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This week the #cyberPD community has been reading the final chapters  in Welcome to Writing Workshop by Stacey Shubitz and Lynne Dorfman.  (More information can be found here.)


  • Chapter 8 Small Group Instruction:  High Value, High Reward
  • Chapter 9  Share Sessions:  Engaging All Writers to Support a Thriving Community
  • Chapter 10  Strategic Instruction in Grammar, Conventions, and Spelling

Toward Student Ownership
The first time I was brave enough to throw the goal setting aspect of writing growth to my first graders, I was stunned by the results.  We had spent much time growing a writing identity, but really needed to dig in to develop our writing.  Having noticed that the greatest shifts came from conferences in which writers were able to articulate what they wanted to do next instead of my suggesting next steps, I decided to try to have each student set their own goal for writing. I wasn't sure how it would go, but I was pleasantly surprised as students selected their goals.  Nearly every student selected a goal I would have chosen as well, but now they owned it.  The biggest challenge seemed to be kids that were too hard on themselves, not reflections that were shallow.  

These chapters really moved us from establishing writing identities, past building strong writing communities, toward giving students ownership of their writing and next steps.  I appreciated the many ways Lynne and Stacey shared ideas for putting students in the driver's seat.  

Three Big Ideas
  1. Consider small groups to develop peer writing connections and learner agency.  There are a variety of ways to adjust support in small group instruction.  Small group instruction can often provide a link from whole group instruction to independence, support students who need to make gains, and as the authors remind provide opportunities for enrichment.  The authors discuss ways to let students have more ownership in writing by choosing small group support they need, creating interest groups, and providing opportunities for collaboration among other possibilities.  
  2. Learner agency can be grown through the end of workshop share.  While the mini lesson sets the tone for the work writers will do, the share helps to bring things together.  Dorfman and Shubitz remind, "Having a share session at the end of every writing workshop provides closure to writers and often gives them something to think about as they ponder the work they'll do the following day."  I love this image of the share as not only a way to look back, but also to help writers to see down the path toward new possibility.  The possibilities shared by the authors for different ways to share in our communities pushed me to think not only about the many types of shares we might lead, but also to consider ways the share can help writers to see the value in their work, dig a little deeper, and maintain ownership.  
  3. Revision and editing happen throughout the writing process.  The writing process isn't linear, yet we often think of revision and editing as something that happens at the end of this process.  In many ways, this makes it cumbersome for young writers.  I appreciated the idea to think more about ways to help writers make revision and editing decisions as they work through the process.  

Two Questions to Ponder
  1. Should editing conversations be part of peer conferences?  The authors share their belief that editing conversations should be between the teacher and the student.  They make some good points about the challenges that come from peer edits, yet I have known writing pairs who rely on each other for this work and do so with some success.  I want to think more about this.
  2. How do we help young writers to see their fingerprint and then push toward next steps?  Maybe fingerprint isn't the right word here as fingerprint never changes, but what I would hope is that writers learn their style.  In knowing their fingerprint they begin to see the strengths in their writing, but also push toward continual growth.  Once students have a strong sense of their writing identity, how do we help them to find (and own) their stretch as writers?  

One Next Step

  1. Think more about a writer's "fingerprint."  Stacey and Lynne used the word "fingerprint" often to describe what authors often rely on "to build content, speak with a unique voice, and organize their writing."  I think of it as the craft moves that are characteristic of a writer.  This would be a great way to talk with students about an author's style, look more closely at mentors, and transition to the varying styles within our writing community.  I'd like to spend some time with a few authors working this process.  



Want to read more reflections?  Please stop by our MeWe #cyberPD community.  Also, please join us for our Twitter chat with the authors of Welcome to Writing Workshop on Tuesday, July 23rd at 8:30 EST.  
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This week the #cyberPD community has been reading and reflecting about chapters 5-7 in Welcome to Writing Workshop.  (It's not too late to join us.  More information can be found here.)


