Slice of Life Tuesday:Planting the way for essaying

Slice of Life Tuesday is hosted by Two Writing Teachers

Katherine Bomer’s book, The Journey is Everything was one of those transformative professional books that stopped me in my teaching tracks and made me want to do better right away.  All Spring and Summer long, I read and re-read this book, joining in on book groups, Voxer discussions, and Google hangouts in an effort to figure out how I could lead my students towards the beautiful writing that  Katherine envisioned: essays to help them think in reflective, open-minded ways, to stir their emotions, teach them about life, and move them to want to change the world.

We’ve spent our first three weeks of school planting seeds of the stories of our lives in our notebooks, and writing narratives based on these seed ideas.  Now, it was time to look beyond writing about small moments, and think about what Katherine Bomer calls writing to think.  In her fabulous keynote for The EdCollab Gathering last Saturday, Bomer shared a bit of the “how to” of this kind of writing with this slide:


and some generative questions in this slide:


which formed the basis of our writing workshop discussion and charting on Monday:

And then, both my students and I opened our writer’s notebooks and created lists of our own.

Today, we threw ourselves into a “try it” – reaching into our lists, finding an idea, and then writing to discover where our thinking would go.  It took all of us a little time to get going, but when we did, we discovered that the writing came quickly and led us into unexpected places.  Here’s where I went today (first for my morning block and then for my afternoon one):


I sketched some thoughts, then wrote…and in each case, my ideas began small (rude drivers, cut down trees) and journeyed towards something larger (kindness, civic responsibility).  I shared my writing with my kids, showing them that it was messy and rambling in parts, but seemed to get somewhere by the last few sentences.

My kiddos shared that this had been (for the most part) their writing experience,too.  We talked a bit about this journey, and then we tagged our entries with sticky notes with writing plans/thoughts/audiences should we ever want to return and extend our pieces.  It was, we agreed, interesting work – work we will return to this week, and from time to time in the weeks and months to follow.

This evening, as I think about our writing day, I return to this passage in Bomer’s book:

In our classrooms, we can create experiences that enable kids to literally see and touch the process of idea generating as it unfolds before them.  The writer’s notebook works supremely well for this – a tangible version of a mind that contemplates, sparks connections, remembers, and changes course.  (Pg. 65)

It’s exciting to think ahead as we make our own journey towards meaningful essaying with these first steps…


14 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday:Planting the way for essaying

  1. Thank you for helping me to see how this process can and will work in my classroom. One of the problems I have is that my kids are Google dependent. I think I will have to state that no Googling will happen until the next phase of writing. It’s important that they value their own ideas first.

  2. As always, Tara, you stun me with how you take an idea or suggestion from your professional reading, your PLC’s, and you take it right back to the classroom and bring it to life with your students. I love how you and your students discovered that it took a bit to get started, and that your thinking meandered until coming to something larger, deeper, more interesting to you. That’s exactly it! Meaning unfolds in the act of writing. And you were all “writing to discover what you didn’t know you knew” (as the great Donald Murray put it so perfectly).

  3. Tara, I love how you lead the way. You ALMOST make me wish I was back in the classroom. This is a delightful peek into the process you used with your students. Thanks for sharing!

  4. After reading this description and hearing what your students said, and then wrote, it seems you’ve inspired them to do more with this kind of writing than the personal narrative. I imagine this class is going to write some important pieces this year because of your teaching the how, and then showing them you do it, too! Have a great day, Tara!

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