May 3, 2020

IMG_0703Saturday I sat for an hour in a long line of traffic. Slowly, each car inched forward in hopes of receiving a kindness, me included. A local sanitation company partnered with restaurants to give away 400 gift certificates. When I read the article, I thought, “How nice. They are sharing kindness with the community.”

IMG_0705Afterwards, my van needed a car wash. Via social media, I had learned Clear Water was giving teachers free car washes. I pulled in line, showed my ID and said I was a teacher. The attendant said, “Thank you so much for your service. Enjoy your car wash.” That word hug embraced me.

Authors have been sharing free items online, such as Jarrett Lerner, that are helpful to teachers and kids.Lauren Tarshis, author of the I Survived series, gave a free 30 minute virtual author-visit. I loved it. You should check it out. Her kindness came from missing the school visits and meeting students.



A fellow teacher friend has a fourth grade son, Luke. We met through our school’s summer library program. We like Abraham Lincoln and Walt Disney. We love to talk books and just about life. His 10th birthday was last week, and I sent him a book about World War II. I was so excited for him to get the surprise and my heart was delighted upon receiving his picture. A little kindness from me.

IMG_0732He, his two sisters, and mom brought me a May Day hanging plant. Vibrant and beautiful. A reciprocated act of kindness I wasn’t expecting but brings joy just remembering his face and gazing at the flowers.

A friend sent me a letter. An act of kindness.

My neighbor greeted me at the fence and asked about my parents. Kindness.


A friend started a blog and other friends write. Their words, your words, bring kindness. Kindness. Little acts to brighten the day. What acts of kindness have you received?  5FC823C6-2B78-474A-9D9F-5700EBFD20AA


April 23, 2020


An Invitation To Write

TessaYesterday, I posted this picture to Instagram:

Loving the child and making connections goes beyond the instruction you are giving!

Letters is one way I keep that connection going.

A flood of memories came to mind. Letters are powerful. They provide a special connection between you and the recipient. It’s a life-long remembrance of feeling special, loved, invincible, cherished.


I received a letter from a student, her third, and I didn’t open it until I could savor her words. She decorated the envelope with “Surprise letter” and “I miss you so so so so so much. ❤ ❤ ❤ ” My heart swelled and my tears flowed. Years from now when she looks back to this pandemic crisis, letters of hope and cheer is one thing I want her to remember. I know I will.

HugLetters have become my virtual hug, my physical touch during a social-distancing pandemic. In the technological age, letters are scarce. An artistic greeting shares the personality of the writer. It’s an uninterrupted expression of one self, a voice that sends a message that can be reread many times.

With the recipient in mind, my letter is personalized and sent with encouraging goodness. It’s a platform to ask question to deepen the connection. The letter is an extension of me. It’s conferring about life and leaving each with a memento to move forward and a celebration of the present.


My smile broadens as I’m thinking of my students. I envision delight in my addressee. Just think – my letter can change the day for her, a surprise party in an envelope.

emmaHe will get excited and smile and remember his teacher still believes in him. Each will get a gift, a toast of cheer.


April 16, 2020

An Invitation To Write

I’ve become a collector of little moments: small sparks of brightness, wishful wants, and the ordinary. They help me process information and to cherish impressions. Consequently, I am a recovering stutter of words and brain farts, those moments when I grasp for words, maybe even visualize it, but cannot spit it out. It’s beyond being “on the tip of my tongue;” it’s embarrassing.  Fortunately, I found an app that helps with that – the memories that is, not the awkward pausing. The HighNotes App provides a platform for me to collect these nuggets of marvels.

Notebooks are great too, but I can’t upload a picture quickly onto it. Closeup nature stills are art to me. Capturing a replied text or a comment on Twitter are emotional art to me. I screenshot these and tuck them away on my digital notebook. Contemplating the importance of this app, I listed some reasons (because a list is a collection too.)

  1. Visualize: The picture helps capture fleeting moments and feelings.
  2. Beauty: Endorphins are released. I reread, smile and saturate myself.
  3. Joy: Surrounding myself with goodness because I fight the negative in the world and the lie monster in my head that says I’m not enough.
  4. Blessings: God has blessed me in so many ways. I want my hope to stay fresh and cling to His faithfulness. This focus defeats the anxiety that cleverly creeps in.
  5. Laughter: It feels good to remember. It’s even better when shared.
  6. Memory Igniter: Writing helps my mind process quicker. Thus, I have fewer brain farts.
  7. Reflection: I remember I am capable, I have skills, I can tackle the next task. Constantly learning.
  8. Lab: I try out words, rearrange and change. It’s a notebook of my private thoughts until I’m ready to share.
  9. Organize: Relief. I have a place to collect my nuggets of noticings besides my photos, decluttering and making quick access.
  10. Collection: Just because.

Some sampling entries:

A Blue Thumb

April 9, 2020

Flowers adorned my home growing up. The two front bay windows were flanked with beautiful color, African violets of vibrant purples, pinks, and whites. Mom pampaered them. She fed and nurtured them as prized cherubs. Mom had a green thumb.  Recollecting, my memory-picture scans the 20, no 30, probably 40 violets in those window gardens. I can visualize Mom examining each leaf, pruning when needed. Whispers of growth and good will flowed from my mother’s lips. These were her joy!

As traits go, the green thumb inhertance was not willed to me. Oh, I’ve tried. The beauty of flowers definitely invites me to try. I love the colorwheel blended in nature. I like them. I want them. I do not have the patience or persistence for them like my mom. My plant rearing skills are considered a black thumb.


Like the blue sky enveloping the Earth, I’m a blue thumb. I notice. I observe. I reflect.  Knowledge and nuggets blanket my students. Love enduring covers my family. Listening and laughter spread to my friends.

I may not grow plants, but I’m observant.  I grow minds. I grow encouragement. I grow words. These are my joy!

Over and Under the Pond

February 18, 2019

View my blog post at The Lead Learners Blog of Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner; illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal.

Savorings for reading and writing for Over and Under the Pond:

  • metaphors – “water’s a mirror, reflecting the sky!”
  • Sensory Description
  • Compare/ Contrast structure
  • Environmental – ecosystem, wetlands
  • Author’s Note – a glimpse into how a writer gathers ideas and then creates a book

Kate’s paired text is called Over and Under the Snow.


One Plastic Bag

November 26, 2018

Thanksgiving provides a time for reflection. Family. Job. Friends. Health. Seat-warmers in my van. Coke Zero. A microwave. Electricity. Clean water. I am sure you could add more to the list.

Having lived in a third-world country for two years, I learned to be thankful for the everyday conveniences we have on a daily, hourly, minute basis. Trash pick-up is one of those conveniences I am thankful for. When the heavy rains came in the Dominican Republic, trash flooded the streets. Daily, I would notice garbage lying around. And the smell. The foul aroma clogged my plugged nostrils and I could hardly breathe.

A swelling of thanks rose within me as I read One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia. Miranda Paul shares the story of change, illustrated beautifully by Elizabeth Zunon. Plastic bags have many uses, and I am thankful. But living in a condition with no garbage system poses a problem. Isatou noticed the growing problems the piles of plastic bag garbage was causing. Goats and other livestock were dying. Gardens were affected. Something needed to change. As in Ada’s Violin, the creativity of one person sparked hope and an answer.

View the book trailer (1.34 min.) and be drawn into the story of change, of hope, of making a difference.

Learn more about how the women of Gambia create the bags from the founder, Isatou Ceesay.  Information on how to help this organization is also listed on this video. (9.27 min.).


Savorings for reading and writing for One Plastic Bag:

  • Repeating Structure
  • Making a Difference
  • Believing in Yourself
  • Persevering
  • Varied sentences
  • Author’s Note and Timeline

Ada’s Violin

November 15, 2018

Philanthropy. Defined by Merriam-Webster, philanthropy is “1 : goodwill to fellow members of the human race especially : active effort to promote human welfare. 2a : an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes.”  Other words associated with it: generosity, social conscience, brotherly love, compassion. 

