May 11 2017

Test Prep

Tomorrow my sixth-grade readers take their state test in reading. In Virginia, the state tests are called SOLs. We have been preparing for tomorrow. The day before is always a tough day. The tension is palpable. I answered questions…and there were a lot of questions! I gave them a pep talk…another one and then class began. They had choices today.

  1. Make positive and motivational signs for test takers.
  2. Complete practice SOL questions.
  3. Read.
  4. Write in your notebook. 

Students were invited to do what they needed. I conferenced and checked in on their work and eavesdropped. I heard them whispering and planning their signs. I saw students reading silently and a few practicing for tomorrow with released test questions.  The class was relaxed and students were productive.  

Part of my pep talk asked them, What story are you telling yourself? I wondered aloud if they are telling themselves that they are dumb or going to fail or bad? If so, I reminded them to start telling themselves a new story. Their new story is this:

I am ready. I am prepared. I am a successful and accomplished reader. I can do this!

I reminded them that when they walk into that testing room tomorrow, they aren’t alone. I’m with them…not literally, but figuratively. I told them to imagine me sitting on their shoulder…I heard some giggles. I told them to envision me sitting on the top of the computer screen…now there are guffaws and someone blurts out, “You mean, like a floating head?!?!” I smiled and agreed. I told them to imagine whatever helps them.

These signs are hanging in the hall as they walk into our classroom. Here they are…


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March 22 2017

Picture Book Publication Choices

I feel awful. I messed up. I really messed up. We are working on picture book projects and I miscounted the pages in the picture books. I thought sixteen pages meant there were sixteen pages that would turn into thirty-two pages! NO. Sixteen pages meant eight pages with two sides.

We don’t have enough pages and we don’t have enough books.

Here are your choices:

  1. Two books for your story. We won’t be able to put them together.
  2. Publish your story on Google Slides and get images from the Britannica Image Quest on Library Resources.
  3. Publish your story on Google Slides and print out and draw the pictures.

I am so sorry about my mistake. Thank you for working with me and making the best of this. Block 3/7, please comment on this post and let me know what your group decides.  

March 22 2017

Write. Every. Day.

The school day moves quickly. If you are a teacher, you live that life daily. At the beginning of my sixth-grade classes, we spend a few minutes every day writing in our notebooks. We call it Sacred Writing Time. (In my notebook entries, you’ll see my abbreviation, SWT.) It truly is a precious time to me and my students. Here are some blurbs from my entries on Tuesday. Judge for yourself. Do you spend any time writing with your students on a daily basis? If not, I urge you to try it…it’s life changing… 

Here’s why I wrote, “I love Jessica”…

Spending the beginning moments of a class, writing together has so many benefits.

  1. We live like writers. We show up to the page every single day.
  2. Routine breaks down the resistance to writing.
  3. We build ourselves as writers…word by word, sentence by sentence, page by page.
  4. There’s calm and quiet in the middle of chaos and pressure.
  5. We learn to have faith that the words will come to us and the page will always be there.
March 21 2017

Flexible Seatng

Writers need
quiet and space
to focus
to think
to write.

On Monday
a student
completed project work
and decided to blog.

“Where did she go?”
I asked.
“Has anyone seen her?”

Two other students
to the back of the room
to the bookcases
and there she was


Tucked into the
shelves of the library
with her ideas
and her laptop…


Flexible seating
at it’s best!

March 20 2017

Starting Over

I am a notebooker. I proudly wear that title.

Almost everywhere I go, my notebook goes with me. I’m on notebook number 72ish. (Notebooks keep popping up after I’ve counted, so that’s frustrating. I’m not good with numbers.) I just started writing in this notebook on March 13th.

Starting a new notebook can be overwhelming, even for me. It occurred to me as the words came tumbling onto the page a couple of days ago,

After notebooking for so long, I know what I like in a notebook. I prefer blank pages and a hardbound book. My favorite notebooks to write in, come from Barnes and Noble, but I love to try new kinds…or do I?

Number 72 is from Michaels…

Different kind of cover, rounded edges to the pages…I know it sounds like those are unimportant details, but they aren’t. They matter. When I start a new notebook, it’s like starting a new relationship. I pour my heart into the words that cover those pages. It’s risky to start over. I looked back through my last two notebooks and this is a pattern…

It’s the beginning. Somehow, these words feel more important…bigger. Maybe that’s what stops lots of people.

…the pressure of being perfect. Hmmm, well now I have something to think about. I’m doing lots of writing about notebooks and this new notebook seems to be teaching me some new lessons. My students continue to teach me lessons about my own notebook practice. They love my writing. Last week they told me how beautiful it is. When I look at my writing, I see messy and mistakes. I yearn to have beautiful penmanship and make my “e”s better and on and on. It proves to me that we all see our own work with such a critical eye.

Here’s a peek into the covers and title pages of my last three notebooks… 

Number #70
September, 2016 – December, 2016

Number #71
January, 2017 – March, 2017

Number #72
March, 2017 –

March 13 2017

I Am a Writer. Right?

