No Words? No Problem!


Wordless picture books, believe me, are for ALL ages! In class, the preservice teachers shared wordless picture pictures in small groups. While it would seem a picture book without words would target early childhood or elementary, my students saw (and suggested!) the possibilities for middle grades and high school students. Here’s a short list of their thoughts:

Reading comprehension:

-Even without words, students sequence a story line…Great way to develop what is often referred to as a Story Mountain, where the plot is developed from problem through climax to solution…Inferencing possibilities-no limit!…the strategy of Synthesis!…Summary!…Monitoring Comprehension!  We worked all semester with Ellin Oliver Keene’s Mosaic of Thought, 2nd ED Unknown where seven reading comprehension strategies are presented. I like to save the Wordless Picture Books day for the end of the semester, after students have worked separately with each of the seven strategies (monitoring comprehension, activating schema, inference, questioning, visualizing, determining importance, synthesizing), so they see how each strategy is at work in comprehending the story line of a book with no words.


-Students could work together to sketch out a story sequence…to sketch a character map…to add words to each page…the possibilities are endless–

What I enjoy best about this day in class is the conversations in the small groups. The swapping of thoughts, the AHA moments, the laughter, the questioning…IF you teach middle or high school, wordless picture books are a wonderful resource!

138070 images images-1 images-2 images-3 images-4 images-4 images-6 images-7images-2images-1


The Shepherd’s Journal

The Shepherd’s Journal is truly the marriage of writing of the natural world and prose/poetry writing. My writing group created a Shepherd’s Journal a couple of times during winter writing retreats, so many years ago now. Here is an example from one year. Our little group emerged in part from Sunbelt Writing Project fellows; others, invited writing pals. Some of us teachers, others not. The journal is easy enough to do: students in your classroom would choose a month of the year and compose thoughts about the natural world and create a poem or passage. The shepherd, historically, and yet today in many countries, followed the natural signs of each month; lives depended upon watching closely.

To make this a lower risk writing task, have student groups work together!

To make it lower risk–have students “find” poems or passages in prose that reflect the months. Not necessarily to find a poem titled, “January,” but to find a poem or passage that creates images of that cold month that launches a new year.

Here is ours—-(Except for mine, all last names of the contributors have been removed…all rights reserved–please do not copy text; please do use the idea!)

Our Shepherds’ Journal

22 February 2003


Cold-cold-cold this month does bluster and blow

With wintry gleaming sun sharp crystal

As the icicles adorning the houses’ eaves

With snow and ice outlining each forest limb

And lonely tombstones’ epitaphs as if

To recall the Winter’s tale that January weaves.


It is the stories of the Dead we read …

The solitary voice of our hinterlands

Whose echo and countenance haunts and stalks

Under cover of dark-hearted Winter’s cloak

Our buried longings and distant dormant lives

Are revisited in the evening embers then reborn with icy morning walks.



Some February days in Alabama the soft wind’s a caress, whispering “spring, spring” on hurried, pale winter faces. Strong rains strike on tornado-dark days.   Outside my bedroom window the trees are brown tracery against gray sky, the same as January, the same as December—not a green edge of dogwood or sycamore leaf, still. Each time I take my wool winter dress coat out of the closet, I wonder: The last time? . . . before spring cleaning and the sultry months that even now—Suddenly, a 70o day!–are building steam.

Pines sing, the sun’s hot. Bright-white clouds, only their undersides gray, sail across sky deepened by just a tinge of cold, a graver blue than the skies of summer.   The surface of Lake Martin, the trees on its opposite edge, and that sky dance in a palette of silver grays and gray blues, shifting, transmuting in the now-warm, now-cold wind. Where I sit, on a rough wooden picnic table just dry enough to let us write outside, Andy’s fingers dance on the keys of his laptop. We’re sharing the picnic table top, the multiple-personality wind, the caws and honks of occasional birds and rush of passing cars woven into the sssshssshsssh of the pines. Andy speaks lines to himself, a quiet sound as writing-companionable as the waves of pinesong. Kim’s at the next table over, legs stretched out, soaking in the winter sun, the page of her writing tablet brilliant-white, Vanna White’s teeth white—in the midday winter sun. We’re alone together, in our clean-skied Lake Martin winter-into-spring.



