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#SOL22: #NCTE Wrap Up

By the numbers:

1 panel participation

2 flights to arrive

3 Canadian treats: Cheezies, Smarties, and Coffee Crisps

4 days of learning

5 days in Anaheim

6 days of walking to and fro

7 bags for the #CuriosityCrew

8 days of charging/recharging technology

9 slicers + sharing writerly gifts (Thanks, Kim, for the socks and the bracelet!)

10 or more pictures with Dr. Mary Howard

All added up to a fabulous learning week in California.

It was so great to publish posts 999 and 1000 while at #NCTE22.

And the friends, known and new,

To see them face-to-face,

With and without masks,

To celebrate learning, laughter, joy and genius.

Farewell, Anaheim!

“On to OHIO – NCTE23!”

For the survey:

1) The app needs to be available before Wednesday when the conference begins on Thursday.

2) 39 sessions at a time is too many to sift through.

3) There needs to be a short morning and afternoon break slot for attendees to visit with each other. Walking more than three miles a day with zero lunch / restroom breaks is hard. 15 minutes between every session is hard when it’s a sprint from the nether northlands to the southernmost rooms – twice!

What are your suggestions?


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

#NCTE22: Slicer Meet Up

“Are you …?”

“And are you …?”

The conversation was on, Kim and I were walking toward our destination. Both following maps on our phones. Both relying on tech to guide us as we crossed streets and checked on our destination (5 min. by car; 15 min. by walking).

But then my phone wanted me to turn at a parking ramp and “it” was only 50 feet away. Kim asked at a restaurant and we only had two more buildings and a corner to go.

We checked in and sat at our table, exactly at 5. A bit surprised that we were the first as we were “on time.”

And then slicers began trickling in. The conversations swelled. Laughter was the highlight!

  • – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

It’s only fitting.

I’m celebrating. Wow, I would never have believed this … ten years ago last month, I began blogging. Today is post

And last night at the “Slicer Meet Up” in Anaheim, it was truly a celebration of fellowship, joy, and writers. This has been an #NCTE tradition that I have loved because our friendships run deep with daily writing for 31 days in March and then Tuesdays throughout the year. Our stories are as varied as our locations! Slicers meet up at TwoWritingTeachers. You should try it as part of your writing routine!

Thanks, Melanie Meehan, for organizing our gathering in Anaheim at #NCTE22!

#NCTE22: #CuriosityCrew

This post, post 999 is a celebration.

#NCTE22 is joyful, celebratory, and feels like “old home week” or summer camp in sunny, warm Anaheim for those of us who had to de-ice, de-ice, de-ice, and de-ice in order to reach CA.

Back in person.

Old friends or friends of years, but maybe just not IRL (in real life).

Or in real life for the first time in eons.

Our group of five … together face-to-face.

New connections with authors, researchers and teachers. Perhaps those we’ve met in circles or boxes via technology.

Being in community. Laughing in community. Learning in community. Conversations face-to-face in community. A feeling of stress reduction as like-minded individuals gather in halls, rooms, eating places to share common beliefs, interests, and values.

We miss those not here (Dr. Mary Howard) but we celebrate the fact that she is following along and we’ve already Zoomed and Face-Timed.


Fuel for the soul . . .

How are you fueling your soul today?


I read the number.

I did some mental math.


Setting a location that made sense

… And then I said the number out loud.

That number.

The palindrome that had consumed me as soon as I turned the key. The excitement. A big number. A number that I’ve been anticipating!

But just in case you’re new to palindromes …

As I said it out loud, I was ready to pound my fist on the dashboard. NOT TODAY!

ERROR! And I realized that this would not be my “slice” for the week. In fact, I’d be lucky if it was my slice anytime in the next month. It was going to be that kind of a month. Busy. Busy. Busy with little travel.

Mathematical Fail for sure!

This memory from September was one that I quickly drafted and left in WordPress. I thought I would use it later that month. Little did I know that last Friday at approximately 6:45 am (or 0 dark thirty), the numbers turned over in the quiet, dark morning hour to 100001 without any fanfare.

Back in September, the number I had said out loud was 98889. My brain was originally thinking that in 11 miles, my odometer would read 99999. My brain was busy trying to remember if the odometer would go to 100001 or just remain a five digit number at 00001 and begin anew. But the excitement of that change did NOT happen that first eagerly anticipated and calculated day. I was off by 100 as it was 111 miles away.

My car sat. And sat. And sat. And sat.

And so in September I was left with the dilemma of “finding another slice topic” for my next “slicing” post.



A flaw in my thinking

Topic needed

However, I quickly jotted some notes and saved them as a draft. Maybe they would still be relevant when the odometer actually did reach 100,000 miles. And now that I know, it’s past 100,257 miles.

A failure.

A mathematical flaw.

What I thought I knew. What I saw. What I thought was the current status and an error in calculations.

When have your miscalculations seemed like a huge failure? Did you share publicly or did you internally giggle, breathe a sigh of relief, and thank the stars that it was NOT a public mishap?

Process? Showing feelings? Which of these did you recognize in the story? How can feelings add to a blog post or a story?

Feelings – #TCRWP


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

#SOL22: Unconnected

I wondered.

I emailed my question.

I waited for a response.

And . . . waited …. And. waited. And. waited.

Not a word.


Neither confirmation nor denial.

So, with trepidation,

I wandered forth

Laden with fabric, tools, and ideas

Headed to a retreat

For some metal-to-the-pedal sewing.

Borders for blocks

21 blues

21 purples

Blocks now with 9 fabrics

Each is uniquely organized.

A 2024 graduation quilt.

And then a mad mental dash back to Halloween and Christmas and “tis the season” for gift-making and sewing, and laughing, and learning . . .

Three days without internet. Three days with a quilting community. Three days of productivity!

When are you the most productive? Under what conditions? Does the idea of being “unconnected” exhilarate or panic you?


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


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?


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

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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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