Sunday, December 28, 2008


We started our Christmas on Christmas Eve when Kiann came over to open his presents. He was going to have a very busy two days, so we were happy to get to be with him and see him open his gifts. He loves legos, so he was pleased with his gift.
The next morning we had Christmas with Todd & Beth and Kris & Darrell. Reggie even dressed up for the occasion.That evening Brandt's family and Angie's family all came over for Christmas with us. We had a great time with everyone and the babies' first Christmas was so cute!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


My Slice of Life today is having Brandt and Michelle home with Meron. She went to the doctor yesterday just to have things checked out. They got a clean bill of health. The doctor was very pleased with how alert and healthy she is. We are all so very thankful for the new baby girl.
Here are Brandt and Michelle still in Ethiopia. They said how wonderful the people of that country are: friendly and so very giving. We, in the USA, take so much for granted. We are truly blessed.

The whole family is back together and happy to have their new sister with them. This is a very special Slice of Life.

Connected to: The Two Writing Teachers' blog

Monday, December 22, 2008


I remember...
It is December and time to decorate the tree in the basement and the rest of the house, too. Cousin Dale is staying for the weekend, so that means the fun and the teasing will begin. I hear mom upstairs in the kitchen mixing the Ivory soap to make the make-believe snow for the tree. Glancing at the tree filled with red and silver balls and the bright twinkly lights makes me feel warm and safe.

"Hey, Dale," I scream up the stairs, "Bring down the soap so we can put it on the tree."

"Only if I get to start first," he yells back at me. I can't believe he is doing this on Christmas. He always has to be first and the best. Why can't he let me do something first once in awhile?

As he gallops down the stairs, I see the gleam in his eyes and know I am in for a challenge. He thrusts his hand into the glop and brings out a large amount of the "snow". In one swift motion he swings in onto the tree. There it lands with a plop. What a mess!

Slowly, I move over toward the bowl in his arms. I quietly dip my fingers into the soft foamy soap. It is cool and sticky on my hand. I lean over to the tree and gently drop small blobs onto each branch. I do it again and again and again. Then I step back to look. Yes, it does look like snow.

"Man, that really does look like snow," Dale exclaims in amazement as he looks over at me with a grin. Did I really hear what I thought I heard? We both step back and turn off the overhead, bright lights. The twinkly lights reflect off the snow. Maybe Christmas will be bright with Dale here after all!

Connected to Two Writing Teacher's blog.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Meron is now in Indiana and we got to meet her tonight. What an adorable little girl. She has the most beautiful big, brown eyes and is aware of everything around her. We had so much fun getting to know her.

Our newest grandchild is finally here and we all couldn't be happier.
Here are the kids along with Bud. They all are thrilled to have their new sister with them. What fun Christmas is going to be this year!

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Yesterday was Todd's 35th birthday. I was able to take some time and have lunch with him. I enjoy our times together so much because they are so rare. I am so proud of him. He is on the Fort Wayne Police force and works the second shift. He also works part time as a security officer with a school in the Fort Wayne Community School district. He and Beth have been married for over a year. He has a step son, Kiann, who is a fourth grader at Garrett.

I can't believe it was thirty-five years ago that I was blessed with this new life. He has been a joy and I am thrilled to be part of everything he has done. I am so fortunate to have such a handsome, brave son! I love you, Todd!!!

Monday, December 15, 2008


We had weather warnings, but we traveled to Wawasee High School anyway. We were on a mission to hear Penny Kittle talk about writing with students. What an inspiring day!

She shared George Ella Lyon's poem and then we wrote our version of it. Here is what I wrote this morning:

I'm from growing up in the country on a very small farm with ponies and rabbits and chickens.

I'm from going to church every Sunday morning, evening and Wednesday nights.

I'm from riding my shetland pony on the road to my friend's house who also had a pony.

I'm from making my bed every morning, doing the dishes every night and cleaning the house on Saturday mornings.

I'm from spending hours in the small town library sitting in the corner reading teen romances.

I'm from listening to Yankee baseball games with my dad and talking about the players and scores when I'd miss a game.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


On Monday and Tuesday of next week, I will have the opportunity to see one of my "heros" in action. I will be traveling to small town in northern Indiana and watching Penny Kittle do her magic with kiddos from that school. To get ready for those two days, I have been reading her newest book: Write Beside Them. What a wake-up call the first two chapters were for me. I have been thinking of them all weekend. Her words made me rethink what I believe in as an educator. The second chapter is titled: This I Believe

As a second grade teacher in a rural school, I was fortunate to be able to study under people like JoAnn Portalupi and Carl Anderson. I became a fan of process writing where children had a voice and a choice. I watched in awe as young children put words on paper that allowed them to come speak from the heart and make a difference in the world around them. They suddenly had power. This was a new concept, but I was fortunate to have administrators that saw children going deeper and thinking at a higher level because they had a share in their own education. They allowed me to continue with my teaching of writing. I became a bit of a rebel for this new cause.

