Laundry Day

When I was growing up, life was predictable. I knew, for example, that if it was Monday, Ma would be doing the wash. Tuesday, she’d mend; Wednesday, iron, and so on. Meals, too, were predictable. Every Sunday we had pot roast; every Friday, Ma’s pizza. In regular order, we all knew we would be awakened by the smell of coffee brewing and toast popping up in the toaster.  When we came home for lunch, we knew it would be ready and waiting for us. That predictability was comforting. It was reliable. It implied that things would never change. The poem that follows is an homage to those memories.

Everyone knows that

On Mondays, all the mothers

Will be busy doing the wash.

If it’s summertime, we kids will

Press our noses

Against the white sheets, and

Breathe in the fresh scent.

We’ll unpin the shirts and socks and unmentionables

And pile them into the laundry basket,

A chore we enjoy doing,

Even though we have to stop playing

And wash our hands with soap first.

When it’s windy, the clothes snap and flap

And dance on the clothes lines.

Up and down the block

All the back yards have the same

Look.  Rope lines and poles and baskets and pins

In every one.

When I grow up

And live on this street,

On Mondays,

I will do the wash.


Celebrate Poetry


can be

the magic


which you say

you want,

but only

if you


stand willing

to pull

that rug out


from under

your own

feet, daily.   Bill Knott (1940-2014)


In this week’s Sunday NY Times Book Review, Kathleen Rooney critiqued “Selected Poems, 1960-2014” by Bill Knott. I wasn’t familiar with his poetry, but the  April 3 edition of the New Yorker also reviewed his work. From these two sources (and the excerpts printed in each review) I became curious. As April is poetry month, I thought learning more about Mr. Knott and his work would be an endeavor worth pursuing.

Knott was brilliant but morbid and an eccentric to boot. In 1968 he published (under the pseudonym Saint Geraud)  “the Naomi Poems: Corpse and Beans”.  Towards the end of his life, he self-published collections via Amazon. A friend and colleague of Knott’s has just released a collection through Farrar, Straus & Giroux:  “I Am Flying into Myself: Selected Poems, 1960-2014” which I have just ordered. From the reviews in both publications I am expecting a roller coaster ride through (as Rooney says: “free verse, strict rhyme and meter, with subject matter zany yet poignant, romance, terror, and hilarity.”)

I admire poets, and though I have written “poems” myself, I don’t consider myself to be a poet. Love of language notwithstanding, I lack the ability to communicate that “shock of recognition” that true poets exhibit. Yet, I persist. Why? I guess I want what Bill Knott suggests is possible—that stamina “to pull /that rug out/ from under/ [my] own/ feet daily.” Instead, I’m more like the speaker in another of Knott’s short poems “Security.”

If I had a magic carpet

I’d keep it

Floating always

Right in front of me

Perpendicular, like a door.

April just may be the month (the cruelest month?) to try again.



Things that make me go “Huh!”

  1. Why do drivers ride in the passing lane when they’re not passing?
  2. Why does the guy who holds the door open for you at the WaWa try to run you over in the parking lot later?
  3. Speaking of WaWa, why do some customers park in the filling station space after they have filled their gas tanks while they run in for coffee?
  4. Why do those “Two ingredients that will change your life” recipes usually contain more than two ingredients?
  5. Why do I click on those recipes anyway?
  6. Why is adjusting to Daylight Savings Time more disorienting to me than switching back to Standard time?
  7. Speaking of Daylight Savings Time, even though I love increased daylight at the end of the day, how does it save energy since I need lights in the beginning of the day anyhow?
  8. Why does toast always fall butter side down?
  9. How come salads in restaurants often contain more calories than a burger?
  10. And the # 1 thing that makes me go “Huh!”  April’s Fools Day has come and gone. Why is “He who must not be named” still President?

Your Turn Lesson: The Colon

Introduction: Young writers can use the colon after a statement that introduces a quotation, an explanation, an example, or a series.  When writing reports and nonfiction pieces, student writers can use the colon as a way to organize information in lists as well as to emphasize important information. Teaching writers how to use this useful tool is time well spent.  Of course, the colon can be helpful punctuation in any type of writing.

HOOK: To begin the lesson, choose some mentor text sentences that use the colon.

*Colon used to introduce a series:

“He had all sorts of clients: husbands and wives who wanted a divorce; people arguing about money or property rights; farmers quarreling over who owned a certain hog or horse.”

Alan Schroeder, Abe Lincoln: His Wit and Wisdom From A-Z.

(This use of the colon is sometimes difficult for young writers to master since they want to place the colon immediately after the verb. “My favorite subjects are: math, science, and Latin.” for example, is incorrect    “My favorite subjects are challenging: math, science, and Latin.” is correct.  The words before the colon must be able to stand alone.)

