Unexpected Yellow

After a warm summer that lasted almost all the way to the solstice, temperatures have cooled, we’ve had several rainy days in the last couple of weeks, and the sun is having a hard time making its way through the thick clouds along the coast.  So while yellow is expected at the beach in the summertime, it is much harder to find on a gray, almost winter day.

With a nice low tide this afternoon, we couldn’t wait to get to the beach to explore and walk. Since we were north of our usual beach running some holiday errands, we decided to walk at a beach different from our usual place.  Near a jetty, this beach is rockier than the one where we usually walk.  So we practiced our usual beachwalk pasttimes–taking photos, picking up trash, and searching for sea glass…and what a bonanza we found!

Sadly, there was abundant trash on the beach, especially small pieces of plastic.  And there was a bit of yellow…this packet of mustard tucked in the rocks.  And as good Litterati, we took the photo, picked up the trash, and disposed of it properly.

yellow-litterati mustard

With my eyes tuned for yellow, I started to notice yellow all around me.  Not bright, summer sunshine yellow, but earthy sandstone yellow.  (And if you look closely, you can catch a glimpse of the piece of green sea glass that I picked up too!)

yellow reef

Looking into the distance, you can see the ripply texture of the low-tide reef and its yellow hue.

yellow low tide

As I watched the seabirds and listened to the music of the waves crash along the shore, I could feel the stresses of the weeks leading up to my winter break wash away and the muscles in my back and shoulders begin to unknot.

yellow-ocean music

The rhythms of the rocks rolling with the tide added a spring to my step and energized me. I began to notice the colors of the rocks, the browns and greens and yellows…

yellow rubble

And as we left, heading off for a few more of those holiday errands, a strip of yellow opened on the horizon just beyond the empty lifeguard tower.

Yellow sky behind tower

Unexpected and welcome yellow at the beach.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Celebrate

Do you speak in images? Enjoy taking photos to document your experiences or just to express what you notice in the world? Love to share them with others? Welcome to the weekly photo challenge! I post a new challenge each week…check in regularly and join the fun!

As teachers know, the week leading up to winter break is a busy one.  There’s so much more to teaching than reading and writing and math!  Kids heads are filled with the wonder and all the iconic imagery of the holidays, and we have to work hard to make learning relevant and engaging during this week.  And while there was plenty conspiring against us, there was a lot of great learning to celebrate.  Early in the week, kids put finishing touches on gifts they had made for their family and wrapped them up to take home.  I can’t give away what’s inside…there’s still a few days until Christmas!  There’s a lot of learning contained in these festive packages…from the creation to the presentation, each step is a learning opportunity that we, as adults, often take for granted!

packagesWe were also surprised this week with a package from author/illustrator Lizi Boyd.  After reading Flashlight earlier this school year, our students had created Flashlight-inspired art and wrote stories based on Lizi Boyd’s wordless picture book.  When my teaching partner emailed her to share how much we loved her work…and sent some of our student products to her, she responded enthusiastically and sent our students beautiful blank notebooks, inspiring bookmarks, and encouragement to write, draw, and imagine.  She also sent a copy of her new book, Inside Outside, that we cannot wait to read and work with.  And the wrapping was a celebration in itself!

book from lizi boydAnd today, the last day before the break, we did our best to keep students focused on learning. We had a spectacular science lesson on buoyancy with our science teacher…and after working on claim, evidence, and reasoning for a little over a week with relation to buoyancy, students did some outstanding science writing today!  (More on that in another post)  We also continued our study of geometry by asking students to create a holiday or winter scene made up of geometric shapes.  There were some pretty clever geometric scenes to celebrate!

Geometry winter scene

And in my life outside of school there were also indications of celebration.  At my meeting at the local science museum on Saturday, even the dinosaur fossil was getting in the holiday spirit and adding to the celebration by sporting a santa hat!

Dino with hat

And we’ve had rain!  Yes, it’s annoying when trying to drive on freeways with people who don’t know a thing about driving in the rain.  Roads flood, traffic crawls, students are cooped up inside all day, everything is soggy…and we are celebrating.  We desperately need each and every drop right now.  And honestly, the cloudy skies are such a novelty that I can’t resist taking shot after shot.  I fell in love with this seagull enjoying the unusually moist air shortly before sunset.

seagull on a pole

And although my husband brought a tree home on Sunday, it is still sitting bare in the living room waiting for celebratory decorations.  It’s a beautiful tree and I had some fun taking photos and playing with the focus of the foreground and background as I snapped a few photos of my cat, Phil through the branches.

Phil through the tree

What are you celebrating right now?  It might be Hanukkah or Christmas or rain…or even a two week break from your usual routine.  Snap a few shots and share celebrate through your images.

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!)

I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #celebrate for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

It’s time to celebrate!  What says celebration to you?  Can’t wait to see your version of celebrate as you share your world through your lens.

 

 

 

 

The Gift of Words

Inspired by a blog post on Edutopia by a colleague of mine from the UCLA Writing Project, our class began to explore the idea of gifts.  This is a hard time for young students, this season seems to make them want everything!  There is talk of what Santa will bring, what antics and gifts the elf carries, along with lots of decorating and baking and performances and outings…

So last week we began by reading a beautiful picture book that my teaching partner found at Powell’s books in Portland called Immi’s Gift by Karin Littlewood.  This gorgeous book about an Inuit girl is perfect for setting the stage for expanding the idea of gifts beyond what can be purchased.  And honestly, our students, even before reading the book had many ideas about those “priceless” gifts…of time, nature, acts of kindness…  And this simple book is filled with beautiful language, ideas, and images.