  • Chapter 5 Whole Class Instruction:  Setting a Positive Tone and Building Enthusiasm
  • Chapter 6  Independent Writing Time:  The Importance of Giving Students the Time to Write
  • Chapter 7  Conferring:  Individualize Instruction, Build Community and Set Goals



Connecting Our Teaching
When I began taking conferring notes with Evernote, I realized I finally found the best way to connect teaching for the writers I was sitting beside.  Thanks to Evernote's way of displaying snippets from past notes beside a new note, I discovered the perfect way to make sure I was connecting writing conversations for students.  Before that, it was easy to realize I was having "popcorn conversations" that likely focused more on the writing than the writer.  

These chapters from Lynne & Stacey really brought to mind the importance of connected teaching for young writers.  Whether connecting across the workshop from the mini-lesson to the share, connecting conferring conversations for writing, or connecting teaching across a unit of study, I was continually reminded of the importance of these intentional moves that support writers as they continue to grow.  


Three Big Ideas
  1. Mini-lessons connect conversations for writers.  The mini-lessons we teach reflect the curriculum writers need to grow, but also are responsive to what we notice about our students' writing.  Following "the basic architecture - connection, teaching, active engagement, and a link" can enhance the lessons for the writers in our learning community.  
  2. The workshop allows us to differentiate support for our writers.  Stacey and Lynne refer to the "I do, we do, you do" sequence that I first learned from Regie Routman.  This is a delicate balance as we want writers to find their own way and too much support can leave them trying to replicate our work instead of making applying the strategy in new ways and connecting it to their work.  I'm reminded of the work of Fountas & Pinnell which creates a framework that utilizes community writing (shared an interactive writing), small group guided writing opportunities, and conferring to support students toward independence.  Additionally, these ways to adjust support allow us to follow the lead of our students with greater ease and help move from differentiation to personalization.
  3. Writing workshop allows students to find their own path.  Speaking of personalization, giving students consistent opportunities to write allows them to shape their own learning.  I appreciated the many ways the authors shared we can support students in a conference.  

Two Questions to Ponder
  1. What are some of the ways we can help students to have more ownership in a writing conference?  We've all walked away from a conferring conversation we thought rocked only to find the writer not hang onto the move we were trying to teach.  The more ownership students have in this conversation the greater the impact on their writing.  
  2. How do we nurture stronger peer conferring?  I'm thinking this has to do with two important pieces students need.  They need to understand the language they can use to best support a partner, but also how to hear comments from peers.  For example, I know when I am in writing groups I listen to everything everyone says.  Some comments open my eyes to new other possibilities, yet others shed light on challenges the reader is having in understanding my message.  Personal preferences can also be a part of someone's conversation so students need to know how to listen and search for the information they need.  


One Next Step 
  1. Begin to collect (and organize) mentors that I might use across grade levels as I work with writers.  Particularly, I want to find mentors that show the varied ways writers make intentional craft moves to enhance their message.  

Next week we take a look at the final chapters in Welcome to Writing Workshop.  Please feel free to join us at anytime.  Here's our schedule: 




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This week the #cyberPD community has been reading and reflecting about chapters 1-4 in Welcome to Writing Workshop.  (It's not too late to join us.  More information can be found here.)


  • Chapter 1 What is Workshop?
  • Chapter 2  The Write Environment:  Creating Our Classrooms
  • Chapter 3  A Community of Writers:  The Ingredients for Building and Sustaining Success
  • Chapter 4  Classroom Management:  Practical Procedures and Predictable Routines


Setting the Tone for Writing Works
As workshop teachers, we know that feeling when we look around the classroom and know that our community has become a community of writers.  Each year, there's that marvelous moment when we notice it has all come together.  Suddenly we look up to realize everyone is finding their way in their writing.  There's something about that quiet hum of a workshop, a predictable rhythm to the way we work, that is characteristic of a strong writing community.  

In truth, when I think about the many writing communities I've sat beside, I know that each year the goal was always the same, but the path is always different.  Every time the classroom fills with a new group of writers new stories percolate, new rhythms are discovered, new ways of working are determined as the writers come together in common understandings.  Yet there are essential pieces that are the bones of the workshop year after year.  There are building steps we take each year as we set about in the first days with a new writing community to allow us to grow forward.  

In these first chapters, Lynne and Stacey share key considerations in the first days of building our writing communities.  Summer is the perfect time to think about these first steps.  As I read, here are a few ideas that stuck out to me.  


