Advice to Padawan Bloggers from Jedi Bloggers

Bonjour!

Since many of you are new to the blogosphere, I thought I would give you an introduction to blogging.

Earlier today, I found Konrad Sanders’ great list of advice for novice bloggers by master bloggers. The list was quite extensive, and much of the advice was meant for adults who wish to make money off of their blog or to promote their business with their blog. So, I took the liberty of sorting through all sixty nuggets of wisdom to Continue reading

Quills and Thrills: Writing Prompt Week Three

Ahoy, Quillers and Thrillers!

Welcome back to another week of Quills and Thrills: Creative Writing for the Google Generation! Many of you have turned in your Ten Commandments of Digital Citizenship pledges and signed permission forms already, but if you haven’t done that yet please remember to turn them in this week.

If you are new to Quills and Thrills this week, check out the prompts Continue reading

My Soul in the Mirror

Howdy, dear reader!

Here is my response to the first Quills and Thrills writing prompt: Use imagery and figurative language to define the importance of writing in your life.

For me,
writing is like
looking at my soul in the mirror.
And I don’t mean writing for
school
or for Continue reading

Have you heard about Quills and Thrills yet?

Want to know more? Read all about it at What is Quills and Thrills?

Ready to start the first writing prompt? Check it out at Quills and Thrills: Writing Prompt Week One!

Download a printable version of the Ten Commandments of Digital Citizenship Pledge and Permission Form today!

Quills and Thrills: Writing Prompt Week One

Good afternoon, Thrillers!

Welcome to Quills and Thrills: Creative Writing for the Google Generation! Not sure what Quills and Thrills is?  Find out here!

Figurative Language Throw Down Challenge

Prime your mind for creative thinking every week with the Figurative Language Throw Down Challenge! Check out the rules for the weekly challenge before playing.

Thanks to @SSMindSchool for this week’s challenge!

Five Minute Burn

Your first writing prompt will require pre-writing using a nifty method I like to call a “five-minute burn.” Here’s how it works: I’ll set a timer for five minutes. As soon as I say go, you will start writing without stopping until the five minutes are up. If you run out of things to write about, simply write “IDK IDK IDK” over and over again until something comes to you. The trick is to keep your pencil moving. Don’t worry about erasing errors or scratching out mistakes. Just ignore them and KEEP WRITING!

image

Ready for your prompt? Here it is: How would you define writing and why is it important to you?

If you’re following along at home, use the video below to keep track of your time.

Time is up! How did you do? Take a moment to reread your burn. If you come across a phrase or word that you really like, underline it.

Now, we’re going to revise our burn to be a publishable piece of writing. Here’s your new prompt: Use imagery and figurative language to define the importance of writing in your life.

Before you start revising your burn, check out two tricks of the writing trade below to help you jazz up your writing a bit.

Continue reading

Adventures in World Building

Lately, I’ve been feeling stuck. I’ve been stuck with my writing, stuck with my novel, and stuck with my teaching.

Momentary aside:

Is it odd that I just noticed how strange the word “stuck” is?

Seriously.

Say it ten times, over and over again, and you’ll notice it too.

Stuck. Stuck. Stuck. Stuck. Stuck. Stuck…okay, I’m done.

This morning, while surfing my newsfeed on Facebook before crawling out of bed, I clicked on a TedEd link titled “Comma Story” by Terisa Folaron. I clicked on it, hoping it would help me to become unstuck with lesson planning. It almost did help, and I almost picked up my lesson plan book to jot down some ideas for an upcoming writing unit, but then I got distracted and clicked on another link at the bottom of the page titled “More from The Writer’s Workshop.”

My train of thought is below.

Oh boy!

Videos on the three different types of irony! Videos that are actually helpful and student friendly! Those are going on my class blog.

And wait…what’s this? How to Build a Fictional World? I’m building a fictional world!

Screw lesson planning. I’m watching this.

(I watched the video) 

Well, crap. Now I’m inspired. I don’t want to do anything but write today.

(I write. And write. And write)

I need to take a shower.

(I continue writing)

I have to leave in an hour. I really have to take a shower.

(I continue writing)

Wow! I need to share this link on my blog. Then I can take a shower.

(Blogging)

Okay, but seriously, I need to take a shower.

