Showing posts from March, 2016

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 31 - The End Is Often Overrated

The End Is Often Overrated
Teachers are so very familiar with the classroom cry, ‘I’ve finished.’
It provides the perfect opportunity to share the truism that every stop is a place to start.  I’m not about to call out those familiar words. I understand that there are other compelling matters to which I must attend. I am therefore, not finished.

I am not going to write the words ‘The End’ either. Teachers will also be familiar with this practice. Inexperienced student writers often feel compelled to inform their readers in big, bold letters that the end has been reached. I am sure my readers are smart enough to realize that when the words stop that they have reached the end of the piece. Readers understand when the end is reached. It is invariably a happy-sad occasion.
It is however with some sense of relief and a large degree of personal satisfaction that I have reached day 31 of this, my eighth challenge. Professional and personal lives continue to require nourishment and attention whi…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 30 -Who Am I Right Now?

Who Am I Right Now?
This morning I was browsing The Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron, a book designed to assist writers develop ideas across a range of genres.  One suggestion was to start with the words I am and brainstorm from there.
In his book, Swinging From The Clothesline, author Andy Griffiths reminds readers, we often explain to people who we are by telling them about things we have done in the past. But who are you at this very moment. Who are you right now? We are not separate from the world around us. If we look closer we can see part of ourselves in everything else.
Two books, two authors urging me to examine who I am right now and what connection I make to the wider world. I'm up for this challenge I thought. As I sat in my writing space in a totally quiet house, I asked the question... So, who am I right now?

I Am Such Things and More
I am the leaf, clinging tenaciously to the tree as winter approaches The claw of the eagle holding fast to its prey I am the wind rustling …

Slice of Life Story Challenge- March 29 - Cooking Up A Storm

Cooking Up A Storm 
Easter in Australia sees many people taking the opportunity to take off for a few days and go ‘bush’ as the local saying goes. Camping at Easter is a national pastime. I have done it many times over the years. Others seek out accommodation in places far enough away from home to make a difference, but within manageable driving distance. Families and friends seek to maximize the time together.  Easter represents in the minds of many, the last opportunity to get away before winter inevitably sets in. The highways of our nation become clogged and cities seem to empty somewhat at this time. There are of course, the religious observations, and the devouring of obscene amounts of chocolate to be factored into the scene as well.
I spent Easter at home with my wife, family and friends this year, indulging in something from which I derive great pleasure -cooking. Easter lends itself to such matters. 
I love making salads. Not the bland salads of my childhood, where every dish …

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 28 Poetry From The Left Hand Side

Poetry From The Left Hand Side
I have had many conversations over the years regarding my left handedness.  Kids find it funny that I am left handed and my last name is Wright. They are often astounded to hear the story of my first year of school and how my teacher told me, ‘You must learn to write with your right hand, otherwise you will never be a neat writer.’
I was so obviously inclined to use my left hand and my left foot. I was also extremely determined. All these years later, those words continue to rebound in my conscious memory. Every time I pick up a pen to write, those words come flying back through the mists of time. It has been my mission to prove my teacher wrong. My commitment to becoming a neat writer has driven me. I may not be a fast writer, but I believe I have become a neat writer. It is unintended outcome of my teacher’s unenlightened view of my preferred hand.
In an earlier time left handed students were physically punished for having the effrontery to use their natu…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 27 -Shoreline Scene

Shoreline Scene
My morning walk frequently reveals small moments worthy of note. Sometimes it is a seemingly insignificant occurrence that others miss. The practiced eye and the observer locks away a special moment. Mental notes, silently recorded for possible later use. The writer within feels compelled to react, to capture a scene in words. And so it was this morning as I was standing on the headland above the beach. Below me, a father and son walked in the damp sand along the shoreline. 

 The coolness of the morning air and the grey low hanging sky meant the beach was largely deserted. The father leads the way and the child instinctively followed. And it struck me, there, looking down, that what I was witnessing was a metaphor for life, for the classroom:

Follow Me
A father walks in the damp sand Close to the shoreline His young son follows him closely The boy stretches to place his feet Within his father’s huge footprints The boy strives to match the man he so admires Follow my lead Walk thi…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 26 -Encounter With A Fiercely Independent Walker

An Encounter With A Fiercely Independent Walker
In the passing parade of life, we encounter people whom we deem worthy of note. My regular visits to The Filling Station for coffee and social interaction afford me opportunities to meet people. People like Jess, 92 years young, slightly deaf and extremely alert. She is well known in here. the staff love her spirit. She remains widely admired for her enthusiastic approach to life. 
This fiercely independent women sits down at the next table and immediately engages me in conversation.  I am reading my book when she enters, but I feel compelled to stop out of respect for her presence. I sense she wants to engage me. She smiles and informs me she has been a walker all her life. ‘Walked here this morning. I’ve walked everywhere all throughout my life. Never driven a car. Never even sat behind the wheel of one.’ This is Jess’s impressive CV. I make a mental point to add Jess’s achievement to my growing list of things people have never done.
The …

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 25 -Idioms -For Pete's Sake!

