Reading Teacher Writes

Sharing a love of literacy with fellow readers and writers

1 Comment

Slice of Life Story Challenge – Day 1 (#Sol19)

Well, hello! Long time, no blog. I haven’t written a Slice of Life blog post since June 12, 2018, and I miss it. I don’t have any excuses; I just didn’t write “slices.” Now it’s time to return to my blogging roots. Let’s have some fun!

March 1, 2019: My sixth grade “superfans” of Kwame Alexander (author of The Crossover and many others) participated in the Learning Ally-sponsored webinar for Read Across America Day. I had a blast watching students watch Kwame talk about his first childhood book love (Fox in Socks), reveal how long it took to write The Crossover (5 years!), and motivate students to say, “Yes” to life! Author/Illustrator connections with students help promote a lifelong love of reading, and I’m a witness to the awesomeness. These kids will remember this day forever.

I look forward to writing with you each day this March. Welcome to the Slice of Life Challenge!


Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDebKelseyMelanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.



Slice of Life Tuesday: Purposeful PD is Powerful

Purposeful PD is Powerful. I’m all about getting together — whether it’s eating lunch, traveling to an interesting new place, or meeting with fellow staff at a team meeting, I like socializing with others. But when that meeting happens because everyone wants to learn something new and improve their teaching…Wow!

Our professional development this month is based on helping our students improve writing skills. Many teachers are looking for ways to improve test scores, but we really want our students to think of themselves as writers and write well because they are sending a message to an audience. Thank goodness we have many mentor authors (and illustrators!) to guide us, and we have Jeff Anderson and Whitney LaRocca’s new book, Patterns of Power, to push us towards our goal. Jeff and Whitney are excellent teachers; I was the PD facilitator today at each grade-level team meeting. We had engaging conversations around this “powerful” professional title and learned a great deal about how to teach writing conventions using “invitations” (created by Jeff Anderson).

What do we notice about our students’ writing (in general), and how can we help them to write better sentences/paragraphs/texts? We followed Jeff’s “invitation to notice” a mentor sentence. We noticed that pauses came with commas, names had capital letters, and that “when” and “if” are “comma-causer” words, indicating that the sentence was not complete. Then came the “invitation to imitate.” This time was used to thoughtfully create sentences like the mentors. We discussed how students might do this in classrooms. We finished today by talking about “focus phrases,” a term coined first by Terry Thompson in The Construction Zone (another fabulous professional book).

Staff members are looking forward to next week, when we continue discussing the Invitational Process, and trying Patterns of Power lessons with students.

Thank you Jeff and Whitney! We appreciate your guidance!

(Patterns of Power book image from



Slice of Life Tuesday: Reflecting on My OLW for 2017

Progress. My One Little Word for 2017 served me well. My goals to get the house in order, to present more professional development at school, and to travel to my favorite places all got the “Check” off the list.  As I said in January, “That’s me this year — ‘in progress.'”

Highlights included clearing clutter and completing maintenance in the house. Each month gave me a different task and celebration.We had 3 successful garage/yard sales and kept up with the yard using our new sprinkler system. Because the driveway took away part the hill from our side yard, mowing the grass was easier. I even organized the storage closet in November while looking for Christmas decorations.

I gained confidence as a presenter at my school with some interesting literacy professional development, and I even booked my first “gig” out-of-town as a presenter for reading workshop. I love sharing my learning with others. I hope to present much more in the coming year and beyond. My sixth grade students engaged in a Mock Caldecott unit of study, and we read a lot of books and wrote for many purposes. I wrote much more (well, not recently) and I was proud of my book reviews and guest blog posts (I’ll have another guest post tomorrow, in fact. Check out And…I landed my dream job as a librarian! That was the best part of 2017.

I ran around nearby cities to promote Kwame Alexander’s book, SOLO (he wrote with Mary Rand Hess).  I was selected to be on his Solo Launch Team, which was Absolutely Amazing! Although I missed the big party in New York City, I had a great time, and the book is awesome. Read it! (By the way, REBOUND — a companion to THE CROSSOVER —  will be out next year. Put that book on your list, too.)

My husband and I enjoyed a relaxing spring break in Florida, and I also traveled to Warsaw for All Write Institute, Chicago for the Scholastic Reading Summit, Michigan for NerdCampMI, and St. Louis for NCTE’s Annual Convention (where I reunited with my #G2great friends). Wow! What a year. I will keep up that same travel schedule in 2018, and hopefully add some more states to my “visited” list.







What a year of progress! I wonder…what should my One Little Word be for 2018?




Slice of Life Story Challenge Day 7: Back to Work!

Slice of Life Small LogoBack to Work!

After suffering all weekend, I’m back to work today! I don’t know why this weakness, illness, affliction is staying with me, but I will know more after my doctor’s appointment today.

