Progressive Poem 2019

Today I jump into the middle of a poem-in-the-making along with 29 other blogging poets. I am not going to kid you, this is an intimidating adventure for me, as I consider myself truly a novice poet. I am sharing company with some very gifted writers who inspire me greatly.

At Day 11, I am nearly at the midpoint of our song lyric poem. I’m happy to say that song lyrics are a happy place for me to be. Music has always, and continues to be a big part of my life. Music inspires me, uplifts me, and often helps me cope with life’s challenges that come and go, often without warning.

The 10 lines so far have placed the setting – I see a beautiful summer day and sense a completely carefree spirit in the text. It makes me think of July here where I live. I’m smack-dab in the middle of summer, with NO THOUGHT of returning to school anytime soon.  Instead, I am seeing only endless warm summer days ahead of me with no demands on my time other than making a decision between going for a hike or paddle boarding for the day!

Just the other night a Facebook friend posted that he was joyfully spending the morning listening to The Carpenters. I instantly was transported back in time to elementary school when I would sing along with Karen Carpenter with all the passion my 8 year-old heart could give! I knew I would find just the right line from a Carpenters song to add.

Endless summer; I can see for miles…
Fun, fun, fun – and the whole world smiles.
No time for school- just time to play,
we swim the laughin’ sea each and every day.

You had only to rise, lean from your window,
the curtain opens on a portrait of today.
Kodachrome greens, dazzling blue,
it’s the chance of a lifetime,
make it last forever–ready? Set? Let’s Go!

Come, we’ll take a walk, the sun is shining down
Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes

Found Lines:
L1 The Who, ‘I Can See for Miles’ / The Beach Boys, ‘Endless Summer’
L2 The Beach Boys, ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ / Dean Martin, ‘When You’re Smiling’
L3 The Jamies, ‘Summertime, Summertime’
L4 The Doors ‘Summer’s Almost Gone’/ Led Zeppelin ‘Good Times, Bad Times’
L5 Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine “You had only to rise, lean from your window,”
L6 Joni Mitchell, “Chelsea Morning”
L7 Paul Simon, “Kodachrome,” “Dazzling Blue”
L8 Dan Fogelberg, “Run for the Roses”
L9 Spice Girls, “Wannabe”/ Will Smith, “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It”
L10 The Beatles, “Good Day Sunshine”
L11 The Carpenters, “Top of the World”

And now I hand off the baton to my friend, Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche. Can’t wait to see where we go next, Margaret!



SOL 2/31: I Am Poem

Late last year I stumbled upon the podcast, “The Popcast with Knox and Jamie.” The hosts, Knox McCoy and Jamie Golden are a unique duo who I believe may know more about pop culture than any anchor who has ever sat in the lead seat on Entertainment Tonight. Their spunky approach to anything pop culture from dissecting the last season of The Bachelor, to ranking Girl Scout Cookies, to dissing the latest Kardashian scandal is flat-out hilarious.

Knox recently published a book titled The Wondering Years where he shares how pop culture helped him make sense of his upbringing in the world of evangelical Christianity. In the introduction, he talks about how we as a society really don’t do introductions well. Simply stating our name and our job does not suffice. Instead, he shares how we could learn a lot from who does introductions right: characters in Game of Thrones.

Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons.

Now I know absolutely nothing about Game of Thrones, but that introduction mesmerized me. It made me instantly start crafting my own introduction, which I will share with you today, on this second day of the Slice of Life Challenge. Maybe it will prompt you to try one yourself!

I am Dani, October born, of the House Graham, First of Her Name, Last Born After Two Brothers, Self Professed Plate Spinner Extraordinaire, Co-Learner & Cat Herder of Twenty Kindergartners, Year Round Montana Mountain Climber, Confectionery Creator of Fudge Delights, Coffee Snob & Fanatic for Fine Espresso Beverages and Lover of High Quality Sheets.

SOL: NCTE Weekend Decompress

For the past four years, I have attended the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) conference, which always takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving. This gathering of teachers from all over the country is always such an inspiring time of learning for me. It is also a very special reunion weekend when I get to see old friends as well as meet and make new friends.

I am always left after these 3 days feeling super saturated with renewed vision for my teaching, new ideas for my students, and a suitcase full of books – many signed by the authors and/or illustrators themselves.This year I am feeling especially grateful for the friendships I have with fellow educators with whom I connected this weekend. They affirmed me, challenged me, and encouraged me as I return to continue the work and all I want to accomplish with my 20 young learners. My teacher soul is rejuvenated and excited to explore new ways to engage my students through reading and writing.

