always the more beautiful answer,
who asks a more beautiful question . . .
e. e. cummings
I picked the theme of “renewal” for a series of writing retreats this year. What I quickly discovered is that it wasn’t easy to find readings connected to the topic. As I searched with the usual tools in the usual places, most of what came up was religious — which makes sense, because people who are soul weary are often looking for spiritual renewal. But I didn’t think starting out our revision and response sessions with “let us pray” would go over well at these secular writing retreats. The books that weren’t religious often focused on time management or had gimmicky leadership tips.
I was close to giving up when I stumbled on A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger. The book includes the sobering finding of researchers that children are taught to squelch their natural tendency to ask profound and creative questions at an early age (and schools are a big part of that). A More Beautiful Question looks at case studies from many fields of visionaries who broke through with ideas that upended the status quo by asking better questions. These questions are sometimes jolting, sometimes elegant, but always at their heart renewing, because they push the questioner to look harder and deeper at an issue vexing everyone in their field.
As I read the book, I realized stress is nothing more than the questions we pester ourselves with continually. These “stress” questions may vary, but just contemplating the answers is a dull scrape to the spirit we give ourselves again and again:
How can I quit this job I hate and still pay the mortgage?
How much worse is my mom’s Alzheimer’s going to get?
What can I do to get the kids’ test scores up?
You’re going to ask yourself questions all day long – it’s what humans do. So why not make them beautiful? If you’re looking for renewal, stress reduction, balance, or a peaceful heart this summer (whatever you want to call it), maybe it begins with a bold, specific, and joyful question. A more beautiful question is one you can ask yourself about work every day that makes you want to jump out of bed and start thinking.
What’s the most joyful thing that will happen in my class this morning?
How will my students take charge of their learning today?
Who supports my learning and growth most in the school, and how can I reciprocate and support them more?
I’m working on my big beautiful question for the school year right now. What might yours be?
This week we look at student writers. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links, follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ChoiceLiteracy or Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/choiceliteracy/]
Here are two articles from the archives to help make your writing workshops stronger than ever.
Ruth Shagoury finds even five- and six-year-olds can develop independent conferring skills in Mix It Up: Helping Young Writers Learn to Confer with Peers and Teachers:
We all experience slumps. Clare Landrigan has one in her fitness routine and uses the learning from it to develop principles for helping student writers overcome slumps:
Are you looking for some fun mentor texts for discussions with young learners about the writing process? The LitforKids blog has compiled an annotated list of Picture Books for Young Writers:
Ralph Fletcher shares his writing habits in this three-minute video. This is a good conversation starter for a professional development workshop on routines:
For Members Only
If you find yourself buried in student work that needs a response, you’ll enjoy suggestions from Bill Bass for Giving Audio Feedback to Student Writing:
Katherine Sokolowski reflects on a key component of her writing workshop, and finds ways for using writing notebooks more authentically:
Ruth Ayres has advice for forming Effective Student Writing Groups:
In this week’s video, Tony Keefer confers with fourth grader Sydney about revising her writing and transitioning to a new genre early in the year:
New PD2Go: Katie DiCesare confers with first grader Ava about crafting beginnings and endings in nonfiction writing:
This video and workshop guide fulfill Common Core Standard ELA-Literacy W.1.2: Write informative/explanatory texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure.
That’s all for this week!