Catching What?

Guess what I did last night for “homework”?  Made a trap for a leprechaun.  I love my son’s teacher.  Really, I do.  But I just can’t fathom the reason for this creation.  I’m not against leprechauns.  And I’m not against building.  I just wonder if it’s teaching my son all the wrong things.  His first ideas for capturing the little Irish all involved guns.  Then dynamite.  I had to explain to him that the zero tolerance rules at school are really starting to kick in and that kids are getting thrown out for even saying the word gun.  But truthfully?  Is catching something and holding it hostage any better?  My son thinks leprechauns are real and that one might actually end up in the trap.  I said, “Why not the Easter Bunny?  Or Santa?”  The next plans involved ropes and pulleys, like something you’d see on Scooby Doo and I didn’t have the patience (or the knowledge) for any of that.  Finally, Ari came up with the idea to have the leprechaun swing toward a rainbow, then fall into a canyon.  He’s presenting at school tomorrow.  Check out his trap below.  (The leprechaun has to mount the spiky bommy-knocker thing, then swing to his destiny.  Not the rainbow’s end, I can assure you.)


Three Things I Learned from Sandy

Today’s blog was written by my seven year-old son, Ari.

1.  Be nice to people who lost power.  They might need food.

2.  Let your friends sleep in your bed.  Give them Teddy bears in case they’re lonely.  Give them a flashlight and water, too.

3.  Get food before you lose power.  (Especially brownies!)

*Tip: if you have power watch the news to see if you’re in danger.



Here in the northeast we’re digging out from the worst storm to ever hit our region.  My house wasn’t hurt, but a lot of places around us were.  Death, property destroyed, long periods of time without power, and a serious gas shortage.  Our schools were closed for the week, and we don’t know yet about next week.  So what do I tell my seven year-old son when he asks what’s going on?  And he wants to know why?  Of course, I don’t know why.  But what I’m trying to teach my son is that this is an opportunity.  An opportunity to help others.  Last year we were hurt by Irene, flooded beyond belief.  The biggest help we received came from individuals–the neighbor who pumped out the basement, the neighbor who helped us clear out the basement, the neighbors who babysat, those who loaned us tools and showed us how to use them.  Individuals.  So that’s what I tell him–we can help one person, or one family and just keep doing that over and over till we all recover.

Real Kids, Real Writing

I just spent two weeks teaching in Trenton, NJ.  I had a ball with some excellent K-2 teachers.  (Thanks, you guys!)  The thread that ran through the two weeks was doing meaningful activities with kids.  We came up with the following list to remind ourselves that all writers (and especially little kids) need a purpose for their writing.  

Real World Purposes for Writing

    • Invitations to parties, events
    • Birthday Cards, Thank You cards, “I’m Sorry” cards, “I Miss You” cards, Holiday Cards
    • Letters to express your feelings
    • Signs for the classroom/school (something is lost, found, broken, new, going on in your class)
    • Signs that explain your work in centers (i.e. a sign to let everyone know you built a bridge in the block center)
    • Telling a story about something interesting that happened to you
    • Writing a story for someone you love
    • Writing a poem for someone you love
    • Writing to get your feelings out
    • Writing that shows what you know about a topic
    • Teaching somebody how to do something
    • Making lists for planning or remembering things
    • Writing to express how much you love (or hate) something
    • Writing to recommend a place, movie, book
    • Writing to discover what you really think
    • Writing to discover what you’re trying to say
    • Writing to make your voice heard in the world!

Cool Bookmarks

I love these bookmarks from!  I saw them in a shop the other day and had to stop myself from buying a whole set.  Other bookmarks offer advice from hummingbirds, bumblebees, bears…Wouldn’t they make great gifts for your readers?  Maybe they’d inspire some readers to create their own bookmarks!

+ Click image to view larger size
Each bookmark says:

Advice from a Tree

  • Stand tall and proud
  • Sink your roots deeply into the earth
  • Be content with your natural beauty
  • Go out on a limb
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Remember your roots
  • Enjoy the view!

Bookmarks are printed on recycled paper.  Size 2.25″ x 8.5″, laminated and will last for years!  Save $1.25 to $1.50 EACHwhen you order in quantity packs.

© 2007 Your True Nature, Inc.

Dig it

What does Donna Kull do on weekends?  She takes care of the garden at Walnut Avenue School in Cranford, NJ.  A long time second grade teacher at Walnut, every year she organizes The Big Dig.  Volunteers come out to plant and make the garden what it is.  This year Donna and her volunteers even got the experts at Home Depot to come help with the garden.  Once The Big Dig is over, Donna keeps the garden going.  She lovingly plants and weeds and makes sure the garden stays beautiful and healthy.  I’m sure WAS will miss her when she retires this year!  Keep up the good work, Donna.  We need more teachers like you.

Ode to the Book Nook

This corner in Eva Barabas’ classroom in New Brunswick, NJ inspired me to write a little poem:

Comfy couch

Cozy nook

Quiet light

My favorite books.

Room to roam

Space to read

This is where I go

To dream.

Snuggled up

Settled in

Let the reading adventure



















Poetry Anthologies

Some kids read and write poetry all year.  Jordana Greenberg, then a 5th grader at Manhattan New School, created a poetry anthology as part of a year long project.  Starting in September, her teacher, Doreen Esposito, asked students to gather poetry books and spend some time reading and enjoying poems.  Students would put post-it notes on the poems they liked.  By the middle of the month, students would find one poem they really loved.  They would copy the poem, then illustrate it.  Next students would look through their notebooks to find entries that would go next to the published poem.  Students could create their own poems based on the published poem.  Or rework the notebook entry to sound more poetic.  Or keep the entry as is.  Students then illustrated their own piece of work and added it to the anthology.  They turned the anthologies in at the end of the month and had a chance to share their work with others.  At the end of the school year, students had a beautiful collection.  The poem above is one entry in such an anthology. All I can say is…wow.

(For more on how to create these anthologies see The No-Nonsense Guide to Teaching Writing by Judy Davis and Sharon Hill.)

Belief and Trust

I just spent an amazing week teaching writing workshop in Roselle, NJ.  The teachers I worked with are fairly new to workshop teaching.  At the beginning of our days together I noticed that their minilessons were maxilessons.  Lots of teacher talk, not much student writing.  I see this all the time.  I think it’s hard for teachers to cut their lessons to ten or twelve minutes and still feel like their teaching is effective.

Throughout the week, I modeled short minilessons, held lots of student conferences and worked with plenty of small groups.  Teachers were surprised that I could do such short lessons and still get a message across.  Then they started trying the lessons out on their own.  And guess what?  They were just as effective.

We decided that workshop teaching comes down to Belief and Trust.  First, you have to believe that the work the students do is as important or MORE important than the work that you, as a teacher do.  Then, you have to trust that when you set the kids free, they’ll actually do the work.  Not always easy to manage, but with the right structures in place, very doable.  Once you see how much kids produce and how engaged they are in learning, letting go gets easier and easier every day.