Thursday, July 31, 2014


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At the end of last year, I was inspired by two blog posts I read on Twitter about having a "no office day". To be honest, last year was kind of an accidental no-office day because I had to wear a variety of hats- lunchroom supervisor, front desk receptionist, and even janitor from time to time. Our small school, while amazing to me, struggled to keep everything covered with a very limited staff. This year, our little TK-3 school grows to TK-5th grade and with the addition of students, we were able to add some additional support staff. I'm so excited! I love to be in classrooms, but last year I wasn't able to get in as frequently as I would have liked because we were just so busy!

After reading No Office Day by Matthew Arend and Why we love “no office day”  by Jessica Johnson & William King, I was determined to find a way to get into classrooms on a regular basis this year. In looking at my schedule, it looks like Monday will be the day! My plan is to focus on two grade levels each Monday of the month and schedule a regular date with teachers to spend an hour in their classroom. I'm looking forward to supporting kids and teachers, co-planning, team teaching, whatever! My plan is to start in September. I'm putting it on my calendar and sticking to it. I'm even going to commit to blogging about it just so I can hold myself accountable.

I'm hoping some of my principal/leader colleagues will join me and get out of the office for the day!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Teachers Write July 27th: Weekly Reflection

Wow! The week flew by and it’s already time for another reflection. Last week, we reflected on where we write. This week Jen (@mentortexts) has asked us to reflect on when we write. Here are the questions to be posted in the comments section of her blog. Check out the whole post here.

When do you write?
How does reflecting help you assess what's working and what to adjust?
How did you do this week? Did you meet your weekly goal(s)?
What was the pit of your week? (The hardest part, the non-fun part?)
What was the peak of your week? (The best part, the most-fun part?)
What are you looking forward to and planning for the week ahead?

When do I write?
Looking back at the writing I’ve done since TW started, I would say I write mostly in the mornings. But I also realized that when I didn’t have time to write in the morning, I still looked at the post for the day in the morning so that I could think about writing all day. It felt like I was writing in my mind! I actually find that a lot - particularly since I started blogging. I think about writing during my commute, while walking, and even in the shower! Those mornings when I just had time to take a quick glance at the post for the day, I wrote in the evening after thinking all day long. On a few days I even wrote before doing any work related to school, and that felt good. Before TW, I would say I was more of a weekend writer and I blogged a lot on Sundays. I even wrote a U2-inspired post last December about that-- Sunday, blogging Sunday! Which made me realize I also write more over the holidays and vacation breaks.

How did you do this week? Did you meet your weekly goal(s)?
Ugh. I wrote about that in last week’s reflection, which I never posted on Jen’s blog but did write about on Friday! Here’s what I said in that post, “And then I went Las Vegas. I am going to be kind with myself and say that although I didn't do as much writing as I would have liked, I was always thinking about writing!”

What was the pit of your week? (The hardest part, the non-fun part?)
The pit- being too tired to write when I was in Las Vegas. I sat down to write, pasted the questions and link to Jen’s post in my Google doc last Sunday, and knew I couldn’t do any more. A 9 hour drive and 108 degrees zapped my energy. I wanted to write, and then just couldn’t do it.

What was the peak of your week? (The best part, the most-fun part?)
I went to see the Cirque du Soleil show of Love (the Beatles- it was amazing!) and no photos were allowed. The whole time I was wishing I would take a picture and I realized that that is my favorite way to take notes. I was thinking about what I would write about the show the whole time! I’m happy to be home (although I am now back to work!) and to have the time and energy to write.

What are you looking forward to and planning for the week ahead?
I am looking forward to checking in to TW and writing every day. Even if it’s not amazing. I am totally digging being part of this writing community!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Teachers Write July 25: Let it Go

Let it go.

One thing I love about Teachers Write is that choice is built in to every day. July 25th was Feedback Friday, and we are invited to post something we'd like feedback on. Kate Messner gives this great advice on her blog, “Even if you’re not quite ready to share, it’s so interesting to see what others are sharing and how it’s being critiqued. Check it out; you’ll learn a lot. We also have a Friday Feature today – “Letting It Go,” with guest author Kat Yeh."

