Simplicity & Specificity to the Rescue

parents-angryWhile reading an article about conferencing online with students, I was struck by the simplicity and specificity of the hints that the author recommended. It occurred to me, a focus on simplicity and being specific would probably be a helpful way to handle our new normal.

As the mother of five adult children, I have a front row seat on what it’s like to manage your work life, support your kids academics, and maintain a positive family atmosphere while sheltering-in-place. “Keep it simple” seems to be a recurring directive from teachers around the globe. Most educators realize that it is difficult for parents to step into the role of teacher in their child’s life. Many teachers themselves, my daughter included, have children of their own. Even they can’t really teach their own kids.

Anyone who has children or works with kids knows that when you are clear and specific in your approach, youngsters are more likely to respond in a positive manner. And yet, who doesn’t resort to generalizations…“We have to get this kitchen cleaned up now.” “Go finish your homework!” “You’re room is a mess. Clean it up or no TV.” Sound familiar? Here’s a few helpful hints…

  • Don’t beat yourself up                                                                                                   Everyone falls into the trap of complicating things and generalizing. We know what to do, but simply forget, especially when we feel overwhelmed and stressed. Relax. Remember Maya Angelou’s famous words, “When you know better, you do better.”
  • Keep it Simple                                                                                                                      Words have power. Simple, direct communication works best with youngsters. When kids are bombarded by a million directives, they get confused or overwhelmed and tend to tune out. Try to stop and think about your expectations and share them in a simple manner. It’s also a good idea to stay in the present. Perhaps you can make a list of all the chores, schoolwork and activities your children need to accomplish in a day, but you don’t have to verbalize it all at once. That’s a recipe for stress.                                     
  • Be Specific                                                                                                                         Without a doubt,  simplicity and specificity go hand in hand. When you give a simple directive, make it specific. When a youngster understands exactly what’s expected, he is more likely to get on board and follow through with the task. You may also want to specify a time limit or a consequence. Again, this helps set parameters and allows kids to work within them. Specificity leads to success.
  • Provide Choice                                                                                                             Sometimes, in the midst of trying to juggle all the balls, we become like drill sargeants, forgetting that everyone like to have a voice and choice in their lives. Providing choice give kids a sense of ownership and encourages responsibility. That’s a lot of bang for your buck!

Let’s consider a few examples:

Instead of, “Johnny you need to finish that Math assignment and clean up the mess you made down the basement”, you might try…                                                                                         “Johnny, Before you go outside today, I’d like you to finish your Math assignment and pick up the toys you left out down the basement.” Please get started and let me know when you’re done.”

Is it simple? Yes, there are two things he needs to do.

Is it specific? Yes. Johnny need to complete an assignment and pick up toys. “Before he can go out to play sets a clear parameter.

Does Johnny have a choice? Yes, he can do either one first.

Mary is having trouble completing an assigned book, which needs to be finished by the end of the week. You’ve noticed that her school papers are in disarray, which eats up a lot of time when she has to go online or do her work. Instead of, “Listen, you need to get on the ball, finish reading that book and get your papers in order right now!” Whew…that’s a big order. How about this approach…                                                                                              “Mary, your book needs to be finished by Friday and I notice that your papers are disorganized. It takes a lot of time to find what you need. Let’s come up with a plan. Would you be willing to commit to reading for 30 minutes each day? You could decide to do it all at once or break it up. How about if you sort your papers by subject. When you’re finished, we could work together to create a better system? How does that sound?”

Is it simple? Yes. It only deals with two things.

Is it specific? Yes. This approach creates a specific plan for accomplishing these tasks.

Does Mary have a choice? Yes. She can read for 30 minutes or break it up. She can choose to let you help her create an organizational system. What’s more, this approach respects Mary. It doesn’t put her down and make her feel like a failure. It lets her know you are on her side.

I sure hope this post doesn’t sound preachy, but I’ve been there. No doubt, the challenge this virus is putting on families is real. It’s getting long and we are all wearing thin. Hang in there. You don’t have to be perfect. From experience,  I know how much a few timely suggestions can help. I hope this smooths some rough edges for you and your family.


I can’t talk about parenting without once again, suggesting my favorite parenting book. If you are look for great ideas to preserve your sanity and your child self-esteem while setting clear limits, I urge you to check out this classic book. In fact, there’s even a new text just for parents of toddlers. You won’t be sorry!

