Monday, October 14, 2013

Slice of Life: Connecting Through Stories 10/15

Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers
host the Slice of Life every Tuesday.

Last week in writing class, I modeled writing about an important moment in my life.  I knew it was important to come up with a moment that might resonate with my students so that they would be able to pick a good moment to write about.  We discussed how a snapshot moment in writing shows instead of telling and I shared a few examples of snapshots.  Then, I started sharing about the moment I had chosen to write about.

I chose to tell my students about the moment that my dog got hit by a car when I was in middle school. I told them that I chose this moment because it was so important to me.  It was the really hard lesson I had in which I realized that it was a good idea to listen to my dad.  I watched as my students nodded along as I told them this.

Then I proceeded to tell them the story.  I was out picking up rotten apples from the ground under the apple tree and chose not to put my dog on his chain.  I thought my dog would stay there with us and he didn't.  We realized my dog was not there and then proceeded to call him.  We were on the other side of the house when we heard the screech of brakes.  When we got there, the dog was still alive but barely. We rushed him to the emergency vet, but he had too much internal bleeding for them to do anything. This was absolutely devastating to me at this age, especially because I didn't follow my dad's directions and I felt terribly guilty about the whole thing.

As I told the story, I filled out the graphic organizer the students would be using.  I talked about sensory details and how I was feeling.  I gave them a piece of my history.

Then, when it was time for them to start writing and I was circulating the room, I was bombarded with questions. What kind of dog was it? Did you get another dog? I also heard the stories from my students. It was overwhelming to hear about the way this story connected with my students.  So many of them have experienced something similar with a beloved pet.

After reading their snapshots this weekend, I realized again how important it is to model in a real way for students.  I chose a real moment that was important to me.  We all connected through this experience and then my students found moments that mattered to them.  And the best part is that I found a way to connect in a deeper way to my students and now I will know them in a deeper way through reading their writing.

So much of what we do in the classroom relies on the relationships that we build.  My writing lesson last week reminded me that the best way to build a relationship is through sharing things that matter to us.  By choosing a moment I thought would resonate with my middle school students, I inadvertently chose a moment that we all could share.

I hope to find more of these moments throughout this year in our writing workshop.


  1. This sentence in your post resonated with me: "so much of what we do in the classroom relies on the relationships that we build". This is so true. How can we get teachers, especially young teachers, to understand this? Nothing great can happen unless you've connected with your students in some way. This is such a simple yet powerful idea. Good for you for taking a risk and sharing a difficult moment. I also think it'd important to emphasize that these "snapshot" moments need to be descriptive - showing not telling. They need to be written as if you were there so that your readers can feel what you felt.

    Thanks for posting!

  2. Some teachers I work with do not use their own writing because they think the students will "copy" and won't think of their own ideas. You have just proven again why sharing our writing and our stories are important.

  3. Being a real person & showing that you have past experiences, as an adult and as a child offers "you" to your students, they become interested in "you" as a person, not just someone who tells them what to do in school. This is such a terrific lesson for teachers, to be "real". I love what Elisa above quoted, & this: "I realized again how important it is to model in a real way for students. I chose a real moment that was important to me." This will spread ripples throughout, won't it?

  4. Glad you are sharing your writing journey with your students, showing them writing is real.