End of our Reading Celebration

At the end of our Reading Celebration today, I said something like this:

Readers, I want you to have this poem as a bookmark to use as a reminder of this unit. As I read it aloud, think about why I think this poem matches some of the things we discussed during the unit, things like:
* how when reading we stopped at the trouble in our stories and noticed the relationships between the characters involved in the trouble.
*how we noticed who has the power and its effect on the trouble,
*how we named the groups the characters belonged to and the social issues that sometimes come about because of these groups
*and how we identified moments when characters were victims, perpetrators, bystanders and upstanders.

Then I read aloud the poem, emphasizing the pronouns:

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What are you thinking, I asked. Their replies:

“I think she’s short.”

“I think he might be blind, like the grandfather in As Brave As You”

“Maybe she’s in a wheelchair so he didn’t see her.”

“I think he is the kind of man who is only seeing his world and doesn’t care about anyone else.”

“Yeh, he’s too important and is acting selfish.”

“I think if the man hadn’t said “Oh my God” then he would just be rude but since he said that, he isn’t so rude.”

“I think the cashier is an upstander.”

“I think if the poem was longer, he’d become an upstander, too and let the lady go before him in line.”

I ended by telling my wise students something like this:
WOW! When I read this poem by myself, I focused on a man not seeing a woman and thought about the women’s movement and the social issues related to gender bias. But now discussing it with you and listening to your comments, I realized this poem could be about so much more. And that’s why I hope all of us keep reading and discussing in clubs. We are better readers when we can do it as a book club! Promise me you won’t only form a club when a teacher tells you to. Read and encourage your friends to read the same stuff and then talk about it.

Finally, my hope is that as we go forward, we rewrite the last line of the poem, “I really didn’t see you” and instead resolve to really seeing all the yous we encounter each day. Let’s try to do all we can to see each other and to stand up for each other.

NOTE: If you’d like to read more about the Social Issues Reading Unit I taught, click HERE for more on ending,
HERE for prepping for celebration
and HERE for Book Tasting.


Just finished/Currently/Up next

Inspired by a fellow slicer who described her email signature today, I decided to steal her idea and do the same. You can read Cindy’s post here.

When I started teaching Middle School this year, I saw other ELA teachers posting in their signature three line that listed book titles related to their own personal reading. Their modeling pushed me to follow suit. At the moment, this is what is included below my signature when I send out emails:

Just finished: As Brave As You  by Jason Reynolds
Currently reading: The graphic novel of A Wrinkle in Time
Up Next: The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown
As Brave As You  by Jason Reynolds
I ordered this book as part of my Social Issue Book Club Unit. Then when a student book club were discussing the trouble in the story and couldn’t agree on parts of the book, I decided I needed to read it. The book is a page turner and I finished it in a day. Once back at school on Monday, I shared my notes with the group and had them reread a few parts with me to help clarify what was happening. Soon we were all finding evidence in the book related to the social issues of blindness, guns, and dealing with a death in the family. My 6th grader book clubers and I all recommend this book!
The graphic novel of A Wrinkle in Time
A few weeks ago, I was at the independent book store, Politics and Prose and saw this graphic novel. I had just heard about the movie coming out soon and thought I’d refresh the story in my mind by rereading this story from my young in graphic form. In the back of this book, the author’s acceptance speech given in 1963 when she won the Newbery Award for writing this novel was included. 1963 – that’s the year I was born!  Now this story felt more special to me. Then on the way to work last week, I heard this story on NPR all about the making of the movie (I recommend taking 7 minutes to hear the story). I loved learning that a 5th grader in the 1960s spent her life determined to make this book into a movie. This week I am going to finish reading the graphic novel version and then go see the movie, too. Fantasy and graphic novels aren’t usually my go-to but for this story, I am engaged!
The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown
TODAY this book is released!!!!!!!!!!
I read The Wild Robot to my 6th graders as part of the Global Read-aloud  in the fall. We LOVED meeting Roz. Now Roz is back!!! I ordered the sequel on my kindle so I’ll have it without taking time to visit a bookstore tomorrow. Thank you, Peter Brown for writing more about Roz! (If you haven’t met Roz yet, I recommend that you do soon!)

