Six Word Memoirs- So Simple, Yet So Profound

26 01 2014

I recently had my students write their own six word memoirs. If you haven’t seen any of the books, there are multiple Six Word Memoirs that Smith Magazine has compiled. The most recent is my favorite-I Can’t Keep My Own Secret:Six Word Memoirs by Teens Famous and Obscure.

These are memoirs that tell an entire story in only six words. I was nervous about having my student’s try this because I wasn’t sure if they would get it and be able to think of their own. I showed them examples from the book (see below) and then made some of my own examples. I showed them how I brainstormed my ideas, and then edited to get it to say just what I wanted. I then gave the students a planning sheet and let them loose- well they wowed me!

They created such amazing six word memoirs. Some were funny, sad, powerful, light, deep… they had them all!!!!  I had them write their six word memoir on large notecards and then illustrate or color them to fit the tone of the memoir. I put them up on a bulletin board and they loved looking at everyone’s memoirs! Some wrote more than one, and some have been doing them “for fun!” 🙂

Some of the examples I showed them from the book are below:

Met online; love before first sight.

I fulfilled my awkwardness quota today.

I’m seventeen, engaged, and not pregnant.

My mom had my boyfriend deported.

Late for school every single day.

According to Facebook, we broke up.

Here are pictures I took of six word memoirs from my kids:


Mining For Gold- Looking For the Good Stuff In Writing

15 12 2013

I often have students Mining for Gold, or finding the Golden Lines in writing. I started the year off by exposing them to writing from all different genres and from professional writers to former students. I started by telling them that I was going to read a piece aloud, and they were to read along and then we were going to Mine for Gold, or find the golden lines.

Mining For Gold

a passage, phrase or sentence that :

Makes you wonder

Makes you laugh

Makes you sad or upset

Connects with your life

Is your favorite

Sounds poetic

This is a simple warm up activity that I do a few days a week. At first the students didn’t really know what to say, and just commented if there was a grammatical error or word they didn’t understand. I  would always share the first few times, pointing out lines that stood out to me, words that resonated, etc…. As time went on, the student’s responses became much deeper. They were looking at the writing as a writer.

After a few weeks of just commenting on the work, we then moved to “next steps” for the writer. We would give suggestions that the writer could do to improve their piece. Now that we have written various pieces, I ask some students if I can put their writing piece on the Elmo*** to share with the class. Eventually I hope to have my students bring in their own passages to use golden lines.

***I always put the writing piece on my Elmo (if you don’t have one of these – do everything you can to get one- it’s my BEST Friend in the classroom!

A Solution to Revising and Editing Work in Writer’s Workshop!!!

25 11 2013

During Writing Workshop I have been having my students working on writing their memoirs and working on a choice piece (a piece on any topic they choose). In my mini-lessons for the memoirs I have focused on writing effective leads,using senses in writing and revision vs editing.

The thing I love about my students is their hate relationship with proofreading, revising, editing, multiple drafts… anything that that has to do with re-reading and changing what they have written! In the past I have  found that when asked to proofread, my students have just read their partner’s paper and changed a few grammar/ spelling issues and said it was good.

I took an idea from a journal that I read about  revising work using the Focused Question Card Strategy.  It has really worked well for my students. We talked a lot about the difference between revision and editing in the writing process first.

I explained the entire process below(lengthly, I know- it was hard to sum up how it works!!)

I taught them the revision card strategy during their first quick publish piece of the year (click here to read about the quick publish piece). We went step by step through the process and we talked about good questions to ask on the card. After the students turned in their quick publish stories and revision cards (they always turn in all their drafts and revision and editing cards to me) I noticed that the students had asked good questions, but most of their answers were pretty pathetic! For example- does my ending make sense? Should I add more details. The answer: yes!- no other comments. So I need to work on how to answer the revision cards.. but we had a good start with the question part!

Here is the revision card process that I use during writing workshop:

  • After the students have written for at least  20 min.  for a few days and they have some content, I tell them  that they can conference with a peer if they want.
  • I let students pick their partners since they will find people they are comfortable with and someone who will give them suggestions and be honest. Remind students that they as the writer is asking for help, so they should accept comments relating to their card.
  • Students must conference with at least 2 students for revising conferences and one other student for editing conference.
  • When it is time for drafting. The writer needs to take a note card and write one questions or concern that they have that they would like help with. If it is a yes/no question, they need to ask why.
  • They write their name on the side of the card
  • When they conference- the writer reads his/her piece aloud without the partner looking at the paper.
  • The listener only responds to that one question that the writer had. The listener writes the answer on the back of the note card and puts his/her name.
  • No editing is done at this conference. This is only time for revising.

Students then write more.

Another Revision conference

  • Same as the first, students can pick anyone to work with but it must be with a different conference partner than the first.

Editing Conference

  • With peers. This time students sit side by side and are looking at one writer’s piece at a time. The writer reads the piece aloud. Make corrections and changes. The writer is the only one who writes on his/ her paper. Then they switch, writer becomes listener etc..

