Midsummer #sol20

0-3Midsummer #sol20

July 21, 2020

I read once that it takes a few days of vacation for you to settle in,  your body to relax,  your rhythms to adjust, and deep relaxation to happen, the ability to allow vacation to seep in and truly take root. For me midsummer is the type of relaxation that allows me to get up in the morning with my imaginary list and tackle whatever whimsical project that my heart desires.  The time the project will take is unimportant.  Whether anyone will notice it after I complete it is unimportant.  These are the kinds of soul-stitching, heart-healing, deep-breathing kind of projects that have sustained me through all these seasons of being an educator.

This past week I accomplished many of those projects.  The joy universally seems to be that something during the completion of them utterly surprises me, fills me with wonder, or overtakes me with a sense of … well, I’m not sure what the right word is, so let me tell you the story of the recipe box.

Truth is a recipe box has become superfluous.  I once used it all the time, but now I’ve taken to googling an ingredient or a recipe to match whatever I want to prepare.  I have a recipe box that has been shuffled from location to location coming to rest this summer on my kitchen counter.  When I changed my counter arrangement to accommodate a coffee station, the recipe box, the files of recipes, the cookbooks, and the cookbook writing projects I’ve had all came together in a rainy day project.

I opened the recipe box… Arranged by alphabet,  I began with A unloading the box and examining the recipes.  Did I know when I first placed them here which ones would become so valuable that the recipe would be unnecessary? A had several recipes for homemade applesauce, a necessity in the early parenting phase of seasonal apple picking forays.  I paused a moment to remember beautiful sunny autumn days hoisting young pickers up into trees for perfect specimens.  Where is that apple pie recipe I love so much?  Oh,  it’s in this Silver Palate cookbook. 

B turned up a dozen or so recipes for sweet breads made in the season of baking as gifts.  I have several versions of loaf pans big and small to accompany these recipes.  Remember this lemon poppy seed from that sweet cafe in Lafayette?  Many of these recipes were annotated with their origins or written in the quick script of someone jotting down a memorized recipe to share.  Pumpkin, eggnog-cherry, poppy seed, zucchini, and banana.  Banana bread… how many loaves of banana bread have I made?  Adapting my grandmother’s recipe, a favorite from Cooking Light magazine, here’s where I learned the formula for baking…Sweet breads have a pattern like pound cakes.  When and why did I stop making the others and only focus on banana bread?  Abundance of ingredients I presume.  A left over can of pumpkin becomes pumpkin bread in that crockery loaf pan with the pumpkin detail.  A neighbor’s zucchini crop becomes zucchini bread.  Memories of baking smells and friendships begin to fill my kitchen.

C is for cookies.  I couldn’t possibly contain them in this box.  Several versions of chocolate chip cookies, though none needed for the frequent batches filling that mouse cookie jar from my long ago wedding shower.  I pause to think about my mom’s cookie jar, Red Wing Pottery Bobwhite pattern.  I think about my Christmas cookie lists, my bake club, and so many other batches and batches of cookies.  But C contains cobblers, crisps, and cakes.  Diana’s Apple Crisp… I can picture her kitchen as she served the delight with some coffee and tea warm smells of apple and cinnamon brightening a meeting.  Molasses cookies, my grandmother’s favorites. I can see her hands, soft with age, scooping the teaspoons full onto the pan, the smell of molasses and spice filling the air.  Gooey Butter Cake… I see the bakery in my home town, the square cakes ready to be taken home after Saturday errands. There’s a recipe for that Eclair Cake I love.  This project is filling me with joy!  I mark a few recipes for my bake club.

I continue on through the alphabet, letting go of some recipes, rereading others,  cherishing the handwriting of my mom and grandmother both long gone and friends left behind in life changes.  So many recipes for chicken when that’s what the kids would eat.  New baby casserole favorites to drop off.  Does that tradition even exist anymore?  Recipes hastily scrawled on scraps of paper in chicken scratched short hand of sorts.  This was a lovely walk down a lane of delicious memories.  Food for the soul.


