Monthly Archives: March 2012

‘fly away home’


Tomorrow I will fly away home,

but you will be there sifting,

trying to find a cup for a 50 cent refill,

packing up as the orange vested pumpkin man sweeps

you off,  in the misty grey morning.

I will be in the jet sipping my Starbucks as

you wander those morning streets looking for

a friendly face and some change before the

pumpkin man says,

“Move on out

we can’t have you beg for change in our streets,

in the Gas Lamp area.

Fly away home, to your place in the park

where the tourists won’t see your pain,

your weathered look, or your illness

go on now.

Fly away home where no one

will see, notice or realize that you are


Fly Away Home written by Eve Bunting is a picture book that never fails to move me. It is a story about a dad and his little boy who live in an airport because of a loss of their home.  On vacation, we were saddened by the amount of homeless people on the streets of San Diego.  Because of its fantastic climate this is where many people without shelter are making their home.  At night patrol men move them to local parks to sleep instead of in the shelter of the buildings in town.

PS I am home today after a wonderful and very relaxing vacation in a beautiful city…but I am left with this lingering thought…help me, oh God to continue to help people in need.

PSS I will check in on this occasionally because I don’t want to lose this community…so I want to continue to ‘slice’ on Tuesdays.  Once again, thanks for organizing this Ruth and Stacey!


the ‘pat down’


“I’m wearing my flip-flops because I’ll be able to get my shoes off easily,” I told Dave the morning of my trip.  I was so excited to be getting away with just Dave after the state testing season here in Illinois.  From an early age, I’ve loved to travel, mostly road trips camping out west … with the family.  But for this spring break we decided to fly to San Diego and try to see some whales.  I’m not a big airport girl…after 9-11 the heightened security makes me feel like I have something to hide.  The kiosk check in makes me nervous, because I think it isn’t going to work… and getting to the airport early…way early, is just the way I roll.  I don’t love to run to terminals and I’m absolutely baffled if they for some reason have to cancel, delay a flight or move a gate.  I know for the ‘seasoned’ traveler this is no big deal, but it is for me.

This is what happened first…the kiosk told Dave that our flight was full.  So we had to wait in this unruly long line at 5:00 in the morning wondering what was wrong with our tickets…but got through it with no explanation given.   I started to feel edgy because I like sitting at the gate for a full 2 hours.  So we were behind according to my timetable.  Then we stood in another line so they could check the boarding passes and our ID.  I smiled at her so she would be nice to me, and she was! I started to relax too soon because next we moved to the conveyor belt.  I put my computer in the box with my flip-flops and then up went my back pack and my carry on.

Oh, no, I could sense it…trouble was lurking near the metal detector.  There was a very gruff and bossy woman at the metal detector.  I was nervous, but I had nothing to fear because I had remembered everything.  I confidently walked through.  It started beeping.

She looked at me and asked if I had a metal knee.

“I don’t have a metal knee…no metal parts…not yet.”  I went through again.

It beeped again… she sighed and bellowed….”you have jewelry on.”

Yikes, I forgot that, I took my cuffs and necklace  off and put the jewelry in another box by the conveyor.  I looked over… Dave was long done.  He was giving me the evil eye because I seem to be holding up the line.

I walked through again…the machine was blasting and that big girl was getting mad as a hornet.  She said, “are you wearing a belt? ”  Oops….I was….Dave was glaring at me, I  took the belt off handed it to him  and he put it on in another box on the conveyor.

I walked through again…..stinkin’ beeping machine!!  The lady now says….what are you wearing???? People are laughing, I am sweating.  She finally bellows…”it’s your bra….you must be wearin’ a thick underwire from Macy’s.”

I said, “Well yes I do….doesn’t everyone?”

She gets in my face yells in the walkie for personal assistance for a” complete pat down”.  I have no idea what that means.  I’m thinking that she will bring me in a room and make me take off my bra and then start to pat.  I’m suddenly in my biggest, wake me out of a deep sleep nightmare situation… In my mind, I’m trying to run to catch my flight without my bra on….this is my biggest fear and it’s really happening on the first day of my spring break!

The new lady  tells me how she is gonna pat.  She sees my terror.  She speaks in a calm and reassuring way.  I say,

“I just don’t want you to make me take off my bra.”

She looks at me with a smile and says..”.no way”. and starts to pat.

Finally it is over, now I just have an hour to spare. Dave is standing at Starbucks with all my stuff.  My backpack is unzipped.  Suddenly, I’m really in the mood to ‘slice’ this ordeal.  I look for my computer before I zip up.

“Oh my gosh, my computer…it’s back where I had the pat down.” I run back to conveyor.  Thank goodness it’s still there.  I have my computer and my bra is still on.  I’m ready to ‘slice’.

