Friday, October 26, 2012

Ignore the "Yucky Voice"

Jane Kelley at USM - Click to view gallery

This past Wednesday, sixth graders had the amazing experience of meeting Jane Kelley, author of Nature Girl and The Girl Behind the Glass.  Before Mrs. Kelley presented to both the fifth and sixth graders in the theater, sixth grade composition students talked with her more intimately in the Middle School Commons.  She shared many of the details of her writing process and, in doing so, validated what is being taught in composition classes.  To begin, she discussed the importance of the Writer's Notebook and how she uses it to gather and write through her ideas.  Mrs. Kelley stated that often her best ideas do not come when she is writing, but rather when she is walking.  She takes daily walks for inspiration and to get her creative juices flowing.  On a personal level, Mrs. Kelley allowed us a peek into her private writing environment and schedule.  It's hard to imagine, but she writes upwards of eight hours a day at a table looking out of her Brooklyn apartment window.  Often, her cat, Blackberry, walks back and forth across her papers and her laptop. Most importantly, Mrs. Kelley emphasized that writing is rewriting.  She described how revision excites her because it's like solving a puzzle.  "My dad was an engineer and I think I got it from him, " she explained. "I like fixing things and problem-solving."  She went on to state that she is grateful for rewriting because she can relieve herself of the idea that a piece has to be perfect the first time out.  It was wonderful to hear a professional writer confirm what students have been learning in class.

Once both grades assembled in the theater, Mrs. Kelley read aloud from Nature Girl and described some of the inspiration behind the story.  Throughout the novel, Megan, the protagonist, battles the "yucky voice" in her head - the voice of self-doubt.  Mrs. Kelley explained that this is the voice talking in our heads giving us all the reasons we will never reach our goals and dreams.  She quoted Sylvia Plath, "The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."  Rather than being intimidated by the blank page, Mrs. Kelley said we should be excited by it.  "Everybody has to start any creative process the same way - a blank page," she explained. "It's exciting because you can fill it with your ideas and plans."

Without a doubt, Mrs. Kelley encouraged some aspiring authors on Wednesday and, if nothing else, she inspired many of us to ignore the "yucky voices" in our heads.  She made me feel like I have novel inside just waiting to be written!

If students have any additional questions for her, Mrs. Kelley would welcome an email at

Playing Password - Click to view photo gallery

In preparation for The Outsiders vocabulary quiz, students spent some time reviewing this week.  Robert Marzano indicates that one of the most effective ways to review is by playing games.  Luckily for us, this proved to be a great opportunity to play Password.  While one student sits with her back to the SmartBoard, her team tries to get her to guess the vocabulary term projected on the screen. The clincher was that only the guesser could use words, the rest of the team was relegated to acting.  Not only was the game fun, but it was challenging and it forced students to activate different schema in order to be successful.  Students took the quiz on Thursday and can expect their grades on Monday.  After the three-day weekend, we will begin next week by working on The Outsiders book projects.

1 comment:

  1. A very special thanks to Margy Stratton and Francine Eppelsheimer for organizing this wonderful event.