The Write Timing

My voyage toward publication

Always August 18, 2016

Filed under: Classroom,Family,Parenthood,School,Uncategorized — michellephillips @ 9:48 pm
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Today was the first day of school.  As a teacher, I have always loved this time of year.  The excitement of finding out who is going to be in your class, the sun streaming in the classroom windows, and the school supply shopping – oh the school supplies!  And as much as I love teaching and love this time of year, today was difficult for me.  Because back-to-school doesn’t just mean I get to start a new school year with my students anymore.  It means I have to end a summer spent cuddling, reading to, laughing with, and loving up my babies.



Last night, I figured I should probably rid my purse of its “mom” contents.  I removed a tiny tube of Aquifor, two pacifiers, and a couple of crunched up Goldfish.  But this morning, as I was searching for my lanyard that Olivia surely took out and hid somewhere, my fingers brushed a  mini Minnie Mouse.  And that’s the beauty of being a mommy, especially a working mommy.


Even though you aren’t always with them, your children are always with you.  They are in the stories you tell – how Olivia had the time of her life at the splash pad and how Nate’s new favorite game is patty cake.  The lunches you pack that now include food in an assortment of Disney Princess containers.  The coffee you grab because someone woke up more times than normal last night.  The frames on your desk and the videos on your phone.  They are there.  They are always there.


But what makes it easier is working with a beautiful group of students.  Students whose parents are thinking about them all day.  In their stories, while eating their lunches, drinking their coffee.  They leave their child and entrust them to me.  And I promise to take care of that child and help him or her to grow.  Because I know that when each parent leaves their child at school, they aren’t just leaving a 7 year-old.  They’re leaving their heart.  Because that’s what I did.



International Literacy Day September 9, 2013

Today will quite possibly rank as one of the best in my teaching career.  A few weeks ago, I opened an email from one of my favorite professional organizations, the International Reading Association.  It heralded the upcoming International Literacy Day, a day to celebrate the gift of literacy and promote literacy throughout the world.  I knew immediately that I wanted my class to celebrate it, but the question was – how?

As I pondered and brainstormed, our celebration day grew from a single guest reader to a day completely filled with literacy activities!  Here’s how our day looked in Room 311:


9:05 am – Students tumbled into the room, lugging pillows, stuffed animals, and bags full of books for our afternoon “Read In.”  One student brought me a wonderful sign to post in the room – Hooray for Literacy Day!

9:15 am – Dancing Classrooms and Music Class – Our physical activity and musical experience for the day!

11:00 am – Special guest reader, assistant principal, Mrs. Simmons came in and read The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns.  We talked as a class about literacy and how it relates to math.  The students came up with all kinds of ways we use mathematical literacy (in algebra, reading and writing story problems, interpreting graphs, etc.).

11:30 am – We discussed literacy facts and figures from around the world.  My students learned that 115 million children around the world cannot read and write.  My students wrote the figures in standard, expanded, and word forms.  We tried to imagine how many people that would be and discussed what those children would be doing instead of going to school.  We all agreed that receiving an education is a tremendous gift.

12:20 – Recess and Lunch (Literacy loves sustenance.)

1:00 – Reading class!!!
Read In – Students camped out around the classroom with pillows, blankets, and books galore!  They munched on read-and-feed snacks, played literary element charades, and read some more!

Passing It On – Students were paired and went into a primary classroom (K-3) to talk about literacy and then read a picture book aloud.  The students were SO excited to share what they knew about literacy with the youngest students in our school.  They came back to the classroom chattering with stories to tell and grins from ear to ear.

Writing Prompt – Students responded to one or both of the following prompts: Because I am literate, I can… AND Literacy allows me to invent my future by…

3:00 – Science Literacy and Experiments

Throughout the day and evening, I was able to tweet from my classroom account all of the wonderful activities we were doing to promote literacy throughout our building and our community.  The cherry on top was a retweet this evening by the International Reading Foundation.  It was a quote from a student who is not my most confident reader, but who fully embraced World Literacy Day.  I can hardly WAIT to tell him about it tomorrow!

“Because I am literate, I can be the smartest me I can be.”


