I’m not that excited to get to work today.
My 8th graders hang out with me during Period 1
I promised them breakfast, a quick review and then time to play a game.

Then they report to their assigned room
to show off all they know about writing.
Today’s format is multiple choice and tomorrow’s is writing an essay to a prompt.

Yep, you read that right.
In my state of VA, the students have a 2-day writing assessment
and today is all multiple choice.

They are asked to read a draft of a student’s writing.
Yep, it has errors all through it
and to be even more inauthentic, each line is numbered.

Which of these shows the correct way to add commas in line 8? A B C D
Drag the quotation marks correctly to the added boxes showing line 23.
Which is the best way to add description to line 37? A B C D

Tomorrow they at least get to show that they can write.
I just hope they understand the random prompt given to them.
I hope their confidence is still high after today’s Part 1.

Why can’t Gholdy Muhammad be our state’s director of education?
Then kids could just write now and in May, read, compute and show science knowledge
to show off their genius in an equitible manner.

Literacy Life

As the head of the ELA department, I suggest to my middle school ELA teachers to post what they are reading. Because literacy includes reading, writing, listening and speaking, I started posting it like this (after seeing a similar chart on twitter by @tenilleshade):

All last year, I kept this chart going. Somewhere between the beginning of this school year and now, I’ve lapsed. This March, I will get back into this documentation of my Literacy Life. Mostly, because I want to reord that I wrote 31 times to my blog this month!! Also, my niece just started working for NPRs On Point, and I’ve started to listen to this smart reporting. I can add the movie I viewed as I flew to Amsterdam – The Woman King (WOW!) and I can post about the meetings I faciliate for speaking.

And thanks to Nic Stone, I will add Fast Pitch and Chaos Theory to the books I read this month. During my Friday’s 7th grade reading class, I read-aloud the final 3 chapters and we all enjoyed the ending! Then Saturday afternoon, I sat and read from cover to cover Chaos Theory, her newest. Nic mentioned during our assembly that the publisher like the diaolog when she pitched this book years ago, her first book to write. Yet, they didn’t think the content was right at that time. So she quickly pitched Dear Martin. They liked it and it became her first published book. Yesterday, I was hooked by the dialogue and the frequent back and worth text messages between to two main characters, both dealing with different mental illnesses. This is book I needed to read as I continue to understand the chemicals that flow through our brains and cause all to feel and act and react in certain ways.

How do you document your literacy life?
What have you read, written, viewed, listened to or spoken about recently?

NOTE: HERE is a template you could use

Let’s Celebrate!

“Happy St. Patrick’s Day” my husband said as he handed me a snifter of whiskey as an after dinner treat. We sat, sipped and watched some NCAA basketball together before heading to bed.

Before that, I enjoyed a plate of homemade corned beef and goulushka, which is wide egg noodles mixed with finely chopped fried cabbage that my mother-in-law taught me how to make.

Before that, I boiled the egg noodles for 7 minutes and drained them in the colinder.

Before that, I fried the finely chopped cabbage in crisco in my frying pan for about 20 minutes, stirring it constantly.

Before that, I used my mini-chopper to finely cut up pieces cut from a whole head of cabbage and I made a mental note that I should really purchase a bigger chopper as this is taking longer than it needs to.

Before that, I enjoyed co-hosting a zoom call with Slicers – Fran from DC spearheaded this effort and had the zoom link. Megan from VA, Fran from Iowa, Alice from Texas, and Denise from CA joined us. From coast to coast, we shared what brought us to this slicing challenge, where we get our ideas, and structures we like to use (I shared this Before that… structure!). Sharing writing is one thing but having the opportunity to hear the voice of the writer and see them and realize that as I slice in my home in VA, others are slicing across the nation and globe just feels powerful.

Before that, I left school as soon as the dismissal bell rang at 2:35pm and drove home. I first placed the corned beef on the stove to boil and set the timer for 3 hours. Then I added a load of laundry in the washer and spied the additional four loads of laundry to follow due to just returning from my trip to meet Aden.

