Tag Archives: Quick Writes

#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!

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#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 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 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 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 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?

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.

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.