Now, as a facilitator in one of the biggest urban school districts in my state, I have been sucked into the jargon of The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, otherwise known as No Child Left Behind. The concept is a good one, but it still comes back to the kids. The tests we are required to give are for formative evaluation. They are for driving our instruction and figuring out how we can better help children. I understand that and even believe in that. But still, teachers make the difference, not tests. We have to remember that.

Last week, I had a part in frustrating one of the best teachers I have seen in a real long time. She is me. She is what I was. I look at her and her kiddos and remember how I felt back in a time. Then I took a real long look at what I was becoming and I did not like it one bit. I won't do it. I will not give up on what I believe to be best for kids. It might mean my job. It might mean I get called in for not following district procedures. I no longer care. I will fight for what I believe.

I have to rememeber over and over again: Teachers make the difference NOT tests. What power---what opportunity--lies in those hands. (This came from Penny!) I can't wait to hear her this week. I hope to become even stronger in my belief!

Thursday, December 11, 2008


We finally have gotten more news about our newest grandchild. Here are some pictures and the latest news from Brandt and Michelle!

Hi everyone,
What a week it has been! First we want to thank all of you for your prayers and words of support, we really appreciate it. We appreciate your e-mails too, you have all been so supportive and encouraging. We found out today that we are going to be able to go get Meron next week!! It has been a roller coaster few days. Last Thursday, our agency called and told us that they were trying to expedite our papers for the visa appt. so we could travel early and be home for Christmas. That was an incredible surprise! We were told we would know for sure on Monday, but then on Monday we were told we would know on Tuesday. Then on Tuesday we were told that we wouldn't have a definite answer until Thursday or Friday, because they were waiting on the final papers for Meron's passport to go through. They told us it was still a possibility to go next week, but to plan on going over Christmas. So today we didn't expect to hear anything and were preparing ourselves just to go in two weeks when we got the word that everything was all set and we get to go next week. (Hopefully we will keep our sanity through all of this!) Needless to say we are ecstatic ( if not a little panicked) and the kids are thrilled that we will be home for Christmas. We have been so greatly blessed. We fly out of Indianapolis Monday morning and arrive in Addis Ababa Tuesday morning. It will be a very long flight filled with anticipation! I guess it will give us some time to learn some Amharic phrases though. Hopefully we will meet Meron next Tuesday!! Our visa interview is on Thursday at the U.S. Embassy. Then her travel visa could be ready on Friday, but we have to stay through Monday because sometimes they aren't ready until Monday. We will start heading home on Tuesday and should arrive in Indianapolis on Christmas Eve. We hope to have the opportunity to send out an e-mail or two while we are in Ethiopia. We ask once again for your prayers for Meron, as this transition could be quite traumatic for her. She will be taken away from every security that she knows. We pray that she will quickly bond with us and feel safe and loved. Please also keep us in your prayers for safe travels (I'm not a huge fan of flying). And please keep Ty, Lane and Shelby in your prayers. Even though they are very excited, these next couple of weeks will be quite a roller coaster for them too.
Thanks again for all of your prayers.
Brandt and Michelle

Sunday, December 7, 2008


What a great weekend we had celebrating The Big D's birthday. We went to a movie, at out to eat and then shopped for his present, all on Saturday night. His birthday is today, though.
As you can tell, these pictures were not from this weekend. They are just some favorite ones I have. We have had wonderful trips over the years. These are from Nashville and traveling to Atlanta. We are so spoiled because we enjoy spending out time together. We are so alike and enjoy the same things. We walk two miles every morning at 5:00 and usually again in the evening. We work out together in our "at home" gym in the evening, too. We love traveling, running and our dog, Murphy.
We are so blessed to have had so many years together. Happy, happy birthday!!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


