Tag Archives: narrative

#SOL18: March 29

Serial Story:  Scene 6

Okay before the month ends, here’s a return to Maria’s story.

(Continued from Scene 1Scene 2 & 3, Scene 4, and  Scene 5)

“Only 20 minutes left.” Face wrinkled.  Can smell her fear . . . Staring at the clock again. 9:40 pm.

Maria paced, “What’s the deal with the ambulance?” she wondered.  “The after-game crowd is always here by now.”  She stopped, turned, and peered out the front window.

“What do you think, Juan?  Did the game just go long?”

He came out of the kitchen, shuffling over to the door to check on traffic out in the street. “Nada,” he said.

Smile long forgotten, Maria paced again.  “So close,” she thought. “Just $4.82 more tonight and I will have the rent money.  Anything else i make tonight or tomorrow will be mine to spend.”

The minute hand continued to tick away.  Headlights, and then a car pulled in and parked. Five minutes before ten. Maria raced to fill water glasses, still praying for a crowd . . . but willing to settle for just four or five tables of customers.

As the door opens, her expectant smile turns down.  It’s Joe, the owner.  “Where is everybody?” He looks around as if customers are hiding under the tables.

Maria shrugs her shoulders.  “That’s what we were wondering.  The ambulance went by 20 minutes ago.  It’s quit snowing so at least if someone got hurt they won’t be lying in a pile of snow on the field . . . I hope.”

“Well, what do you two want to do?  Stay open a bit longer or go ahead and close up?” Joe steps behind the counter. “Juan, are you ready to go home?”

Juan starts to nod his head and then sees the expression on Maria’s face.  He remains mute, waiting for Maria to speak.

Maria says, “I think people will be cold and hungry.  If we only knew whether the game was over, then it would be easier to decide.” And in unison, they turn towards the lights and sounds behind them on Main Street. Cars pulling up out front, doors slamming, voices, the door opening and a steady stream of people.  All talking at once. Loud voices.  Cold air. Red noses and cheeks.  Coats tightly fastened to keep out the cold.

“Three coffees over here, Maria.”

“Hot chocolate here, Maria.”

It looks like every seat is filled.  Maria’s face is consumed by a grin stretching from ear to ear.  “The tips don’t even have to be good and I’ll be able to make some extra money,” she thought. Busy at Joe’s Diner on a Friday night after the football game was often good for $20.00 or more in tips.  But with the excitement of the ambulance, there was a story here that just might cause the diners to linger a little longer to tell their own stories about what delayed the game.  After all, her homework was done and she had no place to go until 11 am when she had to be back at the diner for her Saturday shift.

Disaster averted. Rent paid.  “Wait til I tell Mama when I talk to her tomorrow.  Maybe she’ll have good news about Grandma and she will tell me when she’ll be back. I miss my family. I don’t really like living alone.” She picked up her order pad and started through the crowd taking orders and turning them in to Juan, bouncing from table to table.

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

Did the story end as you predicted? 

What details did you expect to have wrapped up? 

How might you construct your own version of a serial story?

#SOL18: March 14

Serial Story:  Scene Five 

(Continued from Scene 1, Scene 2 & 3, and Scene 4)

Screenshot 2018-03-13 at 9.15.11 PM.png

Afternoon turned to evening with steady customers.  Busy but not packed.  Folks in red and black with coats and scarves to  take off before they sat down.  Coats and scarves to put back on before they left.  And suddenly at 7:28 the diner was empty.

Maria sunk onto a stool.  Her hair no longer neat and tidy as tendrils framed her face.  She had long discarded her jacket, but she was still tugging on the sleeves, making them cover her wrists.

No dishes on the tables.  They had all been cleared, but everything needed a bit of tidying.  The fmes from hot grease and grilled hamburgers hung in the air.  No songs from the kitchen.  “I wonder if Juan is out back taking a break?” And checking the big poster in the window, Maria saw that tonight was the biggest game of the season.  Working instead of attending classes every afternoon meant that she didn’t see the pep assemblies and the hoopla at the end of the day on these game days.

Straightening slowly, she rose, and headed to the cash register.  Tickets in numbered order.  And then . . . the tip jar.  Somebody had thrown a ticket in it.  “Darn, not very helpful.”Emptying the jar, sorting, moving bills and coins just once.  

Her smile, long faded, now had dimples. “Unflipping believable,” she murmured. “Only four dollars and eighty two cents short.” 

