#NCTE15 Involving Students!

A common theme in these four sessions that  I attended at #NCTE15 was the importance / necessity of involving students in their own learning. (It’s a connection that I could make about ALL of my #NCTE15 sessions in retrospect.)

1. Bring Students into the Conversation:  Goal-Setting, Tool-Making that Supports Transfer

#TCRWP Staff Developers:  Valerie Geschwind, Marjorie Martinelli, Ryan Scala, Amy Tondeau  began this session with a “Turn and Talk”.

Think of a recent goal that you have achieved.

What were the conditions that helped you to reach that goal?

Motivation is a Result of . . .

  •    Involvement
  •    Curiosity
  •    Challenge
  •    Social interaction

Tools that Support Self- Assessment

  •     Checklists
  •     Rubrics
  •     Tools created from Mini-Lessons

Goal Setting with Students             and  Language that Honors Choice

And then Val introduced the cycle of learning. . . in student language.


  • I am working towards a new goal.
  • Sometimes it goes well and sometimes it is really hard!
  • I need my tool to know each step.


  • I am practicing my goal all the time: in every book or in every piece of writing.
  • I use my tool as a check-in.


  • I can use my goal in lots of places.
  • I can teach other people what my goal is and help them do it.

I loved the idea of the three stages.  I believe Brook Geller first introduced me to the belief at #TCRWP 2013 July Reading Institute that most “students are over taught and under practiced.”  Many students seem to need more practice time with specific feedback and a lot less “teacher talk”.  In this case a practitioner is someone who is actively engaged in the doing, who repeatedly exercises or performs an activity or skill to acquire, improve, or maintain proficiency, or who actually applies or uses an idea, a method, or a skill across many scenarios. In other words, our students are the practitioners!

Practice does not have to be boring.  There are many methods (see picture below) that can be used to reach “expert” status but the key to this entire presentation was that students would be working on a goal of their own choice and moving from novice, to practitioner, to expert.  What wonderful language to put into the mouths of students . . . How motivating and empowering!!!

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Caution:  These are not stages to be RACED through.  They will take time to develop.  Students in charge of their own assessment of these stages will definitely be students who know exactly what skills and strategies that they do have in their repertoire.

Be the Force!  Help students

  • Take on their own learning
  • Take on their own change
  • Cultivate a growth habit of mind
  • See each other as experts

Tools:  Checklists, rubrics, progressions, charts from mini-lessons.  However, a new look . . . Bookmarks with 3 or 4 choices.  Students marked the choice that they were using with a paperclip.  Clearly visible!!!!  AWESOME!

And then a final reminder .. . .

You’ve met your goal.  Now what?

  • Celebrate
  • Maintain your skills
  • Teach others
  • Get critical
  • Set new goals

It was the first time for me to hear #TCRWP Staff Developers Valerie, Marjorie, Ryan, and Amy and I’m definitely looking forward to learning from them during future opportunities!!!

2. Responsible and Responsive Reading:  Understanding How to Nurture Skill and Will

Kylene Beers, Teri Lesene, Donalyn Miller, Robert Probst

Of course this was a popular session so I was willing to sit on the floor (don’t tell the fire marshal) because I wanted to be able to be up front and see!

Donalyn’s presentation is here for you to review at your leisure.  A very powerful activity included these questions:  “What books and reading experiences would form your reading autobiography?”  Donalyn  explained that:  What matters is WHY you chose the book? Insights from these responses lead to deep conversations with students. Convos for Ss

Teri Lesene’s presentation is here. This fact was startling to me! Obviously I need to read more than a book a week!

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Kylene Beers and Bob Probst shared a great deal of information about nonfiction reading that has come from the process of writing their new book. This slide is something I want to remember. . . “when I have answers I need to question”.

ncte beers and probst

And this one on the importance of reading.

beers if children need to read

3. Finding Their Way:  Using Learning Tools to Push Rigor, Increase Independence and Encourage Learning in Your Classroom

TCRWP Staff Developers:  Mike Ochs, Kate Roberts, Maggie Beattie Roberts

Maggie began this session with many great connections. “We haven’t seen teachers work harder than they currently are, YET sometimes students aren’t working so hard! ” Tools can help students buy into learning.  Tools, in our daily life, extend our reach, meet our needs, help us tackle big problems and personally get better! Tools connect, access, build community . . . should change over time!

