Bookish Reminders

Over the weekend as I was listening to several book podcasts I was reminded of books I loved but have not thought about in a long time. Here are a few that stood out to me:

Image result for ella minnow pea

I loved this book because it is so clever. I do not like to reread books, but this is one of the books I will reread at a later date. It was recommended to me by a college student while I was riding in a van with Donalyn Miller to an Indiana Reading Association dinner. I was surprised I had never heard of it before that evening.



Image result for Griffin and sabineThis trilogy is amazing and I even bought the stationary set that has the artwork to these books. I have come back to this text over and over. It is comforting and reminds me of college.  The concept is fascinating to me and I believe this series has contributed to the obsession I have with time.


Image result for 84 charing cross road

I read this book early in my teaching career after it was recommended to me by a friend I taught with. I have such great memories of it that I recently bought another copy. I am unsure which move lost the first copy I owned. Another book I plan to reread eventually.




Image result for love letters ar gurney

This book was not mentioned on a podcast but thinking about the others reminded me of this text. I was at the Barnes and Noble in Indianapolis one evening and there was an event where two actors were reading the play. I was mesmerized and bought a copy that night. I still have the copy I originally purchased.

Image result for solitaire mystery

This book was recommended by my best male friend in high school and I loved it. I do not remember what it is about but is waiting on my kindle to be read again.



I need to read Rainbow Rowell…her name keeps coming up.

There were also some books that were talked about that I have not read but I have on my kindle because they were recommended to me before. The never ending TBR list gets out of control and I forget what is on it!

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Image result for H is for hawk

As much as I read I will never get through all the books I desire to read. I will keep reading and acquire as much knowledge and words that I can accumulate.

Stoking the Fires of Young Writers #1

Inspiring students to write when they are not required to do so takes passion and creativity. Here are some ideas that I have used in various age leveled classrooms to get them to write.

I wanted a writing teacher when I was younger because I love the art from a young age. I was always writing stories. I try to be the writing teacher I needed when I was in school. Being a writer myself, I think about what I would do as an adult writer and try to modify that behavior for my students as I teach.

  1. Establish A Writing Community

The right attitude needs to be fostered for students to write. Routines needs to be established along with expectations. The teacher needs to model their own writing to students. The teacher needs to model how to read like a writer. The teacher needs to provide opportunities for publishing and sharing.

2. The Teacher Needs to be A Writer

Teaching writing is a task I have seen many teachers shy away from because they are not confident. You need to think of yourself as a writer – with a “lowercase w” as Ralph Fletcher would say. A writer with a capital W gets a paycheck!

Students must believe you have the knowledge to lead them to become the authors they can become. To do that you need to write. Write in front of them and write beside them. You can truly understand if a child is having trouble with a particular part of a story if you have struggled with the same issues.

I also believe in writing model pieces for your students. I do this before the lesson is taught and then also write again in front of them. This process also helps to find issues with your writing prompts. If you cannot write to the prompt as an adult then most likely the students will have the same issue. It gives you the opportunity to change the prompt before you give it to students!

3. Cultivate the Real Student Writer

I use materials and resources that real writers use – not just teaching resources.  I have used The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, and Inner Outings by Charlene Geiss and Claudia Jessup.

Teach writing like it is an experience, not just an assignment. Teach the students like they are authors, not just children. It is important to honor their feelings and imagination while they are young since they seem to lose a lot of creativity as they progress through the grade levels. The spark that is their own voice needs to be respected and seen. Writing is not about formulas and plugging words into it. I do not want to read the same story over and over and your students don’t want to write that either.

A little freedom and trust can produce some amazing pieces from the most unexpected students. I worked with a group of fourth graders that most would call troublesome and they matured into such writers with incredible insight that I was moved to tears. Performance can be a true part of the writing process. They realized they had something to say and worked to make it clear to their audience.

I will share some specific writing activities I have successfully used with students in a later post.

4. Use Mentor Texts

To be a great writer, you have to read. Read aloud and point out what the author did craft wise or just lines you wish you have written yourself. If you are writing a specific genre piece then read books in that genre.

I also model how I use my writer notebook and the students see me carry it around all the time. When I am circulating during writing time and I say to a student, “Oh, I love how you said that. I never thought about it that way before, I am going to write a note about that in my writer’s notebook.” Then I do it right in front of them!


Keep writing!


Get Ready! Get Set! READ!

Several years ago I started a parent workshop program at the elementary building where I worked. The goal was to create positive relationships with the parents and to improve student achievement of the incoming kindergartners the next year.

The idea began with a teacher reading about a program deployed at another school. The school where I worked had rising ISTEP+ scores and DIBELS scores and we seemed to be doing a lot of things right for our kids to achieve, but the primary staff wanted to prepare our incoming kindergartners better. After interviewing several parents during kindergarten roundup, a plan was solidified, deployed, and made real!

Parents said they would do more if they knew what to do. The parents honestly didn’t know what to do at home to get their students ready for school. To aid in our knowledge base, I also scheduled a round table discussion with the local preschools to get their insight into this age group.

This is what we did:

A critical attribute is to make parents comfortable so an impact could be made. Many of the parents I work with have not so nice feelings about the school environment so to get them to come they needed to not feel intimidated. We dressed down on purpose and paid attention to the education jargon we tend to throw around. Teachers forget we have our TIER 3 vocabulary that scares people off.

Food also increased attendance!

The timing was important. We scheduled sessions during the morning and the afternoon but the attendance was not what we had hoped. We then switched to evenings after surveying the parents. Many of the parents worked during the day in the community.

The idea was to have the materials at the workshop so the parents could learn how to play and teach their children and then take the materials home with them to continue the learning.

Everything was modeled for the parents and then the parents played with their students. We did have a read aloud with the books and modeled how to ask questions.

TWO program threads:

  1. Topic specific sessions
    1. Literacy/DIBELS
    2. Geometry/Shapes/Counting
    3. Physical Development
  2. Literacy Bag sessions (more on this program in a later post)

Literacy Activities:

1. Nursery Rhymes

These are so important and are almost forgotten!

2. Ways to Read a Book

-Read the words

-Use the pictures to retell the story.

-Use the pictures to tell a made up story.

-Look for letters your child knows. (Especially from their name)

-Looks for words your child knows.

-Use the title and pictures to work on sounds. (We introduced the WILSON sound cards to students)

3. Using Highlighters to focus on letters

Highlight letters (or words) that child knows in newspaper, magazines, junk mail, poems, etc

4. Play-dough for making snakes and letters

5. Squishy Bags (ziploc bags with paint and duct taped for kids to write like a magic slate)



1.Wooden sequence puzzles

2. Books featuring math and shapes

3. SHAPE! Bang game

4. Play-dough for numbers and one to one correspondence

5. Take home file folder counting game

Gross Motor Skills:

  1. Obstacle course
  2. Learning to jump rope
  3. Color and number hopscotch

This program was a lot of fun and helped strengthen the relationships the teachers have with the community.


More soon!