Thursday, August 14, 2014

Expeditionary Learning -

Ron Berger and Yours Truly!
When I started my teaching career with my special ed preschoolers with their peer mentors, I knew I had finally was in the place I was meant to be and doing what I was meant do in life -- TEACH. Those children taught me so much about myself and I with the peer modeling I saw children working together at it's BEST! After that year I transitioned to 3rd grade and then onto Kindergarten.   In each position, I had my children collaborating, drafting and revising, asking questions, reflecting, writing, writing, and WRITING, and critiquing each other's work -- little did I know that I was using parts of Expeditionary Learning -- which always just felt THE RIGHT WAY TO TEACH to me! Some of my peers would say -- "your class is the one with kids moving around, working in groups, and talking a lot."  So at times I thought maybe I was doing something wrong. But I saw kids excited and passionate about what we were learning. I personally never enjoyed sitting doing worksheets all day long and I knew that kids learn in all different ways. So I naturally taught that way!

When I was hired at Manara Academy, I immediately felt at home. All of the things I was doing were validated ... and there's so much more to make children's learning experience even more meaningful. Today, our Irving crew and Arlington crew came together and were in workshops with the chief academic officer for Expeditionary Learning -- RON BERGER! He's phenomenal and the children that had him for a teacher are extremely lucky! We were extremely lucky to have him share his knowledge and expertise with us!

Ron, along with our new School Designer - Rayna did an amazing job! Rayna gave us many incredible ideas for the self-managed classroom and I'll share some of my classroom experiences with that this year. Ron walked us through a great discussion on peer critiquing children's writing. We also saw more, in depth, on how to work through revisions to make children's work high quality. I will also share with you what that looks like this year as well.

I purchased this book, written by Ron Berger, at the beginning of last school year and have read it cover to cover and will re-read it again as I go through this year to re-visit some of the strategies.
Book is available at amazon.com
I was honored to have Ron Berger autograph this book for me .... I truly didn't know if I would ever meet him or have this chance -- so it really was a pretty exciting thing!
Ron Berger signing my book! Yes - the author in me was excited
the teacher in me was ecstatic!

LOVE IT!
If you are a teacher and are not in an Expeditionary Learning (EL) school, but are interested in learning a little about EL -- this book is a great reference tool.
It truly explains how to get students excited to take responsibility for their own learning.
 
This week of professional development went by so quickly. I know I am going to implement a few new strategies into my classroom to make the children even more engaged and excited to learn!
 
So excited to have the new kiddos start next Wednesday, August 20!
HAPPY BACK TO SCHOOL 2014 - 2015!
Ron Berger and I and possibly an AURA from Sofia A.
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Writing M O D E

What is that EXACTLY?

In several interviews and even at events, people ask me "how do I write?" I know I put thoughts down in my journal and sooner or later I may get more ideas and then I add to those thoughts and so on until I get a burst and it's a book! Many of my friends set time aside each day and write a set amount of words. I simply cannot do that, I've tried and it's an epic failure!  I do write almost every day -- but it is quick thoughts or notes or ideas in my writing journal ... I may even write a complete story -- but it most likely will never turn into a book. I think it might be because I like pen and paper more so than a computer and so writing with the flow of a pen relaxes me -- staring at a screen intimidates me!

Well ... I was VERY aware of my burst of writing the other day and I believe it's because so many people have asked me about it. I have been working on a story start - Red Goes To Kindergarten for many years -- probably 5 or 6 years. Red's been down some strange paths ... But on Friday afternoon/evening/night I went into WRITING MODE ....

I grabbed my journal and furiously wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote ... you get the idea. I then tried to rest, but my mind was chock full of pictures and how the story was developing and what else could be added and word choices were popping up ... so resting / sleeping was NOT an option. This girls brain was on overdrive. I got up and pulled up the VERY rough story start of Red on my computer. Actually, I had to drag out my external hard drive and load up Red. I opened up the journal and started reworking the story. And reworking the story and reworking the words and the flow and the rhythm. It was getting light out and I now knew that sleep was NOT an option.  I had the story close to complete so I saved it--for the zillionth time to both hard drive and external drive and closed the computer.

I tried to rest for an hour or so, but my head still was "swirly" so I got back up, made some coffee and opened the file again. At that point, it's hard to fix typos, or comma mistakes ... but I grappled with some more word choices and finally at about 11:00 in the morning about 18 hours from when I started, I felt I needed readers!

