Author Archive: franmcveigh

#iareads: Adventure Awaits … Day 2

Friday started early with two session with Lucy Calkins. Great thanks to the BookSource/Capstone/Heinemann reps for the early bird breakfast video session with Lucy. We were able to ask questions and gather TCRWP thinking about fall 2021 student needs and plans to meet them.

And then there was the three hour session with Lucy Calkins, “Revisiting the Essentials of Writing Workshop”. The program said,

In this interactive session, Lucy Calkins, Founding Director of the renowned Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, will help you to revisit the essentials of writing workshop. The writing workshop can be the heart of your whole day—a time when you and your kids come together in a vulnerable, cohesive, beautiful learning community. Lucy will review the methods of writing workshop and discuss how to apply those methods as you teach the three kinds of writing—narrative, information, and argument. You’ll leave this session feeling inspired and ready to engage with your students in powerful, in-person writing workshops this fall.

#iareads program, June 18, 2021

Lucy began with a short keynote from the heart. `

And then with a panel of “workshoppers,” Lucy led a conference room through the essentials of writing as well as many opportunities to strengthen and polish our writing workshop practices.

Writing Non-negotiables:

The bottom line conditions for effective writing instruction are, then:
• Writing needs to be taught like any other basic skill, with explicit instruction and ample opportunity for practice.
• Children deserve to write for real purposes, to write the kinds of texts that they see in the world and to write for an audience of readers.
• Writers write to put meaning onto the page. Children invest themselves in their writing when they choose topics that are important to them.
• Children deserve to be explicitly taught how to write.
• Children deserve the opportunity and instruction to cycle through the writing process.
• To write well, children need opportunities to read and to hear texts read, and to read as writers.
• Children need clear goals and frequent feedback.

Calkins, L. A Guide to the Writing Workshop: Intermediate Grades. Heinemann (link)

So much to think about when reflecting on our writing instruction:

daily time to write,

writing on topics of student choice,

remembering that our compliments should last for THIRTY years,

how our expectations build on previous learning

and that We, the adults, also must be readers and writers.

Thank you, #iareads for this huge chunk of time supporting writing!

Sarah Brown Wessling also had two sessions on Friday.

The first was “Fighting Fake Reading with Empathy and Truth-Telling”.

Getting students to read may be one of the greatest challenges teachers have and one of the greatest gifts we can ultimately impart on our students. In cultures where assessment and accountability can be used to rank, sort and shame, there’s another approach to working with resistant and fake readers (which usually are very different students). Enter empathy and truth-telling. Together we’ll learn how to have honest conversations with our students about reading and how those interactions may be the pathway to creating readers.

#iareads, Friday, June 18, 2021

During Sarah’s session I was able to reflect on some of the ideas from Pernille Ripp on Thursday and apply them to HS students. How and when are WE REALLY reading? How do we know? How do we reduce the “stressors” that cause fake reading? How do we build the trust that allows students to be honest?

Time to talk with a partner really helped build community and that “we are not alone in silos” shared beliefs and values.

And our essential question was provocative: What does learning look like? For those ELA teachers using whole class novels, Sarah challenged the audience to consider:

If you’re teaching whole class text:


Why this one?

Why this time?

Does everyone really need to read this?

Sarah’s second session was “We’ve Taught Through COVID, Now What Did We Learn?”

Growing isn’t easy. By that measure we certainly all grew a lot in the last year, teaching through COVID. In this session, we’ll examine some teaching practices that got us through it and what we can learn from them as we prepare for the year ahead. Come ready to react, reflect and recharge.

#iareads, Friday, June 18, 2021

Survival . . . what are the “degrees” of survival? How does it manifest itself in life? This will make you stop and think. Aron Ralston (link here)

How does survival manifest in our teaching lives?

What were we quite happy to let go of?

What do we want to protect?

What did we learn?

Hats off to Sarah for two great learning experiences involving truth, trust and reflection (2010 National Teacher of the Year. link)

It was a fabulous adventure on Friday with Lucy Calkins and Sarah Brown-Wessling at #iareads!

#iareads: Adventure awaits . . .

The Iowa Reading Association Conference opened on Thursday, June 17th with a promise of showers and heat outdoors (100 degrees) and 500 readers and writers indoors.

And what a day!

Keynoters on Day 1 included Ellin Oliver-Keene, Matt Glover, and Denise Fleming. If there was a way to “ease” back into literacy learning, the passions of the speakers and the audience were aligned.

Pernille Ripp . . .

“Who am I as a human being? Who am I as a reader is a part of that.”