Summertime Reading Week 1: The Great Gatsby June 25, 2013

I know, I know.  It is no longer the first week of summer (for the 2nd or 3rd for that matter).  But, as I promised in last week’s blog post, “Summer Time, Summer Time” one of my goals for the summer is to read one book per week and then write about what I’ve read on this very blog.  Sooo…without further ado, here is Week 1 of my Summertime Reading:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald


I mean come on.  Of course I wanted a reread of this classic prior to seeing the new Baz Luhrmann iteration of Fitzgerald’s story.  As the rest of you lovely readers most likely did (Big shout out to my new followers – thanks guys!), I read The Great Gatsby for the first time as a high schooler.  I enjoyed it as an innocent 17 year-old, and remembered bits and pieces of the story, though mostly from the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow movie version rather than the book itself.  When a colleague of mine mentioned she had never read it and was intent to do so before seeing the film, I did two things: 1.) Balked at her lack of literary chops (No Fitzgerald in the high school syllabus?  Whaaaa?) and 2.) Grabbed my personal copy (saved since high school – one of the 3 I decided NOT to sell back to the school) and packed it in my carry-on for the flight to Florida.

14 years after I read it the first time, I enjoyed The Great Gatsby even more immensely.  Certainly, the life I have lived and lessons I’ve learned in those 14 years allowed the book to carry more meaning for me.  For example, I was much better able to see Jay Gatsby’s life, and Daisy’s and Tom’s as well, for what it was (pretty much empty longing dressed up with glitter and alcohol) and not just see the glitz and glamour of the Gatsby parties.  The characters are endearingly flawed, and this time around, I enjoyed seeing these flaws come to light and become less endearing as Nick realized them.  As a high schooler, I found myself focusing on Jay and Daisy, but as an adult, I gave my attention to Nick.  Since he had the most redeeming qualities (with enough pizzazz to keep him interesting) and I continually wondered through the course of the book, Why do you continue associating with a group of people whose morals are so jarringly askew?  

As a writer, I was able to reread The Great Gatsby not only for the story, but to observe the techniques of a master writer.  Fitzgerald’s ability to transport the reader to East and West Eggs is unbelievable.  While reading, I was not sitting in the middle seat on a crowded flight from Dallas to Omaha with my husband sleeping beside me, I was waltzing through the courtyards behind Gatsby’s mansion and chatting with Nick and Jordan in the library.  Fitzgerald used just enough detail to give the reader a clear picture of Gatsby’s world, but was succinct enough to allow the full story to be told in very few pages.

The wonderful thing about reading a classic is it stretches your brain and makes you think.  But when you reread it, you understand even more…beyond just the vocabulary.


Welcome 2013! January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

A toast to 2013!

I’ve bid adieu to 2012 and greeted 2013 with excitement and high expectations.  I have a couple of resolutions to share with you all.  Here’s what I plan to do in 2013:

1) Write more.

(I know, you’ve heard this before.)  I will try to dedicate a little bit of time each day to writing, and more time on days when I can.  I’ve started writing in my journal again (my previous entry was from June 15) and I am participating in Small Stones 2013.  Each day in January, I will take a moment to really see something, then write about it.  I have a lovely little notebook ready to go and will be documenting these small stones right here – on The Write Timing.  (Check out the icon on my sidebar for more info on how to participate!)

2) Read.

I am very good at reading during summer break and winter break.  I can usually even fit in a couple of novels during my spring break.  But during the school year, it’s a lot more difficult to find the time to read.  As a person who identifies herself as a true reader, this is torture.  2013 will be the year I dedicate more time to doing the things I want to do for myself, and reading is one of the first I plan to do!

3) Keep balance.

I am a very dedicated teacher.  I love working with students and spend countless hours preparing lessons that will engage and motivate them.  But, I have to admit, I often sacrifice my own sanity and time with my family and friends in order to do it.  So 2013 will be the year that I remind myself to keep balance.  I am more than a teacher.  Teaching is a part of me, but it is not all of me.  I am dedicating myself to keeping balance among my career, my hobbies, my passions, and most importantly, my family.

4) Stay healthy.

Over the past year and half, I have made a lot of strides in living an overall healthier lifestyle.  I am active (not a gym-goer, but the gym itself isn’t necessary to keep me moving!), I eat healthy (lots of fruits and veggies, plus cooking at home), I drink a lot of water and rarely drink pop.  I plan to continue these healthy choices and make even more!  I no longer bring microwave meals in my lunch, instead choosing to make sandwiches, salads, or wraps.  I’ve tried to eliminate some of the processed foods I used to buy and instead try making things myself at home.  I plan to “up the ante” on this and try even more new recipes this year!

