SOL17 DoodleaDay Map Story


If you’re a writer, you know it isn’t easy. If you’re not a writer, you know it’s hard.

Donald Murray assured us that “Writing is hard fun.”

In our classrooms, as students learn and read, and wherever students are, they listen, watch, play, work and learn. They gather ideas and facts; they imagine “what ifs.” And teachers have a responsibility to extend all that learning by providing time for students to think and write, and think and write together. And writing for their personal expression in fact and fiction to share their ideas.

Writing clarifies our ideas; it frees our thoughts, contains our thoughts, and connects our thoughts in new ways. We get better at writing by reading a lot and writing a lot. We get better at writing by sharing our pieces — what we like, what we wonder, what we are confused about– for feedback from others. 

Writers know this. Our students need to experience this, not in assignments, but in writing about what’s important to them, in fact or fiction. Journaling, blogging, writers workshop, genius hour: all are ways to incorporate choice in student writing.

We’ve got to let them develop their style, away from templates and outlines. Students need to experience using what they know– facts, experiences, imaginings– to form ideas into a story [fiction or not]. As students review their writing, they share with a friend and get feedback as they make a choice to abandon or to elaborate and revise. If they like their piece, they can edit and publish.  Without these experiences, the feeling of satisfaction and joy — that hard fun — is not attained. We want students to live as writers, as authors on their own.

And with that experience, their messages become clear, in both their own and in their assignments.

Yes, I want my students think like authors– to make the choices in words and organization, in flow and structure, to build their factual or imaginary story and feel the message understood by others when they share during writing and later in publication. 

I want them to learn through their process and publication that “Writing is hard fun.”

And just perhaps, they’ll compose such a story as…

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot

Today’s doodling tune in honor of writers and writing, in all its forms.


Hiding in our minds

Ideas flow and connect;

Stories Awaken.


Part of Slice of Life 2017 by The Two Writing Teachers
Part of DoodleaDay by Royan Lee— today: Maps


Update: As I perused my Facebook feed, I discovered that Ralph Fletcher just made a similar plea, but, of course, he says it much better than I:

Greenbelt Writing: How Low-Stakes, Student-Centered Writing Supports Bold Learning

It’s a great read on Heinemann’s Medium blog.

SOL17 DoodleaDay 23 Simple Shapes


Do you remember KISS?  Not the band, the idea: Keep It Simple, Straightforward.

Our lives are so busy, so flooded with information, and for those not in the president’s world, so disheartening.

So stop a minute. Take a deep breath.

Look at who is around you, and listen. Really look at them– who they are and think how what you say and do has a ripple effect on them.

Now, make their day.

Kindly look around.

Invest in the people:

Say something kind,

Support their day.

Imagine if we did that whenever the world seems crowded and crashing?

Imagine if we started our classrooms in a circle of kindnesses shared, a talking circle reflection of kindnesses remembered and acknowledged from the previous day. Just a few minutes, but so powerful to calm the classroom climate.

I used to start each day with a talking circle, passing around a friendship rock so each person could pass or present a gratitude from the day before or a hope for this day. It was an honor to  the culture in the community, and a positive way to start the day.

Today’s doodle of simple shapes and shading was inspired by Pam Markell, who’s tweeted doodle yesterday of an “icon she wished for“felt like a much needed one:

Zen Quiet.

Thank you Pam, for  the calm, the quiet suggestion.

I wish to everyone, a quiet time to settle your self, your life.



Part of Slice of Life 2017 by The Two Writing Teachers

Part of DoodleaDay by Royan Lee— today: Simple Shapes/Shading

Doodling Songs:

Beatles: All You Need Is Love

Slice of Life SOL Fridays


SOL Friday

It’s Friday. Kids are glad school is done for the week, and teachers are glad for a break. But is it a break?  Papers to grade, lessons to plan based on what students still need to know, groups to plan on those decisions, resources to find.

I look forward to Fridays so I have time to do things I want to do and time to plan for school so my students have the best resources and instructional guidance I can provide.

Teachers are expected to do so much, and yet don’t have the time during the day to do them. They’re in front of students, conferring with students, assessing students, and providing feedback on the spot for most of the day.

But there’s always so much more student work to look at and provide meaningful feedback so students know what to do next. And what resource, lesson, graphic would help this student, that student, and the student that’s ahead?

Did you know that teachers in high-achieving countries deliver instruction sixty per cent of the day whereas American teachers spend eighty per cent of their day in front of students? Did you know that in Korea, Japan, and Singapore, teachers deliver instruction thirty-five percent of the time. The rest of the time, the teachers are collaborating, planning, studying. Read more about this discrepancy of expectations for teachers here, at Cult of Pedagogy.

