Monday, July 2, 2012

A True Slice of Writing

        Two Writing Teachers hosts the Tuesday Slice of Life-Thank you Stacey and Ruth for all the Tuesdays!

         I'm participating in a group that is reading Write Beside Them by Penny Kittle.  We are at the beginning of the book, learning what she does and reading the explanations about why she believes it's important to continue those activities.  One activity Kittle strongly recommends within the confines of her writing class is to do a 15 minute quick write every single day.  There are a number of reasons, but the strongest is to help students gain writing stamina, to learn that writing habits give experience, to learn that they do have ideas, that with practice (and good teaching), they will learn to write better!
        Students do these quick-writes in their writers notebooks, so we in the group thought it would be good to start doing them too, to begin filling our own notebooks with our writing so it will be ready to be a part of our teaching repertoire at the beginning of the school year.  One quick-write I've done with my students in the past that has yielded interesting results is to finish the following opening:  I approached the exit ramp and slowed...  



        Here is what I wrote:  I saw the exit ramp and slowed-New Borman-one mile east.  After driving hundreds of miles--through three states--it felt good to end the trip.  After all the hours, I felt ready.  I followed a blue cattle truck making their way down the ramp, too.  It turned right as I did, at the intersection leading to town. Since it was slower moving, I was able to take a good look at the town, from the outskirts to the center.
         Main street looked worn. Cracks in the sidewalks and cracks in some windows showed how little money there was for upkeep.  People had moved away, like me.  Most who stayed were old-timers, headed for the cemetery north of town.  I searched for my old favorites:  Little Joe's Cafe, still frying...Lenora's Hair-Do, still washing and cutting...Mattie's gifts, still selling.  Marty's Market had new carts, fancier than before, a few kid cars too!  Anxiety loosened from my shoulders as I saw so little had changed.  I kept that feeling around me like a shawl all the way down Main Street, turned right at the Methodist Church, with a newly paved parking lot.  I knew nothing can ever stay precisely the same.  Grass grows.  Paint peels.  Concrete cracks and sidewalks shift.  
          I pulled into the driveway, weeds growing in the middle.  I stepped onto the porch, pressed the door knocker at the same time I yelled, "Mom, Mom, I'm home.  It's me, Janie."

46 comments:

Dana said...

I am assuming this is fiction? I am amazed this comes out of you in a quick write. You really captured that feeling of going home. The comfort, excitement, feeling of change - yet some things remain the same, remembering....
Really liked this image, "Anxiety loosened from my shoulders as I saw so little had changed. I kept that feeling around me like a shawl all the way down Main Street,"

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

I knew nothing can ever stay precisely the same. Grass grows. Paint peels. Concrete cracks and sidewalks shift.
Just loved this - you say so much with those precise descriptions. Kittle's chapter on quick writes was wonderful, wasn't it? I wrote to Billy Collins' "Day" - with surprising results!

Amy Rudd said...

Linda,
I like the idea that you are writing the write (walking the walk) right beside them and write beside them...the idea that you will have a plethora of examples to share from doing this is just what students need. That fact that they will have your wonderful examples to draw from is even better-quick write everyday to build stamina makes so much sense (developing those muscles)...I love the quick write here-I could picture myself driving through the town and seeing just what Janie sees.
Thanks for this inspiration!

Anita Ferreri said...

I also love the idea of writing beside our students. I think it sends the most powerful message that writing is a real, meaningful life tool for us all. Your description is powerful and conjurs memories of driving through small town America where life changes slowly but surely.

fireflytrails said...

A pretty amazing quick write. I was right there with you as you drove through town, the descriptions were so vivid and so evocative. The "feling like a shawl" - how comforting! Also this is a great idea, to write with our students. I have learned from the Slice of Life that writing daily really matters, and really makes a difference. (I am going to try to write daily in July. Wish me luck!)

Irene Latham said...

Linda, I love this! On my trip to FL, I visited two of the homes I previously lived in as an elementary-age child. I remember a sprawling yard, lots of space. I was shocked to find this was not reality! I know this is a common response we have to things we view as adults after stroking many a childhood memory.... but man, it was pretty overwhelming for me just the same. THIS was the kingdom of my childhood? How we make magic with so little....

Linda at teacherdance said...

Thanks Dana. I am excited to think about what students can do with different prompts, what will appear! And, yes, it is fiction, but I imagined parts of a little town I know for some of it.

Linda at teacherdance said...

Thanks Tara. It is exciting to try, isn't it? Yes, I liked Kittle's chapter a lot-got me all excited to share next year.

Linda at teacherdance said...