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & How to Listen So Kids Will Talk                                              by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish

How to Talk so Little KIds Will Listen                                                                                        by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish












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Food for Thought

american breakfast celebration color

Good food is a crowd pleasure in my family. We all enjoy gathering around the table for a nice meal, going out to eat or simply noshing on some goodies as we relax in front of the TV. I’m guessing your family is not much different. That’s why all of my suggestions today relate to food. When I was child, my mother was a master at making up clever names for foods that she served. Who wouldn’t like “magic cupcakes” or “angels on a cloud”? Everyone enjoys a twist on something ordinary. So, today, I’d like to serve up these treats with the hope that they will offer tempting ways to slip some reading into your family time.

HAVE A READING PICNIC                                                                                                        May can be a fickle month, but usually about the third week, temps climb into the 70’s and start to stay there. Spread out a blanket along with some great books and invite your family to the picnic. Don’t forget to include some favorite foods or snacks. Bask in the sun, read silently or aloud and simply enjoy a little downtime with your family and your books. Don’t be discouraged if the sun doesn’t shine, just set up the blanket somewhere inside. Few kids can resist a picnic.

HAVE A POT LUCK SUPPER                                                                                                         Invite everyone in the family to bring one or two texts to the table. Any type of text will do…book, magazine article, short story, graphic novel, etc.. The idea is to bring a unique, interesting text and introduce it to others. Set aside a specific period of time for everyone to choose one from the selection and peruse it. Much like a pot luck supper, you bite into the text and share your reactions with the others. Makes for a fun night and may just introduce kids and parents alike to a delicious new “dish”.

WHAT’S FOR DESSERT?                                                                                                            Everyone ears will perk up at the word dessert. Tell your family to bring a short text, along with a treat, as dessert for dinner. After the meal, each person will have a chance to  share their treat and read aloud their text. If you want, you could change this up by deciding on a theme. For example, jokes, poems, or articles about a particular subject. Try this for a happy ending to your family meal.


Adults: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarity – Like most of this author’s books, this text reels you in and doesn’t let go. Take it outside, sit in the sun and treat yourself to a good story.

Grade 5 & up: Freak the Mighty   Heartwarming classic that youngsters won’t forget. Highly recommend it if you’re looking for a family read-aloud.

Toddlers/Pre-schoolers:  Bedtime Songs by Scarlett Wing – Sound books are very popular right now with our two little grandsons. This 11-button interactive sound book was a bit hit. Push the button and hear the song, read the text to learn the lyrics. Lovely book that would make a great gift.



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Benefit of Book Series

Book series benefit all kids, especially teens and reluctant readers. As discussed in my previous post, finding the “magic” book often prompts a magic response. The right book can change someone’s perspective. I witnessed this several  times in my teaching career. Today, I’m going to repost something I wrote back in 2017. It outlines the benefits of reading a series of books.

I’m also reposting because in the last few weeks, Nancy Drew, turned fifty! Nancy Drew will forever live in my heart as a character that created a love of reading in my life, a love that has withstood the test of time. Hope this helps you understand the power of introducing youngsters to a series of books which piques their interest and entices them into the pages of many books. 

Lure into Literature with Book Series

ND PCB box mech.indd        In third grade, I met a new friend–a friend who would change my life! Her name was Nancy Drew. From the  time I opened the first book in this series, I was swept up into Nancy’s world of adventure, mystery and even romance. Book after book, I happily journeyed with Nancy, her two best girlfriends, Bess Marvin and George Fayne, along with Ned Nickerson, Nancy’s tall, handsome, boyfriend. This classic book series gave me my first taste of “losing myself in a book”. This series led me to explore many other popular book series of the day.

cherry ames           sue barton  When I met  Cherry Ames and Judy Barton, I learned about the world of medicine and often imagined myself wearing the crisp, white uniform of a nurse.

betsy-tacy     The Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Lovelace Hart, took me to small town America at the turn of the century and helped me understand the value of close friends. The Ingalls family inspired me with their courage, independence and ingenuity as I traveled West right along with them in the series of Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.These were just a few of the book series that cast a spell and worked their magic, ultimately transforming me into a lifelong reader. My experience is not unique. Countless times in my teaching career, I saw reluctant readers transformed into avid readers once they discovered a series of books they enjoyed. At first, it does seem like magic, but when we peek behind the curtain, we can readily see the common factors which create that magical result…

 The Familiarity Factor

By the second book in a series, the reader is familiar with the main characters, the setting and the author’s style of writing. Even if the books are not part of a sequential series of books, readers already understand how the books are structured and have a sense of what to expect.

