Faint of Heart #sol20

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 5.04.44 AMFaint of Heart #sol20

March 1, 2020

Dear Reader (& Writer) and Myself,

I am just going to put this right out there.  I don’t want to make this daily writing seem easier than it is. Like any other habit we create, it’s true that it needs time to mature.  Also true is that making a public commitment to write every single day also makes you write every single day.   So here’s some of the advice for me to remember and for possibly, if your thinking of doing this, joining in, for you to consider.

Don’t (and do) think about THIRTY-ONE days… Thirty-one days is and actually is not that long of a time.  If you think of it in any sort of reductionist way you want to, you can reduce it.  For example,  it’s five Sundays.  What might your Sunday theme be?   It’s five Mondays, perhaps on Mondays you write about books.  You get the idea.  Some years I have a theme for every day of the week.  I’m a coach, so one day I write about something from my coaching notebook.  One day I write about something new I’ve read about or want to try.  One year I always wrote abut someone else’s blog on Friday.   You get the idea, which leads me to my next secret to my success. 

A PLAN & a Notebook For me,  it’s an actual notebook (actually 2) that I carry with me all the time.  I don’t write complete slices, however when an idea strikes me, I write it down.  In the beginning,  I wrote most of the slice when it came to me in a document and then later revised and dropped into the blog.  So two things:  I had a stockpile and I had an idea bank.  After years of slicing,  I know there are lean times with less ideas and feast times with so many ideas to write.  Side note if you’re an educator,  this is a real life version of a working heart map or idea bank and a writing journal.  It’s something you can use with your students to talk about the ever present coaching point of idea generation.

READ other peoples’ blogs.  Steal, borrow, poach, elaborate on others’ ideas.  In writing we teach students to use mentor texts.  You have a whole cadre of mentors right at your keystroke.  Definitely read and comment on the couple of writers immediately above you in the comments.  Also find some writers ( and to do this you have to read lots of blogs for several weeks) that you read and comment on every single time.  This is how you build a cohort in this group.  A cohort, your band of writers, is essential.  They are like running buddies.  They notice if you slip, in a good way, and encourage to keep at it.  They give you ideas.  They begin to comment on your writing.  You learn their ways.  Some of them you adopt too.  However, don’t be discouraged if it takes a while for that to develop.  You can help it along by commenting on a lot of posts at a lot of different times a day.  Another thing that helps is posting at a consistent time every day.  Then folks that post  at that same time become your cohort.

500 words . One of my writer friends named his blog a riff on 500 words.  Shoot for 500 words a day.  I’m not sure why it’s magic, but it seems when we get to that number, the writing really comes together.

Benefit.  This is my fourth year…  it seems like yesterday and it seems like forever.  I have good friends here.  People I know are looking for my words and even when their jumbled or confusing or downright personal, will still encourage me to write more and notice my presence.  The most important thing that has come from this writing is becoming a writer, a real writer.  Just like the Velveteen Rabbit when loved a lot becomes real, when I began to write a lot,  I noticed writing in a completely different way.  I taught writing in a completely different way.  I talked about writing in a completely different way.  This writing changed everything I thought about myself as a writer, as a reader, as a teacher, as a coach.

Enough about that for right now.  There will plenty of time this month for us to remanence, to get to know each other, to learn so much.

IMG_8436 (3) I am grateful to all of the coordinators at Two Writing Teachers or all of their inspiration in the slice community and also in their blog about teaching writing and all it has inspired in my work.  I am grateful to my welcome wagon blogger who commented not just that first year, but every single blog I wrote for over three years.  He was more than a mentor to me and I’ll forever be paying forward his kindness.  I’m grateful to my friend, Clare, who got me started and to my Connecticut gang who teach me, support me, and laugh with me.  I’ll be writing daily for 31 days in the March Slice of Life Challenge.  This is day 1. 

From My Notebook: After Assessment #sol19

For the month of March , I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers.

Screen Shot 2019-03-09 at 6.04.34 AMFrom My Notebook:  After Assessment #sol19

March 9, 2019

Notebook Saturdays

Through my work as a literacy coach,  I have teachers that I meet and collaborate with throughout the week.  Usually these meetings are at 7:30 a.m. on a scheduled day of the week. I  meet with each teacher or team for 1/2 hour keeping notes of what we are working on.  Our school is an UOS of Study school following the work of Lucy Calkins and colleagues in this our first year of full implementation.  Most of our meetings are in their classrooms. Some teachers will come with questions, sometimes we plan out what we will work on the next week, sometimes I have a teaching technique or skill  I’ve noticed or a suggestion. I keep a journal entry of each meeting to keep me thinking. I am thankful to Tammy Mulligan, Teachers for Teachers, for assisting me in working on offering a menu of ideas during this coaching time.  This is still after years a work in progress.


