Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thanks, Marni for the Bookmark!

Choose kind. I made this bookmark for my students... No idea how it made it to Pinterest!!!!! Maybe from a tweet I sent to scholastic! Neat. #choosekind
So here's the story of this lovely little bookmark,
Marni, a former grad student,
Now super teacher,
made this,
She knew it was special,
She sent a Tweet to Scholastic,
She posted it on Twitter,
She linked it to Facebook,
I read it on Facebook,
I copy it from Pinterest,
I share it on this blog,
I share it on Pinterest,
I share it on Facebook
I share it on Twitter,
Social media sharing,
21st Century sharing.

Thanks Marni, for the bookmark!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


For many nights, 
Children's voices echoed
 "Lyrics" from Goodnight Moon. 
I did not need to "read" them,
Every word was part of our routine.   

 Good night, kittens. Good night, mittens.
Good night, clocks. Good night, socks.
Good night, little house. Good night, mouse.

Every day,
Students' voices echo
"Lyrics" of Fundations, 
I do not need to "read" the chart,
 Every sound is part of our routine. 

a apple /a/
b bat /b/
th thumb /th/
On Tuesdays,
Thanks to TWT,
Our voices echo a writing routine.
I do think about it, all week,
Every small moment,
A potential SOL. 
As the great writing gurus,
Donald, Lucy promised,
Readers, writers,
Eaters, sleepers,
Students, teachers,
All of us,
Are at our best,
With routines.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

TWT: Encouraging Writing At Home

Elizabeth Moore, over at TWT wrote a great letter to parents the other day on the TWT blog (above).

It's lovely just as it is to share with parents, or make your own version and share with parents.  I love that it is not judgmental and does not require parents to sit side by side with students.  In fact, it embraces my own movement: Fostering independent readers and writers! 

Text Levels Should Not Be Labels

I knew at that at some point Irene or Gay Su would have to write something about the text level controversy and the CCSS.  We've talked about this subject in my grad classes and I've alluded to it at school.  But here is the first article I have read that addresses it head on, Text Levels-Tools or Trouble?  Fortunately, it is by Irene herself!
She makes some very good points:
We did not intend for levels to become a label for children that would take us back to the days of the bluebirds and the blackbirds or the jets and the piper cubs. Our intention was to put the tool in the hands of educators who understood their characteristics and used it to select appropriate books for differentiated instruction.

In our best efforts to use assessment indicators, we want to be sure that our purposes best serve the children we teach and give families the important information they need. This may not mean using labels such as book levels that hold more complexities and are intended for the use of the educators as they make day-to-day teaching decisions.

Point made.  Point taken.  Lesson learned. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Choose joy.
Choose to be happy.
Choose to live every day as if it was your last.
Choose to smile.
You have read these proclamations.
We see them plastered on Pinterest and see them voiced on Facebook.
I certainly want to be the person who sees the best in people and looks for the silver lining in every cloud.
Yet, it is so easy to get caught up in the negatives of work and the hassles of every day living.
It's so easy to just go along with the negative flow of the crowd.
Often, it is hard to look on the sunny side of things.
I've been on the negative side of things lately.
I could blame the cold weather or the cold I've been fighting.
I could blame the financial quagmire of care giving in which I spend countless hours,
I could blame the dust balls that berate me as I await my coffee to brew.
I could blame the aches and pains of aging.
I don't like to be here.
It's hard to write when you can't see the sunshine
It's hard to smile when you don't choose to be happy
All in all I live a blessed, full and wonderful life.
So I'm trying to dig myself out of the black hole of negativity.
I saw the magnificent colors of the leaves just now rather than the sign of impending winter.
I saw the chance to write just now rather than another endless wait at the bank!
I choose to work hard to keep this climb out of the deep hole going. 
I choose to go up.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Without Air

Watching the world pass by,
From the side of the road.
It's what you do
When you are out of air.
Bike tires, car tires,
Worthless mismatched shoes
Taking you no place,
Without air.
Watching the world pass by,
From the side of your chair,
It's what you do
When you are out of air.
Heart, lungs, bronchial tubes,
Powerless organs,
Taking you no where,
Without air. 