Magical March brings warmth for which our souls long…like medicine to cure the colds of winter. March winds whip away frost, sweep away leaves, and blow in the beginning of spring, reassuring all creatures of a new season. Birds come home and begin singing us awake before the alarm clock. Lovers come together and begin kissing before breakfast. Parents prepare picnics, plant flowers, and begin working on spring projects. Kids fly kites, sail toy paper boats, and begin planning for a week out of school. Lonely souls awaken to the idea that life is about living!, and the lucky ones find a way to start.



Oh glorious days of constancy!

The fickle winds of winter

Are truly gone as April

Spreads its warmth.

The birds sing rejoicing


Songs to celebrate spring.

Reds, yellows, greens, and

Browns swoop down to

Alight on fence posts and

Preen in the warming

Glow of the sun.


The beauty of a world

Reawakening to growth—

Flowers bursting with color,

Children chattering as they

Shake off their winter’s blanket

And emerge, open and alive.


The throaty neigh of a galloping

Horse as she kicks up

Grass seeds all

Over the field.

Life, reborn and free,

Celebrating every day

With unabashed glee.



The sun shines down in streaks of gold between the castled clouds of gray.

The wind at first comes blustering, then like a mood it softly fades.

The greening of the earth begins and flowers bloom and children play,

A melody that’s soft at first bursts forth in joyful song.


Animals move into the light to warm the winter chill away

And ducks come sailing down to rest upon the glassy lake.

The forest strummed by gentle winds plays songs of celebration then

Like the skilled musician, it pauses and it plays again.


I came upon a meadow filled with lavender and white,

A delicate gown of buttercups dancing in the light

The sun shines down in streaks of gold and breezes gently sigh,

Then one good puff turned the buttercups into a million butterflies.


It’s May and all across the land the earth bursts forth in green,

And sings in celebration at the coming of the spring.



If you love the outdoors, you find reasons to be out there.

June is good enough reason.

In June, you feel new and rich and important.

And, if you have the habit of keeping a daybook, it will fill with wonders in June.


Your pen forgives and forgets the impetuous temper of spring and journeys boldly

and confidently into June—who stands as a sentinel, guarding the promise of summer.


You find words for June mornings. You say the morning sun shakes you gently and whispers you awake—

you also tell of it shouting your name, impatiently calling you into the day.

And, you take a brush and capture June’s sunlight with soft, proud, yellows in broad, lingering strokes.


Storm clouds of spring give way to fat chubby cumulus clouds

And you notice that the words in your daybook hide your cares and free fall through blue skies.

As June’s days wane, your words ride mare’s tales across the horizon.

New landscapes emerge in June, in the planned structure of gardens and in surprise-filled fields of


The words in your daybook dot the landscape of June.


You welcome, no, you need, the promise of birds in June.

You build and you fill feeders and delight that feathered friends choose your habitat to visit.

In your daybook, you write: “June 15th –a pair of cardinals seem to be warming up to me.

Still skittish, they abide my presence today…” In June, the songbirds balance your busy life.


Your June daybook memories recall moonless nights on a northern lake where lights from thousands of stars

illuminate the tree-line across the lake, and you, in a small boat, are enveloped in a warm summer night.

In your daybook you note how once in a while on these moonless nights, a shooting star would stream across

the sky, adding some movement to what seemed like a magnificent painting of the night sky.

Your only hint, you write, of the world we live in, is a few slow-moving satellites sneaking through the stars.


And, you marvel that you are not sure how it is that you are so fortunate to be out in this small boat listening

to the water gently slap its sides, and gazing up at a night sky so beautiful that it reaffirms your belief that

the best of this life cannot be earned, but is given freely to those who watch closely.


Yes, you write, if you love the outdoors, you find reasons to be out there.

And June is a good enough reason.

Pam Stockinger


July is sluggish in summer’s heat

Sun takes over the land

Grass withers and browns beneath our feet

Cats and dogs lie limp on the porch

And children toasted and tired

From long hours of play

Reluctantly wave goodbye

And run toward Mamma’s cooling treats

Flags wave across the sky

Banners of our freedom

Moon looks down upon us all

Smiles and closes another day

With a satisfied sigh.