What are you reading?

My Top 10 Favorite Spaces

Yesterday a slicer named Adrienne posted right before me a slice entitled: 5 of Our Favorite Places. It got me thinking about what would be on my list. Being married to an architect, the places I go tend to involve architectural wonders. So today I’m going to reflect on and write about my top favorite built environments. Thanks, Adrienne for helping me write today.

My Top 10 Favorite Spaces

The Lawn, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
* Thomas Jefferson designed a space to be a functioning academic village and called it the University of Virginia in 1812. As you walk the lawn today, all ten Pavilions showcase examples of classical architecture. If you haven’t visited the Lawn yet, I recommend taking a walk down this UNESCO World Heritage Site. (My husband, myself and one of our daughters also our proud UVA alums!)

The Morgan Library, New York, New York
* JP Morgan’s home on Madison Avenue in New York was already pretty impressive before architect Rezio Piano designed an addition. During my last visit there, I ordered lunch and sat and read my book in this peaceful, sunlight open space.

The High Line, New York, New York
* What a gift this walkway/park is to the city of New York. As a pedestrian, it is fun to be three stories above the street level, taking a walk! Plus, it shows how with a little imagination, an old, abandoned raised railroad track can be transformed into a park!

Storm King Art Center, Hudson River Valley, New York
* One fall, we took a trip to the Hudson River Valley and fell upon Storm King. All the large modern art installations are magnificent. But my favorite is The Wall by Andy Goldsmith. There is something uplifting about being outdoors, walking along and then seeing modern art!

Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
* Another large outdoor space is the impeccable gardens on the du Pont’s estate. Now open to the public, visitors can walk and enjoy the flowers and trees in all seasons and at times, enjoy a fountain show.

The Inn at Middleton Place, Charleston, South Carolina
* The inn is a modern-designed set of rooms on the grounds of the Middleton colonial farm along the Ashby River. I enjoyed staying at this hotel designed by one of my husband’s UVA architecture teacher, W.G.Clark. Especially the simple concrete, glass and wood design and the floor to ceiling windows .

Seaside, Florida
* A visit here occurred so my husband could see in-person this 1981 New Urban planned city he learned about in architecture school. Lots of great architects were involved in the design of the houses and buildings in the town. I enjoyed my stay in the cottage on the beach.

The Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain
* What a building designed by Frank Gehry! I toured it with my family just after it opened. Recently, I enjoyed watching this light show video to celebrate its 20th Anniversary.

Venice, Italy
* ALL of Venice is utterly unique. ALL of it!! My husband spent his last semester studying in Venice while getting his Masters at UVA and I joined him for a week. Then we returned three years ago with our girls to share this magical city with them over Christmas and New Years. It is now a family favorite city!

My house, Arlington, Virginia
* My husband designed the house we live in now. He calls it White-Out House because we razed our old house or whited it out, and build this energy-efficient home. Looking back on the kinds of spaces we like to spend time in, I start to see more clearly why my husband designed our home the way he did. I love it!






Positive Peer Pressure!

As I scrolled through my twitter feed this morning, I read this:


I feel like a superstar after spending because teacher Tammy Stoker bravely presented with me at the VSRA conference on Thursday.

I feel like a superstar after listening to an inspiring Keynote and a second session presentation by Jen Serravallo. She helped me remember how reading is so many skills and how as teachers, we can assess and prioritize what skill to strengthen next, using a her hierarchy chart:


Plus, at a later session in the day about using technology in the classroom, Jen sat down right next to me!! We supported each other as the presenter nudged us to share our thinking about a book using two technologies: chatterpix and flipgrid. I love how Jen spent time being a participant in the conference as well as a presenter! She models being a life-long learner well.

I feel like a superstar after the session presentation by Harvey “Smokey” Daniels . This was my first time hearing him speak and I loved his positivity and sense of humor. He also generously shares his presentations here. He got me to closely read Social Studies and Science images and participate in a discussion. He used simple guiding questions:
What do you notice?
What do you want to talk about?
If you could talk to person in image, what might you ask?
What might you hear or smell if you were in the image?
Describe….  Use an SAT word!
Can you suggest a title?
And he reminded us:  “When images are vividly attached, learning happens.”

