Friday, February 17, 2017

Weekend Writing Prompt

It’s the weekend before Presidents’ Day. Pick any of our 45 presidents and write a letter to him. It could be sincere or sarcastic, funny or serious, meek or bold, praising or criticizing.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Weekend Writing Prompt

For reasons unknown, February 11th is “Get Out Your Guitar Day” (Days of the Year). If you could learn to play any instrument, what would it be? What would you do with your new-found talent? If you happen to be in the middle of writing a narrative, what would happen if one of your characters decided to play an instrument?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Weekend Writing Prompt

It’s Super Bowl weekend, which folks either love or loathe. Imagine you are throwing either a Super Bowl party or an anti-Super Bowl party. Pick one and create a to-do list to get ready for it.​

Friday, January 27, 2017

Weekend Writing Prompt

We’re in the middle of winter, where January and February can seem gray and cold and long. Write a descriptive paragraph about something that takes us away from the cold and gray and puts us in a happy place. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Weekend Writing Prompt

Find something you’ve been hoarding: old receipts, t-shirts from high school events, your high school CD collection, old greeting cards, a stack of photos…whatever you can find. Pick someone from that pile and write a story that it evokes.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Local Teacher Writing Spotlight: Nathan Kurtti's Poetry

See Nathan's Teacher Feature Profile!

Which do you want your classroom to be?

By Nathan Kurtti

A classroom represents the heart and soul of a teacher.
There it sits at the beginning of the year,
Blank and empty with no students in chairs.
When the teacher enters the room, he decides what to do with the space.
The teacher stands looking around.
What to do with these walls? These desks?

Teachers hold the power to travel down two roads.
A teacher can choose to walk down the road leading to a factory
but, he can also take the road leading to a garden.
Within each classroom exists a will, a guide for teaching.
With these as models, chosen actions influence the students.
Should students witness freedom and exploration, or
Should students become obedient and agreeable, with nothing to say other than
“Yes, Sir” or “Yes, Ma’am”?

The classroom, a blank canvas, opens the door.

A classroom can foster unhealthy competition meant for dog eat dog world, or
A classroom can grow into a blossoming garden that is ripe with ideas.
Teachers have the ability to transform the classroom.
Students can grow branches that spread in all directions, but
they can also snap or be cut without a choice to be something different.

Key decisions in teaching philosophy direct the path.
This direction forever influences students.
In this place exists a fate.

Do you hear the clanging of hammers and blowing of whistles?
Walls are enclosed.
A setting composed with dust floating in the air
The sun only shines through the broken window panes
Ringing of a bell, the students go to their stations
Each student lines up in its spot
The porcelain dolls look exactly the same,
Moving without purpose,
Without looking at what they became.
Each fake, a uniform that merely does what it is told
Every single day is hollow until their battery runs out.
They only stop once their clockwork stops ticking.
Their machinery becomes rusty and aged from the gears not turning.
That was the students’ only purpose: to do what they were told.

Open the gate and walk under the arbor
What you will find
Curious exploration in a youthful mind
Ruby-throated humming birds drink from blooming columbines
Black-capped chickadees tweet merrily on nearby branches
Pollen floats while the crickets chirp
The sun reflects from glimmering vines upon trellises
They keeping growing, not knowing where they will go
In the light and the sun, the saplings explore
Teachers water and nurture, hoping for more
Without fear, students plant the roots, no matter their label.
Students laugh and sing; this is not a fable.
No matter their differences, learning in the garden makes respect
Every single day is something new for them.
They never stop growing even when the sun falls.
Every student blossoms and always offers new stories
The students adapt and will eventually be on their own.

But making a positive impact on our students. Isn’t that what we want?
To believe in their potential, to make a positive difference, to awaken their passion
These are things we want to see from our students.

Education will not change unless we change.
Unless passion blooms from teachers in the classroom that is a garden,
it cannot grow over a crumbling factory.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Local Teacher Feature: Nathan Kurtti

 Nathan Kurtti: Beulah High School, Beulah, ND

Nathan: Europe Summer 2016

What do you write outside the classroom?
Outside of the classroom, I typically like to write short stories, children stories, narrative fiction, and all kinds of poetry. Among the writing I do outside of the classroom, poetry is typically my favorite to write. I have always enjoyed the form and the way I can use it to artistically express myself. I also hope in the coming years to find the time to sit down and finish a young adult novel I have been working on for over a year now. I want to one day publish the novel and share it with my future students.
Do any of your writing philosophies/interests translate to your teaching?
Oh, definitely. I try to center a large percentage of my classroom philosophies and interests around writing instruction. From what I have learned throughout my college career, writing is more than a one-step-and-done process. Writing involves more than simply turning in an assignment and being done with it. I view any piece of writing as a living being that needs love and attention. It might not be perfect right away, but with the right care and attention, writing will always change and become better. That’s the beauty of writing: to adapt and blossom into something new.
Writing holds a special place in how I use discussion in the classroom. I always want to begin class periods off with writing prompts or questions to help engage students in the topics that will be discussed that day. I find some of the most insightful discussions to come when students have the time to think and write before responding. While I do not always grade the writing or have it turned in, I find it most important that the students are simply writing and putting pen to paper or hand to keyboard. Writing in the classroom is a great way for me to know what my students are thinking and lets me understand them. I want to build that connection and trust with my students, and I think writing allows for students to really express themselves in a variety of ways.
Who encouraged you to be a teacher?
Although my family has always been supportive of me, I never remember anyone in particular ever encouraging me to be a teacher. It has been a learning experience for myself to see where I want to be in life. I have had multiple people in my life, such as my family, teachers, professors, and friends encourage me to do whatever makes me happy, but my journey towards teaching has been very self-directed and motivated.
Since my senior year of high school I have had an interest in English education. This motivation might stem from having a speech impediment at a young age, going to speech therapy, and gaining the confidence in high school to go out for theater and speech. Being able to conquer those obstacles and look on the positive side, I believe, has driven me to strive to be a supportive role model for future generations of students. In a way, the challenges in my own life have shaped me into a person who wants to reach out to others in need of assistance and support.
I feel like the supportive people in my life have driven me to pursue what I love, and that is teaching.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Weekend Writing Prompt

This weekend features a Friday the 13th (and a full moon!). Describe a day in the life of someone who is having a rough Friday the 13th.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Weekend Writing Prompt

We’ve talked before about special calendar days ( If you were in charge of creating new days for that website, what would you create for 2017 and why?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Weekend Writing Prompt: Make the Last One of 2016 Count!

Choose a character from a book you read this year (alternative: pick any memorable book character that comes to mind) and imagine what this character’s New Year resolutions might be.