Friday, May 31, 2019

Noticing...I Am a Writer! by Michelle Olson

Recently, I discovered something...I am a writer! While I have been a teacher of writing, I am not sure I was always a writing teacher, This year, I began teaching a language arts class at a nearby college. One of the requirements for the course was to keep a Writer’s Notebook. I have tried to do this in the past, but never really stuck with it. I decided now was the time!

Each week in class, we would write a short entry in our notebooks. Sometimes related to something we read. Other times, writing just about anything on our mind. I began to notice that I actually really enjoyed these writing sessions!

During the month of March, I participated in the Slice of Writing Challenge, writing a blog post each day. As the month went on, I began to “see” the world in stories. They were everywhere if I took the time to notice them. And once again, I enjoyed to process and found that writing was completely enjoyable!

As I continue to write, I keep my eyes open for noticings all around me. Sometimes big, sometimes small, there are there. Class is over as is the writing challenge. My hope is to continue this writing on my own. I found a renewed love for writing and am excited to see where it takes me!

Michelle Olson is a reading specialist by day and wife, mom, adjunct literacy professor, and Usborne book lady by night! She recently earned her doctorate and focused on students’ attitudes towards themselves as writers and their own writing. Follow her on Twitter at @molson414 and on her blog:

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Writing & the Web by Michelle Stein

I try not to be the Sheriff of Lexicon, but reading the growing volume of incorrect writing on the web makes me cringe. As I age, however, I notice I am becoming more tolerant of linguistic mayhem. We know that language evolves. Who am I to say what is and isn’t “correct”? Why should the language spoken in Victorian England be deemed more correct than the urban dialect that has become hashtags, abbreviations, and slang so pervasive in the stream of commentary? Some would say this is yet another example of our cultural demise, but simplicity is a hallmark of efficiency, not a lack of knowledge.

Each year, I find more social media shortcuts appearing in student writing, for example, the ampersand (&) instead of 'and,' b/c rather than 'because', u for 'you'. At the beginning of the school year, I explain to my students and their parents that with formal structured writing, students are learning a new language that is not native to them. Until about fifth grade, the books that students typically read are short bursts of text constructed similarly to social media conversation. Text-messaging and the short-clipped alpha “bites” are how they communicate. Lengthy sentence structures and multisyllabic vocabulary are not what flow naturally from their mouth or pencil/keyboard.

My strongest writers are those who are also voracious novel readers. While this is not new information, it did make me stop to evaluate which students have early and easy access to social media. You won’t be surprised to hear the students with the strongest writing ability have limited access to a smartphone or social media apps. These students are exposed to longer writing with greater frequency than their screen-addicted peers. Therefore, I am challenged with teaching the “efficient” writers to say more, while society is telling them to say less. No wonder it is so hard for them to write. Even as I write this post, I am struggling with saying enough to get my point across while simultaneously maintaining the required word count. I’ve got my work cut out for me, both as a writer and in the classroom! Got any suggestions? Ping me ;)

Michelle Stein has been teaching at the Davis Academy Middle School in Atlanta, GA for over 17 years. She loves to grow her PLN via Twitter @steinatdavis. You can find her class blog at and her professional blog at

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Dear Writing by Michelle Hubbard

Dear Writing,

It's been a while. How have you been?

I've's been difficult. I can't say I didn't think about you. I've been busy. That's what I've been telling people and trying to convince myself.

I wanted to be with you a lot. I thought about bringing you with me on my morning commute but felt embarrassed. I wanted to be with you when I got home each day and vent but I told myself that wasn't enough. That's not a "real" way to be with you.

But here I am again. The typing on a blank screen, the words coming to mind and appearing on the page. The feeling that maybe just maybe, this is how we should be. Together.

You are so hard to be with. When I try to spend everyday with you, I get bored, annoyed. You frustrate me. You make me lose my motivation. You mock me with your stark white blankness while I search for something, anything to say.

Yet -
I miss you. When you aren't with me, I feel lost. I feel like I'm searching for something that is a part of myself. It's like thinking about how you need to call that friend one morning, and getting home and forgetting you said tonight was the night you'd do it.

You help me think clearly. You help me see differently. You help me realize what's actually going on in my head. You help me remember. You help me move on.

You are a difficult one to love but I'll keep doing it anyway.

I'll be seeing you,
Writer in Progress

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Living a Writer’s Life by Erin Vogler

I had glorious plans for a tightly written and polished post on something significant I’ve noticed in this life of teaching, writing, and reading.

Ah, the best laid plans…

The last couple of weeks have been a menagerie of highs and lows, all of which have left me pretty tired, constantly questioning, and just about ready to go into shutdown mode as my means of coping.

Instead of shutdown, I went to my notebook, and over a couple of days, I created a list of the things I was noticing. It’s messy, and not all of the thinking is fully flushed out, but if you bear with me, I’m going somewhere with this, I promise.

