I'm just a boy with a one-man show
No university, no degree but lord knows
Everybody's talking 'bout exponential growth
And the stock market crashing in their portfolios
While I'll be sitting here with a song that I wrote
Sing, love could change the world in a moment,
But what do I know?

This got me to thinking about voice. Ed is talking about it with his music - he's got a mic and a stage and some songs, he can create love with those things. But isn't it the same for us writers? How much power do we have from putting out a blog post a day for a whole month? Even if they are not commenting, people are reading.

And so this got me thinking about how we give our students voice. If our kids are writing, if they are publishing work out to a larger audience, they definitely have a certain amount of power, in their ideas, in the sharing with others, in learning, too, when they read the work of others.

When we listen to each other's stories, it creates connections. When we understand one another better, we're more likely to help them out when they need it. Writing does this because stories do this.

Writing stories and sharing them with others creates understanding. Spending a lot of time together doing this (like maybe a whole school year) creates the circumstances for a certain amount of love to flourish. and when we stay positive with all the understanding and love, I think we've got a perfect medley for taking care of one another.

And so close with another part of Ed's song... because teh last paragraph was definitely mentored from this song:

I'll paint the picture, let me set the scene
I know, I'm all for people following their dreams
Just remember life is more than fittin' in your jeans
It's love and understanding, positivity

What do you trust in? How about that for a blog post?

Or, take a peek at the padlet for some other ideas or leave a comment for other bloggers!

Friday, March 24, 2017

sol17 #24: bloomed from the mud

In the few minutes I've had today to myself so far, I've been consumed with the story of the Lotus flower. I noticed it on the cover of a book I'm reading (The Art of Coaching) and so when I was making my sketchnotes for my book club, I decided to look up this stunning creation of nature and find the story behind it so I could investigate the meaning of this cover art. What I found stopped me dead in my tracks.
"The lotus flower is one of the most remarkable creations of nature. Its beauty lies in its purity, because this magnificent flower emerges from the dirty and muddy bottom of a pond, yet still remains untouched and unstained by its soiled surroundings." source
Which got me to thinking, what a muddy week I've been having:

  • Got blown off for a first date.
  • Was stressed about my observation.
  • Was short-tempered when I should've been more compassionate.
  • Was overwhelmed with the amount of work to be done at school.
  • Carried around some negativity I should have let go.
But also, there was so much beauty this week. Namely, this morning when I got to spend some time with some of my favorite peeps, the Literacy Coaches. We had just finished doing a few Quick Writes to share our ideas about coaching when one of them came over with donuts and said, "Oh, how could I have forgotten? We're going to toast you now."

"Toast me? Why? Because I shared that modification for quick writing with you guys?"

"No, for your Golden Apple. Donuts are sweeter, so we picked these up and we all want to tell you what we love about you, and how you are golden to all of us."

I started crying before they even began. And continued all through out. They told me things like,
  • You made me a writer.
  • Not only am I so happy to work with you, you have been a dear friend.
  • You've told me you appreciate me and enjoy working with me; I can't remember another person who has said that to me recently.
  • I try and remember how you did things. I've learned so much from you.
  • You have taught me so much, I'm always learning when I am around you, there's always something to take away.
  • You're awesome.
  • You have such a warmth and a glow about you.
And so just when I was thinking about how muddy my week had been, how I was feeling overwhelmed and wishing I could have responded differently in a few situations, and how there were too many meetings, too much information to share and too many lessons to plan, beauty blossomed.

And I'm reminded of all the beauty in this life we live. It's everywhere. Sometimes you have to look for it a little harder but sometimes it sprouts and grows right in front of you as if you were the sun and rain giving it just the right amount of everything it needed.

Today in our meeting, we talked about why we want to be a coach, and more particularly, why coach in district 100. For me, it all begins with relationships. To the coaches: you have created a space for me to be myself, to be annoying in asking everyone to talk quieter, to be funny with jokes, to make mistakes and screw things up, to just be me, in my muddiness and in my moments of beauty, too. The relationships I have with you are a part of a wider community I feel here in Berwyn. There are so many teachers around the district who are some of my best friends, who have become almost family to me. These relationships and this community is why I coach and teach in District 100, striving to live at ease in the muddy water, knowing beauty is just beyond the surface.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

sol17 #23: math autobiography

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Thanks for the idea, Leah, who got it from Terierrol!

