Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I wish I were ...

As everyday duties and responsibilities, current trials and troubles,  life's burdens, and even joys and celebrations begin to weary us, we may find ourselves whispering in the hidden part of our souls ...or shouting out loud...I wish I were...

Where do you want to be?

Where is that I wish I were... for you?

For me it is anywhere the sun beats down unmercifully, relieved only by gentle sea breezes

Anywhere I can walk on the beach, squishing sand under my toes.

Anywhere I can sit on a balcony in the morning, praying, reading, and enjoying a purple-pink sunrise over the turquoise water.

Anywhere I can eat goat meat, turtle soup and bronzini, conch and curry.

Anywhere the mojitos and caipirinhas flow authentically-- no sour mix included.

I wish I were...

I recently read Wish You Were Where? by Kay Giebenhain in the Seminary Ridge Review (Spring, 2013, Poetry + Theology, 102)

In this article Giebenhain describes a unique art installation by Deborah Goldsmith and Hilary Jack in which they had hung pieces luggage- suitcases, trunks, tote bags-on the wall.  Visitors were asked to write their I wish I were on a luggage tag and attach it to one of the luggage handles.  The installation was layered with the tags, weighted down with the multitude of I  Wish I Were statements.

The writer of the article jotted down responses from the tags creating a found poem.  Here are only a few from her list:

The Pyramids, Egypt...
Somewhere to Eat...
South America. I will get there...
Where my head is my home...
Out there
To the Moon..

To read the entire article Wish You Were Where? by Katy Giebenhain in Seminary Ridge Review (Spring 2013, 102) see page 54 of this pdf document.

 To view the installation by Goldsmith and Jack click here.

 I wish I were...

People don't send postcards much anymore.   Before emails and texting- in the era of letters and more formal communications--post cards were the vacation textings of my youth.
We sent them back to our friends from where we were... Wish you were here!

Most tourist gift shops still sell them.  I have even bought a couple a recent trips--to have a picture of something my own camera failed to capture--not to send to anyone back home. We can even buy collections of these vintage post cards.

A quick check on Amazon or Google for post cards also returns a variety of books of novelty and collectible postcards--Fairy Tale Post Cards, The Art of Pixar, Post Cards from the New Yorker, 30 Post Cards from Norman Rockwell, The Art of Comics Postcards, Tiffany Stained Glass Windows in Postcards and whatever you can imagine could be saved and savored on a postcard.  We collect them. We remember them. But we are not sending them to each other... Wish you were here!

What message would you like to receive on a post card?
What message would you send from your I wish I were place?
Who would you write to....Wish you were here?

Holly Hobbie's famous world traveling pig still sends postcards.  Toot travels to a far-off  Borneo--and  we get to read all the postcards in  Wish You Were Here (Toot & Puddle). Check out other books the Toot and Puddle series to follow Toot on more travels and to peek at his correspondence.

Where to you want to be?
Where do you wish you were?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Close your eyes and think about the place you most wish to be.

Where is your I wish I were place?

Write a post card from this place that you wish were there with you.
Write an essay about this place and why it attracts you.
Write a poem capturing the essence of you I wish I were place.

Friday, October 25, 2013


My eyes are red and scratchy.

My mind and fingers are itching, too.
Itching with new writing possibilities

I stayed up late last night finishing  Moth Smoke, the first book by Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

I  visited a high school English class a couple of weeks ago to observe and debrief with students teachers who were teaching lesson from my book.

The host teacher asked me to bring  a book to trailer for her students.
I chose The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Several students asked about the book later--  letting me know that in my attempt to present an unfamiliar book, I had chosen well.

This book has everything I love--experimental structure (written as a dramatic monologue), fluctuating perspectives (which force us to question our own identities), complex layers of progressively unfolding meanings (like a slow, savory meal) , historical and political developments as a backdrop for personal and individual developments, multifaceted characters, and open ended resolution.

I love Hamid's writing--I discovered sometime after reading the book that Hamid was a student of Toni Morrison, one of my favorites.

