Tag: writing

what does a woman need to be happy?

Write Happy Poetry This Month! Simple Ideas For Any Writer, Any Age

Posted on April 8, 2018 by

It’s National Poetry Month! Einstein and I disagree slightly about what a man or woman needs to be happy – what would your ‘happy’ poem sound like? This is a fun, simple type of poetry to write and share with your students; just imagine the possibilities! They could adopt different points of view, write as characters from a novel. Have them create hand-drawn images, or search and add digital images based on poem keywords to add a visual element. Combine poems into categories, write group poems…the possibilities are huge!

Please share your/your class poems in the comments, or send me an image of how they turned out! Feel free to use this post as a starting point.

Einstein said:


A table, a chair,
a bowl of fruit and a violin;
what else does a man need
to be happy?

what does a woman need to be happy?

In honor of National Poetry Month, I thought we should flip his ideas a bit:

mamawolfe’s version:

A bench, a book
big snowy mountains and coffee with cream;
what else does a woman need
to be happy?



Check out my other poetry ideas here, and please share your results! I’ve also got some awesome poetry hyperdocs – let me know in the comments if you’re interested in them!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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turning 18

He’s Turning 18

Posted on November 27, 2017 by

The thick envelope arrived in the mail yesterday, blue lettering screaming “OPEN IMMEDIATELY” and “YOU”VE MADE IT”!

It might have just as well said “REMINDER: THE END OF CHILDHOOD IS HERE”.

It wasn’t the college admissions response – we have another month or so for that one.

Instead, as I slit open the “TIME SENSITIVE” stamp reminding me to ‘celebrate these moments’, out tumbled direct, glaring evidence that he’s turning 18, an adult, and the 12 years of education-under-my-roof is about to end.

I’d actually have been more prepared for the college response – that’s one I’ve predicted, played over and over in my mind. I know next year he’ll be living somewhere east of the Mississippi, far away from mountains and the Pacific Ocean just a hill-hop from our house. There was no box checked on his Common App shouting, “Yes, you should stay within driving distance from your mother” – only ambitious dreams of east coast living beacon to his 18-year-old self.

And that’s ok. This is my second time around for college birthing; it’s not a huge shock.

But as the four rectangular glossies shouting ‘Graduate 2018’ tumbled from the envelope, a different kind of jolt hit me. My boy, my baby, my 6-foot-something little guy smiled back at me in sixteen different poses, tuxedo-clad and cap and gown gleaming. His gleaming white teeth, no longer hidden with silver and turquoise appendages blared a smile so bright and proud I did a double take. That’s my Cam, smiling with glee and excitement to celebrate his accomplishment. He’s turning 18, he’s graduating, and it’s time sensitive.

on turning 18

18th birthday celebration!

When Cam was little, he would talk to anyone. His spirit was contagious – no plumber, stranger waiting in line, or colleague at work was immune to his charm. He always had some sort of quip or question and if that didn’t work, he’d shimmy up the nearest pole/wall/tree branch to get their attention. But it in the quietest way possible. Cam has never been a loud type of ‘look at me’ kid, instead choosing a stealth-like approach to scare the crap out of parents who had no idea what he was capable of, while his dad and I took deep breaths and accepted who he was.

Turning 18 has changed nothing, in some respects.

At the beginning of last summer, he talked his way into an internship at a venture-capital firm. Three times a week he’d throw a crisp dress shirt over his sinewy frame, lace up his one pair of non-athletic shoes and take the bus over the river to downtown, take the elevator up to the 26th floor and join a group of entrepreneurs decades older than him for a day of research, listening to start up companies pitch their ideas and business lunches with the CEO.

And he got a promotion.

All fall he huddled in his room, balancing school work and an after-school job with writing and rewriting college admissions essays, focused on what he deemed ‘the reason he went to high school’. This kid is ready for his next step. Only occasionally would he peek into the kitchen as I chopped chicken for enchiladas or sat down next to me in the study, interrupting my grading or writing or laundry folding – all of which I gladly abandoned for the chance to get a glimpse into what’s going on in his world.

Shortly after turning 18, he announced he’s moving into a new phase in life and would appreciate only ‘on-demand’ parenting from this point forward. “What exactly is on-demand parenting?” I asked, to which he responded, “You know – when I need parenting, I’ll ask for it.”

Ha. The fact that he doesn’t think he’ll ever see a time when I might have something to add BEFORE he needs it is so typically Cam, so typically 18.

On turning 18

On a recent trip to Big Sur, CA.

