Monday, September 30, 2013

Writing Jobs and Orphan Stories

It's "just another Manic Monday!"

However, it's a special Manic Monday for me because I actually have time to blog and share a freebie.  Wow.  That's an accomplishment for me, since I've been a slacker for the last few weeks.  Now that it's week 4 of school, I hope that life will settle down a bit, so I can post more frequently.  I am not making any promises though.  

This week is a big one because on Wednesday, we are going on our first field trip.  My class and another first grade class are going to a farm to go apple and pumpkin picking and to go on a hayride.  It should be a lot of fun!

Also, it's time to start DRAing my students.  I have a love/hate relationship with DRA time because I love seeing where my kids are with reading and figuring out how I can help them progress.  However, I hate having to neglect teaching new lessons and working with the whole class, so I can get the assessments done.  Plus, management is always tricky since the students are still learning how to work independently.

Anyways, I am not writing tonight just to tell you about the DRA.  What I am actually going to share with you is a new (for me) idea I am trying for Writing Workshop...

Writing Jobs

That's right.  I am giving my students writing jobs.  

A few years ago, one of my colleagues shared that she had found and implemented a system of writing jobs in her classroom to help keep the students accountable during writing workshop.  After her presentation, a few other teachers tried out the system and loved it too.  At the time, I was not ready to take on anything new, since I was a first year teacher.  Now, however, I am ready to go and try it for myself.

What is the system you ask?

Here's how it works.  I believe the idea came from Marisa Ramirez and was shared by Jennifer Jones.  You can read the original post here.

Basically, there are 4 "jobs" or "groups" that students participate in during writing workshop.  They are:

1. Author's Spotlight- Students write with the intention of sharing their work.  At the end of writing, students assigned to this job share during Author's Spotlight.  They may share a portion or all of their work depending on their preference and the time constraints.

2. Writer's Basket- At the end of writing, these students place their writing in the basket, so that it can be reviewed by the teacher.  The teacher reads each writing piece to assess students' progress and to prepare for writing conferences.  I plan to write both praise and suggestions/questions on post-it notes and to then stick them on the students' work, so they can make improvements independently the next day. 

3. Teacher's Table- For this job, students are invited to the Teacher's Table for a conference.  During the conference, the teacher will provide positive feedback and helpful suggestions to help the writer improve his/her craft.  I also plan to check the sticky notes from Writer's Basket to provide clarification if necessary and to check on how students revised and edited their own work.

4. Independent and Responsible (Write to Self)- Technically, this job is called Independent and Responsible and while I like that name, I am thinking of changing it to Write to Self for use in my classroom.  That is because it is basically the writing version of Read to Self.  Students working on this job are to take ownership of their own writing for the day.  They do not receive teacher feedback, but rather must develop their own writing craft and stamina.  

I introduced these four jobs to the students one at a time.  To begin, we discussed how writers like to write for different reasons and in different ways.  Sometimes they like to share their writing; sometimes they just like to write privately.  Then, we talked about the roles of editors and audiences for writing.  I explained that sometimes authors hand their work in to be reviewed and sometimes they sit down and meet with an editor to go over necessary changes.  Those scenarios fit with the Writer's Basket and Teacher's Table jobs.  For the other two jobs, we talked about how writer's love to share their writing with others just for fun and how writers often prefer to work alone and independently for long periods of time.

Once the students heard the overview of each job, I had a few volunteers model the different roles and then we practiced them as a whole class.  I did not get to have every student complete every role last week, but we just dabbled in them.  

This week, I hope to have the whole system running each day with a workboard set up to help students know what job they have for the day.  Since there are five days in a week and only four jobs, I am thinking of letting the students choose which job to repeat on Fridays.  That way, they can learn to consider whether they are ready to share their writing, whether they need help, or whether they just want to keep working. 

So, those are my exciting plans for writing workshop.  I am looking forward to seeing how things run, so I can report back to you soon.  For now, I have a Writing Jobs freebie to share with you.  Click the picture to download.

Hope you enjoy the freebie!  I love feedback, so please let me know what you think.