He is also a South Asian Writer (writing in ) English ( SAWE ). Again he is in the company of favorites of mine--Salman Rushie (Midnight's Children) and Arundhati Roy ( The God of Small Things).

Hamid's book was completed before 9/11, but following that horrific event he revised and rewrote.
So in the wake of 9/11, we find our protagonist telling his story to an unnamed American--his story about his life in the US before attacks and after-- his successes at Princeton, then later at a prestigious corporation.

As we read The Reluctant Fundamentalist, as we listen to Changez, we are invited to make judgements :
  • Is he telling the truth?
  • Is he dangerous? A killer?
  • Who is the predator? The prey?
  • What is he not saying?
  • Who am I in the story? 
  • How am I similar to each character?
One of the things I love about Hamid's writing is the unique way he brings his characters to life.  He stands them before us, strips them bare, then reclothes them in unlikely costumes that surprise us because they fit, and then strips them bare again.

The opening pages of The Reluctant Fundamentalist present Changez and his appraisal, his portrait of the American:

How did I know you were American?  No, not by the color of your skin; we have a range of complexions in this country..... nor was it your dress that gave you away; a European tourist could as easily have purchased in Des Moines your suit...Instead it was your bearing that allowed me to identify you...
So we have a compelling framework:
How did I know you?  No, not because.... nor was it....  nor was it.. but because of your.....

Click here to read the first few pages of The Reluctant Fundamentalist  and notice this unique structure.

I challenged the students I recently visited to play with that structure as a way of writing about either themselves or someone else, peeling back the obvious layers to a core essence that makes a person who she is.

Moth Smoke offers the same reading work, the same delightful challenges.  Again, we are invited to ask questions of the characters and ourselves-- the same ones we asked above  about Changez.   Hamid holds each character up in turns to the light --and slowly turns them--so that we see  the prism within. 

Each character narrates his version of the events.  Each writes his or her chapter.  Each tells the story.  At the conflicting intersections, we are left to judge and make meaning.

The chapter that made me want to stop reading and start writing was  Chapter 8: What Lovely Weather We're Having (or the Importance of Air-conditioning).

This chapter illuminated each character's relationship to air-conditioning and the role that air-conditioning played in the events in the book. This chapter catches you by surprise, when in the middle of quite serious developments we digress to this seemingly unrelated  subject. 
But it serves as a catalyst for knowing more, deepening our insight into each character.
...an investigation was conducted into the role air-conditioning may or may not have played in the lives of the various witnesses expected to testify before your Lordship during the course of this trial.  Clearly, the importance of air-conditioning to the events which constitute the substance of this case cannot be overestimated. 

The remainder of the chapter explains everything from social class structure, the breakdown of a key marriage, business considerations, and two deaths in relationship to air-conditioning.

What unsuspected factors in our lives determine the course of events?

I added a note on my iPad immmediately seeing a writing invitation:
Write about the influence of an unlikely element on an event or series of events. 

In checking  a detail for this post, I  discovered Hamid's new novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia: A Novel.

 It promises the same exhilarating reading experience.  Detailing an unnamed  boy's journey from village to city, in second person , imitating a self-help book structure.

It seems worthy of another late night reading. 

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Think about the novel you are currently reading or have recently read.
How does that book present its characters?
How does the author provide depth and flesh?

Write about one of the characters using the following structure borrowed from The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
How did I know you? 
 No, not because.... nor was it....  nor was it.. (continue as needed)... but because of your.....
 You may also want to try writing about  someone your know or yourself using this same framework.

Consider an unlikely element or factor (such as air-conditioning) and its affect on each character and role in the story as a whole.

Write an essay or official report detailing  your reflections 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


I read.

I read
a book.

I read
a book
that reminds me
of another book.

I read a book
that reminds of me
of another book
that I read
once upon a  time.

I read a book
that reminds me
of another book
that I read
once upon a time
along with a poem

I read  a book
that reminds me
of another book
and another book
that I read once upon a  time
along with a poem
that answered them all.