Now, I have worked on stories before and then just close the computer and feel that NO ONE EVER needs to read them ... but I felt Red is one that I will be really proud to have children and adults read ... so -- I got a few readers and they helped me see a few things that 18 hours of Laura focusing didn't catch ... I fixed those things and reworked it a bit more ... I always change it up a bit after people READ it!  There needs to be some element of surprise when they read the finished copy! I contacted my publisher and the Director of Mktg emailed me back, thrilled I completed my 5th book and was excited to read it and I will be sending it off early this week.

Now ... about that "swirly" head ... I was never totally aware of that before, but I consciously thought about it because people ask what happens when I write, or how do I write -- but I know that it always happens ... I feel restless, fatigued, headachy, nervous, excited, I see illustrations (that I know I could never draw), I see each page of the story, I hear the words in my head, I can't concentrate on anything else, it's hard to eat and sleep ... Steven says it must be like I'm coming down off some creative energy flow ... I do know that I feel that way for a few days and Red will be about all I can think about for the next few days.

This is what a very tired, unshowered, very hungry, swirly headed, super excited author looks like!
 
I hope Red Goes To Kindergarten will be ready to release by mid-Summer, 2015 - just in time
for Back To School next year!
And ... I hope you will help me celebrate it's coming to be!
 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Updated - New Event Added - August 31

ADDED -- August 31st Event - Fort Worth Nature Center

August and September will be keeping me very busy ... along with school starting ... I have some pretty exciting and BIG events ... Check them out and I hope you can join me! Make sure if you do attend an event -- stop by my table and say HI!

AUGUST 7 -- the Lake Worth Quarter Auction

Come join us at the Lake Worth Multi-Purpose Facility on Charbonneau Dr. on Thursday, August 7th from 6:30-8:30pm for a night you will not forget. Bring your friends and 2-3 rolls of quarters to use when bidding on incredible products from 15-20 vendors who will be set up at the event. This event is open to the public (18 yrs and older). We will be sponsoring LWISD by buying school supplies for the 2nd year now. Please come and support our local community.

If you have not attended a Quarter Auction, you are in for a BIG surprise! They are fun and very interactive and are always for a GREAT cause!

AUGUST 16 -- the Fort Worth Library - Authors Roundup

This event will be from 1pm - 5pm at the Downtown Fort Worth Library, located at 3rd & Lamar. I will be reading -- Went Out To Get a Donut - Came Home With a Muffin at approximately 2pm. Come out and meet 20 local teen and children's authors. It will be a great ending to your Summer Reading!

**AUGUST 31 -- Fort Worth Nature Center

*The Life of Bud: Join me as I escort children on a journey to find BUD!  I will read my book, The Life of Bud and take children on a short nature walk around the Nature Center to learn about leaves and to see if any have started changing. Children will make a craft that chronicles BUD's life through the seasons. Program geared for children 4 - 10 years old and their parents. Pre- registration required. FREE (with paid admission).

SEPTEMBER 13 -- East Texas Book Festival

This festival is from 10am - 3pm in Tyler, TX -- this is the first year I am attending the event and am looking forward to meeting new readers and some new authors! Looking forward to heading out I-20 East to Tyler!!!

SEPTEMBER 20 -- Start of the Season Craft Fair - @The Winston School

The Start of the Season Craft Fair is another new event for me! Get a jump on your holiday gift buying at this wonderful FAIR! I'm excited to be a part of it! I already have my eye on some TOFFEE that looks absolutely delicious! The fair is from 9am - 5pm and if you click on the above link you can find all the information and view some of the vendors that will be attending.

Me - CIRCA 2009 -- Baltimore Book Festival


SEPTEMBER 27 -- The Baltimore Book Festival

I'm VERY excited to be heading to Baltimore for this Festival! I'm also waiting to find out my book reading time in the Author's Tent! As soon as I find out ... I will post that!

The Baltimore Book Festival was the first official book festival I attended back in 2009 -- when I was a ROOKIE! I had one book, had no idea what I was doing and had absolutely no idea what to expect! I met James Warhola at this event -- he is the author of  Uncle Andy's .  He is the nephew of ANDY WARHOL. It was super cool when he came over to the tent I was in and read - The Life of Bud and he LIKED it! A moment I will never forget!
 
I also met another wonderful author at this event K. Michael Crawford . Sadly, last September she lost a 9 year battle with cancer! She was such a pleasure to talk to and learn from at this event! I do not have any pictures with her ... because she kept an illusion from her readers about WHO she was!
 
