Do you remember the PBS show titled Between the Lions? I think of it every time I use the idiom “read between the lines.” Recently, I was teaching my WOW Writers Live students the skill of inference. While explaining that inferring is the same as drawing a conclusion based on reasoning, I shared it’s what we mean when we say “reading between the lines.” Several students thought of the same show I had; off on a tangent we went. Eventually, we circled back around and practiced finding the hidden and implied meanings of the text we’d been studying. This mental exercise is a valuable use of time. Inference is a higher-level, complex skill. It’s a skill that will eventually equip our children with the ability to comprehend with greater clarity, improve reasoning skills, predict and evaluate with more confidence, and connect on deeper levels with others. Best of all, this valuable skill can be taught and practiced with relative ease.
Children as young as six years old can infer. When Derek was that age, I asked him why he thought one of our big trashcans was tipped over while the other two were standing upright.
The first thing he said was, “I don’t know.” Of course he didn’t know. Neither did I, but I knew this was a perfect teaching moment.
I suggested, “It was probably the wind.”
Scrunching his brow, he looked at me. “It’s not even windy today, Mom.”
“True. That’s a good point. Then why is it knocked over?”
Stating the obvious, he replied, “I don’t know. I wasn’t there."
“Hmm. Maybe a dog ran between the cans and knocked that one down."
“I don't think so. That would’ve been a really big dog, and nobody lets their dogs run wild like that.”
“Another good point, Derek. I'm out of ideas. Do you have any thoughts?”
“It was probably the trash truck driver. Sometimes they put them down and they're all wobbly. Maybe that one fell over."
“I bet you’re right. I’ve seen that happen too. Good job, detective!”
Just like that, Derek got a lesson in inference, and he didn’t even know it. From a young age, this is the simplest, easiest way to practice inference. Before children read complex text, we can work with them using day-to-day experiences.
Another effective tool incorporates pictures or images. Showing a child a photo we’ve seen in a newspaper or online, without any words, offers perfect practice. Looking at old family pictures is fun too. Take a glance at this image below. Ask yourself the five W’s and an H (who, what, when, where, why, and how). Then make an inference. As the teacher, you may need to model this several times before your child gets the hang of it.
I infer that a grandmother and her granddaughter are working in the kitchen to bake a special apple dessert for someone they love.
Remember that inference is a conclusion based on evidence and may or may not be factual, true, or correct. For that reason, some children struggle. Children do not like to be wrong; some have been teased or ridiculed for being wrong in the past. It is essential to keep that at the forefront of our minds. There is nothing the matter with being wrong. Failing is a part of life. Why not help our children manage failure rather than expect them to avoid it altogether? I say we embrace failure! It teaches us the best lessons.
My writing students are currently working on their argumentative essays about zoos. They’ve been asked to defend or renounce the value of these animal habitats. While researching, I offered a Newsela article titled, “How a “happy little otter” named Juno learned to dunk,” by Jacob Bogage of the Washington Post. It was an informative article about a zoo that had rescued a young sea otter. Her mother went missing, and she was orphaned. The little marine mammal now plays basketball in her new enclosure. Her trainer, Amy Hash, loves her and says she’s bright and delightful.
Imagine my delight when a student emailed me and wrote, “Mrs. Webb, I’m confused. I read this article three times! There is not one sentence that says that zoos are good or bad.” A-ha! The perfect teaching moment revealed itself. Before long, three other students emailed me similar frustrations. In our next class session, we practiced inference. By the time we concluded, the students and I inferred the following based on the article we read.
For students wanting to defend zoos, many rejoiced after this quick inference lesson. This information was what they needed. It just took a little practice to read between the lines. Clarity arrived, and confidence peaked. Opening up more in-depth conversations like these are great ways to connect with children. While it is true that inference is a higher-level, complex skill, children are quite capable of mastering it. All it takes is a little practice reading between the lions, um, I mean, lines.
Q: Why are writers always cold?
A: They're surrounded by drafts!
Writer's humor, I know, but if you are reading this, chances are you have an interest in writing on some level. Journaling is a great place to start. It's something I've done for decades and continue to do nearly every day.
When people hear that I journal as often and frequently as I do, they ask all kinds of interesting questions.
