Wednesday, April 1, 2020

2020 Post #18 -- I Am and I Am Not

by Linda Rief

COVID 19 has shut down many schools for the next few weeks, preventing so many of you from participating in those activities that make the school experience so important to you: athletics, drama, musicals, jazz band, orchestra, Mathcounts, Robotics, outdoor ed, community volunteer work, etc.

As you read the following excerpt think of the “Try This…” prompts in terms of what you are experiencing right now, at home or at school. You could start with the line “I am a… but…” or grab any one of the ideas and write as fast as you can, outrunning the censor in you that often stops the writing.

Read the poem out loud to yourself once. Then read the prompts underneath the excerpt, to see which one appeals to you the most. Then read the excerpt again, and write nonstop as quickly as you can for two to three minutes in response to any of the prompts. You are writing to find writing, trusting that the process will lead you to some surprises, some things you didn’t expect to write.

An Excerpt from Chapter 2 from The Running Dream (Van Draanen)

(from The Quickwrite Handbook, 2018, Heinemann)


That’s what I do.

That’s who I am.

Running is all I know, or want, or care about.

It was a race around the soccer field in third grade that swept me into a real love of running.

Breathing the sweet smell of spring grass.

Sailing over dots of blooming clover.

Beating all the boys.

After that, I couldn’t stop. I ran everywhere. Raced everyone. I loved the wind across my cheeks, through my hair.

Running aired out my soul.

It made me feel alive.

And now?

I’m stuck in this bed, knowing I’ll never run again.

Try This (as quickly and as specifically as you can for 2-3 minutes):

Write out anything this excerpt brings to mind for you.

Borrow any line and write as fast as you can, letting the line lead your thinking.

Think about something you are passionate about (something that “airs out your soul,” “makes you feel alive”) and write down everything that makes this activity so important to you.

Start with the line “I AM A ___________ ", and fill in the blank, describing all that you do, think, feel, experience while doing this activity.

Change the line to “I am not a ____________", expanding on all the reasons why you are not whatever it is.

Her last two lines say she will never run again. What has stopped you, or has halted you temporarily, from doing something you love doing?

After finishing this one quickwrite, go back to see if there is a line or a phrase you want to slow down and develop. Write more. Or simply take some time to extend what you said in only two to three minutes.

Further Reading:

Linda left the classroom (reluctantly) last June (2019) after 40 years of learning from eighth graders. She misses their energy, their curiosity, and their desire to read and write. She is an instructor in the University of New Hampshire's Summer Literacy Institute and a national and international presenter on issues of adolescent literacy. Her latest two books are The Quickwrite Handbook (2018) and Read Write Teach (2014), both published through Heinemann. Her Twitter handle is @LindaMRief.

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