Tag Archives: writing

Change in View: #writeout

I walked out of school with the sun shining brightly on my shoulders.  I peeled my lightweight jacket off before getting into the car to head down the hill toward the beach for my after school walk.

In the less than two miles from school to the beach, the sun dimmed, shuttered by a thick veil of fog.  Palm trees became shadowy pillars as I steered toward the beach parking lot. As I walked down the long steep ramp to the sandy beach, it was like walking into another world. Colors were swallowed by the damp blanket, the view disappeared,  I could see only 20 or 30 yards in front of me.

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My mind filled with stories, the stuff of Halloween and horror movies.  What was around the corner? What evil might that shadowy figure in front of me bring? What about the sea itself, was the tide actually as low as I expected?

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Luckily, my feet know this beach.  They followed the path worn by my frequent walks, recognizing the curve of the beach, the squish of the sand under my soles.  Familiar birds whistled hello, giant kelp caressed my toes and a huge piece of bull kelp appeared from the shadows.

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As I neared the end of my walk, a crowd of children appeared from the mist.  And with them, the bubble man, the pied piper of the beach, casting a spell with his magic wand.  The thick mist didn’t dampen their spirits, instead the dampness of the air helped them catch bubbles–holding them in their hands and allowing them to slip into the bubble tunnels the bubble man created.

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Stories continue to swirl, wrapping me in their damp, shadowy chapters.  My imagination is already hard at work, making connections, creating movies in my mind.  I can only hope they don’t become the stuff of nightmares as I drift off to sleep.

 

 

 

Inanimate Objects: Students #writeout

Some days in the classroom are just right.  Students are productive, interesting learning is visible, and it seems that we all grow closer as a result.  Today was one of those days.

As promised in a previous post, my students used the poem Pencils by Barbara Esbensen to inspire their writing about an inanimate object.  They picked topics as varied as ropes/knots, french toast and pancakes.  (There are also poems about gravestones, oil pastels, basketballs, and erasers…they are just not quite all the way finished yet!)  And then, to take the writing just another step further, we explored the Adobe Spark Video app to make a video to amplify their voices and extend their ideas.  Spark video is friendly for my students, offering a number of high quality photos for them to use in their videos.

So…here’s a few of the videos.  (I’ve included a screen shot of the video with a link to view/listen to the poem.)

Khloe’s pancake poem

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Shea’s french toast poem

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and Bodhi’s rope/knots poem

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As always, my students would love comments.  And I’d love to know what you are doing to celebrate writing this month with your students!  #writeout

 

What Students Love: #writeout

As promised, here are some of my students’ poetry inspired by Lee Bennett Hopkins’ City I Love.  (For more details, check out this previous post.)

Even before pulling out City I Love, I launched the idea of writing about place by reading All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan and Where Am I From by Yamile Saied Mendez.  Students then created heart maps of the places they love (ala Georgia Heard).  By this time students were excited about the places they love, eager to tell each other and me all about them.  But instead of diving right into the writing, I asked students to “map” themselves.  I tried to keep this direction pretty broad, letting students take it in any direction they wanted.  These watercolor and black sharpie marker masterpieces are the result!

This map is a wonderful map creature by H.

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And his poem:

Morro Rock I love

Looking at the dormant volcano 

The fish swarm in the water 

The sound of the sea gulls

The smell of the salty sea.

Casting a line

Getting the bait 

catching the fish.

It’s just sitting in place

Day after day

Year after year

For hundred of years.

Walking on the beach

looking at the fish and crabs

and looking at the ocean scenery

Sitting on a dock waiting for a fish

like waiting for a train.

 

And a pineapple map by I.

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And her poem about a very special bench that honors her grandmother:

The Bench I Love

 On the bench I sit at

      Bench I love 

I watch the flowers flowers flow 

As the birds glide slow as they pass by their home

Through the palm tree garden I go 

Past the great sun’s glow

On the bench I sit at

Bench I love 

I sit down and watch the tide curl 

Up & down it will go 

On the bench I sit at 

bench I love

The breeze flies past my hair 

And chases the ocean’s salty waves

On the bench I sit at

 bench I love

I sit down and inhale

Look up and exhale

And a horse map by S.

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Accompanied by a barn poem:

Barn I Love

Barn I go to

barn I love.

Horse smelling wonder beyond city.

