#SOL17: First Day

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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

#SOL21: Self-evaluation

I had a plan to construct a 9 x 11 quilt out of 10 inch blocks (raw size 10.5 inches). I had a pattern. I had fabric. 35 different fabrics because I didn’t want a lot of repetition in some of the columns. Column 1 and 9 were organized as planned with just a few shifts to ensure that certain colors were not adjacent. Columns 3 and 7 used fabrics for the most part that were NOT included in columns 1 and 2. Column 5 in the middle was a blended mix of squares combined from column 1 and 3. (After all it’s the middle column!)

Fairly simple. I constructed the squares – each with 7 pieces of fabric. I laid them out on the pool table to check the patterns. I shifted and revised some: flipping end over end broke up a line that wasn’t meant to be or reversed the original pattern. Column 1, after all, consisted of 45 stripes. A veritable vertical feast of colors.

When you view the grid above, it becomes obvious that the placement of the blocks needed to be done in an orderly fashion to match the pattern. But which concerns should receive priority? Blocks with 2 seams, 3 seams, or 4 seams?

I quickly became adept at checking for two or three specific fabrics as my love for them caused them to be included at a higher frequency rate. I knew that checking in advance would keep the dreaded frog away . . .


Rip it!


Not my friend. Physically “revising” by ripping out fabric in a quilt.

Last Tuesday, I needed to make a decision. I knew that two blocks bothered me. How much? Enough to rip out? I couldn’t decide. But they did bother me ENOUGH that I decided to construct the quilt rows in two different pieces so I could manage the fabric more easily ( 90″ in width and 60 ” in length).

Here is what I was facing. Two fabric colors were too similar.

Should I replace them? If yes, with what color or pattern.

It wouldn’t be too obvious to anyone else without a fair amount of studying the pattern.

Here’s where the plan failed in execution.

I waged an internal debate.

Who would notice? Who would care? Would it really be that noticeable to others? Was it good ENOUGH as it was?

Would my nephew notice?

And I instantly thought of other times in my life.

Did I settle for good ENOUGH?

Was this about the final product? Or the process? OR both?

I’m not YET jammed for time, so should I do it “correctly” as defined in my planning?

OR should I “LET IT GO?”

PAUSE. Can you name a time when you have been faced with a similar quandary? What helped you make your decision? Did you have any regrets? How would you evaluate your own QUALITY of work?


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

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Like Paul Harvey

“And now for the rest of the story . . .”

Have you predicted my response to my self-evaluation?

Yes, I spent 90 stinking minutes ripping out and replacing the four fabrics in the block that did not match. I could NOT leave it as it was.

My biggest project to date: Quilt number three, a 90″ by 110″ project.

#SOL21: Moving On!

April showers bring May flowers.

I could write about flowers, but I’m not.

April is national poetry writing month.

I could write about poetry or share some poems, but I’m not.

And the rain is back.

I could write about rain or the weather, but I’m not.

I’m moving on. It’s April and it’s time to focus on graduation presents.

Presents that will need to be sent in advance.

Presents that will take time to design, construct, and even admire.

One present in particular . . .

99 blocks, similar in color to this,

but not identical.

99 blocks, laid out in some randomness,

but not without care to avoid repetitions.

99 blocks, for a high school graduation gift,

but not able to attend.

99 blocks, YIKES!

Back to work on a gift for the 12th and final HS “grand” graduation!!

What graduations will you celebrate? What are some standard gifts? How will you prepare for graduation gift-giving?


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

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#SOLSC21: Change

Collecting quotes and inspiration remains my constant.

“You must welcome change as the rule but not as your ruler.”

Magnifying Glass, 03.30.2021.

It’s the 31st consecutive day of blogging.

Habits changed.

I wrote and commented every day during the month of March.

That’s a change that I have been a part of for eight years.

By the end of March, my fear of the “publish” button is lessened.

It’s the 31st consecutive day of blogging.

My beliefs remain constant.

Teachers of writing must be writers.

Participating in the TWT March #SOL is one way for teachers to write in a community.

This graphic from Melanie Meehan and Kelsey Sorum (The Responsive Writing Teacher) says so much!

But teachers of writing must also be readers and commenters, too.

It’s the 31st consecutive day of blogging.

I am a writer.

What have you practiced for 31 days? Writing? Feedback Comments? Drafting More Mentor Texts? What’s your plan?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this daily forum during the month of March. The community is so supportive! Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOLSC21: Grands


Come in many ages.

Some refer to “grands” as the elders in the family.

Some refer to “grands” as the younger ones in the family.