And that’s it!  Four resolutions should be attainable (I hope!).  There are other things I’d like to accomplish this year (keep the house ever-tidy, eliminate my student loan, go through the mail every day), but these are the big ones.

I hope that you have set good and attainable goals and wish you a very happy 2013!


Round Three October 22, 2012

In honor of tonight’s final presidential debate, I thought I’d share some entertaining responses from the “Election 2012” pretest that I gave my 5th graders last week.  Since it was a pretest, the only thing we had covered as a class were the three branches of government.  The rest were up to the students!  I wanted to see where their current level of knowledge was.  The spellings are kept the same in order to add to the effect.  Enjoy!

Question 1: What are the three branches of government?

*Most students got this question correct.  Here are some creative spellings:

legelator, exsekitive, jujishle

judical, legislate, excuitive

And an incorrect answer…  Forgot

Question 2: What are the two main political parties in the United States?

Democrat, Republican

No idia

I have absolutely no idea.


Tax income & ?

Questions 3: What are the United States voting qualifications?

Vote 1 time.

heath cair (She meant “health care.”)

Have to be a citizen of the United States. 

*Nearly every student already knew that you had to be 18 years old to vote (though one guessed 16 and another 21).

Question 4: We live in a democracy.  What is a democracy?

We can vote.

We have a prezedent NOT a king.


A deal with other countries so they can’t take over ours.

    the law

makes life fair for all

I think a group of people who live in the same area and have to agree on specific things.

Question 5: Who are the two main presidential candidates?

*Most knew that the candidates are Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.  Here are the creative spellings (a few made me laugh out loud!)

Obama, Mit Robney

Mid Romny and Broco Boma

Boraka Obama Mid Romny

Brako Obama Mt Romny

The president and the government

(and my personal favorite…) Obama, Mittens

Questions 6: Who are the two main vice presidential candidates?

I forgot.

Vice president and senator

Biden and ?

rihyn and ?

*Two out of 24 students got this question correct.

Question 7: Who are the two Nebraska Senate candidates?

Bob Kerrey and Deb Fisher  (This is the correct answer for my non-Nebraska friends.)

Bob Kerrey, Roman Ryan

VP, President

Question 8: Who are the two Nebraska District 2 House of Representatives candidates?

*The correct answer is Lee Terry and John Ewing.  No students answered correctly.

Dave Hinamen and ?

Wite house and ?

judges, prisaners

Question 9: What do you know about elections?

It is how we get a presadent.

Every 4 years people elect a new presedents based on decions on taxes ect.

Whoever gets the most votes wins.  You have to fill out a ballet to vote.

You should keep them to yourself and you vote in a cubicle.

Who gets more votes gets the job.

Question 10: When is Election Day?

*One student answered this correctly.

It’s November 6, 2012 – make sure you get out there and vote!




Teaching Tools September 19, 2012

Ah, the beauty of tools.  I don’t mean beauty tools (though those are vitally important as well, especially if you have hoards of curls).  I’m talking about teaching tool.  I cannot even begin to explain the power of a unique tool when it’s used inside the classroom.

About a week ago, my writing class was working on developing strong paragraphs.  We talked about how writing a strong paragraph is kind of like a slice of pie.  The top crust is the topic sentence, the filling is a series of supporting detail sentences, and the bottom crust is the clincher sentence that pulls the whole paragraph together.  Sometimes, a paragraph is like a sandwich or a hamburger – you get the idea.  In order to practice this important skill, I provided my class with a variety of colorful strips of paper.  We discussed how each one would be used – pink for the title, purple for the topic sentence, yellow for the supporting detail sentences (minimum of 3), and the blue for the clincher sentence.  The students worked in pairs to complete this activity.  It was a roaring success.

Fast forward to the afternoon.  Reading class.

We were working on building our “Work on Writing” stamina (by the way, anyone who has not read about The Daily Five reading class model, I HIGHLY recommend it!).  I have a few reluctant writers, so I decided to offer them a new option.  Here’s what I told them, “Anyone who enjoyed our paragraph writing activity this morning may write another paragraph.  I made extra strips of paper, so feel free to write a new paragraph!”

