The Wild Remedy ~Mending a Weary Soul


It’s all I have to bring today

This, and my heart beside

This, and my heart, and all the fields

And all the meadows wide

Be sure you count – should I forget

Some one the sum could tell –

This, and my heart, and all the Bees

Which in the clover dwell.

~Emily Dickenson (1830-1886)

This weary soul of mine succumbed to social media early in the morning, as some days, scrolling is all I can muster. My hand, even too exhausted to lift the pen to my notebook page.

On this particular day, a teacher-writer-soul friend, Mary Lee Haun, was also having a weary kind of day.  Her #poemofpresence whispered to the quiet corners of my dissonance:

today I am sad

please don’t try to cheer me up

there’s nothing for it

My fingers typed a few words to let her know that I felt her angst as well. I shared with her a word I’d recently learned, one that named this kind of tired – a word in Tibetan:  ye tang che. The ye part means “totally, completely”, and the rest of it means “exhausted”. Altogether, ye tang che means “totally exhausted”.

Devendra Banhart taught me this word, while listening to him on a recent episode of the On Being podcast. The lovely language and voices of this podcast are healing, so I turn here often in times of need. The word, ye tang che, Devendra credits to have learned from Pema Chadron in his book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.

I had jotted it into my notebook to bring up in moments of despair. Like this.

A lovely dear friend of us both, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, swept in to save us on this dreary day. My heart sang just seeing her name and an image of her responding to our short conversation.

She offered a gift: a recommendation of a book.

The Wild Remedy ~ How Nature Mends Us by Emma Mitchell.

With a slight surge of new energy, a quick exploration brought me to the contents of Emma’s book. Emma suffers of “the grey slug” or depression, as some know it as. She shares her journey through nature as a balm to lift the grey from her days. Winding paths through the woods, drawing and painting the discoveries along her way fill her illustrated diaries. Month by month, she charts her highs and lows and the neuroscience of how our bodies, minds, spirits and hearts receive the natural healing benefits of plants and wildlife when we step into the wild.

Her book arrived on my doorstep yesterday.

All of a sudden, I’m witnessing more bees, and fields and meadows wide.


~ from my morning walk ~

And . . . my heart is beginning to mend from all of this ye tang che.


The Essence of Old Books~SOL#19~Day#2

I have a book obsession. While new books are lovely, old ones speak to my soul in a multitude of ways that I am not sure I can describe.

But, I will try.

Aesthetics are important to me. How objects, spaces, sounds and words feel can prompt my senses to go into warm fuzzy mode, give me goosebumps, expand my heart and seriously increase my oxytocin levels. (Or, the opposite can occur. But, we aren’t going there today.)

I wish I could tell you how an old book feels in my hand. It’s thickly textured pages are housed in a cloth shell worn with time. One can only imagine the hands that have embraced this treasure . Golden lettering announce it’s title. Pages fragile, dozens or more sets of eyes having studied the words that rest upon them, ever so gently turning each page to meet previous ones read. And, old books are heavy. They reign when competing with the paperbacks of today.

IMG_2237 (1).jpg

I picked this one up to read this morning. It’s title, The Child, by Amy Eliza Tanner, copy write ~ 1904. Inside the front cover, a human being’s name graces the page, in delicate black ink cursive handwriting of which appears to have come from a fountain pen of sorts.

“Who is this woman?” I wonder. “Hertha?” not “Bertha”, but, “Hertha”.


Well, my need-to-know-mind won’t let this rest, so I do a quick search to see who this woman is. I’m led to a photo:


. . . which leads me to I can’t go there. Entire weekends have been lost there. I know better.

Back to the book.

I had not heard of Amy Eliza Tanner, the author of the book, in education circles. And, I do read and research educational pedagogies and philosophies (this sounds arrogant, and I apologize if it comes off that way, but it’s more a curse than a blessing). A quick research on Amy Eliza Tanner results in some fascinating fodder to add to my scholarly drawers of who to know from education past. Here she is in the center of this photo:

Look at how empowered she looks. Good heavens, John Dewey is there. Have I been living under a rock in not knowing this woman? Honestly, the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. I could continue to read about her. She lived a most resilient life among her male counterparts. But, I don’t.

