Friday, December 20, 2019

Poetry Friday -- The Power of Short Writing

I found this great article that reminded me about the power of short writing. SHORT writing seemed like just the thing for this past SHORT week and its potentially SHORT attention spans. It was also a good way to keep working on one of my main goals as a teacher of writing -- I want my students to be fluent as writers. I want them to be able to get an idea and run with it, to take risks, to get words on the page...and then go back and make those words communicate more clearly and effectively.

We started the week by writing 50 word summaries of the read aloud we finished last week, Indian No More by Charlene Willing Mcmanis.

I think JC did a great job with her summary! She is an EL who has only been in the US (from Hong Kong) for five months.

I love GP's themes, especially, "No matter what road you get, you still have to drive." I'm thinking he's heard that one at home!

This one is my favorite. HM clearly has some challenges with his writing conventions, but his thinking is SO intact. He found some sketches of butterfly chrysalises in his writer's notebook, from back in the fall when we watched caterpillars grow and change. He drew them on his paper, but I wouldn't let him get away with randomness. I told him he had to connect them to the story. And he did. He so did. The butterfly stage represents the family's happiness on the reservation. The pupa stage represents their sadness and struggles. But after the pupa stage comes another butterfly, so they WILL be happy again. And "they will always stay Indian."

After our 50 word summaries, we went on to Get Curious -- Encyclopedia Edition. I gave each child (or pair) one volume of our classroom set of encyclopedias. The assignment was to 1. Browse, 2. Get Curious, 3. Take Notes, 4. Write a haiku. Here's one by ZA about Kimchi.

Kimchi’s important
It is traditionally
Used in Korea


Next, we did Get Curious -- NewsELA Edition. JW read articles about the impeachment process (mouths of babes, my friends...mouths of babes), and JF read about the tourists who were killed by a volcano in New Zealand.

Donald Trump is bad.
Donald Trump should be Impeached.
Donald Trump is bad.


14 die on New Zealand’s White Island During Volcanic Eruption

December 9th
The blast left 30 people hurt
Words were things like help


Here's to SHORT WRITING on almost the SHORTEST DAY of the year! Buffy is hosting the "Almost Solstice" edition of the Poetry Friday Roundup today.


  1. Mary Lee, this was the perfect writing activity for your students. I love their insightful responses, especially:"No matter what road you get, you still have to drive." Even if it he heard before, it seems to have meant soemthing to him. I hope you have a happy, healthy, and restful, holiday! xo

  2. Yep, short writing is terrific--I think that's one of the appeals of poetry. So much easier to condense and shine with meaning when you only have 50 words! Hooray for this: "No matter what road you get, you still have to drive." And JW's haiku will get no protest from me....

  3. These are great, Mary Lee. Writing short is hard! But less daunting, somehow:)

  4. I love it when you write about your teaching. :-)

  5. This post reminded me of a book I read recently: Roy Peter Clark's How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times. Great advice and gave me new perspectives. Yes, writing short is challenging, but ultimately worth striving for.

  6. I miss my teaching days when I read your posts, Mary Lee - what a gift you are to those lucky kiddos! Also, JW rocks!

  7. Love love this! What a perfect way to write about reading. I just finished Echo Mountain. Going to give it a go!

  8. Oh, I love the challenge of short writing. Bravo to you and the growth your students enjoy from SHORT. GP is my hero...working through to make the connection.

  9. {24-stomach bug took me down on Friday night and postponed our Solstic dinner by a week--so I'm just getting to PF}

    More more more glimpses into your classroom please! I love the illuminated thinking, the decorations, the obvious investment in getting those thoughts on paper despite the challenge of the language. SHORT forces better CHOICES. Personally I think high school essays should have word LIMITS not word length re*uirements. : ) Love you, and wishing you bright and cozy holidays!

  10. These are terrific Mary Lee and inspiring that your students are taking it all in and writing short concise pieces, brava all around, and thanks for sharing them! Happiest of Holidays! I think my son learned to write well in 5th grade from a teacher like you.

  11. I agree with Laura and others. Short writing is much more challenging. What wonderful work you've shared with us here! -- Christie @

  12. Congratulations to your writers for their research and writing skills. Your students learned through your modeling and did a great job of showcasing their work. I like the way JF sorted his notes into a poem.


Comment moderation is turned on.