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The Oaks

The Oaks
years of practical teaching experience
Old 11-01-2009, 10:44 AM
Clip to ScrapBook #53

Your concerns and frustrations are very real. Your rural students have a wealth of 'life experiences' in memory - but they are so unrelated or disconnected to 'school reality' that they are 'switched off'. School, no matter how much we try to make the links, is not real life. Your students are very competent students and you want authentic writing for and from these students.
Competent? Yes - how many of them babysit younger siblings, prepare meals, translate for their parents in situations that I might find daunting? How many carry responsibilities far beyond their years. I heard a young mother castigating a five year old because she had been too lazy to wake herself up and get ready for school and then wake her mother to take her to the bus stop! How would I find the energy or interest to write about my memories if I was this child?
What to do? Give them something to write about in the right now, the immediate - your challenge is to create the context in the immediate sense to stimulate a purpose and desire for writing. If you have a SmartBoard and Digital Camera life becomes a bit easier.
Start with a traditional story where the characters are larger than life, with good and bad, humour or the bizarre, etc - I'm thinking of "The Little Red Hen", "John Brown Rose and the Midnight Cat", "The Magic Fish", "Caps for Sale", "Tikki Tikki Tembo" etc etc.
What does a lesson look like?
Student Goal or intended learning: students will be able to write a piece to be included in a class anthology for publication as a Class Text and on our school Website.
'piece' covers a range of abilities - this is an emergent curriculum and is focused on what the student is able to do with some scaffolding from you.
Text (to create context for writing): The Magic Fish
1. MiniLesson with all students seated on the rug - Read the story through to the students and encourage students to join in with the repetitive refrain (immediate participation).

2. in pairs have students role play being the fish and the fisherman 'oh fish in the sea, come listen to me............... etc' (yes, they will need to know how to work with a partner and you will need to know how to keep it 'tight' - you make the judgment call, you are the teacher),

3. returning to the rug ask students to tell you what the wife was like - character description, what the fish was like, what the fisherman was like, what they would say if they were the fish or the husband, you can ask 'the wife' with a student in role - this can be very interesting and often hilarious for the other students and needs careful management.

4. ask students to draw the part of the story they want to draw or something it made them think of (5-10 minutes - this is a quick sketch, for now, and can be added to later)

5. have students return to the rugs with their drawings and again they share with a partner - 'talk about your drawings',

6. Listen to the talk - locate a student who is actually talking about the story

7. ask students to stop - you may collect the drawings - and ask the student you listened to if you could 'write his ideas on the chart paper for everyone to read'
Yes - this is an Interactive Writing MiniLesson

8. Now ask students if they could write something to go with their drawings so that 'we can make a book to go in our Library or on our school Website'.

9. this is the Writing Workshop component of your lesson. What about the student who is not writing? Maybe you need to write what the student dictates (concerned? refer to Marie Clay (1991) 'Becoming Literate: The Construction of Inner Control' pp 104-105.

10. What to do with their writing - bind it with a cover they have made - make sure you put Title, Illustrator, copyright (kids seem to love this), dedication, publisher's logo (an aspect of visual literacy which they also enjoy - particularly when they create their own)

They will want to read what they have created.
Other options for creating an immediate context for writing - cooking if you can do it in your school/classroom. Some of the best results I have seen come from art work, eg, make the Magic Fish on the floor or desk top with Maths Manipulatives or modelling clay - the student then writes about this - imaginary or actual - you take a photo and upload the art work, you can add text using the SmartBoard and you've created (NO - your students have created a class generated text which you can then use for ENJOYMENT - we are writers! We did this!!!!! and, word study, vocab. development etc etc)

Have students make a head band for a character and observe how quickly they become that character - use these moments to write!!!!!

What is absolutely essential for you to understand as teacher is to help you students construct a rich inner life - to understand that their imagination is valid and very useful - let them know this (this is what self to text is actually about) - use 'imagine' and 'imagination' as often as you can. (I recommend Maxine Greene 'Releasing the Imagination' for anyone who want to have some background to their decisions). It is only through the imagination that we can get beyond the ordinary, maybe what for these students is the drudge and demands of the everyday reality of caring for siblings, preparing meals. As teacher, you are challenged to create a context in which this can happen.
hope this helps

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