February 20

2021 it’s so nice to see you!

So, over a year has passed since my last post and so much has changed not only in the world during this time but also in my teaching career. 2020 brought us lock downs, home schooling and uncertainty. It also brought me a period of time in which my Writer’s Workshop floor books took a back seat to my Maths floor books. I felt torn between my two mentors, Lisa Burman and Lisa Jane O’Connor and my new love of Maths verses my first love of Bookmaking ūü§£. Writer‚Äôs Workshop had been my safe place for so long that it was timely that it was Maths‚Äô turn to get a look in. I must have done okay on my Maths journey as I was awarded the Primary Mathematics Association Pam Meredith Award for outstanding reflective writing and my class won the state award in the class category for the documentation of ‘Our Mathematics Learning’. As proud as I am for this achievement it came at the cost of my beautiful Writing floor books.

No matter what subject area, I have found my floor books to be a valuable resource for my teaching. Lots of time goes into copying photos, work samples as well as recording and transcribing conversations that are then included in my floor books. The more up to date the floor book the better. They are great to be able to use with the children as revision of what we have learnt or discussed in the mini lesson before or to build on with the next concept or nudge. Whether it be English or Mathematics the concept is entirely the same. I have also found the more images you put in of the children and their work samples the more they become connected to the reading of the floor book and the learning that it is representing. Last year I would constantly be asked, ‚Äėcould you take a photo of this for the floor book‚Äô or when taking photos, ‚Äėwill that be in the floor book?‚Äô.

During 2020 I had year 1s, 2s and 3s in my group and it was the first time I had dabbled in Writer’s Notebook. Having been a Bookmaking lover for so long, I was sure that this Notebooking gig was going to be a piece of cake. It was for some… but not others… The Bookmakers in my group tended to be mainly the year 1s and year 2s. They still had a love for illustrations and for some, they were still embarking on their writing journey. Most of my year 3s and a couple of year 2s were hungry for something more. They wanted to write more than they wanted to illustrate and they needed a new challenge. As I was inexperienced in Notebooking, I had many a conversations with experienced teachers at my site about the right approach for this and my colleague Cassia, was kind enough to share her Writer’s Notebook with me. As with Bookmaking we make books with the children to use as mentor texts, we also need to have our own Writer’s Notebook to share with the children and use as a teaching tool.

During Writer’s Workshop lessons, children in my class could choose between writing in their Notebook if they had one or making a Bookmaking book. The kids knew, just because you had a Notebook you didn’t have to use it all the time. It was okay to interchange between the two mediums and the mini lessons within our spotlight studies allowed for this to happen. On top of our regular Writer’s Workshop time, I was offering those children with Notebooks 2 extra 30min lessons a week in which we solely wrote in our Notebook. I called this ‘Notebook Club’ and initially our first objective was to build writing stamina. This was achieved through continuing writing within their Notebook of their own choice and regular quick writes, in which children were given a very broad topic or image to write about. However as the year progressed Notebook club was also used to practise our typing skills to publish writing from our Notebooks on the schools’ Chrome Books.

Fast forward to 2021 and already so much has changed. At the beginning of the school year, I resigned from the Department for Education after 16 years as a public school teacher and jumped at the opportunity to be part of an amazing group of educators who started a new independent school from scratch. Fortunately, both mentors, Lisa Burman and Lisa Jane O’Connor have come along for the ride, so I will continue to find myself trying to find the balance between English and Maths.

This year I have year 3s and 4s. It has been quite a while since I have taught this age group, but in saying this there are a large number of learners within this group that I have taught before and I have great relationships with. In some ways, I am ahead of the game because I know who lots of these kids are as learners already.

I started the year thinking that I would have a mix of kids using Notebooks and doing Bookmaking. Having this thought in the back of my mind, I bought plastic pockets for all of my children to store their Bookmaking in, as well as supplying every child with a blank exercise book for their ideas. I then bought enough Writer’s Notebooks for about half of my class. Now after 3 weeks of school, I am wanting to start again! I wish I did things differently! Argh!

Our first lesson of writing I called Bookmaking. We spent time talking about authors. Who they are and what they do. Thankfully many of my children already identified themselves as an author! Hooray! I then gave every child their ideas book and asked them to brainstorm things about themselves. Once they had done this they received a blank Bookmaking book and I asked them to make a book about themselves.

I’m not sure to be honest if I have given children a topic to write about for their first book before, however, I decided it was important at this point to establish who we were and it gave me extra insight into those children that were new in my care. This book will also become my base line data to measure writing growth as the year progresses. We continued to work on these books over the coming weeks as well as having mini lessons around the features of books, conferencing and working in our ideas books to make lists of things we liked and disliked. I had discussions with the children that some of them would receive a Notebook to write in this year and some children were very pleased to hear this as they had one in the past.

After the children finished their ‘All About Me’ books, some children were given Notebooks as they asked and I could see that they were ready for them. I soon ran out of Notebooks and this is when things became a little messy. Some children who didn’t receive a Notebook really needed one and others who probably really needed one to nudge their writing to the next level refused to have one. Handing out of the ‘Bookmaking’ folders became a messy time, with these being stored in a different place to the Notebooks and children handing out folders that were not needed began to make a huge messy pile of folders on the floor as Writer’s Notebooks were the preferred medium.

I went home and tried to work out how to make this more efficient… I decided that instead of an ideas book, I really should have given all children a Notebook as the things they had been recording in their ideas books could have easily been recorded in their Notebooks as ‘quick writes’ as well as the plastic pocket they already received to store any Bookmaking books that they choose to make or work on. Of course as I decided this would have been the better way to operate we tried getting more Notebooks the same as the ones I had already from our stationery supplier and of course they didn’t have any in stock. So I will have to try hit the shops tomorrow. I am then thinking I might remove the couple of entries we have started in our ideas book and glue into our Notebooks. I don’t know if this is the best thing to do, but at least then there is some element of sameness. Especially as the ideas book has become a bit unnecessary for the Notebookers.