Idioms -for Pete's Sake!
A conversation this morning about the issues English language learners often encounter with idiomatic language made me think about the proliferation of sayings that include people’s names.
The more I thought it about, the more I realized how many there actually were. My parent’s generation used such terms quite extensively. Consequently, I grew up with such sayings being frequently bandied about. I hear them less frequently these days, but they are still out for Pete’s sake…
I appear to have opened a Pandora’s box of worms!
Name Dropper
My Dad knows lots of people I reckon He often tells me Bob’s your uncle But I don’t know anyone called Bob
He believes Scott is great He’s always saying Great Scott! He wants to rob Peter to pay Paul and I’m not sure why He thinks Fanny Adams is sweet And someone called Nelly is nervous And Larry is happy That’s great, but I don’t know Larry Last week he told me to run like Billy O How does Billy O run? That’s what I want to know
Dad does a lo…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 24 -Making The Most of Quotes

Making The Most of Quotes
My notebooks are liberally sprinkled with quotations. A significant number of them relate to writing in particular and learning in general. Some of them relate to the philosophy of living a fruitful life. Others are collected purely because they entertain me and make me smile.
Today I was doing some rereading of my current notebook and it further reinforced my penchant for the gathering of such uplifting and inspiring words.
So I then searched further back into my notebooks and found these entries:
‘What’s so romantic about living in a lighthouse? Let me tell you, it’s just me and a lot of fish –and I hate fishing.’ Lighthouse keeper being interviewed on radio
‘Sometimes you think you are finished with the book, but the book isn’t finished with you.’ Khalil, Grade one student P.S 20 Clinton Hill School, NYC
‘Your hormones are back and they’re jumping. I need to talk to your Grandma.’ Teacher at Bushwick Middle School to student
‘There is no permanent truth you can cor…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 23 -The Joy of Conscious Wordplay

The Joy Of Conscious Wordplay
Today, I had the opportunity to pander to my poetic passions. After a full day of presenting, I spent today in full writing mode...
Using an extract from Laurie Halse-Anderson’s ‘Speak’ I went in search of some poetic pearls hidden within the narrative on the page.

Using the blackout poetry strategy, I worked my way down the page with a fine line pen blocking in those words I wished to retain. Those words that appealed to my eye and sang to my ears. I looked for flow and continuity of ideas. I wanted my words to exhibit some sense of connection.
Then using a thick black marker I obliterated all the words that had missed selection. What emerged was my found poem. A poem hidden within the original narrative. It appeared like magic. The search for a poem was both engaging and therapeutic. There is much joy to be had in conscious word play.

Here it is, my latest black out poem. Fresh and new within my notebook. 

I peel potatoes She gives the frozen turkey a hot bath

Assisting Student Writers With Correction

A recent conversation with a group of teachers about correcting errors in writing set me to thinking about the ways we approach this often vexed issue.

We know inexperienced writers make errors. We also know experienced writers make mistakes. Learning cannot take place without some level of error. One of the greatest issues a developing writer can face is to be inhibited from responding, for fear of being wrong.
When a young writer tackles an unfamiliar word in their writing and spells it correctly they confirm their existing beliefs concerning that word. If they happen to get it ‘wrong’ then they learn something just as important. They learn that they must modify their belief about that word. The writer learns by testing their existing belief. This is the kind of healthy risk taking we must encourage in our classrooms. Writers should not be afraid to tackle new words.
I recall with glowing pride as a Grade 1 writer tackled the word aquarium in her writing, because ‘fish tank’ just would…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 22 -Same Season, Different Places

Same Season, Different Places
A recent discussion with a group of friends about the summer just passed lead to reminiscences regarding the summers of our youth. We shared memories of those long gone days. It raised different perspectives about the ways we spent those lazy hazy days.
Eighty per cent of Australians live within two hours of the coast. Almost all our major cities are situated on the coast.  I have lived close to the sea for almost thirty years. I currently live close to the sea near Fisherman’s Beach in Mornington.

Australia's population of some 24 million people generally like to flock to the beaches in summer. However, my own childhood was spent some 50 kilometres from the ocean in the ranges outside Melbourne. My growing up memories of summer, delightful as they are, have little to do with seaside delights.
Summer In The Hills In the summer Of my hillside hometown I scampered up ladders to pick cherries I crouched on my haunches gathering strawberries I ate nectarines stra…