Slice of Life: A Lime Green Bike

I started noticing them in the summer. Lime green bikes, baskets in front. Clustered together, unlocked. Here and there. Waiting to be used like little shoots of hope in a city ruled by the automobile.

I first noticed the bikes in the older part of town where you find the art galleries, restaurants, and coffee shops; the chamber of commerce, vacant storefronts, and small theaters; the new highrise apartments, Subway sandwich store, and ILWU local 63 office

Time passed, and I noticed the bikes started showing up further north. At the 7-11. The 99 cent store. The public library. The Payless shoe store.

Yesterday, I noticed one, a half-mile north or its origin, at a major cross street. Apartments, homes, people, and cars flowed around the parked bicycle.

Today I noticed this one.

IMG_5767.jpgI couldn’t help but wonder. Who used this bike? Who will pick it up next? Where will it go?

Then, four blocks from this, I spotted two, side by side.
Two create a whole new set of possibilities of what might be.

bike 2.jpg

Then, a block away, three.
I pulled over, opened the window and heard quacking. I had forgotten about the ducks. What was the story here? Three friends who stopped to take a walk. Perhaps. Are they feeding the ducks or just relaxing under the trees? Or, are they in one of the homes nearby.

bikes by the park.jpgThe bikes are filtering uptown. To the more suburban, park filled locations.
This has been happening for some time. I just noticed it.

Today, I drove a few blocks south of where I first noticed the bikes, below the art galleries and coffee shops. This area overlooks our waterfront. This is where you find the post office and a growing homeless population. Right behind renewal lives poverty.  And it’s growing.  Steve Lopez gives voice to the people in this situation in this recent Los Angeles Times article. These are people who are working, living in cars, and in encampments like the one near the waterfront. It is painful to read. Even more distressing to notice in your own neighborhood.


I ask my students to notice. Awareness is the start of all things I want for them. Noticing precedes action. And it’s something I don’t do enough of. Ever.

Noticing. The lime green bikes. The honking ducks. The sun peeking through the mist. The kiddo who forgot his lunch and sits alone. The woman pushing a shopping cart oblivious to the cars that just avoid her.

Notice. My one little word for 2018. Noticing is the first step to doing. Something.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. Read more slices here.

Poetry Friday: Lifting the Veil

After reading Jan Burkins’ post about her One Little Word, Open, I happened on to a poem by  Mary Oliver that seemed to fit perfectly. I sent a picture via tweet. Her reply has me on a hunt for my “OLP” for 2017. One that might keep my eyes lifted towards my OLW and the world.
A quick google search of “lift and poetry” found this quote and the original source, Shelley’s essay A Defense of Poetry. I was not an English major, so this manifesto written in 1821 is new to me. The twenty-plus pages are worthy of study. There are many lines to be lifted.

For today, this line lifts me. And reminds me of the haiku a day challenge Mary Lee Hahn started in December.

Lift  Percy Shelley.png

Poetry does this and more. Looking closely and attempting to articulate what I see, lifts the veil; helping me find words and new ideas each day.

Sun streaks down the chair
infiltrating the bedroom
Wayward clouds linger

Thank you, Linda, for hosting Poetry Friday. Read more poetry thoughts, here, at Teacher Dance.poetry-friday-1-1


One Little Word 2017

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are
small matters compared to what lies within us.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

All around the blogosphere people are selecting their one little words. Like magic, the words have descended. I’ve watched and tried to listen, look, notice, wonder about what mine might be.

2016 was the first year I faced with a waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop fear. This year, those concerns still hover; those fears and new ones. I learned last year that anticipating the inevitable was a waste of energy. The shoe will drop and unexpected flowers will bloom. The good and the bad, the joy and the sorrow will always be. But, I can’t control or soften the blow of eventuality by pondering it. So thinking about my OLW for this year, I thought of words that would move actions toward the light even in dark moments.

I thought seriously about the word, notice. So much of what I need to do more of is simply to notice. Notice is the simpler idea around the word present. For a while, notice was on the top of my possible list that was long and rambling. Nothing was falling in my lap that felt right.

Last night, I thought of my dad, who at 96, is the bravest person I know. Someone I want to emulate. Someone who is so full of heart. And, I thought seriously about the word heart. I want to be that person who has tremendous heart. Some days I am that person. But I worried about the days I’m not. Days when my heart could not handle the task, and I set the word heart aside.