Recently I’ve noticed…

The more I write, the more I notice, and the more I notice, the more I write.

When I read the work of smart teacher-writers, I have to remember that I’m one too - that I don’t have to change everything, or that everything I want to try is necessary RIGHT NOW. I get excitement overload and I want to try all of it. When I try trying all of it, I’m left exhausted by the overload of ideas and enthusiasm. I’ve noticed that in these moments, I’m losing myself.

I’ve noticed that I need to come up with some sort of plan for taking in all of the smart writing and ideas from these teacher-writers I respect. I need to figure out a way to take it all in, to process it, and to differentiate between what might work in the “right now” and what I want to put aside and save for later - but in a place or way that is easy to access later, while planning lessons and/or while working on my own writing.

I’ve noticed that I go really hard trying to be like the person whose work I’ve just read, and that’s where it really goes off the rails. I can’t be Erin Vogler trying to be Penny Kittle (just one example of so many whose work I find myself considering and emulating). I have to be Erin Vogler trying something that came from the wisdom of Penny’s experience. I have to try things when, where, and with whom, they make sense - not just because I’ve read or seen this great new idea.

I’ve noticed that I undervalue my own experience and creativity. In 19 years of teaching, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve come up with an idea that really helps kids and not written or told someone else about it. I’ve noticed that, for some reason, I figure other people won’t be that interested. I have some work to do here...

I’ve noticed that my students grow as writers when they have choice, individual support, time, space, a volume and variety of opportunities, and focused group lessons that scaffold skills that serve as a way to give both roots and wings. It’s not a formula or a recipe, there is no set amount of any of these ingredients because the needs of each individual and group are different. I’ve noticed that I am my best, and my students are at theirs, when I am constantly tinkering.

I’ve noticed that every move I make as a teacher is better when I lead with and give grace to others, and especially, to myself.

I’ve noticed that a To Do List and plan of prioritizing what needs to be done has helped prevent that “in the weeds” feeling that used to happen in both my personal and professional lives.

I’ve noticed that holding myself accountable and being consistent trickles down to my students - when they see me being consistent in my skills and habits (both ELA related and not), they find ways to do so as well when working toward accomplishing goals.

I’ve noticed that I say “but” a lot more than I say “and” - and I’m working on changing that.

I’ve noticed that I spend a lot of time teaching, reading, and writing, and not as much time on the other habits and activities that also fuel me, like spending time with friends, hiking, yoga, cooking and baking, hunting in antique stores for the Pyrex pattern and Longaberger baskets I collect, traveling, doing creative projects…

Which leads me to the place I promised I’d get. I can still write well when I lead the life of pattern that I find myself frustrated and exhausted by lately. I can live inside that bubble for long periods of time and feel like I’m growing as a person, as a teacher.

Until I can’t. Then, it feels like I can’t breathe. That I need a long nap. That I need to run away. That I need to do anything to break out of the routine that is stifling me.

I was struggling, really anxious, actually, about getting this post written. I’d been in my bubble for too long and was stuck.

So I went outside, set up a little workshop space, and stained the pieces of the shelf my dad and I are in the process of designing and building together. I broke out of my pattern, and cracked open my thinking, and that leads me to the most important thing I’ve noticed in all of this:

It is impossible to live the life of a writer if you’re not out there LIVING a life.

Erin Vogler cannot believe she is in the final weeks of her 19th year of teaching at Keshequa Middle/High School in the Genesee Valley of Western New York. She can be found on Twitter @vogler3024, Instagram @mrsvogler3024, and at her blog (that has been radio silent since the March Slice of Life Challenge, but will soon speak again, she swears) .

Friday, May 24, 2019

Living a More Writerly Life by Christie Wyman

Lately, I feel as if I am living a more writerly life.

Notebook writing has become an important part of my daily routine and I’ve gotten in the habit of carrying a small notebook with me everywhere I go to capture what I see, what I hear, and what I feel -- literally and figuratively. I haven’t mastered writing while walking as the late great Mary Oliver did, but who knows. I like a challenge! You might not want to go for a walk with me, because I am forever stopping and scribbling something down.

Here are a few others noticings about my ever-evolving writing life:

I notice I am more reflective of my writing process. During National Poetry Month, as I wrote and shared a poem each and every day for 30 straight days (and that was after Slicing daily for 31 straight days!), I found myself thinking about my writing process and wanting to share that, too. As I worked through Slices and poems, I began to capture some of those process thoughts in my notebook. I often enjoy reading about where other writers’ ideas come from as well as writing process-related information. My fellow Poetry Friday community participants share this meta information frequently, so I began to add “a peek into my poem and process” feature in my posts, wondering if others were just as curious. From the comments some readers shared, it turned out they were.

I notice a need for more notebooks. Love that one! A couple of months ago, I felt an urge to separate my writing ideas from my daily “anytime pages” journal writing. A friend recommended using a separate notebook, and I am so glad I made that shift.

