Great Bear Writing Project

A Site of the National Writing Project

Category: Blog

US Census Bureau Offers Teaching Materials

U.S. Census Bureau Offers FREE Teaching Materials with Statistics

Baby with line graph and globe

Photo from

I majored in English because the only math I had to take was college algebra. That is a true story.  If I could have managed a B in calculus, I would have majored in Computer Information Systems. That said, being able to read, interpret, and present statistics is an important part of being able to read and write technical documents. As a professional writer (aka, technical writer), I have to be able to do those things.

When teaching our students to read, interpret, and communicate statistics, a good place to start might be the U.S. Census Bureau. They collect all kinds of interesting data that might appeal to our students. Nothing is as interesting as other people, to tell the truth. AND the Census Bureau has put together all kinds of materials to help us out in our teaching. Check out the email I received today:  Continue reading

Printz Awards

While the Printz Awards are technically for teens, these are worth a look for grownups looking for something to read.

Through the haze of muscle relaxers . . .

Log for June 18

The warm-up given to us by Laura was, um, it’s a process. I start my daily process with a muscle relaxer because my back is in spasm. Yes, this is a great idea.

Housekeeping (that reminds me, I need to clean my something ): I volunteer to keep the log for today, because that sounds like a great idea. I’m also going to do the warm-up tomorrow.

I SHALL VOLUNTEER FOR EVERYTHING! Except Sam is doing tomorrow’s log, and Jade is doing the warm-up for Monday, and Jordan is doing the log for Monday . . . slow down, folks.

I’m losing track

We’re bringing pics of young us tomorrow. We’re doing teaching demonstrations next week.

And we’re doing the writing marathon in Little Rock on Saturday. WE ARE?!? Must write that down

In author’s chair Janie shared about the writing process I shared about doubts about being a writer Laura negotiated relationships with adult children April met some new people Jade grew up Jordan shucked corn the unicorn jumped the rainbow was that real?

Janie then taught us about mystery writing. Mystery mystery does that word sound funny to anyone else? The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. BURDICK? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

Anyway April and I chose the 7 chairs, Jade looked under the rug, Olivia chose Captain Troy

Why is my mouth so dry?

We read and discussed the New Orleans Writing Marathon and went on a trip. Wait—we didn’t go on a trip there? But I think it’s a great idea! MARGARITAS FOR EVERYONE!!

Monday we’re going to discuss Bird by Bird by Bird and mess around on the eAnthology . . . me Anthology . . . WHEEANTHOLOGY!!! And don’t forget to sign up for teaching demonstrations next week via Google docs.

I think writing group is today. Or inquiry group. Or muscle relaxer dependent support group . . .


Log for June 22, 2015 by Jordan

We began the day by responding to a prompt given to us by Jade: “Ouch. That hurt.” Heather shared some frustration she’s had lately, Sam took the literal route and told us about an injury he sustained when he was young, and April wrote a fairy tale! Jordan complained as usual about pregnancy and childbirth and Laura talked about reading as a child. We then listened to Heather rant about squirrel soap and the psychic before Briget shared. We then spent about an hour working on the e-anthology, submitting works of our own and reading and responding to others’. We took care of some housekeeping and outlined our responsibilities for the last few days. Everything is now listed on the doc sent out by Laura last week. We then discussed Bird by Bird, with prompting questions from Laura such as “What does bird by bird mean?” “How does being a parent affect her writing?” We all agreed we need to take writing a little bit at a time and focus on getting started and keeping our focus narrow. Discipline seems to be at the heart of writing. We discussed the importance of plot and character and how we can let go and let the characters take the reins. We were given a website to explore for Tuesday and coordinated with our inquiry group partners before being dismissed for the day.

Friday, June 19

We started off our happy Friday morning with the warm-up of Because I said so. This was a fun one because we all got pretty sassy with it. Lori Bell got us warmed up with holistic thinking and thinking of writing as a system or circuit. She emphasized the importance of thinking of things as a whole, because if you removed one part of a sentence or circuit, neither of them would work. She told us about her sock puppet project, in which each student creates a sock puppet in their own likeness. These students will then write about themselves, trying to view themselves from a new angle. We tried to imagine what we would look like as puppets, after which I discovered April had Facebook creeped and found my afro pictures. Yikes. This proved to be a fun introspective activity for middle school age students. 6th graders are like kindergartners in bigger bodies, Lori told us.