Well, if you're at all curious about journaling and the answers to these questions, stick around. I'm happy to share. If you don't journal already, hopefully, inspiration will stir.
My journaling has evolved over four decades. When I was young, I remember buying a diary with a sturdy gold lock. It was fabulous. Not only did it have a pretty pink cover and itty-bitty key, but it also protected my secrets! My diary and I were one.
Here's the funny thing. I didn't have secrets. As a child, I remember feeling disappointed with that realization. I figured my life wasn't that great because those exciting, confidential experiences did not exist. Likely, I wrote on three pages and then stopped - for years.
Through high school and college, I attempted to journal time and time again. There was a part of me that wanted to put my life, experiences, and thoughts down on paper. The idea was appealing. During these stages, a typical page would start with things like, "So. Today's Wednesday. I had every intention of going to zero period study hall, but sleeping for 30 minutes longer at 6:00 am sounded so much better. It's no wonder my chemistry grade is so low."
That type of journaling was dissatisfying. It felt like a chore and a tedious chore at that. It didn't last long. However, I loved buying new journals even if only the first ten pages were ever completed.
Once I began teaching, I started to question the why around writing in general. Shouldn't writing have an objective? What reason did I have for journaling? The thought that kept emerging was that I wanted to understand my place and purpose in this world. That meant I had to get the ideas out of my head and into a space where I could sift through them.
This was a lightbulb moment for me. All of my prior experiences with journaling were about recording a history that lacked intrigue and interest. A new idea sparked. What if I journaled about the present - and even the future?!
So, most mornings, I spent 20-30 minutes writing in my journal as if I were writing a letter to God. My pen would scribe, "Good morning, God," and gratitude filled my mind. This felt great! My intention was to connect with my Creator, and I followed this model for years.
Good morning, God,
What a gorgeous morning. Thank you for a new day. Thank you for the fresh coffee and quiet time! I'm looking forward to what you have in store for me.
Typically, weather permitting, I'd sit outside on our front porch. I would write down the day's devotion/scripture. With curiosity and honesty, I would think about how it pertained to my day, life, family, or friends. I would also fill the pages with my prayer requests, both personally and for others. The parts of life that I did not understand or thought were unfair spilled out and into my journal. It was a catchall. For me, it was excellent and inexpensive therapy.
A few years ago, Brooke Castillo entered the scene, and my journaling expanded. She created "the model" and started the business, The Life Coach School. She taught me that our thoughts create our feelings. Those same feelings drive our actions. Ultimately, our actions determine the results we have in our lives. So, since all thoughts are optional, why not pick the ones that bring the desired results we want? Simple. It's psychology 101 but taught in a way that continues to make perfect sense to my brain. Profound!
Last year, I was introduced to another brilliant mind, Dr. Caroline Leaf. She's a neuroscientist who takes metacognitive neuropsychology to a whole new level!
Now many mornings include daily thought downloads too. Using what I've learned from these two remarkable women, I think about my thinking every day. Journaling ensures I take notice of the activity going on in my head.
Neuroscientists thought humans had over 50,000 thoughts per day. The most recent studies say it's more like 6,000 thoughts per day for an average adult. That's still a lot of thinking. We should pay attention.
All in all, my journaling experience has taught me the majority of my thoughts are unintentionally stalling my progress, stunting my intellectual growth, and stifling my potential. If I don't pay attention and grab those thoughts and hold them captive, they will waltz around in my head all day - stalling, stunting, and stifling me.
It would be fantastic if my thoughts were all positive, encouraging, and helpful. The fact is they are a 50/50 mix, and that's normal. My journaling has taught me this first hand.
The human brain is remarkable. Looking at mine daily with a magnifying glass in hand helps me manage it much better. I can successfully change unintentional thoughts into intentional, productive, kind, and encouraging ones with work and practice. Journaling has, in fact, brightened my future.
Journaling keeps me grounded, focused, and feeling empowered. If those are things you'd like to enjoy in your life, I wholeheartedly encourage you to find a journal that fits your personality.
Today, many journals fill my shelves. And, no, they are not locked away or forbidden to touch. Someday, long after I'm gone, my children or grandchildren may want to read them. I hope they do. My journals will keep my thoughts and memories alive. What a wonderful purpose they serve.
