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Showing posts from 2016

5 Ways to Help Gifted Kids Find Their Gifts

When I work with gifted kids, I'm amazed by their lack of understanding about what interests them. They know how to surf the net exhaustively for Youtube videos that make them laugh, but not what skills and practices further their interests.

Developing interests and passions is critical to these students. Many people out there tell me that this is not just for gifted kids, that their average developing child needs to know how to do this too. While of course I agree that this is true, I also think that typical academic, fine arts, and sports programs are available in most communities are enough to engage and motivate most kids. Not true of gifted children who become jaded, disinterested, and shut down quickly when a program doesn't meet their needs.
Most people think of gifted students as being prodigies who know exactly where their gifts lie. This couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, I often question if some children who are identified as gifted will ever find thei…

Arguing with Gifted Children is Like Living in France

My Christmas break has been fraught with arguments, yells, and occasionally the slam of a door. Don't get me wrong, we've had a wonderful holiday. Living with gifted children is just this way.
I grew up in an argumentative family, so I'm used to and prone to it. My husband did not. His house might've had frosty silences, but other than that it was pretty cordial.

There are two kinds of people, I think. Those who tell stories and expect people to stay quiet until the end and those who start stories and expect people to jump in with connections and, dare I say it, arguments against each. and. every. point.

In Paris in 2002, I nervously approached the apartment door of a couple who had invited me for dinner. I came bearing Vouvray for my hosts. They ushered me in and exclaimed that my offering was, "too much! We are embarrassed to take this beautiful wine when we are serving chicken." It was the best damn dinner I've ever eaten to this day. Olives and chicke…

The Homework Habit

Recently after commenting on KJ Dell'Antonia's FaceBook page about how I manage homework in my house, she asked me to explain my ten minute per subject rule better. She said it didn't sound possible (it isn't always). We took an hour to chat about it. She told me my concepts and parenting methods sounded a bit like this book:
I hadn't heard about this book, so I ordered it. I've been slowly making my way through it as I reflect on what I believe about homework and parenting gifted children. Wishing I could share parts of it with my husband, but knowing he'd raise his eyebrows and tell me he knew this all along (he didn't).

I also read several of KJ's blog posts and New York Times articles about kids and homework because it's a topic that parents and teachers and kids think and talk about for much of the week.

How to Start Homework Off RightWhen Homework Engulfs the Whole HouseWhen Homework Stresses Parents as Well as ChildrenHomework's Emotio…

Helping an Illustrator with Valuable Words

I work with a gifted first grader. We don't meet much because I have to work in four different schools, so I have to make every second count. He has a wicked sense of humor, twinkling eyes, and an impish grin. His mind gets to 60 MPH in less than 20 seconds. It fires off in several directions and though he seems to be doing 16 things at once, he answers every question deeply and in a complex manner that usually ends with a joke and a laugh. He finds the fun in everything. Throwing ideas at him is a joy.

The other day I gave him this wordless picture book by Suzy Lee.
I put the book in front of him along with a pack of yellow post it notes and a pencil. "This illustrator needs you to write the words to her book. I guess she forgot," I said.

He chuckled at my joke and opened the book. In just fifteen minutes, the picture book words were written. They were breathtaking. If I could, I would show you every page. I am happy to share the words with anyone who wants them in case…

Slice of Life: Follow the Story

This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing activity on Tuesdays through the year. Hosted by Two Writing Teachers, we look for the small things in life to write about.

I feel regular panic about not knowing exactly what story I'm after. I feel like a fake sometimes when I get an assignment to write a story for Mother Jones, The Week, or Public Radio International. I sit and agonize over how to make my writing acceptable enough for them, over how to make sure my story is fabulous. So, I've been reading this book:
"We are rewarded from childhood on for providing answers to questions posed by others. We are taught to process information by memorizing it and retaining it, not by questioning it. Confronted daily by a mass of new information, we rarely stop to consider what is missing.So many people seem to spend their lives in the inevitably futile quest for certainty. Often this takes the form of religion, which for many provides solace in the face of the unknown and th…

Desire

Jane Yolen said she writes a poem a day because it helps her grow as a writer and come up with new ideas. In 2015, Mary Lee Hahn asked me if I wanted to join her in April to write a poem a day. I thought it was insane, but she’s a pretty persuasive person. “It’ll be great!” she said. “You’ll love the community.”
I did. I loved everyone. I couldn’t believe there was this amazing community of smart, thoughtful, observant poets out there. My poems were occasionally good and more often just okay, but they did exactly what Yolen said they would. They helped me grow as a writer. I started considering my use and placement of words. I started realizing that sometimes poetry comes out of you in ways you least expect.
The following poem was written by me during that April in 2015. This particular poem stuck with me for a year until one night I woke with a start, ran downstairs, and started writing a book about the girl. I’ve rewritten this book three times now, but finally it feels ready to sh…