That answered them all
pushing back against the metaphors
and questioning the perfect paper
logic of the first book
and the poem.
I watched these texts
and every other
I have recently read
and several
much less recently
with each other
line for line
thought for thought
and maybe agree to agree
or continue to disagee
word next to word
in the end becoming
strange bedfellows.

What texts speak to you?

Which texts force you to return you to previously read texts?

Perhaps a better question is which texts speak back to the texts that speak to you?

Pablo Neruda wrote The Book of Questions , in which each poem consists of a list of questions related in ways we discover, invent, and infer anew each time we  read. The poems/questions juxtapose that which we easily name and that which we cannot name, highlights paradoxes, and just generally delights us.

Neruda captures the wonder we felt as children as we asked question after question of some patient (or not so patient) adult--questions that in most cases had  slippery answers, if an answer could be delivered at all.

He captures our continuing wonder as adults, seeking to return to a time when we didn't think we knew, when we knew for sure that we didn't know--allowing us to simply reflect on both the questions and our thinking.

Here is one of my favorites:

Is 4 the same 4 for everybody?
Are all sevens equal?
When the convict ponders the light
is it the same light that shines on you?
For the diseased, what color
do you think April is?
Which occidental monarchy
will fly flags of poppies?

We can  ramble and ruminate through the questions, turning over the enigmas and, perhaps, formulating answers in our minds-- and on paper.

M.T.C. Cronin did just that. He wrote Talking to Neruda's Questions.  For each of Neruda's numbered poems of questions, Cronin has written a corresponding numbered poem, answering the questions.

Here is his answer to the poem above.

4 is the same 4 for everybody and all sevens are equal;
zero – or O – however, is somewhat of a sticking point...
My light and the convict’s light
travel(s) the same but shine(s) differently.
For the diseased,
April is the same colour as the closest thing to hand.
The occidental monarchy with stones in its boots
will fly flags of poppies.
Click here to read more of Cronin's answers to Neruda.
Click here for a PDF copy of Talking to Neruda's Questions.

I recently read an article in Seminary Ridge Review (Spring 2013)  which reviewed Raging for the Exit: A Commonplace Book by David Breeden and Steven Schroeder.

 Inspired by commonplace books of the 1500's and 1600's, poems throughout this collection alternate responsively,  in italics and then in a Roman font, one by Breeden, one by Schroeder.  The poems speak to each other and invite us to join in the conversation.  The pairings enhance and extend the reading of each poem.

Here are the opening lines of one poem

Zoe Aionion
The Angel of Death
said to me: " Let me
Lay my cards on
The table- what
You think you know
Is a mistranslation:...

Zoe Aioion is place on the same page beside life is short.  Here are the opening lines:

life if short
time was death and death's angel would wrestle all night for a promise  and played a mean game of chess--games of mind and body, both.  
Now it's poker and penny slots  on the internet. I think I  don' t know nothing, and that's no trouble, I'd bet...

Browsing the paired poems in Raging for the Exit on Amazon was enough to leave me reflecting the rest of the afternoon--and to convince me I needed to join this converation to which the poems invited me.
I bought this book immediately.

What texts speak to you?

Which texts that you have read that speak to each other?

As teachers, we often pair books and other texts to deepen understanding of concepts, to promote critical thinking, and to foster questions of texts.  There were several companies that intentionally pair related fiction and nonfiction selections.

Carol Rawlings Miller offers us surprising and thought-provoking pairings of a variety of types of texts in Strange Bedfellows /Surprising Text Pairs and Lessons for Reading and Writing Across Genres .  She includes speeches, editorials, excerpts from novels, poems, songs and memoir. She hands us such unlikely pairings as speeches by  Barack Obama and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Martin Luther King and William Shakespeare, poems by Rudyard Kipling and H.T.Johnson, and memoir by Seneca the Younger and Joan Didion.

In the introduction to this wonderful treasure Jim Burke reminds us of the importance of talking about texts as they talk to each other:

We read for the conversation that texts invite us to have about the world, human nature, and ourselves.  Every text is an invitation to converse, and we bring to these encounters a different urgency and perspective at various stages of our lives..It is more, however, much more than a polite textual tea party where these different authors sit around tables taking easily about politics or wartime or cultural identity. Carol Rawlings Miller has arranged these works around heftier, edgier ideas, using these diverse text to answer or at least respond to essential questions appropriate for our times and the world around us. Read this, and then let's talk, Miller seems to be saying.

