Monday, November 22, 2010

"The Writing Project Saves "Good" Teachers"

Donalyn Miller had a lot to say. Here are a few highlights:
"I introduce my shelf children to my classroom children and they all become friends."
"Writing is a record of what matters to us."
"The only way to be a good writing teacher is to write."
Dorothy Parker-"I hate writing. I love having written."
"We are writers, because we write."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

More Than Assessment: Analytical Writing Continuum

This session discussed the use of the Analytical Writing Continuum (AWC) that the National Writing Project worked for over several years creating. They began working in 2004 and continue to refine the continuum each year. Many WP Teaching Consultants met to first look at rubrics and continuums currently being used. They didn't find any in use that fit the needs of the WP teachers. What they did find is that the 6-Traits was the one they could use as a framework to create their own. What they liked about the 6-Traits is it focused on the writer. The 6-Traits is based on a 4 point scale. The AWC uses a 6 point scale. This way, more growth can be shown. They also changed the headings to be more consistent in the ways they teach: Content (replaced Ideas), Structure (replaced organization), Stance (replaced Voice), Sentence Fluency, Diction (replaced Language), and Conventions.
The only way the continuum can be used in schools is if TC's go to training sessions and train their teachers. It looks promising and I think Bailey and I will be going for training next summer.


I had great intentions to blog while I was in Florida at the NWP, however, I wasn't able to fit my laptop into my carry on luggage and ended up leaving it behind. In the end, that turned out to be a good decision as we had no wireless connection at the Disney resort nor the conference sites. Imagine that-motel 6 offers free wifi and a high end Disney Resort doesn't?!
We arrived on schedule after 8:00pm, then were shuttled to our resort. My traveling buddy, Bailey, and I were starving! After we checked in (by the way, for some strange reason, we were upgraded to the concierges' floor, which came with its own lounge and free food all day long!) and got to our room, it was almost 10:30. We walked around the resort and found a little ice-cream shop that also had some delicious veggie wraps. At that late hour, we decided to share one.
Around 1:00am, we finally got into bed for the night. At 2:20am, the fire alarm sounded and we all had to evacuate down 5 flights of stairs. We all sat outside for over a half hour waiting to be let back in. We never did find out what the alarm was about, but it sure did disturb our sleep!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I'm hosting a Thirty-One Party on December 2. If anyone is interested in anything, let me know. The orders will be in before the holidays!

Monday, November 8, 2010

NWP Conference in Orlando, Florida

I am excited to announce I was invited to attend the National Writing Project Conference to be held Nov. 17-20 in Orlando, Florida. I'll be staying at the Disney Beach Club Resort with Bailey, another MWP Teaching Consultant.
I can't wait to listen to the keynote speaker, Donalyn Miller, the author of The Book Whisperer. One book review states her beliefs about reading so well, I won't try to paraphrase it: "Her approach is simple yet provocative: affirm the reader in every student, allow students to choose their own books, carve out extra reading time, model authentic reading behaviors, discard timeworn reading assignments such as book reports and comprehension worksheets, and develop a classroom library filled with high-interest books." Apparently, she can make book whisperers out of anyone!
My sessions include: Reading the Research: Because Digital Writing Matters, More Than Assessment: Our Analytic Writing Continuum at Work for Sites, Unique Youth Writing Programs for Diverse Populations, Using Talk, Literature, and Place-Based Poetry for Writing Development in Early Childhood Classrooms, and Inviting Families into Literacy Partnership.
On Thursday evening, we have tickets to go to Epcot. I've never been there before and I'm looking forward to it.
On Friday, we'll go to Bongo's Cuban Cafe and meet up with all the "Maine" people! I've never eaten Cuban food before-should be interesting!
I'll be blogging while I'm there, so check in and leave me some comments!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Time to Put the Rockers Away

Here's to a snowy Halloween day. We have been sitting on the porch even with chill in the air, but now that the snow has arrived, I think it's time to put the chairs away. One finds a home in the sunny corner in the kitchen and the other one lives in the mudroom for the winter. The sunny corner is my favorite one to sit in on a cold, winter day.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mr. Neewollah's Yearly Visit

Each year, right around Halloween, my neighbor, Mr. Neewollah, comes to my classroom for a visit. He is a man of few words. As a matter of fact, he doesn't talk at all. He shuffles in the classroom, "reads" Tell Me a Scary Story (with the help of the CD player and a page turner), leaves the class awestruck with a bag of treats and heads back to his quiet home next door to mine. I am thankful for Mr. Neewollah. Over the years, he has created many surprised faces with wide eyes!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

