A Creative Advent Practice from Sybil Macbeth

Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives: A Creative Advent Practice from Sybil MacbethI am so excited for this Advent season (the Christian church calendar’s four Sundays plus remaining days before Christmas) to begin!

Why? Because I am finally going to doodle one of Sybil Macbeth’s Advent calendars, and my mom, daughter, and granddaughter are going to do it too! We’re going to share our Advent creations Christmas Eve! (Please forgive the excess exclamation points; I truly am excited.)

Who is Sybil Macbeth?

If you are new to following Literate Lives, you may not be familiar with Macbeth and her book and blog, Praying in Color.

Reading Praying in Color revolutionized my prayer life. What Macbeth teaches and practices is prayer through drawing, writing, and coloring—essentially, mindful doodling.

For me, this practice has helped me to pray when I have more feelings than words to speak. Her drawing, coloring, writing practice has also helped me pray for longer amounts of time, stay focused, and pray with greater depth.

What is Sybil Macbeth’s Advent Practice?

At its most basic, Macbeth’s practice for the season of Advent is to doodle/meditate/pray each day through the three-plus weeks before Christmas.

She has developed a variety of creative grids that have a spot for each day’s prayer/meditation, which she shares, for free, on her site https://prayingincolor.com/handouts. My family and I have all chosen to do the Christmas tree template, but there are several others—including calendar-style rectangles and a “stained glass window” baby Jesus.

Macbeth also recommends multiple ways for using the Advent grids each day:

  • Write the name of a loved one in a space and pray exclusively for them.
  • If you are using a devotional book, choose a word from your reading upon which to pray and meditate.
  • Because Advent is a season of hope, you might use each space to doodle what you hope for, not just tangible items, but hopes and dreams for yourself and others as well.
  • Since Christmas is the holiday that celebrates Christ’s birth, you could use each space to reflect on one of the many names for Jesus—wonderful counselor, prince of peace…

Last year, Macbeth shared an article she’d written for The Living Church, “Year-round Advent,” in which one of her suggestions was to make a list of words you associate with the Advent season and select one to doodle in the day’s space. I was excited to try this strategy. Macbeth and The Living Church provided a list of words and quickly brainstormed some more:

  • Luscious
  • Angel
  • Mary
  • Shepherds
  • Gifts
  • Prayer
  • Invitation
  • Transformation
  • Salvation
  • Blessing
  • Love
  • Grace
  • Search
  • Celebrate
  • Share
  • Give
  • Create

I planned to use an index card for each day, but got derailed very early in the season by illness. Here is one of the cards I did make:

Advent Vocabulary: Patience; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/

(Sorry for the crooked scan, at the time, I never thought I’d be sharing it.) A new Advent word list is posted on the Building Faith website, here

For my Advent Tree, I want to doodle prayers for loved ones and some Advent vocabulary. I’m planning to alternate from one to the other each day.

Your Turn

How do you celebrate Advent or count down to your family’s holiday? Please use the comment box, below, to share your favorite practices. Let’s celebrate a December filled with love and goodwill, and of course, let’s ever continue to encourage one another!

P.S. Our schedule at Literate Lives will be a little different this upcoming month. In order to bypass Christmas, instead of blogging on the first and third Thursdays of the month, Literate Lives will come to your inbox on the second and fourth. Have a wonderful holiday season!

For more on Sybil Macbeth, check out Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil Macbeth.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! https://literatelives.wordpress.com/Thank you so much for following Literate Lives! I so appreciate you journeying with me.

I pray this holiday brings you and yours an abundance of joy and good memories and that you experience the peace of giving thanks!

It’s Thanksgiving Time!


It's Thanksgiving Time! https://literatelives.wordpress.com/
It’s time for Thanksgiving, and I have enjoyed reading a variety of blog posts I’d saved just for this holiday month. Here are a few nibbles from each. Just click through the title links if you want to read the entire article.

Two Great Lists from Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D.

In Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D’s “Ten Things to Be Thankful For: Thanksgiving is a very special holiday, embrace those around you,” he proposes an eye-opening list of things to be thankful for. Among those that stood out for me:

“Be thankful for growing older. Not everyone gets this opportunity. Aging with health and grace is a rare and beautiful gift.”

“Be thankful that you can read these words. It is a very sad thing that many  people do not have the ability to read.” This second one is definitely a favorite of mine. The ability to read and write has enriched my life in so many ways—helping me to learn, express myself, enjoy myself, even work at a job I loved–helping students build their reading and writing skills.

And last, this suggestion, particularly poignant since my dad died just a year and a half ago: “When your parents are telling you how to run your life, be thankful that you still have them around.”

In “10 More Things to Be Thankful for: Look at what you have, not what you’ve lost,” Goldsmith lays out another powerful list things to consider, focusing on our closest relationships. This list includes “Laughter,” “Tears,” and “Health.”

On Health, Goldsmith writes:

“If you’ve ever dealt with a serious or chronic illness you know how important your health is. Being with someone who will care for you if you ever have a physical crisis gives you a powerful sense of well-being.”

