Wednesday, February 29, 2012

From the Mouth of Babes!

 Yesterday I had the chance to visit my grandson's classroom while visiting the coaches in his building.  After I had a little chat with him about how his day was going, I left the room and thanked his teacher.  She proceeded to tell me a couple of great stories about him.
      The first story took place one morning after the class had recited their daily pledge.  Right after it was over my grandson walked up to her and said, "Miss Carrie, I have a question."  When she asked him what it was, he said, "Who is Witch Itstands?"  She asked him to repeat it a couple times.  He said, "You know we talk to him every morning!"   She then understood that he was thinking: For which it stands.  She explained what that meant and hoped that he understood the meaning now.  He just shook his head and said, "I just don't get it!"

        The next story took place in their reading block time.  My grandson was reading silently the book: To Think It Happened on Mulberry Street.  After reading for awhile, he began talking to himself.  This is what he mumbled...."Boy, if that street is real, I want to live there!"  I think that is what Ellin Oliver Keene calls...setting empathy in comprehension.  Way to go Adrian!!!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


    In the book, Storycatcher, it talks about "following the beeline" and how honey is associated with learning.  Here's how she says it:
     "Among the Hasidic Jews, when a child first approaches the Torah to study the history and wisdom of  'the law', the rabbi puts a drop of honey on a tiny plate and sets it on the page.  The child licks the honey from the holy word so she or he will always associate sweeetness with learning."
      Who put honey in your heart?
My story for this answer is--my grandma.  She was my first Sunday School teacher--my first teacher.  My mother and I lived with my grandparents across the street from our church.  We would walk to church every Sunday.  When I was old enough to go to a classroom, it was where Grandma was the teacher.  We all sat at a table, or played in a sandbox or sat in chairs and sang songs about Jesus or prayed.  I learned the "rules" of learning, sharing and playing.  I heard stories of floods with arks and rainbows, about shepherds and sheep, and about a God that loved me.
      Grandma put the honey in my heart and taught me that love, learning and God were the sweetmess of life.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Savouring the Moments

   Today in a comment on my blog, I was asked if I'm savouring these last few months before retirement...
   After not only 43 years of every morning getting ready to head off to school, but even the 16 years before that, I have done the same things.   I eat breakfast, make my bed and get dressed.  I then head off to school---by bus, by car, by walking---but off I go.  Now,I stop and think, am I savouring these last days?  I guess not...counting the days--yes...dreaming of what comes after--yes...but savouring--no.
    So, what would savouring look like---perhaps reflecting on my memories or relishing in my experiences.  Just thinking over my days as they have rushed by, gives me a sensation of savouring.
     Maybe it is a little like something my grandmother used to say, "Don't wish your life away,"
As a teenager, I didn't fully understand that.  Now as an almost retiree, I do.  I need to savour these moments because soon they will be just memories.  No more lesson plans, education blather, instructional dialogue. 
    Yes, I will savour these moments as I head for the next chapter of my life.  Thanks, Ingrid.  I again learn from you!

Sunday, February 26, 2012


  The book our Book Club is currently reading is Storycatcher by Christina Baldwin.  The by-line for the book is: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story.  I am only on page 24, but so far this book has me hooked!

    Each chapter of the book is carried by a facinating narrative about people, family or community.  This is all intertwined with the practical instruction about the nature of story, how it works and how we can practice it in our lives. 

    The first chapter begins with this quote to open it:
"Life hangs on a narrative thread.  This thread is a braid of stories that inform us about who we are, and where we come from, and where we might go.  The thread is slender but strong: we trust is to hold us and allow us to swing over the edge of the known into the future we dream in words."

    At the end of each chapter is a part titled: Becoming a Storycatcher.  This is an exercise for the reader to complete.  There are choices as to what the reader feels compelled to complete.  Or the reader could do all of them. 

    I am sure by the time we have our next Book Club meeting, all of us will be better storycatchers  And we will have a lot to talk about, too!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

How My Car Reveals Who I Am

This exercise in writing came from the book:Write This Way by Kelly Gallagher.

I knew when I got a job where I'd be required to spend much time in my car, that I would have to have a special car.  It would be a car that showed my personality.  It would be a car that would make me happy just to look at it.  I wanted something that just shouted: "ME!".  It had to be a car that stood out in a parking lot.  One that I could spot from the top of the Anthis entrance steps.  It needed to be a car everyone would know was mine.  A car that when sitting in the parking lot of a school, everyone driving by would say, "Oh, Kathy must be at that school today."  It would be a car that when someone found out it was mine, they would say: "It just looks like you." 