Grands: I have a few . . .


One a lover of dinosaurs

and one a lover of all animals.

Grand nephews

The older crew

Awash in sports

And video games

And driving.

The younger ones

Following the older ones.

Grand nieces

From apartment living

To sports and school activities

To school concerts, masked and distanced,

To the little ones, still finding their way.

Grands: 17 in all from.

Watch them GO!

How far does your family extend? As the generations grow, how are those connections nurtured? How do you celebrate their uniqueness?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this daily forum during the month of March. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOLSC21: What is a Saturday Reunion?

This set of pictures popped up as a six year memory today and is quite worthy of attention.

The year 2015.

The location: Broadway and Millbank Chapel

A day of learning at the Saturday Reunion at #TCRWP.

My first post about the day is here.

What is a Saturday Reunion?

Approximately 4,000 educators from around the world

Descending on TCRWP

For hundreds of free sessions

From some of the smartest educators in the world!

Friends traveling miles.

The picture above includes

Friends from New Jersey, California and me, Iowa.

Friends learning together.

Checking the schedule and attending sessions together.

Friends chatting,

Meeting each other in real life.

Friends exchanging ideas,

And double checking our notes

As well as the ubiquitous “turn and talks.”

Friends meeting for dinner after,

Lingering for another word

Another minute of like-minded company!

What is a Saturday Reunion?

  • Challenging
  • Collaborative
  • Future-focused
  • Goal-oriented
  • Grounded in practice
  • Relevant
  • Sustained

And above all . . . A “choose your own pathway for learning and fun for the day.”

Saturdays . . .

Not just a day off

Not just a day to reflect

Because Saturday Reunions are endless days of possibilities!

When have you chosen to spend Saturdays learning with friends? What were the convincing arguments? What were the benefits?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this daily forum during the month of March. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOLSC21: Weather

Sunday: cloudy and rainy

Monday: cloudy and rainy

Tuesday: cloudy and rainy

Wednesday: cloudy and rainy

Thursday: cloudy and rainy

Friday: cloudy and rainy

Saturday: cloudy and rainy

An entire week: cloudy and rainy

I miss the sun

That bright, shining light

Is absent from our days.

Instead we have stormy weather

Deadly weather

Flowers slowly growing

Slowly beginning to bloom

The third crocus reveals its colors

And one daffodil opens.

When will others join the party?

Are they waiting for the sun?

Or just warmer weather?

How is the weather impacting you? What signs of spring are slowly appearing in your neighborhood?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this daily forum during the month of March. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOLSC21: Mathing

“Hello,” I said as I crossed the threshold. Two different detours had made me late. I had thirty five minutes. Timing was going to be everything. I practically danced my way in: one bag carrying two completed items and a second bag with plans that needed some encouragement, some revision, and some clarification.

“In here,” said Barb as I made my way to the first cutting table where she met me. As she oohed and ahed over the first item, I could barely hold my excitement.

And then I unfolded my second ever.

My second ever quilt.

She helped me choose fabrics. She agreed with me that floral elephants weren’t our cup of tea so we changed it. Peach? not so much. What about blue? We seemed in sync three months ago when we first envisioned this pattern in its physical form.

Once the Christmas gifts were sewn, I transitioned to planning for Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day. I didn’t have a lot of luck finding fabric for the Derby so it was time to sew.

And sew I did. Straight lines. Rows of squares. Seven rows of ten five inch squares each. Two rows repeated exactly. But I read the rows vertically and horizontally so that no one square was repeated too often. And then hourglass patterns. Five different yellow fabrics and five different blue fabrics. Patterns. Repetitions. More patterns.

Barb asked my permission to take pictures of it, and of course I said yes. After all, the first part of today’s business was “Show and Tell.”

Quilt #2

As I examined the quilt hanging there, some old memories resurfaced.

Quilting day with relatives from Dad’s family . . .

I still remember crawling under the quilting frame as we played while the elders quilted. The long boards held the quilt on top of wooden sawhorses that were spread across from each other. How close to the action were we? I remember that my hair was sewn to a quilt on more than one occasion. Food? Drink? Other kids? It must have been before I was school age!

Once the celebration was over, our attention quickly turned to the next project, my questions, and my concerns. Quickly capturing the ideas on the computer showed me one way that the next quilt might go.

I still enjoy viewing hand pieced quilts but I can’t see myself ever agreeing to sew one by hand (with out any machines or modern tools). Sewing pieces together with a machine involves a variety of skills that seem to ebb and flow with each project and enough complexity for my mind.

