March 24, 2019

Technology is a gift to us. We learn, connect, and play. The internet provides opportunities to meet authors and explore ideas.

Steve Antony shares the goodness of technology in his book, Unplugged. It also supports balance of exploring the outdoors and the importance of friendship.

Enjoy meeting Steve Antony on this one minute video clip.

Enjoy the reading of Unplugged (4 min. video).

Savorings for reading and in writing for Unplugged:

  • Technology
  • Power of 3
  • Friendship
  • Learning
  • Setting
  • Pros/ Cons

Writing Territories: 3 Bear Books

March 31, 2018

Writing territories are topics each of us knows well. These topics we know well or enjoy learning more about. One writing territory I enjoy is baseball. I have read many picture books on the topic: narrative- first person, second person, third person, informational, historical fiction, biographies, ABC book, 101 Reasons, specific professional team. One topic; many forms of writing.

Kids need to see they can use their same topic in many writing forms. Comparing books is a great way to show children how they can explore writing techniques.

Bear and Duck by Katy Hudson is a fictional story about a bear who tries being a duck. An unlikely friendship forms.

Savorings for Bear and Duck:

  • Power of 3
  • Sequential steps
  • How To
  • Hyphenated words
  • Encouragement
  • Friendship

Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead is about a bear who wants to share his story but helps his friends get ready for winter. Spring comes. Bear does random acts of kindness for his friends.

Savorings for Bear Has a Story to Tell:

  • Story elements – great as a mentor text
  • Sesnory description
  • Love of Story
  • Hibernation
  • Fast-forward Time
  • Acts of Kindness
  • Friendship

A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting by Michelle Robinson presents a different approach to bears. A little boy is on adventure to find bears with the reader speaking to him in second-person narrative. Love the voice in this book! Enjoy!

Savorings for A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting:

  • Field Notes/ Writer’s notebook
  • Reader talks to the character
  • Second Person Narrative
  • Compare/ Contrast
  • Voice
  • Humorous


Across the Alley

March 17, 2018

Stories embedded into my heart are my favorites like Pricilla and the Hollyhocks by Anne Broyles. Although I came across this book in 2009, I still recall the richness of the words and the endurance of the character.

Across the Alley by Richard Michelson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, is a new books to add to this favorite list of powerful stories. I have read it five times trying to comb the craft and I just sit in the story. Richard Michelson brings to life the friendship of two boys, one Jewish, one black, both separated by many cultural differences, but blend through nightly conversations through their bedroom windows. Not allowed to be friends during the day and in the open, the persist for the good.

Abe plays violin. Willis plays baseball. Through their nightly, across-the-alley window talks they teach each other their skill. Ironically, the switched activity becomes a natural talent for the other. Read how the boys rise above the grown-up expectations and bridge a friendship between their families. My guess is you’ll be cheering at the end like I did. Share this sense of hope with your students.

Willie’s real quiet now and I wonder if I said something wrong. Maybe he doesn’t know about the Nazis.
“My great-granddaddy was a slave too,” Willie finally says. “I never knew any white folk that were.”

Click on the link to view a preview of the book. My guess is you will be drawn to the story too. You can also listen to Jay O. Sanders read the book on this link (scroll midway down the page).

Share this 2 minute video with your students as he talks about writing fiction.

Savorings for Across the Alley:

  • Figurative language/ Visualization
  • Overcoming racial differences
  • Friendship
  • Sharing talents – the arts and sports blended
  • Show not Tell – “My palms turn sweaty.”
  • Sequence of pivotal scenes
  • Sense of hearing – descriptive in order for the reader to feel as if they are watching and hearing the scenes unfold

Boy + Bot

February 25, 2018

Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino,  is a delightful tale of friendship. These two become friends despite their differences. They engage in fun activities, have compassion for each other, and work out problems. The tone of the book invites readers to think about characteristics of a friend, how to overlook differences, and possibly try something new. For some extension activities, visit RIF.

To hear the entire book, view on the YouTube link.

Savorings for Boy + Bot:

  • Synonyms
  • Varied sentence length
  • Sequence of events
  • Past tense verbs – /ed/
  • Parallel structure
  • Comparison – man vs. machine
  • Wonderings – Was the boy imagining a friendship with his toy robot? Notice the illustrated toys in his bedroom.
  • Friendship
  • Compassion

What James Said

February 22, 2018

Image result for what james saidRemember the telephone game? One person whispers to another, who shares it with someone else until it circles back to the owner. The final message is never like the beginning statement. Although you laugh at the ridiculous outcome, it’s not a laughing matter when rumors are spread about you.

In this story’s documentary, a friend’s compliment gets twisted into something hurtful. What James Said provides the opportunity for discussion regarding peaceful resolutions. And, who do you believe – a friend or a stranger? Watch this preview as a class and predict if they will become friends.

The read the book or view the story on YouTube.

Savorings for What James Said:

  • Grabber lead
  • Character traits
  • Varied sentences
  • Transitions in a day
  • Tension
  • Prediction
  • Conflict between friends
  • Restorative practice

(PES library book)

Nerdy Birdy Tweets

February 16, 2018

FullSizeRender (3)Two friends: Nerdy Birdy and Vulture. They are different, but they are real friends. A must-have book for my library!

