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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Readwise #SOLC Day 17

Happy St Patrick’s Day! Usually, we make corned beef and cabbage and have soda bread but this year is a bit more regular and simple. I wore my green to a workshop on Friday.

An app called Readwise is linked to my Amazon account and therefore my kindle. I receive a once a week email including some of the highlights I have made in the books that I have read.

Here are some of the highlights I received this week. It is an interesting look into my reading history.

As a writing exercise, I will take a couple of these quotes and use them as freewriting prompts.

10% Happier by Dan Harris
Working for Peter was like sticking your head in a lion’s mouth:
thrilling, but not particularly safe. (Location 182)Y

This book was recommended to me by a coworker. It was interesting and I liked reading about meditation but it did not change my behavior around the practice. I did really like this line though.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
She wanted to bottle how safe she felt in this moment, so she could
drink of it later when loneliness and fear left her parched. (Location 284)

I read The Nightingale and All the Light We Cannot See right after each other. I wished I could bottle safety myself and wish I would have written this line!

Dear Life by Alice Munro
In fact they embraced it, diving into it and wrapping the familiar
words round their tongues as if they were a candy that could last forever. (Location 209)

Being a short story writer I love Alice Munro. I only recently learned of her so this is a more recent read. I love words and the idea of them being candy like resonated with me.

Inside the Box by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg
Subtraction works by eliminating an essential component of a system (a product or process). (Location 706)

This book was recommended by a speaker at the International Reading Association conference. It was about problem solving and was fascinating. I have gone back to this book on many occasions.

A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman
Year’s resolution was to live his life like it’s an art project. (Location 2175)

Ah! Emily! If you are a reader of my blog you know I LOVE Emily P Freeman. I love projects and challenges and loved the equation of life to the project.

We Wanted to Be Writers by Eric Olsen, Glenn Schaeffer, and
Bill Manhire
Or try to walk, a walking meditation. Don’t talk. That scares away the light. (Location 3293)Y

I found out about the Iowa Writing Workshop from Oprah actually. Once I learned about this writing mecca I searched for everything I could read about the program and the writers. This book is only one of them.

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
The stories shatter. Or you wear them out or leave them behind.
Over time the story or the memory loses its power. Over time you
become someone else. (Location 1348)

Solnit is a beautiful writer. I adore her patterns and style. Her words speak to me in a very mindful way.

Tangerine by Christine Mangan
Tangier and Lucy were the same, I thought. Both unsolvable riddles
that refused to leave me in peace. (Location 1632)

This was a book about friendship – or the illusion of it at least. I loved this line.

Creative Schools by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica
Effective teaching is a constant process of adjustment… (Location 1724)

Ken Robinson! Oh yes! His books are fantastic and I love to hear his presentations on YouTube. He is brilliant.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
He’d do what he always did, find the sweet among the bitter. (Location 4260)Y

Such is life, yes? I read this book for a book club years ago. I would have never picked it up otherwise.

Thanks for reading and looking into a slice of my reading life! It is fun to revisit lines that struck me as I read. I am looking forward to the writing later too!

Happy Irish Sunday!

Note: I wrote my coffee share post yesterday – if you are looking for it it is day 16 this week.

The Next Right Thing Launch Team

I am super excited to announce I am on Emily P. Freeman’s book launch team. If you are not familiar with Emily check out her podcast here.

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The book is being released at the beginning of April. There will be exciting preorder bonuses you will want to get in on!

Within the next couple of weeks, you will be hearing more about the book and Emily’s words of wisdom.

STAY TUNED!

Notes

I found some notes today labeled “Life Writing” Zadie Smith. I read her book Feel Free and these are a few snippets I took from the book.

If you’re going to write a diary, it should be like this, it should be utterly free, honest.”

I realize I don’t want any record of my days. I have the kind of brain that erases everything that passes, almost immediately, like that dust pan and brush dog in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, sweeping up the path as he progresses along it. I never know what I was doing on what date, or how old I was when this or that happened – and I like it that way.”

I feel like the second quote sometimes.

What quotes are sticking with you today?

Reluctance and Reading

boy sitting near radio holding white catalog
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I am a reluctant reader….sometimes.

