From My Notebook: Planning #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.

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.

From My Notebook:  Planning #sol19

IMG_3832I’m torn this week from my notebook to the work we’ve noticed in the classroom.  In the second bend of baby literary essay, we noticed that the students are adopting the language and structure of the essay.  Their evidence is grounded in text and they are growing a small theory.  The place we see them struggle a little is matching their evidence to their theory.  Letting them sail off on Thursday, choosing their own picture book, their own theory, making their own plans,  let us notice what’s up with their independent writing.

We meet to hash it out.  She has the writing notebooks piled on her table, but when she speaks first it’s about the state test.

I went through the last five years of questions for the test, she says.  We haven’t done character comparisons,  journal entries, and… there’s poetry.  They also have perspective, cross text synthesis, and predictions.  

I pause letting her words settle around us.  I’m working on that… the pause.  It is a lot and time is short.

Their work is better than we thought, she says.  As we sift through, we notice bright spots.  This one has strong evidence.  This one is getting the idea of connection story.  This one had a plan.  This one has the language down.  On we go.  I reflect that as a team, we’ve gotten so much better at the quick glance, read, determine teaching points.  Only a few were struggling that day.

She brings out a scrap of paper from her teacher notebook.  We have a box for students to put concerns she says.  This one was in it yesterday.  I don’t like how the teachers never call on me when I have a good idea,  it begins.  We pause and discuss.  Using the turn and talk gives students all a chance to say their ideas in the air, but clearly this friends still is craving the teacher’s attention or the spotlight.  We reflect on our own balance.  Who are we asking to share?  We think we are equitable.  We vow to keep an eye on it next week.

Back to the work we met to do.  We work through the next week, weaving in books and techniques.  His name remains on the top of the page.



Trees #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.

Trees #sol19

March 29, 2019

I have loved many trees in my life.

One tree stood, a towering pine next to my growing-up house.  My father strung lights around and around each Christmas.

One tree stood in my husband’s aunt’s yard, a century oak.  Tall and majestic,  it dropped so many acorns, the squirrels came from miles and stayed for days.  We raked so many acorns.

IMG_1316One tiny dogwood  was nurtured under the towering canopy of our yard, blooming delicately in the spring.








Those amazing redwoods stand like sentinels in Muir Woods.  They are my favorite things on earth in my favorite place on earth.  If there is a heaven to me it looks just like there. IMG_3815





Two beautiful crabapple trees my husband bought me bloomed their hearts out by my patio at our first house.  We called them the waiting rooms for they held all the little birds waiting to get onto my bird feeder.

One flaming red maple tree grew from a small tree over those thirteen years to a view outside my bedroom window.

One adopted old crabapple, gnarly and full of holes became a home to many outside our front window.  We lost it three years ago.  IMG_3814 (1)








The crazy little tree  is covered with dog photos and dog tags, memories of dogs passed in our favorite local park.



Beautiful blooming late spring trees outside Teacher’s College in New York spill fragrant petals like rice at a wedding. IMG_5908







Maple trees were filled with a riot of orange greeting me on my way into school on fall mornings.IMG_5067








The tree in the courtyard outside the literacy center spread its branches like arms protecting all underneath.IMG_0227







Smooth sleek palms  create a beautiful pattern on the sidewalks under the tropical Florida sun always bring a smile to my face. IMG_1042 (1)

Yes,  I have loved many trees.



Alice Nine’s post,  The Old Pear Tree,  reminded me of all the trees I’ve loved and some I’ve lost. 

Friday Follow (up) #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.

Friday Follow(up)  #sol19

March 22, 2019

IMG_3793He comes more willingly down.  Eyes bright when they meet mine.  A little more eager to find his book and his writing.  A little less shy to ask if he can finish his chips or his cookies on the way down the hall.  A little less defensive.

It’s been months since our get-togethers started.  At first he would start each little time with I’m a really good reader.  

Yes, I would say,  I know you are.  Doesn’t it help a little bit to have some quiet time to work on your reading and writing?  I know it helps me. 

He wasn’t buying it.