I wanted a word that could be small or a big. A word that did not require heroic moves every day.  A word that could grow little by little. A word, if there were purpose and energy to sustain it, could get big.  I thought about small actions. Smiling. An act that transforms. Just by lifting the sides of the mouth, everything gets a tiny bit better. Just lifting.

Lift. Could it work?

Lift (verb)
move or bring upward from the ground or other support to a higher position
to raise or direct upward
to remove or rescind by an official act, as a ban, curfew, or taxes.
to hold up or display on high
to raise in rank, condition, estimation, etc.; elevate or exalt
to make audible or louder, as the voice or something voiced

Lift student voices to be heard and honored.
Lift student burdens and barriers so they can take next step.
Lift students to see their possible.

Lift my eyes from the screen, my worries, myself to see, to notice.
Lift my hands to reach toward another who needs help.
Lift my voice to say what needs to be heard.
Lift my heart to help those who are hurting or fearful.
Lift the corners of my mouth to smile.

Small and big acts of lifting.

Welcome OLW 2017.


Celebrate: The Power of Assessments, Part 2

Time to Celebrate this Week with Ruth Ayers.

celebrate link up

It has been a long, short week. So much was packed into four days.


This week was filled with reading and writing assessments. Assessments keep me up at night for many reasons. I wrote about the pain of inappropriate assessments on Tuesday.  But on the flip side, results of assessments, when viewed with understanding and as a marker of growth on a continuum of learning, are reason to celebrate. 

This week I saw my students’ thinking as they wrote about their reading. I saw how each student approached the text. I saw growth and meeting of benchmarks. This matters. Students need to see their growth. But more importantly, teachers need to find next steps for students. So I record their scores to track their progress, and set that aside. What I spend time with and celebrate this weekend are the areas of need, the next step for each child and the puzzle of how to get there.


Our informational writing unit came to an end and students celebrated by commenting on each other’s posts.  Students tend to notice the mistake rather than the strength or comment so generally it means very little.  I wanted them to not only comment in a positive way, but to learn something in the process. Taking a tip from Melanie Meehan, I cut up our TCRWP checklists and put them on cards .

2015-01-16 17.34.54Then, I invited students to find something a student did well that was on a card and complement them, by identifying what they did as a writer. After working on these for a while I found myself calling them “complement cards.” I started to ask students, have you written a complement or a connection to a post. Inadvertently I had renamed our work. This week I celebrate the renaming of comments. We no longer comment on posts, we complement or make connections.


At the end of any writing unit I ask students to write an on demand piece.  I invited them to write about any topic they felt they are an expert in. Their only constraint was the time, 45 minutes. Without prompting, many pulled out their genius hour notebooks, filled with notes on their passion projects. One student asked, can we put this on the blog? Never have I had a student ask to put an assessment on the blog. This week I celebrate the power of genius hour learning: time students choose what they want to learn. Given opportunity, resources and choice students can create their own learning.

And finally...

All this week my students wrote about their one little words. So much has come out in this process. Their posts are raw, exposed. The choices they make are so telling.

The reason why I choose powerful is because if I do something hard I could look at my word, then it will tell me that I am brave and that nothing is going to take me down. It will also tell me that I am brave and I won’t back down and if I struggle a lot I can look at the muscle and that means I am strong and I am very powerful. So that’s why I picked it because sometimes I struggle a lot, so that’s why I picked the word, so it will make me brave and my word. I know some people struggle with stuff and adults also struggle a lot, so I picked it because I knew it would help me and make me better when I am working. And if I get stuck I can look at it and it tells me I am strong I can beat any hard stuff and it will make me confident.  Now I like the word and I love the word😊 because I know it will help me throughout the year of elementary so yay👍.

So yay and happy weekend!



Celebrate: A Fresh Start for 2015

It’s Saturday and time to Celebrate this week with Ruth Ayers. Find other celebration posts herecelebrate link up

Five things I loved about last week.

ONE: A clean, organized closet and garage.  I go through this process every year, but I don’t believe I have ever seen our garage as clutter free as it is now. Everything has a place and it is put away. I know it won’t last, but for now it is quite refreshing.

