Category Archives: Books

Literacy Planning for Winter Break


School breaks can be times of anxiety when routines change, excitement for those who have planned travel or activities, and time for relaxation and rest after the frantic build up to the break. This post is deliberately planned to give you a few days to consider how you want to frame goals for the time in between school attendance in 2019 and 2020.

Last week during a Zoom meeting with some teachers, I asked what folks were planning to encourage literacy over the winter break.  This had come up as a question in some buildings recently. So here are some of the ideas that we brainstormed!

Thanks, Elementary Book Love friends!

What this is not:

  • An encouragement for packets
  • Assigned reading tasks
  • Homework
  • A calendar of activities to do over break every day
  • A requirement for a grade or for extra credit

Instead consider the literacy habits of your students:

  • What are their current reading habits?
  • What are their current writing habits?
  • What encouragement would give them some practice time?
  • Where might this practice occur?
  • What might get in the way of this practice?
  • What are their current literacy goals?

What might be your focus?

  1. Access  How many books or texts do your students need on average?  How can you put that number in their hands? How can you increase access to meet the needs of the families represented in your classroom?
  2. Choice  How can students choose some books from the classroom library to read over break?  How can you provide some ideas about writing over the break? Is there a book or an activity you would do with siblings?  Cousins?  Neighbors?
  3. Agency  What if you give the students a calendar to look at and then ask if there are days that might more naturally fit into some reading or writing time? (Travel time? Days when family members are working?  Days with relatives?) Students can identify some days and or times that might work.
  4. Student Goals  Based on the time they see available, knowing that weather, etc. can change plans, what might be a reasonable goal?
  5. Fun  What about choosing a book or genre that is fresh/new? Joke book? Poetry? Or even reread an old favorite? Or rewrite a piece from a different view?

Approximately 10 – 15 minutes each day during the next week might just provide the time that your students will need in order to make sure they have access, choice, agency, their own goals, and some fun planned for their winter break.

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This may need a bit of planning on your part if you need to organize a quick book tasting or a gallery walk to show “possibilities” for writing. Chat with a friend and generate ideas that meet the needs of your students! Please remember to share your own plan for the break!

However, if this is totally different from past practices you may want to send a quick note home so families have a heads up before the break begins!

What if . . .?

How will your students benefit? 

What do you have to lose?

What a joyful sharing of literacy activities when school resumes in 2020!

#SOL19: Classroom Libraries


Shelves.

Alphabetized.

Row after row of books.

Sorted and alphabetized by author’s last name.

Fiction, adventure, mystery, nonfiction, poetry, and yes, even multiple copies.

Books.

A classroom library.

Today I was feeling very nostalgic for that classroom library that I had so carefully organized years ago even though I would do it differently now. But it didn’t matter. No children were harmed by my lack of knowledge about better ways to display and organize books for student use.

It didn’t matter.  On the first day of teacher workshop days, I found out my room was moving.  The time spent in reorganizing my books on my own time was totally wasted.  Everything had to move.

The collection numbered in the thousands.

Personally-purchased books.

Sorted and alphabetized by author’s last name.

No longer to be displayed on bookshelves.

No room for shelves in a room with built in cabinets and doors.

What’s the big deal about classroom libraries?

I love to talk, read, write, think, and breathe reading and writing.  Ad nauseam.  I served as the principal author of this Literacy Leadership brief:  “Creating Passionate Readers Through Independent Reading.”

So this is a topic near and dear to me … passionate readers as well as classroom libraries as evidenced by my writing about It’s All About the Books by Clare Landrigran and Tammy Mulligan here.

I had the good fortune to be in Shana Frazin’s choice workshop titled, “Absolutely Nothing Matters More than Creating Classroom Libraries that Help Readers Grow with Purpose and Passion.”

Absolutely

Nothing

Matters

More.

That is ONE. BIG. BOLD. CLAIM!

Absolutely

Nothing

Matters

More.

And, of course I agree.  The data from Scholastic’s Reading Summits that Shana shared is like the frosting on the cake.

 

Reading boils down to two statements:

  1. Students need access to many books.
  2. Students need choice in what to read.

In order to have access and choice, equity could become a hurdle. Other problems might surface.  Lucy Calkins encouraged us in the keynote to confront problems, blow them up, and then begin looking for solutions. This is a complex topic as many administrators believe that they’ve already “bought books and “done the right thing” for students because there are books in all the rooms.  “Having books” does not guarantee that all books will be quality books.