I write with my community of slicers at Two Writing Teachers each Tuesday.


The Good, The Perfect, & the Right Now #sol20

The Good, The Perfect, & the Right Now #sol20

July 7, 2020

So I’m pretending that there’s not a crisis in the world, in our country, in my state, town, school system, house, by gardening…  That’s right.  I’m staying in the 1/2 acre or so of terraferma that is my ‘vast holdings’.  When you look up terreferma in the dictionary it says mainland.  Here I shelter in my main land. I did some research with a student in early June about Isaac Newton.  They say that when he had to shelter during the plague, he went home to his country house away from his studies and colleagues.  He didn’t want to go, but when he was out in the nature of his truly vast holdings, he devised how to explain gravity because of an apple falling off a tree.  All the explanations that he articulated, his best theories, crystalized in that quiet.  No, I’m not getting ready to explain to you how I have it all figured out. Just considering what’s possible.

My neighbor’s yard is well groomed.  The grass is even and green, watered every day by him and professionally edged and mowed by a service.  His mulch is smooth like a carefully laid out carpet.  His bushes hug his house.  His trees are carefully trimmed.  You get the picture.  There are no flowers there, errant or planned.  Our yard…. well,  that’s another story.  We inherited this yard from the previous owners and borrow it from the encroaching woods.  I probably shouldn’t say encroaching, more like the rightful owner always threatening to repossess.  It slopes down from the street, our house covered by tree line and a front-loaded garage.  I love it.

Bob and I were out cutting down some overgrown, deer-feeding yews a few days ago and my watering, mulch-raking neighbor’s wife said,  oh, I see your inspired by my husband.  Them’s fighting words! I thought as I plucked endless lily-of-the-valley from the slope.  I’m always out here ‘working on it’.  Isn’t that the truth?!?

But it’s not well-groomed…  not for lack of trying.  It might be a little lack of trying.  There are those few wild black-eyed Susans that I can’t pluck from their chosen locale or those native goldenrods and a few wild asters springing up.  I did want to see what that cup plant in the back would turn into, it’s growing so tall.  Did you know these little leaves are mayflowers? Yeah, that’s right mayflowers.  And those over there,  that’s wild lettuce.  Well, you’re beginning to get the picture.

I have a vision.  About that vision… it’s a work in progress and it’s constantly changing.  My yard is one big lab experiment and the lab changes and the climate changes and the sunlight changes and just about everything changes… Starting to sound familiar?

So this morning my friend, Gwen was thinking and posting on her twitter.  Two posts (@gwenblumberg if you want to investigate)

Screen Shot 2020-07-07 at 8.56.38 AM

I read that and I thought, Heck YEAH!  Teach the lesson about how to use the compass at the moment the explorer is lost in the woods.  Ok,  what does that have to do with my garden?  You’ve got to be watching.  You have to know the moment that the weeds start to win or look up just what is that fuzzy weeds so you wait for the blossom.

As for how this describes our teaching…  you’ve got this.

img_0602 These people I write with inspire me and they hopefully wait for me to be inspired.  They are priceless.  You’re welcomed to join anytime.

Reflections on the End of a School Year #sol20

0Reflections on Another End to a School Year

June 16, 2020

I don’t have to tell you that this end is like no other end I’ve experience in the decades I’ve been an educator.  Different, yes…  Challenging,  yes…  But what we’ve learned… about ourselves, about our learning community, about our teaching… about our capacity… about our flexibility.

I write today not from the filtered sunlight of the messy literacy center in that aging elementary school that’s been my home for a decade, but from my lower level library sanctuary.  My husband built this sanctuary for me that decade ago when I desperately missed my former life in the midwest.  It lay here mostly a repository for books that couldn’t fit in my school corner or I was temporarily not using.  It remained dusty. Honestly I can’t remember ever working in this room. choosing instead my sunny screen porch, the patio, the sweet bench in the garden as my summer study place.

