Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Writing Woke

I read this fantastic poetry collection last year and fell in love right away. On the very first day of this school year - via Zoom - I introduced students to Mahogany L. Browne and we read Instructions of Listening to the Trees and did shared writing. I go back to this book again and again. It's a collection with poems about a variety of social issues written by Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Olivia Gatwood with artwork by Theodore Taylor III. 

This text offers poems that can stand alone but can also be paired with another text. I'm a huge fan of pairing texts for two main reasons. 1. No one text can ever be diverse enough to encompass every lived experience. We have to offer a variety of texts to students and pairing texts or making text sets is a great way to do this. 2. Short texts are where it's at! Between the pandemic and the Tik Tok generation, short is key. Using short(er) texts, we can pair pieces and allow for students to practice comparing, making connections between texts, and learning from multiple resources.

As a mentor text, I love the shared writing I did with Instructions on Listening to the Trees so I'd like to share it. First of all, this piece is about paying attention and writers need to pay attention! It was a great way to kick off the year but this could be something to talk about at any time. Secondly, this poem is about community. I realized very early on in remote teaching that I have to be extra intentional about building community. Now that we are hybrid, this is still something I am paying attention to. Talking about it is important. Which leads me to shared writing. Not only are we reading about community but we each offered a line and I merged all the lines together into our own co-created poem. 

So when you read the poem, here's the line I zoned in on for students:

"And this is when I remember home"

I then asked students to step outside, notice, and write a line to finish their line: "The way..." My students are middle schoolers so I felt okay to ask them to step outside with the disclaimer to stay safe. I wrote my own beginning inspired by Mahogany L. Browne's poem and then added my students' lines. Here's a snapshot of the beginning:


I also tried this with teachers in my district and here's how that poem starts:

Y'all, this is just ONE poem from this collection. Every single poem is a gem and is so inspiring. Another one that resonates with my students is I've Been There Before. One of my 8th grade students was inspired to write about feelings he's been experiencing. I invited him to share with the class and what he wrote really resonated with others in the class. It was awesome. I'll be sharing slides that you can use with students in the Story Exploratory Patreon community this week. 









Monday, February 22, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/22/2021

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a weekly blog hop I co-host with Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing ReadersThe original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It's a great way to share what you're reading and get recommendations. We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Last Week's Adventures:
Last week I read Brave in the Woods by Tracy Holczer and shared how you can use it as a mentor text. On the adult side I read more of In the Dream House, Keep Moving, and I reread The Big Leap. On the education side, I'm reading Cultivating Genius so I can join the book club discussion that The Institute for Anti-Racist Education is hosting on Thursday.

Our librarian book talked different Black authors for Black History Month last week so I read the first chapter of Ghost by Jason Reynolds to them on Friday. They agreed that it was not boring! (If you go to his website and read the about page, he says his goal is to not write boring books. I've made an effort to go to author/illustrator websites to get to know them before we read their work.)


This Week's Adventures:

I'm going to start reading The Flight of the Puffin by Ann Braden this week! And read more of Cultivating Genius.

Goodness Coming Your Way This Week!


Story Exploratory Update:

I also have more exciting news! There's another FREE workshop headed your way! For Teachers: Reclaim You is about time to recenter. 

Teacher friends tell me they are overwhelmed, exhausted, drained, stressed out, feeling pressure from everywhere, not feeling like they are doing enough at home or at school. We shouldn't have to sacrifice everything for our students. We love the work that we do but we don't to let the public school system suck our souls away. 

Give me one hour and I'll help you take a full, deep breath and recenter so you can reclaim YOU and walk into the weekend with open arms and a full heart.

The For Teachers: Reclaim You workshop is FREE when you make a donation to ACLUThe Conscious Kid, or Houston Food Bank
Sign up HERE
I'd love it if you'd help me connect with more awesome people like you! 
Share with anyone you know who could use a pick-me-up. :)

What are you reading this week? 
Link up below and check out other blogs to see what they're reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers,
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you.
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Writing with Brave in the Woods

As a teacher, I'm obsessed with two things right now. Pairing texts and digital texts. If you haven't seen Franki Sibberson's new Instagram account, @textsets I invite you to check it out. Texts sets are where it's at! 

Looking critically at the texts we choose to share with students is important. In my district, we were asked to teach a nonfiction unit from a resource that was bought without teacher input. When I looked at the list of resources, I saw that all the texts used in the unit centered white people and after doing my research, I found that they were all seemed to be written about white people. 

