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.

Why I Write

Inspired by the question posed by Margaret Simon’s #DigitLit and the upcoming National Day to Write on October 20th, I took the bait and thought about WHY I write.

I write to tell, not an anybody story, but MY story.
I write to have power.
I write to share and then read others’ writing to be inspired to write more.

I learned to write by attending Summer Institutes at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. One workshop by Shana has stuck with me. She showed a first draft of Abraham’s story and then the revised story where he worked to make it not just an anybody story but a story only he could tell. (To see Abraham’s writing, click here and scroll down to my notes on Shana’s workshop.)

His revised story wasn’t something that anybody else could write. It was a story ONLY HE could tell. It was HIS story. That stuck with me. I write and as I do, I include the details of MY moment. It is my story that ONLY I can tell.

I was further reminded of this when both a friend, Catherine Flynn, and and I wrote about hearing Lucy Calkins’ keynote at the beginning of the 2016 August Summer Reading Institute. We both were at the same event. We both listened for one hour. Then we both wrote about it. Catherine here and Me here. Yet, both of us focused on very different parts. We both wrote that moment as our own story. This is ONE reason that I write. I experience the world, reflect on it and respond in a way that is unique to me.

I also write because as Lucy tells in this video, “Writing changes the world.” It is powerful tool. It is a way to get our opinion on a topic across in a peaceful way. At times, it will powerfully make change. I’m not writing The Declaration of Independence to create a county, but I am happy when I have changed a few things in my little world because of my writing!

Finally, I write and share. Teachers College Reading and Writing Project taught me the writing process and emphasized that it includes sharing/publishing. So I now write and on Tuesdays and every day in March, I try to post here  as part of the TwoWritingTeachers writing community. Because I know others will read my writing, I work a bit harder at it before posting. Because I am a part of this writing community, I get a good feeling when another reads my writing and leaves me a comment. I also take time to read others’ writing and leave a comment. Always, another writer inspires me to keep writing and often inspires a writing structure or genre or topic to write about. I write in a community of writers and in so doing, gain energy to keep writing.

As I get ready to celebrate National Day of Writing in two days, I can honestly say that I am a proud writer who writes to tell, not an anybody story, but MY story and I write to have power and I write to share and then read other’s writing and be inspired to write more. I am most grateful that I live in a place and time where I am allowed and encouraged to be a writer.

I will be celebrating this on Thursday, October 20, 2016 and every day!
Happy Writing!

Time Capsule Letter

I just finished my first year at Discovery ES, a brand new ES in Arlington County, VA. To learn more about this amazingly designed, energy-efficient and sustainable building, go HERE and HERE.

As we ended the year, students, staff and parents were asked to write a letter to themselves to place in a TIME CAPSULE that will be opened in 20 years – June 2036. (My Principal even sent out an Outlook Calendar reminder for June, 2036 – who knew Outlook even allowed accepting dates so far into the future?!!)

As a last day of school activity, my students wrote a letter to themselves, with this first line: Dear _____,  If you are reading this, it is 20136….

As I collected them, I noticed that many wrote down questions: Am I married? Did I go to college? Have the Caps won a Stanley Cup yet?!!

I wrote my letter the week before at the beginning of a Planning Day with fellow colleagues to plan out writing instruction for the next year. Here’s my letter:

June 16, 2016 (6-16-16)

Dear Sally,

Today I sit in the Blue Sky Studio. I am 7 days away from ending my inaugural year as a 3rd grade teacher at Discovery ES. I am given today to work on a plan to implement a writing curriculum called Units of Study for Teaching Writing written by the BEST educator in the world (in my opinion), Lucy Calkins and her staff at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. I sit today with a pretty great group of co-workers at Discovery – Principal Erin Russo, Assistant Principal Judy Concha, Reading Specialist Jen Dodd and Instructional Lead Kathy Olmstead. It is our hope to pour our collective knowledge and passion for strong writing instruction into this day, which then can wash over our school, providing Discovery Explorers time to write daily the stories that only THEY can tell!