  1. Leaving home at 6:20 a.m. was tough for me. It was COLD and DARK! Still Sandie and I headed for Kendallville where we connected with the next leg of our journey. We went to Nappanee for the Carl Anderson workshop. It was great to see our NYC friend and hear parts of his new series of books on conferencing. A great day with friends!
  2. At exactly 4:45 p.m., a group of us met at the Eckhart Public Library for a photo shoot. Several of us had been in NYC staying in a suite in Manhattan when our friend, Barb Morrow was visiting her editor. She had several suggestions from the editor and we all met in a deli in the heart of Times Square and had a peer conference.Yes, all eight of us. Barb dedicated her book to us and wanted us in the publicity shot for the newspaper. We will be in the Sunday edition of the Evening Star. Check it out! AND, look for Mr. Mosquito Put on His Tuxedo coming out in January.
  3. At the end of the day, Julia, Mindy, Sandie, Crystal, Natalie, Barb AND Carl all went to the Italian Grille for supper. We had a wonderful time catching up with each other. It had been years since some of us were together. Just spending time together made us want to take another trip to NYC soon. We made Barb promise to take us with her when she edits her next book!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Here is the latest on the news of our newest grandchild. She is in Ethiopia right now, but will be here by the first of the year. Perfect picture for Wordless Wednesday.
Hi everyone,We are overjoyed to announce that we passed court today and Meron Grace Douglas is officially our daughter! Thank you so much for your prayers and support, we are truly grateful to have such wonderful family and friends. The tentative date for our visa interview is on Christmas Eve. They will let us know more in about a week. Hopefully Meron will be in the arms of her parents for her first Christmas. We have attached a picture of Meron for those of you who have not seen her yet. It's the picture we received with her referral. She was already named Meron when we got her referral. In Ethiopian it means Gift of God. We thought that was perfect. We couldn't wait to share the news! We will keep you updated as soon as we know more. Thanks again for your prayers,Brandt and Michelle

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Here's my Slice of Life for the week. Since Murphy is getting older, spending time with him is precious. This is the picture we are using on our Christmas cards this year. I think I should have titled it: Peace on Earth!

Check out other Slices of Life at the web site of my friend, Ruth and Stacy: Two Writing Teachers.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


We were all ready for the company. The turkey smell was in the air, the table looked beautiful, we could hardly wait for our company to arrive.

Murphy sat by the door waiting. He had no idea who was coming, but he knew it would be someone to play with for at least a little while. He sat there all morning, just waiting for people to come up to the door.

It wasn't long before Aunt Kris, Uncle Darrell and their dog, Reggie got here from Indianapolis. Oliver thought Reggie brought his bed just for him to stay in all day. He was very upset when Reggie took it home with him. Todd and Beth were with us for part of the day, too. Officer Garman was on duty that day, so they didn't get to stay too long.
On Friday we took a trip to Toledo, Ohio, to do some Christmas shopping. We ended up just window shopping, but we got lots of ideas. While we were there, Glen Beck was signing books at a local bookstore. We didn't wait in line for him, but we did get a peek at him and saw his bus.

Oliver was all tired out and even fell asleep while reading. Well, really his dad was reading and Oliver decided he wanted to try it, too. I think this is a perfect picture of how we are feeling about now after a great holiday weekend!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Today I got to lead a presentation to teachers from my district. It was a Beginning Writer's Workshop. During that time we had them write a memory they had of a place they loved. I settled in with my notebook and went back down memory lane to a place I spent many summers. Every year I went for at least a week to church camp at Lake James. My memory was of the first time I went.

You see, my best friend was not able to go with me that year. I went anyway, since I knew the adult who would be our room mother and I knew most of the other girls in my dorm. My parents drove me to camp and helped me register and unpack my suitcase. I even got the top bunk. After they left, I ended up sitting on the porch feeling sorry for myself. I was homesick already and it was only Sunday afternoon.

Soon I found a family from my church. They were there to drop off their son, who was my age. Their daughter, who was younger, and I were close friends. She was too young to spend the week. We walked around camp while her brother got settled in his dorm. Then it was time for her family to go home. I got all emotional. I sniffled, I sobbed, I pleaded: "Please, take me home with you." Her mother was a kind hearted soul. She agreed to let me ride home with them. I rushed in, repacked my clothes and sleeping bag before she could change her mind.

That night we went back for the evening service. Boy, were my parents surprised to see me there. That was the only time I ever did that. Camp became one of my favorite places to spend a week in the summer. Maybe it was because my friend always came with me after that.

I shared my story with my response group today. In that group is a lady I now attend church with each Sunday. When I finished my story, she said, "I went to camp there, too. We probably went at the same time." After some quick questions we found out that we had attended church in neighboring towns and indeed, probably did go at the same time. We have lots to talk about now! Sharing a Slice of Life can be so enjoyable!

Monday, November 24, 2008


Just had to blog on this special day! Twenty-six years ago it was the day before Thanksgiving and we took the four kids and my best friend and headed to Lake James and the church camp. There we met a close friend, who was also a minister. There beside a roaring fire and the lake in the background and all the kids as witnesses, we were married. It seems like just yesterday! Loads of memories and wonderful times have now past. How nice to be married to your best friend!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

North Meets South

One of the great things about being a facilitator is I get to travel all over the city and see the wonderful things that teachers are doing to engage children in learning. Many times I find teachers from the same grade level, but different schools, who are teaching in similar ways. I just know they could be "soulmates". They could collaborate across the city via email. After all, if the two writing teachers can do it, why not here in our district. We have 30+ elementary schools. The curriculum is the same for all. Why not team up to make their teaching more fun and even better for the students?

