Tag Archives: Cynthia Lord

I LOVE Authors! Do You?

This week I was in author heaven as I was able to connect with some of my very favorites in a variety of venues.

On Monday I attended a Booksource Book Tasting in which authors Cynthia Lord and Charlotte Agell shared their latest books and talked a bit about their process.IMG_E0936

On Tuesday two of my schools sponsored an author visit by Matt Tavares and I got to watch him put on 4 amazing presentations for groups of students from preK to 6th grade. He shared how he comes up with his ideas, how he researches his subjects/topics, and the countless revisions in his writing and drawing that lead him to his masterpieces. IMG_0993

On Wednesday I asked author Dusti Bowling to Skype with a group of 4th grade girls who were part of a lunch bunch reading club and were having their last get together for Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus.IMG_1057

Today I Skyped with author Sarah Aronson in preparation for a surprise Skype visit on IMG_E1077Monday with some 2nd graders. I’ll be reading her new book Just Like Rube Goldberg as part of a Readathon launch at one of my schools. As part of that Readathon I am also keynoting to students on the topic I LOVE AUTHORS.  I want them to realize and appreciate that every book they read and love was created by someone with an idea and the determination to work hard until it became a book.

I’ll be passing out these bookmarks to kids and discussing how we can show our appreciation. As an adult I can post an Amazon review, a Facebook share, or a Goodreads entry. But students often don’t have a social media presence or global contacts so their influence is much more local and intimate. I listed some ideas to get them started, but I want them to think of even more.

I love using mentor texts, but it is just as important  for students to have real mentors! Helping to bring authors into their lives in person, via Skype, or by visiting their websites can show readers that ‘wizard behind the curtain’ and help them to appreciate those words, those illustrations, and those books even more. It can also help them to aspire to be published writers themselves when they humanize their concept of author.

So thank you to all the authors who have helped me share the love of reading, the passion for books, and the desire to write with students over the years. You’ll never know how much of an impact you’ve made on their lives–and mine!

One More Off My TBR Stack

Get yourself a copy of this book and you’ll see why I think Cynthia Lord is one of the most talented middle grade writers out there today. She takes seeds from her real life and creates stories that shine a light on the human experience, especially for those who aren’t normally in the spotlight. Emma wants to go to “real school” (she’s been homeschooled). She’s lonely now that her older brother is going to highschool and doesn’t have as much time for her anymore. On the eve of the first day she and her game warden father rescue a stray rabbit. She convinces her parents to let her keep “Lapi” until they can find the owner-if ever. Starting school at 5th grade in rural north west Maine, she finds friendships and cliques have already been established but she strikes up a friendship with Jack, who does not seem to fit in. As the story unfolds, Emma learns what real friendship is about “you have to BE the friend you want to have”. As always, Cindy’s stories have so many layers that can connect with a variety of readers: loving care for pets and strays, feeling excluding and wanting to fit in, nurturing empathy for people who seem different from ourselves, and always in the context of a super satisfying story! As a bonus in this one, you’ll learn facts about lagomorphs and it is set in the amazing state of MAINE! Do your students a favor and get a copy of this in your classroom library ASAP! I don’t think it will stay on the shelves.



My ILA16 Dream Team

Close Writing Book JacketNext weekend is the International Literacy Association (ILA) 2016 Conference. This week, I am gearing up for it. As a self-declared literacy nerd, these conferences are more  like Carnival! Spending time with other educators and authors feeds my soul! I learn so much and fill my teaching toolkit so deeply. Now I am also able to share my passion with others as I present at these conferences as well.

I’ve coalesced a panel that ‘oozes’ passion for writing! They are my ILA16 Dream Team! Our session: Close Writing: Fostering Relationships Between Writers and their Writing will be Sunday morning, July 10 (10:30-11:30) in room 109 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. If you are attending ILA16, I invite you to join us.  If you aren’t I encourage you to check out my team of panelists and if you haven’t read their books, you need to. I guarantee that you are in for such a treat!!

