Tag Archives: gifts

The Gift of Words

Inspired by a blog post on Edutopia by a colleague of mine from the UCLA Writing Project, our class began to explore the idea of gifts.  This is a hard time for young students, this season seems to make them want everything!  There is talk of what Santa will bring, what antics and gifts the elf carries, along with lots of decorating and baking and performances and outings…

So last week we began by reading a beautiful picture book that my teaching partner found at Powell’s books in Portland called Immi’s Gift by Karin Littlewood.  This gorgeous book about an Inuit girl is perfect for setting the stage for expanding the idea of gifts beyond what can be purchased.  And honestly, our students, even before reading the book had many ideas about those “priceless” gifts…of time, nature, acts of kindness…  And this simple book is filled with beautiful language, ideas, and images.

And then we gave the students the invitation to become word-sleuths…to be on the lookout for words, phrases, sentences..that were worthy of gift status.  Words that were special to them in some way.  They collected these words on yellow stickies and then carefully wrote them on some pretty pieces of paper to hang on the “My Gift of Words” board in our classroom.

My Gift of Words

The collections are growing–and students are not only finding words others wrote, they are writing their own too!  This third grader came in on Tuesday with this line that she had written in her notebook on her way to school.  (And I suspect also influenced by another book we read, What Does Peace Feel Like? by Vladimir Radunsky.)

peace like salt water

Here’s a glimpse at some of the other word gifts hanging on our board.

And suddenly, not only are my students noticing and appreciating words everywhere, but so am I!  At a meeting at school on Monday, one of my colleagues used this Michelangelo quote to call us all to action and urge us to dream big.

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.  Michelangelo

A word fairy has been leaving inspirational quotes in our mailboxes at school this week…and a friend of mine just gave me this beautiful necklace with a quote from Albert Einstein on it.  (I love the sentiment!)


And the cherry on top of all these words is that at The Writing Thief MOOC our most recent make is a scavenger hunt for mentor texts!  It feels like I have been bathed in words this week, they are falling like raindrops, gathering in puddles, splashing ideas and inspiration into my thinking and writing and living.

And I see it with my students too.  They are tuned into words, catching them in their nets, and sharing them with each other, their families, and with us.  In this season of giving, the gift of words has been spectacular…and a tradition that I hope carries on into the New Year!

What words are inspiring you this holiday season?  What words have you given and received as gifts?  What are your favorite mentor texts?  And feel free to join us over at The Writing Thief MOOC and share some of your favorite words, phrases, sentences, and books…you’re all welcome.  Come join the fun!

A Gift a Day: December’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

While it often seems that December is all about shopping and buying, the spirit of the winter holidays is about giving.  I often think about photography as a gift to myself…it allows me to explore, to see the world anew, to get outside and interact with nature, time for reflection and relaxation, and more.  And I can also see that each image could also be a gift to others, an opportunity to enjoy a view through my lens.

There are so many gifts that are intangible, you simply can’t go to the store to buy them.  And yet, through a photograph you can get a glimpse of the possibilities.  I can think of many who would appreciate the gift of abundance.  I couldn’t resist this shot of the shelves at the Filippi’s Pizza Restaurant in Little Italy today.

abundanceAnd I know that I appreciated this gift of creativity from an artist who created this lighted sculpture that I found in front of the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

lighted sculptureSometimes the gift is spending time with others who love doing what you love.  These surfers caught an occasional wave and seemed to spend lots of time hanging out together in the water on their boards.

surfer in the wavesThe gift of exploration is one that I treasure.  Something as simple as finding pieces of sea glass as I walk on the beach is a wonderful pleasure…and quite a gift.  Each tiny shard feels like a jewel mined from the sea.

green seaglassI often find the gift of design in historic architecture, in those buildings that somehow withstand years of weather and use and still maintain their grace and beauty.  I found this building in Alexandria, VA.

Athenaeum in Alexandria

And these in silhouette on the mall in our nation’s capitol.

buildings in silhouette

Sometimes it is the symmetry, somewhere in the image, that catches my eye and draws my interest.  These train tracks seem to point the way to the heart of downtown San Diego.

lines downtown

Time to play is another gift I wish for myself and others.  Children spinning on a carousel as the sun sets

carousel play

or adults sailing off cliffs high above the Pacific, play creates an attitude of possibility and offers relief from life’s stresses.

three gliders off the cliffs

And nature’s gifts are innumerable…whether it be watching geese in the tidal basin with the Jefferson Memorial in the background

across the basin

or lifeguard towers gathered together to winter on the beach, there is so much beauty, peace and joy in these sights.

wintering lifeguard towers

This month’s #sdawpphotovoices challenge is to gift the world with a photo a day.  To help you cast your photo net wide, here is a list of prompts to get your creative juices flowing.

1. Abundance

2. Light

3. Peace

4. Laughter

5. Symmetry

6. Courage

7. Generosity

8. Compassion

9. Silence

10. Time

11. Hope

12. Trust

13. Vision

14. Curiosity

15. Health

16. Patience

17. Gratitude

18. Creativity

19. Relaxation

20. Music

21. Design

22. Reflection

23. Empathy

24. Nature

25. Family

26. Food

27. Life

28. Community

29. Solitude

30. Place

31. Energy

So be on the lookout this month for images that represents gifts you would like to give to the world or to people you know and love.  Post a photo each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twitter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the better!), so that we can all enjoy the posts. If you would like to expand your gifts, write the story that the photo tells, compose a blog post about a photo, a week’s worth of photos, write a photo essay, or make a video or slideshow. You are invited to create a pingback by linking to this url or post your blog address in the comment section. It’s fun for me to see what others are doing with the same prompts I am using!

Instead of fighting the crowds at the mall this month (or maybe just in addition to those trips to the mall), keep your eye tuned for possible gifts through images.  You can capture a gift in a single photo or in a series. (You might even try a 5-image story as a gift.)  You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life. You can post your pictures in the order of the prompts or post the one you find on the day you find it. You get to make your own rules…after all, they are your gifts to give! Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them! So go out and explore, what gifts would you give through your photography?  I can’t wait see the gifts you find and present through your lens!