Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Shape of Words

This week in the #100Daysof Notebooking Facebook page, Cathy Hutter shared this poem from Sean Thomas Dougherty on her notebook page. 

Why Bother?

Because right now there is someone

out there with 

a wound in the exact shape

of your words.

~Sean Thomas Dougherty

It made me wonder if our words could be shapes, what would they be? What would be their purpose? This is my thinking and my hope that our words can heal, bring hope, and offer peace.

The Shape of Words

May my words 
be a circle
to wrap around you
and hold you tight
during those times
you are falling apart,

a squiggly line
to remind you to laugh
on days you want to cry,

an arrow
to gently lead you 
in another direction
when you may have lost your way,

a semicircle
to encourage you 
to open your arms 
and welcome the invitation
to breathe,
to love,
to live.

I offer you my words;
may they be the shape
you need
in this moment
of life.

I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic

Sunday, January 9, 2022

#MustReadin2022 Challenge Book List


I love reading challenges even though I am not always successful at them. But I guess that is why they are called "challenges," huh?

My #MustReadin2022 list is comprised of books that I have on my shelf or in boxes at home. And of course, this list is only part of what is in those boxes or on those shelves!

I have narrowed my list down to twelve - some new, some old; some adult, some middle-grade; some fiction, some nonfiction, but all unread.

Brave in the Woods by Tracy Holczer
Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk
Linked by Gordon Korman


Greenlights by Matthew Mcconaughey
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Unbroken by Laura Kilenbrand

Pax, Journey Home by Sara Pennypacker
Pony by R.J. Palacio
Up for Air by Laurie Morrison

The Captive Kingdom by Jennifer Nielsen
Rivals by tommy Greenwald
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

Titles from #MustReadin2021 that I did not get to yet still want to read.

Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly
The Fountains of Silence by Rua Sepetys
Code Word Courage by Kirby Larson

We Had to be Brave by Deborah Hopkinson
Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Captured by Alvin Townley

My one little word for 2022 is invite. I know I need to invite reading back into my life, and I am hoping this challenge will inspire me to pick up a book instead of my phone. I invite you to do the same!

Sunday, January 2, 2022

#MustReadIn2022 Round-Up


Does this picture look familiar? Are your book stacks tumbling over or piling up?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, then you might want to join us for the #MustReadIn2022 reading challenge. For this challenge, you take a look at the books you wanted to read in 2021, but for whatever reason, did not get to them.  You then make your own personal list of books you want to commit to reading in 2022. 

The best part about this challenge is that there are no rules - just reading for fun and tackling titles that are tumbling in your stack. There is no set number of books to read, and books can be published from any year, in any genre or format, and in any category. 

We all know these books will not be the only ones we read this year but will be the ones included in our personal challenge.

I will round up the initial posts here on my blog, and Cheriee at Library Matters will host the update posts on hers at the end of April and August. I will end the year with the round-up post in December, but remember update posts are always optional.

If you would like to create and share a book list, click on the link-up below to add your blog post. Feel free to use the graphic above to include in your post, too. Don't forget to check back regularly to see the reading plans everyone has made - you might just find ANOTHER great title to add to your own list. The link is live until January 31st, so take your time and share those great books!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Saturday, December 25, 2021

#MustReadin21 Year Recap

As we begin to welcome in the year 2022 and say goodbye to 2021, it is also time to recap our #MustReadin21 challenge.

I hope you had a wonderful year of reading - a year of finding new authors, reacquainting with beloved authors, and making a dent, however small, in your To Be Read pile.

If you would like to add your post and celebrate your progress, please link up below.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Dinner Table Book Talks

Several years ago, I started doing an activity the two days before Thanksgiving break. We are usually finishing up a writing assignment and have students at different places of completion. It became the perfect two days for students to do book talks.

When I read In the Middle by Nancie Atwell, she mentions a time she and her husband sat around the dining room table with friends and "gossiped by candlelight" about a book. She compares her dining room table to a literate environment where people around it talk about literacy. She states, "We don't need assignments, lesson plans, lists, teacher's manuals, or handbooks. We only need another literate person."

