Celebrate and Diversify Stories about Hair! #pb10for10 #ownvoices #DisruptTexts


This year I shared a small moment story with young writers about a time when … things went awry with my hair.  It surprised me that in classroom after classroom students connected to my story and had their own stories about hair.  Funny stories, sad stories, surprising stories, and touching stories – stories that connected us.  Many of these friends found books in the classroom library that were also hair stories.  These young writers were accustomed to using mentor texts so searching for books was just part of their process.  I immediately noticed that the majority of the texts they found featured white characters and white hair.  This sent me in search of quality texts to diversify the inventory and disrupt the texts most of us have in our classroom libraries. 

These ten picture books celebrate and diversify stories of hair!



For more texts to help you create a more inclusive, representative, and equitable inventory of stories about hair, check out this Pinterest board:  https://www.pinterest.com/clarelandriganliteracy/pb10for10-texts-to-celebrate-and-diversify-hair/    Please add titles in the comments so I can continue to update this resource. 

A big thank you to Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek for hosting this event.  Each year I love spending time celebrating the different ways people thing about organizing texts AND spending more money than I should!

Are You in the Mood for a Good Laugh??!! Check Out These Books! #SOL19 #Bookaday #Classroombookaday

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I notice the people on either side of me turn to see what is happening.  I realize I was laughing out loud.

Sorry, I offer as I motion to my earbuds as a way of explanation.

Are you kidding me? the man next to me says, “It is so refreshing to hear someone laugh.  We don’t laugh enough these days.”

Yeah, what are you listening to? another adds.

You’ve been laughing quite a bit, says the other.

I take my earbuds out so I can share my reading life with my airplane community.  How lucky am I that my job leads me into these types of conversations?


Before I put my earbuds back in, I was compelled to grab my computer and draft this post.




I wonder if we are thinking enough about the power of laughter.  How it connects us?  How many endorphins are released?  How the feeling of laughter calms us?  How it has been proven to be good for our physical and emotional health? How good it feels?  Are we underestimating the power of laughter?!

This year as you think about the books you plan to read aloud, to offer for book clubs, and to place in the baskets in your classroom library, consider laughter.  These books are fun, send powerful messages, tug at your heartstrings, and serve as powerful mentor texts to study the use of humor as a craft move. 


Here’s the book I was listening to …


This book truly has LOL moments. It is a great read aloud choice for grades 3-5.  It has mystery, characters to love, moments to empathize with, and a good dose of humor to carry you through the tough moments.  If you are looking for other LOL books, here is a Pinterest board of some other that came to mind for me … what should I add?

Happy Reading and Happy Laughing!!

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers, and teachers here.

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Source: https://www.amazon.com/Season-Styx-Malone-...

My Zone of PD: Building Bigger Ideas by Maria Nichols #PDLove

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Talk is a focus in so many classrooms. How do we teach it? How do we make it authentic and meaningful? How do we assess it? How do we value different entry points to talk? Maria Nichols explores all of these questions and continually focuses on what matters to the student. This book will support your work in read aloud, book clubs, partner work, and workshop. She provides tips, tools, and charts to support you along the way.

I decided to sketchnote my reflections:


This book is one I will keep on hand this year as I continue to process it and think more about some new concepts like uptake, dialogic and bundling thinking.

Here are some blog posts if you want to learn more: https://blog.heinemann.com/topic/maria-nichols

and a podcast with the author, Maria Nichols: https://blog.heinemann.com/on-the-podcast-understanding-purposeful-talk-with-maria-nichols


Happy Learning!

My Zone of PD: Reading to Make a Difference #MyZonePD #PDLove #IMWAYR

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Chapters 3 and 4 focus on timely and much needed topics for elementary educators. I am continually asked for books related to death and immigration. Katie and Lester not only provide great text sets for educators to access, but they also invite us into classrooms to hear how these conversations might go. I love the chart in Chapter 3 page 51: Responding to Text. The authors provide a range of ways for students to respond. Students need varied entry points into comprehension and response.

Another way I like to invite students to respond is to create a text set for other readers. What might they want to read? What additional information might they want? One group of students created this text set after reading ida, Always:


Here is one we created with teachers to support talking with students about loss:


Here is one we created with teachers to support talking with students about social comprehension issues such as immigration:


I love the criteria the authors provide for students doing research on refugees on page 67 and the ideas for getting kids involved to use their knowledge to make a change in the world (page 74-75).

If you are looking for other titles that inspire kids to take action - these are some I love:


What books do you love on these topics? I would love to add to my collection!

Happy Learning Everyone!


My Zone of PD Welcome to Writing Workshop #CyberPD #IMWAYR

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I spent a lot of time thinking about chapter 10. How to teach spelling, grammar and conventions in a workshop model is a question on the minds of many teachers. How do you balance voice and mechanics? How to motivate writers and hold them accountable to apply what they know? Stacey and Lynne provide many resources and tips to help teachers find a balance.

