Noticing #sol18

IMG_0967Noticing #sol18

March 31, 2018

Lily and I have the luxury of a walk this morning heading out to our woodsy trail.  We haven’t been this way in quite some time impeded by snow for so long. Today spring is breaking through.  Under foot wet soggy leaves make me hesitant, not Lily. She’s confident, leading the way. Twigs break under foot. My eyes  drawn to the the trees overhead, noticing their raw wounds from recent storms. Tiny islands of snow crop up here and there, spring will not be denied now. Lily’s keen nose and sharp eyes notice far more than mine stopping her to smell a branch or rock, look out into the woods that surrounds us. My eyes are drawn to the brilliant green and subtle difference of the moss on every rock. The moss senses the change. 

 I notice myself composing as I walk,  the silence opening up the words that flow across my consciousness. Small phrases worked over like smooth pebbles in a stream.  Not quite right yet. Composing, switching phrases, juggling imagery. Would I have done this before?  Would I have noticed like a wordsmith, like a chronicler, like a writer?

I am sharper, keener, more observant.  Noticing more around and thinking more deeply about how I express myself, not just in my print, but in my words everywhere.  Space for contemplation matters more and so I give it more generously. Thoughts have more space to grow, perhaps flourishing or lying in my notebook for other opportunities. Revising  more, thinking about sentences days later and returning to change word order, clarity, tense seems common place now. Changed as a writer. 

As I thinking more about writing, I consider more about teaching writing as well.  Talking first, rehearsing. We did this before but it feels differently now, more like a sharing, a collaboration, joyful.  Bringing what I’ve  noticed to the daily practice of writing. 

Last year,  I composed in documents, careful, hesitant, concerned.  Now my thoughts come and I begin to compose not caring if I discard them later.  More will come. Just then, clarity. What I’ve learned, just like spring,  more will come. 


And just like that it’s over,  day 31 of 31. I am forever grateful to my writing mentors, encouragers, and fellow journeyers in this the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers and the amazingly talented writers that curate that site not just during March but throughout the year.  See for yourself at Two Writing Teachers.


What I Learn From Other Slicers #sol18

IMG_0944.jpgWhat I Learned From Other Slicers #sol18

March Year 2 Edition March 30, 2018

The intimacy of sharing a writing community and reading someone’s writing each day across time and place is profound.  Images and ideas stick with you long after you have left.

I have learned so much from so many bloggers this March. Last year I was so focused on just getting the writing done I didn’t allow myself enough space to just enjoy other writing and other perspectives.  This year I let go other reading to really read blogs consistently, reading between 20-25 blogs every day and sometime more than that.  Reading deeply in one genre gives you a stronger understanding of craft.  Here are 10 highlights from a month full of so many, tucked into my blog journal, my electronic folder, and my reading list. They will remain there for some time. 

From Alice Nine I learned about many different types of poetry, my favorite of which was golden shovels, My Daddy’s Golden Shovel.  In addition,  Alice has a wonderful way of weaving teaching techniques into her blog and respond to comments in a way that continues to teach.   To everyone else that wrote, explained, and taught me poetry techniques I am truly grateful.  Special recognition to Fran McVeigh, Lynne Dorfman and others.

From Lanny Ball and Stacey Shubitz, and others,   I learned true slicing,  those truthful everyday moments that hold so much meaning and sentiment.  Stacey let us into her little family and allowed me to peek at moments in young parenting that are long past for me. Last year, Stacey taught me how to make those watercolor illustration for my blog.

From humbleswede and Fran Haley, and others,  I learned that my dog could have a say which leaves the possibilities open for so many other things.  Lily still hasn’t gotten her say, but she has received honorable mention.

From Darin Johnston &  JCareyreads,  I learned that we can be PLN friends,  share ideas, and strengths, and hopes with each other.  Their honesty and thoughtful responses are the hallmark of what makes this challenge so meaningful.

From mbhmainepersistence and pedagogy,  and others,  I remembered about the variety of the slice techniques. So many of these techniques are squirreled away for a Tuesday.

From comments  like those from ureadiread and others, I was affirmed, supported, and taught.   5 star commenting from Brian Rozinsky for this whole solid year.  ( I have still yet to learn brevity from him)

From ebgriffin, saavyteacher and others,  I learned that we can talk over virtually what we are thinking, rehash what we wished, and have a virtual redo.

From mrspalmerponders and others,  I thought about the true depth of mentor texts.  Her How-To about blueberry picking will stick with me.

