Monthly Archives: October, 2015

#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?

#TCRWP 89th Saturday Reunion and FUN Vocabulary Learning!

Session #4 – Quick, Practical and Fun Ways to Bring Vocabulary Learning into Your Classroom with Katie Wischow 

Vocabulary is complicated.

Vocabulary cannot all be taught through context.


Source for much of the information: Bringing Words to Life – Robust Instruction


Ultimate goal:  turning kids into thinking users of vocabulary

Background knowledge

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If you are familiar with Beck’s work, we were talking Tier 2 words.

Here’s a quick review of the tiers.

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So what does this mean?

Oral use of words.

Playful use of words.

Multiple uses of words.

Meaningful use of words.

What does that look like?

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How can you use a bunch of words quickly?

Set up a chart.

Check out when and how the word does work like “inquisitive” and “ban” below.

Thinking about the characteristics of the people and the characteristics of the vocabulary word – is there a match?

Quick, fast-paced, two minute FUN drills!

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And then a Sentence Game.

A  game that involved awarding points.

And throwing a beanbag type object.

  • Timed
  • Create a complete sentence
  • 1 pt. decent attempt
  • 2 pt. fully correct
  • 3 pt. fully correct and even clue to figure out from contextually.
  • Teacher is the final word on points!
  • Class goal for points – argue and you will lose points

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Why a game?

  • Shows the students your values
  • Oral practice
  • 20-30 sentences generated
  • Most students stay engaged
  • Teacher can catch misconceptions!  Students may use the right definition but weirdly / awkwardly ….
  • See the degree of strength/weakness in vocabulary use

What about Word Sorts?

We often see elementary word sorts.

How could word sorts be used in a content area?

The words in the following picture could be sorted into the categories of Patriots/Loyalists/Types of Governments.

They could also be sorted by words with prefixes, suffixes, or both (affixes) or even singular/plural.

In an open sort, the student can find many possibilities and also have rich discussion if sorting with another student.

If the words are cut apart, students could assemble their sorts in their space, label them with a post-it note turned over, and then engage in a gallery walk and “guess my category”? as they circulate around the room.

What might you consider for Word Sort Rules?

Must be at least two items for a category.

The category must be labeled positively.

  • Dogs/Not Dogs (won’t work)
  • Dogs/All other small pets (will work)

All words must be used.

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Vocabulary Look Fors

What should an observer see?

What should the teacher be planning for?

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Katie spent some time on activities that could be answered as WHY questions – like Elmo!

  • Ranking words
  • 3 things and then an example
  • How much would you like to . . .?
  • Would you rather . . .?
  • Idea completions  walk . . .run
  • When/how would you
  • Choose between descriptions or between words
  • Show a painting/song/etc. – debate which word best fits
  • Ranking words – shades of meaning
  • Types of word walls, sorted different ways

Closing Ideas

Find poetry, music, and Read Alouds that celebrate words and word play!

And study kids’ vocabulary in talking/writing across the whole school and the whole day. .  .

What’s your level of vocabulary instruction knowledge?

What have you learned?

What has been reaffirmed?

#89th TCRWP Saturday Reunion and a Bit of Grammar

grammar one

Yes! You Can Teach Grammar In Workshop – Three Essential Methods to Tuck In Grammar Effectively

Session #3 = Mary Ehrenworth

Mary began this session, packed to the gills, with folks sitting on the floor EVERYWHERE, with the following two questions for participants to discuss:

  • What do you think of when you think of grammar?
  • What is the “it” – you are trying to fit in!

What exactly are we talking about?

  • Spelling – when?
  • Spelling – In writing?
  • Spelling – Magically on students’ own time?
  • Subject / verb agreement?
  • Academic English?
  • Editing – how do I help students “fix up” their writing?

Keep in mind, dear readers, that English has its own particular challenges.  Our irregular verbs are harder than Spanish or Chinese. For those learning English, they will need a long period of approximation and growth.  For some natives, they will also need a long period of approximation and growth.

What should we do in our schools?

Just know that random small groups will not do cure the issue with weak grammar.  You will need a systemic approach. One isolated teacher in one year will not get growth.  You need to become the “Grammar Ambassador” for your building.  Pilot some methods. Encourage others to pilot some more methods.  Ask questions.  “What will we teach across each unit of study? Each year?”

The answer is not in teaching an isolated unit on “apostrophes” but instead in considering how punctuation changes the meaning in written work.

