Choosing a Road

In my writer’s notebook I created a list slice-of-life2of everything that came to mind when I thought about roads. I made a quick list:


street                                  freeway

lanes                                    alley

dirt roads                           back roads

avenues                              boulevards

Route 66                            yellow brick.

trail                                     paths

road to redemption       wrong way

road less traveled            one-way road

dead end                            cobbled

paved                                  lined

highway                              roundabouts

long-and-winding road

on-and-off ramps

all roads lead to Rome

potholes                             boardwalk

byway                                 asphalt

concrete                             gravel

on the road again            rocky road


take the high road

*In your writer’s notebook, write about how your life is like one of these roads. Perhaps you can create a metaphor or simile here. This is my example:

My life has been a long and winding road that led me away from education and back to it again. My love for horses steered me closer and closer to a lifetime of teaching riding lessons and working at the stables.  I believe I was born with a gene that connected me with horses, discovering in my thirties that my great grandparents had actually trained horses for the Russian tsar.

From the time I was fourteen, the riding ring was a road I jogged – usually, with a pony next to me as I taught up-downers (beginners) how to post to the trot. The ponies all had wonderful names – Balantine, Oswald, Cookie Monster, Cimarron, Merry Legs, Tom Terrific (Paco), and Chimey. The most memorable pony, Jungle Juice, was my favorite one. He followed me like a dog is trained to heel, and I loved him with all my heart!

I almost lost myself down that road, even considering a fulltime vocation as a riding instructor with my own stable. The families I had every year – my students at Upper Moreland – pulled at my heartstrings, too. In my forties, it was starting to be more difficult to juggle two jobs that demanded a lot of time and effort. I could no longer straddle the fence. I had to choose my path. When I made a decision to return to school for a doctoral degree in educational leadership and a K-12 reading certification, I knew my journey’s destination.

I still miss my equine buddies – many who are still in horses and run their own stables – and all the horses and students (ranging in age from four to sixty-four!) I ever taught.  I treasure the memories!


Tom Terrific, a large pony with a big heart!  We called him Paco.  He could jump the fences in Unionville! Everyone loved him!

What Should I Read Next?

Slice of Life2When our students are going to the library or book store, they need to do some self-reflection in order to make good selections. As adults, we have internalized many of these questions and use them to find the perfect book to read. It is important to also let student know that even though we have a process in place to find the right book, it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, we are still disappointed. If we have read several chapters and we are not at all interested, it is okay to abandon a book and start another one!  It is always a good idea to pause during reading workshop to have a readerly discussion and chart the class’s thinking on an anchor chart. Asking them how they choose books to read helps them establish and maintain their reading identity!  Here are some questions we ask ourselves when choosing a book to read:

  • Is it part of a series I have read or someone has read to me?
  • Have I read other books like this?
  • Do I like the subject?
  • Did someone I know as a reader recommend it to me?
  • Is it by an author I like?
  • Have I seen the movie?
  • Is it a new book I am eager to read?
  • Have I viewed book trailers for it on YouTube or somewhere else?
  • Is it a best seller or an award winner?
  • How old is it (copyright)?
  • Am I in the mood for something new?
  • What genre would I like to try?
  • Do I want to try a comic book, a graphic novel, a book of poetry?
  • Am I in the mood for something easy or difficult?
  • If I am choosing something difficult, do I have the time and energy right now to stick with it and work hard?
  • Has anyone else I know read this book?
  • Does the title and back or inside cover make me want to read the book?
  • Am I eager to keep reading after I read the first page?
  • Did I judge the book by its cover before I looked inside the book?
  • Do the length and difficulty of this book fit into my time schedule right now?
  • Is my teacher reading this book as a class read aloud?
  • Is someone else in my class starting to read this book, too?
  • Is it time to return to a favorite and reread it?

I Know It’s Spring

I know it’s spring when I cannot wait to get outside,

When the red-winged blackbirds return to my feeders,

When forsythia yellow like the sun

And hyacinths fill the garden with purple and pink.

I know it’s spring when the birds empty the feeders in one day.

Soon there will be nests and baby birds everywhere.

The earth washes cleaner, bathed in sweet sunshine and sweet April rain.

I stand straighter, walk with a spring in my step and song in my heart.

I know it’s spring when I can almost smell the salty ocean,

When the longer days whisper of summer,

When trees and lawns and bushes remember their colors,

I know it’s spring.





Spring Cleaning

No. You will not see a picture of my office yet. It probably would still cause many of you to shake your head in dismay. But there is a big difference. HUGE!

Last week Linda Monzo helped me sort and clear a good-sized corner. My husband carried 8 bags of throw-aways out to the recycle trash bin. Linda and I labeled some accordion file holders, and I organized them by topics such as poetry, vocabulary, reading workshop, conferring & feedback. I actually found some items I had been looking for like the sentence strip pairs for creating complex sentences.