After enduring several consecutive seasons of prolonged illness, I know how one’s health truly is. I also know, without the love and support of my husband, this time of nearly 100% rest would have been unbearable for this recovering-perfectionist overachiever. Early on, especially, depression hovered at the periphery of my days, and I am still learning how to live well when not feeling well.

Gratitude is Good for You

In, “Gratitude and Giving Thanks: Being thankful is not just part of a holiday, it’s good for your mental health,” Samantha Smith, Psy.D. points out that negativity bias, a propensity for focusing on what’s going wrong, comes naturally to human beings and shares studies indicating the practice of gratitude “can have a powerfully positive effect on our lives.” Studies indicate that nurturing gratitude can lead to better health, increased optimism, greater satisfaction in both your familial and social relationships, and enhanced academic achievement.

She then lists a number of ways to maintain a grateful perspective. The first, keeping a gratitude journal, is something I have benefited from greatly. She lists five other practices, some I would never have thought of, that are worth taking a look at as well.

Thanksgiving 2018

So, how do you want to practice Thanksgiving this year? I have two suggestions to consider. First, cut out one paper leaf using a variety of autumnal colors, for each person who will be attending Thanksgiving dinner. Place one leaf at each place setting and scatter pens /pencils across the table. Rather than ask each person to tell what they are thankful for this year, ask them to write it down on their leaf.  After dinner, either collect the leaves and make a Thanksgiving wreath by taping them onto a pre-cut cardboard ring. Other options could be to have the children who are present tape the leaves to the ring, or have each individual tape his or her own leaf on the ring. When done, hang the wreath somewhere everyone can enjoy it.

Option Two? Consider making a Thanksgiving time capsule. For this you will need slips of paper, pens/pencils, and a jar. If you wish, decorate the jar ahead of time or ask someone crafty (or a kid) to do so. This time, instead of asking Thanksgiving diners to share what they are grateful for, ask them to write it down on a slip of paper, sign their name, and place the slip in the jar. Wait a year, and on Thanksgiving 2019, as you sit down to dinner, open the jar and enjoy reading aloud what people were thankful for last years. Discussing what you were grateful for in the past can be a great conversation starter for reflecting what you are thankful for in the new year.

In either case, you can still add the step of sharing, verbally, what you’ve written.

More Things to be Thankful For

If you would like more suggestions for sharing gratitude with your friends and family this season, check out “Thanksgiving Conversation Starters,” a post from Literate Lives’ Thanksgiving past:

Your Turn

  • How do you and your family express gratitude at your Thanksgiving gatherings?
  • What kinds of questions do you ask to help loved ones focus on what they are grateful for this season?
  • What are you thankful for?

Please use the comment space below to share.

Reading Response Questions: Comprehend, Connect, and Predict

Reading Response Questions: Comprehend, Connect, and Predicthttps://literatelives.wordpress.com/I love reading response questions and exercises. As a teacher, they served as a means for building my students’ reading skills with self-selected reading; as a parent, they provide valuable conversations starters and opportunities to nurture my kids’ literacy skills (whether reading is done together or side by side); and as a reader, I enjoy how they propel deeper thought about what I am reading, and their usefulness when thinking about writing a review—which helps both authors and fellow readers.

What follows are six reading response questions/exercises to prompt writing or conversations. Before you or your student uses them, however, be sure to read either a whole picture book or for 15 to 20 minutes in a novel

Comprehend

  • Put on your newspaper reporters hat. Answer the 5 W’s (Who? What? When? Where? Why?) You can even throw in #6—How? Support your answer to each question by including a detail for each from the text.
  • Play teacher. Write three questions about what was just read: 1) A factual question, a question someone can find written in the text, 2) An inferential question, a question that can only be answered using clues within the text, 3) A critical question, a question that asks for an opinion or conclusion based on evidence in the text. Have fun sharing your questions and answers.

Connect

  • Compare and contrast. How does what was just read compare to a previous book read or movie/TV show viewed? How are they similar? How are they different? Was one enjoyed more than the other? Why?
  • Be the judge. Pick a character and list three things he or she has done. Pick one of these actions and explain why you think it was a good or bad thing to do.

Predict

  • Make a simple prediction. What do you think will happen next or result from a plan made in your reading? What in the text makes you think this? What do you think will be the consequences of this action or event?
  • Be a time tripper. How would being set in a different time period effect what you are reading. For example, if the story is set in the past, how would happening now change it. You can choose to jump forward or backward in time. Explain how the change in time period would effect what has happened so far in your reading and might impact the outcome.

Your Turn

There you have it—6 ways to have fun with your and your kids’ reading and improve reading/thinking skills.

Which exercise did you like best? Did you or your student/s write one you’d like to share (be sure to let us know the title and author of the book it’s based on, in case we are intrigued and want to read it.

Or, do you have particular reading response exercise you enjoy using? How about sharing it here? Just use the comment box below.

*Background for graphic: Depositphotos_135562_original

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.

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!