A Slice of Book Buying Blindness

This is a slice of extreme stupidity. A lot of moments could fit this description, but this one is undeniably one of my worst.

I buy books. A lot of books. I feel guilty about it especially when the charges from Amazon come in. But something happened last night that took my breath away.

“What is this charge for $1,750?” my husband asked. “From Amazon Market Place.”

I had no idea. No one item I’ve ever purchase cost that much.

On the phone with Amazon, looking up my purchases, oh, my go…

If you’re familiar with Amazon, there are often many options, ways to buy. New and used books. When I purchased this book, I thought I was choosing the new product labeled $19.95. That’s what was in the box right below the title. It was a bit pricey, but so many had recommended it, I clicked.  I had no idea.

Turns out in the right-hand corner, there’s another box. Same book. Same quality. Different price. $1,750. That was the one I ordered.


Heart stopping.

Impossible. Unbelievable. Undoable?

The woman on the phone from Amazon heard my reaction once I realized what had happened (just imagine) as my husband continued the conversation as to how to rectify my horrific one-click.

I heard her voice, “I assume your wife wants to return the item.”

At this point, I feel like “that person” who buys ridiculous things on late night infomercials.

Ahhh, yes, please!

She tells my husband, an email has been sent from Amazon to the seller, requesting a return label.

Does that mean I can return it?

It’s a beautiful book. But oh my. How could a book be so expensive?  It seemed so innocent, sitting on my bedside table. Especially when it was available for a mere $19.95.

Right now I’m praying to the bookselling gods: please send the return label.

And to my husband: I promise to never one-click again.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers and all who slice for Tuesday Slice of Life. A place to write and share everything from the sublime to the stupid moments of our lives. Read more slices here.



DigiLit Sunday: Digital Voice

Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche offered the topic of Digital Voice for her Sunday DigiLit Link up.  A first my mind was a blank. CqLKoPIVYAAZCI0.jpg

I was on the way to school, not thinking about this topic, listening to Jan Burkins on Voxer. She was talking about starting the year with a video or voice recorded conference to document how kids (and teachers) grow over the course of the year. Walking to my classroom, it hit me.  Funny how the obvious is hidden.

Voice recording is an easy and unobtrusive way to confer with students. I can do it with a multitude of apps. The simplest one being the voice memo on my iPhone. I just have to have my phone when I sit down in a conference. If you plan to make a habit of voice recording, Evernote has been my friend. I can capture student’s voice and take pictures of their work. I can also add in my thoughts via text.

The beauty of voice recording is that it allows you to listen and look at a student as you listen and then re-listen later. What I heard in the moment and what was actually said is not always the same. For those of you that are trying to up your conferring game (aren’t we all?), voice recording is perfect for documentation and reflection.

At this point, all of my Voxer friends can skip to the end of the post. Those of you who haven’t given it a try, read on.

We use “talk” as a strategy in our classrooms to grow ideas. We need to take this approach to heart. Troublesome worries linger in our minds waiting to become ideas.  Something about the act of talking helps work the ideas out.

Voxer is a voice messaging app. It allows you to record voice messages (text, pictures, and video) and send them to individuals or groups in a designated chat. The messages sit on the recipient’s phone or computer in a stream by time recorded.

I know there are many out there who are shaking their heads, saying no, I can’t take another way to connect. I get it. But. As with all tools, we select ones for particular situations.  Try it with one or two friends, colleagues or family members. It might be a relationship separated by time zones or classrooms. Think of your teaching partner who left your school and is now down the street at another school. The one you used to talk to all the time. That one. (Richard, are you listening?)  Set up a chat with that person. You will be amazed.


Celebrate: Opening Books A-Z

The first week back to school is a puzzle. We’re trying to figure it out. Students and teachers. We come with expectations and hope, misinformation and baggage. A collection of stuff from so many sources. Now we’re here. In this room. All bright and shiny.

Seeing each child is a challenge, always, but especially the first week of school. Who is this person and what can I do to help them find their way, drives the curriculum.

After a few days, a flow of sorts begins and I start to see the pieces of what could be. Some students stand out like neon flashing lights. Others are stealth.

This week I want to celebrate the glimmers and sparkles I’m starting to see as kids open their books.

“A” is shy. Reading is a struggle. But he has a book that holds him. HiLo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth. “A” is the first student to finish a book this week. He stands and shares. I order book two.

“B” had finished I Survived The Battle of Gettysburg and a biography on Lincoln is in his hands. I can hardly contain the fireworks going on in my heart when I ask, “Are you a fan of the Civil War?” He smiles and nods.

