SOL #4 – #proudteacher

I had a different plan.Screen Shot 2017-03-04 at 8.51.34 PM.png

I had written a throwback slice

in my notebook earlier in the day.

I opened my computer

to the ding of emails.

But not just any emails!

Emails that tell me my students are slicing

and leaving their permalinks

on our class blog!

On the weekend!

#proudteacher  #timetoreadandcomment

5B Blogs!


Evaluate and Judge

“the ability to evaluate and judge is not a school skill, it is a life skill.”

– Kelly Gallagher

I’m working through the different real world writing purposes in Write Like This.  In the chapter on Evaluate and Judge, Gallagher gives many examples of evaluation in life:  print ads, YouTube videos, commercials, websites, and presidential candidates.


Express and Reflect √

Inform and Explain √

Evaluate and Judge – ↓

Inquire and Explore √

Analyze and Interpret√

Take a Stand/Propose a Solution√

Gallagher states in this book, and repeats, “it is valuable for students to watch their teacher produce a crummy first draft; it gives them an honest look at how writing is produced.  In fact, modeling on days when I don’t write very well may actually be more valuable than modeling on a day when my writing is flowing.”  Therefore, I will continue to share my writing for each of these purposes, even though these first drafts aren’t spectacular writing.

With the upcoming election, this year will be a great opportunity to teach students how to evaluate and judge candidates.  And then hopefully these skills will transfer to literature as well.  So,  today I am going to Evaluate and Judge a YouTube video – kids (including my own) do spend a lot of time there.

I found this series by Kid President:  Awesome Girls!  And I thought it was the perfect thing to write about.  Especially after the amazing essay by Jennifer Aniston.  Here are the links.  You need to watch them!

Kid President Talks to A Girl: Rachel Platten! #AwesomeGirls

The purpose of this campaign is to make sure that girls know how amazing they are and to remind everyone that girls should be cheered on.   The audience being twofold:  the girls that need to be encouraged and the people who need to encourage them.

The first video linked above is Kid President introducing the idea of Awesome Girls and explaining his (and his brother’s) purpose for this campaign.  He also asks for help, for people to share examples of awesome girls using the hashtag #KPAwesomegirls.

In the second video, Kid President shares his struggle being a boy and doing this campaign about girls.  There are two videos of Robby (KP) juxtaposed, one being the inner voice supporting girls, and the other being a “typical boy” inner voice.  He asks, “What about awesome boys?”  And then he explains to himself that supporting girls isn’t saying that he doesn’t support boys, it is just that girls don’t have all of the opportunities that boys have.  (Sound familiar to something else that has been all over the news?)  The two “voices” side by side is very effective in bringing up counterarguments in order to argue against them.  Way to go KP team!

The final video linked above, is Kid President talking to Rachel Platten.  She encourages him to not feel awkward against girls and gives great advice to girls across the world.  This one is a great message from a successful girl and would be even more focused on a female audience.  She tells KP that as a young girl she was very hard on herself and never felt like enough.  Which one of us haven’t felt that way?  It is so important for kids to hear they are not alone in the way they are feeling.

And the video concludes with Rachel Platten finishing the sentence that KP always asks, “The world would be a better place if…”

“…if we understood how similar we are to each other.  […] if we were all a little kinder to each other.  […]”

Awesome Girls!


If Michelle were a character in a Western film, she would be…

I am continuing to draft writing for each of these real life writing purposes according to Kelly Gallagher in Write Like This:


Express and Reflect √

Inform and Explain √

Evaluate and Judge

Inquire and Explore √

Analyze and Interpret – ↓

Take a Stand/Propose a Solution

Apparently iMAgiNiff is a board game that I missed out on as a child.  It is also an inspiration for an activity in the Analyze and Interpret chapter.  This one seems like lots of fun and would be great analyzing practice as a Morning Meeting activity with my new fifth graders.  It could also be used to reflect on characters in books.

Pose a question for students to answer, explaining their reasoning.  For example: “Imagine if _________ were a character in a Western film.  Which would he be?  a)  Sheriff  b)  Outlaw c)  Deputy  d)  Farmer  e) Stagecoach Driver  f) Barkeep”

Since Michelle is hosting the Big Time Blogging Challenge this month, and that is why I have been writing every day, I am going to use her.  Thanks Michelle!

If Michelle were a character in a Western film, she would be the barkeep.

Michelle is a social butterfly and can talk to anyone. She can serve people their selected beverage and make them feel at home.  This is similar to what she does as a literacy coach, she has to develop relationships and make teachers comfortable with her.  She knows when to help and provide support.  She knows exactly when to hold back.

Everyone tells their secrets to the bartender.  People can spill their guts to her and she can keep a neutral expression, not always needing to give an opinion.  Let me tell you, co-plans can be tense!  But, I have heard more than one teacher say that Michelle knows how to stay cool and not take sides.

Finally, when push comes to shove, Michelle is capable of putting people in their place!  Chairs fly, glasses break.   Someone has to put an end to it…



In his book Write Like This, Kelly Gallagher shares six real world writing purposes and different ways to get kids to start writing with each in mind.  I’m going to try at least one example from each chapter.  Although this is written with high school in mind, I think most of the ideas can be adjusted for middle and intermediate elementary school.  And the real world writing purposes:51RYe58cBjL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

Express and Reflect √

Inform and Explain – Trying this one today!

Evaluate and Judge

Inquire and Explore √

Analyze and Interpret

Take a Stand/Propose a Solution

There are so many great ideas for Inform and Explain.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • “You Should Know”  Biographical Paper (“Find an ‘average’ person in your life with an ‘above average’ story.”)
  • How does _______work?
  • Unwritten Rules  (Inspired by The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian)
  • My Favorite Words


Today I am going to try “My Favorite Words.” Christina, this one is for you, my word loving friend! The word I decided to write about isn’t in all dictionaries and I hadn’t actually heard of it until today:  querencia.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 11.42.27 AMQuerencia


Definition according to  “an area in the arena taken by the bull for a defensive stand in a bullfight”

Origin according to  “Spanish, fondness, haunt of an animal, favorite spot, querencia, from querer to want, like, love (from Latin quaerere to seek, gain, obtain, ask) + -encia -ence (from Latin -entia)”

I’m not a huge word person, so when approaching this idea, I searched around a little on Pinterest for words.  (To clarify:  I consider myself a reader and writer.  It’s just that I’m not one to use big words when a simple one to do.  I love stories, words strung together.)  In my search I found this:


 This word alone didn’t stand out, it is it’s definition that struck me.  “the place where you are your most authentic self”  This is a powerful word and got me to thinking about my querencia. Do I have one?

For a very long time, I don’t think that I had a querencia.  I’m not sure I do now.   At this point, my home is becoming a place I am comfortable.  Each new memory, each laugh, erases some of the damage done.  Each smile makes me feel safer.  One day, this home may become a place that I can draw strength, my querencia.

I think the place that I have always been able to be closest to my authentic self is in the presence of children.   Standing among kids, I have always been able to take chances – dance, twirl, joke, and even sing.  I have always drawn strength from my time with them and not needed courage to be myself.

I hope that my classroom can be a querencia for my students, as well.  I hope that my students feel safe, at home, and accepted each year.  I hope that my students have a querencia in their life, but if they don’t – I hope our classroom can be that place for each of them.


Shopping Carts

Most of the chapters of Write Like This are organized by purpose.  In the Express and Reflect chapter, one idea I tried is childhood games.

Today I’m trying “Things I find disturbing…”  from the Inquire and Explore chapter.  The idea is to write a list and then choose something from the list to write long about – Why do you find that thing disturbing.

Another option he suggests is for students to research using the newspaper and find articles that are disturbing to them, research, and then write about that.  However, based on the horrible things I am sure to find in the news this week, I am going to go a little less research-based and more light-hearted…shopping carts.  Here is my flash draft…

Why do I find people leaving shopping carts in the parking lot, not in the cart corral, so annoying?

I have very early memories of sitting in the car hoping my mother would not get back out of the car to yell at the person leaving the shopping cart in the parking lot.  I have other memories of my mother reprimanding people for leaving the shopping cart in the parking lot. 

Oh, and there is that time that my aunt, my mother’s twin, got out of the car. My mom, my sisters, cousins, and I sat watching her chew out some unsuspecting shopper.  Awkward!

I am not the type of person to give a random stranger a piece of my mind.  When I see a shopping cart sitting alone in the middle of the parking lot, I push it to a corral or push it inside.  My son is used to it at this point.  If the person that left it there is still near, a dirty look is all I share. 

As a new mom, getting the groceries and the kid in the car wasn’t simple.  However, I was never willing to leave the cart, so I started parking right next to the cart corrals.  Problem solved.  Try it people!

For some reason, there are never cart corrals near the handicapped parking…What’s with that?  Yet, I once saw a lady that was obviously having trouble walking, push her cart up to the other carts in front and then struggle back to her car in the handicapped lane.  I remember thinking, “If she can do it, why can’t everyone?!”

So, I guess my answer is that putting shopping carts away has been ingrained in me since childhood.  I wonder if one day my son with have the same issue?

What grates on your nerves?



I write to sleep better, to feel better.

I’m reading Use Your Words by Catherine Deveny.  It is one of the books on Michelle’s schedule for the Big Time Blogging Challenge.  (I’m not done yet, but so far I recommend it if you need a shove to write.) Chapter 2 is titled “Why Write?”  Here is a paragraph that sums it up pretty nicely:

     No-one writes to get paid, praised, published or win prizes.  Yes those things happen for some writers.  But that’s not why anyone writes.  We write because it empties our brains, lightens our emotions, and helps us feel more deeply, see more clearly and sleep better.  We write to give our thoughts order and explore our emotions.  Because it makes us feel more like ourselves; it’s our way of making sense of the world.  Most importantly, we write for the same reason we exercise, eat and sleep:  it makes us feel better.

Today (actually Friday night) I write to sleep better, to feel better.  I write because too many times in the last few days, people have used their words without thinking (or maybe caring?) about the effect…

A lady in line at PetSmart’s words and attitude prompted my son to turn to me and say, “She was kind of rude.”  And then in the car, “It must be hard to have a mom who is rude.”

