Nonfiction Writing Graphic Novel Style Day 29 #SOL21

My second graders have been working on nonfiction writing projects. They have been able to choose from a variety of types of writing for this nonfiction unit. Most have decided to write a how to book but some have decided to write an alphabet book and a few have chosen to try a graphic novel nonfiction piece. This is new for me but I am embracing it because two of my graphic novel authors are reluctant writers.

This week we are focusing on helping our reader get a picture in their mind to teach them our topic. We are learning to use descriptions and comparisons to help give our readers more information. Today I modeled this with my how to book on cookie decorating. Tomorrow I will be modeling this with the graphic novel book I’m attempting to write to teach the same topic. I’m hoping my reluctant writers are motivated by my page on piping and flood.

I am participating in the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge by Two Writing Teachers. This is my third year of daily slicing during the month of March. Thanks for stopping by!

From My Chair Slice

I was inspired today by a video my instructional coach (she slices at On a Thought) made to teach primary students about Slice of Life writing. Two years ago she and I worked with my 2nd graders on Slice of Life writing as part of an inquiry I was doing for my yearly evaluation. It was a powerful experience and one I need to return to doing. I haven’t been slicing with students the last two years because of the demands of learning some new curriculum resources. This time of remote learning seems to be the perfect time to try some other types of writing with my students.

So here’s my From My Chair Slice for Slice of Life Tuesday:

From my chair I see . . .

My computer screen.

My new normal classroom.


From my chair I see . . .

Post-It notes at the ready.

Neon green reminders of things my brain can’t hold.


From my chair I see . . .

Stuffies given in love.

Reminders of smiling students.


From my chair I see . . .

An almost empty paper box made for a joyous summer celebration.

A vessel for stress relieving morsales of chocolatey goodness.


From my chair I see . . .

A precious photo of days gone by.

Little boys dressed for Halloween


From my chair I see . . .

All I need to get me through another day of teaching and learning from afar.


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Two Writing Teachers

Schools Closed Indefinitely #SOL20 Day 30

Well, it happened this afternoon. Our governor announced schools are closed indefinitely. We were getting notices in two week increments but this afternoon we received word of schools being closed indefinitely in my state. This may turn out to be a good thing as with things constantly changing the message from our school district kept changing too. We teachers are planners by nature and the ever changing requirements and expectations have made us a little crazy.  Maybe now we can have some consistency.

My desk and computer are covered with Post-It notes listing my Zoom meetings and training sessions. I can’t keep them straight. I started using a composition notebook to try and keep my planning and meetings organized but I haven’t been a pencil and paper planner for years now. I’ve used an online planbook since the 2012 school year and I miss it.

Screen Shot 2020-03-30 at 5.14.28 PMI decided to go to my digital planbook to get myself organized but I just couldn’t bring myself to edit my beautifully laid out planbook for the 2019-2020 school year. My schedule is laid out with a beautiful rainbow pattern listing each part of my day with the time. My reading workshop  blocks lists my four reading groups in a beautiful template so I only have to fill in the book we’re reading each week. I couldn’t face changing it. I’m still hopeful I’ll actually need my planbook again when I’m back in my classroom.

I made a new digital planbook today. It starts on March 29, 2020 and goes until June 12, 2020. I named it Remote Learning 2020. I am hoping I won’t need it until June but I think a part of me is starting to face the reality. The thought of not being in my classroom again with my students is heartbreaking. Zoom sessions are not the same. Those hugs I got on March 6th before they left for spring break cannot be duplicated in a Zoom session. The hard part though is that I see on their faces what I feel in my heart. We just aren’t talking about it yet.



Two Writing Teachers

I’m not a Writer #SOL20 Day 27

I’m not a writer. I have been saying this for years. If you asked me to describe myself I would not say I am a writer. I would say I am a wife, mom (and now mother-in-law), teacher, knitter, baker and cookie decorator but not a writer. I am a teacher of writing, a blogger and the author of many cheesy personal narrative stories that entertain, and hopefully instruct my students, but I’m not a writer.

