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This idea comes from Julie Bogart, Founder of Brave Writer, author of The Writer’s Jungle

  • The Topic Funnel takes a list of ideas ~ as broad or narrow as it starts, from “things I love to do” to “kinds of WWII bombers” and gets to a narrow slice of the topic before the writer begins.

  • Big FUNNEL. Start with your general topic and make a list of what comes to mind. PICK ONE THING from your list. Toss that into the FUNNEL again.

  • Next smaller FUNNEL. Make a list about the ONE THING from your first list. PICK ONE THING from this list. Toss that into the FUNNEL again.

  • Next smaller FUNNEL. Make your list about the ONE THING from the previous FUNNEL. PICK ONE THING...

  • and so on until you have a list of details that tell your specific, SMALL MOMENT story.

  • Write a STATEMENT about the story. Example: I once nearly blew my brother up.

  • FLIP the statement to a QUESTION. First person, past tense is often the strongest way to word it. What happened when I…? OR What’s the story of...? OR How did I…?


First Urchin Group with Deb

We've been playing SEQUENCE!

Sequence is a board and card game. The players compete to create rows, columns or diagonals of five connected checkers placed on the cards that the player has laid down. Two-eyed Jacks are wild, while one-eyed Jacks allow an opponent's checker to be removed. The game ends when someone has reached a specified number of connections.


Tic Tac Toe Products

Here's the sheet that goes with it:

URCHINS 2017-2018

Tuesday Sea Urchins

Screenshot 2015-08-17 at 9.33.13 PM.png

Second Semester Writing Groups

Archive on Deb's Urchin Page


My groups are practicing the habits of writers and learning some tools they can use with any kind of writing. We'll practice communicating in words effectively, exploring things with all our senses, getting our brains to send words to our hands, developing more fluent transcription skills, finding and refining our topics, and sharing our work with one another. 

2/27: The Cheese Its continued to work on their CHEES play, and everyone got onto the Google document. The Potatoes began their projects, writing about mushrooms, pro-scootering and personal scooter stories, and a picture book about space invasions. 

2/20: The first group is now the CHEESE ITS and the second group is the EXPLODING POTATOES. The Cheese Its worked on a play and the Potatoes played "writey-drawy-y" and created group Story Spine stories.

2/13: We finished our group Topic Funnel on Minecraft and did a quick version for each writer, helping them get a focused question which I put at the top of their paper. From these questions, we did three-to-six-minute Freewrites and shared them. 

2/6: We played the Communication Game, started to work through a Topic Funnel on Minecraft, and watched a short video clip about how Minecraft duplicated a real forest in order to help save it, followed by a three-minute Freewrite. 

1/30: We played the Communication Game, did a Keen Observation of pythons, watched a short video clip from Planet Earth 2 followed by a three-minute Freewrite. 


Both Groups: 12/5/17 We worked on Ten Pairs playing Concentration

and we played the Above and Below Zero game to begin combining integers as distances from zero.


Second Urchin Group with Deb

We worked on Ten Pairs playing Go Fish, Pyramid, and Concentration.


Tic Tac Toe Products

Here's the sheet that goes with it:



Some Marcy Cook Tile Puzzles:


Nine Lines Race to 1000!

I'm working with two small groups playing a complex game that practices multiplication and base ten addition and subtraction with Base Ten Blocks.

Fortunes change quickly in the game, and it will take us awhile to make it to 1000. We started with 5's and 6's to learn the game. This game will anchor our work together, but we'll play other games and do some problem solving workshops and investigations as well. 

The Fives House


Race to 1000


I did a Communication Game where kids try to find words to describe a drawing well enough for one of them to draw it sight unseen. They took turns giving instructions and seeing where the words went wrong, revising, and having a bit of a laugh. They were persistent and could see improvement right before their eyes!