Summer Dreaming

Slice of Life2I am participating in Slice of Life Tuesdays. It’s great to be able to visit with this community all year long! Thank you, twowritingteachers, for providing this space to write and grow!


Long walks and bike rides on the boardwalk,

Standing on the pier and watching the waves.

Eating on the patio or on a screened-in porch,

Relaxing with a vanilla ice cream cone in hand.

Admiring kids who weave their skateboards in and out

While you sit on the wooden bench and breathe it all in.

The sandy beach is warm and wonderful between your toes.


It’s time for road trips, fun trips, day trips, long trips,

Drives in convertibles with the top down.

Bathing suits, short shorts, and loose-fitting clothing,

Dips in the hot tub late into the evening hours.

A refreshing slice of ruby-red watermelon,

Peaches, plums, grapes, and strawberries.

Delicious, juicy, irresistible off the vine daily.


And, oh the sunsets, the glorious sunsets!

Beautifully blended hues in a softened sky.

The sun is on its best and brightest behavior,

But by August, night starts to come too quickly.

Watch for it! Wait for it! Wish for it!

And then, in the blink of an eye,

Summer has come and gone.





Anchor Charts for Reading Reflections

Now is a good time for some reflection. You might ask your students to make some lists in their reader response journal. Then create an anchor chart next week with the combined thinking of your class during an online meeting. I often hold “readerly” and “writerly” conversations. These three conversations center on reading identity: what I know to be true about reading, what is true for me about reading, and what keeps me reading. I try not to structure or define the response in an effort to keep it open-ended and encourage students to contribute to the anchor charts. I make lists in my response journal, too. At most, I may share one of my responses to each topic.  I give students a chance to pair and share, then do a little more writing (possible revisions here) before I ask the entire group to share. Then I record responses, placing tally marks to indicate repeated remarks. Here are some responses from last year’s fourth-graders in Karen Rhoad’s classroom in Upper Moreland:

What I Know to Be True About Reading

  • You need to understand the characteristics of a genre to help you read and understand a text.
  • Books are meant to be read over and over again.
  • The more you reread, the more you will understand!
  • Picture books aren’t just for babies.
  • Short chapter books can help me read through the busy weeks.
  • You can depend on a favorite author.
  • Authors of stories plant the seed of their ending in the beginning.
  • Many narratives follow a story map.
  • When you read story, you need to start at the beginning and continue on to the end.
  • Authors of nonfiction use features like diagrams and photos to help you understand.
  • You can dip in and dip out when you read most nonfiction books.
  • Informational writing has many different organizational patterns, even in the same book or chapter.
  • Sometimes you have to work hard to understand a text, using all your “fix-up” strategies to make meaning.
  • It’s okay not to finish a book you are not enjoying when reading for pleasure.
  • Sometimes you can read fast, and sometimes you need to really slow down!


What is True for Me About Reading (Students keep an individual list in their reader response journal and share a few reflections during whole=group discussion to be added to the class’s anchor chart.)

  • I like to read silently rather than aloud.
  • I like to read the book before seeing the movie – the book is always better!
  • I prefer to read in the morning.
  • I like to read books that make me think.
  • I love mysteries and historical fiction.
  • I want characters I can fall in love with and want as friends.
  • I prefer happy endings.
  • Sometimes I need to look up the meaning of a word.
  • If I get stuck, I know I have to reread.
  • I prefer to finish a book in a week or less.
  • I tackle easier books when I have a lot of commitments and classwork.
  • I usually prefer to read several chapters each day or more!
  • I prefer to hold a book rather than read on the computer screen.

What Keeps Me Reading (From one student’s reader response journal. Lily shared the starred items to add to the class’s anchor chart.

  • Characters that are very real.
  • Mystery, action, and adventure.
  • Wonderful words.
  • Short chapters.
  • Knowing I can talk about the book with a friend who is also reading it. *
  • Reading the blurb or reviews and recommendations from friends.
  • Being able to dip in and out of a nonfiction text by using the Table of Contents or Index. *
  • Trust in the author.
  • The first few pages – especially the lead paragraph.
  • Chapters ending in a cliffhanger.
  • Knowing that you need to get into a book – a book usually gets better and better as it goes along. *
  • Books about my personal interests and loves – animal stories, nonfiction books about outer space, books in a series like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Gregor the Overlander series.

