slice of life · technology · writing

The Big A.I. Talk

The time has come for all of us to have THE TALK with our kids.

Not THAT talk! Rather, THE TALK about A.I. Chatbots!

I’ve been keeping A.I. under wraps since I read about ChatGPT in The Atlantic in December 2022. Then I read this “The A.I. Chatbots Have Arrived. Time to Talk to Your Kids” last week, which made me realize I need to talk to my daughter about A.I. before someone else does. As important as I think it is for people to do their own writing, I’ve come to understand — through a lot of reading about A.I. — that there are many benefits to using A.I. chatbots.

But first, I needed to talk to Marc about A.I. to get on the same page. A.I. isn’t going anywhere, so it’s time for us to decide how we will and won’t sanction Isabelle to use it as parents. (In late January, when Melanie Meehan and I recorded “The Benefits of Teaching Writing Through a Workshop Approach” with Olivia Wahl for her Schoolutions podcast, I admitted to keeping A.I. hidden from Isabelle. You can listen from 37:20 – 39:45 if you want to hear me talk about this.)

This morning, we played with the Poe app, which allows you to try out a variety of A.I.-powered bots. I kept feeding Poe’s A.I. chatbots prompts to show Marc how they did writing essays on everything from Civil War battles to writing a Bat Mitzvah speech. He noticed that the essays it crafted in less than 15 seconds were better than decent. I explained to Marc that while the chatbots’ essays were good enough, they lacked voice. (I told Marc about Michel de Montaigne, who wrote in the French countryside for pleasure and called his attempts at writing, essaying, which is the French word for trying.) We also talked about GPTZero, which can detect whether a human created a writing piece or used A.I..

Throughout the day, Marc and I have circled back to A.I. and its implications on everything from essay writing to practicing medicine. On our car ride home from King of Prussia, I was trying to distract myself from a miserable (albeit healthy) decision I made not to buy myself a milkshake for the car ride home. (Marc, Isabelle, and Ari bought milkshakes for the drive home.) I decided to task Poe with some mentor text work by telling its various chatbots to write a poem in the style of “This is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams that dealt with drinking too much of a milkshake.

Most ELA teachers would know the first, second, and third poems were created with A.I. since Williams’ “This Is Just to Say” does not rhyme!

GPT-4 produced the only poem that could pass muster. (GPT-4 is more advanced relative to ChatGPT. It is supposed to be better at creative writing, solving problems, and following instructions.) I attempted to run it through GPTZero, but couldn’t analyze what GPT-4 produced because it was too short.

Now that the day is drawing to a close, I have two parting thoughts:

  1. Before talking to my kids, I have more tinkering I need to do with A.I. Chatbots.
  2. I need to get that milkshake out of my head!
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family · siblings · slice of life · writing

Don’t Make Fun of Invented Spelling!

I awoke with a migraine. Once I walked into the kitchen, I grabbed the bottle of Excedrin Migraine and downed two pills.

Both kids were speaking loudly, so I was not amused. Through the chatter I was trying to ignore, I heard that Ari had an envelope ready to be mailed to my mother-in-law.

“I hope it’s not a sticky note letter,” I said. “You know Grandma doesn’t like it when you only send a sticky note in the mail.”

“It is,” Ari replied.

“C’mon!” I replied through the pulsing in my head. I looked at Marc, “You know your mom doesn’t like it when he sends sticky notes. She wants a letter or a picture too. And I agree with her.”

Marc shrugged. (He’s on-call at the hospital this week, so I decided to go easy on him since he was probably thinking about a complicated patient rather than Ari’s too-short note to his mom.)

“Ari, you need to send Grandma a letter on a larger piece of paper or enclose a picture too.”

Ari acquiesced and handed the envelope over to Marc.

“I’m going to open the envelope so you can use it again since it already has a stamp on it,” Marc said.

He stamped that?! Keep your cool, Stacey. Keep your cool.

Once the envelope was opened, Ari removed the sticky note. I read it and was aghast.

“You wrote a sticky note to Grandma asking her to buy you something?!”

Ari nodded.