Then he rewrote his opinion piece… and he loved it.  We typed it up.  Can I take a copy of this home? he asked shyly. And one for my teacher? 

We found a funny book we both loved, reading and talking about a chapter most days.  That Sugar, she’s the kind of chicken that likes to be tricky.  

But then just when everything was going smoothly,  yesterday on his way out the door, we had this conversation.

This is the kind of work you can do when you’re reading.  You’re the kind of reader who knows how have an idea about a character and then find evidence. 

My teacher and I always work together. 

This is the kind of work you’re ready to do on your own. 

He stops in his tracks and turns to look me full in the face.  I lean over so that our eyes meet.

My mom and dad think I’m really, really smart. 

I also think you’re really, really smart kiddo(name withheld) 

He smiled a little smile and was on his way.

But I wasn’t on my way.  My heart ached and I felt sharp tears forming.  Did he think he was coming to work with me because we (I) thought he wasn’t smart?  This was terrible.

So today.  I took a deep breath and went back to pick him up.  I opened his classroom door and said, Why don’t you bring your writer’s notebook and your novel today?  

He came willingly. He smiled up at me.  We walked down to the literacy center talking about our day so far.  When we sat down I asked him.  Hey, kiddo (name withheld),  I have been thinking about you telling me that your mom and dad think you’re smart yesterday.  Why did you say that?  

He turns.  Those gorgeous brown eyes look at me with complete trust and honesty.

I just wanted you to know they think the same thing you do.  

We smile at each other and get to work.

We are going to be just fine.

(Saint) Patrick #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.

(Saint) Patrick #sol19

March 17, 2019

Your Irish name was chosen for you before birth.  Patrick from your own father. A strong Irish name.  Francis from both generations in your grandfather’s family and your grandmother.

Your Irish name was chosen for you before birth.  What a surprise how well it fit you.  Those big blue eyes filling that face right from the start paired with that dark hair.  So Irish, though I suspect that dark hair was your mother’s DNA.  Pale skin with a sprinkle of freckles round out that Irish face.

Your Irish name was chosen for you before birth bringing with it a saint’s day celebrated by the world.  This was good for you, for you love a good party and being right in the center.  Many St. Patrick’s Day celebration when you were too young for green beer involved Green River,  green clothes,  green cookies or green frosted cupcakes.  There were Lucky Charms and soda bread and always, always, treats for your class.

Your Irish name was chosen for you before birth-full on Irish.  An identity to hold on to.  The identity of generations of your family.  A people.

Your Irish name was chosen for you before birth, but it has always been your name.  It fits you just like it should…perfectly.

Routine Redux #sol19

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 5.47.55 AMRoutine Redux:  Reunion Day #sol19

March 15, 2019

We wake predawn… 3 a.m.  Coffee is dripping through the pot in the kitchen.  The sound is comforting.  I know that if I can get through the next ten minutes,  a cup will be the reward.  Clothes laid out in the bathroom to minimize the wake up of others.  Lunch in the refrigerator.  Teacher bag packed.  Quick shower.  Have to have a quick shower.  As I dry my hair,  I look through the agenda I downloaded yesterday thinking about what I might go to.  What if I finally connect with my Connecticut friends too?

Check the time and put it into high gear.  Have to be at the meeting point by 3:30.  Quietly out the door.  Bob will take you out later Lily when it’s really time to get up.  She looks at me accusingly.  Dark on the steps.  Dark on the walk.  Dark in the garage.  Dark on the driveway.  Dark on the street.  All the roads are empty and dark as I drive to the meeting place.

Usually first, I wait in the quiet car.  Whose turn is it to drive?  Oh, mine. I check the seats, the floor.  All fine.  Gas and car wash the day before.  The car fills with Pandora, a yoga music station.  The lull.  Lights illuminate the car and she is there.   She opens her door, grabs her bags, her water bottle.  She leans over as she opens the car door and smiles a tired  smile at me.   She stretches her long legs into the small car.  She never adjusts the seat.  Sometimes I remember to stretch it back for her before she arrives.

We laugh for a moment about how sometimes we go some other random way that the GPS takes us, missing the Merritt all together.  Where is the first Starbucks?  Hartford?!?

