1. Entries for your writer's notebook can now be found on google classroom.
2. Conference Sign-ups for Parents are located on the Parent Page.
Student copies her Carl Sandburg poem onto a small tote bag for the 2014 "Get Your Poetry On" day.
Words Wherever We Go
It's January, and that in itself deserves some celebration. You've come a long way since September. Think of all you've learned about writing and about yourself as a writer.
But you're not there yet.
This is a good thing.
We've completed two poet studies, read thirteen poems, and that is just that is just the beginning.
The next step?
Take those words into your heart.
Choose a poem we have read in class,
take it into your heart,
so that you, too
may have words wherever you go.
You may do this practice once, or you may complete it every day for a week.
Review your favorite poem(s).
Take your favorite line.
Write it at the top of the page.
Use it as your starting point and write for ten minutes.
Where fogs are at battle - Carl Sandburg
The captain ka-thunks his way across the deck, his peg leg beating out an off-beat pattern. It's the sound of the thing that silences us, seaman and prisoner alike.
Someone nudges my arm. The man next to me nods and jerks his eyes in the direction of the captain.
The boat is stilled.
The fog rolls in.
The captain stands before us. "We have come to an impasse." He looks around and holds the gaze of thirty pairs of eyes. "The ransom has not been met."
There is a sharp intake of breath behind me. The Viceroy's family.
"It is war," says the captain, "and prisoners are sacrificed in war."
"No!" shouts the cabin boy. He pushes his way through the crowd. "You cannot do this!"
The captain glares at him and calls the order to the men. "Ready the plank!"
This lesson will build over the next several weeks. When you read, pay attention to how characters behave. Notice their actions and dialogue.
1. Choose a positive characteristic. Refer to your list Mrs. Kavanagh gave you or use one of the following: friendly, enthusiastic, or intelligent.
2. Now, create a character with that characteristic and complete the chart.
The chart is below, but the descriptions are here. My sample appears last.
Name: Make it fit. Someone with the last name Vader reminds us of Darth Vader. They would not be associated with kindness. However, you could have fun here shattering the stereotype!
Why is that person that way?
Ex. Lizzie was kind because of an experience she had in kindergarten. When she tripped and fell and skinned her knee Bobby did not laugh at her. He helped her up. She’ll remember that kindness forever.
What are some of things this character has done that show his/her trait?
Ex. Kindness – holding the door for someone, helping someone pick up a spilled pencil case in the hallway.
Now, get deep.
Physical Characteristics: How do they stand? What are his/her mannerisms? (Intelligent people usually have a thoughtful look) How do they dress? Everything should come back to the characteristic.
If the have a story brewing and are ready to plan it out or write, go for it. If not, check back next week for the negative characteristic practice.
There is a season... and a time to every purpose.
These are some of the lyrics from Peter Seeger song Turn! Turn! Turn! , made popular by the Byrds in the 1960's.
The words have been with us a long time - way before the 1950s - all the way back to the times of King Solomon.
As the leaves turn and we prepare for our next season here in New England I began turning the pages of my notebook.
The older pages.
I looked back.
I found that I've got some pretty good stuff in there - ideas I want to go back to and explore.
Have you looked back recently?
This is the time for Revising - to see your words with new eyes.
Your activity for this week's notebook is to choose a passage you have already written and rewrite it.
You can do this in many ways. You can try the same scene from a different viewpoint, you can rewrite a poem, or you can take the same characters and put them in a new scene. Any sort of revision will do.
So, turn the pages of your notebook. Look back at what you've done, and create something new!
I look forward to reading your changes.
I have a poem to share today.
It's been awhile since I've written a poem in my notebook. You should take the time, too.
You can find a poem in many places: at home, at school (oodles of books in the classroom!), in the library, or on-line (poets.org). Better yet, ask a friend or a family member what their favorite poem is and then copy it in your notebook.
It is important to write down the words! Record them so you have them always.
The poem I choose today is April Rain, by Langston Hughes.
Because I, too, love the rain.
Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.
Happy searching. I look forward to reading what you find.
Image from BBC News: Umbrella Protest, Hong Kong http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/625/media/images/77884000/jpg/_77884986_ap_umbrellas.jpg
What is the sound of love? Of respect? What is the sound of honesty?
Our principal has asked us to think about the Core Ethical Values this week; I want you to take it a step further.
What do those values sound like?
You can form this one as a list, but make it a specific list. Challenge yourself to use phrases and not single words. Don’t stop until you have at least ten. Then, review your list and see what you’ve got! Circle the ones you want to go back to. You may get ideas for a poem or a short scene that you can use for later entries.
Here is my sample:
Courage is the sound of….
Here are the five values. You may use something different if you wish, but keep the focus on the sound.
I started going to sleep under the tree and thought I was dreaming when the noise came.
-Christopher Paul Curtis, The Watsons go to Birmingham – 1963
And so begins a pivotal chapter in The Watsons go to Birmingham - 1963. Everything in the chapter hinges on that one sound.
Sound Part 2:
In this exercise you will choose a sound to start a scene similar to the passage above. You can approach this many ways. Some ideas:
Sounds I dislike:
nails on a chalkboard
squealing brakes of the subway
generators (too loud!)
the fly that keeps buzzing around my head. Seriously? It's September - go away already
whining - this includes humans
Below is the scene I created by beginning with one sound from the list.
