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.

  3. Candace Palmesano – August 9, 2017
    Essentials of Writing – Assignment #3
    Part One
    I have in years past, given students a 3 or 4-page packet that has topics for students to write subtopics under so they will have some ideas what stories to write about, somewhat like the list Regie’s Try It and Apply It on page 26. I like the topic, Special Memory (1. When my horse got caught in a cattle guard, 2. When I broke my arm falling off my friend’s stilts 3. When I got sprayed by a skunk because I thought they were kittens) Family (1. Fire ants & my son when we lived in Alabama 2. Taking my dad who had Alzheimer’s to Home Depot 3. Going to the 1985 World Fair in New Orleans with my husband and son 4. Trip to my husband’s 20-year College reunion with our 4 children. Pets 1. Horse getting spooked when my husband & I were horseback riding 2. Our dog, Winnie, when our skinny son, Joseph, tried to walk him in the morning before school in the snow 3. Antics between our Yorkie and our Cat 4. Our Cat, Leia, and her tricks.
    I have written on the subtopic, When I got Sprayed by a Skunk, before in front of my class and they stayed engaged because they were very interested. The other subtopic I would like to write on is, “When I broke my arm falling off stilts at my friend’s house.
    It was a very cold, Saturday morning, in fact, the yard was frozen at my friend, Marlene’s house. It was 9 a.m. and we were already bored. What could we do? We went outside and in her shed we found 2 long 2x4 boards. “I know” said Marlene, “Let’s build stilts!” We went to work. We found 2 blocks that we could nail about ¼ of the way up the 2x4s. We nailed them on and since it was Marlene’s house and her boards, she got to try the stilts first. We took them over to the porch steps and I helped her get up on the blocks. She successfully walked on them around the yard. Yahoo! I couldn’t wait for my turn. I did the same thing as she did. I used the steps to get up on the stilts and I started walking around the yard. Unfortunately, the yard was beginning to thaw and I was heavier than Marlene, so one of the stilts got stuck in the muddy yard while I was walking and I fell off the stilts right on my arm. You can only guess what happened next. Yes, it was broken and I had a huge ugly cast put on it. (I could go on from here and talk about an amazing ending with my students).

    1. I agree, I think the students will love this story as well and want to "help" you develop a riveting ending. :D

  4. Part Two
    Brainstorming: Capturing Summer Moments to write about: Saying good bye to my daughter and husband as they got on a flight to Amsterdam, Netherlands – Attending my brother in laws 60th birthday – Taking my grandson to the waterpark & park – Camping at Lake Siskiyou with my son, daughter-in-law and grandson – Inner tubing down the Deschutes River & going through the rapids – Helping my daughter with her last 3 days of teaching 1st grade because we got out a week earlier.
    Inner Tubing Down the Deschutes River
    We got there early in the morning to rent our heavy duty inner tubes, the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon, was a bit chilly but I flopped down in the inner tube and started paddling out to the middle of the river. My husband, Tim; my daughter, Bridget; and my son, Joseph; all paddled out to join me. It was going to be a beautiful day, weather was forecasted to be in the 90’s and I couldn’t think of a better place to be than floating down a river. We floated past upscale, magnificent homes and people sitting on their decks who were watching the lazy river. It was quiet and peaceful; and even though we were holding onto each other’s tubes, it was like we were floating by ourselves lost in our own thoughts. We floated under bridges and past some smaller, cozier homes. Just when I thought this was the easiest, calmest float ever, I noticed some signs that warned us of rapids ahead. Of course, the inner tube shop had told us there was a place where you could get out and walk around the rapids, but my adventurous family wanted to go through the rapids! I wasn’t so game, but decided “You Only Live Once” and went for it! There was about 6 or 7 rapids you had to go down and it was recommended to go down by yourself, not tied to your group. My son went first, then my daughter, then me and lastly, my husband. I have to admit I was scared as I watched my daughter go down each rapid and almost tip over backwards on each one. Then I realized it would not only be scary to tip over in the water, but also embarrassing as there were a bunch of people along the shores watching! Luckily, we all made it through the rapids, but were soaked, and floated calmly down to the take out area where we caught a bus back to our car. It was the best 2 ½ hours of my vacation and I will definitely do it again!!
    What I was thinking as I was writing this paragraph, was of the experience and everything I liked about the inner tubing day. I relived the wonderful morning! I would show my students how I did a little brainstorming on the things I did this summer before I decided what to write about. I love writing on a computer as it is so easy to stop, reread and revise as I go. I do look up words in the Thesaurus that I might replace some of my “boring” words with, like I replaced Huge with Magnificent. I would show my students how to do this in the real Thesaurus book, as we only have access to computers 1 hour a week. I took a class called the Oregon Writing Project several years ago and came to learn to write. I never really liked writing and compared to some of the writers in the class, I wasn’t very good. (In fact, I was responsible for reading Chapter 7 in Regie Routman’s book, Writing Essentials.) Even with my Third Graders, I would expand their personal writing choices with some of the list on page 27. Already, I can’t wait to begin my writing class with my new third graders!