Strong, full of fire,

August roars in.

The sun mercilessly beats down

On the sun-baked people,

Whose souls are truly touched

By the burning warmth.


The heat’s only reprieve is

the afternoon rumbling

Of thunder and rain.

The blue quickly covers the sky

Again when lazy, puffy

Clouds float toward the evening.


The parched grasses steam in

Relief as the afternoon rain passes.

The dewy moisture evaporates

Quickly as the sun takes back

Its reign.


Dogs dig in the dirt scrounging

For the cooling moisture the

Earth offers.

A somnolent twitch of

the ears or flick of the tail

Urges nosy flies on

Their way.


The only creatures truly

Active in this month are

the insects: flies, mosquitoes,

Moths, dragonflies, ants

Immune to the heat, they

Go about their business of




The stillness of a summer day gives way to season’s change,

When once again the wind returns to chase the summer heat.

The ducks come by again and pause to rest along their way,

Following the sun to where the land is still at play.


Grassy fields of golden hay dance the winter in.

The sun grows cool and chills the air as evening comes too soon.

And when the air begins to move, the forest sings again

And animals fuss about their nests beneath a sanguine moon.


New flowers bloom, their colors bright, but overnight they fade,

Like stars against the darkened sky give way to light of day.

The forest fills with orange and gold, the air is filled with leaves.

That plant their seeds within the earth until the rains of spring.


It’s fall and all across the land the earth lies down to spend

A winter waiting for the spring to bring it life again.



Once I heard one wizened say “nothing…nothing gold can stay”

Another described what’s best – Time, Friendship, or Emotion-

By sighing wistfully “Ahhhh! It was golden

Which only goes to verify the all-too-truly-true

Nothing-gold-can-stay Frostian and philosophic notion.


But then we have October turning…returning…

Revisiting earth with rolling gold a’golden…

A thousand gilded gourds and glistening maple leaves

Pilgrim geese V o’er grateful farmers -gathering ripened ears and sweetened bales

As once they harvested in ancient Autumns olden .


Samhain in mystic smoke billows up the sky from ritual

While Nature’s flames burst harvest homeward

Amid green leaf and scarlet berry whilst wanton elements

Fire and Earth and Air and Water shift shapes and

Crisp footed old Jack frost sweeps o’er morning meadows

Call All Souls for October’s closing to come forth to make our mischief merry!



Signals the year is tired and old

Tree stand bear, with no protection

Tiny rabbits scurry and cuddle

Ashes from last night’s fire grow cold

We need a spark to perk us up!

From winter’s dark depression

Inter family gathered ‘round

Table bearing tradition

Our stories fill the evening hours

And send us off to happy dreams

And restful sleep

Under Mamma’s loving quilt.



December delights in delivering closure on another year of life’s blessings. It invites the cold of winter to nestle just outside the warm circle around the fireplace. The cold teases our toes and tickles our nose—like the gentle kiss of an Eskimo. We begin getting used to layered clothing, wool socks, and warm scarves when we leave our abodes. Birds have said their goodbyes. Forest animals are moving, busy, busy, busy before harsh weather moves in. Pets are allowed inside to make a bed for cozy nights, tucking themselves beside the ones they love. Eyes of young and old begin to dance as the season’s sparkles tantalize. God sends gifts of time with family, memories of those not with us, and promises that our hope is not in vain.









Arts Integration: Resource Roundup | Edutopia


So many rich resources. Edutopia  just rocks!

Arts Integration: Resource Roundup | Edutopia.

Finding poetry in text..

I have previously posted about found poems. Found poetry can be a “safe” way to inspire confidence and motivation in student writers, for they need not compose original text, but use their interest and imaginative bent to “find” text. When visually presented with “found” or original images, the newly crafted found poem can be powerful. While searching for something else yesterday I came across a found poem that I wrote as a model for a group of my graduate students in Virginia. If any of you treasured Virginians read this blog, you may actually recall my poem.

I am a voracious reader and collector of the journals and diaries of pioneer women. Fascinated and buoyed by their strengths, their faith, their amazing abilities. The poem below originates from sentences, phrases and passages from assorted pioneer women journals and diaries. While the original words are not mine, the final product is original in its compilation and meaning.

