Monday, November 10, 2014

Slicing In Writing Workshop

Time for the weekly Slice of Life at the Two Writing Teachers blog.  Tweet at #SOL14  

       Thanks Stacey, Tara, Dana, Beth, Anna and Betsy!

         I told a little bit of my recent life's slices last week, but not all. I'm back in the classroom again, amazingly my original classroom when we moved to this building, and my Advanced School students, 6th, 7th and 8th graders. Through some need, I've become the core teacher in this class for the rest of the year. I had conferences last Thursday and Friday, twenty-one, student-led, and they were fine, just long, long days, but good talk. Whew, as I said earlier, my mind is swirling.
         Today was day number two. Starting a class in the 11th week is strange. I have some set lessons that I usually use to begin, some favorite poems, special readings, etc., but this time I knew it needed to be different, a start, but not exactly. Do any of you focus on the "art", the "visual", when working with writers? It seems to me that it's an important, sometimes overlooked, aspect of thinking about writing. I want students to believe that no matter what kind of writing they are doing, one goal of beautiful communication is not only to tell a story, but to create a "picture" for their readers. Today I read and gave each a copy of the following poem, Autobiography In Five Chapters, by Portia Nelson. 

It begins:                    
1) I walk down the street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I fall in. 
I am lost... I am hopeless. 
It isn't my fault. 
It takes forever to find a way out. 

2) I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I pretend I don't see it. 

You can find the whole text here.

            We read and discussed the poem briefly, then the students and I illustrated it, quick sketches with stick figures if they chose. We were rather amazed at the varied ways each chose to "draw" the poem, and then the different ways each interpreted the poem. What were my goals? To open eyes to respecting and appreciating different viewpoints, to begin to include the visual in their repertoires of thinking about writing, and to feel satisfied with something they created. I knew the poem, have used it in other ways with early adolescents, too, and am happy with this, our first time as a writing group.
             More to come!

25 comments:

  1. Linda, I LOVE that poem! I never thought of using it with my students like this!! (I will now!) Thank you!! I love that you're back as the core teacher in the classroom. :)

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    1. Thanks Michelle. It works beautifully for older students. Enjoy!

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  2. Yes! I use Ducks on a Winter Night by Georgia Heard when drawing our visualizations. Even the young ones can learn how to learn from poets and visualize the work, and then write the work they wish to create. Welcome back to the classroom!

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    1. Oh thank you, Kendra for another poem idea. Love that you do this too. I agree, find the poem that's right for any age.

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  3. Oh, I used to love this poem when I was younger! I'll have to share it with our middle school teachers!

    And, good luck. You'll get settled in. Take it one day at at time.

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  4. I use that poem every couple of years (I'm pretty sure you gave it to me years ago), including at the start of this year. What a great idea to use it with an art assignment. Good luck this year with its unexpected twists and turns.

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  5. What a turn your life has taken! Those meandering days will have to wait while you enrich the students before you. I look forward to your writing about this new task.

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  6. Your return to the classroom somehow sounds so right. I like that art and visual are part of middle school writing workshop too. With younger ones it seems like a given, but not so much with older students. You'll be surprised how fast the year will go.

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  7. I would love to be in your class!

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  8. I'll echo Loralee and say, "Oh, to be in Mrs. Baie's class!"

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  9. Wow Linda....changes...you are the person for this! I agree that the visual is where many students are at...and don't forget the musical ones too. This integration is perfect and important for writing. I love that you really get this age...I miss those years, when every day was an adventure. xo

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  10. What a beautiful poem and a beautiful exercise to do with your students! Fabulous! Wow, back in the classroom full-time - you are amazing! Know your students are so, so lucky to have you.

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  11. That poem is new to me. Thanks for sharing it. Loved it!

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  12. Hi Linda,
    First, it was neat reading about your return the classroom in the 11th week. I returned to a high school classroom in the sixth week (in a new school and new community) in 2011-12. What a TOUGH year. It's difficult to start after the 'start' has happened in our business. There's such a 'season' to what we do. Love the poem and look forward to reading it in its entirety. I miss reading/writing workshop very much. Many years ago, it was the foundation of my middle school reading class. But so much has changed since then.... teacher evaluations and standardized tests have completely taken over, here in Florida. I refuse to give in, though, and find ways to incorporate writing all the time, especially the narrative/creative variety. Too much excellent research out there to throw it all out the window. Thank you for sharing today and thank you for visiting my blog via SOL. I'm enjoying this community very much! :) As Dana said, take it one day at a time. #exhausting

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  13. What a great use for that poem! Thinking about the visual and art in a poem should be a goal along with theme.
    Good luck with your new position.

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  14. I love this idea, Linda. Hey, I am wondering...you are listed on my blog as a site I visit, yet it has been inactive for quite a long time. Did you do something to change and I just didn't change with you?

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  15. Whew...busy weeks ahead, Linda. But, you began with just the right activity to set the tone for your new class of kiddos. A rich and engaging activity, that opened their eyes to new points of view and to the way you will teach, too. Lucky kids.

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  16. I love the idea of entwining art and writing. When I was teaching I would read a passage form "Wicked" and then have the students draw what they heard. It lead to some interesting pictures and discussion about the passage.

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  17. What a wonderful idea for a new start!

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  18. There are many students who do think visually... I don't think we were "taught" how to teach that way, and so we don't use it very often. Maybe that's just me :) But I know so many students who by picturing things and drawing them, helps them learn!

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  19. Thanks everyone, just home after my final conference, Hurrah. It was a great day, & I appreciate everyone's good wishes, and your response about what you do in writing with the visual.

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  20. Oh, I'm jealous! I would love to have a chance to go back into the classroom. Poetry is a natural springboard for visualizing and illustrating, and this poem is a perfect choice. What a lucky group of students, Linda, to have you as their teacher!

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    1. Thanks, Catherine. It was a fun lesson with the class!

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  21. Such a powerful poem! Thanks for reminding me of it. I used to use it regularly but haven't in a number of years. How I love this lesson and what you've done. I want to come be a student in your class! I have been using "image" much more in my teaching in the last couple of years. Instead of a reading response notebook in my Brit Lit survey, we keep sketchbooks and draw cartoons. I have mostly been dabbling but want to start using drawing more strategically and intentionally. It's a powerful way to think and process.

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  22. This visual approach is so daunting for me. It makes me wonder if my students who love the visual feel the same way toward writing that I feel about visually representing my thinking.
    I heard about your cold weather this morning on the news. Stay cozy and warm!

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