A Blanding's Turtle Story by Melissa Kim

My twin brother Matthew and I rescued frogs and turtles each summer in Castine Maine. "Stop the car," we'd screech if a small animal was hopping or crawling in the road. My mother would pull over dutifully while we carefully moved the small animal from the tar to the other side of the road. We learned quickly which turtles snapped, which frogs peed in our hands, and which snakes were harmless Garters. We mostly learned by experience, but occasionally we visited the library to learn more.

Melissa Kim has written a new board book called A Blanding's Turtle Story. I'm planning to give it to a friend whose young son is also a lover of small animals. Kim's storyline is simple and easy to follow. She answers the questions kids would typically have about a Blanding's Turtle. What does the turtle do all day? What places are safe for a turtle? When should a human move a turtle if found in the road or the woods? Jada Fitch's illustrations are beautiful. The co…

Moo by Sharon Creech

I moved to Maine in 1982. I was a thirteen year old freshman in high school fresh out of a childhood in New York City. It sounds more exotic than it really was. The Maine I moved into wasn't so rustic. The town, Cape Elizabeth, is quite upwardly mobile––think Boston suburb. I remember distinctly the day my friends told me we were headed to the Fryeburg Fair. I had been to a few Maine county fairs over the summers I spent Downeast on the coast of Maine, so I knew what to expect. The 4H clubs mesmerized me. These kids who took such control of large livestock were amazing. They knew what they were doing. They were all pig whisperers and lamb crooners. These animals I knew nothing about in the real world were kept clean, safe and show-worthy by kids who looked to be no more than nine or ten years old. At sixteen or so, I felt too old to learn how but man did I want to join that club.
Wordsmith Sharon Creech has come out with the new middle grade novel, Moo. It is kind of a verse nove…

Choosing a Hero

A hero is a noun meaning a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. The other night we had some people over for dinner. The wife said that when she was little she was able to state one or even two heroes in her life. I cocked my head and squinted my eyes, but I couldn't think of anyone. 

The thought did not leave my mind easily.

When I was single, my friend Lisa and I would go to bars and say, "if you HAD to go home with someone tonight, who would it be?" So I gave myself this ultimatum this week. If I HAD to choose a hero, who would it be?

I choose Tara Smith. She is quite possibly one of the most extraordinary teachers I have ever been lucky enough to call a friend. She is in a very special Voxer group with me so I get to learn more about her than many of you ever will. While I can't divulge too much because it isn't my story to tell, I want to share some reasons why Tara is my hero.

1. Personalized Learning She …

A LOT of Weight

As I walk into the room, you might want to avert your eyes. It's painful to watch, I imagine.

I've gained a lot of weight. A lot. Let's not quibble about numbers and what a lot means, okay? My weight is the bane of my existence. It is completely reflective of where I am in the moments of my life and that irritates me. I should just invent forehead banners for people: TOO MUCH STRESS or CHOSE FAMILY-CARE OVER SELF-CARE or NOT SURE HOW TO DEAL WITH FAMILY ISSUES.

I eat to make myself feel good but clearly I've overdone it. My stomach is resting on the tops of my thighs when I sit. It is not attractive and it feels terrible. My body is stressed from it as well. My creaking joints and achy muscles must carry around A LOT (no numbers please) of weight these days and I've got a lot to do.

I used to watch people who were really overweight and think, at what point is enough enough? I think I'm there. This is going to be my summer. My summer to learn how to be moderate…

Turning 9

Do you ever think about the childhood your children are having? I do.

I wonder if they'll remember me as someone who yelled at them a lot. I kind of do.

I know that the majority of our life is spent doing happy things that make all of us have a better life.

Like last night, for instance. We'd had a late dinner of cold turkey breast, watermelon, and homemade bread. We were sitting in the kitchen arguing over what time they had to go to bed because

apparently

I had no idea that EVERYONE else in our town goes to bed at 8:30. I don't care.

When suddenly Annie got the idea that since it was her last day being 8, we should break out some sparklers which her father had purchased at the grocery store the day before. Though it wasn't on the list.

It's good to be 8. It's going to be great to be 9. I can already tell.



Happy birthday to my 9 year old Annie.



