Coach Interview: Katie Wolfe

Meet the Coaches Series

Write from the Heart has an amazing staff of coaches who work with the students.  All the coaches are degreed professionals passionate about working with homeschoolers.  Coaches do a lot more at Write from the Heart than grade papers—they are available daily to help students, discuss homework, facilitate literature discussions, and encourage each student individually through the writing process.  Write from the Heart is an interactive class, and a big part of that is the wonderful coaches.  In this series, we hope that you can get to know our staff even better.

First up is Katie Wolfe.  Katie was one of the first Write from the Heart (WFTH) coaches when the program began.  She worked for three years and then took some time off to have two beautiful little girls.  Now that they are school age, she is excited to be able to return to coaching.  This year will mark her second year since her hiatus.  She is a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education and a Masters of Education degree in Literacy with Reading Specialist Certification. She and her husband live in western PA with their two little girls and their dog. She also enjoys spending time with her family and serving in the Children’s Ministry at church.

Katie serves as the Basic Composition coach and enjoys working with 6th and 7th graders, especially ones who are reluctant writers. 

Why were you interested in teaching writing?

I have been a lifelong reader, and my interest in writing grew out of my love for reading. During my graduate studies for Reading Specialist certification, I observed a great need in younger students to develop their ideas more fully, organize them correctly, and add personal voice to their writing to make it their own.  I believe reading and writing go hand in hand, and that each improves the other. Great books and writings don’t just magically happen, so I wanted to help younger students unlock their ability to ‘write from the heart’!

What drew you to WFTH?

I appreciated the flexibility that online teaching would give me as a young mother, in addition to the fantastic WFTH curriculum. The WFTH writing curriculum is so comprehensive—even at the Basic level students can begin to develop the important foundations of writing, such as grammar, organization, developing ideas, and using their own voice.  The support system for WFTH is also great for both coaches and students. I always felt connected and encouraged throughout my coaching, and I try to pass that on to my students.

What do you like about teaching online?

One of the most amazing things about teaching online is the ability to interact with students who may live across the country or even on another continent. Several years ago, one of my students lived halfway around the world, and I was able to teach him and see his incredible progress throughout the school year. Knowing that I made a positive impact on someone’s life, even though we were far apart, was amazing to me!

I also like the fact that teaching online allows me to stay at home with my girls and be there to take care of them, help them with their schoolwork, or take them to the playground when my work is done. Online teaching offers me so much flexibility in this season of my life, yet it is very rewarding!

What do you do with your family that you enjoy the most?

I enjoy hands-on activities with my family, whether it is baking, sewing a craft, gardening, or planting flowers. Being outside with my family is definitely one of my favorite things, and we take many day trips to the park, the zoo, the playground, or the community garden.

What do you like about being a mom?

I like watching my girls grow into their own individual selves and being there to encourage them as they grow. Although my girls are young, they each have their own distinct personalities and ideas, and they are very different from one another! However, it is fun to see them use their unique creativity to explore the world  around them. I love watching them discover new things with their boundless curiosity. I guess that is the teacher in me!

 

If you’d like the opportunity to work with Mrs. Wolfe, or any of the amazing Write from the Heart coaches, check out our classes here, or contact us.

Peer Interaction

The Missing Link in Online Education

You know what’s great about an online class?

The flexibility offered is next to none. There’s no specific time you’ve got to be in a classroom, and you won’t get in trouble for being tardy. Of course, there are due dates for some assignments, but let’s face it: with the sheer number of cute cat videos on YouTube, we need those deadlines to keep us on track.

There’s no commute. That means no traffic, you’re not worried about getting stuck in snow, and you’re not wasting gas and polluting the environment. And who doesn’t like to jump on the chance to reduce their carbon footprint?

Even more, you get the chance to increase your skills with technology, which is a skill you’re going to need in just about any career field. Why not learn to use the same pieces of tech you’ll need as an adult, all while gaining an education? It’s one of those two-birds-with-one-stone kinds of deals.

Online courses also look pretty sweet on your resume. Wait, what? Is that true? Yep. When you show that you can complete an online course successfully, you’re showing that you’re good with time management, you’re chock full of self-discipline, and you’re committed to learning.

