Author Archive: franmcveigh


Dust in the field

Combine easing through brown rows,

Slowly chewing up the grain.

Dust in the field

Combine mowing down dried stalks,

Leaving stubble behind.

Harvesting soybeans.

Harvesting corn.

Which is first?



Harvest season

Signs of fall.

What are the signs of fall in your neighborhood?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

#SOL22: Delays

A delay …

School is delayed due to snow.

A delay of game penalty is assessed for the (insert football team’s name).

Traffic is delayed due to an accident.

Construction delays were due to inclement weather.

Regular programming is delayed because a previous show ran past time.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

What is a delay?



Last week there were three delays in a sporting event that began at 6 pm. The delays were lightning delays – mandatory 30-minute delays. Three. Lightning. Delays.

The first delay was relatively easy. I found things to occupy myself. Little things to fill time including starting a couple of slices to have some “slices” on deck. I wasn’t watching the clock or really worrying about the time.

But the second delay seemed to drag. I was basically done for the day. “Did I want to see the ending?” “Was it really going to matter?” I began thinking about previous delays. One night during a high school football game we had several lightning delays. I couldn’t remember whether the game was played out to the last second or whether it was called off and the score just stood as it stood on the scoreboard.

I did catch up on some reading when we went into the third delay. I had also reduced the volume just in case I needed to inspect the insides of my eyelids.

The outcome? A win

Length of the game? 7 hours

What “delays” were you picturing as you read this? What other words that can be both nouns and verbs do you use interchangeably?


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#SOL22: Poetry Joy

Last week, the #G2Great chat focused on Linda Rief’s new book: Whispering in the Wind: A Guide to Deeper Reading and Writing Through Poetry. It’s an amazing resource. You can read more about it here in Travis Crowder’s gorgeous post. (Link)

Travis tells us about changing teacher roles with poetry when he says, “I shifted from teaching poetry to sharing poetry.” Did you catch that in his blog post above? Students are NOT empty vessels that are waiting to have knowledge poured into them.

Deep understanding.

Do we need it for every book? Is it even possible for every book?


They’ve improved. There still remain the deplorable decodables where “the fat cat sat on a rat” where there is no setting, no plot, no character development, and minimal sense-making. There may be a lot of practice on a specific skill. But meaning? That’s why these cannot be the only books students are reading during a day, a week, or a grade level.

And yes, I know they are improving. But the vast majority of “decodable” are not texts that would serve as writing mentors.

Picture Books

Narrative. Poetry. Prose. Nonfiction. Award winners for authors and illustrators. Great for read alouds. Great for mentor texts. Easy to fit into time slots that match bell schedules. Yes to story elements. Yes to vocabulary development. Yes to knowledge building. Sometimes picture books are the hook that students need to crawl inside a specific genre and wrap themselves in the comfort of the patterns the reader finds.

Chapter Books

Longer texts. Series. Series after series. Dependable structures. Dependable friends. Bridges between foundational skills and more complex texts. A wide range of texts that meet students’ needs and interests. Books that can last more than a day. Books that the reader does not want to end. Books that linger in our minds.

Non-traditional texts

I love books. I’m sure that I overemphasize books. So I would be remiss if I didn’t deliberately include songs (often poetry) and their deeper meaning. Also, video and its ultimate combination of visual and spoken elements leading to deeper meaning appeal to many students.

Depth of meaning can occur in a wide range of text formats. The complexity varies by the task that students undertake. Worthy tasks. Real tasks. Real reading. Real writing. Real thinking!g. All require engagement with text!

Know your purpose. Know what you are reading. Know why you are reading it. Texts, whether print, musical or visual, that combine the elements of poetry and story are winners for deep dives into deep understanding whether prose or poetry!

What poetry are you reading? What poetry are you sharing?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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Additional Resources:

Amanda Gorman – link

You can access our #G2Great Wakelet Artifact of this chat HERE

Written by guest blogger, Travis Crowder

On 9/15/22, we were honored that our good friend, Linda Rief, returned to our #G2Great guest host seat to discuss her incredible new book, Whispering in the Wind: A Guide to Deeper Reading and Writing Through Poetry (Heinemann, 2022) following a previous #G2Great chat on her book Read, Write, Teach: Choice and Challenge in the Reading Writing Workshop (Heinemann, 2014). We were also honored that our friend, teacher and writer Travis Crowder wrote this beautifully reflective blog post. Travis describes himself as a Reader. Writer. Teacher. Learner and author of Reflective ReadersThe Power of Readers Notebooks. He blogs and is currently a Doctoral student at UNCW. We are so grateful to bring these two dedicated and thoughtful minds together:

Travis Crowder Reflections on Whispering in the Wind

“Stafford didn’t read his words—he spoke them. He delivered his poetry, simple but elegant words, riding on his voice and cupped in his hands as if saying, ‘Here, peek in, look what I noticed that I want you to notice. Feel what I felt at that moment. Taste these words in your mouth and feel how they slip right through to your heart” (Rief, 2022, p. 2).

