Winter Blues – #SOL March Challenge

I’ve been under the weather for the last three weeks or so.

I’ve had a bad cold, which hasn’t helped. But I think I’ve had the winter blues.

The endless snow. The cloudy days. That feeling that it’s only February and it’s a long tunnel ahead. Just feeling down about several projects that seemed to be going nowhere.

Now that I’m feeling better physically, my outlook has changed. Or is it the other way around? Has my outlook changed and so I’m feeling better physically? Perhaps. Maybe both at once?

It doesn’t take much to feel worn down and it takes even less to get back on the right track. One loving look. One hour at the gym. A reminder of why I’m doing this at all.

It’s March. And, while the snow hasn’t melted away, the days are getting longer. Spring Break looms ahead.

I can do this.

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for sponsoring the Slice of Life March Challenge! 



#SOL2018 March Challenge Day #3

This has been a tough winter.

Looking for a house.

Settling in to a new city, new country, new schools.

Apparently, this has been a harsh winter in Calgary. But, honestly, it hasn’t felt that bad. Have we adapted so well this time around? Maybe I was expecting worse? Either way, it’s March 3rd and in the last two days we were hit with about 30 centimeters of snow. Yeah and wow!

At the end of this month we move out of our rental and into our new house. The transition that started this summer will be complete. Once our shipment arrives, we can start to feel like we’re at home, with our things. Everything will be familiar once again.

It has been a tough winter. And, although it’s not over yet, it hasn’t been too bad.

Happy slicing!

Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers for sponsoring this March Slice of Life Challenge.

Day #1 – #MarchSOL18

Almost missed slicing today – the first day of the March challenge!

So, this is going to be a short slice.

Looking forward to a month of slicing.

Not looking forward to more snow, although it’s definitely too late for that: it’s snowing now!

At least tomorrow is Friday; the snow is supposed to fall all weekend. Sunday we’ll have a break.

Hey, it’s March!

Here we go!

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for sponsoring the #MarchSOL18.

A Bittersweet Time of the Year

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for sponsoring the Slice of Life Challenge every Tuesday.

Winter settles in. The snow is everywhere. More snow is on the way.


Indoor recess is more frequent as the temperature dips below -20 degrees Celsius.

Students rush in from lunch to find an independent reading spot. The room is silent as I take attendance; you can hear a pin drop.

January is done. February is slipping away fast.

World Read Aloud Day ends tomorrow for us; two more Skype sessions in the morning.

Teachers’ Convention is next week. Two days of learning and then a three-day weekend to rejuvenate.

In my mind, this is the mid-way point of the year. The next few months will follow in a blur as we read, write, talk and learn our way through grade 4. We’ve accomplished so much. So much more learning to do.

This is a bittersweet time of the year.



I am a Teacher Writer

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for sponsoring the Slice of Life Challenge every Tuesday.


The workshop approach to reading and writing is as second nature to me as anything else I do as a teacher. It’s not perfect. In fact, I would never want it to be. Nevertheless, it feels familiar despite the many revisions and adaptations I’ve made to it over the years. It provides an invaluable routine for productive reading and writing habits to develop and for joyful learning to flourish. I have been teaching this way since my second year as a teacher when I happened to come across Donald Graves’ seminal work – Writing: Teachers and Children at Work. At about the same time I was becoming familiar with the writing process, I was attending professional learning sessions at the Writing Project at UC Berkeley and later that summer I participated in an urban teacher cohort that studied children’s writing in the classroom, also as part of the Writing Project.

Years later, I am still that writing teacher that believes in the importance of “writing my way through meaning” and in sharing this passion with my students. I reject “prompt writing” or the “creative-writing-on-Fridays” approach as the only writing kids do. I have rebelled against the imposed rigidity of packaged units of study, particularly without a deep understanding of the workshop approach and have argued that canned programs are not good for kids and teachers.

And, I am a teacher writer myself, even if it’s hard to say it, much less to write it. But the more I say it, the less false it seems. So, here it goes –

I am a teacher writer.

Yet, and still, I let the inaccurate perceptions of others cloud my own studied ideas about teaching and learning. I get distracted by uninformed nay sayers, innocent or otherwise. Some days are harder than others for staying the course. I flinch when I see my students’ reaction to my version of “tightening up” in response to self-doubt.

There are no simple solutions. There are ebbs and flows all the time. Like most teachers, I am incredibly hard on myself. If something is not going well, I dwell on the negative rather than celebrating the positive. I don’t give myself enough credit for the great things happening in my classroom because I’m self-conscious about doing so; it feels like I’m tooting my own horn. But would that be such a bad thing?

I am aware that not paying attention to and documenting the ways in which I create a classroom culture conducive to joyful learning means I can easily fall through the rabbit hole of others’ perceptions and lose sight of the techniques and strategies that make what I do in the classroom work for my students and for me. This awareness is making me more determined than ever to intentionally notice and name what I do to make my classroom a happy, energetic learning space for my students.




Review of Zachary’s Dinnertime – Multicultural Children’s Book Day #ReadYourWorld

Zachary’s Dinnertime, a picture booZachary's Dinnertimek for elementary aged children, written by Lara Levinson and illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright, highlights traditional meals from several different cultures.

Zachary, the main character, doesn’t like taking part in the daily preparation and clean up of his family’s dinners. He is also bored with having to prepare the same dishes day in and day out. Therefore, in a sudden flash of apparent rebellion, he decides to eat dinner at the houses of five different friends where, as a guest, he is certain he won’t have to help prepare the meal or clean up afterwards. During the next five days, Zachary is treated to Japanese, Mexican, Israeli, African, and Indian-American meals.  After each meal away from home, Zachary discovers that, although each meal is uniquely delicious, he misses participating in his own family’s meal preparations. And, in the end, he invites his friends to enjoy dinner at his house.