Three Big Ideas 

  1. A workshop allows the space for a writer to grow their own identity.  "It is here [in writing workshop] that our students can concentrate on the act of writing and learn about their own writing process while establishing a writing identity," Shubitz and Dorfman remind (Chapter 1, loc 578).  This shifts our thinking from the types of writing writers will produce to a bigger picture of helping writers to learn to work flexibly with purpose to get their message across to their audience.  It acknowledges who they are as writers and pushes us past standardized methods of teaching writing.
  2. The intentional - and shared - decisions we make about our writing environment allow space for possibility.  From the physical spaces carved for writers to work alone or meet with peers to writing tools, mentor texts, and the way talk is leveraged in a workshop all open doors for our writers.  
  3. A workshop should provide opportunities for students to brush up against, and learn from, the thinking of other writers.  In chapter 2, Creating Our Classrooms, Dorfman and Shubitz write, "We want our writers to notice the ways in which different writers problem-solve, think aloud, and use strategies to improve their writing (loc 941)."  The idea of "Opening Our Minds to Let in Other People's Thinking" is full of possibility.  It speaks to learning from our peers and being open to new ways to craft our writing.  It pushes us to reach out to authors to move our work forward.  

Two Questions to Ponder 
  1. How can we help young writers to see the ways planning weaves across our writing process?  Reading the first chapters had me thinking more about planning.  For me, the first chapters shifted my thinking of planning in the prewriting stage of the writing process to the way we plan as we compose across days.  As a writer I plan before I begin, often jotting ideas and my plan for the composition.  Each time I sit down to work, however, I take the time to plan smaller steps.  I appreciated the ideas for using status of the class, plan boxes, peer conversations, end of workshop share, and conferring to learn more about the planning process.  I want to think more about this.  How do I help young writers to own this planning process each day?
  2. What are the mentor texts that help young writers envision new possibilities?  Whether setting up the environment, finding ways to lift student writing, or helping to build the mindset of writers, mentor texts can empower our writers.  

One Next Step 

  1. Create a small collection of writer snapshots to illustrate varied ways writers work.  I see these as a small set of informational snapshots that illustrate the way student writers, adult writers, and published authors go about composing.  What are their processes?  Favorite genres and topics for writing?  Favorite tools?  I'd like these to help to build conversations around finding our own writing process. 
Looking forward to next week's look into chapters 5-7.  


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For the last month, #cyberPD community members have been ordering their books, joining our MeWe community, and getting ready for the start of our July virtual book talk.  This week begins the discuss about Welcome to Writing Workshop by Lynne Dorfman and Stacey Shubitz.

Here's the schedule:




How to participate:
The great thing about #cyberPD is that everyone makes it what they want it to be.  Here are some ideas for joining the conversation:

  1. JOIN the MeWe #cyberPD community.
  2. FOLLOW the Twitter hashtag #cyberPD.
  3. READ and CONNECT.  As you read you can:
  • share quotes on Twitter
  • ask questions of the group
  • start conversations in the MeWe community
  • pin related articles, posts, quotes on our collaborative #cyberPD 2019 Pinterest Board
  • start a Voxer conversation
  • etc. etc. etc.
  • SHARE.  After you read, choose the way you'd like to share your thinking.  Here are some ways people have shared in the past (but feel free to make up your own):
    • post a response on the MeWe community to the week's reading
    • write a blog post and share in MeWe and/or Twitter
    • create a sketch note response to share
    • use your favorite app to share your thinking and embed or link it to your post
  • COMMENT on at least three other reflections.  
  • The power in this study each year has been the reflections of the community.  #cyberPD has participants from a variety of grade levels, positions, and experiences.  I've found each year that reading these varied perspectives truly enriches the learning I take away from the professional book.  No matter the professional book selected, these titles stay with me and impact the work I do because of the thoughtful reflections of the community. 

    It's not too late to join the conversation.  Join the fun!  
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    Today's the day!!!  

