#SOL18: March 12

How much do typos bother you?

In Blogs?

On Facebook?

On Twitter?

I hate spelling errors in any form of social media.  Some formats are particularly difficult because revision provisions do not exist.  So careful review is necessary before hitting the button that sends the message out into the world.

This tweet . . .

Screenshot 2018-03-11 at 10.54.26 PM.png

is proof that money obviously cannot buy you an education.

Not even billions of dollars.

If this was your mentor text . . .

How many errors can you find?  What needs to be fixed?

Let’s parse it by sentences.

  1. “Great public schools will always work well for many kids, but if it’s not working for an individual child, they should have access to options.”

2. “No one should ever feel trapped or stuck.”

3. “No parent should have to feel like they are settling when it comes to their       child’s education.”

And in case you missed it, here was her interview on CBS 60 minutes last night.

What a train wreck!

And that’s probably the kindest way that I can phrase my complete and utter disbelief!

There are several ways you could “fix” this tweet.  Here’s just one view.

  1. “Great public schools will always work well for many kids, but if it’s the schools are not working for an individual child, they he/she should have access to options.”

2. “No one should ever feel trapped or stuck.”

3. “No parent should have to feel like they he/she are settling when it comes to their               his/her    child’s education.”

3:45 pm correction.  Courtesy of Donalyn Miller: “they is singular nonbinary.”


  1. “Great public schools will always work well for many kids, but if it’s the schools are not working for an individual child, they  should have access to options.            (error – contraction/possessive/or pronoun) and then 2 and 3 are correct! So there is a reason not to overreact toooooooooo quickly!

And in all fairness to Ms. Betsy, here is her response to 60 Minutes.

:“She asked me one thing about schools, and then another, and another,” she said. “If I had to answer every question she had about schools, I would have had to bone up on education for a month.” (Betsy DeVos, NewYorker)

Well, Duh!  You should have known the answers to those questions before you took the job.  Then you wouldn’t have had to “bone up on education for a month.”  THAT’S YOUR JOB!

This is called pronoun – antecedent agreement.  Khan Academy has a video here.

Practice with the Online Writing Academy can be found here.

Here’s a quiz from Oxford in case one would like to consider a proficiency level.  Link


Total Words:

  • 50 words
  • 4 errors 1 error
  • 92%   98 % correct grammatically


  • 4 words
  • 4 errors   1 error
  • 75 % correct grammatically

And what about the message in her tweet?

She was not talking about “failing schools.”  She was talking about “Great public schools” that might not work for an individual child . . .

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


This week:  I was going to comment about this . . . but the Washington Post beat me to it.

I had already passed on this . . .



#SOL18: March 11

Last week I introduced you to N on March 8 and March 9. We’re hyper focused on helping this 5th grader (recent move in) literally get moving in writing.  He wants to write. He listens. He participates. He talks. He uses all the language. His first on demand was rated at a kindergarten level in November and our goal is a third grade level by the end of May.  But he writes so little each day that it is hard to verify real writing growth.

Approximately 50 days to make that growth . . . we have ambitious goals!

How do you make decisions about changing instruction?  Or Practice?  Or Allocation of Time?

I like to think organically.  I use my friend Lynn’s quote often.

“I’m old.  I forget because my brain leaks.” (Lynn Selking, personal conversations)

So I like to start simply.  I’m not adding anything new until I know enough that I’m pretty sure my suggestion(s) will be productive.

So what does that really mean? 

First Step:  Current State of Instruction

I consider the balance of writing work in the classroom.  Is everything in sync? 

Mini lessons – 10 minutes or less?

Writing Time – at least 40 minutes during writing workshop?

Mid-Workshop Interruption – daily for 2-3 minutes?

Sharing – daily for 5-6 minutes?

Partnerships – daily talk and working together?

Small groups – planful and executed efficiently?

Conferences – Teach the writer and not the piece of writing?

Other writing opportunities across the day?

What is the role of TALK across the day?

What are students REALLY doing?

All of this is internal data.

No program.

No pinterest.

No TpT.

First round thinking as we consider current classroom work.

Everything is fairly solid.

Second Step: 

Name the current student behaviors with a focus on strengths.

Begin to brainstorm strategic actions to increase intensity of instruction.

With N, our draft looked like this:

Screenshot 2018-03-10 at 7.37.56 PM.png


  • What has a history of working?
  • What will maximize N’s writing time?
  • What is feasible?
  • What is efficient?
  • Are there charts/tools that we could pull from previous grades?

