Tuesday, December 29, 2015

I loved reading ECHO by Pam Munoz Ryan

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan is quite a book...really many books/genres held together masterfully through music. It starts as a fairytale that includes a scary witch who casts a spell on three princesses. Then those three met Otto in a field and a fantasy story begins. Then three different historical fiction stories are told, all about terrible times in history - 1933 Germany and the rise of the Nazi Parry, 1935 USA and the struggle of orphans in America during the Depression and 1942 California and the story of the Japanese Internment Camp. And then in 1951, all three of these stories magically meet in NYC at a concert at Carnegie Hall!! And after the concert, we learn more about Otto and more about the fairytale princesses! And during it all, MUSIC holds the lives of the characters together. Music played on a shared harmonica as this thought is recalled:
"Even in the darkest night, a star will shine.
A bell will chime. A path will be revealed."

I was drawn to take notes as Mary Ehrenworth taught me this summer at the TCWRP Reading Institute to hold onto this story:

I wonder about reading this book to my 3rd graders...it is long, 587 pages. It does deal with sad times in our history. But it is filled with characters that persevere and overcome struggle and value music.
Now I can't wait for January 4th when school is back open so I can begin this read-aloud!

I am glad to be connected again to this amazing author.
She truly has outdone herself with this novel of so many genres woven together with music.
Pam Munos Ryan Website

I thought I was going to write about my 2015 OLW - responsiveness - today and reflect on my 2016 OLW - transparency ...next Tuesday!!

Today, my thoughts are echoing and I feel moved to go buy a harmonica!!

And I also want to TALK to someone who has read this book. Have you? 
Maybe a virtual book club on twitter soon. 
Favorite parts, favorite characters, music....so much to discuss.
Let me know if you are interested!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Literary Gift...for my Architect Husband and Building Contractor!

Two weeks ago, a mother volunteered to read a book to our class and brought The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater. I had a teacher friend who always started her school year using this book but I personally had never actually read it myself. As Ethan's mom read, connections were made for me!

I was moved by these lines:
First line - "...all the houses were the same." 

"My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams." (stated AFTER main character changes the appearance of his house).

"..whenever anybody visited Mr. Plumbean's house, the very next day that person would set about changing his own house to fit his dreams."

"Our street is where we like to be, and it looks like all our dreams."

Immediately, I bought two copies of this book to use as Literary Gifts:
1. One for my architect husband who designed a very smart, sustainable, energy-efficient home (which we are moving into TOMORROW!!!!) which does NOT look like all the other houses on the street.
2. One for Galaxy Homes, our building contractor, who welcomed the unconventional design of the house, and worked hard to build it, following Brian's drawings and making his dream a reality.

I taped these two photos to the last page of the picture book, adding my own THANK YOU note - Thank you for building us a home that is NOT the same as all the others!

Additional Findings:
When I googled this book, I discovered it was picked as #48 in Top 100 Picture Books for Children
by ALA.

By going to Daniel Pinkwater's website, I learned he have written LOTS of books and that his wife, Jill, is also a writer. Then I discovered I have probably heard him on NPR (He is also an occasional commentator on National Public Radio’s All Thing Considered and appears regularly onWeekend Edition Saturday, where he reviews exceptional kids’ books with host Scott Simon.) I see that for $.99 I can buy many of his novels for my Kindle, something I plan to do! And I thought he was only known for The Big Orange Splot published in 1977 by Scholastic!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Celebrate - BEST family EVER!

Looking back on this week, I must celebrate my family, my two daughters, Anne and Bridgit and my husband, Brian.


who shared a clever Ancient Greek Pottery craft she learned while teaching last year in France. With her help, photos of my students were taken posed as Greek warriors or gods, and then used to decorate a paper pot to tell a story, just like the Ancient Greeks did.

Anne ....

who when shopping with me at IKEA, was as excited about their puppets as I was and who helped to type up a planning packet so my students could collaborate in small groups to plan out and then perform puppet shows before we left for Winter Break.


who spent a whole day at my school while home from the University of Chicago where she is earning a Masters in Public Policy and Computer Science and spoke to each 3rd grade class about the job of a computer programmer. She also pushed me to make sure my class participated in Hour of Code activities which they ALL loved! Thanks to Bridgit, lots of 8 year olds are aware that coding can be hard but is something they can all do!


who spent years thinking about the design of a house for us and who spent the last two years overseeing the construction of a very energy-efficient and modern house for us and who received word on Friday that our permit to occupy the house has been granted. 