I, the teacher finally looks at the paper:

  • The paper has had 3 people look at it before I even see  it one time. I have glanced at their work, and helped here and there, but not in-depth.
  • The writer then writes on a note card one thing they want help with from me.  They attach the note card to their paper.
  • At this point, the writer is giving me his/her best draft possible.
  • I then looks at the piece, and responds to the student’s question and makes one suggestion.
  • The piece is then returned to the student for them to make corrections and changes and turn in for their final piece to be graded.
  • I needs to keep in mind that the writer can ignore the suggestions that the I suggested. I need to have the student go back to the rubric and focus on the things that they are being graded on.
  • I don’t correct grammar unless it is a habit and is seen consistently from the student. If it is a habit I only comment on one thing at a time- too many and they don’t internalize it.

**The article was from September 2006,  in the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy,  written by Alexa Sandman.

Words… Words… Words

3 09 2011

Words floating from the ceiling, words scattered allover the desks, whiteboard, even floor?

This is how I want my room to look when my students enter one day during the first week of school. I am going to gather as many words as I can, print them in large font and colors, laminate them and then scatter them all over. 

I want my students to walk around, pick their favorite(s), and write a story, poem, journal entry- any piece of writing around that word. If they are stuck, I will tell them to gather 10-20 words and create a found poem from the words.

Then I want us to go around a do a quaker share (each person shares a line from their work). Hopefully this will get them into writing, sharing, and words! Maybe they will even learn some new vocabulary words!! 

Your Child’s Writing Life: How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity and Skill at Every Age!

7 08 2011

Your Child’s Writing Life: How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity, and Skill at Every Age by Pam Allyn is a book that I came across that I started flipping through, and then realized this would be a good book for me to have. Although I don’t have any biological children of my own, I do have hundred every school year that I consider my own!

The book is useful for parents with kids or teachers. It focuses mostly on children from birth to 12 and how we can enhance their writing life and experiences.

Something that struck me from the beginning of the book that immediately struck me was we, as teachers, are looking to create life long readers in our classroom. Do we also think about and want to create life long writers in our classroom?

After reading this book my goal for this upcoming school year is to create life long readers and writers.

Here are some of the highlights from the book that I jotted down as I read it:

  • Writing leads to guaranteed improvement in academic achievement.
  • “ Writing fosters a child’s emotional growth. Writing is a way to pay better attention to our lives and to build the confidence to trust our opinions and voices.”  Middle school students struggle so much with confidence and voicing their opinions. I have seen in the past that when students share their writing, they are able to voice their feelings, opinions and stories. It helps them to gain confidence in themselves when others respond positively to their writing.
  • The book also has a list of Twenty Great books to inspire writing- if nothing else, these titles make it worth it to get the book- add these to your classroom library!
  • Another good tip was that older children may be hesitant to share their writing, so sharing writing from other people (yourself, real authors, past students) may help your student to feel more confident in their writing.
These are just a few notes I jotted down, in a few days, I will add other thoughts I had after reading this book!

Great Publishing Opportunity for your Students!

26 07 2011

The past few months have been a whirlwind for me, so I haven’t had a chance to post. Now that school is almost here (crazy, I know!) I have had some time to think about how I want to change and improve my methods for my new students. Stay posted for tons of ideas about reading and writing!

One thing I want to mention now, so you can start thinking about how to incorporate it into your classroom is the Scholastic Writing Awards contest. This May, I had an awesome opportunity to go to New York City  to the Scholastic building. I learned a lot about the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and saw first hand at the national awards ceremony at  Carnegie Hall just how amazing this contest really is.

 This is an amazing publishing opportunity for your students to win awards for their writing at a local level, and possibly even national level! If you are located in Northeast Ohio- email me, or leave a comment here, and I will give you more info. on the Scholastic Writing contest at our local level! 

Check out this link for more info. about the awards:

Writing Circles Made Easy

27 12 2010

Writing Circles Pt. II

For those of you who read my post  recently about writing circles, I wanted to update with some other ideas of how this is working for me in my classroom.

Here are some points that have worked for me with my writing circles:

  • I have my writing circles meet once a week on the same day. This consistency helps the kids stay organized and they know that on Tuesdays they will be expected to share their writing with their group.
  • At the end of each session I have the students pick their topic for the following week. I also have them pick who will be the first reader (the person who will read his/her piece first next week) and the task master (the person to keep everyone on task and to make sure they listen to each other and everyone shares).
  • Before the groups meet, I have the students write three topics they would like to write about in their notebooks. Then I have them pick their top idea and write that on the notecard and bring it to the group. This way they aren’t influenced by each other’s ideas. Also it makes things move more quickly.
  • I am going to have my students pick their favorite writing and add it to their blog. Then I am going to have them comment on each other’s writings via their blog. This will enable students who are not in each other’s writing groups to be able to hear others writings and comment on them.

If anyone has tried writing circles and has other ideas that work, please share!!! 🙂

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