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Learning from Real World Experts Through Virtual Visits and Zoom

Written by Buffy Hamilton. Posted in Wondrous War Eagle Celebrations


We, SOAR Creative Writing, are indebted to Jenny Sadre-Orafai, Associate Professor in the Department of English at Kennesaw State University, for her time today in our “virtual visit” with a creative writing expert! We appreciate how she took time to really think about the questions sent to her from the students, and how thoughtfully she shared her expertise with us. I, Ms. Hamilton,  learned so much today as a writer and teacher, and I know my middle school writers did, too! I am so pleased my SOAR Creative Writers had this opportunity to learn about writer’s craft, poetry writing, and literary journals.

Dr. Sadre-Orafi took great care and time to answer each of the student questions:

• What is your favorite writing genre?
• Did you want to be a writer when you were younger?
• What’s your writing process like?
• How much do you write in a day?
• What do you find most difficult about writing?
• How do you deal with writer’s block, especially when writing poems?
• What do you think it takes to be a professional writer (career)?
• What inspired you to write?
• Who are your favorite writers and why?
• Do you have favorite writing topics? If so, what are they?
• How did you figure out your passion?
• How do you get ideas for writing?
• Where is your favorite place to write?
• What are literary journals?
• Does creative writing get easier as an adult?
• What made you choose to write creative nonfiction instead of fiction?
• What advice do you have for aspiring poets?
• What advice do you have for someone who is interested in writing for a career and choosing a college and major?
• How often do you write?
• Where do you grow up and did your childhood influence your writing in any way?
• Do your life experiences influence what you choose to write about?
• Did you choose your career or did it choose you?
• Do you ever feel “powerful” because you are in control of a piece of writing like a poem?
• What is creative nonfiction?


Some of the insights and “take aways” we gained from our virtual visit include:

  • To be a writer, you must be curious.  Soak in everything around you.  Think of yourself as a being with antennae and pay attention to everything around you.  Notice and observe!
  • If you want to be a poet, read as much poetry as you can; Dr. Sadre-Orafi specifically recommended we read contemporary poetry (yay!).
  • Very few people become “professional” writers, but majoring in English or a similar field can allow you to use your writing talents and find pathways into related career fields.
  • Literary journals are a great pathway to publication, especially for poetry.
  • A professor once told her that there is no such thing as writer’s block.  If you find yourself getting stuck for ideas, physically remove yourself out of your comfort zone if possible.  For example, walk down a different street or hallways.  A change of scenery or placing yourself in the unfamiliar can help you notice things around with you fresh eyes.

Thank you to Dr. Tony Grooms of the Creative Writing program at KSU for connecting us with Dr. Sadre-Orafai, and thank you to our tech expert Greg Odell for helping us connect through Zoom!  We will be connecting with three more faculty from Kennesaw State this month and in early March; we look forward to learning through these upcoming virtual visits.

Academic Vocabulary + Organelle Wanted Posters=Student Learning

Written by Buffy Hamilton. Posted in Wondrous War Eagle Celebrations

Science teacher Joseph Carver and Social Studies teacher/Instructional Coach Dr. Sarah Widincamp recently collaborated on a project designed to help students boost their academic vocabulary in the context of a unit of study on cells.

They started the cell unit by reading a newspaper article that personified a cell’s organelles and an accident.  Students then answered guided questions to help the identify an organelle’s structure and function from the articles/ads.  Students focused on restating the questions and citing evidence in this flipped-classroom setting.

Next,  Dr. Widincamp led a lesson using read-ahead software for students to learn police jargon from police reports.  Students then had to create wanted posters over each organelle utilizing the newly acquired vocabulary in conjunction with the scientific vocabulary associated with the organelles.

This task was a challenge for the class because they had to look at each other’s slide and find out nicknames of their organelle’s accomplice.  In other words, the story had to jive.  Each group picked their own bounty, found a good picture of the organelle and had to have location in the cell, crime/function/structure/description, and accomplices.  We hope you enjoy the sampler of student-created wanted posters!


Sharing Our Expertise on Topics We Love with Heart Maps

Written by Buffy Hamilton. Posted in Wondrous War Eagle Celebrations


My Writer’s Workshop and Writing Connections students are in the process of creating their own zines on topics they have chosen; students selected topic that they are experts on and want to share their passion for through their own hand-crafted zine.   Zines are ” self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images” and can be created in many different formats.  We are crafting zines as our entry point into informational writing and will share our publications with our fellow students through the CA Media Center.

Like many teachers, I’ve been a big fan of Georgia Heard and her work for years.  Earlier this fall, I purchased her new book, Heart Maps: Create and Craft Authentic Writing; I also joined the Facebook group for the book where other educators are posting their students’ heart maps.  It was in this Facebook group that I found an inspirational mentor text for our my students from a mother who was using the tool with her son: