Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bats in the Theater?

A friend of mine asked me to join her at a theater for a documentary that her daughter was hosting at our town's historic landmark, The Egyptian Theatre. Her daughter is a lactation consultant, and the company she works for was hosting this movie called "Milk". In a nutshell, it talked about breastfeeding all around the world. Heartwarming and heartbreaking all in one.

Well anyway, as we were watching, we saw on the screen some bird-like creatures flying in the shot; but then, they became 3D! And more flying creatures were added to the mix. Yikes! These creatures were bats flying around this theater! Mind you the Egyptian is a very old and beautifully ornate theater. And to be honest, the bats fit right in! My friend would tell you that they were not welcome at all. I say, keep them there! They added character and a sense of awe! Happy Thanksgiving, All, and add your Slice of Life to the blog: Two Writing Teachers!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Yoga and Writing

For years I have practiced yoga to improve my physical, mental, and spiritual health. Starting most days with my practice primes my body and mind to become more open to what the day may bring. I have incorporated breathing techniques and simple yoga postures into my teaching--especially on those days when my students were hanging on by a thread. By why wait until students are in desperate need to incorporate all that yoga has to offer? Here is a great way to mindfully start the morning off right and incorporate writing at the same time!

Before I begin on how to incorporate yoga into the writing process, let me just say this: The most important part of the day is the morning! Our thoughts, actions, interactions, and reactions will set the tone for the day. Make sure your students see you at the door welcoming each and every student as they enter the classroom or resource room. Saying their names and smiling is a small, but powerful way to let students know they are important. This practice, if done mindfully and consistently, will pay off in the long run. Believe me, if you skip a day of this, notice how the atmosphere in the room changes! Now, onto writing...

Students are to clear their desks. Hands are to be placed palms up on their laps. Have them close their eyes. Guide them through this 1-2 minute breathing cycle by saying these words:

Notice your breath flowing in and out of your nose...(pause about 10 seconds) Notice how fast or slow you are breathing... Do not change your breath in anyway, just notice...if your mind wanders, just bring your attention back to your breath...now feel the breath move through your nose to the back of your throat...notice if your breathing has changed...is it faster? slower?...notice your belly move as you breathe...now just relax for a bit more...open your eyes and get out your journal and a writing utensil...write down your thoughts...how did this feel? Write whatever comes to mind...
(Follow this link to learn more about free writing.)

Do this everyday. You can change your journal prompts as you see fit, however, the process of breathing stays the same. If at any time during your day you find that students are becoming distracted or antsy, you can remind them to do their breathing. Once this becomes part of your routine, you may not even have to guide them as much as before.

Try this out first and see how it feels. And you, being the wonderful teacher you are, will model writing with the students. Now get started write away!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Slice of Life #5

"Life is a box of chocolates...you never know what you'll get!" This line from the movie Forrest Gump is accurate and priceless. These past few weeks were such beautiful ones with my family. Each day is something new.

We are creating a new "tradition" in our family: My sons attend Heroclix tournaments on Sundays. Heroclix is a game involving superheroes and villians. Only the strong survive. I began playing a couple of summers ago. It took me a year or so to really learn how to play this once-easy-now-more-complex game. My kids have been pestering me to join them at the tournaments. I have resisted, since the first tournament I attended was chaotic. They have assured me they are no longer that way. So about a month ago, I attended a tournament. My kids really gave me no choice. I grumbled in the beginning, because I'm not a very good player. But what I found out from the experience was that all the people at the tournaments help each other. It's not cut-throat like I thought it would be. I truly enjoyed it.

What truly made me want to continue going to the tournaments was a comment from a fellow teacher who is a superhero fanatic. He said, "Your kids are so lucky that you play those games with them. Most moms wouldn't do that." Now I won't lie to you. It isn't always easy sitting down to play this game...the rules are many, and the powers confusing...but sharing that precious time with my kids is what is so important. As I'm finding out, the years slip by fast, and I don't want to miss a minute of it!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Slice of Life #4

My garden! It's blooming! For about five years I waited for my lil sprout of a lilac bush to produce flowers. Two weekends ago I was digging up hasta shoots to replant in other parts of my yard, and I happened to glance up at my young, aspiring lilac bush. The first time ever! BUDS! This bush is at the NE corner of my house, right by my back porch door. I am anticipating the sweetly fragrant smell to greet me each morning as I go to work or spend the early summer mornings in my garden.

