#SOL20 Day 5 “Three”

SOL20This March I will be participating in the montOld Friend from Far Awayh-long Slice of Life Challenge. Each day I will be posting a ‘slice’ from my life. This year I am using Natalie Goldberg’s book Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir to provide my sparks for memoir writing. Each post will be a quick write using one of Natalie’s exercises.

Name 3 times when it came to you clearly that you wanted to write memoir. 10 Minutes.  I noticed a pattern of emotional events when I took the time to think about it. img_7763

#SOL20: Day 4 “Coffee!”

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 5.28.56 PMThis March I will be participating in the montOld Friend from Far Awayh-long Slice of Life Challenge. Each day I will be posting a ‘slice’ from my life. This year I am using Natalie Goldberg’s book Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir to provide my sparks for memoir writing. Each post will be a quick write using one of Natalie’s exercises.

Today’s spark from Natalie: “Tell me about how you drink coffee. When? Where?…A whole world exists in coffee. Glean those details…Go. Ten minutes.” Here is my ten minute slice.


Do you drink coffee? Tea? Hot cocoa?  What’s your ritual. What details do you think of?

#SOL20: Day 3 “Die”

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 5.28.56 PMThis March I will be participating in the montOld Friend from Far Awayh-long Slice of Life Challenge. Each day I will be posting a ‘slice’ from my life. This year I am using Natalie Goldberg’s book Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir to provide my sparks for memoir writing. Each post will be a quick write using one of Natalie’s exercises.

In this writing SPARK, Golberg asks us us to tell her, “What will you miss when you die?” I gave myself 5 minutes, because I wanted to see what would bubble up first-my life has been so wonderful I could write a tome on what I’d miss if I gave myself enough time.


What will you miss when you die?

#SOL20: Day 2 “Test 1”

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 5.28.56 PMThis March I will be participating in the montOld Friend from Far Awayh-long Slice of Life Challenge. Each day I will be posting a ‘slice’ from my life. This year I am using Natalie Goldberg’s book Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir to provide my sparks for memoir writing. Each post will be a quick write using one of Natalie’s exercises.

In this memoir SPARK, I have 2 to 3 minutes to respond to each memory prompt. fullsizeoutput_1813bfullsizeoutput_1813a

See what Natalie is teaching us about? Using our senses when we write. Sound, taste, touch, sight, and smell.  What do you remember when you lean on your senses for memories?

#SOL20 Day 1 “I Remember”

SOL20Welcome to the 2020 Slice of Life!! This March I will be participating in the montOld Friend from Far Awayh-long challenge. Each day I will be posting a ‘slice’ from my life. This year I am using Natalie Goldberg’s book Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir to provide my sparks for memoir writing. Each post will be a quick write using one of Natalie’s exercises, slicing from my childhood or young adulthood.


This spark asks me to begin with “I remember” and write for ten minutes to see where it takes me. As you can see memories don’t come to me chronologically, and it’s fascinating to see which memory the mind lands on first.


What do you remember if had 10 minutes to quick write?

Slice of Life 2020 is Coming!

Starting on the 1st of March I will be blogging each day for the Slice of Life Challenge from the TwoWritingTeachers. (So if you are looking for educational ideas and reflections you might just want to visit my Facebook page this month) This will be my 5th year participating in this challenge and for the past several I have tried a theme to pull my slices together. One year I wrote a small moment from the previous day, another year I wrote micro-poetry, and last year I wrote quick writes from my book Spark! This year I will be practicing memoir writing using exercises from Natalie Goldberg’s book Old Friend from Far Away.

Screen Shot 2020-02-23 at 8.04.17 AMAs she says, “To write memoir, we must first know how to remember.” The book is filled with timed and meditative exercises to guide you through remembering. It is an invitation to “open forgotten doors of memory”.  So my #SOL20 for March 2020 will be meditations on memories and slices of my life that I want to remember and reflect on from my childhood or maybe even early adulthood. Though I want to try all of her exercises in the book, I will be mindful that my memories may not be shared memories for all who lived them and I will not be posting any that may be hard truths that others may dispute. I won’t shy away from writing them, I just won’t share them with the blogosphere.