My students are reluctant readers…sometimes.

Unfortunately, some students are labeled RELUCTANT READERS as their primary reading identity and it needs to stop.

In the realm of education, the phrase reluctant reader gets thrown around a lot. I believe there is some truth in this phrase. I also believe that some students have not found the right text to make them into a reader.

I say text purposefully because it isn’t always a book. It could be a blog, a graphic novel, tweets, articles, etc.

Different factors make up our reading identity. Reluctance a small part of a reader’s identity no matter how old you are. I have an inbox of school emails that I am reluctant to read. I can procrastinate for as long as I can but I have adult deadlines. I have put some of this reading in my bullet journal and there are arrows moving certain tasks to the next day for DAYS. Can you relate?

I have to read a 20 page article for a meeting on Thursday. Am I reluctant? YOU BETCHA!

I too am a reluctant reader.

Am I a reluctant reader all the time? Absolutely not. Neither are our students, and we need to stop saying it.

I can be a reluctant reader for book club too – a book I am supposed to like that I am not enjoying as much. Can I appreciate the character development? Yes. Can I talk about it and notice the positives? Yes.

This is not the only factor that gets a bolded capital label for students. Reading level is another issue. These factors are part of the process of how we become a better reader. We need to remember to look at the whole child, not just numbers.

Labels can be helpful and dangerous. I am trying to find the new balance for where I stand.

Most of the time, I would rather be reading. That is part of my identity too.

What are your thoughts?

 

Mentor Text Monday!

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Any Amy Krouse Rosenthal book is a great read aloud but this book is FUN and is really a springboard for creative thinking.

After reading Yes Day, students will create and write about the events of their special day.

The endpapers of the book provide some brainstorming ideas:

  • Not Gonna Happen Day
  • Never Day
  • International symbol day
  • Talk Backward Day

I have had kids create ICE CREAM DAY, READ DAY, and EAT DAY!

Happy Reading! Happy Writing!

Weekend Coffee Share

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It is Sunday! Let’s meet at a bookstore today shall we? I just finished The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle and I would find the book and show it to you.

If we were having coffee mine would be really strong. I like dark roast and drink it black. What are you having? If we stay a long while I may have a caramel macchiato. I am a sucker for caramel but only treat myself once in while. Today is an occasion for that, don’t you think? The cafe in this bookstore is nice…maybe we can share a scone or a piece of pumpkin or apple pie. I will let you choose.

If we were having coffee I would tell you that I am really tired. We moved into a new house on September 24th. It was a stressful day and we moved everything in the afternoon and evening. We had our furniture and personal belongings in two separate place but only one truck. She was a beast but we got everything but 2 chairs and a box I cannot find. Those spices are somewhere! I am having trouble resting though. It feels like there is pressure and work everywhere and not a place to wind down.

If we were having coffee I would share with you that I am running again! I ran 10 miles last weekend and I ran 10 miles this weekend! I used to run 60-80 miles a week….I miss some things about those days but not the time that it took. I didn’t hate the last runs so that is positive. The bike trail where I run is picturesque. I know it is called a BIKE trail but the runners know it is really for them. 😉

If we were having coffee, we would have to talk about the challenges I particpate in and you might have to tell me that I am overdoing it. So far this year, I did the Two Writing Teachers blog challenge in March, I did Storyaday May, I did Storyaday September and I am planning to do NANOWRIMO in November. Then I would have to confess that I am doing a self imposed challenge combining two word lists – INKTOBER and 31 days of FMF or Five Minute Friday. I am revising some short stories that I am writing but cannot help to keep creating. I dare say it might be my new addiction. DO I need an intervention?

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I started a critique group with some fellow writers from the Storyaday Superstars and I am super excited about it. I really need feedback on the piece I sent to them (I am first) and I am hoping we can help each other become better writers.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I went to my real life writers group last Thursday. I was really proud of the story I took and the group was fascinated with the story separator I used. I must confess it was super cute. ha ha Several people read poems which were really good and another woman read a first person point of view piece about a real person she is making stories up about.

I want to hear about your challenges you are going through – self imposed or not! I want to hear about your hobbies. I want to hear about how you take care of yourself and rest!

