Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Back to Basics #SOL17
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Slice of Life: Back to Basics #SOL17


When the going gets rough … we go back to basics…

This something I notice about our writing process.  Whenever Tammy and I hit a roadblock in terms of topic, structure, layout, or clarity, we put away our computers and go old school.  Paper, scissors, color markers, tape, and glue are the tools we turn toward to help us figure out what we are trying to say.  We draw, create, physically lay things out and design different ways to illustrate our ideas.

There are so many reasons this works for us.  First of all, it gets us to physically move away from our draft.  This physical space releases the mental grip we have on the way the words are currently written.  Once we remove ourselves we create space to see the words differently and new possibilities emerge.  Now, sitting on the floor with materials spread out in front of us, we begin creating three dimensionally.  It is easy to cross out, connect, build and envision what we are trying to bring to life.  Using markers, scissors, tape and glue gets our creative juices flowing and the ideas follow suit.

We also find that talking through ideas and brainstorming is easier when we are physically trying to create something together.  We can see each other’s thought processes develop and can more easily connect the dots for each other.  What if?  How about? and Is it possible to? … are the questions we are asking as we adjust, revise and try again.

Yesterday we were struggling with creating a figure for our book.  We knew this figure had the potential to tie together all the ideas in the book.  This figure would literally journey with us (and the reader) throughout each chapter.  We knew what we wanted but couldn’t get it.



We trusted our process, went back to basics and it became clear.


This got us thinking about writer’s workshop in classrooms.  Do our students have the same opportunity to physically create their ideas?  Can they get up, move away from their writing and try to work through an idea through a different modality?  Are we showing our students how writers use different modalities to revise, draft and structure their writing?  Do we have these materials set aside for this purpose in our classrooms?


We know how important these materials are to our process, so we always pack them when we head off to write together.  We plan to think more about how to bring this to life in classrooms.

finalShout out to Ashley Spires and The Most Magnificent Thing for reminding us what it takes to create what you want!   Clare51+InM3C-OL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

  • Avatar
    Posted at 07:27h, 30 March Reply

    There is so much detail that goes into writing a book! Wow. I love the Most Magneficent Thing 🙂 a teacher read that book when i was subbng for her in the afternoon. It is very fun!

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    Michelle Haseltine
    Posted at 09:29h, 30 March Reply

    This is so true! I’m the same way. Providing these tools to students or access to these tools is vital. Thank you for this post and I hope the rest of your writing went well!

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    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 10:37h, 30 March Reply

    I once had a principal who scolded me for letting my high school students have access to scissors! That was about a million and a half years ago. Writers need opportunities to think their way through obstacles like “I don’t know what to say,” or “I don’t know how to get out of this box I’ve written myself into.” Thanks for posting this today as a reminder to all of us that writers need different tools to pave their ways to product. I wish I’d had your post to share with my long-lost principal.

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    Rose Cappelli
    Posted at 12:01h, 30 March Reply

    Love how you wove the book into your thinking! I agree, sometimes going old school is just what is needed. Thanks for the glimpse into your process. I enjoy learning how everyone works a little differently, yet often similarly, to create. Your book will be fantastic!

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    Alice Nine
    Posted at 16:23h, 30 March Reply

    This is such an important post! Very important questions in the paragraph that began “This got us thinking about writer’s workshop in classrooms. ” I frequently tell teachers to make the writing “big, very big” / “full of color” / “tear it and then tape or glue it” / “post it as streamers cause it looks like a party” …. I use calculator paper tape and “smelly” markers for our sentence writing especially when we are learning something new. Why? For the reasons you so beautifully wrote about! Thank you much. I will definitely share this post.

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    Lynne Dorfman
    Posted at 20:32h, 30 March Reply

    A cool book that I own but did not make the connection – but ti’s so clear – WOW! Clare, you are right. I am not sure we give our students any opportunity ti do something like this, especially after second grade. I have often used color for revision purposes, We need to explore our processes – how we go about developing our thinking, our organizational scaffolds, our layout – everything! I loved reading this post and am now searching for my copy of The Most Magnificent Thing! By the way, thanks for taking the time to come back to Slice of Life. I have enjoyed every post you have written, my dear friend. You are a gift to teachers and students alike!

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    Linda Baie
    Posted at 23:28h, 30 March Reply

    I love The Most Magnificent Things, give support for those who do think in other ways besides words. If they draw and create, something new might happen that never had occurred to them before. Our students journaled with words and sketches often in addition to the other writing in notebooks. We were convinced that it expanded their thought processes. Even non-readers were expected to capture learning in this way at certain times. And they did! Thanks for sharing your process, and together. Awesome!

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    Christine Baldiga
    Posted at 00:51h, 31 March Reply

    As a person who enjoys the diversion of creating, this post really hit home. I believe we tend to structure our workshops with little room for creativity. How can we add more? Create more opportunities to use our other side of the brain? You certainly have me thinking and questioning.

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    Posted at 03:29h, 31 March Reply

    The physicality of makings something matters. This is what concerns me about too much time in a digital world. I think students need to have exposure to all kinds of writing tools. Your questions: ” Are we showing our students how writers use different modalities to revise, draft and structure their writing? Do we have these materials set aside for this purpose in our classrooms?” are perfect. Thank you for making me think more about whet we make available for our kiddos.

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    Carrie Gelson
    Posted at 05:02h, 31 March Reply

    I love this reflection from “real writers” – there is a really crucial thing that happens when we physically move things around in our space. Found this post so interesting!

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    Paula Ruedebusch
    Posted at 12:46h, 31 March Reply

    I just happen to be reading this book to my students this week. I love it because I am that girl who has to just jump in and try something – and using paper and pencil, feeling the something being created, that’s important. One of my reading groups yesterday said, can we make a book like that? I forgot they don’t just need to read and write responses – they need to create!

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