Language and Lines

Leisurely scrolling through my twitter feed last week, I came across this:


I read it.  I paused.  I thought.  As I retweeted it, I remember my 3rd graders engaged in this exact work during both readers and writers workshop.  It was usually a warm up of some sorts prior to the mini-lesson.  Or sometimes it was morning work.  A way to ease them into their day by slowly paying attention to lines and language.  Inevitably, their lines and language made it’s way into our shares, our conversations, and even our writing.  It always amazed me how they could identify beautiful sophisticated language when they read it although it may not have been part of their oral or written language…yet.  Hunting for lines and language, I think, raised their awareness of the power of lines and language and gave them a vision for what they could do.

So, after I retweeted, and remembered, I decided to walk the walk.  I pulled out the 5 fiction books I’ve read so far this summer, listed the main characters and lines and language from each book that stood out to me.

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate 

Kek and Ganwar – I gave my copy to a friend, so I can’t reread for some of my absolute favorite lines and language of the summer.  What I do remember is Kek’s approximations of what he saw and tried to understand.  His lines and language reminded me of when my daughter called bare feet “wearing your toes”.

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas 

Starr Carter – “my stomach begs”  “wobbling and shuffling” “when it rains like that while the sun’s out, Nana says the devil is beating his wife”

All We Have Left by Wendy Mills

Alia and Jesse – “tiny trembles”, “the sound of her voice isn’t playing hopscotch on my last nerve”, “hurricane of dust”

This is Our Story by Ashley Elston

Kate – “gnawing on my bottom lip” “hesitant smile” “sportsman paradise” “mansion-cabin”

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine Eleanor by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor – “rare privilege” “neglected my self improvement plans of late”

What books have your read? What lines, what language stands out to you?



10 thoughts on “Language and Lines”

  1. A fantastic exercise, fun for all ages – makes me want to make a list myself. Such intentional noticing in our reading invites a deep appreciation for the rhythms and flow of words, which sows important seeds for our writing … the cultivation of language artists. 🙂


  2. I also did this with my third graders! Way to go for walking the walk- so when you talk to kids about this, you’ll have your own experiences to draw from. I’m excited to hear if these words find their way into your life in other ways. Does writing them down make them more a part of you?


  3. Yes! Such a wonderful exercise for them, for us. Funny thing — I was on the Heinemann Teacher Tour and heard Penny say that…and then Amy Ludwig VanDerwater said it, too, when we met with her! Great minds, wonderful ideas.


  4. I was at the Heinemann Teacher Tour and starred Penny’s comment as a big take-away for me and something to emphasize in my class this year. I love how you took it a step further and “walked the walk” yourself. Thanks for sharing!


  5. I’ve always loved pulling favorite lines from books. I loved the language in Home of the Brave. I can’t remember what he called an airplane, but I remember loving it! I read The Hate U Give and thought the language there was pretty powerful. I’m about to read Eleanor Oliphant. I’ll collect some language as I go!


  6. What a great idea. I wonder if this is too much for 2nd graders. Maybe model it the first half of the year in read aloud and see if it catches on in their notebooks?!
    Thanks for letting me borrow your book. Just finished. There really are some great lines in there.


  7. Thanks for sharing this exercise. I could see my 4th graders collecting favorite language from their reading. I also will try to stop more often in my reading and notice the use of language!


  8. I love collecting lines and phrases from books, but your post has made me realize that this summer I haven’t done much of that. Thank you for reminding me of this, and here are a few lines from “The Dress Lodger” which I am currently reading. The language is dense and gorgeous and complicated.
    “Fly, fly! No one present at his birth doubted that this baby was born merely to soar straight back to Heaven, to molt away his deformed flesh and speed like a liberated bluebird from his mother’s hands.” and
    “If Gustine has a dream it is this: that her baby will live. There is nothing complex or especially overweening about her dream: she does not wish for her child to become an altar boy or a businessman; she cares not whether he learns to read or write or play a sport. She is elementary in her singular desire. Life for her child. Would any parent call such a modest hope avarice?”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s