If you would like to participate in this year’s Slice of Life Challenge I think you will find it to be a potentially life changing experience. I have met so many amazing people through these month long journeys that I have kept in touch with, met up with at conferences, and have formed wonderful friendships with. I have learned to appreciate the writing of others, the stories of others, and the joys and sufferings of others with so much more empathy and understanding. It will help you see small moments with the keen eyes and ears of a writer.  Ask any ‘slicer’ what the experience was like and I would bet most say it was a game-changer for them.

If you are interested (or think you might be) click HERE for information from the TwoWritingTeachers. It has all the information you need, and if you would like to chat with me about it, leave a comment or tweet me @LitCoachLady. I would be happy to help anyone with this challenge. Get your notebooks and pens ready!

One More Off My TBR Stack

What a powerful book! I think this will start a lot of conversations and hopefully stop a lot of heartache and hurt. Mila is a 7th grader who finds some boys giving her unwanted hugs, and then comments. When she tells her friends how uncomfortable it is making her feel they think she’s overreacting and tell her, “Maybe he just likes you.” But Mila knows in her gut that this isn’t ok. Their passive aggressive behavior is making life miserable but she can’t talk to her mom, who has just lost her job and she overhears arguing with their estranged dad over money. Who can she turn to? Who will listen and understand? This is a book I think all middle schoolers should read to build empathy and understanding so that all kids feel safe and respected.
Sexual harassment and bullying are becoming more problematic, I’m glad readers have books like this to help.


Rethinking Kindergarten

I’ve been teaching for 33 years and have seen a lot of trends and witnessed the shifts in society that have impacted our educational world. But the crisis we are seeing with our youngest students lately has been overwhelming our teachers and our schools in a way I have never seen. Children are coming into our schools with such an increase in dysregulated behavior that is impacting the educational environment for all students. Whether it is the result of ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences of trauma from violence, poverty, addiction, neglect, abuse, separation, mental health, etc) or some other reasons, we are having to rethink how we educate these young children so that they can have a more hopeful future.

In our district in Maine, we are taking some time this year as a kindergarten team to look at alternative ways to structure our teaching day that can help students develop a sense of belonging and find ways to cope with the stresses of life so that they CAN self-regulate in order to learn.

We have discussed incorporating more play, adjusting academic expectations, delaying classroom placement at the start of the year, examining supportive routines and rituals, and integrating experiences that tap into multiple intelligences.  At our last workshop day we focused on the latter-inviting in a professor from University of Maine at Farmington to help us take a look at how multiple intelligence (MI) theory could help us frame some experiential learning for kindergarten that may address the interests and needs of all learners, especially those most at risk.

Now I realize there is often conflation of learning styles and MI, but we are thinking about this theory as a rejection of the ‘one size fits all’ model of learning and recognizing that we all have intelligences beyond the 3 Rs and that we don’t just want to raise “college and career ready” students, but that we want to raise human beings who can have successful and fulfilling lives.

At this point, we still have more questions than answers. What is this going to look like? How will we integrate this into our current framework? What resources or materials will we need? How will this impact first grade? Subsequent grades? How will we support our teachers? We are clearly in the messy research and reflection phase with no clear direction, but we know we can’t continue with our current model. The meltdowns, disruptions, and defiance are corrupting the learning environment and not meeting the needs of those distressed children. We have adopted Collaborative Literacy: a  curriculum with a heavy focus on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) as well as reading and writing. We’ve hired more social workers, counselors, and deans of students but the crisis is growing for those coming into the educational setting.

I’ll keep you posted on our journey, but in the meantime I would love to hear from others who may be having similar experiences with the growing needs of young students and how you are seeking to support them.

Sketchnote of our Early Release Workshop on Rethinking Kindergarten

One More Off My TBR Stack

Image result for something rotten: a fresh look at roadkillSOMETHING ROTTEN: A FRESH LOOK AT ROADKILL by Heather L. Montgomery
Every once in awhile you read a book that changes the way you think about something-often something so common that you rarely give it much thought to begin with. This book is one of them. Author Heather Montgomery’s fascination with roadkill translates into a an en”gross”ing look at scientific research that depends on DOR (dead on road) and URP (unidentified road pizza) to research parasitic diseases, track species, cure cancer, and even cut down on auto accidents. She also found that roadkill is used for art and sustainable food sources. I had no idea about so many of these aspects. I can say for certain that I will never be able to look at roadkill the same way again-and that is the power of a well written book! If you think nonfiction is boring, you just aren’t reading the right books! Not for the squeamish, but perfect for the curious minds out there! (oh, and don’t skip the footnotes: informative and hilarious)

EdCamps Are Like a Box of Chocolates!