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

OLW - Responsiveness

Inspired by @FranMcVeign's post today, I am reflecting on MY 2015 one little word- responsiveness.

I have written about it here in January, 2015 and here in February, 2015 and here on last day of May, 2015.

Now I am 15 days away from picking my 2016 OLW.
But first - How did I do with my 2015 word?

I am drawn to the definition and synonyms to help me reflect on how I did this year.
"…to adjust quickly to suddenly altered external conditions…”
 I still struggle with the "quickly" part. I naturally reflect but often seem to have my best thoughts after the fact. But if "quickly" were removed from this definition, I do think I have responded better when the situation calls for adjusting this year. My response now is to think, "There are many ways to do something" and respond in a more tolerant way.

“to resume stable operation without undue delay."
Again "without delay" may be a stretch at times. But as I reflect back, my response to situations is putting me in a more stable place. As I compare teaching 5th grade from Jan-June and 3rd grade from Sept -Dec, I would say I am better suited to spending my school day with 8 year olds. Their joy, their wonder, their response to me, helps me to better ensure a "stable operation".

Responsiveness Synonyms:
openness - From Sept-Dec, I have held a Morning Meeting every day at school. I have included student shares and stayed committed to taking the time to start our day in an open and welcoming manner. It has made all the difference. And yes, I will admit that the minutes spent learning math has been less on some days due to more minutes spent during Morning Meeting but in the big picture, all my days of learning are stronger because of the time spent being open to greeting the students daily, laughing with them as we play a game and listening as they share their interests.

acceptance - During all of 2015 (and 2014), my husband and I have been building a new house designed by my architect husband. It has been the biggest thing my husband and I have ever done. By January 1, 2016 we expect to move in. As I look back on all the ups and downs of this endeavor, I can honestly say that I have shown acceptance of all we could and could not control. It helped me to kept busy responding to and placing my energy in the things I could control, like teaching 3rd grade and letting go of the things I couldn't control, like the pace of the construction crew. My friends hear me say often, "It's all good" when they see a smile on the outside of my face when inside I want to really just cry. But instead, I accept it and know it is worth the wait. 

tolerantAs I enter my 24th year as a teacher, I feel less tolerant at times of my colleagues. I want them just to know all that I know and be on the same page as me. Instead, I feel myself become impatient when instead, I have to convince them of what I know and believe are best practices. But then I try to remember and respond in a tolerant manner. Some days are better than others.

As 2015 comes to an end, having responsiveness as my one little word has helped.
Now I have 15 days to think about what my 2016 word will be??!!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

I disagree with this author's opinion about having an iPad in a 3rd grade classroom

I just read this article on the front page of the Outlook section of Sunday's Washington Post:
When I Powered On Their iPads, Conversations Shut Down

This article is one tech-novice teacher's opinion. I also am a 3rd grade teacher in Arlington. I am a novice to having one-to-one iPads in my classroom but not a novice to teaching. As I began my 24th year as an educator this year,  I was given 22 students and 23 iPads (one for me!).

As a teacher, I reflect often. If I saw less talking between my students once the iPads arrived like the author of the article did, I'd reflect on WHY. Then I would problem-solve to ensure that this tool isn't causing my students to talk less because I value talk. By talking it out, we show our understanding. I would NOT simply blame it all on having an iPad in the room, as it feels like the author of this article is doing.

Instead, I tell my students, "The iPad is a tool you can choose to use to do the work. You can also choose paper and pencil. You can choose white board and marker. You are the learner so choose what works best for you." By telling them this, I set the tone for why we gave them an iPad, "not a toy but a tool" and the expectation is set. "You choose how best to do your learning." Then, as with all my lessons, I provide lots of time for "turn and talk" so we can talk to another about the concept we are learning with our tools next to us to support our talk. As an educator, I remain open to learning along with my students about how this new tool can help us to grow and learn best in the 21st century.

It is only December and together my 3rd graders and I have learned lots with an iPad alongside all of us. I am glad to have the opportunity to have this tool to use this year in 3rd grade.

