Teacher Tip Tuesday

Once again today’s teacher tip is a strategy that was shared by one of the facilitators from the Millersville Writing Institute.

It is called…

Writing to the “X”: Building Writing Stamina and Practicing the Art of Revision

Writing to the X is a simple strategy that leaves your student writers hungry to write while building stamina and working on revision.  So many times in the classroom there will be students who just cannot get into the flow of writing. Or, there are those students who are the “one and done” type of writer.  Quite simply, they write one piece and that is their final draft. No, no, no, we can’t have that! Enter Writing to the X!

How Writing to the X Works:

Day 1

  • Start with a blank sheet of paper and instruct the students to mark an X on the paper. As the teacher, you can decide where will be the best place for the students to mark the X.  Keep in mind, the students will not write past this line during the initial lesson.  I’m going to suggest that the students place the X halfway between the first hole and the second hole of the notebook paper and then draw a horizontal across the paper.

  • Show the photo prompt.

What does the writer see, hear, and feel when they view the photo?

What connections can the writer make with the photo?

  • Now have the students write.  The writing can take on any form, whether it is persuasive, informative, or narrative.  The student does not even need to write in complete sentences.  They can jot down a string of words, whatever flows when they see the illustration, but they are only writing to the X! Remember the goal of Writing to the X is to build writing stamina, practice the art of revision, and LEAVE THEM HUNGRY TO WRITE MORE!
  • Have the students share what they wrote.  This can be done with a partner or the students can use circulate the classroom and share with several classmates.  I like to call the latter style of sharing the Dinner Party because the students are actually mingling with their classmates.  The key during the sharing is the verbal interaction.  There should be no writing during the sharing.  After the sharing, the students should put their notebook away.  That’s it for today.  Remember, leave them hungry to write!

Day 2

  • Start with a blank piece of paper and place a new X on the paper. This time the X can be between the second and third hole of the notebook paper and then have the students draw a horizontal line.
  • The students will need their writing piece from day 1.  Show the photo again.  Now the students can think about the sharing from day 1 and steal some ideas or thoughts from the sharing of the previous lesson.  That’s right, they can steal ideas!  They should also work on revising and adding to the piece. But, they can only write to the X!
  • Share again.  No writing! Leave them hungry to write for the next lesson!

Day 3

  • Repeat the process, this time have the students fill up an entire blank sheet of paper.
  • Continue to work through the writing process to create a final draft.

Variation on this lesson:

  • Instead of writing to the X you might want to set a timer and have the students write for a specific amount of time.  Maybe three minutes the first day, six minutes the second day, and continue to increase the time accordingly! Most of all, be sure to leave them hungry to write more!
  • Writing to the X can be a sponge activity to fill up those odd gaps of time in the schedule.  Maybe you want to do two or three day 1 activities.  Then on the day 2 lesson the students will have a choice. They can choose which piece they want to continue to write and revise.  

Remember, good writers need to be reflective, observant, use their senses, and they need to read!!!

Great Readers=Great Writers

Great Writers=Great Readers

A Balanced Equation!

Food for Thought:

How might you use Writing to the X with your students?  How might you modify the lesson?  How might you enhance the lesson to meet the needs of your students?

Sneak Peak:

Next Tuesday’s Teacher Tip will be a prewriting activity for persuasive writing.  Thanks for visiting!

A Runner, Reader, Rockin’ Mom Kind of Saturday

It was 8:30 AM.

The temperature was 68 degrees, real feel 73 degrees,

but the humidity was 89%.  I didn’t want to run, but I had to…

3.1 miles 🙂

Finished!  And, I was a sweaty mess.

I was a bit disappointed with my time, but I liked my pace.

And, for those of you who are runners, the previous statement really doesn’t make sense.

Oh well!

Then it was time to do the rockin’ mom thing.

Off to get Maddie’s homecoming dress altered.

Take a sneak peek at the dress:

Front Sneak Peek!

Back Sneak Peek!

You’ll need to wait until homecoming to see her in the dress.

My delightful afternoon was spent at a bridal shower.

Great food, great friends, and great gifts!

Now I’m off to read.

Here’s what’s on the reading shelf tonight:

How to Write Your Life Story
by Ralph Fletcher

It’s an exciting Saturday evening! *Sigh*

Teacher Tip Tuesday…on Wednesday!

Well, I had really, really good intentions of creating this post on Tuesday, but it just didn’t happen. You know what they say, “Better late than never!” so Teacher Tip Tuesday will actually happen today, on Wednesday. So here we go…

This summer I had the opportunity to attend the Millersville Writing Institute as part of my professional development.  The writing institute had to be one of the best graduate level classes that I have taken.  If you need to take a class for professional development or if you need to take a graduate class, I would highly recommend the Writing Institute at Millersville.  You can even save the date for the institute next year.  It will be held August 5th-9th, 2013. Today’s teacher tip comes from the Millersville Writing Institute.

