Thursday, July 6, 2017

Assignment Three: Share Your Writing Life

Chapter 3: Share Your Writing Life
• Write together as a staff
• Note your writing practices
• Tell students why you write

Chapter Two of Regie’s book segues right into her third chapter, “Share Your Writing Life.” In this chapter Regie drives home the importance of teachers sharing their writing process with their students. She encourages teachers to become writers in front of their students, on their own and with their staff, and also to share their daily writing practices with their students. The purpose of the assignment below (Assignment #3) is to get you writing.

ASSIGNMENT THREE: Sharing Your Writing Life!
For many of us, writing is not enjoyable and/or is very difficult. Perhaps it is because we ourselves were never celebrated as writers. Or perhaps we only remember the “skills” based comments written in various colored pens on our papers…that always sliced deep (and turned many of us into “non-writers.”) These comments never really helped our writing become any better. As a requirement of a summer writing institute (which I was conned into attending “so that I could become a better teacher of writing”) I (Jackie) bit the bullet and wrote extensively throughout the course. What they say is true: the more I wrote, the more I enjoyed it, and I believe I grew as a writer. The goal of this two-part assignment is to get you writing.

Part One:
For the first part of this assignment you need to think about topics for your own writing (ideas/stories that you can share to excite your students) and then actually write a short piece (ideally in front of your students.) If you do not presently have the opportunity to write in front of your students then please complete the activity on your own.

1. Use the topic idea list from Regie’s “Try It and Apply It” on page 26. Choose several topics, and then create a list of sub-topics for each.

2. Choose the sub-topic that most interests you and write a short piece that you can use to model writing in front of your students.

Part Two:
1. On pages 45-46, Regie gives suggestions for writing exercises for the start of school (or really anytime you need to get writing started.) Follow her criteria for “Capturing A Moment” (from the summer or any other time ) and draft a short piece. Follow the directions in the chart on page 46.

2. After completing the draft, which should take no more than 10 minutes, take a moment to write down some of your observations of your writing process. Again, use the suggestions from the chart or the bullets below:

o What are you thinking about as you are composing?
o What exactly did you do to plan, to get started writing, when you got stuck, or when you completed your piece?
o What does your process look like? Do you write straight through? Stop to re-read? Revise as you go? Look up information? Edit?

The goal of this activity is to get you to write - which will hopefully get you more comfortable writing in front of your children! Complete this activity and let us know how it went by sharing your answers to some of the bulleted questions above.

Please post your comments to the course blog. (We don’t need to see your writing piece. We are more interested in your thought process as you completed the exercise.)


  1. Part One:

    My Topics: muddiest race at Nationals, hiking Black Butte, going off of the high dive for the first time, best friend from childhood, Misty, my childhood dog, boogie boarding in Maui, learning to water ski, breaking my leg, getting caught throwing rocks in 5th grade, water fights at childhood home, learning to drive a pea combine, driving pea combine in thunder and lightening storm, moving parents, riding California Adventure with son

    2. One hot summer day at the age of ten, I received encouragement from a few friends to jump off the high dive at the local pool. With hesitation,I climbed out onto the hot pool deck and slowly walked towards the daunting ladder that lead to me tackling my fears. Waiting in line, the breeze chilled me and I wrapped my arms around my body to keep warm as my nerves erupted and goose bumps rose. It was my turn to start the long, steep climb upwards to the diving board. The steps rose higher and higher, as the pool and my friends below appeared to get smaller and smaller. I reached the top of the high dive and walked cautiously out towards the end of the board, feeling the board slightly give way to each step and the trepidation rise in my body. Below, people stood impatiently waiting for their turn to scramble up the ladder and dive, cannon ball, or do some other harrowing feat off of the board. Peering over the edge, I took one last deep breath and leaped off. I felt like I was falling forever. Finally, I crashed into the pool as the water swallowed me up. I clambered through the water waiting for a breath of fresh air to breathe in. Gasping and coughing, I burst through the water into the fresh air and felt the searing pain of where my legs had hit the water. I had accomplished what I thought was impossible, but after that first and final leap, I chose to never, EVER, do it again.

    Thoughts while writing: As I was writing, I was thinking of my word choice, repetitive words, and how to start my sentences. I also wanted to paint a picture of how I felt and what I may have heard or seen. In order to get started, I wanted to verbally tell my story, but seemed to organize my thoughts inside, thinking of each step and trying to break each little moment down. I also composed it on the computer, which I wonder if it is best to model directly on paper or with upper elementary many students are ready to compose on computers. When I found myself stuck, I went back and reread the story to help me gain an understanding of where the story was going and at times even revised parts. As I have told my students, it is so important to reread, but this truly did show me how much rereading I do even for my own short writing piece.

  2. Excellent writing piece. :D Thanks for sharing.

    I think it would be ok to compose on the computer...but likely your students would be faster writing than typing at this point. So I would think of the reason for doing so. Do you want them to be able write their thoughts as quickly as possible or would typing get in the way of their flow?

    They def. will need to do both but if it's writing development and instruction, at 5th grade especially at the beg. of the year I'd have them write.

    Or give them a choice if you feel their pieces are where you would like them.

    I would have them compose on the computer in the 2nd part of the year...but not every time. I would develop this skill.

    Here's something I've written previously to another student...

    Another strategy that I support is using oral rehearsal for students. I think most teachers don't devote the energy or time to this simple strategy to help writers begin to write their ideas in an organized fashion. This goes along with brainstorming as a way of helping students organize their thoughts. We can support students by asking them what they want to write about, repeating it back to the student and then having them repeat it back to you out loud. It is a big help for our struggling writers. Even with our little ones you can put blank lines for the number of words the student needs to write or add the beginning letters to each underline to remind them of the word as they work independently on recording their idea.

    Oral rehearsal is so important for all students and not only for vocabulary development. With our younger students and struggling writers it's a great strategy to have them say out loud what they are going to write. Too often teachers want it SILENT when students are working. I think there needs to be a balance between a healthy buzz of engaged writers and a respectful classroom atmosphere that honors all learners and their unique learning styles.

    Let students orally discuss what they want to write either with classmates or with you where you can have them tell you exactly what they are going to say to start off their paper. Then send them back to their seats... once they have this "practice" aloud and articulated what they want to say, it's much easier for the students get down to the business of writing.

    I am a huge fan of oral rehearsal, and often write about it each term. Here is a link to a couple articles you might find interesting. The first is only 4 pages long. The article is “Storytelling and Story Writing ‘Using a Different Kind of Pencil’” by Dr. Terry A. Campbell. It was published in Oct. 2009 in What Works? Research into Practice

    There is quite a bit of information on the Internet about Talk to Text, Oral Rehearsal and Storytelling and writing skills. In fact, it is easy to became a little sidetracked noting other articles you may want to read.

    Leah Mermelstein had this article on her new blog:

    Even though these articles may be targeting primary and elementary level, middle school teachers who have students that struggle (or ELLs) may find them useful as well.