This year however, this little library became a shelter, a fortress, a capsule.  In this little room quietly tucked under the back porch, away from the bustle of our home life,  I could be ‘at work’.  At work during those hours that I needed to be.  At the end of the day,  I shut the door and ‘commuted’ back to my home.

This was a luxury for me.  I’ve seen kitchen tables, living room walls, baskets, bags, all organized as we began to create not the space we left, but a whole new space to learn and teach.

When I reflect on these last three months, that’s what I consider, those makeshift, make-do, dream up magical spaces you created for your students.  In my district, we had no warning.  The closure came along like a hurricane and we took the clothes on our backs, the stash in our cars, our bags, our homes, and began to make new learning with that.  I’m not going to lie,  it was devastating.  The first week or so,  I felt completely adrift. How could I coach or intervene from here… when they were there?

As with any other situation in education, we began to gain our sea legs.  We’ve had tough spaces to work in, difficult schedules, hard combinations, budget limits.  In other words, we’ve adapted before.  Perhaps not this way, but as teachers and learners, it’s in our nature to grow and change.  So grow and change, we did.

I spent an hour this morning, sifting through the pictures I took of you teaching during this time,  looking at the notes I filled my conferring notebook with,  smiling at the thought of each of you growing, adapting, trying, challenging, and generally teaching your hearts out for the last sixty school days or so.  Here’s what I noticed.

You never lost your sense. of humor or your heart for kids.

You taught yourself so many amazing things and create so much from whatever you found laying around (metaphorically and actually)

You didn’t let those kids off the hook; you emailed, you google-met (is that a verb?), you listened, you encouraged and they… came around.

You taught!… and you played.  You celebrated and you learned about every single thing kids were doing when they weren’t there on the screen with you.

You watched TV shows so you could talk about them.  You recommended movies and books and games.  Still you encouraged.

You noticed hair styles and hair color, stuffies and live animals.  You noticed hard days and celebrations, breakfast choices and pink cheeks.

And still. you taught: poetry, the American Revolution, fractions, pollinators, biographies, habitats,  geography, reading,  writing and persistence.  You taught A LOT!

You kept it going and now… let’s take a rest.  Let’s read and take walks,  smile and bake,  breathe deeply, paint, garden and wait…  The next thing will come soon.  But for now, let’s be okay.  Let’s be joyful.  Let’s celebrate.

What We Carry With Us #sol20


What We Carry With Us #sol20

My friends and mentor, Tammy Mulligan,  and I moderated a series of professional development sessions titled, What Will We Carry With Us… Sharing Our Success.  It wasn’t very well attended, but those groups of teachers that showed up were a little reluctant to shine.  Why was that?

I do think that educators in general hide their light under a bushel, quietly just doing the business that needs to be done without fanfare, but I suspect there is more to it than that.  I think celebrating what they accomplished during this quarantine is difficult because for them the light of learning is absent.  I’ve seen them do so many, many things to keep the connection going between the students and each of them, but each educator I know, mourns that gentle, and not so gentle, day to day, minute by minute interaction with students.  The interaction that only comes when you have time.  Time… and proximity.

This post isn’t about what we’ve lost.  This post is about what we’ve gained.  So here it is again… Silver Linings Playbook, Part 2.

We’ve gained the ability to strip what we want to teach and more importantly what we want students to learn and master right down to the bone.  We don’t have time or space for any, any fluff.  That doesn’t mean to dispense with engagement.  These educators have engagement in bushels.  I have never seen so many colorful anchor charts, so many fun videos,  changing tools after tools. Video, audio, visuals, these teachers combed all available resources to create their online learning and virtual classrooms.  They created backdrops and makeshift document cameras.  They were fearless in the face of making something from nearly nothing for sixty-five days, but whose counting?

Through three phases of online learning in my district, they taught on.  Through providing technology and finding students, learning platforms and surviving those platforms failing, they carried on.  They don’t even have a moment to stop and think what miracles they performed.  One of the amazing side notes is that they left old practices behind.  Those projects that took weeks gone.  The slogging through endless revision… gone.  They stared in the face of their past practices and brutally slashed everything without deep purpose and meaning.  Then the really amazing thing happened.

They made that s**** interesting!   They sent their students videos.  Those teachers created a fourth grade university.  They taught the entire American Revolution, pollinators, saving the bees along with persuasive writing, informational paragraphs, life lessons, science, and history.  Don’t forget all the while they were teaching grit, determination, agency, resiliency.  THESE PEOPLE ARE MY HEROES! 

Honest to goodness,  I am a very fortunate individual.  They shared their plans with me.  They took time to let me help them.  They taught me stuff… and the most precious gift, they shared their students with me.

I’ve seen drawings and bedrooms, discussed books and movies and bike riding.  I’ve had breakfast with kids and leaned in so they could see every single wrinkle on my face so they knew I was still here.  Still here for them.  I have left meetings with a lump in my throat and stinging tears in my eyes.  I have also laughed at feet in the screen and puffed up cheeks.  I’ve discussed dog friends and breakfast choices along with Paul Revere, Jim Henson, Dav Pilkey, Isaac Newton, and the Wright Brothers.

I’ve recorded books and lessons.  I’ve given pep talks and drive bys.  I’ve written and I’ve read and I’ve thought and I’ve planned… and we’ve almost survived… this phase.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t consider the next phase.  I would walk away next week from this phase and let the next phase come to me without worry.  I’m having a little trouble with that just now.


Standing in the Present #sol20

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 11.21.10 AM.png

Standing in the Present #sol20

May 12, 2020

My former principal and I used to have a running joke about the present being a gift and tomorrow being a mystery.  You know it, Today is a gift, that’s why we call it the present.  I’m a person that lingers in the present.  I don’t look back very often, if at all.  Heck,  I rarely even make a recipe again.  … and perhaps…. I don’t look forward either.  It’s difficult to say that aloud.

I’m a problem solver, a rally-er, a ‘we’ve got this’ sort of person.  Seems apt for a coach, doesn’t it?  Or does it?

We’ve got to have our feet in two boats as my gram used to say.  We have to be keeping things moving and working in today, but we have to be problem solving for the next situations as well.   I have a confession to make… let me tell you first how I got here. 

Yesterday we were asked to come back to school.  Classroom teachers were asked to pack up student materials to be returned and do whatever close down they could do within a two hour window.  I didn’t want to go.  I’ve been to campus twice since the quarantine, each time as we started a new phase in learning.  I’m adjusting to my supplies at home and if I’m honest, being at school makes me sad… really, really sad.  It’s quiet and lonely.  We don’t talk to each other.  Instead of being a lively stop along someone’s route, the literacy center feels overfull and empty at the same time.  However,  after a mostly sleepless night and with a new district-wide literacy project on the horizon,  I packed up my empty book bags and headed off to school.  The secretary and assistant principal were there to great me, masks and gloves on the table mandatory.  That seemed fine and expected.  When I entered the literacy center, I could see that our custodians had already cleaned this room.  I imagine they weren’t expecting me to return.  The moveable furniture was jumbled all over the place as were all the things that had been stuffed under tables and in spare corners.  As I think back on it in the clear light of today,  it was as if they had moved themselves around.  I stood there honestly not knowing what to do.  I was uncomfortable in my mask and gloves, my sweater felt too hot and for long minutes I just stood in place taking in everything that seemed both frozen in time and completely foreign.  Finally,  I began organizing some books I knew I wanted to take home for phase 3 and beyond,  emptying projects from the bins on my desk, long forgotten in our new reality.  In hindsight, maybe if I had played some music or a podcast, called someone to chat on the phone,  I wouldn’t have be overcome by the mounting sadness and helplessness I felt. When someone brought books back to the literacy center, instead of being welcoming and flexible,  I was startled and overwhelmed.  The thought of sharing that small space with my grief, exposure to others, and more and more books that were not in their right places completely and utterly overwhelmed me.  That is so hard to admit.  Thankfully,  calmer colleagues helped me problem solve.  Something else stuck with me… When the principal outlined his solution, I must have looked… doubtful, still uncomfortable?  He asked, Do you want me to give you a different answer?