Do you have an opinion on the use of technology in the classroom and its impact on talk? 
Please share it!!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Celebration - WORDS must change the world

As I drove to the dry cleaner this morning, doing a mundane Saturday chore, I heard the announcer on npr say, "The first time since 1920....prime real estate space...editorial about guns."

My next stop aftr dropping off the shirts to be pressed was Starbucks and there it was, this editorial:
End the Gun Epidemic in America by the NYTimes

I celebrate today, that despite the horrid news of the last few days, weeks, months, years, relating to gun violence in my country, the leading newspaper in our country LOUDLY stated their personal opinion, pushing for the citizens of America to take a stand.

I hate that so many places in my country/world have suffered because of guns.

But this move by the NYTimes is definitely in the right direction, as hopes and prayers are no longer enough, as implied by the New York Daily's headline - God Isn't Fixing This.

I also celebrate that as an American, I vote. I will be listening so my vote for the next set of leaders is for leaders who also demand the changes called for by the NYTimes today.

I believe WORDS can change the world. And now I see more clearly how leaders are needed to make the words become a reality.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Ralph Fletcher - a great writing mentor!

The summer of 2013 I got to hear Ralph Fletcher speak at TC. That day he shared this poem with us:
The Good Old Times  by Ralph Fletcher
Sometimes I remember
the good old days,
sitting on the kitchen floor
with my brothers and sister,
each on our own square
of cool linoleum.
I’m fresh from the bath,
wearing baseball pajamas.
Mom gives us a cup of milk,
two cookies, a kiss goodnight,
I still can’t imagine

anything better than that.

Click HERE to go to my Notes about Ralph's August 2013 Keynote

That day he told us to pick our own moment, one we remember well and write a poem about it. He suggested to get started, we use HIS first two lines and HIS last two lines.

Amazingly, that day, I wrote a poem quickly!! Since that day, I have shared his poetry writing tip every year with the teachers I help to teach writing and with the students I teach.

This year and days after Veteran's Day, I was sharing Ralph's poem with my 3rd graders. Afterwards, I was moved to wrote this poem:

Sometimes I remember
the good old days
Our guest arrived just before 3pm
to the Atmosphere Studio Classrooms
including Ryan's dad in his official Navy uniform
On cue, we sang "Anchors Away"
and all the military songs with gusto.
So many moms, dads, grandpas, grandmas, and friends
came to celebrate with the 3rd graders
Honoring ALL the Veterans who keep us free
I still can't imagine
anything better than that.

Thanks, Ralph Fletcher! You are a wonderful writing mentor!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

I did a 5K! Lots of Ups and Downs!

Last Saturday, I did a 5K!

At the TCRWP Summer Reading Institute, Mary taught me one way to comprehend fiction is to chart the emotions of the character onto an Emotional Timeline. I like this strategy and have used it often when reading and teaching reading. Here's my chart made while reading My Name is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada.

Last Saturday, as I ran my first 5K race, I thought of this strategy. Let me be clear - I am not a runner. I grew up swimming and more specifically, swimming backstroke, which allows one to breath easy as one glides through the water. My childhood memory of running is vivid - that annual day where we had to run the 600m for the Presidential Award and I barely finished, all out of breathe.

On Saturday at about the 2 mile mark,  I overheard this discussion:
                 MOM - Come on. We are almost done.
                 BOY (about age 7) -  Running makes me grumpy.

Hearing this made me smile and for the next 1.1 mile I thought about all the ups and downs I was feeling as I ran/walked. At the very moment of hearing this boy, I too felt a little grumpy but I kept moving (notice I did not type "running" for I was just moving at this point in the race!) Then later, after a hot shower and some breakfast, I felt the exact opposite.

Here's my chart of the ups and downs of my first 5K:

Today I am grateful to be alive to support the Jennifer Bush-Lawson Foundation Memorial fund - the race raise over $95,000 which will be used to bring high quality prenatal and postnatal care to the economically vulnerable in Arlington County, VA.

Today I am grateful for the students and parents at Discovery ES who cheered me on and the unexpected friends I met along the way. All help me keep going to finish the race.

Today I am grateful for all the hills on this course (no exaggerating, there were MANY!) because without that struggle, I could not know the feeling of joy when running downhill and when crossing the finish line.