Because, here. Here is the ESSENCE of why I love old books:

The words.

In the introduction by G. Stanley Hall,

“If there is such a thing as a ‘call to teach’ it consists of loving children, and with love go insight, the  power to serve, and the desire to help each child to the maximum development of body and should of which he is capable. When vocational guidance is fully developed those intending to teach will ask themselves the question, which is the supreme test of their fitness,

“Do I really love children?”

Those who do not, have no right to teach.”

He goes on to say this message is Amy Eliza Tanners’ chief purpose in writing this book.

1904. It takes a whole lotta love to to do this job. We forget about that sometimes as we don’t see it enough in the educational literature of today. Yet, we know it. We feel it. It’s why this job hurts so much sometimes.

This, my friends . . .

is why I adore old books, AND. . .

is why I get nothing done.

But, it brings me to my happy place of bliss, wonder, and awe.

Shari 🙂




Rethinking Readers Notebooks #SOL16


Books and people inspire me to rethink the practices I hold on to in my reading and writing workshops. The Readers Notebook is a tool my students and I use that I do not think I will ever let go of.  However, my thinking is changing on how to best use this tool.

Last year, I discovered that most of the third graders in my classroom were extremely creative.  They loved to draw.  So, I taught them how to Zentangle.  We scoured You Tube videos and Pinterest on our ipads to find new patterns to learn and practice. We made anchor charts of the designs we wanted to remember.

I then realized that we are all, including myself, are drawn to visual learning.

I wanted some of that in my Readers Notebooks.

My burning question became:

“How can I make the Readers Notebooks more engaging, user-friendly and fun?  And, enhance our learning at the same time?”

My third graders were not always that excited about writing down their thoughts in the notebook at the end of our reading workshop – if only for 5 minutes.  They worked diligently on their weekly letters to me – but honestly, they were doing this for me.

We looked at other options to share their evidence of understandings from the books they read.  Fountas and Pinnell’s Teaching for Comprehension and Fluency suggests many ways to teach students to do this, of course, each strategy needs to be explicitly modeled first.  A few ideas are: webs, character trait charts, chapter summary grids, T-charts, etc.  We added these to our repertoire of options, yet I still did not see the enthusiasm I wished for.

But this summer, I followed Debby Ridpath Ohi  (@inkyelbows on Twitter) and anxiously awaited her visual displays of the books she was reading for Donalyn Miller’s Book A day Challenge.  I’d read some of the books she shared, so I was excited to see what elements she decided to jot down and put on the page.  Here are some of her examples:


and. . .


Here are some things Debbie did:

*She added an image of the book and the author.  Visual Stuff. Artsy. A collage kind of thing. I like this because I art journal and cutting and glueing and arranging things on paper are a love of mine.

*She adds what she’d like to find out more about by going to an author’s blog. She notes the blog.

*She drew a few sketches about how the book changed her life – just one thing!

Another inspirationalist I follow on Twitter is Leah O’ Donnell.  Oh, I can’t keep up with this lady!  I sizzle with energy every time I see what she is up to. She also does some doodling of the books she reads.  Here are a couple of examples:


What did Leah do?

*She lifted quotes from the book that she felt were important.

*She wrote down some questions that prompted her to think more deeply about her own life.

*She added some of her own thoughts about the book.

*Of course, she added her own little doodles and sketches and used lots of color.

I’ve also been following a few people who post their visual sketchnotes on Twitter under the hashtag #sketchnotes The Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown and One Zentangle A Day books have also  influenced me here – just a bit.  And if you have time, you have to take a field trip to The Sketchnote Army and  Brain Doodles.

“Could I do this? Could I integrate this into our Readers Notebooks?” I wondered.

