June 30, 2007
I May Have Found My Voice
Maria reports from Summer School:
One thing I learned from the class readings, which was reinforced oddly enough in my summer school Kindergarten job today, is that the best way to engage students is to share your own writing with them. Show them your own struggles/process/evolution as a writer. Invite their input.
I tried it with Kindergarteners today, with phenomenal success.
As I relayed a description of my backyard, using simple drawings on a whiteboard and labeling the pictures, the students enthusiastically chimed in with suggestions of what to add ("How about a cat who wants to eat the goldfish in your pond?"); comments about their own backyards ("My dad built a waterfall in ours."); and helpful hints on spelling ("Sun" is spelled s-u-n.). Then, when I had the students develop their own stories in their journals, I found myself absorbed in the details of their lives. In the past, I have insisted that they write something first, then illustrate it. I learned today how unnatural that is for young writers. I also learned how much fun it is to hear other people's stories, even 6-year-olds!
Tomorrow, I am going to revisit the description of my backyard with my young charges. I am going to muse out loud about whether there is anything I could add to my story, either in the form of more pictures, or more words. Perhaps I will even venture to write a sentence about it. I will teach them, subtly, that you can go back to a piece anytime you want, planting the seeds of "revision". I will ask them to revisit their stories from yesterday, and decide if there is anything they wish to add.
(You may or may not recognize that I got the Kindergarten ideas from author Lucy Caulkins and her books on writer's workshop. Her work reinforces my conviction that sharing my writing with students is a sure way to prime their creative pump.)