Permission, Word Lists, and Sacred Writing Time

We are writing. We are writing every single day. Each class begins with sacred writing time. Students use their notebooks to write, to think, to make lists, to play with words, to create poetry. I had my first opportunity to read through these precious pages and I’ve struck gold. There is so much risk taking going on! I notice creativity. I see messy pages with evidence of good thinking. It’s so exciting. 

Our notebooks are being noticed by others too. Linda Urban is an author who has expressed an interest in our notebooks. She’s invited the students to write about permission. Here are some of their pages. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is a poet who has inspired us to create word lists and write poetry from those lists. Here are some poems.

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Here’s a page that made me smile! What a compliment…

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How My Bedroom Turned Me into a Writer #20

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 Plumtree Road

 

Four walls covered with lines of pineapples watched me laugh, read, talk, cry, sing…grow up. The pineapple wallpaper wasn’t even new. The edges  began to fold up and wear away like a worn out, but well loved note passed in school. As I walked into the room for the first time, pale olive green walls (below the unnecessary chair rail) and orange shag carpet repulsed me. With the attitude of a teenager, I declared, “UUU-HUGGG-LEEE!” (I was only nine, the dramatic years began earlier than expected.)

The rug looks like thick, orange grass. Yuck! Who picked pineapples!? Who thinks these prickly, nasty pieces of fruit are really saying welcome, come in to my room? And who’s welcome in my room, anyway? It’s MY ROOM? NO ONE ELSE ALLOWED!

Before the days of kids decorating their own rooms, it never occurred to me that I could change it. Acceptance began to sink in, I mean the ten by twelve box of pineapples did have it’s advantages. Location, location, location!

I’m alone on the first floor. Wicked awesome! When mom and dad and Katie go to bed, the whole first floor and basement are all mine. I can do what ever I want. What’ll I do? The television is in the family room, I can watch late night TV. What’s on past 9:00? The kitchen is down the hall. Mmmm, midnight snacks! The telephone is sitting in the hall outside my door. I can call anyone I want!

Once the dreams of mischief passed, I noticed the room had eyes. Two giant windows that stood about twelve inches off the orange lawn facing the driveway and the back door.

 Sitting in the ugly, but comfortable orange grass and gazing out the windows became a favorite pastime for me. I became the witness to all who came and left our home. I began to sit there with my notebook while I listened to music. I noticed everything: times, cars, clothes…I wondered and created stories. Perhaps, these hours of observing prepared me for writing. I never reported my observations to anyone except my beloved blue flowered journal.

Planning and Packing Slice of Life

 

 

I am mostly a homebody. I love routine and quiet time. I can fill my days with reading and writing, painting and playing with Bella. Traveling stresses me out, but it’s important to take RISKS and I always enjoy myself once I arrive at the destination…so I do try to take some trips.

The act of traveling is hard. It starts with preparation. Booking the trip. Scheduling the days. Looking for the best deal. Reserving a spot in the kennel for Bella. Doing laundry. Deciding what to bring. Packing. Shopping for traveling essentials. Stopping the mail. Making sub plans. Sigh…


I’m in the midst of that experience now. Getting ready to attend NCTE and ALAN. I can’t wait until I’m THERE. It’s just that getting there is the challenge. I have made some lists (and I’m not usually a list maker). I’ve started some piles. Plans are in the works for my students and I can see it…I’m getting closer. 


Once I’m on my way, on the plane or in the car, it’s that first moment, I always take a deep breath and smile! The adventure is about to begin. That moment, that breathe is coming closer and closer! 


If you’re attending NCTE, I hope I’ll get to meet you in person. I’m volunteering at registration, so please say hello if you see me. I can’t wait to meet all of my fellow slicers at the dinner. I’m off to make some more lists…

 

Here’s my brand new notebook for NCTE. Notebook #60. WOO HOO!!!


Notebook

Markers

iPad

Snacks

 

Me as a writer

Writing is very different for me this year. I’ve been writing since I was a kid and I’ve even called myself a writer for a long time (even though I haven’t published anything).

