Mentor Text Monday

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

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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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Weekend Coffee Share #SOLC Day 31

Today we are having coffee in a little cafe in my town, The Librarium Cafe. There is a Harry Potter theme and board games. The best part is the Butter Brew. We are going to have large mugs of butterscotch, caramel, toffee and espresso deliciousness. Then I will have black coffee after one Butter Brew to cut the sweetness! haha

If we were having coffee I would tell you, this year I enjoyed the slice of life challenge as I do every year but something about this year was special. The caliber of writing was great as always but it seemed there were a lot more teachers who completed the challenge. Congratulations to every one who wrote and a special congrats to those who wrote all 31 days!

If we were having coffee I would tell you I think this coffee post is the perfect one to end the month with for the challenge. It has been met with the most commentary. I am drawn to the conversational form and love that people love it.

In the challenge, I am blessed to have met many wonderful teachers I would not have any other way. The group was interactive and allowed me to connect with people all over the world. I really hope it continues.


If we were having coffee I would tell you I have high hopes for April. I hope teachers will continue to write at least once a week. I hope they will link to their blogs on Tuesdays.I hope the commenting will continue.I hope these writers will notice how powerful their daily practice is and share that experience with students. I hope to see some familiar names at CAMP NANOWRIMO.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I am now on Spring Break and am so happy! It is going to be a good writing day tomorrow! I am meeting a writer friend and I also have a writers group Zoom call in the evening.

If we were having coffee I would tell you the rejections came in last week and it made me sad. I really had to get into a different mindset after a few came one after another. I am emotional about 5 days a year and one of those days was this past week.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I am thinking about silence and slow living. I am thinking about being intentional especially about time. Part of this thinking is tomorrow is the anniversary of my Oma’s death. I miss her all the time and I can hardly believe it has been 19 years now.

Do you need a refill on your coffee? Another napkin, or a glass of water?

If we were having coffee I would tell you my top productivity tool has to be Google Keep. I share dictated and typed notes with myself. I make notes from podcasts and reading. I save websites and stories to read and pictures. I can make it into a Google doc and just transfer what I need from the app or opened in the browser. I can open up Keep on the right side of my screen and scroll through different notes to add to one document in Google too! I LOVE IT!

If we were having coffee I would tell you I am still on my Bradbury Trio roll! I have been reading poems from Paris Review. I am reading Neil Gaiman, Kurt Vonnegut, and Octavia Butler essays. I am reading William Maxwell short stories and others. I SHOULD make a spreadsheet….

Thank you so much for joining me for coffee! I always enjoy our visits and today was no different. Let’s have coffee again soon!

Here is the link to Eclectic Alli and her weekend coffee post and link up.

English to English Translation #writingprompt #SOLC Day 29

One of the writing resources I use is Language is A Virus. Here there is a list of 66 writing experiments. I used the idea of English to English translation to work on craft yesterday.

According to the site:
Homolinguistic translation: Take a poem (someone else’s, then your own) and translate it “English to English” by substituting word for word, phrase for phrase, line for line, or “free” translation as response to each phrase or sentence. Or translate the poem into another literary style or a different diction, for example into a slang or vernacular. Do several different types of homolinguistic translation of a single source poem. (Cf.Six Fillious by bp nichol, Steve McCaffery, Robert Fillious, George Brecht, Dick Higgins, Dieter Roth, which also included translation of the poem to French and German.) Chaining: try this with a group, sending the poem on for “translation” from person to another until you get back to the first author.

I used the poem, “The Imaginal Stage” by D.A. Powell.

This is what I ended up with after utilizing a thesaurus and them rewriting for more cohesion.

Inventive Theater by T.L. Breitweiser

On the plane where we change

I move away into a view of abundant worlds.

Rather than suns,

Abundant corners are fancy to scorch.

Do not settle

Perpetually adoring

An ending opportunity

When instantly they indeed appear

To settle with the mundane.

Quiver and alter

The remains of my mind

The end game is we combust

Apt to escalate at dawn

When I share my feathers.

This was an interesting exercise and more difficult than I first imagined. I would like to try it with students. I would only give students one stanza as it can be frustrating to find words that fit.

Who are You? #SOLC Day 19

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.

Coming up with ideas for writing is usually not my problem. DECIDING on which idea to write about it is normally the issue.

I have gone up and down and all around about what to write today. I looked through my draft blog posts, I looked through my BLOG folder in Google, I read other slices this morning, I listened to some favorite podcasts…nothing resonated that I want to share publicly.

While scrolling on Instagram yesterday I noticed an advertisement for a 10 day writing challenge. I cannot pass up prompts sent to my mailbox so I signed up. The prompts are written out in a community, in an email, in video and audio formats. The day 1 prompt is refreshingly new to me and I am in the process of writing it.

The Day 1 challenge is to write your own Game of Thrones name like Daenerys, the mother of dragons.

You do not need to be a fan or watcher of Game of Thrones to do this prompt.

These are Tara’s words:
For context, the heroine of the show is a young lady, a Queen, named Daenerys Targaryen. She comes from a long line of rulers, but her ancestors were not well-loved. Her own dad was, in fact, torturous and murderous. And she is on a mission to break that cycle; to still walk in her regal ancestry, but to be a queen that liberates instead of imprisoning, and rules with freedom rather than fear.

Her name goes like this: “Daenerys of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Protector of the Realm, Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons.”

So, the question is – Who are you today and now?

I have not written my completely yet but I am a mother, a wife, a teacher, a coach. I am an ultra runner and an ultra reader. I am the writer of stories. I am a yogi and an accidental inspirationalist.

We shall see what else I come up with throughout the day!

Here is a link to the challenge.

Other questions for today: Do you enjoy writing challenges other than Slice of Life? What others have you participated in? Have you ever considered starting your own?

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M is for Mentor Text #SOLC Day 18

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 Bradbury Trio project is going quite well! I am “feeding the muse” as Bradbury would say with all the lovely words. It is also helping that I am reading essays specifically about creativity and writing. I am starting to get some recommendations from others which is greatly appreciated. I was reminded this past weekend of Pema Chödrön whose words helped me through a trauma a couple years ago. I will seek her words out moving forward.

Here is a small portion of what I have been reading lately:

Essays

“The Long Road to Mars” by Ray Bradbury

“Just This Side of Byzantium: Dandelion Wine” R.B.

“How to Keep and Feed A Muse” R.B

“The Gap” Natalie Goldberg

THE TIME I MET NEW YORK’S PATRON SAINT OF TYPEWRITERS by
 Thaisa Frank

Short Stories

Come to the Fair Shirley Jackson

1,000 Year Old Ghosts Laura Chow Reeve

Devil of A Tale and The Mouse by Shirley Jackson

Foley’s Pond

The Actual Thing William Maxwell

The Needle Behind the Thread and Always See Me Ryan Bender Murphy

The Widow’s Club

Instructions for Mourning

Poems – [I receive the Paris Review daily email with a poem]

The Cooper Beech Marie Howe

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer Walt Whitman

“Spring” Judita Vaiciunate

The Solsticeby W. S. Merwin

“Yeats at Balscadden” Damel Tobin

Have you read anything really great I need to read? Tell me!

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M is for Mentor #SOLC Day 12

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.

I am continuing my Bradbury Trio and have found it affecting my writing already. I have always been of the mindset it is good practice to find a Mentor to help you be better at whatever you are trying to raise your skill level in. I had a wonderful coach when I was learning to be a coach. I have consultants and authors I look up to now. But the most consistent mentor I have are books, stories, poems, essays, and most recently, blog posts.

Last night I read the essay, RUN FAST, STAND STILL, OR, THE THING AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS,OR, NEW GHOSTS FROM OLD MINDS by Bradbury in the Zen in the Art of Writing. In this essay he talks about his list of nouns and how he used the list of 20 nouns to fuel stories. Many of these went on to be published. The brain pickings newsletter talked about this concept which I wrote a blog post about as well. You can read that here. It reminded me to make my own list today.

One of my favorite writing exercises is to start with a word and springboard from there. I pick a word and set the timer for 10 minutes and see what happens. It is writing practice and sometimes it leads to a story or a blog post.

I was also inspired yesterday by a writing friend who is going through a coaching process with a professional. Chatting with her about it sparked an idea for a story or an article I am going to explore more today.

Other blog posts are inspiring me with their formats!

The poem I read of Billy Collins yesterday, “Thieves” inspired my own poem in my notebook (not for public consumption…yet).

Inspiration is everywhere!

Other ways to be a mentor of writing:

  1. Talk about writing.
  2. Verbalize stories.
  3. Use storyboards and share stories.
  4. Share stories from your life.
  5. Find a writer that is a little more advanced than you and taker her out to coffee or send her email or a Tweet. CONNECT and LEARN.
  6. Read Books to Help you Become a Better Writer. Try: Natalie Goldberg, Anne Lamott, Stephen King, Ralph Fletcher,
  7. Donald Maass

Add your favorite writing mentors in the comments! What other mentors do you use for your writing?

