Sparks of Creativity and Workshop Delights

A beautiful August day ended with a summer evening workshop with my Mom and Daughter friends. The promised goal–to show the many ways we can make books and booklets to hold words from our writings. As always, when I offer and show suggestions, I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of creativity. Thank you to all for the inspiration and friendship. Here are some pics of hearts to hands— 

The most treasured gifts are from the heart. My heart is full–at the end of the evening I was gifted with these treasures brought from my friends’ homes. I couldn’t wait to show them all to my husband. Here they are—simple gifts that mean so much to me 💕 


More “cake baking” with Synthesis strategy…

For my post of last semester, check out Baking a Synthesis Cake… on this blog.

This week my current group of preservice teachers revisited familiar texts to synthesize meanings they created from close, deep reading. Following the cake baking strategy, which requires the cook to know what kind of cake is desired before s/he can compile the ingredients, the teachers did the same with their meaning creations. They had rich discussions and decided as small groups at least one powerful meaning created from their chosen text–that was the “cake,”–and the “ingredients” became significant pieces lifted from the text that helped them create meaning. As always, the group work and the opportunity to “create” visuals added to the powerful engagement in the project. Here are their visuals and a list of the texts from which they chose.

“The Flowers,” by Alice Walker          “Salvador, Late or Early,” by Sandra Cisneros       “Eleven,” by Sandra Cisneros

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Visual/Emotional Responses x 2

Again, I had my preservice teachers collaborate to create visuals that portrayed emotional connections to “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros–a short text about a young girl who experiences her eleventh birthday with hurt and pain as she is wrongly accused (by the teacher and a few classmates) of leaving a raggedy red sweater too long in the cloakroom. The short story is powerful–so much so that invariably a few of my students choose to use this short text with various strategic teaching lessons in their field classrooms.

Here are the visuals they created from “Eleven,” and the link below is to my post of last spring–amazing how art can reveal what words cannot.

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When Visuals are Just Right…

The text, “Eleven,” can be found in the following collection of short stories by Sandra Cisneros..available on Amazon or BN, or your favorite online resource: Unknown

She also has a fabulous website


Around the World in Nine Photos

This is the second set of ‘Round the World Photos I have reblogged. What writing possibilities they offer!! ENJOY!

The Blog

Do you love stories from around the world? Check out the work of the following nine photographers on and allow your imagination to take you away…

Nathanael‘s monochrome photo of the Star Lite Motel in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, conjures images of wayward romances and clandestine meetings. We loved the marquee’s message, “Forgive and forget its human to err.” (sic) which offers an almost haunting absolution. For more of Nathanael’s work, check out his blog, G’Nat’s Eye View.

Photo by Nathanael Photo by P. Nathanael Gough

The image below, by UK photographer Andy Hooker, had us at hello. We love how the sign matches the woman’s red coat and how her right leg is in crisp focus just as her stride reaches the “h” above her head. Check out more of Andy’s work at LensScaper.

Photo by Andy Hooker Photo by Andy Hooker

Bao Pham‘s photo of this

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YES to Arts Integration!

Arts Integration

Great article (located on a cool resource website The Edvocate) on the how’s and why’s for integrating the arts across the K-12 curriculum, a topic of passion for me. I especially love this statement from the article:

Why does art integration work?

The science behind arts integration is solid. Simply put, more of the brain is at work when the arts are part of the learning process, strengthening attentiveness, reaction time and comprehension. There is also plenty of research to suggest that arts education methods improve long-term retention. In other words, what the students learn through arts integration will stay in their memories for longer than that year’s standardized test. When students are allowed academic expression through artistic means, like drawing a picture or writing a song, the information is embedded in their minds. Long-term learning and practical application of knowledge are both supported when the arts are integrated.  (Matthew Lynch, 2014)




..and this is why I write, why I sketch, why I play with words and images

…a quote from a mentor who inspires me. Her book, A Trail Through Leaves (a gift to me from a treasured friend) is one I revisit from time to time, and upon each visit am startled by wonderings and images new to me, though I have held this book closely for so many years…



“A long-running journal is an invaluable document, because it records something other than the time-and-goal-dominated anxiety that drives us through our days. We can tease out of it evolving evidence of sub-lives, parallel existences, omens of shifts that won’t be realized for decades, recurrences of themes glimpsed periodically through the years….The trail of words and pictures that I am leaving is more complete than most people’s, but it is still a trail of tips and ice bergs, little slices of light and color that are all I can capture of the big masses moving underneath. But threading through are moments of the ordinary-made-extraordinary by the simple act of choosing and isolating them.”

                                                                                                Hannah Hinchman

                                                                                           A Trail Through Leaves: The  Journal As a Path to Place




Arts Integration: Resource Roundup | Edutopia


So many rich resources. Edutopia  just rocks!

Arts Integration: Resource Roundup | Edutopia.

“Baking” a Synthesis cake…


cake analogy for synthesis strategy

So…we used the cake baking strategy (click link above to open) in class today. Students had choices of a few texts to use—texts we had previously used in class, texts even referred to on this blog: “Eleven,” and “Salvador, Late or Early” [Sandra Cisneros], and “The Flowers,” by Alice Walker. I try to model what I would have them do as teachers. So, for the synthesis activity, we worked backwards, as I would do with middle school students. We have followed Mosaic of Thought, 2nd ed this semester—by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmerman. The text introduces seven strategies for teaching reading comprehension (monitoring your thinking, activating prior knowledge and experiences, inferring, sensory responses, determining what is important (as opposed to what is just plain interesting), asking good questions—for students be happy they ask any!, and lastly, synthesizing. Synthesis is the last strategy introduced because in essence, it really is a blending of all of the other six strategies. It is NOT summarization. It is more than a reporting of just the facts, ma’am. It’s the fact plus so much more. But that “so much more,” is difficult to retrieve for many students because it takes…work. Tenacity. And, lots of practice before it becomes second nature. And even then, the text makes all the difference. I can tell you for sure that there are some texts that leave me saying…huh??? I have to work hard at them. So, to introduce practice in synthesis as a strategy, I ask students to choose among three texts that they are already familiar with. This provides a comfort zone of sorts. No need to do a “first” read. In the cases of the three text choices, all students have participated, at a minimum, in a second reading as they used the texts for other purposes. They worked in teams. An option, for sure, and sometimes you will need to see what a student can do alone, but for this initial learning experience I wanted the students to collaborate and hash over their thinking. I wanted and they needed the dialogue. I suggested they begin at the end and work back. So, I asked them first to consider and agree upon what the author’s message, intent, purpose was for their chosen text. And, as a class, we agreed there could be more than one message, intent, purpose. This would be, as in the analogy: the cake.  They then had to decide what “ingredients” helped them to determine their author purpose. What in the text led them to understanding? Below are some team results. They got it. Not only did they get it, but I listened in on fabulous dialogue.  At close of class, they presented their “synthesis cakes.” What I think they found pretty compelling was that of the teams that chose like articles, every message was either different (but correct!), or if same message, arrived at uniquely. 
As a “writing” person, I do not mean to minimize the power of writing with my last few blog entries, but I cannot emphasize enough the power, as well, of visually representing and following up with oral presentation. If team work was involved, yet another language bonus.

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