Well, that is what we tried out on Friday. I got a fifth grade teacher from one school to meet with a fifth grade teacher from another school across town. I met them at 8:00 and we toured the school and classroom. When the kiddos finally arrived to the sound of music, we were situated at the back of the room so we could view the arrival. After the pledge and moment of silence another song played out: Celebration. The students slowly, but with determination, made their way to the gathering area in the center of the room. They sat in what I like to call "mashed potato" a big group. This was the time for the Morning Meeting. They discussed changes in the day, celebrations for the kids who made A.C.E.S. this quarter and what the schedule would be for the day. The Read Aloud time came next. The teacher would read and the students listened until she came to a stopping point. At that time, they would turn and talk to someone near them. The noise level was up a bit here because they ALL had something to say. Soon, the teacher called them back to the group and asked someone to lead off the discussion. Boy, did they talk! Not with the teacher leading it...oh, no, it was entirely student led. Then at a stopping point she began reading again. It went on like this for about 20 minutes.

When it was time for them to take a restroom break and then come back for Writer's Workshop, I left the two teachers together. I was gone for about an hour doing "my thing" around the school. As I came back into the room, I finally found the visiting teacher. She was sitting in the middle of the group fitting in as if she had always been there. I checked in with her and said my goodbyes. My job was finished. I had gotten them together, watched the beginning progression of friendship, and then left the rest up to them.

I can't wait to talk to each of them to see what they thought and what they will do with this new connection across the district! By the way, check out the two writing teachers' blog. They are presenting together in San Antonio this week for NCTE! How exciting!!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008


On November 21st, Shelby will turn seven. We went to her house to celebrate last Sunday. She picked out a dolphin cake. It was half chocolate and half vanilla. Great choice!

She had no trouble blowing out the candles. Looks like baby Audrey wants to get in there and practice how do to this blowing thing!
The interesting thing was that Buddy, the dog, had a birthday, too. He got one candle on the cake, but didn't try to blow it out...Shelby did it for him. He did get to open a gift, though. It was some pup corn. Shelby tried it out and informed us it tasted like dog biscuits! Imagine that!
We got Shelby a Glow Board to keep her busy. We also got her two books. That is what happens when your grandma is a teacher!

Sunday, November 9, 2008


This week the UPS man made a couple stops at my house. That means that when I get home I see those boxes on my front porch. I always jump out of the car faster, greet Murphy with a flurry and get to that front door in a hurry. I am absolutely in love with the new books. I have been reading them chapter at a time! I just have to tell you about them.
The first one is: R5 In Your Classroom by Michelle J. Kelley and Nicki Clausen-Grace. It is for the upper elementary kiddos. I love their ideas on independent reading. The five R's are: Read, Relax, Reflect, Respond and Rap. The idea is to get kids not to "fake" read... really get into the "Reading Zone" as Nancy Atwell calls it. I can't wait to show it to teachers who have been looking for this tip to get kids to really READ!

The other book was for the primary grades. In fact that is sort of what it was called: Of Primary Importance by Ann Marie Corgill. I had briefly reviewed the book one day at the office, briefly, but enough that I knew I HAD to have it. When I got it, I immediately dived into it. When I was only a few pages in, I realized that I knew this author. Well, not really well, but I had been in her classroom at Manhattan New School. She is a good friend of my friend, JoAnn Portalupi. In fact, JoAnn wrote her forward...and she did a great job! As I read this book, I feel like I am right there with her in her classroom. I write in the margins...YES!! It would be a MUST for any primary teacher!

The last one I didn't get by mail. I was browsing the shelves of the local Barnes & Noble and there it was. I almost yelled out loud when I saw it. I knew Janet was writing a grammar book, but didn't know it was out. The book: Grammar Study by Janet Angelillo. I had been waiting for this! I grabbed the book and checked out. You would have thought I just bought an expensive outfit. If you have read any of Janet's other books, you won't be disappointed with this one. What makes it even better is she acknowledges our All Write group in the front of the book! Awww, shucks!

If you want to see some great children's literature, check out my friend, Mary Helen's new blog: Book Savors!

