Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I  hope everyone is having a wonderful year. I am so thankful for my school, new friends, and the families I serve.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

New Journey, New Year

Change is hard.  Change is inevitable.  Yet, as you change you have the opportunity to grow. I've recently changed jobs and I'm now teaching second grade in an independent school district.  I am so excited so be able to share what I've been learning this summer.

I've spent July putting my new classroom together and reading Debbie Diller's books on Literacy Stations and Math Stations.  The  month of August is a fun filled, exciting month and I will begin posting soon on which stations I plan to use at the beginning and how I plan to implement Literacy Studio in my new classroom. Enjoy your last few weeks of summer!!

Friday, July 1, 2011

SOL-Where is God?

Often in our lives we see God.  In rainbows. In a hushed silence. Or an unexpected phone call from a friend at just the right time.  However, this week has been one of those weeks that started with “Where is God?”  I’ve lost several loved ones in my 33 years and they followed an illness of some kind.  This week my loss was unexpected and shocking.  People shouldn’t be gone having lived only 36 years of their life.  People who are good people shouldn’t suddenly be GONE.   When I heard the news that my cousin had been killed in an automobile accident my mind began repeatedly saying Where is God?.  The same question echoed in my ears 5 days later as we attended his memorial service.  Where is God and why if he is so omnipotent did this happen?  Then I saw Him.  I saw Him in the waves of people who were lined up outside the chapel after it reached capacity.  He was there as I heard little cousins giggle and play.  I heard him in the words of my child say, “My Nae-Nae is sad and I want to go cheer her up.” Then running into Nae-Nae’s arms wrapping her in them as only a four year old can and planting a juicy kiss on Nae-Nae’s lips.  I found my answer.  No the answer did not take the pain of the loss way, but a little bit of peace fell for a short time. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reading: Digging Deeper

In February, I saw Debbie Miller and Lucy Calkins and they discussed the importance of going deeper in reading.  It isn't just teaching reading strategy. It is about applying the strategy and using it on the age appropriate level or standard of the classroom.  My students have loved the Among the Hidden series.  We've read the first two books and I knew that I wanted to really teach going deeper in reading responses the last 5 weeks of school.  So I decided to use the third book in the series.  We began the book last week and I had the kids write a response with no extra instruction.  Then today I used their responses to show exemplary work at what making good connections should look like and sound like, what a good question should look like, and what an meaningful inference looks like and sounds like. Then we read three more chapters of the book and wrote responses again.  During their silent reading time I graded their responses. The difference was AMAZING!!   As I was reading them I began to star the pieces that were exemplary and we had a sharing circle.  As they shared our question to the circle was, "Explain how this response is well thought out."  The answer:  It makes me think more about the text!


We really truly  have thinkers in our classrooms, however, it is up to us to raise the standard and expectation.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Slice of Life Tuesdays

How I've missed my time on the blog reading everyone's slices and stopping to ask myself, "Will I document this part of me today?"

Poetry is one of my favorite units of the year. As we wrap up our final week of test prep, I've begun to really allow the creativity to shine. We have been looking at the many different forms of poetry and today we focused on Haiku. After listening to a haiku in  my Community Class in Church on Sunday inspired by Psalms I decided we too would go looking for things to inspire our Haikus. I've often read Haiku Hike and allowed the kids to make watercolors then write the poetry, but today we went outside.  Granted it was not within a forest, but I really wanted them to notice their senses and the things around them.

As we looked upon the empty playground I said, "You know things look so different without 175 students running around.  What is this picture saying to you?"  Really I am talking rhetorically more to myself then to anyone in particular because of what it was saying to me, but a young man turned to me and said, "I imagine the Wild West, but without gun slingers."

"True, I believe a different competition is played somewhat like outlaws and the sherriff,"

His eyes light up!  "Can you imagine soccer in tumbleweeds?!"  He exclaims. Then he vigorously writes.

Isn't it important to listen to those little nudges of inspiration?


Write because it's good for you!!  Join us every Tuesday at

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Desire is the key to motivation, but it's determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal - a commitment to excellence - that will enable you to attain the success you seek.
Mario Andretti

To the teachers who are wrapping up the last 5 days before state mandated testing begins.  Excellence is seen in each of you every day.