On another note, these are the Notebooks I bought initially for my kids, and I’m just not sure of the longevity of them. I’ve already had a couple of kids have some pages begin to tare out as they have been a bit heavy with them. I think in the future, something with a sturdier spine would be a better option. Let me know what Notebooks you use with your class? I think I regret buying these ones…

Happy Writing,

‚̧ Julie


February 2

Back to School 2020

Every time I start one of these posts I apologize for my lack of posts. This post is no different! Argh, where has the time gone? The time in between posts has hit an embarrassing all time high, approaching almost a year in between posts. Last year brought me to a new site, a new team, new kids and new experiences. And what a year it was! I visited Reggio Emilia with a couple of colleagues as part of a Department of Education study tour and that not only left me inspired for the possible, it also reinforced for me the importance of documentation. On reflection, my trip to Reggio confirmed that this little blog I created way back in 2017 is a good way for me to document my journey, consolidate my ideas, share my wonderings and if it manages to help a few people along the way that is an added bonus. Towards the end of last year, Lisa Burman mentioned to me that she had shared my blog with a number of people new to the Writer’s Workshop world but told them that I hadn’t blogged for a while… Like we nudge our students to do something more or to try something new that was definitely Lisa’s nudge for me to write a new post. Haha!

As I mentioned in my previous post, the school I’ve moved to, practise Writer’s Workshop including Bookmaking and Notebook as a site wide commitment and I have been blown away with the kids noticings of the crafts of writing, their enthusiasm for writing and their ability to read books like writers. I spent the year planning spotlight studies for Writer’s Workshop with Toby my co-teacher and other teachers within our early years hub group alongside Lisa Burman our literacy coach. Our spotlight studies for 2019 included…

*’Building a Community of Writers’

*’Where Writer’s Get Ideas’

*’Publishing – Making our Writing Public’

*’How To Books’

*’Getting Ready for Meet the Author’

*’Create Interesting Characters’

*’Characters Drive the Plot of Stories’

*’Read Like a Writer’

*’How to Have Effective Conferences’

*’Publishing by Reading Aloud to an Audience’

*’Writing to Persuade’

Planning for a spotlight study starts with an idea. This often comes from the children, from a need or from the curriculum. We then brain dump in all the possibilities into a mind map before other members of our Early Years Hub Group add to it, building on our ideas.  I like to think of this as us planning for the possible. During the planning stage we make links to the Australian Curriculum and at the end of each term we meet to reflect on spotlights taught and the curriculum covered. When the spotlight is planned Toby and I pick one part to begin with in the form of a mini lesson or series of mini lessons and we see where the kids take it. We refer back to the mind-map to relaunch as we need to.  Last year it worked out that we covered 3 spotlights per term with each spotlight study lasting between 3-4 weeks.

This is an example of one of our initial mind maps. It’s not pretty, just a scribble of ideas that we continued to build upon.

Other writing rituals stayed the same for me last year. I followed the cycle of mini lessons, write time and reflection time. Although finding time for reflection continues to be an ongoing area of growth for me. I used a floor book to capture mini lessons (probably not as much as I should have), I had conferences with children to discuss writing successes, nudges and writing goals and I continued to use the amazing Danni Porcaro’s strategy cards to give to kids so they had a visual reminder of their writing goals. (If you haven’t got on board Danni’s strategy cards you can find them on TPT via this link. https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Writers-Workshop-Strategy-Cards-2964210 )

Fast forward to this year and luckily for me, Toby and I are sharing a space once again which means we can build on things that we established last year. In 2019 we stored our bookmaking supplies (blank books, lined books, alphabet charts, and the children’s bookmaking folders) in ikea trolleys. They were great because they were flexible and could be wheeled around the place but always seemed to be a little disorganised. The picture below is of our trolleys that held our bookmaking folders with the children’s bookmaking books. We had another trolley that held all the other tools we needed but the children found it difficult to navigate independently.

So this year we have decided to make a few small changes and one of these is around the storage of our materials. We decided to store all the consumable materials including paper, staplers, blank books, lined books,, blank conferencing sheets, alphabet charts, high frequency words and dictionaries in a ‘Paper Cafe’. This year Toby and I will each have a primary caregroup that we are accountable for during Writer’s Workshop time; so we set up the ‘Paper Cafe’ in the centre of the room to be accessible for everyone. We have used an ikea unit to store these materials and will continue to use the trolleys to store each group’s bookmaking folders. We are yet to label the magazine boxes but these will store our pre-made books, our alphabet charts and paper.

Before school went back I also had this vision of our kids being able to display their most current bookmaking books. Last year once the kids had published a book it went straight into their ‘published’ folders on the shelf basically to be never to be looked at again. I didn’t want this to happen again, I wanted them to be visible to the kids so they would be more inclined to read them or read books that had been authored by others. Adele and Katherine the teachers in the class next door to us, had clips that the children could hang their published books up on and my former colleague Danni had pegs up on a cupboard door in her classroom so we used both of these ideas as inspiration and created this space in our room.

We will use the pegs in this space to hang our most current published books (including my own… I really need to get better at finishing my own books this year!) and will also use this space to store current author study books alongside story tables or playscapes connected to this author. The baskets with clear folders at the bottom will hold our older published books and I think this year I will make more of a conscious effort to teach the children how to use these folders; not only for storage, but also as a library that can be viewed and borrowed.

Before we knew it, our room was set up and the kids were back to school. Like last year, Toby and I spent time in our groups on the first day of school explaining to the children that their first bookmaking book of the year was going to be a blank one with a yellow cover. We told them that we weren’t going to give them any help with it because we wanted to see what they could do as an author all by themselves. This book will become our baseline data for writing. We were fortunate enough to have kept 21 out of 39 children from last year so this process was not unfamiliar to them. In fact, some of these children then voiced how we then will look back on these books to see how they grow as writers over the year. A few children finished their books during the first week back so we have published them by reading them aloud to our groups and by hanging them on a peg.

One of our new children did catch me off guard this week when he asked me if I had a publisher? I said I wasn’t sure and asked him what it was. He said was a thing that you roll to get the right date and then stamp in the front or on the back of the book to say that it was published. This was something that I hadn’t used before in bookmaking but I could see that it was of great importance to him. I had a quick look in a box that I hadn’t unpacked since moving schools and found a very old date stamp. I asked him if this is what he meant? He said it was and he said that we really needed to use it to make our books published otherwise they weren’t really published. This was something he explained that he did with his class and teacher last year. I tried changing the date, however the year didn’t go to 2020 only 2019. I showed him that this might be a problem to which he replied ‘can you just cut that bit off?’ So that’s what we did, I cut the year part off the date stamp and he settled for me writing the year next to the stamped day and month.