The hot air blows back at my face as the train whooshes past. Squealing brakes echo through the tunnel until the train comes to a complete stop.
The people inside tilt slightly forward and back. Doors open and a few strangers step out and past.
I am the only one who gets on here.
Scrolling through my music I head toward the rear of the car and settle into a seat all alone. I flip my hoodie up and close down the rest of the world.
Someone hits my foot.
I ignore it. People make mistakes and rarely apologize.
The tap on my head is different, though, a smart whack. There is an old man before me, gesturing to me with his long white cane. He taps my knee again and points to the seat next to me.
"You want this one? You want to sit here?"
He nods his head and points again. The car is nearly empty. There are several other seats, and many of them near me. I get up to move. I'm not sitting near a crazy. He presses down on my shoulder holding me in place then squeezes himself into the seat near the window. His cane smacking my knee seems to be more on purpose than an accident.
He stinks like he hasn't showered in weeks. I go to move again and he crosses the cane across my lap. I'm about to press the panic button on my phone.
"Oh-one-oh-two," he whispers. His breath rattles with the effort.
I turn my head to look at him, but he whacks my shin with his cane instead. "Oh-one-oh-two. Get off . Next stop. Follow... instructions."
The brakes squeal then hiss again and all too happily I launch out of my seat toward the sliding door. I wasn't going to get off, but it seems a better option than staying.
On the platform I don't look back, but forward has me more scared. There's an old woman with a chalkboard sign. 0102 Citizens Missing Since Noon. When she sees me she nods and erases the two. She puts a three in its place.
Look at the picture.
Can you hear it?
The engine, the massive shovel shifting, the earth - rocks and soil - dumping to the ground.
Think about sound.
Think about how important it is.
What about the absence of sound? Like after a snowstorm. Or when the power goes out, when all that constant humming of electricity is suddenly quiet. Sometimes without sound we become more aware.
Sometimes we need to close our eyes and listen for a bit.
Sound Part 1:
Your task this week is to record sounds in two places. Divide your paper in half and record the sounds you hear in two columns. Be sure to fold it over! Only do one column at a time. Later you can compare the two.
swings - metal squeaking/ pulling against itself
basketball hitting the pavement, then a kickball – sounds different- one is more hollow
feet running – different on the pavement and the grass – they thunder on the grass
shrillness of the whistle
feet shifting because everyone is too hot to stand still
pots and pans bump each other as they are put away
water running in the sink
the fridge humming
cat whining – it’s not just a meow
the phone rings – again
refrigerator – open, close –
utensil hitting the floor – some uttered word
dog’s nails clicking on the wood floor, his tail wagging and hitting the papers on the fridge
Go ahead. Listen deeply. Record what you find.
You may be surprised.
Noticing Part 2:
If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it gets so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it.
A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.
Nothing good shone out of Mrs. Twit’s face.
- The Twits, by Raold Dahl, 1980
I love that passage for so many reasons.
The first is the detail:
the wonky nose, crooked mouth,
the double-chin and the stick-out teeth.
The second is the surprise that comes in the last line. It’s great writing, and it’s all based on observation. As an adult I also know from experience that the observation is true.
Don’t believe me? Watch people. It’s an eye-opener.
This week we are still working on those visual observational skills.
Remember: Writers Notice Things
Here’s the exercise for your notebook this week.
Pick a person and describe their face in detail. A magazine won’t do for this. It needs to be someone you know so that you can observe them speaking, laughing, and just being.
You do not need to sit in front of them with a notebook. Observe the person, or call upon a memory, then go and write about them. (Artists: draw first, then write!)
You do not need to identify this person unless you want to.
Notice these things: hairline, shape of the nose, eyebrows, ears, mouth, teeth, the way they laugh and, most importantly, the eyes. See where it takes you.
Here’s my sample - taken from a memory of my grandfather. I have the memory because I wrote about it several times when I was a teenager. You write something long enough and it has a way of living inside you.
The light glints off his glasses as he tilts his head, the dark brown only hidden for a moment. His glasses are big, a leftover style from the 1980s, for he is not a fashionplate. Any glasses would do for him, including the Blue Blockers he and Grammy bought from a street vendor - sporting them proud. The hair is growing out of his ears now, a constant joke among our family. He threatens the ear hair may join his nose hair.
He laughs again and mops his head with his handkerchief, the one Grandma launders each and every week. His laughter fills up our room and brings life to all of us. How often has he laughed and then accidentally crushed the chicken eggs in his pocket? Each time is funnier than the last.
His face full of deep wrinkles – ones that show a lifetime of living. He is proud of them. His hands? Thick fingers, not quite straight anymore, that have rolled and kneaded dough for years, lifted sacks of flour and babies. They’ve lost a little muscle now, his wedding ring spinning on his finger, but it will never pass over his arthritic knuckle again. It will stay there forever. Another lifetime achievement earned.
I've been a writer all my life - from the time I could hold a pencil. (Including one unfortunate permanent marker incident from which my parents' house still bears the scars. This is also when I first knew I would be a teacher!)