Thursday, November 6, 2008


  1. I love kindergarten! We made books today in a kindergarten class. They had choices of what kind and size books to use. They had small ones with bright paper or large ones with no lines and large ones with lines. The kiddos couldn't wait to start. I modeled my story and wrote part of my book. When we were done one boy shouted, "I was an illustrator today!" Another girl said, "Well, I was an author and an illustrator!" They were so excited.
  2. In third grade we talked about Just Right books. I showed them shoes that I had and how I had a purpose for certain ones. I talked about how I didn't have any soccer shoes because I had no interest in soccer. Then I tried to read a magazine that I found at home and even though I could read all the words I couldn't comprehend it. Then we discussed how important it was to know the words. We ended up with I PICK books. The kiddos were all excited to talk about how they had been in The Reading Zone during Independent Reading that day. I PICK books comes from The Daily 5!
  3. This week I have spent two days working with a fifth grade class doing fiction writing. They had just gotten new writer's notebooks and were excited to start using them. On day one we talked about major characters in a piece. Then we created a class character including a sketch, thoughts that make the character tick and a heart full of things the character loves. Today we worked on minor characters. They listed several right along with how they connected to the main character. They are all set to do a few more journal entries before they begin drafting. I am amazed at the things these young authors are coming up with each day!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Today I had the opportunity to visit another school district and a kindergarten classroom there. I was at Little Turtle Elementary with my friend, Tammy, teaching Kid News. I went with some of the kindergarten teachers I work with in our district. We got to hear her history of Kid News and then watch it in progress. What a great way to learn. Those kids knew so much about words and letters already. They knew about capital letters and compound words. They knew how to be Word Detectives. They knew what quotation marks were. I am so glad I had the chance to visit this classroom. We have learned that students who do Kid News become better readers and writers. Daily homework and this form of interactive writing is so powerful. It transfers over to when they do their Writers Workshop each day. We were able to watch that, also. The kiddos were starting to make books. They had wonderful stories. At the end of the session they were excited to report whether they were authors or illustrators or both during the workshop. What is even better...on Thursday I get to work with one of the classes from Glenwood Park to start writing books like we saw in the Writers Workshop today. Who said Kindergarten kids can't write???

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Can't let Halloween pass without pictures. Since Halloween was on Friday this year, we didn't do our usual dress-up-and-serve-treats activity. We went out to eat and then did grocery shopping like we do every Friday. Still I wanted to post this picture of what I like to call: "Kathy's Klowns". It is just too cute to pass up!

Thursday, October 30, 2008


1. This is the year for my PGP. That means: Professional Growth Plan. I am fortunate enough to have three other facilitators doing their PGPs, too. Therefore, we are teaming on our project. We have decided to do something for which teachers have been asking. That is to write lesson plans to go with Units of Study in certain genres. I will be tackling this year: Response to Literature for second grade and Feature Articles for third grade. This will take the whole year, but what a wonderful tool for teachers when we all get done.

2. Another thing I worked on today was the Quarter two writing in-service for 4th and 5th grades. My friend and co-worker and I are presenting this next Monday. We will be spending half the time on feature articles and the other half on poetry. The teachers who will be attending are going to come away with lessons to do a whole unit of study on each genre. We had a fun day preparing for this.

3. I spent the evening at the office. Our district is having Parent-Teacher conferences today and tonight. The teachers stayed until 8:00 and then will go home at noon tomorrow. We are doing the same. It was strange to be in our big office building down town with no others on our floor. We never knew how quiet it could be. Strange on the night before Halloween!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008



1. The Bible will still have all the answers.
2. Prayer will still work.
3. The Holy Spirit will still move.
4. God will still inhabit the praises of His people.
5. There will still be God-anointed preaching.
6. There will still be singing of praise to God.
7. God will still pour out blessings upon His people.
8. There will still be room at the Cross.
9. Jesus will still love you.
10. Jesus will still save the lost when they come to Him. and God approves this message!

Again connecting to Two Writing Teachers

Monday, October 27, 2008


Today I am taking a challenge from Two Writing Teachers and writing about a small moment. We have our kiddos do this all the time in writers workshop and I feel it is important for us as writing teachers and coaches to do the same work our students are doing.

It was a hot August day, but the weather didn't matter to me on this day. The sun was shining, but that didn't matter either. All I could think about was Biscuit. He had been in my life for 15 years and a big part of my life. I had him longer than I had been married, so he had been a primary male in our family. Being a shelter dog didn't matter to me, he was perfect.

He had been slowly losing control of many of the things I had always taken for granted. He couldn't get up to walk or go from one spot to another. He wouldn't eat, even when I brought him hamburgers from McDonalds and hand fed him. I knew the end was today and I had to face it.

Fortunately, our vet was a personal friend and knew what I was going through. We called him and he came to the house. Biscuit was laying in the front yard breathing slowly. I sat beside him and stroked his head. "It will be okay soon, boy," I sobbed. Dave, the vet, came over and petted him, too. DD, Todd, my mom and a neighbor were all there for the event. We were all sobbing.