They emphasize the strategic use of conventions, spelling and grammar. I have found this type of instructional approach more effective than teaching rules. If we want them to apply their knowledge when they are writing authentically, we need to make sure they understand the purpose of grammar, conventions and spelling. Ellipsis taught me this lesson …

I have yet to meet a five-year-old who has studied Mo Willems, Ezra Jack Keats or Jan Thomas and doesn’t use an ellipsis appropriately.  They love ellipses.

 I have been observing, talking, asking, listening, playing with, and noticing this phenomenon.  Why ellipses?  Isn’t it simpler to know when to put a period than an ellipsis?  Isn’t a period more common?  Shouldn’t a period be more familiar to them?  I think the answer to each question is … YES.  So, what’s up with an ellipsis?

I think what sets it apart is its purpose and how it is taught.  Ellipses are not typically taught as a convention or a rule.  They are not something you check for or have to remember.  An ellipsis is a craft.  It is a move a writer makes to add tension or to signal the reader to pause.  An ellipsis adds meaning to your writing and allows the writer to decide when he or she wants to create this mood or feeling in the text.

When I confer with a young writer and add the “Dun, Dun, Duuuun” to his story, his eyes light up and a huge smile spreads across his face.  Young writers see the power in this craft and they are off and running. Now with all things, there is often an initial over-application of use.  What is interesting to me, is that while overused, they are still using ellipses in the appropriate spots in their writing.  They know how they want to use them and they execute effectively.  In fact, they let you know it if you read it incorrectly.

So, what I have I learned from ellipses?

Teach punctuation and conventions as crafts rather than rules.  When students know why they are using a convention or how a convention adds voice to their writing, they seem to pay more attention to the use of them.  All writers want to make their writing better and they know that using crafts is the way to do it.  When we study mentor texts and mentor authors, let’s include how they use conventions.  When we design our units, let’s launch sometimes with conventions rather than wait until the end.  When we plan our instruction, let’s make sure conventions are taught in the same way we teach leads, endings, word choice, and dialogue.  When we notice the power of conventions, how they add mood, tone, tension or intrigue, our students notice them as well.

I have been trying this with young writers and I am seeing it pay off.  When we value it and we show them how an audience will value it, they seem to slow down and choose the convention they need to add voice to their writing. 

Stacey and Lynne provide a list of mentor texts for students to study the craft of grammar, conventions and spelling. What better way to engage our writers than to show them the power of these types of craft moves!

Happy Learning!


Slice of Life: When Lifting Each Other Up is Just Part of What You Do #SOL19 #TWTBlog

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I am startled by the touch on my shoulder. I turn quickly orienting myself.

It’s ok, he offers.

I pause, confused by his words.

You don’t need to get upset. One performance will not determine his future.

I realize I am crying and begin to understand why this coach is offering words of support. What he doesn’t understand is that my tears have nothing to do with baseball or my son’s future, they have everything to do with the hope I see in front of me and the power of human connection.

I was watching players from across the country come together to showcase in front of seventy college coaches. I was watching players chase their dream of getting a spot on the roster of a college they want to attend. I was watching players who have worked tirelessly as student-athletes to get this opportunity. I was watching players lay it all on the line in hopes of achieving their goals.

One might think athletes competing for their future would be cut-throat or self-serving in this situation. One might think each player would be focused on his performance or his success. One might expect each player to do his part on the team, but not be invested in the performance of his teammates. I was one of those people and I was overwhelmed at what I did see.

Athletes jumping out of the dugout to congratulate a stranger, now teammate for the day, on a great hit.

Athletes cheering each other on from the field and dugout.

Athletes quickly getting to know each other and communicating to determine how they will work together and signal each other in the game.

Athletes offering a word of encouragement after a strike out.

Athletes laughing together.

Athletes giving each other feedback and tips.

Athletes becoming a team comprised of strangers.

Athletes trying to make connections — Where are you from? I think I met your teammate. Do you know?

Athletes checking on each other.

Athletes apologizing, taking ownership, and clarifying.

Athletes reminding each other to take a breath, focus and bring it on.

Athletes pushing each other to be their best.

Athletes appreciating the best in each other for the love of the game.

I sent my son off on his own at 7:00 in the morning. As I watched him walk away I felt a pang of separation. He looked so alone. I couldn’t imagine doing what he was about to do. I am not sure I have it in me. I came back four hours later and he was part of a team. Talking, joking, encouraging and having fun doing what he loves with players who feel the same way.

On our way back to the hotel, I shared what I noticed and my reflections with him. His response came so easily and with such conviction.

You always play better with teammates who are at their best. You lift each other up. Push each other to be the best you can be. You appreciate the athlete in each other and are accountable to what you do. That’s just what you do. It’s just how the game works.

He went back to analyzing the video of his at-bats from that day and I was left wondering how we can bring this sense of team, this appreciation of those around you to life in classrooms. In a way so much is the same. A group of strangers coming together as a class. A group connected without necessarily having true connections at first. How do we make lifting each other up, appreciating the best in each other and collaborating to bring out the best in each other just how it’s done in classrooms? Can we honestly say this is just how things work in our classrooms?