You Look Like The President-General

"You look just like the President," his classmate observed.

"Nah," said another boy earnestly, "he looks like a General."

"A President-General would wear a camo-tie like that," another child, one who can summarize things succinctly, observed as he studied the not-typical-for-school and just-for-photo-day outfit.

I looked closely at them, sort-of-lined-up, yet moving constantly like human Gumbies dressed in their photo day best, yet disheveled by the joy of outside recess on a fine, fall Friday.

The child, whose outfit was the source of their conversation, was indeed wearing a very wrinkled, before-recess-white shirt and the remains of his clip-on-camouflage-tie hung precariously from his collar. 

I smiled as I headed the Gumbies into a sort-of line down the stairs and back to their classroom thinking the "look" might indeed have been like The President after a long, hard day in office; however, the energy level of 6 year-olds is something The President (and the rest of us) can only dream of finding! 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

#Slice of life 2013 This giant pizza oven makes you wonder, rather than full

"It's a giant pizza oven!" 
Not really,
Yet I found the roots of brick fired pizza ovens
 On a trail that provided footings for the Brooklyn Bridge!
Perhaps you already know this,
I didn't. 
Long ago, the glacier carved mountains
of the Hudson Valley (NY),
Were a source of dolomite,
natural cement.
Mined deep in the earth,
Baked until powdery,
Mixed with water,
To become the foundations of cities.
I thought of many things as I rode past,
Those lost to the pillars,
Within the deep, dark mines,
Those scorched by the fires,
The widows,
Those carting the cement to the river,
Those who built bridges across mighty divides. 
When I leave today's pizza ovens,
I'm full, satisfied,
As I left these giant cement ovens,
I wondered,

Saturday, October 19, 2013

We have to teach ourselves now to live, really live…to love the journey, not the destination.”

From my local library, in my pajamas, I downloaded Anna Quindlen, A Short Guide To A Happy Life the other night.  Quindlen is one of my favorite contemporary authors and I already knew what the book said. Yet, after a particularly tough week at work and with caregiving, I needed to reread Quindlen's words.  I'm sharing them here so I can go back and reread them when my book loan ends in 14 days.  I will need them again.  For sure. 

Life is made of moments, small pieces of silver amidst long stretches of tedium. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves now to live, really live…to love the journey, not the destination.”

Yogi Berra’s advice seems as good as any: When you come to a fork in the road, take it!

Don’t ever confuse the two, your life and your work. The second is only a part of the first.

You are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.

Excerpted from A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


The Day CCSS, TCRWP, and APPR met

It started off a bit melancholy as I came to terms with the after effects of a Friday night on-the highway tire failure-pot hole leaving my car disabled and me with Saturday must-dos rather than a want-to-do (TCRWP).

With a little time (before the repair shop opened), I started reading this fall's American Educator.  It often has articles that get you thinking, but to be honest, they can be a bit long and boring (for my emerging Twitter mentality).  Yet over coffee, I became embroiled in Tim Shanahan's article  that poked holes in what I say to students and to my graduate students and made question and ponder the essence of what I propose is best practice teaching of reading in the 21st Century.  At times I sat scratching my head; yet, at other times, I deeply reflected on my own practice, what I see in classrooms, and what I hear in discussions with teachers.

Then, as I logged onto Twitter to scan the feed of my colleagues at TCRWP, I realized the Lucy Calkins et. al had already interacted with and joined forces with Charlotte Danielson of teacher evaluation (APPR in NYS) fame.

I will, soon, respond deeply to Shanahan's article, after I have read it more closely :)

For now, suffice it to say, that even though I am stuck in Stormville, I know Danielson and Calkins met, talked, and "broke bread."

This morning, while I was stuck in Stormville, the CCSS, TCRWP and APPR met and interacted!

This morning, I am confident that when the itching and scratching and poking of holes slows, the reflective process will lead to stronger teaching and teachers everywhere.