Yes, I said.

Yes!  I want a different solution that involves happy chat without worry.  A plateful of cookies and a pot of coffee for the work.  Cheerful plans for the future.  Yes was all I said.  

I left school yesterday near tears and completely churned up.  Grieving again for what isn’t and what might never be.  Lucy Calkins’ words from Thursday played in my head. The future of workshop and partnerships, learning and collaboration is uncertain.  All we know is that it may not look like what we had a mere nine weeks ago for a long time, if ever.  I came home, ate a slice of cold pizza, read a book for an hour, and took a nap.

Now I know something I didn’t know about myself.  I am not as up for change or bumps in the road as I hoped.  The future scares me a little.  Much like the very white 1.5 inches of growth on my hair, my vulnerability is showing and I don’t like that very much.

Writing it down helps.

A fresh start, a new day, a realization, all promote stepping forward.  Here we go!

We Could… #sol20

img_0876We Could… #sol20

April 28, 2020

In these crazy days, it’s so simple to look at what is so different about our practice, our daily lives, our students, our relationships with each other, and so many other aspects of our lives’ work, the work that seems we won’t return to for at least six months.  I haven’t really been without that schedule for any appreciable time for more than twenty years and most of twenty prior to that.  So the thought of thirteen weeks of sitting in this basement library clinging to scraps of contact with students and their teachers is soul-crushing.  So I’m just going to have to find another way to look at this situation.

I’ve been talking recently about how we can keep the heart of our work in the body of this new day to day.  What is it that our students responded most to and how can we make the closest proximity to that thing?  It’s difficult to consider the daily subtle moves we made as teachers when our audience is a thirteen inch MacAir laptop screen and the closest thing to a student I have is a seventy-five pound ten year old black lab mix who loves a good story as much as the next person, but doesn’t have much to say about author’s purpose or the story arc.  My new books mostly come from another electronic screen and my read-alouds are pre-recorded, so how do I make it feel like a glorious grand discussion and an intimate shoulder to shoulder conference?

While I don’t have the answer for you,  I think I might be able to steer us toward the shore.  Let’s dream for a few minutes.  When you planned for your mini-lesson or your active engagement, your independent practice, or your gentle conferring,  what did you hope for deep in your heart?  Connections?  You still know those students in front of you.  You know what they like to read, how soon they want to talk to you after you send them off to work.  You know if they need to explain their thinking first or if they need you to draw them a little map to get started.  You know if you stop in a read aloud and ask them to write down something if they can come back to the story or text with you or if it’s better to read it twice and stop the second time.  You know… you really know.

So… how can you make it feel like home for each student?  Can you have a whole group that holds their whole hearts?  Can you put their emotions front and center and still hold on to literacy?  Can you talk to them individually or in the pairs or triads that feel most comfortable to them?  Can you give them space to grieve, and look you in the eyes (how can you make your eyes look right at them?)?  How can we laugh and have crazy FRI-YAY! traditions and lean in for the next bit of Sisters Grimm or Wild Robot or did you see the Willouby’s??  

You have it in you to reach inside and find those things that connect kids to you and each other,  to the learning, and their agency,  to the challenge, and the joy… and the struggle.  You were already amazing at that… and you are still.  Don’t let your sadness rob you and them of what we could make from this mess.  We are accustom to making lemonade, and beautiful mistakes, and restarts.  We are stars at redo’s and We got this!  