Now it will be my challenge to do different ones, appropriate for different ages. At least find different prompts, don't you think? Thanks Amy.

Linda at teacherdance said...

Thank you Anita. When we write with our students, we can share what we experienced too, & then begin with the craft of it as we talk to them.

Mardie said...

I'd bet that this is how my own adult children feel as they turn off the highway into our little old and sleepy rural village. You captured that homecoming feeling so well.
My favourite line: "Most who stayed were old-timers, headed for the cemetery north of town." True - those who stay, stay 'till the end.
I loved Write Beside Them. That book, along with Teaching Adolescent Writers by Kelly Gallagher, helped me to realize the importance of writing with students.

Linda at teacherdance said...

So, if you write every day, just think, you'll have 31 different pieces already! That's a lot to have down. And some of those might get you excited to expand. I just think it's got to be good to practice, like anything it'll bring more muscle! Thank you!

Linda at teacherdance said...

Thank you Irene! When I returned to one of my grandmother's homes, it seemed so small compared to what I remembered. I understand exactly.

Linda at teacherdance said...

Thanks, Mardie. I imagine your children are looking at things, like the trees getting bigger, etc. I haven't read that Gallagher book, but love Deeper Reading. It's a book I return too for reading tips. So many books out there to learn from!

Robin said...

Linda, I am always amazed by the quality of writing that people can produce during a quick write. This is the kind of story that sucks me in from the very first line. I love two parts especially: "I kept that feeling around me like a shawl" and "Most who stayed were old-timers, headed for the cemetery north of town." Those lines are just so vivid and true-feeling.

I have heard good things about the Penny Kittle book. What I would like to figure out is a way to write and read alongside my kindergarten students so that they see me walking the walk too. It's difficult for me because they write and read for such a short amount of time, especially initially, I feel I need to only spend those precious minutes conferring with them or meeting with them in some way. I'll take suggestions?!

Linda at teacherdance said...

Thanks for the comment, Robin. As you might have seen above, I will be working with teachers of all the ages at school this year, so I too will be looking for ways to be appropriate with the young ones. I wonder if you found some of those early chapter books that spark their interest, then write from some part of those. Like maybe one is about making friends, and the prompt is 'I like friends because we always...' or, depending on the experiences, 'when I go to the grocery with my mom, or dad, we...' I imagine that the quick-write would be shorter, but building stamina is also important for younger students too. Maybe quickly at the beginning of the language time? Then they can work on writing while you confer? Actually, after all my writing above, I come back to you, who is the expert in this age. It would be fun to have a real conversation about this with teachers of various ages, wouldn't it?

Deb Day said...

Great piece Linda. I BELIEVED it...it could have been a real place for me and that's important in writing! I can't wait to try some for myself!

Linda at teacherdance said...

Hope you have fun. I'll write some more this afternoon! It gives me a chance to do some new things in the writers notebook. I'll do my response later today! Thanks Deb.

Tammy said...

I love writing alongside my kiddos. I tell them that during our first 10 minutes (more like 3-5 in the beginning) of writing workshop nobody gets to bother anyone especially the teacher!They think it's funny and I always catch a few watching me. I loved your quick write, made me think of Florence the home of my grandparents.

Linda at teacherdance said...

Robin, above, needs to talk with you, Tammy. Did you see her query? Wow-it would be fun to all get together in a conversation. Thanks for telling your story about the 'no bothering'-what fun! I just know your students love & adore you!

JenniferM said...

Love how vivid this description is, Linda! I was feeling that home-coming feeling the whole way through, before I ever got to "Mom, I'm home!" Can't believe this was a quick-write... awesome! :-)

writekimwrite said...

Thanks for the double pleasure here, as a reader and as a first grade teacher. Your quick write was so descriptive. I was right there, seeing and feeling what your character saw and felt. If you think of a way for teachers of all ages to keep discussing this I would be interested in joining in. I have adopted and
abandoned repeatedly writing with young writers. So I am still working it through. I am not usually a fan of prompts but am open. I am thinking of incorporating pictures instead of words at the beginning as a way to start telling stories. Do you share quick writes? I am wondering if this book would help me figure some of this out?

maria.selke said...

There are great visual prompts online as well. I've found some great pinterest boards with visual prompts as well as some cool tumblrs.

maria.selke said...

I knew nothing can ever stay precisely the same. Grass grows. Paint peels. Concrete cracks and sidewalks shift.

I love this section. So clear - so evocative. Simple and eloquent.

Linda at teacherdance said...

Thanks Jennifer. Happy Independence Day!

Donna said...

