Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

Rain at the Fair

I’m taking part in the weekly Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by  Two Writing Teachers, where teachers write and share each Tuesday. Join in yourself or head over to check out what’s happening with other slicers. If you’re taking part in the SOL, leave a link to your post. I’d love to read it.

I jumped into Teachers Write yesterday.  Jo Knowles invited us to reflect on finding beauty in our writing with her Monday Morning Warmup.  I’m still thinking about that one.  I suspect her words and ideas will resonate for a long time.  I’ve not written directly about her invitation, but thoughts of it are underlying my writing this week and beyond.

Kate Messner provided a powerful minilesson on adding a deeper layer of sensory details.  This is something I know.  It is something I taught my students again and again through the year.  But it is still something that blows me away with its power and simplicity when I remember to do it myself.

I started out sitting on my back porch and writing about what a haven that space has become for me this summer.  I completed a quick description and brainstormed more details.  Before I could incorporate those details into a revised draft, I got interrupted.  I haven’t gone back to that piece yet, but last night at the county fair a rainstorm kept us trapped in one of the buildings.  Here’s my writing from the fair.

First draft:

Not even a thunderstorm can keep people away from the first full night of the fair.  Lightning cracks and thunder booms.  Rain splatters and blows across dirt, gravel, and pavement.  People crowd into the wildlife building to escape the downpour.  Conversations swell around me.  A stroller parks infront of me, green and yellow ballons tied to the handles.  Children skip across the concrete floor, stop and point at the taxidermied critters behind the fence.  Empty wasp nests dangle from the ceiling.

More details focusing on each sense:

  • Sight:  bright green fake grass, wood paneling. bags, rulers, and t-shirts advertising the local hospital and political candidates
  • Sounds:  patter of rain, laughter, shrieks, country/bluegrass music
  • Smells:  buttery popcorn, deep fried poptarts and pickles and Twinkies, sweat and swam from the turtle tank behind me
  • Touch:  smooth hard bench, cool pricks of rain blowing in

Revised version:

Not even a thunderstorm can keep people away from the first full night of the fair.  As lightning cracks and thunder roars, rain splatters across the gravel and pavement between the buildings.  I sit on a hard wooden bench in the wildlife building.  Cool pricks of rain blow against my arm as people crowd in to escape the downpour.  Conversations swell around me.  A lawyer running for prosecutor greets adults as the walk by.  Children laugh and shriek as their feet splash through puddles.  They stop and point at the taxidermied animals posed between a fence and paneled walls.  A beaver, badger, mallard, otter, skunk, snapping turtle, raccoon, and deer stand motionless on a bright green carpet of artificial turf.  A stroller parks in front of me with green and yellow ballons tied to the handles.  A little girl with the straps of her tank top falling down clutches a bag of buttery popcorn and twirls away from her mom’s outstretched arms.  The rain lets up as quickly as it began.  The building empties out and we follow the smell of deep fried pickles out into the rest of the fair.

Now I’m off to try this morning’s quick write!

Writer’s Notebooks

Teachers Write ButtonI’m taking part again this summer in Teacher’s Write, hosted by Kate Messner, Gae Polisner, and Jen Vincent.  Today is the official first day of summer camp for teachers and writers, and Kate kicked things off with a post about writer’s notebooks.

I love the idea of writer’s notebooks. I find it hard to resist a notebook with a pretty cover (artwork is my favorite) and blank pages.  It doesn’t matter if they are lined or blank…those pages beckon to me to scribble and doodle with all the colors in my pen collection.  I have notebooks I reflect on my spiritual growth.  I have a small Moleskin notebook that I keep in my purse.  I have stashes of blank ones tucked away in different sizes and colors.  I have one notebook that I started in 2007.  It is filled with first drafts of poems for my daughter’s birthday, quotes from favorite books and writers, diaries of vacations, even a few doodles here and there.  I just filled the last page last week–in 2013.

I am not consistent in writing in my notebooks.  Sometimes I get busy and writing gets shoved to the bottom of my to-do list.  Sometimes fear holds me back.  I know a writer’s notebook can be a place to explore and play around, but I’m leery of just letting go.

One of the things I would like to do with Teachers Write this summer to is to have some fun with my writing.  I do write a lot–book reviews and reflections on this blog among other things–but I want to savor all that words can do and explore new worlds.  I’m off to a good start.  I opened my new writers notebook from last week and finished a story I began during a conference with Tom Romano.  My goal for the rest of this week is to play around every day in my notebook for at least 15 minutes.  Who knows?  I might even do more!

I’m also hanging out with the Making Learning Connected MOOC this summer to play around with new technology tools.  I could’t resist creating another Thimble from one of last week’s introductory activities.  Instead of a 10-book memoir, I changed it to writer’s notebooks.  I must have learned something last night because this one didn’t take nearly as long!  I even learned a new iPad app to create the photo collage.

writers notebooks

A Month of Slicing….Now What


I’m taking part in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by Ruth and Stacey over at Two Writing Teachers. I hope to write every day for the month of March and then continue weekly each Tuesday. Join in yourself or head over to check out what’s happening with other slices. If you’re taking part in the SOL, leave a link to your post. I’d love to read it.


A month ago when I decided to take part in my first Slice of Life Challenge I thought I must be out of my mind.  I didn’t tell anyone around me that I planned to do it (other than the people who read my blog for my first slice) because they would have told me I was out of my mind, too.  I didn’t have time to write every day.  Then I had to share that writing with how many other teachers?  When would I find time to read and comment on the other slices?

Now that the month is over, I am amazed that I did indeed write every day for a month.  I did find time to read and comment on the blogs of other slicers.  Would I do it again?  Absolutely.  Here are some of the things I learned from this past month:

  • I wasn’t sure if I could come up with enough ideas to write about for 31 days, but as I’m at the end of the month, I have ideas I haven’t written yet.  The more I write, the more I notice to write about.
  • It’s scary to put my writing out there in the world.  Will anyone even notice?  Will they like it?  I now know better some of the fears my students feel when putting their writing “out there.”
  • The feedback and comments from other slicers have been exhilarating and encouraging and inspiring.  I have never been so excited to check my email and see that I have new blog comments.
  • I have learned much from reading the blogs of other writers:  reflections on teaching and learning, poems in all forms. glimpses of daily life, book recommendations, delicious recipes, and so much more.
  • The community of teachers and learners.  Some of the slicers I had “met” through GoodReads, the Nerdy Book Club, or other online groups, but after reading and commenting through this past month, I feel I know them better.  I know I have teachers I can turn to with questions and for inspiration.

If you (like I did for months beforehand) have been watching and reading and wondering if you should jump in and take part, I encourage you to do so.  I will be back, starting Tuesday.

Playing with Time

Did you know that writers have the power to control time?  They do, and so do you, as you are writing your memoirs.  In his book After the End:  Teaching and Learning Creative Revision, Barry Lane discusses how writers can explode a moment or shrink a century.

After looking at the drafts you typed yesterday, I think we need to explode some moments.  What is the important moment in your memoir?  That is the moment you want to explode.  How do you do it?  Writers explode those big moments by adding in details, details, details.  Movies do it, too.  Here is the BIG scene from The Natural, starring Robert Redford.  (If you love baseball and haven’t watched it, go rent if over fall break.)  Notice how the action slows down.  What are the details that the camera focuses on to create and prolong the tension of the moment?

Now go and help each other explode the big moment in your memoir.  During your peer conference, ask the writer at least five questions that will help him or her add details to the big moment.  Use the “Sensory Words” and “Juicy Color Words” handouts to help you think of just the right words.

It’s your turn…what do YOU think?

I enjoyed reading all of your editorials. The world had better watch out. You have opinions are aren’t afraid to share them!

School issues top the list of concerns.  Quite a few writers had opinions–both in favor of and opposed to–the proposed calendar change from a traditional school year to a balanced calendar.  We’ll see what the school board decides soon.

