Archive for Educators
Hope your year has been rich with discovery and learning. As summer approaches, here’s something to consider:
“Use it or lose it” the old saying goes. And we know it’s true. That’s one of the reasons we develop summer reading programs: to reduce the “summer slide” that takes place when kids don’t read. It works, too. (www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/summer/research.htm)
Why can’t we stop the “summer slide” in writing as well by developing summer writing programs? We can. The program you create can be as simple or complex as you want. I prefer simple.
In a simple summer writing program, kids will need three things:
- Something in which to write (writing logs)
- Something to write
- An opportunity to celebrate their writing
Do you have your students bring in notebooks at the start of the year? If so, have you used them all? If not, there’s your summer writing logs. If notebooks are not available, you can create writing logs by simply stapling lined paper together and adding covers of construction paper. Or, of course, you can use any other bookmaking method you know about.
Provide students with options of things to write. What areas did you cover? You can make a list of them in the front of the logs, and add directions and/or samples. Some examples of writing areas include:
- Poetry (include specific types, e.g. acrostic, free verse, haiku, etc.)
- Letters (create a class sample to show format)
- Slice of Life stories (personal narratives)
- How-Tos (directions for doing something)
- Curiosities (questions about the world)
- Research (answering questions, providing information)
- Fiction (stories, plays, scripts)
- Journaling (day-to-day happenings)
Celebrate the efforts your young writers make. Invite them to bring their writing logs to school when it starts in the fall. At that time, provide them with class opportunities to share what they have done.
But wait, more than likely, you won’t have the same students again. That’s why it’s important to collaborate with your colleagues. Do it together with the colleagues who teach a grade level above and a grade level below you. Better yet, make it a school-wide program. Create a writing culture that extends beyond your classroom and the walls of your school.
Imagine this: It’s the first day of school and your new students, in addition to their class supplies, bring their summer writing logs. Over the next week or so, students share some of their work—a story, some poems, questions they had and the answers they found, letters they wrote (and the responses received)—with the class.
Communication is important for this to work: communication with colleagues, with the kids, and with their parents. Send a note home at the end of the year explaining what you’re doing. Encourage parents to write with their kids, and to make sure the writing logs are returned in the fall.
Will all the kids participate? Hardly. But if you can get a few, or even one, then you can show by sharing the value and the fun of writing. The next year there will be more, and the next year even more. You will be creating a true writing community.
I carry curiosity with me wherever I go. It’s not heavy and it fits easily into my pocket, where I can take it out at a moment’s notice.
I often pull it out when visiting schools. There’s lots to wonder about when you’re at a school: the displays, the kids, the design of the building, and, of course, the school name. How did the name come about? Who named it? Is it named after a real person? Why?
Douglas Gardens Elementary is a school I visited recently. Hmmm…I wondered…Was there really a “Douglas” that the school was named for? Was it a first name, or last name? Was there really a “garden” there? What kind of garden was it?
There were so many questions, and so little time that I wasn’t able to get my questions answered. I’m hoping that some brave souls, willing to accept a challenge, will find out how the name came to be and share it.
Good luck in your search!
I had a great time visiting with you last week and enjoyed your comments, questions, and stories. Some of you took the opportunity to be editors (helpers) for my personal narrative draft. Now, all of you can!
Remember what good editors do: compliment, ask questions, and make suggestions. Take a look at the draft below and try out your editing skills. All you have to do is click the Comment button above and type away. I look forward to your feedback to help make my writing better.
My family moved into this neighborhood in 1985 the local school Gilham was surrounded by fields. It looked alot different then.
In a few years my son, Tyler, was ready for kindergarten. I took him on his first day. I’ll remember that day forever.
The school was alive with activity. Busses and cars streamed through the parking lot. Kids parents filled the sidewalks, voices buzzing with excitement. I took Tyler’s hand and walked him to his portable classroom.
When we got close he pulled me to the side and dropped to his knees. I followed him to the ground. “What’s the matter Tyler” I asked him. “I’m a little scared, he said his voice a whisper.
He looked over into my eyes. “Me too” I said.
Tyler got up, let go of my hand, walked past the teacher at the door, and in the classroom. He didn’t look back.
Had a great visit with the 4th grade writers at Maple Elementary in Springfield yesterday. It’s enjoyable to spend time with kids who are interested, engaged, and respectful of each other. Their questions were awesome, and you know I LOVE questions!
The classes have been working on opinion writing, an important foundation for argument (make-a-case) writing. I offered a challenge, to share an opinion that they feel strongly about and to include reasons. Here’s my contribution:
Maples are the best kind of trees! They can grow huge (up to 145 feet), live long (up to 300 years), and they give us so much. In the heat of the summer their leaves provide us a cool, shady place to sit. In the fall they transform into colorful works of art. I love making helicopters from their seeds, and watching them whirl to the ground. Our world is a better place because of maple trees.
I’m looking forward to reading other opinions. Just click on the Comment area and write on!