I will start mini lessons next week to launch into our first spotlight study of the year – ‘Building a Community of Writers – I am Independent’ At this stage I have only dumped my ideas, ideas drawn from previous years and curriculum links into a mind map and will spend time with Toby and other early years teachers to extend these ideas during our nit this week and plan our next spotlight studies for the term.

I’ve set a reminder in my phone to blog again soon. I wonder how many times I will reset it? haha! I am going to try my hardest to blog again before the term is over.

Happy Writing!




May 13

New Year, New Class, New School…

Before I started blogging this writing journey of mine and my students, I assumed blogging was easy. I would read blogs and think to myself… Why don’t¬†people write about what we do?¬†I could¬†do that, I could write a blog. How hard could it be?

Then I started and wow! was I wrong…

The writing part seemed fairly easy but it was the time management of it all that caught me off guard. I had hoped this blog would¬†be somewhere I could share the writing journey of both¬†the kids in my class¬†and also my thoughts, wonderings and questions. I had hoped¬†my new posts would magically ping into inboxes around the world at least twice a term and I would network with people who had the same passion, the same questions and same wonderings. I had hoped that people out there in the real world, those who like me are still in the classroom, facing these kids day in day out, might even have some insights and answers to my questions. Unfortunately I was kidding myself and¬†here I am 9 months since my last post thinking.. how embarrassing, where do I start?¬†Are people interested anymore in my journey? Or has the moment passed?¬†or… Maybe people are interested¬†but¬†I just need to get better at allocating time to write…

Not long after my last post I won a¬†new ongoing position at another site beginning January¬†2019. As much as I wanted this new job, It was a bittersweet moment.¬†The realisation hit me pretty quickly that I would be leaving the familiar, I would be leaving the place I had taught at for the last 8 years and I would be leaving my partner in crime, my bestie, Marcia. We had been teaching together for so long, that we just had to look at each other and know what each other was thinking. We were on the same page with everything, especially the importance of Bookmaking and Writer’s Workshop. Needless to say the end of 2018 was a bit of a blur and blogging took a back seat to saying goodbye to the familiar.

Fast Forward to January 2019 and here I was at a new school, with a new team and with 40 new faces looking up at me. My new placement involved me sharing a year 1-3 class with Toby another teacher,¬†and¬†Teresa our¬†co-educator.¬†Collectively we had 40 students. This didn’t scare me, it was really no different to the way that Marcia and I had worked for the last 6 years. I just hoped that it would be as smooth as what I was used to.

Fortunately, my new school had a school wide agreement that we did bookmaking during Writer’s Workshop and were lucky enough¬†to¬†have a¬†literacy coach in Lisa Burman. Lisa spent some time with each team in our school during week¬† 0 (our back to school week)¬†to brainstorm and plan spotlight sessions for the term and just like that, we were on our way!

There was one remarkable difference in beginning our writing journey this year, compared to previous¬†years and that was that all children in our class¬†already knew what bookmaking was and had some understanding around bookmaking routines. In the past this was not the case. At my previous site, Writer’s Workshop was not a school wide approach to writing. There were a number of teachers implementing this way or writing but there were many that were not.

Before we started our first spotlight study for the term we gave each of our children a blank book and we asked them to make a book. This first book became our baseline data for the year and was stored away to be reflected on later in the year. We gave the children a week to work on this book before beginning our mini lessons around our first spotlight study for the year which was called “Building a Community of Writers”.

“Building a Community of Writers” involved us explicitly teaching and discussing what tools we needed for Bookmaking.¬†Some of these tools also had mini lessons on how to use them. Some of these mini lessons we documented in our floor book and some we didn’t. The tools included, our bookmaking folder, our conferencing sheet,¬†an alphabet chart, pencils, lapdesks¬†and our ideas book.

In the past I have kept the children’s conferencing sheets in my own folder rather than their own. I think this was mainly because I was so scared that the children would lose them. Despite these nervous feelings, I¬†went with Toby’s suggestion of keeping them in¬†the kid’s folders and it is working a treat. It is so much easier for anyone to conference and record these conversations and teaching points with any kid because it is right there.

“Building a Community of Writers” also involved us reading books like writers. We spent time noticing when we read stories. In particular, we noticed¬†the features of picture books.¬†I wondered out loud to the children whether we could put some of these features into our own bookmaking?

From our noticing of what was happening in our bookmaking we spent some time looking at book orientation and have continued to revisit this with some students who are finding this difficult.

We spent a lot of time discussing where we think authors get ideas from. We decided authors get ideas from things they know a lot about, people they love, places they’ve been, things they do everyday, experiences they’ve had and things they love. We then introduced an idea book in which we can brainstorm some ideas for us to refer back to when we are stuck for ideas. We will also use this ideas book when we introduce planning for writing.

We didn’t begin conferencing formally straight away but when we felt we were ready to, we had a mini lesson on what conferencing looked like and why we conference. Like I’ve experienced in previous years, this year we have had the challenge of the same students wanting our attention to read their books, have a conference or wanting help so we have devised a checklist to ensure we are getting to all students and not just those that capture our attention constantly.

Sharing Circles were our next focus. We use sharing circles to share our progress in bookmaking as well as to publish books that are finished. We discussed with the children some group norms about this process. Sharing circles or reflection circles¬†as I’ve also called them, have always, always, always been an area of Writer’s Workshop I have struggled with. I am confident to run them and the children seem confident to participate in them however it always seems that we run out of time to do them. Toby and I have discussed possibly having some of them at the beginning of our bookmaking lessons rather than a mini lesson some days to help children tune back into where they are up to in their writing and to take on board and act upon any feedforward advice that may be given. This hasn’t happened yet, but¬†we have planned to have¬†it¬†happen this term. Something else I think I would also like to try this term is having a small notebook or sticky notes with me when we are in our sharing circle to note down any interesting noticings, possible teaching points or nudges¬†of our children’s writing as they share.

We spent a very short amount of time looking at colouring in and discussing what looked better on the front cover of my latest bookmaking book. This was in direct response to some children that were rushing through to “finish” and who were not taking the time they needed to complete their pictures to the best of their ability.

