Month: March 2016

A Month of Changes

Today, as I write the last slice of the March challenge, I’m thinking of how things have changed in just thirty-one days. Spring was still elusive, just a hope in my heart . My husband has not only had major surgery, but has recovered much more quickly than I ever hoped. I said good-bye to a dear friend last week. She was eighty-two years old, played eighteen holes of golf up until last summer and was one of the most vital, attractive older women you would ever want to meet. Two of my closest friends are each struggling with grandchildren who have had to be hospitalized for a serious illness. A second one of my grandchildren achieved double-digits when she turned ten on Tuesday. My retirement papers are in order, our taxes are done, and I’ve succeeded in writing everyday this month!

In addition to being a challenge, it has been an privilege and a wonderful learning experience to participate in this Slice of Life group. The written word sometimes speaks more clearly than spoken words. All of you have allowed me to peek into your lives and get to know you. You’ve shared heartache and hopes, disappointments and delights. Thank you for trusting me with these precious parts of you. You’ve provided mentor texts, pushing me to attempt a different format, showing me just how powerful a few well-crafted words can be. You’ve inspired me to make a commitment and enabled me to prove that even on the busiest of days, I can still find time to write. You’ve taken me into this community of writers, and helped me find a home through your affirmations and kind remarks. Now, I will not leave. I will meet up with you each Tuesday. I will put forth my best to create posts that enlighten and inspire. I will be a permanent slicer. I will follow many of my favorite friends and look to develop strong bonds with many of you. Yes, I’ve come to the end of this month and much has changed, but my commitment to TWT and Tuesday posts will not. To TWT, my gratitude for facilitating such a marvelous challenge. Keep up the good work!

 

My Own Miracle from Heaven

My son asked me earlier in the weekend to accompany him to the movies on Monday afternoon. It was to be a birthday treat for his daughter and I agreed to come along to help out. Originally, this was supposed to be a rock-climbing party so the change of plans brought a smile to my face. When I found out we were to see “Miracles from Heaven”, the new Jennifer Garner movie, I was even happier. In fact, it all felt a bit like a miracle to me since spending my day off with eight little girls at a rock-climbing venue isn’t my idea of fun.

Promptly at 1:20, I met Matt and the rest of party. We traipsed through the lobby and followed the kids all the way up to the top of the movie theatre. The girls sat in the center row and I took a seat in the side section right next to Matthew. This gave the little ladies some semblance of being there by themselves. Once the movie began, I was riveted to the screen. Within the first thirty minutes the tears welled up in my eyes and I felt grateful to be separated from the party-goers. Forty-five minutes into the show and tears were streaming down my face. Now, I’m not what you would call a stoic person, but I can’t ever remember crying as much at a movie as I did that day. And, I knew why.

You see, one of the three sisters in this movie gets very ill. The mother (Jennifer Garner) is a powerhouse when it comes to fighting for her daughter. Jennifer Garner realistically expressed the raw emotions of a mother facing the loss of her child. I know. I’ve been there. In fact, my own miracle was sitting right next to me. When Matthew was sixteen years old, he was hit in the head with a shot putt while attending track and field practice. The date was May 1, 1991. The memory is forever etched in my mind…the call from his high school, the frantic ride to Chestnut Hill Hospital, the flurry of being whisked into the Emergency Room and seeing my beautiful boy distraught and in pain, my urgent call to his pediatrician and my words, “I want the best neurosurgeon, Doctor. Where would you send your own child?” and my relief when he replied, Abington Hospital.

Once Matt was taken to Abington and settled into his room in Intensive Care, I had to find my way to the chapel. Something inside drove me to this sacred space. I walked in, got on my knees and literally begged God to save our Matt, to restore him to health, to prevent affliction to his brain. Matt had sustained a hemotoma on the brain and if it swelled, they would have to operate. Three days later, they moved Matt to a regular room. A week later, we brought him home. Six months later, his neurologist looked at his CAT scan and said, “If I didn’t know better, I would never know Matt had sustained a brain injury from this CAT scan. Matt is forty-one years old today. He runs his own business, is the father of three girls and is one of the best people you could know. Watching Jennifer Garner, I relived my own trauma but this time my tears sprang not from fear but from gratitude. Matthew is my miracle!

