Posted in Classroom, Literacy, Reflection, Slice of Life, Writing

Slice of Life 2018, Day 29: What It’s REALLY About

Writer’s Workshop this morning looked the way it should look: 25 kids scattered around the room, some typing furiously while others wrote furiously across their pages.

Writer’s Workshop this morning sounded the way it should sound: typing, whispering, music playing softly (Harry Potter again) from the overhead speakers.

Writer’s Workshop this morning felt the way it should feel: energized, productive, positive.

But as I walked around to confer with students about their fantasy stories, I quickly realized that something was just slightly amiss. Something wasn’t the way I thought it should be. It took me a few conferences to figure it out: most of the fantasy stories my students were writing had fantastic characters, strong plot lines, great detail…and almost no fantasy to them whatsoever.

One girl was writing about a pair of friends who are split apart by the infringing friendship of a new girl. Another was writing about a pair of friends who have an argument that ends their friendship. A boy next to them wrote about a day with no wifi.

Where is all the creativity? I wondered. Where are all of the things I’ve taught them?

We’ve worked with two questions over and over in reading and writing across the school year: What is this about? What is this really about? I paused and asked myself these same questions.

What is this writing experience today about? I thought it was about writing fantasy…

What is this writing experience today really about? It was about developing a story arc. It was about including dialogue and developing characters through action and conflict. It was about focusing in on small moments and making them seem authentic to readers. It was about finding the joy in writing and expressing oneself through written words.

On that note, today’s Workshop wasn’t quite so “off” after all. My students were learning–just as they should in a workshop setting–in their own way and at their own pace. And they taught me something today as well: the value of remembering to look beyond the obvious to focus on what’s really at the heart of learning.

slice of life

Advertisements
Posted in Classroom, Literacy, Reflection, Slice of Life, Writing

Slice of Life 2018, Day 27: My Writing Identity

This morning, fresh off of Spring Break, I stood in my classroom as our Writing Workshop time began and I watched. The melodies of the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone soundtrack competed with the rain beating against our classroom windows to set the tone for fantasy writing. Some students were already lost in their own worlds, furiously typing or scribbling across their pages. Others let their eyes roam around the room, taking a few minutes to think and plan. Some had worked on their stories over break. Others had forgotten we would even be writing fantasy stories when we returned. Each and every one of them, however, ended our “fast and furious flash draft day” having produced writing. Every single child, at their own pace and in their own way, wrote a piece of a fantasy story. And each one of them developed a bit of their writing identity today.

At the risk of sounding much older than my mid-thirties, I can’t help but think Why, back when I was in school… We didn’t have choice in our writing. We were taught the mechanics and the structure, but never the creativity or the passion. We sat in rows and outlined and drafted and made sure each paragraph met a specific set of requirements so that the teacher could easily assign a grade. We developed writing routines, but never reflected at all on why we wrote and who we were as writers–or who we could become.

As I think about myself as a writer today, I realize that my writing identity is still a work in progress (as I believe almost all writers must think). Yet over the past four years, since beginning the Slice of Life Challenge, I have realized many truths about myself as a writer and my writing identity:

  • I seldom write out my predraft ideas, but I rehearse them endlessly. I catch myself playing with words and ideas in my mind all day long. I plan out my writing in the shower, during my drive home, and while I put my kids to bed in the evening. By the time I sit down to write, I almost always have the words I want to begin with waiting on my fingertips.
  • Revision is not my strength. Though I always reread my work, I rarely make any drastic changes. Maybe this can be attributed to my rehearsal process, or maybe just my overall stubbornness. Whatever the reason, this is a part of the writing process that I know I have to focus on most heavily as a writer because it simply does not come naturally to me.
  • I am a late night writer. Late in the evening, once the kids have gone to bed and the house begins to quiet down, I am finally able to sit down and write. This is where I release the ideas that have been building all day and capture the stories I don’t want to forget.
  • I, like all writers, thrive on feedback. I’m incredibly shy about letting my family and friends read my writing, but Slice of Life has shown me the power of building a writing community and having critical friends review your work and provide support. This is a gift I really focus on passing on to my students, regularly setting aside opportunities for them to blog and share their writing with peers.
  • I have so much to learn from other writers. The more I write, the more I know I need to grow. I feed this need regularly by reading others’ blogs, reading published books and magazines, and thinking critically about where I am as a writer and where I want to grow.
  • Writing is an act that requires routine and dedication from me–and is worth every moment. Life has a way of becoming overwhelmingly demanding and busy, and writing is often the first thing to take a backseat for me (or to be pushed out of my life altogether). However, as I once again turn my focus toward writing and the joy and fulfillment it brings to me throughout the month of March, I realize that writing is more than just something I do; being a writer is something I am.