    The hubbub started this morning as Erika Victor reminded:


    All through May #cyberPD community members were sharing their stacks on blogs, Goodreads, Twitter and our MeWe community site.  Some stacks were quite an ambitious, others just enough to allow time for some pleasure reading as well.  The stacks were full of great professional reads which made it challenging to select to the book for this summer's conversation.




    Drumroll Please
    I know you're all waiting.

    You really stopped by to see our selected title for July's #cyberPD book talk. It's never easy to choose a title.  There are so many interesting professional books that have been released recently.  After looking at everyone's stack, we selected the title most often found in summer collections.

    This year's #cyberPD title will be Welcome to Writing Workshop:  Engaging Today's Students with a Model That Works by Lynne Dorfman and Stacey Shubitz (also here).  





    To join our community conversation in July:

    Our July Schedule





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    Several years ago, in an effort to have more input into the #cyberPD professional book selection, we added a "Share Your Stack" component.  During this time, those interested in joining the #cyberPD conversation share their planned titles for summer professional reading.  I've found this step to be a bit dangerous.  As I see the stacks shared by others, my pile of summer reading just grows!  So many books....so little time.  #goodproblems

    Of course, #cyberPD is a July book conversation, but we find it helpful to get books in advance for a variety of reasons.  Community members will be sharing their book stacks until the end of this week (May 25th).  In an effort to get some direction in my summer reading, I've selected my books for professional summer reading:


    Want to know more?
    Of course, we'd love to have you join us....so SHARE YOUR STACK!  You can link to the community's conversation on MeWe or using the Twitter Hashtag #cyberPD.  

    We will announce the #cyberPD selection on June 1st!!!  I don't think this is going to be an easy decision....

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    Are you ready to share your stack?  (details at the bottom of this post)

    What's in Your Stack?
    I don't know about you, but as days tick in May I find myself thinking about summer reading.  I just can't help it.  I've started planning the fiction I hope to read, the middle grade books I need to add to my stack, and - of course - the professional reading I hope to do.  What can I say?  So many books....so little time.

    #cyberPD
    Building my summer professional bookstack means it is time to think about #cyberPD.    This will be our 9th year talking together about a professional book across digital spaces.  I read several professional books across a year, but the #cyberPD title always seems to stick with me and find its way into the work I do.

    What's #cyberPD?  Each summer the #cyberPD community chooses a professional book to read and discuss in the month of July.  The event has certainly grown since its first year which began with less than fifteen people, but the community has remained collaborative.

    Here are the books selected since 2011: 

    Our Group Has Moved
    If you are new to #cyberPD, I should give you a bit of quick history.  While our group has always maintained a strong Twitter presence through the hashtag #cyberPD, we have typically connected our posts in a hub-like space.  In the beginning years, after completing the reading, we linked to host blogs.  It wasn't long until we started using "Jog the Web" to create a collection of all posts.  Well, Jog the Web closed its site so our group moved to Google Communities.  Yep, you know where this is going.  In the early spring of this year, Google Communities closed.  Michelle and I wrestled with this as we think the collaborative conversation and flow of thoughts is such a key piece of #cyberPD.  Michelle suggested MeWe as a platform to allow us to keep the conversation going.  We are going to give it a try.  I mean, after all, the whole point of #cyberPD is to dive into new learning!

    Take minute to stop by this year's MeWe group page to join the conversation:  https://mewe.com/join/cyberpd.

    Share Your Stack
    To get started, we first need to select our book for the 2019 July virtual book talk.  To help to do this, we are asking the #cyberPD community to share their book stacks.  By May 25th, please share the professional books you hope to read this summer.  Participants can share their stacks using the Twitter hashtag #cyberPD and/or post on our group's new MeWe page. We'll select the title from these stacks.  It seems there are always about three that show up across stacks.   

    The #cyberPD selection announcement will be made June 1st!  We want everyone to have time to get their books and mark their calendars.  We're looking forward to this amplified learning opportunity with all of you.  Join us.  

    Share your stack....and join the fun.  
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    I love the opportunities living in a digital world has given me.  It is easy to connect with my friends, family and other educators near and far.  I no longer have to wait on an educator to publish a book about the work they are doing with students, I can read fresh material every day on blogs.  I basically carry my bookshelf in my hand, my music library too.  (As a kid with a record player waiting on the newest single to be sold at the record store, I never imaged that!)  Until May 28th, I carry my magazine library everywhere I go too.

