© 2011-2016 Janiel Wagstaff, All Rights Reserved. Powered by Blogger.

Link to my SDE Webinars-Free to Watch At Your Convenience

Hello Friends!
      It's been a busy summer!  Just a week ago, I was in Orlando for ILA and in Vegas a few days before for SDE's National Conferences.  I always love presenting and attending conferences, but lately SDE has had me record some webinars and I just located the page where they are linked.  These are FREE to view at your convenience.  Here's a picture and the link is below.  I hope you'll take a look and give me some feedback here on the website. 

Links to Janiel Wagstaff's SDE FREE webinars

Click here to go!
Thanks to those of you who have continued to follow my posts! Thanks to the nice teachers who came up to me last week and let me know they are following.  That meant a lot.  It's hard for me to find time to write--I have so many ideas, but so little time (I'm sure many of you feel the same way.  A teacher's life is a busy one!)

New things are on the horizon, and I do plan to write.  Meanwhile, I hope you've all had a wonderful summer with some time to rest and play.  Renewing ourselves before a new school year starts is so important.
-Happy reading and writing!

Summer Writing Sure to Get Those Pens Moving: Spontaneous Poetry and Digital Journaling

Summer Writing Ideas Sure to Get Your Students Writing:  Spontaneous Poetry and Digital Journaling!

     I’m joining The Reading Crew for a month of insightful literacy posts during May.  This post will focus on a few of my favorite ideas for summer writing.  We all know about the ‘summer slide,’ wherein students’ proficiencies in reading go backwards because they don’t read enough over the break.  There are many resources available suggesting ways to boost reading over the summer, but thinking of how one might boost students’ writing is also worthwhile.  The more writing they do, the more their literacy skills and attitudes will be positively impacted, thus lessening  the effect of the summer slide.   

Spontaneous Poetry

     My last post was about the powerful effects of including poetry across the curriculum all year long.  I will be returning to this subject, as promised, with more specific instructional strategies.  However, today I’d like to share a particular strategy you can easily start now that can carry students into the summer with more impetus for poetry writing.  I call it “Spontaneous Poetry.”  Here’s how it works.  Something happens in the classroom, on the playground, in the lunchroom, in the gym, etc… a bee buzzes in the window, the bottom of the slide is invaded by ants, the lunch ladies serve a mystery dish, the whole class makes it to the top of the rope climb…whatever—good, bad, inspiring, depressing, frustrating, joyous.  I say, “This is a great time for some spontaneous poetry.” And, if the event occurred in the classroom, we drop everything and write!  Using the shared writing technique (I use chart paper, the document camera, or a word document projected on screen), I have students talk about what happened, what they thought of it, what words came to mind.  I listen in and record some of the key words I’m hearing as they talk together.  For example, once when a bee buzzed into a 5th grade classroom, I recorded this talk:

I hate bees!
Watch out!
It came at Larry
Hit the floor.
Open window
Nature’s surprise
Didn’t sting
Bee wimps

     I then asked students to “phrase around” some of these words…what can be added for detail?  What images do you want to create?  For example, what about “buzz?”  What happened when we heard the buzz?  What did it sound like?  What did you think about? Where did it come from?  Playing with the words and phrases can sometimes go very quickly, other times, we get stuck and come back to the poem another day, sometimes, we leave it unfinished for students to work on if they choose.  This 5th grade ‘bee’ cooperative effort took about ten minutes and ended up like this:
Bee Wimps
Buzzzzz, the sound froze us in our tracks!
In it flew, the treacherous bee
Prisoners in our own classroom.
The fly by—right over Larry’s desk
And he hit the floor.
All this from an open window
Trying to get cool air
Nature came in…
Not what we were expecting
But, out it flew
Stinging no one
Leaving behind
wide-eyed bee wimps.

     I think the students learned something about themselves that day!  More importantly they learned anything can inspire poetry and anytime can be a good time to stop, record some key words or phrases, play with them, and see what develops.  It’s a great deal of fun. 

The End of Poetry Month? Nah...Think "Poetry Year!"