Meet my ILA16 Dream Team

Caroline Eldridge

I am incredibly lucky to work with so many gifted teachers. Caroline Eldridge is a 2nd grade teacher who is truly a Close Writing mentor for her students.  She and I collaborated a great deal this year as we were working on our National Board Certification and striving to lift her writers to new heights.  We’ll be sharing video clips of Close Writing approaches we have used in her classroom and she’ll share some of her insights on creating a culture of more purposeful writers.

Jennifer Jacobson

Jennifer Jacobson does it all. She is a writer, teacher, educational consultant, editor, and fantastic speaker. I learned so much from her book No More, “I’m Done!” that helped shape my thinking about what it means to be an independent writer. I have been captivated by her novels Small As An Elephant and Paper Things that deal with tough subjects (abandonment and homelessness) with compassion and honesty. They are beautifully written and need to be experienced! Her Andy Shane series books are must-haves for early chapter book readers. Jennifer knows first-hand the challenges teachers face as they try to support young writers. She seeks to empower teachers and writers to overcome those challenges and she walks the talk!

Cynthia Lord

Cynthia Lord has been my hero since she penned her first book (and one of my all-time favorites) Rules.  This fellow Mainer has a heart of gold and a head full of beautiful stories.  When you hear her speak you will be enchanted by her soft spoken voice that conveys such fervor for writing. Her books for middle grade readers: Touch BlueHalf a Chance, and A Handful of Stars, will touch you deeply and leave footprints of those characters on your heart. She has an incredible gift for taking small moments and crafting the most meaningful stories and vivid characters. But she can also make you laugh and cheer with her Hot Rod Hamster series of picture books and early readers or encourage young readers to volunteer with her new Shelter Pet Squad series. She is truly a close writer who taps into the stories around her and cultivates a garden from their seeds.

Lynda Mulally Hunt


Lynda Mullaly Hunt is a former teacher who has found a calling as a brilliant writer. Her first two novels need to be in the library of every middle grade classroom. One For the Murphys introduced us to Carley Connors who entered the foster care system feeling hopeless and emerged feeling loved. She broke our hearts and put them back together with greater empathy and compassion. Lynda followed that with Fish in a Tree ,where we met Ally Nickerson whose dyslexia made this bright and creative student feel stupid. I can’t imagine a classroom in this country that doesn’t have an Ally, and Lynda has made it safer for those kiddos to ask for help and easier for teachers and peers to be more empathetic and supportive. Lynda has a gift for creating characters that make us reflect on who we want to be as people and challenges us to be someone’s hero.  Her books have won more awards than I can list on this blog, but the Schneider Family Award from the ALA that she just won pretty much sums up her brilliance and compassion.

So that is my dream team. I could spend a week listening to and learning from these people, but we only have an hour. I hope many of you can join us, and I hope that I will have future opportunities to collaborate with these amazing Close Writers!  If you won’t be at ILA16 I encourage you to check out the works of these authors and be inspired by the power of their words.

What’s On My Book Radar?

26875689nine, ten: A September 11 Story 15 years after that beautifully blue day, several fantastic authors have penned novels exploring Sept. 11. This amazing book by Nora Raleigh Baskin introduces us to 4 children and the varied lives they lived as Americans in the 48 hours leading up to the day that would change us all forever. For those readers who know a lot about the events of Sept. 11th the foreshadowing and references will grip you. For those readers who know very little about 9/11 this book will provide a context for the human story beyond the headlines and facts. Baskin is careful when she considers her audience and doesn’t overwhelm them with horrific details, but she shines a light on the tragedy and the implications for Americans as the world around us changed on that day.Read this book. Share this story. Learn from our history.


Beyond Thankful

Since it is the eve of Thanksgiving and there are so many other tasks demanding my attention, my blog this week will be a simple gratitude journal.  I cannot possibly list all that I am thankful for, so I will focus on my time at NCTE in Minneapolis this past week.

