All posts by paulabourque

About paulabourque

Paula is a Literacy Coach K-6 in Maine and author of Close Writing from Stenhouse. She believes the best writing teachers are teachers who write. She knows it takes courage to put yourself out there and share your words with the world. She created this blog as a place where we honor those who teach and write and show how big their brave is!

#SOL19 Day 23 Spark! Flash Fiction

For the month of March I will be participating in the Slice of Life Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 5.28.56 PMChallenge sponsored by The Two Writing Teachers Blog. Each day I will be sharing a Quick Write as my way of slicing. The idea is to offer a SPARK that will kindle thinking and then write as quickly as you can for 5-10 minutes. No filters, no revisions. I’ve been curating a collection of Sparks and will share some with you all month. It’s a great way to ignite your writing life.

SPOILER ALERT: This spark is filtered through some significant political news that broke yesterday so if you are super-saturated with politics, feel free to click away.

Flash Fiction Sparks

Flash fiction refers to extremely brief stories that offer some context of character and plot development but leave a lot to be inferred by the imagination. There are a variety of Flash Fiction approaches. I’ll take a story out of this weekends headlines and try out some quick writes that challenge me to compose with an economy of words. In 3-5 minutes students may only come up with one idea they like, but some may try several versions with an improvisational style.

Six Word Stories– Legend has it Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a compelling story using only six words and came up with: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” It’s fun to play with the limitations on word count yet the freedom of word choice. It’s almost like solving a jumble as stories coalesce when you let your mind go free.

My quick writes:

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Two Sentence Stories– These often spring up around Halloween as people are challenged to create a spooky story in two sentences.  Invite students to draft several if they can within five minutes or just play around with one idea in a variety of ways. Staying with this timely theme I’ll move from six words to two sentences.

My quick writes:

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Five Sentence Challenge– I originally saw this at https://fivesc.net/ where a picture was posted every two weeks and students from all over the world were invited to write five-sentence stories inspired by it. You can set any number of sentences as the parameter, the idea is to challenge ourselves to be creative problem solvers to compose a coherent story. Don’t expect kids to be successful if they only get one crack at this. Playful practice makes perfectly clever approximations and progress.

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My quick write:

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Each of these took less than 5 minutes. With practice, our brains can compose like improv; given a spark we take what we know and free-lance ideas with a “yes, and” attitude.

 

 

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#SOL19 Day 22 Spark! Docu-Poems

For the month of March I will be participating in the Slice of Life Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 5.28.56 PMChallenge sponsored by The Two Writing Teachers Blog. Each day I will be sharing a Quick Write as my way of slicing. The idea is to offer a SPARK that will kindle thinking and then write as quickly as you can for 5-10 minutes. No filters, no revisions. I’ve been curating a collection of Sparks and will share some with you all month. It’s a great way to ignite your writing life.

A variation on my Headlines Spark (March 13 Blog) is to quick write a poem-ish response to something currently  going on in your world (at a macro or micro level).  Writers can highlight words and phrases from newspapers, magazines, or primary sources and respond with their own thoughts and reflections as they process the events. 

Classrooms can create a time capsule of docu-poetry to document events in their school year the way the characters in Laura Shovan’s book The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary do, or these could be personal collections to document their year in your classroom. These are not polished pieces, but quick writes. Students are always welcome to go back and revise if they choose, or they could keep them raw and in-the-moment responses. 

Think about what a gift this could be to their future selves. What was happening when I was in 4th grade? I wish I had something like docu-poetry to get a primary sourceScreen Shot 2019-03-22 at 7.06.20 AM window into those past events.

Why poetry or poem-ish form? I love this quote from Robert Frost that was used in my Daily Calm meditation from yesterday that sums up the value of poetry in our lives:

 

 

Here’s my quick write:

 

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Clearly this isn’t polished poetry and there are a lot of revisions I would like to make before sharing it with you all, but this is what poured out in about 5 minutes. Kids won’t be able to write this fluently unless they have copious amounts of practice doing it. Anticipating that  they will do a docu-poem a week can help them to notice and process events with a different lens, a more purposeful and compassionate lens. It is important not to critique or make suggestions, just accept all quick writes for what they are-a way to process our world with our own personal and human responses. It’s the PROCESS, not the PRODUCT that we need to honor. 

