Discovery, Ideas, and the Writer

“Before the writing comes the writer” -Kelsey Corter

“We haven’t had journal workshop in a while.”  Jack said as we passed in the hallway.  “No, Jack we haven’t.  Maybe you can ask your teacher to have a Journal Workshop.

Last year, Jack was in first grade.  I worked with his classroom teacher every Friday afternoon to “lead” a Journal Workshop.  It was a Soft End to the day, to the week.

I also had the privilege to work with a 5th grade teacher last year.  Every Friday morning started with a Journal Workshop.  It was a Soft Start to start the last day of the week.

This year, I’ve ad the good fortune to work with a fourth grade teacher every Thursday morning. It is a soft start to the day.  I no longer call it Journal Workshop, but Journal Soft Start.

I first heard of a Soft Start from Kelsey Corter, A Soft Start to Writing Workshop.  In her post, Kelsey writes, “Before engaging in meaningful, purposeful, true writing, children need to see themselves as writers who can.”  I think writers need space and time to not only see themselves as writers who can, they need to hear the thoughts, ideas, stories, and images inside them that make them a writer.img_1985


During Journal Soft Start on Thursday mornings, with the help of Invitations, (INSERT IMAGE) I have seen children discover ideas and words.  I have seen writers produce incredibly unique thinking that I can only believe feeds them as writers.

Last week, T chose Word of the Day #DWHabit – Sky


Now, T, a somewhat reserved writer in Writing Workshop demonstrates the depth of his idea and thinking with this carefully worded and drawn Journal Page(s).  The simple exchange captures the affirmation from air traffic control and the excitement of taking off. It leaves me wondering how, if, he could take this work and bring it into the Writing Workshop where he could continue to play as he learns about elaboration, craft and genre.

A, a confident and well versed writer.  She’s the kind of writer who takes a mini-lesson and runs with it.  She’s the kind of writer who can dive into any genre.  This week and last week, A chose Word of the Day and found herself playing with rhyme and sillies on her Journal Page.

Last week, I asked her if she was channeling her inner Shel Silverstein.  “Who?”  she asked.  I went to the library and pulled out one of his books of poetry.  When she saw the cover, she recognized it.  She opened it up and began to compare her writing to that of Shel Silverstein.  This week, I asked her if she planned on writing in the same style as last week.  She looked up at me and said, “At first I was thinking, I was thinking about what you can see when you look at the sky.  But then I realized everyone sees different things so I went funny and began to play.”  I love the meandering mind that A let run free this week in Journal Pages.  Sometimes a writer needs that, needs to just run free and see where the words and ideas take them.

Writing isn’t always about the writing.  It’s about the thinking.  It’s about the writer connecting with his her thoughts. Once the writer connects, then the writing can come.

This is a habit we must nurture in our classrooms, in our schools, if we believe in teaching the writer.



Pass The…

Hannah, Megan, Grace

“Can you pass me a napkin?”  Hannah asks as pizza cheese is oozing down her chin.

I look across the table to see if Megan is going to reach for a napkin to pass to Hannah.  What I see instead, is Megan, as she picks up her used, crumpled napkin and tosses it to Hannah, sitting beside her.

“Thanks.”  Hannah says nonchalantly, ignoring state of the passed napkin.  She dabs the  already used napkin on her face and wipes her chin.

With a sisterly, yet devilsh giggle, Megan says “Well, you asked for a napkin.”

“Can I have a piece of the salad pizza, Grace?”  I ask.

“You mean you want a piece of myyyyy salad pizza??”  The look in her sideways glance is as sarcastic as her tone.  Her smile tells the truth.  “I guess, I’ll share with you.”  She reaches for the pizza, carefully lifts it out of the box, balances it on her fork and places it on my plate.

“There ya go, MaaaaMaaa.  Enjoy myyyyy salad pizza.”  She can’t help but laugh at her own wit.

We go on eating.  I remain quiet as the three of them share in sillies, sarcasm, and sisterly sayings. I watch and melt as they loose themselves in the togetherness.  I just watch and feel the warmth of having them together.

Megan, Grace, Hannah







I’ve only been at the OLW way of life for two years.  I’ve found in the past two years that it can become a small compass that can guide some of the many decisions that come my way as a mother, a wife, a friend, a teacher, a daughter, a person.

In 2017 I embraced doshare.  An idea girl by nature and a talker, I found myself being a bit reserved in situations when I knew I should have or could have shared.  When I coined the OLW, doshare, it was a reminder for me to let my ideas out, share them, and let them grow with others.

In 2018, reach, was my chosen word.  It came to me as I watched the amaryllis in my living room grow and change and reach towards the light.  It reminded me that I needed to keep reaching – reaching for connections, for stories, for books, for new recipes, for new experiences.  It reminded me that when I reach, I grow.

I’ve spent the last few weeks playing around with what my 2019 OLW could be.  Nothing felt quite right.  I let my mind and imagination continue to play.

I was walking the dog Sunday morning, enjoying every step.  There was a light snow falling, the temperature was a winter pleasant 32 degrees.  It was one of those moments that you are thankful just to be.  “Be?” I thought.  I tried it out.  I played with it.  I imagined it throughout the year.  With every step, I played some more.

be present”

be here”

be active”

be still”

be supportive”

be supported”.

As I played out all the possibilities that lie within the two letter word be, I began to feel it.  I appreciate the simplicity of the word itself and how it can morph into more when attached to another word.  A OLW that embodies possibility and guidance as the days of 2019 unfold.

be open”

be helpful”

be helped”

be faithful”

be collegial”

be there”

be in it”

be available”

be alive”

be me”



Little Moments Matter the Most

It’s 7:30 Friday night.  I finally hear the door open.

The semester was over.  Billy had left the night before, picked Hannah up, stayed in VT and spent Friday skiing.  I had a mid day text from Billy, a picture of Hannah on a single chair lift.  The only one in the Northeast.  They were at Mad River Glen.  All day, I knew they were where they wanted to be and soon they’d be home where I wanted them to be.

“Hello!”  I say, calmly, trying to contain myself.

I get up and go to her.  Hannah drops her bag and comes to me. I find myself wrapped in her arms.  She’s got me in a hug so snug.  I give it right back.  We stand there in a hug that reminds me of when she was two.  Her little head would rest against my neck and her body would melt into me.  She’s not little anymore, but not too big to melt into me.

An hour later.

“Hannah!  Hannah!  Are you home?”  Grace yells before the door has even shut!

I can hear Hannah and Megan giggling up stairs.

“Hannah and Megan just went upstairs.”  I respond to Grace who is the process of dropping her dance bags, throwing her coat on the banister, and stomping up the stairs.

“Hannah!  Hannah!”  Grace continues her calling as she pounces through the kitchen and bounds up the stairs.

From my seat on the couch, I don’t hear much.  I know that my girls are together again, upstairs, rejoicing in their togetherness.