Sunday, August 3, 2014

Back to School Sale

I can't believe that summer is drawing to a close and the new school year is right around the corner! So many of my out-of-state teacher friends are readying their rooms and some are meeting their kiddos tomorrow! 

Just in time TpT is having a BACK TO SCHOOL sale!!!!
 Check it out you don't want to miss this! It starts August 4th. Use the code listed below to get some deep discounts at my TpT store as well as at my other store Two Peas in a Pod.  

Check out some of my Back to School products that will help you successfully launch Writing Workshop.


California Dreaming

Here in California we have a few weeks left of summer. I am busy getting my materials/resources together to support my year ahead and am looking forward to posting these to my TpT store soon. I hope you continue to check back in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, don't let this great sale pass you by- take advantage to stock up on some great resources to support you in your instructional year ahead.

Happy Shopping!


Sunday, July 20, 2014


You’ve heard of the phrase… what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Well, I am all about debunking that!  This post is all about the exciting First-Ever Teachers Pay Teachers Sellers Conference.

It’s taken me a few days to process this experience, as it was absolutely aaaamazing!  As I reflect on the FIRST EVER TpT conference, so many words come to mind: good people, friendships, collaboration, community, creativity, talent, energy, spirit, fun, enthusiastic sellers… the list goes on and on.  

Prior to the conference, I squeezed in every available minute with my Hello Two Peas business partner, Jen Jones. We were  busy collaborating and planning the next steps of our Hello Two Peas projects. Since Jen and I live on opposite sides of the country,  collaboration time in person was golden. Our husbands patiently waited while we gabbed for hours. In between our gabfest we sprinkled in some fun.

One of the highlights of the trip was meeting so many of my cyber friends and in person. For many of us, this was our first face-to-face meeting.  I was thrilled and honored meeting the dynamic duo Deanna Jump and DeeDee Wills!  Excited and delighted to meet so many of my fellow bloggers and TpT sellers like Linda Kamp and Lisa Mattes who have encouraged me from the very beginning of this little blog a year ago. Meeting so many of the gals face-to-face was awesome! 

OMG it's DEANNA JUMP and me!

 Hanging Out with fellow bloggers and TpT Sellers
Jen Jones and Linda Kamp

Fellow bloggers and TpT sellers Jen Jones, Fran Kramer, Lisa Mattes and Janice Malone

On Friday, it was time to attend the first-ever Teachers Pay Teachers conference! The standout highlight was being able to meet Paul Edelman, the founder of Teachers Pay Teachers. Who knew when I walked in the conference hall at the Venetian I would be walking in with Paul Edelman and some of the TpT staff! Paul's vision to empower creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit among educators has changed countless lives including mine. The TpT success stories that were shared by several sellers were beyond inspirational.  

 Paul Edelman- founder of TpT

 I attended several sessions to help me better understand the nuts and bolts of being a TpT seller.  I kicked off the sessions by attending a session on providing customer care presented by Jen Jones, my Hello Two Peas In A Pod business partner. Then boned up on blogging tips from a fabulous panel made up of a team of power house bloggers: Erica Bohrer, Cara Carroll, Deedee Wills, Elizabeth Hall and Greg Smedley and followed that session with another session on blogging tips and I discovered a treasure trove of information about TpT from Lindsay Perro.

While, many of my sessions were focused on developing my understanding of being a TpT seller and edublogger, the most valuable lesson I took away from this conference was- follow your passions with  integrity.  This theme was woven thru the fabric of stories shared throughout the day.  Story after story validated that the most successful sellers on TpT sellers were successful because they had passion for their profession and creative ideas to share. These folks all had one commonality; they got inspired, worked hard, and as a result positively influenced the lives of countless educators and children.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week

As the school year winds down, it’s time to thank all the dedicated teachers who spent the past nine months helping children make remarkable discoveries as life long learners. 

Teacher Appreciation Week, begins on May 5, and its exact origins are unknown. According to the National Education Association, the group that organizes the holiday, the idea may have first gained traction in 1944 when an Arkansas teacher, Mattye Whyte Woodridge, wrote to political and educational leaders requesting an official day to recognize educators nationwide. Eleanor Roosevelt received one of those letters and later convinced the 81st Congress to proclaim the first National Teacher Day in 1953.