One change to improve education would be to increase the time during the day that teachers have to collaborate, assess, plan, and personalize learning. That would increase the quality of that work. Right now, I do assessment, planning, and personalizing on my own time, squished in between and among my family responsibilities. There just isn’t time during the teaching day.

Even so, Fridays are a good thing. I look forward to the break and the next week because teaching is a life worth living.

If you are a teacher, how is your instructional time spent? Do you have the time needed to do and plan instructional decisions?



Writing Strategies

Details: Papers to grade, lessons to plan based on what students still need to know, groups to plan on those decisions, resources to find.

Details: facts and questions: Did you know that teachers in high-achieving countries deliver instruction sixty per cent of the day whereas American teachers spend eighty per cent of their day in front of students? Did you know that in Korea, Japan, and Singapore, teachers deliver instruction thirty-five percent of the time.

Transition / Connecting Words: but, and yet, one change… that. even so

Question at end: Asking for teachers’ ideas.

Sources: Read more about this discrepancy of expectations for teachers here, at Cult of Pedagogy.



Image Source:

Image: by Florin Rosoga Fridays


#edblogaday test and time

Learning Is Hard Fun note

Day 3 topic: What’s your biggest concern about teaching and what can we do about it?

A student quoted me earlier this year, and posted the note by my phone as she left the room. Learning is hard fun: it’s a challenge that we choose to take and persevere until we succeed. And we have help along the way, from our teacher and our peers. We form a learning community that builds success through choices, teams, collaboration, lessons, and feedback. It feels good to succeed, and to have an authentic project to share with others.

My biggest concern is twofold: time and tests.

The focus on tests leads away from authentic projects and time for real learning, the kind that happens when you’re in the flow of something you are passionate about. Learning is hard fun, but testing has nothing to do with learning, and everything to do with labeling. Throughout all our project work, we set goals, timelines, and sharing; we provide feedback and revise; we revise our plans and adapt to each learner so that learner can succeed in his/her project. Those times — the sharing, peer and teacher review, feedback: those are the tests that matter and that promote learning. It’s a continuous and fluid process that required state and federal tests interrupt. For days. Sometimes Weeks. There’s something wrong about that.

What can we do about it?  Stop test prepping. Speak up. Teach the things that matter and learn with our students about the things that matter today. If students become engaged, inquisitive, and passionate learners that create for those wonders and passions, then they will have the skills needed for their future — to see and solve problems and issues collaboratively with others using clear communication and team skills with peers, the community, and in global connections.

deweysreLet’s do things in our classrooms, and share with each other. Let’s create and build. Because doing is learning, and learning is hard fun.


So much more could be said about tests and time, but I’ve got no more time today. I’ve been working this sunny weekend on projects that other school departments need this week. We’re a small school and every teacher has more to do than is possible to get done in the day; these were my extra duties. There’s no time for it to get done during the school day — I teach all day, and before / after school, I’m assessing, replanning, finding resources and interventions for the next day so students succeed. I don’t think most people understand this. Janelle Wilson and Pernille Ripp have written eloquently about this. Read their blogs and wonder, “How do teachers do it?”



What is the answer? First of all, there’s research that American teachers work far more hours with far less collaboration and planning time than in other countries. Search it out. Speak up.

Secondly, as Pernille says, A choice. Next weekend, I’m not. I’m not taking my weekends; if it needs to be done, somehow the time in the day must be found for it. I know; it won’t happen. A huge graduation project is coming and I won’t let the kids down. Still… where is my time? my family’s time? What have I missed? Think about it and please do thank a teacher. I just realized it’s National Teacher Week next week. Give one a hug.

learning is hard fun sre

In conclusion, time and tests are my biggest concern — they detract from the classroom and families in some way, either taking time away from learning, or taking time away from families.  What can we do? Keep up the good work to make “learning is hard fun,” and

Speak up.

Word Count 610


See sidebar and join the fun.

#140WC Not Enough Time

140wc_teacher_time.005Tonight after an errand with my husband and a quick dinner, I settled in to the usual: homework.

This is not homework from a class I’m taking. No, this is home work from school. As a teacher, there simply is not enough time in the day to do everything we are expected to accomplish.  Off at three? Not possible.

Tonight, I revised the reading / writing rubric for my Professional Learning Community team based on our early morning meeting during which we analyzed student work. We’re working on Common Core State Standards and our teacher evaluation criteria eight [collaboration], not that we needed those standards or criteria; this is what we do.  We looked at what students could and could not do and decided on a plan for developing their skills; our rubric and accompanying checklists needed to match those expectations so that we could guide students forward and they could reflect and revise based on focused feedback peers and teachers give from the rubric and checklist.

