Writing Like a Third Grader


#sol- Writing Like a Third Grader

August 23, 2016

Today I was humbled (again). We are in the part of the writing unit where I am supposed to introduce the grade three narrative writing checklist to the students. We looked at a sample third grade piece of writing and we discussed which parts should be rated “not yet”, “starting to”, or “yes!”. It was easy to go through and find proof of our assessment. Then came the hard part. We were each to turn to our most recent writing and self-assess it. We looked critically at our writing and searched for proof of our ratings.

As their teacher, I felt it only fair to look at my own writing through this lens. Keep in mind that I am many years past third grade. There are 12 criteria, yet in only three areas did I rate a “yes!” (and they were in punctuation and spelling). While I talked with my students about the need to set high standards for ourselves, and not talk ourselves into overrating, it was still humbling. Okay, so this piece in my school writing notebook was written for this unit, it was not writing I did for myself or for my blog, but still… I am asking them to do hard work!

It is in moments like this that I remember the reasons that I am a teacher who writes. Today’s lesson filled me with empathy for the writers who have so many goals they do not know what to work on most or first. I also understand the writers who see the end goal as being so far away from where they are today. I also face the challenge of continuing to work hard to improve a piece, even though the first draft was what you may have considered your best, or good enough. I love being able to talk honestly with my students about how hard it is to be a writer and today they got a close look at my checklist, to see firsthand that their teacher is working on goals too.

Tuesday Treats- Some Change Is Hard to Accept


#sol- Tuesday Treats- Some Change Is Hard to Accept

August 16, 2016

Almost a year and a half ago I decided I had to make a change to be a better teacher. I knew that as a teacher of writers I should be a writer, but my efforts until then had been haphazard at best. March 2015 I finally joined in the March Slice of  Life Challenge, even though I had been reading and commenting before. After that crazy month I decided I would continue and slice weekly, and I have. Some writing is better than none I decided. In the summers I have participated in Teachers Write (since its inception) and the summer is when I often make better use of a writer’s notebook too. Last January Kathleen Sokolowski wrote a great post on TWT calling on us all to be leading the way to raise the profile of teachers as writers. I joined the Voxer group, wrote some more, led a PD about teacher-writers, but still- find writing hard! In March I sliced again for 31 days. I am not a quick writer (and let’s not even talk about my lack of keyboarding skills). I am not a creative writer. I do not feel particularly called to be a writer. I enjoy it well enough, but to be honest I often write because I know I should, not because I really feel the need. But still I write (not every day- I did when it was a sticky note’s worth, so I should at least return to that).

Here’s the thing- I love reading other people’s writing, so I make deals with myself. I tell myself I can not read any slices until I have written my own. I reward myself on Tuesdays to keep going. One way I have rewarded myself is with a delicious dinner on “Slice Night”. Last year it became a habit to stop off at the nearby Japanese restaurant for sushi on Tuesdays. Sometimes  I would eat there and start to think about my post while munching away. Other times I would bring the sushi home and get a start while devouring the tasty treats. Last spring I found out the restaurant would be relocating in August. Sadly, when I returned to Kuala Lumpur on July 22nd it was already gone- no last celebratory meal for me. Somehow now I need to start a new tradition for Tuesdays, so tonight I am brewing a cup of cammomile tea as a reward for writing and a treat to savor as I read the words of others.

#pb10for10 (late again) Mentor Texts for 3rd Grade Writing Units


Apologies for posting late- students started on the 9th and I knew I should write early, but life got in the way!

This year I was inspired by my week at TCRWP’s June Writing Institute and Stacey Shubitz’s fab new book, Craft Moves. I want to improve my use of mentor texts to help teach writers this year, so I have selected two main mentor texts for each unit we will teach this year in third grade. My plan this year is to also use these same books (and others) to teach grammar through mentor sentence study. I tried to use some old and new favorites and include different perspectives. Please let me know which titles you would add!


Personal Narrative:

Come On, Rain


Last Stop on Market Street


(also Yard Sale)


These will all be used within the first few weeks of school and will also spark conversations about books being windows and mirrors.

Information Books:

Deadliest Animals!


We had the opportunity to Skype with Melissa Stewart last year and the students got so much out of it! Her website is amazing too!

The Slug (new to me, thanks to Stacey!)


(also Coral Reefs and A Rock Is Lively, because how can you resist the way these two put words on the page). )



Persuasive Letters, Editorials, Speeches, and Petitions:

Our science unit at this time is Ecosystems, so the last two link with that as well.

One Word from Sophia


A Pig Parade Is a Terrible Idea


(also Dear Greenpeace, No Monkeys, No Chocolate)1169669.gif



Old Elm Speaks


Poems in the Attic


(also not a picture book Love That Dog)











Fairy Tales/Intro to Fantasy

Cheers to unexpected twists on traditional fairy tales (yes, we read the traditional too).

Prince Cinders


Clever Jack Takes the Cake


The year is only 4 days old and we have already shared at least 6 picture books. I look forward to sharing these 10 (oops 15, plus one that is not a picture book) as our main writing mentor texts as the year goes on. Please do let me know if there are others I should add to our third grade list!



#sol- Wahoo!

August 9, 2016

The first day of school (today) was filled with so many highlights. It was nervewracking waiting for all the students to arrive (you’d think after ALL these years I would be calm), but once they arrived it was go, go, go. We spent time building community, learning names, sharing read alouds (The Story of Fish and Snail and Ish  helped us talk about our goals for the year). We watched a short video (of Colby Sharp proclaiming his love of reading) and then I might have jumped up on a table to extol my own love of reading too. We talked a bit about what math is, and why people read and write. We talked about the kind of group we want to be.

At the end of the day we got together to share some of what we had learned this first day of third grade, we talked about what we would share at home, and hugs or high fives were exchanged. It’s going to be a great year, but phew am I tired!

#sol-Today I Remembered


August 2, 2016

Today I Remembered

Today I remembered why I decided to go in to school for the last few days of my break. Those days in my quiet classroom gave me time to reflect on the changes I wanted to make in the layout, the things I needed to start looking for (read alouds for the first days, “getting to know you” activities, new organizational systems and more).

Today was the first teacher work day and I was happy to be there, but also happy to not be seeing my classroom for the first time, happy to not be jetlagged, happy to have already have started activating my school brain. Our day was full of meetings, with short bursts of time to spend time socializing and catching up. The morning was a whole school “assembly” introducing new faculty and new initiatives. In the afternoon we had time to get to know our new principal, our colleagues, and a more in depth view of curriculum office work completed recently. We have a new principal and it was clear that she knew the value of both the social and the work. We are lucky to have five teacher work days, so although we never have enough classroom preparation time we know we have some.

Today I remembered that I am the kind of person who needs transition time, so the days before everyone else was there was time well spent, even if I did not accomplish much.

One of the messages we kept getting today was that we should be all that we are. To me this means accepting where we are and looking to where we want to be. Reading back over this I can see many reminders for me as I plan the first days of school. There will be students who also need that ease in time, while others will hit the ground running. There will be plenty who enter jetlagged, some who need the time to socialize first.

A week from today is our first day with students and by then I will be ready!

#sol Mentors


July 26, 2016


I started working in my classroom yesterday. As I consulted our schedule for the week of teacher work days that begin next Tuesday I saw that a lot of time was taken up by meetings, so I made a decision to work short days this week. I like to have a slow start to the school year, because I want to take the time to really think about the new year.

This summer I was fortunate enough to attend lots of professional development, both live and virtual. I also made a point to do plenty of professional reading. As I tried to synthesize it all in my head I decided it came down to passionate mentors. Wherever I was this summer I was inspired by passion.

As I sat in my classroom this morning I was looking at new ways to set up the room and I kept asking myself what these mentors would suggest. As I typed up the text from the first mentor text we will study in our narrative writing unit I heard Stacey Shubitz’s voice in my head-pushing me to find the power moves the author is making that I can teach to my future students. As I pull ideas to use in the first days of the new school year I really feel these mentors in the room with me. I love having the time to let all the ideas swirl around before the busy days of actually teaching start. I printed out book covers of books that I read this summer to create the first book door of the year- authors and illustrators are powerful mentors.  I have yet to unearth last year’s plan book-the nitty gritty of planning will come soon enough, for now I am enjooying hearing the voices of others in the room with me.

Tomorrow I get to meet up with more mentors- students from my last year’s class are coming in to help clean up and organize the classroom. From them I will get to learn what books they loved this summer and how they had fun. Their energy and enthusiasm will inspire me to make this year the best one yet. Counting down the days until I get to meet my new class!

#sol Packing and Unpacking


Packing and Unpacking

I am a lucky person and I know it. I have lived all over the world and as a result, I have traveled a fair bit. Here’s the thing- I have never mastered packing. Not packing for moves or packing for trips. I am sure that some of this is learned helplessness- I do not enjoy packing, so I do not work at it. My usual  m.o. is to start a list for longer trips (I just decided to not delete my most current list from my phone as it could be useful AFTER I found I had recreated almost the same list in another note on my phone). I generally do not pack until hours before departure, which is really ridiculous when you consider all the stress I experience from my worries that I will have forgotten something (I usually will frantically text a friend before departure asking what I might have forgotten).

This summer I had a long term plan. I was going to be away from home for just over 6 weeks. My plan was to pack my carry on with what I would need and put that inside my checked bag. I was going to carry my liquids, a few books, and my computer in a backpack. Every time I travel I have bag stress. I am never satisfied with the purse/bag I will take- I only want to take one and I want it to be everything: casual, not slobby, big enough to hold necessities without being too heavy, and the list goes on and on. The day before I was leaving town I admired a friend’s bag, only to find out she bought it right near where I live. Being the procrastinator that I am I had not started packing for my late night departure and I figured I needed some errands to fill my day, so off I went. I tried out various versions of the “healthy back bag”. I have to admit I am swayed by color, so purple it was!


Hello! It is not fashionable, but so practical, and that is me anyway- my first time traveling without bag envy.

This summer I have had to unpack 10 times! Only at my long stay place (my mom’s in Boston) did I use both suitcases. I leave for home tomorrow and I know how eager I am to be home by the fact that I started packing yesterday. After arranging things the ways I wanted I weighed my bigger bag-53 pounds. Now I know I could redistribute things to get more of the weight in my carry on, but I rebelled. All summer I have said “no thanks” to  arcs (advance reader copies) and autographed books available at ILA and nErDcampMI. I saved my book purchases for professional books I can not get in KL. I bought some clothes but did not buy shoes, shampoo, or anything too heavy.  Last night I was tired and cranky and decided that I was going to pay extra for a second checked bag. I decided I would buy a smallish duffle which would be a good purchase anyway for long weekends (and it takes up no space when empty). Now today I am regretting saying no to all those arcs and autographed books, but as I prepare to pack for the eleventh time this summer I am off to fill my bag with a few more things *cough*, I may buy some consolation books… and it is still the day before I leave!

Quite enough practice packing and unpacking for awhile!