I brought this up to the administrators and my team right away and asked for us to have a discussion about the problem with this and how to address it. This is what happens if we do not look critically at the resources we share with students. 

Enter text sets and digital texts. We should always be making connections between texts and offering a variety of texts to our students. Because no one text will ever be everything it needs to be to every person. There is no simple black dress when it comes this work. There is no silver bullet. There is no magic diet pill. The solution is the work. And the work is gathering up lots of different texts to share with students and giving them opportunities to make connections. 

Okay, so here's this week's mentor text with a text you can pair it with to do exactly what I'm talking about and with purpose. You can pair texts for so many different reasons. This match up has to do with theme and also using repetition. 

At the beginning of Tracy Holczer's book Brave in the Woods, the main character is worried about her brother who has gone missing. 
Here's the snatch of text to look at and wonder about:

"In the thirty-two days since they'd found our Connor had gone missing, the worry had never left Juni's mind.

Not when she tried to read The One and Only Ivan for the seventh time because it was her favorite book ever. Not when she worked with Anya all day turning blackberries into jam. Not when she climbed the magical juniper tree, for which she was named, to sit in the old saddle Connor had loosely tied to the widest branch. 

Especially not then. 

She worried about being cursed. She worried about the bees in her chest. She worried that school was about to happen to her again. How was she supposed to get up every morning and think about math and English and social studies when her brother had vanished? How was she supposed to sit at a school desk five miles away when the army man could come back at an moment and tell her family they'd found Connor?" (p. 7-8)

I noticed the worry, her brain on overdrive and thought about Jason Reynold's book Look Both Ways and the story The Broom Dog. It's available with Jason himself reading it aloud with my Scholastic account so I asked students to read and listen to the story and to notice what the main character is worried about and how the author shows it on the page. 
A few weeks ago, I asked my students to write to me about things they wished their teachers knew. Worry and anxiety filled my screen. They are aware of their mental health and that they need help navigating complicated times.

Here's an opportunity to explore what it means to worry and how that manifests in our brains and our bodies. And then to try writing about it ourselves. I started thinking about what it means to worry and how that means fear is driving the bus. 
And then I thought of a time in my life when I was really worried, when my brain was on overdrive. It was in middle school when we had to go on a field trip to a teams course. You know the kind where you go with your group into the woods and a facilitator leads you in all sorts of team building activities. I hated them at first but then I grew to love them. 

I made a list in my notebook of what I was worried about and then how it went. And then I looked at the mentor text again and how repetition and listing all the things shows how worry shows up and is persistent and grows. And I wrote a poem to share with students:


What If?

We're on the bus, off to the teams course.
What are we going to do?
Why can't we be with our friends?
Will people be mean to me?
Will people say horrible things to me?
Will people judge me?
Will I be able to do the activities?
What if I can't do them?
What if I fail?
What if I mess up?
Will I survive?

We're on the bus, me and my brain.
Wondering and worrying
and wasting away the minutes 
until
We're there and we climb off the bus.
We stand with our group. 
We follow our facilitator into the woods.
We put one foot in front of the other.
We introduce ourselves.
We try the activities, one at a time.
Human knot, 
carefully passing a Koosh ball, the cure to save all humanity from a deadly virus,
 saving each other from lava on Mars.
crawling through a two-foot wide tunnel.
We survive.

What if next time we just did it?

During a time when it's so important to pay attention to our mental health and also to think about how we honor our students' by talking about our emotions and in giving them opportunities to engage with characters with a variety of lived experiences, I love pairing these two texts. I love that there's a digital option to listen to Jason read aloud the story himself. I love all the invitations to write with mentor texts. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/15/2021

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a weekly blog hop I co-host with Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing ReadersThe original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It's a great way to share what you're reading and get recommendations. We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Last Week's Adventures:
Last week I was rereading parts of the books my students are reading for their book clubs. The discussions we've had have been so great. Last week I needed to do some reading for myself so I picked up Keep Moving by Maggie Smith and In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. Both of these are adult books...but I still wanted to share them. 


This Week's Adventures:

This week I'll go back to The 57 Bus and I'll be reading and sharing mentor text ideas for Tracy Holczer's new book Brave In the Woods. I also got an early copy of Ann Braden's new book Flight of the Puffin and I'm so excited to read it!

