Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Learning to Fly

When we read we are followers being drawn in by the author's craft.  With skill and precision worlds are revealed to us.  We work to make meaning and strive to connect this other experience to our lived experience.  When we  write we lead by the push of our own creation.  Drawing the reader in, with an invitation to take our words and make a human connection. One that we hope, will result in something meaningful. 

An author's words come together like tiny cells interlocking to give birth to a new idea.  Our first words emerge in an empty space looking small and insignificant.   Exposed and fragile -hollow, like the bones of a small bird. If I were a bird, then my nest would be feathered with the written word. Gathered and interwoven by countless authors of stories, poems, myths, legends, and science. 

To give children words with wings, is to let their voices soar through the tap of keys or the steady mark of a freshly sharpened pencil.  How do we give them this gift?  We show them the way. Professional authors take them under their wing and show them how to fly.  We teachers are like the cheerful tour guides who coordinate the trip and point out the important sights along the way.  But, we need a flight plan.

If you are a teacher or a parent who wants children to know the joy of writing then I suggest - Writers' Workshop.  If this is new learning for you (like me) don't worry because the words of Lucy Calkins and many others will show us the way. This is a great website:  Writer's Workshop It can never be too risky to try a better way for the good of your students.  So this is what I know so far:

  • Establish a Writing Philosophy - I take this to mean that intention  is key why do I want to teach writing?  What is my role in this process?   I think the preceding statement pretty well defines my views... What are yours?  Be sure you can answer that question for yourself before you click here: Tools to Build Your Philosophy

  • Picture Books as Mentor Texts - Going from what is known to the unknown.  Children understand what a good story is but they may not be aware of how to write one of their own.  We as teachers must pull the best books that demonstrate the writers craft.  Then we put on the "show" they have fun listening to it because we know that emotion engages long term memory.   To me, that's the moment when you can ask: "How did the author do that?  This book made us feel something how did that happen?"  Then we unpack what it is we plan to teach.  More ideas: Teaching With Mentor Texts

  • Teaching the Author's Craft - This means craft elements for writing.  These are techniques authors use to engage readers like circular endings like the story ends where it began  ( a great mentor text for that is Metzger's  When A Leaf Blew In )  Perfect for back to school.  Make it meaningful draw a circle and use pictures from the story to show the sequence.  Better yet you can pass a leaf around and do a shared reading each student getting to hold the leaf while sitting in a circle.  You can say something like some stories are built like a circle they go around and around.  A higher order question might be: "Could this story begin where it ended?  What makes you say that?  ELL students could gain  support with this concept using illustrations to support their words. What a nice way to kick off a writing project. For better advice than I can offer click here to  Ask Lester
So here are some books that I think are useful and perhaps you will too...

A special thank you to Susan Ehmann and Kellyann Gayer.  Reading this book is like having your smartest best friend in your corner telling you that you can do this! :)

This is very friendly it's laid out very well because
it's easy to understand. There are lots of nice resources
here to get started.  It's the teaching that takes practice :P