This morning, the day that CCSS, TCRWP and APPR met (at least in my head), I am not in my comfort zone; however, I am reminded that we are really learners when we are a bit outside of our comfort zone! 


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Put a smile on your teacher's face

Do you ever wonder what you could do to put a smile on your teacher's face? 

Write your teacher a note.  Tell them something you are doing that you learned about in their class.  It might be long division or it might be writing a powerful lead.  If you are one of my grad students, it might sound something like this....

"I'm doing regular guided reading groups (DAILY!) now and get to each of my 22 students every week.  I do Marie Clay running records on large post-its for each kid each week and put them into the student's reader's notebooks with some notes for my own records."

You won't see it, but that teacher will smile from ear to ear and then do a (virtual) cartwheel down the hall!  There isn't the big money that stock brokers make in this profession, but if we share our passion for learning, we make far more than money, we make a difference.

Teaching in ACTion: Scaffolding Close Reading of Text

Teaching in ACTion: Scaffolding Close Reading of Text

Great post from our IRA :)

Stygles book
Picture from the IRA POST.
FOR all of us trying to do close reading in a CCSS manner, this is a great resource.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

PLN: Common Core Skills Through Happy Birthday

Today's post is from Pinterest via Twitter found while relaying birthday wishes on Twitter and Facebook.  While I have long used the Happy Birthday song to suggest the length of a good hand wash, I am TOTALLY SURE that I  NEVER (along with NONE of my teachers) imagined a little PLN thrown into my morning as I wished Happy Birthday to THREE friends today! 
Common Core Skills: How to show evidence from the text. From


Monday, October 14, 2013

A not so perfect, yet perfect fall day.

On a picture perfect day, filled with sunshine and decorated by autumn's pallet, we attempted a Bik-athon (26 miles) on a newly opened trail.  The day did not go as planned; however, it was filled with many Slices of Life!

  • I could write about the very late start (caregiving issues),
  • OR about the near perfect weather and Crayola infused leaves that fluttered in the breeze. 
  • I could write about a the incredibly crowded path,
  • OR about the magnificent bridge over a busy road. 
  • I could write about the crisp air on my face,
  •  OR about the flat tire(s) that eliminated "gliding" and added "walking" to my plans.   
  • I could write about people, of all shapes, sizes, ages, kinds who clogged the walkway,
  • OR about the magical way they orchestrated into an October dance with the falling leaves.
  • I could write about the breadth of humanity in strollers (single, double, triple, quadruple), wheelchairs, with canes and walkers,
  • OR of the children, skateboarders, dogs, and joggers who shared the path with walkers, photographers, sketchers, painters, lovers, and leaf peepers.
  • I could write about the young man, the one I almost ran over,
  • OR I could write of him dropping to his knees in the middle of a Walkway over the Hudson to ask his girlfriend, "If I was a pauper and you were a lady, would you marry me?
  • I could write about the geese dropping into a pond or the deer that crossed as October's darkness,
  • OR that we returned home safely in spite of many changes to our plans.    
  • I could write about carefully noting the time and turning back before darkness,
  • OR about living, for at least a moment, on the "wild side" and pushing ourselves.
  • I could have written about being worried about how we would get back,
  • OR about trusting that things would "work out" just fine, in time!
  • I could have written about being frustrated for what we did not do,
  • OR about being grateful that we returned home tired but safely in spite of the challenges!
It was a long and not so perfect day in many ways; yet, it was also a perfect day intermingling with diverse people, animals, and falling leaves seeking respite in the magic of a fall afternoon, aware that this would indeed be remembered as a good day, during the cold, dark winter on the horizon.   

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Reflecting on writing, reading and homework!

I'll likely never meet Karl Greenfield in person; however, his writing voice is memorable.  I suspect he puts "juice" into parts of a recent article to get your blood running...Karl values writing, creative writing, voice in writing, time for writing! 

Karl is, in fact, bemoaning his daughter's homework while reflecting that she is living a life very different from his own!

