Category Archives: Celebration Saturday

Celebration Saturday


I’m happy to be joining Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes and others to celebrate and appreciate the goodness of the past week.

Here are the things I’m celebrating this week:

1) Spring Break is here!  Ahhhh…I am celebrating the thought of two full weeks of extra time with family, books and just hanging at home!  We are heading up to Kelowna to visit my mother in law and also hope to get in a few days skiing.  I have a “to do” list that is always long – so perhaps I shall make an attempt to shorten the list!  (or perhaps not!)

2) Book launch – Last week, I celebrated the launch of my 4th book – Nonfiction Writing Power.  Phyllis Simon, co-owner of Vancouver Kidsbooks, hosted the event for me at her amazing bookstore.  I was surrounded by so many dear friends, family and colleagues – not to mention books!  Thanks to everyone who came and those far away friends who sent me well wishes and beautiful flowers!   In my speech, I quoted Pablo Picasso  – “The meaning of life is to find your gift – the purpose of life is to give it away”.  I celebrate that I have found my gift and am now able to give it away through teaching, writing and presenting.



Signing books for friends. (Carrie Gelson waiting for her turn!)


Four Fab Vancouver Elementary Administrators!


My sister, her beautiful daughters and my handsome boys!


Happy to be celebrating with my boys!

3) Nonfiction Writing Power in Action!  –  This term, I have been teaching some of my lessons from my new book to a grade 7 class at my school.  Because they are focusing on Ancient Mesopotamia in Social Studies, I decided to link this subject to our nonfiction writing focus. Each student selected an invention from ancient Mesopotamia that has impacted our lives today.  This list includes the sail, wheel, plow, calendar and mathematical counting system.  Over the course of several weeks, I introduced four different nonfiction text structures including description, instruction, persuasion and comparison.  I focused on text structure and the language features of these different forms.  They then wrote several pieces about their invention in these different forms and then created posters.  I was AMAZED at how much they learned about their ancient invention and several different forms of writing!




4) Workshop in Ashcroft –  One of the many rewarding things about my work is being able to visit places in this beautiful province of British Columbia that I may not otherwise see.  Earlier this week, I travelled to Ashcroft to present a workshop in Gold Trail School District.  I was lucky enough to stay in a BEAUTIFUL Bed and Breakfast called Willow’N perched high on a hill with a views of the Thompson and Bonaparte River Valleys.  After a delicious breakfast of fresh berries, yogurt, oatmeal and coffee, I drove down the hill to Ashcroft Elementary School and presented Nonfiction Writing Power to a group of teachers ranging from grade 1 to grade 11!   It was a wonderful day!


View from my room when I woke up!

5)  Proud Mom  – My 15 year old has spent the last 12 days in Arizona for spring training with his baseball team.  He and a few other Jr. Players were was invited to join the Senior team for training and to participate in a tournament.   He comes home on Sunday (I can’t wait!)  I have missed him terribly but know he is having the time of his life!  I’m very proud of him and grateful he has found his passion.


My 13 year old is fortunate to be attending an amazing Fine Arts School – the only public high school in Vancouver that offers a unique focus on performing arts, visual arts and band.  His grade 8 class performed their first play last week – they had written it themselves.  A great story-line – with some singing, dancing and humor mixed in.  I was very proud to see how confident he was on stage.

olie show

6) Dog Scare – Our dearest dog, Bailey (Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever) is recovering from a very serious eye infection.  She had a small scratch that got infected and went from bad to worse in a very short period of time.  The vet thought that she might, in fact, lose her eye.  After 2 weeks of a very rigorous eye drop routine (every 3 hours ALL day and night!) I am celebrating that she is on the road to recovery and will not lose her eye.  The vet has now decreased the frequency of drops so my hubby and I are also celebrating being able to sleep a few extra hours!

bailey (2)

Bailey has to wear a “cone” to prevent her from scratching her eye.

It’s been a week full of celebrations and I am grateful for them all.   What are you celebrating this week?


Filed under Celebration Saturday, Lesson Ideas

Celebration Saturday – Snow, Gold Medal and RFTLOI Celebrations!


I’m happy to be joining Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes and others to celebrate and appreciate the goodness of the past week.

