Inspired by Memory Chain Post

I read the 6/25/18 Two Writing Teacher’s post by Stacey and then tried out her Generating Writing idea.

I picked an object: my swimming google and my Memory Chain ended up looking like this:


Then I picked “practicing for All Stars – pool had different feel” and I wrote this story:

All Star Practice

“Have a good swim practice,” I heard my mom say as I climbed out of the car.

“Thanks,” I replied and then headed into the pool area. Last week at this time there were kids everywhere. The 8 and unders were in lanes 1 and 2 with their coach calling out directions. The 9 and 10s were in the deep end doing half-length sprints with their coach. And the 11-12s, 13-14s and 15-17-aged swimmers were at least 6 to a lane across the six lanes in the lap pool. Each lane looked like a game of Follow the Leader. The leader headed swimming down on the right and back on the left and just like the cars on the beltway, a safe distance was between each swimmer.

But not today. Today there was Ryan, a 15-17 backstroker, there was Megan, a 13-14 breaststroker and there was me, a 11-12 butterflyer. Only 3. Why? Because only 3 were lucky enough to swim so fast at the last team meet of the season and qualify for All Stars. The good news: We get to swim in All Stars. The bad news: We have swim practice, just the three of us,  for one more week.

“Pick a lane and start your warm-up. A nice and easy 500-free,” the coach announced.

Ryan walked over to lane 3, dove right in and started swimming freestyle. Megan pulled on her swim cap, adjusted her googles and jumped into lane 4. After bobbling up and down a few times, she took off, too. I quickly put my towel on a lounge chair, removed my warm up pants and t-shirt and jumped into lane 5. After I dunked down, getting my hair wet, I put on my goggles and began my warm up.

At the opposite wall, I did a flip-turn, pushed off and set into this freestyle pattern.
Stroke-stroke-stroke-stoke-breath on the right.
Stroke-stroke-stroke-stoke-breath on the left.
Back to the starting wall, I flipped and counted, 2 laps down, 18 to go.

After about 10 minutes, I reached the wall for the 20th time and stood up. Ryan and Megan were at the opposite end of the pool with a kickboard. “Sally, grab a board and be ready to join us,” the coach shouted out to me.

I pulled myself out of the water, walked over to the stack of blue kickboards in the corner and grabbed one. I hurried back to my lane and watched my older and faster teammates kicking toward me, Megan just a tad ahead of Ryan with a smile on her face.

“OK, be ready to take off together on the top,” coach announced. I glanced at the pacing clock at the side of the pool. The red hand was on the 7 and sweeping toward the 12.

“Ready, go,” coach shouted as it reached the 12. I pushed off and moved my legs up and down as quickly as I could while keeping my arms perfectly stretched out holding the kickboard on each side. Ryan took the lead this time and together we looked like the right side of a flock of geese flying south. Except we were flying through the pool, preparing for All Stars.

Thank, Stacey for helping me recall this memory “chained” to my swimming googles!

Living like a writer

Living like a writer
looking throughout the day
for a story to tell
a story only you can tell
telling it, not as an “anybody story”
but as your story.


Maybe I tell
of the $80 coupon
for Crate and Barrel
that expires in 48 hours
so immediately after school
I see the reminder note I wrote myself
and use it to purchase new white dishes
to replace the blue ones we’ve used
everyday for 31 years, come this July.
Blue dishes that fed us everyday of our marriage.

Maybe I tell
of the grammar worksheets
my tutee must complete as homework.
We spend 17 whole minutes
on this mundane task,
googling “demonstrative adjective”
to find out this 22-letter term simply means
this, that, these, those
Then happily we spend 43 minutes
actually writing our own stories
stories with adjectives in our sentences when needed
demonstrative, proper, possessive, quantity and quality
telling our stories.

Maybe I tell
of the carry-out shop owner
who knows I am a teacher
and shares her worries
as I await my meal to serve on my new white plates
about her high school son
who is so afraid of all the drugs at school
too afraid to learn well
and how year after year she asked his school
about his ability
and finally the tests were done
and dysgraphia is his diagnosis,
discovered with just/still 5 semesters of school to go.
“Thank you for what you do,” she sincerely stated
as she handed me my carry-out order.

Quiet Time

If you ask my students their favorite time of the day, they typically will say recess. Who doesn’t love a time of freedom to roam and play outside.

This year, my favorite time is the 15 minutes right after recess and lunch. On my agenda, it reads Quiet Time. Following the suggestion of Responsive Classroom, when we return from recess and lunch, it is a time to just be quiet and settle ourselves. To rest, relax and be ready for our busy afternoon. Kids can read, draw, even use their iPads. They just can’t talk. More and more, I realize I need this time, some quiet. I use it to write the afternoon agenda on the board and to ensure I have all I need for Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop. And I talk to no one. It’s from 12:45-1pm and my next break isn’t until the kids leave at 3:41pm. I have a long afternoon ahead of me these few minutes of quiet is a gift I do not squander!

Process: I really had nothing to write about…I saw on my padlet an idea from Kate Messner’s book, 59 Reasons to Write on pg. 101 – Describe my nighttime routine.
Then I saw this image on facebook:


and I do LOVE having quiet time at the copier and I saw an article called The Busier You Are the More You Need Quiet Time on twitter . It felt like I had my topic. However, with that in mind, I ended up focused on quiet and not my nighttime routine and that took me to my favorite part of my school day and I wrote that…I love how when I write, even when I have ideas, I still am surprised at what appears on the page (screen)! I guess tomorrow will be more about my nighttime routine!

SOL 17 – Planning out my writing work

In two weeks and a day, I start my 4th March SOL Writing Challenged hosted by the TwoWritingTeachers.