Erin begins by saying, “Can I add to our agenda? I want us to write for 20 minutes a reflection to be added to the time capsule to be opened in 20 years.” My eyes well up. 20 years. I’ll be 72. 72, going on 73. Many questions enter my mind: Will I be here, still living at 5218 N 12th Street (the house I started living in just 6 months ago) or in a nursing home? Am I still teaching? Am I still alive? Looking ahead 20 years when I’ve already lived more than twice that makes me pause…. makes my eyes well up a bit.

However, I hope I am here. And that, after opening this letter, I happily walk the halls of Discovery ES, now a 20-year old school and see the 2036 kids still sharing their stories and still using the latest tools to create, design, and produce. I look forward to seeing all the enthusiastic faces exploring their world  to solve the current issues of the ’30s and their excitement for what they can accomplish in the 2040s.

In 2016, I can confidently say that I am proud of all my 3rd graders accomplished this year. My 3rd graders wrote and wrote and wrote this school year, 2015-2016. We used a composition notebook and we used kidblog, a kid-friendly blogging site with easy access because every 3rd grader in our school (and 2nd, 4th and 5th graders) was given their own iPad to keep and use all year long. We also did research and shared our knowledge by standing in front of the Green Screen in the broadcast center. We made Google Slide shows about our visit to the National Gallery of Art. We used Google Docs to write an adapted fairytale. We made iMovie trailers. My favorite one was Jackson and Will’s Epic Failure with a Ball! I wonder what tools will be used by the students in 2036? I wonder what Jackson and Will (and all the Room 212 friends) are doing in 2036?! I believe all will be doing GREAT things because as 8 year olds, they were doing great things!!! I hope many come back to Discovery in 2036 so we can reconnect!

I am very proud that I  had a part in the opening this new school this year. I am proud that this school is built with sustainability in mind. It is very much like the house my husband, Brian designed and had built for us and that we moved into on December 23, 2015. I wonder if both spaces are working well in 2036? My hope is YES.

And my real hope is to have 20 more years beyond this letter, taking me to 92 years, to tell the stories that only I can tell!! Now back to curriculum planning for the 2016-17 Discovery Explorers! While it is fun (and a little scary, too!) to think long-term, it is the day-by-day short-term plans that get us there!



About my writing process: I made an effort to NAME things. Since my audience is the 20-years-from-now-me, I revised to name the people and the tools and the spaces in our building assuming that my memory may not be as sharp 20 years from now! And I’m so curious to compare the tools listed here with those used by the class of 2036.

What will YOU be doing in 2036??!!!

Not an Orange story but a Slice story!

Last week, I prepared my students to write their final on-demand personal narrative story as a 3rd grader. We gathered on the carpet first and I reminded them to use all they now know about writing a strong personal narrative to write this piece.

“What will you do?” I asked.

We generated this list that I jotted on the white board.


Then R said, “We should write Not an Orange.”

Confused, I suggested, “Say more.”

“We’ve been saying, ‘write a seed story, not a big watermelon story.’ But we’ve been zooming in to write a slice. So we should say Write a slice, not an orange.”

My confusion cleared. I got it!

And I’m happy to be a part of THIS writing community as I write this slice of life, my slice today of the larger orange story!


Inspired by National Gallery of Art Painting

(Also, this is my FIRST post using WORDPRESS!! I made the switch over the weekend!)

Friday I had the pleasure of taking the 3rd graders to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Our school is just on the other side of the Potomac River in Arlington, VA and most of the 107 3rd graders had visited this museum before. But in my opinion, you can never visit an Art Gallery too many times!! Also this was not my first fieldtrip with a school group to the National Gallery but it was the first where the docent let the kids use a laser to point to what they notice in a painting and the first where we could record on a device our favorite images. Both uses of technology added to our engagement and learning!