I have taught children to write for a long time now, and I myself have been learning to write for much longer than that. As I think about all of the things I have done–and all of the writing my students have created–writing identity is at the center of everything. It keeps us focused, helps us get through the difficult parts, and gives us a vision for where we want to be.

Image result for writing quotes

slice of life

 

Posted in 2017, Literacy, Reflection, Slice of Life, Writing

#SOL17 Stuck

After writing every day in the March challenge, I thought writing was getting easier.  But today…I’m stuck.

I want to write about my mom’s 60th birthday today and about all of the wonderful things she has done for me. I want to share my most precious memories and all of the ways I am thankful for having her in my life. But the words just won’t come.

I want to capture all of the precious Easter memories from yesterday, the looks of joy on my kids’ faces as they saw their Easter baskets and hunted for eggs and proclaimed the day to be “the BEST Easter ever.” But I just can’t put all of that into writing tonight.

I keep trying to sketch out the moment when my daughter, hands covered in melted chocolate Easter egg, decided to paint Simba on the inside of our car window “just like that monkey did in the Lion King.” But I just can’t seem to recreate that moment.

I wish I could reflect upon the testing that begins at school tomorrow, the hours of rehearsal and practice and tension and build up over the past weeks. But I don’t know what I would say.

Tonight I am just stuck. Maybe tomorrow will bring the right words my way.


I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.
slice-of-life_individual

Posted in 2017, Classroom, Literacy, Reflection, Slice of Life, Writing

#SOL17 Day 31: 31 Lessons in 31 Days (Part 2)

This is the third year I’ve participated in the March Slice of Life Challenge through the Two Writing Teachers, and I can’t believe what a powerful month it has been each time. As I sit here and reflect on what this month has meant, what I’ve learned, and how I hope it has changed me as a writer and teacher going forward, I’m going to spend the last two days reflecting on the 31 most important things I’ve learned by participating.