Aaron Reynolds creates a delightful banter between two friends in Nerdy Birdy Tweets. Nerdy Birdy loves his video games and his new tweeter friends. Absorbed in the online media, he forgets his friend, Vulture. A story of learning to balance social media with relationships.

Check out video clips of books and interviews of Aaron Reynolds. View some of the illustrations by Matt Davies and tweets between Reynolds and Davies regarding their new book.

Savorings for Nerdy Birdy Tweets:

  • Character Traits – compare/contrast
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Perspective
  • Play on words
  • Restorative Practice
  • Friendship

Lost and Found : Three Dog Stories

February 11, 2018

Image result for Lost and Found Three Dog Stories by Jim LaMarche

Three separate short stories weaved together: Molly, Ginger, Yuki. Jim LaMarche will touch your heart and cause you to linger in the child’s moment with his/her dog. You’ll gently smile and find a spot in your heart to hold the images of his brilliant pencil drawings.

“…through the tall grass, up a rocky hill, then into the woods.”

Comfort when angry. Companion when venturing in the woods. Hiking partner. Always returns home. Strong bond. Serendipity. Homeless. Elderly. Comfort. Tension. Worry. Reunited. The love of a dog and his owner.

Savorings for Lost and Found: Three Dog Stories:

  • Suddenly – tension, suspense, wondering
  • Routines interrupted
  • Doing what’s right
  • Zoomed in box illustration
  • Friendship
  • Grabber Lead
  • Power of Three

SOLC: Smile AllWrite!!!13

June 25, 2013

sols_6My heart is still soaring from the delights of the AllWrite13 Conference. I always look forward to hearing the speakers and being nudged to continue teaching the child, not just the curriculum. I learned about the excitement of poetry, working with words, and conferring enlightens our understanding.

Tammy and I had our books ready for our presentation. I was excited, my heart fluttering. Finding books to share is never our difficulty; it’s reducing the number of books to share that is so difficult. As the audience began filing in to the room, I did an excited jump inside seeing Nanc sitting there. Her smile is the best! Ruth and Christy came in, encouraging us the entire time. My parents came too. What a treat! Then Linda slipped in too. The night before, we gave a preview to Elsie and Jenn.

(For those interested, Summer Institute.2013 is the power point of the books we shared at our session.)


Although the learning was great, the time spent with the ladies was the most uplifting. This conference was about personal growth. When I share with my friends and coworkers about the Slice of Life community, encouragement and positiveness are the two words I share. As a writer, I have grown through the specific, uplifting comments. I read other slices and think, Wow, I like how she did that. I’m going to try. One notebook is filled with golden lines I’ve gathered from others. We mentor each other and grow.

I remember three years ago reading Bonnie’s slices and thinking, This woman knows how to write. I’m out of my league. But I learned that we are all writers growing, learning, stretching, sharing, comforting, uplifting, … we are writing together. Through slices and stories, our lives are being changed. My life was touched for the better and the memory of AllWrite13 holds a smile in my heart.

Now the nudge of writing has been given. Motivation has increased. I know I will encourage the ladies I have met and will smile seeing them around the table of my heart.

Hugs, Mary Helen


SOLSC: Happy Birthday, My Friend!

March 22, 2012

My dear friend, who makes me smile, is brilliant, delightful, and amazing. I have taught beside her, mentored her in writing workshop, and laughed at lunch. … I almost lost her once.

My Friend has been the teacher of Wes and Elizabeth. She encouraged them to reach beyond the moment, stretch their thinking in all subject areas, and spread their creativity. … I almost lost her!!

Her thinking has pushed me to strive for the best. She honors me by inviting me into her class, by asking questions, and sharing her dreams. Her famous words with total belief is “You can do it, Mary Helen!” … I ALMOST  lost her!

You see, for as confident, passionate, steadfast teacher that she was (IS), inside a monster of unbelief, doubt, and ugliness ate away at her physical self.

My Friend began to lose weight, a feat she and I both struggled with. She is beautiful with the always perfect hair, the fun outfitting to match, and a passion that all can achieve. Her smile and belief uplifts your soul. But for a while,  her self-image did not reflect that and thus, she allowed the eating disorder to take over. … (I almost lost her!)

Her skinny body was hidden in her clothes, but her heart and pancreas couldn’t withstand it. She ended up at the hospital, frail and fighting.  … I almost lost her.

The Butterfly is the symbol of FREEDOM from eating disorders

I remember how shocked I was. People speculated and I denied it. Not my friend. I remember trembling as we headed to the hospital. My three kids made cards and included pictures of them to bring her cheer. I even framed a picture of me, smiling. I remember being by her bed, her face beaming as I told her that I needed her. I NEEDED her!   … I almost lost her.

Several months passed and life was uncertain. With help and belief and prayer, My Friend overcame the monster and healed.

I almost lost her but didn’t!

I’m so grateful!

Happy Birthday, My Friend!