Writing Voice

Writing With Possibility, Power, and Voice

Yesterday was a district e-learning day. Students were at home with assignments on Google Classroom and teachers were in various buildings all over the district in professional development workshops.

The session I was in charge of was about Cornelius Minor’s writing workshop I attended this summer.

One of the main points is verbalization – the talking before the writing. Minor suggest using visuals that are interesting and relevant to students. Students needs practice with concepts 9-10 times before they have to produce written products that exemplify the concepts.

One of the activities we did was to find a meaningful picture on their phone. Then teachers paired up with someone they did not know and share the story of the picture. It build community and gave everyone practice telling a story they could later writer.

The teachers did quickwrites and sharing protocols. My intent was to have 2 hours of interaction and conversation about writing. I am happy to say – it worked!

I was impressed with the participation and work from these teachers. It made me proud to be part of this profession.

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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!

A Trip Down Memory Lane…Kinda #SOL19

Every Tuesday I post a slice of life and share in the challenge at Two Writing Teachers.

Lately, I have noticed shadows of things that I thought were new to my life but actually are not. It is amazing what reflection can bring forth.

I think of myself as a reflective person, and not just at the end of the school year. I always want to learn and become better and reflection is a large part of this process in my opinion.

With my discovery of short stories and I being creative soul mates over the recent last couple of years, I did not think that I had that much experience with short stories before. I had no recollection of reading many of them in high school other than The Celestial Omnibus . I do have a special place in my heart for this story, which is why I suspect it stands out.

Yesterday, while looking for something else, I stumbled across my ELA folder from school. In my corporation, writing samples were saved in a district folder that followed you from elementary to senior year where it was given to you unceremoniously. I have kept it all these years.

Curious, I started thumbing through it and was reminded of papers I wrote for Macbeth and for Of Mice and Men…then I stumbled on papers in connection to short stories.

One is WINTER DREAMS by F Scott Fitzgerald. I printed it off and began reading. I don’t remember reading it at all! It was a trip down memory lane – slight skewed.

I wrote a paper about Judy Jones and her many personality aspects. It isn’t the most riveting paper I must say. I had strong opinions and did not like this character much at all!

I look forward to finding new stories to read that I have read before. It will be like the first time…again.

Stay #SOL19

image-11

It’s Tuesday and I’m joining the writing community over at Two Writing Teachers with a weekly Slice of Life Story.

Today’s Emily P. Freeman word is STAY.

STAY today refers to being in the present moment. You can only be in one place at a time. I suppose this is mostly true. As a writer, I am physically only in one place at a time, but mentally I am usually somewhere else. This is sometimes in one of my own story creations. Sometimes I am in a memory mining it for details that will add panache to the story I am working on.

When I am reading I am in the character’s head feeling and thinking what they are, often trying to anticipate their next move. Or I am trying to figure out the craft moves the writer made to have me feel the way I do about a character, setting, or story line so I can use it later.

I find it difficult to be in the moment. I am working on it. I know I should do one thing at a time but there is so much to learn. Everyone I meet has something I don’t know.

I have been tired lately. More tired than I should be. Last night I watched the movie The Professor and the Madman which my husband and I had been looking forward to. It did not disappoint. It is the story of how the Oxford dictionary came to be. It took extraordinary dedication and focus to have this book come to fruition. 70 years from the first conception in fact. Dr. Minor was meticulous in his mad state about the history and definition of words. He was in the moment for sure – for long stretches of time. I kept thinking of how much energy was put into this project and how many obstacles everyone had to overcome.

I am trying to find the right ratio of input vs output without driving myself mad. I love input of all sorts – deep conversation, reading, podcasts, etc. Outputs are likely interactions and writing lately. I know I have not found the right ratio when I am angry or overly tired.

Reflection and slowing down are both critical attributes for this process. I am glad that today I can breathe and think about it.

Dunes Run #SOL

Yesterday I went for a second spring run at the National Dunes Lakeshore. I am lucky to live in Northwest Indiana and to have access to this park. I didn’t visit the park until I was an adult runner even though I have lived here most of my life.

I wandered down trail 9 yesterday. Essentially, I ran the trail backwards from how I normally run it. The “normal” route is to go down trail 10 and then up on the ridge and then down trail 9 back to the parking lot. There were several cars in the Wilson Shelter parking lot due to the beautiful weather yesterday. It was near 70 degrees here. During the week there has been no admission fee which makes me feel like I am getting away with something. On my way out I noticed a man at the entrance booth. hee hee

As I ran trail 9 I noticed to the left of the path the brown leaves are decaying on their own timeline. To my right the ground looked burnt and reminded me of the lava fields of Kona, Hawaii. I assume it was a controlled burn supervised by the park rangers. It was surreal to see and I moved along.

Looking at the black leaves, a smoldering fire, and smoke cloud I thought about how much I like the idea of fire.

Sometimes you need to light a fire.

Sometimes you need to stoke your internal fire and follow your passion.

Sometimes you need to burn a project to the ground and start over.

Gathering ideas are like gathering twigs in the woods. Starting the project is like lighting a fire. Sometimes I start the fire/new project too early because I am excited. I light the kindling, but then I do not have anything else to feed the fire with and it goes out! To avoid this catastrophe, I’m working on gathering my resources and organizing my most recent project so I can start a fire that can burn for a long time.

A cool tree along trail 9

I was happy to run outside yesterday. I needed to be in nature, it is I way I refuel.

How do you refuel yourself?

A Good Writing Day! #SOL19

I participate in the TWOWRITINGTEACHERS.ORG Slice of Life Challenge every Tuesday.

I started the day writing my stories for Camp NaNoWriMo. I am using a plot structure for at least one of the stories and started to flesh it out around the framework I already created. It is going ok but I do not find it as exciting as my normal writing I must admit. I have two other structures I am going to play with as well for this series of stories.

I read my poem, essay, and short story for the day. The short story I listened to from the New Yorker Fiction podcast which was interesting. I liked the commentary afterwards.

I met my writing friend at a local restaurant and we wrote together. I brought a prompt and she brought a prompt. It was great fun and then we talked about what we wrote. It was surprsing what I came up with and it was fulfilling. I have a seed for another short story now.

I had my online group monthly Zoom call. There really wasn’t much talking about writing. We did some sprints. I had already written a lot so I cut out early.

What kind of writing day did you have?

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.

It’s A Beautiful Morning! #SOLC Day 26

Running made me a morning person. I used to get up before 5am everyday and run no matter what the weather or the mood. I am not training for anything now however.

I keep hearing and reading lots about morning routines. The information centers around creativity, productivity and being a leader which I enjoy. I also like reading about routines especially when they are about the process or writing.

I like the Ninja Writers W.R.I.T.E.R. acronym: For 10 minutes each Write-READ-IDEAS-EXERCISE-REVIEW but I do not stick to it.

I have read a lot of about other people’s routines here.

I do have morning routines for home and school.

My ideal morning routine is to wake up naturally, have coffee in bed with my husband, write and read for several hours, and then run outside.

At school I try to freewrite before my official day starts. I either write what comes to mind organically or use a prompt I am feeling that day. Many times it is something that was sparked by a podcast that I listen to on my way to work.

When the day starts I look at my bullet journal and what I have for the day. I double check email to make sure that I have everything on the list. I pour a cup of hot Joe and then get started.

I feel like my mental clarity has been better the last couple of weeks which is refreshing. Throughout the day I read my Bradbury Trio. There just isn’t enough time in the morning to get that all in!

What is your morning routine?