This familiarity factor provides confidence, frees up a reader’s working memory and enables them to more easily read and comprehend the text. It’s like visiting someone’s home for the second or third time. You feel grounded, you’re more at ease, you know where things are and what to expect, so you can relax and enjoy the visit more each time.

Reading Volume

Once hooked on a series, kids tend to readily pick up the next book, eliminating wasted time deciding on what to read next and providing the motivation to keep going. This equates to an increase in reading volume, which is a very big deal for youngsters who have trouble getting into a book. Research repeatedly proves the power of reading volume. The more kids read, the better their chances of academic success.


Reluctant readers of any age, need a boost of confidence. For the reluctant reader, the ability to read, enjoy, comprehend and complete several books in a timely manner, can be just the boost they need to spur them on.  Encouraging kids to delve into a new series of books may provide the key that opens the door to reading and enables them to see themselves as “readers”.

Entrance into the Community of Readers

Typically, certain book series become popular among members of a class. When a youngster reads books in the series, he gains entrance into this community of readers. In addition to being a solitary experience, reading becomes a social experience. The characters and plot provide fodder for discussion, book swaps and even role play as kids join together to extend the reading experience. Enjoying a book series with family, friends or classmates can lure the most reluctant reader into a life of literacy.

Memorable Experience

Reading several or all books in a series creates a memorable experience. Over time, the reader becomes deeply engaged with the characters and genuinely interested in their lives. Several years ago, I happened upon a Betsy-Tacy book. Immediately, I was transported back to my childhood. I felt like I had run into an old friend and hurriedly purchased the book so I could become reconnected with my pals. I’m sure many of you understand exactly what I mean. I’m sure many of you would like to recreate those pleasurable reading experiences for your own kids. What are you waiting for? Check out some book series suggestions that I’ll share on Wednesday and Friday, check back in your own mind for those special books you can now share with your kids, and check in here to share your own treasured series with others.

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Covid Crisis: Supporting Our Teens


Over the past week, I’ve heard so many people say the words, “This is getting long.” Folks that a month ago, (myself included), willingly hunkered down, made a list of activities to keep them busy, prove their grit, and stay relatively content, are now getting itchy. We have three grand daughters between the ages of twelve and fifteen, so I’ve been mindful of how this affects that age group, and I would venture to say, they are the itchest of all!

Even at my age, it doesn’t take much to travel back in my mind to my younger self. Around age twelve, the importance of friends in my life seem to supersede family. I began to talk on the phone a lot, beg to stay out later on a Friday or Saturday night, start to get interested in the opposite sex and experience a greater need for privacy and privileges, which often created conflict with my parents. No mystery here, I was an adolescent. I was doing my developmental job and doing it well. Thankfully, I did not have to spend part of that time in the midst of a pandemic.

With that said, my heart also goes out to those devoted parents of adolescents. No doubt, this crisis has created opportunities for bonding and quality family fun. On the other hand, I doubt few families are sailing through this without their share of conflict. I’m sure many moms and dads are just wishing for a little bit of magic to change the situation. I can only imagine being confined with all five of our kids for well over a month and having to oversee their education progress, as well (and I’m a teacher!). All I can say is relax and be gentle on yourselves and your kids.

Today, I simply want to reach out to those who are experiencing the angst of adolescence, either personally or through their children. I will always believe that the “magic book” can help ease many situations. At the least, reading can provide a respite and at its best, reading offers insights, perspectives, new worlds that help youngsters to think critically, reflect deeply and grow. Of course, for some, the trick is to simply get them to pick up a books or magazine (and that will be a topic later in the week). But, as a teacher who worked with struggling adolescent readers for a good number of years, I saw first hand the power of a “just-right” book…a book that intrigues and offers opportunity for a successful reading experience. With that in mind, may I suggest you check out these young adult authors and consider whether one of their books might be a good fit for your adolescent.

