How to Make inside recess enjoyable for kids
The Rare Blank Square
God knew I needed one of those rare blank squares on my calendar today. His timing is so good.
The uptick in activity the start of school brings is a big adjustment for all of us.
Enter: Fall weather and cold season. Another adjustment. From what we wear to new mixes of germs, challenging our immune systems.
This month, in particular, has been a lot to manage. Aside from being sick, it is mostly good, just a lot to manage. From working on 4 book projects at once, to learning a new curriculum at school, to presenting at multiple events, getting my daughter to her various activities, and trying to stay healthy, I really needed a recovery day.
Here's my dream day recovery recipe:
Plans for the rest of the day? I mean, it's only 7am right now!
I know, it doesn't seem like that much to make me happy. It's just so opposite what I normally get to do. I feel blessed, reading back this list of things I can enjoy today. I hope you have days like this too. What do you do to pamper yourself or unwind on those rare, blank square days?
*My blogpost appeared on Free Sprit Publishing's blog if you'd like to see more like these.
How Do You See Yourself?
Joyce Meyer says, "Every time you look in the mirror, remember that God created you and that EVERYTHING he creates is beautiful and good."
In a world where comparison seems to be how we gauge our success or determine who we think we should be, sometimes it's hard to feel great about who we are.
Theodore Roosevelt said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." There is definitely truth in that. However, when we compare our insides to someone else's outsides, it is an unfair comparison. There are two main reasons for this:
1. You have no idea how much work was put in behind the scenes.
Something that seems to come easily to someone else may actually have taken years of practice. Don't think of yourself as "less than" because others seem to have it all figured out. No doubt, they went through their share of struggles on their way to success.
2. You are seeing others through the filter they choose to present themselves.
Someone may appear to be a natural beauty. The part you don't know is the amount of time and products used on their skin and hair or the filters they use on their photos. They may seem to have the perfect family, career, and lifestyle, but you don't see what happens behind closed doors or what it took to get there. Sometimes people show their best and hide the rest.
Jealousy comes from forgetting what we've been given. We were all created in God's image. The Bible tells us right up front, in Genesis 1:31, "Then God looked over all he had made and he saw that it was very good!" God doesn't make mistakes. You ARE enough and you are good.
It may be tempting to think God has more favor on others. But, when the sun shines, it shines on all of us, even those who don't "deserve it." When it rains, it rains on all of us. If we all got what we deserved, we would actually have horrible storms most of the time. We can be thankful that God is so merciful and forgives our sins.
If we feel like good things are not happening for us, maybe it's just not happening YET. God's timing is a mystery, but it is perfectly planned. When you make popcorn, you put all of the kernels into the same pot, with the same oil, on the same temperature, at the same time, but they don't all pop at the same time, do they?
No one wins when we compare. It doesn't matter how many degrees, dollars, likes, or follows other people have. What matters is that you are His. Satan would like nothing more than to have you feel insecure because you'll stop shining Christ's light. The only approval we need to seek is God's. His thoughts about you are what counts.
David expresses this in Psalms 139: 13-17, "You made all the delicate inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous- how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a singe day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God."
So next time you look in the mirror, smile and remember, "For we are God's masterpiece. he has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." ~ Ephesians 2:10
Whooo's Ready for Summer?
As much as I LOVE teaching, summer is still my favorite time of year. I love the weather and I have more time to write and attend conferences.
With some new book contracts underway, I have a LOT of writing to do this summer. I decided it was time to plan my own little writing retreat. (Just like the "real writers" always talk do!)
Have you ever considered time away from distractions to focus on a book project or two? Of course my dream get-away would be to go to the Highlights Foundation cabins and schedule myself a week of "unworkshop" days. I've been there for workshops before and highly recommend going! With un-workshop days though, you stay there, enjoy the AMAZING food, and write in the barn, your cabin, out in the woods, or whatever inspires you. If you have the money...do it!
My next search for a writing retreat was looking at Airbnb's. There are many options all over the United States. You can search by location, type of dwelling, price, or dates. There are tiny houses, apartments, private rooms within a house, even tree houses! The prices are a wide range, but can be more affordable than other options. Do check reviews for safety and cleanliness.
Another option I considered was using up some hotel reward points and staying for a week or two at someplace like a Fairfield Inn, with a full kitchen and bigger room. It would be a quiet, clean space to get a lot of writing done.
As I continued my research for a place to go, I thought about offering to dog sit or house sit for someone. It could be an exchange of needs. I need a quiet home to stay in for an extended time and someone else may need someone to take care of his/her home. Bingo! I found the perfect match for me. I'm so excited, as this person is an author also and part of my stay will be with her there. We will have a chance to write during the day and chat and critique each other in the evenings.
I still hope to try one or all of the other options out other summers, but for this year, I'm looking forward to my time away writing, like the "real writers" do.
Preparing for Poetry Month
If you've ever heard me present at a writing/teaching conference, you know that I'd tell you how important it is to do creative writing and poetry throughout the year, not just National Poetry Month. However, most schools do an extra poetry push in April. (Especially since this is in the midst or at the end of standardized testing season and the kids enjoy playing with words and exploring fun forms of writing.)
Naturally, since I wrote Monster & Dragon Write Poems to celebrate and promote poetry, I kick off any poetry writing in my classroom, in my poetry clubs, or my poetry workshops with this book. Monster and Dragon love to write poems and when they enter a poetry contest, they are each in it to win it. The inspiring part for kids is seeing the various types of poetry the creatures explore as they prepare for the big contest. They can't wait to try them all out themselves.