I am thankful…


…That I could bring a colleague.  Andrea made this experience so rich and meaningful.  I am lucky that I have such great teachers to collaborate with. I love my job, and the teachers who make it so rewarding.



…That I had a “dream team” for my panel presentation on Close Writing.

They each brought incredible insights to their close writing process and showed us that there is no “ONE RIGHT WAY” to be a writer.  Thank you to Sarah Albee, Linda Urban, Lester Laminack, Kate Messner, and Selene Castrovilla.  Andrea and I learned so much from you all.

…That I got to meet the authors who have touched my life so profoundly.

Katherine Applegate brought me to tears with the story of The One and Only Ivan and her latest incredible book Crenshaw. Kate DiCamillo has brought a bit of magic to every story she’s written. I have been a fan since Because of Winn Dixie and haven’t stopped loving her work.  Lynda Mullaly Hunt is the most compassionate author I know and can call friend. Her books One for the Murphys and Fish in a Tree are must-reads for every teacher.  They allow us to see our students in profound ways -and now that I know how much they reflect the heart of this author, they are even more special. And Cynthia Lord is a true gift to kid lit lovers.  Her books Rules, Touch Blue, Half a Chance and  A Handful of Stars bring the stories of ordinary children with very real problems to life for our students in ways that help them know they are not alone-that someone understands.


…That I got a chance to connect with those Nerdy Book Club peeps

that feed my soul (and my Amazon cart!) with their passion for kid lit.  Colby Sharp, John Schumacher (Mr. Schu), and Donalyn Miller (the Book Whisperer) have so much energy and knowledge.  It was truly infectious!

…That I learned from some amazing authors and educators at panels and

roundtables.  I tried to take photos, and notes, and sketches as fast and furious as I could at times, and at other times I just ‘absorbed’ the experience and savored the moment.

…and finally I am incredibly thankful for the people at Stenhouse who helped me put my ideas into a book that will be out next month.

To say it was a surreal experience would be the understatement of my life. When I saw the lineup of authors to meet and chat at the Stenhouse booth I was blown away.   I am mindful of the quote,

“To those whom much is given, much is expected.”

I will strive to give back to the degree that I am given, to be humbled and grateful by the experiences I am fortunate to have, and to remember to thank those who have been a light in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

What’s On My Book Radar?



I was able to get the most recent “True Story” fairy tale adventure from Liesl Shurtliff.  RED: The True Story of Red Riding Hood.  This fantastical tale was my companion for the plane ride home.  I love the twists and turns of re-imagined fairy tales-Liesl has a wonderful way of bringing fresh insights to old and familiar tales.  Look for this book April of 2016!


Manuscript Mentors

IMG_1908As I was finishing up the last of the proofreading and edits of my manuscript for Stenhouse (Close Writing: Developing Purposeful Writers in Grades 2-6) I solicited some ideas on Facebook from my author friends: “Calling on all my writer friends for any advice on final edits of a manuscript. Any tips on what works for you would be welcome as I venture into new waters here.”
I hoped to get a response or two.  I was a little overwhelmed with the wonderful advice from so many authors I look up to!

Lynda Mullaly Hunt Set a day aside and read the entire thing out loud. You hear things you don’t hear when he read silently. Good luck!

Franki Sibberson By final edits, I’ve learned that I need to let go and know I can’t do everything I want to do in one piece of writing (even though it is a BIG piece of writing!). So I work to make what I’ve already said the best that it can be instead of thinking of all the things I didn’t say and trying to add those in. If that helps at all!

Cynthia Lord Change the font and print a copy. It will look different enough that your eye will read every word again–if it looks familiar your eyes sometimes read what you think it says, not exactly what it does.

Charlotte Agell I love the Cynthia tip. Different fonts make me THINK differently. They are like the clothing of my words – punk, staid, all-purpose, snazzy…

Lester Laminack I find it helpful to put it aside and write a summary/note to myself what I hope the reader leaves with. Then I read the whole thing with that in mind.

