Monday, October 28, 2019

Slice of Life: Lots of Ways To Make Decisions

Tuesdays are for slicing about life. Join us at Two Writing Teachers!


"Mom," Cecily said. She peeked into my office where I was on the phone. 

I could tell from the way she said my name she had something big to ask or tell me, but I was on a conference call. She'd have to wait. 

As soon as I hung up, I found her. I was curious about her news. You never know what's a big deal for Cecily. It could be that she won the lottery, and it could be she found an earring backing in her coat pocket. Truth: I love that little things really do matter to her. 

"I think I want to cut my hair," she said.

(You all need to know that Cecily's hair is pretty spectacular.)


"Okay," I said. "Like donate it? Like how much are you thinking?"

I might have breathed a sigh of relief when she indicated less than ten inches. I'm sorry for my lack of generosity, but I can't picture her with a bob. 

"Have you talked to the sisters?" I asked. 

Cecily is the youngest of my four daughters, and it cracks me up how they all consult with each other on all aspects of life. 

Cecily described her sisters' reactions, and I had to laugh. Larkin, true to her impulsive form, said absolutely, go for it. Julia, who weighs all options and frequently still doesn't decide, wasn't sure how to advise, and Clare, the keeper of the common sense, talked pros and cons, as well as logistics. 

I've been trying to challenge myself to relate these slice of life family moments to my teaching life whenever I can, and I have to say that there are decision-making prototypes in writing classrooms. Just this morning, I coached Dalton (aka the Julia prototype) through deciding on which story he would write. The commitment to a story literally froze him in his writing tracks until I let him know that he could change his mind or finish one story and write the other one he wasn't choosing. Then there's Gaby (aka the Larkin prototype) who opens up her notebook, looks at her list of possible story ideas, and is off and planning before I have to say a word. Cecily is the type who want to talk through her ideas before she gets going-- yep, those writers exist in elementary classrooms as well. And then there are the Clares who systematically weigh their options and then go with the idea that seems like it will be the strongest and easiest to write. 

My daughters' personalities and decision-making processes have been consistent throughout their lives, in school, in work, and in their personal existences. It's fun to think about the different ways to approach students who are like them as I teach. 

Happy Slicing,



Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Slice of Life: Shared Writing For the Win

Tuesdays are for slicing about life. Join us at Two Writing Teachers!



“We’re going to think of a character for the three of you,” I said, gathering three fifth-grade writers around me. “Real quick-- let’s come up with a name.”

“Kayla,” one of the girls said. 

I wondered for a second if G. the only boy in the group would balk at the character being a girl, but he didn’t.

“Excellent,” I said. “Where does Kayla tend to hang out?”

Within a minute, the three students listed a few places where Kayla could spend time: the local amusement park, a playground, the beach, and a hiking trail all students could envision. 

“And some troubles she could get into in those places?” I said. 

I wrote and they started listing all sorts of stories that could involve Kayla. I had planned to offer them the idea of times when Kayla got bumps, bruises, or bled-- I call that the 3B strategy for thinking of a story--, but I didn’t need it. There were plenty of ideas. 

“Decide on your top three,” I said, “but do it in your head. Just put your thumb up when you have them.”

And just like that, within five minutes, my striving fifth-grade writers who had been spending multiple days thinking of an idea and planning a story, had a character and a solid idea for a story. 

“Now,” I said. “We’re going to share this story. One of you is writing the beginning, one of you the middle, and one of you the end. I pointed to each of the three students. Beginning, middle, end. Practice telling it. Go.”

After another five minutes, they’d done enough verbal rehearsal that they were ready to write. Before the end of the writing period, the three of them had a collaboratively written story, and they were so proud that they asked to write another one. 

Was it perfect? No. But did they internalize the process that had eluded them for the last few weeks? Possibly. Time will tell, and I will continue to watch, but they were collaborative, independent, and engaged. #winfortheday

Happy Slicing!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Slice of Life: Wise Words For Many Situations

Tuesdays are for slicing about life. Join us at Two Writing Teachers!


Sitting at our kitchen table enjoying breakfast and conversation with our overnight guests, Markus and Alice, we covered a lot of conversational territory. They currently live in Vienna, so some of their favorite destinations was a topic for a while, but we also moved on to ideas around leadership and management. I wish I could remember exactly the pathway into the discussion we had around problem-solving, but I do remember exactly Markus's words. 

"Is it a problem that needs to be solved is what I like to ask," Markus said. 

We agreed that there are problems that come up in all domains of life that either don't need to be solved or can't be solved. That being said, Markus had a follow up question:

Is it a problem that needs to be solved now? 

Trust me: the next time there's a problem in my world--personal or professional--, I'm asking these questions! Sometimes sitting around the breakfast table on a Sunday morning with friends who are wise is a perfect thing to do, and sometimes, you even get snippets of their wisdom to share.

Happy Slicing!