IMG_3559 (1)I came across this collection of writing today as I was searching for some plastic page protectors to house all of my important remote learning papers. The oldest of these items is my writer’s notebook from my very first graduate class that I took early in my career in 1992. It was a writing class for teachers of writing that my school district strongly encouraged us to take. Since I needed hours for my 5 year recertification I dove in with another teacher in my building. I wrote personal narratives, article response papers, a book review and the first chapter of a mystery piece but I didn’t feel like a writer after this course.

Some other items were my teaching journals that I kept when I was working as a graduate assistant while working on my master’s degree. I was teaching language and learning education classes to preservice elementary teachers. My teaching journals were part of my teacher research that resulted in my final paper for my degree. My paper was accepted after I completed the revision of one small section but I still didn’t feel like a writer.

Finally, I also found my Slice of Life journal that I used in my classroom two years ago. I was focusing on writing for my differentiated supervision project during that school year and with the help of my awesome instructional coach (you can find her slicing over at On a Thought) we taught my 2nd graders how to slice. It was an amazing experience as was slicing myself everyday during the #SOL18 challenge. Sadly, I have been sporadic with blogging since the 2018 challenge. I find other things take priority over writing. I think if I was a writer I would make sure there was time for it. I appreciate that the Two Writing Teachers opened up the challenge half way through this year. Maybe it will help me to finally become a writer.

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Two Writing Teachers

Revelation #SOL20 Day 25

“You sound different.”

“What do you mean I sound different?” I said as I descended from my office classroom. I had just finished doing my daily Morning Meeting over Zoom with my 2nd graders and it was time for a late morning snack so I ventured to the kitchen.

“When you’re teaching, you sound different. Your tone of voice, it’s different. You’re just . . . different.”

It seemed like my husband thought a stranger had emerged from our upstairs office but then I realized he’s never really seen me at work. He’s never really seen what I do day in and day out when I’m with my kids. He sees all the preparations. The hours of making plans, creating materials, reading children’s literature and this year pouring over my Units of Study in Phonics as I learn yet another new teaching resource, but he’s never really seen me carry out all those plans.

I’m an introvert by nature but elementary teachers, especially in the primary grades, need to have the qualities of an extrovert. So, every day as my kids stream into my classroom I transform into Teacher Beth. Teacher Beth loves to get silly at Morning Meeting, do read alouds and get kids excited about books, use my mascot Gus to help me teach phonics, get over the top excited when someone shares a math strategy, or embellish a personal narrative to help make a teaching point.

“My job is a little like acting, you know, putting on a performance.” I explained. “I have to act different when I’m in front of a group of kids.”

“I guess I never really thought about it.” he said.

“As an introvert I really do need to become someone different in my classroom. It takes a lot of energy for me to do that.” I shared.

“That explains why you’re exhausted when you get home.” he concluded.

“Exactly!” I replied.

There’s so much we’re learning through this strange experience of social distancing and quarantine. I’m sure we’re all seeing a side of those we live with we’re not used to seeing. I hope my husband likes Teacher Beth, I’m not sure I can tell yet. Maybe once he gets over the shock I’ll know.

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Two Writing Teachers

Morning Meeting Zoom #SOL20 Day 23

I had my first Morning Meeting over Zoom today. It was so great to see all my kids. We shared about our pets and the things we’re thankful for but we also shared what we are sad about. I think everyone said they were sad about not being at school with their friends. I can’t wait for the day we gather in a circle on the carpet in Room 181. Maybe, just maybe our carpet will team with laughter and high fives again.

It was great to reconnect with almost all my students today. Only a few didn’t join us. We’re Zooming again tomorrow and I’m hoping they will all be there. We learned this afternoon that our state has closed schools through April 6th. I am so hoping I get to go back to my classroom on April 7th and ready it for my students to arrive on April 9th. While other states have completely closed schools for the rest of the year, I appreciate that my state is taking it two weeks at a time. Maybe, just maybe we will gather together again before this school year ends.

