Thursday, January 23, 2014

Writing Essentials

"Writing is worthwhile in and of itself.  It's important for teachers and students to internalize this." 
Ruth Ayres

I just started blogging so that I can discover my own writing process.  As I am growing and learning I am recognizing that there are some writing essentials that I currently need as a writer.  These essentials push me and motivate me.  These essentials are: choice, time, feedback, a reading life, reflection and celebration.  I am trying to implement these essentials into my lessons with students.  

Ralph Fletcher says, "Student choice is the crucial fuel that drives a healthy workshop.  The choice isn't limited to deciding on what to write about.  We invite students to have choice in length, audience, and the pace with which they write."  Children need to have the time to do choice writing so that they can discover their writing voice. 

It is crucial that students write everyday.  When I miss a day of writing, my writing habit is on a hiatus that sometimes lingers on for three or four days. It is so much harder to get back into that habit.  I find excuses as to why I don't have time to write or that I don't know what to write about.  My writing fluency and stamina are slowed down during my writing hiatus which affects my motivation to write.  When this happens I need to think about what Dave Burgess says, "Taking the first step is always the hardest part of the journey."  I just need to push the "new post button" and just start writing so I can get my ideas down.  I can always go back and rewrite parts of the blog.  Seymour Simon says, "Most writers don't write they rewrite and rewrite and rewrite."  

If students don't have time to write daily how can they develop writing habits to help them better understand their writing process. I know it is very challenging to balance all we have to do in a day.  Ruth Ayres says, "The mission of writing workshop is to help people learn to be writers for life."   Writing can be a powerful tool.  People who write..
  • learn about who they are as a person and writer
  • the power their words have on others
  • how writing can help them deal with a difficult time or celebrate something big
  • how their reading life impacts their writing life
  • the ability to slow down and see the world through writer's eyes  

One of our fifth graders posted this on her blog as she is embarking on her writing journey:
"The way I see writing is that you can write down anything that has happened to you.  You can change the names in your writing so you can express your feelings and no one knows it. I love doing that because you don’t hear the voice in your head telling you that you are sad or telling you there is nothing you can do about it, because there is always something you can do about it."

This student is devoting time to write daily both at home and at school.  The more she writes the more she discovers her writing voice and process.  This will help her craft pieces more effeciently.

Feedback and Celebration
I read Ruth Ayres book titled Celebrating Writers. Her book really helped me understand how big of an impact feedback and celebration have on a writer. She says, " Feedback is the key to creating a community of writers who celebrate together." 

Recently, I had a writing luncheon with a couple of fifth graders.  We celebrated the idea for their chapter book and some strong lines in their writing.  We also celebrated the feedback they gave each other as they crafted their first two chapters.  Gabrielle's writing advice, "When you end your chapter, leave your readers hanging so they will want to read on to the next chapter."  Alyssa is taking Gabrielle's advice and using it as she ends her chapters.  They read their chapter endings to each other to see how well they crafted the ending and how their readers might react.  I was so thrilled to be a part of the celebrating, and I witnessed how their feedback fueled each other to keep writing, even through the hard parts.

Ruth Ayres also states, "It is also by giving feedback that we learn how to talk to writers in meaningful ways."  This is so true.  As the two fifth graders and myself immersed ourselves into their writing we really had a powerful writing discussion about how writers work.  

As we conference with students during writing workshop we are modeling how to give constructive feedback.  Ruth Ayres says this is only the first step in the process.  Our explicit language used in our mini-lessons and the writing partnerships help students develop the skills to give and receive meaningful feedback to each other.  

This essential is something I need to spend more time doing as a writer. Since this is an area I need to work on I am going to rely on Ruth Ayres great advice from her book titled Celebrating Writers.   Ruth Ayres says, "Reflection is thinking about what you do and how you feel about it." If I want to continue to grow as a writer then I really need to take the time to reflect on my craft and my process.  