One...cup of coffee each day, although I really want three.
Two...scoops of vanilla protein in my shake for breakfast every morning.
Three...weeks till I see all of my family in Charlotte!
Four...years that I have participated with Slice of Life.
Five...more minutes till my bedtime.
Six...of my students have blogged every day this month!
Seven...the number of get-ups until spring break.
Eight...the number of hours I prefer to sleep, or more!
Nine...lights out at this time.
Ten...the number of days I'll spend in Spain this June!

Clearly I'm ready for bed! Good night!

Did you see my blog...a math autobiography? Try one out for yourself!

Check out the padlet for another idea or leave a comment for another student blogger!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

sol17 #22: gratitude lately

So many reasons to celebrate the blessings in our lives. Here are a few of mine so far this week.

Thankful for freshly squeezed OJ that goes into my protein shakes each morning. And blueberries. I love blueberries.

Thankful for the kiddo in my ELA class who walks into class every day, and whether I'm looking or not, says, "Hi, Ms. Brezek," all full of smiles.

Right back atcha, LF!

Thankful for my principal, who, during my evaluation, made it a point to talk to most, if not all of my students about what they were learning.

Thankful for my awesome friend who does yoga with us after school. It's the perfect community to be a part of 

Thankful for online shopping. Need a confirmation gift? Shop online. New leggings? Shop online. Your skin care line? Shop online. All delivered to my school, too!

Thankful for longer days and sunshine. Summer is on the horizon, friends!

What are you thankful for?

An idea for writing today...what about one like my post? Make a list of the things you are thankful for, especially better if you include pictures, too!

Check the padlet for ideas! Leave a comment for someone else!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

sol17 #21: a letter to the birds

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Dear birds who reside outside my bedroom window,

I'm so happy you're back, and on the first day of spring! What perfect timing! I was happy to hear you cheeping and chirping outside my window this morning, but, I wish you could have waited a little longer before the songs commenced. You see, I woke up in a start to an alarm of bird tunes, thinking I was late for work, but then as my eyes adjusted to the light, I could tell it was still dark out. I checked my watch, and to my surprise it was only 4:30. I was excited to have another 45 minutes to sleep, but kind of upset that I was disturbed in the first place.

I dozed back into dream land, and then was awoken once again, but this time to my alarm. I perked up my ears to listen for your songs, but you must have decided 4:30 am was too early to be awake and so you went back to sleep. Unfortunately for me, I wasn't afforded that luxury.

So one request, my neighbors in the trees outside my second floor apartment: can you keep your music quiet until 5:15? Then, I can sleep soundly until the ringing of my alarm. And you can enjoy a longer evening of peaceful sleep, too.

Warm regards,
Your neighbor

An idea: Did you see my post? Try and write a letter to someone or something! Check out my example above.

Check out more ideas on our padlet and don't forget to leave a comment for a blogging friend!

Monday, March 20, 2017

sol17 #20: ode to the Shamrock Shake

Oh Shamrock Shake how I
love thee, minty green goodness
topped with fluffy whipped cream and
sprinkled with sparkly sweet crystals
so cool and refreshing
available for a limited time only.

Lucky for you, Shamrock Shake, I
gave up drinking for Lent and so I
indulged in you - the toxic cocktail - 
on just one occasion this season: St. Patrick's day
I celebrated
with an American tradition
also know as
the tasty green goodness that is
deliciously minty,
festively green,
dazzlingly delightful;
the one and only
Shamrock Shake

Kiddos! Do you look forward to holidays for any special food-related reasons? Share about those today!
And you can check out more ideas on the padlet or leave comments for other bloggers at Two Writing Teachers.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

sol17 #19: silver lining

I found out last fall that I was nominated for a pretty special award, the Golden Apple, which is from a foundation local to Chicago. Even though I wasn't sure who nominated me, I applied, and found out in February that I had been named a finalist. Such an honor, I felt so thankful for that nomination, especially when I found out it was a former coteacher who I just adore. Those days teaching with her were some of my fondest memories of teaching. Thank you, Julia, for thinking of me this year!

