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This I Know: Project 180, Day 85


“Can I redo my poster? I didn’t know it was going up in front of the room. And mine sucks.”

“Okay, Sy. So, I completely started over and wrote something different.”

“Is this MLA format?”

“Can I write instead of type?”

“Sy, I am not feeling it with my paper. Can I start over?”

“I’m having a hard time picking out the passage I am going to share.”

“My story is kinda gory. Is that okay?”

“Sy, my Passion Paper is good. Really good.”

“I’m nervous about tomorrow, Sy.”

“Anything? We can write about anything?”

“I’m so excited to share my Passion Paper.”

“I get to share my Passion Paper tomorrow.”



“Yes, Amelia, you get to share, you don’t have to share. Love that. And I get to listen to you share tomorrow.” This was my response to Amelia’s smile during Smiles and Frowns yesterday. As well, above are some of the myriad questions and comments that landed on me yesterday as kids were making final preparations for their Passion Paper publishing opportunities today. And I am beyond excited–giddy in fact–to witness kids in their moments as they share their creations with the world. I live for kids’ moments. For the rest of the week I will ride high on these moments, buoyed by their brilliance, dazzled by their dedication. Here are the kids’ promotional posters.

No stranger to “doing different,” I certainly sought different with the Passion Paper. Fueled by my desire to change their attitudes about writing and learning, I presented the Passion Paper to my kids as an opportunity to step away from traditional, school-writing experiences. They have had, are still having, and will continue to have those experiences, experiences which I believe have contributed to their negative and fixed mindsets towards writing. So, in designing the Passion Paper experience, I wanted to set loose parameters that invited freedom, choice, ownership, responsibility, creativity, and accountability. Here’s the link to a post explaining the Passion Paper  .

“Loose” equals accountability? There is no grade. There is no rubric. There is no “completion” expectation. There is no prescribed process. And yet you claim there is accountability? Yes. Yes, I do. If there were no accountability, would kids redo? Would kids start over? Would kids pore over their work, looking for the “perfect” passage to share? I think accountability, true accountability lies in ownership, rests in commitment, not compliance. So I, then, have to create the context of ownership. I have to give the kids freedom. And in that, there’s risk. Well, at least it feels risky, for it runs counter to convention. It’s different. By design.

Look, my kids will have plenty of conventional writing experiences with me this year, though I will try to make those “different,” too. Their writing will be measured against standards; I will prescribe processes; I will set and hold them to completion expectations; I will give them loads of feedback; I will give them scores that become evidence for grades. All this and more will fill their writing experiences in 211 this year. But they will also have the freedom to be writers, thinkers, creators, owners.

Will they learn, though? Will the Passion Paper contribute to their growth? How will you measure it? How will you know? I think I already do. No, I will neither objectively nor numerically judge and sort their writing, but I will be sitting in the audience. I will be witness to their work. I never intended to judge their writing here. I wasn’t considering their writing at all. I was considering them. I was considering the writer when I designed the Passion Paper. And so in the end–in truth–I do not care about the writing. I care about the writer. And I believe that through this experience my writers will grow. This I believe. This I know.

Today’s Trail

Along today’s trail we will…

…begin with Smiles and Frowns (always and forever, even when we are pressed for time).

…begin publishing our Passion Papers.

…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.

Happy Tuesday, all.

Do. Reflect. Do Better.



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