Our class is writing Slice of Life stories today as well. Some students are writing about weekend life, favorite YouTube channels, and family members. I like reading the pieces and getting to know people better. Some students have fascinating stories! I’m having a little trouble thinking in this large, echo-y classroom — people want to talk about their ideas and items of interest instead of writing them down. I think I know why there are “writers’ retreats” now. The distractions are not helping my brain!

Maybe I shouldn’t write with my students. (No, that’s not what I learned is best for any of us.)


Slice of Life March Challenge Day 1! Let’s Begin!

Slice of Life Small LogoLet’s Begin!

March is a month of beginnings. The ISTEP standardized test starts today in our district, the Slice of Life Story Challenge begins, and the March Book Madness reading games begin. There is so much going on, I cannot seem to keep track!

“Let us begin.” I’m not sure who coined the phrase, but I am ready. March marks the time in the school year that I look forward to, for many reasons, but mostly because it’s the time when we finally get to show what we learned all year.  It’s an exciting time of year, and I welcome March with open arms.

Let’s Begin!



Slice of Life Tuesday: Simple Starts

Slice of Life Small LogoSimple Starts

My friends and writing “cousins” Kari Yates, Dani Burtsfield, and Erica Pecorale are starting a fabulous new Twitter chat tonight centered around Kari’s book, Simple Starts. The book study/chat #simplestarts will begin at 8:30 EST. Join us! Simple Starts revolves around starting (or continuing) a fabulous reading workshop in your classroom.

“Start small, but start” is the first rule. Kari challenges teachers to have courage when moving towards a more child-centered classroom. She states in her recent blog post, “You want your kids to be happily engaged in authentic reading, writing, and conversation…but shifting to a more child-centered literacy environment can be challenging.”

My favorite part of a readers’ classroom is reading aloud. The best thing I can do as a teacher of reading is to read to my students. Reading is learning. Reading is understanding the world better. Reading is fun! Kari says, “It’s an advertisement for becoming a real reader.” Simply start with reading aloud: a poem, a chapter of your favorite text, or a picture book. It’s Simply Wonderful!

Are you ready to chat? Join Us. See you tonight — 8:30 EST — #simplestarts


Slice of Life Tuesday: Welcome to 2nd Semester!

Slice of Life Small LogoWelcome to 2nd Semester!

My goal today is to assess the work ethic — learning minutes on task — of the students in class, and to find ways for students to become more independent in their educational endeavors. It is important that students learn to survive in the wild of the outside world, and it is my  job to allow them to try, to fail, to grow.

We are now writing Slice of Life stories, poems, and lists to get ready for the March Slice of Life Challenge. Each Tuesday, we focus on what we are thinking, remembering times of our lives, and making lists of items we want others to know.

It is a struggle to watch students fail. It is a struggle to lead students down paths they have not tried before. But I know that it will be a pleasure to see these students succeed this semester, doing more than they ever thought possible!

Steps to Growth and Success:

  1. Read and write. Every day.
  2. Focus on the learning.
  3. Celebrate success.


Slice of Life Tuesday: Playing Games

Playing Games

Let’s play a game. It’s allegedly a research-based, highly engaging, educational game, meant to make participants think, compare, contrast, guess, and check. We’ll see:

Two Truths and a Lie

  1. I have less grey hair now than before Christmas break.
  2. I failed this week while teaching.
  3. I predicted (correctly) the winner of the 2016 Caldecott Medal book.

Think you know? I’ll bet you don’t!

Slice of Life Small LogoSlice of Life Tuesdays are sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. Check them out at Thank you, Stacey, Betsy, Dana, Tara, Beth, Anna, Kathleen, and Deb so much for your support of teachers, awesome literacy learning, and writing! Join us this year for some writing fun!


Slice of Life Tuesday: If You Judge Me By My Reading Level…

Slice of Life Small LogoIf you judge me by my reading level, you will find that you don’t know me very well.

If my performance task is “build a premium bunk loft with attached desk” and you give me the pictorial instructions from the box of wood pieces, I will fail.

If my performance task is “decide which book to read next in your TBR pile of 50 books,” I could do it, but I would complete a few prerequisite tasks: organizing, skimming and scanning, and mock voting.

If my performance task is “bake 150 chocolate chip cookies for the school fundraiser” and you don’t offer me the ingredients, and the written steps in the order they should be included in the recipe, I will fail, and you will not receive, or sell, my cookies.

If my performance task is to “read at least 3 texts written by a chosen author, then present a compare/contrast presentation of the works according to found patterns, characterization, and plot moves,” with no other instructions, I will still receive the highest marks on your reading presentation rubric.

I need to teach my students so they learn. They all have strengths and weaknesses, just like me.  Some are wonderful artists. Some can figure math problems in their heads. Some can read well. Some can build intricate creations. If I judge a student by their assessed reading level, I put them in a box. That is the greatest disservice I could provide. We MUST think outside the box. Please do not judge a student by their quarterly (or semester!) reading level.