Now when an idea pops into my head (such as the words you are reading right now) I jot them down in my project notebook, which at the moment is a Happy Notes notebook with moveable dot grid pages. My “anytime pages” are captured in a traditional, bound, hardcover journal. When and if an idea comes to me while writing in my journal, I can move it to the project notebook.

I notice I have changed as a reader. I read more and more now through my writer lens, whether it is a book, poetry, blog posts, or even emails. My awareness of tone, structure, word choice is heightened. I find myself thinking. “Ooo. I like how they said that!” or “Hmmm. I think I might have said” more and more.

And then I write it down in my notebook.

Christie Wyman is a Kindergarten teacher and Grade Leader in Massachusetts, as well as a Lead Ambassador for and an active Teach Write participant. When not nurturing her young writer/naturalists, she enjoys exploring vernal pools, marveling at the birds at her feeders, hiking with her husband wherever mountains meet the sea, and writing in her various notebooks. You may connect with Christie on Twitter @WymansWonders or on her blog, Wondering and Wandering, where she posts weekly for the Slice of Life, #WordlessWednesday, and Poetry Friday communities.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Stop….Notice...and Wonder! by Jen Greene

As I closed out National Poetry Month with the creation of a published poetry book, I reflected back on what my students and I learned as writers.  The number one thing I found was that we were taking more time to stop, notice, and wonder.  More than we had all year. 

We spent a lot of time generating ideas and using mentor texts that celebrated noticing little things.  Using picture books such as Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer  and Color me a Rhyme by Jane Yolen allowed my students and me to revel in the beauty of the world around us.  I’m fortunate to work in a school that is nestled back in the woods, part of William Penn’s original land grant.  Our outdoor campus is so inviting, particularly in the spring.

After photographing the flowers in the courtyard and writing poems about them, my students returned after Spring Break to find that the grass had been mowed and the flowers were gone.  All that remained were two red tulips.

We stopped….noticed that these two flowers remained...and wondered what they felt like, being the survivors of the lawnmower.  So much of the writing that came from this little observation was about friendships, feeling lonely, missing people who are no longer with us.  One student reminded us that they weren’t really lonely- because they had each other. The outcome and quality of their writing was better than any lesson I could have planned.

Take time to look around you.  To notice something new.  To wonder about what you notice.  And see where that takes you as a writer. 

Jen Greene is an elementary school teacher in the West Chester Area School District in West Chester, PA.  She is a fellow with the PA Writing and Literature Project (PAWLP) and a doctoral student at Widener University.  You can find her on Twitter @GreeneMachine82 or via her blog:

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Noticing My Love for Writing Poetry by Dr. Jennifer Floyd

I cannot imagine not being a writer.

Although writing is important to me, I noticed that I rarely stepped outside of my comfort zone.  Specifically, I focused on professional writing that addressed topics related to literacy instruction and  rarely explored other types of writing.

However, that has all changed in the past few months.  Instead of limiting myself to one particular kind of writing, I’m taking more chances as a writer by exploring different types of writing.

For example, I’m spending more time writing poetry.  Six months ago, I would occasionally write a poem (typically a haiku) for my slice of life posts on Tuesdays, but other than that, poetry was rarely on my radar.  I understood the format of haiku poems, so they weren’t scary to write, but overall, poetry intimidated me.

I think that my discomfort resulted from a lack of understanding about poetry.  I was uncomfortable interpreting, much less writing poetry.  Despite my initial impressions about poetry, it is now a regular part of my writing life.  I enjoy spending time exploring poetry in my writing notebook and I’ve tried many different formats, expanding my repertoire from just haiku.  I’ve tried equation poems, skinny poems, and tanku, just to name a few.

So, what prompted this change? What enabled me to evolve into a writer who embraced poetry?

I read and loved Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s Poems Are Teachers and that book helped me realize that poetry did not have to be intimidating or inaccessible.

But the game changer for me was connecting with Christie Wyman.  Christie inspired me through her own journey as a teacher-poet and provided the guidance that I needed.

Christie not only shared her poetry and described her process, but she also shared resources, including Padlet pages, that helped me find my way and develop the confidence that I needed to try something new.  Then, as I incorporated poetry into my writing routine, I discovered that it provided unexpected yet delightful opportunities to express myself in ways that I’d never dreamed.

I’m filling pages with poems and I love it!

Jennifer Floyd is a K-5 reading specialist in Rockbridge County, Virginia and an adjunct instructor at the University of Virginia.  She is the President-Elect of the Virginia State Reading Association  She blogs at and and can be found on Twitter @jen4literacy and on Instagram @vsrajennifer.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Noticings by Alexis Ennis

Noticing inspiration.
Stepping into the world of writers.
Finding writers. Asking. Connecting.
Watching the world.
Turning the world into something new.

Noticing motivation.
Excitement traveling from my chaotic brain
To my concentrated finger tips.
My heart racing
And my fingers sprinting to keep up.