These were just a few of the questions posed by Pernille Ripp, author of Passionate Readers. Reading identity is more than just the reading survey at the beginning of the year and also takes dedication as some seventh graders do love to prove their professed “hate of reading”. But maybe if they “hate reading less”, a new milestone is set. Watch for more on “Reader Identity” from Pernille. Readers’ Rights are a big thing with Pernille. Making them a promise to your students is even more important . “What are the reading experiences guaranteed to every child?” is a question worthy of further study. If you are not familiar with her blog, it can be found here. And food for thought . . . aliteracy. How do we combat it if school board members and legislators are not readers? And what if the number is even greater after the pandemic?

Learning with Ellin Oliver-Keene

Ellin Oliver-Keene spoke first on engagement and then on literacy studios the second time. Over and over again, Ellin repeated the need for stories to be shared in order to arrive at the intrinsic level of engagement. The four pillars. You can read more on the Heinemann blog here and on Literacy Lenses after a #G2Great chat here. Her book, Engaging Children, is a MUST read!

What is it like to live an engaged life?

  • Engagement is intoxicating.
  • Our stories are different.
  • Accept, without judgment, where folks are.
  • Active listeners – nodding heads
  • Engagement starts with a story.
  • Add on to those stories as we go through the year.

And so much laughter with Ellin. Loved the story of the “Poppas”.

Continuing on . . . with Matt Glover

Matt Glover gets straight to the heart of his topic every time. It’s such a pleasure to read his work and listen to his passion. His first session included many ideas from his book and the fact that kindergarten students can be engaged in writing and making books on Day One if they have a sense of books. Day One! Podcasts here: genre choice, engagement, and a sample chapter here. A beautiful tribute in blog post format from Travis Crowder after a #G2Great chat here on Literacy Lenses as well.

Matt Glover’s second keynote had many ideas to consider about Conferring with Young Writers in terms of the tools teachers need and the instruction.

Include TEACHING in your conference

NOT reminder,

NOT telling,

NOT correcting.

Matt Glover, #iareads, June 17, 2021

YES to teaching! Conferences have the power to be the most effective teaching . . . but that only works if there is teaching in the conference.

Denise Fleming had two sessions as well. Laughter, cheers, and so much information about her books and her process were shared live and is also available on her website here. Puppets and a fabulous joke about moles!

Text Sets with Dr. Kelli Westmoreland


Access – 

Constant Learning – digital multimodal communication.

   2020 changes in education and learning

   Communication modalities/ need for books AND internet


    21st century skills

    Standards – ELA and Content

Choosing and building text set


   Internet – Pebble go  (next is 3-5)

Implementing text sets       Iowa Core expanded defiinition of texts.

Kiddle – kids search engine . . . Do not search naked mole rats!

Out of time . . . Adventure Awaits on Day Two!

This was just a quick post to collect some of my ideas and resources in order to clear out some brain space for day 2 at #iareads. First up, Lucy Calkins at 7:15 am . . .

See you soon!

#SOL21: A Simple Plan

A simple plan: A six store drive through south central Iowa.

Up. An early departure.

Obstacle 1: First shop closed today.

Keep moving. Five more to go. A simple plan.

One day of shopping. No major needs. But my first AISH. AISH is the All Iowa Shop Hop that consists of 86 stops. 86 stops in a two month period – June 1 to July 31st.

Truth be told. I’m not a shopper. Never have been. Book stores? Yes. Lumber/fix up stores – Menards, Home Depot? Yes. Otherwise, not so much.

I’m not planning on all 86 stores. I was thinking of starting small. The 17 shops in southeast Iowa. This has been my corner of the state all my life. There are some shops I have not yet visited since this quilting bug bit me last year. (Sound interesting? Link) Visiting all the shops in one region makes one eligible for a regional grand prize. One small goal.

It won’t be easy. Some shops are rural. One in my region has this posted under updates:

DIRECTIONS: Our address is 1949 110th St, Salem, IA 52649, but we are not in the town of Salem, we are about 5 miles from the town and about ‘ONE country mile’ off the 27/ 218 four lane Highway.
From Mt. Pleasant, where Quilters Paradise is on the square; Take Hwy. 27/218 South for about 12 miles, to 110th Street, just across the Henry/Lee county line. The street numbers go from 330th street in Henry county, Instantly to 110th street in Lee county. (Look for the “QUILT” signs.)

The first road in Lee county is 110th Street & is our road. Turn to the Left or East, we are about a ‘Country mile’ down the road and at the top of the hill on the Left or North just before the crossroad, Pilot Grove Road.

If you miss 110th street, the next highway crossroad is the Junction of Hwy 16 & 27/218, which is about a mile farther. If you get to the Junction of 16 & 27/218 you can make a U-turn, or turn Left or East onto Highway 16 and go to the first gravel crossroad, which is Pilot Grove Road and turn Left onto gravel headed North. Go a ‘Country mile, ‘ at the stop sign, we are on the corner. You can see the driveway where to park to the Left, the ‘RED’ door is on the WEST SIDE of the building is the Shop door. If you go through the STOP SIGN, the road is a Dead End and coming back we are on the corner.

