A Day with a Writer

Yesterday I got to spend a day with a writer, and not just any writer…Nora Raleigh Baskin. She is kind and generous. She is smart and funny. She made yesterday a day we will all remember for a long time.
I picked her up at her hotel in the morning. We chatted for the entire ride to school. She’s so easy to talk to and we have so much to share. At school, things get set up. The technology magically works and kids begin arriving. I could feel the excitement. So many people stopped and listened to her talk, but the sixth graders were so excited. (I’ll get reactions today in class.) 

She talked about how she got the idea for the book, what it was like writing about an event like 9/11, and how it was like writing four books in one. Throughout her talk, she engaged the students and asked them questions. She talked about how books are windows and mirrors to the reader. She talked about the hard work of writing and revising and research.

During lunch, she asked the teachers for feedback on her presentations. What do you think? How is it going? Nora is a great listener. When she listens you feel like the most important person in the world.
She signed book after book after book. She took her time and really talked to the students as she signed. One student told her his idea about a book. Another student shared the research she did about Nora. Nora listened intently and her face lit up when the kids shared these things with her.

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She graciously posed for pictures. She talked about how she became a writer. In sixth grade, her teacher read her story to the class. He said it was the best one. In that moment, she decided to be a writer. One student asked for advice to young writers and her answer was, “Write your truth. Write from the heart.”

I’m rereading this post and it’s like a book report of the day, but I don’t want to forget a moment. Here are some of the things she said,
“Writing healed me.”
“Writing is magical.”
“I use a new notebook and a new pen when I start a new book.”
“Words are very important to me.”

On a personal level, Nora is a new friend. A day like yesterday is a dream come true. I’m grateful to Nora for her precious time. I’m grateful for everyone who helped pull this together. I can’t wait to hear what the students think!

Permission, Word Lists, and Sacred Writing Time

We are writing. We are writing every single day. Each class begins with sacred writing time. Students use their notebooks to write, to think, to make lists, to play with words, to create poetry. I had my first opportunity to read through these precious pages and I’ve struck gold. There is so much risk taking going on! I notice creativity. I see messy pages with evidence of good thinking. It’s so exciting. 

Our notebooks are being noticed by others too. Linda Urban is an author who has expressed an interest in our notebooks. She’s invited the students to write about permission. Here are some of their pages. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is a poet who has inspired us to create word lists and write poetry from those lists. Here are some poems.

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Here’s a page that made me smile! What a compliment…



Reading Zone…MAYDAY!

First quarter ended. I love that we get opportunities to start fresh a few times each year. We end our nine weeks of hard work with a reading celebration called the Zone Day. 

We bring lots of books to read. We stretch out on desks and pillows. We settle in and read. It’s heavenly! We spent some time reading our read aloud book too. 

I read Karen Harrington’s new book, Mayday. It’s not released until May, but I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy. 

I gobbled it up in one day! It’s full of drama…about a boy named Wayne who is struggling to figure out who he is supposed to be. This is happening as he survives a plane crash and learns to deal with his family and friends. Wayne is such a likable character! Karen Harrington, the author, writes tragedy so well. She communicates the layers of life…everything isn’t all good or all bad, and she steers her characters through the messiness of life. I LOVE her books! I celebrate good authors and the chance to read their writing! Look for Mayday this spring! I shared my thoughts with the author. Here’s our conversation on Twitter…

She even left a comment on my other blog…

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Look Who Saw Our Word Clouds! #27

Today is my 27th slice for the 
March Slice of Life Challenge on Two Writing Teachers.

This is the post I shared on my other blog. I thought you might want to read it…

Earlier this week I clicked on Lee Ann’s blog to make a comment. I noticed she had created a beautiful word cloud! It was made with a site that I hadn’t heard of before, Tagul. This site is amazing. I LOVE it! You can sign in with your google account and SAVE your word clouds. The choice of shapes is broad and you can upload a photo and use that for the shape. I decided to use Tagul in school with my sixth graders.

We had been working in book club books for a couple of weeks. Our reading work consisted of following a character and paying attention to his or her traits. In class, I had the groups gather together, review their notes and the books to help them make a word cloud about their book. The results amazed me! Here are a few of them…

The students worked hard on their word clouds and their creativity shined through in their choices. I decided to share some of their word clouds with the authors of the books that they were reading. They ALL responded! Here’s what they said…


Audience is POWERFUL! Students worked hard on their word clouds with no expectations. The assignment was to create the word cloud and post it on their blog. The authors of the BOOKS they are reading saw their work and responded with such kindness! I can’t wait to share this with my students today. 

Thank You from an Author!

