"Whatever you think you can do, or believe you can do, begin it, because action has magic, grace, and power in it." Goethe


Friday’s Five: 10/16/2020

Poetry in a grandchild’s handwriting.

Really, that may count as all 5 tonight.

Her desire…

…to record meaning independently

…to insist I decipher her meaning

…to add a heart which gave me the ending

…to so easily give away the gift she created

… to know this was one of the moments that I’ll always remember

My interpretation?

I wrote

a beautiful

poem today

and ended it

with a heart



Teaching Tip: EVERY Month, Not Just April

It’s April.
That means a few well meaning teachers will Google “poetry” and read a few selections to their students.
Maybe they’ll make a cute bulletin board.
After all, it is National Poetry Month!

Please do more.

Please let April be your starting place.
Are you stuck?
Go to the poetry section in your school library. Start small. Check out a dozen books. Read them. Find the ones that speak to you.
Check out more from those authors.
Decide why you like a poem. Find more on that subject or with that tone.

Please. Do more.

You will be amazed at what a daily poem will add to your life. Before long, you’ll know your students deserve the same.
If you need some starting off ideas, here are two favorites. Feel free to comment with yours, too.
Mother to Son by Langston Hughes
Things by Eloise Greenfield

Don’t miss

Please. Do more.


Teaching Tip: Quote ‘Em

Yesterday my intern and I took our students to the cafeteria for the daily writing lesson.
There is a display of posters there, posters spotlighting famous African Americans. Each one has a quotation on it.
We chose the ones we liked best. Some kids, like me, couldn’t decide–or liked them all. So we sat and copied.
We added these quotations to an ongoing list.
We are trying to help the children build a repertoire of words to pull from when they need them to illustrate a point, to start or end a paper.
We have a long way to go, but our efforts are paying off.
The kids are serious. They want to build up their “mental warehouses” with many words…their own as well as those of others.
I have hope when we write like this. I think the kids do, too.

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Serendipity and Rosa Parks

My lesson was planned last week: read Nikki Giovanni’s Rosa and show the kids how one author introduces us to a character.

I reread the book, made notes about points to make: the repetition, poetic language, text references to Rumplestiltskin, to Brown vs. the Board of Education.

I was ready.

Then I open the newspaper this morning and see an editorial commemorating Rosa Parks’ 100th birthday. Today.

And I smiled.

Teachers know these kinds of things happen all of the time. There’s a force somewhere that is in our corner, leading us to find the right connection at the right time.

It happens all the time.

Happy birthday, Rosa.

Thanks for adding a whole lot to my lesson today. And for reminding me that I love this job.

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Teaching Tip: Student Created Books…Quick and Easy!

We are busy getting ready for the National Day on Writing celebration. These little books are quick to make and the kids have a lot of fun coming up with different covers for them.

Of course, you can use these for a variety of things: math facts, vocabulary words, illustrations, poems, facts, science concepts, quotations, or “My Book of ___”–the kids come up with a lot of ideas, too!

We are creating inspiration pieces for the visitors we have invited to write with us this week. We are making several blank ones, too.

The best part is that these books are super simple to make and can be put together in under a minute: perfect for center time or any time you want some extra novelty.


3 index cards per book–I used 3 1/2 x 5s for this project


small rubber bands–found in the hair styling department at local variety store (200 in a package 97 cents)

The steps are shown in the photograph, but here is a text version:

Stack three index cards.

Fold them in half.

Cut a small slit (app. 3/4 inch) at the top and bottom of the crease.

Slip the band over the slit to form the binding.

Decorate as desired.

You now have a ten page booklet. Ready for writing!

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More Planning for the National Day on Writing, 2012

The plans continue to take shape for our National Day on Writing celebration in fourth grade this week.

We are receiving replies from teachers on our campus who intend to come to write with us and who are inviting us to come to read to them. The kids are so happy. This gives them a brand new reason to write, a brand new audience to write for…

We spent part of the morning designing paper  invitations to be sent out tomorrow. We listed all the basic parts of the invitation, and when we came to the Why section, Ashlyn had our answer: To inspire people everywhere to write.

So, tomorrow we will make little index card booklets that will serve as impromptu journals for guests. The children saw a sample and asked if they could design some covers. Well, yes.

We will start on our welcome banner,  think about a script for welcoming our guests, write another haiku or two. These are the days when I remember what it is that makes me keep coming back: kids who need someone cheering them on, kids who by their very excitement about the smallest decision to celebrate make me want to celebrate something every day.



