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A box of crayons, a cake made from scratch, and "Write 250 words about what you did last weekend."

One of my earliest memories is being presented with a bright new box of Crayola crayons and a blank sheet of paper. Age 3 Crayons Tangy smell waxy smoothness roughness of the paper wrap muffled snap of breaking crayon in two shiny surface of peeled crayon crisp snap breaking peeled crayon gritty feel of crayon in my mouth pungent but pleasant taste colored, chunky drool on white paper Flash forward a few years Age 6 Oh the joy of making the chocolate cake on the Hershey’s Cocoa can. The recipe calls for 2 cups salt. I see the little girl under the umbrella in the rain. "When it rains it pours." It’s raining outside. I’m making a cake. Filling the first cup with salt feels like playing with sand at the beach. Making curly cues and swirls while filling the second cup is mesmerizing. Next I need 1 tsp sugar. I run to the kitchen drawer to find the 1 tsp measure. I scoop out 1 tsp of sugar and add it to my batter. Perfect. It’s not until I proudly share my first cake with my family that I learn that I’ve switched the measurements of the salt and sugar. Present day I give my eleven year old student, Dylan, a writing prompt: "Write 250 words about what you did last weekend." Blank stare. Where do I start? How do I begin? Do I have to? Uhhhhhhhh. Hmmmmmmmm. Rewind. Back up. Start over. Present day We get out the In a Pickle Game and a picture of a car bone yard I printed from the internet. Together my student and I choose words from In a Pickle that can be used to write about the picture. Examples: club house, trunk, tunnel, warehouse, tank, window, windshield, television, microwave, mirror, key, wood, flood, float. My student can’t wait to get writing. He buries himself in the project and pumps out: It is summer and I happily run to the entrance of my club house. The entrance is disguised as a rusty trunk of an old car. I worm down a tunnel into a warehouse. The warehouse is the shape of a tank. The window is the windshield of the car attached to the trunk. In my club house there is a television, a microwave, and a mirror. I need to find the key to get into the back room. The back room is made of wood in case there is a flood. Then the room will float. He did it. Big smile on his face. Now we choose descriptive words and add those to his story: hot, swanky, solid, shiny, comfortable. The ideas flow and we are off and running on a fun writing experience. After the rough draft is written, we will come back and focus the story as needed adding more detail here, fixing spelling and punctuation there. Writing is no longer the big hmmmmmmmm? It is now fun and easy. And most importantly, my student knows he CAN write and that writing is FUN. What do a box of new crayons, cooking from scratch, and writing prompts have in common?

Puzzles are more fun when they are solved together rather than alone.

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