Recently, some of you may have seen this quote by Shannon Hale on

“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

I love the image. It gives me motivation to keep shoveling.  Some days the tool might be a bobcat; some days, a garden shovel; some days, a spoon.

The image reminds me of the young writers I work with in first grade. They are teaching me so many lessons. Every time I think I’ve broken down a lesson into small enough bites, I’m aware that there are more lessons embedded inside. Usually, I find I’ve made assumptions such as the small one which came up today. I learned that a lesson needed for some students is how to use a stapler and to staple on the left so the writing opens like a book. It seems like just a small spoonful, but it matters.

As we come to the end of the first quarter, I’m noticing that the work to build community is paying off in increased engagement, stamina, and improved partner talk. As we move forward with more personal narrative, I’m excited to help them get shoveling so their castles can take form.



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