Saturday, March 18, 2017

SOL Challenge Day 18: Some Thoughts on Play.

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A couple of summers ago I read this book.  Have you read it?  I'll wait...go ahead.

When I started a new position around the same time, the idea of 'Purposeful play' really resonated with me.  I was in a situation where I could structure a framework that allowed for play throughout the day.

And then, at least 3 weeks ago, my Godmother asked in an email, "How is that emphasis working for you this year?"  (Side bar:  My Godmother lives in Michigan.  She is a retired 2nd grade teacher, working as a volunteer librarian in a school setting.  She knows public education and Lutheran education-where I am now.  I figure she is the coolest lady on the planet...)

After considering this question, I had several things I was thinking about.  I'll address a few in this post.

Maker Space:

Play naturally occurs here.  Yes, the idea of creating, collaborating and engineering is at the forefront.  However, first graders will create an opportunity for play.  As an example, 2 students created some origami in Maker Space a few weeks ago.  From that, there was an impromptu puppet show.  It really showed itself as dramatic play.  From that, there was the idea that they could take their show on the road!  From that, there were signs inviting people to see their show.  (They weren't pleased with me when I did say their stage couldn't completely block our doorway.  Shoot!)

For one of the students involved, this opportunity offered some time to work on negotiation skills in play.  For the other student, it offered the opportunity to work on some flexibility in thinking when playing with others.  This organic environment allowed for me to coach and model these skills in a setting that allowed for the students to grow and improve with a positive mindset.

Free Play-Storytelling-Writing:

I participated in the Global Day of Play on February 1st.  The premise?  You simply let the kids play.  And they did.  This day, the class as a whole only wanted to participate in dramatic and fantasy play.


The next day, with a little encouragement, one student wrote out the story that they played the previous day.
As I continued to consider this, the idea of play in Writer's Workshop kept swirling in my head.  As I consider next year, I'm outlining and considering how to incorporate puppetry and storytelling in my Writer's Workshop.

Math Choice-Literacy Block:

At first, I didn't think there was play here.  Only choice-because I was directing more of what they could be engaged in.  However, upon further reflection, I was noticing that there is play!  Hooray!

In these instances, the kids are engaged in manipulative play and play with rules.  (Games)

What am I trying this week?
I'm thinking about Social Studies.   We are beginning a unit on the Marketplace-basic economic principles.  I'm planning on some dramatic play as an experience before we talk about how money moves through an economy.  We'll set up shop.  Come buy your goods from us!

What's my role as a teacher?

Observation.  Observation.  Observation.  You have to get right next to the play and watch.  Listen.  And then it's a balancing act.  When are you quiet?  When do you jump in and guide?  It' can't work if you are watching from afar.   You can also connect your play and learning to standards very easily.  That is another post for another day...

Who is using play?  What is next?


Friday, March 17, 2017

SOL Challenge Day 17: A Wish Today And My OLW

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A day for wishing!  

My wish for you is that you may fully tell your story...

Isaiah 41:10:  "Do Not be afraid, for I am with you.  Do not be dismayed, I am your God.  I will strengthen you.  I will help you.  I will uphold you with my victorious right hand."

In December/January I wrote about my OLW.  Fearless.  
I think God has a big sense of humor. 

That girl writing?  So Brave. 
Not right now. 
I don't want to sound like an alarmist.  I'm okay. 
Just a point where there is nothing left to do but look up.
Isaiah 41:10 is my Fearless cry for awhile.
I'm thankful I can still have one.
(There's even a tiny fist pump in there...)
Also, I'm not really reflecting unless there is a YouTube video involved.  
Here we go...It's Country.  :)

Fearlessly Dreaming over here...Stay tuned.  


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

SOL Challenge Day 15: What She Ate Wednesday

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I'm not really eloquent at writing about food allergies.  A couple of years ago, I tried to write about Li'l T's allergies here:

These days we are managing well.  We actively avoid:  fish, nuts, beef, and eggs.  We can eat:  dairy, wheat and soy.  But we know if there is trouble where to go first to make changes in what we are doing.  

