Growth Mindset – Are We Pears Yet?

I was honored to receive an advanced copy edition of Miranda Paul’s book Are We Pears Yet? earlier this summer. The official release date is September 19th, 2017. I am planning to use this book with my second graders during our first days of school. This is a story of two young pear seeds who just can’t wait to grow up and become pears. The clever illustrations show the seeds performing on stage with speech bubbles to show the dialogue.

Why is this a perfect book to start the school year? I am planning to incorporate research from Carol S. Dweck into our daily discussions this year. Her research describes how children who think with a “growth mindset” reach their goals and improve in school.

Students who have a “fixed mindset” may be afraid of failure, avoid challenge, ignore feedback and think that he/she is just not good at something without seeing strategies for how to improve. Students who have a “growth mindset” see failure as an opportunity for learning, welcome challenges, keep trying and believe he/she can always improve with feedback from others. Instead of thinking “I can’t” students can be encouraged to think “I can’t yet” As a class, we will be figuring out what students need to grow.

Miranda Paul’s book describes what the two pear seeds need in order to grow – soil, rain, sun. . . and wait time. One seed continually asks, “Are we pears yet????” until they discover they will need to first be pear trees in order to be seeds.Miranda includes some “encore” information about pears at the end. A science lesson, an example of growth mindset, and really funny/talking in speech bubble pear seeds make Are We Pears Yet? a great book to start the school year.

(One of my favorite Wisconsin Authors – Miranda Paul has also written One Plastic Bag:Isatou Ceesay and the Story of the Recycling Women of the Gambia, Whose Hands are These?: A Community Guessing Game, Water is Water: A Book about the Water Cycle.) Other more recent releases are:The Great Pasta Escape, Trainbots and Blobfish Throws a Party.

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Wisconsin Public Radio – Larry Mueller Show

Strawberry sandwiches, cherries and chickens were just part of the conversation on today’s Larry Mueller show on Wisconsin Public Radio. My Dad, Jerry Apps, and I talked about our new cookbook – Old Farm Country Cookbook – Recipes, Menus, and Memories. Folks called in with stories about cooking “from scratch”, favorite elderberry blossom pancakes and cherries. We even talked about tips for using bacon grease as a secret ingredient. One caller remembered her grandma used bacon grease to style her hair!

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Authors’ Advice for a Better Writing Life: Read Widely by Marci Glaus

Marci Glaus, from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction describes the “Wisconsin Writes” project. Writers describe their own writing process and the importance of reading widely as part of a writer’s life. She mentions my video in her post.

Nerdy Book Club

In an attempt to capture the recursive, complex, messy process we call writing, I started asking authors from my state to do something extremely awkward. I asked them to allow me, and sometimes a small crew, to enter into their personal writing space to film them while they were writing. I also asked them talk out loud about what they were doing in real time. I figured most authors would refuse or just ignore my queries, but to my surprise, almost all of them enthusiastically agreed.

Since 2015, I have been capturing glimpses into example writing processes of writers from a variety of contexts through a project called Wisconsin Writes. More than 20 authors have shared part of their writing process, involving everything from planning, putting a writing plan into action, editing, or revising. Their thoughts were filmed, edited, and then published as short videos on the Wisconsin Department…

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Wisconsin Writes

“Writers invite teachers and students into their writing process.”

The English Language Arts Division of The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is involved in a project that helps students understand the writing process. Students watch videos of Wisconsin authors talk about the writing they are currently working on. The videos describe how writers get ideas, write first drafts, revise and edit, organize their writing, and more!
What a great project! Thanks to Marci Glaus, Education Consultant at Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
My video is the most recent to be added to the website. I hope students find it interesting and helpful to hear that I feel the same way they do when I write!

Here is a link:

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Children’s Writing Workshop


This past Saturday, I led a writing workshop for children – ages 7-12 in Edgerton, WI. The workshop attendees were very interested in the writing process and some brought samples of their own stories to share! We had lots of fun talking about how writers get ideas and use their imagination. We used mentor texts to discuss how stories are organized and what works in a good story. Each writer left with their own journal to start recording their thoughts and ideas. There was also an adult workshop. Proceeds from the workshops benefit the 2016 Sterling North Book & Film Festival, to be held Nov. 5 in Edgerton.

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What is old is new again!


This is a 1916 L C Smith Typewriter.

This weekend, I attended an Arts Fair in Waupaca, WI. They had lots of fun activities for children – drawing, working with clay, and dancing to live music.

One activity area had a large table full of old typewriters. The kind without electricity, headphones or a power cord!

The sign encouraged folks to sit down and type. It was interesting to watch people approach the typewriters. One women sat right down, put in the paper correctly, sat up straight and began typing. She knew exactly what to do. She typed two practice sentences – “The quick brown fox jumps οver the lazy dοg.” and “Νοw is the time fοr all gοοd men tο cοme tο the aid οf their cοuntry”.

A younger girl approached saying, “This is new, I’ve never used a typewriter!”. She tried to type and was immediately confused. So, the older women showed her how to put the paper in, type a few letters and use the carriage return lever. The older women began talking about the ribbon and how to keep the key bars from getting stuck together inside. She also mentioned that the shift key does actually shift things on the typewriter.

The younger girl smiled and asked, “Where is the back space key?”

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Verona Senior Center Memories


In the summer, it’s fun to think about school years of the past. The group that came on a recent Friday morning to the Verona Senior Center was more than happy to share their memories from their own one room schools.

A story was told by a man who reminded everyone that not all kids liked school! He said a boy from his school repeatedly tried to get sent home on purpose. He finally came up with the best solution that guaranteed a trip home. The boy kept crawling down into the boy’s outhouse hole! A neighbor had to be called to help get him out and he smelled so bad that the teacher always sent him right home!

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