Writing Summer Camp With Jennifer Serravallo (Week 1)

Monday, July 2, 2018

     This summer, the wonderful Jennifer Serravallo is hosting a #WritingSummerCamp via Facebook.  Each week is devoted to a different genre of writing, and each day she teaches us a mini lesson from her The Writing Strategies Book before she challenges us to write for 10 minutes to try it out.  By the end of the week, we have a finished piece!  

     Last week, she helped us write a narrative story.  Each day she took us through the process wheel (found on page 13 in her book).   

The strategies she had us try last week were:
3.24 Wonder, "What if?..." (Generating and Collecting Ideas)
  • This is a great strategy for writing blurbs of possible stories.  

5.8 Uh-Oh...  UH-OH... Phew.  (Choosing and Rehearsing)
  • LOVED this one.  It's her take on the story arc.

6.32 Writing Through a Mask (Rehearsing/ Developing)
  • OK, maybe this one was my favorite.  It challenged me to think a bit differently about my story, and the point of view that I tend to write.  Forcing myself to rehearse it from different points of view helped me quite a bit as an author.

10.12 Moving Quickly (or Slowly) Through Time (Drafting)
  • I loved her use of mentor text with this one!

9.31 Considering Sentence Length (Revision)
  • I found her modeling of this strategy using her own writing to be especially effective.

Symphony Share (Publishing)
  • Check out the sentences shared on the Facebook group.  They were great!

     What a week!  I really liked all of the strategies.  To be honest, I struggled a bit with ideas on Monday.  I tend to have trouble writing fiction.  But, these strategies helped me!  By the end of the week, I was an author.  Not a great one, but an author nonetheless.  :)

     If you want to join this week, she is guiding us through poetry!  Just go to The Reading and Writing Strategies Book Community on Facebook and follow along.  All the videos are recorded, so you can go at your own pace.  :)

     Here is my story...

Lifeguard Sealy

The waves were crashing all around me in the giant wave pool at the Dells.  I was standing with both feet on the ground, yet the rubber souls of my pool shoes did little to keep me secured in my spot.  Every time a wave came, I would be gently pushed deeper in as I shrieked with joy. I’d then wipe my goggles clean and wait for the next one, each time a little farther from the shore.  

    Each time a little farther from Sealy.

    Sealy, my stuffed arctic seal, was watching me from our table.  I didn’t hide him in the bags with our clothes and sandals. Instead, I made a low tower of towels and put him on top, giving him a view of me splashing around, as if he were a lifeguard on duty.  I just wished he could swim with me, too, like he does everything else. Plushies and pools just don’t mix.

    After I had splashed around for a long time, I remembered Sealy again.  I glanced across the room towards his post, but didn’t see him on the towels.  I moved my goggles to the top of my head, thinking perhaps it was the foggy plastic keeping me from seeing him.  It wasn’t. Sealy was gone.

   I ran through the waves towards the table, sobbing and shouting his name.  Sometimes I forget that stuffed animals can’t really hear us. I still tried.  Tears streamed down my face, and it was hard to tell what was water dripping from the waves, and what was spilling from my eyes.  A difference seemed to be the taste of salt on my lips, and the feeling of panic that now filled me. I just can’t lose my seal.

    I looked in the swim bag.
    I looked under the table.
    I looked on the ground under the tables around us.

    No Sealy.

    I asked my brother to help me look.  My seal wasn’t by the slides, or the rafts, or the beach chairs.  I sat down on a chair, put my head in my hands, and sobbed. My best friend was lost.

    Suddenly, my mom appeared above me.  Under her arm was a little white face wearing a pair of my spare goggles.  He glanced down at me, as did she.

    “Sealy!” I shrieked with joy, and my mom looked at me with a confused expression as I reached for him.

    “Did you think Sealy was lost?  I’m sorry, Keira, but he was sitting on our table, and lots of little kids seemed to think that he was their new friend.  We can’t leave him out like that. So, I put on your extra goggles, and we walked around watching you together. We can't replace Sealy.  We need to be more careful.”

    My mom dried my tears, and I sat with Sealy for a while, snuggling his little plastic nose against mine.  Relief washed over me like a wave in the pool, and the water seemed to call me again. I looked back at my mom, straightened Sealy’s goggles, and handed him back to her.  

    “Sealy wants to watch me go down the waterslide.  Make sure he seems me splash into the water!”

    I ran off, happy to be reunited with my best friend again.  He’ll make a better lifeguard in the safe hands of my mom, anyway.


Roz Taught Me

Saturday, April 21, 2018

     This post is a celebration of the things that Dr. Roz Linder taught me before she left us this past winter.  I'm still so saddened by the loss of her joyful spirit, but the gifts she gave freely to the world are still visible every day.

     I first saw her in person with a group of writing leaders from my district.  We went to a workshop in Chicago in 2015, and gathered before a woman who inspired us to become better writing teachers.


