Squirrel Guardian, of the House of Procrastination and Random Mischief

A huge shout-out of gratitude to Angela Stockman: read this first: Ah, the synergy and serendipity of collaboration and conversation. I’m sitting in my writing shed, something I wanted forever, am very grateful to have, and am still paying off. And the barn-style door does not stay propped open on its own (does anything?). Returning from a walk, I go back to the shed to see what kinds of inspiration can be gleaned from a sunny, anxious depressing, cortisol-filled day. Now, mind you, the garden statuary of the squirrel has a long story, and not sure I’m going to write…

Writing: Voice

A great question: gracious. ELA teachers: how do you teach voice? It is still super hard for me. I still feel like the basis of voice is word choice and I struggle to separate the two. Help! #ncte #nctevillage #engchat #whyisthissohardstill #ugh — Christina Torres (@biblio_phile) January 13, 2020 Some of the best educators on Twitter weighed in with their advice and insight, so if you’re on Twitter, I highly recommend reading some of the comments. And since this is my blog and personal pensieve, I choose to explore this a bit further. Rebecca is correct: the five of the…

Starstruck

I am not sure how or why, but am completely starstruck: Larry Ferlazzo asked me to be on one of his BAM! podcasts, and that was so cool! The panel consisted of me, Katherine Schultan @KSchulten and Tatiana Esteban @tmce0419, and it was a pleasure to hear their advice and insight on our topic, authentic writing. The TL:DR version: be explicit when you tell students they are not writing just ‘for the teacher.’ Their audience is secondary to their voice, passions, burning questions, and their own author’s purpose. Use mentor texts and make the invisible visible. Frame what ‘writers do’…

Hugo House and Writing Communities

This summer I read Why They Can’t Write by John Warner and attended a Hugo House event called Write-O-Rama. Often the most valuable professional development include those we do for ourselves, not necessarily as teachers but for our identities and passions that sustain us outside of the classroom, too. I have been wanted to dismantle/disrupt the five-paragraph essay for some time now–look for other formats/mediums for students to consider instead of the strict, unresponsive format of the five paragraph essay. As Warner states: The worst of those training wheels is the five-paragraph essay. If you do not know the form,…

Sturdy Structures and Tapestries

Every time I feel I have my Professor McGonagall-mojo in place, inevitably realize I am only a Trelawney. I want to be firm, peering over the edge of my spectacles, jumping in and of animal bodies with ease and precision (aka going from my awkward projector on the cart to the tiny weird screen, to the tiny space for the doc camera, etc.: the tech in my room is…uncomfortable). If I could shout out with my confident Scottish brogue, “TWENTY POINTS FOR FIRST PERIOD!” with a flick of my wand, oh what wouldn’t I give? But alas, every day my…

write now

It’s 12:15 PM on November 10th. Do you know where your NaNoMo novel is? Yeah, about that. Good intentions aside, I have done everything but just sit and type. I made a video. Updated grades. Reheated a bowl of chili mac (that will come back to haunt me), and read a few Tweets. But two things grabbed my brain this morning: The epiphany that teachers enjoy creating lessons for themselves and having agency, just like students. This has nothing to do with the rest of the post directly, just needed to remember this. We must flip reading around to writing,…

Best laid plans.

We broke rain records this year, no small feat considering the Seattle area maintains a well-deserved reputation of one of the soggiest places around. Drizzles, downpours, drenching or dollops–no matter the size of the drop, it’s wet. Personally, my older son and I share the love of the gray, goopy clouds. Whenever I think of our rain, inevitably Tom Robbins’ thoughts on rain come to mind. (Some works of fiction stain a lifetime.) “And then the rains came. They came down from the hills and up from the sound. And it rained a sickness. And it rained a fear. And…

Structure Series: Essays for the 21st Century

  The five-paragraph essay is likened to learning the foundations of structure and organization critical to being able to write other organized pieces. There may be merit to this, however learning how to write something no one reads anymore may only serve to rust and crumble authenticity. Might I offer some suggestions, or additions to the five-paragraph essay, especially for secondary students? Consider these sites/links as mentor texts as well as powerful places to publish essays. Use examples of the essays written here and challenge students to compare their essays to these. Some close reading/close writing ideas: Read for anecdotes:…