So put on the best music in the background and dream of those best days when everything worked like magic in your rooms, when the kids were engaged and happy, productive and challenged.  How can you make that happen in this world?  I know you can.

What are the promises you made in September to your students in your heart?  What are the promises you don’t want to break today?

This can be the most amazing time,  the memory that shows them and us just what we are made of.  I don’t know what your secret sauce is, but I’ll bet anything you have it.  Dig it out and spread it all over these experiences.  Make it magically simple in the way only you can.


Face to Face #sol20

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 8.01.10 AM

Face to Face #sol20

April 21, 2020

As a literacy specialist, I have been mostly working in the background of the virtual learning, providing content, practicing online lessons with teachers, creating videos.  Today I had my first opportunity to have some live small groups.  As I met with a teacher on Friday, we were thinking about making our workshop teaching more closely match our IRL experiences.  IRL, we would have split up some small groups and co-taught during the independent portion of the workshop.  So when the teacher said she was having difficulty seeing all the students during small group, I offered to have small groups as well.

I am a partner in her google classroom, so I knew the expectations she had for the students.  Teaching into the research reading unit and working on informational writing, the team has paired this unit with a science unit to continue with that content knowledge.  I have to give both the teacher and the team credit for using many different online platforms to deliver information to the students.  That variety would have been present in their classroom settings and they are exposing students to it here as well.  Brainpop Jr. ,  Readworks,  Epic book sets are some of the ways that she has been creating text sets for readers and writers in her class.

Trouble is,  not all the students are accessing the text set or completing the independent work… Establishing a routine seems tough in this virtual/home world.  Even I am constantly inventing new ways to keep myself on track and my reading has been pretty abysmal in terms of consistency and routine.

In my reading small group,  I started with their reading plan.  What were they reading?  That was a struggle.  One student doesn’t want to read anything online.  I got out my iPad and talked him through the features, he still wasn’t having it.  He’s rereading a series he’s read before.  I did talk him into making a plan for this week’s reading and writing it down.  In new learning,  I used the teacher’s google classroom assignment reading to work through taking notes and main idea/details.  Their reading was fluent, but their understanding of what they read wasn’t.  We talked about rereading for meaning and created some notes for teaching others.  Again,  it was interesting how they didn’t talk as much as IRL.

Here’s my summary for their classroom teacher of our work today. (Names redacted)

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 10.37.51 AM.png

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 8.48.39 AM.pngScreen Shot 2020-04-21 at 9.57.34 AM.pngScreen Shot 2020-04-21 at 9.55.20 AM.pngScreen Shot 2020-04-21 at 9.58.40 AM.png

Tools for reading small group, Epic book Life Cycle of a Honeybee.  Anchor chart based on Reading to Learn, TCRWP Third Grade UOS Reading,  Google Slide, Handwritten note displayed with Quicktime Movie.  ( I fixed mandibles after this screenshot)

I show all these tools because… ALL THESE TOOLS!  In order to keep everything going, sometimes you have to use a lot of tools or hold up things.  Also, giving kiddos some wait time and writing time… and redirection time.  (Those spinning office chairs are super distracting)

Then on to writing.  None of the kiddos was doing any independent writing,  that will definitely be a goal for a next session if I am afforded on.

For writing independent work,  the teacher had assigned a BrainPop Jr. on the life cycle of a plant and asked the students to draw a diagram of the plant life cycle.  My plan was to show the BrainPop video and then go through the planning with the students… However, BrainPop’s log in wasn’t working this morning.  Even though I had set up all the tabs last night, this morning there was a glitch.  (Sigh and Bummer). This is the one place were much like in IRL,  the students are very flexible.  They understand that sometimes things don’t work and we have to make do.  We brainstormed the life cycle of a plant starting at one student’s idea of an entry point, pollinators.  Smart girl,  knew we were studying pollinators and so she made them front and center.  

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 9.30.08 AM.png

Diagram of a Plant Life Cycle drawn and spatially planned badly by me.  