On March 1st, two colleagues of Golden Apple visited my school. They met with my principal and assistant principal, and also panels of teachers, students, and parents. They spent over an hour in my classroom observing. As nervous as I was the night before (didn't sleep much) I was set right at ease when I met them. I had a great day, and so did all the people who participated on my behalf!

Following that, there was a brunch to honor the 33 finalists, a group selected from 600 nominations.

I heard from the founder that day, and really liked what he had to say about education. My big takeaway was that it's relationships that drives all the work we do, and I couldn't agree more. That's the best thing I love most about the work I am privileged to do each day.

For the past six months, I have been only sending positive energy at this possibility. I remember telling a friend a few months ago, "I don't want to get too excited, there's a bunch of amazing teachers in the running for this award," to which she responded, "No, Michelle. Envision it happening. Only think positive thoughts about it. Manifest this award that you are very deserving of!" Since that conversation, I have only been thinking that I would win, that Golden Apple would visit my classroom, a visit without my knowing, to tell me that I had become one of the ten fellows of their foundation.

So, when I got the call last week that I had not been named a Golden Apple Fellow, you can imagine the disappointment I felt. I thought back over the past few months, and really, until that moment, I hadn't thought that I wouldn't receive this prestigious opportunity.

That being said, I can't forget what an honor all of it is anyways. I was nominated - one of my peers thought I was good enough to be named golden. Then, my application essays created the opportunity for me to be part of a small group of finalists. People from the foundation spent a whole day with me and the people at Heritage. How amazing!

And so, even though I did not become a Golden Apple Fellow, I am still proud of the work I've done, not only this year, but in the 13 years prior. Work that led me to amazing relationships with awesome teachers, students, and parents, people who have taught me about myself and how to be a great teacher, peers who taught me to how live the most positive life, friends who shared an office with me or had a classroom down the hall who taught me ways to teach a child to read and love to write, colleagues who taught me the importance of consistency and compassion. Students who made me slow down, laugh, and have fun. Administrators who pushed me to be better today than I was yesterday.

All of that has brought me to be named me a Teacher of Distinction by Golden Apple, and will offer me an opportunity to collaborate with them in the future. I can't wait to find out more about this, and hope they don't mind if I continue to tweet to them, since they had me at their #teachgolden hashtag.

And just one last note to all those who cheered me on the past few months... the teachers who embraced me in the teacher's lounge, who high-fived me in the hallway or just shared a bright-eyed congrats... and to those teachers, students, and parents who showed up for me on March 1st, I continue to grow with all of you by my side. Thank you. xo.

Hey there kiddos! Here's an idea for Sunday:
A time I was really disappointed was.... but then I realized that something good came from my disappointment...

And if you don't like that idea, check out the padlet. And don't forget to leave some comments for others!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

sol17 #18: pb & j friends

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My bff Katie and I had a bet once. Well, I'm sure we've had lots of bets, but I remember this one because I won. Yep, that's right. I won. I outsmarted her. She wouldn't want to admit it though, but the secret's out!

You know those Uncrustable sandwiches? These:

Well, the schools I worked at in Phoenix always has these. One day, I didn't have a lunch, so I got one, but I didn't like it. It was waaaay bigger than the ones that you buy from the store. It still tasted the same, but the filling was just too much - too much peanut butter - too much jelly.

Katie and I used to live together. Some time after I had this Uncrustable at school, I was at home and hungry, and happened to have some of these in the freezer. I got one out to thaw and eat, and I mentioned to her how the ones you buy at the store are smaller than the ones at school. She said, "No they're not." I told her, "Actually they are." We went back and fourth arguing about this for awhile before she finally bet me about it. That was an easy bet to take, so we shook on it and that was that. I couldn't wait until Monday to make her wrong...I knew I was so right!

The following Monday, at lunchtime, we headed down to the lounge which was conveniently right next to the cafeteria. I grabbed one of the sandwiches and took it to the lounge, and waited for Katie to get there. By this time, I had let all the teaching friends know how wrong Katie was about to everyone was waiting for her to arrive to meet her fate.

