Thanks to COVID, I've had some extra time over the last week and a half. I am incredibly fortunate to have a mild case, but man oh man, even this mild case is dragging me down. Thankful that the brain fog has lifted and I've used some of my down time to overhaul this website.
I have a lot of plans for The Bookhive. I always have, but then life happens, or there's a new book to read or show to binge and somehow I never find (read: make) the time to make good on those plans. So, fixing up the website felt like a solid Step One.
I've tried to make it easy to navigate and the big reveal is, drumroll please...my newly unhidden page called There's a Picture Book for That. Or #tapbft if you're into hashtags. This has been one of my little brain nuggets for quite some time and I'm really happy I found a way to put it together. I'm sure I will still make adjustments, and I know I have things I want to add. However, this feels like a really good start. The specifics of all of it is for another post. For now, feel free to browse through the book lists I've made and I hope you find a book that's new to you.
Also included are a brand new homepage, me figuring out how to add my insta feed, and a shopping page filled with used books and other goodies handmade by yours truly.
I hope you'll look around, reach out, or just say hello. I'm happy you're here!
Thank you for stopping by to read my entry for the Spring Fling Kidlit Contest! An even bigger thank you goes to Ciara O'Neal and Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez for once again orchestrating this contest. The challenge is to use a spring-themed GIF to write a 150 word story for kids. This year I even took the plunge and created my own GIF! Enjoy!
147 Word Count
By Kirsten Leestma
Iris jumped in a mud puddle.
“Hey!” yelled Swallow. “I’m in here! I need mud for my nest.”
“Pardon me, Swallow. I’ll leave you be.”
Iris jumped in another mud puddle.
“Hey! Yelled Pig. “I’m in here! I need mud to stay cool.”
“Pardon me, Pig. I’ll leave you be.”
Iris jumped in another mud puddle.
“Hey!” yelled Turtle. “I’m in here! I need mud to stay warm.”
“Pardon me, Turtle. I’ll leave you be.”
Iris just wanted to play in the gloopy mud. Then, she noticed the most ginormous mud puddle.
“Hello? Anyone there?” When no one answered, she jumped and stomped until…
SPLASH! SQUELCH! SQUISH!
Iris looked up to see Swallow, Pig, and Turtle.
“Hey!” yelled Iris, “I’m in here! I need mud to play.”
“Pardon us, we’ll leave you be.”
“Wait! Would you like to share my mud puddle?”
Two years ago I walked out of my 2nd grade classroom on a Thursday in March.
Two years ago we prepped for a month-long "spring break."
Two years ago we tried to flatten the curve.
Two years ago we haphazardly tossed toilet paper and soup into a shopping carts.
Two years ago we didn't know anything about sourdough or how to unmute ourselves.
Two years ago we had no idea.
A lot has changed in two years. A lot has changed in the world and a lot has changed in my own life. We've all had to make pivots, sacrifices, and we were given a whole lot to think about (and a whole lot of time to do it).
Luckily, all of those feelings and all of that time resulted in some pretty great picture books about our collective experience. Right now we might be feeling like it's time to move on, but I'm glad we have books like these to preserve this moment in time in case our lives ever become precedented again.
It's been a minute or two since I've written a blog post. In fact, it's been an entire pandemic length of time. How are we measuring this thing, anyway? My last post was in December 2019 and, you know, just a few things have changed since then. BUT! That's not what this post is about.
Today is Tuesday. It is still very much winter. BUT! The sun has started to peek out more often each week. The days are getting longer. It's not dark as soon as I get home anymore. The sun woke me up this morning! You guys, it's happening.
Today was, as you might guess, a very sunny day. The temperature creeped up towards 40 degrees, but she was a liar and the surprise wind gusts every few seconds made that number MUCH lower. BUT! The sun!
I left work determined to spend a bit of time outside (did I mention the sun?) Bundled up, the dog and I hopped in the car and found a beach to walk. The recent snow and newly unfrozen lake were all sparkly as the sun began to dip below the horizon. As I stood in 100 mph winds (okay I don't know what the real number was, but it was a lot, okay?) it was such a breath of literal fresh air.
BUT! That's when I realized I wasn't alone. The closer the sun got to sinking into the water, a few more cars trickled into the lot. Some of us were on the windy beach, some stayed in their cars, one didn't stop their phone call, and two more didn't even throw on their coat for the few minutes it took to watch the sun go down.
The sun set, the sky turned pink, and everyone shuffled back to their cars to continue their evening. BUT! For five minutes in a world full of chaos, a handful of people stopped what they were doing on a Tuesday night in the wintery almost-springtime to witness a bit of beauty. I hope you get the chance to do the same.
Some days in the classroom are challenging. Some days you go home and stress eat all the pizza. And some days a teacher friend sends you a thank you text right when you need it the most.
Have you thanked a teacher friend today? Told them that they're awesome? Let them know that they inspire you? Encourage you? Keep you sane?