Some powerful quotes from Celebrating Writers on reflective practice:
  • Without reflection, students are missing out on an opportunity to grow. 
  • The heart of reflective practice is using self-evaluation to strengthen your craft.
  • As we reflect on our writing process, we learn how to work efficiently as writers.
I will start with personal reflections.  Ruth Ayres says, "Personal reflections are for the writer's eyes only and are designed to stretch the writer, encouraging risks in process and product."  My first step towards personal reflection will be writing down my strengths and weaknesses as a writer in my writer's notebook. 

I think it is easy to forget that each writer's process is unique and personal.  It is our job to help students find their own writing process by embracing some of these writing essentials.  This involves reading, talking, writing, sharing, reflecting and celebrating with the writers in our classroom.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

One Word
I finished reading the book titled One Little Word That Will Change Your Life by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton and Jimmy Page.  I took some time to think about what word will help me to continue to grow as a person and will help me reach some desired outcomes in 2014.  After taking some quiet time to reflect on the word, I have decided the word "BELIEVE" was the perfect word for me.  I really struggle to believe in my abilities and I struggle with confidence.  This lack of confidence can be a barrier for me achieving my goals.  Believing in yourself gives you the confidence to take risks and the confidence to accept constructive criticism.  Believing in yourself helps you focus more on your strengths and not your weaknesses.   I am hoping that the more I believe the more I will celebrate the small steps I have taken to reaching a goal.  I am hoping that the more I believe the more I will embrace the process and not get disappointed when results don't happen quickly.

I love this take away truth and the more I believe the more I will be able to find encouragement from the inside.  Here are some things that I believe can happen:

I believe that I can develop into a writer.
I believe that I will exercise more.
I believe that I am a teacher who can inspire others!
I believe that I am capable of anything if I put in the effort and time!

So my next step is to post the word "BELIEVE" on my desk, in my kitchen, on my iPhone, ipad, and in my planner so that I can start to bring about positive changes in 2014! 

What is the one little word that will change your life?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sunshine Award

I was just nominated by a wonderful colleague, Cathy Mere, for the Sunshine Award.  I was super excited since I am fairly new to the blogging world and my inspiration for blogging came from Cathy Mere and Julie Johnson.  Cathy is an amazing poet, writer and educator.  I was so lucky do my Literacy Collaborative training with her.  During our training she always had great ideas and her discussions made me think and reflect on what is best for kids.  Many years later, Cathy is still inspiring me to think and reflect on best practices, great books to read, and new apps to use in the classroom.  Thanks so much for the nomination.

Here is a description for the Sunshine Award shared by Matt Renwick:
The Sunshine award gives others an opportunity to learn more about me as a blogger and then, in turn, I will send sunshine the way of 11 other amazing bloggers for you to get to know!
and the rules:
  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  • List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  • Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)
Okay, here are 11 random facts about me:

1. It is an inspiring dream of mine to one day publish a book.  I am working on writing some poems about firefighting because my whole life has been influenced by firefighters or being at the firehouse.  My husband, Dan, is a firefighter at Norwich Fire Department.  I can totally visualize what the cover looks like and the title I have in mind is called Brotherhood.

2. My new obsessions right now would be Twitter and Lululemon Athletica clothes.  My husband and daughter got me hooked on wearing Lululemon clothes because they are so unbelievably  comfortable.  I kinda feel like I should start doing yoga because their clothes are really designed for yoga workouts.  

3. My favorite Christmas present of all time is my Shih Tzu named Daisy.  I always wanted to get a puppy for Christmas and 8 years ago my husband surprised me on Christmas morning with the most adorable black and white Shih Tzu.  She is a little diva dog!

4. I love to cook meals with my husband.  My favorite celeb chefs who I turn to for recipe ideas are Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman), Rachel Ray, Giada De Laurentiis, Paula Deen and Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa). I guess you could say I am a Food Network and Cooking Channel Junkie. 

