Snippet – #5

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Yesterday I started to panic a little bit.

It feels like the summer is going by way too fast!

And, I haven’t read or done half of the things I had intended to do.

Today I’m less anxious. But only just a little bit less. 🙂

Last week I wrote about reading.

This week I’d like to focus on writing.

Not that I have nothing more to say about reading instruction or assessment, or that reading and writing aren’t related, but I have written what I wanted to write about reading for now.

(Full disclosure: I have been thinking about doing a literacy workshop rather than separate reading and writing workshops, but I need to do a lot more thinking and reading about that before I can blog about it. If you’ve done this in your classroom, I hope you will share in the comments.)


I am excited about returning to writing workshop this year. During the first couple of weeks I plan to get to know my grade 3’s as writers.

It will be an opportunity to expose them to the idea of workshop and what it means. I always find it’s easier for kids to adjust to a reading workshop format, but it’s more challenging to acclimate them to writing workshop.

I plan to establish routines, such as mini lessons, silent writing, quick writes, conferences and author’s chair.

What are you looking forward to doing in your writing workshop? What is something new that you will try? How will you combine reading and writing?

Leave a comment below.

Snippet – Day #4

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Thank you to Juliette Awua-Kierematen for getting me thinking about book clubs.

I am a big fan of adult book clubs, but I’ve only been in one that I loved. It lasted for two to three years. We’d meet once a month at the houses of the club members. We enjoyed delicious pot luck dinners. We read some really good books and we developed special friendships. The best part of this book club is that it had seven permanent members!

Since then I’ve tried to recreate this experience, but I haven’t been successful.

Part of me wants to think that this kind of book club is possible, even if it only happens once in a lifetime. And, I really want to get my students to experience what this could be like in the classroom.

I have read professional books on this topic. I’ve had book club conversations modeled in the classroom by coaches. I’ve done my own feeble attempts at getting book clubs started.

And, I’m still trying to find the perfect formula, even though the perfect book club isn’t necessarily the ideal we should be striving for.

So, here are some ideas I’m exploring at the moment: (1) Allow kids to self-select their first book. This first experience will be important because it will determine who becomes part of their permanent book club for the year. (2) Book clubs will happen every other month for a couple of weeks at a time. (3) Members of each book club will continue to choose what they will read after the first round of book clubs with the same members. (4) I’m still on the fence about whether or not there should be a product at the end of a book club cycle. (5) Book club meetings will include snacks, whether students bring to share (depending on COVID protocols) or bring their own.

What are your thoughts about book clubs? Have you ever been a member of an adult book club? Have you tried them in your class? What words of wisdom can you offer the rest of us?

I’ll look forward to reading your comments.

Snippet – Day #3

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In yesterday’s blog post, Jill Bless commented, and I am paraphrasing, that teachers might be needing some support to jump start their reading conferences after the school year we’ve all had to endure.

And that got me thinking…

My reading instruction certainly looked different teaching online. My in person classroom is organized around a workshop model, but that was seriously compromised this year.

I struggled with so many things, from read aloud to writing about reading to establishing a community of readers to engaging students in small and large group conversations.

And to remedy some of these problems, I tried a variety of platforms and online structures to address what would normally be second nature in person.

So, I’m curious to know what might help you get back on track with reading workshop in the fall?

Whether you were face-to-face, hybrid or fully online, there were disruptions to what we typically do in the classroom. And, while not everything I was doing pre-COVID should stay, there were routines and connections that weren’t as strong for me as they usually are. There were students I failed to reach because we were online.

So, what will you keep?

What will you dismantle?

What new structures and practices will you introduce into your workshop classroom this year?

I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments. Questions and thoughts in progress are also welcome!

Snippet – Day #2

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In an exchange in yesterday’s blog post, I wrote the following:

Juliette…I wanted to plan for something more holistic. This was my first attempt at having everyone reading the same text. I usually just work off whatever students are reading independently. I’m thinking of doing several different kinds of assessments in the fall so that I have a better picture of my students as readers and so that I am better prepared when I’m told I need to do the same assessment for each student. I want to collect my own data as well.

So, what I’m thinking.

I will start off the year with get-to-know-you interviews. Some questions I might ask are: (1) Tell me about the last book you finished. (2) What are you reading now? (3) What will you read next? (4) What are some of your favorite genres? Authors? Series? (5) What would you like to get better at as a reader?

