Allow Me to Introduce Myself

Posted July 30, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Allow me to introduce myself.

They call me the back breaker,

the rope shaker,

the billboard breaker.

They call me the wireless TV connector,

the earth shaker.

They call me the perfect piece of the world.

They call me the United States President.

They call me the Steamer.

Allow me to introduce myself.

by Mark, 2nd grade

A Pantoum from Creative Writing Camp

Posted July 24, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Camp Instructor Abby Estillore, a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a BA in English and a secondary teacher certification from UTeach Liberal Arts, is currently completing an MA in literature at the University of Houston—Clear Lake. For the past eight years, she has been teaching English Language Arts to middle school students and serving as the grade level lead at Welch Middle School for HISD. Two years after recovering from open-heart surgery in 2008, Abby’s first poem, “Sleep,” appeared in The Marrow Literary Journal of the University of Houston–Clear Lake. She studies and writes poetry that focuses on language play, distortion, and imagination. This is her first summer working with the WITS Creative Writing Camp at the Bellaire campus. Here is a poem from her camp classroom:

To Do

To do you have to try
To know you have to learn
To stop you must defy
Success you have to earn

To know you have to learn
To get you have to reach
Success you have to earn
To help you have to teach

To get you have to reach
To fight you must stand tall
To help you have to teach
To rise you have to fall

To fight you must stand tall
To stop you must defy
To rise you have to fall
To do you have to try

by Aditya, 7th grade

Abby’s notes on the piece:

Though some structured poetic forms might feel restrictive, I took a chance introducing pantoums to my students. The majority of the group had an aversion to rhyming poems, so I thought about experimenting with the idea of recycling lines/phrases in poems as
well as allowing these lines to direct the poem’s path instead. In our final anthology, I did not expect several/multiple pantoum submissions; these poems carried a deep sense of the inarticulable and explainable, presence and absence. Of these sophisticated pantoums, I was impressed by Aditya’s “To Do.” Not only did he choose rhyming patterns, but he also infused a sense of urgency behind unassuming one-syllable words (try-learn, reach-teach, know-stop, fight-rise, must-have). The logical-poetical approach of his poem turns the philosophical into practicality. Aditya’s “To Do” is a straightforward, no-nonsense wise saying that should be printed on a WITS bookmark!

A snapshot of Creative Writing Camp

“My Alone Blues” from Creative Writing Camp

Posted July 23, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Writer Sarah Gajkowski-Hill

WITS Writer Sarah Gajkowski-Hill is a poet and local writer who reviews art, music, food, and individuals for publications such as 002 Houston Magazine and the Rice University Jones Business Journal. Gajkowski-Hill has been married to a local teacher for a decade and has three children who attend Travis Elementary School: Magdalena, Jude, and Frances Lisieux. Her most recent poetry has been published in Relief Journal and Dappled Things.

At the AOS campus, Sarah’s group played Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Houston Bound.” After talking about the origin and stylistic attributes of the blues genre, they read a chorus from “San Francisco Blues” by Jack Kerouac. Gajkowski-Hills says, “We talked about what bums kids out, and Sarah was feeling down that day about being an only child, which brought about “My Alone Blues”!”

My Alone Blues

Music inspiring campers

I’m all alone
Nothing to do
I’m as blue as
A blue sky day
Nothing bluer
Than that.
I’m all alone
Only toys and me.
If only I had
A sibling.
I’m all alone

And nothing to do.

I’m bluer than blue paint

On a blue day.

So hey, I’m all alone
And nothing to do,
I got the alone blues.

by Sarah, 4th grade

Creative Writing Camp Connects to Houston Arts and Culture

Posted July 9, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

In an ongoing effort to enrich creative writing through an integration of literacy and art, students at our Creative Writing Camp took field trips to iconic Houston art and cultural centers including The Menil Collection, Rice University, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. On these tours, they experienced and wrote about public art pieces, including James Turrell’s “Twilight Epiphany” and Jaume Plensa’s popular “Mirror.” Younger writers in grades K-2 were visited in the classroom by artists, including contemporary dancers and drummers, who help students find beauty and unexpected inspiration in art and culture. “Children are most stimulated by the things and activities that surround them,” said Robin Reagler, Writers in the Schools Executive Director. “Through the experience of seeing, touching and hearing art firsthand, our camp shows students that their writing is art and their words are powerful.”

