I would love to hear your thoughts on my take of the classic Three Billy Goats Gruff.
I would love to hear your thoughts on my take of the classic Three Billy Goats Gruff.
Hello everyone – happy Monday! I wanted to share my latest poem with you.
Yes, I Can! was inspired by a lot of self-defeating comments I’ve come to hear over the last 18 years teaching. Truthfully, if I had a nickel every time I heard a student say I can’t do it, I’d be off on a yacht somewhere right now (nah, maybe not – I get sea sick). Joking aside, the reality is that none of us are perfect. None of us can do everything. And sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we still don’t master various things – and that’s okay, at least we tried.
It’s when students give up before they even try that it’s NOT OKAY. That’s the point I’ve been trying to make with my students last week. Yes, some things are hard. Some tasks will challenge us. But the attitude we have toward challenges is what determines the outcome. It is this mindset, over time, that will shape and condition our thoughts and beliefs about ourselves. Our mindset consists of our thoughts and attitudes toward ourselves and the world around us. These beliefs shape how we perceive and handle everyday situations. Do we look at challenges as opportunities to grow or do we fall prey to self-defeating thoughts?
Yes, I Can! is a poem I wrote that celebrates what children can do, as well as embraces that which they cannot, yet, do. Teaching children to have a “Growth Mindset” is crucial in helping them become better learners. After all, in order to succeed at anything, we must persist and push ourselves forward, despite the challenges. Positive self-talk is what helps children persevere and not give up. Yes, I Can! encourages children to adopt positive self-talk. Instead of focusing on ‘I can’t do it!’, it re-frames their thinking, ‘I can’t do it, yet!’
Along with the poem, I created a follow-up worksheet (rehearsing high-frequency word can) and a mini-book that is co-authored with me (my students were thrilled with the idea). It invites students to fill in a missing high-frequency word, as well as add a skill or task they can complete successfully, as well another skill they aspire to learn, reminding them that their mindset is the only thing in the way.
In all the excitement to teach children that our mindset is not a fixed state, I created a visual anchor for the classroom. Feel free to download a copy for your personal use by clicking on the image below.
Wishing you a fabulous week ahead!
Hello everyone! I was delighted to be featured in
Story Monsters Literary Magazine this past week.
I’d like to share my interview with you.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Israel and moved to Toronto when I was 11 years old. My family had just emigrated from Russia when I was born. I grew up weaved into a mix of cultures which taught me to have an appreciation for differences. But I can honestly say, having lived in Canada most of my life, I feel very much Canadian at heart.
What were some of your favorite authors and books?
I loved (and still enjoy) Shel Silverstein’s color-outside-the-lines style of poems and stories. One of my absolute favourite books by him is The Giving Tree. Also, I’ve always enjoyed fairy tales (but didn’t we all?). Charlotte’s Web, The Babysitter’s Club series and The Outsiders were some of my other favourites when I was growing up.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was 5 years old. At some point that changed to wanting to become an interior designer, a lawyer, and even a psychologist. I finally opted for my first love and chose a career in teaching.
Tell us about some of the jobs you’ve had before you became a writer.
Some years into my teaching career, I began writing poems and stories for my students. I guess you can say that writing became a calling after I began to see how important storytelling was as an educational tool. But then, I also learned that books added a fun element as well. I’m delighted that I had a built-in audience before I even published my first book!
How did you get started writing?
I wrote quite a bit as a teenager (mostly poetry) but found an audience for my writing in the classroom, writing mainly to support areas of study at school. I eventually discovered a terrific outlet to share my work with others—on my blog (wordsonalimb.com) and associated social media. This allowed me to create a digital library of some of my classroom content. In fact, several years ago, I wrote a poem to teach students about the power of words and their impact. It began to receive positive feedback from students, parents, colleagues, and online subscribers. It soon took a life of its own as an animation and eventually as my first a picture book, Words. This was the breakthrough that marked the beginning of my writing journey.
Why do you write books?
I love taking an idea and molding it to life with words and images. I also love being able to convey important messages through literature. These notions shine through in my book Freshly Baked Pie. It is a simple story, based on a poem that I wrote, that, through effective illustrations and whimsical writing, both gently teaches a lesson and entertains readers.
What do you like best about writing?