From FB to ICL

Recently I wrote something on one of my private FB writing groups that caused an outcry of anger. Honestly I didn't mean it as a political statement and when so many people got angry I was genuinely surprised. My statement was something along the lines of "I don't come to this group to talk about gender or race, I come here to get ideas for writing." During the insanity of anger over this statement, I felt sick to my stomach. I was sad. I felt misunderstood. I am usually a fighter. I will argue with anyone. My weapon of choice is words and I use them pretty well. Lately though, I'm working to stand back and think before jumping in. In the end I never replied to anyone, then I deleted my original post and left the FB group.

Without the time suck of FB--I focused my time on the thing that really matters to me--my writing for children. I've signed up to take a course at the Institute of Children's Literature. I learned about the school many years ago and al…

Teaching Life

My friend Tara took last weekend to clear her head. She spent time on her farm doing hard outdoor work. She said she needed it. For teachers this time of year is straight out exhausting. There's the weight of the closing year, the need for final grades, the wondering if we've done enough for the group of children we've come to love. I, for one, am completely exhausted. It's been a rough year for me. My new job as a gifted and talented teacher has few boundaries, but lots of public commentary.

I miss the classroom. I've been writing a lot and am loving it, but more and more I want to write children's books and for children's magazines. I took a detour into writing for adults and making more money than I've ever made, it was exhilarating. I told my Voxer writing group that I felt like I had to leave teaching, but then something changed yesterday. I met with my writing group of girls. They told me they wanted to tell me some things. They told me that they…

Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schroder

When I was twelve, my mother was being pulled in lots of directions. There were bad marriages, five children, sometimes not enough money, and always a lot of drama. I knew just enough to be nervous. Something was up, but I think my imagination made it worse or maybe not--I'll never really know. Children feel the reverberations of their parents issues. They feel them in the silences in the house. They feel them in the loud arguments. They know much more than grown ups give them credit for knowing.

In Monika Schroder's new book Be Light Like a Bird, twelve year old Wren finds herself in personal tragedy and turmoil because her father has just been killed in a plane crash. Her mother is not a comfort in any way. Instead she seems to distance herself further each time Wren wants to talk about the accident or her father. Instead of keeping things the same so that Wren can find peace and closure, her mother keeps moving them from town to town. Wren believes that her mother doesn…

Book Giveaway Thank You

As a thank you to all my blogger friends for being helpful and supportive and wise, I am giving away twelve books that have been transformative to me during my teaching.

If you'd like one, please comment here like this:
I'd love The Unstoppable Writing Teacher. My email is iamateacher@gmail.com. UPDATED: If there is a star on a book, it's been taken already.


Sometimes You Need A Shove

Like most of my life, my writing takes me in so many different directions. Sometimes I'm writing articles for an online outlet, sometimes I'm blogging, sometimes I'm working on an article for an education site I work for, but when I'm writing for myself I'm usually writing children's books or thinking about writing for children in some way.

I guess for a long time I've thought about my children's book writing as my hobby. I've read other people's writing and been a huge proponent of promoting children's books and their authors. I blog about them. I connect with them on FaceBook and Twitter. I am a fan, but I am not one of them.

Though I probably write as much.
Though my work is damn good, if I do say so myself.
Though I've accumulated quite a volume of work despite my claiming it is a hobby.

Last night, out of the blue, I received an email from Barbara O'Connor. If you don't know her writing, you need to. Her work and her thinki…

Mystery of the Missing Fox by Tamra Wight

Mystery of the Missing Fox
by Tamra Wight
Islandport Press
April, 2016
middle grade
When our family goes camping, I make my kids keep journals. They can put anything they want in their journals but they must add a page a day. When they return to school after the summer, they never complain that they have nothing to write about and this makes me glad for the journal. Camping brings out the best in my children. They reconnect with nature. They laugh a bit more. They discover the joy of doing nothing. We hike, cook, swim, and read a lot. If someone asks my kids their favorite thing to do in the summer, they will always say camping. It's also great for me because my husband and I do a complete role reversal. He takes care of everything. He sets up the tent, cooks, cleans, and manages the kids. I sit and read and pour coffee or wine depending on the time of day.

Tamra Wight's third Cooper and Packrat book, Mystery of the Missing Fox is the book for kids who love camping or who dream of…

Wish by Barbara O'Connor

Wish
by Barbara O'Connor
Middle Grade
Farrar Straus Giroux, August 2016
Last year, among the more than 52 books I read aloud to my own children, we read "The Boy on the Porch" by Sharon Creech. It was a powerful book for us. We are deeply feeling three people--Felix and Annie and I. We love when characters are portrayed with goodness and kindness. After reading Creech's book, we went for a long walk to watch the sunset. None of us spoke a word for over an hour. Then Felix broke the silence by saying, "that book needed time to settle into our bones I guess." We nodded. This year when Barbara O'Connor's ARC of "Wish" arrived, both kids said "That's our next read aloud!"