Check this out. What’s the difference between the first and second example?

grammar two

Quality grammar instruction includes the “art” not just the “skill and drill methods”.

How do we teach the art?

  • Demonstration regular lesson – art and craft
  • Inquiry – punctuation or dialogue –  What are the rules?  Malcolm Gladwell researched the stickiness factor with Blues Clues and inquiry.  We have to make sure students see different levels of dialogue so they experience a wide variety. This is not a task to be done in writing workshop. Instead, do a two day grammar study after the end of a unit that doesn’t fit into writing workshop. (Days before Thanksgiving!)
  • Interludes and Extravaganzas – Not pretending it’s writing workshop!

Some thoughts about Decoding/Encoding –

  • Natural spellers – brain has a graphic – you literally see the word
  • You will use spell check.
  • You will ask others to check your work.
  • IF you are a teacher who is not a natural speller, you will be more sympathetic!
  • 5th graders now write more than they have ever written in the past.
  • But for our young writers using digital spelling, they won’t spell words accurately.

What are the Stages of Acquisition?

  • Recognition
  • Approximation
  • Mastery
  • Slippage
  • Code Switching

Consider where you are on this list of stages?  Where are your students?  Are there a few students who are still stuck back in those earlier stages?  How can you get them to move on to higher levels?  The best answer would be MORE reading and MORE writing!

  • Most kids learn 80% of words they will use from lap reading – the way they have been speaking and been read to!!!
  • When you see students do something – run on sentences is not all bad. Some would consider those students “lucky” because they have a lot to write about. Then they need to work on writing long for internal punctuation. The more they read, the more control they will get over it.
  • Mastery – ending punctuation 1st grade
  • Ending punctuation is often still an issue  – 8th grade teachers!
  • Students drop control when get to something hard. Spend cognitive energy on completing task not spelling. Need more practice – more scrimmage time for students.
  • Just know that as fast as we teach, students are still in slippage stage!
  • Code Switching – switching from formal to digital – many students don’t notice when this happens
  • Coping strategies – proof reading – Students need to know when this is necessary
  • Intellectually and professionally difficult to proofread and edit own writing – don’t see the errors! How do you compensate for this?

Lynne Truss’s book, Eats Shoots & Leaves (Profile Books 2003), has a wonderful Dear Jack letter.

Dear Jack,
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy – will you let me be yours?

How could changing the punctuation change the meaning of this letter?

Without moving ANY words around!

You try it!


Here was Lynne Truss’s version with the exact same words but different punctuation.

Dear Jack,
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men I yearn! For you I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

What if?

What if students created these?

What if students “played” with punctuation?

What if teachers REALLY quit correcting and fixing?

What if students were asked to think deeply about changing the meaning?

What are the components of quality grammar lessons?

Connection – Why?

Teaching Demo – How do we do this?

Active Engagement – We try it!

Link – When?

Would it maybe sound like . . . “Writers are considerate to their readers. When there is a new character, new setting,  or a time change, a writer begins a new paragraph.  The reader needs the white spaces.  (Read aloud with demo.) Let’s go to the story I’m writing here. Where do I need a paragraph?  Work with a partner and be prepared to explain both “where” a paragraph should begin and why. . . Now choose one page in your notebook and think about how paragraphs (white spaces) could help your reader.”

Would a lesson like this be more likely to transfer to student writing?

The old way of “doing grammar” has not succeeded in transferring to writing, so maybe this is worth a shot!

Conversation with a partner could possibly result in a more powerful lesson  and return some power to the students!  The teacher could share that England actually has a position known as the “Defender of the English Language”.  Who (and not the teacher) could be that person in our classroom?

If you decide to use an inquiry method, here are a few tips!

  • Have 1 question – not 10
  • Plan strategically.  The Inquiry activity should be no longer than 20 minutes.
  • Then give students 10 minutes to figure out one or two things to try.
  • The final 10 minutes of class provide time for the students to go try the skill in their own writing – ACTUALLY doing it!
  • Immediate application makes the skill more likely to STICK!

What are qualities of mentor texts to use for grammar?

Engaging and does a few things really well!

What else could you use for grammar instruction?

We exited to the Schoolhouse Rock Video:Schoolhouse Rock Xavier Sarsaparilla.  Hmm. .  .   multi-media to build up knowledge, power, and a bit of fun.

How do you think grammar fits into writing workshop?

For another view of Mary’s workshop, please go to Jenn’s blog post here.