Ok, Forrest Gump fans, you know where I am going with this. The unpredictable nature of EdCamps can intimidate some, but pique the curiosity and passion of others who attend. Showing up on a precious Saturday to roll the dice on what will be shared, discussed, and/or learned isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you haven’t tried it, I strongly encourage you to unwrap this delicious box of chocolates and take a bite! (sorry, not sorry,  for all the mixed metaphors!)

Screen Shot 2020-02-07 at 2.15.49 PMLast weekend I attended EdCampWME (Western Maine) in the beautiful western mountains of my state. I lucked out with winter weather that was cold but dry to make the hour drive from my home. The group was by no means great in size, but they made up for that in passion and professionalism. Everyone there wanted to be there-wanted to learn and share ideas. When one of the organizers is Dan Ryder (Wicked Decent Learning), co-author of Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom, you know it’s going to be a great event.img_6923

As usual we created our idea board and merged some topics to create some inclusive groups and then found our rooms and found our voices. I shared resources, research and ideas on sketchnoting and the use of visual images in writing because I believe so strongly that expanding our definition of writing will create and engage more writers.

I met with teachers discussing topics on building independence and on reluctant learners and we shared ideas for engagement and expectations that led to some powerful discussions about the importance of teaching the whole child and the social-emotional aspects of learning/learners.

I came away with a great lesson on teaching about fairness, equity, and differentiation to children who sometimes complain, “That’s not fair! He gets to______ and I don’t!” It’s called the Band-Aid Lesson. I thought it was so powerful that I wrote it up as a lesson plan for my teachers, so you don’t have to go to Teachers Pay Teachers to get it, you can get mine here for free

Band-Aid Lesson

I had no idea I would learn about this or some of the other ideas and resources I walked away with, but my box of chocolates was quite delicious that day. Sure there were a couple of nutty nougat nuggets that I probably won’t nibble, but I could gorge on most of those chocolates for the rest of this year and beyond.

I’ve got two more EdCamps on my radar in the coming month (EdCamp207 and EdCampBoston). Maybe I’ll see some of you there. If you have EdCamps of your own that you are attending please send me the link to your idea boards so I can learn vicariously.

Here are a few of my takeaways from #EDCampWME


One More Off My TBR Stack

Screen Shot 2020-02-07 at 2.35.27 PMNEW KID by Jerry Craft

WOW! I can see why this book won the Newbery Award this year. I was literally laughing out loud and I am still laughing a few hours later. Jerry Craft has created a brilliant book about the challenges of starting over as a new kid when you are one of the few students of color in the entire school and well-meaning white teachers tell you, “Being different is a blessing. It’s what makes you special.” This story could only be told as a graphic novel as it is expressed with intelligence, insight, and humor that needs to be seen and not ‘explained’. This story, if written as a standard novel, would be like having to explain a joke-it loses its punch and power. This book belongs in classrooms and libraries everywhere. It will enlighten but it will also entertain middle grade to middle aged readers.

Fostering Makers

The last few weeks I’ve been working in kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms trying to foster “makers”-book makers to be more precise.  Based on the work of Katie Wood Ray and Lisa Cleaveland*, we are encouraging our youngest writers to think about what they notice in the books they read and inviting them to use what they know to create their own books. Simple, right? And yet so powerfulScreen Shot 2020-01-19 at 5.39.11 PM.

*About the Authors was my first inspiration for making books years ago. Getting Started with Beginning Writers  is their latest.



