Monthly Archives: September, 2016

#SOL16: “Around the World”

Standing next to the desk, two more to go.

“Easy or hard?”







Answered before my opponent opened his mouth.

One to go.

Waiting patiently.

Ever ready!


flash card one.JPG


“Not even an attempt from my last opponent.”




Final card for today . . .

One to clinch the win.



I pushed my glasses back up on my nose.

Cheers erupted around me.

I made the victory lap back to my seat.

I had just won “Around the World.”

It was my third day in a row.  And I was so excited.  I slipped a small green clover from my fist into the pencil rail of my desk.  I wasn’t sure if it was skill or luck, but I was not taking any chances.  I carried my lucky charm when playing “Around the World” in math because I was not tempting fate.  I rejoiced in the fact that it was my third day in a row winning basic multiplication facts in third grade.

lucky charm.JPG

How long would my “Lucky Charm” work?

slice of life

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

Around the World – perhaps better suited to small groups and vocabulary practice in today’s world than memorizing math facts without a conceptual understanding .


#DigiLitSunday: Agency



The link up to other #DigiLit Sunday posts can be found at Margaret Simon’s Reflections On the Teche. Please check out what other bloggers are writing about today!

And today’s topic:


What does agency mean to me?

It means choice.  Yesterday I chose #TheEdCollabGathering created by Chris Lehman (definition one below) and I made sure that I acted on that agency (definition two) by attending sessions live all day.  Barely pausing for conversation, my brain on fire, I moved from one session to the next, each one carefully chosen as a tapestry of confirmation.

Topics I needed to revisit.  Topics I needed to dig deeply into again.  Topics I needed for inspiration and affirmation seven weeks into this new year.  Welcoming learning with friends.  Welcoming new friends in the Twitterverse.  Welcoming a day of JOYFUL learning from my home on a Saturday. (Agenda for #TheEdCollabGathering here.)  The sessions were free.  The sessions will remain free and accessible.  The sessions can be accessed at your leisure. The.sessions.are.well.worth.your.time!  TRUST ME!  Check them out!


Evidence of Agency for me yesterday?

  1. That I could choose the free sessions to attend from the comfort of my home.
  2. Attending the sessions, tweeting out and having conversations with fellow attendees, presenters, and colleagues from around the world  . . .                                   and then Blogging about my attendance and learning today!



Life Shattering?

No . . . er . . . I don’t know YET!






Kind of . . .

I have been working with Webb’s Depth of Knowledge lately. Those four levels that in some circles have replaced Bloom’s Taxonomy.  I don’t think either one is exclusionary and in fact believe that there are some positives in each. Both invite thinking in order to move up the levels.

These Depth of Knowledge levels are available about writing at this Edutopia resource.

Level 1 (Recall) requires the student to write or recite simple facts.  This writing or recitation does not include complex synthesis or analysis but is restricted to basic ideas.  The students are engaged in listing ideas or words as in a brainstorming activity prior to written composition, are engaged in a simple spelling or vocabulary assessment or are asked to write simple sentences. Students are expected to write and speak using Standard English conventions.  This includes using appropriate grammar, punctuation, capitalization and spelling.

Level 2 (Basic Application of Concepts & Skills) tasks require some mental processing.  At this level students are engaged in tasks such as first draft writing for a limited number of purposes and audiences.  At Level 2 students are beginning to connect ideas using a simple organizational structure.  For example, students may be engaged in note-taking, outlining or simple summaries.  Text may be limited to one paragraph. Students demonstrate a basic understanding and appropriate use of such reference materials as a dictionary, thesaurus, or web site.

Level 3 (Strategic Thinking & Complex Reasoning) tasks require higher-level mental processing.  Students are engaged in developing compositions that include multiple paragraphs.  These compositions may include complex sentence structure and may demonstrate some synthesis and analysis.  Students show awareness of their audience and purpose through focus, organization and the use of appropriate compositional elements.  The use of appropriate compositional elements includes such things as addressing chronological order in a narrative or including supporting facts and details in an informational report.  At this stage students are engaged in editing and revising to improve the quality of the composition.

Level 4 (Extended Thinking & Complex Reasoning) tasks may incorporate a multi-paragraph composition that demonstrates synthesis and analysis of complex ideas or themes.  Such tasks will require extended time and effort with evidence of a deep awareness of purpose and audience.  For example, informational papers include hypotheses and supporting evidence.  Students are expected to create compositions that demonstrate a distinct voice and that stimulate the reader or listener to consider new perspectives on the addressed ideas and themes.

As I reflect on my agency and my learning today, I am confident that most of my Tweets fall into the Level 1 category.  I often try to capture exact words – the very essence of the speaker’s thoughts – and that is totally recall.  No doubt. Level 1.  And yet sometimes, I’m pulling in background knowledge or shortening the exact quotes when there are long hashtags and I must cut down the number of symbols.  Is that always Level 1?  Probably not. Is it sometimes Level 2?  Perhaps yes.

