Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Slice of a Lesson

          Slicing with the Two Writing Teachers community is a pleasure every week.  Thanks to Stacey, Tara, Dana, Betsy, Beth and Anna! 

           As many of you know, I am officially retired, won't be returning for more coaching or teaching, but I will be visiting Ingrid's class. That will be my pleasure at school this year. I hope to travel to visit my grandson this fall, too. He'll be a freshman in high school, hard to believe! I don't imagine he will wish for me to visit his classes, but perhaps I can make it for a music concert? 

           So, as I read about many of you talking about the next year, I wonder how I will feel in September? Will it be okay to tell people I'm retired? The slices will be different, may only be what I used to do? I feel like it's going to be fine. I'm looking forward to venturing into some different kinds of life's slices, and hoping they will be just as sweet.



           In the meantime, because some of you are planning, I thought I'd share a favorite writing lesson in characterization. Through the years I've collected old photographs of both young and old people. In this lesson, I suggest that we can imagine a lot just by observing people. The first thing I have students do is keep a notebook for a couple of days, taking notes of people they notice, and additionally start to create stories around those they see. We brainstorm questions we might ask ourselves: what is the person wearing and doing, how about hair cut and color, is she or he with anyone, what expression on the face? I wanted to get the writers into the groove of imagining a story around the people they see. 
           Next, I have them write a brief description of the character. Anything is appropriate, the wilder the better. We're headed for a story, character driven. Finally I share the pictures I have. They can choose any one, sometimes two, that appeal. That's it, and then they write. Of course there's more, lessons in how writers "show" a character, breaking into small groups to share and ask each other questions about the person, conferences with me. And then more, concerning problems and plot and endings. . .


             How do you start students writing fiction stories? Of course with different ages you will need different pictures. Here are a few of the pictures to get your imaginations flowing. Can you tell a story with one of them?
            Be sure to click to enlarge.



42 comments:

  1. I love this idea, Linda! I should probably practice it myself :)
    I love that you are still sharing ideas, know that even in retirement you are influencing education!

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    1. Thank you, Michele. I will keep sharing, & certainly keep reading.

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  2. Many of my friends who retire have said that the Fall is when it becomes real, as they aren't shifting from summer into school mode. I think you have lots of adventures and memory making moments ahead of you Linda and I can't wait to read about them here. Thank you for sharing your lesson idea for characterization in fiction writing. It is tricky to teach!

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    1. Lisa, I believe that the fall will be the understanding of the change, too. So many years wrap around the calendar in just a certain way for teachers. I am glad to be free of the constraint, but change this time will be a little challenging. Thanks!

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  3. This is a great approach to fiction. Something to try myself before I try with students. I wonder if they could take old photos from their family to tell as a story. Memoir, time travel? Hmmm. Got me thinking!

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    1. I have done some poetry with old family photos, but memoir writing will work too. Hope you find something that will work for you, Julieanne.

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  4. I LOVE this approach to characterization and like Julieanne, I'm going to try it before I use it with students!! Lots of good ideas!!! :)

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    1. Thanks, Michelle. I can just see you writing something about 'aunties'!

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  5. As someone who retired at the end of the 2013 school year I can say that retirement is an adjustment...but not a bad one. To ease into it, I had made dinner reservations for Kathy and me for the first day of the 2013-2014 school year. I ordered a chocolate martini (there must be a theme of some kind going on here if you read my today's post) and had a picture taken of me toasting my former colleagues. I sent them the picture. Enjoy this new chapter in your life. You will find, I'm sure, that the days just seem to fly by.

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    1. Aw, love the idea. I actually made plans for the first week of staff going back; I'll be at the beach. I hope it will help, & perhaps a certain drink, too! Thanks for sharing about your time, too!

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  6. I know your talents will be used in many ways now that the time is yours to do as you please. What fun it will be to visit Ingrid's class and perhaps share a book?

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    1. Thanks, Elsie, I have promised her teacher that she can use me where it would be most helpful. She is a delightful colleague, & I missed a lot in Ingrid's class by teaching full time last year. This time I won't.

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  7. I know this space well. This will be the start of year 3 of retirement. Each year is a bit more fun. I still work part time at a school to help with some computer needs during testing but finding lots of other things to do. I still have my home office to clean! I tend to spend the first day of the new school year doing some thing fun with a friend. Lunch, walk in the woods - what ever you really enjoy. You will find your way and find you have lots to write about. Enjoy!

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story, too, Joanne. I know it will be fun, just different, and maybe a little slower, more concentration on writing, which I want.

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  8. I also enjoyed your post and your lesson. Wonderful to bring old photographs.
    I am struck reading the comments about retirement, that the first day of school is something you need to plan for, to do something special so you won't be "grieving."
    Something I hadn't thought about...