If ALL Else FAILS… Call our phone number, 319-850-0524, and we will get you to us from wherever you have gotten lost.

It will be interesting to see if GPS and Google Maps play nice on those directions. Surely one will be close . . .

So back to the simple plan for today. Drive approximately 30 miles, shop, 30 miles, shop, 1 hour, shop, 10 miles, shop, 15 miles, shop and return home with “free stuff” from AISH as well as any purchases along the way.

There was a surprise at the first town. A collection of farm equipment at the fairgrounds and then these signs along the road.

The fairgrounds was packed.

Lawn chairs lining the sidewalks. Vehicles in the shade facing the parade route. Pickup trucks with tailgates down at the corners of rock roads. These folks KNEW there was going to be a tractor parade. And they were prepared for the sun with hats, umbrellas, sun shades, and awnings.

“A few tractors. A few miles. No big deal.”

We were traveling at 10 mph. Ten miles per hour. If the tractors stayed on this road, we would share it for 30 miles.

How long would 30 miles take?

Your answer?

And then for the reality . . .

Exactly how long would you travel at 10 mph or less? Willing? Able? Settling for?

Highway 92 is a state highway. Two lanes. Asphalt. Two lanes. With no passing zones every mile due to hills. Hills that meant slower uphill travel.

Google Maps told me there would only be a 6 minute delay.

(I saw that major eye roll.)

To believe or not to believe . . .

The good news was that we followed for 10 miles before the tractor parade left Highway 92.

Revising and changing plans.

When have you had to adjust your daily plan? What variables mattered? What variables were completely beyond your control? When were you willing to go “with the flow”?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum.

Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL21: Words Matter

It surfaces again.

That dreaded two column comparison

Riddled with half-truths



Do I ignore?

Do I scroll past?

Do I comment?

This chart

I don’t know the source.

It appears often.

Fact Check

Correcting the Balanced Literacy section.

My thoughts.

Responding to the inaccuracies only.

No long, drawn-out arguments.

Here’s the first draft.

Not complete.

Ready for self-conversation.

How much change?

Counting . . . Qualitative? , , , Counting . . .

40 words out of 208 remained.

19% of the words remained.

Physically crossing out the words that were not used.

Silent no more.

What compels you to break your silence and discuss perceived errors? When is it more advantageous to remain silent and gather your ”thoughts”?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum.

Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL21: May Learning

What a month!

Celebrations of birthdays and graduations . . .

A world-wide pandemic continues with hope as more folks are vaccinated.

BUT . . .

There is also the solemnity of learning about the past.

Why does it matter?

Winston Churchill in 1948 said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”

In the US

100 years after Tulsa Massacre

Meanwhile in Canada

Confirmation of the remains of 215 children who were students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School were reported.

Who knew what and when?

True or False

The Tulsa Race Riot was so named in order that insurance companies would not have to pay claims.

The Canadian government knows that many more residential deaths were unreported.


What is known is that 35 square blocks were burned down and destroyed and that many massacre survivors would flee the city in order to relocate elsewhere in the United States. Despite these catastrophic losses of life and property, no one was ever charged in relation to the murders or the destruction of homes and businesses based in Greenwood.


Excavation begins June 1st of a possible mass gravesite. Two other sites have already been explored. How many died?


Mathematically, what reports should we believe? Two Whites killed? How many Blacks? Zero made the headlines in the Tulsa World as reported by the headlines above. Estimates range as high as 300. How was this story covered up for so long?

What about other massacres? Link

Another place to learn is on Twitter via Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul’s 20 tweet thread.


Meanwhile, in Canada . . .

… at least 4,100 students died while attending the schools, many from mistreatment or neglect, others from disease or accident. It found that in many cases, families never learned the fate of their offspring, who are now known as the missing children.

While there have long been rumors of unmarked graves at schools, if the findings in a preliminary report presented to the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation this week are confirmed, it will be the first time a major burial site has been discovered.

New York Times link

What historical events are you studying? Where do you get your information? Why do you need to know more?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum.

Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL21: Stories

A cookie story. Cookies made by a spouse. Cookies that presented a challenge. To the plain-speaking recipient, “Can I take these home? I’ll drill a hole in them and use them as washers.”

Sisters listening intently.

Sisters side by side.

One liked to drive the tractor.

The other not so much.

Sisters listening intently.

One brother came and collected him after school using the argument that, “he was needed at home for chores and he was late.” They left without another word.

Sisters naming the cows.

Bonnie and Sweet Pea

in their stanchions.

Knowing their own spaces.

Something like this . . . times 9.

Sisters listening intently.

Sometimes adding comments.

Sometimes asking questions.

Always laughing

While sisters listened intently?

Getting in Trouble? Nahh!