“Do you think that’s appropriate? Or do you think you should ask her how she’s doing, tell her about what’s happening in your life?”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Go and get a larger piece of paper and try again.”

Ari returned with the small rectangle of white paper you see in the photo above. (I realized I had a slice-of-life story on my hands when this happened, so I snapped the picture at this point.)

“Listen, Ari. You have paper in your desk that you could use. You can draw a picture and write something to Grandma on it. If you do that, I’m happy to send it to Grandma. She’ll love to read your writing and see your picture. But I don’t think she will love getting a sticky note demanding a crane truck.”

“Okay,” he said.

Ari went into the playroom, not to his desk. Maybe I don’t have a slice-of-life story on my hands. I don’t think he’s going to write more.

A few minutes later, as I took my oatmeal off the stove, I called Ari, “Have you eaten breakfast yet?”

“No!” he called back.

“You need to tell me what you want,” I replied.


“If you don’t tell me, you’ll have to make it yourself.” (This isn’t a threat. He likes making breakfast.)

“That’s fine!”

My migraine was dissipating while I ate my oatmeal. When I was nearing the end of my solo breakfast, Isabelle walked into the kitchen. She must’ve heard the commotion over the sticky note to Grandma since she walked over to the counter to check it out.

“Oh, Ari!” she said. “You wrote now instead of new.”

“Isabelle, don’t–” I warned.

“But he spelled it wrong,” she replied.

“You knew what he meant, right?”

She nodded.

“He misspelled Grandma too. He’s using what he knows to create the spelling for words. That’s called invented spelling. It’s a thing.”

“But it’s wrong,” she replied.

“Do you always spell correctly?”

“No,” she said.

“You invent spellings too. That’s FINE.”

“But it says now, not new.”

“That’s it. Come here and let me teach you about invented spelling.”

I pulled up an article about invented spelling that I wrote for We Are Teachers when Isabelle was in Kindergarten. It contains a piece of writing she did at home in Kindergarten. It’s loaded with invented spelling. I showed her the images. When I finished reading the “Invented spelling is an analytical process” section, Isabelle realized she was wrong.

Ari came into the room while I was reading the article. Therefore, Isabelle turned to him and said in a sing-song voice, “I’m sorry baby. I didn’t know what invented spelling was.”

“Really, Iz? He’s six years old, not six months. He’s not a baby.”

Isabelle modulated her voice, so it returned to normal. “I’m sorry I made fun of your writing, Ari. I did the same thing too when I was your age.”

“That’s better,” I told her.

“Ari, do you understand you didn’t do anything wrong?” Other than trying to send Grandma a sticky note asking for a toy.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Good. Now, it’s time for me to do the dishes so we can get out of here.”

Who knows if he’ll write Grandma a proper letter later today…

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animals · slice of life · writing

New Title: Fish & Dasher

Last night, Ari told me he finished his book about Fish. In reality, he added two more pages with no substance.

“I understand that you want to finish your book so you can share it in school tomorrow, but there’s much more you can do with it.”

We talked about the way Fish wrestles with Dasher, his Poodle brother. We discussed infusing some setting details into the book since Skagway is now blanketed in snow, not green grass. I reminded Ari that he could spend more time on his illustrations.

This morning, Ari woke up early and got to work on his book again. By the time I came downstairs for breakfast, he had restapled the book. This was the finished product:

Written and read by Ari.

NOW the book was ready to go to school! But first, I scanned it so we could send it to the folks in Alaska later today.

If you need a dose of spelling-related cuteness, here’s some work Ari did with the book’s revised title:

Also, you’ll hear me carrying on a separate conversation with Isabelle.

What’s next? Ari plans to write a book about Murray and Jake, two other pups from the Mo Mountain Mutts videos. I’m unsure if it’ll be another nonfiction text or if he plans to write a story this time. Time will tell…

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animals · slice of life · writing

A Dog Named Fish

Which one is worse?

  1. Watching videos of dogs rather than reading a book to your child before bedtime for nearly a week.
  2. Nearly being late for school drop-off because your child was busy writing.

No real need to ponder which one is worse. I am guilty of both.