I can't wait to be back in Maryland and eat some crab cakes and soft shelled crab!!!!
 
HOPE YOU CAN JOIN ME AT ONE OF THESE WONDERFUL EVENTS!!!!
Click on any of the links above to find out more detailed information about each event.
 
If you are looking for an author for your school's literacy night -- please feel free to contact me at
 
 
 
 



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Back To School

 
waiting for the bus
As I look back at days gone by
It makes me realize time really does fly
 
One minute we're celebrating you coming to be
Next thing you know you're learning your ABC's
 

getting on the bus (dad followed it to school)
 
The first day of school was not hard for you
But I couldn't wait 'til the bell rang at 2
 
one day down - many more to go!
 
Each step you took brought you to today
And I'm very proud I  must say
 
Ashley's first BEST friend-Michael Grace
ready to go home!
It's not only the kids going back to school
Parents, hold dear those first day photos - because they are worth more than jewels!
 
Cherish each moment and each year of life
Forget all the times those kids gave you strife
 
The 2014 school year is about to start
Hold each and every moment in your heart
 
Happy Back To School 2014
can't wait to see all your photos!!!!!!!
 
 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

FW LIBRARY - AUTHOR ROUNDUP

I would like to invite y'all to the

Fort Worth Library - Author Roundup
Saturday, August 16, 2014
1:00pm - 5:00pm
500 W Third St
Fort Worth, TX 76102 
 
the schedule for the day is as follows:
 
 

Oh -- so they came home with you?
Now I get it!
Shadow (left) - Muffin (right)

 
1:00 Welcome
 
1:15 Panel Discussion – Hot topics for teens
 
2:00 Author Readings – Gallery OR Chappell Meeting Room
 
3:00 Panel Discussion – How to read with your child – Tandy Lecture Hall
 
1-5 – Meet the Authors/Book Signing (books available for purchase) – Gallery

 
I will be reading Went Out To Get a Donut - Came Home With a Muffin @ 2:00
 
Muffin reading What's In the Corner? to the
unsuspecting Big Gray Cat!


Books will be on sale for $4.00
 eBook gift cards will be $2.00

Hope to see you there!!!!
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Life of Bud Lessons

I was going through some of my past workshop / book event folders and found some GREAT work from past Kindergarten students capturing many lessons that I'd like to share with you. 

The Life of BUD

If you are unfamiliar with my book, it teaches children about the life cycles and seasons as we follow BUD (who is the bud of an oak tree) through his life. He sees many amazing things, has wonderful memories, but in the end, is afraid to let go ...

I have done hundreds of workshops using The Life of BUD and here are some great ideas to use children's literature for teaching colors, print awareness, sequencing, seasons, writing and illustrating.

This lesson teaches children the colors of Autumn and print awareness (Upper and Lowercase letters)
 
After reading BUD, the children folded their paper to have four boxes.
Learning targets:  location words left / right / top / bottom
Sequencing - Spring - Summer - Fall/Autumn - Winter
Also reinforces Seasons of the Year
Children then illustrate from memory what trees look like during those seasons
A great quick assessment to know if children understand location words & seasons
 
My favorite lesson is a culminating lesson.
Children write their own story about BUD.
They may use ideas from the original story.
I want the children to write a "REAL" story -- non-fiction
Children use phonetic spelling and their sequencing diagram to help spell words.
Learning targets - non-fiction texts, sequencing, sentence structure, publishing a book.

I love how the SUN is so much bigger in the Summer picture.
Summer and Fall also only show the branch from the tree ... not the entire tree as in Spring.
I enjoy seeing what children come up with for their illustrations!

 
Differentiation -- if a child is having difficulty with sentence writing you can have some pre-made story sentence starters -- In the Spring, Bud ... ; In the Summer, Bud
These sentence starters can help spark some ideas for success!
 
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave comments here.
If you've used The Life of BUD for your own lessons and would like to share pictures of children's work or lesson ideas, you can also email me at thelifeofbud@aol.com
I would love to see what others have done with this book!
 
 
MY CHRISTMAS IN JULY -- LIFE OF BUD SALE!

I learned many years ago, that if I wait until the last minute for Christmas gifts, I panic, don't know what to buy, can't find what I want to buy and realize that there are people I forgot! That is when I started slowly shopping during the Summer to find the perfect items for people. I've put BUD on sale to help you start off your shopping ...