Stephanie Vanderslice then stepped on and got us started on a new introspective activity. This is the reason wed been told to bring a picture all week. Drumroll, please: the moment was finally here. She had a couple of really good quotable moments: what you know is also what you think about what you know, and when you stop to think about it, its about what you think about what you feel. We were told to look at our pictures of our younger selves, aged 8-12. We were asked to list 10 things that I knew by the time I was the age in the picture. The class took about 7 or 8 minutes thinking about little life lessons and moments, and when we were done, we were asked to free write about our favorite of the 10 bullet points. We finished up by talking about our exciting upcoming trip to Little Rock the following day! Thus concluded the 8th day in the second week of our Great Bear Writing Project.

Today on the Great Bear Writing Channel:

Wednesday, June 17, 2015 By April

Jade takes us on a journey thru a magical wood, reminiscing of times gone by (Monday).

Next, on another exciting episode of “When Everything goes Wrong”: Will April decide to teach again?

Jade gets hangry while Heather gets whiny. Sam deals with his anxiety as Jordan takes us on a bloody walk thru the garden. Will things ever get right again? Tune in to find out.

After WEGW, stay tuned for Playtime with Laura. Host Laura Bowles shares with the audience some of her favorite things. She shows you how to fill your tool box with the latest trends in STEM education.

She also surprises the audience by giving away these amazing items! “You get an Arduino and You get an Arduino! Everybody gets an Arduino!”

On Tinkering with Ted, Ted gives viewers the inspiration needed to think outside with box with ideas such as 3D printers, Gastronomical Chemistry, Imaginary Artists, and much, much more!

In an homage to Lifetime, tune in for Drawbridge of Danger, in which a Baroness must come to grips with her decision to cheat on her controlling husband. Who will be held responsible for her death? Her Lover? The Madman? You decide when you watch “Drawbridge of Danger.” Hosted by the lovely Brigit Laskowski.

Friday’s Log

GBWP 6/15 Log- Jade Saylors

Today in GBWP we decided to take a little (mental) field trip. We found ourselves in a charming scene, which prompted the discussion of how charmed all of our lives are. Heather shared about a little town she happened upon, Heber, which proved to encompass the definition of charming perfectly from the quaint shops to the lovely, southerners who inhabited the town.

One subject shifted to another and as we were walking. Between taking drinks out of her chick-fil-a cup, Heather told us about the coolest female tattoo artist she has ever met. It left us all dreaming of which literary quote we could have tatted on. Jordan shared the introduction to an essay, the way it flowed together was poetic.

As we approached a serene forest, with woodland creatures scurrying about, Laura took care of a few housekeeping tasks on our to-do list. Jordan would send out tomorrow’s prompt, Jade would take today’s log, and April would take the next log. We spent the next few minutes reading over other Writing Project participants works, submitting our own to be read, and leaving constructive comments on people’s work. As we continued to walk through the forest, we came to a clearing.

We all sat down in the sunny space on logs and rocks that seemed to be placed there just for us and Bridget said she would share some wisdom on how to teach archetypes to students. We went over our own descriptions of what a hero is, finding a key theme in all of them. The hero was the good guy who overcame some kind of trial to do the right thing as deemed by societal norms.

As we were sitting, a great bear strolled up. How fitting, we thought since this is the Great Bear Writing Project. He looked at us, marvelling over his strength and stature, and asked us then, why we weren’t writing. Good point. So we pulled our our writing journals as Bridget led us through an adventure.

We were taken next to a lake, the crystal water was perfect to dip our toes in. We chuckled over listening to each other’s stories. Sam’s were getting increasingly fantastical as the journey continued. Heather’s ideas seemed practical, use what you have in your toolbox to defeat any problems. April’s seemed most realistic, I prefer to talk through an issue over a good meal myself.

As we adventured around the lake, we found a small opening in the ground, a cave. Everyone had different ways to describe this place. Some found it to be the darkest place they’ve ever seen, while others notices rays of light filtering in from the cave ceiling. I saw a waterfall but nobody else did. I’m not sure how they missed that.

After exhausting our cave descriptions, we moved on. Now we were at a wall, not a metaphorical one but a real one. We all agreed it was sturdy, though we couldn’t agree on building materials. Sam kept putting his ear against it saying it was playing music to him. Finally, our wise instructor Bridget pulled out her secret map to explain the “Jung writing journey” we had just taken. She explained to us the meanings behind each of the artifacts we described in our stories, the cup represented how you see a close relationship, the forest represented how we viewed life, the key is how we viewed education, the bear represented how we handled problems, the lake represented how we viewed marriage, the cave how we viewed death, and the wall how we viewed our spiritual self. It was quite fun to hear what everyone had to say about their interpretations of their stories. In the end we all ended up back at our computers. We learned we would not see everyone tomorrow due to circumstances beyond our control, but would reconvene on Wednesday.

