Archive | June 2012

Teachers Write! 6/18 Mini-Lesson Monday!

Noun Generator Word: Neighbor

When my dad is home from the road, 3 to 4 night a month, he sleeps in his rig. During the day Mom and Dad act like everything is okay, but each night after he thinks we are in bed he slips out the front door and heads to his truck. I wonder what the neighbors think. Do they notice dad climbing the steps of his semi a little after 11? Do they talk about it with our other neighbors or do they think everything between Mom and Dad is okay? I wish Mom and Dad wouldn’t act like everything is hunky-dory. I wish they could just tell us what the heck is going on. I am sick of always wondering if they are going to get divorced. If they split up, will dad get an apartment or will he just live in his truck?

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Teachers Write! 6/14 – Thursday Quick-Write

My parents have lived in the same house since they were married in 1979. They bought the small house from my great-grandfather on a land contract. I now live 9 miles away. I love the tiny house. My parents were able to raise 7 children in the small house with one bathroom. The entire backyard is filled with kids toys. The barn, that I watched my dad build, always looks like it is throwing up toys. They are spew out everywhere. I still have 4 brothers at home (ages 9-21), and visiting is one of my favorite things in the entire world.

3 Changes:

I cannot imagine my parents getting another bathroom or a lock on the bathroom door. It would totally change the dynamics of the place. When you grow up with 6 siblings (5 brothers – 1 sister), the one bathroom thing, gives the place character. You have no privacy or peace and quiet. It’s awesome (I say that now that I don’t live their). If you are taking a shower, you just come to expect one or two brothers will use the bathroom while you cleaning up. We have gotten very good at not flushing while someone is in the shower. It has been fun watching my own children learn how the bathroom rules at grandma’s house are different from anywhere else in the world they go. Fun times!

Hanging outside on the old barn is a basketball hoop that I got 25 years ago for Christmas. It wouldn’t be my parents backyard without that basketball hoop. The square on the backboard faded away long ago, and the backboard contains its fair share of dings and dents, but I can’t imagine a new backboard with a perfectly painted square target ever entering my parents backyard.

My father says that one of the saddest day of his life will be when he can grow grass in the front yard. With all the foot traffic going in  there, he hasn’t had a nice front yard since the early 80s. He loves it. I can’t imagine that he will ever have to experience a grass-covered front yard.

 

 

Teachers Write 6/7 – Thursday Quick-Write

Quick Write (the assignment appears below):

Breslin walks into the library for the 13 day in a row. He wonders if he is the only one that thinks that it is ironic that lunch detention takes place in the room that teachers are always complaining students don’t want to go to to check out books. The drill is simple: take a seat at an empty table, eat your lunch, be quiet. Being quiet is easy for Breslin. Being quiet is not what gets him trouble. In fact, his 20 day lunch detention sentence if a result of him being, quiet.

Breslin walks by Mr. Anderson reading the newspaper. Mr. Anderson is the only person Breslin has ever seen reading the newspaper, and he has never seen Mr. Anderson not reading the newspaper. As Breslin heads for the back of the library he tries to avoid making eye contact with Hector who, like Breslin, is serving 20 days in lunch detention. However, unlike Breslin, Hector was not quiet. Not quiet at all.

(This is kind of fun. I have one day of school left, so I’m going to bow out for the evening.)

 

Assignment:

First of all today, a HUGE thank you to the authors who popped in to answer questions for our Wednesday Q&A day. There is some mighty useful information in the comments here, so you may want to bookmark it for later, too. And teacher/librarian friends, please do me a favor?  Take a few minutes to look up all those authors who made time to answer your questions yesterday – their responses will mean more if you learn about their books. And if those books sound like something your readers would enjoy, please consider adding them to yourIndieBound wish-lists or GoodReads to-read lists.

Okay…ready to write? Today’s Thursday Quick-Write is courtesy of guest-author Margo Sorenson!

A student walks into the library/media center at lunchtime.  What is she/he thinking?  Worried about?  Dreading?  Hoping or wishing for? What are the risks/stakes for him/her? Show us in a paragraph or two.

Note from Kate:Some possible formats for this quick-write:

  • A journal entry from that character, written later on
  • A letter from that character to his or her best friend
  • A letter from that character to his or her worst enemy
  • A poem in the character’s voice
  • A monologue in the character’s voice
  • A conversation in dialogue between the character and a friend/the librarian/an enemy

For those of you in the middle of a work-in-progress, try this with your main character, or better yet, a secondary character you want to develop more fully.  Imagine him or her walking into a room and feeling uncomfortable and awkward. Why? You can write this from a third person perspective, from the focus character’s point of view, or for a twist, try writing from the point of view of a disinterested observer in the room — someone who has no idea who the person is or what’s going on. What would he or she observe in terms of mannerisms and body language?