  1. You have to be forgiving of yourself when you don’t write. Just like any good habit, it Image result for finish line beginning of whole new racewon’t always happen. Life gets busy. I’m committing to continuing my writing, but I also know that I will only stick with this commitment if I learn to forgive myself during the busy times when I can’t always squeeze it in. Each day is a new opportunity to write–even if you didn’t yesterday.
  2. Writing is always a work in progressFor years we have used the Units of Study mantra “When you think you’re done, you’ve just begun.” Living as a writer has shown me just how true this is.
  3. Technology has taken writing to a whole new level. Without blogging and Twitter and Two Writing Teachers, I might never have found the right tools and forum to have the courage to write and share my work. Technology connects us in powerful ways. We can’t forget that.
  4. Incentives are great, but the prize is the writing. I love how TWT includes little challenges along the way to push our thinking and help us connect even more. But there’s no disappointment or discouragement if a prize isn’t part of the experience. My reward is the work I’ve done and the things I’ve learned along the way.
  5. Writing makes you a better reader. We know, of course, that the opposite is true–the more you read, the better you write. But I have also begun to notice over the past few weeks that I’m noticing the craft of the writing in the books I’m reading more than ever before. (This makes me think about cooking–how much better things taste when you know the effort and love that went into creating them.)
  6. Writing captures who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re hoping to go. My writing this year isn’t like the writing I did last year. My writing next year will not be the same as the writing I’m doing now. Our lives change, we grow, and our writing lives on as a snapshot of our current reality.
  7. Developing myself as a writer will make me a better teacher of writing. I look forward to sharing with my students the power of being a writer myself, the challenges, and how I work to overcome struggles.
  8. Writing isn’t just something you do, it’s something you areI’ve always considered myself a teacher who gets to teach reading and writing. Now I love thinking about myself as a writer who gets to teach children how to write, too.
  9. Each new piece of writing is a blank slate. It doesn’t matter if the last piece of writing was prolific or if it was a tremendous flop. Every time I click the ‘Write’ button to start a new piece is a fresh beginning with endless options.
  10. Powerful messages aren’t always told with words. Some of my favorite posts this month that I have read have included powerful images. I have to constantly remind myself of the power of visual media and work on thinking of ways to incorporate this more into my own work.
  11. Writers support each other. Even more than just an audience, the other writers this month have formed a support system. I can’t forget that in my classroom–there is just something so powerful about knowing there are people out there who are waiting to read your work and willing to be your cheerleaders.
  12. Goals don’t have to be shared to be transformative. I’ve kept pretty quiet about this challenge to my family and friends. I haven’t talked a lot about making myself write every day for 31 days. At one time I think I kept it to myself because I was afraid of not making it to the end, but I really think it’s because this goal was so personal that I didn’t need a push from anyone else to help me achieve it. I completely owned this goal.
  13. It is so important to share the power of writing. For the past two years, I have tried this challenge alone and have been afraid to share with the people around me that I was doing it. Part of me was a little intimidated that someone I know might read my work, and part of me was worried that the people I shared it with would think I was crazy for wanting to take something like this on. This year, however, two of my teaching friends–a classroom teacher and our instructional technology coach–have tried the challenge with me, and I have loved sharing this experience with them. I can only hope that more people will join us next year!
  14. Sometimes you have to take the time to look back at how far you have come as a writer. Participating in this challenge for three years means that I have hit publish 63 times (plus a few here and there as I’ve done the Tuesday challenge). As I sit back and reread my very first post from 2015, I can see how much more confident I am, how much more committed I am, and how much writing has come to mean to me.
  15. I am a writer. I could easily say I’m too busy to write. I have two small children and a husband at home. I’m finishing my doctorate. I’m returning to the classroom. I lead PD after school. My kids have activities almost every afternoon and on the weekends. But in spite of all of that, I have made writing every day for the past month work somehow. And there’s no reason at all to think I can’t continue to write regularly. After all, not only am I a mother and a wife and a student and a teacher . . . I’m a writer.

I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.
    slice-of-life_individual     

Posted in 2017, Literacy, Reflection, Slice of Life, Writing

#SOL17 Day 30: 31 Lessons in 31 Days (Part 1)

This is the third year I’ve participated in the March Slice of Life Challenge through the Two Writing Teachers, and I can’t believe what a powerful month it has been each time. As I sit here and reflect on what this month has meant, what I’ve learned, and how I hope it has changed me as a writer and teacher going forward, I’m going to spend the last two days reflecting on the 31 most important things I’ve learned by participating.

  1. Audience matters. Knowing that someone would read my writing every day was really important to me. I have thrived on comments from strangers, friends, and colleagues over the past month, and greatly appreciate everyone who took the time to read my work.
  2. Writing helps you learn about yourself. Unfortunately, time to really sit down and reflect is rare in the busy lives we lead. By setting aside protected time over the past month to blog every day, I have had time to really examine my beliefs, my worries, and my philosophies on teaching and life.
  3. Writing helps you learn about othersSome of the other writers in this challenge were strangers. Some were colleagues and friends. I learned something from and about every single one of them.
  4. Not all writing is your best writing. Spring Break fell right in the middle of this challenge for me, and I must admit that some of the writing I did during this “down” time was not the best writing I did during the month. However, no matter what, each piece developed a little something in me as a writer that wouldn’t have happened if I wouldn’t have stuck with it.
  5. Writing is about pushing yourself to try new strategies. I’m not the same writer I was at the beginning of the month. I have tried different formats and thought about things I never would have explored before this year’s challenge started.
  6. Revision really is important. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m kind of an “I’m done” sort of person. As much as I like to read, I don’t often reread books. When writing papers or doing work for class, I’m more likely to hit ‘Submit’ than to look back over it with a fine tooth comb. But I’ve gotten into the habit of revision this month more than ever before and started becoming a writer who can’t reread any of my own work without thinking of a little something I want to change or improve.
  7. Writing comes from the heart. The pieces that mean the most to me this month weren’t driven by what was on my mind but by what was in my heart.
  8. Everyone is a writer–but some people don’t know it yet. I’ve seen many different blogs from many different people from many different positions and places in life, and am amazed at the growth and insight people can gain from just a month of taking a risk and trying tImage result for writing quoteshis challenge. Myself included.
  9. Inspiration is everywhere. I was inspired this month by other blogs, by the books I was reading, by things happening at school, and by my own family and experiences. All you really need to do to find inspiration is look around you and look within.
  10. The best inspiration is from unexpected places. This month I’ve taken time to write about Breakout Edu in kindergarten, my grandpa, Lucy Calkins, and all of the changes taking place at my school. Each of these posts was inspired by something happening in my life at that moment.
  11. Writing is truly “living with your eyes wide open.” As I’ve looked around me over the past month, everything has seemed a little bit different. Sharper. Stronger. Worthy of being captured with words.
  12. Writing is healing. The changes taking place right now at my school are ongoing and won’t be settled for several months. I’ll never stop missing my grandparents or wishing my kids would stop growing up so quickly. Writing about each of these things has helped me embrace all of the things going on in my life.
  13. You have to find your own writing habits. After doing this for three years, I know now that I love to write late at night and always make sure to stay about a day ahead of the challenge.
  14. You are your own writer. Yes, we study mentor texts. Yes, we borrow ideas and formats from other people. But every writer is unique. No two writers could ever create the same piece of writing in the exact same way. That’s the beauty of writing.
  15. Once you start letting them in, some ideas that just won’t leave you alone. The day after I attended the Lucy Calkins workshop, I couldn’t get the things I wanted to write off my mind. I thought about it from the moment I opened my eyes that morning until the moment I hit publish.
  16. You don’t have to know where you will end up before you start. Many times this month I started with a seed, a little idea that inspired me. Some days I just sat down and began writing and let the words take me where I needed to go.