I’m visiting classes this week in Creswell and Oakridge, talking with students about informative writing, the kind of writing you do to share information. Note: This type of writing does not have to be dull and bland, like an encyclopedia or Wikipedia. It can contain interesting words and devices like metaphors, alliterations, and more. Remember to keep your audience in mind; they want to be engaged in your text. So, engage them!
Click the Comment tab above to make a comment or ask a question.
Prior to my most recent author visit, several classes read my Moving Targets novel about a kid who moves to a small town and gets involved with a small group led by a bully. This is a book about growing up, about facing difficulties, solving problems, and the way animals are treated.
Several students I met with wondered when I’ll be writing the sequel to this story. The truth is, I hadn’t really thought about it. However, it’s possible I may want to write it at some point. But, what would it be about? I’d want to keep the setting the same as well as include the characters that I developed and feel that I know.
Would Paul be in juvenile detention because of what he tried to do at the end of the book? Would he be changed, or would he want revenge? What about the other characters? Would they still be hanging out together? Or would they find new friends, and who might those friends be?
What about David’s father, who we heard about but never really met? Would he come back into David’s life? And what would David’s mother do?
There’s so many options, so many possibilities. That’s what makes writing fiction exciting: you get to create your own world and decide what happens. Powerful stuff!
So, if anyone who knows the story would like to offer ideas and suggestions, I’ll be glad to take a look and give them serious consideration. The best way to share your thoughts would be to make a comment on the tab above.
Looking forward to your great ideas!
I have been doing author visits to schools for nearly thirty years now. All have been interesting and enjoyable. Some have been memorable. My latest visit: Santiam Elementary School in Mill City, Oregon was one of them. Here’s why:
Great open space for large group (80) sessions. Lights were able to be dimmed when viewing images on the screen. Chairs for all. A microphone was an essential tool.
Small group sessions were used for follow-ups as well as for kindergarten and Life Skills classes.
Teachers made sure students were familiar with the work I have done. Some prepared with activities.
Students were enthusiastic participants in asking questions, sharing insights, and accepting the “Chicken Challenge” (create a better name for non-fiction).
Many thanks to the students and staff at Santiam Elementary. Special kudos to Cindy McMahan, who coordinated the visit. Hope it was worth the effort!
Note to Schools: Author visits can be powerful activities that can help support curriculum as well as inspire students’ curiosities and interest in writing. But, it takes some planning and effort. Before visiting with sixth grade classes at Briggs Middle School in Springfield this week, I met with teachers and we talked about how I might support their instruction during my presentations. We also communicated by e-mail prior to my visit. This was very helpful so that I could narrow my focus and make the limited time count.
Teachers made sure the kids had all read one of my books, and they invited and encouraged questions about the book as well as writing in general. The questions were great and demonstrated thinking and curiosity (Briggs kids: If I didn’t get to yours, include it as a Comment below).
I want to thank the staff at Briggs: the admin. for arranging and supporting my visits as well as the teachers and support staff for your preparation and active participation. And, of course, the students for your active engagement. Keep asking questions, and keep writing!
p.s. And we’re not done, either! I’ll be back next month to meet with you in library classes.
When the students at Briggs Middle School in Springfield, Oregon walked out of class at ten o’clock this morning, I walked with them. I was at the school to do an author visit and speak to students about writing. It was near the end of my presentation when the walkout took place, and I was happy to participate. Some things are more important than writing.
The Briggs students joined students from all cross the country in leaving their classrooms for seventeen minutes to honor and pay respect to the latest school shooting victims. I was impressed with how the walkout was handled—making an announcement that the students could choose to participate in the walkout or remain in their classrooms. Some chose to stay. Others left. Outside, some formed circles and held hands. Others stood in small groups. Most were silent. All showed reverence.
The last time I walked out of a class was in the spring of 1970, when I was a freshman at the University of Missouri. When President Richard Nixon announced he was going to send troops into Cambodia, deepening the Vietnam War, protests were waged across the country. At my school, we walked out of classes in protest. When it looked like the protests might become violent, the school closed and we all went home. We were lucky; protesters at other schools, like Kent State and Jackson State, got shot by National Guard and police. Some died.
What’s the point of walking out, some people wonder. As I drove home today, I listened to a talk show host belittling the students who took that action. “What a waste of time,” he said. “What are they learning by doing that?”
They’re learning a lot. They’re learning how to organize. That’s how this country got started: organized protests. They’re learning how to make their voices heard, even in silence. And, most importantly, they’re learning to take action, to take a stand.
We, as adults, have done little to address gun violence in this country. After each new massacre, we talk and pray and wish things were different. That’s not enough. Nothing will change until we change it. I believe more voices will help.
I applaud the students at Briggs and at every school who took action today, and there were thousands who did. But now I invite every student to take the next step, and this involves writing. Write down your thoughts, your fears, your ideas, and include them in letters to people who make decisions about school safety and about the way guns are regulated in our country today. Send letters to your principal, your school board, your local representatives, state representatives, your Senators and Congressman.
Your words matter. Change can happen. You can make a difference. Write on!