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.
COVID-19 · post-op life · slice of life · writing

Scheduling Change #SOL20

Writing Together

On the first day of quarantine-school, writing did not go well. It took Isabelle an eternity to brainstorm ideas and even longer to get lackluster writing down on the page. She argued with me, groaned repeatedly, and acted as if someone was hurting her. So, the following day, I moved writing time to the morning immediately following read aloud. While her efforts were still labored, she whined a lot less. As a result, I have kept writing time first-thing in the morning.

Today was day eight of quarantine school and writing was downright enjoyable. After we gathered our notebooks, we watched the fourth Keeping Our Notebooks video, which was “The Story of an Object.” After we watched it, I encouraged Isabelle to gather three to five objects from around the house that she could write a story about. She returned with five! Next, I prompted her to orally rehearse what she might write about each one to help her determine which one she’d select to write about. Two of the stories fell flat. One was mediocre. The other two were good. Ultimately, Isabelle decided to write one of the good ones, which she figured she’d be able to write about using action, thinking, dialogue, and description, something Amy Ludwig VanDerwater reminded about in the video.

I encouraged Isabelle to fill two pages in her 5″ x 7″ notebook. I encouraged her to skip lines so she’d have room to edit once she finished.

Five minutes passed. Then ten. I gave her the fish-eye and noticed she was still writing so I continued to write in my notebook too. By the time she finished, she had filled FOUR 5″ x 7″ notebook pages!

I. Was. Floored.

Eight days ago Isabelle behaved like she was tortured because I was making her write. Today, she seemed to enjoy it. (And she used her personal editing checklist with minimal guidance too!)

Every day will be different in quarantine school. But if things keep improving, then maybe I’ll have a notebooker on my hands by the time she returns to school. (Who knows when that will be?!)

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COVID-19 · post-op life · slice of life · writing

Separating My Role as Mommy and Teacher #SOL20

One of the reasons I’ve never homeschooled Isabelle is that I have a hard time separating my roles of mother and teacher. Throughout the first few yeas of her life, I engaged in “Mommy Speech Therapy.” As her former doctor once told me, I shouldn’t be doing both roles. So, while I read with Isabelle daily, there is someone else who’s worked with her since Kindergarten as a reading tutor. Doing this allows me to preserve our mother-daughter relationship.

Now that we’re quarantine-schooling, I find myself doing the mother-teacher thing again. And while I am mostly enjoying the chance to work with Isabelle for hours at a time, I find myself slipping into the role of mom more often than I should. I try to catch myself when I do this. Thankfully, my teacher-side came in and gave the mom-side of me a slap on the wrist yesterday morning.

You know how those of us who teach writing workshop passionately tell parents not to obsess over grammatical and spelling errors? Well, yesterday, I forgot this and harped on Isabelle for misspelling high-frequency words she should know, for forgetting to end sentences with punctuation, etc. It wasn’t my finest hour.

After serious reflection, I decided to work with Isabelle to create a personal editing checklist that she could use to fix up her writing at the end of each of each day’s notebooking session. We talked about the things she could work on after she writes to make her writing easier to read. I limited her to four things. (She kind of knew what she needed to work on given my step into the parent role yesterday.)

After I printed the personal editing checklist, Isabelle retrieved it from my printer. I taught Isabelle how to go through each checklist step to examine her writing through that lens. Once she finished each item, she moved on. It took her less than two minutes to make all of the corrections to her writing.

“How did that go for you? Did that take as long as you expected or less time?” I asked.

“It took me less time than I thought it would,” Isabelle stated.

“Was it easy or hard?” I asked.

“It was easy. I was able to make all of the changes fast,” she replied.

“I want you to understand that this is your personal editing checklist for today. It might be something we change up as soon as next week. The idea is for you to get in the habit of making these changes on your own. Let’s say you start capitalizing all of the Is in your writing by the middle of next week. We’ll remove that item off of the checklist and we’ll add something else. How does that sound to you?”

“Good,” she replied.

Thank goodness, I thought. That means I can focus more on teaching her to write rather than hounding her about all of the things I know I shouldn’t be bothering her for when she’s working in a writer’s notebook.

slice of life · writing

What color do you use for drafting?

I try not to look in my Isabelle’s cubby or desk when I go into her school. That doesn’t mean I haven’t peered into those places. Rather, it means I *try* not to.

I went into Isabelle’s class for writing workshop yesterday. I restrained myself from checking the neatness of her desk when it was time to confer with her. After all, we were talking about her writing, not her organizational skills. However, as Isabelle took me on a tour of her writing, I noticed she was still alternating between colors when she was writing. I’ve bitten my tongue about that before since I didn’t know if the colors corresponded to drafting, revising, and editing pens. However, she was in the first bend of a unit of study on information writing. She’s *only* drafting. Yet, her pages were covered in two — and sometimes three — colors of pen.

“Do you have a blue or black pen?” I asked her, noticing she was writing with a red one.

“I have a blue one, but it doesn’t work right.”

“Can you show me?”

Isabelle rummaged in her desk.

“I can’t find it,” she said.

“Don’t you have supply box?”

“Not in this teacher’s room,” she replied, ducking back down to look for the blue pen.

I looked at my watch. This was a waste of time. This wasn’t what I would have been doing with any other kid. Yet, I was going down the rabbit hole, so-to-speak, because this was my kid. I was about to stop Isabelle when she pulled a retractable pen from her desk.

“Found it!” she said setting it on her desk.

I picked it up and realized it was slightly unscrewed. Problem-partially solved.

I gave Isabelle a spiel about using one color when she was drafting going-forward — blue OR black — and then moved onto something that mattered (i.e., breaking down her new book’s topic into a table of contents).

After I left her school for the day, I made my way to Staples to remedy the supply issue. I picked up a pack of blue pens and a pack of black ones, plus a zip-top supply bag in her favorite color. Later in the day, I typed a reminder note and gave it to her. Isabelle was elated by the bag filled with new pens. I reminded her, again, to only use ONE color while drafting.

This afternoon, when she returned home from school, I asked her how it went with the new pens.

“Great!” she said.

“What color did you use when you drafted today?”


“Only black?” I asked.

“Only black,” she replied.

slice of life · writing

Work in Progress

Lynne and I planned to get together in early August to work on the study guide for Welcome to Writing Workshop, which is our forthcoming book from Stenhouse (available in early Winter 2019). However, that plan got thrown out the window late last week when Bill, our editor, sent us a first pass of edits earlier than expected. We were thrilled! We decided the study guide could wait.

So here we are at Caffe Galleria in Lambertville, NJ!

This photo was taken at 9:30 a.m. just as our breakfast arrived. It’s 12:30 p.m. right now. Lynne’s feeding our meters. We’ll work for another hour and then break for lunch. Isn’t it great that we have two tables? One’s for eating and one’s for working!

We’re spending the day working together, which means my parents have my kids for yet one more day (G-d bless them! I think they are going to need a vacation once my kiddos and I depart tomorrow. Or maybe a sensory deprivation chamber. One or the other!) so Lynne and I can power our way through the edits. For instance, moments before I wrote this post, we realized we didn’t write “final thoughts” for three-quarters of our chapters. Guess what we’re doing next? Making sure each chapter has a “final thoughts” section.

We know we won’t complete Bill’s edits today, but we’re hoping to make a significant progress.

On that note, Lynne’s back from feeding the meters so it’s time for me to get back to work.

slice of life_individual
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