Tag Archives: writing

The Magic of Mini-Zines

There’s something so special about making things. You use your own hands and something that was once a flat blank piece of paper is suddenly something else, something you created.

We’ve been making Zines in my first grade classroom. Our first attempt happened during our Dot Day celebration. We took a piece of printer paper, folded until we had 8 even rectangles, made a single cut…and voila! The paper became a small, multi-paged book. Those first books became our “A Dot Can Be…” zines.

Last week in honor of #writeout, we spent some time in our pollinator garden and basin area of the playground exploring nature’s artifacts. I wrote about our experience with our nature collectors and our wonder walk here. When I left off with that post students were in the process of creating zines about the nature items they collected. What I love most about these mini zines is the agency students feel about creating them. I also like that it allows students to both “write small” and to be literary in their approach. Students who are emerging as writers might create a page that reads, “Spiders Find a Way” with a beautiful drawing of a spider on a web, while more advanced writers can write, “A rock finds a way to scrub against the tree with happiness.” The writing and creating is accessible to everyone in our first grade class. And the zines are truly tiny jewels!

And after a conversation with some colleagues on the Connecting the Network Call with the National Writing Project last week, I took their suggestion and sent blank zines (made by my students) home with students with an invitation to explore on their own at home and to make a zine on their own. (We forgot to take them home on Friday, so they went home on Monday).

And…just like my colleagues suspected, my students were motivated to write at home. Today this lovely book came in:

My student was excited to read it to me…and for me to read it to the class! It was a delightful nature-based fictional story that involved a bug and a centipede. I’m guessing some more student-created zines may show up in the classroom later this week!

I know we’ll keep on making and writing…and making writing, both inside and outside the classroom. I’m excited about the writing community that my classroom is becoming.

#writeout: Because of an Acorn

When life gives you acorns…turn it into a #writeout inspiration!

On Saturday I found myself at UC Davis meeting with an incredible group of writing project teachers from all over the state as we launched year 2 of our CWP Environmental Literacy and Justice Collaborative. In that space we imagined all the ways to support our students as they learn about the earth and its systems, grow their appreciation of the natural world and resources we share, and use writing to think, to reflect, to question, and to advocate for the world we need and want for ourselves and for our future.

My colleague Carol brought some wonderful acorns she found in her neighborhood as inspiration for a making project…and lucky me, I ended up taking the extras home with me to use in my classroom. These acorns are bigger than the ones I am familiar with…and so beautiful!

And they were perfect for the book I had already borrowed from the library to read this week–Because of an Acorn by Lola Schaefer. After reading and studying this deceptively simple text, we talked about what they noticed in the book. They were quick to notice that it included aspects of life cycles…and they loved the cutouts on the first and last pages. Serendipitously the NWP Write Out newsletter included a link to a video about acorns by a park ranger at the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. My students loved learning more about acorns–and the ways that trees communicate with each other.

Then it was time to pull out our #writeout pencils and notebooks. We took time to look carefully at the acorns and sketch them in detail. Students were encouraged to use numbers and words in addition to their sketch to capture information about their acorn.

After a break for their music class and recess, we returned to our notebooks for some writing. To push students’ thinking, we used the prompts: I noticed…, I wonder…, and It reminds me of to describe the acorn we had studied and sketched. These first graders had no hesitation. They had plenty to write about and were eager to get started! To keep the words flowing, students were encouraged to use their best “kid writing” (or phonetic spelling), prioritizing ideas over correctness.

Best of all, my students are paying attention to the environment and appreciating all that it has to offer. It is my goal that this immersion in nature will lead us toward advocacy as we consider the ways all of us, as community members–young and old(er), can be a catalyst for change to make the world a better place.

A Wonder Walk

First graders are naturally filled with wonder. It doesn’t take much to get them to look closely, to pay attention to details that many others miss.

Our school has the most amazing librarian. Last week I asked her about a book–a book I know I own, but cannot find in my classroom. And she not only found me a copy of that book, but she also suggested another that was new to me…and just what I needed today when I found it in my mailbox.

#writeout is a collaboration between the National Writing Project and the National Park Service that urges all of us to get outside and find inspiration in whatever nature is around us. We started #writeout yesterday with time in the school garden. Students learned about weeds, donned child-sized gardening gloves, and dug and pulled and delighted in seeing roots break free of the dry soil.