PS Today I board a plane in San Diego back home.  Please pray that I’ll get away ‘pat’ free.

double circle


I’ve never been a big fan of the book report.  When I was in sixth grade my teacher, Mr. Young, assigned us a book report every week.  Back then I loved reading series chapter books, Trixie Belden, The Bobsey Twins, Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames- oops, I’m dating myself!  Our teacher really didn’t care if we were reading any sort of variety….only that we reported every week.  I know that this was accountability for some of the students in my class, but it really annoyed me that I had to retell the plot on a weekly basis.  And I didn’t think he graded them at all…most of the time, we all just got a ‘C’ written in red pen on the top left of the paper.  One day I decided that since there was a pretty good retelling on the back of the book that I would just use that.  I got it back with an ‘F’.  I was caught red-handed and repented profusely.

In today’s world some of us still feel that need to keep our students accountable in some way.  I prefer to use a‘ double circle drill’ or  ‘book dates’.  It is only fair to students that they know that one of these forms of discussion will be coming on a regular basis, every two weeks or so.  It is necessary to have their book with if they want to refer to a page, read a part of the description, or make a connection or prediction.

This is how I usually set up for  double circle drill.  The desks are pushed to the edges of the room if I don’t have enough space for them to be in a circle.  If I have 30 students 15 will be the inner ring and 15 will be the outer ring.  Each ring faces the other ring and they are matched up with a person to start with.  If there is an uneven group.  I will lead the drill and also partner up.  I ask some warm up questions:  How is your day going?  What are you looking forward to after school? etc.  I usually will have the outside person talk first and then the inside person.  I blow on a soft old fashioned train whistle and even if they are not done talking. it is the inside circle that rotates one person to the right or clockwise.  They now have a new partnership.  I will have them answer a general question about their book (example:  Is it fiction or non-fiction?)  and then we rotate again after both people converse.  Each consecutive question I get a little more detail oriented.  If a student hasn’t been reading, they will not be able to converse logically about their book.  It is very good peer accountability.

‘Book dates’  is very similar, but the goal is to talk about your book for about two minutes each and then find an open seat in the classroom to hear about another book somewhere else in the room when the whistle blows.  This is fun because it has a game-like quality and the students have the flexibility to discuss what they want to from their book or magazine.  Magazine…..yikes, did you say that?  I believe students who are just moving in to the reading game should be allowed to read articles from specific magazines.  Obviously, I don’t let them choose magazines that have any underwear commercials in them.  I prefer National Geographic, Sports Illustrated (for Kids), the newspaper or Time for Kids.  We discuss ahead, what is allowed and what is not.  I also will allow ‘clean comic books’, and the latest genre- graphic novels.

I have found that most students participate and are definitely doing the reading.  It is hard to talk about something that you are not reading.  Students that are not reading???? Well that is where the other students and I can be very helpful.  We are able to sometimes find that very first book that turns them on as a reader- it can come from me or most of the time another student.  The most important thing for me is of course, that they have choice as well as voice !

If only we’d talked to each other


One of my favorite picture books of all time is , The Island of the Skog, by Steven Kellogg.  I won’t tell the book for those of you who haven’t read it yet, but my favorite line in the book is when Jenny, one of the mice says,

“If only we’d talked to each other.”   

She says this because communication is a very big deal.  Teaching young readers how to talk to each other …is….I believe one of the beginning skills that is absolutely essential to their forward progress as readers,writers and thinkers.  I also believe, in the flurry of get it in- get it done and fast, we don’t teach how to communicate because it takes too long.   And then we forget to use it as a very practical strategy.  Young learners need to be heard.  In our school district, we currently have 30 kindergartners and first graders in classroom.  If students learn ‘turn and talk’ every one of them has a chance to contribute and each one of them is heard by another human being.  This is active learning and active listening….and I do believe it needs to start as early as  pre-school.

There are two distinct ways that we need to turn and talk…  My personal method for rug time – is using Eyes, Eyes, Knees, Knees –  originally read about it in Reggie Routman’s or definitely in Debbie Miller’s books.  The students are taught to turn quickly, so that both of their knees are touching and they are looking each others beautiful eyes.  Some need to be taught that when you talk you do look at each other and not down, as is a custom in some cultures.  They also do need to know that they look at each other and not around the rest of the room.  They  need to know who should talk first and who should talk second.  This can all be accomplished by teacher modeling and then it  needs to be practiced-often.  After the short exchange, sometimes the teacher will ask some partnerships for ideas to contribute to the whole group…and sometimes the teacher will not.  A signal can be used when the teacher wants the voices to chill….for example…she might use a rainstick or give a quick clap. and then the group can return to their forward position.

Children also need to share books even when they are beginning to read and they need a different way to move to read with each other.  When they are reading together, both students must learn how to look at the book together.  This alternative turn and talk is a side by side sit called, Elbow, Elbow, Knee, Knee– this position has been made popular by The Sisters in their book, The Daily 5.  They fondly, call this EEKK, and tell students that they need to sit closely, so that they both can see the one book that is being shared.  Again, this position needs to be modeled and practiced in order for it to be successful.  Students are also taught how to talk and read a book together using their skill of ‘checking for understanding’.  One student reads and the other checks to see if they understand what was read.

Now for all of you who teach middle school and high school…wouldn’t you agree that a room full of students talking together instead of listening to lecture is a better learning environment and culture to cultivate?  This can again be modified from on the rug to up in a desk or possibly in stand up positions….hmmm….my favorite other talking strategy is a double-circle drill…but I’m saving it for another post. 🙂

Have fun and talk to me through your comments!

Turn and talk…every day…in more than one way!

still running after 9 hours


When I blow dry my hair, sitting by the wall in my bedroom I can easily think about my next presentation.  It’s almost like magic…it just flows as the heat from comes out.  The flow sometimes continues on in the car with the beat of the music from my car’s radio (country works best).  I drive a short distance to my building, get out of the car, still thinking, thinking until I get to my computer and add my finishing touch.  It is my routine…and I love it.

My family has always reminded me about that zone of ‘thinking my own thoughts’ can be kind of dangerous.  For instance, I never see or hear my friends and family when I get to the idea phase.  I’m almost possessed or trance like.  I know you might laugh, but its accurate in my case.

One day I was presenting all day up in the computer lab to all the different grade level groups…tricky because I needed to modify bits between grade levels.  At the end of the day I felt pleased by my energy and the energy of the group.  Positive reactions and laughter always energize me.  I was throughly pleased with myself about how well my early morning brainstorming session had paid off .

At the end of the day, I walked out the door, heard some loud country music.  “I wonder where that is coming from?” I thought.  I looked at the back-end of my car.  Smoke was coming out my tail pipe in the cool afternoon air.  “Oh my gosh, someone is in my car….I looked in my driver’s seat, no human was sitting there.  I walked over.  I opened the door … Carrie was singing Jesus take the wheel.  It was toasty warm inside.  I looked left, I looked right…had anyone noticed that I had left my keys in my car and country radio had played for nearly nine hours that day?

“I wonder if I have any gas?”  I looked down and it had just used a miniscule amount. I always had always wondered if a person has to press the accelerator to expend gas.  Now I knew…but I couldn’t tell anyone because of the fact they would remind me of this day…for eternity…the day I was thinking my own thoughts and left the car singing all day.

How we Walked


I grew up in the ’60’s in a very Catholic neighborhood.  Even as a young girl I remember everyone celebrating the election of John F. Kennedy to the White House as the first ever Catholic President.  My friends around the Easter season sported ashes on their foreheads and the ones that went to our Catholic grade schools had beautiful religious storybooks that they let me devour when they weren’t using them.  I wanted the Rosary beads.  I wanted to give up something for Lent and I definitely wanted to choose another middle name like they did when they made their First Holy Communion.  I also wanted to fit in…but I was raised in a Baptist church with ‘Sunday’ school.  That meant two hours on Sunday instead of one.

As we grew, I tried to explain some of the ways my church was different from theirs.  The biggest was baptism.  We called it ‘believers baptism’.  We were able to decide when we were ready to be baptized in our baptistery in front of the entire congregation.  My friends were baffled by this and very, very worried about me…because I wasn’t baptized yet.  My best friend Diane every once in a while would start in on  me,

” Well…when exactly do you think that you are gonna to do this baptism thing….because I’m worried.”

I knew why she was worried…she thought if disaster were to strike and I happened to die, well, you know- it would mean I wouldn’t be in heaven at all and would have to contend with the ‘lake of fire’ and those pitchforks in that opposite place.

I know that Diane cared about me.  I wasn’t exactly sure of why I wasn’t ready to be baptized yet, but I did know that I had asked Jesus to be my savior and that he had promised that I would live with him in heaven some day…in that distant future when I was ‘old’ enough to die.  And I really didn’t like to think about that death thing- at all.

Three of us would walk home from school every day…two Catholics and a Baptist.  My friend Diane, every single day insisted that I needed to walk in the middle of the two of them, when we walked down Oakton.  It was a fairly busy street.  One day it was driving me crazy, the way I had to always be in the middle.  Then Diane told me…you will have to walk this way with us until you are baptized in your church.  If a car jumps the curb and it’s heading towards us, it will be easy for us to jump in front of you and save you from eternal disaster.  We will die for you because we were baptized when we were babies.

“My friends, willing to die for me???” Amazing love, how can it be?.