 

Remember, “history” is made up of local and large events. You may want to stay away from controversy and focus on school or classroom news. Maybe your students can document personal and significant events in their own lives. You know your kids and what works.

#SOL19 Day 21 Spark! Video Comprehension

 

For the month of March I will be participating in the Slice of Life Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 5.28.56 PMChallenge sponsored by The Two Writing Teachers Blog. Each day I will be sharing a Quick Write as my way of slicing. The idea is to offer a SPARK that will kindle thinking and then write as quickly as you can for 5-10 minutes. No filters, no revisions. I’ve been curating a collection of Sparks and will share some with you all month. It’s a great way to ignite your writing life.

 

Video Comprehension Spark!

More and more students are learning information through online videos. But are we teaching our students HOW to comprehend this format for information or just assuming they know how to determine importance, analyze information critically, build on their schema, and synthesize ideas? From my experience I find many students to be passive consumers of video information. They process it as entertainment more than informational content.

Our students need some guided practice with comprehending visual information and digital formats, because increasingly that is the preferred choice of information consumption. Frequent quick writes that engage students in actively viewing and processing informational videos might be one approach that could support that goal.

BEFORE and AFTER

One way is to invite students to jot what they know about a topic, an event, or a concept on which  they are about to view a video. Give them 3-5 minutes to activate their schema and prior knowledge and collect some thoughts on paper.

Then tell them they are going to watch a video about that topic and will be asked to quick write what they want to remember or what they learned after they view it. This sets a purpose, invites students to expand on current thinking, clear up any misconceptions they may have had, and engage more intentionally.

After the video give them another 3-5 minutes to quick write. Then invite students to look at their before and after and see what they notice? Ask them how their comprehension might have changed knowing they would have to write about it afterwards.

You could also try this activity by showing a video without any introduction or purpose setting and then ask them to quick write what they learned AFTER they’ve already watched it, and then try this frontloading process BEFORE  viewing and ask them what they notice about their quick writes. Were they able to remember/recall more information? Was their thinking different in any way? Did they take any notes (mental or physical?)

In honor of our SUPER MOON this week, here is a video that you could try with your kids and an example of my quick write.

Worm Moon capture

https://www.msn.com/en-us/video/science/there-will-be-a-super-worm-moon-on-the-spring-equinox-heres-how-to-see-it/vi-BBUZrVk?ocid=spartandhp

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Let me know how it goes if you try it, or if you have some other approaches that could support student comprehension with visual and video information.

 

#SOL19 Day 20 Spark! Book Trailers

For the month of March I will be participating in the Slice of Life Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 5.28.56 PMChallenge sponsored by The Two Writing Teachers Blog. Each day I will be sharing a Quick Write as my way of slicing. The idea is to offer a SPARK that will kindle thinking and then write as quickly as you can for 5-10 minutes. No filters, no revisions. I’ve been curating a collection of Sparks and will share some with you all month. It’s a great way to ignite your writing life.

Book Trailers Spark!

Book trailers are intended as video advertisements for books, but I also see them as an art form. they visually entice readers to consider titles they may not have otherwise thought about. We can use trailers to activate student thinking before they hold a text in their hands. Quick writes in response to viewing a trailer can give students a chance to ponder, consider, or evaluate potential future reads.  It’s a great way to build a reading/writing connection.

There are several ways to SPARK this quick write:

“Trailer Tuesday” Each Tuesday (which by the way is the day of the week new books are released -think Book Birthdays) you can share a book trailer and invite students to quick write a response. Would they be interested or not? Why? If they’ve read it, would they recommend it? Why? 