I love the creativity and flexibility that writing offers. Anything and everything can exist in our imagination. Real life may have boundaries, but stories, not so much. I revel in seeing a concept, that exists only as a mental sketch, come alive through words and images. I also appreciate the way an author can arrange letters, words, and sentences into a composition that evokes strong emotions—joy, sadness, surprise, wonder or inspiration. I also feel that picture books give me the freedom to take a lyrical form of writing, like poetry, and transform it into a story that can be enjoyed at bedtime. There is something unique about being able to create art from a simple idea.
What do you find the most challenging about writing?
Writing requires commitment, dedication, and most of all, discipline in order to take it beyond a hobby. So I have learned to carve out time from my busy schedule to meet self-imposed deadlines. Sometimes I find that ideas flow through my head faster than I have time to devote to them, and that can be quite frustrating.
What do you think makes a good story?
I think a good story has a redeemable value, something the reader can take away, all the while being entertained. Also, a good story has an element that the reader can relate to, whether it be a character or an event. That connection between literature and real life experiences make the story more meaningful to the reader.
Where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from working with kids,
my students, and my children. Sometimes an idea strikes amid a busy, noisy day. Other times a vision sneaks up in quiet moments of contemplation. My book, Lucky Me, stemmed from a theme we discussed in school. It was around the time of Thanksgiving and we had a great conversation about gratitude and things we felt blessed to have in our lives. This inspired me to write a poem for my class, and eventually I wanted to share this message of gratitude with a wider audience. Regardless of where in the world we each came from, and what stories we each had to tell, we had one thing in common—a sense of gratitude. This element inspired me to incorporate thank you in many languages. Several arduous months later, we published a truly global and memorable, sweet picture book. It was a hop, skip, and a jump from conversation to message-filled pages.
Tell us about your latest book/project.
My most recent title, The Three Witty Goats Gruff is a modern adaptation of the fairy tale, Three Billy Goats Gruff. Once again, the idea came from a simple math lesson about measurement and patterning. My students loved learning math through this story of the three goats! The math unit became my best-selling teacher resource package on a website I love to contribute to, called Teachers Pay Teachers. Once again, I felt compelled to transform this simple lesson into a book that can both teach and entertain kids all over the world. In my remake of the story, I proposed an alternative way for the goats to solve their dilemma—rather than using force to subdue their bully, they use their wit to outmaneuver the greedy old troll. As well, I incorporated a female goat as the heroine of the story as girls are seldom depicted as the hero, and I felt it was time to turn the tables! The book also contains plenty of fun learning opportunities for young children. I am so pleased to have completed and published this title.
What’s next for you?
I am currently working on a compilation book that features many of my poems and short stories that I composed throughout my writing and teaching career. Obviously not all of them can make it into a full picture book! But I wanted to share them in the shorter format just the same. I feel this book will be a landmark piece on a personal and professional level. Sometimes writers can feel vulnerable when they compile an anthology of personal thoughts in words. For me, it is especially the case since I will be sharing work that spans from my early years as a writer to some of my latest poems and short stories. We are currently deciding on the illustrations and book design, but it won’t be long! I am also working on converting my published books into a digital format so parents all over can swipe through my stories on their tablets before bedtime.
Is there anything we didn’t ask that you’d like people to know about you and/or your books?
I want your readers to know that, like many authors, my books are very personal to me, creations that I have nursed from their infancy until they are shared with the world. Readers will find that they can enjoy my stories on many levels: as literal stories, symbolic allegories, educational tools, and of course, bedtime treats.
Lora’s author page on Amazon.
Thank you Story Monsters for the time in the spotlight!
Check out Story Monsters online Magazine HERE
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“Words! What power they hold. Once they have rooted in your psyche, it is difficult to escape them. Words can shape the future of a child and destroy the existence of an adult.”
Written and Illustrated by Lora Rozler
In this emotional and
highly visual picture book,
a lonely letter sets off on a journey to find meaning.
As it encounters various letter combinations, it is confronted by two distinct paths and must make an important choice.
Readers of all ages will be captivated by this simple, yet high concept, story that explores universal themes of discovery, relationships and the need to belong, with an underlying message about bullying. Both timeless and original, Words is an evocative tale about how letters become words and words create meaning – meaning which could ultimately build or destroy.
“A compelling story-line, simple yet poignant illustrations, engaging language, a great read-aloud that offers many opportunities for reflection and discussion with children.”
