Heavy Hearted but Inspired


It was another mind-blowing, head-spinning, awe-inspiring session from Annette Gilbert.  So many ideas, questions and reflections are swirling around in my head right now I’m having trouble concentrating…(or maybe that’s all the coffee and sugar I ingested…nah, it’s the workshop…ANYWAYS)

This PD has been over four days. That’s right. Four. Full. Days. I feel so lucky to have been a part of it and I know I’m not the only one. I’m sure many of us are a little heavy hearted as this ends.  Heavy hearted but inspired.

Our first day was all about Names. The story of our name, name stories in different texts, how to tease out a name story from the students. The next session was identity. Where we come from where we get our sense of self. Our third session was about getting a sense of our feelings and how to zoom in on them. Our final session has been all about having a sense of place.



As usual this wasn’t just a simple, “remember to discuss setting in student writing” kind of session..no, this was so much more. We started by looking at texts which contained some excellent examples of settings that become characters themselves in the novels. Then we reflected.

Why is setting important?

What does it tell us about the characters?

What does it do for the reader?

How can we help students enliven their writing by beefing up the descriptions of the places in their stories?

To tie into that we looked at personification. What better way to bring alive a setting than to personify it?  Again we looked at a couple of examples and then did a quick activity where we matched verbs and places and wrote a sentence in which those two words were used and the place was personified. It made for electrifying pieces of writing from the pairs of teachers, “Cookies mocked and arenas laughed.”


Once we had shared a few personifications we moved on to pwimming (yes, I just made that up. It’s not a real verb, yet) PWIM stands for Picture Word Induction Model. I was thrilled to find out that it was something I already did.  (Yay! Sometimes I do have good ideas all on my own!) The basic idea with PWIM is to use pictures to inspire writers or give them a focus.

What we did was fisrt look as a group at one picture (placed in the middle of chart paper) and add all the nouns, adjectives and then verbs that came to mind. Annette dutifully recorded the ideas on the chart paper. Normally, if you were doing this with a class you would then write a couple sentences describing the scene using the words given. You could then also encourage the students to create personification in the description. Since we were short on time Annette showed us what a previous class of hers had come up with. It was gratifying to see some of the words we had used come up in their description.

Next it was our turn. In pairs we chose a picture and followed the same steps. A gallery walk followed allowing us to look at each other’s creations. It was very cool.  (Well, you know, in a geeky teacher kinda way) 

Now, in a class you might want to slow the process down over a few classes. Have them brainstorm just nouns, then gallery walk. Just adjectives then gallery walk. Just verbs, then gallery walk. The idea being that students could gain inspiration and vocabulary from each other. I’m so excited to try this in my French Immersion class. Imagine all the vocabulary they could tease out?! Fantastique. 


We moved on to looking at how sketching can inspire reluctant writers. I think it was the quietest moment in all the four days. Everyone just sat sketching a special place. Everyone was very focussed. It was a great break and it helped many of us quiet our minds and relax. Some other reasons for getting students to sketch before (or during) writing are:

  • sketches can inform writing or enhance it
  • it helps focus one’s thoughts
  • It allows the students to better visualize the place which could then make it easier to describe
  • It can bring out the emotions associated with that event/time/place (as I sketched one of my favourite places I realized I wasn’t being accurate but that my drawing did, actually, mirror my feelings towards that place)
  • It’s great for visual learners
  • The sketch could spark more memories than words might

Reflect & Celebrate

We ended the session by reflecting on all that we had learned and hoped to still do and celebrated each other and our writing so far. We did a cool activity where we were given two sided papers with the writing prompts: I used to…   But now…  

It was insightful and inspiring to hear what my fellow teachers were taking away from the  sessions. There was a lot of learning happening.

I reflected that I was starting to use this blog to consolidate all my learning from the MANY PD sessions I have been going to this year. I’m going to try to keep doing that. I will also try to blog about my different lessons when I try new ideas (whether they work or fail brilliantly) I think I have been bitten by the writing bug and I hope to share some of my enthusiasm with my students. Please let it catch.

Fingers crossed for now.




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