Reading-of

Sitting down for the reading-of challenged my sense of balance.  The wobbly table in front of me offered no support for my arthritic hands. And I feared that any movement of the table would knock over the seven wax candles that flickered atop.  The high-backed wicker chair where I was to rest seemed to be held together with strings and rags.  Still, I sat.  Slowly.  Carefully.

Marcia entered cat-like, brushed her flowing robes aside and sat in front of me on a stool that I had not seen.  Her long white hair covered her eyes, but with her back to the candles I couldn’t have seen them anyway.

Without saying a word she reached forward and took my cold hands in hers.  They were warm.  The room was warm.  The room lit up, transformed, no, I was in a big city, on a busy corner.  Was this New York? I looked down at my hands and they were young again.  The pain was gone. I looked up at the kiosk and newspapers held a date years into the future.  

I reached my right hand up to inspect a magazine from the kiosk.  A stab of agony.  I was cold.  As suddenly as I had left the room, I returned to the age and the pain and the darkness and the flickering candles.

And Marcia. 

Slowly she whispered, “I have read-of youYou have seen.”

As she rather floated out of the room the candles extinguished.  I slowly stood, in the dark, but I had seen a light.

Oral Rehearsal for Writing

Do your students say what they want to write before they write it?  Whether it is a short exit ticket, the resolution of the conflict in a narrative, a lab report, or something else, there is a lot of power in oral rehearsal at every age. 

An easy way to do an oral rehearsal with your students is to do a think-pair-share.  You may have heard of this strategy where students take a moment to think about the answer to your question, and then turn to a partner who is near them to share the answer. To complete the cycle, have students write what they shared.

Another way to set up oral rehearsal is for students to have writing partners.  Before writing, partners can share what they will write about based on the instructions for the day.  After they write, they can share their writing and get some feedback from the partner.  I like to set up partners for the length of the unit so that students can build that friendship that good writing partners need.

Yes, all of this takes modeling and practice.

This week I did a small experiment with two of my students who are learning English.  I asked them first to write about a movie and I gave them five minutes to write.  Then, I had each one tell us about a book that they liked.  Here is a picture of their answers.  I added a word count to each text.Screen Shot 2021-08-25 at 3.39.47 PM

Screen Shot 2021-08-25 at 3.40.06 PM

Sure there is lots to work on with their English, but look at the difference in language production!  Oral rehearsal is definitely worth the effort.

Ask Some Questions…

…and then wait for the answers.

Screen Shot 2021-08-23 at 2.09.56 PMTeachers, at times, argue about silly things.  Years ago I walked into a classroom and into heated discussion that pitted Bloom’s Taxonomy against Webb’s Depth of Knowledge.  (Really, I did!) While there were teachers on either side of the discussion, they were all arguing for the same thing: Good Questions!  After listening for a while, our literacy coach wondered aloud, “How about using both to get the students think in lots of different ways about many different ideas?”

Screen Shot 2021-08-23 at 2.12.20 PMThat’s the ticket!  Let’s use the ideas of Bloom and Webb to motivate student thinking, speaking, and writing.  If you haven’t revisited Bloom and Webb in a while, now might be a good time to review the questions you ask, think about your wait time, and consider who does most of the talking in your class.  (Someone once told me that the person in class who is talking is the one who is doing the learning. It was probably that same literacy coach).

The resources (click on the pictures) are tools to get you thinking and to get your students thinking.  Have high expectations for your students and they will rise to the challenges that you scaffold for them.  All students can and do learn.  We can help them.

The Game’s Afoot!

On a recent trip to Minnesota, a friend and I met for coffee and conversation.  As part of the conversation we, as we often do, discussed our reading and writing.  We shared suggestions for awesome reads, quick reads, reads to avoid, … Then we discussed writing.

To make a longer story shorter, we came to an agreement: In one year we will return to the same coffee shop, each one with a manuscript for the other to read.  Yep, we’re gonna write some books!

Why am I telling you this?  It keeps me honest and helps me with accountability- if I tell the world I am going to write a book then I will, most likely, write a book.  Now, just so you know, there was no agreement as to length or quality; we did not discuss genre or publishing.  One could write a 700 page fantasy or a 30 page poetry chap book.  And, if for some reason we don’t write, we will still meet for coffee and conversation.

So, the game’s afoot!  Pen to paper!

Middle School Writing Lab

As we work to systematize the writing work we do in Middle School, we decided to start a new website: Middle School Writing Lab.  It will be a constant work in progress (and it was only started last Thursday so, keep that in mind).  I hope to include in each section:

  • How-To/ Explanation
  • Examples
  • Rubric
  • Word Bank

I am looking for that sweet spot between “formula” and “stream of consciousness.” I want writers to use their personal voice while accomplishing the task at hand.  If you have any amazing resources please send them my way.  Let’s Write!

Let’s Write

A bit of motivation for the NaNoWriMo writers (sung to the tune of Rawhide)

Writing, writing, writing,
With the page I’m fighting
Keep them pencils writing
Let’s Write!

Through problems and solutions
Ironic resolutions
Pen to page all through the night

The dialogue they’re talkin’
From scene to scene they’re walkin’
Revising will help me get it right.

Think it up, write it down
write it down, think it up
think it up write it down
Let’s Write!

Read it out, editin’
Editin’, read it out
Read it out, editin’
Let’s Write

Julio Papá

Arguing with the television,
turning it down, loudly,
eating fresh rosquitas and offering them
to everyone.

Wanting to share in the wine
But too methodical to do so.
Keeping life’s rhythms and rhymes.

Patterns that matched his shirt.

Setting his watch by casino,
Punching the clock at the café as if going to work,
Paying without comment.

Community wherever he was.

Welcoming you, as you are,
Who you are,
Supporting your dreams,
Take a nap if you want to, fix the world if you want to…
But how about a sandwich at 8:40,
And could the doctor’s appointment be after breakfast and before the café?

Missing
You
Deeply