Friday, September 26, 2014

Spreading joy and love for reading

Pharell’s Happy. Can you hear it?  Can you feel it?  You can’t help but want to dance a little.  It just makes you happy, right?

It might seem crazy what I’m about to say
Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break
I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space
With the air, like I don’t care baby by the way
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do….

Come on you know you want to clap along…

Giving props to Pharell, I can’t help but also reflect on the powerful, Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess.  In this energizing professional resource, a quote by Carlos Santana resonated with me:

There is nothing more contagious on this planet than enthusiasm.  The songs become incidental, what people receive is your joy.”

In keeping with the tradition of Pharell and Burgess, I wanted to share some books that leave readers with that feeling of joy.  I hope the feeling is contagious. Like Scott Campbell's Hug Machine, I could hug each of these books and mentor authors.
Happy Reading!


365 Days of Wonder RJ Palacio gifts us again with a “wonder”ful book of precepts.  These daily quotes from songs, famous characters and the original work of students are a celebration of kindness, hope and joy.

Spreading kindness with @WillixReads' glitter board to highlight quotes from RJ Palacio's 365 Days of Wonder
A is for Awesome- by Dallas Clayton

This is an ABC book with a special twist.  All of the “awesomeness” can be described through affirming words in this alliterative alphabet that is a MUST HAVE for all ages. 


 Because Amelia Smiled – by David Stein

David Stein’s book is the perfect illustration of what it means to pay it forward.  One act of kindness can change the world. 

Someday – Eileen Spinelli

Believe in the possibilities.  Expect the unexpected.  Dream- then make it a reality.

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match- by Monica Brown

This is a feel good book that happens to also be a bilingual picture book.  Marisol celebrates her unique qualities and doesn’t care about what others think.   She is proud to be herself and everyone will fall in love with the mismatched Marisol. 


Plant a Kiss- Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Amy Krouse Rosenthal never disappoints.  Her books always put a smile on my face. In this book she pairs up with another “heartprint” author/illustrator, Peter Reynolds to show how an act of kindness can grow and grow.

Be Happy- by Monica Sheehan – This is a little text with a big heart.  Simple illustrations and inspirational text that will leave its reader happy.  Fabulous video paired with the uplifting song, New Soul by Yael Naim.* 

As my grandmother used say and sing to me,
“When you’re smilin’ the whole world smiles with you…” Teach from the heart, spread a little joy, touch some hearts and minds…..Smile.

What titles make you smile? #smileTweet with the hashtag #smile or share your faves in comments below. Would love to hear from you.
Keep smiling,


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Connected Educators


        Donald Graves’ reflected on the impact of energy and teaching in The Energy to Teach.  He said, “Teaching is an emotional rollercoaster.  Rollercoasters demand energy-high energy- and you need to know how to maximize what gives you energy and minimize what takes it away.”   In thinking about maximizing energy one cannot ignore the impact of such energizing events as attending conferences and participating in chats.  Both allow us to come together to reflect, refuel, and reenergize our teaching.   Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending the first annual connected educators meet up hosted by the Farmingdale School District, on Long Island. 

The sessions were planned in the a.m. and the afternoon evolved from an edcamp model. (Stay tuned for the EdcampLI and nErDcampLI news to follow).   I have learned from participating in #educoach ( a must chat for literacy coaches and fellow lead learners) I believe in sharing #eduwins.  Too often we hear about what isn’t working in education,  let’s talk about what is working…

An #eduwin inspired  by Dr. Bill Brennan  at #CELI14:  Coming together to: Connect. Learn. Share. -ACT.  Here are some reflections that I wanted to share:

"Harness the power of collective IQ- Twitter is a safe place to take risks as educators and suspend judgment- the idea takes center stage." - Ryan Scala

"Tech and our relationships push us further- a breeding ground for ideas." - Adam Bellow

"Learning is a community.  Learning is Life. We are all educating each other." Laurie Walsh

"We have to teach students to be managers of their learning.  The tools are out there to get them engaged."  Alejandro Rivera

On the power of connected educators: "Energy, rejuvenation, collaboration, possibilities- Unlimited." - Carol Varsalona "

"We have an obligation as educators to be connected and to share." Tom Whitby

I am a learner everyday.  I learn from the students and teachers that I work with.  I also learn from the amazing educators that I connect with on Twitter and in real life. These opportunities  allow educators to connect, learn, and share.   It is opportunities like these that give me energy.   #MyPLNRocks.  There are no experts. We are all learners.  Educators need to live and breathe learning lives. 
There is  a current of electricity that comes from staying connected on and off line.  Thank you for keeping the current LIVE. 


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

#NF10for10 2014

 An Invitation to Notice & Wonder


Thank you to Cathy Mere, Mandy Robek, and Julie Balen for hosting this exciting event. 

This #NF10for10 list pairs collections of engaging, short NF texts with links to connect to wonders via  This year I have been working hard to layer texts and help students think more deeply within text sets.  Hope your students enjoy this invitation to notice, to wonder, to investigate further, and to push their thinking too.  


