writer’s block


This week my students started the third bend of our personal narrative unit. The students were starting a second round of  writing personal narratives. I had 30 minutes left of my prep period and I was stuck. For the past few days, I was trying to think of an event to write about for a personal narrative that I could use to model with the students through this final bend. I was tempted to just use one of the pieces I had written before.

I felt like the student who often tells me they have nothing to write about. I even tried to use some of the strategies that I gave my students when we collected ideas. The bigger problem for me was that I wanted to write about a moment that was age appropriate and relatable for 5th graders.

The precious minutes of my prep were quickly disappearing and I made a choice. I reluctantly decided to choose the moment when our family got our dog, Minnie, about 5 years ago.  I just didn’t want it to just be another cheesy pet story.  As I created my story arc of the events that happened, I wanted to create an arc of the emotions that I went through as well. This was something that the author Sarah Weeks showed us how to do in my summer workshop at Teacher’s College Summer Writing Institute. I created my arc showing the emotions I went through and as I got to the end of my arc, I realized that I felt hopeful.

This moment wasn’t just about our family getting a dog for the first time ever. It happened right before I moved to Korea and my parents were staying in New York. All the kids were out of the house, and this time I would be farther away, than when I left for college. I would be a 13 hour plane ride away along with my brother who moved to Korea a few months earlier. My other brother was away in medical school. I was hopeful because I knew the dog would provide a distraction, but more importantly it would become part of the family. Five years later, I still haven’t moved back to New York, but it’s quite obvious that Minnie is one of us.

A few hours later, when it was time for writing workshop, I shared with my students my story arc of emotions and I unexpectedly felt my eyes getting a bit watery as I shared the deeper meaning of my family getting a dog. There’s something powerful about sharing stories that move your heart with your students.

minnieminnie bw

4 thoughts on “writer’s block

  1. pamela hodges says:

    Your story had so much meaning. They still have the dog and you are still in Korea. A story that touched the heart does bring tears.
    When I left home I didn’t know I was leaving. I just went on a adventure and never came back. I was 19, now I am 54. I miss my mom.

  2. elsie says:

    I know your lesson was great, but you have a second lesson there with the struggle you went through to write something meaningful and how you didn’t realize the true meaning until you were finished. That’s a lesson kids need to understand too. Sweet dog!

  3. AJF (@Anitaferreri) says:

    Oh my….there is SO much more to this story..that is ACHING to be shared….your sort-of sibling, the canine one, who is filling up the void in your parents’ lives….and your own adventure, story, along with the dog’s waiting to be told….so much in this post…wowo

  4. Stacey Shubitz says:

    I’m glad you shared this with your students and with us! What a sweetheart!

    BTW: Perhaps you should share your struggle to come up with a topic with them. Kids love to hear that we struggle with writing too. (Though it’s possible you already did this since I’m about a week behind in reading slices since I was sick last week.)

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