“Battle of the Books”- show two book trailers and invite students to quick write which of the two they would put closer to the top of their TBR (To Be Read) Pile. Why? What does the trailer make them think?

There are lots of ways kids could quick write about these including: I think____ might enjoy this book.  This book reminds me of ___. I wish there was a book trailer for____, This book makes me wonder_____.  You could also just invite them to write whatever they’re thinking.

Here is my collection of middle grade book trailers. I also have one for Picture Books and will build ones for YA and nonfiction when I get a little free time. Feel free to check these out. Can you tell which book trailer I quick wrote about below?

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Book Trailer Quick Write

Since I’ve already read all of these books my quick write was more of a response to the book that was triggered by the trailer. Trailers can inspire new choices or help us reflect on past reads. And they are a lot of fun!  Give it a try and please send me links to any of your favorites so I can add it to my Padlet.

#SOL19 Day 19 Spark! Quote Me

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 5.28.56 PMFor the month of March I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by The Two Writing Teachers Blog. Each day I will be sharing a Quick Write as my way of slicing. The idea is to offer a SPARK that will kindle thinking and then write as quickly as you can for 5-10 minutes. No filters, no revisions. I’ve been curating a collection of Sparks and will share some with you all month. It’s a great way to ignite your writing life.

 

Quote Me Spark!

We often share quotes as inspirational messages or to provoke thinking. But do we give students lots of opportunity to respond without the filter of someone else’s interpretation, either through discussion or teacher talk? A quick write offers everyone an equal opportunity to make their own meaning initially. Then when/if we share our thinking responses it gives students an opportunity to reflect or revise their thinking with greater perspective and diversity of opinions.  With our life experience we sometimes find a quote doesn’t have the same meaning to a 9 or 10 year old than we ascribe to it. It’s fascinating to read or hear what they think.

Here’s my quick write:

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On another day I may look at this same quote and have an entirely different response. Context is everything in how we process information. Give your students lots of opportunities to ‘think through their fingers’ and process information (such as quotes) and maybe even share the same information after some time has passed so they can see if their thinking has changed, grown, or otherwise evolved. Our thinking is never static if we are constantly striving to learn more. 

Let me know how it goes!

#SOL19 Day 18 Spark! Picture This.

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 5.28.56 PMFor the month of March I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by The Two Writing Teachers Blog. Each day I will be sharing a Quick Write as my way of slicing. The idea is to offer a SPARK that will kindle thinking and then write as quickly as you can for 5-10 minutes. No filters, no revisions. I’ve been curating a collection of Sparks and will share some with you all month. It’s a great way to ignite your writing life.

 

Picture This: Reader Response Sketchnote Spark!

Some of the conversations I’ve had with teachers around reading so many books is that we often forget a lot of the plot after a time and then our conversations and recommendations are often not as rich as we wish they were. When I am reading a book with students or that I want to discuss with them I will sometimes quick write a sketchnote after each chapter (or section) that synthesizes the big ideas and captures the story arc. These literally take 2 or 3 minutes and I often lay them out in a comic book/graphic novel form .

Here’s an example of this type of sketchnote quick write :

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I just use a composition book and a pen. I went back to add the chapter numbers in orange. If you can draw stick people, circles, and squares you can do this kind of doodle. I simply add a frame after I finish a chapter or two and use a combination of pictures and words to capture the important events. Once you get into this, you’ll be amazed at how much you visualize as you read in order to think about how you’ll represent what you are reading/comprehending. We are doing this with some classes of students this year, but I didn’t get permission to share their work yet so you’ll have to settle for mine as an example.

Give it a try. I’d love to see this SPARK some fun reader responses!

#SOL19 Day 17 Spark! Book Reviews

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 5.28.56 PMFor the month of March I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by The Two Writing Teachers Blog. Each day I will be sharing a Quick Write as my way of slicing. The idea is to offer a SPARK that will kindle thinking and then write as quickly as you can for 5-10 minutes. No filters, no revisions. I’ve been curating a collection of Sparks and will share some with you all month. It’s a great way to ignite your writing life.