     Roz's workshop happened at the beginning of my professional sketchnoting experience.  I brought a pad of paper and markers, and "sketchnoted" her session.  I had been practicing my sketchnoting skills as a reader for private use in a journal.  Roz actually complimented my notes, and when I got home I thought, "Perhaps I should share these with my staff."  Since then, I always sketchnote at conferences and share the notes via Twitter for my coworkers back at school.  Because it became easier to use my iPad, Roz remains the only conference I have ever sketchnoted on paper.  But, you could say that she helped me formalize my plan of sharing my learning with others.  Thanks, Roz.


     One of the things that really resonated with me from that particular conference was the idea of establishing context when writing an essay, and then the idea of strong evidence based responses.  She helped me find my direction when coaching teachers in writing, and in strengthening my feedback with students.

     Over the years, I have still found myself talking about the little cards she passed out at that workshop, where she had us know the pieces of an essay, but then use those pieces flexibly depending on the card we randomly received.  She really helped me open my mind to how to promote non-formulaic writing.  I still have the card I used to write an essay that day from Roz.

      Writing with Voice is NOT a Unicorn, but Roz really was.  She was passionate, and intelligent, and joyful, and kind.  She was a blessing to the world, and we will miss her.

#sol18: We Did It!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

#SOL18: March 31st

We Did It!


     There were days when it seemed like the mountain was too hard to climb.

     There were moments when staring at my computer, idealess, seemed like a new way of life.

     There were times when I thought, "Yeah.  That was a good run."

     And yet here I am!  It's March 31st, and I did it!  I blogged every day in March for the Slice of Life Challenge.  I almost did it last year, but missed a few days.  This year, not only did I write every day, but I visited classrooms in our district to blog with them, and I read the posts of the student bloggers pictured about almost every night.  

     We did it.  We did it.  WE DID IT.  

#sol18: Easter Basket Wishes

Friday, March 30, 2018

#SOL18: March 30th

Easter Basket Wishes

     Does the Easter Bunny take wish lists when filling Easter baskets?  Also, do adults get Easter baskets if they fill out a wish list?  Here goes, just in case the big bunny wants to fills a basket of goodies for this kid at heart.  I won't be greedy.  I'll keep the list to 5 items.  

1.  Matching pairs of socks for my kids.  I really don't want to fold all those mismatched socks.

2.  A new pair of sunglasses, just in case I never find the 4 pairs I seem to have lost

3.  Milk chocolate candy that does NOT contain any type of marshmallow or crisped rice

4.  Stamps.  I still need to mail a bill, and I ran out.

5.  Those mint chocolate candies that used to be in my basket as a kid.  Such sweet memories!

   I've got my fingers crossed!

#sol18: Lonely at Starbucks

Thursday, March 29, 2018

#SOL18: March 29th

Lonely at Starbucks

     After school I decided to stop and meet some coworkers at Starbucks.  I was running late, so they were already there.  I figured I would just pop in for a late latte.  Or perhaps a tardy tea.  Or a detained decaf?  That's crazy.  I don't do decaf.

     I parked my car and went in.  I opened the door, and scanned the room.  They were nowhere to be seen.  That's impossible.  They should be already here.  Isn't this Lyons?

      I then realized that I was at the wrong Starbucks.  I suppose when there are so many in one area, there is a danger that you can go to the wrong one.  LaGrange and Lyons start with the same letter.  Yeah, it makes total sense that I would mix that up.  Or, I just need a good night's sleep.

      Hey, at least I had a cinnamon almond milk macchiato to keep me company as I stood there, lonely at Starbucks.  

#sol18: Believe in Yourself

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

#SOL18: March 28th

Believe in Yourself

     I found this on the desk of a wise third grader.  It was sitting out on her table, visible and ready to remind her that she needs to believe in the power she has within.  Today, I'm glad I found this gentle reminder in my camera roll.  She helped me believe in myself a bit, too.  I suppose some days we all could use that reminder.  Thanks, 3rd grader.

#sol18: Peeps

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

#SOL18: March 27th


Reese's peanut butter eggs

Snickers eggs

Malted milk balls

Cadbury creme eggs

Jellybeans (the good kind)

     Those are my top 5 Easter candies.  I could eat them all day, even though that would not be wise.  But Peeps?  Nope.  No thank you.  You won't catch me nibbling even an ear.  They are just not my thing.  Once, I attempted to make a microwave S'Mores out of a Peep and it was somewhat decent, but not something I would actively make again.  The coolest thing I have seen happen to a Peep is when my high school science teacher put one into a vacuum pump.  That was entertaining.  But would I eat one?  Not unless I had to.

     So, the other day I confused my kids when I saw a row of fuzzy plush bunny Peeps and told my kids that we just had to take a selfie with them.

     "Mom, we don't even like Peeps!"

     "Of course we don't, sweetie.  I'm just hangin' with my Peeps."

     Ha, ha, ha.  :)