In a previous entry, I mentioned that I needed to figure out a way to meet with a small group of students working in their journals. Today – because of a fluke in scheduling – I had such an opportunity. Now I’ve just got to figure out a way to make it happen all the time – the stars aligned today – and it was a great experience to be able to spend some quality time in this new enterprise.
Today was a day that most of my class traveled by bus to a dental clinic happening in our birth-to-three center. As it turned out, I had 5 students that were not attending the clinic. The timing could not have been better. We were headed back to the classroom after PE when the bus arrived for pick up. Students had to be sorted into two groups – those going, those staying and it was confusing.
This disruption produced a bit of flightiness and I worried about how to refocus the kids on the work laid out on the tables – their journals. After they hung up their coats I said, “Remember, the book we read about the little old lady?” “Oh yeah, oh yeah,” because they had really loved the story, The Little Old Lady Who is Not Afraid of Anything, that we read before going outside and had been all excited to write a story. Each of them found their journals and began to draw – all of them beginning with a person – hip, hip, hooray! I’ve been working especially hard to get my students to begin their picture stories by drawing themselves or a person – the main character in their story. We’ve been reading stories and creating stories with themes about going for walks, looking out windows, events that trigger emotions – being happy or scared. Favorite books so far are Silly Sally, Into the Woods, Bear Gets Dressed and our Letter People Big books. Memorable stories I’ve shared about myself have been about when I got lost in the woods as a child, a story about my husband getting frustrated putting the classroom’s new bike together, and (of course,) the one about how I got really mad when there was a huge mess in the classroom.
I was able to confer with each student as they worked, getting them to identify their character and what they intended to be happening in their picture. My Little Miss Muffet drew a picture of her mom – someone she is currently not living with. She put an unhappy face on her mom and was shading in the entire background with brown. “Is your mom inside or outside?” I asked. “Outside.” “Do you think you’ll add some trees?” “No, the brown is the dirt all around outside.” I pointed out the ‘m’ in her name and told her that if she wrote ‘m’ ‘o’ ‘m’ at the bottom she could add it to her story. She wrote the word and looked at me in amazement. This child has 3 older sisters and I think this was the first time she realized that she, too, was a writer.
One of my missies drew a small person and a big person and told me it was her mom and herself as a baby. “What is your mommy doing?” I asked. “I’m in bed.” “Where is the bed?” “I don’t know.” “Would you like help drawing a bed?” So I helped her figure out how to draw a bed. “Now is there anything else?” “A bottle.” And my little missy drew a bottle all by herself. I took her over to the alphabet chart and pointed out the ‘M’. “That is the first letter in ‘mom,’ you could write mom at the bottom of your story.” She wrote the whole word without me showing her or spelling it out. I was so impressed.
Zed drew a monster – again. I told him I wanted him to draw another picture and it couldn’t have a monster in it, but it could be about something scary. I reminded him about the book we had read. “I want that!” I went and got the book for him, he turned to the last page with the scarecrow in the field and drew it and the little old lady. The whole thing was with a red crayon and I suggested that it would help to identify the scarecrow if he colored the head orange – since it’s a pumpkin, and the green pants, and he did.
My aide has been through all the trainings with me about working with students and their journals – and we are practicing and learning together. The student she was working with had made a picture that had a figure and a lot of other markings all around it. She wasn’t sure how to help this student add an anchor detail to her story about being in the big storm last week. I suggested that she help the student identify the clouds and rain specifically in the picture so she could remember the story when she read it again.
Beta drew a figure with odd bumps for hands and feet; I figured he was trying out a new perspective and asked him about it. He tried to show me with his own body what he was doing and I realized he was showing me how he would jump to get the ball in the basketball hoop, his knees would bend and his feet were behind him. He was going to stop there but I told him he needed to draw the ball and the hoop in the picture and drew an example on the teacher side of the journal. He needed a bit of help getting started but did it. I love that he is showing action in his picture!
I had the students retell their stories to me, and we’ll need to review them again next week. Success with five out of fifteen writers, I’ll figure out how to meet with the other ten in the nice cozy way we did today. We’ll make it happen, we have to! (art by John Robertson)