Tonight, I reviewed the collaborative global project I’m collaborating on with teachers around the world. We’re developing a project about usual, traditional, and cultural foods and caloric intake. We share via Hangouts and Google Docs and Slides to plan our goals, expectations, and directions/instructions. I wrote and shared a parental permission slip when that suggestion was made. [I’ll add a link later.]

Tonight, I developed another unit that begins with a focus statement from which kids develop their own questions and how to search, research, investigate, and share the answers to their questions to a specific audience and purpose. I gathered resources and developed the focus statement and initial instructions, all aligned to the Common Core State Standards with a focus on five areas: collaboration, investigation, content, design, and language. This is task two and provides a gradual release of responsibility so students learn to organize and direct their own learning.

Tonight, I wrote the November technology report for the school board because besides being a full time language arts teacher in a small district, I’m also the technology director; I oversee our tech needs and manage our Google Apps for Education.Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 10.53.55 PM

Tonight, I reviewed a flyer my principal created for Student Parent Teacher Conferences.

What did you do after work today?


WC: 378


Tumbling Blocks, rearranged

We’ve started our wiki (whatelse). Kids ask to add and write to add.

The problem: fifty minute periods and hunt/peck styles block success.

GNU License

GNU License

With a self-contained classroom (one teacher teachers all subjects to the same students), integrating technology was easy; while one group created on the computer, other groups participated in independent, small-group, or teaching sessions according to their needs for learning. Language Arts and technology were the tools to investigate, synthesize, and communicate learning in the content areas. Each day, students rotated through their learning stations (computers, teacher conference, teacher lessons, independent work, small-group work) within a two-hour block of time. The rest of the day incorporated content area lessons, research, projects.

If a student’s typing involved, hunt/peck, then his/her project took slightly longer, but with focused time each day, they could complete the work.

Tumbling Blocks

Tumbling Blocks

Now, with writing as the subject taught in fifty minute sessions, hunt and peck doesn’t cut it. Even students who know qwerty will need more time to complete projects because all students do not receive daily time on computers. And, students do not have daily access to the computer lab, of which the lab time involves other assignments for that class, not connected to our class work. The neat self-contained schedule has tumbled into disparate blocks of learning.

In addition, because I teach writing, our projects are unconnected to the other subject learning, creating another separate subject.

However, I still believe writing is a tool for communicating, so we work on science or social studies themes and projects as well as standardized writing prompt preparation. We’ve written about topics on issues related to elections, polar problems, and global warming. The goal is communicating clearly and concisely using the Six Traits of Writing in a process writing approach to develop one’s own powerful style to entertain, inform, or persuade.

Rearranging the Blocks:
1) Hunt/Peck Solution: Qwerty typists create first in class; it’s the real world promotion for having skills, and a carrot for learning qwerty in the lab.
2) Time:
A) Team/Collaboration/Out of Class: A wiki allows student access any time, any where; student now have “YOT” team work: Your Own Time Work. Students collaborate in teams (multi-grades allowed) to complete projects at various times of their choosing: at home, before/after school, lunch recess, study hall, library, lab time. When all teams complete the project, each class shares and celebrates in a presentation day.
I’m still working out the details, but I think collaboration is the goal and key for students teaching each other. Each team needs an eighth grade mentor, who may or may not be a team member.

B) Fifty Minute Periods:
Focus on MaxMo (Maximum Moment lessons — a twist on mini-lessons) Lessons and Writing Workshop. We already have take-home notebooks for students to fill with their own ideas. We’ll have model lessons and samples with guided practice and application time in the workshop sessions. Students use their own notebook ideas and standard prompts during workshop time. In addition, each grade level will work in their required genre based on State standards. The fifty-minute block on most days will work through CSI:
C = Capture — capture your ideas and decide your day’s focus
S = Strengthen — learn new styles and tips through MaxMo lessons
I = Interact — confer with teacher/peer; develop your own ideas; compute

These still Fire It Up:
Fun — own ideas/ peer collaboration
Instant — daily focus in three segments
Relevant — projects/notebooks contain student choice/interest
Engaging — collaboration, choice, technology

Tasks — includes student interest/content topics as meat; the writing is the tool to communicate

Pathways — choice/interest/ tech projects offer different avenues of written expression for different genre

How do you fit projects and content into short middle school periods, separating the disciplines into tumbling blocks of unrelated learning?