That is when my idea for dinner table book talks was born. 

Students are given a paper plate with the instructions that it is to become a prop for a book talk about a book they have read this school year. They need the title of the book, author, and a summary. They can decorate it however they want.

The Tuesday before break, I arrange the desks like long dinner tables with tablecloths and book centerpieces. 

The students come in, give a book talk to those at their table and then mingle and go to another table. I try to complete three rounds, giving students an opportunity to hear several book talks and add to their want to read lists in their notebooks.

It has become my go-to activity for the week of Thanksgiving. It is very relaxed, lots of fun, and filled with creativity and wonderful books. What more could a language arts teacher ask for!

Here are some pictures of this year's plates.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

A Writing Waltz #PoetryFriday

It's that time of year when leaves and temperatures begin to fall, and a quiet hush seems to fill the air. For me, it's also a time when life slows its pace, and I find time to catch my breath and do things that bring me joy. Like writing.

Today I join the Poetry Friday celebration and share a poem I wrote this week with a group of Teach Write friends. Our November challenge was to write a tanka poem with a hint of gratitude. 

We gathered online, wrote our "Tanka You" poems, and then shared. I am grateful for my love of writing and the joy it brings, but I am especially grateful for the writing community where we can share that joy with each other.

"Tanka you" to the Poetry Friday group for letting me pop in and join you. Matt is gathering the harvest this week at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Life's Contrasts and Contradictions


I recently introduced my middle schoolers to the Notice and Note Signposts from Kylene Beers and Bob Probst. When teaching the contrasts and contradiction lesson, we read “Thank You, Ma’m” by Langston Hughes, a short story about a young boy who tries to steal a pocketbook from a woman walking home from work one evening. It’s a story about making bad decisions and earning trust from unlikely people.

We read a small piece, found the signpost, and had engaging discussions. Towards the end of the short story, I read aloud the line, “I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if he didn’t already know.” 

We talked about how Mrs. Jones admitted to Roger that she had made mistakes in her past.  Made decisions that maybe she wasn’t too proud of.

My students seemed to be stuck on this part because they were so surprised that the woman admitted to doing wrong to the boy - the boy she had just caught trying to steal from her.

One student asked, “Why did she tell him that? Isn’t she trying to teach a lesson about how stealing is wrong? Isn’t she sending him the wrong message by telling him that she has done bad things, too?’

I have thought about this discussion for days now. Maybe it is because recently I had a former student make a bad decision. It was a decision that caused her great embarrassment and disappointment not only in herself but also from her teammates and her family.  It also kept her from achieving goals that she had set for herself. 

It is a decision I am sure, if she were able to hit a rewind button, would not have played out as it did. I am sure my former student sees her bad decision as the “contrast and contradiction” to success. Maybe that is also what my students saw in the story of Roger and Mrs. Jones and wondered why she told on herself.

What would happen if we became more like Mrs. Jones and admitted our failures and bad decisions but also shared how we learned from them? What lessons could our students learn from us? 

Maybe we need to let students know bad decisions and failure are not “contrasts and contradictions” to success, but instead, they become the experience.

I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Fungi is a Popping-Up Word

One of my favorite ways to write poetry is through word play. Several summers ago I learned about a specific word play in poetry though Laura Purdie Salas. There are so many ways to play with words, but this idea is one that has just stayed with me, and one that I love to do with students.

This fall we had a fungi explosion. With so much rain, fungi were popping up overnight. I never knew what I was going to find each day. So much beauty can be found in nature.

And so much mystery, too!

Fungi is a popping-up word

pushing through the pine needles

in the middle of the night

while fairies dance in circles

in the golden moonlight.

I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic

Saturday, October 30, 2021

A Simple Thank You

Seven years ago, I left the elementary school where I had been an aide and a substitute teacher, and where I began my career as a 4th-grade teacher. It was also where both of my children went to school, so I spent many hours as a volunteer in their classrooms working with students and helping teachers.

