Tuesday, October 13, 2015

the trenches of writing workshop

Earlier this year, I co-taught in Mrs. Ary’s room and gathered 28 sixth graders onto the carpet for a mini-lesson about how authors gather ideas in order to find a story that matters.
There is this terrifying moment as a teacher when you wrap up the mini-lesson and are about to send your students off to actually try what you’ve just taught.  Oh, how I wish one of them would just shout out,
“We are ready, Mrs. Becker!  You’ve presented this information so clearly, and I’ve been so engaged for the past fifteen minutes, not at all distracted by the smelly classmates I’m smooshed up against on this tiny carpet.  I totally understand what I am to do independently, and I can’t wait to get started!”
Instead, I get 3 smiles, 1 head nod and a handful of kids who are already standing up.  
I’ll take it.  Let’s go write.
The assignment was to brainstorm a list of seven story titles that tell your life. These could be life altering days or seemingly insignificant moments that have somehow been permanently planted in your memory. What seven stories best reflect who you are today?
I had never taught this lesson before, and although my heart knew it had potential to be awesome, I’ve been teaching long enough to know that sometimes the lesson you’re most excited about has to flop two or three times before you get it right.
Unfortunately, I had to skip out halfway through independent writing time to get to a meeting, so I wasn’t able to see the final lists or hear the sharing session.  When I got back to my office that afternoon, my table was filled with post-it notes.  Each student had written down his or her favorite or most significant story title and left it for me to see.  
I wasn’t sure if sixth graders would be able to define who they were in story titles.  I didn’t know if they’d be willing to get past their day at King’s Island or a play-by-play of their tenth birthday party.  I really wondered if they’d be brave enough to tell the painful stories.  
I sat at my table, reading though post it notes feeling so proud of these writers who took me up on this challenging assignment.  It was a glorious moment that the teacher in me will hold onto for awhile.  And right in the midst of my tender-teacher moment, Mrs. Ary popped her head in my office to jolt me back to reality.
“Ok, so now what? How do we get them to actually write those stories?”  she asked.
I laughed. “We enter the trenches of writing workshop.”

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