I didn’t say it back then…I know  now, that this is exactly what the perfect son of God did when he lived here on earth…he died, so all of us would not perish but have life with him forever.

Amazing love, how can it be?

Literacy in Motion


Okay, I admit it…and some of you know it, I went to Judson University…when it wasn’t on the map, I went when it wasn’t even accredited yet, I  went when we got a dual certificate in education with another institution, I went when it was more like a summer camp than a university.  But did I ever blog about how I loved summer camp?  I loved Judson.  One thing that has never changed, however, is the strength of the education department.  But now, 36 years later, Dr. Layne  has literally put Judson on the map of the United States of America.

Dr. Layne, also a graduate (let’s just say at least…about a decade after me) and  is a writer of YA novels, fabulous picture books….and now has a professional book that you do not want to miss-  Ignighting a Passion for Reading.  Steve has developed a strong Master in Literacy program and is in the final rounds of creating Judson’s first Doctoral program in literacy.  The strength of our program, however,  are the teachers themselves and the community that is developed between the faculty and students.  I can’t say enough about these fabulous students that we have had the last five years…many of whom have published in nationally recognized professional journals.  It is not a program for the faint of heart.  It is a program for the – shall I say it? the ‘slicer type’.

Literacy in Motion is our yearly conference and this year Ruth Ayres will be one of the featured speakers…how exciting is that? Those of you participating in the ‘slice’ challenge could even have the opportunity to be in the same room with her, wow.  That would be quite an opportunity and how great would it be if we could meet more ‘slicers’!!!!

Of course…CPDU’s are given 🙂

Here’s the conference link:  Literacy in Motion

Snip, snap…this one is a shout out!

Kelly Marie’s gotcha story



love to write, love to think, love to SLICE... please join our community

love to write, love to think, love to SLICE… please join our community

This was unusual for Dave…after a Sunday message at church he turned to me and said,

“I don’t know what, but I think God is going to be asking us to do something big- that’s gonna change our lives.”

I do remember thinking that this is definitely out of character for my guy that makes sure that he is well researched before making any big decision at all.  He checks the money, he checks the mood, he consults his mother, he wants me to ask my father… yep, God must really be talking loudly today for him to even be telling me this.

The next week, he came home on Tuesday and told me that he found you sitting at a table in the Media Center at school.  You had wanted to stop and let  him know that you wouldn’t be able to play for him this season because they were placing you in another foster placement out of our school district. Dave knew instantly that no…she would be definitely living at our house instead.

We got you and set you up in Jeff’s old bedroom upstairs.  Dave told you that he would paint the room whatever way you wanted. You chose ‘Pepto’ pink with stripes down one side of the wall.  I didn’t like hot pink.  Dave just smiled and painted away.  Your clothes were moved in.  I noticed you were a ‘keeper’ like me…a trunk of cheap stuffed animals and all the dresses and dried flowers from important events.   You said, not to worry, that you wouldn’t get in our hair.  You said you’d be off to college soon and that you were an ferociously independent type of girl.

You hung your pictures back from Jr. High…friends and more friends of every nationality, every creed.

Dave wanted to be your dad, he even looked like you.  You called him ‘Papa’.  You called me ‘Nanc’.

You gave your story to us that told of the day when you thought you were going on a fun mini-trip to a hotel.  You remember that you had your ‘swimmies’ on your arms when you were pulled away from your mother. You thought you were meeting a new friend in a giant building called ‘court’.  You’ve been waiting all this time to be back with your mommy.  It’s been years of waiting and now you are in another placement- my family…and that dream still continues to pulse inside of you.

Don’t worry sweet Kelly, “You can call me Nanc. I know you have a mom.”  I want that dream to stay alive- for her…but I’m fearful of all things big and little… realizing early that years in a group home and then in placements that hadn’t worked out had to have taken a toll.  One day I asked you if you had any pictures of your little girl self.  You said , “not a one…but you said you looked just the same only smaller.”  I tried to imagine, but didn’t want to imagine, a little curly-headed girl with swimmies reaching out to a mom that was walking away.

I think we’ve come to the place eight years later that you are my girl and I am your Nanc , and I’m very happy about that.  Now you have a different dreams that includes a vast array of friends and older folks that have fed into your life for many years…you hope and yearn for the day when you will be a mom, who will hold on tight and never let go….never let go…never let go.

PS because I like them….I am proud of my girl…tell your story…tell it to the world- a story of strength, of perseverance, loyalty and love.

Papa and KB

‘the AM routine…the daily 10’


1.     I wake up at 5:15.

2.     I push the snooze once.

3.     I push the snooze twice in the winter, wanting more coziness.

4.     I sigh, hold the railing, feet hitting the hardwood- grab for the lights, push the coffee  pot button.

5.     I run back up the stairs-brush both teeth and hair, make-up, examine dark spot, wonder if I should invest in another very expensive product, put clothes on quietly (Dave is still snoring and I feel like his body reads “Do not disturb” …a little annoyed, but not much.

