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Join the fun on our Pinterest and Write it! It's April—National Month of Poetry— let this little paper girl be your muse. Write a poem.
Write a poem inspired by something that is homemade. The object in question need not be a DIY art project—you could write about homemade food, homemade clothing, homemade furniture. In the abstract, think about what habits are homemade, and which homemade concepts have influenced you significantly.
Sticky with lumps of butter,
Subject to lunch-hour teasing, but
They were home.
Take inspiration from French photographer Alain Delorme’s project “Totems”, which centers on the juxtaposition between the traditional and modern state of China, especially Shanghai. What would it be like if everyone had to visibly drag some part of the past with them, in such enormous amounts? What would you drag with you? What would that part of your past look like? Would you proud or ashamed of it? Would you try to cover it up as you dragged it around?
There is a man
who walks around
the city park
carrying a red
balloon. I’ve heard
people say that
he used to sell
balloons in the
park with his
wife, who always
used to wear
a large apron
that was bright red.
No one knows
exactly, but eventually
people started to
notice that the man
comes to the park by
when he comes early,
the only sound
except for the chattering
of some sparrows
is the quiet squeak
of the red plastic as
he runs his hands over it.
Write a story inspired by this Moby Image by Max. Be sure to include a constant undercurrent of apprehension in your tone.
For example, in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, a subtle mood of apprehension and suspense is built when Jackson withholds key details about the lottery from the audience. In “A Game of Chess” from “The Waste Land” by T. S. Eliot, Eliot creates an apprehensive and anxious tone through diction and sound. You can also draw inspiration from musical devices-- in Florence + The Machine’s “Breath of Life,” a musical sense of apprehension is built through a prolonged build-up, increasing volume and tempo, and long extensions of notes in a minor key. How might you translate such devices into a simple lyric form such as haiku?
tiny white sailboat
below it, a whale’s black shadow
mouth already open
And be sure to visit our Pinterest, Write it... board for more inspiration.
A few years ago Sara brought me a handful of pumice from Mount St. Helens and so I began the lesson with research of the volcano. We moved from there to the chemistry of carbon. When it comes to Observation, the possibilities are limitless. At last, directed the group of Observers to create a close observation drawing in conduction with the research in their Observation Journals—including a close focus section.
This little jar of fodder has proved more valuable than any textbook. This drawing by Marlo began with value—organic shapes of darks and lights. Once she was satisfied with the large shapes, she began to look for texture, began to mimic what she saw with varied lines on the page. Smaller still, she added dark marks to represent the deep bubbled areas on the volcanic stone. Most significantly, Marlo kept going—she kept looking. Perseverance is a skill that can not be be taught from a textbook.
Can anyone learn to draw like Marlo?
Yes, yes you can. You can draw like Marlo, but first you must learn to observe.
Observation is a foundational academic. Learning to "look closely" across all domains of learning will strengthen the student's Creative Critical Thinking skills. For this reason, Observation exercises should be integrated into the weekly routine to transform this crucial skill to a Habit of Being.
Establish a routine. The comfort of routine, once established, will set roots deep into soil, establishing a framework for the tree to grow strong. The following schedule—45 minutes to 1 hour per day—will allow your children to pace (not RACE) through the Discovery guide and establish the Habits of Beings specific to literacy.
Saturday & Sunday - Read the new section over the weekend... Create a tradition of cozy reading!
Monday- Complete the vocabulary Acquire and begin taking notes in the Journal (Characters, Setting, Plot)
Tuesday- Complete notes Journal (Characters, Setting, Plot) and begin comprehension Recollect
Wednesday- Complete the rough draft Explore, re-read and make edits with a red pen
Thursday- Conference with an adult mentor and complete comprehension Recollect
Friday- Complete the final draft, carefully re-reading and implementing all edit suggestions
We remember the things we discover for ourselves. As your children grow, the intensity of the important work that will enable them to discover, increases. Work is GOOD!
Remember, no child is able to do the work of bringing an original idea into the world without the tools. You can present a child with oil paint, for example, but without the skill to utilize the tool properly—color theory, practice mixing, good brushes and so on—the child will produce muddy colors.
Nothing fosters the higher-level thinking that allows students to form new ideas and opinions about real life more than hashing through a story in a discussion circle. What begins as an imagining in the mind of the writer is translated to story, and in turn, transferred to real life through group discussion. Integration is a powerful tool.
Write about an unexpected sliver of nature found in the city. Find inspiration in the dandelion between sidewalk cracks, the butterflies in South Central L.A., rain in the parched corners of downtown.
butterfly in the subway
did no one notice how you wandered in,
like that one person at a party
who came late and doesn’t know anyone,
and after tipping his hat at the birthday boy
bobs his fluorescently orange way out?
The exchange always goes something like this:
“I can’t teach writing.”
“Yes you can! If you have ever been inspired by words on a page, then you can teach writing.”
If you can read and ask questions when you read something that is not clear, you can be a writing mentor. Whether we are reading a newspaper article, a scientific journal, a novel, or a poem, who wants to read words that are void of ideas?
Great writing begins with an idea crafted to words on a page by a courageous writer.