First Steps

This post is late-but I wanted to honor my youngest daughter's 25th birthday with this poem by Kate Miller

First Steps
when you were new
just minutes old
and baby bare
they caught your
pedaling feet
just long enough
to ink them black
and press their prints
upon a glossy sheet
of pearl-white paper

two tapered soles
of elfin size
creased with lines
unique to you that
mark you mine
ten rounded toes
like stepping stones
left and right
a perfect pair
adventure bound

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Flat Iron Pond

Flat Iron Pond Cabins
We went for a beautiful ride in the woods last Saturday. Although the leaves are not as vibrant as in past years, they are still pretty. We set out to visit the Flat Iron Pond Cabins as we are thinking of renting one next summer. I first learned about this place when I went to Gilmoor's Ice-Cream stand in Lincoln on my daughter's last day of scooping ice-cream. The owners of the cabins had parked beside me and they had their dog leashed letting her drink water and enjoying a small doggie ice-cream treat. We chatted about our dogs and I asked them where the cabins they had advertised on their truck were located. Surprise-pretty much in our back yard-actually about an hour's drive through the woods. I told them we'd be by to visit sometime.
I packed my cooler (the blue one that goes everywhere I go!) with a veggie wrap, yogurt, and a banana. The dogs hopped in the back seat donning their orange neck warmers and Mark put all his hunting gear under the back seat to attempt some "heater hunting" on the trip out. He gave me the Gazette. I am not a map reader and he knows it. He said, "Today's a good day to learn." My attitude has always been-he'll get me there. If not, I'll go with someone that can! I'd rather go to every gas station along the way than read a map! I think it runs in my family. My dad has a hard time reading maps, my mom doesn't even attempt, and just a few weeks ago, my oldest sister followed me out of the Webb Cove camp road and after giving her explicit directions of how to get back to my mom and dad's house, she took a left where I had told her to take a right and ended up in Burlington. She called me 1/2 hour later and said, "I think I went the wrong way!" So there you have it, I'm not sure if my sister Karen can read a map, but I'm pretty sure my other sister Rodonna could find her way our of a cave with a map. I mean, she drove to Alaska once!
I had a million things to do at home and decided to just take my cooler and my camera and enjoy the ride. About 5 minutes into the ride, Boomer began whining. We stopped on the dirt road and let him out thinking he had to go to the bathroom. He just wanted to sniff around and see where we were! Once the dogs got settled in, the ride was peaceful and I even closed my eyes a few times. We didn't see any birds, so Mark was a bit bummed because we've been watching the turkeys in our yard for so long, he thinks he's forgotten what a partridge looks like! We finally arrived at the sign that pointed us to the cabins. We went down a long, narrow, winding drive. The pond came into view along with the main cabin. (Our dogs liked their dog, Bella. That's promising!)
The owners built all of these cabins by themselves. They have outfitted each one with handmade furniture. I'll take you inside one of them:

They took us through all 3 cabins and showed us the shower house that is powered by a generator. Then we all went down to the beach and that sand looked like it belonged on an exotic beach. It was a fine, white sand and I could just imagine feeling it between my toes on a hot summer day. Before we left, I went for a swing. I've been asking for a swing just like this since I moved. I'm asking for one for my birthday next year. Maybe I'll finally get one! After the swing, we loaded up the dogs, rode home through route 11, stopped for a coffee and tried to figure out a way we could be the owners of those cabins. We both got up on Monday morning to teach. But I have thought of those cabins every single day since. I think I could live there.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Funny Things My Students Say

Lining up to go home, a student in line passed gas. I thought it was ignored. The student in front just had to tell me something before we headed down for dismissal:
"Ms. O., we have a little tradition at our house."
Me: "Oh yeah? I love traditions!"
Student: "Well, whenever anyone farts..."
Me interrupting: "Let's call it 'toot'."
Student: "What's that?"
Me: "Well, growing up, my girls thought the other word was a swear word, so we called it a 'toot'."
Student: "Well anyway, whenever anyone farts at my house, we all yell, "Go, Boston!" I don't know why-I think we saw it on a movie or something."
Me: "Interesting, you know what we do in my family when that happens?"
Student: "What?"
Me: "We ignore it or we say, 'Excuse me.'"
Student: "Huh...." (With a quizzical look on his face!)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

From the Porch

Here's an attempt at a blog post that might be interesting. I and still trying to"find my voice" here and have yet to do that as I sit in front of the screen. When I was on my porch today, I thought about how chilly it's getting (I'm loving the cooler air) and then I began thinking about the season that just passed and I rehearsed a wonderful post in my head. That seems to be my problem. I have rehearsed many wonderful posts, but once I sit down to type them...not so good.