Often, I get asked:  What Do You Eat?
Answer:  Too Much.  :)  

Well.  Here's an example of how we do dinner.  Specifically, a take out theme:

Stir fry some chicken breast strips and stir fry vegetables.  I used a garlic flavored grapeseed oil to do this with.  

I'm not a food photographer at all.  I keep thinking I should learn how.  Because I might write about food more if I knew how to document it well.  Thanks for understanding...

We steam a pouch of whole grain brown rice to go with it.  

There is sweet and sour sauce and orange ginger sauce to go with it.  

We also bake vegetable egg rolls and cream cheese wontons because you have to have some fun!  

When I serve food, I usually set it up on our counter like a buffet.  It allows family to build dinner that works for them!  

If you can eat the protein and vegetables-you have to take it.  (Guess what?!?!  I always serve a protein and/or vegetables that work.)

I'm wondering about more vegetable based meals.  Li'l T has been less than excited about plant-based milks we've tried.  (Rice milk is about our only option...even though he's had it for about 6 years...)
If he ate some foods rich in Vitamin D and Calcium, I'd back off...It's been something I've been wondering about.  But if you have an easy vegetable based meal you want to share with me, you can link below and I'll check it out!  

What have you had for dinner this week?


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

SOL Challenge Day 14: A Makerspace. (Even When There Isn't a Budget)

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In October, I had the chance to attend LEA in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  It was there that I listened to Matthew Bergholdt, an LCMS school leader, speak about Makerspace.  


But as I'm wired, I needed to let this swirl a bit before I jumped right in.  


I lingered in this book for awhile.  (Recommended in Mr. Bergholdt's presentation.)

I went to a Maker Space presentation in Kansas City about 2 weeks later in October at a Google Summit.  That one was fun, but a little discouraging.  You see, it began with, "My budget was $40,000."  What?!?!?!  Oh, I had a blast playing and experimenting and thinking what if.  But I was slightly discouraged.  For a minute.  Then I got over it.  

But my Maker Space budget?  $0.00.  
Challenge Accepted.

I take that back.  I had a gift of a classroom allocation.  (About 200.00)  I used it immediately to buy some Legos and Flats to go with them.  I'm assuming as one Maker to another, you might understand why I went straight for Legos.

Let's take a tour, shall we?

This is the space.  It's compact.  It is NOT fancy.  It's toward the back of the room, where a tall table, a table with wheels, and a hexagon shaped table all reside as well.  (Room for collaboration.)  The shelf came from my house, it was in our playroom and wasn't really being used.  

Yes, there is a sign that indicates it is open.  Most of the time it is.  Especially in the afternoon, it is almost always a choice.  I'm swirling around how to effectively keep it open during the Literacy block as well.  

Legos.  As a parent caught wind of the Maker Space, she offered up a tub of K'Nex.  They have motors and gears.  Yes, please. 

Tinkertoys came from my house.  I have an 8 and 12 year old, and they just don't use them as much anymore.  

In the blue basket?  Foam, bolts, washers, nails.  Now, clearly there are some safety issues here.  This year's class has remarkable self-control.  So they were receptive to the safety lessons that came with this basket.  They love to build robots.  The foam was left over from a craft.  The hardware came from Mr.'s stash in the garage.  (He's so cool.)

This basket has origami paper and directions for making basic origami folds.  The paper came from our stash at home.  

Cardboard and duct tape.  The duct tape I did purchase out of pocket.  It came out of our household budget.  

This basket has buttons and craft sticks.  Treasures found in "the closet".  

Paper of all shapes and sizes.  You can see the 
hexagon table in the background.  A lot of spontaneous writing takes place when this paper is out.  I love it.  

What about the kids Making?  Let's take a peek:

I usually encourage kids to work in pairs to practice collaboration.  But I don't force the issue.  