After reading about an Alaska-based dog walking service with a puppy bus and pack walks in The Washington Post in January, I became addicted to Mo Mountain Mutts’ Instagram and YouTube page. Each weeknight, I’d lie in bed and watch videos of the dogs taking hikes and eating treats on their bus.

One night in January, Ari came into my room and found me watching “puppy videos.” I let him watch a couple before returning to bed. I could tell he was HOOKED. Initially, we watched them together in the mornings before I would drive him to school, but as of last week, we’ve begun to forgo his nightly story and watch these videos instead. (Yes, I’m a certified literacy specialist. No, I won’t let this continue much longer since it’s bad sleep hygiene. Yes, I read with Ari in the morning or after school.)

Ari sitting at his desk holding a pencil in one hand and using his other hand to help with finger spacing.

Ari and I adore many dogs, but our favorites are Poodle brothers, Fish and Dasher. (I don’t think they reside together since they board the puppy bus at different times.) We noticed Fish was not on the Mo Mountain Mutts’ Instagram stories for weeks. But one day, not long ago, I saw that Fish had returned. I showed Ari. He rejoiced as if his long long-lost pup had come home.

Ari was chatting with me about the Mo Mountain Mutts puppy bus at breakfast this morning. He was wondering what Fish would do today. I said, “You know, you could write a story about Fish. Then, you could decide what he does.”

SAY. NO. MORE. Ari finished his breakfast, asked me to spell a few words for him on a sticky note, and then zipped up to his room to begin writing a story. By 8:25 AM, he had two pages completed! And while it reads more like nonfiction than fiction now, he is excited to write about Fish!

We lost track of time, so I got Ari to school less than five minutes before the school day began. On the car ride over, I talked to Ari about the audience. He initially thought he’d want to put his finished book in the classroom library. I told him that we could try to think bigger. “Perhaps we can scan the book and send it to Mo of Mo Mountain Mutts. Then, she could give it to Fish’s owner.”

“Yeah, I like that idea,” Ari replied. “But how will you scan it for her?”

“There’s an app for that. Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. You write it, and we’ll send it out together once it’s done.”

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slice of life · writing

Where do you start on a page?

Chances are that your child has told you, “That’s not the way my teacher has me do it.” That’s common.

But have you ever been told, “That’s how I do it in school so I don’t have to do it at home” by your child? No?

Well, here you go:

Oh, Ari!

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slice of life · writing

Well, that devolved quickly!

Friday afternoon: Ari returned from school with two decodable readers that showcases a sticky note from Ari’s teacher: “Ari has become a reader.” Of course, I stopped everything to listen to him read Dan’s Fat Cat and Pat the Cat aloud.

Saturday evening: Ari brought Dan’s Fat Cat in the car. He declared, “I want to write a book called Dan’s Fat Dog. I encouraged him to have a go with that before Hebrew school the following morning.

Sunday morning: Ari said he wanted to work on his book before leaving for religious school. In reality, he watched “Super Wings” and lamented, later in the day, how he didn’t have time to write. (Wrong, he didn’t make time to write.)

Monday morning: This morning, Ari hustled through his morning routine so he would have ample time to draw and write Dan’s Fat Dog after the two of us couldn’t come up with a different word (rather than fat) to rhyme with dog. I gave him a couple of paper choices. I brought a drawing book over to the craft table so he could get a little help with his illustrations. (My drawing skills make me useless in this department.) He finished page one and started page two by the time he left for school. He was as excited to write his story as any kid who has ever rewritten an Elephant & Piggie book.

Monday Late Afternoon: Despite saying he wanted to write, Ari opted to watch another episode of “Super Wings” before soccer practice.

Late-Late Afternoon Writing Sesh

Monday Late-Late Afternoon: Soccer practice was canceled due to excessive mud on the fields from the rain. On the way home, Ari stated he wanted to work on his writing before dinnertime.