Jameelah Lang, a second-year WITS writer goes on to say: “I continue to be fervently involved in WITS Creative Writing Camp because it teaches children that what they have to say is important. They learn writing skills dictated not by someone else, but by their own strengths and points of view.” This year’s summer Creative Writing Camp served more than 1,000 students, the largest turnout Writers in the Schools has ever seen. Stay tuned this month for poetry and writing from these field trips and camp.

The WritingFix Project

Posted August 17, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

If you’re a teacher trying to figure out her first-day-of-school writing prompt, visit the Northern Nevada Writing Project (NNWP) for some wonderful, interactive writing lessons that will get you off to a brilliant beginning.  The NNWP WritingFix page is set up for teachers and features many helpful ideas, routines, and practices for the writing classroom.  Many of them involve art or other forms of fun, hands-on inspiration that will get students in the mood to write!

One of the best parts of WritingFix is YOUR STUDENTS.  That’s right.  NNWP posts high-quality lessons and resources provided by NNWP workshop presenters, but you don’t have to live in Nevada to take advantage of them!  You are welcome to use these lesson plans, available online for free, and then report back on how they manifested in your classroom.

What’s the coolest part of WritingFix?  YOU!  You get to submit work by your students, and many of them are posted as student samples on the website.  This is a fantastic publishing opportunity for your students.  I used the countdown and count-up stories from WritingFix last year in my classroom, and they were a huge hit!

By Marcia Chamberlain, Writers in the Schools

Word A Day Project

Posted June 16, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Psychometrician Johnson O’Connor studies factors leading to career achievement.  His studies cover a wide range of areas, including age and level of education.  Every time he analyzed the data, he got the same results: the better a person’s vocabulary, the better correlation with success.

Scientists think that that a bigger vocabulary is connected to the ability to think in more complex ways.  O’Connor suggests four ways to increase your vocabulary:

  1. Be aware of words
  2. Read
  3. Use a dictionary (circle the words and make a note of them)
  4. Study and review regularly
If you’re looking for a fun summer activity to do with your kids, consider the Word a Day project.  Each morning pick a word that is unfamiliar to your children.  Look it up in the dictionary, discuss or act out its meaning, draw a picture or symbol to help remember it, and then try to use it several times throughout the day.   Post the new words on index cards.  Try to use them in a story or poem.  By the end of the summer, your children will be at least 60 steps–or words– closer to success.
by Marcia Chamberlain, Writers in the Schools

I Have a Voice

Posted November 9, 2010 & filed under Notebook.

Harriet Riley, a free-lance writer focusing on nonfiction and grant writing, is teaching her third year at WITS

As WITS writers, we all use weekly rituals with our students – Author’s Chairs, Power Writing, Writers Toolboxes and more. This year I’ve started a new and powerful ritual to end each class. The credit for this tool goes completely to Michele Kotler and Community Word Project who participated our August orientation workshop.

At the close of each session with my students, after I foreshadow the next week’s activities, we chant together: “I have a voice. My voice is powerful. My voice can change the world.”

This has become an important ritual with my sixth graders at Briarmeadow Charter School. It started as a call and response. I said a line and the students repeated it. But last week, my sixth visit to the school, I noticed that the students chanted the words along with me, ending with a rousing “MY VOICE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD.” They say it, and they believe it. I see it in their writing as they relate their belief in their own power. Their words are strong and fearless.

We recently completed a poem based on George Ella Lyons’ “Where I’m From.” Like most teachers, I learn the names of the “louder” students first. There was one particular student that I hadn’t really taken the time to get to know – she was quiet and well behaved and hadn’t done anything to stand out in class. Also she was one of four girls in my two classes with the same first name. She had wire-rimmed glasses that hid her face, always wore her hair straight back in a tight ponytail and didn’t smile too much. She had written a very rough draft of her “Where I’m From” poem the previous week that needed a lot of revision. As I was walking among the students during our re-write time, I stood shock still when I saw her work. I read it to myself.

This is Where I’m From

By Mariam, 7th grade

I am from an endless path that runs into sunset.

I am from the jasmines blooming.

I am from the buzz of a busy bee.

I am from the bustling, bizarre crowds of a city.

I am from the sweet taste of sugarcane.

I am from the sound of the wolf howling at the moon.

