Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June 30, 2015

Opening Moment (Julia)
This morning I began with the poem by Ashley Feton
Dining Fork to a Poem
Poems should be
Struck straight through the middle
Using the serving fork.

Yes, even the smallest poem.

They’re lengthy at times
and unwieldy,
and no one
truly knows what they mean.

Take that fork in your hand, my friend.
Do not be scared.

Make the poem squirm.
Make that thing bleed.
At the very least,
You’ll get a good story to write.

We then broke in too our writing groups and decides to Press, Bless, or Address one of our pieces. In my group. we discussed the importance of  appearance maintenance and the importance of selecting ones nail polish.
We then broke into reading groups where we discussed the five novels that we choose to read from writing authors.
  1. Discuss
  2. determine books “ selling points”
  3. create a brief presentation- highlighting the best features of the book as far as techniques to instruct writing. What can you take away for your classroom or yourself as a writer.
"Down draft, get it down Up draft we get it up, dental draft where you check every tooth to see if its decayed, has some cavities or god help us, healthy.” Bird by Bird

Says, Does, So what— ways readers can analysis a text.
reword, whats is he doing, so what why is the technique they’re using important

Group did not love their book. Could have been said in less words, but had a few good one or two liners.
13 drops of wine. Gave permission to write badly, lends ability to tell the truth in your notebook, physical world has a great impact on your perspective. Writing down the little things you may not make sense of.

On Writing Stephen King

Usefulness of it, first half is his memior after his accident. High school students may read this book because its an easy read and may like Stephen King they also liked the tool box in the writing box and book list at the end. If you want to be a writer, you have to read a lot.

Bird by Bird

Told an accecdote about a boy giving blood to his sister.

If You Want to Write
Be true to yourself and we all have a value. Be true to your creative outlet and it will produce good writing. Choose because it was an inspirational book on writing. She was a modernest, the shock of the new. She felt it was about passion and the value of communication. Writing is not a performance, but a generosity. Highly recommended.

Book of Days

Split up by month, meant to be read during each of the months. When you are writing, you always write the date and the topic at the top of the prompt. You will also find out that you will write about similar themes, this could be you working through how to solve a personal issue. A lot of writers write by hand for their own reasons. The muscular movement of putting script on the paper allows you to feel the movement of pen against paper. They also shared unique habits of famous authors and their “ everyday, day jobs”

We then had a workshop to practice Inquiry to see if this is one of the paths that we may choose.
By Lori King an academic support specialist at Yarmouth High School

Action Research vs Workshop is a great professional development opportunity because at its center piece is student learning.
paint chip poetry— trying to give them a work bank. Does it produce better results.

Is there something you want to see in your classroom that you want to see if there are any benefits to it?

Something you are already doing or can be completely new.

  1. Share the burning issue with the audience “ How does peer editing increase editing in my classroom"
  2. Present the revenant background information - might be only a paragraph. How did you come to this point.
  3. Tell us your intervention strategy—> Share research based reasons behind it. Just pull out the bites
  4. What were the results, was it good or not so good for your students? You likely want baseline data, but this could be tough by the time that you present. But you want something to compare it to. Exit slips, prewriting vs. final product, how did it progress. Can use pie charts, can be verbal. This is what happened, and this is what I learned.
  5. Call to action, what are your next steps? Share your insights could be a narrative or could be bullets.

When you are framing your questions, don’t do it in a way that can produce “ yes” or “ no” responses.
  1. You need to write a short report outlining the basic parts. Data can be qualitative or quantitate.

Front loading activities to Scarlet Letters- Dear Abby letters, front loading and providing historical background. And do check in’s with them as they are progressing. Did you start only in one class, or did you do it in all your classes. You don’t need to have a control group.

No bibliography required, but you could site the source. Use a Powerpoint or an iMovie to engage your audience.

Time constraints- 45 mins or less.