I recall my first year.  I wasn’t sure if I’d have enough to write about for 31 straight days, so I planned by looking through old notebooks. I reread my writing and dogeared some pages. I figured if I was in a pinch, I could add one of these one day as my blog entry.

I recall a more relaxed feeling during year two. I’d done this and now knew how many ideas I’d get by reading three entries a day in order to leave comments. I wasn’t worry and did not do any planning. Last year, my third year, was the same.

But this year, a writing friend inspired me and I am back to planning. I was at my last Writing Club meeting. 3 friends and I meet once a month. We write for about 20-30 minutes and then read-aloud our writing to get feedback. Before starting to write, I stated how I planned to write about my weekend. This friend said, “I  plan to work on my sentences in my travel piece.” Then she showed us a writing book she was reading and specifically the chapter on short and long sentences. Her response struck me. As a writing teacher, I frequently ask students, “What are you working on as a writer?” (thanks to Carl Anderson!) and instead of mentioning a craft move, they say things like, “I’m writing about my weekend.” Then I try to coach them to think about what they are doing as a writer while writing about their weekend. My friend worked on her writing that day, specifically at the sentence level.  Recalling this, I decided this weekend that I, too, would use the March writing challenge as a month to work on my writing.

It helps that I have three new books filled with lessons for me to try. I sat Saturday and paged through them with post-its in hand, 31 post-its to be exact. As I saw a prompt or a lesson that interested me, I placed a post-it on that page of the book.

Happy with my plan, I posted it to twitter like this:


A follower asked if I’d share and I realized I could easily share my list by making a Padlet, my new favorite digital tool. Here’s the link

Feel free to look and even add YOUR plan or an idea or two or 31.
Feel free to share with other Slicers.

If new to padlet, here’s what my inspiration Page looks like:

Made with Padlet

Big thank you to Kathleen Sokolowski who encouraged me to share digitally!

Now with lessons in hand to guide my work, this week I plan to reread LOTS of my writing posts and pick a few I’d like to revise using some of these 31 ideas. So glad I still have two weeks and a day to plan!

What is YOUR plan for this year’s SOL Writing Challenge??

Also, Happy Valentine’s Day – Can you tell writing is something I love?!!

More Information Writing – Generating more Ideas with Table of Contents and Jeopardy!

My family has gotten into the habit of watching Jeopardy at 7:30pm each night. My daughter, Anne and my husband, Brian, are very good at stating the questions to the random answers posed by Alex Trebek. At the beginning of Round 1 and 2,  Anne and Brian will often say aloud words they expect to appear as Alex names the categories:
Alex – Old Testament
Anne – Who is Noah, Moses, Job?
Alex – Buildings of the World
Brian – What is the Louvre, The Empire State Building, Falling Water?
They seem to have go-to words that match a stated category.

As I continue to plan the 3rd grade information writing unit, I see a connection. I have been taking TCRWP suggestions to think of ways, kinds, parts, pro/con, problem/solution, and compare/contract to think deeper about my topic.

What if I think of my topic as a category on Jeopardy?
My topic: Children’s Literature.
If the category was Best Nonfiction Children’s authors, I’d expert Jeopardy to have an answer about Seymore Simon, Gail Gibbons and Melissa Stewart.
If the category was Best Picture book authors for 3rd gr. and up, I’d expect Jeopardy to have an answer listed about Patricia Polacco, Chris Van Allsburg, and Eve Bunting.
If the category was Best Children’s Poets, I’d expect Jeopardy to have an answer listed about Judith Viorst, J. Patrick Lewis and Jack Prelutsky.

What if my topic was SWIMMING?  Would this strategy still work?
If the category was kinds of pools, I’d expect Jeopardy to have answers that included 50 meter outdoor, 25 meter indoor and 25 yards outdoor.
If the category was swimming strokes, I’d expect Jeopardy to have answers that included butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle and IM.
If the category was swimming parts, I’d expect Jeopardy to have answers that included the dive, the turn, the kick, the strokes and the breathing.

As TCRWP taught me, my brain is wired to learn things when grouped into categories. That is why Boxes and Bullets is such a successful strategy when reading and writing information. And now, I also will think of my information writing topic as a Jeopardy Game Show Category.

What answers would Alex Trebek state about my topic?!!

Information Writing – Generating Ideas through Table of Contents

As a 3rd grade teacher getting ready to start the Unit of Study for Teaching Information Writing, I’m inspired by Lucy Calkins and Colleen Cruz to write lots and lots and lots of Table of Contents. As a way to generate ideas for writing an Information book, I picked a topic I feel I am an expert on (BOOKS!) and started to write some possible Table of Contents.

Topic – BOOKS
1. Genres –
Fiction – realistic, fantasy, mystery, historical
Nonfiction – sports, animals, poetry, biographies
2. Kinds of Books –
picture book, novel, graphic novel, magazine, books on CD, online Tumblebooks, online e-book
3.Where to get books – bookstore, library, online, friends who share with me
4. Favorite Books for different ages of kids – toddler, kindergarten, 3rd grader, Middle Schooler
5. Where to find out about book ideas –
Twitter – Mr. Shu, Eric Carle Museum,
My Librarian, Mr. Re
Website – NYC Public Library 100 books to read
Author Website
My…this took time and I’ve only drafted five Table of Contents!?!?
Lucy, in her Information workshop at the October, 2015 Saturday Reunion said Graves told her to write 10-30 Table of Contents. I guess I should be happy I did five…I think I need to really stretch my brain to see a topic from LOTS of angles. Then maybe, with practice, I can grow this work. I got to start somewhere so glad I got five generated.