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Tools of the Trade: Each Other

by Kelly Virgin

My week as a co-facilitator of the PAWLP Grammar Matters course reminded me of the most vital tools teachers have access to in our profession: each other. Throughout the week I had the sheer pleasure of learning from a group of experienced and dedicated teachers. Teachers who instruct everyone from the the tech-savvy-pajama-clad-behind-the-screen cyber high schooler to the squiggly-giggly-in-the-flesh-on-the-floor fourth grader. Teachers who reminded me of the importance of reading picture books to my 9th graders and who rejuvenated my excitement to explore conventions along with them. Teachers who introduced me to educational websites, learning apps, presentation tools and who had the patience to help me learn how to access and use them. Teachers who challenged my thinking and reaffirmed my beliefs.


In just a few short weeks many of us will be back to days that are crammed with lesson planning and attendance taking. We will be focused on our students’ learning and consumed by our daily responsibilities as educators. And if we don’t make a conscientious effort, days, maybe even weeks, will pass without us taking the time to engage in any challenging or reaffirming professional conversations. However, in order to sustain our energy and creativity for all 180 days of the school year, it is important to remember to take the time to talk to and to work with our colleagues as well as to seek professional assets from beyond our daily encounters.

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A Writerly Life: Wisdom from Lynne Dorfman

Giving students the inspiration to be “writers” begins with encouraging them to be admirers of other writers.

-Maureen Pfeiffer (2016 participant of Grammar Matters)


Teacher-to-Teacher: Back to School: Beyond Pocket Folders

By Janice Ewing

Do you think of August as a transitional month? For many teachers, June and July have provided time and opportunities to pursue professional learning and have the collegial conversations that broaden their thinking and inspire new avenues of inquiry.  Now, the weather and the calendar tell us that it’s still summer, with the possibilities of travel, family time, and more professional learning, but it’s also a time when many teachers begin thinking more directly about their return to their classrooms.

The TV, print, and online ads tell us that it’s time to start gathering coupons and looking for those great deals on pocket folders and notebooks. (Raise your hand if you’ve gone  Staples-hopping to take advantage of ten-per-customer pocket folder bargains!) More importantly, it’s time to start the transition from summer renewal to fall implementation, regardless of one’s grade level or subject area.

Janice quote sparks

For educators at all levels, returning to school this year might have a different feel from previous years. In addition to new ideas for things like grouping structures, assessment, or authentic writing practices, we are also grappling with questions of how to address issues that are not pedagogical in nature, but directly affect our lives as teachers and students. Issues such as ever-present outbreaks of violence around the world, political campaign rhetoric, police and community relationships, our society’s growing understanding of diversity (and instances of pushback in response). We have always faced serious issues in our classrooms, communities and the larger world. Now, more than ever, the rapid pace of events and reactions to those events, shared as they’re happening on multiple news and social media sites, seem to change the very wiring of our brains. Read more

Books on the Blog: The Wild Robot

by Linda Walker

Robots…what do I know about them?


“Danger, Danger Will Robinson,” the robot in Lost in Space calls out its repetitive warnings. Will was always in trouble. This lumbering mechanical alarm system didn’t even have a name?  Rosie from the Jetsons, a frilly aproned house keeper rolled around on a single leg offering cheery advice. Two of my favorites were Crow T and Tom from Mystery Science Theater. Along with Joel, their creator, they are forced to watch B-rated Sci-Fi movies. Their critiques were always humorous. And then from the first Star Wars movie I fell for R2-D2 and C-3PO. Who wouldn’t? C-3PO was all decorum and procedure speaking millions of languages. On the other hand, there was the mischievous R2-D2, the bleeping rolling vacuum cleaner shaped character everyone wanted to call, friend. Their personalities and actions appealed to me.

R5Peter Brown, author of The Curious Garden, introduced me to a new favorite robot, Roz. She is the main character in his 2016 release, The Wild Robot. A hurricane’s lashing rain and wind sinks a cargo ship loaded with hundreds of crates. One washes up onto a wild rock island. Inside that crate is a robot. By fate, some playful otters discover the broken box. Curious by nature, they paw at the contents and click activate the robot. As you know robots are programmed by their creators to store and compute data. They do not learn or have emotions. When Roz is turned on her survival instinct for which she has been programmed kicks in but so does something else…a new feeling – curiosity.

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A Writerly Life: Wisdom from Harry Noden

Harry Noden’s words spoke to me because we are constantly adding to our writing just as an artist would perfect a painting.

-Katie Boyer (2016 participant of Grammar Matters)

Noden and Brush Strokes