6.    Computer- read Daily Bread and then post up my new Slice….lately it is Slice and then Daily Bread…because I worry that I might put it up wrong…coffee…I need it, I get it.

7.    Drive

8.    Turn on the lights, turn on the computer, pray for the students I will touch, comment on slice, comment on slice, comment on slice

9.    New day…new observation or memory…it is like every other cycle that I can think of…

10.  Starting over.

1.   I wake up at 5:15…

why can’t the tooth fairy come every week?


I’ve followed Carol, from Carol’s Corner for at least a year.  I love when she blogs about her boys, when she blogs about her class, when she blogs about Donald Graves and I especially loved when she did the ‘slice’ challenge last year.  

A while ago, she was talking about hearing the great early educator Sharon Taberski talk about how important ‘background knowledge’ is and how we jump so quickly to teach a new strategy when what they really need is the BK, that’s what I like to call it.  

This is going to be a little bit of true confessionsright nowI hope I don’t get in trouble when I say itI love the Tooth Fairy passage on this particular assessment in 2nd grade.  Every week we have to do a passage , a one minute, fluency timing and it serves as a record of their progress, or a lack of progress in reading, imagine a timed one minute passagesighI know most of you know what I’m talkin’ about.  Well, I discovered last year that my second graders did amazingly well on the ‘tooth fairy’ passage, I mean, they actually read about twenty-five words faster than they normally do.  

Well, this year, I confess, I gave the tooth fairy passage twiceto boost their sweet little reading hearts.They did great the first time they took it and they did great the second time also.  Each one said, after the passage, ‘wow, that was a good story and I did good.’  Bless their sweet little trying hearts, they all know about those fairies that visit under their pillows many times during grades one and two.  BK, the one acronym that matters…and I just might give that same passage again before this year is out.  Just thought of something, maybe my first graders would do well on it too…kinders…they can’t wait until the tooth fairy comes to visit… hmm…
and so it goes.  

Snip snap, over and out:) 

our story of March Madness


Some days I just say to myself, “How did we ever do it?”  Two teaching jobs, stacks of English papers and two extremely alive and kind of hyperactive kids.  “How did I ever survive that time of my life?”  As I read some of your posts…I know that you are there right now with a full-time job, trying to juggle, continually heading off the exhaustion with yet another coffee.  I do remember one way I was able to do at least part of it.  Yes,  I will forever be indebted to the Boosters, in the Booster Booth at the high school where my husband taught and coached.

For most of Dave’s career he coached…cross country, basketball and soccer.  Not one, but three sports.  He coached before we had children so I was accustomed to ‘riding the pine’.  I never got in the game, but I was there…always so I could see my husband in action.  The love and intensity he put into practicing and games was an awesome thing to behold.  We had team parties and I loved getting to know all the ‘girls’ and their parents.  He worked them hard and we both loved them.

Then came Em…team baby…we always had a babysitter.  Then came… baby big boy Jeff…he was a destructive little monster!  We still went to all the games, only now I had to nurse at the half and I spent many nights watching both of them toddle in the foyer; me, I watched from the door.  My kids didn’t love to sit on the pine like I did.  They liked to do the splits, roll and eat Booster booth food…often.  I watched them, of course,  but gradually, as the years rolled on,  I was able to see more and more of the game.  As they grew, I inched my way back on to the ‘pine’.  The kids were safe, they were together, with all the other coaches kids…playing their games, singing their songs, and started helping create delicious  nacho creations, chile, hot pretzels and popcorn…my friends, the Boosters, were such a help !

Game nights mid- week were so enjoyable for me.  I would sit with my friends…yelling, cheering and having fun and so did my kids.

Until that one night, when one of my children escaped from the Booster Booth.

The game was very tight.  We were on the free throw line.  The gym was quiet, we were waiting for her shot.  It was so important for her to make these two shots to put us up in the game by 1 point.  String music…she made the first shot.  We cheered and it was time for shot number 2.  The gym was silenced by the referee.  Then I saw it …in slow motion, I saw it… another ball was arching towards the basket, but it was coming from the last row of the bleachers, and  not from our player.  He was standing there, straight as an arrow, my monster, my four year old wearing his beloved long, Bulls jersey, I knew that he was going for his beloved 3.  The errant junior sized ball landed at the referee’s feet close to the basket.  He picked it up and bellowed, “Who shot this ball?” Jeff suddenly realized that he had just done the unthinkable.  His little four year old body slammed down between the two bleachers, thinking no one could see him, but my Booster friends saw, looked at me and started to laugh.