And then… the words start pouring out.  In the darken car, in the long hours, we talk. Talk.  This is almost the best part.

Friday Follow: Twitterverse #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.
Friday Follow:  Twitterverse  #sol19

Screen Shot 2019-03-13 at 7.09.33 AMAs a literacy coach,  I am often creating my own professional development on the fly based on what I think might be helpful to my learning community or things that I seek to make a closer connection to through deeper thinking.  However,  there are only so many hours in one day.  Twitter is my first web-based learning tool.  As you can see,  I joined twitter in 2009.  I was trying to remember what caused me to join.  I think I must have attended a professional development at that time that encouraged me to follow authors and speakers that I learned from.   While twitter can be maligned,  I find that when I limit my content to the people I follow,  twitter can be a wonderful place to find information, to read quick articles or see examples of work with students, and finally,  to showcase ideas that you have or amazing things you have seen.

This weekend I will be attending the TCRWP Reunion.  I know I will add some twitter follows to my twitter page anticipating that those tweets that will teach me more.

Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 8.55.54 PM

My twitter is mostly based in my professional life, except for the occasional passion following like @suethetrex, based in the Field Museum in Chicago.  I follow staff developers at TCRWP like @clemenkat to learn the latest in what she’s seeing and working on in literacy.  I follow my blogging pals because most of us connect our blog to our twitter feed.  There is a sharing element in your blog construct where you can have your published blog posted simultaneously on your platform and on twitter.  

Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 8.37.31 PM.pngMost days I carry a camera around with me to my collaboration meetings, intervention times, co-teaching moments.  As I pass down the hall,  I snap a picture of an art project.  As I visit a classroom,  I take a picture of work that students are doing. These pictures make it to my twitter page to celebrate student and their teacher’s work.  This is a way to showcase what the teachers in my building are doing that is so right for students.  Here is one example from this week of a kindergarten class in the persuasion unit.

Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 8.42.00 PMI learn from twitter.  I can read blogs, follow teachers, staff developers, authors, fellow writers.  I use the hashtag #smktwitternotebook so I can quickly find posts that I want to keep.  You can also save photos from twitter to your photos.  Most of the tweets I save this way are curriculum related.

Over nine years,  there have been many tweets read, sent, contemplated, and saved. #twitterlove




















Friday 1:15 PM #sol19

Friday 1:15 PM #sol19

March 13, 2019


IMG_3689Every Friday  I have a date with my very exclusive book club.

Sometimes I am a better member than other.

Like last Friday…  Last Friday, I showed up fifteen minutes late empty-handed.

My book club doesn’t mind.  He gives me the same greeting whether I am on-time, missed a week, have books with me or not… Big broad smile.

We formed this book club in the fall.  We had had a more formal daily standing date in his room with his friends for an hour every day last year.  But this year,  we made a decision together to try this idea out.   Once a week,  we get together.  We discuss books we’ve read.  We recommend books to each other.  He takes 3-4 home with him for the week.

Week in and week out.

What he doesn’t know is that I spend the week in between scouring Amazon,  the library, my collection,  the literacy collection, and friends for just the right books to have casually available in that blue bin waiting on my shelf.

The bin has a sticky note on the front loosely hanging with purple flair words written with his name and 1:15 Friday.

1:15 pm  Friday.   I say  you’re a tough guy to find a book for.

He laughs and tells me about this week’s books.  This book about George Washington Carver was fascinating.  Did you know that he invented peanut butter.  Peanut Butter.  And all of these other uses for peanut butter.  See?  And this book,  this book was fascinating too.  Look at this picture!  He shuffles to the next book in his stack.  Can I keep this book another week?  I just started it and its really good.  

I bring out the blue bin and offer up some new biographies freshly snatched from the shelves of Barnes and Noble.  We are all done with biography now.  We are moving on to books with Characters.  

How about this?  

You know I don’t like super heroes.  Too busy.  

I am having a harder time finding books for you where there are boys for the main character. 

I will read books about girls or boys or whatever.  It doesn’t matter.  They are all characters.  

Lesson taught in the book club today.

Not by me.