Thursday, April 11, 2013

Write Right! Time for Spring Cleaning


Colleagues, it is time for our students to spring clean their writing homes. Today’s post focuses on three aspects of writing:
  1. Writing Hang-Ups 
  2. Sensory Imagery, and
  3. Ideas buried in the past.
Although each seems like a separate entity from the others, it is not. Students need to expel the roadblocks that stymie their chances for writing success before they can mine their hearts and minds for ideas where they can incorporate sensory imagery.

We all have anxieties when it comes to writing, even the most prolific writers are plagued by obstacles they need to overcome. Every time that I introduced the Writing Hang-Ups activity, students asked me if I had fears. “Of course, I do,” I replied, and then I named a few.

 “The fear of the blank white paper on the screen makes my heart palpitate every time that I sit down to write, be it an email, a blog post, a lesson plan or a book.” Then I added how I cringed at the fact that I had to come up with Every. Single. Word.  As I explained to them, it did not matter whether this was for a 350-page romantic comedy, a 176-page teachers’ program, or an email apology to my sister-the word count number was always daunting.  “Like all other writers,” I said, “I am also subject to tremors when I wonder how others will receive and perceive my writing. But my biggest phobia coils around one concern- confidence in my skills and abilities.” After they heard that even their teacher had to squash some writing woes, they were willing to face theirs, orally and in writing.

Once your students figure out solutions for their writing phobias, they are ready to mine their hearts and minds for the ideas and the emotions that they want to express. After that, they can choose the sensory imagery that will help them to accomplish their writing goal.

How do students even decide on what emotions they want to showcase if they don’t even know what they want to write? In essence, where do they find their topics? For me, this answer usually resides in my past.  Are all my texts based on previous experiences, then? No.  Sure, a thought, an idea or a situation from my past does sow the seed for a current piece-creative or expository.  After all, we write what we know, right?  They do, though, branch out-usually many limbs later-from this seed into a piece with a precise purpose and a specific audience.

Students need to meander down Memory Lane to dig out their workable ideas. The activity, Airing Out Musty Memories is a great place to start. For this exercise, students sketch the floor plan of the first home they remember, and then they focus on one of the rooms. After drawing this room, they add wall color, floor coverings, furniture, personal accouterments  etc. Finally, they detail their memories, thoughts, ideas and emotions on the handout and conclude with three writing ideas that stem from this time travel experience.

Now, as they allow an idea to form in their heads, they are ready to explore one of the least used but most emotionally evocative senses- the sense of smell.  Before this lesson, Making Sense out of Scents, you need to find 12 jars- baby food jars are a perfect size- and add a few drops of a scent into each one.  Some should be invitingly aromatic while others should fall into the foul odor category. The Teacher Notes page outlines specific ways to prepare the jars.  Also, you will need to set these jars out on a table that students can circle as they complete the handout. NOTE: Do be sure to make a master copy where you identify each scent next to the number that corresponds with the one on the container.

Where do you go from here with this lesson plan? First of all, you don’t have to complete all three activities in the same day. In fact, it would make a bigger impact on students’ learning if you separated them into different but consecutive days.  Each activity could lead into a writing assignment, or you may wait until students have completed all three before they create a story, a poem, a narrative non-fiction or expository piece of their own choosing but which follow your criteria. 

The key is that students may use these activities to sweep away the cobwebs that have clogged their creative endeavors.  Now, their writing will blossom. As for these tasks where students had to spring clean their writing homes to erase fears, to find ideas and to allow the sense of smell to permeate their pieces? Consider them done.

Enjoy these three Common Core and Bloom’s Taxonomy aligned activities that come with detailed Teacher Notes. You can download this from my TpT Store:

Teacher Notes











Happy Teaching,