Dave, the unflappable coach, just looked at the ref and said, “Can we take the shot please? I’ll figure out who that kid was when we look at the tape.”

Our player got on the line again, shot another point, and the game was won.

We saved that tape forever.

Snip snap, snout…this bad little tale is now told out !

March madness…may it continue forever.

having contingency plans…


I should have planned for this, I know.  But there is something in me that doesn’t love a flu shot, but now, I wish I had prepared for this…the aches, the chills, the pounding head and the run to washroom.

Last week, talking to my daughter on Skype, I moaned silently when she told me about the stomach virus that she was experiencing.  I wanted to crawl through the monitor and comfort my sweet girl – new mother- new missionary in training.  There is something that wells up when my children are  sick.  I hear it in her voice as she says, “I need a hug from you, mom.”  I told her the facts, that she would feel measurably better in about twenty-four hours.  I told her…I’m hugging you.  I silently breathed a prayer for her, that she can feel God’s arms of comfort.  There will be many days like this for me…a lump in my throat and watery eyes ready to overflow.

Right now, I just want my own mom.  I want to call her and feel her arms embrace.  Things between a ‘mom and her girl’…I know it is true, they just never change.

…still miss my poochie friend…


Do dogs go to heaven?  I say  an emphatic, “YES ! because I’m going there and I want to see her again.”  my good friend Allie, Al pal is what I called her.  Her given name, Allison Katherine Hatcher was name picked on a Colorado Rocky Mountain trail.  My children were about to give up slogging through the drenched trail when I said,

“I know, let’s figure out a name for a puppy, if Daddy would ever allow us to have a puppy…I had remembered picking a name for a cat when I was on a similar trail as a young girl with my dad.”

It was so amazing, their young spirits perked up right away, especially my son, who had just finished Shiloh in his fourth grade class.  I don’t remember the brainstorming process…but I did remember that I thought ,

“Well it is, a big handle for a little puppy and they’ll probably forget all about this after the hike.”

We got home and there was no mention of the dog for a few months.  Then my son, who is known as a ‘wheeler-dealer’ set his plan in motion.  Someone, probably at school, mentioned the ‘classified’ section of the newspaper to Jeff.  He began his dog search in earnest.  He cut up the classifieds and placed them on our nightstand.  He didn’t beg, he didn’t whine…he didn’t remind of us of the fact that we had chosen a name,  somehow, he knew that this methodical – well researched approach would appeal to his meticulous father.  They were only beagles, that he looked for,  never another….dog- gone that Shiloh, dog- gone  that Peanuts cartoon, dog- gone that mushy trail where this had all started.

My husband caved right near Christmas, the worst time to get a dog- say the ‘experts’…and in the winter…did we even think of training?  I didn’t even know what that really was.  Before you have your baby, everything will be perfect….Right?  I didn’t know at the time, that beagles are stubborn, difficult to train and some would even call beagles a ‘less than intelligent  breed’.

We brought the bundle of love home a few days before Christmas.  It was a surprise for Jeff, one that he had just about given up hope for.  I remember the night…the best night of my ‘gift giving’ life.  He was sitting on the couch watching a program.  We stuck up behind him and put the sleeping pup on his lap.  A tear ran down his face .  Here was his new best friend…and I might add, mine.

PS  Last summer was Al pals last.  Here she is at 14 people years,  an older and a much chubbier pooch (beagles eat everything and don’t know when to stop, uh-oh… that is kind of like me)

PSS Jeff begged us for another pooch  after college.  This time, his Dad found the classified.   Here he is with his new best friend Niia (named after a jazz singer).



A talisman is something that is worn that creates an emotional response to the wearer. Is is a superstition…to some, I suspect, but I have five pieces of jewelry that I wear daily for very specific reasons.

I have worn my Petosky stone necklace from the day my mother gave it to me after my great Aunt Emeline died.  She was my mom’s fun loving aunt who continued her whole life to live and teach school in a small town on the shores of Lake Michigan.  I love, love touching my smooth stone daily as I teach.  My great aunt was my inspiration to teach.  She would send her old ‘basal’ readers when her district would choose new books.  We had three old school desks lined up in our basement to ‘play’ school on rainy days with my friends and little sisters.

My ring that I wear on my right hand was my Grandma Nelson’s wedding ring.  I was her first granddaughter and she loved me, oh, how she loved me.  I think everyone in this world deserves to be a favorite of someone in this life and I admit it, I was my grandma’s girl.  When I look at my hand wearing her simple ring I remember her strong hands loving me, sleeping with me on Christmas Eve, trying to get the knots out of my little girl necklaces so I could wear them again.

