Today we went for the first big move, or lift as I’m calling it. My kids took their first idea out of their notebooks and onto drafting paper. I love this part of the process; where they have generated thousands of ideas and tried out a few seeds of stories in their playground (err notebook), and now they’re ready to test out their story to see if it will stick (and it will . . . because I’m teaching them to revise . . . lots).
I can’t wait to teach them revision. There is something about watching a writer struggle with their own paragraph, sentence, word, that gives me the chills. I love the decision process where a writer cuts out a whole paragraph because they’ve told you too much. Or better yet, I love hearing an author read a sentence aloud four different ways until they’ve found the perfect order for their words. Then again sometimes the removal of a word or the changing from the proper noun, Zack my boyfriend, to just the measly pronoun him when you break up — oh the power my young writers have (don’t even get me started on the drama they can cause with punctuation).
I’m giving them one more day to draft this whole thing out on paper, and then I’m diving in. I’m offering up five mentor texts to them for mining of tips and strategies while we revise together together.
Mentor Texts for Small Moment True Stories:
- Boys, Beer, Barf, and Bonding by Bruce Hale
- Crow Call by Louis Lowry
- Marshfield Dreams by Ralph Fletcher (Chapter 2—Statue)
- Dead Body by Jerry Pallotta
- Eleven by Sandra Cisneros
Of course, I’ll be modeling with my own writing and these books— hopefully, I’ll find a break in the middle of all this and share a tip or two with you.
“Because when I’m able to read past all those surface problems, what I find in young people’s writing is passionate, surprising, and endearing enough to convince me that I have the best job on earth.” -Katherine Bomer
I have to admit for the past couple of weeks I’ve been stressing about all kinds of issues in my kid’s writing. What I should also tell you is that for the past couple of weeks I haven’t had time to sit down and read my kid’s journals either. Between the flu, snow days, and my attempts to organize Student Lead Conferences, I was crossing my fingers hoping my kids were still writing at all.
Then last night I finally had a chance to curl up in my big green chair with a stack of journals. My roommate and my neighbor were talking on the couch, but I was captivated. More than once, I found myself squealing with delight and forcing my friends to listen as I read to them fragrant snippets from my kid’s journals. Let me share some kid love with you…
“The air screams, I am almost done. Pizza.”
“As the doughy bread filled my mouth, it left an Italian impression.”
“Someday, I want to give someone flowers, just to cheer them up.”
I took a sick day today; it takes a lot to get to me to the point where I recognize that staying home is a better option than staying with my kids. Needless to say, other than dragging my lifeless body to the doctor to pick up my yearly prescription for a Z-Pack, I did little else today.
While I was waiting in the doctor’s office I picked up Ralph Fletcher’s new book, Pyrotechnics on the Page, and attempted to break through the fever that was plaguing me, long enough to focus on the book. I didn’t get very far but I did come across this quote,
Like a sly crow who stashed tidbits in his nest, I pay homage to these writers by copying their words into my notebook. In this regard, my notebook becomes a pit stop where I can refuel and replenish my energy.
I love that Ralph Feltcher, children’s book author and word-man extraordinaire, admits to writing other’s words in his notebook. While I encourage my students to do this in the classroom, I don’t do it enough on my own. That is I don’t stop when I’m reading a good novel and copy down words I love into my journal. Thanks to Ralph Fletcher I’ve moved my journal and placed it right next to my Kindle in hopes that I’ll be more inclined to capture writing I love.
To loving words and how they move and speak in our lives; to stopping to pause to stash them away.
Today our district had a snow day. Having heard the weather report and anticipated this, I collected a larger than normal group of student journals. Around noon I gathered the journals in two large bags and made a trek up the street to the local Starbucks. There I grabbed my grande-extra-hot-soy-chai-latte and began to read though about ten days of journaling per student. Since I normally only have one much smaller group, this broad picture of all my writers together was a snow day delight.
I read through journals where students we using appositive phrases correctly and incorrectly. Having recently taught this lesson, I was proud that almost all of my kids were trying the new skill. I praised them in my notes back to them, for taking a chance and for finding new examples in their independent reading books. Then I made lists of kids who: have it down, need some help, and lack the concept altogether. Now I can pull them in groups and reteach where I need to. Journals are my favorite formative assessment and Starbucks is my favorite place to fall in love with my writers.