You can check out the entire Friday Feature post here.
Screenshot from Kate Messner's blog
Before I’ve even read a line from today’s prompt, I’m in. Why?
I have a choice.
Friday Feedback? Friday feature? I could even do both if I wanted! How awesome is that?
Our students must feel this way, too.
I wish I had a big work in progress right now, but I don’t, so as much as I am enjoying reading the feedback for others, I am thrilled to have something else to choose. And it’s inspired by Frozen and Let it go! Woo hoo! I had almost forgotten that song this summer (10 different acts in our school talent show, yes 10, just of THAT song.)
Let it go.
Kat Yeh says in her post, “First of all, it means to put away all plans. All lessons. All outlines. All preconceived ideas. Actually allowing yourself to write without a goal or destination.”
Let it go.
Her second piece of advice is to write about what scares you, your secrets, your experiences and those things you wish you could change.
Let it go.
There are some things that I have never written anywhere. I’m afraid. But after reading Kat’s story, I know that one day I will write about my secrets. They’ll be cleverly disguised and hidden in a work of fiction, but I want to write about those things. Some day.
For now, I’m just going to try to let it go, write, and let loose. Just like Jimmy Fallon in this awesome video! Classroom instruments and all.
Let it go!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Teachers Write July 20th: My Writing Place

This week, I'm struggling all over the place. I'm writing this post on July 25th. The post that inspired it? July 20th. Last Sunday's reflection. I'm late to the party and I was doing so well! Having said that, I am super excited to be writing! This past week I was in Las Vegas at the CUE Rockstar conference and I was so lucky to learn with 100 awesome teachers and an amazing team of lead learners. Here's a shot of most of our team after the last session. We are a tired and happy group!
Team Rock Star Las Vegas
So, here I am and it's Friday night and I'm finally writing about my writing place. Last Sunday I looked at the post and loved it! But I was just too tired to write. So I made a few notes and pasted a few quotes and promised myself I would return. So here I am! Here was our prompt for last Sunday posted on Jen Vincent's blog here

Where do you write?
What about the atmosphere or the background noise or music helps you write?
How did you do this week? Did you meet your weekly goal(s)?
What was the pit of your week? (The hardest part, the non-fun part?)
What was the peak of your week? (The best part, the most-fun part?)
What are you looking forward to and planning for the week ahead?

The first two questions here really spoke to me. I loved the quotes Jen selected about finding our writing place. Last week, I felt GOOD. I had written a lot and written every day. The peak of my week was being on vacation with no work demands infringing on my time and I was so looking forward to writing! 

And then I went Las Vegas. I am going to be kind with myself and say that although I didn't do as much writing as I would have liked, I was always thinking about writing! Every picture I took in Las Vegas had blog post potential. In fact, I can't wait to blog about my week. Another time. Here are a few shots that I think capture the spirit of my week...

OMG. Hot. It's hot in Sacramento but Vegas just saps your energy if you're not used to it. However, we still had a good time and took a nap here and there!

On the way to Beatles Love. With Doug. In a kilt.
First time Cirque du Soleil for me! Wow!
Dinner at 10:30 PM? Awesome. Still HOT!
Back to my writing place. Jen posted some great quotes from some amazing authors to inspire us to think about where we write. From Jen's website:

"Here's another quote, this time from Ralph Fletcher, who has written a lot about writers notebooks (which, incidentally, are amazing and a fantastic place to start with student writers - you can read about his resources in this blog post)"

“…I have found that often,
my best brainstorming takes place
when I’m not writing at all
but when I’m just living –
taking a walk, taking a shower,
dreaming while I sleep.
I might be making a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich
when all of a sudden an idea jumps into my head.
A writer is always alert for ideas
that can feed the writing.”
-Ralph Fletcher, How Writers Work

Or this one:

"This week, I read 
The Right to Write by Julia Cameron 
where she explains, 
"Wherever I am, whenever I can, I write."