Sometimes it just needs to be a kid and his cardboard.  

An unintended consequence?  Certainly not negative, but reading the Lego directions has been a springboard for reading and writing nonfiction and technical ("how to") writing.  

But sometimes you just have to create from scratch.  

Next Steps:

I wish I had more space to display work, whether it is finished or in progress.  Could I really dedicate the back corner simply for Making?

I do have some technology.  How can we effectively amplify what is going on here?  Naturally, I wish I had some technology for the kids to connect with in their Making.  

I've been gathering resources from Twitter, Amazon, Pinterest, Other educators on other considerations and readings around Maker Space.  

 What I've learned:
You don't have to have a lot (or any) money to get this started.

There could be a whole post on the teaching points that occur organically within the Maker space.

The kids love it.  It brings them joy during their school day.   The idea that play is important work really shines here.

Maker Space is a process.  It might not ever be done.  I'm learning to be okay with that.

Do you Make?  What advice do you have for me?  What else do you want to know?


Monday, March 13, 2017

SOL Challenge Day 13: Our Wonder Fair.

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So last week, before Spring Break, we celebrated National Lutheran Schools Week.  There were many learning experiences to be had, a lot of community building, and a lot of fun celebrating what we get to do everyday!  

One of the things I learned last year, was a project during this week would be perfect for the classroom.  Because you are in and out all week long.  Nothing really goes according to a traditional schedule.  It's quickly becoming one of my favorite weeks of the year!  

We've been studying nonfiction as readers and writers.  It seemed perfect that we would do some research and share that with our community at the end of the week.

So we got busy:

We used a graphic organizer to record what we would be studying (student choice), what we already knew, and what we were learning.  Each student worked to learn 3 facts they would want to share.  Only 3, because I really wanted them to internalize what they were learning, so they could share it with peers.   

We used Wonderopolis, Book Flix, and Pebble Go to learn some facts.  We also used books from the classroom library.   (Also, it was pajama day when we were researching!  We should always research in our PJs!)

Then it was time to share!  We wrote books and made posters.  After the staff was invited, we waited.  Then our Mighty Mustangs from Preschool to 4th grade came!  We had a great authentic audience to share our facts with.  We shared where our resources came from, and we answered questions from our peers.  

It was a great way to close our study of nonfiction and connect with our school community.  

A wish?  More technology, so students could have this as an option to share their learning.  Taking the Amplification to a new level.  :)

But it was a great day of sharing our learning.  


Sunday, March 12, 2017

SOL Challenge Day 12: What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

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I've been sitting here for a moment trying to decide how to write about what I'm carrying right now.  It's not time to share the whole story yet.  But it's finally hit me.   Time to write.  

A couple of weeks ago, Lil T stopped me in my tracks.  We were watching state basketball on TV.  When the All State Dance Team came on, I flippantly made a remark about how I wished I had learned to dance when I was younger.  

My 8 year old says, "It's not like your life is over.  You can still learn how to dance."  
It stopped me in my tracks.  And it might have been dust, or it might have been tears.  I'm not sure...but Wowza.

Fast Forward to today, when Mr. and I are out running.  Talking about those Pie in The Sky Dreams.
Because sometimes you just have to.

I love what I do.  I wouldn't trade it for anything.  But when I grow up I want to:

1.  Open a book store in the historical part of town.  With a lunch counter in the back.
2.  Build a house on the corner where the family land is.  1/2 a mile from mom and dad.  Get a job in that county and live in the country.
3.  Get an RV.  Take a year, just one, and Unschool the kids.  Travel the Midwest.  Take in some nature and landmarks with school on the side.
4.  Consult with new teachers.  Listen to them.  Work with them.  Offer coaching when necessary.  Celebrate with them.  (Is this a job?  I mean...a stand alone job...beyond mentoring...)

I like things to be in groups of 5, but won't force that for this one.

Li'l T's words ring true here too:
It's not like life is over.  You can still learn how to dance.

