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.

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Fall 2018: A New Schedule for Literate Lives


Fall 2018: A New Schedule for Literate Lives; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/
This month’s theme, “A New Season, A New Year, A New Life” will manifest itself the most obviously in a new blog schedule and strategy.

The Biggest Change

Starting this week, I will be posting on Thursdays.

Why Thursdays? I make this change (back to what was, initially, part of my blog schedule) out of consideration of my audience: individuals (including writers), parents, and teachers interested in nurturing literacy both for themselves and their kids.

As we move back into the school year, it occurs to me that many of the nurturing literacy ideas I share need some lead time in order to be incorporated into lesson plans and family activities (which will now mostly occur on the weekend).

Thursday is a good day to introduce ideas for the weekend and following work week.

Additional Changes

Blog posts will now be scheduled for the first, third, and (when it occurs) fifth Thursday of each month.

Why?

The reason for this change is my desire to share more from my daily reading, and quote, reading response, and writing prompt collections. I have been doing this in the form of “omnibus” posts, which I enjoy creating, but which also keep me from creating more, meatier posts.

Therefore, I am starting an author’s Facebook Page.

What You Will Find Here on Debby Zigenis-Lowery’s Literate Lives?

Here on the blog I want to delve deeply into the reading, writing, teaching and learning life, share more complex Language Arts lesson ideas, and interview writers and possibly even host some guest bloggers.

I will continue to update my reading log.

I will also strive to do a better job updating my Teacher’s File Drawer, Reading Response Exercises, Play With Your Words: Writing Prompts, and The Literate Family’s Fun pages.

What You Will Find on My Facebook Page

This is where the recommendations from my daily reading , quotes, and writing and reading response prompts will now appear.

Also, you will find occasional updates about my writing, publication, and writing goals or activities.

My vision is that the page will facilitate more daily interactions and opportunities for us to encourage one another.

Your Turn

As I am rethinking this blog, are there any ideas or feedback you would like me to consider? Please use the comment box to respond. I value your feedback and encouragement.

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!

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!

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!

A Sensational, Sparkling, Savory, Fourth of July: Using Sensory Details

A Sensational, Sparkling, Savory, Fourth of July: Using Sensory Details; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/It is nearly the Fourth of July–that sizzling, sparkling, savory celebration of the birth of the U.S.A. What better holiday to stimulate writing with sensory details!

Sensory Details

Whether writing to capture your life, writing to entertain or inform, or writing for the pure pleasure of simply writing, sensory details add richness, depth, and realism to your writing.

What are sensory details? These are details that can only be detected through the use of your senses:

  • the beauty of a white frosted birthday cake topped with strawberries and blueberries
  • the vanilla scent of the frosting
  • the sweet tang of the berries on your tongue
  • the scrap of your fork on the plate
  • the silky texture as you swipe your finger through the frosting

Happy Birthday U.S.A.

Fourth of July Writing Exercise

Fourth of July celebrations are so full of sensory detail:

  • the crisp red white and blue of a flag
  • the sulfurous scent of fireworks
  • the tangy taste of bar-b-que
  • the sizzle of sparklers
  • the warmth of the sun against your skin

This exercise can be done by yourself, or done with your family. For each person participating in this exercise you will need either a pocket-sized tablet, five index cards, or a piece of paper divided into 5 sections and a pen or pencil that will fit into your pocket or purse.

Preparation: Label either one page, one card, or one section for each of the senses–sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch.

You, or each of you, will carry this with you throughout the day and evening, and pause periodically to record what you observe with your senses.

At the end of the evening, or the next day, look over your list.

  • For those who like to journal, use this list as you capture the holiday in words.
  • For those who like to write poetry, use this list as the pre-write for a poem.
  • For those who write fiction, use this list to create a scene.
  • For those who write non-fiction, use this list to write an article about July 4, 2018 as celebrated in your community.

Enjoy!

Have fun. Participating in this exercise will help you capture and savor the very specific and particular details of your Fourth of July.

Your Turn

Using the comment box below, let’s share 3 to 5 items from our lists or a bit of the writing that results from it. Again, have fun, and let’s encourage one another!

The Surprising Benefits of Writing by Hand

the surprising benefits of writing by hand, literatelives.wordpress.comLast week, as I worked endlessly on my school computer sorting files, typing out procedures, and making preparations for leaving my job (a job my boss, colleagues, and I had pretty much invented as we went along because it was an entirely new position for our building), I yearned to curl up in a cozy chair and journal by hand (instead of on the computer as I usually do).

So this week, when I had a chance to catch up on reading some articles I’d been saving for a long time to enjoy, one in particular, The New York Times’  What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades,” from June of 2014 caught my eye.

What I read impacted me powerfully, not only as a writer, but also as a grandparent and nurturer of literacy.

Some of the Findings of a Variety of Studies:

  • Writing by hand activates more regions of the brain than keyboarding.
  • Young children who learn to write at the same time they learn to read, learn to read more quickly.
  • People generating ideas in print or cursive, generate more ideas than those using a keyboard.
  • Students who take notes by hand, rather than by keyboard, are better able to understand and remember the information from lecturers and other auditory sources.

