What is Your Mantra? #10thingstotellyou

The podcast #10thingstotellyou is becoming one of my favorites.

This week’s question had me thinking that I have several mantras. Some are for work. Some are for general life. Some are for running.

My general life mantra is:

Everything is temporary.

The good in life is temporary as well as the bad. It is a phrase that keeps me grounded and from having my anxiety spiral out of control.

A mantra I use in teaching and coaching is:

I have chosen a word of the year that guides my thinking and is a mantra in a sense. This year’s word is:

For running the mantra in a race is:

This is what you have been training for. Or Just keep going.

Just keep going works for writing too!

What are your mantras?

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StoryTime Club #SOL19

Every Tuesday I write a slice of life and share it at Two Writing Teachers.

Meeting with my writing group is life giving for me and even as the end of the school year is upon us I am glad I am taking the time to do this project.

I had mentioned in my previous writing club post that the discussion process needed some work. I decided to pose a question to the group that they would have to answer individually and then we would popcorn after that to agree, disagree or pose a related question to what the rest of the group said. I will say that once the expectation of collaborative conversation was presented they did a much better job. My next step is to get them to talk more to each other rather than bouncing everything off me. I do not want to be the center of the conversation, only a part of it.

The question was “What is the perfect life?”

The story used for reading like a writer was Popular Mechanics by Raymond Carver.

Here is the list of craft moves/ideas for their own writing they gleaned from the text and discussion:

+Use the title

+Write sentences that conjure strong visualization in the reader

+Write about fighting over an object or a picture that represents a bigger idea

+Write a story with 2 characters

+Write the story about what happens before this story

+Write the story of what happens after this story

+Start with action – dive right in with a big moment

+ Open with a  paragraph and talks about the weather to se the mood for the story

+Use a last line that leads to more than one conclusion

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We then finished the session with a 4 minute freewrite. The pencils were feverishly writing on their paper at my tables.

–One was a flash piece full of strong emotion and sadness.

–One was the before story – what happened to explain why the couple was fighting

They noticed lines I glazed over and had specific reflections with text evidence.

I was gifted with 45 minutes of time with these students. It went by quick. I sent them a link to storyaday and the challenge I participate in every May and September.

I think I am going to use some of Sandra Cisneros stories from The House on Mango street next.

2019 Day 7 – Flash!


3+ Ideas about Hope

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The word hope has come up several times this week. I have learned that if a concept keeps showing itself in different venues then I need to pay attention.

Yesterday was my last session with Jim Knight for instructional coaching training and the topic was being a Better Leader. One of the main concepts was …you guessed it…HOPE.

Shane J. Lopez is a psychologist who has written about hope extensively. His definition is “the belief that the future will be better than the present, along with the belief that you have the power to make it so.”

Part of Knight’s training session yesterday was asking the question: How are you living your life? Are you spending time on the things you are passionate about? This idea is how we keep hope alive and partly how we teach ourselves to be hopeful.

At this time of the school year it is easy to dip into the valley of despair and lose hope. I have to keep reminding myself I do the work I do to provide an environment of inspiration and learning for what is best for kids. When you are worried about schedules, state testing, and getting through the day sometimes you forget.

Part of this process is to do the next right thing. If you know where you are going, this isn’t as hard as it seems. Action is what needs to happen.

Knight asked us to think of someone who we thought of as a hope mentor. A person that emanates hope who we can learn from. Having a hope mentor is partly how we can teach ourselves to be hopeful. My person is Maya Angelou. She was open, intelligent, overcame obstacles, and can command a room. She was an amazing woman and I am thankful I was able to hear her speak before she passed away.

What are you most excited about?

Hope is doing more of what makes you happy.

Hope is allowing other people to teach you being hopeful.

Hope is having a hope mentor.

Three Things about Hope

Having hope means you have a preferred future vision. You can visualize it. You have goals.

Having hope means you have the belief you can get here. There is magic here.

Having hope means you have multiple pathways to get to that preferred future.

Some questions to consider and reflect on today:

What gives you energy and therefore hope?

What is your purpose? How do you make a difference?

Am I doing what I really want to do with my time?

What is working and what do I need to modify?

What is your next right thing?

This past week was busy for me. My sleep suffered and I was starting to crash. I was not taking care of myself.

Part of what helped me was 12 hours of sleep and the life giving conversation I had yesterday with my fellow coaches. We made plans to support each other in our hope. These questions are still with me today. I will do some more journaling and thinking as the day moves forward.

