Archive for the ‘ Writing ’ Category


Laurie Halse Anderson, author of CHAINS and WINTERGIRLS, posted this during a Q&A live session on twitter today.

We all suffer from doubts about the quality of our writing. It’s like dealing w/ a blister when you can’t afford new shoes.


Baby Blues Cartoon

Today I tried an idea I learned during my Abydos training this summer. We used a Baby Blues cartoon to take an exploratory look at dialogue. Previous to this lesson, we had taken a look at a mentor text, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (current class novel), and made some observations about what dialogue looks like on the page.

The students said things like:
-When someone is talking, there are those things. (We re-learned the words quotation marks.)
-It says like, he said or she said. (We call those tags.)
-The question mark goes before the quotation marks.
-There is a comma when there is a tag. The comma goes before the quotation marks.

Then, to begin the lesson, I showed them the cartoon and let them just think about it.


Our conversation went a little like this:

What’s happening?
They are talking.
How do you know they are talking?
It has those bubble things.
How do you know which bubble goes with which person?
It points to them.
What if we re-wrote this dialogue but in story form, without the cartoons? Would it be any different?
No, you’d just rewrite it.

At this point, I already have lots of colored sentence strips and a wall chart handy. I write the first person’s dialogue on a sentence strip. I put it up on the chart. Then, I write the second person’s dialogue on a different color and put it up. The students quickly realize that it doesn’t look right. We add quotation marks on a new color. Then, I question them about punctuation (without giving it away).

dialogue excercise

I noticed that as I asked more questions, my students started to become more engaged. I wasn’t telling them anything and they were having to figure it out. It was challenging.

Slowly, we worked step by step up to a pretty decent written piece of dialogue. We also talked about different kinds of tags and how we can add words to describe what the pictures show us. Tomorrow, they will work in groups. Each group will have to do the same exercise with one square of the comic. Then, we will come together to look at the final dialogue.

The following day, we will use the activity to write a set of “Dialogue Rules”, mirroring the example in Jeff Anderson’s Mechanically Inclined.

I’ll let you know how well this information sticks when we get into our narrative pieces at the end of this week.

Abydos Update

I finished the Abydos training last week and I am already excited about implementing everything that I learned into my classroom. (Actually, let’s be honest, I’ll do my best to use MOST of what I learned… there’s never quite enough time to use EVERYTHING that we learn.)

Anyway, as part of our training, we had to write a reflexive piece and an extensive piece. Then, we had to send the extensive piece off for publication. I’ll be sharing both pieces on my blog eventually. My reflexive piece is about favorite childhood memories and I’d like to read it to my family before I post it here.

My extensive piece is a letter to cancer. There’s a bit of an interesting story here. My best friend works for Northwestern Mutual and his boss has been battling his son’s cancer for a couple of years now. (Chain of people = confusing, I know.) My friend shared with me a letter that his boss wrote giving an update on his son’s current condition. Immediately it pulled on my heart strings and I found myself experiencing that all-to-familiar anger towards cancer. (See my other blog for info on my half-marathon for TNT.) As I was sitting there with tear-filled eyes, I remembered seeing a tweet (twitter update) from the American Cancer Society that there was a company that would donate $10 for every letter written to cancer and submitted to their website. Naturally, I channeled my emotions and wrote a letter which was posted to their website. (Click here to see my letter. Click here to write your own.)

Meanwhile, I had been working on an extensive piece that related to my previous year of teaching and some experiences I had and for many reasons, it just wasn’t coming together. My deadline was approaching. I thought to myself, “It’s not like anyone would actually publish this, but even if they said yes, I don’t want this piece published”. So, I revisted my letter to cancer, did some editing, added some cancer research, and finalized it. After searching the internet for places to publish it, I decided to send it to CURE Magazine as an inspirational piece.

I very much doubt that it will get published, and I will not be let down if it doesn’t. Next year, I will get to share with my students that I have been through the process and hopefully they will see that anyone, not just “professional writers”, can be published. Plus, I get to say I’ve done it before. I’m all about trying new things… especially when they involve challenging myself.

Once I hear back from the magazine, I will share that piece with you as well.