Today I am grateful that TCRWP taught me how to read well and how to chart the ups and downs of characters. By understanding character struggles, I can better live my own ups and downs that life brings me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Look closely at the fingers to see what this student is thankful for!

Look closely at fingers to see what Mrs. Donnelly is thankful for!
Weekly, my students and I write to our parents to share highlights of our week. Because this is just  a 2-day school week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, I had them add a move I used to have my kindergarten students do - make a Turkey using the outline of our hand!!

On one side of the letter to the parents is the student turkey with their list of four things written across their finger/feathers and on the reverse side is my turkey. (see images above!)

I should also add that I am MOST thankful for the TwoWritingTeachers blog! It provides me with a space to make my writing public on their amazing blog that also inspires me as a writing teacher daily. And I am thankful for all the blog writers (most I only know virtually). You also inspire and keep me going!

Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Keep Writing!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

More Information Writing - Generating more Ideas with Table of Contents and Jeopardy!

My family has gotten into the habit of watching Jeopardy at 7:30pm each night. My daughter, Anne and my husband, Brian, are very good at stating the questions to the random answers posed by Alex Trebek. At the beginning of Round 1 and 2,  Anne and Brian will often say aloud words they expect to appear as Alex names the categories:
Alex - Old Testament
Anne - Who is Noah, Moses, Job?
Alex - Buildings of the World
Brian - What is the Louvre, The Empire State Building, Falling Water?
They seem to have go-to words that match a stated category.

As I continue to plan the 3rd grade information writing unit, I see a connection. I have been taking TCRWP suggestions to think of ways, kinds, parts, pro/con, problem/solution, and compare/contract to think deeper about my topic.

What if I think of my topic as a category on Jeopardy?
My topic: Children's Literature.
If the category was Best Nonfiction Children's authors, I'd expert Jeopardy to have an answer about Seymore Simon, Gail Gibbons and Melissa Stewart.
If the category was Best Picture book authors for 3rd gr. and up, I'd expect Jeopardy to have an answer listed about Patricia Polacco, Chris Van Allsburg, and Eve Bunting.
If the category was Best Children's Poets, I'd expect Jeopardy to have an answer listed about Judith Viorst, J. Patrick Lewis and Jack Prelutsky.

What if my topic was SWIMMING?  Would this strategy still work?
If the category was kinds of pools, I'd expect Jeopardy to have answers that included 50 meter outdoor, 25 meter indoor and 25 yards outdoor.
If the category was swimming strokes, I'd expect Jeopardy to have answers that included butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle and IM.
If the category was swimming parts, I'd expect Jeopardy to have answers that included the dive, the turn, the kick, the strokes and the breathing.

As TCRWP taught me, my brain is wired to learn things when grouped into categories. That is why Boxes and Bullets is such a successful strategy when reading and writing information. And now, I also will think of my information writing topic as a Jeopardy Game Show Category.

What answers would Alex Trebek state about my topic?!!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Celebration - a Happy Veteran's Day inspired by Tim Rasinski

On October 19, 2013 I had the pleasure of ending a day of learning at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project by sitting in the majestic, large Riverside Church on the Upper Westside of Manhattan to hear the final Keynote Speaker, Tim Rasinski, profession of literacy education at Kent State University. I had read his books on fluency and I had even heard him speak before at a conference. But that day was such a treat and I wrote this:

Tim Rasinski - Whatever Happened to the ART of Reading? 
First, Tim was introduced in such a clever way!! To the tune of Hey, Jude, a Staff Developer sang "Hey, TIm" and gave the audience a summary of his background through song. How fun that the church nave filled with "Na-na- na, na-ah-na-na, Hey Tim!"  This was the perfect intro for a speaker who continued to teach us using song!

Singing is FUN. Lyrics are getting read but it doesn't feel like hard work at all. He shared how he is working with kids to perform on Veteran's Day. They have been practicing the theme songs of each of the Armed Forces. (Lots of reading of lyrics!!) So Tim had us try this. We sang and honored each branch of our military, those standing when they had a personal or family connection. Along with being fun, it was so moving AND required loads of reading!!