A different scheduling issue concerned this writer.  Gretchen S wrote Should Jennings County High School Keep Block Scheduling?

Many students depend on 21st Century Scholars to provide a way for college.  Jessica T wrote 21st Century Scholars.

The dress code is always a popular issue.  I remember when I was in school, we wanted to be able to wear shorts and mini-skirts to school.  Today, the details range from uniforms to body piercings, according to these writers.

No one likes to get in trouble, especially at school.  Wouldn’t life be easier if there were no detentions?  These writers certainly think so.

Some writers think there should be a little more love in the world–or at least in the hallways.

The role of technology in education is one schools are dealing with every day.  These writers give a variety of opinions.

Where would technology be without the library–now known as the Media Center?  Taylor O has a suggestion for reorganizing:  Should We Have a Section for the Library.

School lunches were also a hot topic.  Bring on the veggies, say these writers!

Some writers think it is not fair that students can’t have water bottles in class.  Bri wrote Water Bottles at JCMS.

Sports–both in and out of school–create lots of opportunity for controversy and differing opinion.  Hear what these writers have to say.

Hunting is almost a way of life in our neck of the woods.  I’m not surprised several writers had opinions on both hunting and the environment.

Other writers are concerned with protecting animals.  Check out what these writers say about animal shelters and animal testing.

School and sports and animals were not the only issues.  The state of the world concerned Jesse H, who wrote A Crumbling World.  Hunter S wrote about #Occupy Wall Street.  Sydney S wrote about Sexual Harassment.

Censorship, from music to books to video games also struck a chord with writers.  On the other hand, some writers questioned how much is too much, whether in music or on television.

Another first amendment right, freedom of religion, also concerned one writer.  Rusty R wrote Jehovah’s Witnesses–Religious Freedom.

Other writers addressed issues surrounding marijuana and alcohol.

Of course, teens are ready to drive.  Kyndyl O writes about Teenage Driving.

Abortion, adoption, teen pregnancy, and gay marriage also caused concern for these writers.

Do you want this or that?  If you’re not sure, these writers will point you in the right direction.

Other writers addressed issues that are out of this world…or at least mysterious.

Memorable Memoirs

Once again, I am blown away by your writing.  Here are some of my favorite memoirs that you’ve posted on your blogs.  If you haven’t yet, click on these for some amazing reading!

It is definitely worth your time to read these.  As always, leave a quality comment to let the writer know how much you enjoyed it!

Spilling Ink by Anne Mazer & Ellen Potter

spilling inkAnne Mazer and Ellen Potter spill all in their handbook for young writers, Spilling Ink (Scholastic 2010).  It’s not just a book full of wise and funny advice for writers, but it’s also a website where you can follow the blog (What is the strangest thing you’ve used as a bookmark?), join the writer’s club (Everything you need to start your own chapter), ask questions, and enter contests.

As a writing teacher, I feel confirmed that I’m doing a few things right.  How many times have a reassured my students that’s it’s perfectly okay to have a bad first draft?  Just don’t leave it that way.  How many times do I encourage students to get feedback from each other and me? Best of all, there are many right ways to write.  Find your voice and your technique, and then write.

Reading this book is like sitting down with a couple of friends (who happen to be experts) and having them share all their secrets and tips.  Their encouraging laughter points out both the perks and pitfalls of this writing life.

Wrap it up!

end of tunnelIt is time to end your research report.  You do not want to leave your reader hanging or suffering from whiplash by writing the words “THE END” or just stopping when you run out of facts to share.  The bad news:  endings are hard–at least they are for me.  The good news:  I’ve learned some tricks along the way to help you out!

  • Circle back to the beginning:  Reread your hook and your thesis statement.  Now that you have put the rest of your research into words, where else might your lead point?  Don’t copy it exactly, but echoes from the beginning are a very effective way to end.
  • Give your opinion:  You have read at least one book by this author and learned everything you could about the life behind the writer.  You are now an expert on this writer.  Why would you recommend this writer to your classmates? 
  • Capture the main idea:  Point out the highlights of your research.  Restate  — in a different way — the most important things to understand about your author. 
  • Leave your reader with something to think about:  Craft a strong statement that captures the essense of your author.  Leave your reader with a question to ponder.  Include a powerful quote from your writer about writing or reading or their books. 

