One Sunflower

lighting fires

on December 10, 2009

When Maestra called in sick yesterday and I knew that I would have a sub working with me, I was worried about my writing lesson that was to happen at the end of the day.  My concern grew as the day developed into a nightmare with the students becoming more and more out-of-control in their behaviors and the tension between us heightened. I was just hoping to salvage some productivity in the writing lesson for the day.

During the last few writing sessions, I have been modeling the use of a “thinking” card.   The card has icons to help focus on the components of  story – what is happening, who is present, how did they feel. I have been demonstrating the card by thinking out loud as I choose my stories and the illustrations. My original goal for yesterday’s lesson was to have Maestra and I work in smaller groups to help the students begin to talk through the cards.   I had already sketched my story idea in my own journal, identifying a simple happening, the people who were present with me in the story and how they felt. 

Now with Maestra  sick I knew I wouldn’t be dividing the students into 2 groups but would be demonstrating a story in a large group. Since my story was to take place in my neighborhood, (we’ve been talking about neighborhoods lately and had created one with milk cartons on a table,) I decided at the last minute to have the kids use dye-cut houses as anchors for their stories.  I glued the house on my paper and went ahead modeling the use of the thinking card and writing my story. 

One day, I was in my house and I heard a fire engine, “weeoo, weeoo,” coming down the street.  I went out into my yard along with all of my neighbors who heard the sound and were curious about what was happening.  We followed the fire truck down the street until it came to a car that had burst into flames.  The people who had been in the car were standing safely next to it, having called “911” on their cell phone.    This story was entirely made up but it had all the elements I wanted for a story at this time – a neighborhood, drama with fire engines and a fire, sound bubbles and  people with gaping mouths on their tiny faces.

After I had told my story and had the students practice it with me, I sent them off to tables with their own paper and a house to create a story.  I wondered about the continuum of stories I might see, from those that would repeat my story to those that would just glue on the house, draw themselves and call it done.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that this story lit some new fires for my students.  Of course I saw lots of burning houses and fire engines but I also had comic-hero worshipers drawing motor cycles instead of Spiderman, and little girls drawing trucks instead of flowers and rainbows!  I had to figure out how to model drawing those motor cycles without making deprecating comments about my ability as an artist, but I did it.  I think I’ll practice in my journal too!



2 responses to “lighting fires

  1. Blue Like Jazz says:

    I think that the idea of using the dye-cut houses as “anchors” for the story was a really interesting decision….especially at the last minute. By providing every student with this common foundation for their story, I wonder if it freed up some mind space to add other details outside of their usual. What do you think? What led to the addition of new, less common details?

    • onesunflower says:

      I’ve used anchors before for preschoolers – an outline of a circle for a head, a dye-cut gingerbread man, an umbrella – and I think they help preschoolers because they do two things: provide for a common foundation of story and free them from the task of having to draw. Drawing is still such a difficult task for preschoolers that any help they get allows them to consider drawing new features in their stories. I imagine them thinking, “whew, got the house out of the way, now I can try drawing a car!”
      I think the other aspect of this lesson that was unique was that by modeling a story about my nieghborhood, it drew the students attention to a facet of their lives that they are intimately aware of but don’t necessarily think about when it comes to choosing a story topic. These kids are intensely aware of everything that happens in their neighborhoods but I forget to encourage them to talk/write about them!

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