ABC Book of Starbucks – 1st draft!

We took our state test last week but still have 2 weeks of school….so final project time!

My middle schoolers brainstormed their passions by jotting down where they spend time, at home, in the neighborhood, on vacation, doing a hobbie, and with a pet.

My middle schoolers chose to either share their passion in one of these forms:
* an Ignite speech for a 6th grade audience
* an ABC book for a Pre-school / Kindergarten audience
* a graphic comic book for a 1st grade audience

My passion brainstorm list looks like this: reading, cooking, swimming, writing at Starbucks, snorkeling, France, quilting.

I realized as I brainstormed that I spend a lot of time at the Starbucks in my town. I go there mostly to write before school or on a Saturday morning. I decided to try to write my ABCs of Starbucks. Here’s my draft!

A I scan my smartphone starbuck’s app.
B I ask the barista for banana bread.
C Starbucks is my favorite coffeehouse.
D Chocolate milk is a drink I order.
E Starbucks is a good place to eat
F Starbucks is a good place to sit and talk to friends by the fireplace.
G I order a grande size.
H I order grande hot chocolate, no whip.
I I order grande ice tea, no sweetener.
J JUST the treat to sip in my reuseable Keep Cup.
K I take out my computer out of my keepsack.
L I type away as lively music plays softly.
M Some days I eat a muffin.
N nibble – nibble – reflect and type.
O Some days I eat oatmeal.
P or a cake pop.
Q Some day I sit quietly and think,
R by the roaring fire.
S Some days I order a strawberry frappuccino.
T Some days I order a turkey bacon egg white sandwich.
U Upstairs seating is my favorite.
V Some days I order venti size.
W Each visit I write.
X Then I eXit.
Y Sometime taking a yummy treat home with me.
Z At the end of the day, I dream of writng and eating and sipping at Starbucks….zzz….sleep tight!

Ok…this may seem like a silly ABC book but it is still a draft…I have until next Friday to revise, edit and published. An end of year project to highlight our passions as we end 6th grade.

Speech before Final Play Performance

I stood on my MS stage on Sunday afternoon before the matinee and made this speech:

My name is Sally Donnelly.
I teach Reading 6 here at Swanson MS.
Last year I was new here and volunteered to help Ms. Caldwell and she named me Production Manager.

Though last year I was new here, I was not new to the Swanson Drama Department because my 2 girls, now age 30 and 27, participated in the Swanson plays and as a parent back then I saw how much is learned by being invloved in theater.

My daughters learned skills I still see them using successfullly in their work and life.

  • They confidently communicate – sometimes loudly like an actor on stage or sometimes quietly like the stage crew.
  • They are able to be flexible, aware that things change quickly and things don’t always go as expected.
  • They are so creative, sometimes in their body movements, facial and vocal expressions and in their visual design of things learned by helping with the stage sets.
  • They can think quickly on their feet because they learned how to improvise.
  • MOST of all, they take pride in collaborating, doing their one part well so the whole project succeeds.

In the story you are about to watch, the main character, ELLE, is searching for LOVE. Lucky for her, she has 3 important communities offering support – the Delta Nu girls, the Harvard Law students and a suberb and wise hair stylist.

As you watch this amazing cast and crew under:

  • the direction of Ms. Caldwell
  • vocal direction of Josie Walker
  • movement direction of Mr. White
  • tech and set direction of Ms. India
  • and costume design by Ms. Judy

KNOW that the arts is a wonderful community, in my opinion, to attach yourself to and I am so thankful I joined this community.

I encourage all parents to nudge their child to take a drama, voice, or movement course in MS or HS. It is not a wasted elective. When my own youger daughter got into UVA and said she was majoring in Drama, I was so proud because I knew all the skills she’d learn in that community would serve her well for life and so far it has!

I’m so glad I volunteeered to help last year and this year because I have found just what Elle is serching for in the Swanson Drama community.

In closing, to all the parents with a child in the show, last night’s email from me was my last to you (I promise) but know you are still my community so please stay in touch! It has been a priviledge to work with you and your child.

Now back to Ms Caldwell to get this amazing show started!!

**NOTE: I awoke Sunday morning thinking how I had the opportunity to take the stage for a moment as a leader in the production. I jotted down this speech…it felt like it wrote itself. I am glad I decided to be an upstander and stand up for the arts! The arts, in my opinion, an important part of learning, yet never graded on a state test. By being on stage, I also got a huge appreciation for the actors….that spotlight is bright and that audience is large.



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:

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  • 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



I received news yesterday that I was accepted.
I received it at 6:35pm on a Friday.
After a productive three-hour after-school work session.
After reading-aloud to each of my 5 classes on their last day of the 3rd quarter.
After only getting five hours of sleep Thursday night.
After watching my team just barely win the night before.
After sitting with muscles clenched until the W occured at 12:30am.
After teaching all week long.

I received news yesterday that I was accepted.
I received it at 6:35pm on a Friday.
I high-fived my study buddy.
I called three other colleagues and shrieked loudly when they answered.
I texted eight others, typing LOTS of exclamation marks.
I told my husband as I plated our carry-out Friday dinner.
I tweeted, between bites, my news.
I watched as hearts and criss-cross arrows lit up my notificitations.

I received news yesterday that I was accepted.
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Weekend of Learning

From March 13-16, I was busy learning at both VSRA and TCRWP Saturday Institute. Today I have a little extra time. I plan to review my notes and process them here in writing.

Things to remember from VSRA:

  1. Pernille Ripp – if you don’t know of her, start following her. She is an amazing teacher in Wisconsin and started the Global Read-AloudAnnual Event. She was the VSRA Opening Keynote Speaker. But she also spoke at 8am for 90 minutes about writing. BIG TAKE-AWAY – In Writing Workshop, provide CHOICE!!