The first National Teacher Day was declared on March 7, 1980. Later, the NEA and its affiliates voted to change the event to the first full week of May. This year, Teacher Appreciation Day, as it's now called, is on May 6, and the entire week is dedicated to celebrating America’s educators.

“When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” - Maya Angelou

Thanks to Jen Jones, my friend and business partner at Hello Two Peas In A Pod, for the adorable graphic. 

A Way To Give Thanks...

To mark Teacher Appreciation Week and honor teachers nationwide Teachers Pay Teachers is having an awesome sale. I am delighted to be part of it. Everything at my store  and at my other store is on sale.  When you go shopping don't forget to enter TPTXO at checkout for your discount.  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Reflective Practice: Balancing Common Core with Our Inner Core

Over the past few weeks, many of us around the country have had the opportunity to be on Spring Break.  Like many of you, I found myself taking that opportunity to rest my body and my brain from the hectic pace of teaching.  I don’t know about you, but at this time of the year sometimes I feel like I am caught in a balancing act juggling all the eggs in my basket. So in an effort to intentionally slow down, I purposefully set aside time to reflect on my practice. Spring Break is a welcomed respite to do just that.

A reflective cycle has always been the foundation of my instructional practice.  As part of that cycle, I intentionally make time to reflect at the end of a lesson, the end of a day, the end of a week, the end of a unit in an effort to evaluate what was working for kids and what wasn’t. As a habit of practice,using observational records and formative assessments,   I always take my instructional cues from my kids. They have always been the measuring stick by which I evaluate my teaching and gauge my instructional next steps.

It’s a natural process in Spring to stop and take stock of where we are in terms of instruction with the notion of making sure we address where we want to be by the end of the school year.  This year is no different. This Spring break,  I find myself  looking back across the landscape of this school year and reflecting on all we have tried to accomplish a a district by implementing the Common Core Standards into our instructional practice. Big shifts for students and teachers alike have occurred across many of our classrooms.   

Yet with all the pressure to learn, teach, and now assess the new standards, at the center of that change one thing remains the same-effective teaching is a balance. Best practice is a balance of aligning the Common Core with your inner core values as a reflective teacher. This balance is about incorporating our new Common Core Standards with our existing practice.  Staying mindful of best first teaching- preserving instruction that is rich, deep, meaningful and student centered. 

In spite of the pressure and rigor of new standards we need stay true to what matters most to us as teachers.  This means our highest priority is to consider crafting our instruction in ways that honor our children on their own individual learning paths while aligning that instruction with the new standards. Developing lessons that will support them as lifelong learners actively and joyfully engaged in the process of meaningful learning. In an effort to honor our students in authentic learning, I frame my instructional planning lens with the following:
  •  What do my students really know well and control?
  •  What strategy or skill do my students need to be able to learn to move to the next step for them on a learning progression?
  •  What strategy or skill can I teach them today that they can make part of their daily learning?  
  •  What will be useful to them that can transfer to all learning experiences today and moving forward?
  •  What is interesting to my students that will honor authenticity and individuality in their learning process and encourage student engagement?
  • How can I provide multiple opportunities for my students to actively be engaged in practice around this skill or strategy?
  • Am I providing meaningful opportunities for my students to set goals and reflect on their learning?
  • Am I creating opportunities to observe students and collect student data to keep my instructional practice real and relevant?
  • Am I teaching the new Common Core Standards while preserving student-centered meaningful instruction?
Burkins and Yaris discuss this very topic in their recent post Keeping it Real: Making Professional Learning Relevant via @burkinsandyaris and will be sharing some of the lessons and ideas from  their upcoming book Reading Wellness during an all-day, pre-conference institute at IRA in New Orleans on May 9th. The institute is titled   “Aligning to the Common Core Without Sacrificing Your Inner Teacher: Joyful Lessons that Support Independence and Proficiency with Complex Texts.”  