My new friend from Texas, Amy Bettis, a fellow kinder teacher comrade and I hope to find ways to connect our classrooms and have students share their learning with each other. Technology opens doors and crosses vast distances that otherwise would keep us from such opportunities, and we are excited to explore new possibilities with our students.

My NCTE weekend is again behind me, but I hold tight to wonderful memories, inspirational learning, and new friendships I took away. Facing the months before me, I have a reservoir of vision for my teaching and a belief in my students for what will certainly be a journey filled with joyful learning amidst much exciting discoveries together.

Oh, Procrastination!

“Our greatest weariness comes from work not done.”
~ Eric Hoffer

I am a procrastinator. I actually believe at times that I have it nearly perfected. What I haven’t mastered though, is procrastinating without consequence. When my to-do list that I am ignoring is looming about, whether there are 2 things to complete, or 20, I am not at peace. It nags at me, and often manages to get in the way of my enjoyment of whatever else I am trying to do instead of what I should do.

Over spring break last week I found plenty of side distractions that brought me far greater joy than the tasks I knew I needed to attend to. Yet while I was perusing the aisles at Target, or indulging in catching up on old blog posts from a favorite food blogger, dog-gone-it, those lesson plans and that closet full of winter clothes continued to be ignored.

What was frustrating through all of it was the weariness from procrastinating. As much as I enjoyed the distraction from doing the things I enjoyed, the reality that I had a list of other things I needed to do never left me. Such is the battle we face when we procrastinate.

By the last night of spring break, the closet of clothes was still as it was at the start of spring break. Lesson plans were done, along with a few other things on the to-do list, so overall, my battle with procrastination was a win. I just wish I hadn’t waited as long as I did. Next time, I think I’ll try writing a list to help keep me motivated.

What works for you in the procrastination battle?

#SOLC18 22/31: Reflective Wisdom with Amy Krouse Rosenthal

While packing to chaperone my 2 high school daughters’ choir tour this week, I knew I would have lots of reading and writing time on the long stretches of bus riding. One book I knew I wanted to bring was Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

I opened the book yesterday and after two sittings, sadly, I reached the end. Amy’s beautiful persona comes through on every single page. The unique interactive element of the book offers readers multiple opportunities to experience and even try out a number of her thought provoking reflections on life.

I was especially drawn to where Amy reveals the meaning of a Japanese term and shares her interpretation of it from her life.

Pronounced mo-noh noh ah-WAY-ray it means an awareness of the impermanence of all things, and a wistful, gentle sadness at their passing.

Borrowing from Amy’s interpretation, here is mine:

Celebrate! World Read Aloud Day

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

On Thursday this week, I, along with my kindergarten class, participated in our first ever World Read Aloud Day. Earlier this fall a friend shared a link to Kate Messner’s blog where Kate shared an extensive list of authors who do free Skype in the classroom visits. This was too good to be true!

I scanned the list, and found author & illustrator, Monica Carnesi. Her picture books looked wonderful, and I knew my students would love the opportunity to meet her via a Skype visit. I emailed her, and we soon confirmed a time to connect.

To familiarize my students with her work, we read both of her books in preparation for our visit. The book we chose to have her read and share with us was a delightful story titled Little Dog Lost. Oh my, if you have not read this book, you must. It tells the true story of Baltic, a dog who finds himself adrift on a chunk of ice on a river in Poland and how he is at long last rescued. My students were captivated by this story, and even more so when Miss Monica appeared live and in person on our Smart Board to read it to us!

Monica was a delight! The children hung on her every word, fully appreciating this extra special experience with a real author and illustrator. She read the story, then shared actual photos and stories about Baltic beyond what we learned from the story. They couldn’t get enough!

Baltic, shorty after his resuce – very cold, but oh so happy to be safe!

She graciously gave time for our questions, and answered each one with the greatest of detail and clarity for my young readers to understand. She was so wonderful and personable with my students! Here is young Dylan at the camera asking her question:

After our Q&A she gave us a tour of her studio and even showed us some of her actual drawings from the book, as well as a sneak peek at her next book she is working on! We felt quite lucky to be in the know of this rather secret information!

During writing workshop that afternoon, we wrote and illustrated our own reflections from the experience to share with Monica. Some students created tiny books about Baltic, while others shared how much they loved Baltic and what a brave dog he was. Connecting a story to the creator behind it made a lasting impression on them, I am certain. They continued to talk about it even the next day, some returning to their tiny books, while others started new pieces.

Have you ever done a Skype visit with an author? Kate Messner has another blog post of more authors you can contact. Now that I have done one, I am hooked. What better way to celebrate books with your students than with the actual author? I believe this experience demystified the person behind the name on the cover of a book for my students. They could see that real people are the people writing the words and drawing the pictures in the very books they read! And who knows, maybe the experience will plant a seed in a future author or illustrator whose books will delight a future kindergartner just like them.


