Monday, December 28, 2009

December 28 "Don’t be dismayed at good-byes. A farewell is necessary before we can meet again..."


...AND SO, OLD FRIEND, FAREWELL ~ December 28, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December 22 - "I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." - Ebeneezer Scrooge

I found this excellent 1972 animated version of the Charles Dickens classic. Since we watched the George C. Scott version, I thought this animated one might also interest you. It's about 25 minutes long. Enjoy!


Stay tuned for another video I am preparing. Your children read their illustrated books to the Kindergarten and first grade. It was magical!

Have a wonderful safe holiday.

Friday, December 18, 2009

December 18 "These are the days we'll remember." ~ 10,000 Maniacs

My new granddaughter, Amelia--born December 17th. Isn't she lovely?
After working out a few kinks, I finished compiling the pictures I took at the Craft Extravaganza and made another "movie"; I hope you enjoy it. I hope, too, that you enjoy this last weekend before Christmas with family and friends. Stay warm.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

December 17 "Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind."

Today's Craft Extravaganza was a complete success thanks to the planning and hard work of our beloved parent volunteers; as always, they made it all seem so effortless. Thank you, parents, for your tireless dedication to our students! I took lots of pictures to commemorate the auspicious occasion and subsequently brought my camera home to download/post... Unfortunately I forgot the USB thingy at school, so I'll have to do it tomorrow... Sorry!

On a personal note: My son and his wife welcomed their second child, Amelia Claire, into the world this evening. 7 lbs 12 oz. and 19 inches long... Life just keeps getting better and better!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

December 16 "A Christmas candle is a lovely thing; It makes no noise at all, But softly gives itself away." ~Eva Logue

Today was the perfect day to listen to holiday music, drink hot cocoa, relax with a seasonal read-aloud, laugh a lot, and enjoy the creative aspect of our latest writing endeavor. We are winding down now with our Christmas/Holiday stories. Second, third, and sometimes fourth drafts have been conferenced and tweaked. Students have learned that the process of writing includes multiple layers of revision--new ideas often replacing old ones as the stories take on a life of their own. Editing has been necessarily slow and methodical as every story line, character, word choice, and punctuation mark has been discussed. Beyond the writing, students have immersed themselves in creating the perfect illustrations to accompany each page. Lots of work, huh?

I'm still holding Friday as the date for book completion. It may be that some will need to have until Monday, but I can't guarantee that students will be able to take the books home for Christmas if that happens. I hope to post a few stories on the blog for you all to enjoy. (First, Mr. Wright has to teach me how to do that... sigh.) Next week, we will share our stories with the Kindergarten and first grade. (I must say, that is my favorite part; I'll take pictures and post them here for you.)

It was good to see many of you at last night's concert. It's hard to believe that Christmas is little more than a week away!

Take care,


Monday, December 14, 2009

December 15 "Like snowflakes, my holiday memories gather and dance - each beautiful, unique and too soon gone."


See the pretty snowflakes
Falling from the sky;
On the walk and housetops
Soft and thick they lie.

On the window-ledges
On the branches bare;
Now how fast they gather,
Filling all the air.

Look into the garden,
Where the grass was green;
Covered by the snowflakes,
Not a blade is seen.

Now the bare black bushes
All look soft and white.
Every twig is laden-
What a pretty sight!


I hope to see you all at the concert tonight!

December 14 "Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind." ~Mary Ellen Chase

'Tis the season.... My house smells like balsam and cookies, and wrapping paper covers the dining room table. Aside from getting presents ready to mail far and wide, I'm up to my eyeballs in editing Christmas stories. A warm fire and illuminated Christmas tree, however, create an ambiance that makes any task pleasurable, and I'm always anxious get home so that I can curl up and read. I love the child-like creativity in each of the stories, and, although they require significant editing and much one-on-one time, they're coming along beautifully. The lessons are many:

  • Writing to a specific audience
  • Writing a fictional narrative, with a beginning, a middle, an end, and a problem to resolve
  • Writing effective dialogue
  • Designing a book layout
  • Illustrating a picture book
  • Creating a "presentation quality" final product
  • Reading our stories to the littlest members of our school community

The targeted due date for completion is Friday, so those who have progressed slowly on their stories need to get moving. That being said, it's going to be a crazy week anyway, so we will make the best use of any available class time with me to get them done. There will be no Spelling/Grammar/Vocabulary packets this week. Social Studies will take a back seat, too, I'm afraid, since schedules will be interrupted.

Besides, it's not a bad thing to slow down a bit and enjoy a good book...

I hope you all have a warm and restful evening.


P.S. Before you go, check out the post directly below this one. It's pretty amazing!

Just a drop of water...

Some things are just too cool not to share...

If you want to make this "full screen", go to the bottom right and click on the rectangle just to the right of the volume icon. To get back to the blog, just hit escape.