Being a Brave speller was our next series of mini lessons and next installment in our floor book. Toby and I had noticed that some of our children were very frightened of having a go in their spelling of unknown words as they were scared they would make a mistake. We discussed how brave spellers make mistakes and mistakes are ok. I modelled how to stretch out the sounds I could hear in words and then had the children help me find these sounds on my alphabet chart. It was during this time that we noticed, the alphabet chart we originally had was great for showing the children the correct way of forming these letters but was not so great when a kid knew they were looking for the sound “c” but didn’t know what a “c” looked like. It was at this time I created an alphabet chart with lower and upper case letters as well as a picture that started with the most common sound the letter produced. We did then spend some time trying to create our own individual alphabet charts but we found this lesson to be a total flop. On reflection I think this was mainly because we had so many children that didn’t know their letters of the alphabet and the sounds that they produced. Plus I think, even though we had split the group in half for this task, we probably needed¬†an even smaller group to be successful and focused. Time was also spent demonstrating cutting words into chunks of sounds and trying and trying again.

Some time had passed since we introduced conferencing to our children and they seemed comfortable in what it looked like and what it was for. So¬†it just seemed like the right time to introduce the wonderful Danni Porcaro’s strategy cards to them.¬†I¬†explained to the children these strategy cards (which we chose to call Writing Goal cards this year) are reminders about what things¬†they are working on to make¬†their books even better. These¬†goal cards will be given to our children during our conferencing sessions and¬†are personalised, dependent¬†on¬†their needs. Children will keep these on a ring in their Writer‚Äôs Workshop folder to refer to during writing time. (You can purchase¬†Danni’s cards¬†here if you are interested¬†https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Writers-Workshop-Strategy-Cards-2964210¬†)


We wound up the end of term one with a series of mini lessons around adjectives. This stemmed from something I had seen in one of our children’s writing. I had noticed she was writing a book about her dog and she used some descriptive language to explain his appearance. With her permission we shared what I had noticed and I wondered whether anyone else had included adjectives into their writing. Many children said they hadn’t but they would by the end of the lesson and were willing to share what they had achieved during our sharing circle. Toby also spent some time brainstorming different adjectives with a small group of children who were ready to be nudged in this area.

and just like that… my first term at my new school was over..

Thanks for tuning in… I hope it was worth the wait?

Happy Writing!


August 16

Term 1 until now!

Arghhh! I am so embarrassed my last post was in March. Where has the time gone? So much has happened since my last post so I will try and fill you all in!

Term 1

Our following mini lessons back in Term 1 were… How to get a Publishing Lanyard, Conferencing, Colouring in and Grammar with Ms Margy.

As a class we discussed what makes a quality published book. I then introduced our publishing lanyards and we brainstormed these quality features in our floor book. I explained to our students that we might add to this list as we learn more about the crafts of writing.

By mid Term 1, conferencing was well under way, but a mini lesson was needed to establish some group norms for conferencing as I was constantly being interrupted. We decided that everyone deserved uninterrupted conferencing time whether it be with Julie, Marcia or Mary our EALD support teacher. We brainstormed and recorded our norms around conferencing and found since having this discussion conferencing became much easier.

Following up from our mini lesson about what makes a quality published book; a mini lesson was needed around what good colouring in looks like. I had noticed many students rushing to get their illustrations finished and not putting in 100% effort. I began this lesson by demonstrating scribbly colouring of one of my pictures and then coloured in a copy of the same picture in carefully and neatly. I asked the students to discuss with the person next to them which picture they liked better and why. This discussion was then fed back to the whole group and recorded in our floor book. I asked students if they had an example of good colouring in, to share it with me so we could celebrate it in our floor book.

Ms Margy our Assistant Principal continued to come in once a week until the end of Term 1 to work with mine and Marcia’s classes, to discuss and explore all things grammar. We had discussions around what verbs, adjectives and nouns were and participated in many activities such as finding the verbs in sentences, using capital letters for nouns of places and people and adding adjectives to our writing to make our writing more interesting.

Term 2

Marcia and I decided we would have a Non -Fiction focus in Term 2, particularly to meet the needs of our year 2 students. This genre tied in really well with our Science topic for the term which was “Living Things”. To begin this topic we asked the students what a non-fiction book is? Together on our interactive whiteboard through our Reading Eggs account we read our mentor text “Frogs” by Gary Underwood. We then brainstormed all the features we noticed in this book, labeling them in our floor book to be able to reference at a later date.

We then decided as we had some live tadpoles in our building to link in with our Science topic we would get all of our students to write a frog book. We encouraged students to use the features of non fiction books that we had observed in Gary Underwood’s book. We decided this time to deliberately take the topic choice away from the students so they could become familiar with writing non-fiction texts without the pressure of them having to source information as well as write in a new format. After rereading Gary Underwood’s Reading Eggs Frog book we brainstormed all the things you would find in a frog book. All students then began their frog books focusing only on front covers, back covers and content’s pages.¬†

Marcia and I thought it was important to expose students to the term “bibliography”. We explained to our students this is where you record where you sourced your information from. We all added Gary Underwood’s Frog book to our bibliography. We also discussed during this time, the importance of putting facts you read into your own words and not copying from texts as this is illegal.

These frog books proved to be very time consuming and at times stressful. During this time we really struggled to conference with students and check in with students about what they were up to outside of mini-lessons and quick debriefing times. A lot of time for us was sucked up finding information about frogs on ipads, loading the Reading Eggs’ mentor text and troubleshooting technical problems. After asking for some advice through our Writing Inquiry group, it was suggested that other people start non- fiction texts with topics that the kids are really familiar with, in the form of a how to book. After this was pointed out to us, this made so much sense and this was our next direction.

Marcia and I soon introduced the students to the concept of how to books. We began this lesson with a simple discussion asking our students what things do you know how to do really well? We then said in the famous words of Matt Glover “you could write a book about that”. This would be a how to book, it would teach us how to do something and can be a procedure of small steps.

After our inital discussion we asked our students to pick one thing that they were really good at and write it inside a bubble in their ideas book. We then demonstrated how you could have lines coming off of that bubble with all the steps of how to do that particular thing and in turn asked the students to go back and plan their how to books using this planning method.

We noticed student engagement rise again once we moved from the frog books to the how to books with the return of student choice within topic. We also noticed how much more time we had to get back to conferencing. I am not sure how I would do this next time, I think maybe I would do this in reverse and start with the how to books and then move on to the non-fiction information texts. I suppose for me, it felt in those first few weeks of Term 2 that we weren’t really doing Writer’s Workshop in its true form. We were just doing “research” during bookmaking time. Maybe when tackling this type of writing again it would have to be writing about an experience or the research component would be done during a different time and would then integrate into Writer’s Workshop?