Friday, April 1, 2011

10 Reasons I Should Write Each Day

10.  Writing each day allows me to try different types of genres.
9.  Writing each day allows for experimentation with words.
8.  Writing each day led me to conversations about my writing and others writing.
7. Writing each day provided me to look each day in the face and ask, "Will I document this today?"
6.  Writing each day stretched me as a writer.
5. Writing each day was easy on some days.
4. Writing each day was hard on some days.
3. Writing each day led to discovering truths about myself.
2.  Writing each day led to discovering more about others.
1. Writing each day became more about getting parts of me on a page and less about writing each day.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


I don't win things. I'm okay with that.  I went to the dinner because a group of people were celebrating us--teachers.    A beautiful  dinner.  Wondrous words of perseverance.  Added bonus of give a ways.  And I won.  A kindle.  I tend to not buy things for myself and I hear a colleague whisper as I sit down, "So glad you won something for you, Mommy."  And you know I am too!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Dear Mother Earth,

Please return the sunlight! How I miss the beams beat, beat, beating on my skin.  Please STOP the rain and cold and wind. I do realize that rain brings forth the beautiful buds of Spring, but how I miss the warmth of the sun on my face.  You taunted me with one full week of Spring only to bring back the grey dreary days of Winter.  My children beg to go out with no coats and frolic in the rays and green grass.  I promise I will not complain about mowing the lawn or weeding the garden if you only, only, only you return the Sun.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Hi, my name is Lynnelle and I am a teacher nerd.  I am the one who has her PDSA already completed for the 2011-12 school. I am the one who LOVES to figure out what assessment tools to use. I am the one who reads at least 10-15 professional books a year. I am a nerd and and today I was able to sit and be nerdy all day while working with fellow staff members at "Unwrapping" the Standards with Larry Ainsworth.  It was a powerful day full of ideas and the realization that many of the things that happen in my classroom are best practices.  BUT the areas I need to work on which is establishing the BIG ideas and making sure  my students make those connections THROUGHOUT the school year is an area I need to work on.  So being the nerd that I am I have already begun working on what I will do with my next unit of study.  Bring on the inner teaching nerd!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


What is love? Love looks many different ways. What about a love for a daughter? What does it look like? Yesterday at my house it looked like this...

Thank you Mom and Dad for giving up your ENTIRE Saturday to help me with a new ceiling fan plus two trips to Lowe's. Thank you for showing me for 33 years what LOVE  looks like each and everyday.  Thank you for the wonderful role models you have been for my two children. They are so lucky and blessed that they see you each and every day.  Thank you for loving I am.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Went to my fellow slicers for inspiration for today's slice.  I hope you don't mind Ruth! Love this idea when I read it earlier this week.

I see Emma wearing her glasses watching Spongebob.

I hear Gracie has she clomps through the living room "dancing."

I feel the my body jostled as my girls jump on me instead of waking me up this morning.

I smell icky Dorito's that my family is snacking on.

I taste the sweet diet dr.pepper as the cool burn soothes my throat.

Friday, March 25, 2011


It's not often that a person has the opportunity to see yourself through someone else's eyes.  It seems today the Creator decided I needed such a glimpse.

"Ms. Snow, I realize we aren't quite ready for sharing circle, but I really want to share my poem with you, " A said.

"Sure, sweetie!" I lean forward and grab her notebook.

Ms. Snow is like a dandelion happy to see  me.
She works hard each day just so I know she loves me.
Glad she's there everyday.
This is my teacher.
Ms. Snow

My eyes glisten as I hand back  her notebook. "You have just made my day absolutely perfect."

Thank you for these moments when our hearts are heavy and are lightened by a few words from a 10 year old.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Why is it even at the age of 33 things that people say and do can hurt your heart? I've always thought that as I grew older my heart would be immune to the heart pains, but alas they are not.  Granted the hurt is not the same kind of a pain as if I was 17, but hurt it does.  Of course as an adult I would say it is more disappointment than anything.  I always hated when my  someone was "disappointed" in me, but it hurts just as bad to be disappointed in someone. One advantage to going through heart pains as an adult is I do know that the sun will come out tomorrow. A new day will dawn and as it begins anew so does my heart.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


"Mommy! My balloon!" I hear Emma yell from the back yard.  We had watched Up after she came home from school and she was now pretending her balloon was flying her to exotic places around the world.  The balloon had rounded the corner of the house and she was running to it as fast as she could.  When I made it to her I turned and saw Gracie with the blue balloon in hand wind blowing her hair with a smile from ear to ear. "I saved it! Here!" she says to Emma.  Sisterhood in action.  Who knew younger sister would save the day.  Look out Wonder Woman.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Gender Poetry

This year my teammate and I have had flexible groupings within the team. Meaning we each have a homeroom, but we mix the kids up according to standards that need to be taught.  So today I asked her if we could mix the kids up this week. I am so excited because she didn't say no when I asked if we could group them according to gender.  A teacher at my site has done this before and it was very successful. I am so excited to try it.  My morning LA/SS will be girls and my afternoon will be all boys.

