Celebrate Learning with Ruth

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The seed of this celebration began in January 2011 when someone planted an idea in my mind. “You can be a writer, come join our community.” The seed began to sprout roots as I “tried” writing. The encouraging comments pushed me to write more than I’d ever written before.

Friendships developed through telling the stories of our lives. Mostly, these friends are virtual, but some are now face-to-face friends. They have made my life richer through their stories and friendships. Ruth is one of those friendships that is no longer virtual.

So I was more than thrilled when my director asked me last August to find out if Ruth was available to work with the trainers in May. Yes, she was available. Yes, she would come and work with us.

Sunday, I picked her up at the airport. We talked and talked. We wandered the trails at our nature center. Then we talked and talked until it was time to head to bed.

Monday and Tuesday, she guided us through thinking about what needs to be in place to make writing workshop effective.

  • First, teachers need to understand how writers work.
  • Once this is in place, they need to claim time, space, and materials.
  • Now we can begin the process to develop lessons and assessment systems.

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Time passed quickly as we processed and reflected on this information. Before I was ready to let Ruth go, it was Wednesday morning and I was bringing Ruth back to the airport.


I celebrate the connections I’ve made because I write. Each one brings joy to my life.

It Ends – Day 31

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Since I began this month by revisiting my March 1 posts, I thought I’d bookend this month by reviewing my March 31 posts.

  • 2011 Ship Under Attack!: I was on a river cruise in the Netherlands during the end of that month. There were many people suffering from bronchitis. Fortunately, my husband and I were not afflicted.
  • 2012 Summing Up: This was the year that I had a very full calendar of work days, but yet I managed to fit the writing in every day. It was really one of the first times I actually admitted to myself that I am a writer. Why is that so hard for me to express and truly believe?
  • 2013 Is It Just the End or a New Beginning #31: I reflected on what I noticed in my writing and how reading others affected my life.
  • 2014: At Sam’s: Here was another slice of life, no reflection because this final day was on a Monday, therefore, I knew I needed a post for the following day. I saved my reflection of the month for Tuesday.  Good thinking, right?🙂
  • 2015 Reverso Poem: I ended last year with a poem using Marilyn Singer’s incredible style of a poem that can be read from top down and then with changes in punctuation flipping the lines so the last line is now the first, and it still makes sense.
  • 2016: It Ends – Day 31:The final posting is a look back at the last five years of final postings.
What did I notice?
  • As I scrolled through the daily posts I noticed that I only had five posts without some kind of a picture. I love including photos!
  • I used poetry seven times in my slices.
  • I drafted a letter that will never be sent.
  • The shortest post (59 words) has the most pictures (27 pictures put into collages).
  • I played with using the color of the print to bring meaning to certain posts.
  • My wordiest post (539 words) came from two arrogant orchids. Figures, right?
  • I was amazed by the number of comments I received. It was such a delight to get up in the morning and find that comments were written after I’d gone to bed. Coffee and comments became my morning routine.

I’ve loved reading so many new blogs! I hope that you will consider stopping back by to read another slice of life from elsie who tries writing on Tuesdays, Saturdays, and every day of March.

It Begins – Day 1

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Before writing this first post for the March challenge, I wondered how have I started the month in the past? I have vague memories of thinking will I be able to write all month. This is my sixth year of participating in the writing challenge. I should be confident in my abilities to construct a slice of life, but that is not the case. So I opened the March 1 blog post for each year. Here is what I’ve discovered by rereading my posts:

  • 2011 Change of Plans: I didn’t show any fear of writing for the month, what did I know at that point? My post was a snippet of irritation.
  • 2012 March 1 – Here We Go!: Here the OMG what will I write?! kicked in. My calendar was full to the brim. Now I was a little smarter, I knew what it felt like writing for the month. By the end of the post I talked myself into a “You can do it!” attitude.
  • 2013 Let the Fun Begin #1: I took stock of having a writing life, it still amazes me that I do have a writing life. I knew I could do it, I had done it for two years. Now let’s have fun.
  • 2014 Make Over: Here is when I changed the way the blog looked. I’d had the same look for three years, and thought I might try on a new style. I’m sad that it changed the style from the previous years, I’d like to have kept the original look for those posts. Once again, there was no mention of worry for the month.
  • 2015 Thirty-One Days: Last year I created a poem for my first post. I still like that poem. It encompasses all that I feel beginning the challenge.
  • 2016: It Begins – Day 1: So far it is a retrospect of past posts and each one is linked to the original post.

The time has come to be hyper-vigilant of the happenings in my life in order to record a single slice of my actions, thinking, observations. Welcome to this world, where bits of you are shared with the world. Don’t panic, savor the writing each and every day. Isn’t that what we ask students to do daily? Day 1 is written and posted, only thirty more to go.🙂


Blog Post 365

I saw the numbers creeping up, up, up. Then it hit me 365 equals one year but this journey has been in progress for over five years. I began 1-11-11, I found myself in a motel waiting out a snow day when I decided to jump into the world of blogging as a participant rather than a lurker. It’s a decision I’ve never regretted. My world is so much richer because of the friends I’ve made through words first.