I feel like a superstar after my Saturday morning Teacher Research Club meeting. Sitting from 7:30-9:30am on a Saturday at a Starbucks and sharing our research question and the data we are collecting, I left feeling energized. My colleagues care so much about learning that their inquiry is pushing me in a positive way to work even harder with my students. Love POSITIVE PEER PRESSURE!!

Who makes YOU feel like a superstar?
Where do YOU go to feel the power of positive peer pressure?

I believe in Proficient Reader Research

I heard Jen Serravallo speak yesterday at the 2018 VSRA conference and she shared a slide to show the conference audience what she believes in. I realized it is what I strongly believe in, too. So I sent out this tweet this morning:


Back in 2002, I read Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Keene (Heinemann, 1997) for the first time and it changed me. It taught me to spy on myself as a reader and notice all that I do. For the first time through this lens, I realized I did lots of things well, then a 39-year old reader.

For the first time, I celebrated that I read words and visualize the images created by the words in my mind. I celebrated that at the end of a paragraph, I have wonderings. I celebrated that I could understand the words more clearly using all my own background knowledge.

And I stopped focusing on or being embarrassed for all I didn’t do well as a reader. Like seeing a new, multi-syllabic word and mispronouncing it at first. Like not sounding fluent on my first read-aloud of a text. I still fight anxiety when I read-aloud due to the forced participation and bad memories associated with round-robin reading in elementary school.  I still need to work hard to overcome my negative feelings related to poetry due to the many poems I didn’t “get” in 11th grade AP English class.

Attending the 2018 Virginia State Reading Association Conference helped me to realize that believing in Proficient Reader Research is a thing, as opposed to focusing on what isn’t being done as a reader, a deficient model.  Being a Proficient Reader is my mindset as a reading teacher. I notice ALL that my 6th grade readers do. And as Jen recommends, I start there, with what readers do and then coach them to do the next thing on the learning progression related to the skill.

Thank you, Ellin and Jen for helping me renew what I believe in at the 2018 VSRA Conference!

What do YOU believe in?

VSRA Presentation

Yesterday, instead of teaching my 6th graders, I went to Richmond, VA and made a presentation with my friend and colleague, Tammy. Because of all the support we got, the day was a success.

Thanks to Tammy driving us the two hours down 95, we easily arrived.

Thanks to the helpful Marriot staff, the car was parked, our bags were checked and we had a few hours to grab lunch and rehearse before our 4pm showtime.

Thanks to Evi, our one friend also attending the conference, whose serendipitous encounter just 10 minutes after arriving amongst the 100s of teachers scattered around the lobby, helped calm our nerves. (At least one person was planning to come hear us!)

Thanks to the conference volunteers who registered us and helped us find where we were presenting when confusingly the “Learning Lab” wasn’t listed on the conference map.


Thanks to the tech supports. One man ensured we had the cords and dongle and a working mic and another shared the wifi password with us. (And for Tammy who tracked down these supports while we both envisioned the worst case scenario – our tech not working for a presentation called  Using Technology During Reading and Writing Workshop).

Thanks to Sarah, a conference attendee who volunteered to introduce us to our audience. She arrived early and helped pass out our handout and shared the wifi password and now is a new teacher friend. Afterwards we exchanged emails after we discovered she lives in the next town over from us back home.

Thanks to the 30 or so teachers who came to learn with us! They listened, asked questions and smiled as we both nervously shared examples of our students using padlet, google slides and kidblog in Reading and Writing Workshop all shared from    this padlet.


Finally, thanks also to our school, system who supported us by covering the cost of the conference and are family and friends, who sent text messages of encouragement.

As I sent out a tweet after the presentation, I was reminded that it was International Women’s Day. I’m thankful, as a women, I had the opportunity today to empower more women in their teaching work.

Now today, I get to spend another day here. But this time, I’ll be sitting in the audience to learn from Jen Serravillo and Smokie Daniels! And I’m wearing jeans and my VA sweatshirt (because happily, my team, the UVA Mens Basketball team won their first game yesterday in the ACC tournament – Go Hoos!).


