BOOM! Exploding a Moment


Pivotal moments make great fodder for writing. But what is a pivotal moment? How can we tell? How can we get our students to realize it’s pivotal? And what about little moments…can they be good fodder?

It was day 3 of my Reluctant Writers PD (for intermediate) and we explored the concept of exploding a moment and how to get students to re-write & revise. (I’ll get to that in a sec)

But what’s exploding a moment? My Grade 7/8s will be sad to hear it doesn’t actually involve dynamite. (Sorry, guys) It’s more about taking an important moment and stretching out those minutes & seconds that lead up to it. What were you (or the subject) thinking, feeling, tasting, hearing, smelling, seeing? It’s about exploring every little detail to build anticipation. Relishing and stretching it. Exploding a moment means to slow it down. It emphasizes, it crystallizes.

Life Graphs

To get our students to start thinking of which moments they might explode we were given a handout about making life graphs. The concept (and handout) comes from the book Read Write Teach by Linda Rief.  The idea behind the life graph is to have the students list about 10 of their best moments and then about 7 of their worst. They then chart out the moments. The y axis would show the scale of the moments: 10 being the absolute best, -10 being the absolute worst. The x axis would show the student’s life in years. (YES, there are MATH links in this too!! Woohoo! Cross-curricular activity!!) This exercise not only gets students talking, sharing and then writing about their lives but it also makes a great stepping stone for realizing which moments they could “explode”. Here is a pic from Read Write Teach with examples of Life Graphs. If you would like a PDF of the hand out click here: readwriteteachlife-graph.


I decided to google Exploding a moment and also found this link about Exploding a Moment by ReadWriteThink . It’s another take.

Giving Good Feedback

Next we discussed giving rich feedback and, more importantly, how to teach students how to give good feedback. As you all know, students and people in general have a hard time giving feedback to their peers. None of us want to offend our fellow students or colleagues. But what if students DID give good feedback. Wouldn’t that be an incredible opportunity for growth? It could also teach students to better analyse their own writing. Here is a breakdown of how to give feedback in a ladder analogy. Again, if you would like a PDF, click here: feedbackladder

In order to know what it feels like to give good feedback and to receive it we practiced on each other and on each others’ student work. It was great to hear what other teachers might suggest for feedback to my own students and it was fascinating to try to give feedback to my colleagues.  We used this template to give feedback: feedback-protocal .

What I really loved about this template is that it made me focus my feedback not only on what was missing but also what I liked. Annette also encouraged us to quote our students when giving feedback, “I loved when you said…” or “when you said this I wondered…”. After we had given the specific positive feedback then we were encouraged to highlight one line to improve. Coming from an Immersion background I found this hard because there is often SO MUCH for the students to correct but I think my feedback will be more powerful and less overwhelming if I follow this approach. Fingers crossed.

Less is More

Finally we looked at slowing down the production of writing. Is it really necessary to make our students produce as much as we are? What if we focused on quality instead of quantity?  I am a big offender in giving out WAY too many writing prompts and not enough time to look over the writing. This was a good reminder. Here are two handouts we were given that helped show how to break up the writing and stretch out the writing experience. This is one page: writing-cyle This one is more of a break down of a balanced literacy block. gradual-release-read-write


Instead of asking them to spend so much time writing different pieces we explored what it would look like if  we had students re-work the same piece many times over. Would that work? Would they mutiny and burn their notebooks? I’m terrified of door B but I’ll never know until I try. At least I feel like I have a few tricks up my sleeve now.

So much to think about …and write about.




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