And what of this blog post?  Where would it rate?  Ideas from the day are flowing through my brain.  Some pictures are already uploaded. Others are paused.  Too few?  Too many? Which serve the meaning and the understanding of the reader?  Which are examples of MY thinking?

 Right now I think that I am approaching or possibly just peering over the ledge of DOK 3.  Your thoughts?

As I consider all the meaning embedded in Level 4 (Extended Thinking and Complex Reasoning), I believe this is where Katherine Bomer’s thinking lies when she said,

“Capital E, Essay equals thinking!”

A student or adult is agentive and completing that “extended thinking and complex reasoning” when totally engaged in a task of their own choice.  When writing, it may be an essay, a poem, or some great work of literature.  But it’s something the student knows and knows well due to their passionate study.  It may be a study of their own thinking and problem solving as suggested by Burkins and Yaris in Who’s Doing the Work?  when the students are actually working harder than the teachers as they problem solve and persevere in forging their own learning paths when “given the time to do so”.


Jan’s metaphor of shopping was played out in this chart and compared to choosing a just right book.  Students choosing their own books . . . not being handed books by the teacher brings up a question:  “Who SHOULD be choosing the books?”


Tara Smith tweeted out that “agency = knowing how to make choices.” How often do our students struggle with making decisions?  When should they be “practicing” quality decision-making skills? Is that not a skill that should be part of the daily routines during the school day?

Consider how engagement and accessibility play into these four elements.  Jan actually framed and labeled them for the viewers. But at any point there could be a mismatch.  Clare and Tammy would also point out that the mismatches are opportunities for learning and even ownership of their learning. A celebration of learning.  Every data point can also bring hope, joy and agentive power to the students.


And what if students were publishing regularly for real audiences?  #TWT authors and bloggers, Beth Moore, Deb Frazier and Dana Murphy literally hit the game-winning touchdown with their sharing and feedback strategies! (It was a Saturday after all-so there was some collegiate football in the background.)  Deb suggested feedback to young writers  on day one, Dana said it could be ‘fancy like “Wow and Wonder”,  “Glow and Grow”, or like “slicers” -1. feel, 2 notice, 3. connection’ and Beth Moore said that someday a student writer  might tell friends about how special their teacher made them feel as a writer. Honoring students and their writing work doesn’t cost a lot of time or money.  Celebrating student learning should be an every day constant.

After all this is “their” learning!   Fewer behavior management systems might be needed if there was more emphasis on “student choice” and so much less emphasis on “compliance” and “silly tasks” but those are both topics for another day!

The intersection of agency, choice, engagement and learning seems to be a good fit for students who are “doing the work” and not passively watching others engaged in the work.  Even kindergarten students want to share their thinking . . . not their fault that sometimes their symbols and/ or work needs translation for our adult brains to make better sense (Clare and Tammy’s story about Zachary) .

But what if the entry point for all students was simply choice?

What if the responsibility and accountability lies with students?

Lucy Calkins reminded us this summer that “To teach well, we do not need more techniques and strategies as much as we need a vision of what is essential.”

What if agency is essential?  How does that change instruction and assessment?

(Did I make it to Level 4 -Extended Thinking and Complex Reasoning? You be the judge!)

#SOL16: Photo Essay

What do these three people have in common?

They were all part of the reason that the family trip to Rome occurred in August of 2016.

Screenshot 2016-08-08 21.07.57  A birthday wish . . .

A Saturday Papal Audience  . . .pope francis.jpg


And a canonization of St. Teresa of Calcutta saint-teresa

All led to a trip to Rome.


How many family members would accept Mom’s invitation?



2016-08-30 13.54.06.jpg

Mom, her brother and his wife, my two younger brothers, my younger sister and myself.

Any story about our travels would not be complete without Father Marty, our spiritual leader and the center of FUN!

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An interesting fact about the members of our group (4 sets of sisters).


And the whole Tour Group . . . 52 Pilgrims


And some of the people we met along the way . . .

A photographer from a Quad Cities TV station who captured film as we left Davenport . . .

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And the many faces of the family . . .

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2016-08-31 07.57.29.jpg

2016-08-31 14.14.20.jpg

Accordion music in the parking garage . . .

2016-09-01 13.36.01.jpg

An articulate and passionate tour guide . . .


2016-09-03 10.05.32.jpg


and guards . . .


and cameras everywhere . . .


with selfies as a regular occurrence!


slice of life

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

Introducing “who was traveling” and “why” this trip!!!