At this time, we know that lack of writing instruction in these grades (K, 1, 2, 3, 4, part of 5) may be part of the problem.  How can we compress time and increase productivity?


Dependent on what actually works, we have time for three or four focused two-three week cycles of instruction.  Beginning with our end goal, we are planning backwards.  Planning for lean instruction, lean conferencing, lean teacher work and ways to increase N’s independence in writing.  Is it confidence-building that he needs?  How can we  recircuit his thinking so N has a growth mindset?

What process do you use for problem solving? 

How do you use the resources that you have BEFORE looking for outside solutions? 

What would you add to this list?

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

#SOL18: March 10

Some days

Are like


Unraveling thoughts


Down a hill


YET . . . just the beginning of the day.

Have you written an acrostic poem yet this month?

What is an acrostic poem? Traditionally using the first letter, but also the ending of a line or even the middle of a line as shown here.

More examples here.

Where I totally borrowed this one:

  “Pick uP a pen

Think of a tOpic

         Be crEative

 Use your iMagination”

12 Acrostic Poems for Children here

Which type of acrostic poetry will your try?

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

#SOL18: March 9

Day 1 

N wrote 2 paragraphs. (Approximately 11 lines)

I was there.

Day 2

N wrote 6 paragraphs. (Included dialogue and was 15 lines)

I was there.

Day 3

N wrote 4 paragraphs. (Approximately 10 lines)

I was not there but had left a video and a page of my writing.

So what’s my plan?

I’m a goal setter and a “UbD’er” (Understanding by Design – backwards planning).

Here’s my goal for next week. Use this paper and see if N can write at least one complete story of 3-4 pages with some conferencing each day.

Thank you, Melanie Meehan, for sharing your opinion and information scaffolded paper. The items in the box are from the third grade checklist.  (link)



If he writes approximately 50 lines, that will be 333% increase over previous writing.

Success Goal: 

Two of these stories in a week.  Then remove the checklists from the paper and see if the writing volume remains high and constant.(Previously his writing work ranged from 2-4 lines in a day.)

To recap our work (or you can read here)

Week 1


Shared Writing

Shared Writing

Pseudo-Shared Writing via video

???  Student Choice

Week 2

Scaffolded Checklist Paper – Narrative Story Writing  – Repeat 5 days

Week 3

Write Using “Regular” Writing Paper

What would you add to this plan? 

What would your measure of success be?

How have you increased volume of writing for students?

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

#SOL18: March 8

The Reason Why

N sits quietly, picks up his pen, starts to write, stares at his paper, and sets his pen back down.  He doesn’t disturb anyone else, but at the end of writing time, even with partner and / or teacher conferring, his production is minimal.

“What else can I try? Here’s an example after he recorded his story on the iPad.  Here’s an example after he acted out his story. What can I do to help him?” queries his teacher.

So N and I sit down to talk.  It’s time to get ready for conferences.  “Would it be okay if you practice with me before you get ready to use Seesaw?:  He seems delighted and eagerly opens his notebook.

And then . . .

N sits quietly.

He says nothing.

I wait,

the Queen of “wait time”,

but also mentally running through some possibilities,

my own mental checklist.

I open my iPad to be ready ,

to jot notes,

to take a picture,

and N says,

“What will you write?”

I pause.

ever mindful of

“Don’t put a scaffold in place without a plan to remove it”

and the “NEED to write.”

Does N not picture himself as a writer?”

Does N not see himself in his stories?

I have no magic answer.

I just have a NEED to help.

Is that enough?

“N, I want to write a story for my grandson.  But he’s little.  He’s not yet three.  Where do you think I should start?”

“Well, you make a heart map and then your idea comes from there.”

So I follow N’s directions.   He KNOWS what to do. He has listened.  He has paid attention to the steps.  He can say them all.

When I say, “But I am stuck, N. I don’t know where to start, ” he stares at me in disbelief.  I have the Heart Map in front of me. I picked an idea.  I told him him three things about the idea.

“Is it a tricky part?’

“Ah, yes, using some of his reading talk even in writing.”

But, N still hasn’t written and it’s been 20 minutes.

Of course, I’m not in panic mode.

My goal was to listen and follow N’s lead.

You see N is a fifth grader.  He moved into this classroom and district in November.  He’s such a pleasure to have in class.  He’s a sweet student who is ever, so helpful and will drop his work to “help” anyone else.  You have to look closely to see that N is so busy looking busy that he doesn’t write or read much.  He’s often so quiet that he looks like the most industrious writer in the class.