Before that, my phone vibrated and I saw my daughter had added new photos of Aden to our private Family Album app. She is doning the St. Patrick’s Day outfit my mom bought for her that I delivered to her last week on my trip.

Before that, I sent an email to all in my ELA department to let them know that our colleague, Beth Sanderson, was the SPOTLIGHT today on TwoWritingTeachers and I used her poem as a warmup during my CLT meeting.

Before that, Ed, walked into McDonald’s and welcomed me back and asked to see my photos from my trip.

Before that, I ordered my Friday regular breakfast from the McDonald’s cashier, “an oatmeal and unsweetened ice tea, please” and I sat in the booth by the window, typed my slice on my laptop, posted it, made 3 comments and enjoyed my breakfast, while donning my shamrock socks and green shirt.

So much to celebrate on a Friday!

Nic Stone @DHMS

In my rush to organize the author visit, I didn’t have my notebook with me, only took a few photos and took no notes. Here’s a few things sticking with me from an amazing hour spent in my middle school auditorium filled with 350 students and the New York Times Best Selling Author of 13 books, Nic Stone:

  • I love being a writer. I get paid to make up stories. A typical day is taking my boys to school and then coming back home, sitting in the corner of my sectional sofa and writing. Sometimes I go to the coffee shop to work. It is a great place to people watch and get ideas. I love that I get paid to write made-up stories!
  • All you need to write is two words – What if…..
  • This is my favorite tatoo. It is the arrest numbers of people I admire that got into good trouble – Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, ….I need to add John Lewis.
  • At first I went to GA Tech for college but then I transfered to Spelman. It’s where my mom went which is why I didn’t go there first. Do you ever not do what your parents did simply because they did it?! I recommend attending an HBCU or even just taking a class at one. It will change you!
  • My favorite color is orange. It is the combination of passion (red) and happiness (yellow).

Special thanks to the six fast pitch softball players who let me volunteer them to introduce and interview Nic.
Special thanks to Politics and Prose Bookstore for arranging this visit.

If you haven’t yet, read ALL of Nic Stone’s books!!!

PS – Happy St. Patrick’s Day – today at 5pm (EST), Fran McCrackin and I are hosting a Slicer Workshop.
Email Fran for the zoom link –

3/175pmFran McCrackinfran.mccrackin@gmail.comSally Donnelly


Ruth – Aden – Nic – Dhonielle – Ashley

Yesterday these five strong women inspired me!


Questions these five have me thinking about:

  • What am I doing to keep RBG’s spirit alive? Somehow seeing my grandbaby wearing this onsie I purchaced at The Outrage gives me great hope!
  • Attending the evening book event that brought Nic Stone to town (and then is able to visit MY SCHOO this morning) gave me great hope! She was interviewed by two authors, Dhonielle Clayton, the founder of #Weneeddiverse books, and Ashley Woodfolk, wearing a t-shirt, We Need More Thinkiers, to promote an organization that I’ll be donating to. I recommend reading ALL books by these three authenic, honest, amazing black authors.

Which women inspire you today, this month, always?!!

PS – More about Nic Stone tomorrow
PSS – I’m co-hosting a Slicer Workshop with Fran McCrackin on Friday
(St. Patrick’s Day at 5pm – Wear green and come join us to chat about writing)

“She’s looking for a school to visit.”

“Sally, I just got an email. Nic Stone will be in the area for an event in March and also wants to visit a school. Would you be interested in hosting her?” the book seller at my local independent bookstore asked.

I was visiting the bookstore on the day they announced the ALA book awards, naturally with a list in hand to purchase a few of the award winning books. I could not believe my ears. “Really? Nic Stone! Yes! When?” was my minimal, starstruck reply.

After jotting down the particulars and then the next day at school getting my administration’s approval, the date of the event was set – March 16th at 10am. An event to promote her newly released paperback novel, Fast Pitch.

Over the past few weeks, posters have been hung. The six fast pitch softball player/students are set to introduce her and ask her questions.Two welcome signs are hung. Some research about the Negro Baseball Leaugue has been completed. A parking space is reserved and a stack of preordered books await her autograph.


