Category Archives: Uncategorized

#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!

 

 

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#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.

 

 

#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:

 

docupoem

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

QW image

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?

Made with Padlet
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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!