Boys and girls approach writing differently and they write about different topics.  I am hoping that this will allow my boys to feel more comfortable as we approach free verse writing this week.

I am the mother of girls, but I have a  secret...I LOVE to teach boys.  I love their humor and openness that they bring to the table.  I'm anxious to see how tomorrow goes!!

If you are interested in learning more about boy writers, check out Ralph Fletcher's book Boy Writer's: Reclaiming Their Voices.


My students and I have begun the poetry genre study. Students have been perusing various kinds of poetry with the purpose of answering "What is Poetry?  As we allowed the books to consume us our day frittered by and I was left without time for a sharing circle so on an exit card my students answered the question of the reading time. As I collected the cards and wished everyone a wonderful afternoon I set the cards aside and began my next session.  At the end of the day I looked at my collection and began making a Smart Board Anchor Chart.  Many of them were the same Poetry is short, poetry is white space, poetry rhymes and sometimes it does not.  However one student surprised me her idea of poetry is this "All those incomplete sentences. Those fragments are hard to understand, but they are packed full of meaning."  I couldn't have said it better.

Monday, March 21, 2011


What is Down syndrome? It depends on who you ask. If you ask a doctor, he or she may tell you it is the number 1 genetic disorder that people are born with.  Some people might tell you they were once pregnant with a child with Down syndrome because 90% of them are aborted before they even take their first breath. But, if you asked someone who has Down syndrome what do you think they would say?  My daughter has Mosaic Down syndrome.  She is almost 7 years old and I think if she had the words in her vocabulary she would say, "My life is no different than yours.  I am no different than you. I just happened to have an extra chromosome on the 21st chromosome."

If you were to ask me I would describe Down syndrome as this.

My child moves
at her own pace
She sees the real people
She has learned
to overcome many
Her life has been
on display
as doctors
all tell her
what to
do to
But her life
Her love is
You are missing
out if you don't
know her--
LOVE her--
She is special
but not
because of
an extra
She is special

Sunday, March 20, 2011


As I reflected on my Spring Break and look at how much was accomplished I am realizing how much I have left to teach my 5th graders. I have spent 27 weeks with them and I only have 9 left.  I feel this way every year.  I hate to prepare them to move on. My job is a 36 week job though.  They only have me for one school year. But each year I find my heart not wanting to let go of them. You know the ones that run up to you at Reasor's when they see you outside of school and give you the warmest, bear hug!  My time with them is ending, but I know that it leads to a new door of fabulous fifth graders.  So tonight I remember the smiles, the giggles, the witty comments that echo in my heart with my current group. Tonight I figure out what remains of the standards to accomplish before May 25.  Tonight I figure out what I have left to teach them.  Good Night!

Saturday, March 19, 2011


I am the oldest. I am the one who was/is bossy. I am the one who taught my "little" brother to do things when we were younger.  Now as adults I've come to realize how great little brothers really are.  Little brothers have the ability to make their nieces smile by just walking in the door. Little brothers have the ability to lay a new floor. Little brothers have the ability to find windows for my house. Little brothers have the ability to repair icky wood rot. Little brothers have the ability to climb 16 foot ladders without their knees shaking. Little brothers say, "I'm so glad I can  help you" when you say thank you.  I love little brothers who help out big sisters when they need it. Little brothers who are quiet show love by helping big sisters do things they cannot.  Thank you, Boo-Boo!

Friday, March 18, 2011


Second day of painting.  Today I was able to look at my house with it's fresh coat of yellow paint and sigh with relief that we are 1/2 finished.  But most of all I feel pride and thankfulness. My house looks beautiful even the neighbors marveled at it. Thankfulness that my entire family stepped in to help. My back may ache, but the reward is just around the corner...I can see it!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Writers write.
Even though
My back hurts.
My fingers hurt.
My head hurts.

Yet I know writers write.
Today three of us
painted a fresh color
onto my house.

Words too can create
a freshness.
like the smell of new fresh paint.

