We Made It!

slice-of-life2

I have participated in #SOL19. Thirty-one days of posting some writing and exploring other blogs – so many treasures were found!  A big thank you to the Time Fliestwowritingteachers blog team for sponsoring this wonderful event. I’ll be back next year and hopefully, every Tuesday. It’s a great way to share writing, get some feedback, and find so many new scaffolds and possible writing topics to explore. A big thank you to all who shared writing here this March! Time flies when you’re having fun! Guinness

Here’s to you and you and you and you!

Wishing you a great end to your school year.

Wishing you a spring bursting in blooms and a rebirth of wonder.

Wishing you a world of writing and reading possibilities.

Happy writing!

Safe travels!

Congratulations!

We made it!

 

 

 

 

 

A Summer Counting Poem

slice-of-life2I am participating in #SOL19. Thanks to the twowritingteachers blog team for sponsoring this event.

Writing inspired by the mentor text I Know It’s Autumn!  by Eileen Spinnelli.

I Know It's Autumn

A Summer Counting Song

I knew it was summer because I saw one bee buzzing around a rose.

I knew it was summer because I saw two small kids running through
the lawn  sprinkler and yelling!

I knew it was summer because I saw three bathing suits hanging on
the line to dry.

I knew it was summer because I tasted four ripe strawberries from a stand on
the way to the seashore.

I knew it was summer because I smelled five hamburgers sizzling on the  grill.

I knew it was summer because I saw six places set at the picnic table on the patio.

I knew it was summer because I felt the raised bumps from seven mosquito  bites on my
legs.

I knew it was summer because I heard eight birds chirping in the apple tree.

I knew it was summer because I tasted nine small samples of yummy fudge including
peanut butter, maple walnut, chocolate chip, mint, eggnog, cookies and cream,
vanilla, chocolate, mocha, and strawberry.

I knew it was summer because I saw ten tiny, white butterflies around my butterfly
bushes  in our backyard.

I knew it was summer because I watched the sun sinking into the bay on LBI surrounded
by the summer eleven: Mary, Paul, Tom, Linda, Gwen, Leigh, Memphis, Rhonda,
and Merrill (our Corgis), my husband Ralph, and me.

I knew it was summer because I made fourteen deviled eggs for the Fourth of July picnic
but ate two of them before the start of the picnic (so we had twelve to share).

 

On Finding Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

“Oh, no! Where is it? It has to be here!”  I say loudly, trying to awaken my napping husband. I find a flashlight and continue to scan the bookshelves for Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes. “Where are you hiding, Lilly?” I say a little louder.

Now I am practically shouting. “Ralph!  I cannot find Lilly!”

He wakes up from his short nap a little disoriented. “Willie?” he asks.

“No! Lilly!  It’s a children’s book. I need it tomorrow. Please help me look.” We continue to search the shelves. No luck. “Call Barnes & Noble.”  I have to have it. My husband obliges. When someone answers, he repeats my request.

“They are looking.”  We wait and wait. Finally, “No?  Exton has it? Thank you.” My husband knows the drill. He calls the Exton store. I am still searching. “Yes, you have it?”  Ralph says into the phone.

“Here it is!” I shout with joy. “I found Lilly!”

“Aaaaaaaah, thanks very much.  I don’t think we’ll be needing it after all.” Big sigh from my husband.

“Is that a sigh of relief because now you won’t have to drive all the way to Exton?” My husband does not answer. He’s already back on the couch with arms folded across his chest and eyes closed.

No matter. I am holding Lilly in my arms!Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse

 

Bridal Shower for Goddaughter #3

slice-of-life2I am participating in #SOL19.  Thanks to the twowritingteachersblog team for sponsoring this wonderful event!

On Saturday, March 23rd my last goddaughter, Caitlyn, had a beautiful bridal shower at the Blue Bell Inn.  Brooke, her sister, chose the menu for the luncheon and found a most incredible bakery in Wayne for the cake and favors to take home. The cake was chocolate chip pound cake with beautiful white and pink icing, a pink flamingo made in icing at the top, and fresh flowers on the side. The invitations said, “Let’s flamingle!”

Brooke and Alex (twins and Caitlyn’s older sisters) took care of greeting guests and managing presents to be opened. Brooke found a blouse with a big pink flamingo on it and Alex actually found a dress with flamingoes everywhere! Cait looked gorgeous in a white top, white slacks, and a jacket. She held up well, even though she had a bad cold and was not giving hugs and kisses to anyone (understandable).