The title of our docent tour was Every Picture Tells a Story and it was a perfect culmination of all the reading and writing we have done this year as 3rd graders. In my group, Ms. Janet asked us to identify all the same things we do when we read or write a printed story – setting, character, plot, and theme but this time we did it while sitting in front of amazing works of art. I was very proud of our class. All participated in a lively and deep conversation about how the artist told a story and we looked very beautiful and handsome as we did it! (We had asked the kids to dress up for the trip!)

This week we are researching and also creating the “story” of the picture.

I picked this painting:

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 6.50.05 AM

As a model for my students, I created these slides:

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 6.56.43 AMScreen Shot 2016-05-17 at 6.57.11 AMScreen Shot 2016-05-17 at 6.58.14 AM

What fun fieldtrips have YOU taken?? 

What small moment can you write??!!

DigiLit Sunday: Curves


This week’s DigiLit topic is CURVES.
Connect to Margaret Simon’s blog Reflections on the Tech to learn more.
To be perfectly honest, when I got a tweet yesterday sharing this word as an invite to join the Sunday conversation, I didn’t think I had anything to say about technology as related to the word CURVES.
In Virginia, there is a woman’s gym called CURVES and as I googled it just now, I see it is a franchise with locations all over. I personally have never been to a Curves gym but one thing I know about it is that you enter, workout in one station, then move to the next station. And once at the end, your workout has targeted all parts of your body.
When I reflected on this gym called CURVES, I do see connections to it and using technology. I personally made it a goal after returning from the Digital and Media Literacy Conference at TCRWP, that I would try ONE technology a week until the end of school. Last week, I tried Todays Meet with my students. This week I asked them to go to KIDDLE to research  science topic. It is a safe visual search engine for kids. Next week, I want to try the GREEN SCREEN at my school. They are going to stand in front of an image of the natural disaster they researched and share as if they are a newscaster on the scene reporting on this “breaking news”. Week by week, as if station by station, I am trying out something in the tech world with my students along for the ride. I guess I am curving my way along a tech path!!
I also think about CURVES as I recall how Colleen Cruz modeled how to teach kids to navigate a website. First, she had us PREVIEW the whole webpage. We saw a video, some text with hyperlinks, ads on the left side. After previewing, she reminded us that now we need to make decisions. Should I read the text first or watch the video? Should I click the hyperlink which takes me to another page to be previewed and then more decisions to be made? She described the inks as like wormholes. Do I click and CURVE my way down to the next page, next page, next page? Does each click help me to understand more about what I set out to learn today OR is the click and curve just a distractor? I’m starting to realize that I need to be an active digital reader who sets a purpose for my reading and then makes a plan to follow a path (sometimes CURVEY!) to reach my goal.
And finally, as I prepare to post my blog reflection as related to CURVES, I will be hitting “SHIFT-2” on my keyboard and a CURVEY a appears —> @ !!
And to think that at first glance, I saw no connection between tech and curves.
Thanks Margaret and the DigiLit community for getting me to think today!!

Celebrating Poetry Writing using Online Poet Websites and Kidblog

Looking back on teaching writing last week in 3rd grade, I see it as a week with not enough time. We had a special science unit to share, led by a resource teacher, so something had to give. Instead of a good 45-60 minutes of Writing Workshop, only about 30 minutes happened. However, looking back, I can celebrate that with wonderful online poetry models and with the tool, Kidblog as a place to easily draft our poems, LOTS still got done during Writing Workshop!!!

First, I placed links to 6 poets in Google Classroom and each day held a 4-7 minute mini-lesson where I simply clicked on one poet’s website and shared one of their poems. Then I suggested that my students try either to draft their own poems now or continue to read more poems, searching for more inspiration. Then I sent all off to work as poets.