#TCRWP 89th Reunion: A Reprise

What are some of the literacy buzz words in your school or region?

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • RTI
  • MTSS
  • Interventions
  • Data-based decision-making
  • Screeners
  • Benchmarks
  • Cut Points
  • Progressing
  • At Risk
  • Substantially Deficient
  • Research-based Reading Interventions

Session #2 Kathleen Tolan:  Maximize Small Group Instruction in Reading Workshop:  A Super Easy Sequence of Small Group Work that Can Fast Forward Your Readers

Sound familiar?  Well, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might remember a July Reading Institute Session here. (Scroll down to the closing workshop.)

After a second go round, here’s what finally clicked!





The goal is to plan 3 – 5 interventions to get closer to mastery.  Then our work seems validated.  The time. The energy. The accountability for teachers and students seems to pay off. With this approach the smorgasboard of interventions is gone and the laser-like focus is on those skills that have been identified as critical for mastery.

Who’s doing the work?

Who needs the practice?

Who needs the learning?

The plan:  Small group of 4 – 6 students.  Partnerships will be created.  Partners will support each other before or after the mini-lesson.

Target: Meet 3 – 5 times.  Create incremental learning through practice (like sports or musical instruments). Thoughtful planning, explicit learning targets. (opposite of over-talking, over-coaching, where all the students hear is, “blah, blah, blah”)

Session 1: Redo the mini-lesson with a small group

  • State the Teaching Point
  • Use same skill/text as Mini-lesson for whole class.
  • Teacher will remind or read a little (not the whole read aloud).
  • Together, students will re-create the demonstration with students taking the lead.
  • Students will practice skill more in turn and talk.
  • Then students will transfer learning and use skill in his/her own book.
  • The group will come back together and the teacher will give the lesson a LINK.

How do students benefit?

  • Students do more reading.
  • Each student is reading in his/her own book so the work is differentiated.
  • Students help teacher get rid of bad behavior of talking too much.
  • Students are doing the reading work.

How do teachers benefit?

  • Over planning allows teacher to have more than one session planned with clear incremental targets.
  • Makes small group session more manageable
  • Students improve a little bit each session.
  • Teacher interaction changes.
  • Link – Teacher says, “We will be meting again on —” and says when with the student recording the date.
  • Student partnerships extend the teacher’s reach as students support each other.
  • Provides task for students to bring back as evidence of transfer and applied learning.
  • So when students come back, they have done the work!

Second Lesson Series

Focus:  May be shared writing.  Use learning progressions to set targets. Then students can also self assess. Record keeping can also become student responsibility.

  • Redo mini-lesson (less demo – more coaching)
  • Reread read aloud and together come up with shared writing on a post-it or notebook entry.
  • Students do the same work in their own reading books.
  • Inquiry – Students need a post-it to write about where they are on the learning progressions.
  • Students lifting the level of work by looking up the levels of progressions with a partner.
  • *At any time, teachers can repeat any of these steps.

Readers’ Notebook:  Table of Contents – Example= Level of prediction…p 3, 7, 22. 31

With students doing the work, the teacher’s role is “Show me the work you did”… It should feel more like check ins…name the work done in the lesson. How can we use data for ages instead of individual?  This can be more manageable for us and them!  “Will you please leave your notebook open to…. when you go to lunch?”  Sometime students may check in.. Sometimes study their own work!  Product, a la Peter Johnston . If work doesn’t go up on board, complimenting effort will keep them working.  Struggling students want to be appreciated and these sequences validate their effort!

Small group ideas?  

Intervention ideas?

How did this add to your learning?

My biggest Aha happened when Kathleen shared how this format could also be used for fluency practice with that learning progression.  The mental gears clicked then.  I had an idea of the way it would look!!!  Definitely worth a second listen in order to now try it out AND explain it to others!  After my work with teachers to review screening data and plan for instruction and intervention, this makes more sense after the second time as I can actually “see” the framework that provides the extra practice! 

#TCRWP 89th Saturday Reunion: Laughter and Learning Session #1

Session # I Make the Most Powerful Use of the New K-2 Units of Study in Reading with Amanda Hartman

What are you loving most about the new units of study in reading?

The concise mini-lessons?

The charts?

The post-its?

The books?

The authors worked together and thought very carefully about the language so the teaching and language is consistent, concise and precise.  Another consideration in the development was how does the mini-lesson bring together the theme of unit?  Not just solving words?  The new units were designed to relieve some of the teacher planning. The goal was to allow teachers to transfer their energy to study student work and or plan rest of the lesson.

