Author Archive: franmcveigh

#SOL18: Assessment


What do we value?  Product? Process? Reflection?

It began with a conversation on Voxer.

How do we know?

My #OLW, Curious, led me on an interesting quest.

So how does this work in real life?

The first group began.  All brass. They blew a few sounds through their mouthpieces.  They were newcomers. Section by section. Each small group played. Then the entire brass group played two songs.

Same process for the woodwinds.  A few sounds. Section by section sound off.  Then the entire woodwind group played two songs.




The Premiere of THE 5th Grade Beginning Band (copied from the program) then played two songs.  Their first practice together – the brass and the woodwinds. Their first practice EVER. During a performance.  In front of a gym packed with family and friends. 

How would you assess this 5th grade group in their first public appearance?


The number of students that participated? 

How the three groups sounded?


How they have grown in the six weeks since 5th grade band began?

What comparisons would you make between assessing this instrumental group and other “assessments of 5th grade learners?”

I watched instrumental musicians last night representing grades 5-12 in the Central DeWitt school district.  This was my second consecutive year to attend the fall Parade of Bands. It’s a 90 minute extravaganza led by two directors that showcases the performance levels of students in October each year. This year that was a total of 325 band students in grades 5-12:  215 students in grades 5-8 (She is simply amazing!) and 115 students in high school.




A combination?

Screenshot 2017-03-26 at 8.34.52 AM

What if . . .

What if all students had to take an identical screener in the fall, winter and spring?

What if the results of the screener was then used to determine which instrument students should play?

What if the students had to pass a “basic knowledge test” before they could choose an instrument?

Would there be 325 students in band if a general “proficiency test” was required of all students?

Again, how is success measured?

Is it measured by the “1 Superior” rating at state marching contest?

Is it measured by the new band uniforms provided by a community drive?

Is it measured by the audience that packed the gym?

Is it measured by the funds raised during the dinner before the Parade of Bands?

Is it measured by the applause of the audience?

Is it measured by the number of students who continue to participate in band year after year?

Is it measured by the distance that audience members travel to attend the concert? (195 miles one way for me)

Is it measured by the “JOY” of the students who continue to participate?

Product?  Process? Reflection? 

Is there any ONE measure that captures the essence of success?

The original conversation began with writing.  Is this a conversation that needs to be a part of every content area in every school building?  

What do we value?

What do we support?

How do we know?

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                     

        slice of life 2016

Full Disclosure: I’ve followed this band director for decades – to concerts and competitions, to the Alamo Bowl, and to the Orange Bowl so I’m a wee bit biased.  Band opened the doors for me to travel in the US and abroad. I attended this concert with his grandmother, mother, wife and daughter. I’ve known him and his work ethic for 40 years, and YET I also know that FUN and a passion for music is also a part of his agenda.  He’s my nephew!


#SOL18: Early? Late!

“Be ready at 1,” Sherry said as we left the evening of playing cards.

So I call about 10 minutes out.  But it’s 11:50.

“Are you about ready?”

I hear a litany of tasks and to do’s and my sister sounds surprised.

I was thinking . . . “Be there at 1. At the destination!

Sherry says, “We can get started if you get . . .”

“But it was supposed to be a surprise!” 

I sneakily grab the document. Scan. Upload. Share.

“So where are we going?”


“Jess wondered why I didn’t ask where we were going.  But I told her I did.”

I just shook my head.

Packing up. Paying attention to road closures due to flooding creeks and raging rivers.

Talking. Driving. Talking. Following the GPS.  And yet there was just one turn.

“I could tell you the directions if you let me know WHERE we were going,” as my elder sister tried again to figure out the surprise.

All the Marek girls.  And just in time.  The paperwork was done. With keys in hand it was time to pick up the new wheels and celebrate a birthday!

Was your last planned surprise really a surprise?  This one was! 

A big surprise that she was ready EARLY! 

And a Happy Birthday!

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                              slice of life 2016

#SOL18: Hello, friends!

Literacy is important.  It’s been a part of my life for years.  Teaching, modeling, teaching, modeling, demonstrating!  And yesterday was no different,


I was a learner in the audience.  A learner.

Here’s just a window into the learning:

Screenshot 2018-10-01 at 1.41.58 PM

If you are on twitter, you may know where I was and who I was with for my learning fun. but if you were not online, think about these quotes.

What surprises you?

What is worth talking about?

What would you say to a thought partner?

What would you write?