My parents taught me from an early age to notice the needs of others, to be thankful for what I have, to care. Living in the Dominican Republic for two years, I saw first hand the needs of people in struggle. Teaching for thirty years, I see first hand the needs of children in need too. It’s all around us. Fourth graders at our PES school featured Socktober, raising funds and donations for wool socks for veterans. Read more about it at Mrs. Clark’s Twitter. The level of energy was raised and kindness prevailed. So thankful!

Favio Chavez, with the help of local carpenters, brought hope to the children of Cateura, Paraguay. The town grew beside the dump. Families made their livelihood from the trash. Señor Chavez created hope. He taught his students to respect, to listen, and be in tune with each other. Ada’s Violin: the Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, demonstrates philanthropy in action. (Click on this link to hear the book read.) Instruments were made from items found in the dump. Ada’s father had sparked her interest in  music, listing carefully to the individual instrument sounds from the radio. Grandma sang.  Ada learned to play violin from an old paint can, wooden crates, trays and a fork. A priceless piece of art.

See the book trailer below.

See Senor Chavez and his orchestra on this YouTube video. Ada Rios is featured along with her grandmother, who first signed her up for the free violin lessons. Heartwarming philanthropy at it’s finest. Talk to your kids about how they can help others in their community, their country, and around the world.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Ada’s Violin:

  • Hope
  • Transitions
  • Setting
  • Wonderings
  • Varied sentences

Never Smile at a Monkey

March 29, 2018

Steve Jenkins warns his readers about the dangers of some animals in a kid-friendly fashion in Never Smile at a Monkey. Each page shares one of eighteen different creatures’ harmful characteristics. Written in a repeating structure, NEVER begins the informative paragraph using alliteration in the subsection titles. At the end of the book, more information is shared regarding each creature.

Introduce the book with this book trailer.

Jessica Ivy shares how to use the book with close reading techniques (level O). She shares her reproducible resources on Teachers Pay Teachers for free.

Savorings for Never Smile at a Monkey:

  • Alliteration
  • Descriptive
  • Commands – Look out!
  • Intertwines physic qualities with emotional characteristics – “Sharp hooves, long horns, and an extremely nasty temper”
  • Dependent Clauses
  • Power of 3

What Do You Do With a Problem?

March 26, 2018

Problems. They arise when you least expect it. Each one of us handles problems in different ways. Children are learning to handle problems, to see another person’s point of view or to face a fear perhaps. This book, What Do You Do With a Problem?, gives us an opportunity to teach children different ways of handling problems. It’s a great reminder for anyone.

“Every problem has an opportunity for something good. You just have to look for it.”

On this link, the first 1:37 seconds is a book trailer. The reader continues to read the book for the duration of the video.  Below is another read-aloud of the book.

The author, Kobi Yamada, gives his thanks to teachers as he reads his book Because I Had a Teacher.

Savorings for What Do You Do With a Problem?:

  • Magic of 3
  • Character thinking
  • Perspective
  • Repeating phrase
  • Building scenes
  • Face Challenges – “And the more I avoided my problem, the more I saw it everywhere.”

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

March 20, 2018

I’m in love. Lisa Papp, thank you for this delightful, touching book of hope in Madeline Finn and the Library Dog.

FullSizeRender (9)As a child, I struggled with reading. The letters came together slowly, and I longed to do well – just once. I have vivid memories of knowing who the star readers were in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade. As a kindergartner, I would hide and whisper in order to not read aloud. By second grade, SRA was my HATE! I never seemed to be able to progress past the ugly color. Reading was not magical.

Madeline Finn doesn’t like to read. You can feel her struggle.


“Sometimes the sentences get stuck in my mouth like peanut butter.”

Her teacher supports and encourages. Her mother does too. On Saturday she goes to the library. The librarian brings life to Madeline when she introduces her to Bonnie, a reading dog-buddy. Bonnie never giggles when she makes a mistake. She just listens.

To view the entire book on YouTube, click on this link. The book trailer is below.

Savorings for Madeline Finn and the Library Dog:

  • Dedication – “for libraries, where the real magic happens
  • Perserverance
  • Magic of 3
  • Growth Mindset
  • Love of Reading
  • Community Building – an opportunity to talk about difficulties in learning – how to support each other
  • order on Scholastic Book Clubs