He write in September's Atlantic about doing his daughter's 8th grade homework from her NYC Lab Middle School for one week (he does it for himself not for her!).  He writes, reflects and ponders on what we are doing to a generation of young citizens who are doing 3-4 hours of homework and getting 6 hours of sleep!

He starts with a quote from his daughter that would make CCSS and PARC people cringe," Memorization, not rationalization."  Yikes!

Later he adds some reflection on his own homework, "My study habits were atrocious." I'm not sure I would be bragging about that!

Then he ponders, "There is little to no coordination among teachers in most schools when it comes to assignments and test dates. That might very well be true! * "According to a 2005 study by the Penn State professors Gerald K. LeTendre and David P. Baker, some of the countries that score higher than the U.S. on testing in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study—Japan and Denmark, for example—give less homework, while some of those scoring lower, including Thailand and Greece, assign more."
Then, he hits the nail on the proverbial head (or CCSS idiom) with, "it turns out that there is no correlation between homework and achievement,"  citing studies that make me reflect on my own children.
I reflect, wonder and ponder.  One of my own kids spent endless hours for endless years doing endless honors homework assignments for endless teachers as she pursued academic excellence through the honors track of classes (just like I did way back in the era when Karl was doing little or no homework on the other side of the country)!  My other child found a way to spend far fewer hours doing homework causing me (at the time) hours of angst and worry.  However, in a twist of fate that may just be 'destiny," that child is now giving, correcting and thinking about homework every day!

The prefix RE might just be her ally

In this new age of CCSS, we are all thinking closely about words! says re is a prefix, originally Latin, meaning “again” or “again and again” to indicate repetition; however, it also means back” or “backward” to indicate withdrawal or backward motion.
I use that prefix a lot as I talked to students, parents, teachers, caregivers; however, I consistently use the first meaning of the prefix, not the second!  
I react when the alarm screams in my ear. 
I readjust when I realize the traffic patterns are not conducive to my commute.     
I recopy graphic organizers and revisit stories. 
I react to yelling in the bathroom or running in the hallway.
I reassure the scared, reluctant and worried. 
I extol rereading, looking closely and finding details to support the answer.   
I renew, reorganize and repair supplies. 
I pray for renewal and recharging as I rest my head at promptly 10PM.
I guess that is why I thought of rehab as doing things again and again in order to get back to where you were.  My aunt, however, has found the other meaning of rehab as she explained to me last night. 
"This new physical therapist wants me to walk with my heels first.  The last one said to put my head down.  Back when I was in the home (rehab) they told me to walk with my toes first," she sighed.  "They really should all get on the same page. That's why I can't walk," she chuckled. Then, looking sternly at me she added, "I want you to tell them all that I  learned how to walk way back when I was a baby and nobody had to show me how to do it.  I want to go back to the way I walked for 90 years, my own wayI just need to remember how I walked back then!"   
So,  empowered with a poster emblazoned with this revised definition of rehab, my Aunt just might have a case against those rehab people who don't seem to know how to walk! 


re·ha·bil·i·tate  (rh-bl-tt)
1. To restore to useful life (dictionary)
2. To go back to how things were (Aunt Gert)


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Literacy Learning Zone: sols: learning to surf

Yesterday, over at SOL, Michelle posted this post with the above quote...I read it just before bed and thought of it in my dreams.  Perhaps the pull of the ocean is its preparation for the battles of life?  Indeed, they come in endless waves with periods of more intense and more manageable and yet the challenges of life never stop....until the very end....
READ Michelle's post....and then....share.....this is a keeper for sure.  .
Literacy Learning Zone: sols: learning to surf: Slice of Life  hosted  at the  ...

Monday, October 7, 2013

#SOL 2013 Chicken in a Pot or Cake in a Box

Yesterday, Dogtrax posted a story created on Tapestry.  Sometimes I look at what he does with technology and think, "Does that man ever sleep?"  Other times, I look at what he does with rapt admiration and think, "Maybe, I can do that too?"Yesterday, his storyboard captured my attention and I could not wait long to try it.