Madeline L’Engle in, Walking on Water: Reflections of Faith and Art, confides, “I am grateful that I started writing at a very early age, before I realized what a daring thing it is to do, to set words on paper, to attempt to tell a story, create characters.”
The most important thing we can do when it comes to teaching a child to write is to value their imagination and to teach them to do the same.
In my book, Habits of Being: Artifacts from the Classroom Guild I’ve collected snapshots from my experience teaching my own children and students in my Guild to demonstrate just what happens when they engage their curiosity.
Ask yourself, “Do I want my child to write formulaically or to write for real?”
Teaching children to write for real begins by teaching them to believe that their ideas are important enough to do the work of shaping words on a page.
Teach your children to become storytellers. Regardless of domain—fiction to non-fiction—great writing tells a story. Writing is a wonderfully tedious process. Provide writing opportunities that teach children the cardinal rule of real writing: Imagination first. After all, imagination is the seat of great ideas. When children discover that their imagination is valuable and relevant, they will work diligently to refine their voice. Purpose helps writers develop habits of being that motivates them to move through the writing process:
Moving from reading and recognizing ideas, to engaging in personal expression through writing, develops an awareness of the world at large. When students are encouraged to engage in the process of writing, they will discover the power of words.
Great writing is work connected to the soul. Great writing brings shape to imagination. Great writing evokes, engages, and inspires human curiosity.
Students who engage in the process of real writing will develop confidence in their voice, strengthen their ability to communicate new ideas and become keen observers of their world. Authentic voice is a one-of-a-kind fingerprint. And those are words on the page that are worth reading.
Taking notes is a foundational skill that will accompany your student through their entire educational journey and beyond. Even though there is no right way of taking notes, it is important to learn how to extract relevant and pertinent information from a text in a neatly organized, concise manner. This takes practice. As students are encouraged to practice over time the art of capturing the most important details from their reading, they will begin to recognize how the intricacies of a story fit into a larger picture. This is precisely how a Habit of Being is established.
When readers take note of character development, trace a setting, and watch a plot thicken, they are learning more than just the skill of recording facts, they are actually beginning to realize the potential of storytelling. Teaching students to dig into a story, to do the work of reading for meaning, enables them to discover how language has the power to communicate significance. Learning to take notes helps to lay the foundation for rich, clear, and organized writing.
Some might argue, when faced with a classroom of 30 students, or even when faced with one student sitting at a kitchen table stubbornly refusing to write, that teaching from a textbook that tells the student what to learn is an easier method than pulling teeth trying to nurture the independent skill of note taking. We would argue that learning to extract information from a story trains students to do the hard work of, not only attending to the details of reading, but more importantly to develop the skill of integrating knowledge into life outside of the book. As students discover the details and framework that make a story great, they will apply this new-found knowledge to broader academic pursuits in all subject areas.
Nothing fosters the higher-order Critical Creative Thinking that allows students to form ideas and opinions about real life, more than hashing through a story in a discussion circle. What begins as an imagining in the mind of the writer is translated to story, and in turn, transferred to real life through group discussion.
Blackbird & Company literature guides have discussion questions built into every section, providing the framework for weekly interaction between you and your students. These questions are designed to spark student’s memories, trigger their interpretations, and get them thinking beyond the page about how a story can relate to their actual lives. Add to this the opportunity to cultivate a cozy book-minded community and share original ideas during the fifth week of culminating projects and you will have a crafted a literary tradition. In time, students who celebrate books regularly will become excited and amazed about the potential of the written word.
Consider the following when putting a group together:
COMFORT & SIZE
Gathering in a comfortable area, whether in chairs or sitting on the floor, helps set discussion time aside as special and relaxed. Groups of 6-8 work best for allowing everyone to participate.
Clustering students with similar reading skills alows the group to coalesce. As students begin to feel comfortable with their group even reluctant speakers will share what’s on their mind.
Having a regular scheduled time each week helps students pace through their reading and builds anticipation.
Be inspired by student responses and guide the discussion where it wants to go naturally. Don’t worry if things get a little off track as long as students are thinking creatively.
Feel free to use the questions creatively. For example, assign each question to a different student for presentation to the group; allow two groups to take sides and debate the pros and cons of a particular question; use the questions as writing prompts for paragraphs or essays; allow students to role play their response to a question. Use your imagination. The possibilities are endless.
On this first day of spring step outside, celebrate the blossoming and craft a haiku greeting.
How to craft haiku:
s e v e n s y l l a b l e s
1. Haiku poems consist of a three-line stanza—16 to 18 syllables total—written in the following pattern:
Line 1: 5 syllables
Line 2: 7 syllables
Line 3: 5 syllables
*Slight variations in syllabication is appropriate as this helps the poet maintain "one thought in three lines"
2. Haiku poems are typically observations of nature (though the form welcomes other topics), often making reference to the seasons.
3. Haiku poems are tiny snapshots capturing moments in time.
So, a "haiku moment" describes a scene that leads the reader to a feeling.