Next, I plan to conduct brief one-on-one conferences as often as possible where I will ask: (1) How’s it going? (2) What are you reading? (3) Do you need any help? Or Have you tried (whatever the strategy or mini lesson that I taught that day or week)?

Then, I want to do slightly more formal reading interviews like the ones I wrote about here.

Finally, I will need to do reading assessments mandated by my school board. I will reserve judgement on those until I find out what they entail. Let’s just say that the fact that they’re mandated makes me a little nervous.

For now, that is a quick sketch of my reading assessment plan for the year.

What are your thoughts on this? I look forward to reading your comments and, especially, your pushback!

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Snippet – Day #1

Ever since I can remember I have done one-on-one reading and writing conferences with students. I like to think of these as “interviews” or “conversations”.

Recently I did reading interviews with my students to culminate our year of online learning.

I selected a fiction text on Epic and asked each child to read the first page aloud while I listened.

Afterwards I asked each student five open-ended questions: (1) What is this text about? (2) What did you notice? (3) What did you wonder? (4) Was this text just right, easy or challenging for you and why? (5) If you could, would you keep reading this story? Depending on students’ responses to these question prompts, I probed further.

I gathered a lot of anecdotal information from these interviews that I will be analyzing and thinking about as I tweak my one-on-one conferences for the fall.

Now, I’d like to invite you into this conversation. How do you conduct reading assessments? What questions do you ask or how do you initiate a conversation about a text? Leave a comment below and let’s talk.

Something New – Day #1

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I am trying something new on my blog.

If I’m being honest, and I aim to always be honest, I’m a little scared to do this.

But I’m itching to make a change. To make a difference. To get out of my way and into the world.

So, I’m going to take a giant leap of faith.

I hope you will join me.

Every day, except on the weekends, I plan to post a snippet of something. This snippet might be in the form of an idea for the classroom. Or a suggestion for a read aloud. Or a thought about a classroom routine. Or maybe a question or dilemma I’m facing as a teacher.

My hope is that this will generate ongoing conversation. Maybe even dissonance. And that it might lead to some form of collaboration. And, even if it doesn’t do any of these things, I will at least capture my ideas in a permanent place for future reference and reflection.

Wherever it takes me, I’m ready.

So, are there any topics you would like to discuss here? Questions you have about any aspect of teaching elementary age students? Ideas of your own you would like to share?

I look forward to hearing from you!

Quietly Courageous

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I have been doing Lisa Sonora’s 30-Day Journal Project.

I just finished day #7.

Since the journal project is asynchronous, I am not doing it in 30 days, but spreading it out for as long as I want to.

I do a prompt whenever I feel the need to be introspective because, for me, this is what journaling is all about.

Each challenge has a short message and quote related to that day’s theme, and three – or more – prompts to choose from.

Day #7 is about being quietly courageous.

Although none of the prompts offered for this day spoke to me, I wrote.

Here is a snippet: …in addition to the quiet voice encouraging me to be courageous, there’s the other voice telling me the opposite.

The constant voice of doubt and the occasional whisper to keep going are not unfamiliar to me.

And, just as familiar, is the power of writing to help me uncover and discover what is hiding beneath the surface of my thoughts and emotions.

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So, as I wrote in response to the provocation for day #7, I realized that being quietly courageous isn’t a moment in time; here today and gone tomorrow. For me, being quietly courageous is an ongoing way to face the fears that hold me back from realizing my full potential.

One way I can be quietly courageous is when I sit down to plan and write my book.

The book that I’ve been wanting to write for a very long time.

The book that is about everything and so ends up being about nothing.

The book that will be a book even if it doesn’t ever get published or no one, except me, ever reads it.

The book that needs to be distilled to its essence before any words ever see the light of day.

So, in the process of thinking about what it means for me to be quietly courageous, I realized that something that is holding me back is the cacophony of ideas in my head. All competing for equal attention and I don’t know where to focus.

So, I need to be quietly courageous and sort out all the voices in my head about all of the things I could write about and brainstorm ideas and then see if there’s a common thread that weaves through all of them that would make for a book. A coherent book. A book that makes sense from beginning to end. A book that I could be proud of.

This I’ve never tried before.

Now, to those of you that have written a book, or books, this may seem like common sense and not earth shattering.

But to me, it is earth shattering.

I’m making my plan public so that I hold myself accountable to making it happen:

(1) Brainstorm topics for professional writing.

