Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark.
—Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux
[Now you can listen to the Big Fresh as a podcast!]
Stories matter. Sometimes in the thick of a school year, it is easy to forget the simple truth that stories matter in big ways. I was reminded that stories matter as my family gathered last weekend to wish our oldest daughter, Hannah, Godspeed as we send her off to marine boot camp in a few days.
We gathered with food and love, giving space for some of Hannah’s favorite holiday traditions like green bean casserole, full plates, and time to share favorite memories and stories from our lives.
Hannah pulled a basket of rolls from across the table to a place in front of her. “I am going to enjoy these,” she said, smearing a pad of butter across the top of an already buttery roll.
I was instantly transported back to the time when six-year-old Hannah piled too many rolls on her plate. It had been only a few months since we’d adopted her, and there was constant tension between her wanting to overeat and us helping her regulate her food. Rather than stopping her, Andy and I made eye contact across the table and silently agreed to let Hannah eat the mountain of rolls. She learned the hard way. She was miserable from overeating, and from that point on she self-regulated her own eating. The Roll Incident, as we affectionately call it, was the first of a lifetime of learning the hard way for Hannah.
Although it may seem like a warm story of one meal to another, with a child growing up and forging her own path, it is only fair to remember that for kids who spend their first years scraped by darkness, it can be difficult to learn to believe in themselves and accept love.
Soon, Hannah will board a bus and it will take her on a new journey. The traditions we’ve built to bring light to a dark start will be tiny stories tucked inside her scared and anxious heart. She is fortified by stories.
Humanity is fortified by stories.
It is not a slight thing to remember that stories matter. This week as we gather around tables or around screens or gather our memories, may we remember the power of storytelling. May we make space for more people to tell their stories, and may we learn to honor all stories.
This week we highlight our courses and release Stella Villalba’s brand new course: Honoring Our Students’ Stories: Building an Intentional and Inclusive Learning Community. Stella is a wise teacher. She guides us through a process to intentionally honor the past and present of all students in order to provide the best literacy instruction.
Editor in Chief, Choice Literacy
This month’s featured contributor is Melanie Meehan. Melanie has been the elementary writing and social studies coordinator in Simsbury, Connecticut, since 2012. Melanie wrote Every Child Can Write, published by Corwin Press in October 2019, and The Responsive Writing Teacher, co-written with Kelsey Sorum, published in March 2021. Connect with Melanie on Twitter @melaniemeehan1.
Join the Choice Literacy Book Club! Sign up to be part of our book club. It’s simple and eclectic. Each month our featured contributor selects a book. You can join the discussion through the book club padlet or social media with the hashtag #ChoiceLiteracyBookClub. Each month we share our discussion on the podcast.
The Choice Literacy Book Club discusses Octopus Stew by Eric Velasquez on the podcast.
Experience our courses by signing up for the Choice Literacy Book Club and receiving free access to the book club course!
New members-only content is added each week to the Choice Literacy website. If you’re not yet a member, click here to explore membership options.
English Language Learners and Literacy Instruction: Stella Villalba provides tools, strategies, and wise advice for literacy instruction for children with native languages other than English.
Meaningful Reading Conferences: Christy Rush-Levine takes you into her middle school classroom and shares the strategies and techniques she uses with her students to deepen their reflection and understanding of books while conferring.
Gradual Release of the Primary Classroom Library: Bitsy Parks takes you into her primary classroom for a close-up look at how she organizes and then gradually releases the library to students over days, weeks, and months.
Choice in Elementary Workshops: Tammy Mulligan, Bitsy Parks, Matt Renwick, and Stella Villalba share ways to empower choice even in uncertain times like the 2020-2021 school year. We know choice is the heart of teaching readers and writers. Enjoy this roundup of practices to hold true to our roots of choice, even in the midst of chaos.
Choice in Secondary Workshops: Leigh Anne Eck, Christy Rush-Levine, and Gretchen Schroeder share ways to empower choice even in uncertain times like the 2020-2021 school year. We know choice is the heart of teaching readers and writers. Enjoy this roundup of practices to hold true to our roots of choice, even in the midst of chaos.
General Workshop Routines: This field experience invites us to consider the routines of opening the day, workshop norms, meeting areas, and transitions to make workshop run smoothly.
Classroom Tours: This field experience cracks open classroom design and goes beyond trendy spaces. Spend time noticing the details that reflect beliefs and influence instruction.
Writer’s Notebooks: Writer’s notebooks are important tools for writers. This field experience showcases how elementary teachers use notebooks with students.
NEW! Honoring Our Students’ Stories: Building an Intentional and Inclusive Learning Community: Stella Villalba teaches us how to discover, honor, and share student stories throughout the school year. With special attention to English learners, Stella walks educators through a process to intentionally honor the past and present of all students in order to provide the best literacy instruction.
It’s a Cycle, Not a Hamster Wheel: Getting the Most Out of Coaching Cycles: Dana Murphy takes you into the nitty-gritty of coaching cycles with examples and advice from experienced literacy coaches from throughout the country. You’ll view videos of an initial meeting of a coach and teacher to plan a cycle and sample demonstration lessons within a cycle, as well as quick video tips for getting organized and taking good notes throughout the cycle.
Literacy Walks: Seek, Name, and Strengthen Promising Literacy Practices: Matt Renwick leads instructional leaders in implementing and strengthening instructional literacy walks.
Virtual Coaching: Working with Individuals: Experienced literacy coaches led by Ruth Ayres share their strategies for adapting their one-on-one coaching techniques to remote environments.
Social-Emotional Learning in Workshop: Compassion and understanding are as important to workshop instruction as strategies and routines. Understanding the social-emotional needs of students (and ourselves) allows for safe learning environments.
Craft Moves for Elementary Writers: This field experience invites us to consider a handful of craft moves to teach young writers in minilessons, conferences, and share sessions.
Kindergarten Writers: This field experience focuses on kindergarten writers. Spend time with the youngest writers and you will be mesmerized by their writing processes.
Supporting Independent Reading, Choice, and Stamina: Learning to choose books and growing stamina are important steps in the development of independent readers. This field experience offers opportunities to see small-group instruction, a share session, minilessons, and team meetings that support independence in readers.
Small-Group Reading Instruction: Small-group reading instruction is an important part of elementary literacy. This field experience is a sampling of a variety of examples.
Book Talks to Empower Independent Reading: Finding books they want to read is at the heart of students becoming powerful, independent readers. This field experience chronicles the way book talks put books into adolescents’ hands that have them begging for more independent reading time.
Picture Books and Older Students: The value of picture books with secondary students is often questioned. This field experience allows insight into the depth and power of picture books for adolescents.
I am still learning.
That’s all for this week!