But there was that story about tying the tails of two cows together. And yes, it was a problem when they tried to leave the barn at the same time and the door wasn’t open quite wide enough. Or even how while tied together, that tail felt like a billy club instead of an easy “swish, swish, swish” while milking.

A few stories shared in great detail.

Perfect company.

Perfect grouping.



What stories do you tell? What stories do you remember hearing? What makes a story memorable for you?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum.

Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL21: Tiger, Tiger

Animals exist on so many planes. Which ones are your favorites?

William Blake in his poem says

Tyger Tyger, burning bright, 
In the forests of the night; 
What immortal hand or eye, 
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake The

You may know Daniel the Tiger, a PBS American/Canadian character with Mr. Roger characteristics, who headlines a show for preschoolers with 30 minute segments.

Where in the world are the most Tigers found? Of course, it is India. Who ranks second?

You may be surprised to find out it’s Texas with approximately 2,900 tigers. Source And then there was the tiger India, a Houston star on the loose in Texas just last week. Source

Two weeks ago I spent some time in the National Quilt Museum at Paducah, KY. It’s worth the time and energy to study the artistic and workmanship qualities of quilts.

There were hundreds of colors, patterns and designs that captured my attention but I returned to this one multiple times. Was it the fact that some of the fabric extended beyond the quilt? Was it the visual characteristics? Was it the fact that it made me think?

See the paw that sticks out beyond the border as the tiger springs through the window!

Every creation has information about the designer/creator/craftmanship.

Was it the challenge that drew me back?

The illusions?

What did I notice?

What catches your eye when you are in a museum? What causes you to return to the same item time after time? What are you willing to spend time on? Where does your curiosity take you?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum.

Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL21: Decisions

It began with a statement. Something lost. Something found. How to send it in the right direction. Possible solutions. Possible outcomes. Hardly a disaster.

Of course, it began with a cell phone inadvertently left behind.

Clear choices to retrieve it.

An extra 15 minutes (one way) to retrieve it. Plus time for a quick chat.

Time well spent.




How many choices in life are truly dichotomous?

I’ve come to hate “but” whether it is attached to the yes or the no.

Maybe that’s a personal issue for me.

Currently, I know that I appreciate “when” attached to either the yes or the no. It just doesn’t feel as negative or as conversation stopping as “but”. Maybe that’s my perception.

“Yes, we can play dinosaurs when we pick up the cars and trucks.”

Yes, we can have ice cream with our cupcakes when we finish dinner.

Maybe it’s restating the desired action first before the WHEN that works for me that didn’t work when I said, “Yes, but pick up the cars and trucks first.”

And then again maybe it is ageism. Maybe fewer things are black and white and the WHEN just feels like a larger gray area. Maybe it’s a grandma thing.

Listen to your next three yes or no responses. What follows? Are there conditions? Which ones work for you?

Right now I’m still collecting data.

WHEN seems to be winning and feels right for me.

For me, adding a condition of “time” and not an ordinal number makes it less of a negotiation and yet a bit more specific. I’m willing to keep studying when I say “yes” or “no” which words am I tacking on!


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum.

Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL21: Summer






That covers some possible goals.




A park.

A revisit to a favorite location.


Salt water.


My summers always include book clubs of some sort.

Usually multiple book clubs.

My favorite is BookLove Summer Book Club.

Here is the speaker line up

With access for an entire year.

46 speakers and counting.


YES, you

Control your schedule.

Participate at your convenience.

Book packages are sold out, but you can still join online.

Book Love Foundation


Because all the money raised from the Book Club funds classroom libraries.

What are your summer plans? A book club? Which one? What will you read? What will you write?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum.

Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL21: Willing to Celebrate

It’s birthday season. The next four months each have birthdays in my son’s family. It’s easy to celebrate. The grandkids love all sorts of things. As do the big kids. Sometimes there is a list. Sometimes not.

It’s not as though a Grandma would spoil the boys.

What other birthdays do we celebrate?

In my family (the siblings), it really varies. If they are on to grandkids themselves the siblings are SOL unless it’s one of those big numbers. This is a year for a big number for Mom. Her last big number 10 years ago involved a cruise of the Meditterranean with the youngest daughter.

How do we celebrate?

Well, it depends. (Not that answer again!) But it does.

So how do you celebrate when two second cousins have their 104th and 105th birthday?

The answer:

A birthday parade.

Led by a sherriff’s car.

Four firetrucks

Cars decorated in birthday trimmings.







And a squad of Harleys.

Just a Saturday afternoon birthday parade

In Hills, Iowa.

Need a bit of a “Good News Happy Celebration”?

Article Link with video

Celebrating 209 total trips around the sun

Two cousins

In small town Iowa

Friends and relatives

Willing to celebrate safely

On a Saturday afternoon.

How do you celebrate birthdays? Whose birthdays do you celebrate? What are you willing to celebrate?


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

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