5.  If I won the lottery I would do the following: travel with my family to Europe, buy a Louis Vutton purse and a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes.   

6.  My daughter plays softball so I love to watch college softball on ESPN or ESPNU.  

7.  I am a city girl so I love NYC, Chicago, and Vancouver.  I actually would love to live in Vancouver, British Columbia.  

8. I love writing workshop because it is so challenging and it can be overwhelming.  I like to work through the hard parts everyday.  It is frustrating to me when teachers think it is okay to NOT have their students write everyday.  Reading and writing are a reciprocal process so how can you justify that decision.  Donald Graves said, "All of us need writing as a survival tool in a very complex world."

9. My favorite books as a child were The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.

10. I could spend hours in a bookstore.  I really enjoy going to Barnes and Noble. It is a special treat when I get to go to Cover to Cover in Clintonville, OH.  My kids do not like to go to Barnes and Noble with me because they know it is never a quick trip.  I always wanted to open a bookstore in Hilliard, Ohio because we don't have one and I love to be surrounded by books.  

11.  The first people who truly inspired me to implement a reading and writing workshop would be the following: Shelley Harwayne, Joanne Hindley, Donald Graves, Lucy Calkins, Gay Su Pinnell and Irene Fountas.  I loved the books titled In The Company of Children by Joanne Hindley and The Art of Teaching Reading by Lucy McCormick Calkins.

Now to answer the questions Cathy thought of...
  1. When you look out the window or door of your house, what do you see?  (What's your favorite view?) When I look out the patio door I see a creek and a few wild creatures, even though my house is in the suburbs.  Some of the critters I have observed are deer, great horned owls, hawks, bats and coyotes. I love that I can live in a subdivision but still enjoy a slice of nature as if I lived out in the country. 
  2. Ocean or mountains?  Most definitely ocean.
  3. What is the best vacation you've ever taken? A cruise to Alaska.  The scenery was breath taking and the glaciers were stunning.  Before we boarded the cruise ship we spent a day in Vancouver and it was so much fun!
  4. What is the best book you read in 2013? This is a really tough question.  I really enjoyed Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Mindset by Carol Dweck. It was too hard to pick just one, sorry.
  5. Who is your favorite book character?  Willow Chance from Counting by 7s. Why? She was a very unique and different character who was trying to fit in and get through a very difficult time in her life.  Her unique qualities touched and changed the lives of Dell, Mai, Quang-ha, Pattie and Jairo in such a heartwarming way.     
  6. What is the one thing you wish you could have someone else to do for you? Decorate my house.  
  7. What inspires you? My husband, other educators, my colleagues,  #nerdlution and getting writing advice from authors on twitter.
  8. What do you make time for? My family, reading, writing, and trying to make more time for walking my 2 dogs.  
  9. If you could spend a month on any continent with your expenses paid, where would you go?  Why? Europe because I would love to visit Paris and Barcelona.  
  10. What are your favorite games to play? I really don't play games but I would play Guess Who and Battleship with my son when he was younger.   
  11. If you could make one change in the world, what would you want to change?  For every child to have their basic needs met and to live in a safe environment.
11 questions (borrowing some questions from Jacki Prati and Cathy Mere)

1. Who would be the most motivating speaker you have listened to at a conference? Why?
2. Who are some authors you would like to meet some day?
3. If someone asked you to give them a random piece of advice, what would you say?
4. Would you recommend teaching to other people? Why/ Why not?
5. What is the best conference you have attended? 
6. What are some of your favorite professional books?
7. If you could try any job for a day, what job would you try?
8. If you won the lottery what charity would you donate money to?
9. What is you favorite dessert?
10.  What is the best vacation you have ever taken?
11. What book are you currently reading?

Invitation to Participate

Unfortunately, I don't have 11 bloggers to nominate because my blogging circle is so small.  So I have just 1 ...