Here are the things I’m celebrating this week:

1)  SNOWFALL –  We had a significant snowfall here in Vancouver – unusual for the Westcoast, particularly at this time of year.  The best part was that the snow did not turn to rain and wash away.  We enjoyed some sunny days with a lovely white blanket!  More snow  is expected next week so likely I will be doing another snow dance in my kitchen!  Even my 15 yr old got outside to enjoy some sledding and snowball fun with his friends!

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2) REPORT CARDS – Report cards are finished!  This is always a huge relief when all the comments and marks complete and handed in!  Hooray!

3) BOOK LAUNCH – This Tuesday, March 5th, Vancouver Kidsbooks will be hosting a book launch for my new book – Nonfiction Writing Power!  It should be a wonderful evening with family, friends and colleagues.  Will post more about this next week!

4) GOLD MEDAL GAME:  The men’s Olympic gold medal hockey game aired at 4 am our time – so we set our alarm and got up to watch.  Although it doesn’t look like my 3 boys are excited (photo below) – we were thrilled to win the gold medal!  It did feel a little anti-climactic after the Women’s gold medal game and the Men’s semi finals… and of course nothing can beat Sydney Crosby’s overtime goal to win gold in Vancouver in 2010!  We are proud of our Canadian hockey teams and all the athletes who kept us on the edge of our seats for 2 exciting weeks!

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4) READING FOR THE LOVE OF IT CONFERENCE – Last Thursday and Friday I attended the 38th Reading For the Love of It Conference in Toronto – the largest reading conference in Canada.  Close to 4000 teachers attend from across the country and the line up of speakers, authors and presenters each year is incredible.  I was honoured to be invited to present two sessions – one on Reading Power and the other on Writing Power.  The sessions went so well and I was overwhelmed by the positive response from everyone!  It was truly an experience I will never forget – and certainly one of my most “celebrated” moments of the year so far!

Below are my highlights and some photos from the conference:

  • Dinner with my publisher Mary Macchuisi from Pembroke, along with other Pembroke authors including;  Kathy Lundy, Larry Shwartz and David Booth.  Mary brought along a copy of my new book, Nonfiction Writing Power, which I got to see for the first time.  Always a thrill to see all your work complete!

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Mary and me with my new book Nonfiction Writing Power         Me with Pembroke author David Booth (my hero!)

  • A full house at my first session!  I wasn’t sure that very many people would come to my session, since this was my first visit to Toronto and most of my work is in on the west coast. It was exciting to see a great turnout at both of my sessions.   (Before I started, I took a photo of the keen crowd! )


  • During my session on Writing Power – I was speaking about the difference between editing and revision and when I spoke about the fact that editors can do the editing but only the writer can do the revision because it is their “vision” – someone from the audience made a sound I couldn’t quite make out.  It turns out she had just experienced a huge “ah-ha moment” with her “outside voice”!  It was beautiful!


  • Listening to illustrator Steven Kellog talk about his experience collaborating with Patricia McLachlan on Snowflakes Fall – the book written in honour of the children and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary school.  Steven Kellog lived in a farm in Sandy Hook and his children went to that school.  It was a moving presentation – not a dry eye in the house.

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Steven Kellog signing my book.

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Meeting Jon Klassen – a most unassuming and humble and very young man!  And of course he wore a hat!  His presentation was on “words and the spaces between”.  LOVED it!    Here he is signing my book.


  • Meeting my editor for the first time!  Kat Mototsune has been my editor for all four of my books.  She is AMAZING at what she does.  Because we live on opposite sides of the country, we have only corresponded through email.  At the Pembroke reception on Thursday night – I got to meet her for the first time!  What a thrill it was to sit and talk with her about her side of the publishing process.  And I now have a face to the name!  (for my next book!)

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  • Pembroke author Kathy Gould-Lundy (author of Creating Caring Classrooms and Teaching Fairly in and Unfair World as well as many other books) received a special award at the banquet dinner for her contribution to the conference over many years.  Kathy teaches in the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University.  She is smart, humble and kind and I adore her.  (in the photo is Kathy and her son on the right, me on the left and Stenhouse President Dan Tobin in the back)
  • My cousin lives in Toronto with his fiancé and their brand new baby.  I spent a few hours visiting them and meeting baby Oscar for the first time.  An added bonus to my amazing trip.  baby oscar

I had an amazing week, filled with many things to celebrate and be grateful for!  Thank you for reading my blog!


Filed under Celebration Saturday, Recent Workshops

Celebration Saturday


I’m happy to be joining Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes and others to celebrate and appreciate the goodness of the past week.