From my friend,  Clare Landrigan,  I continue to learn that you can accomplish what you set your mind to, that encouragement means everything, and you can know a person, but learn a lot more from their writing.

From my little welcome wagon tribe,  I learned that affirming someone else feels pretty great.

Bonus:  There were so many blogs that I truly enjoyed like this one from Anita,  Frog, Toad, and Vygotsky  I hope I told each of you when you wrote them.

This year blogging after school and posting in the AM worked for me as did reading  blogs throughout the day.  This technique was encourage by my welcome wagon crew being spread across the country posting at all different times. 

I learned a few things about myself too,  but I’ll save those for day 31.  

img_1405Day 30 of a 31 day challenge.  Writing with my writerly friends as part of the Slice of Life Challenge.  Read even more of their amazing blogs at Two Writing Teachers.  Thanks to Melanie, Stacey, and Lanny for coordinating so much for so many and encouraging me personally.

Meteor Showers #sol18


Meteor Showers #sol18

March 29, 2018

Yesterday on my drive home,  I listen to a report on NPR about a Japanese company that proposed to make meteor showers on demand.  For a fee,  you can schedule a personal meteor shower.  Here’s the story from NPR,  Why Scientists Aren’t Fans of Creating On-Demand Meteor Showers.

My little nuclear family has quite a history with meteor shower viewing of the natural variety.  Raising our children in Chicago,  the Field Museum was a frequent visiting place.  In the 1990’s,  the museum had quite few exhibits from its early days, one of which was a pretty impressive collection of meteorites.  One of the exhibits had a cross section of an actual car that was hit by a meteorite in 1938.

meteoriteThis is not a picture of my actual child, but it might as well have been for every visit to the Field included a viewing and discussion of that meteor.

Whether or not that viewing led to our collective fascination with annual meteor showers when the were reported in the news or not,  I’m not certain.  However,  the younger Kennedy’s wanted to see a meteor in the worst way.

As you might know, the Perseid Meteor Shower is usually visible in some way during the dog days of August,  so for many August nights, the boys and I cooked up schemes to actually see a meteor.  Some years the amount of meteors that fall are heavier than others.   A year or two, the two of them hatched a plan to sleep out in our yard or stay up all night.  The night was fraught with difficulties.  The midwestern humidity is high in the summer and the two of them decided we should put up our tent. It was too hot inside and of course,  they also couldn’t see the sky.  The sky in the Chicago suburbs,  even the far northern suburbs maintains a faint orange glow  most of the night, impairing your vision of the stars so in order to see any sign of stars you have to be up quite late.  Finally,  summer equals mosquitoes in the midwest and so everyone received a liberal dose of insect repellent that was quickly sweated off.  Complaining ensued,  general crabbiness and any given year one or both of them gave up the ghost before seeing anything.  Occasionally, the boys swore they saw some meteors especially the tent night when they were around 10 and 7.   So a habit was born.

The boys and I discuss the meteor showers every time one comes up. There are many meteor opportunities during the year,  all of them aren’t visible every where.  There’s also the problem of cloudy nights and/or rainy nights, so all toll,  we have probably been out scouring the sky for meteors a dozen times or more in the last 20 years.  Honestly,  most of the time unsuccessfully or marginally successfully.

Since the two of us moved to less a less photopolluted place,  we have attempted a few times to see meteors.  I have seen some.  Mr. K  not a fan of the long shot, doesn’t partake in the sky watching.  The boys and I still hold out hope.

When I told Mr. K the story of the purchased meteors,  he said, “You don’t have to buy me that. I’ve never seen one.”  While I don’t want a purchased meteor shower either,  I still have a hopeful eye to the sky when there’s a chance I might catch a glimpse of a natural occurrence.

So all that time,  my number 1 ever the sceptic and me ever the optimist.  I don’t think they were thinking meteors when they invented the phrase opposites attract.  But perhaps star-crossed lovers was meant just for this.


So close!   Day 29 of a 31 day Writing Streak as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  For more interesting slices,  visit Two Writing Teachers.  

Writers’ Workshop Live #sol18

Screen Shot 2018-03-27 at 9.20.26 PM

Here am I trying to nudge students into their ideas rather than summaries in literary essays by sharing some peer craft moves.  Alongside,  my assistance conduct their own writing conferences.

Writers’ Workshop Live

March 28, 2018

As part of my role as literacy specialist in an elementary building,  I co-teach in several classrooms in either reading or writing workshop. My primary role is to support fragile learners, but as all teachers,  I support whomever comes along.  This bunch of third grade learners have known me since their kindergarten days and their teacher and I have worked together often, though not in this consistent role until this year.  The teacher and I meet weekly to discuss assessments, student progress, planning, resources, and all things related to third grade literacy.  I join the student during their writing block in the afternoons for 40-45 minutes a day.  As all classes,  it is a mixed bag.  