He is also working with kids to celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth. Kids are preparing to perform read-alouds of his inaugural speeches and the Gettysburg Address. He found a song called Our Abe Lincoln. He found a Civil War letter and a poem. All these the students are reading and rereading which will improve their fluency as readers. And it's FUN!!

Thank, Tim for reminding me to add FUN songs, poems, readers theaters, etc to my classroom. Reading CAN be an art form, as well as the science related to reading score data.
All notes from that day are HERE.

So, I took what I heard that Saturday and returned to my then 4th grade classroom in McLean, VA and planned a Veteran's Day celebration. I wrote about that celebration by saying: Monday, we hosted 20 friends, most of them veterans or wives of veterans! We sang each of the Military songs to honor Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. We ate blueberry muffins and had our posters hanging! My students did such a GREAT job!! So proud of them!!

Then, yesterday, Friday, November 13, 2015 I hosted another Veteran's Day celebration!! This time in Arlington with my 3rd grade class along with my teammate's 3rd grade class. Our 44 students spent the 2 weeks prior learning all the songs of each branch of the military. Thanks to technology and my tech-savvy daughter, Anne, I now have a Spotify Veteran's Day playlist and we used this to play the tunes as the words to the songs appeared on the smart panel. Thanks go out to our music teachers, too who also spent time in their class helping the 3rd graders to learn the songs well.

We came to school wearing read, white and blue and military-inspired t-shirts! At 1pm, we opened the wall between the two 3rd grade classrooms studios and we did a run through of our program. A student speaker welcomed our guests. Different students introduced the songs. And all 44 loudly sang each song as I queued the spotify playlist. Our finale was all standing to sing God Bless America. Our run through went well so we then got busy decorating!!

Half the kids went with my colleague to her side of the studio space and wrote a letter to a veteran. I took the other half and on large posters, they decorated signs for us to hang up and made red, white and blue tissue paper flowers as a party favor for our guests.

Then just before 3pm, we took our places. Our honored Veterans and family and friends arrived and took their seats. Our celebration began! We sang. We listened as our guest introduced themselves and said how many years they have served. I personally invited my mom and two retired friends who live in the neighborhood. I loved having an older generation of Veterans to join with my students' families and a few of the students also brought along a grandparent. As the program ended, we had a little time for all to mingle and Veterans answered questions and shared.

Today, I celebrate inspiration from smart educators, like Tim Rasinski who taught me on Oct. 19, 2013 to SING! Singing is a powerful teaching technique. Singing is fun! Singing honors those we love and unites us across generations. 

To hear us SING, view the VIDEO LINK post to twitter @SallyDonnelly1 and VIDEO LINK2

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Information Writing - Generating Ideas through Table of Contents

As a 3rd grade teacher getting ready to start the Unit of Study for Teaching Information Writing, I'm inspired by Lucy Calkins and Colleen Cruz to write lots and lots and lots of Table of Contents. As a way to generate ideas for writing an Information book, I picked a topic I feel I am an expert on (BOOKS!) and started to write some possible Table of Contents.

Topic - BOOKS
1. Genres - 
Fiction - realistic, fantasy, mystery, historical
Nonfiction - sports, animals, poetry, biographies

2. Kinds of Books -
picture book, novel, graphic novel, magazine, books on CD, online Tumblebooks, online e-book

3.Where to get books - bookstore, library, online, friends who share with me

4. Favorite Books for different ages of kids - toddler, kindergarten, 3rd grader, Middle Schooler

5. Where to find out about book ideas - 
Twitter - Mr. Shu, Eric Carle Museum, 
My Librarian, Mr. Re
Website - NYC Public Library 100 books to read 
Author Website

My...this took time and I've only drafted five Table of Contents!?!?

Lucy, in her Information workshop at the October, 2015 Saturday Reunion said Graves told her to write 10-30 Table of Contents. I guess I should be happy I did five...I think I need to really stretch my brain to see a topic from LOTS of angles. Then maybe, with practice, I can grow this work. I got to start somewhere so glad I got five generated.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Celebration - 3rd gr Publishing Party

My 1st quarter as a 3rd grade teacher ends Tuesday. Today I celebrate all the writing my students did during Writing Workshop in just one quarter.

