Thursday, August 8, 2013


Earlier this week I had the privilege of talking with teachers at the Dublin Leadership Academy.  The day was full of enthusiasm, energy and excitement as these teachers prepared for the new school year.

 Jen Lemke, one of our Columbus Area Writing Project Teacher Consultants, and I co-led a session that dealt with quick writes and mentor texts.

We led our participants through a sample quick write which considered metaphors and how they influence both our teaching and our lives . (See related quick write, Metaphors We Live By, in Deeper Writing: Quick Writes and Mentor Texts to Illuminate New Possibilities.)

We shared many potential mentor texts, and in the second session, had time to write and share.
Responses to the prompt were rich and varied, demonstrating the flexibility and power of  quick writes.

One response led to this post

 Justin Fitch, one of our session participants, wrote about walls our students (or any person) might experience, and how that experience is not recognized or understood if we haven't run into those same or similar walls.

At the time I was struck by the notion of walls as a prompt for writing and immediately thought of several  books that might serve as mentor texts to expand this idea and provide writing possibilities.

In ancient time walls, were built around cities to protect those within. But we all know that walls also isolate and divide, imprison, hide and separate ... and stop us in our tracks.

What are the various walls we encounter?
How do they affect us? How do they affect others?

Peter Sis writes about the wall that controlled his childhood --the iron curtain.   His detailed and annotated crosshatched  drawings depict life in Communist Prague. Through journals, dreams, and maps we learn what he knew.. and what the wall kept him from knowing.  Sis combines history, memory, and imagination to create an award winning book, The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain.

How does this wall divide and isolate?

Eve Bunting takes us to another wall-- the one that contains the names of those who died or are missing  in Vietnam. A young  boy travels to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial with his father to find his grandfather's name. In The Wall ,Bunting tackles the hard stuff. It raises many questions and will foster much thinking and discussion.

What does this wall show us? What does it hide?

Sometimes a wall is just a fence--yet every bit as heavy and solid as bricks.  In  The Other Side, Jacqueline Woodson shows how two little girls demolish a wall built by prejudice and grownups that separates the black and white sides of town by simply sitting on top of it together.

How do we destroy walls that imprison or isolate?  How do we pull down walls that hide the truth and keep us from living in the world?

Living behind the wall, as Peter Sis did, often leads to curiosity and a desire to see the other side. Tillie the Mouse, tunnels under her wall after years of wondering and imagining life beyond the wall, only to find more mice.  Together the mice from both sides tear down the wall. This parable was written just before the Berlin Wall  fell. A special  25th anniversary edition of Tillie & the Wall  by Leo Lionni  will be released in January 2014.

 How do we  find out what is on the other side?  How do we pull down walls and work together?

Who can forget the scene in The Women of Brewster Place where the women led their community in tearing down the brick wall that isolated their neighborhood-as the rain came down  they pulled the bricks down.

Who can help us recognize the walls in our lives?  Who can stand beside us in the rain and pull down the walls-- brick by brick?

What are the walls in your life?
What truth do they keep you from seeing?
What world do they keep you from knowing?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Identify walls in your own life. 
Who erected the walls?  How can you destroy the walls?

What will you find on the other side?

Write an autobiographical piece about the walls in your life. 

Try writing a  parable  about  the same events.

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