“His [Stafford’s] voice said, ‘Here, take these words. Make them yours’” (Rief, 2022, p. 3).

NCTE. Atlanta. 2016.

            I scanned the event program, looking for names I recognized and topics of interest. I recognized Linda Rief’s name amidst a row of others. Seeking Diversity, Linda’s first book, gave deeper nuance to my thinking about reading and writing workshop. At this conference, she was part of a panel discussing poetry and response. Since I had always loved reading and teaching poetry, I was sure I would gather new poems and strategies for teaching them. And further, Linda was someone I wanted to learn more from. So, I picked up my messenger bag and headed toward the lecture hall.

            The room was quiet when I arrived—thirty minutes early—but found a seat as the lecture hall filled with eager educators. Right on schedule, the session began.

            We had all been given Maggie Smith’s (2017) Good Bones, and I cradled the stapled pages in my hands as Linda stepped to the podium. She directed us to the text, and with her eloquent, dulcet tones, she breathed life into the poem. When she finished reading, she invited us to pick up our notebooks. Write anything this poem brings to mind for you or borrow a line and let that line lead your thinking. I borrowed a line and took it into my notebook. I wrote and wrote into the line/idea I found, only coming up for air only when Linda told us our writing time was over. This approach to poetry was different. It was indelible. And wonderfully humane. I was no longer just interested in this session. I was riveted to my seat, craving more of what I had felt in those precious moments of writing.

            After we had finished writing, she discussed the importance of response and artistic expression, even sharing several examples from her writing notebook. Those examples were exceptional, and they demonstrated a way of exploring poetry I had never considered. Yes, I had always loved poetry, but my way of thinking about them had been so limited. With that single session, Linda showed me a different way, and it has made such a difference for me and my students. I shifted from teaching poems to sharing poems. And while I had carried my love of poetry into the classroom years before, students were only responding to the questions generated while the poet’s gorgeous words languished underneath the weight of my thoughts. Yet here she was, saying, Try it this way. See what ideas unfurl.         

Whispering in the Wind, Linda’s latest book, is a powerful ode to poetry and response that offers more of that difference. With this professional text, Linda holds the idea of poetry out to us, nudging us to peek in and look more deeply at a poet’s language. Softly, deftly, she encourages us to find as many poetry collections as possible, read as much as possible, and share with students…as much as possible. But even more, she invites independent reading around poetry for students to discover poets they love and decide what it is they are looking for.

As students find poems they love and connect with, they are asked to take those poems into Heart Books, which are completely blank books that students fill with poetry that matters to them. On one side of a two-page spread, they write or paste in a typed version of the poem, and on the facing side, they create an artistic rendering of the poem. Of course, this structural set-up is only a suggestion. As students create the two-page spreads in their Heart Books, some keep poem and art separate while others let their sketches and drawings blend with the poet’s words. The beauty rests in choice and ownership—it belongs to the students, and they decide what works for them. Students’ work is featured across multiple pages toward the middle of the book. We, her readers, get to see the result of a master teacher leading young people into deeper reading and thinking.

Linda writes, “I was most impressed with the way so many students were motivated to go back to poems again and again, thinking through what they noticed the poet did that touched personally or helped them garner ideas or craft moves for their own writing” (p. 41). One of the things I love most about this book is a focus on possibility. There is no set group of questions or guiding ideas to take students through poems. But like that NCTE session all those years ago, Linda continues to invite all of us to read, find lines that matter to us, and pay attention to what we notice. Something is there. Just look and you’ll see what the author has for you.

There is a focus on reflection, too.

Before students begin the Heart Book process, they take note of their feelings about poetry. Then, they spend time across the year gathering their poems and filling the pages of blank books with poetry and original art. Later in the year, there is an opportunity for students to reflect on changes in their thinking. She asks them to consider: How has my thinking about the concept of poetry changed? With such a humane approach to teaching poetry, I imagine students’ thinking shifts dramatically.

In addition to Linda’s incredible philosophy about poetry and Heart Books, she adds art invitations and ideas to get students thinking about their Heart Books. There is no right or wrong—just an invitation. I can hear Linda’s voice nudging all of us to grab our notebooks, find poems that resonate, and start building our own two-page spreads.

