Saturday, November 2, 2013

Our Morning & Closing Moment

We had a wonderful morning...
Jennifer's Action Research Presentation #spirevswordstudyvsreading
Gail's Action Research Presentation #framingyourthoughts
Tony's Workshop #writersnotebooks
 Our official theme song:


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Dear Diary...

"Dear Diary --

It has come to my attention that the humans in this place have lost their minds completely.  Not only do they eat things that look suspiciously like plants, but the real madness is that they don't play with it first. And then, unlike sane humans who gather in dignified circles to discuss the books they read, these humans stand around and flail their limbs while listening to a raucous din that issues from the ceiling.

There is no wisdom in this room."

These cats could learn a lot from Michelle's workshop on using Blogs to disseminate their reflections!  Michelle offered some great tools and loads of supporting research in her presentation, and I for one am looking forward to trying out a thing or two.  Don't forget to comment on her blog and take advantage of the great resources there.  Marianna proceeded to educate us in the pitfalls of executive function, especially in relation to writing.  This highly informative workshop should spark all of to pay closer attention to helping our students learn and use strategies to help them be successful writers -- to keep them from succumbing to the opinion of Renee's young student: "I hate writing."  

During TMT this morning, Patricia introduced us to Teaching Channel , and Renee told us a bit about how she uses Blogger as a class page for her students and their families.  Some of the great resources available on Renee's blog are Spelling City and Storybird.  In the afternoon, we will hear from Tisha, Julie, Mary and Alan.  Can't wait!  At the end of the day, we will "sing the song of our people."

Bee Blogging

Here is the link to my blog, beemusement

Please explore my blog site then choose one to which you feel compelled to post a comment in reply. Your reply might be a reaction to the bee happenings discussed or you might have clarifying questions. Many thanks!

Additionally, here is the link to a survey:

Please give me your feedback about my blog: recommendations, comments, questions!

Again, many thanks.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Professional Writing Path

I have shared my first teaching and learning post with my staff!  Recently, we gave a narrative writing prompt at my elementary school.  Many teachers were wondering how they could take the assessment and feedback and use it with students in a meaningful way after the prompt had been given.  This inquiry led me to write about some ways that I could envision doing this work with young writers.  I used a tech tool called to make a flyer that I could electronically distribute to my staff and send out via Twitter.  So far, I have received positive feedback from teachers at my school!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Closing Moment: Thoughts to keep us all going...nevermind the other guy!

For all of us who feel only the deepest love and affection for the way computers have enhanced our lives, read on. At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, "If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon."

In response to Bill's comments, General Motors issued a press release stating: If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash twice a day.
2. Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.
3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason.  You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue.
For some reason you would simply accept this.
4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.
5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive - but would run on only five percent of the roads.
6. The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single "This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation" warning light.
7. The airbag system would ask "Are you sure?" before deploying.
8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.
9. Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.
10. You'd have to press the "Start" button to turn the engine off."

Reading Comprehension "Fix Up" Strategies

  • Pg 51: “Fix Up” Strategies when students get confused on what they are reading from I Read It, But I Don’t Get It:

    • Make a connection between the text and your life, knowledge of the world, or another text
    • Predict what’s going to happen next
    • Stop and think about what you’ve already read
    • Ask yourself a question and try to answer it
    • Reflect in writing on what you have read
    • Visualize
    • Use print conventions
    • Retell what you’ve read
    • Reread
    • Notice patterns in text structure
    • Adjust your reading rate- slow down or speed up

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I just wanted to share a very cool thing about one of your fellow-Fellows:  for her non-fiction portfolio piece, Alisha wrote an op-ed on the importance of teaching students digital citizenship skills, which she submitted to the Portland Press Herald.  The paper's editor(s) chose to run Alisha's piece!  If you didn't see it, click here for a link to this great success.  Congrats, Alisha!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 2 Part II

   The afternoon is a haze of writing and reading but what I do remember is that after a productive meeting with my writing group and some more writing, Lorrie gathered us in the horseshoe once again for one of her fun grouping protocols. This time the puzzle's ranged from Bugs Bunny (my group), to Frosty, to Moses, to Eisenhower (if you were wondering, here is what an Eisenhower Jacket looks like):
Eisenhower Jacket

We discussed "Because Writing Matters" in groups and debriefed. It seemed that the consensus was that the book needed an update, as much of what it dealt with has become part of the language of schools and what is needed now are examples of implementation and what that looks like.  Last, we perused each other's Portfolio's and got to see the rich diversity of expression our class produced. My closing moment consisted of an intense piece and a a more lighthearted piece by everyone's favorite English teacher turned poet Taylor Mali.
   I am sure I speak for everyone when I offer a most sincere thank you to our mentors/teachers in the writing institute and express heartfelt gratitude for all the learning and creativity that we were lucky enough to bask in throughout the last  week and a half.  Enjoy your summers and don't forget to write!