(2) Find commonalities – common threads – among the topics. What themes emerge from this process?

(3) Start writing.

(4) Write every day.

(5) Write some more.

(6) Repeat.

This is me being quietly courageous.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge Story.

Every Year It’s the Same

Every year it’s the same.

We rush to the finish line because it feels as if we can’t get there fast enough.

Report cards. IPPs. Farewells. Desks pushed against walls. Chairs stacked to the ceiling…almost. Walls bared. Books put away. Keys returned.

Every year it’s the same.

And when the last day arrives. The day we’ve all been waiting for, it’s bittersweet. It’s anticlimactic. There is sadness and joy all mixed in together.

Another year is done.

And then the regrets start to pile up.

Every year it’s the same.

The shouldas, wouldas, couldas start rearing their ugly heads.

The faces of the kids we couldn’t reach.

The assignments that bombed.

The wasted time.

Every year it’s the same.

And, yet, the successes beckon in spite of the negatives.

The kid who stood up for herself for all her right reasons.

The laughs and chuckles when someone cracked a joke. When I cracked a joke.

The student who enthusiastically debated a point with their classmates.

The surprise visits at home from students who wanted to meet me in person.

The candid declarations made by shy students during one-on-one sessions.

The breakthroughs. The stories. The joys.

The end of a school year is bittersweet.

Every year it’s the same.

The resilience. The encouragement. The kind words – often from student to student.

We made it, even through the hard parts. We learned. We struggled. We took risks. We fell down. We picked ourselves up again.

I am ready to rejuvenate.

Ready for a brand new opportunity to get it just right.

Every year it’s the same.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge.

My New Normal

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I had every intention of writing a #SOL to share on The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge last week.

It didn’t happen, but I continue to write.

I had every intention of finishing report cards by the first due date last Wednesday.

I didn’t get there, but I continued working on them so I could finish by the final due date: yesterday. I refined comments. Checked and rechecked student work. Visualized that student in my mind’s eye – harder this year because of those black squares adorning my screen. And because this whole process feels like just another box we need to check off twice a year. And, does anyone even read the comments or care? And, mostly because traditional report cards are limiting and diminishing to everyone.

I promised myself that I would engage in some kind of physical activity every day: walking, peloton(ing), yoga. Anything.

It hasn’t happened. Because of the weather. Because of report cards. Because I’m too tired. Because…I’ve run out of excuses. Again. But this time feels different because I’m different. Because my body has the memory of what it felt like when I had been walking steadily. No excuses. It won’t be long.

I miss getting lost in a book. Every day I try to read more than a page or two, but the mindlessness that I crave so I don’t have to think about anything and that Netflix offers beckons and I put the book down. And, instead of getting lost in the pages of a good novel, I get lost in the episodes of mini series and limited series and original series that take me down rabbit holes of nothingness. Meanwhile, the books languish beside me. A reminder of what I still need to do.

I have committed to a daily morning meditation practice.

I am starting slowly because I’ve done this before and then given it up too quickly. I started at 5 minutes. I am now at 7 minutes. Slowly building up to longer sessions of contemplative stillness. It is at these times that I realize how busy my mind is. How hard it is for me to slow down and how much I need to.

I have committed to a daily morning writing habit.

And I do it. I journal. I plan. I reflect. I write stories. I get out of my comfort zone. I write.

So, some successes and some failures.

Pick myself up after a fall.

Since my cancer diagnosis and treatment, my life is different. I am different. I am not perfect and I never will be, but I am making changes and I am more at peace with myself than I’ve ever been.

Acknowledging small successes, small wins.

That is my new normal.

It’s Almost Summer! Time for Reflection

Another school year is coming to an end. My last day of work is June 30th. 22 more sleeps.

I have so much to reflect on as I think about my 35th year in education. I had to learn quickly and create new ways of teaching online. I am proud that I dove in ready to face what, sometimes, felt like insurmountable challenges.

During summer vacations I reflect on the previous school year by journaling, brainstorming ideas for the next year, reading professional books and engaging with other educators through book studies or workshops.

I will do some of that this summer, but I’m going to be very discriminating about the formal and informal professional learning I participate in. Although I’ve put a few events on my calendar, I will be saying no more often than is typical for me.

Whatever your summer learning plans, I hope you make room for rest and relaxation with friends and family to the extent that this pandemic allows.

Next week, I will share some of the ideas that have been percolating in my mind for returning to in person school in the fall.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge.