Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category


Before you begin to read If You Were the Moon by Laura Purdie Salas, turn this music on in the background.

Illustrated in dreamlike images by Jaime Kim, Laura takes us on a journey of discovery about the moon. In the beginning, the young girl muses on how easy the moon’s job is, but the moon explains. “If you were the moon, you would…” Along with delightful metaphor are embedded facts from how the moon was formed to Neil Armstrong’s iconic walk. Artists are inspired by the moon. Hence the musical piece, “Clair de Lune.” I remember listening to my mother play this on the grande in our living room.
A glossary and further reading section make this book teacher-friendly.

I often use picture books to lead my students to their own writing. I can imagine prompting my students with the words “If you were _________.” Students could research their favorite planet or natural disasters (my students love them!). Then they could write and illustrate their own books including interesting facts along the way. Finding a way to tie a book to writing enriches the classroom experience.

Laura sent me this amazing teacher’s guide written by Randi Miller Sonnenshine. This guide includes activities across the curriculum.

If You Were the Moon releases March 1st, 2017. Get your copy today!

Read Full Post »

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

I hate to admit it, but I have not been the best at teaching vocabulary.  I’ve tried all kinds of methods from word lists to word walls, but I am still met with groans from kids when I say Vocabulary.  This year I’ve been using a workbook.  This goes against my whole philosophy of teaching, so please don’t tell my students.  This workbook provides an authentic text, so the words are in context.  We also work with synonyms and antonyms and always a writing piece.  But like most work with Vocabulary in the title, my students think drudgery.

It is time for a change.  I have been intrigued by Carol Varsalona’s word clouds.  I tweeted a question to her.  Turns out it was our mutual friend Holly who introduced Tagul to Carol.

This leads me to an idea I will be trying this week with my students (crossing fingers the app works in our network).  I took one of our vocabulary words from last week, essence, and typed it into Thesaurus.com.  I opened Tagul and typed in a dozen synonyms.  Then I looked for a shape that would help define the word.  I chose a water droplet because water is the essence of our bodies.  The image shares common synonyms as well as makes this vocabulary work more motivating.


In what ways are you digitizing vocabulary work?  Share your ideas on your blog and link below.



Read Full Post »

Poetry Friday: What if?

Poetry Friday is with Penny at Penny and her Jots.

Poetry Friday is with Penny at Penny and her Jots.

This week, I’m thinking about Naomi Shihab Nye’s bucket and how we need to share our buckets with each other. I shared her poem from Here We Go with my students.

by Naomi Shihab Nye

What if, instead of war,
we shared our buckets
of wind and worry?
Tell me the story
you carry there,
steeping in old pain
and future hope,
rich with fragrant
savory spices,
ginger, turmeric,
tarragon, find me
a spoon in one
of your pockets,
even if we don’t
speak the same language…

you hold my bucket
a while, see what
the handle feels like,
and I hold yours,
and maybe both buckets
are empty and
we trade them forever…

We talked about what it means to carry someone else’s bucket. We talked about serious topics and playful ones. Then we wrote What if poems. I want to share a few with you today.

What if
the whole world
was listening, waiting
for the next word?

What if
you didn’t
know what
to say
but you say
it all?

What if
I speak
worldwide but
few hear me?

What if
you knew
what to say,
but you didn’t
say it at all?

What if
I speak
but lots of
people hear me?

by Noah, 5th grade


A Bucket Of Glitter

What if,
I could carry around a
bucket of glitter?
If I found someone without glitter,
I would sprinkle some on them,
What if I could carry around a
bucket of glitter?

by Lynzee, 2nd grade

What if-
I was the leader of the U.S.A
I would treat people fair
like how air lets us live,
live to spread joy and happiness.
I would give money
Maybe a little honey because it’s sweet
like people.

by Andrew, 4th grade

Today, I am wishing you a bucket of glitter to spread, a little honey to sweeten your day, and lots of poetry because poetry is where wisdom lies.


Read Full Post »

Slice of Life Challenge

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.


The Hallmark channel is on again.  I pour a glass of wine.  I search for something positive to say.  I’ve always thought of myself as an optimist, but these days are dark.  Winter is an apt metaphor for the state of our country.  I am carrying a weight of pessimism that I find too heavy and hard.

So I turn to my passion, poetry.  Poetry is like prayer for me.  I go inside my thoughts and work to make some sense of them.

Laura Shovan is getting ready for her annual February poetry project.  She has built a Facebook group.  It’s a closed group, but if you ask, you can join.  We are a bunch of liberals looking for ways to make sense of the news by taking 10 words from a current news report and writing poetry.

On Saturday, I found an empty journal on my shelf.  It is quite beautiful, a gift from someone, I’m sure.  The title reads, “Personal Journal with Quotes & Art by Women.”  I decided to use this book to pen the poems I am writing for Laura’s challenge.  On this page I share below is a sculpture called “Invocation” by Edith Schaller.  I wrote a poem for the January 25th warm-up using ten words from Janet Mock’s Women’s March speech.  I am not accustomed to being outspoken, political, or radical.  I am uncomfortable in this position, but I find solace in poetry, in writing, in words.