Struggles –

  • Rigor and motivation
  • Memory . . .  Why don’t we remember things? (short and long term memory) “I’ve taught this 1000 times. I know they learned this!”

“A great coach never achieves greatness for himself or his team by working to make all his players alike.” Tomlinson

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And then a typical problem from narrative writing. . .  How to stretch out a frozen moment. Kate created a demo page in front of us and told us it was,  “Messy!”  Lean on a menu of ways, decide the color scheme, and title.

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Another tool might be a Micro-Progression.  It provides a clear description of behaviors that are expected so students will know where they stand.  Middle level is good.  Students don’t always have to think they should be at the top level of performance.

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Bookmark – 5 or 6 most important things for students to work on.  Let students create this for themselves. They can be different!

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Mike – Framework for creating tools adapted from The Unstoppable Writing Teacher with a shout out to Colleen Cruz.

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Do not plan to use a tool forever.  Have  a plan to remove the tools.  Some tools we will always need (the hammer), some we want to go away/become automatic (steps to hammer a nail) Some tools become references, set aside until needed. Sometimes need an additional/alternate tool. Most writing tools are not designed to be used indefinitely.

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Kate:  “You find yourself getting as smart as the toolmakers as you use the ‘tools of others’ and you get better as teacher!  You don’t want to teach without a sidekick. Your tools can be a sidekick.”

News :  Spring 2016 a book from Kate and Maggie!!!! SO EXCITED!

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4. Transforming Informational Writing:  Merging Content and Craft

Seymour Simon, Kelly Boswell, Linda Hoyt

I think I know this boy!  ncte 14

Seymour’s part was actually titled: Celebrating the Wonder in Nonfiction Storytelling.  He began with a discussion of what nonfiction really means.  If nonfiction is really “not true” than fiction should be “not real”.  There is something about the use of “non” that marginalizes the texts that are labeled nonfiction.  After all, who takes anything with “non” in the title seriously?

Not much difference between teaching F and NF. . .

  • Who am I?
  • What am I?
  • What about me?

Mystery, wonder, poem, the universe!

Seymour read aloud many great fiction and nonfiction pairings.  One of my favorite pairings was:

Kelly:  How Mentors and Modeling Elevate Informational Writing

Mentor  texts plus teacher modeling equals quality student writing.  When teaching writing, FOCUS!  If the target lesson is about leaving spaces between words, only teach “leaving spaces between words.”  Don’t teach everything in the world of writing.

Kelly’s example for the text went “something” like this as an example of what NOT to do!  “Class, we are going to work on leaving spaces between words today as we write.  What does a sentence begin with?  Good!  Yes, a capital letter. (writes The) Our next word is ‘butterfly’.  Let’s clap the syllables in butterfly.  How many? Yes, three.  What sound does it begin with?”

If the focus is “leaving spaces between words” – that’s the teacher talk!

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On mentors and models – read the book once to enjoy, then mine for craft.  Use a favorite book over and over and don’t forget to use it for conventions! Here’s an example from Hank the Cowdog.

Book Review



  1. Create a culture of Curiosity.
  2. Provide time for students to ask questions
  3. Immerse learners in fascinating informational topics and sources
  4. Focus on content and craft in the writing they see, hear, and produce


  1. “Float the learning on a sea of talk.” – James Britton
  2. Teach research strategies
  3. Teach visual literacy – First grade writing example


8. Writers Workshop Every Day

9. Make sure learners are writing all day long. Write to remember. Write to question. Write to think. Write to express yourself. Write to share your learning. In every subject area.

10. Write Using Elements from Real World Informational Texts (lists, emails, letters, notes, newsletters)

Involving Students Take Aways:

Students can set real goals and self-assess their progress toward their goals.

Students are motivated when they have control and real choices in their work.