Lunch with Mentors

Kate Kennedy introduces our guest writer Eleanor Morse, author of White Dog Fell From The Sky  “The Real Deal”

Eleanor will talk about three things today:
  1. Reading from White Dog Fell From The Sky
This book is based in Botswana.  Eleanor spoke about how she ended up in Botswana
and how this book came to be.  She discusses the contrast of Botswana and South
Africa at this time.  Then sets the stage for the book and reads a few pages.
  1. Shape of my journey as a writer
  • Started with her parents-in different ways they taught her language is not to be taken lightly, words matter.
  • Schooling did not support her as a writer much (exception-Mrs. Allen-1st grade teacher-read a lot)
  • Moved around a lot as a child-she was on the outsider so became an observer
  • Lots of “odd-balls” in her extended family.  A lot of people who ask questions about the things they don’t know and are curious about.  Unconventional people who push the boundaries.  
  • I’m drawn to things I don’t truly understand.  Mysteries of the human heart as William Faulkner would say.
  • It was not until my early 40’s that I really became a writer.  Thought I could fit it all in, but it wasn’t possible with marriage, children, work.  Writing fell to the side before this.
  • Decided to do an MFA-to try to put writing at the center and talk with people about things I cared about.
  • First book-threw out about 450 pages, published another book, went back to the first and finished it
  • For many years I thought I had wasted those years between 20-40.  But I feel differently now.  I am a better writer for the years I wasn’t a writer.  I was a better writer because of the years I lived fully.  
  1. The process of writing
  • I never quite know what is going to happen.
  • It took me 3.5 years to write White Dog Fell From The Sky.  Another year for edits.
  • Some people don’t write until they know what the end is.  I have never written like that. I would be too bored if I knew what was going to happen.  I have a much more chaotic process.
  • My process is like how a black and white photo with that vague image as it develops.  It is shadowy.  A shadowy idea about a character or a scene.
  • I will write about this.  Sometimes it doesn’t make it into the book.
  • The characters are the vehicle for carrying a story.  Plot is not enough for me as a reader.  Characters are my partners as I write.  
  • Writing Exercise-characters.  Sit with your slip of paper and imagine this person.  Jot down a few things about him or her.  Then put them in a scene-where do you see them?  Sharing.  What were you thinking about?  How did you come to that?
  • She uses the phonebook or names.  There is also a website that puts names together.
  • Characters emerge
  • Snap judgements about people-we make our decisions quickly-even in real life.
  • What you just experienced is a start.  It comes out of nothing and you follow that string wherever it goes and you trust it will go somewhere.
  • The engine of a fictional world is built on characters.
  • Curiosity has driven every story I have ever written.
  • Two places we write from-memory and experience AND imagination
  • Sometimes you have to follow a character in a direction in which you do not want to go.  Part of integrity as a writer is doing this even if it is uncomfortable.

     4.  Writing Challenges
  • Finding time to write.  
  • Ability to hear and trust one’s own true voice.  Without qualifications.  To write well, one must speak the truth, and risk speaking the whole of it.  No one has your voice, you need to honor it.
  • Balancing writing and the other needs of one’s life.
  • Internal tension between dreamy writing self and the practical self.  Tension between what the world requires and what the writing life requires.

    5.  We ended with discussion and questions.
Be thoughtful about problem solving ways to build writing into your routine.

Writing Time

Ten Minute Tech
Julia shares Thinglink-Interactive Images
Works with iPads or Laptops

Kelli shares No Red Ink-Improve Grammar and Writing Skills
Diagnostics are here you can use to see what students need to work on
Also has grammar rules and practice activities that go along with these.
It is specialized for each student

Blog is rapidly getting updated-Lorrie’s materials are there in helpful links
Reminder to post and give feedback on Writer’s At Work
Digital Exploration
Afternoon Schedule has been modified-tomorrow Writing Outside Workshop is cancelled to make more room for Revision Workshop
Book Discussion-Teaching Writing

Closing Moment (Heidi)
"The universe is filled with magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow smarter" Eden Philpotts

TMT: No Red Ink

For anyone who is interested, here is the link to the online Grammar Tool- No Red Ink:


A Writer's Room

Eleanor's description of her second floor writing room, which allows glimpses of the boats on Casco Bay reminded me of this New York Times article.  I hope you find it inspiring.