 

 

 

 

A Long, Good Day

I’m only an hour and twenty minutes shy of today’s deadline. I think this is the latest I’ve posted all month. Today was a long day, but today was a good day. I returned to school and worked hard. This evening, my niece planned a gathering for the women in our family. My cousin’s wife died a few months ago after a long bout of illness. Her daughter is still grief-stricken. This get-together came about as a way to support this young woman. It’s times like these that I realize what a wonderful family I have. At my nieces home tonight, women from the age of thirty to seventy-seven came together as a unified force to talk, laugh, and share their love. It was wonderful to make my way around the room and chat with everyone, all somehow bonded to my family. This group included women as close to me as my own daughter to my brother’s ex-wife. How amazing that a sense of caring and sympathy joined us together and left all of us wanting more. We’ve decided to gather at least three or four times a year from now on. Yes, it was a long day but is was a good day, indeed.

Test-Prep and Authentic Literature

This time tomorrow, I’ll be heading off to school. Sometime today, I’ll settle down to plan lessons for the five reading intervention groups I teach. These fourth, fifth and sixth graders will all take the PSSA in a few weeks, so I’m duty-bound to facilitate lessons that will provide practice and hopefully, a dose of confidence before the Big Test.

For months now, we’ve been using the PCQC strategy I created (see my March 3 slice)  and I believe it has become part of their reading repertoire. Between their classroom practice passages and the ones we’ve done in small group, most of the kids are familiar with the format of PSSA and could do without one more practice passage. Last week, in order to change it up and preview a book students may want to read , I decided to use the first chapter of an unfamiliar, yet appealing book to practice test-taking strategies and offer a peek into a book students may want to read. This idea kept the students’ interest, and highlighted important instructional skills that I needed to review. Here’s an example of what I did in my fifth grade group.

Using the first chapter of On My Honor, by Marion Dane Bauer, I created multiple choice questions similar to those on PSSA. Each student received a copy of the book and together we previewed it and made predictions based on the title and information we had gleaned from the back cover. After that, we previewed the questions (PCQC). I then asked students to read the first chapter, “chunking” the text and remembering to monitor, using post-its to hold their thinking. After completing the chapter, students answered the questions and checked their work. Surprisingly, (or not) all five of the students in this group incorrectly answered the questions dealing with the main gist of the chapter. Yikes! I definitely had to do some reteaching. I definitely had to help these student slow down, think and find evidence to support their opinion. I did not show students the questions I had marked. Instead, after reteaching,I gave the kids a whole new paper (same questions). This time, four out of five answered the problematic questions correctly. Another interesting development was that the students did not want to read the book after the first read. However, when they had a chance to reread and understand, all of them said they would choose to read this book.

In my opinion, using authentic literature, even when preparing for a test, provides students with a richer, more engaging reading experience. I was pleased with how this worked out and plan to find more books to use this week. Hopefully, many of these texts will wind up on the list of books students want to read. The thirty minutes I spend with these groups that meet four times a week goes by quickly. I need to give serious consideration to how I will balance that time. These lessons allowed me to work on test-taking skills, help students strengthen their thinking skills, and preview a possible read with my students. It was a win-win. Perhaps some of you may find this idea helpful.

Test-Taking Skills & Authentic Literature

This time tomorrow, I’ll be heading off to school. Sometime today, I’ll settle down to plan lessons for the five reading intervention groups I teach. These fourth, fifth and sixth graders will all take the PSSA in a few weeks, so I’m duty-bound to facilitate lessons that will provide practice and hopefully, a dose of confidence before the Big Test.

For months now, we’ve been using the PCQC strategy I created (see my March 3 slice)  and I believe it has become part of their reading repertoire. Between their classroom practice passages and the ones we’ve done in small group, most of the kids are familiar with the format of PSSA and could do without one more practice passage. Last week, in order to change it up and preview a book students may want to read , I decided to use the first chapter of an unfamiliar, yet appealing book to practice test-taking strategies and offer a peek into a book students may want to read. This idea kept the students’ interest, and highlighted important instructional skills that I needed to review. Here’s an example of what I did in my fifth grade group.

