My New Facebook Page: Debby Zigenis-Lowery, Author


Facebook Page; Debby Zigenis-Lowery, Author; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/
My Facebook page—Debby Zigenis-Lower, Author—is up and nearly fully operational. (When you see the widget in the right column here on the blog to connect you to the page, you’ll know I am at last truly done—however, it does contain an opening post.)

Yearning to Share

I’m excited about my Facebook page. There are so many things I long to share with you in quick, brief ways, too many to always write a post, and so many not requiring a full post. So, I hope my page will provide greater opportunities to share and enrich your reading, writing, parenting, and teaching practices.

What can you expect to find on Debby Zigenis-Lowery, Author?

“Play With Your Words” Writing Prompts

One of the most valuable things I learned when I studied for my master’s degree in teaching was that studies show two of the best ways to improve at both reading and writing are to read or write. Each helps to improve at both skills! With the exception of longer writing projects (which will be archived here, in Teacher’s File Drawer), I will now post writing prompts—for fiction, non-fiction, and personal journaling—on my new Facebook page.

Reading Response Exercises

These were another favorite in my Language Arts teacher’s toolbox. When students reflect on what they read, it helps them to understand the text more deeply and remember it better. Free reading + reading response exercises were my favorite Language Arts homework. Reading Response Exercises will also assist aspiring authors in reading like a writer, a practice highly recommended by the pros.

Wonderful Words: Quotes

I love quotes. I love ideas powerfully stated. I love words strung together in marvelous ways. (To refresh your memory, check out my post here.) While I have had fun preparing omnibus quote posts, I have so many quotes collected, and I long to share these beautiful and inspiring words more often. Now I can on my new Facebook page.

My Literate Lifestyle & Writing Journey

I will also use my Facebook Page to share my literate lifestyle and writer’s journey—books I’m reading, projects I’m working on, insights and organizational strategies—and I hope you will share yours. I’d like to be a friend and comrade to you in your pursuit of a literate lifestyle.

Your Turn

My vision is that this new Facebook page—Debby Zigenis-Lowery, Author—will facilitate more daily interactions and opportunities for us to encourage one another. Please use the comment box below to let me know how I can be a help to you.

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A New Season, A New Year, A New Life


A New Season, A New Year, A New Life; literatelives.wordpress.com
Having lived most of my life aligned with the academic schedule (as a student, mother of students, and educator), the start of September and school have always felt like my true “new year.”

A New Season

Here where I live, September signals the end of summer, even if it does not yet hold the gold-leaved glory of fall. It has already rained, three times since the start of the month and people were glad to see it! Although it is not yet officially arrived, that won’t happen until the equinox, September 23, autumn is definitely coming.

A New Year

As stated above, the beginning of the academic calendar is my true new year. It is a time to re-evaluate routines, maybe drop some old practices, incorporate some new…

One of the practices I am really excited about this year is that of using a planner. I never used a planner until I was in grad school and tracking assignments became too difficult to do in my head. That practice carried over into teaching with the necessity of a lesson plan book. One of my principals wanted it sitting open on our desks at all times. Through years of tracking lessons and the preparation and gathering of materials for lessons, my planning skills (and planner dependency) grew.

This last year I started using a planner at home to establish routines and make sure none of my “to-do” items dropped off into the abyss of forgetfulness, and this summer I’ve been reading a lot about planners and bullet-journaling and enjoying incorporating some of those principles into my own efforts at personal organization.

A New Life

The biggest change of all for me is that this September, I am not returning to the classroom. (Fear not, however, my husband is also an educator, so the academic year shall still rule supreme on our calendar.)

I am very excited at the prospect of having more time for writing (and a little less excited for having more time to care for our long-neglected home).

However, what I looked forward to with joy, also carries its own sorrows. I miss my colleagues at the DTLC; I miss the high privilege of being entrusted to diagnose students’ individual learning needs and make plans and design lessons to address them; and I miss the opportunities to see my students learn, mature, and achieve.

(This will be to your benefit, however, as the drive to nurture readers and writers will be channeled into this blog and my upcoming Facebook page.)

New/Old Challenges

Back in June I was so excited to “hit the ground running” with both my fiction projects and this blog when my husband returned to work. But September finds me weary, recovering from two July colds and the culminating three weeks of sinus and ear infection that gobbled up the end of August.

