#SOL17: First Day

Screenshot 2017-08-22 at 11.17.55 AM.png

The bus turns the corner.

My last check to see that everything is in my car.

One picture down.  It’s kind of gloomy.  No sunshine for this auspicious day.

The brakes squeak as the bus pulls to a stop in the road.  I hear the stop sign pop as it is extended.  “Smile!  Just one more picture!”

He takes three steps, turns, and looks.  I snap the photo. He starts up the steps.

I’m sure it’s blurred.  Tears stream down my cheeks.

This would not be the day to take a lousy picture.

I watch as he walks down the aisle and chooses a seat.  Third row. Behind his friends.  He looks happy but he was so quiet this morning.  Only the top of his head is visible from outside the window.

The driver looks down.  Closes the door and the bus lumbers down the road.

  I hop in my car.  Five miles and I will be at school for my son’s second “First Day of School” picture.  It’s 1995.  The First Day of School. No digital pictures.

As a teacher, how do your own personal “First Days” impact your attention to detail in your classroom?

What are you planning for this year?  Why?

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                                                                      slice of life 2016

#SOL22: #NCTE Wrap Up

By the numbers:

1 panel participation

2 flights to arrive

3 Canadian treats: Cheezies, Smarties, and Coffee Crisps

4 days of learning

5 days in Anaheim

6 days of walking to and fro

7 bags for the #CuriosityCrew

8 days of charging/recharging technology

9 slicers + sharing writerly gifts (Thanks, Kim, for the socks and the bracelet!)

10 or more pictures with Dr. Mary Howard

All added up to a fabulous learning week in California.

It was so great to publish posts 999 and 1000 while at #NCTE22.

And the friends, known and new,

To see them face-to-face,

With and without masks,

To celebrate learning, laughter, joy and genius.

Farewell, Anaheim!

“On to OHIO – NCTE23!”

For the survey:

1) The app needs to be available before Wednesday when the conference begins on Thursday.

2) 39 sessions at a time is too many to sift through.

3) There needs to be a short morning and afternoon break slot for attendees to visit with each other. Walking more than three miles a day with zero lunch / restroom breaks is hard. 15 minutes between every session is hard when it’s a sprint from the nether northlands to the southernmost rooms – twice!

What are your suggestions?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

#NCTE22: Slicer Meet Up

“Are you …?”

“And are you …?”

The conversation was on, Kim and I were walking toward our destination. Both following maps on our phones. Both relying on tech to guide us as we crossed streets and checked on our destination (5 min. by car; 15 min. by walking).

But then my phone wanted me to turn at a parking ramp and “it” was only 50 feet away. Kim asked at a restaurant and we only had two more buildings and a corner to go.

We checked in and sat at our table, exactly at 5. A bit surprised that we were the first as we were “on time.”

And then slicers began trickling in. The conversations swelled. Laughter was the highlight!

  • – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

It’s only fitting.

I’m celebrating. Wow, I would never have believed this … ten years ago last month, I began blogging. Today is post

And last night at the “Slicer Meet Up” in Anaheim, it was truly a celebration of fellowship, joy, and writers. This has been an #NCTE tradition that I have loved because our friendships run deep with daily writing for 31 days in March and then Tuesdays throughout the year. Our stories are as varied as our locations! Slicers meet up at TwoWritingTeachers. You should try it as part of your writing routine!

Thanks, Melanie Meehan, for organizing our gathering in Anaheim at #NCTE22!

#NCTE22: #CuriosityCrew

This post, post 999 is a celebration.

#NCTE22 is joyful, celebratory, and feels like “old home week” or summer camp in sunny, warm Anaheim for those of us who had to de-ice, de-ice, de-ice, and de-ice in order to reach CA.

Back in person.

Old friends or friends of years, but maybe just not IRL (in real life).

Or in real life for the first time in eons.

Our group of five … together face-to-face.

New connections with authors, researchers and teachers. Perhaps those we’ve met in circles or boxes via technology.

