Tag Archives: nErDcampNNE

nErDs Unite!

The longer I’ve been teaching, the more I know how important it is to take charge of my own professional development and not wait to see what might be offered by someone else. Don’t get me wrong, school-based, district-based, or state-based PD can be great, it’s just not enough. Not if I want to be my best and feed my insatiable appetite for learning.

That’s one reason  I love EDcamps and nErDcamps so much. That’s why I attended nErDcamp NNE (Northern New England) this weekend in Maine along with my tribe of nErDs.  Teachers and authors came together to share ideas, pose questions, and collaborate on answers to the daily challenges of being the best educators our children deserve. Giving up a precious weekend requires a lot of passion and self-motivation!

Big shout outs to the nErDcampNNE organizer Susan Dee, and her team of nErDs who made this weekend in Freeport, Maine a huge success. They brought in authors, and lots of free books, and lots prizes for the event. Everyone walked away with bags of ‘swag’!42797496_10214952710564590_8524555302740164608_n

Also a huge thank you to all of the authors who came together for nErDy Author Night on Friday. They packed the gym at Morse School with fans who got a chance to talk with their favorite authors and get books signed by their heroes in kidlit. Look at this lineup!


For the second year, I brought my “Genius Notes” book that I invite authors to write in. I ask them if they would share one piece of advice for the student writers back in my district, and I’ve never had a single author decline. They are so generous in their thoughtful advice and it is so exciting to share their tips with young writers.

I was also able to share some of the work I’ve been doing around quick writes and get ideas from others in our session. Authors such as Haley Barrett, Elly Swartz, and Lynda Mullaly Hunt all had tips for sparking ideas in short bursts of writing. Teachers shared what works for themselves and their students. That’s what I love about these sessions-it is a give and take from everyone. 42912894_10216891224943001_2273204431744925696_o.jpg

So if you ever get the chance to attend an EDcamp-get your nErDy on and DO IT! Take charge of your own professional learning, share your expertise with others, and become a part of a collaborative community that cares about books, about learning, about kids…as much as you do.

One More Off My TBR Stack!

Screen Shot 2018-09-30 at 1.48.29 PMThe Wish List: The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever! by Sarah Aronson

It’s the one word that kept resonating with me as I read this novel for young readers. It also kept coming up in nErDcamp sessions as authors shared tips (and mentioned Sarah quite a bit.)

Isabelle is training to be a fairy godmother (her grandmomma is president of the Fairy Godmother Alliance) so the pressure is on for her to be good at it-in fact, her sister already is. But Isabelle would rather play than study-she might just fail her training! So she is assigned a “practice princess” to prove herself worthy. Unfortunately Isabelle finds out she has been assigned a “normal” girl and her worst fears might just be realized. I often read a lot of ‘heavy’ and serious kidlit books, so it is fun to get some time with whimsical books for younger readers-and Sarah’s got a great website (http://www.saraharonson.com ) I love the  #TipsonTuesday section for writers of all ages. Just what I needed this week.

Be a Part of nErDy Nation!

I am a proud citizen of nErDy Nation, a diverse group of educators, librarians, authors and lovers of books. We connect with one another to share our passion for kidlit and literacy via social media, national conventions, local workshops, and private get togethers.  My professional career and personal life has been transformed by these connections and I will be forever grateful.

#nErDcampNNE Committee 2016

This weekend was a classic example of the power of nErDy Nation. I attended #nErDcampNNE (Northern New England) that was put together by some of my very favorite nerds of all. Lesley Burnap, Jenn Chafin, Cathy Potter, Susan Dee, Natalee Stotz, and  Jason Lewis (left to right) worked diligently to host this EdCamp in Maine Even the winter storm that hit us hard couldn’t keep hundreds of nErDs from attending this fantastic “unconference”.


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nErDy Author Night

The weekend kicked off with a nErDy Author Night with 35 authors and illustrators from New England signing books and talking with their fans. Many drew illustrations, took selfies, and offered words of encouragement to future authors. The place was packed with students, parents, educators, and librarians who wanted to make connections with the writers and illustrators of the books they love. nErDcampNNE Author Illustrator Event


IMG_3196This similar event, last year, was where I linked up with many authors who helped me with my book CLOSE WRITING. They generously shared their thinking and their writing process with me so that I could bring those approaches to the classrooms in which I teach.  That never would have happened without being a part of nErDy Nation! I will be forever grateful to them, and to events like this which brought us together.  I feel so lucky to call them my friends as well as my colleagues. (Clockwise: Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Melissa Stewart, Tamra Wight, Jennifer Jacobson, Ammi-Joan Paquette, Cynthia Lord, and Lynn Plourde)


The next morning we braved the ice and snow to gather for our nErD Camp.  We generated an idea board of topics that people wanted to explore together. Rooms were assigned, facilitators were selected, and folks made their choices. The hardest part was trying to decide which sessions to attend, they were all so good! It was tough for me to miss some as I was presenting, but it was fantastic to share what I had been working on (Close Writing) with other passionate teachers.  Every question they asked deepened my thinking even more. When I could be a participant, I learned from authors sharing their craft and process and teachers who are incredibly innovative and dedicated. It was such an empowering experience.

Even with all of that great learning, one of the best things about the weekend was making new nErD friends and reconnecting with old ones.  It is the relationships we forge and nurture that makes life so rich and meaningful-both professionally and personally. By the time I got home I had dozens of new followers and friend requests on social media. I left with wonderful memories, learning, and friendships that  I know  will enrich my life in ways I can’t yet envision.

Surround yourself with nErDs!!!

I encourage everyone to become a ‘citizen’ of nErDy Nation if they love books, love learning, and would love to be a part of something powerfully positive in their lives. You can get started here: https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/ The Nerdy Book Club is where it all began!

nErDy Nation = Live, Love, Learn!

What’s on My Book Radar?

This past week the American Library Association hosted their Youth Media Awards. For many of us, this is a bigger awards ceremony than the Oscars or Tonys! I had my mock Caldecott and Newbery favorites and was anxious to hear their names called-it didn’t happen.  There were soooo many great books last year, I know these committees had some hard work to do.Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 9.48.37 AM

I think many of us were surprised that the Newbery was awarded to a picture book, but Last Stop on Market Street is about as close to perfect as a book can get in my opinion. Matt de la Pena’s use of colloquial language and positive message makes this book accessible and empowering to so many readers.  Though I was disappointed some of my favorites this year didn’t share in the honors, I was truly happy that Matt’s book not only won the Newbery, but was a Caldecott Honor book as well.

If you haven’t gotten a copy for your classroom yet, what are you waiting for?

Why We Need Snow Days

As I write this, we are deep in the midst of the Blizzard of 2015.  Everything from New York toIMG_4162 Maine seems to be shut down and waiting it out.  Our ever dependable mail and ferry service have even waived the white flag of surrender to this storm.  Since we have yet to experience our first snow day in my district, we were all excited when the call was made a day ahead of the storm. I’ve enjoyed checking in on social media to see how my friends and colleagues are spending this day off from the usual routine. Though a blizzard is nothing to take lightly and can be quite dangerous, the mood that I’ve seen has been distinctly upbeat and even giddy!

So why do we get so excited about snow days? A break from our usual routines can awaken us to new possibilities. It can remind us there is a different way of life outside of our classroom walls each day.  I can share a few that I’ve heard and experienced for myself. Maybe you can add to the conversation with your own reasons!

  • We can remember and relive the simple joy and excitement of our childhood days.
  • We can sleep through the alarm if we want or wake early to enjoy even more free time.
  • We can sit down to eat a breakfast that doesn’t need to be wrapped or packed.
  • We can see what are pets are up to when we are usually at work!
  • We can eat lunch and go to the bathroom when we want to!
  • We can stay in our jammies, skip the makeup and ignore the hairbrush… yup, appreciate our natural beauty!
  • We can surround ourselves with books and experience new lives and worlds.
  • We start to appreciate our own children’s teachers a bit more each hour!
  • We can increase our sense of guilt and jealousy when we catch up on Pinterest.
  • We can grade that pile of papers that’s been haunting us for too long.
  • We can repeatedly explain to our non-teacher friends that we really aren’t being paid for a day off.
  • We can pay bills, balance our checkbooks and organize files just for the fun of it!
  • We can take a nap!
  • We can watch a movie during the day without falling asleep.IMG_4164
  • We can binge-watch a tv series we never thought we’d have time for.
  • We can clean up our homes that are often flooded with the clutter of our busy lives.
  • We can take a bath in the middle of the day!
  • We can listen to music that isn’t cataloged as a sing-a-long.
  • We can shovel, make snow angels, ski, snowshoe or sled like a kid again.
  • We can drink hot cocoa and cover it with marshmallows or whipped cream!
  • We can join a twitter chat we’ve never tried before and follow people we never knew existed!
  • We can cuddle with our pets or snuggle with our kids and be totally present in the moment!
  • We can work on our blog and not feel like we should be doing 5 other things instead.

IMG_4169The gist of the snow day happiness is that we feel like we’ve been given the precious gift of time.  It’s okay to do any, all, or none of these things and not worry that we are falling behind.  When the world gives us pause, we feel less stress that it’s passing us by.  We are reminded to live in the moment because we are no longer on auto pilot. We feel a bit more rejuvenated and rested.  We have refilled our wells so that when we return to our classrooms we have more to give. So embrace those snow days whenever they come your way, I mean, what’s the alternative?

 What’s On My Book Radar?

I met Sarah Albee at our latest nErDcampNNE.  She is an incredible nonfiction writer who basically tells the history of the world with some unique perspectives. Have you ever thought about how bugs, poison or poop have shaped our history?  Well, Sarah has and her humorous writing style will have you laughing as you learn how POOP (yes, I said “POOP”) played such an important role in the development of modern civilization. If you think nonfiction is dry and boring…race to your local bookstore or library and check out Poop Happened!


Check out her book trailer here:

Here are some great snow day books:




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!