Monthly Archives: March 2016

What I Have Learned #sol16 Day 31 of 31


What I Have Learned

This is my second year completing the SOLC and it is time to reflect. Last year I was more prepared going in- I had lists of ideas and had mentally planned some slices. I meant to draft some slices to hold in reserve for days I ran short of time or ideas, but that never happened. This year I had the same intention, but again never drafted until after a long day. Last year I invited my class to join in, this year I did the same. This year I volunteered to be a part of the “Welcome Wagon” commenting on new slicers’ slices, even though I felt quite new myself.

Here is some of what I have learned…

  • As Michelle Haseltine said so wisely (probably slightly misquoting her here): Just show up and write. I learned that I am not a good planner aheader- I think of slices all during the day, but when I sit down to write usually a whole new idea comes out of my fingers, usually not even something I knew I was thinking about writing.
  • I am starting to look at life differently- everything is more interesting when you look with your writer’s eyes.
  • We all have so much in common. I love learning more about other people (and as a result, more about myself) by reading slices.
  • My students are amazing- some sliced daily, some quite often, and some not at all, but I feel like I know the slicers even better after this month.
  • There is never not enough time to write a little. Some days I surprised myself by squeezing in some writing (and commenting). It is a choice I have to make (although my reading life has suffered a bit).
  • I am soooo excited that this summer I will have the opportunity to attend the June Writing Institute at Teachers College. I know I have so much more to learn. This year I have been using the Units of Study for the first time and I am learning so much about writing and hope to pass a fraction of that on to my students. I can’t wait to take this next step!
  • I will keep slicing on Tuesdays and look forward to learning more about writing from the amazing community brought together by The Two Writing Teachers. Thank you all for your commitment to writing and helping us all improve!

Bookstores #sol16 Day 30 of 31



Today was a travel day- I flew from Chiang Mai to Bangkok (if you were expecting me to talk about my cooking course, there was a little vacation induced error on my part, so it did not happen).

I arrived at my fancy hotel by 2:45 and after dropping off my bag I was ready to explore. Truthfully I had done a tiny bit of research about the area near my hotel before coming, so I knew that a bookstore was nearby. In Chiang Mai I saw no fewer than four bookstores, which amazed me, but their selection of children’s books in English was limited, so I was eager to explore a larger store. I walked to the “sky train” figured out how to buy a ticket and rode the one stop to the mall where the bookstore awaited me. Kinokuniya is a Japanese book store with branches all over the world and I visit the KL branch almost every week. I was eager to see what they had in stock here. Happily many of the books there were not covered in plastic, so I could actually look inside them.

I had fun watching children shopping for books. Two brothers collected a huge pile of books and were in the process of finding out how much they would be spending in pounds when their father came over and squashed their dreams. He limited them to three books, although I later overheard him trying to get his 11-year-old son to “branch out” and “not waste his whole life on fantasy books.” Quietly I thought the father should be thrilled that his son wanted to read so much. I saw another father help his daughter ask where they could find dolphin books and then sit down to read the first chapter of Charlotte’s Web.

As for me, I found books I had been looking for and books I decided to add to our collection for our space unit. It was the perfect way to relax and although my souvenirs may be unconventional I know 17 students will look on them with eager eyes.


Tomorrow I can do some of the more traditional sightseeing.

The One About Relaxing #sol16 Day 29 of 31


The One About Relaxing

I find when I am on vacation out of town I feel really guilty doing nothing. I figure I paid to be somewhere new, so I need to spend as much time as possible seeing the sights. Today broke that pattern.

I got a call in the morning from the Thai Farm Cooking School. I had emailed them late last night to see if they had a space in a class before I leave town. A friend who used to live in Thailand recommended the course and I have seen so many wats in the last few days that it was time for a change of pace. It turns out that they did have a space for tomorrow, but they only hold your spot until noon unless you pay, so that gave me the impetus to get up and moving. I planned to go there to pay and then wander over to the Chaing Mai Women’s Correctional Institution where they train some of the women to be masseuses (this is Thailand after all) to see if I could get a massage (yes, another one). I found both places with relative ease, but had to wait two hours before my massage, so I sat down in the attached restaurant for some brunch (Pad Thai and iced honey lemon juice). I knew when I left my hotel that I might have some down time, so I brought some school work and a notebook (I wrote about my ex-husband’s mother whose birthday was today- she was such a great person and I miss her), so the time passed quickly.

The massage (all two hours of it) was great! Not a fancy place, but clean, spacious, and she did a great job. I might have even dozed off twice. I stopped off at an organic tea and coffee shop on my way home for some iced tea and spent what was left of the afternoon reading.

I then planned dinner- knowing that tomorrow night I would be eating leftovers from my cooking course I wanted a “local” experience. I looked online and settled for Arun Rai (also known as Aroon Rai) an open air cafe specializing in Northern Thailand cuisine.


This sign made me laugh. 


I had the omni present papaya salad and tasty local sausage.


Happily this left me with just enough room to grab a mango with sticky rice on the street. I paid less than $5 for everything.

Tonight will be an early night. I will be picked up by the cooking school at 8:30 and look forward to another edible adventure. I think I am getting the hang of this relaxation thing!

Panya Project #sol16 Day 28 of 31


Panya Project

Today’s plan was a bit of a mystery. My friend asked me if I would like to come along as they visited the permaculture farm/community her partner’s son had founded. Not knowing anything about permaculture I said yes, as it sounded like an adventure. It turns out that his son is involved in projects all over the world, but this had been one of his first. It wasn’t until I got home that I looked up permaculture- here is what I learned.

It was such a beautiful place. It was impressive to see all of these people from diverse backgrounds coming together over a project they really believed in. Many of the people there were volunteers, some long term, a few are paid a stipend. The variety of activity was interesting, especially since today was a “chill day” as a course had just ended. It was amazing to see all that grows there, even though it is so dry right now and they do not have much water for irrigation. There were three small children there and we wondered about the layer of complexity having children adds- both in terms of the time and energy the children must take away from their parents’ work there to the extra complication of having small children around a constant building site.

We were lucky to get a tour and saw the original building, including a kitchen, teaching area, and library. We saw new buildings, gardens, the bathroom, the water filtration system, and more. The day was hot, but everyone was busy outside. The small reservoir had dried up, so we were told about the limited water supply they would have until a few weeks after the rains begin in May (a few weeks because the water system has to be flushed out at first).

This reminded me of project the art teacher at my former school was involved in and I sent him some pictures. It was inspiring to see this project and it made me want to learn more- one of the very best things about travel! To learn more about this project click here.

adobe bricks.jpg

adobe bricks being sun dried



looking in the window.jpg

A new building being made- view from the window



new building in progress.jpg



yummy looking pineapple



Look at that carrot!




The bathroom.jpg

The bathroom- much less smelly than outhouses I am used to- rice husks thrown in after use. 



pizza oven.jpg

A pizza oven- pizza can cook in 90 seconds. 



layers of building materials.jpg

This area of a wall was chipped away because people climbed on it.









Night Market- sol16 Day 27 of 31


Night Market

My friend and her daughter were going to meet me for the Sunday Night Market near my hotel. I wondered where it would be because I had done a fair bit of walking, but had not seen this market yet on “the walking street”- in fact I had not seen a walking street.

It turns out that the market springs up at about 5:30, at which point the main road becomes pedestrian only. I love night markets as there is always a specialness to them because you have to make an effort to get to them- they are not there waiting for you at any time. We walked the full length up one side and my friend’s daughter bought a few shirts, socks, stress balls, socks, and some postcards. At the far end we stopped for dinner- Pad Thai for two of us and vegetarian fried rice. Making the trek back my friend bought a pair of pants, but I came away empty handed. By now the market was crowded and the sunn had set, so it was abit cooler. After I left them I grabbed a mango sticky rice for dessert and sat down to an hour long foot massage as my reward for all the walking in the heat. All is well in Chiang Mai!


Colorful fabric. 


Cushions I want for my low table in my classroom. 


Many tools for massage- I should have bought some


One of the many wats (this one undergoing renovation). 


Spring Break, I Love You! #sol16 Day 26 of 31


Spring Break, I Love You!

Today is the first day of Spring Break and I am ready for a whole lot of nothing! Today I flew to Chiang Mai, Thailand where I will be until Thursday. A friend and her family are here too, so we will do some things together, but I will also have lots of alone time. I plan to fill it with walking the city, eating good food, getting super cheap massages (about $4/hour), and reading. I have to do a bit of school work, but will limit that! Together we will visit a permaculture farm (owned by my friend’s partner’s son) and maybe go to an elephant reserve.

On Thursday, I fly to Bangkok because Friday and Saturday I will attend a conference led by Ron Ritchhart (of Visible Thinking fame) about developing cultures of thinking. I will catch up with a friend who lives in Bangkok as well.

Now, I have checked in to my hotel room and a ceiling fan is swirling the hot, still air, and I am so happy to be on Spring Break! Forgive me for writing small the next few days!

Writing Rocks! #sol16 Day 25 of 31


Writing Rocks!

The last day before Spring Break was bound to be busy. We changed up our schedule and after sharing Ancient Civilizations projects (some in Mindcraft, others on paper- whether posters or booklets) the students planned their end of unit writing on demand. I reminded them that they had learned a lot in the unit and had many more stories inside them that were waiting to come out. I read them the prompt (really just a reminder that they were writing a fictional story) and we talked about a few ways they could plan. The students had about 15 minutes to plan and it was amazing to see them independently using strategies we had used in the unit (including story booklets, storytelling to a partner, trying out leads, and more). They left their plans on their desk and then went off to recess. Upon returning we watched a play by another class.

As we returned to the classroom I reminded them that they would have up to one hour to write and could use any of the tools in the classroom to help them. I reminded them that when they finished they could revise and edit right away or work on something else and come back to the piece before the deadline. I spent the hour observing them and noticed so much. Some children looked at their plan a lot, others did not. One student lost his plan (argh!)- I still do not know how that happened. Some students consulted dictionaries, personal word walls and thesauruses. Some took breaks from writing to revise and edit, while others reread their work when they were stuck. One student who finds organizing her ideas challenging finished fairly quickly and was involved in major revision including lots of chopping and changing. I told her she could recopy her work if she had time AND thought it would help her work (she ended up doing that, and proudly turned in both drafts. Everyone was fully engaged for at least 40 minutes. A few wrote right up until the end (writing across 7 pages!). Every student seemed to love their new piece and they wanted to share. After hearing a few read their work aloud I was bowled over by the progress they have made. Their stories were more complex, yet more clear than the pre-assessment writing. They had a better handle on story structure and were crafting more purposefully.

At the end of the day we were headed to a fourth-grade class for a writing share. I told the students they could share their published piece from the unit or their assessment work and about half chose each. The energy and enthusiasm they had for this sharing time was impressive in the waning moments of the school day. Today was definitely a day where writing rocked in 3EV!

Book Crazy #sol16 Day 24 of 31


Book Crazy

“There’s a parcel for you in  the office,” my email read today. This is not the first time, not by a long shot. I know they know what is inside. The ladies in the office all laugh whenever I go in to pick up a package. “More books?” they ask.

The ladies in the office all laugh whenever I go in to pick up a package. “More books?” they ask.

“Always,” I answer. For awhile it turns out they really did not understand.

One day I explained that the books arriving are always for my classroom.  “Oh,” one said, “we thought you read a lot.”

“I do,” I explained, “I read almost every book I buy.”

When I walked away I am sure they laughed. Some people just do not understand my love for books. My students get it! Look what Mrs. E., a parent of one of last year’s students just gave me:


the perfect t-shirt for book crazy me!

Flow- It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year #sol16 Day 23 of 31


Flow- It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

As I sliced yesterday, it is almost Spring Break and we have LOTS to do at school. We had a normal Math and recess/snack and then we met up to strategize. We talked about the deadline of Friday and what must get done by then. We worked through “must do” and “can do” for the social studies and writing projects. We talked about what to do when you need a break. I told them that we would not be having mini lessons today, instead they would be in charge of their own learning. We would have 3 brain and body breaks (we love Go Noodle– check it out!) as a class and short read alouds too. Then I set them off for a two-hour work session. It was an amazingly productive time: students were working on Minecraft Civilizations or creating posters or books. When they were working on their writing there were conferences (with me or with classmates), students were consulting mentor texts, reading into their laptops (to access voice typing) or typing away. Every now and then I reminded a few to change to the other project if they needed to finish up loose ends. At the end, a few students shared their top tips for success. Tomorrow we will have a similar work session. I love that at this time of year the students have more stamina and can work on projects that they design to achieve their goals. No two students had the same projects and all were totally engaged. As we began each of the three sessions I had the students set goals. All of them were amazed at home much they got done, but also at how quickly the time went by. It is this time of year that always makes me wish I had requested to loop with my class- they are in the “sweet spot” for learning as we have well-established routines and know how to maximize our conferences to get the most accomplished. Having this long block of concentrated work time would have been unthinkable earlier in the year, but now… WOW!

Getting Ready Day By Day #sol16 Day 22 of 31


Getting Ready Day by Day

It is almost Spring Break and I feel conflicted. On the one hand, there is so much to get done at school that I want time to slow down so that it can all get done. On the other, it’s almost Spring Break and I need it (and the kids seem to also!), so I want time to speed up. In reality, I know that everything that needs to get done will (or it won’t and I will figure it out somehow anyway). Somehow my students need to finish final drafts of their writing and finish an end of unit project in social studies. They also need to have about an hour and a half to write their end of unit assessment. They have finished what they must for reading and the math unit has just started, so I have some wiggle room there. I tell myself to breathe so that my stress will not affect the students.

Then, there is SPRING BREAK! I am leaving on Saturday morning for a week in Thailand. I will spend 5 days in Chiang Mai with no set agenda. I am traveling alone, but a friend and her family will be there. I was there for a few days in October, so I already know that I love the city. I will walk and walk and hopefully get some school work done. After that, I am off to Bangkok (I was also there in October). I will have one free day and then a two-day workshop (Cultures of Thinking, led by Ron Ritchhart). I am hoping to get to the big market that I missed last time (I will have to go very early before my Saturday session). I have started to get ready for the trip bit by bit. Yesterday I exchanged some money, today I checked in for my three flights and printed out boarding passes. What I did not bank on was getting a cold, but that is what I woke up to this morning, so I have to get to the pharmacy to get saline nasal spray (I better go tonight). I still have to pack and get a few other things organized.

As excited as I am for my break I know that I have lots of work to do in the next three days, so I better approach those days with the same level of organization as I am attempting with my trip- day by day, getting things done, so the end result is good!