I am my sister’s keeper.
I hold her body.
I am committed to this work
of loving and comforting,
feeling safe and sensitive.

I refuse to crawl deeper into poverty,
refuse to give up all that we have fought for.
I will not be invisible or neglected.

But his words tear at a core
I fear is weak.  My liberation
is linked to my resolve
to not be moved, to hold fast.

Why must I turn into a revolutionary?
I once was a peaceful woman,
teaching, learning, writing,
minding my own business.

Why must I be confrontational?
Someone who has written herself
into this story of marches,
signs and petitions?

Sister, help me be this new me.

–Margaret Simon

Read Full Post »

poetry-friday-1 (1)

Poetry Friday round-up is with Carol at Beyond Literacy Link

Challenges can be fun. Challenges can be…well…challenging. Donna Smith posted a challenge to write a poem using all the lines given out by the visitors to her blog. She collected the following lines:

Buffy Silverman: ferocious women who never bring you coffee
Donna Smith: always leave a wild song
Linda Baie: dreaming women do art in poetry
Buffy Silverman: where wizards and wolves rush by in a blur of green and gold and gray
Kay McGriff: ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones
Linda Mitchell: waking the world to a new day
Margaret Simon: steam that climbs like smoke from a fire
Carol Varsalona: fearless women reach out, connect, and find joy in life’s intertwined moments
Tabatha Yeatts: little chest to put the Alive in
Joy Acey: wear loose clothing and a smile
Jan Godown Annino: I feel like there should be more stories out there for girls, and I try to tell them
Mary Lee Hahn: ferocious women do not exaggerate
Brenda Harsham: make a ferocious dinner that eats masks, drips truth and saves softness for dessert
Keri Lewis: radical at their core
Kiesha Shepard: ferocious women would rather drink the wind
Diane Mayr: out of endurance, exaltation

One of the rules was to break the rules, so I did. I didn’t use all the lines.

Here is my poem:

Dreaming women
wake the world
reach out
to find joy in life’s
intertwined moments.

They write stories
where wizards and wolves
rush by. Their stories
sing like steam
that rises, smoke from a fire–
a wild fire!

Ferocious women
never bring you coffee.
They make a ferocious dinner,
save softness for dessert
and a smile.

Take advice from us:
Ignore the awful times.
Dream on.
Leave a wild song.
Drink the wind.

To see other poetic responses, go to Donna’s site for the link up.

Now for a very important announcement: The winners of Here We Go! If you see your name here and you haven’t gotten an email from me, please send me your address by email.

1. Jane Whittingham

2. Joanne Duncan

3. Leigh Anne Eck

4. Linda Mitchell

5. Kimberley Moran

Read Full Post »

DigiLitSunday Logo

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts


The image above makes me imagine metaphorically that I am that big green rock holding in balance the different colors of my students.  Teaching is a delicate balancing act.  As teachers, we must set goals for our students, individually and collectively.  Our job is to get on the train every morning and move down the tracks to that goal.  (Excuse the mix of metaphors.)

Sometimes one student can topple the whole balancing game.  We must stop whatever it is we are doing and pay attention.  Focus on needs rather than goals.

This week I had to call on a colleague for help.  I was not meeting a student’s need, and I wasn’t sure where to go next.  I had tried many directions, but none were working very well.  This is humbling.  However, I found strength and comfort in the shared experience.  Reaching out when you feel defeated is tough to do.  I am so grateful now that I did.  My student is better for it.  I am better for it.

My students write every day.  Writing is a brave act. So different from answering questions or working out a math problem.  Writing is personal and hard.

This week one of my goals was teaching essay.  The kind of essay that testing will require in which the student writes about a literary element (in this case, theme) comparing two texts.  We worked with a nonfiction article and a poem.

During a conference with one of my students, I read aloud to her what she had written.  “Blah, blah, blah” was her response.  “I can’t stand writing essays.  They’re so boring!”  After our chat, she typed up her boring essay.  I had to laugh when I read it.  She began with, “Hey, world. Listen here!”  And at a later point, she wrote, “Now that is awesome!”

My students need to be able to express themselves.  Sometimes these expressions come out in loud exclamations, quiet tears, or interjections. No matter the goal, needs may throw us out of balance, or may be the very thing to keep the balance.

Please join the conversation by leaving a link below:

Read Full Post »


Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.


“Keep knocking, and the joy inside will eventually open a window and look out to see who’s there.” Rumi The Sunrise Ruby

A celebration list:

Monday: Manchego cheese on arugula
Wednesday: Tutu salad pepper tuna, avocado
Friday: Greek Fatouche with pita chips

Tables turned
daughters give advice to Mom

Writing, receiving

Projects develop
making a difference
in more ways than one

A dog
snoring happily
at my feet

His love
patient, kind
my heart is always open
and complete



Read Full Post »

Older Posts »