Monday, December 7, 2009

December 7 ""Like snowflakes, my Christmas memories gather and dance - each beautiful, unique and too soon gone." ~ Deborah Whipp

Happy Monday! Christmas stories are coming along, though some students are deliberating a little longer than I'd like on those drafts. In the last couple of classes, fifth and sixth graders have reviewed the art and skill of writing dialogue.

Every piece of dialogue should be there to add to the character/s. Done right, dialogue reflects the speech of 'real' people. It invites the reader in and reveals something to them. It moves the plot along and brings the reader into the emotion of the scene. Dialogue should never be included just to make conversation.

As part of this lesson, we reviewed dialogue tags (he muttered, she whispered, Mr. Wilson gasped, etc.). Readers expect to see tags; they are nearly invisible and don't distract from the action. Mosst importantly they reveal how the words are said. (Contrary to popular belief, the words 'said' and 'asked' are not taboo; they simply should not be overused.)

Please remind your child that these [multiple] drafts are due on Friday. If they require more time, your child may not have the opportunity to create/illustrate their book.

Here's an example of a children's story for you to enjoy:

Be well: I'll talk to you soon.


Friday, December 4, 2009

December 4 - Native American Podcasts

Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect.

Chief Seattle, 1854

Welcome to our first podcasts. Throughout the year we will create others, and with each one we will increase our skill at modulating/synchronizing voices and music.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

December 3 "Imagination is just intelligence having fun."

Most importantly, let that inner fire build and glow brightly!
As we move into December, we find ourselves busier than ever. By now your children have undoubtedly run storylines by you for their Christmas/Winter children's picture books. In the classroom, we're sharing analyzing, and enjoying stories from our own childhood--looking at those qualities that make the writing memorable--things like mood/tone, point of view, audience, dialogue, characterization, plot, conflict, foreshadowing, symbolism, imagery, figurative language.... As we begin, some of us are imitating the style of classics, some are writing in verse, and all of us are animated and excited about the project. Please please please support this creative energy; ask your children to talk about their ideas; ask them to read their drafts; offer encouragement--they really want to write something memorable. (Equally, help me to help them stay on track. As I mentioned earlier, we're really devoted to moving them toward increased accountability to deadlines, and commitment to best effort.)
In Social Studies, we've started our exploration of exploration. Before the holiday break we'll gain a greater understanding of just what it took to be an explorer. We'll also engage in a variety of fun and educational activities--like creating our own Astrolabe. After we return in January, we'll conclude with a project. Stay tuned for details.
Writing/Language Arts--Continue developing your story. (Next, we're going to learn where and how to include dialogue).
Social Sudies: Grade five did an latitude/longitude activity today. Tomorrow the sixth grade will
complete it.
Spelling/Vocabulary/Grammar: finish up packets. Unit 10 spelling test tomorrow.

That's it for tonight.... Stay warm.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December 1 "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

December in Stowe, Vermont
To lovers of the wild, these mountains are not a hundred miles away. Their spiritual power and the goodness of the sky make them near, as a circle of friends. ... John Muir
A good day; we move into this glorious month with optimisn, humor, and a sense of promise. As I said yesterday, December provides a plethora of opportunities for creative pursuits. With lots of little actvities thrown in to keep everyone active and engaged, we'll begin writing with greater depth and purpose.
The first challenge will be to create a children's picture book, which isn't as easy at it might appear. I requires a vivid imagination, creativity, and perspective. Just because the book (like the child for which it is intended) is short, it doesn't mean the story will be easy to write--quite the contrary. Unlike novels that have lots of time to develop characters and plot, a children's book only gives the writer a few pages (about 28 actual pages, and half of them are pictures) to do so. A writer's goal is to inform, to entertain, to enchant, and to encourage a love of reading. It involves choosing both the right words for the right places, and the right characters doing the right things at just the right times.
Tonight's assignment is to come up with an idea--a story line. Something that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Students will then work to find that delicate balance beween words and pictures. They'll need to explore literary devices like rhyme, rhythm and repetition, which small children enjoy. They'll be challenged to "show" not "tell" their story. Whew!
On another note, we've begun our next unit in Social Studies--The Age of Exploration. The fifth grade spent classtime interviewing each other and reporting out on a list of perceptions/misperceptions about early explorers. It was lots of fun-and very educational (which was, of course, my intent). There was no assignment. The sixth grade will do this tomorrow.
For grade six: Spelling, Grammar, and Vocabulary lessons for Day 2 were also assigned.
Thanks to those of you who are checking your child's work and going over Spelling words for Friday's tests. I'm noticing marked improvement with many. There are others, however, who continue to not turn work in. Just so you know, Mrs. DaBica and I are implementing a tougher policy for completing work in a timely fashion. It serves no purpose to continually allow extentions (which, incidently, creates a grading nightmare!). I could really use your support on this push toward greater accountability and independence...
It's late.... Time to put another log on the fire and call it a night. Thanks for stopping by, everybody. I'll talk to you tomorrow.