Try one of these suggestions to wrap it all up.  Once you have finished the lead, body, and conclusion, get ready to  print.  Before you print, make sure

  • Your paper is double spaced.
  • You have included a heading (McGriff Period#, Your Name)
  • You have crafted a title.  Review the notes on Good Titles in your Writing Handbook. 

Image:  ‘Is there anything at the end of+the+tunnel?
Used with a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License

A poem a day #2

Some years ago I was diagnosed with a form of arthritis called ankylosing spondilitis.  Ever since I have practiced yoga to keep my joints flexible.  Here is a haiku for yoga.

Warrior pose stretches
to downward dog. I breathe
in, out, finding peace.

Congratulations! Let your Voice Be Heard

Congratulations to the following students who submitted their editorials to the essay contest Sponsored by Creative Communications!  Their essays were selected for publication in an anthology (book of short writings by  different authors).  Click on the links below to read their editorials. 

Carleesa B, Ashton B, Blake C, Dylan D, Adam Do, Monica E, Ryan H, Devin K, Emily S, Brianna S, and Audrey W 

The editorials are posted.  See what your classmates think.  Be sure to drop by and let your voice be heard as well. 

 Congratulations to Keenan C, whose editorial on serving soda in the cafeteria was published as a letter to the editor. 

Other students who wrote about improving nutrition in schools are Megan M, Baylee W, and Mistina H.  While we’re on the topic of nutrition, should fast food restaurants include toys in their kids’ meals?  Check out what Emily R And Adam Dr have to say. 

Quite a few students have something to say about the dress code, from facial piercings to hair color to short length:  Charity A, Andy S, Shania Si, Taylor W, Adi G, Patience E, Michelle F, Kayla M

Would allowing cell phones in school engage more students in learning, or would they cause more distractions?  These students may not all agree, but they do have something to say:  Dalton C, Kyle H, Justin W, Shanai Sp, Alicia H, Emma W, and Austin MaBrittany H says that schools should make better use of technology such as iPads.  I’ll volunteer to give one a test run!

Alan D and Anthony E argue in favor of fewer restrictions on PDA.  Sara V would like to have a few more chances before experiencing this year’s new Accountability Lunch.  Alyssa D would like to see more prayer in school. 

Zach T and Baylee K have suggestions for school schedules, from year round school to block 8 scheduling at the high school.

Vyran P and Wyatt D think schools should offer more PE classes.  Katelyn P and Dariyn C would like to see some changes to the swimming unit.  Wyatt C would like to see boxing offered in the county. 

Sports offered many topics for editorials, from making sports safer to making them fairer.  Check out what these students have to say: Harrison F, Adam G, Ali B, Hunter S, Kate E, Sydney K, Courtney H, Blake C.

Abortion was the most popular choice of topics:  Brooklyn M, Dakota R, Scarlett S, Shelbi N, Mickey B, Cheynne H, Shelby G, Maia K, Emily S, Ashton B, Monica E, Amber D, and Carleesa B

These students tackle the topic of teen pregnancy:  Audrey W, Brooke S, Brianna S, Emily P, Tequila L

Karlie R, Maddy H, and Jessi R give their views on gay marriage and gay rights. 

Courtney B and Marissa W offer suggestions for dealing with teen suicide.

Are you worried about the environment?  Check out what Devin K and Adam Do have to say.

Kassidy F and Mike C both write about animal rights.  Lexi E writes about legalizing marijuana.  Tara T reconsiders the driving age.  Cole  B writes about the effects of illegal immigration.  Austin Mu would like to see less government control.  Evan P wants to keep 2-stroke engines around. 

You did a great job expressing your opinion.  Now, if our political leaders could learn to disagree this respectfully!

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