Monthly Archives: November 2013


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

I work in a large suburban district and I’m in what is called a ‘special group’.  The thing that makes us special is that the district can do different things with us.  We are interventionists, we are coaches, we are staff developers and we are all very different and that is why we are an awesome team.  We can be moved from building to building without question.  This doesn’t happen too often because that would kind of defeat the purpose of ‘coaching’.  We work well together and have meetings monthly to decide literacy directions; and yes sometimes we go round and round on certain issues.   Of course, many of you know that there have been changes that have impacted literacy over the last few years (RTI, CCSS and of course the biggest game changer word…DATA and accountability).  This is not a post on how I personally feel about all ; it is a post on the words ‘close reading’.

My question is this…how else would we teach children to read?????

Our team is designing close reads for teachers in every grade to use before the end of the school year.  I love to create curriculum that will be used and can make a teacher’s life a little easier.  But last Friday, when I was looking for great texts to use, I started feeling exasperated.  Our team put parameters in place…not longer than two typed pages and the other biggie…the text also needs to be appropriately complex.

We are lucky to have so many materials, books and resources in our district, however, each school does not have access to the same materials.  This is a huge issue.  If we have a book from our library and it isn’t in another library…cross using  that book off the list.  If I have the perfect book in my own library and my friend in 4th grade doesn’t have the same book…cross that off the list.  Finally, gritting my teeth, I went into Appendix B or the CCSS I looked at what they had to offer.  There are oodles of texts in Appendix B.  I’m assuming that we have a right to use any of those resources.  I picked one that my partner and I could agree on.  She picked a non-fiction from Story, which we also assumed was fair game, because everyone has access.

So I’m off to the races, or to the ballgame; I picked Casey at the Bat.

I’m working on those ‘text dependent’ evidence based questions.  The most annoying part and I mean it is really annoying to me is the part where schema isn’t supposed to be ‘important’.  I just so disagree with this and I am really having so much trouble with it.  We teach so many ELL students, the vocabulary, the ancient vocabulary, that we don’t use today needs explanation.  Also, perhaps the most difficult part for me is this…I choose not  to ruin books by over analysis. And that is why, I feel that we have to be very careful, very careful, not to do this version of  close reading too often.

I agree with re-reading to understand more, but it has to be a very special passage or scene that this should happen with.

Using poetry or song is a wise choice, however,  I think close reading using poetry should be included in a larger unit in which the students have background information and in many case pictures  to hang the words on.  For example, if I use the words dust bowl some of you might be hard pressed to explain.  If I used the jack-rabbit round-ups, you might be blinking your eyes and saying, what?  If I said The Grapes of Wrath.  Many of you would say…yeah…I’ve heard of it.  If I said, Out of the Dust, or The Great Depression many would have greater clarity.  In other words, even when students are reading closely, they should be adept at research.  I would argue that they should ultimately, even when taking the assessments, be able to access at least the computer as they go.

Every single day I am asking for clarification when I don’t understand.  Every single day Google is my best friend.  I am dependent on Teacher Tube or Choice Literacy to give me a living, breathing example.  Ted Talks, amazing!  Khan Academy…amazing!  Kids teaching other kids on our classroom blogs…embedding tellagami’s right in to share a new great book. (oh, tellagami….I will sing it’s praises….it is a free app right now).  If you are a researcher at heart you are probably linking on right now).

Now, I really need to get to text-dependent questions on my project.  I’m not sure, I don’t know, I don’t love them.  I want kids to have in their brains this…know when you don’t know….research…and continue on with making sense.  Many will learn to love the exploration, and yes, some will get sidetracked, just like I have even in this post.

PS This is an example of the way my brain likes to think.  It is not in a paragraph 1, paragraph 2, paragraph 3 type of way.  Many students are not like me…I need to be aware and teach them, the way they are wired, but there has to be also room for people like me in the world too...there has to be. (this last link is to my Mudville gami)


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

I have used this classic text, In November, for years with students and teachers.  Cynthia Rylant is an incredible poet, a master of metaphorical language .  She is a person to imitate.  If you haven’t read this book written in 2000,  here is a taste from the opening pages.

In November, the earth is growing quiet.  It is making its bed, a winter bed for flowers and small creatures.  The bed is white and silent, and much life can hide beneath its blankets. In November, the trees are standing all sticks and bones.  Without their leaves, how lovely they are, spreading their arms like dancers.  They know it is time to be still.

With students I usually use another month when using this is a writing mentor text.  However, this morning as the rake hit the leaves I began to feel the itch to write.  I am finding more and more that writing comes when I am participating in repetitive motion.  It is so satisfying to me to see a space grow clean as I work, to see words where there once was white space.

I can count on November for dark skies to cast shadows of sadness,

I can count on November to see a flag flying in front of my dad’s house remembering always the we luckily live in freedom because of brave men and women and their service,

I can count on November for leaf on top of leaf flying from the west, stopping in our front yard, even after we think we are done and our trees hang bare…we are not,

I can count on November to remind me that age is a number only and that every day is such a gift to be treasured and celebrated,

I can count on November to remind me to live with a spirit of Thanksgiving, that even though life is a bumpy hike, I can choose how to walk, I can let love and gratitude shine in the shadows ushering in the sparkle of snow and God’s gift to us,



yep…my organization


Yep, post 151 was almost in the


I was furiously typing about



It is an area that needs a


You say, “you are a coach,”

but I can’t talk my way out of or ask word press to get me out of

this mess,

On the spot tutoring is what

is needed

Focus and an ordered thought process

what to do when you save a draft

And the computer says the connection is gone and the words disappear before your eyes in an instant

The 151st draft was insanely great, I cry

in the air of the family room,

I had it solved, my problem, but now it has fled in cyberspace, not to be


Bits of it will be recovered in my random firings in the days and weeks to come

but today,

this is all that remains-

this poor, pitiful, melancholy prose.