I am from the sound of the guitar’s gentle strum.

I am from the laughter of children playing outside in the blazing hot sun.

I am from the waves crashing against each other at the sandy beach.

I am from the silent scent of goodness in the cool air.

I am from the enchantment of love.

I am from the creak of a stable door being opened from above.

I am nothing less then a kick of dust.

I am nothing more than a big blizzard.

I am a child who races the dark night.

Who was the girl who wrote these strong and powerful words and what lay beneath her polite surface? She had some deep, world-changing things to say and I almost missed her. I will definitely be getting to know her in the year ahead and much more about my students because they WILL change the world. Sometimes taking the time to state the obvious – “I have a voice” – and turning it into a cheer can make a difference and actually empower students to use earth-shaking, world-changing words.

by Harriet Riley, Writers in the Schools

WITS Writer Harriet Riley is a free-lance writer focusing on nonfiction articles and grant writing. She has taught undergraduate writing classes at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, where she lived for 11 years before moving to Houston in 2007. She has also worked as a non-profit director, hospital marketing director, and newspaper reporter. She has her M.A. in print journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and her B.A. in English and journalism from the University of Mississippi. She enjoys reading, running, and traveling with her family. This is her third year with WITS.

Fiddle-i-fee Story Basket Lesson

Posted September 6, 2010 & filed under Fiction, Lesson Plan, mentor text, Notebook.

Grade level: Kindergarten – 1st

Genre: various

Objectives: To involve the students in listen to a story read aloud

Primary sources: Cat Goes Fiddle-i-fee by Paul Galdone

Materials: a basket with small stuffed animal characters from the book Cat Goes Fiddle-i-fee

Contributors: Brooke Brown, Linda Draper

This story basket activity ensures the active participation of all students in listening to a book read aloud. Originally used with Cat Goes Fiddle-i-fee, it can easily be adapted to any book by printing and laminating images of the story’s characters. Additionally, the students could make representations of the characters in the book as a pre-reading, art project.

Have the students sit in a circle on the floor with the “story basket” in the center which contains characters and farm animals from the book. The students should each take one animal from the story basket as the book is read aloud, listen for the appropriate time to place their character back in the basket.

I Am

Posted December 12, 2008 & filed under Notebook.

sushi-moleskine-by-renmeleonI am the taste of sushi like butter on my tongue.

I am the smell of my grandpa’s old books that smell like dust.

I am the bursting fireworks and the smoke they leave behind.

I am music without a beat.

I am the smell of exotic spices.

I am the messy fluff on my dog’s head.

I am the scholar that ponders impossible questions.

I am always sleeping.

I am the taste of spicy wasabe burning my mouth.

I am the graceful arcs and curves of the Japanese alphabet.

I am the velvety fur of my rabbit.

I am the overgrown backyard full of soft grass and strong oaks.

I am the mysterious trinkets collecting dust in the attic.

I am the smell of treats baking in the oven.

I am the scratchy blankets that warmed my mom once.

I am ancient voices telling forgotten stories.

I am a page full of printed letters worn by time.

I am the spicy bursts of flavor in Thai food.

I am the calming warmth of a cup of tea.

by Charles, 7th Grade

Nancy’s Tall Adventure

Posted October 16, 2007 & filed under Notebook.

Once there was a girl who grew weeds in pots, and every time she had an adventure, the weed of that day would grow as tall as her adventure. Her tallest weed was bigger than she was.

One day she was going to a pizza place, and she found a door hidden in vines. It was a rather large door. She decided to go through it. On the other side, there was a stream. Near the stream, there was a fence. On the other side there was a glowing tree. She went and climbed the tree. It had fireflies and fairies all over it.

The fairies picked her up and took her to a blank white place. Suddenly a farm dropped out of nowhere. She ran as fast as she could until she found a door and went through it. She was home again and next to her was a very large weed, even bigger than she was.

by Remandra, 3rd Grade

different-by-pawpaw67-via-flickr.jpg

photo by pawpaw67 via flickr

Nature by Zenobia

Posted October 15, 2007 & filed under Notebook.

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day I like nature because the flowers are a part of nature. I like beautiful flowers. I love to watch the birds fly high and free in the sky. The little bugs may look nasty on the outside but they are nice on the inside, so don’t kill them.

