Tag Archives: writing

#SOL16: The Ending

This was the story.

See this post from this morning to learn how the story developed as I practiced multiple opening leads. When I hit publish it looked like this:

“How weird that the wind has completely stopped,” I thought.  I raced for the house and safety as I whistled for Mya to join me. Barking enthusiastically, she quickly passed me.  Were we playing her favorite game of “Chase”?

Just before arriving home, the weather report confirmed that fifty mile per hour winds were in our county. The sudden absence of wind caused goosebumps and a drum began to pound in my head. The sky was greenish-gray and the clouds were quickly rolling by. Some clouds seemed to be attempting to touch the ground.

“Tornado? Straight-line winds?” I wondered.  At the very least, it looked like trouble was headed our way!  In comparison with other states, Iowa ranks 6th in tornado occurrences with an average of 37 tornadoes each year. The old-timers in our area tell tales of houses being lifted off the foundation or, my favorite, the trailer that was reduced to rubble except for the toilet that remained, isolated and alone, like a throne.  Oddly enough, the toilet paper was ready and waiting on the roll and still in the holder.

My house, my fortress of foot thick walls, was the perfect refuge.  Branches fell in the timber. Trees danced as the wind began to swirl and twirl. Mya cowered under my chair anxious for my calming touch.

What seemed like forever in the world of slow-motion-what-if-and-disaster-is-looming thinking was less than five minutes as the sky lightened, the wind slowed yet again and the storm passed us by.  A near miss?  A typical summer storm . . . could be rain, could be hail, could be wind!


How should this short, short story end?

The story begged for a revised ending, so here are some possiblities:

  1. “It was no longer a dark and stormy night.”

2.”Mom, you are never going to believe how close that storm was. I could feel it in the air one minute and then suddenly it was gone.”

3. Have you ever thought you were in the middle of a tornado that ended up as a near miss?

4. Storms are tricky.  One minute this way. Another minute this way.  Clouds and wind and trees all moving so quickly that they enveloped me in a frenzy of motion.

5. I stepped out the front door looking for a glimmer of sunlight in the sky.  I was searching for just a hint of blue somewhere on the horizon to let me know that the weather had truly passed by.

6. Tornados typically last from a few seconds to about ten minutes.  Some appear to last longer but they are believed to be a series of tornados strung together rather than a single incident.

7. Bathtub: Best place to seek shelter in the middle of a tornado, mostly because after you’re covered with debris, you can quickly wash off and come out looking great.

8. Not a branch was on the ground in front of the house but as I turned the corner I could see that every square inch of the back yard was covered with leaves and branches, green and brown, small and big to give the appearance of real treebark camouflage covering the grass.

Revision and ending for today:

(new paragraph – before the last one)

We had taken refuge in the bathroom – a room with no windows where the back wall was dug into the clay bank and was not going anywhere.  I sat on the floor with Mya as she trembled.  She didn’t make a sound but I was sure that she was able to hear a whole different layer of sound that was not accessible to my ears.  “Mya, would you like to hear a story?”  I began to read out loud to her from my Kindle.  Nothing like a good story to calm my nerves. We were fortunate that I wasn’t worried enough to crawl into the tub for shelter where I could be both safe and clean!

What seemed like forever in the world of slow-motion-what-if-and-disaster-is-looming thinking was less than five minutes as the sky lightened, the wind slowed yet again and the storm passed us by.  Storms typically range from a few seconds to about ten minutes. This would not have been the shortest storm on record.  But it also wasn’t the longest.  Each fearful second had seemed like a minute. Was it a near miss?  Or was it just a typical summer storm?  . . . sometimes rain? sometimes hail?  sometimes wind?  The storm disappeared almost as quickly as it had formed.  We left the bathroom, looked outside, and decided that it was safe enough to venture out. I was barely able to open the door before Mya raced past me  out into the evening. I stepped out the front door looking for a glimmer of sunlight in the sky.  I was searching for just a hint of blue somewhere on the horizon to let me know that the weather had truly passed by.

How and when do you “rehearse” and “practice” the skills that you ask your students to use in their writing?

What does your evidence look like?

slice of life

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 


Did you name the endings?

(alpha order) Action, description, dialogue, humor, interesting fact, quotation, question, and unusual image.

And how did I REALLY end my story?  With a combination of actions that resulted from drafting the possible endings!

Did you notice that some of the other “possible endings” did make it into my short, short story? Accident?  Design?  You be the judge.

Both the first version and the revised second draft are available in a google doc here.

And for more information about tornados, check out this link.

#DigiLit Sunday: Planning Process


Margaret Simon has invited us to blog about planning for the new school year today for DigiLit Sunday. You can read more posts here at Reflections on the Teche.

Planning has been on my mind lately and actually has been my blog topic the last two posts here and here.

Where to begin?

With my #OLW – JOYFUL!

What’s my end goal? (Backward Design)

Joyful Learning for all!

How will I achieve my end goal?

Careful appraisal of my current status,

Develop a plan to integrate my learning from this summer,

Plan, plan, plan

Short term targets and

Long range goals!


Bricks = Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening

Mortar = Mindset, “YET”, Brave, JOYFUL

Filling the inside with all that I know . . .

Determining Priorities Based on Data . . .

and then continuing to collaboratively increase my knowledge with my colleagues who blog, tweet and vox about literacy, learning, passion, joy, leadership and fun for students!

Sounds simple?  “The proof will be in the pudding . . . 

I will be planning on monthly check ins with my plan.

Approximately 200 days to fruition.

How will you know if your plan is working?

I’m borrowing this MLK quote from a PD session led by Justin (@jdolci). . .



#SOL16: Teacher Appreciation

teacher appreciation

Teacher Appreciation is every day, every week but a special mention is definitely appropriate as the school year winds down!

teacher acrostic.JPG

What characteristics of a teacher are most important for you?

What do you want to “hold onto” this week?

(And for an added bonus, can you name some of the authors / texts that influenced the words and descriptors above?)

slice of life 2016

Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.  Thank you for this weekly forum!


#SOL15: Revisiting #OLW15



My #OneLittleWord15 was focus.  It’s reckoning time as 2015 nears the end.

How did I do?


Focus on Family:

My grandson

now seven months old

with just the cutest grin!

The center of our Christmas Celebrations!

Who is the center of YOUR conversations?


Focus on Friends:

 Near and far

At TCRWP Spring Saturday Reunion

At TCRWP Writing Institute

At TCRWP Reading Institute

At ILA15

At Iowa ASCD with Lester Laminack

At TCRWP Fall Saturday Reunion


On Twitter with #TCRWP,  #G2Great, and #WRRD

On Voxer

And on Slicers, Too!

Can you find yourself? 


Focus on Reading:

  • New Units of Study in Reading
  • Mindset for Learning:  Teaching the Traits of Joyful, Independent Growth 
  • Reading Nonfiction:  Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies
  • Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom
  • The Construction Zone:  Building Scaffolds for Readers and Writers
  • The Common Core Companion: Booster Lessons, Grades 3-5: Elevating Instruction Day by Day
  • Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters
  • Read Write Teach: Choice and Challenge in the Reading-Writing Workshop
  • The Teacher You Want to Be: Essays about Children, Learning, and Teaching
  • In Defense of Read-Aloud: Sustaining Best Practice
  • Readers Front and Center: Helping All Students Engage with Complex Text
  • The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers
  • What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making
  • The Unstoppable Writing Teacher:  Real Strategies for Real Teachers

Which of these have you read?

Which of these are on your holiday TBR stack?



Focus on Writing:

About TCRWP Spring Saturday Reunion

About TCRWP Writing Institute

About TCRWP Reading Institute

About Reading

About ILA15

About Iowa ASCD with Lester Laminack

About TCRWP Fall Saturday Reunion

About NCTE15

Tweets about #TCRWP,  #G2Great, and #WRRD (and all the above!)

And Slices with #TWT!

What have you written about?

focus acrostic

A Focus on Focus:

Ever on my mind

Often changing to meet my purpose

Ever necessary

To complete my tasks

Sometimes a nagging worry

Other times a constant fear

 .  .  .  .  Ever forward

Ever moving

Difficult to pin down

Growing –

Celebrating Learning!

What is your FOCUS?