A man at our Beginning Dog Training class turned to Milo and said something like, “He’s a mean dog.”

Yes, he was barking at all of the other big dogs.  Yes, he has Small Dog Syndrome.  Yes, he he has been in multiple shelters and we don’t know his whole history.  Yes, the dog isn’t listening to you.

Yes, my son, a ten year old who is so much happier because of the addition to our family, is listening to you. Yes, my son can hear and understand you.  Yes, it sticks with him, hurts him, angers him.

A lady across the way, not politely, waited outside until I walked the dog back and then said to me, “You picked up the poop?!”

To which I replied, “No, he didn’t poop?”

“Someone is not cleaning up the poop,”  she continued in an accusatory, disgusted tone.

“Yes.  Well, it’s not us.” and I continued to walk.

“It’s disgusting!”

I walked a way, but there were so many things I wanted to say.  So many things I might have said if I was a different person.  Did you really wait there for me to come back?  Did you really wait there instead of walking your own dog because…why?  If you want to confront someone about picking up poop, maybe you should watch and see if the dog actually pooped?!  I didn’t say anything though.


I didn’t reply in the first two situations either.  Partially because I was too stunned.  Partially because I am not a confrontational person.  Partially because my mother (and Thumper) taught me that if I have nothing nice to say, I should say nothing at all.

Now why is it nagging at me so much that I need to write it down?  I’m not sure, but once again I think it is a mixture.  Each incident, with the exception of the poop accusation, occurred with my son and each incident has affected him enough to bring it up after the fact.  I didn’t stand up, defend myself/my dog?  I don’t know if I should have said something?  I am an overprotective new doggy mother?

Whatever the reason, these situations have led me to need to write.  To share what is in my head, so that I can sleep and feel better.

To conclude, I will share one more conversation with my son today regarding his kindergarten teacher:

“She never liked anything I drew.  The only time she ever said anything good about a drawing of mine was one time that I drew a body.  That would make me so mad and sad and then mad again.  One time she even took a pencil and drew shorts on my person.  She vandalized my drawing!”

This is coming from a kid going into fifth grade, talking about his experience in kindergarten.  The last few days and writing this blog post has been a reminder to me about how powerful our words are and how careful we should be with them.



Joy 6.15.16


♥ We have a dog!  A sweet two year old Chihuahua mix named Milo!

♥  I found Milo online and Troy and I went to meet him on Monday.  We waited in the visiting room and one of the staff at the shelter brought in Milo.  The staff member said it might take him a little bit to warm up to new people, but Milo jumped straight up to the bench.  He climbed on Troy’s lap and started licking his face.  It was love!

♥  I created writers this past year!  I miss them like crazy, but I love the emails I have been getting!  (Pictures were included with each email/story!)

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Simple Joys

#SOL16 was a success!  Our class wrote a total of 227 slices in the month of March!  20160405_073734

Yesterday we raffled off some prizes for the slicers and then gave the kids some free time as a reward for all of their hard work.

During their free time, eight students took turns throwing up the bucket of tickets – making it rain down.   Twenty minutes they spent doing this!

“Ready!  Set! GO!”  They’d dance around as the tickets fell like snowflakes.

After all the tickets finished falling, all eight students dropped to the ground in order to collect all the tickets.

They continued to repeat the entire twenty minutes!  Taking turns and making a game of it!

All the while, I marveled at how kids with an imagination need so little to keep themselves entertained.  In a room full of technology, these students chose to spend their free time playing with used raffle tickets and a bucket! ♥


Farewell Slice of Life 2016

Troy and I were treating ourselves to some frozen yogurt BEFORE lunch today.  (We can do that – it’s Spring Break and I’m the adult.)

After filling my cup with pecan flavored frozen yogurt, I turned the corner to add some toppings.  And…Nutella!  There was a bottle of Nutella to squirt on top of your fro-yo.  Yes!!!

Unfortunately, it doesn’t really come out of the bottle easily and I ended up with only a little bit in my cup.    However, the fro-yo topped with moist brownie bits, tiny Reese’s Pieces, and gooey marshmallow was still delicious!


And this is what I love about the Slice of Life challenge, other than creating and reinforcing the habit of writing.  Each March I am reminded how special these tiny moments are.  By then end of the month I notice so many things that would have been passed over, had it happened a month earlier.  My irrational excitement about adding Nutella to my ice cream would have been forgotten…although I guess the world not knowing about this isn’t really a bad thing….hmmm…..

Thank you Two Writing Teachers!

Moments that Matter

I sat next to a student, conferring with her for the first time on her current fairy tale.  I complimented her on organizing her writing into paragraphs.   Then, we discussed substituting other words for said in order to show how the characters are feeling.

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It hit me how far she has come this year.  I needed to show her, so I pulled up her first published piece from the year.  And as she looked at her work, her eyes got big and bright.  She saw how she has grown and it lit up her face.   And that is why I teach – for that moment that a student realizes what she can do.

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This is her first published personal narrative piece from the beginning of the year.