FICTION: Sharon Draper, Lois Lowry, R. J. Palacio, Raina Telgemeier, Pam Munoz Ryan, Laurie Halse Anderson, Marion Dane Bauer, Kate Messner

FANTASY: Rick Riordan, Margaret Peternon Haddix, Gordon Korman, J.R.R. Tolkien, Eoin Colfer

SPORTS: Chris Crutcher, Robert Lipsyte, Carl Deuker, Matt Christopher, Mike Lupica,             John Feinstein

Friends, may I also encourage you to proceed with caution as you make decisions about how you will navigate the “new normal”. Illness and death still run rampant and we can’t afford to get this wrong. My sincere hope is that all of us will err on the side of caution because the price of bad choices is too high to pay. Hang in there and let reading ease the way for you and your kids.




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Cultural Literacy & Mother Goose


It’s common knowledge that May 1st is known as May Day. However, in the literary realm, National Mother Goose Day is celebrated on May 1st. In 1695, Charles Perrault published his collection of fairy tales, with an English version of these stories published in 1729. Even today, these traditional tales and verses hold a place of importance. They form part of what is known as our cultural literacy. “Cultural literacy is a term coined by E. D. Hirsch. The culturally literate person is able to talk to and understand others in that culture when they use allusions, references to past events, idiomatic expression, jokes, names, etc.”

Truth be told, prior to taking coursework to become a reading specialist, I’d never heard the term cultural literacy. I learned that it refers to that body of stories, poems, movies, historical events and more that are readily familiar within a particular culture. Without thought, we use references based on our cultural literacy with the expectation that meaning will be clear to others within our culture. Here’s a few examples…

“Mary is so good with children. She is the Pied Piper of the neighborhood.” 

“You better watch out for him. I think he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” 

“You don’t want to go down that rabbit hole again.”

All of these sentences allude to a story, movie or book familiar in our culture. Additionally, cultural literacy includes expressions and references people within that culture are expected to understand. Cultural literacy is acquired through our schooling but also through exposure to books, poems, movies, conversation and experiences in all the other aspects of our life.

Back in the early 2000’s, when my daughter and I were teaching in the same school, we decided to do a unit on fairy tales. Prior to starting the unit, wanting to assess prior knowledge, we asked seventh graders to match characters with the title of the fairy tale they were in. We were shocked at the results. A large percentage of the students had very low scores, demonstrating that they lacked exposure to prominent tales that are part of our cultural literacy. We gathered tons of books and other resources and designed a unit to acquaint kids with these stories. They read fairy tales, wrote original fairy tales, discussed fairy tales and ended the unit watching Shrek and eating popcorn. That was a long time ago, but I still remember how delighted we were by the positive reaction of our middle school students.

Are your children seeped in cultural literacy? Throughout their lives, they will be confronted with allusions to stories, characters, and events. A lack of familiarity will become an obstacle. Perhaps today is a good day to pull out that old book of fairy tales or Mother Goose rhymes. Perhaps this time of social distancing offers an opportunity to watch some classic movies together. Cultural literacy is accrued when something can withstand the test of time, usually because it resonates so deeply from one generation to another. Don’t let your kids miss out on this important aspect of their education. Discuss historical events, seek out classic movies, visit notable places and read literature that has withstood the test of time. In this challenging environment, we might all find comfort within the pages of a Mother Goose book.

I’ve chosen the two winners of this book by Aimee Chase. I will announce their names after I contact them personally.                                    Present not Perfect


The Real Mother Goose by Blanche Fisher Wright – Offers all the essential rhymes handed down from generation to generation along with lovely illustration to entice readers.


The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer – Imaginative tales that take you into a world populated by fairy tale characters. Great for Kids from Grade 3 up. Two of my grand kids read the entire series and loved it! 

For Adults:

Cultural Literacy, What Every American Needs to Know – Delve into this important text to discover why building cultural literacy is essential.




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Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day


beverage in cup next to open book

Photo by Ena Marinkovic on

By now you know that April is National Poetry Month, but do you know that today is Poem in Your Pocket Day? This special day to celebrate poetry was begun in April 2002 in New York City. In 2008, The Academy of American Poetry shared this initiative with the rest of the country and encouraged participation.

