Sunday, September 23, 2007

Quotation of the Week

Bloggers seem to have many carnivals and traditions in their blogs and I thought I would start one here on Writing Frameworks. I would often use quotations with my students to have them think about and make connections between their learning and their lives. Ironically, our NYS Regents exam asks students to do something similar in their "Critical Lens" essay. So I thought that I would post each Sunday/Monday the quote of the week - something that spoke to me and followed a theme. And you - dear readers, have the opportunity to reflect and post your thoughts on the quotation in the comments section.

Inspired by the "official" arrival of Fall and my reading of the book, Change or Die, this week's quote is about change:

We did not change as we grew older; we just became more clearly ourselves.

Lynn Hall, Where Have All the Tigers Gone?, 1989

Your reactions?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Chicken or Egg?

Readers of this blog know that my Second Grade niece, Amelia, is a budding author. In reviewing her first grade writing folders with her this summer, I came across an entry that had text but an incomplete picture to accompany it. I asked Amelia what happened and she said they ran out of time in class to finish it. I asked her why she draws the pictures last in school, when she always draws them first at home. Her answer? "Because that is the way we are supposed to do it in school."

In sharing that story with teachers this week, we entered the great debate of drawing to help inspire text. One camp believes that drawing pictures helps the students visualize what they want to write about and thus, provides richer text. The other camp believes that if the students are allowed to draw first, they will spend so much time on the drawing that the text won't get written.

There is some evidence of a strong link between drawing and writing. After a five month observation study in a kindergarten classroom Dyson found that as children's drawings become more elaborate, so do their texts. DaSilva writes about her own experiences connecting drawing to writing and reminds us that when drawing is a part of the reading and writing process, "it can help give ideas for writing and teach skills of observation, skills that encourage reading the world and reading the image. It can help propel thinking and revising."

I think about the details in Amelia's picture above - from the circles in the tree stumps to the multi-colored grass - and how powerful her writing would be if she captured them all in text. Is it worth the class time to allow students to develop those pictures and then conference with them to develop the details in writing?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Untold Stories

I just returned from a weekend trip to Boston. I have lots of blogs in my head - but for this post, mostly pictures. It is of the Holocaust Memorial in that city. Each glass tower represents a concentration camp and is etched with the serial numbers of the prisoners. The walkways have facts about the horrors of the concentration camps and inside each tower are parts of stories from survivors. It was a powerful memorial.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Treasure Books - Part 2

“Every moment in our lives is a treasure worthy of being written down.”
- Shirl Hawes, Primarily Writing (2001)

This is the quote that really hit home for me and has prompted me to change what I previously called Writer's Notebooks. While I was unsuccessful this past weekend in finding the perfect notebook - I thought a great deal about what to put inside it!! Weekends are my time to be with family - and in particular with my grandmother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's three years ago. Now - truth be told - we did not always get along. She was a strong minded, strong willed, strong Polish woman who told you exactly what she thought when she was thinking it. Of course - that did not sit well with this strong minded, strong willed, strong Polish-Irish woman!! Growing up, I was my DziaDzia's baby and that didn't sit well with her either!

We're quite close now - or at least I number among the seven people that she still remembers. That might sound harsh in re-reading it but I consider it to be something of a badge of honor. While she often makes me her fifth daughter instead of her eldest granddaughter - the rest of the stories stay the same. My memory remembers them a bit differently, but I have started to write them down so that they cannot be forgotten. And, of course, we continue to make memories...each and every day.

So - the thought of being able to help students (and teachers) begin to think about their memories and experiences as nuggets of stories to mine is pretty important to me. My mom found an old school paper of hers the other day and shared it with us. It was written in September, 1953 on one of her first days of school. Along with the picture - the text told about how she spent her summer. Because she was about the same age as Amelia (eldest niece) is now - Amelia got the biggest kick out of it. She compared her writing (Amelia's is neater), the details in the drawing (Mom wins on that one - but only by a hair), and of course the topic of how they spent their summer (swimming vs. jump roping). My mom shared many stories of her summers growing up as we compared the pictures, which made me think about how we spent our summers growing up. I came right home and jotted down my top five favorite things we did when growing up:

1. Spending days at my parents cabin in the Alleghany region creek-walking and catching crayfish.

2. Swimming at my grandparents house and in particular, sliding down what seemed at the time to be the highest, steepest slide ever into the water.

3. Visits from cousins who lived in other states. Because our family is so big and close, we made little disctinction between first cousins and second cousins - the ages seemed to blend together. But it was always a treat when relatives came in from Ohio or Arkansas or Indiana to visit.

4. Surprise visits from my Uncle Billy. My father's brother - he always just seemed to appear from out of nowhere. He lives in California and these once a year visits were not only unpredictable but caused severe upheaval to everyone - he was loud, told incredible stories (that age has taught us were quite exaggerated), and he did whatever he wanted, when he wanted. It drove my mom crazy - but it was an incredible week!! And then, as soon as he came, he disappeared. (PS - nothing has changed!)

5. Playing "raisins" with the neighbor kids. Raisins was a game that we made up and the rules always changed - so that we would win of course!! We jokingly try to play it with the nieces and nephew now but they don't let us get away with it.

What would your top five summer memories be?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Treasure Books

Whew! The first week of school is now officially over and somehow - summer has turned to fall. It isn't the weather - I woke up this morning to a very muggy 73 degrees out - but the feeling is definately fall. At least, that is what I have been scribbling about in my treasure book.

I am going to get a new treasure book today - I don't love the one that I picked up years ago to use. It doesn't "speak" to me and make me want to go running to it. Now that I am trying to be more conscious about the decisions I make with my treasure book so that I can work with others, I want to be able to say why a particular notebook called to me. I was inspired to do that after reading Chapter 1 of Aimee Buckner's Notebook Know-How and her story of Chance's notebook.

I've read this book before - but all by myself. Now I will be participating (or lurking) in a book study online with a RealWriter's Yahoo Group that I have belonged to for quite some time. It helps me to read and reflect with others, I am a better reader that way. And I am hoping this helps me to become a better writer.

I am also wondering how I can use Treasure Books with the district that I work in two days a week. I will be leading the Literacy strand of our professional development days but they have been shortened this year from three days to two because of a regional event. And - these aren't always the folks who are the most open to the idea of reading/writing in the classroom. But I think that I can hook a couple - it's finding how to start....

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Speaking of a nation of writers....

What a great writing topic - blogs or not!! Let's write!