Connected Writing Teachers 2019

This summer, Lit Coach Connection facilitated our second summer of Connected Writing Teachers. Once again we connected with teachers from around the country to read a professional text on writing, try out writing moves and share them virtually. This year, we used Spark! Quick Writes to Kindle Hearts and Minds in Elementary Classrooms, by Paula Bourque and connected via a private Facebook Group. 

Our Favorite Sparks!

In case you are not familiar with Paula’s work, a spark is a short burst of writing in response to a stimulus. Below are some of the stimuli that sparked our writing and resonated the most with us. 

  • Infographics and editorial cartoons: We selected from those in Paula Bourque’s Padlets which she provides in her book. 
  • Photographs:  In some cases we used those Paula provided in her Padlet but as Paula encouraged us, we also took photos of our own. As a side note, we love Paula’s point that sharing a collection of our photos with students allows them to get to know us better.
  • Poetry: We used many by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater from her amazing site The Poem Farm
  • “Opening Lines”: We used the first lines of books to spark our writing.  We noted that not only do these powerful words inspire writing, they also highlight the power of word choice in drawing the reader into a text. These lines serve as wonderful mentors for our writing and are a great way to share books with students! Here are a few lines we added: 
    • I shouldn’t have come to this party. (The Hate You Give – Angie Thomas)
    • There were big days and there were small days and there were bad days and there were good days and I suppose I could pick any one of ’em for my “once upon a time.” (The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise – Dan Gemeinhart)
    • I am learning to speak. To give myself a way out. A way in. (Piecing Me Together – Renee Watson)

Summer Highlights: Our Interview with Paula!

Shelley and I had the honor of interviewing Paula Bourque about her book this summer! With questions from our participants in hand, we enjoyed a conversation with Paula via Zoom. For our entire conversation, click here!

A few insights from our conversation include the following: 

  • A spark is a scaffold for putting student thinking on paper. It allows them to explore their thinking in writing.
  • Quick writes allow us to expand our idea of what writing and so that everyone has a place at the table. They create space for a variety of types of writing such as burst of words, bulleted lists, sketchnoting, sketches and thought bubbles.
  • Keep quick writes to 5 minutes! This is important because we want students to experience having to stop in the middle of a piece of writing so that they are motivated to reread it and pick up where they left off next time.  
  • Quick writes break down writer’s block!  Students become comfortable writing on a moment’s notice and have an easier time getting started the next time. 
  • How we respond to student writing is critical in whether they want to share. It is important to refrain from assigning value and rather notice and name what we see. 
  • Teachers should write and share their quick writes with students!
With Paula Bourque, author of Spark! Quick Writes to Kindle Hearts and Minds in Elementary Classrooms

Collaborative Quick Writes for end of summer reflections

We couldn’t think of a better way to conclude our time together than by using Paula’s idea of a collaborative quick write. We created a google document where participants added a line or two culminating in a shared document of our summer experience. To spark reflection, we provided the following words: 

  • Reflection on our summer: This writing experience leads me to discover…
  • After writing and participating in this community this summer, I learned…

Below are some of the big takeaways participants shared: 

  • The best way to incorporate quick writes is to try them out ourselves!
  • By trying different quick writes, we gained a sense of those that resonated the most for us although as we discussed, it is important to expose students to a variety of sparks because different ones may resonate with them. 
  • We noted that a single spark can elicit many different responses! Just like when reading a text, our unique life experiences impact what and how we write from a spark. This is an important point to honor and celebrate with our students. 

“ I don’t believe we can take any professional development course on writing that matches the growth and understanding we get from developing a writing habit.” Paula Bourque 

These words beautifully capture our summer writing experience. We developed a habit of writing quick writes and experienced their power in fostering our development as writers. 



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