Today we read Wonder Walkers, that book our school librarian left in my mailbox. It was perfect for setting the stage for a wonder walk, time on our school grounds looking for interesting things (think leaves, seed pods, sticks, etc.) from nature that we collected using our collection tool (shout out to Little Pine Learners). Before we headed out we talked about what items we could collect and what we should not (living bugs, picking flowers and plants)–and students were excited to get started.

They looked carefully and their collectors began to fill. Some were exuberant and filled their spaces quickly, crowding dried roots and pine droppings with sticks and crunchy leaves. Others were more selective, leaving more spaces between the items collected. A child with sharp eyes found a dandelion puff that didn’t have to be picked, truly a treasure that her classmates envied!

Before we headed back into the classroom, I gathered students close and encouraged them to hold out the collectors so they could see each other’s collections and also so I could take a few pictures.

Once back in the classroom, students used their iPads to take a photo of their collector for future use. Then we settled to read another book. An old favorite, Weeds Find a Way by Cindy Jenson-Elliott, is a wonderful mentor text for students to use as a structure or frame for their writing. I loved the gasp when students realized that this book was non-fiction, yet so accessible with beautiful illustrations. They also remembered their experience with weeds from yesterday and the conversation with the garden teacher about how weeds are not “bad,” they are just not the plants you want in a particular space.

After comments and observations about the book, we tried on using the Weeds find a way… frame with objects from our collectors. “A red leaf finds a way to swish and swoosh through the air,” was one example that got us started.

We ended the day by starting a Zine to showcase our nature items through writing and drawing. We used a single sheet of copy paper to fold a small booklet (with a single cut and no tape or staples) that will soon become tiny treasures worthy of #writeout. More about that in another post!

Summer Rainless Song

I like the way the syllable count forces language, creates opportunity for new thinking. Today’s prompt from Ethical ELA asked writers to come up with a line of a poem and continue with poem using the same number of syllables in each line. As I walked the beach this morning, I kept thinking about the monsoonal moisture promised by the weather forecasters–and the fact that I know it won’t result in the rain we need so much. I found myself obsessed with rain as I walked, counting syllables in my head. Here’s the resulting draft and the beautiful sky last night that fueled today’s obsessive thinking.

Summer Rainless Song

A pitty pat pat

the sound I don’t hear

except in my dreams

water all around

but not on the ground

Monsoonal moisture

parched earth, cloud-filled skies

precipitation

promised rainfall – gone!

no pitty pat pat

Tinderbox of fear

drought-dried brush, fire fuel

inferno rages

in my brain, waiting

wishing for the sound

And the smell of rain

pitter patter pat

living in dryness

monsoonal moisture

waiting for rain

@kd0602

Fountain of Youth

Word association, make a list…it all seems too simple. But it’s not. It’s actually genius! Many thanks to the folks over at Ethical ELA and the Open Write for yet another day of inspiration. Today’s prompt took me to a favorite ice cream place in Ventura…and then back in time.

Fountain of Youth

My tongue tingles as we drive by

McConnells might just be

The best ice cream ever

Pick your treat

Creamy, cool

Flavors:

Santa Barbara strawberry

Eureka lemon and marionberry

Jostles memories

And I become a child again

Time stops

And I’m in the Thrifty

On tippy toes

Picking my scoop

5 cents for a single

Dare I splurge

Spending 15 cents for a triple?

@kd0602

Morning Treasure

A treasure hunt is the perfect way to start a day! That’s how I felt when I read the Open Write prompt today on Ethical ELA. I took a little different pathway on my treasure hunt and let my walk this morning uncover the treasure.

Morning Treasure

Morning light slanting

to warm my shoulder

making a mirror of wet sand

reflections in full color

Water pulls back

revealing rocky flower fields

anemones clustered

nature’s jewels

Blue upon blue upon blue

color like breath

oxygenating my blood

morning treasure

@kd0602

Things you can do with a wave

After my experience with #verselove in April, I have been looking forward to the Ethical ELA open write (5 days in June with writing invitations like those in April). I eagerly opened my email this morning and followed the link to the blog post where the invitation offered Things you can do with an orange as a mentor text provided by Allison Berryhill.