Written by Melissa Webb
No one said parenting would be easy.
I'm sure of that.
No one told me how difficult parenting would be. Besides, let’s be honest, I probably wouldn't have listened.
There are some TOUGH TALKS parents have to have with children. It can be downright uncomfortable.
For example, how does one prepare to talk to her children about death, divorce, or job loss? Those topics are challenging in and of themselves.
And those seem like the "easy" topics compared to the news we see and hear every day.
Over the past three decades, my husband and I have spoken to our children on tough topics, but as a teacher, I've had many difficult and heartbreaking conversations as well.
These experiences qualify me to share the things that have worked with children of all ages in the hopes they may work for you too.
If nothing else, they are free thoughts that you are welcome to adopt.
These methods and approaches have worked for me over the years and will hopefully offer value on your parenting journey. It isn't easy, but it's much better together.
What are some of the ways you handle good, tough talks with your kids? Feel free to share in the comments below.
Looking for a new way to pass the time at home?
Running out of things to talk about?
Ready for some family FUN?
I've got ya.
Recently, I finished a great book on storytelling that shared a technique used to help writers come up with story ideas.
Now I've made a game out of it and am sharing it with YOU!
STEP 1 - Think up some topics like pet, party, song, gift, house, chore, trouble, accident, swimsuit, hug, kiss, and most embarrassing moment. Write each topic on separate index cards making a deck of topics. (The more the better!)
STEP 2 - Grab 4 more index cards and write first on one. Write last on the next card. Write best on the third one. Write worst on the last card.
Place the deck of topics upside down.
Place the First Last Best Worst cards face up and spread out.
Pick someone to go first. "Next birthday" gets to go first in our house and then we continue in a clockwise rotation.
The first player takes a topic card. Then, the same player picks up one of the First Last Best Worst cards and tells the story that matches these two words.
For example, Adam picks "pet" and "first." He then tells the group about his first pet. Players can talk as long as they like and tell as much (or little) as they choose. Other players may ask questions or request more entertaining details. Let the conversation flow. Have fun! This is a game of storytelling.
The goal of the game is connection, conversation, talking, listening and sharing.
When Adam is done he keeps both cards.
The next person picks a card from the deck of topics and one of those 3 remaining Last Best Worst cards.
For example, Greg picks "party." Now, he has three choices. He can tell us about the last party, best party, or worst party he attended. Let's say he tells us about the best party he ever experienced - probably our wedding reception!
When Greg is done he keeps both cards.
Can you see what is happening?
The topics keep changing and the story telling options are getting limited. The next person must tell a last or worst story on whatever topic is picked.
Once all of the First Last Best Worst cards are used, the players put them all back on the table and play continues.
The same is true of the topic cards. Replace and shuffle them up. Add more!
This game has no rules.
It can be tweaked and played in a number of ways.
Make it your own.
And, be sure to tell me how it goes.
See you on the socials!
So many of us have wished and prayed for more of it.
More time to get things done.
More time to rest and relax.
More time to spend with those we love.
More time to help others in need.
It would seem, in some ways, our wishes and prayers have been granted.
So what are you doing with this gift? Hopefully, you are getting things done, catching up on sleep, having some fun with your family, and sharing rolls of toilet paper.
I have been doing all of that.
As well, I have been self-reflecting.
Get ready to go DEEP if you dare!
It all started when I chose to become a self-employed entrepreneur.
This unchartered journey has changed me in many ways. Sure, I'm the same ol' gal I've always been, but I'm different too.
In 2019, for the first time, I realized I had some relationships to mend and others that required strengthening. Since then, I have been working diligently and spending time with my past and future self. (I warned you!)
Stay with me.
No one can look at your life - past or future - with more honest compassion than you can.
I knew that.
I just didn't always want to look too closely --- for fear, I suppose, that I might not like what I see.
There were things from my past that needed my ownership.
There were things about me that needed forgiveness.
But! There were also 'kudos' and 'attagirls' I never gave myself.
And, there are goals and ambitions my future self is expecting from me.
There is a level of health and wellness my future self desires.
