Dancing in the Sand

It’s January 10th 2020, but I’m where it’s hot, sunny and sandy. It’s my niece’s wedding and she was married in Panama!

My sister passed away almost 1 1/2 years ago so I really wanted to be there for her and my niece……….and so I was.

The Wedding

My niece ….. beautiful, simply beautiful

The wedding……palm trees, sunset beach. personal vows, both families touched, supporting them……………..missing my sister

The after party……cerviche, shrimp, mini tacos, cervezas, sangria, Balboa, fresh pineapple

MARIACHI BAND!!!

The band leader yells, “Time to dance!”

The band is on the beach as they serenade the families and friends having the official wedding pictures taken. As his call to dance gets all the cousins and grandmas and grandpas excited to dance, my aunt grabs my arm and says “Come on, let’s dance!”

“I don’t dance in the sand,” I reported as I crossed my legs and clapped along with the mariachi band.

An uncle of the groom takes my hand and asks me to dance…… sure!

A salsa dance in the sand later, I sat breathless and laughing.

Taken shortly after a dance in the sand.

Box of Treasures

A forgotton box of treasures stir memories as if frozen in a time machine, things thrown in a box marked with black sharpie, “fragile” and “keep” from a long ago move.

Slowly unfolding a picture of a family with huge smiles, lovely eyelashes but no arms brings a smile. Drawn in elementary school as an assignment from a knowing teacher and crafted by a spunky towheaded 8 year old now grown with two children of her own.

The barbie…. well the barbie is from my own childhood with an outfit sewn for her by my mother now gone. Seeing her in my minds eye sitting at the sewing machine in the living room. She works, her body bent over it and shoos me away every time I get underfoot, impatient to see the finished gown.

The girl scout doll may have been a gift, but that memory escapes me. Being a troop leader for many a daisy, brownie and junior troop, some events tend to blur together. Another smile escapes as holding the doll brings other memories and reminders of campfire songs, s’mores, day camp, cookies, crafts, laughter and some of the best friendships of my life.

Slowly and gently tucking everything back into the box, wondering of the memories I’ll have next time I open it.

A Story

I want to tell you a story. That’s what my 5 year old granddaughter said to me as she struggled with the door of my Subaru Forester. You see, I have the opportunity of picking her up most days after her long day of kindergarten and we hang out until my daughter gets home.

“What is it,” I ask her as I get her situated with her seat belt.

“Well, I was sad because my friend didn’t want to be my friend or play with me today and I asked Mrs. B for help. Mrs. B noticed I was sad and called me over. I told her my problem and she talked to my friend and I together. Then at the end of the day, my friend gave me a piece of gum!”

Listening to her story made me smile. I’m so grateful for a teacher that notices her students and helps support more than academics, but also understands the 5 year old mind. So happy to hear her stories.

Retirement Groove

7:00pm Monday

Special Ed teacher bud of mine calls, we catch up and she says she’s taking former student of both of ours to dinner, Olive Garden Tuesday at 4:30 and former student would love if I came. Of course, I’d love to!

6:30 Tuesday

Nagging thought that I should be somewhere…. OH fiddle de dee… I forgot dinner… didn’t write it in my calendar and totally forgot. Ugh

My first year of retirement and I’m realizing, I need more than just travel, reading and lunch dates. I know from all my years of teaching that routines are grounding. I need a groove and a retirement routine. Not a rigid one, but not a read til noon and shower one either. Time for some reflecting about what that will look like……

Kindergarten Cloakroom

A cloakroom where the coats are hung. It’s not a hallway but a part of our room. Two empty spaces where a door should be. One to enter and to exit into the classroom.

The cloakroom hides surprises like moldy crackers and lost mittens. But the favorite game is playing chase round and round until the teacher shuts us down. Standing with her hands on hips, she gazes down at me as I skitter to a stop, gulp and look around. My friends have ditched me. Maybe they are hiding and giggling in the cloakroom.

I hang my head and sit on my napping mat. Me, the only one until it’s time to play again with the puppets, blocks or in the kitchen. Saving chase for when we go outside….. outside the cloakroom.

Funny how this memory has stuck with me throughout the years.

Using Technology to Support Students with Learning Differences in Writer’s Workshop

How does Technology help?

The variety of skills and the synthesis involved in writing can make it difficult for some of our students to just write.

The overwhelming feeling of initiating a piece of writing reminds me of when I was 15 years old and the first time I took my father’s car for a drive.

I remember sitting at the steering wheel of my Dad’s 1970 SAAB station wagon. I was 15, hands sweating and trying to remember everything involved in driving a car. Where do I put my hands? How soon do I turn? I have to plan my route and Dad is talking in my ear. I remember trying to keep all these things straight in my head and trying to drive, not panic, not shut down, or have a melt down and just start crying.

