Archive for the ‘Inspirations’ Category

Last week I shared a couple of pictures from my childhood that showed my siblings, my dad, and my children enjoying books together.  A few days later I received this great photo from Nancy Barth of a quilt that she and her family made for her mom’s birthday. It shows several generations of siblings, nieces, nephews, and grandparents, all reading together. Isn’t this just lovely?

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I am blessed. I come from a family where reading is valued. When I was a child, my brother and sister and I would pile into bed at night, and Dad would read to us or tell us stories. I remember his stories the best. He’d make them up using characters we’d create. This tradition continued on to the next generation. Bedtime stories were a big part of my children’s heritage, as well.

Some of my most treasured photos are those picturing family members reading. I’ll bet you have some, too. If you’d like, send us a picture of your family reading. Email it to d.diller@live.com.

Guess which one is Debbie? Not the one with the truck! Yep, The one with the book with my little brother, Doug, and little sister, Sandy. Don't you love the 1950's bangs???

Guess which one is Debbie? Not the one with the truck! Yep, The one with the book with my little brother, Doug, and little sister, Sandy. Don't you love the 1950's bangs???


Vintage 1980's- My dad reading in his "chair" to two of his grandchildren...My son, Jon (on left) and nephew, Jeffrey (on right)

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Where do you like to read? I have a quiet little reading nook tucked in above the staircase in my home. Take a look at it:


It’s pretty cozy, right? So send me a picture of where you like to read – or where you happen to do most of your reading. Is it in your living room? Or in your car while you are waiting for your kids to get out of soccer practice? Is it at school? I’d love to see your pictures – if you happen to be reading one of my books in the photo, even better! I am going to pick the most creative photo and you will receive a signed copy of one of my books! So start snapping away! My e-mail address is d.diller@live.com

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What are some of your favorite back to school tips? We’d love to have you post them to share with others and get some chatter going.

I surveyed the girls that work at Debbie Diller & Associates to bring you a few of our favorites:

From Christe Cantu: In the K-2 classroom, I like to take quick pictures of the kids as they come in on the first day of school. That way, we’re ready to sort the names in the pocket chart in order to get the Names Station up and running as quickly as possible. Plus the pictures can go home later in the year as keepsakes of the first day.

In the first day go-home packet, I also ask parents to write a letter telling me something special about their child. I received some really touching letters and learned things about my students I might have never known. It’s wonderful to see children through the eyes of their parents!

From Gretchen Childs: One thing I did in my kindergarten class was that as soon as I received my class list, I sent a postcard to each student saying “Welcome to kindergarten and I can’t wait to meet you!”

From Pam Pierce: I used to take my kids on a scavenger hunt around the school to get them familiar with the office, library, cafeteria, nurse’s office, gym, etc… I had little clues at each location and we would solve the clue and then go to the next spot. It was fun!!

From Debbie Diller: On the first day of school, I’d write a letter to my 3rd graders introducing myself to them. I’d include things about my family and what we liked to do, as well as what kinds of books I liked to read. Then I asked students to write a letter back to me. What a quick, easy assessment this was! I got to know my kids and quickly learned quite a bit about their reading, writing, spelling, and even handwriting! I still have some of their letters. These were special keepsakes.

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I feel a bit like a new mom having a puppy in the house! We’ve now rolled up all our rugs and stored them in our bedroom. (So much for that lovely living room I’d been working on!) And we have a huge crate by our stairwell (kind of like moving a playpen into the house when you have a new baby!).

To top it off, this 10-week old puppy, Atlas, has learned to open the door to the backyard! Here he is, posed for another independent escape to the backyard. He reaches up with his paw and pushes on the levered door handle. Instant escape artist! Too funny!

Atlas plotting his escape by opening the door

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Our new love

Tom and I just welcomed a new puppy into our lives. We’re in love with Atlas, our 30-pound, 10-week old Great Dane puppy! Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you from all of us!

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Holiday book sharing party

This year I decided to take a photo of the books that folks brought to my holiday book sharing party. It’s a time I always look forward to, because I get great ideas of things to read in the new year and love catching up with old friends! Everyone who came left with a new book to read and a yummy lunch of homemade soup and salad. 

I’ve been hosting this party (or a version of it) for over 20 years. Four of my friends who came this year have been to almost every one of these parties– Kelly, Carol, Karen, and Janette! A big thank you to all my friends who tolerate my schedule and still make time over their busy holidays to get together! 

