Biscuit Love

When I was in Nashville a few years ago, our son took us to a breakfast spot called Biscuit Love. This weekend, I had my own Biscuit Love experience.

When the kids come home, I love nothing more than creating a nice breakfast, setting a pretty table, and starting the day out with good food and good talk. This Saturday Mackensie was home, so I decided to cook up some biscuits, eggs, and sausage.  I began by gathering all of my ingredients and tools. I reached up in the cabinet and pulled down the Callie’s Southern Biscuit Mix that my sister gave me when she came up from Charleston recently. The addition of cream cheese seems to make these biscuits incredibly light and moist.  I grabbed the white bowl – my favorite mixing bowl with a rubber ring on the bottom that holds the bowl in place while you mix – given to me by my mother years ago. Then I grabbed the large wooden board that we use for everything from biscuits to Thanksgiving turkey, and the pastry rolling pin that Mackensie gave me when she returned from a trip to Provence.  It is blue, yellow, and white, with that beautiful Provencal flower pattern, and it is the perfect tool for biscuit dough rolling.

I put the biscuit mix in the bowl, cut in the butter and cream cheese, create a well in the flour mixture and add the buttermilk until the dough is sticky.   I stir and kneed. I flour the board and roll out the dough. As I flour the wine glass and begin cutting the biscuits, I have a memory of my father doing exactly the same thing for so many of the Sunday breakfasts he made for me when I was a child. He would cut each biscuit out just perfectly. I cut out my biscuits as carefully as possible, re-roll the dough, cut out more, until there is just a small lump of dough left.  I take that little lump of dough and put it into a small dish. When my youngest daughter is around, she loves to snack on this little piece of raw dough, so I take a picture and send it to her. I place the biscuits in the oven, set the timer, and prepare to scramble the eggs following the system that my mother used to make the best scrambled eggs imaginable. 

As I set the table on the back porch with flowered napkins and our orange, green, and blue fiestaware plates, I am struck by how this morning’s breakfast-making has connected me with so many of the people and memories I love.  I guess that’s why I love nothing better than to make breakfast for my family on a Saturday morning.

The biscuits are lightly browned, the eggs are scrambled, and the sausages are cooked.  The three of us gather around the table to enjoy some Biscuit Love.

Is It Time for Phonics Yet?

“When is Rasheed time?”

” Is Mabel taking her nap?  When can we wake her up?”

“What’s in the mystery box today?”

“Can we study my name today?”

“Did you know that my name has three vowels in it!”

These are the comments we are getting from kids about phonics!   I have to say that I never really expected  kids to be this charged up about word study, even with those cute mascots, but they are.  The thing is, we (the teachers) are pretty excited about it too. Last year, our school implemented the new Phonics Units of Study from Teachers College Reading and Writing Project and we tried out some units in first grade last spring.  This year we are on year two in kindergarten and going for full implementation in grade one.  This spring we plan to try out a unit or two in grade two with full implementation next year.

Last week in first grade, we were doing a lesson that involved sorting snap (high frequency) words.  The lesson started with the teacher modeling how you might sort all the words that have two letters (vs words that do not have two letters) and then all the words that start or end with a certain letter (vs. words that start or end in a different way).  Then we handed out sets of snap words, white boards and markers to each group of students and asked them to find new ways to sort the words.  We were astounded at what happened next.

First of all, every single student was 100% engaged.  Everyone was leaning in, sorting snap word cards on the rug or writing the sort on the whiteboard.  Then we looked at some of the sorts and we were just blown away!  Some sorted words by the number of letters (words with two letters, three letters, four letters); some sorted words with the same vowel; some sorted words that had all short letters (vs tall or below the line letters); and some created sorts like this:

here                we

you                 got

come              on

look                my

Can you figure out how these words are sorted?

This work is not only fun and important, it’s also extremely engaging for all, it meets multiple levels of need, we are seeing the work transfer to reading and writing, and it’s cognitively rigorous.

I can’t wait to see what Rasheed and Mabel  (the cute mascots) have in store for us this week!

It’s My “Birth” Day

Every year, on my birthday, I would call my mom and wish her a happy “birth” day.  After all, she is the one who did the birthing, right? She always loved these phone calls.  She would then call me and wish me a happy birthday. It was a nice annual routine. It was one way we showed each other how much we loved each other and how thankful we were to have the kind of mother/daughter relationship we had developed over our years together.