Book Reviews Spark!:

One of my favorite quick writes are book reviews that I write and share. I’ve been trying to do a better job with my Goodreads account and I frequently share reviews on my personal Facebook page and Amazon. I try to get my thoughts down quick while they are fresh in my mind. I suppose if I put more time into them they’d be more polished and engaging, but without any filters my responses are authentic, honest, and sometimes a little raw. I’m good with that. Knowing that it is just a short burst of writing has been one way that I’ve been able to be consistent with writing and sharing them. You might also notice that most of my reviews are positive. That’s because I’m pretty selective BEFORE I read–there are so many books, so little time. I go on the recommendations of others often, so I know how valuable these reviews might be to someone’s book selection. I encourage readers who love books and appreciate authors to make this quick write a regular habit. Share your #KidLitlLove with others. Those authors will thank you!

Here’s quick write review I shared this weekend:

Sometimes fiction and reality intersect in our lives in providential ways. I was in the 31207017middle of reading Samira Ahmed’s debut YA novel this week when a white national terrorist murdered innocent Muslims in their mosque in New Zealand. This story took on a deeper and more relevant meaning immediately. 17 year old Maya Aziz was born in America to Indian immigrants and attends high school in Illinois. She has always felt a struggle between these two worlds. Her parents’ love is important to her, but their plans for her life do not align with her own goals and dreams. Just as she might be convincing them to let her pursue a career in film in NYC, a terrorist attacks a federal building in Springfield killing over 125 people. First reports claim it was a Muslim terrorist and Maya’s family is threatened and assaulted, but even when they realize the attacker is a white nationalist the ramifications of fear still haunt Maya’s family and threaten their dreams and even their lives. Throw in a high school romance of forbidden love and this book will connect with so many readers on a number of levels. An important read-especially during these times of rising nationalism, prejudice, and irrational fears.

Give it a try. Regularly quick writing reviews will shape the way you start reading books, too! You’ll develop an appreciation for those gifts the authors have crafted just for you-the reader. If you comment today, please share a book recommendation, too if you’d like

#SOL19 Day 16 Spark! What’s Your Win?

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For the month of March I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by The Two Writing Teachers Blog. Each day I will be sharing a Quick Write as my way of slicing. The idea is to offer a SPARK that will kindle thinking and then write as quickly as you can for 5-10 minutes. No filters, no revisions. I’ve been curating a collection of Sparks and will share some with you all month. It’s a great way to ignite your writing life

What’s Your Win? Spark!

I blogged about this topic in early February (What’s Your Win?)  to encourage one another to look for and notice those small (or large) successes that happen each day in our classrooms. They’re always there! The idea is to take a few minutes at the end of your day (or during your lunch break) to pause and reflect on a success, no matter how small. Kindergarten teachers at one of my schools were encouraging each other with that prompt each day.

Not only do I believe in the power of positive thinking, but I also believe in the power of trajectory. I’ve blogged about this Feb 2014. The gist of my reading research was that if an event was not very satisfying but ended very positively (upward trajectory) that the event was perceived as an overall positive experience. To the contrary, if an event seemed successful but ended rather negatively (downward trajectory) that event was often perceived as an overall negative experience. In addition, that perception shapes future experiences

A great quick write SPARK! for the end of our teaching day may be to take 3-5 minutes to jot down a “WIN” that finds us leaving school more positively. That can shape our future experience at home in the evening (trajectory!). It would encouraging to have a notebook filled with 180 “wins” at the end of a school year when it is time to write our reflections or whenever we get that nagging doubt of “Am I really making any difference?” Flipping through these quick writes could put those doubts to rest pretty quickly.

Here’s my quick write from yesterday:

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The fact that she put my presentation into practice right away and that she wanted to share her enthusiasm and efforts with me was such a great way to end my workshop day. All of my hard work seemed completely worthwhile. Capturing that win and documenting it with a quick write could definitely be boost on any future ‘down days’.