Now, I am happy to bring to you one of the final editions of my India journal.  There are only a few days left to write up and this is the last time I will be sharing orphan stories.  I hope and pray that the stories of these beautiful girls will touch your heart.

Left My Heart in Hyderabad

Day Ten: Bethel Gospel Church and Sarah’s Orphans
        I woke up only a half hour before breakfast and took a bit too long getting ready.  Not only was I slow, but my roommates were also running behind.  As a result, our whole room was 10 minutes late getting downstairs.  Even so, the food was not ready.  Indian time is so different from American time.  It’s kind of annoying at times, but also relaxing.
          During breakfast, we talked over the day’s craft and story plans.  E told me that we need to make the Jesus story a lot shorter.  At first, I felt like a failure, but I prayed to rebuke that feeling.  She is right in realizing that the kids cannot listen for that long.  BJ and I conferred a bit and decided that I would narrate the story that day.
          Then, we all loaded up the van and drove to church.  When we arrived, we took off our cheppulu (shoes) and added them to the row that snaked along the wall.  We entered the dimly lit, but spacious room and sat in plastic chairs in the back. 
          As Sarah, one of our hosts, helped lead worship, I enjoyed watching many women in beautiful sarees come in, kneel, cover their heads, and then stand to worship.  I tried to join in worshipping in my head.
          For Sunday School, we joined the kids as they were singing in Telegu.  I clapped along and watched a group of boys goof off and not listen.  My teacher self wanted to go stand near them.  Proximity is a powerful tool.  Hehe.  Seeing them misbehave reminded me of middle and high school boys in the U.S.  Children are not so very different around the world. 
          When it came time for us to present, W, H, and M led the popular songs and BJ danced.  Then, Paul translated for me as I told the Jesus story.  I tried to keep the story brief, but meaningful.  Afterwards, I said a bit more to encourage the kids to share the gospel.
          Next, total craftsanity ensued.  The children circled up and each of us sat in the middle of one.  I sat with a large group of older girls.  The Sunday School teacher helped me explain the steps to make the craft.  The girls had fun, but things got crazy when I had to cut out each cross.  We did not have enough scissors.  Then, the hole punches would not work.  When we were finally done, after church let out, the room was littered with shredded tissue paper.  Still, seeing the kids proudly wearing their stained glass crosses was worth the insanity.

          After church, we had a fabulous lunch at Pastor Sudhaker’s house.  Mary made sesame beef and chicken/potato curry.  We also had the most awesomely, delicious custard dessert.  The little plastic cups were filled with layers of custard, bananas, ice cream, a few nuts, and crunchy pomegranate seeds.  YUM!

          After lunch, we spent the afternoon doing nails and hair.  Suma did my nails, red with blue hearts and flowers.  Valanda French braided my hair and added decorative pins.  All of us girls, American and Indian, looked gorgeous. 

Story time came and I prepared myself to take in the girls’ words.

Megamala (17, 2nd year)- Her father died in a traffic accident when she was 2.  Her mother was 6 months pregnant at the time.  After her husband died, Mega’s mother got ill and depressed.  She stopped talking to and caring for Mega.  Mega’s grandparents took her in, but they too were unable to care for her.  However, they are Christians, so they brought her to Bethel Gospel Church.  Sarah and her husband took in Mega and care for her as if she were their own.  She is happy, studies well, and wants to be an engineer.

Sumalata (16, about to start college)- Her mother died when Suma was 8 and her father died sometime before that.  Suma stayed with her aunt and attended a government school.  She failed two subjects because she had no one to help her study.  Her aunt heard about Suma’s cousins, Puja and Vani, being taken in, so she brought her to Bethel Gospel Church too.  Now, Suma lives with Sarah's family.  She going to start college (high school for them) and hopes to be a bank manager.

Hema (16, 1st year)- Her mother died when Hema was 3.  Her dad was not able to care for her or her sisters.  Eventually, he remarried and her two older sisters also married.  Hema came to Bethel with her younger sister.  They see their dad over vacation, but their stepmother works them like servants.  Hema is happy at Sarah’s house.  She shares her struggles and emotions with Sarah.  Pray for her studies and her sister who is in a different home.  She wants to be an engineer.  Also, I noticed that Hema has a visual impairment of some kind.  Her eyes look in different directions, so she cannot make direct eye contact.  I do not know if this issue is being cared for or not.