Well, I have that car and have had the same type and color for seven years.  My little, bright yellow VW beetle certainly reveals who I am!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Today my major work was to put together a presentation on the component of writer's workshop known as the minilesson.  This is the part of workshop that most teachers feel the most comfortable doing.  That's because it is the most like traditional teaching.  However, many times the minilesson becomes the maxilesson.  That's what I hoped to change give these teachers a clear picture of what to do with minilessons.

I will start with an overview looking at Ralph and JoAnn's book: Writing Workshop: The Essential Guide.  Going over the structure of a minilesson is necessary before anything else can take place.  I will compare this structure to our district's instructional framework.

I then plan to use a kindergarten piece of writing to have the participants look for what the student is doing well.  They will then turn and talk to their partners and decide what they might teach from this piece...what lesson could come from it.  I then will do the same thing with a piece by a third grader.

Since these teachers were instructed to bring sample student work with them, they will again work with their partners and find the strengths from the sample writing.  From there they will look for what they might teach the whole class using this piece as a sample of what they might see from an entire class. 

The last part of this professional development is writing a lesson.  I again will model how I would take one teaching point from the original sample pieces and turn it into a lesson plan.  I then will ask them to do the same with their partners.

My goal is for them to leave with a plan of action in their hands.  That's the short term goal.  My long range goal is for them to have the tools to look at the writing of their own students and understand where minilessons are born.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Write Like This

I have been reading the best book on writing.  It is written by Kelly Gallagher and I purchased it last year.  I have heard Kelly speak at one of the Summer Institutes put on by All Write!!!  I knew he was an awesome speaker and a great writer, but this book is one I'd put on my HAVE TO HAVE list!

The title is: Write Like This, Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling & Mentor Texts.  Right now I am only on chapter 3 because I am reading it deeply (close reading).  The thing I love the most is all the practical ideas.  It is like having a writing mentor right beside me.  The exercises are something a teacher could introduce to his/her class or a writing coach could use in a presentation.

One of my favorites from Chapter 2 was: Moving Students into Expressive and Reflective Writing.  To begin this project he begins with the six-word memoir (see  Students are asked to write their memoirs in exactly six words. 

Here are a couple from the online magazine:
  • All things considered, I am doing well.
  • The past is forgiven, not forgotten.
  • So the water's deep. Man up.
Here's one by Kelly:
  • Teach, grade, travel, speak, write: tired
Here's my try at it:
  • Feed Dave. Walk Dave. Great dog!
  • Counting the days until I retire!
How about it, want to try?  Go for it.  Thanks, Kelly!!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Lessons From Little Authors

Last week I had the invitation from a kindergarten teacher to stop by her room when I visited that school and see what her students had been doing with the current Unit of Study: Authors as Mentors.  I was able to work that visit in on Monday morning.

I viewed the papers in the hall.  There were stories written with punctuation using Ezra Jack Keats as their "writing teacher" for the study.  The books they had read were posted along with everything they had learned from that book.  It was amazing.  I couldn't wait to meet the little authors.

I squeezed in behind the teacher as she greeted her students that morning.  As they hung up their coats, grabbed their journals and made their way to their tables, I could see they had purpose in the routine.  When they got the journal opened, it was time for me to make my move.  I would sit beside someone getting ready to write and ask, "What are you going to write about today?"  They always knew. 

Then I met Anthony.  He already had a snowman on the top of the page with a big red scarf colored brightly.  When I asked  him about the snowman he said, "This is a perfect snowman.  Oh, wait!  I forgot the stick arms."  He quickly added the arms with his brown crayon.  Now it was time for the words.  He wasn't as sure about that part.

Anthony decided he wanted to say: "The snowman is perfect."  We worked together to form the letters and sounds using the Word Wall and the alphabet sheet.  We did a lot of thinking and approximating.  I love watching these small kiddos as the thinking process takes place.  I could sit and watch that for a long time!  And sometimes, I do!

He had all the words on the paper.  I then said, "What comes at the end?"  Anthony thought for a moment, then in his thoughtful voice said, "Either a period or exclamation mark."  He wasn't asking me which, he was thinking about it....making a decision.  He picked up his pencil and drew a line at the end of the sentence that went from that line to about three lines down.  I asked him if that was how authors made exclamation points.  He said, "She lets us do that."  

"Okay, but let's look and see what authors do."  I picked up a book he had been reading and we found a one line exclamation point.   "See."  I said.  He replied: "But she lets us do that."   I simply looked at him and he looked back at me.  I said, "Okay, it is your book."
He made the LONG exclamation point and left it....closing his book with a satisfying look.

Before I left the room, I stopped to chat with the teacher and thank her for allowing me to share her students.  I told her the story of Anthony.  She laughed and said, "Oh, yes, they are having a lot of fun with those marks.  We saw Ezra Jack Keats do that in one of his books.  They knew it was because he wanted his readers to know how important it was.  Now they want to do that, too."

Once again I went away amazed at how much children teach me about writing!!!!