Writing Magic

It’s 8:30 a.m.  My eager writers are ready to dig into their ongoing writing projects.  At the top of their lists are the books they are writing about endangered species.

The authors quickly retrieve their folders, spread out their drafts, and begin drafting, revising, editing, or illustrating.  Watching them work, it is obvious that they are deeply invested in the animals they chose to research and the writing process they are using to share their knowledge.  The focused energy in the room is amazing.

Occasionally, someone realizes more information is needed and he/she sets off to do some additional research.

More than once, excitement sends students scurrying to find me so they can share their latest discoveries.

“Mrs. V, did you know that the Arctic fox uses its long, bushy tail to keep its nose warm?  That’s an adaptation!”

“Is that so?  Did you include that information in your book?”

And…

“Mrs. V., Mrs. V.!  Guess what? If the Arctic wolf becomes extinct, its predators might not find enough food and become endangered!  OR…Their prey will overpopulate the area, and it will be chaos!  I need to include that information in my book…wait…should it be in a fact box or should I just write it in the chapter on environmental threats?”

“Which method will get your point across most effectively?”

“I think a fact box.  Thank you, Mrs. V.!”

And yet another…

“Let me tell you about those sea turtles, Mrs. V…”

All too soon, our class time comes to an end.  There are moans and groans and a few, “What?! It’s time already?” questions.

Not every writing workshop unfolds this smoothly, but I cherish the days when they do.  When learners are in that flow state, they get to experience one of the greatest joys of writing.

That is when the magic begins.

An Exercise in Gratitude

Some days are difficult.  Today was one of those days.  To pull myself out of the negativity that surrounds me, I am going to reflect on the things that happened today for which I am grateful.

  1. Bella’s daily hugs-Everyday she blesses me with a hug as she enters my room and a hug as she exits my room.
  2. Engaged, happy students-Today my learners worked on using the Chrome Music Lab to create songs and add them to their blogs.  They were completely immersed in the experience!
  3. A laugh with my neighbors-Believe it or not, the building next door to me is my dentist’s office, and he and his staff are the best neighbors.  I had a routine appointment after school.  We talked, laughed, and caught up.
  4. Giving good news-I was able to share with a teacher of record that her student is doing great.  In fact, his jolly nature made lots of people feel joyful today!
  5. Chatting with friends-I was able to speak with two primary teachers today before school.  They are friends, as well as prayer warriors, and I am grateful to chat briefly with both of them.  I also chatted for a very brief moment after school with a dear long-time colleague and friend.
  6. Fresh air and sunshine-I was able to enjoy the sunshine on my face at recess.
  7. Jeans week-I am wearing jeans to work all week to help the fundraising efforts for Dollars for Scholars.
  8. Dinner-My husband cooked a delicious dinner on this busy evening.  I am indeed blessed.
  9. Teach Write-Tuesday evenings with the most awesome writing group ever…priceless!

My positive experiences today definitely outweigh the negative.  For that, I am grateful.

A Magical Experience

monicore / Pixabay

There is something special, almost magical, when someone takes the time to read your work and leave a specific comment.  I have witnessed this magic every time my learners log on to their blog pages and see that other students or teachers have made positive comments that speak to the posts’ content or the writing.  The scenario looks a little something like this:

“Mrs. V.! Look.  Hurry!”

“What is it?” I ask excitedly.

“A student (or teacher) from Barcelona, Spain (or any number of other places) left a comment on my blog post!  You have to look at it!”

“I’d love to!”  I excitedly read the comment and ask, “What do you think about that? What do you think you will write in reply?”

Then I listen as the students tell me what they think are appropriate comments.  Afterwards, they scurry back to where they are working and get to the task of writing replies.   They are so careful with their own comments and replies as they revise and edit to ensure they are writing clearly and making as few mistakes as possible.  It is quite magical to watch, really, and it affirms my belief in having authentic audiences outside of the classroom.

I appreciate opportunities, such as the Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge, that provide these rich experiences.  My students are immersed in the magical world of writing, and I know the memories of these experiences will last a lifetime.

The Student Blogging Challenge

Student Blogging Challenge Badge Participants 2019

My students have been blogging since 2011, but blogging became more relevant for all of them when they started completing the Edublog’s Student Blogging Challenge.  Before the challenge, my students posted comments on one another’s blogs, parents sometimes visited and commented, and occasionally an Edublogs teacher from around the world would leave a comment.  There wasn’t enough interaction to keep them interested, and after awhile, the blogging would get stale.