It didn't take long, not really, but it seemed like forever. When it was over, I knew we had done the right thing. Dave even said we did. Still losing a best friend is always tough and this was no exception. We will always remember the special times with this big guy and carry his memory and stories with us. Still, losing a best friend is hard!

Sunday, October 26, 2008


In the last few weeks as I have been traveling to schools, I have noticed that teachers are wanting time to just talk to me instead of asking for modeling. That is a good thing, I think. I am enjoying the challenge. Teachers today have so much pressure on them. In our district we have added a formal writing curriculum, new reading series and K-3 teachers are doing DIBELS 4-5 teachers are doing SRI. So many new things to process.

Last week I got to sit down with some kindergarten teachers for collaboration. One teacher was struggling to find out how to deal with an autistic child. Her patience and love for the child just shown from her face. I could tell she had a heart for helping this child to learn. It was great to hear her co-teachers share ideas and do some problem solving with her. That is what true collaboration is all about.

This week is Parent/Teacher conferences and the teachers are busy getting reports ready for those meetings. I was impressed with another kindergarten group as they prepared for these days. They talked about how they had their kiddos be part of the discussions with the parents. The child led the conference at the beginning telling the parents what they had been learning. Then the teacher shared her view points while the child sat right there and participated in the discussion. What a wonderful way to be sure our children have a hand in their own education. AND this is kindergarten!!

I guess, even though I miss working with the cherubs in our district, this part of my job is important and interesting, too. The journey of being a literacy coach is always a challenging but rewarding one!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Several years ago I was teaching in a second grade classroom. My students were fairly good writers and liked to write, or so I thought. I had the opportunity through All Write to study under JoAnn Portalupi. After my first session with her I came back to the classroom excited to share what I had learned about workshop. I gathered the children around me and told them that we would be doing something different when we wrote. They would now have a choice about what they wrote. Their reaction? They cheered. Yes, cheered. Here I had thought they loved to write. Well, they did, but they didn’t like me telling them what to write.
When students join a writers workshop they see themselves as writers, not just someone who completes an assignment for a teacher. I have heard children say things like: “I write like Gail Gibbons,” when they are doing nonfiction books. First graders write on their papers: “written and illustrated by….” Then there was the second grade boy who came into the year thinking he couldn’t write, but left signing his papers: “by Eric the author”. This happens because teachers create a place where students can walk in the shoes of writers every day.

As a child I often played the pretend game of “Place To Make Things”. This was a made-up game where my friend and I would make all sorts of things. We made perfume by crushing flowers. We made stationery by stamping blank paper and we even tried to make a bird house from left over scrap wood. This was our workshop. The reason I loved that game so much was the fact that I got to choose what I was going to make. That is why children love workshop…they get to choose. The teacher sets up the structure, but allows the students plenty of choice. It is amazing to watch a child of any age have a vision for what they want their piece to look like when they are done. This could be a poem for their mother, a narrative for their grandfather about their last fishing trip, or a persuasive piece to talk the principal into allowing soda for lunch. They know their audience and they know how to craft it for the most influence.

While in the classroom, I worried about the children really learning grammar. Would they learn it if I didn’t give them worksheets? We used our own writing to hit the grammar standards. My mini lessons focused on the conventions of language: punctuation, spelling, grammar. I accessed their published writing for these conventions. Instead of just learning the mechanics of language in isolation, they were now able to use it in authentic forms. I now knew they did learn grammar through the workshop setting.

The most powerful reason for workshop is that it gives children a voice. They have the tools to make a difference in their world. A fourth grade boy summed it all up in this poem that tells about what his life is like. It was a chance for him to share his inner most feelings, and that is why we have workshop.


Outside can be dangerous,
Screaming, crying, hollering.
Outside can be dangerous,
Dealers, robbers, junkies.
Outside can be dangerous,
Guns, drugs, stealing.
Outside can be dangerous,
But I am going to live.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I am currently having trouble with the background for my blog. I want the outside leaves to go with the inside design. I tried doing something different last night, but after I did it, I didn't like it that well. Today I got on again and found something from LeeLou.blogspot, that I really liked. When I went to add it, the outside stayed the same as it was. I am bummed. If any of you have any suggestions as to how to get rid of the outside leaf design, let me know, okay???? Thanks, bloggers!