Ashwini (16, 1st year)- Her father left when she was 6 years old.  He got remarried and took her younger brother with him.  In order to make money, Ashwini's mother became a servant.  Then, her mother heard about the church and brought Ashwini to Bethel.  Now, Ashwini is happy to have clothes, books, food etc.  She wants to be an accountant.  Pray for her studies and for her mother’s salvation.

Akila (16, 1st year)- When Akila was 10, her mother died of cancer.  Then, her father died of an appendix problem.  The family had properties, but no one helped them get money to care for Akila’s mother before she died.  Akila’s grandmother brought her to Bethel where Akila learned about Jesus.  Now, she wants to share Jesus with everyone.  Pray for her studies and for her to be able to provide for herself in the future.

Srimata (?)- Her father committed suicide by taking poison.  Then, her mother left Srimata and her brother.  Now, her brother has finished school and works back in the village.  Srimata’s mother visited her a few times, but then disappeared again.  Pray for her mother and her studies.  She wants to be an accountant.


Usha (17, 2nd year), Malatha and Vallada- When Usha was in 5th grade, her mother was put in the hospital for heart problems.  No one would take the girls to visit her.  They stayed with their grandparents, but had no food.  No one would or could pay for their mom to have surgery, so she died.  The girls’ dad drank and traveled around.  Finally, their uncle, a branch pastor for Bethel, brought them to Sarah’s house.  They came with no clothes or anything.  Now, they are cared for.  Before she died, Usha’s mom told her to be 1st rank in school and to serve God.  Prior to coming to Sarah’s, Usha was in a government school.  Then, she switched schools.  She did get 1st rank one year, but then failed 2 classes because she had trouble with the English.  She took this very hard.  Pray for her studies.  She wants to be a software engineer.  Also, pray for the girls’ father because he was fired from a driving job for the church because he went back to drinking.

Pranitha (17, 2nd year)- Her father died when she was young.  Her mother was killed in a traffic accident.  Her grandparents are too old to care for her, so her aunt took her and her brother, Yevamshi  in.  However, the aunt did not love them and actually beat them for using the beds because they weren’t worth the expense.  Pranitha’s brother was being cared for at Sarampet, but ran away.  She does not know where he is.  She is happy to be at Sarah’s house, to have sisters, and to have hope.  Pray for her studies and her brother.

Suetha and Geetha (12)- Their mother died of typhoid.  Their father is mentally ill.  He laughed at his wife’s dead body.  Their aunt took them in, but could not afford to send them to school.  Now, both girls are studying well.  Suetha is 1st rank and wants to be a lawyer.  Geetha wants to be a doctor.  Both girls fear for their other sister who was kidnapped 2 years ago at age 5.  The family could not afford an investigation, but now Bethel is helping try to find her.

          Once again, the stories were overwhelming, especially Suetha's and Geetha's.  I am heartbroken by the thought that a little girl was abducted and is being forced to do who knows what.  As each of the girls shared, it was very hard seeing them break down.  The pain in their voices was almost tangible.  Yet I still saw the hope and love when Sarah went to them and held them.  She really loves them as her own children.  Amazing.  
After we prayed for all the girls, I saw that Hema was still crying, so I held her for quite a while.  I tried to speak God’s promises to both her and Akila.  BJ helped wrap up the time by dancing to “Beautiful Things.”  The perfect song for the situation.  God can/does turn pain, sin, brokenness etc. into beauty.  I pray these girls will come to know that truth.
          We said our goodbyes for the night and crowded into the rickety van.  At a Chinese restaurant, we enjoyed an AMAZING meal of chicken corn soup, spicy chicken drumsticks, sweet and sour pork, super spicy chicken, lo mein, fried rice with prawns, and…LEMON CHICKEN!!!  I am pretty sure the lemon chicken got us all “drunk.”  My whole table devoured tons of it and even planned a lemon chicken themed wedding with LC wedding cake, rings, lemon sauce toasts, and favors that say, “You’re the lemon to my chicken.”  We laughed so hard that I sweated and cried.  My abs hurt like crazy.  We also laughed when M thought I said, “This is Kevin,” instead of “This is heaven.”  I decided that I yell random male names when I eat good food.  “Jerry, Tom, Robert!”  Yes, you had to be there.  Also, keep in mind we were severely sleep deprived.