Tuesday, July 2

Opening Moment: here is a link to Phuc Tran's inspiring talk on the dark side of the subjunctive mood and how the subjunctive and the indicative can unknowingly dictate our outlook:
Planning for August: the most important thing as we're preparing for the fall institute will be to meet in writing groups over the summer to discuss our work for the fall. Make some plans to get together, folks!
We spent the beginning part of the morning working in our mentor groups, allowing for much needed time to plan and create deadlines for summer work.

Title Help!

Greetings, Fellows!

Both Mary and Julie W. are going to be starting blogs as their writing path projects, and because of the vast number of blogs out there, they really need to come up with snappy titles just in order to register with Wordpress. Please help them out by commenting to this post with your genius title suggestions. Julie is going to be blogging about bee-keeping and Mary's focus is professional -- teaching and learning.  Let's make it a contest!  I will come up with some keen-fun and highly sought-after prize for you if you come up with the winning title.  Ready, set, TITLE!

Some random funniness

This was inspired by Lorrie's dry wit, but it is in no way a comment on her own skills as a cosmetologist.  Laugh away . . .

Monday, July 1, 2013

Optional Ways to Connect with NWP Educators This Summer

Hello, Writing Project friends -

As you recover from the first leg of your ISFI experience, you may want to consider participating in some programming the National Writing Project is co-sponsoring this summer. This stuff is entirely OPTIONAL (and no one would blame you for wanting a break from the Writing Project routine for a bit), but I thought you might like to know what's out there.   On the eve of the first portfolio due date, I imagine you're too swamped to read this too carefully--make a mental note and return when you're refreshed.  I cobbled together some information and descriptions from a series of NWP releases/updates that gives you a look at what's happening (disclaimer: I copied and pasted some sections of the text).

NWP has launched an Educator Innovator initiative that will work to connect educators—in schools and universities, libraries, museums, science centers, and community-based organizations—with a specially curated set of learning opportunities that support their interests in creative and powerful learning for the young people they work with.

The Educator Innovator initiative is part of an overall summer campaign, supported by the MacArthur Foundation, called the Summer of Making and Connecting. The goal of this summer campaign is to encourage a broad range of people to take the summer to engage in creative and connected learning – to make something, to learn a new skill in a new way, and to experience their own creativity and capacity in fields as diverse as the arts and engineering.

Of course, NWP has tons of information and resources to share with you. Here are some ways you can be involved with the Educator Innovator initiative:
  • Participate in Making Learning Connected, a Massive Open Online Collaboration (MOOC) that began on June 15th.  This is an excellent opportunity to network and collaborate on a wide scale.  Visit to sign up.  It's not a problem to jump in midstream, and you choose the level at which you participate.
  • Check out the MacArthur Foundation's Summer of Making and Learning site ( and sign up to take advantage of the full range of possibilities.  
That's it for now.  So glad you're joining the network!


Bridging the Summer and Fall

We won’t all be together again until September 14th, but it is important to keep the ISFI groove going until that time.  However, we realize that you also need to enjoy your summer vacation.  Here are the (hopefully) simple expectations to complete between now and Sept 14.

  • Keep writing!
  • Meet with your writing group (in person or virtually) at least once before the 14th.
  • Keep up with the Path schedule you have set for yourself.
  • Be in contact with your mentor (at least once).

That’s it!  Hope you find it manageable.

Monday, July 1st

We started off the day with Seinfeld's take on "Bloom's Taxonomy"-Watch Here: You-Tube Video Our TMT was lead by Rebecca. She showed us some Book Trailers made by Animoto- an easy to use site that creates amazing videos. Be sure to check out how to sign up for the Educate version where your students can create longer videos for free. We got into our Writing Groups for the next hour. After that, Brigid took outside where we were able to look away from our screens for a little while and take in nature. We wrote observations down for 10 minutes and then wrote down our thoughts and questions. We were able to visit each spot and that person shared their thoughts and questions out loud. When we came back inside, we brainstormed ways to use nature with our students. Here are just a few off our list: take a historical perspective, have a student read their description of their spot and the rest of the class tries to find that spot based on the writing piece, develop similes and metaphors, write haiku and teach word choice, create a possible story that happened in your spot, simply observe outside and then choose a scene that could be used for laptop wallpaper.  Lunch time!

