How to Cultivate Writers


Yesterday I followed up on a coaching conversation from last week. A teacher had expressed concern about a student who has ability but does not produce much work product in class.

My intent was to watch her interact within the culture of the classroom to see if I could spot some strengths and possible insights to her reluctance before talking to her. Unfortunately, the teacher loudly announced my presence as I walked in.

I stood to the side for a bit waiting for the teacher to finish directions of reading material curated for them in connection to this week’s learning targets. Then he asked them to take out their writing and move to the floor.

I took this opportunity to have a quieter conversation with the little one. She brought her 2 books and her notebook. We talked about her day as we walked to my office. I assured her she wasn’t in trouble and that I just wanted to talk reading and writing with her.

This little one has a soft spoken voice and spoke like she is often interrupted – Heavy breaths lay in between her thoughts.

Her notebook didn’t have much writing. A sentence or two on some pages. Some only the date at the top with the label “Quickwrite”.

We talked about ways to make quickwrites easier for her. Then I wrote with her.

As we readied ourselves to write together she expressed a piece she had worked on earlier that she wanted to add to. PERFECT. I had her reread what she had written. I reread mine as well since I said I was adding to something I had started already.

I set a pretty hourglass timer on my phone in the middle of the table and we wrote.

Sometimes we need each other to do the thing – no matter what is.

Other ways to cultivate writing:

+Have them talk before they write.

+Use materials and resources that real writers would use – not just teaching resources.

+Writing as an experience –treat them like real writers and not just children. Acknowledge they have something to say.

+Teaching them to honor their feelings and imagination when they are in the younger grades can help them to not lose the spark that is their voice when they get older.

+Writing is not about having a formula and plugging words into it.  Don’t treat it or teach it this way.

+Write with them.

+Give them freedom and trust. They will produce amazing pieces that are heart felt and honorable. A group of fourth graders I worked with in 2006 had such great writers they sometimes moved me to tears with their insight and it was from ALL the students not just the ones you “expect” to be good writers.

+Performance is a true part of the writing process. Let your students shine that have this ability.

+Remember writing is hard and fun! Support them in both areas.

Happy Writing today!

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My First 6 Weeks with the Artist’s Way…again

Here in my truth about creative recovery –

What is It?

The Artist’s Way is a book by Julia Cameron which came from a creative recovery class she was teaching. It is a 12 week program divided into weeks with tasks and two main tools with the purpose to find and fuel your creativity. It is not just for writers, it is for anyone. There are two main tools in addition to the weekly exercises.

Tool 1: Morning Pages

This is the heart of the program and is likely a word you have heard or read around writers and other creative people. Morning pages are simply three pages of longhand writing done in the morning that are a brain drain. You write whatever comes to mind. They are not supposed to be smart but they can be. Many times it is complaining or what you need to remember for the day.

Julia Cameron says: There is no wrong way to do the morning pages.

Yet, there is much conversation around what is the “right” way to do them. Our inner critic makes us perfectionists and many of us are hard wired to want to do things right.

Why do we do morning pages when they aren’t considered real writing? To get to the other side — of the censor, of our own obstacles — they help us get out of our own way.

For me, the morning pages lift the fog and I reach clarity. My relationship with them are different because this is the fourth long term relationship I have engaged in with the tool. It is more about what happens after the morning pages for me. All my other writing is more clear and focused when I use this tool. My MP’s tend to be list like and weird streams of thoughts. There are reflections and random memories as well.

Tool 2: Artist Dates

The artist date is a weekly date you take solo.

Read the entire article here.

The Writing Store

Creativity sparks often from unusual places. As writers we are required to pay attention as part of the job.

I am continually writing down ideas in notebooks, apps on my phone, my hand, or doing the “I will repeat this phrase until I find a pen”. I do not recommend the last one.

I started composing a “List of 10” over a year ago. Shaunta Grimes does this, Austin Kleon does this too. With daily lists you always have something to write about.

I write what strikes me as funny, unusual, appealing or something I cannot stop thinking about.

Authors will tell you to keep a notebook of ideas. Most of us have several notebooks.

Here is a list of places to shop for ideas for those little worlds of paper:

  1. Tarot cards — just use the images on the cards or use spreads
  2. Open 30 random books and write down the first phrase or sentence that pops out to you
  3. Keep a collection of words

Please click here to read the entire post.

Also click here to read my article ENGAGEMENT: Invite vs Direct

During this past week, I have had many life-giving teaching conversations.

We are piloting a new curriculum for literacy and it is the most excited I have ever been for a program. Immersion is the word that comes to mind when I think of all the experiences which are created.

Students are immersed in a reading writing workshop where the pace is quick but not hurried. Every time I visit a classroom I forget about the time. Late last week I was in a 7th grade room where the students were working with character related to the setting in a novel.

In the debrief with the teacher I made the observation that students do not have a problem discussing what they are supposed to during the turn and talk portions of the lessons. Traditionally, if the routines are not clearly established students will go rogue with their conversations and talk about lunch or the neighborhood instead of what they are supposed to. It is often a struggle for teachers. In this program, I have not seen that at all. There might be a side comment but it is always AFTER they have discussed their point in relation to the materials. I asked the teacher why she thought that might be.

Weekend Coffee Share

It has been a fast week! I almost forgot it was Sunday time rolling back around. I think today I will have caramel syrup in my cup. I feel like having some sweet. What would you like to drink today?

If we were having coffee, I would tell you this week was full of meetings at work. There were after school meetings and lots of conversations with teachers about planning and ILearn our state mandated test. I did a lot of running around between the 3 buildings I go between as well.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I am excited Storyaday is starting next weekend. I do this challenge twice a year. In May and September I write a story a day. My online writing group came out of this challenge and I speak with at least one of the Superstars daily.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I took a writing class for 2 days. It pushed me out of my comfort zone a little. I had a hard time with the prompts which surprised me. They should have been within my wheelhouse. The prompts came later in the day and I was forced to write later in the evening after thinking about the prompt which is not my ideal time. I do have two new prompts to work with moving forward though. I will for sure use them again. It was fun to play. I did get two drafts done plus a third partial because of the class.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you the idea of making space has been on my mind. There is space for community and interaction. I am the type of person who is quite solitary but I can build up ideas to a point where I want to share. Most of the time this is through writing, but sometimes I need people. I need to carve out space for things that energize me which I have not done well with since school started back.

Making space for writing, reading, and exercise is important as well. Honestly, sometimes just taking a moment of stillness too. I have so many priorities!

I am part of several communities but the interaction is not always at the level I crave at the moment. The 2 day class didn’t allow for the type of interaction among writers as a longer one allows so connections were not really formed sadly. I still haven’t quite figured out how to do that either which is part of the problem. Medium is a community as well and I interact with other writers through their pieces. I have my AW group also.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I got into a flash fiction class for the end of September which I am excited about.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I picked up some great books at the library this week including The Little Swedish Kitchen! If anything it will inspire a story. I also picked up There, There have you read it? I keep hearing wondering comments about it.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you …this is your prompt! Finish the sentence for me. What have you been thinking about?

You can read the entire post here.

10 On Tuesday #SOL19

A writing prompt and a routine memory:

When I had my own classroom I provided a journal prompt on Tuesdays called 10 on Tuesday. I would provide a topic and the students would write a list of 10 things that fit.

I had an option in my room if students were compelled to write something they could “chuck” the topic — they just needed to let me know.

Some students would write a list of 10 words, some would write a list of sentences. Some would take an item from their list and write more about it or simply tell the whole story.

It was a change in format which met the needs of all of my writers.

Now on Tuesdays, I listen to Laura Tremaine’s “10 Things to Tell You” podcast. Listening this morning reminded me of this past activity. My writing prompt this morning was also a list so this post seemed appropriate!

I was going to write 10 Things I am Grateful For but decided instead to take a spin from Laura’s “What are your intentions?” topic.

My 10 on Tuesday:

I intend to live my day with fire today.

I intend to do at least one yoga pose.

I intend to write.

I intend to have meaningful, life giving conversations with teachers today.

I will intentionally listen to what needs my teachers are telling me through conversations.

I intend to pay attention to my surroundings today.

I intend to write down 5–10 experiences from my day.

I intend to write down a random memory.

I intend to smile and say hello to as many students today to celebrate Llama Tuesday!

I intend to enjoy a beverage when I get home from work.

What are your intentions today?

You can read this post on Medium here.

Writing Life VS Coaching Life

An examination of my identities

I identify myself multiple ways and with several labels.

I am a writer, a teacher, a coach, a runner, a friend, a wife, and a mother.

These main identities take over my daily to do lists and the habits I create in my life. Typically my thinking is organic of a thinker as I am, I do like a framework to navigate within. The caveat for me is I need to create the system. These systems often look like habits and routines for me and often overlap between my coach life and my writing life.

I have come to learn that perfectionism is not achievable. I strive toward it, but sometimes a project is good enough just to exist. I have learned it is a step in the process. This applies to writing, teaching and improving in general.

This past week I went back to work in a new role. I changed from coaching between two grade levels in one building to two separate schools spanning four grade levels. There are only about 4 people I knew before Monday in these schools. There was a lot of “peopling”. I had to introduce myself and my skills and start to build meaningful relationships so we can all work together.

To read the rest of this post click here.

A Beginner’s Guide to Starting Fresh

Advice for starting with a new batch of coworkers

Starting work with new people can be intimidating but relationships matter. Here are some actions I kept in mind this past week as I started fresh with two new groups of colleagues.

  1. Go to the lunch you are invited to even if you are an introvert and usually do not eat lunch.
  2. Listen more than you talk.
  3. Smile
  4. Offer to help even if it is something small
  5. Ask questions — people like to talk about themselves and their roles
  6. Visit their environment but keep it low key.
  7. Don’t try to change anything…yet.

As I made the rounds yesterday in one of the new schools I now work in, I had quick conversations. The question I had at the ready was, “What is your favorite thing to teach?” Most of the teachers said math which was surprising to me. One showed off her wall of vocabulary.

I got even was gifted a loaf of fresh bread.

I heard from a reading teacher that a 10 minute number activity was something that changed her teaching. I always love hearing stories like this one. I was thrilled she shared it with me.

One teacher told me she was afraid of writing so we are working on it together this first trimester.

All week there was lots of peopling but I think it is going to be worth it. I am encouraged and excited for this year!

Weekend Coffee Share

Thank you for joining me for coffee today on this hot hot summer day! I am so glad you are here with me and it is to be a day full of sunshine.

I am having my regular strong black coffee. What would you like today? I have some iced tea if you like, or do you want something stronger today?

To read the rest of this post please click here. Please comment and clap (I believe you can clap up to 30 times).

Birthday Weekend Coffee Share

I am excited you have joined me for coffee today. It is Father’s day in the US and my birthday. I think we will have some birthday cupcakes this morning to celebrate but no singing.

I am having a Butter Brew coffee with a shot of espresso for the occasion. What would you like today?

If we were having coffee, I would tell you this week has been full of ups and downs.

To read the rest of this post please click here. Please comment and clap (I believe you can clap up to 30 times).