Avoidance of I #SOL20

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Every week on Llama Tuesday I write a blog post and share it on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Then I comment on at least 3 other posts.

Here are the rules:

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

There are 31 days left in 2020 which means I have 31 more writing prompts to publish. Do you have plans for the last 31 days?

I sit in my living room getting prepared to go to the building to work by the light of the Christmas tree.

Yesterday I had a writing conversation with a friend and we were talking about craft. I read a piece yesterday that started too many sentences that began with “I”. It was distracting and took me out of the piece.

All the years I have taught, I have loved to teach writing. I am sure it had something to do with the fact that deep down I want to be a full time writer but that was not an acceptable career choice in my family. I figured that teaching writing was the next best thing.

Teaching kindergarteners to write is a amazing because they have little prior experience.

One of the things I do is avoid having my K student write sentences that begin with “I”. What ends up happening is that later when they are writing more you get pages of “I” statements.

I like dogs.

I like to swim.

I love my mom.

It sounds all the same.

Sentence fluency is something I start with so that is the skill that becomes the habit and not the list of I statements that I would have to try to break later. As often as we can, our shared writing sentences begin with any other word.

Yesterday we learned the sight word GO so the sentences we wrote were:

We go camping. and

We go outside.

Details now are in the illustrations where lots of academic feedback is given. I have also taught them how to give feedback to each other. They discuss what they are writing outloud and then cues are picked up by other students.

In my live class you will often hear: “W. said he is adding a sun. I think that is a good idea and am adding one too.”

or

“I like the way A. added details to his butterfly. I am adding some to mine. He reminded me.”

Of course, one of my favorite questions is: Is it time for writing YET?

What have you noticed about teaching writing this year? I would love to hear in the comments.

High/Low/Learn #SOL20

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Every week on Llama Tuesday I write a blog post and share it on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Then I comment on at least 3 other posts.

Here are the rules:

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

There are 38 days left in 2020 which means I have 38 more writing prompts to publish. Do you have plans for the last 38 days?

One of my obsessions lately has been journaling prompts. I even found a couple of podcasts dedicated to journaling. On an episode of Writing Your Best Self I heard a writer talk about logging the high of the day, the low and what you have learned.

I follow this method similarly with my energy challenge that comes from the author of The Third Door. I log what fueled my energy, what drained it and what I learned from those observations.

I was reminded of a protocol I learned at the EL Education conference last year in October called HIGH/LOW/BUFFALO. In this version, you share a high and a low and something completely out of left field! Some people need some prodding in order to be silly sometimes. It helps to get to know people in a hurry.

My day of working from home has just started but here is mine so far (Subject to change by the evening)

High: Wellness of my family and it snowed!

Low: I was woken up early by loud vehicles driving by

Buffalo: I learned today that pickled carrots are a thing and I am writing about them!

What are yours?

I would love to hear in the comments!

Inspiration from Everywhere #SOL20

Come join me and other teacher writers at the Two Writing Teachers blog. Every Tuesday teachers blog a slice of their life and others comment. It is a wonderful community.

One of my favorite questions is, “What inspires you?”

Here in Wisconsin, there are hints of November. I am in the midst of NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) and getting ready for Thanksgiving. The weather however is warmer than it was in the spring. It has been over 70 degrees here over the last couple of days.

I am feeling a bit rebellious about it. I should not be wearing a t-shirt and shorts to walk. I will have to use this feeling and details in a story this week.

This week in class we are utilizing the website Mystery Science. The kids really like these videos, as do I, because they are interesting and we always learn something new.

Yesterday we watched a video about poisonous plants. We learned about the Manchineel tree that can kill you. We saw trees that had grown around signs, benches, motorcycles, and bikes. Not only did it ignite lots of conversation from my 5 year olds it fueled our writing as well. The students wrote in their journals what a tree would “eat”.

One little one kept saying, “That is terrifying!” I write down their comments all day long. I have to go back through my teaching notebook and log them all in a document. The kid speak alone is gold.

The video even inspired my writing. For one of the daily prompts I needed to write a story from the POV of something that normally doesn’t have one. I wrote from the perspective of this tree with the warning label.

What has inspired you that was surprising lately? I would love to hear in the comments.

Tuesday Slice of Life #SOL

I woke up this morning wanted to be a hermit.

I would have preferred to go back to sleep for a bit and then snuggle with my words and blankets.

But that wasn’t possible today.

I have been examining what fuels my energy and what depletes it.

The last couple of days have been busy. There was a trip to Chicago and the museum. There was a Halloween party and an obstacle course. There were delicious dinners.

Yesterday was a full school day and then I was home for less than hour and had to leave again.

By the time I got home I was Exhausted – yes, with a capital E.

I slept hard and didn’t move all night except in my dreams.

Many of the things I did over these days are ones I love but it can still be draining. This is a conundrum I still try to unravel.

What fueled your energy today?

What depleted your energy?

What did that teach you?

Writing Retreat Day

Today is a treat for me…writing retreat day at home!

Photo by Kate Trifo on Pexels.com

Today I will write 2750 words in preparation for NANOWRIMO and the Million Words IN a YEAR challenge.

Today I will walk (likely in the rain).

Today I will host a write in and chat with my friends.

Today I will nap (if I feel like it).

Today I will write in different areas of the house.

I have a list of projects I want to come back to. One of which is a story set in New Orleans based on my trip there. I have prompts to schedule and posts to make for my short story intensive.

I have my white noise soundtrack going of a fireplace.

Today I will look through my new LEX magazine that came in the mail yesterday and write a letter.

Today I will read Nancy Stohlman’s new flash fiction book that I finally got in the mail yesterday!

I will make scrambled eggs and toast and enjoy every bite.

I may even dance around the house.

What will you write and delight in today?

Short Story Show and Tell

A Look at Craft Focusing on One Short Story

I have a list of stories I return to that I use as models for writing. One I love is Amber Spark’s Thirteen Ways to Destroy a Painting from her collection The Unfinished World. You can listen to the story here.

Amber is one of the short story writers I follow closely. In interviews she talks about how she takes old fairy tales and puts a modern spin on them which I admire.  Her most recent collection is magical and I highly recommend it. 

One of the many aspects I love about this story is that the title draws me in because of the use of the number. There is something seductive about numbers, especially thirteen. There is much debate about the luck of thirteen. The structure of the story also follows a numbered sequence. The story is told with a time traveler attempting to destroy a painting that stubbornly keeps reappearing in her own time. 

Another element that is a takeaway for my own writing is how she uses the repeated element of an object. In this case it is the painting. The painting is an anchor in the story and is referred to in each numbered section. Each iteration of the painting shows the title changes and the size depending on how the time travelers actions affected the painting. These are small details that contribute to the pacing of the story. You keep reading to find out what happens to the painting next. 

As you read, you wonder if she will succeed and destroy the painting eventually. Your brain also knows there are thirteen iterations and then some conclusion will occur.  There is also perseverance as a theme in this story. She doesn’t try to just destroy this painting three times (Magic 3 in fairy tales often) it is 13. There is a stubbornness there from the time traveler which we wonder about throughout the reading.

Time travel is always an element I am drawn to but I have seen it done well and done horribly in short stories and in novels. Satisfying time travel is hard to pull off. Time travel requires a relationship with magic for the author and the reader.

This story also reminds me of the connection between the writing practice we do and how that eventually emerges in a finished piece. Kathy Fish teaches an exercise in her flash fiction classes where you take a scene and write it three different ways. This story shows how an author can do this and make it a published story. This idea also reminds me of an earlier exercise in the course with the I don’t remember prompt and how a similar list shows up in Tobias Wolff’s Bullet to the Brain. I have learned to pick out some of these freewriting elements and how they show up in published pieces.

The characters are identified by their labels in this story, not by name. The names do not matter in this story and gives the reader a bit of distance. The painting itself falls into this category for me as well. The descriptions of the people are tight and pack a lot in a few sentences. For instance: 

He is so young, the artist, a white smooth face in the dark of his walk-up. She supposes this will be easy-from the empty, hungry tilt of his face, to the stooped posture from painting under this sloped attic roof.

The artist looks at her aghast but defiant. The artist knows his way around this kind of truth.

Another pacing technique I noticed is shown in section seven through ten. As the reader is moving through the destruction attempts, this section is written in two sentence bursts with repeated phrasing. This reiterates that the painting still exists and you can feel the frustration of the time traveler’s efforts.

Seven: The time traveler sets fire to the unfinished painting. The painting is still there.

Eight: The time traveler pours acid on the unfinished painting. The painting is still there.

Sparks is a short story writer that achieves a satisfying ending sometimes with unanswered questions which is a reason I read this type of story in the first place. Kelly Link is another author that does the same. Link is more blatant in her “unfinished” endings and has been unapologetic about it.

Thirteen Ways is a story I feel is satisfying but also has sticking power.  When I first read this story I kept coming back to it. I felt a connection to these characters and the frustration from both sides.

I appreciate the style Sparks writes in and underline many of her sentences.

Here is a sentence I love from section Thirteen:

She was more in love with life than with him-she’d never have believed how black and long the days could stretch over her, mean and empty, like shadows in the winter.

I would love to hear your impressions of this story and lines that popped out to you. This is a piece I have used to teach short story to my middle school students along with Neil Gaiman’s Click Clack Rattle Bag. 

I hope you enjoyed it and found something in it for your own writing.

Need a writing prompt today?

I am sending out a writing prompt for the last 100 days of 2020!