After our meeting I spent my day in front of my computer learning more about how to provide remote learning. I’m really hoping I won’t need to put all this knowledge to use but I am learning a lot. I’m sure you are too whether you’re a teacher, a parent, a grandparent or a caregiver supporting a child through remote learning, we’re all learning a lot. I think we’re learning to appreciate the time we spend with others face to face. Maybe when this is all over we won’t see so many people glued to devices anymore. Maybe this experience will leave us craving human interaction. Maybe, just maybe we will talk to each other again.

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Two Writing Teachers

There Will Be Good #SOL20 Day 22

On our daily walk with the dog today my husband and I were surprised by the number of people we passed out in their yards or walking our neighborhood loop.

“It’s like when we were kids,” he said. I nodded in agreement.

“Everyone’s at home, nobody has sports to go to or activities keeping them busy,” he added.

We’ve lived in this neighborhood for almost 5 years now and I have never seen as many people out and about as we did today. I also realized I don’t know many of them. I know most of the people on my own street but I realized when you no longer have your own kids running around the neighborhood, you don’t meet those who live around the corner or on another street. I guess now is not the time to meet them. For now we’ll just continue to smile and wave from a distance.

Although we’ve only been at this social distancing for a week now we’ve talked about what might change because of this. A few questions my husband had tonight as we cleaned up after dinner were:

Will employers see that people can work from home and be productive?

Will more people start homeschooling?

Will families be less busy with outside activities?

Like the aftermath of 9/11, I believe there will be good that comes out of this. I don’t know what it is right now, but I’m looking forward to seeing it. The reports of less pollution are encouraging. I’ve heard the waters of Venice, Italy have become clearer and dolphins have even been spotted in the water. I would love to see that as my memory of Venice is murky water and the smell of exhaust from the vaporettos.

As difficult as this time is, there has been good that has come out of it. I’m walking more and getting more sleep. I’m writing more regularly and I even have managed to establish a little bit of a routine on the weekdays. Tomorrow is the start of remote learning for my students. I’m having my first Morning Meeting using Zoom tomorrow morning. I’ve received several messages from students and parents telling me they miss me and they’re looking forward to our meeting tomorrow. One parent expressed her appreciation for all my school has done to get ready for remote learning. If nothing else, I believe we will all have a greater appreciation for each other and being able to gather together. I’m looking forward to seeing the good.

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Two Writing Teachers

Teacher Mugs #SOL20 Day 21

How many do you have? The count at my house is 8 but there are more in my classroom. I pared down my collection when I moved to a new house 5 years ago. Teacher mugs are the butt of many jokes but honestly they are precious. They often spark memories of the child who presented them to us with a toothless grin and holiday cheer. They sit in our cabinets mostly unused because, let’s admit it, we coffee drinkers have our favorite mug. IMG_3495This one is with me most every morning unless it’s dirty because I usually don’t let it go in the dishwasher. It’s not a teacher mug.

My collection of teacher mugs comes out at my weekly gathering of friends from church. The mugs generate some jokes from time to time but mostly they just spark memories for me as I spot them on the counter. They stand at attention shouting, “Pick me, pick me!”

IMG_3494This teacher mug brings me comfort right now. It was given to me by one of my students this year. She sees the good in everything and when my go to mug is dirty I bring this one out of the cabinet. She doesn’t have to shout at me she knows she usually has a good chance of being picked.

As the years go by I start to forget about the precious giver of some of the mugs. Sadly, the memories of the mugs that don’t get picked often fade. They sit unused in the back of the cabinet, the giver has moved on and new mugs have moved in. I’m feeling a little guilty now about the mugs that didn’t make the move with me 5 years ago but just like we have to make room in our hearts for new students each year we also have to make room in our cabinets for the new mugs. So how many do you have in your cabinet?

Let’s have some fun, if you can, leave a photo of one of your favorite teacher mugs in the comments. If you can’t, post a photo of one of your favorite teacher mugs to social media and tag your teacher friends. Ask them to post their favorite teacher mug using the tag #teachermugsareprecious Let’s See the Good in teacher mugs!

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Two Writing Teachers


A Season of Not Writing?

The last time I blogged was August 7, 2018 while I was sitting on a beach in my home state of Connecticut. Today I’m sitting on a beautiful beach on the Jersey Shore reflecting on the school year I just finished last week. It was a long hard one this year which might explain my season of not writing.