We’ve debated curfews and weekends away with ‘the boys’, tracking his whereabouts on his phone and exactly what he should be required to do on his own now that he is suddenly an ‘adult’. He’s smart enough to remember what I was like when his sister left for college and says he’s preparing me for his departure early so it ‘doesn’t hit me so hard’. Somehow I think that’s not possible.

Twenty days from now his first college decisions should start rolling in, more envelopes with not only answers but evidence of the passage of time, the passing of childhood. And just like this week, I’m sure I’ll watch with an eagerness only the mom of an eighteen-year-old knows as he slides deftly open the envelope to reveal his future. I’ll be prepared to hug him tight, either way, to remind him of how proud I am of the adult he’s become, and no matter what, this is only the beginning of the next plot twist of his life.

And as soon as he leaves the room, I’ll likely shed some tears and head back to my writing to start the next part of his story. I hope you’ll ride this one out with me – I’m going to need you.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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When Your Child Leaves For College

What To Say When Your Child Leaves For College

Posted on August 15, 2017 by

Three years ago, on this day in 2014, I was wondering what to say when I dropped my daughter off at college. It should have been simple, right? I write voraciously. I’m an educator. I’ve hundreds of kids leave the comfort of home and be absolutely fine. I’ve had good friends to mentor me through what to expect, just like during pregnancy. When your child leaves for college was most certainly a topic on the tip of my consciousness.

But on that day, when it was my 18-year-old baby girl launching off to another state, I was stuck.

I drafted and erased and revised and published getting ready for graduation essays, college tour recaps and leaving home for spending the summers at Mt. Hood. I’d survived a year with my 8th-grade son unexpectedly moving to the mountains to train for the Junior Olympics, yet I was a wreck figuring out how to handle his accident 10 days before her college move in day, a flooded kitchen and my own over-the-top anxiety. This definitely was not going according to plan.

When Your Child Leaves For College

And on this day, three years later, Facebook reminds me of our beautiful, bittersweet drive across the Utah Salt Flats, 10 hours of me and you and wondering how I would manage to say everything that I wanted/needed/should say in the next 24 hours.

I’m a Gen X parent. I grew up with a kind of free-range parenting, knowing I should be home before dark and feeling invincible. We hadn’t heard of HIV, or date-rape, or helicopter parenting. And here I am, the first generation of parents raising the i-kid, happily doling out dollars for the tech that would keep me connected – a part of my baby’s world 650 miles away.

Now I needed to figure out how to employ a kind of ‘stealth-parenting’ – finding the walk to back up my talk, if I could even figure out what that ‘talk’ was. After listening to her college president speak at the convocation, I scribbled out a letter to my college bound daughter. It’s been my most viewed post of all time – I guess I’m not alone in wondering what to say when your child leaves for college after all.

When Your Child Leaves For College

When Your Child Leaves For College

Two years ago – on this day – I became a shuttle driver, watching both my babies paddle out into a Utah river, scramble up a waterfall, and leaving me alone in a hotel room as they chose a campsite over room service. Thank you, Facebook, for reminding me that she could survive her first year of college, and so could I. Nervously relaxing in that hotel room, I struggled with my monkey-mind – what do I say when your child leaves for college the second time? What words does she need to hear – or do I? No longer was I dishing out advice about dorm rooms and ‘firsts’ – suddenly, adulting was more real than ever. My cyber-stealthing had helped somewhat; Instagram and Snapchat offered glimpses into the life I was sure she didn’t really want me to know much about, yet I was desperate to see.

The second year she was on her own, shopping at Costco and stocking up her apartment. She was cooking meals and going to classes and occasionally sharing a bit with me. Driving back, watching the sun rise over her city, the tears came. This time felt different, lonely, hopeful. I comforted myself by writing a letter to parents leaving their kids at college and didn’t look back-most of the time.

When Your Child Leaves For College

One year ago, summer started with her first study abroad, words only shared through sparse wifi connections along the Camino de Santiago. Adventuring is in her blood, and for the first time, I sank into the trust that things will be well, that she will be well, that I will be well. The power of prayer and hope and the knowledge that she would have to figure things out without my advice allowed for us to grow – mostly, for me, I admit. I couldn’t wait to see her, to hug her and note the changes that exploration had inked into her spirit. The third year leaving her at college was more about my transformation into wholeness; I was turning 50 and felt the crack widening. I learned to look at life as it is, to embrace change and hopefully anticipate the changes of motherhood in front of me.

When Your Child Leaves For College

This year I didn’t have to worry about what to say as I dropped her off because it didn’t actually happen. She’s officially adulting now, and never really came home. I traded my tech for travel and bought a ticket to visit her instead. I spent seven glorious days immersing myself in her life, discovering her city and the places she likes to buy her coffee and have special dinners out. I met her friends and bought her wine. We adulted together, no words needed, and then she dropped me off at the airport with a hug and a smile and a glint of a tear in her eye.