Being in community. Laughing in community. Learning in community. Conversations face-to-face in community. A feeling of stress reduction as like-minded individuals gather in halls, rooms, eating places to share common beliefs, interests, and values.

We miss those not here (Dr. Mary Howard) but we celebrate the fact that she is following along and we’ve already Zoomed and Face-Timed.


Fuel for the soul . . .

How are you fueling your soul today?

#SOL22: Anatomy of a Twitter Chat

And so it begins …

“Would you … Could you …?”

Shared Expectations

“Possible dates are: ___, ___, or _____. Would any of those work?”

Back and forth:

Quotations, questions and a deeper understanding from authors about their goals. Ordered, proofed and developed in Canva.

Pretweeting prep by #g2great (usually @drmaryhoward)

Rest of team is responsible for RT and “likes” as tweets pop up.

Anticipation builds . . . the day of the chat. Questions, questions, quotes, and time speeds up.

The chat opens with welcoming comments. An opening quote. The pace quickens as more folks join the chat. Conversations. Friendships. Literally chatting.

And then questions begin to drop. Replies. Volleying RTs and likes. Conversations deepen. Threads develop. Multiple answers. Sometimes with additional pictures, quotes or links for more clarification.

Q1. A1.

Q2. A2.

Q3. A3.

Q4. A4.

Q5. A5.

Q6. A6.

Just when the chat is getting interesting, a final quote pops up. An announcement for the next chat and then a flurry of goodbyes and Thank Yous.

Time’s up!


But wait,

There’s a Wakelet where Mary collects the Tweets.

And then a blog post on LiteracyLenses.com

Last week was our chat for The Gift of Story with John Schu.

Wakelet Link

Blog post by Kitty Donohoe link

And then tweeting out the links to share the wisdom.

But there’s always more …

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

Oh, so much motivated me to write The Gift of Story: Exploring the Affective Side of the Reading Life. In truth, I think more about who motivated and inspired me to write this book than what.

For sake of space, I’ll share three bullet points.

 *Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo inspired me to look at my heart and the hearts of others in new ways through her books, the

conversations we had at conferences, her Facebook updates, and the inspirational text messages she sends me.

 *Terry Thompson helped me dig down deep through his thought-provoking questions and compassionate heart. He’s a brilliant

editor and friend. I’m so lucky and grateful!

 *Most importantly, every child I’ve interacted with over the past 20 years motivated me to write The Gift of Story. The impact

they had on me and my heart inspires me every day. I hope The Gift of Story inspires readers to talk about the affective side of

reading and learning and life.

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

1. Read aloud every day.

2. Talk about the affective elements of story with their students.

3. Encourage their students and colleagues to finish the sentence starter Story is…

4. Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day with everyone on the campus.

5. Host an author or an illustrator.

What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

Thank you for this wonderful question. I hope every teacher walks away from The Gift of Story feeling encouraged to read and read and read and evaluate wonderful children’s books. When we share our hearts in authentic ways, we inspire those around us to do the same. I hope they think about how every child who walks into their classroom has a story. I hope they establish opportunities fortheir students to tell their stories and find themselves in the stories of others. I hope they smile.

What chats have you been a part of? What part of a chat is intriguing to you?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

Thank you to #G2Great and John Schu for sparking this topic and the quotes.

#SOL22: prep

It’s time.

What will I need? It depends. How do I envision this next task?

To prep for a workshop, I brainstorm ideas, collect pictures and write. First draft. Flash draft. Fast and furious. It’s about all the possibilities. Where does my mind go? I record them all. The easy. The hard. The simple. The complex. The more the better. Than back to the outcome. What do folks need to know and be able to do at the end of our time.

And then I cut.



Yes. No.

No maybes.

No indeciseness.

This process has stood me in good steed for many different types of work for many years. There’s a collecting/ gathering and then a cutting/winnowing. Back to the basics. And often because of the brainstorming . . .

there’s a new twist or focus.