3-years ago

As I sat at the after school meeting, the facilitator made a comment that caused me to ponder.
Really? It’s been 3-years ago yesterday. Friday, the 13th. 2020.

Because I was a slicer three years ago, I took a look back.
I wrote this about the news being reported on March 11, 2020.
Rereading it and the comments I received three years ago have me pondering more.
So much has occurred between then and now.

Just looking at my immediate family….
Then, I was teaching reading to 6th graders at a new school.
Now, I’m at the same school but the head of the ELA department and act as a coach to the ELA teachers and provide intervention to the neediest readers and spearhead author visits and help staff, students and the community learn about the civil rights history related to our school and town. (And in reality, I try to spin all those plates but may be too many at times).

Then my husband was working for an architeture firm and teaching architecture at Catholic University and was beginning to be a pond gardener in our backyard.
Now, he works at a different firm and is still teaching at CUA and his pond which started with 8 goldfish, now has over 30 swimming around the soon-to-be in bloom lilies and other pond plants.

Then my oldest was working for the Cory Booker for President campaign, living in New Jersey and had no significant other in her life.
Now, she is married, moved to Amsterdam with her partner and they had their first baby 3-weeks ago today.

Then my younger daughter was living and teaching in Toulouse, France and just months earlier had shared she had met a cool guy.
Now, they live together in a condo he recently purchased and they spent their weekends doing home improvements and playing with their cat.

Then one commenter stated: This all will pass. That’s the nature of the news.
Now, the date 3/13/20 will be a moment in my history, a then and now time.
And despite the world shutting down, my family kept going.
So much so that I didn’t even realize yesterday was 3/13/23
until the facilitator at my meeting reminded me.

Amsterdam by the Numbers

3844 miles each way
2 planes going and 1 on the return
3 Ubers + bus + train + 1000s of steps through secrucity, board patrol to each planes’ gate

VISITING my 1st granddaughter
#14 and up a steep flight of 22-steps to our 1-bedroom AirB&B
4 block walk + Bus #17 + 2 block walk to #28 (Aden’s home!)
1 tap of my credit card to get on and 1 tap to get off
1 takeout meal enjoyed together (2 rice tables) and 1 night babysitting so new parents could enjoy a date
1 walk to the park on 1 sunny Saturday
Many hours spent holding and many more spent watching Aden rest so peacefully

EXPLORING my 1st granddaughter’s city
6 cloudy days, 1 day of blizzard-like snow and 1 sunny day
8 mornings of walking and finding a coffee shop for breakfast (0 Starbuck visits)
1 science museum (Nemo), 1 art gallery (Stedeljk), 1 boat tour, 1 outdoor market
A few buses and a few trams taken to navigate the city
But mostly walking many steps (15K+ a day) crossing many canals along the way

Aden and Aden’s home – so worth the visit!

Now that I am back home, I’m counting the days until I can visit her and her city again.
I hope it is soon!!

Shopping Day

When my husband and I travel, we have a habit of making the last day of a trip “shopping day”. So yesterday, we took a tram ride to the Albert Cuyp Street Market with our list. I wanted a few souvenir tote bags embossed with Amsterdam logos and a few tins of stroopwafels to take back home. And we wanted to get more gift for our granddaughter. On this sunny Saturday, this market was the perfect space to be. I purchased all on my list, plus we enjoyed both poffertjes (10 tiny little pancakes) and a nutella stroopwafel. Yummy!

1 – photo taken from the tram of the museum we toured yesterday during a windy, snowy day. 2 – tough-faced pofferjes maker 3 – stoopwafel maker 4 – Aden enjoying her new Dutch bunny!


“The emergency phone number here is 112 and we will just be down the street,” my daughter explained before leaving to enjoy a meal out. My husband and I were on babysitting duty for the first time. Bottles filled with breastmilk were in the frig. My son-in-law had just changed Aden’s diaper, fed her and burped her. We seemed set to handle this 8-pound bundle of joy for a couple of hours. First grandpa and then me for about an hour each held her snuggly body. Time flies when you are having fun!