There’s nothing an artist needs more – even more than excellent tools and stamina – than a deadline.
“I don’t want to write anymore,” I said in a whiny voice.
I was having a student moment. You know them — one of those moments where you find yourself in the exact situation you put your students in sometimes. I was trying to push myself to write a little more. It was after 8:30 p.m., and a group of us were in the living room of a bed and breakfast at a writing retreat. By that point I had been on and off writing for 11 hours each day for two days straight. I was tired. My brain hurt. I had writing in front of me that needed revision, but I just didn’t want to do the work.
“Jillian, just get 200 words by nine o’clock,” Gretchen said from across the room.
Oh, sure. It was 8:45. I had 15 minutes. 200 words – no big deal. Ha.
I really didn’t want to accept the challenge, but I had to try. How many times have I seen my students in this spot? A panicked look on one face, a stubborn look on another, a disheartened look on yet another. Stuck. Not sure what to write about.
I realized I’d have to start a new piece, not a revision, if I was going to produce 200 words that quickly. Luckily I had a notebook with a list of ideas I could write about.
I spent the next few minutes thinking about which one I could do. Once I thought of one that could work, I thought more about it and started to rehearse and compose thoughts in my head.
Finally I had that spark of an idea and wrote it down before I lost it. I’ve seen something similar many times with my adolescent students – the light-bulb moment: when the idea comes and the student quickly grabs a piece of paper or the keyboard and starts writing, seeing where the idea will take them, not wanting to lose the thought.
I can picture the relief that must have been on my face, because I’ve also seen that in my students. Can I take what I learned about a short writing challenge into my classroom? I think so. I learned there are stages to even the shortest writing task that is imposed unexpectedly on anyone: stalled out, initiation of the challenge, panic, denial/refusal, think time (SO important), acceptance, spark, rehearsal, draft, relief, re-energized. Because I am a writer who faced an impromptu timed writing challenge, I know better now what my students go through in facing similar challenges.
This week we look at a Book-a-Day, a favorite challenge for students and teachers of all ages. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Jillian Heise is the National Literacy Consultant for BALB Literacy Consulting: Building a Love of Books & Bringing a Literacy Balance. She is also a grad student (again!) working toward her school library media specialist certification.
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Justin Stygles uses a daily nonfiction article activity as a way to build interest in nonfiction short texts, especially among reluctant readers in his classroom:
Donalyn Miller started the Book-a-Day Challenge nine years ago. You can read about the history and the simple rules for participating at this link:
Franki Sibberson shares her plans and first stack for her personal summer book-a-day challenge:
Principal Jennifer Schwanke reads three books in every classroom in her elementary school every year. She explains why this challenge is worth her time, and how she selects the books:
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Jillian Heise rises to the challenge of reading a new picture book to her seventh and eighth graders each day all year long:
Franki Sibberson finds the investment of five to seven minutes a day for #bookaday with her third graders is truly time well spent:
In this week’s video, Katherine Sokolowski helps fifth grader Abby build her next-read stack of books:
Justin Stygles uses the 30 Books in 30 Days project to introduce his sixth graders to a wide variety of authors and genres:
In an encore video from a second-grade team meeting, Principal Karen Szymusiak sits in on a discussion of the challenges of helping young readers learn to pick appropriate books independently:
That’s all for this week! Remember, we’re off for the next two weeks on our annual summer break. We’ll be back in mid-July with weekly updates of new articles and videos.