Adding a little lit to my nonfiction

Image attributed to

An icy wind tickles the inside of her hooded cheek. To protect her hands, she tucks them in her defiant pockets. She is resolute. Relentless lights sear her eyes, and it is not his absence she regrets. No, it is not his absence that makes tears well up, that adds weight to her steps and folds the collar of her coat up to her chin. It is merely the chilling reminder that winter is not yet over.

The above represents a literary nonfiction exercise, where my students use sensory details, imagery, simile, metaphor, and personification to make a photo come alive. Since they are interviewing a person in the community and writing an analysis of how well that community has survived conflict, and because I do not know the people that they plan to interview, this description will become vital to “hook” me into their writing. I can’t wait to read what they write!


Flipping the Writing Experience

Yesterday, I attended the Ohio Writing Project’s fall conference, where teachers who receive their MAT from Miami University present their research.  As I was listening to Matt Glover, the keynote speaker, talk about how seldom students are given choice of genre in a writing workshop classroom, I started to see connections between the flip and the workshop.

If one considers the flip to be mini lessons, watched outside of class, then applied in the classroom, then the connection to the flip is obvious. For those who don’t know what the workshop is like, the teacher uses mentor texts to demonstrate a writing technique, teaches a mini lesson about that technique, and asks students to create examples. So making the mini lesson a video that students view on their own seems a natural part of the “video” flipped classroom.

But as I have learned more about how others see the point of flipping the classroom, my viewpoint on the flip has evolved. I have begun to see that student centered learning does not have to be watching videos at home. Instead, it might be giving students the opportunity to choose how they show you they have learned an objective.

Allowing students choice of genre to show what they have learned is moving towards mastery learning. I still fear this concept. How does one show mastery in an ELA classroom? But the concept of genre choice is one small way I might be able to achieve that goal. Here’s an example of genre choice:

During the conference, one teacher was discussing the topic of argumentative writing. She had us pick a color that resonated with us, and then gave us a paper that explained the psychology of that color. Then we were to read the paper and decide if we agreed or disagreed with the description of the color. We could use any genre to demonstrate whether or not we agreed. Some teachers planned a speech, others an essay. This is what I wrote:

Deep Blue
The ocean’s heart
the midnight sky,
the jaunty new pair of jeans,
defy the conservative,
reject the authority,
free the soul.
The ocean betrays,
the moonless sky chills,
and the jeans sit back,
with a smirk,
telling the world that
deep blue is NOT traditional.