Ralph and I did some more sorting yesterday. My Corgis were surprised that they could walk under the desk from one side to the other. They circled under the desk several times. Yes, they approved. Most of the book bags had been emptied (Of course, the Corgis had to supervise everything we did!).

My friend Kate Lorenzi is going to help me for another morning or afternoon. Surveying the office landscape, Kate said, “Oh, four hours should do it.” Kate is an optimist. At best, we will need four or five afternoons to really finish throwing out and sorting. I am trying to let go of presentations and student samples (the hardest to part with) that I’ve been collecting since 1989). Now, so many new presentations have been created around Grammar Matters and the new book on formative assessment, A Closer Look, out this fall.

It was a no-brainer – straighten up the office or move to a bigger house! Pictures on my blog of of the new-improved office in May! I must say it feels good to tend to this much-delayed project!

Rainy Day Blues

Gray seeps through windows and walls

On this  April day, wet and cold.

Stone-colored clouds blot the sky,

Puddles pooling on roadsides.

Eagerly arriving to warmth and coffee

While friends ask, “Heavy traffic?”

After a morning of edits and sense of completion,

I must face the drip-droppy roads once again.


Plunk, plink, drizzle, drizzle…

Rainy day song,

Rainy day blues.

The Important Thing….

The important thing about Lynne is that she is a godmother of twins, Alex and Brooke.

She now has two Welsh Corgi dogs and can walk them at the same time (unless it is pouring and she needs to balance an umbrella).

She writes in her notebook about everything and anything, often using different colored pens – but especially loves when a poem simply pours from her heart.

She moves from task to task and job to job, while reading three or more books at the same time.

She has a husband who supports her and calms her and loves her in spite of all her faults.

But the important thing about Lynne is that she is a godmother of twins, and she loves them with all her heart!



Identity Webs: Giving Voice to a Community of Learners


A few years ago I attended a session at NCTE with Smokey Daniels and Steve Zemelman. They talked about all the things the Common Core forgot: creativity, curiosity, choice, inquiry, collaboration, altruism, peacemaking, justice, courage, responsibility, equality.  We (participants) were asked to create an identity web for ourselves – model with it in our classrooms, find connections, and invite wonder.

We created an Identity Web for Ruth’s family from Ruth and the Green Book, a story set in the 1950s by Calvin A. Ramsey.  Ruth’s father had a new car, but the adventure was Gold Cadillacdarkened by the family traveling at a time in history where the Jim Crow laws caused many African American families to suffer great indignities (See also The Gold Cadillac by Mildred Taylor). Although this story is fiction, the story of The Green Book and how it helped African Americans is well documented.

Ruth and the Green Book

Follow-up questions helped to move a discussion forward – first, in partnerships; then in whole group.

How would you feel if you were a member of this family taking the trip from Chicago to Alabama? Why?  

Have you ever been in a situation where an authority figure confronted you or a family member? Describe that situation. How did it make you feel?

Have you ever felt like you were alone or not part of the right group? How did it make you feel? Why? 

Ruth Identity WebLynne Identity Web

Sometimes, it’s important for us to reach beyond the classroom and give our students a voice. We have to create classrooms where students are willing to take risks and tell their stories.  Our learning community is not just about individual success. It’s about making learning relevant and engaging. It’s about giving students a sense of efficacy.  Student voice is a way to address social inequities and gain ownership and true purpose to learning academic skills.

Some Scaffolds to Help You Write

I am participating in #SOL17.   Tslice-of-life2hanks to the hardworking and incredible twowritingteachers blog team for
creating this community of writers. I have learned so much this month and hope to return and find all of you here on
Tuesdays.  This experience has been delightful and valuable.
This network of writers
is powerful!

When our student writers are getting ready to write, they may need some structures to help them plan their thinking.  It’s important to help them develop their ideas, the direction their piece will take, their chosen point of view. To do this, sketching, using graphic organizers, reading, and talking are great avenues for students of all ages to get ready to write. Hopefully, your students will arrive at the conclusion that writing = thinking. Let me revise. Writing = deep thinking.

Choosing a strategy or scaffold to help you plan a piece of writing often depends, in part, on the type of writing you will do – a narrative, an opinion piece, an informational piece, or a poem.  As students exam mentor texts, ask them to think about how the author organizes the piece of writing. Often, a longer text may have a global structure and many substructures to support it. Sometimes, a simple scaffold such as a repeating phrase  can be used to frame the entire text. For example, in Up North at the Cabin, Marsha Wilson Chall organizes her picture book by beginning each vignette about a summer  with grandparents with the beginning phrase, “Up north at the cabin….”