To be continued tomorrow as we cross the March Finish Line….


I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.
    slice-of-life_individual     

Posted in 2017, Literacy, Reflection, Slice of Life, Writing

#SOL17 Day 24: My Grandpa, The Writer

It’s now been almost four years since the last time I was lucky enough to hear my Grandpa’s voice and see the twinkle in his blue eyes. When he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on St. Patrick’s Day of 2013, it was already the beginning of the end. The doctors optimistically hoped we would share one more Christmas with him; we didn’t even get the entire summer.

My Grandpa was a strong man. A World War II Navy vet who enlisted before he even turned 18. A businessman. He loved to fish and golf. He enjoyed daily walks and catching up with friends over a cup of coffee at the little shop on the town square. He was an avid high school basketball fan, rarely missing a home game or holiday tournament. He was kind and honest and a good friend to many. He loved his daughters and grandkids. He was the other half of my Grandma.

Pawpaw
My Grandpa with me on my wedding day

 

But he wasn’t the person I would have named if asked where I got my love of reading and writing. He was one of the most intelligent and practical people in my life, but I never saw him sit down with anything to read other than the daily newspaper. I never saw him writing anything beyond the business papers he typed up in his home office before he retired. Even our birthday cards were lovingly signed by my Grandma.

But last night, as my Mom and aunts worked to finally clean out his office in the home he and my Grandma shared for more than half a century, they found a drawer filled with letters and notes he had written. His familiar block-like handwriting filled page after page.

A few pieces were lengthy. A letter to the family of his friend who passed away, sharing what a wonderful man he was and how he would be missed. A narrative submitted to Reader’s Digest many years ago recounting a humorous story from his days as a traveling salesman.

Some, obviously from the later years of his life following the brain aneurysm that impacted his memory, were shorter snapshots of his daily life. Called Manu. He said he will call me back. He did.

As my Mom told me all about these notes today, her face lit up. She recounted how she and my aunts laughed at many of the notes; how they cried at others. I could tell, as she shared her favorites with me, that she heard his voice again as she read each one. I could hear it, too.

Writing isn’t always about creating something epic. Some writing is for an audience. Other writing is just part of our daily lives, reminders to ourselves of the things we’ve done or the things we still need to do.

No matter what, the words we write leave our imprint on the world. Each of the notes and letters that my Grandpa left behind are a piece of him. They have become a treasure for us to read and remember his voice and the sparkle in his eyes.

We don’t have to consider ourselves a writer to be one. We simply need to fill a page with the words we want to remember and the things that are important to us.

That’s what I learned from my Grandpa, the writer.

Pawpaw 1.jpg
One of my last photos of my Grandpa, playing race cars with my son

I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.
    slice-of-life_individual