Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Phases of Summer

Back for a week after a week spent in Bowen Island, Gabriola Island, and Whistler.  Each phase of summer seems different-sun rising a bit later each day and now when you come out of a movie it is dark.  Days are getting shorter. The last few days have been hot and we Vancouverites seem to have a love hate relationship to this.  Most of us don't have air conditioning in our homes so we tend to moan a bit.   I am in the midst of having the outside of my house painted so that I am hoping the rain will hold off until it is finished.  I have missed our old Mount Pleasant outdoor pool, and now we have the new Hillcrest Pool with all its bells and whistles but although great for kids a bit of a circus and twice as expensive. 

I am going away for the last two weeks of summer so that I am realizing that there are a few things I planned to do that I won't be doing and trying to fit a others in.  That stack of professional reading doesn't seem much smaller.  I have to admit I did lots of summer frivolous reading-some would call it beach reading.  I now seem more ready for a bit more serious reading.  I am reading 2009 Man Booker prize winner, Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel.  It's huge and I have it as a fast read from the library but I am not making fast progress and am wondering if I should buy it and take it back east with me.  I am really enjoying it.  I have always had a bit of a fascination with the Tudors and her depiction of Cromwell is fascinating.

I have spent a fair amount of time looking at new Mac Pros-trying to decide if could survive with a thirteen inch monitor or not, playing with IPads and IPhones, and still here I am with my five year old ibookG4 and my very simple cell phone still.  Mind you if I had an Ipad or a Kindle taking Wolf Hall with me would be a bit lighter!

Now for a happy summer beach shot from Gabriola with Maggie and Jake.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

12 Sides to Your Story... Simple steps for turning ordinary writing into something extraordinatory

I'm in Whistler with a couple of friends and it's raining-rather novel of late-we hadn't had rain in about six weeks until a couple of days ago but hear the sun is returning tomorrow.  I went to Gabriola Island for a couple of days and refused to bring a raincoat or umbrella so feel a bit of responsibility for the change in weather.

So yes I am actually going to talk about a professional book, 12 Sides to Your Story by Graham Foster. This is one of those nice flip books from Pembroke.  I may have mentioned that I felt quite guilty when author, Melanie Jackson, came to my class, and gave an excellent presentation on plot and I realized that I had been remiss about doing much really creative writing, fictional story writing, with my class.  Non fiction writing seemed to be more of a focus.  Now as someone who had given innumerable workshops on writing this doesn't sound too good but realities of the classroom sometimes vary from the ideal.  After Melanie's visit, we spent time on fictional writing. 

One thing I decided is that I would put more of an emphasis on story writing early this year so that I was interested in checking out this book.  The book is designed to be used by teachers or students but I know there are those amazing students who would conscientiously read this but probably more likely to be used by teachers.  I think it's a good step up for teachers at the grade six to nine level who are already familiar with writing workshop and six trait writing approaches.  If anyone wants some suggestions for materials for good starting points for these,  just let me know.

This book is divided into the following sections:  using story writing strategies; organization; content; sentence structure; vocabulary and voice; conventions; and revising and sharing.  There are good ideas and examples in each section.  I like the layout as well.

I think I am actually staying still for the next few days so am going to force myself into doing some planning for the coming year.  Last summer more closely reading Nancy Atwell's The Reading Zone made me rethink again silent reading and reading strategies that I had been using in classrooms in which I had been working as a literacy coach, and in my classroom it helped me hopefully create more avid readers. I find my classroom practice is influenced by a number of professional books so that my silent reading program has elements  I am also looking forward hopefully this year to have a bit of time to do some co-planning with some of my fellow teachers around reading and writing.  Summer is definitely a great time for battery recharging!  It's no longer raining but still cloudy skies here in Whistler.  Just thinking of the long title of 12 Sides to Your Story-I think I like just thinking about turning anything ordinary into something extraordinatory.