Hanging out with Thoreau #SOLC19

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photo credit: Walden.org website

Would I like to visit the historic 1906 Tudor-style headquarters of the Walden Woods Project at the Thoreau Institute? Sure!

Would I like to sit in front of a roaring fire in the massive walk-in fireplace that hasn’t been lit in over 20+ years? Um, OK!

Would I like to contribute to a project that will assist Thoreau scholars and environmentalists for years to come? Absolutely!

When the call went out a few weeks back for volunteers to help out with Walden Woods Project’s Animal Index Blitz, I couldn’t resist. While I have read Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, I have not explored his extensive journals where he recorded everything — and I mean everything! — that he saw, heard, thought, experienced. I am a bit of a nature geek, fascinated with the world around me, so this sounded like a fun way to spend a couple of hours on Thursday afternoon/evening. And the fact that it took place just hours after our first significant snowfall of the season made it even better.

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photo credit: Christie Wyman

When I arrived at the Institute after school, the amazing fireplace in the former Higginson estate’s lobby greeted me. Don’t be fooled by the small size of the actual fire. The heat radiating out from this enormous hearth was intense! And our workspace for the Blitz? Massive leather club chairs gathered around in front of the fire. I actually worried that I might fall asleep because it was so relaxing. Fortunately I did not!

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The task given to volunteers was to scroll online through assigned 20-page sections of the journal and make note on a spreadsheet of any animals (including insects and birds) referred to in Thoreau’s text. This crowdsourced database will serve as a veritable goldmine of information for Thoreau scholars and environmentalists alike. After final collation, researchers will be able to search for any references to a particular creature rather than scanning thousands of pages for what they are looking for.

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Here’s a peek at a section of my spreadsheet entries.

For the next few hours I read, typed, laughed, puzzled, and learned alongside a handful of other engaged volunteers, all of which just happened to be educators, and helpful (and grateful) Institute staff. And the best news? The work isn’t finished, so we have the opportunity to return and do it all over again. Um, OK!

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Thanks for wondering and wandering a bit with me today. Many thanks to the crew at Two Writing Teachers, and the extended SOL community, for giving us the time, space, and encouragement to live the writerly life here each Tuesday and every day during the month of March. Happy Slicing!

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Why not Slice some poetry? #SOLC19 #PoetryFriday

Happy first day of the 2019 Slice of Life Challenge at Two Writing Teachers AND Poetry Friday, all! How exciting that the planets are in alignment for these two fabulous events — a twofer!

For this inaugural post for the SOLC, I’m slicing up a bit of poetry. Linda Baie is hosting this week’s gathering on her blog, Teacher Dance.  Won’t you join us there as well? Slicing poetry on Friday’s during the SOLC is a great way to flex those writing muscles. If you are ever wondering where to find the weekly host of Poetry Friday, you’ll find a list of hosts and their blog links here.

My poem today was actually inspired by an entry in my Morning Pages/Evening Pages notebook. (More on that here.) On Wednesday evening, during our weekly Teach Write writing accountability session, I wrote about the snow storm that was just about to begin, what I hoped it would be and what I hoped it would not be. The more I wrote, the more it felt like a poem nugget just waiting to be nurtured. I played around with it a bit, and it turned into the following.

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As it turns out, I got what I wished for. We had a two-hour delay, which was called the evening before. Love those! It was light fluffy stuff that you could easily push away with a shovel. And boy did we have fun at recess!

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Thanks for wondering and wandering a bit with me today. Many thanks to the crew at Two Writing Teachers, and the extended SOL community, for giving us the time, space, and encouragement to live the writerly life here each Tuesday and every day during the month of March. And thanks to Linda Baie for hosting this week’s double celebration! Happy Friday, all!

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Evening Pages, anyone? #SOL19

I have finally found my ideal way to end the day — Evening Pages. Many of you are probably familiar with Morning Pages, a morning writing routine that Julia Cameron first introduced in her book, The Artist’s Way. In it she writes about writing “three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.” These pages aren’t meant to be perfect, well-thought out, or elegant. To see Cameron speak briefly about them, you may watch here. I have read elsewhere that some writers don’t focus so much on the number of pages, but on the amount of time that they write — say 20-30 minutes each morning. Either is a wonderful way to start the day, an opportunity to shake the cobwebs out of the mind, and perhaps launch a greater writing project.

My problem is that Monday through Friday, I just don’t have any morning writing time. I rise at 5:10, walk out the door at 6:10, arrive at school at 6:40, and then it’s off to the races with photocopying, answering emails, setting up my Kindergarten classroom, meeting with colleagues, and all the other busy work that happens before my students arrive at 8:00. You know the drill.

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But living a writerly life is important to me. I have found that writing at the other end of the day works just as well for me, and so I give you…Evening Pages! It’s now officially a thing! Writing in the late afternoon or evening is one the happiest times of my day. I open up my notebook and write. It might end up being five words or five pages. It could last five minutes or 45 minutes. Who knows. Each day is different. But I am writing, and that’s all that matters. Perhaps Evening Pages would work for you. What time of day do you do your free writing? Do you have a favorite routine? I’d love to hear about it in a comment. Happy writing!

P.S. Many thanks to Teach Write’s Jennifer Laffin who during one of our Wednesday evening online writing sessions said, “You should write a Slice about that!”

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Many thanks to the crew at Two Writing Teachers, and the extended SOL community, for giving us the time, space, and encouragement to live the writerly life here each Tuesday and every day in March. Won’t you join us?

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Getting ready #SOL19

Hard to believe, but it’s that time again. Time to get ready for this years’ Slice of Life Challenge hosted by our colleagues at the Two Writing Teachers blog. This is the 3rd year I have spent time during my February Vacation week (it’s a New England thing, I guess!) doing a few tasks that help pave the way for a smoother, more sliceable March. Repeaters know the drill, but first timers might find some of these tips helpful.

