Tag Archives: Lester Laminack

The Power of a PLN

The idea of creating a PLN (Personal Learning Network)has been transformed with the proliferation of social media.  In the past we made connections within our schools or neighboring district, through workshops we attended, or classes we took.  Today we can connect with authors, professors, teachers, administrators, and experts in our field no matter where they are located geographically. Our PLNs can be global learning networks with the click of a mouse.

PLNs are about collaborating, sharing, and learning from those who are as passionate about education (or literacy, math, science, etc) as you are. It can take awhile to build up a network, but the rewards are great.  Your thinking is challenged and stretched from the diverse perspectives and approaches that your colleagues bring to the table.  We can easily find ourselves entrenched within our classrooms, buildings, or districts and begin to see teaching and learning through a very narrow lens.  When we broaden our circle, we can envision greater possibilities and find more support for our goals.

Sometimes we are lucky enough to meet up face-to-face with our PLN members.  These moments are powerful.  National conferences such as NCTE or ILA bring many PLN members together. When members cannot attend they can still “participate” through social media and become virtual attendees with the help of a hashtag. We can begin to “follow” those whose posts inspire, encourage, or challenge us to think more deeply. Over time we assemble our PLNs with those that we respect and admire.

This past Friday I was so lucky to be able to merge my local PLN (the wonderful teachers in my district) with my global PLN at a workshop. We had ten teachers from Augusta (we would have had double that if we didn’t have a substitute teacher crisis) attend a Heinemann workshop with Lester Laminack.  It was exhilarating for me to watch my colleagues laugh and nod through the workshop and then discuss what they want to do when they get back to their classrooms.

Augusta teachers join Lester Laminack for a day of laughing and learning.

I also got to observe two much-admired members of my PLN as they used their writer/reader notebooks to capture ideas from the workshop. Linda Rief and Penny Kittle are masters of the writers notebook, my own are inspired by their approach.

Later in the evening I was fortunate enough to have dinner with a diverse group of educators thanks to my friend Karen Cook.  She invited me to join her as Linda and Lester, literacy consultant Kellie Smith, and Cape Elizabeth superintendent Meredith Nadeau  dined and discussed a variety of literacy topics.  It isn’t often that I have conversations with such an eclectic group.  And so my PLN continues to grow and diversify.


It doesn’t happen overnight.  You cultivate your PLN like a gardener tending to his seedlings. With care and nurturing your PLN will continue to blossom and the harvest will be bountiful ideas, knowledge, and perspectives that will expand and challenge your current thinking. I encourage everyone to begin cultivating their own Personal Learning Network, there is nothing else like it! Just like LOVE-the more you give, the more you receive!

What’s On My Book Radar18079712

Every once in awhile you read a book that stays with you long after you’ve closed the cover. Nikki Loftin’s beautiful tale of a boy (Little John) living in the shadow and guilt of his sister’s death and a mysterious foster child (Gayle) he befriends is one of those stories. Gayle has a magical voice-literally and Little John is tricked into betraying Gayle and robbing her of her voice. He is determined to make things right and must make some difficult choices to be the person HE wants to be and not who his father thinks he should be. The magical realism genre has gotten so good lately! You’ll want to include this book on your “To Be Read” list for sure!!


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!


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!