I might add in the flavor of this post, Read this and listen to the texts talk to each other, and then let's talk.

What texts are having conversation around you right now?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Which texts are speaking to you?
Which texts are begging you to return to previously read texts?

Which texts are speaking to each other in your presence?

Write a poem responding to or answering a recently read text.

Select a pair of texts that you think speak to each other.  Write an essay about that conversation.

Monday, October 21, 2013


Last Saturday,  I attended (and presented) at the 2013 OCIRA Fall Conference.

October is such a conference-rich, professional development month that I have never been able to attend in previous years.

Wow! I have been truly missing out each fall on an excellent opportunity  to think, talk and learn with other literacy educators.

I had an opportunity to connect  with old friends, as well as meet new colleagues. I was delighted to see a number of preservice teachers participating, as well.

Featured keynotes included Sharon Draper and Barry Lane,  In addition to their keynotes, each conducted a small session.

As readers and  writers, as learners and educators we encounter so much information.

Conferences and other professional growth events serve to not only introduce us to new ideas, but also  to remind us of what we already know- information forgotten or pushed to the side as new information, new theories, new approaches stream into our teaching repertoire.

There were so many important reminders at OCIRA:

Sharon Draper reminded us that one purpose of teaching reading is to connect one kid to one book.
She also affirmed for us the secret of the Common Core:  It is simply and mostly what good teachers used to do.

Will Hillenbrand reminded us that we all have stories to tell. He also reminded us that you can't predict a favorite book for someone.  To see a behind the scenes video of creating his book Off We Go, click here. 

Barry Lane reminded us that even the most academic writing and closest reading can be fun.  His proof sandwich and kernel essay techniques are just that. For me the highlight of his session was presenting potentially dry and boring geology information in a  fashion show with live models  from the audience. For more of Lane's suggestions and related handouts click here.

Linda Parson and Lisa Patrick reminded us that poetry is everywhere and can be used to deepen our understanding of both nonfiction texts and literature. They easily linked found poetry to the Common Core and reading complex texts.  Participants had a chance to create our own found poetry from Chapter 10-In the Water from Titanic: Voices From the Disaster  by Deborah. Hopkinson.

Here is my resulting poem composed completely of words or phrases that I deemed important in the chapter.

final moments
in freezing water
in the lifeboats
and down
in all directions
impossible to grasp
horrific noise
lights blazing
breaking apart
into an eerie darkness
2:18 a.m. the  lights went out
final moments

At OCIRA 2013 I refound many teaching notions and also refound found poetry.

Here is my poem using the highlighted phrases from above.

Connect, think, learn
to find poetry
new ideas
deepen our understanding
of complex texts
academic writing
closer reading
excellent opportunity
(to learn)
what good teachers used do
what we already know:
the secret of the Common Core

If you are interested in reading more about this poetic form and possible variations, as well as reading samples of found poetry click: Poetic Form: Found Poetry or Found Poetry Review

Click here to see images of found poetry.

And finally you may want  to read my previous posts related to found poetry :

Big Headlines and Small Fates

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Look for poetry today where ever you go.
Create your own found poetry.

Look for words and phrases that strike you as important, interesting or speaking directly to you.  Keep a list of  these words through out the day.

At the end of the day, arrange these words into a poem.

What are you reading?  Take a page or two of your current reading and circle words that stand out.
Arrange these word into a found poem. 

Friday, October 18, 2013


Teachers are being asked to do more.

More...and more... and more...

Teachers I talk to regularly are overwhelmed.
Overwhelmed-- implementing the new Common Core Standards.
Overwhelmed--undergoing new teacher assessment procedures.
Overwhelmed--dealing with the increased required use of technology.

Teachers are frustrated and tired as they face many other new  requirements placed upon  them by their schools and districts.

They are drowning in demands that have doubled, tripled the number of laps they must swim just to finish their daily work.
Read two related posts: The Joy (and Burden) of Teaching and Teacher Vulnerability.

In addition to more responsibilities and demands put upon them by others, teachers are asking more of themselves.

Teachers are cramming more into lesson time frames--more than they believe their students should be asked to handle, more than they would have normally done--in the name of rigor.

Teachers are spending more time reading selected texts than they believe is necessary--more than their students actually need-- in the name of closer reading.

Teachers are assigning more written work-- more than they can effectively grade with appropriate feedback--in the name of challenge and preparation for college and the workplace.


We have all seen those delightful AT&T commercials with the kids having discussions with a man about a variety of topics.  My favorite is the one in which the little girl explains why we should want more:
More is better than less...If you really like something, you'll want more of it.We want more.
We want more. Like, you really like it, ya want more...
Click here to watch this commercial.

More is not always better.
Sometimes less is just right.

In More by I.C. Springman, a magpie starts with nothing and little by little gathers more and more and more for her nest.  With the help of her mice friends--and as a result of a disastrous fall from the tree caused by way too much stuff-- she learns to achieve a  perfect balance of just enough.

I originally shared this lushly illustrated, sparsely worded picture book with our teacher inquiry group as some of our members were gathering more and more data-- it had almost become an addiction. This book reminded us that as some point we have enough.

I think this message applies just as well to  the "more" situations we encounter with implementing all the changes  this year. 

Sometimes, we can exponentially increase our results by intentionally starting small, beginning with less.

 That is the mathematical lesson we learn in One Grain Of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale by Demi.  In this traditional folktale, Rani is being rewarded for a good deed.  When offered a reward, she requests a meager one grain of rice---doubled every 30 days.  Do the math!  This very quickly becomes a monumental amount of rice and will feed her village for a long time.

More is not always better.
More can result from less than we sometimes think.
What is enough?
Enough is enough.

Who decides?

When I first read the common core,  I brought to the reading all of what I had heard and read prior to encountering the document myself.  I brought misconceptions, misinformation, and exaggerations.

The statement that gave me pause and great comfort-- the statement that we all need to hold onto-- as we navigate this new era of nationalized standardization is the following paragraph from the Introduction of the Common Core Standards which states clearly that this document is designed to outline results---not define the means in which we achieve these results:

By emphasizing required achievements, the standards leave room for teachers, curriculum developers, and states to determine how those goals should be reached and what additional topics should be addressed. Thus, the Standards do not mandate such things as a particular writing process or the full range of metacognitive strategies that students may need to monitor and direct their thinking and learning.  Teachers are thus free t o provide students with whatever tools and knowledge their professional judgment and experience identify as most helpful for meeting the goals set out in the Standards
(Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, 4) 

So... do we need more?
We have to decide.
How much it too much?                                                                                                                            
What is enough.
Enough is enough.

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

What is overwhelming you?
In which areas are you being asked to do more?

Write a personal narrative or essay to express how you are feeling?
Who and what are helping you?  Who and what are hindering you?

Write a letter of advice to someone facing the same"more"  situations as you. In your letter include strategies you have found that help you navigate effectively through the "more."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


So much depends

a  right angled

iced with multiple

inside our essential 

I thank and apologize to William Carlos Williams for his gift,  the often-used mentor text (The Red Wheelbarrow), which assisted me in thinking  about the task before me.

I am thinking about mentor texts.

More specifically, I am thinking about which questions will evoke critical thinking about mentor texts.  What questions and quotes will provoke reflective conversations around mentor texts?  
What questions will foster new insights and expanded learning concerning  mentor texts?

I am privileged to be facilitating a session with fellow NWP teacher consultants/authors Lynne Dorfman, Rose Cappelli, and Carla Truttman at the National Writing Project Annual Meeting in Boston.

We present on Thursday, November 21, 2013.