For the past two years, though, my learners have participated in the blogging challenge offered by Edublogs.  This has been just what my kiddos needed to experience fully the value of blogging.  Here are some of the benefits:

  • Each week of the challenge focuses on an aspect of blogging, such as creating pages, learning to add pictures and other media, writing great comments, etc.  My students are learning the ins and outs of blogging.
  • They are receiving and replying to comments from teachers and students around the world.  The excitement they feel when they open their blog page and see comments from people all over the world (Ireland, Australia, Austria, etc.) is contagious. Every person in the class celebrates and shares their comments.
  • They are visiting and commenting on the blog posts of students from around the world.  The need for self-editing and revising becomes more apparent to them!
  • It’s just plain fun!  My students cannot wait to log on to their blog pages each day!

It’s authentic, fun, and there’s nearly instant feedback.  I highly recommend this blogging challenge to any teachers wishing to start a blogging habit with students!

 

Third Graders, Chromebooks, and New Blogs…Oh My!

What was I thinking?

Today I attempted to introduce blogging to third graders on Chromebooks that they are just really learning to use.  Students in grades 3 and up are required to have their own blogs in my school. As the writing teacher in my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade team, it is my responsibility to meet this requirement.  This means that I get to undertake this monumental task with the youngest learners in my charge.

Today’s session looked something like this:

Me: Okay.  Log into your Chromebooks and open Google Chrome. (Hands immediately go up.)

S1: My screen is frozen.

S2: I don’t have a password.

Me: Give your screen a second. It’s the same password you always use to log on to the Chromebook.

S2: Okay. I got it.

A chorus of voices begins to rise: What do we do next? What do we do next?

S1: My screen is still frozen.

Me: Try another Chromebook.  Everyone else, put your cursor into your address bar and type in our class blog address.  (I demonstrate using the white board and projector.)  Be sure to spell it correctly.  Once you are there, find your blog link on the left side of the page. (I am still modeling this.) Log in to your blog using your Google log in information. (What seems like a million hands shoot up.  I spend the next 15 minutes going from student to student to make sure they are spelling everything correctly, etc.)

S1: I am logged in!  Now what do I do?

Me: Ask your neighbor.  (Neighbor gladly helps.)

S3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8: I can’t find my blog.  Where’s my blog?

Me: I put all of you in.  You must be there.  Let’s look again…Nope.  Hmmm…Class, those of you who are in, please bookmark your page and get your writing notebook.  You may free write for a moment…(or two or three…)

I spend the next 10 minutes frantically recreating blogs for the six whose blogs are missing.

Finally, we are all at the same point.  I reconvene the entire group and decide to slow the process even more to one excruciatingly slow step at a time.  Eventually, every student is on his/her blog and writing his/her first blog post.  I sink into a chair, slowly let out my breath, and look at the clock.

Me: Oh my goodness!  It’s time to go!  (Quickly demonstrate how to save a draft.) Quick, quick.  We’ll finish tomorrow.

Again, what WAS I thinking???

 

 

 

 

TeachWritetober 2019: My Goals

Taken from https://sweetwritinglife.blogspot.com

 

TeachWritetober…what a cool name, right?  I am excited to commit to something that I believe I can manage to complete despite the chaotic busyness of my teaching and personal lives.  For the next 31 days, I am going to work toward these goals:

  • Journal every day…This includes anytime pages and writing in a food journal that I am keeping.  I also keep a daily gratitude list in my Daylio app.  Lately, my gratitude writing has consisted of single sentences.  I would like to get back to writing more in depth entries.
  • I would like to write and post a slice of life blog post at least two Tuesdays this month.  This post will count as one.  Perhaps my goal for the next slice will be to post an update about my daily writing progress this month.
  • I would also like to get back to the novel writing work I was doing this summer.  This work, inspired by the book Story Genius and the Teach Write Focus on Fiction workshop I took this summer, was put on the back burner when school started.  I would like to at least work through the next chapter’s exercises in the Story Genius book.

So, those are my goals for TeachWritetober19.  Have you signed up?  What are your goals?

Writing Alongside My Classroom of Authors

As the mini-lesson about fleshing out characters ends, I send my young authors away from our meeting place to work on revising their personal narratives.  I remind them to consider how they can make their characters more human, more realistic, so that their readers will be able to connect with them.

While everyone is settling, I sit down with own writer’s notebook and begin to consider the revisions my students suggested for fleshing out the character in my own narrative.  We had decided that she was too perfect (or too Goody Two Shoes, as one student pointed out.  Another quickly said, “No one is THAT good!”).  Of course, they were right.  My plan was to work on giving this character some imperfect traits.  I planned to share my revisions right along with my students during the sharing time.