Term 3

We are currently 4 weeks into term 3 and our focus for this term has been persuasive texts. We began this spotlight genre study by using Mo Willems’ “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” We asked the students to notice as I read to pay particular attention to what the pigeon is doing. Our students discussed this with the person next to them before brainstorming with the wider group all the things they noticed. They pointed out the pigeon was trying to convince us, force us, beg us and persuade us to let him drive the bus. We explained this type of writing is persuasive writing. Students recorded their noticings into their ideas books.

We then posed the question, what if we borrowed Mo Willems’ idea from this book and had our own “Don’t let the — Drive the —” creating an innovation on text by changing the animal and the transport? What could we think of? what could drive the what? This created a lot of excitement, laughter and mad recording of ideas. We then asked students to choose their favourite idea to become their next book.

Marcia then found this great YouTube clip on what is persuasive writing. We showed this to our kids to reinforce that persuasive writing does not always have to be Pigeon books.

Our final mini lesson to date has been around brainstorming persuasive topics about things that we feel, think or believe strongly about. We shared these orally and these will be the stimulus for our next bookmaking books.

That now brings you up to date with the things that have been happening in our Writer’s Workshop lessons. I hope sharing our journey has been helpful.

Happy Writing!


March 8

New Year, New Kids, New Blog Post

2018 has already brought me so much change. I have had a change in year level and have moved from teaching year 1s to now teaching year 1/2s. I have lost my amazing co teacher Danni not only to another class but to another school (I’m so very sad but, so, so happy for her!), I have a good friend Kellie co teaching our class on my day off and I also have had the challenge of keeping some of my students from last year. Some things have stayed the same though, I am still working next door to my work bestie Marcia and we are continuing to challenge each other and team teach to bring out the best in ourselves and the best in our students. We are also super lucky that our other neighbor Lynley has year 1’s this year and we are working more collaboratively with her.

When planning for Writer’s Workshop this year, Marcia and I were extremely mindful we were keeping approximately 10 students and we wanted to ensure that we took into account their prior knowledge as well as catering for the needs of our new bookmaking students.

In 2017 we were inspired by Angela and Sharon from our Writer’s Workshop inquiry group and their “Ideas Book” that they used with their students. We trialed this last year but I don’t think utilized it to its full potential. We said to ourselves we would use it better this year and we already have. We introduced the Ideas Book during our very first Writer’s Workshop lesson. We brainstormed knee to knee and then as a large group what is an author and wrote down all the things we knew. ¬†Instead of brainstorming this on large butcher paper as we have in the past our students brainstormed this into their own “Ideas Book”. I then photocopied some of their ideas to collate into a page in my floor book.

After this initial brainstorm, Marcia and I gave our students a blank book with a pink cover and asked them to be an author. We didn’t give them any other instructions but this. Like previous years, this book has become our raw data sample of what our students could do in the second week of year 1 or year 2. We have filed this book away in our student record folders to refer to and compare to future bookmaking at a later date.

Making the decision to begin a new floor book was a decision I didn’t take lightly. I had put a lot of work into my floor book in 2017 and used it consistently with my kids but at the end of the day my current students didn’t own it and I wasn’t sure if their journey would be the same considering I had year 2’s in my class to cater for.

The following lesson saw another entry into our idea’s book. We posed the question “what could you write a book about?” again, we had the students chat with their neighbour about what they could write about and then we asked the students to write or draw as many ideas as possible into their books in 10 minutes. After 10 minutes Marcia asked the students to stop, stand up and go and share the ideas they had recorded with two people. The students were then given another 5 minutes to record some more ideas that maybe they hadn’t thought of. I also copied some of these ideas for our class floor book. When our students had finished their brainstorm they continued on with their pink books.



Writer’s Workshop lessons for the next couple of weeks consisted of us letting the students just write and draw in their initial books without too much influence or input from us. As more and more students “finished” their pink books and moved on to their second books we had a mini lesson on the features of books. Students browsed lots of different types of books. After browsing time we discussed as a whole group what they noticed and then moved off to record their noticings in their ideas books.

These features of books were revisited with a focus on picture books using a mentor text and my floor book during the next lesson. We asked the students whether they thought they would need to have these features on their books for them to be finished, and they agreed that they would.¬†Previously Marcia and I would give the students a publishing lanyard saying they had published a book when they had finished. This year we have decided that not every book would get one. We agreed that to get one, students would have had to have made attempts on working on their strategies and have also incorporated elements of our mini lessons in their bookmaking. We also thought if no attempt was made after a nudge or a bit of encouragement a “finished” label would just go inside the front cover with the date. This will help us keep track of how many books are being made, how much effort is being put in and whether students are responding to the nudge of what to work on next.

In previous years our mini lessons were based around a focus author’s of the month. We have found this to be a great way of immersing our students in lots of quality books and expose them to many different authors and their craft’s. We thought Julia Donaldson was a great author to begin this year with as not only does she have some amazing books; some of our students are having difficulty in producing and recognising rhyme. To begin this lesson we borrowed as many Julia Donaldson books as we could from our school library. In pairs, the students looked at a various Julia Donaldson books before sharing with the whole group what they noticed. Marcia and I recorded these in our floor book with the true examples they found in the books they were browsing. A copy of this was then glued into our student’s ideas book.


This term Marcia and I have also been fortunate enough for Margy our Assistant Principal and EALD expert come in and work with us for one lesson per week. Margy posed the question to our students “what is a sentence” to which our students shared with her what they knew. Margy then explained to our students what a verb was and said to them “if you don’t have a verb in your sentence, then it is not a sentence”. We then spent about 5 minutes in groups looking at different sentences and picking out the verbs. During our writing time we asked the students to focus on the verbs in their sentences and share them during share time at the end of our lesson.


Last year we had our students illustrate an alphabet frieze to replace our commercial one and I made alphabet sound cards from these illustrations which our kids regularly used. During the first week of us implementing Writer’s Workshop we laminated copies of these for our students but we found within a week or so of them having them that they weren’t using them very well and some of them seemed to be confused by some of the illustrations. We wondered if this was because they did not create or own them. We decided we would have our current students illustrate their own sound cards to replace the copies from last year in the hope they would use them more as they would have a greater connection to them. Here is a sample of them. We were pretty impressed with what they created.

