Wednesday Haiku: The Jump

The Jump

I love tutoring over the summer. This is when I get to work with kiddos who are trying to close the academic gap between themselves and their peers. With the little ones, especially in reading, sometimes little progress seems to be observable. I know that learning is occuring, but the new skills seem to sit and marinate for a while. Prompting is necessary, sometimes for seemingly too long. Then, after a seemingly stagnant period, BAM – a huge leap forward. All the sudden the student is readily using the skills we’ve been practicing and progress is clearly evident.

It seems like it all happened from one day to the next, but I know this is just how emergent and early readers tend to exhibit progress. It’s a trend I frequently have to share with parents, especially those who don’t understand the process of learning and think it’s something we can do to a child. In the classroom, the student and I push on and practice. I can see the tiny steps of growth as we work, but they’re not significant enough for mom or dad to recognize. Then the jump happens. Seeing this jump – this is what I live for.

Student Anaphora Poems Inspired By Absolutely Almost

My class finished Absolutely Almost over a month ago now, but as we cleaned up our Google Drive accounts today and organized our writing folder, we were able to revisit some of our previous work, and I realized how much I liked the anaphora poems they created after this read aloud. At the end of the novel, Albie recognizes all the things he can do, rather than those ANAPHORAhe cannot (as he did in the beginning of the novel). Inspired by this ending, my students were tasked with writing their own “Things I Know” poems.

This was a fun assignment that shows just how honest students are and allows them to celebrate what they know. At the end of the school year, I will put a book together of each students poems and stories from the year. This one is definitely going in there.

Below are a couple of examples.

Things I Know

By Student B

I know that I always have to put the cap on my pen when I’m done using it

I know that parents are sometimes scared, but don’t show it

I know that I don’t have to believe in what other people think, but what I think

I know that you can’t have friends when you’re not a friendI know that being proud of who you are (1)

I know that I’m not that good at math, but at least I try

I know that whenever I’m scared I’m not alone

I know that if you want a neat drawing you can’t draw outside of the lines

I know that if you want to accomplish something you have to work hard

I know that I can’t always get what I want

I know that being proud of who you are is important

There are a lot of things I know

Things I Know

By Student C

I know my way around town.

I know school is good for me, but I’m not ready to believe that yet.

I know that I struggle at some things.

I know that I’m not the best at baseball.

I know that I’m lactose intolerant.

I know that people will be mean.I know that being proud of who you are (2)

I know I’m not perfect.

I know nobody is perfect.

I know how to throw a nasty slider.

I know I’m sad 3 of my friends left California.

I know that Aroldis Chapman’s fastball can reach 106 mph.

I know that I take longer to do things.

I know a good baseball when I see one, Golden, with grass stains, and the seams are soft, but not so soft that I can’t get a grip.

I know how to say the rosary.

I know that the tree is Stanford’s mascot.

There are a lot of things I know.

Things I Know

By Student A

I know that God and my family will always love me and that I am blessed.

I know that Michelangelo’s Pieta is in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, Italy.

I know the first 22 elements in the Periodic Table by heart.

I know that people with Autism can do a lot of things really well and they have feelings too.

I know how to run 5 miles without getting tired or sore.

I know that there are 206 bones in the human body.

I know that when my dog Bella bats her hanging bells on the patio door she has to go outside.

I know how to make banana chocolate chip bread without a recipe.

I know a lot about golf but mostly I know that golf teaches me all about life itself.

I know that Ketchikan, Alaska is famous for its totem poles and bald eagles.

I know a lot of things but I know how much I DON’T know and still have to learn too!

Author Skype: Lisa Graff

unnamedMy class Skyped with author Lisa Graff on Thursday. The entire experience was, in the words of my students, “exciting”. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face throughout our 45 minute Skype meeting, because pure joy was emitting from each and every one of my students.

After the Skype session, my students wrote about their experience and what they learned. One student concluded, “I had so much fun and enjoyed every second of it! It was an amazing experience and I will never forget it! It’s amazing how much you can learn from a person in 35 min and especially when it was so interesting! It was a once in a lifetime experience and was awesome.”

I hope this is an experience I can provide for my students in future years. I learned that Skyping is a great way for students to connect with professionals. The benefits went beyond our 45 minutes on Skype. The preparation process and reflections afterwards were a learning experience as well. For my own personal reference and for anyone interested in setting up a Skype for your own class, I’ve highlighted our process along with the biggest takeaways in the eyes of my students below.