This past summer was probably the best one I've had in a long time. I felt good-really good. Last summer I couldn't get anything done because I was extremely exhausted all the time. Last fall, I got my health in order and what a difference a year makes. I got to see my girls a lot. Kristie trained for a bike ride with us, so we saw her more than usual. Nikki worked most of the summer, but needed help with her big black bear of a dog, Guinness, so we saw her at drop-off or pick-up. We love our grand-dogs: Izzi and Guinness.

We got an old boat and took that out on the river, Stump Pond, and Cold Stream. The motor gave us some troubles, but we still had fun getting it in the water and cruising around in it. Next summer we'll be able to go even more.

We biked a lot. I currently have 1,536 miles on my bike and I haven't hung it up yet! We did two organized rides, one with the Health Access Network that Dr. Nesin organized. That was a 54 mile ride from Enfield to Old Town then back to Enfield via the Southgate Road. Another ride was for the Penobscot Land Trust. That was a shorter one of only 28 miles around the river through Old Town, Brewer and Bangor. All the rest of our mileage was put on close to home with loop-trips we designed. I think my favorite ride of the summer was a 40 mile loop ride we did in "The County" where Mark is from. Beautiful country. Beautiful farms. Beautiful porches.I rode in Brad's airplane. My son-in-law got his pilot's license and bought an airplane. He took me for a ride over my house so I could take aerial shots and he thought he was quite funny when he banked the plane back over again so I could get more shots. Kristie and I both turned green and I was looking for a barf bag after that. I got a lot of shots (most I had no clue I took because as soon as he banked the plane, I just began snapping pictures). I pretended I was fine because wouldn't that look bad if I was the first person to ride in his plane and get sick?? Then he took us north and we flew through the peaks of Mt. Katahdin. This is the second time I've flown over Katahdin and it's amazing. I've climbed it 6 times and it's so majestic to see it either way-from the air or underfoot. He got a thumbs up from me for being a great pilot. It's amazing how much he had to learn and I am in awe of it all. I'm going up again soon to see the fall leaves.
Our annual Hayburgh Weekend was a success. We've been having our camping party at the Hayburgh Acres (Hayburgh Acres is actually my house! Mark's last name is Hayward and mine is Oldenburgh-so we combined the names) now for 4 years in an effort to get the whole family together for a whole weekend in a camping atmosphere. The weekend is completely full of fun outdoor activities. Sometimes we start the event off with line dancing and there's always good food. There's swimming in the pool. Badminton, wrap around, and beanbag madness are games everyone likes to play as well. Each night we have a campfire. This year, we all shared our favorite memories of mom and dad knowing it was the year of their 50th. During the day, everyone goes over to Kristie and Brad's camp to ride their boat and the Jet-ski. While we're all there, Mark stays back and sets up the best part of the weekend. Each year, (being the phys. ed. teacher he is) he designs some sort of a physical challenge game we all compete in. One year it was a scavenger hunt through the woods. Each time we found an item, we had to go back for our next hunt but before we could go find it, we had to do a physical challenge (jump a weighted rope 100 times, throw a fox tail in a bulls eye, etc). One year we did an amazing race sort of game where he had clues in envelopes and we had to find trail markers hidden everywhere. This past year he did a version of A Minute to Win It-he called ours I'm in it to Win It. It was raining, so we had to do everything in the garage. It was fun though. My niece is trying to capture an Oreo in her mouth by scrunching her face up to make it move!

I worked all summer, but only when I wanted to! I love that kind of a job. I work for Jan K. at the university in her book room. It's such a different job than what I do year round. I unpack new books and label them. I organize the books in her book room. I restock books on the shelf that others have left. Then Jan comes up with a new idea (Let's put all the books in Room 308!) and I move them all again! So, it's a physical job, but a good one. Whenever she'd ask me when I'd be in the next week, I'd say, "When it rains." Because of the incredible weather we had, I had to break my own rules about working. Many days I worked when it wasn't raining!

I took two classes over the summer. I wrote stories in the Northeast Writing Institute. I actually worked on some stories for my parents anniversary book. I might be able to figure out how to link it here so you can all look at it. I also took a fiction course instructed by Kate Kennedy. She's an amazing writer and an amazing instructor. I was really working out of my comfort level, because I rarely write fiction. She truly guided us all along to get our pieces done!