Noticing goals.
What do I want?
When do I want it?
How will I get it?
How will I know I am there?

Noticing progress.
Feeling comfort.
Feeling confident.
Feeling accomplished.
Feeling ready.

Noticing anticipation.
Summer approaching.
A much-needed break
With more time to focus
And let it out.

Noticing distractions.
My mind is my enemy,
Bouncing around,
Thought upon thought,
Worry upon worry.

Noticing anxiety.
Chest is tight.
Heart fluttering.
Breathing strained.
Mind racing.

Noticing a cure.
Pencil in hand,
Paper taking the blunt
Of the feelings and emotions
Escaping my body.

Noticing an ease.
Shoulders relax.
Heartbeat slows.
Eyes close.
Palms dry.

Noticing clarity.
Mind is focused
I can breathe again,
I can think again,
New ideas develop.

Noticing growth.
My words pour from me.
Once held back,
Break the dam
And crash forth, unbound.

Noticing relationships.
Students beside me
Sharing ideas,
Asking for advice,
Building a community.

Noticing mindfulness.
Focused with a story,
Seeing an end game.
More than ideas,
It is complete.

Noticing enjoyment.
I smile.
I concentrate.
I create.
I share.

Noticing openness.
Trying new things.
Scratching old ideas.
Letting myself go.
Risks help me grow.

Noticing willingness.
Embrace the writing world.
Be a writer.
Take the name.
Find yourself.

Noticing stories.
Stories matter.
Voices need to be heard,
Even if just for you.
My story is important.

Noticing I am a writer.

Alexis Ennis is a sixth grade English Language Arts teacher. She is a voracious reader who is dabbling with the idea of being a writer. You can find her on Twitter @mrs_ennis_oms and Instagram @mrs_bookdragon. She also has a website that includes reviews for Middle Grade books at 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Noticing Notebooks by Ona Feinberg

I stopped by the store for a new little notebook. Actually, I bought several little notebooks. I felt a little self conscious, dumping the pile of notebooks down at the register.

“Some are gifts…” I said, “but some are for me.” 

I kept explaining.  “I like to carry a little notebook around with me at school. I collect joy. Then I post a video each school day.”

“That’s lovely,” the shopkeeper told me.

“Thanks! I mean, if I don’t have a notebook, I try to use my phone, but that’s no good. It never makes sense when I look at it later. I prefer pen and paper.”

Then I looked around, noticing where I was: A stationary store. So, I sheepishly added, “I guess I don’t have to explain that to you…”

I notice I have a little notebook problem.
And not just a little notebook problem… but a little problem with notebooks.

A few weeks back, I saw this tweet that I think was meant for me:

And now, whenever I am at the store looking at notebooks I laugh. Then I buy a notebook or two, if they are my favorite kind of notebooks.

I used to only have new blank notebooks. Now I notice that I also have full notebooks. I can fill a notebook. I’m less worried about perfection: I just write, doodle, draw, cross out and try again.

I’ve always loved new notebooks. I stroke the cover and flip through the blank pages.

I will always love that new notebook feeling and now I also have old notebooks to love.

Try holding one of your old notebooks, sandwiched in two hands, full of your writing.

That feeling you notice? That’s accomplishment.

Ona Feinberg is a K-5 Instructional Coach in Central Pennsylvania. She began her teaching career in second grade, and started teaching 6th grade in 2001. She is passionate about teaching, reading, writing, authenticity, kindness, and her 3 children. When she isn’t at school you might find her writing, reading, or walking her dog, Finnegan Foxy Feinberg. You can follow her on her blog, or on twitter @OnaFeinberg. 

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The #TeachWrite Twitter Chat Blog is dedicated to providing a space for our community to connect and share their voices about writing and teaching writing.  We are looking for guest bloggers who would like to blog on topics related to being a teacher-writer. Educators and writers of all levels are invited to join us in this space. More information can be found in the “Write For Us” tab above.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Embracing Feedback by Pauline Schmidt

Like most university professors, I am an over-achieving perfectionist who would never admit to needing help with writing. 

I can recall the anxiety I would have as I sent a chapter revision to my dissertation advisor, about a decade ago...Wwhy I was so nervous? I may never know. But, there it is.  The fear of being wrong. Or, maybe it was the fear of getting feedback?  Maybe thinking my work wasn’t good enough? 

After completing the National Writing Project's Invitational Summer Institute in 2015, I realized that feedback doesn’t necessarily imply that anything is bad or sub-par, it just can be better. The reader has questions or thoughts. They are interacting with the text in a meaningful way.

I embrace feedback now! 

In fact, instead of stewing over a revision or hiding the fact that I am stuck, I noticed that I look for help.  For example, I am working on a chapter in an edited collection about teachers in stage productions and I got to a point where I couldn’t see where I was going. I made salient points about my subject, reinforced my stance with evidence from the script and libretto, but just didn’t see how to bring the chapter to a conclusion.