Step One: Weed (1. Redistribute, 2. Donate, 3. Reorder, 4. Recycle)

Misleading (inaccurate, outdated or insensitive terminology or illustrations) 

Ugly (yellowed, brittle pages; poor binding; stained, worn cover, etc.)

Superseded (newer & better edition available; too many copies)

Trivial  (minimal intrinsic value; easily available elsewhere)

Irrelevant (outdated topics for current times)

Available Elsewhere (school media center, public library, online)

  (Boone. Texas State Library)

Step 2: Inventory 

Identify gaps so future orders are deliberate and thoughtful. There are many ways to inventory to make sure you have the variety needed for your classroom collection.  Students can help identify the types of books, the actual counts, and then some of the issues that may surface. Physically sorting the books draws attention to these characteristics and can be done a shelf or two or a bin or two at a time. 

What year were the books published?

If you have a sports category, how many of those books have females as main characters? 

Do your books reflect your students as mirrors or windows? (Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, The Ohio State)  Link

Step 3:  Add Books 

Don’t stop til you get enough… Books!  

Step 4:  Think Deeply about Organization.

Level your books for you the teacher.  But don’t write “Letters” designating levels on all the baskets. Invite your students to help label baskets. Be creative. Take one of your books and think of “labels” that might fit these categories. (Try this out at a PLC or staff meeting.)

CHALLENGE … can you think of at least 10 labels for a book of your choice?

Band
Author
Genre
Theme  
Format
Reacting to Text
R U o S
If you Loved . . .Try . . .
Series

Step 5: Create a culture of loving books!

Book Talks, Book Buzzes, Book Tweets . . .

This was my second look at this acronym for “weeding” books from Boone at the Texas State Library and I  really like the idea of a systematic way to review books with student help.  I believe any age of students could provide feedback to the teacher about the classroom library collection with this criteria.

What’s your plan for your classroom library?



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

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#SOL19: Decisions


I really want to finish this book but I’m only on chapter 3.

I need to read this book again before my next PD.

It’s book 4 in the series.  I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Time is short.  I need to read before finalizing my plans.

Just one more chapter.  But wait a chapter is short so that’s probably only about 5 minutes.

Read and jot down notes, craft a response.  That could be an hour per chapter.

How do I decide?

I could flip a coin but if I don’t like the results will I change the requirements to “best 3 out of 5 results”?

If I could think of 6 alternatives, I could roll a die.  (Or all even could be one choice and all odd the other.)

Is “luck” a good way to make a decision?

With 425,000,000 results . . . what follows is a decision making process from Google (Link).

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I’m at Step 3 and I need to identify the alternatives.

  • Read text A
  • Read text B
  • Read neither text
  • Read both texts
  • Begin to develop the work for the day and then determine the need to read additional resources.
  • Read text C

So obviously, I’m not ready to make a decision YET.

When perhaps should you have prudently waited? 

Or had a process in place? 

When do we “rush to action” when perhaps patience and thought is required?




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

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#SOL19: Celebrate Life


Live, Laugh, Love, Linger . . . and Learn

Celebrate . . .

Between conferences, sessions at ILA, NCTE, CCIRA, and . . . family, it seems like I have many days and nights on the road.

Hotels

Amenities

What comes with the room?

What did I forget?

What does that schedule really look like?

Life is often complicated.

There’s the community from #G2Great.

Voxer Cousins

The Slicers

TWT Educators as Writers

#TeachWrite

#TCRWP

and last week #HUSLI19.

Social media groups  . . . (another post here “Social Media as a Purposeful Professional Learning Tool”)

Rockstars:  Colby Sharp, Cornelius Minor, Jennifer Serravallo and Lester Laminack. Hours of Life. Laughter. Book Loving and Lingering over stories shared and learning, learning, learning!

A bit of rain. Yes a business center. Not a restaurant. Some minor inconveniences.

While in a neighboring state, my mind is with Mia, her family, and her “communities” at the Calivista Motel.  I didn’t stay long enough to be a “weekly” but how do I move adeptly in and out of groupsWhat can I learn from Mia?

When I sketch it out, how does it look in Front Desk?  

In one view I have the Calivista Motel, the “front desk”, the school Mia attends, and then China.  The second page has Mia and her parents, including their hopes and fears.

Is Mia really on a “point of a triangle” or is she in the middle of every community? And how many individuals does it take to “form” a community?