Models and tools aid students in moving through a cycle of novice to practitioner to expert.

What are your thoughts about involving students at this point?



#NCTE15 Sessions


Making Powerful Connections Across the Twitterverse Using Social Media to Become Agents of Change

Amy Brennan, Jill DeRosa, Jenn Hayhurst, Mary Howard, and Jeanne Marie Mazzaferro shared how Twitter, a book Good to Great, and Voxer has led to changes in instruction and professional development.  Read more about their session here on Jennifer’s blog.

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Embracing Trouble:  Problem Solving and Responsive Teaching in the Reading and Writing Classroom

the unstoppable writing teacher
Colleen Cruz, author of The Unstoppable Writing Teacher: Real Strategies for the Real Classroom, presented a series of steps to problem solve writing difficulties. This was interactive as we were working on a problem of our own as we learned about the steps.

  1. Name your trouble.
  2. How do you know it’s a problem?
  3. Where do you feel stuck? Why is it keeping you up at night?
  4. What are you most afraid will happen?
  5. Rename the problem as a realization or goal.
  6. Name the roadblocks that might get in the way.
  7. How might you deal with those roadblocks? Find a small little piece to start with.
  8. Plan first step. Second step. Send yourself a text with your plan as a reminder.

Barb Golub reminded us that “No matter what, Independent reading time needs to happen every day.”  EVERY.DAY.INDEPENDENT.READING.EVERY.STUDENT

“Be true to yourself.”

“Teaching is hard.”

“You need to find your group or tribe for both celebrations and in times of trouble.”
strategiesstrategies in color

Jennifer Serravallo, author of The Reading Strategies Book:  Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers, began with a description of her previous typical classroom of 32 children,  10 with IEPs, 5 Ells, and parents who felt disconnected from schooling.

Because it was chaotic, she knew that she needed an action plan to fix the problem.  She relied on experiences from her father, a chemist, to develop a plan.

1. Get to know the student.   Stuff inside a messy desk may tell us more than the assessments.  Use an engagement inventory to consider student stamina/ability to re-engage.  How do you use running records? Not use for process, not as summative, but for formative information, but for next steps in teaching.

Where is the student pausing?

What patterns in pauses, miscues, . ..?

What is the student thinking about?

2. Decide on a goal for each reader. Honor student strength and potential when determining next steps. Jen referenced both Petty and Hattie for research in goal setting and specific feedback focused on goals.  She reminded us that you must have a goal in order to be impactful. Look at the  Hierarchy when making decisions about goals. “Have one goal for kids.”

3. Teach a strategy that aligns to goals.  The strategy will have actionable steps with a verb.  It will literally break down the work in a skill. (The newest publication has the goals color coded like the picture above!)

4. Make the goals visible.  The goals need to be visible for the reader,  other teachers, and parents.  Pictures can help.  Information on class website / blog can also provide visible goals.

“Have Student notes in a two pocket folder. Put reading information in one pocket and writing in the other pocket.  Write notes.  Have this chart ready at all times for communication purposes.  Make it be like a “chart” at the hospital that hangs on the end of the bed.  The doctor comes in and picks it up – One chart that travels with the student.  (BRILLIANT coordination of information about the student!)”

5. Stay focused on the goal during conferences and small group work. So if you are working on fluency, you will make sure the student reads text.

“Teachers:  You matter! You make a difference!”

The Art of Knowing Our Students:  Action Research for Learning and Reflection

Matt Renwick – Elementary principal in Wisconsin

We began with Matt’s question, “What do you think of when you hear the word ‘research’?”  Research should actually include listening, talking and even laughter as everyone learns from each other.  Action Research – be a renegade / individual who rejects conventional behavior. Matt shared examples of research that both he and the teachers in his building are engaged in

Karen Terlecky – literacy coach for teachers of grades 3-5

“The stories behind children are important! It’s not all about the numbers!”  Karen’s research question is “How might stamina and choice increase student reading engagement and achievement?”  Observational data might include taking pictures/video, listening to students read.  Additional information from “status of the class” can tell about stamina, where stuck, favorite genres, and whether students are just “skipping around.” And a shout out to Cathy Mere, “How might celebration within the literacy block incrase student motivation and engagement?”


Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan

Clare and Tammy speak and write so eloquently about assessment and making sense of all the data that is collected – and so much more than just the numbers! How do we get “Wonder” as a regular piece of teacher work? In other words getting past issues of time, learning, questions, AND not having ALL the answers!


  1. More than a number
  2. Assessment and instruction are inseparable
  3. Instruction can meet high standards and be developmentally appropriate.

“Students want to know how they are doing. They don’t want to just hear about the errors that have been recorded.”  Triangulating data must include teaching.  Ask:  “What do you notice?  What do you wonder?”

I loved our work where we looked at the data pictured below and listed what we knew and wondered about this student who had scores below the benchmark and above the benchmark as well.  What do you notice  and wonder?



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Take aways for today:

Learning is complex, for adults and students

Assessment is complex, more than a number

Students are complex.

Quality literacy instruction is hard because no script can meet the needs of all students.

Collecting Snippets from #NCTE15


From Twitter and Kelly Gallagher’s “Top Ten Takeaways” (and he said – in no particular order):

kelly one

kelly two

kelly three

kelly four



Blog Posts:

Julieanne Harmatz  NCTE15  A Necessity

Mary Lee Hahn  My NCTE Top Tens

Joellen McCarthy  The Literacy Super Bowl NCTE15

Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan (Assessment in Perspective) Slice of Life:  Some Slices from #NCTE15

Jennifer Sniadecki   Slice of Life Tuesday:  NCTE Lives On

Carol Varsalona   Celebrating Professional Growth

Middle English   #NCTE15:  Disney For English Teachers

Donna Friend  Dear #NCTE15

Sarah Zerwin  My Top Takeaways from #NCTE15

Dana Huff  NCTE 2015 Reflections

Audrey Fisch and Susan Chenelle Day 2 at NCTE: Critical Encounters with Non-Fiction

My Faves:

Visiting with old and new friends

Our volunteer guide the first morning in the skywalk

Learning with a co-worker and friend

The skywalk and the inside path to the convention center

IKEA  (first timer)


Hell’s Kitchen


Sharing #NCTE15 love with @Tara_Smith5 and @Azajacks

Thousands of attendees and thousands of views of #NCTE15 . . . What will you remember?




#NCTE15: Beginning at the End



The Teacher You Want to Be:  Essays about Children, Learning and Teaching was the source of the last panel presentation I attended on Sunday at #NCTE15 in Minneapolis. (Trivia note – #NCTE15 participants wrote 33,000 Tweets!)


Rock Stars on Stage:

  • Katie Wood Ray
  • Kathy Collins
  • Vicki Vinton

The session was both funny, illuminating and oh, so insightful.  After all, it was an introduction by Katie Wood Ray (who taught Matt Glover everything he knows as well as thinks of the greatest book titles EVER!), Kathy Collins and Vicki Vinton.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the illustrious crowd present:  Kylene, Donalynn, Franki, Maggie, Katie, Christina, Dani, Katherine, Ryan, and Katie and many others that I did not see from the front row!

The 13 Beliefs


We explored these beliefs and the important qualities of readers.


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And the question:  How do we brand our reading?  How do we really help students understand the importance of reading?

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Kathy also spent time on belief # 3  – how do we appreciate that quirky child (annoying, yes) and make sure that he/she continue to grow and learn?  And belief # 8 – Joy!  Such a strong belief in joy that it needs to be a secret so that publishers don’t create and market “JOY kits”! And the gifs . . . oh, my!  LAUGHTER!  Here’s a gif that Kathy Collins did not use but may fit your future needs!

Vicki Vinton began  with framing several issues with quotes and examples for the audience to consider.


