Friday, October 12, 2012

Focus on Writing

“The baby that doesn’t cry dies on its mother’s back.” My daughter just reminded me of this frequent saying of her high school math teacher from Zimbabwe. I was expressing excitement about all the students I’d been able to give writing feed back to this week--face-to-face or via email--but also fretting about the students not asking for attention who I hadn’t been able to attend to. I appreciate the sentiment as plugging the life-skill of self-advocacy, but I can’t have any dead babies in this writing class. So Monday I start with the students I haven’t talked to yet. Ill have to come into class with a list, or Ill get sidetracked.

Nevertheless, it has been a good week of writing. Remembering Kelly Gallagher’s dictum “I go, then they go,” I modeled a mind map in each of my 2 classes one day--then students went--and the following day I modeled a thesis with an implicit, logical preview of points based on the previous mind map. (The first period map and thesis were much better than the third period ones--which was the period the headmaster wandered in. Ah, well, whats good for the goose....) The conversations I’ve had have been very exciting--their ideas are original and significant. And in those conversations I’m trying to remember that I shouldn’t be working harder than the students are (Thanks, Gini Rojas). 

Experience helps me not work so hard. I’m delighted (while mildly surprised) every time I have just the right tool to pull out when a student needs it--from a tip about writing introductions, to a list of verbs for introducing quotations, to characteristics of a good thesis. And when the input magically clicks, the student’s face lights up with epiphany, that’s one of the highs of teaching.

 In fact, I’m beginning to feel I could organize some of those tools into stations where I could say to a class for a given mini-lesson, “Go to which ever station you feel you need most practice on--beginnings and endings, introducing quotations, writing a thesis, using transition...” Hmm...have to think a little more on that one, but I’d never even thought it possible before. One of those idealistic differentiation strategies that might work for elementary, but never for me. 

I love a new idea. 

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