Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Revisiting Five Minutes

Thanks to Stacey, Dana, Tara, Betsy, Anna, and Beth, the amazing writers and thinkers who host the Slice of Life community every Tuesday. Everyone is welcome to join with posts or comments at twowritingteachers.wordpress.com!

Two months ago, coming home from the headiness of NCTE, I initiated Five Minute Writes at our dinner table, writing about it here. Basketball season and the other pressures of life with a seven-person household definitely get in the way of this becoming a daily practice. However, whenever we can, we write.

Last night, I reflected on the impact writing in short spurts has had on my family members:

  • My husband has learned the value of a slice of life. He doesn't always try to solve world problems and over-analyze a life mystery. He picks a moment from the day. Last night, he made us all laugh describing our youngest daughter slipping in the snow. (She was fine, so it's okay to laugh!)
  • My high school junior doesn't stare at the blank page as much. She still rolls her eyes and she still complains about needing to do her homework, but she gets started much more quickly. Even though she rarely shares her work, she leaves her notebook on the table with the pen still marking her spot. I think she knows (wants?) that I read her pieces, and she has a definite theme that has emerged.
  • My high school sophomore writes in all different voices for all different reasons. Songs, poems, arguments, lists, narratives...she has written them. 
  • My seventh-grader has used her 5 minute writes as launching pads for bigger pieces of work. I LOVE that!
  • My mom has begin to share some of her pieces. She used one piece to make sure that we would all try a new recipe, describing a futuristic event of people really liking her beef brisket. She also used one to express her hope that we can all leave our shoes in the mudroom. (We're working on this...)
  • And my dad? That's another story for another slice. Maybe a really thick slice...
At school, I have a sixth-grade student I have taken on and whenever I can, I have him come into my office in the mornings and just write. I don't try to teach him much. I just want him to discover that he has important ideas and thoughts to share with the world, so I just give him my iPad and five minutes. Within the first month, he began to write more. When I first started working with him, he would only write a sentence or two. Just before Christmas, he wrote his homeroom teacher a letter of thanks: 

Dear,Mrs._____ .Thank you for being a good teacher to me and having my back and helping me on my work,trying to challenge me on a lot of things so i can go to the next level.When i was in 5 grade we got along with each other and we used to make jokes. but when it was time to start 6th grade i wanted you because i knew you could help me on my work.

Not perfect, but I'm not letting perfect get in the way of good... On January 16th, just a few weeks later, he wrote about his dad, a person we never hear about:

Last Sunday my Father called my mom and said he wanted to talk to me. When my mom gave me the phone he said that he got new car.Also he said he has two jobs now to support me when i see him at his new house.My father got the 2015 cadillac,and a new pet.He got a lizard that has spikes on the side of his body all the way to his tail.I told my dad congrats on his car and pet i also said i love him and that i like how he is approving a lot of goals that he told me.So now im proud of my Father.
Okay, I got a little teary here. We have so much power when we write. I love sharing it with the people around me.

Happy slicing,


  1. Melanie, writing gives everyone a chance to let the voice take flight. I am amazed that you were able to have family write time. I do believe in the sacredness of the family table so talking about writing is powerful. Thank you for sharing that. I think tonight I will talk about that at dinner. My son is still trying to think about his winter whispering and unless I get the right photo with my husband, he will never come up with a writing piece on his own. He is too immersed in his newspapers and politics but I am hopeful. Writing is a connector.

  2. I love that you put your thoughts into action...with your family, it binds you up tight. With this little guy that you are letting use your i-pad and sit....wow...it is powerful and life changing that you care enough to hear what he is saying. xo

  3. I love how you are empowering those around you through writing, Melanie! I, too, had tears when I read your students most recent entry! And, your closing words, "we have so much power when we write", is a mantra :-) My son is only five, but I want to start our own Five Minute Writes. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. To be proud of his dad - there is a beautiful story here, Melanie, and now this boy can write it.

  5. I loved this glimpse into your world Melanie. What an amazing mom you are. What an amazing teacher.
    Quick writes definitely ease reluctant writers into the fray. Thanks for the reminder about them. I miss being directly involved with students...it is nice to have small opportunities when they do come. That was so very touching about the daughter that doesn't share, but invites you to read in her own quiet way.

  6. I love that you bring the power of writing to your family time at home. My kindergarten son is all into writing and we have random moments of writing- my dream! I think he'd live to participate in family writing time. Thanks for the idea.

  7. I'm a little teary... so much that I love in this post Melanie. The discoveries you have nudged the people in your life to make through simply writing five minutes are truly beautiful.

  8. Some kids would never think to be proud of their parents. They are always trying to make their parents proud of them. An interesting role reversal there with a much deeper story. Writing can lead us on so many paths. I am proud of you for getting your family to write together. I look forward to hearing more about your own father.

  9. I was just thinking about your family writing time. Glad to know you're making time for it in your busy schedule. Your student is so lucky to have you supporting him and "not letting perfect get in the way of good." Progress is often slow and hardly ever linear. Congratulations to you both!