My most reluctant writer was one of the first to grab sentence strips.  He started writing away before I even told the class to begin!

Last year, one of my favorite vocabulary activities was developed from a need to get one of my least motivated students to prove to me that he understood lesson vocabulary.  I knew that I wanted my students to practice their reading vocabulary words.  In my lesson plans, I had written that the students would write sentences using those words.  I knew that my young gentleman would refuse to do so.  He would sit, forehead affixed to his desk, and simply ignore my request.

Out of necessity, Vocabulary Voyage was born.

I decided to write the vocabulary words into questions.  The questions were posted on the walls around the classroom inside folded pieces of construction paper.  On the outside of the construction paper, I wrote “Harbor 1,” “Harbor 2,” and so forth.  On questions that included two or more vocabulary words, I wrote, “Port of Call 1,” etc.  When my students returned from lunch, they immediately noticed the walls.  I played up the voyage aspect of the activity.  Students would “take a trip” around the classroom, answering the questions.  I assured them they would not need to check a bag, all they needed to pack was a pencil for this voyage.  Each students was responsible for answering at least 5 questions out of the 8 or 9 posted.  Since the ports had more challenging questions to answer, I told students that I would walk around and tap them on the shoulder.  The number of times I tapped them was the number of port questions they were responsible for answering.  My gifted students received the most shoulder taps, but every student was tapped on the shoulder at least once.  We “shipped out” of our desks and the students embarked upon their journey.

And that students I was worried about?

He not only answered his 5 questions…he answered ALL of them.  Ports and harbors alike.



Always a writer March 23, 2012

Filed under: School,Uncategorized,Writing — michellephillips @ 1:35 pm
Tags: , , ,

As I sit to write my lastest post, I am just rounding out my spring break week.  I had big plans for this spring break.  Read book for book club – check.  Take Grandpa out to lunch – check.  Clean out the junk room – uncheck (who wants to spend spring break doing that anyway?).  Speak to the 2nd graders at St. Wenceslaus about writing – great big, successful check!

My mom is a teacher, just as I am.  She’s a wonderful teacher – 2nd grade at St. Wenceslaus.  Fun fact: she teaches 2nd grade in the same classroom where I attended 2nd grade (with a different teacher, of course).  My mom and her colleagues split up who teaches some of the subjects – social studies, science, and creative writing.  Mom teaches creative writing.  At the beginning of the school year, she told her students that her daughter (namely, moi) is a writer and is hoping to publish a book in the near future.  She decided that I would be the perfect person to come in and talk to the kids about writing.

My wonderful parents, John and Mary Mimick!

Now, just as anyone who loves and respects their mother would, I agreed.  I agreed as in “sure, some day I’ll come in and talk about writing” kind of agreement.  But wouldn’t you know, my spring break fell a week after theirs and I happened to be free.  My mom booked the community room at St. Wenceslaus for an hour and I was charged with keeping 90 2nd graders entertained and learning about writing for AN HOUR!  More than that, these students have had authors come and speak to them before.  Real, live authors.  As in, ones who have been published.  Authors who’ve seen more than a series of rejection letters.  So needless to say, I felt a bit nervous and inadequate.

Luckily for me, I’m a teacher.  I’ll go ahead and toot my own horn and say I have a way with children.  The presentation went beautifully.  The students were engaged, they asked interesting questions, and I think they may have just left inspired to keep writing.

But there’s a secret.

I think I may have gotten more out of it then they did.

In creating my presentation, I was reminded of how much I’ve loved writing for virtually as long as I can remember.  From 2nd grade on, I wanted to be an author.  I even found some (and by some, I mean a stack at least a foot tall) of my old writing.  Writing from grade school, middle school, high school.  Writing that won me entrance to 2 conferences for young authors.  Writing that was published in local publications.  Writing that made me remember who I had a crush on in 8th grade.  Writing that reminded me how desperately I wanted to be in the “popular” group in middle school.  Writing that reaffirmed my faith.  Writing that demonstrated the rawness of emotion after a terrible loss.  Writing that made me chuckle as I reread it.  Writing that made me think, “Yes, this is what I am meant to be.”  Writing that was me.

I am a writer, and I thank the students at St. Wenceslaus for helping reaffirm my belief in myself.

I am a writer.


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