Happy Spring!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Have you heard the big news????

It's raining in California!  

That means we can green up this spring! That's a HUGE celebration! 

Just as right as rain…

 is the big TpT quarterly sale. 

You know the one where TpT takes an additional 10% off, on top of the store's 20%… Here's the best news you won't even have to dodge the raindrops. My cart is already overflowing and I can't wait to go shopping! How 'bout you? 

In honor of this sale Jen and I will add our March Phonemic Awareness Listening Games from our Common Core Aligned Phonemic Awareness Curriculum (Set 2) to  our Hello Two Peas TpT store  where we have added to our curriculum author study bundles like the Jan Brett Set featured below. These have been a huge hit with students and teachers!

This is a complete month of original Common Core aligned phonological awareness curriculum. If you follow our curriculum in your classroom, which requires 10-15 minutes a day, you will see amazing phonological awareness growth in your students. This program is tried and true, used in K and first grade classrooms at our schools.

The curriculum is based on 16 phonological awareness skills that we have identified in the Common Core under Reading Foundational Skills. The program was written around the Kindergarten and First Grade Common Core Standards and skills including the Common Core document, Appendix A, based on phonological awareness research and the general progress on phonological awareness skills in the foundational reading process.  The activities/lessons are text-based, meaning the words and phrases for the phonological awareness lessons (which we call 'listening games') are based on popular read aloud titles (books not included) from your monthly curricular themes. This curriculum is also appropriate for Pre-K and T-K, as well as for anyone working in a teaching capacity with Kinders or First Grade students, Ell's or students in speech and language. We hope you take advantage of this sale and stock up on our monthly bundles. 

For those of you who are involved in writing workshop instruction, I hope you will visit my TpT store and check out my writing workshop curriculum. It's a perfect way to address the management, routines and procedural lessons critical to running an effective writing workshop. 

Happy Shopping! 


Don't forget to use promo code TpT3 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Reflections & Understandings about Authentic Writing Assessment in the Common Core Writing Workshop    Block: Part 2

This is the second and final post in a series about on-demand writing assessments, the teacher's role in administering, collecting and reviewing student data, and how that data will drive writing instruction.

As you know, I have been super busy facilitating training in my district using the new Units of Study writing assessment tools from the Lucy Calkins Common Core Workshop Curriculum. The trainings consist of cycles of grade-level professional development using the new units of study writing assessment tools (which I might add- I adore!).

Since my last post, I've facilitated my elementary district in the first of several rounds of a data cycle looking at student writing across grades K-6.  We have analyzed and scored about 3,800 student assessments!  I've been a little pre-occupied by this and apologize for this late post. I think you can see by the photos below it's been a busy and productive assessment cycle!  I am so excited to share about it with you now before I begin the next round of writing assessment data cycle and lead our K-12 teachers in looking at writing samples of students headed for our county-wide writing celebration. 

If you recall from my last post, our district is looking at student writing in structured way based on a data cycle. We have used the Lucy Calkins Common Core Writing Workshop Curriculum and assessment tools to guide this work. 

 The assessment system includes: skill progressions (a Pre-K thru Grade 6 writing continuum), rubrics and student checklists. The learning progressions provide suggestions for teachers for possible teaching points to help students meet their goals.

The checklists and benchmark texts (student writing samples) spell out for children what it is they are aiming to reading. Because the learning progressions provide suggestions for ways to reach goals, and because benchmark texts (student writing samples) show how others have reached similar goals, children are able to see concrete examples and doable ways they can make their writing stronger.

Educational researchers (Sadler, Hattie, Reeves and Cororan) all agree when teachers provide students concrete, specific, and helpful feedback that clearly details.

 The system is designed to be used regularly to provide actionable feedback revealing what students can effectively produce when writing independently. This data along with a review of students’ on-going writing from sources like: students’ writing notebooks, writing folders and published pieces provides the teacher with what future instructional goals might be for the class, small groups and individual students. This along with observational records from student conferences and their writing process and workshop habits provide a more comprehensive picture of student writers.