Feel free to share a paragraph from your Thursday Quick-Write in the comments later on if you’d like!

Teachers Write! 6/5 Tuesday Quick-Write

Write for two minutes to describe a very specific place.

Dr. George M. Baker Memorial Field is where I played high school football.  It’s where my uncle and father played high school football,  cousins, and all of my brothers. The field sits directly behind the high school, with a small set of bleachers lining each sideline.

It’s not a stadium. It’s a field. Big enough to fit a small town, but small enough to feel intimate.

(Wow, that 2 minutes went fast)

One minute each:

Everything you SEE – Pay attention to big things and tiny things. Search for concrete details.

I was able to drive by the football field on my way home from work (my wife is a teacher where we went to high school), and the field looked empty. The grass was perfect: no divots, dead spots, or markings. It looked weird. I high school football field on a spring afternoon, is not a high school football field. It’s missing the band and the crowd. I missed the consession stand lines, and endzone markings. It was weird.

Everything you HEAR – Be specific. Don’t just say “a scraping sound.” Say a “high-pitched, raspity-raspity-screeeeeaking noise.”  You can make up words if you want.If you aren’t in the place, try to find a video. Or guess what you might hear.

When I think back to when my field was a field of dreams, I can hear the announcer letting the fans know that as we enter the fourth quarter that hot dogs are half priced. I can hear our quarterback Cory Parrott call out the play, “Half back out right pass on 2, Half back out righ pass on 2. Ready? BREAK” I can hear quiet as we take our postions on the line and get ready for the snap. The calm before the storm.

Everything you SMELL – Especially pay attention to the smells that surprise you. If you’re not in the place, pictures can help you smell. Look carefully…what would that dumpster smell like?

I smell sweat. Not nasty old man sweat but football sweat. Seriously, it’s a beautiful smell. It’s the smell of teenage boys working, fighting, and coming together. I can smell the grass. It kind of smells hot from the lights. Hmm..(this is hard)

Everything you FEEL – Weather, wind, things that land on you or brush against you. Again – pictures help you imagine if you’re not there, and if it’s not a real place, try imagining images and then assigning sensations from a similar place that might be real (desert, tundra, etc.)

I feel the energy from the crowd. They are lined up near the endzone at a tense moment of the game and I can feel the heat, excitement and energy floating off of their bodies and onto the field. I see my coach: worried. My teammates: nervous. Myself: scared.

Now, go back and rewrite that descriptive paragraph. Include your best tiny, surprising details, and work on senses other than sight. Better?  More vivid?  This is a fun activity to do with kids, too. Have them write about the playground or gym or cafeteria; then go there and hunt for sensory details!

The student section has left the bleachers and they moved down onto the field lining the north  endzone. Energy from their anticipation and excitement seep into a worried coach, nervous teammates, and a scared Colby. George M. Baker Memorial Field is electric on a Friday night, when the Panthers have a shot to do something that doesn’t happen very often: win a football game. My hands are sweaty. I don’t need much, but I need my hands. I need them to be dry, calm, and precise. As we break from the huddle and head to our lines, the world becomes instantly silent. I survey the line. I can hear the kicker breath and the long snapper take a deep breath. I wipe my hands on pants one last time. Here we go.

Time To Write

I am a obsesive email checker. I usually try to check things while I’m doing something else, but I know that I waste a lot of time checking to see if I have any new messages. Part of my role as the Nerdy Book Club scheduler, forces me to be on top of email.

I think that a good writing time for me will be the first thing in the morning before the kids wakes up. This will allow me to do some writing alone with my computer and a cup of coffee. Maybe I’ll even try to get my writing done before I check my email.

Another thing I like about doing it in the morning, is that if for some reason it doesn’t work out, I have the rest of the day to try and make up the time.

Teachers Write

I believe in “walking the walk”. I believe that one of the reasons that my 4th graders read a tremendous amount of books each year, is because I read a tremendous amount of books. My passion and love for reading rubs of on my students.

I would like to have the same effect on my writers. I’m not saying that I’m a bad writing teacher or that my students do not write a lot. What I’m saying, is that I feel that I will be a better teacher if I write more. One of my biggest issues as a writer is going through the entire writing process. I find that many of my in class writing lessons are focused on selecting topics, planning, and drafting. Revising, editing, and publishing are parts of the process that I tend to avoid. Can you guess which parts of the writing process my students struggle with?

I am hoping that participating in Kate Messner’s Teachers Write Program will provide me with the support to “walk the walk”. It helps that two of my favorite people, Jen Vincent and Gae Polisner, are on Kate’s Teachers Write team. I’m very excited and a little bit nervous to being this adventure. I still have one more week of school, but I plan to get started as soon as I can.

If you’d like more information on Teachers Write, please click on the badge below.  Wish me luck!