I did it!

Since this was year 6 for me, I knew I could write for 31 days, post and read at least 3 others and leave a comment, daily for each day in March. But as I reflect back on this month, I am celebrating all I did:

  • I added a Featured Image to each post: I learned this from a great online class I took this summer by Cult of Pedegogy  finding my image using Pixabay , as suggested in the course.
  • I added hyperlinks to direct the readers to another place to go related to my topic (see examples in last bullet point!)
  • I added Tags, something I started last year. Now on the right-side of my blog, a word cloud appears. A glance at it now shows the topics I write lots about include my daughters, Anne and Bridgit, along with books, my home, reading, writing, TCRWP, travel, and my OLW (one little word).
  • On the 28th of this month, a fellow slicer and colleague taught me how to make a slideshow in wordpress. First I pick the +Add dropdown menu, then choose Media, then pick 3 or more photos, then press Continue. A new screen appear. Pick Layout Dropdown menu. Scroll down and pick SLIDESHOW and insert. Magically, wordpress inserts those images as a slideshow! (Must choose 3 or more images to have slideshow option in layout). For example, I just snagged an image of the blog headers of all my friends in the DC/Arlington, VA area that I know sliced and who I have been reading with month. Now here are those images in a slideshow:

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • As I look through the 30 posts I made this month, I notice:
    • 8 poems
    • 9 true small moments
    • 9 school stories
    • 6 related to porfessional development
    • 2 family stories
    • 1 basketball story
    • 1 about an Orange Slicer Party
    • 1 about the PLACE I like to write
    • 2 about time
  • As I reflect, I know I spent more time trying to craft my stories and when I got this comment yesterday, it became my favorite because I had really worked to set up a contrast:Screen Shot 2019-03-31 at 9.05.24 AM
  • As I reflect, I am amazed at how much went on in my personal and school life this month and yet, I still took time to write. It was hard. But it is a routine I am glad I embraced six years ago. It is also one I am fine to now just post  weekly on Tuesdays! (And to be honest, maybe I’ll start my Tuesday posts after Spring Break! )
  • As I reflect, I give a special thank you to TwoWritingTeachers who include Stacy, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, and Melanie. The community of writers you create is one I feel honored to be a part of. March is my now favorite month!
  • APRIL 11 – If you are in the DC area, come to my SLICER celebration! Orange Party at my house at 4:30pm. (Leave your contact info in a comment and I’ll send you the address) Wear ORANGE and/or bring an orange inspired snack to share! I plan to make an Aperol Spritz Pitcher.IMG_4413


Signs of Spring

As I headed to the bakery for scones to go with my Sunday morning, I noticed signs of spring.

A blue jay flying in and out of my shrubs.

Green buds all over my liliac bush.

Pink covering the branches of a cherry tree.

Then as I parked the car outside of my favorite bakery, a man stood tall playing his bagpipe and dressed for the day making it sound like spring.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Happy Spring, 2019!

Double Numbers

I’ve always liked double numbers.

Probably because my birthday is on the 11th of a month. Seeing a double number calms me. I think of repeated numbers as thumbs-up encouragement to me from a greater being. As I type this now, I know it may sound silly. You may be laughing at me. It may seem completely irrational. But it is something you now know about me. Double numbers calm me.

Yesterday, I was equally excited and nervous. I was at a State Reading Conference, slotted to present with another colleague from my district at 2:45pm (not a calming number).

The night before, as we checked in, we were given the hotel room number 2020.  Calming.

As we checked out and checked our bags during the conference morning break, I glanced at my phone. It showed 10:10am. Calming.

As we sat and reviewed our presentation over lunch, I glanced at my phone again. It showed 12:12. Calming.

I’ve always been the kind of person who shares. If I learn something that works, I naturally want others to know. This attribute served me well as a Reading Coach. Yesterday, it gave me the opportunity to share with other Reading teachers in my state. But I won’t deny it. I do get nervous before presenting. I rehearse it over and over in my head. I want it to go well. But I am nervous.
Yesterday, when I glanced and saw double numbers around me, I was able to breathe. I was able to feel a calmness from above. I was able to smile and confidently start the presentation: by saying, “Welcome! Thanks for coming to hear about how we use Reading Notebooks with our students. I am excited to share some tips with you that I hope you can take back home to help when working with your students.”

NOTE: All the resources for our presentation are on this Padlet:

If you scroll over to the LAST column, you can view the powerpoint that Katlyn and I followed during our presentation. All the other columns on the padlet are resources we use with our students as we helped them make their invisible thinking they have while they read and make it VISIBLE in their reading notebook.


Place Matters

I don’t even drink coffee.
Instead I declare,
“Venti Black Iced-tea, no sweetener
or Grande No-whip Hot Chocolate”
when it’s my turn.