O'Connor's "Wish" is just as powerful. In fact, we have stopped and re-read parts so we could admire the character shifts and mannerisms. My children have asked me to slow down so they could think about why the main character Charlie finds it so d…

The Island of Beyond by Elizabeth Atkinson

The Island of Beyond Elizabeth Atkinson Carolrhoda Books 2016 Middle Grade Review by Kimberley Moran I grew up in New York City but spent every summer in Maine where the rules were entirely different regardless of your age. My mother fed us breakfast and then ushered us out the door for the day. “Don’t forget your sailing lesson,” she’d say. “Stop at your grandparent’s for a hot dog if you’re hungry,” she’d add. We walked our bikes from behind the shed down to the street and took off. There was no slathering of sunscreen, hats, or even bike helmets. We were free for the whole entire day. We rode down to the back shore and tiptoed in the cold water looking for fish, snails, and cool rocks to put in our pocket and rub during the day. Then we’d head around the bend and fire down the hill whooping and hollering from the speed, hang left on to Court Street and pull up in front of the library. We’d lie on the cold marble floor when it was hot outside and read through the shelves. If we were hungr…

Writing Everyday Changes You: SOL 31

Write. Share. Give. Join the March Slice of Life Story Challenge @ Two Writing Teachers
                                          ______________________________
Today is the final day of March and of my second year of Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life month. Last year I didn't understand how daily writing could change me, but this year it's a part of my life in a way that eating is. I can't imagine a day without writing. I'd like to share two things with you all. First, a video of Ira Glass talking about creativity. Second, I created a slideshow that I'd like to share with you all. Please use this for yourself--to remind you of ways you could be writing each day and why it matters. Please download this and use this in a staff meeting or with a group of teachers who want to learn to write each day. It's my gift to you all. Thank you for being a community of writers. It's mattered to me more than you'll know.



Your daily write from Kimberley Moran

Mercury: SOL 30

Write. Share. Give. Join the March Slice of Life Story Challenge @ Two Writing Teachers
                                          ______________________________
An old boyfriend told me once that I am mercurial. Few who know me well would disagree. I've learned to accept it's who I am, not a failing so much as a fact. 
My environment changes me regularly. The untidiness of the house can throw my mood out of whack. "Why doesn't anyone pick up around here?" A clean and simple refrigerator can bring me great joy. "Ah, the cheese in the drawer just where it should be when I need it." 
My relationships move me to both ends of the passion spectrum. "Why isn't he answering the PHONE?" I might scream only to turn around to find the cup he took the time to repair after it fell to the floor. "He's the best," I think.
It is this mercurial temperament that pushes people away and pulls them back in--simultaneously. I am a raging eye of the…

My Heart Can't Even Believe It by Amy Silverman

CLICK HERE TO PRE-ORDER _______________________________________________________
My Heart Can’t Even Believe It Amy Silverman Woodbine House, April 2016
Memoir
Reading Amy Silverman’s memoir, “My Heart Can’t Even Believe It” is like spending time with a best friend who knows she doesn’t have to censor her thoughts. At the start of the book, Silverman looks at her new baby girl who probably has Down syndrome despite a previous negative ultrasound and hopes quite fervently that this baby will have the family’s trademark curly hair. “But what about Sophie--so tiny in her carrier, with straight black hair and a feeding tube up her nose, chromosomally challenged and days away from open-heart surgery?” Ms. Silverman writes. “Would her hair ever curl?” It is here that I realized Silverman would tell me the truth about what it felt like for her to have a baby with Down syndrome. There would be no pussy footing around and claiming she was glad her child had Trisomy 21.
She hooked me right th…

My ABC Writing Poem: SOL 28

Write. Share. Give. Join the March Slice of Life Story Challenge @ Two Writing Teachers
                                          ______________________________

After I climb out of 
Bed in the morning, I 
Creep 
Downstairs to 
Encourage myself to 
Find something I can 
Gleanout my one small 
Happy life. 
I
Just need one minute detail to help me share 
Kimberleywith 
Lovely teacher-writers. 
Maybe coffee will help 
Nudge an idea my way. If 
Only it were that easy. If only a drink could 
Prepare my brain and my 
Quiet typing fingers for a 
Real slice of life
Story that will show how much I 
Trust my readers to 
Understand the 
Very honest stories of my one 
Wild and Juicy life. My blog posts are where I sign my name on the 
X to show this is me developed through
You to help me reach the 
Zenith in my life, through the power of words.