The Life of Bud on Sale thru August 1, 2014 -- $4.00 for paperback / $1.00 for an eBook gift card!!
and FREE SHIPPING!
email me for more information - thelifeofbud@aol.com

all eBook gift cards on sale for $1.00 (great stocking stuffers or back to school teacher gifts!)
 


Friday, July 18, 2014

My view ...



“Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything.” – Charles Kuralt 

I beg to differ ... From Fort Worth to Virginia Beach through my eyes ....  Shadow wasn't so sure about going "on vacation" ... he sat this way just glaring at me for about the first hour of the trip.




 

While Steven was getting gas in Louisiana, I spotted this interesting sign ... This gas station is very proud to be serving food made my Chef John Shurley. I truly am not sure if I would purchase gumbo or etouffee from a gas station, sort of reminds me of the Gas Station Sushi Commercial. They are awfully proud that they now have pimento cheese! I'm hungry--but I think I'll pass


So, our first night in Pearl, MS and what are the odds that Steven goes to the vending machine and gets this Coke ..
 
.
It was very evident when we entered Georgia ... Unlike driving in Texas where you can see for what seems like hundreds of miles ... in Georgia you get a great view of beautiful trees! Really gorgeous, because many of them were bursting with flowers! The tree on the left looked like either half a heart or a dragon head .... I still can't decide!
These peaches also could have saved our lives! When we stopped for gas I saw a Peach stand on the side of the road .... I started CRAVING Georgia peaches and was actually texting Ashley and my sister Sue about wanting to get Steven to stop (but if you've ever traveled with Steven, you know that stopping means we LOSE time!)  When he got back in the car, I said "can we stop at that peach stand?"
To my surprise he said "sure!"  When we got back on the highway we found out that there was a bad car accident that happened a few miles up the road-- I'm glad we stopped for those peaches!!!
When we were in SOUTH CAROLINA ... I see -- off in the distance, what appears to be a gigantic peach ... I wonder why is there a gigantic peach in SC shouldn't that be in GA?  I'm impressed that I got this picture from my phone, traveling at 70 mph, from the passenger seat and it was on the left side of the car!
Little did I know -- when I came home I googled the GIANT PEACH WATER TOWER of Gaffney, SC and for all you House of Cards fans .... it truly does exist!!!
 
On ward to North Carolina (Virginia is really FAR from Fort Worth, TX!)
We stopped to walk the dogs and were at a beautiful rest area in North Carolina. Steven sat down at this picnic table and I said ... "what's on your back?" He replied "how the heck would I know!"
Well ... while we were walking around the pine trees (I was picking up pine cones for my Kindergarten class!) this little guy must have fallen onto Steven ... it is a gorgeous caterpillar!
I found a stick and he climbed on and we placed him back into a tree ... if anyone knows what kind of caterpillar he is -- please let me know!
 
VIRGINIA ... Finally ... and yes -- if you wondered
Brunswick County, VA is the home of
BRUNSWICK STEW!
 
Even though I've lived many places and traveled through many towns ... I had never seen a Cotton Gin ...I've seen cotton out in fields, but not a cotton gin--I can't say that anymore ... I would have loved to go inside!
The Suffolk Cotton Gin

Look at all that COTTON!

There were mounds of white stuff ALL over the parking lot ... COTTON
I did grab a handful and brought it home!
 
One of the under water tunnels leading to Virginia Beach, VA
I've actually never been in one of these underwater tunnels either!
 
But the best part of the highway was what we saw at the end ....
Even MUFFIN was in awe of seeing Ashley!
 
So ... even though we travel on big interstate highways ... there are some really cool things to see in this great land of ours!
 
 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

BEACH BUMS ...

Steven, Shadow, Ashley, Muffin & Forrest on the boardwalk
(Muffin checking to see if I am coming to the beach too!)
On June 28, we packed up the car and Muffin, Shadow, Steven, and I drove 1400 miles to Virginia Beach, VA to visit Ashley and Forrest. It was a great visit ... one of the fun things we did was to take the dogs to the beach ... our TEXAS born, rescued dogs got to dip their paws in the Atlantic Ocean!

They loved the beach -- Muffin had her puppy ears on the entire time and there was such JOY in their faces. We noticed Muffin putting her head INTO the wind and smiling! Shadow thought the SAND was something to EAT and roll around in! They had a FANTASTIC time!
Our tails made WEIRD shapes on the BEACH!
Kind of like divining rods point to the ocean!