It’s time.

By the time next week’s blog is posted, I’ll be winging it …

En route to …

A week’s worth of learning with colleagues and meeting new friends face to face

And non-stop chattering with lifelong friends.

It’s time.

First round of packing.

What will I take.

Even with carry on,

I’m always guilty of over packing.

No more talking.

It’s time.

1st round: Enough clothes for 11 days instead of six. Revision time. What process do you use over and over and over?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

#SOL22: Remembering Numbers?

A request. An agreement. A beginning plan. I found some fabric. Changed my mind. Finally decided on the fabric and got ready to actually construct the items. Items that I’ve made before …. 10, 20, maybe 30 times. Familiar task.

The catch: I haven’t made them since I acquired my new sewing machine so it’s been over a year, and my machine is a little picky about the thicknesses that it likes to sew through with skipped stitches and really gnarly knots of thread on the bobbin side.

But I forged ahead by pressing my fabric, cutting it larger than the batting. Sewing the first X and then the second made me feel quite successful as it hadn’t taken too much time since this project really wasn’t on my current list but would pay off in a future trade or two.

And then a screeching halt.

I couldn’t remember the size of the dart – four on each piece of fabric or eight per finished piece. How deep to begin? What length? Two numbers that were necessary for success.

I made one guess.

And then another.

I secretly wondered, “Will it really matter?” And yet, wanting to do a good job because it would be going to someone with a sewing background, I stopped.

I didn’t dig out my book of patterns. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a “pattern”. So I resorted to Google.

I had a plethora of choices. I could buy a pattern or watch a YouTube video. Neither solution appealed so I clicked on page two of the search.

I probably huffed out a frustrating sound or two or three. Seriously, I only needed two numbers that were probably about step 5 or 6 of the pattern. Totally not worth speeding through a video or wasting money to buy a pattern. (And not something I could measure off of a completed item.) And again, “Will it really matter?”

The seven minutes I spent hunting for the numbers seemed like an hour or two, but also included some thoughts about where to record the numbers so I would remember them. I don’t have a permanent solution as I only have them on a post-it for now!

Why does it matter?

It was a familiar task, although I hadn’t made one in 12 months. I wasn’t sure about two numbers that I needed. Did I dare trust recall or should I do the research and verify?

Are you nodding your head? Do you know where this is going?

I’m highly educated. (Perhaps too highly but that’s another story.) When confronting a familiar task that I’ve not done in a year, I’m not comfortable that I’ve remembered the right numbers as numbers really aren’t my jam. So I check. I check my understanding. I consult sources for accuracy.

What recourse do students have when they are taught something and then expected to remember it forever for tests that have zero real-life application? What do they do when frustrated? How do they survive in the pressure cooker classroom seats?

Have you ever forgotten, or lost your confidence in your memory of some task after a year of not completing that task? What did you do? How did you regain your confidence?

And what was I sewing?

Soup cozies. A fabric holder for a bowl of soup so that you can hold it in your hands without burning your fingers. (And bonus points when fabric, batting, and thread are cotton so they can go in the microwave!) The dart measurements are a big deal as they provide the shape for the bowl.


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

#SOL22: And before that …

It was blazing. The wind had whipped up flames shooting over a foot above the fuel source. The fire truck had left. Water was not a solution. The ambulance had left. No injuries. The deputy sheriff remained on the edge of the street with a spotlight from his vehicle trained on the fire. The fire was blazing.

And before that, the neighbors hung out their doors watching. Lights, sirens, and yelling above the roar of the vehicles as a variety of community helpers assembled, studied the problem and then left. Many onlookers remained to see what would come next.

The flames continued.

What would be the solution?

Before that, it was a few sparks. A few small pops. And before that, a single spark. Probably caused by “the 7,000 volts of electricity through the insulator” was one cause the technician from the power company suggested.