          It’s always good to have comic relief after heavy times.  Speaking of that, at our evening debrief we learned that Pranitha had nearly lost it when Akila “leaked the gas” during story telling.  Hahahaha!
          On a more serious note, E told us that this was the first time the girls had ever told their stories.  As hard as it was, they must have been blessed by the fact that we wanted to hear them.  Also, Rhea, Mary’s daughter, was encouraged by hearing that the girls did not do anything to deserve orphan-hood.  It just happened.  Apparently, Rhea cries at night sometimes, fearing what will happen when she is an orphan.  She thinks that if she does something wrong, God will take her mom and dad away.  So sad.  I am glad the stories helped her feel better. 
          It is interesting to consider how the pastors/caretakers’ biological children feel about their orphan siblings.  I pray that they will not feel resentful.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Little Old Lady and a Letter to Myself

Happy Sunday!

I can't believe a week flew by and I did not even blog once.  I kept meaning to, but just didn't have time.

Before my blog gets covered in cobwebs from lack of use, I want to share a cute mentor text with you for Collaboration Cuties linky party.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything is a cute Halloween tale that is quite popular at my school.  This book tells the story of an old lady who was very brave.  One night, she was walking home and all sorts of things tried to scare her by making creepy noises and following her.  On each page, the author repeats the list of items chasing her by repeating the objects and the noises they make.  This gives students the chance to join in by making the funny sounds like "CLOMP, CLOMP," "SHAKE, SHAKE," and "BOO, BOO."  For older students, these sounds could facilitate a lesson in onomatopoeia. 

As the story continues, the old lady ends up walking faster and faster before eventually running the rest of the way home.  Still, she insists that she is not afraid of anything.  Even when the objects knock on the door and try once more to scare her, the little old lady stays strong and demands that the objects go away.  Then, she gives them a secret suggestion for what to do instead of scaring her.  This point in the story is fun because students can try to guess what the objects will become before.  Once the page is turned, they will see that all of the scary things have turned into a...SCARECROW!!!  

Now, they scare the crows instead of the little old lady.  How cute is that?

Overall, this story is very fun and can be used to teach sequence, character, sound effects, repetition etc.  It could also facilitate discussions about courage and how students do not need to be afraid of made up things etc.  I highly recommend checking it out this Halloween season.  

Before heading out, I want to share with you something cool I had the chance to do today.  I wrote a letter to my childhood self.  It's not something I planned to do, but I had heard of the idea and when I had some free time, I decided to go for it and I felt burdened to share it with you even though I'm scared to.  Here goes...

Dear Becky,

            This is Rebecca.  I am the “mature” adult version of yourself who has to clean the apartment, shop for groceries, pay bills, plan lessons, maintain a social life etc.  There is so much you have to do and so many other things you choose to do.  Life is hectic.  Still, you are blessed. God has given you great friends, a caring family, a wonderful job, the opportunity to serve Him in India, and so much more.  Most importantly though, He has shown you His incredible love. 
            Love.  You are loved.  That is what I want to tell you.  Why?  Because I do not think you know it.  In fact, I know you don’t.  It’s only recently that you have begun to discover that your Heavenly Father is not just a stern father, but a daddy who really does love you.
            Right now, you may wonder why you think you don’t know how much God loves you.  Of course you know.  You go to Sunday School.  You read your Bible.  You pray.  You tell yourself that God loves you and you love Him. 
            Yet, you still carry an ever growing pile of guilt and shame that is slowly sending you down a perilous path of perfectionism and people-pleasing.  The devil is sneakily weaving a web of lies that will soon have you so entangled that you can’t even recognize the truth.  He’s telling you that you are not enough.  Your grades are too low.  Your butt is too big.  Your hair is too wavy.  You fail at talking to boys.  You cannot measure up to your sister.  You are not worthy of your friends.  You ruin everything.  You are unlovable.
            As a result, you will spend the next decade of your life trying to make up for your many shortcomings.  You will convince yourself that you have to be perfect to be loved.  You will crave attention from those you consider better than you and judge others who do not meet your standards.  You will bask in the attention that comes from being skinny, having a 4.0, getting a job etc.  You will do many good things.  You will achieve many goals.  You will try so hard.
It won’t be enough. 