The old version of me would have just written gibberish in the hopes that the editor would help to shape it; this time, I just put a side note in the text directly to the editor.  And, when I received her feedback, she addressed my problem with clarity. 

I have grown into my writer-identity and I know that, for me, writing does not happen in isolation. It requires the help of an informed reader.

Pauline Schmidt is Associate Professor of English Education at West Chester University. She is the Director of the Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project and the Co-Advisor of the NCTE Student Affiliate. She is fanatical about chocolate, Harry Potter, and advocating for quality public education for all students.

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The #TeachWrite Twitter Chat Blog is dedicated to providing a space for our community to connect and share their voices about writing and teaching writing.  We are looking for guest bloggers who would like to blog on topics related to being a teacher-writer. Educators and writers of all levels are invited to join us in this space. More information can be found in the “Write For Us” tab above.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Take Notice Along Your Writing Journey by Danielle DeFauw

I listened to the pencil etch into the page of my writer’s notebook as each crafted word dug me deeper into my character’s experience. Suddenly, the scratch of the lead paused as my eyes reread the scene.

The characters’ dialogue moved the story forward. Narrative beats revealed the action and setting details. My main character’s internal thoughtshots broke my heart.

I paused and knew at that moment that I had never written better. I transferred what I learned and saw evidence of my own writing growth on the page before me.

As a teacher-writer, I notice such growth in my own students, often, but not in my own writing. Rarely, do I pause to formatively assess my own development as a writer.

Pausing to notice how far I have come is part of the joy of my writing journey. But, to me, it’s not the best part.

Just as you cheer on your students, I encourage you to applaud yourself as you pursue writing that matters to your teacher-writer heart.


        And pause.

Pause to notice how far you have come.

For me, this moment of pause encouraged me. Not only was I proud of the scene I had written, but I also realized the best part of the writer’s journey: As writers, we will never know how well we can write.

And so we write.

Danielle L. DeFauw, Ph.D., is an associate professor of reading and language arts at the University of Michigan - Dearborn. She can be reached at Join her blog: Writing Connections. Follow her on Twitter: danielle_defauw.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Noticing My Reflectiveness by Erica Johnson

I had the best of intentions at the beginning of the year: for every essay, paper, and writing I assigned my College English class, I would take on the writing assignment with them.  However, when you have the same class in two different semesters, you really notice the repetitiveness of your own assignments.  Is this a reflection on the assignments I give or just a reminder that to be challenged as a writer, I don’t need to do my students’ assignments as well?

Even worse than being repetitive, I’ve noticed the lack of authenticity in the assignments I have given.  I don’t really have them delve into writing beyond what they need to do for a grade or beyond an audience in the classroom.  I’m at this point in teaching where I want to do those types of assignments, but I still struggle and feel overwhelmed in how to properly implement them.

As a teacher, I’m in a constant state of reflection, but I am always especially hyper-aware and hyper-reflective during the spring months as we tailspin into seniors leaving and final projects piling up.  I want to do better for my students, I want to be challenged more as a teacher-writer, I want to have my students write beyond a grade.

I’m not giving myself enough credit on the aspects of teaching I have been successful at this year or the effort I made to be more authentic with both my assignments and my own writing.  I had students work on argument by crafting group PSAs that matched their paper.  I had students publish their work in the hallways, giving them the chance to break out of the MLA format bubble.  I even had a former students contact me about a ‘Dear Future Me’ letter they wrote in my class that they got to read this year.

It’s nice to know that even while I still have areas to continue to grow in, that there are some aspects of being a teacher-writer that I feel I got right.

Erica Johnson has been teaching for seven years in central Arkansas and currently works with juniors and seniors at Vilonia High School.  She spent the past summer transforming her teaching philosophy at the Teaching Shakespeare Institute in Washington, D.C.  When she isn’t spending time with her dog, she is visiting with her family and their latest addition: her niece Ivey.  She can be found gathering all of her teaching resources on twitter @teachercap_e.

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The #TeachWrite Twitter Chat Blog is dedicated to providing a space for our community to connect and share their voices about writing and teaching writing.  We are looking for guest bloggers who would like to blog on topics related to being a teacher-writer. Educators and writers of all levels are invited to join us in this space. More information can be found in the “Write For Us” tab above.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

End of Year Noticings by Wendy Chaulk

Looking out at my class
Heads down
Pencils scrawling
Pens flitting
Stories telling
Notebooks filling

Looking out at my class
Smiles flow
Laughs develop
Discussions grow
Caring comments
Questions answered

Looking out at my class
Shoulders drop
Eyes fill
Cheeks moisten
Lips upturn
Sigh escapes

Looking back to the start
Heads down
Pencils breaking
Pens destroyed
Stories untold
Notebooks blank

