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Guest Post: Everything’s a Story

By Katie Egan Cunningham


Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote in her famed novel A Little Princess, “Everything’s a story—you are a story—I am a story.” There is so much truth in that brief sentence. Our lives are stories in the making, and there has never been a time with more ways to tell our stories or to learn about the stories of others. While my generation could be characterized as Generation X, I believe today’s students could be aptly named Generation Story. Not only are our students reading and writing stories, they are actively telling stories through photos and videos they compose and curate, and they are listening to and viewing stories at rapid speed thanks to the wonders of Netflix, YouTube, social media, and podcasts. Our students are growing up with a deep sense that everything really is a story.

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The Struggle Can Be Wonderful

Here is our truth. Students need our help. We need help. We need each another--everyone in the classroom and everyone in our buildings. And we need the humility to know that our best teaching years may never be realized because of the hundreds and thousands of unreported moments that matter to the young people we mentor.

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Tools of the Trade: Tidying Up

by Rita Sorrentino

On a recent flight during the holidays, a woman seated next to me was reading, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. When she turned and asked me if I had read this book, I told her I was familiar with the concept through snippets I gleaned from TV and social media: get rid of those things that do not spark joy, handle your clothing respectfully, and when in doubt, throw it out. After a brief exchange of ideas, I reflected that although unfamiliar with Marie Kondo’s Zen-like relationship with possessions and strict rules for decluttering, I actually developed a propensity for organization from my mother whose practical wisdom motivated me to keep things tidy and orderly. My mother’s mantras still ring in my ears, “Why handle something twice? Put things where they belong the first time (especially keys). Consider the next person who might also need to use it. Keep like things together.” I believe my mother and Marie Kondo would have found common ground.

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Books on the Blog: Moo: a novel

by Lynne Dorfman


a wide silk of bluesilver

spotted with treegreen islands


a banner of bluewhite sky

41Ypg52oXoL.jpgIf you loved reading Love That Dog and Hate That Cat, you will not want to miss Sharon Creech’s newest tween novel, Moo. This story is about a family’s momentous move from the city to rural Maine, and an unexpected bond that develops between twelve-year-old Reena and one very ornery cow.

When the family moves to Maine, Reena is dreaming of picking blueberries and eating all the lobster she wants. Instead, she and her younger brother Luke are volunteered by their mother to help an eccentric neighbor named Mrs. Falala who has a pig named Paulie, a cat named China, a parrot named Crockett, a snake named Edna, and an enormous belted Galloway named Zora.  What happens next is amazing…

Told in a blend of poetry and prose with defining variation in print of different fonts and 51-5S7JNGBL.jpgsizes and unusual placements of words on pages to create word pictures for the reader, this delightful story will warm your heart. It is just right for so many middle schoolers who are between wanting to be children and wanting to be adults. The story has a full range of emotions from light and funny to sad and reflective. The characters are so different that they complement each other completely. Moo is a story about opening our minds and hearts to new experiences and letting others into our life so that we can grow, develop relationships and insights, and be renewed. Themes of loss, friendship, courage, and family are represented here in a story to love long after you finish reading the final page!

minneapolis-2015-lynne-paul-mary-and-me-5Lynne R. Dorfman is a Co-director of PAWLP and an adjunct professor at Arcadia University. She is eagerly awaiting the second edition publication this spring of her first book, Mentor Texts: Teaching Writing Through Children’s Literature, co-authored with PAWLP fellow Rose Cappelli.  Currently, she is writing Welcome to Writing Workshop with Stacey Shubitz. Lynne enjoys her role as President of Eta chapter of ADK and working with women educators who tirelessly raise monies for charities

Teacher to Teacher: Helping Children Become Better Spellers – What Parents Can Do

By Lynne R. Dorfman

As educators and parents, we realize the importance of spelling words accurately. Research indicates that spelling words in isolation does not transfer into daily writing habits. Even though the Friday spelling tests are popular, the time invested into memorizing word lists for spelling purposes does not really translate into time well spent. Parents like to help their children with schoolwork, and studying for weekly spelling tests is something most parents feel comfortable with in contrast to helping their children with math homework (since the new math programs develop math concepts and skills in a very different way than parents and grandparents remember).

If we give our parents a weekly or monthly suggestion to work on to help their children build spelling awareness and insight, then we may be able to substitute help with weekly spelling lists for something much better – the frequent and simultaneous use of real strategies that will help our students become better spellers. Rather than rote memorization, spelling should be viewed primarily as a process of conceptual learning. In reading and writing workshop and across the day, we teach students to spell in a variety of ways. We want our students to use their phonemic awareness, phonics-based classroom instruction, environmental print (word walls, etc.), tools such as dictionaries (on-line as well as print versions such as, thesauruses, spellcheckers, and knowledge of patterns to engage in written response.

In addition, we want our students to rely on a growing understanding of root words and their affixes gained in word study work in core reading time and guided reading groups as well as work embedded into content areas. Furthermore, our students should use their clear mental images of words often found in the stories, poems, and textbooks, and chapter books they are reading as well as their own written work to strengthen long-term spelling memory. Read more