This year, more than others, I believe it’s important to honor the place of poetry in our country, our homes and our hearts. We find ourselves sharing a common enemy, trying to survive in a unique historical time, searching for ways to navigate a “new normal”. Words have power. Poetry has a magical way of communicating deep feelings in a concise, clever manner. Poems can uplift, explain, reveal, unravel the breadth and depth of our experiences and feelings. Poems can tell stories, save memories. Poems can touch our hearts and ease our minds. So, today, won’t you take a few minutes to celebrate the gift of poetry in your life and encourage your family to do the same? Here are few suggestions…

Participating in Poem in Your Pocket Day

  • Write a poem
  • Share a poem you love or a poem you’ve written
  • Read a poem aloud to someone special
  • Record and share yourself reading a poem and post it online
  • Create a drawing to accompany a poem you love.
  • Play a game: Give each player a certain amount of time to find or write poems. The one who comes back with the most poems, wins the game.
  • Use your creativity to come up with other ideas.

In the spirit of day, I am proud to share a poem written by my grandson, Patrick…

Even though we are in this mess,                                                                                                  We can still find things to play, like chess.

I know the Quarantine is getting boring.                                                                                        But at least we get to do some extra snoring.

Right now, I know, we have to distance.                                                                                          But I guess this is kind of a good experience.

Just a reminder that tomorrow I will announce the two winners of this book. Anyone who has become a follower of this blog during the month of April will be eligible to win a copy and another copy will go to readers who have followed this block prior to April. FOLLOW by midnight tonight to participate.

Present not Perfect

Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day, Everyone!



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Share Some Magic-Write a Gift Poem

Apologies for being off my blogging schedule this week. A beloved relative is in serious condition and the past few days have been an emotional stew for my family and me.

As we conclude National Poetry Month, poetry will be the topic of my next two posts. This week, I was asked to be a guest speaker in someone’s “virtual classroom”. Since Mother’s Day is around the corner and Father’s Day not far behind, I thought I’d teach the students how to create a gift poem. It occurred to me that this lesson plan might come in handy for teachers who read this blog or parents looking for creative activities to share with their kids. Here is the script (lesson plan) for my virtual lesson, along with a few notes (in red) for you.

BE A POET:  Learn the magic of creating and sharing poetry


 Hi, Everyone. I am so glad to be with you today and the share the magic of poetry. I love poetry and to me a poem is like a little piece of magic. In just a few words you can share your feelings and ideas. What’s even more magical, is the effect your poem can have on another person. Let me show you what I mean…

I love to “work my magic” and create poems for people I love and for special occasions. Here are a few of the poems I’ve created. I give them as gifts or sometimes sell them so others can use my words to convey their emotions. Let me show you some sample gift poems I’ve created…  

SHOW SAMPLE POEMS:  Find some examples of poems written about someone to share

BRAINSTORM: Can you think of someone you would like to write a poem for? Here are a few ideas…                                                                                                                                  Mothers’ Day is only a few weeks away, how about a poem to your mother? 

How about your Dad?

Is there a grandparent, special aunt or uncle that you haven’t seen for awhile?

Are you missing your teacher or friends? Perhaps you could write a poem for them. 


Welcome back. Did you choose a person that you will write about? Please put the name of that person at the top of the page and I’ll show you how to begin the magic. You know, being a magician requires preparation and practice. The first step in writing our gift poem is to brainstorm. I’ll show you what I did and then you will have a chance to do the same thing.

I am choosing to write a poem about my grand-daughter, Shannon. First, I’ll jot down words that describe Shannon:  Curly hair, shining blue eyes, a tilt to her nose, giggly, funny, smart, tenderhearted, loves basketball, plays rugby, Girl Scout, looks like her mom, crafty, plays the piano, sings, friendly

I used some of my ideas to create these poems about Shannon:

I feel a little achy, deep inside my heart,                                                                                        Because it’s been a while now that we’ve been apart. 

I miss your shining blue eyes                                                                                                       and the giggles that we share.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           I’m sad that I can’t hug you                                                                                                          and show you how much I care. 

I miss watching your play basketball a                                                                                      and singing in the car.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I miss your piano music                                                                                                              and seeing you close, not from afar. 

Our many Facebook visits                                                                                                            are the best part of a day.

It’s fun when you pop up on zoom                                                                                              and we find games to play. 

Soon this will be over.                                                                                                              We’ll share hugs,and games and fun. 

Shannon Rita you are a grand daughter,                                                                                        Who is second to none.  

Remember, poems don’t have to rhyme. Here’s an example…

Who can light the room with a smile?                                                                                   Who can make my heart dance with glee?                                                                            Who’s a super baker and basketball player?                                                                                Who’s a friend to you and to me?                                                                                                   Who is a lovely young lady?                                                                                                           Who’s filled with love and with joy.                                                                                               Who plays the piano and sings her songs?                                                                                   Who’s  a special grand daughter to me?                                                                                  SHANNON

TRY IT…Boys and Girls, you can make magic from words. You can also touch the heart of another by writing a poem and sharing it with them. Take the rest of our time to begin your gift poem. 