"Big Thinking in Small Packages"

Want students to write about their thinking and learning?  Try poetry. 

Donald Graves called poetry, "Big thinking in small packages."  

"Poetry is a memorable way to provide information."

This book of poetry explores inventions like roller coasters, Velcro, Fig Newtons and more. It helps readers look at everyday objects in a new way.

Wonderopolis # 164- What is an acrostic poem?


Lives of the Scientists Experiments, Explorers (and What the Neighbors Thought)

The latest in this series by Kathleen Krull.

Still wondering?   Curiosity is all it takes.  
Have you ever wondered what it takes to be an inventor?  Can kids be inventors too?  Wonder #673
 Wonderopolis #673 Can Kids be inventors too?

10 Inventors who Changed the World 

Connecting ideas and reading across texts, students can think more deeply about a topic.  In 10 Inventors Who Changed the World, read to find the "life links" or chains of influence in this unique series of biographies. Great for older readers and fans of graphic novels.   
Ever wonder about word origins? 
Hello? Does Thomas Edison get credit for our most popular greeting?   Check this out and explore the interesting connection of events great for link to word study lessons.  

 An Illustrated Timeline of Inventions and Inventors

 Visual Literacy:
"Pictures help us see the story" 

"By Kids for Kids"  


Don Wulffson provides a variety of short engaging well crafted pieces students LOVE.  Discover lots of fun facts about the history behind Popsicles, Post its, and even perfume.
Did you ever wonder about the ice cream man? How about the first ice cream truck?
Want to learn more? Great collection of mentor texts for writing in this collection too.
 How about the history of deodorant? How about how post its came to be?   Wulffson addresses these wonders and more in his collection of short texts.   
Have you ever wondered why  some people's feet stink?  Well Wonderopolis explains it all here:

Imaginative Inventions

 Great text to connect to all above as many of the same inventions and inventors are found here in this fun text written in verse.

Wondering about how things work or how things came to be?  How about roller skates or chewing gum? 
Wondering about roller skates?
Great wonder to also pair with POP! The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy


Mistakes That Worked

 How about another "mistake that worked"? Want to know more about who invented potato chips? 
Wondering about potato chips?
  Another great text to explore- but I wrote about this last #NF10for10.  Great piece on George Crum  found in What Color is My World.

Students LOVE the Gross Factor

Students also love learning about wacky, wild and gross foods? How about hairy, scary foods throughout history?  Fun hybrid text with poetry too:
Great examples of connected texts to read across and  synthesize information from multiple texts.
I have included this last mentor text because it is filled with examples for our students to explore the ways in which authors provide information and engage the reader.   
This new title from Loreen Leedy  has an interesting text structure.  Your students will find  fun facts, poetry, riddles and it has includes a question and answer format too.  Lots of great models for energizing nonfiction. 

I hope you enjoy finding those mentor authors and mentor texts that are your "co-teachers".

"Emulate those teachers that instilled the sense of wonder and curiosity that inspired you.”
Robert John Meehan

Happy Reading #NF10for10 
Can't wait to read and learn from other's lists. 

Thanks to all!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Close Reading Blog-a-thon Post

Falling in Love with Close Reading... 
You had me at hello.   

Joy, love, passion, getting at the heart of the matter, like Chris and Kate,  I believe that reading and writing workshops are all about this “heart” work. Regie Routman once said, “Unless we reach into our students’ hearts, we have no entry into their minds.”   

 Joy, passion, love…all  lead to learning.   Falling in Love with Close Reading,  Awakening the Heart, Book Love, The Joy of Planning, such powerful  themes resonate throughout these texts.  These are just to name a few professional resources by those educators who have left heartprints*  on our work… and the work we do with students.

The term heartprint was derived from an Eleanor Roosevelt quote:

“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.”


I have no doubt that Chris and Kate's upcoming book will do just that.  Inspired by their blogs and their ability to push our thinking,  they also remind us to find joy in what we do and to remember the "heart work" in reaching all learners.
As Chris says, "Close reading is not something to be done to students. " It is not meant to be the way in which we read everything.  It is also not just about the texts.  It is about the thinking.  Like Chris mentioned, “looking closely at nonfiction can lead you to love the subject, the writing, heck perhaps even the entire text-type more.”  Read more from that post here:
There it is again: L-O-V-E. Whether it be a professional text, a life altering book like Wonder or The One and Only Ivan, it will be that which sticks with you because the author has left a mark (or in the case of Wonder and Ivan is able to tug at your heart strings). 
Heartprint books, heartprint authors.  When thinking about "close reading", I think it is important to reflect on those texts worthy of examination.  This is why we read "closely".  We read to examine. We read to admire. We read to make sense . We study. We reread.  We question. We  wonder.  We fall in love.
We all have mentor authors, both professional author educators that impact our teaching, and authors of children's literature that enter our classrooms and become our co-teachers.
“With a room full of authors to help us teach, teaching writing
(or close reading)  doesn’t have to be so lonely."--Katie Wood Kay
Mentor authors, like, Katie Wood Ray and Jeff Anderson, have inspired me to be more attentive.  The invitation to notice creates opportunities for close reading.  I choose texts with my students that we want to emulate.  We use noticing charts to name what the author is doing, think about why, and then we try it. 
So go ahead read closely. Find those powerful reading and writing connections.  Read like writers and write like readers.  How else do we come to know?  We study.  We wonder. We ask questions. We seek answers.  We look within and beyond the text.  We investigate. And finally we experiment.  Isn’t that a path for those career and college ready? 
Chris and Kate remind us to reflect on purpose, passion,  and process.  What can we study closely that will help us teach the readers and the writers in our room?  What might stick with them tomorrow? Re-read, re-visit and re-interpret those texts. Find the passion, joy and love for learning.  Fall in love.