Lucy said. . .  let the teachers hold the books during the lesson . . .having the book there, marked up is a great tool. The mini-lesson is not a script to be read word for word but a resource to support what is most important in the lesson and to keep the teacher focused.

In the units teachers will find a level of ambitiousness.  They will feel fast-paced.  The goal is to provide multiple opportunities to develop stamina, skills, volume, and a love of reading at all grade levels.  In order to be readers, students have to read a lot!

What did the TC staff and the authors do?  Amanda shared that they did a lot of videotaping of mini-lessons and then studied those lessons.  As they watched the mini-lessons, they looked for:

  • What was the same?
  • What was different?
  • Not memorizing?
  • What held true to the written mini-lesson?
  • What was truly important?

Amanda shared that there were so many differences even when the author delivers the lesson. (And she knows that as one of the authors.)

What can teachers do?  Lesson Study

  • Video tape your mini-lessons
  • Compare and contrast your lesson and the written mini-lesson
  • Look at your follow-up to the lesson – did you hold true to the theme/purpose of the lesson?
  • Check for the big idea of the lesson


Routines do not have to be taught in isolation.  Routines do not always have to be taught FIRST. Consider teaching a routine inside the lesson so the purpose is set for students.  You would see this in first grade with volume, reading mats, and logs. Always think about those routines (and purpose) across lessons, bends, units, and the year!


Amanda’s demonstrations were quick, succinct, and so helpful.

Examples:  Grade 2 – Lesson 1 –  Jack and the Bean Stalk

The reader is In charge of what you want to read and HOW you want to read.

So tragic, the old woman who swallowed a fly.  How do you think she felt? (Elicit ideas from students.) Possible ideas include:  Scary, silly, worried, frustrated

  • Let’s all try to read it in the “worried” voice (still under 10 min.)
  • Do it with your partner (Time for practice now inside the ML.)
  • Do it with your partner now!

This work allows the teacher to be responsive to the readers in the class.  It’s not about anguishing over the fact that “my students didn’t come up with those ideas”.  Instead it’s about bringing the students into the world of readers in a “playful” way but also giving them some language and ways to start thinking about reading.

Another Example – Grade 2 bend 3

Jot while they read, to make sure they are thinking. Add the post it examples and name how you get that thought. When students go off to stop and jot, they TELL the story – not big idea – WHAT’s the idea? The goal is to move the students beyond retelling.

So let’s pretend you’d like to pull a small group to help them think as they read. (studying book baggies and post its for 3 hours – All retelling)

How would that group go?

structure Compliment – “You are growing like a beanstalk and are reading chapter books. AND TELL WHY I brought them together – So many post its and I wanted to know what you were thinking.”

“I have read your books so I know what the book says.

  • “Remind you of this chart and “Katie Woo” (same one) What were those things that we thought of inside Katie Woo.
  • Try that right now in your book – rereading
  • Push yourself to have an idea
  • Ready
  • Open up your book
  • Start to read it
  • Read it.
  • When get to post- it
  • Stop and think…. “(And have chart in front of kids while watching them “DO IT” – like a feeling. Katie Woo is really sick and feels terrible !)

Cautions – Remember what it means to be six years old – they forget a lot.  Remind students quietly.  Begin with the least intrusive scaffold. Then provide more support for students who need it. “Tell me what you are thinking.” Have that one student practice it orally. Point to the big chart or a smaller version of the chart for a picture clue.  Then you can say, “Great, now write that down.” or have them practice some more if still struggling. Only provide the help that is needed. “If I never provide the least support, I will never know when kids can’t get it and why!”


Study your unit pages closely so you know where you will build the charts.  Use the charts to know what questions to ask or even to name the work the students are doing.


Bring the charts down. Put  them on the bulletin board. Move them around for use with small groups or conferences. If students are not USING the charts, do a bit of reflection.  How are you, the teacher, using the charts across the session?

  • Only in your mini-lesson?
  • With small groups?
  • In conferences?
  • In sharing?

The more YOU use the charts across the session, the more students will also use the charts!

Shared Reading


“Having Fun, not everyone will read on 1st read, students chime in when works, not slowing down for students”

How can you involve all students is reading a book like “Brown Bear”?

Get a beat going. Have a rhythm.

Remember in shared reading the teacher does the comprehension work.