Give it a try. I’d love to know “What’s Your Win?”

#SOL19 Day 15: Two Stories in One

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 5.28.56 PMFor the month of March I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by The Two Writing Teachers Blog.  I have been quick writing from SPARKS all month but today I share a small moment slice.

The college admissions scam struck a raw nerve in our family this week as my son awaits a decision from a college he’s dreamed about his whole life. We always knew the odds would be tough. Less than 8% of applicants make it into this school. We can’t help but think, there is a growing divide between the Have and Have-Nots.  The odds for admission to elite schools tilt to those with money for tutors and coaches, with enrollment in private schools and access to the best resources, with legacy and social connections to maintain a segregated status quo, and now we have evidence that bribery and scamming can also be at play.

“But nothing ventured, nothing gained.” “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” My son is not afraid to dream, not afraid to try. I won’t be a braggy mom and tout his credentials, but his SAT scores, GPA, class rank, athletic awards, and extra curriculars are more than enough to make the cut without the benefit of those financial or social advantages. His application reflects grit, hard work, and determination. He’s undaunted.

So tonight we await the email. They are sending them out on Pi Day (3.14) at 6:28. I’m guessing that’s Pi doubled? Clever, huh? However tonight we have to go to a mandatory player/parent meeting for baseball that starts at 6:00. We’ll be in the middle of the meeting when the emails go out.

We drive over to the high school and I ask him before we go in, “Will you let us know what you find out?”

“I’m not checking ’til I get home.” Right. That makes sense.

So we walk into the meeting and take a seat. I watch my son’s knee bounce a bit and wonder how his nerves are holding up. I know how nervous I get waiting for news. Not sure if I’m projecting, but I see his hand slip into his pocket and touch his phone several times. I know the decision has been made days or weeks ago and no hoping and wishing is going to change it, but I can’t help it.

How long can this damn meeting go on?

See you at practice on Monday, boys.” We head to the car. The ride is silent and so is the walk into the house. I’m trying to keep busy and not hover as he opens his computer and taps away at the keys. I find I’m holding my breath.

From the look on his face as he’s reading I know right away… but that is his story to tell.

 

 

My story is a stinging affirmation that there is a growing divide between the Have and Have-Nots that this mom can’t fix today.

 

 

 

#SOL19 Day 14 Spark! Counterpoint

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 5.28.56 PMFor the month of March I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by The Two Writing Teachers Blog. Each day I will be sharing a Quick Write as my way of slicing. The idea is to offer a SPARK that will kindle thinking and then write as quickly as you can for 5-10 minutes. No filters, no revisions. I’ve been curating a collection of Sparks and will share some with you all month. It’s a great way to ignite your writing life.

 

COUNTERPOINT SPARK: Yesterday I wrote about quick writing to current events or the day’s headlines. For some students it might be a great idea to ask them to respond with a viewpoint that differs from their own. “Imagine you are someone with a totally different viewpoint from your own. What are you thinking, wondering, feeling?” It’s not proving difficult for people to share their own thinking, but I believe our world would benefit from those who can acknowledge that there is a diversity of thought that exists and people holding differing views are not our enemies. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with them, only that we seek to understand them if we want a more civil society or community. I try to do this mentally from time to time, so I challenge myself to do that thinking on paper.

Here’s my quick write:

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Though I am friends and family with many, it was hard to put myself in the shoes of a Trump supporter and I realized I only had  the ‘talking points’ that I’ve heard over and over to respond with. Maybe that is a sign I need to listen for what those words mean down deep to those who say them. What are their hopes and fears that lead them to these thoughts or statements? I’ll bet we share many of those same hopes and fears, that is the common ground I need to seek and not conceding my beliefs or principles. I have to admit it is a bit agonizing to write them as though these were my own true thoughts. Counterpoint quick writes might not be for everybody but we can’t build this skill without practice.