Monday, October 24, 2016

Slice of Life: Finding Joy in the Launch of a Mystery Unit

Every Tuesday, the writing community of Two Writing Teachers hosts Slice of Life. All are welcome to participate by linking up posts or commenting on other participants. 

Last week, our district led a twitter chat around joy and its importance in classrooms, so I am admittedly paying extra close attention to what brings joy into elementary classrooms. There were amazing ideas passed around throughout the chat, and one of them involved the simple reminder of just talking to kids. This morning, as I was walking back to my office, I recognized a third-grader whose class I spent a lot of time in last year. 

"So Lola," I said. "How's life in third grade?"

She was walking with another girl I didn't recognize, and both of their eyes were wide. Her answer surprised me. 

"Not very good today."

The other girl nodded emphatically. 

"Why?" I asked. "What's going on?"

I was ready for anything--I was sort of expecting a lot of assessments, maybe (it's that time of the year), maybe classroom getting along issues. For a second or two, I was poised to hear an eight year-old's rationale for school not being so great as we walked down the hall. 

"Our classroom is a crime scene," she said, her voice lowered. 

"What?" I didn't have to pretend to be surprised. 

They went on to tell me about the police tape in their room, the knocked over desks, what they thought could have even been blood. (I'm pretty doubtful about the blood.) A footprint. Their search for fingerprints. 

As they described the scene, they listed some of their suspects, but also shared how some of these suspects didn't make sense upon their close examination of the evidence and clues. They completed each other's sentences as we walked, and I had enough thinking time to remember that their teachers had been excited to launch the mystery unit, so I put together a few clues. I'm sure they will put some clues together, also, in the very near future, and I can't wait to hear about how their mystery unit proceeds. 

In the meantime, they inspired me to think again about how joy exists in classrooms. Part of joy involves engagement and the learning that comes with it. Their joy will be that much greater because of the stage that was set up for them to figure something out. Kudos to their teacher for launching their mystery unit with a mystery. I have no doubt that these third-graders will recount and laugh about their classroom crime scene for years to come and they will have that much more inspiration to read like detectives, understand red herrings and suspects, and engage in the close reading necessary for crime solving. 

Happy Slicing,

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Slice of Life: Fan Fiction for Caregivers- Other Ideas are Welcome!!!

Every Tuesday, the writing community of Two Writing Teachers hosts Slice of Life. All are welcome to participate by linking up posts or commenting on other participants. 

Over the next few weeks, I am taking on the challenge of creating parent-friendly bulletin boards at schools in an effort to involve care-givers with students' writing lives. While I am envisioning articles about workshop practices, I also want to have cards people can take that describe games and activities they can do with children to incorporate play into their writing lives. 

I've written a few ideas out on 4*6 pieces of card stock, and these will be in folders, free for the taking. One of the ideas is a version of fan fiction, and I've written up a quick blurb about it:

I'd be happy to take any other ideas people have for quick, simple-to-explain activities care-givers can do with children to foster a love of story-telling. 
Happy writing!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Slice of Life- Writing begets writing

Every Tuesday, the writing community of Two Writing Teachers hosts Slice of Life. All are welcome to participate by linking up posts or commenting on other participants. 

Eighteen years ago, my friend Heather theorized to me that "sleep begets sleep." In my sleep-deprived state, I'm surprised I remember the phrase so vividly except that it struck a loud and shrill chord with me. She had her first baby five weeks before I had my second daughter. Her daughter took two long naps and slept through the night. My Julia did. not. sleep. Fast forward eighteen years, and Julia is home from college for a few days, and she is sleeping.

I am writing.

This morning, I read through other people's posts from a weekend writing retreat we shared (shout out to Tara and Clare and Tammy), and I'm thinking about how writing begets writing. It's funny how the more I write, the more I have to write. I am in the middle of a program for my MFA in creative writing, I blog a lot, I am working on a nonfiction piece for the state social studies department, and I am constantly writing for classroom demonstration. When I sit with my fingers on the keys and a cup of coffee by my side, I rarely struggle with not having anything to write; my struggle is more about what piece to work on. 

What I'm really wondering is how we duplicate this sort of sensation in writing classrooms. I've always been a big believer in volume. When children write a lot, they don't get so attached to a piece that they refuse to return to it and work on it. They also develop courage to start new pieces since they aren't so worried about ever finishing it. With the phrase "writing begets writing" at the forefront of my brain, I think there's also a mindfulness and a belief in myself as a writer when I'm in the habit of writing. Writers spend life capturing words, and it becomes a practice that lives healthily beyond desks and classrooms and the comfortable chairs where we write. 

I'll be percolating these thoughts over the next week--hopefully there will be more to come about it, and I look forward to reading comments and insights about how writing energy generates and perpetuates itself within individual writers and writing communities.

All good things,