Monday, February 13, 2012

Weeding The Gardens of Our Memoirs

Tuesday Slices of Life are enjoyed with Ruth and Stacey at the Two Writing Teachers Blog.

Last week, in my final, I’m sad to say, memoir class, we discussed finishing up the pieces.  We’d already done some revision and they were ready to say ‘done’, but I wanted one more conversation about narrowing down to exactly the words they wished to say to their audiences. 
Valentine’s Day is today and to me that means flowers and spring are on the way.  Despite the fact that there is much snow on the ground at my house, and icicles are hanging from the eaves, I am receiving a few seed catalogs online (I’ve gone paperless!) and beginning to imagine my flower beds.  

How does this connect to the above revision lesson?  Well, I thought of the flower beds and weeds, and how flowers look so much better without weeds crowding them.  I must tell you that this is not an original idea.  I wish I could give credit to where I have read about it in my reading, but I’ve used it with success several times in the past years, so know it’s been a while since I first saw the idea.
I talked to my students about words that crowd the important messages they wished to communicate in a memoir.  As we cut out the weeds to make room for the flowers, we remove the words that are unnecessary.  However, sometimes we like the weeds that grow, and although they fill in spaces that seem bare, weeds choke the flowers eventually.  Just as we sometimes fill in spaces with wordy sentences, as writers we need to find the unnecessary and delete them.  We made a short list of words that might be considered “weeds”.  They are words like “very” and “most”, that only weaken the word (just as weeds weaken flowers), and we also determined that the writer personally must choose longer phrases that don’t fit. 
I hope the lesson was helpful to the students.  I have them just for a short time since I am teaching the group as a part of three different writing experiences their teacher wanted them to have.  They will return to their homeroom classroom and write other things, hopefully remembering the weeds in their gardens.
Finally, last week, for Poetry Friday I shared several antique Valentines I have from my mother-in-law, who was one of those teachers who, after leaving high school, taught in a one-room schoolhouse in the 1920’s.  She rose well before sunup, saddled a horse, and left for the country building where her first duty was to start the fire.  I love these special Valentines, quite different from the ones we see today, and wanted to share one with all of you too as my Valentine wish. 

Oh let’s make life
a jolly lark
A picnic if you
And it will be just
this for me
If words you say
are these:

I Love You!
                               Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!


  1. Happy Valentine's Day to you too! Here's to weeding out our writing to make room for the beauty of a few, well-chosen words.

  2. "Words that crowd", what a great way to help kids think about their final choices and if the message they really want to get across is flowering or not. Thanks for the idea that is now growing in me.

  3. That image of weeding out the words is great! I have some word weeding to do myself.

  4. You are so good at finding the writing lesson in everything! The analogy of weeds is a great one. I may have to steal the idea!

  5. I have done that lesson of weeding your writing for the unnecessary words, it creates a great context and kids know what you are talking about. I'd forgotten about that lesson, in fact you may have just given me my lesson for modeling next week. Thanks for the reminder! I love the old valentine, they were the best back then.

  6. What a great image of weeding out words! Thanks for sharing! The old Valentines were so much fun to see as well.

  7. I love the analogy you decided to use. Weeding out words. Perfect.

    Happy Valentine's Day.

  8. I wish I could be in your class :) I wish you could teach my class :) Happy Valentine's Day.

  9. That's a lovely metaphor and I bet a strong visual reminder for students too. I am charmed by your Valentines, too!

  10. I love the weeding image! I don't have too many kids that have this problem- we are working on adding details to make our writing richer and more interesting for readers. I'm hoping you have a great metaphor for that, because I could definitely use one!

  11. What is it about gardens that make them such a good metaphor for so many things? I've heard of the garden as metaphor for the classroom - many different, but equally lovely, flowers growing, each needing to be tended to, each needing time in the sun . . .
    I love the connection between weeding and revising. I'm going to use this lesson. :)

  12. Thank you for another wise lesson...I, too, love this analogy! I'll be thinking of it in relation to my own writing as well. Many thanks, Linda. Your students are fortunate, even the ones who just have you for a snip o'time.

  13. I really love that metaphor for editing, it both conveys the hard work of revising and the reward of looking at the revised piece and seeing it 'pop'.
    And, unfortunately, it also reminds me of how much weeding I am going to have to do this spring because we never got around to fall cleanup this year. :-)

  14. I took your "weeding out" lesson to heart this week when I was working on a flyer for our local library. Even for us that write a lot, we need reminders. I also will now think of Valentine flowers reminding me that spring is not far away.

  15. Wonderful lesson idea Linda. I also love the vintage valentines. Very lovely.


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