Chapter 1

One day a few weeks ago,  I was away at a meeting in the afternoon and wasn’t able to go to third grade writers’ workshop.  This conversation ensued in my absence.

Protester #1:  This is the worst 15 minutes of my life. 

Patient Teacher:  The worst?  Really? 

Protester #1:  Ok, Top Three.   Stitches,  Waiting for Stitches and This. 15. Minutes. Right. Now.  (dramatic sigh, head on desk)

Protester #2:  Who invented writing anyway?

Protester #3:  I don’t know.  Mrs. Kennedy?

Chapter 2

Last week in writers’ workshop, the third graders were working on persuasive pieces as the lead up to their baby literary essay unit.  They brainstormed some ideas together, but around six students decided to write their persuasive essay about how we shouldn’t have writing at 2 p.m.  Their basic arguments were that they were smarter in the morning, their brains were less full, and an “easy subject” like reading could be moved to the afternoon.  They became quite vocal about it and I think began to believe that we could change writing time.  Because of the specialist schedules in her room (not mine),  the teacher has to have writing at this time which she has explained.  Finally on Monday, she told the kiddos,  “I’m just not going to listen to this anymore.  Get to work.”

We read the book, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon and began the work of growing an idea  about a character and supporting in with three details from the text.

Chapter 3

Today in writers workshop, the teacher did the introduction and most of the kiddos stayed on the carpet to finish their second paragraph or move into their third.  I moved a stool onto the rug and began rehearsing sentences with protester #1.  Writers came up to have me read their work and approve it. Why do they do that?  Because I keep letting them.  I say,  what’s up?  Can you read this?  Sure.  I read it and hand it back. What do you think you might do now?  Is it good?  What do you think?  Have your writing partner confer with you.  or I’m done.  Sure, did you use some of our expert sentences?  Did you use some evidence?  Do you have a full paragraph?  Student slowly backs up. Hey kiddos,  remember, we are writing our fresh ideas, not the ideas of our character or summarizing.   But then,  I started reading some fresh thinking.  I send those kiddos off with the line that’s forming and they become the assistance.  misspell and pun intended.  

Toward the end of workshop I say to the teacher, I’m not sure I want to say this out loud, but it’s going pretty good.  Did you check out some work?   She says, yes,  good.   The assistants are into it.  But I have to tell you something.  I told them you were sad and you wouldn’t come back to workshop unless they worked hard.  

I guffawed.  How did that work? 

What really worked most likely is lean prompts, loose scaffolds, and mentors, both the book itself, and essays shaping up about book along with other students sharing ideas.  There were four adults in the room.  A para-educator working with student who have writing support plans.  A therapist working on ‘writing in the wild’,  the classroom teacher, and me.  We are currently teaching an If/Then Unit in Calkins’ Writing,  Baby Literary Essay.  We are on week 2, having taught a week of persuasion.  This unit is timely, as state testing is coming up. We keep it real knowing this is the type of writing these students will be doing the rest of their academic careers.  We find picture books great prompts.  The classroom teacher was using No David as an alternative text for a fragile learner.  She has a basket of great mentors for character change at the ready.  If you use the Calkins’ Units,  this unit has been reworked just this past fall and is available in the general information section of the third grade writing units online resources on  

My response to the classroom teacher’s tweet.

Screen Shot 2018-03-27 at 9.21.04 PM.png

Though now that I think about it,  I’d rather be Patricia Heaton.  She plays a convincing midwesterner in The Middle.

img_1405  Just your average writing teacher,  slicing every day for 31 days.  This is day 28 of a 31 day writing streak as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Read some fascinating blogs here at Two Writing Teachers.

Grocery Lists of Dreams #sol18

Grocery Lists of Dreams


March 27, 2018

Today I am going to write about something completely different. Today,  I introduce you to me,  food blogger.  Oh,  none of those step by step things, just a girl, a list, and a plan.

In my dream world,  I am a food blogger.  I test recipes and post amazing instagram pictures of food that I make. I am a woman with a subscription to several cooking magazine and a love for food blogs. My instagram does have quite a few food photos, but as they say,  I’m not going to quit my day job anytime soon.