So, I am sharing a short slice of my life this week through Tapestry.  I see the flaws (especially my difficulty embedding the image of my story) with this program, but like it anyway! 

Next week, you will likely see how this looks when elementary kids try it!  For today, here is the link to my Tapestry story about a family favorite dinner!



Sharing an Infographic: Reading Comprehension

Close Reading: Collective Reflections

There is some great thinking about close reading in the links from this's worth the clicks!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Personal paragraphs: Stopping to think about what others want to know

I am pretty certain that up until this week, no one had ever asked me to write a personal paragraph (not even in a job interview situation).  Perhaps if I was a famous author, I would have written one or two as my publisher worked to market my books; however, that dream has not yet come to fruition!  Sadly, I have written a few obituaries and tried to summarize the depth and magnitude of someone's life into a short space (where you pay for the words.)  It's a sad and very hard task even though you have a clear focus and purpose.

The other day, we were asked to write something about ourselves for our "district" webpage.  I must admit, this was hard writing for lots of reasons!  I had no model of what was expected!  How much do you share without sounding like you are bragging?  What are the other teachers going to write?  What do people really want to know about their children's teachers? 

Our degrees tell where we learned the foundations of our profession. So, I wrote: I earned a BS in Special and Elementary Education from the University of Maryland, a MS in Literacy from Western Connecticut University, and PhD in Literacy, Language, and Learning from Fordham University.  (I tell kids I am a book doctor!)  I have advanced learning certificates from SUNY as well as advanced multisensory training in Wilson, Preventing Academic Failure, and Orton Gillingham approaches. 

However, this did not sum up the depth and breadth of my learning.  I am not my degrees.  If you really want to know what I am reading, reflecting on and thinking, you would have to read my blog, share my PLN Twitter feed and have dinner with me once a month at least! So I added: After school and during the summers, I work as an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University.  I am part of an active on-line Professional Learning Community, an active blogger,, and a life-long learner.  My publications include an article on assessment guided differentiated instruction  

I am pretty sure people want to know something about what I do outside of school. I could have written about my worries and concerns for family members.  I could have written about mowing the lawn, cleaning the bathrooms, or attending my son's games!  I could have written about the eldercare lawyer who is my new BFF!  I might even have written about my commute on construction compromised highways!  Instead, I penned: My husband and I live in Stormville, high on a mountain. (Yes, we go to the Flea Market). We have two grown children. I thought about, but didn't add "wonderful" to the grown children.  I though about but didn't add that we are very proud of how they are orchestrating the challenges of life and that we are proud as punch about the adults they have become.  Instead, I said succinctly: Our daughter lives in Northern, NJ where she works as a biomedical engineer and our son lives across the river where he works as a Health and Physical Education teacher. 

I do have hobbies, interests and passions that were not even mentioned. I thought about adding a picture of a bag I am hoping will be done for Christmas, the garlic festival I attended last weekend, or of my messy "office," where I spend an inordinate amount of time!  I though about adding a picture of the bakery we "hit" after church on Sunday. (Hey, it is a slice of my life!) But. in the end I figured no one  would not care about any of that, so I penned a homogenized perspective of my time away from work: In my spare time, I enjoy walking, hiking, and biking with my husband.  (We did a 25 mile bike trip this summer!) I love to knit, quilt, and sew when I have some “free” time.  I can be found reading and writing at my computer early in the morning, and, when I am lucky enough to get there, on the beach!  Someday, just maybe, I will publish one of the many children’s books I have written. As you might notice, I tried to add a bit of a writing voice here!  Even I was getting bored!  I  really did mean that part about getting a book published, however!  Who knows, maybe some day a parent will read my bio and will be a publisher who wants to make my day! 

Finally, even though all this was WAY too long, I needed to add something about my passion for education.  It is who I am as a teacher, even now, after many years! 
It’s an exciting time to be a teacher as we prepare students to be effective readers and writers in the 21st Century.  I set high expectations for my students and provide them the support they need to become strategic and confident, readers and writers.  My role is to determine students’ relative strengths and needs while empowering them with strategies, techniques and self-confidence that transfers into their classrooms, homes, and lives outside of school.  The wealth of children’s books (classic, reliable and new literature, books, articles) that capture imaginations, engages readers, and builds reading habits is a critical resource for my teaching and I work hard to stay “on top of” new books, apps, and programs that support life-long reading for learning as well as enjoyment.  