Jennifer Richard O’Grady I tackle the smaller edits, the easier things first. That gives my brain more time to chew on the bigger questions. From time to time stop and savor the moment. Your dedication got you to this stage!

Sarah Albee Do a find/replace for words you suspect you use too much. I’ve horrified myself with this exercise, finding I use certain words way too often. Also search-and-destroy too many semicolons, or whatever your personal perils may be!

Kate Messner When I review copy edits, I take a blank piece of paper to cover up everything beneath the line I’m reading – helps me to slow down. Also, read aloud.

Donalyn Miller Appreciate all of the great advice here. I take a close look at really long sentences to decide if they make sense or need to be revised/shortened for clarity.

Maria Padian Hunt down adverbs. Wherever possible, replace them with stronger verbs that don’t need modifying, or give the character a physical gesture that conveys the meaning you’re after. Same with the verb “to be.”

Lynn Plourde My agent taught me this trick . . . you can delete “that” most of the time (i.e. I didn’t know that she lived in town . . . I didn’t know she lived in town). Btw, since I’m at the final edit stage on my MG novel–I’m savoring all this advice you’re getting, Paula!

Gae Polisner The biggest help is to put it away for a month or three and read it fresh then, but very few of us have the luxury or patience to do so.

Melissa Stewart Highlight your verbs in a different color and make sure ewach one is as strong and precise as it can possibly be.

Meg Frazer Blakemore Give yourself breaks and walk around, even if it’s just around your house.

David Lopez Read it backwards in a mirror, turn around three times and then set it on fire. Laugh with glee.

Ammi-Joan Paquette So many great comments here already! I would just add that it’s not easy, taking the plunge to “let go” and launch your baby out in the world. It’s helpful to remember that you have been diligent, and thoughtful, and thorough–you’ve done your best, and it’s GOOD. That’s why you’ve gotten this far. Once you give it that final read, and make any last changes that jump out, let it go with confidence. It’s ready to fly!

I wanted to save (and savor) their sage advice, not only for thisIMG_2205 project but for all writing moving forward.  They didn’t have to respond, but their passion for writing is so evident when they rush in to support another writing.  And so I am feeling thankful today. Thankful that the final proofread manuscript was sent back to Stenhouse, thankful for those amazing people who work there that will turn my words into a book, and thankful for all those authors who were willing to mentor me on my journey. It has truly taken a village to raise this ‘baby’!

What’s On My Book Radar?

23604418I am so excited that our recent school book fair had Kate Messner’s latest Ranger in Time: Danger in Ancient Rome. This copy is sitting by my bedstand waiting for me to finish this blog, log off, and pick it up!  I think this is such a fun and informative series.  I know the painstakingly careful research Kate does for her books, so I know I will learn something new with each of Ranger’s adventures.  If you haven’t discovered this series yet for yourselves, I encourage you to grab a copy of this and Rescue on the Oregon Trail

The Proposal

So I just sent off my proposal for NCTE 15.  I mean, who doesn’t want to be in Minneapolis in November!? It’s hard thinking about where I might be professionally 11 months from now and what might be relevant for other educators at that time.  I’ve been immersed the past year on my writing work with teachers and so it only seemed natural that I would be ready to share this collaborative venture with others. So with great anticipation I hit the “submit” button.IMG_2481

Leap of Faith

When I was a relatively new teacher, my principal asked me if I would like to go to a national conference.  Attending NCTM in New Orleans was a life changing event.  I know the power of that experience shaped who I am today.  I am anxious to share that opportunity with other teachers. Without even knowing if our district would fund this,  I asked two ‘new’ teachers to join me in the NCTE venture.  They have worked so closely with me over the past year; willing to be coached, to collaborate, and to let me try out lessons with their classes. I know that being engaged with other educators at a national level will transform their teaching in a similar way that mine was-they are like sponges soaking up new knowledge.  I have faith that if I plan it, they will come!  We are going to make this happen!