Friday, October 17, 2008


  1. This week I was in three schools. Everywhere I went I came upon the same issue. Teachers are overwhelmed already and it is just ending the first quarter of the school year. When I talk to experienced master teachers and they say things like, "This is the worst it has ever been." I wonder what is going on here. I feel my job again is to support these hard working educators. They have such a heart for kids and yet they feel like their whole life is turning into school work. They need to have a life outside of school, too. I just hope I can continue to make their life easier to do what they do for our children.
  2. Today was a crazy day at the office. I had so much work to do in just catching up on things I was doing for teachers. I ran off packets for a 5th grade teacher, so she could use it with her kiddos who are at a 1st grade level in reading. I scheduled next week's lessons with another school. I answered questions from other teachers who had to know what the right answer was to things that are constantly changing. Then we, the facilitators had some time to work on projects and ask Natalie, our go-to-boss, things we did not know how to answer. Still the time together to just be with these friends was wonderfully relaxing. We laughed until we cried, we talked about our week, and we shared the news of Judi's new grandson in Wisconsin. It was a great time.
  3. On Wednesday night after an afternoon of being in a principals' meeting, I came home to having supper brought in and our newest grandchild visiting. Audrey came with her mom and dad and pizza! We had a fun night holding and talking to her. She is so alert now and watches everything. She loved touching Oliver and he let her. We couldn't believe how much she had changed in such a short time.
  4. Tomorrow Beth and Todd take off for Florida and Disney World. They have been saving and planning for this trip for a long time. Kiann got excused from school and will be able to go with them. Todd said he knows he will come home more tired than when he left because they have to fill every minute while they are there. Me, I get to check in on Alex, the kitten. He will be lonely without them at home so it is my job to check and be sure he hasn't done any damage. He is so ornery, I don't know how we will get along! They go to Florida and I take care of the cat. What's wrong with this picture?

Hope you all had a wonderful week, too!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Write One


Yesterday I was in a new school for me this year. When that happens it is always hard to get into the classrooms and work with teachers. They are hesitant to invite a stranger into their domain. They need to feel safe first. I understand that completely. Because of that I did not have many offers to work with teachers the last few days there.

However, there was one second grade teacher who had been a facilitator and understood my dilemma. She invited me in to watch her and offer suggestions. Second grade is my favorite since I taught that level for so many years. It is like going back home when I enter those rooms. So, I was really looking forward to my visit. I wasn't disappointed. I had so much fun pulling up beside those kiddos as they were reading their books. We had some great discussions.

After the class, the teacher and I had time to talk over lunch. We talked about all kinds of second grade things. I brought in ideas from when I was in the classroom along with new things I had been trying with other teachers. I mentioned that my class back in Hamilton had done a certain thing. The other teacher was amazed. Not at what I had done, but at the fact I had taught in Hamilton. Now it just so happened that she had started her teaching in Hamilton.

I couldn't believe it. I was sure I must have been there when that happened, but I didn't remember her. How could that be, Hamilton is NOT that big? You have to know everyone K-12 when you teach there. Finally, I asked her what her name was then. When she told me I was shocked. I said, "No WAY!" She still looked confused because she didn't remember me either. When I told her what my name was back then she shouted, "NO WAY!" We had been friends thirty years ago. We talked and talked about mutual friends and people we both had taught with. Then she said, "Well, no wonder we had a connection right away. We have been friends for a LONG time!"

I am so glad I found her again. It is like discovering a new secret. What a joy it will be to team up with her and work with those second graders and my new/old friend!!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Taking an idea from Creative Literacy, I am just hitting six things that happened this week. That way I can catch up from a very busy week and still let everyone know what all is happening in my educational world.
  1. Being back in the classroom this week and into two of my favorite schools, I caught up with what was happening with kiddos as the year is getting on its way. In a couple first grade rooms these writers were into narrative writing. Both classes were using the Magic Words of Story and writing stories over three pages. They were using the technique of putting a word at the top of the page to remember what they were going to write on that page. This is a little different from Lucy Calkin's idea in the Units of Study. She has the students sketch on each page to plan. I like that for beginning writers, but these kiddos were ready to move on. Can't wait to see what their prompts will look like. Great Writing, First Graders!
  2. In second grade we worked on peer conferencing in one room. The teacher and I took the idea from The Two Sisters with their Daily 5 and used the process to make an I-chart for what we would see in peer conferencing. This was like the Daily 5's partner reading. In the other second grade we did a vocabulary lesson with a read aloud, using the book Fancy Nancy. We made a chart with a T-chart, Plain on one side and Fancy on the other. We listed the plain word and then the fancy word we had heard in the story. They were going to add their new fancy words to this as they read their own Independent Reading books. As I left that day, they all yelled, "Merci!" A new fancy word.
  3. Two of my 4th & 5th grade teacher friends were gracious enough to let me "try out" a new idea that I had heard in Indy last week. I read the book: An Angel for Solomon Singer and we stopped and talked about what the author was trying to tell us. This was tough because these kiddos are so good at looking at the book and discussing what the characters and setting is doing to the story. As we got further into the book and I challenged them to think deeper, they were getting it. As a follow up the next day, we did a write around to what did they still wonder about. What great thinkers we have in our district!
  4. Presenting two in-services kept me busy this week, too. On Wednesday night we did our first Writing Workshop in-service for our new writing curriculum. Barb Boggs and I worked with the 4th and 5th grade teachers. We went over notebook work again and then showed them how to take their notebook quick writes and go into a draft. We shared student work and they left with three lessons in their packet of tricks. We also talked about conferencing. I even did a "fish bowl" conference with Barb and helped her with something she has been writing. Carl, you would have been proud of me! The other in-service was for our district's two-hour delay. It was on Friday morning and I helped the entire staff at Glenwood learn more about our new reading series and the 90-minute block.
  5. After a long day of teaching and presenting, I made it home one night by 7:00 for supper. However, as I entered the kitchen to the smell of supper being fixed for me by my wonderful hubby, I saw a package. Yes, books had arrived! I was like a kid at Christmas. I hurried through supper although I was starved and the Big D had outdone himself. Here are a few that I now own: Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop (look out, Jen!); Continuum of Literacy Learning; mindset- the new psychology of success (I already love this one!); and Write Beside Them by Penny Kittle (did I mention that I love Penny Kittle!!) Yes, my bedtime is longer now with all these great reads beside my bed!
  6. Last of all, I have to include a personal note. I made it to the hospital this morning for my lab work. I promised my son, Todd, that I would go, so I did. The line looked long at 8:00 a.m., but they added another nurse and it went faster. Now I just wait until next week when I again see the doctor for the verdict. I will post more on that later!