It will never be enough. 

Did you hear that?  It will NEVER be enough!!!  That’s because you are a sinner.  You are a mess.  Despite your many efforts to wash yourself clean, you are still a dirty rag, and you know what, so is everyone else.  Everyone is messed up.  Everyone is broken. 

Everyone is loved.
What?  Loved?  How can that be?
I will tell you.  You are loved because your Heavenly Father created you.  He made you in His own image with the intention of having a relationship with you.  He knows you inside and out.  He knows that you are a mess.  Yet, He loves you.  He loves all of His creation.  He loves everyone.  He loves everyone so much that He did something about that love.  He sent His son, Jesus, the guy you think you know, to die and rise again to take away all that shame and guilt you carry.  He paid the price because you cannot. 
            Now, I know that makes you want to feel even more guilty.  You did not deserve God’s love, so you feel horrified that Jesus had to die for you.  Well, get this…Jesus did NOT die to make you feel guilty. 

He died to set you FREE!!!!
He died, so that you could live an abundant life while covered in His righteousness.  He died so that you don’t have to perfect.  He died so that you can find your identity in Him, not in what other people think of you.  He rose again, so that you can have life.
            So, Becky, I know it’s going to take you years to realize this.  The journey ahead of you is long and unfortunately, this letter can’t really help the childhood you. 
            I’ll tell you what though.  It’s helping you now.  And it can help others too.  Share your story.  Share what God has done for you.  Tell your family, tell your friends, tell the hurting people all over the world.  Tell children.  Tell them before it’s too late and they are stuck where you used to be.  Tell them now.



Sponsor a child through Compassion International and help a child know that he or she is loved by you and by God.  Click the link below.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bucket Fillers Freebies and a Winner!

Happy Fall!

Fall has officially arrived.  It's time for cool weather, apple-picking, pumpkin goodies, and all that good stuff.  I always love the beginning of a new season.  The new weather and traditions are both refreshing and exciting.

Speaking of exciting things, when I arrived at my school for the first time August, I was very excited to see a giant bucket decorating the front bulletin boards.  Why am I excited about a bucket do you ask?  I'll tell you!  It's because my school is now officially a "Bucket Filling School!!!"

The principal has launched a school-wide campaign based on the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today?  I know many of you are familiar with this wonderful book, but I am still going to share it for Collaboration Cuties Must Read Mentor Text linky. 

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? is a great book that teaches kids and adults to be aware of how they treat others each day.  The book explains that everyone in the world carries around an invisible bucket.  The bucket is meant to be full of happiness and good thoughts.  However, the contents of the bucket are partially determined by other people's actions and words.  Everything you say and do makes you either a Bucket Dipper or a Bucket Filler.  Bucket Dippers say mean things, hurt people, and are not respectful.  They try to steal from other people's buckets, but really end up dipping from their own.  In contrast, Bucket Fillers are people who say and do kind things.  They care for other people and try to fill everyone else's buckets.  In turn, they fill their own.  Anytime you fill someone's bucket, you fill your own; therefore, you should always look for ways to be kind and caring to others.  Overall, the analogy is clear and simple, which makes it easy and appealing to students; however, it carries great weight because it makes everyone really think about the way they treat others.

As a Bucket Filling School, everyone at my building is making it a goal to not only read this book to the students, but to put it's concepts into action.  Each teacher might do something slightly different, but all of us are encouraging our students and each other to be Bucket Fillers.

After doing some Pinterest Research, I came across some great resources for Bucket Fillers.  I already shared about a few of them here.  Please be sure to check out that post for a cute video a link to some free posters I found.  For the sake of not being redundant, I am not going to re-post them all here.  

I do however, have some new ideas and resources that I just found.

