#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


#SOL18: Volunteering

There was a box.

“Would you like to volunteer?”

Hmmm.  What’s the likelihood?

Oh, well, nothing ventured.

Nothing gained.

Click, box checked.


Time passed by.

No more thought of that little box.

That little check.

And then . . . an email.

“Would you be a monitor?”

A monitor?

Sounds simple.


I replied affirmatively. 

Marked it on my calendar.

Linked the email.

Time passed by.

A few wonderings about the role of a monitor.

But not much thought.

And then . . . a second email.

A different question this time.

“Would you be a chair?”

A chair?

Sounds simple.

But wait . . .

For whom?

More details?

I read the email.

I checked the email again.

I reread carefully.

What a treat!

What an honor!

The email was an invitation to be a chairperson for a session at #CCIRA18.  Who knew?  An out-of-stater was going to be the chair.  And to introduce an #eduhero of mine!


February 9, 2018

in Humboldt Peak

9:15 – 11:15

at #CCIRA18,

Session 318

“Dynamic Teaching for the Deeper Reading of Fiction”

Presenter: Vicki Vinton

Screenshot 2018-02-12 at 10.12.40 PM

Heaven! Pure Delight!

What’s your experience with volunteering at literacy conferences? 

What’s your experience with volunteering at non-educational activities? 

Do you continue to volunteer?

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


#CCIRA18: Disrupting Thinking

Satuday at #CCIRA18 meant three hours with Kylene Beers and Bob Probst.

Three hours.

Amazing three hours.




And most of all learning.

But I’m still struck by this . . .

Teachers know more about the teaching of reading than ever before.

Textbooks are better.

More books published for kids.

Yet more kids leave high school saying, ‘I will never read a book again.'”

WHY is this?

We know more.

Out teaching has improved.

The materials and resources have improved.

And yet, when students leave school, they aren’t reading.

The data is here.

Go wade through the data.  It’s been sliced, graphed and discussed from number of books to types of characters to choice.  Two that caught my eye are here.

Frequency of Reading and Number of Books

Screenshot 2018-02-12 at 7.53.51 AM.png

Frequency of Student Selection of Book and Likelihood of Finishing a Book

Screenshot 2018-02-12 at 7.55.47 AM.png

How do you interpret this data? 

How important is student self-selection of books according to the students? 

How might this data impact your work?

#CCIRA18: What do students read?

This picture of a slide from Peter Johnston’s keynote on Saturday at #CCIRA18 has had


118 likes, and

some pushback . . .


John Guthrie’s research here

Pernille Ripp also spoke to this issue at #CCIRA18


Kate Roberts book will be out this month.


Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle’s book will be out in April.  I’m not finding the preview of the cover now, but it has “180 Days” in the title and at #NCTE17, they shared their structure that includes one whole class book per semester.

What is a healthy reading diet?  How would one build a “Healthier Reading Diet”?

Check out Travis Crowder’s work with Donalyn Miller’s resources here.

What is the end goal?

Students who can read?

Students who do read?

Students who have choice and voice in what they read?

Or students who pass a test and never pick up a book again?

What books should students read?

How many books should the whole class read together each year? 

Who decides?

Does this speak to student engagement?

Does this speak to excellence in literacy?

Does this speak to equity? 

What is your interpretation? 

What are your expectations?


#CCIRA Day 2: Aha’s

How did I feel at the end of Day 2?  After another 11 hour day of learning . . .

Which picture?

I couldn’t decide so I had to include all three as my brain truly is full and there is more learning ahead.  My heart is happy because I need some space to think, write and share  in order to free up some brain space for Day 3!

Change is Necessary and Teachers Must Be Change Agents

Eric Sheninger led the final session, “Inspiring Students Bringing Awe Back to Learning” in which we looked at some of the changes in our lives/world and compared them to changes in schools.  Are our schools really preparing students who are ready for the rest of their lives?

So this hits me personally as I can remember a crank phone on the wall with a party line, a black and white TV and maybe three shows we watched during a week, and a wringer washer with separate rinse tubs that was used on “wash day”.  Yes, that old!