Creating Anchor Charts

How can we “hold thinking” – making it both permanent and visible? When planning, I need to think through not only what I want kids to know, do, and understand, but also how both of us will know what they know.

 ~ Debbie Miller in Reading with Meaning: Teaching Comprehension in the Primary Grades (2nd ed) 

How often do you use anchor charts? I am a big fan and use them across the content areas as well as reading and writing workshops. Anchor charts are instructional tools to “anchor” the learning. They build a culture of literacy in the classroom as teachers and students work together to make thinking visible by recording content, strategies, processes, and guidelines during minilessons and/or discussions that occur in whole and small groups. Posting anchor charts makes the community’s thinking visible and permanent, making that thinking accessible to students to remind them of what they have discovered and to enable them to accommodate new knowledge with prior knowledge. Students refer to anchor charts when they work independently and during new minilesson experiences that extend a concept or skill use. They are tools to help students respond to questions about their reading, to expand ideas, to compose a piece of writing, or contribute to discussions and problem-solving activities in class.

I encourage students to contribute to the anchor chart, often placing their initials next to an idea they have contributed. Chris Tovani in What Do They Really Know? (2011) states that she records student thinking so that “…others in the class can see that they’re not the only ones who wonder what’s going on.” Tovani not only records the thinking but also the name of the student responsible for the thinking. She dates and saves anchor cWhat do they really know Tovaniharts to serve as tangible artifacts of learning in the classroom. Using anchor charts as visible representations of students’ thinking, helps not only those students who are contributing to the chart but all students in the class, since all students see and can use the information the chart elicits. When we ask students to share what they already know and are able to do in a unit of study, we allow them to reflect on their prior knowledge.

The anchor chart is placed in a convenient student-friendly location such as the bulletin board in the reading center. The most current anchor chart is left on the chart stand in the area where we gather for instruction. Key anchor charts that are used all year can cover cabinet, closet doors, and window shades or hang on a clothesline. Anchor charts are academic support, especially for the visual learner. Some anchor charts may only be displayed during the current unit of study. Post only those charts hat reflect current learning and avoid distracting clutter.

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May Musings

Slice of Life2I am participating in #SOL Tuesdays. Thanks to twowritingteachers blog team for providing this space for writers to share and grow.


Named for the Greek goddess Maia,

She comes with warmth and charity.

The month of three milkings,

Spilling babies everywhere –

Finches and bunnies and fillies,

Fleecy baa-baas and wide-eyed calves.


A party girl at heart, she celebrates

The Kentucky Derby, Indianapolis 500,

Mother’s Day, International Workers’ Day.

Last Monday in May, Memorial Day.

Picnics at Saylor’s Lake with grandparents:

Fried chicken, potato salad, open-face apple pie.


May babies, Taurus or Gemini:

Queen Victoria, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Bono,

Audrey Hepburn, Cate Blanchett, Tina Fey, Brooke Shields,

George Clooney, Adele, Janet Jackson, and Cher.

Orson Welles, Nellie Bly, Salvador Dali, Sam Smith,

Bob Hope, J.M. Barrie, Bing Crosby, Sally Ride.


National Physical Fitness and Sports Month,

Asian American Heritage Month,

Jewish American Heritage Month,

Skin Cancer Awareness Month,

National Bike Month,

And the National Teacher Day.


May strolls into our lives with flowers,

Beautiful colors and sweet scents of Spring.

Delicate peonies in pink and white,

Lilacs with their sweet, haunting fragrance.

Hardy magnolias and purply heather,

Give a loved one a glorious surprise.


May, a time of celebration and renewal,

And a time to enjoy family and friends.

This year, a time of optimism and hope,

The reopening of some businesses.

Online classes in universities ending,

Summer vacation beginning quietly.


Time for a superhero to save the planet,

Where can she be?

What is she waiting for?

May will welcome Summer,

But things will be different.

Maybe…for a long time.