  • May do a “guess the covered word”
  • Choose a noun to cover up
  • “incredible, you are so smart that you know the word horse!”
  • This creates a lot of print awareness by end of unit 1 in kindergarten
  • will have high frequency words in unit 2
  • Need skills embedded in shared reading
  • Can make up song that parallels the structure – using their names
  • Can make little books with their names

Use Songs and Chants for Reading Warm Ups / Transitions

One goal of reading is that it will be FUN and enjoyable for all students.  This doesn’t happen if students are continually being pushed and feel like they are slogging through the mud instead of joyously reading.  Readers that know they are progressing build up their own capacity to persevere when they develop a growth mindset.  Songs and chants can help with this.  Here were two ideas.  Recognize the sources?  Not fancy-schmancy!  Not glitzy!  Yes, engaged!  Yes, FUN!

Happy Birthday Song

I like to play with you.

I like to play with you.

I like to play with ____.

I like to play with you.

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2015-10-17 10.42.46

Take Away:  Volume of Reading Matters Especially with Beginning Readers

If your readers are stuck, look to see what’s available in the grades below.  Remember that levels are only guides and that sometimes we will have to look behind us or in front of us (grades before and above) to find the resources that will help our students be successful and have FUN! (Laughter is a great indicator!)

For Additional Information about the K-5 Units of Study in Reading

Resources:  Facebook page for Units of Study in Reading

Videos:  Video Orientation for K, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, and Reading Pathways


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 Reunion: Mo Willem’s Keynote

This is part 2 of my “series” about my learning at the 89th #TCRWP Saturday reunion. (You can read part 1 here.)

Lucy reminded us that these free days are a gift from the project. .  . a veritable treasure!


And the keynote by Mo Willems was truly a treasure!

To set the stage, here is a shot of Mo literally “mugging for the camera” as he posed before beginning his speech.

Mo Willems

I have five or six photos on my phone camera but I was already laughing so much that I really didn’t get them focused well. Suffice it to say, “If you have a chance to hear Mo Willems in person, DO it!  He’s such an engaging speaker!”

“How to Write in 4 Easy Steps, 4 Kinda Harder Steps, and 1 Pretty Much Impossible Step

“If you are documenting, then you are not experiencing.”

“Teachers , Librarians – raise your hands – want you to feel it!”

Mo talked a bit.  Then, “Keep your hands up.”  He talked a bit more.  “Keep your hands up.”

As adults, when do you REALLY raise your hand to talk?

How does it feel to have your hand up for a REALLY long time and NOT be called on?

Key Points:

  • Be succinct don’t overdo a point. If you have 1 thing to say – just say it once. More is not better. Short. Sweet.
  • Avoid repeating yourself. Repeating yourself is a waste of time. Avoiding repetition is really, really, really, really, really    very important!
  • Try to ensure that every sentence is laser focused on a laser point.
  • Write about what you are passionate about or whatever
  • Are ? more compelling than answers
  • You may own the copyright, but the Audience owns the meaning.

“When you write, the book is meant to be read a billionenty times so make sure it’s incomprehensible. Make sure the drawings and words are so incomprehensible that they only stand when we put them together. My job is to write incomprehensible books for the illiterate. 49% of the story is me.  I want to ‘Think OF my audience not FOR my audience!’  No one wants relationship with me – want it with my characters . . . That means the page feels like ink is wet. . . FRESH!”

His stories were amazing.

Check out:  Sheep and the Big City

News:  one more book in the Elephant and Piggy series

“Influenced by looking at best books – what’s missing?”

Favorite book – Go, Dog, Go!

I’m influenced by my questions:  “Frog and Toad – They had unbelievable emotional lives. Which one is Frog? Which one is Toad? I can’t tell. I’m not a biologist! I can tell the difference between an elephant and a pig.”

“Miliions of teens dying from embarrassment.  Childhood is a terrible time.  Every door, chair, utensil is buildt for someone else.  Ask permission to urinate. Just think about it!”

“A book is there – child’s friend, built to their size, sometimes only friend!”

“Unread book is a broken book!”

“Show – reading it is not the experience – it’s about when the student goes home and reads it.”

“Lead character in my book – lines are so simple that a reasonable 5 year old can draw it.”

And then Mo taught us all how to draw the pigeon!  Because, “If you tell a kid a drawing is important and then you don’t draw – the kid knows you are lying!”