Dewey vinton

standards not goal.jpg

And an example of grade three CCSS – aligned “reading work” for teachers.

pic two.jpgBeliefs that were embedded in Vicki’s presentation included:  4, 5, 6, 7 and 10. And then we moved into a demonstration . . .  as we used a problem-solving approach to reading (like math?). “Words aren’t the problem…what does it MEAN when you put all the words together?”

maggie tweet

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And here’s the most important part of this post.  I was the first volunteer for this problem-solving small group.  Five of us – all adults and literacy folks – volunteered to participate in this demonstration.  We had roles – as students – dyslexic, ADHD, ELL, ELL, and Unmotivated. We had never seen the script and time was fleeting.  We actually read from a script and from text projected on the screen and we missed a couple of cues (“oohing” during reading) but we did “get into our parts”!

  • As a reader, I was anxious.
  • As a reader, I was worried about how well I could read and follow directions.
  • As a reader, I was worried about the task.
  • As a reader, I had no time to “think” about the text even though I scanned all my “parts” as soon as I had the script in my hands.
  • As a reader, I wondered about “how well” we would do as a group.
  • As a reader, I wondered if we would meet Vicki’s expectations.

In the interest of full disclosure, dear readers, I must tell you that I presented on a panel with Vicki Vinton last year at #NCTE14.  So I was reading a script from a trusted/respected friend/mentor.  Another group member was a respected colleague.  I provide PD to all sizes of groups so the actual speaking/performing was NOT really one of my concerns.

If I, a confident reader, was worried about how well I would read so I didn’t let the group down, how do our students feel when they aren’t sure of the task or topic?

How do students really feel when they encounter new tasks/situations?

How have we structured our work/learning so that a mindset for growth is present?

The work that we demonstrated was important.  The students were figuring out “Minneapolis Simpkin”. The teacher had not pretaught all the vocabulary words in the book.  Words from “real students” showed that they were continually revising their thinking about what “Minneapolis Simpkin”was.  This was a Peggy Parish “I Can Read” level 1 book.  It was not a “hard” text. But the reader certainly had to be thinking in order to make sense of the text.  YET, it was a tricky text where the narrator was not explicitly revealed.  The text did not say, “Minneapolis Simpkin said, ‘——-.'” Students had to do the work of figuring out the story!

Big Take Away Thoughts:

Before:  Remember to think of the student perspective when planning your instruction.

During:  Listen to the students. Follow their lead.  Don’t be the leader.  (Remember that you already know how to read.)

After: Do notice and name the work students did (“Who’s doing the work?”) and discuss where and when this work might be expected to transfer.

What are the ideas that you want to remember from this session/post?


Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

Professional Development: An Investment in Yourself

As an educator, life is sometimes draining.  Press bombards the world with all the failings of education.  Numbers. Data. Numbers.

Life is hectic. Life is filled with problems.

How do you stay enthused?  How do you stay current?  What matters?

I turn to professional development.  I love to learn. I.Love.to.Learn.  I.Live.to.Learn.

Nerdy!  You bet!


I have so much learning to share.

Life is really about our community of learners and you will be able to read about how my learning and the community converged at #NCTE15.

(I’m really enjoying my face to face time with friends  – old and new!)

Professional Development is the GOLD!






#SOL15: Choose kind!


Live life, but choose kind!

Be all that you can be, but choose kind!

Live life with gusto, but not at the expense of others – choose kind!

Choose to be the positive impact in the daily lives of those around you!

Focus on what you can control – your own actions!

A photo taken on Nov. 16 in Paris shows the Eiffel Tower illuminated with the colors of the French flag in tribute to the victims of Friday’s attacks. (Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images)paris three

My heart is heavy with grief, but I choose kind!

Empathy for Parisians.

Prayers for Parisians.

A moment of silence.


For teachers, consider:

Advice for Parents about “Breaking News”

Newsela – “Paris is stunned . . .”

Schools Grapple with how to Teach about Paris


Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 




As the leaves change colors and begin to fall from the trees,

As the frost decorates my windshield each morning,

As the debate to “turn on the heat” continues (but what if the temperature goes back up to 70?),

As the calendar pages narrow down,

I have a thankful heart!