I would love to hear your thoughts on HOPE! Comment below…

Short Story Club

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Yesterday I hosted the introductory meeting of the Short Story Club for my 7th graders. It is a small group that is focusing on deep conversation about stories and time to write in response to them. After listening to Daniel Bauer’s School Leadership Series podcast I may have them name themselves. I would be curious where their minds would go as a label.

I handed out a copy of the Eleven by Sandra Cisneros. Sandra is an interesting author who attended the Iowa Writers Workshop, but did not have a pleasant experience. She also sometimes calls her stories, “buttons”.

Many of the students had read this story previously so this was a revisit. I asked them to read it through the lens of a writer. I wanted them to pay attention and notice particular things for them to purposefully use later.

  • What pops out to you in feelings from reading this selection?
  • What lines do you notice that you like or wish you had written?
  • What craft moves is the author using that you would like to try?
  • What aspects of your own life does the story remind you of?

I allowed them to annotate on their copy, and I followed suit with mine.

The discussion then followed after reading time, focusing on the above questions.

Noticings from students:

  • The details. It was noticed and remarked that the story has the structure of being taken apart and then put together again with added details.
  • The metaphors. There were trite metaphors used referring to onions and rings inside a tree trunk in paragraph 3. These examples caused quite strong opinions. There were mixed feelings about using familiar metaphors as opposed to new ones. The unfamiliar seemed to unsettle several writers. They said a mix of familiar and unfamiliar was the perfect mix for them as readers. They also remarked that unsettling new metaphors were best in stories where you were trying to conjure those feelings – like in a scary story.
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I also asked them to share what they would write (if we had time). If they were to give themselves a prompt based on the story. What did it inspire them to write?

The responses were a mix of expected and not. Milestone ages were one topic for several students but not traditional in my eyes. One student talked about being old enough to ride his moped to school (15 1/2 years old). Quinceaneras at 15 were also discussed.

Not feeling the age you are was a common writing topic as well.

For next time I gave them a longer piece to read and mark with the same noticings: The Doormakers Will Make No Doors .

I also gave them the poem, Secrets by Naomi Shihab Nye.

We will use these pieces to write the next time we meet. A companion poem I like to use with the Eleven story is Billy Collin’s On Turning Ten poem.

I am always looking for great short stories! Is there a suggestion you have for me? Leave the title in the comments and I would appreciate it.

Mentor Text Monday

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Today’s Mentor Text is a picture book from Jacqueline Woodson.

Image result for this is the rope

This is the summary from Google Books:
The story of one family’s journey north during the great Migration starts with a little girl in South Carolina who finds a rope under a tree one summer. She has no idea the rope will become part of her family’s history. But for three generations, that rope is passed down, used for everything from jump rope games to tying suitcases onto the car for the big move north to New York City, and even for a family reunion where that first little girl is now a grandmother.

After I use this book for interactive read aloud the discussion leads to sharing about items in our lives that are important to us. These items have stories attached to them. The book centers around one item. This is also a good time to talk about focusing on one idea for a story if your students are trying to squeeze too much into one piece.

One of the coaching questions I am starting to use is “Which 3 stories are ones only you can tell?” Stories are important to our lives and items can be touchstones to tell those stories. I love this book to illustrate the idea of an item being a souvenir for a chapter of our own lives.

After the group discussion I have students write 3 items that are important to them on a post it note or in their writing notebook. Then the students star one item that are willing to share. I will tell the students that starring and sharing does not lock them in to writing about that one during creation time.

Then we share out. I tell students that they may add or modify their list based on the discussion. Often when writers talk new ideas spring forth. We get reminded of something important. We need to teach students to take advantage of these sunny writing moments. The shared items are written on a chart so it is accessible to students during writing time.

We also talk about what they notice about the structure of how Woodson chose to write the book. We also talk about why she chose to use the repeated phrase. Noticing author moves is important to the writing process but we also have to make sure as the teacher we lead them to make the connections back to their own writing. To understand why an author chose to use a certain craft device also eliminates the need for students to throw everything they know about craft moves into one piece. It is much more effective for them to know WHY as the author they are choosing the way to write it. Connectons to other books we have read that have repeated phrasing is good to add here as well.

Woodson uses the repeated sentence stem: This is the rope at the beginning of almost every paragraph throughout the book, which is a great structure to start with especially with reluctant writers.