Instruction needs to change.  Students need to be engaged.  That doesn’t mean teachers need to do “a song and a dance” every day.  But teachers do need to think about the needs of their students.  And how students’ needs and teachers’ needs can both be met in better ways. Responsive teaching is hard.  It means that the data from today drives the instruction for tomorrow. That data comes from a variety of sources:  conferences, book talks, flipgrid responses, book check ins, student goals, teacher goals, the questions students ask, the questions students do NOT ask, student writing, and teacher writing.

It’s not a unit per quarter.  It’s not a whole class novel per quarter.  It’s not low level responses.  It’s not fake reading. It’s not giving up accountability.  It’s not about abdicating responsibility for learning.

It’s also not easy.

Teachers are change agents

Teachers change the world.

What was the message?

Here is a quick glimpse . . .


Screenshot 2018-10-01 at 8.36.17 PM

Screenshot 2018-10-01 at 8.36.47 PM

Screenshot 2018-10-01 at 8.47.20 PM

Screenshot 2018-10-01 at 8.48.42 PM

Who were these masterminds of change?

Screenshot 2018-10-01 at 8.46.42 PM

In West Des Moines, Iowa

About 340 of us . . .



 Great learning!

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                              slice of life 2016

Additional Resources:

Literacy Lenses:  Link

180 Days

Sample Chapter

Heinemann podcast 1

Heinemann podcast 2

Facebook page

Podcast part 1 – Read Aloud

Resourceful – Planning

Travis Crowder Review

Kelly Gallagher website

Penny Kittle website

#SOL18: Words Matter

“You can’t live your life scared. . . ” 

was the message on the 10:00 pm news.

And the solution is a 911 app.  It will pinpoint your location in a more precise way than ever before.

These are scary times.  Two high profile murders in our state in the last few months.  The loss of young athletic females. One out running. One out golfing.

Treated totally different in the press.

Treated totally different by politicians.

Treated totally different by citizens.

I’m ashamed.

I’m horrified.

I’m embarrassed.

I’m worried about the inequity of treatment.

I’m fearful of the current vitriol towards immigrants.  The same immigrants that settled the U.S.

I’m worried about our reputation as “Iowa nice”.

And I’m angry. Angry that this conversation is necessary.

The first case, Mollie Tibbetts, still has folks chanting to “Build a wall.” And yet her dad says, “NO!” LInk

The second case, Celia Barquin Arozamena, has barely a mention and she was the Iowa State Female Athlete of the Year as well as ranked No. 69 nationally by Golfweek . Link,

What’s the difference? There are many. It’s easy to oversimplify.

The politicalization of the first. . .

The governor

The Vice President

The President

Both Iowa Senators


Talked about an illegal alien

 Alien primarily refers to: Extraterrestrial life, life which does not originate from Earth.

Words Matter.



One accused is from Mexico.

One accused is a white man.

Did that ethnicity result in different treatment in the press and the eyes of the general public?

And the result:  in order to be safe, women out running or participating in sports should have an enhanced 911 app on their phones so they can be easily located in an emergency.

Think about that for a minute:  an app for safety.


Why should women be fearful? 

It’s 2018! 

What is the real message? 

Why do women need an enhanced 911 app?

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                              slice of life 2016



#SOL18: It was THAT day!

It was that day!

The internet would not connect.

Fortunately, I had time to wait.

Unfortunately, I was still waiting 20 minutes later.

It was that day!

The password was “BAD Password.”

Fortunately, it was posted on the bulletin board.

Unfortunately, it was s-s-s-s-o-o-o-o slow to connect.

It was that day!

The bagpipe music was the prelude.

Fortunately, the tunes were recognizable.

Unfortunately, it was melting the ear wax of all in the church.

It was that day!

Three of my siblings were there!

Fortunately, even my sister arrived five minutes early.

Unfortunately, it was hard to save enough seats.

It was that day!

During the last speeches the lights went out and RAIN poured down.

Fortunately, a light on the phone allowed the speeches to continue.

Unfortunately, it continued to rain.

It was that day!

The rain was pelting down like thin knife slivers at precisely 55 degree angles.

Fortunately, I had an umbrella.

Unfortunately, it was in my car back at Mom’s.

It was that day!

Everyone eventually braved the monsoon.

Fortunately, the coffee was already brewed and lunch was prepared.

Unfortunately, the lines were long due to the many family members . . . (8 children, spouses, 24 grandchildren, 33 great grandchildren and 1 great great grandson) and then all the rest of the cousins, aunts and uncles, family and friends).

It was that day!

