How to Develop a Library of Stories

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The word belonging came up at the Jim Knight training I attended yesterday and several times this week. Belonging is a large component of engagement which is a buzzword in education right now, but applies to everyone. Everyone has the need to belong which can mean simply to have friends and to be part of a tribe. Sometimes we find these people in real life and sometimes they are online.

One practice of how we connect with another human is through stories.

Developing a library of stories is the biggest takeaway for me from yesterday’s training. A library of stories is basically a cheat sheet to jog your memory when you need a story to illustrate a point or for entertainment. It could be on a physical piece of paper, it could be a list in your phone or a mapped graphic organizer at the back of your planner. It is a tool. It is similar to how I use my Goodreads list. Whenever someone asks what me I have read lately, my mind immediately goes blank. I often will open Goodreads to jar my memory. A library of stories is a similar tool.

Telling stories is one of the most important things we can do as people. It is how our brains work and also connects us to people! Stories are part of why I am a writer and an educator.

Storytelling is an effective practice for engagement. They are quite effective for fostering hope.

A few components to keep in mind:

  1. The story needs a purpose to the story – a why to why you are telling it. In the classroom it is likely to demonstrate concept or key idea. It may be humor or just a show of a similar situation.
  2. Effective stories CANNOT BE LAME. They should be concise, vivid, surprising, and emotional – but maybe not all at the same time.
  3. You audience must identify with the story you have chosen.

Using stories can help you illustrate the ideas you are trying to teach or portray. Danny Bauer talks about core value stories. His story of tenacity is portrayed with a story about honeybadgers. Doing the most important thing first is illustrated with the BIG DOMINO story. I remember these concepts because of the stories he told. Check out his podcast to hear the stories for yourself.

How to:

To develop a library for stories create a timeline from birth until today. The beauty is you can keep this paper (larger size might be better) for you to capture story ideas with a few words so that when you need to pull a story for a lesson or situation they are gathered in one place. You scan and choose.

List people.

List events.

List the stories that go with each using a few words.

When I first did this activity I was shocked how difficult it was for me to come up with events and people. It might have been due to the fact Knight told us the exercise should take 90 minutes and we were doing it in 2 minutes.

BUT… when I woke up this morning this idea was still with me. On the commute to my writers retreat I decided I would go through each age and see if I could recall stories that corresponded. The ones that emerged on the paper yesterday were the ones that I often tell. Several of them I have even written about on the blog. There were a few that I had forgotten about like the story I shared in my small group about a surprisingly difficult exercise class that left me uncharacteristically sore for days! It even hurt to breathe. I am sure if I would have had more time and it wasn’t 20 minutes before the end of the workshop I would have had more things to write.

A couple months ago I had made a list of 25 life altering moments based on a business book I was reading so I am going to find that list in whatever notebook it is in and add it to my timeline.

Moving forward, one idea Knight shared was to roll this idea out to teachers and then have check ins to talk about the stories they were using with students. I would love to start this practice. It would not only help the students strengthen relationships with teachers but it would cement the bond between educators.

What do you think of a library of stories? Do you like the idea of a timeline? Do you like the idea of a list? Is there a story you tell over and over?

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Build for FMF

It’s Friday! It is time for Kate’s word to inspire my writing today!

I am in the process of building something exciting.

The focus this month through #Write28days is to work through and plan these creative gatherings I have swirling around in my mind.

Serendipity is an amazing concept. I always think of the movie when I say the word and frozen hot chocolate. Podcasts, articles, conversations and people are making their way into my circle of concern that align with this idea.

A name occurred to me today for the gatherings.

The idea of a launch team is on my mind.

The idea of collaboration and using people’s strengths is on my mind.

LIGHT BULBS are turning on ALL OVER THE PLACE!

Today I am blessed with a day of learning with my friends. I will build new connections and deepening bonds.

What are your lightbulbs today?

Are you building something?

Goals and Self Care Podcast

BLBS Ep 183 Tammy Breitweiser Goals and Self Care

Have you listened to the Better Leaders Better Schools Podcast? If not, today is the day to hear my guest spot. It is my debut podcast interview so I am super excited.

Danny and I talk about coaching, goal setting meetings with teachers, and questions I ask myself every morning to get ready for the day. I even explain my bullet journal.

What is Your SuperPower? #DIYMFA Book Club #2

On the DIYMFA website there is a cool quiz. I love quizzes and used to do them in Seventeen magazine. (Remember that publication? The August issue was always HUGE and sometimes didn’t fit in the mailbox)

I always feel I get a little insight into myself no matter how silly the quiz is. I have used the 16personalities.com quiz as a teacher coach. I like these types of quizzes as springboards for conversation, communication and, reflection.