I appreciated the colorful illustrations of families enjoying their meals together. If I didn’t know anything about the food preferences of the cultures depicted in this book, I would be able to learn a little bit about typical Indian-American foods, for example; this information could motivate me to find out more.

If I were to read Zachary’s Dinnertime to my grade 4 students, I can anticipate some of their questions about the structure of this story. For example, my students might say that it’s not clear how he can skip his family dinners to go to his friends’ family suppers instead. Did his parents give him permission? Is this a technique the author uses so that Zachary can then tell about what his diverse group of friends typically eat for dinner, so different from what his own family enjoys? Or, is Zachary so bored with having to do chores (or is it that he is bored of having to prepare the same foods every night?) that he daydreams about enjoying the colorful meals at his friends’ houses?

Like my students, this reader is confused when the narrator tells us about Zachary not liking to do chores at home and then quickly jumps to Zachary’s determination to skip his own family’s dinners altogether to go to a different friend’s house instead. An uninformed reader might get the impression that these are the only kinds of foods these families eat. The illustrations depict nuclear families, yet a quick scan of any classroom would suffice to confirm that this is not the reality of most of our students today.

You might think I’m being nit picky here. Perhaps. After all, this is one book among many about multicultural families. True. That’s why I would make sure to pair Zachary’s Dinnertime with other books that help students understand the complexity of different cultures and peoples.

In conclusion, Zachary’s Dinnertime is a pleasant introduction to different cultural traditions, particularly around food. I would follow up this book with stories that can serve as talking points about more authentic multicultural traditions and experiences.



Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board.

2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors

HONORARY: Children’s Book Council, Junior Library Guild

PLATINUM:Scholastic Book Clubs

GOLD:Audrey Press, Candlewick Press, Loving Lion Books, Second Story Press, Star Bright Books, Worldwide Buddies

SILVER:Capstone Publishing, Author Charlotte Riggle, Child’s Play USA, KidLit TV, Pack-n-Go Girls, Plum Street Press

BRONZE: Barefoot Books, Carole P. Roman, Charlesbridge Publishing, Dr. Crystal BoweGokul! World, Green Kids Club, Gwen Jackson, Jacqueline Woodson, Juan J. Guerra, Language Lizard, Lee & Low Books, RhymeTime Storybooks, Sanya Whittaker Gragg, TimTimTom Books, WaterBrook & Multnomah, Wisdom Tales Press

2018 Author Sponsors

Honorary Author Sponsors: Author/Illustrator Aram Kim and Author/Illustrator Juana Medina

Author Janet Balletta, Author Susan Bernardo, Author Carmen Bernier-Grand, Author Tasheba Berry-McLaren and Space2Launch, Bollywood Groove Books, Author Anne Broyles, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Eugenia Chu, Author Lesa Cline-Ransome, Author Medeia Cohan and Shade 7 Publishing, Desi Babies, Author Dani Dixon and Tumble Creek Press, Author Judy Dodge Cummings, Author D.G. Driver, Author Nicole Fenner and Sister Girl Publishing, Debbi Michiko Florence, Author Josh Funk, Author Maria Gianferrari, Author Daphnie Glenn, Globe Smart Kids, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Author Quentin Holmes, Author Esther Iverem, Jennifer Joseph: Alphabet Oddities, Author Kizzie Jones, Author Faith L Justice , Author P.J. LaRue and, Author Karen Leggett Abouraya, Author Sylvia Liu, Author Sherri Maret, Author Melissa Martin Ph.D., Author Lesli Mitchell, Pinky Mukhi and We Are One, Author Miranda Paul, Author Carlotta Penn, Real Dads Read, Greg Ransom, Author Sandra L. Richards, RealMVPKids Author Andrea Scott, Alva Sachs and Three Wishes Publishing, Shelly Bean the Sports Queen, Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Gayle H. Swift Author Elsa Takaoka, Author Christine Taylor-Butler, Nicholette Thomas and  MFL Publishing Author Andrea Y. Wang, Author Jane Whittingham Author Natasha Yim

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.

Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party!

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers:

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators:

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

10 minutes of uninterrupted writing

Once a week, on Mondays, my students have writing homework.

They write, anything, for at least 10 minutes without stopping. A parent used the term “uninterrupted writing” in an email message to me earlier this year, and so the phrase has stuck.

10 minutes of uninterrupted writing

child writing pexels-photo-256468

My students keep track of their writing on a sheet of paper. They record what they wrote that night and how it went for them. Comments range from “no one interrupted me” to “I wrote more than I have previously”. Although this is a start, we’ll be working on being more metacognitive over the next few months.


Sometimes my students

  • write a letter to someone
  • write the next section of a story they’ve been working on
  • write about their families
  • tell a story about an after school activity
  • make lists.

And, sometimes, they don’t even share their writing with me.

But, when they do, I am often pleasantly surprised and secretly pleased.

Last night two students wrote poems.

The first poem was about getting writer’s block in the middle of writing her poem, and how she overcame it.

The second poem was shorter than the first poem. It rhymed, just like the first poem. It was written on a loose sheet of paper, unlike the first poem. It was about running and walking at the same time.

My students are finding their voices. Slowly. Tentatively.

They are learning to explore their ideas and feelings through their writing. They are discovering, whether or not they know it yet, that writing worth reading isn’t about the extraordinary experiences in life, although it is that too. But, writing worth reading,the kind of writing readers gravitate to, is about the everyday. The mundane. The ordinary.

It’s writing that mirrors all of our stories.

what's your story pexels-photo-261734

If that is my students’ one takeaway from our writing experience this year, that will have been enough.

Crossposted to The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge