Writing Extension: Exploring Appreciative Inquiry

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Spring brings longer days and more light into our lives.  It’s the time of year when flowers bloom and tree buds turn into luscious leaves before our eyes!  With everything outdoors transforming anew, it’s so hard to capture the attention of students experiencing spring-fever!  So, why not capitalize on the fresh change of seasons, using a writing activity that will inspire students to appreciate spring and ‘Carpe Diem’ at the same time! 

Carpe Diem is a Latin phrase coined by the Roman poet Horace to express the idea that one should make the most of each and every moment of life while one can. Latin scholars translate the phrase to mean “pluck the day (as it is ripe).”  In order to do that, a person must learn how to appreciate what’s going on around them.  Learning to appreciate can translate into a more positive approach to thinking that can last a lifetime if knowledge, skill, and practice are applied. That’s where the poetic principle of Appreciate Inquiry comes into play.  It simply means that what we spend time focusing on and studying shapes our interpretations, learnings, and inspirations!  (Do you focus on what you want or what you don’t want?  Whichever it is, you’ll likely find it.)

For this lesson, students will follow the poetic principle of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) as they carry out the following steps: 

  1. Define the Topic,

  2. Discover (explain the best of what is),

  3. Dream (imagine what could be),

  4. Design (develop what should be), and

  5. Destiny (compose what will be). 

The topic should be written on the board for everyone to see.  Students will get out a sheet of paper and write it at the top of the page.  Topic: A Spring Day in (City/State)…Carpe Diem! 

Since the topic has been predetermined, students will learn to appreciate spring a little more by engaging in the steps of Appreciative Inquiry.  The initial step requires students to Discover.  In this moment, they will be asked to find, emphasize, and bring attention to any factors that are included in a spring day in (city/state)…carpe diem!   They will focus on explaining the best of what is! Often times, it helps to think about positive experiences from the past, or if possible, you can have students venture outside to witness spring taking place in real time. Some additional questions include: 

  • Is there anything surprising going on around you? 

  • Does anything touch your heart or move your spirit? 

  • What seems to be going well for you in this moment? 

As students generate ideas, they will list their ideas on the sheet of paper.

Once students have discovered the attributes of a spring day in (city/state), the next step in the AI process is to Dream.  Ask students to use their imagination to enter a state of dreaming and begin to daydream about what could be or needs to be included in the best spring day in (city/state)…carpe diem…ever!  The sky’s the limit, and no dream is too big!  Some questions to help students dream include: 

  • What could make this spring day even better? 

  • What would you add? 

Students will make a list of dreams, leaving room for details that will be developed in the next step of AI.

The next step in AI is called Design.  During this step, students will write concrete, actionable steps that could turn their dreams listed in the previous step into reality.  They will literally explain the steps that would have to take place for their dream to come true.

Last, but not least, Destiny is the final step in AI.  During this step, the student must decide on how they will personally contribute to the dream (Step 3) and the proposed design (Step 4) of a spring day in (city/state)…carpe diem.  Students will write their destiny statements beneath each dream and design statement.  (Example:  I will…)

After students have completed the 5-steps of AI outlined above, they will use the information to write a 5-paragraph essay.  Students will prewrite, write, edit, revise, write a final draft, and publish: ‘A Spring Day in (City/State)…Carpe Diem!’

Resources: Use the following link for access to various prewriting maps to aid your students in their journey!

Is a picture really worth a thousand words?

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In a word…YES! If you are seeking a great writing prompt, look no further than a picture book, a local art gallery, or a collection of great works of art from one of those coffee table display books.

When I was a kid, we used to have a large reproduction of Paul Detlefsen’s work, called The Smithy and Horse. I used to stare at it, sort of daydreaming about how the objects could interact if they were real and not just a painting.

Here’s just a short sample of how I made the objects in the picture come alive:

The Smithy and Horse by Paul Detlefsen

The Smithy and Horse by Paul Detlefsen

I imagined that the dog raced fiercely toward the boy in the overalls and bit him! Because the boy was in so much pain, he flailed about, knocking over the wooden barrel he was leaning on. The barrel rolled over into the blacksmith’s shop and crashed into the wooden block that held the anvil. Well, you can imagine what happened when the anvil fell off and landed on the smithy’s foot!