The Implications for Me

  • I have always written out the rough drafts of stories, poems, and novels  longhand and will definitely continue to do so.
  • I also print out the work I want to revise and revise in pencil on paper. I will continue to do so.
  • I will start to vary my journaling practice between computer and paper, depending on my mood and the nature of the thinking in which I want to engage. I can always scan in what was written by hand if I want to keep everything together.

The Implications for My Grandparenting Style

I had been thinking a lot about ways to have fun with my grandkids this summer. We live just fifteen minutes away, so activities like picnics and craft projects have always been high on our list. However, just because we live nearby does not mean we cannot write to each other. This summer I will write to one grandchild each week and enclose a card and self-addressed stamped envelope to encourage them to write back. (Why not write to all of them once a week? I do not want this practice to become overwhelming or a burden for them, or by familiarity, to lessen the delight in getting a hand written letter now and then.)

The Implications for This Blog

As the creator of Literate Lives , I will encourage you, my readers to sometimes put pen or pencil to paper, and to ask your children or students (come fall) to, now and then, do the same.

Your Turn

What do you think about this information on writing by hand? How do you want to incorporate this practice in your, your kids’, or your students’ lives? Please use the comment box below to share. Let’s encourage one another!

 

The Best Ereads of Spring: Reflections on Parenting, Reading, Writing, and the Mind

The Best Ereads of Spring: literatelives.wordpress.comI had the opportunity to do a lot of reading this spring and so accumulated a lot of candidates in by “best ereads of the season file.” Finally I narrowed them down to these six reflecting on parenting, reading, writing, and the mind.

Hello, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Graduation

In Parents: Let Go of Graduation Nostalgia, by Jennifer Grant, the author chronicles her resistance to the nostalgia and even grief that can accompany a child’s graduation. With the premise that yes, our years of parenting were magical and significant, it is wise to savor where we are, perhaps even with younger siblings, and the opportunities that will open up for us and our graduates as they move into their adult lives.

Reading and Family Life

These next two articles celebrate the fun and health benefits of a reading life.

In How to Make Reading Fun: 25 Ideas Kids Will Love, by Jean Reagan. Reagan includes innovative ideas like having your child read a wordless book to you, reading a book which might include words or names you find difficult to pronounce, and much, much more.

For those of us with an overactive sense of guilt about the time we put in reading, Andre Calilhanna‘s Can Reading Books Lead to Better Health?  is a refreshing antidote. With headers that include, “Increases Longevity by 23%” and “Reduces Stress,” lovers of reading can throw guilt out the window and indulge in their favorite pastime with a clear conscience.

For Fiction Writers

First of all, for fiction writers, here is an excellent article by Dash Buck, Three Writing Exercises for Better Characters, which I would have titled “Three Awesome Writing Exercises for Better Characters.” It made me want to try them right away. (And isn’t the illustration, Butterfly Book by Rick Beerhorst beautiful!)

For writers working on planning and story structure, The Triangle of Structure for Writers, by Sarah Sally Hamer, is informative and provides a handy 3-sentence fill-in-the-blank exercise for crafting an effective inciting incident.

A Quiet Mind

One of the issues I struggle with is quieting my mind. Unless I am reading, writing, or–okay, I admit it, staring at the television, it ceaselessly ruminates, reflects, remembers, worries, plans, and imagines, which in reasonable quantities is, perhaps, a useful trait for a writer to have. Running out of ideas is definitely not an issue. However, resting and simply enjoying the moment is. Therefore, I connected immediately with and was inspired by Mindfulness and Memory, by Pamela Moore. Even the image chosen to accompany the article is deeply soothing, and the active form of mindfulness she describes is something that feels so much more doable with a busy mind like mine.

Your Turn

Have you found any great articles on the web? If so, please use the comment box to share them with us (include author and title or web address, please). Tell a little about why you liked it. Let’s encourage one another.

Characterization Reading Response Exercise

Characterization Reading Response Exercise; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesReading fiction and reflecting on, writing about, and discussing what has been read is a great way to build reading comprehension and other reading skills, as well as deepen understanding of the various elements of fiction.

For the writer, it is a way to learn the craft by examining and analyzing the practices of others.

Read

Read a novel or short story for fifteen to twenty minutes.

Reflect

Think about what you have read.

Write

  • Make a list of things you like about a character in the story.
  • Pick one trait from the list and explain why you like it.
  • Explain how this trait contributed to your liking of the character.

Share

Share your response with your reading partner, partners, or as a comment here.  If you share here, please remember to include the title of the book and its author. Your “response” could prove intriguing enough that someone else might like to read that book as well.

Building Pre-readers’ Literacy Skills

Read a picture book that contains a storyline together.

Ask

Ask your pre-reader which character they liked best. Once your pre-reader has identified a character, ask what he or she liked best about that character.

Discuss

Enjoy a lively “book talk” with your pre-reader!

Your Turn

How did it go? Please share any of your actual responses, observations, or comments. Let’s encourage one another!