Living with Intention

The purpose of life, after all, is to live it,
to taste experience to the utmost,
to reach out eagerly and without
fear for newer and richer experiences.
~Eleanor Roosevelt

It is not about what you do tomorrow or the next day that will bring positivity and purpose to your life – it is about being present and living in the moment. It is about everything you do today. The fact that we can choose a daily focus and welcome the chance to stay present and aware is a step towards finding actions that will  fulfill life every day.

Today, I am going to take breaks away from my laptop. Every 30 minutes, I am going to take a walk with the dogs and my neighbor Kate (her pug is Rocky, best friend to the Cprgis) or fill the bird feeders, or grab my camera to photograph the Welsh Corgis.  I may do some stretching exercises or rearrange the furniture in the family room (with my huband’s help).  I might even listen to a favorite song and sing along – or dance!  The point is, I need to live in the moment, away from devices such as ipad, cell phone, and laptop – and just experience life. Thirty minutes is doable for me since, when I am home, I often have three to six hour marathons with my laptop.

Even as I drive to Berwyn to meet my dear friends Mary, Rita, and Janice for a birthday lunch celebration at Nectar, I am going to live in the moment and try to notice the look of the trees, the animals, the sky, people, the kinds of vehicles – what could I write about in my writer’s notebook later?

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Shanah Tovah: A Good and Sweet Year for Teachers

The Hebrew common greeting on Rosh Hashanah is Shanah Tovah (pronounced [ʃaˈna toˈva]), which translated from Hebrew means “[have] a good year”. Often Shanah Tovah Umetukah, meaning “A Good and Sweet Year”, is used. But wishing people Shana Tova, and meaning it, is complicated. If we sincerely wish doctors a good year, does that mean that they will have more patients with flu and other ailments?  For lawyers, more law suits? For auto mechanics, more cars with problems to diagnose and fix?   And so, does a sweet and good year for one person have negative implications for another?  Certainly, everyone must earn a living. And yet…

As we wish everyone a happy new year, using the traditional Jewish greeting Shanah Tovah – a good year – we might pause to reflect what that means for a teacher. Wishing teachers a good sweet year is a win/win situation for everyone: teachers, students, parents, administrators, and the larger community.  Most teachers consider a good year as a productive, successful one for their students. They begin each new school year with two months of summer planning time: reading new resource guides, planning lessons, taking graduate courses and attending workshops to help them imagine infinite possibilities.

A good year for teachers is helping all students develop their identities as readers, writers, and learners. They hope their students will learn to reflect on process as well as product. A good year means that students have ownership and believe that their voices are heard and can make a difference. A good year means our students take charge of their learning, make wise choices, and take responsible risks. In this way, our students are energized and empowered at the same time.

We help students find new mentors in students, authors, and people in their everyday lives. We want them to know when they are ready to take on a new mentor and when they are ready to be a mentor for another classmate. The learning community is goal-oriented. Learners set their own personal goals (sometimes with the guidance of the teacher). We learn to share our beliefs and values and at the same time, let other people’s thinking in. Our classroom hums with wonderful conversations instead of Q & A sessions. A good year for teachers means everyone in our classrooms has a place and is valued.

Shanah Tovah – a good sweet year to all teachers!

Exploring Maine

My husband and I are winding down today, relaxing at Kawanhee Inn this morning and spending the afternoon with my sister and brother-in-law at Webb Lake beach. A quiet, early dinner in Farmington and then to bed early. We will leave around 6:30 a.m. tomorrow for a nine hour journey home. It was worth it! DSC_1725

While we were here, we drove into New Hampshire to visit Mt. Washington. My brother-in-law is fearless and drove the big truck up a winding mountain road. My sister Diane kept shouting, “Everyone lean to the left!”  It reminded me of our trip to Portugal when the tour bus driver had to navigate a narrow road up the mountainside of the Douro Valley to visit the Sandeman vineyards and winery. But when we got to the top of Mt. Washington, the scenery was so breathtaking!  The only other way up is by the Cog Railway. Three trains are diesels and one is a steam-operated train specialized for this job. We actually saw ravens soaring on the breezes. The temperature at the mountaintop was 55 degrees – a bit chilly. The highest wind velocity was recorded on top of Mt. Washington – 131 miles per hour! It is a world record for measured wind speeds not involved with a tropical cyclone.

