write SMALL


I was texting a wonderful reading staff developer friend how glad I was to be attending her workshop coming up in April. She sent me the clip below, of her grandson,

My chance to use the clip in a writing lesson came up today in a Saturday workshop at SJAWP for students and teachers of grades 3-5.  We were writing creative nonfiction about things we would fix.  I was demonstrating how, even in nonfiction texts, especially in creative nonfiction, writers choose places to slow down and write SMALL.  They unpack info and statements and significant parts with sensory detail, and write actions bit by bit.

The young writers came back after snack break and the clip was on screen.
“Play it again!” they said, and I did, and prompted them to gather in the meeting area, and showed it again.  Now let’s do this in our writing…

“Play it again!” some chanted.

To connect with their writing: I asked them to choose a line or a part of the morning discovery draft to write SMALL, in slo mo on a new page.  I had written an anchor chart. To demonstrate,  I told a summary then read a sample of “small writing” from Patricia McLaughlin (because the highchair scene with baby is so accessible) and the same for a passage from Nicola Yoon (because I’m reading her now and love her voice).  Finally, I mentioned my blog post (from yesterday) as another example (turning 19 words into 1,000).

The writers went off to take their topic/project and rewrite a scene to report it, to report the sensory details, to report the feeling, and to transcribe the mind movie in their head into words.

They settled into that writing deeply.  Teachers were trying it.  I know that the instruction about show don’t tell for narratives is not new, but I loved the way my friend’s movie clip engaged my visiting writers at workshop this morning.  And it worked for getting voice into nonfiction.

Yes, I spent my morning teaching two workshops and debriefing with teachers.  Now, on to more weekendish things.


3 responses to “write SMALL”

  1. WHAT A GREAT IDEA! I love this, thanks for sharing!


  2. Using a slo-motion video to help writers see how to write small is brilliant! Your friend’s grandson’s exuberance is contagious. Now I want to go splash in a puddle!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a fantastic video illustrating the slowing down of the moment. The descriptive words ran through my head as the slo-mo went along. Inspiring for teaching and inspiring for student writers.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

A WordPress.com Website.