“C” asks if I could order the next Stick Dog book.

“D” is reading Shiloh. I sit next to him and ask how’s it going. He starts to tell me the story. I ask, “Is this a book you can’t wait to pick up?” He looks at me. I follow up with, “Is this a book you want to read or is this a book you must read?” He looks at me.  I stop and interrupt the class. “Make sure the book you have in your hands is one you want to read not one you feel you must read.  “D” wanders over to the bookshelves. “E” and “F” follow him.  Sometimes, I tell the class, there will be things you must do. The book you are holding now should be a “want to” book.

“G”, “H”, “I”, “J”, and “K” tell me, when I pick up Each Kindness as our read aloud,  that they LOOOVE that book.

“L” is reading a nonfiction book on animals. Shiloh sits next it. I sit down and ask him about his book. He informs me he just realized there are no characters in this book so he should probably put this book away. I tell him that’s a great realization. But, I add on, readers read fiction and nonfiction. Doing both is ok.

“M” came up to me, book in hand. She pinched a chunk. “I read this much. Today!”

“N”, “O”, “P” and “Q” took pictures of their favorite reads.

“R” asked if I could order the next in the Stick Dog series.

“S” said he felt like he wasn’t in the classroom. He was in the book.

“T” asked if everyone could find their personal reading spot.

“U”  and  “V” are both reading books by Peg Kehert. They plan on trading.

“W”, “X”, “Y,” and “Z” shared their reading on the Grafitti Wall.

We’re looking for book love. For many, we’re there, for others, we’re on our way, and for a few, we’re still looking. Here’s to week one of the journey.

Happy New  Year!

Thank you, Ruth Ayers, for the opportunity to share weekly celebrations. Read others here.






Poetry Friday: Irises



It’s the last day of the first week of school. The bloom of excitement is beginning to wilt with fatigue. Adrenaline no longer feeds the morning and the days are still hot, hot, hot.

Walking into Trader Joe’s, I spied my favorite flower.

a shock of sunlight within violet blue
hearty, unfussy
Van Gogh irises.

collected in a vase
interiors with memories
of field life.

hummingbirds and butterflies
your world until — now
summer’s end grace my desk.

your light
as days grow short and nights cool
goddess of the rainbow.

Thank you to Doraine Bennett at Dori Reads for hosting today’s roundup.

Slice of Life: We’re Ready!

It’s quiet.
Carpet cleaned.
Books organized.
Spiral notebooks stacked.
Projector connected.
Pillows fluffed.

A large Post-it chart leans on the easel.IMG_4142.JPG

Baggies filled
new notebooks
and student selected books.


The walls


Conference table

IMG_4159.jpgSmall spaces
for alone time

are scattered



Devices powered.


We’ve been waiting, all summer, close to bursting with anticipation.
For 32 times 2 fifth graders to enter to learn.

We have high hopes.
to read literature that supports journeys of compassion and understanding.
to provide tools and time to think and write; to write to think.
to find a book to love,
to write their story,
to laugh out loud,
to explore new ideas,
to play with words,
to become a part of a community,
to be our best,
to support another soul.


Tomorrow I start school with a mixture of anxiety and excitement.
The can’t-believe-I-get-to-do-this-work feeling.
I begin by saying thank you.
Thank you, beautiful students, for coming to school today!*

And thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. Read more slices here.


*borrowed from Shana Frazin.




DigiLit Sunday: Craft Moves

Digilit Sunday is hosted by Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche each week. Today, despite the flooding in South Louisana, Margaret finds fun and beautiful craft moves with digital tools.


I meet my new students Tuesday. Crafting our writing digitally is not in next week’s lesson plan. But, noticing and understanding craft is.

Figuring out the meaning and reacting to it is the joy of any media consumption.
Understanding how the author created that experience is next.

Taking cues from a few brilliant friends, I hope to bring the idea of craft, what it is and how the author did it, to the forefront of every reading, viewing and listening experience. The mood created when we consume media could be argued to be the essence of why we consume. That special something that makes the reader care involves craft.

Trevor Bryan’s work with the Art of Comprehension can help students understand mood and meaning. We start by viewing static pictures and then grow our thinking to the more complex and dynamic media. Trevor’s steps to analyze media go something like this:

1. list everything you see
2. summarize/retell
3.determine mood(s)
4. support thinking, find patterns
5 determine big ideas/theme
6. make connections

This process allows students to notice things an author /illustrator does and then link it to the feeling or the mood created by the text. By doing this, subtle craft moves become clearer. Try the six-steps with this picture from Jacqueline Woodson’s Each Kindness illustrated by E.B. Lewis.