Living like a writer

Living like a writer
looking throughout the day
for a story to tell
a story only you can tell
telling it, not as an “anybody story”
but as your story.

Maybe I tell
of the $80 coupon
for Crate and Barrel
that expires in 48 hours
so immediately after school
I see the reminder note I wrote myself
and use it to purchase new white dishes
to replace the blue ones we’ve used
everyday for 31 years, come this July.
Blue dishes that fed us everyday of our marriage.

Maybe I tell
of the grammar worksheets
my tutee must complete as homework.
We spend 17 whole minutes
on this mundane task,
googling “demonstrative adjective”
to find out this 22-letter term simply means
this, that, these, those
Then happily we spend 43 minutes
actually writing our own stories
stories with adjectives in our sentences when needed
demonstrative, proper, possessive, quantity and quality
telling our stories.

Maybe I tell
of the carry-out shop owner
who knows I am a teacher
and shares her worries
as I await my meal to serve on my new white plates
about her high school son
who is so afraid of all the drugs at school
too afraid to learn well
and how year after year she asked his school
about his ability
and finally the tests were done
and dysgraphia is his diagnosis,
discovered with just/still 5 semesters of school to go.
“Thank you for what you do,” she sincerely stated
as she handed me my carry-out order.

Our Fox

“What is that?” I asked.

It was just after dusk. The sky still has a thin stripe of yellow at the horizon but darkness now covered the foreground. Something drew my eyes out the window and I began to survey my backyard. I stepped closer to the dining room sliding door and looked out, first to the the far left and scanning to the right. Mostly all I saw was shades of gray and black. As my eyes started to adjust, I could make out the tall oak tree.  Next to it, a raised mound in the middle of the otherwise flat ground appeared. Then the mound moved.

“Wait, I think it’s our fox!”

I kept staring into the backyard darkness. Suddenly, the mound had two ears, four legs, and a bushy tail. Then the mound moved a bit to the left, circled, crouched and laid down. “Look Brian, it’s our fox,” I yelled to my husband in the living room. We both now stared out at our backyard critter. He looked so comfortable. Just chilling in our backyard.

We stood for minutes, just looking. Then we noticed the dark mound rise, strut toward the neighbor’s fence and hop over it, gracefully out of our view.

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In books, the fox is always the perpetrator or the trickster. Today, in my yard, he or she seemed calm and quiet. A backyard friend.

Study Groups

When I teach a lesson as a Reading 6 teacher, I teach it one day – A Day – 5 times. Then on B day, 3 more times. Yes, 2 of my periods, called Mods at my school, are full year reading class so they come daily. Then the other 3 Mods are a semester class, every other day and on the off day, they learn a foreign language.

So today I taught a lesson for the 6th, 7th and 8th time today. It was Session 14 in the new Social Issues Book Club unit, part of the Units of Study for Teaching Reading in Middle School. They suggest to have the kids reflect on this video on vimeo called Bystander, using the words victim, perpetrator, bystander and upstander.

I wanted the students to have the 4 words defined and name a character from books we’d read during this unit that acted like the word so I could see them apply the definition before viewing. But I also wanted this task to go quickly so I made it a competition.  “The first book club that adds these 4 words to their notebook, defines them and adds an example of a character acting as the word, gets a prize. As you work, you may share ideas/answers with your club members. Work together and let me know when all in your club have the task completed.”

Boy, did making it a competition motivate middle schoolers! “I’ll look up victim. You look up perpetrator,” I heard, “I think the dad in Stray is an upstander. Who’s a bystander?” There isn’t really a perpetrator in The Lemonade Club? said another. “Sure there is – cancer!” was the clubmate reply.

As one group announced they were done, I gave each a peppermint treat and told them to get up, take their notebooks and help the other groups finish. Within minutes, all in the room were done and ready to watch the video.  The video discussion was just as lively. But I’ll save that for tomorrow’s Slice.

