March 22 – Author Candice Fleming visits my school!

What a treat my last day at school before beginning Spring Break was!!
Author Candice Fleming visited.
You can learned lots about her and her 30 books at:

First she greeted our Kindergarteners and read them two awesome picture books. I loved hearing a student voice say, “That’s a pattern book!” It made me think that we have taught them well during Writing Workshop.
Seven Hungry Babies and Oh, No!
When my next friend has a baby, Seven Hungry Babies is going to be my new Baby Shower book…so cute!

Then with the 1st and 2nd graders, she told them she is a writer just like they are and uses the same tools. She got the kids to name off some tools –  pencil, black marker,brain, paper. Then she told them that her two most important writing tools are HER EYES AND EARS! “I pay attention to everything around me. I have my eyes and ears wide open, looking for stories”. She told how she got the story idea for Oh, No! while on vacation in Asia. While traveling, she met many “friends” – animals in the jungle. And then these became the characters in the story.

She pointed out that she just writes the words. Another person, an illustrator, makes the pictures. She shared some of the illustrator’s sketches made with just a pencil and pointed out that they also used the eraser often. Just like a writer drafts a story and revises, so does an illustrator!

Sh shared how another story idea was inspired right in her backyard! She was planting a garden but bunnies kept getting into the garden. She added a cute fence, but that didn’t keep them out. She added a really big fence, but that didn’t work either. She used all these ideas from her life when she drafted the story that eventually became known as Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!
 and then she made a sequel, Tippy-Tippy-Tippy, Hide!
and then she shared with us that a third is coming out soon – the bunnies go to the BEACH!!!

When it was the 3rd and 4th graders turn, the told them that she used her EARS and EYES one day while taking her son to the beach. They saw seagulls, a birthday cake and strawberries on top. Later when she started to write a story with these 3 random objects, her niece suggested that it also have a princess in it and her son suggested that it have a big hair Troll in it. Now she had many random ideas. She used her imagination with all the things she saw and heard with her EYES and EARS and created Clever Jake Takes a Cake – truly, a very clever imaginative book! And I find it more fun now knowing that her inspiration for the story came from that day at the beach!
Clever Jack Takes the Cake 
She also shared how her mother told her the story of how when her mother was a girl, WWII was going on. Her mother recalled sending a box with soap, socks, and a Hershey bar to Europe to show she cared about the kids who were suffering due to the war. She got a thank you note back from Katje…which inspired Boxes for Katje.

She told the students that she began writing when she was their age in school and she shared her 4th grade school picture and her writing folder from that time. She proudly showed us the blue ribbon (now faded to purple) that she won when her teacher sent one of her stories in for a contest.

The last hour of the school day, Candice Fleming spent with the 5th and 6th graders. With them, she shared her work as a researcher and a biography writer.

Candice had the students fascinated with history by showing them many Primary Source documents…Amelia Earhart’s report card, a birthday invite written by Mary Lincoln for Willie’s birthday party, Amelia’s marriage certificate, a telegram from the President to Amelia, and a tracing of Abraham Lincoln’s feet so he could have shoes made. These PRIMARY SOURCES helped her historical figures come to life for the students! She encouraged them, when doing research, to ask lots of questions and then search for primary source information. One great place to start is The Library of Congress website:

While Candice was at our school, her husband was visiting another FCPS. He is an illustrator!!
Be sure to check him out, too, at:
What a gifted family! What a great FRIDAY!!

March 9th – TCRWP Reunion Saturday

During five, non-stop hours (should have been six but my head was spinning after five and I couldn’t get a seat in the Riverside church, so I missed Lucy’s Perfect Storm keynote), I learned SO much from the amazing educators associated with TCRWP!

1. The first hour was author, Katherine Paterson!! I especially enjoyed her explanation of how she came to write Bread and Roses, Too, her latest book. She saw an old photo of children who came to her town of Barre, VT in the 1918 to be educated when the Lawrence textile strike occurred and was inspired to write a historical fiction book based on this event. She read-aloud a portion of the book to us. I just purchased this book on my kindle fire so I listened attentively. Then she shared a fan letter from a soldier in Afghanistan who had just read Bridge to Teribithia. He thanked her for showing him how a book about beauty helped save his life. She connected with this soldier on his return from duty and encouraged him to write.I just downloaded his book, Words in the Dust, to my kindle fire!
  Words in the Dust

2.Currently, I am co-teaching a FCPS Writing Academy course (Teaching Multiple Genres during Writing Workshop) and we’re using Carl Anderson‘s book how’s it doing?. Teaching the course and then spending one hour with Carl yesterday have renewed my love for this man – what an amazing gift his conferring ideas are to the writing workshop process. Carl reminded me that the MOST important topic to teach kids is that writing communicates meaning. The structure of the piece, the details, the voice, and the conventions all are ways to get the meaning across. We must expect that a writer has something to say. He suggested having kids answer this question: Why is this event from my life important to me? What do I think about this topic? What is my opinion about this topic? We MUST focus on MEANING.

3. I ended up in the Milbank Chapel to hear Mary Ehernworth for my third hour due to my first choice workshop on the 4th floor being full (yes, I felt that burn in my legs from climbing four TC flights of stairs to only be turned away). Mary explained the importance of teaching kids how to write research-based argument essays. Then she shared her successes and struggles as she did this work with students. “Writers, when in your life have you won an argument or wished you could? In my job, the ability to stake my claim, without crying, is so beneficial. When you argue with logic, and not with emotions, you will be heard.”
She shared great mentor texts (both print and visual) that can be used when teaching this writing unit. The mentor texts can be found on the TC website at this link:

4&5. And now I have a new favorite staff developer – Cornelius Minor! I spent my last two hours with him yesterday in back-to-back workshops – one on using technology in RW and WW and one on helping struggling readers. Then today I perused his website:  I encourage you to do the same and to follow him on twitter: @MisterMinor #TCRWP

Take-aways from using technology in workshop:
* Those who know how to use tools well, have an economic advantage
* He invites technology into his classroom to ensure ALL his students can use it and then be producers!
* First, as a teacher, you need to get good at this…form your own PD team made up of the bossy girl in your class (“every class has one!”), the kid who is an expert at something (he’ll be able to research the topics you want to know more about), and the kids who comes to school every day early (he can teach you before school!) Put these kids together and charge them with the task of teaching you technology!
* Get smart about using: a cell phone, a tablet, an iPad, and google suite (essential technologies!)
* Have a classroom culture in place so all feel respected, can learn, and can speak both in the analog world and the digital world
* You don’t all need “it”; you ALL need to know HOW to gain access. I deliberately teach kids how to gain access – I teach the hustle – Growing up, I didn’t have a computer, but the man next store, who needed his lawn mowed, had a computer so I made a deal with him to gain access.

Take-aways from the struggling readers workshop:
* He has seen struggling readers because of:  text is too hard to read; teacher makes wrong assumption; kid doesn’t know what is expected; it is too hard to do all at once; not enough practice; teacher doesn’t allow student to make mistake; student has trained dependency.
* The success in reading is in the selection of the right text.
* I can teach the reader strategies to use in a conference, a small group, or whole class lesson but I must remember that there is NOTHING I can say that will help them. The ONLY remedy for struggle is PRACTICE. I must provide the time and the accountability for practice and then celebrate growth (not perfection).

My fingers are crossed that I hear soon that I am accepted to the TCRWP August Writing Institute. I can’t wait to return to NYC and continue to learn from the smart educators at Teachers College.