Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Slice of Life: When you think they've got it, don't be so sure!

Every Tuesday, the writing community of Two Writing Teachers hosts Slice of Life. All are welcome to participate by linking up posts or commenting on other participants. 

I was pretty proud of the lesson I planned for a small group of fourth-graders I've been working with. Like many emerging writers, these students have the inclination to start stories when their feet hit the floor. It really doesn't matter if the important moment happens when they trip on the way to turn off the alarm or when they're served dessert after dinner--the first sentence begins with "When I woke up." I'm guessing most of you are familiar with the trope. 

I had an example of a story I'm working on where I learn to dive through the waves. I showed them a beginning where I woke up excited because we were going to the beach. I showed them another beginning where we arrived at the beach and I got out of the car. And then I showed them the beginning where I was standing with my feet in the water. All four students agreed that it would be much easier for me to get to the important points of the story, and much more exciting for readers, if I started with my feet in the water. 

"So how does this relate to the stories you're working on?" I asked. I listened to them talk in pairs, and I was still feeling pretty proud of the breakthroughs I thought were happening. Yep. One boy was going to be getting on his bike, as opposed to waking up in the morning and having pancakes, for the story that was about conquering the big hill on two wheels. The other three students seemed to be on the same track. "Off you go," I said. I couldn't wait to see the revisions!

A few minutes later, I read over one of their shoulders. The story she had described was about  the fight between her cat and a bear. She was going to start with the cat right there looking up at the bear. Nope. That cat was still back at the house knocking Christmas ornaments off the tree before eating some of the sugar cookies, before begging to go outside, before playing in the snow, before spotting a bear. 

Sometimes writing is humbling. Sometimes teaching writing is really humbling. And the next lesson will be? I think for now we'll let that cat go through her motions, and maybe this child's next story will begin closer to the action. Stay tuned!

Happy writing,

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Slice of Life- The Challenge of Learning

Every Tuesday, the writing community of Two Writing Teachers hosts Slice of Life. All are welcome to participate by linking up posts or commenting on other participants. 

There aren't many times when someone else's share becomes my slice of life for the day, but this morning when I visited Heather's room and she told me what she was doing in order to become a better teacher, I knew I had to share it with anyone who would listen. Her commitment to teaching and learning is that inspiring!
The first thing Heather showed me was her pillowcase she made. At first I didn't understand the significance of the pillowcase. Yes, it's bright, and the green satin edging is lovely trim. From the perspective of a seamstress, I think the edges were pretty straight, and I didn't see any puckering or loose threads. I'd expect that from Heather though, since her room is one of the craftiest rooms in our district. However, my perspective changed when she told me this was her first sewing project ever. In order to simulate the learning her students have to do, she wanted to try to learn something herself that would be hard. 

 Heather showed me the book she was using and she told me about the lessons she was taking. It's challenging to learn something new--it's frustrating, and confusing, and humbling, especially when others around you are doing it so easily. And then there's the outcome where the seams aren't perfect, or the case doesn't fit the pillow, or the straight line puckers, or the sewing machine jams. There's also the issue that everything takes so long, even though it seems like it shouldn't. 

For many of us, literacy skills don't require large amounts of metacognitive thinking, and they don't drive us to frustration and a desire to give up and just buy a nice pillowcase. I love that Heather is putting herself in a learning situation that simulates the feelings that students may be having--yes, I have no doubt that she will be a better teacher!

Maybe I'll take up piano...

Happy Writing,

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Slice of Life: Thinking About 11 Things to Know

Every Tuesday, the writing community of Two Writing Teachers hosts Slice of Life. All are welcome to participate by linking up posts or commenting on other participants. 

Over the weekend, someone shared an article published originally in 2015 with eleven things people with older children want people with younger children to know. Even though I still have two daughters home, I have two daughters in college, and the ideas in this post struck a major sentimental chord in me, especially as I've been going through what was left in bedrooms. 

One of my favorite suggestions on the list--and I loved them all--was the first one. 
1. In addition to marking down your child’s first words, record the first conversations you had with them about whether or not there’s a Santa Claus — or a God. 
Don't we all work hard to record the milestones? First words, first steps, first lost teeth... My daughters are interested in those things, but they are more interested in when they had these sorts of conversations. They love to laugh at the lengths we went to in order to have them believe in fairies and elves. They also love to tell me about when they discovered the presents which were later delivered to them from Santa. 

I also love #8
8. If your kid tells you a secret, and asks you not to tell anyone, don’t.
“If you tell your girlfriends, it will get back to them. It really will.” — K.L.

and Number #11
11. Be affectionate — always.“When your child hugs you, never be the first one to let go.” — M.M.
I will never again be the one to let go of any of my daughters first!

I recommend heading over to the link and reading all eleven suggestions, no matter how old your children!


Happy Writing,