Today was a productive day, and I feel grateful to both my writers' and mentoring group. The comments made on my work were intelligent and kind and provided important feedback.

When Eleanor quoted Faulkner's Nobel Prize Speech, she lit the flame that begins each year for me. I always re-read this important missive, and often share it with my students. If Faulkner, in the wake of the terror and destruction of World War 2, can have hope for the future of writers, I can, also.
I used a quote from his speech in a lecture I presented last year on Genocide studies. If anyone is interested in his words, please go to:http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1949/faulkner-speech.html

It's great to hear him give this speech!

Also, some of you were interested in my book (The Spirit that Moves Us) about Holocaust studies. Here is the link:

Slice of Life Writing Challenges

Have you heard of the Slice of Life writing challenges? There are two that I'm aware of. There is a year long Tuesday Slice of Life writing challenge and a month long March Slice of Life writing challenge. These challenges are sponsored by "Two Writing Teachers". Visit their site here: https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/ Hope to see you there some time!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Blogging the Day- Personal Learning Biographies and Poetry

SMWP ‘15
Monday June 24, 2015
Blogged by Mary Dunn

Stephanie Marshall fellow from last year’s institute is here today. She is a writing mentor.

Opening - Reading by Steven King, “On Writing” – “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” pg. 145

10 min tech – TMT (Ten Minute Tech) – Kahoot! – can use any devise and don’t need an account to play.  join at:  kahoot.it   Kids sign  in and play multiple choice game/quiz. We played a fairly basic geo game today. You can see how many kids pick each choice.  You can find quizzes or make quizzes to play. Very engaging. Kids like it. Teachers like it.

white dog fell from the sky  - Tomorrow bring your book, white dog fell from the sky by Eleanor Morse, if you have one, for signing as she will be speaking to us. If you don’t they will be available for purchase.

Learning Autobiographies were shared by Stephan, Diane, Heidi, and Kate.

Portfolio work - Worked with Google Sites for making portfolio. Look on blog for examples. Idea is to put reflection letter on home page.


Blogged by Kelli Hlavacek

Poetry Workshop
After lunch began with a Poetry Workshop with Rebecca Redlon , who led us through the speed-dating version of her Poetry Tools to help us "make it work in our classrooms." After confessing to years of teaching poetry with dread, she began the workshop reminding us that for students to connect to poetry they just need help getting over the fear so that they can understand the poems from the inside, which helped her to develop the following techniques based on the following BASICS that students need:
  1. words
  2. imagination (something they already have, but may need coaching to rekindle)
  3. imagery (what it is and how to create it)
  4. sound (and the role it plays in poetry)
  5. props to get started
We then went through a variety of "warm ups" to prep us for our poetry inspiration which included playing with words and sounds (through a listing exercise that simply started with the word "cucumber") to a prescribed poem format to help us play with imagery and figurative language. Then she introduced her props, paint chips, where we got to use the paint names as inspiration. Addmitedly, some people eagerly explored without waiting for direction, and there was a lot of laughter with this activity as people read aloud the paint names with partners. Finally, we created Found Poems out of randomly selected pages from newspaper articles as we frantically tried to "turn our brains off" and pick words or phrases that stood out.


Learning Autobiographies
We then transitioned back into the remaining Learning Autobiographies: Sue, Jana, and Erin where Sue first touched us all by sharing letters she had found from her past and the lessons she had learned from each. Jana then dynamically shared her journey juggling motherhood and a new job until finally returning back to where she started, only a decade later, teaching in Portland High School. Lastly, Erin shared her learning autobiography through letters she had written to the women who had shaped her life.

Closing Moments
After much struggle, I ended up sharing a poem that Kerstin found, and that was coinsidentily referenced by Rebecca:

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem   
and hold it up to the light   
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem   
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room   
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski   
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope   
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose   
to find out what it really means.