One of our last mini lessons to date was around conferencing and strategy cards. We discussed with the students that during writing time Marcia and I would be conferencing with individual students. We explained this would mean we would be listening to students read their books, looking for things that are great in their books and giving students strategies to ¬†make their books even better. These strategies to work on will be given to our students during our conferencing sessions in the form of our wonderful Danni’s strategy cards. We really could not run Writer’s Workshop without these. Each student will have their own personalised strategy cards that they will keep on a ring in their Writer’s Workshop folder to refer to during writing time.

(You can purchase them here if you are interested https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Writers-Workshop-Strategy-Cards-2964210 )

It has been an extremely busy start to the year. I think I have captured most things we have touched on. Hope it’s helpful for those of you reading along! I have made it my goal to write more regularly this year, so I promise, promise, promise, I will write again very soon.

Happy writing!








November 20

Writer’s Workshop Continues…

A few weekends ago, Danni, Marcia and I were at our last Writer’s Workshop study group for the year when someone asked me if I had written on my blog lately. I quickly apologized and said I had been in Japan for the last 3 weeks of term 3. Which on reflection was a rubbish excuse for not having written here as I’ve been home for 7 weeks now and still haven’t wrapped up what we did in term 3. So here I am…

We usually begin the month or term with an author study but in term 3 we began with the 2017 shortlisted Book Week books. We spent time reading and critiquing both the Author’s and Illustrator’s crafts in these books in the lead up to Book Week and also integrated these books into other learning areas.

We loved the detailed pictures and use of colour in “Gary” Written and Illustrated by Leila Rudge. We spent time also discussing the movement in the pictures of the pigeons and also the placement of the words on the pages.

The students made immediate connections to the illustrations in “Go Home, Cheeky Animals!” by Johanna Bell and Dion Beasley. They loved the simplicity to the pictures and we focused on how even though the pictures were clear and simple they we’re coloured with care which helped to make them stand out and look finished. This book was also a good one to revisit big and bold and to teach speech and speech marks.

We also noticed the big and bold in “Chip” written and Illustrated by Kylie Howarth. We discussed that some pages were filled entirely of an illustration with lots of detail in the setting and the characters whilst other pages consisted of smaller pictures of an event in the story and were surrounded by text.

Sally Heinrich came to visit our year 1 and 2 students during Book Week. She shared her story of becoming an illustrator and author and chatted with the students about her latest illustrated book “Papa Sky” written by Jane Jolly. She explained to the students how she went about creating the character Papa Sky and how it took her a long time to finalise her character after drawing him in many ways. ¬†Sally showed the students some of her dummy books and gave them insight into how often her illustrations and stories are inspired by personal experiences, people she knows or places she’s been. She showed the students real photographs of real landscapes that she used to inspire her own illustrations and told the students that if she is unsure about what she is writing or drawing about she does research to help her.

Our take away from our third Book Making Inquiry Group session was inspired by Angela and Sharon who¬†are part of our study group. ¬†They were kind enough to share their “ideas book” and how they use it with the junior primary students in their classes. We went back to school the following week and gave our students their very own ideas book. Danni and Marcia introduced this book to our students explaining it was a place to record ideas (words and or pictures) that we could then draw upon if we were struggling for ideas when bookmaking. Our student’s first entry in this book was brainstorming ideas about our guest author Sally Heinrich. On reflection, we haven’t used this ideas book as well as we had hoped this year but it is something we will definitely introduce to our students at the beginning of next year.

The next highlight of term 3 was when Katie the facilitator of our Bookmaking Inquiry Group came to visit us at work. Katie came just before Writer’s Workshop time in both mine and Marcia’s classes and had the pleasure of seeing our mini lessons, our students bookmaking and our share time to finish. Marcia and I then spent some time with Katie to discuss what she had observed and any advice to improve what she had seen. We asked Katie for some advice on share time/ reflection time as we feel this is where we need the most help. Katie suggested we try sharing circles once a week to begin with in which you could ask students… who has an example of…? (a particular strategy/ text feature) Who can help me with an idea?… (Feed-forward) or even what have you been working on today?… We have been trying to ensure we schedule this into our program to make sure we do it, otherwise we find it is something we tend to overlook or miss.

The remainder of the term’s mini lessons were spent focusing on Non-Fiction texts. Danni ran the initial mini lesson with our class in which the students spent time exploring non-fiction books and looking for the features they had in common.

I then created my own non-fiction text called “Keeping Clean”. Before opening the book, I showed the students the cover and asked them to make a prediction about what would be inside this book. We had responses that consisted of content and features. I then read the book to the students and asked them to “feed-forward” and give me some ideas about what I could write about next in my book. The students were confident in rattling off many things ideas about keeping clean such as washing hair, brushing teeth, cleaning faces, using towels etc… I asked them if my next page could be about frogs, and they laughed at me and said no. I asked why not? and they said because it doesn’t match the title. Which brought us back to the strategy make sure your words and pictures match!

Since running these mini lessons, we have had many students wanting to create their own non -fiction books which has been great. Our students are using the technical language of contents pages, page numbers, photographs and information. We are also hearing students discussing these features in books they are reading too! Hooray!! Transference!!!

So that finally wraps up Term 3! I promise my next post wont take as long!








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August 17

Our Writer’s Workshop Journal

Danni and I have a A3 floor book in our class that documents our mini lessons and is available on our bookshelf for students to browse through if they feel the need. We use our journal to record new mini lesson concepts and also to review mini lessons from the past. We began the year recording these lessons with enthusiasm and now as I look back through, I feel that we have “forgotten” to record some of our learning experiences. Nonetheless, we have pages in there that we haven’t shared yet so here goes.

We began term 2 with yet another author study. Julia Donaldson was our author for the month of May. We began this lesson by exploring Julia Donaldson books and sharing what we noticed.

Onomatopoeia was one of our next mini lessons. I read Julia Donaldson’s book “The Flying Bath” and explained to the students when authors use sound words in their writing such as “splish, splosh!”, “thump, thump!” and “sprinkle, sprinkle” this is called onomatopoeia. We practiced saying the word and I encouraged students to have a go in their own books.