Writing Springboards from this book:

  1. Use a repeated sentence stem: This is the __________ (insert important item for each student)
  2. Brainstorm stories which go along with the 3 items the student has chosen.
  3. Write a poem or their own children’s book about their most important item.

Companion book: Another book that follows a repeated pattern is The Important Book. It is written in poem form and is a good mentor text as well.

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4 Things

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Todd Henry is the author of several books and is also known as the Accidental Creative. He has a podcast by that name. I receive his newsletter which is interesting and full of creative thought.

The most recent newsletter is about 4 things which has inspired this post today.

1:A THING TO CONSIDER

Disappearing is not the same as being lost.

When something is lost it is accidental. When you disappear it is intentional. I must admit one of my coping mechanisms is to withdraw. I am learning this is partly because I find people draining if I spend too much time with them – even people I like.

I have been reading a fascinating How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency by Akiko Busch. I heard about it on the Secret Library Podcast by Caroline Donahue. The latest part of the book I was reading was about invisibility and how children have imaginary friends and why. Really interesting stuff.

1:A THING TO READ

How to Be An Idea Machine by James Altucher

I came to find this book through Shaunta Grimes. Part of her daily process is to come up with 10 ideas for writing, which I have adopted myself. Usually my list consists of random thoughts that might make their way into a story or overhead dialogue ,etc. After reading one her Medium posts yesterday I remembered I had Altucher’s book on my kindle.

The question I worked with was: Which 10 people would you choose as mentors and what question you would ask them? It was really difficult! I am curious you would choose as mentors for yourself. The specific questions stumped me as well. I really had to consider why I wanted that person as a mentor first.

1:A THING TO WATCH

Black Mirror Bandersnatch on Netflix – This episode is like a choose your own adventure book from my youth but in movie form. I had heard of Black Mirrors but had not watched it up til this past week. As the consumer, you actually make choices on the screen for how the story will progress. It was fascinating. If you like the Matrix I believe you would like this episode.

1:A THING TO USE

Pretty composition notebooks. I really love these notebooks and have been filling them with my daily writing, reflections, and writing exercises.

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Studio-C-Dragonfly-Dreams-Lay-Flat-Composition-Book-FSC/691089325

Feel free to tell me your 4 things, a mentor and or a question you would ask a mentor! I am curious.

#FMF LACK

Every Friday I participate in the FiveOnFriday challenge. You can link here.

I set the timer for 5 minutes and write:

What do I lack? Currently, I feel I lack peace and direction, but I am working on it. I am so reflective that I always know where I am emotionally lacking I just don’t always know how to fix it so I put my head down and focus on the task or obsession that I am engaged in at the moment. Now it is writing. I want to be the best I can be. I read about it. I do it . I try to find mentors to help me IRL or in the pages of books and blogs. I have my Emily P Freeman book about decision making which is helping tremendously.

I do lack directions of what I want to do. The amount of obstacles and out of nowhere hits have been I want to be at home. I want to write all the time. I know it is not a bad thing for a writer to have a day job. I like most of the people I work with and I do like the work that is required in my actual job description. I am reframing it at the moment to get more out of it personally as well. It works for the job aspect but is more fulfilling. I am coaching myself and streamlining my processes to be more consistent and that helps everyone.

I do not lack in love. The relationship I have with my husband is awesome and as perfect as it can be. It really is fairy tale like.

The relationships I have with all my children are unique to them and I love them dearly and would do anything for any of the 4.

The friendships I have IRL and online are strong. I nurture the ones that are mutually life giving and make me happy. I am looking forward to storyaday May next month when there is group writing every day and there is daily interaction with other writers. THAT makes me giddy.

Happy Writing Everyone!

Verbs are what you DO #SOLC Day 25

Damon Suede is an author on the Joanna Penn podcast this week. He was on the KOBO podcast a couple weeks ago and is definitely worth a listen. He has an interesting approach to writing which involves verbs. When we describe characters we are always looking at lists of adjectives but we need characters to DO SOMETHING in stories.

Verbs are what you DO.

I have the book but haven’t gotten through it completely but ever since I heard Damon talking about choosing an over arching verb to describe a character I have not been able to shake the thought.

Along the lines of my TEACHER BRAND post I also think about what verb would describe me.

My verb is CONJURE. I conjure magic and experiences for students and the people around me. I conjure worlds for people to get lost in with my stories. I conjure ideas with blog posts.

#dailyverb on Twitter is a great search if you are looking for interesting verbs. Today’s verb is BARRICADE.

