Tag Archives: writing

Book Review: Beloved & Just Write!

I finished two books this week.  The first one I would like to talk about is Beloved by Toni Morrison.

Book review from Amazon.com:

Book Description

Publication Date: July 24, 2007
Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement.
My thoughts:
Again, this is one of those books that I should have read years before and have not. I guess since it was not a required reading at my school or many colleges I had not picked it up, until this past week.  This book is one of those books that, for one you cannot put down and two, you often have to stop and think about the characters a little more deeply.  There were some parts that I read over a few times just so the information could sink in.  I rarely do this.  But this book has so much going on, so many issues that you often have to re-read a passage to grasp all that Morrison is trying to tell you as the reader.  I would definitely recommend this book to any and all readers.
Just Write: Here’s How! By Walter Dean Myers

Book Description from amazon.com

Publication Date: April 24, 2012

Practice, practice, practice. Now Walter Dean Myers, the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and New York Times bestselling and award-winning author, walks you through the writing process.


  • Examples from his writing and reading experiences
  • Walter’s six-box and four-box outlines for writing fiction and nonfiction
  • Excerpted pages from Walter’s own notebooks
  • An afterword by Ross Workman, Walter’s teen coauthor of kick
  • Writing tips from both Walter and Ross

Anyone can be a writer, with a little help from Walter Dean Myers!

My thoughts:

This is a great book for middle and high school students who have an interest in writing and even for those beyond school.  But it is written to the school age person.  Myers makes it a little more personal with stories from his own life and actual pages from his journals he used as he was writing one of his many different stories.  As a teacher I found some ideas in the book that I could use in the classroom for brainstorming.  I like how he breaks down his method and show you how simple it is to come up with a story outline.  This book could make those students who are leery about taking on writing a book more excited to do so.  This is a book that I plan on keeping in my classroom library, that way I can easily share with those who are interested in writing something longer than an essay!



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Idea for a classroom newspaper

A great way to take on a classroom newspaper. I think I might incorporate this if teaching at a middle school!  I really like the ideas that this teacher gave for this project!


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We were published!!

Thanks for helping put all of this together!  I really love the 6 word memoir and am extremely glad that you introduced it to me! I plan on using this activity again and again!


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A few weeks ago I wrote an article about doing 6 word memoirs in the classroom. Today we were featured in the editorial blog over at the 6 Word memoir site!  Classroom of the Week: Ridgeview High School

If you do not know what a 6 word memoir is  or how fun they are to write and read, go check out the SMITH magazine website now!  I love all the memoirs that they show and I want to order some books to keep in the classroom. I really think that I am going to get the desk calendar so I can read a new memoir every day!  My new goal is to write the best 6 word memoir so that I can get an awesome shirt made!  Head over to check out the article that we are featured in, I am pretty excited about it!

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Found Poems

I follow the NY Times on WordPress or Facebook or twitter…one of those and I came across a great idea for the classroom, their Found poem contest! The gist of the contest is that you take articles from the New York times, use only their words and phrases and make it into your own poem.

Found Poem Instructions

• Find a couple random paragraph from a newspaper, magazine,
book, etc. The selection should contain 100-200 words. You can
also try recipe instructions, legal notices, and horoscopes.
• Read through your selection.
• Highlight or underline words, lines, etc that seem promising to
• Use what you selected to write a poem.
• You may add your own words, but no more than 50% of final
poem may include new words.
• Your poem may be of any length, but it must focus on a single
idea and be meaningful to you.
• Your does not need to be about the original topic.
• Each line does not need to be a complete sentence;
experiment with ending lines in mid sentence and continuing
on next line.
• Pay attention to how the poem looks on the page, the length
of lines, how line are grouped, etc.
• Have a single idea in mind to help your poem come together.
• Try repeating lines or single words throughout poem.
• It is possible to create a poem without adding new words.

For the NY Times we followed the set contest instructions so the students were not allowed to use more than 2 o f their own words in the poem.

This was a fun activity that a majority of students enjoyed and it gave them a little more leeway in their poem writing, the less structure that is set out for  them the more fun they seem to have with it.

For our class we asked that they keep in mind what the article was saying instead of changing the meaning of what the author had in mind.

Here is a quick example that I wrote to show the students as they got started:

Help Us

Syria, Arab spring began.

Residents protested torture, government responded with force.

Assad sent tanks into cities, opened fire on demonstrators.

Killed, 8,500 Syrians, so far.

Destroyed, entire neighborhoods.

The dead pile up, diplomacy fails.

Hope and fear.

Hope days are numbered for the regime.

Fear, what will take its place.

If you do not help us, we will be killed.

Crisis in Syria, New York Times Upfront, April 2, 2012

Mrs. Schwander

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Six Word Memoirs

Getting ready for FCAT testing here in FL we have really been studying the structure of sentences this week. The students were asked to find five ‘”beautiful” sentences and bring them to class. We had a sentence gallery, each student wrote their sentence on the board and we discussed them, why they thought that sentence was beautiful, intriguing, why it caught their eye, and so on. Then they had to take a sentence off the board and paraphrase it. We required them to use all different words but keep the same meaning. For some it was easy and other, more in-depth sentences it was harder.

Today and yesterday we tasked the students with writing six word memoirs. I found this activity to be fun, creative, and sometimes mysterious! For some examples I found this website to be helpful in showing the students what is expected. This activity is quick and easy and generally fun. We even had them put their memoirs on half sheets of paper and decorate them with drawings or by cutting pictures out of magazines.

Here are a few examples that I made up for myself:

Never sitting, always on the go.

Many changes over many short years.

Nomadic sorta life, stress and strife.

Working hard to keep achieving goals.

You can find many examples online or you can actually buy many versions of the book, the newest one can be found here.

And a teen version here!

This is a fun activity for all, try writing one yourself!

Here is what the bulletin board looks like with some of the student examples!


This one I found amusing; from a ninth grader.


And I too am a pintrest addict!


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