Looking forward to next fall
Same students and room
Increasing expectations
Knowing they’ll soar
Knowing they’ll fly

End of year noticings
All are thinking
Even me
All are growing
Even me
All are writing
Even me
All are sharing
Even me
All are staying
Even me

Wendy Chaulk is finishing her nineteenth year as a teacher. She has taught fourth grade in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; second grade in Jacksonville, NC; K-5 special education in Rio Rancho, NM; 4-6 special education in Gillette, WY; and currently teaches in a fifth and sixth grade looping classroom in Gillette, Wyoming . She loves teaching, writing, cooking, and camping. You can connect with Wendy on Twitter (@wluvs2teach) and on her blog ( 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Ten Minutes of Truth by Tammy Breitweiser

Only recently did I start to refer to myself as a writer and start believing it. I have always written, but labeling myself as such was a leap which seems silly now. Last week I heard someone say you don't have to remind her to eat or breathe and it is the same for her writing. Being a writer has always been who I am,  and now I have established rituals for my writing practice.

There are two noticings I will share with you today about my own writing journey that may help you as a writer: Truth and Lists of 10.


To improve my writing craft I purchased Masterclass for myself in January. One of the threads that permeates through Neil Gaiman’s, R.L. Stine’s, Margaret Atwood’s, and Judy Blume’s Masterclass is writers must tell their truth.

How you see the world and how you tell your stories is important. Your light needs to shine through and writers do this by opening our hearts. This light is truth. YOU need to shine through. If truth scares you, especially writing in front of students, you can write first and then selectively share what is most powerful and appropriate for your lesson. You can also choose lines from authors your students will connect with and borrow their famous lines to help your student writers find and write their own truths.

Finding your truth can be like a game of hide and seek. One way to seek your truth is to write about a time you experienced extreme emotion - happiness, grief, anger, shame. You can always destroy it later, but the act of writing your story can open your heart and show your light to your students even without sharing your words.

Lists of 10

Pay attention to the world around you because it is fun and makes you a better writer. Writing these noticings down helps you when you are creating. Over a year ago I started making a daily list of 10 things.

On my lists are:

Lines I want to use
Overhead conversation snippets
Strange things I saw on the way to work or on a walk
Names I like
Strong verbs
Dream rememberings
Fun things kids say
Descriptions of feelings I am having
Descriptions of places
Words that keep coming up recently
Weird signs
Anything I find fascinating

Set your timer for 10 minutes and write about truth. Write about something you saw just within the last hour. Open your heart and let your light shine through as a writer - even if it is only for 10 minutes.

 Tammy L. Breitweiser is a curriculum coach in Northwest Indiana where she is currently dedicated to impacting student achievement in grades 7 and 8. With more than 23 years of experience, she is a reading advocate who believes in the reading and writing connection. She is working on a collection of short stories.  You can connect with Tammy on Twitter (@tlbreit) or through her blog Tammy’s Reading/Writing Life:

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The #TeachWrite Twitter Chat Blog is dedicated to providing a space for our community to connect and share their voices about writing and teaching writing.  We are looking for guest bloggers who would like to blog on topics related to being a teacher-writer. Educators and writers of all levels are invited to join us in this space. More information can be found here.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Reflecting and Noticing by Jean Samuel

Spring is a great time to reflect on a body of work in your writer's notebook.

The reflective process is not dissimilar to editing but allows the writer to process how you communicate and what you choose to communicate with others.

The adage "writers read" is so true in my case as my review noted that I spent 80% of my writing time writing about my reading.

Thematic writing is also informative as it helps note my wonderings and tangents that may have been a product of great discussion with my students. Those conversations were rich and vivid and often led to excellent book recommendation or links to comic books we all enjoyed.

This year, my writing allowed me to connect to my male students in a way I thought was unattainable. I was able to move beyond the tertiary sports discussion and reach them based on themes and trends in their lives.

Writing also allowed me to improve my connections colleagues; namely, colleagues were all involved in small groups that promote writing and focus system of accountability that helped keep me focused and on track to write daily.

Noticings are more than reflections; they can also foster engagement and interaction with those you may think you have little in common.

I noticed that my writing has grown so much as my ability to communicate my thoughts and ideas in a concise and approachable style translates to a more interpersonal style of coaching and management with my classes.

As we approach the summer, what have you noticed and how will these noticings improve your practice and engagement?

Jean Samuel (@APSSamuelRdg6) is currently a middle school reading specialist in Arlington, VA. She is currently involved in research related to Ethics in Education and working with students of all ages who are diagnosed with dyslexia. She also writes a blog post at can be reached via 

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Thursday, May 9, 2019

Moving Past the Wall by Tracy Vogelgesang

Writing every day...a dream that became a reality.  In March, I successfully participated in a daily blogging challenge.  I felt energized and motivated by my daily writing habit.  I was on top of the world. 