This spring, many cancellations:

Devon Horse Show, NASCAR Racing,

National Spelling Bee, school graduations,

Proms, Phillies games, the French Open.

This May will be about her beautiful blooms…


Enjoy them!











Supporting Our Students’ Social and Emotional Needs

Well, we certainly have been on quite a roller coaster ride in 2020!  Now with schools online for the rest of this year and the uncertainty of what the next school season may look like, I wanted to take a minute to return to the power of empathy to help us to connect and reconnect with colleagues, friends, family members, and people we have never met, since online experiences may send us to places all over the country and all over the world.

Merriam-Webster offers this definition of empathy:
the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner

also : the capacity for this

Empathy is similar to sympathy, but empathy usually suggests stronger, more instinctive feeling. So a person who feels sympathy, or pity, for victims of a war in Asia may feel empathy for a close friend going through the much smaller disaster of a divorce.  Empathy requires us to see things through another person’s eyes – to really be able to “walk around in his shoes” and be able to experience what that person is going through, imagine what it would be like to be that person.

In a beautifully animated RSA Short, University of Houston researcher and educator Dr. Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities. She says, “Empathy fuels connection. What makes something better is connection. Empathy is feeling WITH people.”

Here are some professional reads you might want to consider:

Managing Your Classroom with Heart: A Guide for Nurturing Adolescent Learners By Katy Ridnouer


Hanging In: Strategies for Teaching the Students Who Challenge Us Most by Jeffrey Benson

      The Formative Five: Fostering Grit, Empathy, and Other Success Skills Every Child Needs by Thomas R. Hoerr

April Blooms

This spring I am appreciating my spring beauties more than ever!  In March, about the same time stores were closing and social distancing was beginning to look like the new normal, I drove to our favorite flower shop to search for pansies. I needed spring flowers – lots of them! Primrose was closed, but the owner was loading up her van to make deliveries.

“Hey, Sue!” I called out. “Can I buy some flats of pansies?”  There were at least fourteen flats lining the macadam in front of the store and in every color imaginable – shades of deep purple, lavender, crimson, yellow, white, blue, and pink. One flat of pansies sported a yellow and purple combo – just beautiful!

Needless to say I bought seven flats, giving two to my sister Diane and one flat to my DSC_9459 (1024x683)neighbor Kate. I went back for four more flats the next day.  Sue took a picture of my trunk loaded with flats of pansies. Ralph and I planted them in pots and the big wrought-iron kettle that looks like a witch’s cauldron. It came from my grandparent’s home in Coopersburg and has to be about 90 years old.  I plant it every year – first, with pansies, and again in August with all kinds of flowers that love sun and summer. It was originally on the front lawn and made an easy landmark for visitors to find us. Then, our landscaper asked if he could get rid of it – that it “dated” us. “Well!” I exclaimed. “You can move it to the backyard, but I’ll never part with it!”  And that is where it is and will always be.

The old crabapple trees, almost fifty years old (their life span runs 30 to 70 years) are in bloom and in the front of our house, our flowering cherry, a young tree, has started to show off her pink beauties. I am thankful that Sunday’s strong winds and heavy rain did not cause all of them to lose their flowers. The scrub cherries, too, and the lilac bush will be in flower by end April, for sure. The daffies are starting to say goodbye, and I will miss their cheery personalities. The forsythia bushes, too, are almost completely green, and the hyacinths have had their best days.

May will bring the hastas and the day lilies as well as all the hydrangeas. Lily of the Valley are sprouting and will show off their tiny white “bells.” One of the most fragrant flowers of spring, they probably have been around since 1000 B.C.  They seem to thrive in sun or partial shade and spread quite easily. Whatever you do, don’t eat them!  All parts of this plant are poisonous!

I am participating in #SOL Tuesdays. Thanks to the twowritingteachers blog team for providing this space for writers to share their pieces with one another and grow!

Slice of Life2

A gathering of ideas to create calm and release stress

Everyone has ways to relieve stress and let go of all anxieties, even if it only lasts a short time. Right now, we are all worried – about this global pandemic, our family members and our friends, our students and our jobs, the economy, the never-ending social distancing.  Like a good book, we look forward to reading a satisfying ending. The hard thing right now is not knowing when we will return to some state of normal. Many times, we play the “What if….?” game, and that only serves to elevate our stress level.