I spent a restful rainy day reading Toni Morrison's God Bless the Child. Her writing draws me inward, and I wrote this poem in response.

Creative Writing: A collection of poems based on the week’s writing

Longing is different than wishing
Wishing is a breathless moment
with little effort in the puff of air
an embarrassed whisper to the unknown
on a blade of grass a star a blown out candle
so silent in its utterance that the disappointment is barely felt
but for

the ache between the shoulder blades
as if the effort cut the sinew that holds the air within
that leaks and stains the surrounding air
not to be erased but fading  
dissipating at the edges

but in and out with each swish of blood and air
through hollowed lungs
still longing for breath

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Some More Pictures from Marathon Day

Here are a few from our group. We enjoyed hanging and writing by water.
Our first stop and our favorite - Bug Light House
The barge that inspired some childhood memories and today's writing.
Another park and one that inspired a New Home's Bare Bones writing.
We wondered what this is.
A quick look up.

Friday, June 26, 2015


Here is the Introduction to Paths presentation:

ISFI - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

You might also be interested in this document that summarizes the content of the presentation.

Pictures From Marathon Day

Here are some pictures from marathon day.  Mary Lou's group found two of my favorite places in South Portland -- Flock and Vine (wine and bicycle repair shop) and the chess tables under the bridge.  If you have any to share, post them as a comment!

Friday June 26, 2015

welcome to Friday!

Opening Quote

"It is important to remember we are not the poem. People will react however they want...Don't identify too strongly with your work. Stay fluid behind those black-and-white words. They are not you. They were a great moment going through you. A moment you were awake enough to write down and capture."

 -Natalie Goldberg

Patricia offered The Teaching Channel as a terrific resource especially for videos. Taylor Mali was a favorite.

Learning Autobiographies
Justin - Am I a Reader?
Ben - Who Taught Me (grandfather, parents, teachers, friends, students, mentor, dog)
Mary Lou - my son's journey
Alex - My Life Aquatic

Brigid explained the PATHS -  our goal for the fall is to produce a teaching workshop or a teacher action research project. A workshop could be something you deliver to your faculty or at a conference. You will 'try it out' at ISFI in a 70 minute presentation of that workshop. The teacher action research would be something you wish to test out in your classroom, and you will present to the ISFI class in a 45 minute presentation this fall. What was your research question, collect the data, do professional research, analyze the data and how has the work improved learning or writing? You would want to test it out in your own classroom in early Sept, for a late Sept presentation to the ISFI.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015
Marathon Day!

The opening and closing moments were reminders that it's okay to veer away from the poignant and the formal to enjoy the lighter and even sillier side of playing with words. 

The Writing Marathon's magic surpassed expectations by providing a perfect summer day.  Fellows visited outdoor landmarks and indoor businesses, as they wandered, wrote and shared throughout South Portland's Knightville and Millcreek neighborhoods.  When people returned to the Learning Commons, with leftovers from Otto's Pizza and pink-cheeked smiles, they talked of discovering new places and making connections.  A couple of people mentioned thoughts about their inner critics and several writers shared the passages they composed. As teachers, not many of us experience the writer's life, but the writing marathon gives us a taste of what it might be like.  But it's the connections we make that have the most lasting effect.

Brigid connected us to the National Writing Project by taking everyone into the world of the NWP Website.  We explored Writers at Work/Summer Writes on Google Plus, viewed the FAQ page, and discussed the Posting Guidelines.

Here is a list of what we noticed works well for posting comments on the site Writers at Work:

Being specific with comments works best: words, phrases, direct quotes, etc.
Questions that probe are helpful. (What are the characters' motives?)
Telling why specific things strengthen the writing is a plus.
Authors who post clear questions receive better feedback.
Stating what you are hoping to get from the feedback produces more targeted responses.

Here's what doesn't work:
Vague praise

It's a pleasure to be in your company!
Brigid and Patricia