Archive for December, 2011

My Turn

December 15, 2011

So. For the past several weeks I’ve hosted an informal writing group in my room. Not just for kids who are good at writing. Kids who are passionate writers. Voracious writers. Put-that-pencil-down-already-and-come-to-breakfast writers.

The group hosts about 10 second through fifth graders who come on and off, although I have a core of 5 who always come, and would come every day if I’d offer it.

I started by simply allowing them the time to write, with the idea that they would eventually work with one another to discuss their writing and inspire each other to better things.

A few weeks ago, though, I decided that the opportunity was too great – these kids were capable of great things in their writing. Why not have them do some activities to work on their craft a bit?

So I issued a challenge: write a story in 100 words or less. Many of you writers out there have picked up this challenge before. What I love about it, and what makes it so tricky for kids, is that this challenge forces us as writers to cut to the heart of what we’re trying to say. Flowery descriptions are nice, but if they don’t move the story along, cut it out. There are times, as the group discussed, where the pace of the action needs to pick up. This challenge is practice.

And what’s the point of issuing a challenge if I don’t take myself up on it, too? Below is what I’ve written over the course of our lunchtime meet-ups. I spent more time working the ending than on most of the rest of it, thanks to the help of my younger cohorts. No title yet, but if you have a suggestion, I’d love for you to leave it in the comments section. Happy reading!


She glanced down the hallway. No sign of him yet. She dropped to the floor and slithered. If he couldn’t see her, he couldn’t get her. Heart thudding against the linoleum, she inched toward the exit.

A noise. Footsteps? Or blood pounding in her ears?

Faster now, her sweaty palms dragged her closer to escape.

A figure approached.

Panic-stricken, she leapt for the door, breathing in the safety of the world outside.

A hand grabbed her shoulder.

“Going somewhere?”

She turned, eyes taking in the doctor’s stare, the hand brandishing the syringe.

“This flu shot won’t hurt a bit.”


December 1, 2011

Welcome to Mount Math-More

You know what this stuff is, right?

To the uninitiated, it’s just a big old mess of math supplies.

Well, actually, you’re right. That’s what it is. But really? That’s not what it is. You see, I’m a teacher. The desire for new school supplies runs in my veins. The yearly school supply order brings squeals of joy as I rip into boxes of bulletin borders, EXPO markers and scratch-and-sniff stickers. Back-to-school sales at local stores send me into near euphoria as I contemplate crayons with perfect tips and impossibly pink erasers. And a perfectly sharpened pencil? Don’t get me started.

So the thought of new school stuff is exciting enough already. But this pile of sheer math-y goodness isn’t for me. All of these materials – the thousands of cubes, the hundreds of dice, and more – all of them are going out to other teachers in my school. That’s what makes it even more exciting.

Every teacher who gets one of these kits is going to use it to differentiate math instruction in his or her classroom. And as a person whose job it is to support teachers in differentiation, this pile represents more than you can imagine.

I’m pretty proud of this pile. It’s a physical product of my belief that every kid deserves to learn something new every day. It’s a tangible reminder that I work with incredible colleagues who are ready and open to take on professional challenges. It’s only taken a few weeks for the order to arrive, but it takes years to develop the trust for teachers to open up their classrooms and their planbooks, and invite me in. It’s one thing when teachers ask me for books, worksheets, or lesson ideas. It’s quite another when teachers want to make changes to the way they teach. I’ve always felt in my heart that I could effect change outside of the walls of my own room, and I am finally seeing it happen. It’s humbling to be part of it all, actually.

Tomorrow afternoon, some teachers and I are going to have a packing party. We’re going to bag and box everything up. Kits are going out to teachers I’ve worked and planned with, with extras ordered for anyone who wants to jump on the bandwagon.

Until then, you can find me in my classroom. I’ll be taking a private moment in the presence of new school supplies. The polyhedra dice are calling. Such a sweet, sweet song…