“N, can I show you a trick that I sometimes use when I hit a tricky part in my writing?’

Of course, he says, “Yes, ” and I gulp, this is it.

“Here’s one trick I use.  My grandson doesn’t live near me and sometimes I’ve forgotten part of the story.  So today I wanted to tell about the first time he went down a slide.  I can’t find the picture from that day.  I can’t act out what he did as a two year old because I’m not a two year old.  So I google “boy on a slide’ and look for a picture that kinda matches the slide. Like this . . . The slide looked kind of like this. I use the picture to help me start thinking about that day.”

“But what if you don’t remember?  What if you didn’t pay attention to what happened?”

“Good question.  So is it an issue with ‘it must be real and accurate’?”

“So N, here’s a second trick I use.  I look back at something I have written and I take one small idea and write more about that idea. I just write everything I can think of.  I can fix the details later.  I can change the order later.  I put words and sentences on the paper so that I can read it to my friend and she can tell me what she thinks.  Here’s a section I have called ‘characters’ where I just wrote about this person I saw in a diner and I wanted to remember her in case she fit into a story.  You’ve never met this person, but what could you tell me about what might happen next?

And N was off . . . adding to my story. He calls it our shared chapter book.  We’ve each written two pages.  Today I will have to email “my part” with a quick video clip because  I can’t be there and N is writing. Instead of two or three sentences, yesterday he wrote a full page.

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

Where do stories come from? 

If a student is stuck but they know they can:

  • practice telling it and touching the pages (while recording),
  • act it out (while recording),
  • make a movie in their head and slow it down and tell it bit by bit –

but the child still is not “writing” . . .  what are some solutions?

The idea for beginning a story and then seeing if the student could continue the story as I’ve been doing this week in my slices was one option that I wondered about.  I’m not real fond of story starters and things like RAFT so I really wondered about the “what if I use as an example, one of my pages where I’ve just begun to play . . . the girl in the diner . . . . ” and that my friends is the

REST of the story!  

And yes, there will be more of N and my work to come!  Just not today!

Interactive writing partners. A form of shared pen to increase writing volume.

Is this sustainable in the classroom?  Could this have been a small group lesson?  Is there another student in the classroom that would also benefit from this work?  Is there an “expert” in the class that could share how to get “unstuck” when writing?

Always more questions!


#SOL18: March 7

Scene 2 (see March 6 for the beginning here

What comes next?

From Kevin who slices here:

“She heard the bell ring in the room behind the counter. The grill. The ancient telephone hanging off the wall. A shuffling noise, and then a rough voice barking back.

“Yes. Ten minutes.”

And then, after a pause, the sound of the grill, sizzling. The girl thumbs the menu again, looking at the door.

Ten minutes.

A lifetime to wonder. She wanders over to the window. Her toes wiggle in her summer sandals. Snow is now falling. She’s not worried. The cold never bothered her. Ever. She could walk barefoot in a squall, her grandmother used to say. When you never know winter, and suddenly find winter, you never want to lose it. That’s what she thinks. Her grandmother argued otherwise, calling winter’s snow nothing more than another wall put in their way to a better life.

More sounds from the grill. Singing. He’s singing that song again, in Spanish, about going home to Mexico. She likes the melody but not the message. She won’t be going back home to Mexico, although she misses her Mama and her sister.

“Order up!” and she’s back to the counter, keeping one eye on the shadow on the door while reaching out for the bag from grill.

“Gracias,” she says, as if it were food for her. She can’t help being polite. She’s grateful for the job.”

Scene 3

The sign in the window says “Joe’s Diner, Est. 1961.  It’s a corner lot so customers  see 1st Street and the mercantile store from the window on the left.  On the right, the view includes Sam’s Barber Shop and the hotel on Main Street.

She looks for the customer while tapping her foot on the floor. She wonders whose dog is lounging on the sidewalk – the only living being in sight. No traffic. No vehicles. Not even a bike.  She sits up and counts the distant church bells as they ring once, twice, three times.

Bag in her hand, faint grease stains forming, she steps out onto the sidewalk.  Old school. No drive up window at the diner so it’s “Curb Service”.

Cars and trucks rush down Main Street.  Some stop at the barber shop and others slow and pull into spaces in front of the diner.  She can hear car doors slam and chattering children regale family members with the events of the day.