To me, a writer is someone who writes…someone who figures out life through their writing, someone who communicates through writing, someone who uses writing as a tool in their lives…that’s me. I write = I am a writer.

Using technology has changed me as a writer. Writing is different. In some ways writing is easier and in other ways it’s harder for me. There are times when I prefer to write using my notebook and markers. I still write most days in my notebook. (I’m on my 57th notebook, by the way. You can read about my notebooks here.)

This year we have computers in our class. We blog. We write using google docs. We share our writing. We edit and revise our writing. We work together on our writing more than we ever have before. It’s exciting! Sharing my writing makes it better. I work harder when I know others will read it. Also, when my friends read my writing, they make comments and I can improve my writing. Sometimes I work on writing that isn’t even assigned. All of this writing is making me a better writer. I miss notebooks though. For me, a pen and a notebook means a personal connection. I write differently when I am typing than when I am writing. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different. So because of that, I can’t pick one tool over the other. They are just different tools.

I find that I’m improving on writing different kinds of things. When I think about WHY that’s gotten better, I think it’s because I am reading so much writing from other students. They give me ideas that I might not have had before. I am still working on verb tenses. When I write, I often switch tenses and it doesn’t make sense. Because of that I have to read and reread my writing before I post it or share it. It’s making me a more careful writer.

Audience makes a difference. When I know others (sometimes LOTS of others) are reading my writing, I pay more attention, add more details…do my VERY best! I like having an audience for my writing. Writing comments on blogs…I think that counts as writing…even that makes me a better writer.

If I had to wrap up my ideas in one thought, it’d be this…

Writing makes me a writing and writing a lot makes me a better writer. 

Writing

Yesterday we talked about finding a good place to write at home. Has everyone found their spot? Today I’d like to know where you get your ideas when you write? Do you struggle to think of ideas or do ideas come easily to you? Some writers spend lots of time planning and prewriting before they begin drafting and others leap into the writing with little planning. Which kind of writer are you? Why does that work for you?

Me? It depends on what I’m writing. If I’m writing in my notebook or writing a poem, a blog post, or a shorter piece of writing; I jump in and start writing and lots of my real work begins when I revise. If I need to write a longer piece of writing like a memoir or a story, I try to make some plans. My planning consists of making lots of lists!

Me as a writer

Me as a writer

Sometimes I sketch a picture or make a timeline to help me visualize what is going to happen in the story.

Sketch of setting of new memoir

Sketch of setting of new memoir

How about you? What kind of writer are you?

Where do you read and write?

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Environment is important when you’re going to settle in to read and especially when you’re going to write. Do you have a spot? A quiet, comfortable spot in your home to enjoy your book? I love to read at night when I’m going to sleep, but I usually fall asleep pretty quickly, so that doesn’t work for me. I have a lovely window seat where I like to read, but Leo usually sits there before me. I guess, the place I like to read is my couch. It’s cozy and comfortable and I’ve finished many a good book there. 

 

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Leo curled up in the window seat.

Reading is something that’s very important in my family. Take a look…

Jack and Auntie Chelle reading

Jack and Auntie Chelle reading

 

Jack reading to Jillian

Jack reading to Jillian

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Grammy reading to Jack and Jillian

Grammy reading to Jack and Jillian

My mom and twin aunts are reading at the beach!

My mom and twin aunts are reading at the beach!

Jack surrounded by his books!

Jack surrounded by his books!

Reading together at the beach!

Reading together at the beach!

My dad reading to me when I was a little girl

My dad reading to me when I was a little girl

Writing is an entirely different story! When I write, as many writers will tell you, I tend to procrastinate, so I need a space that’s neat and orderly and away from distractions. Recently I began redesigning my guest room to work as a writing space. I have a desk with my computer and a place to write in my notebooks. There are plenty of writing utensils to use, colorful lamps, and inspirational quotes on the wall. I can close the door if I need to and there are two big windows to gaze through when I need to let my mind wander. 

Your job: describe (in detail, so I can see it in my mind) the place in your home where you read and the place where you write. Why have you picked these places? What works for you here and why do you like to work here?