 

I could go on and on—but what matters is that the words seem to flow easily when the imagination takes flight.

Anyway, it’s true—a picture can be worth a thousand words, especially if you can expose your students to some great picture books or fine works of art.

Now, you try…

  •  Select a picture book that portrays several objects;

  • Model some “thinking out loud” by talking with your students about interesting ways the objects in the picture could interact (chain-reaction stories work great with this!);

  • Jot down notes about how you connected all of the objects in the artwork;

  • Have students start with a very short picture book to think about independently, and when ready, let the students record their story in a listening center, on a cell phone, other recording device;

  • Publish the recorded story together. Have students listen to their recorded stories and then transpose it on paper. No doubt, there will be revisions so be sure that students  include them in the final published story.

 

Boost Your Mood With Gratitude

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Every year, Daylight Saving Time (DST) ends on the first Sunday in November, when clocks are moved back an hour at 2 a.m. local daylight time.  When this happens, It takes our minds and bodies several weeks to adjust to the time change.  On top of that, the early evening darkness can wreak havoc on our overall mood due to a reduction in the amount of sunlight we receive.

Research tells us that 4-6% of the American population will experience the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) due to the reduction of light.  Another 10 - 20% will experience a mild version of SAD.  Some of the symptoms of this disorder include:  sadness, anxiety, lost interest in usual activities, withdrawal from social activities, inability to concentrate, hopelessness, and despair.  The good news is that these symptoms tend to resolve by spring when sunlight increases.

There’s evidence to support a positive way to combat some of the issues caused by DST and the reduction in sunlight, and it involves writing!

Many mental health experts recommend journal writing as a way to improve our mood and manage symptoms for depression!  Of course, it’s not a cure, but there are plenty of benefits to writing down our thoughts and feelings to understand them more clearly.  Journal writing can help us become more self-aware so that we can: (a) manage anxiety, (b) reduce stress, and (c) prioritize problems, fears, and concerns. 

Studies suggest that when you write down a list of positive events (3-5) and why the events made you happy, a person’s overall optimism and happiness tends to increase while self-reported stress levels go down.  Each “Gratitude Journal” entry can also include a picture, which adds bonus points towards increased joy!

Here are a few writing prompts to get started with your own Gratitude Journal.  This idea is rewarding for everyone, so get your students involved too!

  • Write about a time you were grateful for something a loved one did for you.

  • What are three ways to thank someone without saying “thank you”?

  • What is something that makes you unique that you’re grateful for?

  • Look out the window.  What’s something you’re grateful for outside?

  • Think about the work that went into the clothes you wear or the house you live in.

  • If you had to give up all of your possessions but three, which three would you keep and why?

  • Write a thank you note to yourself.

  • Pick a random photo, and write about why you’re grateful for that memory.

  • Write about something you’re looking forward to.

  • Write about something in your life that you have now that you didn’t have a year ago.

  • Reflect on a time you made a mistake and what you learned. What are you grateful for about that learning experience?

  • Think back to the last time you laughed until you cried, and write about it.

  • List three things that made you smile this week.

  • Think about someone who helped shape the person you are today, and write about what they mean to you.

  • Think about a time you were able to help someone else.

  • List three people who helped you through a tough situation.

  • Name someone who did something nice for you unprompted.

Comment /Source

Jamie Geneva

Jamie Geneva is the Senior National Consultant at Shurley Instructional Materials and is a seasoned subject matter expert in the realm of English Language Arts.  Her career with the company began during the days of the Shurley Method binder, which was pre-1st Edition, and has spanned across three decades.  Over the years, her various roles have included teacher, presenter, state representative, consultant, manager, and most recently, a Shurley English Digital Assistant.  You might not recognize her face, but her voice could certainly sound familar.  That’s because she’s recorded Jingles, Q&A Flow Sentences, and other Shurley English content for many, many years. 

Jamie and her husband, Garret, live in the foothills of eastern Oklahoma. She loves spending quality time with her family, traveling, reading, cooking, and staying connected on social media.

Ms. Geneva received her B.S. degree in Elementary Education and her M.Ed in Public School Administration from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK.