#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

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#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.

 

#SOL19 Day 13 Spark! Headlines

 

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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.

Headlines Spark!

I remember as a child we used to bring in and discuss current events. What I wouldn’t give to remember what some of our conversations were around the day’s news cycle. Each day we are living what will become history for someone else. We treasure primary sources that reflect on the personal meanings extracted from world and local events. We could help our students (and ourselves) be creators of those primary sources. We can document not only the current events, but our unique personal perceptions at this moment in time. This can be tricky because of our polarized society, so if national news is too controversial for your students, give it a try with local news (although that’s not free from controversy) OR remember quick writes do not need to be shared, so invite students to reflect personally on events without the fear of judgment or reprisal from others.  Use newspapers, magazine covers (Time or Time for Kids are great), or a news video clip to SPARK our students’ thinking.

Here’s a headline quick write I wrote recently:

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I want to remember important stories, but also document in real time how I felt about events. Our thoughts and reactions can change over time as we gain perspective or more information comes to light. I think it would be fascinating if we helped our students understand that they are living through history and encouraged them to connect with it. A 5 minute quick write could be that first step.

 

 

#SOL19 Day 12 Spark! 12 Pieces of Gratitude

 

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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.

Gratitude to Fellow Slicers

None of my slices will be stories( in a strictly small moment way) this month. Perhaps they are more pieces than slices and I may have to reconsider future participation in the story challenge.  Because even though I love that genre, I am on a bit of a mission to expand our definition of writing so that every one finds a place at the writer’s table. There are many ways to tell a story I am also passionate about encouraging fellow writing teachers to be teachers who write. I want them to find their voices and share their ideas creatively, authentically, and passionately. The Slice of Life has been such a great way for teachers to do this and share with one another and I am filled with admiration and gratitude for everyone who shares.

I have learned so much, and continue to learn so much each time I click on the permalink to a blog post and enter the world of that slicer for a few moments. I love that we support one another without judgement or an assessment of our abilities, but with appreciation for our courageous acts of writing and sharing. As we hit the 12th day I wanted to share 12 Pieces of Gratitude for SPARKing my writing life this month. I’ll try to quick write them if I can!

Thank you for…

  1. The book spine poetry to remind me how connected reading and writing can be.
  2. The haikus that remind me how a few choice words can convey such big, bold ideas.
  3. The streams of consciousness that let me walk around inside the head of someone who probably gets where I’m coming from but sees with different lenses.
  4. The passionate posts of advocacy that raise my awareness about the concerns that others have, some that I share and others for which I am unaware.
  5. The snapshot in words capturing special moments cuddling kids, caring for parents, or cozying up with pets.
  6. The doodles and comics reinforcing that writing is, at its essence, a series of lines and squiggles that convey meaning to a reader.
  7. The personal photos that remind us a picture IS worth a thousand words sometimes.
  8. The Rules for life, love, and other meaningful circumstances.
  9. The Recipes for life, love, and favorite family foods that tie tradition with narration.
  10. The free verse poetry that liberates our lines from fixed convention and emancipates our ideas in free spirited fashion.
  11. For quick writes that courageously put pen to paper or fingers to keyboards without filters or fears: often surprising writers with thoughts they didn’t know they ‘thunk’.
  12. For any band-aid, format, or form that gets people writing and walking the talk of writing teachers. Voice and choice are at the heart of living a writerly life.

You have all re-affirmed for me the importance expanding our definitions for writing and legitimizing the many ways humans can convey their experiences in writing. I am so grateful for all of you, stepping up to take on this huge challenge this month. 

 

 

 

 

#SOL19 Day 11 Spark! Be Present

 

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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.

Be Present

A simple quick write SPARK to encourage greater mindfulness is to stop and jot what you are experiencing in a given moment. Tap into your senses and notice where your mind takes you. This meditative quick write can be quite relaxing in a natural space or stimulating in a more chaotic space.

Yesterday I woke before my family (who hadn’t adjusted yet to the time change) and noticed the morning sky. I grabbed my bedside notebook and for 5 minutes immersed myself in the present moment:

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This quick write is a lot like morning pages that I sometimes do, except that this is 5 minutes instead of 3 pages. I often can’t find the 30-40 minutes to incorporate morning pages, but I can easily find 5 minutes to quick write.

I get a very different emotional and sensory feel from a Present Moment quick write during my lunch break at school or even after I get home in the afternoon. The fun comes from not knowing where your mind will take you and what words will emerge as you put pen to paper. Sure I could do this on my computer, but there is something special about watching those words form from your hand and not feeling fully in control of what comes out! It’s kind of magical.  Give it a go this week and see what you discover in your present moments.

#SOL19 Day 10 Spark!

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.

Special Delivery

The other day I talked about quick writes as fan mail. Today I’ll share a quick write that has become a regular habit for me…notes of appreciation for colleagues.  I am lucky that I work with so many amazing teachers, and a lot of their day can be pretty isolated from their peers. I get to regularly visit their classrooms and see the great work they do. I want them to know that somebody sees and appreciations what they do every single day. I try to quick write a few notes to staff each week to let them know I notice. Sometimes it is a secretary, a librarian, a lunch lady, an administrator, or an ed tech as well as a teacher.

Appreciation Quick Writes

I found some cool envelope-shaped post-it notes that I use to create these mini letters of appreciation. You can see they are meant to be short and sweet-like a quick write. They fold up and seal just like an airmail envelope.

This week at our staff meeting, our principal did a similar quick write activity. She had slips of paper with everyone’s names on it 3 different times.  We were to draw out 3 names and quick write a note of encouragement or compliment to these colleagues. It could be anonymous or we could sign it. Everyone left the staff meeting with 3 encouraging notes written to them. Our principal is going to post them in the staff room so we can continue to feel the appreciation for one another.

This quick write activity takes less than 5 minutes but the positive effects can last a long, long time. If you don’t have fancy post-it notes don’t let that stop you. I invite you to try at least one “special delivery” quick write each day this week and spread some much needed loving kindness in your school (or community).

 

#SOL19 Day 9 Spark!

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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.

Word Sparks

Words are a vessel for meaning. A single word can conjure up thoughts, stimulate memories, and/or stir emotions. Providing a single word as a quick write spark can demonstrate the power of a single word. It need not be profound like Patriotic, it can be as simple as Chair, in which thoughts of snuggling with a loved one, or shopping for a family one, or being forced to sit in one as punishment might be conjured in a flash.

You can find words in a dictionary, randomly point to one in a text, or use my friend Jennifer Laffin’s Word of the Day on her TeachWrite Facebook Page. She also has an Email List with tips, ideas and inspiration for teacher writers. Here’s a word from one of her recent posts and my quick write:

Rebel

Is it an action or an identity? Are they separate. I suppose I could rebel at an idea that I found unsavory without being an outright rebel. But there are certainly times when I feel like a rebel. When we are discussing our upcoming state tests I feel like a rebel because I care so little about those results. I’ve been working with teachers on an ASSESSMENT PREPARATION unit the past week or so but my attitude has certainly rebelled against the conventional thinking. I see these types of tests as a genre of reading. So my goal is to help teach students the skills and strategies to be successful with a genre that they must read at least once a year. I think of it as functional reading/writing. The way we want to teach students to read a recipe, or directions, or schedules, etc. we can teach them to read a state test. And then I think about the results as how well they can simply read THAT genre and not a larger measure of their skills as a reader, because COME ON!! That is not the type of reading I care about or that matters, and I am hoping there are other rebels out there who feel the same way. Maybe one day we will have—-

So as you can see, one word can open up a can of proverbial worms! Also, I stopped after 5 minutes, MID SENTENCE. That is what I ask kids to do as well. The idea being that they can pick up that idea at any time without experience writers’ block. Works every time.

Let me know if you try this spark. What word did you choose?

#SOL19 Day 8 Spark!

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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.

Lift a Line

Though not a new idea, it is a powerful one that is worth remembering. Borrowing a line from another author and seeing where it takes you is a great way to realize the endless options that can spring from a few words. There are poems, stories, articles, even environmental print that can provide that spark. Here was a recent Facebook post from a friend.  I lifted the first idea and took off with my own quick write:

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May we raise children who love the unloved things- the crows whose song isn’t pleasing to the ear, the toy that sits in the bottom of the toy box waiting for eager hands.

Children who see the marginalized and left out and never think twice about welcoming them to the center-and if that center is too hot will move to the cooler margins and and chill with them.

And one day if they find themselves sitting in those margins may they, too be welcomed by others, so

maybe their children will live in a world with no margins

 

Ok, clearly this needs some revision-it’s a bit wandering. I thought I was going to go off in more of a nature-theme but then toys crept into my mind as I remembered my brother when we were young and we tried to make sure our stuff animals didn’t get left out in the toy box. He was a pretty sensitive kid. I think that was a prelude to his way of welcoming others who might feel left out. So in 5 minutes I started to explore these ideas. Not polished, but somewhat perceptive.  Give it a go! Take any piece of writing and see where your thinking takes you.