She walked in all proud, but I was quick to show her the ounces on the Uncrustable from school.... I was jumping around all excited because I was right, and more importantly, she was wrong. She's always winning bets, so don't feel bad for her :-) I haven't been right many times, so I never forget this instance.

So that has been our little joke ever since. Now, we find little peanut butter and jelly pictures online and post them to one another's facebook, including this one that she posted on my page on my last birthday:

One of my favorite things about friends are all the little jokes you have with this, and this one is one of my faves!

And so, few years ago, we had Thanksgiving together. Katie's taught me how to make the turkey, stuffing, and all the sides. I thought that since we were going to make the whole thing ourselves, I should find a gift that would be useful for us I scoured the Internet high and low and found this:

It's our PB & J and I found an lady on Etsy to put it on an apron. Love it!

Want some inspiration for Saturday? How about a post about why you are writing for Slice of Life! Check out this post from Sejin who is blogging from Malaysia!

 If you don't like that idea, check out more ideas on the padlet. You can also read posts from other bloggers like you on the Two Writing Teachers blog!

Happy Saturday, bloggers!

Friday, March 17, 2017

sol17 #17: meh

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I wrote a whole slice then erased it. It wasn't my best work but wasn't awful. Are you ever in a mood like that? So now, this is all I'm publishing today. It does not make me proud but I'm too tired to do anything else with this right now.


Sorry, readers, for being a major bummer lately. I realize this is one of a few slices that have been whiny and complainy. I'm hoping to snap out of it soon. Thanks for granting me some grace until then.

Here's the padlet.
Check out Two Writing Teachers to read some blogs and leave some comments.
And be ready for a new QuickWrite in class!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

sol17 #16: 90's throwback songs

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I was just reading a bit. I'm currently engrossed in The Hate You Give. Reading probably doesn't seem slice-worthy, but this part I just read I found to be so super creative!

The main character in the book, Starr, was mad at her boyfriend and was talking about how she was going to respond to him when she saw him next, except I've never seen it done this way. She contemplates...
I don't know. Before Khalil, I planned to cold-shoulder Chris with a sting more powerful than a nineties R & B breakup song. But after Khalil I'm more like a Taylor Swift song. (No shade, I listen to Tay-Tay, but she doesn't serve like nineties R & B on the angry-girlfriend scale.) 
She goes on...
You know what? I'll BeyoncĂ© him. Not as powerful as a nineties R & B breakup song, but stronger than a Taylor swift. Yeah. That'll work. 
Such. Good. Writing. I just love it. And for any of my students who might be reading this, let me school you a bit on 90's R & B. Here's the song I'm envisioning Starr was thinking of in this part of the text... here's my favorite video, or you can just watch the one I've embedded (a live version that is just ok):

And after going through a bunch of songs, I found a few more I just loved in the 90's...check them out: Sittin up in my room, shoop, and waterfalls. and one of my first CD's had this song: weak.

Yes, I was a teenager in the 90's, kiddos. How much top 40 has changed!

How about a blog about your favorite songs? Or your favorite songs a few years ago?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

butterfly project

This year, as part of our Holocaust unit, students are reading poems from children at the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp (referred to also as Terezin). They are then making a butterfly to represent the poem, using ThingLink to annotate their creation, and sharing with the class (and all of our readers!) via their blogs. Students will also find out the fate of the child who wrote their poem, as that is revealed in the appendix of the I never saw another butterfly book, which was used to create the project. Huge thanks to Sarah Larson for her helping me enhance the way I had done this project in the past!

Here's my version of the project. 

The Butterfly
by Pavel Friedmann

The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzingly yellow.
Perhaps if the sun's tears would sing
      against a white stone...

Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly 'way up high.
It went away I'm sure because it wished to
      kiss the world goodbye.

For seven weeks I've lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto
But I have found what I love here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut branches in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.

That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don't live here,
     in the ghetto.

sol17 #15: how old are you?

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We were wrapping up our guided reading lesson today and one of my students asked me, "Ms. Brezek, how old are you?"

I always love to ask what they think, just so I can see what their perception of age is. Sometimes I get 46. Today I got 26.