Once seated and computer plugged in
I sit at the high-top counter
facing a windowed wall
revealing a sky beginning to brighten
and listen to the upbeat music playing in the background.

My favorite place to write – my neighborhood coffee shop

How about you?
WHERE are you writing?


I’ve spent much time learning about Reading and Writing Workshop and I’m sold that this is the best learning structure to have in a classroom. I explicitly teach for about ten minutes. Then ALL work. Students read or write. I watch, listen and confer, confering more explicit teaching specific to each student based on what they are showing they can do during worktime. Currently, I’m in a district cohort studying Personalized Learning. My focus has been on giving my students choice and offering them authentic experiences.


I took these photos after worktime began yesterday. The girls on the right are passionate about saving the tiger. They are drafting a brochure. Then on March 12th, it will be on display to help raise awareness about this issue during our Social Issue Fair.

The photo on the top right shows a pair making images for their homeless display. Then asked if they could use origami and cut out images they draw to create what the homeless park in our county looks like. They help at the food bank near this park and want to teach others how to help this group in our town.

The photo on the bottom right shows another pair. They are researching asthma, a health issue they realized they both suffer from and could teach others about.

My favorite part of worktime is how it sounds. It starts with the room erupting. Voices chatting. Questions pondered fill the air. Opiinions shares. Chair legs scrape the floor as one moves to collect markers and scissors. Then the sounds change. Each settles into worktime and a quiet hush hangs over the room. All have entered the learning zone and are thinking so quietly.

I whisper to a pair of students, “How’s it going?” as I begin to confer with them. Softly one replies. We confer quietly among ourselves, not wanting to break the sound of worktime in the room.

Upstander and Junk Mail

As I prepared to help my students end their Social Issue Book Club Unit with a TAKE ACTION project, I looked around my world, noticing issues that need action. I spent the week looking for ways to be an upstander.

Getting my mail is one of my daily routines. I lift the lid of my red mailbox, grab all the envelops, magaxzines and catologs and bring it into the house.  I sort through it on my office table, placing bills in a pile to hold onto. I open any letters or cards, yet these only seem to be in the pile during the month of Decemeber and close to family birthdays. Much of the mail is junk and I toss it in the recycling bin underneath the office table.

Today, I noticed something. I had mail this week from:

  • The Heart Association
  • WAMU – local NPR station
  • Alhzeimer Association
  • United Way
  • St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
  • Doctor’s Without Borders

Today I viewed this mail in a new way. I realized that these organizations were not sending me “junk” mail. Instead, I noticed they each have an issue they care about. They each hope I care about it too. They all need financial support to continue to do good work. They all hope I will be an UPSTANDER and support their social issue.

I gathered all this mail to show my students. If they are stuck on a social issue to pick for their Take Action Project, maybe my mail will inspire them to act. This isn’t juke mail. It is an opportunity to stand up!


“As you view this video, look for characters that are one of these four words: VICTIM .  PERPETRATOR . BYSTANDER . UPSTANDER,” I instructed my 6th grade readers.

All easily identified the deer/antelop/kangaroo/brown animal as the victim.
All called the wolf (due to the tail, all agreed he was a wolf) the perpetrator.
All agreed the boy was the bystander.
A few thought, they had to identify an upstander too but came to realize, without any evidence to support it, there wasn’t an upstander in this video. (A sign that they are growing in their thinking!) Some noticed the detail that the boy grew a tail as he walked away making his inaction evidence of becooming perpetrator, too (Another sign of gowing their thinking!)

Then I posed a few more questions:
Why didn’t the boy act as an upstander? What would you have done?

A discussion around fear and being only one person erupted at each table group of four.
“I’m just a kid. I’d run away.”
“I’d call the police.”
“I’d make a distracting noise and maybe throw something to distract the wolf and maybe the deer could run away.”

“Let’s use these same four words to discuss the stories we read during this unit.
Stray by Cynthia Rylant.
Doris was the upstander when she brought the puppy in out of the snow.

The dad was the perpetrator.
But not at the end. He was an upstander then.
ME: Who was the perpetrator?
The animal shelter.

Burrito Man by Lulu Delacre
Alex was the victim because she didn’t want to go to work with her dad.
The dad was the victim at the end.
ME: Who was the perpetrator?
The heart attack.

Inside-Out by Francisco Jimenez
Francisco is the victim.
Curtis was the perpetrator.
The teacher is a perpetrator too.
Maybe the school system is the perpetrator. It isn’t welcoming ELL learners.

I could see we were broadening our thinking. Upstanders stand up when the people in front of us are having a disagreement or fight. Upstanders also stand up by supporting issue that effect groups, like abusive animal shelters, heart attacks and outdated educational practices. I was ready to explain the end of unit project – a chance for each student to choose an issue and make an action plan to be an upstander.