#DigiLitSunday: Digital Writing

digilitCheck out additional #DigiLit Sunday posts with Margaret Simon here.


How does a post come to fruition?

Here’s an inside look at the content and the process for today’s post.

What’s the focus?


Where did my idea come from?

My idea was to tell how a post originated from one idea/ one tour during my recent trip to Rome. It was a topic that I briefly addressed two weeks ago (while in Rome) under the topic of Motivation here.


My “S-Notes” on my phone which I used frequently on this trip.

s notes.png

But WHAT am I going to write about the catacombs?

This is the stage where I pour a cup a coffee, add categories and tags, go for a walk with Mya, because sometimes the “ideas” actually work themselves out in my head. I draft in my head multiple times before I begin to put fingers to the keyboard.

I briefly addressed this topic in an earlier post.  I thought I was done writing about it.  But my brain won’t let go.  I bought books at the gift shop.  Books . . . books that I am currently reading . . . curious about the “bits and pieces” that I learned while traveling and now want to add to my knowledge.

Does that ever happen to you?

Google’s response to the word “catacomb” was that they were present in London, Paris and Rome.  Many locations, many purposes, but my connection to “world civilizations” was in Rome.  “Rome Catacombs” led me to some interesting sources including National Geographic and the Vatican.  The Vatican source seemed the most promising as the National Geographic source had already pointed out that the Vatican owned all of the Christian Catacombs (numbering 40 known ones at this time).

(Yes, I went to google first with “Catacombs”, then “Roman Catacombs” and then “Calixtus Catacombs”.)

What specific information was I looking for?

I wanted to know more about “deacon Calixtus, who would later become pope (217-222), the task of supervising the cemetery of the Appian Way, where the most important pontiffs of the third century would be buried.” (Source: Vatican)

Our tour began with story boards and I was hooked.


Picture taken of tour guide and story board. 09.01.16  fgmcveigh

Our guide was amazing.  The stories were riveting.  And now I’m embroiled in learning more about the catacombs. Sixteen different popes were buried in this set of catacombs along with 50 martyrs.  But this was also the burial place for the common persons during the second through fourth centuries.  The oldest tombs are those in the top levels as later tombs were dug below those previously interred.

What was the most interesting story for me?

The story of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, who was martyred and who is also revered as an “incorrupt” saint.  Incorruptibility is a Roman Catholic belief that divine intervention allows some human bodies (specifically saints) to avoid the normal process of decomposition after death as a sign of their holiness.



Today, once I had settled on my topic, The Catacombs of Callisto, I drafted. I did not revise.  I did do some minor editing – especially checking my quotation marks.  I also used the spell check embedded in WordPress.

What’s your digital writing process?  

Is it EXACTLY like your handwritten process?

Draft to publication:  1 hour and 42 minutes (I was lost in pictures for a bit.)




#SOL16: Remembering 9/11

Sharing a Collection of Resources today after the 15 year anniversay:

In the news

On Facebook from the Westport Library,  “We are live streaming “Healing through Art & Words” with authors Nora Raleigh Baskin, Gae Polisner, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Wendy Mills, and Lauren Tarshis.” (Description here)

The New York Times

New Books



Towers Falling

The Memory of Things 

Two Writing Teachers – Stacey Shubitz – Remembrance Ideas

What to Read Aloud?  Sally says for 3rd grade  . . . Seven and a half tons of Steel

Nerdy Bookcast – Episode 3

NCTE online – Dear Teachers  – Letters to Another Hero  (found on Twitter)

From my sister who lost a dear friend. . .

Quilt squares created by friends/family of Nina Bell, RIP 9/11

quilt squares.jpg

A story about the quilt “in the making” from Sherry. “Remembering 9/11. RIP Nina Bell. I was fortunate to find an archive of an article on a quilt that my mother, Mary Marek, made. It was created with pictures, thoughts, impressions of Nina’s friends across the US and abroad. The article was written by my sister-in-law, Mary Marek, who used to write for the Kalona News in Iowa.

From my blog post archives

The Survivor Tree

9/11 In Remembrance (The Museum and a Song)

Reading and Writing Instruction: Paired Mentor Texts

What do you remember from 9/11?

Why is it important to remember?

slice of life

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

Today, I just needed a place to “collect and store my ideas” and not write long about any of them!

Also, love this picture – I wanted to add it to the comments – more study needed to figure that out!  Hartford, CT Flag of Honor with every person’s name . . .

flag of honor Hartford CT.jpg



#DigiLitSunday: Reflection


Join the #DigiLit Sunday celebration organized by Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche.


What does “REFLECTION” mean to you?

Google defines reflection as either:

“1. the throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing it.”

       “the reflection of light”


“2.  serious thought or consideration.”

         “he doesn’t get much time for reflection”

Which reflection were you thinking of?