Brand new lilac buds!
At the end of the last summer season, I started a photo journal of my garden and posted the beautiful flowers on Facebook. This was my attempt to create hope, rejuvenation, and acceptance of change during the cold winter months. And you know what? It worked. Normally, winters are so long for me, and my motivation to get moving is stymied by that wonderfully soft recliner in my living room. But now that I see the rejuvenation happening in my garden, I see my spirits are starting to lift again.

In my post Slice of Life #3, I talked about those days as a teacher that are just plain hard to get through. I talked about taking the time to reboot for the next big thing. Isn't this what happens in nature? The trees go dormant, many of the critters hibernate, preparing for the 'next big thing'. So, there you have it. This is nature's proof that we all need that rest so that we can shine and bloom and spread our radiance around. Happy spring, All! I hope you have found that spark that keeps you going!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Slice of Life #3

I struggle sometimes, as a teacher, wondering how to motivate those students who seem to have a very difficult motivating themselves. I have taught for 22 years and have been very blessed to have a variety of students from different walks of life with different disabilities and even those with multiple disabilities. But what all of my former and current students have in common, at some stage of their academic career, is that they struggle with being engaged at the level we teachers would hope for them. So am I just talking about students? Heck no. I'm including myself in that basket also. Although I am loathe to admit it, some teaching days are a struggle to get through. Do my students see that? Am I giving them permission to slack off, too? Or, and this is what I hope for, am I showing them that perfection is unattainable, even for adults. I hope that I can inspire them to brush themselves off, and pick themselves up again...and try, try again. I really can identify with this quote from Abraham Lincoln: "Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first hour sharpening the axe." Does this mean procrastinating? Maybe. Does it mean mentally preparing oneself? More likely. So on my 'off' days, maybe my mind, body, soul are rebooting, not procrastinating or just getting by. Maybe I'm preparing for the next big thing. Who knows? But that's my stance, and I'm sticking to it!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Link to Interview: With Grace Under Pressure by M. Rae

Last month, I had the pleasure to interview a new indie author, M. Rae, who wrote a phenomenal book called With Grace Under Pressure. This interview is located on my other blog, Youthful Yogini. Please stop by and read this interview with a wonderful new author. I know you will not be disappointed!

Motivating the Reluctant Writer

Those groans you often hear when you present a new writing assignment can wear on your nerves and possibly stifle any enthusiasm you had in starting the writing lesson. So rather than start with 'how to motivate the reluctant writer', let's start with 'how to motivate the reluctant teacher'. I really believe that quality learning is reflected in the enthusiasm and passion of the teachers throughout a student's day. I know that if I have a lesson that I am proud of, or that is of interest to me, I tend to look forward to that more than those lessons that are 'HAVE-TOs'. I don't think I'm sharing anything profound here, just simply stating what we all know as writers and teachers. So with that, here are my ideas on how to create fun in your class so that you are no longer reluctant, but an active participant in your lessons. Remember, it is important to model writing (as with reading) so that students can see that you are practicing, too.

  • Starting from my first post of this blog, Start Write Here, can be a fun way to kick off a writing assignment. Sometimes, just spending 5 minutes free writing can get those juices flowing so the transition into the lesson is a little easier. 
  • Ideas or steps to take when starting a writing assignment:
    •  In groups, discuss what you already know about a topic, then share as a class (this should take no longer than 10 minutes.) Important! Remember, writers write about what they know. If you were given the topic 'nuclear fusion', how might you feel knowing that was the topic you had to write about? Remember to keep your students in mind.  Steven Zemelman and Harry Ross wrote a book called 13 Steps to Teacher Empowerment. In this book, they talk about actually shadowing a student (chapter 2) so that you can learn how their time in his/her classroom affects the choices and behaviors that s/he make. In my district, our contract states that we are allowed release time to visit other classes/programs. This may be something you choose to do to help you understand how students relate to the work they have to do in class, and the choices they make because of it. My point? Help writers write about what they know: this will happen through discussions in the class. They may not know about the topic prior to the teaching and in-class activities, but all things equal, they will be better prepared to write with continued support and group work.  
    • In individual groups, allow students to decide what part of the topic they are comfortable writing about. Maybe it might be steps in the scientific method. One student may have great ideas on creating a hypothesis, but struggles with how to set it up, while another student really loves the organization piece. Spend 15 minutes or so having each person writing about their piece on the topic.
    • Share the pieces as a group.
    • Share all groups to the entire class. (This most likely will be done on days 2-3 depending on the topic and the students' abilities.)
    • After each group has presented, return to the original groups and discuss all the pieces to refresh each student's memory.
    • Now each student will independently write using their own ideas as well as the others to complete a sloppy copy of their work.
    • On a completely different day, you might follow the editing plans mentioned in Becoming a Writer.
How will this improve your morale and theirs? Hopefully, you are all working toward a collaborative community in your classrooms which allows mistakes and celebrates successes. In a perfect world, this would be a flawless exercise in writing, but since we know that best laid plans are just that, we have to adapt to each day/each situation. By incorporating fun into your writing, AND by writing yourself, you are creating and writing, 'write' away! Have fun!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Slice of Life #2