Here are the things I’m celebrate this week:

1) HOCKEY TOURNAMENT – This President’s Day long weekend, I am in Arizona at a hockey tournament with my youngest son.  I find it strange to come from Canada to a desert to play hockey – but this is a huge tournament with teams from all over the US and Canada.  So far we have won both our games so there is a lot of celebrating!  My son is one of the goalies and he played the first game and had 48 shots – and only let in 1 (which was actually kicked in by one of our own players!)  We won the game 4-1!  I was very proud of him – and the team!  Along with the fun we fun we are having, I am celebrating the break I’m having and the beautiful weather.  I left the cold and damp of Vancouver and now basking in the dry 85 degree heat!  Not a bad way to spend the weekend!


Oliver and me in the Arizona desert (a scenic drive between hockey games! He looks taller than me but he is standing on a rock!)

2) PERSUASIVE WRITING – I am working with a group of grade 6 students on persuasive writing.  This particular group of children have not had a lot of explicit instruction in writing forms or techniques.  We began many weeks back with our first practice write on “The Best Season”.  I spent several classes teaching them about the structure and language associated with opinion and persuasion.  We brainstormed, we made plans, we all wrote opening sentences together, we did A LOT leading up to the actual writing.  Results?  Dear, oh dear, oh DEAR!   I hate to say this but they were terrible. Really and truly terrible.  I don’t think I read one piece of writing that would have been above a “C”.  I felt very discouraged.  But on the up side – they could only get better!  So over the next several weeks, we have been continuing the same process with different topics. I call them “practice writes” because they don’t do “good copies” of them.  We wrote another on “The Best Pet” and last week they wrote their opinion of “School Uniforms”.  My celebration?  WOW!  Their writing is getting better and better!  Justin was even able to convince me that hedgehogs are the best pets!    I am so impressed that in just a few short weeks they are able to follow the structure, include persuasive language and back up their opinions with examples.  I told them how proud I was of how much they had all improved!  So I celebrate the power of explicit teaching and the difference it is making!

3) MY BOOK – My new book, Nonfiction Writing Power, book has now been printed!  I have not yet seen it – but my box is being shipped and should be here next week.  My publisher says the printers worked overtime to get the book finished in time for the big reading conference next week in Toronto.  (Read celebration #4!)  The book launch is scheduled for the evening of March 4th at Vancouver Kidsbooks!  Mark your calendars!

4) READING FOR THE LOVE OF IT – I’m celebrating a little ahead of time with this one – but next week I will be heading to Toronto to present at a huge reading conference called “Reading For the Love of It”.  It’s sort of the Canadian Equivalent of the IRA.  The difference is that you have to be invited to present rather than send in a proposal.  My publisher has always said “When you get an invite to Reading For the Love of It” – it means you have arrived”  (I have been waiting 10 years “to arrive”!)    My proposal for the IRA conference in New Orleans had been declined so I was feeling a bit dejected – when I received the invite to present in Toronto.  Yippee!  I have arrived!  I am so excited to be going – the line up of speakers and authors is incredible!  I will be posting more next week from the conference – stay tuned!

5)  CAR ACCIDENT:  On Tuesday morning I witnessed and was involved in the aftermath of a horrific car accident.  It was an unusually cold and frosty morning, resulting in severe black ice on the roads and sidewalks.  My girlfriend and I were out for our early morning run when we saw one car sliding out of control into the oncoming lane and hitting another car head-on.  What followed is a bit of a blur as we ran over to help the people in the cars, one of whom was severely injured.   I won’t describe the details as it is still very difficult for me to talk about.  What made a bad situation worse is that immediately following the accident, other cars began to slide as they turned the corner and tried to stop.  I did what I could to move an already injured person away from the potential of more injury.  What is there to celebrate you may ask?  Many things.  I celebrate that at that moment my girlfriend and I were there to help.  I can’t even think about what could have happened if we were not.  I celebrate my dear friend who screamed at me to get out of the way of another skidding car while I was trying to help the injured woman.  I celebrate the neighbor who came running out with a flashlight and ran up the road to try slow down the other cars.  I celebrate the many police, fire and ambulance drivers who took over the scene.  I celebrate that I went to teach that day and found strength from my dear students.   I celebrate that I am alive.

Thanks for reading my celebrations today.