What is a writer? Are you a writer? Am I? So many teachers struggle with declaring themselves writers…struggle with saying, “I am a writer.” Here’s my idea of a writer…

A writer shows up to the page regularly.

A writer uses words to express and communicate.

A writer uses words to create new worlds or to make sense of this one.

A writer struggles through revision.

A writer jots.

A writer creates lists and copies quotes.

A writer takes risks and shares words with others.

A writer carries a notebook and uses it.

I believe a writer is someone who writes.

I believe a writer is someone who struggles with words and ideas.

I believe a writer must write to communicate.

I believe a writer shares some writing with an audience outside of themselves.

I believe a writer reflects and thinks through their words.

I believe a writer practices the craft regularly. 

You do not have to be published to call yourself a writer.

You do not have to be writing a book to call yourself a writer.

You need to show up.

Get words on paper.

You need to do this regularly.

Writing is thinking. The more you write, the more you think.

Writing helps me clarify my thoughts before I share them out.

Writing is reflection.

Writing creates empathy.

Your students need you to write.

Are you a writer? Yes.

Say it out loud.

Repeat after me, “I am a writer.”


March 11 2017

From Grumpy to Grateful

Do you ever have a day when you are grumpy and you can’t put your finger on a specific reason? Yesterday started out like that for me. I felt annoyed at things that normally don’t bother me and I couldn’t seem to shake it. Days like that frustrate me. What do I do? Fight it, sink into it, accept it, ignore it? I tried to control the grumpies the best I could and go on with the business of the day.

Yesterday was a day when classes were working on projects. I was moving from group to group, offering guidance and support, but the students were doing the work. My students in communications are busily filming and editing commercials. The sixth graders are beginning their picture book group projects.


As I walked around the room and listened in on conversations, I felt lighter. The picture books must include researched information from the students’ own culture and because they are working in groups, they are figuring out how to incorporate diverse cultures into one story. The conversations are powerful and inspiring and passionate and amazing. I’m watching these students learn more about their culture and the culture of others. I’m watching them create a picture book. They want to make this good. I felt the grumpies going away.


Suddenly, there was a knock on the door and another sixth grade English teacher was there. She announced that her students had performed a random act of kindness for us.

The entire class walked into our room and each of them made bookmarks, personalized bookmarks, for each of us.

And that did it, the grumpies were defeated! From grumpy to grateful…that was my Friday!

March 10 2017

You Can Blog About It!

Today in class something funny happened. Students had been working in groups and creating planning sheets for a new project. The work time was winding down and I was struggling to get the class to clean up and transition into independent reading.

After a few minutes of organizing, the students were settling down and I began summarizing what we just completed and where we will take the project tomorrow. That’s when it happened. I started to hear giggles. One student. Then another. Finally, all of them were laughing. I had no idea what they were laughing about until one student pointed out the pile of papers I was holding in my left hand.

She said, “Look, Ms. Haseltine.” One student had sketched on the back of her sheet and I was holding the sketch next to the face. When I saw it, I had to laugh too. Someone yelled out, “It kind of looks like you!” I had to agree.



The BEST part is what I heard next…”There’s your blog post for tomorrow.” They are paying attention to these moments and noticing them. They are looking for those slices during the day and writing about them. We are writers!
March 7 2017

Pause. Breathe. Love

It’s more important than ever to communicate effectively. We are quick to blame and call names. It’s tiring. I include myself in this struggle, but I’m working on it.

I am passionate about my ideas. I work hard to listen and I never name call. When I mess up, I apologize and take responsibility. I reflect on my choices and always think before responding. 

Everyone has a story. I try to live by this idea and remind myself of this when I interact with others. I work on showing grace to others, but there are moments when it all becomes too much. ENOUGH! This is where I am right now…ENOUGH…I’m disheartened by the cruelty and anger and selfishness I witness. I’m failing at showing grace and I want to understand why. Why choose snark over silence? Why choose accusations over sincere questions? Why choose anger over kindness? I don’t understand.

Kid President says that we need to pause, breathe, and love. I’m working on it. I hope the love spreads. I hope kindness is contagious. I hope we can remember that everyone has a story and I believe everyone is doing the best they can. Here’s Kid President’s advice on how to disagree…

March 6 2017

I Miss…

Doing some reminiscing.

I miss…

* Sunday dinners with my whole family
* snow and snow days
* shopping at the mall
* watching TV shows one at a time
* my mom making my lunch for me and putting a sweet note inside
* playing outside until the street lights come on
* riding around in the back of Uncle David’s car and sliding around (it was a Subaru Brat)
* Christmas Caroling with my friends every December
* getting ice cream from the Ding Dong Cart
* walking home from school with my friends, hanging out at the corner of Roosevelt and Plumtree and talking forever
* long lunches with friends at BC at the Eagle’s Nest…sometimes lunch would last until dinner
* my bedroom on Plumtree Road, where I’d listen to records and tapes and write in my notebooks
* Johnson’s Bookstore where I loved to buy notebooks and pens
* A Likely Story-the coolest children’s bookstore ever! * swimming at the Paddle Club
* visits to Vermont to see family
* family beach trips to Kennebunkport, ME and Myrtle Beach, SC