Surely, it’s been done in some shape or form.  But, I wondered what it might look like in third grade – the integrating of doodles, zentangles, collage and words to share our understandings about the books we read.

Now, you may be thinking, as I often do,

“But, I don’t want my kids spending so much time drawing and wasting time doodling.  They need to be reading and writing!”

This kind of work supports so many standards and best practices about teaching, I can’t even begin to list them all.  But, I have to, because I am a “Why should I do this?” and “Where is the research in this?” kind of  person.  We need to know our “Whys”.  Our practice purposes can never be, “Because the kids like it,” or “It’s the new shiny sparkly thing.” Even though the kids probably will like it and ultimately that’s what we hope to achieve.

Here are a couple of Big Why’s:

  1.  “A doodler is engaging in a deep and necessary information processing. A doodler is connecting neurological pathways with previously disconnected pathways.  A doodler is concentrating intently, sifting through information, conscious and otherwise generating insights.” ~Sonni Brown The Doodle Revolution
  2. “By using repetitive patterns with deliberate strokes, one becomes engrossed in each stroke and a shift of focus, a heightened awareness in which your mind, instincts, and knowledge all work together  quickly, effortlessly and accurately can occur.” ~Roberts and Thomas (the orgins of Zentangle) One Zentangle A Day by Beckah Krahula

If you want to read more research, go here, or here (under Research Links).  And, here are some visual literacy standards on Edutopia.

And, if you’d like a visual:


from page 17 of The Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown.

A personal thought is also that we rush kids through books and do not give them enough time to let a book marinate in their souls long enough. We need to let books linger for a while, just like soup.  It always tastes better after it’s been simmering all day.  New thoughts and ideas keep bubbling up the longer we allow a book to stay with us.

Like anything new we teach to students, we’d need to start small and with what students already know.  I’m thinking we’ll do some visual notes on a couple of class read alouds first and go from there – adding various doodles and sketch note strategies little by little. Or perhaps they could do a visual page of who they are, an identy project to help us all learn more about one another.  However we choose to introduce this, anchor charts will be a must.

And most importantly, if we are expecting our kids to do it, we need to walk the walk alongside of them, and do it as well.

So, I had a go. . .

Here are a couple of my attempts from some of my summer reads:


I knew I could do better. . .


Oh yes ~~~~ this one was much more fun. 🙂

The possiblities are endless here.  And, I love to live in a classroom where anything is possible.

Shari 🙂

Waiting for Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s New Book and Pondering Structure SOL#16

I’m a little bit of a freak when it comes to keeping up with what my favorite authors are working on.

Okay.  I’m more of a stalker.

Regardless. . . waiting is hard work.

But, finally . . . something is coming.

Something BIG.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s new book comes out next month!  

The title?

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal:  Not Exactly A Memoir


She is genius.

I am giddy about the unique text structure she choose to write these “nonlinear reflections and insights”  (Penguin Random House Publishers).  Unlike most personal growth, memoir type books, Amy has organized this book by subject headings such as Social Studies, Math, Music, Language Arts, etc.  The writers at Penguin Random House Publishers describe it as such:

“Not exactly a memoir, not just a collection of observations, Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal is an exploration into the many ways we are connected on this planet and speaks to the awe, bewilderment, and poignancy of being alive.”

How can you not rush directly to Amazon and hit that dang one-click purchase button? It’s only at the pre-order state though.  It’s not coming out until August 9th.  Oh, the agony!

Her previous book, The Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, is also her brain child organizational structure to use for writing, non fiction or not. She gathers all of her snippets of wisdom, quotes, observations, lists and documented happenings and hangs them on the framework of the encyclopedia.

I am drawn to this right now as I mine through my own notebooks digging for gems, not knowing what they will become.  It’s life stuff and most of it is garbage, loads of blah, blah, blah, but there are some tidbits that I’d like to do something with. Organization is the framework of how to think about our ideas.  It helps us visualize the possibilities of what our writing could be.  Writing then begins to take shape.