I'm so pleased to have found Slice of Life! This is my 2nd post:
I am at a crossroads in my life. I'm too young to retire, I have about 13 more years of teaching before that happens, and I'm ready to get on with the next phase of my life...one that probably will not be monetarily rewarding, but spiritually and emotionally fulfilling. So how am I supposed to do this? I'm guessing just putting one foot in front of the other and see what happens. So what's this next phase? For years I have wanted to teach yoga to people who deal with chronic pain, and those that feel that there has to be more out of life than just getting by.

To start, I am taking myself on a yoga retreat this September for my 50th birthday. My guess is that I will have an abundance of collaboration and ideas from the attendees of the retreat. Who knows? Maybe there I will have an epiphany that leads me to my next phase.

I'm reading a book called Start with Why by Simon Sinek, recommended by one of the principals of one of the schools where I teach. It is an inspiring book that explains if you have the 'why' of an idea, the how, what, and where will come. So what is my why? To teach individuals with chronic pain the rejuvenating aspects that yoga has to offer to provide relief and contentment in order to live life to their utmost potential. And by giving to people, I, in return, receive a higher understanding of what people need (myself included) so that I can life a healthy and contented life.

I truly believe events, people, circumstances are put in our way to provide us opportunities. That principal, just by recommending that book, spurred the idea to actually ask the why to my dream, which I have shared 'write' here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Slice of Life Writing Experience.

I was invited to participate in this writing project called Slice of Life by Jen Vincent, author of Teach Mentor Texts. Slice of Life is  hosted by the blog, Two Writing Teachers, and they invite others to participate in the writing. You are encouraged to post a piece entitled Slice of Life to be posted every Tuesday. I decided this is a perfect way to write and share writing with other writers. How do we become good writers? By reading and writing...often...everyday. Please challenge yourself to participate in this project. I am excited to do so. Although each Slice of Life post will be on a separate posting, I will post each Slice of Life link to this post for easy access. Sound fun? I hope so! So Make it Happen Write Away!
Slice of Life #1
Slice of Life #2
Slice of Life #3
Slice of Life #4
Slice of Life #5

Slice of Life #1

This is my first Slice of Life post ever! So what to write? Well, I am a writer, teacher of students who are deaf or hard of hearing, wife, mother, an avid crocheter, jewelry maker, yogini, and nature fanatic. My first post I thought should be about creativity and endurance. I decided to make a scarf for my husband designed after Tom Baker's Scarf which was 14 feet long! Whovians will know this scarf, but if you are unfamiliar with the term Whovian, it means Dr. Who fanatics. For sure this will take creativity and endurance. This will be his Christmas present; therefore, I should definitely have the scarf finished by then!

So how can this endurance and creativity be used in other areas of my life? First and foremost it has to be as a mother. Any parent will tell you that parenting is a full-time job, and energy is needed in abundance, even on days when getting out of bed is a chore. But doesn't endurance factor in our creative life as well?

I find that when I embark on a new endeavor, I surround myself with information. My crocheting, for example, is an area that I immerse myself completely in until I finish a project. It helps me think. I create in my mind, but I also get to know myself better, which I'm sure increases my endurance, acceptance, and creativity.

My newest blog, Make it Happen Write Away, is a blog that really challenges me to be creative and authentic at the same time, it also makes me feel vulnerable. As a teacher of the deaf, literacy is at the forefront of what I teach. Putting my style of teaching out there, while exciting, does make me feel a bit vulnerable. It will take endurance to push through the times when the creativity isn't flowing. But with Slice of Life in my Tuesday's corner, maybe this will be the inspiration I need to keep making it happen 'write' away.