The adults had a chance to reconnect with one another. The last time I saw some of these people was at Alex’s wedding last June. Cait and her beau Kevin will be married on April 27th at the Flanders Hotel in Ocean City. A brunch will follow the next morning. I read at both Alex’s and Brooke’s wedding and am delighted to do the same at Caitlyn’s wedding.  It is a passage from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.  Cait and I both liked the book very much.

At the end of the shower, I asked for the bill. I have given all three girls their bridal shower and am happy to be able to do it. The girls continue to give me so much joy and happiness. I always cherish the time we spend together. I look at them and remember the routine we had on outings when they were in elementary and middle school – a lunch at Friendly’s, then a movie, and finally – an hour or more pouring over books at a book store – so many choices for girls who love to read!

 

 

 

 

 

Bridal Shower for Goddaughter #3

slice-of-life2I am participating in #SOL19. Thanks to the
twowritingteachers blog team for sponsoring this wonderful event!

On Saturday, March 23rd my last goddaughter, Caitlyn, had a beautiful bridal shower at the Blue Bell Inn.  Brooke, her sister, chose the menu for the luncheon and found a most incredible bakery in Wayne for the cake and favors to take home. The cake was chocolate chip pound cake with beautiful white and pink icing, a pink flamingo made in icing at the top, and fresh flowers on the side. The invitations said, “Let’s flamingle!”

Brooke and Alex (twins and Caitlyn’s older sisters) took care of greeting guests and managing presents to be opened. Brooke found a blouse with a big pink flamingo on it and Alex actually found a dress with flamingoes everywhere! Cait looked gorgeous in a white top, white slacks, and a jacket. She held up well, even though she had a bad cold and was not giving hugs and kisses to anyone (understandable).

The adults had a chance to reconnect with one another. The last time I saw some of these people were at Alex’s wedding last June. Cait and her beau will be married on April 27th at the Flanders Hotel in Ocean City. A brunch will follow the next morning. I read at both Alex’s and Brooke’s wedding and am delighted to do the same at Caitlyn’s wedding.  It is a passage from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.  Cait and I both liked the book very much.

At the end of the shower, I asked for the bill. I have given all three their bridal shower and am happy to be able to do it. The girls continue to give me so much joy and happiness. I always cherish the time we spend together. I look at them and remember the routine we had on outings when they were in elementary and middle school – a lunch at Friendly’s, then a movie, and finally – an hour or more pouring over books at a book store – so many choices for girls who love to read!

 

 

A Rustic Cottage in Maine

Slice of Life2I am participating in #SOL19. Thanks to the twowritingteachersblog team for hosting this wonderful event!

My sister and brother-in-law love Maine. I think Willie would like to retire there. They both have fulltime jobs, a large old house, and a big dog named Finn. Diane and Willie live near me in southeastern Pennsylvania. But two times a year – Thanksgiving and August – they are Mainers.

They purchased a very rustic cottage in Weld that sits on a large tract of land – about 52 acres. There is a meadow, a little forest, and a pond near the cottage. But when Ralph and I visit, we don’t stay there. Here’s why: There is no running water. Diane and Willie carry it in. The cottage has solar panels and is eco-friendly. So there is an eco-friendly toilet – that’s right – no flush.  They are talking about putting in a well and septic system, but all of that can be quite expensive.

So we  spend our time close by at Kawanhee Inn overlooking Webb Lake.  It is quite beautiful and so peaceful.  You can actually hear the loons’ haunting calls as they come in for a clumsy landing on the waters around dusk.  From there, we have taken day trips to Camden and took a sunset cruise on a sailing ship. It was lovely. We even took a day trip to  Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.  My brother-in-law drove his big Dodge Ram up and up and up the narrow winding road to the top. The temperature dropped about 15 degrees by the time we got to the top. It was spectacular!

We hope to go back this summer, and we will definitely make our first stop in Portland to see Chandra and Paula. Here are some photos for your enjoyment:

 

 

Just a Few More Minutes…

slice-of-life2I am participating in #SOL19.  Thanks to the twowritingteachers blog team for sponsoring this wonderful event!

Last August we visited Portland, Maine before traveling to Weld. I knew I would not have Internet access when we arrived at Kawanhee Inn. My cell phone never worked there, and I needed to share the final revisions with Stacey and our editor Bill Varner before I left Portland.