Now the good thing about all this hard writing is this: Just in case a publisher finds me and wants to publish my "books," I will be all set!  


Helicopter Teachers?

Wikipedia says "helicopter parent" is a pejorative expression for parents.....The metaphor appeared as early as 1969 in the bestselling book Between Parent & Teenager by Dr. Haim Ginott, which mentions a teen who complains: "Mother hovers over me like a helicopter....It can be a product of good intentions gone awry...."

The term is used abundantly in articles about learning and parenting in recent years.  Some of us have known parents who call, complain, email, or text because a test was too hard (or too easy) or their child was unhappy (or not bubbly) because of a new classroom seating pattern.  Some of us have known parents who contact college professors when college texts are too expensive or when an assignment is perceived to be too difficult!  Perhaps these are situations where the best of intentions of parents who care desperately for their children have gone a bit awry.  Perhaps, there are parents who hover over their children and hinder their risk taking and progress; however, this blog entry is not about helicopter parents

The other day, as I reflected on the traits of effective learning, I started wondering if sometimes we have behaviors that might make us something like "helicopter teachers," hovering over students trying to make sure they are happy and successful learners, all the time?  Sometimes, do we guide them towards words, spellings, answers rather than encouraging them to dig and find and make mistakes?  Sometimes, do we stress over their finding the "right" answer to the question?  Sometimes, do we stress over kids who think "outside of the box?"

A long, long time ago, Brian Cambourne wrote about the conditions for learning and,for the most part, we do a really fabulous job providing students with these conditions that research again and again have shown to be essential for learning anything new! 
  1. Immersion—We surround kids with great books and read to them every day!  We fill their worlds with print! 
  2. Demonstration— We model the reading and writing with mentor texts and our own reading and writing behaviors.
  3. Engagement—We set up environments where kids want to read and write with rugs, chairs, pillows, markers, and for some kids, headphones and music!
  4. Expectation—We expect everyone to read and to write, every day!
  5. Response—We conference with them about their reading and respond to their writing.
  6. Responsibility—We give children choices.
  7. Use—We read and write for meaningful purposes all day long.
Yet, I wonder if sometimes, especially in these times of higher than ever stakes learning and monitoring of teachers and students, we might be a bit afraid of the last condition:

     8. Approximation—As we work to assure all students learn everything to the highest standards, it's hard to admit that learning is always a work in progress.  Real learning is challenging and         uncomfortable.  Real learning is messy and can make you feel a bit anxious (in the  elementary years as well as in college). With real learning, there are many, approximations of the goals and quite a few mistakes along the way! 

The message to me is that I need to make sure I do not let my own good intentions go awry.  I need to make sure I am not a "helicopter teacher" hovering over students focused on success rather than on the messy process of learning!  I need to make sure I am not a "helicopter teacher" focused on perfection rather than on the messy process of learning! 


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Reflection on Closely Reading and Falling in Love

Over at TWT, many of us post weekly excerpts from our lives and our classrooms.  It's cathartic to have a caring audience and thus we often share our successes and our failures knowing that others embrace the trials and tribulations that are part of life.  One of the regular contributors, Nancy Ellen, who writes at wrote a memoir about a close reading teaching experience this week. 

She shared the challenge many of us feel as we embrace so much "newness" right now.  She describes how new ways to teach math, in some schools, have taken the lead,  leaving ELA strategies waiting patiently in the wings.

She shared the tension that surrounds picking just the write book for close reading. You've got to love it, but also to know it in light of your audience.  It's more than a "read aloud."  If we're doing it right, you'll leave your students begging for more!

I too love the idea of reading deeply and looking closely at texts. When you read with wild abandon, you see a lot; yet when you read deeply, you might just fall in love!