The students noticings lead us to our next minilesson. Some students noticed that some of the books we had been reading had writing on the back. I explained to the students that this was called the blurb and its job is to tell the reader what the story is going to be about. We then explored some of the books we had been reading lately and noticed that some blurbs also had matching pictures near them. Some students then mimicked what they had noticed and practiced this feature in their own book.

We had noticed some of our students had been attempting to add speech into their bookmaking so Danni facilitated the next mini lesson with a focus on speech bubbles in stories. Alison Lester’s “I’m Green and I’m Grumpy” is a fantastic text to explore this feature and since exploring this mini lesson we have noticed students using this feature with increasing accuracy to help add more detail to their stories.

Our next mini lesson stemmed from a teaching point that came out of a conference with one of my girls. I noticed that this student was only writing one or two simple sentences per page but was quite competent in being able to write more. I showed her in our conference how to add more information into her sentences to create heavy sentences by modelling in my own book. After doing so, I asked her to try and make some of her sentences heavy. She went away and immediately added more information to every page, creating heavy sentences and a story that had much more substance. I was so proud of her! I asked her if she would be happy to share her book with the class at the end of the session and she agreed. When sharing I asked her to read her book how she had first written it and then asked her to read it with the changes. I asked the students which version they thought was better. Everyone agreed that the book sounded better with the heavy sentences. The next day we revisited the concept of heavy sentences and I used my book “Turtle’s Party” as the simulus. Before our lesson I had written some pretty basic sentences into my book and then asked the students what could I add in to make it sound better. I then used a texta to edit my writing to create heavy sentences with the student’s help.

When writing our reports last term we noticed as part of the Australian curriculum, students in year one need to understand the terms characters and setting. We use these terms regularly but admittedly had not specifically taught these terms. We thought for this mini lesson we would stray away from our author study and used the traditional story “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”. ¬†Since teaching this mini lesson we make a conscious attempts to add discussion around charaters and setting when reading other books.

Alison Lester was our new author of the month for June and we began this author study as we have others throughout the year. We spent time exploring, reading and noticing her books. We then brainstormed our noticings.

Capital letters and full stops was our next mini lesson. This is something we discuss and model at least weekly in Word Work and are constantly “reminding” students to use them. (Which as Matt Glover says is totally ineffective). We have¬†seen some transfer of knowledge around the correct use of full stops and capitals from Word Work to Writer’s Workshop but thought it wouldn’t¬†hurt to run some mini lessons around these conventions. Marcia did this by writing a passage with no capitals or full stops on the white board and demonstrating how to add these in. The next day we repeated this same activity in our mini lesson but this time using the next pages in my book “Turtle’s Party”. We now encourage students to use an editing pen to add in capital letters and full stops when they have finished writing their books.

I have lots more to tell you, but that’s all for today! Sorry it’s been so long between posts! Hopefully I’ll be in touch again very soon.

Happy Writing!


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July 5

Matt Glover comes to Adelaide

Arghh!! What can I say? Where do I start? What an amazing day of training.  My wonderful colleagues, Marcia and Danni and I had been looking forward to seeing Matt Glover since our tickets were bought back in March and it did not disappoint.

There were lots of take aways from the day as well as lots of validations that we are doing some things really well. I loved hearing about doing things ‘ishly’ and the importance of honouring approximations and then gently nudging, nudge, by nudge, by nudge.

I had a bit of an ah-ha moment when Matt Glover talked about composition and conventions. Especially when he discussed the notion that your ability to compose is what helps you write beautiful pieces of writing. This made me reflect on my practice and realise that even though composition often outweighs conventions for beginning writers I think I put a lot of pressure on my students to work on their writing conventions more than their composition.

Stories Vs Lists was my next take away. I had never thought about books being sorted into these two categories however, since attending the training I am beginning to subconsciously sort them. Before this training I also had this misconception that those kids that were writing list books over and over again needed to learn how to write a “story”. I now see that its ok that kids write list books and list books don’t necessarily mean they are simple books or books that are less superior to stories.

What’s in your stack and teaching during conferencing using your stack of mentor texts was probably my biggest take away for the day and my biggest area for growth. To be honest, I was in awe watching the videos of Matt Glover conferencing with a child and then being able to pull out his well used mentor texts to address that child’s particular needs in what seemed like seconds. I immediately thought “I can’t do that, I’ve got too many books in my stack, I don’t know my mentor books that well and where do I get myself a non-fiction book like that about frogs”… So during these upcoming holidays I think I really need to do some thinking into what kind of stack I need next term, and some research and reading of books to condense my stack and make it more manageable.

I had also thought I’d been conferencing pretty well, I knew what books the kids were working on, I knew what writing strategy they were working on and I was touching base with all of my students fortnightly if not weekly. But after listening to Matt, I realised the thing that was missing from my great conferencing was the teaching point. I had been doing lots of reminding or telling the students what they could do next in their book or work on¬†or improve¬†but, most of the time I had been leaving out the teaching element. So, when I was back in the classroom the following week, I set myself a goal to try this out. I hadn’t refined my stack however I did have a book that I had been writing and thought that would be my initial go to book. The girl that was my first guinea pig was a girl that had gone from writing random strings of letters to writing phonemically correct words using a sound card in a term. Unfortunately the book she was reading to me was a finished book, this is not really where I like to see the kids during conferencing but I was rolling with it anyway. I noticed throughout the whole book she had random capital letters throughout her words (I know, I know, a convention not a composition point, but it was where I initially felt comfortable) and I pointed this out to her. I explained to her that capital letters are something we use at the beginning of a sentence or for the name of something. I then asked her if it was ok if I wrote a page in my own book quickly and teach her how to fix it. She was keen and I quickly scribed a couple of sentences in my book with some random capitals letters. I then asked her to help me find the capitals that were in the wrong spots and using a pen I corrected them. After showing her this, I suggested she get a pen and try doing what I did. Within 5 minutes she had been back through her whole book and had edited the incorrect capitals into lowercase letters. For me this was so powerful and her and her book became the discussion point in our share time at the end of the lesson.

I felt really validated about student choice and feel that this is something we do extremely well. I also felt really good about the writing workshop structure that Matt discussed and thought we were on point with the timings he suggested and the elements involved. For me, sharing time is something I continue to need improvement in despite understanding the value and importance of it. Unfortunately it just seems to drop off most days and I know I need to be more conscious of using this time to consolidate teaching points using student’s writing.