Slice of Life #2

Monday, March 30, 2015

Becoming a Writer

I had the opportunity to attend a 2-week summer workshop offered by the Illinois Writing Project called IWP-SLI (Illinois Writing Project, Summer Leadership Institute) in July 2014. It was life changing for me as a person and a writer.

The first week consisted of exploring ourselves and our teaching styles through the writing process. We spent the afternoons that first week just writing and sharing. It was powerful. I went home energized, but exhausted everyday. I had so many ideas, I couldn't write fast enough. I then decided I needed to use my laptop to keep up with the abundance of ideas. I had never viewed myself as a creative writer before. But after this workshop, I started to.

In my blog post, Building Confidence in Writing, I shared a piece I had written during the first week. We were to pick a place that was a favorite of our to visit. I chose a store called Cracker Jax. The words flowed out. We were not necessarily to go back and edit, we were just letting our thoughts flow as we thought about this place. That piece is an unedited piece. Would I change it? Maybe, maybe not. The point I'm trying to make is that, as writers, we have to be allowed to write without having the conventions weigh heavily on our minds. That comes later. Should we teach students to edit? Absolutely. However, getting the ideas down first is priority. Using the IWP-SLI as a guide, this is how I structure this lesson with my students:

1st Day
  • Choose a topic (teacher or students depending on your goal for this assignment. I will choose the topic "Close to Home" that was suggested during IWP-SLI.)
  • Free write--give a time limit of about 20 minutes. Too much time can be frustrating for students, and too little can hinder a student's creativity--especially if s/he needs time to come up with a topic (if you haven't assigned one).
  • Share your written piece. I like this part for a couple of reasons: 1. It allows the student the freedom to present the written piece how s/he intended it to be shared. 2. Most importantly, the teacher or the other students are not looking at the writing. They are LISTENING. This is just as important a skill as the writing itself.
2nd Day
  • Have the students get into small groups to allow brainstorming ideas to continue the writing. This is where the cheer-leading happens. The students need to know what they did right.
  • Go back and re-work the piece or choose another piece of writing to edit. It is OK to have a number of stories at a time to work on. I had read once that Stephen King has many started manuscripts that he leaves until he is ready to revisit the piece. Sometimes I think the draft needs to marinate before we can actually give it the oomph it needs.
  • When students feel that they have reworked the writing to almost the publishing point, conference with the students in a one-on-one session which will happen day 3.
3rd Day
  • Allow the students to either start a new writing topic or revisit an older one to begin to rework.
  • While your students are doing that, choose one student at a time and set a time limit with each. Try to structure your time efficiently so that you can get quick, but quality time with each student.
    • When the students approach your desk, ask the students what their favorite part was of the writing process.
    • Ask them what they need guidance on--they may have writer's block.
    • And most importantly, as far as I'm concerned, ask the students what they want you to look at in their writing. These are the choices I give:
      • Spelling
      • Punctuation/Capitalization
      • Subject/verb agreement
      • How to proceed to the next step
        • Many kids will say, "Check all of it." It is important for them to become comfortable spotting areas they need help on. That way, they will become better editors themselves. 
        • If we give too much feedback, it becomes overwhelming, and the process is no longer fun.
Remember, this map to writing needs to feel safe for all students. We all are at different levels in our writing. I have been told throughout the years that my writing at times has not been up to par. I allowed those comments to stifle my creativity. I write like no one else. I write like me. We have to allow our students to do the same.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Building Confidence in Writing

Writing produces a number of emotional responses. For me when I write, I have experienced a wide range of emotions from anger to frustration to excitement. Writing has produced it all for me. We write for a variety of reasons and use a number of different means to get across our thoughts, needs, ideas, and on and on. When I'm writing about uncomfortable topics, I don't always feel confident. If I need to compose an email to a teacher or a supervisor that is difficult, I have to dig deep to feel confident. So if we, as adults, are not always confident writers, than surely it shouldn't come as a surprise that students struggle with confidence as well.

Students write all the time, though they may not view it as writing. If you have teenagers in your class, most likely you see them write (text) on their cell phones from time to time. As much as it surprises me to say this, it is true. It is writing. We, as teachers may take issue with that, but it's where our world is headed. In essence, many students are more confident writing on their devices than writing on paper. So if we have to, can we start there? If not, why not? I pose this question for you to really think about. I have a few students in mind who really struggle writing on paper, but shine if they can use their devices. Do you think writing the conventional way will be obsolete eventually? I sure hope not, but let's start where there is confidence. The ideas below can be used for writing via pen/pencil and paper, or if you are comfortable, students can use their devices. I will use the word 'write' throughout, but understand I'm using this word to encompass a number of modalities.