The teacher in me also wants to use these books as mentor texts to share with students. We are required to teach our students the standard forms/genres of writing:  narrative, non-fiction and persuasive.  However, there are creative ways to organize writing that go beyond the 5 paragraph essay for persuasion, a basic personal narrative, or a categorical nonfiction report. Within these forms of writing, we teach how to write in chronological, compare/contrast, problem/solution and cause/effect text structures.  Of course, there are a variety of plot structures for narratives, as well.  All of these must be taught as they are used under the umbrella of an entire piece of work.

But, it’s the authors that go so out of the box with unique ways to organize a book that makes reading and writing exciting.  When I discover a new structure, energy sizzles.

I headed to my book shelves to seek out other ideas for possible structures for my own writing gobbledy-gook.  Surely, I had much to learn from right here in front of me.

Here are a few I found:

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

Anna organizes her memoir type reflections at midlife into chapters that focus on a theme such as:

stuff, girlfriends, generations, solitude, expectations, and faith  

For me, these themes could each be a book, yet she is able to synthesize it all into tight chapters.  This would take tons of work for me as I am more detail oriented.

Mining my own notebooks, I think I would choose topics with more specificity, such as:

popcorn, sugar, hair, pie, walking, hips and knees, Captain Morgan, coffee and dogs

Perhaps each of these could be a vignette under a larger theme or section like:

Addictions, Wisdom, Body, Soul, Heart, Mind, Marriage

This is a possibility.  I love to think about what is possible.

The Rural Life by Verlyn Klinkenborg

Verlyn writes about his life in the country.  By Month.


Love. Love. Love.

We live in seasons.  I have realized over the years, that I go through many of the same experiences every September, just as I do in February.  The book could be called, The Teaching Life, The Mother’s Life, or even The Human Life.  The chapters could be narratives, poems or reflections.

Again. . . so many possibilities with this structure.

You Learn by Living by Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor organizes her book by important keys for living a more fulfilling life.  I think about this as each chapter being a lesson learned.  And, hopefully, a narrative to detail how she learned that lesson.  What lessons have I learned by midlife?  Are there lessons that I still need to learn?  I know there are lessons I am working on every day of my life.  As I scan over my pages of writing, each entry holds a lesson.  Each story teaches us something about living on this Earth School and what it means to be human.

Would my book be lessons about teaching?  or just stuff I’ve learned along the way?

Hmmmmm. . . .


This reminds me of  Dorothy Allison’s Two or Three Things I know For Sure?  Could we not write a book on what we THINK we have figured out?

I had to generate a list of possible structures as well – just to have some fun in brainstorming session.


The best teachers are other books, so I’m going to compile a good list of books to show my third graders what other authors have done to organize their books.  We can then generate our own list together.

Then, we can all dwell in the possibilities of what our writing might become.

Dreamers, we are.

Shari 🙂




Sharing My 2016 Summer Reading Stack


“By opening your inner self to a book, you invite ideas and feelings that enrich and expand your interiority.  Reading is the making of a deeper self.” ~ John Miedema

I’m not sure where I would be without books.  Probably hanging on a ledge somewhere. Books have saved me over and over again and I know I would not be the person I am without the books I have read. We become what we read.

I love to know what others are reading, especially others who are mothers my age, educators, writers, artists, mid-lifers, thinkers, learners and readers.  So, I’m sharing my summer reading stack, not only to maybe inspire someone to read any of these books (so I have someone to talk to about them), but more so, in hopes that you’ll share your summer reads, too.

I try hard to read a variety of books over the summer, but I tend to migrate towards non-fiction; informational, memoirs, reflective vignettes. These kinds of books push me as a teacher and also give me guidance and insights as a writer and a human being.  I also have a fiction stack and a reread stack.  Those will have to be other posts. Yes, there are books everywhere.  They are my weakness and I’ll spend my money on books before I’ll buy myself new shoes or clothes.  Just because.