I also took a leap of faith in asking several authors that I admire to join us on the panel.  I thought the worse that could happen would be a curt, “no” or a non response.  To my delight, most of them were eager to join the panel.  Their expertise on our topic will be invaluable to participants, and their range of experience, preferred genre and audience will make for a rich discussion.   From picture books to nonfiction to YA, these authors are truly experts in their field.  So thank you Lester Laminack, Kate Messner, Linda Urban, Sarah Albee and Selene Castrovilla for graciously joining these teachers from Maine.  We’ll know in May if the proposal is accepted.  I have faith!

So, forgive me for a shortened post this week.  I am revised and edited-out!! I am excited and exhausted.  I am anxious and hopeful.  I’m off to do more writing and to write about that writing!  If the proposal becomes a reality-you’ll all be some of the first to know!  Until then I’ll keep writing, keep working with teachers on writing, and keep our kiddos writing.  I guess that’s a pretty big hint to the topic of the session.  More details in May -when we get that acceptance letter!


What’s On My Book Radar?

9780545700276_xlgThis week Cynthia Lord sent me an ARC of her newest book A Handful of Stars , coming in May of this year.  To say I was excited is a complete understatement.  If you are a Cynthia Lord fan, I am convinced you will fall in love with this book.  She knows how to create characters that readers truly care about, develop stories that reflect real life experiences and leave you feeling more compassionate and caring for the struggles of others.  I won’t give much away since this isn’t out yet, but I’ll just say that when it hits the shelves you will want to grab a copy!



When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”-Wayne Dyer

For anyone who read the brilliant novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio, this precept is very familiar. It is one of my very favorite (of many) that Auggie’s teacher, Mr. Browne, shared with his students. Choosing kindness is just that, a choice, but it is also a principal to live by. After enough practice it becomes a habit, and habits become so ingrained that we sometimes don’t even notice.

But we do not need to wait for a situation to arise in which we are given the choice between being right or kind, we can live our life in search of opportunities to “Find Kind”. We can look for instances in which our acts of kindness would lift another person, benefit our community, or build the type of world in which we want to live.

To Find Kind, we just need to have empathy and an awareness of the struggles and challenges that those around us face.

I saw an amazing example of this precept this week. Some of us teachers were posting on Facebook about our frustration that an amazing education conference/retreat was taking place right here in our state (Maine) this summer and that the cost made it too prohibitive for any of us to attend. We were vexed by the notion of being ‘so close and yet so far’. Someone noticed that conversation and took it as an opportunity to FIND KIND!

Cynthia Lord, Maine author of Rules, Touch Blue, Half a Chance, and the Hot Rod Hamster series empathized with the frustration expressed, but moved beyond empathy to action. She responded in her own Facebook post that in part read,

I was sorry to read that some of my teacher friends would love to go to this event right in our own backyard, but it’s out of reach.

Another thing that I know about Maine is that people help each other. As a writer, I’ve been very fortunate this year. I just sold two more early readers and I figure what better way to celebrate that than to celebrate my state’s teachers who actually teach reading and writing.

This year, my family can afford this. So my husband and I want to send one of you to this amazing conference.”

From her own hard-earned money, Cynthia chose a teacher at random (from those who responded to her post) and paid for the registration and lodging for this teacher. All Cynthia asked was that this teacher share what she learned with the other teachers who also wanted to go.  Cynthia asked her to meet either online,  at a coffee shop, or in some other way to spread some of her new knowledge and learning. In that way, even more teachers and students would benefit from this act of kindness.

Needless to say, all of us were overwhelmed with Cynthia’s generosity and altruism. She went out of her way to find a way to show kindness to a group of teachers. Her husband, equally chose to be kind, to people he had never met. They weren’t asked for a donation or help…they created an opportunity for kindness. She did something as unexpected as it was generous to FIND KIND. Even those who weren’t ‘picked’ to attend the conference were changed by this act. I felt ‘lifted’ by knowing that I live in a state with such caring and compassionate people. The comments by others displayed genuine happiness for the teacher who was selected and not jealousy or resentment at missing out. I felt more hopeful and optimistic about people and life.

