Tag Archives: Elly Swartz

Creating Playgrounds for Writers

Jean Piaget said it. Marie Montessori said it. Even Fred Rogers said it.

“Play is the work of childhood.”

As teachers we know how important play is to a child’s development, but we also know school is not an all day recess. So how do we incorporate more play into our students’ learning time? I believe quick writes throughout the school day allow children an opportunity to play on paper. They can play with ideas and play with ways to convey those ideas in writing.

What are quick writes? Short bursts of “thinking and inking” that are not evaluated or graded. They are invitations to explore thinking, feelings, and wonderings in whatever way speaks to them. In my book Spark! Quick Writes to Kindle Hearts and Minds in Elementary Classrooms I provide a variety of “sparks” to invite playful inquiry and reflection.

Just as there are “rules” for recess that are designed for students wellbeing, I have only a few “rules” for quick writes that support the wellbeing of the learner:

  • Write the whole time-just let those ideas flow onto the paper without a filter
  • Be kind when writing about others
  • You don’t have to share if you don’t want to
  • Have fun with it

I want them to see that writing is more than drafting stories or creating reports. WritingScreen Shot 2019-11-17 at 8.28.42 AM is a way to play on paper and find no judgements. I wish I’d had time like that as a student. I don’t think I would have found writing so intimidating or have been so reluctant to do it unless it was assigned.

I’ll be sharing some ideas and resources at NCTE 2019 in Baltimore this week to help create more PLAYGROUNDS for writers in our classrooms. I hope if you are going that you can join me, but I know many will not be able to attend so I’m happy to share my resources here as well.  You can access the link to my slides below.



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Here is a copy of my handout with QR codes to some of my resources as well.


You can find more ideas and resources for Quick Writes in my book SPARK! or you can connect with me anytime on social media @LitCoachLady on Twitter. Let’s bring more opportunities for purposeful play in our students’ day by creating Quick Write Playgrounds!

One More Off My TBR Stack

Screen Shot 2019-11-17 at 9.32.51 AMGIVE AND TAKE by Elly Swartz
Elly Swartz has written another compelling and compassionate middle grade novel that opens minds and hearts to some of the fierce challenges our children face. In Give and Take we meet 12 year old Maggie whose grandmother recently passed away from dementia, whose family is temporarily fostering a newborn about to be adopted, and whose friend is bumped from their all-girl trap shooting team. Seems like Maggie is has had to say goodbye so much that she finds she can’t let go of things and saving mementos turns into a problem with hoarding that she can’t control. Swartz’s background in psychology has helped her create characters that need to work through mental health challenges and allow readers some insights and empathy for the human condition while crafting engaging storylines that pull you in and have you turning pages long into the night.


The Homework Message We May Want to Rethink

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-6-36-54-amThis post is going to be brief.  Anyone who follows me on social media knows my position on homework. I’ve shared research on its efficacy and effects. Today I just want to focus on one aspect, and I believe it is THE most important.

We just had Thanksgiving, and for a month I was immersed in the gratitudes of others and learned what they valued in life. It was uplifting and inspiring. People listed friends, family, trips, nature, fun and games, and health.  I have to believe these are the blessings that they wish for their own children as well.  So for the month of November, those were the messages they were giving their children.

Sadly, for many children, those are not the messages they are given the rest of the year. The message they are presented nearly every day is:

The most important thing in your life is WORK.

That message isn’t delivered in those exact words, so much as it is in actions and reactions.  Think about a child’s life.  They go to ‘work‘ (because school is the child’s work) 7 hours a day, and then they are often given several more hours of work to work on after work. Homework is expected to be a priority after working all day-which was also a priority. For many, if they don’t prioritize homework first and complete it, there are negative consequences…failing grade, loss of recess, detention… shame.

The message many of them are receiving is that your friendships aren’t the priority (play with your friends if and when you get your work done), your health isn’t a priority (deal with that stress, anxiety, illness, or sleep-loss and get your homework done), your experiences aren’t a priority (it doesn’t matter that you went to your sister’s soccer game-you need to get your homework done), nature isn’t a priority (going for a hike with your dad isn’t an excuse), play isn’t a priority (no recess because you didn’t work enough), family isn’t a priority (your parents can be tutors and you, their student-instead of engaging in ‘normal’ family activities).  I know these may sound extreme to some, but I also know that my kids have experienced every single one of these messages. They are often very subtle…but they are pervasive.

I earnestly want us to have conversations around this topic. (I haven’t even addressed the efficacy or other aspects of homework that warrant discussion) I want us to think about what we really want for our children.  Yes, we want them to succeed, but I think we need to define what success in life REALLY is.  What kind of life do we want for our children? What do we want them to value?  What priorities do we truly want them to make for themselves and their own children?

What message do we really want to send to our children about our values and priorities? What role do we want WORK to play in our lives?

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What’s On My Book Radar?



Molly’s mother leaves the family for a year to take a job in Canada. In trying to deal with this loss, she hatches a plan to bring her mother home: win the Lakeville Middle School Slam Poetry Contest. Molly finds herself trying to perfect her chaotic world, but her desire for perfection is turning into habits she can’t control. She’s not sure who she can turn to for help or advice. This is powerful story that can shed a light on a problem (OCD) that afflicts many people and bring some empathy and understanding for others’ struggles.  If you are trying to offer more windows and doors for the students in your classroom, I would encourage you to bring this gem into your libraries. This debut novel from Elly Swartz is nearly perfect!