TWO:  Not having to set an alarm. Nuff said.

imagesTHREE: My cute little Chromebook, a Christmas present for my classroom.  We have iPads which I am grateful for, but I have high hopes for this little baby. iPads have their powers, but to write, to blog they have limitations. I hope the kids take to the Chromebook as I have with its great keyboard and internet search abilities. And I hope for more of these lovely little devices. Maybe it will inspire some to buy one for their homes or for our classroom. As long as you have wifi access, for  about $200 they are a sweet deal.

FOUR: One little word(s) have been sprouting up everywhere on Twitter. Many of you who celebrate weekly have been doing it for years. I tried it out for the first time last year.  I love the simple idea that one little word can guide your thinking, your focus for the year. It’s sort of a mantra, a subtle undertone, or  soundtrack for your year. Last year, my OLW, wonder led me on a great journey, and it is still with me. This year I’m growing my ideas around my new OLW, listen. I loved listening to Elise Cripe interview Ali Edwards on her OLW journey.  Check out Ali’s blog foe some wonderful resources.

FIVE: Beginning #Nerdlution15. Last year nerdlution was born as a way to spread the nerdy (think Nerdy Book Club) attitude in other places of our lives. The idea is to commit to something for 50 days in order to create a new habit or mindset. This year I chose just one goal: to write about a word (of my choosing) every day.  My “rules” are here.


created by Kristi Mraz

Today’s word: Mediate.

Mediate. In the middle.Often between two extremes. Looking to find a point where both sides are at ease. The job of a mediator is one who has to guide or help find that sweet spot of comfort. Where the polar opposites can sit beside one another in peace. I have been the mediator. This has been my job of late, to mediate. I picked up the phone to call my brother. Not an easy call. Part of mediating seems to be measured honesty. I know that does not sound complete. Maybe it is better to see steps in mediation as sticking your toe in the water, just a bit. Showing a bit of the truth, getting people used to the idea so they can put themselves a little further into the lake. One person on one side, the other across the lake. Mediation takes place on the wooden raft in the middle. To get there it is a bit scary for all parties and the mediator has the very difficult job of coaxing each party closer towards that warm safe raft in the middle.


Happy Celebrations and Nerdlutions to all.

Welcome 2015: My One Little Word

A new year, a new one little word.

My 2015 OLW has been with me for a while. It’s been lurking, hanging out with wonder, my 2014 OLW. Waiting in the wings. Helping out when needed. Saying here I am,  psst over here. I’m here.

I worried that this word was too direct. Too single minded. Too pushy. So I tried on a few others. Some words were beautiful and might fit someday, but not right now. Some words were tempting. They looked magical.

But this word kept whispering in my ear. Driving, I’d hear it on a podcast; browsing through a magazine at the grocery store, there it was again. It could have been the Honda Accord phenomenon. You know, the thing that happens when you buy a Honda Accord and then you see that car everywhere. You’re sensitized to something, so you see what was there all along. Which brings me right back to my one little word’s promise. The promise to see what I’ve been missing, what was there already. And it has nothing to do with the visual.

You see, I’m not taking it all in. My thoughts and words are strong and often overpower other words. I’m not really listening.

I thought I was listening in my classroom. I quieted my voice, and made a space for student voices. I recorded their thoughts in my notebook. I started to capture their words with my phone.  I continued to jot and ask follow up questions in response to or to solicit more.  Later, I’d review their thoughts, play the recordings to flesh out my notes. I was stunned: there was so much I did not process initially.

What was said was filtered, perhaps hidden, by my thoughts. I had tried to create questions that were open ended that showed no prompting or bias, but my understanding was skewed. Sitting at my dining room table, reviewing student’s voices I had recorded, LISTEN stood up and said pay attention.

I am not taking it all in. I ‘m hearing what I am listening for, or as Gordon Hempton, an audio ecologist, calls listening “for something in particular.” I had no idea.

I thought I was listening to my daughter. She’d say you never listen to me. I thought that was just the typical teenage cry. Now I wonder.

I wonder, what else am I not listening to?

Here’s to this year’s OLW.recite-14h15lu


Thank You Wonder — My 2014 OLW

This is my last post for 2014, and time to thank my one little word for the year, wonder.

My OLW has been a wonderful companion, and I’m not saying goodbye. Wonder has taken up residence. It will sit beside me as I adopt a new OLW for 2015. So much has been conjured by wonder, and I am grateful for it’s presence.