I was wishing for a 3-D representation (or at least a page of chart paper as 8.5 x 11 was severely limiting. Barely drafted and I am looking to revise. I am not a fan of covering every inch of the page YET. Still admiring white space.  Perhaps that will continue to evolve.

And how am I doing with my goals for #BookLove in its last week? 

Where is my Writing About Reading headed? 

Is it improving?

Slowly moving forward is today’s celebration of life and learning! 

What is yours?




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

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#SOL19: Dreamers


Fascinated? 

Mesmerized? 

Literary? 

Artistic? 

Amazing? 

What superlatives can even begin to describe this work of  art and majesty? 

And this author?

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I want to be in Austin today to hear Yuyi live at the Scholastic Summit.  But I’ve watched last week’s FB Live with Yuyi three times since Friday. Three times. Pausing. Writing. Watching. Writing.

Reflecting on the gifts that immigrants bring . . . and process over product.

Nerdy Book Club post about symbolism video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAiTFJaNiD8

What are you learning today? 

What are you reading or writing?   

What are you dreaming?

I’m at Hamline’s Summer Literacy Institute this week and today’s keynote is . . .

Cornelius Minor!

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

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#SOL19: Really?


I blew it! What was I thinking?

Twitter Chats are easy. A few questions. A few responses. Let’s talk. And then taking my turn on writing a summative blog post.  Predictable patterns.

Book clubs . . . What’s the format?  What’s the end goal?  What’s my role?  More questions than answers. And each club . . . renegotiating the roles and the expectations.

Check. Deadlines met.

Check. Responses entered.

Check. Make no waves. Agree with the participants

Check. Check. Check.

I was focused on the product and got lost in FEAR!

I was worried if it was good enough and was frozen in time!

I rushed to task completing and forgot it was about the thinking!

This was the format for my early book club participation and it has followed me around worse than the groundhog’s shadow ever since.  Book clubs were a place of similar thinking; thinking outside the box resulted in social ostracism.

I went underground as a reader as I have had a LOVE/HATE relationship with book clubs.  Some have been fun. Some have been tedious. All have provided learning. But what was that learning?

I love talking about books. Mary Howard and I talk about a tweet, a blog post, or a book on a regular basis.  Her reading is also voracious! At CCIRA, Regie Routman handed me a book, I thumbed through it, and I had to order it. Penny Kittle told me about a book and I forwarded the title also to my sister and a niece.  I hadn’t even left Maria Walther’s session and I was forwarding the book list. Reading and talking about books is fun!

And then last night I watched this video of Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher. You can watch it too if you are a member of the Summer Book Love Club 2019.  What do you notice?  What would you name as the key points of the video?

Link

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A photo clipped from the video

And because the link does NOT work if you are NOT a member, here are the TOP 10 REASONS you should join Summer Book Love 19 from the Nerdy Book Club here.

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Elementary Book Club Books July 2019

Here’s what Penny said about the FB Live session:

“From Concord, CA… I’m here with Kelly Gallagher, my co-author and friend, to talk about the importance of book clubs in his professional life.”

The importance of book clubs in his professional life.

The sheer joy.

The number of books he has read as a part of a book club.

The fact that he, a good reader, learns something from every book club meeting and that they celebrate the different ideas everyone brings to the book club.

Somewhere

Somehow

Sometime

I lost the sheer joy of talking about books in a book club.

The book club became about the process of my notes, my annotations or my writing about reading.

The book club became more about compliance than learning!

I became that “kid” who completed the work but maybe didn’t invest very much of myself.

It’s book club season. I will be in several this summer. I will be watching my own learning.  And just as I detailed the process for “Professional Learning” in the last 5 posts about Repeated Reading, so will I also monitor my own learning, processes and products.  I think it will be critical to be brutally honest with myself.

And I can do that personally with a process that is also set up for bigger systems work.

How will I find the gold and the JOY in book clubs?



What is the process for professional learning?

  1. Set a Goal – Participate productively in book clubs
  2. Selection of Content which includes Checking the Research – Talk about the books
  3. Design a Process for Professional Development/Learning – Check the schedule and allow plenty of time. Refusing to allow lack of time to be an excuse.
  4. Teaching / Learning Opportunities – Checking in. What do teachers need to learn?           How will they learn it?  How can we set some measurable targets? – Pay attention to my “joy” meter.  When does it stop being fun?
  5. Collaboration / Implementation  Reading and Participating
  6. Ongoing Data Collection including Listen to the Students – Consider my responses to students with actions similar to mine
  7. Program Evaluation – Going back to the teacher data: Has there been growth? How do we know? Plan ahead – what will I do if  when I get stuck?
  8. Collecting / Analyzing Student Data – Is the gap closing? Are students growing          more capable?  Are students more independent?  Balancing “habits” of reading, attitudes, processes and products
  9. (WHY would I use a different process?)