But, remember, your three lines should be woven to a single thought:
and I croon in the
scent of Spring's dotted song, swoon
in her blossoming colors
During the fifth week of Discovery, Section 5 encourages each reader to develop a creative culminating project with options that provide a variety of ways to demonstrate deep understanding of the book. Your students will not only have a chance to demonstrate their originality, organization, clarity of purpose, and critical thinking skills, more importantly this culminating endeavor will allow them to show off what they have learned in their own, uniquely creative way.
Students really love sharing their culminating thoughts about great stories. Encouraging readers to create Section 5 projects with a high level of execution teaches them that their ideas are valuable and builds integrity into their work.
This sweet and yummy final project was sparked by our Robert McCloskey Earlybird literature discovery guide. After reading Blueberries for Sal, this student was inspired to do a little research on blueberries and bake muffins for his friends! Learning over great books is so rich!
Take a look at our Flickr page for some great examples of culminating activities. We'd love for you to share your ideas.
Not possible you say?
Wherever you are this very moment, look around, hone in on a cluster of objects.
First, look. Trace the edges with your eyes.
Next , grab a chunky marker and a piece of paper. Beginning with your eyes focused at the bottom of one of the objects, begin to follow the outline edges (very s l o w l y), moving the pen at the same speed and direction as the eyes. Do not look at the paper—keep your eyes off the page! No peeking! And, do not lift the pen! Try to make the pen in your hand "see" all the curves and bumps that your eye sees.
Don't rush. Making a connection between the eyes and the hand is a slow motion exercise. Only when your eyes are back where you began can you lift the pen from paper to see with your eyes what your hand saw.
You might giggle the first time you try blind contour because it takes a few tries to sync the sped of eyes and the hand. But when you stop giggling, you will see that the lines achieved during a blind contour are unique, beautiful in their own way.
Remember, the ultimate goal of blind contour drawing is to practice "seeing" the world with your hands. If you practice often, you will begin to notice moments when these drawings are more realistic than the drawings you made using eyes only.
In her book Walk Two Moons, Sharon Creech repeatedly uses the phrase “trying to catch fish in the air” to mean trying to achieve the impossible, when disillusionment is a much more likely situation. And as a writer with an idea, she doesn't just leave us there, no. Sharon Creech takes this concept of "trying to catch fish in the air" and gives it the form of a picture book (her first) in collaboration with the wonderful art of Chris Raschka. Inside the pages of Fishing in the Air, the world of imagination becomes a place where the similes and metaphors of memory are the storytellers of the mind's eye.
Now let's write.
Visit our Pinterest Write it board and scroll through until you find a boy flying through the air on a shimmering orange fish. Start imaging. Where is the boy on the fish headed? What might his "fish in the air be"? What impossibility is he trying to make possible? Now, choose one of your personal "fish in the air" and describe it in a poem or vignette. What would happen if you actually caught one of those "fish in the air and rode" it where you pleased? Write about what would happen if you caught your singular fish in the air? What would happen if you caught five of your fish in the air? What kind of day would that be like?
I usually think of it when I’m in line
usually somewhere in the steaming depths
of an amusement park in the summer,
somewhere in the crush of bodies slippery
with sweat and sunscreen. Or I think
of it somewhere in the musty belly
of the library basement, when I look up
from radio static of black words
on pallid page, into the one dim bulb
flickering like a sleepy eyelid.
When it’s been ten hours driving down
a straight road, and the car’s air
is a soup brought to a slow boil,
I shift in my place between the luggage
and the door, stare out the window
at particularly inviting cloud,
climb its towering pillar as my feet
make deep imprints in its soft stairs,
and perch on the very tip, where birds
pass each other with a faint rustle of wings.
It was time for Section five and the creation of a project inspired by The Mozart Season. Two things struck me as funny.
One. Let's begin by saying that this little book is a sleeper, a quiet little thing. The story is set in real time and place. The protagonist is fictional but preparing for a very real violin competition. And as many times as I have explored it with various circles of readers, during the Section 1 Discussion the consensus is unanimous, ""Not capturing me." Still, it never fails that by the end of the book the readers encounter some very real extraordinary in the seeming mundane ordinary. But what I find most tremendously interesting is the fact that, hands down, the most profound Section 5 projects have sprung from this particular sleeper.
Two. As we continued our explorations of lines in art and the specificity of the master artisan's linework, Lizzy wasn't particulary inspired by the bold lines of Fernand Léger.
And this is where the magic of integrated learning and Discovery always takes my breath away.
"it was Diedre who started the song. She began slowly, BONG bong Bong bong on the three big columns, walking between them. Then she reached up high and down low, faster, and I hit one of the two columns, walking between them."
And so begins this story's music. And so it is that this passage (that continues to develop in the pages of the book) has inspired several of my all-time-favorite Section 5 projects. And Lizzy's is one.
As I watched her begin the process of bringing shape to her idea, I was fascinated that, after a close study of Léger's lines (lines that did not thrill Lizzy in the least), Lizzy began to sculpt those very lines without knowing! I pulled out the original study sheet when I recognized the familiarity and we were both amazed! In art we call this, after Léger.
So I suppose if you were to title this Section 5 project you might call it:
Lizzy's Music Maker, after Léger and The Mozart Season (2014)