In addition, these past eighteen months has seen our family knocked about with numerous blows that included death, traumatic brain injury, near loss of eyesight, and serious chronic illness. Both my husband and I did what we needed to at the time and just kept going. However, now I feel like these rough waters have washed me, sorrowful and exhausted, into a still pool and it is time to reflect on the impact of these life changers. (If I were to write a memoir, I think I might call it When Lightning Strikes, & Strikes, & Strikes…)

Therefore, I am looking forward, a little more quietly, to a season of learning, reflecting, and writing, and, of course, sharing my love of reading, writing, and teaching with you.

Your Turn

What are you looking forward to this new season? Please use the comment box to share. Let’s encourage one another!

Remember

New blog posts will now be available the first, third, and occasional fifth Thursday of each month.

Stay tuned for the launch of my Facebook page.

Celebrate Summer 2018: Best of Summer Brainstorm

Celebrate Summer 2018: https://literatelives.wordpress.com/; Best of Summer BrainstormIt is hard to believe summer is nearly at an end. Of course, the season lasts until September 21, but the start of school makes it seem like the start of fall. So before summer of 2018 yields to autumn, let’s pause to appreciate this season.

Prepare

You will need: a bowl or jar, slips of paper, pens, pencils, or crayons.

Place these in an easily accessible spot in your home.

Tell your family that you want to celebrate this summer and ask them to use the slips of paper to write down favorite activities and memories, then fold them up and drop them in the bowl or jar. (For toddlers and preschoolers ask them what they enjoyed and write it down for them on the slips. Before you drop the slips into the bowl or jar, read back to your child what you have written, pointing to each word as you read it to reinforce the one to one connection between the spoken and written word.)

Set a date for your celebration and encourage everyone to drop in at least one memory/favorite activity per day up until that date.

Plan Your Celebration

Maybe you want to plan a picnic. Maybe you want to plan a bar-b-que. However, you choose to celebrate solicit your family for suggestions of favorite summer foods to create a proper summer feast.

Celebrate Summer 2018

To celebrate, eat together and play together, and make time to read and discuss the slips of paper that have been placed in the bowl/jar.

Consider:

  • reflecting on which activities/memories the family liked best
  • making note of things you want to repeat next year or try in a new way. (For example, if you visited one national park this year and enjoyed it, consider visiting a new one next year.)
  • listing things you would like to do more often.

Enjoy each other.

Bonus

If you are a scrap booker or photo album maker, you can use these slips in your layouts to better characterize this time in your family’s life.

Your Turn

What do you do to celebrate and memorialize summer?

If you embark on this particular practice, let us know how it went, what fun twists you might have introduced, how you might do this next year. Just use the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

The Landay: Play with Your Words with a New Poetry Form

The Landay: Play with Your Words with a New Poetry Form; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives

Last week, while vacationing at my aunt’s home in Carmel, I discovered a new poetry form, the landay, and had to try it.

Discovery

As usual when traveling, I brought along a stack of magazines, Writers Digest, The Writer, The SFWA Bulletin… I’m always behind with my magazine reading and enjoy the change of pace from reading online.

In the Writers Digest, September 2017 issue–told you I was behind–the “Poetic Asides” column by Robert Lee Brewer featured an unfamiliar form–the landay. I found it intriguing and became obsessed with “capturing” out getaway using the form.

The Landay

The landay is a fairly simple poetic form that features:

  • couplets–it can be a short poem of just one, or longer poem featuring many
  • specified syllable lengths for each line–9 for the first and 13 for the second
  • couplets that relate a witty, but difficult truth–this was a characteristic I neglected to follow because of my purpose in writing.

PreWrite

Because I find coming up with multiple couplets challenging, I started by brainstorming. I made lists of words and phrases for multiple categories, for example, the sky, the beach, the house, the 17 mile drive, and focused on sensory imagery–what I saw, heard, smelled, tasted, and experienced through touch.

Next I looked for pairings of word sounds that could work together and began crafting phrases and lines.

Finally, I selected the couplets I wanted to use.

My Landay

August 2018, Carmel, 17 Mile Drive

Cormorant perches, wings spread to dry,
sated lord of kelp kingdom, proud beak raised to sky.

Seals bask and bark in sun-washed splendor,
Dive, frolic, splash spray, giving selves to joyful surrender.

