Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Working with the Wee Ones

Next year I'll be presenting a topic that definitely resides outside of my comfort zone. I'll be presenting seminars on writing workshop in the primary grades, that is grades K-2. It's not that I fear the little folk, it's just that I can work better on the level of kids who are... closer to my level. I have little tolerance for the baby talking, not to mention the denim jumper uniform, so I am treading into some unfamiliar turf.

I thought the best way to prepare myself for this mindset is to jump into it, so I am spending the better part of the next two weeks writing with first graders. With some trepidation, and a weekend-long checklist of overpreparedness, I entered the room on Monday. "Tell me your stories. Let's make books." And incredibly, they did.

In the intermediate/middle grades I'm more used to, I had to sell the topic as much as I had to teach it. Everything had to be wrapped in a snazzy package, with a promise of some end bonus (yes, you can add clip art when you publish) to get the work started. With first graders, I gave them paper.

Today Autumn was making her third book, a story about a sleepover with her friend Lydia. She asked me how to draw a couch. "I dunno. Why don't you loook it up in the picture dictionary."

"Does it start with a K or a C?" she asked.

"It's a C," chimed in Colt, working on a book about his two cats. "It starts with a C."

There is something about the child who isn't yet jaded, the blank slate where I have every opportunity to make the learning meaningful and engaging. How much I can teach in Autumn's book about a sleepover. How careful I must be to not try and teach everything in her book, because sometimes we make these books because we want to tell our stories. We write because there is joy in sharing our finished products. Pride emblazoned on their faces when they place that date stamp on the back after publishing in the author's chair.

Pride and joy. Hard to disaggregate on The Test, but indispensible for lifetime learners.


MJ said...

Great post! Having worked with wee ones before I taught, I remember what you mean. I also enjoy my confidence in being able to sell it to the big(ger) ones but it's fun to just jump in.
I also love the preparation you do before teaching a new workshop. You are a true professional.

Cora Spondence said...

Great post about the short ones! I love that they have no fear about writing---they just cannonball in and that's that. I love the way you sum that up by saying, "With first graders, I gave them paper."