Does it matter?

Consider these quotes:


Which quote is your favorite?

Dewey?  Confucious?  Teclei?  Garten?

I often talk about being at that age and stage of my life when it would be easy to say, “Oh, well, I guess that REALLY doesn’t matter.”  Yet my passion for learning continues to take me back to the Confucious quote.

Learning is everything.  Acting on that learning by using the learning is important to me.  And yet reflecting on that learning is equally important.  At times, learning and reflection almost feel like the chicken and the egg conundrum!

Reflection is critical for professionals to grow.  Reflection is critical in the collection of data and in the use of formative assessments to adjust instruction.  Reflection is also critical in considering whether the needs of the students are being met both efficiently and effectively.  Self reflection also provides professionals with both the time and the tools to determine whether the “perceived reality” is in fact the actual reality in the classroom!  However, there must be some “learning” to reflect on.  Otherwise, reflection is merely continuing the status quo!

WHEN and HOW do you reflect on your work?

What do you believe are the most critical attributes of reflection?



#SOL16: Travel Trivia

Where have we been?

What have we seen?

This morning sitting at the Leonardo DaVinci Airport I was literally counting my blessings.

Screenshot 2016-08-08 21.07.57

This was Mom five years ago on her “0” birthday when she went on a Mediterranean cruise with my younger sister.  The idea of returning to Rome has been a recurring topic.

And last evening we celebrated sisters in our tour group in this picture.


How many sets of sisters?

And without a picture  . . . How many sets of brothers were on our trip?

What was our location?

How many hills in this city?

How many obelisks?

What US city is at the same latitude as Rome?

How many attended the canonization on Sunday?

How many in the audience at the canonization needed medical treatment due to the heat and the numerous hours in the sun?

How many were within five feet of the Pope on Saturday?

We set off on a journey to Rome, yes a religious trip, but also a trip to the heart of civilization.  This is a city of 300 churches with 200 more in the suburbs.  It’s a city of many diverse nationalities and personalities.  It was a pleasure to be in a group of seven . . .







within a community of 52 pilgrims from an Iowa sponsored tour (plus folks from IL, WI, MO, and FL).


Today’s Slice of Life . . .  Treasuring the “arrivederci”!

slice of life

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

Questions and Answers from above:

How many sets of sisters? 4
And without a picture . . . How many sets of brothers were on our trip? 1
What was our location? Rome, Italy
How many hills in this city? 7
How many obelisks? 11
What US city is at the same latitude as Rome? Chicago
How many attended the canonization on Sunday? 120,000
How many in the audience at the canonization needed medical treatment due to the heat and the numerous hours in the sun? 1,000
How many were within five feet of the Pope on Saturday? ALL 52 of us!!!!

(6 of 9 answers were included in earlier Tweets from Rome! – Just another reason to be on Twitter!)



#DigiLitSunday: Motivation


What truly causes one to learn?

Is it the search to answer a question?

The insatiable curiosity of one who just wants to know more?

As I have been traveling in Rome, I have been wondering about this issue. Where does motivation really live?

So I thought about comparing  two of my tours while here.

Tour 1: Catacombs

The local guide, name unknown, used storyboards to illustrate the main points. Her voice was soft for our group of 52 pilgrims. But her voice rose and sped up with her excitement and passion. Some of her questions were rhetorical. But we sat in a group hearing the background information about what we would see in our tour.

I took notes . . . 10 pages of S notes on my phone. I talked to other tour group members, took pictures and even tweeted out pictures and comments. (I have no clue how to copy anything on this new device. . . Mini-iPad 4 so you will have to find the tweets yourself!)

Was I told to take notes? Was I told to pay attention? Was I told “this would be on the test”?

The answer to all those questions is NO!

Tour 2: The Sistine Chapel

The tour guide was a recording. I moved at my own pace. I listened to the first section to learn about the frescoes on the ceiling, a separate recording for The Redemption, more about the Cardinals and the current use of The Sistine Chapel, and then another recording about the care and maintenance of the chapel.

I can speak oF generalities. The voice did not exude passion. I chose to be there. I chose the order of my learning.

And yet, the tour did not inspire me to take ANY notes.   Maybe I was influenced by the constant, “Silencio” and interrupted by, “No video” and “No phone camera”.

But what if the difference was in the lack of personal inspiration or challenge from a real live person whose dedication to the topic encouraged me to learn more? What if the passion and excitement of a teacher FOR their subject matter  is absorbed AND reflected by the students?

What if your students need  a personal connection?

What if the “motivation to learn” is fueled by choice, time and commitment to learning AFTER it is IGNITED by a teacher . . .Or another learner?

How do YOU plan accordingly for students who don’t learn the same every day?


please head to Magaret’s DigiLitSunday for more posts.

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