DSC_1815Our trip to Camden included viewing the town from the top of Mount Battie, exploring wonderful shops, and taking a sunset harbor cruise on a sailing ship. It was so peaceful and relaxing to be on the Appledore, first launched in 1978.  It will soon set sail for Key West to continue to take tourists out into the water.

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Thank you, Stacey!

Today, I decided to write an open thank-you note to Stacey.  About a month ago, she invited my husband and me to a Passover Seder at her parents’ home. I was thrilled, and Ralph said yes right away.

While it is true that Stacey and I are currently writing a book for Stenhouse Publishers on writing workshop, working relationships do not always extend to friendships – at least the kind of friendship that does not involve participation in a professional organization. Stacey and I are friends. We do not live right around the corner from each other, and yet we try to meet around the winter holiday and again in spring somewhere between our homes. Rose Cappelli and Diane Dougherty have joined us for a lunch in the Lancaster area. Stacey brings Isabelle and Ari. It’s always a special treat. We visit on facebook and twitter. We skype. This spring or early summer, Ralph and I hope to join Stacey for a walk at Longwood Gardens. Stacey read lots of posts about Longwood from Rose and me during March Slice of Life 2018, and these posts have tempted her to make the trip and enjoy Londwood’s beauty.

Pesach is a holiday I miss celebrating since it is steeped in tradition and brings family members together. The seder is the centerpiece of any Passover experience. A seder is an elaborate festive meal that takes place on the first nights of the holiday. The word seder means “order,” and the Passover seder has 15 separate steps in its traditional order. 

The seder at Stacey’s parents’ home was over-the-top wonderful!  Ralph and I felt like part of Stacey’s family. Her parents, sister and brother-in-law, husband, and children treated us like family members. Mr. Shubitz, Stacey’s dad, provided a kippah or yarmulke  for my husband.

On a small plate on the long dining room table at each guest’s seat we found herbs such as horseradish which signifies the bitterness of enslavement, a non-bitter vegetable (parsley), which is dipped in salted water to symbolize tears, and Haroset, a mixture of apple, nuts, and wine that represents the mortar and bricks used by the enslaved Jews. Stacey led the traditional ceremony, and everyone had a reading part. Isabelle was unbelievable!  I thought my husband would fall off his chair as she read and sang Hebrew prayers smoothly and beautifully. It was very moving! The child’s questioning triggers one of the most significant elements of Passover, which is the highlight of the Seder ceremony: reading the Haggadah, which tells the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Stacey skillfully led us through a slightly-abbreviated version of the ceremony. The main meal was so delicious: matzo ball soup, brisket and roast chicken, potato kugel, and a stew of carrots and prunes. All delicious, and it is Stacey’s dad who had prepared most of the meal! I was, however, thankful that gefilte fish was not on the menu. Dessert included cookies, cakes, and candies. Stacey’s sister brought a cake from a French bakery near her home in New York – covered with slivers of almonds, gluten free, absolutely scrumptious!

When we finally said goodnight, Ari waved goodbye from the doorway and blew kisses. Isabelle waved. She had already extended an invitation to join her family at Passover Seder each year until she graduated from high school. She added, “That’s a long time!”  Sweet Isabelle, we would be delighted to join you again and again. You amazed us! You entertained us! You filled our hearts with joy!  Thank you, Stacey, for your invitation to join your family in an evening steeped in historical significance and rich tradition. We will remember this time with you and your family always.