To start again.
Much like an old house
with new paint.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Exhaustive Fun.  Beautiful day today in Oklahoma. I should have been painting the outside of my house. Instead I took the kids to the Jasmine Moran Children's Museum. Often times at the end of the day my brain feels fried, but today I believe exhaustion is fun. 

My girls were able to be fireman swooshing down the pole to save lives.
Today they were surgeons performing surgery.
My girls touched a baby in the  NICU.
Gracie and Emma were encased in a body bubble.
They walked in a castle maze.
Rode a sonic train.
Went on a dinosaur dig.
Drove a Model-A.
and flew a plane.

My hope is they believe they can do and be anything they want to be.  We are all exhausted, but holy cow was it exhilarating. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SOLC 15/31

Izzy greets the girls at the door as their dad drops them off. They've spent the first 1/2 of Spring Break with him.  Hugs and kisses all around.  Izzy dances around her people as they kiss and love on her.  Emma then runs to the table and gets her new robot toy.  She begins to play with it, but it is swooped up in the jowls of a pug within seconds.  "IZZY!" I yell and snap my fingers.  I grab the toy and Emma looks at Izzy as she takes her robot from me and says, "No star Izzy!"  Laughter begins to bubble up.  Well done Ms. Owen, you've taught Emma well.  If you don't obey the rules you don't get a star. These are the rules even if you are a dog.

Monday, March 14, 2011

SOLC 14/31

Today I heard bad news. A very dear friend lost his father today. He is the first person my age to loose a parent.  My heart is breaking for him and for his family.  Loss is not easy.  When someone passes it is also a reminder of my own mortality.  Life is fragile.  The skies here are dark and dreary.  The day is cold, a  stark reminder that Spring has not arrived and fooled us once again. But, I also think that the heavens are crying for my friend hopefully consoling his aching heart.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

SOLC 13/31

Shuffling of the cards. Laughter bubbling from the table.  Belonging to a loving family.  Time spent together is precious. LOVE.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

SOLC 12/31

Authors note:  Signs of Spring Break was the original title.  It has now changed to Perceptions Brought to You by a Single Mom or Might Kill A Pug...not quite sure yet. :-)

Relaxing with the dog after a beautiful morning outside.  Then said dog ran out the front door and was chased around the neighborhood. Thankfully a kind neighbor saw me streak down the street chasing after the flashing dot of a dog and followed us in his car.  Izzy went to him and Kind Neighbor drove us home (Yes that's how far we traveled.) Owner is now thinking dog deserves a spring break at the puppy spa. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

SOLC 11/31

"Mommy, wait until you see the party I made for you!" Gracie said as I walked in from work.

I go into her room and see a beautifully decorated table with her "spotted" blanket.  Jeweled necklaces surround the places where the tea cups are placed.  Each chair has a loved one it: bunny, Pete the Cat, and two places left empty. One for me and one for  her.

Emma comes in and I give up my seat so two sisters can play.

"Here you go! More tea for you pretty princess," I hear Gracie order her older sibling.

"Thank you Princess!" whispers Emma.

The dialogue goes back and forth as tea is passed. Cookies are eaten. Everyone is content and happy at the Snow Girl Tea Party.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

SOLC 10/31

Have you ever had a day that you wished you could start over at 8:05 AM? I'm not saying that I had my own version of Alexander and the Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, but it was a little stressful.  But that isn't my story today. My story is about a group of kids who sense when a teacher's day isn't going quite the way she had expected. I was trying very hard not to take it out on them. Then one turns to me and says, "You know we love you right? Ms. Snow?"  I stopped and signed back I love you too.  Our little signal we developed.  Don't kids just say the darnedest things and the most perfect time?  I believe I love these kids. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

SOLC 9/31

I believe deep down in my heart there is nothing sweeter than little girl giggles. I don't mean the quiet tee-hee hiding behind a hand over the mouth, but the kind that erupt from your belly. They escape from your lips with such gusto that the edges of your eyes crinkle.  These laughs are the kind of laughs that prevent your body from staying still. The giggles shake your shoulders, elbows, and legs.  When these laughs bubble forth it is infectious and others begin to laugh too. They may start out small, but eventually they too have a good ol' case of the giggles.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

