Tag Archives: #QuickWriting

The Slice of Life is Coming!

For the past 3 years, during the month of March I participated in the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by the Two Writing Teachers blog. Every day I write and post to my Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 7.50.17 AMLitCoachLady page a ‘slice’ of my life…a poem, a memory, a small moment. It’s not always easy, but it is always rewarding. Having some experience with it for a few years now has helped me realize that preparing some things ahead of time can make the challenge less challenging. I noticed yesterday my friend and fellow slicer, Leigh Anne Eck, was also preparing ahead of time. This early prep can give you a structure to build on each day, some ideas in the can for those hectic days, and as a way to commit (and avoid writer’s block).

This year I’ve decided I will be writing each day to a spark from my new book Spark! Quick Writes to Kindle Hearts and Minds in Elementary Classrooms. I’m going to walk the talk of a writing teacher, “Do as I do, not as I say.”  I’ve bookmarked 30 sparks, but I’m giving myself the option of choosing others, or to respond authentically to events that pop up in my life that inspire me to write.  This always helps me to walk through my day more present-knowing anything and everything has importance enough to write about.

So how can YOU prepare for the SLICE OF LIFE CHALLENGE and make the month of March a little less challenging? Here are some tips, I’d love to hear any others.

Preparing for the SLICE OF LIFE CHALLENGE

  • Visit the Slice of Life Challenge overview page and the participant information form.
  • Create a blog page if you don’t already have one. I use WordPress (you can get started HERE) but there are others Wix, Weebly,etc.  This is a good resource  on HOW TO START A BLOG.
  • Read slices from other slicers (think ‘mentor texts’). You can see some of mine HERE.
  • Try writing a few slices between now and March 1st. Save these as drafts on your blog site. Use these on those hectic days that will inevitably challenge you.
  • Don’t worry about being lengthy and lush…remember other slicers are trying to read at least 3 posts each day and we often appreciate brevity!
  • I’m not great at self promotion, but I’m proud of the quick write ideas I’ve put together in my new book and these might provide some SPARKS for you as well!
  • Go to Twitter and search #SOL19. There you’ll find other slicers you can follow and get support from. It’s truly a community event, so welcome to the community!

screen shot 2019-01-27 at 9.45.11 amShared Spark! This week I’ll share a few teacher quick write SPARKS to perhaps get you started on some slices. Just write for 5-10 minutes on whatever comes to mind. Try not to filter your thoughts or overthink it. Just let your ideas flow onto the paper without judgment. It can be fun to see what emerges!

  • When I look into the faces of my students…
  • The thing that surprised me most about teaching is…
  • Reframe a situation in your day or week that revises the narrative more positively, yet honestly.
  • What do you think school looks like through the eyes of one of your students?

Whatever approach you take, I just hope you take the Challenge! It will change your perception of writing profoundly and permanently…I guarantee it!

One More Off My TBR Stack!

TThe bridge homehe Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

I was totally spellbound by this compassionate and poignant novel. Living in poverty in India is hard, but imagine being Viji whose father abuses her mother and whose older sister Rukku has developmental disabilities. After her father turns his abuse to the girls, Viji knows she must flee to the city to find a better life for herself and Rukku. With almost no money and no plan, they encounter danger and hardship until they find shelter under an abandoned bridge. There they meet Muthi and Arul, two boys with equally tragic histories. Together they create their own family who work together to survive-pooling their meager resources and scavenging in trash heaps while Rukku makes bead necklaces to sell. When their safe haven is raided, they take shelter in a graveyard where they might be left alone. But with little shelter during the rainy season, Rukku and Muthu contract dengue fever from the mosquitoes. Viji and Arul need to find help, but they haven’t found many people they can trust or who would care about two of millions of homeless children. Padma Venkatraman beautifully shares the harsh reality and the courageous hopes of real homeless children in this fictional story. Open this book, it will open your eyes and your hearts

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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.