So, here is my non-fiction stack (I can’t wait to write about each one of these individually!):

For A Better World:  Reading and Writing for Social Action by Randy Bomer and Katherine Bommer (2001, Heinemann)



This book has been on my shelf since last summer.  With all that is happening in the world right now, it jumped off my shelf begging to be read.

On page five, these words had to be underlined:

“If we expect people to vote for the interests of the wounded and dispossessed, then people who are not poor have to be able to imagine other lives, to read out with their consciousness and know what their own narrow experience has not taught them.”

In other words, our kids need to hear the stories of the oppressed.

Wow.  Good stuff in here.

Writers are Readers:  Flipping Reading Instruction Into Writing Opportunities by Lester Laminack and Reba Wadsworth (2016, Heinemann)


There are some major tracks of my thinking throughout this book.  My scribbled notes are everywhere.  Mind shifting stuff here.  Thank goodness for the authors that leave wide margins for this reason.

If you have been teaching using the workshop model, you probably know this by now:

“When reading and writing instruction are planned separately, each without regard for the other, the resulting instruction fails to weave clear connection between these related language processes” (p. vii).

For this reason, we plan our reading and writing units of study with this in mind. However, Lester Laminack and Reba Wadsworth take this deeper. Walking through several text structures, comprehension strategies and story elements, they help us understand what the reader must do to make meaning for himself and on the flip side, what does the writer do to set up the reader (to infer).

I am looking at structures and comprehension strategies in a whole new light.

Honestly, if I was forced to read only one educational book this summer, this would be it.

DIY Literacy: Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts (2016, Stenhouse Publishers)


I chose this book because it is so HOT on Twitter right now.  And, I just adore Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts.  If you have watched any of the EdCamp PD sessions,  you know what I mean. Kate and Beattie have also created a video series of each teaching tool (from this book) at their website.  You can check them out here.  I know the Demonstration Notebooks will be my first tool to try out in my classroom next fall.

Close Writing:  Developing Purposeful Writers in Grades 2-6 by Paula Bourque (2016, Stenhouse)

Close Writing

This book was also hot on Twitter and it found its way into my Amazon cart when I bought DIY Literacy.  I don’t know how that happens.

I have not started this book yet, but from the introduction, I’m realizing that Paula Bourque’s goal is to help writers read and examine their own writing for understanding and clarity.  I know I need to figure out some strategies for helping my third graders do this as they tend to think their writing is good after the first draft!

Help me Paula!

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen (2012, Random House)


Oh my heavens, this lady.  She reflects on her life thus far (she is 60 at the writing of this book), in categories of marriage, stuff, girlfriends, work, our bodies, etc.  It’s her words scribed on the back of this book that lured me to read it:

“It’s odd when I think of the arc of my life, from child to young woman to aging adult. First I was who I was.  Then I didn’t know who I was.  Then I invented someone and became her.  Then I began to like what I’d invented. Ad finally I was what I was again.”

I finished this book last week and it’s still simmering in my being.  I’ll have to carry the book around with me for a while. 🙂

When Women Were Birds:  Fifty-Four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams  (2012, Picador)


This poetic memoir by Terry Tempest Williams has me on edge.  There is much to figure out.  The book opens with Terry receiving all of her mothers journals when her mother dies.  Her mother instructs her not to read them until after she’s gone.  A month after her mother has died, Terry works up the bravery to begin reading the journals.  She discovers they are all empty.

What the heck?

Yeah – I’m befuddled and so is Terry.  I’m trying to hold her hand through all the confusion and hoping she finds some resolution in her mother’s intentions.  I’m also living my own questions through this story as I wrestle with what to do with all of my own journals and notebooks. Do I really want people reading this stuff after I’m gone?

The Courage to Write and The Writer’s Book of Hope both by Ralph Keyes (2003, Holt Paperbacks)

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Yes, I’m reading these two books because I have my own issues as a writer.  I’m hoping that Ralph Keys can shed some light on my problems.