Endless sea swells rise, whoosh, plunge, and crash ,
moon-pulled, singing serenity’s praise with every splash.

Your Turn

  • How do you like to capture special times in your life?
  • Did you give the landay a try?

Please share your thoughts and poems in the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

Individualized Road Trip Travel Folders for Kids

Road Trip Travel Folders for Kids, https://literatelives.wordpress.com/This week my daughter, son-in-law, and grands left on a road trip. To help keep the kids entertained on the way I prepared a travel pack with items for the whole family and for each individual child. (I know; they have tablets with movies and video games, but even those can get old after a few hours)

Travel Folder Contents

For the family:

  • hidden picture books
  • decks of cards

For each child (in a sturdy report folder with brads and pockets):

  • a bag of stickers to decorate their folders, or in the case of the younger grands, themselves
  • 4 coloring pages each
  • 2 scavenger hunt / paper games each
  • 2 Mad Libs
  • a book
  • a pen
  • a mechanical pencil

A Little About Some of the Items

Stickers:  1) to be used to individualize each folder (and exercise their creativity),  2) as I said, the younger kids enjoy putting them on like Band Aids (and just manipulating them is good for developing fine motor skills),  3) all of the kids could use them to make collages on the blank sides of the papers in their folders (another exercise in creativity)

Coloring Pages:  I tailored each coloring page selection to each child’s skill levels and to the trip itself (coloring provides more fine motor skill practice, eye-hand coordination, and self soothing skills). For instance, they were traveling to my parents’ house, and my parents have hummingbird feeders outside their dining room window, so I found pictures of hummingbirds for the kids to color. Also, my mom plans to take them to see the musical Beauty and the Beast, so I found free, on-line, Beauty and the Beast coloring pages to print out for them. (Note, I did not pack crayons. The grands already have plenty of those, so I did not want to burden my daughter with still more.)

Scavenger Hunts:  For the older kids, I created a grid of boxes lettered A-Z. The objective? While riding, hunt out the window for objects that start with each letter and write the name of the object in the boxes (providing observation and spelling/guess-and-go practice). For our pre-kindergartner, the scavenger hunt was similar, except it was for items that fit the basic shapes and colors (thus sharpening her skills at identifying basic shapes and colors). Alas, no scavenger hunt for our little guy.

Paper Games: For the older kids, I printed out a sheet with “supercalafragilisticexpialadocious” written across the top and instructions to make as many words as possible using only the letter in the feature word. These can be made with any word or phrase, for instance, at first they were going to travel the coastal route through the redwood forest, and I planned on making the word “Redwood National Park.” (Note: this activity builds vocabulary, and spelling skills.) Our pre-kindergartner loves mazes so I found a free one on the internet for her (another good builder of eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills).

Mad Libs:  I photocopied six fill in the sheets out ofVacation Fun Mad Libs and put two in everyone but the toddler’s folder. (As a Language Arts teacher, I loved Mad Libs for building student knowledge of the basic parts of speech, and my students loved hearing the crazy results of their word lists.) I figured one of the older kids could whisper what type of word was needed in our pre-kindergartner’s ear, so she could still ask the family for each word, and likewise her helper could help her write down the response.

A Book: Again I made sure each book was the appropriate skill and interest level for the older kids (so they can work on maintaining and building their reading skills). For our pre-kindergartner, the book I picked was a folktale I had already read to her.. Therefore, she could look at the pictures and, as she turned the pages, tell herself the story (thus developing verbal and narrative skills). For our little guy, since he got cheated in terms of activity pages, I included 2 board books–one of which features cars and trucks, some of his favorite objects.

It took me way longer to prepare these things than I had anticipated, but it was a labor of love and worth the time. When done, I gave everything to my daughter to dole out along the way as necessary.

Your Turn

I really enjoyed preparing personalized entertainment folders for each of my grandkids. Furthermore, it occurred to me not everything I packed was just for kids. Next road trip with my husband, I will definitely bring along the Vacation Fun Mad Libs .