“A heart-warming story with a clever, powerful message about anti-bullying. An absolute must-have
for every parent and educator.”
Attention all Mini-Artists: Join our Words-Through-Art Sketch Competition
Get out your sketch pads, sharpen those pencils, it’s time for an Art Competition. Words on a Limb would like to invite readers (ages 6-10) to send in their best illustrations, capturing the essence of the picture-book, Words. The winner will receive a hardcover edition of Words and have their work featured on our site, as well as Lora Rozler’s author website.
All entries must be submitted to email@example.com by August 15, 2015. Please indicate Art Competition in the subject line and specify the artist’s age in the email. The winner will be announced on August 22, 2015. Let the sketching begin!
Bullying is a major problem in our schools, workplaces, homes, and over the Internet. During the month of February, many organizations across Canada will work to raise awareness on this issue and give us the tools needed to stand up against bullying and step in when we see it happening. February 25th is Pink Shirt Day and it is recognized in schools across Canada and worldwide by wearing pink in support of anti-bullying.
I would like to share an animation that highlights the power of our words. Words (which is also the introduction post to Words on a Limb) has truly become one of my favourite videos to share with students when discussing issues around bullying and raising awareness of the impact we have on others through speech and actions. The power of our words can never be underestimated. To build or destroy, it is always our choice.
Words by Lora Rozler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Here is a snippet of the Globe & Mail article that describes how Pink Shirt Day began:
“David Shepherd, Travis Price and their teenage friends organized a high-school protest to wear pink in sympathy with a Grade 9 boy who was being bullied [for wearing a pink shirt]…[They] took a stand against bullying when they protested against the harassment of a new Grade 9 student by distributing pink T-shirts to all the boys in their school.
‘I learned that two people can come up with an idea, run with it, and it can do wonders,’ says Mr. Price, 17, who organized the pink protest. ‘Finally, someone stood up for a weaker kid.’
So Mr. Shepherd and some other headed off to a discount store and bought 50 pink tank tops. They sent out message to schoolmates that night, and the next morning they hauled the shirts to school in a plastic bag.
As they stood in the foyer handing out the shirts, the bullied boy walked in. His face spoke volumes. ‘It looked like a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders,’ Mr. Price recalled.
The bullies were never heard from again.”
It is not always easy to broach difficult topics with our children and students. This is where great literature comes in handy in opening a platform for discussion and reflection. Below is a collection of wonderful picture books to provoke questions about bullying, both as victims and perpetrators. Feel free to share other great books you’ve come across in the comment box below. I will be more than happy to add them to our list. Continue reading
Winter is just around the corner (pout, moan, cry). But before its official debut, I thought I’d pay tribute to the wonderful adventures we embarked on during our study of Autumn.
We began our exploration by taking an investigative walk around the school yard, looking for evidence of Fall. Among the many things we observed, students marveled at the beautiful, colourful leaves everywhere; leaves of different shape, size and colour.
As with any great investigation, we had to gather specimens to bring back and explore further in our classroom – red leaves, yellow leaves, big leaves, little leaves, oak leaves, maple leaves, and what’s this – acorns, pine cones, flowers, twigs and rocks – all were welcomed.
Over the next several weeks, we were quite busy inquiring, learning and integrating our artifacts into every aspect of our day. We read many books about Fall, trees, seeds and leaves.
We documented and wrote about Fall changes. We learned about and labeled the different parts of a leaf. We counted, graphed, sorted and made patterns with leaves. We even made a pine cone shaker (to complement the seed shaker we previously made during our Apple inquiry – it turned out to be a great way to distinguish between the different sounds seeds can make).
We created art with leaf rubbings and leaf stamps (students loved creating their own Leaf Creatures, which after being displayed on our walls, made an entertaining class book).
It was endless! The ideas kept pouring, and the fun and learning continued.
For the culminating activity, we created a class book where each student got to contribute their idea to a page about leaves (parents really enjoyed looking through it during our Fall conferences). Students also had a chance to read a personalized book about leaves with our Grade Three Reading Buddies – they were so excited, I was so proud.
Though I generally have an overall sense of where I’d like an inquiry based opportunity to lead, I can never truly predict how vast or fruitful it will grow to be. It is the students’ curiosity and eagerness that determines the direction and range of learning. Regardless, I am always pleasantly surprised and excited to see where each inquiry will take us.
