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.