What do you pack for road trips? If you have children, or grandchildren, what do you include for skill building? What about entertainment? Please share using the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

Savoring Summer: Today It Felt Like Summer When…

Savoring Summer: Today it Felt Like Summer When...; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesSummer… It’s both a “kick back and relax” and “have a blast” season. We celebrate it by eating ice cream sundaes, vacationing to the max, and having fun, fun, fun, except–

Not everybody lives by an academic calendar. For families with no school-age children, those whose children attend year-round school, those not employed in the field of education, and those dealing with serious medical or life issues, summer may seem to bring little variety to their days beyond the natural changes of the season–longer hours of daylight and hotter temperatures.

Therefore, it’s easy to feel like you’re missing out. I know, because that is how I was beginning to feel this year.

Savoring Summer

In the midst of my own little pity party, a contrarian voice piped up in my mind:

  • What about the bar-b-que at your daughter’s house?
  • What about the individual birthday breakfasts and shopping trips with your grandkids?
  • What about going out garage sale-ing with your husband?

The Fix

One afternoon last week, my husband and I found ourselves sitting out at my daughter and grandkids’ pool. The temperature was perfect–warm, but perfect in the shade. A gentle breeze rustled the leaves overhead. The air echoed with the shrieks and laughter of children, and our grands were showing off just for us.

Now this, I thought, feels like summer.

And suddenly my whole conundrum about feeling cheated and left out of summer dissolved like morning fog from an ocean beach. I wasn’t missing summer; I wasn’t paying attention to summer.

Today It Felt Like Summer When…

That evening, I jotted in my journal:

Today it felt like summer when we sat with Genny and watched the girls swim at their swim club.

Then I wrote:

Yesterday it felt like summer when I woke up with the sun and opened the downstairs windows to let the cool morning air inside.

The next day, I wrote:

Today it felt like summer when, after my nap, I went out front wearing a short skirt and top, and flip-flops to talk to hubby who was watering our tomato plants.

In the following days, I wrote:

Today it felt like summer when we reserved our train tickets for our trip to visit Mom and Jim.

Today it felt like summer when I prepared travel activities for my grands who would soon depart on a California vacation.

Today it felt like summer when hubby and I walked in Waterfront Park after evening church.

Thus I discovered that I, too, am enjoying summer, only I had not been savoring it.

Your Turn

What about you? Are you struggling to get that “summer feeling” that we see in commercials, T.V. shows, and movies? Do everybody else’s summers seem more “summery” than yours? I challenge you to complete one sentence each day:

Today it felt like summer when…

I’ll do it, too. Here’s the one I wrote this morning:

Today it felt like summer when I finally painted my toenails a pretty shade of cotton candy pink.

Please share a sentence or two from your own summer “savorings” in the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

Map Journal: Travel Journal Fun

My husband and I have been dreaming of going on a road trip for a long time, and so, I’ve been eagerly pinning information about keeping travel journals on my “Journaling and More” board on Pinterest

Map Journal: Travel Journal Fun; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/One pin in particular, a map journal, looked like so much fun that I decided to make one for a trip taken a few years back just for the sheer pleasure of making something.

Why Keep a Travel Journal?

Keeping a travel journal is a great way to capture memories of your travel experience while they’re still fresh. It also provides a great means to look back and remember your journey.

For children, in addition to the reasons mentioned above, a travel journal provides a fun way to exercise literacy skills during the season of the infamous “summer slide.”

What Materials do You or Your Kids Need to Make a Map Journal?

  • a map–I downloaded mine on the computer, but if I were really on a trip, I know I’d want a big map that shows the complete trip from departure, to destination, to return home.
  • marking pens, a variety of colors
  • stickers
  • scissors–to cut pictures out of travel brochures for use on the map
  • glue stick, tape, paperclips, bradsm (whatever will make things stick)–to attach pictures to the map

Now What?

As you travel, after each stop along the way, take a few moments to record the experience on your map. What you note could be as pedestrian as gas prices and restaurant reviews, as lyrical as descriptions of what you experienced and saw, as imaginative as posing some “what-if” questions or dreaming of a return in the future.

My Map

My map is a memory of a trip, from the perspective of a child, that I took with my mom and her best friend to a beach town we had been visiting since me, my siblings, and her children were kids. We met up with family and friends there, then mom and I spent a few days at my aunt’s house in Carmel. The trip is a special memory because only a few years later we lost our beloved friend to cancer.

Map Journal: Travel Journal Fun: https://literatelives.wordpress.com/Your Turn:

Do you have a trip coming up? Will you or your children make a map journal of your journey? If you do, please use the box below to post a picture of your creation/s.