Wonder allowed me to question myself and others in a way that is gentle and open. It is a nonjudgmental word, ready for whatever might appear.  I believe it’s semi-magical secondary meaning edges into it’s questioning component and allows thinking to get even bigger.

Wondering first made its appearance with the book What Readers Really Do by Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton. The process of wondering about what we notice is so powerful in reading, and as with any great strategy it bridges to all parts of life. That is what wonder has done for me.

This year, the act of wondering made reading accessible for struggling readers and helped make the process of reading more visible for the proficient.

This year, on a macro almost subconscious level, the permission to wonder allowed me to take chances, to open doors, and go places I never knew existed.  Some of the places I went were inside me; some were to places that involved airports and hotels; some were to places where closer relationships and understandings exists.

Thank you to all who ventured and wondered with me: my students, my colleagues I see down the hall and in the coffee shop, my blogging community of Slicers and Celebrators, my TCRWP virtual and sometimes face-to-face colleagues,  my NCTE cohorts Mary Lee Hahn, Fran McVeigh, Steve Peterson and Vicki Vinton,  my husband, and my family who didn’t choose me, but love me anyway. This year has been a wonderful journey.


Looking forward to next year with wonder beside me and another one little word.

Poetry One of More To Come: Undercover

In honor of National Poetry Month, and because I miss writing daily, I’ve decided to focus on poetry for the month of April. Can’t say how much, yet.

Writing poetry is scary, but I’m doing this with the hope that 1) it will get less scary, 2) I will learn something about myself and writing, and 3) I can share more authentically with my students.

Leigh Anne, and Michelle I know you’re out there doing the same  and I’ll check in to see what you are up to.   Cathy  and Mary Lee you are inspiration on this journey. Steve, will you kindly critique?  Georgia Heard is there too helping  my students and me take some baby steps.

For now, I’m finding  poetry in quiet spaces; tying to catch it, and bottle the feeling; what speaks to me in the moment. My question is, does it speak to others and will it say the same to me as time goes by.


Head peaking


Whips and curls frame her face.

One foot is dangling,

fatigue is dragging,

a little girl behind.

Pure child

nestling in dreams.

The older mask






My One Little Word…And Where It Might Take Me

After much thought about all the possible words to be my one little word I’ve finally found one.  It needed to…

  • be actionable and visible
  • promote collaboration, questioning and creation
  • foster a love of reading and writing
  • strengthen the classroom community
  • ignite passionate and meaningful work

I choose wonder to be my one little word.

  •  because that’s what readers really do
  •  because it leads to exploration and learning
  •  because it can be seen as amazement or engagement
  •  because it gives permission to go places we otherwise might not go
  •  because that is the name of a book we love


Inquiry Work in Reading – I’ve just begun to look at how students process read aloud. I wonder can students identify their thinking processes during read aloud and then transfer some of that thinking towards independent work. I’m wondering what could bring the read aloud’s high level of engagement and deep level of thinking to their individual reading lives.

Poetry Connections –  Inspired by Mary Lee Hahn, Steve Peterson, and Vicki Vinton’s call for poetry, I am pushed to a place I’ve avoided. I wonder why I have overlooked poetry, particularly when I think about all of the potential it offerers in terms of language, craft and engagement.

But I’m working on it.  I’m looking for the those poems that resonate in my heart. Peeking at Poetry Friday posts and commenting on a few. My antennae are up. While I’m embarrassed to discover this hole in my literary world, I’m excited to learn alongside my students.

Deepening Student Blogging – I have learned so much from blogging and  I want my students to experience that same growth.  I’m wondering if we could connect student blogs out there for a student Tuesday slice in preparation for the March monthly challenge. Any takers for January and February?

Students Blog, Why Not Teachers – I’m wondering about blogging with my colleagues. Just to start, perhaps one day a week teachers could investigate one blog. We could gather around our laptops in room 5 and read a few blogs. Talk a bit and maybe a post a comment. I wonder if they’d catch the bug.

Wonder Across Grade Levels — As the new year starts, I wonder what is going on in other classrooms at my school. I wonder if my colleagues would want to enter my classroom and observe with wondering hearts and find at least one little thing to help to help me grow and one little thing that could help them grow. I’m wondering if I open up my classroom, inviting wonder, will others do the same.

Here’s to a year of wonder.