Text can be found anywhere and everywhere! One of the latest trends in teaching comprehension is the idea of close reading. Students DO closely read when they search for words, phrases and passages to “lift” to create a found poem.


I am going with him…

I am going with him, as there is no other alternative

I was possessed with a spirit of adventure and a desire to see what was new and strange

I make sunshine out of shadows,

so are the long, unpredictable days that grip me but do not claim me

Sometimes I get away from hearing distance and fall onto the unfriendly desert and sob like a child

Wishing myself back home with friends

I have cooked so much out in the sun and the smoke

I hardly know who I am,

When I look into the little looking glass, I ask “Can this be me?”

Lips blistered and split in dry air, axle grease the only remedy

My hair dry, snarled, dirty and lifeless

The camp work done…

Evening time to school children, sing and dance and to tell stories around the campfire

Sleep is a gift

Perils along the way

We passed a lonely nameless grave on the prairie on the afternoon

Headboard at least it had

It called up a sad train of thoughts, to be buried and left alone

In so wild a country

No one to plant a flower or time to shed a tear

Over one’s grave

Deaths and graves, commonplace

Families move on, vanishing in the mists of history

Leaving behind the dead

Up at dawn, on the road by seven,

Breakfast of coffee, bacon, dry bread

Noon stop for a cold meal, coffee, beans, if lucky bacon or buffalo prepared of a morning

Fifteen miles a day, walk nearly all the way

Weather can be deadly-

Thunderstorms, lethally large hailstones, lightning, tornadoes, high winds

Intense desert heat causes wood to shrink and wagon wheels have to be soaked in rivers at night

Dust on trail two or three inches deep, fine as flour

River crossings dangerous, unseen rocks, muddy bottoms, unseen holes

Unforgiving mountains

Slow but steady progress

I have dreamed of being attacked by wolves and bears

The heart has a thousand misgivings

The mind is tortured with anxiety

I pass fresh made graves and glance at the sideboard of the wagon,

Not knowing how soon it might serve as a coffin for some one of us….

Weeping skies, and me, also weeping

I pick wildflowers on the prairie

Nature calms where the mind cannot…

I am going with him….there is no other alternative

………………pstockinger 2010

     slat-bonnet                                                                 51Cx5ttOhEL

Honoring great writing!

If you are a teacher, and seek fabulous samples of quality writing, here’s one for you. I love this blog piece (from another wordpress blogger) for four reasons: 1–The obvious–it’s simplicity and flow kept me engaged; 2-The writing is first person, and first person writing samples should be presented to students as often as you can find them; 3-It’s writing of a place—some of our best writing centers on a place–perhaps a place we know well, or a place, as in this blog entry, we anticipate with fervor, and 4–Great example of digital writing where photography speaks as loudly as words. Perhaps you will share in my delight with this link below, and find possibilities in sharing, as well, with your middle grade students.

Bog at the end of the world

50 Shades of Red

In honor of Valentine’s Day tomorrow….

Hopped over to Sherwin Williams online and whoa! MORE than 50 shades of red!Here are the 50 I chose….imagine the fun kids could have with this–pick any color–give them names.

You’ve all been to the hardware–Lowe’s, Home depot, etc…or to the paint store…where there are racks of all those paint chips with the varying shades? What if the kids assigned vocabulary words to varying shades??

Here’s my list, compliments of Sherwin Williams!

Positive Red…Show Stopper…Heartthrob…Gypsy Red…Real Red…Ablaze…Fireworks…Habenero Chile…Wild Currant…Red Bay…Red Tomato…Rave Red…Bolero…Crabby Apple…Rambling Rose…Fireweed…Canyon Clay…Red Barn…Rustic…Firebrick…Cherries Jubilee…Radish…Valentine Red (Yay!!)…Heartfelt…Pink Flamingo…Coming Up Roses…Stolen Kisses…Coral Bells…Foxy…Cajun Red…Copper Red…Rosy Outlook…Gracious Rose…Appleblossom…Bold Brick…Hopeful…Candy Apple…Cranberry Zing…Red Rose Bouquet…Watermelon Smoothie…American Rose…Red Alert…Red Raisin…Cherry Tart…Raspberry Crush…It’s the Berries…Red Baron…Campfire Blaze…Lady Love…Wild Heather

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Poetry Slam!–performance to reveal the power of poetry

Slam poetry, a blend of literature and performance that culminates in live competitions called slams, can transform students from reluctant or shy learners into passionate artists, not to mention change attitudes toward poetry, an often-disdained form of art.  Students–4th grade and up pour their passions into this activity. They spend weeks writing, revising, coaching each other, and revising again. When they are done, they perform their original work in front of their peers–reciting and using voices they may never have imagined they had.

What brings me to this post? A comment made this week by one of my preservice teacher language arts students. In an assignment that required students to recall a significant middle school language arts memory, she recalled the Poetry Slam in which she participated in the seventh grade. She sums it up better than I ever could. (Thanks, J!)

In her words:

I never knew what a poetry slam was until that day in 7th grade. Maybe that’s why it’s memorable. I mean, it kind of blew my mind. It was a blur, so much color and movement and sound, so many words and thoughts and people. But I remember truly enjoying it. The specifics don’t come to me but I remember the emotions and the contrast in the choices of poems. Some were fluffy and funny, others were profound, by the standards of 7th grade minds, and only a few were weighty and hard. But it all kind of worked. Made one big poem of poems, a giant composition we all made from everything we all brought in. I think Mrs. Hull said something at the end, tying it back to words and language arts and poetry. I think she tried too hard. I think we already sensed that it wasn’t just about words.

Six Word Memoir day!

If you click on my tag cloud you will see a previous post on the six word memoir. I used this in class today as an ice-breaker to kick off our new semester and to focus on all six language arts. I emailed students two six word memoir examples of mine, with short descriptions and they came to class to day with one of their own. The directions are below:

Six-Word Memoir Challenge

In the 1920’s, someone bet Ernest Hemingway that he could not write a story in six words. He wrote:

For Sale: Baby shoes, never used.

He won the bet. Since then, the six-word challenge has seen many forms, most recently today, the six-word memoir.

Your task, to prepare for our first class meeting, is to consider the Six Language Arts, and reflect on how you experienced them all-at-a-time, all-at-once in your elementary or middle years of schooling. If you cannot recall an event that incorporated all six, come as close as you can to describing a powerful literacy memoir, in six words.

NOTE: If you frequent youtube, you can just search for six-word memoir and have lots of examples—not of six-word memoirs about literacy, but examples of the six-word memoir activity.

Task: Write a Six-Word Memoir on your best memory of using the all of the SIX LANGUAGE ARTS in school. Bring to our first class meeting on January 8th.

Here is mine:   “Dancing” a book still moves me.

 At an arts workshop, in which I was a member of a teaching team, our dance teacher would gather us in a circle, then read a picture book to us, and in that circle we would chatter back and forth offering suggestions to how we might “show” or “dance” a particular scene. We would vote on the best idea and incorporate it into the story. When done, we would “dance the story” as the dance teacher reread it aloud. This activity used speaking, reading, writing, listening,  viewing, and representing. How did it use writing? Well, depending on the book and how we chose to “dance” it, we would sometimes “draw” words in the air.

And, I have another:  The ponds were our year-long classroom.

 The school I attended in grades K-6 was set in a wooded area. Six ponds were within easy  walking distance. We walked to and from the ponds, no matter the season. We learned about  woodland flora and fauna, as we walked along. We collected polliwogs, frogs, garter snakes, toads, leaves, stones, etc. We observed changes in seasons. We also observed through the eyes of scientists, artists, mathematicians, poets, etc. We talked, drew pictures, painted, sang songs, wrote stories and factual books, and basically learned so very much in such authentic ways. The pond experiences of my early years greatly influenced how I taught school when I taught public school for 20 years, and certainly still influence how I teach preservice and inservice teachers.

AFTER CLASS today, one of my students told me that she was excited to see this assignment because for both of her grandparents’ 8oth birthdays, her family presented them with an album of “six word memoirs”. Each family member wrote as many six word memoirs as they could think of as they looked back on their years spent with the two wonderful grandparents. They compiled them all into albums.  I cannot think of a gift of greater treasure, can you!! (Thanks, Julie, for sharing this!)