I've been blessed with a lot of great friendships in my life, and every single day I am grateful for those friends that I can also call colleagues. In my classroom I'm never alone and when I am it's likely that I'm scarfing down a granola bar, running to the bathroom, and having a disagreement with the copy machine. I'm constantly surrounded by 25 8 year-olds. They are genuinely funny people who challenge themselves daily. However, it's also cool to talk about things that aren't Minecraft, unicorns, or 25 different Elf on the Shelf locations within the first 30 seconds of the day.
Teacher friends: I salute you. Thank you for waving when you walk past the door. Thank you for chatting while we make copies. Thank you for going to the diner for Friday lunch. Thank you for texting, for facebook-hearting, and for being there when the going gets tough and even more for recognizing when the going is great.
Once upon a time I won my third grade speech competition. Technically I think there was a four way tie, but that's besides the point. The point is that the topic of our speeches was "what you want to be when you grow up." That answer was easy for third grade me. I wanted to be an author. Ever since I stapled together a few pages about a family of tigers, I knew I wanted to have that feeling over and over again.
So, I gave my speech (heavy on the Roald Dahl quotes), collected my participation trophy, and went on my way. I wrote a lot when I was a kid. In journals, a few more stapled books, but as it too often happens, the habit fell by the wayside. High school and college happened and most of my time was consumed with sports, concerts, studying, and friends. Writing wasn't a real thing anyway.
I graduated with a degree in education and embarked out into the world of teaching. I love teaching. I get to teach young kids how to read and share so many cool things about our world. I wouldn't take that back.
But I wish I would have realized sooner that it's not one or the other. You do not have to be just one thing when you grow up. You do not just have to do the job because it pays the bills. Okay, maybe you have to do the bill-paying thing, but what I mean is that I should have been writing this whole time.
A few years ago I got back into it. I joined SCBWI and met up with local writing groups. I have approximately 10 works in progress and I never know if that's too many or not nearly enough. Some weeks I write a lot, some weeks have more of a Netflix vibe.
This September a piece of my writing was published for the first time. I wrote a poem called IN MY YARD and submitted it to Root & Star Magazine. I still can't believe that I can open it up and see my piece in front of me. The feeling is just the same as it was when I stapled those notebook pages together. I hesitated to call myself an author until I had something in print. But, really, I've been one all along.
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez and Lydia Lukidis are hosting the Kidlit Fall Writing Frenzy Contest! It's happening now! If you're a kidlit writer who's into awesome prizes, you should join! Thank you for putting this together and to everyone who is contributing a prize. I appreciate you and I hope you appreciate my entry below.
Word Count: 188
I found it. The trail grandma told me about before she died. I didn’t think it was real.
The trees haven’t changed color since 2034. Grandma said autumn was back. The autumn of her childhood. Grandma showed me photos of forests. Red, orange, purple, yellow, gold, and brown. I haven’t seen that in my lifetime. Trees are green. Or dead. Or gone.
But the trail is here. One row of orange trees. Defying what has happened in decades past. Grandma said there was autumn. She longed to bring it back, but she couldn’t tell me anything else. She marched down the trail last October and never returned.
So, here I am. No one found her. Investigations for an entire year and no one knows. I think they’re lying.
I didn’t tell anyone I’m here. Or that I’ve packed my backpack full of enough food to get me through the winter. Autumn is back and Grandma isn’t gone.
It’s me and Grandma’s dog, Goose. If we can’t find her, no one will.
Well… it’s me, Goose, and that tall man holding a shovel near the end of the trail.
I had the incredible opportunity to spend the last ten days in Helsinki, Finland. And by opportunity, I mean that I paid for a trip through Bookbag Tours. Nonetheless, this is one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. I’m so glad I took the plunge a year ago and decided to go on this trip.
First things first. I heard of Bookbag Tours through a good old fashioned Google search. I had the travel bug and was looking to see if I could find any travel geared towards teachers. I was also hoping to find a teacher discount along the way. Enter Bookbag Tours. Only a few years old, I did some research and looked up photos and stories from the previous summer’s trips. I saw a lot of happy teachers, cool places, and friendships forged. After checking the bank account several times, I clicked deposit just under a year before I would leave for Finland. I was 100% nervous about going on my own, but was settled by the fact that I would be traveling with other teachers. You know, people who are trusted with children all day long.
I just got home. I’m jet lagged and confused about what meal I should be eating and I can’t get over how happy I am that I traveled to Finland with 25 strangers. It’s hard to sum up what I learned, saw, and experienced in Finland. Not only did I get to tour the beautiful city of Helsinki, but part of the trip was Professional Development. More than one person questioned if I wanted to spend 3 days of my trip in a learning environment. “Don’t you want that time to see more of the country?” But when you put 26 educators in a room together, learning is our jam. Top that with being able to learn about one of the top educational systems in the world IN that country by experts in the field? Sign me up.
I have a lot to say about Finland and I plan on writing a few separate posts about my experience. For now, let me just say that if there’s a risk you want to take, take it. You might just end up in Finland with 25 new friends and a suitcase full of birch souvenirs. Worth it.
The powers of the internet just informed me that it's National Handwriting Day! Don't you love when those creepy advertising algorithms actually tell you fun facts? Thanks to the Google gods, I came across the infographic below from National Pen. It got me thinking about handwriting, why I love it so much, and why I've found it to still be a beneficial practice in my classroom.