Great piece, Linda. It was so very easily believable and had a nice unforced quality to it. Loved so many parts. Old timers heading to the cemetery was too true.

Linda at teacherdance said...

I think if you would Google some of the key words, like quick prompts for primary students, etc., some things would come up, or (as Marie mentioned in a comment above) look on Pinterest-loads of good visuals there. And-write some of the bloggers above who are mentioning young students-they will be terrific sources! Thanks for the interest, Kim. If you have a group started, I'll be glad to participate!

Linda at teacherdance said...

Thanks for all your comments, Maria, & this compliment-feels good. I hope you're getting some writing done-still waiting for more of that enticing story!

Linda at teacherdance said...

Thanks Donna. Just got home to read some posts from a few others. I appreciate your words! Hope you have a lovely Independence Day!

Carol said...

This is lovely, Linda. All the way to the very end I thought I was reading personal narrative and was trying to remember whether I knew where you were from. I love Penny's book- can't wait for the next one!

Linda at teacherdance said...

It is good, for sure. My early roots are from small towns in Missouri, so some of this comes from those memories. Thanks, Carol.

writekimwrite said...

Will do Linda! :) My students participate in Writers workshop daily, it is the modeling writing by writing at the same time as they are writing I haven't completely figured out. Thanks again for the way you share and encourage.

Beverley Baird said...

What a great free write piece. So believable and very readable.

Linda at teacherdance said...

Thank you. It's been fun to do this & Penny Kittle does it all the time with her students. Something to consider.

Julie said...

The imagery in this quick write is magnificent. I especially love the line "I kept that feeling around me like a shawl all the way down Main Street,"...

I believe it's very important that as writing teachers, we need to be writers and our students need to see us as writers. I'm going to have to look into Kittle's book. I teach elementary, but I have a feeling that I'll find lots to use. Thanks so much!

Linda at teacherdance said...

I am finding so much to apply, Julie. I don't think you'll have any trouble at all. Some of her text examples can easily be replaced with other appropriate models. Thanks for the compliment.

Ramona said...

I loved reading your entry. I was convinced it was true. I liked the act of checking out all the old places, and I do it every time I go home to Oklahoma!
I have to share what I tell my middle schoolers when I write with them. "Don't disturb me unless you're bleeding or on fire!" It always makes them giggle, but they know I mean business. I refuse to let them interrupt my writing time. It pays off for them to see me engrossed in my own writing.

Nanc said...

I heard Penny several years ago and love the book she wrote with Donald Graves...chock full of quick writes. Isn't it cool when she asked everyone to write? I bet you loved that part of the workshop. Your writing is amazing, Linda. xo nanc

Linda at teacherdance said...

Thanks, Ramona. I used to be so clear about no disturbing, too, when we were writing. I taught middle school also, & it was so important that they do this part alone, without interruption. I like your mantra-only if bleeding or on fire! I had a little set-up, close the door, get a good spot to write, put on a little music, then the topic if we needed it.

Robin said...

It would be great to have a discussion about this! I read Tammy's comment below and I love it! I think I might be able to do that! I think it is certainly something that we would need to work up to, of course, but I think it is a strong possibility. Thanks to you both! If you come up with a way to hold a "real" discussion, count me in!

Linda at teacherdance said...

Nanc, I think you must have misunderstood. I am just reading the book by Kittle with an online group. I'd love to see her in action. I know about the book with Graves & have found the quick writes online but never read it. Thank you for the compliment!

Stacey from Two Writing Teachers said...

My fourth graders did quick writes my last year in the classroom (as a result of reading the same book you're reading now). They were effective for me and for my kids!

Linda at teacherdance said...

As I said above in the comments, Stacey, I think the book can be applied all the way down. Thanks very much for sharing!

Amy Rudd said...

I don't know if you know of this site yet, it seems new so I wanted to share...video visual prompts:
http://www.literacyshed.com/index.html
All of them are organized by different "genre" sheds...

Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

Linda, I am looking forward to you publishing a book sometime soon. I think the time is ripe for it. Your writing is just so good, it needs to be shared with the rest of the world through a published book! Here are my favorite lines from this post: "I knew nothing can ever stay precisely the same. Grass grows. Paint peels. Concrete cracks and sidewalks shift." - resonated with me this Saturday evening (and the sun is still out at ten to seven).

Mandy said...

Hi Linda!

I enjoyed reading your slice... hmm... will there be a continuation to this quickwrite? My students are reluctant to do quickwrites at the start of the school year, but giving them strong writing prompts helps them along. Once we are in full writing workshop mode, the students remind me to include daily quickwrites!

I am going to add Penny Kittle's book to my TBR list.

Mandy