Teacher Tip #1

This is a lesson in writing poetry.  I don’t know about you, but poetry is usually the last type of writing and/or reading that enjoy teaching.  It all comes down to the fear of the unknown.  I don’t consider myself a reader or a writer of poetry, therefore I find it difficult to teach.  However, I was able to run with lesson after it was presented at the institute.  The lesson is modeled after the book IF YOU WANT TO FIND GOLDEN by Eileen Spinelli.

In Spinelli’s book she presents a new poem on each page and it revolves around a color.  Here is just a sample of one poem from Spinelli’s book:

If you want to find green,

there’s a traffic light.

It says go!

Go to the greengrocer’s,

smell the green onions,

browse about the racks

of lettuce and spinach,

nibble on a sprig of cilantro,

if you want to find green.

The presenters at the institute put a spin on this and used the poems as introductions.  Hence, they created  poems about themselves.  It was such a clever way to share! Say good-bye to the I Am poem.  Then what I did was I created a poem about myself and modeled it on my blog on the About Me page.

How can you use this in your classroom?

If you can attain a copy of the book, first read the book aloud to the students.  I was fortunate enough to find a copy at our local library. Using the Gradual Release of Responsibility: I do, We do, You do, scaffold the instruction and guide the students through the process of creating a poem about themselves.

The poems can be shared at a morning meeting as a way for the students to get to know each other.  Or, after the students have been together for a week or so, the teacher can collect the poems and share one or two of them at a time at a morning meeting, but the teacher can leave the name of student out and have the other students try to guess which student the poem is about.  It would even be fun to bind the poems together and make a classroom book or display them in the hall for Back-to School Night.

Food for Thought:

How would you modify this lesson to make it meet the needs of your students?

Love It or Loathe It?

Two weeks ago we visited Nissley Vineyards and attended an open-air lawn concert with some friends.   The evening air was cool and the weather was quite delightful.

This was the first concert we went to at the vineyard, so I didn’t know what to expect. The band that was playing was called Uptown band and they sang a wide variety of music.  There truly was something for everyone’s listening enjoyment.  Groups of people gathered around tables embellished with candles and flowers…ours was lacking the flowers, however the candles were a nice accent. The evening was relaxing and a great way to spend time with good friends!

But, let’s talk about the food!  Each couple brought an item of their choice to share, and of course, there was an abundant amount of cuisine.  I decided we were going to bring tomato caprese sandwiches to share and Matt was going to make them because, well, I pretty much am a disaster in the kitchen and his cooking, well, it is magnificent.

Since I’m new to blogging, this really isn’t a picture of the sandwich he made.  It’s just one I found on Google images.  The key though, according to my chef, is crusty Italian bread, fresh tomatoes, and fresh basil.  Don’t forget the mozzarella cheese, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  All of which we had.  And they were oh so good!  A perfect summertime food!

But, we didn’t take just the sandwiches.  At first I thought there was going to be just four of us, and then I found out that there was going to be a total of twelve people.  Twelve people!  Okay, I decided that we needed to bring something else.  I hated to ask Matt to prepare something else so I decided that I would make an item to take along.  My usual standby is brownies, but I remembered my mom telling me that deviled eggs are usually a good choice because they are easy to make and there are no leftovers.

Surely I could do this! So, I googled a recipe for deviled eggs, (yep, I need a recipe for deviled eggs), and got out my trusty old automatic egg cooker.

Now my egg cooker only makes six hard-boiled eggs at a time so I made two batches.  I usually love this little egg cooker, but not this night.  That’s because I managed to burn myself from the steam that comes out of the top of the cooker.

First of all, Matt couldn’t believe that I used an egg cooker to make hard boiled eggs and second of all, he couldn’t believe I burned myself.  Really!  Not only was that a disaster, but so was getting those eggs out of the shell.  The eggs were broken and torn, and I even think some had tiny, tiny pieces of shell stuck on them.  Everyone needs a little extra roughage, right?  Oh well…what was I to do?  My deviled egg tray has slots for twenty-four deviled eggs so all those bad boys were going on there no matter what!  Well, needless to say, I was quite frustrated. I never did use that recipe because Matt ended up making the filling for the eggs.  Sadly enough, this is a typical, typical kitchen experience for me.


Nissley Vineyards: Love It!

Preparing hard boiled eggs:  Loathe It!

Food for Thought:

What is your experience in the kitchen?  Do you love it or do you loathe it?

My Journey as a Runner

“I learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement.  It’s a state of mind that says anything is possible.” ~ Hanc


It began in the summer 2010, and I must have looked so pathetic.  There I stood on the track on a hot summer morning attempting to “run” three miles.  I thought I could do it, I wanted to do it, and I wanted to look good too!  Lap one-DONE! Lap two-not so.  As I hobbled around the track for lap two, I wanted to cry.  I wanted to run, but my knee said no way.  I didn’t cry though, I walked and I walked proud, on the outside anyway. You know that saying, fake it till you make it.  Well, that is what I was doing. 