The change in phones is pretty obvious even though the picture makes them look similar in size.  So what has changed in education?  What looks the same?  What looks different? Think about that for a minute before you continue on!

The Teacher is Responsible for the Awe

“Awe is a huge component of life – it’s hardwired into our brains…Awe is a driving force for learning…However, traditional views and functions of school deprives many students from experiencing the joy and power of awe as a catalyst for meaningful learning.”     ~ Eric Sheninger, CCIRA18 program, p. 43

Not Technology, But the Teacher!

  • The teacher sets the conditions for learning.
  • The teacher sets up the environment for learning.
  • The teacher makes the decisions about next steps.
  • The teacher makes sure play is included.
  • The teacher facilitates the learning.
  • The teacher has a purpose in mind.
  • But the teacher has a mindset that allows the students to “wonder” outside the corners of the page.
  • And then the teacher steps back and the students do the work.
  • NO graphic organizers.
  • NO fill in the blank activities.
  • Real Reading.
  • Real purposes.
  • Real Writing.
  • Real purposes.
  • Talk required.
  • Thinking required.

Yesterday, I heard this over and over and over.

I heard it from Vicki Vinton as we, the teachers, did the reading work six minutes into the session (yes, six minutes in) that incorporated a different version of close reading, analysis, and interpretation that met the demands of the first six reading standards. Read. Talk. Read. Talk.  Read. Talk.  Constructing meaning.  Working together.  Building on each other’s ideas.  Revising our ideas.  Refining our thinking. No highlighting.  No three readings.

I heard it from Gravity Goldberg as she encouraged teachers to “do the work” and be their best source of “next steps”. Teachers’ best use of time is spent searching student work for the “awe and possibilities” that are NOT found online in any free, pretty, or even paid for resources. Use the time wisely in the best interests of your students!  You must trust your data, student work, for the next steps.

And I heard it from Kristi Mraz as she presented





and more research

(Link ) (and here PK)(and here)( and here – Best K design)

(and sneak peak at Kristi and Christine’s new book)

that clearly showed that play has longer term positive effects than “academic learning” at pre-school and primary ages!  Building play into the schedule is the teacher’s responsibility and it’s not, “PLAY, NOW!” in a demanding tone either.

This does fit with everything I know and believe about “students doing the work” in order to own the learning.  With frameworks like this . . .

  • Students do have MORE choice.
  • Students do have MORE voice.
  • Students do have MORE time to explore their own AWE.
  • Students do have more time to think and learn at deeper levels.

How do these classrooms look?

The classrooms are buzzing with learning, excitement, and student voices.  Walls include student work.  Students are able to access the materials they need.  Books are everywhere. Students aren’t vessels waiting for their brains to be filled like turning the tap on the water faucet pictured above.  Students are proposing topics and formats of their choices in ways that will demonstrate their learning. Students are invested in the work because they chose their own compelling work!

Learning MUST include Joy, Wonder, Relevancy, Engagement, Inspiration, Real-World Connections and AWE.

It begins with You, the teacher!

Screenshot 2018-02-10 at 4.59.43 AM

You are more important than any device!

You must know the WHY and then stay the course, check your data, and work in the best interests of ALL your children as every minute of every day is a precious learning resource.  The students’ future is literally in your hands!

If you are at #CCIRA18, what did you learn on Day 2?

How will your learning impact your work next week?


Screenshot 2018-01-02 at 1.32.46 PMMy #OLW for 2018 is “curious” and being curious led me to #CCIRA18:  LIteracy Renaissance:  Invention, Intention, and Close Study in Colorado.  The conference keynoters, speakers, and format all made me curious about the learning opportunities.  Check out the entire #CCIRA slide show on their information page!  And then the registration for sessions sealed the deal – preregistration for sessions!  My only regret was that I had waited and some sessions were already closed. Slides 2 and 3 were so convincing and looked just as incredible on the big screens yesterday in Evergreen Hall!