The Time is NOW

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

                                                                                                                 Nelson Mandela


         There are lots of things that are right about educations today. Teachers and students are reading more and interacting more with parents, students and fellow teachers. One way to interact with colleagues in your own school and with colleagues from across the country is to participate in professional development opportunities such as ILA and NCTE.  There are many stellar conferences in our own backyards. For me, PCTELA and KSRA in October promise to offer incredible venues that cannot be overlooked or dismissed. I will make time to attend both events.  This week I facilitated two sessions at a Best Practice Summit in Boyertown Area School District. So many Boyertown teachers K-12 were facilitating sessions, and there was an air of excitement and commitment throughout the day. Good things are happening.
          Six Dots Louis Braille
         When we make the time and monetary commitment to attend staff development opportunities such as these, we do so because we know it is the right thing to do , because we know we cannot stand still – we have to keep moving forward. We are teachers, and we can change the world by helping our students believe that they can change the world, and they don’t have to wait. When Jen Bryant wrote Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille, she did so to help young people know that they don’t have to wait to do something remarkable, something no one had ever done before, something that might change the world. Bryant wrote this through Louis’s perspective as a child who desperately wanted to be able to read. Blinded as a young boy, his quest to read the world eventually led him to develop the Braille system we still use today at the age of fifteen.  This account of a young inventor on a quest to invent an accessible reading system for blind people is moving and compelling.
         We are here together in a writing community called Slice of Life 2018. We’ve  learned some new strategies and structures, gathered new ideas to ponder, searched for and often purchased new books to read that were recommended by our colleagues here, shared these new books with our students, and experimented with myriad craft moves and strategies for writing workshop. We’ve all made some new friends and became reacquainted with Slicer friends from other years. We’ve been challenged to read more, write more, think more, feel more.
         Thanks to the twowritingteachers blog team for creating this place to read, write, and wonder.  We really need each other — for encouragement, for knowledge, for vision. This experience has helped us outgrow ourselves — change in some ways, consider possibilities. There’s a reason why we’re all here. We have the place and time to do something fabulous. The place is anywhere we gather with educators and/or students. The time is NOW.

Arthur Thinks He’s a Cat!

Slice of Life2I am participating in #SOL18. Thanks to twowritingteachers blog team for creating this space for writing, reading, and responding to writing. I cannot believe tomorrow is the last day of the March 2018 Slice!

Timid and inquisitive,

King Arthur joined our family.

He grew and grew and grew,

At eight months, bigger than Rhonda and Merri.

At first, he stayed on the floor,

No jumping up on laps and couches.

Then he learned he had springs in his back legs:Arthur and Mommy

Leaping up on the picnic table in our backyard,

Jumping like a bunny rabbit through the deep snow, Corgis and me in snow

Sailing into my husband’s lap when he’s reading a newspaper.

Somehow, he mistakenly thinks he’s a cat:

Climbing onto the top ledge of the couch and walking along,

Flying through the air from the picnic table top, clearing the girls,

Curling up in our laps to wash his paws.

King Arthur, our Welsh Corgi, thinks he’s a cat,

Sits on the top of the loveseat everyday

To get a better view of the birds.Arhtur at the window

Not one sound – he’s studying them closely.

Perhaps he thinks he can learn how to fly!

What you do away from your desk…

I slice-of-life2am participating in #sol18. Thanks to the twowritingteachers blog team for creating this space to write, read, and respond to others.

A writer spends a lot of time at her desk, or in my case, her kitchen table. Staring at the screen or at a page of notes, drumming the keys of a laptop or i-pad. There are deadlines to meet. All writers have deadlines. Some of these are personal goals, and others are set by editors. Either way, writers write with a deadline in mind.

DSC_9648Equally important is the time that writers spend away from their desks. Writers need to spend time with their loved ones – children, grandchildren, spouses, and pets, visit friends and new places, eat out at a new restaurant, drive two hours to take a long walk on the beach and hear the ocean’s song, listen to music, plan parties, walk through their neighborhood to notice the signs of spring. The list is endless.  DSC_4239DSC_4714

The point is, do stuff.  The twenty hours you spend away from your computer are important.  Rebacca Kai Dotlich wrote a delightful story, Bella and Bean, about two friends who approach life differently (they are mice). Bella wants to write poems and Bean wants to go for a walk. Bella wants to write poems and Bean wants Bella to look at her cute toes. Bean tries to coax Bella away from her notepad, and when Bean succeeds, Bella’s poetry begins to take unexpected twists. Bella learns that to write wonderful poems, she needs to experience the world in new and different ways. Bella needs to do stuff!Bella and Bean

Get up. Make a plan. Take charge. Do stuff. The time you spend writing at your desk will be more productive because of all the inspiration you’ve gathered when you are not at your desk, experiencing life firsthand.