Writing puts strain on parts of the brain that control fine motor planning, working memory and organization.

Technology can help many students relieve that strain by doing some of the heavy lifting and allowing student’s creativity and story telling abilities to shine. It supports student strengths and minimizes deficits.

Motor Planning

Writing can be a difficult task if the child is not able to physically write what they want to say in a legible way. The spacing could be squished together or too far apart. The letters or words may be written backwards or simply unreadable. This may be due to visual perceptual or fine motor issues.

Here are some low-tech ideas that can help support this problem especially for K-2.

  • Slant boards can help angle the paper and helps with visual tracking and posture when writing. I love this DIY slant board.
  • Raised lined paper– This paper has raised and colored lines so that students are able to stop the movement of their pencil when they hit the line. I was able to find this online or check with the occupational therapist at your school.
  • Writing Wizard for Kids is an excellent writing app for ages 4+ and can be used on apple or android but requires a touch screen. It supports correct letter formations. This website offers a review of the app.

If fine motor is still an issue as students get older, writing becomes such a laborious task that all the joy of writing is lost. In my opinion, let them type!

Working Memory

Working memory is the area in your brain that stores short term memory, holds and manipulates information until it is stored in the long term memory. The variety of skills required for writing can put so much stress on a weak working memory that it can become overwhelmed and just shut down.

Often, students that have difficulty with attention or organization have trouble initiating writing. They have SO many ideas that it’s hard for them to sort and order them. They often end up saying they don’t have any ideas at all when the opposite may be true!

Google Docs

My favorite technology support for older students dealing with some of these issues is Google Docs. It’s easy to access and has a plethora of supports at your finger tips. Also, these strategies are good for all students and so it works perfectly for an inclusive setting such as writer’s workshop.

Some ways to use google docs —

  • Students can keep a folder for the writing supports that they need such as word banks, favorite quotes, lists for transition words or other supports pertaining to specific assignments and specific students.
  • It’s simple to assign class interactive or multi-media videos that can be played and replayed or paused to take notes for research writing or mentor texts for sentence fluency.
  • Immediate feedback and the ability to do more scaffolding for those that need it without being obvious or obnoxious. (Check out DocAppender extension)
  • Three excellent extensions created by Don Johnston are co-writer (a text prediction extension), snap and read (love, love, love), and universal word bank. These extensions do cost money. I am fortunate to work in a district that pays for access to these supports for all students on all devices.
  • Google docs gives the ability to provide regular feedback and offers the ability to use a variety of responses. (slides, video, outlines)
  • It supports revising and editing with grammar and spell check capabilities.
  • More ideas for writing using google docs. Did you know there’s a question feature on google classroom?

More about Snap and Read

  • Snap and Read can read a student’s writing back to them which helps them revise.
  • There are lists of possible outlines which can help them organize their thinking.
  • The bottom two screenshots show a website and then that website with distractions removed.
  • You can double click on a word and it gives the definitions.
  • It is user friendly and students love and actually use it!

One tip for introducing technology.

  • In order to take some pressure off staff, a fun option to introduce a new technology is to have the assistive or other technology specialists in your district come to your writing workshop class and teach the students (and teachers) how to use these tools. The general education teacher in my building initiated this idea and it was a huge success. Students and staff felt comfortable getting on the same page with the technology.

Have fun and play with technology to see what works best for you in your writing workshop!

Excellent webpage from Understood for Learning and Attention Issues on dysgraphia

Ten apps to help develop writing skills

If you like mind mapping, this is a good application that’s free.

Please share your ideas and ways that you use technology to support writers.

Collective Joy

I was listening to an audiobook by Brene’ Brown (Braving the Wilderness) where she speaks about human connections and how a gathering of people feeling joy can emphasis and expand that feeling of joy far more than if it’s just one person feeling it. She gives specific data that states staying connected with people can lengthen your life as much as if you quit smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Wow.

Her research brought to mind this memory of when I was a young girl in a girl scout troop. I signed up for a week long camp of crafts and campfires at Camp Sacajawea.

My favorite part of camp was always, always, without question the evening sing along’s and campfires. We would talk and laugh, make smore’s and then right before heading to our bunks, we would sing. The singing gave me joy and singing with a diverse group of girls with a common purpose and connection lifted my heart and sometimes gave me goosebumps. I felt close to those girls and leaders and the feeling of unity and joy is hard to put into words. I still get that same feeling when I hear “Make New Friends but Keep the Old, One is Silver and the Other Gold” or “Barges”

“Out of my window looking in the night,
I can see the barges flickering light.
Starboard shining green and port is shining red,
I can see the barges from my bed.”

Read more: https://www.scoutsongs.com/lyrics/barges.html#ixzz5lHfjKUbf
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Writing and sharing our writing helps build these connections too and increases our collective joy and brings comfort in our collective sorrow.