Monthly Archives: December, 2015

#SOL15 Finale: Top 10 Posts from 2015

I began this blog in October of 2012 because I believed that I needed to write publicly  both to improve my own writing and because I encourage teachers to write for purposeful reasons.  That fits with Betsy’s quote for today:

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.

~E. L. Doctorow”

How am I doing with my goals?  Wordpress conveniently compiles a lot of data about blog posts.  Here are the most viewed posts from this site during 2015. The numbered titles are linked to the original post and a picture is included below the link for a reminder.  (Four of these were a surprise as they were NOT written during 2015! See if you can guess which four!)

top ten

10. #TCRWP:  Day 1 Writing Institute 2015


9. Focus:  Informational Mentor Texts


8. #TCRWP:  Day 2 Reading Institute 2015


7.  #TCRWP: Day 3 Reading Institute 2015


6. #TCRWPL: Day 1 Reading Institute 2015


5. TCRWP and Mentor Texts


4. How do we know students are making progress in writing?


3.  Close Reading in Kindergarten? Is it even possible?


2. #TCRWP and a Teacher’s Toolkit for Teaching Writing


  1. Lexile Level is NOT text complexity CCSS.R.10 

    “@amandalah: Careful of lexile: Harry potter, old man & the sea &Alexander & the horrible no good very bad day. All similar lexile. #TCRWP”

What are your top 10 learnings for 2015?

What data do you consider?

What are your goals?

How are you reflecting on 2015?


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. 

Most commented blog posts from 2015 (in 1-10 order)

most comments

One post that is on both top 10 lists! #SOL15 posts were seven of the 10 most commented on posts!  YAY, Slicers!


Answer to which years were the most read blogs posted:

6 of the blog posts were originally published in 2015.  Two were published in 2014 and two were published in 2013.

  • 5-10  = 2015
  • 2 and 4 = 2014
  • 1 and 3 = 2013



#SOL15: Family Christmas

Christmas past:

the ruths.jpg

Grandma Ruth and her ten children posing on the steps of the school basement.

Any guesses on which four were teachers?

Christmas this past Sunday:

2015-12-20 13.14.36.jpg

Seven of the ten (including the “outlaws”) celebrating the holidays with their families.

Cousins – 55 possible . . .

Ruth girl cousins

2015-12-20 13.24.54



Sharing memories

Sharing stories

Creating new memories

Connecting family members

Building bridges across the generations

Christmas with the “Baby Ruth” Family to begin the holidays!

Here’s one view of the “crowd”!

2015-12-20 13.10.04

Do you have specific traditions?

How do they continue through the years?


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: Revisiting #OLW15



My #OneLittleWord15 was focus.  It’s reckoning time as 2015 nears the end.

How did I do?


Focus on Family:

My grandson

now seven months old

with just the cutest grin!

The center of our Christmas Celebrations!

Who is the center of YOUR conversations?


Focus on Friends:

 Near and far

At TCRWP Spring Saturday Reunion

At TCRWP Writing Institute

At TCRWP Reading Institute

At ILA15

At Iowa ASCD with Lester Laminack

At TCRWP Fall Saturday Reunion


On Twitter with #TCRWP,  #G2Great, and #WRRD

On Voxer

And on Slicers, Too!

Can you find yourself? 


Focus on Reading:

  • New Units of Study in Reading
  • Mindset for Learning:  Teaching the Traits of Joyful, Independent Growth 
  • Reading Nonfiction:  Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies
  • Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom
  • The Construction Zone:  Building Scaffolds for Readers and Writers
  • The Common Core Companion: Booster Lessons, Grades 3-5: Elevating Instruction Day by Day
  • Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters
  • Read Write Teach: Choice and Challenge in the Reading-Writing Workshop
  • The Teacher You Want to Be: Essays about Children, Learning, and Teaching
  • In Defense of Read-Aloud: Sustaining Best Practice
  • Readers Front and Center: Helping All Students Engage with Complex Text
  • The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers
  • What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making
  • The Unstoppable Writing Teacher:  Real Strategies for Real Teachers

Which of these have you read?