And then we gave the students the invitation to become word-sleuths…to be on the lookout for words, phrases, sentences..that were worthy of gift status.  Words that were special to them in some way.  They collected these words on yellow stickies and then carefully wrote them on some pretty pieces of paper to hang on the “My Gift of Words” board in our classroom.

My Gift of Words

The collections are growing–and students are not only finding words others wrote, they are writing their own too!  This third grader came in on Tuesday with this line that she had written in her notebook on her way to school.  (And I suspect also influenced by another book we read, What Does Peace Feel Like? by Vladimir Radunsky.)

peace like salt water

Here’s a glimpse at some of the other word gifts hanging on our board.

And suddenly, not only are my students noticing and appreciating words everywhere, but so am I!  At a meeting at school on Monday, one of my colleagues used this Michelangelo quote to call us all to action and urge us to dream big.

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.  Michelangelo

A word fairy has been leaving inspirational quotes in our mailboxes at school this week…and a friend of mine just gave me this beautiful necklace with a quote from Albert Einstein on it.  (I love the sentiment!)

necklace

And the cherry on top of all these words is that at The Writing Thief MOOC our most recent make is a scavenger hunt for mentor texts!  It feels like I have been bathed in words this week, they are falling like raindrops, gathering in puddles, splashing ideas and inspiration into my thinking and writing and living.

And I see it with my students too.  They are tuned into words, catching them in their nets, and sharing them with each other, their families, and with us.  In this season of giving, the gift of words has been spectacular…and a tradition that I hope carries on into the New Year!

What words are inspiring you this holiday season?  What words have you given and received as gifts?  What are your favorite mentor texts?  And feel free to join us over at The Writing Thief MOOC and share some of your favorite words, phrases, sentences, and books…you’re all welcome.  Come join the fun!

Holiday Twinkle

My neighborhood is filled with light this time of the year.  Icicle lights hang from eves, nets of lights hang on shrubs, and I even noticed some new light sources projecting light on the walls of houses and words onto a garage.

Tonight, with peppermint hot chocolate in hand, we set off for a nighttime walk around the neighborhood to appreciate the twinkle of lights decorating the neighbors’ houses.  With only my iPhone as camera, I tried my hand at some night photography.  It’s pretty clear that I still have some work to do at improving in this area of photography.

I loved these lanterns hanging from a tree.  They seem to be a string of colored lights arranged in chicken wire.

colorful lantern

I had fun playing around with this snowman.  Using the app Big Lens, I was able to focus on the snowman and blur the background and then use a filter called snow to create a chilling effect! (And trust me, it’s not snowing here!)

snowy snowmanHere’s a version without the snow effect.

snowman

There are lots of colorful lights hanging from bushes, wrapped around palm trees, and outlining doorways.  Some flash, some blink, and some stay lit steadily.

colorful lights

There are elaborate displays…some reminiscent of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation…and others more serene like this one with two deer in lights.

deer in lights

And as much as I enjoy these twinkling holiday lights, I find myself drawn to nature’s twinkle of sun on water.  I am a sucker for a beautiful sunset…and take too many photos of them.  This one from earlier this week was particularly beautiful with the clouds hunched along the horizon.

sparkling sunset

And I love the twinkle of the clouds reflected in the still water of the lagoon after yesterday’s storm.  If you look closely you can see a ripple of the breeze along the water.

lagoon and clouds

As we head towards our shortest day, light becomes the focus of holiday celebrations.  I notice myself seeking out the light…looking for sunrises and sunsets, holiday light displays and candlelight.  There is something both calming and energizing about the light of late fall as we celebrate winter holidays.

What light draws your attention?  Where do you find the twinkle of light in your life?

 

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Wet

Do you speak in images? Enjoy taking photos to document your experiences or just to express what you notice in the world? Love to share them with others? Welcome to the weekly photo challenge! I post a new challenge each week…check in regularly and join the fun!

Here in Southern California we’re in the third year of drought conditions…and our normal rainfall is only ten inches annually, so you know it’s dry.  So when we get a forecast of rain, it’s an event!  Yesterday we were hearing the news of the storm that hit Northern California and watched the clouds begin to gather on our own horizon.  I love the drama of the clouds yesterday afternoon along the coast with the lifeguard tower in the foreground.

lifeguard station and clouds

As promised, rain arrived this morning.  The morning commute was quite an adventure with dark clouds and rain making it look almost like nighttime at 7:00am!  My windshield wipers raced and my tires created plumes of water as I drove through the rain pooling in large puddles in the street.

rainy morning

And in spite of the leaky roof in my classroom and a rainy day schedule with kids spending their recesses and lunch in the classroom, we had a great day.  And we so need the rain!  Lucky for all of us, we were able to head outdoors for Friday afternoon Cardio Club…into the sunshine with blue skies in evidence!

cardio club

After school I couldn’t resist heading toward the beach to take a few pictures of the clouds and sun along the coast.  This view is looking south near the mouth of the lagoon.

beach clouds

And even though it hadn’t rained in a few hours, when I arrived at home and opened my car door my eye was drawn to the raindrops on the clover-like grass growing in my lawn.  These truly precious wet jewels glistened in the afternoon sun against the green of the grass.

raindrops on grass

Where do you find the wet in your world?  (And I’d love to learn some techniques to take better photos of rain!)  It could be on your dishes as you wash them, trickling down that festive holiday cocktail, in your pet’s water bowl, or outside…in your yard, community or the natural spaces around you.

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!)

I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #wet for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

So follow the water and find where it pools…what does wet look like through your lens?