My Top Ten!

thankful two

for my family far and near,

including the cutest 6 month old (yep, half a year) grandson in the world;

for my friends near and far,

whether face-to-face, on twitter, “slicers” or blog readers;

for our veterans both here and gone,

as well as the four generations of family who have served;

for the curiosity of children (and adults),

who dream, imagine, and create a better world;

for the teachers, administrators, and volunteer boards,

who generously give and give and give their time and hearts;

for the farmers who provide our food,

even though I sometimes resent sharing the roads mile after mile;

for the authors, illustrators, editors, and publishers,

who provide so many choices of materials to read/learn from;

for everyone who shares a minute, a laugh, a kind action,

that brightens up days and / or lives of strangers and those less fortunate;

for this great Earth, our melting pot of people,

the air, wind, water, resources, strength, and renewal:

And most of all, for this moment, this single point in time,

that allows me to share my thoughts and my gratitude!

What are you thankful for?

How will we know?


Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

#SOL15: Literacy Superheroes

Halloween Celebrations are over.  November, still warm and toasty, is here.

Did you see a few superheroes?

I spent some time this last week with a few of my superheroes.


Real life superheroes.  Authors who inspire!  Authors who dare to challenge my thinking. Authors who want a better world for our students.  And authors who understand that in order for students to really be life-long learners, the teachers have to step back and trust that inquiry is one avenue that unites students and teachers in real-world learning.

Who is one of my super heroes?

vicki vinton

Vicki Vinton, co-author of What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making, is definitely one.  Have you read her book?  If you haven’t read it,



Additional evidence of my esteem would be in these blog posts:  here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Those nine posts share thoughts from the last year that include Vicki, other rock star literacy educators and many other bloggers as well. It has been an amazing year of learning and I’ve been blessed to have many opportunities to learn along side students, teachers, literacy rock stars and superheroes!

This book was eagerly awaited as Vicki wrote about it on her blog here and here.

The book is a celebration of the 13 belief statements and the 68 study group members who went to Italy in October of 2012 to study the preschools in the town of Reggio Emilia. And as the authors say, “We hope these essays inspire you to move beyond discussion and into action.”

Essay One is “Centering the Child” by Sir Ken Robinson.

Essay Two is “How Reggio Ruined Me for Anything Less than Inquiry-Driven Learning by Vicki Vinton.

Essay Four is “Engagement: A Hub of Human Development by Peter Hohnston and Gay Ivey.

Essay Five is “With an Air of Expectancy” by Katherine Bomer.

Essay Six is “What Price Beauty?  A Call for Aesthetic Education” by co-editor Ellin Oliver Keene.

Essay Eight is “The Journey of a Single Hour: Exploring the Rich Promise of an Immediate Release of Responsibility by Katie Wood Ray.

Essays I have yet to read include those by: Deborah Meier, Matt Glover, Kathy Collins and Thomas Newkirk.

Backstories and Essays you can access:

Sir Ken Robinson – “Centering the Child Part 2

The Story of the Front Cover and Frontispiece

Jeremy Greensmith – “On Teaching the Scaffold

Alfie Kohn – “To Change What We Do, Consider What We Believe” [This essay is adapted from the Foreword to The Teacher You Want to Be, edited by Matt Glover and Ellin Oliver Keene (Heinemann, 2015)]

Heidi Mills – “On Beliefs that Matter

What will my actions be?

I’m still mulling that over.  The last few weeks have really caused me to think about my beliefs. How do others know what I value?  They can see it here in my blog posts as well as on Twitter.  “I loved the alignment of beliefs and practices – as in, ‘If we say we believe this, we must therefore do that . . .'”(Vicki Vinton, p. 20)  Crosschecking, constantly!  Do my beliefs match my actions?

Which essay is your favorite?  

With whom are you sharing the essays?

*I think 2015 is the year of the great books . . . new Mindset, Reading Nonfiction (Notice and Note) . . . my TBR stack is NOT getting any shorter!


Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

#SOL15: A Tale of Two Readers


In seventh grade,

she vowed to read every book in the library.  She began in the fiction section, left to right, top to bottom, methodically working her way through the alphabet.  Favorite authors included:  Louisa Mae Alcott, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Charles Dickens, Daphne DuMaurier, Thomas Hardy, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Leo Tolstoy. Reading was about the stories and the stories opened up the world.