Happy writing, friends! 🙂

Oh, and here’s the video: How to Build a Fictional World

(Somewhat) Random Thoughts about Writing

Grizzly_Bear_Gone_Fishing-1280x1024

Once, in eighth grade, my teacher had us write a short story. I don’t remember the details of the assignment, but I remember the story I wrote. It was about a bear and a trout, and as soon as I put my pencil to paper the floodgates opened and I had to get the entire story out of my head and onto the paper RIGHT THEN AND THERE. Unfortunately, I had language arts for second period (or maybe it was fourth period. I can’t remember), so I had to secretly scribble my story onto paper when my other teachers weren’t looking. It was very frustrating. I was finally able to finish my story on the hour-long bus ride home that afternoon. Between the bumps and my haste, it was nearly impossible to read the climax and the resolution.

I’ve always been a confident writer. I read a lot as a kid (like, a LOT), so writing has always come naturally to me. I could never tell you why a sentence was well written or how to fix one that wasn’t, but I consistently composed strong sentences and focused paragraphs.

Here are some secrets for you…

…I didn’t know the difference between a compound sentence and complex sentence until I had to teach it to my seventh graders three years ago.

…I didn’t know what an Oxford comma was until one of my friends posted an Oxford Comma meme to Facebook when I was in college.

…I didn’t know what an adverb was until I looked at a grammar worksheet two years ago and thought, “Oh! Well why didn’t anyone explain it like that before?”

…I didn’t know what a subjunctive conjunction was until I picked up It was the bestof sentences, it was the worst of sentences by June Casagrande and quickly read a chapter while walking to my car in the parking lot three weeks ago (don’t judge me. I survived).

Why was I able to write well without “knowing” the rules?

Because I read…a LOT…as a kid!

And by reading, I learned the rules. I just didn’t have the vocabulary to articulate those rules.

I believe that reading and writing is like learning a language. Think about it: language is completely arbitrary. You call something a chair because every English speaker agrees that the thing with four legs and a flat surface for your bum is called a chair. It’s completely arbitrary. The word sound “chair” won’t mean anything until it is learned.

Momentary aside: Perhaps the only words that are not arbitrary are onomatopoeias, but that’s only because we are imitating the sound they make and calling it a word.

When learning how to speak a language, whether it is your first language or your second, you learn best by constant exposure to that new language. Babies are constantly exposed to language from the moment their little ears develop in their mother’s womb. Second language learners greatly benefit by being immersed in the new language, and it is frequently said that the best way to learn a new language is to live in a foreign country for a year.

Writing works in the same way. Once you have the foundation, the basic skill of decoding the arbitrary symbols on the page, you can immerse yourself in written language by reading.

Why was I such a confident writer in middle school, high school, and college when I didn’t even know the difference between a compound and a complex sentence? Because I had already been exposed to strong writing through reading, much like the person who learns a new language by living in a foreign country for a year. Does that mean that I didn’t really need to learn the difference between compound and complex sentences in order to be a good writer? Well, yes and no. While I was a good writer before, I believe that learning those specific rules helped me to become an even better writer today.

Yet another thing to consider, however, is that most kids today don’t enjoy reading!

Typing that hurt my soul a little bit.

What does that mean? Well, most students haven’t been exposed to as much strong writing as their literate peers, which means that they require much more explicit instruction in both writing and reading. Sentence structure doesn’t come naturally to them because they haven’t learned what strong sentences are supposed to look like. Their diction is weak because they don’t have the vocabulary to articulate their complex thoughts and ideas. Their papers are poorly organized because they haven’t had as much experience with how organization impacts the reader’s comprehension.

So, what should you take away from this crazy English teacher ramble?

Read. Read a lot. Read what you enjoy reading.

Read books, read magazines, read newspapers, read the articles on Facebook, read short stories, read instruction manuals, read letters, read signs, read poetry, read drama, read textbooks, read EVERYTHING. Read to your little brothers and sisters.

The best way to improve your writing is to read a lot of strong writing.

And when you have children of your own in ten years or so, read to them every night.

And I know I always tell you not to start a sentence with and, but I’m the teacher and I can do what I want. ;)

Not sure where to start? Just ask a crazy English teacher!

Try this. Or this. Or this.

Oh, and my teacher submitted that story about the bear and the trout to the literature magazine.

It wasn’t chosen. Darn.