I wear two cuffs on my left wrist.  Our son let us drive his jeep to the Grand Canyon while he was working there five years ago.  My first cuff, purchased there, was a reminder of that great vacation- traveling and doing the off -road jeep thing in the southern parks of Utah.  Dave and I  jumped streams and were riding where two fifty something people should dare not go.  When we finally made it to the safety of the Grand Canyon I felt that I deserved a special silver reminder of how ‘adventure’ is important to me.  The second cuff, recently went on my wrist.  Dave bought it for me in Costa Rica on his recent trip to visit our daughter and her family.  I absolutely love it!  It looks like two rope strands woven together in a braid.  Braids are strong and it reflects our love every time I catch a glimpse.

Dave surprised me with a new wedding ring five years ago.   It has the mini diamond stone from my first ring that was purchased 35 years ago.  He added four more stones and designed the ring to withstand the storms of our lives.  The five stones represent our whole family linked together forever.

I love wearing these gifts of love, seeing these gifts of love, every day single day.

to my rubric making friends


Lucky I am to be a member of a team of literacy teachers and coaches in our school district.  Some of us are new and some of us will be newly retired… soon.  We have a goal this year. Our teachers are asking for new rubrics that can be used kindergarten through fifth grade.  It is a lofty goal, but one that exhilarates those of us who enjoy creating.  But we continually remind each other that these rubrics might not resemble what Parcc (our assessment vendor) is ‘cooking’ up behind close doors.  We are using CCSS language and it’s helping us understand and flesh out the new possibilities surrounding ‘informative, opinion and narrative’.  We smile as we read the new exemplars and gasp when we see what even the kindergartener are expected to be able to do.

At times, during this process, I’ve said to myself, “really…really…they’ve got to be kidding!!”

But on the flip side, I know that Writing Workshop will be the key that unlocks these doors.  It is as close to a magic bullet as we will ever get. A workshop is a flurry of writers, creating, experimenting and learning how to trust each other.  It is the most differentiated part of our curriculum.  It allows for choice and voice.  It builds bridges and it mentors the fledging writer in the most intimate way.  The teacher is taught in writing workshop that she is a part of the community as well…she is in the trenches – a part of every little facet from mini-lesson, crafting-revising, share to publish…she works next to, not looking down on – but peers into the mind of that sweet soul sitting next to her.

We have a monumental task ahead of us creating this instrument of assessment for our teachers.  May we communicate it well, may we use it as an instrument that helps to inform our instruction, showing where we need to confer, where and what we need to teach next.

Lucky I am to be a part of a team that believes this with all of their hearts...lucky and blessed ! xo nanc

The Secret Garden


Yesterday I decided that I’m somewhat obsessed by “secrets”…secret doors, secret pockets, whispered secrets, my friends secrets, and Santa’s secrets.  I want to know the secret, the truth, and then I want to tell someone.  I had a secret hideaway when I was young, in my room. In the back of my closet, I carved out a special spot for snacks, books and a flashlight.  I read with my stolen cheese and Tang from the fridge.  I also had a secret spot out behind my garage to store my neighbor’s strawberries picked on summer mornings.  My best friend and I found new locations in my house in a cool basement cave where we’d read the dictionary, for exotic new words like sensual, archipelago and amour.  We’d sit for hours in the summer heat, side by side, whispering, reading and writing together.  A book that caught us in it’s snare was the Secret Garden a story of a sallow, sorry character named Mary who is changed by the magic of the secret garden and being loved for the first time in her life.  We envisioned the melancholy moor, the joy of her first friend and the sad, secret garden, being brought back to life.  That is where my obsession with secrets was born.

I desperately wanted that secret garden my whole life…but surprisingly…I have no talent with dirt and growing things, or patience.  I do remember those dreams of my youth… of a walled green ivy fence growing around me, the roses and the smells of new spring plants and fall’s dying treasures.  We fenced in our yard this summer to keep our son’s spirited puppy inside.  Today I walk our garden with my Ben Weatherstaff who has created our special secret garden…34 years… of us weeding and loving together.  I realize the truth… that the garden of my life needs continual pruning, planting and transplanting to make sense…and that secrets should be shared with those that you love.

The Secret Garden was written in 1911 by Frances Hodgson Burnett, imagine …the truth contained in all the pages…still relevant today, still waiting to be discovered by a little girl curled up with a fresh book in her hand.

a new take on my intervention


Sometimes in doing my reading intervention I just have to sometimes be on a covert mission.  Yes, I must adhere to the guidelines of what to do first, second and third. And yes, I do need to get one book a day done.  But how can I not take a pause with ‘the boys’ to enjoy these facts coming at them at this fast and furious pace? And how can I not breathe in the freshness of an early morning on the walking path that curves around our school building.

I know…you’re thinking…but what does this have to do with our book Elephants or even our book on the Redwoods?