IMG_3618After our assessment experiment, (Reflection),  it was obvious that the teacher felt that her students’ response writing was in question and by default, her teaching.  Whenever we start to feel this way as educators,  it’s time to go to real hard data.  The data won’t lie to you.  So we went to the rubric.  Screen Shot 2019-03-09 at 6.25.25 AM.png

We couldn’t use the student exemplars after we used a different text, but they do inform the type of writing we would expect at each level.  Focusing on the level 2, 3, and 4 expectations, the teacher began reading the essays aloud.  We quickly agreed upon a level and sorted the writer’s notebooks into piles.  The first observation was relief by the teacher.  The majority of her students’ work approximated Level 3 work.  Most recognized the subtopic, had facts from both texts, however lacked tight organization of those facts. Revision might help that.   She had four students who hadn’t begun the essay or hadn’t finished.   We decided to give them a revision day after copying their original work, to see if a quick teach into synthesis again would adjust their writing.  The teacher gathered the students at the beginning of her writing workshop and said she had read their writing and noticed that they were thinking about Black History and adding evidence from both text.  She reminded them of the components of synthesis and then divided them into groups to work.  She kept the students whose writing was on expectation on the rug and just asked them to read through their work and add evidential support or word change where they thought it might improve their already on-target writing.  The non-starters got a review to jump start them.  The random-evidence students were the most difficult.  These students had somewhat of an idea, but had really missed the mark with synthesis.  In small group, we reviewed synthesis and the student created a new thesis, fitting that thesis into their former writing proved difficult.  The class will leave this work as is after this workshop and the teacher will use this data and the data from the original flash draft to inform her response to reading work in the Character Studies Unit.

What We Did and Why It Might Help

Rubric- Rubric use keeps the work grounded in realistic expectations

Partners- Two teachers looked at the work together, reading aloud and determining the                       overall level of the work, strengths and areas to work on

Quick-  Sometimes scoring seems daunting, by working quickly we accomplished the                       same work without too much labor

Copy Exemplars right away-  Exemplars will help her team in the future and in the                                                                 present discuss what they are noticing, what they might                                                            work on, and potential changes for next year.  For her it will                                                      also help to discuss this with her colleagues that                                                                            administered the assessment with the original texts.

Decide Now What?-        She decided to give it additional time.  Most of the time                                                                 analyzing and moving on will be the optimum choice.

Screen Shot 2019-03-09 at 6.59.22 AM.pngAnalyzing      We use Messy Sheets, a wonderful tool introduced to us by Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan.  Without the benefit of them,  you can read more about this idea in their book Assessment in Perspective.

Planning- This is the place we will consider where in the next unit these skills fall?                               Which skills have a goal of mastery and which skills will approximation be sufficient?  Where will we do this work?  Whole class?  Strategy Groups? Conferring?  I have a 80-50-20 rule I use.  80% need instruction- whole group,       and so on.

One final note about the process, it took me longer to write about it that we took executing this protocol.  We met for thirty minutes, twenty of which were quickly moving through these steps.  Hopefully,  it will make this assessment purposeful for both the teacher and the students.

Grocery List #NPM2018



Grocery List

April 6, 2018

Just now composing

a grocery list of sorts

Granola, coffee,

sugar, tea,  cheerfulness, soap,

worry, kindness, confidence, hope


A tanka is a Japanese poem consisting of five lines, the first and third of which have five syllables and the other seven, making 31 syllables in all and giving a complete picture of an event or mood.  Thanks Elisabeth Ellington for this amazing example.

The Teaching Point #NPM2018

IMG_0729The Teaching Point

April 4, 2018

A Found Poem

Today I want to teach you

Writers look closely

  Teach people even more

Then they put into words what they’ve learned


Writers,  I want to show you

  The first thing I notice

Do you notice anything else?


Writers, do you see?

 If we look closely

   Pictures can spark us.


Writers,  I want to share some things

 I thought that was so great

  He wrote


I also overheard

She told

She also used a few words

 Nice work!


Writers, I know you

 Have so much you want to do today,

So I’m going to send you off now.


I will add this strategy

 Remember to use all you know

Get started!   


This found poem is from the Nonfiction Chapter Book First Grade Unit of Study from IMG_0729.JPGCalkins.  Distilling the words in this way, gave me a stronger perspective of what we are trying to accomplish in first grade or any writing instruction.  

Indecision #NPM2018


April 3, 2018

I might stay here in the light of this room

or I might go away as perhaps I should

I might take a walk with a dog or alone

Unless it rains, in which case, stay home.

I might read a book or

The piles still grow

I might have a talk or

Maybe stay still

I might tell you more

And perhaps I will

I might carry through

With all of these plans

I might stay here

Or I might go