It is important for writers to read about the struggles of other writers.  Not because we like to see others struggle, but we need to know that we are not alone in trying to put words into sentences. In The Courage to Write, Mr. Keys opens with the saga of E.B. White and his troubles as a writer.  I felt a kinship with E.B. White when I learned that he was a gifted procrastinator.


I’d never thought about being gifted at procrastination, but I like the thought and I’m hanging on to it. 🙂

The Rural Life by Verlyn Klinkenborg (2004, Backbay Books)


My husband bought me a subscription to the Travel and Leisure magazine.  Even though I don’t think I’ll ever save enough to visit Peru or some of exotic places in this magazine, I do enjoy reading the writing.

Verlyn Klinkenborg wrote an article in the Travel and Leisure magazine about Yellowstone National Park.  Having traveled to Yellowstone last summer, it was a must read.  Just reading the first paragraph, I hung on every word. Then, I tore it out of the magazine and studied it – this writing – how did he do this?  I was in awe.  You can read it here.  Give yourself some time, you’ll be rereading it.

Wanting to read more of Klinkenborg’s writing, I discovered some books he’d written about living in the country.  I bought used copies of The Rural Life and Making Hay.

The Rural LIfe is structured in chapters that chronicle the year,  each month, a chapter heading.  Beginning with “January”, he writes about how winter is the only season that has to be relearned every year and about baling twine being the thread of life.  He pays attention to the small details of life.

Being raised on a farm, this book brings up memories that I’d forgotten, along with a reminiscent gratefulness that I was able to live these experiences in my own rural life.

Find Your Focus Zone by Lucy Jo Palladino (2007, Free Press)


Because I seem to have a little trouble focusing lately, I sought out a book for support. Summer time is when dreams of accomplishing a zillion things swim in my head. Fall usually rolls around and honestly, discouragement seeps in as I examine how few tasks are crossed off of my summer to-do list.  I have somewhat learned to accept this, but still.  If only I could focus.

Lucy claims our old ways of paying attention can’t keep up with the information overload , digital distraction and the new levels of stimulation and anxiety we all have.  Because having control over your attention is a critical skill to being successful, we need to learn some new strategies.  She’s speaking to me here.

“Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”  ~Albert Einstein

This book will need to be studied.  I’ll take notes, apply them and probably have to reread.

I’ll let you know if I am successful.

What books are on your summer reading stack?  Please share!

Shari 🙂





Nothing is Original #sol16


My day began with coffee, feeding Sandy and mining old notebooks.  Every so often, these old friends call on me to revisit past pages, reflect on where I’ve been and look for patterns or ideas that are begging to be attended to.

I love words.  Seriously, I do.  Word Crazy.  My notebooks are filled with glittering gems collected from other writers, singers, artists, thinker-people and from conversations. There’s a lot of garbage in my notebooks, too – not fit for the outsider’s eyes.

Most of the good stuff in my notebook . . . is not my own. It’s stolen from other places. Words jotted down because they have a hold on me.  I recycle them into my own writing in hopes that they can be crafted into my own voice authentically.

But sometimes, I worry.

When does a writer give credit to where words come from and when can we steal words and rework them into something unique, using them in a different context and not feel obligated to cite the source?  (Yes, this is the research/grad student coming out here.)

It’s muddy waters.

I don’t know how many times I’ve written, “They were like puppies in church,”  or “We melted into the furniture.”  These are memorized phrases from Anne Lamott’s writing that I’ve used in both my talking and my writing.  Do I credit her?  Who owns a metaphor?  or a simile?  or a phrase?  Is there even an original source?  Do we go by word count?

Listening to the radio today, lyrics from Blake Shelton’s song, Mine Would Be You, nudged me to write them down,

What’s the greatest chapter in your book?
Are there pages where it hurts to look?

These words reach out and grab you.  I will use them somewhere.  Do I have to make sure I say they are from Blake? or his song writer?  Do I revise these two sentences to make them my own before I can use them?