Screenshot 2018-02-09 at 5.55.28 AMScreenshot 2018-02-09 at 5.56.11 AM

So small wonder that the ideas behind the theme were brilliantly repeated in session after session on opening day with a balmy 61 degrees outside!

Curious and Study 

Ralph Fletcher talked of studying his grandson playing in order to determine the “play” elements that should also be included in writing.

Maggie Beattie Roberts talked about being curious and her study with Kristen Warren of students’ Independent Reading Journeys to:

  • Help adolescents discover the rhythm of  thinking . . .
  • Help adolescents discover the nuances . . .
  • Help adolescents live comfortably in the gray.

Jeff Anderson talked of being curious and studying punctuation and grammar in a way that “sticks” for students and also is not black and white.

Kile Clabaugh and Keith Patterson in their “Primary Sources” work talked of using the Library of Congress format of “I see, I think, I wonder”.

At lunch, Kate and Maggie both shared some of their thinking behind DIY Literacy which grew from being curious about WHY students had problems with memory, rigor and differentiation.  And then Kate created a tool  in front of us explaining, giving tips and embracing mediocrity.

Cris Tovani talked of student curiosity driving the compelling questions that students could study to move them from disengaged to empowered.

Troy Hicks talked of curiosity as we studied a picture and a “I see, I think, I wonder” viewing format.

Other Words I heard repeated and demonstrated throughout the day: 





and so much respect for Mentors and the Research/Authors Behind their Work!


so easy to feel welcomed,

so easy to navigate,

so easy to learn.


a class act,

great speakers,

marvelous learning, and

incredible organization.

Thank YOU, CCIRA18!

And off to Day 2!!!




#CCIRA18 Begins


It’s like the first day of school

But it’s February!

But it was 53 degrees in Denver when I arrived.

That’s not winter weather.

Brown grass.

No snow.

Hmmm . . .

What season is this?

Here’s my agenda for the day . . .

Beginning at 7:30 am in Denver with Ralph Fletcher.

What an absolute delight!

Thinking brain needed by 7:30 am.

Before that in order to be in the right room in a great seat!

Screenshot 2018-02-07 at 8.46.26 PM

What will you be learning today? 

Where will you be learning? 

How will we know?

Plan to follow #CCIRA18 tweets for some great learning!

#SOL18: Pride goeth before the fall

Screenshot 2018-02-05 at 8.08.58 PM


I can do this!

Shimmying . . .

Sliding to a stop.


Sliding backwards.

The top of the car is even with the top of the hill.



50 feet

Give or take a few feet.

I can almost smell the top of the hill.

It’s that close.

Burning rubber.

“Oops” or some similar “firetruck” word.

I slam it into low.

Inch forward.

Roll back.

Inch forward.

Roll back.

Straighten the wheel.

A half foot.

I almost crack a smile.

“I’ve got this . . .”

And then the rear end slides and slides and slides.

More “oops”




The smell of tires spinning on ice . . .

Just a 2 inch by 2 inch patch . . .

That little patch under the rear tire

Almost in the gully (no ditch) . . .

The wall of dirt will be next.

“It didn’t seem that deep.”

Two inches said the weather map.

Two inches said the forecast.

Two inches . . .

More snow than we have had for a month.

And that #$%^&@!* hill.

I should have gone around.

I should have been cautious.

I should have left sooner.

I slam it into low.

Inch forward.

Roll back.

Inch forward.

Roll back.

Straighten the wheel.

A half foot.


I double check.

I’ve gone over 10 feet.





blackened snow,



The path I took so carelessly that only had one lonely set of tire tracks

through the pristine glistening snow.

One set of tracks before me.

It didn’t look that deep!

The path that I MAY avoid next time.

2018 – Driver 1:  Hill 0.


Pride goeth before a fall!

Take the flat road

And the long way next time!

About five miles would have been faster and less harrowing. 

Easier on the brain.

Easier on the vocabulary. 

It would have saved 35 minutes of anxiousness!

And stomach-wrenching worry about landing in the ditch. 

Or being hit by a vehicle coming up the hill.

Or being hit by a vehicle coming around the corner too quickly.

