How To Be
Cooking Time: 5 minutes, 7 seconds
Growing writing love.
Gifting someone with words.
Ice breaker and community builder for classes, meetings, retreats, Sunday school etc.
Gathering your family around a table for more than food.
How To Be written by Lisa Brown
Quick and casual list of five things each writer loves.
Here’s my list: mountains, road trips, poetry, moon, skiing, teaching, and writing.
Notice my list has more than five.
I like to break my own rules.
Also, notice that my dog, daughter, husband, and Jesus aren't on this list, but can we all just agree that those are beloveds, too?
1. Read How To Be for pure enjoyment. Savor Brown's words. Adore her illustrations. Here's an excerpt:
How to be a Spider
Creep along walls.
Wait for a meal to come to you.
Build a web.
How to be a Dog
Beg for food.
2. Read the text again, but this time like a writer, noticing what Lisa Brown does with words.
a. She tells readers how to be a bear, monkey, turtle, snake, spider, dog, and finally a person (when you read the book, you’ll see the clever twist for how to be a person – it’s adorable!).
b. All lines start with a verb – this is a writing move you can do, too. Mix up the way you start sentences. Feel free to start sentences with the classic subject + verb, but sometimes mix it up and start some of those babies with a verb. This creates a unique rhythm in your writing, and rhythm is what catches your reader’s attention.
c. All lines are short. This also creates a unique rhythm, especially when you mix up long and short sentences. Long, long, short is a classic rhythm that works and any writer can do it! That short sentence at the end can often signal, “Hey, pay attention. This is important!”
d. Pro tip: If you want to see an expert using this writing move, read Charlotte’s Web and search for those long, long, short patterns.
3. Read a sample piece, written under the influence of Lisa Brown’s words.
How to be Lorrie
Watch the moon.
Time to Get Cooking
1. Tell writers to put How To Be _______ (insert name) at the top of a piece of paper.
2. Then, using the Quick Write Method (see number 3 below), write three lines, all starting with a verb, and end with a borrowed fourth line which is Be myself! (or Be ________ - fill in the blank with whatever you want!)
3. Quick Write means:
a. Write for 5 minutes, 7 seconds without stopping or talking. (Studies show that 5 minutes, 7 seconds is the perfect amount of time for this piece.)
b. Keep pen/pencil/keyboard moving the entire time.
c. If a writer gets stuck, write I’m stuck I’m stuck I’m stuck until he/she isn't anymore. Cross that part out later.
d. Don’t worry about spelling.
4. Quick Write PRO TIPS:
a. Regarding length of time for writing, I always say something like, “Scientists have determined that the perfect amount of time for this piece is 5 minutes and 7 seconds.” The accuracy of that data is a lie, but honestly, time’s up when I finish writing my piece! Often, I give writers a one minute warning – and then ask, “Does anyone need just a bit more time?” Then, I tack on a bit more time as needed.
b. I slowly get to a writing spot (often strategically near someone I know will be struggling or disrupting) and I say, “Darlings, when my pen hits the paper, it will be silent in here cuz I’ve got some hard thinking to do in the next 5 minutes and 7 seconds! I need to think!” Show your writers that nothing is more important in that moment than writing.
c. I always write with them, and drumroll, I hope you do, too. It will change everything. Promise.
d. “Oh…Mrs. Tom, you’re so mean. I really can’t ask another question during a quick write?” Nope. Interruptions ruin the writing mojo. And I say, “Trust yourself as a writer. You can answer your own questions…at least for the next 5 minutes and 7seconds.”
5. Quick Writes grow writing love because:
a. Writing fast for a short period of time helps writers outrun the inner voice that says, “You can’t write. You are bad at this!”
b. Tell your writers, “We don’t have time to listen to that critical voice. We're gonna go for it!”
Share Your Words
1. When writers are done (or even if they aren’t), do SAYBACK sharing with a partner.
a. In SAYBACK, writer reads his/her piece ALOUD and listener says back what they heard as a golden line, using the exact same wording in the writer’s piece. That’s it. No suggestions. No corrections. Celebrate a phrase or sentence that’s great (i.e. a golden line) and move on.
b. And don’t just switch papers and READ the writer’s piece. Listen to the writer read his/her piece. The writer needs to feel and hear the sound of his/her words out loud. This is one of the best ways to notice what’s working and/or not working in the piece.
2. Then, ask every student to select one golden line and write it on an index card. That’s a line that stands out the most. It’s good to get the in the habit of noticing what writers are already doing well. Remind writers that if they hear something good, they can do that in their writing, too!
3. Here are options for sharing golden lines:
a. Golden Line Mixer: When you say, “Go,” writers get up with their index cards and walk to another person in the group. One person says, “Hi, my name is _____. Here is my golden line: ________.” Then, the other person shares his/her name and golden line. Then, they both move to other writers in the room. When you say, “Stop,” writers go back to their seats.
b. Snake Sharing: Every writer picks one golden line from his/her piece. Writers stay in their seats. Then, pick a starting person and an ending person in whatever way you like. Next, point to everyone else in the group (connecting all the other writers like a big ole snake). The starting person reads How To Be Us + his/her golden line on the index card. Then, everyone just reads their line when it’s his/her turn so the piece sounds like one giant poem. This is a technique I recycle a lot!
c. Collect golden lines on index cards and type one poem. I call it How To Be Us (or Troop 1224, or How To Be The Tom Family etc. etc.). Here’s an excerpt from a third grade class piece:
How To Be Room 17
Smash yellow, furry tennis balls.
Eat smooth, creamy chocolate.
Supersoak everyone in the pool.
Read like there's no end.
...and so on...
Serve It Pretty
You can also make the writing look pretty with some quick word art. Watch this Facebook Live Video to see how.
Mixing It Up
1. This is also a great recipe for showing knowledge about learned content or life experiences. For example:
How To Be Martha
How To Be a Girl Scout
How To Be George Washington·
2. You could also make this into a longer piece – with a bunch of linked HOW TO BE pieces - following the structure of Brown’s book to the letter. Here’s an example:
How to Be Lorrie
How To Be A Skier
Attack the mountain with strong legs.
How To Be A Writer
Dare to bare my soul.
…and I could do more like...
How To Be A Mom
How To Be A Wife
How To Be A Teacher
...and end with...
How to be Lorrie.
Be outdoorsy, honest…
Give It Away
If you would like to make this into a gift, do the same writing recipe, but about a loved one. For example, How To Be My Grandpa, How To Be My Teacher, How To Be My Dog, How To Be My Mom, How To Be a Girl Scout etc. etc.
If any of your beloved multitudes write a How To Be Masterpiece and you're feeling bold, please put it in the comments, or send it to me via email. I'd be honored to reply with golden lines!