I hope the next time I see a kid trying to articulate their thinking at school, I hear a classmate say, Take a breath, focus and bring it on.

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers, and teachers   here.

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers, and teachers here.

My Zone of PD: Welcome to Writing Workshop #CyberPD

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Chapters 5-7 in Welcome to Writing Workshop, left me thinking about the power of a writing conference. Creating space to observe and listen to our students is critical to gathering the information we need to scaffold their next steps as writers. Stacey and Lynne provide tools, checklists, videos and record keeping systems. Chapter 7 is filled with so many resources for conferring - an area in which every teacher needs to continually explore and learn. I love how Stacey and Lynne explain the role of different types of conferences within a unit of study and within the gradual release of responsibility.

The compliment-only conference is a type I have been playing with over the past year. Students need time to solidify new learning. I worry that we don’t give them enough time to learn a new strategy and truly understand how to use it flexibly and in many situations. if we continually layer on new goals before students have time to truly own the previous goals, they never get to independent practice with any strategy. The compliment-only conference is a great way for teachers to notice and name the work students are doing without adding a new goal. It feels good to be successful and experiment with trying a strategy out in many ways. This motivates and engages the writer. Who doesn’t love to hear that things are going well?

If you want to see one in action, check out this video with Melanie Meehan:


I also love the ideas they shared about conferring toolkits. This checklist and the blogs series they share from the Two Writing Teachers have so many great ideas.


Summer is a great time for teachers to think about their toolkit. This inspired me to try out two different kinds of toolkits. One is a 10-Pocket Folder. Since I worked in K-6 classrooms, I have one for K-2 and one for 3-6.


I left one tab blank. I am envisioning putting some materials to create anchor charts, micro-progressions, goal sheets and shared writing. Here are some other tools I want to have on hand:


And then I had to decide what I would carry it all in - what would be my “toolbox?” I decided to go with a vintage bag I love. It has voice and style. It is a bag i enjoy and I want kids to see that revision is joyful. Here is my toolbox:


I also decided to make a digital toolkit. I am in so many schools now that have Airplay and 1:1 devices. The technology does offer some great opportunities to organize tools and allow kids to access tools as they needs them. i made my digital toolkit in Evernote and synced it with Penultimate. This gives me the ability to organize student writing, mentor texts, video, voice notes, photos, and PDFs. I love that Penultimate has different paper options and allows me to “write” and “draw.” I love the Apple Pencil. It makes it easy for me to share the pencil during a shared writing lesson. Everything in the digital notebook can be displayed during whole class lessons using a LCD projector and shared with students in small group lessons on my iPad. I can even send students tools for them to add to their writing notebooks. The digital platform makes it so easy for everyone to share resources with each other and for me to show the writing process to students since I can save each version of my writing. Here is my digital toolkit:


I look forward to using my toolkit in September and revising it along the way. I would love to hear what is in your toolkit? Do you have a digital and paper toolkit? What system works best for you?

Happy Learning!


My Zone of PD: Reading to Make a Difference #bookaday #PDLove #ZoneofPD #IMWAYR

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Have you ever gone a trip and at the end of the first day you think to yourself, “I would get back on the plane and go home right now and it would be worth the trip!”? This is exactly how I felt at the end of the introduction of this book! I used up all my pink post-it flags — there was so much I needed to respond to and wanted to talk through with other educators.


Many of my post-it flags had words like YES! and LOVE! on them. Truly, the authors had me at:

“Books as bridges enable the reader to speak freely, think deeply, and take action as a change agent.” (p. xiii)

Most of my notes were about the connections I was making to classroom libraries and bookrooms.

  • on page xiv the authors provide a great list of questions to consider when curating a classroom library or bookroom

  • on page xvi the authors provide another invitation to reflect on how you select texts- these would be great when thinking about curating classroom library and bookroom collections

I also thought a lot about the power of using books to inspire authentic conversations with students. There are so many packaged social-emotional curriculums being sold right now. These programs are not connected to the students in a meaningful way and are adding time to an already overpacked schedule. Books are about humanity. There is no better social-emotional curriculum. Taking the time to read, feel and discuss books as a classroom community is the best way to help kids connect to themselves, each other and the world around them. The authors say it best, “ When books serve as windows, readers have the opportunity to consider new ideas and new ways of thinking and to see themselves as part of a larger community.” (p.xvii)

The authors point out again and again (and provide many resources to support us) the importance of carefully selecting texts. so we provide students with multiple points of entry for engagement and connection. I found myself thinking about bookrooms. When we work together and share our texts we automatically enhance our ability to invite every child to connect and engage. It is nearly impossible for any one teacher to have a library that will meet the ever evolving needs, interests, identities and passions of students. I am excited to think about the ideas these authors are sharing in relation to the bookrooms I help districts create.

Can you believe that is only the introduction? It is filled with resources, practical ideas and written in a fun, accessible voice. Looking forward to next week!