Chris “nudged” me to write a post.  He also asked me to share some of the mentor authors for nonfiction that I love.  I tried to include all in a pic collage, but found out you can only hold 30 pictures.  Being nerdy, that is not nearly enough.  The list continues to grow and I feel lucky to have nerdy friends that introduce me to new titles often.  Would love to hear from you too.
Experiment with note making vs. note taking.   Students will be fascinated to "see" the notebook of Leonardo Davinci and inspired to keep their own inquiry notebook.


Illustration Study: 

Explore Patterns in this book by Diane De Groot
What Dogs Do... What Dogs Don't Do
Great parallel text for illustration study- explore again and again.

April Pulley Sayre

Stars Beneath Your Bed is all about Dust.  The interesting facts about dust are explained through beautiful language and make learning fun. April Pulley Sayres has many titles  for  young researchers: chants, alphabet books and more. 


You can explore text structure with students, but the real treat is sharing this for its scary but true humor. 
Click to see how to "operate" moms and find tips and rules.  Great model of voice for nonfiction writing. 

All Abouts:

Unique look at a different kind of "all about" book. Wonderful collection of short text that explores ways animals use bubbles:

Fiona Bayrock's website for more info
Fiona Bayrock's website

Alphabet Books:

                 Short text arranged in alphabetical order that celebrates 26 women and 26 men who made a difference in our world.
 Front Cover

Photo Essays:

"Spark an interest..."


Backyard Detective: Critters Up Close


Check out the Nic Bishop interview on his experience as researcher and how  his "childhood sense of wonder about the world..." as well as his passion and the process impact his work. 


 Poetry favorites:


J. Patrick Lewis

Visit: to connect with more authors.
 Which nonfiction mentor authors and texts do you love?



Saturday, August 10, 2013


Do you want to know what picture books your "edufriends" can't live without?
Today is your lucky day! 
Thanks  to Cathy Mere @cathymere and Mandy Robek @mandyrobek  for hosting this event and supporting the addiction of many picture book fans.  You can see the  variety of choices and categories that have been highlighted before in Cathy's NBC post here:
As most #nerdybookclub friends know, narrowing down a list of "must haves" is very difficult.  If you regularly follow @nerdybookclub you are privy to the many wonderful top ten lists that support students and teacher readers of all ages. 
For this year's #PB10for10, I tried to narrow it down to books I love for building community.   These books celebrate diversity and also support a sense of community for our readers, writers and thinkers.
"Nobody cares what you know, until they know that you care."
  Charise Harper
 I also love her book about healthy choices, exercise and the heart:
Which is why making a list is always so hard...the lists keep growing for us addicts.
The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
This book is an oldie, but a goodie.  It is filled with beautiful language and  images.  It simply illustrates a powerful message about how unique and beautiful we all are.
"A laugh sounds the same, as does a blech, a sneeze..."  One Green Apple will leave your reader with a smile as wide as Farrah's and possibly in need of a Kleenex or two.

Zero by Kathryn Otoshi
Zero demonstrates power in team work and helps with conversations about self worth and our unique talents and strengths.
Zero is the follow up to Kathryn's amazing book One (which should also make this list)
 Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon   (I really want to ask her if Ralph was inspired by our own very special @fletcher ralph).
Struggling with finding ideas for writing, this young writer learns that stories are everywhere.  Speaks to the heart of the story: writing from your experiences and passions.
 Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind by Judy Finchler & Kevin O'Malley
Find what they love. Match books to readers... for those readers that need that extra special TLC. 
 Hey, Little Ant By Phillip and Hannah Hoose
"Should the ant get squished, should the ant go free? We'll leave the kid with raised up shoe...
what do you think the kid should do?"
 Love sharing this book to discuss choices we make and how we impact one another in our classroom and beyond.
Say Hello by Jack and Michael Foreman. 
Product Details   
 #choosekind - One little word can make a big difference. 
Only One You by Linda Kranz

We are all unique and I can't wait to hear more about others' #pb10for10. 
Be sure to check out Cathy's blog to read and follow other lists of #pb10for10:
Happy Reading and Happy almost New Year!
Thanks for adding to my TBR with #pb10for10. 
Here is a link to an older NBC post I shared with the Top 10 Picture books that had me at hello- These are also titles I couldn't start the year off without.