Several things I reminded students of during our ‘marker talk’.

  • we need a heading for our diagram
  • we should label as many things as we can to make our meaning clear… hence my deer (LOL)
  • explaining each step is also good
  • planning (better than I did) your spacing helps your audience.
  • Can you teach from this tool?

Too quickly, it was time to say goodbye to the students.  Was it this hard to leave them IRL?


I share these adventures in virtual learning through my Slice of Life community sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.  We write together each Tuesday here.

What We Need. #sol20

downloadWhat We Need #sol20

I heard the door to my downstairs office push open and the jingle of her ‘jewelry’ as she checked on me.  Not turning around, I gave my attention to the class on the screen.  I heard her huff and then lower her aging body to the floor just outside the office door.  I’m not sure how long she waited there for me, but wait she did.  When I did get up and turn to check on her, there she was with the afghan caught in her collar.  She dragged the afghan and herself down the stairs when she couldn’t solve her problem and then waited for me to notice it and fix it.   My heart swelled at her patience, her faith that I could fix whatever problem she had.  My eyes stung with unshed tears.

My eyes have been stinging with almost tears with some frequency lately.  My dog, Lily’s situation reminds me of all the things I don’t notice now that I lack proximity.  When I talk to teachers, do I hear what they need.  Goodness knows about all of the other teachers I haven’t spoken with, and the countless students, how are they really doing?  What is the thing I can do to help?

I’ve been methodical and random at the same time in my efforts.  I created a website with resources curated to our learning community, meet regularly with the teachers I met with before our quarantine.  I record lessons, search for resources, share notes from virtual workshops, notice bright spots, offer suggestions.  None of it seems like enough.

…and it’s not.  Some are getting their balance.  The team’s are helping each other.  They might have been more technologically savvy.  They’ve been teaching longer and winging it is easier.  Perhaps all of those things are true.  Also, we do better together..  In our learning community, where we walk by a door and notice something going on.  We ask about it and the teacher next door shares.  Where I, like some little worker bee, go from room to room, cross-pollinating good ideas across the building.  It isn’t all me, those of us who roam, get a chance to share ideas in casual, organic, non-threatening ways.

The students have things shared with them that way as well.  They notice what others are doing and give it a try themselves.  We notice what they are doing and offer on the spot feedback and coaching.  On their own, it’s different.  Routines are different, sleep is different, schedules are different, demands are different.   Their confidence wavers.

So today, let’s work on our pollination.  If we think of a good idea or even a half-rate idea, let’s share it with a few people.  If we can connect students with each other to chat in our new small groups about work, reading and writing, let’s make every effort.

There’s been a lot of talk about exaggerating our enthusiasm and using our face and body language to show support and encouragement.  We can do that.  We really want to encourage each other because we desperately miss our communities.

So in that spirit,  let me share a few things today that I’ve noticed and tried.

  • To help with spelling,  I’ve started recording some spelling micro-lessons for teachers to share with students.  I’ve shared some basic word-solving techniques and also reminded students of phonics patterns along with creating home-based tools.
  • Our fourth grade, created Fourth Grade U, with a series of courses (small-group) published choices for students to choose from including, social seminar, book buzzers, organization 101, Learning Q & A, a virtual show and tell, Writer’s round table, and flexing math muscles.
  • Creating organization in her third grade class, one teacher created simple how-to videos about the ‘must-dos’ for student (and parents) to watch at home.




Tomorrow #sol20

Today I finish my fourth Slice of Life 31 Day Writing Challenge with Two Writing Teachers and an amazing group of writers.  Today is day 31/31.  It is my 286th slice of life.  Every year on the last day,  I think about tomorrow…  



Tomorrow #sol20

March 31, 2020

Tomorrow I will wake up and while there might be words

I won’t rush to get them on the page and out the door.

Tomorrow I will read any number of things but they probably won’t be blogs that spill off the page and into my heart.