Her social studies teacher handed her a copy of The Sun Also Rises. They talked about the themes, symbolism and imagery.  It was a paperback.  Days were spent on the book.  Questions abounded:  “Why read this book?” “What was her learning supposed to be?”

Language Arts class was all about diagramming sentences and practicing for a spelling bee.  No reading. No writing.

Book two was A Farewell to Arms and more conversations. The depth of conversation was intriguing. Read and then talk?  A readerly life was redefined. She was reading with a purpose – for that conversation with an adult, a teacher. Savoring the words. Wondering “Do I really understand this book?” Treasuring the conversations. Bringing the world to the reader.

Why did the student set such a lofty goal?

What role did her teachers play?

How did that goal shift?

A first grade reader 

wanted to read books. Her teacher said she had to pick books on the first grade shelf. It was the lowest shelf in the library. The shelf was four-foot long. It was not even completely filled.  It had 41 books.  By November, the first grader had read all the books because after all, there were no chapter books on the first grade shelf.

One day she chose a book from the second grade shelf. The teacher shook her head, “No, you can’t check those books out. They are only for second grade readers. Read something from our shelf.”

Those words made the girl’s stomach ache so much that she went home sick. She missed 37 days of school in first grade.

How big of an impact does a teacher have?

What teacher actions support a reader?

So what happened to that first grade reader?

When she went home, she read her books from the public library.  Three books each Saturday – that was the checkout rule! She devoured the Nancy Drew mysteries and sometimes had to switch to a different book so she could read them exactly in order.  Bobbsey Twins was another favorite, and because her brother did not check out books, she also read every one of the Hardy Boys books.

A reader was born in spite of the lack of books at school.  And when she went to junior high, her seventh grade teacher was drafted to serve in Vietnam. The long-term substitute for social studies came from the University of Iowa and one day handed her a copy of The Sun Also Rises.

Years later, I still read Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier at least once a year to consider the masterful craft that begins with, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”  I remain a voracious reader.

And now YOU know the rest of the story!

How do you know you are having a positive impact on your Readers and Writers?


Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

#TCRWP 89th Saturday Reunion Closing and Recap


Gold or Curmudgeon?

What is your mindset for a full day of professional development?

When the day is a FREE day at Teachers College with the most brilliant minds in the field of literacy, it’s so easy to look for the GOLD!  Lucy Calkins’ Closing was titled:  Straight Talk where do we go from here? and it was PURE GOLD!

As always, Lucy was passionate about her topic!

The future of our students is in our hands – the teachers.  What we believe about our students is what they will accomplish.  If we think, “oh, that’s too hard for them!”, it will be too hard.  Our expectations set the ceiling for students! We MUST dream impossible dreams.  We must work towards challenging goals.  If not, our students will continue to be stuck in their current reality.

 Is that what we really want? 

As a writer, I appreciated hearing that a younger Lucy writer was asked to try 25 different beginnings for a piece.  When we are challenged to do better, we can and do accomplish bigger and better things!


Study student work.

Give ambitious feedback.

Teach, teach, teach – and yes, this is not the way we were taught.

Work collaboratively – find/make a group that can and does work together!

To review the learning, the chapters in my blog posts for #TCRWP 89th Saturday Reunion (in order):

NYC Bound . . . Anticipation
From Riverside to Riverside . . . The Learning Continues
Begin at the Beginning: #TCRWP 89th Saturday Reunion and Mo Willems
#TCRWP 89th Reunion: Mo Willem’s Keynote
#TCRWP 89th Saturday Reunion: Laughter and Learning Session #1
#TCRWP 89th Reunion: A Reprise
#89th TCRWP Saturday Reunion and a Bit of Grammar
#TCRWP 89th Saturday Reunion and FUN Vocabulary Learning!

Additional Posts about the 89th Saturday Reunion include:

Learning Never Ends with the Sessions; Learning Continues in the Conversations . . .

How and what are YOU learning?

Middle English

Life as an English teacher leader

steps in the literacy journey

Walking the Path to Literacy Together


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