Slice of Life Challenge Day 24 #sol18

A powerful speaker visited our school this week . . .


I looked at the clock one more time.  Yes, it was probably time to draw this assembly to a close.  For the last hour, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, author of One for the Murphys and Fish in a Tree, had been speaking in our gymnasium.  With mostly rapt attention, students listened as Lynda delivered a speech that included not just her own history as a writer, but powerful messages about life.  Of course, she shared her writing process, highlights of her career as a writer, where her ideas originated from, etc.  But she also devoted considerable air time to weaving a theme across her talk.  Much like a seamstress, Lynda wove threads of power and agency through her words, telling kids to never let someone else tell them who they are, that grit matters in life, and that even though they are in middle school, it’s not too early to begin to think about who they want to be in the world. Powerful, inspiring words, illustrated with compelling personal anecdotes.  Later that day, Lynda would share a story with me about a student who approached her, tearful, thanking her for the words she shared.  “Thank you for letting us know no one can tell us who we are,” the student had told her.

The clock now shown 11:20 a.m. I needed to wrap the assembly up and excuse students to their next class.  But with everything Lynda had said that hour, words that carried potential life-changing effects, I knew I couldn’t just say, “Time to go!”  There needed to be something more, something meaningful to close.  Suddenly, the idea came to me.  I pressed the button on the second microphone I held, and spoke: “Would you turn to the person sitting next to you and tell them what you will take away from this talk today?  What will you hang onto as you exit the gym this morning?  Turn and talk.”  The gym suddenly erupted with excited chatter.

In my ear, Lynda whispered, “You know, in all the talks I’ve done across the country, no one has ever done that.”  I was struck by that statement- allowing students to turn and talk, just for a bit, provides an opportunity to process.  I wonder why speakers and teachers don’t use that technique more often?  I will admit, it was a brief moment of pride.  But more importantly, I hope it was a moment that offered our kids a way to hold onto the messages of empowerment and hope delivered by one wonderful author, Lynda Mullaly Hunt.


Author: Lanny Ball

For more than 29 years, Lanny has taught, coached, presented, staff developed, and consulted within the exciting and enigmatic world of literacy. With unyielding passion and belief in the possibility of workshop teaching, Lanny has worked to support students, teachers, and school administrators around the country in outgrowing themselves as both writers and readers. Working first as a classroom teacher, then as a coach and TCRWP Staff Developer, Lanny is now a literacy specialist, working and living in the great state of Connecticut. Outside of literacy, he enjoys raising his three ambitious young daughters with his wife, and playing the piano. Find him on this blog, as well as on Twitter @LannyBall. Lanny is also a former co-author of a blog dedicated to supporting writing teachers and coaches that maintain classroom writing workshops,

15 thoughts on “Slice of Life Challenge Day 24 #sol18”

  1. I’m surprised no one has used that technique before. I bet she’ll use it in a subsequent visit. We all need time and space to process, especially when we’re exposed to something that really matters to us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You honored your students by giving them the time to think and share. Time is always pulling at us in teaching, but these were minutes that mattered.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lynda visited our school a few years ago and she was amazing with our students as well. I love how you took the moment, seeing it was important, and gave students time. We often sacrifice the time to think, talk, and process to stick to the schedule.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In the elementary setting, I know many of our teachers process the visit with their students when they return to the classrooms; I would imagine that’s difficult in middle school, as they may be heading to a class with a teacher who didn’t attend. Brilliant way to close!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s so true that given us all a moment to reflect and their grow that thinking by talking to each other is so powerful. We saw her speak two years ago perhaps when the book came out. That book resonates with students. A great read aloud.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. First, let me say that your word choice is powerful. I love the imagery here, “Much like a seamstress, Lynda wove threads of power and agency through her words.” That is a great analogy.

    Secondly, I commend you for the “turn and talk.” It amazes me over and over again how, by giving a little time to process in the relative safety of a twosome, thinking can be clarified, solidified, and internalized. I love that you did this. Thanks for the slice!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the words! Like you, I’m amazed at how overlooked this simple yet powerful technique is- let people talk to the person next to them and process for a little while! So easy and yet so rare. Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m so jealous! I would love to see her speak. What a wonderful opportunity for your students. We train teachers to use turn and talks purposefully in their teaching starting in kindergarten. We all need time to proceed. Genius idea to do it in that setting!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, first I would have loved to have been there to here Hunt speak. I love her books. But more importantly, what a great way to end an assembly. I never gave it much thought, but then again I always have my writer’s notebook with me and am taking notes. Students usually don’t do that, so being given the opportunity to process at the end will really allow them to hold on to something when they leave. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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