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Getting Ready for the National Day on Writing


Pencil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s Sunday night, and my mind is busy with ideas.

The fourth National Day on Writing is coming up a week from today. My students and I have celebrated this event ever since it started, and although I am a little behind in the planning this time, I’m sure we will pull off something great.

I think back to the mural we made last year: Why Do You Write? was the title and we received answers from almost 200 people. The children were ecstatic. I’ll try to find the photo of that and post it this week.

Another year we came up with our top twenty reasons for writing and shared those with parents, school members, and community partners.

We held a family night the very first year. I can still remember one of my shy students speaking her words into the microphone to an audience of appreciative family and friends. We both knew what a triumph it was for her to read her work aloud. I can still see her face and the pride in her eyes.

So. I think that this is the year for a poetic element. We will ask other teachers if we can come by and share some of the poems we have written this year, we will invite other grade levels to come read their journal entries or other writings to us, and we will invite community members and district administrators to come and write with us for a few minutes this week.

I think we will celebrate all week, but the “big deal day” will be Thursday. That’s when my students will greet visitors at the door and let them know they have come to “The Write Place–Room 205.” They will have a lot to say about writing, and I look forward to sitting back for a few minutes and taking in what they are ready to teach.

So excited!

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Pumpkins, Poetry, and Positivity

Well, it was a pretty good day in fourth grade today. We painted paper plates (less than one minute each), designed and created a face (fifteen minutes) for the jack-o-lantern, and created a poem incorporating either a simile or hyperbole (fifteen additional minutes). There was drying time in between, but that was not a problem. We just continued with the regular routine while we waited.

It was a good use of our time and an added benefit is that the kids are proud of their work. Each class stood in the hallway and made observations: None of the faces are the same, Some people used different colors for the stems, This one has triangle eyes.

We were able to plan a project, follow directions, work within a time limit, brainstorm a list of nouns, adjectives, adverbs, nouns, and prepositional phrases in our journal as part of the prewriting process, and decide upon certain elements each poem should contain this time: a name for the pumpkin, a location, a description, and either a simile or hyperbole. The students did not disappoint!

Best of all, they were proud of their accomplishment and could really see the impact of the result when the display was finished(which they also took part in helping create).

There were eight kids absent today–quite a large number. I’m hopeful to group them with someone who was here and get their work on the board tomorrow.

Teachers from other grades complimented the children, which of course is motivating. Parent conferences and report card day is tomorrow, so this display will be a source of “good news” to share as well.

Poetry, art…it’s always a good idea.

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Teaching Tip: Write When They Write

The most important tip I can share about writing is this: write when your students write.
When students see us open our own notebook, they notice.
When they see our writing take shape upon the page as it is projected in front of them, they notice.
When they see us stop and think aloud and reread our words and make changes, they will try that, too.
It sounds so simple if you are a writer. For those teachers who don’t see themselves as writers, please try this. It works.

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Make Your Mark: Student Writing Signed with Fingerprints

English: FingerprintIt’s time for a new school year times three in my family. My work year starts tomorrow with back to school inservice for a week. My son and daughter are both beginning their last semesters of college at two different universities.  Busy days.

Lots of possibilities ahead. Looking forward to a wonderfully creative and memorable year.

On the drive home from Lubbock, my mind was wandering as it often does, and I think I came up with a fun back to school writing activity that will carry over throughout the year:

Talk to the students about how artists have their own styles. Show several art prints or go online to show artists’ works. I visit our art museum at home, and when local artists are featured, I can usually determine who created which piece simply because I have seen so much of their work. The same goes for writers.

When we listen to enough writing from the same author, we see elements of their style. We can see how Langston Hughes differs from Robert Frost. We hear the rhyme of Robert Louis Stevenson, the humor of Jack Prelutsky. We know that E.B. White uses description and dialogue to move a story along.

I want my students to learn to distinguish famous authors and discuss characteristics of their writing, but I also want them to realize they have their own individualistic style that we will be able to recognize after many writing practices.

We will create a piece of writing that describes who we are. We will use any format we like: poetry, essay, play– whatever speaks to us at that moment.

Then, we will start the year by signing our writing pieces with our names and with our fingerprints. I think the added visual of the ink stamped thumbprint will be a strong reminder that we are all unique and our writing is, too. It is up to us to listen and watch for the differences.

My students will come to fourth grade at many different levels of writing proficiency. I think the stamped fingerprint might also help remind us that our uniqueness is to be recognized and valued. We’ll see!