I will be a part of at least three book clubs this summer and as the summer wanes, I will let you know if I was successful and how and when I will be celebrating the continuous JOY in reading and talking about books!

What is your experience with book clubs? 

What motivates you to continue to learn and grow as a reader? 

What learning targets would you consider?




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.

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Coming Soon

#SOL19: What do you rate?


The plate looks gorgeous. Colorful. Artistically arranged. White space. Yet organized. How well did it match my expectations when I placed my order?

Do I dive in?

Confirming and correcting my prediction?

Do I admire?

Savoring the physical attributes before it is consumed?

Do I snap a quick picture and send it off?

I take a picture but don’t send it anywhere.

Dinner

Screenshot 2019-04-08 at 9.00.47 AM

Prime rib, baked potato &                corn on the cob

 

I have a friend who often uses snapchat or messaging to share her dining cuisine. It’s not a typical go to for me. But sometimes, I think, “Wow. I should take a picture of that.” It’s not that I am thinking of an award for cooking but awards have been on my mind.

Do I fill out surveys about food and service at restaurants?  Sometimes.  How consistent are my ratings from each time to time? And is the criteria the same?  That goes to reliability and validity.  How critical are these ratings?  Are they contextual?

How does this apply to life?

Awards:  Who is included?  Who is excluded?

Who gets nominated for the CMA Entertainer of the Year?  There were 5 male candidates? Why only men?

Part of the criteria is crowd size in large venues, meaning tours, so if women are not out on the road for long tours . . .  criteria is not met.

Wow!  Criteria for audience rating the winner is . . . audiences putting their bottoms in seats at concerts. So different from having a captive audience where the buses deliver students to school.

What about books?

Books:  How do you rate them?

Informal rating? Formal rating?

In your head?  On Goodreads?  On Amazon with formal reviews?

How do you share your response to books?

Book Rating:  What works for you? A? B? C? 

A.

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B.

   MUST READ!

   REALLY, YOU MUST READ!

   DESPERATE, YOU MUST READ!!!

C.

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My Goodreads account consists of mostly books rated 5 with a few 4’s sprinkled in.  Does that mean that all books I read are automatically that good?  I’m sure that you will be disappointed but books that would be below a “4” or “5” star rating on Goodreads, just don’t get entered. Selective memory?  Or was it once a conscious choice to only include the top books.  But you wouldn’t know that unless you knew my methodology for reporting. A bit erratic!  A bit unplanned. My concession to compliance and using someone else’s rating system.

Daily life decisions: Using skills and strategies steeped in literacy. Determining importance. Predicting. Confirming predictions. Re-predicting. Aligning expectations with the “real” thing. Comparing and contrasting. Developing criteria. Communicating.

How do your students rate their books? 

How do your students share their response to books?

What do they prefer?




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.

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Added:

And yes, the vegetarians in my family would rate the meal pictured above as a -10. The devout pork producers might rate it a 0. The poultry eaters might rate it a -5.  And then you all who hate any medium rare meat might not have gotten past the “shudders”!

It all depends on perspective . . .

and your own definition of a quality meal!

#SOL19: Day 2 SOLSC


I took a leap of faith in December.  I planned to attend PD in Maine, a state I had never been to, in December.

Foolish?

Courageous?

Star- Struck? After all, it was a day spent with Penny Kittle and Linda Rief. A day with a title of Read, Write, Teach. Yah! (Link)

But one of the best parts of the trip was the time spent with Paula Bourque, sketchnoter extraordinaire, and our conversations about “Low Stakes Writing” to pump up writing volume.

Writing Volume: 

Is it ever possible to write enough? 

Is it possible to write too much?

And I was a bit of a skeptic.

NOPE!

 I was a HUGE skeptic!

I hate assigned topic writing!

“You want me to write what?”

I would be that student.

I would not cause a fuss.

But I would disappear into the restroom.

Check out the books for sale.

OR stick my nose in a book.

Quietly!

But after our conversations, I read the book.  I couldn’t wait to try out a couple of the QuickWrites because these are not “assign one every day” type prompts.

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This post is based on Paula Bourque’s new book that you can preview with this link: Spark! Quick Writes to Kindle the Hearts and Minds in Elementary Classrooms and Paula’s Day 1 slice here.