Lastly, I found an awesome way to transform the idea of Peacemakers vs. Peacebreakers into Bucket Fillers vs. Bucket Dippers.  As you know, I implemented the Peacemakers vs. Peacebreakers concept in my classroom last year and it was a great success.  I found the original version of these cute posters from First Grade Parade and then a great replication and poster freebies from First Grade Fanatic.


First Grade Fanatic
Then, just today, I discovered cute, FREE headers from 3rd Grade Thoughts that can transform Peacemakers and Peacebreakers to Bucket Fillers and Dippers in the blink of an eye.

As much as I love all of these posters, I also took the time to adapt my own Peacemakers vs. Peacebreakers posters into Bucket Fillers vs. Bucket Dippers.  You can find the original versions here.  Click the pictures below to download the updated Bucket-themed ones.

Hope you like the posters!

Now, I am excited to announce the winner of an awesome pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies.  

Can I get a drum roll please...

The winner is....

Jennifer Neuman

Congratulations to Jennifer.  Thanks to all who entered and to all my new followers.  I am excited to be close to 200 followers on Bloglovin.  Perhaps I'll have a giveaway when that happens....

Before I go, I promised to be better about posting the rest of my India journal entries, so here goes another one...

Left My Heart in Hyderabad

Day Nine: Sarampet
        I woke up today thankful that my mouth did not hurt all night.  The ibuprofen must have helped.  Before breakfast, I hung out with the kids a bit.  They kept requesting that we sing the “Chai Song” that we made up.  So funny.  I was also adventurous and tried singing “Baby Shark” in Telegu!  It turned into “Baby Chepa!”

          Despite the joy of singing and laughing with the kids, I was shocked and saddened when I noticed that 8 year-old Nickayla was wearing a onesie as a shirt.  She is 8 years old and fits in a onesie!!  These kids are all wearing our discarded t-shirts and even baby clothes.  Yes, I am glad they have clothes, but it makes me sad to realize they have no choice in what to wear and convicts me that I have WAY more clothes than I could ever really need.
          When we finally ate around 9:30, we had corn flakes with warm milk, bananas, toast, and eggs.  Everything was good, but I am craving fresh produce.
          After the meal, Mary took some time to tell us about how the Bethel Gospel Church caught the vision for orphan care and how the farm began.  Though the information was very interesting, I had to fight to stay awake because anytime I sit still too long, I feel how tired I really am.  Still, I learned a lot.  Apparently, Mary’s dad, Pastor Sudhaker, had felt convicted about the Bible’s commands to care for orphans.  Some people in the church were skeptical about his vision, but then the church gradually starting taking some of the children in and caring for them.  They also organized sponsorships for school fees.  Then, later the orphan homes began as more people were willing to take in the children.  Next, the pastor and others got a vision for having the farm.  After a long process of negotiating with villagers who owned the land, the church purchased 8 acres.  Global Orphans helped fund the Father’s House orphan homes named Joy, Hope, Love, and Faith.  They also funded 2 others homes that are in the process of being constructed.  One will hold 16 orphans; the other will be for the elderly who have no one to care for them.  Mom will be so excited to hear that!
          As of now, the farm has not been profitable, which is so sad.  The goal is for it to provide all the rice, vegetables, milk, and meat the kids and workers need to eat.  However, the soil is not good at the Faith Garden section and there is no water at the Father’s Farm section.  Plus, market prices have not been favorable and many eggplants have spoiled because there is no efficient way to take them to the city.  Still, the workers do what they can and use whatever they produce to feed not only the orphans, but the village children.  That amazes me!

