Category Archives: Uncategorized

I LOVE Authors! Do You?

This week I was in author heaven as I was able to connect with some of my very favorites in a variety of venues.

On Monday I attended a Booksource Book Tasting in which authors Cynthia Lord and Charlotte Agell shared their latest books and talked a bit about their process.IMG_E0936

On Tuesday two of my schools sponsored an author visit by Matt Tavares and I got to watch him put on 4 amazing presentations for groups of students from preK to 6th grade. He shared how he comes up with his ideas, how he researches his subjects/topics, and the countless revisions in his writing and drawing that lead him to his masterpieces. IMG_0993

On Wednesday I asked author Dusti Bowling to Skype with a group of 4th grade girls who were part of a lunch bunch reading club and were having their last get together for Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus.IMG_1057

Today I Skyped with author Sarah Aronson in preparation for a surprise Skype visit on IMG_E1077Monday with some 2nd graders. I’ll be reading her new book Just Like Rube Goldberg as part of a Readathon launch at one of my schools. As part of that Readathon I am also keynoting to students on the topic I LOVE AUTHORS.  I want them to realize and appreciate that every book they read and love was created by someone with an idea and the determination to work hard until it became a book.

I’ll be passing out these bookmarks to kids and discussing how we can show our appreciation. As an adult I can post an Amazon review, a Facebook share, or a Goodreads entry. But students often don’t have a social media presence or global contacts so their influence is much more local and intimate. I listed some ideas to get them started, but I want them to think of even more.

I love using mentor texts, but it is just as important  for students to have real mentors! Helping to bring authors into their lives in person, via Skype, or by visiting their websites can show readers that ‘wizard behind the curtain’ and help them to appreciate those words, those illustrations, and those books even more. It can also help them to aspire to be published writers themselves when they humanize their concept of author.

So thank you to all the authors who have helped me share the love of reading, the passion for books, and the desire to write with students over the years. You’ll never know how much of an impact you’ve made on their lives–and mine!

One More Off My TBR Stack

Get yourself a copy of this book and you’ll see why I think Cynthia Lord is one of the most talented middle grade writers out there today. She takes seeds from her real life and creates stories that shine a light on the human experience, especially for those who aren’t normally in the spotlight. Emma wants to go to “real school” (she’s been homeschooled). She’s lonely now that her older brother is going to highschool and doesn’t have as much time for her anymore. On the eve of the first day she and her game warden father rescue a stray rabbit. She convinces her parents to let her keep “Lapi” until they can find the owner-if ever. Starting school at 5th grade in rural north west Maine, she finds friendships and cliques have already been established but she strikes up a friendship with Jack, who does not seem to fit in. As the story unfolds, Emma learns what real friendship is about “you have to BE the friend you want to have”. As always, Cindy’s stories have so many layers that can connect with a variety of readers: loving care for pets and strays, feeling excluding and wanting to fit in, nurturing empathy for people who seem different from ourselves, and always in the context of a super satisfying story! As a bonus in this one, you’ll learn facts about lagomorphs and it is set in the amazing state of MAINE! Do your students a favor and get a copy of this in your classroom library ASAP! I don’t think it will stay on the shelves.

 

 

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#SOL19 Day 31 Thank You, Slicers

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We did it! The last day of the Slice of Life Challenge is here. I know many will feel a sense of relief coupled with a twinge of sadness. We’ve made a lot of connections, shared a lot of heartfelt stories, were buoyed by the words of others, and lived an intensely writerly life for the month of March. Some of us have gone from winter to spring (have faith my Mainer friends) and have had life changing experiences in a short period of time.

My last quick write SPARK is an homage to my fellow slicers and a thank you for your generous slices.

Here’s my quick write:Day 31 slice

I hope that we can stay connected. I’ve followed several blogs, several bloggers on Twitter, and made friends with some of you on the TeachWrite Facebook group. This isn’t goodbye, it’s just good luck until we “meet” again! Please stay in touch-you all ROCK!

#SOL19 Day 30 Spark! “Poem-ish”

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 5.28.56 PMFor the month of March I have been participating in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by The Two Writing Teachers Blog. Each day I shared 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 hope you’ve found some that have sparked your joy of writing this month!

With National Poetry month on our doorstep I think its a great time to collect some ideas for playful engagement with poetry. I love to revisit Billy Collins poem “Introduction to Poetry” to ground my teaching in the purpose for poetry-to illuminate dark thoughts, to play with the richness of our language, to whittle a narrative down to the essence of thought, feeling, and senses, and to explore the human experience. Here’s an interesting video interpretation of his classic poem.

Poem-ish Sparks!