Have you ever kept this, or any other type of travel journal? Do you have any tips for us newbies? Please share. Let’s encourage one another.

Summer Literacy and Fun: Some Blasts from the Past

Summer Literacy and Fun: Some Blasts from the Past; https://literatelives.wordpress.comIt is nearly mid July. Are you firmly launched into a joyously literate summer?

I have enjoyed taking my grandkids out one at a time and engaging in wildly interesting conversations. We’ve also crafted together (supporting fine motor skills needed for writing, keyboarding), played cards (supporting mathematical literacy), and of courser read together. Yea Yea’s little library is a hit with our little ones.

Are you looking for ways to nurture both literacy and family fun? Here are three posts from previous seasons that are worth a second look.

Books and Hobbies; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesBooks and Hobbies

While originally a January post, Books and Hobbies  is well worth a second look in the summertime. Hobbies bring joy, pleasure, and a sense of accomplishment to life, and help to build students’ basic skills. Summer, with its long days, vacations, and more open schedules, is a perfect time to enjoy them.

 Dining Out–Family Literacy Exercise and Fun; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/dining-out-family-literacy-exercise-and-fun/Dining Out–Family Literary Exercise and Fun

This post was inspired by a Fourth of July meal at a favorite family restaurant, however the practice it presents is one that can be useful and enjoyable in any dining-out setting, and is another great way of preserving family memories.

Summer Reading: Let's Make a List; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesSummer Reading: Let’s Make a List!

This post reflects on the stunning loss of reading skill students experience every summer and proposes a list of places in which to fit reading into your student’s summer life. After you read, please insert your own ideas for great places to read with your kids.

Your Turn

What are some ways you have nurtured literacy in your family’s life? Please use the comment box below to share. Let’s encourage one another!

The Best Book of Spring 2018

The Best Book of Spring; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/The summer solstice has passed, and so I thought it’s about time I posted my best read of Spring. For a long time I debated between several books, then I finally chose one, then in early June I picked one up that knocked all the others out of first place. Therefore, since I didn’t recommend a new book each month, I’ll recommend the first “first place” book, then the one that undeniably was the best read of Spring.

Almost Best: The Illuminator

This is a work of historical fiction by Brenda Rickman Vantrease. I found both the setting and the characters fascinating. The novel takes place in fourteenth century England, where Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible into plain English is outlawed, Dame Julian of Norwich has retreated to a hermit’s cell, and people of the Jewish faith are shunned and persecuted. The main characters live near Norwich, and Dame Julian actually plays a supporting role in the story!

However, the novel belongs to Lady Kathryn, a struggling widow who takes in a manuscript illuminator and his daughter as lodgers in her home. As their families mix, religious controversy mounts, and a peasant’s revolt brews, both she and her newfound companion struggle to fulfill their responsibilities to their children, their church, and society while trying to grab hold of just a little bit of happiness for themselves.

It is a gripping tale.

The Best Book of Spring; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/Best Book of Spring 2018: Six of Crows

This is the first book in a fantasy duology set in Leigh Bardugo’s “Grisha World.” (I  read and raved about her first Grisha trilogy in What I’m Reading Now: Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow & Bone.)

Six of Crows  takes place after the events of the Grisha Trilogy and is set outside of Ravka, the nation previously featured. Because of this, I was not sure I even wanted to read it; I had loved the original trilogy so much. However, as soon as I dipped a toe in the water, Bardugo captured me as swiftly and completely as she did with her first series.

To say Six of Crows  is a “heist” story would be like saying “Lord of the Rings” is a quest story. The world, the individual settings, the characters, and the stakes make it so much richer and deeper than something to which you can simply assign a label .

It is the tale of six damaged, gang affiliated, ragamuffins from the “dregs” of “Ketterdam” society who set out to save the world and win a fortune. Each has his or her own reason for wanting the money, reasons firmly rooted in their hurts and in their pasts. Each is terribly lonely; yet yearning for community, they are terrified to commit. However, in order to win their fortune, even to survive, these six very different individuals must trust each other unwaveringly with their very lives.

I hated every moment I had to put it down!

Your Turn

What was your best read of spring. You don’t have to limit yourself to just one book; I certainly did not. Use the comment space below to provide author name and title, and please, tease us with just a little bit of what the book is about. Let’s encourage one another!