I spent my morning at the beach–first with a gorgeous low-tide walk and then staying to watch the Switchfoot Bro Am surf contest. As I watched the surfers play on nature’s waves, a poem began to form. While this is certainly still a first draft, it was fun to play around with the idea of things you can do with a wave.

Things you can do with a wave

Ride it like a pony

up white-topped salt water mountains

and down into

deep cerulean valleys

Swim like a dolphin

holding your breath

exploring the depths

noticing another world

under the water

until you rise into

the matching blue sky

and breathe deeply once again

Hear its music

whoosh and patter

with the thunder of pebbles

rolling with the bass

Tumble and turn

feelings earth’s energy

in the cool saltiness

Imitate the shore birds

as they stomp and splash

Let the pinks and oranges and red

crown you each evening

as day gives way to darkness

paint the world with hope

and start anew tomorrow

@kd0602

Primed for Summer Writing

Weirdly enough, this school year ended with 2 minimum days–on a Monday and Tuesday. With the class party dealt with on Friday, what do you plan for those last days of school with first graders?

Inspired by a post I saw on Two Writing Teachers, we began our last two days of school by creating a character–a puppet of sorts–to feature in our writing and to prime the pump for some possible summer writing.

Yesterday morning armed with cardstock, construction paper, scissors, glue, markers, and colored pencils we began creating our characters. Students knew I would make an egret. (They know I love egrets and often feature them in my writing) I demonstrated one way to put a character together…and also started talking through a story featuring the character that was brewing in my head. And then they were off…

As they crafted and created they were also having conversations about their characters. They talked about where the characters lived, their special features and coloring. All the perfect pre-writing you always wish for (and sometimes doesn’t happen). I love this time in the school year when students are comfortable and confident, allowing the creative juices to flow. Once completed, we left the character puppets to dry on the counter.

Today we began with our sketch pads, setting our characters in their places, giving them action and a problem to solve. And again, as students sketched and colored they also talked about their stories.

At this point students were eager to write. We talked about adding dialogue and thoughts, sound words, and setting. And on this very last day of first grade, these students wrote and wrote. They loved that they were filling the page (or more) with their writing. They were excited to read their stories out loud and they were willing to add even more details.

The added bonus is that they also created a list of other stories featuring this character that they may write in the next hours or days or weeks. They left with their notebooks and sketchbooks and their character in hand…and their brains primed and ready for some summer writing (I hope)! I leave the school year knowing that my students left on this last day of first grade as writers, knowing they can put their stories on the page for themselves and others to enjoy.

Would I have students write on the last day of school again…the answer is a resounding YES! It was a wonderful way to spend our last days together, immersed in this community of writers developed over the course of the school year. There were so many things that were hard about this year of teaching, which makes me even happier that these last two days were a joy…for me and for them. They and I left the school year wanting more…that wonderful bittersweet feeling of being happy and sad all at the same time.

I Sing: Writer NPM22 Day 30

On this last day of April, Sarah over at Ethical ELA has invited us to claim the title writer or poet modeled on the poetry collection I Sing: The Body edited by René Saldaña, Jr. The collection of poems thread struggle and celebration within what we are told and what we believe about ourselves. The poems uncover memory and anger and hope. I decided to explore the identity of writer in today’s poem.

I Sing: Writer

As a child I played with words

tossing them

bouncing them against each other

sharing them

experimenting without fear

I learned later

words could be weapons

sharpened to aim

or twisted back

piercing the heart

silencing the tongue

Today I wield my words

with care

gently guiding them

squeezing them together

splaying them wide

freeing them to find their own rhythm

testing both friction

and

space

redefining myself

as I write

@kd0602

What a Poem Can Do: NPM22 Day 29

Who doesn’t love a poem about a poem? Today’s #verselove prompt at Ethical ELA was presented by Glenda who also shared a mentor poem and video by Darius V. Daughtry, what can a poem do? Daughtry’s poem begins with a series of explanations of what poems don’t do, then pivots to what poems can do. For my own poem, I decided to focus on what poems can do without the examination of what they can’t or don’t do.

What a Poem Can Do

A poem can peel back skin

revealing he heart

beat

beat

beating

A single word

can taste like childhood

licking up

soft-serve

in the swirl of memory

Leave

space

to breathe in

space

to breathe out

tapping the melody of

today

against the rhythms

of all the yesterdays

A poem can paint the world

in every shade of blue

until color

explodes

in new opportunities to see

@kd0602