a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

“I have to tell you, I am really excited about the potential in this room.”

I said this to my students today.  And I meant it. 

A few weeks ago, we immersed ourselves in close study of text.  Mostly text pairs: fiction (including poetry) paired with informational text.  Some informational text in a variety of formats.  A few fictional texts.

Then students brought in the devices of their choice and I provided access to laptop computers for a week of research: ask questions, read and paraphrase, read and paraphrase, learn, learn, learn.

Now, the class is moving from learning and collecting to drafting.  This is the exciting part.  This is also the point at which things could fall apart.  I know this.  I am nervous.  I am also optimistic.  I am a firm believer in the power of positive energy to build momentum—the good kind of momentum.

There is potential in the room.  I can feel it.

L is working on turning her snippets of information on a school fire into poetry from multiple viewpoints.  Her mentor text is Worlds Afire by Paul B. Janeczko.

K is working on a picture book titled Death Gets Lonely to document what he found out about the way various cultures embody death.  His mentor artist is Todd Parr.

E is working on poetry about the eating disorders she explored.  Four poems, four points of view: a girl with bulimia, a girl with anorexia, and bulimia and anorexia personified.  Her mentor texts will be poetry from the iceberg’s viewpoint in The Watch that Ends the Night by Allan Wolf and poetry from the fence’s point of view in October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman.

P is working on a sort of comic book to capture his discoveries about graphic novels and they way they are put together.  His mentor texts are Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels by Scott McCloud and “Distant Rain” by Shaun Tan from Tales from Outer Suburbia

E is working on a fake chapter from Every Day by David Levithan to demonstrate her learning about synesthesia.  In this chapter, ‘A’ wakes up in the body of a synesthete.   Her mentor text is David Levithan’s short story (an Amazon exclusive) that takes place prior to the book. 

J is working on a short story about boy facing the challenge of dyslexia as a means of revealing what he learned through his research.  His mentor text is an excerpt from Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson.

There is so much potential in this room.  I can feel it. 


  1. Your belief in their potential sets them up for success. Those sound like some really cool projects. They chose, so they have invested in their work. That's the best scenario for deep learning.

  2. You almost make me want to teach secondary school levels! Oh, to be able to let students loose to catch fire and ignite their own thinking. I hope you report back on the results!

  3. Wow, Christy, this description is awesome. I love the 'choice' set-up & the way you're using mentor texts. It's exactly as Kelly Gallagher explained in his talk I heard about using mentor texts. Absolutely, there is potential! Thanks, & like Chris above, I hope you'll share more!

  4. What an exciting learning experience! I wish a teacher would have encouraged like this way back when!

  5. Wow! Sounds like your kids really are exercising their full potential and doing super important work. I can't imagine, as a teacher, how you set this up-- each kid with a different topic, each kid with different mentor texts, probably some kids more easily able to handle this on their own. Seems like some pretty amazing teaching had to go on!

  6. Sounds like there is amazing potential in the room. Can't wait to hear how their projects turn out...sounds like there is pretty amazing teaching going on too! :)

  7. This is exciting. Envisioning the possibilities. You share the potential of the writers. It's not only what they could accomplish, but also what they have done so far.I find that the learning that has happened already is wonderful.

  8. Wow, what an exciting project! Your students must be so engaged in this purposeful work! Like others have said, I'd love to hear more about how you started them off on this!

  9. No wonder there is potential in the room....you have given them a structure within which to be creative and free, and they have chosen rich topics and mentor texts. Keep us posted....it will be exciting to see how it goes, Christy!

  10. Not only can you feel it...you can TAP it. This is what makes you a remarkable teacher. Would love to read some of the finished projects.

  11. Potential--one of my favorite words. I can feel the potential in that room from here, and loved the sense that I was wandering the room, peering over shoulders to see what each one of these wonders is working on. Love it.