Filed under Celebration Saturday, persuasive writing

Celebration Saturday


I’m happy to be joining Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes and others to celebrate and appreciate the goodness of the past week.

This is my first celebration post but I have MANY things to celebrate this week!

1)  My book is FINISHED!  Nonfiction Writing Power was sent to the printers on Tuesday and is now officially DONE!  Expected release date is sometime next month!   It’s out of my head and soon to be out into the world to begin a life of its own.  It was a LOT of work in a very short time (I only started writing it in July) but I am very proud of this, my 4th book.  My editor and everyone at Pembroke publishing were AMAZING and really supported my journey to get this book finished.   And so the “power series” (which I never intended to write) is now complete.  And THAT is worth celebrating!

NFWP cover

2)  Family Literacy Day Celebration – Last Sunday, I was honored to be invited by my dear friend, Carrie Gelson, to join her family and several other Vancouver teachers who are “making a difference in literacy” in our school district to attend a Vancouver Canucks hockey game in the “Sedin Suite” – the box seats of Canuck twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin.   The Sedin families do a lot to support Family Literacy in the city so they wanted to give back to the community in some way.   We had an AMAZING time watching the game from their suite and were treated to a visit from BOTH players.  T-shirts, hand shakes and photos – it was a THRILL for all of us.  And the Canucks won the game!  Thank you Carrie and thank you Sedin families for all you are doing to support Literacy in the Vancouver.

hockey family

3) Mid Terms are FINISHED!  Both my boys have been knee deep in mid year exams this past week but we are celebrating that they are finished (with the exception of one!) and can relax and enjoy a little free time!  I am proud of how hard they both studied and got through!

4) Trip to Calgary – I had a bad stomach virus that hit me hard on Wednesday night – not much to celebrate I know – but it didn’t last long – thank goodness.  And I was still able to fly to Calgary late Thursday (although still feeling a little weak!) to give a Writing Power workshop to a wonderful group of keen teachers from several schools hosted at Huntington Hills Elementary School on Friday.  It was -17 in Calgary but my flight was on time – which is always something to celebrate when you travel in winter!  Thanks to Vice Principal Christine McCrory and the rest of the Huntington staff for having me back in their school and for the delicious chicken noodle soup and authentic key lime pie!

5) Book Club – Last week was book club and I so look forward to these monthly gatherings with this amazing group of women (many teachers) who have been meeting together for over 12 years now.  Spending the evening with great wine, great conversations about great books is always a celebration for me.  Our discussion was on our most recent read:  The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty.  There were mixed reviews – many enjoyed the time period of New York in the 1920’s and 30’s but, like me, enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book better than the end, where the author seemed to throw in too many references to important events.   This month’s book is Emancipation Day by  Canadian writer Wayne Grady which I have not yet started.  I am anticipating the pressure of being “next pick” and will be making the choice for next month’s book.  With so many on my list that I will have trouble narrowing it down to one!

The Chaperone          Emancipation Day

6) Lit Circles – I am working with a wonderful group of grade 7’s at my school this term on Literature circles.  I selected 5 books focusing on a theme of children in slavery –  all at various reading levels.  I am so enjoying the reflective and meaningful discussions the students are having around these books.  They are asking thoughtful questions and making deep connections and I’m impressed with the level in which they are demonstrating their understanding.  It is a pleasure to sit around a table with these deep thinkers!  And to think that when I first started teaching I used to assign comprehension questions for each chapter!

Here are the five books we are reading for this Lit Circle theme:

A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story     Iqbal    Bitter Chocolate    I Am a Taxi    The Garbage King

7) New Picture Book – My sister, Alison Gear, an Early Learning Coordinator in Haida Gwaii, B.C., got the good news that the picture book she helped to create, Taan’s Moons (Taan means bear in the Haida language),  will be published and released next fall!  This book was a 3 month art project involving Kindergarten (some mixed Grade1/2) classes of all six elementary schools on Haida Gwaii, inspired by a poem my sister wrote as one way of sharing a version of the Haida Moon cycle with Kindergarten students. The felt artwork illustrations used for the book and created by the students and local educator and artist Kiki van der Heiden will be on display at the Vancouver Art Gallery this spring.  You can see the complete amazing journey of this creative collaboration here:  (I’m very proud of my big sis!)
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It’s been an amazing week and I’m very grateful for everything.   What are you celebrating this week?


Filed under Celebration Saturday, Literature Circles