This SUPERPOWER quiz is supposed to lead me to how I approach writing. My initial results indicate the Disruptor. You can read the description below.

You Can Take the Quiz Here

Result: The Disruptor

You’re drawn to larger-than-life characters who rebel against the status quo. Your stories champion people who will do whatever it takes to change their societies, overcome all odds, and defeat tyranny. Whether your character makes a small but significant personal choice or starts an all-out revolution, at the core your stories are about sharing your ideals with the world.

Then I took the quiz again with mostly the same answers and got:

Result: The Underdog

You are the quintessential underdog storyteller and your superpower is creating relate-able characters who have a deep desire to change something in themselves or in the world around them. From rags-to-riches narratives to epic David-and-Goliath-style battles you craft stories with high stakes and compelling characters your readers can’t help but love.

My Reflection:

As I said, this is not a scientific study nor a psychological test. As a writer of short stories I am constantly creating new worlds and characters. I love a great story that has a character that changes throughout the course of the story and who has a shift of mindset.

I am a rebel – even for rules I impose on myself. I don’t like being told what to do in most cases, even if I tell myself. HA! I have had critiques where the reader felt there are too many unanswered questions or a character did something completely surprising. I don’t always follow story rules. I am usually ok with that though.

I do have deep fundamental beliefs that come through some of my stories. I am not sure as a writer that I would want to stop that. Not all the characters I write share my same beliefs. For one, that would be terribly boring.

Depending on the type of piece I am writing depends on how I approach it. It makes me multifaceted and I like it!

What is your superpower!? I would love to know what you are.

If you would like to read the first post in this series you can click here.

Fine, Fine Professional Development and Llama Tuesday

Better Conversations – Jim Knight

I have been wowed this year by some amazing PD. The Better Conversations workshop was a full day. The participants found clock partners from the room which was filled with Coaches from my district and 3 surrounding states. We all stood up and found 12 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 4 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 8 o’clock partners and wrote their name down. We found them later for each section of the workshop as directed by Jim.

Jim joked that he is from Canada and he wouldn’t do anything goofy. It was a well-run workshop that was worthwhile and life-giving. 

One of the activities centered around 5 questions that I have been using since that Thursday of training. They seem simple. The exercise we used was to ask our partner the question and then give them 1 minute to answer and we could not talk. It was eye-opening.

Communication is essential for a fulfilled life yet we are all so bad at it sometimes.

Bungay’s 5 Coaching Habit Questions

  1. What’s on your mind?
  2. What’s the real challenge?
  3. What else?
  4. What do you want?
  5. What was the most useful from this conversation?

It was odd how personal and intimate the conversations became with a stranger – even though the thinking before the exercise was to not get too personal in many of the pairs. I still plan to use the exercise with my teachers at a Workshop Wednesday. Conversation is supposed to be nourishing for both parties. These questions are helping me use my #oneword for the year – CONNECT.

It is Llama TUESDAY!!!

What I Am Pondering…

Unfortunately, the picture above looks like my running trail now in December. We had some snowfall in November and now there is none. Yesterday it rained all day. Honestly, it is disappointing. I keep looking at the weather report in Minnesota with envy.

I am thinking about what is deeply nourishing to me and what has run its course and needs to be nixed. In simple terms what stays and what goes. I like to think of it sometimes in the realm of what do I say YES to and what do I say NO to.

Writing is deeply nourishing.

Talking with writers is deeply nourishing.

Coaching teachers and students is deeply nourishing.

Reading is nourishing in a diverse way. There is different reading for different purposes. Some types are more nourishing than others.

Thinking about what to get rid of completely in my life – physical and mental has been a process I have embarked on for the last couple of years.

I think the CONNECT word is good for me for 2019 especially in the realm of writing. It goes hand in hand with the readings and podcasts I have been inputting as well. I always love how these things I am thinking about converge together.

My thoughts are around how I can connect more with other writers, other teachers, and other coaches. I have some IRL opportunities were this is a real time of possibility and thriving.

What are you pondering?

BTW, I am reading an AMAZING BOOK! It is magical and wonderful.

Image result for harrys trees

Whoo Hoo Wednesday!

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Today is a special shout out to two wonderful people in my life!

Leanne and Kristin are two ladies who are wonderful human beings and I am SO delighted and grateful they are part of my life! Through training and time this fall we have become so much more connected. They helped me realize I need more connection, not more walls. We have laughed and cried and learned together.

I love you both! Both are amazing educators and coaches and kids and teachers are lucky at the buildings where they are spreading joy and knowledge.