Here are some of the things I do or might try to lower my blood pressure and calm my heart. I decided to brainstorm a simple list in my writer’s notebook and share it with you:

  1. Read a good book!  Right now I’m reading American Dirt and The Glass Hotel (fiction) and Sapiens, The Library Book, and The Body Keeps the Score (nonfiction). I recommend Where the Crawdads Sing and Just Mercy  if you have not read these SAPIENS by Yuval Noah Hararitwo books (Loved them!).
  2. Light candles when you are having dinner or perhaps when you are taking a bath.
  3. Bring freshly-cut flowers into the house from your gardens if possible. I am waiting for my huge lilac bush to burst into bloom. I will share some cuttings with my neighbor Kate (who I miss seeing!).
  4. Reach out through social networks. This Friday my friend Nancy arranged a Zoom meeting with all our Eta sisters (Alpha Delta Kappa) since we will miss our state convention at the Penn Stater end April (canceled) and our last meeting/cookout in May.  Thank you, Nancy!
  5. Use your phone and call friends or send an email. What about snail mail? When was the last time you sat down and wrote someone a letter?  We just sent a bunch of birthday cards with notes inside to my brother-in-law for an April birthday we cannot celebrate together.
  6. Be present. When you take a walk, think about the sunshine on your face or the light breeze that whispers spring to you. Observe the blossoms, the colors, the sounds.
  7. Meditate – It is not something I do, but I am going to try it. A friend suggested to sit in a chair with both feet touching the floor, closing my eyes, and breathing in and out slowly while reciting a mantra internally. I think my mantra may be, “Today is an extraordinary gift, and I am going to enjoy it.”  Maybe a little wordy, but I can always revise later.
  8. Laugh more!  My husband says I am too serious. He tries to make jokes, and I am learning to appreciate them. We all need our sense of humor right now!
  9. Exercise.  I am walking the stairs more than usual and we’re starting to take more dog walks. I just started doing my exercises for tendonitis. I learned them at physical therapy about three years ago. They make me feel like I am improving strength and balance.
  10. Write, write, write!  I am doing several kinds of writing these days. I write with my co-author Brenda Krupp three times a week from nine to noon. That really anchors me. Another writing team collaborates each Sunday. I try to write in my writer’s notebook each day. Do you have your own blog?  Maybe now is a good time to start one.
  11. Take out albums and look at old and new photographs. Look through computer files. Take your camera along with you on walks. Photograph your pet(s). Share your pictures on facebook or twitter.
  12. Do some creative cooking.  I am not great in the kitchen but I made chili yesterday and want to create a great salad fit for a fine brunch using a recipe from Country Living magazine. Yes. I am starting to read recipes and imagining the dishes I could create!

Making lists is a comforting practice for me. I amke “To Do” lists all the time and especially like it when I can cross things off my list. Other lists are great to stimulate thinking such as “Things That are Pink in April” and “Things That are Blue in June.”  Tomorrow, I think I will post about list-making and share some examples. Be well!

Waiting for Tulips


Popular spring beauty,2019-04-16 12.51.20 (768x1024)

This cup-shaped flower.

Double or single,

Fringed or twisted.

In every color except true blue,

Miniatures and two-feet giants!

Descendants from the Middle East,

Signifying perfect love.

Signifying rebirth to many,

This perennial that graces spring gardens.

Flowers lasting barely two weeks

But most welcome this spring,

If only for a short time.

Tulips…2019-04-16 12.52.23-1 (1024x768)

I am waiting for tulips.




I am participating in #SliceofLife Tuesdays. Thanks to the twowritingteachers team for providing this space to meet on Tuesdays and share our writing with a larger community.2019-04-16 12.37.40 (768x1024)

Slice of Life2

A Word About Classroom Libraries

When I was a student at Edmonds Elementary School in Philadelphia, we visited the school library once a week. More important to me, my mom took us to the public library on Wadsworth Ave every Saturday morning. My mom was an avid reader – she consumed books, often finishing a book every two to three days.  Of course, books were a big gift for birthdays and holidays, and we looked forward to each new acquisition. Our bedrooms had bookshelves to store these books. Magazines such as Life, Look, Reader’s Digest, and the Saturday Evening Post could be found on the coffee table and end tables in our living room.