Poetry Friday: Super Objective


Today’s #PoetryFriday is hosted by Carol @ Beyond LiteracyLink

I am currently reading a new book titled Brave Leadership by Kimberly Davis. I cannot say enough about how much I love this book and her call to action for readers. This book is for everyone, because simply put, we all have an impact in our world with the people we come in contact with each and every day.

Kimberly challenged me to look inside myself as a leader and ask, “In my role, what do I care about? Why do I personally care? What is the impact I want to have on those I lead?”

When considering answers to these questions, I find that I often get sidetracked in worrying about what others might think about me. Will I offend someone? What if they disagree with me? Worse yet, what if I make a mistake?

Kimberly’s book sheds light on what brave leaders do to combat these misleading questions; I discovered that I must adjust what I allow myself to focus on. The best of leaders focus on achieving purpose outside themselves through actionable moves.

Enter the Super Objective. As an educator, I have developed my own personal philosophies and beliefs around teaching and learning. Kimberly reveals that the problem with philosophies and beliefs is they simply live in your head and require nothing of you. Without action in our beliefs, we have no impact.

As I contemplate what my Super Objective is, I want to frame it in active words that put me on an active path in order to more effectively lead my students. I must remember that it is not simply a belief; I must be able to measure my actions against what I say I want to do.

I don’t want to focus my objective on a number or on a score. I’ve learned from Kimberly that if I focus solely on a measurable goal (e.g., All of my students will know 95% of their letter names and sounds by the end of the year) I can find myself on a slippery slope where I lose focus, my authentic self disappears, and my Super Objective is no longer leading me. Goals are good, but they need to be the byproduct of my actions, and ultimately I will achieve better results as long as I remain anchored in my Super Objective.

Reading and learning from Kimberly’s book, I felt the desire to write a poem. I wanted to encapsulate my new discoveries into a nugget of inspiration I could turn to again and again. Here is my haiku that will serve as my own personal mantra as I carefully contemplate what my Super Objective will be.


Would you like to know more about Kimberly and Brave Leadership? The first and best place is her website:

Another great opportunity is to join us on Twitter Thursday, February 8 at 8:30EST when Kimberly joins the Good To Great Twitter chat to share conversation about her book. If you have never done a Twitter chat, I encourage you to come! Enter the hashtag #g2great and you’re in! The conversation will be lively and fast-paced, but the beauty of Twitter chats is you can take your time, reading tweets and interacting at your on pace. The Good To Great community is a warm & welcoming group of educators from many backgrounds, and we love newcomers. Hope to connect with you there!

Celebrate! Silly Snowmen Stories

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

Teaching writing is hard work. Every classroom of students presents unique and different challenges for the classroom teacher. This year I am teaching kindergarten for the first time, and working alongside these little learners has proven to challenge me in ways I did not anticipate.

Simply holding a pencil for some of my students is a challenge. Others arrived in my room with stories already churning inside of them, eager for pencil/marker/crayon and paper. Between those ends of the spectrum were many who have been slowly finding their way as emergent writers, leaning in during mini lessons, willing to try new ideas in their writing along the way.

I purchased a book at NCTE in November titled Text Structures from Nursery Rhymes. Authors Gretchen Bernbei, Kayla Shook, and Jayne Hover present 53 lessons using nursery rhymes to help our youngest primary grade writers grasp an understanding of text structure in writing. What I love about this book is how they reveal how we can break down simple nursery rhymes to reveal the story telling taking place in them. From there the fun begins, as together, teacher and students apply these elements to their own stories, first in shared writing experiences, and finally to students infusing the structures into their own story ideas.

I am just beginning to introduce these lessons to my budding writers. Over the past 2 weeks we have been focusing on descriptive writing using the nursery rhyme, I’m a Little Teapot. Most of the children grasped the text structure elements in our shared writing, but applying it to their own ideas during independent writing proved challenging for many. At times I felt defeated. Some days as we closed our workshop, I questioned my approach, wondering if we should (or I could!) continue. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I had the stamina to keep trying.

What I have learned in my years of teaching writing in grades 1-3 is that often writing is messy. Many days can be down right ugly. Venturing into new and more challenging work is tricky, but when I have persevered with my students, patiently re-teaching when necessary and adding support  where needed, time and time again they flourish. So when their initial attempts to apply the structure lesson to their own ideas was missing the mark, I decided to try a shared entry point for writing, and have everyone write around the same topic.

Enter Snowman craftivity!

Who doesn’t love a snowman project in the middle of the January doldrums? Our frosty snowman scenes (thanks to a final wash of “magic water” to create a blizzard-like look of snow) were just the inspiration my kiddos needed to share funny stories of their snowmen. 