What do you want to be when you grow up?


Saturday, March 11, 2017

SOL Challenge Day 11: I'm Going to The Party!

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I'm coming to the party Leigh Anne!  Don't know if you are invited or not?  You are.  Read more:

We are headed out to the Iowa District West Volleyball Tournament.  And the Mustangs are in the tournament!  (Yee-Haw!)

  • A side note to say, yesterday, I put my 12 year old in a minivan with a trusted friend.  And if you are in a community where you can get a text that says, "It's a long story, but the boys ended up staying with _____ last night,"  and it doesn't cause any stress?  You are in the right community.  
Now, I must get ready for the party, because the tournament is 2 hours away, and girl needs to drink coffee and eat breakfast.  

Here's what I'm bringing to the party:

1.  Pillows:  I noticed Leigh Anne was bringing hers, so I'll bring the 3  I sleep with.  (No judging.  I'm almost 40 and get heartburn at night.)  :D  

2.  A Book from my TBR pile:  I'm eyeing Mosquitoland by David Arnold.  It was a gift at Christmas time.  

3.  I'll bring PopChips-I tried the sour cream and onion flavor this week, and really liked them.  

4.  Henry's Hard Soda.  I like the Ginger Ale flavor.  

5.  I'll bring some LuLaRoe Leggings.  Yes, I'm one of those.  I will buy leggings at your party.  :)  

Have a great day Friends!

Friday, March 10, 2017

SOL Challenge Day 10: Fish Fries

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You guys.  I made it to spring break!  It's here!  It's here!  I face planted last night.  I'm not sure I could have blogged if I wanted to.  But let's get down to business here...

Excuse me Catholic Friends, while I gush over your best kept secret:  Lenten Fish Fries.  

Where I live, there is a club that scouts out the best ones to go to.  
My Urban People are awesome.  We looked at that and said, "We'll do what we want.  Thank you very much."  (It's the Lutheran in us...we can't help it...)

So last week I had fish tacos and a Bud Light in the gym of a school in an older part of town.  Yes.Please.

Tonight we were in the 'burbs.  Fried Cod and Shrimp, with potatoes, cole slaw, and pickles with garlic.  :)

My favorite part?  The community.  These tables fill up with families and friends.  

We fill up a table, or two if the kids are with us.  

I think what I love about it is not only the food, but watching people stop for a moment and enjoy community together, over one of my favorites.  Food.  

Tonight I'm smitten with Fish Fries. 
Have you been?  


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

SOL Challenge Day 8: 8 Things.

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Still limping to Spring Break Friends.  (See yesterday's post.)

Some lists today to get us through, and let's learn a bit about each other shall we?  I really would love to hear some of your favorite things in the comments!  Also, if you use this format, let me know!  I would love to read it!  

8 things for Day 8....Here we go!

8 Everyday Things I couldn't Live Without:

  1. Wifi.
  2. Devices.
  3. Power steering.
  4. K-Cups for the coffee machine.
  5. Electricity
  6. My 31 Crossover Bag.  
  7. Amazon.
  8. Water Bottles
8 of My Favorite Songs:
Traveling Light

Create in Me

On Top of the World

Walk on the Ocean

That's Just About Right

Dear Younger Me

Write Your Story

With Every Act of Love

8 Adventures I want to have Before I Die:

  1. Singing "Take Me Home Country Roads" with Mountaineer Fans. 
  2. Ragbrai.
  3. NCAA Basketball Finals
  4. Train Griffin to be a therapy dog.  Then go share him with people. 
  5. Meet ups with Some of you.  :)  
  6. Trail Half Marathon
  7. Own a book store or food truck
  8. Freelance Work.
8 Pastimes I Never Tire of Doing:
  1. Reading
  2. Running
  3. Cooking
  4. Writing
  5. Dinner
  6. Sports Watching.  All levels.  All sports.  
  7. Hiking
  8. Naps
8 Treats I Could Eat Everyday:
  1. Cheese
  2. Sausage
  3. Popchips
  4. Cookies
  5. Diet Mountain Dew.  (I know.  You drink it.  Stay with me here.)
  6. French Fries
  7. Good Bread
  8. Coffee
8 People I'd Be Lost Without:  (Way More than 8...)

