Tag Archives: Half a Chance

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!