Just before showing the video, I congratulated all. I told them how proud I was to see their book club working well together to get the task done. Then I gave them a tip that I learned from Mary Ehreworth at TCRWP this past summer – teach middle schoolers and high schoolers to form study groups. My tip sounded something like this:

“Readers, what you just did just then was so smart. You formed a study group and got the work done and done fast. Because you were talking and teaching and writing while completing the task, you really know these words now. In 7th and 8th grade, in High School and in college you will be given tasks to do and there will NOT be enough hours in the day to do it all. I encourage YOU to form study groups. Ask a few others to form a group. Pick a place to meet after school. Divide up the work and share answers. It isn’t cheating. It is a smart way to ensure that you get all the assignments done and learn well.” 

Today, as my 8th group collaborated together, I sat back and smiled. I wish someone had told me to collaborate more when I was a student in Middle School. High School, and College.

Did you form study groups when you were in school?
Do you encourage your students to collaborate together?



Now I Tag

I started my first blog back on July 13, 2011. At that time I began reading the blogs of  Staff Developers at TCRWP and thought if they could do it, so could I. I posted a total of 11 posts from July to December that year. I included writing related to my own reading and tips on teaching reading and writing. I included photos and hyperlinks. I added widgets to allow people to follow me, show blogs I follow and archive my posts. I used blogspot and was pretty proud of myself.

Now in 2018, I feel I have evolved as a blogger. I owe that in large part to the community I found here at TheTwoWriting Teachers. In March, 2014 I started a new blog to host my first ever Slice of Life posts. My first blog stayed as the blog where I post my learning at TCRWP and other PD related to Reading and Writing. This new blog’s purpose was to hold only the stories I can tell which became my blog’s title. It held my small moment slices and it served me well all of 2014. That first year, after writing for 31 days, I was done. I went back to occasionally adding to my other blog. I returned to my SOL blog in 2015 by adding my OLW thoughts and then March, 2015 another 31 days!

After year two, I felt comfortable enough as a writer to add a Tuesday Slice to my routine during the months not called March and I started adding 4ish slices during these months. And then daily in March. I followed this pattern through 2016.

Then I started noticing people “liking” my posts and I wanted to be able to “like” them back. By then, my daughter, Anne, was blogging (her insightful posts can be found HERE) and she helped me start a new blog using wordpress. WordPress allows me to easily like others. It allows me to easily reply to comments. I liked wordpress so much that since, then, I’ve started a blog to hold onto my thinking about teaching Middle School and another blog I use with a group of teachers doing Teacher Research. 

However, this weekend I wanted to be the kind of blogger who uses “tags”. I’ve seen this on other’s blog pages like this one on Fran McVeigh’s:

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One problem, my go-to tech support (AKA my daughter, Anne) is living and working in France until May. And I wanted to do this NOW. So I searched google “How to tag in a wordpress blog” and it indicated that there were only 8 million links to help me. When I clicked on VIDEO, now only 6 million links were available! So I picked one and watched. It indicated that this box can appear as I am drafting my post if I click on the wheel on the top right corner.

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Without clicking on the wheel, which was something I had never done before, my screen simply looked like this:

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Suddenly, I got it!! I went to my dashboard and clicked on BLOG POSTS and saw this total:

Screen Shot 2018-03-04 at 2.08.26 PMYikes…that meant I could revisit each of the 274 posts, click on the wheel and add a tag or two or three. I started with enthusiasm. Soon, my stomach was grumbling and I took a lunch break. Then I pushed on. I wanted to be a blogger who tagged and it only felt right if I tagged all that went before and then started tagging each in the making of a post going forward. After a dinner break, I finally finished! Now this can be seen on my blog:

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Before I publish, let me just add the tags for this post. What is it mostly about? I’m tagging it like this: tech, SOL, Blogs, friends, Anne.  

 I can’t wait for Fran to see this tomorrow when I post it as my SOL #5!

Are you a blogger who tags? Are you a blogger who uses another feature? Please share!

PS: I also discovered I can publish this right now to be scheduled to actually be published tomorrow…so sneaky!!

PSS: I still want to be the kind of slicer who includes the orange slice and how I’m blogging as part of the challenge. Maybe I’ll figure out how to add that next weekend!