The CO2 or ABC powder extinguished the fire as the wind spread it across the grass and the road. Before that, the tech had raised the bucket on the truck. Before he climbed in the bucket, the tech had donned protective clothing and a halo of lights . . . perfect for the late October setting.

The good news was that the electricity was only turned completely off twice. The second time was for repairs. A plan. The execution of the plan was successful.

And before that, the power was turned off prior to the dousing with the CO2 or ABC powder and the subsequent fire flaming out.

The irony. The pole was scheduled to be replaced. The pole with the fire blazing at the top. The fire did not reach the transformer. The fire that began as a spark.

Just imagine as you look at this picture …

… A spark at the top of the electric pole. A spark in the middle of a drought. A spark that could have caused so much damage but didn’t. The blazing fire from the single spark.

And before that, I was working on my computer responding to emails, and getting ready to post announcements for my courses. Unaware of impending excitement. Just a regular Sunday evening.

Do you always tell a story that begins at the beginning and flows straight through to the end? What other structures do you use to heighten the anticipation?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.


I read the number.

I did some mental math.


Setting a location that made sense

… And then I said the number out loud.

That number.

The palindrome that had consumed me as soon as I turned the key. The excitement. A big number. A number that I’ve been anticipating!

But just in case you’re new to palindromes …

As I said it out loud, I was ready to pound my fist on the dashboard. NOT TODAY!

ERROR! And I realized that this would not be my “slice” for the week. In fact, I’d be lucky if it was my slice anytime in the next month. It was going to be that kind of a month. Busy. Busy. Busy with little travel.

Mathematical Fail for sure!

This memory from September was one that I quickly drafted and left in WordPress. I thought I would use it later that month. Little did I know that last Friday at approximately 6:45 am (or 0 dark thirty), the numbers turned over in the quiet, dark morning hour to 100001 without any fanfare.

Back in September, the number I had said out loud was 98889. My brain was originally thinking that in 11 miles, my odometer would read 99999. My brain was busy trying to remember if the odometer would go to 100001 or just remain a five digit number at 00001 and begin anew. But the excitement of that change did NOT happen that first eagerly anticipated and calculated day. I was off by 100 as it was 111 miles away.

My car sat. And sat. And sat. And sat.

And so in September I was left with the dilemma of “finding another slice topic” for my next “slicing” post.



A flaw in my thinking

Topic needed

However, I quickly jotted some notes and saved them as a draft. Maybe they would still be relevant when the odometer actually did reach 100,000 miles. And now that I know, it’s past 100,257 miles.

A failure.

A mathematical flaw.

What I thought I knew. What I saw. What I thought was the current status and an error in calculations.

When have your miscalculations seemed like a huge failure? Did you share publicly or did you internally giggle, breathe a sigh of relief, and thank the stars that it was NOT a public mishap?

Process? Showing feelings? Which of these did you recognize in the story? How can feelings add to a blog post or a story?

Feelings – #TCRWP


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

#SOL22: Unconnected

I wondered.

I emailed my question.

I waited for a response.

And . . . waited …. And. waited. And. waited.

Not a word.


Neither confirmation nor denial.

So, with trepidation,

I wandered forth

Laden with fabric, tools, and ideas

Headed to a retreat

For some metal-to-the-pedal sewing.

Borders for blocks

21 blues

21 purples

Blocks now with 9 fabrics

Each is uniquely organized.

A 2024 graduation quilt.

And then a mad mental dash back to Halloween and Christmas and “tis the season” for gift-making and sewing, and laughing, and learning . . .

Three days without internet. Three days with a quilting community. Three days of productivity!

When are you the most productive? Under what conditions? Does the idea of being “unconnected” exhilarate or panic you?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.


Dust in the field

Combine easing through brown rows,

Slowly chewing up the grain.

Dust in the field

Combine mowing down dried stalks,

Leaving stubble behind.

Harvesting soybeans.

Harvesting corn.

Which is first?



Harvest season

Signs of fall.

What are the signs of fall in your neighborhood?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

Steph Scrap Quilts

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