Connecting with authors is amazing! At NCTE, I found an ARC of a book called The Honest Truth. It was the first book I read from the conference and I LOVED it! I knew just the right student for this book. Sophiah and I seem to have the same taste in reading. I shared it with her and she loved it too! I suggested that she write a review of the book. 

What Sophiah didn’t know is that I shared her review with the author, Dan Gemeinhart. Look what he posted today..


Then he shared a link to Sophiah’s blog on his Facebook page with this introduction…

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Amazing job Sophiah!


Accidental Live Tweeting with author, Kirby Larson!

OK, let me set the scene for you…it’s Friday afternoon, sixth grade, twenty-six restless students sitting in front of me, and a nice day outside the windows…I had to work hard to get through ninety minutes and make them meaningful & productive. Our focus was discussing and working on projects with our books for book clubs. The books we’re working with include:

TouchBlue by Cynthia Lord
I Survived by Lauren Tarshis
Heat by Mike Lupica
A Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthburt Soup
Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

One of the projects we attempted was tweeting as the characters of the books. I pulled twitter up on the promethean board and we discussed the why’s and how’s and what’s of twitter. I shared my twitter feed with them. We talked of hashtags and usernames and tweets. A question before they began, “My book takes place in 1917. Can I have them say LOL, even if they didn’t say it then?” I taught them the word that explains that phenomenon: “a chronological inconsistency” is an anachronism…but I allowed it, because it would be fun. Off they went to tweet as the characters from their books. The buzz was alive in the room as the students laughed about what their characters might say. Suddenly, I heard one voice above the others…”Ms. Haseltine, LOOK it’s the author of our book. She’s on twitter NOW!” It was Kirby Larson. She was responding to a tweet from someone else. So, I engaged and told her what we were up to…


The entire class stopped…and waited…for a second…and then returned to work. As I was explaining that she may have left her computer…a response appeared…

So I showed her…


It’s funny…as I look at these tweets, I realize her responses are pretty instantaneous…but sitting in class…it felt like forever! The kids were mesmerized. They (and me too) couldn’t believe that we were live tweeting with an author. In real time. In front of them. Right now! We continued to work and finally cleaned up and prepared to go home for the weekend. No response yet about the tweets…yet. I knew she’d respond. Here’s what we got:



My girls will be over the moon excited about her response. Thank you, Kirby Larson! I don’t think you know what a difference you made in a sixth grade classroom in northern Virginia on a Friday afternoon. We will never forget it!


Since I posted this blog post, here’s what has happened…

And..she wrote a comment…this is from my other blog. Here’s the comment…

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Look what came in the mail today

Before I left school, I checked my mailbox. I have to be honest, there isn’t usually anything exciting in my mailbox, until today! Look what arrived!! 

Autographed copy of One for the Murphys. Love this!

Autographed copy of One for the Murphys. Love this!


I knew that I was getting an autographed book, but look at the other goodies that came along with it…

Pen, lanyard, bookmarks, and a beautiful note.

Pen, lanyard, bookmarks, and a beautiful note.

We are so lucky to have the opportunity to speak to Lynda Mullaly Hunt about her amazing book. Can’t wait for our Skype chat. Keep reading everyone!

An author reads our “Big Plans”!

Big Plans by Bob Shea is our first read aloud of the year. We love reading it because we get to read part of it together. “I’ve got BIG PLANS! BIG PLANS, I say!”  As you walk up and down the hallways of sixth grade the first week, you can hear students repeating this in Language Arts class. After reading the book, we discussed and shared our “Big Plans”. You can see some in the video and in the pictures. These sixth graders certainly have “Big Plans”!  If the story ended here, that would be enough because I’m already so proud of each and every student in my classes…but it doesn’t end there. I posted the first Vine video on twitter and guess who commented on it? Oh, it was Bob Shea. Yes, that’s correct!


He commented on our work. His comment, “Stealing these”, sent us reeling. It’s the sixth day of school and we have already made contact with an author. Woo Hoo!






Skyping with Adriana Trigiani

Friday was the day. The long awaited Skype. I am constantly amazed, inspired, and impressed with the time that authors spend with their young adult readers. Adriana Trigiani spent an hour talking with us.

She talked to us about writing and reading. She talked to us about being girls and growing up. She talked to us about her writing secrets and inspired us to become writers ourselves. Her honesty and humor made us all feel like old friends. I’m so grateful for authors like Adriana Trigiani!


I’m so proud of my students who stayed after school on a Friday to talk about reading and writing and books. They asked insightful questions and they listened carefully. Some took notes and some took pictures. I’m proud to call myself your teacher. What an afternoon! It’s one I’ll remember always!



Here are my notes from the Skype: 





I thanked Adriana Trigiani on Facebook and this morning she responded: