Ms. Ziff’s friendly demeanor and enthusiasm made communicating easy and learning exciting. She taught us to understand and appreciate the material, and have fun in the process.Alivia 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Ms. Vanessa has challenged me to stretch my writing and I am excited for what I will do next.Evan, 3rd Grade
It's obvious that Vanessa is a wordsmith: "Write. Observe. Revise. Discover...W.O.R.D."  These are the four essential ingredients for becoming a writer; two of them about the work (writing and revising) and two of them about the joy (observing and discovering.) Vanessa accomplishes it all.  Julie Larios, award-winning poet and children’s author
What our daughter values most about her time in Vanessa's class is being inspired to become an organized writer who could convey her thoughts in a meaningful manner.Laurie and Chris Harbert
Ms. Ziff is always organized, resourceful, and ready for anything. She believes in a process, [...] the best of all being the Ms. Ziff approach, which makes her spectacular.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
All of us remember teachers who inspired us to greater heights and who influenced our lives. Vanessa Ziff Lasdon has played this role in my daughters' lives.Jack Tauber, M.D.
My son learned more about writing and literary appreciation from Ms. Ziff in fifth grade than in any other year of school. I wish all teachers had Vanessa’s passion for teaching and inspiring!Kim Ford
Ms. Ziff maintains a good balance of knowing when to give more help and when to insist that you rise to the challenge of the learning situation. She instills confidence, honors excellence, and respects effort.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
I know that the many fun and challenging lessons I’ve learned from Ms. Ziff will help me achieve my goal of one day being a professional writer and filmmaker.Jaren S. 7th Grade, The Buckley School
The skills Vanessa taught my son--particularly the value of revising many times […] attention to detail, and high standards—are still with Nico several years later.Liz McNicoll, Attorney, Paramount Pictures
Vanessa captured the essence of what I wanted to relay on my site without sounding trite, unlike my experience with previous writers.Martin Pugh, Musician
Vanessa got my 8-year old son excited and intrigued to dig deeper into his experiences and bring his thoughts to life. Now Evan’s words dance and sing, which makes me want to dance and sing!Sally Micelotta
Vanessa transformed our son Josh from a decent writer into an excellent writer.  We wholeheartedly recommend Vanessa and her ability to draw out the best in your child’s writing ability.Jill and Larry Krutchik
Vanessa’s methods are creative, thorough and innovative. She makes writing fun and has turned our daughter’s “like” of writing into a true “LOVE”.The Altmans
Whether it’s teaching a student to become a more vivid creative writer, a more effective analytical writer, or a more selective business writer, Vanessa can do it all.Meli and Stephen Rose
I learned as much from teaching with Vanessa as any of her students under her guidance. Where so many others fall back on old tricks, Vanessa taps into her extensive experience to invent new methodologies for each and every one of her clients.Patrick Kieffer, Fifth Grade – English & History, The Packer Collegiate Institute
Having an eight-year old highly gifted boy was not enough to make him put all those brilliant ideas on paper. Daniel feels constantly challenged by Vanessa and that ignites him.Liliana Benitez
Vanessa has a gift for inspiring even the most reluctant writer and her passion for writing is infectious. She is a favorite workshop leader at our Young Writers’ Conferences.Julie Moore & Rena Svetic, Young Writers’ Conference Founders
Ms. Ziff set the foundation for my analytical, constructive, and creative skills. Whether writing a sonnet or writing an essay, I still have her lessons in my mind.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Vanessa is truly a one-of-a-kind teacher. She’s extremely organized, communicates ideas effectively, helps motivate, and has a lively, engaging teaching style that brings out the best efforts in all of her students.Howard Tager

Vanessa is an outstanding writer and a joy to work with.

Aimee Trudeau, Web Developer, Kizmato.com
Vanessa is a true master of her craft. She is a blast to work with, completely trustworthy and utterly authentic. To work with Vanessa is a privilege; you just want to soak up all her talent, and bottle it up for yourself! She is an inspiration.Sarina Fierro, Head of Lower Elementary, Curtis School
Vanessa Ziff Lasdon possesses the dynamic combination of an incisive intellect and boundless passion when it comes to teaching her craft and sharing skills with her students.MaryLynn Richmond
I honestly don’t know what kind of a writer and reader I would be without the tools I learned with Ms. Ziff. She was always a very understanding, rigorous, and involved teacher, and an incredible mentor.Maddie 9th Grade, Marlborough School
Ms. Ziff always pushed me to do my best, and never let me slack off.  She introduced me to my love of writing and gave me the confidence I needed both academically and in myself.Georgia 9th Grade, The Buckley School
While we continue to be impressed by Vanessa’s many attributes, it is her high energy level, extraordinary patience, and passion for what she does that make her truly unique.Melissa and Rob Weiler
The writing skills my daughter, now excelling in ninth grade English Honors, left Vanessa’s class with continue to be an invaluable set of resources.Betsy Leva
Vanessa’s greatest ability is to help each student realize his or her own untapped potential. It’s the stuff that changes lives!Jacqueline Frohlich
Vanessa’s vast skills, complete dedication, and clear purpose construct a solid core for every student she teaches. Her passionate nature produces both a fun and rewarding learning experience.Michele Noble, Director, Writer, Filmmaker
Vanessa is high-energy smarts and charm, the kind of writer and teacher who captures and captivates readers of all ages.New York Times bestselling author, Cynthia Leitich Smith
Ms. Ziff is definitely not just my teacher and tutor; she is my mentor.Lexi 7th Grade, Harvard Westlake

Posts Tagged ‘OBSERVE’

Language Experience Approach: Engaging New & Reluctant Readers

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Susan Kawell

Guest post written by W.O.R.D. Ink team member, Dr. Susan Kawell

 

“Let’s start with my newest story,” suggests Tasha. “The second one I wrote.”

So I begin to read her story –-

“No, no, I’ll read it.” And she does – perfectly. Why?

Because it is her story, and Tasha is becoming a better reader by learning to read her own words. That’s what LEA does – LEA, Language Experience Approach, teaches young children or reluctant readers, whatever their age, to read.

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The Power & Puzzle Behind Connection

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Becky French, W.O.R.D. Ink team memberCo-written by W.O.R.D. Ink Team Member, Becky French & Founder, Vanessa Ziff Lasdon

 Watching Students Learn

As I scatter the puzzle pieces on the teaching table in front of my fourth and fifth graders, I expect them to dive right in, strategy in mind, and finish by the end of the hour. Instead, most just stare, as though a puzzle is a foreign object, and for many I soon realize, it is. Those with some experience approach first, while the others observe. By the end of half an hour, all hands are on deck and, working together, they solve the puzzle by the end of the period.

I’ve never learned more about the way my students think than I did while observing them put this puzzle together. Two years later, I find myself watching with the same fascination as my infant daughter begins to explore the world around her, with no prior notions about how anything works, no system or rules, just curious hands and a mind to match.

At the risk of sounding cliché, I’ve truly always found students to be puzzles. Some have all the pieces and know exactly how to place them, while others have either misplaced a few or had theirs depreciated or taken away. It’s my job as a teacher and specialist in learning disabilities to help these students relocate and utilize their missing pieces, and then determine what strategies helped the most. The only way I can effectively do my job is through observation and connection. I must watch my students read, write, grapple with math problems, and interact with others. To truly help students learn and grow, I have to know them, understand them for where and who they are, and ensure that they trust in me.

Puzzle-piece

Why Connect?

The Internet is bursting with research illustrating the value of connecting with students and strategies for building and sustaining those connections. Connection nurtures success on all levels, from classroom management to grades, but how does connection help a tutor? (more…)

Alice…in Widdershins

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Widdershins. Isn’t that a great word? Means “counterclockwise energy” in Wicca tradition. I actually borrowed the word from an interesting 2010 lecture by poet, author and professor Cynthia Huntington, while at a VCFA alumni retreat. I collect weird words (wabi sabi is another favorite of mine. Means “perfection in imperfection” in Japanese), in case I ever decide to recycle them into new creations, such as for today’s post. 

On Widdershins, and counterclockwise energy.

The kind of unusual, down-the-rabbit-hole energy required for…Revisions.

down the rabbit hole

Mary Blair

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I Pledge Allegiance to the Cause

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Ongoing Observations on Progressive 21st Century Educational Philosophy & Practice

I had planned to hit the hiking trail yesterday as my reward for teaching two weeks of intensive writing workshops over spring break. Both workshops are still in their infancy. Before this spring, I’d taught the Writing Skills Intensive only once last summer and the Tabletop Moviemaking course twice previously. But I’m a fanatic about research, revision, and reflection. Throughout the workshop weeks I’d constantly tinkered with my curriculum, adjusting its scope, sequence and delivery into the wee hours of the morning, making note of future changes like a mad scientist on the brink of a breakthrough.

Writing Skills Intensive Tabletop Moviemaking

So like I was saying…hiking. That was the plan on a glorious Monday morning. Coffee in hand, sneakers tied, I rifled through a few emails, browsed my favorite blog feeds, and well…one thing led to another (damn you, Internet Rabbit Hole.) Anyway, I found myself –- by way of the righteous GOOD.is – first at the articles written by, then at the personal website of, my friend and ex-colleague, Chris Thinnes.

GOOD.is

A.)  Wow. Chris never disappoints. He’s one of the most articulate, intelligent and exciting guys I’ve ever met.

B.)  Serendipity? Chris’ recent guest post on GOOD, (“Stop Exploring ‘Innovative Education Models’: We Need Action Now”) made me jump on the couch in bounce position. Forget the hike. I was already headed to church.

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March As One

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

This Saturday, 2/16: March As One

For this week’s OBSERVE post, W.O.R.D Ink implores Angelenos to March As One this Saturday, February 16, 2013! Stand by educators, families, and public education advocates participating in a crucial community march and rally to drive voter registration and turn out for our March 5th school board and mayoral elections, to raise awareness about unequal access to high quality education, and to ask our candidates to listen to the community and commit to strengthening our public education system.

March As One Fist (more…)

Keep Calm and Teach On

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Keep Calm and Read On. That’s the theme for this year’s California Association of Teachers of English (CATE) Convention, taking place February 8 – 10 in Santa Clara. W.O.R.D. Ink is devoting our week’s blog post to considering this theme, with a slight variation extended to all learning:

Why is it important for a teacher to keep calm and teach on?

 crown (more…)

Be Still Already! Coach Your Mind to Live Like a Writer

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013
concentrate

Last week I made a plan to write and I did not stick to it. At least, not the way I’d intended.

Life got in the way again, and I just let it barge right through my carefully carved-out quiet time. Then I spent the rest of the week feeling terrible about not having kept the promise to myself. Well, today, I’ve decided to shorten my post in OBSERVANCE of the writing I must complete.

You will find Silas House’s observations on The Art of Being Still quite apropos for creators of all kinds. Please take a look, if only to press the “reconnect” button within yourself as an artist. The essence of House’s reflection boils down to this:

Stop talking about writing or not writing, and Just Do It already.

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Smartpens to Songwriting: 10 Supercool Gift Ideas for Kids & Teens

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

If you’re like me, the holiday season is somehow slipping from your grasp and your shopping days are limited. What’s more, you want to find just the right gift for each person on your list, although – let’s be honest – some are nearly impossible to please and you’re really trying to steer clear of the plastic gift card route.

In life, I’m big into intentionality, so when I gift, no matter what the age, I go for:

  • Unique
  • Practical
  • Aesthetic
  • Budget-friendly
  • Lovingly made or expertly crafted

Check out the following 10 supercool hi-tech-meets-lo-tech gift ideas for kids and teens that I’ve personally sized up. Each is sure to make everyone’s spirits merry and bright!


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4 Reasons to Help Your Students Manage Their E-Reputation

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Have you OBSERVED your students’ online habits lately?

I first spotted this infographic created by KBSD Digital Marketing on Lisa Nielsen’s Innovative Educator site, and decided, along with Nielsen’s reference links, that it was a must-share with you all. The infographic does such a great job conveying the reasons and ways we can help our students (as educators and parents) manage their online reputation, that I have little need to add my own two cents. Except to say this: kids do not inherently understand the value and impact of their e-reputation. They are not necessarily tuned into the challenges they face each day in maintaining strength of character and in preserving the integrity of their digital identity, as they trawl their favorite social media platforms. While we have them in our sights, let’s be aware of our own obligation to teach and model responsible online engagement. Regardless, mistakes will happen. Boundaries will be crossed; lessons learned. Whether you are an educator, a parent, or both, share this post and reach across the proverbial aisle to observe how both schools and families can play key supporting roles in an ongoing dialogue about students managing their e-reputation. 

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Self Advocacy for Learning Differences, the Top Rule in Writing, a Revision Gallery, & The Vote for Education

Monday, October 29th, 2012

A Team Ink guest blog special: Jenny on personal truths, Becky on self advocacy, a revision gallery by author Kate Messner, & Simona on CA Prop 30 versus 38. 

Thank you to my three guest bloggers from the W.O.R.D. Ink tutoring & editorial team, who participated in this special, multi-topic W.O.R.D. of the Week post! 

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The Responsibility Addiction: Its Origins, Impact & Alternatives

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

“I’m too busy.”

Do you know how tired I am of iterating that refrain? How I wince at the worn-out words?

It’s been my ball-and-chain, my masochistic modus operandi, for the past twelve years. Yes, I’ve been a slave to responsibility. The calendar is my master. It reminds me to take my vitamins and floss; to get dressed, clean the cat box and water the plants; to see a client, post to Facebook, and go to bed. It even dictates, “Saturday – Free Time: 11:30-3:30.” Worse, that free block inevitably shrinks as extra work spills over from other times in the week when I was too exhausted, too distracted, or too disinterested to complete a “Must Do”; when I defied orders, reshuffled priorities (aren’t they more like suggestions, anyway?), and caught up on Modern Family. I’m surprised I haven’t squeezed in a regular, “Have a good cry, 3:30-5.” Of course, getting a business off the ground is no easy feat, so some allowances need be made when I’m still working through L’s and my Friday Breakfast Night routine. Still, busybodies are boring and I refuse to accept “workaholic” as my permanent middle name.

It’s not only me. All my clients and friends are “completely booked” too. And living in Los Angeles, you factor in drive time with every activity. So half the time, I’m just rushing around in raging traffic. Busy is an Angeleno’s norm, as sure as our Cali-blue sky and insatiable caffeine habit. Some of us cling to the craze with pride; for others, there’s just no way out right now. Many of us haven’t stopped to consider whether there’s an alternative.

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Magic Formulas, Multiple Intelligences, Voice, & The Kindle Fire

Monday, September 24th, 2012

WRITE: Forget Magic Formulas. Find Your Unique Way.

Let’s pretend that writing derives from a mythic Magic Formula. I can’t imagine it being simple, for one thing (W = Butt-In-Chair x Heck-of-a-Great-Idea / 2 cups of coffee?) There are too many variables involved. This is more like it:

Now, on the surface of things, a formula is the process by which we’re able to spew out a solution on the other end. Formulas create order out of chaos, and that is why we gravitate toward them in every facet of our lives, even if you were to adamantly deny your affinity for math. Plug in the numbers, follow x, y, z, and Sha-zam! Success.

But with a formula as complicated as this (which, by the way, represents the calculation behind lacing an average shoe with six pairs of eyelets), you are bound to wind up with two trillion ways to success. (I’m not kidding. There are two trillion ways to lace a shoe.)

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W.O.R.D. of the Week

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

W.O.R.D. of the Week is a blog and virtual writer’s notebook that explores the power of words in four fundamental ways: through writing practice, observations, re“vision” techniques, and discoveries. This is a place for writers and word lovers, parents and professionals, students and educators to share in the essential ingredients of becoming a wordsmith. Two elements concern the CRAFT (writing and revising) and two focus on the JOY (observing and discovering). Believe that you can accomplish all four, that you possess a unique voice, and that what you have to say matters.

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