Saturday, February 20th is the next Story Exploratory workshop. This month's theme is Set Your Story Free and it's one of my favorites. We do lots of brainstorming exercises, talk about habits, and write a writer's manifesto. Join our Patreon and you can join the workshop live or watch the replay and of course, you'll leave feeling energized, expansive, and open to living your best life.

Story Exploratory is also offering a For Teachers: Diving Into Mentor Texts Retreat the first weekend in March. I'm thrilled for this virtual opportunity to dig deeper into mentor texts, explore stories, embrace expansion, and help teachers live their best lives. It's amazing how taking time for yourself to do some focused learning can help you go from drained and depleted to confident and energized. If you're interested in seeing what it's all about, click here for more information. 

Goodness Coming Your Way This Week!


What are you reading this week? 
Link up below and check out other blogs to see what they're reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers,
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you.
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Writing With Say Her Name

I know I'm in love with poetry right now. After Amanda Gorman's spoken word performances at the inauguration AND at the Super Bowl, I've been thinking a lot about poetry and spoken word. I've been talking to my students about activism and we're looking at poetry as a way to speak up about something that is important to you. 

A few years ago, I went to a poetry workshop with Ola Faleti at 826CHI and I remember she talked about how writing your name on a piece of paper is resistance. Just the fact that YOU are here matters. I love that sentiment and have thought about it over and over again. 

We watched Amanda Gorman's The Hill We Climb and then we watched Elizabeth Acevedo's Rat Ode and we answered some of the questions from session one of this 826 Digital Lesson: Poets in Revolt! written by Ola herself. I used Flippity to create a spinner with 6 numbers on it and we discussed the questions that came up. This is how I was able to put a digital-hybrird-pandemic "spin" on Ola's M&M activity. You could use digital dice too. 
I love poetry as revolution and was happy to discover Zetta Elliott's Say Her Name. It's a poetry collection that pairs well with Woke by Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Olivia Gatwood with illustrations by Theodore Taylor. 

In the introduction, Zetta writes, "I shared my 'mentor texts' - poems I have admired, studied and taught for years. These poets helped me to find my own voice and I hoped they would inspire my students, too." (Introduction, p. 1)

One of the questions that came up with my students was whether they read poetry or whether they considered themselves to be poets. One student mentioned Shel Silverstein. I grabbed two Shel Silverstein books I had and read "Jimmy Jet and His TV Set" and "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out" and how he's definitely speaking up about something he cares about with those poems. Overall, though, my students didn't feel that they knew much about poems or that considered themselves to be poets. 

We're going to change that! I asked them to share song lyrics that they like and we'll discuss them next, looking at what stands out and how they might try that themselves. As I read, I thought about poetry as resistance. I thought about me as resistance. How do I take care of myself, how do I live fully, what am I doing that impacts the world, how am I celebrating? So many themes popped out to me and I started making lists. I love to make lists and sometimes I don't know how much I have to say until I start to make lists. And then once I can see what I have to say, then I can decide how to organize it and make it mean something from there. 

I started by thinking of ways I resist...
which is kind of how I show up fully as myself without apologizing to anyone:
Then I read one of the poems on self care and I wrote some words about that:
And then she included a Lucille Clifton poem called "Won't You Celebrate With Me?"
and I asked the question, "how do you celebrate everyday?"
And finally, I saw this poem and it made me smile because I have a tattoo with roses and this poem made me stop and think about how roses are gentle but also thorny and fragile about they also climb walls, they won't be held down and I love that. 
You might use this poem as a mentor text, or many of the poems in this book. Or this might just be one poem or collection you share as your explore poems. I think it's fun to help students find their own style and poetry is one way to really have some fun. 

Here's what I came up with: 


Celebrate Your Life, Come On

I am here
with a "white girls' name" that was spelled 
Jenniffer
on my birth certificate

I am here 
to live big
and with purpose

to connect with people
and take time for myself

to dance to live music 
and sleep in the next morning

to tell stories
and listen to some too

Designed to live
Determined to live

Unapologetic and free
I inspire others with my audacity
I am here
to be me

Have any poetry you love to share with students or that goes along with the theme of poetry as resolution? Please share!

Monday, February 8, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/8/2021

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a weekly blog hop I co-host with Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing ReadersThe original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It's a great way to share what you're reading and get recommendations. We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Last Week's Adventures:
The For Teachers workshop last week was awesome! If you missed it, catch the replay HERE! And I got to see some of my students in person as we started hybrid last week as well. I'm happy to have week one done and to see how we lean into hybrid and what the rest of the year will look like. I am still reading The 57 Bus and The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop. 

