Am I Considered a Writer Yet?

The short answer is yes.

I am technically on my second book, but have yet to finish anything I’ve started.  I gave up at the midway point during my last writing project, and I decided to give myself the gift of a clean slate.

Nanowrimo popped up on my Facebook newsfeed, and I thought Why not?  

So I went for it…I’m on day 19 and I haven’t missed a “wordline” yet.

For those of you who don’t know what nanowrimo is, it’s basically the marathon of writing.  1,700 words a day…for 30 Days and you have a novel.

Well, sort of.  You have something that kind of looks like a novel, because you’ve just sprinted your way into it.  Things can get a little sloppy.

A prime example of this sloppiness is a sentence from my nano (unedited of course)…

“It was her favorite toy.

I watched as the lights went from green,then blue, to amber and back to green again.”

Run-on-sentence much?  It probably has something to do with being up until all hours of the night, writing.  But I’m writing… and my story is coming to life.

(I know, I know, I haven’t answered the million dollar question…I’m getting there…)

A few friends have approached me recently, with bewildered looks on their faces “What? I didn’t know you were a writer?”.  (I know that last question mark is not supposed to be there,  but that’s how they always frame it.  What they really mean to say is “When did you become a writer?”  A politely framed, semi-judgmental-but-not-intentionally-offensive, statement disguised as a question.)

Now, I brought this upon myself, I really did. I welcomed this type of scrutiny with my incessant Facebook posts that usually start with “I’m writing a book” or “This book is stealing my soul” or “What in the heck did I get myself into?”.  I have never been so public about my writing.  Usually my writing never makes it out of my journal.  I’m too self conscious about my personal stories (aren’t we all?).  So, naturally, I wasn’t prepared for this.  It was a simple question…and I found myself struggling to answer it.

I went home that night and questioned myself.  Am I writer? I struggled for a bit.  Sulked for a moment.  Made excuses on why I should just stop this silly nano thing.  But then, something crazy happened.

I opened up my laptop, and wrote anyway.  I don’t care if this story is any good, if it sells more than 5 copies, I don’t care! That’s not why I started this.

I did this for me, because it is my essence.  I lose myself in my writing.  I forget about this beautiful, but sometimes crazy, world that we all exist in, and make up my own.  Anything goes in my made up worlds, anything can happen…

I am a struggling artist.  I’m on a steep learning curve, but yes… I am a writer.

 

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Classroom Makerspaces; Featuring 6th Grade

As children, most of us can remember playing Oregon Trail on highly pixelated computer screens with very low resolution.  We looked forward to sitting in front of a computer and playing this awesome game.  It was our favorite class of the week, but it was only once a week.  The rest of the time, teachers wrote on the board with white chalk, as we copied their notes diligently in our own  notebooks.  The dynamic never changed, desks never moved, and we sat quietly in our seats.  Times have changed, and so have our classrooms. Knowledge of how children learn, and what their needs are, have expanded.

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Students need to make meaningful connections in order to really learn.  There are many effective strategies that touch on ways to engage learners.  One of my favorite strategies employs the concept of designing Classroom Makerspaces.  It is a type of Connected Learning that allows students to create, invent, produce, implement, and design.  Students are using bulletin boards in my classroom as their makerspaces.  Project Managers were selected by their peers in class (with a full interview process).  Below the Project Managers are shown, mapping out the overall design of their bulletin board.

 

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Project managers discuss vision and design of space

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Teams work on their duties while their managers discuss overall vision and design of their space

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Project Manager V.P works with her team.

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Learning for Learning’s Sake

I recently had a casual conversation with our Personalized Learning Coordinator during lunch where we discussed a very interesting (and important) topic pertaining to the general direction education has taken.  Children (and teachers) are so stressed with preparing for standardized tests, that they lose sight of what is truly important.  Is it important that children memorize and “learn” material, just to take a test and quickly forget all about it?  Is it less important for the children to actually enjoy what they are  learning?  I applaud schools and educators that reject the general path and veer towards what they believe is more important; creating life-long learners that LOVE what they learn.  I personally believe that teaching students to learn, for learning’s sake, is one of the most valuable tools I will leave them with.  Recently, I had my students research the Lemurs of Madagascar, after a 90 minute class discussion on evolution and speciation.  I had assigned a short 1 page reflection, and what I received exceeded my expectations by far.  Some of my students went way beyond the three questions I required them to answer.  They youtube’d videos, they investigated several theories,  and when the due date came around, they could not wait to discuss their findings.  They were so excited to share, discuss, and most importantly learn about this topic.

Another example of this love for learning is with a project my 8th graders had last week.  My students learned about forces while constructing bridges made out of popsicle sticks.  After the project was graded, several students asked if they could continue to add on to their bridges during study hall.  Their bridges turned out beautifully!

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Edible Labs; Featuring 8th Graders

This week my lovely 8th graders made “Atom Cakes”.  They had a choice between displaying an isotope or an ion of their choice.  Edible labs are fun for the kids (not so fun for the Teacher’s waist) and great ways to reinforce diagrams! Below are some other edible labs my students have completed this year.

The Ice Cream Lab (8th Grade)to show endothermic vs exothermic reactions. 

Chocolate Chipping Away at the Rock Cycle (6th Grade)- Students use hot plates and chocolate chips to show the formation of sedimentary,metamorphic and igneous rock.

Making Pretzels (7th Grade): To investigate fermentation in yeast

Photos of my 8th Graders with their Atom Cakes today

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Inventing in Science, Featuring 6th Graders

What is invention?  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, invention is a product of the imagination.  I think we invent all of the time!  It is within our human nature to invent, and thus I think we learn best through invention.

I firmly believe my students learn best when they invent.  Through invention, they make that connection between something completely foreign to them and their imagination.

This week my 6th graders are learning about the different physical layers of Earth’s interior.  We spent about 30% of class time taking notes on the different layers, and chemical composition of Earth.  I supplemented my lecture with fun interactive games and visuals.  I tend to start feeling like Charlie Brown’s teacher after 15 minutes of talking, so I try to give my kids little brain breaks in between notes.  These breaks include getting them out of their seats and “acting out” what they have learned, or watching quick 1-2 minute visual representations.  A two minute brain break usually gets them back into the engaged learning state, and away from perpetual boredom.

Where does the invention come in?  Right where my kids are starting to comprehend the material is the optimal time for me to incorporate a fun project.  This week they are creating movie posters with “Journey to the Center of the Earth” themes and writing out a short movie synopsis for their “movie trailer”.   They instantly start using their new-found knowledge to create, and this is where the real learning begins…

I leave you with my favorite Einstein quote.

Imagination encircles the world.

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