Gallops of emotion. Races of hearts.

Barn I go to 

barn I love.

Each morning a sweet smell of hay .

Each night a thankful nay.

Barn I go to 

barn I love.

Morning wet covers the arena.

Full of playful horses running.

Barn I go to 

barn I love.

Stardust black mares galloping in the cold moon.

 Sunset colored  butterflies leave at the end of the day.

I told my students that I would use my blog to amplify their voices (our vocabulary word from last week!).  I know they will appreciate your comments.  And know that these are just a glimpse of what my students created as they thought about the places and activities that matter to them.

How are you celebrating writing in your classroom, in your home, in your life?  #writeout

                      

Things and Places: #writeout

An email subscription led me to a podcast called Everything is Alivewhere inanimate objects are interviewed.  (Full disclosure, I only listened to a few minutes of one podcast–but did read the transcript linked above.)  But, this idea of the personality and alive-ness of inanimate objects got me thinking about inspiration for writing.  And, in the serendipity sort of way I often experience when thinking and writing and lesson planning, I came across an old favorite poem I have used with students called Pencils by Barbara Esbensen.  (You can read Esbensen’s poem linked above.)

I have this idea that students will pick an object that matters to them and create their own inanimate object poetry inspired by Pencils.  Should I have them write about pencils?  No…let them choose something that matters to each of them.  What would I pick? My camera, of course.  So, here’s my try:

Cameras

The rooms in a camera

are a tight fit

but forests seascapes classrooms

crowd right in

 

In a camera

nature’s colors riot, drawing your eye

and dim light shifts the world

to black and white

 

From a photographer (experienced or not)

an unexplained photo may emerge

framed by the untold story

living in the stillness, frozen in time

 

Every image in your camera

is ready to

dance on rays of light

ready

to focus and expose

ready to come right out

and save that moment

so that you can explore

and experience it again and again

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Will my third graders be able to animate their inanimate objects?  I think so…and I also think that the objects will connect them to places they love and spend time at…so #writeout it is!  I’ll share the results later in the week!

Here are some of my favorite places that crowd right into the rooms in my camera!

sand art

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A Place I Love: #writeout

When I learned that the National Day on Writing, the National Park Service, and the National Writing Project would join forces to celebrate writing through #writeout in October, I was all in.  #writeout is meant to help writers focus on stories of place…particularly if there is a national park nearby.  I don’t happen to live near a national park, but I do live by spectacular outdoor spaces where I spend lots of time walking…and that inspire my writing.

As October began, students read and studied the poem, City I Love by Lee Bennett Hopkins.  The rhythms and patterns of the poem were friendly to students, they were able to notice many techniques Hopkins employed.  And better yet, they were eager and ready to write their own versions using this poem as their mentor text.

City I Love by Lee Bennett Hopkins

 

In the city

I live in—

city I love—

mornings wake

to swishes, swashes,

sputters

of sweepers

swooshing litter

from gutters.

 

In the city

I live in—

city I love—

afternoons pulse

with people hurrying,

scurrying—

races of faces

pacing to

must-get-there

places.

 

In the city

I live in—

city I love—

nights shimmer

with lights

competing

with stars

above

unknown heights.

  

In the city

I live in—

city I love—

as dreams

start to creep

my city

of senses

lulls

me

to

sleep.

With this poem as a mentor text, I wrote my own version, focusing on a favorite place of mine.  Of course, I had to write about walking on the beach!

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Beach I Love

 

At the beach

I walk on

The beach I love

Seagulls hover

Squawking and flapping

Searching for treats

In unattended 

Beach bags. 

 

At the beach 

I walk on

The beach I love

Salty waves

Curl and break

Tossing swimmers 

And tempting surfers

Into the cool, refreshing

Depths. 

 

At the beach 

I walk on

The beach I love

Squishy sand

Sucks at my toes

Tiny grains sanding 

My soles smooth

And sheltering 

Tiny frisky crabs and 

Multitudes of bean clams. 

 

At the beach 

I walk on

The beach I love

Rhythmic seas

Slow my breath

Warm my heart

And clear my mind. 

 

Kim Douillard 

So in honor of the National Day on Writing and #writeout, I let the outdoors inspire my writing.  I will include my students’ writing in days to come!

 

 

 

#USvsHate: Going National!