At the workshop I shared the next Story Exploratory For Teachers experience...it's virtual weekend retreat and it's called For Teachers: Diving Into Mentor Texts. It's a deeper dive into literacy + social justice using mentor texts to explore how we can make the most of mentor texts for our own writing and with students. I'm so excited! You can find more details HERE



This Week's Adventures:

I'll still be reading The 57 Bus and The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop and I also just got a copy of Cultivating Genius that I'm really looking forward to. I'm also sharing poetry as activism with students and I'm looooving the resources from 826 and this unit by Ola Faleti called Poets In Revolt! I had the pleasure to work with Ola when I volunteered with 826CHI and attend a poetry workshop that she led. Have any favorite spoken word poems to share? So far we've watched Amanda Gorman's The Hill We Climb and Elizabeth Acevedo's Rat Ode. I'd love to hear others you love. 

Goodness Coming Your Way This Week!



What are you reading this week? 
Link up below and check out other blogs to see what they're reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers,
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you.
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!


Monday, February 1, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/1/2021

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a weekly blog hop I co-host with Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing ReadersThe original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It's a great way to share what you're reading and get recommendations. We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Last Week's Adventures:
I remembered that I have Say Her Name by Zetta Eliott so I pulled it out to reread it. I've also listened to Amanda Gorman's The Hill We Climb as I'm sharing it with students this week. I'm still reading The 57 Bus and The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop



This Week's Adventures:

I'm still reading The 57 Bus and The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop. :)


Today is the day for Story's Exploratory's For Teachers: The Year of You. You can still sign up HERE. And for all the mentor text fans, I'll have information up tomorrow about a virtual mentor text retreat just for you!

Goodness Coming Your Way This Week!



What are you reading this week? 
Link up below and check out other blogs to see what they're reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers,
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you.
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Writing With My Fate According to the Butterfly

Last summer, I led two virtual book clubs with students. They were 7th graders moving into 8th grade and one group read My Fate According to the Butterfly by Gail D. Villanueva. I first learned of Gail and his sweet book through our World Read Aloud Day celebrations. When I started working in my current school district, I introduced the free World Read Aloud Day Skypes to teachers. Now every student visits with an author on World Read Aloud Day in our K-8 district. 

I'm really proud of making connections - between kids and creators, between reading and writing, between teachers and books, between teachers and kids. I love it. So I was excited to share this book with a small group of students. We read and discussed but I also stopped here and there to slow down and look at the writing and that's what I'd like to share today. 
Years ago, I volunteered with 826CHI and spent two weeks with middle grade writers for their summer camp and the focus was food! I love food. I didn't realize how awesome food would be as a theme though until I was there and living it and experiencing how the amazing people of 826CHI brought it to life for me. 

We all have experiences with food. And we all have food that nourishes us or makes us want to throw up. We all have feelings connected to food. Food is such a universal experience. I think of one of my former students who uses a feeding tube. Even she has connections to food. So for this week's mentor text, I picked a snatch of text from My Fate According to the Butterfly that slows down to celebrate the best kare-kare ever. 

My thought for using this is to notice how she first tells us what she's describing. And then she shows us. Y'all, we need to show AND tell. It's okay to show and tell in our writing. Sometimes we need one more than the other, sometimes we need them together, sometimes they stand alone. But showing and telling both matter. 

So here's the excerpt:

"In moments like these, I'm so glad I'm not allergic to peanuts. 

This kare-kare must be life's way of rewarding my hero-ism, bringing me to this carinderia. Because this canteen has the best kare-kare ever. 

Swimming among the orange peanut sauce are beef chunks and pieces of ox tripe with melt-in-your-mouth texture. It also has a generous amount of soft eggplants, string beans, and pechay greens. The peanut sauce isn't too thick, nor is it too thin. It's the perfect sauce on a cup of steamed rice. Add a dash of their sweet-and-spicy shrimp paste, and you've got a saucy, savory, and slightly sweet combination that's like heaven on earth." (p. 122)

There's so much to talk about here! First she tells us what she's talking about. She writes, "...the best kare-kare-ever." It made me think of all the best things I know....

And then she tells us the details. Above are some words I wanted to think about for my own writing: swimming, chunks, melt-in-your-mouth, dash of..., and like heaven on earth. We talk a lot about cliches and not using cliches in writing but at the same time, there is definitely vocabulary that goes with writing about food. These stood out to me and I wanted to think about these for my own writing. 