My first inquiry-based unit this year started off with a simple school snack – apples. I walked into the classroom just after Snack Break, and to my surprise, found a bin full of Golden Delicious apples. Apparently, my three, four and five year-old students already had some pre-conceived ideas about apples – green ones specifically.
“I don’t like green apples,” the explaining began.
“Green apples are sour,” chimed in a few others.
Well, with that said, I walked over to the snack table, curiously staring at the batch of rejected apples. I grabbed one, inspected it for good measure and then took a big bite (good thing I always enjoyed Drama class in school – it sure comes in handy teaching Kindergarten).
“Hmmm, yummy,” I teased. “It doesn’t taste sour to me.” I shrug my shoulders and continued promenading around the tables, crunching along, making my usual small talk. I then finally sat down to enjoy the rest of my juicy apple.
Across the room, I noticed one student get up and grab an apple from the bin.
“This is sweet,” she announced (thank goodness for those unknowing volunteers). Soon, another green apple landed in the hands of an unsuspecting child, and before long, nearly all of the apples had been gone.
Happy Tuesday everyone. I would like to share a cool card game that I was introduced to this past weekend, Kings in the Corner. I played it with my children and was quite surprised how interested and engaged they were the entire time. In fact, they insisted we play again and again. I didn’t dare tell them how much they were learning at the same time (shhh, our secret).
Warning: Don’t be overwhelmed by all the instructions and rules. Once mastered, it is a relatively simple game to play. What’s more, it builds and reinforces many valuable concepts and skills including: focus and concentration, strategic thinking, numerical concepts (counting backwards, patterning), following rules, building social skills, turn-taking and having fun! Continue reading
“You can do this. You can do this,” she chants to herself, while quickening her steps, fighting an impulse to run back to her car. She heads straight to the office, looking for the principal. Minutes later, a tall bearded man steps out of the adjacent office and extends his arm.
“Hi, I’m Craig,” he begins and the young woman’s shoulders relax as she looks into his warm eyes. Phew, she can breathe again. “Yes, I received your resume this morning,” he explains. “We’ve actually just finished interviewing for all the positions we have available.” The young woman’s spirit sinks; but is reignited as he continues. “I have to say, though, I love your assertiveness and determination. How would you like to stay for an interview?” A smile breaks on the young woman’s face as the principal proceeds to call in other staff members to join in on the interview.
So began my journey as a primary grade school teacher. Continue reading
As the school year draws to a close, so does another year’s journey in both teachers’ and students’ lives. For some children, this sudden abandon from all they have grown accustomed to (and love) is not an easy transition.
I recall, several years ago, when one of my beloved students had a very hard time ending the year. Any time there was any reference made to the summer holidays, this otherwise happy-go-lucky girl, would break down into tears. It completely took me by surprise (and melted my heart) when she confessed to being sad about not having me as her teacher anymore (she had been with me for both JK and SK). I consoled her as best as I could and we came up with a plan – she would come in to help me pack for the rest of the week and also be my special helper during recess the following school year. It wasn’t an ending. It was a new beginning.
It has been two years since, and this precious child still comes in every single day to help me. I appreciate her dedication and support, but more than anything else I value the lesson she has taught me and continues to remind me of each day. Regardless of age, background, title, position, etc., there is a beautiful bond that exists between people, if we just recognize it and let it flourish.
With that thought, I’d like to share a poem I wrote. As I often do with my students (and family and friends alike), I would love to hear your interpretations of it.
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We Made a Pact
We made a pact, he and I.
He’d come out and I’d join too.
We made a pact, not long ago.
He’d bring the warmth and I’d rejoice.
We made a pact, this much is true.
He’d light the sky and I’d lead the way.
We made a pact, but he bailed out.
Just like that, got up and left.
I searched for him as night crept in,
across the field,
between the clouds,
over the hills.
No sign of him.
I called to him but silence followed.
I grunted, frowned – I was not pleased.
I won’t forgive him.
I won’t. I won’t.
And now, because of his shenanigans,
Mommy said to go inside.
I ate my dinner but I was mad.
I brushed my teeth but I was livid.
I lay in bed, covered in heaps.
I won’t forgive this – we had a pact.
I tossed and turned and missed him so.
Perhaps I should forgive him.
I closed my eyes as sleep crept in.
Maybe, just maybe, I thought,
I’ll give him one last chance tomorrow.
We Made a Pact by Lora Rozler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.