    Yep, May 28th, Texture is saying goodbye (read as bought out).  I prefer digital reading, and Texture had a great format for reading magazines (my post about my appreciation for Texture).  It was as close to a paper magazine experience as you could get.  Magazines are so expensive these days, but Texture managed to find a way to make it reasonable to subscribe.  Texture is/was the Netflix of magazines.

    And so it goes with digital sites, Texture is ending.  I've seen a lot of them come and go.  I've said goodbye to:

    Jog the Web

    Google Reader

    Ghostwriter

    Today's Meet

    Google Plus

    goo.gl

    ...among others.

    I was crushed to hear that Apple was shutting Texture down.  Yes, I'm putting that one on Apple.  I'm sure they'll say "Apple News" is what you need, but I'm not so sure I agree.  Honestly, as I look back at my list of closing they usually can be traced to Google or Apple.  Either Google decides they no longer want to keep the site running or Apple updates (or money to keep up with those updates) end a favorite application.  I've tried to be much more selective about what I use, but still it happens.

    So...goodbye Texture.  I'm still jury out on Apple News.  They are offering a "free month" to try it out.  I'll save my thoughts/opinions so far for another post.  Right now, I'm just going to wallow in my sorrow of losing another favorite digital tool.
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    I probably should disable my Amazon button.  It makes it much too easy to purchase picture books at the click of my computer. Let's face it, publishers are quickly able to get picture books out into the market...and authors and illustrators are certainly making it hard to resist. The number of amazing picture books seems to grow each month. In all of these new books, it is easy to forget picture books that have been written that once sang to our hearts.

    This week, I was invited to share my book stack for our local NCTE Build Your Book Stack event. It seemed the expectations would be high with a group of book enthusiasts. What could I share they'd love? What was new? What could I share that they hadn't seen? As I worked to find books for our selected theme, I couldn't help but think about past picture books that would be great to share.  Knowing that newer titles would be well received, I completed my collection. However, those other titles kept nagging at me.  So why not share them with you?

    Here are the books I shared in my book stack paired with an older picture book with equal power for your classroom library.

    Picture Book Pairs:  Unsung Heroes



    1. Unsung heroes bring people together to do something bigger than any one person.

    Maybe Something Beautiful:  How Art Transformed a Neighborhood (2016) by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell.  Illustrated by Rafael López. 

    Strictly No Elephants (2015) by Lisa Mantchev with illustrations by Taeeun Yoo.

    Well, this one made me laugh.  Maybe Something Beautiful is new to me, but it has been out in the world since 2016 which makes Strictly No Elephants only a little older.  I'm staying with it though because I love the way these two books pair to demonstrate we are always better together.  In both books, the main character teams with a friends to create something better for their community.  We're better together.  




    2.  Unsung heroes bring have a giving heart.  

    Thank You, Omu! (2018) by One Mora.

    Mama Provi and the Pot of Rice (1997) by Sylvia Rosa-Casanova and illustrated by Robert Roth.  

    Now I have the copyright year difference I had hoped for in these pairings.  The first time I read Thank You, Omu!, it reminded me of a picture book I read to my children and my classes years ago.  Both books have a repetitive structure that make them a delight to read.  In both books, the main character makes some soup and is soon sharing with everyone.  The rhythmic language in both books make them perfect for reading aloud.  They both demonstrate the power of a giving heart.   


    3.  Unsung heroes are there for others.  

    The Rabbit Listened (2019) by Cori Doerrfeld.

    I'm Here (2012) by Peter H. Reynolds.  

    Let's face it, sometimes we need someone to just listen and help us pick up the pieces.  In both of these picture books the main character has a friend that just sits beside them and listens.  Both demonstrate the power of just being there for other people.  



    4.  Unsung heroes understand us, help us hope, and give us a path forward. 

    Carmela Full of Wishes (2018) by Matt De La Peña.  Illustrated by Christian Robinson.