After lunch -- poetry!  Please share some of the poetry you wrote by posting it as a comment below.  The poetry speed dating generated some fantastic, engaged conversation; it was great to watch.  Poor Lorrie, she was again stuck with the less flashy lesson, but she made it flashy in her own way, with music and lollipops.  I love Lorrie's techniques for calling on groups (the group with the most years of teaching experience, the group with the member who has the most pets, the group with a member who has underwear and a bra that match, person who has been married the longest total number of years...). Then there was writing and question asking and preparing for the last day, with a poem from the Writer's Almanac to close.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Digital Citizenship

Here are some links and resources about digital literacy and citizenship.  I can't promise that they are all great, but they are a place to start.  Please comment and add to this post with suggestions, advice and ideas.

Common Sense Media

The Teaching Channel:  Digital Literacy in the Classroom

Digital Nation (This is less a curriculum or a teaching tool and more of an exploration of the digital world we live in and its promises and pitfalls).

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thursday, June 27th, afternoon

If you’d like to review the edifying video shown for our opening moment today, here it is:

Lorrie began her presentation with a disclaimer (and she should seriously consider a side career as a stand-up comedian): “I didn’t get to present on workshopping. I’m damn good at presenting a workshop.  Instead, I had to follow Kate’s moving story about her mother. My mother is not in the same state of integrity . . .” Lorrie clearly explained the steps for presenting an action research inquiry. We also learned that she secretly wishes her Bichon would say “I love you.” She remained strangely poised as mysterious music and voices began emanating from the speakers; perhaps this was all orchestrated to keep us laughing.

Rebecca presented to us about Google Sites, beginning with an entertaining video illustrating our inherent fear of the instability of text in this digital age.  We then learned how to create a Google Site of our own for our portfolios. The last several hours found us all dutifully working through various aspects of the portfolio requirement and bombarding the "supreme fellows" with our questions. We concluded with Michalah's closing moment: Obvious to you. Amazing to Others." It's a privilege to be spending the week with all of you, really.

Day 4!!!

Day 4!!!

Hosts today are Alisha and & Michalah, who decided we needed some unhealthy snacks - DONUTS from Tony's, which were AHMAYZING!!! And fruit...less exciting!

We began the day with ten (15) minute tech presentation by Brigid - She presented on Diigo, a social bookmarking site that allows you to post stickies on the web page, annotate text as you go, and see what others are loving! Click here to set up your account!

We kicked off learning biographies early with Jen's fabulous (and humorous) presentation about her family and her evolution into the success that she is today. Alan went next sharing about his totem pole - building upon a heritage and history which led him to teaching. Alberto told his story - where he came from, how he made it, and looking ahead to where he's going. Mary shared her story through musicals and videos. Renee shared her life through Frog and Toad's eyes - the ups and downs, as well as Guster Yellowford's rendition of a sun drop and pinecone. Thank you to everyone for sharing from your heart, sharing from your books, sharing from your movies, and sharing about your lives and lessons. We are all better for having heard and learned with you. 

Kate shared about her mother, and the memoir she'd written in her honor. We read and chatted, and are eager to see how the piece will develop.   

 (FROG - from frog and toad!)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day 3 morning

 The opening moment was Night Moves by Bob Seger.  The guests for the day were Lorrie King and Patricia Valley.  We were reminded that the blog is constantly being updated.  Please feel free to add comments to posts.  Add whatever seems relevant.  Tech moment- we added the SMWP resources page and learned about "Jog the Web."  Instructions are on the first page.  It organizes pages and gives you a place to ask questions.    Autobiographies were shared by several people.  Gail talked about her challenges with writing.  Julie W. compared her learning to a beehive.  Rachel loved Anne of Green Gables and shared her thoughts through cemeteries,  Christina connected stories through doors, lines and places.  Michalah shared her life through travel. Tisha wrote her life lessons through her son, Xander.
Day 3- Afternoon

I was awed by the presentations of the various learning portfolios.  Tony spoke of the importance of place and the ties to family.  Alicia spoke quite powerfully about the constant , never-ending worries and joys of being a parent.  Michelle spoke eloquently about how teachers impact students every day, even when they are completely unaware of it.  Ellen's thoughts on how the small moments in our lives are often so powerful was both humorous and poignant.  Marianna's thoughts on the constant juxtapositions that exist in our families- the funny parts, the annoying and rude parts- were wise and loving.  We need to celebrate these moments of our lives as they define us.