The time I have taken to reflect on my life has gifted me with a stronger, happier, healthier relationship with both my past and future selves. These relationships continue to require my time and attention; it has been an incredible, worthwhile practice.
And, since you may have a little extra time on YOUR hands these days, well, I thought this honest and vulnerable peek into my personal journey might offer inspiration to someone. At least I hope it will.
If you're still reading, let's start working.
Writing things down is always my preference, but this is an activity you can do while driving or folding laundry too. No excuses. Just do it.
Step 1: Think about your life today. Have you accomplished any dreams of yours? Did you marry a great man? Do you have the family you hoped for? Have you become the stay-at-home mom you always wanted to be? Are you driving an awesome car? Did you get that dream job that took four years of college to achieve? Are you living in a lovely home or in a location you love?
Step 2: Think about how this dream, aspiration, or goal came to be. What had to happen for its achievement? When did it all begin? What was required of you?
Step 3: Have a quiet conversation - silently in your mind, out loud, or even in a whisper.
It is that simple. And, believe me, it is life changing.
The first time I did this was the month after I intentionally left a stable, fulfilling, consistently paying job back in early 2019 to become a self-employed entrepreneur.
A month in, and I was doing it.
Business was growing!
It was amazing.
I was overjoyed that my past self had been brave enough to take that step. In a quiet moment, I realized I was so grateful to her.
Wow, Melissa. You did it. You really did it. I'm so glad you did. I remember you were scared to leave the comfort of that comfortable career and a predictable paycheck. I know you questioned your abilities. And, yet, you didn't let that stop you. You relied on God's direction and embraced the love and support of everyone around you. And look at us now! We're doing it. Thank you.
This simple moment opened a floodgate.
I started to think about things that hadn't gone so well. Mistakes. Poor choices. Bad judgment. And, I just kept talking to her - my past self.
We have covered a lot of ground in 2019 and have gone on to dream - together - about all that is to come. (I know, I know. Someone is going to reference Sybil in a reply to this post, but I'm okay with that. We are okay with that!)
I know that in time my future self is going to thank me for this moment right now.
What will YOUR future self say to you?
Think about it ~ especially since we have the time.
By Melissa Webb | writeonwebb.com
Time is your most precious resource. It is the most valuable thing you have. It is perishable, it is irreplaceable, and it cannot be saved. ~ Brian Tracy
Have you heard or read the book Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy? It’s a book written for people wanting to make the most of fleeting time. A funny title, right? It is based on an old Mark Twain quote.
If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first.
Back in the late 1800s, Twain dealt with many of the same things we face today. There are things we love to do and things we don’t.
The goal is to get all things done - even eating the frogs!
Allow me to summarize some of the key takeaways.
There are three main points I’m implementing now to improve my time management skills. Best of all, they're working!
By Melissa Webb
Not everyone likes writing and that can be a problem when that person is your child.
The truth is, for some, the dislike for writing will never change. It may. It can. But, it may not.
There is no denying that writing is a part of life. Your child can't get away with never writing. Teachers will require it. Employers will expect it. Self-employment demands it, too.
So, how do we help our reluctant writers solve this persisting annoyance and undertake the inevitable?
Acceptance is part of the solution, but I don't mean that your child must accept that writing is a part of life. (They'll figure that out on their own.)
I'm talking about your acceptance level.
Your child may never love to write, read a novel, or complete complex math problems.
Are you okay with that? Not all are.
Some parents say things like, "Of course you like this!" Or, "You better start liking it! It's never going away." How about, "Too bad. I don't really care if you don't like this."
These kinds of statements may motivate our children to complete the work at hand but rarely does it change the heart.
Although I am focusing on the subject of writing, those sentences might be spoken by parents or teachers during many circumstances, right?!
I know because I've said those exact words to my own children - and some of my former students, too. (Someone once said, "When you point a finger at others, remember three are pointing back at you!") ☜ I am just as guilty as you are.
There has to be a better way.
Today I want to focus on the three most common writing obstructions, provide some practical interventions, and offer strategies to help our children with their negative thought patterns.
✍ 3 Most Common Writing Struggles Young Writers Face
Which of these three stumbling blocks best describes your unenthusiastic writer?
Oh no! All three?! Don't lose hope!