Tomorrow stories may fly into my brain and possibly my notebook, but they might not make it out into the world.

Tomorrow,  I won’t hear about Ari and Wren or Isabelle and Ari.

Tomorrow I’ll reflect on a month of writing.

Tomorrow I’ll be thinking about zooming and my writing cohort.

Tomorrow I’ll have coffee and make dinner, but the stories will still percolate.

Tomorrow will seem like a busy day in quarantine to most people

But to some people, a little something extra will be missing.


Comfort in Books #sol20

Last week, Elisabeth wrote about the books she returns to for comfort   As we end our month long writing,  this It’s Monday What are You Reading,  I write about what I am reading and also what I recommend to you.  I write in the community of writers brought together by Two Writing Teachers in our March 31 Day Writing Challenge.  This is slice 30/31. 

Screen Shot 2020-03-30 at 6.28.56 AMComfort in Books #sol20

March 30, 2020

In the first days after school closed, before we developed our first phase of our distance plan, I came home and escaped into a book.  Books have always been a comfort to me in sadness, in change, in fatigue.  No matter what else might happen, books can be depended upon.  Since childhood,  I have gathered books around me and turned to them in transitions.

As many literacy coaches,  I have a very large to-be-read pile.  The first book on the pile was one I won in a Goodreads give-away,  Susan Wiggs’ The Oysterville Sewing Circle.  This is the kind of book my friend calls a ‘vacation book‘.  These books can be read in an afternoon, you’re relatively sure that every thing will turn out in the end, and you can fully escape into the setting, the characters, and the story arc.  This same friend reads a mystery at the beginning of the summer, Louise Penny, her author of choice,  to give her mind a rest.  That first book in the chaos of the first days was just a rest for my mind.  I have a stack of those book club books at home.  My former book club mate, now retired in Wisconsin, sends me her read book club books.  I have an unopened box in my library waiting that she sent last week. She keeps me up-to-date with current best sellers.

Coincidentally, I had been reading Reader Come Home about reading in the digital age when we were plunged into our virtual learning.  This book brings home the idea of how now more than ever, we must encourage lap reading for all of students and families, the opportunity to have family read alouds comes to mind.  Now is a wonderful time to get lost in a series together. Our local librarians is rereading all of the Harry Potter books.  One of my favorite teachers has started Sisters Grimm with her student, reading aloud a chapter on video each day for students to listen to after lunch.  So much comfort there.

Switch, Quiet Leadership, Dare to Lead, Atomic Habits, Leading Well and Mary Oliver  live in a basket in my bedroom to be picked up whenever needed.  These books, while diverse reads, are mentors for times of struggle, each in their own ways.  Treasured books,  in turn I reread from the beginning and other times, drop in to read a chapter or a dog-eared passage.  What books are ones that you return to as trusted mentors?

What books do I recommend over and over?  For respite, I often recommend a historical fiction or a fully quirky book that defies definition.  In historic fiction, recently (last summer) I  liked The Gown and The Editor.  In the quirky category, a book I’ve been sharing is Sourdough. (read Robin Sloan’s other book too, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore) I also have favorite long time authors.  From my own young mother book club days,  I still read every book Elizabeth Berg ever writes.  Not challenging, these books tell a tale of persevering and are as familiar as a favorite sweater. Likewise,  I am loyal to Erica Bauermeister (before Reese Witherspoon) whose recent book Home Lessons is in my queue at Amazon and Libby.  Who are those authors whose work you always read?

The act of reading itself is comforting.  I love to read books recommended by adult friends and child friends.  Currently, I am reading Breakout recommended by humbleswede.   This middle grade novels tells a story in letters, text messages, and drawings of students developing a time capsule in a small town when a disruption changes their every day lives. Slipping seamlessly into the reality of a book gives us a respite from our current reality whatever that might be.  Since childhood, books have always been my constant companion and comfort.  They aren’t disappointing me now.