In my first blog post Start Write Here, I talked about starting with what each person has: his/her own ideas. Once you've begun free writing and sharing ideas, it is important to encourage each student using words that are not judgmental. I start with, "Thanks for sharing!" "Could you tell me more?" "Now turn to your partner and brainstorm ideas to add to your writing." If we say "Terrific", "I love your ideas" right off the bat, it may appear to the students that we are separating the skilled writers from the beginning writers, even if that is not our intention. By remaining neutral, you are leveling the playing field for all students. I prefer to use praise in one-on-one settings to indicate where I feel a writer has shined. Of course we want to praise all students and encourage them as much as possible, and you will do so by asking about their writing. When we provide specific feedback and show the student/adult we are listening, then the excitement for writing and sharing will come.

Another way to build confidence is to teach children how to be good listeners. Before a student shares his/her work, we need to set expectations for the class or partners. If you want the students to listen to the story and then summarize, then you will model how that looks. If you want listeners to focus on descriptions in the shared writing piece, then you would model using a piece of your own writing. I will share a short descriptive essay I wrote during a graduate summer class (offered by the Illinois Writing Project/Summer Leadership Institute) to demonstrate this. The goal was to write about our favorite place to visit that is close to home.

DeKalb.  A small town.  Podunk, you’d say.  College town, suitcase university.  The forgotten place.  BUT to those townies, not passers-through, there is a little hidden-in-the wide-open store on a regularly traveled side street, perpendicular to HWY 38.  Nestled smack-dab on 3rd street, a bit off center between Locust and 38, is a treasure of a store. It’s not a store that the faint of heart can go into, for you might just run into yourself.  That piece, that one object that defines you so completely that even your best friend in the whole world would not understand.  Even your family! You laugh?  Families know your proclivities better than you think.  They are observers, you know!...(portion taken out--not necessarily appropriate for young ears)...Your first trip there you may run through and hurry out the door before you have even given a cursory glance at the purposely disarrayed aura of the magical place.  A place that will haunt you, will draw you when you least expect it, that will make you want for more, and will also challenge you to dig deep, deeper, until you are so uncomfortable and curious at the same time.  For you might discover something about yourself that has been latent and is ready to burst forth.  You might not be ready.  But it will be there waiting when you are.  

So, you might listen to this essay and form a picture in your mind. If I accomplished that, then wonderful. If not, then my listening partner would ask me questions so that the reader/writer can explain, and then later, go back and edit. But for now, we are focusing on description. I might say this to my class/small group, or individual student to model the questioning:

  • I noticed you used the word nestled. Why did you choose that word? 
  • What does 'disarrayed aura' mean?
  • There are words in there that sound really interesting. These words caught my attention: perpendicular, latent, podunk, and cursory. Would you tell me more about the word 'podunk'? What does it mean? (Maybe they will connect the word perpendicular to math and the word latent to science. Any connection they make, whether it has to do with the story being shared or not, is important. If it means something to the student, then it is worth-while to share.)

If you are asking for general impressions/suggestions from the listeners, you might model these statements or questions:
  • I identified with what you said about running into yourself. I find items in stores that my friends are surprised I like! 
  • I would like to hear more about this store. What is it called?
  • I noticed that you are writing longer sentences and adding more detail.
  • I noticed that you used a lot of fragments. Why did you choose to use those in your writing? (You notice how there was no judgement about fragments?)
Here you are using specific verbs/verb phrases such as "identified", "would like to hear", "noticed". Using emotionally charged words such as loved, liked, disliked, I was bored, etc...can really dampen a child's desire to continue to write. So make sure that this type of neutral language is clearly stated in the expectations. This does take practice, and students, or adults for that matter, do not always get it right. Be patient with the sharers and the listeners. Be patient with yourself, too. How many times have we said something to our students that we wish we could take back the moment it exited our lips. For me, more than I can count. So in order to ensure a safe environment to share, students need to be allowed to make mistakes. Simply correct those mistakes gently and move on. 

So what happens when the writing activities don't happen as smoothly as you hope? I have a story that illustrates this. My hope is that I repaired any communication breakdown that occurred. I'm not sure; you be the judge.