This I believe with all my heart. My writing place is sometimes my kitchen table, where I am now, tapping away at my Chromebook. Sometimes it's within the pages of one of my many writer's notebooks. I have lost track of them all and have a stack of blank ones in my closet! I especially like to write in a paper notebook when I read professional books. But my favorite writer's notebook-- my iPhone-- goes with me everywhere. I love my iPhone. I can capture so many things in an image that I could never write down. An expression, the sunset, shades of blue, a smile. My camera roll is writing waiting to be written whenever I have time to take a look. Right now, my camera roll is filled with stories, blog posts, and even a keynote idea or two. My vacation to the coast. Cambria. Santa Barbara. Eight missions in 4 days. Even aliens and beef jerky and a purple unicorn at a truck stop. Paris? No, that's Las Vegas and another post I need to write.

Paris. Las Vegas
I love writing. Anywhere and everywhere. On paper. On Twitter. My blog. Finding the place isn't the hard part because my writing place is where ever I am- even in my mind. And I never write with music in the background. Maybe I should try that!

So, to answer Jen's question... 
What are you looking forward to and planning for the week ahead?

I'm making TIME to write. Closing my door. Not missing a day. 

Pinky swear.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Teachers Write July 16th: A Work in Progress? Ugh.

It's Q & A Wednesday again! You can check out the post here.
Today’s official author guests are Diane Zahler and Kathryn Ersk.

Diane is the author of The Thirteenth Princess, A True Princess, Princess of the Wild Swans, and Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters. Visit her website to find out more about her YA books.
Screenshot from

Kathryn is the author of the National Book Award winner Mockingbird.

screenshot from

I checked out the Q & A post and was relieved to see that other writers were also struggling with the whole idea of having a work in progress. I've included a few comments from that day below. By the time I got on to post, I found that others had already asked what I was thinking! The responses to these questions gave me some confidence and made me feel relieved that I wasn't alone.

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Teachers Write: July 15th

Yesterday's writing prompts were still on my mind. I kept thinking about Donna Gephart's words, 

“First, list every writing project you’d like to explore, as though you have unlimited time and energy...Once you have your list, find the project that scares the heck out of you, the one thing you think you shouldn’t write. Or the project that makes your heart beat a little faster and your cheeks flush with excitement. WRITE THAT!”

This morning, Jeannine Atkins shared that some of the campers might be interested in potentially writing a professional book. Yay! That means there must be others out there- not just me. So far, it seemed like everyone was writing fiction, but I’m just not there yet, although I am trying. Jeanine posted this link for submission proposals for Stenhouse which totally gives me a direction and a plan. I always wondered about how people get started writing a book! I’m excited to start, even if it’s never published. Never in my life did I ever think I would be thinking about a book proposal on my summer vacation. To quote Amy Fadeji, I’m diving in! My idea comes from a professional piece I wrote in 2012 at the Area 3 Writing Project Summer Institute.

Here is a little bit of information from the Stenhouse proposal guidelines and questions that the proposal should answer. Lots to think about!

The proposal also has a second purpose - and a second audience. You are writing to answer basic questions likely to be asked by any publisher reviewing the proposal. These questions include the following:
  • What is this book to be about?
  • What is its intended audience?
  • What writing style will you use?
  • How will your book be organized?
  • What books have been written on this subject, and how will yours differ?
  • Who are you?
  • How long do you anticipate the manuscript will be?
  • How much have you already written?
  • When do you expect to finish the manuscript - or a first draft?
  • Will your book include samples of student writing, drawing or other work?

Have you ever thought about writing a book?

Teachers Write- July 14th

July 14th started with a fun morning giving a keynote to kick off the #alohagoogle Google Boot Camp in Loomis, California. Then, I rushed home, quickly packed my suitcase, and hit the road for the ocean! On the way I took a peek at the Monday Teachers Write post so I could think about it on my drive. There are two options on Mondays- the mini lesson or a Monday warm up. Later that evening, with the sound of waves crashing outside our room, I finally had a chance to write.

My writing spot in Cambria
Mini Lesson Monday
The mini lesson this time was posted by Donna Gephart and the theme was You CAN write! Basically, the idea was to write a list all of the things you want to write if you had unlimited time. You can check out the whole mini lesson here. One thing I loved was her suggestion to think of-- what's the one project that scares you- write that! 

 Writing lists is one of my favorite strategies, so I quickly jotted a few ideas to think about later...