We first published a "tweet" in one day to experience going through the whole writing process - immersion, generate ideas, choose, draft, revise, edit, publish and celebrate. Then. while learning how personal narrative / small moments go, we published our first personal narrative. Next, because our new school was celebrating with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, we quickly published a piece about a time in our new school. These got hung and read by the community as they toured our new school. It even prompted our district's Superintendent to write us a letter thanking us for sharing our school stories! Then finally, we went through the writing process one more time to lift the level of our narrative writing skills.

Friday at 1pm, all five third grade classes came together to celebrate with a Publishing Party. We opened the wall between two of the classrooms. Two other classes placed their writing on the benches outside in the hallway and the fifth class on the tables set up by the custodian. Next to each piece of writing was placed a GLOW sheet - a page for readers to write a glow about the piece of writing, a positive, specific comment. Each student was given a glow bookmark with sentence stem reminders of how a glow sounds.

With glow bookmark and pencil in hand, the students moved from classroom to tables to benches and back to classroom, reading!! The 107 students read about soccer games and family trips and time spent with grandparents. Then they wrote on the glow sheet a sentence - I like how you described the dog. I could picture it. - Your lead made me want to keep reading - I like the sound words you included. 

Then the best part - we returned to our seat and read the GLOWS that others left for us after our story was read! I asked the class to read their glows, to think about the kind of writer they were as they began third grade and then to reflect in their notebook by writing:
I used to be the kind of writer who_______.
Now I am the kind of writer who ________.

I got goosebumps listening to them take turns sharing aloud what they wrote:

I used to be the kind of writer who wrote short stories.
Now I am the kind of writer who adds details and writes longer stories.

I used to be the kind of writer who added some details.
Now I am the kind of writer who includes more action and dialogue.

I used to be the kind of writer who never used ...I forget what it is called...begins with a P.
Now I am the kind of writer who writes with paragraphs.

And my favorite - 
I used to be the kind of writer who did not like to write.
Now I am the kind of writer who loves to write.

Today I celebrate all the writing my students did during Writing Workshop in just one quarter.

I am most grateful for all I learn from Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.
Their Units of Study for Teaching Writing allow me to teach my 3rd graders so well.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Revisions to my 1st Time Personal Narrative

Last Tuesday, I typed my draft of a first time story. This week, I spent time revising and reflecting on how I went about revising. If I “get” what I do, then I feel more confident to teach my students how to revise.

REVISIONS: As I revised, I tried to do these things -
1.     I looked at my lead and checked to see if it told WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY.
2.     I looked at the heart of the story – the part where I was reading – and made sure it was stretched out.
3.     I looked at my ending and made sure it had a feeling that connected back to the beginning.
4.     I also noticed that I drafted using very long sentences. I tried out changing the length of some of my sentences.

First Time Reading at Church by Mrs. Donnelly

As the congregation sat down, it was my cue to walk onto the altar. My third grade teacher had picked me to be a lector for the school Mass, a job I had never done before. I heard a loud echo with each step I took, as my church shoes touched the marble floor of the St. James Church. Once at the podium, I climbed to the second step of the step stool. Now I could see the large book and my mouth was close to the microphone.

I saw placed on top of the opened book, a xeroxed copy of my reading, a reading I had been practicing with my teacher for the past two weeks. I saw the many slanted lines my teacher had added to help me chunk the word phrases. I saw the punctuation highlighted at the end of each sentence. I cleared my throat and began. Even though I could probably recite the reading now from memory, I kept my eyes glued to the page, not looking up once. I didn’t want to see how many people were sitting in church and how many were now listening to me.

In a loud voice, I said, "A Reading (pause) from the Book (pause) of Genesis". As I continued, I remembered to pause longer at each highlighted punctuation mark. I remembered to also pause at each slash mark made by my teacher - a slash about every 4-6 words. "Scoop up a whole phrase and say it in one breath," she coached me. "It will sound funny to you to go so slow, but it will sound clearer through the microphone."

The next thing I knew, I was reading the last phrase, "This is the word of the Lord” and the congregation replied, "Thanks be to God." I stepped down from the step stool and slowly walked back to my pew.

As I walked, I saw her - my teacher. She was motioning a thumbs-up and had a big smile on her face. I breathed in and out and smiled widely, too. I took my seat in my pew relieved that my reading was over and content that all my preparation, with my teacher's help, had paid off.

Friday is our publishing party and I plan to display my story, too!