✍ Practical Tools & Interventions
1. Hand strengthening exercises really do work. With Google and Pinterest at our fingertips, the resources abound. My suggestion is to make it as fun as possible. Here are some ideas I've saved for students on PINTEREST.
2. Find a wonderful curriculum that works for your child. Creating fun writing lessons is my area of expertise! Sometimes having another person lead the lessons and offer feedback changes things up just enough for the struggle to cease.
HINT: I have a SUMMER WRITING COURSE!
3. Empathize with your child’s emotions. It’s true. Life is not a bowl of cherries. At some time, we are all stuck doing things we’d prefer not to do. Sometimes that means life gets hard or uncomfortable. Being aware of WHY that happens and how to change the thinking from negative to positive thoughts will help your child now AND in the future. And, a warm, reassuring hug can go a long way.
VIDEO: (10 Minutes)
✍ Emotional Strategies
Did you notice something about all three of the common writing obstacles children face?
They lead to negative thoughts and beliefs. No wonder students say they don't like writing!
1. Writing hurts!
2. I'm not smart enough to know what to write.
3. Writing is a waste of time.
Those are real thoughts leading to authentic and negative feelings and emotions. It makes sense.
Why not say, "Of course you don't like writing, honey. It hurts your hand. Let's try some fun strengthening exercises."
Or, "Of course you don't like writing, kiddo. I wouldn't either if I wasn't sure what to write. This new writing program is going to show us what to do step-by-step. Let's give it a try."
How about, "Of course you don't like writing. You don't realize how much your thoughts matter to the world. You have great ideas and imagination. What do you think is important for other people to know or understand?"
All of these accept our children's authentic feelings without changing them but still offer solutions and hope.
My friends, life is made up of good and bad, happy and sad. (Insert ?Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”) It’s so true though. Life is a mix of both positive and negative emotions. Why not embrace the contrast that naturally surrounds all of us?
There is no need to shelter our children from realizing some things worth doing will be difficult for a multitude of reasons. Let's not talk them out of their feelings. Let's not try to change their feelings. We can embrace them instead. Admit when something is not fun or exciting and simply be okay with that reality.
In time, we can empower our children by helping them learn ways to change their own thoughts and beliefs. THAT is the parenting challenge!
For now, go ahead and try everything you have up your sleeve to make learning fun. Don’t give up on that dream. Stay positive and optimistic. Our children need and desire to see that in us.
Just remember, teaching our children how to accept and manage their thoughts, and navigate well through life's ups and downs, will help them long after their essays are written.
Have you watched your child's attitude or thoughts do a turnaround in writing or any other subject? What happened? What has worked for you? Please feel free to comment below.
Thinking about a SPRING MAKEOVER for your child's learning space?
This week I was thinking back to those middle school days when I preferred math problems over writing assignments any day of the week.
Funny, right? I'm a writing teacher!
Math was simple. There were specific rules to follow and reliable formulas on which I could depend. All I had to do was take my time, follow the steps, and produce the answer.
On the other hand, writing was a complete mystery to me.
Why some of my school essays would return to me with an “A” and others a “C’ boggled my mind. After all, I followed the teacher’s vague instructions each time. Why did my grades keep on fluctuating?
By the end of eighth grade, I decided writing just wasn’t my thing.
Until, as a freshman in high school, that ONE teacher offered explicit instruction, high-standard expectations, and sincere encouragement.
People like her.
As I've considered all the teachers I've had, I can't help but think of my own mother. It was my mother who, regardless of any teacher I had at the time, was always willing to help. My mother believed in me and was a constant encourager.
Now, as a teacher, it is my ambition to teach with passion, expect the best, and encourage with love and patience.
Funny. It feels exactly like what I do as a mother.
We teach our children first to crawl and then to walk. We put the first crayons in their hands and sit for hours reading Curious George and Dr. Suess over and over. We teach them to tie their shoes and sort their own socks by color and size. We show them how a seed we plant in the dirt will grow into a flower, fruit, or vegetable. We ignite their imaginations and take them to magical places like Disneyland!
Yep, that sounds like P.E., art, language arts, math, science, history, and field trips, too!
Whether you homeschool, have homeschooled, or never desire to homeschool, as a mother you are a teacher. And a darn good one, too!