Day One: A Shakespearean Sonnet

The meeting it did start a tad bit late
Computers are not always all men’s friends
But once we did get out the starter’s gate
The warm-up helped us morning palates cleanse
“It’s complicated” was our o’ening theme
The fair Ms. Bowles she led us on our way
Then thusly I did volunteer to glean
Much information to the log relay
Our fair instructor on the chair did sit
Whilst us the students shopped upon her work
Discussion of the groups our fires lit
Our roles in these we surely cannot shirk
With demonstration of Ms. Perl we learned
Through process much improvéd texts we earned

(In other words, we started a little late due to technology issues, but got off to a great start with our writing warm-up themed “It’s Complicated.” I volunteered to do the log for today, and Laura opened the floor to questions. We then workshopped her Philosophy of Teaching and moved on to a discussion about the writing and inquiry groups. After a break, Laura guided us through a demonstration of the Perl process. Yay us!)

by Heather Steadham

Captain’s Log

Stardate 20150611

Captain’s Log: Kept today by 1st Lieutenant Briget Laskowski

2nd Lieutenant Heather Steadham read the log from the previous stardate. She had written it in the form of
a Shakespearean sonnet to truly inspire us all to achieve new poetic heights.

In Author’s Chair Jade shared her tiring experiences in a yoga class, Aprile her memories of school days,
Laura on the trials of housework, Heather on artistic tattoos, Sam on his days as a student teacher, Jordan
on the hazards of leaving kids with Dad, and Briget on memories of best friends.

Captain Laura Bowles led the group on an exploration of the Planet Research. She pointed out the
hazards of dealing with the natives of this planet and explained how she goes about corralling the natives
and getting them interested in their home planet. The captain explained how she begins by having the
natives write about things they know how to do. She captured the workstations of all the crew and
showed them some ways the crew could use technology to capture the imaginations of the restless
natives. All this labor by the crew of this Starship helps the natives understand their difficult and
demanding planet.

Captain Tim Sisk from the visiting Starship, USS Bryant, explained how he used PEAP to suppress the
clamoring natives on the planet he had recently subdued. With vigor and humor Captain Sisk helped us
to understand the acronym, PEAP. He broke it down in simple terms using a poem by W.H. Auden and
gave us examples of typical natives’ responses and his answers.

The crew was then dismissed for lunch with much to think about when they land on strange new planets
and work with the natives they will find there.

Questions and Expectations, 2015 Edition

 What kinds of assignments are there?

Assignments is not really the right way to think about what we are doing. We are meeting together as professionals and we have some goals to accomplish. Our goals, for the time we are together, are:

  1. To develop a lesson based on best-practices and current standards that incorporate writing and present that to the class.
  2. To read about our discipline and research to solve a problem that we have encountered and to share what we found with our fellow teachers.
  3. To read professional books, discuss them as they apply to our practice, and share an evaluation and summary of those.
  4. To share our writing with others in the NWPs e-anthology and our portfolios at the end of the term.

How will each day work?

Each morning, participants will a receive an email with a link to join that days session via computer. (Of course, meeting at Thompson Hall is always an option.) Before 8:45, each participant should click on the link so that they are in the virtual meeting. We will begin with a warm up and continue on the days activities. Each day will also include Authors Chair, a time for each person to select a piece from the previous work to share. Choices for Authors Chair can include pieces from the previous days warm up or may be pieces from demonstrations, personal writing, or from Writing Groups. (Selections can also come from Inquiry Groups, for that matter.)

Writing Groups and Inquiry Groups meet during the rest of the day, but they are free to determine the means of meeting and the time. My suggestions for meeting together include share Google Docs or chat apps (like GroupMe) or even video chat (like Hangouts or Skype).

How will we be graded?
Participation. We understand that we are all at different places and we each have had different opportunities to learn to write. We are not going to put your work in a pile and rank it so the top person gets an A and everyone else goes down from there. A work means that you are there mentally and physically every day that you can be and that you do all the work to the best of your ability.

If you think of more questions, or something I’ve overlooked, please let me know in the comments, via Facebook message or email me!