Guest Post by WITS Writer Gloria Alvarez!

Posted March 5, 2015 & filed under Classroom Reflections, Lesson Plan, Notebook, Student Writing, WITS People.

Mischievians Invade Meadow Wood Elementary!

By Gloria Alvarez

Meadow Wood ElemMy cooperating teachers at Meadow Wood Elementary, Tabitha Peña and Hali House, are the best a WITS writer could ask for:  enthusiastic, supportive, and eager to extend WITS lessons to their own teaching.  We exchange book suggestions, ideas for revision, and strategies for reaching underperforming students.  They open their classrooms to me and work alongside the kids during WITS.

One recent effort so inspired Ms. House that she made it her own.  I’d brought in William Joyce’s The Mischievians, a book about those mysterious creatures swipe TV remotes and cell phones, mislay or devour homework, and generally cause embarrassment and trouble.

We both love Joyce’s work, including Rolie Polie Olie and the Christmas tale Santa Calls.  I’d chosen The Mischievians because it’s so funny: everyone relates to the misplaced iPad or mismatched socks. The illustrations are just as clever.

The story follows a Q & A format: the questions in a child’s voice and the answer like a formal encyclopedia entry.  We read sections of the book, the students brainstormed new Mischievians, and finally they wrote their own questions and answers.

The students completed their drafts and read some aloud.  We will revisit the stories in several weeks to select and revise pieces for our class anthology.  For now, for me, the lesson was over.

But not for Ms. House.  She promptly purchased her own copy of The Mischievians for the classroom and displayed it on an easel at her desk.  Ms. House read their pieces, providing feedback and editing advice.  After allotting class time to revise and recopy their work with illustrations, she created a bulletin board to display all the finished pieces.

“They turned out great,” House said.  “Everyone had fun with it.”

I think so, too.  I was beyond thrilled that a lesson—a new, untested lesson at that—had struck such a chord with both students and teacher.  Here are some samples.

Boy at Meadow WoodThe TalkeyMer TalkyPants Mischievian

By Jonathan

Q: Whenever I’m supposed to be quiet, I whisper to my neighbor.  Then my voice gets louder until I get into trouble.  Why does this happen?

A:  There is a Mischievian on the loose called TalkeyMer, TalkeyPants.

Q: Where are they?

A: There are four of them in your mouth: Down, Up, Right and Left.

Q: How do they make you talk?

A: They jump up and down and make your mouth talk.  Once your mouth is moving, your voice wants to talk.  They jump harder and harder until your voice gets louder.

Former WITS Writers Read at Blaffer Art Museum Innovation Series

Posted February 10, 2015 & filed under Event, Fiction, News, Poem, WITS People.

Don’t miss former WITS writers Lacy, Nancy, Jameelah, and David at the upcoming Blaffer Art Museum Innovation Series event on Feb. 17, 4 p.m.
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Here is information about this special series from the Blaffer website:

In both the arts and the sciences, if we do our jobs well, it never leads to a final answer — always to more questions.” — Janet Biggs

The Blaffer Art Museum Innovation Series is the most ambitious lineup of public programs the museum has ever organized around a single exhibition. Janet Biggs: Echo of the Unknown features works inspired by the artist’s memories of the effects of Alzheimer’s on family members. Combining video, sound and objects, this multidimensional exhibition draws on heroic stories of public figures coping with the disease and research conducted with neurologists and geoscientists to raise fundamental questions about how we become—and lose our sense of—who we are.

Designed to amplify the exhibition’s role as a catalyst for cross-disciplinary learning, the series’ lectures, presentations, gallery talks and interactive programs will highlight collaborations across the UH community and beyond.

Please attend “Memory & Identity: Five Writers Talk about the Difficult & Dynamic Relationship Between the Two” with Peter Turchi, author of A Muse & A MazeLacy M. Johnson, author of The Other SideNancy Pearson, author of Two Minutes of LightJameelah Lang, Ph.D candidate, UH Creative Writing Program; & David Stuart MacLean, author of The Answer to the Riddle is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia.

WITS Student Featured in The Buzz

Posted January 26, 2015 & filed under Student Writing, WITS People.

10888867_990120621002537_69896790164733703_nWITS Student Rohan Gupta is the BUZZ Kid of the month. He writes about writing and how his WITS experience has changed his life in the most recent issue. Here’s an excerpt:

I love writing, and it’s important because I put my ideas into it. Writing is permanent. It can be cherished forever. My writing will change as I get older. It will make more sense, and I’ll use bigger words. Writing is fun. It comes in many different forms, and can be found everywhere. As you can see, my life of writing will always go with me.

To see the entire article, click here.

WITS Writers To Read at Rudyard’s

Posted January 21, 2015 & filed under Event, WITS People.

katiecondon2Join us Friday, January 23rd, at Rudyard’s British Pub (2010 Waugh Drive) at 7 PM to clap and cheer for WITS writers Katie Condon and Carlos Hernandez who will join J.S.A. Lowe on stage as part of the Gulf Coast Reading Series.

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University of Houston’s Gulf Coast Journal hosts this reading series to introduce up-and-coming authors to new audiences. To learn more about the Gulf Coast journal, please visit www.gulfcoastmag.org.

Former WITS Writer’s Memoir Tops List of 2014 Books

Posted December 10, 2014 & filed under News, WITS People.

LacyJohnson In the latest issue of KIRKUS REVIEWS, WITS writer Lacy M. Johnson’s THE OTHER SIDE: A MEMOIR is listed as one of the top memoirs of 2014. Founded in 1933, Kirkus has been serving book lovers for over 80 years. Kirkus Reviews magazine gives the scoop on notable books about to be released and provides thoughtful reviews of the best fiction, nonfiction, children’s,and teen books. Congratulations to Lacy!