On the weekends I plan our next week’s meals.  I make a list that currently looks like this.  Some things to note here.  The circled recipe on the top is one I bought the ingredients for and have yet to make. Sometimes life happens.  Meeting candy is written twice on this list.  Forgetting candy for curriculum meetings that I host is very  bad.  Today I remembered that one teacher loves Cadbury Mini Eggs.  extra points That odd note under Friday reminds me that on Easter there are always sweet rolls shaped like bunnies.  Saturday is blank because on Saturday,  I am wined and dined by my number one.

The list is divided into crazy arbitrary sections that probably made sense in some Illinois grocery store, but only make tertiary sense in New England.  I wrote all the orange items on Saturday and then the pencil items after I looked a few recipes on the internet.  Sometimes I flip the days.

Sunday night I made the bacon wrapped tenderloinSorry no photo available.  

Monday night we had this

IMG_0939 Chicken Pot Pie Pizza.  I made it more difficult by not having precut vegetables or precooked chicken.  Still yummy.  Here’s what the critics said.

Mr.  K:   You know what you should do next time with this recipe. 

Me:  (Eye Roll)  You know there won’t be a next time. (I rarely remake anything)

Mr. K:  (unfazed)  Well if there were a next time, you should drizzle extra gravy on the top. 

Me:  I did this time. 

Mr. K:  Well,  you should have made more gravy.  You know there can’t be too much gravy.  Remember those Centerville Pies,  they come with a container of gravy.  You can’t have too much gravy. 

Me:  The Centerville Pies don’t have any gravy inside.  I made twice as much gravy as the recipe.  

Mr. K:  Well,  you can’t have too much gravy.  You know,  you could have bought a jar of that chicken gravy. 

Me:  (sigh)

The day before The Critic had purchased a peanut butter cookie at Starbucks.  I said, I can make peanut butter cookies. He said, This one has chocolate in the center.  Lucky for him,  he got these Classic Peanut Butter Cookies anyway.
IMG_0936I may never quit my day job and become a food blogger, but that cookie jar in the kitchen is always full and most meetings and Mondays at the school are accompanied by a home baked treat.

That critic doesn’t know how good he has it.






Maintaining my day job as a literacy specialist and slicer for now.  Day 27 of a 31 day writing streak in the Slice of Life Writing Challenge.  Read some amazing blogs by my PLN, the other bloggers at Two Writing Teachers. 

In Search of the Perfect Read-Aloud #sol18

IMG_9715.JPGIn Search of the Perfect Read Aloud #sol18

March 26, 2018

Since Wednesday,  I have been in search of the perfect read aloud, not for the students, but for their teachers.  This read aloud must have a twist or surprise, a character journey both internal and external, and most importantly,  the sixteen or so teachers I am reading it to shouldn’t have heard it before.  I know, right?  That’s the kicker.  So started the quest.

Having spent Wednesday and Thursday in professional development,  we have scheduled a short hour long follow up on Monday with the kindergarten, first, and second grade teachers.  All of us have been working on intentionally raising the accountable talk with our students and rich conversations are growing everywhere across the building.  The goal of our current professional development cycle was craft lessons, so our talk naturally took in helping students construct their own knowledge.

Our library supervisor is so lovely and agreed to recommend some books from the library’s collection.  Tammy Mulligan recommended some more and I had a few I was thinking of in my personal collection.  After several fretful days where I reread many texts,  I took my favorite candidates to the library to chat with Barb, our librarian.  She was drawn to some she knew but there were several that she was unfamiliar with, so we began to read books together late on Friday afternoon.

Our after school program students were in the room as we were looking through the shelves,  reading bits together, and one of the students unfamiliar to me came up and said,

I heard you and Mrs. M. reading together,  there was something about a policeman. 

Yes, I said, there was a policeman in that book.  He was helping the girl make a mural.  Do you know what that is?  Head Shake.  It’s a big painting on the side of a building. 

Why are you reading together?

We like to.  Head nod.

Barb and I did read together for quite a while that afternoon.  We laughed and talked and planned and enjoyed the camaraderie that comes from a shared love.  We share other things, two sons, midwestern roots, a similar age,  but this day,  it was all about the books.  Page by Page,  laughing and talking.  We enjoyed it so much that we think we might have a book tasting for the teachers, inviting them to the library to see some of our favorites and think about how they might incorporate them into their read aloud work.

Barb encouraged me to choose a funny book. I think because I made her laugh reading it.  The character does change through the course of the story.  So our first read aloud recommendation for you is The Bad Seed.  We wanted to use the books Extra Yarn or Not Norman, but they were familiar to some.  My back up book, that I will probably use with the teachers on Monday, is Weslandia, a story of a boy who learns to carve his own place in the world.  Others in the short stack include Little TreeThe Tree, an Environmental FableYard Sale,  and Windows.

