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Digital Learning

A Day of Giving

It's my birthday! Happy Birthday to me! To celebrate this year, I am participating in TpT's first ever annual Day of Giving! The first TPT Day of Giving will take place on September 27th, 2018.  TPT Authors are coming together to make a change, donating 100% of their profits on this special day to the charities of their choice. 

On this special day, you can get what you need for your classroom AND make a wider difference to the world. It's a win-win. Please stop by my store tomorrow and buy something (or everything or somewhere in between) to help find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis. My sister has suffered from this horrible autoimmune disease for twenty years. It's so hard to watch someone you love as their pain increases and mobility decreases. The National Multiple 
Sclerosis Society is my charity of choice, and I expect them to put my (our) money to work to help all who suffer with MS.

Here's a photo of my sister and me together in happier and healthier times. She's the cute one!

To find out more about The Day of Giving and about the teacher-authors who are participating, head on over to Spark Creativity. Thank you to sweet Betsy who is the teacher-author and blogger behind Spark Creativity. The Day of Giving is Betsy's brainchild, and I am honored to join her in this effort!

Wishing you the best of health and happiness and family and friends who care!



Finding Life Mentors in Mentor Texts

I've been thinking a lot about mentor text lately. Mentor Text. Another piece of education-speak. Sounds official, important, and perhaps a bit daunting for a new teacher or a seasoned one like me, who may not have attended a training or researched  the term. The first time I heard the term, it sent me running to Google for a definition. I found that mentor text is a piece of literature that teachers and students can study, imitate, and apply to other texts and for different purposes.

Wait! What? So using mentor text is the same thing that I (we) have been doing for years: teaching a reading or writing strategy by using a picture book or short piece of text as a model or example. So my favorite mini-lesson practice of starting with a picture book or a passage from a favorite author is using mentor text? Yes! Got it!

As with all trends in education and in life, this idea of using mentor texts in the upper elementary classroom has me asking once again.... What if? What if, as we work through a text to determine a character's motivation and emotions, to learn more about a character, might we also learn a little more about ourselves. I think we might! Think back for a minute to some of your all-time favorite characters from your own reading and/or movie and tv viewing. What if we could apply the positive character traits and emotional intelligence that we find in character study to our own lives?

My greatest personal life mentor was my Aunt Harriet. I was born three days before her eighth birthday, a fun birthday present for a little girl. She gave me countless gifts as my guide through life as we grew up together. She was out-going, chill, fun, and loved to learn and try new things. She was beautiful and a great dancer and baton twirler, to name just a few of her talents. We went to the library together every week and she helped me to pick out books, some of which I remember to this day. I joined her many friends at her house every day after school to dance to American Bandstand, making me most likely the world's youngest teenager at the time! (I'm now probably the world's oldest one!) She continued to serve as an example to me as she raised her family and volunteered so often to help others in her community. She passed away so young, leaving me without her guidance for as many years now as the years that I was lucky to spend with her. I miss her more than I can say, and hope that some of who I am as a human can be traced to her mentoring.

Some of my personal literary life mentors are Francie from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (placed in my hands by Aunt Harriet), who can find joy in the smallest and most ordinary seeming things, Professor Dumbledore from (you guessed it- Harry Potter), whose famous words hung on my classroom wall from the first day that I read them ("It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."), and Professor John Keating (played by Robin Williams in "Dead Poets' Society"), who encouraged his students to find their own voice. This serendipitous mentoring that occurs when we find a richly drawn character who touches our soul is, to me, the best kind. It's the way a book or movie that you have fallen into stays with you forever. It's the reason you ask yourself at times of emotional duress what that mentoring character would do in a similar situation.

There are endless opportunities in our Reader's Workshop lessons to set up a character as an emotional mentor at the same time that we are teaching specific reading and writing skills. As teachers, we have minds on, heart touched moments to explore how a character is feeling in a particular situation, and to closely watch how that character responds and gets on with life. It's something to recall over and over with your class throughout the year. Along with internalizing a character's emotions and responses, some of those strategies naturally find their way into our own emotional tool boxes.

My favorite grades to teach have always been grades 3-6. My suggestions here will be focused on reading that will most appeal to students in those grades, but all can be used in other grades as well depending on your lesson focus, reading levels in your class, and whether it will be read-aloud, partner reading, or independent. I hope this list will inspire you to make one of your own, listing life mentoring examples that might be found in some of the texts that you are already using. It can slip into your lessons and conversations as smoothly as fudge slides down the side of a sundae.

My favorite characters for a little life mentoring (affiliate links from Amazon):

Quila from Gifts From The Sea (strong under pressure, nurturing, mature)
Zoe from A Crooked Kind of Perfect (flexible, looking at life with humor)
Brian from Hatchet (resourceful, innovative, strong under pressure, self-reliant)
Rob and also Sistine from The Tiger Rising (owning your feelings and dealing with bullying)
Claudia from The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (adventurous, lover of learning)
Meg (of course) from A Wrinkle in Time (persistent, brave, caring)
Rosie from Granny Torelli Makes Soup (valuing friendship, empathy)
Opal from Because of Winn-Dixie (developing understanding, nurturing friendships, learning to let
go of emotional baggage)
Comfort from Each Little Bird that Sings (dealing with the unexpected, having a positive outlook)

I could add ten or twenty more to the above list, but you get the idea. Life mentors can be found in countless books. When I've added life mentoring to our discussions of read-alouds and book club choices, I have found over and over that my students start to identify the life lessons in their own reading. They bring those discoveries to reading conferences, making that discussion even richer.

If you like the idea of adding life mentoring to your readers' workshop and would like a little more direction on how to do it, I have placed some of my favorite lessons doing just that into this year-long program for character development and behavior improvement! Hope you'll click and explore!

For more September teaching inspiration, be sure to take at look at some of the posts below. If you are a blogger and interested in joining Teacher Talk, please contact me at and I'll explain how to get started!