How would we KNOW?


Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Thank you, Anna,Betsy,Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers andteachers here. 


From Riverside to Riverside . . . the learning continues

Until four years ago, this was what I expected to see and hear IF and WHEN I visited New York.

Did you check it out?

That’s what I knew about New York!

My world has shifted on its axis in the last five years and I now trust my good friends to keep me grounded.

Dayna Wells  (@daywells) tweeted this out):

Screenshot 2015-10-16 15.25.54

Dayna’s hometown is about 10-15 miles from our family farm.  To me, the connections are obvious.  My family roots are in the town of Riverside, Iowa.  In fact, I feel that I can positively say that my family, the Schnoebelens, founded the town of Riverside, which is now infamous as the home of “Star Trek”.  St. Mary’s in  Riverside, is a majestic Catholic Church.


You can read about the church and the founding families here. In our family, one claim to fame is that all of my mom’s family attended the school at St. Mary’s.  My grandmother was a teacher in a one-room country school.   All ten of her children attended St. Mary’s School! That fact is celebrated in the pictures on the walls of the church hall. We have many fond memories of our local parish church, the school and the cemetary at St. Vincent’s  whch is the resting place for many, many, many family members. A small town church for a small town Iowa girl!

And tomorrow is the 7th time that my learning day (or week in the case of summer institutes) will begin at Riverside Church in NYC.  A majestic setting for a FREE day of learning.  There is no cost for participating in the learning at #SaturdayReunions at Teachers College.


An eye-opening, mind-blowing learning extravaganza . . .  

Slow Learner, Fran?

There are folks who have attended for more than 25 years!

Before the end of the day, my eyeballs will be rolled back up into my brain – trying to absorb just one more ounce of inspiration, passion and true belief that ALL OUR kids can read and write.  AND read and write at high levels!  AND that all our kids deserve the BEST teachers of readers and writers – THOSE that read and write themselves.

The agenda is seven pages long. Difficult choices for attendees as all sessions will be led by those who have been immersed in the reading and writing units of study by Lucy Calkins and the amazing Teachers College Staff Developers.

How and when do you follow your passions?

What are you learning?

How will we know?

(Thanks for the inspiration, Dayna!)

#SOL15, Almost October, and #OLW

It’s Tuesday, time to write, and a topic is eluding me.

I’ve read this quote from Tara three times:

“The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”
Anne Lamott


What’s my strategy to get unstuck?

This is today’s strategy:

  • Read my blog posts from last October.
  • Read some other slicer posts.
  • And then start writing.
  • Write quickly.
  • Don’t pause.
  • Write.
  • Write.
  • Write.

What do I wish for students for 2015 – 2016?

  1. Sense of Urgency – There are no “do overs” so each day needs some strategic planning with specific targets in mind. What is the end goal?  Where do we need to end up?  And then backward planning . . . Ready, Set, Go!
  2. Focus on Students – Students First, Students Second, Students Third . . . Get the idea?  Students are at the center of every decision. In every classroom. In every school.  Every.Decision!  (and even knowing when to abandon the plan from sense of urgency because it does NOT work out for students!)
  3. Focus on Volume – Increase Teacher and Students’ Volume of Reading and Volume of Writing – Everyone needs to read and write more.  This will require a focus on literacy, as well as speaking and listening and thinking. Teachers will model reading and writing daily.  There will be evidence of living both a readerly and writerly life! And the reading and writing will be like Gold – not like a curmudgeon!
  4.  Joyful Learning – Not reading like a robot or due to assigned drudgery!  Creating an energized hub of activity – Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening and Thinking Joyfully! Happiness will ooze out of the corners of EVERY room! How do you celebrate meeting goals?  How do you celebrate writing?  How do students become the leaders in your classroom?
  5. And Lastly, Choice – Students will have choice in what they read and write daily. Being engaged in joyful literacy workshops daily means that teachers aren’t assigning chapters and questions or daily prompts. In real life, where are end of chapter questions or daily writing to prompts? When is the last time that a teacher completed end of chapter questions or daily writing to prompts? Readers and writers resent “made-up” busy work activities that are counter-productive to the items previously listed such as joyful learning, focus on volume, focus on students!  Students know when the work is a waste of time!