But first I had to think of food that I think is THE BEST. What foods do you think are the best? Here's my list!

What stood out to me is that all my food comes from other places! When I decided to go vegan, I started exploring places with vegan food, everywhere I go I look for vegan food! From here I decided to zone in on one and see how I would first tell and then show about that food. 


Blind Faith Cafe's Vegan Chocolate Cake
(AKA the best cake ever)

When I went vegan, I went in search of the yummiest vegan options - here, in Chicago, and everywhere I go. And hands down, Blind Faith Cafe in Evanston has the best chocolate cake ever. 

Drizzled with raspberry sauce and served with a side of raspberry sorbet is the most divine chocolate cake. Not too dry, not too gooey, the cake is perfect. The vanilla frosting is sweet but subtle. Take a bite with cake and frosting and raspberry sauce and feel the love and joy and bliss that's like heaven on earth. 

I love mentor texts like this because they truly help me feel held and free when it comes to writing. That I can try something like this myself, that I have stories to tell, that writing can be fun. 

You know you want a piece of this cake now!!! Come to Chicago and I'll take you to experience it. It's awesome. But I also hope you toooootally want to go write about your best food, to show AND tell me all about it. What food do you think is the best?!?










Monday, January 25, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 01/25/2021

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a weekly blog hop I co-host with Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing ReadersThe original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It's a great way to share what you're reading and get recommendations. We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Last Week's Adventures:
I ended up reading more of Why They Can't Write by John Warner and The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater. 

What We Explored Last Week!



This Week's Adventures:

I'll be reading The 57 Bus and I'm pausing Why They Can't Write to read The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom by Felicia rose Chavez and I'm sooooooooooo excited.

One more week until my FREE workshop For Teachers: The Year of You. On Instagram, I asked what people are looking forward to and Angie Moore replied, "Seeing you in real time." That made my heart soar! I'm looking forward to that too. I am so excited to gather everyone up in a Zoom hug but also to talk stories and social justice.

Don't miss it! Sign up HERE.

Goodness Coming Your Way This Week!


What are you reading this week? 
Link up below and check out other blogs to see what they're reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers,
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you.
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Writing With A Fire In My Hands

One of the challenges of writing a story is to be able to zone in on a small moment. And then from there to choose not just a small moment but a meaningful moment.

Writers use mentor texts to gather up ideas and to think about how to take those ideas and turn them into published pieces.

A Fire In My Hands is a collection of poetry written by Gary Soto. His poem Oranges is the most anthologized poem in contemporary literature. How's that for a fun fact?

To get students brainstorming, first show students four images: oranges, a bench, a football, a clock. Model how to make a list of ideas for each of them and give them time to write their own ideas that come to mind. 

Then read Oranges, Some Words About Time, and Manuel and the Football Scrubs and show students how one small moment can be a poem. Ask them to notice what stands out to them and then have them try some of these techniques and craft moves in their own writing. They might even have more ideas for stories to write after reading what Gary Soto wrote about in his poems.

Of course, I tried this myself and suggest you try it too! I decided to use the first few lines of Oranges to get myself started.

The Clock Tower

The first time I saw the Clock Tower
with my friend Mike, I was 18? 19?
We took off driving
rolling down the windows and turning up the music.
College kids with nothing to do, 
meandering through cornfields in my white Suzuki Sidekick.
Eventually we found ourselves in Rockford,
stopping to get gas at a station next to the Clock Tower.

I wrote about this with my 8th graders 
the morning of the attack on the Capitol.
It was January 6th, 2021.
I taught my 7th graders about the Bill of Rights that afternoon.
The next day I thought about how to show up for my students.
How to talk to them about freedom in America. 
How to talk to them about injustice and how to speak out against it.

I decided we'd write and we'd talk
and I'd give them space and hopefully hold them up.
I reminded them to enjoy the moments
to cherish the times
when they can be themselves
hang out with a friend
roll down the windows
turn up the music
go for a drive
through cornfield after cornfield
and end up at the Clock Tower in Rockford. 

Because it's moments like that
two friends
happy and spontaneous
not a care in the world
young and free
that remind us what we are fighting for 
in moments like this.






Writing Woke

I read this fantastic poetry collection last year and fell in love right away. On the very first day of this school year - via Zoom - I intr...