Trees and grass are a part of us. If we did not have them, we would not be able to live. I think we should keep nature clean. We should not pollute the air because things will die. Plants cannot grow when the air is polluted. It is also very difficult for people to breathe without clean air.

We need clean water for vegetable and fruit crops to survive. The earth is our environment. We must take care of it. We need to clean up the oil in the oceans, pick up litter from the ground, and clean up after our pets.

We can show that we care for nature. The cleaner the environment, the better we are. Keep our environment clean in any way you can.

by Zenobia , 3rd grade
Writers in the Schools (WITS)

Ode To My Dogs

Posted October 4, 2007 & filed under Notebook.

My dogs bark and bark as if they see a ghost, but actually I feel joy once I open the door.

I feel love once I touch my dogs. I am sure they do too.

It seems scary things and evil is being pulled away when I am face to face with my shining dogs. Shining like stars in the night sky and the light the sun gives us, my dogs run toward me. When they get hurt I feel my heart bri-said-sit.jpgeak….

I will always love my shield dogs.

Evil is too weak to take my love away.

by Jeong, 3rd grade
Condit Elementary

Another Op: Frodo’s Notebook

Posted September 28, 2007 & filed under Notebook.

Frodo’s Notebook publishes exceptional writing and art online by kids ages 13-19. If you’re interested in submitting to this journal, read several back issues to get a sense of the kind of work that they publish. The details of how to make your submission are here.

My Fish

Posted September 21, 2007 & filed under Notebook.

fish.jpg

My fish live in
my house.
They blow bubbles
all day long.
They breathe through
their gills quietly.
I feed them with a
little, tiny spoon.
They don’t make any
noise when they swim,
but all together they look like a rainbow –
orange, red, yellow, brown.
They’re friendly fish.
I know because when I put
my finger in the tank,
they don’t bite too hard.

by John, age 9
Texas Children’s Hospital
[photo by ShaneWarne_60000 via Flickr]

Perpetual Motion

Posted September 20, 2007 & filed under Notebook.

merry-go-round.jpg

Spinning around
like a tornado
twirling.
I could go on
smiling for a long, long smile.
WATCH OUT!

I love my mom and dad.

by Bria, age 8
Texas Children’s Hospital

[photo kwisatc via Flickr]

El Sol [The Sun]

Posted September 19, 2007 & filed under Notebook.

El sol me
sorprende,
es un diamante
gigante. Es una
canica flotante.

Es una semilla,
es una estrella
gigantesca.
El sol es
misericordia
que me seguira todos
los dias de mi vida.

 

The sun
surprises me.

It’s a giant
diamond, a floating
marble.

It’s a seed,
a giant star.

The sun is
mercy

that will follow me
all the days of my life.

by Gina, 3rd grade

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Sakura via flickr

It’s Tough Being A Kid

Posted August 21, 2007 & filed under Notebook.

It’s tough being a kid now days. For example,
being in fourth grade is more than enough to say.
It’s like being in a masquerade.

Taking tests almost every hour of the day. When
I take tests I develop some special kind of power.
Even though my brother torments me day and night
while I’m trying to study.

It’s tough being a kid now days.

Stacey, 4th grade

Inside a Raindrop

Posted July 18, 2007 & filed under Notebook.

raindrop.jpg

Go inside a raindrop
where it is cold. I see a rainbow down
the smooth side. As the rain falls,
I jump
up and down
inside the raindrop
As the rain falls,
I hear loud thunder.
I jump rope to calm myself down.
As I scream,
I hear my loud echo answering back to me.

by Samantha, 4th grade
J.R. Harris Elementary School

writing prompt = “Stone” by Charles Simic

Frida

Posted July 13, 2007 & filed under Notebook.

frida_kahlo_self_portrait.jpgShe is bleeding.
It looks like she’s angry.

She’s probably mad at her husband.
She doesn’t look like she’s in pain.
She’s letting the bird hang on her neck.
She looks like she got out of a wreck.
The thorn branches represent her anger.
The monkey is messing with one of the branches.
The cat is hiding behind her neck.
The cat might represent her anger too.
It’s a black cat.
She looks serious.
She looks like if anything gets in her way,
She would mess something up.
The flowers represent her sensitivity
And the butterfly.
She feels like nobody respects her or
Pays attention to her.

by Victor, age 17, Texas Children’s Hospital – Renal Division