Not bad for a fat girl

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Testing Time Again

It seems like I’m always writing about state testing. Maybe that’s because it always feels like state testing time.

Today the little munchkins are taking a writing test. They will read articles at, or above, their reading ability, then write some type of adult inspired essay on whatever topic they’re given. I feel for them.dpgcjz9_5cdv8cshq.jpg

This task is hard. Sitting in one place is hard. Being quiet is hard. Doing one activity for an extended period of time is hard, especially if it isn’t an activity you’ve chosen. And if it’s one where you don’t feel confident? Well, that’s just torture.

I’ve tried to prepare them for what they’re about to encounter. I’ve tried to give them lots of opportunities to write and learn various strategies and techniques. I’ve tried to build their capacity and confidence as writers. I’ve tried. But the thing you have to remember is this: they’re little kids. Give them a break. Give me a break.

If you really want to see kids write, let them write about worms and aliens and Pokemon and colonies of warrior hamsters. Let them write about the time they went to the beach or the way their aunt does their hair or their favorite video game. Let them describe their dream birthday party or bedroom. Let them examine an ordinary object up close and write about what they notice. Let them be playful and imaginative in their writing. Don’t make them write about the benefits of recycling or the contributions bees make.

Let them tell you about the time the power went off during a summer storm, or the time they went camping and forgot the bug spray. Let them write about their favorite stuffed animal or their favorite dessert. Or how about this? Let them write about the time they had to live in their car for a while or about how their uncle shot himself or how they found their mother dead in bed. Yes, all those things have happened to students in my care. You want to give them another state test? Fine. But let them be kids, please. They’ll grow up soon enough.

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Writing Marathon


Yesterday we took our kid writers on a writing marathon, and it was so cool! Well, not literally. It was actually very hot, so we started early, sought shade, and ducked inside to air conditioned spaces a few times. Still, it was a great experience, and the kids came up with some interesting writing.

Our group toured the college campus where we meet, finding interesting spots to write. We looked around, found a spot, and got to work. The locations were used as inspiration, but didn’t dictate the writing. Our campus is pretty much a desert oasis, with scrubby brush, cactus, rocks, Palo Verde and Mesquite trees, and desert flowers. There are also grassy areas, and plenty of small animals. We spied white winged doves, quail, bees, ants, flies, sparrows, moths, butterflies, a hummingbird, and a jackrabbit. They’re always there, but sometimes we forget to look for them.

We found a hidden courtyard outside the library, and in the library a very cool collection of anatomy models. Heads, hearts, lungs, eyeballs, and more were available for us to explore. In summer the library isn’t very busy, and the librarians were happy to see us (and provide a band-aid for a skinned knee).

I’ve had the extreme pleasure of participating in a “real” writing marathon in New Orleans; one that took me around that remarkable city over the course of a few days. I learned that people are generous to writers. They give us space and time and sometimes wine and coffee. They are curious about our process and product. Rarely do we see writers up close, even though to a greater or lesser extent we’re all writers.

Taking these young writers on their first (or in some cases second) marathon was a way for me to share my love of writing and my fascination with our world with these young people. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.


These writers are from a previous marathon.

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Free Write!

So right now we’re in the middle of writing camp (almost, it’s day four of ten) and it’s free writing time, which means time to writ about whatever we want. We have lots of pieces started, and we can go back and flesh them out, or revise them, or begin again. Or… we can ignore them all together and work on something completely different. Something new, perhaps. Maybe a blog post, even? Why yes! Even a blog post.



These kids are hard at work on stories, character sketches, setting descriptions, responses to poems, and stories, stories, stories! They are going to town with their ideas, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness. Two of the three sisters are collaborating on a piece, sister number three is writing near, but not with, her new friend. The teen who we’re not quite sure we’re reaching, is scribbling away, and she doesn’t have her earbuds in! The boys have each staked out their own territories and are hard at work, and the one with the tiny attention span… well, she’s changed spots and decided that she HAS to have her bag of junk with her, but she’s writing too, at least a little.

Writing is hard work, so sometimes we need permission to just play. We did that today too, by writing all over the sidewalk. The kids brainstormed messages before we did it, so they had a plan in mind before they got the chalk in their hands. Once we got to our chosen spot they swarmed. I wish I had a hidden camera to record people’s faces as they read the quotes and words of encouragement our kids wrote. One of my favorites:


Wow. I hadn’t heard that quote before, and I can’t find where it originated, but I sure do like it. Listen to these kids, they have a lot to say.