 

I’ve found a new home for all of my writing notebooks. I love how they’re displayed! I can’t decide how to organize them, any suggestions are welcome. 

New bookcase of my writing notebooks

New bookcase of my writing notebooks

Homework and Happy Weekend!

Happy Weekend Everyone!

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning and I’m going to go out with a friend and shop. What are you doing today? Any exciting plans? Don’t forget to finish the title page of your writing notebook! I can’t wait to see all of the creative titles. When you finish that, please spend some time making the cover of your notebook look like YOU! (Block 3/8, please don’t forget to finish the sign of how many books you read last year, too.) If you have any questions about your homework, please comment here or email me. Can’t wait to see you on Monday!

Writing Notebooks

Today in Teachers Write, we are writing about notebooks. I have kept a writing notebook (or a journal, diary, daybook) since September 22, 1982. I was ten years old. OK, this post is going to require so much math, UGH! I’ve been writing since 1982, so that means I have been writing for thirty one years! THIRTY ONE YEARS! Whew, no wonder, I’m tired. The question I get over and over again is “How many notebooks do you have?” Today is the first day I can honestly answer that. I have 55. Fifty-five notebooks. Wow! 

Pre-sorted (with Leo sitting in the middle)

Pre-sorted (with Leo sitting in the middle)

Sorted by decade

Sorted by decade

I have tried just about every kind of notebook and writing utensil known to man. Each of those decisions has become very important to me as I endeavor to write. I’ve used wide ruled notebooks, binders with looseleaf paper, the traditional diary with lock (only one of those when I was in high school), spiral notebooks without lines, and finally my current favorite hardbound sketch books.  

Plain old notebooks worked as I began to write

Plain old notebooks worked as I began to write

 

As I continued to write, my two rules were spiral and no lines.

As I continued to write, my two rules were spiral and no lines.

 

As I continued to write, my two rules were spiral and no lines.

As I continued to write, my two rules were spiral and no lines.

 

Here's the first notebook I titled! From then on most of my notebooks are titled.

Here’s the first notebook I titled! From then on most of my notebooks are titled.

 

Now, I exclusively use hard bound books to write. My no line rule continues. I feel freer.

Now, I exclusively use hard bound books to write. My no line rule continues. I feel freer.

Writing about notebooks is something I could do all day! Perhaps I’ll continue…

 

 

So good to see everyone…

I love the start of a new quarter. Things are fresh and we can start new! We cleaned our folders and found our brand new seats. We are venturing into the world of non-fiction this quarter. It’s a place where many are uncomfortable. Our journey began today with a non-fiction video followed by a written response. The students wrote eloquently about this video and their reaction to it. Take a moment to watch the video. Enjoy!

 

Animal Odd Couple

A week…

Field trip

Field trip

I’ve been waking up at night with such feelings of guilt for not blogging more… or at all.  It’s been a week. I feel like a failure…until I think about everything else that’s been going on. I’m a work in progress. Since I last posted, we took our first field trip to a college, we wrote brain dumps, read our books, we continued with the read aloud, we drafted our first piece of writing, we attended the book fair…what else? Professionally, I spent some time planning to present at a national conference with my colleagues. (This is very exciting for me! I can’t wait!!) My hope is that  you’ll forgive me for the lack of posts.

Brain dumps. I’ll explain. If you write, you may be familiar with the concept of morning pages. I first read about them from the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron when I was in graduate school in the 90s. It’s stream of consciousness writing. There are multiple reasons for brain dumps. They clear our brains. They build our fluency and help us write more and write longer. The more we let go, the crazier our brain dumps can be. They can be used as ideas for future pieces of writing, too. Students are enjoying the brain dumps. In addition to using them in class, I use them when I’m upset or confused about something. Writing a brain dump for a certain amount of time (or until I’m done writing) often helps me untangle my mind and I’m able to figure out the root of my problem. I encourage students to use them at home as well as at school.

Here are a few photos of our week…

Brain dump page 2

Brain dump page 2

Brain dump page 1

Brain dump page 1