As mid-terms, October, and/or the end of the first month of school approach,

What do you wish for your students?

What are you planning for?


Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

#ILA15 Begins Tomorrow!!!

IRA now ILA = International Literacy Association

I’ve skipped over this paragraph in the ILA materials (probably 100 times now), but please slow down and read it . . .

“Illiteracy is a solvable problem, and together, we can make a difference! Amplify your efforts by joining forces with us at ILA 2015 in St. Louis, where you’ll get information and inspiration to transform your students’ lives. Register now for this can’t-miss event, where you’ll experience endless opportunities to network and learn—and leave feeling part of a meaningful movement, resolved to end illiteracy.”

And this . . .

“Literacy—across all sectors, mediums, and channels—is increasingly critical. In order to effectively prepare children and adults for the future, teachers must be well prepared to help diverse students improve their literacy skills.”

Whether illiteracy or aliteracy is a concern for you, follow the twitter stream on #ILA15 to LEARN from July 17 pre-conferences to the sessions on July 18-20 in St. Louis!  Who defines well-prepared?  Are your current efforts REALLY working for ALL your students?



What are you learning this summer that will improve student literacy?

How will you use your learning?

How will you share your learning?

#SOL15: Routines

Routine:    a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.

Routines:  Sometimes the very essence of our lives

Routines:  a blessing?  a curse?  How do you know your routines are effective?


What is your routine for writing?

Specific paper?
Specific pen?
Specific chair/desk?

How did you develop your routine?

Writing with friends?

Writing with students?

 Developed over time?

In search of a writing routine?

Here is a link to the routines of 12 famous writers.  Does your “routine” parallel any of those?  Have you maximized your potential and your mindset to truly be “All that you can be?”  Are there some personal, professional or fun routines that need a bit of sprucing up, spring cleaning, or rejuvenation?

How much do “routines” influence your life?


What is your morning routine?

Do you need coffee or tea in the morning?

Cold caffeinated drink?

What gets you up and moving?

routine  sodahead.com  abc

What are your daily routines?

Are you a creature of habit at work?

At home?

In life?

routine to do list

What about family routines?

For back to school days? (dinner out after that first day of school!)

Birthdays? (surprise / not a surprise party?)

Holidays? (pie at 10 am for breakfast; dinner at 2 pm)

Anniversaries? (Who plans?)

Vacations? (Location determined by – ?)

Routines?  Habits?  

Which ones do you value?

Which ones are REALLY working for you? 

How do YOU decide?


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

#SOL15: March Challenge Day 24 – Community

thank you languages

Thank you, readers, for your reading, your likes and your comments throughout this month of slicing.  There is a real sense of community among slicers especially when you consider this definition

a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

The good news is that all the “slicers” are winners even though Dana will anounce the “one” commenting winner later today.  Those that read 60 posts this last weekend are richer for their reading and those that have written 24, heading to 31, consective days of posts are richer for their writing.  We have shared laughter, tears, fear, joys and had FUN this month.

Some of us will extend this fun this weekend as slicers, courtesy of Tara, gather after the TCRWP Saturday reunion.


Will you be there at TC?  See Tara’s slice here for more info!


Check out the writers, readers and teachers who are “slicing” 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: March Challenge Day 9 Inspiration


“You learn to write by writing. It’s a truism, but what makes it a truism is that it’s true. The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis.” –William Zinsser in On Writing Well.”

This was part of Stacey’s call to post quotes this morning!  Do you REALLY believe it?  What’s the evidence?  Is it the number of words you write?  Is it the amount of time you write?



Acceptable Evidence?

Is your threshold for evidence AT LEAST what you would expect from your students?  Think about how often you require students to write “on demand” . . .

“Daily journal?”

But . . . they get to choose what they write about!

“It’s still an on demand.”

“Weekly probe?”

“But that’s required for IEP/Progress Monitoring . . . “

“Whatever you “require” for your students, you should meet or exceed as the teacher!  The March Challenge to write for 31 days straight is basically equal to requiring a weekly on demand during the school year.  And think of the stamina that is built up.”

Are you writing as much as your students?

Should you be writing MORE?

Slice of Life

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.

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