Writing Prompt: Use the verb from #dailyverb to stimulate a list of 10 ways to use the word in a story or just what comes to mind. It makes for an interesting mind map!

http://www.damonsuede.com/livewire.html

What verb describes you?

Weekend Coffee Share #SOLC Day 24

Grab your cup of coffee and sit in a comfortable chair around this oak table and let’s chat! I am having my regular black coffee this morning but I can make you iced coffee if you prefer. Even though it is warmer it doesn’t stop me from drinking several hot cups. I think I will bring us glasses of ice water just for variety.


If we were having coffee, I would tell you I am participating in the Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Challenge. Teachers all over the world are posting on their blogs daily and at the TWT blog and then commenting on at least 3 posts. I have read some inspirational posts this week. I am going to miss this challenge when it is over.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you there was lots of testing this week at school. We have a district program called IREADY that requires a diagnostic 3 times a year. We are taking the end of year test a little early in preparation for the state test. There have been some incentives put in place for our 7th and 8th graders and they did much better this time.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I wrote everyday. I also started work on a coaching workshop that I hope to teach within the next year. I want to make it as interactive as possible – no PowerPoint! The other writing I did was reflective. I also worked on a few stories.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I read at least one essay, one poem and one short story every day this week to continue my Bradbury Trio program. I was just recording them in my notebook but now started a Google Folder to log some links. I finished one notebook and started a new one so now the lists are separated!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you our team consultant visited on Wednesday. He is always interesting to talk to. He talked about paying attention to students who are always doing the right thing. Some of the things he said caused me to write 3 notes to students thanking them for various behaviors. One student is a fantastic writer and I am always honored she shares her stories with me. Another student went up 26 points on his diagnostic test which is about 2 grade levels. A third student is always kind and smiling. She is uplifting to everyone around her. I also write a couple thank you notes to teachers. Thank you notes have power!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you the students I gave the envelopes to at first didn’t know what to do with them. In this digital age paper is not common. They weren’t sure if they should open them or not! The looks on their faces were cute and surprised.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I am enjoying the 10 day writing challenge. The prompts are interesting and different. The game name from the Day 1 prompt I liked so well that I am using part of it for my writer bio.

If we were having coffee I would admit to you I did not go to my in real life writing group this week. I was tired and the drive seemed too long to go. I had not prepared a story to share. There is a celebration event I will be going to next month. My online group was not as active this week on the Slack channel. There seems to be a lot going on with them swirling around spring break and college admissions and other life stuff. I have missed the conversations.

If we were having coffee I would tell you yesterday was spent outside. We went to the park and I went for another run. It was 50 degrees and sunny all day! Today will be an inside day with cooler temps and thunderstorms in the forecast. Today is about being low key, reading, and writing!

If we were having coffee I would tell you I loved this chat with you today! It really is a highlight of my week. What is the best thing that happened to you today?

Happy Weekend!

Other weekend coffee share posts are here 

You can also read more posts from teacher writers at twowritingteachers.org

Pixar and Spring Running #SOLC Day 23

I am participating in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. Each day in the month of March teachers from around the country post to their blogs and comments are made on at least 3 posts.

The Pixar formula has been used for numerous movies from the company before and after they merged with Disney. Many people also use it as a writing exercise and story frame.

The frame goes like this:

  1. Once upon a time…
  2. Every day…
  3. One day…
  4. Because of that…
  5. Because of that…
  6. Until finally…

On Thursday I was able to run for the first time outside. I do not like the treadmill but hate the wind more. I have run a lot of miles outside to prepare for a lot of long distance races but am not in that mode now. It is about fitness and muscle. I have been getting great results with the incline function on the dreadmill which makes it tolerable.

It wasn’t green yet but it was melodious as I ran listening to the birds. I saw a large blue jay playing with a squirrel too.

Today I will use the PIXAR formula to start a story upon a runner.

Once upon a time there was a selfish girl who got mad at everyone around her for actions she poisoned her own life with.

Every day she ran in the woods and didn’t talk to anyone or be courteous because she “was training.”

One day she will get lost because a path that was not there before will appear…

Because of that she will follow the path even though her intuition will tell her not to and a squirrel will trip her.

I don’t know what else…I will ponder some more!

So, the question is – What will you write today?

I will also write with my prompt from the 10 Day Challenge: it is about pronoia a word that is new to me that means the world is conspiring to give you what you need. It is a fascinating prompt. I have been thinking about it all morning! Maybe I will make it part of the runner story too.

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