As students advance through elementary school, we discover structures such as compare-contrast, cause-effect, problem-solution, and time order.  Sometimes, students find a structure in a mentor text (the mentor text can be a student’s writing as well) that needs to be named so the community can talk about it and use it in future writing pieces. Post graphic organizers of structures in your writing center or make copies for the writer’s notebook. Here are a few scaffolds that may be useful to your students.  Try one of these structures and take a few moments to evaluate your success. Did the scaffold help you?  How so?  Share your thinking with a friend!

Structure CompareStructure MemoryStructure Story of thinkingStructure OnionStructure Made Up Story

A Day Off

Longwood Gardens March 29 2017 (2) (1024x768)

Yesterday my husband and I spent the entire afternoon at Longwood Gardens. Walking, breathing in and out, chatting, taking photographs, making a memory.  All too often my calendar is filled up with work and other obligations – preparing for presentations, traveling to places for workshops and presentations, giving presentations, working on a book (Stacey and I are about to get back to our schedule for Welcome to Writing Workshop after a break for Slice of Life), duties for Eta chapter of ADK and CCRA, PAReads editor meetings, attending conferences.

My husband often comments, “You said name of month is going to be freer, not so busy. What happened?”  And, honestly, I’m not sure what happens. The calendar just fills up. Well, to be truthful, I do know how it happens. If I see a blank spot on the calendar and I get a request for a job or to help out with an event (tonight I am reading at the B & N for Upper Moreland Intermediate School’s fundraiser), I say yes and fill the empty block. But for the past two weeks I had written Longwood on all the calendars I own and had prayed for good weather.  Yesterday, my prayers were answered.

We strolled leisurely, stopping to sit on benches and take it all in.  We were not in a hurry. I had already arranged a feeding and walk for the Corgis – thank you, Letty! – so we took our time.  Eventually, we headed to the conservatory to visit my favorite room – the silver room – and we took lots of photos. We sat by my favorite tree, the olive tree – and I imagined a trip to Greece in our future.

I bought two new house plants before we headed to The Gables. I ordered a Prosecco and a cheese tray for us. My husband enjoyed cheesesteak egg rolls, and I had a small bowl of mushroom soup. After our light dinner (we still took a doggie bag home), we headed home. It was a great day!  I need more of them.

So what have I learned?  I am writing Longwood  on my calendar – at least three days each month. Although it might not be Longwood – it will be a day for us to do something together – visit Lancaster, drive to the Poconos, go to Fallingwater (my husband has never been), drive to the shore and walk on the beach, or just walk at Mondauk Park and come home to read for pleasure. Today I awoke feeling refreshed. I am not tired. I am ready to face the day and whatever it brings. I needed a day off!

I am participating in #SOL17. Thanks to the twowwriting teachers
slice-of-life2 blog team for creating and sustaining this community of writers!

Are You Ready?


Are you ready? April is National Poetry Month, so why not try reading a poem each day?  We all love Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein. What about some new poets?  Here are some suggestions for great poetry selections:

Alexander, Kwame and Chris Colderley.  2017. Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

Coombs, Kate.  2012. Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Florian, Douglas. 2012. UnBEElievables: honeybee poems and paintings. NY: Beach Lane Books.

Grimes, Nikki. 2017.  One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance. USA: Bloomsbury.

Harley, Avis. 2008. The Monarch’s Progress: Poems with Wings. Honesdale, PA: WordSong.

Heard, Georgia. 1998.  Awakening the Heart.  Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, K-6

Heard, Georgia and Lester Laminack. 2008. Reading and Writing Across the Year. Portsmouth, NH:  Heinemann, K-2

Holbrook, Sara. 2003. By Definition. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press.

Ludwig VanDerwater, Amy.  2013. Forest Has a Song: Poems. NY: Clarion Books.

Worth, Valerie.1996. All the Small Poems and Fourteen More.  NY: Farrar, Straus.

Vardell, Sylvia and Janet Wong. 2012. The Poetry Friday Anthology. NJ: Pomelo Books,

Wong, Janet. 2007. Twist: Yoga Poems. NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Young, Judy.  2006. R is for Rhyme: A Poetry Alphabet. Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear Press.

Try to pair two poems to make a mini-study of a concept, theme, structure, or perspective? In the space of a class period, it’s possible to employ multiple reading strategies your class has studied this year, just by putting two poems side by side and engaging your students’ curiosity. Consider comparing and contrasting “Dragonfly” by Constance Levy from Splash: Poems of Our Watery World and “The Dragonfly” from Insectlopedia  by Douglas Florian. The first is written in third person, and Florian’s poem is written in first person. Levy writes about the dragonfly as a giver of life, and Florian writes about the dragonfly as a taker of life. There’s so much more! If you send me an e-mail at, I will send these poems to you as an email attachment.

Happy Poetry Month, Slicers!

I am participating in #SOL17. Thanks to the twowritingteachers
blog team for creating and sustaining this wonderful community of slicers!