Monday, April 16, 2018

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 04/16/2018

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Announcement:

From now on, we're going to post our It's Monday! What Are You Reading? posts at 2:00 am eastern, 1:00 am central, 11:00pm pacific. It just gives us a little more time to get our posts up and we hope you'll understand. Other than that, everything will stay the same. We appreciate you understanding and if you have any questions, please let us know. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
Last week I read more of Aru Shah and listened to When Dimple Met Rishi. I also started Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass as we're considering it for a one school, one book read.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
My plan this week is to finish Aru Shah and When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon and to make it through as much of Every Soul a Star as I can. I'll be facilitating a book club with some 5th graders starting today and we're reading The Strange Case of Origami Yoda so I'm rereading it with them. I'm sooooooo excited!

This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

Monday, April 9, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 04/09/2018

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Announcement:

From now on, we're going to post our It's Monday! What Are You Reading? posts at 2:00 am eastern, 1:00 am central, 11:00pm pacific. It just gives us a little more time to get our posts up and we hope you'll understand. Other than that, everything will stay the same. We appreciate you understanding and if you have any questions, please let us know. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
This week I finished listening to We Are Okay and read Write From the Start: Tapping Your Child's Natural Writing Ability by Donald Graves and Virginia Stuart. I find myself still thinking about We Are Okay...that book made me do a lot of thinking. And I got Write from the Start from the library. I know how pivotal Don Graves' research on writing and writing instruction was. Even though this book was published in 1985, it was really interesting to read and think about what still holds true today. I also read more of Aru Shah and read The Magic Tree House #1: Dinosaurs Before Dark with Little Bean for our mother-son book club. 

Reviewed Last Week:
 
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
This week I'll be reading and hopefully finishing Aru Shah. I really want to get back to Poet X and I have When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon to listen to on audio. I also have Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart on audio that I started with Peanut so we might go back to that too. 

This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The One With The End of Slice of Life Challenge 2018!


This month, I'm participating in the Slice of Life challenge with Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post or you can head on over there to check out other people's stories and follow along with the fun. For more information on what a Slice of Life is about, you can go here

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The March Slice of Life Challenge is over! I missed five days along the way but overall, I kept up with posting daily and I had a blast. I've done the month-long challenge twice before. The first time I blogged about so many totally random things. The second time I blogged all about my identity. This time I took what I learned from the previous experiences into account to make it more manageable for myself but it was still a totally unique experience. 

Here are all my posts in case you'd like to go back and read any of them!


My biggest advice for anyone who wants to try the month-long Slice of Life Challenge is to either choose a topic ahead of time and/or brainstorm a list of topics for different blog posts for the month. It helped me to know that I had enough ideas to last me a whole month. This time, I brainstormed a list but I definitely didn't stick to my list like I did the second time I did this challenge. I meandered a bit and let my exploration take me in different directions but having a specific focus definitely helped. 

This time I chose spoken word poetry as my focus because I'm going to start an open mic club at the middle school where I work and I really wanted to try it out and see what it was all about and know as much as I could going into it. This worked out perfectly because I learned so much about the history of spoken word that will surely impact my lens of looking at the genre going forward. I have a friend who teaches dance and he likes to spend time talking about the history of hip hop and how hip hop started and has evolved before even getting to learning any moves and this feels similar. I feel better able to embrace spoken word and join in knowing more about the history. 

In terms of learning about myself as a writer, I was reminded how easy it is to write once I have a topic or at least a plan, even if it's not super detailed. As I was participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge, I was also finishing up a rewrite of a young adult novel. Part of my revision/rewrite process was to outline my story. I wrote the first draft last summer and I've found that writing out the beats in a story helps me because then I can write through all the beats and end up with a draft. 

Well, as I did some research on revision, I discovered a different way to outline after watching a video from Katytastic on how to outline each of the three acts of a story. I've never ever thought of myself as a plotter but the more I write, the more helpful I find it is to have a plan. Just like I did well during this challenge because I had topic ideas for my posts and an overall theme of spoken word poetry, as I was working through my rewrite, I just told myself to write each of these plot points and I slowly checked off each item on my outline.


So far, a writing life for me is a lot about trying new things and keeping on keeping on. That's what I know to be true. I've found things along the way that I really like and that work for me but just because something worked well before, it doesn't mean I'm tied to it the next time around. There are so many writers out there and so many people sharing their experiences and expertise that there are so many ideas to scoop up and try. 

And this, this is what writing is all about and what writing instruction should be. I read this wonderful article about writing instruction this weekend: Six Roadblocks to Writing Instruction—and How to Find Alternative Routes. Writing Workshop with a classful of kids is a challenge but looking at what writers do and discussing that with students, giving them time to write and explore a variety of topics meeting with them to talk over their writing and where they're going next, getting at this metacognition about writing, it's important! And it's what we know is best when it comes to writing instruction. 