Feet in flip flops flying across the floor, Maria cranked up the radio. Everything was soon readied for the next round.  By 9:30 Maria was tapping her feet again.  Homework was done. Back to the waiting game.  No headlights.  No people.

Ten minutes later, Maria was picking at her fingernails.  So close to her goal.  And unusually late.  Pacing back and forth, steam pouring out of her ears, and finally a noise in the distance.

Louder and louder, siren roaring and lights flashing, the ambulance raced past.

“What do you think, Juan?”

He just shrugged his shoulders.  Maria went back to the window, staring down the street.

“Only 40 minutes left.” Face wrinkled.  Can smell her fear . . . Staring at the clock again. 9:40 pm.

What do you now know that you didn’t before this scene? 

Did your thinking change?

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

New learnings/ wonderings:

  • What is the sporting event?
  • What night of the week is this?
  • What do you know about folks in this town?
  • What do you know for sure?
  • What do you think you know?
  • What questions do you have?


#SOL18: March 13

Serial Story  

(Scene 1, Scenes 2 and 3, and then Scene 3 ended with:

“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.”

Scene 4

At the cash register, she makes change and throws a single dime and three pennies into the tip jar. “Thanks so much for the no luck,” she mutters under her breath.

Maria fills two water glasses and  hands them across the counter for the new customers at the counter, while simultaneously pulling out the menus and setting silverware wrapped in napkins for two of the three places.  “Do you need that sippy cup filled up?” she asks.

One head nods no and while the other one doesn’t look up from the menu. Maria grabs a place mat and two crayons from under the counter and puts it in the middle and says, “I’ll be back in one minute.”

She fills four more water glasses, puts them on a tray and walks across to the table under the window.  Everyone’s favorite table.  Same routine:  water, menus, silverware, and a promise to be back.

“What’ll you have today?” she asks as she returns to the counter.  They choose sandwiches in a basket, a kid’s meal of chicken nuggets and fries, and one piece of lemon meringue pie.

Maria mentally calculates the total. . . about $14.00. “Maybe” she thinks hopefully. She hands the order through the window to the cook and hears two patties hit the grill and the sizzle of the fryer as the basket of fries drop into the boiling oil.

“What will you have this afternoon?” and she scribbles soup, salads, sandwiches, and shakes in diner shorthand before turning the order into the kitchen.

The smile on Maria’s face is real.  Anticipation. It’s the middle of the afternoon. One hour into her shift and over $30.00 of orders.  Her fingers quickly makes a cross from her head to her chest as she prays for decent tips.  Rent is due tomorrow.  Maybe. . . just maybe . . . this will be her lucky day.  The $3.50 an hour wages won’t come close . . . but ever hopeful . . .

Refills water.  Makes sure ketchup and barbecue sauce are full.  Double checks about dressing on the side for the salad.  That earns a quiet “thank you” from the customer.  Extra napkins at the ready. Finally fills the sippy cup. Quietly. Quickly.  Always on the move. Those feet in the flip flops glide across the floor.

“Order up,” sings out the cook and Maria delivers the first round of food.  The singing gets louder as Maria gets the salad from the cooler just as she hears, “Order up.”

Two trips later, everyone is eating.  Visual check. All the food is served.  “What else?”

“The best thing about afternoon customers,” thinks Maria, “is that the afternoon goes fast.  Better to be busy than to sit here and try to just look busy. Like Grandma says, ‘idle hands are the devil’s workshop’.” 

The pace of eating slows.  Removing empty dishes. “Anything else? Pie? Cake?” Every smidgeon of lemon meringue pie looked like it had been licked off. No dessert for the table.  Checks presented.  Paid.

Maria waits until the customers leave to cash out the bills.

Into the tip jar . . .

a dollar bill,

a dollar bill,

a dollar bill,

a dollar bill,

and two quarters.

Change from the second bill:

a five dollar bill,

a dollar bill,

a quarter,

and two dimes.

The bell over the door rings, rings, and rings.  New chattering customers . . .

What do you now know that you didn’t before this scene? 

How much do you remember from one week to the next? 

When do you need to verify your text evidence? 

How did you manage to figure this out with annotating? ( I believe that annotation has become the new “bore the kids stiff and make them hate reading” routine.)

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

New learnings/ wonderings:

Some “cheap skates” who think they are “generous”

Name of the main character

How many customers at the counter?