My writing ideas:

The Little Notebook book
a book written in prose like Out of the Dust
an ABC book of something
a story written in letters
a song parody for 20 dongles in my pocket or talk nerdy to me

Something fiction (I never write make believe stuff)
Something personal (I never ever tell my secrets to anyone.)
A book?

Monday Warm-Up

We could also try the Monday warm up with Jo Knowles (check out the post with the complete warm up here). I had never tried using sentence frames to generate ideas, so I gave it a try. I didn't feel super successful-- but here they are! Something to revisit later...

This is a story about a boy who wants to tell you everything there is to know about anything World War II, movies, and ships .
But underneath that, it's about a boy who really wants to be understood.

This is a story about a girl who needs her puppy, things that sparkle, and books.
But underneath that, it's about a girl who really needs a friend.

This is a story about a boy who is afraid of the dark, spiders, and onions.
But underneath that, it's about a boy who is really afraid of failing.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Teachers Write: Weekly Reflection & Tracking Progress

It’s the end of the first week of Teachers Write and time to reflect.  Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts has posed some excellent questions about tracking our progress as writers and setting goals. You can check out her entire post here.

How do you track your progress? What kind of goal works for you?
How do you celebrate your progress?
How did you do this week? Did you meet your weekly goal(s)?
What was the pit of your week? (The hardest part, the non-fun part?)
What was the peak of your week? (The best part, the most-fun part?)
What are you looking forward to and planning for the week ahead?

How do you track your progress? What kind of goal works for you?
This is an interesting question and it really made me realize that I’m not sure how I track my progress. When I read, I track my progress by entering the book on Goodreads when I finish it, but writing isn’t always like that. Sometimes I just write to reflect, but the writing isn’t always “finished” in the same way that you finish a book. However, some of my writing does have a deadline, and I take my inspiration from Jon Corippo -- get a fast start, reflect and revise, finish EARLY, and reflect again. 

Jon Corippo
Much of my writing this summer has been what I consider “professional” writing-- including an hour long keynote and preparing 12 days of professional development. For all of these, I set a target date for completion, and then finished early. I love the feeling of finishing early- even though I could have just set that date as my deadline in the first place. I feel so much more relaxed when I have a little cushion before it really *has* to be done and I almost always make little changes even after it’s officially finished. I really wanted this Monday’s keynote and the upcoming 3 days of PD in Vegas to be planned before my vacation this week so I could just relax, read, and write!

How do you celebrate your progress?
This week, I’m celebrating by taking a trip to the coast for 4 days. I can’t wait! Usually I celebrate with little things like taking a whole day to hike or Starbucks or even just taking a whole day to read.

How did you do this week? Did you meet your weekly goal(s)?
This week was fabulous! My goals for this week: write every day, post my process/draft/whatever and reflect on my blog for Teachers Write, provide feedback to others, and finish the keynote and my Las Vegas PD. Like I said, this week was fabulous and I met all of my goals. But I know it’s because I made time to write.

What was the pit of your week? (The hardest part, the non-fun part?)
There really was no pit, or non-fun part, really for me. But if I had to pick something, it would be that I don’t really have a work in progress right now. I did revisit a professional piece I wrote two years ago that has been on my mind as a possible book topic, but right now I am so busy that it’s hard to imagine working on a book. A girl can dream! Also, most people seem to be working on fiction pieces. Maybe I should try to do that.

What was the peak of your week? (The best part, the most-fun part?)
The best part? Teachers Write- all of it! I loved looking forward to the prompts each day, reading the writing of the other campers, and interacting in so many different spaces- Twitter, on blogs, and Facebook! I feel recharged and can’t wait for next week!

What are you looking forward to and planning for the week ahead?
I’m looking forward to being on vacation and getting some inspiration from the ocean! Since I have no writing that I *have* to complete next week, I’m excited to see what happens.

Thank you to everyone for an awesome week!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Teachers Write Day 5: Fresh Beginnings

Today is the first Feedback Friday for Teachers Write and the focus is on writing fresh beginnings. 

To see the entire blog post about our first Feedback Friday, you can click here and you can check out the rules here.