I was comfortable there. And there is something to be said about comfort. However, when the opportunity came to teach language arts and to share my passion about reading at the middle school, I knew I had to make that move.

Yesterday, I received an email from a parent of a current student who was one of my colleagues from that school. 

She thanked me. 

The email seemed like a simple thank you. But for me, it was much more than that.

She thanked me for introducing him to new books and creating wonderful experiences for him to learn and grow. 

Changing schools was a difficult decision for me because I was leaving supportive colleagues who had also become friends. 

But her email was the exact reason why I left. 

Instead of showing 25 students each year the joy and power of books, I now share it with 100 (or more) students each year. Reading emails like this one is what keeps me going. Knowing that I have had an impact on a student's reading life brings me joy. 

And isn't finding joy what teaching is all about?

I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #SOSmagic

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Missing Washi Tape

I have begun to explore creative journaling where I make the pages of my notebooks into a collage of different materials. I use torn scrapbooking paper, pages from old books, washi tape, printed vintage images from the internet, and stickers. I want to play with stamping next. I am loving it! 

Today was a cleaning day, but I needed to run and get some milk. Since I was out, I took a little detour to run into Hobby Lobby and "just look." I left with a package of "tattered and worn" paper (which I found out was adhesive!) and four roles of washi tape. Yes, just what I needed.

After eating dinner, I ran upstairs to my "office" and pulled out the package of paper. After I opened it and admired the beautiful colors and prints, I opened the bag for the washi tape. I wanted to create some pages to share on the Choice Literacy Instagram page.

But the washi tape was not in the bag. I went down and looked in my purse and in the car, but they were nowhere to be found. I was stumped.

I thought maybe the cashier had forgotten to place the items in my bag, so I decided to call the store. I told them my story, and the employee said yes, there were two packages of washi tape here. Someone found them and brought them inside.

I am so thankful for that customer who was honest and took them back into the store. Not everyone would have done that. It is nice to still see kindness in the world...even if it is just washi tape.

And now back to those pages!

I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The time when we learn from our students...

 Although I am on Facebook, I am not friends with anyone local or with any family members. My account, with the exception of a couple college friends, is purely professional or teaching related. Whether that is a good decision or bad one, it is mine.

Today a local news page came up in my feed. As I was reading about a fire at a local pizza place, I noticed a former student had commented on it. I admit I was curious about him, so I went to his page and quickly scanned some of his posts. One of them caught my eye because it was a letter addressed to "Teachers who have ever doubted me." 

Of course I had to read it. And it broke my heart.

He said teachers knew him as "the kid who always slept in class or the kid who never turned in homework, and 'the difficult kid who would flip burgers and live on welfare'." (Quoting one of his former teachers.)

He admitted that yes, he was a high school drop out but also a kid who was currently working hard at two jobs. 

His final message was this, "So what I say to you is give everyone a fair chance at life--we all learn different, live different, do different, BECAUSE WE ARE DIFFERENT!"

Signed, the kid who you didn't bother to know.

Ouch! That hurts.

Back in January of 2020, I saw this student and wrote about him in my notebook that night. I share that page below.

Although I am a teacher, some days I do the teaching...and some days I do the learning. 

Today was one of those days.

Note: Quinten's post was public, so I feel it is OK to share here. I shared this notebook page with him on his page. He commented back and told me it made him smile...and few other things that I will keep just between teacher and student!

I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic

Friday, October 15, 2021

Mapless Road


I am a mapless road,


ribboning through the countryside

guiding your turn after turn after turn.


Blinded by the late autumn sun

and clouded by your state of confusion,

you query your destination.

Dementia is a difficult thing to live with and even harder for loved ones to accept. We know we are not far from taking the keys. Each day we pray she still finds her way.

I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic

Tuesday, September 28, 2021


It's that time of year when leaves begin to fall, sweaters come out of hiding in the closet or drawers, and pumpkin spice is baked into every food product imaginable. 

But that also means it is time for #TeachWritetober21.

#TeachWritetober is a group of teacher-writers who challenge themselves to write for the month of October. No guidelines, no rules...just writing. Writing for me and only me. Writing what I want and when I want. Writing for the sheer joy of putting words on paper. Doesn't that sound wonderful?