Wasted time.

Wasted worry.

Lesson Learned!

Silly driver.


You don’t know how

AND can’t

back 1/2 a mile downhill on a dry, sunny day.

What were you thinking?

Why would you put yourself in that predicament?

Was I over confident?

Was I just hurrying a bit too much?

Was I exhausted and worn out from all the big honking 4 x 4 trucks driving down the middle of the road?  (And 4 x 4 MEANS 4 wheel drive so they could have driven through the ditches and left the road to all the cars!)

Yes, Pride Goeth Before A Fall!


Screenshot 2018-02-05 at 8.07.39 PM

This was Monday’s drive home.

I could have written a different slice.

I’m a learner.

I learn from my mistakes.

I try not to repeat my mistakes.

But, yes, I too fall!

When do you share your “falls”? 

When are you “human”? 

When does learning have to be filled with angst (anger and a few pithy words)?

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

#SOL18: North Star

Screenshot 2018-01-29 at 8.06.27 PM

That big star?  Always in the North?

Shining brightly

Easier to see out in the country

Away from “city” lights

Easily 100 carats bright

A stationary beacon.

It was a lab extra credit.  We took turns looking through a telescope.  But we really liked the view from the quilt on the ground.  The sky sprinkled with twinkling lights was mesmerizing.  And the “city slickers” slowed down to observe just a bit of nature.  I didn’t want to be there.  The ground was hard.  It was late.  A book was surely calling my name.

Read me. Read me.

But the uncertainty of whether I needed the extra credit made me linger.  I knew my lab partner probably needed my points as well.  That night – a peaceful view, a bit of learning and the company of friends and classmates.

I knew this.  I didn’t have to be there.  But it was Easy. No challenge  No stress.  Just time, a different location, and an opportunity for an out of the ordinary instructional experience.

Screenshot 2018-01-29 at 8.05.40 PM.png

There’s something magical about the North Star. I’m not sure if it’s the “constancy”, the fact that it doesn’t move, or just the symbol that guides us that sparks my curiosity (#OLW18).

What is your guiding star?

One of mine is my insatiable need to continue learning… and reading …and writing … I’m currently stuck on E’s





and these quotes from our #G2Great chats:

My current North Stars – my source of direction comes from:

Screenshot 2018-01-06 at 5.45.30 PMScreenshot 2018-01-29 at 9.07.46 PM.png

What is your North Star?

Where does it come from?

What sustains it?

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

#SOL18: Process? Product?

“I don’t know what to write.”

Is that a struggle with the process?

I don’t have a beginning point, a topic, an idea, or even a glimmer of a slice growing in my brain.

I don’t have an outline.

I don’t have a plan (other than to publish a blog post).

I don’t have a graphic organizer to fill in the blanks.

Is that a struggle with the product?

I know I need to produce a blog post,

but I had no idea percolating in my brain as I fell asleep.

No inspiration emerges from my sleep-heavy brain

as I peruse  at least a dozen slices this morning.

And where, oh where, is my idea file?

You know, that list of, “ideas and topics” to write about!

Or my heart map?

The one with pretty colors and fancy word art,

that writing notebook,

Out in my work bag, in my car, in the freezing cold.

And I, snug in the house, barefoot, sipping my coffee.

“No words appear on the page (or screen). “

Is that a struggle with the process?

Just write.


Rearrange and fix it later.

Begin something.

The clock is ticking.

Rewrite the prompt.

Repeat the quote.

Reread last week’s post.

And still, no words appear on the page (or screen).

Is that a struggle with the product?

Am I really still stuck on “What should I write?”

Or is it fear that what I write will be unworthy?

My words will remain unread.

My thoughts will not be validated by comments.

Inside, my brain is cluttered with ideas, words, phrases,

but, YET, no clear starting point emerges.

What word should be first?

“My grammar and the conventions of language are atrocious.”

Is that a struggle with the process?

Should I not have words on the page before I worry about spelling, subject/verb agreement, and writing a post with the same verb tense?