The most amazing part of this system is that not only does it help children set goals and self-assess their progress. It helps teachers self-assess, set goals, collaborate with colleagues and work toward developing an articulated process of achieving those goals. That is powerful instruction!

Lucy reminds us…Teaching Well requires that you look at students’ work and imagine the next steps for that student.

Collaborating collectively with colleagues around student writing requires a structure. Therefore, our writing assessment cycle that integrates both formative and summative assessments. As part of the structure, teachers collected an independent “on-demand” writing sample from students in each of the three Common Core writing text types to establish baseline data then collected an on-demand again after teaching each writing text type. The striking thing about collecting pre and post instructional data is that it provides evidence of what students have learned to do without assistance.

 Here’s how it went… at the beginning of the year, specific prompts were given to students in each of the Common Core writing text types (CCSS W.1 Opinion Writing, CCSS W.2 Information/Expository Writing and CCSS W.3 Narrative Writing.) The grade level prompts were kept consistent across the grade levels K-6. In grades 3-6, the opinion and information writing prompts require giving students a day’s notice to locate and bring in outside research to include in their writing if they choose to do so. Prior notice is not necessary in grades K-2 or necessary for the narrative prompt grades K-6.

Students then receive writing instruction using the grade level writing curriculum developed by Lucy and colleagues.
Teachers meet after each unit of study to review students’ writing development in each Common Core text type using the assessment system developed by Lucy and friends.

Lucy reminds us that the purpose for all assessments is to accelerate learning. With that in mind, I developed a continuous formative assessment cycle using the units of study sessions as my guide. At the end of a grade level writing unit of study, teachers conduct another on-demand writing assessment (post on-demand) using the same prompt that was used at the beginning of the year. Then grade-level teachers come together district-wide to score, analyze student writing and discuss possible next instructional steps in writing based on the evidence revealed in the students’ pre and post writing. This process has been powerful! 

In my last post I promised to answer some questions from
fellow literacy coach- Crystal from Hampton, VA. So let’s get to it…

 1) How do teachers discuss learning progressions across grade levels?

Teachers are released from instruction four times a year, after each unit of study, and come together as a grade level to learn the checklists, learning progressions and rubrics. Lucy refers to these as “norming meetings”. (To find out more, read Chapter 3 in Writing Pathways.)   At these grade level meetings, teachers  score student work together collaboratively after going through a calibration process using the assessment tools. At a later date at their sites, they meet in grade level teams to analyze the data using a data form and determine what trends they are seeing overall in their class’ data. Those trends or patterns help establish their next steps in mini-lessons and how they will adjust their teaching and expectations going forward.

2) What successes have you experienced using the checklists?

Student checklists have been extremely powerful in helping students self-assess and set goals. Students are provided with explicit instruction on how to effectively use the checklists to set goals at the beginning of each of new Common Core writing text type. Periodically, throughout the unit, teachers revisit the use of the checklist with students in whole group and small group instruction as well as individually. The checklists have provided our teachers with a scaffold to pinpoint and target writing goals for individuals when conferencing with students over student writing. They have created a structure of laser focus for both the teacher and the student to effectively monitor their progress.

Another place, checklists have been useful is during parent conferences. Using the checklists to establish expectations and set clear writing goals will provide structure to our conversations with parents. Checklists help clarify the trajectory we are setting for our student writers and can be used as a tool to enlist our parents as allies in our efforts to improve student writing.

3)  What is your role as coach in the process?

My role as coach has been a dynamic one. As the lead literacy coach for the district, I worked with our assessment coordinator to establish a formative and summative assessment cycle that would compliment our writing instruction in the three Common Core Writing text types.  We have created the on-demand writing prompts for the three Common Core text types for each grade level K-6 using the materials from Writing Pathways as our guide. Additionally, I have facilitated both at the district and site level in this process of leading teachers in studying where their students are as writers and where they need to go. At the district level, I am responsible for helping coordinate the assessment cycle and provide professional development training about Common Core Writing and Reading. At the site level, I am responsible for modeling and co-teaching the writing units of study and reading as well as provide site literacy training and professional development.

Happy Writing!