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    1. I know that I was always excited to get back into my room, & see staff I hadn't seen all summer, get started. That first day is exciting to, and I always wanted it to go so well. This time, I'll want the day to go well in another way. Thanks, Fran!

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  9. What a great lesson! I find it invaluable for my own writing...for the first time ever, I have been "playing" at writing fiction this summer (a totally personal pursuit - not something I'm planning to share) (I love summer!!)...this is an awesome approach, to go deep into the characters.

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    1. How great that you are trying a bit of fiction, Maureen. Thanks & hope you find a little inspiration here.

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  10. What a wonderful idea! I love how you used the old photographs! Brilliant!

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    1. Thanks, Loralee. It was often really interesting what students imagined from them.

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  11. I hope you will continue to share great lessons like this one. I have an album full of old pictures, strange faces that no one living can identify. Now I know what to do with them.

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    1. I have those too, although both Arvie's and my mother wrote on the back of most. These pictures are ones I've bought at antique shops. It's nice for me to look at them too, & wonder what their lives were like. Thanks, Margaret!

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  12. Such a delightful way to get the writing juices flowing. Retirement is just another stepping stone into a new adventure. There is always some trepidation, but each day will be something to look forward to.

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    1. Thanks, Judy. I am glad to have so many of you for support, know that you are keeping busy exciting lives!

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  13. What a great lesson, Linda! The perfect nudges toward thinking about character and how to shape this important writing craft. I imagine that you will find your way towards some new endeavor - you have so much to share!

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    1. Thank you, Tara, I'm looking forward to what's next!

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  14. Great idea! Just looking at those photos inspired me to create a couple stories for those characters. I have to perfect old photo album to use!

    My slice today was about retirement also, but with a different take. https://goo.gl/Dy8stq

    I can tell that, although you are "retired", you will still keep your fingers in your career.

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    1. I don't think I can ever take the "teacher" in me away, but hopefully some other personas will emerge too. Thanks! I hope that old album will be fun for you!

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  15. It's a wonderful transition and I know you'll be as busy as ever. It doesn't take long to find a new normal. I made sure that I had something to do that first day of school. This year I'll be back for the first month filling in as counselor until a new mom returns in Oct. I'm planning lots of slow days for August before the rush of a new school year, (but only for one month)!!

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    1. It's nice that you'll have the beginning month, and then enjoy October and on. I know I'll be busy, but doing the things I want this time. I am ready, but as you can see, I know I'll be a little sad at the beginning. Thank you, Ramona!

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  16. Linda, congratulations on your retirement. You are one, I am quite sure, that was deeply into teaching, students and craft till your last day. And I am quite sure you will find many avenues to share your gifts. Would love to talk more about retirement with you sometime. This may be my last year. If not, I am sure about the following.

    Thanks for sharing the characterization lesson! You will have to send your colleagues a picture of you sipping a margharita on the beach!

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    1. I'm sure I will send a picture from the beach, Deborah, but maybe a beer instead? I'd love to talk about retirement with you. Thanks for the offer, and for the congratulations, too.

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  17. I love the idea of using pictures to spark ideas for writing stories. Kids are so creative. I love to read about their ideas when doing activities such as this. Congratulations on your retirement.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. I am always interested in using the visual for nearly every lesson. It intrigues me what details we "see", in writing, art, and reading, too.

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  18. I haven't been reading blogs as much as I should be, Linda, so I missed the news that you are officially retiring. I think that's wonderful for you--you have so much to celebrate. Thanks for sharing the ideas!

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    1. Thanks, Melanie. Glad to share the ideas I think will be useful!

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  19. You can't say you are retired until the school year really starts. There may be a chance that you are invited back and you say yes. Somehow I think you will enjoy retirement. You are a creative person and enjoy life outside classroom too.

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    1. I don't think I would go unless they were really desperate, Terje. I really am ready to do other things, & you're right, I enjoy all of them outside teaching, too. Thank you!

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  20. I wonder if this could become a regular feature on your blog--sharing favorite lessons you've accumulated over the years? While I do a lot of new stuff every year (I get bored easily!), I do have a set of favorite writing prompts that always seem to get to good stuff for almost all of my students. And I love reading about what works for other teachers. How wonderful that you will spend time in Ingrid's classroom! I do hope you'll be able to travel to visit your grandson.

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    1. Thanks for the idea, Elisabeth. I will think about it. I know I'll have fun being in Ingrid's classroom & visiting Carter. It will take me time to remember that I can go somewhere whenever I choose!

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  21. Linda,
    I was 18 and told a mentor I was a bit antsy but I really didn't know what I wanted. I remember her smiling and saying this is "toe tapping time" you have to wait its not ready yet. "

    I remember feeling confused, "I don't get it."

    "Honey, you will. Just remember there will be many times in your life when it is "toe tapping time". You will know."

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    1. You know just what to share, true story teller/keeper. Thank you. I do know.

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Having a conversation is a good thing!