So in conclusion the day left me feeling energised and excited. We had been left with areas for growth within our delivery and we also felt great about those things we are doing well.  If you ever get the chance to listen to Matt Glover please do yourself a favour and do it! You wont regret it.



June 12

Where has the time gone?

I often feel like the days drag on but the weeks seem to fly by. So much seems to have happened in writer’s workshop since my last post including meeting up with the study group, continuing on with our normal day to day writer’s workshop program, moderating writing samples ready to write reports and running training at work. In this post I will write about the study group, moderating our writing samples and the training Danni and I ran at work. I will post about our latest mini lessons in the coming days.

I really enjoy being part of Lisa Burman’s Writing in the Early Years study group. It confirms for me, that Danni, Marcia and I doing a great job. It makes us feel valued and we love sharing our ideas and hearing what is happening in other classes across Adelaide. It is also a fabulous way of connecting with like minded passionate teachers and broadening our professional network. ¬†We always leave these sessions on such a high and look forward to getting back into the classroom and trying new things. After the last session, Katie our fabulous facilitator shared with us a youtube video of Matt Glover conferencing with a child called Isabella.¬†https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGPr1V8jgiw¬†I loved the way Matt Glover listened to Isabella and then reread the book back to her. We then watched Isabella part two¬†https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YReYm0jx88¬†and I really loved the way Matt Glover then demonstrated to Isabella how she could read her book with more information adding more detail. This video immediately made me think of a few students in my class who I could be doing this with to extend their oral vocabulary and their story telling skills. We are off to see Matt Glover in a masterclass on Thursday and can’t wait!

It’s that time of year again, report writing time! Marcia, Danni, Bethany and I spent a day last fortnight moderating work samples ready to write reports and allocate grades. A couple of years ago Marcia and I created a spreadsheet that broke down the achievement outcomes of the Australian Curriculum for both Maths and English in year one. We use this on a regular basis to map our kids achievements in each of these areas and as we finish units of learning. Last year, we looked more closely at the English curriculum and mapped out where exactly writer’s workshop fits in. We were initially amazed at how much of the Australian Curriculum we cover by implementing writer’s workshop in our classes and wondered how we were actually covering it all when we were weren’t bookmaking!

At the beginning of the year we kept each of our student’s first books for the year which we put in their profile books. It was timely to pull those out and see the amazing growth when comparing to their current writing.

A couple of weeks ago we had a student free day at school and Danni and I were asked whether we would be keen on sharing our knowledge about writer’s workshop with some of the school’s ancillary staff. We agreed and created a presentation for staff focussing specifically on what writer’s workshop is and what in particular they can do to help us ¬†and our students during these lessons. We talked around the purpose of writer’s workshop and the three components lessons are made up of ¬†– explicit mini-lessons, writing/ bookmaking time and refection time. We were clear about there being common agreed rules during our bookmaking including students having the right to choose what they write about, adults not being permitted to write in student’s books and students are not allowed to use erasers. We discussed the best way to record conversations or teaching points that ancillary staff may encounter when they are working with students and we also talked about how our student’s strategy cards can be used to help support them in their writing.

I’ve still got lots to share about our latest mini lessons. So will post again soon.

Happy Writing!




April 26

Finishing Term 1

Last time I logged into my blog I had so much to share that I needed to share in two parts. I shared part one and had good intentions of blogging more in the following days… Needless to say the busy-ness of finishing term 1 took over so here we are almost at the end of the holidays writing the next part of our journey.

After introducing our Author of the Month for March – Lynley Dodd, it was natural to talk to the students about her Hairy Maclary books being part of a series. We also took this opportunity to share that a student in Marcia’s class had also begun writing their own series of books using the same characters and these were available to read in Marcia’s room.

One of our students had a Hairy Maclary book of his own at home with a collection of stories that he kindly brought into school to share with our class. We noticed in his “Hairy Maclary Treasury” book there was a contents page. Together we discovered this listed all the stories in the book and what page we needed to turn to, to find them.

As Lynley Dodd uses ellipsis in some of her stories, our next mini lesson talked about ellipsis being 3 dots in a row to show that a sentence is not finished. We discovered that the page needs to be turned to find out what happens next in the story. We have noticed since talking about ellipsis the students are noticing them more in published texts and they are making good attempts at adding them into their own writing.

Our next mini lesson focused on writing goals and strategy cards. The fabulous Danni made these amazing strategy cards (that you can purchase on TeachersPayTeachers here… https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Writers-Workshop-Strategy-Cards-2964210¬†) that we were giving out as we were conferencing with students. We wanted to make sure we all had the same understanding around them hence the mini lesson. Danni explained during her mini lesson that goals are the things we want to get better at and we set writing goals to help us get better at writing. Danni showed the students Tri’s writing goals and explained that they will all have writing goals strategy cards to help remind them what they need to continue to work on. Danni showed the students that these would be kept on a small ring and more strategy cards would be added as the students needed them. ¬†She told the students that these will kept along with their current¬†bookmaking and alphabet sound chart in their writer’s workshop plastic pocket.

The power of three was our next mini lesson. I am slowly continuing to write my book – “The Walking Hotdog” and I completed another couple of pages in this book to show this text feature. I have found the students really love it when you show them that you are a writer too and were excited when I brought my book out. I explained to the students that the power of three is when a word or an image is repeated three times to help emphasise the word. I asked the students to tap their nose when they noticed this in my book. I then read the students the pages in my book I had already completed before the lesson and the students tapped their noses when I got to that part. The next day to recap, Marcia read the book “Banjo and Ruby Red” by Libby Gleeson to further reinforce that the power of three can be shown through both words and pictures.

Our last formal mini lesson for the term was around BIG and BOLD. This was a term we had been using throughout the term anyway but had yet to do a formal lesson around it. We used Aaron Blabey’s “Pig the Pug” as our shared text for this concept and the students were able to explain that authors use big and bold when they want something to stand out or when the character is shouting as Pig does throughout the story.

Throughout the term in between our formal mini lessons we shared stories and recapped on the main points of our mini lessons. We also reread our class journal. This has become the record of our learning and the working document of all of our mini lessons. Some days we would randomly flip it open and ask the students if they could show us the skill that was on that particular page in their own bookmaking. Other days we would go back and read the whole journal. Our class journal is always on display in our classroom and the students are able to access it if they feel the need.

Until next time.