Let me begin with my own handwriting adventures. I went to elementary school in the 90s. Yes, we're going all the way back, my friends. I know this isn't exactly the stone age, although my current 2nd graders would disagree. I remember getting our first computer at home when I was in 1st grade and I remember my school adding about 6 computers to the library around that time. Are you telling me I can type up my story into an actual book!? And then add a tiny pixelated illustration? I can also make banners that take up 25 sheets of paper? Awesome.
As much as I thought this was the coolest thing about life in 1992, I also remember writing all of my assignments out by hand. Once we got to upper grades, they had to be in cursive. I'm not saying this in a "we walked up hill both ways" kind of way, I just remember that we would occasionally use the computers, but until I reached 6th grade we still wrote most everything out by hand.
Honestly, for me, it wasn't really until college that I used my computer regularly. I was still that kid who wrote out her English papers by hand before typing them up. There was something about actually writing it that helped me form my thoughts and get things in the right place. In college, I discovered I didn't have time for this and made the transition to just typing. However, all of my notes were still written by hand, and that was the norm. Only a few people at that time had laptops and were bringing them to class. Writing things down worked for me. It always has and I'm guessing it always will.
Fast forward to my teaching career. I know that what worked for me growing up will not work for all of my students. There is technology around every corner. My students have grown up using iPads and smartphones and don't know what a computer mouse or a CD is. I really freak them out when I bust out the books on cassette I still have. We as teachers are encouraged to integrate technology whenever possible, and for the most part, this is really cool. It's truly amazing what we can do with a few apps in the classroom. We're making connections and creating projects that weren't possible when I was in 2nd grade.
With all that being said, I love me some good old fashioned handwriting. Hand-lettering has even become a hobby and creative outlet for me. Handwriting is a skill that I think students still need in spite of ever-present tablets and technology. Here are some things that I've heard to the contrary:
1. "But, why? No one writes anymore."
2. "There's no time."
3. "Just teach them how to sign their name."
To which I say:
1. Maybe not as much, but they do! You don't have to be writing a novel. What about a grocery list? A quick note to a friend? Yes, you can also do these things on the phone, but not everyone does. I'm not even talking about cursive here, I know that students need printing practice, too.
2. There really isn't a lot of time. I agree completely. It's exhausting to fit something into the school day that is no longer in the actual curriculum. I incorporate it into our writing time or reading centers when I can. Towards the end of the year we do some introduction to cursive when I need an activity to keep them engaged when the weather breaks. They are into it. Tongues out in concentration, they beg to learn "fancy writing."
3. I think there are so many other reasons than just your signature to be able to use handwriting and be able to read someone else's. Already, we have a tough time reading historical documents because the style of writing has changed over time. In a couple of my chapter books in my classroom there is a little note from mom or a friend and it's written in cursive. Without fail, a student who can otherwise read the entire book comes to me so I can read the cursive part to them.
All in all, keep writing. I know it's helped me and I can see how much my students want to be able to do it. I'm no expert, so take a look at some of the facts and research in the infographic if you're still here.
How do you set classroom goals? Do students set goals? What does that look like?
I'm asking for a friend and that friend is me.
I know goal setting is important in the classroom. I also think it's an area in which I can be stronger. What better time to think about setting goals than on New Year's Day?
The reality is that I have lots of good intentions each year in terms of student goal setting. When I am consistent, I see that it makes a big difference. When students set their own goals they are motivated and (mostly) eager to reach them. However, I struggle with the organization of student goal setting. I want it to be meaningful, and not just busy work where students are filling out charts and graphs of their own data. How do we, as people in the real world, set goals in our daily lives?
For me, I need a checklist. I am not known to love doing laundry, or vacuuming, or chores in general. So, I make myself a list and it helps for me to know what needs to be done. There's also something satisfying about crossing an item off that list. And, yes, I am that person who completes a task, realizes it wasn't on the list at all and then adds it just to cross it off.
I also like when I can see my progress towards a goal. For example, I just set my new Goodreads reading challenge for 2019. I like watching that percentage bar get higher as the year continues. On the flip side, I am not motivated by graphs and charts and picking apart details. I know people who love that stuff, but it's not me.
The moral of the story is that everyone is motivated differently. I think setting goals is universal, but getting to that goal is personal. As all of you teachers out there know, your students come from different backgrounds and have a variety of learning styles. What will make them tick? What will help them reach a goal whether it's big or small?
This year, each one of my students has a portfolio. It's in an old-fashioned folder and they can add writing pieces and other things that they are proud of. I also have some goal setting forms in each portfolio to help each child reach both reading and math goals. I'd share a picture, but I'm still on Winter Break, so deal with it!
I am truly asking for others to share what they do with their students in terms of goal setting. Do you have folders or binders? What works? What's frustrating? Do you have checklists and charts, or do some students thrive off a little healthy competition?
When I return to the classroom next week, I want to check-in with students on their goals. I want to help them see their goals to fruition and I want to be able to do that in a meaningful way. So, my own goal is to tackle setting goals.
What does that look like for you?
Teacher, reader, tea drinker, and dog mom.