  1. My Mr.
  2. Big A.
  3. Li'l T.
  4. Tia And Fam
  5. Amy and Fam.
  6. Angella K.
  7. Mama
  8. Daddy

8 Places I want to Visit:
  1. West Virginia
  2. London
  3. Alaska
  4. New Zealand
  5. Maine
  6. Tennessee
  7. Panama
  8. Canada

Alright.  Let's hear it!  What are your 8 things?


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

SOL Challenge Day 7: Sleep and an Idea.

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It's true.
I'm limping to spring break.  
If I could tip over now, I would.
So many things I want to write about.  Truly sharing slices at this point, because really any further reflection?  Not happening...

Yet, here I am!

So...last night I slept 5 hours.
First 3.
Then a break from sleeping for 2.
Then I slept 2 more hours.

But when I was taking a break from my sleeping in the middle of the night, I had this idea.
Tell me what you think.
Next year, as a part of my Writer's Workshop, I want to incorporate storytelling and maybe puppetry.
Maybe they have time to play and explore their stories, and then time to write them down as well.

I've thought about trying to let it ebb and flow.  When kids need to play, they could.  When they are ready to write, they can.

It might coincide with our writing curriculum.
It might be a separate part of our writing time.

Why?  Because I've seen kids at play.  And when I remind them of that story to tell from their play, they write furiously.

Well...what do you think?

Pray for a full nights' sleep.  That is necessary...

Joy!  (And Sleep!)

Monday, March 6, 2017

SOL Challenge Day 6: A link about Kitchens and such...

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It's been a day.  

I've helped first graders roller skate.  

I've played the piano at the spring concert.  

I'm finally getting home after watching a basketball game for 2nd Graders too?!?!?

A link to the past.  Someone had asked me about my love for my kitchen.  This slice from 3 years ago explains it best.

It still rings true.  It's our hub.  It's where the best laughs and some of the most tears happen.  We hug, sing, eat, cook here.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

SOL Challenge Day 5: Those Shoes-A story from my past.

slice of life_individual

Link up at  We are so grateful for this community. 

I'm not a great photographer.  But about a month ago, I bought these shoes for running.  They are Bright Yellow.  The kind of yellow that can been seen even when the lights are off.  

And it took me back immediately...

The year was 1989.  I was about 11 years old.  

I was a working class kid in a working class town.  

That means I had 2 pairs of shoes.  

Shoes for "fancy occasions."  (Church...and well...that's about it in a working class town.)

Shoes for school.

I needed shoes for school.

Believe it or not, being the 3rd child in my family, I had a little Spice in my personality.  (I still might...)

My mom clearly needed a break, so she sent my dad with me to go shoe shopping.  

We came back with something like these...

Image result for lime green high tops nike  pink swoosh

Only they were high tops.  And the shoe was this lime green with a pink swoosh.  

I saw them in the store.  I had to have them.  And my dad said, "Sure!"

My mom was so mad when we came home.  I couldn't understand why!  

I loved them.  For about 2 weeks.  

Then I wanted new shoes...

I didn't get them.

As a mom, I understand why now.  

Sorry Mom.  

Did you ever come home with a fashion faux-pas that made your parents roll their eyes to the heavens and sigh loudly?  

Tell me about it!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

SOL Challenge Day 4: Growing a Reader

slice of life_individual

Link up at  We are so grateful for this community. 

Alright, I missed yesterday.  Shoot!  Black Hawk was Amazing at our local venue!  You know...the country band from the 90s...

The hubs had a blast, so did I.  We hadn't had an outing like that in almost 2 years we figured.  So when I got home, I need to just face plant.  Because hey, I was a teacher out on a Friday night until 11:30 PM...who stood at a concert for 3 hours!  

