The Storyteller’s Project/Proyecto del Cuentista Lesson #2

The second lesson in the Storyteller’s Project series related to identity.

Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 12.20.20 PMI read aloud a poem, “The Photograph” from My Name is Jorge: On Both Sides of the River by Jane Medina.  We tied the idea that the author wrote about a photograph (a memory) to our over arching theme of collections.

I played two short pieces of music and students identified how each piece made them feel.  We discussed how poetry was about feelings and emotions and how poetry was similar to music in that regard.

Students then wrote “I am” poems. Along with their heart maps, their “I am” poems are kept in their writer’s notebooks so that they have a place to collect ideas for future writing pieces.



©2018 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Management vs. Leadership

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On Thursday, I read a blog post by George Couros, the author of The Innovator’s Mindset.  In it, he revisits (he originally wrote about this topic in 2011) the idea of moving from “classroom management” to “classroom leadership.”  In 2016, I began thinking about, re-evaluating currently held beliefs, and developing my own ideas around leadership vs. management through my coursework for my Administration and Supervision certification.  George validates my thinking when he paraphrases Stephen Covey, “you manage things, but we lead people.”  How true that is! People don’t want to be managed.  This is true for adults and children, alike.  Instead, if a person is inspired, they will do great things.  They will want to do great things!

As I reflect on this topic, here are a few things I believe:

  • People, in general, will rise to the expectations set before them.  It doesn’t matter if we are the leader of a school or the leader in a classroom, if we believe in the people around us (no matter how young they are), they will rise up!
  • We need to be cognizant of the language we use.  If we are always sending messages of deficit thinking, our students will internalize and believe that about themselves.  Wouldn’t it be better if we sent messages of affirmation instead?  Children will internalize those positive affirmations and will be inspired to do great things!  Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 11.58.18 AM
  • We have to be willing to re-frame our thinking.  And maybe even to change it.  Does the word “teacher” equate to an adult standing in front of the classroom sharing their knowledge day in and day out?  Or could the word “teacher” equate to an adult learning beside his/her students through the facilitation of active learning opportunities? Does “learning” equate to students receiving the messages the teacher is sending verbally (i.e. the content and curriculum)? Or could “learning” equate to students actively constructing their own meaning of the content in a way that works for them (creating, reading, writing, viewing videos, etc.)?  Is it necessary for a classroom to have desks set in rows, inhibiting conversations amongst peers (great for management)? Or, could classrooms become places of discourse and hubs for the empowerment of students (building leadership)?

As parents, our legacy is not just how we raise our children, it is what our children become because of the way we raised them.  If my children are inspired to give back to this world in some way, if they go out and do great things, I will consider my parenting a success. The same holds true for our other “kids.”  The children that walk through the doors of our classrooms and schools on a daily basis.  Our legacy as educators does not lie in what we do in our classrooms every day, it is in what our students do as a result.

©2018 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.


The Storyteller’s Project/Proyecto del Cuentista Lesson #1

Our first lesson in The Storyteller’s Project revolved around collections.

First, I read aloud The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman.  We discussed how the Grandfather collected memories in matchboxes.

Next, students created heart maps.  Heartmaps provide an opportunity for students to make a map of all the things that are in IMG_3199their heart, all the things that matter to them.  The heart map was developed by Georgia Heard as a way to collect ideas that are rooted in memory and experience.  We made a connection between the Grandfather’s collection and students’ collections of ideas on their heart map.

I also gave students their writer’s notebooks and read aloud “What is a Writer’s Notebook Anyway?” from A Writer’s Notebook by Ralph Fletcher.  We finished the lesson by determining that the writer’s notebook is the perfect place to collect ideas for writing.



©2018 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

The Storyteller’s Project/Proyecto del Cuentista

The Storyteller's ProjectLast spring, I applied for a grant from the State of Maryland International Reading Association Council (SoMIRAC).  In September, I received $1,000 check from SoMIRAC to begin administration of my project.   Here is a little background on The Storyteller’s Project/Proyecto del Cuentista:

Our school is extremely diverse. We are a Title I school and the majority of our students are Hispanic. Some of our students are children of undocumented immigrants.  Our students have stories to share and I want them to feel empowered to share those stories.  I want students to feel valued and realize that the stories they have to share are important.  I want our students to view writing and reading as a pleasurable activity. With this vision in mind, I designed the Storyteller’s Project/Proyecto del Cuentista.  

I created this project for our 5th graders.  Once a month, I go into both 5th grade classrooms and teach a writing lesson.  The Storyteller’s Project/Proyecto del Cuentista will allow for students to authentically write their story in the form of a memoir. My hope is that they will share their memoir at their 5th grade promotion in June.  

With the grant money, I was able to purchase copies of three mentor texts for every student as well as one copy for each classroom teacher to place in their classroom libraries (I will share these in future posts).  I also purchased and gave each student a writer’s notebook, pens, and colored pencils.









This I Believe

Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 4.43.26 PMAs I head back to school today on this second day of 2018, I go with hope and a renewed sense of purpose.  Over winter break, I had the opportunity to reflect and re-imagine.  I thought about what I want to accomplish personally in 2018 and developed my goals. And, I thought about what I believe when it comes to my work in teaching and learning.