In my notebook are these words copied down from somewhere, a comment from a lady on a blog.

I’m glad to be on this journey at the same time as you, wonderful-writer-thinker-lady.

Dang.  I adore how that sounds. I imagine being given the gift of these words and feel my heart well up.  I had to keep them safe somewhere.  They have become etched in my brain and they have come out in my writing.  I have no idea where they came from.

The idea of being accused of plagiarism can stop a writer in their tracks.

Worse yet, it can make you not write anything at all for fear that everything you have is really from somewhere else.

Again, the image of Austin Kleon’s book, Steal Like An Artistimmediately comes to mind.  I get up and snatch it from my shelf.  Page one of Austin’s book has these words:


Every single page of this book is a gold mine.  I have to fight the urge to underline each line because of its brilliance or way it is written.  Have you ever read a book that has a hold on you in that way?  I have so many books full of my notes and sticky notes that they resemble more of a fan than a book (yep – I stole that simile somewhere).

Austin teaches us that nothing is original.  “The writer Jonathan Lethem has said that we people call something ‘original’ nine out of ten times they just don’t know the reference or the original sources involved.”   

and he writes. . .

“French writer Andre Gide put it, “Everything that needs to be said has already been said.  But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”

This is true for anything.  Writing, art, and teaching.  Much of what some educators claim is “new” is actually a mashup or remix from the work of John Dewey or Paul Freire, Marie Clay or Fountas and Pinnell, Donald Murray or Donald Graves.  We need to pay homage to these thinkers.  Who do we think we are to claim something brilliant our own?  Insane. (I’m looking down at my feet here.)

I really don’t know where I was going with this.  It’s still a worry/wonder, yet it’s not going to stop me from collecting and studying the work of those I love.  Our work becomes the product of those we read, study or are with.  We are the sum of all these parts.  Eventually, it all becomes a part of us and we don’t know where it comes from.

So, choose carefully.

If you have never been to Austin Kleon’s site, you need to get yourself some coffee, find a spare hour and head on over there.  And, then of course, you’ll need to go see Chase Jarvis. These two give a person so much inspiration that it is difficult to get any of those chores on your to-do list done.  No lie.  You’ll be off creating. . .

Shari 🙂

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March Challenge of posting a blog post every day for the month of March.  While I’ve missed a few days, I’m still in it for the long haul!  To check out other writers, visit here.



You Gotta Love a Good Read Aloud sol#16

We tested today.  Yup.  It’s only March 8th and already the MAP testing has begun.  My troopers worked on their ipads nearly all morning.  Yup.  We test on ipads now – ipad minis even.  Nope, I don’t like it.  I’m 50.  I can hardly read the text WITH my cheaters on.  But these kids are used to it and they did great.  I was proud of their effort.  But after lunch, they were melting into the furniture as if it were 110 degrees outside – noodles they were.  Spent.  I knew our afternoon would not be productive.

Having just the right read aloud is high priority on a day like today.

I decided on The Sons of the Dragon King:  A Chinese Legend by Ed Young.


Now this book would not work for every class, but it works for mine for many reasons.  I have a lot of readers that LOVE any story with characters that have special powers – we are talking Beast Quest and Percy Jackson fan-city.  I can’t keep these books on my shelves.  In this legend each of the nine sons has a special power and that hooked my kids, line and sinker, right in my intro.

The second reason my kids loved this book was because it is Traditional Literature.  I fully believe we short our kids of good legends, folk tales, fables, trickster tales and especially fairy tales and tall tales.  We tend to stop reading these books aloud in the primary grades.  It’s all fantasy and much of the literature our kids love as upper elementary students builds on good old Traditional Literature.  They listen intently knowing there will be some kind of lesson or moral to the story because they know that these stories were told only orally thousands of years ago to teach children lessons.  They crave trying to determine the lesson before the story is finished.