Monday Early Evening: I was cooking dinner, but Ari wanted me to sit alongside him like I did in the morning. I couldn’t. I encouraged him to come into the kitchen for help. He was not pleased about the fact that I couldn’t fully engage with him since he needed my help drawing a person “sitting cross-cross applesauce with a dog on his lap.”
Soon after, I heard Ari declare he was almost finished writing the book and “just needed to write a title page.”
The next thing I knew, I overheard Ari asking Marc for help on how to draw a human. I walked over to them to mark the relevant pages in the drawing book for Ari. I was met with Ari’s wrath. Apparently, he didn’t want my help. I walked away.
Marc spoke to Ari about how rude he was to me. Then, Ari drew something and raised his voice since it didn’t look like he wanted it to. The next thing I heard were papers crumpling and Ari wailing. He was frustrated that his drawing didn’t turn out as he expected.
I called into him about being patient with himself. Today was his first day attempting to write words (even if it were a parody of another text) and pictures across several pages. He was still mad about his predicament so I brought up that I worked on one of my books for three years before it was published. Ari was not be placated. In fact, I heard more paper crumple.
I thought about a recent #TWTPod episode on solving predictable problems. Ari reminded me of the perfectionists we talked about. Therefore, I called to Marc into the kitchen, explained what I thought Ari’d mood was really about, and encouraged him to redirect our son.
But Ari didn’t want to be redirected. His attitude devolved rapidly. Before Ari could destroy everything he worked on, Marc removed it from
him so Ari could return to it when he was rested tomorrow morning.
That was the beginning of what was the longest two hours of my day. Everything from eating dinner to showering to brushing teeth was a struggle. By the time Ari was asleep in his bed, I was spent. I collapsed in my bed and hope he will be excited to try again tomorrow.


Tuesday morning:

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homeschool · slice of life · writing

Nurturing a New Slicer

I didn’t think I could talk her into it.

But I nudged her.

Let’s be honest, I strongly encouraged her to give it a try.

So, she thought of a theme (i.e., writing about her life with her little brother). We compromised on the time frame (weekdays in April rather than all 30 days of the month.)

This week, we’ve talked about drafting in Co:Writer. We discussed the importance of her being the first reader of her writing before asking for an edit. We chatted having someone edit for her before going public with her writing. We talked about using Waterlogue instead of posting actual photos. We discussed that I would be the administrator of her blog so that I could work with her to keep her safe online.

As of today, Isabelle has written six blog posts on A Big Sister’s Tales. She is READY to begin the 10th Annual Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge, which begins tomorrow.

I have no idea if this experience will be a transformative month for Isabelle. It’s my hope that she becomes a stronger writer, has a greater desire to publish her writing, and connects with other kids from around the world. And if she gets or receives some comments (Hint, hint!) from some of my adult Slicer friends, well, then that’s a wonderful bonus!

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preschool · slice of life · writing

Preschool Writing

It’s been a hot minute since I was a guest in Isabelle’s preschool class during writing time. While I’ve been away from the preschool classroom for the past 5.5 years, I’ve read a bit about emergent writing since I knew I’d eventually work with Ari as he grew as a writer. Never-did-I-ever imagine I’d be in a homeschool situation where I was tasked as his preschool teacher! #ThanksDeltaVariant

Ari thinks about the next letter he’ll write on the paper.

Ari prefers to do math with me rather than write beside me. As his teacher-mom, I have to make sure we tackle all subject areas. Therefore, I called in some reinforcements to get him excited about writing this week. Who did I invite to writing time? His stuffed puppies, of course!

For the past couple of days, Ari has been more excited to write because I let him select new writing utensils from my office. (He picked an orange mechanical pencil.) I’ve shared some new paper choices with him too. Also, his enthusiasm to write has increased since he’s writing about his stuffies. Here’s a look at what he wrote this morning:

“I am rubbing Murphy’s belly.” Murphy was one of Isabelle’s stuffed dogs, which she bequeathed to Ari about a year ago. On a different note, I adore Ari’s over-generalization about periods. Notice there’s one after his first name. He insisted it was there. Apparently, Ari is a complete thought.

I’m not sure how many pages about puppies he’ll write in the weeks to come. I know he has a lot of stuffies so it’s possible he might create a book about them! I’m hoping to direct him into storytelling or all-about books. For now, I’m just happy he is willing to sit alongside me to write!