Tip #1: I prepare 31 blog post drafts with the basics common to each Slice. It’s amazing what a timesaver this is. I picked this tip up from several experienced Slicers. 

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Tip #2: I prepare a Word document or Google Doc with Slicing dates and idea seeds. I also work on my drafts here. I don’t always use the seeds, but they are here in case I hit a patch of writer’s block. 31 days is a long time. You’ve got to be good to yourself. As much as I want my daily Slice to be inspired in the moment, weekdays are the most challenging for me simply because teacher days are busy, as we all know. I get ideas from lots of places, including my calendar. This year there are five Fridays in March, so I’m excited to Slice some poetry with the #PoetryFriday community, too. Like I said, these are just in-advance ideas and I often go with what comes to me the night before or the morning of. 

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Tip #3: I find a good source for writing prompts. My favorite is Teach Write’s #DWHabit Word of the Day. I often use these to prompt the daily writing in my Writer’s Notebook, “Evening Pages” during the week and “Morning Pages” on weekends and other days off. If you are not part of the Teach Write community, why not explore now before the SOLC? The Facebook group give you the opportunity to check in daily, which I find inspiring. 

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Tip 4: I save examples of Slicing formats and content that interest me. I created this Padlet to keep track of them and share with others. If you feel like adding something, please do! 

How do you or will you prepare for March’s Slice of Life Challenge? I’d love to hear from you in a comment. We’re in this together!

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Many thanks to the crew at Two Writing Teachers, and the extended SOL community, for giving us the time, space, and encouragement to live the writerly life here each Tuesday. Won’t you join us?

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Global School Play Day #SOL19 #GSPD19

“Best day ever!” claimed one student. “Can we do this every day?” said another.

The reason for their excitement was Global School Play Day (GSPD). (Click here to learn more.) This was our first year participating, and I can’t wait until next year! Inspired by a TEDx talk by Peter Gray, GSPD’s organizers believe children in today’s world do not have enough time to play, and it’s time we return the gift of play to them. I couldn’t agree more! We committed to playing for one entire school day. We are lucky in our district because GSPD falls on the first Wednesday of February each year, and we have early release days at 11:30 AM the first Wednesday of every month. This made committing to play for the entire day of school a no-brainer.

My class split the time between indoor and outdoor play. We began with an extended outdoor recess, taking advantage of unseasonably mild weather. Another Kindergarten class joined us and it was fun to watch them get together and joyfully play without the usual time constraints. Next we moved indoors for snack and our regular 30-minute Art class. This left them with an hour+ of time in the classroom to pursue whatever struck their fancy. One rule about GSPD is that adults don’t make any choices for the children, so it’s truly authentic choice and play. Even our Art teacher got in on the act, setting up a variety of stations for children to work at — their choice! Back in the classroom, some chose to work in the Police Department set up in the Dramatic Play area of our classroom, others took out favorite board games, LEGOs, art materials, and books. All we adults had to do was join in!

This past Friday, poet/author Laura Purdie Salas issued an equation poem challenge to the Poetry Friday community in celebration of her new book, Snowman-Cold=Puddle: Spring Equations (Charlesbridge, 2019) This collage of photos from GSPD inspired my entry to the challenge, and pretty much summed up the day.

Equation Poem

We’ve already signed up for next years’ Global School Play Day on February 5, 2020. Perhaps you’ll join us?

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Many thanks to the crew at Two Writing Teachers, and the extended SOL community, for giving us the time, space, and encouragement to live the writerly life here each Tuesday. Won’t you join us?

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Why Is It So Hard? #SOL19

Today was not a good day in the wonderful world of Kindergarten Room 1. Wyman’s Wonders were not their best selves. Not by any stretch of the imagination. They are trying, but it is so hard some days.

Sometimes on challenging days like this, I open up my writer’s notebook to seek solace. I never know what will land on the pages. Today is was a skinny, a poem form I love. The rules are easy to follow.

  1. Eleven lines.
  2. Lines 1 and 2 must contain the same words, but not necessarily in the same order.
  3. Lines 2-10 must be one word each.
  4. Lines 2, 6, and 10 must be the same.

Why not give one a try?

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Many thanks to the crew at Two Writing Teachers, and the extended SOL community, for giving us the time, space, and encouragement to live the writerly life here each Tuesday. Won’t you join us?

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Currently #SOL19

“Currently” is a great way to tell your “right now” story. Here’s mine.

Currently…

  • (Binge) Watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix. Obsessed and feeling the urge to purge!
  • Reading Mary Oliver’s A Thousand Mornings. Her passing last week was a loss to the world. She has always been a great inspiration to me, and a mentor for my nature-based poetry writing.  Also reading Simon Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles with #TeachWrite’s Wednesday night writing group. Chatting on Voxer about it is new for me!
  • Listening to the Bonobos episode of one of my new favorite podcasts, How I Built This with Guy Raz (NPR). Fascinating story about the origins of the company. Podcasts are a great companion when you have a chore to do around the house like cleaning or making lunch for tomorrow.
  • Making speedy chicken parm for dinner. (Ask me for the recipe in a comment!)
  • Feeling stressed about Thursday’s data team meeting. It’s only our second ever.
  • Planning our summer hiking trip to the island of Guernsey in the English Channel. Didn’t you love The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society?
  • Loving using my Inkjoy gel pens again after trying Bic Gel-osity for a day or two. They weren’t doing it for me.

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Many thanks to the crew at Two Writing Teachers, and the extended SOL community, for giving us the time, space, and encouragement to live the writerly life here each Tuesday. Won’t you join us?

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