How many people are in the diner?

What did you have to infer?

What is the problem?

What’s your prediction for the evening?

What questions do you have?


#SOL15: March Challenge Day 21 The Real Story

The Real Story

Seriously, I’m being framed by a pokey old “gramma – wannabe”!  It wasn’t my fault. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

I was out for a morning walk with Josephine and Henrietta.  We were strolling along at 6:39 am when Josephine challenged me and said she could beat me across the road.  I saw the lights headed in our direction and told her that we needed to wait.  It would be too close to make sure that we could all three cross safely. But because Josephine ALWAYS has to be first, she takes off running.

And then what does that ditzy driver do?

She slows down.  Josephine is across the road, I’m waiting on her and she, the one behind the wheel of that vehicle, decides to  . . . slow down.

“REALLY?  What was she thinking?”

I simply could NOT believe it. Where on earth did she go to school for driving?  Maybe they will revoke her license!

Henrietta waited in the ditch, but I decided to cross before any other vehicles headed our way.  The expression on that lady’s face was amazing.

I think she was praying or something because she was making this awful face and saying something.  I know she wasn’t on her phone because I’ve seen plenty of those cause accidents before!

“Why on earth did she slow down?”

I really thought she was going to swerve to the other side of the road.  That’s pretty dangerous and she would have rolled that little tin can if she’d tried that.  But no, she has to go and slow down.  If she had just kept going, she would have been fine.

So the car hits me where I’m just standing by the side of the road, minding my own business.  It was headed towards me so I was braced for the impact and as the car hit, I was in the air bouncing across the road.  I felt a slight scrape where some of my hair was gouged off my thigh, but that was it for injuries!  I was so out of there before that lady did something silly and backed up to run over Henrietta.

Poor Henrietta; I don’t know if she will ever get over her near miss.  She was so scared that she turned around and went back down in the ditch to hide.  She refused to cross the road for hours.  (Kinda silly because if anyone was going to be traumatized it should have been me, the deer who was hit by that silver Pontiac Vibe at 6:41 am on that dark Thursday morning.)

“Should I file a report?  How do I make sure my side of the story gets told?”

Who knows what kind of lies that silly driver has been telling to cover up her failure to have control of her car!  She should have been able to stop if she had just put her foot on the brake faster!  Won’t someone want to talk to the witnesses?

“Not my fault!  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!  After all, there was a deer crossing sign there . . . I was following directions!”

deer crossing


Now that I think of it, can I sue that lady driver in court for the damage, and pain and suffering caused?  My hair looks like a trophy hanging on her car!

deer hair

If you missed the story from the driver’s point of view, you can read it here.


Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy at “Two Writing Teachers” for creating a place for us to share our work.  So grateful for this entire community of writers who also read, write and support each other!

#SOL15: The Unexpected

I left work last Friday with a short list of weekend “work to dos” and eagerly anticipated BOTH some reading and writing time for myself.  By the time I arrived home, I had my plan of attack.  Two tasks Friday night, one for Saturday and one for Sunday. Piece of cake.  Time allocated.  (Planning for a win/win)

However, it was not meant to be.

I had not even backed into my parking spot in front of the garage when I was intercepted and told, “Oh, no, it’s a mess!”

I remembered the frozen water line to the master bath toilet the night before.  We put a heater in the bathroom, turned the sink water on and waited.  No luck.  I left a note before I was off to work and texted to make sure that the note was received.  Out of my hands.

Hopeful that the dripping sink would help open up the cold water line

As I unloaded my bags from the car and walked to the house, I wondered, “Was it the water line? Something else?  Maybe our dog made a mess?”

If it was the water line, just how much water will drip from one frozen water line?

dripping wat

Cold weather causes many difficulties.  A week of subzero temperatures where the HIGH for two consecutive days was below zero, had resulted in a frozen water line to the toilet in the master bath.  Simple?  It’s a one story house. Durable? Yes. Walls are 8 inches of concrete surrounded by 2 inches of styrofoam on both the inside and outside (12 inch thick walls). The water line was inside an interior wall.

Not the first time!  Frozen water line in the kitchen about five years ago resulted in a patch in the hallway.

The patched seam in the hallway was more distinct because I could see it from the front door.  There was water on the kitchen floor (about a half inch) and varying depths in the two bathrooms, the master bedroom and closet and the guest bedroom.  Water was everywhere but the living room!


Squish, squish

Water, water,

Water, everywhere . . .

An industrial shop vacuum with help from neighbors quickly pulled 60 gallons of water off the floor.

Squish, squish

Water in my shoes,

Cold, wet, tired,

And weekend plans hijacked.

How much water can come from one burst half inch water line?

4 more dumps of the 16 gallon cannister on the industrial shop vacuum.

Where on earth can all this water come from?

Fans found.

Fans deployed in every room.

Break time


Cold, Tired, Wet!

Suddenly, a crash

And this was the view of the ceiling in the bathroom . . . .

Drywall on the floor.

Exhaust fan hanging . . .

Total mess!

water ceiling


No tasks completed Friday night.

Saturday a trip to Menard’s for plumbing supplies and replacement insulation.  More water vacuumed off the floor.  Sorting, pitching, cleaning.  Sunday was a repeat of Saturday.

No tasks completed Saturday or Sunday.

unexpected road

Changed plans and no reading or writing.  Time for a new plan . . .

Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy for creating a place for us to share our work.

Writing and the Common Core / Iowa Core

In preparation for providing professional development on the English Language Arts (ELA) Standards, I specifically studied the Writing Standards.  The more I read, the more I wondered about my own writing skills.

What’s the big deal?  Are your students currently able to write at a level consistent with the language of the Common Core as outlined in the following excerpt?

“Note on range and content of student writing

 For students, writing is a key means of asserting and defending claims, showing what they know about a subject, and conveying what they have experienced, imagined, thought, and felt. To be college- and career-ready writers, students must take task, purpose, and audience into careful consideration, choosing words, information, structures, and formats deliberately. They need to know how to combine elements of different kinds of writing—for example, to use narrative strategies within argument and explanation within narrative—to produce complex and nuanced writing. They need to be able to use technology strategically when creating, refining, and collaborating on writing and visual media. They have to become adept at gathering information, evaluating sources, and citing material accurately, reporting findings from their research and analysis of sources in a clear and cogent manner. They must have the flexibility, concentration, and fluency to produce high-quality first draft text under a tight deadline as well as the capacity to revisit and make improvements to a piece of writing over multiple drafts when circumstances encourage or require it.” (page 41 Common Core/page 54 Iowa Core)

Resources Available to Enhance Your Understanding of Writing:

  • ELA Core Anchor and Grade Level Standards (Iowa Core in my case)
  • Common Core Standards Appendix A
  • Common Core Standards Appendix C – Writing Samples
  • The seven book series:    Getting to the Core of  Writing: Essential Lessons for Every   (Kindergarten through Sixth Grade) Student.  Authors:  Richard Gentry, Jan McNeel and Vickie Wallace -Nesler.  The resources are aligned with the Common Core State Standards and are embedded with six traits quality writing.
  • Energize Research Reading and Writing:  Fresh Strategies to Spark Interest, Develop Independence, and Meet Key Common Core Standards, Grades 4-8 by Christopher Lehman. The book is designed to help students become critical thinkers.
  • The three book series:  So, What’s the Story?: Teaching Narrative to Understand Ourselves, Others, and the World (Exceeding the Common Core State Standards) by James Fredricksen, Jeffrey D Wilhelm and Michael Smith, Get it Done!: Writing and Analyzing Informational Texts to Make Things Happen (Exceeding the Common Core State Standards) by Jeffrey D Wilhelm, Michael Smith and James Fredricksen,  and Oh, Yeah?!: Putting Argument to Work Both in School and Out (Exceeding the Common Core State Standards) by Michael Smith, Jeffrey D Wilhelm and James Fredricksen
  • Teaching Argument Writing, Grades 6-12: Supporting Claims with Relevant Evidence and Clear Reasoning  by George Hillocks, Jr.
  • Numerous other texts on my shelves including authors Jim Burke, Kelly Gallagher, and Lucy Calkins

Deconstucted standards available include:

See North Carolina’s deconstructed ELA standards with narratives and prompts HERE.

See Kentucky’s deconstructed standards  HERE for ELA.

Added 12/2/2012 @ 3:21 pm CST http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/classroom_qa_with_larry_ferlazzo/2012/12/response_a_napkin_curriculum_for_writing.html?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

My most important takeaway ~ All of these authors are talking about writing beyond task completion in school!!!

What resources are YOU using to improve teaching AND learning in writing?

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