Lunch was great, the lights returned, and it was time to head for the cemetary.

Fortunately, the rain had stopped and the processional proceeded across several county lines.

Unfortunately, only 8 vehicles pulled off the side of the road and waited patiently, courteously, and respectfully for all to pass through.

It was that day!

The cars filled the driveway in a neat and orderly fashion.

Fortunately, the rain held off until the graveside services were complete.

Unfortunately, the rain was steady as the grandsons and great grandsons closed the grave.

It was that day!

A day to celebrate the life, adventures and passions that were a part of my aunt Emilie!

Fortunately we were asked to “Please honor Emilie by enjoying a strawberry margarita, a bowl of your favorite ice cream, or some extra lap time with your grandchild.”

Unfortunately, it was raining again by the time I arrived home . . . filled with sorrow for our loss but with some comfort from our fellowship.

How was your day? 

Were you able to balance “fortunate” and “unfortunate”? 

What tipped the scales in your favor?

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                              slice of life 2016




#SOL18: Light vs. Dark





Endless Days.

No satellite.

No news.


But such gloomy days.

A meeting.





Info to Study.


One pertinent question.

Brick wall.

Mind made up.

Not going to read.

Not going to listen.

“He’s upstanding.”

Sitting in the front row.

Ready to gag.

NO Representation.

Personal Opinion.

How does this happen?

How do we get so far off course?

The guy in the audience

who interrupts every female except the Senator.

The guy in the audience

who speaks of civility who is one of two least civil present.

The hatred.

The lies.

The term “illegal

The falsehoods.

Town Hall Meeting with my Senator

Followed the Format


Saddened by the vitriol

Disillusioned by neighborhood beliefs.

A wall for Mexico.

The term “illegal”.

And yet, citizenship was just granted

to the First Lady’s parents.


A wall with Ireland?

So many immigrants.

A country

founded by immigrants

for immigrants

for freedom for all

Land and rights




Who are we to judge?   

By whose authority?

On Friday, September 7th, ILA released their “Children’s Rights to Read.” All children everywhere in the world deserve these rights.  No matter their age nor their location.

Screenshot 2018-09-10 at 8.59.00 PM.png

You can read more about these here and here.  Do read the explanations.  Do make these a part of your daily instruction!

Check your practices. How could you use these?

How can I use this?

  1. Personal Reflection of My Values and Instruction:  In the center record the number and the evidence that I have that this is prevalent for the students in my classroom.  Also record wonderings or qualifiers that I add as I think about that evidence. Write a summative statement or paragraph about a goal that I might consider based on the evidence that I find.
  2. Grade Level Reflection of Our Values and Instruction:  After a personal reflection have a grade level discussion.  What are our strengths?  Where do we have the most evidence?  Where is it difficult to collect evidence?  What would we choose to set as a goal?
  3. Building Level Reflection of Our Values and Instruction:  Which statements reflect the reading culture of our school?  Which statements are supported by evidence?  What are our strengths?  What outcomes would we like to strengthen?  Which of these statements do we need to share with all school staff?  Which of these statements do we need to share with our entire community?
  4. With students? Challenge the students to discuss how these look and sound at school, at home, and in the community.  How could they be strengthened?  How could they be enriched?

Which is the light?  Which is the dark? 

Which makes you uncomfortable? 

Which causes you to take action? 

What will you do?

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                              slice of life 2016

#SOL18: Access & Equity

Labor Day weekend has come and gone.  All schools are in session.  Some have been for a week or so. Others have over a month in.  It’s that time of transitions.  No more “wearing white”. Getting out the college football colors and fall clothes.  Trying to prep fo hot weather in un-airconditioned buildings.

I remember kindergarten in a country school.  It was less than four miles from our house.  Easy access. A true neighborhood school.  The old “be careful what you wish for” as it was a small building and classes were combined.  I loved that I was allowed to read.  I hated that we wasted our time on silly worksheets and coloring pages and so much Dick, Jane, Sally, Spot and Puff. Their lives didn’t match our rural farm lives.

And then first grade was in town.  In an addition to the school.  First grade with other first grade classes.  First grade where I could only read books off the first grade shelf in the library.  First grade where I read all the books by the end of the first quarter.  First grade where my teacher tore up my page with a red sun, a purple sky and green flowers.  That wasn’t her picture.  First grade where it didn’t matter what I needed or wanted to learn.  First grade where I was going to conform.  First grade where I was sick. A lot. first grade where I can still remember the number of tiles on the bathroom walls, the floor, and even the ceiling.

First grade when I hated school.

Hated the Dick, Jane, Sally, Spot and Puff stories that I already read the year before. They were awful the first time.  They were an even bigger waste of time the second time around.  I didn’t excel at coloring inside the lines.  I wanted the task to be done.  I wanted to be able to read, write and draw.  Creativity was not prized. My pictures never made the wall. I know exactly how Lois Lowry’s Anastasia Krupnik felt when her teacher gave her an F for her free verse poem and this poem by Robert Gianni was praised.

He likes to eat and drink a lot.
When I put water in his dish,
He laps it up just like a fish.”  *(Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry)

Which school better met my needs?

The rural, neighborhood school. In the name of equity it was closed.  In terms of access, my access to a quality education was lessened.

What matters?

Access and Equity matter.  All students need access to quality education.  Equity is huge.  The books that I was mining this holiday weekend are here.  There are many others I could have consulted, but these were at the top of my stack!Screenshot 2018-09-02 at 10.00.33 AM

What’s our goal?

If it truly is to “grow readers and writers” – students who want to read, who do read, and who love to read – kids need access to books.  That’s an equity issue whether the school doesn’t even have books – due to their zip code!  Or because the students have a new teacher and of course there is NO classroom library set up magically waiting for new teachers!

And then time to read glorious books. Self-selected books.  Books that match their interests!  Books that make sense to them!

Literacy for ALL . . . What does that mean?






Communicating as a priority.  Classrooms not existing as rooms of silence!

Books that reflect the composition of the classroom and the communities around the world.  No more “Boy Books” or “Girl Books”!  Has you thinking been challenged?

A focus on learning NOT assessing.

The real tangible goal.  Are ALL students progressing?  Are all students learning self-assessment?  Are students developing their own goals and agency?  Are students transferring their literacy work to other content areas?  What are your students telling you?  Do they love learning?  Are they curious?

Here are a few of the quotes I’m still holding onto . . .

Screenshot 2018-09-03 at 5.36.36 PM.png

Screenshot 2018-09-03 at 5.26.17 PM.png

Screenshot 2018-09-03 at 5.29.38 PM.png

Screenshot 2018-09-03 at 5.28.23 PM

Screenshot 2018-09-03 at 5.28.04 PM

Screenshot 2018-09-03 at 5.31.02 PM.png

How did you grow your knowledge and skills this summer? 

What are you still wondering about? 

What questions do your need answered?   

What quotes would you add?

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                              slice of life 2016


#SOL18: Magic






Picture aficionado

Picture aficionado



Family – oriented

Family – oriented



International traveler

International traveler

A Pennyslvanian

An Iowan

And that’s a list of what I knew about a fellow “Slicer” before we met up IRL (in real life) last Saturday for breakfast.

The power of blogging.

The power of paying attention.

The power of responding to fellow bloggers.

The power of subscribing to blogs written by other folks.

It felt like “old home week” because we’ve been blogging weekly and every day in March for several years.  I could look it up, but this post isn’t about the numbers.  It’s about the friendships, respect and genuine “kinship” of fellow bloggers!

Screenshot 2018-08-26 at 7.51.25 PM.png

They are on their way to California for their nephew’s wedding and several months ago said they would be going through Iowa.  We met up at the Iowa 80 truck stop and had breakfast together before they headed across Iowa. Westward, Ho!

It’s convenient.  Literally one block off of Interstate 80.  Loaded with choices of places to eat.  Knickknacks to examine. Souvenirs. Halloween items. Toys. Toys. Toys.

Screenshot 2018-08-26 at 8.08.20 PM.png

I’m not positive that the ferris wheel works. But it adds to the scenic view.  And that’s the outside. The inside is spacious and puts most stores to shame with WIDE aisles and plenty of browsing space.

And vehicles. This is one of two trucks on the INSIDE of the building!  Truck tail gates adorn the walls.  And memorabilia fills all the nooks and crannies everywhere!

Screenshot 2018-08-26 at 8.07.45 PM

If you are going to be on I-80, this truck stop is about an hour west of the Mississippi River (the eastern border).  Leave yourself some time to explore!  LInk

So when you are planning to meet, talk and enjoy some face to face conversation, The World’s Largest Truck Stop should be on your list because it’s entertaining, easy to access, and also like all truck stops . . . has really “delish” food 24 hours every day!  Check it out!

Take a risk.

Start blogging.

You will be amazed at the friendships that will develop.

Write. Write. Write.

Blog. Blog. Blog.