          My only thought about the lack of prosperity is that God is teaching everyone to wait and trust.  Then, He will blow everyone away.  At least I hope so.  I know He can do that.
          Even though there have been struggles and there are plenty of reasons to be discouraged, the workers have not given up.  They truly love the kids and are faithful servants.
          After hearing all about the farm, it was interesting to walk it with E, M, H, Santeesh, Srikanth, Sati, Hashita, Solome, and many others.  We passed the barn with buffalo (barre) and oxen, the cows (awu), rice fields, and a compost field.  One boy dug his feet around in the compost and a tiny mouse scurried out!  Everyone freaked out.  The boys threw dirt at it.  One boy hit it hard and it either died or was super stunned.  It was freakishly limp.  I hope it was stunned.
          Next, we all went over to Father’s House to play ball in the yard near the orphans’ homes.  The ground was wet and muddy and people were doing construction work, yet we still invaded the yard.  Some people hit balls with a cricket bat, Annie sang with the little girls, and I…
          The game started with Santeesh and me and then became a huge deal.  Solomon, Pavam, Jay, John, Vijay, and others all played at least for a bit; so did A, W, and BJ..  All we did was bump, set, and flail about to keep the ball up, but it was SO MUCH FUN!!!  The ball kept flying off and landing in mud puddles.  Now and then the soccer players would randomly charge through our area and we would all join them in trying to kick the dirty soccer ball.  It was mass chaos!!
          When Paul joined the volleyball game, it got more intense.  Mahesh, BJ, Paul, and I were the serious players.  M was the comic relief.  It was so cool to play hardcore.  I actually did quite well.  W, A, BJ, and Paul all thought I had played on a team before.  M said she didn’t know I was a hardcore volleyball player.  I think God blessed me for just letting go of fear and playing all out.  I didn’t even care that I was covered in dirt.  I actually found it hilarious that the dirt made my arms look almost black, whereas it looked white on the kids’ skin.  Hehe.

          One interesting note to add to my volleyball experience is that once again, I have been hanging out with the boys more than the girls.  Hmmm.
          2 hours later it was time for lunch.  I enjoyed the chicken noodle soup with added rice.  By the time we were done eating it was 2:00 p.m.; only one hour until our ETD.  However, I knew we would leave late.
          Before packing up to leave, we gave out awards to the staff to encourage and motivate them.  Then, we took group pictures.  When it was time to leave, the bus wouldn’t start, so we hung out for 2 more hours.  I talked with Santeesh and Johnny (I think).  Lots of the little ones kept bringing me crumpled papers with “gifts” inside.  I did not know whether or not I should keep the colored rocks of the old birthday napkins or not.  I did not want to take their stuff, but I hope I did not hurt their feelings.      
          Finally, the bus started we loaded up and said a million goodbyes.  I prayed over many children, which was a blessing.  As we pulled away, I teared up.  I most likely will not see these kids again this side of heaven, but they will be in my heart forever.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tree Seasons Mentor Text and Freebie

It's Wednesday and I'm worn out.

Tonight was Back to School Night, so even though things went well, I am mentally exhausted.  There is just so much pressure that comes with presenting to a room full of parents.  Fortunately, I have some supportive ones this year and tonight went smoothly.

Rather than digging in to lesson planning, which requires too much mental effort, I have chosen to blog!  Hurray!

I am a few days late to Collaboration Cuties' linky party, but I just couldn't wait to share this cute mentor text with you.

Our Tree Named Steve is a super cute story written somewhat like a letter.  The author of the letter is a father who is writing to his kids about their family friend, Steve the tree.  Steve is a unique and huge tree that has sat in the family's yard for years.  Steve has supported swings and clotheslines; has watched play time and picnics; and has survived various calamities.  The family considers Steve to be a friend, which is why the father is sad to have to tell the kids that a recent storm knocked Steve over.  However, he does not leave them feeling sad, but rather shows them that Steve will still be with them in the form of a tree house.

This story is great to use for a science unit on seasons or trees or both.  Though the book does not specifically describe the seasons, students can notice the changes in the tree on different pages of the book.  My kids were excited to point out the orange leaves in fall and the bare, snow-covered branches in winter.  

What's more, is this book is a good lead-in to the adoption of a classroom tree.  Each year, I have my class adopt a tree on the school grounds.  Throughout the year, we make several visits to the tree to observe how it changes in different seasons.  The students have a tree booklet in which they draw and write about the seasonal changes.  It's really fun for them to record their observations like real scientists.  Also, it's cool for them to see how their drawing and writing abilities progress over the course of the year.