Hot Off the Press!

Posted September 25, 2014 & filed under Press, WITS People.

Check out these new publications by current and former WITS writers! Congrats to all of you!

Copper Canyon Press recently published Jericho Brown’s book of poems, The New Testament. Jericho currently teaches at Emory University and lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Anaphora Literary Press just published Merrilee Cunningham’s book Something Will Come to Us, a poetry collection about love, cats, dogs, the city and the country.

Cunningham - Cover - 9781937536831 - 9-2-2014.indd

 

Boot in the Door Publications published the novel Phantom’s Dance by WITS writer Lesa Howard. It is a re-telling of the Phantom of the Opera story and follows a girl’s journey to succeed at a prestigious dance academy.

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Speak! Poet on Sunday

Posted July 10, 2014 & filed under Event, WITS People.

 

Speak!Poet, the new poetry and interview series, hosts its second event Sunday, July 20, 2-3 p.m. at Brazos Bookstore. Featured readers are WITS Writer Dulce “Digh” Veluthukaran, and Jonathan Moody.

After the two poets read, a discussion will follow with the poets about their work. Speak!Poet is moderated by Winston Derden, who co-produces the event with Stephen Gros. The event is free and open to the public.

Meta-Four’s Jordan Makes Houston 100 Creatives!

Posted May 10, 2014 & filed under News, Press, WITS People.

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Congratulations to Meta-Four Houston student Jordan Simpson, named by the Houston Press to their top 100 Creatives list. Last year Jordan and his team-mates won 1st place in the Texas Youth Poetry Slam. This summer they will represent Houston at the International Brave New Voices Festival in Philadelphia.

Student-Teacher Spotlight

Posted May 5, 2014 & filed under Classroom Reflections, WITS People.

Teacher Student PhotoWriters in the Schools (WITS) depends on the enthusiasm and energy of many wonderful partners.

Today we recognize one teacher and one student in our Student-Teacher Spotlight.

Mrs. Borrego and 2nd grade student Livni Hernandez both participate in the Writers in the Schools (WITS) program at Eugene Field Elementary.

Below they answer a few questions about their WITS experience:

Why is writing important for 2nd graders?

Mrs. Borrego: Writing is an important skill for 2nd graders because it helps them to develop their critical thinking skills, creativity, and communication. I always say, “Writing says a lot about my students,” meaning that I can see the growth they have made throughout the year just by looking at their beginning, middle, and end-of-year writing.

What are you most proud of about your student writers this year?

Mrs. Borrego: I am proud of the imagination that my students have put into their writing and the usage of words. They have made tremendous growth, from not being able to write a complete sentence to writing whole passages.

How has WITS helped you to accomplish your writing goals?

Mrs. Borrego: WITS has taught me how to bring creativity into the classroom by bringing in prompts, reading books, and providing students with a word bank.

What do you like best about creative writing?

Livni: What I like best is thinking about everything you like and writing about it. The hardest part is that sometimes you have so many ideas that they can’t fit onto one page.

If you could publish a book about any topic you wanted, what would the title be?

Livni: The title of my book would be “The Broken Heart” because it will tell you a sad story and make your heart break.

What was your favorite WITS lesson this year?

Livni: My favorite lesson was writing about a pair of high-heeled shoes because I got to imagine being those sparkly shoes for a day.

My Life as a Pair of High-Heeled Shoes

     I am a pair of high-heeled shoes that are as glittery as diamonds on a pretty costume. I am as beautiful as a mother’s face and as smooth as dolphin’s skin. I shine like silver on a shield.

One day a girl wore me to a party with lots of beautiful lights. Then she wore me to a wedding with love. I looked perfect on her.

Then, on the way home, it was so late. My owner fell. One of my tall heels broke off into the street. Oh, no! The girl didn’t fix me. She just put me in the dumpster, and I never saw the world again.

Revision Strategy #2: ThoughtShots

Posted December 9, 2013 & filed under Notebook, Student Writing, WITS People.

The idea of the thoughtshot comes from The Reviser’s Toolbox, a great book by Barry Lane.

After a student finishes a story, encourage him to find places where he might add thoughtshots.  Barry Lane breaks down thoughtshots into three categories: flash-forwards, flashbacks, and internal monologues.

I have found that lessons on flash-forwards and flashbacks go a long way.   Students become adept at finding places in their rough drafts where they can add a related memory from the past or ruminate about the future.

Be sure to show students examples from books that they are reading or texts in their language arts curriculum.  These models will reveal to them the “code words” that signal a flash-forward (I imagine, I think, If, etc.) or a flashback (I remember, Once, In the past, When I was young, etc.).

Some WITS teachers encourage students to use arrows in their writing to indicate where they are adding a flashforward or a flashback.

Here is an example by a student, inspired by the Judith Viorst book Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, who revised his story to include a flashback and a flashforward:

When I walked into class today, the teacher said, “Test!”  My eyes popped open wide.  This was not the kind of news I needed on a Monday.  Then, I accidently forgot to put away my backpack, and Molly tripped on it, and the teacher gave me the eye!  When I sat down, I missed my chair because SOMEONE had moved it.

Now, the teacher is blabbing on and on about how nice everyone looks today, which reminds me that the teacher told us last Friday to wear a shirt and tie on Monday for School Picture Day.  I’m wearing a Hawaiian shirt with orange flowers because Mom forgot to do the laundry!   I bet this photo will turn out worse than last year’s when my hair was green.  I can picture my parents pulling out today’s photo at my wedding. “Look who you’re marrying!” they’ll say, and everyone will laugh! I knew this was going to be a horrible, messed-up, rotten egg kind of day.

Revision is difficult to teach, but given a few (but not too many) techniques, students are able to make their stories better.

-Marcia Chamberlain, WITS Houston