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Writer’s Notebook- September 11

This week will mark the 11th anniversary of September 11th. I vividly remember teaching 5th grade in a portable building and the principal calling out to my room to tell me what was happening. I remember having to act like nothing was happening but my students noticing that a lot of students were going home early. I remember checking the Internet frequently for updates.

I couldn’t write about the events of that day for a few months. Finally I felt the urge to write. I kept coming back to all of the stories that were being told by loved ones. When I reread the poem I’m sharing there are things I would change (and I always can). But I’ll share it in it’s original published form.

My students weren’t even born yet and are very young to understand the complicated themes threaded through this event. So I probably wouldn’t share this poem with them. I’ll probably share it with my fellow teachers at school.

What does this day make you think about? Listen to your heart and head in the next few days and try to record it in your writer’s notebook. Even if it isn’t writing you would share with your students it is informing you about being a writer.


Ordinary life
Was being played out
On a Tuesday morning.

In an instant
Countless hearts were broken
And even more tears cried
As news quickly spread
And images were played
Again and again
Confirming that unthinkable terror
Had reached our shores
Bringing some life stories
To an end
And changing the course
Of others.

Every person lost
Has an amazing story,
Had a future planned
With friends and family
Who are now
Left with nothing to hold but memories
Of gentle smiles,
Quirky laughs,
And warm hearts.

Numerous stories of heroism
Will go untold.
In their place
Many stories of remembering-
Births, marriages, birthdays
Are being told.

Never will it be known
The fear they felt,
The courage they mustered,
And the dread that must have followed
As they realized
Their destiny
Was no longer
In their hands.

All can take solace
In knowing
That their loved ones
We’re not alone.
They had heroes’
Hands to hold
And thoughts
Of those they loved
In their hearts.


Puzzle Pieces

Tomorrow the students at my school can come meet their teacher. Monday school starts!  I can’t wait to meet each one of them!  Our students are like a puzzle we start piecing together.  We start using these pieces to develop a full picture of each student and to make plans for our students as a group and individually. Usually we get data about our students before we meet them- running records, end of year tests, writing samples, teacher comments, etc.  but there’s more we can learn as we meet our students, interact with them, watch how they interact with others, step back and watch them work, …

There are so many different types of information we can gather and begin using. I’m going to use the rest of this post to categorize and pose questions that we might want answers to.  Please leave your thoughts in the comments about what you want to know about your students.  I hope to use future posts to talk about how to gather some of this information and how to use it.


  • How comfortable does the student seem?
  • How do the parents seem to feel about school?
  • Does the student seem confident/unsure of self?
  • Knowing all parents have some concerns or worry, what will bring each parent more peace of mind?


  • Does the child need frequent encouragement or recognition?
  • Does the child not want to be recognized publicly!


  • What subjects do they seem most confident with? Least confident with?
  • Do they see themself as a reader, writer, mathematician, etc?


  • Do they believe they have stories to tell?
  • Volume of writing?
  • Grammar? Spelling?


  • Does the student have grade-level appropriate fact fluency?
  • How does the student attack problem solving? Do they have knowledge of strategies?


  • How well does the student choose just right books?
  • What genres does the student enjoy? Dislike?
  • Is the student intimidated by chapter books? (many of my students will be venturing into chapter books)

Writer’s Notebook Olympic Version


Every professional book you read about teaching writing encourages teachers to write. Every interview you read with successful authors encourages writers to write. If we as teachers of writing are going to explicitly teach writing to our students we have to be writers ourselves. We have to struggle with writing the perfect lead and ending to our story about baking cookies with grandma. We have to grasp for the perfect word that conveys the feeling of our piece. We need these experiences ourselves so that we can model the thinking behind our decisions for our students.

As I watched the Olympics I pulled out my writer’s notebook and started jotting down ideas. I’m a lister when I am first exploring a topic. The picture above is a peek into my notebook- just a list, just a starting place.

The ideas are all over the place. I jotted down personal stories that I was reminded of by watching the Olympics. I could write about losing to Carrie Hamilton in the district tennis tournament. I could write about the amount of support my parents gave me in playing tennis, driving me to lessons, watching my matches, etc.

I also wrote down seeds that could turn into an opinion piece. I was concerned by the emphasis on winning and the pictures of athletes crying over a silver medal. I have always been bothered by the lack of enthusiasm as Americans sing/don’t sing our anthem. Other countries sing so enthusiastically. Why don’t we?

Before the memories of the Olympics slip away pull out your notebook and jot down some thoughts that can be turned into longer entries or spend some time writing some entries. Share in the comments what you want to save in your notebook. I’m sure it will inspire the rest of us.

Happy Writing!

What’s in a Name?

Hi Everyone!  I’m joining the blogging world as I return to the classroom after three years of being a literacy coach!  This year I will be teaching third grade. 

The title of my new blog has two meanings- one for the students we teach and one for the teachers.  I love thinking about the potential and possibilities in every child.  I can’t wait to get to know each of my students- their strengths, their needs, their personalities- and start piecing together what I can do to help each of them be more confident, skilled learners. I love the idea that I am their cheerleader all day, every day.  It is my job to help my students feel and see the tiny and huge celebrations in themselves every day.  I am there to reveal to them their potential and possibilities.

I have spent the last three years helping teachers become stronger teachers.  I believe it is our duty to share what we know with each other- what has worked, what hasn’t.  I hope this blog becomes a place where your potential and possibilties grow.  Feel free to share your successes, questions, not-so-good-days in the comments.

I will be sharing about a lot of different topics on this blog- classroom layout, writer’s notebooks, daily routines, etc.  I’ve got lots of ideas.  I’m in search of a smart person to “cute-ify” my blog.  Know anyone?

Please share your thoughts and hopes for the upcoming year in the comments.