#weekendcoffeeshare

Thursday Thoughts

wood explosion fire hot
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As the weather toys with getting cooler I think about the activities I like to do in front of the fireplace. I am always looking for the interesting around me. I enjoy recording these sparks for stories later, whether it is for my fiction or non-fiction. The non-fiction tends to be the blog and fiction tend to be short stories in my life. Sometimes, they bleed over into my verbal world as limited as I try to make it.

Yesterday I remembered that I used to write letters. I had pen pals starting in elementary school. It started with a family friend’s granddaughter that lived several towns over. To a 9-year-old, a 30-minute drive was worlds away. There was excitement in writing about my daily activities and putting those treasures of words into an envelope and sending them off and then anxiously awaiting the response, which was never quick enough for me.

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Soon, I found out about the concept of mail art and started making my own envelopes. I played with shapes and writing letters on different types of paper. It was not unusual during the month of October for me to cut out the shape of a large ghost and write a letter on him. I started shopping with my allowance at the Hallmark store for the fanciest paper I could afford. I am pretty sure I was the only 10 year old getting the Crane Stationary catalog in the mail.

One time, I sent my German grandmother a letter and put glitter in the folds of the paper. Not until it was safely in the mailperson’s hand did it occur to me that my very CLEAN and TIDY German grandmother may be upset with me when glitter fell all over her freshly cleaned floor if it was Wednesday…luckily she called me laughing after she had received my prose. The explosion of glitter had delighted her in the most unexpected and surprising way – THANK GOODNESS!

In late high school, I found Alexandra Stoddard’s book The Gift of a Letter and was amazed that someone else felt about letter writing the way I had for years. It was validating and a book I had reread numerous times.

I wrote to several friends in college and was always aiming for a full mailbox.

When I graduated college I read in a newspaper, maybe the New York Times, about The Letter Exchange: a magazine for letter writers that connected people with security in place.

As I took my letter journey I knew I had to pay attention to my life so I could write about it later. I really do wish I had copies of some of the letters I wrote. I thought of them as gifts to the person I was sending it to – just for that one person. A snippet of my life that I would share only with them.

The noticing I did for my letter writing has helped me now as a writer. I observe and record with abandon the experiences around me. The difference is I am writing and sharing the pieces in a much more formal way. Email just isn’t the same.

I am thinking I am might need to revisit letter writing…I may have to get back on that Crane stationary mailing list.

 

Do you write letters anymore?

A Revisit

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After some reflection, I realized I was introduced to short stories back in high school. In one of my English classes, we read The Celestial Omnibus by E.M. Forster and it has always stuck with me. I have reread it over the years several times. There is always something new that pops out to me each time. It was my introduction to magical realism and short story done well.

If you would like to read it you can find a copy here.

The beginning paragraph has always been a section I reread even when I do not have time to read the whole story.

The boy who resided at Agathox Lodge, 28, Buckingham Park Road, Surbiton, had often been puzzled by the old sign-post that stood almost opposite. He asked his mother about it, and she replied that it was a joke, and not a very nice one, which had been made many years back by some naughty young men, and that the police ought to remove it. For there were two strange things about this sign-post: firstly, it pointed up a blank alley, and, secondly, it had painted on it in faded characters, the words, “To Heaven.”

I did not know what an omnibus was and remember being glad this description was written in the story:

It had two horses, whose sides were still smoking from their journey, and its two great lamps shone through the fog against the alley’s walls, changing their cobwebs and moss into tissues of fairyland. The driver was huddled up in a cape. He faced the blank wall, and how he had managed to drive in so neatly and so silently was one of the many things that the boy never discovered. Nor could he imagine how ever he would drive out.

It is a story full of adventure and imagination! I highly recommend it.

Grateful Tuesday

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  1. Writer friends that talk writing

Superstars from Storyaday

My real life group that meets at the library

Other writers that are not connected

2. Beta readers

It is nice to have someone to trust

3. Skype and Zoom

4. Fall flavored coffee – Starbucks Fall Blend – Hearty with Spice Notes

5. The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

6. Writer notebooks

7. Stories

8. Cooler temps – thankful it is October!

9. Libraries

10. Love and acceptance

 

What is something you are thankful for today?

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