As I write, I notice that several of my kiddos get up to move closer to the table where I chose to work today.  I smile.  This happens every time.  They get right back to work but every now and then, I see them sneaking glances to watch me as I write, also.  Before long, I notice that they are moving their post it note revision suggestions around, spider-legging (adding items to the bottom of the page and drawing arrows to where it should go), and adding additional scenes on separate sheets of paper.  We continue writing until it is sharing time.  I answer a few questions here and there and occasionally walk around the room to see if anyone needs help.  Everyone is working and seems to understand what they are doing.

I am constantly amazed that writing alongside my writers holds so much power.  I could talk all day about these revision strategies, but watching as I apply these strategies to my own writing gives them a model to follow and practice.  As a bonus, I am getting lots of opportunity to sharpen my own narrative writing skills.  It’s a win-win situation.

A Reflection

Nietjuh / Pixabay

This year begins my 26th year of teaching.  My school has been in session now for nearly four weeks.  My goodness! We are almost to midterm already.  As I reflect on this school year and my other twenty-five school year beginnings, I realize that despite the frustrations and realities of the teaching world, I deep down passionately love what I do.  I can’t imagine my life without teaching.

So, what do I love about it?

  • I know and love the people of the community in which I teach.  I have reached the point of having taught parents and their children.  There is something special about that.  I cherish the relationships I have developed with families over the years.
  • My students teach me so much about learning and growing and resilience.
  • I love helping my learners realize and grow their potential.  I truly believe that they will change the world and make it better.
  • Teaching never gets stale.  It evolves from year to year as I learn new things.  I enjoy self-directed professional development.
  • I can share my passion for writing with my students and watch them with wonder as they discover their writing voices.

I do truly love what I do.  Admittedly, there are great days and not so great days, but overall, teaching is a positive and rewarding experience.  I know this is where I am meant to be.

Improving My Craft, Part One

Along with many teachers, I spend my summers soaking up learning like I soak up the sun.  There are many things from my reading and writing experiences this summer that I will implement in my classroom this year.  Modeling how I approach fiction writing is one of them.  Instead of considering the plot first, my learners and I will explore developing main characters, their backstories, and their problems first.  From this viewpoint, my learners will have a focus for developing the plots of their stories.

This idea comes from Story Genius by Lisa Cron.  I am reading this book for the Focus on Fiction workshop I am taking through Teach Write.  In her book, she applies research from brain science to writing fiction.  I have not yet finished the book, as I am taking my time to work through the exercises and truly grasp what the author is saying.  So far, the story I am writing is more purposeful and my characters are more realistic than in other fiction pieces I have written.  Also, there seems to be more ease in moving the story forward.  I am a long way from having a complete first draft, but the bits and pieces I have created so far thrill me and motivate me to continue.

I am excited to see what my learners come up with as they approach their stories from this perspective.  This fall will be an exciting time in my classroom!

My Imperfect Life

I am learning to enjoy my imperfect life.  Each imperfect facet of my life adds color, flavor, and inspiration. Learning to let go of the need for perfection has allowed me to see the richness and spontaneity that come from life’s unexpected moments.

For example, on the way to my house for the annual July 4th cookout, my mother ran over something in the street.  Later, my niece noticed that mom’s tire was completely flat.  My husband and son-in-law jumped to it and fixed it in a jiffy.  They were almost as fast as a pit crew in the Indy 500.  This unexpected event gave us all the opportunity to marvel at their speed and efficiency.

Also, my sister and brother in law unexpectedly brought over massive fireworks.  Awesome, right? Yes, but we live in town, and my overactive imagination could see the neighbors’ houses, or my own, igniting into giant, uncontrollable blazes.  Each time my husband and brother in law lit the fuse on one of the huge barrels or boxes, I oohed and aahed, but I cringed inside.  My guests were enthralled by the show, so I did my best to keep my fears to myself.  I found, though, that my excessive worry was not needed.  My husband carefully ensured the safety of everyone and everything, and he had the hose ready to attack any rogue sparks.  This experience gave me an opportunity to deepen my trust of my husband and his ability to keep everyone safe.

At one point in my life, these unplanned events would have, in my mind, ruined the holiday gathering.  However, I am learning to let go of the rigid and antiseptic world of perfectionism and go with the flow.  Those imperfect moments create memories and often new understandings.  I will always hold myself to high expectations, but I now understand the importance of freeing myself from the bondage of expecting perfection in everything and everyone. My life is all the richer for it.