SOLSC: March 17, 2016: “Magic Box” writing

A few weeks ago, Julieanne Harmatz shared an idea with our  beloved little Voxer group which she had heard about from the one and only Cornelius Minor, about creating a “mash up” box of items for kids to write from.  The rest of us listened with excitement, and there was much back and forthing about what and this activity would look like in each of our classrooms,and (most importantly) how it would help our students in their writing journeys.

Margaret Simon wrote a fabulous post about assembling her “treasure box”, and I had high hopes of following her example…but I could not find a single shoe box in my entire house.  When my kids lived at home, I had an entire shelf of our linen closet filled with boxes of all shapes and sizes for all the projects my kids seemed to need boxes for…but that was then, and in my empty nester now there isn’t a box in sight.

I filled plastic book  baskets with an assortment of items I rustled up: maps, baseball and Pokemon cards, buttons, subway tickets, poems by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater , quotes, and odds and ends. By yesterday morning, I was ready for the big reveal, and so were my kids…

After just the briefest of invitations to reach in, investigate the items, and find one to inspire writing, they were off.  The room grew noisy as they rummaged through the items, exclaiming or laughing or wondering.  The room grew even noisier as they thought out loud about what they chose and why and how they would write about the item.  And then the room grew quiet as they wrote stories about….

  • the time they were knocked out cold by an errant  baseball
  • the subway ride from hell
  • getting lost in London
  • meeting Harry Potter at Platform #9
  • morphing into a Pokemon character
  • a favorite sweater, now lost

Just before the bell rang, I asked for a quick “say back”, and this is what they shared:

  • I loved the freedom to write in any genre
  • I always have such a hard time choosing a topic – but this made it so easy to choose what to write about
  • the things in the box made me remember so much
  • I liked combining two items for ideas

These magic boxes will find homes on a bookcase in our classroom, and I hope they will  be reached for as writing inspiration. This was fun!  So, thank you Julieanne and Cornelius.



23 thoughts on “SOLSC: March 17, 2016: “Magic Box” writing

  1. I love how you shared this with pictures! Great idea to use Amy’s poetry. I’m going to do the same. My kids would love to look at Pokemon cards as well. You show so much depth and understanding of the kids you teach when you blog. xo

  2. Tara, I love this idea, but even more the power of PD through your voxer group: “there was much back and forthing about what and this activity would look like in each of our classrooms,and (most importantly) how it would help our students in their writing journeys.” And now two posts later, this idea will spread to many classrooms. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Perfect for those who just can’t think of anything to write about. You never know what item might spark a flood of words. Loved your kids thoughts on the magic boxes.

  4. My students would love this, and so would I. I have several shoe boxes, gathering dust; so I think I should create some magic writing boxes over spring break week after next. I love this idea!!! Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. I was intrigued by the title of your post Tara. A catchy title can do that. This year I have had a number of the schools I work with introduce ‘wonder boxes.’ The kids have filled them with artifacts and ephemera to stimulate writing ideas. So, it was quite re-assuring to see the obvious connection to your classroom initiative. It a winner.

  6. Love this -we do it with poetry often and it really works. I love your “say back” –have you written a post about that? I would love to hear more about what it is and how you use it. Thanks

  7. I love how you create the buzz from your classroom in this post. I can fully imagine their wonder and excitement. Yay!

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  9. This sounds like a perfect launch into our upcoming poetry unit! Ohhhhh! I was already excited to start but now I’m rarin’ to go—but do I have any boxes???? Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. I love the idea of a treasure box full of miscellaneous objects. For years, I had a vintage chest of daily life artifacts that I had students open to examine and write about. The end result was the creation of daily life museums in the schools and at a landmark museum. The opportunity for students to wonder is endless. Thanks for showcasing your work work, Tara.

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