    Ruby's Wish (2002, 2013) by Shirin Yim Bridges and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

    I just love both of these titles for the way I can go back into them again and again to discover something new.  In both stories, the character is a young girl with a wish to make their worlds better.  In Carmela Full of Wishes, Carmela lives in a migrant worker community.  She has many wishes for a better world for her family including having her father beside them.  I love to read Ruby's Wish to groups of students.  As girls/women in America, we sometimes take for granted our ability to get an education.  Life is still very different for many women around the world.  In both of these books, there is a secondary character who understands the main character's wish and helps to find a way forward.  




    5.  Unsung heroes will stand up for others.


    Freedom Summer (2001, 2014) by Deborah Wiles.  Illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue.

    Both of these books demonstrate the power of having a friend to walk beside you.  I wrestle a bit with Freedom Summer now that I am more attentive to the white savior narrative.  Yet, I also think the fact that a child will take a risk for a friend when a system is unfair should speak to each of us.  We can't stay silent.  As a friend once reminded me, silence is an option only for those with privilege.  


    6.  Unsung heroes do hard things because it matters.  

    Lubna and Pebble (2019) by Wendy Meddour and illustrated by Daniel Engnéus.  

    Wemberly Worried (2000) by Kevin Henkes.

    I keep going back and forth on this pair.  To compare the struggles of a refugee to the first day of school seems a bit unfair.  Let's be honest, these two struggles are nowhere near the same.  However, in both books the main character is dealing with a difficult situation and pushes through to get to the next place.  In both books, there is a friend, who by helping themselves, they also make a difference for the friend.  Both books illustrate the ways we work through really difficult times.  Sometimes we just have to do hard things.  


    Your favorite pairings?  I'd love to hear about other books you think might go with these I've shared --- or maybe you have some other old/new pairings that come to mind.  Please share them in the comments.  Wait, I'm going to go get my library card before I spend all my money buying books!




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    Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash
    Sometimes a small step is better than doing nothing at all.

    "Can you go today?" my friend texted as she tried to get me to the gym.  She'd been working this angle for nearly two months and my calendar seemed to make it impossible.

    "I can't today," I replied, "but keep asking.  I do want to get there."  She was likely doubting my sincerity as I had replied so many times that I couldn't make it work.  I may have been doubting it too.

    In all honesty, this went on for a few months.  Finally she sent me a text inquiring, "Can you go to the gym Monday, Thursday, or Saturday?"  Clever.  Three days did make it possible to make it work.  As I looked at my calendar there was an opening so we scheduled a time to go.

    Sometimes a small step is better than doing nothing at all.  

    That was two months ago.  Yesterday, I was driving back from a run - okay a walk, jog, run, walk - at the gym and thinking about how I seemed to have found a rhythm with the gym.  I am starting to want to get to the gym.  It's nothing amazing, but I've gone 2-3 times each week for about two months now.  I just gave myself permission to quit trying to put in place long workouts and just get to the gym.  I gave myself permission to just take a first step.  I committed to going at least once a week.  Then once a week became twice a week.  Since I gave up trying to do long workouts and just get to the gym, I often find myself there three times a week if my calendar allows.  It is a small step, but big.

    It's like that in our classrooms too.  Sometimes the challenges can seem so overwhelming that it's hard to dive in to tackle them.  I can remember times when my teaching in reading or writing workshop seemed to not be working.  It was in those times that if I could just take one small step, I would begin to see a difference.  Sometimes it was committing to keeping my mini lesson mini or making sure I didn't skip a share.  Sometimes it was pushing myself to stay on time so that a support teacher was able to push in and use her time effectively.  Sometimes it was putting more time into my language when I was unsure of next steps or spending time to find the right question to start an inquiry.  One little change can often make a big difference.

    Sometimes a small step is better than doing nothing at all.

    Whether in our personal or professional lives, there are times we want to make a change, but it seems so big.  Sometimes we are presented with a problem that feels overwhelming.  Sometimes we find ourselves in cycles of habit we'd like to break.  Sometimes we want to improve something, but the task seems to large to begin.  Maybe, in those times, the secret is to find one small step that will make a difference.  Before we know it we are on our way.

    Sometimes a small step is all it takes.  

    What's the small step you want to take?

    Sometimes a small step...
                                             is big.  


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