But there is more! There is built-in support. If you don't know what to write about, each day you will get an email with an invite to write. If you already have a writing project, then that is ok too. There is an accountability sheet to help you keep track of your writing. 

Although there are no rules, I have set some goals for the month.

  • Increase joy writing - It seems as though most of my writing, when I do write, is attached to some type of commitment. I want to spend time in my notebook just for the joy of observing what is around me, capturing moments in my day, and experimenting with new muses.
  • Write five blog posts - I miss this writing space, but often wonder if blogs are becoming obsolete. I hope not, so I will plan to spend some here writing about a day in my life as a reader, a writer, and a teacher.
  • Be creative - I have recently found the joy of art journaling. I have bought some new supplies and want to try them out this month.
I try to teach my students that writing isn't all about school. That writing should be fun and playful and joyful. Maybe I need to practice telling that to myself this month.

If you would like to join me and many others for a month of writing, then check out all the information here. Come be a part of our third annual #Teachwritetober21 - where teacher-writers support other teacher-writers! 

We would love to have you!

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Harvest

This summer 
I walked a stretch of land--
open fields with 
corn planted to the north 
and beans to the south
and a new crop:

Each day
the plants grew,
leaves reaching 
for the sun,
roots stretching 
deep into the soil,
the soul of the earth.

And I walked
mile after mile
after mile.

We became friends.

Those fields 
welcomed my 
return each day,
even on the hot, humid ones.
They cheered me on
for that extra mile
and stood by me when 
I wanted to quit.

And they reminded me 
some day soon
I would reap
what I had sown...

the harvest.

I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #SOSmagic

Friday, July 23, 2021

The Dress

Yesterday I went shopping.

And I bought a dress.

For most women, buying a dress probably isn't that big of a deal. For me, it's huge. It has been years since I have bought a dress or even worn one. This moment was an act of bravery.

At the beginning of June, I named this summer "the summer of me". I have worked hard on taking care of myself, eating better, and most importantly, moving. I began walking. Slowly at first and not very far. It was difficult because I had gained pandemic pounds, and I was utterly and completely out of shape.

It wasn't long until I began to see a difference. I was walking farther, faster, and for longer periods of time. Over the past nine weeks, I  have become stronger both physically and mentally, and I have lost some weight. I am not where I want to be, but I feel good.

Back to the dress.

As I was shopping, I rummaged through the racks of new dresses but couldn't find what I was looking for. Being short and carrying extra pounds, I always think I look "frumpy" in dresses. 

We were at the last store of the day, and I had almost given up hope. And then I found another rack of new dresses. I pulled one out, held it up to me, and thought, "Well, it's not down to my ankles, and it's not above my knees. It's black, so I know just the shoes I could wear with it."

After several minutes of walking to and from the rack and telling myself how awful I would look in this dress, I convinced myself to try it on. The dressing room was small, and it was hard to see myself in the mirror. I opened the door and went to took in a larger mirror. I stepped up on my toes and turned to look at the back. "My butt doesn't look too big." Twirling around again, I thought, "This just might work."

I walked to the entrance of the dressing rooms. A few aisles over, I saw my daughter. "Hey, Meg." I put my arms out, turned around for her to see, and raised my shoulders in that "what-do-you-think" pose. She smiled and gave me a thumbs up. I was giddy with excitement.

Yes, I bought a dress!

I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #SOSmagic

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Summer Flashback

This week was gorgeous for Indiana summer weather. Low humidity, sunny afternoons, and cool evening temperatures. Summer served up just the way I like it.

I spend a lot of time on our porches, my favorite place in my house. One night while writing on the back porch, I could hear our neighbors. Their six-month baby and two-year old were outside enjoying the unusual summer weather too. And then I heard it.

A sound.

A giggle.

A squeal of delight.

A summer a time almost 25 years ago. I didn't realize how much I missed it. I didn't realize I would have missed it if it hadn't been for the summer weather and being called outside to write.

I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic