…Start out Well

How do you Start your school year Well? An NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) shares how she starts them out writing, right away. Read her piece and MORE at Literacy & NCTE, the official blog of National Council of Teachers of English…

Starting Well

Back to School with Teachers And Writers Magazine!

My email newsletter came today from Teachers & Writers Magazine–the online zine of Teachers & Writers Collaborative. It is loaded with wonderful and imaginative ideas for teaching your writers. You can subscribe to this wonderful magazine (I think I have mentioned it somewhere before on this blog) for free–however, T&W Collaborative is sustained by donations.

T&W publishes Teachers & Writers Magazine as a resource for teaching the art of writing in kindergarten through college and also in non-classroom settings. The online magazine presents a wide range of ideas and approaches, as well as lively explorations of T&W’s mission: “educating the imagination.”

Here’s a taste of what they offer you in the Back to School edition. Visit  http://www.teachersandwritersmagazine.org to sign up for this great magazine, and share with your colleagues!

From the Aug 2016 edition (but also check out the archives for great ideas and lesson plans):

Travel Poetry

Just Write—a daily ritual in a middle school classroom…Also loaded with good writing tip starters.




National Poetry Month

Every April, I highlight National Poetry Month and encourage teachers to take full advantage of all of the amazing resources available to you on the Academy of American Poets website,   Caution! You can get lost in the good stuff on this site :0)

Of special interest to teachers, check this out: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/materials-teachers.

Poets.org is also on youtube and twitter. A twitter feature I especially like is the April highlight called Teach this Poem. If you twitter, you can link to a poem and add YOUR great ideas for teaching.

Poetry lives in and emerges from our souls. To me, every month is poetry month, as it is my favorite genre. Each April I am grateful that poets.org encourages everyone to celebrate how poetry touches and enriches our lives.

I hope you will visit and explore this wonderful site!

Teacher? Writer? Then check out this resource…

Teacher & Writers Collaborative supports creative writing programs at community sites and schools in NYC and surrounding communities. They rely upon funding from individuals, corporations, foundations and government to continue their amazing work. They also–which really brings me to this post–publish a wonderful digital newsmag, Teachers & Writers Magazine which is free to you and an amazing resource. Subscription to their digital mag is free (through they would love your contributions).

Follow the link above and see what the January issue offers, and while you are there, explore the archives. You will not be disappointed!

Brown Girl Dreaming…


..catching up on some blog entries….

Brown Girl Dreaming, the award-winning novel by Jacqueline Woodson, is so many things to me. As a teacher, I see the countless possibilities for deep discussion, thoughtspots for writing, endless possibilities for visual and emotional expression. As a writer, I am invited into the genre of memoir in powerful ways.

I had recently purchased BGD when I was coincidentally asked to visit an Encountering Cultures class at the college, to share my thoughts on keeping writer’s notebooks. I’ve been writing snippets for several years about my two grandmothers; BGD quenched my thirst to continue my memoir piece on my grandmothers. I shared snippets of my memoir with the Encountering Cultures class and invited them to choose a powerful place in BGD and write. They did; their sharings were amazing. BGD is memoir at its best.

I assigned BGD to my preservice literacy students last semester. They met in book club groups to share the novel. They brought responses to their groups—an open-ended assignment for which I encouraged their imaginations to soar.

While you cannot enjoy their descriptions (so compelling) of their responses, you can view them below. Without question, they were as captivated by this wonderful novel as I.


Brown Girl Dreaming Animoto

Left Brain/Right Brain Speak…


Left Brain:

Hey! You know me…I’m the guy who helps you analyze stuff. I devour facts. Just the facts M’am. Not big into imagining–if I can see it, I might believe it…if it makes sense, that is. I’m your planner extraordinaire! I help you write all those lists and we check them off twice. I thrive on order and familiarity. Change? Okay if not chaotic–has to fit, make sense. Things need organizing? I’m your guy. Control! Neatness! Order! Logic! That’s ME!

Right Brain:

Hey! You know passionate, emotional ME! I’m the guy who leads you to that art museum to dwell on all that beauty. I urge you to pick up that paint brush, to fill that notebook with sketches, to take that woods walk just to feel the crunch of the twigs beneath your feet, to wiggle your toes in the sand of that beach and think of nothing beyond how great it feels. I’m your creative SELF–I’m all the colors of the Earth just waiting to be discovered by you. Intuitive, Imaginative, Boundless, Emotional ME!!

Teachers—do you balance your teaching styles? Are you a left and right brain teacher? Do you encourage the creative spirits as well as demand the logical-mathematical responses from your students? Do you allow for many avenues along which students can show you what they know? (Thanks Ashley–for the L/R Brain image!)

Learning by Making: Agency by Design and the Rise of Maker-Centered Education

I’m so happy to see such an increase in “making,” and less emphasis solely on verbal-linguistic modes to reveal knowledge and comprehension. Simultaneous use of left and right brains  results in powerfully creative and imaginative results. Just love it.

Learning by Making: Agency by Design and the Rise of Maker-Centered Education.

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

IMG_1062 IMG_1063 IMG_1064 IMG_1065 IMG_1066 IMG_1067 IMG_1068 IMG_1069 IMG_1070


Tell Me…

So, today in my Hope College class  of preservice teachers we engaged in the Tell Me strategy to express thoughts about the first two chapters in our course text, Mosaic of thought: The power of comprehension strategy instruction, Ed 2, by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmerman.. The teaching profession is “hot” today with strategies to help students to comprehend “complex texts,” and for the students in the class, Mosaic is indeed a complex text. They respond individually to me through Double Entry Journals, but the Tell Me strategy allows them a structure within which to mingle their voices in small groups–to share their thoughts and to listen to the thoughts of their classmates.

I engage them in use of strategies they will eventually use themselves as teachers. Tell Me is socially-driven, which is so beneficial to middle schoolers. So, here is how the strategy plays out:

There are three “Sharings” of focused thoughts about the text they read (in this case, first two chapters of our class text).

First Sharing: Enthusiasms   What rocked you? Made you think, wow, that’s cool. Got you excited?

Second Sharing: Puzzlements, Wondering, Difficulties  What places in the text made you stop and question–what’s this about? Or, were there statements or passages with which you disagreed? Were there passages or concepts that you didn’t quite get?

Third Sharing: Connections  How did you connect to your lived experiences? To other things you have read? To life, in schools or otherwise?

They worked in small groups, each member contributing to all three Sharings. Then, we came back together as a whole group to share.

I cannot take credit for this strategy–I have adapted it over time from an unknown source. All I do know, is it works!! I hope you give it atry!



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)