Then came April.  For teachers, that means full steam ahead to the end of the year finish line and total exhaustion.  My daily writing habit hit a wall.  I ran out of steam.  I was saddened and frustrated, and I knew I had to climb over this obstacle. 

I am still climbing, but I do believe I am on my way.  I have noticed the following things about moving past this block:

  • It helped to talk about it with like-minded people.  I am grateful for the fantastic people in my Wednesday night Teach Write writing group!
  • My notebook was a lifeline.  I could sort out my thinking and jot down ideas.
  • Some days all I wrote was a line of gratitude in an app on my phone.  That is okay.  
  • I hit the wall while writing a blog post about a topic I love.  I refused to abandon it, though I admit that I thought about it.  It took a few weeks, but the post is done!
  • I continuously told myself that experiencing this block is a normal part of the process.  Blocks do not define my writing or me, and I will move past them. 

Although I am still not writing as much daily content as I was, I am writing again every day.  For that, I am thankful. 

Tracy Vogelgesang currently teaches a writing community of third, fourth, and fifth graders.  She also teaches them how to explore the wonders that surround them through science. She has been teaching for 25 years and loves helping students discover their voices and realize the strengths and gifts they bring to this world. When Tracy isn’t teaching and writing, she spends her free time building memories with her husband, children, and grandchildren. She also reads, gardens, and enjoys time with family and friends. Tracy can be found on Twitter @Mrs_T_V and at

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Tuned Into Meaning by Fran Haley

That’s the trouble with people, their root problem. Life runs alongside them, unseen …
A chorus of living wood sings to the woman: If your mind were only a slightly greener thing, we’d drown you in meaning. 
-Richard  Powers, The Overstory 

These lines from the newly-awarded Pulitzer Prize novel sing to me. As a writer, they stir my ink-blood; as a human being, their truth cuts deep into my heart.

How much of life are we missing, in our one-shot sojourn on this planet, because we do not notice?

I’ve heard it said in various ways that a writer is an observer of the world. Noticing details, interactions, snatches of dialogue, endless sensory perceptions … this is what writers do, yes, but for me, “noticing” goes beyond recording these.

It’s a matter of knowing there’s meaning in it all. Why does that woman laugh in that particular way? Is it low self-esteem? Is she anxious? Or both?

How is it that dogs and little children are so inherently trustful and yet so able to pick up, on some inner radar, the vibes of troubled adults?

Why did sunlight suddenly pour through the stained glass window just as the preacher spoke of forgiveness?

Why are these blades of grass shivering in the dead of summer, when there is no breeze?

When I was expecting my first child the obstetrician was impressed by how early I felt the first flutter of fetal movements, the quickening: “You’re really in tune with your baby,” he smiled.

Writing is this to me - being tuned to life, with the stirrings of the world without and the world within, realizing that everything is interconnected. To write is to see the life that runs alongside us. To listen to its song.

And to drown in its meaning.

Fran Haley is a K-12 English Language Arts educator currently serving as an elementary literacy coach. Writing is her favorite thing to do and to teach; she loves helping people of all ages discover the power of their own writing and fall in love with the craft. She facilitates writing workshop training for teachers in her district and authors the blog Lit Bits and Pieces: Snippets of Learning and Life. Connect with her on Twitter: @fahaley. 

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The #TeachWrite Twitter Chat Blog is dedicated to providing a space for our community to connect and share their voices about writing and teaching writing.  We are looking for guest bloggers who would like to blog on topics related to being a teacher-writer. Educators and writers of all levels are invited to join us in this space. More information can be found in the “Write For Us” tab above.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Breaking Away by Leigh Anne Eck

The past two weeks have been testing weeks for my students. They have plugged away reading multiple passages, writing short answer responses and an essay, and working multi-step math problems. This year we arranged our schedule to allow for more breaks. We staggered our testing days and have a short break in the two-hour-long sessions. I have noticed how much my students need these breaks, whether it is days in-between or a short 10 minute break. 

What do breaks mean for us, as writers?

The #TeachWrite Chat Blog took a much-needed break. I took a much-needed break from blogging after the March Slice of Life Challenge.  As writers, we need those breaks much like my students needed the breaks during testing. Many times breaking away from writing becomes moments of reflection, moments of noticing.

I notice...

I must give myself some grace. Breaking from writing means I am no less of a writer. It simply means I need to walk away for a while. My reasons for taking a break are my own, and I need not to be apologetic.

I come back recharged. When I return from a writing break, I am recharged and refueled. Usually I see stronger writing upon my return.

While I am away, I see things from a different perspective. Taking a break from writing lets me see things in a different light. Maybe it is because I am not searching for a writing topic; instead, topics come naturally and come in ways I don't expect.

Upon my return, I am more willing to take risks. Breaking away from writing for a little while gives me courage to try new things and take risks with my writing once I return.

I think we all need breaks. If you need to break away from writing, then do it and notice what you learn while you are away. You know we will be here to support you upon your return.

