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The Big Fresh October 13, 2018 Raccoon

Brenda Power

The raccoon problem is under control. They have their part of town and we have ours.

                                                                            Leslie Knope (in
Parks and Recreation)

The last thing one expects to see when looking out the 23rd story window of a high-rise building in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota is a raccoon hanging out on the ledge.

The raccoon had likely begun its climb in search of food, probably pigeon eggs. After reaching a certain height, the raccoon found itself in a pickle, too high to climb back down safely. So, it did what instinct compelled it to do: continued to climb upward.

Within a short time, people took notice of this raccoon scaling a skyscraper. In fact, it did not take long for someone to create a Twitter handle for the creature: @TheStPaulRacco1. Others started tweeting with the hashtag: #mprraccoon, naming it after the building it initially began climbing. Many tweeted hopes for a safe climb. Some even started to campaign for a safe rescue. It was clear that everyone was rooting for the raccoon.

With all of the attention, the raccoon (who could have otherwise made it to the top of the building to find no source of food or water) was given a hero’s welcome. A cage for its safe relocation was placed on the roof, complete with an ample supply of food and water. Fans who were following its story would settle for nothing less than the happy ending of the raccoon’s healthy release into a wild area.

Now, months later, you can even find your own #mprraccoon swag in the form of t-shirts and coffee mugs. People continue to celebrate the thrill of the raccoon’s successful climb and rescue.

I came across this story while it was still unfolding. I was charmed by the seemingly fearless raccoon and the swell of goodwill it inspired.

I thought about the way this raccoon had gotten itself into trouble by acting out of need and instinct, unable to foresee the consequences of its actions.

I thought about how it had seemed fearless, but was probably acting out of that very emotion -- driven upward by the fear it seemed to be defying.

I thought about the way people had rallied in support of the raccoon’s journey, despite how it had ended up in the situation.

I thought about the way people had arranged to rescue this troubled raccoon by providing for its basic needs.

I thought about how even after its journey was over, it has continued to receive the admiration of countless people.

Finally, I thought about how many students I know who are like this gritty, wily raccoon, and I felt a swell of goodwill.

Every student deserves a hero’s welcome. Even the ones who climb into danger--driven by need, instinct, or fear.

Especially those students.

This week we look at creative takes on learning words. Plus more as always -- enjoy!

Christy Rush-Levine
Contributor, Choice Literacy


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Melanie Swider finds word sorts are a great way to help intermediate students master new vocabulary for describing character traits:


Maria Caplin describes how she is integrating vocabulary work into content areas:


Franki Sibberson shares some of her favorite newer picture books for word learning:


Check out our new online courses for teachers and literacy coaches! In the next month we're featuring 12-day self-paced classes from Katherine Sokolowski on student research projects in grades 3-7, Christy Rush-Levine on quick and meaningful reading conferences in middle school, and Jennifer Schwanke on better outreach to families. Courses include three-month trial memberships to Choice Literacy and Lead Literacy, screencasts, videos, articles, and personal responses from the instructor to your questions. Explore detailed descriptions at this link:



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Gretchen Schroeder's high school students are surprised to see a deck of cards on their supply list. The cards are a tool for teaching the vocabulary of tone in creative ways:


A word wall in preschool?! Shari Frost helps a teacher meet this impossible edict, and has a lot of fun in the process thinking about how our youngest learners acquire word knowledge:


Retelling is an essential skill many English language learners struggle with. Stella Villalba finds tackling vocabulary in context is the key for many:


In this week's video, Katrina Edwards teaches her first graders the word much using kinesthetics:


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.