31 Days of FMF Challenge

My FOREST timer was set today for 5 minutes and I wrote: INSPIRE

 

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Inspire.

This is a word that comes up for me a lot. I know to pay attention.

I have been called an Accidental Inspire-er – I am not really sure that is a word really – or even a thing.

I am not inspired by sound today. It overwhelms my ears and my brain.

Today is Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Day – I hope to inspire at least one teacher with my post.

I was inspired by feedback from one of my critique group partners today.

I want to inspire students to be creative. I hope to do that through Genius Hour. I want to inspire kids to read and write. I do that through Writer Workshop.

To inspire

I have to start a fire

Let it burn

Hot and Bright

Teach tools so there is management and the fire doesn’t get out of control.

Don’t let the marshmallows burn!

#FMF

Jason Reynolds

Do you know author Jason Reynolds? Not only is he an amazing writer, but an inspirational speaker as well. If you have not listened to his commencement speech for Lesley University,  take 10 minutes out of your day and click play.

 

If you only have a couple minutes start at 7:20. This timestamp is where Jason talks about how some of us cannot fly and change the world because our wings have been clipped. He talks about how instead of flying high above everyone beyond the common understanding, to look around and Share Your Feathers so everyone is lifted up to a new consciousness.

 

 

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I am grateful to the teachers I was surrounded with at the end of July who were totally absorbed in this speech. Not only did we listen and watch the video but we had the text in front of us and used it as a reference to write a response in various forms. There are parts of this speech that are heartbreaking and that will stay with you.

For my writing that day, I wrote a poem that I was able to share with a partner as a read aloud. I am still revising it. I wrote it to be so specific for that day’s activities so it wouldn’t make much sense to anyone that didn’t attend the meeting right now!

Who can you share your feathers with today?

 

Rustic is Who I am Today

A poem:

snow nature sky night
Photo by Stefan Stefancik on Pexels.com

Rustic is who I am today

Follow Dry Fork Road to the healing water that runs cold and icy

The cabin next to little Laughery creek

Deep in the woods

You will find me comfortable in hunter green and khaki

Heavy boots

And a reflective smile

In front of a lion of a fire

Comfort drifts

From the kitchen:  bread and cinnamon

Crackling like breaking sticks echo against a brick containment

What would I talk about to an old me sitting next to the lake cottage?

@tammybreitweiser

Poem in Your Pocket…Literally

sols_6I am continuing the logging of some of my funny stories from my teaching career and am sharing one for Two Writing Teachers Blog Slice of Life.

Last month I attended an amazing workshop with Jack Berckemeyer and his colleagues. One of the main components of their presentations is FUN. As I was listening I started a list of funny stories from my teaching career. Every teacher has funny stories of situations with students and I have decided to write some of them down.

Laughter helps you lose weight, live longer, and lower your blood pressure. Bring on the guffaws!

Poem in Your Pocket…Literally

I love poetry. I love writing poetry. I love teaching poetry. I love reading and displaying the poetry my students write.

When I was a reading specialist I introduced Poem In Your Pocket Day. I use poems with reluctant readers because they are fun and because they seem to be less intimidating to students. We use them for reading and writing.

I was lucky in this particular job at the elementary level to push in to do full classroom writing lessons but also have small groups.

My classroom was right by the front doors and the office, but also right across from the bathrooms. I learned early that it was important to have reading materials outside my door and in the hallway so students could read while they were waiting in line for their turn to use the facilities.

I was standing in the hallway having a brief conference with a 5th grade teacher and her students were lined up. I noticed one boy kept patting his jeans pocket. It was that movement we have when we have something important in our pocket that we do not want to lose. We keep checking to make sure it hasn’t magically disappeared without our knowledge.

I asked him what he had in his pocket. I was intrigued. He looked at me shyly and said, “My poem”.

This was a student that was a little on the harder side. He was very guarded and would be likely to have a weapon in his pocket rather than a poem.

The look of surprise was evident in my face and he continued.

“You talked to us about poem in your pocket day so I thought I should put my own poem I am working on should be in my pocket then I always have it with me.”

I smiled at him with tears in my eyes. “I love it,” I told him.

He smiled and patted his pocket again.

I saw him several times during the day and every time he would smile at me like we shared a secret and pat his pocket to let me know his poem was still there. He extended poem in your pocket day for at least a week.

#happytuesday