How do you deal with hate in the classroom?  As teachers, I know we all work on building safe and productive learning communities–places where the young people entrusted to our care can thrive.  But sometimes the world creeps in. Kids hear hurtful comments and see hurtful actions–on media, from adults or others in the community, then bring them to school to test out their impact on their classmates and peers.  

And frankly, for whatever reasons, we live in a society where hate has become normalized.  So what do we do about it?

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This is where #USvsHate comes in.  Mica Pollock and a small team of teachers in San Diego decided to take advantage of the many anti-hate lessons freely available through a variety of organizations (Teaching Tolerance, Facing History and Ourselves, the Anti-Defamation League, Rethinking Schools, the Bully Project and more) to open up spaces for students (kindergarten through college) to learn about the origins of hate, to explore their own experiences with hate, and to create messaging to publicly refuse hate.  

Last year, I was fortunate to join the leadership of this effort as director of the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP) along with a team of SDAWP teacher leaders.  We piloted lessons–some directly from the organizations listed above, and some we had created or adapted for our own contexts and academic requirements–and had our students create anti-hate messaging.  I had a front row seat to the empathy and creativity of San Diego students as I helped judge entries from the #UsvsHate contests in November, February, and April. (And of course as I implemented #USvsHate into my own classroom!)

I traveled to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama in July with our team as we presented #USvsHate to the team at Teaching Tolerance.  And it made its national debut this week!  

Join us in the effort to refuse hate and to amplify student anti-hate messaging.  Read the article in Teaching Tolerance for more background information and check out usvshate.org for lessons to use with students, examples of winners and finalists, and protocols and supports for opening up potentially difficult conversations in the classroom..  Our collective action can and will make a difference!

What Would You Hold?

During our first Make Cycle of the  SDAWP Invitational Summer Institute, we are each answering the question, “What would you hold?”  The make requires that we represent the answer to that questions with a photo of something precious held in our hands.

After too much thought and second guessing, here is my photo.

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I’m sure that a photo of me holding my camera isn’t surprising to many of you.  But I want to press beyond the camera as a tool to make pretty pictures.  It isn’t the camera itself that is precious.  In fact, sometimes it isn’t even my camera that I use for photography…sometimes my phone works just as well (or even better).  But the camera represents a practice that I value.  Taking photos encourages me to slow down, to pay attention, to notice the value and beauty in the ordinary…and it gets me writing.

I try to get out with my camera every day: walking, breathing deeply, letting my thoughts roam.  With my feet moving and under the influence of fresh air, I can let my worries float away and use my senses to tune into the world outside of my head.  I seldom take photos of people, instead I try to capture moments that capture my attention.  (The exception would be the many photos I take of my grandsons–none of which I post on social media to protect their privacy.)  I often find that the photos I take become metaphors to express ideas I am thinking about.

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With my camera I get low, checking out the vantage from the bug’s perspective.  I find myself thinking about times when teaching and mothering and living feels like pushing the world up a very steep hill.  Images of mythology fill my head and the strains and stresses of the day unkink, letting those tight muscles that run across my shoulders begin to relax.

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Out on the playground with my students I get to bring my passions to my students.  Photography also helps my students look in new ways, and like it does for me, that looking generates ideas and language for writing.  This photo was an example of looking for natural frames for photos–a composition technique I wanted my students to explore.

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With camera in hand, I learn…and sometimes I mourn.  Regular walks on the beach bring the realities of environmental damage front and center.  I see the daily human impact, the excesses of our disposable lifestyle, and get up close and personal with death and destruction. I am forced to pay attention to the lessons nature is teaching and encouraged to learn more as I walk with the rhythms of the tides and the seasons, appreciating the beauty and noticing the destruction.

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And I see the power of small children making a difference.  Little efforts, like teaching students to compost their leftovers from lunch will help them make the world a better place. (My students thought this photo was gross–but when I explained what it represented to me, they found it more interesting.)

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My camera also lets me celebrate life’s pleasures and express my gratitude.  My husband is an amazing cook and nurturer.  Some days result in food that doubles as works of art!

Mostly, though my camera helps me make space in my life.  Space for observation, space for an exploration of the senses, space for listening and learning, and space for making and creativity.  It gets me outside and keeps me moving.  It helps me connect with others–in person and online.  It reminds me to play, to take action, and to appreciate all that life has to offer.