“Does she have integrity to her intervention???” everyone might ask.

I do declare, “Reading and writing is the art of observation- the ability to notice”.  I guess that is my justifying quote, which I just made up in my mind, as I quick-stepped to the door to outside with the boys.

“I say to the group, you may have noticed, the curves in our letters mimic our walking path that we take.” I say in my head.  And then we all start to argue (with supporting facts of course) if whether the track that was pushing up in the spring goo, was made by a dog or a raccoon.    One of my natural text to world connectors says, “If we were in Africa it could be an elephant’s giant pad”.

“Can we visualize our school building ten stories high?” I say.  Everyone peers upward,

“That’s how high a Redwood can grow, exclaims a joyful  second grader, and I learned it in a book!”

Ahh, I smile in pleasure…I love this very on target… tangent… we took this morning… on our walk…in the dewy freshness… on the path around our school. Personally, I think Fountas and Pinnell would smiling too.

did she really say that?


We were best friends up until that day.  I was always the type that had a best friend. Going to each others houses after school, talking on the telephone in the kitchen if we were able to get home before our younger sisters arrived…before our parents got home from work.  Together we watched TV in my kitchen, usually with a snack my mom had prepared the night before.  We were trusted ‘Junior High’ girls, interested…but not too interested in the opposite sex…still content to just be together after the frantic pace of school.

Our world was changing around us, but we were insulated by parents that loved us and our teachers that really understood the pre-puberty angst that many of us had started traveling through.  My social studies teacher was extremely interested in social justice issues- he taught us how to ‘discuss’ issues in a square arrangement around the room. Today we call it ‘Socratic discussions’. Mr. H. was young, energetic and he wanted us to start trusting our belief system and even our political views.

On April 4, 1968, we were at my house eating  chocolate, fudge brownies surrounded by creamy white ice cream.  Sitting in front of the fourteen inch TV in my kitchen, a news reel came across the screen.  It read….Martin Luther King Jr. had just been killed on a balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis Tennessee.

I was speechless.  Sandy smiled and said, “good, another one is dead”. 

I looked down into my white ice cream now puddled over the chocolate brownie and still said nothing. 

An aside:  as I’m writing this all these years later I regret not saying anything back to my friend, in fact right now I tear up as I write. In another couple of years I did become braver.  My teacher, Mr. H. had planted the seed,where I was, even in my self-centered little life.  I have told this story often…to my own children and to my own classes through the years.  Bigotry is scary…let us continue the fight for racial justice in our country.

dersdat tilliso


Improving my fonics,

OOps, phonics,

This month, to prove to the screen,

I’m definitely not a robot,

I am finding that

I like the new words that carry the nonsense:






Would my second graders love to prove

That they are not a robot?

Yes, next year, I decide they will slice and comment,

So much will be accomplished.

why I need to wear my glasses


I’ve been ‘far sighted’ most of my life… I’ve worn glasses from the age of three.  They had absolutely defined my life until late adolescence.  When I was eighteen I was craving contact lenses before college.  My Dr. surprised me and said, “Why would you need contacts for being ‘far sighted? You can take off your glasses whenever you would like because your distance vision is excellent.”

“Really?”  My glasses felt like they had been attached since birth.  I had such a love-hate relationship with them.  So I went off to college, reinventing myself and becoming this person that didn’t wear glasses except to read and write.  People at my college didn’t even know the former person with the blue, then brown, then wire- rimmed former me.  And I was happy about that.

Well, as the years went on it continued that way, I only felt like I needed my glasses when I read…..until….. you guessed it that life change that occurs that only close girl friends talk about- the place that I am right now; the big M.  My family loves to tell this story. It happened on the way up to Michigan just last spring.  I’ll just put it this way….I’m now considered ‘near sighted’ by my family.

Dave was driving that was first clue. I don’t like driving in the dark because lights are fuzzy and I think I might hit a deer.  We were stopping at a gas station just inside of Holland and I said that I needed to use the rest room.  I got side tracked by the candy aisle.  I found the red licorice, because I had just heard that it was a candy that was good to eat when you are trying to lose weight and I am always trying.  I looked up to see where the rest room was.  This guy must have seen my eyes peering one way and then the next and he pointed to the left….Ahhhh, that was super nice of that guy to point the restroom out, I thought.

So I had my break, paid for the licorice and went back to the car.  I exclaimed to Dave, “I love Holland, the people up here are so nice….this really nice Holland guy actually pointed out the rest room to me because I couldn’t see it.”


“Uh, Nanc, you really need to wear your glasses….because….that really nice guy???? That was me…your husband of 34 years.”  Yep, you’ve guessed it….yet another round of hysterical laughter in our lives together.

Snip, snap, snout another Hatcher tale told out!