So here's my biggest takeaway from this month of participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (it's really a reminder): Teachers who write make better writing teachers. We know this, right?! This is what Teachers Write is all about. When we write, we better understand what it means to be a writer. When teachers are writers too, we better understand what our students are going through. We can empathize and make connections and suggestions because we're in it with them. Over at Story Exploratory, I blogged about embracing the suck and how Brené Brown talks about only taking advice from people who are in the arena with you. THIS is why being a teacher who writes is imperative. 

Whether you've done the March Slice of Challenge this year or before or never, I definitely recommend it! You can wait until next year to join in or start your own 30 day challenge or join in on the weekly Slice of Life challenge (people blog and link up on Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers). Or maybe you want to write a little more regularly or join Teachers Write this summer. I know 100% in my heart and in my brain (there's research!) that students need teacher of writing who write so I hope you think about writing more yourself in some way or another!

And if you need some help or a nudge or a cheerleader, I'm here for you! Just let me know!

Monday, April 2, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 04/02/2018

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Announcement:

From now on, we're going to post our It's Monday! What Are You Reading? posts at 2:00 am eastern, 1:00 am central, 11:00pm pacific. It just gives us a little more time to get our posts up and we hope you'll understand. Other than that, everything will stay the same. We appreciate you understanding and if you have any questions, please let us know. (P.S. This isn't an April Fool's joke! xo)

Last Week's Book Adventures:
I have absolutely no idea where the week went! We had fun with friends, went downtown a few times, got a new minivan (woot!), and watched the Loyola win last weekend and lose this weekend. Oh, and we saw the Wrinkle in Time movie.

I finished my rewrite! 60,655 words. It's pretty wild to think that I wrote the first draft last July and August and that I rewrote the whole thing and have a second draft. I've never ever before scrapped a whole draft and started from new. I went back to my first draft here and there but for the most part, I started from the beginning and rewrote the whole thing. That said, I didn't get much reading done. We have one more day off tomorrow and then it will be back to our regularly scheduled life and I'm looking forward to getting back to a routine. AND, I can easily play my audiobooks through my phone and into my car speakers. Honestly, I'm going to be pinching myself for a long time because I'm just so excited to have a minivan.

Reviewed Last Week:
 
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
My plan this week is to read more of We Are Okay on audiobook and spend time with Aru Shah and the End of Time. I also have reading to do for class...I'm so so so close to being done with this class. Only four classes left! Of course, I still have a major final project to do and a paper to write this week but that's okay, the end is in sight!

This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The One With Lessons from Snoop Dogg


This month, I'm participating in the Slice of Life challenge with Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post or you can head on over there to check out other people's stories and follow along with the fun. For more information on what a Slice of Life is about, you can go here

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Today is the last day of the Slice of Life Challenge! I missed about five days and I considered going another few days so I end up with 31 posts altogether but instead, I'm going to stop here. 

I'll do one more reflection post tomorrow so I can recap all I've learned about being a writer this month but for today, I want to focus on what I've learned about spoken word. Maybe you've heard of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, also known as frequency illusion or recency illusion. This is what happens when you learn something, notice something, or experience something and then all of a sudden it keeps coming up all the time and everywhere. 

This happened to me this month. Once I zoned in on spoken word poetry and wanted to learn more...I came across so many conversations and examples of spoken word. I'm not sure if it's because I was seeking it our or just that I was more in tune to making connections to spoken word but it was really fun. 

I explored spoken word poets, watched their performances for their words and their messages but also how they delivered them, I listened to hip hop and dug into the history of hip hop, I tried writing and even delivered my own spoken word performance. 

What I noticed most is that spoken word is so powerful because it's potent. Writing is powerful no matter the medium but spoken word poetry is especially powerful because it's writing distilled down to the strongest nouns and verbs, imagery and description. It's amazing and beautiful, usually heartbreaking but sometimes funny. 

Spoken word is mesmerizing to me because it brings words to life. It exudes emotion and makes the writing so personal. I've been thinking a lot lately about how reading and writing is humanity. Part of what we do is take in stories and share stories and if one cannot do this, one's humanity is not in tact. Spoken word take reading and writing and brings it to life, it reminds me just how much heart goes into writing. The performance aspect is my favorite part. It's also the scariest part! I don't mind writing down my ideas but having to perform them was definitely something I had to think about. I paid attention to my inflection and when I wanted to speed up or slow down, how I wanted to move. I had to focus my attention on more than getting the words right, I had to think about how they would slip off of my tongue and whether they would pack the punch I wanted to. 

I have so much more respect for spoken word now that I've spent time delving into learning more about it. I think it's like anything else, from the outside, one can look in and think there isn't much to it or to be fooled by the people who make it look so easy. But spoken word is truly an art form. 

While I've learned about spoken word poetry and the mechanics of it, I've also learned about the history of spoken word and hip hop...and I've only barely begun to scratch the surface but I have so much more respect in general for the genre because of my exploration this month. 

Last night, my husband put on Coach Snoop on Netflix. The description of the show is this: "Fueled by his own rough upbringing, Snoop Dogg creates a youth football league to keep at-risk kids off the streets and focused on their goals." I was working on some writing so I was only half paying attention at first but I found myself drawn in as I watched how they described each of the players on his team and told their stories. What stood out to me the most was how Snoop talked to the kids, he is so kind with them and often, at the end of a conversation, he would say, "I love you." It's so simple and yet it stood out to me because it was powerful. You can watch the trailer here and it's probably the last show I would have picked to watch but I really found it interesting. 