“This quick write Spark! is a sentence stem from Chapter 8 Teacher Quick Writes (p.155) I sometimes share a Google doc with teachers with stems like this one for them to share their ideas. These collaborative quick writes are a fun way to build a writing community.”  (Paula Bourque, March 1 Slice of Life)

You know you are a nerdy teacher if

You talk literacy, reading and writing, at family events.

You share books and/or literacy materials as gifts.

Your calendar lists the publication date with titles of new books.

You calendar time to read or write.

You plan your use of “miles” or “points” for conferences.

You plan your vacations around literacy conferences.

You have a second job or two to fund your need to have books and writing tools.

You can name the opening lines of at least 10 books without a breath of air.

You recommend books, articles or “must read blogs” at least once a day.

You have semi-voiced conversations with authors as in “Really? That was the best you could do?”  or “Wait a second. When did you tie that in?”

You can break any box down to recyclable state in less than one minute.

You donate cardboard to Maker Space groups.

You know the names of more than one UPS driver due to book deliveries.

Process: This was a 10 minute timed write (Nerdy Teacher statements – not the intro to the post).  

What can you ‘Quick Write” in 10 minutes? 

When do YOU work on writing volume? 

(Psst:  Are you a Nerdy Teacher?)




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.

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#ILAchat: Independent Reading


The definition for Independent Reading from ILA

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What does that mean?

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How well does your independent reading align with the definition?

What have you changed or tweaked? 

How has that impacted student reading, especially student joy and passion for reading?

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How can you capitalize on the “Power and the Promise of Independent Reading”?

Please join the chat to share your ideas!

#CCIRA19: Friday Sessions


If you have been following along, you may have already read about

Thursday here (Danny Brassell, Debbie Miller, Kate Roberts, Donalyn Miller, Kelly Williams, and Patty McGee)

Friday keynote with Regie Routman here

Saturday finale with Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle here

But I would be greatly remiss if I did not return to recap learning from Friday’s sessions and acknowledge that it was a Corwin Press day!

Session 1:  Dave Stuart Jr.

These 6 Things: Focusing Our Teaching on What Matters Most

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Presentation Key Ideas . . .

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One of many strategies referenced and available on Dave’s web site (see link in caption) .

This presentation and book really does enable you as a teacher to think about and consider where you need to focus your energy as you read wisdom from a high school teacher.

How can you do a better job teaching a shorter list of skills and still keep instruction motivating and engaging?


Lunch with Gerry Brooks

Creating a Positive Attitude About the School Year

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link


Session Two: Maria Walther

Fifty Nifty Picture Books to Inspire Young Writers

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Maria’s actual presentation about this book (her newest) was at a different time of the day but many of the texts were included in this book.  We saw 50 mentor texts that were used in a first grade classroom to teach standards, qualities of good writing, and provide exemplar texts for imitation!

Maria reminded us to pay attention to all the pages in a book.  One example was the end pages from Ralph Tells A Story. What did the author do specifically on the beginning end pages vs. the closing end pages?

Another very useful tip was the writing paper that Maria shared.  Each month the editing focus varies but a brief checklist is included on each page.  Here is one example with additional ideas available at mariawalther.com. Learning with and from a first grade teacher.

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How and when might you consider adding an editing checklist to your writing paper?

Who needs this?

And what books/mentor texts are interesting and engaging your students?

 


Session Three:  Leslie Blauman

Keeping it Real- Real Writing about Real Reading-NONFICTION

I knew Leslie as the author of these two books.

Her newest books are delightful especially with the online components. This was the basis for today’s presentation that included work from her fourth grade classroom.

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As a teacher, Leslie is concerned about joy, choice and ownership of student writing.  She encourages her fourth grade students to leave “Tracks in the Snow” as a metaphor for not having to write complete sentences all the time.  Such a smart idea for this time of year!

To Inspire Critical Thinking these questions were our session guide:

  • What is your goal?
  • Who is NF important to?  Who is the NF for?
  • Would you want your kids to be doing your assigned tasks in your classroom?
  • If no, WHY are you doing that?
  • How do you teach it?
  • How often do you practice?
  • Why would you write about something you are not interested in?

However, one of my favorite learnings was about this site:   https://www.allaboutexplorers.com/  Check out an explorer or two.  What fun for students!  What a great way to teach “fact-checking!

How can evidence-based nonfiction writing be fun, engaging, and something that students choose to do? 

Did you detect any common themes in these sessions?

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