I’ve been inspired by so many slicers this month who have shared poems and poetry ideas. (I list some of their offerings at the end of this post) I often use the term poem-ish to describe what I quick write, not because it isn’t in some authentic way a poem, but because it hasn’t yet been read with a careful ear and revised with the respectful revision I think it one day deserves. It remains in a poem-ish state, sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently. And that’s ok.

One form I have seen a lot this month has been the “skinny poem”.  I love this because I can consume a poem at a glance and savor it in one bite. I think it is less intimidating for kids to try out, and it works well as a quick write! Here’s my skinny poem quick write about the sunset I soaked up from my back deck last night.

sunset in the field

Gilded light

Thanks to everyone who shared resources this month. If you have some collections or caches of poetry ideas you have shared that I missed or that you would like to share, please let me know in the comments section. I am so grateful this writing community! Here are a few:

Made with Padlet

2019 Notable Poetry Books

Kidlitosphere Central Poetry Friday Round Ups

 

#SOL19 Day 29 Spark: That’s News To Me!

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.

That’s News To Me Quick Write.

We are living in a world of BREAKING NEWS, which can keep us on edge if we are trying to stay abreast of it and keep the incoming information in some context or perspective. It almost always beckons us to respond in some way. Similar to quick write responses to print news headlines or magazine articles, we can also encourage our students to respond to news clips of current events or primary source videos. These are sometimes controversial, so always be mindful of your purpose, audience, and information sources to make sure they are appropriate for your students and that you are aware of potential bias and reliability issues. (unless your purpose is to raise awareness of these issues with older students and you want to expose them to these sources).

I recently saw some news clips from the Clinton impeachment hearings and on the eve of the invasion of Iraq wish I had some journal entry or writing that reflected and documented my thinking as news was breaking back then. Never too late to start!

Here’s my 3 minute quick write in response to this C-SPAN clip from yesterday’s news cycle.

 

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Quick writes can help us respond in a visceral and unfiltered way to news and events. We can revisit our responses and see how our thinking can change with time, new facts, or events coming to light. We can see how our first reaction may be quick to judge or born out by more facts. We may learn that sharing our first responses in the privacy of a notebook,  rather than social media may be a better reflective or cathartic practice.

Sure we can pen more thoughtful opinion pieces but that serves a different purpose-to persuade others rather than to explore our own reactions, opinions, and values. This doesn’t replace that form of writing. Writers shouldn’t be compelled to share and if they do, it is important that others are open and accepting of responses.

In a world of constant breaking news, it might be good if our students had a safe and nurturing place to explore their thinking. Our classrooms could be that safe place.

#SOL19 Day 28 Spark! Title Tales

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 title gives the reader a clue to the content and genre of a story and can often set the tone. Titles help the reader predict what the story may be about and are often labored over by authors and editors. We can help students appreciate the importance of a good title when we try some quick writes focusing on envisioning possible stories derived from them.

I’ve collected the titles from some middle grade novels to use as sparks. You can check those out HERE, and then begin to build your own collection of titles that could spark the imaginations of your writers. They may be familiar or rather obscure to you students, I don’t worry if they write from a title they know and spin off from the story or even retell some of a story based on the title. They are still thinking about the role of a title and how it can aid in comprehension and appreciation of a story.

Here’s my quick write. Can you tell which title inspired this 3 minutes of flash fiction? It’s one of the titles in this collection. Read it first and then check it out.

Title Tale

 

Could you guess before looking what the title might be? How about after? It could be fun to let students choose from a list and then invite others to guess. It could also be amusing to give everyone the same title and see how many different versions they come up with. Were they humorous? Adventurous? Suspenseful? You’ll begin to appreciate titles in a whole new way if you collect and quick write to them.

 

#SOL19 Day 28 Spark! Riding the Wave

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.

This quick write idea comes from my dear friend, Linda Rief. Linda is one of the most amazing teachers and authors I’ve ever had the privilege to know, and I am constantly inspired by her. Her latest book The Quickwrite Handbook contains 100 mentor texts that invite students to ride the waves of someone else’s words to find their own. She encourages her middle school students to write for 2-3 minutes, capturing anything that comes to mind. I highly recommend this book to every writing teacher. You’ll love it!

In honor of Robert Frost’s birthday (March 26, 1874)  I thought I’d ride the wave of words from one of his most famous poems.  Here’s my 3 minute quick write:

Yet knowing...

Road Not Taken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I knew which words I wanted to lift and lean on, and how I’d start my idea, but it was fascinating to see which words raced ahead of my pen in my mind and then made it to the paper. Images, memories, emotions all came flooding over me, just by leaning in and leaning on a few words of Robert Frost’s. I stopped after 3 minutes, knowing right where I can pick up and go if I choose to return to this piece.  (Yet knowing how way leads onto way, I doubted if I should ever come back”!)

Try a line from a poem or a page from the book you are reading. Lift a tiny  bit onto your paper and ride the wave! It will be magical!