Here’s a snippet from Feedback Friday RULES for commenting on posted work:

1. What works for you?

2. What doesn't if anything, and why?

3. If it's a beginning, does it hook you? If it's not, does it compel you to keep reading?

Here’s something I loved from Gae’s post about feedback and THE RULES:

“Notice the order. If you are a teacher I beg of you, never grade or assess a student's writing without telling them first something that works, what they've done right, before you correct them or offer constructive criticism (which in any writer's mind, especially a kid writer, is akin to telling them what they've done wrong). Hopefully over the course of this summer you'll see how much more open we all are to constructive criticism when we're given some honest praise first.”

As I read the beginnings posted by the other teachers, most of it seemed to be narrative-ish. But, since I don’t have a story I’m currently working on, I struggled with what writing I should post for feedback. Do I skip it? I didn’t want to do that! I feel like I’m on a roll, writing and blogging 5 days in a row.

Secretly, I have had the idea that *one day* I'd like to write a book. I feel like it will be a more professional one, and be focused on literacy with little learners. I’m still just bouncing around this idea, but I did write a professional piece in 2012 when I was at the Summer Institute for the Area 3 Writing Project that might have something to it. Here’s the beginning of that piece, which I have posted for feedback. Donalyn Miller once said something like if you can’t find the book you want to read, you must write it (loosely paraphrased, I have loaned out my copy of The Book Whisperer again, or I would look up the quote and get it right!)

So, here’s my beginning!

The Little Notebook: Big Ideas for Little Writers
A Case for Writer’s Notebook in the K-1 Classroom

Writer’s Notebook? In Kindergarten? First grade? Before you fall out of your chair, stay with me. It’s not as crazy as you might think.
The idea of a writer’s notebook is not new, and many writers have written about its use. In his book A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You, Ralph Fletcher describes notebooks as his most important tool for living a writing kind of life. Aimee Buckner (Notebook Know-How 2005) says, “A writer’s notebook gives students a place to write every day... to practice living like a writer. It’s a place for them to generate text, find ideas, and practice what they know about spelling and grammar.”
What is it about the writer’s notebook that makes it worthy of 5 and 6 year olds? Although the notebook may not look exactly the same as it might with a writer over the age of 8, the reasons for having a notebook at all are very applicable, regardless of the age of the writer. If the craft behind the notebook is so powerful, then perhaps it’s the structure that can be successfully adapted for our youngest emergent writers.

At the beginning of kindergarten and even sometimes early in first grade, student writing and illustrations can be challenging to decipher. Certainly, on the day the writing is done, the writer can clearly explain what’s in their journal. However, given a few weeks, or months, even when it was my lesson  that generated the writing, I found myself looking at the journal and wondering what on earth it could be. It wasn’t even a sure thing that the student would know. But what about the illustration? Can’t that shed some light on the writing? You’d think so, but if you’ve ever seen a drawing of Brown Bear or The Gingerbread Man, you know they look pretty much the same on paper. Brown. Roundish. A head and eyes. Maybe.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Teachers Write Day 4: WORD HOARD!

Today is quick write Thursday and Megan Frazer Blakemore introduced the most awesome strategy... the WORD HOARD! Check out her full lesson on Kate Messner's blog post here. Megan Frazer Blakemore is the author of The Water Castle and more!

Remember, my blog posts are more just a public place for me to share this process (and I am loving being in this gigantic global writing group) than producing anything polished or amazing. I'm hoping that later on in these posts I can find a tiny seed of inspiration for something more. So, here's my word hoard! Since I'm not in the middle of another piece of writing, I started with my puppy Lola and her historical namesake . I had to do a little research on Lola Montez before I could get started. I posted the "hoard" on Kate's blog, and got a reply just minutes later from Megan herself.

I'm starstruck, truly. The power of technology still blows my mind! 

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born Eliza in Ireland
spoiled half wild child
Spanish dancer
eloped at 16
scented water
business woman
dusty existence
entertained miners in the Gold Rush
1850 Sydney Australia
rumored that she flared her skirt with no undergarments beneath
determination and temper
spider dance
California Historical Landmark 292

My Lola
named Eve when we adopted her
short legs
hair standing on end
growling playfully
likes milk
bares her teeth in bed
historical namesake
catches flies
likes to sit in the driver’s seat
hogs the bed
scratches with her nails
sweet and sour