I’ve just revisited my first post, my first sentences written for public viewing: “Today I jump into the blogging world. It’s a little scary, considering I don’t know what I am doing.” Three hundred sixty-five posts later I still think it’s a little scary to tell my story.

Many times I don’t know what I am doing when it comes to navigating the behind the scenes of the blog.Technical issues arise and the language is foreign. I would love to change fonts, but I guess this is not an option when you use a free format. I place words carefully in my draft, but on the preview they move to a new location. Sometimes I want the words to wrap around my picture, but they don’t want to bend to my will. And as to figuring out the automatic posting time schedule, I throw my hands into the air and admit defeat.

Three hundred sixty-five sent me to Steve Jenkins’s book Just a Second. just a secHere are some facts of what occurs in 365 days:

  • Mount Everest rises half an inch.
  • The moon moves 1.5 inches farther away from the Earth.
  • Sea floor spreading move the U.S. one inch away from Europe.
  • Humans cut down 4,000,000,000 trees.

I also Googled 365 and discovered a blog started in 2013 called 365 things in 365 days. A couple decided to take on the challenge of completing 365 things they had never done in 365 days. What an interesting concept and journey they took on with gusto. In their look back, they describe their learning:

  • Life moves fast. Take a risk.
  • Failure is healthy.
  • It takes a tribe to accomplish big goals.
  • If you put goodness out there, goodness will come back.

These statements can also be true of my journey in the slice of life world. So here’s to the beginning (tomorrow) of my second 365 days of blogging my slices of life. I hope you will join me as I live this ordinary, but extraordinary life as I search for the right words, and sometimes pictures, to tell my story.


Wisdom from Christopher Lehman

Day two of the conference provided me with two opportunities to learn from Chris Lehman. His topic for the keynote was Making Curiosity the Core. He stated “Kids are our curriculum.” Think about that, it is so true. How often do we live this with our work?

Children are born scientist. They are constantly checking out their hypotheses. Just watch a baby discover hands. Hands wave, can be placed in the mouth, fingers wiggle, hold on to objects, and what else can be done with these hands?

His message reminded us that curiosity is core to our teaching lives. The “what” might be important, but be sure to include the “why.” To be curious there has to be time and space. Do we give kids the time and space to develop their curiosity?

Later in the afternoon, I attended his session on close reading for grades K-2. This is something that he and Kate Roberts are working on right now. The impetus for this work came when his first grade daughter was subjected to thirty consecutive days of close reading of Stellaluna. I love Stellaluna, but how in the world could anyone think this was a good idea?

Loved this: The book shouldn’t be more important than the learner.

You can’t close read in the early primary grades the same way you do in the upper grades. Start with an object or a picture, zoom in to study it closely. Say something about it, think about what was said, add another part to the thought. Repeat. Key question: What’s worth thinking about?

He will be at the All Write conference in Warsaw, Indiana this June. I know I will learn more about close reading for the younger students. This just whet my appetite for the next time I get to learn from Christopher Lehman.chris l.

Write to Learn

The final three days of February sent me to a lake resort in the middle of my state for the Write to Learn conference. At one time the title of this conference made me tremble in my boots. Write? I’m okay with the learning part, but writing, that’s hard. I’m not a writer. I’m a listener, a reader, a synthesizer of information, but I’m not a writer.

That was my thinking before. Before I started reading Two Writing Teachers.  Before I was encouraged by Ruth Ayres posts begging the readers to jump into the blog world. Before I dipped my toe into writing weekly, then daily for a month.

That was five years ago, now I realize I am a writer. So writing to learn doesn’t make me tremble anymore. I see it as a challenge to create now. I eagerly anticipated the opportunity to spend and entire day with Rose Cappelli and Lynne Dorfman. I knew they would teach me new ways of looking at mentor texts and using those texts to raise the level of my writing. I was not disappointed.

The day flew by. We studied mentor texts. Then we had the gift of time to try it out. Here is one example I jotted in my notebook.

Pans clattering in the kitchen, as the smells filled the air, while family arrives, greetings and hugs, before finding their place at the table. Prayers of thanks offered. Silence.

Rose and Lynne became friends during those days of the conference, not just authors of books I own.

Friends, Rose Capelli and Lynne Dorfman.

Friends, Rose Cappelli and Lynne Dorfman.

Pausing This Morning

I cracked one eye open, the window was still dark. I gratefully closed that eye, did an internal sigh of contentment, and settled back into the bed, pulling the blanket just a bit closer. Today I don’t have to get up. Today I can enjoy the softness and warmth of the bed a few minutes longer. Tomorrow I can’t.

Outside was brittle cold. Record lows were noted for the record books. I knew I had a busy day ahead, but I had the luxury of setting my own time schedule. I was in no hurry to begin. Twenty minutes later, the sun was just making its presence known. It was time to get the day started, but I smiled as I thought of the extra few minutes I could take today.

Those moments used to be a rare happening. Busy family life always kept everyone on a frantic pace. Now, there is less family in the house. The pace has slowed. There are more quiet moments now. I enjoy the quiet, but yet I miss the earlier life too.