I didn’t write this post to encourage people to ask authors or celebrities or others to help them out. On the contrary, I wrote it to encourage people to find opportunities to offer kindness where it isn’t being solicited. To FIND KIND, you just need to notice, to observe, to listen, to care. To FIND KIND doesn’t require money either. Sure, money can help in a lot of ways, but so can a kind note, a home cooked meal, a ride to an appointment, a piece of chocolate! Random acts of kindness create ripples in our world. Many ripples can combine to create a wave.   Look around you, who do you know that could use a little ripple? Who do you know that is good at creating ripples? Your noticing and responding will help create a wave.

What will you do to contribute to a wave of kindness in your world?

How will you, FIND KIND?

What’s on my Book Radar?

Last month the Maine Student Book Award winners were chosen by students all across Maine.  Here are the top 10 and the number of votes they received.

1. Wonder                                 713
2. Cardboard                           433
3. The One and Only Ivan  365
4. One for the Murphys      308
5. The False Prince                233
6. Earthling!                            156
7. The Ghost of Graylock   139
8. Ungifted                               138
9. Capture the Flag               125
10. Island of Thieves            114

Students had to have read at least 3 of the nominated books in order to vote.  I was able to read 20 of the 40 titles.  There were 4 of the top 10 I missed, but rather than reveal them, I will quietly put them on my book radar and get them read by summer’s end. I’m happy to say I have a good start on next year’s nominees!!

MSBA Book Nominees 2014-2015

Welcome to My Reading Life

I wasn’t going to blog this week.  Whatever nasty virus that has been making the late winter circuit finally caught up with me.  I was out of school for two days, and my workload kept piling up.  It would  have taken something pretty special to inspire me to carve out some time for my blog this week.  That something special walked over to my desk yesterday afternoon.

At the end of the day, I was back at my desk in my glassed-in cubicle at school.  In walked one of the most timid 4th graders, looking a little nervous, as though she was afraid to bother me.

“Do you have a book recommendation?” she breathed.  So quiet was her voice I couldn’t quite make out the words.  “Do you have any book recommendations?” she repeated.  Now, I have met kids in hallways and classrooms all year long inquiring as to what they were reading and recommending books on the fly.  Kiley was the first to come to me and ask on her own.  I had several books in mind I knew she would love.  Cynthia Lord’s Half a Chance and Natalie Lloyd’s A Snicker of Magic were two of my recent favorites, that I was confident Kiley would dive right into.  Unfortunately neither were there at my desk, having been loaned out to others.

I asked Kiley if she’d like to read one of my new books that I hadn’t yet read and then tell me her review of the book.  I had a signed copy of The Waffler by Gail Donovan.  I told her that it was just announced as a nominee on the list for next  year’s MSBAs  (Maine Student Book Award) We read the book jacket together and she eagerly nodded her head notifying me that she’d like to try it. As she left, I found myself smiling.  I felt honored that she thought I  knew her well enough as a reader to recommend a book that she’d enjoy.

Well, that good feeling got even better today when Kiley walked over to my room after lunch   “I’ve got a book recommendation for you.”  she beamed.  From behind her back she pulled out a paper back and handed it to me.  “My mom got me this at the book fair.”  I looked down at a copy of The Power of Poppy Pendle by Natasha Lowe.  She looked so happy as I flipped through the book.

“Have you already read all of this?” I asked her.

“Mmm hmmm.  I read it as soon as I got it.”

“So you think I’ll like this one?”  Nod.  “Then I definitely have to read this.”  I asked her if I could keep it for the weekend  since I didn’t think I could finish it in one night.

“Yeah, sure!”  she smiled at me.    I thanked her profusely as she headed back to class. “Oh, and I’m half way through The Waffler.   It’s good!”