So, HAPPY TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK, my friends.
And, Happy Mother's Day, too.
What a title! Right?
How does that POST TITLE make you feel?
⇛A little defensive?
⇛A bit too personal?
⇛Eager to protest?
And, how does it make me sound - as the writer?
As the month is coming to a close, we are wrapping up our ARGUMENTATIVE WRITING COURSE.
My students are amazing. Perhaps I am biased. I'm okay with that accusation.
Indeed, though, their essays are quite impressive. And this generation gives me great hope for our global well being. These are bright, hard-working, eager-to-learn children.
This month we practiced strengthening our more formal, academic voices.
That meant leaving the personal pronouns out of things. Sounds relatively easy, right?
Not so much.
However, it is easy enough for us to teach our children how to make a few subtle and simple changes. These suggestions can take any child's writing to a whole new level.
Let me share an example.
This talented and bright student decided to take on the topic of young children and their cellphone use. She claims that the negative impacts of cellphone use outweigh the good. She has some excellent evidence to support her claim.
And, yet, it is not as convincing as it could be. Why?
Well, it sounds too personal and informal. Taking the time to teach this young writer a few simple strategies made all the difference.
What you are about to read is her closing paragraph. She did a fantastic job of restating her thesis. She threw in the opposing viewpoint. As well, she has a clear call to action. That is ALL wonderful! And, yet, we made it even better by ditching those personal pronouns.
I really hope that you are reconsidering a cellphone for your child for the sake of development, friendship, and learning. Yes, there are a few okay reasons, but you can see unpleasant reasons outweigh the good ones. You should think twice before making this expensive investment.
It is time to reconsider purchasing cellphones for young children. A child's development, social skills, and learning are all negatively affected. There are benefits linked to cellphone use, but for children, those are outweighed by the many unpleasant ones. Think twice before making such an expensive investment for any young child.
Are you able to hear AND feel the difference between these two paragraphs?
The first paragraph feels more informal, directly personal - even accusatory!
The second paragraph invites the reader to agree with the writer and join the team.
In an argumentative writing piece the goal is to bring the reader to our side of the argument. If we put our reader on the defense, we may lose that opportunity.
So, how might you take this writing tip and place it in your lesson plans this week?
Need some ideas?
Write On! That is exactly what I offer.
VISIT US at WRITEONWEBB.COM and join our ever-growing, fun-loving community of young writers.
There is actually a website called just that! spicespicebaby.com
Isn't that great?! I love it.
And, if you need recipe ideas, you must check it out.
Lately, I've had a growing interest in learning about the health benefits related to herbs and spices.
Spices have been a hot commodity for centuries. Do you recall learning about that? Think back. We're talking World History class, my friends. Yep, there was a time when spices were more valuable than GOLD!
Today we take cinnamon, clove, and even black pepper for granted, but at one time only the very wealthy enjoyed such luxuries as those.
This weekend I read an interesting article on the 5 Best Health Boosting Spices for Beginners.
Let me summarize it for you.
The five they discuss in the article include: (1) cardamom, (2) turmeric, (3) cinnamon, (4) paprika, and (5) cumin.
As well, some of the health benefits mentioned - certainly not all - include:
CARDAMOM - anti-oxidant, lowers blood pressure, anti-inflammatory & helps with digestion
TURMERIC - pain relief, improvement in liver function, & helps with arthritis
CINNAMON - lowers blood sugar & helps cut the risk of heart disease
PAPRIKA - induces sleep, speeds the healing of wounds, & can prevent hair loss
CUMIN - a rich source of iron, boosts immunity, & increases lactation
Besides being beneficially healthful, spices are all-natural and can expand the palates of young children. If that isn't enough, they can be so DELICIOUS!
Let's get cookin', mommas!
While I travel down road of knowledge, I want to share what I am learning.
It sure would be SPICE - I mean NICE - to hear what you know, too!
WHAT I'M MAKING THIS WEEK: TURMERIC CHICKEN ZOODLE SOUP
I'm adding a comment box below, so I truly hope you enlighten us with what you know! We would all benefit.
There's no thyme like the present.
Author: Melissa Webb
CA Credentialed Teacher