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.

Slice of Reading Life: Did I Pass?

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hEvery Tuesday, Two Writing Teachers blog hosts a place for writers to share a slice of life.  Join in as a contributor or just read slices. You can find more  here. Thank you  TaraAnnaDanaStacey,  Betsy  and Beth for providing this space for our writing.

“Did I pass?” he asks.

Hate this question because that’s not the point..

Then he asks, “What’s my level?”

This question sets my teeth on edge.

I tell him that these assessments don’t really give him an exact  level. And I proceed to “tell” him what they say. And then I stop myself and ask him to tell me what he thought about the assessments.

First I ask about SRI, or Scholastic Reading Inventory that produces a lexile score.

He says, “Well it has short text to read but lots of questions. So I answer more questions wit SRI.”

I ask, “How does that compare to Running Records?”

He says, “Running Records is only one passage and fewer questions.”

“Say more about that.”

He says, “Well SRI has lots of questions, but each question gives you possible answers. So you know one is right. It’s kind of like a hint. Running Records you have to answer fewer questions, but there isn’t any hint.”

“How does Running Records compare to the IRA?” (Independent Reading Assessment from Jennifer Serravallo). “When you read The Great Gilly Hopkins, with the post its in it?”

“In someways that one is easier than Running Records because you have  a whole book to get it. With Running Records you just have a short amount of text so your really have to get everything you can out of it.”

“Umm,” I say. (and I think, very true).  “So why do you suppose the score on your Running Records is higher than the one on the IRA?”

After thinking a bit he says, “Some of the questions in the book I didn’t understand.  So that’s probably why. The Running Record didn’t ask me those kinds of questions. So I guess the type of question matters.”

“What does this tell you about you as a reader?”

He says, “I guess there are some parts of books I don’t get.  I need to work on that.”

We go on to talk about the book he is reading with his group.

He responds, “I don’t really get it.”

He opens to page one and reads the first sentence from Ungifted by Gordon Korman:

I want a refund from

I ask him, “What do you know and what do you wonder about?”  (Thank you to What Readers Really Do)

He says, “I don’t get it.”

This is said in a monotone, why-don’t-YOU-get-what-I-just-said manner. He clearly wants to abandon this book. While I’m fine with abandoning books that don’t fit readers, I wonder if with a little work in the beginning, the door to understanding might be opened up.

I say, “What  parts  of this sentence do you know and what parts do you wonder about?”

He says, “I know refund but I wonder about I don’t get that part, it doesn’t make sense.”

I say, “So what if you read on with that wonder in mind  and look for answers to that.”

With a sigh, he goes on and eventually “got it.”

I ask, “So what did you learn about yourself as a reader?”

He says, “When I don’t get something I have to kind of break it apart, stop and figure out what I don’t get. Then look for the answer.”

Reading is complicated and assessment tells us many things. It points us towards what might be the problem, the weakness, and what might be needed. But every book, every text, every assessment requires something slightly different from the reader. Bottom line readers need to be flexible in their thinking and strategies they use to understand.

This ten minute conference started with did I pass? In the end I don’t think he found out the answer to that question. Hopefully he walked away with more than what he was asking for.

Celebrating Poetry and the Power of Read Aloud

I’m celebrating the week with Ruth Ayres and friends. I love this weekly ritual that looks to find those moments every week to hold up, savor and celebrate. Thank you Ruth for orchestrating this. Read more celebration link ups here.

 celebrate link up

 Notebooks are full of poems and are being published in REAL books with hard covers and paper pages, 28 of them.  Publishing on the blog is still happening, but a book is something that can you can put on the shelf.  It’s something that will be there over time.

Students looked at what they had developed in their writing notebooks. They listed out all of their poems and tried to find what ideas seemed to repeat. What kept coming up, again and again. What were they trying to tell the world.  How did they connect.  How could they group them or sequence them to create a collection. Who is their audience.  Themes were found around friendship, sports, school or simply pet love. One student said

My book is full of my imagination and it moves this way and that way because that’s what my mind does. This is me.

Clutching their mentor poetry books, students planned their layout: sections, a title page, table of contents, dedication and about the author pages. Once planned they got a white bare book and took off with “old school” creation tools:  pencils, erasers and notebooks that allow room for more development. Some are confident in their artistic abilities, others who say “I don’t draw good” need some coaching. Some script is big and bold, others small and curvy,  but all are asking each other, “Can you read this?” and “how do you spell…” The novelty of this publishing tool seems to have focused their thinking around things that usually don’t get their attention:  presentation and how the reader would read their work. This is an outcome I didn’t expect. Perhaps it is the mentor books that has inspired this focus; perhaps it is the real book publishing environment; perhaps it is a combination.  Whatever the reason, passion for poetry is high. They want their words on the page to reflect and  highlight what their imagination sees. Here’s to celebrating creating books of poetry.





We started A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd this week. With only four weeks left and lots of activities planned, I’m worried that we will have enough time. We will make time because I want the magic of read aloud to fill our classroom one more time before they go off to middle school.



This reminds me of Winn Dixie.

The mom is like Opal’s dad.

The sadness.

The lozenges , remember the sadness.

Yeah it was a symbol.

What could be a symbol here? Ice cream?

Felicity talks like Opal.

She’s a country girl like Opal.

She’s a poet like Ivan.

She sees words like Melody saw colors in Out of My Mind.

She has magic.

Words are magic.


Oh my.  I didn’t expect these connections. I didn’t hint at them. I didn’t make them.  Students were bursting with ideas. They are full of wonders and connecting ideas to texts. They are wondering about symbolism in chapter two! They are aware of the possibility and are on the look out for it. They know this is how books go. And they may revise their thinking, because that is what readers really do.

We read Out of My Mind and The One and Only Ivan this year, but these students read Because of Winn Dixie  two years ago. This speaks not only to the beauty and power of the book, but to the interactive read aloud teaching that went into it. This classroom, full of English language learners, remembers the shell the preacher was in, the litmus lozenges, the sadness and they are actively accessing it, two years later. This is a room of thinkers, of readers. They are doing this because real literature was read, thought about, and experienced throughout their elementary school years.

Today I celebrate amazing literature, the power of interactive read aloud across all grade levels, and my students who teach me so much.