Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: To Have and To Hold #SOL17
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Slice of Life: To Have and To Hold #SOL17


What is it about seeing, holding, and feeling an important object in your hand that transcends time and space?   I visit many classrooms and notice objects being used to inspire the use of physical descriptions and details in writing.  For me, however, holding an object that is important to me, typically conjures emotion first and foremost.  An emotional journey that is difficult to put into words.  Intense and vague; present and distant; focused and universal all at the same time.

As I unpack our Halloween decorations, I wave of emotion comes over me with each object.  I can hear the voices of my children’s younger selves; I can see them making costumes; and I can feel my mother’s presence.  Holding an object takes me back to a time when …  the conversation; my thoughts and the actions.  The emotional connection to the object brings it all rushing back to me as clear as day.

I wonder if it is the same for young writers.  They have not lived through as many years, but do they have objects that are meaningful to them.  What would happen if students brought in objects from their lives?  Would they shift from telling us about it to telling us a time when….?  Would the object be a distraction or a bridge to the heart of their story?

Ever since I became a holder of my mother’s memories, I started to choose an object each holiday season from her collection to place on my desk.  An object that for some reason speaks to me at that moment in time.  I find myself gazing at it, holding it, and allowing it to take me to a time when.  It opens many doors and invites me to explore new territories as a writer.

This leaves me thinking about classrooms and how we could make this an option for students.  While notebooks, photographs and lists provide a bountiful array of ideas, I find an object is different somehow.  Not just one object at the beginning of the year as a topic generation activity.  The use of an object as exploration of memory, strong feelings and stories that matter.  An object as a doorway to ideas yet to be discovered and feelings yet to be experienced.  An object as part of a writer’s toolbox.

I don’t have a classroom “home” to experiment with this idea, but I would love to play with it and think through how to make it purposeful and authentic in the life of a young writer. It seems simple enough and ordinary enough that students might even make it a part of their writing lives. I know it works for me.




  • Avatar
    Lisa Keeler
    Posted at 14:54h, 17 October Reply

    I so love this idea. Simple but powerful. You have me wondering too. Isn’t it amazing how we, because we write, experience things and make connections that may help the young writers we teach. #whyIwrite

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    Christine Baldiga
    Posted at 15:13h, 17 October Reply

    What a great idea and one that could so easily be added to our writing time.
    And I know from experience the power of an object as one Christmas a few years ago I posted a picture of one ornament a day and then reflected on a memory from that ornament. The memories of each ornament brought such emotion: joy, sadness, longing – all from a simple object.

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    Stacey Shubitz
    Posted at 17:23h, 17 October Reply

    I adore this idea. I think there’s something powerful about writing off of objects.

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    Lisa C
    Posted at 20:42h, 17 October Reply

    I’ve tried this with young writers. It’s interesting to see what they bring in as their special items. Most have a very weak story: “I got it from ____.” But after we spend some time talking about it they are better able to express what makes it more special than other things they have received from people.

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    Susan Kennedy
    Posted at 23:48h, 17 October Reply

    This makes me think a first grade teacher in our building who had her young students bring collections with them to school. In their “museum”, hopefully students are inspired by the stories, the objects, and the memories to write the small moment stories. I have seen many teachers have little collections or displays of students objects on display in their rooms. It would be amazing to seem them write about them. Always inspiring. thanks, Clare.

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    Jennifer Laffin
    Posted at 11:25h, 18 October Reply

    This is a wonderful idea, Clare. I would be curious to see what students brought in. This past weekend, my son asked me to bring some things to him at college. He told me I might find them in the footlocker in his room. As I was going through the chest to find what I needed, I came across a few of Ryan’s treasured things, most importantly, his “Baby Sister Blankie”, his blanket from when he was little that I thought he lost. It was a treasure for me to hold and relive the memories too.

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