Now, her fourth year, I realize this: it’s not the words you say when you’re leaving your child at college, it’s the words you say when you’re not there. It’s how you find a way to be that safe place to fall back to, the warm demander from a distance. It’s the words you say when they fight with their roommate or fall in-or out-of love. It’s the words when you wish you were there to wrap yourself around her, to hold her close and smell the coconut shampoo in her hair and help her through.

It turns out, leaving her at college isn’t the hardest part; having her not come home is worse. This year, leaving her at college is more about leaving her childhood and welcoming her adulthood.

These are my words to help me through this one. Feel free to let me know if you have any advice.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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A New Approach To Teaching Writing With Hyperdocs

A New Approach To Teaching Writing With Hyperdocs

Posted on June 27, 2017 by

Teachers, you’ve got to try a new approach to teaching writing with hyperdocs.

What are hyperdocs? According to their creators, Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton and Sarah Landis, hyperdocs are “a transformative, interactive, personalized engaging too to help facilitate student creativity and collaboration” (The Hyperdoc Handbook).

And I can testify that hyperdocs have done exactly that to the way I teach writing: they’ve transformed and personalized my teaching to enhance student creativity and create a collaborative classroom where kids are excited about learning and producing high-quality work.

And they’re super fun, too!

A New Approach To Teaching Writing With Hyperdocs

Hyperdocs start with a teacher creating a template using Google docs or slides to package their content in a visually appealing and organized way to offer students choice and voice with their learning. By using Google Suite, students collaborate, create, reflect and connect and apply their learning at their own pace and meet their own needs. I’ve found that using hyperdocs in my middle school classroom has not only allowed me to coach them more easily and discover areas that need reteaching or mini lessons prior to submitting a finished product, but they allow students to better control their learning and self-differentiate.

Here’s an example of a hyperdoc I use to teach narrative writing:

A New Approach To Teaching Writing With Hyperdocs

Click on the link to download your own copy! Narrative writing draft, revise, edit, reflect and publish hyperdocs

I created this hyperdoc, but it was adapted from @sarahlandis and © HyperDocs. That’s one of the best parts of “hyperdoc-ing” – they’ve created a community of teachers sharing curriculum, enabling virtual collaboration and creating content that keeps getting better and richer and more creative from lesson to lesson.

As you can see from my narrative writing hyperdoc, I’m able to package my narrative writing unit from draft to publish using one Google doc. Before hyperdocs, a typical writing unit would revolve around me planning lots of direct instruction lessons for the whole class, and then offer time to draft during class or at home. I would spend most of the class period instructing from the front with the occasional writing conference at my desk. I felt disengaged from the work in progress. All students would start and end at the same place, regardless of their ability, interest or work ethic.

A New Approach To Teaching Writing With Hyperdocs

Students working on narrative writing with hyperdocs.

When I migrated to teaching writing with hyperdocs, I found a way to capture all the cool tools and techniques I’d been wanting to try. I quickly realized that by allowing my students to see the whole project at once, I could not only allow students to move at their own pace, but I could monitor work and offer feedback much more easily. To my great surprise, however, was the instant collaboration that erupted in my classroom. Students were suddenly working on video mini-lessons together. They were reflecting on techniques and explaining editing tools to each other. I was rotating around the room, looking over shoulders and tracking progress. I moved to teaching 5-10 minute whole group mini-lessons explaining tech tools or working on time management every other day, spending the rest of the class period answering questions and partnering up kids to help each other. Absent students didn’t miss out – they had everything they needed to work from home or pick right back up when they returned. My classroom hums with activity and focus and my students are writing – a lot.

A New Approach To Teaching Writing With Hyperdocs

Teaching writing with hyperdocs offers students choice and voice.

My favorite part of teaching writing with hyperdocs is how they facilitate the publish and reflect portions of the process. I love to embed a link to a Google form for students to respond to direct questions about their writing process, as well as to ask for feedback and new ideas for improving the next unit. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the ideas that are generated, and the student thinking that happens when asked to share the tools they used, or what they want to improve for the next writing project. Hyperdocs have also allowed me to offer a myriad of choices for student publishing. I can differentiate the rigor of a variety of platforms, allowing students to choose not only which final project will best represent their story, but also how much time they want to devote to learning a new publishing tool or falling back on something more familiar. And finally, after publishing, hyperdocs offer a way to promote an extension of the lessons for kids who need an extra challenge or want multiple modes of expressing or enhancing their learning.