In fact, I wish more educators would watch this show because it gives some insight into kids' lives that we might not know about or might not truly understand. Not that every student is going through what the kids he coaches are going through but it's still so powerful to see how he learns about the kids and their families and their stories. When it comes to addressing school shootings, I believe we need to focus our energy on seeing the students in our schools. Teachers and students need relationships that resemble those Snoop has with his players. We need to better see and connect with our students. In focusing on this, we impact students' connection to school, engagement with school, and in turn their overall mental health in and out of school. We don't need more secure school entrances or bullet proof glass or metal detectors. We need students who are seen, respected, and loved.

It seems random, throwing in a connection to Snoop Dogg but it's not. Like I mentioned before, stories are humanity. Reading and writing are humanity. Spoken word is part of this. And spoken word has roots in the griots, oral storytellers from West Africa, to the South Bronx after the Civil Rights Movement and knowing this gave me a stronger respect for the genre as a way of speaking out about life, a celebration but also a call for action. I don't know much about Snoop Dogg but from watching Coach Snoop, I have a lot of respect for the connections he makes with the kids and families he works with as a coach. Watching the show reminded me how spoken word poetry is part hip hop and rap but also part love. Love for life and yet also a desire to want to make the world better.


Friday, March 30, 2018

The One With Motherly Life Advice


This month, I'm participating in the Slice of Life challenge with Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post or you can head on over there to check out other people's stories and follow along with the fun. For more information on what a Slice of Life is about, you can go here

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Tomorrow is the last day of the March Slice of Life Challenge! I missed a few days so I might keep going until I get to 31 posts but today I was thinking about my post about Sarah Kay when she talked about writing what you know to be true and what you don't understand. 

The other day when I was talking to Peanut and Little Bean, I talked about how important it is to show up, try your best, and have fun. 

We went to a local library to be part of their cardboard challenge. It was so fun to talk into a room full of all sorts of different boxes and tubes and differently shaped pieces of cardboard. Little Bean took off gathering supplies and building right away like it was a race. He was so excited! It was fun to see his energy. But as we kept creating, things didn't always go his way and he had to rework his designs or add more tape. We had to talk through what it feels like when something doesn't go as we plan and we have to try again. 

And then at lunch, I took out a notebook and talked to them about the Sketch50 Challenge that my heck awesome friend Carrie is part of. Little Bean joined in and was sketching with us but when I brought it up later, he said he didn't want to do it any more and eventually said he just wasn't good at drawing. 

I said, "You know, sketching isn't about being good or bad. 
It's about showing up, 
trying your best, and having fun." 

And then when Peanut and I were doing our interview for Story Corps, I mentioned this same advice again, how truly in life, if you can show up, try your best, and have fun, you're doing it right. 

I strongly believe that life is what you make of it. You can never know exactly how anything is going to go but showing up and trying your best at least means you have a shot. And again, no matter whether things go well or not, as you planned or not, ideally or not, you can still smile and enjoy the experience. You are the one who brings joy and laughter to a moment, you can make anything fun if you want. 

I'm not sure but I think this might be a start to a spoken word poem...I'll have to think on it but it definitely gets at what I know. 

This is also a reminder to me that writing begets writing. Doing the March Slice of Life Challenge this year and focusing on spoken word encouraged me to think about ideas for spoken word poetry. Writing these posts has given me more things to write about. 

Whenever you think you might be at a loss for ideas, just write. And write some more. 



Thursday, March 29, 2018

The One With The Story Corps Booth


This month, I'm participating in the Slice of Life challenge with Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post or you can head on over there to check out other people's stories and follow along with the fun. For more information on what a Slice of Life is about, you can go here

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Yesterday I talked about making space for young people and their voices. Today, Peanut and I went downtown to record my interview with him in the Story Corps booth in Chicago. Neither of us knew what to expect but it was a really cool experience. 

The Story Corps booth is in the Chicago Cultural Center. It's a small room but you can walk in and listen to interviews. The booth is really a booth! I've never been in a recording booth before and it felt really official which is part of why I wanted to go. We looked at the app but I really wanted to experience this with him so he would know how much his voice matters. I loved how his eyes went wide when the woman who facilitated our interview told him it would be archived at the Library of Congress. It feels like we're part of history. 

 The booth!
We were pretty happy to be done! It was kind of intense to talk for 40 minutes! We talked about how he has a great sense of humor, how he loves sports and band, and how he's a good friend. We walked over to the wall of pictures of others who have been interviewed and he spotted a guy pointing his fingers at the camera in his portrait so we did it too. I love this kid so much and I love being his mom. Both of my guys are pretty special.  
If you want to join in, there are Story Corps booths in different parts of the country and there is a mobile booth that goes on tour too.  You can also record interviews using the Story Corps app

It's empowering to take time to focus on each other, to tell stories, to laugh and to cry. We must never forget how important stories are to our humanity.