Shadow "Is that the ocean? Bring it on!"
Muffin is getting a pep talk!

OKAY -- Muffin's  READY!!! You can tell by her EXCITED EARS!!!!!

NO WAY GUYS!!!!! That's scary!!!!

Okay -- it's not THAT bad!!!

Forrest is explaining that he's in the NAVY and the ocean
is SAFE!!!  lol!!!

YAY!!! Muffin got drenched by a WAVE!!!!!

Shadow was more interested in playing in the sand!

Muffin FOOT bombed our FAMILY FOOT picture!!!!
 
Me, Ashley, Steven, Muffin
and FORREST's Shadow
(Shadow is behind Muffin)
WEIRD picture - we gained one Shadow and lost a Shadow!
 
FYI ... we visited the Beach around 6pm ... the sand was NOT hot and the dogs had plenty of FRESH WATER to drink! We did not let them drink ocean water .... though we cannot be responsible for how much sand Shadow may have consumed rolling around!!!
We also asked permission to bring the dogs onto the beach ....
We had a GREAT time sharing our love of the BEACH with our PUPS!!!!
 
 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Back to my ROOTS

I truly enjoy every book event I attend -- Book Fairs, Craft Shows, and other Vendor Events ... but when I'm able to go to a school and read to the children ... I am truly in my element and absolutely have a wonderful time!

Kids trying to guess
What's In The Corner?
On Tuesday, July 8, I traveled to Little Elm, TX to visit my friend Robin Whitt's wonderful Montessori School -- Robin's Nest. She is a wonderful person and an awesome teacher! Her little fledglings are so well behaved and ask wonderful questions. I got to visit during Once Upon a Time week and the children were excited about reading and wanting to write their own stories! We had a great time singing BOTH Muffin books and they were able to tell me all about A Simpler Time, in which they had read the day before my visit!

I had some wonderful helpers to be parts of the story ... they loved pretending to be characters in the story! I left them with some blank flip story books and can't wait to see the stories they may have created throughout the week! Thank you Robin for allowing me to come visit!

My CAST of characters!!!!
What Is In The Corner?
To find out -- purchase the book What's In The Corner? A Muffin "Tail"
available at Amazon - What's In The Corner? 
 
 *******************
Who ever thought I'd be "famous" at my Dentist's Office? Lake Country Dental, in Fort Worth, TX
now has copies of my books in their children's area ....
click on the link to learn more about Lake Country Dental and to see what they
had to say about me!
 
 
******************** 
While on my vacation to Virginia Beach, VA to visit Ashley and Forrest, I received an email to be interviewed  by NWIndianaLife for a feature story in their A Northwest Indiana Life That Matters section. My friend from high school, Mike Bonaventura, had mentioned my name to them a while ago (which is super touching!!!) and they went ahead and interviewed me!
If you would like to read the story -- click on the following link
NW Indiana Life That Matters

This journey I am on as an author is truly ever changing.
I am truly blessed with the friendships I have made and
the children whose lives I have touched through story times and workshops ...
Thank you all for your support!
 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Escargot ... OH NO!

I didn't wake up today thinking ... "I should do a blog post about snails!" Nope -- this one just came knocking on the front door ... well -- almost. I walked out of the house on this dreary, rainy, chilly, Sunday morning to find hundreds ... well not hundreds -- but LOTS of snails hanging out on the cut log right by my front porch.

I went to grab the camera and told Steven and he said "cool -- something for your to GOOGLE and learn about today!" He knows me too well!!!!

You truly NEVER know what you are going to see when you step outside each day!

I love how the wood looks in these pictures -- it had been raining so the reflection from the water makes interesting patterns on the cut log!
They like to eat fungi and algae, so I'm sure there is some growing on the old logs.
 
I thought this one was super cool -- he was really on the move (for a snail) and I thought his antennae looked cute! 
He may also be "going to the bathroom" in this shot!  lol!
 
If you look to the right on the stick, where it looks like the stick is chomping down,
 there is a BABY snail!
 
Well HELLO there! He is like - stop taking pictures of me--you're blinding me!
These two could possibly be mating - which involves some sort of
dart stabbing and doesn't sound very romantic. They fertilize their own eggs, which they bury under old logs and stones.
These are younger snails because their shells are more translucent ...
Pretty neat little creatures hanging outside today!
If you want to learn more about snails, click on the link below and find out ALL about SNAILS!