At the beginning of this school year, I used the writing ideas and strategies I learned from Illinois Writing Project: Summer Leadership Institute (I will speak more about this in another blog post). As part of our research, we needed to take our love of writing to the schools. I chose two English classes taught by two different teachers at the 7th and 8th grade levels. I brought writing activities to the classes over a month's time. In the seventh-grade class that I was in, we were doing just what I stated before, using statements to encourage writing. One student commented that he didn't have good ideas, and before I could respond, a boy in his group said, "He's right. He's not creative at all."  Those words, I'm sure, left a mark on this student. Immediately, of course, I modeled words to use instead, very similar to the sentences I shared above. I then politely shared my opinion:  "I think 'Steve' was creative. He used language that allowed me to get a picture in my head of his favorite place." Here, I didn't use neutral language, but I felt the need praise in this instance. I could see that my words helped him, but the damage from that comment was already done.  He had obviously had negative thoughts about his writing to begin with. Unfortunately, saying negative words again and again to yourself can be just as damaging, if not more so, than those coming from your peers.

Helping to build confidence in writing takes time. Modeling words such as these may sound stilted and unnatural, but with practice, they will become part of the climate/culture of the classroom. My next post will be on how to build your own confidence as a writer. Please share your thoughts and ideas. They are always appreciated! 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Start Write Here

So where to begin...I have so many thoughts on writing, I want to begin everywhere at once, but logistically I can't, so I'll just begin writing. A strange way to start my blog? For me, no. It's perfectly imperfect. That's what writing is: perfectly imperfect. When we write, we have to start somewhere. Isn't that what we tell our students--just write? We tell them to just write to get the ideas flowing. But to students, many of whom are afraid of writing, this seems daunting. "How am I supposed to know what to write? You haven't given me a prompt!" Teachers, you have all heard this before, and at times (be honest) it's frustrating to hear that day in and day out when you start a writing assignment. You've all heard the groans; I know I have. But what if writing were something that your students really enjoyed? Something they really looked forward to. What would that even look like. Well, for years I've started writing this way: free writing.

Students get out their journals (you, too) and start writing the thoughts that pop into your head. Maybe it might go something like this:

  I don't know what to write, I don't know what to write, I don't know what to write...Mom wants me to call her after school today. Friday is pizza day, the best day of the week--I love that Aquabats song. Yeah, tonight we are having leftover mock lasagna. My rings are dirty. I just cleaned them! Argghhh! All that lotion. That's why I take my rings off at night, but this morning I forgot, and the lotion got smeared over them. Hopefully no one notices. PARCC testing today...schedule messed up, kids anxious to be done...

What did you notice? Hopefully, a string of consciousness. Maybe you noticed fragments. THAT'S OK!!! I just decided to write, and there you have it.

Next I read my entry to my students. They love the silly thoughts. And if they are comfortable, have them share, too. Kids love when adults are silly, even child-like on occasion.

Here's what I've noticed when I do this activity: Students love this! In fact, at times it is difficult for them to want to write anything else. But I adapt slowly. Next I might ask them to free write about a book they are reading. Watch how this happens.

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett: My youngest son is reading Chasing Vermeer. He was frustrated about this since it's a sixth grade book, lexile 770L.He over-analyzes things and doesn't just breathe and read. I started reading it. Cool entries, exciting codes, still not finished. My son had a seizure and when he came out of it we talked about Chasing Vermeer and I told him I solved the code. He remembered the next day! Normally he doesn't remember anything after his seizures, but this time he did...

OK, what happened here? What did you notice? Was it grammatically correct always? Did I stray from the topic? Who cares! I just used free writing and narrowed the topic as it pertains to me. It helps to do this when you are trying to understand a plot or sequence of events, etc...I just use this as a launching point for more structured ideas.

It doesn't matter what age. What about preschool? Remember pictures? Have students draw pictures and talk about them when they are done. Telling about what we are putting on paper is the precursor to writing. I remember my oldest son sitting at the table scribbling and putting dots all over his paper. When he was finished he would tell me what it said. I loved it. He was using the adult models in his life to demonstrate his understanding about writing. What about beginning writers? Inventive spelling is so important. Ideas about this have changed over the years, but we absolutely need to allow kids to feel comfortable with writing. I would like to spend time on talking about building confidence in writers in another blog post.

So I will sign off by saying, Start "write" here with your students. It's never too late in the year to start over. Every time we are putting our words on paper, we are starting again and again. Now go write!