  1. Brainstorm
  2. Draft one or two versions 
  3. Revise until you are satisfied with the final copy
  4. Publish: Share this poem in some way with the person for whom it was written. It’s guaranteed to bring a smile to their face!

Remember, tomorrow I’ll choose the two winners to receive this book by Aimee Chase. One winner will be chosen from new people who have opted to follow this blog during April and one for readers who have followed prior to April. Follow to day and get in on the fun.      Present not Perfect



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World Book Day and Beyond

photo of globe on wooden table

Photo by Polina Zimmerman on

I’m excited! While hunting for a topic that would be helpful to you during this time of sheltering-in-place, I discovered the World Book Day site. In the UK and Ireland, it is always celebrated in March, but in other countries, like the United States, today is the day. I spent a good amount of time investigating this site and was delighted by the varied and fantastic resources it provides. Whether you have a toddler, elementary-age children, or a teen, this site is chock-full of easy activities to motivate reading.

When  you visit the site, use the topics at the top to lead the way. Click on the RESOURCES page and you’ll see categories for specific age groups. Within those categories are downloads, games, book recommendations and tons of ideas. For example, the Primary Resources has sub-title where you can search types of activities, or favorite character, authors or illustrators.

Filled with tips for reading, writing, drawing and listening, the INSPIRATION page is well, simply inspirational.  There are Masterclasses by authors and illustrators, podcasts, writing tips and book recommendation for kids of all ages. Be sure to check this out.

VIDEOS include Biggest Show on Earth videos, one for younger children and one for older kids. Real authors and illustrators share stories and talk with the kids. Now, most of these authors are from UK or Ireland, but I believe kids will find their accent delightful and welcome the chance to discover new titles and authors. Also, find Early Years: The Big Little Book Corner, where little ones can view the pictures and listen to a book being read to them. Located on this page is also the Author & Illustrator Masterclasses I mentioned in addition to several other great topics to investigate.

One of the main goals of World Book Day is to “give every child a book of their own” and to “celebrate books and reading”. Why not make today a celebration in your home and use this extraordinary site to sustain motivation and pleasure in reading as you move forward.

My apologies, but I am having trouble linking to this site, but here is the url:

Please think about following this blog by April 30th for your chance to win Aimee Chase’s helpful book on journaling. Stay well and stay busy reading, writing and enjoying your family.Present not Perfect





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Write now: Journaling – Lesson 3

Have you begun the adventure of journaling? I hope so. If not, today is a good day to start. I’ve been looking at quotes about journaling found a few that might fuel your spirit and inspire you to give this a try.

Image result for free images and quotes on journaling

Image result for free images and quotes on journaling

Today, I’ll share two more suggestions to foster your creativity and encourage you to consider topics you may want to write about.

Lesson 3 – What do you think?

Writing Off Text                                                                                                                         This is one of my favorite ways to jumpstart my journal. Normally, I journal in the morning, after I read the “thought for the day” in two or three of my inspirational books. Sometimes, a quote, a line or even a word resonates with me.  When that happens, I copy it at the top of my page and write my reflection. This practice has taken me on unimaginable inner journeys. I’ve surprised myself with the insights, solutions or simple wonders that come to the surface. Sometimes, it leads me to memorizing the quote, so I can etch it in my heart and head. In a tough situation, these quotes can come in handy.

This week, pay attention to that novel you’re reading, a quote you heard from TV or the movies, a line from the newspaper, a word that stands out for you. Just jot it down or bookmark it so it is at the ready when you begin to journal. It’s fun, it’s surprising and often yields remarkable insights or lessons.

Make a Timeline: This is one of the techniques I learned back in 2004, when I took the Pennsylvania Writing and Literacy Project course. I’ve used it personally and in the classroom with great success. Here’s how it works…

  1. Think of a topic   Here are some examples, hairdos, shoes, cars, vacations, major life events, teachers, friends – You get the idea, the sky’s the limit.
  2. Make a timeline, jotting down a word or phrase related to the topic.