At the close of this week, I proudly poured over my students’ snowmen stories. From my independent writers to those who needed step-by-step support and everyone in between, I could not be more excited to celebrate where each of them are in their writing journey. I won’t say the days we spent this week were all easy, but I will say they were filled with lots of laughs, smiles, and joy as proud writers sat up a little taller when it was their turn to share their writing from the Author’s Chair.


At the start of the new year I have enjoyed reading the many blog posts featuring The Best Of 2017 book lists. My go-to bloggers with the very best lists include Nerdy Book Club, Dylan Teut, and two of my favorite podcasters; from All The Wonders, Matthew C Winner, and from Books Between, Corrina Allen. If you are looking for excellent lists of the best books from 2017, you will find them on any and all of these posts, guaranteed.

I have been encouraged to see many of the titles on these lists are books I discovered and read this past year. I was also excited to find even more titles I somehow missed along the way. When I recently stumbled upon a tweet from Jill Merkle sharing her blogpost about joining Carrie Gelson’s #MustReadIn2018 challenge, I was instantly motivated to put together my own TBR list for 2018.

As a kindergarten teacher, I read a lot of picture books, but it also important to me stay immersed in middle grade books. I strive to diversify across the genres, so my lists span a variety of books that included both fiction and nonfiction. When I drafted my first list, I had over 30 titles! Of course I will keep all of these titles on my radar, but for my #MustReadIn2018 list, I whittled it down to 9 picture books and 6 chapter books.

What I appreciate about Carrie’s challenge is the opportunity for participants to post 3 updates during 2018 to share progress on their reading. I look forward to reading others’ posts and continually be kept abreast of the must-reads in the year ahead, as well as share what I have read and recommend to others.

Do you have a #MustReadIn2018 list? There are no hard and fast rules to join the movement; just a passion for reading and a love of sharing what you are reading! Simply go to Carrie’s website,

Celebrate: Montana National Writing Project 2017

I just completed 2 weeks at Montana’s National Writing Project. It was an incredible 10 days of learning full of writing, sharing, and fantastic, focused learning around writing instruction. The 30+ teacher educators I learned alongside were amazing and represented a wide variety of teaching backgrounds, making the overall experience unforgettable.

Having never attended a NWP institute, I was not entirely sure what to expect. What I came to discover was the NWP experience is what you bring in, what you presently & concurrently engage in as you participate in the work, and what you purposefully take back to your classroom and implement with your students.

You will write! A lot. Makes sense, since it is the Montana Writing Project, right? After all, we are all teachers of writing in one capacity or another, and if we are going to expect our students to write, we should ourselves embrace & delve into the writing process.

And what better place to do that than here! Surrounded by supportive leaders who want only to see each participant grow and succeed in bettering their instructional practice. The MTWP is a safe, inviting, and engaging environment for any educator who wishes to improve both as a teacher and a writer.

The leadership team painstakingly ensures that everything participants do has been thoughtfully planned in advance and is meticulously supported with the appropriate balance of resources, activities, and solid model teaching. Despite the fact we are a group of 30+ educators who teach K-16, each one of us I am certain left class each day having been challenged, renewed, and feeling empowered as teachers.

The MTWP builds literacy leaders. The leadership team models this for us as classroom teachers themselves just like the rest of us. This is powerful to me personally. Often I think classroom teachers equate educational leaders to consultants, professors, and administrators exclusively. While these educators certainly do sit in positions of leadership from whom we can and do learn a great deal from, classroom teachers must also see themselves as powerful leaders who have valuable and insightful first-hand knowledge to share.

The daily in-the-trenches experiences we all have from our presence in classrooms each day, working side-by-side with students gives us a different platform to stand on. Not to imply that we know more or are the experts, but rather that we can share the here-and-now of both the challenges and victories that come right out of our classrooms. We understand the struggles that come with unmotivated learners, unreliable technology, and unrealistic demands on our time. We live it.

Those who don’t let themselves get weighed down in the muck and mire of the struggles but instead persevere, believing that their unmotivated student will show up in class today, the day’s lesson will be engaging, and the students will meet the learning goals for the unit of study are the teachers who need to step into leadership roles.

It doesn’t have to be a 3-hour Powerpoint presentation to every teacher in the district. It doesn’t even have to be sharing at a staff meeting (but that is a great place to start). Instead, it could just simply be sharing with your grade level colleagues and a PLC. Inviting them to watch you teach a lesson, then offering to watch them and share feedback with each other.

My experience at the Montana National Writing Project taught me that leadership can start small. It just needs to start.

Thank you, Ruth Ayres, for creating a place for teachers to Celebrate. Share your story of celebration with others by clicking the image below.