SOLC 8/31

Today is an ode to a friend at school. I absolutely love that Mrs. G will jump in when you have a technology project even if it's one you plan at the last minute which I'm afraid happens more often than I would like.  When I got my brain storm idea during my student's assessment today and then went to talk with her about it I wondered if it would even be possible on such short notice.  The great thing is by the time I got back to my room after discussing it with her, she had created a template for my students.  I love the people I work with. They have taught me how to be an effective educator.  When I look back I really "grew up" at this site. My principal hired me as a brand new teacher and here I am 10 years later. So glad that the teachers around me have help cultivate an environment where it is safe to ask questions and try new things.  So Mrs. G. this one is for you!! Thanks for being so flexible and I can't wait to get started on our technology project!!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

SOLC 7/31

Today is a type of day where I feel my life as a writer is insignificant. I wonder how  many of my writers in my classroom feel the same way on a given day.  I'm stumped. Brain is empty. I have no idea what piece of today to share, so I will share my ramblings about it.  Please note I'm trying to channel my inner fifth grader! :-)

Can't do it.
Don't make me.
I'm boring.
Life is boring.
Nothing happened.
It was a Monday
what do you expect.
Brain is tired.
It's a dreary day.
I'm cold.
Nothing to say.
like I wrote

Sunday, March 6, 2011

SOLC 6/31

I'm stealing my writing idea from One Sunflower. Please take a look at her eloquent words.

She lulls me into a calm state. I'm listening to my four year old explore with language as she bathes. Using the words she learns each day and putting them to nonsensical songs warms my mommy heart. Splish-splash. Bath time ends, yet the lyrically sounds continue as she rests her head to bed.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

SOLC 5/31

I can do this I tell myself as I unload the sleeping bag, pillow, and overnight bag.  I turn around open Emma's car door. "We are here!!!" I screech.  Emma jumps down out of the car and begins to run up the driveway barely stopping to grab her new princess sleeping bag.

"Paige's house!"  She yells.  Gracie tags along behind her.  They run through the front door.

"I here Paige!"  Emma says with great gusto.  My heart leaps with joy as all the pinkalicous princesses come out to greet Emma and get her situated at her first sleep over.  These are great friends  as my mind relaxes with realization that she is going to do just fine.  Her friends are wonderful to her. They allow her to be herself and even give them nicknames that have nothing to do with their real names.  Great friends who are always there for Emma and understand that life moves at a different pace, but see her genuinely sweet heart. Thank you, Eddie, aka Paige!

Friday, March 4, 2011

SOLC 4/31

Beauty is where we see it.
The smile of  a friend.
In a baby's laugh.
Beauty is where we choose to find it.
Noticing it and not ignoring.
The little things.
Today beauty was
In a child playing music
from his heart.
The tinkling of the keys
Furrowed brow of concentration.
Springing the chords
from his fingertips.
Simply beautiful.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

SOLC 3/31

Motherhood.  We all didn't know what to expect.  Each child is different.  Each way to rear them is different.  Tonight I went to a meeting for children with special needs. I have to admit I was very excited to go.  It was about looking to their future. As I was driving toward the school I began to feel as if I  was trying to gaze into Emma's future with a crystal ball, but it was fuzzy. I know where she is at right now, but I'm not sure what happens at 16 or 20.   As the meeting progressed the coordinators, parents of adults who have special needs, and support staff really did help me see what the future might hold for my daughter. Please don't mistake me for the one who believes my daughter can't do anything. That is not what I'm saying...I'm saying the opportunities that have happened in the last ten years has grown exponentially and all that is available to her now was discussed.  Gazing into the ball made my heart quicken. Especially when things like marriage, driving, job coaches are mentioned.  I want these things for my daughter, and it all feels within her grasp.   Last night I realized how much and how many people support my daughter and me.  As she continues on her journey to the workforce, there are so many opportunities for her.  The future is scary for all of us at times. But, I don't feel scared for her. I feel at peace. I'm enjoying gazing into the crystal ball of Emma's future and predicting what I will see.  Seven years ago when she was born and we found out she had Down syndrome the future seemed so uncertain.  But, now I see her life. I see a beautiful lady who loves fries.  I wouldn't be surprised if she were to come up with some new recipe for spicy fries.  Right now I see a young lady who loves books and I wouldn't be surprised if she wanted to read to others especially little kids. Right now I see someone who loves others.  I wouldn't be surprised if she worked in a retirement home helping others during the day. Right now I see endless possibilities.  I love my crystal ball. Gazing, hoping, dreaming.

Participate in the month long writing challenge at

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

SOLC 2/31

Explaining the Slice challenge to my students was exciting!  We are wrapping up our unit of study on essays and awaiting the dreaded state writing test next week. My writers are writers.  But, today as we looked at my slices I heard what all writers want to hear, "Read more! I love your slices!"  This makes me realize that as a teacher this is what my writers long to hear.  "I love your writing. I want to read more."  This moment as I shared my writing it made me eager to write more, but more than that to take time to respond to my fellow slicers.  So to all who read mine!!  Can't wait to read yours and read more and more!!

Join fellow slicers at

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

End the R-WORD

As a writing teacher, I understand the power words play everyday. What about the words we say in our everyday life?  In my life I've heard the words, "You're child is mentally retarded." Then I've heard people I thought were my friends use the word retard as a synonym for stupid.  It's time to think about the powerful words we use each day.  It's time to think before we speak. 

SOLC 1/31

There are days that are stressful. There are days that are blissful. There are days when I sigh as my head hits the pillow.  Today was a wonderful day with my Gracie-Goose.  She and I had so much fun. I was originally supposed to have Jury Duty, but the judge let me postpone it until after state mandated testing. So I spent the rest of the day with my little one.  We ran errands, went shopping, ate chocolate cake.  FUN!  Then it was bath time. Blissfulness rudely ends. My temper flares because her demeanor change was so unexpected.  In my flurry of evening  routine I smartly reply to Grace, "Zip your mouth!"  She looks at me strangely and I walk out of her room to finish getting  her sister ready for bed. I hear, "How? I don't have any zippers!!!"  screamed down the hallway.  Touche!  Mommy has learned her lesson and found the zipper to her own mouth!!  It's called the Gracie!

You too can participate in the Slice of Life Challenge at

Monday, February 28, 2011

March is here!! Time for a Writing Challenge!!

The Two Writing Teachers does this writing challenge every year. It's where they commit to writing each day for a month. I've done this with my own students before. My students will be doing this in April instead of March because of our Spring Break. I plan on participating both months. This one with The Two Writing Teachers and next month with my students. Please join! Click here for more info!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Stepping Into the Story

Photo attributed to
Today I asked my readers to step into the story of City Dog, Country Frog.  The concept of stepping into story came from the Reading Recovery conference a few weeks ago in Columbus.  I had the opportunity to see Debbie Miller and she talked about how she has been asking the students to step into the stories. 

What I noticed as I asked my readers to step into the story is that their inferences were better. I had asked them to read the book as a writer and notice the visual images in the book and images the words created.  Their responses were well thought as they stepped into the story and responded in the small group setting.

As we finished the book I asked students to draw the image that stuck with them. Whether it was an image the illustrator provided or an image in their own mind as the book was read. On the back I asked them to write about what stuck with them in their mind after reading the book.  A few had questions, a few made predictions, but all responded on their level and shared it with a peer. 

Reader's Workshop lends itself easily to differentation...all readers accepted where they are at so all can participate.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Slice of Life "Chinny, Chin-Chin"

"Oh no mommy!!!"  After last night's escapade of urgent care, stitches, and lollipops the words sent fear through my mommy heart.

"Gracie, where are you?" I yell from the kitchen dropping my dust pan and broom.

I go running and we meet each other  in the living room. No blood. No screaming. Good sign.

I scoop her up and she embraces me in only a way my youngest can.

"Mommy,  why does my chin have hair now?"  she asks quizzically.

I laugh out loud and  hug her tight.  I reassure her it is not permanent and the "hair" aka stitches will be removed in a few days.

Slice of Life is brought to you by Two Writing Teachers.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Back from the Buck-Eye State

Inspiration.  This is what listening and learning does for me. As I sat in the audience and listened to Lucy Calkin's addressing 2800 educators my heart began to soar!!  I kept thinking to myself I hope my grant comes through so I can go to the Institute this summer.  As I looked at my colleagues from my school, their eyes full of delight and rapture at the words echoing in our ears I felt at home.  It is amazing how this one woman has changed the face of education.

Perfect birthday present.  Looks like 33 is going to be a great year!

Malissa B, Kelly J., Lucy Calkins, and ME!!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Snow, snow, snow

My Backyard...Whoever said Spring was coming soon...lied. :-)
And no I'm not just repeating my last name over and over. Oklahoma experienced a blizzard on Tuesday, Feb.1, 2011. We got a record 17 inches and 6 more today.  They are predicting more on Sunday and Tuesday.  Ugh! We've been out of school since the storm hit. So I've been using technology to talk and discuss with my students.

At the beginning of the year I setup online blogs for my students through weebly.  This allowed for them to have a place to write at home and not worry about their notebooks. Then they print their writing and put it in their notebooks at school.  If you would like more info on this click here.

I've been emailing parents and having them respond on their blogs and on the classroom blog. Here are a few ideas that we've been working on this week as we sit and wait for the snow to stop.

  • OCCT test prep
  • summarzing in 10 words or less
  • monitoring our thinking
  • turning in reading minutes online (Might make this permanent for next year)
  • framing our essays
  • how to write to a prompt (our test is 20 days away)
  • slice of life
 If road conditions and the weather doesn't improve soon, I'm thinking of videotaping some lessons and the posting them on the blog.  But I've never done that. However, I can always just google it and figure it out.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

When there is NO Choice

Testing is a a part of a teacher's life. I detest the once and let's hope everyone passes way of accountability that NCLB has brought, however, it is still there. In September 2010 I guest blogged on Two Writing Teachers and discussed my journey with the state writing test.  If you would like to read it, click here.

Today's post is about how often my kids practice prompt writing after finishing their personal essay.

After I introduce the box and bullet frame, my students practice framing an essay until every child can accomplish this goal without teacher prompt or reteaching.  (It takes about 5-7 school days) Then I show the kids the practice booklet and we talk about flipping through the pages, etc.  I only practice writing two prompt essays. I have come to believe that teaching the writer great writing skills throughout the school year is what creates an accomplished writer and our data has proven it.

In addition, I teach my kids one more thing. What to do when you get stuck. Katherine Bomer in Writing A Life (chapter 9) explains how to use a well written memoir to fit any prompt. This is crucial to teach your kids. Every year I have one or two kids who use this method because of anxiety or drawing a blank on the day of the test.

Preparing kids for the writing test is simply done from the moment your students arrive in your classroom. It is nothing to fear because if you are teaching kids how to write well, they will achieve success.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Transitions are the words that are used to join to things together...right?  I am all for easy transition words, but I feel they need to make sense so I give my students a lot of choices.  Most of my students stick with one reason, another reason, finally, in conclusion, and for example, but I give them this chart any way and sometimes I'm surprised. What I want my students to understand is that there needs to be something that connects the mini-story to the topic sentence.


Friday, January 28, 2011


Mini-stories...really your students have been working on these since the beginning of the year. My kiddos have no problem writing them.  They are the personal stories the writer uses as evidence to back up their reasons aka topic sentences that support the thesis.

When Writing Mini-Stories to Support your Thesis and Topic Sentences
  • make sure the stories have a beginning, middle and end.
  • the story should begin with a transitional word 
  • at the end of the story the writer should reexplain how it supports the thesis and/or topic sentence.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Building A Framework

picture attributed to
When builders begin they start with the foundation and steel beams to support the walls of a building. Writers do the same with words.  We use a framework to guide our ideas so they make sense and blossom into the message to the reader.  Essay writing is organized. It must be structured in such a way that the writer knows that each paragraph will support the main idea.

Thesis:  A claim or idea

One reason
Another reason

The framework  helps outline what the writer will be discussing. My students are allowed to choose a topic of their own. Then they create a thesis statement.

We also worked on an essay as a class. We decided we wanted to write about our school. I purposefully choice to keep the thesis statement simple for whole class instruction.  I also modeled with my own essay which had a more complex thesis statement.

Our school is fun.

  • One reason our school is fun is the teachers work hard to create lessons that are fun.
  • Another reason our school is fun is we have two teachers, one for language arts and socials studies and one for math and science.
  • And finally, our school is fun because we have many different choices on the lunch menu.
Without a framework it is difficult to begin essay writing.  This tool will end up being the base for all prompt writing that will happen one week prior to the Oklahoma OCCT.

How have you taught your students to frame their essays?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Essay Writing

Second semester is the beginning of a new genre study. One that used to bore me tears, however with Calkins' book Breathing Life Into Essays it's become one of my favorites.

Essay writing is a must do.  Students write essays all through high school and college.

How to begin. Really to begin essay writing begins with teaching stamina and descriptive writing effectively. This is done from them moment students enter my classroom in August.

A few important tips to writing essays
  • teach a framework
  • mini-stories
  • transitions
  • choice
Essay writing doesn't have to be painful, boring or scripted.  It can do exactly what writing should do...give students a voice.