Tag Archives: Quick Writes

What’s Your Win?

This week as I was meeting with my mentee (and brilliant new teacher) Heather, we were discussing some of the challenges of teaching kindergarten. But then she talked about how she and her kinder colleagues try to share a “win” with one another each day. When they see each other they’ll ask, “What’s your win for today?” This got me jazzed because one of my mantras for this year is Nothing is too small to celebrate, and here these teachers were putting that idea into action.

The next day at my “lunch bunch”  (5th and 6th grade teachers in a different school) we were discussing our day and I thought I’d try asking “What’s your win for today?” to each of them. Though some were humorous, and some took a little thinking, they all had a positive aspect to what is often a very tough job. It certainly brought some levity and light to the table.

We see what we look for.

It’s not always easy to recognize a win unless you are looking for it. Sure, we sometimes have those amazing moments that reaffirm for us why we became teachers or that fill us with pride. (Here’s a link to one of my proud teaching moments)But more often there are dozens of wins going on in our day that we don’t celebrate, and might not even notice.  Did a quiet student find their voice? Did kids transition well between activities? Did turn-and-talk produce good conversation? Was someone kind to a classmate? Did students enjoy the read aloud? Did you make it to the end of the day!?

We create an environment in which kids can thrive each day and sometimes we don’t realize what the impact is of the choices and decisions we make has on their social-emotional and academic learning. We tend to notice (and perseverate) on what didn’t go well, especially when we are tired and frustrated. But so often the conditions we’ve created spark lots of small victories for our students. We just need to look for them.

This week, try and ask yourself, “What’s my win?” Then perhaps ask a colleague, “What’s your win?“Encourage one another to look for and notice those small (or large) successes that happen each day in your classrooms. They’re there!  I plan to revisit this topic in the future after checking in with more teachers on their wins. I’d love to hear about your wins!

screen shot 2019-01-27 at 9.45.11 amShared Spark! In keeping with the theme of this week’s blog post, invite students or colleagues to quick write the answer to the question, “What’s My Win Today?” There’s a large body of research that shows writing or journaling about positive events or what we are grateful for can have a powerful impact on our mental health and mood. Taking 3 to 5 minutes to reflect on a win could set you on a more positive trajectory for the rest of the day.  Try it for a few days and see what you begin to notice.

One More Off My TBR Stack!

Merci Suarez

Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Winner of the 2019 Newbery Medal! Meg Medina has written a compassionate story about a family coming to grips with the brutal reality of Alzheimer’s disease while also dealing with the everyday struggles of daily life. Merci Suárez is beginning her 6th grade at a private school where she was “lucky” to get scholarship, but she doesn’t feel so lucky when she comes up against the most popular girl at school and when her beloved Grandfather, Lolo’s, behavior makes her feel like she doesn’t know him anymore. You’ll fall in love with these characters and find yourself rooting for them to overcome hardship, I know I did.

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How Can We Increase Our Touches With Writing?

This week was the book birthday of my second professional text with Stenhouse IMG_1514-1Publishers SPARK! Quick Writes to Kindle Hearts and Minds in Elementary Classrooms. I felt a great deal of joy on this occasion, but I also experience what many authors have shared-a bit of trepidation. When you have put everything you have into your “baby”, you want the world to welcome it and love it as much as you do. I can tell you that my admiration for all writers and authors has increased exponentially as I appreciate the courage it takes to put a piece of you out into the world and let it go.

I created SPARK! because I know that the only way we get better at something is with practice, I could see that with my own kids in dance and soccer, as well as any task they excelled in. But with our tight teaching schedules many kids aren’t getting nearly enough writing practice as they need.

My son Casey’s soccer coach gave his team some great advice, “If you want to up your game you need to increase your touches with the ball, every-single-day.” That meant time and touches outside of practice. Casey found dozens of small moments each day to increase his touches and practice his footwork and ball drills-usually in our living room! It made all the difference for him as a player.

I want to increase the touches our kids have with writing each day-outside of the regular practice of writing workshop. Short bursts of practice throughout the day that can increase their skill and confidence. But I also wanted those touches to move beyond the same drill and skill and kindle creativity, engagement, and enjoyment.

I curated a collection of “SPARKS” or prompts to “Kindle the Hearts and Minds” of our students because I wanted them to grow as writers, but also as humans through their writing. The obvious benefit is that builds up the volume of writing. We’re building in opportunities for fluent practice and because they are low stakes (not graded or assessed) they encourage more creativity and risk-taking. Maybe less obvious, but also important, are how they can be used to develop off-page skills. We aren’t just raising readers and writers who are college and career ready, we are raising human beings who need to be life-ready These quick writes encourage critical thinking, creativity, communication, mindfulness, appreciation and a host of other social emotional skills in  addition to writing skills. I’ve set up each chapter with a different focus so teachers can choose from a variety of beneficial sparks.

And the beauty is that it doesn’t require much of our most precious commodity–TIME. Most of us can find 5-10 minutes in our busy schedules, why not use it to increase those touches our kids have with paper and pencil, or even keyboards, to spark wonder and curiosity, explore their thinking, increase their appreciation and compassion, or play with ideas. I believe with a short investment of time we can yield some terrific results with our students’ learning and lives.

I’ll try to share a SPARK! with each blog post this year to encourage you to give them a go, or you can preview the whole book here for free at the Stenhouse Website.

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Shared Spark! One way we can use quick writes is to help our students reframe their thinking. I offer some quotes as sparks for students to respond to that give them an opportunity to reflect and possibly reframe their thinking to embrace a more positive outlook or mindset. Try one of these:

  • “Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”-Abe Lincoln
  • “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”-Wayne Gretsky
  • “What doesn’t challenge you, doesn’t change you.”

Students are free to respond in any way they choose for about 5 minutes. I often take the next 5 minutes to let them share their thinking and appreciate the diversity of responses. Let me know if you give it a go!

One More Off My TBR Stack!

Harbor Me

HARBOR ME by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson has an uncanny ability to create incredible stories that speak directly to her readers’ hearts and to tap into the raging currents of our time. I can no longer read one of her books without hearing her voice- layered with passion and lyricism. In this story six 5th grade students in Brooklyn are sent to the art room alone each Friday- just to talk- by their very wise and trusting teacher. It becomes the ARTT (A Room to Talk) room and gradually each shares their hopes, fears, and experiences in such a way that you do not pity them, but want to embrace them. As Ms. Laverne shares, “Every day we should ask ourselves, ‘If the worst thing in the world happened, would I protect someone else? Would I let myself be a harbor for someone who needs it?” The response of these students in word and deed is a resounding, “I WILL HARBOR YOU.