    1. YEAH!!!!! So glad you are excited for writing this year!!! :D

  5. **Prompt and background knowledge for the rest of the post: I wrote about a time when my best friend and I were thirteen and found some girls our age on the beach to talk to. We lost track of time and came strolling in to our beach house well after curfew only to be welcomed by angry, angry parents and grandparents. They called the police, interrogated innocent bystanders, and were at the mercy of time since cell phones weren’t yet a thing that kids had on them.**

    As I was writing, I was thinking about what it takes to put myself back into that night twenty ago. Because, you see, since then this story has become funny to my family and friends—I mean, both my best friend and I are now adults and not teenagers that made our families worry—so the most important part of was transporting myself back to the original time so that the tone would be accurate.

    Once I was able to get myself back in that time, I made a little list of instances and feelings that I knew I wanted to hit when telling the story because those are the instances that mean the most. They make it interesting, terrifying, and funny. They also do the job of allowing the reader to understand my parents’ thought-process throughout the story, which is important

    In this type of storytelling I typically go straight through, from moment A to the end. However, if I were writing a research essay or an entertainment piece, while I start with an introduction, I also remain malleable to the writing so that I can change up the order if the piece needs it. Typically I like to bookend my writing with a punchy metaphor or poignant aphorism; something that proves I was paying attention throughout. However, in this one I didn’t have a conclusion beyond “teenagers don’t understand time and will do pretty much anything for even the idea of being deemed worthy of attention by the opposite sex.” By no means a grand announcement, but that wasn’t the point. In fact, it was the simplicity of the subject that made for the most relatable moments.

    Typically when I do this sort of thing in class I’ll tell the story and either have an outline already created to show my students so they know I thought about it beforehand, or I’ll have them jot down notes while I tell the story and then have them compare “what my outline should look like” with a partner. They work with paragraph breaks, maybe topic sentences (though that one’s hard), and imagery/themes they think are important to the overall story. I try not to share too much of my finished writing because I don’t want them to grab my words or feel like they’d be copying if they did.

  6. Hi Dustin,

    As I was reading your post, I was wondering, as a writing teacher, do you allow time for your students to talk and share their stories/thoughts/ideas before writing? As I mentioned before above, I am a big fan of oral rehearsal. I think a lot of teachers want silence and for students to jump into their writing...but what I see is that students get even more excited and invested when they get to relay their stories with others and that helps the writing be even more descriptive and detailed. There isn't a right answer...I was just curious. :D

    Your last comment was interesting to me as we had the opportunity to work with Leah Merlmestein from Columbia's Teacher's College over a number of years. Towards our last year she shared how she had changed her feeling regarding "copying" by her students. She said (and mind you this was elementary level - specifically this group being primary) that she used to not want kids to copy her example but she changed her thinking over time to believe if that was the support or scaffolding a child needed at that time to move their writing ahead, she was ok with them "copying" her writing structure or outline of the story.

    Again...your comment isn't wrong in any fashion and you def. teach a different level but your comment made me think of Leah's comment. (And having worked in high school in the writer's lab as a duty, I was struck at how similar the high school students were to elementary students with regard to their writing, revisions, edits, etc... I found them to be very much alike with their aversion to revising their work. :D But then again my larger conclusion after working at a high school for a year was that there are many similarities between high school and elementary...the kids just have bigger bodies and access to cars to get around. :D