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slice of life · writing

A Surprise on My Nightstand #SOL21

I can’t see much clearly until I don my glasses so I was startled when I didn’t have a clear view of my abnormally large digital clock. There was something rectangular on my nightstand. I switched on my lamp and moved in close for a look.

Isabelle must’ve slipped into my room early this morning to return the journal back to me. Tag, I’m it!

I noticed some sticky notes peeking out from the sides of the journal. I reached for my glasses and opened up to the marked pages.


Isabelle and I started the Just Between Us: Mother & Duaghter: The Interactive Journal & Activity Book, by Meredith and Sofie Jacobs, a few days ago. I had received a review copy from Chronicle Books and showed it to her after I opened my mail on Monday. We perused it together. I asked her, “Would you like to do this with me?” I figured she’d say, “Is either answer okay?” which is what she usually says before responding negatively to something she knows I want to do.

But… she surprised me! Isabelle said yes!

We decided I’d start writing and drawing and would return it to her. On Monday evening, I deposited the journal on her nightstand after she was asleep. The next morning, I walked into her room and found her looking really guilty at her desk.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Um… I’m writing in the journal, see?”

I. Was. Shocked.

Isabelle is a striving writer. Even though she agreed to do the journal with me, I didn’t think she’d actually do it. So, I walked out of her room and left her alone.

Sometime on Tuesday afternoon, she returned the journal to me. Tuesday evening and Wednesday were busy. But on Wednesday night, I wrote it in and left it on her nightstand. Isabelle left it on my bed sometime yesterday morning! So, last night, I took the time to respond to some of her writing (on the opposite page) and then left it on her nightstand around 9:30 p.m.


I asked Isabelle to come and talk with me about the journal once she was dressed this morning. She had elected to draw a picture on the page that says

Here’s a drawing of something that scares me.

(Mother, go back and put stickers over the drawing to make it less scary!)

Since the journal is private for us, I won’t share Isabelle’s picture. However, we talked, and then I added some stickers (from the enclosed sticker pages) to her picture to transform the picture into something happy.

Next, I asked, “Do you think we should decorate the cover?”

“Yes! Let’s use some of the stickers,” she replied.

Our new cover!

“Do you like passing this journal back and forth?” I asked.

“I do,” Isabelle replied.

“Well, I better start working on the drawing that scares me so you can make it less scary, shouldn’t I?”

“You should, Mommy.”


If this keeps up, you’ll see a blog post about this journal on Two Writing Teachers soon! (Again, without seeing any interior shots, because it’s private! Not even Marc can peek!)

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COVID-19 · slice of life · writing

Just Another Day

I have no idea what day of the stay-at-home order we are on. (Day 50-something, perhaps?) I think we are nine weeks into our quarantine-schooling adventure, but I am not entirely sure of that either. What I do know is that Isabelle is nearing the end of her second writer’s notebook. That I am sure of!

Today’s writing was inspired by one of Amy LV’s Keeping a Notebook chats. Isabelle wrote about a play date she had with her friend Yael a couple of months after we moved into our house.

While Isabelle orally rehearsed her story, I noticed she was telling about what one person said to another rather than pretending to speak the words aloud. So, I taught into that. I pulled out a mentor text, Kaia and the Bees by Maribeth Boelts, and we looked at how dialogue was used and how it was punctuated.

Isabelle inserted a couple lines of dialogue. She declared she was finished with her entry, which is when I pushed her to write a couple more lines. “What else did Yael’s mom and I say to each other when she picked Yael up from our house?” Like many kids writing about something that happened in the past, Isabelle couldn’t remember the exact words we said. I told her to imagine what we may have said. That freed her up and she was able to include a couple more lines of dialogue.

Dialogue isn’t something one masters in single day. Isabelle worked really hard, but I could tell she will need more lessons on how to craft effective dialogue that advances a story or that to reveals a character’s personality or motivations. However, I was pleased by her efforts to punctuate it like Maribeth Boelts did in Kaia so I decided to take her out for a minivan lunch picnic. Why not? It’s not like we had anything else going on since it was just another day at home.

Isabelle ordered a rainbow grilled cheese sandwich and fruit.