Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wednesday Writing Workout(S): THINKING WITH INK!

Welcome to the second Wednesday Writing Workout created by
Sheboygan, Wisconsin author, educational consultant and veteran elementary and middle school classroom teacher Michael Leannah. It’s one of four from his recently-released book WE THINK WITH INK (Brightside Publications, 2016) that make our TeachingAuthors month of May even merrier.

As I shared in my introduction to the first WWW posted May 3, Michael writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. Tilbury House releases his picture book MOST PEOPLE in August.  Two other picture books are soon to follow: GOODNIGHT WHISPERS (Familius) and FARMER HUCKINSHUCK’S WILD RIDE (Splashing Cow Books.)  His stories have appeared in U.S. and Australian magazines.

WE THINK WITH INK is a trove of lessons, projects and activities designed to increase reading and writing skills in the classroom…and beyond.  It’s an ideas book for elementary and middle school teachers seeking to merge writing instruction into science, social studies and math classes.  It’s a guide for teachers looking to help students increase self-confidence and self-esteem.  It’s also a book for students working independently on creative writing skills as well as a manual for learners young and old – i.e. me and you, our TeachingAuthors readers - who aspire to be good – even published – writers.

“The WE THINK WITH INK approach relies heavily on the sharing and
critiquing of stories,” Michael shared.  “Our goal is publication, which means that people other than those in the classroom or group will read what we write.  Booklets are put together and made available on the shelves of the school library.  Story collections are sent home for families to read.  Our writing is distributed to local coffee shops and doctors’ waiting rooms.  Our booklets/anthologies are given as gifts to friends and family.  And yes, we write with the goal of someday sending our very best work to magazine and book publishers.”

Check out today’s WWW and try your hand, then be sure to return the next two Wednesdays in May to do the same.

Thank you, Michael, for sharing your smarts, your passion for writing and WE THINK WITH INK writing workouts with our TeachingAuthors readers!  Oh, and for making yourself available at, should our readers wish to share their appreciation.

Enjoy thinking with ink!

Esther Hershenhorn

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It is good to have at least a bit of structure in the classroom, as well as in the workings of a writers’ critique group. The Daily Practices outlined below will help to “get the juices flowing” when beginning a new assignment and to keep the focus where it belongs throughout the writing session.

For much of the work described below, I encourage the use of a chalkboard or white board. It is good for all involved to hear and see the words and sentences being presented.

The Daily Question
As students enter the room, they look to see the Daily Question on the board. They take their seats and write their answers, with sharing and discussion to follow. This whole activity takes as little as five or ten minutes, but it gets the class thinking, reasoning, writing, articulating, and listening. A lot of bang for the buck.

Here are some samples of Daily Questions:

What are you looking forward to doing later today?
What is making you nervous about next week?
What happened the last time you felt proud of someone in your family?
What would your grandmother say if she could see your bedroom right now?
What makes your best friend so good?
What farm animal is like a member of your family?
Name three good things about Mondays.
Tell about something unpleasant that happened last week.
Would you rather be a wolf, a bear, or a skunk? Why?
Write the dialog between someone you know who is very old and someone you know who is very young.
Name one thing you would change about a relative or friend so that life would be better for him/her.

The answers to most of these questions will vary from day to day, so don’t be afraid to reuse the questions from time to time. Add questions of your own to the list, but do avoid questions that can be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No.” Set the expectation for students to include explanations with their answers.

It’s good to remember that some of the best writing assignments begin with discussion, so consider using the Daily Question as a launching pad for a major writing assignment. I often used the Daily Question to address difficult situations going on in the lives of my students, such as bullying or family troubles. Start with a pertinent question, allow for a discussion, then get the class writing.

Words of Wisdom (W.O.W.)

Compile a list of meaningful quotations from the famous (or not-so-famous) to be used in place of the Daily Question occasionally. (I used W.O.W. every Friday.)

Students write the quotation and a reaction to it. Do they understand what the writer is trying to say? Do they agree with the message behind the quotation? Can they think of a time in their experience when the message applied to them?

Using W.O.W. as a writing activity has many benefits. Wisdom is imparted, of course. Attitudes might start to change, and students become acquainted with some of the great thinkers in history.

Sooner or later, they begin to recognize “words of wisdom” in the books they are reading and in the movies they see. The contributions eventually start to trickle in. Someone appears with words on a scrap of paper. “My favorite singer said this after her concert the other day. Do you want to use it as a W.O.W.?”

It’s just a matter of time until students start producing original pieces of wisdom written well enough to be presented to the class when it’s time for W.O.W. That is a time of great celebration.

Here are a few W.O.W.s to get you started:

The man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.
— Henry David Thoreau

It is only when you see people looking ridiculous that
you realize just how much you love them.
– Agatha Christie

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.
– Dr. Seuss

My mother had a great deal of trouble with me,
but I think she enjoyed it.
— Mark Twain

Children need love, especially when they don’t deserve it.
— Harold Hulbert

You have everything you need by the time you're 12 years
old to do interesting writing for most of the rest of your life.
– Bruce Springsteen

Often, a W.O.W. can be used as a lead-in to a writing assignment. (“Write about a time when your mother or father may have been angry
with you, but later seemed to see things differently and appreciated what you did.”)


michelle kogan said...

Hi Esther, wonderful post! I'll have to take a look at "We Think With Ink. I especially liked Michael Leannah's prompt for writing with Words of Wisdom quotes, thanks.

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Inspiring quotes--thank you for the intriguing suggestions!