So today was quiet.  After waking up from a nap, we took our youngest to the library.   We usually have older brother with us, so this was a treat for us.  We've tried lots of things to help him grow as a reader.  Because you see, he Can read.  He just Doesn't read.  Which is a balance for us.  We don't want to force feed it, but it's what we do in our family.  So we've always had a read aloud at night.  And sometimes I have had to insist on the 20 minutes.  Any reading, 20 minutes.    

Now that he's a second grader, he's finding his way as a reader.  I had a chance to watch him carefully today with Teacher-Mom eyes.  And I learned some things about him today that might help if you are helping to grow any readers:

1.  He needs time to linger.  His big bro knows what he likes.  His Big Bro is in and out of the library with a stack before you can say 40BookChallenge.  I learned today if I encourage him to look at books he will.  

2.  He likes to feel accomplished as a reader.  Graphic novels, pictures books, high interest non fiction.  This is what we left with today.  He was proud to say he checked out 19 of our 20 books.  (I picked up a cookbook on authentic Mexican cooking!)  Here's his book stack...

3.  He wants to read.  We need to give him time to do that without forcing it or feeling rushed.  We can work on this as a family.  

What is your favorite thing to do to Grow a reader? 


Thursday, March 2, 2017

SOL Challenge Day 2: Currently.

slice of life_individual

Link up at  We are so grateful for this community. 

Oh no!  On Day 2:  Nothing went as planned, my 8 year old didn't feel well today, I'm now home alone with a puppy who wants to dig up my carpet, my back hurts, and I just want to drink tea.  

But here we go...

What a neat idea for daily journaling...I would love to make one of these for myself!:

1.  Listening:  to the TV in the background.

2.  Eating:  A LOT of Girl Scout cookies.  Whoops.

3.  Drinking:  Tea at night.

4.  Wearing:  Old clothes.  I tackled a bathroom tonight.  And then wrote new house

5.  Feeling:  Reflective.  Motivated.  And yet, tired.

6.  Weather:  Partly cloudy.  29 Degrees.

7.  Wanting:  Another Cookie.

8.  Needing:  To Stop eating cookies.

9.  Thinking:  What can I learn?  Is there something else?

10:  Enjoying:  The idea of tomorrow.  A Fish Fry and Country Music.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

SOL Challenge Day One: Create in Me.

slice of life_individual

Link up at  We are so grateful for this community. 

It's not lost on me that the first day of the SOL challenge is also the first day of such a reflective season in the church year.  

Psalm 51 has been read on this Ash Wednesday.  I like verses 10-12 :

Create in me a pure heart, O God, 
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not case me from your presence
Or take your Holy Spirit from Me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
And grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

There is always a lot of reflection about what to DO during these 40 days.  Give up this, do that, go here, sing that, don't sing that...  And all are good.  Maybe I'm not disciplined enough.  But it never works for me.  I always cave.  Always.  

But this season, I'm being called to turn inward.  Not just for self improvement.  But to really ask myself what is pleasing to God?

So tonight , as I sit here, I'm asking for God to work on me from within.  A prayer for this Ash Wednesday:

Make me unwavering in my life work.  Family, Friends, Work...make me steadfast so other's see Jesus when they look.
Continue to show me what I need to confess, so the relationship can be joyful.  Bring the full and complete life that only You can. 
Strengthen me in these 40 days to be joyful and constantly in Your presence.  


This Song!  It's catchy and perfect for dancing about in the kitchen to.  Because while it's reflective, we aren't stuck in the dumps you know...

It's one of my favorites by Rend Collective.   And I sang/prayed it a lot 2 years ago this month when I was pondering what turned out to be a job move.  

There maybe more slicing on this topic.  Maybe not.  

Tomorrow?  I'm planning to blog on Seesaw and Math vocabulary.  :)  I love March.