Fellow “Slicers”, how many have you met IRL? 

Where do you go to “meet up”? 

Does it involve food or drink? 

What do you have planned?

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                              slice of life 2016

#SOL18: Uncertainty

Out of the corner of my eye, flashing colors.

As I emerge from the underpass, I see it again, flashing lights in my rear view mirror.

Flashing red and blue, headed east.

“Hmmm, will I soon see them again, pulling out from the merging lane?” I wonder to myself.

I sit a little straighter, I tap the mirror to better view the lanes behind me, and I check the current traffic patterns.  I see no sign that anyone else has noticed.  Maybe it’s just my awareness of where that road came from, a town of approximately 6,000 and a possible destination ahead about 30 miles, a town with a university hospital, a VA hospital, a private hospital and a world-renown children’s hospital.

Within seconds, my mind is back on possibilities and scenarios.

I have identified it as an ambulance by both the name and the shape of the vehicle.  Flashing red and blue lights mean emergency.  I don’t know the destination.

And yet, I know that our paths are intersecting, because I can now see the lights on the merging lane behind me.

And debate is my focus:

“It’s a four lane highway with a median.  The ambulance is traveling the same way I am.  It should be even with me shortly.

Do I still pull off the shoulder of the road like I learned decades ago in drivers’ education class?”

I look around.

Some cars are passing others in the left lane.

Some are merging into the right lane.

Some have blinkers on, marking the first step to moving over to the right.

I turn on my blinker and slow.

I pull onto the shoulder and I count:
















and sixteen vehicles continue on past me.

And then the ambulance goes past.

I look ahead.

I look back.

Three cars move to the left lane.

The right lane is clear.

I signal.

I pull back onto the road.

As I accelerate into the flow of traffic I see the ambulance lights a mile ahead of me.

And curious me

I wonder,

“Do we not pull off the side of the road for an ambulance?”

I will have to consult the DMV via The Google.


What is required?

What is the right thing to do?

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                                                                      slice of life 2016

9:20 am  – page 19

“Emergency Vehicles
You must yield the right-of-way to a police vehicle, fire engine,
ambulance or other emergency vehicle using a siren or
air horn, and a red or blue flashing light. Pull over to the right
edge of the road, or as near to the right as possible, when
you see or hear an emergency vehicle approaching from
any direction. F o l l o w  a n y instructions given over the
e m e r g e n c y vehicle’s loudspeaker.

If you are in an intersection, drive through the intersection
before you pull over. However, if you are on a street or highway
separated by a median strip and the emergency vehicle
is on the other side, you do not have to stop. You must stay
at least 500 feet behind any emergency vehicle using lights
and sirens on its way to an emergency.”

#SOL18: New Year’s Resolutions




Yes, New Year’s Resolutions on August 14th!

Screenshot 2018-08-13 at 10.26.37 PM.png

What are YOUR Resolutions for the New School Year?

Where will you begin?

___ Online query (Facebook, twitter, instagram)

___ Professional Learning Community (Summer book study or Back to school updates)

___ Texts Read this Summer (180 Days, A Novel Approach, Kids First from Day 1, Engaging Children, Writers Read Better, Sparks in the Dark, To Know and Nurture a Reader, What’s the Best that Could Happen? Teach Like Yourself, What are you Grouping For?)

___ Blog posts ( TWT Blog Series – Dreaming Big in this Year’s Writing Workshop)

___ Personal mission/vision statement

___  Searching for a Fun, New, Community Building Activity

___ Other

Why does it matter?

Time is the most precious commodity in your classroom.  How will your use of time reflect your priorities?

Rules?  or Expectations?

Fun?  or Meaningful?

“Will your students READ, WRITETALK, and THINK on Day 1?  Day 2?  Day 3? . . .

What will your students LEARN this year?

What processes will you put in place to help set the stage?”

YOU, the teacher

Not you, the entertainer

You, the teacher


Growing and Learning







Setting the Stage

Crafting Experiences

What is on your list of New School Year’s Resolutions? 

What are your priorities? 

Will you be the “best teacher” that you can be?

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                                                                      slice of life 2016

For more information, this is the blog post I read before writing my post. Thanks for the inspiration, Mr. G:   I might just teach   

Mrs. Palmer Ponders

Noticing and celebrating life's moments of any size.


Seeking Ways to Grow Proficient, Motivated, Lifelong Readers & Writers

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 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 site

Karen Gluskin

My Teaching Experiences and Qualifications

To Read To Write To Be

Thoughts on learning and teaching