Which of these are on your holiday TBR stack?



Focus on Writing:

About TCRWP Spring Saturday Reunion

About TCRWP Writing Institute

About TCRWP Reading Institute

About Reading

About ILA15

About Iowa ASCD with Lester Laminack

About TCRWP Fall Saturday Reunion

About NCTE15

Tweets about #TCRWP,  #G2Great, and #WRRD (and all the above!)

And Slices with #TWT!

What have you written about?

focus acrostic

A Focus on Focus:

Ever on my mind

Often changing to meet my purpose

Ever necessary

To complete my tasks

Sometimes a nagging worry

Other times a constant fear

 .  .  .  .  Ever forward

Ever moving

Difficult to pin down

Growing –

Celebrating Learning!

What is your FOCUS?

How would 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 andteachers here. 


#SOL15: Celebrate!

When you hear the word “celebrate” is this an image that comes to mind?

celebrate balloons

A fun gathering for a specific event with perhaps some balloons, a bit of confetti, and fun? has the following definitions for celebrate:celebrate.JPG

Who knew there were so many definitions?

How do you “celebrate” or “make known publicly; proclaim” in your classroom?

I want to celebrate “Kindness” – “Joey was kind to me when he held the door for me.”

I want to celebrate “Volume” – “I read two books this weekend.”

I want to celebrate “Happiness” – “I love this weather!”

I want to celebrate “Friendship” – “I appreciate the gift of time that you spent on following up on a previous conversation.”

I want to celebrate “Writing” – “I wrote an extra blog post!”

I envision generating “celebrate statements” to put in a class fishbowl, to share at a designated time or even to decorate the tree on the classroom door . . .

Can “public naming of actions” develop and sustain a positive mindset and climate in the classroom?

How can we use small steps (and small celebrations) to reinforce our progress towards big goals?


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 andteachers here. 

On this date: Pearl Harbor

“A date which will live in infamy”


History Channel resources

pearl harbor

December 7th Attack in Hawaii

US Congress Declared War on December 8th

Which images and speeches are most powerful? What criteria are you using?



#SOL15: Novice Driver


Smoke billowed out from the edges of the hood. Wait, is that smoke?  Is that steam?  Doesn’t matter . . . it’s BIG TROUBLE!   No panic.  After all, this wasn’t a movie.  Also, not reality TV.

I had landed with a thud.  No exploding air bags.  They hadn’t been invented yet.  Seat belts?  I don’t remember unfastening them.  Probably not required on a car that had been manufactured in the 60’s and became our second car in the 70s.  A “diner” – big, heavy, old.  Not too dinged up – definitely bought for its durability.

I was driving along, minding my own business, when I discovered I was behind a road grader.  There was that hump of dirt piled up about eight inches high in the center of the road.  For you city slickers, it’s a rock road.  We’re in the country.  (And there were probably only two roads in Iowa that had four lanes. Just sayin’)  How lucky could I be?  The road grader was out, blading the road in the rain.

Car coming towards me.  I slowly eased my car over that hump of dirt that I had been straddling.  Old car. No danger of dragging bottom.  Old diner cars had a clearance like current all-wheel drive cars. Ok, that wasn’t too bad.  Wipers on.  Wait, do I turn the lights on in the day time when it’s raining?  Its awfully dark!

I wasn’t too sure where I was on my half of the road.

It HAD been raining ALL morning.  I went to work at my regular time – 8:00 but they said, “Come back at noon.  We’ll see if it’s still raining and decide what to have you do.”

It was DAY 2 of having my own driver’s license so I was 16 – barely.  I had over three hours to kill.  I was dressed for work.  I wasn’t going anywhere dressed like that.  I had 3 and ½ hours to kill before I had to go back to work.

My plan, due to lack of anywhere else to go or anything else to do (no books in the car), was to go home.  Home was seven and ½ miles north of the Northrup King plant. I could kill time at home before going back to work at noon to see what weather and work would allow.

My half of the road was soft, soggy, and felt like it had little rock.  Dark. Muddy.  And still raining. Not fun.