Here’s a personal example:   CARS

     1967                   1968                     1970                1971                   1977

  Red Rambler/Green Dodge/White Corvair/Orange Vega/Buick Station Wagon

These are the cars I had in my late teens and early twenties. Believe me when I tell you every one of them carries a story. Kids love this activity because it’s often hard for them to find a focus. Obviously, it can prompt not only a powerful journal entry, but fodder for a personal narrative. It’s a fun exercise and I urge you to give it a try.

Time is marching on and continuing to practice social distancing is not getting easier. Please stay well and stay busy. The day will come when we can safely share time with loved ones face-to-face. Remember that I am giving away two copies of Present Not Perfect at the end of the month. I’ll randomly select from new followers that have joined in April and Nurturing Literacy followers that have been around for a while. Thanks for your support.

Present not PerfectHere’s a few book suggestions to help you pass the time while you’re sheltering-in-place:

ADULTS:  Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann   My husband started to read this and suggested I give it a try. I’m only about 20% along, but it’s true murder mystery, involving the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma during the 1920’s. Ultimately, there is a tie-in to the FBI at that time. My husband is enjoying it and I have to constantly remind him not to spoil it for me when he rambles on about it. The subject matter is different for me. I don’t know too much about Indian life in our country and I’m finding it unique and fascinating. Maybe you will, too.

Youngsters (Grade 5 and up)  Blended by Sharon Draper, is a moving story of a young girl living with the turmoil of her parents’ divorce. Sharon Draper “keeps it real” and I would highly recommend this poignant, realistic and sometimes humorous story.




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Write Now: Journaling – Lesson 2

Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to read Lesson 1 and at least consider beginning a journal. Please keep in mind that a journal (or writing notebook) as it’s often called in school, is a great tool for your children, as well.

Today I happened upon a quote by Rumi, a 13th century poet and scholar, whose words still resonate today:

“The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.”

That has certainly been my experience, especially when I journal. Settling down and allowing myself to get in touch with my thoughts and feelings enables me to “hear” the secrets of my soul and ultimately impacts the way I live my life. In these posts I will share suggestions and techniques for journaling. More importantly I hope to share the personal benefits I’ve experienced and entice you to give it a try.

Lesson 2 – Write Big, Write Small

Writing Big: More often than not, I simply open my journal and begin. I write for at least ten minutes, guided only by where I am in that particular moment. My only goal is to capture and reflect on my experiences. Sometimes, I wind up writing about something that occurred days or even years ago. Sometimes, I am very much in the present and my entry reads like a diary. No matter. I am in a sense “saving my life”. I love that idea. Literally, I am saving the day. Figuratively, journaling often enables me to regain my balance, gain clarification, or solve a problem. It feels like I’m saving my life. Don’t be afraid to “write big”. Just let it rip.

The element of surprise is one of the best things about “writing big”. It’s like getting in the car and just taking a drive with no destination in sight. You start the car and trust the process. That same sense of fun and freedom can be yours when you simply begin to write, enjoy the journey and allow it to surprise you.

Writing Small:  Young children have a tendency to write “bed to bed” stories. You know what I mean. They are stories that include every detail of an experience from the very beginning to the very end. Cute, but often filled with boring details. As a teacher of writing, I often help kids to “narrow the topic”. Once they realize they can zero in on just one aspect of their story, their writing improves dramatically.

Perhaps there is a big topic on your mind today. You feel as though you could write a book about it. Feeling overwhelmed right from the start can deter progress. Here’s a easy technique I picked up somewhere along the way…

  1. Trace your hand in your journal
  2. Write the topic in the palm of the hand
  3. Then, on each finger, write one aspect of the topic
  4. Pick one finger and write about that idea

Give yourself a hand and start small, jotting down your ideas about one simple aspect of the larger topic. I used the topic, “Sheltering-in-place” as an example. This is about Day 36 for my husband and me. Undoubtedly, it’s a big topic. Here’s how it broke down for me:  1) Things I miss, 2)Benefits, 3)Fears & Worries, 4)What I’ve Learned and           5) Feelings/Beliefs about how it’s being handled. Give it a try!

Want to Win a copy of this book? 

Present not Perfect

  On April 30th, I will be giving away two copies of this delightful book by Aimee Chase. I will randomly pick one current follower of this blog and will also pick one new follower of this blog to receive a copy. If you not already following, just click and you may win. Present not Perfect can be used either as a journal or simply to garner ideas. This colorful book is chock-full of information, quotes and prompts to spur you on. 



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