Last year writing was the focus of my evaluation project. This year it was math which was driven by a change in curriculum and a new resource. My writing suffered as did my teaching of writing. A teacher of writing must also be a writer. I feel like I failed at this somewhat this year.

I did write this year but only for my students. I wrote pieces to model the obligatory genres of narrative, information and opinion writing to meet the ever looming standards. Don’t tell, but my colleagues and I snuck in a little poetry at the end once ALL the assessments were done. I modeled using my poet’s eyes to write about something but the topic escapes me now and it’s locked away in my file cabinet until the next time I feel I have the time to sneak in a little poetry.

I’m sure I wrote narrative pieces back in the fall about my new puppy, Milo, but I can’t remember those either. If you’re an elementary teacher you really do need a pet so you always have something to write about. Feel free to quote me if you’re trying to convince your significant other of your need for a pet.

Milo helps out when I’m all out of small moments ideas. His dad is pretty awesome too.

My greatest accomplishment as a writer this year was the information book I wrote about decorating cookies. A new passion I acquired this year as a way to relieve stress and prepare to make cookies for Thing 1’s wedding next month and Thing 2’s wedding next May. Exciting times for my family.

I delved into Book Creator this year with the help of my technology coach. This endeavor motivated even the most reluctant writers in my room this year. I highly recommend it if you’ve been hesitant to give it a try. Learning along side my students was one of the highlights of the year. Here’s my how to book about cookie decorating

Through the encouragement of a much younger colleague (I could have a daughter her age:) I also gave Google Classroom a try during our opinion unit. I had been feeling overwhelmed by trying to conference with 24 writers throughout the year and Google Classroom helped to alleviate some teacher guilt. Though I have to confess I did sometimes feel like I wasn’t really teaching as I sat at my computer commenting on student’s work. Being able to view and comment on their pieces at home had it’s pluses and minuses. In the end, I’m hopeful the experience prepared them a little more for third grade. In addition to MANY changes in my school district this year, 2nd graders having their own Chromebook was new this year which made using Google Classroom more feasible.

I modeled opinion writing with a piece I wrote last year with my husband in mind. Unfortunately, my opinion piece on We don’t need anymore cars at our house was still pertinent so it made its way to my document camera again. I also wrote a passionate plea about our ever shrinking carpet to my principal. This piece helped me model how to write for change. Sadly, the carpet remains and we still have 5 cars at my house. To be fair I haven’t actually shared my letter with my principal. I need to put that on my summer To Do list.

I started this post feeling guilty about my lack of writing this year but as the breeze provides relief from the scorching sun and the waves roll over the sand I’m reflecting on all the good that happened in my writing workshop throughout the year. I may not have blogged or sliced but I wrote for the most important audience I have, my students.

Last Day Blues

Tomorrow brings the end of the best year of my 20 year teaching career. It’s bittersweet. I love summer but I’m not ready to say goodbye to the amazing group I was blessed to have in my classroom this year. We ended our last full day of school today with a Readers Theater performance for parents. We also shared three pieces of writing we published this year. I hope I am sending this group off with all they need to be successful 3rd graders but more importantly I hope I’m sending them off with a love for reading, writing and learning.

IMG_8650I tried to instill a love for writing in my students by introducing them to slicing. I didn’t want to take on blogging with my 2nd graders but I wanted to give my students a space to write that had nothing to do with standards and assessments. I made Slice of Life Journals for them to give them freedom to write about anything they wanted to write about.

Recently, one of my students came to me with a huge smile on her face and said, “Look what I made at home!” IMG_9790

As I flipped through her homemade Slice of Life Journal my eyes filled with tears. I couldn’t believe what she had created all on her own so she could slice at home.



I promise I didn’t encourage them to slice persuasive writing!


My 23 2nd graders have left an indelible mark on my heart this year. I hope I’ve left a mark on them. I hope they will take slicing with them when they walk out my classroom door tomorrow afternoon. I’m not sure I’ll be able to read Julie Danneberg’s Last Day Blues without shedding a tear tomorrow, but I’ll try.

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