Today as I try to remember all the details, I don’t remember ever having driven in rain before.  I also don’t remember ever driving much before this.  Back to the action.

And then my stomach hit my toes.  The rear end of the car was sliding toward the ditch.  Mud was sucking at the tires. It was pulling me into the black hole.

Do I steer into this sliding mess? Out?  No time for thoughts as I was already landing with a loud CRUNCH with an undertone of a SCRAPING noise.


I hadn’t had typing yet.  I really didn’t know what those symbols meant.  But I’m sure I said a word or two that I wasn’t supposed to even know. (At this stage of life, I think I had heard my mom say “sh**” once.  But as a farm girl, I wasn’t totally ignorant.  Just because I hadn’t said the words, didn’t mean that I hadn’t heard them.)

So the car is in a ditch. Smoke or steam is rolling out of the hood.  No engine noise but maybe just a bit of a gurgling sound.

It’s pre-historic times.

The folks that invented cell phones haven’t even been born yet.

(Unimaginable for some of you youngsters!)

What to do?

It’s raining. A sixteen year old girl, dressed for “detasseling corn”, in a ditch alongside a rock road in the middle of nowhere Iowa.

Four miles from home doesn’t really mean relatives are nearby.

I don’t even know who lives in the house that I can see.  There are no kids that get on the bus at that house.  Clueless.  Alone. Wet. Cranky. Anxious!

I wonder if I can just sit in the car until someone comes along. . . That doesn’t seem like much of a solution. I could be sitting here a long time!

I talk myself into getting wet AGAIN.  I do have a raincoat but that will only cover part of me.  I grab my work shoes and put them on.  They are already dirty. A bit of mud won’t hurt them.

I trudge to the house.  By the time I start up the sidewalk,  I have about 6 inches of mud and clay attached to my shoes.  I detour to walk through the grass.  I had wiped as much mud as possible off my shoes just by dragging them across the grass in the yard.

I knock on the door, introduce myself, and ask them to call my parents (I’m not calling – I’m not breaking the bad news!).

I stand on their porch.

But I was a mess.  Plaids and polka dots and colors that didn’t match.  Old clothes that would be tossed at the end of detasselling season.  After all, they had already been handed down from my cousin to my sister, back to another cousin, to her sister and then to me. . . oh, lucky ole me!  The fifth person to wear these clothes!

The lady at the house comes back and tells me that my dad said to wait for him here.

I wait miserably.  Cold. Tired. And yes, scared.  I’ve had my license for less than two days and I’ve already wrecked the car.  I’m introuble!

My dad drives by in the truck.  He goes past the car, on down to the next house, pulls in the driveway and turns around.  Of course, the road grader has come by and completely removed the hump from the middle of the road.  The tire tracks look like someone just drove off the road into the ditch.  A little swervy, but not much. Thanks a lot, Mr. Road Grader Man!

Dad pulls up next to the car in the ditch.  He walks around the car, then opens the driver’s door, and pulls out my purse.

Hmmm. . . I wonder what that means.

He pulls up to the house, waits on me to get in, and then slams the truck into gear.  He doesn’t say a word.  ME either.  Silence is perfect.

Half a mile from home he says, “Why didn’t you just stay in town if you had to go back at noon?”

“Because I thought I would get in trouble if I just stayed in town.  None of my friends detassel.  Where was I supposed to go?”

No answer.

When we went in our house, after shedding muddy shoes and boots, Mom asked, “How is it?” and I just walked on to my room, closing the door gently.

Dad said, “She landed on a cement culvert. The radiator is done. The block is cracked.  The car will probably be totaled.”

Second day of driving. . . Truth be told – second morning of driving . . .less than 48 hours after getting my license. . . totaled car!

When has “being a novice” caused you problems?

Do you remember your first car accident?  Does it still cause that sick feeling in your stomach?

How do we learn to deal with adversity?

I, obviously, didn’t give up driving for the rest of my life!

As I was driving today, I retold this story to myself several times and wondered about connections between this story and school. How do we provide support when novice students need it?  And YET, how and when do we also  stay out of the way so that learning occurs as a result of the situation?


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. 



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