Here’s a list of the titles from this year:

  • Rescue by Anita Shreve
  • The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand
  • How to Never Look Fat Again by Charla Krupp
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
  • Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That? by Ina Garten
  • A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle
  • Brain-Based Teaching in the Digital Age by Marilee Sprenger
  • Complications by Atul Gawande
  • The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel
  • Turtle Moon by Alice Hoffman
  • Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy
  • The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon
  • Multipliers by Liz Wiseman
  • Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri


Books from my holiday book sharing party

Anne, Janette, and Patty

Sharon, Susan, Kelly, and Carol

Gretchen and Susan

Lisa, Karen, and Heather

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Jim Goggin Memorial

It is always difficult when we lose great people in education. Recently, Jim Goggin, a principal in Houston Independent School District (HISD) died at age 55. Several years ago Jim hired me to work as a consultant at his school, Herod Elementary. I thank him for the opportunity to work with his teachers there on guided reading and literacy work stations. It was also one of the places where I worked with teachers on how to set up their physical space, too. 

At his memorial service I learned so much more about this fine man. One person whom I met at his service remarked, “You must be a really top-notch educator, because he was really choosy about who worked with his students and teachers.” His friends have set up a memorial page on Facebook.

Times like this always make me reflect about what others will remember about us after we’re gone. I’m reading a book, One Month to Live, by Kerry and Chris Shook. It addresses the idea of how we might live if we only had a month left in our lives. Carpe diem!

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Happy Thanksgiving and a soup recipe

Just got home from NCTE and a school visit in PA. Got up early to beat the grocery-store-rush-on-the-day-before-Thanksgiving! This post is dedicated to my friends at Pleasant View Elementary in Red Lion, PA. During lunch, we shared what we were cooking for Thanksgiving. I told them about my delicious turkey tortilla soup recipe, and they asked me to please put it on my blog ASAP!
Just got back from the grocery store and have started Thanksgiving prep, so while the pies are baking, here’s that recipe for all of you who love to cook over the holidays.
Texas Tortilla Soup (adapted from Rotisserie for Beef & Bird recipe)
makes 6-8 servings
3 T. butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 large carrots, diced
6 ribs celery, diced
leftover turkey (2-3 cups, chopped)
1 tsp. each: cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper
1/4 c. flour
14 oz. can diced tomatoes, including juice
6-8 cups turkey stock (I make mine from leftover turkey bones after Thanksgiving dinner)
8 corn tortillas, cut in strips and canola oil for frying them
garnishes: sour cream, avocados, shredded Cheddar cheese
Heat butter in large kettle and saute chopped veggies until tender. Then simmer for 5 minutes. Add seasonings and sprinkle with flour. Stir together to blend. Add tomatoes and stock. Simmer 1 hour. Add turkey and cook for 15 minutes more.
Drop tortilla strips into hot oil in frying pan and fry until crisp. Then drain on paper towels.
To serve, top each bowl of soup with tortilla strips, a dollop of sour cream, a few avocado slices and sprinkle with Cheddar cheese. Bon appetit, y’all!

My Thanksgiving grocery list


Prepping the stuffing for tomorrow

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I joined many K-6 educators in Cromwell, CT for CRA. Cris Tovani keynoted and spoke about the importance of having a core belief system. I agree! When I was a young teacher, my principal would often come into my room and watch me teach. It made me nervous having her stand there and observe all the time. But looking back, I’m glad that she cared enough to come by and watch. I quickly learned how to articulate what I was doing and why! My core beliefs as a teacher have evolved and strengthened over the years. They have developed as I reflect on my teaching practice.

In my session on Literacy Work Stations for K-6, we discussed having “sharing time” at the end of stations and small group instruction. One teacher commented that she loved giving kids the opportunity to reflect and how important it was to teach students how to do this at an early age. Reflection leads to depth.

I shared examples of how to set up a classroom step by step in my session on Spaces & Places. Teachers commented on how much they loved the colored photos in my book and how the detailed “how to” descriptions helped them. One teacher told me that these books changed her life. Wow! That statement alone makes me keep on writing. Thanks to all of you that I met in CT! And, yes, I am going to investigate having that TV show!!!

With friends at CRA

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