The third reason my kids loved this book is because of the simple pattern.  The father tracks down each son, who is basically wasting his time with his special power.  With every son, the father finds the perfect life job that allows the son to use their power.  My kids wonder and predict what the power is that each son will have, and then what will the job be.  Through the whole book they wondered if the last son perhaps will change the pattern of the story.  Perhaps will he have no power at all?  My kids love pattern.   They hang on every page.

This read aloud, with our talk took almost 35 minutes to read.  Yes, that’s awhile, but it felt like five minutes and we were surprised that it was already time for music when we finished.  For awhile, it was if we were taken away to China, walking in the shoes of a father who was trying to help his sons to what is good for the world.  We were lost in the book.  Transported.  Flow.

We didn’t get much else done today besides a word study sort.  And, that’s okay.

For me, a good interactive read aloud is striking it rich and I will savor that all  week.

Ahhhh. . . . yes.  Thank you, Mr. Ed Young.

Doodle Revolution #sol16

I’m in a little bit of a doodle frenzy lately.

The Doodle Revolution arrived on my doorstep a few weeks ago and I’m kinda hooked on doodling my to-do lists, school notes, and reflections on my day.  It seems the visuals stick in my head a little more than just written text.

So, this morning, I doodled a flow chart doodle of how I would LIKE my day to go – of course this is all speculation and open to diversions.  Like lesson plans, we must leave room for intuitive moments of flow that nudge us down a different path.  As enjoyable as side trips are, eventually, we need to get back on course in order to accomplish what we intend to accomplish.

After reflecting on my intended plans for the day, I probably would have had time to complete all of my tasks, but, the house was quiet, so my bed called me over for a nap (I forgot to draw that in – it’s really not a productive event though).  I also got lost commenting on Slice of Life stories for a tad bit of time (so many inspirational pieces out there).  Oh, and I researched Donald  Trump for a bit to affirm my belief of why he should not be president. (This was easy work.)  I also spent some time digging around for snacks and trying to decide if I should bake something but I didn’t because I figured I’d eat it all because no one else is home.  So, I ate chocolate chips.

Sigh. Smile.

Life is good.






5 Bullet Wednesday ~ #sol16

It’s Day 2 of the Slice of Life Story Writing Challenge at Two Writing Teachers.  The mission is to blog daily for the month of March.  This is not an easy task.  Our days are full and often we think there is nothing much to write about.  But magic happens when you are on this mission to put something out to the world every day.  Stuff to write about appears. Everything appears blog worthy.  The issue then becomes what to choose.

I follow Tim Ferris, author of 4-Hour Work Week (even though I know that will never happen – I’m a teacher for Pete’s Sake) and am inspired by his 5 Bullet Friday posts.  The structure is easy for any kind of writing day, especially when you need to write something quick and have several ideas floating around in your head.  So, here goes.  My 5 Bullet Wednesday:

Book I Am Loving Right Now ~ All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  I’m telling you, the writing in this book is so savory.  I can study a paragraph for an hour analyzing how Anthony Doerr tried to do that.  I often share my journey through this book with my third graders at school and they are in as much suspense as I am.

A Quote That’s On My Mind ~ “Living in a state of wonder involves creating space in our lives for storing up our impressions of the world, and reflecting on them.  There is something important about the storing up of things.  We are sorting, sifting and making sense of our thoughts and experiences.  And holding these things close-in a compulsively over-sharing culture-is a rare discipline.”  ~ Christina Crook

Clothing I’m Loving ~ The super clearance winter jacket I bought at Walmart FOR $19.00.  Yes, you heard it.  $19.00.  You’d never guess.  Dang, I love a good deal.

Song I’m Loving ~ Jake Owen’s Real Life.  I cannot help but dance around in my car when this song comes on the radio.

What I’m Wondering Today ~ Why did Jimmy Johns quit putting sprouts on their tuna club sandwich?  I really loved the sprouts.

There you have it.  Easy Peasy.  5 Bullet Wednesday.

Shari 🙂