Have a great week and keep reading and writing!

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Last week the facilitators went to Indy for their literacy conference. We got to hear many great speakers and brought home loads of ideas. This week I am going to use an idea about teaching vocabulary that we heard from Isabel Beck.
We also learned about comprehension and how to use questioning the author to help the students respond better to the text. This week I am going to try a couple of her ideas with a fifth grade and a fourth grade class. This comes from her book: Improving Comprehension with Questioning the Author. This builds comprehension during reading.

We had a great time in Indianapolis and can't wait to share our learning with the teachers in our schools.

Monday, September 29, 2008


All Write!!! Summer Institute will be June 22nd and 23rd.

Here are a few updates to get you excited and ready to come!!!

June 22nd-
  • Max Brand
  • Kelly Gallagher
  • Candace Fleming
  • Lester Laminack
  • Stephanie Parsens

June 23rd-

  • Stephanie Parsens- (writing one day, reading one day)
  • Amy Buckner--notebooks
  • Carl Anderson-talking about his new book
  • Gary Schmitt
  • Frank Serafini
  • Janet Elliott
  • Barb Morrow


  • Jacqueline Woodson

Friday, September 26, 2008


Where I'm From...

I'm from DeKalb County in the fall
when the fair pulls in
and rides are set up,
animals fill the barns
and doughnut smells drift in the air.

I'm from DeKalb County in late September
when 4-H is more than a club
when animals are shown
and the largest pumpkin
gets a blue ribbon.

I'm from DeKalb County on September 27th
when families line the streets,
local bands march in a high step,
floats roll by with paper flowers
and politicians shake your hand.

I'm proud to be from DeKalb County!
Thanks to George Ella Lyons...mentor author.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


It's Fair Time!!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Every fall the DeKalb County Fair hits town. This is the combination of a street fair and the county 4-H fair. The streets are shut to traffic for the whole week. The fair grounds come alive with horses, cows, pigs and sheep. It is a magical place! Kids get off school to take care of their animals. Kids can't wait to hit the streets for the food and rides. All day at the county schools you hear, "Are you going to the fair?"
Our tradition is to take the grandkids to the fair. We spend one night seeing the animals, eating fair food and watching them ride on the rides. Every year Grandpa gets to ride the merry-go-round with the youngest grandchild. This year it was Shelby's turn again. Since Grandma Kathy wasn't feeling her best, Grandpa got to do more than his share in going on rides.

Ty is an animal lover, so the barns were his favorite place. They all loved seeing the different animals up close.
Shelby talked Grandpa into going into the Fun House with her. Grandpa even almost did a head stand coming out. I missed that shot, but Michelle got it recorded for us!

Lane and Shelby loved the scarier rides, too. This one was enough to make me sick just watching it. The kids are getting braver and braver every year.

Here is the historic, famous merry-go-round ride. Grandpa couldn't understand why they made him pay too. We told him, if he was going to ride, he was going to pay! I think he will be disappointed when he can't ride this because none of the kids will go on it. I suppose then it will be my turn to take him.
We sure have fun at the County Fair!!!