Now my pile of must-reads, gotta-reads, need-to-reads,  should-reads and wanna-reads is massive, but  you can bet I am carving time out of my weekend to read The Power of Poppy Pendle.  Not because I can’t wait to see the power Poppy is imbued with, but because of the power steeped in that gesture by Kiley and my eagerness to talk with her about it next week.

She saw reading as a way to connect with others. She recognized that reading experiences can be shared.  She had confidence in herself as a reader to make recommendations to others-even teachers.  She welcomed me into her reading life  and she knew she was welcome in mine.

That kind of medicine got me feeling pretty good again!


I recently read an article about the influence of trajectory on our perceptions of events.  The gist of the article deduced that if an event was not very satisfying but ended very positively (upward trajectory) that the event was perceived as an overall positive experience.  To the contrary, if an event seemed successful but ended rather negatively (downward trajectory) that event was often perceived as an overall negative experience.  In addition, that perception shapes future experiences.

I have witnessed this phenomenon in classrooms that have had a productive and engaging day only to end with a chaotic dismissal that leaves the teacher exhausted and disappointed.  Teachers have confided, “It was going so well and then they lose it.”  The teacher feels somewhat defeated and down about the day.

In other instances an activity starts out with high engagement and ends with students rowdy, off task or disengaged.  The really positive experience of the activity is overshadowed by the ending frustration.  Student learning is compromised and teacher patience or confidence is worn down.

These observations have led me to contemplate the effect that trajectory plays on instruction and practice in classroom. Coaching teachers to visualize how they want their day to end or how they will monitor student work to know when to wrap up a lesson has helped to create more positive trajectories in some instances.  I created a menu of ‘end of day’ routines that teachers and I collected to share with colleagues and a student checklist to encourage them to become more self-regulated in their behavior at the end of the day.  I’ve asked teachers to consider planning for students who finish early or who haven’t yet finished, since rarely will all students complete tasks simultaneously.  This has helped them create ‘contingency’ plans or convey expectations to students that have helped lessons end more positively.  Rather than being the victim of circumstance, they actively shape the trajectory of the event.

I’ve not only shared my thinking about trajectory to help them in their classroom routines and instruction, but I’ve tried to include it in the work I do with teachers as well.  At recent grade level meetings I knew we would be engaged in a lot of intense work looking at standards and our current curriculum, so I wanted to make sure our meetings ended with a positive trajectory.  The last 15 minutes I encouraged teachers to share a joy they have had in their classrooms this year.  Providing an opportunity to celebrate some of the better moments and experiences with colleagues.  Ending collaborative and rigorous work on a positive trajectory leaves a satisfying ‘taste in the mouth’ of those involved, reminding us of the reasons and rewards of teaching.

My coaching protocol had generally begun with some positive validation before offering teachers a ‘lift’ or support.  I still find this to be very productive, but I now try to make sure coaching sessions or conversations end on a positive trajectory as well.  I’ve never seen my role as “fixing” teachers but I’m even more determined to respond to all the wonderful work they do, to help them recognize it and replicate it continually.  Teachers rarely need help analyzing ‘what went wrong’-we are notoriously hard on ourselves.  But rarely do we take time to analyze ‘what went right’ so that we can use that knowledge to create more success.  As a coach, I am in a unique opportunity to support them with this analysis and reflection.  A coaching session should leave teachers feeling validated, energized and more confident.

So if you thought about the idea of trajectory in your schools or classrooms, how might that affect your practice, conversations or collaborations?  It might be an interesting conversation to have.

What’s on My Book Radar?

Today is the book birthday of Cynthia Lord‘s latest work Half a Chance.  Set in New Hampshire, and involving one of my favorite passions (photography), Cynthia again creates characters that draw you in with their struggles that kids can relate to.  I can’t wait to see how Lucy adjusts to her new home, finds new friends and earns the respect of her very talented father.


I just finished Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. If you loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and you love a good puzzle, this book will soon be one of your favorites!


watch the trailer!