Patricia Valley offered so many thoughtful ways for us to incorporate writing across the curriculum.  I think we all know how these methods are helpful, but just reading about them in a book is never as meaningful as actually practicing them.  Giving us time at the end of the day to experience some writing techniques we can use in the classroom was quite helpful.

I chose to close with a poem by Mary Oliver, as I feel her work so powerfully captures how deeply tied we are all to this world we live in.

Recipe for Blueberry Lemon Bread

1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 tblsp. butter
1 1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 tblsp lemon zest
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups of blueberries

1/3 cup sugar
3 tblsp. lemon juice

Oven at 325.  Coo for approx. 1 1/4 hours.  Combine dry.  Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs, add lemon zest.  Add dry alternating with milk.  Fold in blueberries.  Pour in loaf pan and bake.

For glaze- mix sugar and lemon juice and bring to a boil.  Poke holes in bread and pour over bread.  Cool.

It's best to use wax paper on the bottom of your bread pan as it is apt to stick.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day 2

Today's opening moment was a video poem read by Taylor Mali.

It was a beautiful, hot day for the Southern Maine Writing Project  
Marathon around Gorham.  Groups descended upon the streets where they  
stopped at Gorham locations to write a brief 10, 15 or 20 minute piece  
of writing.  Groups shared their writing during their stops as well as  
back in the classroom.  Fellows from all over the country participated  
in the writing marathon!

Back in the classroom, Brigid showed the class how to use Google Plus access E-Anthos open mic via, a platform through which fellows posted pieces of writing for comments as well as commented on the writings of participants nationwide.  What a great platform to share out work!  Rebecca  
demonstrated how to use Evernote, an electronic notebook that  
can be used via the internet.  It had some great features such as:   
audio, videos, photos, text, and organization of tags. Evernote can even be used to maintain student portfolios.

Tomorrow the first learning autobiographies will be presented.

All-in-all a very hot but productive day!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Day 1

Today, the richness of the response to Graves' "Testing Is Not Teaching" suggested that the book is still relevant.  We were inspired by his words and had a lot to say about his ideas regarding long, slow thinkers (maybe you were reminded of a long, slower thinker you know and love) and the shortness of time in the classroom.  Like Ken Robinson, though we were inspired by his words, we were also frustrated by the lack of answers.  How do we find the time we need to teach well when time in the classroom is so short?  How do we address the shortcomings of our school structure when we are so busy addressing the needs of our individual groups of students?

Though we might not have answers to these questions, we do have answers to other questions. Questions like, what is the recipe for those scones?  (Plus 1/3 c. chopped crystallized ginger and 1/2 c. chocolate chips).

The experienced google docs gang threw out some some really great ideas for using this tool in the classroom -- and for troubleshooting some of its pesky quirks (thanks, Alberto, for shift-command-V!).  A thoughtful conversation about the pitfalls of technology, student and teacher choice, and differentiation ensued.  As in all things, balance is key -- and for those of you who cringe at the thought of a digital portfolio, paper is a-okay.

...lemming, nasturtium, hermitage, metastasize, cajole, incredulous Frank, Ethel Gannaway, under a mushroom, beside a tyrant on a balcony, "who ate the last oreo?", spilling soup, looking for a parking spot in midtown Manhattan on a Friday night...   Don't forget all those wonderful ideas from the Writer's Toolbox!  They may come in handy tomorrow when you are on the town for the writing marathon.

In the fuggy heat of the afternoon, we sweated over our writing.  Even with the air conditioning, staying comfortable was a challenge.  But the energy -- the writing energy -- in the room sucked us along its stream, taking us to the forgetting place, where external discomforts become minor and the interior life finds its way to the page.  Soon, the day came to a close with the word-playful "Bulbous Bouffant" and a simple exit slip, which if you didn't get a chance to respond to before you left yesterday, you will find here.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Learning Autobiography Examples

I apologize in advance for some shaky shooting and editing.  I hope they are otherwise helpful!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Testing is Not Teaching" Reading Instructions

Our first reading discussion is scheduled for the day one of the institute. As you read Testing Is Not Teaching, select a line (or two) that strikes a chord with you and/or deserves discussion. In a comment to this post, record the line(s) and a brief response to it. We will use these responses to frame our discussion on June 24.

Happy reading!


This blog will be the repository for all the ideas, resources, happenings, musings, inspirations, and information that need to be shared amongst us.  Each of you will get to post and even if you are a rookie blogger, this is a great, low-pressure way to be initiated into the blogosphere.  Don't worry if this feels overwhelming; we are here to help and happy to answer all your tech questions.

For a directional screencast on how to post on the blog, follow this link.

Brigid and Rebecca