Many kids think of poetry as sing-song, rhyming, short text. That's why I love to reveal some of the other forms out there that play with words in different ways. Imposing a structure, such as a certain number or words or syllables for each line, causes kids to have to get creative with their ideas and word choices. I share some of these formats and how to do each form in the back of the book. You can order your copy here and get it to use the first week of April to kick things off with your class!
One example of non-rhyming poetry is a haiku poem. It's a Japanese form of poetry that uses 5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second line, and 5 syllables in the last line. These types of poems are typically about something found in nature, but don't have to be. Here is a sample of a haiku from a second grade student.
Students will eventually want to work on and read plenty of rhyming poetry too. I like to introduce this by showing many examples of rhyming schemes used in various poems. Many kids have never considered the fact that there is an intentional effort made to have certain lines rhyme. Once this is revealed, kids love to try it themselves.
The first story in our third grade reading series is, When Charlie McButton Lost Power. This story is written in narrative rhyme. We dissect the first stanzas to discover that Suzanne Collins used the AABB pattern throughout. I then read my book, Penelope Perfect. In this book, I used the ABCB pattern. It's a great exercise to allow students to discover the patterns and try to write their own. (Both of these books happen to share the same turning point in the story as well- a thunderstorm that knocks out the power in their homes, causing panic and worry.)
Some schools do a PIG week, Poetry is Great Week, sometime during April, rather than the whole month. If you do choose to do the whole month, here is an example of things you could try on a daily basis to celebrate and explore poetry.
If you want more ways to inspire young writers in your classroom, you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter. It is free and I send it out the first Friday of each month.
I'd love to hear any of the ideas you use in your classroom for Poetry Month! Please comment below!
You can also follow me on Twitter @shannonteaches or Facebook.
Fake It 'til You Make It?
You've probably heard the saying, "Fake it 'til you make it." Is this really sound advice though? Is it ever a good idea to mislead others by making people think everything is easy and perfect?
I remember a time when I was suckered into a pyramid scam back, when I was in college. "You just buy all of these products and sell them and try to get others to sign up and sell them too. Oh, and buy nice clothes and a nice car to let others think the business is really going well. That'll get people to sign up!"
Now, as a college student, of course, I couldn't afford to try to pull off this deceptive sham even if I wanted to, thank goodness.
I have had my fair share of experiences though, where I felt ashamed or embarrassed about something and tried to cover up the evidence or pretend it didn't happen.
For example, when I was little, my family struggled. My mom became pregnant as a young teen, dropped out of high school, and we just didn't have much. I didn't want anyone to know that my mom was a drop-out or that I couldn't afford what others could. I guess I thought I wouldn't be accepted.
When I was in high school, I didn't want anyone to know that it took me a LONG time to read and study. I learned to read early and easily, but comprehending what I read took me awhile. I had to take notes on everything, sometimes read into a recorder, listen back to it, and take more notes to remember and understand what I read. I didn't want teachers or students to know this because I didn't want people to think I wasn't smart.
When I had my first book published, I fell for another scam by a publishing company that is now closed, due to embezzlement. (The owners are in jail.) I didn't want anyone to know about this because I was embarrassed that I fell for it. I also worried people wouldn't think I was a real author.
As a teacher, mom, presenter for other authors, speaker at Christian events, and presenter for other teachers, I've found that the best encouragement is actually to expose our struggles and trials. By sharing our stories and lessons learned, we can inspire hope for others to be a little braver in their own situations.
Our kids and students especially, need to know that hard work and perseverance is what produces results. They need to understand that their success does not depend on luck, where you come from, or natural-born talent. It has everything to do with their efforts, commitment to learn, and intentional practice that will help them reach their goals.
New Year, New Adventures!
What are you looking forward to in the new year? Here are 5 things I'm excited about:
Please share what you are looking forward to! Any new adventures on the horizon?
I can't believe it took me so many years to discover and appreciate podcasts. As one who devours information and never has the time to read everything, podcasts have become my mini-miracle for multitasking. I love them because you can:
You can also find these people on social media and through their webpages to learn more about them or their content. I have purchased many books by the people I learn from. Better yet, you can meet them and be a part of their podcasts if you're really brave. I recently had the honor of being interviewed on the debcast, with Debbie Gonzales and Jedlie's Reading podcast, with Jed Doherty. It was a lot of fun and gave me a chance to give back and share what I've learned along the way. You can check these out here:
I'm new to podcasts, so I'd love to hear what you're listening to. What podcast shows are your favorites? Please share in the comments!
A Deed a Day
It all began with a composition notebook, a family meeting, and a tugging at my heart. I wanted our family to start thinking of others more and be less self-focused. We decided to do a kindness for others everyday for a year and record our stories in a notebook. This is how "A Deed a Day" was born.
Our story has been published in three Chicken Soup for the Soul books, has been featured on A Plus, a positive Journalism website, founded by Ashton Kutcher, and has been on the Chicken Soup Podcast.
People from all over the world have contacted me about starting the "Deed a Day Challenge" with their own families. I created a Facebook group as a place to share ideas for spreading kindness and the ways others have blessed you with their good deeds. After just starting the group this week, we have 200 members and I LOVE reading the posts about kindness shared each day.
Planning intentional acts of kindness trains your heart to instinctively bless others when you see opportunities. Using a "Deed Diary" to record your (or your family's) good deeds is a great way to hold yourself accountable and start doing good for others on a regular basis. Another way to spread kindness is to share the goodness in our community and around the world. We become inspired when see the emotional impact our kindness can have. I'd love to have you join the Deed a Day Facebook group, below. Share ways others have been kind, ideas you have for making someone's day, or just read and enjoy the stories others share. What could you do for someone this week?