*Colon used to introduce an explanation:

“Dew is not precipitation: it does not fall down from clouds but forms directly on cool surfaces, such as a spider web in the early morning.”

Seymour Simon, Weather.

*Colon used to introduce a quotation:

“Finally, they said: ‘You should have your own art show. A one-man exhibition, right here in West Chester.’”

Jen Bryant: A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin

*Colon used for emphasis:

After three days of deliberation, the jury returned the verdict: GUILTY!

From Diane’s  notebook

PURPOSE:  Writers, today we’re going to look at a useful mark of punctuation – the colon. We use colons mainly to help readers recognize that they are going to see important information: an explanation, a quotation, or a list. We’re going to practice using the colon to help us add details to our writing in a new way.

BRAINSTORM:  In this case the brainstorming is tied closely to the hook. Post the example sentences on an anchor chart, and ask the class to add to the examples by examining mentor texts and/or classroom text books that use the colon. List the reason for the colon use in each example sentence: lists/series, explanation, quotation, emphasis, or example. Be prepared to discover that students may find other uses of the colon than the ones listed above (separating titles from subtitles, for instance).  List these as well on the anchor chart, explaining that for the purpose of this lesson we will be saving these other uses for another time.

MODEL: Compose several sentences in front of the students using the colon to show emphasis, introduce a list/series, a quotation or an example.


I brought the following dishes to the picnic: potato salad, fruit compote, tortilla chips, and dips. (list/series)

He got what he worked for: he really earned that award. (explanation)

I live by the rule: “Treat others as you would be treated.” (quotation)

I have only one word for you, my dear:  study!  (emphasis)

The hurricane was very destructive: 300 families lost their homes. (example)


Students work with partners to use mentor texts as models for writing sentences with colons.  Encourage them to write sentences that demonstrate the use of the colon in two different ways.   Share student sentences whole group.  Add to the anchor chart.

INDEPENDENT PRACTICE:  Ask students to return to their writer’s notebook or a current draft to see if there are places where they can use a colon to signal important information to come. If they have no draft that works, ask them to try it out by writing a short piece in their writer’s notebook.

REFLECTION: After students have practiced the use of the colon ask them to reflect on one or more of the following questions:

How did the use of the colon make your writing better and/or easier to understand?

How could you use a colon in a narrative? An opinion piece? A poem?

What do you now know about using colons?

When is it most useful for you to use a colon?

Diane Esolen Dougherty and Lynne Dorfman
are the co-authors of Grammar Matters: Lessons,
Tips, & Conversations Using Mentor Texts, K-6
published by Stenhouse.

Look for a new Your Turn Lesson on grammar
and conventions the last Friday of each month. Grammar Matters



Good to the last drop

Whew! We made it to the last day everybody. It’s been a pleasure to connect with friends and to make new ones. Amy has inspired me with her wit and wisdom every day. Lynne has provided so much food for thought, I chastised her to STOP making me think so hard. Rose’s thoughts about gardening and life in general are always a joy to read. And Clare, ever single day your posts have been thoughtful as well as thought provoking. I should acknowledge all the wonderful slices and slicers, but time is of the essence, as they say.

So, I thank all of you in this community who posted and responded and formed a safe place for all of us writers. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for providing the space and the challenge! I missed posting one day when I was away from home and couldn’t figure out  the iPad—again, technology is not my forte. Still, I so enjoyed reading the posts of the other slicers. I enjoyed responding too, and all the writing made me feel connected to you all. Thank you Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Lisa, Melanie and Stacey for all your hard work in giving us this space. Looking forward to next year already.




The light in the attic; the light at the end of the tunnel. The light at the top of the stairs. Light the match, light my fire. Light is the opposite of dark. Dark victory. Dark Knight. Night and Day. Day light. Light is the opposite of heavy. Heavy lifting. Heavy duty. Heavy, heavy, what hangs over? Over the hill. Over the falls. Fall asleep. Sleep deprived. Deprived of light. The light at the end of the tunnel. The Light in the Attic. Shel Silverstein—a favorite poem from his book Everything On It.

“When I am gone”

When I am gone what will you do?

Who will write and draw for you?

Someone smarter—someone new?

Someone better—maybe YOU!

Writers and artists bring light to our world. They illuminate reality. They help us to see more clearly. They enlighten us. Hey, Mr. Trump, let there be light.

Three More Days

Three more


Be a writer.

Write every day.

Share what you write.

Respond to posts.

Some days easy.

Most days not.


Be a writer.

Open your heart.

Open a vein.

Bleed your words.

Slice of life.

Let others in.


Be a writer.

Revise your thoughts.

Try new structures.

Take a risk.

Listen to yourself.

Post your work.


Be a writer.

Three more days.

Keep it going?

Challenge from within.

What writers do

Is write daily.

“Art without practice is nothing.” John Long Writer’s Little Book of Wisdom