Our Google Classroom page looks like this:

For example, on Wed, I shared how Amy reads the Wonderopolis Wondering of the Day and then write and posts a poem related to the wondering (Thank you Educators Collaborative for sharing Amy last Saturday so I could learn about her and her The Poem Farm website!!)
Wednesday night,  I looked on my class Kidblog and saw that Lucas was inspired to write this after he noticed that Amy had written a 26 line poem about Compost, starting each line with the letters A-Z:
and a day later, Lucas’ poem inspired William to begin drafting this:
All because Amy showed us the ABCs of Composting inspired by What is Fertilizer?!!!

On another day, I shared J. Patrick Lewis’ page of POEMS/RIDDLES that looks like this:

Next thing I see on Madeline’s Kidblog page is this:


I also shared Kenn Nesbitt’s poem, Joe the Emoji!

My students already have been using emoji to tell their stories and I wrote about it  HERE. 
Now they are having fun writing poems and songs using lots of emoji. My class regularly takes movement breaks using GoNoodle as our guide. Now the songs we move to there are being written in emoji on Kidblog!! Here’s one example:

I recall one of the Poetry presenters during the Saturday Educator’s Collaboration Day say that when she hears teachers say they don’t have time for poetry, she will fire back, “Do you have 20 seconds to read aloud a poem?” Last week, I did not have the time to run a regular hour-long Poetry Writing Workshop. But my students proved to me that just being exposed to a poem, a riddle, or a song for a few minutes was all they needed to write some fun poetry!!

What poetry are YOU sharing TODAY during National Poetry Month?!!
Be sure to make the time! You’ll be amazed at what gets produced.

Celebrating – Connections to Smart Educators

Saturday, I celebrated connecting to smart educators by posting to Ruth Ayer’s Celebration blog. (If you are looking for another place/day to post your writing, I recommend this!!) Today I am posting my expanded revision of this same post! 

Maggie Beatty was my small group staff developer at TCRWP in 2010. I learned so much from her that summer and I stayed connected to her brilliance through #TCRWP and then when Kate and her began their Indent blog.

When they posted asking for real problems writing teachers experience, I thought why not. I’ll send them one or two.

How fun that this week, they posted their first video sharing a practical way to solve a problem by making and using a DIY (do-it-yourself) Literacy toolkit page with a small group or during a conference.

Why so fun?

Take a minute and watch their brilliance HERE!!

Immediately after watching the video, I sent it to many of my literacy teacher friends who wrote back, just as excited as I was!!


And then of course, this video inspired me to use my Michael’s coupon  on Sunday to purchase MY TOOLS.

My first page is written!!

Next update – my reflection on using it with students!

I continue to celebrate connecting to smart educators!!!
I can’t wait for the DIY Literacy book to come out.
You can pre-order it HERE

#28 I believe writing is both words and pictures!

At the beginning of the month, I was wondering about emoji. ( HERE and HERE).
A colleague didn’t think kids should use them when writing their kidblog posts. I listened and wondered.

This post that I read yesterday which was typed in ONLY emoji solidified my thinking. I believe writing is both words and pictures! Therefore,  think writing with emoji IS writing.

As I type this, I’m recalling how years ago, some librarians didn’t want graphic novels in their libraries. Again, I wondered. I took time to read one, Smile. I noticed as I read that not only was I enjoying a good story, I actually had to work harder to comprehend this story told mostly through pictures.

Yesterday I cooked a special birthday breakfast for my husband – German Apple Pancakes. I saw this recipe on facebook. It was want I call a video recipe. I had to watch and pause a few times to ensure I was including the right amount of each ingredient. But I loved watching how to combine the ingredients and how to cook it in the cast iron skillet in the oven. It turned out yummy! And I was able to cook it because I could read both words and pictures.

Next month, I am attended TCRWP 2nd Annual Digital and Media Institute. I’m not surprised at all that this literacy think tank now offers an institute devoted to figuring out ways to help teach reading and writing specific to our digital and media world.

From emoji to graphic novels to video recipes, as a reader and writer, I will continue to honor both words and pictures!! Because I believe writing is both words and pictures!