I begin this new year with these core beliefs:

  • I believe that all children deserve to go to a school where they feel safe and secure for the six hours they are there.
  • I believe that all children deserve to feel respected and to have their voice heard.
  • I believe that learning and teaching should be fun!
  • I believe that teachers “know best” pedagogical practices; not politicians, bureaucrats, or school boards.
  • I believe that relationships come first; teaching and learning come second.
  • I believe that all children deserve to hear a book read aloud to them every day.
  • I believe that all children should have access to an abundant and diverse classroom library (and school library).
  • I believe that it is the responsibility of educators to remove barriers, so that all students have access to an equitable education.
  • I believe that all children deserve to participate in authentic learning, not canned curriculum.

This I believe.





One Little Word 2018

As on reflect on the year 2017, I recognize that it seems to have gone by in a blur.  As I began 2017, I had plans to live with more intention.  While my year certainly started off that way, it most certainly did not end that way, as evidenced by my five blog posts for the year.  What the heck??

I feel like 2017 was the year of pinning my life against the target of time.  There just never seemed to be enough of it.  But, isn’t that always the way?  So, 2018 will be the year I take my time back.

I want to make time to make memories with my family, to write regularly, to paint often (a newly discovered enjoyment), and to have clarity.

So, with all of that being said, my focus for 2018 is to CREATE.

In order to live with intention around my focus, I’ve also created a map of 18 for 2018.  Hopefully, these two visuals will help the planner in me CREATE action!    IMG_3657


18 for 2018

IMG_3658About 7 years ago, I made a “40 for 40” list.  My intention was to achieve all 40 items on my bucket list by the time I turned 40.  However, on my 40th birthday, I had only achieved 1/4 of my list.  But, that’s ok. I’ll just add 10 more and turn it into my “50 for 50” list.  I have seven and a half more years to accomplish those!

A few weeks ago, on the Happier podcast, someone mentioned that they had a list of 35 items they wanted to accomplish during their 35th year.  Gretchen Rubin and Liz Craft, the podcast hosts, adapted that line of thinking and decided to create a list of 18 for 2018.  I have followed suit.

I am a planner. Last year, at the last minute (and therein lies the problem for a planner!), I decided to create a “one little word” post that was meant to be my focus for 2017.  However, I chose the word, but there was little follow through, because I did not have a plan.  This year, I created my 18 for 2018 vision map first.  My 18 choices led me to my one little word, which I will reveal tomorrow.

A New Year is always a time for reflection, projection, and action.  As I reflect on 2017, I realize how chaotic (in my mind) the year became.  I feel like I lost a lot of time to meaningless things.  There are certain things in my life that become time sucks and I need to change that.  I need to reframe my thinking and start projecting.  My vision map for 2018 is my projection for the year.  And having a vision will help me take action!

I hope all of you have a wonderful start to your new year, and achieve all you set out to in 2018!

Slow Down! Slooowww Down!

“Slow Down! Slooowww Down! Re-enter the pit slowly and come to a complete stop.”

We are just returning from our annual week at the beach.  While there, we took the kids to drive go-carts and when it was time to return to the pits, we heard the above automated statement repeatedly.  So much so that the kids are still repeating it days later.

Now that the statement is ingrained in my memory, I thought it was an appropriate metaphor for life.  Previously, I have written about the fact that my kiddos are moving on to middle school and high school in a couple of weeks.  I’m all too familiar with time passing very quickly.  And while I am always excited and hopeful about the possibilities the future holds for the kids, I’m also very cognizant of the fact that time is not slowing down.  And our society as a whole is on the fast track.  We are always trying to get to that next best thing. . .faster.

So, today, I’m challenging myself and you, to take a moment to slow down.  In whatever way that means to you.


Last Time for Everything

“Throwing the ball with the first dog you ever had
Spending all day on the lake with your grandad
Watching Glenn Frey sing “Already Gone” at the Forum in LA
There’s a last time for everything”

~Brad Paisley, “Last Time for Everything”


On Friday, I went with Chloe to “Muffins with Mom.”  As I was driving away from the school, I realized this was our last “Muffins with Mom” event and her elementary years are quickly coming to an end.  She is moving on to middle school next year.  In a few short weeks, my baby girl is leaving her fifth grade year behind.  And Clark is moving on to high school, leaving his middle school years behind.  I’m not sure how the years have passed by so quickly, but they have.

I am painfully aware that every day has a potential to be a “last time” day.  I no longer remember the earlier years, the last time that the kids called me Mommy and began calling me Mom, or the last time they rode a tricycle and took off on their bikes.  With each passing day, we have a “last time” moment.  And I am doing everything I can to enjoy each day with my children because I never know when it might be the “last time.” All too soon, my kiddos will no longer want to spent time with us as their friends become more important and they become increasingly more independent.  I love being their mom and I love the young adults that they are becoming.  I just want to savor each day with them, because I know all too soon these days will be a “last time” and they will be on to the next phase of their lives.




The Invasion of Normandy: Epic Battle of World War II by Moira Rose Donohue

The Invasion of Normandy is a fantastic nonfiction text appropriate for upper elementary and middle school readers.  Starting with the first line of the text, “The English Channel was choked with British and US warships,” Donohue shares the story of the invasion of Normandy with great description and word choice, including vivid verbs and sensory details.  The text is written in a way that makes it easy for 5th-8th graders to access the information.  This is the type of nonfiction I look for to share with children.  It is short and focused on the topic and is written in a “kid-friendly” way. You could pair this text with a more traditional, nonfiction text (text books, articles, etc.) about the invasion of Normandy, to give students a full, yet descriptive understanding of the topic.

©2017 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.