Thursday, May 20, 2010

Writing is...

I was playing around with Wordle and thinking about what it means to write.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Here we are, at the end of Dan Pink’s six senses, or essential aptitudes, for success: design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning. As I have explored each, I’ve not only thought about how to include them in my own life – to strengthen my own skills – but how can we include these in the classroom?

Meaning: Meaning is the key to happiness. One should see one’s work as a calling. Drive/ambition is the pursuit of meaning (and the topic of Pink’s current book, I presume).

Some strategies to try in order to improve this aptitude in your life:

  • Keep a gratitude journal (p.235) – Oprah would approve! Writing a thank you letter would be a great Writers’ Notebook entry.
  • But out (p.238) – Look at the obstacles in your life and replace “but” with “and.” For example, “I’d like to travel, but and I don’t have time.”
  • Take a Sabbath (p.239) – Spend a day resting, relaxing, reflecting, praying.
  • Check your time (p.243) – Make a list of what’s important to you. Next, look at your calendar; does your list align with how you spend your time? This one is resonating with me as I recently read an article about “tolerations” (things we tolerate in life). What do we really want to do and what do we just tolerate?
A few months ago, I wrote about my passion for teaching others. I have always seen my work as a calling – something I was meant to do. I enjoy my work and my colleagues. I like working with students and helping them to see new things in their lives. My life has meaning because of this. What brings meaning to your life?

Monday, May 17, 2010


Next up in Pink’s six senses/aptitudes for success is play.

Play: Problem solving, self-expression, self-exploration and humor.

Now, anyone who knows me knows this is not my area of strength. My family jokes that I came out of the womb a mature thirty-year-old. So, games, humor and not taking myself seriously don’t come easily to me. Pink give a few suggestions for how to strengthen this aptitude.

  • Look at cartoons and try to create the caption (p.210). This would work well as a Writers’ Notebook entry.
  • Play video games (p. 212). I don’t think we’d have to tell most kids more than once to work on this one!
  • Think of writing prompts to promote self-expression and self-exploration. You could certainly bring in some poetry here too!
  • Play ‘A Day in the Life’: Have each participant write his or her name on a large piece of paper and then make two columns with the headings: My Frustrations, My Rewards. Next, post all of the sheets on the walls and ask everyone to walk around the room and write what they think the answers are for their co-workers. Then, each person reclaims his/her own sheet and everyone takes a turn responding to their classmates' guesses while explaining what their day is really like. This would also work well with characters from a novel.
That last one might have been from the empathy chapter, but felt like it could fit here too. My apologies to Mr. Pink if I put it in the wrong place.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Daniel Pink’s six senses, or essential aptitudes, for success: design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning.

Empathy: The ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s position and intuit what that person is feeling (p. 159).

I agree with Pink and I also recognize that this is hard to do with adolescents since they are so egocentric. However, I think it’s worth pointing out to teens and modeling it for them to build their self-awareness. Shortly after I finished Pink’s book, I ran across this article about what students should learn in school, but aren’t. The author listed Global Empathy as something kids should learn.

[Education technology consultant Alan] November said he was talking with a senior executive at a global investment bank recently, and he asked the executive: What is the most important skill for today’s students to learn so they are prepared to succeed in the new global economy?

“Empathy,” the executive replied—the ability to understand and respect different points of view.

Most of today’s companies do business with customers all over the world, and several also have branches in multiple countries. Chances are good that when students enter the workforce, they’ll be working with—or doing business with—someone from another nation, with its own culture and its own unique perspective, at some point in their career.

It’s not hard to find people who are smart, the executive said. What is hard to find are employees who have to ability to empathize with, and be sensitive to the needs of, people from other countries

The response this executive gives really stood out to me especially in light of the new Common Core Standards for college and career readiness. What are we doing to prepare our students for the global workforce?!

Monday, May 10, 2010


Next up on Daniel Pink’s six senses, or essential aptitudes for success, is symphony.

Symphony: Left-directed thinking analyzes; right-directed thinking synthesizes. This synthesis is  looking at all the components and using them to create a symphony.

A major component of symphony is the ability to see relationships between relationships. One must synthesize rather than analyze in order to imagine how pieces fit together. Sometimes this is called seeing the big picture.

Some suggestions for improving one’s symphony aptitude:
  • Listen to great symphonies (Mozart, Hayden).
  • Draw – consider taking a drawing class.
  • Use metaphors to explain relationships. Keep a log of metaphors you encounter.
  • Read magazines you’ve never read before and look for connections to your own life.
  • Create an inspiration board – would be a nice use of visual literacies.
Students can consider how to integrate the various pieces into a whole instead of breaking the whole into various pieces. Some of the above bulleted items would make great Writers’ Notebook entries.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


The second of Daniel Pink’s six senses, or essential aptitudes for success is story. As a former high school English teacher, and current Literacy Coach, this was a HUGE one for me.

Story: Anyone can argue a point, but in order to effectively persuade and communicate, you need to develop a compelling narrative.

Pink says story is integral to human experience. (p.101) It’s how our minds work – how we remember. If we are able to place facts in context and deliver with emotional impact, then we have a good story. (p.103)

Some things to try:

  • Visit, the largest oral history project of its kind, and listen to or post your own story. I could see this turning into a great memoir assignment for students.
  • Riff on opening lines from a novel (p.124) – Write compelling first lines on index cards and have students use them as story starters or a springboard for their own story. 
  • Photo finish (p.104) – Choose a picture as a story starter. Students can create the back story that may not appear in the picture. I’ve done this before by collecting interesting pictures from magazines. 
  • Incorporate 21st Literacies by creating a digital story. I have a colleague who is a master at this.

These of course fit nicely with Writers’ Workshop, but are great stretches of our creativity too.