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She is concerned that we tell kids about the Writing Process and show the the stages – brainstorm, draft, revise, edit, publish. However, now that she is a published author, she realizes her writing process is messy. She suggests we let kids know this. She highlighted this in her classroom by skyping wih authors (suggested using this list created by Kate Messner). She asks the authors to talk about their process. After multiple skype sessions, her students felt liberated knowing that all writers have a different writing process.

Slide highlights from Pernille’s KEYNOTE SPEECH:

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2. Highlights from Kylene Beers and Bob Probst Conference Talk

  • Increase student volume of reading
    • reading a series – studies show such readers become lifelong readers
    • providing classroom libraries with characters that match students.
      Check out: We Need Diverse Books Website
    • becoming comfortable with an author/character allows the reader to feel fluent.
  • Increase STUDENT TALK in the classroom –
    3 BIG Questions:

    • What surprised me?
    • What did the author think I already knew?
    • What changed/confirmed what I knew?

Things to remember from TCRWP:

1. Keynote by Jason Reynolds. He is the coolest! And he signed my Reading Notebook. I wrote about it here.

2. Workshop by Katy Wischow – Co-author of Investigating Characterization Unit of Study for MS I was excited to learn of this new unit. It arrived yesterday from Heinemann and I plan to try teaching it in April/May.

3. Closing KeynoteMarc BrackettEver since hearing Marc and about his Ruler, I’ve been assessing my color zones. Am I feeling yellow, green, blue, red? Why? Maybe it’s time to get more sleep, to eat, to breathe. Time to get back to yellow! Read more about it HERE

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Thank you, Cindy for teaching me how to add a slideshow to my blog!!

Prep for School Board Meeting

I encouraged my students to be Upstanders this month as part of our Social Issue Book Club Unit. Today I will tell them how I plan to stand up for them by attending tonight’s School Board Meeting. The school budget is being discussed. There isn’t enough money to go around. Cuts are proposed. I made these two signs to hold up at the meeting.

My librarian friend pushed me to attend and speak. I’m orally rehearsing what I’ll say if allowed but thought these signs can show my oppositioin to two of the cuts. I’m feeling empowered. I’m feeling proud. I have the opportunity to stand up for what I know helps the whole child learn. I’m attending my first school board meeting tonight.


Today’s Brian’s birthday!
UVA basketball fan
drinks an Old Fashioned
quiet thinker

Tonight, dinner reservations as a new Whiskey bar in town.
Tomorrow, 10pm game to watch.

Pretty good beginning to his double-number year!


I add my Monday sticker to my chart
and notice just 6 more remain.
Just 6 more days in this writing challenge.

I look up at the sky and see the half-moon shining.
Is he thinking about how many days until he gets to rest?
Until he’s half again? Until he’s back to shining full?

I step outside wearing just a t-shirt and a fleece jacket.
Yet the morning air is colder than expected.
And the car themomoter reads 39 degrees.
Is the morning air wondering how long until her warmer jet stream arrives?
Wondering, once it arrives, how long it will stay?
Wondering how long until it changes to the stifling heat of the next season?

In my classroom, I add to the day’s agenda.
Next to homeroom I write: Catchup Tuesday
Four days until the quarter ends.
Four more days to turn in any missing work.

My 6th graders realize after this week
Just one more quarter.
Then just two more years in middle school.
Or 8 more quarters.
Then just 4 more years of High school.

It seems the same for the moon, the air around me and those in front of me,
Always counting down.


March Madness

I rushed home from school on Friday.
I turn on the TV, ready to watch.
Alone, I text a family member, also a UVA alum:


At 3:10pm, I sit and watch my favorite team play.
As the 1st half ends, it starts to feel like deja vu???
Not again:(
Another family member, another UVA alum, sends me a text:


At the half, I go made popcorn.
At the half, I watched sleet begin to fall outside?
Yes, heavy sleet starts to fall!
Wasn’t it sunny a moment ago?
The outside world seems to be mimicing the on-court world in Columbia, SC.

Then the sleet stops and the sun comes out again.
Then my team returns for the 2nd half and wins the game!

March Madness is the perfect alliterative phrase for this time of year!


A friend emailed saying she almost quit this writing challenge yesterday. I got to thinking about quitting.

Yesterday, I wanted to quit the renewl process for my National Boards. It is due May 15th but I have a busy day job and have travel plans for Spring Break. I’ve set aside most weekends to write the 25 page document with 2 video attachments. But yesterday it felt like I still had so much to do. I wanted to quit and stop spending hours and hours sitting at a Starbucks on the weekend writing.

A few years ago, my husband and I wanted to quit building a new house. My creative, architect husband designed an energy-efficient new home for us but our contractor wasn’t making it happen and the site looked like this for far too long.

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With the house, we found a supportive contractor and he built the house to my husband’s specifications.

With my National Boards project, I texted my study buddy (a colleague also working on her Boards) and suggested a lunch break. We met for a burger and after eating, we both sat at a Starbucks and worked together for another hour. Before departing, we agreed to check on each other on Wednesday as we both made a plan for what we would accomplish next.

With my friend, she got her post in before midnight. Her email ended by saying, “thank you for your support – it’s in part my not wanting to let you guys down that has kept me going.”

Quitting. A natural response.
Support from others – priceless!

NOTE: Just picked up my phone to pick a photo as my “featured image” and the time is 8:11am. (something I wrote about on March 15th) I smiled and am ready to write more for my Boards as I sit now at Starbucks on a Sunday. I’m not quitting!