C15: Collaborative Conversations: Exploring the Use of Mentor Texts Across the Curriculum
3:30pm - 5:00pm Hynes, Level 2, 205

What is a mentor text? What makes a quality mentor text? How do we choose and help students find appropriate, real-world resources to use in our classrooms to inspire writing? Join us for interactive roundtable discussions about how teachers across the grade levels and disciplines use mentor texts from all genres to teach writing and expand thinking.
Rose Cappelli, Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project 
Lynne Dorfman, Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project 
Robin Holland, Columbus Area Writing Project 
Carla Truttman, Northern California Writing Project 

We have never met in the physical world.

I am eagerly anticipating meeting in person these ladies whom I have only  "met" through the airwaves--on the radio, on the telephone, through email, and Google.docs.

I have learned from each woman, as we began a conversation about mentor texts on NWP Radio, and as we continue to communicate in various ways to prepare for our NWP session.
Listen to our  previous conversation on NWP Radio Program, Reading, Writing, and Mentor Texts:Imagining Possibilities  which originally aired March 28, 2013.

We each agreed to post three questions on our Google.doc planning document before we "meet" again at the end of the month--questions designed to initiate thinking and talk in our session. 

So... I am allowing questions to swirl and dance around me, to hover just above my reach.  I am musing and pondering, wondering and wandering through my own understandings around mentor texts.
I am identifying my own questions -- and those that teachers often ask me in presentations.

What do I know and believe at this moment about mentor texts?  
What am I still seeking to understand?

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to present at the OCIRA Conference in Cincinnati.

One young participant, a student teacher, considered the mentor texts I had shared as we talked about developing  writing ideas and creating deeper writing possibilities. Perhaps feeling a bit overwhelmed as she thought about the huge volume potential selections in the book universe, she raised an excellent question:

As new teachers, how do we begin to choose potential mentor texts? How do we know where to start?

Along with the other veteran teachers in the room, I assured her that in time she would intimately know many books.   She would, indeed, need to take the time ( and it would take time) to begin to know books.

But in the meantime, as a started point,  I suggested that she think not about specific books so much, although she will certainly discover many books to love. Instead, I suggested that she focus on particular authors---those wonderful writers without whom many of us could not teach writing.

Those excellent writers who produce a variety of types of texts, all and always high quality literature for all ages-- picture books, early and middle chapter, as well as essays, books about writing craft, novels, poetry and also adult texts.  By knowing the work of several authors well, she will have a beginning pool of excellent books from which to choose when selecting mentor texts, when wanting to highlight a particular feature, element or structure. She will have a pool of excellent writers to stand beside her as she teaches writing.

Who do we include on that list of must-have authors?
Well for starters... but definitely not a complete list,  I could not teach writing without the books of the following writers:. Theirs are the books I find myself returning to again and again for many different reasons.

Eve Bunting
Sharon Creech
Sharon Draper
Nikki Giovanni
Nikki Grimes
Virginia Hamilton
Julius Lester
J. Patrick Lewis
Lois Lowry
Patricia MacLachlan
Walter Dean Myers
Christopher Myers (his son)
Marilyn Nelson
Patricia Palacco
Linda Sue Park
Cynthia Rylant
Allen Say
Peter Sis
Shaun Tan
Chris Van Allsburg
Jacqueline Woodson

Jane Yolen
Who are the authors without whom you could not teach writing? 
What other advice would you give to new teachers who are  just beginning to use mentor texts?

My students used to laugh when I would begin to introduce a book.  Mrs Holland, you always say the book/the author is your favorite.  You love them all!  

They were right,.  I have not yet read anything that did not teach me something about writing. And rarely did I share a book or texts that I did not love.

As I share models of writing and mentor texts with writers, there are some books that I manage to work into almost every presentation, class or workshop-- my "perfect" books.--those that can be used on a variety of levels to model a variety of writing possibilities-- those that are simply perfect  and complexly wonderful..

Here are my top three (at this moment):

I managed to mention  A Wreath for Emmett Till  at OCIRA last Saturday, despite that fact that it was not in my notes nor on my slides.--- it fit the conversation.

And this is my newest favorite because of the complex structure and unique writer decisions-- I have not yet had a chance to use it with  writers:

What are your all time favorite, most versatile mentor texts--those that you appropriately work into every lesson, presentation or conversation, if possible?