Here is today’s:

If you like this prompt come join my Patreon and have them delivered to your inbox every day!

Anchors #SOL

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Over the weekend I took a writing class. The pandemic has yielded many classes and programs since so many were isolated. Some people went through bread baking phases, but many of my friends collected all the classes.

The class was a two part guided writing exercise to create more knowledge around a world a writer creates. One of the points Nina made was to have a list of 5 anchors to keep the heart of your story in the forefront of your mind. A list to keep you centered. A list to bring you back to the story you want to tell.

When I was writing in my notebook about the experience I thought about life anchors.

What are the 5 things that anchor you to the heart of your life?

What are the 5 things that anchor you to your teaching life?

Are they the same?

This is what I am thinking and writing about today.

Writing Prompt and an Announcement

Starting on September 23rd if you join my Patreon community you will receive a daily prompt for 100 days like the one above. We have a Slack community as well so you can join other writers.

September 23rd starts a special time period – the last 100 days of 2020! Can you believe it???

The last 100 days is the perfect time to give yourself a challenge. You can join mine or create your own. I would love to hear what you plan to do.

Last year I vowed to do one yoga pose a day for the remaining 100 days of 2019. A friend wrote 100 word essays. The possibilities are endless. You could answer the same morning and evening questions. I follow Karissa Kouchis who is a national trainer for Tony Robbins. She has challenged herself to answer the same morning and evening questions for the next 30+ days for a training. I have been answering them in my journal as well.

What questions would propel you into a new reality if you committed to them for 100 days? One of the exercises in Tony Robbins Personal Power class is to construct questions you ask yourself every day. I have a list in my Google Keep Notes.

Here are the questions I am using right now from KK:

Morning:

  1. What are you most happy about in your life right now? How does that make you feel?
  2. What am I most proud of right now? How does that make me feel?
  3. What am I most committed to right now? How does that make me feel?

Do you see a pattern here?

Evening:

  1. What have I been given today?
  2. What have I given to others?
  3. What have I learned today?
  4. How has today added to the quality of the overall investment in my life?

Happy writing! Happy reflecting!

I would love to hear your ideas for the last 100 days. It is a perfect time for a self imposed challenge!

What I Have Learned about Virtual Learning…so far #SOL20

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Over the past 7 days I have been working in my classroom, reseraching and attending virutal PD.

Some of the PD has been great…other sessions not so much.

I always attend workshops with the idea of examining how the presenter choses to deliver the content. I have done this since college. I write down the way people start meetings, how they show content, how they have participants interact…or not. I steal what I like for my own presentations.

Here are some things I have learned, or were reminded of, from the content and being a student over the last week about virtual learning:

  1. One of the biggest pet peeves I have about PD is presenters who conduct a training in the opposite way of how they would want you to teach kids. The workshop you are presenting is a model to the people you are teaching. I went to more than one workshop where they talked at us for over an hour. Please. Don’t.
  2. I learned about this video that brings some things into perspective. I wrote about this idea in my newsletter last week.
  3. Kids are vessels that are already full of experiences and knowledge . We need to remember they are not empty just waiting to be filled.
  4. Relationships are the center of everything.
  5. Think about your own school life. Who was an influence on you and what did they do? Connect these ideas to your own teaching.
  6. One presenter used breakout rooms with the adults expertly. We were given a task independently and then asked to talk in the Zoom breakout room. Then we were asked to make a sticky note on the class Jamboard to show accountability. Brilliant! This one I will use for my own workshops with adults. Kindergarten will take a lot of scaffolding for it to happen.
  7. Grade level work needs to be taught to students. This is an equity issue.
  8. I can keep track of what to keep doing, start doing and set aside for now. I like this structure for unpacking what I already know.
  9. To build relationships virtually I need to schedule more one on one time with my students.
  10. I also need to provide virtual social time for my students.

What have you learned in this new time we are in about teaching?

Official Back to School #SOL20

Two Writing Teachers run the Slice of Life tag ever Tuesday, where readers and writers are encouraged to write and share something about their life or day. You can check out the tag here.

Yesterday, was the first day back to school officially. The label was work day.

Delights of the Day

  • I coached a client through text
  • I connected with writer and educator friends
  • I found a word wall feature in a Bitmoji classroom I was perusing
  • I listened to some great podcasts while I went through files and books.
  • I connected with my kindergarten team who are amazing women!
  • I ordered bulletin board sets and remembered there was a time I couldn’t afford to buy much for my classroom. I spent hours cutting out items early in my career to decorate. During student teaching when I had no money I folded over packing tape 3/4ths and adhered it to a large sheet of cardboard to make a pocket chart. I remembered I have come a long way in knowledge and experience.
  • I got my SMART board to work
  • During my lunch time I revised my novel and gave myself a sticker
  • My classroom is a few steps closer to being acceptable for teaching and learning

What were the delights in your day?