Fun with Poetry!

slice-of-life2I am participating in #sol18. Thanks to the twowritingteachers blog team for creating this writing community!

There are many reasons to include poetry in reading and writing workshop and across the day. The rich vocabulary, the imagery and figurative language, the variety of forms and structures all make poetry study appealing. During poetry month, give students a chance to appreciate poetry and read it aloud to hear the music poetry offers to its readers. Students can find mentor poems and poets to imitate. Students need opportunities to:

  • read some poems without an expectation to “do” anything. Just breathe them in and out.
  • choose their own poems to explore and talk about with others.
  • type or write out poems that “speak to them” in their notebooks.
  • write out lines they like—for sound, as trigger for thought, for image, for memories they evoke.
  • read poems more than once and revisit poems they’re attracted to for different reasons.
  • read different types of poems, different authors, to deepen their understanding and welcome challenges.
  • give voice by reading poems aloud that they have found and poems they have composed, individually and in chorus with others.

*Many of these selections can be used in primary grades as well.

Poetry Annotations-Grade 3

Heard, Georgia. (1992) Creatures of Earth, Sea and Sky. Boyds Mills Press. Honesdale, PA

  • Dressing Like a Snake: point of view, personification, rhyme, question, inference, metaphor
  • Fishes: poetry for 2 voices, exact nouns, proper nouns, fluency, strong verbs, simile

Larrick, Nancy (1968) Piping Down the Valleys Wild. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. NY, NY

  • Leaves  simile, personification, inference, un-rhymed
  • Mice point of view, question, rhyme, rhythm, topic sentence & supporting details, inference
  • Birthday Cake  rhyme, questions, inference, compare/contrast
  • Modern Dragon  metaphor, inference, rhyming couplets, strong verbs
  • A Dragonfly  rhythm, rhyme, simile, vocabulary
  • The Squirrel rhyme, strong verbs, use of sentence structure, simile, onomotopoiea, inference
  • Bumblebee rhyme, simile, vocabulary, onomatopoeia, fluency, inference

Poetry Annotations-Grade 4

 Heard, Georgia. (1992) Creatures of Earth, Sea and Sky. Boyds Mills Press. Honesdale, PA

  • Bat Patrol: simile, alliteration, effective repetition, strong verbs, vocabulary, inference
  • Frog’s Serenade: onomatopoeia, poetry for 2 voices, fluency, hyphenated adjectives
  • Dragonfly: strong verbs, exact nouns, use of colon, hyphenated adjectives, metaphor, vocabulary, un-rhymed.

Larrick, Nancy (1968) Piping Down the Valleys Wild. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. NY, NY.

  • On A Snowy Day: personification, extended rhyme, inference, metaphor
  • The Moon’s the North Wind’s Cooky: personification, rhyme, metaphor, ellipsis, inference, compare/contrast
  • Easter: simile, rhyme, personification
  • Dandelion: extended metaphor, personification, un-rhymed, alliteration, question, exclamation
  • City: compare, contrast, metaphor, personification, rhyme, inference
  • Lewis Has A Trumpet: repetition, rhyme, internal rhyme, inference, simile, onomatopoeia, point of view

Poetry Annotations-Grade 5

 Larrick, Nancy (1968) Piping Down the Valleys Wild. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. NY, NY

  • Pencil and Paint: personification, rhyme, vocabulary, visualization, compare/contrast
  • Some People: compare/contrast, simile, rhyme, inference, draw conclusions, theme
  • The Eagle: vocabulary, setting, rhyme, rhythm, personification, simile, strong verbs, visualization, alliteration, inference
  • Concrete Mixers: simile, metaphor, vocabulary, hyphenated adjectives, strong verbs, point of view
  • Dandelion: extended metaphor, personification, un-rhymed, question, exclamation

What happened, Merri?

Slice of Life2I am participating in #sol18. Thanks to the twowritingteachers blog team for creating this writing community.

