Saturday, November 14, 2015

I Just Can't Stop Smiling

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About 9:30 yesterday morning a Facebook message put a smile on my face and a happy tear in my eye. I haven't stopped smiling since. I'm not trying to be cryptic, but it's not my story to share, not really. So I'll keep my mouth shut, my keyboarding fingers quiet, a smile on my face and wait til it's OK to share. 

But after that good news, the day just kept getting better.

I finished grading my Creative Writing students' Digital Storytelling projects. Wow. Most of the kids did an amazing job. Some are heartbreaking. Some are disturbing.  And I'm not going to sugarcoat it, some are awful.  Well, not awful really. They just didn't spend the time on the assignment that it required, and what they ended up with was just incomplete. I'm sharing out more of them on our Facebook page and through Twitter #CWFierce if you'd like to see some more.

Here's one of my favorites:

Then I got home and checked my personal email. A letter for Chloe from Sam and a note from Ruth made my smile even bigger.  We're finally going to meet face to face! At NCTE! Next week! For Lunch! Ruth is one of my bucket list people, you know. I feel like we've been great friends for awhile, we just haven't sat down face to face.  And if meeting Ruth is anything like meeting Christy, well, we'll talk like we've known each other forever!

There are others on my bucket list also--and I've started connecting with them through Twitter and Facebook. I hope I have enough time to go to sessions!

NCTE.  It's this coming week, you know. And this old,  experienced teacher is going to be attending her very first one.  Sometimes, it seems like a waste for me to attend. I've only a year or two left before I retire. Maybe someone else should go. But then I think how much it excites me just to think about it and I know that this experience will rejuvenate me.  So I'll be spending the next few days scouring the program, scratching down sessions, crossing them off, scratching down new ones and waiting impatiently for the app to be released.

I've got my list of things to pack. I've extra boxes in the car to bring books home. I've got a rolling bag to drag through the convention (though that may be overkill). I've got the author signing list in my folder, books to take for the swap on Sunday, comfortable shoes (and I am shopping today just in case I need some new ones). I've read all the blogs I've found for navigating NCTE. Followed advice on Twitter. I am ready.

Can it be Thursday already?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Making Writing Fun Again

I've learned something in the last few years of teaching Creative Writing. High school students don't think writing is fun. According to their writing autobiographies, writing in school is dull and lifeless and done only according to teacher directions. No voice. No choice. No fun.

Sometimes, I forget that too.

This week was conference week and a great time to remind us all that writing is fun, creative and doable. These activities I used with my juniors and seniors and also with my eighth graders, who will also be writing fiction stories.  I have to say, the eighth graders are waaayyyy more excited about writing stories than the high schoolers are.

Monday we all wrote from picture prompts. I've been pinning these great pictures for awhile now and have used them in class several times. Kids get done with this assignment and always say, "That was fun."  The premise is simple. Students work in groups of three. They are given a picture with these directions:

WRITER #1: Tell the story about what was happening when this picture was taken
WRITER #2: Add to the first writer's story. 
WRITER #3: Share your thoughts or the life lesson. 
WRITER #1: Read the story. Edit and revise it for clarity. Give it a title. 
The idea and the questions aren't mine (as soon as I find the originator again, I'll be sure to credit!)

I give each writer three minutes and then they pass. When we've gone through the directions, it's time to share. And guess what? My high schoolers stand up in front of the class and read their writing! That's HUGE in my room.  So did my eighth graders, but it's not quite as big a deal with them :)

On Tuesday, my Creative Writing students wrote pass around stories in groups of five to seven (8th graders did this Wednesday). I gave them a story starter prompt (again, found some online), a sheet of paper and a clipboard.  Each student wrote one sentence and then kept passing the clipboard around for fifteen or twenty minutes. The eighth graders were so excited about these that one group acted theirs out!

Thursday was our last day of the week and my high school kids needed the period to share their digital storytelling projects with me, but the eighth graders wrote partner stories with Story Cubes. There are lots of ways to use Story Cubes, but I just rolled the dice and asked kids to write a story, trying to use all the images on the dice. The way this activity went, I'm pretty sure they will beg to finish them on Monday.

This all seems so simple as I write it that I'm not sure I should even share this post. But it's such a celebration of writing fun in a high school writing class that I just had to. If you had been there and seen the smiles, heard the laughter, you'd be celebrating too! 

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