My mother is gone now, but tomorrow is my daughter’s birthday. I don’t know if she will call me to wish me a happy “birth” day, but I know I will be celebrating.  I will be celebrating the fact that my daughter is healthy and living an incredible life filled with friends and family and work and travel and adventure. I will celebrate the fact that my daughter is a kind and caring and extremely sensitive person in this world that is too often filled with hate.  I will be celebrating the fact that my daughter is true and honest and loyal in a world that sometimes seems filled with fake news and fleeting loyalties. I will celebrate the fact that my daughter works hard and persists even when life gets hard in a world where so many people want instant results and instant success.  I will celebrate the fact that my daughter is passionate and opinionated and working to make things better. I will celebrate the fact that my daughter loves to read and write and think. I will celebrate the fact that this incredible woman is my daughter and that we have a close and honest and caring relationship. 

So…happy “birth” day to me, and happy 32nd birthday to you, Mackensie.

Where We’re From

In July, I wrote this post about the work I’m trying as a result of reading Katie Kelley and Lester Laminack’s book, Reading Differently https://ebgriffin1119.wordpress.com/2019/07/21/where-im-from/

In this situation, I was working with adults; teachers who were preparing to launch Writing Workshop in their own classrooms.  Now I am trying this same work with kids, and boy has it been fascinating (as is most of the work we do with kids)! Recently, in a fifth grade classroom, I modeled my own Where I’m From poem and then played an interview from NPR where Kwame Alexander and Rachel Martin discuss the original Where I’m From poem by George Ella Lyons and encourage kids to write one and send it in. I invited the fifth graders to generate their own Where I’m From poems.  We then had each student select the one line that they felt best represented them and share it out into the circle.  The teacher followed up by having each student write their phrase on a colored strip of paper and she put them all together on a wall and titled the poem Where We’re From.  What a beautiful way to build an inclusive community.

Here are a few lines from this poem:

I’m from two loud grandparents, one fierce brother, two fun-filled parents, one harsh, but loving dog, one speedy clever cat, and one fish.

I’m from helping to make Thanksgiving dinner and watching the dog lick the bottom of the stove.

I’m from the uncomfortable airline seats flying to Taiwan and seeing my hundreds of family members.

I’m from doing backflips and not knowing what’s happening until I land.

I’m from sinking into the mattress that was named my sanctuary a long time ago, the fluff of the pillow my head calls home from falling into rest.

I’m from the savory taste of crunchy iceberg lettuce, juicy chicken, pita, shawarma sauce and more, swirling together into a blur of awesomeness to create the entire universe in one food.

This is just a sampling of the work, but these kids have used reading, writing, and listening to come together around their unique identities and they have created something truly beautiful.

 

Because….

I’ve been thinking a lot about identity, inclusion, and social justice in my K-5 elementary school (and in our world).  I’ve read Reading Differently by Lester Laminack and Katie Kelley, and Being the Change by Sara Ahmed.  It’s made me think hard about the students in my school and my role in social justice work as a Literacy Coach. Our students (and most of our teachers) are lucky to live rather privileged lives. I want to work this year to make sure that all of our students feel included in their communities and that our students are able to see and consider and discuss multiple ways of being and multiple points of view. I want them to, through the books they hear and read, better understand themselves and others. During these first weeks of school. I’ve decided to begin this work by reading aloud and having some discussions with students about identity.

For grade 3, I chose Because written by Mo Willems and illustrated by Amber Ren. In this beautiful picture book, one event leads to another and each event significantly impacts a person’s life.  The text and drawings show readers how events (some predictable and others accidental) shape us and contribute to who we become. I’ve been reading the book aloud and then having conversations with students about the events in their lives that have helped to make them who they have become. The events that have made them unique and interesting and beautiful. I suggested to the teachers that they might want to continue this work by having children jot down these events in a notebook for possible writing ideas, or create a class chart of because statements to build community, or even have kids write their own because stories.

This work inspired me to try to write my own “Because” story:

BECAUSE

Because my dad wanted a boy, but ended up with a girl, my name is Erika.

Because I was born first, I am a big sister.

Because my parents were artists, I learned to look closely.

Because we ate dinner together every night (and weren’t permitted to answer the phone, even when we were teenagers), I learned the art of conversation (and some patience).

Because I grew up near the ocean, I feel grounded when I am on a beach or a boat.

Because my parents divorced, my mom taught my sister and me how to be a strong and indepdent women.

Because my parents remarried (new spouces), I have a huge, diverse, and fantastic family.

Because I worked in a restaurant to pay for college, I met my husband.

Because I married a slightly older fella, I immediately became a stepmom to two amazing kids!

Because we had two more children, we became a family of six!

Because we love our family, we host all of the holidays.

Because my kids taught me so much, I became a teacher.

Because I love everything having to do with words, I became a Literacy Coach.

Because I love to learn, I’m always looking to outgrow myself.

Because I love to outgrow myself, I don’t know where this story will go next.

Because I’m an optimist, I’m thinking the next steps will be good ones.

 

Here’s to a year of understanding ourselves and others and making the world a more socially just place.