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The Big Fresh November 29, 2014 Cheerfully Indifferent

Brenda Power

Not my circus, not my monkeys.

                           Polish proverb

This summer I participated in a qigong class, which is sort of a mix of tai chi and martial arts (and that makes the class sound much more strenuous than it was). The group met on a gently sloping lawn at a retreat center in western Massachusetts.  The instructor was in his sixties, calm and funny, with an Irish lilt to his voice. He put us through our paces, all of us beginners looking earnest and silly as we mimicked the moves of a tiger, crane, and dragon. Midway through the class as we all tried to balance on one leg, he said, "The key to focus is to be cheerfully indifferent - to happily ignore most of what bothers you."

I looked out at the view - a stunning vista of a large pristine lake, with mist rising from it in the morning sun. Beyond it was a vast range of mountains, dwarfing the lake. This was in one tiny corner of the world, tucked in the Berkshires. It all made me feel small, in a good way. We have so little time and energy when it comes to all we want to accomplish. We know this, and yet we still think the biggest crime we can commit is to not care enough. But if you try to care about everything, you're just spending your entire life living inside your head. And it's so small compared to all that is out there. The arrogance is in thinking we have more hours or more to give than anyone else.

Ever since that class, I've tried to approach more messes (especially those created by other people) with cheerful indifference. What good does it do to feel your blood pressure rising or your jaw clench at the colleague who is always late to the meeting and needs to be brought up to speed, at the parents who seem to care about their child less than you do? The weight of the world starts to lift when you stay positive and don't invest any energy in things you can't change. A happy countenance is a blessing to anyone who experiences it, and our indifference is a gift to those tasks that need our focus, and the people who can most benefit from our concern. As George Lichtenberg writes, "Nothing can contribute more to peace of soul than the lack of any opinion whatever."

This week we consider some strategies for making minilessons more visual. Plus more as always - enjoy!

Brenda Power

Founder, Choice Literacy


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Here are two features from the archives highlighting ways to make minilessons more visual.

Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan explain to students how previewing is like watching a movie in Previewing and Picture Walks with Fiction Texts:


Shari Frost and her colleagues have many creative strategies for teaching with wordless picture books in Worth a Thousand Words:


The Literacy Shed is a treasure trove of films and images for use in minilessons:


Last chance to register for the online course Designing Primary Writing Units with the Common Core in Mind instructed by Katie DiCesare which runs December 3-14. The course includes three on-demand webinars, a DVD, print resources, and personal response from Katie. Click on the link below for more details:



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Katherine Sokolowski gives advice on Integrating Short Videos into Minilessons:

Maria Caplin finds launching her math minilessons with an image helps her students read math problems in deeper ways and notice mathematical components of everyday life:


Mary Helen Gensch shares How to Notice: Finding Craft Lessons in the Books You Love. This is the second installment in her series on  creating your own writer's craft minilessons:


In this week's video, Beth Honeycutt and Rita Schaeffer introduce a reading and writing activity to their eighth-grade students designed to help them understand philanthropy, using a video to enhance the lesson:


Our bonus video features Bitsy Parks as she completes a running record with first grader Jillian. This is part of our new running records series:



That's all for this week!

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Brenda Power

Brenda Power is the founder of Choice Literacy. She worked for many years as a professor at the University of Maine and an editor at Stenhouse Publishers. Her publications as an author include Living the Questions and The Art of Classroom Inquiry. She has worked as a book editor and video producer for many of the authors featured at this site.