Leigh Anne will soon finish her 12th year of teaching, seven years at the elementary level and five years at the middle school level in Southwestern Indiana.  She recently earned her Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Western Governors University with a goal of becoming a literacy coach. Leigh Anne has a passion for connecting kids with books and helping teachers develop a writing life. You can connect with her on Twitter @Teachr4 or on her blog, A Day in the Life

Friday, May 3, 2019

Noticing Life One Sentence at a Time by Jennifer Laffin

Jeremy is in South Dakota snowmobiling for the week. He forgot to tell Toby who has been running around the house looking for him. Poor dog.
-- February 9, 2016

Kara, Grace, Jack, and I took our annual trip to Chuck E. Cheese. The pizza wasn't TOO bad.
-- July 6, 2016

Pulled out the garden today and found a watermelon hiding amongst the Cosmos. stalks.
-- October 22, 2017

Today, I was hired to teach Introduction to Teaching at UW-Whitewater in the spring. I'm so excited!
-- December 12, 2018

Gas is $2.49/gallon. Going up!
-- January 26, 2017

Saw two Redwing Blackbirds at the feeder and two Sandhill Cranes flying north. I think spring is coming!
-- March 20, 2019

These are examples of the kinds of entries my future ancestors will find in my Sentence a Day Journal (affiliate link).

I began this five-year journal on September 5, 2016 and every day since then, I've recorded one thought about each day.

I do so not only to make these memories permanent before I forget them but to provide a written documentation of my life for those who come after me.

I mean, how cool would it be to have your great-grandma's journal? Imagine how fun and enlightening that would be.

Keeping this Sentence a Day Journal requires me to notice life. To take mental note of the interesting things I see and do so I can write them down.

On those days when I'm not very mindful, writing a line about the day is a struggle. It is a good reminder that I need to notice more.

I could write more than one line every day, but it's the simplicity of the Sentence a Day Journal that makes this task doable. If I had to write a list of 10 things that happened each day, I would surely have given up by September 10, 2016, five days after starting.

How do you preserve your TODAYS for TOMORROW? Can you commit to writing down just one sentence a day?

Jennifer Laffin is a teacher of teachers, the founder of Teach Write LLC, and a co-moderator of the #TeachWrite Twitter Chat. She is committed to helping teachers and their students grow as writers because she has seen how writing can transform you both personally and professionally. You can find her learning with others on Twitter  @TeachWriteEDU, on Facebook, or at

Note: This post contains affiliate link, which means that Teach Write LLC receives a small commission when you purchase through the link. This comes at no additional expense to you. Thank you for supporting Teach Write!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Notebook and Noticing by Michelle Haseltine

Welcome to May and welcome back to the TeachWriteChat Blog! We are so happy that you’re here to read (hopefully to comment) and to grow as writers and teachers. Today begins my favorite month of the’s NOTEBOOK MONTH! Ok, ok...actually, the truth is May 16th is National Notebook Day, but I’ve declared the whole month be dedicated to notebooks!!! Why?!?! Let me explain…

My 80th and current notebook.

Notebooks are a place to breathe, to live, to untangle, to explore, to play, and to notice. The pages of my notebooks always bring me peace. They are a safe place where I can release the day and be present and be myself. That’s the gift of the notebook. Let me give you an example…

Monday was a bad day for me. It was more Monday-ish than normal. The day began with spilled coffee after a distracted driver almost drove me off the road. As Monday continued, it felt like one thing after another was going wrong and I felt overwhelmed, frustrated, and helpless. When I got home, I pulled out my notebook and I decided to write about what worked in my day and focus on the positive. I wrote out a gratitude list and by the time I was finished, I decided that it hadn’t been a bad day at all, I was only focusing on the bad experiences and ignoring the joy and success of the day.

If I hadn’t stopped and notebooked (Yes, I’m making notebook into a verb too!) I would have gone to bed annoyed. Instead, I was able to refocus myself and feel much better about my day. There is power in the notebook and in using it to notice the world around you!

Consider this post an invitation...I hope you open your notebook (or begin a notebook practice) today. Use the pages to notice and to live. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing...these pages, these words, these noticings are only for you. You have a story to tell...why don’t you begin your story in the pages of your notebook.

Michelle Haseltine spends her days with middle schoolers in Loudoun County, VA. Together they write, read, create, collaborate, and every single day. Michelle is a co-facilitator of our #TeachWrite twitter chat and a Teacher Consultant with the Northern Virginia Writing Project. She blogs regularly at One Grateful Teacher .  Michelle tweets regularly at @Mhaseltine and Instagrams at @Mhaselti 

Write for Us!

The #TeachWrite Twitter Chat Blog is dedicated to providing a space for our community to connect and share their voices about writing and teaching writing. We are looking for guest bloggers who would like to blog on topics related to being a teacher-writer. Educators and writers of all levels are invited to join us in this space. More information can be found here.