My class adopted our tree today and then did their Summer sketch, since the season is almost over.  I always have to rush to get in the first visit before fall kicks in.  We all had a lot of fun checking out our tree friend.  I told the students they could think of a name, so we will be voting on one soon.

If you'd like an Tree Seasons booklet, click the picture below to download the freebie.  Hope you enjoy!

Also, don't forget to enter to win a pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies.  There are just a few more days to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Finally, I've been a super slacker on writing up my India journal entries.  Sorry about that.  I have been home for close to two months (hard-to-believe!), so I really need to finish sharing them with you soon.

Here's the second part of Day Eight.  I promise this entry is super cool and does not contain sad stories of orphans.  It actually includes a connection to the book Holes, which you teacher types might appreciate.

Left My Heart in Hyderabad

Day Eight: Part 2
Visit to Father's Farm

Before lunch, some kids (Nickayla, Hashita etc.) took us on a muddy walk down a farm road. When I looked around out there, I noticed the huge rocky mountains scattered around the plains.  They didn’t make a neat, traditional mountain range, but rather jutted up here and there along the horizon.  So beautiful.

For lunch we had noodle soup, bananas, and a tapioca electrolyte syrup.  Yum…not.  The syrup was weird and it took forever to eat with my miniscule spoon.  However, I am sure that I have not been drinking enough, so I hope the electrolytes help me and everyone else rehydrate.

For a while after lunch we sat and watched the children eat and watch TV.  That was weird.  Sitting in front of me was a sea of orphans of all ages.  All of them raking their fingers through rice and scooping up curry.  Their eyes were glued to the screen.  At first, I thought they should not care about TV because of where they live and their backgrounds.  It seems like a waste of time for them.  However, as I thought about it more, I realized that they probably have the right idea about TV.  It is a special treat to watch occasionally, not a necessity.  Pretty soon after the kids ate, we left them to head over to the other farm, Father’s Farm.  We only had a small van so it took three trips.  I went on the 2nd trip and almost got in the driver’s.  Paul encountered many obstacles on the way while driving including cows, kids, a motorcycle, and a fence that had been blown down by the wind.

 At the farm, I petted dogs; stroked adorable, albino, baby, bunnies; and planted a papaya plant.  I also saw eggplant, banana, and peanut plants growing in the fields.  May told us that everyone dreams of growing more, but there is not enough water.  Out of the 7 drilled wells, 2 produce water.  That is so sad to me.  The workers have the amazing goal of using the farms to provide all the food and money need to care for the orphans, but right now things are not working out.  It actually breaks my heart to hear how hard everyone is working and how faithful they are to serving the Lord despite the minimal positive outcomes.  I am really challenged by everyone's sacrificial service, and I feel extremely burdened to pray for the farm.  I just have this feeling that it's only a matter of time before God rains down abundant blessings on His faithful servants.  I hope I'm right.

Before we left, E decided we should climb part way up the mountain.  We had to climb over a barbed wire fence and pass through a herd of goats.  Then, we had to weave through tress/bushes and over rocks to get up.  Each time we stopped, I was overwhelmed by the beauty.  Green fields spread out for miles.  Palm trees reached up toward the sky.  Mountains loomed in the distance. 

 When we reached the "summit," I joined J, W, and BJ in scaling a HUGE rock with the help of two nationals.  I had to take my shows off and reach up to will without any other handhold to get up.  Crazy, but awesome.  I felt like I was on top of the world.

What’s insane is that when I looked over at the mountain next to the one we were on, I realized it looked like a thumb.  That reminded me of the God's thumbnail mountain in Holes and the fact that in the book there is water on God’s thumbnail.  The farm needs water!  Aaahh! 

Once all of us crazy climbers half slid/half stepped down the rocks, the whole team gathered to pray for the farm.  It was powerful, especially because the sun started coming out.  It was like the light chasing out the darkness that covers this land. 

Back at the farm, we drank chai and ate roasted peanuts as we chatted.  The rooster scared M, who scared A, who scared me.  We all jumped up and screamed, which caused everyone to laugh. 

The "Oh So Terrifying Rooster"
Despite the scare, I can honestly say that this afternoon was one of the coolest experiences of my life.  It has definitely been a day I will never forget.