There are more on the stack, but I’ll save them for another day.

Some background reading in constructivism and read aloud can be found in Comprehension Through Conversation and The Construction Zone.   Terry Thompson’s book is a very accessible text on the effective use of scaffolds with students.

Some Key ideas in collaborative talk in read aloud:

  • Choose rich text  that beg for rich conversation.  The students don’t have to understand the setting and the characters don’t have to be human, but the characters should have some depth.  I recommend anything by Eve Bunting, most by Kevin Henkes, and the simple but powerful texts of Marc Barnett.
  • Plan, but don’t plan too much.  Have an idea of the destination, but let the students get their with their own GPS.
  • Talk takes practice,  think alouds scaffold students toward a disposition for this talk.
  • Help them get to the heart of the story,  what was the character’s heart’s desire?
  • Think to yourself,  how might I structure my own talk if they can’t get there?


Nearly There.  Day 26 of a 31 day writing streak as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Thanks to all the slicers who encourage me and Two Writing Teachers.   Read some amazing slices here.

Why I Became and am Still a Teacher #sol18

awesomeWhy I Became and am Still a Teacher #sol18

March 25, 2018

Sunday OpEd  SK style

Today my fellow blogger and spiritual younger brother though we have never met, Darin Johnston posted the following OpEds on his twitter feedMamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Teachers.  Both posts are seriously thought provoking.  I’ll let you form you own opinion about them, but thinking like this is important.  In our challenging profession prone to hyperbole from the outside, we need to know who we are as practitioners and why we continue.   If we don’t know what we stand for, what we believe as educators, and how we see ourselves in the greater good,  it will be difficult to not be downtrodden by the myriad of trials mostly external that weigh on us in our changing field.

This prompted me to consider my own circuitous path to my current dream job.  I say that without any sarcasm.  This job is the highlight of my career.  I love it, even on its worst days.  But I’ve begun at the end.

I went to college with the plan of becoming  a human rights attorney.  I majored in Economics at the University of Illinois and until my junior year had every intention of continuing.  In that year, a series of events drew me to reconsider my trajectory.  How else could I contribute to society and the world without that plan?  Through a crazy notion of reading the entire undergraduate program catalog, a feat no one could do today,  I changed my major to child development, the cousin of early childhood education, with a speciality in special education.  Honestly,  I never looked back.

I’m not one of those people who dreamed of being a teacher since childhood or held school with her cousins or dolls.  I’m the child that was dreaming of changing the world.  I met Angela Davis when I was in elementary school.  All of my early childhood memories are rooted in community activism.

My parents didn’t want me to become a teacher.  My mom, aunt, and grandmother were nurses.  They had particular feelings about mostly feminine careers.  As early feminists,  they didn’t want those experiences for me.  I remember when Bob and I attended a cocktail party once in the late ’80’s,  another professor asked me what I did,  when I told him I was working on my masters in Child Development and Family Studies, while teaching at Head Start,  he was overtly dismissive.  Many have been.

I proceed on  from  teacher to administrator to reading teacher to literacy coach.  In that move from administrator to reading teacher,  I spent eighteen months working in an insurance company as a personal assistant to the president.  He had never really known a teacher and I had never worked in an office.  What I learned about who I was,  the transferable skills we have as educators, and what work looks like for many other people, was invaluable.  My ability to multi-task, view a problem systematically, prioritize, and problem solve were gifts I had learned from education work.  To read something quickly and synthesize, summarize, and apply were things I had learned and taught.  The experience also taught me what I knew even when I was administrator,  I am fueled by interactions with children.

So in our climate of change,  I  see evolution.  In our climate of expectations, I see a stronger application of brain theory.  In our climate of assessment,  I see the potential to think like scientist, differentiate, experiment, activate.   I see a place to continue to change the world.

So,  I am not giving up on teaching.  I had a teacher ask me to chat with her about her career arc this past week.  My advice,  just think about the next five years.  Not because I think she will want to leave, but because it’s a brave new frontier.  I told her that time in that classroom with those kiddos will teach you so much about yourself, about children in general and specific,  it will build your toolkit for whatever next step you want to take.

Will I recommend teaching to the next generation?  I would ask someone,  do you want to be on the ground floor of world changing?


Slicing daily in March as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge. Inspired daily by the slices of my fellow bloggers.  You may be inspired at Two Writing Teachers.