And I can also hear her reminding us that choice matters. Yes, share poems with students. Ask them to write what comes to mind or borrow lines and write from them. But, surround them with poetry, too. Find poetry collections and help them become familiar with poets as they read and write their way into deeper appreciation. Linda advises that we “help students find poems that connect to their very core” and “see the world in ways they don’t usually see the world” (p. 156). She reminds us that connection is powerful, but so is diversifying how we see the world. Poetry is that powerful. It has the energy to change what we see and how we think.

Yes, poems are critical.

They are microcosms of the world and they guide us into intersections of thought that we may not have known were possible. For me, poetry has been a light. A radiance that emanates hope out of darkness. A spark of something more. In a time of standardized teaching and learning, I encourage language arts teachers to listen to Linda’s words. Like Stafford’s voice did to her, I am confident Linda is whispering to all of us, “Here, take my words. Make them yours.”

When we do, we’ll find the poems that matter to us, feel the poet’s words slip right through to our hearts.

We’ll find, all over again, that poetry still affects our hearts in the most unexpected ways.

And if we listen to Linda’s gentle guidance, so will our students.


Rief, L. (2022). Whispering in the wind: A guide to deeper reading and writing through poetry. Heinemann.

Smith, M. (2017). Good bones: Poems. Tupelo Press.

We are so grateful to Linda Rief for hosting our chat and to Travis Crowder for sharing his personal reflections and learner, reader, writer and teacher. I have included our chat question with Linda’s wonderful responses below.

Q1 In addressing “Why Poetry” on page 3, Linda describes her 8th graders response when she asked about favorite poets: “They cringed at the word poetry.” Why do you think that many students have a visceral response to poetry? How can we change this?

Q2 Penny Kittle writes in her endorsement, “This book is a master class in poetry, teaching writing, and joy.” How do you approach poetry in a way that will allow you to teach poetry writing while you also create an atmosphere of joy around it?

Q3 Linda reminds us on p. 156, “…students can do their best work when given choices, time, mentor texts, and positive responses that keep them growing stronger both intellectually and emotionally.” How do you nurture these things in your classroom?

Q4 Linda emphasizes that in Heart Books, students “are responding to the poems they chose. Responding, not analyzing.” What do Linda’s words mean to you? How can this change their perception of poetry?

Q5 Linda says, “The more the students became involved in finding poems that spoke to them and spent time planning, playing with, and crafting their illustrations, the less the evaluation form mattered to them.” (pg 148) How will you bring Linda’s words to life this year?

Q6 As we close our #G2Great discussion with Linda, what are some key takeaways that have inspired new thinking or ideas that you plan to translate into your teaching this year?


Whispering in the Wind: A Guide to Deeper Reading and Writing Through Poetry by Linda Rief (Heinemann, 2022)

Blog post by Linda Rief: What Changes Kids’ Minds About Poetry? (Heinemann)

#SOL22: Poetry

Sun blazing

Red lights flashing everywhere

A sign of tapping brakes

And the masses slow.

Forward motion

Below the speed limit.

Vehicles hugging the left lane

Cause some to pass on the right.

Others wait

And wait

And wait.


They will move over

As soon as they recognize their “slowness”.

Ah . . .

Will they choose to use their turn signals?

The top driving infraction . . . no turn signals!

Driving: Torture? Fun? Relaxing? Annoying?

It all depends on your point of view

And the drivers on the road!

  • * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

What constitutes a poem?



Word choice?

Literary devices?

Oxford languages defines poetry as:


When do you intentionally choose to write poetry? When does poetry write itself?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL22: “Enough”

One word.

Over and over.

Again and again.

Just that one word.

But what does it mean?

Perhaps my understanding of this word (or its use) is flawed.

Oxford Languages

The source of my aggravation was the announcer’s words

“Enough for a first down.”

September 2, 2022. IA HS football field

So if the team I was cheering for had a 3rd and 2 situation and they made two yards, it was enough.

Good call. On the nose gain. Exactly what was needed.

If it was 3rd and 2 and they made 12 yards, it was enough.

Oh, wow. In some instances that amount of yardage would be two first downs.

If it was 3rd and 2 and they made 27 yards, it was enough.

And over a quarter of the length of the entire field or over two and a half first downs.

What might varied word choice look like?

If close:


  • Sufficient
  • Eked
  • Adequate
  • Exactly

If not close:


  • Amply
  • Abundantly
  • Gratifyingly 
  • Optimally
  • plenteously

What words would you choose instead of “enough”? How annoyed are you to hear the same word over 50 times through a PA system?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL22: Communication? Curiosity?

Yesterday, my gas was $2.46 / gallon.

What a bargain!

But how does this work?

I had the discount from the grocery store. So many cents per specific items purchased at Hy-Vee, the Iowa-based grocery store. AND the receipt from Sunday with an additional $.10 / gallon off.