  1. Students wrote questions on post-its and placed them on a board in the back of the classroom.
  2. After completing the book, we read through the questions as a class, grouping like questions together. Students chose to add more post-it questions at this time also. We made a list of questions, making sure to omit repeats.
  3. We had a discussion about how to best organize the questions for the interview. This was 100% student-driven and run as a roundtable discussion. Students decided to group the questions into three categories: General Author Questions, Specific Book Questions, and Personal Questions.
  4. Students then debated the order of the categories. As a teacher, this was my favorite part of the preparation process. Students passionately shared and justified there views and rationales. “I don’t think we should start with personal questions. I think we should ask them at the end when she is more comfortable,” one said. I loved the thought they put into this, and I think they did a fabulous job. Students also had to show restraint and patience while being good active listeners during this process. I love the real-world skills students must apply and sharpen during roundtable discussions.
  5. I put the questions within each category in order and printed a copy for each student. I also emailed the questions to Lisa Graff ahead of time.
  6. The day before our author Skype, the class did a short practice Skype with a staff member. This didn’t take much time, and I believe it was hugely beneficial. We practiced where to stand, how to transition between questions so we could move things along and get all of our questions in, and how to speak clearly and loudly.

Before (1)

  1. I began by saying a quick hello and introducing the students, and we got right to it!
  2. Students asked their 29 planned questions. We finished in 30 minutes! Since we had a little bit of extra time, students asked some follow-up questions and shared some of their own comments.
  3. Students took notes during the interview. They just had a blank paper with which they could record anything interesting that they’d like to remember. I didn’t ask for anything special in the notes, just that they take some.
  4. We signed off in 45 minutes.


  1. We shared with one another. As a class, we discussed what we learned from Lisa Graff.
  2. I asked students to write a four paragraph essay about their experience.

Students churned these four paragraphs out like it was nothing; there was so much excitement, and they had so much to say. Biggest TakewaysLisa shared a number of things that stuck with my kiddos. Here are the top ten takeaways…in my students words.

  1. She has felt like an almost herself sometimes.
  2. Holes was the book that inspired her to be an author.
  3. The first book that she wrote, that was not published, was when she was 14 and the book was called A Speck of Dust.
  4. Lisa Graff said that a lot of her inspiration [for Absolutely Almost] was from living in New York and being a babysitter.
  5. She said that the revising process is always much longer than drafting and that she usually thinks it stinks and wants to quit in the middle. She said she’s never been disappointed once a book is published.
  6. When I hear Mr.Clifton’s jokes I wondered how Lisa Graff got those jokes and it turns out that she just looked up in the internet, “Bad math jokes”.
  7. I found it very interesting that Albie actually at first liked candy bars instead of donuts, but her editor wanted to change candy bars to donuts, which I think was a great idea.
  8. She shows how if you work long enough on the thing you love you will succeed.
  9. What I learned from this experience is that it’s really hard to be an author because it takes a long time to come up with an idea for a book and wait for that book to be published and making changes to your book. It’s a long and hard process.
  10. During the Skype, she told us some advice, “ Write, even if you think it stinks.”

In the words of Mr. Clifton, “You can’t get where you’re going without being where you’ve been.” Lisa Graff told my students to write. She recognized that – yes, it stinks sometimes (or as least you think it does), but you can’t get better without producing some pieces to learn from. Each piece students write advances them as writers. Nearly all of my students quoted the advice, “Write, even if you think it stinks.” This message resonated with my kiddos and gave them confidence. In their eyes, if even a famous author thinks her writing stinks as she’s writing sometimes, then it’s ok if they think their’s stinks too. They learned that it’s normal to feel that way, but they must push through and stick with it until the end. Lisa communicated that, in the end, it’s always worth it. See, this Skype went beyond learning a little more about the background of our read aloud. Students were given writing advice and were able to learn about the writing process directly from an author. I have to do more Skype meetings with my class!

A big, giant THANK YOU to Lisa Graff for offering the opportunity to Skype with classes. For more information on hosting a Skype session with Lisa Graff click HERE.

What Really Matters to Students: A Connection

When we feel overwhelmed or put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to be perfect as close to perfect as possible (as many of us young teachers do), remember what really matters. When it comes down to it, students remember the relationships we build, whether we listen, our kindness, our willingness to help and make ourselves available.

Figuring my students out, what drives them and how I can help develop their love of learning is what drives me. And the relationships that I build with my students help to get them invested in their education. So, it’s through relationships that I’m able to make the greatest impact as a teacher. For the most part, when students see that someone makes time for them and truly cares for them, they want to do well. They become more motivated, listen more intently and respond respectfully.


My friend posted this “Dear Young Teacher Down the Hall” letter by Lori Gard to Facebook yesterday, and I felt it was worth a share here. I like Lori’s post and her recommendations for “being” over “doing” because BEING has a greater, lasting impact on students. We must remember to BE.