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Tools of the Trade: Using Objects to Spark Memory Writing

by Kelly Virgin

In Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas a little boy literally interprets explanations of memories and brings a collection of objects to his aging neighbor. At first the neighbor, Miss Nancy Allison Delacort Cooper, thinks the boy is strange, but then as she handles each object she begins to remember…

This story of friendship proves how powerful objects can be in provoking strong and vivid memories. With this in mind, my students and I spent a week observing the tangible in hopes of triggering the intangible.

My life is like…

Students spent some time twisting and bending a piece of wire into a shape that is representative of them or significant to them in some way. Once everyone had shaped their wire, we studied a quick mentor text titled “My Life has Been like a Basketball Game.” Finally, students wrote about how their life has been like their shape. Students conjured up memories to explain and make connections to musical instruments, game controllers, pets, vehicles, etc.

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Tools of the Trade: Creating Student Bloggers in 5 Easy-To-Follow Steps

By Kelly Virgin

It is estimated that 2 million blog posts are written everyday. That is over 10 million per week.

The sheer amount of content makes learning about and teaching this writing task daunting. Nevertheless, my students and I faced this challenge head on as we worked together to craft and publish the first of what will hopefully be many posts on our new blog – khscreativewriters.edublogs.org. The following is the step-by-step approach we used to get comfortable and confident with blogging.

Step 1: Write!

Before I introduced the blogging writing task, I wanted students to have a wealth of ideas to pull from for their first posts. So, we spent a few class periods writing to gather ideas. First, we curated expert lists. Students had five minutes to list as many topics they considered themselves “experts” on. After we listed and discussed some of our expertise, we returned to the items and brainstormed types of writing we could do on the different topics. For example, one student who considers himself an expert on backpacking realized he could write a how-to guide or keep a journal of his backpacking trips.

Another list we created Read more

Teacher-to-Teacher: Transition By Janice Ewing

“Write down three words that come into your mind when you hear the word ‘transition’.” This is how we opened our first PAWLP Continuity session of the fall season. (You might want to list your three words now.) The follow-up suggestion was to simply share the three words with a partner. What naturally emerged, though, were extended and rich conversations about the reasons and feelings behind the words that were listed. We then asked participants to highlight the one word from their list they would be most likely to write more about. This encouraged everyone to reflect on which of the words held the most energy, significance, or tension for them. (If you have written down your three words, you might want to highlight one now.)

 

In our whole group sharing, people thoughtfully shared a variety of reactions to the idea of transition. One way of looking at the responses is that they could be categorized according to a binary of positive, e.g. exciting, new, opportunities, and negative, e.g. uncertain, overwhelming, scary. I’m wondering how else we might organize them, though.

Some people highlighted the word that seemed to encompass the others on their list. Others chose the one that stood out for one of the reasons mentioned above. Each of the words that was shared, whether it was the highlighted one or not, represented a story, or multiple stories, waiting to be revealed. Within the layers of those stories are questions waiting to be explored. (Look at your highlighted word again. What is the story behind it? What question or questions does it raise?)

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Tools of the Trade: Poster Walk the Reader’s Interest Inventory

By Kelly Virgin

Like many teachers I spend time in the fall getting to know my students as readers. I try to learn as much as I can about their reading habits, interests, triggers, opinions, and self-perceptions. Up until a few years ago I gathered this early information by administering reading surveys. Students quietly and individually answered questions about their reading habits that I collected, reviewed, and filed away for reference during future conversations.

However, I realized the questions I was asking should be asked and explored publicly. It isn’t only beneficial for me to get to know my students as readers, but it is also essential for them to get to know each other as readers. So I took that individualized reader’s interest survey and made it visible with a poster walk/discussion.

Now students, armed with a Sharpie marker, spend time meandering around the classroom posting their responses to a variety of prompts. I encourage discussion as they visit posters headed with open-ended questions such as why do you (or should you) read and what topics are you most interested in reading about. I ask them to circle around a second time to notice trends in response to yes or no questions such as do you read for fun and do you enjoy being read to. I give them an opportunity to learn each other’s reading preferences and resources by inviting them to mark their favorite genres and indicate the top sources for their reading materials.

After we spend time posting, noticing, and discussing our reading habits as a class, I ask students to study and hypothesize about some nationwide data on the declining reading habits of adolescents over time. Since their own class data is visible on the walls around them, they are able to situate themselves into the national data and engage in more meaningful and productive conversations. When I meet with readers for conferences in the future I’m able to use this activity and their reflections as a starting point for our conversations. Moreover, students have taken a vital step towards developing stronger literacy habits – they’ve begun to engage in meaningful and thoughtful reading discussions with their peers.

How do you get to know your students as readers at the beginning of the year? What other types of literacy discussions do you have with your classes?

Teacher to Teacher: Celebrate Change

by Lynne R. Dorfman

As new technologies, new staff, and new initiatives cycle through every district’s education system, change is inevitable. While teachers and administrators are approached with changes, appropriate response is vital for successful implementation. Choosing to respond rather than reacting to change will enhance the success of any endeavor. When you react, it is easy to feel helpless and frustrated, but if you respond to change, then you accept what is and choose to let it affect you positively. Three rules that will help create a positive experience with change are:

1. Be clear on how you want to handle change.
2. Set realistic goals for change.
3. Let change open new doors and point us in new directions.

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Sharing My Process: The Power of Moodling

By Paige Britt

As a writer, one of the most difficult parts of my process is time. There’s never enough of it! How do I finish my never-ending to-do list, both at work and at home, and find the time to write?Why am I me

When I first started getting serious about my writing, I thought my time had to be spent, well, writing. Butt in chair, fingers on the keyboard. If I wasn’t writing—filling that white space with little black letters, watching my word count rise—then I felt like I hadn’t been productive.

I had taken what I’d learned from the corporate world and applied it to the writing process. In one of my jobs at an Internet startup, I had to log everything I did each day in fifteen intervals. I was constantly on the clock, trying to achieve measurable results.

When I started working on my first novel, part of me felt like writing was supposed to be that way, too. That I had to work fast and be efficient. But then one day my husband brought home a book by Brenda Ueland called If You Want to Write. In it she said, “The imagination needs moodling–long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.”

Dawdling? Puttering? Moodling? Did I really have permission to do that?

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