IMG_5117This past weekend I attended the most amazing professional development!  Created BY teachers, FOR teachers, WITH teachers this “Unconference” in Biddeford, Maine was tailor made for everyone! Dubbed nErDcamp Northern New England (nErDcampNNE) was inspired by nErDcamp Battle Creek which was created by Colby Sharp

So what was nErDcamp?  From their blog  I found, “nErDcamp is an “unconference” modeled after edcamp but the focus is on literacy. An “unconference” means that participants decide which topics will be explored. During the first half hour we will fill a session board with different topics generated from participants. Participants decide which sessions they wish to attend. You are encouraged to move to another session if you are attending one that isn’t working for you. Some sessions may be led by participants who want to share a strategy, tool or idea that has worked for them (ex: Using Evernote in the classroom). Other sessions may be more like round table discussions in which participants discuss and share ideas on a topic (ex: How to engage reluctant readers).”

I HAD to try this!

The evening before the conference the organizers held a Nerdy Evening with the Authors and Illustrators at a local library.  Children’s book and YA authors from Maine and beyond came to greet children, families, teachers and fans.  Talk about an opportunity to network!  Some authors discussed skyping with our classrooms and connecting via Twitter as ways to reach their young audiences.  They all took time to talk and sign books.

I had the good fortune to meet:

Ed Briant, Kate Egan, Cynthia Lord, Lynn Plourde, Megan Frazer Blakemore, Cathryn Falwell, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, J.E. Thompson, Gail Donovan, Kevin Hawkes, Sashi Kaufman and Lisa Jahn-Clough all in one place!

IMG_5115Having a blast with Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Lynn Plourde and Cynthia Lord.

The next day, I joined educators from around the state (and beyond) to create our own conference.  Susan Dee (incredible Biddeford educator) facilitated the auditorium audience as we chose topics and created a Google Doc for sessions.  People volunteered to facilitate sessions and others to take notes to capture the essence and resources in the discussions.   We all headed off to our assigned rooms and immersed ourselves in rich discussions, abundant resources and tons of tips!  I found myself checking out notes being created in other sessions I wanted to attend, wishing I could clone myself to be in more than one at a time!

IMG_5128Susan Dee, kicking off the event and facilitating the session development

We learned how to motivate ‘striving’ readers and writers, incorporate technology more easily into our classrooms, build our booklist of ‘must haves’, connect with authors, organize better book clubs…and more!

IMG_5145Authors Julie Falatko, Megan Frazer Blakemore and Lynn Plourde facilitated a session on ‘Making Writing Visible’

We took charge of our own learning!  Creating our own professional development with a “tribe” of open minded and supportive educators was so empowering!  We made connections with others that will go far beyond the one day event and it was FREE!!!!

IMG_5164Teachers browsing the incredible amount of freebies the committee organized for attendees.

So if your district, region or state is interested in creating their own edcamp they could post questions or comments on twitter #nErDcampNNE, follow their nErDcampNNE Blog, check out Colby Sharp’s nErDcamp in Michigan or follow Susan and the other nErDcamp team on twitter.

IMG_5168The amazing nErDcampNNE committee:  (front) Cathy Potter, Susan Dee, Mary Lou Shuster, (back)Jennifer Felt, Kate Sullivan, Chris Pirkl, Gigi McAllister, Justin Stygles

What’s on my Book Radar?

9780325050843Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts have put together a superb book that provides us lessons beyond literacy learning in the classroom that will give readers a greater appreciation for the literate the world around us.  Close reading is a real buzz word these days, I would recommend this book for teachers trying to encourage deeper thinking within the “4 corners of the page” and beyond. I think you’ll definitely fall in love with it!

I’ve also got to dive into all the books I had signed at the Nerdy Evening With the Authors!IMG_5252

Autographed books by Kevin Hawkes, Cynthia Lord, Lynn Plourde, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Gail Donovan and Lisa Jahn-Clough

Happy Reading, all you nerds!