I can’t wait to see these projects!


No Longer Needed

At a conference once, I heard a teacher during a presentation make this comment: “There comes a point when I am no longer needed. My students are engaged…I can sit back and watch….my goal is to have students who are confident and excited… the by-product is increased knowledge.”

This description of a teacher is my goal, too. Having a classroom buzzing with students , all engaged. Students confidently making decisions. I plan and model. I set out materials. Then I watch and listen, ask questions and offer feedback. My role is to be the catalyst. The students’ role is to be in motion.

Tomorrow, I plan to have my 6th grade students watch this video and then I’ll guide a discuss using these words – vicitm, perpetrator, bystander, upstander. I’ll ask:

Why doesn’t the bystander act?
How might the bystander have made a difference?

Then I plan to nudge my students to notice if any of the stories we read during our Social Issue Book Club Unit (using this resource by TCRWP) involved upstanders. I plan to end the lesson asking them to spend time being on the lookout for upstanders, asking friends and family to talk about upstanders they have known, and to think about how they, my students, might become an upstander in their family or community.

Tomorrow’s lesson is to set my students up for our the End of Unit Project. As a culminating project, I will guide my students to pick an issue important to them and to plan out a way to TAKE ACTION in order to raise awareness about this issue. Then, on the evening of March 12th, families will visit to view our Middle School Social Issue Fair.

My hope is that all next week, my classroom is a buzz of activity. Students will be researching. Students will be creating. Students will be collaborating and discussing. And I will watch and listen and offer feedback. And my hope is, there will come a point when I am no longer needed.


NOTE: During March, I plan to revisit prior blog posts and revise. This post is a revision of this post, written on March 20, 2014



Reflections on Purl by Pixar

Viewing the new PIXAR short entitled PURL, I watched it in many ways.

As a mom of two adult daughters, wondering about their work force experiences.

As a teacher, whose work force is mostly all women. Yet, I know decisions are made that affect me by a “Bros” world. And never have I sat as the lone woman around the conference table, striving to solve a problem with a bunch of Bros.

As some of my male middle-schoolers ask, “How do you know Purl’s a girl?” Their innocent question made me glad I shared the video so a class conversation could occur.

As some of my other middle-schoolers  saw it as a video about fitting in, changing to fit in and having the courage to be oneself when someone is around that is like me.

As a Reading 6 teacher, currently teaching using the TCRWP Social Issue Unit of Study for Middle School, I saw how work place discrimination and gender discrimination were explored through examples of discrimination.

What do you notice TODAY using the lens of social issues?



Reading Notebook pages by four Reading Teachers, made during a Professional Development meeting, while sitting around a conference table. (Next time, we need to include a “bro”!)


NPR and my day!

Most days I walk the mile to my Middle School but today I drove due to my heavy backpack. My car radio is always set to WAMU 88.5 and as I drove the 5 minutes to work, I listened to NPR’s Morning Edition. As I listened to this segment, I realized I could use it while teaching today. I’m getting ready to introduce my students to the Social Issue Book Club Unit. During all my classes, I shared the definition of a Social Issues: a problem, the problem involves many people, and the solution to this problem that can’t easily be solved by just one individual. As I played the 3-minute segment for all my classes, I asked them to listen and decide if this segment was about a Social Issue. After listening, I asked them in table groups of 3-5, to discuss what they thought. Lively discussions occurred in each class! Thank you, NPR. 

At lunch, I checked my email and saw my daily email from Larry Ferlazzo (if you don’t already get his daily emails, I recommend you do!) His first tip today was sharing a story called: NPR Wants Students to Tell It What Love Is.  I loved listening to one of my favorite authors, Kwame Alexandere talk on NPR about love. He asks for kids to send in their writing to the prompt, Love is… I immediately shared the link with my writing friends. (I’m planning next week to write to that prompt.) Thank you, NPR!

Before lunch ended, I headed over to facebook to check out “Jays Wintery Mix” posting. He’s a local guy who predicts the weather pretty well and already school was closing 2 hours early due to afternoon weather and I wanted to read his prediction. As I checked, I saw that Fran had commented on a post in the Units of Study in Writing TCRWP so I clicked and saw a link to another NPR article called HOw Teenage Sisters Pushed Bali to Say ‘Bye-Bye’ to Plastic Bags  .  There was also a photo of 2 older looking faces of the Bali sisters who I learned about as I taught my students how to give a Tedtalk. Their Tedtalk was my mentor text last year! (I wrote about it HERE). So for a third time today, I clicked and enjoyed listening to a story. Thank you, NPR!

I’m glad NPR was part of my teaching day, today.
I bet you have stories involving NPR, too!