I had promised my husband that we would take a harbor cruise Sunday morning, so I extended our checkout time to three and left for the tour. We had a great time, and even stopped for clam chowder and onion rings at a tiny restaurant on the walk back to our hotel.

Then I was glued to my laptop for the next 90 minutes. Just before three, I asked my husband to take our suitcases and check out. “I’ll be down in about five minutes.”  Fifteen minutes later I heard a knock at the door. No, it wasn’t my husband. It was a member of the hotel staff who wanted to get the room ready for the next guests.

“I am just packing up my laptop.” I chorused while still typing the final sentence.  I shared the document on google with Bill and Stacey, shot another e-mail to Bill to let him know everything was completed and ready for final review, and packed up my laptop. The manuscript for Welcome to Writing Workshop was ready for the copy editors. At 3:20 I met me husband in the lobby and we walked to our car.  “That was really cutting it close,” I said to my husband.

He just rolled his eyes and looked skyward. “We are supposed to be on vacation,” he muttered to no one in particular.

 

 

Think Tank!

slice-of-life2I am participating in #SOL19. Thanks to the twowritingteachers blog team for sponsoring this wonderful event!

What a Meeting with a Professional Learning Community Network Can Accomplish: Follow-up to a Cluster Meeting  (minutes from an elementary school gr 2-5 meeting with key teachers)

  • Having an extended block or reading/writing time
    • This would be ideal. As we have looked at the many demands to fit in lunch and special schedules, blocks for math and other subjects, Title I and inclusion schedules, we have never been able to find a way to block it this way.  We welcome anyone who can see other ways to schedule it so we are able to make more reading-writing connections.
  • No time for spelling
    • We agree that this is a challenge but we are cautious about making a blanket statement that there is no time for spelling. We could find some solutions not to our liking.  We are willing to say that spelling might be a part of reading as well as writing or even an across-the-content area endeavor. Weekly spelling tests are of no real benefit to students, but the parents look for them. We need to find other ways to help students develop good spelling habits. Can we hold all students accountable for using environmental print?
  • Moving narrative cycle so it is not the first cycle
    • Narrative is usually the easiest mode of writing for our students. We usually get the best scores on the narrative cycles.  We wonder if a possible help would be to move the date of the writing prompt back.  We also hope that classes are emphasizing personal narrative and that teachers have been able to find good picture books or scaffolding ideas to help students have strong models. Third through fifth grade classrooms should use realistic fiction as a second cycle for narrative writing.
  • Measuring progress with different types of writing
    • We agree that we cannot compare the different samples for progress over the course of a year. We do not try.  We look to our success in each of the writing types and try to think of ways to meets student needs identified in each sample.
  • Well-formed paragraphs the goal for the end of the year
    • This is a difficult task. Students very often make progress and then have setbacks as they try more challenging writing tasks.  For some students, we would agree that greater structure such as use of the Four-Square might help them better understand expanding the content to support the big ideas. However, we caution against requiring scaffolds all the time. We discourage formulaic writing
  • Ordering more resources for writing
    • We are trying to get together some of our resources and lesson ideas in addition to the Fletcher materials that all teachers should have including A Writer’s Notebook, Live Writing, Poetry Matters, and How Writers Work. We are also ordering more mentor texts to help teachers identify lessons ideas to support needs. Craft Moves by Stacey Shubitz will be ordered for the professional library as well as a copy for each grade level to share.
  • More grammar in the program
    • We’d be happy to structure some sessions to talk about needs and possible interventions. Students do need to understand the grammar of our language.  We do have a roadmap of expectations.  We realize, however, that there is a wide gap between a lesson on a grammar book page and the likelihood that students will use the grammar in everyday writing. This transfer is not great unless students have both explicit and implicit instruction in grammar and conventions, large chunks of time to write independently daily, and significant support in the editing process. We do not think DOL works becuase it involves proofreading, not sentence construction and aims to teach writing with no writing. It is error-based. We have decided to focus on a culture of correctness instead.
  • We start at the top, we should start at the bottom
    • Most writing teachers find that it is important to start with a whole. Of course sometimes that whole piece of writing is short, sometimes more involved.  Sometimes the writing needs more modeling and shared experiences and sometimes the kids are ready to fly with an idea.  Sometimes kids need very strong scaffolds and sometimes they can be given more responsibility for developing an idea.  Long periods of specific skill work on sentences and then paragraphs and then writing ideas has not shown itself to be effective for students. Students need chunks of time to write daily in writing workshop and other content areas.
  • Transition second to third is difficult on parents
    • Let’s talk more about that. We may even want to have a discussion between second and third grade teachers.