Sunlight and Flowers #SOL18

Day 3 of Jim Knight coach training was yesterday.

There was a slightly different mix of coaches at this training. I drove into the city this time which was pretty stress free and the drive was full of sunshine.

We used feedback cards after Jim established a procedure for them. Red/Yellow/Green cards can be used with students to show answers really quickly and can also build community. Jim Knight said, “There is power in a collective response.”

A lot of the conversation was around relationships.

We learned how to use several data collection measures which are awesome and actionable. I have used several over the years but these were deep and focused.

One of the specific strategies we talked about was creating a learner-friendly culture. Bill Stickland opened a school that has beautiful things everywhere you look, a building that is full of sunshine and fresh real flowers.

Image result for bill strickland make the impossible possible

He believes that change can only happen if you see change, including your surroundings. I have the book on hold at the library and am looking forward to it coming in.

Many of the conversations throughout the day continually reminded me that little things matter to ALL people. The thoughtful note, the smile, the nod, the acknowledgement of you being in front of someone…and the sunlight and the flowers.

How do you make your learner space inviting? This could be a writer space or a teaching space. What are your sunlight and flowers? Enjoy them today and share with someone else.

Image result for sunlight and flowers

Workshop Wednesday Recap

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Last Wednesday I hosted Workshop Wednesday during team times. The invitation was specifically sent out to the English teachers but everyone was welcome as always. The email informed the staff the topic was Independent Reading. This meeting is voluntary so I always let staff know ahead of time so there is no surprise. I was pleasantly surprised myself when my content teachers showed up as well.  Their attendance really showcases how dedicated they are to the new reading culture in our middle school. 

Last year there was not consistent Silent Sustained Reading, Independent reading, or choice reading. It doesn’t matter what the label was, but there was not enough time or support it seemed to pull it off.

It was decided with the new block scheduling this year there was time to implement Independent reading time. Now is the time where teachers have tried various components and how to differentiate for their classes and students.  I am so proud that all of the teachers who keep the choice piece sacred. All the decisions made were around that central idea.

The purpose of the meeting was to celebrate reading in our building and the culture they are all perpetuating. It was also to make lists of what was the reality of the reading time and what we want to make consistent across the school. To make a school wide definition decided by the teachers – not anyone else. 

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It was a great discussion about conferencing, book talks, reading identity, first chapter Friday and what it looked like and sounded like in their respective classrooms.

We talked about what they needed and how to make reading spaces more inviting.

There was celebration about reading memories, students asking for more reading time, and books disappearing because the students want to read them so badly.

Taking inspiration from THE ART OF GATHERING by Priya Parker,  I had my version of “15 Toasts”. I had silly plastic champagne glasses with sparkling water. Everyone had a toast to make in the area of  a reading memory or the first memory they had of reading. One teacher shared she sat in the back of her third grade classroom because it was where the bookcases were and she could snatch books and read no matter what subject was being taught. There was one book that she loved so much she stole. She still has it! After the meeting she came to show me the book!

I also incorporated the Google Jamboard which I had never used before. It is designed to be used on an interactive white board but I just used the post it note function for everyone to share something exciting going on in their classrooms. I hope to foster some relationships between teachers to visit each other’s rooms and share ideas that are working. 

Here is the shared Jamboard

I am excited for the conversation when I can get all the stakeholders together and make some decisions for the achievement of our teachers and the students!

Writing Update/Inspiration

person using inspire typewriter
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Inspiration Number 1

I participated in a virtual write-in on Thursday evening for NaNoWriMo. My online writing group who is awesome were on a Zoom call all together. If you haven’t ever used Zoom it is a video conference call free program. It is nice to be able to see everyone. There is a chat feature and video and audio controls as well.

We logged in, chatted a few minutes, and then got to writing. We did two 15 minute sprints. It is nice to write with people that you know. It is a comfort somehow that we are not alone. It was also oddly comforting to hear the clicking of other people’s keyboards.

Encouragement from my tribe is a good thing. They help me along.

Inspiration Number 2

I read a story but Kimberly Lojewski today about a hot air balloon, a strange island, and treasure called About The Hiding Of Buried Treasure. It is so well written and fun! 

Inspiration Number 3

I had my 7th-grade writers group Thursday and they were wonderful! I started with them filling out a card with the sentence stem: I WISH PEOPLE KNEW… The responses were honest and raw.

Then we wrote to my prompt of requiring 4 words to be a major part of the story. The writing was the best I have seen from them. 

If you would like a link to the cards I created just click below:

Writing Prompt Card

Writing Prompt Card 2

Writing Prompt Card 3

Writing Prompt Card 4

Happy Writing!