Plus, it’s got the whole comfort factor going on. Where else can you get an education while hanging out comfortably in your pajamas? What classroom has a fully-stocked kitchen just a few steps away? Is there any other kind of school where you can snuggle with your cat or dog?  Online classes are just plain cozier.

 

You know what’s NOT so great about an online class?

Yep. You guessed it: there’s little-to-no peer interaction.

But, why does that matter? You’re here to get an education, right? Why should you worry about making friends and connecting with others?

If those questions are running through your mind, let us ask you this question: did you know that peer interaction and friendships are more important during teen years than at any other point in a person’s life?

Yep. It’s not just about learning when you’re a teenager.   Or rather, there are lots of pieces to learning when you’re a teenager—and learning how to interact with your peers is a big part of this phase of life!

 

But there is a better way…

That’s actually one of the greatest things about Write from the Heart Classes. We’ve got what most online courses are missing: the opportunity to meet someone new. And we’ve got it weaved into more than just one aspect of our program.

  • The Online Classroom is unique to the program. Most online writing courses offer one-to-one pairings with a writing tutor, meaning you only get one set of eyes on your paper. But, in our program, we work together. Instead of submitting assignments to an online black hole, everyone posts together. It’s as close as you can get to being in a real classroom without actually being in a classroom.
  • Peer Reviews happen on every paper, and we do them more than once. More than one peer will take a look at every single paper. It’s even been shown in a variety of studies that students will perform at higher levels when they know that another student will read their work. Talk about redefining “peer pressure.”
  • Discussion Boards aren’t just for posting assignments. We’ve got a variety of boards dedicated solely to sharing ideas, random thoughts, and for just plain getting to know everyone. The boards are closely monitored by coaches, as well, meaning that the program stays pretty shenanigan-free.

Yes, our coaches are wonderful. They’re trained, qualified, and skilled in their positions. But, they don’t have the answers to everything. And they can’t be our friends. Peers can, though. And here at WFTH, we love our peers.

And that is what’s so great about our online classes.

 

Written by Stephanie Constantino
Mrs. C is a teacher, writer, and stay-at-home mommy extraordinaire. She loves pushing students to the boundaries of their writing potential through using a fun and encouraging teaching style.  If you’d like the opportunity to work with Mrs. Constantino, or any of the amazing Write from the Heart coaches, check out our classes here, or contact us.

Exploded Moments in Writing

Tick, Tick, Tick… Boom!

You know what’s awesome about movies? Those moments where time slows down to a crawl. The music gets super intense, or there’s a ringing silence filling the air. The actors are moving in slow motion, and there’s usually some broken glass shattering or a bullet ripping through the scene, leaving ripples in its wake. It feels so cool to experience a moment in time where everything’s basically come to a halt.

It’s too bad we can’t do that with writing.

Or, can we?

With a few simple techniques, we can alter the way the reader perceives time, no matter how fast they’re blazing through the text.

This time-altering style of writing is what we like to call an “Exploded Moment.” These moments in writing happen when the author uses a variety of techniques to make the moment drawn out, as if it were happening in slow motion. Not only does it help the reader feel the same level of disorientation the main character is feeling, but it also enables the writer to explore all the minute details: sounds that happen, emotions racing through veins, and visuals that the main character just can’t seem to pull their eyes away from. An exploded moment lets all this happen in just a short space of time, creating that slow-motion effect.

But, how do we do it? Here are just a few ways we might stretch time within our writing:

 

Sensory Details

Think about it: our life is basically one big assault from our five senses. We’re always getting input from our senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. And, if we write about them just right, we can take a small moment that, in reality, lasts only a few seconds to create an intense piece of writing. Check out this example:

I watched myself begin this horrible deed.  My hand seemed to suddenly have a will of its own.  I picked up the milk carton.  The spout was already open.  My arm extended over Carol’s head, tipping the carton.  The liquid poured in a slow, steady thick unending stream down through her long blonde hair, soaking the back of her clothes and running onto the floor.  As the milk reached the floor, I shifted the spout slightly to begin another long milk journey down the front of her.  It poured over her forehead, in the eyes, running in rivers down each side of her nose, converging on the chin and splashing into her plate.  Her food was soon awash and the milk poured over the edge and ran into her lap.  And still I poured on—it was too late to stop now.  The rapture of it all.  Oh, sweet revenge. 