Kimberley Moran who is taking the Institute for Writers course on children’s literature shared one her assignments with me. It reminds me of the work Trevor is doing, but it pushes me to write.

1. watch an interaction
2.write everything you see
3.describe what the participants are thinking

I tried it with another picture from Woodson’s book.


The sun shines in the east; things are growing. The girls stand on the blacktop. Two of the four stand close together their hands at their sides. The girl in the light pink dress is the centerpiece. Her hands behind her back, she talks to the side by side girls. The fourth girl stands apart. Her hands behind her back, like our girl at the center. She is a mirror to the girl in the light pink dress, touched by her long shadow.

What do their actions say? How does their stance tell me what they are thinking but not saying? This process separates the external and internal work a writer must move through when crafting a narrative.

Girl in pink stripes: I stand by my friend in green, always. My friend is strong, like me. We don’t need you, girl in the pink dress.
Girl in the hot pink: I wonder. Interesting. Something to watch. I’m not committing.

For extra credit: Compare the two pictures. Notice the positions of the girls. What does the change tell us? Picture books hold amazing craft.

I’m looking forward to beginning our journey next week! We will observe, name, and write about what we notice. Through this work, we will find our craft and create.





Poetry Friday Roundup is Here!

Welcome, beautiful  Poetry Friday Poets!

I chose to host this week as a birthday gift to myself. Receiving your lovely contributions will extend my celebration throughout the weekend. So thanks to all who connect!

This time next week I will be in school with my new set of kiddos introducing poetry.

In previous years, I held poetry back
till later in the year.
Because  we needed to get to the “important” things,
because it was “too fun” for the beginning of school,
because I was saving it for the “just right” time,
because I wasn’t sure about how it “should” go.

But this year,

I’m not holding back.
I’m starting first thing.
Because poetry is where important things start and end,
because poetry can feel like play and what better way to learn,
because the right time for poetry is when readers and writers meet
because if allowed,
poetry can direct the adventure.

This year I’m not holding back.


Next Thursday, the day with the least interruptions and the most possibility, and every Thursday after that, we will venture.









Slice of Life: Roller Coaster Rides​

Today I was looking through my picture books and came upon Marla Frazee’s Roller Coaster. This book reminds me of the beginning of every year.

Kids come back to school as rusty writers, so we brush up with a familiar experience: the roller coaster story. The time where they overcame their fear and older sibling’s teasing by riding a huge roller coaster. Most kids have that story in their history. This book is a perfect tool to warm up their writing muscles.

First, I ask students to look at the first picture and find the character that most resembles them. I often choose the tense-looking mom next to the pinwheel-hatted boy.

Next, we practice storytelling by taking on the character we chose.
What did we say?
What did we think?
How do we look?


Today, I couldn’t help but look at the couples in the second and last seats. And imagine their stories.

Rachel, looked out at the roller coaster operators, leaning as far away as she could from Cody. I can’t believe I’m sitting here. Why did I say yes? I’m going to die, literally. My hands are so wet, I won’t be able to to hold on.  He’s not even looking at me. How much longer before we start this stupid ride?

Just four seats ahead, George looked at Mabel and squeezed her hand. Her eyes met his and said, this is one mighty fine time George. I’m glad we came.

The sun beat down and the coaster’s CLICK, CLICK, CLICK were all anyone heard as the train climbed UP, UP, UP.

Down they flew.

Rachel instictively threw her arms around Cody and screamed.
Cody instinctively held Rachel and smiled.

Mabel and George leaned back and screamed breathing it all in. Life was good. Experienced riders, that they were, George held on to his hat and Mabel had sensibly wore the one that secured with a tie. The thrill filled them up.

A curve.
A kiss.
Two hardy laughs.

“Hold me, I don’t know if I can stand,” Rachel said as she leaned into Cody.

“Yes, my love, I do remember,” said Mabel.
And George held her tight.

Thank you to Marla Frazee for taking liberties with her story.
And thank you to Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. For more real and possibly imagined Slices click here.

Celebrating the Old and New at the Beginning

This post serves a dual purpose:  celebrating a week of creating a new classroom space and DigiLit Sunday topic, preparing for the new school year. Find other celebrations at Ruth Ayers’ blog Discover, Play, Build and DigiLit Sunday posts at Margaret Simon’s blog Reflections on the Teche.

celebrate link upslide11

I have an old pair of sandals. They’ve given me miles of comfort. In spite of new purchases, my old pair finds its way back into my life and onto my feet. They are worn just right and fit my summer feet.

My classroom has well-worn objects as well. They are irreplaceable. This week I celebrate the old that serve every school year.

The easel I found in an abandoned hallway my third year of teaching has held hundreds of pieces of paper. Smartboard technology tried to replace it, but a physical chart, made with students, that hangs on the wall as evidence of thinking, that doesn’t disappear with the next lesson, has value an electronic screen can’t match. This old tool takes any piece of paper and makes it the centerpiece of instruction.

The wooden stools I bought at IKEA my second year of teaching have survived and served hundreds of fifth graders as chairs, tables, impromptu meeting areas, foot stools, outside classroom space, and props in dramatic plays. These old tools allow students to create the space they need.

The bookshelves and book bins have been with me since the beginning. Bookshelves can entice readers into a cozy nook. Bins are transported to the carpet, to a table, to a corner. They can morph to hold any genre. These old tools are the superheroes of the reading and writing workshop.

The books on the shelves will be sought after and loved. Sadly, these books aren’t as resilient as the bookshelves and bins, but their messages endure and speak to kids year after year. Because of Winn Dixie, Tiger Rising, Flying Solo, How to Steal a Dog, Wonder, Firegirl, The One and Only Ivan; series like I Survived, Shredderman, The Treasure Hunters, Vet Volunteers are just a few. These old tools transport students.

I cherish the old. But sometimes we need new. This week I’m celebrating things that revitalize our lives.

I have a new pair of running shoes that have given my running new life. The old pair is broken down and can’t provide the support I need.  Sometimes new is necessary. This year, I’m bringing in new that support the old and signal new beginnings.

I’ve found new strategies from professional books I’ve read over the summer.
Who’s Doing the Work by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris
A “next generation” balanced literacy approach allows kids the space to show what they can do before we teachers jump in with the instruction. Talking less so kids can do more has been my mission ever since I read What Readers Really Do by Vicki Vinton and Dorothy Barnhouse. Jan and Kim’s book has opened my eyes to the power of shared reading. Shared reading isn’t just for little kids. This year, I’m building in more shared reading time around their read aloud time to support transfer.

DIY Literacy by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts.
I wrote about this book here and here and here. I believe the tools we will build with DIY thinking will empower students to do the work with self-made goals. This year, I’m finding places and making time for students to create bookmarks that are supported by the micro progressions, charts and demonstration notebook.

The Journey is Everything by Katherine Bomer.
The essay work Bomer speaks to is one that grows over time. It is the journey we want our kids to take as readers and writers. This year, I’m building in time to notice and notebook so ideas can grow over the year, not just in a unit of study.

To contain and support all of this new thinking we need new school supplies.
Notebooks, pens, markers, post-its. They are ready and waiting.

The old tools have strength. They are flexible and tough. Like my sandals. They serve no matter the group of students. I cherish them. But every year, I find new ideas that support and enhance. Like my running shoes, sometimes the old needs to be updated.  Sometimes new is necessary.

I look forward to both the old and the new sitting side by side.


Poetry Friday: Sara Berkeley

It’s Poetry Friday hosted by Tara Smith at A Teaching Life.


I am living in the transition time between summer living and school beginning. My pace has become less leisurely. The must dos have become more adamant about themselves. And because of this, I’ve tried to revel in the extras that will disappear soon. The time after breakfast that allows for the conversation to find a natural ending. The late into the night reading that has no fear of an early morning.

I have a list of things to do, yet I’m not rushing. Today, I am going to find that last bit of summer. Knowing it feeds me. Nourishes me to approach each school year with purpose and passion.

This morning I read Georgia Heard’s collection, The Women in this Poem, and found Sara Berkeley. I’ve been gathering courage you could say over the summer months. Now I’m close to ready, with arms full of “fresh on the morning” hope, for the school year.

The Courage Gatherer

by Sara Berkeley

With the sun too close
a loose wind catches me off guard,
dreams flock to my skirts
and cling there like a litter
I’d steal sleep to feed.
Asked exactly how I feel
I answer from the fields and summer lanes
where I have come
gathering courage.
A wing shadow strobes the lane
from time to time the future sinks
with the black doubt of people leaving me —
but hope comes out in her lovely shimmer,
her hair behind, untied,
fresh on the morning, never fully woken,
never still,
I follow with my arms full
of the songs she leaves,
all of the same brave tune.