What did I have to do?

I first had to get gas at the Hy Vee pumps adjacent to the store. That was easy. The vehicle was on empty. It would be a bonus to fill up for less than $2.50 / gallon. Bargain, yes! Unfamiliar process? Yes, as well!

There were no signs on the gas pump that indicated how to conduct this purchase. So I opted to go into the store and physically talk to the clerk on duty. A real person. A real conversation.

I didn’t have time to finish my question and the clerk was already answering, “Choose pay inside and we’ll take care of it.

So back outside and cautiously and curiously I approached the pump.

“Pay inside / Pay outside” flashed as choices.

As prompted while inside the store, I pushed “pay inside.
The rest of the windows and prompts were familiar.

I filled the tank and returned to the store … ready to pay.

The clerk verified the steps. Original price minus the discounts from the grocery store minus the $.10 for using the discount


minus another $.05 for paying inside.

End result. As the first line said, gas was $2.46 / gallon.

How did that occur?

Asking questions

Seeking clarity.

A bit of curiosity and wonder.

Enough time to ask questions.

Listening to the answers.

Face to face communication.

Where has your curiosity led you? What conversations have you had lately?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL22: Darkness

“Hello, Darkness, my old friend

I’ve come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping

Left its seeds while I was sleeping . . .”


A state of mind? A time of day?

A feeling?

The darkness that I’m already tired of is the darkness that happens with sunset before 8 pm.


As the days shorten, the night lengthens and the early start to night is so fruWhstrating.m.

It will be April before the sunsets after 8 pm again.

Lonely months from August to April.

Eight lonely months before the sunset occurs after 8 pm.

Darkness . . .

Pitch black?

A smidgeon of light?

Welcome? Unwelcome?

What song do you hear? What connections do you make between the song and life?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL22: Memory Loss?

“What was it?”

“Um” … Long pause. No pressure. “Crunchy?”

I begin to shuffle through memories in my head … GA. CA. Last few meals out. Last few meals picked up.

No memory. Reading the choices doesn’t help.


Two cars are now lined up in the rain behind me.

No sudden remembrance echoing in my brain. “Just pick something.” Of course, I cannot say it out loud. The person listening to the order must think I’m crazy

I consumed it last time. It was an unexpected treat. It was like no other lunch order. Today, as I’m trying to remember any of the details, I’m coming up blank. NADA.

I read back through the list.

Now there are three cars lined up. Decisions are apparently beyond me today.

“Do you have the Doritos?” my sister leans across and asks.

The voice in the metal bucket says, “Yes.” And I take a big breath. Solution.

Decision made.

No memory loss here.

I didn’t see the menu before.

I didn’t order it.

I just ate it.

Semi-randomly, I choose. I think it’s one of three items. I choose the first. Soon I will find out if I was able to guess correctly.

When you can’t respond quickly and easily to a question, what’s your response? Are you calm? Are you panicking? How do you move on?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL22: One Simple Task

Replace two items.

Plan A: Gather all possible tools.

First item: Replaced in less than five minutes.

Plan B: Add some WD40 to item two.

Plan C: Patience. And a third and fourth dose of WD 40.

Plan D: Add power tools. Use the drill carefully!

Two hours invested in this one little task.

Plan E: Head to the local hardware store for assistance.

Plan F: More power tools.

Plan G: Drill out the recalcitrant object.

Plan H: The flat top falls off. Drilling out is still required.

Plan I: Matching the fasteners. No preference. ANY one that will work.

Plan J: Super Duper stuff that works on rusty items.

Plan K: Second item drilled out. YET . . . some residue remains in both.

These are not STEPS. Remember the first item was done with PLAN A!

Plan L: Forget it? NOOOOO. . . the end is in sight!

Start to finish

Two license plates

Four screws

Five hours

Mission accomplished!

When have you had to remain persistent in order to complete a task? Persistence? Patience? Or just plain pig-headed and determined to win?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL 22: A Trillion?

I’m sure I’ve seen that message a trillion times.



Connected. No internet.

If you live in a town, city, or have access to quality internet, this message may be foreign to you.

If you live in a rural area or one with spotty internet service, this message may be very familiar.

How familiar?

To reach a trillion times in one year, that would be 2,739,726 times per day.

Okay . . . so maybe not exactly a trillion.

BUT, today, I counted 51 times. And that was in the first eight hours. So if that was the average per day occurrence, the total for one year would be 18,156 times per year. Take that times the 20 years of the internet would result in 363,120 messages. Not a trillion.

BUT, when I’m waiting. . . it sure feels like the message pops up multiple times every hour.

What annoying thing occurs frequently enough that it causes frustration? What does the data say about the frequency? Is it REALLY a major problem?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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