Slice of Life Silence

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Morning flew by along as many students continued to finish arguments [like this one] and personalized book reports based on student reading notes shared over the month in Google Forms. Some students worked on Keynote videos based on their social justice issues. Others reviewed make-up assignments. Students helped each other and asked questions related to their current task: argument warrants or concession/rebuttal; how to download their Google Slides as images for Keynote; how to review resources for figurative language. I love the sounds of workshop time: soft whispers asking for help and getting advice from peers, keyboards clicking, the ahhhs from sharing successes and techniques, focused silence for those reading, and discussion in my small group reviewing argumentative strategies. There’s a quiet hum that fluctuates between the calm of concentration and the chatter of collaboration, a wave of sound and energy in an ebb and flow of student agency.

It was a good morning, I thought, as I considered our successes during the final five minutes of noon break. I glanced across the empty desks reflecting the sunshine softly glowing through the window’s blinds.  They seemed to say, “Are they back yet?”



I stood to greet them.



Writing Strategies:

Strong Verbs:  flew by, continued, reviewed, worked, helped, download, fluctuates, considered, glanced

Personification:  The desks seemed to say, “Are they back yet?”

Onomatopoeia:  Riiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnggggggg!

Slice of Life Cats


In the morning, the cats are antsy. They don’t want us to leave. The black and white one meows incessantly, following my husband around where ever he wanders: starting the coffee pot, cutting the vegetables and fruit for our morning smoothie, fetching the paper. Stella follows around talking the whole time, sometimes running through his feet almost tripping him.

Our other cat, a tabby named Abby, watches the whole display and waits at the back slider, hoping to wander outside to check the messages the neighborhood cats have left, yet quickly ready to dart back inside if any of them are actually in our yard.

We deeply miss having our white lab Pooka around to chase away wandering neighborhood cats, especially Bad Cat, a ferrel black one with specks of grey, torn ears, scars, and one bad eye. Bad Cat terrorizes every one, and has survived the hottest and coldest of weather for probably five years now.  Neighbors have tried to trap him; others have scared him away with pellet guns. But that Bad Cat just keeps tramping through his neighborhood territory.

And, as I step outside this morning, there is the neighbor’s cat, Thunder: black as night and most definitely the spawn of Bad Cat. I leave the antics of my own cats to be greeted by the patiently waiting [and very soft] Thunder. I had to take a picture and pause to pet him before leaving as he sits on the steps waiting for attention.

Cats. They’re just there to help us slow down and enjoy small moments, because we don’t have nine lives.



Writing Strategies

Strong verb forms: meows, following, cutting, fetching, watches, wats, waner, dart, chase, survived trap, scared, tramping

Description: a ferrel black one with specks of grey, torn ears, scars, and one bad eye.

Assonance:  tabby named Abby

Alliteration: [p] take a picture and pause to pet him

Slice of Life The Cow

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As I drove by a field with fresh greenery spreading out for miles, I glanced at the fenced-in area on hillside below the road. It was filled with white cows, not the usual “dairy cows” of black and white [above] but white cows and brown cows, all munching and moseying at their slow and gentle pace.


Two white cows were separated by a large basalt boulder, a haystack rock the size of a large dump trpublic domain800px-Yeager-Rock-Erractic-PB110039uck that was dropped by a glacier twenty thousand plus years ago.

I slowed down to see the cow behind the rock lift its head to as if moo-ing.

The cow on my side of the rock looked at the boulder as if to say, “I hear you. Are you there, somewhere?”

The first cow repeated, and as I passed by above them, the cow near me seemed to twist its head as if learning that mystery of knowing something is there though it can’t be seen. Its brown eyes staring, questioning.

Learning. Knowing about the world. Even cows learn.

Writing Strategies

Description [sights]  field with fresh greenery spreading out for miles,

Alliteration: munching and moseying



Images: Public Domain





Slice of Life Transitions #DigiLit Sunday

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DigiLit Sunday under the leadership of Margaret Simon focused this week on Transitions. Margaret delighted in the transition her students made to independent learners through the workshop approach in her classroom. discussed the importance of transition words in writing and in movies for her photography gallery. I love that she wrote her ideas in a poem.

Transition and connecting words are exactly what my students considered the past two weeks.

Transition words connect ideas in sentences and paragraphs.  Connecting words layer ideas from sentence to sentence using similar or the same words so the reader follows the logic.

Two examples from class show the idea of these two strategies to develop one’s ideas for the reader

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One strategy to build ideas is to ask questions:

Why is are desserts your favorite?

What dessert is your favorite sweet one?

What is it about the ice cream that you like?

Why is the cold of the ice cream important?

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Why is topping trees harmful to the bark?

Why is direct sunlight harmful?

What happens when sunlight burns the skin or bark?

What else could happen besides cankers?

So what if the bark splits?

Asking questions and including connecting words help build your ideas in layers that flow logically.  Transition words make the connections more clear.

We also learn about other strategies authors include: Writing Strategies

How do your students learn to build their ideas, instead of simply listing them?



Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts



Slice of Life Cats


What is it about cats? The day is hectic. You’re up and down and in and out with chores around the house and outside. As soon as the basket is empty, the cat jumps in. And as soon as it’s full, the cat curls up on top of fresh laundry for a nap.

As you’re in and out and up and down with all the chores unfinished throughout the school week, the cats are underfoot, dancing with your steps, almost tripping you.

They’ve got food and water and their own places and spaces. But —  they’re with you, stepping with you or standing right in your path staring at you, batting at your leg as you pass by.

My black and white noisy cat meows and meows, wandering back and forth from the hall way to the couch, the hallway to the couch.

Finally, I concede, sit down, and enjoy the purr of the cat in my lap, saying, “Just take a break, would you? Pet me. I missed you all day.”

Who says cats aren’t social creatures?




Writing Strategies:

Repetition: up and down and in and out; hallway to the couch

Details: what the cats do [laundry basket, underfoot, staring, batting, meowing

Description: underfoot, dancing with your steps

Slice of Life March 10 Writing Roots



Writing is is not easy. It’s not simply talk written down. I tell my students that. It’s not just rambling on and on like we do sometimes with friends. It requires thought. Lots of it. With a friend, we can backtrack and add asides. But in writing, we’ve got to plan those — we’ve got to make our ideas clear.

That’s why we support each other, show our words, ask, “Does this sound right?”

When we ask that, we’re wondering if our ideas are clear and our words speak with both language and story sense.  We KNOW what it should sound like, but authors are always growing — moving from “talk” to “text,” and sometimes we just know we’ve written talk, but not text, not story.

That’s where peer and teacher feedback is so important to budding authors. That’s why teachers provide models and lessons. As students branch out into different styles and genres, as they try to compose a description of their character or a comparison of ideas from their reading, that’s why those who’ve learned it will share, “Oh, try it this way. Here, read how I did that in this paragraph.”

When we know that support is there, we branch out and bud out more and more, knowing we have a community to learn with. We share our successes and smile. Because writing is hard; but it’s hard fun.

We’re participating in the Slice of Life Classroom Challenge, unofficially. We’ve reviewed descriptive writing — especially using the sense of sight and sound. Here’s one example of description: A Day Fishing for Salmon.   He included many of the strategies we’ve discussed:ask a question for introduction, action verbs, sights, sounds, snapshot writing [take a snapshot and describe what happened before, during, after.]  Now, it’s not perfect writing, but it is practiced writing from support.  And that’s our goal.

Models and practice with time to write about one’s own topics have helped this young author develop description,  with sturdy roots that are the foundation of solving writing problems: strategies to use when branching out in new directions. And he’ll be there for the other writers who struggle with the hard task of writing and ask him,  as they learn to write descriptions, “Does this sound right?” Both will discover that “Writing is hard fun,” as Donald Murray used to say.

So, open your mind and listen to each other find the right sound in your writing. Develop strong roots from writing lessons to draw from whenever you write.

What strategies are the roots of your foundation in writing?



Writing Strategies

Gather idea:  Use images, quote, and recent experiences to draft.

Explain: Develop the idea — define what writing is and isn’t

Snapshot: capture the moment of struggle and describe the solution

Image:  use the image to choose words [branch, bud, roots, support]



Slice of Life #sol16 Elevation

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Tuesday, the sun shone brightly on the hills around the school. The snow blanketing the highest points sparkled like diamonds while the brown of the lower elevations looked like a fur coat, keeping the earth warm on the brisk day while holding in the green of spring soon to burst from within.

The elevation around the school is 1841 feet above sea level, just enough to keep the snow caps shining and the temperature ten degrees colder than my home twenty miles away. Snow, rain, or shine– the drive to school is meditation, a nature journey to enjoy before the business and messiness of learning begins.

When I left home, the sun’s light on the clear blue sky seemed to say, “Welcome. This day is glorious. Don’t miss it.”

And I know the daffodils just off the front porch listened and lifted its buds higher:


Our town’s elevation is 1145 feet above sea level.  That 700 feet makes such a difference. I didn’t feel I needed a jacket, and the johnny jump ups within the daffodils agreed. But knowing the drive up to school, I donned my winter coat because I knew the dust of snow and drop of temperature would greet me, but that the sunshine would elevate my spirits and that of my students. We wouldn’t miss this.

It would not matter that blades of frost would cover the sand-filled tires on the playground.


The students would still bring the orange bounce in their lives and dance to the beat of it’s dribble on the court.


Elevation makes a difference, but the sun makes a smile.  For me, it was a meditation from its brilliance, for my students, it was, “Play ball” even in its briskness.

What elevates your spirits, especially in the early spring?


Writing Strategies

Theme: Elevation in geography and in spirits


[s] Elevation makes a difference, but the sun makes a smile.

[l] listened and lifted

Dialogue:  Sun — the sun’s light on the clear blue sky seemed to say, “Welcome. This day is glorious. Don’t miss it.”

Description [sights]: he snow blanketing the highest points sparkled like diamonds while the brown of the lower elevations looked like a fur coat, keeping the earth warm on the brisk day while holding in the green of spring soon to burst from within.