Using the first chapter of On My Honor, by Marion Dane Bauer, I created multiple choice questions similar to those on PSSA. Each student received a copy of the book and together we previewed it and made predictions based on the title and information we had gleaned from the back cover. After that, we previewed the questions (PCQC). I then asked students to read the first chapter, “chunking” the text and remembering to monitor, using post-its to hold their thinking. After completing the chapter, students answered the questions and checked their work. Surprisingly, (or not) all five of the students in this group incorrectly answered the questions dealing with the main gist of the chapter. Yikes! I definitely had to do some reteaching. I definitely had to help these student slow down, think and find evidence to support their opinion. I did not show students the questions I had marked. Instead, after reteaching,I gave the kids a whole new paper (same questions). This time, four out of five answered the problematic questions correctly. Another interesting development was that the students did not want to read the book after the first read. However, when they had a chance to reread and understand, all of them said they would choose to read this book.

In my opinion, using authentic literature, even when preparing for a test, provides students with a richer, more engaging reading experience. I was pleased with how this worked out and plan to find more books to use this week. Hopefully, many of these texts will wind up on the list of books students want to read. The thirty minutes I spend with these groups that meet four times a week goes by quickly. I need to give serious consideration to how I will balance that time. These lessons allowed me to work on test-taking skills, help students strengthen their thinking skills, and preview a possible read with my students. It was a win-win. Perhaps some of you may find this idea helpful.

 

 

Jelly Beans, Egg Casserole & Egg Roulette

Another Easter is in the books. This Easter was especially relaxed and enjoyable. All five of our children and their families, along with one of our son’s in-laws, arrived early in the afternoon. Within minutes the smell of fresh fruit, egg casseroles, French toast, pancakes, bacon and sausages permeated the air. Six of our nine grandchildren were with us. Five of those grandchildren are little girls. One by one they sashayed in, each anxious to show off a pretty dress, new shoes, or a pair of special earrings. Our only grandson wore a pin-striped shirt and khaki pants. I love little boys in dress shirts and Patrick did not disappoint. At five years old, he looked like a little man and reminded me of how cute our own five sons used to look on Easter Sunday.

These children now range in age from four to eight. These gatherings are considerably calmer than they were a few years ago. Today, there were no tears (a first!) and no fights! Even the “frenimies” (the seven and eight year old who love each other to death until they don’t) remained on good terms the entire day. My daughter, Rose, and Courtney, eight years old, took charge of games for the kids. Egg Roulette anyone? All I can tell you is that a few of the kids wound up in the shower getting egg rinsed off their feet. I’ll leave it at that. After the outdoor games, we had the traditional jelly bean counting contest. Patrick, our only grandson guessed 450 and the number of beans was 447 so he was the winner. His smile was priceless and he kindly decided to share the booty with his cousins.

The adults gathered around the dining room table and spent several hours talking, laughing and eating. I didn’t even want to clear the table too early, for fear folks would take that as a signal to leave. It wasn’t an exciting day, it wasn’t a super-special day, it was simply a day to kick back and enjoy our beautiful family. All of us lead busy lives and although we are close geographically, it’s difficult to get all five of the families together at one time. Usually, someone can’t make it. So, I’m grateful when I have all five of my chicks under roof if only for a little while. It always reminds me of the book, Five Little Ducks. Like the ducks in the story they all come back to play (and bring along their offspring). It doesn’t get better than this!

 

 

 

This Easter Bunny is Beat!

A few weeks ago, having everyone to our house for Easter Brunch sounded like a good idea. After all, Mike is till recuperating so I didn’t want us to have to go out. Also, our kids have been great about hosting holidays for the last few years. So, I decided to get back in the saddle and revisit the traditional brunch that I hosted for years. I enjoyed prettying up the house and reorganizing the kitchen so that I could put all the food on the counters and serve buffet style. I enjoyed foraging through the plastic bin in the basement for Easter flowers and decorations. I even enjoyed my first trip to the supermarket. But now it’s almost 9:30 pm, I’ve made a total of three trips to the store, and spent far too many hours preparing. My back aches and I am feeling my age. So this Easter bunny is going to hop on her recliner and relax. Whatever you are doing tomorrow, slicers, have a wonderful day!