As we implement the Common Core State Standards, it is crucial to note that reading and writing are expected to take place, as they should, in all content areas, including social studies, science and math.

What does reading and writing look like in those subjects?
What are appropriate mentor texts for content area writing?  
How can mentor texts be used to foster expected discipline-specific writing, language and forms? 

What was the last discipline specific text you read?  What did it teach you about writing?

And finally, we all know that just like everything else, there is a chance we may choose the wrong text-- an inappropriate text for the potential writing or the writers in front you.

What cautions or caveats would you share about choosing or using mentor texts?
When have you been less than happy with an experience? 
What did you learn about mentor texts and writing from your unsuccessful experience?

What do you know and believe about mentor texts?
What are you still seeking to understand?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Reflect on your own writing practice.  
Who are the writers that have most influenced your writing? 
Who have you imitated? From whom have you borrowed?

Which books or other texts have taught you important lessons about writing?

Write a reflective essay about the authors and texts that have most influenced your own writing.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Kaizen is the art making the smallest most subtle, change possible.
It is the notion that  small changes can make monumental differences.

This idea is not new  to us. 
Kaizen is the basis of this adage by the ancient Chinese philosopher LaoTzu:
A journey of thousand miles must begin with the first step.
It is  the comforting wisdom most often  attributed to Helen Hayes:
The expert of anything was once a beginner  
It is the truth in the oft-quoted statement made by Neil Armstrong as he first stepped onto the moon.
That's one small step for man;one giant leap for mankind.
On small step.
One small change.

I first encountered  this term  in Prevention Magazine (January 2004)  applied to health and personal change.

Then I began to notice it cropping up everywhere.

If we commit to a little the article said, over time the changes are big
If we, for example,  skip one pat of butter per day, we could  lose up to  4 pounds over a year.

If we drink one more glass of water...
If we walk 100 more steps a day...
If we  read 10 more page...

If  ... I make one small change...

Kai means change. Zen means good or for the better.
So in Japanese this term literally means good change or change for the better.

But  for all it generality in its original meaning,  it  has come to be applied and  associated mainly with business in Japan, particularly after World War II, in much the same way that we saw a boom in Quality Control programs in the US.  

There are many business models based on this concept of Kaizen. Click here to view a slide share that presents some of the common basics I found across sites .

If you are like me, change is sometimes a scary prospect, whether in our personal or professional lives.
We resist change.
But one small change--maybe we can do it.

Robert Mauer shares how we can apply kaizen in our personal lives and why  the principle works in  One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way.  He invites us to think smaller --to ask small questions, think small thoughts, bestow small rewards, and solve small problems  We so often want to do BIG things instead.                                                                                                                                           One small change at a time.
Larry and Susan Terkel also advise us in Small Change: It's the Little Things in Life That Make a Big Difference!  to make small changes for big results in our health, our relationships- our lives.
Small changes -big results. 

In Each Kindness by Jaqueline Woodson, Chloe and her friends refuse to play with Maya, the new girl,whom they call "Never New" because of her hand-me-down clothes. Once Maya has moved away, Chloe realizes, with the help of a wise teacher, that she and her friends have missed an opportunity to make a difference with each small act of kindness they could have  performed-- like the ripples from one stone.  
Change can sometimes be funny. 
Small actions can create chains of events that amaze us. 

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie  by Laura Numeroff  demonstrates the hilarity that can result with one small act--giving a mouse a cookie. Numeroff has written several books using this same chain-of-events structure. 

 One small act.

How could this be applied in your personal life?

How could this be applied in the classroom?

I think about the many times in my classroom when a small adjustment was needed. 
Five more minutes each day for writing.

One more powerful question asked.
What else?
What do you think?
 How do you know?
One book-the right book- given to one student.

One small change can make all the difference.

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Reflect on a time when you made just one small change or committed one small act.
What were the results?

What one small change would is necessary in your life right now?
What one small change would you recommend for you school, your church, your organization?

Write a personal narrative, persuasive essay, or poem about change.