Writer’s Notebook Wednesday

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This is my first contribution to Writer’s Notebook Wednesday! It is a personal narrative I have been writing alongside my class:

As we pulled into the stranger’s driveway, the excitement in the car grew. The garage door was open and we could see two golden-fleeced puppies playing in a large crate.

“We are definitely getting one!” Megan exclaimed. We all laughed, but we knew it was true. We could never leave without a puppy, having seen them.

Quickly, we piled out of the Rav-4 and introduced ourselves to the breeder. She let us know that the boy was the one wearing a green collar and that the little girl was the one in the pink collar. The boy was already reserved but the little girl was available.

“Go ahead, you can let them out and play with them. Take them out on the front lawn!” the breeder said. Megan rushed to the cage and opened the latch.

A tangle of legs and tails piled out, all golden and fluffy. Yip yip! Both puppies raced towards the lawn, tumbling over their unsteady legs wagging tails. We watched them play with each other, racing around the lawn and garden, wrestling and playing. Megan chased the little girl and then sat down in the garage. Without a sound, the little girl slowly approached. She sniffed Megan’s foot expectantly and before we could say a word, she threw herself into Megan’s lap! We were in love! After a few more minutes, Megan scooped up the puppy in her arms and said in a decided voice, “We are getting her!”.

With a laugh, we turned to the breeder and made it official. As the money was turned over and the contract was signed, we made our way to the car with our new baby girl. After an hour of playing outside with her brother, meeting a whole new family, and being adopted- she was exhausted. As we pulled out of the driveway, she snuggled up on the backseat, between all of us. As she slept soundly, surrounded by the love of her new family, Mom leaned back and said, “Welcome home, Lucy”.

Where I’m From

This summer, I learned about something called “Where I’m From” poems on the RealWritingTeachers yahoo group. I was intrigued and decided to give them a shot this year. The beginning of the school year is always chaotic because our team doesn’t switch classes until the second week (we are departmentalized) and we are constantly interrupted. I don’t like to jump into anything other than routines and procedures until we are past all that. I decided the poems would be a great way to introduce writing and get a nice Back to School Night display.

I was SHOCKED at how well this went. My 6th graders immediately dove into the project once I showed them the format and my own example. I tweaked a worksheet I found online to make it a fill-in-the-blank for the rough draft. After revising and peer editing, the students typed the pieces and decorated them. They are absolutely stunning. Plus, it was a great way to learn what is important to my students very early in the school year.

Now, to be brave, here is my poem (as an example).

Where I’m From
I am from books,
from Pepsi and the NY Post
I am from hills and grass
(green, soft and smelling like summer).
I am from the milkweed,
the hibiscus brought inside during winter
(an orange and pink sunset growing toward the sun no matter the season).

I’m from “taking a ride” and always being late,
From Jane and Tim.
I’m from the fast talkers and fast walkers,
From eating your crusts and haunted old roads.
I’m from Psalm 23, bagpipes playing hymns, and rosary beads.

I’m from Ireland and Scotland,
Grandmother macaroni and breakfast for dinner.
From the Little Grandfather, a professional football player who jumped
ship in the United Stateswhen sailing as a Merchant Marine,
from Nanny, following Papa around the country during his naval years, raising a son with a husband fighting in a great war.

I am from the photo albums and boxes of pictures in the upstairs closet, telling the stories of a loud, large, and loving family.
I am from dog-eared baby books and school pictures hung over the fireplace

I am from love.

history of a name

This week, my 6th grade class began working in their writer’s notebooks. During the first week of school, we wrote “Where I’m From” poems, which turned out beautifully. Now I want to get them into the habit of writing daily. I started with Aimee Buckner’s history of a name activity. I had not used this before, and I can’t believe how well it worked!

Both of my classes wrote for 20 minutes, completely uninterrupted. When they shared, I learned so much. I pride in the voices of students explaining the Jewish tradition of naming a child after a deceased family member. I learned who hated their name and who thought it was “ok”. Some students wrote about ancestors who came to this country and changed their last name (or had it changed for them) at Ellis Island. Some talked about famous relatives. Some talked about the pride they take in their Hebrew name or Confirmation name. Others talked about who named them or what their name almost became. No matter what they wrote about, they all wrote. And they were all dying to share! It was a great activity to start the year off with!

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