She walks over to the blue Pontiac Bonneville and trades the bag for a $5.00 bill, a muttered “Keep the change” and follows customers into the diner.

Now, where would you go if you were the author? 

What do you know today that you didn’t know yesterday? 

What do you still need to know? 

Is it time for . . . THE PROBLEM?

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

#SOL18: March 6

Screenshot 2018-03-05 at 8.35.26 PM

Character Development

She fidgeted, first pulling on the jacket sleeves so they covered her wrists and then sliding to the edge of the red vinyl stool so one foot could reach the floor.  Movement stilled, looking around to the right and then to the left.

Her left hand stretched to the condiment box.  She grabbed two sugars, the colored fake ones, pocketed one and emptied another into her coffee cup.  She stirred.  The spoon spun around the cup.  Once. Twice. Three times. She set the spoon quietly on a napkin on top of the saucer.  She took a small sip, set the cup down and made a face.

Moving again.  This time her toes tapped the floor.  No discernible rhythm but a worrisome motion. Turning, following the signal of the bell, watching the door open and close as a customer left. Picking up the menu.  Looking at it for fifteen seconds.  Putting it back.

Looking at the window, checking her reflection, primping her hair, and straightening her collar.  Pulling on her sleeves again. Jean jacket with frayed sleeves over tee shirt and yoga pants.  Flip flops on her feet.  Not really dressed for the winter weather but seemingly okay for the inside of the diner.

(Scene 1)

Can you picture her? 

What should come next? 

a) Another character? 

b) Introduction of the problem? 

c) More about this character (including her name)?

d) Other and please list ______? 

How do you develop your characters?

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


#SOL18: March 5

Because this is my 550th post and I have a special love for “55”, I decided to be brave (last year’s #OLW) and try another new format today. Inspiration for this post came from Lisa Keeler here.


I come from Orange Avenue, a rock road,

that now has a fancy address

so E911 operators can locate and dispatch assistance or help,

a mile long stretch with four houses

which we left to ride a bus to school.

I come from parents as the third child of seven

born on Father’s Day, and ever my Father’s favorite,

a father who served during the Korean Conflict and

parents who believed in family, faith, and responsibility.

I come from vacations as a family,

where we visited cousins or Army buddies across the country,

with 4 am starts and travel in pjs,

experts at free and low cost entertainment.

I come from a love of learning,

from a father who graduated from high school and

a mother who wanted to attend college but didn’t have the money.

I come from escaping into books and reading by the evening light

in order to find some peace and quiet.

I come from a family of teachers,

learning how to treat others at my grandmother’s knee.

I come from farmers and workers who speak plainly

and know the difference between silos and grain bins and

the value of stories repeated and shared.

Screenshot 2018-03-04 at 6.55.04 PM.png

“Outlaws”                                                     “Aunts & Uncles

I come from red-headed ancestors and outspoken aunts and uncles

who worked on labor issues with Bobby Kennedy

and many national church issues.

I come from a place where

family matters, where traditions are respected, celebrations rule.

and stories are told with quilts and pictures at family events.

“I come from Iowa

the Heartland of America.”


Crocheted hearts made by my mother now in multiple states and countries!

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this daily forum each March. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.

slice of life 2016early morning slicer

Original poem here

How do you celebrate “Where you come from?”

#SOL18: March 4

Idea borrowed from Mary Lee Hahn’s Poetry Friday – Chocolate Cake (here) (and I don’t even like chocolate cake!)

Screenshot 2018-03-02 at 5.52.24 AM

Abecedarian #TCRWP Saturday Reunion Love


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

Note:  I had visions of productivity after my NYC flights were cancelled, but all of Friday was misspent on pursuing unproductive, alternative options.  Saturday meant following along on Twitter. So that leaves Sunday – newly found time.  Maybe I can plan to read the book that was scheduled for flight time?  Two books at least?  One going and one coming home?

What is an abecedarian? Link

Poetry Dances Link

#SOL18: March 3

                   The Plan

Screenshot 2018-03-02 at 5.52.24 AM

94th Saturday Reunion




                The Reality

Screenshot 2018-03-02 at 5.39.59 PM

                        Flight #3 will arrive at LaGuardia                           at 10:25 pm on Saturday, March 3

A storm

Cancelled flights

Couch learning!

Inspiration:  Kevin’s 6 Word Slices Here

Two required because the first was written in anticipation of the day’s learning on site in person, and the second was written after searching tickets, flights, and airports for HOURS!

Six Word Stories Here

Six Word Memoirs Here

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


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