(“Sisters,” by Jan Wilson)

Do you see how that took a small moment of tipping a milk carton to the point where it actually leaves the container can become something so much more. The author could’ve easily just written something like, “I poured the milk over my sister’s head.” But, they would’ve missed all those little moments and details within that action. Even more, it helped the reader feel like they’re in that moment, feelings those feelings themselves.

 

Repetition

By using a phrase or sentence again and again, you essentially hit the repeat button on a moment. It’s like a skipping CD, never really moving passed that section of the music. Exploded moments within writing can utilize repetition to create that sense of being stuck in a moment. Here’s an example from a previous Write from the Heart student:

Everything was finishing. Riley hit the ground and felt the life slowly leave her. Slowly departing. 

Everything was ending. In her last moment of consciousness, she thought of Rudy. The early morning sun began to rise, and she thought of how Rudy had deserved to shine like the sun. She thought of how she had robbed him of that by making one fateful decision. If she could go back, if she could change her decision… but, no. It was too late. If she could just think…

Everything was over. Her last burst of consciousness departed, and Riley was left in darkness.

Everything was…

Gone.   

(“Gone,” by Alison S.)

The repetition doesn’t always have to be the exact same throughout the piece. Notice how this writer goes back and forth between three different repetitions. That technique avoids boring the reader with the same phrase again and again, but it still utilizes that repeating strategy to make this moment seem as though it’s moving in slow motion.

 

When Should We Use an Exploded Moment?

Exploded moments are great, and all, but you shouldn’t write an entire novel just exploding moments left and right. Talk about watching your story bomb and fail. Instead, find those areas within your narrative that meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • The main character experiences a moment of adrenaline (due to fear, nervousness, happiness, etc.)
  • A specific action in the story needs a lot of emphasis because it’s a turning point or really necessary to catch in order to understand what happens next
  • The narrator is struggling with a decision or consequence of an action
  • Something of importance breaks, explodes, or is otherwise subject to complete obliteration
  • A character has to make a split-second decision with a lot of pressure from their environment (i.e. bad guys coming at them)
  • A character is killed

Exploded moments are tools of emphasis. They help point things out to your reader like a big sign that says, “Hey! Make sure you notice this!” in giant, red letters. Plus, it’s a surefire way to improve the overall voice of your narrative.

By including one in each story that you write, whether it be fictional or biographical, you can ensure that you’ve picked an interesting topic. Any story that doesn’t have a good spot for an exploded moment probably isn’t a strong enough story.

See? These slow-motion, action-packed scenes aren’t just for the movies. This is just one more piece of evidence proving that the book is always better than the movie. Explode that moment, Hollywood.

Written by Stephanie Constantino
Mrs. C is a teacher, writer, and stay-at-home mommy extraordinaire. She loves pushing students to the boundaries of their writing potential through using a fun and encouraging teaching style. If you’d like the opportunity to work with Mrs. Constantino, or any of the amazing Write from the Heart coaches, check out our classes here, or contact us.

Welcome to the Write from the Heart Blog!

Welcome!  This new feature of the Write from the Heart website is an exciting new development for our program.  Our goal is to become a resource guide for both our students and families as well as the general public.  On this blog, we will highlight things like:

Grammar Rules

Revising Tips and Tricks

Voice in Writing

Organizing your Writing

Developing Ideas

You will see posts from Veldorah Rice, the owner and administrator of Write from the Heart; several of our writing coaches, all of whom have professional training; and selected students who have mastered certain writing skills and would like an opportunity to share their experiences with others.

If you are a student (or former student) who would like to be a featured writer on this blog, please email inquiry@writefromtheheartclasses.com

If you are interested in registering your child for our classes, you can do that by clicking here.

We look forward to creating an online resource library to help you and your family for years to come!