Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Writing Possibilities from a Football Play

On Tuesdays, the writing community at Two Writing Teachers hosts the Slice of Life. Everyone is welcome to join in by writing, commenting, or just reading slices from around the world! 

Over the last few days, I have been reading many narratives as students complete the first writing unit of the year. Even with extensive instruction on small moment stories and the importance of elaboration strategies that include dialogue, description, action, and feeling, I'm still reading some stories that are basically play by play sporting events. (Anyone familiar with these? I hope I'm not alone!)

Over the weekend, I visited my daughter who is a University of Michigan Wolverine. My husband and I watched Michigan State beat the University of Michigan in the last ten seconds on a missed snap to the punter. If you haven't seen the play, here it is:

My husband and I were in mixed company in our seats at an Ann Arbor bar. The Michigan State fans were pretty quiet during most of the fourth quarter, but they erupted during this final play. After I consoled my daughter, and convinced my husband that those last ten seconds really happened, I thought about some of the student writing I'd recently seen. This video clip has some unbelievable small moment stories!

  • the imagined narrative of Jim Harbaugh, the UM coach as he watches the play
  • the imagined narrative of the punter who dropped the ball
  • the imagined narrative of the UM fan whose dismay is evident in the video
  • the imagined narrative of the Michigan State fans who are in a sea of blue and maize
  • the imagined narrative of the Jalen Watts-Jackson, the Michigan State player who ran the ball into the end zone where he was tackled and had his hip dislocated before his entire team piled on top of him (that really happened!)
For those boys who like to tell every last play of a game, this is a video clip I will save and share with them, as a strategy to help them focus on one important play and how it can be stretched out or told differently depending on perspectives. Frequently, these boys are the ones who struggle to find stories they are excited to write; maybe this will become a tool to help them unleash the story-telling expertise they have within them.

Happy writing,

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Dove Identity Sketches and Their Importance in Coaching Work

On Tuesdays, the writing community at Two Writing Teachers hosts the Slice of Life. Everyone is welcome to join in by writing, commenting, or just reading slices from around the world! For the month of October, I am also participating in the #Educoach Blogging Challenge. This is a post that relates to coaching as well as daily slicing. 

Somehow I missed the viral spread of Dove's Identity Sketches when they first were released a couple of years ago. I was at an instructional coach workshop last week, and our presenter shared the video and the concept with us insofar as it relates to the work we do as coaches.

If you also missed it, the concept involves the theory that we see ourselves much more critically than the rest of the world. An artist sketched women first based on their own descriptions, and then again based on someone else's description. Here is an example of the discrepancies between a set of sketches.
I can imagine the woman describing her own face as fat with small eyes and thin lips. Some of the other sketches in the video are more dramatic in terms of how personalities are suggested. Sketches described by women themselves create meaner or angrier looking people. If you have three minutes I highly recommend watching the video.

So what does this mean for coaching? I think it means that we have to remember that we are our own worst critics, and we criticize ourselves even when we are good. Many people we are coaching might benefit first from authentic and specific compliments and validation that the work we are doing is important and hard.

Happy Slicing and Coaching,

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Thinking about the Partnership Principles

I spent today at an advanced coaching workshop, and much of the conversation centered on the work of Jim Knight. If you haven't visited his website at Instructional Coach, then I highly recommend allotting a fair amount of time to exploring the resources at this website, as well as purchasing a book or two that he's written about instructional coaching.

I had many take-aways from the day--I am still processing, reflecting, and percolating, but I have to say right now, the six Principles of Partnership are getting the most thought in my post-workshop brain. In a jigsaw activity, I created a visual for equality, and I love the ideas behind the quote from Peter Bloch:

Sometimes, inherent in coaching is the concept that the coach has more power  than the coachee, and maybe the coach does have more knowledge and experience. But, what if the balance scale was even in terms of rights, responsibilities, opinions, ideas, and voice? Maybe in some coaching experiences the balance scale is even, but if it isn't, then are we all missing learning opportunities?

The other principles include voice, choice, reflection, dialogue, and praxis.  I will save my thoughts about these other five for a later post, but for now, I am grappling with some questions:

  • Do I see the people I work with as equals? I'd like to believe I do, in which case:
  • Do they see themselves as my equals, and do they feel valued and respected?
  • Do I communicate in my comments, actions, or behaviors anything to the contrary? 
In my work as an instructional coach and curriculum coordinator, I work with many people across many domains. People remember more about how we make them feel than exact words we say. I know that I will be striving to answer these questions honestly and reflectively yes, yes, and no.

Thank you to the leaders at #educoach for hosting the October blogging challenge.


Highlighting Scenes in Our Writing

On Tuesdays, the writing community at Two Writing Teachers hosts the Slice of Life. Everyone is welcome to join in by writing, commenting, or just reading slices from around the world!

Over the weekend, I participated in a writing retreat hosted by Brenda Power. Throughout the time, she gave us snippets of articles and ideas to push our thinking about writing--both other people's and our own. Once of the ideas she shared will change my information writing.

Highlight the scenes

We had all been writing posts and articles, not the genre of writing where we typically think about scenes. She gave us highlighters and we went to work with our own writing, highlighting the parts of our posts where we'd included scenes. Some of us had several lines of highlighted text, but others had very little highlighting on our papers. 

"You don't have to have highlighting," Brenda was quick to say. "Not all articles and posts have scenes."

But as we talked about scenes within other genres of writing, we realized that these snippets of story woven into information or opinion writing engage readers. 

"It's the scenes that pull the readers in," I said to my daughter as I explained the activity to her. She was working on an explanatory essay, and it was packed full of information. "Create some spots where you could have people on a stage, even if it's just for seconds."

That line made sense to her, and her writing gradually gained voice, a trait of writing that is so hard to define, so hard to teach, but so important in engaging readers.

It's October, so I'd guess many of us are in the middle of narrative units with students. As we shift into other genres of writing, I love the idea of continuing elements of our narrative writing and creating scenes within other genres. 

Happy Writing,