Now it’s time for lap three.  Let’s go for the run.  Yep, lap three was a success until lap four came around and once again my knee shouted NO WAY!!!! All right, I guess this is how it’s going to be.  I needed to complete 12 laps around the track so I was going to have run a lap and then walk a lap. So be it, and that’s what it was.  After 45 minutes of walking and running I completed my three mile “run”. 


While I was a bit deflated, I went back for more the next day and worked on building that stamina.  Taking baby steps day-by-day, working up to running two laps and then walking one, each time increasing the amount of running laps and lessening the walking laps. I was building strength in my knees and working on endurance until finally I could fully run three miles on the track.  However, once the summer ended, so did my running.  My knee still bothered me from time to time so I just decided not to keep up with it. 


Then the spring of 2011 rolled around and my hubby, Matt, decided he was going to run a marathon, the Bob Potts Marathon. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even really know what a marathon was.  In my mind, it was just a long race. Well, it so happened that the Bob Potts Marathon was also holding a 5k race too, and both Matt and Maddie bullied encouraged me to run the 5k race. And with great reluctance, I decided to participate. 


From that point on I was officially a runner.  I ran a mother-daughter 5k race with Maddie and then I got bullied encouraged to run yet another race!  Sometimes I think runners are part of a secret cult.  Honestly, I do! I reluctantly signed up to run the Baltimore ½ marathon in October of 2011 and then I got bullied encouraged into running the Bob Potts MARATHON in the spring of 2012.  That’s right, a marathon!  At this point, I was well aware that a marathon is 26.2 miles.  26.2 Miles!!! Seriously??? And, once I again I reluctantly signed up for yet another race.


As I approach October of 2012, I am participating in the Baltimore Running Festival and running the ½ marathon. This time there was no bullying and no reluctance on my part.  I willingly and happily signed up for the race. I even bullied encouraged a friend to join me for the adventure! So much has changed in my life since I became a runner. I would have never thought I could have accomplished the feats that I have.


Food for Thought:

What feats have you accomplished in your life?  How have you bullied encouraged someone to participate in something that brought a positive aspect to their life?

My Journey as a Reader

~Reading gives us a place to go when we have to stay where we are.~

True Confession:  As a child I never had a passion to read, but I did read, sort of…

True Confession:  It began with I Can Read books.  Do you remember them? I was going to go up in my attic and snap a picture of them, but I opted for Google images instead.  How cool is that?  These images are just how I remember my books!

True Confession:  Then it was on to Judy Bloom books and the Sweet Valley High series.  I seriously loved these books.  I remember going to Bookland at the Delco Plaza to get the next book in the series.  Then my friend Nicolle and I would share/swap our Sweet Valley High books.  That’s what readers & friends do!

True Confession:  I’m a cheater reader! Yep, that’s right! I frequently skip to the end of a chapter or the end of the book to find out what happens and then go back and rearead!  I’ll be honest though, reading on my Kindle has kind of put a stop to that since it’s more difficult to skip around on an eReader.

True Confession:  When I finished the Sweet Valley High series, I graduated to Danielle Steel novels.  After reading about twenty or so of them, they all started to blend together, so that was the end of that.

True Confession:  I am a super slow reader.  Reading in a group always creates a sense of anxiety for me.  I am usually that girl who is the last one finished while everyone else waits.  Maybe that’s why I became a cheater reader!

True Confession:  I use to preview a book by checking how many pages it had.  I’ll never forget reading THE HELP on my Kindle and then seeing it on the shelf in the store.  That book is as thick as a brick!  I couldn’t believe I read it.

You should read this book even though it’s long!

True Confession:  I really enjoy reading nonfiction, especially if it is for professional development.  Here are just two of my favorites:








True Confession:  Now it seems like there isn’t enough time in the day for me to read.  I am usually busy reading books for professional development, blogs, fiction books for leisure, and literature for children.

Food for Thought:

What are your true confessions? (Even if they’re not about reading) 

What kind of books do you like to read? How would you describe yourself as a reader?

My Journey as a Mom…a Rockin’ Mom

“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” ~ Brandy Snyder

That Was Then & This Is Now

That was then…when your nursery was decorated in the primary colors of green, blue, yellow, and red

And this is now as your room is adorned in sea foam green and accents of black and white.


That was then…when our lunch date was a trip to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal

And this is now, luncheon at Panera with the girls.


That was then…when we would go to Turkey Hill for a Coke slushy

And this is now, a trip to Starbucks for a Frappuccino.


That was then…when you played with your Barbies for hours

And this is now, your “toys” are an iPhone, iPad, or a MacBook.


That was then…when an afternoon with friends was a trip to Gymboree

And this is now, an evening all primped and pretty for the Homecoming Dance.


That was then…when you would play at Cousler Park on the jungle gym

And this is now, screaming at the top of your lungs as you ride Skyrush at Hershey Park.


That was then…when you took swimming lessons at the YMCA

And this is now, a member of the Varsity Club for running Cross Country and Track & Field.


That Was Then & This Is Now

And I Love You Forever!


Food for Thought:

Who is someone special in your life and how have they changed over the years?