Mark painted the kitchen cupboards during my fiction seminar I took. It's something I've been wanting to do since we moved in here, but I have a hard time starting big projects like that and finishing them! And...he's a much better, maybe neater, painter than I am. They look amazing. I chose a cream color for the top cupboards and an avocado green for the bottom. I love them.

We celebrated my parents 50th anniversary. They make it all look so easy.

I went to the wedding of my best friend's daughter. It was a beautiful day on the coast of Maine.

Mark and I got interested in Geocaching. We might make our own caches next year for others to find!

I sat on my front porch every single day. I had tea with my best friend on my front porch. I practiced my guitar on my front porch. On my front porch, we had a sing along while my uncle and my cousin played guitar. On my front porch, I watched summer turn into fall. I love my front porch. I am truly blessed.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Before and After Salsa

I had an abundance of tomatoes this year and I didn't need to can any stewed tomatoes, so I decided to make some delicious salsa.
  • First I dipped the tomatoes in hot water to get the skins loose and removed all the skins.
  • Then I cut up all the veggies: I added onions, red peppers, green peppers and hot peppers.
  • The onions get me every single time. After the tears were wiped away, I dumped everything into the big pot and added some pepper.
  • The salsa simmered for a few hours and the whole house smelled incredible!
  • When the salsa was ready, I processed the jars on my barbecue grill stove because my house stove can't handle such a large canner.
I totally forgot to take an after picture of all the pretty jars of salsa and now that they are stored down in the basement, I don't think I'll bring them back up for a photo. Rest assured, when it's cold and windy and snowing out this winter, I'll be pulling out a jar of this heat and loving every single bite.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why I Don't Watch Movies

My latest assignment for class was to watch a movie. I honestly admitted I don't watch movies. I rarely watch TV. I actually watch one show a week: Modern Family. I used to watch Lost and if you followed that show, you know it's over. Too bad. I haven't rented a movie for 5 whole years! When we first moved into our house, we didn't have any hookup to cable so we rented movies and found we were so busy outside, we didn't watch them so we stopped renting and haven't looked back since.
I'd rather be outside than watching TV. My favorite pastime outside right nowis jogging on a quiet dirt road across the street from me. I only have to hook my dogs on a leash for about 500 yards, then they are free to run the whole time. This road actually saved me. I haven't been able to jog for more than 2 miles in the last year due to a knee injury. My doctor told me I could try three things before further treatment: run on the opposite side of the road due to crowned roads, jog on a dirt road or don't jog at all. I tried running on the other side of the road, but it didn't seem to make a difference. I drove 7 miles down the road to get to a dirt road and found that with my 45 minute commute, that wasn't going to work. So, I biked. A lot. Then last winter, a logging company came in and created this awesome dirt road. We spent many sleepless nights while they worked all night long cutting trees across the road. Little did we know at the time the sleepless nights would give us a new road to enjoy. We got permission from the owners and now we can jog with the dogs, snowshoe and four-wheel for miles. I'm still biking, but right now I'm enjoying coming home from work and taking these dogs for a walk down the dirt road.
I'm already looking forward to my jog tomorrow, hopefully it's not raining!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Orbis Pictus Discussion Group

Tonight was my first discussion group meeting to help choose the BEST nonfiction title for 2011 for the Orbis Pictus Award. This award "promotes and recognizes excellence in nonfiction writing." Jan Kristo invited me and 8 others to be in this great discussion group and tonight we were able to browse through the many contenders and choose some to take back and "test-drive" with our students! One favorite that I think my students will love is Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrations by Bryan Collier. This story is about Dave, a 19th century slave who was a skilled potter and poet. He often carved poems into his pottery before it had dried, along with the date and his name. The back matter has a lot to offer as well. Not only do we learn he had lost a leg during his life and relied on another slave to push the pottery pedal, the author also admits there is no recorded history as to how he learned to write at a time when education of slaves was prohibited. The watercolor collage illustrations tell a story and really focus on Dave's hands. Go find this book and read it to your class-it just might be the Orbis Pictus Award winner!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Funny Things My Students Say and Do

Today we were heading down the long hall to get on the bus. A first grade class nearby was traveling first, so I stopped my class to let them all pass. That class had a substitute on this rainy day. They were not walking in their typical straight line and they were not quiet! Many sounded like they were on the playground and some were bouncing all over the place. As we watched the line, one of my second grade boys patted me on the back and waved his other hand out to present this group to me and said, "Ms. O., and meet your second grade students for next year." I looked at him and smiled and said, "Why thank you for getting me so excited for next year on our 9th day of school." His reply: "Don't worry, they won't all be yours. Some will go to Mrs. White and quite a few of them will probably stay back!" What a perceptive little boy! I love this kid. He makes my day-every day. It's going to be a great year.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why I Haven't Written on My Blog (Or anyone else's for that matter!)