And then Mo ended with a story about the power of poetry.  A poem about “not stealing the towels” . . . (so he stole the sign) . . . and believes that on his return there will be a ditty about not stealing the sign.

Entertained, exhilarated, and ready to embrace experiencing new learning!

What will you remember from this blog post?


Bonus #1


A picture of his nine main points

Want More Mo?

Bonus #2

A Second Treasure

Here’s a link to Jenn’s post from Mo Willems: The Opportunity to Learn More About Pigeon, Elephant, Piggie and Knuffle Bunny, Among Others: A Q&A Session #1.

Begin at the Beginning: #TCRWP 89th Saturday Reunion and Mo Willems

Lucy Calkins began the day (early) with many announcements and then this:

“Mo Willems will pose for pictures at the beginning of his keynote but then he has asked that you turn off your phones and cameras and listen.  We would like him to return to Teachers College so we ask you to respect his request.”

And then pose he did!

His keynote was entitled; “How to Write in 4 Easy Steps, 4 Kinda Harder Steps, and 1 Pretty Much Impossible Step”

He explained his thinking behind the request to stop taking pictures . . .

If you are documenting, then you are not experiencing.

And even added, if your friends ask what the speech was about just tell them,

“Ya missed it!”

I will return to the 89th Saturday Reunion and even Mo Willems but do think about his words.

Do you miss the experience when you are documenting?


Make sure you “experience” life today.  Think about documenting and experiencing!

I’m off to experience a bit more of NYC!  If you need a bit more Mo Willems, here’s the site I liked best after about an hour of reading, writing and thinking.

From Riverside to Riverside . . . the learning continues

Until four years ago, this was what I expected to see and hear IF and WHEN I visited New York.

Did you check it out?

That’s what I knew about New York!

My world has shifted on its axis in the last five years and I now trust my good friends to keep me grounded.

Dayna Wells  (@daywells) tweeted this out):

Screenshot 2015-10-16 15.25.54

Dayna’s hometown is about 10-15 miles from our family farm.  To me, the connections are obvious.  My family roots are in the town of Riverside, Iowa.  In fact, I feel that I can positively say that my family, the Schnoebelens, founded the town of Riverside, which is now infamous as the home of “Star Trek”.  St. Mary’s in  Riverside, is a majestic Catholic Church.


You can read about the church and the founding families here. In our family, one claim to fame is that all of my mom’s family attended the school at St. Mary’s.  My grandmother was a teacher in a one-room country school.   All ten of her children attended St. Mary’s School! That fact is celebrated in the pictures on the walls of the church hall. We have many fond memories of our local parish church, the school and the cemetary at St. Vincent’s  whch is the resting place for many, many, many family members. A small town church for a small town Iowa girl!

And tomorrow is the 7th time that my learning day (or week in the case of summer institutes) will begin at Riverside Church in NYC.  A majestic setting for a FREE day of learning.  There is no cost for participating in the learning at #SaturdayReunions at Teachers College.


An eye-opening, mind-blowing learning extravaganza . . .  

Slow Learner, Fran?

There are folks who have attended for more than 25 years!

Before the end of the day, my eyeballs will be rolled back up into my brain – trying to absorb just one more ounce of inspiration, passion and true belief that ALL OUR kids can read and write.  AND read and write at high levels!  AND that all our kids deserve the BEST teachers of readers and writers – THOSE that read and write themselves.

The agenda is seven pages long. Difficult choices for attendees as all sessions will be led by those who have been immersed in the reading and writing units of study by Lucy Calkins and the amazing Teachers College Staff Developers.

How and when do you follow your passions?

What are you learning?

How will we know?

(Thanks for the inspiration, Dayna!)

NYC Bound . . . Anticipation!

So many interesting ideas . .

Our airport does sleep at night. There is a consequence to being “too early”. It’s called, “hurry up and wait.”

people reading. . .




laptops, and


Many clutching cups of coffee

or foil wrapped pouches.

quietly waiting

quietly visiting


and waiting.

too early to board,


anxiously awaiting departure time.

the bright inside lights encroaching on the outside DARKNESS.

Zero dark thirty,

Early morning flights,



where is that anticipated boarding announcement?

mentally, time to go…

physically, ready to return to sleep. . .

not YET ready for true wakefulness and conversation.

writing, yes even blogging to AVOID pre-dawn conversation . . .

announcements become more frequent,

the flight crew arrives,

and YET

10 more minutes until boarding begins . . .



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