Today, many of our students depend on our classroom library collection throughout the school year and even during summer months. Research has shown that the time students spend in classrooms reading actually accelerates their growth in reading skills.  Our classroom libraries play an important role in developing students who are ready to take the lead in a global society. So it is important to examine our classroom collection a few times each year to do some weeding and determine what our students need in our collection that may not be there. If it is possible, perhaps students could check out three to six books before they leave for vacation and return them to you at the beginning of the new school year.

Try to provide all kinds of reading including genres that are appropriate for your grade level such as graphic novels, fantasies, and historical fiction and lighter reading such as comic books or magazines such as Ranger Rick, Stone Soup, Ladybug, Cricket, and Highlights for Children.  Quality nonfiction selections are also important –  both narrative and nonnarrative nonfiction. It is also essential to include a wide variety of books that span a wide range of reading levels as well. Sometimes, a shelf or tub will be dedicated to books that are available during certain months based on holidays, historical events, or themes in content areas as well as the ELA classroom.

Fountas and Pinnell recommend a collection of 300 – 600 books.  Regie Routman tells us that an adequate classroom library will have at least two hundred books, but an excellent library will have more than a thousand (Reading Essentials, 2003, p.67) .  She explains that the more books a teacher has in her in the collection, the less depleted the library becomes as the volume of books students are reading increases.  She suggests that teachers should probably have several copies of popular titles.  Multiple copies also encourage reading with a partner or can be a choice for a book club ,  a great practice since reading is a social act!

Reading Essentials by Regie Routman (Heinemann: Portsmouth, NH, 2003)

Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners by Regie Routman (Stenhouse Publishers, Portland, ME, 2018)

Summer Learning: More Important Than Ever

Research shows us that summer is more than a time of family trips and fun. It is a time when many of our students are without books, especially true in low-income homes where there is often little to no reading material available and no extra money for trips to local museums and historic sites  – let alone vacations in places like Hawaii. Our public schools, when they are open, are a way for students of different income levels to achieve at the same rate or nearly the same rate. But when they are closed for summer vacation, summer learning loss can become a problem for many of our students.

This year, more than ever, educators should confront the issue of summer reading loss. As educators, we can begin to look at ways our students can participate in some kind of summer reading program. Depending on when the country returns to some state of normalcy, perhaps the school’s library could be open for part of July and part of August. Do the work for parents and find out about your local library summer programs and send an email to the parents of your students before the school year’s end.  Perhaps there is a bookmobile or book bus that will be in your school’s neighborhoods during summer months. Look for authors who are reading their books online to children. Find out where the “little free libraries” are in your school’s vicinity and inform parents so they can visit them.

Check out your local department of parks and recreation about camps and other activities offered and what are the costs and age ranges for each offering. Find out what exhibits, events, and author signings at local bookstores are happening in your town or a nearby location over the summer.  You could compose a calendar of local summer learning fun to share with your students and their families and post a link in your classroom website or send it to parents as an email attachment.

The Laundromat Library League (LLL) makes children’s books available to children who have little or no access to books at home. A basket of books is placed in laundromats and  other places such as waiting rooms in doctors’ and dentists’ offices where children and caregivers spend time waiting. The books are there for the reading, and it is encouraged that a book is taken home, and maybe even passed it on to another family. Presently, the LLL has books in laundromat locations in Arizona, Arkansas, Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia. My local reading council. KSLA Brandywine Valley Forge, donates monies and books each year to the local LLL.

You might look at the Digital Public Library of North America and look for the app that gives free schools and home access to eBooks for Title 1 schools and special education students. Look at sites such as Scholastic to see what kinds of opportunities they offer for summer reading. Sometimes there are scholarships for local reading and writing programs that occur during summer months. Summer-based learning programs are unfortunately often costly and do not reach all students. Here are some resources and interactive websites to help parents support summer learning:

Let’s strive to minimize summer learning loss and find ways to keep all our students reading until we see them in our classrooms again!