"Luis! I love you! I am not 26, but I am so glad you think I'm that young!"

"Well, how old are you then?"

I replied, "I'm actually ten years older than that, I'm 36." His mouth drops open wide and Adrian interjects.

"You're old! Dang! That's how old my mom is..." and he trailed off walking to go meet the class for share time.

As I headed that way too, I just smiled to myself. Because my kids were having fun today reading an article called The Rise of Hitler and taking notes on it. Because they work well together and help each other. And because when one isn't listening, the other students hold them accountable. And, of course, because today I look 26.

Here's the padlet with ideas and the Two Writing Teachers blog where you can leave comments.

Writers, you've now blogged for a half of a month! What are you most proud of now that we're halfway through?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

sol17 #14: there's always tomorrow

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I want to do everything, but then I get tired.

Like, I want to do all these awesome things for our Holocaust unit. And so I start, reading 10 picture books that the kids will read, creating my butterfly and doing the thinglink tags. And then there's the documents the kids need as directions. And I want to get it all done and now,

but then I get too tired.

I check my inboxes on my phone, hoping for new comments on my blog, and Yes! there's one! and it's from my friend Jennie and she's amazing, commenting not just on my blog but also on my students and so I want to comment on her students' blogs, too,

but now I'm too tired.

On the weekends I have a lot to do to create a successful week. Like grocery shop, prep a week's worth of healthy lunchs and make protein bars, do laundry and clean the apartment. And I want to bake some treats for friends and also marinate that chicken and all this is fit around having a social life too, so not everything gets done because

I just get too tired.

And my kitchen table is about toppling over with mail and other things I need to sort through, since that table is more for collecting than eating, and I want to get to it,

but right now I'm definitely too tired.

And my brain goes 100 miles a minute thinking of all the things I have to/want to do... schedule my observation - finish lesson plans - write tomorrow's blog for Slice of Life - write a snail mail letter to family or friends - run to Target because I'm about out of toothpaste - watch that new episode of First Comes Us - check to make sure my name on the travel website matches my passport.... and I'm doing one thing but then I go to another without finishing the first and I want to get them all done, but just thinking about all of it

makes me too tired.

And so since I was inspired by another person's blog today about how there's always tomorrow, I think for today I'll be done and I'll rest, because without enough down time

I'll definitely be too tired

to even entertain starting the massive to do list.

Here's the padlet where I hope you're all adding ideas!
And here's the link to Two Writing Teachers where you can definitely read some posts from other kids like you and probably be inspired!

And since we'll have Quick Writing time in class, I'll leave you with this quote. You're writing - you're putting words on paper, so you must know that it is true that you're real writers now! I'm so proud of you!

Monday, March 13, 2017

sol17 #13: love is...

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Totally needed inspiration today, and want to thank Chris at Reading Amid the Chaos for this post. Totally used hers as a mentor text!

Love is...

  • Group texts with your four best friends about nothing and everything
  • Seeing a friend in church who always makes you feel so so welcome
  • Two Starbucks Mochas in one weekend
  • A text from dad saying a package is on the way
  • Students who blog over the weekend
  • Comments on your blog
  • A great book and time to read it
  • Snail mail
  • Meeting a friends little kiddo for the first time
  • Your bed, warm and comfy
  • Being inspired to write by others in an awesome writing community
What kind of love are you finding in your day?

Feel like trying a post like mine? Make a list of the things that equal love to you!

Want another idea? Check out the padlet.
Want to leave some comments? Check out Two Writing Teachers Blog and look in the comments for other student writers.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

sol17 #12: michael jackson

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One of my students loves Michael Jackson. She's written lots of blogs about him, check them out here, here, here, and favorite one is here. And there's more, too!

And so yesterday, when I was pulling into the grocery store and The Way You Make Me Feel came on, I immediately thought of my kiddo, Gina. I sat for a few extra minutes in my car, enjoying the sweet tunes, and thinking about the exit ticket I gave on Friday.

To my prompt of "I wish my teacher knew..." she replied with, "that we should learn about MJ, because he was history too!"