 

 

#SOL19 Day 26 Spark! Jargonese

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.

Jargonese Spark!

As educators, we often forget we speak fluent Jargonese. We throw around acronyms like candy at a parade and can often forget that novice teachers, parents, or community members might be confused by or left out of the conversations that are punctuated by letter strings.  Just this last week I heard:

RTI            IEP          NBPT         PBIS         F&P         MEA     ADD    ADHD

Not only do we speak in these abbreviated terms, but we often don’t stop and think what they might mean to someone who doesn’t live them everyday until we are sitting across from a parent at an Individualized Education Program meeting or a parent/teacher conference and we are met with glassy-eyed stares.

So here’s a quick write that could be “FUN” at staff meetings or PD (that’s professional development, you know). Pop an acronym up on the board and give yourself (and other teachers) 5 minutes to quick write a parent-friendly definition/explanation that does not include any Jargonese. Imagine you are having a conversation. What would you say?

Then share some of your responses. How similar or different are the quick writes? How easy is it to put complex ideas into kid-friendly, parent-friendly, or community-friendly language? What are you thinking about?

Here’s my quick write. (don’t judge!)

RTI

RTI stands for Response to Intervention. We are always looking for ways to support learning and when we find that our regular classroom instruction is not meeting a student’s needs in order to make solid progress, we often look for ways to help-we call this an  INTERVENTION. So we may reteach, give individual support, provide more modeling, give extra practice, or break down a task into smaller skills. Then we observe how the student does (or RESPONDS to that INTERVENTION). We try to assess if that intervention was helpful, or see if we need to try something else. We usually give it a few weeks to look for growth. We sometimes ask others to help us brainstorm ideas and problem-solve issues so that we are giving your child the best support.

Ok, that was 5 minutes and I found myself having to choose alternatives for “one-on-one”  and “adequate” and even wondered if the words “task” and “modeling” might have been obscure for some parents.

Even if you don’t do this with others, it might be helpful to quick write what you might say in a conversation with parents, kids, school boards, or community members BEFORE you are trying to define and explain these jargony concepts. It’s not as easy as you might think, especially when emotions are running high with concerned or stressed parents.You’ll be glad you did!

 

 

 

 

#SOL19 Day 25 Spark! Ekphrasis

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.

EKPHRASIS

This form of prose or poetry is inspired or stimulated by a work of art; the goal is to make the reader envision the art described as if it were physically present. The word ekphrastic is derived from the Ancient Greeks to mean “description”. I love how the art of writing and the art of painting can become symbiotic in this form.  See some examples HERE or check out the book World Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins (2018)

This is a fun quick write to try with kids when you offer them several examples of art work to choose from and invite them to quick write a description or a poem-ish piece as they look carefully at the paintings. Then if they choose to share, their classmates can try to guess which artwork they are writing about by attending to the description used.

Some pieces of art lend themselves to story, while others may create some dissonance or confusion for our budding art ‘aficionados’. Build up an eclectic collection of art work that spans multiple genres of art. We can build in a few minutes of art appreciation alongside writing and thinking-and that could make our students lives all the richer. Remember-they are quick so they don’t have to be polished or published, they just have to exist as evidence of thinking.

Here’s my quick write:

guernica-ekphrasis.jpg

Can you guess the art work?

CLICK HERE to see what I see.

#SOL19 Day 24 Spark! Gratitude Journals

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.

Gratitude Journal Spark!

What if someone told you that spending 5 minutes a day of this writing could have  profound affect on your physical and mental health, would you think it worth the time and effort? There is a lot of research on the benefits of gratitude journals and letters to raise our mental health and well-being (https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/12/24/678232331/if-you-feel-thankful-write-it-down-its-good-for-your-health) So besides extra skills practice, we can nurture our whole selves with quick writes of gratitude.

Though I’ve talked about this before, my one little word for this year is GRATITUDE and we can never have too much of it.  I am keeping a Gratitude Journal that I got for New Years called 100 Days of Gratitude. I can’t claim they are 100 consecutive days, but I don’t really think that’s what is most important.  I think this is great for our students, but it is equally important for us (teachers) as well. I want to practice what I preach.

Yesterday I participated in an EdCamp in Maine, #EdCamp207 (we have one area code for the whole state!) and I feel such intense gratitude for the teachers who worked for many hours, days, and weeks to host this, as well as to those teachers who gave up a Saturday to collaboratively lift the learning of others. Being thankful for them was worth 5 minutes of my time, even if I didn’t derive health benefits from this simple act.

Photos from our EdCamp207 this weekend. Teachers supporting teachers!

Here’s my quick write:

gratitude journal.jpgWhat sparks your gratitude? Taking a few minutes each day to jot it down can have a powerful impact on your mental and physical well-being.

Just think what it can do for our students!

#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.