Speaking the Right Language #sol18


Speaking the Right Language #sol18

March 1, 2018


I skimmed an article online the other day that said that the key to maintaining a solid, happy relationship was expressing love in the way that your partner wants to receive it.  The ways to receive love were fairly standard:  receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), and physical touch.   The trick is knowing which way feels like love to another person.

I’m totally clear with the way I express love to others,  I do things.  On a daily basis for the last at least 30 years,  I’ve packed a morning lunch for myself, my husband, and at some points along the way, one or two sons.  The lunches are fairly standard with the exception of having homemade cookies or dessert in them nearly every day.  As many parents (and perhaps spouses),  I try to keep to favorites and add a few surprises along the way.  In addition,  many people have received knitted scarves or Monday cakes and cookies over the years.   I also adore to make dinner for family and friends.

The way I give affection and the thinking about how others may want to receive it made me think about the way I deliver coaching as well.  Do I deliver my assistance, my coaching, my partnership in a way that is optimally received by the other person?  Is it what they expected?  Needed?  or even wanted?

I’ve had some amazing partnerships over the years. So beneficial and rewarding to me and I believe rewarding to the other folks involved.  An amazing partnership with a first grade team in my home state.  Debbie Miller enthusiasts,  we planned our cozy classrooms with child center learning right out of the pages of Reading with Meaning including a pilgrimage to see Ms. Miller herself.  I have a wonderful mentor relationship with my far flung former literacy specialist partner in crime trudging to New York a couple of times a year,  going to workshops, talking on the phone during our commutes,  sharing reading and driving each other forward.  In the eight years I have been in my current position,  I have forged true partnerships,  teaching in the trenches with so many wonderful educators storied in my instagram and twitter feeds.  However during these many relationships and all the new ones I begin,  I think… what is it that these teachers really wants… and needs?

As you know,  occasionally our wants and needs are in conflict with each other. We can’t see the forest for the trees and all that.  More often that not,  I’ll say that I’m not sure of either:  the want or the need.  I made a calculated stab at it, asking some tried and true questions and more often than not,  I get on the board, if not in the bullseye.  Sometimes,  it takes time to be truly helpful.  You have to wait for it.  Watch for it.  Nurture it.

So much like the thirty eight years of lunch making,  it may not be Mr. K’s preferred expression of love.  Maybe his original family was better at expressions of affirmations,  maybe they were huggers.   My way of providing support to teachers may not be their preferred way, but I hope it’s an honest way, a dependable way, a helpful way today and that it improves tomorrow.



Day 1  of my 31 day writing streak!   Thanks to my dear friend, Clare Landrigan (@clareandtammy) for the encouragement,  my special blogging partners who support whatever I throw down,  and the Slice of Life community beautiful choreographed by the Two Writing Teachers team.  Give writing daily a try and read some beautiful words here.



rattlesnake footprints

raccoon tracksMay 10, 2017

Recently there was a news story about a child and his stepfather who were lost in a nearby woods.  When interviewed the child (around 8) said there weren’t any rattlesnakes or anything, but there were a lot of animals with feet.  

Isn’t that just like all of us children and adults,  we are looking for the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad and then right in front of us is something amazing and inspiring? In my conjecture,  I suppose either the child was frightened and then realizing there wasn’t anything that was going to immediately kill him, began to enjoy his surroundings noticing footprints or the adult senses fear explained that there weren’t any rattlesnakes and did he notice those raccoon tracks.

So,  in our classrooms who is doing the noticing?  Are we bringing the horses to water and waiting for them to drink?  Do we understand the gradual release? Are we keeping in our minds and in hearts… and in our words where we are trying to go?  Are we keeping ourselves open to the possibilities?  Are we always the ones who are driving the instruction forward or are some of those amazing possibilities coming from our students?


Writers are Readers #sol17

IMG_8534Reducing Cognitive Load by Pairing Reading/Writing Work

March 30, 2017

Lucy Calkins says in the The Art of Teaching Reading that reading and writing are like ‘running from one side of the boat to the other’.  Thinking about that movement from one side to the other and I’m searching for balance.  Previously, I thought that students were wonderful readers and then they became writers.  Perhaps it is because that is how I remember it for myself.  Reading, Reading, Reading.  Talking, Talking, talking.   Then struggling to write.   

What I’ve learned from a year of collaborating in writing and reading through the units of study is this.  Reading and writing should not be separated.  They are the peanut butter and jelly of learning.  I have upended my thinking and believe that writing is the easier craft, even if that might not be true for me.  What I’ve noticed is that writing work scaffolds the reading work.  When we teach into informational writing and then begin a unit in informational reading a few weeks later, we can teach into the strategies we are using to write and the style of the mentor texts we have examined as writers to teach into the reading strategies in informational reading.   I can say to a student, remember in writing we were working on text features to teach different aspects of our topic.  We can use what we know about writing text features to examine what the author is trying to tell us in our books.  If you are thinking about poetry these days,  this teaching move makes sense.  Teach into the writing of various types of poetry,  then give the mentor texts double duty  as readers,  read and reread those poems.  The more we write poetry, the more we understand the reading of it.  The more we read poetry, the better our writing is.

Writing provides a lot more room for error.  It’s slower paced.  We can edit and revise to our heart’s content.  In writing,  the pressure is less.  So while I still have student who are doodling on the paper,  they are getting the sentences written as well.  They have wait time and think time.  They are constructing as constructivists.  Writing scaffolds reading in so many ways that we knew.  Practicing phonics skills while spelling during writing strengthens decoding skills in reading.  Deeply studying a genre of writing strengthens predictive skills needed when reading particularly genres which are unfamiliar.

Studying reading and writing in the same genres keeps underlying truths in the same zip code.  As in our biography study where we used our narrative arc writing structure to describe the composition of the subject’s story,  using our writing structures explains new or different reading structures to students.  After we have taught text structures in second grade writing, when these students read informational text, they notice the text structures and anticipate the author’s meaning and purpose.  We apply the narrative writing structure to clarify theme, purpose, and determine importance.

As when I am looking for connections  I see them everywhere,  we have connected not just reading and writing in a grade level, but now see connections across grade.  Creating those connections across grade, content, and genre provides a platform for students to move to deeper thinking, richer work, and increasing confidence.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers and the March Slice of Life Challenge Community for inspiration and encouragement.  Read their amazing blogs here.