So my 3 sisters and I have been writing a book for a special occasion. This year, my parents have been married for 50 years. You don't see that very often nowadays. Last Sunday, we celebrated their 50 years with an intimate gathering at my daughter's camp on Cold Stream. There were 21 in attendance. If we had our way, we would have invited the world, but we already did that on their 30th and last year they reminded us they didn't want a big party for their 50th. They really meant it. So we planned a family barbecue with only the immediate family. It was actually a very special day. The weather was perfect. The grandchildren enjoyed playing beanbag madness and riding the 4-wheeler up and down the dirt camp road. The dogs all enjoyed a jump off the dock into the water. And the rest of us, our hearts swelled with pride at this great accomplishment. We played "To Tell the Truth" where we learned some little stories about our mom and dad that we never knew-like where they first kissed (neither could agree on this answer!), their first vehicle as a married couple (it was a Jeep, I never saw that one), and their favorite part of being married for 50 years (both agreed it was raising the 4 of us...awwww). Dad said his favorite times were taking us all camping.
The food was fantastic-Brad cooked the Rib-Eyes on an open fire, salads were served and the corn was sweet and yummy. After mom and dad cut the cake, we had an anniversary dance and then we shared the book we had been working on for months! I projected the whole book on a big screen so everyone could see it as mom and dad flipped through the pages. This book will be a family treasure for years to come. I'm glad we all wrote these family stories because the older I get, the fine details start to get fuzzy. I want to remember them forever. Just like the 50th anniversary party. I didn't want it to end.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Naming the Blog

I've been considering a personal blog for quite some time. Last summer I created a Bucket Blog. I blogged about all the things I wanted to do last summer. I got the list up, posted some inspring pictures, and never posted again. I have several school blogs I have created. One was quite successful as my students' parents got to follow the adventures of our giant runaway gingerbread baby cookie. This one is for me. A place to write about me, my simple adventures, my family, the food I love and eat, my exercising habits, and maybe a story or two about my teaching life.
I love my front porch. It was one of the things I said we'd have to build if we bought this house. Mark was willing to let me have anything I wanted because he knew how much I didn't want to leave my old house. So, we had a large mudroom built, with a front porch. And to complete this front porch, I bought two Walpole Rockers. The wood for these rockers is manufactured right down the road from me in Chester, the home to our very own Miss Maine, Arikka Knights, one of my daughter's great friends.
Our front porch is a gathering place. It's a listening place. It's a watching place. And now, until the colder weather sets in, it's a place where blogs blossom.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

About Me

I'm a Maine Girl. I was born in Lincoln, Maine, raised in Lincoln, Maine and lived in Lincoln, Maine for 40 years. As a matter of fact, I actually bought the house I grew up in and lived there for quite some time until the day came to sell it and move. That move sent me to Enfield, Maine, where I now live a comfortable, quiet life on my 7 acres of land with my fiance of 20 years, Mark and my two dogs, Daisy and Boomer.
My girls, Kristie and Nikki, also live close by. Kristie works as a marketing executive at the Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln, the Credit Union in Old Town, and she also works for her husband, Brad Libby, CEO of In their spare time, they enjoy their dog, Izzi. Nikki is working towards earning her degree as a dental hygienist. She also works part-time at Gilmoor's Ice-Cream stand and filling in at various dental offices. In her free time, she enjoys her black dog, Guinness.
I have been teaching for 15 years and currently teach second grade in Orono. I also teach a college course: Seminar in Student Teaching. I am also pursuing my second masters in literacy.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Today was a geocaching day, but we didn't have much success. We set out to search for eight caches, and only found one! I will say that one was kinda fun and made me want to go find more (another day). The one we did find was on an old deserted road near the Penobscot River. The dogs ran all through the woods looking for it, too, but they didn't have the GPS advantage to help them along. When I came to the GPS coordinates in the woods, I found an overturned rubber tub. I almost kept going, then decided to flip the tub over. That's where I found the cache. I screamed when I flipped the tub over because there in front of me was a great big plastic black rat! I put the tub right back over it and yelled to tell Mark I thought I found it. We picked the rat up and underneath there was a large slit. Inside its belly was a pill bottle. A tiny paper was rolled up inside. 12 names were written on the rolled up paper. We added the 13th: kimark. After the dogs enjoyed a swim in the river, we drove on to our next site, a spring. No caches at the spring today.