After all, wordpress will give me red underlines when it doesn’t like my draft, my first revision, my second go, or my “Oh, silly Word press, Now are you happy?

Is that a struggle with the product?

As soon as a red line appears under a word, do I respond and immediately fix it?

Or do I let my fingers remain ever moving across the keyboard

in an attempt to quickly capture some words, any words,

because after all, in my mind . . .

I’ve missed my personal deadline to post my blog.

Lack of 



Grammar  and the Conventions of Language

Is an intervention in order? 

Do I need a writing intervention? 

I’m dying here.  I don’t know what to write.  My mind is fuzzy. More coffee please.

What do you notice when a student is sitting quietly and not producing “writing”?  What do you name? 

How do you use your own writing (process or product) to gently nudge the writer onward?  

Just curious . . .

Is it black or white?  Process or Product?

Or are there shades of gray?  Shades of both?

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


One year.
Five years.
Ten years.
Twenty years.
Thirty years.
Forty years.
Fifty years.

Time slipped away.

What is the legacy that remains?

Yesterday Google displayed:

Screenshot 2018-01-15 at 12.04.30 PM.png

From friends on Twitter and Facebook:

Screenshot 2018-01-15 at 12.03.55 PM


Screenshot 2018-01-15 at 8.02.44 PM.png

Quotes, Speeches, Books and Resources:

15 MLK Quotes that Still Resonate (Newsweek)

Strong Quotes for MLK Day (Al Jazeera)

Inspirational Quotes for MLK Day 2018 (International Business Times)

Martin Luther King Jr. was More Radical than We Remember (TeenVogue)

Martin Luther King Jr Found Inspiration in Thoreau (Tween Tribune)

A Call to Conscience:  The Landmark Speeches of MLK (Stanford)

Screenshot 2018-01-15 at 12.42.36 PM.png

The Greatest MLK Speeches You Never Heard (CNN)

Audios and Texts of His Most Famous Speeches

Celebrate?  Yes

Commemorate?  Yes

Teach about?  Yes.  We can do “Write Arounds” where students explain what each quote means to them.  We can close read the “I Have a Dream” speech.  We can analyze the effectiveness of the rhetorical devices that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used in his speeches.  But is that enough?

Not just THAT ONE DAY! Instead consider what it means to stand for equity for all living in the United States.  Consider what it means to have the same quality of life for all who live and work in the United States.

And then live the life that supports EQUITY for ALL!

That’s the legacy,

that’s the living,

that’s the WORLD

that Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed

and worked for over HALF A CENTURY AGO!

How are you living the “Dream”? 

How would we know? 

What would be our evidence?

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


Doing The Work That Matters

a journey of growing readers & writers

Present Perfect

adventures in multiple tenses

Leadership Connection

from Great Prairie AEA

The Blue Heron (Then Sings My Soul)

The oft bemused (or quite simply amused) musings of Krista Marx -- a self-professed HOPE pursuing Pollyanna

Middle English

Life as an English teacher leader

steps in the literacy journey

Walking the Path to Literacy Together


Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

Resource - Full

Sharing Ideas, Strategies and Tools

Joel Pedersen

be that #oneperson


All Things Literacy! Brianna Parlitsis


A meeting place for a world of reflective writers.

elsie tries writing

"The problem with people is they forget that that most of the time it's the small things that count." (Said by Finch in All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. These are my small things that count.

I Haven't Learned That Yet

This blog serves to document my path of learning and teaching.

Simply Inspired Teaching

A blog by Kari Yates

Reflections on Leadership and Learning

Sharing my learning experiences

AnnaGCockerille Literacy

The Generative Power of Language: Building Literacy Skills One Word at a Time

Reading to the Core

Just another WordPress.com site

Karen Gluskin

My Teaching Experiences and Qualifications

To Read To Write To Be

Thoughts on learning and teaching

Books and Bytes

Exploring the best of literature and edtech for the middle grades.

To Make a Prairie

A blog about reading, writing, teaching and the joys of a literate life

Raising Voices

Thoughts on Teaching, Learning, and Leading