A Lovely Scaffold for a Poem

Slice of Life2  I am participating in #SOL19.  Thanks to the twowritingteachersblog team for sponsoring this wonderful event!

I have always loved reading and writing poems. When I was growing up, I was often in trouble and sent to my room to reflect on my behavior. Fortunately, I had my own desk filled with pens and writing paper and a wonderful guitar my grandparents had bought for me as a birthday present. I wrote many poems, sometimes turning them into songs I could play on my beautiful guitar.

This poem was written because of my family’s love for Maine and all of its treasures, my gratitude and friendship with publisher friends at Stenhouse in Portland, and my love for Gerald Stern’s poem, “Saying the First Words.”  My sister and brother-in-law now have a cottage near Farmington, and my husband and I visit in August. We make a quick stop in Portland to visit our friend, Chandra. There, a harbor tour of lighthouses and a stop at a tiny pub where they serve incredible clam chowder. Hopefully, this year we will catch up with Paula Bourque, too. Often, we stay at the Kawanhee Inn in Weld. It has a huge screened-in porch that overlooks the beautiful pine trees and Webb Lake. Dinner is served here, so you can watch the sun spread its colors across the sky and sink behind the mountains. Here are some photos from Portland:

I used Stern’s poem as my mentor text to write.  I first read Stern’s poem in a poetry course offered by the Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project. The facilitator was Julia Blumenreich.  Please follow this link to see Stern’s wonderful poem:

https://www.theparisreview.org/poetry/6872/saying-the-first-words-gerald-stern

Imagining a Different Life

I could live like that!
Maine’s majesty of the wild outdoors calls my name:
Inspiring me to rise early to read the entries of my guests in our inn’s journal,
Basking in the freedom of wide-open spaces,
Drawing deep breaths of piney air;
Marveling at my view of the White Mountains.

I would pick blueberries full-to-popping
And stir them into a muffin batter in the purple-early dawn
To serve guests and family members staying at the inn.
My backyard and the lake, an art gallery for everyone to enjoy.
In winter the fireplaces crickles and crackles, inviting storytelling
As guests return from skiing or trekking through fields on snowshoes.

Fall brings a pageantry of brilliant color to the inn!
I would hike in the cool-warm days of September over hill and gully,
Moose, deer, even eagles hidden in the tall grasses and high in the pines.
Returning to freshen up and greet my dinner guests as they prepare for a feast:
Lobster bisque, beef bourguignon, homemade blueberry pie.
And just when you think you’ve taken in all the beauty that Maine has to offer,
The great outdoors of Maine will startle you with another photo op…

Yes, I could live like that!

 

 

 

Keys to Scoring Conventions Well

Slice of Life2I am participating in #SOL19. Thanks to the twowritingteachersblog team for sponsoring this wonderful event!

When you are reading a student’s written work, try to focus on the writing task and the qualities of writing that include the development of ideas, a sharp focus, a meaningful organization, precise language, voice, and sentence fluency. While grammar and conventions are important, our first read should be about the content – the message being communicated – the inside story that only the writer knows and is now sharing with you.  Place mechanics on the back burner until the second read – unless the writing cannot be understood because punctuation is totally absent and/or sentences are run ons and fragments that make it impossible to read without stumbling badly.

When we score conventions, emphasis should be on readability.

  • Conventions should support and enhance the message.
  • Look beyond spelling. Writers can have other conventional strengths even though they may struggle with spelling.
  • Look for what the student can do – not just what he cannot do.
  • Do not overreact. Two or three mistakes cannot spoil the entire performance.
  • Neatness and handwriting should not be considered when scoring the conventions of your own students. These things are separate issues.
  • Think of yourself as a copyeditor. Ask, “How much work would I need to do to prepare this text for publication? Heavy editing?  Moderate? Very light?

Try not to approach editing skills from a deficit model.  Correcting everything will not help your students. Decide what is most important for students to learn at a given point in time. Remember that too many negatives add up to zero. Nothing is gained. During conferences, give students one suggestion to improve in the area of ideas, organization, or style. Then give one suggestion to help them improve in grammar and conventions. Set a goal with your students that challenges them but is doable for them.

What would you add to this list?  Is there a point(s) you would remove?