A New Approach To Teaching Writing With Hyperdocs

If you’d like more copies of hyperdocs, I’m happy to share – just send me an email with the subject you’re looking for, and if I have something, I’ll share the Google Doc/Slides. I also have a Pinterest board for hyperdoc tools.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about a new approach to teaching writing with hyperdocs – once you try them, I know you’ll be hooked! If you’d like an overview, check out Laura Moore’s Narrative Writing hyperdoc outlining when/how to teach narrative at different grade levels, and how to scaffold during the year.

I originally wrote this post for The Educator’s Room. You should check it out – it’s full of resources for teacher AND parents!


Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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It’s Poetry Month! Writing, Reading, Teaching and Sharing Poetry

Posted on April 12, 2017 by

True confession: I haven’t always been a poetry lover. When I was younger I collected poems, intrigued by the connection I felt with a complete stranger’s expression of my emotions. I copied poem after poem into spiral notebooks, savoring every word. And in college, I fell in love with Blake and Dickinson and Maya Angelou and so many other voices that spoke to me from the pages of their slim, hardbound books. I developed a love for words less linear, less formulaic, and less predictable.

Then I started teaching middle school, and wasn’t sure how to share my love for language with my students – kids who were hesitant to approach text that looked different, and were afraid of getting the meaning ‘wrong’.

So I backed off.

Textbook poetry bored all of us to tears. I couldn’t find a balance between helping them build the scaffolds they needed to understand how and why poets wrote, and where poetry was relevant or even just found in their lives.

This poetry month has been my favorite out of 25 years of trying.

Getting started with poetry:

I decided to just jump in and start writing. I used this Blackout poetry hyperdoc because it seemed to be so accessible and so simple. What kid couldn’t just select words and black out the rest?


Well, it turns out that some kids think WAY too hard. Instead of just relaxing and circling words that were beautiful or powerful or simply stood out, they tried to turn it into a sort or upside down word search. And some kids STRUGGLED.

I found myself flitting around the classroom reminding kids to ‘let their creativity flow’ and not to think too hard. I told them to not pay attention to font size or location of words. I suggested they just circle, and see what happens.

And of course, some came up with their own methods. But whatever they chose, I was happy that they were starting to see the beauty of language, and how words could bring power to a page.

This student was inspired by an image alongside the words and ended up creating a beautiful poem with a combo blackout/sketch effect.

Some kids decided they wanted to combine columns to create a more complex poem.

I’m pretty confident that the finished products shocked them – especially when I read them aloud to the class.


Finished blackout poems.

Using hyperdocs:

Once I had them relaxed and hooked with the blackout poems, I started slipping in mini-lessons using foldables in their interactive notebooks. I LOVE the series from Lovin Lit – her Interactive Poetry Notebooks have really helped me balance the poetic structure practice my 8th graders needed with learning how to annotate and write poetry, too.

My next step is to slip in some instruction about how to read poetry. I’ve been using this poetry hyperdoc as part one of this lesson. I’m a huge fan of hyperdocs, mainly because it allows me to differentiate instruction while giving my students choice and voice about how they learn. It’s ‘hands-free’ for me; I work to create the hyperdoc up front, but during class time I’m free to wander around, talk with students and coach them through the harder parts. Hyperdocs have transformed my teaching.

Writing odes:

We’ve moved through types of rhyme and learning how to annotate, so I threw in writing odes. I got the basic idea from Interactive Poetry Notebooks and created an outline to help them create some of the figurative language components.

This has been hilarious.

You might think middle school students would think odes were silly – I mean, adults usually think of odes as serious declarations of love, right?

So what do you think middle schoolers declare their love for?

writing poetry odes writing poetry odes

Dogs. Water. Waves. Netflix. Flowers. Minecraft. Twenty-One Pilots. Lots of students write odes to their pillows and their beds. One student wrote an ode to his ill grandmother, and another to her mother. Some wrote odes to each other, some wrote about ice cream and tacos and one even wrote about Donald Trump.

I’ve also created a Poetry hyperdoc part 2 to help give students more practice and choice about writing and publishing poetry. I don’t want to drag the unit out too far – just enough to have them feel confident and curious about reading and writing poetry, and have some fun along the way.

One thing I’ve learned is that I actually CAN teach kids to love poetry, and to have confidence that they can read and understand the sometimes abstract messages poets create. For 13 year-olds, I’d say that’s pretty great.

I love to share my favorite poems and poets here, usually once a month. Do you love Mary Oliver? Thich Nhat Hanh? Maya Angelou?

I’ve even written some poetry – and I know first hand it’s harder than it seems.

I’d love it if you’d share some poetry with me in the comments. And if you have fun poetry ideas, share them in the comments, too!



Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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