First of all, the kids are excited to be making actual books, and by actual I mean two pieces of copy paper folded in half and stapled together, voilà…a book! They suddenly are filled with ideas that they want to turn into a book. Second, we get incredible insights into what they notice and know about print concepts and how books work. With no lines we can see how they choose to use space and if they have a solid grasp on directionality,

IMG_6572return sweep, and book layout. They get to make ALL the choices, not limited by lines or predetermined space for pictures on every page. (We created a space on the cover for now as a scaffold for determining fronts and backs.) Also, our writers are connecting ideas to one another in a way that they didn’t do with a single piece of lined paper. Some have miraculously moved from one to multiple sentences during workshop. IMG_6573

Because we work on a book for more than one day, they are being introduced to the concept of revision in a natural way. Going back the next day to add details in pictures or words is just how we roll. When they ‘fill up’ a page they don’t say, “I’m done!” because there are 6 to 8 more pages waiting for them to dive right in.

Is this anything new? No. Is this radical? No. Is it meaningful and effective? YES! It gives students a sense of agency as they create authentic texts for real audiences. We are putting some finished books into the classroom libraries, some kiddos want to give their books to someone as a gift, and we are curating a collection of amazing mentor texts from these real-life mentors that we can share with future students. How empowering. IMG_6575So do yourselves a favor and check out the books by Katie and Lisa (see above) and give book making a try as an option for your students. You’ll learn so much about those youngest writers, much of which isn’t linked to any standards!

One More Off My TBR Stack

Image result for tracking pythons kate messnerTRACKING PYTHONS by Kate Messner
This is Kate Messner’s first middle grade nonfiction book and it is fantastic. She takes us on a quest to control the population of invasive Burmese Pythons that have overrun south Florida, and the unique approach scientists are using to track them. She uses both a narrative and expository structure to tell the story and inform the reader. She includes QR codes that allow us to see scientists and pythons in action. She includes dozens of fascinating photos, sidebar facts, and a timeline of the invasion that help give a complete picture of the challenge. I was sent a copy of this text by the publisher but I would definitely seek out any book by Messner, because I know how much research and work goes into her books. Kids who are mesmerized by snakes or are interested in scientists and their work will be captivated by this book. I’m always on the lookout for good nonfiction-and this hits the mark

Don’t forget turn back around…

Those lyrics from Lori McKenna, made famous by Tim McGraw hold many life lessons that I try to live and learn from. Yesterday I spent my morning turning back around and helping the next ones in line as I worked with teachers who were candidates for National Board Certification. Our Maine Education Association sponsors a workshop once a month to support teachers working toward NBCT.  I participated in those workshops on my journey toward certification, and I was grateful for the support and encouragement. I vowed that if I achieved certification, that I would give back to that group and do what I could to help others achieve certification.

I’ve been working with an amazing kindergarten teacher in our district the past two years as she works her way through the four rigorous components and I’ve agreed to read entries from teachers outside of our district who I’ve met in a variety of educational contexts.  If you’re an NBCT, you know just how much of a lifeline that encouragement and feedback can be from colleagues-it is invaluable.  I was lucky to be one of four teachers from our district who worked together and nudged one another along.

As part of my #100DaysofNotebooking I created an entry to reflect on the core principles of NBCT and the day I learned I had become certified:


Do you know someone who is working on a goal that may seem overwhelming at times? Perhaps someone is enrolled in a Master’s degree program, participating in the National Writing Project, or trying to get something published. Maybe they are just trying to survive and thrive in their first years of teaching. What supports could you offer (that wouldn’t drain your own precious time or energy to a deficit)? Is there a small lift you could offer? A note of encouragement? An invitation to read some work? A cup of coffee and a vote of confidence?

And if you have achieved something yourself: a degree, a certificate, an accolade…can you turn back around and help the next one in line? If we are going to sustain an excellence in our teaching profession we need to grow it. We need know we are not alone.

Always stay humble and kind.


One More Off My TBR Stack

forgotten city

FORGOTTEN CITY by Michael Ford
There is no shortage of dystopian books, but this one is unique in a number of ways. The world is not destroyed by war and conflict but rather by corporate greed. A deadly chemical (Waste) is unleashed on the world and devastates all life. Millions are killed and we think only Kobi and his father survive, but when Kobi’s father doesn’t return from one of his scientific missions, Kobi leaves their safe space to search for him. What he finds upends his reality…he finds he isn’t alone and cannot trust what he sees. So many twists and turns in this adventure: creative mutations, unexpected consequences, crafty characters all make this a terrific science fiction thriller. First in a series and currently on the 2019-20 MSBA list. A real page turner.