I just had to laugh to myself a bit, because of my kiddo with such an interest in this artist. While I can't promise her a unit on Michael Jackson, I hope that this blog will be enough.

Maybe Passion Projects at the end of the year, that would work, right?

In the spirit of Gina's interest in Michael Jackson, here's an idea - share about a favorite singer or song, and what stories that song brings to mind.

Want another idea? Check out the padlet.
Want to leave a comment for a blogger you don't know? Check out Two Writing Teachers blog.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

sol17 #11: exit tickets

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Lately, on Fridays, I've been giving exit tickets via google forms. I have kids do some ratings for the week, share the best part of their week, something about it they would like to change, "I wish my teacher knew..." and a spot for anything else. Here's a glimpse into what my students said about our past week.

I asked how they were feeling about Slice of life, on a scale of 1 to 4 with one being "Not at all" and 4 being "SO MUCH!"

I love this. I have about 5 students who are committed to writing every day, but seems that even the others who are only doing what I'm requiring (2 posts a week) don't mind it so much. Slicing is so personal, and when you're commenting and reading friends posts, it really builds community!

We also just started our Holocaust unit, one I really enjoy teaching. One student asked me yesterday, "Why do we have to learn this?" I answered with, "Why do you think we have to?" and we surmised some ideas, but I didn't tell her my reason just yet. Here's feelings on our new unit:

In an open-ended sentence, "The best part of my week was..." I got answers like:

  • Learning about the Holocaust
  • Writing comments for students
  • Writing blogs for the Slice of Life (x5)
  • Sharing
  • ELA
In another open-ended sentence, "Something about my week I'd like to improve..."

  • Not let someone ruin my day
  • Not getting mad over small things that might not be true
  • Get faster at quick writing
  • Paying more attention and asking questions
  • to participate in class more
And then I always include "I wish my teacher knew..." so that kids had a space to tell me anything they'd like. One student said, "I'm sorry for being mad when we came back to class."

This prompt just opens up a conversation for anything that could be on the kids' minds. Like it or not, students being perplexed by friendships or in a fight with their parents affects their learning. When I am privy to that information, I can be more compassionate. In this case, it makes me so happy that my kiddo who came back from lunch upset was able to take some time to feel better, then continue participating with us, and then reflect enough to share an apology that wasn't even necessary, but totally appreciated.

Do you do exit tickets that are beyond content? What other questions are you asking?

I'm so proud oyou're becoming writers. Did you know...

Be sure to look in your day for the stories, and then you'll have one to post for tomorrow!

Want ideas? Check out the padlet.
Want more ideas? Read some blogs of other students and leave them a comment, too!

Friday, March 10, 2017

sol17 #10: ha ha ha ha haiku

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Coffee with a friend 
funny stories do not end
ha ha ha ha ha

Do you remember how to write a haiku? It's a three lined poem with syllable counts of 5-7-5. Now, I know I told you 100 words a slice, but when you're stuck, you can do a haiku. Probably should save this for one or two times in the month when you're really on the struggle bus though! Struggle bus! There's another idea! Here's a frame:

A time I was on the Struggle Bus bigtime was...

Here's the padlet with ideas! and Here's some the other student bloggers (look in the comments) if you want to share the love outside our classroom.

Excited to see we've got some dedicated writers blooming!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

sol17 #9: see the extraordinary

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Just an average day, yet extraordinary
Pairs of kids building background for a Holocaust Unit
Engaged in conversation
Distracted by nothing else

Just an average day, yet extraordinary
Pairs of kids with heads together
close reading pictures
and together
thoughtful conversations ensue

Just an average day, yet extraordinary
Pairs of kids looking, listening, wondering
and together
trying to wrap their young minds around an atrocity
that not many can explain

Just an average day, yet extraordinary
Pairs of kids who don't always exchange ideas
yet today are drawn to content, together,
and in some cases
whole new levels of engagement awake from hibernation

Just an average day, yet extrordinary
For when the two with giggles just can't stop
A third interrupts and says,
"Come on. Look at what we're studying."

And so we continue. Together.

Need ideas? Check the padlet

Feel like leaving some comment love? Check out TWT Blog!

Still not inspired to write? Look back in your old Quick Writes for ideas!

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