This morning I woke up to let the dogs out at six a.m. and start writing my Slice post. My Merri seemed fine as she went out into the backyard with Arthur and Rhonda (all Welsh Corgis), but she would not come up the two steps to come back inside. I quickly stepped out onto the patio in bare feet, not caring that it was frosty and very cold. Scooping her up into my arms, I brought Merri inside.

I placed her on the couch in the family room, making sure the soft, chocolate-brown throw was under her. That’s her favorite place to curl up and take a snooze. I covered her with one of my soft sweater vests and petted her. I thought maybe her feet were just very cold from the frosty grass. She hates to get snow in between the pads on her feet, and we still have snow along the back edge of our fence. It was then that I discovered tremors running up and down her spine. “Oh, dear God,” I thought. “Not her back!”  Corgis have very short legs and very long backs. They can be prone to back and hip problems. Merri is going to be twelve this fall, so she is a senior citizen, so to speak. I was worried.

A million questions flooded my mind: Did the puppy jump on her (He is already three pounds over regulation size for a male – and he is not fat, just solid muscle and very large)?  Did she sleep on the cold tile floor in the foyer last night?  Had she wrenched her back when she jumped off the couch last night? Did she take a misstep in the yard?  Did Merri and Rhonda have a little spat I had not witnessed?

2012-08-19_12-06-18_6 (2)


My husband came down and prepared breakfast for the dogs. Merri got her bowl on the sofa with me. She gobbled it down – a good sign. My girl loves to eat, and if she had turned her nose up at her breakfast, that would not have been a good sign!  We put our gigantic eight-month old puppy in the hall and placed a gate in the entranceway to the family room. He started to whine. “What did I do wrong?” I could almost hear him say in dog yelps. I covered Merri and decided to give her a chance to settle down. Thank goodness the tremors stopped. She rested for another forty minutes.  When I let Rhonda and Arthur outside again, she wanted to go, too. She even ran around a little bit.


Right now, she is sleeping on a pile of towels at my feet while I am writing this blog post for Tuesday. Arthur is lying on the floor close by and Rhonda is in her pink bed. I am probably going to make a vet appointment for Tuesday morning. An x-ray and a thorough exam wouldn’t hurt. Our dogs are, of course, part of our family. I think I take better care of them than I take care of myself! Those Corgi smiles and wriggling bottoms (they have no tails) keep me happy!Merri Welsh Corgis

Sharing Golden Lines: A Simple Strategy for Responding to a Text


slice-of-life2I am participating in #SOL18. Thanks to twowritingteachers blog team for creating this wonderful space to write, respond, and gather new ideas.

“Sharing Golden Lines” is a useful strategy for getting all students to contribute to a conversation about a chapter in a textbook, an article, a piece of writing, an essay. By choosing four or five “golden lines” to share, students talk about more of the text. Sometimes, in a group conversation, students can spend 10 to 15 minutes talking about one idea or craft. Since everyone in the small group must share a different golden line, at least four or five concepts are examined. When one group member shares, other members of the group can add their own ideas, agreeing or disagreeing. But each member must be ready to introduce a new idea presented in the text when it is his turn to “jumpstart” the conversation with another point. Sharing Golden Lines works well across the content areas and is especially useful in upper elementary, middle, and high school classrooms.

How is the “Golden Lines” protocol facilitated?

  1. Read the selection independently.
  2. Each reader highlights 3 to 4 concepts (“golden lines”) within the text that impacted his/her learning, charged his/her thinking, supported his/her understanding or might have raised a question. If it is a piece of writing, students can highlight author’s craft they feel the writer used and how it helped the writing. *The number of concepts highlighted should be equal to the number of students in the group he will participate in.
  3. In a small group each participant shares one of the highlighted concepts (“golden line”) and shares the reason(s) for the selection. It is important that each group member identifies and discusses a different concept (or craft). This allows for more of the text to be processed.

Why is the process carried out in such fashion?

  1. Readers can identify with different ideas.
  2. It allows choice and provides access to others’ thinking
  3. It honors a reader’s connections to text by inviting individual interpretation
  4. This process surfaces confusions, misconceptions, and allows for support in comprehension and revision techniques for writing.
  5. It gives students agency.
  6. It supports the personal and social dimensions of the Reading Apprenticeship Framework