The math involved:

measuring, measuring, and measuring again. Each seam, Each row. Each column. Each section. And then piecing the elephants. My most complicated work to date. A square becomes a triangle. Two triangles equal a square . . . Measuring for the binding. Halving distances. 45 degree angles on corners. So many numbers. And the patterns. Yes to a pattern here. No to a pattern here. Some organized randomness. Counting. Counting. Counting.

And yet I’m embarking on the next task. A graduation quilt. From a baby to a six and a half foot young man. Adding to the pattern. Adding to the fabric. Mathing again!

How does math intersect with your life? When are you surprised by the ways that math becomes a part of your life? Is math a big part of your REAL life?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this daily forum during the month of March. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOLSC21: Perspective

How would you describe this glass?

Half full?

An optimist.

Someone who always thinks good things will happen.

Half empty?

A pessimist.

Someone who always thinks bad things will happen.

What if there was a third possibility?

People who wonder if the glass is half empty or full miss the point. The glass is refillable.

Magnifying Glass 3.23.21. Quote of the Day!

A realist.

Someone who drinks the water because they know it is refillable.

What are some of your favorite idioms? Are they all “black and white” or are other perspectives allowed? How do you discover divergent thinking?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this daily forum during the month of March. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOLSC21: Science Inquiry?

As a fourth grade teacher, I loved the learning from the FOSS kits. (Not the stocking, restocking, and prep when I had 29 students.) If my memory is correct two of the units we used were Soils, Rocks, and Landforms and Sounds. When I saw the NGSS standards, I immediately saw connections and loved how easy I thought alignment might be for both content and the Gradual Release of Responsibility which was our lesson format.

At the TCRWP Supper Club I was introduced to Paul Anderson, science guru in Montana, and his inquiry cards during a Zoom session that was highly engaging, quite riveting, and easy to incorporate a minilesson.

Inquiry Cards

Keys to Successful Inquiry:


Time for Exploration

Time for Questions

Time for Explanations

Time to Test, Plan and Carry out Investigations

Time for Argumentation



“Science needs to be LESS about following directions and more about the process of INQUIRY. Stop turning science into a cookbook! NGSS Exploration is first!”

“A five year old can have the same level of inquiry in nature as an adult in science. (Not so in math or literacy.)”


Resources or to Learn More:


(Under resources check out minilessons. Also check out performance assessments.)

And recommended:


(three units available for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade)

Does your “inquiry” in genre or author study include these steps? How teacher-directed is your inquiry? Where might you provide more time for students?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this daily forum during the month of March. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOLSC21: Depending on when you met me

I’ve returned to this invitation three times, so it literally is time to act. Leigh Ann Eck issued an invitation to a party with an ID required here and in Margaret’s post here. This is my fourth draft. I’m not ready to call it a final copy yet.

Depending on when you met me, I might have been: that kindergarten student hiding in the classroom during reading class as I devoured the books; that first grade student who read all the books on the single first grade shelf who wasn’t allowed to read books from other shelves; that first grade artist with a purple sky, red sun, and green and purple blooming flowers who watched her teacher tear up her paper, that third grade student who recopied her “When I Grow Up” story in red ink so the teacher could not red ink the page, that middle school reader who read Alcott, Hemingway, Henry James, and Tolstoy (to name a few) as I read my way alphabetically through the fiction stacks, that sophomore in high school who wrote “To Wear or Not to Wear” to question the school dress code; that college student who questioned authority and arbitrary rules; that special ed teacher who questioned rule exceptions that had 28 students in my resource room program (limit was 18); or that adult who continues to ask WHY?

Draft # 1 As I read it for at least the tenth time, I reflected again on the job roles that were a great portion of the list. I felt it lacked “interest” and any real coherence for the reader (Boring list) or the writer (icky list)!

Depending on when you met me I might have been: a middle child, a child with her nose in a book, an egg gatherer, a tree waterer, a bike rider, a knitter, a teacher of religion classes, a cousin, a bass player, an international traveler, a student desperately trying to fit in balancing school and work, and work, and work, a transfer student, a marching band afficiando, a teacher, a researcher, an inquisitive soul who craved deeper understanding, a cross stitcher, a professional development provider, a teacher, a college instructor, a mom a learner, a principal, a consultant, a speaker, a listener, a writer, a grandmother, and a quilter.

Which version did you prefer and why?

When and where do you share writing drafts and finished product? How do you model revisions for your students?

_______________________________________________________________________________ Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this daily forum during the month of March. Check out the writers and readers here.
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