Blog post featuring video:  Why we should include poetry writing in our classrooms all year.


     There are so many advantages to including poetry in our students’ lives and for augmenting the curriculum, I can’t imagine only thinking about it during poetry month.  I’ve seen how starting the year with poetry can free students to find their voices, explore new topics, and gain confidence in putting their pencils to paper. They like that poems can be very short yet powerful, as well as free of rules or formulas to follow.  One of my favorite aspects of poetry writing is when students surprise themselves by what they’ve written.  Experiencing this hooks writers.  More opportunity to write poetry means more opportunity for a wonderful writerly-life changing event like this to occur.  And, boy, do we celebrate those along with all the little lines and phrases that make up our poetry triumphs.

     A second grade student I had years ago was surprised by how her words coalesced after a brief poetry walk we took outside on the first day of really cold temperatures (see below).  She was delighted with the images she painted with her words and the students and I were equally so.  After this experience, she couldn’t stop experimenting with the genre the rest of the year.  I’m proud to say this has happened to many of my student-poets. 
Blog post featuring video:  Why we should include poetry writing in our classrooms all year.

 In the winter
I can see my breath
and if I blow hard enough
it goes beckoning over the hills
into the snow covered valleys.

     Now more than ever, given the major emphasis on academic writing in our schools, students need a place for poetry in their lives:  a place where they can freely experiment with words, thoughts, feelings.  If you’ve done enough poetry writing, you’ve undoubtedly witnessed how students can work through troubling or confusing times in their lives by mulling them through on paper.  Suzanne, a previous student of mine, had a sister who was very sick with cancer.  Naturally, taking care of her consumed all of the family members’ lives.  Sadly, the sister died during the school year.  Suzanne's mother came to me at the end of the year to tell me she felt Suzanne dealt with the trauma better than any of the other five children in the family.  She attributed this to all the writing she had done about her sister during the school year.  I’ve never forgotten this lesson.  Poetry is a reflective gift we can give students with benefits beyond what we might imagine. 

Blog post featuring video:  Why we should include poetry writing in our classrooms all year.

     Here is a link to a brief video which features my picture book ‘Stella:  Poet Extraordinaire.’  As you watch, note the many ways poetry is infused into students’ experiences all year long.  I’m planning to blog more about how poetry writing can be used to solidify learning across the curriculum, since I only mention this briefly in the video.  Stay tuned!

    Additionally, here is a link to a post I wrote awhile back about three ways to use poetry for three different purposes.  If you'd like a copy of the more detailed work I created, feel free to email me at janielwag@hotmail.com and I'll be happy to send it.

As always, #happywriting!

Announcing: The Official Stella Writes Trailer Featuring 'Stella Writes An Opinion'

If you follow my blog, you already know about Stella Writes.  What you don’t know is SDE and I have been working to create a Stella book trailer.  And, here it is!  It's delightful to see Stella in all her animated glory!  

Naturally, SDE and I hope the book trailer will serve to spread the word about Stella much further.  We want more teachers to get a sense of what these unique resources have to offer student writers-- how they can lift their motivation and help them develop competence and confidence for each text type via the engaging modality of a picture book.  We hope more teachers and students will fall in love with and want to work alongside our writer-extraordinaire:  Stella!

Please help me spread the word by sharing the link to the trailer with anyone you know who teaches young writers (K-4).  Thank you so much!

An Informative Writing Process YOU Can Teach

Video and blog post on an effective way to teach informative writing K-5
Hello!  I'm thrilled to share this next video with you.  In it, I describe the process I often use to write informative texts with K-5 students.  Though I use my book Stella and Class:  Information Experts to talk through this process, you don't need a copy of the book to benefit.

The four minute video briefly touches on:
  • how I stimulate questioning for informative writing
  • how to keep students focused on specific questions
  • how to chunk the task of investigating questions using sticky notes
  • how to use internet resources to clarify information and spark more thinking
  • how shared writing can be used to develop texts
  • how mentor texts can be used to push pass spots where students are stuck
  • how important it is to keep in mind that the shared work we do with students is aimed at moving them toward independence as writers
Back to Top